My classes in Science College were over and my classes in the “School of Ventriloquists”, situated next to the Mall road, were also done.
It was late afternoon. The sun was setting, radiating golden yellow colors across the horizon and the blue sky with white wisps of clouds was giving a perfect backdrop to the nature’s grand stage. Flocks of birds were flying away towards the green but misty mountains at a great distance as if they wanted to reach there and embrace the fading sun.
Shimla, the queen of the hills in the north-west Himalayas, always magnificent, was at her visual best at that time.
I was in no mood to absorb the bounty of the nature. There had been an unusual experience a few hours ago while I was in the Ventriloquist School. It was a recess period and I was in one of the empty class rooms trying to brush up my knowledge of ventriloquism for an examination which was scheduled for the next week.
Ventriloquism was my hobby – my passion. My mother, initially, was very reluctant …she didn’t want me to join. She thought that it was a load of mumbo jumbo. I patiently tried to explain to her. “Mama, it is an art accepted and practiced all over the world for ages. You know … any inanimate object, like a doll, comes alive and talks… this looks absurd, but in reality, the ventriloquist creates an illusion of “throwing” his voice to come out from the moving doll. Actually, nobody can do this. The trick is that the visual of a doll with moving lips and head captures the attention of an audience more than the sound which comes out simultaneously from the ventriloquist who actually speaks but with his lips partially closed. Well, the audience thinks that the doll has magically come to life. You know Mama, it’s a psychological phenomenon based on the scientific response of the brain.” I went on trying to convince her.
That day my mother had agreed.
But today what had happened in the empty class room left me perplexed.
While I was trying to learn to talk with my lips partially closed, suddenly I found that a large puppet which was lying at the other corner of the room abruptly came alive and my words could be heard coming out of it. It was so bizarre!
I too was horrified and I stopped then and there. My palpitation started as I realized that this was a supernatural thing happening… it had no rationality. But before I could react any more, the ghostly phenomenon stopped as abruptly as it had begun leaving me sweating even in that wintry weather of Shimla.
It was such an unlikely incident that I couldn’t venture to talk to anybody, lest they think that I was becoming mad. But I had to talk to someone. Who? I had no real friends in that School or in the College.
I felt slightly depressed but then I remembered. How could she escape my mind? She was Dolon…. from my College. As I recalled her a sense of pleasure and pain swept through me. That girl had taken away my sanity….it was my deep love for her that gave me happiness … but what hurt me was; why was she so elusive?
My sorrow about her elusiveness knew no boundary. I remembered the other day in the College when I happened to meet her as she was coming out of the cafeteria. She was with her friends. Stopping, I had said, “Hi, Dolon!” I wanted a few minutes with her. But she didn’t respond. As she had done earlier, neither did she stop nor did she even look at me. God knows. every time I found this quite insulting and I could do nothing but just stared at her retreating figure- speechless.
Today I would definitely talk to her.
I surveyed all around. I couldn’t find her though. I knew that she had remained late in the College and was expected to be here now.
Even after waiting for almost half an hour and not seeing her, I became crestfallen. Walking slowly towards my hostel, my thoughts were not only on my strange experience but also on her.
As I turned the corner of the market place, I stopped. There she was entering the local Coffee house with Chinmoy, another College class mate. Both presented a contrast; she was fair, petite and slim while he was dark, tall with a strapping personality. Being the best student in the College and a successful state level sportsman, Chinmoy was popular with all. One could however, overlook his temperamental nature.
Standing there for some minutes, it began to dawn over me as to why Dolon was less bothered about my overture towards her and why she would rather be with Chinmoy, instead of me. But I refused to give up.
Entering an adjoining small tea shop, I ordered a cup. My intention was to see what would happen next. My waiting was short, because soon enough I saw both of them emerging from the Coffee house and started to walk away briskly. Hurriedly, finishing my tea and paying off, I followed them.
After about fifteen minutes of walking they reached Dolon’s house. I was some distance away, but I could see her entering her house and Chinmoy taking the stairs to climb down the hill to the next level.
I stood contemplating for long, then, with slow steps walked towards her house perched on a slight hill – elevation. On reaching below the window, I looked up. The curtains were drawn apart and the evening sun was playing inside the room. I could make out that she was sitting on a chair near the window with a book in her hand. Apparently, she was relaxing after her college.
Then my eyes espied a large Teddy bear propped in a sitting position near the pillow of her bed.
By and by I saw her getting up from her chair – then picking up her Teddy bear she cuddled it and then kept it on the window ledge.
“She does love that toy, more than me”, I thought wryly.
I couldn’t be standing there indefinitely. Turning to walk away, a preposterous idea struck me. And as I thought it soon grew to such an extent that I became convinced that it was possible to put it into action. This of course depended upon the new found supernatural ventriloquism power I had experienced a few hours ago in the class room. It was spooky but I desperately wanted to activate that. It was the only way. How would I ever do that? It had come suddenly and gone away within seconds. Well, I could try.
I moved away from her window and sat down under a nearby Himalayan Cedar tree. With the setting sun illuminating the Teddy bear perched on the window ledge, I concentrated hard and intensely.
Nothing happened for some minutes but soon after, I started feeling that the same strange power was surging inside me. It was very difficult to describe, nevertheless I cleared my throat and in a very low voice started speaking, strongly willing that my voice would come out from that Teddy bear.
“Dolon, I love you, I am crazy about you… my heart is heavy for you… only you and you… I want you, please don’t reject my feelings, my emotions for you…”
I continued till what time I had lost count, my heart was beating painfully and my mouth was dry in sheer nervousness. Then I stopped abruptly. Did my voice reach her in the room above me? I watched the open window with its curtains gently swinging in the light cool breeze of the evening. Nothing seemed to happen. I continued looking up, hoping and praying.
Then it finally happened! She came near the window to see. She had always been a beautiful girl, but at that time she looked more stunning in my eyes. Her flawless face, large eyes, aquiline nose, luscious pink lips and raven black hair tied loosely above her head, … my God… all I could die for!
Her face showed surprise. She looked at the Teddy bear and gingerly touched it. There was a stifled cry and she put her hand over her mouth…!
Seeing me sitting under the tree she said, “Oh my God what is happening? And Ruben, what are you doing there? How come I heard your voice coming from my Teddy?” Her voice was quivering.
I gulped and said, “Sorry Dolon, I am not intruding on your privacy… just that wondering if I can come in.”
She said, “Of course! Of course! Thank goodness you are here! Do come in… that side is the main door. Come quickly….”
Once I was inside her room, she said, “… I am scared…. I heard a voice coming out of my Teddy bear …. it was telling me how much that person loves me…”
Then she stopped suddenly to look at me, her eyes wide, “It was your voice, wasn’t it? “
I blushed, I couldn’t find any words to reply. She had an inquiring look on her face, “But how did you do it? Is it ventriloquism which I know you are learning … or what is it?”
I stared down at my hands marshaling my thoughts. Eventually I said, “Dolon … this is not ventriloquism …” I shook my head, “…. how can I explain to you that this is a paranormal power which I seem to be having today … off and on…… I have realized this a few hours ago…”
I then told her my entire experience in detail. She didn’t interrupt me even once, and I noticed that the look of scare was going way from her face…ultimately she said, “What a strange happening …. I still can’t believe this abnormal thing…what can it be? “I shook my head in confusion. “Well,” She said,” I am sure that there is some logical explanation, but …. “She stopped, her face softening, “…. these words of love from you… are they real? “Her large eyes were now on me.
What more could I say? Might be my face said it all. She looked out of the window for an eternal time as it seemed to me, then turning her head towards me gave a smile. So very attractive… my heart skipped a beat.
And then she did the unthinkable. She took my hand in hers and brought her face near mine, whispering, “I also love you Ruben … for past many months I have understood your emotions for me…” She brought her lips near mine, touched them very lightly over mine and moved back, “Till now, you never had the courage to tell me about your feelings …” then ruffling my hair she said, “… how could I then take our love forward?”
Things were changing too fast for me. It was beyond my dreams. But her past behavior which always made me upset I had to tell her, “Dolon, pardon me, but why did you ignore me and behave in such dismissive ways all these months…you know how upset and depressed I become …. this always demoralizes me.”
She looked at me intently with her beautiful eyes, “You will understand, Ruben, if I tell you that my marriage has been fixed with Chinmoy … both the families have agreed…and Chinmoy knows about your feelings towards me … he gets furious and violent if he sees me talking to you… “
By that time, her eyes were filled with tears which she hastily wiped away, “Hope you will forgive me for my behavior”.
Realization was dawning over me, now I knew that Dolon loved me as I loved her; I could understand that she had her compulsions; but I was not sure what we should do about Chinmoy.
Dolon was talking to herself, “I will talk to Chinmoy, I will convince him that he will find happiness with some other girl, and also that he has to tell his parents to call off our marriage…. my parents always support me, so that will not be any problem…”
I just kept silent. This was a very sensitive issue for any girl… this had to be handled by her. But I too wanted to support her; after all it was because of me that she was in such a situation.
We decided that both of us would meet Chinmoy the next day evening post college hours.
That intervening night and the next morning were long and tortuous for me. I was sure that she had felt the same.
That evening I and Dolon were waiting in the Coffee house; Chinmoy was to join us. A little later when the darkness had already spread its blanket and the hills and valleys of Shimla were dotted with glittering diamonds of lights being slowly covered by a fog, that Chinmoy pushed open the door and entered the restaurant. He came to our table and sat down, frowning. It was very clear that I was totally unwelcome there. He looked at his watch and said,” Go on… I don’t have time.”
After ordering for coffee, Dolon said, “Chinmoy, please listen carefully, this is important for both of us…. and don’t get upset…”
She paused and resumed “…. after our parents have fixed our marriage, I have been deeply thinking about this over the past few months… “She hesitated for some moments and continued, “… now I feel that it will be better if we call off this marriage; I don’t think I can live the rest of my life as your wife, it will be a loveless marriage; both of us will be equally unhappy. And then…. I am also getting this feeling that you too want a way out of our relationship… “
She stopped awkwardly.
Chinmoy was staring at her wordlessly, then suddenly he got up so violently that his chair toppled over. His face was contorted in anger, “So that is it!” His voice went up in a crescendo, “You want this creep over me…. I will never allow this. I hate you… how dare you…? You b**ch!” He then glared at me, “You…. You….” He spluttered …. then started talking incoherently for many minutes. Soon he stomped out of the restaurant leaving both of us stupefied. Others in the restaurant too seemed to fall silent.
As soon as the door closed, I jumped up saying, “Let’s follow him … he could do something violent…”
We rushed out leaving money on the counter for the coffee.
Outside it was all pervasive darkness; the load shedding had happened as if by some providence; there was no power supply. The fog was also swirling in. Looking around we could not gauge anything for a few seconds, then we saw the tall figure of Chinmoy walking away briskly towards the hill side from where the steep slopes started. In this darkness if he did not understand where the slopes started, he could very easily slip and roll down many hundred feet towards the foot hills…. it would be to his death.
We had to stop him from walking into that danger. I shouted at him, but it seemed he had not heard. It was a matter of minutes before he could walk to his end when suddenly I could feel the surge of extraordinary ventriloquism power inside me.
I stopped, thought for a moment and started concentrating on his watch which I had seen a little while ago, then spoke with a sense of urgency, “Chinmoy, this is Ruben … do not, I repeat do not walk forward, you are at the edge of the slope of the hill and you will slip down…that will be your death…. I repeat death…DEATH… STOP …STOP.”
I wanted these words to come out loud and clear from his watch tied to his wrist, which he would definitely hear. This was the only power I could use to save him .
Then we saw Chinmoy stop ahead of us, just in time.
We ran towards him. He was looking repeatedly at his watch, pressing it near his ear and down the dark and foreboding slopes of the hills which could have been his nemesis. There was a scared look on his face, clear even in that darkness.
Sometime later all three of us were back in the Coffee house.
Chinmoy looked dazed and his face was covered with sweat. He looked at me, and stammered, “I don’t know what was happening… why I walked towards the hill side …. but you guys saved my life… it seemed your voice came from my watch… how this was possible I couldn’t make out…. but I am eternally thankful…”
He held my hand tightly.
I tried to explain.
About an hour had passed. We were still sipping our coffee; this was the third cup…nobody had spoken. Chinmoy was lost in his thoughts, when all of a sudden, he got up and took Dolon’s and my hand in his hand. He spoke with reverence and awe which I had never heard before, “This is my new life… given by you… I will now begin this afresh…”
Releasing our hands, he said “You two are my well-wishers… I cannot think ill or bad of you both. ”
He then walked out of the Coffee house and our lives.
Hopefully my and Dolon’s love life will now flourish unhindered. But I seem to have lost that extraordinary power of ventriloquism. No big deal!
19th July 2017