Monday, September 28, 2009

The Best of Times

                                                            1
James Patterson was failing to grab Akruti’s attention for the very first time in his writing career. But she doubted Patterson’s writing skills had anything to do with it.
‘All this noise’ she sighed, attributing her lack of concentration to the sounds that drifted in from the adjacent room.
People laughing, talking in loud voices, clatter of dishes…
It sounded like a small party in progress which in actuality it was.
None of this was new to her though. This is what always happened whenever they came down for a visit. It was a re-union of sorts.
Dr Sen was her dad’s college friend and both families had been close for years now.

But strangely enough she couldn’t relate to the merriment. She had refused to join them an hour back citing a very lame excuse(that of reading her book). It was hard to believe that people could actually be so happy and contented. It was as if there was not a care in the world-no grief, no suffering, no problems or any nagging doubts.
Maybe she lived in a different world altogether.
Yawning slightly she put the book aside and looked out the window.

‘I need a walk.’ she thought.

After having changed her clothes she made her way towards the bed to retrieve her cell-phone. She was about to stuff it in her pocket and leave when something inside her half-open travel bag glinted in the fading rays of the sun.
Curious she inserted her hand inside it and brought out a silver photo-frame.
‘Of course.’ she thought. She had brought this thing with her even to this short trip which didn’t make any sense.
The last thing she needed was a reminder of the painful truth.

It was a picture of both of them. He was forcing a huge piece of cake into her mouth and even though there was an expression of shock on her face, she could also discern the slight smile that was playing about her own lips.
It was taken on her 20th birthday two years back.
These words were scribbled at the edge of the frame-

~THE BEST OF TIMES~

‘What a lie!’ she thought.
   

                                                            2

The beach was almost empty as she had assumed. This was the wrong time of the year to come down here in the first place.
So no tourists. Not many of them anyway.
She only noticed a few fishermen tugging at a huge fishing-net at a distance and  a few other people most of whom appeared to be locals.
She saw a family of three splashing in the waves, a couple of kids, a middle-aged guy and a solitary panipuri-vendor.
And this suited her just fine.
It was just her and the sea. Just like old times.
She sighed and inhaled deeply. The sea smelled the same.
Slipping off her pink flip-flops she bent down,rolled up the edges of her jeans and moved forward fearlessly.
The warm waves lapped gently at her feet. Then as she kept going forward the waves grew more frolicsome. But she didn’t care.



Nothing had changed since the last time she was here. The beach,the way the sand felt beneath her bare feet, the way she loved the wind ruffling up her hair. Nothing.
And yet something felt different. Something had changed.
And that something was probably-her.
And suddenly everything came back to her in a flash-the happenings of the past few months-the day she found out about him, their confrontation, the way he had shouted at her blurting out all those ugly truths, the way she had walked away without a word, the way she had still waited for the call which never came, the way her parents started feeling anxious and decided to bring her here to ‘take her mind off things’.

‘Excuse me…’

This brought Akruti back to reality and she turned her head to find a middle-aged man clad in a full-sleeved white shirt and a pair of black trousers looking at her curiously. In the brief moments he seemed to be scrutinizing her,she took in his disheveled appearance and surprisingly grey eyes.
He was the same guy she had spotted strolling casually along the beach a few moments ago.
Now that she looked carefully at him he didn’t look middle-aged to be precise-maybe 35 or 36.

Akruti suddenly felt a little wary.

This must have been evident from the look on her face ‘cause the stranger shrugged and said ‘It’s just that your shoes are about to be er engulfed by the waves.’
And sure enough as Akruti turned around she found both her slippers afloat on water and steadily drifting away a little distance from where she stood.
Without a second glance at the man she made a dash across the waves and picked them up. A few seconds more and they would’ve been lost to the sea forever.
She put them on and started walking away from the sea.
How had they managed to drift away? She had placed them carefully on the stretch of sand she thought was safe from the water.
She always did the right things didn’t she? There was nothing in this world that she trusted more than her own judgement.
She was always right. Everybody said so.
So why was everything failing her? Or was she failing herself?
And suddenly without knowing it she sank to the ground on her knees. Her body could support her weight no longer. She didn’t know what was the right thing to do anymore.
She hid her face in her palms.
She had never been the one to mope. She was always a ‘strong girl’, just like her mother believed.
Maybe she was wrong, wrong throughout.

And just like that the tears came-the ones she had been holding back all these months.

‘Take this.’ someone said in a deep, soothing voice.

Akruti looked up to find the same man who had informed her about the slippers holding out a kerchief.
Oh god she hadn’t even said a ‘thank you’ to him and just walked away like that.

‘I’m so..sorry… I just forgot….thank you.’ Her vocabulary was failing her for the first time in her life.
The man just looked at her for a while and then repeated what he had said earlier…
‘Go on…take it.’
And this time she obliged. She took the handkerchief and dabbed her eyes with it. But that did not stop the tears.
Instead she started crying even harder.

The man did not leave her side nor did he say anything. But he just stood there staring at the open sea with his hands in his pockets while she kept crying.

It was embarrassing to cry in front of a complete stranger. But somehow it also felt highly satisfying.

‘Thank you.’ She finally looked up and held out the handkerchief to the man who just shook his head.

‘No you keep it.’

‘I can’t. It’s yours.’

‘Never mind that. It’s just a piece of cloth.’ he insisted.
And giving her an uncertain look he started to walk away.

It was weird how a few minutes ago Akruti would’ve given anything to be alone on the beach, disturbed by no one or nothing.
But right then as she looked at the stranger’s back she wanted anything but to be on her own.

‘Wait.’ she shouted out over the sound of crashing waves not sure whether her voice would reach him across this distance.

But thankfully enough it did ‘cause he stopped in his tracks, turned around and looked at her.
                              
                                                                3.

The sand still felt warm from the afternoon heat of the sun. But it had started to cool down. The wind was a bit stronger now but she liked the way it blew her bangs out.


Sitting right there far away from home with a total stranger, watching the progress of the sun along the western sky, Akruti felt a strange sense of calm spreading through her. It felt as if it were healing her from within.

‘So…’ said the man finally breaking the silence and interrupting her chain of thoughts.

‘Boyfriend troubles?’ he asked without looking at her.

Akruti smiled.

‘Can’t there be anything else troubling a girl in her twenties except boys?’

‘Well..’ he mused… ‘there could be I guess.’
‘…If you’re either on drugs or pregnant’ He added.

Akruti glared at him.

He just shrugged.

‘I was just trying to cheer you up.’

‘Wow that’s a real nice way of doing it.’ Akruti said sarcastically.

He looked at her squarely in the face, his expression serious.

‘I’m right ain’t I?...someone ditched you and that’s why you were crying so hysterically before.’ He said.

This time Akruti couldn’t avoid the question and strangely enough she didn’t even want to.

I ditched him.’ she said stoically.

‘Why?’came the counter-question.

‘He was two-timing me.’ she said simply.

‘Ouch.’ he said.

‘I know.’

‘It’s okay if you don’t wanna talk about this.’ the man said wrenching his gaze away from Akruti and concentrating on the panipuri-vendor instead. A group of teenaged girls had gathered all around his tiny stall by this time.

A few moments of silence followed.

‘It’s not his fault. Who’d want to stay with a control freak like me?’
she said bitterly.

‘I used to call him to wake him up for college, nag him 24*7 to finish his assignments on time, be more serious about his life and career…’
She went on.

‘I didn’t even allow him to get as physical with me as he wished to…now who’d want to put up with all this crap?’

She finally looked at him.

‘Do you think this is why he cheated on you?’ he asked.

‘He shouted at me saying all those things.’

She tried to swallow her tears back but couldn’t.

‘He looked so angry…’ she sobbed pitifully.

‘I..it felt like there was nothing in this world….he hated more…’

‘All those times were a lie weren’t they?..’

‘I lived a lie for 3 years..’ she continued sobbing.

‘I’ve never quite liked the beach.’ he said suddenly.

Akruti looked at him.

‘I’ve hated the sea ever since I was a kid. I feared I might drown.’ He continued.

‘But then Meera came into my life and things changed. She loved coming here on short trips, gorging on sea food,clutching my hand and walking barefoot on the sand.’

‘And slowly I fell in love with the place too. We used to come down here every year...until..’ his voice trailed off.

‘Until?’ Akruti asked breathlessly.

….until she fell sick.’ He sighed.

‘She died of cervical cancer last year.’

Akruti felt like the wind had been knocked out of her.

‘The 7 years I had with her were the best years of my life. We shared everything-the good times, the bad times,the sadness and laughter….
And every one of those moments are dear to me. ‘Cause being with her made me happy.’
‘The thought that I’d never get to hear her laugh again does hurt. And I wonder why I’m still alive…’
                                  
‘And it is only then that Esha’s face comes into view and I get my answer.’

‘Esha….my 5 year-old.’ He smiled.

Akruti just stared at him.

‘So would you say that all the times I spent with my wife were a lie too?’ he finally asked her.

She had no answer.

‘He was the wrong guy to be with. But you did love him, didn’t you? And that can never be a lie.’

And suddenly she understood what he was trying to tell her.

Even though it was meant to end in heartache all those moments she shared with him had given her memories to be treasured for a lifetime.

Maybe right then they were causing her a lot of pain. But someday she’ll realize the significance of it all.

She could see the silver picture-frame in her mind's eye-

~THE BEST OF TIMES~

Maybe it wasn’t such a lie after all.
Sig 2

47 comments:

Nightwing said...

WOW!!!!THAT WAS SUPERB!!!khub bhalo hoechhe....write more stories...

but ekta katha...chheleder theke meyera beshi two-timing kore...it's logical...male population is greater than female population....

heavealie said...

it was not that lengthy!!really liked your work.some of the scenes such as the slippers drifting away.i always like those kind of characters who never say much listen to other people patiently.normally if we see someone crying we start asking them hundreds of questions which is not required.just standing with them making them feel that they are not alone is sufficient.well mentioned that yeah there will be good times as well as bad times.bad times wont erase the good memories.they will always remain embedded in our heart.liked the idea of two people with lives so different.one with such great loss finding happiness in that.and the other finding sadness it something not that big.as they say some people find light in even darkness.good work and well written.will have to read it 2 or 3 times more extract some more emotions out of this hehe!!keep writing!!

Sid 'Ravan' Kabe said...

wow...thats nice and lengthy post...:D

Guria said...

That's a nice story, really nice! The encounter and the company. Really liked reading this. :)

Singh Amit said...

Awesome.. :)
I loved the story... :)
Memories are one of the best gifts that nature has blessed to mankind.

Cheers!!

SiMbA tAgO said...

hey lady .. u have been awarded..

and yea awesome post .. memories....

jus superb

collect the award

Daone said...

Hey, Nice one, I would say. Simplistic style of writing and seemingly genuine emotions make this quite a good read. But you see, such stories involving more of mind-drifts than real plot require much more to it to make it special. Like you might want to add some witty conversation, anecdotes(the slipper incident was just ordinary), puns, impressive language(not necessarily though) for a long lasting impact. Otherwise, this will remain a mere timepass read than a pleasure.
Thankfully, now we've conquered the 'engrossing the reader' fort(e). Next step- 'Improving the plot'.

Samadrita said...

@Nightwing:Lol that's a good logic.But I still believe boys two-time way more than girls do... humph :X

@heavealie:Hey thanks for taking time out to read this.I agree with you people who just keep nagging you to spill it all out when you're crying are plain irritating.Somehow they manage to worsen your suffering :X
Glad you liked the story.

@Sid:This sure is lengthy.But I'm still hoping you read it. :P

@Guria:Thank you! :)

Samadrita said...

@Amit:Really glad to know you liked reading it.Stay in touch :)

@Simba tago: :) thanks for the award pal!

@daone:Ah finally my personal literary guardian angel commenting on my story :D
I agree with you completely.Thing is while writing the story I had to keep a few things in mind.I had to complete it within 2000 words and stick to the basic theme of a beach,a picture-frame and self-doubt.(This story is actually written for the 'short stories' block of WriteUp Cafe)
You're right about the impressive language part.I'll have to work on that.

In the given scenario the girl was kind of depressed so a witty convo might have looked a bit odd don't you think?
Puns and anecdotes,I'd keep that in mind next time I write something. :)
Personally I feel I couldn't express myself that well towards the end.I wanted to write something more substantial that would help convince the girl that a break-up is not the end of the world.
I promise to try hard next time. :)

Sourav !!! said...

Honsestly speaking I usually skip such long stories if the first few paragraphs can't hold me back, but I did keep back !

I'm no literary genius, I can't say much on your writing style, the mood, the flow, etc, but the only thing which your story has to keep anyone reading till the end are 'emotions' .. one can easily connect to such emotions ! Loved the story, though I would have loved few conversations thrown in between, too much narration slowed down the mind at points.

P.S. Would like to see a '55-word' fiction' from you.

Subho Vijaya ! :)

Sourav...in love with me and life

Ranjith said...

I really don't know what to say...It was awesome..just like always, loved your writing...and one thing is that, about this line...

So why was everything failing her? Or was she failing herself?

how about you try writing it from a characters perspective..That way the book will appear to speak for itself...

Quintessence Of Illusion said...

Brilliant as usual....someday ven ya publish your 1st novel.......i promys dat il b d 1st 1 ta buy it....
derz somethin very attrctve bout your style of writing.........n i thnk datz simplcty n genuine emotions.......

sawan said...

wow this is so very beautiful!!

wisewit said...

Personally I liked the writing style. Of course, you want to hear criticisms (?), but on a first impression there are only two problems (and not very big ones, either), that struck me--at least as far as style goes.
1) The narration is maybe a bit too passive. Using more dialog and avoiding passive verb constructions in a few places might help. But keep in mind that there is a lot of room for variation here. To me, the story seems to have a pensive mood that might be better served by a somewhat more passive narrative style than would otherwise make for good writing.
2) Use of the word "'cause". This is fine if the whole story is written in a more informal style, but, when the rest of the narrative is written in a somewhat more formal tone, it kind of stands out in a not so pleasant way. It might be better to use the whole word ("because").

wisewit

Akansha Agrawal said...

Whoa! some nice criticizers you've got... :D and I mean it in a very positive manner...

@the post
I liked the story, and more so the message that you were trying to put across. I suppose everybody faces this kind of a situation some time in life, whether it is with a boy/girl friend or just a friend who used to be a BFF... happens too often, people drift apart... but what is precious is the memories...

The choice of pic is really cool... :)

Samadrita said...

@Sourav:I be honored.Glad atleast some people are taking the pain to read this loooooong post and comment :D
Thanks for your feedback :)

@Ranjith:I didn't quite understand what you're saying.Can you elaborate?

@Writu:Haha no problem I'll also autograph the book. :P :P (I guess there's no harm in dreaming right? :D)

Samadrita said...

@sawan:Thanks for going through the whole piece and commenting.Happy to know you liked it :)

@wisewit:Hey of course I need the criticism.How else am I supposed to learn from my mistakes?And I was totally waiting for you to comment.
Personally I think this story needed a passive narrative style coz it has a pensive mood as you said yourself.
But do you think stories with such a style of narration fail to capture the reader's interest?
That's bad news then. :(


And yes me using 'cause' instead of 'because' is a personal thing.You've correctly pointed it out.I've kinda gotten used to it now.Need to change my habit. :P

Thanks again for commenting :)


@Akansha:Thanks girl.I found the pic after searching google images for like 15 minutes.Hope it's not copy-righted or anything though :P

Tanmaya said...

a very nicely written story!! did not even realise its so long cuz just cud not stop reading!!! will be back for more!

Aditya said...

Beautiful story. Loved the ending and the way you took all of us to it. SUperb writing dear.

Manju said...

whoopsie my mistake >_<
works now!
thanks again samadrita
*hugs*

Karthik said...

Whoa! Story time! Nothing fascinates me more than stories. :)
Well, I liked it. But a few questions popped up in my mind.
Do we always need assurance from others?
"It’s not his fault. Who’d want to stay with a control freak like me?"
It seemed to me like Akruti really needed him to say that everything was going to be all right. And he did, in a way. Fine, if it makes us feel better. But what if that stranger were somebody else? A 20-something hunk, perhaps? What if he had consoled Akruti? There would be plenty of room for another beginning, don't you think? What if that too went wrong? Another walk on the beach? Don't get me wrong. I'm neither being a pessimist, nor a toughie. Just couldn't stop myself asking these questions. Do we always need others to make us feel better? Can't we just inspire ourselves?

On the contrary, it would be a cliche if I said that it was tremendous pleasure reading it and it's fabulously told. So I wont say anything.. :D :D

Samadrita said...

@Tanmaya:Glad to know that.Stay in touch :)

@Aditya:Thanks.

@Manju: :D

@Karthik:Well you've raised valid questions.First of all a 20-something hunk couldn't have consoled Akruti the way the older guy did.Only he could've done it because he had gone through a huge crisis in his own life,greater than any silly break-up or hook-up.
Life is full of endless possibilities-you can never predict what lies at the next bend.
Akruti might get together with a hundred guys after this one break-up or maybe she could continue loving him for the rest of her life(I'm hoping she won't :X) but in the end she has learnt one important lesson after this conversation-the memories of the times spent with loved ones can never be a lie.
This is the only message the story tries to deliver.It's not about Akruti's whole life you see. :)

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Karthik said...

Yo! :) Actually I got this msg right when I read an older post on your blog some days ago, which was quite similar to the point you've tried to make through this story. (Don't remember the title though) And I completely agree with you. Good memories can never be a lie. :)
It was definitely thought provoking! :) :)

Sohini said...

it's a lovely story Sammy ....

Hopeless Romantic said...

length is just an illusion...it should have the right effect...it was very well written....good times spent with anyone are always remembered...

cheers,
Amit

wisewit said...

The question is not whether a passive style will fail to capture the reader's interest but what kind of reader will be captivated by that style. There will always be people who like the style you choose--and others who don't. In fact, the same person may like one style one time and another at another time. I know I do.

Samadrita said...

@Karthik:Yea I know which post you're talking about :)

@Sohini:Thank you so much.Glad to know you read and liked it!

@HR:Yes that's the message that I've tried to convey to people.Thanks a lot for reading this. :)

@wisewit:I was just wondering whether most readers will end up feeling bored.
Anyway now I feel more positive. :D

Shruti said...

Hi sammy!
My first time here! Whenever i see long posts, i sigh! But the moment i started reading this one, My mind told me 'Girl u are going to love this.'
Trust me, i loved this a lot!!
You are great re!! A nice read!!

bloodhound94 said...

Whoa.. this one's too good!!
Keep up the good work!!
:)

Vidhu .. !! said...

all i have to say is that .... i've gone through the same phase in my life ... being cheated by a guy for another girl ... being shouted on ... being lied to ... it hurts ... it makes you think low of your self ... thinking of urself as unworthy of love ... but that's not true !!

things just go wrong ... and there are things in life that you just can't control ... things that you cannot change ... tht's the hardest lesson life teaches you :)

and if you love some one, you should not regret anything you did for them, or had with them ... if you regret it then it cant be called love ... it does not matter if the other person cheats or does wrong to you ... just be true to your own feelings, be true to yourself !!

Being Pramoda... said...

Hey..interesting starting lines..will come back with my views..

wisewit said...

As for whether most readers will find your story interesting: I think the number of comments you've gotten says more than anything I could tell you. :)

wisewit

Samadrita said...

@Shruti:Welcome to my blog and thanks for reading and commenting on this one.I'm really glad you liked it :)

@bloodhound94:I'll.Thanks for the encouragement. :)

@Vidhu:Ouch.I just hope you are alright now.
And yes you're absolutely right. :)

Samadrita said...

@wisewit: :)

@Pramoda:Uh yeah come back to tell me how you liked it.

Shruti said...

Sammy, officially stalking you now :P

Harsha Chittar said...

Hi Samadrita,
I really liked your story, the length is fine, it started out a little dull, but it just took off from middle of first part. I like your style of writing, the second and the third part had me hooked. I particularly liked the part where the middle aged guy talks of his wife and beach, very well written.

Being Pramoda... said...

hi samadrita...

Very nice narration and i loved the expressions and emotions..

Especially in the part 2...it was soo sooo cute ..

U have expressed the characters very nicely..loved the post..thanks for this..

Samadrita said...

@Shruti: :D

@Harsha:Yea first bit was kind of slow coz I was just trying to portray Akruti's present state of mind.Anyway thanks for taking time out to read this. :)

@Pramoda:Gracias!I'm really glad you read this.

Manju said...

now, she should hook up with the kind stranger ;P that's what happens in the chickflicks anyway lol

Guria said...

Hey, you have a tag or two over at MM, check 'em out, and do them if you want. :)

Samadrita said...

@Manju:Haha yea that's what happens in chicklit and romance novels all the time.But I didn't wanna end my story like that.Would've become too ordinary that way.

@Guria:Sure thing.

Yemiledu said...

Hey thats a nice story.
Makes me think how we forget the good times spent together just because things have changed.........

Samadrita said...

@Yemiledu:Exactly that's the point I've tried to put across.Glad you liked the story. :D
Cute avatar btw. :)

atindriyo said...

Don't tell me of love everlasting and other sad dreams
I don't want to hear
Just tell me of passionate strangers who rescue each other
From a lifetime of cares
Because if love means forever, expecting nothing returned
Then I hope I'll be given another whole lifetime to learn

Because you gave to me oh so many things it makes me wonder
How they could belong to me
And I gave you only my dark eyes that melted your soul down
To a place where it longs to be

Samadrita said...

@Atindriyo: Wow those lines are amazing my friend. :)

saya said...

Hmmm Well Have no words to describe my feelings after I read this.. I was a bit reluctant to read as the size of the article seemed immense.

I can say that every relation On this earth has a meaning and its not a lie.. Very nicely narrated....

SUGOI ^_^

Samadrita said...

@saya: Thanks a lot for taking the time out to read such an old post. Glad you liked it. :-)

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