The deafening beats could almost awaken the dead. Pull of the mesmerizing fragrance of incense sticks and child-like excitement in the air united many isolated hearts. They all were simply absorbed in five days of celebrations, which for endless centuries has ushered hope and happiness, and perhaps still does so. But there was a soul, in a somewhat dark, cemented block in the midst of Siliguri, to whom this joy could not reach.
Aritra looked up at the grey clouds floating above. It was early October and yet the monsoons showed no signs of retreating.
“So typical,” he thought. “Typical,” he murmured again, for he had been a victim of this word. Everything appeared quite “typical” to this young boy. His parents, his appearance, his surroundings, the fellow students in class, everything irritated him. Some strange people in his world said, he was suffering from some kind of depression. No one understood that the race and the competitions that prompted most of the boys of his age to run faster, didn’t really appeal to him. He wanted to break away from all of these; he wished to prove himself in a different way.
The young boy, perhaps lost in his hopelessness had failed to hear the loud honk of the car outside.
This four cornered room was ironically the only place which didn’t suffocate him. It was really useless to live, or that’s what he believed in. He looked again at the dark ceiling – no aim, no friends, no talent, no future? With all such thoughts spinning inside like a torpedo, the quite, calm boy fell back to sleep.
It was Durga-Asthami on the very next day.
The dhaaks (drums) stretched their membranes, the chants glorified into an unstoppable rhythm and all the glittering eyes forgot to blink, such was the beauty of the idol.
The meek, heavy-spectacled boy, like a squirrel among the giants, mazed out of the crowd to reach the parking area. He hated the pomp, all the glamour and noise. They swirled like dark venom inside his head. He felt like a puppeteer whose puppet was one step short of performance. All the giggles and beats seemed to be a hectic scream and those endlessly running feet were prophesying some obscure danger.
The puja pandal was ablaze like fire in the furnace. It was hot, humid and claustrophobic. Aritra stood there huffing and panting for some fresh air, when he suddenly heard a piercing shriek. No, it was not a hallucination anymore. A girl had actually screamed. He ran towards the entrance. The straight-haired girl was entrapped between a part of the bamboo ceiling that had crashed. His heart stopped beating. He knew that moonly face. She was Sayaka, the rich girl from Japan who had joined his school this year. But as it naturally happens, she didn’t know he existed.
The décor at the entrance bent more and threatened further damage. Without a moment’s flicker, he raced towards Sayaka and just managed to pull her out, when everything just turned black.
Aritra arms twisted in pain; the flashy burning images tortured his mind repeatedly like a movie reel. He opened his eyes. A few hazy figures were crowded beside him, but he recognized just one – the straight-haired girl.
Few minutes later, Aritra was strong enough for a tete-a-tete with Sayaka.
“How’s your head?” She asked softly.
Aritra smiled, “It’s fine.”
He inspected her closely; she wasn’t anything like that ghastly woman who often haunted through his nightmares. The nurse had to remind Sayaka that it was already well past the visiting hours.
She bid farewell for the day, while the young boy, with a warm smile on his face, sank into deep sleep.
A year passed since then. Aritra found himself again in front of the Durga idol, in the same pandal which had given him a stitch at the back of his head. He still felt weak from behind those horn rimmed glasses. Yet the boy had metamorphosized and grown wings – the wings of hope and faith. He was already flying away from the void of self-pity.
He waited endlessly in front of the idols, staring at the pandal with a heavy sigh. It wasn’t every day that he gambled on promises that were castles no less than built on air. Aritra turned and started walking back towards home; the only fire in his heart seemed to be on the verge of defeat. Just as he was wondering whether the promise of sharing an evening together was actually a crude joke to humiliate him all over again, “Hey” beamed a warm voice from behind. He turned to look at a pair of childish eyes, asking him to stop. Aritra took a deep breath. In a brief second, memories of the past one year flashed in front of his eyes. Memories with Sayaka!
She wasn’t fluent in any of the languages he spoke. She understood only a part of what he tried to say. But she listened nevertheless, interpreting his verbose in her own way. She didn’t tell Aritra about her interpretations. She just sat down with him, even when he refused to talk!
At times, the best friendship buds when language is impaired and people are too powerless to pass judgments. They just listen, share and let go.