If you love, adore the moon. If you rob, steal a camel.

Stories for the Long Silk Road

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Deepti Nalavade Mahule: Sailing Away

In the gathering dusk, Shantanu sits on the worn-out back door steps of his uncle’s house, absentmindedly flipping through a book that belongs to his cousin when a familiar voice calls out his name from beyond the compound wall. His best friend Nitin hops off his motorcycle and pushes open the creaking gate. 

“Will it be the last time he comes over like this?” The thought flits through Shantanu’s head.  He hastily brushes it off and smiles up at him. 

Six years ago, it was Nitin who had first approached and befriended Shantanu when he was newly admitted to their school. A poor boy who had recently turned orphan, bounced from one relative to the next until he landed up at a reluctant uncle’s place, Shantanu had found himself adrift in the sea of his uncle’s own four children as well as two other nieces overflowing a single crumbling old house in a town far away from his own. Nitin had saved him from drowning, had pulled him ashore by consoling him when his uncle beat him and everyone else barely even noticed or acknowledged his existence. 

Nitin, who had shared his lunch with him, played with him, invited him home, and lent him school textbooks.  Who taught him to ride a motorbike, introduced him to girls and constantly hung out with him.  Nitin, who had given him someone to call his own when he had absolutely no one else. Now after spending almost every waking hour together through college, he might tear himself away, changing time zones and crossing seas. 

After completing first degrees, both of them had applied for and had been offered jobs in the same company in a neighboring city.  But Nitin had wanted to give higher studies a shot. He had applied to five universities in the U.K., out of which he had received rejections for four of them, much to Shantanu’s relief. They both awaited the arrival of the outcome of the final application with increasing anxiety, wishing for opposite results as each day melted into the next.  

Now Nitin is walking towards Shantanu with a long envelope in his hand.  It might as well be a ticking time bomb that he is bringing towards his best friend’s hammering heart. 

“What have you got there?” Shantanu asks coolly.

“It’s here!” Nitin replies, breaking into an excited grin. “The letter of response from the last remaining university.”

“You haven’t opened it?” He asks Nitin.

“I just picked it up on the way out while coming here.” Nitin replies. Shantanu has a feeling that his friend has waited on purpose to open it in front of him.

“Wish me luck!” Nitin says, carefully tearing open an edge of the envelope and pulling out the document.

Shantanu keeps sitting on the steps, watching Nitin’s face as his eyes hungrily eat up the contents of the letter. The light from a nearby street lamp illuminates his face like a stage and the actors on it – his features - change emotions rapidly from excitement and curiosity to disappointment, then anger and finally sorrow. Shantanu tries to hide a relieved smile as Nitin shakes his head at him. 


He gets up and gently pats Nitin’s shoulder. “It’s alright. We...I mean you already have a great job offer in hand.”

Nitin shrugs. “You are right. What did I expect? Getting into a Masters program at such a prestigious university without prior work experience...”  He still looks crestfallen. 

Shantanu takes the letter from his hand and reads the dry words informing Nitin of his rejection. Beginning to fold the piece of paper in his hands, he starts walking towards the end of the backyard beyond which flows a dirty canal.

“Hey, what are you doing?” Nitin asks him.

“Wait, just watch.” Shantanu says and keeps folding and turning the paper until Nitin can see a boat emerging out of it. Bending over the short wall separating the house from the canal, he drops the paper boat into the water. 

Nitin throws his head back and cackles. “I get it! I get it! You don’t have to be so dramatic!  I’ll let it go.” 

They both laugh together but Shantanu is the loudest as they watch the boat sailing farther away, bobbing up and down over the dark water.

Deepti Nalavade Mahule is a software engineer by profession.  One of her short stories was commended in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition 1999, run by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association.  Others have appeared in Muse India, Six Minute Magazine and Siliconeer.  She blogs at 'Dancing Fingers Singing Keypad' (http://dfsk.wordpress.com/). 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Silk Road Mantra

by Suchoon Mo

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road

I go and go

from west to east

I go and go

from east to west

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road


As of June 25, 2015, The Bactrian Room is closed to submissions.


Search This Blog

Notice of Copyrights

Original material on this site is copyrighted by the authors and artists. No material may be copied or reused without the permission of the respective author or artist.