Reader's contribution

A reader’s ending to Love at First Sight

I was at work, subbing stories when my colleague slash friend cum crime reporter Gautam S. Mengle (that is how he writes his byline), sitting cubicles apart, pinged me on Gtalk.
18:45
Gautam:  i need ur permission to add an extension to ur story
an ending that i thought of, if u dont mind
18: 46
me: sure…
tht wud be great
18:47
Gautam: thanks….will write it tonight….night shift hai….and send it to u
thanks, jane! 🙂
(For those who don’t know what we were talking about, you may need to refer to my previous post, a short story — Love at First Sight)
As promised, Gautam sent it to me later that evening. To be honest, this is not the ending I quite predicted for Love at First Sight. In fact, I will never be able to write an ending myself, because according to me, some stories are always best when left untold. However, I must say that Gautam has put some thought into working out an ending for this story. So for those who believe that every story comes to an end, this post — a reader’s contribution — is for you. You are open to predicting your end too.  This is what he thinks a possible end to this story could be. 

As for me, mine will never be told 🙂

Gautam continues from where I left it..
After tucking Vera in bed and sitting near her bed till she saw the little eyes droop, Patricia returned to her room and resumed her reflections.
Going over the events of the last half an hour, she felt herself feeling glad when Vera declared the story ‘boring’ when she did and decided to go to sleep.
At an age where your only consistent companion is the loneliness, one sometimes wants to pour out one’s innermost secrets, even if their revelation can bring about undesirable results. Hence, in hindsight, Patricia thanked God that Vera didn’t press about how she, Patricia, fell in love at first sight.
She didn’t want to tell her that after falling for Marshall’s wavy hair, deep voice and charming mannerisms, after succumbing to his wooing and getting married to him with both their parents’ consent, after spending more than a year with him, she had discovered what love really was.
That wavy hair, deep voice and charming mannerisms can never replace that first flutter  in the heart when the one meant truly for you lays a hand on your shoulder in the middle of a heavy downpour and escorts you home under his umbrella.
And most of all, she didn’t want to tell Vera that Phil, being Marshall’s best friend, was a frequent visitor to their house, and the repeated meetings showed not only her but both of them what love at first sight truly was.
And that after she gave birth to Vera’s father, the first one to visit her in the hospital was Phil.
He came in a couple of seconds after Marshall left the room to speak to the doctor, as if he had been waiting for him to leave the room. He stood by her bedside, and they spent a long moment just looking at each other. Then he turned and went to the window.
“I just saw him in the incubation room,” he said. “He has grey eyes.”
Patricia didn’t speak. There was nothing to say.
“Just like mine,” Phil added in little more than a whisper.

P.S. You can visit Gautam’s blog at http://www.echoesfromhell.blogspot.com

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Fictional curry

Love at first sight


She clutched the copper embellished grip of her wooden walking stick and raised her ageing body from the bed. Then, straightening up a bit, she took small steps towards the switch board to turn on the dim lights before heading for the balcony. She sat there on her cane chair and stared into the sprawling lands that overlooked her house. The hour was late and life in the village had almost come to a grinding halt. From this corner she could only see the vast spread of coconut trees and dimly-lit cottages, whose occupiers, she presumed must have been enjoying the tranquility of sleep by now. Above, the sky though blanketed by darkness, looked like a dark fabric ornamented with glittering trinkets. Patricia looked forward to such quite hours every day, especially after she had lost her husband a couple of years ago. She enjoyed the companionable stillness of the wind and the rustling of leaves caused by the movement of nocturnal creatures. Here, she absorbed herself with old memories of people, who at the age of 81, she had almost half-forgotten.
Today, though, she was thinking of him; the grey-eyed boy, whose charms had occupied her heart for more than part of her lifetime. She had only begun visioning him, when she heard someone unbolt the door of her balcony.
“Nana, aren’t you sleeping,” a soft baby-like voice asked from behind the door.  
It was her seven-year-old granddaughter Vera, the youngest of her grandchildren, who was here to spend the summers with her.
“Oh dear! I thought I put you to sleep.”
“No. I wasn’t feeling sleepy, so I called out to you, but you weren’t there.”
“Come darling, come and sit on my lap… I shall sing you a lullaby and you will soon go back into dreamland,” Patricia said and stretched her hands to hug the young girl.
“But Nana I want to hear a story.”
“Okay, which one, hmm… let me guess, Goldilocks.”
Vera shook her head in refusal.
“Hmm… Then is it Cinderella or may be Snow White,” Patricia asked again.
“No, no, no nana… I want to hear the story of you and grandpa.”
“Which story my honey pie?”
“The story of how you both first met.”
Patricia smiled bashfully, “Why?”
“Because this is the only story I don’t know… Mama says it was love at first sight, but even she doesn’t know.”
“She never asked me,” Patricia said, dismally.
 “Please nana, please, I want to hear the story that none have heard.”
Almost instantaneously, she drew her grandchild closer and lifted her onto her lap and said, “You know what? I was just thinking of the same thing.”
“Really?”
“Yes darling.”
“So go on nana… tell me the story.”
“Yes, but first, you need to see how your grandpa looked when he was younger… when I actually first met him,” she said, sliding her wrinkled fingers into the loose waist pocket of her baggy night dress.
After a little bit of a struggle, she removed a tattered black and white photograph and handed it to her grandchild.
“Hey, that’s grandpa Marshall and you. He looks so handsome.”
“Sure he does, now hold this picture and listen to my story carefully and don’t distract,”

It was the year 1945. I was 15 years and 11 months old, both new to the city and the place I had come to call home. After a long and humid stretch of summer, the heavy grey clouds had finally made their way into the blue matted skyline, pouring in glory and drenching all who lived below it. The rains were so unexpected that I was anything but prepared. The lanes too were empty as nobody dared to compete with the storm. But I walked hastily in knee deep water, towards my building soaked beyond belief. My leather sandals were in a poor state, and my resplendent newly-dyed green cotton dress already looked like it was losing color. I was crying, amused at how the first rains could have possibly caused so much damage to me, when suddenly I noticed him come in my direction. He was walking under a huge black umbrella, unaffected by the weather. I clearly remember what he was wearing that day. He was in a pair of shorts and loose  vest. I couldn’t see his face though as the rains had literally watered my vision. As he approached closer, a calming effect embalmed my physical self. He was the only guy on the street, and that only brought some mental relief to me. When we were just arms distance apart, our eyes met and suddenly it felt like I had seen this face before. Not now, probably, once upon a time.

“How nana? How could you feel this way, when you had seen him only for the first time?”
“My child, remember what I told you. Don’t distract me or else I will lose the flow.”
“Sorry, nana…”
   
For the brief second that our visions locked, he just felt so familiar. I don’t know, but he looked known. I had never seen him before, yet on seeing him, I had forgotten everything, the heavy rains, my clothes, my sandals… everything. He had the most beautiful pair of eyes I had ever seen, small yet deep. It reflected the warmth of chivalry. He was just so good looking. 
And then he spoke… he spoke in a mannish tone that actually contradicted his boyish charm.
“I think you need an umbrella.”
Knots developed inside me. My lips were wet, but my mouth had nearly gone dry. I just couldn’t speak. I was probably a little dazed, lost in the nature of his looks. 
“Hello, young woman… step inside the umbrella, you are soaking,” he said again, and brought it forward, so I could enter. I walked in hesitantly.  
“You live in the neighbourhood, I suppose,” he asked.
“Well… uhh… yes two buildings from here.”
“I live close by too. I shall drop you below your building,” he said and placed his healing arms on my shoulder blades, before leading me forward.
“You seem very scared.”
I didn’t respond… I was just tongue-tied. My home was few minutes away, but I hoped that this walk never ended. Every now and then our eyes met, but we couldn’t look at each other for longer than a second. When we finally reached, he got his arm off me so that I could enter the large arched entrance of my building.
“Hey, you forgot to introduce yourself?” he said.   
“Patricia,” I said.
“Nice meeting you Patricia.”
I had never heard someone take my name so charmingly. My name felt like silk, woven only for him.     

“Wow nana that is such a beautiful story. He was like the Prince Charming, who came to Snow White’s rescue.”
“You are distracting me again.”
“But, I thought the story was over…”
“No, it isn’t.”

“May I have the pleasure of knowing your name,” I asked him.
“Phil,” he replied.

“Phil… who is he Nana?”
“Vera, you can’t keep interrupting all the time.”
“Sorry, go on.”

And then suddenly, I heard a boy call out to Phil. He was standing on the other end, completely drenched. Phil’s attention suddenly drifted; he rushed towards him. From a distance I saw both the boys hug, before Phil pulled him inside the umbrella and headed towards my building.   
“Hey Patricia, this is my best friend Marshall.”
We both shook hands and smiled.

“And that’s how I met your grand pa.”
“Is it?”
“Yes darling.”
“Hmm… it is kinda boring though. Anyway, I think I should go to sleep now…”
“Yes, you should.”

Vera got down from her grandmother’s lap and was heading into the house, when Patricia stopped her.
“Can I have my photograph back? It is all I have of him.”
“Oops!” But before giving it to her grandmother, Vera happened to notice something.
“Hey nana, who is that man, you and grandpa are standing with in the picture.”
“Oh! He is uncle Phil.”
“He too had light grey eyes like grandpa.”
“Yes darling… he too did.”



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Another Christmasy feeling…

Some 14 kilometres from Kerala’s Kochi International airport and around an hour’s drive from the backwaters of Alleppey nestles a small town called Kalamassery, layered with the requisites of modern living, yet rooted in cultural antiquity. To its south is the small residential colony of Changampuzha Nagar, clustered in contradiction, with both alluring as well as lurid row houses. 


I was here on Christmas Eve, away from home for the first time, trying best to overcome the blues that come along with the absence of family on the most awaited festival of the year. But my best friend’s brother was to be married in a day and I knew that it meant so much more to be by her side to share and revel in the same happiness as she did. So there I was at the Kappalumackal Home with one of the most adorable families I have ever seen or known. 


But right now, I am speaking of Christmas and in Kerala, I was told that it is of a different kind. 
Coming from a family, which celebrates the richness of Karwaris, the tradition of Mangaloreans and the merriment of Goans, I was not half as surprised when I witnessed the subdued Christmas celebrations of Kerala, especially the midnight service. 
For me, thanks to the churches of Mumbai and Muscat, midnight mass has been all about dressing in flashy clothes (never mind showing off a little bit of skin here and there), enjoying the rapturous carols of the choir or may be pinning your hopes on a good sermon by the priest, so that you are still wide awake for the after party at home after mass. Let’s not forget the coffee and cakes. 
But while all this may sound weird to a few, this is the only thing that I may have come to love about Christmas, often leaving me with no scope to appreciate a celebration of another kind. So much so that when I first entered the church in Kalamassery, I was appalled by the simplicity of the congregation. For starters, if you are the kind of person who buys a Rs 1,000-pair of shoes or heels just for Christmas, it is better to leave them behind. In Kerala, a Rs 20 chappal will do, cause you leave them at the doorstep of the church before entering for mass. This piece of advise remains, unless you want your shoes flicked by a robber, who could open a shoe shop, if there were bigger fools like you at mass.  
Also, no one is festively dressed. Men prefer plain shirts and pants/ mundus, while women prefer simple saris and salwar kameezes. Another obligation for all women is to cover their heads with a dupatta. I found this one quite worth the mention as it reflects highly on the culture. It is something that was once traditionally followed by all Catholics, but seems to have lost its value with time and tide.
The mass was in Malayalam. So honestly, every word hit my right ear and smoothly travelled out of the left, leaving no scope for further interpretation. The music was classical, and because it was my first time, I probably could not appreciate it either. 
As minutes drew by, I realised that I had been sitting through the longest mass (over two hours) ever, without understanding a word. I was terribly bored. While walking out of the church I also grumbled to my best friend for bringing me here because this was not “my-kind-of-Christmas.”
Little did I realise that this was but, just another Christmasy feeling…
   

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