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An unfinished story

Monday, September 17, 2012

New Delhi, 9.23 pm

Some mornings eerily begin in darkness. No, not mornings that undress the night and hurry into a sunshine sheath at dawn. There are mornings that never feel like a morning – the sunshine hurts the eye, the blue of the sky looks anomalous, the birds sing discordant notes and the beige tiled floor singes like burning embers. The cacophony of existence hits a crescendo and your own heartbeat repeats an apocryphal story. All around there is the oompah beat of love, yet you long for a quiet corner. Just to yourself. On such mornings, you understand why the wounded tigress refuses to escape even when the timpani thunders around her. Her eyelids droop, her colour fades, she scratches the brown ground with her claws. And waits. For the ricocheting gun shot. For the twang of the arrow catapulting out of the bow. For death. For freedom from throbbing pain. For an unfinished story to end.

So began the morning of September 17, 2012. She woke out of a dream and stepped straight into the inconclusiveness of an unfinished story. For weeks, she has been struggling to finish a story. It has never happened to her before – never has she left a story unfinished. She cannot. It is against her catechism. It is beyond her comprehension. She believes it is the ultimate umbrage to an emotion. To the plot. To the characters. However short the story. However formless the protagonist. However unknown the end. But this is her life’s only unfinished story. And it is gnawing at her soul.

Strangely, she did not write the story’s opening sentence. Someone else did. There was nothing theatrical, nothing dramatic about the first sentence. It did not even smell of love. Or, of longing. It was staid. Prosaic. Terse. A straight question. She never thought that the succinct one-liner could be stretched into a story. She picked the prosaic story thread from there. Languidly. Matter of factly. Then, gradually, the prose turned into poetry. Between the alphabets, love peeped slyly. Within a sentence, longing talked furtively. The hurried ellipses were the beats of his pounding heart. One night she even heard a smoky whisper.

And then one day, it died. Suddenly. Abruptly. Everything walked away. Without an explanation. Without a reason. Everything. The whisper. The poetry. The longing. The promise. The raw hints of love. She was left with a handful of prose. A deafening silence. A soggy morning. A balmy evening. An unanswered question. A burdened why. And her life’s only unfinished story.

But she has faith. Immense faith. She believes in the holiness of the heart’s affection. She knows she will not die till she writes the last line of her life’s only unfinished story. She will. She has faith. Immense faith.

Someday she will walk up to the one who wrote the story’s opening sentence, listen to his heartbeat and decipher the whys. Who knows, the unfinished story might then turn into a finished dirge. A threnody. An elegy. A lament. A requiem.

She dreads the plaintive cry of a dirge. She loves the lilt of poetry. The cadence of pentameters. She walks her days in iambic feet. She weaves the night's dream in eight-line octaves. She strings spring in a spondee. When it rains, she sits in her balcony and reads sonnets. In summer, she writes the sestet. In winter, she curls up to a rubaiyat.

Today, she knows nothing about that day. That day when she'll walk up to the one who wrote the story's opening sentence and listen to his heartbeat. That day if the unfinished story turns into a dirge, she will let her eyelids droop. She’ll wear the monochrome orange. She'll braid her long hair. Tears will smudge the kohl of her large, black eyes. She’ll scuff the wet sand with her toes. She'll wait. For a missed heartbeat. And then walk away. Into silence. Forever.

Someday, she will write the unfinished story's epitaph. Perhaps she'll sing an ode. Perhaps she'll pick a handful of memories and let the raindrops take them to the ocean. Because that is where all raindrops - and memories - want to go. Or, scatter those hushed whispers in her garden where they'll be reborn as a champa tree. The white-yellow champa that she so loves.

Often, she wonders whether the whisper was just a false echo. Whether the ellipses were mundane ellipses. Not the falsetto of a heart.

One day she will decipher the whisper and the ellipses. One day she will know whether the heartbeat was his still, small voice or a shopworn din. Then, she will write the last line of her life's only unfinished story.

The End.


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