Finally I have decided to make a move to the Andaman & Nicobar Island from where accidently I have received a letter. The letter’s unison said some names- Asif and Diya, probably.
I rang to Yash, my early mate who has booked the ticket for me in my extra hour lectures to Zoology. It was true that I loved to teach- more than learning. Also for Biology- I have developed a craze. My next week plans include visiting Lakhmir Singh & Manjit Kaur and some other Biology book writers.
‘Thanks Yash, for the tickets’ I said as I observed someone talking to him.
‘Thanks won’t work this time’ he grinned, I sensed.
‘Okay’ I sighed, ‘I’ll calculate out time for you, maybe next month’
‘You have FPA?’ he said.
I was confused. My general knowledge was not that good. ‘No’ I said, ‘but what’s that?’
‘Fake promises Authority’. Both of us laughed. Yash was a simple joke manufacturer.
‘Seriously this time’
‘Well, I hope Mr. Biology’
‘Bye, then’ I hung up, as I was bored of such tag lines “Mr. Biology”
My laptop displayed a large sketch of a baby tiger, my LEDs were on, AC in less power, blue T-shirt still on my body and tight blue jeans; despite all these my eyes closed focussing on my sketch on wall. My brain advised me to think of nothing but that one page which accidently came to me in the old “Nicobar Magazine”.
Who was this Diya, mentioned in the letter?
Well, I had only one clue with me and that of this office address. I have to get over who this Mr. Asif Khan was? He could be anyone. I felt hungry but more than that seedy to even get up. I thought “kitchen of the cell- Mr. Chloroplast” would have slept. Never mind.
I was waiting for tomorrow’s ship to that Island from where, I might frame a new story. I revised the letter kept under the bed sheet secretly.
Dated 05 July 1999,
I know you are angry Diya, but I can’t reverse what I have done, to make you happy once again. Sorry that I was not there to attend your wedding; office stuff. But I know what I have to do. You will not see me vanishing; you will observe my evaporation some day.
Nicobar Magazine Tower,
Major Road, Port Blair
I guess because of the incomplete address the letter; it wouldn’t have got the right place of delivery and was lying in that magazine. But who could keep that in the very magazine which was brought by me? Obviously this was random selection not the selective one.
‘Good morning everybody’ I wished as I reached the breakfast hall. Papa & Mummy were sitting silently for that moment and wished me the same.
‘I will be off today for Andaman for some script reason’ I said with little hesitation.
‘What script pushes you to Andaman?’ my mother objectioned. Papa’s silence often meant a yes but I have to clear the stage one quiz of mummy. How strange, I have cleared level 2 of papa’s permission but not of level 1, that is, mummy permission.
‘Err- it’s about some magazine there’ I said taking a chair and mummy placing me bread and coffee with 2 cream rolls.
‘No, no, I don’t see any profit there’ said mummy and the eaten bread stuck in my oesophagus (because of the rejection of my pleasant proposal). Somehow I became alright, after coughing.
‘See the symptoms’ mummy said in a fearful tone. What’s wrong with me? I have given her a reason to build her bridge of millions of reasons to stop me.
I saw Papa to say something. He opened his mouth and covered his whole face with the newspaper. This meant surely he was with both of us, he had no contradictions plus he too can have contradictions. Better he doesn’t say even a word on that. Let it be a mother versus son.
‘Try to get, mummy, it is important’ I said and my mummy stared me like Undertaker of WWE.
‘I have only one decision’ said mummy, ‘and you know that’
‘So, from where should I reproduce a new story?’
‘Whatever’ she threw her hands in the air.
‘Should I write one grandma tale?’ I said still in lowered voice. Actually, I should emphasize on my statements but this was no way to contribute to my outing. Instead it will worsen the condition, instead of Andaman I will go in vain; so no point of trying that. My mother said nothing. I knew her final decision that was really clingy.
‘Finally’ I said, ‘shouldn’t I go?’
My mother glared at me. My father lifted the newspaper a little more.
‘You forgot that Tsunami?’ mummy said, worried.
The obvious reason for not sending me to Andaman was that, we were a victim of the 2004 Tsunami that had a hard impact on the Andaman coastal. My parents were lucky & godly that they saved themselves and carried us on backs to save.
‘Mummy’ I said, in a calm voice, ‘now everything is okay’
‘Flood thrashes Orissa’ my father read a headline.
‘What Papa?’ I crackled.
‘Seriously’ said my father.
‘See’ my mother got another reason.
I looked at my father with an expression of, ‘do something’. But instead he lifted his newspaper a little more.
‘Mummy, I will be alright’ I declared.
‘How could I believe you?’ she said tensely.
‘Take my promise’ I said, emotionally.
‘That won’t work’ my father said from behind the newspaper.
‘Somehow I am convincing her and…’ I said, desperately.
‘How many days?’ my mother said, in a low voice. I felt like, I was in Andaman. That excitement would be compared exactly with when you get all A1, not even an A2 grade in subjects.
‘Just for two-three days’ I said. Now both of us turned to Papa- for his final approval. He folded his newspaper and kept it under the table.
‘In Andaman where will you go?’ he asked.
‘Port Blair’ I said, purely behaving like an obedient.
To my surprise, three hours later I was sitting in the Business class of an Aeroplane. I opened my mobile; messenger had three messages from different people. I wanted to open it to check, but didn’t. I read some facts on Arthropod’s. On reaching Chennai, I left for the dockyard, by bus, train and finally a taxi.
‘Welcome sir’ a man said with too much of stomach out. He was so fat that he could war Walter Hudson for some reason. He smiled at me.
‘Yes’ I said. I did not know him.
‘You are Yash’s friend?’ he said.
‘Yes’ I replied, still in confusion.
‘I am Gyanendra, I will be your companion to Port Blair’ he said still smiling. Oh, he was sent by Yash, the trouble.
‘Well, but I can do it alone’ I said as I heard the first whistle.
‘Can I interview in the journey’ he said walking past me. The 36 hour journey developed a boring taste as Mr. Gyanendra was interviewing me about books and too he was interested in writing books. I was fed up to that level, that I was about to give him an opinion that he should write on ‘Fatty people, including him as the most adorable example’, thank god, I didn’t do it.
‘One last question sir’ he said taking his bag on one shoulder. I was somehow, running to get away from him and his questions. ‘Sir’ he almost shouted. I froze, getting fed up.
‘If I write a book that gives fun as well as moral then?’
I listened to the question in such a way that, I have to answer it in a court. I felt cold breeze getting inside my jacket and jeans.
‘Mr. Gyanendra, if you think of writing a book, both moral and fun then keep one thing in mind’ I paused to get veteran, ‘you have to focus on the moral situation, the fun will automatically come in the way, just apply that’.
He made his face like a Hyena, representing I have said something unfactual. ‘I couldn’t get it’ he said. You will get nothing, I thought.
‘See if you take up a moral like, anti-corruption, then focus on your theme. The fun will gather in your dialogues, okay?’ I said, very clearly.
He shook hand with me and turned another way to leave. I thought for a while and again called him, ‘Mr. Gyanendra’ he turned seriously to receive more education than needed.
‘The thought which arrives in your mind, other than usual is the humour’.
We got separated by taxis. I gave the driver my address mentioned in the letter, and the driver sped off from the dockyard. The air had some magic in it, which gave Andaman a pearl glow. Andaman can never be a boring place, except if you pretend to sit in one room looking at the wall.
After half an hour, I reached the address. I paid the driver and looked properly at the building. Saying it a building is its insult. It was almost like a bungalow (which you see in old films, mostly horror). At the top a dangled board said “NICOBAR MAGAZINE”. Around it there were only few houses and a few cars. One gatekeeper was sleeping in the front, in the morning, funny. Sometimes sleep makes you earn- five thousand a month.
‘Err- can I meet Mr. Asif?’ I said to an employee-looking guy. He made a face, as if I would have asked him ‘can you call Shahrukh Khan here, for me?’
‘Are you referring Mr. Asif Khan’ he said, I guess, to confirm.
‘Yeah’ I said, probably this would be his full name.
‘Don’t you know he died in the 2004 Tsunami?’
I froze. How can this be? Is that letter too ancient? Asif had died 17 years ago.
‘Any address of his?’ I asked, in disgrace.
‘Might we have in our records, but we don’t give it to ordinary people’
As the employee moved, I stopped him. I took out three-hundred rupee note and gave it to him.
‘I didn’t mean this’ he said, ‘you should talk to our Manager for this’
‘Where is he?’
‘There’s his cabin’ he said pointing to a glass-walled room. I wended towards it, I found a mid age man working on his laptop wearing thin spectacles. He was in a well plane suit, to resemble as a Manager, if not by profession.
‘Can I come in?’ I said half inside his cabin, leaning inside the door. He turned his gaze to me and asked me to sit.
‘How can I help you?’ he said.
‘Actually, I wanted the address of one of your employee’ I said.
‘Who?’ he said.
‘Mr. Asif Khan’ I mumbled his name.
The manager became uncomfortable at his most comfortable rotating chair exactly as the employee who was outside.
‘Can I ask who you are?’ he said.
‘I’m Saurabh Tiwari- a doctor as well as a writer in Lucknow’ I said forward.
‘Why does a doctor need, Mr. Asif, when he never wants to be alright?’
I was about to give a response when I caught his statement and repeated it in my mind once again.
‘Is he alive?’ I said wondering.
‘Obviously he’s but no one knows except me’ said the manager.
My excitement to meet Asif increased. Why was that employee referring to his death then?
‘Why’s so?’ I said
‘Most probably his mind knows’ said the manager, taking out a paper from one of his pile of files.
‘Promise me, you won’t say it outside, that I have given it to you’ the manager looked worried. He gave me the address and stood up with me. I left taking the promise to outskirts of Port Blair.
‘Are you sure this is the place’ I said desperately to the taxi driver. He gave me dirty looks and muttered, ‘what sir, you only gave me the addresses’ and he sped off leaving me alone at the haunted place. I have never seen such a horror bungalow even in pictures. From outside anyone could bet that no one lived inside.
The house was at the end of the road where no one came ever since Tsunami of 2004. The area was not touched by the wave but still, people have to live around coast and no one dares to find such an old fashioned place.
The board outside said, “ASIF KHAN, Sweet home, 22K/ last road, Port Blair outskirts”
How strange address? Was this called an address? I knocked thrice, in availability of door bell. No one opened. Should I break the door? No. But I can. I found a heavy stone around and picked it up and started to walk towards the door to hit it. The door fell open.
One figure came into sight- blue baggy jeans, white-grey vest, and a long robe in grey. He had fit body and lots of hair, I was unable to find where did his beard start and where it got merged with his golden hairs. He was white.
‘Yes’ he said in a drunken tone like one of those people who never slept their entire life and this was the day of their sleep. I saw he had a bottle in his hand- probably not a water bottle but surely a wine.
‘Are you—Mr. Asif Khan’ I said looking at his white face, leaving the stone in my hands.
‘You have stepped the right place’ he said, ‘what work?’
‘Hi, I’m Saurabh Tiwari’ I said leaning my hand. He didn’t react.
‘See, If you are some journalist’ he said, ‘take aback’
‘No no’ I said.
‘How can I help you?’ he asked boringly.
‘I’m a writer’ I said.
‘Sorry but I don’t need you’ he said and closed his door in reflex that I couldn’t even say a word.
‘Mr. Asif’ I said taking aback, ‘I think you have a perfect plot’
He didn’t open. It seemed, he didn’t had a talk- for more than a decade with anyone. The place was silent now. If I have to go back to the dockyard or airport, I have to order an OLA cab, one hour in advance to get it after three hours (maybe I don’t get that also).
‘Think about your life’ I shouted so that he could listen, ‘about Diya’
The door fell open and he came out in red eyes. My legs twirled to run away rather than my body to get five to six punches.
‘How do you know her?’ he asked from a distance, this time more forward than the previous time.
‘The letter’ I said, ‘you wrote but it didn’t work’
‘You got that?’ he asked.
‘If I wouldn’t’ I said, ‘I don’t have an interest in visiting you all the way from Lucknow’
He froze at my mention of such a far place. Of course, all the way from Lucknow to Andaman was not a cup of tea. Ask my ass, it has become flat like a plane. He didn’t respond but slowly moved inside his house- leaving the door open. Was this the indication of invitation? Or was this “wait I’m bringing a sword to magnify your body with cuts”?
‘You can come in, Mr.’ He said from inside.
I walked in. The room was worst than the outer place. I sat on the wooden creaking chair and he sat on the sofa with some spring outside which automatically resisted when anybody sat on it. He looked at me.
‘If you want water, take from the fridge’
I looked back to the fridge in amaze. Actually his room was lacking the scene we should have in our homes to give it a better finish. In that he mentioned fridge, I thought one of his worst joke in the begining of his conversation.
‘What business do you do Mr. Asif?’ I questioned like a detective.
‘I was a editor in a newspaper’ he said looking a paper kept on his table.
‘Now?’ I said.
‘Living with some earned money’ he said.
‘But still, doesn’t the money finish…’ I asked.
‘Sometimes, I take it from my Manager, whom you would have met’
‘How do you know?’
‘Nobody knows me that I am alive, except him’ he replied.
‘Great’ I appreciated. ‘So from Andaman you’re?’
He looked at me and then downwards. ‘I am from Allahabad’
‘Where?’ I asked in amazement. I did live in Allahabad for some years.
‘Allahabad’ he said.
‘Why are you here then?’
‘You have to go, where your life takes you’ he replied.
‘But why only to Andaman—I mean too far’ I said.
‘Long story’ he said smiling at me.
‘I’m here for the same reason’
‘What do you mean?’ he said.
‘I mean, can I hear your complete story?’
‘See my imagination is too poor’
‘Let us see’
‘Mind it, these are costly shoes, not of your type’ said the shopkeeper to Asif. He took notice of the pair of Woodland shoes.
‘Uncle, make note, one day I will buy it’ said Asif moving forward with Thaila.
‘Asif I don’t dream’ he said in reflex.
‘Well, I will punch you when I will buy it’
Asif bought vegetables as prescribed by his Ammi in a short paper list. Still Kheera and Nimboo were out of list, due to less money left. With this money he could only take abuses of the grosser and nothing else.
Asif moved with his Thaila, with his mind on several aspects revolving around. One of those were, power cut from 8pm to maybe eternal till the morning. Tomorrow was his Mathematics exam, everthing was revised and practised except one exercise of Surface area and volumes.
Already it was 7pm and still Asif was in the crowd of market with his Thaila slightly less heavier than his weight. He was in 10th standard this time, Board was on his head. He began to increase his speed second by second after watching his watch, which was the gift of his BESTEST friend- Rohit; who was the son of the Borosil company’s executive. A watch was a five rupee concept for him.
Both of them were friends from 1st standard, and shared a common bench, sometimes exchanged and wrote with the same pen in classess, sometimes they fought but for them friendship was something which arrived as a smile on face.
When someday, Rohit could not attend the school, Asif taught him the leftover concept. The reason, Rohit today passed in subjects like computer, Hindi & Science were Asif’s answer sheet. For the rest students, the exam duration was 2 hours but for Asif it a ½ hour less, because he has to show all nearly all the answers to Rohit, with one eye on the invigulator.
‘Where are the Nimboos & Kheera Asif?’ Asif’s mother asked as he threw the Thaila one side and jumped to sit on the mat beside his sister to complete the rest.
He opened the exercise and muttered, ‘Ammi, the money got finished’
‘Oh, what will I give you for breakfast tomorrow?’ she said and moved to kitchen with not any other word in the room.
The room filled with only the fan noise and Asif and his elder sister, Shabana studying and reciting the concepts.
There was no clock for the room. Actually Asif’s mother, Hazrat was the runner of the family. She went to coaching institute for keeping purpose, i.e, giving water to the management and carrying books from one place to another and other works such as, sweeping and cleaning. Her payment was not fixed, but for a 8 hours work she was given 4500.
Those 4500, were separated into many parts such as- fees for Asif and Shabana, electricity bill (for one fan and one CFL and sometimes other), expenses for dressess and food and other small works.
Father of Asif was a bus conductor and died when Asif was just 11 months, due to bus accident. Shabana was a hardworking girl after she observed her mother working so much for them, she studied and sometimes bagged scholarships, but unfortunately not for all times.
Born with all his sister’s traits- Asif was too hardworking, his speed of analysing the concepts was too sharp that he remained the section topper right from class 1st.
Even when Rohit brought his notes from his high reputed coachings- Asif would study it and teach it to Rohit afterwards. Not being to any coaching, he knew the competition level and asked for Rohit’s materials to study. Rohit never objected his bestmate and instead he bought the prescribed book for Asif.
The darkness and humidity gave the message that the lights were gone now. Asif was all prepared so he moved to the Chchat of his house. He looked the darkness in every house- the place where he lived was dirty and poor. Only two things happen there- when there would be electricity, sound of TVs will keep on and in the absence of electricity- the blares will take place.