Despite being Sunday, Vikas was out in the market in the evening. He was looking for some apparels suitable for his trip abroad. He bumped into Ramesh. They were meeting after few weeks.
“Hey, Ramesh, How are you? What brings you here?”
“Arey, I am looking for a nice shawl. Do you remember Satpute Sir? His 75th birthday is on 5th of next month. The other day some of my classmates got together and they are planning to present him a good shawl on Guru Paurnima Day. I was given the responsibility to select the shawl. So I am on that mission. Anyway, how are things? Just two days ago, I met Ajay. He is getting married, sometime after 3-4 months. And do you know, Ravichandran is opening his clinic. He is planning to invite all of us, his friends. That is scheduled on third of coming month. Some auspicious day.”
“Great! Ravi had a terrific struggle. He is a gold medalist but it was so difficult for him to get started. One has to learn tenacity from him. He overcame all odds.
But did you hear, Nitin is going strong with his affair. He is going to talk to Savita’a parents to finalize.” Vikas updated Ramesh on news front of friend circle.
The gossip was going on in full swing. While wandering around, Ramesh’s eyes caught the sight of Satish approaching them. Immediately he interrupted his chatting and said “Vikas, I remembered I have to do some important work. I must leave now. Okay then. We will meet some time later”. He started off. Before he could go far, Satish reached them. “Hi, how come two of you are here?”
“Hi Satish. I have some work. I have to push off urgently. Bye then.” Ramesh left hurriedly. Vikas was wondering what made Ramesh leave him so suddenly, interrupting the dialogue. Satish also was surprised that Ramesh left so quickly. He did not wait even for a minute to talk to him. Little disappointed, Satish started talking to Vikas.
“Tell me Vikas, how are you doing?”
“I am fine. How about you?”
“I am also good. But do you know Vikas, these days in the free time I have started writing stories. It is really very interesting. One gets opportunity to express his ideas, feelings. That is a nice way to empty out your mind.”
“Yes. Very good.” Vikas appreciated Satish’s taking some different line for recreation.
“Vikas, I choose different storylines. You see. I am not a professional writer. So I need some truthful feedback, honest opinion from my friends. Depending upon that, I do some alterations. That adds to my writing methods. “After a pause for a while, Satish asked Vikas ”Can you spare few minutes, may be ten or fifteen, and read my story ? It is not that bad.”
“Why not? That will be my pleasure. But Satish, I am not a voracious reader. I will take some time. Will it be okay? I would like to give you genuine comments.”
Vikas saw Satish was delighted with this response.
With a great satisfaction on his face, Satish said, “Okay Vikas, I will send you the story by email. I have your mail address. I am looking forward to your candid feedback.”
Vikas said, “Sure. “
Satish then said “Vikas, thank you so much. Now I will move on. I was actually going to buy some vegetables. I saw you with Ramesh. So I turned around and came here. I have given my story to Ramesh for his feedback. A month has passed but he has not given me his comments. May be he is very busy. But my story does not take even half an hour to read. Anyway, Vikas, at least you be kind enough to give your opinion.”
“Definitely, Satish. I will give you feed back within a week.”
“Thank you so much, Vikas. Thanks again. Wait for my story before late evening.” With happiness on his face Satish left.
Vikas got the answer for his curiosity about Ramesh leaving abruptly the discussion with him. Ramesh wanted to avoid talking to Satish as he had nothing to say about the story which Satish had sent him some weeks back.
Vikas entered the shop and started looking for the readymade shirt for his trip to Singapore. He had specific color and style in his mind. Nothing in the shop was satisfying his requirement. He was wondering what to do. And there was Ashish at the next counter also selecting some shirt. Both looked at each other almost at the same time.
“Hi, Vikas. Have you finished making your selection? If yes, come here. Please help me. I am undecided between full shirt and half shirt.” Ashish urged.
“No. I am also not able to finalize. I heard you have started looking for a match? How far have you reached?”
Ashish came close and said “I liked one girl and my parents are talking further with that party. If both parents agree, it will be final.”
“What about girl’s choice? Has she approved?”
“Why, am I so unworthy that she will not like me?”
“No yaar! I did not mean that. But every girl also has her own ideas. The boy may or may not fit in it.”
“We both had some time together. We exchanged our ideas. There are more common things than differences. We both have given our approval. Now, it is up to our parents to finalize. Today evening only they are meeting. “
“Good. That means very soon we are going to get the great news.”
“Probably yes! Do you know, Nitin is going to Savita’s house today only to finalize the matter. That news may reach you earlier.” Ashish parted some more information.
“And do you know, I am going to Singapore for six months for some training program. No. I am not learning anything new. But we are teaching them about our product using new technology. They are using our product for last so many years. But the technological advances has changed the product operation completely. So we two Engineers from our company are going to install the entire system and train their Engineers thoroughly.
I met Satish a while ago. And do you know, in spite of his new promotion as manager in charge of a project, he is spending some time to write stories. Great! An Engineer by profession wants to become a writer. Very funny!” Vikas added.
“So you came across Satish. Arey, last time we met, he mentioned about his new passion for writing short stories. He did not stop at that. He asked for my feedback over his stories. But who has that much time to read his story?”
“Yes. Very true! We don’t get time even to scratch. And how can one read his stories!” Vikas agreed with Ashish.
“He sent his story on email and asked for his feedback within a week”
“He is going to post the short story on my email too, for feedback.”
“I am not in any mood to read his story. I bluffed him as my mother is interested in reading it first and after she finishes it, I will read it. Promptly, next week he asked for comments. Told him mother has not finished it yet. After she is through with it, I promise, I will read it immediately.
Then on, I am avoiding meeting him. He is a great Engineer and our very good friend too. But why this punishment of reading the story?”
“Anyway, you finish your selection of shirt first. Then we will talk about it.”
They both picked up their choice and proceeded towards a restaurant nearby. Both ordered for sandwiches and lassi and had nice time together.
After they finished when they came out they bumped into Mohan.
“How are you both?” Mohan greeted them.
“Ay, I have to leave now. Have to keep an appointment. We will meet sometime later, Mohan” Ashish said and started off.
“Hey, wait. I do not have any story to give you to read. And Satish is also not around here. You don’t have to leave immediately, Ashish.”
“So you also have experienced the menace Satish is spreading. “ Ashish said. Holding Ashish’s arm Mohan did not allow him to leave.
Mohan continuesd further. “And do you know, Satish is great. Few days back he came to my house. I was not at home. Mother entertained him.
‘Aunti, actually, I had come to read out my short story to Mohan.’
‘ Very good Satish, writing short story is your pass time. Nice.’ Mother.
‘Aunti, would you like to hear it? Shall I read it out to you quickly?’ Satish.
‘Yes. I would have liked to hear it but don’t have time. I have to start cooking ’ mother.
‘Ok, Then. Some time later, aunty!’ saying this Satish left.
My mother had heaved a sigh of relief. Actually, she had finished her cooking. But to circumvent the anguish of hearing the story, she pretended to cook something. She started making bhajia’s . And when I returned home after sometime, I heard mother’s story how she saved herself from Satish’s trauma by taking up making bhajia’s .
Next time when Satish visited our house, my mother escaped to kitchen to make Batata Vadas. She had thought there is no problem worse than listening to Satish’s short story. So that is Satish and his stories.” Mohan completed his story in single breath.
“Really a menace! Satish is our friend trying out something different. But he can not take us as guinea pigs,” Vikas remarked.
Shopping was over and Vikas, Ashish & Mohan returned to their respective homes.
After dinner Vikas retired to bed. As his usual practice, he opened his mail account on laptop. Satish’s mail was waiting for him.
With reluctance, he opened the short story titled “The Jackfruit”.
Vikas thought ‘What a horrible title! ’
Vikas started reading. The first line itself he found uninteresting. He went on and every further line was more and more tedious for him. He could not read any further. He was quick enough to send his reply to Satish. With a great effort he could scribble words, “Very boring”
Then he further added, “Satish, as a friend I am suggesting, please do not waste your time in writing stories. That is not our cup of tea. We are professionally Engineers and please concentrate on technology. Friend, please do not let your energy get drained in such non productive activity. I am sorry. I am being honest. Please stop that and don’t put your friends into awkward situation of reading your pastime outcome. It is torturous to your entire friend circle.”
Vikas sent his mail. He was getting ready to enter into dream world. Before he could close his eyes. his computer announced receipt of some mail. He noticed it was from Satish. “Okay friend. Thanks for your advice. I will keep in mind.”
Vikas could not keep himself away from sorry face of Satish in front of him.
The days passed on. On second day of next month, Vikas’s mother told him that her distant niece, Akanksha, from Indore was coming to Mumbai as she had got job in one construction company as Chief Architect soon after her Masters in Architectures. She insisted Vikas to go to airport to receive her as that was Saturday and was weekly off for him.
On Saturday, Vikas was woken up early and promptly he was at the airport well in time. Identifying with the help of cell phone, they quickly drove back.
Vikas’s mother was very happy to receive her niece. After exchanging all the news from each other’s house, Akanksha took charge of her room allotted to her. Slowly she got acquainted with the family, Vikas, his father and mother whom she had met last summer during one family wedding.
Next day Vikas got ready to attend the small get-together of his friends to celebrate 75th birthday of their favorite teacher Satpute Sir.
“Why don’t you take Akanksha with you there? Sanyami, Rajita and Neela must be coming. Aren’t they? They all are your batch mates and usually attend any function at Satpute Sir’s house. Right? Akanksha can get introduced to your friends. That will make her more comfortable.”
“If she is ready, I don’t have any problem.”
Akanksha was also keen to meet some girls in her age group.
At the function at Satpute Sir’s house, around 25-30 youngsters were present. Vikas introduced Akanksha to everybody and most importantly Satpute Sir. She also intermingled with everybody. Ashish, Mohan, Satish, Ramesh, Rohit, Ajay, Sanyami, Rajita, Neela and all others were present.
After some time, Rohit got up and conducted the ceremony of felicitating Satpute Sir. Everyone was extremely happy to express one’s gratitude to their respected sir.
When Satish’s turn came, he said, “Sir and dear friends, to express my feelings towards sir, I am going to tell a micro story.” Many of the attendees lost their heart beat. A story and from Satish. Inconceivable idea.
Mohan interrupted, “Satish, please, no story telling.”
Ashish supported Mohan. ”Yes. I also feel that it may be too much.”
“Let him tell his story. Have you forgotten, in your college days when I used to tell you stories, you all used to enjoy it. Let Satish narrate his story” Satpute sir interrupted.
“Let him tell his some experience with the factory or something on technology. But not the story please.” Vikas said.
“No Vikas. I want a story from Satish.” Sir insisted.
“OK. Go ahead Satish “Rohit took charge.
Satish got up and started.” This is really a micro story.
A gardener was looking after one small garden. It had various types of plants, some bearing flowers which looked beautiful without any fragrance. Some flowers were not very attractive but had nice aroma. Some plants did not bear any flowers. And cacti had only the thorns. But the gardener took care of all plants. Nurtured all of them with equal love and affection. And that gardener won the best Garden award for many consecutive years.
We salute that gardener with utmost humility.”
Saying this Satish touched Sir’s feet. Tears flowed from sir’s eyes, moistened Satish’s head. Controlling his own tears Satish took his seat.
Spontaneous clapping from one and all ended Satish’s story.
Rohit took over the charge again and announced further item of the function.
Akanksha was impressed by the story. When the function was over, she approached Satish and extended her compliments for the grand story.
“It was really nice. Opening out your heart beautifully.
Do you write stories regularly?”
“Actually I am an Engineer. But during my spare time, I do write some thing.” Satish said hesitantly.
“That is still great. Usually, Technology and literature never go together. So you are exceptional.”
“What about you? Do you also write?” Satish got curious.
“Yes. I also scribble in my spare time. I am an Architect. That gives me full scope for creativity. But jotting down your feelings is something exceptionally great. I love to read and sometimes I write too.” Satish was delighted that he found somebody who enjoyed writing as well as reading short stories. He was about to ask her feedback over the short stories he has already written. But he refrained from talking about his writing work.
Meanwhile other friends joined the conversation. “Yes. It was a very nice story, Satish. Well written.” Mohan greeted. Then he looked at Akanksha and said,” He is a good writer. How did you find his micro story? It was really very nice.”
“Yes. Very short but extremely sensitive. I told him I liked it.” Akanksha said.
“He is the person who has introduced we Engineers to stories. Otherwise we had not dared to write anything. It is Satish who inspired us to write.
I also have started writing occasionally.” Mohan bluffed.
“So you also write?”
“That is great. If you have something written already, I would be happy to read it” Akanksha.
“Oh! Certainly. When we meet next, I will give it to you.”
“We all have started liking short stories because of Satish. I also write occasionally.” Ashish added.
“Oh! Wonderful. That means yours is a technocrat writers group.” Akanksha.
“Yes. You can say so.” Ashish confirmed.
“Does Vikas write? “
“No. He has not picked up it as yet. He even does not read short stories given to him for reading. Absolutely insensitive person!” Ramesh interrupted. “I will give my story for you to read. “ Ramesh tried to impress Akanksha.
“So except Vikas, each one of you has a very common pastime of writing and appreciating short stories. I would love to read you all.” Akanksha.
Satish was aghast to know his friends’ love for short stories.
He could well understand their liking for stories was actually their interest in new friend Akanksha. His story The Gardener was not heard by friends with intent. They had not taken note of the story beyond the title. But Satish had found a genuine, sensitive reader of short stories. He thought a new plant was added in Sir’s garden, that had beautiful flowers with great aroma.