Tag Archives: short stories

Kalpavriksha

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The setting sun streamed in through old glass windows in the little kitchen, falling directly on the puja corner. Down the corridor, yellow curtains filtered the sunlight entering the bedroom, embracing the entire house in golden warmth.
Tea was brewing and its aroma wafted through the tiny apartment. She stood by the stove at the kitchen window, absorbing the aroma and the sunlight. Even as it goes to sleep, the sun creates life around it, thought Kalpa. Birds sang their different calls, people were shutting their windows and drawing their curtains, cars were being parked and the security guard had started turning on the lamps.
Kalpa’s had always been a spectator. She viewed the world like she was watching a show. She always wished she could be more like the sun, springing to life the things around her. But over 25 years, she had become comfortable watching people, amusing herself with their expressions and actions and noting, every minute, the flaws integral to humans. She loved staying inside her mind. It’s as comfortable as floating around in the mother’s womb, she thought.
Today, though, Kalpa felt a contentment she hadn’t in months. At that moment, she felt happy. Any time now, Kali would come home and give her a warm hug.
Kalpa took her tea and set it on the glass teepoy placed in the centre of the hall. She set straight a painting of Mother Mary and Jesus, left on the wall by the previous tenants. She settled on the couch with her tea and looked out at the setting sun.
…………………………………….
A few months ago, when Kalpavriksha moved to Mumbai, the city of dreams seemed more like dystopia. Observing people wasn’t as easy. Even though Kalpa had been a city girl all her life, only in Mumbai did the acute inequality in society hit her.
In the first few weeks, Kalpa broke down every time she travelled on local trains. She was warned of the crowds, the pulling and pushing and shoving and sweat. But no one told her that this would not be a battle just the adults fought.
Every time she laid eyes on little boys and girls fighting the crowd to sell things on the train, their swift eyes shifting from customer to customer, she would feel guilty. She would feel worse when she realised that all she could do was stare.
“It’s a fancy hair clip, buy one, only ten rupees madam.” “How about a toy for your little boy?”
Kalpa wanted to smile at the irony. Little boy? A little boy selling the toys he should be playing with!
On good days, the kids hopped from one compartment to the other, smiles slapped across their tiny faces. On bad days, they hopped off the train, on to the platforms and waved their hands at the other kids, “Nothing today.”
She couldn’t allow the tears to overcome her every day. “They don’t wallow in self-pity, they certainly don’t need yours,” she told herself.
Over time, Kalpa drew comfort when she saw how the women in the compartment shared their biscuits with the kids. They might buy a clip or two and chat with them and this would brighten up their faces.
Kalpa wanted to strike a conversation. She would go and stand next to them at the entrance. She watched how they let the wind play with their loose, faded t-shirts. When they saw her smiling at them, they would smile back. Their hopeful eyes would make Kalpa buy something. But, when she wanted to talk, the words failed her, always.
As the days went by, Kalpa went back to being a spectator, a tough one maybe, but passive nonetheless.
On her way to work one day, when the train reached the station before hers, Kalpa stood up and walked to the door. As the train started pulling out of the station, she saw that one of the boys from the train lay bleeding on the platform.
People walked around him, carefully avoided him, pointed and passed comments, but none stopped to help him. “What is wrong with him,” she thought? “Why isn’t anyone calling for help?” The train was gaining speed. “Why am I not doing anything? “
As the train was about to leave the station, Kalpa jumped out. She heard people on the platform shout at her. “Have you gone mad?” “Have you no value for your life?” But she didn’t see them. She could only see the boy, as she ran towards him.
“Don’t touch him!” The voice shook her out of her trance.
“These idiots pick up fights and kill themselves” a police constable told her.
“But he’s bleeding,” she said as she knelt down and picked up the boy.
“If there’s a case, you’ll run around in circles. Wait till my boss comes,” the cop warned her. She stared at the cop until he turned away.
………………………………
When the boy woke up, he saw Kalpa sleeping in a chair, her hand on his. He stirred a little and Kalpa woke up.
“Did you bring me to the hospital?”
“Yes,” she said. “Who beat you up? Where do you stay? Do you have your parents’ number?”
“Didi, you think I would have been beaten up if I had parents? I’m on my own.”
Kalpa did not respond.
“People call me Kali,” the boy said.
“What’s your name?”
“I’m Kalpavriksha.”
“What does that mean?”
“It’s the name of a tree that fulfils wishes… Why do you ask so many questions, you must rest.”
The boy leaned back on the pillow.
“Didi, when I was being beaten up, I prayed to God. I asked him to keep me alive. He must have sent you. You fulfilled my wish, just like your name says.”
Kalpa never thought she would live up to her name. As a teenager, she had even fought with her mother for setting her up for such a high goal. “What were you thinking?” she said. Her mother just smiled at her.
Now, this ten year old had set her up for even higher ideals. Something stirred in her. Kalpa stroked his hair and told him she will be right back. She walked out of the room and towards the reception. “I’ll fill that form now,” she said.
A nurse handed her the slip. When Kalpa reached the ‘Relation with patient’ head, her hand shook.
Mother.
She walked back to the room.
“Kali, would you like to come home with me?”
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