( Hey guys! This is a fictional short story written by me. Hope you like it!)
I was travelling to West Bengal, India in the June of 1999. I had come here so as to rest my mind and explore the beauty of this coastal region of India. I had decided to write a novel set in the villages of Bengal. This wasn’t my first trip to Bengal. I had come here before, but then it had been because of a business trip, when I was a young lad still in my thirties, working for a company that doesn’t even exist now. I always had a passion for writing, but it was only when I turned 39 when I realised that writing was the only thing I wanted to focus on. So, I quit my job and became a writer. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t that ‘celebrated’ in this field since only few of my works were published. And I had been living in London, where there were already many blooming writers. But I am not ashamed of this fact. Actually, I was quite satisfied with what I had. It was my belief that one could be satisfied only when we put an end to our greediness. I didn’t want much money for my work. What I only needed, was a calm state of mind and a knack for writing.
So, coming back to my journey now. I wanted to visit some particular villages of this area. I decided to travel to these small villages by train. First, I was going to Nimati which is in Alipurduar district of West Bengal. It was a local train, with layers of paint scraped out on the outside, rusted seats and less space. Suddenly, the train came to a halt. I looked out of my window, and came to know that we had stopped at a small railway station to pick up more passengers. As I was observing the people boarding the train, the tea stalls, cab drivers, and the usual hustle-bustle at a station, I saw a typical Bengali lady, wrapped in a silky red saree, with dark black crimped hair flowing with the wind, a ‘bindi’ on her forehead and oh such pretty big eyes beautified even more by a mascara. She was standing alone, hands free, resting her back on a pillar. I was lost in her beauty for some time. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. I kept staring at her radiant beauty. It was only after some time when I realised that she was staring at me too. Then she smiled at me. I quickly turned my head to the other side and moved back from the window. When I looked for her again after some time, she was gone. Just then, the train too started to move. I kept looking for her even then, but all my attempts failed. I had to get off at the next station. Till the time I reached there, I kept thinking about her. But don’t you mistake this reaction of mine to her beauty as attraction, because it was far deeper than that. It was like she was mystical. But the moment she had been staring at me, there was something about that smile that left me in deep thoughts. It was a smile, but I wanted to know what lied beneath that smile. What was that smile hiding? She held great dark secrets, which was evident in just her smile and the emotion in her eyes. That was a smile not of happiness, but of sorrow.
Soon, the next station came and I got off the train with my luggage. I had to take a taxi from there. As I was searching for cab drivers, I saw that Bengali lady again. I got lost in her yet again. I was trying to find an answer to what was hiding behind that smile of sorrow. Then, she began approaching me. Closer and closer, she finally stood in front of me. And now that my face was just a few inches away from hers, I could explore her eyes more easily. I wondered why she had come to me. After a few minutes, she finally broke the silence that surrounded us. She said,” I saw you looking at me earlier at that station. Who are you?” Her voice was so very deep and fascinating that for a minute, I was short of words. Then I replied,”Hello. I am Evan. I am sorry if you felt offended when I was staring at you.” She said,” Evan. What a nice name. What are you doing in a village in Bengal? Doesn’t it seem quite nonadjustable for a foreigner like you?” To which, I replied,” You see, I am a writer. I want to explore such regions of India and write a novel set in here. No, I don’t have any adjustment problems as such. I like it here.” She smiled at me and said,” Oh, so you are a writer! Will you write about me?” I was taken aback that she seemed to be interested in talking to a total stranger like me, and even more so when she asked me if I would write about her. I said,” Of course, I will! But I don’t know anything about you.”
She said,” I want to leave a part of me behind in this world before I leave. I am sorry, I have to go now. Do write about me, Evan!” She started backing away from me and ran. Oh, how her saree gracefully glided as if to keep pace with her! It all happened so quickly, it didn’t seem to make sense at all. I ran towards her, trying to keep track of her, and then I shouted,” Listen!” She finally stopped running and turned towards me. I said,” But where are you going?” To which, she replied,” I am going to meet my family.” I said,” Where is your family? Do you need any kind of help from me? Please just tell me.” She said,” My family? It’s among the stars. Goodbye, Evan!” I was fixated to the ground at that moment and she started running again. I saw her, for the last time, her saree, her hair, her everything. I kept looking at her, until I could see her no more. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t move. It was as if the world had stopped. She was going to kill herself. When she said she was going to meet her family among the stars , she was telling him that she was going to commit suicide. And he had done nothing to stop her. Nothing. She was going to depart from this world forever. And he had done nothing to stop this. These thoughts just kept swirling in my mind. These feelings of immense guilt. Something terrible must have happened to her family and her. And she had told him. As she said, she wished to leave a part of her behind. She completed her last wish through me. As I thought about that smile, her dark red saree and her beauty, I wondered how much sorrow can break or make a person. She was oh so perfect in every sense, but what lied beneath her skin, was something that was difficult to comprehend. But she was happy leaving this world.
I thought about fate, how she met me, a complete stranger and decided to trust me with this. Was it destiny? Co-incidence? Or was she waiting for something like this to happen, something which would leave a part of her behind in this world, someone who would remember her?
As I thought about all this, a tear fell on my right cheek. I looked at the the people at the station. Some were in a hurry to catch their trains, some were laughing, some were playing Dumb Charades, some were singing, some were happy. The world was just the same. The world didn’t stop. A person had just left the world, but everything was just the same.
But it was different for me. It was that day that I decided to write about her as she had asked me to. And I will always remember her. That lady in red.