Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Old House by the River

Long post ahead. Actually, It’s me trying my hand at a bit of fiction.

The following is purely a figment of my imagination. Any resemblance to actual people or places is a coincidence.

The first time he saw the little girl with the pigtails, he thought it was a dream. It was impossible. No one was supposed to be living in the old house by the river. He knew this for a fact because the sight of the dilapidated house next door greeted him every time he looked out of his window.

Sathish was not happy as a normal eight year old boy should be. For an outsider, it seemed that he had nothing to be sad about. His parents were rich; he lived in luxury house with servants to do his bidding, got chauffeured around in luxury cars, and had a room full of toys that a prince would envy. Sadly, adults can be satisfied with money and shiny things, but for the lonely little boy, they were worthless.

Work is life. That was the mantra on which Sathish’s father Saman lived by. After all, he came from nothing and built an empire of companies. He wasn’t happy unless he was in his office, sitting behind a pile of paperwork. unfortunately, this work ethic didn’t leave him much time to spend with his family, and this was one of things that made Sathish unhappy.

Life is a party. This was the lifestyle adopted by Anuradhi. She was young and beautiful, forced into a marriage to a man twice her age, just because her father wanted a taste of power that Saman’s money would bring. She was thrust into motherhood when she herself was still a child in mind. Plagued by many demons, her way of battling them was to spend her absent husband’s money as fast as he can make it. Shopping during the day and partying all night didn’t leave her much time to do something mundane like taking care of a child.

In this dysfunctional world, Sathish’s constant companion was Rani, his ayah. She filled the role where his mother and father both failed. She loved that little boy like he was his own. From dawn till dusk, Sathish’s well being was her life.

Now he had a new friend. The little girl with the pigtails, who lived in the old house next door. Whenever he looked out of his window, especially in the evenings, he would see her running in the garden among the overgrown weeds, or playing on the verandah with her dolls. The best thing was that she would always a give huge smile and wave madly at him, and this became the highlight of his day. Every evening he would run to his window and wait in expectation till she came out to play, hoping for a glimpse of that smile. For some inexplicable reason, nobody else around him never saw her, and this made Sathish feel extra special, like she was only for him. He longed to go over next door and play with her, but his requests were turned down by ayah, because she never saw the little girl. Rani would admonish him to stop making things up and that imaginary friends are just what they are, imaginary. But Sathish knew better and longed to talk to her, to know her name, to know why she lived alone in a rundown house all by herself. Many questions to be answered, but sneaking next door proved impossible.

Then one evening, while his Rani slept, he made his way to the edge of garden, climbed over the guardrail and crept into the garden next door, where his new friend lived. His little heart was beating in excitement as he made his way through the overgrown weeds, towards the house. He could hear her laughing from behind the trees, inviting him for a game of hide and seek. Running from tree to tree, he tried in vain to catch her, and suddenly there she was standing next to him. She took his hand in hers and he felt a warm glow wrap around his body. He felt happiness and love. They walked hand in hand into the house, through dark corridors, heavy with dust and cobwebs. The reeking smell of death and decay nauseated him, but he didn’t want to show it in front of his new friend.

Finally they stopped in front of old yet sturdy door, which had surprisingly withstood attacks from woodworms. What was more surprising was where the door led to. For an adult, the scene behind the door would be impossible, but Sathish already knew that this place was magical. In front of him stretched out the most beautiful garden he had ever seen. It reminded him of the palace gardens mentioned in his story books, where princes and princesses played. The middle of the garden was a huge manicured lawn, and around it in rings were thousands of rose bushes with their blood red flowers in bloom. The rose bushes created a natural maze, where one could get lost for hour and hours. Criss crossing among the bushes were big white rabbits playfully wrestling each other. Sathish could swear that the rabbits were smiling and that one even winked at him. Further down, there was a lake of clear blue water with water lilies in bloom and beautiful white swans gliding on the water. Time stood till for the little boy, who, along with the little girl, played to his heart’s content. He already knew that this was the place where he will spend the rest of his days.

He didn’t care anymore about the outside world.

He never knew of his ayah’s frantic search for him or of how his parents dropped what they were doing and came home to look for him.

He never knew of how the police came looking for him with search dogs or how they tracked him into the old house.

He never knew of how Rani fainted or heard his mother’s tortured crying at the sight of his lifeless body, curled up in the corner of a dark room.

The only thing that he knew was that he was smiling like he had never smiled before and that nothing will make him unhappy again.

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