She was impatiently walking to and fro in her room. Any time the phone would ring, and that would mean him. Maya was expecting her husband’s call from America.
Maya was born Kalimpong. Her father was a clerk in a government office and her mother had died during her birth. Maya didn’t remember anything about her mother and every time aunty Nilima narrated about how her mother had died after giving birth, Maya’s eyes filled with tears.
Maya’s father had promised his dying wife to look after his daughter properly and he always saw to it that he kept his words. He provided her with all the comforts of life yet there was still something amiss that time and again grieved her. It was the people’s attitude towards her. They believed that she was a cursed one and blamed her for her mother’s death. The children from her neighbourhood were not allowed to befriend her. They believed that the spell of the curse would be transferred upon their children. So all through her childhood days she was more or less alone always yearning to make friends to play with. She had tried many times, and on all occasions failed. Some directly declined her offer to join in while others silently moved away from her.
Once she finished her school she went to Santiniketan to join the University. Nothing much changed initially. There were many boys and girls from her native place studying there and they spread rumors about her. They pitied her but no one was keen to be her friend. They smiled and talked to her just for courtesy sake… and this hurt her even more.
Then it was at the beginning of her third year at the university that she had met this boy. It was a kind of love at first sight. She had seen him for the first time at the stationary store. Accidentally she had dropped the pens from the packet, and he had helped her to collect them. She had murmured… “thanks” and he hoped for her to say something more. When he saw that no more words would come out of her lips, he had introduced himself as Mike from the United States of America. He was studying at Kala Bhavana. He had offered to take her for a cup of lemon tea at Kalu Da’s shop…antique piece of a shop with mud floor, straw roof, few old benches and some tables, trying to survive and retain it’s old world charm in the age of modern fast food joints. It was a little romantic place, a great joiner of hearts. There they sat over cups of lemon tea and egg chops and talked about classes, studies, home, interests, family and many more things. For the first time in her life Maya had talked so much to someone who was not from her family. Later that evening after returning to her hostel room she wept profusely… the tears of joy. At last she had met her friend.
After that they met frequently. Days turned into months and they came to know each other better. A strong bond grew between them and they turned into lovers from friends. After about eight months they took permission from their parents and married in a court. Everyone was happy about the marriage but happiest person was Maya’s father. He could sense joy in Maya’s life. He had always prayed for it, for a good friend, and finally his daughter had found a true friend in Mike. After the final exams Mike went to America to make arrangements and Maya to her home for one last time.
In the meantime Maya was to apply for all necessary documents. And today her husband would call to give her the details. With everything ready, she would fly off to those foreign lands and start up a new life, without the tag of “the cursed one” and make a lot of friends.
The phone rang and she hastened towards it. She picked up the receiver- “Hello…,” and everything around her darkened, she felt the ground beneath her tearing apart, and then she fainted.
Somebody on the other end frantically repeated… “Mike was in the first plane that hit the twin towers.”
About the Author:
Norden Michael Lepcha is originally from a small town of Kalimpong, Darjeeling district of West Bengal, India. He is presently working as Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Other Modern European Languages, Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan. His area of research is on two different planes of aesthetics in the poems of John Keats and Charles Baudelaire. His short story “One Night and a Morning in Maya’s Life” was selected for the New Asian Writing 2011 short story anthology.