Is there a writer in u? Or are you in a mood to read some short interesting stories? Here's the Story Section for all tastes.

It had been so many years since he had visited the village. He was but a school boy when had first come to understand what love meant, there, in the aam bagaan in the village outskirts. The summer of joy when two little souls had to struggle to keep their eyes open when they nibbled on the raw mangoes, was long gone. But the memories were as fresh as the scent of the soil after the first rains.

Raghav was on his way to his ancestral village of Keshedanga again and he was excited beyond measure. Only this time, he didn’t have his loving grandparents to greet him at the nearest railway station of Arampur. His life had changed significantly since they passed away. He was so attached to them that he could not take the setback in such a matter-of-fact way as most of his folks did. He began getting lost in thoughts and slipping in grades. Parents affections and amusement park visits failed to plug in the missing piece in his heart. He became such a recluse that Mr. and Mrs. Chatterjee decided to send him to a boarding school. Lest, staying among boys of his age could fill in more space in his lonely world. It didn’t help much in doing anything but creating a defense mechanism against all insensitivity of his surroundings by bringing in a cold stoicism to without.

However something still glowed within. A hope, a belief. “Come back soon”, she had said, with a tear drop on her right cheek and a quivering voice. But then, this wasn’t how it was to be. Before the winter could end, his Dadu passed away in a cardiac arrest. The grief was too much for his beloved Dadi to handle and she joined him soon.And thus stopped his annual summer vacation trips to Keshedanga. In spite of the vacant space there was a something that virtually filled up his entire being. The hope, the belief, that she still would be waiting.

After seven long years, he was again on board the train to the place where he had spent the best days of his childhood with Rati. Rati.. The innocent little girl whose laughter was sweeter than the best of mangoes in the aam bagaan, who would stand up for Raghav when the village urchins would try to bully him, but would agree and abide by everything that Raghav asked of her. She was the house servant Ganesh’s daughter but was the most treasured element of the house. During the vacation time, Dadu used to tell them stories together. She helped Dadi with the pickles and Dadu with the bait in the fishing reel’s hook. Raghav was dependent on her for stealing the raw mangoes from the gardens and sometimes even his Bengali homework. Many a summers would pass when it was hard to tell whether she lived in the house of the Chatterjees or in the servant’s quarter.

As years passed by, the dusk in her complexion, the hard-to-reckon-squint-at-first-sight eyes, the long black locks which curled at the ends, the joy in her words as any of nature’s most beauteous songs and the gentle care which was the very characteristic of the being of Rati, started meaning differently for Raghav. It was the summer of his 8th grade, the morning of Raghav’s arrival at Keshedanga. Raghav looked around at the station looking for a little girl who would be anxiously waiting to have the first glance of him, and there she was, fidgeting restlessly alongside Dadu and Dadi. The moment she saw him, as if in a trance, she ran to embrace him in the familiar hug. But the moment this happened, they both realized, a lot had changed. For the first time they became conscious of a something discomforting and disconcerting in the intimacy, and yet it was impossible to end.

Dadi’s welcome remarks almost startled them. Both were unusually chatty on their way back home, but one could tell, it was different; and it was never going to be the same again. During that stay they went out as usual to the pond or the garden but they had somehow lost the talent of speaking meaningless trifles and tried to discuss life meaningfully, but they couldn’t themselves understand what it all meant.

One of these days, having found a quiet patch devoid of ant hills, by the pond, somewhat hidden by the canopy of vegetation around, Raghav was reading Tagore’s Hungry Stones. The splashing of water made him curious and he looked up to understand what disturbed the stillness of the pond. It was Rati taking her routine bath. He couldn’t look away and looked shamelessly at her drenched in her disoriented saree, water trickling down her skin, accentuating the curves in the process, choosing to linger at places. Suddenly she heard a pebble drop into the pond. She turned back to see what caused it and her eyes crossed Raghav’s. The moment lasted a while until both understood what had happened. Rati immediately covered herself with whatever she had and ran away. Raghav couldn’t move, a million thoughts fighting out the odds of every scenario in his head. So much for Hungry Stones and he cursed the pebble which might have slipped from under his feet. A strange mix of guilt and passion swept over him but he couldn’t move.

The rest of the days, were awkward to the extent that they tried never to be together without anybody else around. Days passed tortuously slow until it was the night before he was to leave. Dadi was giving a coconut oil head message to Raghav when Dadu called. Dadi handed over the bottle to Rati standing beside her and instructed her to continue. This was a really impossible scenario now. However, she went ahead with completing the assigned task. She could almost feel her hands trembling in anticipation of many a unknown things. Raghav was but a stone coz in his heart he wasn’t really sorry for what he had done but was worried it might have had hurt her.

While pouring the oil an excess of it trickled down his forehead to his eyes and he reacted. She realised her mistake and immediately tried to make amends, she came closer and as if in an error of destiny, their lips touched. Time had stilled in that moment of nothingness when nothing else meant anything. Nor was anyone sure of the meaning of this very act but there was peace in it, like the sound of the ebbing tides. It was serendipity. It could have been a second, or an hour. But who could tell. The squeak in the door brought them out of the stupor. The next day as the train left, no words were spoken, but it was in her eyes – Come back soon.. But I’ll wait as long as it takes…

It certainly wasn’t very soon, but after seven years here he was. Familiar countryside views, as he looked out anxiously, trying to gauge the distance from his destination with every passing pole, pond, or a railways stations. When finally it arrived, there she was, elegantly dressed in a saree, embellished in a bindi and a serene smile.

“Oh Rati, I have waited so long”.

“Nevermind, now that you are here, let us make the most of it. How about not taking the rickshaw and walking all the way home. There is a lot of catching up to do.”

”I hardly have a problem with that.”

They walked the hour’s walk to their village chatting about his college and the village folks, laughing about hackneyed tales from their childhood, holding hands like old times.

“How about some adventure Raghu?”

“Okay, like what?”

“Like visting the aam bagaan before we went home?”

“I’m up for it, except your parents would be getting really worried by now.”

“Oh they’ll be fine, they know I stay there most of the time. If we are late, they’d know I took you to the aam bagaan. I love this place the most. This is where we spent most of our good times together, right? Don’t you want to visit it first?”

“Ofcourse Rati, lets get going then.”

The sun was saying its last goodbyes. The birds were coming back home, saying their days tales to their beloved. Raghav and Rati stood under their favourite Mango tree, holding each other in a tight embrace, wishing to fill the vacuum of seven years of unrequited love. It didn’t matter now, the distance, the separation, the loneliness, the pain. Only the bliss stayed. In the darkness, there was nothing but two bodies listening to the sounds of love, giving in to the desires, exploring the harmony of the paradoxes of pain and pleasure, making love.

It was night by the time they reached home. There seemed to be a crowd of people waiting for them.

“Raghu, you should go in, a lot of people must be waiting to see you. I’ll come to you at midnight.”

“Is everything okay with you?”

“What could happen to me now that you are here?”

Before Raghav could respond to that, he heard Rati’s father calling out to him from a distance, “Raghu babu!! Raghu babu!!” Raghav looked at the old man, waving frantically. But before he could turn towards Rati and say a good bye, he saw her walking back towards the aam bagaan. It seemed strange but he assumed she might have left something there, which she was going to collect. In his mind he only repeated, “Come back soon.. I’ll wait.”

And moved forward to greet Rati’s parents and realised almost the whole village was anxiously waiting for him. Rather, searching for him. “Raghu babu, where have you been, your train arrived a long time ago, I had also sent a rickshaw to get you back home. I am really sorry, you came at such a short notice that I had to go to the city to collect a few things and make arrangements for you, so I couldn’t go to receive you. But where were you and are you alright?”

“Relax Ganesh Kaka, Rati came to receive me, I was with her all the while.”

At these words, Rati’s mother Sarita, who was standing beside Ganesh, gasped in horror and her legs gave away. Ganesh and Raghav quickly extended their support. Rati’s father Ganesh had been a loyal servant to Raghav’s Dadu all his life and when Dadi passed away she left the house and the garden to Ganesh and his family. He tried to get Rati married to a contractor Atanu from the adjoining village. Ganesh felt so eternally indebted to Raghav’s family that when Rati said that she would not marry anyone but Raghu whom she loved, he told her it is not possible.

“He is our masters grandson, how can you even think about it?” When he couldn’t get any sense into her, he locked her up and told her to get these thoughts out of her mind. “If only I had know how much she loved you!”

“It is fine Ganesh Kaka, now that I am here we’ll figure something out”.

“None of us can do anything anymore Raghu babu, she is gone.” Saying this, both Ganesh and Sarita broke down into tears. It still made little sense to Raghav.

One of the villagers came forward and said, “Raghu babu I saw you walking away from the station and talking to yourself. I knew something was wrong. Did you not know that Rati hung herself from one of the trees in the aam bagaan after she learnt that she was to be married to someone else?!”.

It took Raghav some time to absorb all that was being said around him but he couldn’t believe. He quietly went inside the house, freshened up, had his dinner and waited for the midnight to come. “She wouldn’t just leave me.” A hope, a belief, was still there..

By Anand Vishnu Prakash