The Gift, a short story
The Gift is a sad tale of a dying mother whose last letter to her son is her parting gift.
“My son when you will come back from school I’ll be not there to welcome you within my tight embrace. I shall have gone away to get admitted to a city hospital as my colitis pain is intolerable and the doctor advises not to take the risk anymore. But before going out I am writing this letter to you.
I’ll come back before your 10th birthday. I will bring a special gift for you. You will be very pleased. And we will decorate the house together and celebrate. In the meantime, you must take good care of yourself. You are a big brave boy and you know what to do. I have always told you discipline is the backbone of success. And even when I’ll be not with you, you must follow my words.
You must wake up before 6 A.M. Don’t let the sun beat you.
Take ‘chyawanprash’ followed by lukewarm water. Don’t try to sparkle the gas lighter yourself. Ask your grandma. Go to the toilet and get fresh.
Do ‘Surya pranam’ on the terrace.
Then take your breakfast. Arrange your study table and read for two hours. Take bath and eat your food. Get ready for school. Be careful while crossing the road. Don’t run in the sun. Obey your teachers and love your friends. Take an extra shirt in your bag. You sweat too much. Don’t forget your tiffin and water bottle. Drink plenty of water and if you have an eye infection splash fresh water in your eyes when you will come back from school.
Don’t stick to the screen too much…only watch cartoons in the evening for half an hour while taking milk and chocolate.
Don’t loiter during your study time. If you cannot focus or concentrate meditate for some time and fix your attention.
I have ruled 30 pages of your sketchbook. Draw whatever you like on them. Just try to keep your painting align within the boundaries not reclined towards the left.
Brush your teeth in the morning and at night. Don’t relish too much chocolate. It is harmful to your teeth.
Take enough sleep.
Check the air of your bicycle twice a week.
And listen, don’t be sad my dear. I’ll come back with the gift if you follow the routine.
Take my love.”
I read the letter, carefully kept inside my sketchbook. I have read it thousand times. But every time I read I can hear your voice and can feel your presence around me.
Previously I used to keep it on the table and follow the words with the hope of your return. But when my tenth birthday passed away in silent melancholy and quivering blessings I could feel that things were not normal. The edges of the letter started getting frayed and the inks were soaked under my teardrops. I hid it within my sketchbook so that no one can throw it as scrap.
I was angry with your mom. I was sad. I was sad…sad to the extent that the simmering pain made my facial muscles tight and twisted every time I thought of you. I could hear the ominous whispering surrounding me. They were ignorant… whisper has more decibels than a normal voice. It makes one more curious and eager. And I watched their lips moving obnoxiously, their eyes watching me. Their pity like sticky gum on my skin made me uncomfortable and angry.
But I was determined. I didn’t let the world break me. I love you so much and I hate you so much. Love and hate are the two sides of the same coin. Sometimes I wished to rebel against you…you lied to me.
“I’ll come back with a gift for you.”
How much I hoped and tried to guess about the gift…what it could be! But finally, I realized a dead man could not bring gifts.
Many a time I tried to wake up late and tried to skip my study time by loitering with my friends. But I couldn’t. You were there somewhere within me. I dared not to disobey you…your last letter to me.
I can remember everything…every word of the letter…every order or suggestion. I have read them so many times that the alphabet gets immersed into my blood. Your words become my habits even when your promises fall apart. I wake up with the sun. I don’t forget my morning concoction and lukewarm water.
Once I obeyed all those instructions with the hope that you would come back with my gift. Then I no more yearned for the gift but your return. That would be my best gift ever.
But you never came back. 10th birthday marched on indifferently, followed by the next 15 birthdays. Even if you come back now you will not recognize me. I am a grown-up man and mature enough to convince myself you will not come…dead person cannot keep their promises. But mom even now I don’t dare to break your words. A dead man cannot keep promises but a living man can. And I feel somewhere there you are within me that gives me strength and restrains me not to go astray.
I have filled my sketchbooks…and you know mom this year Kolkata Art Gallery is going to exhibit my sketches. I wish you were with me!
I have got my gift mom. These long 15 years I have been carrying you within me. Every time I feel your eyes are watching me. I dare not offend you, disobey you. Maybe somewhere within me, that childish hope was lurking that one day you will come back.
It costs me a lot mom. It hurts a lot.
But I have got my gift… every success in my life was beset by you…your parting words, your orders and your cares.
I get the best gift ever.
Hey, I am Munmun, the phoenix fabulist who wants to tell you stories. I love to read stories and I love to weave stories. I feel life is an amalgamation of multiple stories, colourful threads, and threads of pain, pleasure, hope, and hopelessness. We just need to pick those hues and arrange them, knitting them with our own emotions and perception. So let’s celebrate the stories of life.