It was the second anniversary of Aritra Dasgupta’s novel, ‘The anatomy of longing’, which had consistently featured among the top ten bestselling books, for the last four months.‘Bookland,’ one of the oldest bookstores in Kolkata, had offered to host a reading event to celebrate the book’s success. Aritra graced the occasion, dressed in light blue shirt and black trousers, his salt and pepper hair side-parted, his sad, deep eyes curtained with black square glasses.
Aritra stared at the rows of chairs meant for the audience. A wave of pain swept over him as he reminisced about the genesis of the novel. The announcement broke his train of thought. Aritra gulped down the glass of water and cleared his throat. He turned over to the bookmarked page, and started reading a passage from his novel.
“His languid daydreams fossilized into meandering agony. The hollow deepened with each passing day. He yearned for that familiar scent that blanketed him, even after they’d parted for the day. He yearned for her tinkling voice that animated his spirit. But, the more he thought about her, the more the finality of their farewell seeped into his being. The piercing tape of melancholy ran in a continuous loop.” Aritra’s voice still choked every now and then, while reading.
The staff of the bookstore wheeled in a cake with two candles flickering on it, after the reading. Aritra blew the candles amidst loud cheers of ‘Happy second anniversary’ and ‘To many more’.
People had queued up to greet the author. At the end of the queue stood a woman with a broad smile.
“Can you recognize me?” the woman said, holding up a picture, in front of Aritra. The picture was three decades old. Aritra’s eyes lingered on the face of a young girl, with long, braided hair and happy, crinkled eyes. Aritra stood beside her, grinning. He couldn’t recall the names of the other people in the frame.
“I can only recognize Rosalin. Age is catching up to me, I believe,” Aritra said.
“I am Shreyashi, Rosalin’s best friend,” the woman replied, pointing at herself in the picture.
“I remember now. It’s been so long. We were only twenty-four, in that picture,” Aritra said.
“A long time, indeed. By the way, I loved your novel, especially the happy ending,” Shreyashi said.
“It took me a long time to settle on that ending.” Aritra sighed.
“Aritra, Rosalin has come back from London, for good. She is in the city. I wanted her to meet you once.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. She is married. She is happy. I don’t want to disturb her peace, after all these years.”
“She has very little time, Aritra.”
“I don’t understand.”
Shreyashi fell silent for a while. “She is battling stage four cervical cancer. That’s the reason she came back from London. She wanted to spend her remaining days in her birthplace.”
An icy sheet descended upon Aritra’s heart. The lump in his throat made his words inaudible.
Memories of a couple, head over heels in love, discussing History and Literature in Coffee House, hunting for rare books in the alleys of College street, savoring the mouth-watering and inexpensive street food, stealing a kiss in the empty classroom, flashed before Aritra’s eyes.
“Rosalin remembers you every single day. Meeting you would be such a release for her.”
“When and where can I meet her?”
“She is in the hospital. You can come with me. The visiting hour starts in another forty minutes.”
“I have a special visitor for you today, Rosalin – Aritra Dasgupta, your classmate,” Shreyashi said.
Rosalin’s weary eyes lit up .“What?” she asked, latching on to Shreyshi’s arm.
Aritra walked up to Rosalin’s bed. The twenty-five-year-old bubbly girl was now a fifty-five-year-old woman, battling a fatal disease, multiple needles and devices clamped to her body. His heart ached and tears clouded his eyes.
“Am I dreaming?” Rosalin asked.
Shreyashi shook her head.“Bookland hosted a reading event today to celebrate the second anniversary of the release of Aritra’s novel. I followed him there.” Shreyashi squeezed Rosalin’s palm and excused herself.
“Many congratulations, Aritra,” Rosalin said.
Aritra handed the bouquet of white Tuberoses to Rosalin.
“You still remember my favorite flowers, Ari” Rosalin said.
“Of course, Rose.”
“Rose… sounds divine when you say it. How I have longed to hear it,” Rosalin said, closing her eyes.
“I wish I knew you were here,” Aritra said.
“I thought you’d never forgive me. I had broken your heart, married someone else, just to honor my parent’s wishes to marry within the community. I had pretended to be happy, whenever you’d reached out, especially before leaving for London with my husband. But, my life has been so empty, Ari.” Rosalin’s voice quavered.
“We were young and naïve, Rose. It wasn’t your fault. Perhaps, the destiny of our love was a lifetime of longing.”
“Would you hold my hand, Ari? Like college days?”
Aritra looked at Rosalin’s hand, purplish-pink with needle-marks. He held it gently.
“I am grateful, Rose, that I didn’t listen to the ‘no’s’ in my head, and went ahead with publishing the book. Grateful that it became a bestseller, recently.Grateful that Bookland hosted the reading event today and that I didn’t decline their invitation. So grateful to your good friend Shreyashi. The book has brought me to you, Rose.”
“Yes, your book has been our lucky charm, Ari. And, Shreyashi has been more than family. She reads out bits and pieces of your book to me. I adore the unconditional devotion in your words and how you’ve immortalized our love story. Oh! How very much I wish to live to read all the books that you shall write,” Rosalin said, panting for breath.
“You shall live long, my dear Rose.” Aritra swallowed back his tears.
“Long sounds good, very good indeed. This seems like a happy ending, Ari,” Rosalin whispered.
Aritra kissed Rosalin’s forehead. A serene smile bloomed across his beloved Rose’s face.
This Post Has 17 Comments
An emotional piece which gave me vibes of Bollywood movies. The narrative was tight and you could feel the conflict of the protagonist. The only pointer was whether the second anniversary came out strong enough. 7/10
This story has its heart in right place. Lost love strikes right chords most of the times. Though at places, it went too sentimental
A nice, true love triumphs story, liked it. The writing is good: simple language, smooth flow, nothing to fault in that. Maybe it’s because of the word count constraint, but Rosalin does not enquire about Aritra – how has he been, is he happy, what did he do with his life [wife etc.,] – to that extent, she seems self-centred. Maybe a longer story would have resolved those. Good read overall. Rate this 7/10.
An emotional story… an unfinished love finds it’s ending through a book… my rating 7/10
A story where emotions flowed. Rose married and went away, but then what about Aritra, a bit of that may have helped in understanding the depth of his novel that became a great success. Maybe he chose to be alone and that made him a great writer.
Regarding justice to prompt adherence, the judges know best.
A touching love story, well written. A tad too sentimental. But that’s just me. I love the name Aritra, by the way. 🙂
Second anniversary of the book release has brought them together, I guess that’s the way you have woven the story around the prompt. Quite thoughtful.
My rating 8
The emotion of love nicely depicted. Liked it a lot.
That was so warm and yet heartbreaking. I am not a romantic by heart and don’t really enjoy romantic stories. But this one was beautiful from the beginning till the end. I loved how you showed a love that spanned for decades and was finally immortalized by Aritra in his book. Love is such a flitting emotion nowadays. This reinstates belief in true love. I don’t think there were any significant flaws in the story. Some people might feel it’s a little slow paced but that’s a trifle. Outstanding story! My rating 7.5/10
Unrequited love wrapped in a storybook and presented well. A little editing would have been better. The word ‘Grateful’ is used repetitively. A nice attempt. 8
A love story in the true sense. One longed for the other all his life, and a book on his life was responsible for bringing his love back to him..
My rating 7/10
The story was simple and easy to follow. I found it to be a nice interpretation of the prompt – the second anniversary of the book. It gives us a reminder of the power of love and the hardship. Much needed. It flowed well. My overall rating. is 7/10.
A love story full of longing and a happy ending of its kind. Quite emotional too. The premise of the book store reading uniting the two long separated lovers was great. Nice narration too.
May rating 7.5/10
Poignant! A beautiful love story which goes to show that true love last forever, whatever be the day and age. It made me kind of nostalgic.
My rating is 8/10
Such a beautiful story with an even beautiful end. Though the focus on the second anniversary was less but overall nicely waved and narrated. Rating 7.5/10
Loved the name Aritra – it’s become quite a popular one among Calcuttans, I hear! College Street, books, Coffee House, and Calcutta street food got me all fuzzy n nostalgic!
/The Anatomy of Longing/
I liked the storyline, the easy flow and narration, and the lovers meeting up after decades, albeit in very unusual circumstances.
The emotions were well depicted.
My rating – 8 on 10
The storyline is commonplace but the narration has lent it a smooth texture that eggs the reader on to reach the end, hoping for a surprise ending. But surprise, surprise! there is no surprise ending! A readable narrative, all the same. 7/10
Thank you for your brutally honest feedback. It has helped me to see my story in a new light. It will probably not change my love and adoration for this story, one single bit. But, I shall use your pointer on twist endings in future stories.