Continuing the trend set by Mixing Memory of starting the new year on a light and literary note, I would like to post a short story I had written way back in 1996, as an assignment in my creative writing class, and as a response to an assertion by my teacher that great literature usually involves good, complex and structured use of vocabulary and grammar. I was a rebel at that time and if she had made the opposing statement that simplicity is the essence of good literature would have come up with a radically different short story that would have had complex grammar and vocabulary:-)

PS: This story has relevance to the new year and is an imaginative account of trying to come up with a plausible scenario of why an unfortunate, real accident, as mentioned briefly and in passing in a newspaper report (The Times Of India dated 2/3 jan. 1996), took place.

__________*________*__________*__________

“Coming along?”

“Not today.”

“Why?”

“Two reasons. I can do it better …”

They laughed and understood.

“…and I’m going to meet her.”

They couldn’t pity him over this.

Jealous? Of course! They were his friends. He was leaving them for her.

“She doesn’t love you”

“I love her”

The three word reply settled the matter.

“We won’t go to the circus. We’ll follow him.”

They were his friends. They were young.
They could not be avoided.

__________*________*__________*__________

Long hours of waiting. Does time have a meaning? Hasn’t this happened
before? Indeed, the 30th of Dec. comes every year. Which year are we
talking about? Does it matter? Not really!

And the place? Its familiar enough. Some inhabitants are wild. Some
docile. He soars towards the sky. She composes a symphony. He kills the
weak. She cheats and lies. Courage, Power, Deceit and Care. How are We
different from Them? They ought to call Us a Zoo. NO. We created
words. It is our right to call them Brutes. On second thoughts We are
different. We make Friends and We Love.

“Hello! Waiting for long?”
“I can wait for years.”
A crane stood on one leg in the pool nearby.

She smiled. “Like all the other things?”
“Yes.”

He could not find any hint of scorn in those words.
Love not only Blinds, It also Deafens.

She walked away. He followed.

They found themselves in front of the King.
Suddenly the world seemed to go into the reverse gear. They could feel
themselves in the cage. The tiger was moving around freely. Her eyes
rested on the beast admiringly.

She is not even looking in this direction.
How will she ever know?

But even when she was looking this way, She didn’t notice
the garland.

She is clearly not in love. Then what Blinds her?
Bats are never found in zoos.

“I brought this garland for you.”
Silence.

“I want to marry you.”
A faint trace of smile. Derision, most probably.

“At our wedding I’ll give you a star-studded garland. I’ll
fight the gods for it.”
The smile broadens. Contempt, definitely.

“I can do great things for you.”
I don’t know maybe but I feel I can.
“I can even kill this tiger.”

Laughter. Pure, uninhibited laughter.

Screechhhhhh.chii.chii.grrr.grrrrr. A monkey jumped. As if to
synchronize, the tiger growled. The garland fell from his hands.

Scream. An involuntary, impulsive response. A natural reaction.

He was at heart a coward.
Every Man is.
Bravery is just an euphemism for foolhardiness.

Some people are different.
Her eyes flicked only briefly.
So what? That doesn’t justify this. Why should she laugh at him?

“You’ll marry me! You who kills the tiger and plucks the stars! Oh
coward! I am a tigress. If you have the courage to garland a tigress
then dare propose.”

The garland was crushed as she walked over it.
So was his World.
And his self confidence.

Now he knew he couldn’t. He was a coward.

“Oh coward!”
The words echoed from all directions. Some creations of his mind.
Others uttered by his friends.

They were his friends. They had followed him. Now they wanted to
destroy his boastful spirit once and for all.

“Oh coward!”
Those words were magical. His friends were making full use of
them.

__________*________*__________*__________

The friends spent the night together. They drank. He drank. More from
necessity than for pleasure.
They were happy and made plans for the New Year’s Eve.

He wanted to drink more. They didn’t allow him to. The wine cost a lot
and his share had been used up.
But things like that don’t count in friendship.
They didn’t want him to be sick.
That was the real reason.

He couldn’t sleep. But was he awake? Hard to say. Definitely not
dreaming.

How could the sun ever rise again? And yet, somehow, morning dawned.

He remembered some money he had borrowed from them.
Moreover he returned it.
A new day had begun. He would have digested the liquor by now. So they
allowed him to drink more.
And he did. He drank it all.
Not only the liquor, but the taunts and the humiliation.

But there exist limits. He reached a stage when he could drink no more.

__________*________*__________*__________

Nobody, nothing obeys his commands now. Neither the tigers nor the
stars. Not even his own feet. They take him to places. Places he would
never want to go.

But wait. He is not alone .
What follows him is not his dishonor but one of his friends.

“Why am I standing here ? Is this tigress really brave? So am I.”

His friend couldn’t help laughing. He was also drunk. Out of pure
youth.
“Oh Coward ! If you have the courage to garland a tigress then
dare propose”
He mimicked. It was not only funny, it was also somehow
satisfying.

The object of his ridicule could not hear any words he said.
Yet the words were always the same.
He could hear them whether his ears were listening or not.

His eyes enjoyed greater freedom.
Tigress … garland … She … friends.
Suddenly, the garland was in his hands.
Everything grew blurred except the tigress.

I am not a coward. Even if I am, I won’t prove to be one.
I’ll garland you honey, just like this tigress.

Security-men, wire-fence, moat, cage door. They’d lost their meaning.
Something else also lost its meaning and was turned into a ball of
torn flesh and blood.

__________*________*__________*__________

That night, New Year celebrations rocked the city.

She went to the party, unaware.
They drank and enjoyed themselves.

Their friend would not have liked them to ruin a New Year’s night of
revelry. His being dead didn’t mean that his will shouldn’t be obeyed.
So they laughed and enjoyed themselves. They even saved some money from
their drinks to put an obituary next day. After all, they were his friends.

__________*________*__________*__________

Do let me know if you would like to read more of my stories. A happy new year to you all!!
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