This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 41; the forty-first edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is "SWEET AND SOUR"
A maple leaf was flaunting its beauty while carelessly floating above the barren land as if the air was blowing only for her. Soon a gust of wind defied her delusion and took her miles away. Deb was standing in the middle of a barren land. He looked towards the sky, the piercing sun-rays almost blinded him; he closed his eyes and looked down. Rats were coming out of the cracks in the ground. He was scared; beads of sweat started glistening on his forehead. Numerous rats were popping out and were moving as if on cue in the same direction. He started running towards that direction. At a distance, Tisca was pegged to the ground. With loud squeak, the rats were wildly running towards her. She was shouting. She was crying. She was unsuccessfully trying to free herself. A few meters away from her, the rats stopped and made a circle around her. The squeaking died. Cracks started to appear in the ground around her. The earth started to cave in taking her inside. He was just a few yards away from her but he fell on the ground. His face was smudged with sweat, sand, and blood. He stretched his hands to grab her but earth had swallowed her entirely. He shouted.
Completely drenched in sweat, Deb woke up. This wasn’t the first time and definitely not the last, he woke up to such a nightmare. He pressed his eyes with his palm and then looked towards the side table. Tisca’s picture was missing. He jumped out of the bed and strode towards the door. He held the doorknob but stopped. He turned back and leaned against the door. Covering his face with his palms, he sat on the floor with his back rubbing with the door leaving sweat marks on it. He understood his mother’s intention; she wanted to reduce his pain.
Two hours later, he was standing in front of Tisca’s house. He lifted the latch of the iron gate of the compound wall.
‘Fatto, don’t make so much of sound.’
His eyes searched for her, but she was not there, her voice was echoing inside his brain.
He trudged towards the main door.
‘Can you just walk a bit faster?’
This time he didn’t try to look around. He knew; she was gone.
He hesitantly lifted his shaking hand to press the calling bell. He was not sure if he should have come to her house on this specific day. He had debated it for a long time. She would be disappointed, but he was helpless. An invisible string was continuously pulling him.
“Deb! How are you?” Her mother opened the door and asked, though she knew how he was. He didn’t reply. He entered the house like a stranger - nervous. “Would you like to have something to drink?”
“Water.” He said. His throat was already dry.
“You sit here ...”
“No I will be sitting in her room.” He interrupted her and started walking towards Tisca’s room.
Will he be able to tolerate the emptiness inside the room? He paused before opening the door and took a deep breath. The clack of the doorknob echoed inside his ear.
Except for the smell escaping from the room, everything else had her imprint. The three teddy bears, her buddies, were sleeping on the bed. Perhaps they shared more secrets with her then he did. They must be missing her as well.
Her mother entered with a glass of water; even she looked around as if she had entered the room after a long time.
“When are you going back to Bhubaneswar?... You have to start afresh.” She said while handing over the glass. Her eyes started brimming. “This atmosphere won’t help you.” She turned back hiding her tears and left the room.
He kept the glass on the side table and looked around the room once again. His eyes stopped on Tisca’s Picture hanging from the wall. He started caressing the picture. His hands moved from her forehead till the prominently visible dimples on her cheek. He kept his hand on the picture and confoundedly stared at her innocent smile for a few seconds then his eyes fell on the sandalwood garland hanging from the picture. He started shivering, unleashing the barrage of his eyes.
Deb, fat extra-infused and calmness redefined, fathomed the world as one large family where love can conquer anything. Tisca, an ambitious and self-conscious beauty, believed that love is a madness that spoils relationships. Irrespective of their startling differences, they were names synonymous to each other among the people who knew them. They were friends as far as the memory could go back in the past. Everybody believed that they were a couple made for each other and a romantic angle would be a natural progression of their relationship. This belief was partly fuelled by Deb’s own acceptance on many occasions but her stubborn attitude towards romance was a hindrance; after all, she was brought up by a single mother.
Her attitude never affected him; his love for her grew with every passing day. Though he never made his feelings evident, his eyes at times defied him in front of her. But, she had confined herself within a shield where she was not allowing the ray of love skim through. She was a big fan of Shahrukh Khan, but she skipped watching Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, every time it was aired on TV, because it showed friendship culminating into a romantic relationship. She also knew that, of late, Deb didn’t like her calling him Fatto, somewhere even she disliked, but a change of reference would have revealed her soft core. But, for how many days could she be able to pretend to be so strong against the change?
Fatto, there is a story behind this name as well. Tisca never called Deb by his name. Initially, she used to call him just ‘F’. When they grew up and became aware of the most famous ‘F Word’, she was ashamed but non-apologetic, she started searching for the name replacement and among ‘Fatty’ and ‘Fatto’, she chose ‘Fatto’, the last letter ‘O’ symbolising his round shape.
Like many middle-class teenagers, Deb was burdened with his father’s dream to become an engineer. He never complained but his only wish was to get an eligible rank in the entrance exam to get admission into NIT Rourkela, because she being the sole support system of her mother, Tisca would never leave Rourkela.
But, destiny had other plans, Deb couldn’t get admission into NIT, Rourkela and even though he vehemently opposed he was forced by everybody including her to join CET, Bhubaneswar. Tisca got admission into NIFD, Rourkela.
“Will you miss me?” Deb asked. It was the penultimate day before Deb would leave Rourkela. They were sitting in Tisca’s room.
“Hey, Fatto, don’t be so senti now.” Tisca replied without looking into his eyes. Perhaps, she was more disturbed.
When her father left her mother for another woman, Tisca was just twelve years old. Her mother could never come out of that shock; she could never provide the mental support a girl of that age needs. The society, instead of supporting them, raised numerous questions. People having questionable intentions would raise concern about the survival of the family without a man. It was during that time, standing at the gate of adolescence, Deb had said with maturity and firmness, “I am the man in your family.” Tisca never forgot those words. Perhaps, she was in love with him since then, but her mother’s face, expressionless yet the courses of tears cutting across her face reflecting her broken interior, on the morning when her father left, remained adrift in Tisca’s eyes for a long time. She had lost faith on relationships.
At the age when the mind weaves fantasies, Tisca was facing the cruel reality of the apathetic world. She could find support only from Deb and he gradually became a habit. Now, he was going away. Amidst the fear of losing the balance in her life, she was still projecting a strong face in front of him. So, when he stood in front of her with his arms stretched apart for a hug, she ignored him. It wasn’t the first time they would have hugged, but she was worried that a hug would have disturbed the balance even more.
Even though Deb was insisting not to attend the cricket match of the Sector Tournament, she forced him to join, only to avoid longer interaction with him. Though he agreed when she promised that she would watch the match, he wasn’t happy.
“Fatto, can you really run?” She teased to lighten the situation, just before the match was about to start.
“What’s the need to run when you can hit sixes?” He replied with swallowed chest.
“Oh, really. Dont try to impress me with hollow talk.”
“Hollow talk? You have seen me play earlier as well.”
“But, those were against the kid of our own Sector. Look at these guys.” She said pointing toward the bowlers of opposite team practicing near the boundary.
“Okay then, you sit... there.” He said pointing towards the longest boundary. “I assure you, six balls would give salami to you by landing near your feet.” She smiled and started moving towards that direction. “But, what will I get in return?” Her smile widened but she continued walking. Deb instructed one of his teammate to sit near her as a protection in case a ball comes directly towards her.
Eighth ball that he faced landed on the right of Tisca. After that, at regular intervals, he hit four more sixes with such a precision that his friend didn’t move a inch. The balls landed at safe distance including the sixth one but the sixth ball hit a pebble and changed its direction, even his friend wasn’t expecting it. He unsuccessfully tried but the ball hit her on her temple. She fell unconsciously on the ground and remained unconscious until Deb arrived, rested her head on his lap, and sprinkled water on her face.
“You won.” She said after opening her eyes. Deb nodded. “I had never thought that you would vent your anger like this.” She continued with a smile. He was scared with the swelling of her temple. He took her to Hospital. The doctor gave some medicine with strict instruction that in case of nausea or loss of vision, she should immediately visit a doctor. Deb cancelled his ticket, stayed in Rourkela for three more days, and then left for Bhubaneswar only after the swelling vanished and Tisca affirmed that she was perfectly all right. The love and care in his eyes during those three days initiated the corrosion of the shield around her.
The initial days of separation didn’t hurt much. They were busy in their early settlement issues. Both had to pass through the ragging procedure, but the severity and the complexity were completely different. On one side, Deb had to go through a lot of physical torture; Tisca was getting a lot of attention in the institute. Seniors were turning up in batches only to talk to her. Soon, the realisation that they haven’t seen each other for more than 3 months crept in. The desperation to meet each other was becoming unbearable. Unlike him, she never expressed her feeling, but the shield around her had evaporated; a bit of its reminiscence that might have still existed would vanish during the Durga Puja holidays, when Deb would be in Rourkela for a few days.
Deb had initially planned to surprise Tisca by knocking at her door early morning, but his big tummy couldn’t hold the excitement of meeting her after so many days. He called her from the railway station before boarding the train. She was thrilled, but she didn’t let her voice to give away her feeling. He was surprised and a bit sad with such a cold response.
Deb had a typical habit. In every railway station, he would check his weight. Perhaps, he always believed that one day he would find a correct machine that would show his correct weight, otherwise, all those machines currently installed at various stations were faulty, showing his weight on the higher side. Before boarding the train in Bhubaneswar, he had checked his weight but when he saw a weighing machine in Rourkela station, he couldn’t control himself. He stepped onto the machine and inserted a one-rupee coin.
“Fatso, have some mercy on that machine, it’s for humans, not dinosaurs.” Even before the shining multi-colour circles would have stopped and a ticket would have popped out, her voice sent ripples under his skin. He turned back and jumped off the machine. He forgot that he was in the crowded railway station; he took two steps forward and hugged her. Words ceased to exist, the past shrunk and the memories extraneous to their togetherness evaporated. Those few seconds compensated for the hiatus of the last three month. Even she was holding him tightly for a few seconds before realising the sensitivity of the place.
“Deb, let’s go out from here.” She said. He broke the embrace, looked into her eyes and smiled.
“Deb?” He murmured. He tilted his head and winked. She reciprocated with a smile before lowering her gaze. This was, perhaps, the first time she had taken his name.
“Do you know why M comes after L.” Tisca said. Tisca had gone to Bhubaneswar for a seminar. Deb forced her to skip the evening session and took her to Puri on his bike. Both of them were sitting on the sand in Puri beach.
After their embrace in the railway station, they didn’t talk to each other for two days, and then he went to her house, a bit scarred, a bit shy, even he couldn’t understand why it was so different that day to enter the same house he had visited thousands of time in the past. Even she fluttered with words. Confused but a bit satisfied, Deb left Rourkela three days later. Even after many lengthy phone calls during the four months that followed, they were yet to tell the magical three words to each other, yet their relationship had grown beyond such verbal expression.
“Have you gone mad? What kind of question is that?”
“That is exactly what I am saying. See when you are in love, Madness naturally follows it, which is why M comes after L.” She said in a childlike tone. Deb smiled. This was the first time the word love was mentioned in any of their discussion. He looked at her, tilted his head, and winked.
“You know the world is same. Nothing has changed around us. Nothing at all. Wind, clouds, rains, land... Isn’t it?” She entwined her hand, and rested her head against his shoulder and said. “But now-a-days, everything’s so different; the wind whistles your name in my ear, I can see the clouds making your face in the sky, the rains... I used to hate rains you remember, but now I enjoy, I like going out and feel the drops falling on my skin, I... I feel like you are touching me.” She tightened her grip around his arm. “The drops falling on the land play a melodious chorus, as if they are celebrating our love.” She paused for some time, then raised her head and looked inside his eyes and said, “Has the world really changed?”
“How can I see anything else?” Deb replied with a husky voice. “You are always there in front of my eyes.” A few strands of hair came out of her ponytail and started swaying across her face. He pushed the hair behind her ear and pulled her face towards him. She showed token resistance. Just before their breaths entangled, she closed her eyes. What followed next was a passionate kiss, their first kiss.
While Tisca was boarding the bus to return to Rourkela, Deb gave her a few sweet and sour, black candies, her favorite. She put one candy in her mouth and started chewing. Suddenly as if some kind of realization dawned upon her, she paused and said “Life is like this candy. It is sweet at this moment, it will be sour some other time.”
“You are thinking too much. It will remain sweet... always.” Deb said and kissed her on her forehead.
While they were kissing on the beach that day, they didn’t have the slightest of the hint that they would be sitting on the same beach after six months but the situation would be drastically different.
A pertinacious sea wave was approaching the shore, this time it would beat its earlier attempt and reach to the unexplored territory of the shore. It knew that it couldn’t revolt; it would have to recede and dissolve in the ocean. It just wanted to spend some extra time with the shore. Even though it was seduced and exploited by the waves earlier, the shore was waiting once again, its arms stretched apart with the expectation that this time the wave would not betray. They met, they moaned, the surf glazed, bubbles popped out of the shore in celebration. But, once again the wave receded and disappeared. The bubbles died and the amaranthine wait of the shore continued.
Sitting on the sand, under the temporary shed made of coconut leaves, Tisca was watching the waves and shore with her unblinking pale eyes. Deb was sitting alongside, holding her hand.
“Can we go back to our friendship days?” She said, irritated, without looking at Deb. “I don’t like the way our relationship changed.” Ever since the news was out, he was expecting this. Yes, the news that changed every equation of their relationship, the news that was kept a secret from him for months and was revealed accidently after she collapsed during one of their phone conversation. He could still feel the shivering of her mother’s voice on the phone when she told that Tisca was suffering from an incurable disease. Deb reached Rourkela next day. She was admitted in the hospital. “Finally mom told you. She must have exaggerated.” She had said, but her pale eyes were silently supporting her mother’s version. Deb could relate that her visit to Delhi a month back with her mother was actually to AIIMS, which she had claimed to be a Seminar of her Institute. Deb tried to find out the details about the disease, but he was ignored by everybody. He was still a kid in the block. For next two months, Deb made frequent visits to Rourkela and saw her condition deteriorating. It was during his last visit, she insisted to visit Puri. Her mother protested initially but gave up expecting some godly intervention, Puri being a holy place.
‘See those ships there; they are fighting with such a large ocean to remain afloat.’ Deb said after a moment of silence. ‘The waves are threatening, but they can never break the determination of the ship.’
“A Tsunami will not respect these ships.” Tisca looked towards the ships for a moment, then looked at Deb and said. Her eyes started brimming. She clasped a handful of sand in her right palm and raised her hand towards Deb. The sand was coming out of her palm, she tightened the grip, and the sand started coming out faster. ‘I am loosing it... I ... I don’t want...’ She stopped looking at her empty hands, and then closed her eyes. A few drops of tears trickled down her cheeks. He hugged her tightly. All his efforts to control his emotions failed a bit when a lonely teardrop rolled down. The sun was lost amidst the metal and concrete of the Puri Town. Slowly abysmal darkness would engulf the sea. The chanting of mantras emanating from the Swargadwara Crematorium echoed inside his ears and the sound rose decibel by decibel until he broke down completely and started crying.
Can somebody plan his own death? No, unless he is attempting suicide. But, for Tisca, it appeared as if everything was planned. The news of her illness came to Deb a month after his second semester exam. Surpassing all her pains, she fought with death for almost five months and when she died, Deb was sitting in the exam hall and writing his last paper. She had ensured that even though her illness had crumbled him, he didn’t lose a semester, but she couldn’t hold her breath for a day more, her last wish couldn’t be fulfilled, she wanted to die with her head resting on his lap.
Deb wasn’t informed about her death until he reached Rourkela the next day morning. He was frozen for a minute after he saw her body, then he collapsed. He was admitted into the hospital, he would open his eyes in between, indifferent to the hustling of doctors, nurses and his family around him, he would search for her face and then he would close his eyes as if he had rejected the meaning of his own life. On the third day when he opened his eyes, he was handed over a letter, her last letter for him.
“For F” The top of envelop carried only this. He kept looking at this for a long time, then he opened the envelop.
“Hey Fatto, how’s your exam? I know this is worst question I should have asked at this time. Anyway, in a few days, Valentine’s Day is coming and the whole world would be coloured Pink. You remember I hate that Colour. So, I have just one wish, my last wish. Don’t remember me on that day. I am sure you won’t disappoint me.
And remember, first Sunday of August is reserved for me. Wherever you will be, I will always be there alongside you on that day.
Deb cried for the first time after her death. What she missed understanding was that she wasn’t his lover or friend anymore, she was his life.
Twelve days after her death, he was standing in front of her picture. It was Valentine’s Day.
As they say, time heals all wounds, Deb moved on in the life, yet at every step he looked back longingly as if he was expecting some miracle, which never happened.
After completing his engineering, he joined an IT company in Bangalore and only six months later, he got his project abroad. Before leaving the country for two years, or perhaps forever, he visited Rourkela. Even though he had spoken to her mother many times over phone, he never visited her house after that Valentine’s day. But before leaving the country he wanted to live some moments with her memories.
He spent hours inside her room staring at her picture, and then he opened the cupboard and searched for her blue dress having half sleeve and a bow just above its chest. It heart achingly revealed her curves. He always protested whenever she wore that dress, because he wasn’t the only person watching her. He spread the dress on the bed and then he opened the dresser for a perfume bottle. He took out the bottle having red cap with a female face carved on it; he had made dimples on the face by scratching it with a pin. She never discarded that cap. He sprinkled the perfume on the dress. Lying alongside the dress, he caressed it for a long time, and then he held the dress tightly between his arms and cried.
Her mother knocked at the door, she must have heard him crying. He composed himself, neatly folded the dress, kissed it, and kept it back in the cupboard. Just before he was closing the cupboard, his eyes fell on a file hidden beneath clothes. It was her medical report. So many medical terms, which were difficult for him to understand, yet he kept on reading. His hands started to tremble when he reached the bottom of the second page. His eyes stopped on one line. A head injury, something as innocent and deceptive as a head injury was what led to Tisca’s death. Wandering in their past, he could correlate only one incident to the injury. He started to sweat profusely, and then he collapsed on the floor of her room. Within the confines of the picture frame, Tisca was still smiling.