July 29, 2023

Rose Is A Poem In Red (Story)

                                       (Part-1)                                          --- Dr. Snehaprava Das                                                 

          Chirag waited in the platform for the train. It was sultry and irksome there. He was not interested to travel on that day. But father had insisted. There were some important documents which he wanted to get to his uncle who lived in another town, some three hundred kilometers away from his own. Father could not get leave from the office. So, Chirag had to carry the documents to his uncle.  He knew Chitra would wait for him in the park that was at the far end of the town and would finally return home, disappointed and angry.  Whenever Chirag was in the town, they usually met at the park in the afternoon when there were very few visitors. The rendezvous were not very frequent these days since Chitra’s college was closed after her final examination. She was preparing to join her postgraduation course in the university which was nearly five kilometers away from the main township.  But they were always in the lookout to for an opportunity to steal away one or two magic hours of their own from the vastness of time. And the park at the other end of the town was their choicest hangout, where no one knew or no one cared to know them, where their blessed privacy was not interrupted.  Chitra had called him last night and asked him to meet her at the park.

  But the plan of the journey to his uncle’s town came in the way quite unexpectedly.

 He had tried to contact Chitra in the morning to call off the meeting but it said that the person he tried to contact was not reachable at the moment.

  Chirag tried Chitra’s number once again but the call could not be completed. The mechanical voice at the other end repeated the same message, ‘the number you are trying to contact is currently out of reach,’ as it had been doing since morning. ‘What is the matter with Chitra’s phone? Where is  she? Maybe she is at some place where there is no network. But she should have informed him if she was visiting some such place.’ Waves of restlessness were sweeping over him, but he had no alternative other that wait for Chitra to call him back. He unzipped his backpack and took out a glossy looking diary and opened it at the page where a beautiful picture of a rose was painted. Under the picture was written a short single-stanza poem. His lips parted with a secret smile as his gaze roamed above the lines.


  He remembered the day he had seen Chitra for the first time. There was a slight drizzle. Cradling her books in her arms she stood at the stop waiting for the town bus. Call it a coincidence or a thing preordained, he too waited at the same stop because one of his friends had borrowed his bike. They were the only two people at the bus stop. He cast a furtive glance at her. There was an overpowering charm in her face that was difficult to resist. He felt instantly drawn towards her. He moved a bit more into the shade and gave her a small, shy smile. But she did not smile back and held the stack of books more closely to her chest, looking embarrassed. ‘Where will you go?’ he ventured to ask finally. ‘Market Chowk’, she replied shortly. ‘Do you study in college? Which year?’ Chirag continued, feeling encouraged. ‘The Government College of Arts.’ The girl answered shortly.

‘Which year?’ Chirag repeated his question. ‘Third.’ Came the monosyllabic reply. 

‘I am not much acquainted with the geography of this town since I live at Delhi. I have completed my postgraduation there. I am preparing for the civil services My parents live here. I have come here for a break. I will be staying for a few months and then back to Delhi.’

If the girl had heard him, there was no visible change in her expression. 

 ‘Do you commute regularly by the town bus?’ Chirag said, intending not to discontinue the conversation. 

‘Most days.’ Another short reply. 

The girl now looked more embarrassed and discomfited. 

Chirag wanted to know more about the girl but the bus glided in just at that time. The girl hurried out of the shade and climbed into the bus. Chirag followed her into the bus. She took a seat by an elderly woman and Chirag had to move to a seat that was more inside. He longed for a more informal conversation with the girl. Sitting in a back seat he could not even catch a brief glimpse of the girl. He would meet her at the bus stop the next day, Chirag decided. The girl got down at her destination and his eyes followed her till she disappeared out of the sight. 

He waited for the girl at the bus stop the next day but she did not show up. A couple of days passed. There was no sign of the girl. ‘Did she lie to me that she commutes by the town bus?’ he thought despairingly. The beautiful face of the girl haunted him day and night like a nagging ache. It was more than a week before he saw her again. She was in the bus stop. Chirag stopped his bike and got down. ‘Hi there! Long time since we met. How are you, by the way?’ The girl did not say anything but her lips curled in a small smile. ‘How silly of me, I have not yet told my name. I am Chirag. The girl did not say anything. Chirag unzipped his backpack and took a neatly folded paper out of it.           

   ‘This is for you.’ he said holding out the paper to the girl. 

     She regarded him suspiciously.

‘Nothing you should worry about. Only a picture I have sketched. A small gift. I will be hurt if you refuse to accept it.’ Without saying a word, the girl took the paper and got into the bus that stood waiting for the passengers. 

 She did not come to the bus stop the next day, and the day after. Chirag was feeling restless. ‘Did she feel bad because he gifted her the painting of the rose without knowing who exactly she was?’ After a week’s torturous waiting Chirag decided to take a chance to meet her in her college. ‘It must be somewhere near the bus stop,’ he thought and went searching for. It took a little effort to locate her college but he managed to find it. After waiting across the road for some more days he saw her finally. That day too there was a light rain. He saw her coming out of the college gate, her face partially hidden by the umbrella she held over her head. Chirag dismounted the bike and walked towards her. ‘Hello, how did you like the picture?’ The girl swung back, startled. Then her face lit up with a knowing smile. ‘It was very good. Did you paint it?’ ‘Yes,’ Chirag smiled back, feeling elated at the girl’s unexpected response. ‘Here is another one.’ He said, offering another folded paper to her. The girl took the paper without hesitation and unfolded it. There was a gleam of admiration in her eyes as she looked at the picture of the red rose. ‘How beautiful!’ 

‘I have written a few lines under it. It is not actually a poem, but the words are straight from my heart.’ Chirag added. 

Her gaze swept over the lines written in a neat hand just under the picture of the rose. 


                                 When I saw her first time that day

                               A red rose bloomed in my garden of grey

A slight flush mounted to her face. ‘Like it?’ He asked guardedly. ‘A lot’ she said not looking at him. ‘Shall we meet tomorrow?’ He looked eagerly at her, desperately hoping her to say yes. She did not say ‘yes’ but her lips parted in an amused smile. Her smiling response was like a tacit assent. Chirag’s heart soared. 

‘If you don’t mind, I will gift you the painting of a rose every time I meet you.’ Chirag said. She lowered her eyes. An autorickshaw cruised to a halt near them. She clambered into it and told the driver the address. Then she turned to look at Chirag. ‘They are wonderful! The rose and the poem,’ she said with a smile. The autorickshaw had begun moving. ‘I am Chitra,’ she said above the loud revving of the engine and waved at him. Chirag waved back. The exuberance of emotions had set his heart throbbing erratically.      

   He met her again the next day and the day after, and the following day. The rendezvous turned out to be a routine matter. 

 Every day they would meet at the gate of her college or at the bus stop. And every day he would give her a picture of a rose which he painted on a page of his diary. There will be a couplet or a four-liner written under it that vented out his emotions.

‘It is really amazing that someone could paint so beautifully and write such enchanting poetry at the same time.’ She said once. They had grown relatively closer by that time and she had shed much of her earlier shyness and hesitancy. ‘I was not,’ he teased. ‘You made me so.’ 

‘How very romantic!!’ She laughed.

‘I have heard boys used to gift real roses to their loved ones. Why do you prefer a painting instead of the real rose?’ Chitra asked one day as they walked down the road to the bus stop. 

‘God makes the real ones. But I make these and I pour my love into them. God’s roses are for all. Any boy can get them and gift to his beloved. They are not special like mine. My roses bloom only for you.’ Chirag explained.  

Chitra looked at him, her eyes heavy with emotion. 


‘When will you be leaving for Delhi?’ Chitra asked one day.  They were standing at the bus stop.  

 ‘Why? Are you fed up with me?’    

 ‘Do not ask silly things. You know your absence will be tough on me. I do not know how I will bear with it.’

  ‘Same here. I will miss you terribly.’

 ‘Do not go!,’ she implored.  It was a husky whisper.  

  ‘I do not want to go either, Chitra. But father will insist. He has great hopes in me. You know it is one of the most ideal places for preparing for the civil service examinations.’

‘Yes, I know that,’ Chitra looked glum.

‘We will remain in touch constantly. And I will try to come every month. If things clicked in the way I expect them to, we will be together forever in a year or two.’ Chirag sounded hopeful. 

 ‘Be it so!’ Chitra said and smiled. 


‘My father has got a scooty for me,’ Chitra announced happily. 

‘Really? You do not have to wait for the town bus or an autorickshaw anymore.’  Chirag said enjoying her excitement.  

 ‘Yes, and it will also give me a freedom of movement.’ 

 ‘Nice. Will you give a treat or I shall do that for you?’

 ‘Let’s do it together,’ Chitra said, happiness spilling out of her voice. 

 They went to a small restaurant that also housed an ice cream parlour, at an apparently less peopled section at the outskirts of the town and had ice creams. Then they went to a nearby park and sat on a bench partially hidden amidst a group of topiary plants, holding hands, relishing the closeness. It was Chitra’s first day out alone with Chirag. 

  Earlier they were used to meet either at the bus stop or near the college gate. But this was the first time she was alone with Chirag in a secluded place. She was slightly disturbed, wavering between excitement and apprehension.   

 The big park was lonely at that hour. A slight breeze carrying the fragrance of the spring flowers swept about the hypnotic solitude.  Chirag took Chitra into his arms and touched his lips to her cheek. Chitra did not object. She buried her head in his chest and remained still, not wanting the moment to end. 

A cuckoo cooed in the dense foliage breaking the silence.  A flock of birds, as if they were waiting for a signal from the cuckoo, flew above them chirping loudly.  

The spell lifted. They moved away from each other. Chitra rose to her feet. ‘Let us leave,’ she said tremulously.  Chirag looked deep into her eyes. ‘Yes,’ he said after a long pause, and got up. 


 Days glided on. Spring soon slipped into summer. Chirag went to Delhi for a month and came back. It was getting more and more difficult to leave away from Chitra.

 They took care to meet at unfrequented areas of the town. The park at the outskirts of the town was the most ideal spot for their clandestine meetings.

Chitra’s college finals were over and it was not easy for her to meet Chirag every day.  He wanted to be with her all the time whenever he came from Delhi but despite their yearning for each other their meeting was not a regular thing.   

 She had to make different excuses at home for coming out to meet Chirag. She rode to places far away from her house, where she would not chance upon any known face and called Chirag to come over there.  But every time they met, mostly in the same park at the far end of the town, Chirag would bring her the painting of a rose and a micro poem, as he called it, steeped in love. 

Both of them had taken meticulous care not to be discovered together. Each had kept the relationship a heavily guarded secret even from the closest friends. It was sheer luck that their secret trysts were never discovered by any of their friends or family members.


   The first announcement of the train’s arrival was made. Chirag regarded the painting in the diary fondly. He had spent a large part of night in drawing the rose and writing a poetic caption. He would have gifted it to Chitra this afternoon, but the plan was foiled because of his unexpected journey. He had tried to call Chitra, but the call could not be completed. It said that the number he was calling was out of the range of network.  He texted her in WhatsApp but it seemed the message did not reach Chitra. He wondered what was the matter with Chitra’s phone. But there was no time to think about that now. The third announcement was made and the train juddered into the platform the next minute. The train was packed with passengers. People shoved one another frantically trying to get into the train. Chirag, using an effort that could have been no less than superhuman, pushed himself hard through the jostling multitude and scrambled into a general compartment. And it was almost a miracle that he found a space in one of the upper berths. He climbed up to it and squeezed himself between a fat elderly man and two young men who appeared to be college students. The train whistled and pulled out of the station. He tried to put through a call to Chitra once again, but there was no ring. The repeated beeps got into his nerves. Exasperated, he disconnected and put the phone back in his pocket. He took out the diary again and opened it at the page he had painted the rose.          

He read and re-read the lines he had written under the painting.

                    A few patches of clouds float above

                   And there is a light drizzle, 

                  Unsaid words, unrevealed thoughts

                  Still, love in the heart sizzles; 

       He sat holding the diary, visualizing the joy in the big black eyes of Chitra when he gifted her the painting.  


          The train halted briefly at a nondescript station and then began to move. A few minutes later it gathered momentum. Chirag had no way to see out of the windows since he was on an upper berth. The two young men were watching something on a mobile and laughing. The fat, elderly man sat leaning on the wooden partition and dozed. His head moved from side to side keeping pace with the rhythmic movement of the train. Evening had settled. It was hot and stuffy inside the compartment. He wished the train would reach his destination soon and spare him of the discomfort. As if it heard his wishes the train began to move in a great speed. The wheels rattled and jangled noisily as they hurtled along the rails. One of the young men looked up at him. ‘The train is moving very fast. We  will reach before time,’ he said. A coach attendant and the TC moved lurching past the aisle, followed by a passenger who was requesting the TC to conform a RAC seat for him. A sweeper scuttled in and began sweeping the floor with a long-handled broom. ‘Why is the train moving in such a great speed?’ A passenger from the lower berth asked another. 

 ‘Yes, it is moving unusually fast.’ 

 ‘It is odd, the train moving in such a speed.’ Another from the window side seat remarked. 

 ‘What is odd about it? Superfast Expresses move in this speed.’ The young man sitting in his front seat countered.  

  Suddenly the train began to sway violently from one side to the other. ‘What is happening?’ Voices cried out as the luggage began to fall and fly across the compartment. ‘Look at the sparks on the track.  God Almighty, save us! The wild screams of passengers resonated around as the train leaped forward, climbing high up into the dark emptiness at a demonic speed and the coach was wrenched off from the train and went toppling over the track. The lights went out at that moment and the  coach was shrouded in a blanket of blackness. Pandemonium broke loose. The frenzied howls of people combined with the ugly, loud clanking of metals hitting one another with a gigantic force and the wild rattling of the wheels that rolled like crazy made it a horrendous hellhole. The upper berth was unhinged from its place and came crashing down. Passengers were falling over one another. Something cool and hard hit the back of Chirag’s head as he fell. The diary he clutched went flying out of his grip. There was a red- hot explosion inside his head. The only thing he thought about as the stifling darkness engulfed him was that the diary was gone and he could not give Chitra the rose he had painted with so much love when he met her. An earsplitting noise pierced the thick darkness around as the coach took another turn and skidded off in to the rocky field. He felt he was falling down and down, plunging into the bottomless depth of some dark, surging ocean.

 And then there was total silence.          


Chitra parked her scooty by the gate of the park and wandered in. She had called Chirag last night and asked him to come over there. She glanced at her watch and looked back at the road expecting him to drive over to the park. There was no sign of him. She took out the mobile phone to check if he had called. To her utter dismay she discovered that the battery had discharged. She cursed herself for forgetting to put the phone on charge before leaving for college. She had nothing to do but wait. She waited. A quarter of an hour passed. Still there was no sign of Chirag. She got up and paced about the park feeling strangely edgy. Then she sat down again and took out the plastic folder from her sling bag. She opened it with a tender hand as if the stuff it contained would suffer a damage if she did not take absolute care. In the folder there were the loosened pages of Chirag’s diary where he painted the roses. Chitra had asked him to paint the roses on drawing sheets but Chirag would prefer to paint them on the pages of his diary.  ‘This way every painting will have a date printed on it, noting the progress in our intimacy,’ he would say. Chitra would smile at his childishness.   

 She took out a page carrying the painting of a rose Chirag had given her when they had met last and looked at it intently. There were the inevitable poetic lines under it… She read the lines again and again. 

                            Not just a rose but it is my Love, dearest

                              Touch it with care,

                           It will bring me to your intimate world    

                               When I will not be there!  

      She ran her hand lovingly on the rose and the poem and put it back. The grey of the twilight had given way to a wispy darkness. It was not wise to remain alone in the park after evening. She rose to her feet feeling vaguely disturbed. What had held Chirag back? He would never miss a meeting with her unless there was a strong reason. Perhaps he had called her in the morning but her phone had run out of battery. She was in a hurry to go back home and charge the phone.  She drove back home wondering all the way why Chirag could not make it to the park. 

        She noticed the missed calls when she switched on the phone. There were five of them. Then she saw the text message, where Chirag had mentioned about his unplanned journey. He apologized for missing the date and promised to see her immediately after he returned. A sigh of relief escaped her. She laughed at her own foolish mind for imagining a hell lot of negative things.            

She saw the news of the train mishap an hour and half later on the television. The visuals were so gory and macabre that she shut her eyes tight. Her heart was pounding violently. It was the train Chirag was travelling in. Her head began to spin as a curtain of dark draped everything around. She slipped onto the floor, unconscious. 


        Chitra opened her eyes slowly and looked. They were all there, her parents, her sister, and a stranger who she guessed must be a doctor. There was apprehension and concern in each pair of eyes. 

‘She is in a shock. Perhaps the news of the train mishap had made a great impact on her mind. But she will be all right.’ The doctor assured. ‘Sensitive people react to such things more strongly than others. Be careful not discuss it before her.’ 

Her father went out of the room with the doctor to see him off. Her mother caressed her head. ‘Do not think too much my child,’ she solaced. ‘How can we help to prevent things that are pre-ordained?’ She brought a bowl of hot soup for Chitra and coaxed her to drink it. Chitra’s mind was in a turmoil. ‘What has happened to Chirag? Where is he? Is he alive?’ Tears streamed down her eyes. ‘O God! Please let nothing happen to him! Help him, God! Help me!’ She kept saying under her breath, chanting it like a litany. She drank the soup because she did not want to worry her parents. Her mother slept by her that night, afraid her daughter might have another panic attack if she was left alone. Chitra lay awake, staring at the electric fan in unblinking eyes, feeling stiff in fear. 


She left for college next morning ignoring the advice and admonitions of her parents. But she did not attend the classes. Instead, she drove straight off to the railway station. They had opened information centres at the railway stations to help people to know about their kins and relatives travelling in the misfortunate train. The station was crowded with people who ran here and there frantically inquiring about their loved ones. There was a mad rush at the information centre. After making several futile efforts to get in she sought the help of a fellow who wore the uniform of a TC. ‘

‘Sir, could you please help me find about a passenger named Chirag Sharma?  He boarded the train from this station.’ 

The man wearing the uniform of a TC regarded her with sympathy. It is still too early to know about each and every passenger, daughter. The picture will be clear by tomorrow.’ 

‘I can’t wait till tomorrow.’ Chitra said, agitated beyond control. ‘Please do something.’ She urged. 

‘Wait here,’ the man said and pushed his way through the frenzied beehive of anonymous humanity in front of the information centre. 

Chitra waited, her heart in her mouth, praying and hoping that the man would bring some positive news about Chirag. She saw him coming towards her after what seemed an eternity and ran forward to meet him. 

‘Did you find something about Chirag Sharma?’ she asked breathlessly.

‘I am sorry. No reservation was made against that name. He must be travelling in a general compartment.’


‘You have to wait a while before we can give you any specific information.’ He looked sad.  ‘The coaches nearer to the engine were the worst hit. Hope he was not in one of them’ he added, making an effort to sound assuaging. 

Chitra looked blankly at him for a long moment. Then she turned and walked out of the station dragging her feet that had turned unusually heavy. She had no idea how she was going to find some news about Chirag. She did not know exactly where his parents lived except for that his home was somewhere in the centre of the town. She cursed herself for not caring ever to ask Chirag about the exact location of his home. There never was any need for that.

  She started the scooty and drove to the park.

She sat in the bench where she used to sit with Chirag and took out the mobile. The social media sites were noisy with the news of the train accident. The pictures posted were morbid and repulsive. They made her feel like throwing up. The news reporters narrated about the accident in an ominous voice, each in his own style. There was a tightness in her chest and her heart felt horribly heavy as if something of an unusual weight was stuck inside it. She wanted desperately to cry out loudly, to get the choking lump dissolved and flow out of her heart. But no tears came to her eyes that were burning dry. She did not know how long she sat in the bench, still and numb, looking at the sun going down the west, seeing nothing. It was only when the security guard came in to tell that it was time to lock the gates, she came out of the trance. Moving like a zombie she came out of the park, started the scooty and rode off.  


She saw it the day after. It was there in one of the popular and widely watched social media site. One news reporter narrated it as if he was reciting a poem, in a voice professionally modulated to display the faked emotion suited to the occasion, to make the piece sound sensational and palatable. ‘The search operation for the missing passengers is going on in war footing,’ he said. ‘On the twisted track was found a diary where a poem was written in red. A poem in red,’ he went on with an artificial lilt in his voice, ‘a diary was found on the track, stained in blood, that carried the picture of a rose and a romantic poem underneath the picture… but the owner of the diary is missing. Is he alive or not? Where is he? It is heartrending! What a tragic end of a budding love story!!’ then he showed the closeup view of the page. A lovely red rose between a pair of lush green leaves on a green stalk. Under it was written a short stanza.         

                        A few patches of clouds float above

                       And there is a slight drizzle 

                     Unsaid words, unrevealed thoughts 

                     Still, love in the heart sizzles. 


        The page was stained in red at many places. Chitra knew what it was.


       She stared at the zoomed-in picture of the page, a chill creeping through her spine, her heart hammering against her ribs. The hard rock like thing that was stuck inside her melted and flooding waves of pain climbed up to her eyes. She flung herself into the bed and wailed her heart out. 

                                            (TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 2)

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