No one

Leela aunty, after lunch, was having oranges in her spacious balcony that overlooked the road that was enjoying its lazy afternoon siesta; there was no one on the road, the Indian Sun seemed very warm and comforting.

“Leela Aunty!”
“Who are you?”
“This is Subrata. Class of 1977?”
“What?”

Leela was referred to as aunty (not aunt) by her students as this was the norm to show respect to teachers back in those days. She leaned from her veranda and saw Subrata, an old man, known as a truant in his teens. She could easily overlook his age and recognise his body language, his smile. In her mind, she saw him in his school uniform and smiled back.

“Wait.” She yelled, “Why don’t you ring the bell. (she screeched to her faithful servant) Debol, open the door!”

“No, no, no aunty. Don’t open the door. I have a train to catch, getting late, I just came to say sorry to you, I misbehaved with you the other day. I am sorry aunty.” He ran away. She could see him no more.

“The other day? The other day indeed! After 42 years! Sorry?”

Leela threw the skin of the oranges in the bin, which she stored for her skin treatment, also as compost and for various purposes. She jumped out of her skin and called Sushreema from her landline. Subrata she remembers was her classmate.

“Hello Sushreema!”
“Hello aunty, how are you?”
“I am fine. Listen, I hope you remember Subrata?”
“Yes aunty, he was my best friend, shocked to know he had a train accident a while ago and died on the spot. But how did you know Leela aunty.”
“What?”

“I opened the door Leela didi, there’s no one”, Debol replied, waking up from his afternoon slumber.

“Okay, okay, okay! Where is the remote??”, worried Leela screamed and switched on the television, heard the breaking news of a train accident. The number of spot deaths was increasing every minute. She became the newsreader.

Debol knows it’s a regular thing that’s happening in the house since a long time, her Leela didi did not talk to anyone. The landline, the television, the remote control are dead gadgets occupying the space in Leela’s room since decades. She will simply not let go of anything from her room, her world.

“Who were you talking to Leela didi?” Debol asked.
“Shut up and do your work Debol. I was talking to no one.”

Debol simled and went off to sleep.

© supratik 2020
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critique and comments welcome.
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Ionicus

I am always reluctant to give bad reviews but sometimes they are inevitable. This one of those times. It is a good try, Supratik, but to be honest this piece is not quite top notch. The structure of the narrative is untidy and in certain places inconsistent. I know that the story is meant to be local but it reads too much like a translation. For instance the term ‘batchmate’, which I understand is used in Asian countries, is uncommon in England where the word ‘classmate’ would be used. The plot, about seeing a ghost in the aftermath of a… Read more »

Pronto

I agree with Ionicus. It is obvious that English is a second language for you but don’t let that stop you writing in it. The more you practice the better you’ll get.

Michel

I like this very much. Amusing, vivid, endearing, and full of atmosphere. I understand it has been edited for clarity, which seems to have been very effective. As it reads now, I think the story is clear, and the fresh ‘local’ voice gives it charm and authenticity.

Guaj

I had to read this after seeing the long list of not so friendly comments. Sadly I didn’t read the original, but this version makes perfect sense to me. I spent a bit of time working and travelling in India and the way this is written is a perfect construction of Indian English and Indian life You don’t need to change it. For all I know this English is your first language. I think for most Indians it is very necessary to speak English because of the many many dialects and languages in India and its regions. In fact I… Read more »

Ionicus

Dear Supratik, allow me a slight correction. English is not my language although I use it in my writing. I try to do the best that I can with it when writing poetry or prose but at times I fail to reach the standard expected of a would-be writer. Having been taught the English language as a foreign student, I am aware of pitfalls and very particular in trying to avoid them. As a reader I take great pleasure from well written pieces with the right spelling, grammar and syntax but do not get agitated if these precepts are not… Read more »

Ionicus

You must be confused, because you keep misinterpreting what I say. In simple language this is what I said: 1) English is not my native language. FACT. 2) I don’t get ‘agitated at the slightest molestation of his language’ as you say. FACT 3) As a reader I take great pleasure in well written pieces with the right spelling, grammar and syntax. FACT. 4) You say: ‘Luigi is a good friend’ but you have also said ‘Sorry Luigi but don’t lie, you are always enthusiastic about giving bad reviews.’ FACT. 5) Calling somebody ‘a good friend’ and ‘a liar’ is… Read more »

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