August 27, 2023

Rose Is A Poem in Red (A Story)

--- Dr. Snehaprava Das (Bhubaneswar)

                                                                                (2nd and final part)                                           

                              Wispy figures of white floated around him like apparitions and then drifted away into space whispering softly in a language he could not understand. His head felt as if it was stuffed with cottonwool. The ghost like figures that moved in and out, up and down and around somehow had kept him strapped to a flat metal like thing that felt cool and hard against his body. It was good, he thought, to remain fixed to it, because he felt the earth spinning round through space and feared he would fall off the planet otherwise. He could hear the rustle of the blood as it rushed in and out of his brain, like a raging river of red, and the strokes of his heart that sounded like an enormous drum beaten by giant hands. A hard white light from above penetrated his eyelids and entered his brain blinding him. He felt all his muscles were alive in constant motion, like a hissing swarm of snakes under the skin. 


The elderly man sat on a metal stool by the bed where his son lay motionless, his head swathed heavily in a bandage, several tubes fitted to different parts of his body and connected to a number of electronic devices that let out a constant beeping sound. It had been a week since he was lying there after the NDRF team rescued him from under a pile of dead bodies trapped in the badly dented coach. They had given him up for dead but it was a miracle that he was still breathing. The rescue team had discovered his identity from the Adhar card he had in his wallet and intimated the family. He was taken to the local hospital but later was referred to this hospital. The doctors said he had suffered a brain injury and had little chance of survival. But his mother’s prayers had made him return from the door of death. 

A nurse in a white uniform came in and took the readings on the monitoring machines. The elderly man looked expectantly at her but she went out as silently as she had entered without glancing at him.

After an hour or so the doctor strode in followed by the nurse. He looked closely at the figure lying still in the bed, wrapped in white. He said something to the nurse who nodded. ‘How is he, doctor?’ the father of the young man asked anxiety dripping from his voice.

‘Your son is lucky Mr. Sharma. His vital signs have become stable . He is in a semi-conscious state now. Hopefully he will gain full consciousness in a day or two.’ The doctor replied with an assuring smile.    

 ‘Won’t there be any complications?’ 

 ‘Everything looks okay as far as his physical response is concerned. But we cannot say how his mind is impacted until he comes back to sense. He had suffered a concussion. It might have affected his memory. But nothing can be said at this moment. We have to wait and watch.’

‘What does that mean, doctor? Will he be mentally unstable?’ the father sounded alarmed.

‘Nothing can be said for sure. He might forget the incidents immediately before and after the accident. Certain time-segments might get erased from his memory.’


‘How can it be predicted now? We have to wait, as I said.’ The doctor wandered away to examine another patient. Mr. Sharma sat back on the metal stool and looked at his son, his eyes heavy with unshed tears. 


Roses … Roses ..everywhere.  Red roses, in the colour of blood. It was a jungle of roses.  

  He wandered aimlessly in a vast patch of a jungle filled with roses. His body felt very light as if he was floating in the air. He touched a big one that looked velvety and very fresh. Something pricked his hand and blood oozed out. Then he saw the thorns, pointed like needles. He let out a muffled cry of pain and all the roses began to swing crazily, and dropped the petals till the ground was carpeted with them. He saw a figure standing at the other end of the jungle. It looked like a girl. She was trying to come to him but the roses turned into a red liquid, blocking her. Suddenly a strong gust of wind began to blow and the waves of red liquid rose in angry surges spraying droplets of red around. The girl opened her mouth to scream. But no sound came. She was bathed in red and as he looked on her body broke into petals of rose, thousands and thousands of them. He tried to call her but he did not know her name. He stepped into the red liquid, but his feet slipped and he fell, smeared all over by the red slime.

 His eyes snapped open.

They looked at him anxiously. ‘Call the doctor,’ Mr. Sharma cried. ‘He seems to have come back to sense.’ The nurse who stood by another patient taking his pulse swung on her feet to look at him. ‘Please call the doctor,’ Mr. Sharma urged her. She hurried out of the room. Mrs. Sharma moved close to the bed and called.. ‘Chirag, darling! Say something my baby!’ She whimpered through her sobs. 

‘Move away from him, please.’ The doctor cautioned as he strode in. He examined the young man, studied the readings on the monitoring screens for a long time. 

‘Chirag,’ Can you hear me?’ he asked in a raised voice.’ ‘Blink your eye lids if you can’ 

They stared anxiously at him for a breathless moment. Then they saw him blinking his eyes. Almost simultaneously the fingers of his right hand moved. 

The doctor turned to look at the worrying family. ‘He has gained consciousness. Do not disturb him at all. Let him rest. The more he rests the sooner he will recuperate. I will be examining him from time to time.’ He called the nurse and gave her some instructions. She nodded obediently. 


He gazed blankly at the anxious faces leaning over him. There was a glazed look in his eyes. Some of the faces looked familiar. He closed his eyes and wrestled with his memory to place the faces correctly. He opened them again and glanced at the disheveled woman with teary eyes. ‘Ma,’ he mumbled weakly. ‘Yes, my darling!’ the woman broke into copious tears. He looked at the other faces. He recognized his father and his sister. There were two strangers, both of them in white, a man and a woman. He tried to close his eyes, because everybody seemed to be unsteady and shaking like live portraits floating in space.  But the man snapped his fingers to draw his attention probably and he looked at the face of the man. The lips of the stranger moved as if he was saying something but it was very indistinct. Then he could hear the stranger. ‘Chirag, can you recognize this man?’ He pointed at his father.  Chirag blinked his assent. The performance was repeated with his sister. The doctor raised his face to look at the father. ‘He is recovering nicely. But it remains to be seen how the incident has affected his memory. Let him rest now. Do not disturb him. He nodded at the nurse and brisked out of the cabin. 


    The room was blanched in the light from the big, overhanging bulb when he opened his eyes again. He could hear voices, muffled an unintelligible, around him. But no one was near the bed. It was difficult to know if it was day time or night. He tried to recollect, gathering the random memories that seemed to have scattered in his mind like pieces of a complicated and difficult jigsaw puzzle. It needed much effort and his head began to ache. He let out a soft groan and the nurse who seemed to be waiting and ready, hastened to him. ‘Time for your injection. She loaded a syringe and pushed the needle into his arm. The aching lost its acuteness after a while and he drifted into a sound, comfortable sleep. 


Mr. Sharma looked at his son who seemed to be sleeping soundly. The tubes and the monitoring machines were removed. But he had to remain under observation for weeks, the doctors advised. They were not sure of the degree of damage his brain suffered on account of the injury and the nature of the resulting amnesia. But he was physically stable now, they said. 


His head no longer ached. He wanted to go home, to his parents and sister. He failed to understand why he was in this hospital bed when he should have been in his hostel preparing for the civil services. He decided to ask father why they had to put him in a hospital first thing in the morning and went to sleep. But it was evening when he woke up and father was not there by his bedside. And he forgot to ask him when father and mother returned in the morning. The problem was he could not distinguish between the mornings and evenings, and he seemed to have lost count of the days. 

He tried hard to remember the incidents of day on which he supposed he would have come here. Suddenly it struck him. It must be the Saturday on which he and his friend Kaushik was returning to the hostel after a group dinner. Kaushik was a novice at driving a two-wheeler. He remembered he had cautioned Kaushik to drive the bike with caution. But Kaushik had laughed. ‘Do not get so worked up. I will not bring any harm to your bike. But the road was slippery because of the rain and the bike had skidded throwing both of them into the pavement. He remembered people gathering around them and talking loudly. He felt his body trembling badly from the nasty fall. He had tried to get up but could not move his leg which seemed to have come under the rear wheel of the bike. He could hear Kaushik calling out his name loudly. 

He could not recollect what happened after that as if someone had put a bold full stop there, blocking the flow of memory. He must have passed out, he guessed and was brought to this hospital. But how had he got back here, at his hometown? He was supposed to have been in Delhi. May be his father had got him shifted to this hospital because it was not possible to continue his stay at Delhi. It was difficult to focus. His head began to ache again and he shut his eyes.   

 He groped under the pillow to find his phone. It was not there. He peered at the bedside table and inspected under the bedcover. The phone was not in either of the places. He wondered if the phone was at home. He must ask father when he returned, he decided and closed his eyes.

‘Where is my phone?’ he asked eagerly when his father came. 

‘It is gone, my dear. It was not with you when you were brought here.’ Mr. Sharma said, picking out his words carefully not to stress his son. 

‘Someone must have snatched it from the accident spot,’ he said.

Mr. Sharma looked sharply at him. ‘What accident spot?’ he asked warily, not sure what to expect.

 ‘Where my bike had skidded, obviously. Where else? How is Kaushik by the way? It was all my fault. I should never have let him drive in the first place.’ 

‘Everything is okay, now. Kaushik is fine too. Do not worry about the phone. We will get another.’

Chirag regarded father fondly. ‘He must have gone through a traumatic time,’ he thought. 


‘He is connecting the earlier accident to this one. The train hazard is wiped off his memory.  So also all the events that had occurred after he had met with the bike accident.’ The doctor said. Mr. Sharma looked helplessly at the doctor. ‘ What do we do now? How long will we have to wait for him to get back it all?’

‘No one can say that. He is in a trauma. It is a tricky issue, this temporary amnesia.  He may be able to remember things in a day or two or weeks or even months or he may not remember them at all. Chances are fifty-fifty. Take care of him. Do not mention now about the hazard he had survived by sheer miracle.  Ask his friends and others not to try to remind him anything. That will put him under stress. Trying too hard to recollect things might have a harmful impact on his brain. You have to be patient for the time being. You can reveal it slowly when you find him strong enough to take it.’ The doctor advised.


     He sat by the window in his bedroom, gazing at the street beyond the garden. Nearly a month has passed after he was discharged from the hospital. He was now able to drive the bike. That was one piece of good news in months.

He had reconciled to the fact that he had forgotten certain things because of the head injury he suffered in the bike accident. But a small doubt haunted him. He had had the bike accident around mid-February. Now it was August. Had he been in the hospital all these months? He was getting confused. Was he admitted in the hospital for the second time because of some complicacies developing from the bike accident? what happened in between the two admissions? 

The doctor had repeatedly advised him not to think deeply about anything and remain relaxed. He drank a glass of water to calm his nerves.  

 And he saw them again. The roses, countless roses in red, blooming thickly all around. The air was fragrant from their scents. Chirag was filled with a strange elation. He wanted to move close to the roses, to touch and smell and be engulfed in the velvety red. But the girl appeared at the other edge of the red vista at that moment. She climbed off the two-wheeler she was riding, and walked into the terrain of roses. Chirag could not see the girl clearly since she was at the far end of it, and had a helmet on. He felt a tight band pressing across his chest as he saw the girl moving towards him. He peered into the distance to have a clear view of her, but it was not possible to get it from the spot where he was. The girl moved closer and closer towards Chirag squirming her way through the roses, scratching herself badly by the thorns. He wanted to stop the girl and opened his mouth to call out, but was shocked to discover that he had lost his voice. He stood up abruptly as the girl moved in to the range of a better view and waited in bated breath to have a clear glimpse of her. The girl was about to reach the edge of the rose-tract on Chirag’s side when storm wind began to blow. The roses swayed crazily. The rose bushes got entwined into one another and the flowers, as if slashed by a razor blade, were torn off them.  Then they began to swirl above in a spiraling mass of red. The girl screamed wildly as the red vortex sucked her into its center. Chirag closed his eyes and ears tightly.

A few minutes passed. A motorbike vroomed down the street jerking him back to reality. He opened his eyes cautiously. The jungle of roses had vanished. So too the girl. Everything looked normal. Who was that girl? And why were there so many roses, in such a brilliance of red? Why does he see them time and again? Chirag had no answer to that. 

He tried hard to remember the months that were erased from his memory. What had happened in those months? His family did not want him to take any stress in trying to recall the past. ‘You will remember them slowly. Do not put much effort. It will harm you more than help by doing so.’ His father and mother would advise. 

Random patches of memory floated in and out of his mind as time progressed. He could see a garden filled with trees and flowers and hear a koyal’s cooing. Then suddenly the sky will be overcast and it will start raining. A girl, her face partially hidden under an umbrella would come out from behind a tree and walk out of the gate. She would stop for a brief moment at the gate and turn. Chirag tried to get a look at her face but the umbrella hid it. 

 There are times he would hear an earsplitting metallic sound like a thousand bullets hitting at the same time a huge wall of iron. It would be followed by the loud screams and wailings of people, and the blare of several automobiles. 

  The picture of a small shade like structure would come returning to him. A bus will glide in and a girl clutching a stack of books and copies to her chest would climb into it and wave at him. Chirag would struggle to get into the bus but it will roll forward flinging him back to the shade, the girl would hide her face behind the books and giggle.         

                    Scattered, haphazard, amorphous images swimming aimlessly in and across the flow of his thoughts. Each one of them is a piece of a baffling jigsaw puzzle, looking strangely familiar but never falling into the right place. 

  Another week passed. 

 Sitting at home all the time was making him claustrophobic. He knew he was now physically strong enough to move about. ‘I may find about the clue to unravel the mysteries of my hidden past outside this house.’ Chirag thought. It took a lot to persuade his parents to let him drive the bike but they agreed in the end. But he was strictly warned to get back home before it got dark.

 And so, after more than a month, Chirag drove out of the seclusion of his home to the outside world to explore new meanings of life, to search the key that would open the lock to the closed chamber that held his lost days. 

 It was a pleasant experience, to move out to the open, to have the feel of the sunshine and the fresh breeze across the face. He was not well conversant with the roads since he used to live in Delhi. But it was his hometown and held a special attraction for him. He drove around for some time, undecided, and then without thinking, swung the bike to another road that looked familiar. He drove slowly along, guided by an unexplainable urge. There was a shade like structure to his left, and the picture of a bus on a circular board was fixed to one of the posts. Must be a bus stop, he guessed. There were a few steel benches inside the shade. At that hour there were no passengers waiting for the bus in the shade. He stopped and looked at the empty benches. He sat astride the bike for a longtime, looking around, not sure what was he waiting for and then moved away from the place. He took a turn and drove along a wide road. He drove nonstop for half an hour or so, and noticed the traffic was thinning gradually. There was a restaurant and an ice cream parlour on the left side that looked familiar.

 He stopped by the ice cream parlour and looked around uncertainly. A young man came out, his face beaming. ‘It is a longtime since you visited here last, sir. Were you not in the town?’ he asked. Chirag looked closely at the young man, trying to recognize him, eager to ask him how did he know him, but decided against it. It was a queer experience, he thought, to stand facing someone you do not know saying he knows you.  The young man waited expectantly for an order.  Chirag asked him to get a chocolate ice cream, just to escape the embarrassment. ‘Chocolate?’ The young man looked surprised. ‘But you always preferred the strawberry flavour,’ he said. ‘Yes, but now I like the chocolate flavoured ice cream. Get me one, please.’ He said, not interested to linger on the subject. The young man regarded him briefly and nodded. He went inside and brought him the ice cream. Chirag was not keen at having an ice cream at that time but he finished it just because he did not want to make the young man suspicious. He paid for the ice cream and drove off. The sun had set. It was getting dark. Chirag decided to go back home.  


He lay in the bed, his gaze fixed at an invisible point in the ceiling ruminating over the incidents of the day. Why was he automatically drawn towards that small bus stop? Is it connected in some way to his past life? Then there was the young man in the ice cream parlour. Chirag was sure he did not know the young man, but the young man knew him. He even knew Chirag’s choice ice cream flavour. How? When did he visit the ice cream parlour? It was all so very disturbing. The doctor had strictly advised him not to overthink. He took a pill which the doctor had said, he could use to calm down his jittery nerves. A little after sleep overcame him.


 His head was heavy when he woke up in the morning. But there was a restlessness in him that urged him to go out exploring. It was early morning and he doubted if the ice cream parlour was open at that hour. He was urged by an irresistible desire to inquire from the young man about his earlier visits, to know more about the days that had gone into oblivion. 

He moved out after taking his breakfast promising his mother that he would return by lunch time. But he did not drive straight to the parlour. It was at the other end of the town and it took nearly half an hour to reach there. He wondered what was the need for him to visit a shop so far away just to have an ice cream. It was odd. 

He drove around for a while. Suddenly, as if led on more by an instinct than conscious wish, he turned the bike to a road that was lined by tall trees on both sides. There were not many people on the road. Nor were there many shops or office buildings along it. He drove along till he reached a sharp bend to the right. He swung the bike into the bend. He saw a large arched entranceway. Boldly embossed and painted on the arch, was the name of the institution. ‘Government College of Arts.’ Chirag let his gaze travel beyond the entranceway. A gravelled path led to the main building of the college.  Groups of boys and girls in college uniforms, most of them carrying sling bags over their shoulders were moving about the campus. Chirag stopped by the entranceway and looked around, puzzled why the place appeared vaguely familiar to him. Students were moving in and out of the entrance way. Chirag felt awkward. He hoped, he did not know why,  to see a known face but there was none. He started his bike and moved off the spot. 


The next stop was the ice cream parlour at the end of the town. 

 The parlour was crowded by young men and women. The young man whom he had met the previous day gave him a welcoming smile. ‘Would you have a chocolate ice cream, sir? Or any other flavour?’ He waited for Chirag to make his order. Chirag smiled broadly at him. ‘It has been indeed a long time since I came here. I was not here. When was it I last visited your parlour?’ Chirag asked trying to sound casual, careful not to rouse any suspicion in the boy’s mind. The boy thought for a brief moment. ‘It was in the month of May, sir. Last week of May. You and madam had come together. I had served you cup ice creams. You had given me a twenty-rupees tip.’ 

This was strange. Which madam the young man was talking about? Did he visit the parlour with some girl? Who was she? He had no way to know. The waiter boy might be suspicious if he asked more about it. He decided to let the matter drop at that.

 He had the ice cream, made the payment, gave a tip to the young man, and left. ‘Come again sir,’  the young man called from behind. 


Chirag took out his phone from the pocket and checked the time. There was enough time left for the lunch hour. The weather was pleasant. A gentle wind ladened with the wet fragrance of monsoon rustled through the leaves of the trees the road was lined with. The fields that stretched beyond the edges on either side of the road were lush green. He looked up. There was no sunshine. Grey clouds sailed merrily across the sky. The cool breeze lifted his spirit. He decided to drive forward, and enjoy the blissful serenity around. 

 He spotted the park to his right after a five minutes-drive down the partially deserted road. Without thinking, he pulled up in its front, and getting down walked towards the gate. It was a big park, but was tastefully designed and well looked after. To the left of the entrance there was a cabin like structure with a sloping roof, its incline extending over the small porch in its front. A man in the uniform of a security guard sat in a straight-backed chair, his eyes glued to the screen of a mobile phone. A wooden table stood to his left on which there were some notebooks and a sheaf of paper. A stone, that was kept on the notebooks and papers, served the purpose of a paperweight. The man cast him an indifferent glance as he entered the park and then went back to watching the mobile screen. 

 Chirag moved inside, looking here and there, impressed by the way the park was maintained. There were big leafy trees along the walking track and around, and swings and stone benches painted glossily in white, orange and green under the trees. At the far end of the park there was an open gym fitted with several equipment for physical workout.    

The park was almost empty at that time except for the gardeners who tended and watered the plants. A couple of labourers worked at a seedbed with a soil sifter, and another one was cutting the grass with a pair of gardening scissors.

The environment was familiar. He seemed to know his way around the place. Chirag wondered if he had ever come here earlier. He seemed to know the place well, had seen everything there were before. He even knew which area in the park was the most secluded.       

He stepped past the gardeners into a shady spot in the depth of the park, partially hidden by a group of topiary plants. There was a bench painted in green and white. Chirag sat down. He felt at peace, sitting there, in the silence of the solitude, listening to the soft murmur of the leaves. A lone koyal, that had perhaps outstayed its visit cooed from a nearby tree. There was a melancholic lilt in its voice and it filled his heart with a strange sadness. But the restlessness of the previous day was gone. The soft breeze caressed his tired limbs and lulled him to sleep. He dosed off. 

The phone rang, jerking him out of sleep. It was his mother. She sounded worried. ‘Where are you son? It is after one o’clock. I am waiting for you. Come soon.’

 He got to his feet. The koyal was still there repeating at intervals the melancholic note. He felt mysteriously connected to the place. He decided to return to the place the next day and moved out to the road, to the place where he had parked his bike. 

He drove to the park the next day, and the day after and again after a gap of a couple of days. He felt more and more drawn to the place after each visit. He thought the security guard, like the waiter at the ice cream parlour would recognize him had he visited the place earlier. But there was no sign of recognition in the security guard’s face. The young waiter at the ice cream shop had mentioned a ‘madam’. Who was she? Chirag racked his brain to remember but drew a blank. It was not possible to  inquire from the waiter without raising his suspicion.

And why did the park at the far end of the town, as if by some inconceivable magical power, pulls him towards it?

It puzzled him. 

But he did not stop visiting the park. He felt restful and calm there, filled with a contentment he had never known before. 


It rained hard that afternoon. Chirag was about to start for the park when the rain came accompanied with a strong wind. It was sunset time when it stopped raining. Chirag dropped the plan and sat down by the window. The air that carried the scent of the post-rain wetness had a deep-set pathos in it.  it made him depressed. 

He decided he would drive to the park early next morning. 


The park was crowded with the morning walkers and joggers at that time. Kids were playing at the merry-go-round, the seesaw, the swings and the slides in the playground area. It was not so peaceful as it used to be at the later part of the morning. Chirag made his way to the bench amidst the topiary plants and sat down. He took out his new mobile phone and studied the social media sites of his choice. Two girls of around six or seven, giggling happily, each carrying what looked like paper on which some picture was drawn, ran to the spot where he sat. They sat down on a nearby stone bench and looked at the pictures. ‘This one is better than yours, ‘ one of them said. ‘Mine is better,’ the other protested. ‘Show it to me,’ the girl who looked a bit older than the other tried to pull the paper from the hands of her friend. ‘No,’ the younger girl squealed and snatched her hand away and lifted it high, to keep the paper out of reach. Chirag cast a cursory glance at the paper the girl held above her head.

 And his heart gave a lurch. Drawn on the paper was a beautiful red rose, on a stalk that sported two young leaves painted in green. He felt his head spinning. He knew the picture and the person who painted it. Vague patches of memory, blurry and indistinct, sliding out as if from a mystery-montage, began to drift around, frantically struggling to move to the right space. He was sure now that he had painted the picture. But when? And how did it reach this place? Who had brought them here? Questions and questions, several of them, without answers. He could feel the sweat beads on his forehead and behind his ears.  He stood up and moved to the bench where the girls were sitting. His legs were unsteady and his breath came in irregular gasps. 

‘Where did you get them?’ he asked them pointing at the pictures. His voice was a croaking whisper. The girls looked up at him, wide eyed. But they did not say anything. ‘Where did you get the pictures?’ he repeated, running out of patience. ‘From the guard uncle,’ one of the girls said and ran away from the place, her friend at her heels. 


Chirag returned to his bench, shaking badly. He waited for his legs to get steady and his breathing normal, and then moved towards the guard’s cabin. The security guard was in his chair watching something in his mobile phone. He regarded the disheveled Chirag who walked clumsily towards the cabin, curiously. Chirag waited for a moment before speaking, trying to regain his composure. He was not sure if he could trust his own voice. 

 ‘I saw two little girls playing there,’ he said pointing towards the depth of the park. ‘They had a couple of papers, a red rose was painted on each. On asking they told me that you gave them the paintings. Where did you get those paintings of the roses?’    

The security guard stared at Chirag, puzzled.

‘Someone visiting the park perhaps had forgotten them here. The guard who works here the day shift might have found them and brought them here. They were on this table when I arrived in the night. The girls saw them in the morning. They asked me for the pictures. I had no reason to decline.’ He paused and looked questioningly at Chirag.

‘What is so special about them?’ He asked.

‘Who had left them here? Do you know him?’ Chirag asked anxiously not caring to reply the guard.               

 ‘I wouldn’t know sir. I came here at about eleven last night. I do the night shift here. Perhaps the other guard would know.’

‘When will he come?’ Chirag was impatient.

‘Not till eleven, sir. We both are new appointees here. We work in rotation. He, from eleven in the morning to eleven in the night and I, the other way round, from eleven in the night to eleven in the morning.’

Chirag checked the time in his phone. It was only nine. There were still two more hours before the other guard arrived. He took out a fifty rupee note from his wallet and handed it to the guard. ‘Please get me those paintings from the girls. They are very important for me,’ he requested. It might be the sincerity in Chirag’s voice or his distraught looks, or the money, but the guard looked influenced.   He nodded and moved into the deep inside of the park. 

Chirag stood waiting, his thoughts racing, crazy and directionless. 

The guard returned after a few minutes with the papers. ‘It took some effort. But I managed to coax the girls to part with them.’ He said smiling broadly. He handed the pictures to Chirag. 

He decided to get back home and return after having lunch. His mother would be worried if he remained out of home till long. He folded the papers and put them in his pocket. Nodding his thanks to the guard he came out of the park. He could sense the curious gaze of the guard fixed on his back. 


Chitra counted the paintings for the third time. There were fifty-one of them. But now there were only forty-nine. Where are the rest two? She had treasured them securely in a folder. They were the only mementos of Chirag she had with her and were priceless. She valued them more than her life. The paintings of the roses somehow, filled the grey emptiness in her. Her lips parted in a doleful smile as she remembered the painting of the rose he had gifted to her for the first time, and the lines written under the rose,

                               When I saw her for the first time that day

                               A red rose bloomed in my garden of grey;


She was feeling desperate now. Where had she lost the pictures? Not in the PG department of her subject in the university, she was sure of that. Then she remembered. Must be in the park. She visited the park most of days, after her classes were over and sat on the bench amidst the topiary plants till sunset, ruminating over the sweet moments she had spent with Chirag there. She carried the folder containing the paintings with her to the university, and to the park, not willing to part with them. She would take out the paintings and read the poems again and again, and tears would stream down her eyes. 

It was more than two months after the train hazard that snatched Chirag away from her. 

She was coming out of the trauma very slowly, and the corroding pangs had lost a bit of their acuteness, but the passing time had not helped any to fill the vacuum in her caused by the loss.


She remembered clearly that she had all of them with her, securely kept in the folder, when she last visited the park. It was on the day the storm came.  She had taken them out of the folder when the strong wind began to blow. She was sure that the wind had blown them away. They must be lying somewhere in the park, provided the sweeper had not thrown them away. She hoped to God that the pictures would be still lying under the bench or somewhere near it, out of the sight of other visitors.  

  She would go to the park today after the classes and inquire from the guard, she decided.  


      Chirag took out the folded papers from his pocket in the seclusion of his bedroom. He did not have any doubt now that he had painted the roses and written the lines too. He read and re read the short poems under both the paintings.

                         The poem is a rose that blooms for you

                           In the garden of my love,

                        Soft and bright, like a passion sweet

                            It smiles in its red orb;  

There was another:

                          Not raindrops but they are the tears 

                         The lovelorn sky sheds,

                      When they touch its drooping petals

                       The rose also weeps in red;

The lines of the second poem were smudged, as if someone has wiped away a drop of water that might have accidentally fallen on them. 

The disjointed pieces of the puzzle were stumbling into place, slowly, haltingly. But the image in the puzzle was still wrapped in a haze of smoke. Then, there was that girl on the outside edge of the jungle of the roses, and he was sure that he knew her, closely and intimately. Her face was blurred, making recognition difficult.

What was the smudge on the poem? A drop of water? A drop of tear??

He did not know why but the picture of the roses and the poems filled him with a deep sense of loss. His heart felt heavy as if he carried a century old sorrow there, and his eyes brimmed with tears.    


  It was after two when he returned to the park. The previous guard was gone. There was another one, who stood in the small porch looking into the park. He turned as he heard Chirag opening the front gate. ‘It is hot in the park now, sir.’ He said smiling politely. He appeared to be an amicable character. Chirag took out the papers and showed it to the guard. ‘Did you find these?’ ‘Yes, the guard answered, looking a bit surprised. ‘What….’ Chirag did not wait to listen to him. ‘Where did you find them? Who had brought them here? His voice rose a pitch higher in excitement.

 ‘A madam comes here often. She sits alone for a longtime on a bench there,’ he pointed towards the topiary plants in a distance. ‘I have seen her more than once looking at such pictures. She was here the day the storm came, leafing through a bunch of pictures like these. Perhaps these two were blown away by the wind and she had not taken note of it.’ 

Chirag listened intently, his eyes staring into the guard’s, a shiver creeping into his nerves. 

‘Does she come here every day?’  his voice was scarcely above a whisper. 

 ‘She comes often, and at a particular time, about three thirty in the afternoon.’ The guard answered. There was an odd gleam of curiosity in his eyes.        

  ‘She was not here yesterday. I think she will turn up today. She is a frequent visitor of this place. You may meet her if you wait till that time,’ the guard added, trying to be helpful.    

 ‘Yes, I think I should do that.’ Chirag said and turning, strode into the inside of the park, leaving the guard staring at his back. 


Chitra arrived at a quarter past three and moved towards the guard’s cabin. 

 ‘Hello there.’ She called looking at the guard’s cabin. No one answered. She was about to step on to the porch when she saw the guard approaching from inside the park. 

‘I was here day before yesterday.’ She said without a prelude when the guard neared. ‘I had some pictures with me and I was putting them in a folder when the storm wind blew. Some of them were blown away in the wind. Have you come across them by any chance? They are really important for me.’

‘Were they pictures of roses?’ 

 ‘Yes, yes,’ Chitra nodded excitedly. ‘Do you have them with you?’ 

  ‘I had. But a young man had taken them away just now. He too said they were important. It beats me what is so special about the pictures.’ The guard said.

‘Young man? What young man? Do you know him?’ Chitra asked desperately.

‘Do not worry madam,’ the guard said quickly, moved by her anxiety. ‘He is still inside the park. You may find him by the topiary plants.’

Without waiting, Chitra turned on her heels and brisked into the park. 


Chirag sat in a bench and looked ahead at the path leading to the spot amidst the topiary plants. His heart was beating fast. Half an hour passed.

He saw a girl approaching. She looked vaguely familiar. 

And the truth struck him like a bolt of lightning. It was the same girl outside the terrain of roses.  

The girl, now without her helmet on, was moving slowly towards the bench Chirag sat on.  

Chirag sprang to his feet. ‘Chitra!!!’ He cried out hoarsely.

Chitra stopped dead, and stared ahead of her.

Then she ran towards him, flinging her sandals away, her hair blowing crazily about her face, tears rolling down her eyes. 

He trembled violently and his head reeled. 

He lurched forward to get closer to the figure of the girl running towards him.    

All the elusive pieces, now out of the smoke haze, hurtled to their places in a blink, making it a whole and bright picture.  

He stumbled and fell into the embrace of Chitra, sliding down and down into the luminous alley of his missing past.

                                                                   --- * ---

Click here for the First part of the Story

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