Short Stories >> Murk te Manah >> Welcome (Swagath)
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
While sipping his tea from the saucer, Vimal saw the reflection of a bulb on the ceiling which was shaking and shining - as if the Moon had fallen into a pond and the lifeless pond got a soul. Eight days had passed since Vimal had encountered his ‘self’ in a village and he felt that a living soul just like the Moon had descended into his lifeless body. The bliss of those pieces were still holding his entire body like fibers of cotton…
On getting down from the train, Vimal had glanced at the darkness of the village which was trying unsuccessfully to hide the light of street lamps on the roads. He had taken a cold breath, lit a cigarette and once again glanced at the street lamps, and thought to himself, “What is the difference between these poor bulbs and me! Like me, the bulbs also understand that there is something similar to the Sun hidden inside them, which will drive out the darkness, but the darkness has surrounded them completely! The army of fog has arrived in order to help the darkness.”
A coolie appeared from nowhere on this small station. He asked, “Shall I pick up the luggage sir?”
Vimal looked at the coolie’s face, “Luggage? You’ll pick up the luggage? There is just one bag…Okay, but take me to a good hotel…I shall pay you for showing me the way if not for the luggage.”
“Have you come for the first time?”
This question raised several doubts in Vimal’s mind, but thinking of the small amount kept in his bag, he laughed and said, “I have come for the first time that is why I don’t know the roads. Actually one priest of mine stays here…”
“In which temple?’
“But I don’t want to go to him.”
“Now there is nothing to hide from you. The priest sometimes narrates such stories to the idols that those idols turn into stone.”
“Humankind is full of impurities who will pray to them! Sir?”
“Yes, yes.” Vimal glanced at the coolie.The small bag on the red turban of the well built coolie made a strange shadow which, while passing under streetlight and mingling with the shape of Vimal’s body kept going on this topsy turvy village road.
Throwing the cigarette butt in the small bushes, Vimal irritatingly thought, ‘What a useless job a writer has got! Population! Chha…And such bad timing of the train…Phew!”
Arriving on a narrow road, the coolie said, “Sir this is the best hotel in this area.” He brought down the bag from his head into his hand. Vimal took the bag and handed him some rupees. The coolie looked at his face. Vimal asked, “You still need something more? The bag was not too heavy.”
“No sir that is not the case. Shall I drop you to your room?”
“No no, that is enough.” saying this Vimal began speaking to the manager. He saw that while leaving, the coolie looked at the money in his hand and kissed it.
“Enter your name.” The manager opened a book.
The tea cup of a young man sitting nearby fell to the ground and broke. Vimal looked in the direction of the young man who stood up, “Vimal…Writer?”
Vimal laughed and said, “The writer must be some other Vimal but right now this person has come to your village to collect the population figures.”
“But your name is Vimal. I am very happy!” The young man came forward and shook his hand. Vimal wanted to hug him. In such a strange village, at least there was somebody known, somebody was a Sindhi and ‘Your name is Vimal and I am very happy.’ Vimal thought to himself, ‘I don’t know what strange relationship he has with Vimal!’
“Sit, let’s have tea.”
Vimal sat on a chair,
“Vimal is my favorite writer…Have you read his novels and stories?’
“My favorite writer is also Vimal because he is my namesake.”
“Really?”The stranger shook his hand,” How will you stay here? Come and stay at my house.”
“You don’t have to be surprised. Rarely does a Sindhi come to this village and there are not many Sindhi houses here, you can count them on your fingers.”
So much talk went on during tea that Vimal himself took his bag and got ready to go with the stranger.
The house was exactly the opposite of a village house. There was everything required for an urban lifestyle - tiles and commode in the bathroom, a ceramic basin in the verandah, a mirror on the wall, a space for tooth brushes, a plastic jug for soap, the entire furniture covered with white shining Sunmica! A sofa set was in one room and an Iranian carpet on the floor. A mirrored cupboard on one side was filled with books. When Vimal began looking at the books, the stranger said, “Look, I have the full collection of Vimal’s books. You can see all his novels and poetry collections. If there is even a single story of Vimal’s in a magazine then that is surely with me”
Lighting a cigarette, Vimal winked and said, “You have loved like a lover. But do you know that in the city the critics pulled out all the feathers while analyzing his novels and stories?”
“Oh!” the stranger took a cool breath.
“If you go to see, Vimal has not written much.”
“Ah! For me his one novel was enough! I was really impressed with his writing.”
“What is so special about this author that you like so much?”
“How strange, even though you are his fan, you have not understood the magic of his writing?”
“I consider him an ordinary writer.”
Friend the world of love and understanding that this writer has shown me, no other writer has done that.”
Vimal felt love for this stranger. Laughingly he asked, “How old do you think your writer would be?”
“He must about thirty years or so…”
Vimal let out warm puffs from within himself, ‘I wish there were not so many grey hair on my head…’ For a moment he thought of saying, “I am Vimal…” But no, doing this would spoil the fun…A young image of a writer on a reader’s mind would be spoilt and the young image would suddenly become old…Controlling a deep passion in his heart, Vimal said, “Friend, you have never tried to meet the writer whom you are so devoted to?”
“I wish I could see him- I wish he acts in a film and shows that film free of cost to all the Sindhis here…”
Vimal’s mind and body were completely filled with some emotion. He laughed and asked, “What are you watching dear?”
The priest smiled and answered, “I am thinking that the writer who is blessed with such devoted readers and whose face is shining with qualities must be one of a kind! I have to come to your city.”
The ceiling bulb was still reflecting in the saucer filled with tea. I completed the collection of the population numbers in the village. Today, the priest’s loving memory is shining in the tea saucer!
- Translated by Arun Babani