This short story won SECOND PRIZE INR 1000 (~US $20) in Write Story from Picture India 2012 – Short Story Writing Competition.
[AALHA-UDAL: LOVE SHORT STORY]
“Raghav” “ Raghav”!!!
Someone was calling out my name, I looked back, it was Sakshi; the new girl in our class.
I was amazed, because I hardly knew her; she had joined our class last week only, her family had moved to Delhi from some small town in Madhya Pradesh.
She came running to me and handed me my science book, and told me that I forgot it at the desk. She just smiled as I thanked her.
Soon, we became friends, rather good friends as days passed by. As she was new to Delhi, she would always keep asking me about this and that in Delhi.
Though we had different hobbies and tastes, we remained good friends and enjoyed each other’s company; she would often take me to the book fairs, where she used to run away around stalls in a way as if she would buy all of the books. And this time as she bought a book, ‘short stories by Nicolai Gogol’, I burst into laughter.
“Gogol !!! , what kind of name is that?”, I couldn’t control laughing, I looked at her, she was frowning.
“He is my favourite writer, and is very famous too, so don’t make fun of him”, she said in complete anger.
“Don’t u know we have all come out of Gogol’s overcoat”, she exclaimed proudly, though she knew that I would hardly understand it.
I stopped laughing but wondered whether Google had borrowed its name from her favourite writer, but didn’t have the guts to ask her.
At the book fairs, I was the one who used to carry the entire load. It was just for her that I used to go to the book fairs, I never liked books, and books never liked me too. I was an average student, Sakshi was among the toppers. As u would find in any class, in ours too the toppers used to occupy the first seats, but Sakshi , she never left me and used to sit with me at the last bench. She used to help me in studies; soon it was time for our boards. My exams went off quite well. Both of us went for a movie the day the exams ended. After the movie as I dropped her home, she said, “I am going to my hometown for the summer break, what about you, any plans? “
“No, I’ll be here only, I don’t like new places”, I said. But the truth was that my parents didn’t like each other, so no question of having any vacations together.
“Come soon Sakshi, I’ll miss you”.
“I’ll miss you too”.
She came back after full one month. The day she returned, she came home. She had brought a gift for me , it was a pair of masks. “
I said, “What is this for, to scare people around”
“No fool, these masks represent aalha-uudal”.
“Aalha … what?” I said
“Arrey haven’t u heard of aalha-udal, the great warrior brothers, they are revered in our bundelkhand region, it’s auspicious to have these in your house”
I thanked her and kept those at my study table, though they looked a bit strange but I liked them, I used to talk to them when Sakshi was not around. My parents never had time for me so I used to pass my time either talking to Sakshi or aalha –udal.
Finally the day came when our results were supposed to be declared, I was indifferent for the results, passing mattered to me and I knew that I would pass.
It was around 8 in the morning when Sakshi called up.
“Oye, raghaaaaav, you scored 85% oye” she almost gave me a heart attack with her scream, but that was Sakshi, she had to do all those kind of things to keep herself alive.
As expected she had topped the school. She told me that she would be going to some temple in jhandewalan with her mother to thank god, and asked me to come along but I declined. Temples were another thing that turned me off.
I came into my room and thanked aalha-udal who had just wished me. I kept talking to them about my further plans. I and Sakshi had decided to join the same college though in different departments. I switched on the TV after I had my breakfast, and as I scrolled through the channels, a news caught my attention
“Young girl crushed by a speeding car near jhandewalan mandir”
It’s not Sakshi, it’s not Sakshi, I kept telling myself.
But things are not as I wish them to be, it was her, while she was returning after buying flowers from across the road….
I didn’t know what to do , I was stunned at my place, just tears flowing out of my eyes. I didn’t have the strength to go to her house and see her for the last time.
My result, my home, and my life everything seemed to be useless. I couldn’t believe that Sakshi is no more or either it was that I didn’t want to believe.
Her death was a very big shock for me, for days I wasn’t able to eat or talk. My mother tried consoling me, but I hadn’t reached that age when forgetting people and things was easy. I had lost the only friend of mine. I was left with just aalha-udal, they too would cry with me. I cursed myself for not going with her that day, it was better to die with her than live without her.
The impact of Sakshi’s death was too devastating for me. my parents had seen me talking to aalha-udal the whole day about Sakshi, so they decided to send me to Mumbai for my further studies lest I got mad with her memories.
So here I was, in a new city, just aalha-udal had come with me. They were the only ones who understood me., they were the only friends I had.
Whenever I talked to them I felt that sakshi is also listening to me.
I started living in the college hostel, but I stayed aloof, never talked to anyone, and sat alone in the mess.
In college too, I occupied the last bench. College for others was, a place to enjoy and make friends, but for me it was nothing more than a way to avert the memories of Sakshi and her last phone call for some time.
In the hostel I had just two things to do either study or talk to aalha-udal, people called me arrogant and typical ‘delhite’ behind my back. I never understood why they did so, might be it was because I never talked to anyone.
It was a Sunday, hostel as usual was irritating, and so, I went out to have a walk.
2 months had passed since her death, but for me it was as if time had stopped the day she died.
I was still stuck at Delhi, in my room, watching the morning news.” A young girl crushed….” , Tears rolled down my eyes.
As I was walking down the lane I saw the Sunday market of second hand books. I wished Sakshi was also there, she would have surely screamed seeing so many books. As I passed by a stall, I noticed one of the books , it was ‘The Overcoat’ by Nicolai Gogol. Now I understood what Sakshi had meant by “Gogol’s Overcoat”, I immediately bought it and showed it to aalha-udal who were always there with me in my bag. I showed it to them because I wanted to show it to Sakshi.
I took the book to college too, I started reading it in the free time, I was sitting on the library stairs and reading it when someone said, “hey, that’s gogol, I love him too”.
It was a girl, I had seen her somewhere, she came and sat next to me.
“You are in our class only na, I have seen you sitting at the last bench alone, why don’t you talk to anyone?” she asked.
I didn’t like her trying to be familiar with me.
I just said yes and was about to get up when she noticed aalha-udal in my bag, and took them out.
“Hey what are these, these look scary”
I immediately snatched them from her and in a way scolded her for doing so.
In order to avoid her, I went to the canteen. I ordered for a cup of tea.
While sipping the tea I looked at aalha-udal, they hadn’t liked the way I talked to that girl.
“Why don’t you bring back my Sakshi to me when you don’t like the way I am now”, I asked them
They didn’t say anything, they had never said, it was me who said everything on behalf of them.
Anyways I wiped of my tears and looked around to make sure no one had seen me crying and talking to a pair of masks. Fed-up of the crowd I decided to go to the hostel and read the overcoat to aalha-udal.
I came into my room and took out the overcoat, and to my shock I noticed that udal was missing from my bag… the sky had fallen on me, I didn’t know what to do. I wondered where he could have gone, what would I do without him, I had no one except aalha-udal, they were the ones for whom I lived, I couldn’t bear losing any of them. I started running towards the college and the only thing which came into my mind was that my link with Sakshi had been broken.
I went to the canteen, I checked the place where I was sitting, udal wasn’t there. My heartbeat grew fast, I ran towards the library stairs looking at the ground but didn’t find him. I again started running towards the canteen in despair to check once again.
“Raghav” Raghav” !!!!!
Someone was calling my name, I stopped for a second, but as it came to my mind that I didn’t know anyone in the college so there wasn’t any point in someone calling out my name, I again started running.
“Raghav listen to me” “Raghav”!!
It was the same girl whom I had met in the morning , she was calling out my name.
“How do you know my name, and why are you running behind me” I said in a single breath.
“ I am the class representative, I have seen your name in the class register and I was searching….”
Before she could complete what she wanted to say I saw udal in her hand, I snatched it from her any held him tightly close to my chest.
“I wanted to say sorry to you so I went to the canteen after you, and saw it lying there, I am looking for you since then but couldn’t find you”
“Thank you” I said, “thank you very much”
“It’s ok, can we be friends”, she extended her hand.
I didn’t know what to say I just shook hands with her, I was not in a state to say anything, what had happened in the last few minutes was enough to give me a heart-attack.
“You are from Delhi no”?
“Come lets have coffee” she said
As we had our coffee she asked about udal that what exactly it was for.
I told her the story of aalha-udal the warrior brothers.
“So which one is this, aalha or udal”, she asked
“ Its udal” softly I said.
“You are new here na, come I’ll show you the whole college, I know u must not have seen anything except our department and the library” she smiled as she said
True she was.
“And by the way Delhi boy, u didn’t even ask my name, is this the way u treat friends in your Delhi” she chukingly said.
“No…. I was…. errrr….just.. what’s your name” my throat was choked.
“I am Sakshi”, she said as she bounced and walked.
I looked at udal, he was smiling at me.
Everything else had ceased to exist.