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When The Past Echoes

A Short Story by Astha Sabyasachi


The raindrops are slowly rolling down the glass window panes. And on the other side of the window stands the old man trying to wipe off the dust with a yellow duster in his hand. His fingers just want to touch those beads of water and subsume them into the heat of his palm but the mighty glass is standing in between. He doesn't know why but the raindrops somehow are clearing his vision better than the doctors ever could. He is now able to actually see what was always blurring to his eyes.

The raindrops are slowly rolling down the glass window panes. And on the other side of the window stands the old man trying to wipe off the dust with a yellow duster in his hand. His fingers just want to touch those beads of water and subsume them into the heat of his palm but the mighty glass is standing in between. He doesn't know why but the raindrops somehow are clearing his vision better than the doctors ever could. He is now able to actually see what was always blurring to his eyes.

It is raining just like that evening - the evening of August 1954. BUT in 1954 he used to be on the other side of the window, a lot younger, a lot more energetic, and a little more contented. Also back then, the days were always in a hurry. He waited for the evenings which stayed with him like a warm embrace of a childhood friend. The evenings knew how to slowly slip in, how to stay for hours which gifted him lives equal to a lifetime and how to softly slip out with that trace of sadness. It was that trace which called him again and again. That was the magic of the evenings.

The days failed to do so. They were always in a hurry. Hurry, he never liked since childhood. Something that is always running, someone who is always in a race, something that never waits, someone who never stays, he refrained from getting close to such people or things. He just didn’t have the affinity or perhaps lacked that speed for them. He was also a limp for this kind of speed. The world in his mind was a soft and a slow rhythm which was waiting for the words to fall on it, for words to stay. It was a rhythm that only his violin could nurture.

And it was one such evening which was born to nurture saddest yet brightest rhythms. The raindrops were clearing the skies just as they are clearing his vision today. The rains had always helped him. They had worked as a lubricant to his heart- sometimes to gain, sometimes to lose, yet to feel every time.

The old man could not recall why he was sobbing hard while hobbling into the woods with the violin’s bow on the left hand and the instrument on the right (different than his usual way). But he still remembers how the world felt like. The sun was dark red. It was not a fireball anymore. It was not emitting light like it used to, but instead was gobbling all the dark clouds that wished to pass by. It was turning darker and darker. The clouds around were daunted by the wrathful avatar of the sun. He was both sad and angry at the same time but this was not new to him and his world. While his sadness asked him to screw up his eyes, anger wanted him to stare at the sun to check how fierce it can get. He continued limping on the road with the same dilemma.

Somewhere he knew all the dilemma will wash away once he reaches his home. But reaching home felt like ages. Amongst all the hurried and clumsy limping, it took him minutes to realize that the beads of sweat have travelled miles from his forehead to his neck.

He had finally reached his home. It was a tree. To him, it was a tree of seasons, of moods, of rhythms, of notes, of beats, of music and of his dreams. It was a tree which sometimes echoed his laughter and sometimes absorbed his sadness. Under this tree, he was as free as the little birds chirping on the branches. The naughty ones would often come down to tap their legs with the music. The other little musicians stood on the branches and the orchestra was directed by the winds.

That evening had to start on the same note. But now the old man remembers what made that evening different and ugly.

The morning began with a reminder from the mother. “Life is not easy for anyone. But for you Ratan, it will be tougher.”

She looked at him with her “concerned” eyes dripping out the usual pity.

He was accustomed to it. Also, he knew it was his father’s words which were injected in her mouth. So, he chose to smile awkwardly.

She continued.

“There are many ways life will take a toll on you.”

His father jumped into the “discussion”.

“Do you think these legs will make you reach somewhere?”

The old Ratan still doesn't know what made him look at his violin that moment. He may have found the answers there. He looked at the violin and wondered what would happen if he didn't want to reach anywhere except into the world where dreams translate into music.

His father's words were in too high notes. His soul then craved for the lighter ones. He remembered how Amar took him to his house after school. It was the first time he realized what music meant to his world. It was an unusual place- a place where the music flew with the air. But he couldn’t sieve the music from the air that day. It was on the seventh visit when he saw a man in mid-50s picking up a violin. Today to the old Ratan, it seemed as if that man was that treasure hunter from titanic who desperately searched for the heart of the ocean. But this one has found it and was picking it up in his hands. The young Ratan saw the same luster in the violin and the same hopeful sparkle in the …..’s eyes. He held the violin close to his shoulder and the violin touched his collarbone as warm lips of his beautiful lover would. It made him blush with a little red tinge on his cheeks. Then, the salsa began. His fingers ran through the bow as if it was the spine of his beloved and started moving it horizontally on the strings and then vertically. The lovemaking started off softly and then gradually increased its scale. It was a beautiful sight. Ratan understood and felt that dreams translate into music and music translates into love. And on the seventh day, all the syllables of the solfège got their meaning.

BUT

Had there been such a little distance between dreams and reality, the world would have fallen short of stories. This huge distance, this little darkness is what is behind the break of every dawn and behind the soul of every story. And he felt that darkness when he reached home. That night he was not alone. All the seven syllables entered into the home with him.

Now, this was going to be difficult. But it didn't occur to him. Because his legs might have reached home, his wings were still flying with the violin.- In a place as beautiful as the horizon- a horizon where the music from the skies meets the music of hearts. He was in love. It was the first love of his life. Just the presence of his violin and the world would itself fall on its strings.

BUT

His beloved was not from his species. Forget caste and religion. So, this love affair had to be kept secret or terminated.

Before he could even think of introducing his lover to the family, father handed him a newspaper. It was EMPLOYMENT NEWS. The family had already tied his life with someone else. Someone he didn’t know. Someone he didn't want to know. Also, he was not expected to question their decision.

AND.

He was good at keeping people’s expectations.


The short story continues here....