THAT KISS, AN IMMORTAL BLISS!

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic


His muted love eventually proclaimed; but, she was dead by then. The warmth of that kiss passed on to the next generation. Love was spread as public good.

Submitted: May 08, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: May 08, 2018

A A A

A A A


THAT KISS, AN IMMORTAL BLISS!

A short story by

Babul Nasar

His muted love eventually proclaimed; but, she was dead by then.

Disclaimer: All characters, events and places are fictional.

 

 

It was drizzling. His gaze, flitting from one vagabond cloud to another, took Soumen back in time to his childhood.

'Soumen, no, don’t go. The supper is ready.'

‘Maa, just a word with Lucy, I’ll be back in a minute.’ replied Soumen turning the door knob. Soumen rushed into Lucy's home opposite his residence.

'Lucy, my Papa has brought me a gift. Come on! We will open it together.'

'Oh, no, not now, keep the inauguration or whatever for the morning!’ Rosy Aunty commanded. ‘Lucy, finish dinner first before you start talking. And, Soumen, you too sit down for supper.' 

'Aunty, I swear Lucy will be back in two minutes!'

Soumen pulled Lucy by her hand without waiting for response; both darted past Lucy's door.

The two six-year olds settled at the dining table to explore the gift pack; Soumen insisted Lucy unboxed the gift. And, she cheerfully obliged!

‘Wow, it is a tape recorder.’ shouted the children in excitement.

Mrs. Kalpana Mukherjee joined the kids fiddling with the tape recorder. The mom looked at the price tag; it made her palpably unhappy.

Mrs. Rosy D'Souza came to take Lucy back home; instead, she joined the kids. The ladies busied themselves leafing through the user manual.

Children had already begun playing songs, changing melodies, backward and forward, not stopping at any one item. Moms made them stick to any one song, and began discussing the quality of sound; each trying to score a point. The children simply enjoyed the thrill of owning something new; they simply enjoyed the occasion devoid of one-upmanship, unlike their Moms.

Sagar Mukherjee emerged from the bathroom, walked up to the kids to share their happiness. He was happy that his choice of the gift pleased the children; more so since their joint birthday would be celebrated the next day.

Lucy and Soumen were born on the same date, 27 August!

Martinez De'Souza, a senior Merchant Navy officer, was home after four months of cruising to celebrate daughter Lucy’s birthday.

*

Both homes were decorated with balloons; two large cakes were kept in the Mukherjee flat. Children from the apartment complex were shouting, dancing, laughing, crying, and playing music on the tape recorder.

The simultaneous cutting ceremony of the two cakes and blowing off of seven candles each began. The crowd chorused the familiar ‘Happy birthday to dear Lucy and to dear Soumen’; the inclusion of two names in the birthday song confused children, and the popular melody turned into cacophony. Nevertheless, it was great fun! 

‘Listen; here is a big surprise for you!’ Martinez shouted for all to hear; he displayed two packets.

The announcement ‘Cricket and badminton sets for all of you!’ created instant mayhem. Children mobbed Martinez, snatched the packets, ran down to the street lamp-lit complex park; it was drizzling!

The lavish buffet was a combination of Goan and Bengali dishes.

Mukherjees and De'Souzas chatted late into that night over pegs of traditional Goan drink Feni.  They focused on the curious coincidence that both Soumen and Lucy were born on the same date and time; and, it was drizzling at that moment!

*

Their family friendship despite the De'Souzas being Roman Catholics of Portuguese origin and the Mukherjees being native Brahmins of Bengal remained exemplary. Their children were unconcerned about their origins; they simply loved to be together.

With years marching ahead, Soumen and Lucy were growing up too; climbing up the school class ladder together year after year, birthday after birthday. They were becoming conscious about their masculine and feminine bodies. Lucy was gaining curves; the voice of Soumen was cracking. The children were now adolescents. They struggled together with their studies.

Martinez De'Souza was transferred to Goa. The De'Souza family would shift out of Kolkata immediately after Lucy finished her examinations.

The two families would separate in a couple of months; the togetherness of Soumen and Lucy would snap. They were nervous; so busy with studies, they did not even once think about their imminent parting.

The final day arrived. The night was hectic with last minute packing, incessant talking, dining; De'Souzas would leave early in the morning to catch the flight. The two families slept on the floor together.

The morning was dull, each eye reddish and puffy; each face drawn, each mouth shut. The clock struck 8; commotion began.

‘Hurry up. We’re getting late.’ the elders spoke together. The men went loading baggage in the vehicle.

Lucy looked fresh and beautiful in a flowing all-white frock, hairs back combed and clipped. Soumen wore his white school uniform.

Lucy pulled Soumen by his shirt, took him to the inside room. They stood face to face, in silence. They looked in to each other’s eyes.

‘Hello children, time to leave.’ the loud searching voice of Mrs. Mukherjee reverberated.

Two adolescents there; Lucy landed an unexpected full lip kiss, her first ever on Soumen leaving him stunned. He was motionless, numb and blank; his bone marrow shivered. Lucy separated, patted his cheeks; she made a u-turn and ran away. Soumen was a statue, mesmerised!

‘Come Soumen, quick. I’m locking the doors.’ said Rosy Aunty affectionately; she sensed that Soumen was in a trance. ‘Why?’ She had no time to investigate.

Residents of the complex said good bye. Two vehicles rolled out for the airport.

*

The future is always distant, a long way to go; once the destination is reached, the past is always close by, just a few steps backward. This is exactly what was felt by Soumen half a century after that kiss.

*

Lucy had gone to Goa, studied in Bombay and in Madras and got her Ph. D. degree in Zoology. She married late when she was almost a decade into University teaching; her husband too was a Professor of Economics in the same university. Professor Anton Mascarenhas and Dr. Lucy De'Souza Mascarenhas lived happily in conjugal and academic togetherness. Both were in good health; busy in community activities too. Of late, their only regret was that they didn’t have a child to rear; but, that was until!

Soumen first moved to Delhi, obtained a Doctoral degree in International Economics, and from there to London for post-doc studies. In rather a short time Soumen was an internationally renowned scholar on ‘global economic parity’.

Dr. Kalpana Sil came to his life as his first post-doc fellow. It didn’t take much time for them to come closer than co-researchers. Kalpana was pretty and smart. Soumen and Kalpana came to India on vacation, their families met; the wedding was solemnized at the Sil family home in Jhargram, the groom had come from the Mukherjee home in Burdwan. Their honeymoon was in London.

Soumen and Kalpana became proud parents of son Partho and daughter Monica. All was well for over two and a half decades; the children moved to USA and Switzerland; they settled there. Soumen and Kalpana took care of each other. Kalpana had been taken ill suddenly, diagnosed with brain tumor with midline shift. She died on the operating table. Formalities completed, the children went back to their respective ‘homes’.

Soumen, now bald, was left alone. He too was not keeping well enough, diabetes related complications, including chronic nephritis. He took a sabbatical for two years to be in Kolkata. His health check up showed one of his kidneys called for replacement. The hospital asked him to wait for a suitable kidney donor; it was to take some time. In the meanwhile, he had to be put on dialysis and keep himself in readiness for kidney transplant. His surgeon, Dr. Madhusdan Tulsi, a distinguished Nephrologist, happened to be his school mate.

Soumen worked on his research project mostly from home; his laptop was his friend, and guide. At his leisure time he would sit in his reclining arm chair looking through his favourite window; his laptop and cell phone kept handy on the side table.

He busied himself, in addition to his research, with writing and replying to mails.

*

He received an e-mail:

Dear Sir,

I apologise for encroaching upon your busy schedule in London.

We have not met, but I have known you since my childhood. I was at first hesitant to approach you, but over time my promise to parents impelled me to write this letter.

I had my schooling in Panjim, Goa. I obtained my bachelor’s and master’s degree in Madras (now Chennai), and Ph. D. degree from Bombay (now Mumbai).

I wish to pursue my post-Ph. D. research at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

My curriculum vitae, marks sheets, degrees and the synopsis of proposed research project are added herewith as attachments.

I would be deeply indebted if you kindly read these documents to form your valued opinion.

I seek your most valued advice on:

1. Whether researching at LSE would provide me with worthwhile international exposure and eligibility for global assignments?

2. If it is ‘yes’, would you kindly suggest the name(s) of mentor(s) at LSE to be approached provided, of course, that you are not willing to admit me as a member of your research team. It is one of my life’s goals to embark on advanced work as your research associate.

With respects, and

Sincerely yours,

Daisy Mascarenhas

Daughter of:

Professor Anton Mascarenhas,

&

Dr. Lucy De'Souza Mascarenhas

Mapusa-403507,

Goa, India

*

Soumen has been receiving similar letters from aspirants from all over the world. This letter didn’t evoke interest but the word ‘Goa’ drew his attention. Normally Soumen wouldn’t waste time in reading names at the bottom of mails; this time he read it all. The names of the applicants’ parents made him jump from his seat.

‘Oh, my; Daisy is Lucy’s daughter!’ Soumen got a pleasant shock.

He scrutinised all documents as an unbiased professional. He read the papers again; and began to write a reply.

 

My dear Daisy,

I am delighted to have received your mail. So sweet of you to write to me! Thank you.

I am in Kolkata for the present on two-year sabbatical leave. Please feel free to write as often as you wish.

I have scrutinised your documents. Your CV shows you are a brilliant student. The proposed research project calls for many changes. It may have to be written afresh.  This will be done when we sit together some time soon. You are fit to be at LSE, and, you would be welcome to join my team after clearing a purely professional interview with me.

Now, tell me more about your parents. Your mother, Lucy and I are childhood friends. How’s she doing? Have your parents retired from service? The last time I met them was at Srinagar. Please convey my greetings to your parents.

Thank you for reminding me of my good old days.

Please write back. And, Take care.

My affections for you,

Soumen Uncle

(Soumen Mukherjee)

Camp: Kolkata

 

Soumen rose up, kept looking at his laptop as if the reply would pop up; he was restless, eager to learn more about Lucy. He half-slept during the night, thinking, imagining, and waiting for a rejoinder from Daisy.

*

Her reply came next day in the afternoon. 

My dear Uncle,

Your reply filled me with pleasure and pain; pleasure, because I felt protected, relevant and loved; pain, because aching moments resurfaced from my memory archives.

I beg apology if I am harsh at times in this longish letter; I’ll keep it as emotion-neutral and straightforward as possible.

My parents had met with an accident three years ago, and died on the spot. They were driving back home from Mumbai after having blessed me on my 23rd birthday. There was no one around close enough to hold me when I saw their mangled bodies. I cannot stop feeling devastated since then; this dreadful void will haunt me in life. It has been as if I had murdered them! I was so engrossed in my doctoral studies that I could not afford time to be at Mapusa for my birthday. So, they travelled by road all the way to my hostel in Mumbai. They loved me so much.

It was for my mother’s shattered parents to give me company in my grief and guilt. I wouldn’t be alive today but for my grandparents. They instilled new life in me. They made me accept the challenge. And, the challenge is my mother’s wish that I should learn quality research in Economics under your leadership.

I do not know if it was premonition that Mamma left her diaries with her parents with instruction to hand these over to me when I am grownup enough. And, all this was done with unrestrained consent and support of Papa. Mamma was my best friend, provider of the best guidance; the best mother ever to have roamed on this planet. I miss Mamma. I miss Papa. I’m so lonely.

Mamma told me much of what is contained in her diaries with entries dating from her school days in Kolkata. Your name is mentioned umpteen times as if you hovered over her thoughts since childhood; and, Papa respected her infatuation. Mamma kept track of you and family without writing or expecting a letter from you.

Permit me to open up a bit more for you. Mamma thanked you for my birth.  You may recall my parents having met your family in Srinagar during a conference; you were the chief guest. Everyone around was envious of your academic stature and your lovely family.  The beauty and grace of your spouse, Dr. Kalpana Sil Mukherjee, and two cute children had mesmerised all. My parents, especially Mamma felt so proud about it all. She was happy because you were happy.

During that Srinagar meeting with my parents, you showed arrogance and poured insult on them. Your purpose apparently was to show off that you were better off in life than my Mamma was. You had insulted Mamma by asking: ‘No children yet? Who has the defect, you or your husband?’

You had in fact offended her blasted motherhood, her womanhood. She was extremely hurt. Mamma did not sleep that night, she cried. Papa consoled her, he sobbed with her all the while. Yet, the diary has not even once mentioned you in bad taste.

The love between Mamma and Papa has been divine, their mutual respect and love existed in life and exists in death, shall exist for eternity. But, you were jealous of Papa for being Mamma’s life partner and soul mate. I confess it has been tough for me not to hate you but for Mamma’s counsel.  

Before you met them in Srinagar, Mamma was recuperating from a crucial surgery. Mamma was five-month pregnant when their Perth-Singapore-Mumbai flight had a crash landing. Fortunately there was no fatality. Mamma had to be taken to hospital where her condition deteriorated. The foetus was dead.  Two crucial surgeries later the gynaecologist declared her safe, but added that Mamma would never be pregnant again. This death of the foetus was not reported by the media. For them, a foetus is a lifeless item! For the expecting mother, the loss is a painful guilt for the rest of her life; Mamma never recovered fully. She had insisted against medical advice on accompanying Papa to Srinagar once she learnt that you would be there. She had wished to meet you, perhaps cry her grief out on your shoulder. Apart from Papa you were the only one she could talk her heart out to. It was during this time that you had hit her smashed motherhood hard. But, alas, what happened was unexpected, her heart bled. I must confess that I always silently hated you for grieving Mamma. She tried nonstop to calm down my anger. Mamma told me that that she knew you very well. You behaved the way you did was because your felt jealous of Papa for being with Mamma, your crafty revenge manifested in expressions. 

After meeting you in Srinagar, Mamma and Papa decided to have a baby at whatever cost. Medication, surgery and hospitalization had become routine. Mamma’s health deteriorated, but she was adamant. Papa supported her. And, finally I was born. I am informed that I was born at midnight. And, it was drizzling; I don’t know what connection drizzling has with our lives!

At this moment, my love for Mamma supersedes my hatred for you; she admired you, so I love you. I will follow her advice come what may.

I would stop here for now. I need to cry for some time alone, hiding my emotions from grandparents. Please forgive me.

Yours affectionately,

Daisy

Mapusa, Goa

*

Soumen read the letter many times; each reading filled him with remorse, guilt; he smashed his pride to be Soumen, just Soumen. He sat down to write back, but shut down the computer for the moment. He was agitated within. The sleepless night subdued his confusion. Repentance gripped him. He booted his laptop to reply.

My dear Daisy,

Your letter has shaken me to the core. I don’t really know what to write. Forgive for being very personal.  My heart bleeds to learn about the deaths of your parents. I plead guilty of neglecting to learn about the welfare of your parents Lucy and Anton. I also confess my behaviour with Lucy in Srinagar was despicable; I am repentant.

I lost my wife due to brain tumor with midline shift. My son has settled in the USA, and daughter in Switzerland. I was heartbroken, physically weak and lonely in London. I am suffering from diabetes connected chronic kidney failure. Seeking comfort zone and nostalgia; I decided to come here in Kolkata to stay in our old flat opposite the one occupied once by Lucy and your grandparents. I am under medical care of my friend doctor who administers weekly dialysis; preparing and waiting for a kidney transplant as and when a donor is found.

I have planned for atonement; I am coming to Mapusa at the earliest.

Let us talk over Skype or other video conferencing system this evening. Please mail to me the details of your address so I can meet you there.

I’ll visit your grandparents at their home; I’ll then visit your parents at the cemetery. We will also finalise your academic pursuit and placement.

Please talk over video system of your choice. I have to make arrangement to reach Goa at the earliest.

Please accept being my child, a daughter born out of grieving love.

Love,

Soumen Uncle

Kolkata

 

Soumen clicked ‘send’, and kept waiting for the reply.

*

Daisy wrote back in about a couple of hours.

My dear Uncle,

I’m extremely sorry to learn about aunty’s demise and about your health issues. I know how loneliness feels like; I’m quite relieved to be ‘your child’ born out of mutual grief-stricken affection.

You don’t need to come here. I’ll come to Kolkata; and, should it match, I’ll donate one of my kidneys to you.

Apologies, I wouldn’t be available on any video conferencing system. Mamma refused our insistence for video calls. She would always say that despite times having advanced with technologies unthinkable during her childhood, meeting loved ones in person creates ambience not possible through videos or robotics.

Kindly find details of how to reach our home at Mapusa.

Affectionately yours,

Daisy

Mapusa

 

*

 

Soumen instantly wrote back.

My lovely child Daisy,

You have overwhelmed me with the offer of your kidney. But, that is not required. Thank you so much.

You will come to Kolkata later. I’m travelling to Mapusa in two days. My itinerary follows soon. Please keep a foldable wheel chair handy for me.

With love,

Soumen Uncle

*

 

Daisy’s rejoinder was short; no salutation there!

OK, you are coming to Mapusa.

I and Pedro, my college going cousin will receive you at GOI airport. We will travel from Dabolim to Mapusa by road.

Leave the rest for me to do.

Pl. mail your itinerary

Daisy

*

Daisy and Pedro waited at the exit gate of the airport; the placard displayed; ‘Dr. Soumen Mukherjee, Kolkata/London’. Only after most passengers had come out, a bald man on a wheel chair emerged.

Soumen looked at the placard; the young lady in yellow jeans and white cotton top held the placard. Soumen thought: ‘Yes, she must be Daisy; she quite reflects Lucy’s face.’

Soumen and Daisy looked at each other; they smiled, and hugged. Soumen kissed at Daisy’s forehead. Brief introductions with Pedro followed.

Pedro unfolded the wheel chair he was carrying. Soumen stood up, put his hand on Daisy’s shoulder: ‘I would prefer to walk.’

The car borne journey was comfortable; Daisy drove carefully.

Lucy’s old parents were waiting at the veranda. Soumen, tear-filled eyes, rushed to his Rosy Aunty and Martin Uncle. There were repeated hugs, kisses; no one spoke until Pedro pulled a chair asking Soumen to be seated.

‘I’m OK standing. I smell my Maa and Papa. I feel like a child again.’

Talks followed; a glass of coconut water was served by Daisy; she knew the diet restrictions of Soumen.

Soumen was taken to the guest room; Daisy said: ‘Uncle, this is your room arranged in the manner of yours in Kolkata. You can sit in this arm chair and look at the sky through this window.’ She added, ‘Here is the washroom, somewhat differently placed than in your Kolkata flat.’

Daisy: ‘Please get ready to visit the cemetery. From there we will go to our village named after my great grandfather Antonio.

 

*

 

Two graves lay side by side; occupants’ names engraved on tablets.

Soumen stood erect, made the cross sign twice; his eyes were closed, tear drops rolling down cheeks. He was murmuring, inaudible to others.

‘Lucy, I beg apology for my misdemeanour at Srinagar. I didn’t know about you predicaments; I cared only about me, nothing else mattered. Forgive my ignorance and irrationality.’ He paused.

Then again: ‘Lucy, I realised much later that your kiss was an expression of you deep love for me. At that moment I didn’t know how to react or what to say. Girls grow faster than boys; at that point in time I was still a child while you were already an adult. And, then there was a long silence from you, and from me. I dug deep into my heart to realise that I always was in deep love with you, despite being completely devoted to Kalpana and our family. I will go for atonement for my error of hurting you in your vulnerable moment.’

He turned his eyes to the grave of Anton: ‘Thank you Anton for your unrestricted love for Lucy, and for Daisy. You kept Lucy happy; you stood by her side in difficult moments. Thank you for taking care of Lucy in life and in death.’

Soumen slumped in the wheelchair, took out the ‘kerchief and wiped his face.

Daisy watched Soumen all this while, so did Pedro.

Daisy had her eyes filled with tear. Soumen stood up leaning with hand on the shoulder of Daisy.

They stood by the two graves; Daisy impulsively thudded an affectionate kiss on Soumen’s cheek. He was taken aback, but felt relieved; Soumen hugged Daisy as a father would do to his daughter.

Soumen looked at Daisy with affection: ‘Daisy, you wouldn’t need to go to the UK. We together will establish an International Advanced Research Institute for Asian Economics at your village as an add-on of LSE in London. We will together tour around the globe to arrange for financial support. This Project will be for the public good of all. I would like to shift back to India with offices at Mapusa and in Kolkata. That will be my partial penance.’

Daisy was elated in her moment of great sorrow!

Soumen leaning on the shoulder of Daisy turned and walked to the cemetery gate, Pedro following with wheelchair and holding the umbrella over Soumen.

A few steps away from the graves, Soumen halted, turned back and looked at the grave of Lucy.

Soumen recited to himself in silence a part of the poem he had written in Kolkata after separation with Lucy:

 

Keeps our souls ever warm,

Embers of our maiden kiss;

Flaring even as you’re gone,

That kiss, an immortal bliss!

 

***

 


© Copyright 2018 Babul Nasar. All rights reserved.

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