‘The politicians broke their silence upon the Foreign exchanges’
‘New mobile of this company will have exciting features like never before’
Among all those headlines in the local news paper, Her eyes were searching for one advertisement.
"Here it is!" said Palak with joyful relief.
Sumukhi sweets, very familiar name for Palak as she used to have her favourite dark chocolate cookies almost every day after school when she was young. It had been 20 years since she left korapur. How could she forget the last time she had cookies from sumukhi sweets. Her mind was wondering in the streets of korapur where she could see every moment of her childhood. Now, coming back to the reality, she placed the news paper on the very old looking table and looked at the clock on the wall, "Oh! It is 10 already." She hurried to the bedroom, full of mess, clothes all over.
"Pintu! Wake up Pintu." said palak pulling the blanket. Being little careful for those patches might get ripped.
"It is Sunday, Mom. Please, five more minutes" said pintu, nearly seven year old boy, covering the blanket over his head.
"No more time, Pintu. You have to get up now" said Palak pulling the blanket firmly and making pintu half seated on the bed, still half asleep. Some of the threads of the patches did loosen up by the force.
“I need to do chores; you wake up and let me clean the room.”
“Ok. Fine!” said pintu getting off the bed but then again falling back on the bed with a giggle. Looking at the eyes of her Mother, raised eyebrows, he promptly stood up and ran to the bathroom.
They lived in an old house, old enough that it had cracks on almost all the walls. The house had a kitchen, a bedroom and a drawing room. There also was the second floor which was not used, not in these several decades.
The house was located at the peak area of the town as it was in near vicinity to the Royal palace hotel, and just next to that, the only Garden of the town, city garden of Dorapur. Through the balcony of the house, Garden can be seen. Palak used to keep an eye on his son.
The Drawing room of the house was not so impressive though it had some interesting things . At one time the sofa-set which used to be so bright, had become dull. The curtains were dusty. An old TV , placed on the showcase made of wood and glass, was not working for several years. The show case had very old little flower pot and a heap of school books. On one of the wall, which had lesser cracks than the other walls, had a small and shining photo frame in the centre. It was the photo of Palak and her husband, a brave soldier who died fighting in the war, four years ago.
“Mom I am going " said Pintu coming out of the bed room wearing fresh clothes.
“First you do your breakfast and then go” said palak. She was sweeping the room. She didn’t see her son taking something from her cupboard.
“No, Mom. I am getting late.” Said pintu going out of the house and putting on his brand new shoes he got on his last birthday. “And Maa, I have taken that little doll from your cupboard.” Saying this he ran out the main door.
She lost her grip on the broom and she ran towards him to stop him but he was gone. She just stood at the entrance, covering her mouth out of surprise. She didn't know what to do. The doll was very close to her heart. And all of a sudden she heard a loud sound from the balcony. She ran towards the sound and found a ball which had broken the mirror hanging on the wall.
“How many times I have told them not to play facing the balcony!” she was already angry for pintu to take her doll and this had given fire to the gasoline. She decided not to give the ball this time and came into the house and kept on doing her work.
After a while there was a knock on the door.
“You won't get anything today. How many times I will have to tell you that this is not the only place to play in the whole garden.”
“But, listen to me for a moment, mam" said a manly voice from outside. It was definitely not one of those kids.
“Oh! I am sorry. I thought it was one of those mischievous boys asking for their ball” said Palak rushing towards the door and opened the door “what happened?”
“Well! I am not one of those mischievous kids but I do have come take the ball” said a well dressed man with a huge smile on his face.
Palak was so confused about what to say. For a moment she thought of scolding the guy that he wasn’t young enough to play with those kids.
But she kept it in. “Were you playing with those guys or they have sent you just to get their ball?” she had a very mixed facial expression.
“Well, they didn’t ask me to bring the ball. Actually I was the one who mistakenly threw it towards your balcony.” said the man with a gentle smile. Palak had her eyes stuck on his face. She couldn’t find anything to say. She thought how sweet it was that the man like him liked to play with little kids.
“I am sorry!” said the guy with the same gentle smile. “No, it’s fine. Here, take your ball.”
“Thank you so much” said the guy juggling the ball once.
Palak wanted to end the conversation but she couldn’t help herself saying “By the way, sometimes, it is good to let your inner child come out to play.”
“Oh! Yeah, true. I wish I could be child once again.”
For a little while no one uttered a word. Palak started feeling like the guy was staring at something, something behind her.
“What are you looking at?” said palak looking behind her
“Oh, Nothing” said the guy, rolling his eyes. “Erm! Actually I was ... I mean ... You’ve got a nice hair style!”
“Oh! Thanks” she was surprised with this unexpected compliment. But suddenly she realised something. She looked at the guy closely. The guy also seemed little confused.
“Pratik!” said Palak with a huge surprising voice. “Palak! I knew it was you!!” said Pratik.
Pratik raised his hands to hug, at the same time Palak raised for a shake hand. Seeing this Pratik changed his gesture and made it look like he was also going for a shake hand.
“Hey! I read the advertisement. Congratulations for the opening. I am so happy about that” said palak. Realising that they were still at the entryway she said “Oh I’m sorry. Come on in.”
Palak was in the middle of cleaning the room before Pratik came, so the room was messy. A pile of dust was lying on the corner of the room.
The sofa cover had patches on it which made the messy room look worse.
She was embarrassed. “I am sorry for this” said palak. She then sat on the sofa.
“I never really expected to meet you here in dorapur” said Pratik. “Me neither.” Said palak, “I mean, I never expected I would get to
meet you even if you were in dorapur. You know, you should be busy in the arrangements of the opening ceremony.”
“Yeah, I have to do a lot of work. But I do save some time for me”
Now there was an awkward silence in the room. They both, for some time, caught eyes of each other and for other, looked at the ceiling fan or the floor.
“So...” they both said simultaneously. “You say ...” said Pratik.
“Umm... I mean ... It’s been a long time, but it feels like just yesterday”
Flying above the clouds of memories, they both landed on the same cloud, the day when they first met in 1989.
That evening was cloudy in korapur. They were forming together like one big lump of black clay. Even a place like korapur garden, which should be crowded during this time, had very few kids playing, those kids whose parents allowed them to go out even in this rainy season. Among them a seven year old girl was playing with one of her friends.
“Hey Mira, Pass me that cooking pan. I will cook food for my dolls.” said little girl with a very thin and sweet voice. She had an exceptional looking hair style, high topknot with very messy and curly hairs.
“sure, Palak.” Said mira giving her the cooking pan from the kitchen playset she brought to play. “You have got a pretty pair of dolls"
“Oh, they are. I got them on my birthday. I keep them with me every- time. You can have a look if you want”
Those dolls looked so real that it felt they’d start walking together, alive. It had bright and deep colours of skin. It didn’t look like they were made of plastic. The female doll had white dress with glittering blue stars on it and her ornaments made it look pretty. It had deep and big blue eyes, pink gentle lips and brownish curly hair with a tiara like a princess. The prince had shining black wavy hair style. He had brown eyes and a cute little smile. He was wearing a suit matching the colour with that of the princesses’ dress. They together looked inseparable.
“Mira... Come on. We are going now.” said her mother, calling her from a distance. She probably called her earlier than regular as it already started drizzling and the clouds had started forming much darker. “you also go home, Palak. It is getting dark.”
“Coming, Mom” said Mira packing her kitchen play set and saying good bye to Palak.
Palak also wanted to leave. She got her bag and put her beloved dolls inside. She held an umbrella in one hand and the bag in the other. It had started raining now. Only few little guys were there, playing some crazy game in mud. As they saw palak passing by them they started teasing her.
“Mountain head, mountain head, Palak has a mountain head.”
“This is my hair style, stop saying that or I will ...” said Palak showing her fist, still holding the bag, as if she were going to beat them.
“Or you will ... What?”
“I will punch you all one by one”
“Whoa! Little mountain got angry.” said one of the kid from the group of three with an evil laugh.
“Get away from her, rocky” said a guy rushing between Palak and those mischievous kids.
“Ah... Mountain head have got her bodyguard with her, huh? Step aside or I’ll beat you, Pratik.” said rocky.
“Stop teasing her and let her go”, He had anger in his voice.
The bad guy stepped forward and punched him in stomach. In no time rocky got slapped so hard in the face that he barely could stand, he rushed out of the garden. Behind him, other two also ran out of fear.
“Are you alright? Is it hurting? ” said palak, folding her umbrella and checking if pratik was okay.
“I am fine. Don’t worry.” “Thank you so much.”
“Welcome. My name is Pratik”, he had a huge smile.
It had stopped raining now and the sky turned pink matching with the colour of chicks of Palak. They were at the middle of the garden and their shadows in the wet soil were closer to each other than they were .
“My name is Palak.”
“You have got a nice hairstyle!”
“Oh, my mum says I look just like her childhood self in this hairstyle, so I always like this hairstyle.”
“I don’t know why those guys would tease you for such beautiful hair” he started blushing.
She took out the prince doll and gave it to him “here take this as a gift.”
“What is this gift for?”
“You have helped me. My mom says if someone helps you, then you should thank them by giving some gift” she was smiling and waving her bag around her. She was really happy at the moment.
“Oh! It is such a nice doll. Thank you, but what about you then?”
“Well, don’t worry. I have one princess doll for me, you know I got them on my birthday.” said palak, showing him the doll.
“Not about the doll. I mean what about your gift. I will also have to give you something.”
“No way, you don’t need to. I haven’t helped you.” said palak, putting the princess doll back in her bag.
“Well, my mother says, if someone gives you a present then you should also gift in return.”
“Your mom didn’t say that, did she? You are just being nice to me.” She chuckled.
“Even if my mum didn’t say that, it is good thing to give return gifts. How about I give you a treat at my shop, Sumukhi sweets, huh?”
“Oh! I love sweets and especially Dark chocolate cookies.” she nearly jumped out of joy.
“Oh is it? It is my favourite too.”
The pink sky was turning orange and the wet soil reflected the light on their faces. As they walked out of the park their footprints chased them. The very beginning of those footprints, facing each other, were the dawn of a strange relation between two not-so-strange strangers.
It had been a part of their routine life to have cookies after school and going to play different games at the korapur garden. One day they’d play hide and seek another day they’d play lagori. Pratik’d bring marbles and Palak’d bring chalk to draw lines to play hopscotch. Sometimes mira and also some of the pratik’s friends would also join them to play kho-kho ,lock-and-key, lattoo, gilli-danda, chain and every single game that a child could have played in their childhood. when they had nothing else to do, they’d play with their dolls and that was their favourite game of all.
Time flew it had been seven years they first met. In these seven years Palak and Pratik had grown a very rare kind of bonding. Palak would say, “I lost my pencil-case somewhere in my classroom”
Pratik would give her a piece of advice like a father, “you should be responsible for your stuff. Learn from this and make sure it is not repeated.”
Pratik would argue, “the test today was so tough, I couldn’t even complete it by time”
Then, palak would provide warmth like a mother or a teacher and tell, “you should not worry, what matters is that you at least tried your best. You won’t make the same mistakes in the next one.”
If Palak would be in any trouble Pratik was always there to protect her like a brother and palak would never let pratik feel alone by doing pranks just like sister.
They would laugh together, make paper craft toys together. They would take part in dance competitions and share lunch box and also share secretes, just like best friends.
If there was a debate on something they’d fight with taunting words like enemies.
Palak would draw paintings for him. He’d give courage in the situations when she needs it the most.
Whenever they were walking down the road or going school together they would hold their hands. If anything good happens with anyone they would be happy and celebrate together. If for one day they cannot meet, which was rare, they would feel like a part of them left their body. They promised each other to never leave. They’ll hug, as if they were partners.
As Palak defines this relation “Pratik is my ‘Everything’.” And also for Pratik, Palak was his ‘Everything’.
Year 1996 was the year, they wished never had come. Everything that day was normal. They went to school, together, just like a usual day. In the middle of the third lecture Pratik’s uncle came, he discussed something with the teacher. Teacher asked Pratik to go with his uncle with his bag.
“I will meet you later, Palak” said Pratik. “Okay, Pratik. Will meet soon” said Palak.
And Pratik went out of the classroom. The school ended, Palak walked on the road to the korapur garden. She noticed that sumukhi sweets was closed, she knew something was wrong. She rushed to the garden and waited, swinging on the swings. She waited hours and hours, the speed of the swings got slowed by time, but neither Pratik came nor did his news.
“Palak! You there? Palak!” voice came from distance.
She stood up and turned with hopeful eyes. Mira came running towards her.
“What happened? Mira.”
“Where were you? I have been looking for you. Have you heard about Pratik's father?”
“No, I haven't. What happened to him? Where is Pratik?” she was worried, this'd be first time something like this had ever happened.
“Mr. Sharma was at Radhapur branch of Sumukhi sweets and he was sick for one week. His condition is critical there. So Pratik's uncle had came to take his family to his father. There are rumours that they might never come back to korapur. Only his uncle will be coming every month to visit the shop.”
Each word that Mira spoke, turned into tears of Palak. She was blank. She was worried for Pratik's father but that feeling was unwantedly forgotten. She was a strong girl but that strength felt like curse today. She knew that she will not be able to meet him again, not in several years of course.
She thought, what if I convince my parents to visit him or I tell them that I want to go see him. But then again, how would she tell her parents what he meant to her. She cannot just tell that Pratik was her Everything. She was just 15 years old girl. What is Everything for a girl like Palak? No one would understand that. She kept calm and let the time flow, hoping that one day he will come back. She was sure he will and she waited and waited.
After 3 years her father got promotion and had to shift to Dorapur.
During the last year in korapur they sent several letters to each other, after Palak got to know his address. But after she shifted to Dorapur and tried to send letter the letter came back saying that they have also shifted. This was the last thing She would expect.
There was no cloud left where they could sit upon. Those were the only moments they got to spend with each other.
“so you shifted here in dorapur.” said Pratik clearing his throat.
“Actaully, I lived with my parents, after we moved here. I went to college. I got job in a school as a teacher. I was married to a soldier. He died in a war four years ago. My parents also died of decease, same year. So now I live with my son here.” said Palak, giving answers to the questions never asked.
“I am so sorry to hear about your husband.” Paused and said, “My father died after three years, we left Korapur. He had been bedridden for all those years. I studied in radhapur and continued family business. My father had a dream for sumukhi sweets and after that day it was my dream to. I was so busy in business that I never thought of getting married. My cousin and his wife died in a car accident 5 years ago, since then I am taking care of their daughter. She is so close me and she is like my real daughter.” He had his eyes wet.
“I am sorry for your loss. We both have been through too much, haven’t we?”
“I still remember the day, I said that I will meet you later, I didn’t mean this late.” Said Pratik.
“I tried so hard to forget that day but failed everytime.”
“But now we... we can be together, same way we used to be, can’twe?”
“I wish we could. 23 years is a very long time”
Today for the first time in forever, even for a little while they were strangers, when Palak opened the door they had no idea who they were. This has brought them near to the feeling of ‘Everything’, the feeling of being strangers.
Pratik realised he was getting late. So they exchanged their mobile numbers and then Pratik left the house. Palak went till the main door. She stood there watching pratik, walking on the sideways. Pratik was unaware two kids, running crossing by him.
One of them was pintu. He was bleeding from his knee but he had a band-aid on it.
If any mother would see his son in this condition, the first yell roar comes out is of his real name, not the nick name.
“Pratik! What happened to you?” Palak cried.
Hearing this loud scream Pratik, who was not so far from her home, rushed to Palak. Out of surprise he seen his daughter there.
“Palak! What are you doing here?”
Elder pratik and palak were feeling extreme comfort, hearing their names this way. Of course they knew that they both named their child after each others’ name. The flow of feelings, was running in their veins. They knew it was not any kind of co-incidence, but for those kids it was definitely a co-incidence.
“Mom, meet my new friend, Palak. I was playing with my friends and I fell on the ground. My knee was bleeding. It was so painful at that time but she showed up and helped me with band-aid. You know, I remember
you telling me that if someone helps us we should give some gift to thank them. That’s why I gave her the princess doll that I took from your cupboard today. I hope you won’t be angry for that.” He spoke this in one breath.
“Papa, He is Pintu. I saw him bleeding and I had band-aid with me so I helped him. He gave me a princess doll which was so similar to the prince doll you gave me on this birthday. Remember you once said that if someone gives us present then we should give something in return. So I gave him the prince doll. Now we both have dolls. I have promised him to take give a treat at our sweets shop. We can take him and also his mom with us to the opening ceremony, can’t we?”
The history repeated itself. Pratik and Palak were looking deep into each other’s eyes and Palak and Pratik were smiling and playing with their dolls, forming a bond of friendship like those inseparable ‘Dolls’.
What could have happened next? Did Palak and Pratik got married?
Or the same story repeated for those little Palak and Pratik? I leave this up to you...
The Ending, which ever you choose, will be the best. Because Palak and Pratik will always and forever remain their Everything. Which is beyond any kind of relation you can think of.
Have you ever felt The feeling of ‘EVERYTHING' for anyone ?
They can be Anyone. It can be in any relation. Just like the dolls, inseparable.
- Parvikh 07/09/2019
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