WSPI-2012-03: The Knights by the street: A Tribute – Social Short Story
This short story is participating in Write Story from Picture India 2012 – Short Story Writing Competition.
There is an old saying – success comes with a price. And here is my award winning picture that ascertains this proverb. Yes I am a photographer by profession and also by passion. I travel a lot for this purpose. And in one such sunny morning in the mid of March 2012, I went out on a photographic expedition to capture the cultural heritage of the Kolkata.
I, Abanish Chattrejee am quite renowned in my profession. But hardly any commoners know me by my face. So I could easily mingle in the crowd to take some realistic snaps. This time the scheme was different. I had to capture the real beautiful but old heritage buildings of Kolkata. So the ideal place was Esplanade to get started. My editor Bob called me up that day.
Bob- come come my dear, have a sit. Look I know you are more into realistic photography but this time we are making an edition on Kolkata’s heritage which will be published in Poila Baisak. You take the charge please. I cannot trust anyone else but you for this job.
Abanish- But Bobda I have rarely taken such shots before.
Bob- my boy then take it a challenge.
Abanish- but, but
Bob- no buts, now move your butt.
I knew this is certainly gonna be a big mess. But again an order is an order. What to be done. I took a cab from the front gate of the office and asked the driver to speed up to my destination. Suddenly I noticed something, yes a good subject for my photography. I asked him to slow down as I took the picture of the two demon mask displayed at the roadside along with other potteries. As I was about to take the picture the peddler boy came in the way- sahib mera bhi photo lelo na sahib.
Abanish- ok you stand next to the potteries.
I knew I could easily remove him from the frame through photoshop. I was more than happy to get the picture. It helped me to tide down my crisis which I was facing due to the task assigned to me. I stretched a twenty rupee note to the boy. He smiled and handed over the demon masks to me. I was surprised- mein iska kya karunga. You keep the money. This is for the picture I took.
The boy- My father told me not to take money without service. Bina mehnat ke paisa mat lena
Abanish took off the car and patted at his shoulder- whats your name?
The boy- I amRavi. I live in the Gouranganagar basti in Rajarhat.
Abanish- and how old are you?
The boy- kya pata sahab.
But I guessed he could be around 13 years. I felt for the boy and gave a thought of buying the demon couple for my boss for a second.
The boy insisted- le lo na sahab. Ishe ghar ke bahar lagane se buri nazar bale sab bhag jate hai.
I burst into laughter as he tried to explain. Now the cabwala blow his horn. I hurried myself into the cab and put the twenty rupee in his pocket and said ishe rakhlo bhai.
I have a rare gift to see through people. I could understand how happy the boy would be to hear me calling him as brother. But time to go ahead with the plan. I rushed from one place to another and took innumerable shots, some great, some medium and some very ordinary. But can’ deny whatsoever that picture with the boy was my best for the day.
It’s been a long day. When I returned home it was 11.30. My wife is very adjusting, she never complains. She arranged for my food and went back to her room. I followed and grabbed her from behind. In return she holds an envelope on my face.
Abanish- what is this? A divorce notice ha ha…
Madhu- open it, it’s your invitation to participate in an international photographic competition to be held inLondon. Please submit it by tomorrow or it will be very late.
I jumped with joy because I had applied for this long back and waiting for the response for quite sometime. I knew which pictures to send but had to do some touch ups before that. The whole night I stayed awake thinking what should I do? Should I or not keep the picture of the boy beside the potteries. I realized it is actually disrupting the artistic quality of the picture. I said to myself- chances are slim that I would ever meet the boy again. So day after I posted the form with that picture, I was feeling little guilty at heart.
Days passed by and soon came the Kalboshaki, the destructive wind. One day as I returned home early Madhu came running and hugged me and kissed. I was in utter surprise- is this because I return home early?
Madhu- no you fool. You have won the most prestigious competition fromLondon.
Abanish- but which one got selected. Is it the rains in the midst of crowd or the tired rickshaw puller perspiring in heat?
Madhu- it’s the picture of the masks of the demons that you took in esplanade that day, remember?
Abanish- yes I clearly remember. I must go and meet Ravi and thank him for the picture. And this time I will bring home the demons for our home.
Madhu- sure sure.
I quickly packed my bag and rushed to the office. I didn’t share the news with anybody. I was more interested to finish the job and visit Ravi. That day after 3 pm I got out of the office. When I reached the exact spot I could not find him. Everything seemed to be the same except for his presence. I saw another man sitting at his place.
Abanish- arien you are sitting at Ravi’s place
The peddler- you knew Ravi
Abanish- yes very well.
The peddler- I am his father. My son died last week as a thunder struck him during his return home. The Kalboishaki took away my son. He was my only support. Now I have no one to take care of me.
Abanish- oh that was you who taught to hold his head high, that was you his father he was so proud of.
The peddler- you are right, that’s must be my son you are talking of.
I felt helpless but I had no words to console him, so I left.
Abanish- I cannot take the prize Madhu.
Madhu- take it easy Abanish. You have done nothing wrong. You are just being sentimental at the moment.
Abanish- I need a deep sleep, I am feeling really tired.
As I slide into the bed, Madhu moved his fingers slowing through my hair. But still I couldn’t steep for a second. I felt guilty. Never thought how success could come with such price. He was the knight of the street who gave away a lesson to me. Never ever underestimate anyone.