Short Story Genre: Romance
After a very long time, Jiya again entered the room. Her glance fell on an old guitar in a wooden case standing in the darkest corner of the room, partially covered with dust. Her son Arnav ran toward it and uncased the musical instrument.
He started cleaning it affectionately and said, “Exactly, mom, the same thing I was looking for.” He touched the guitar and again remarked, “It is still in good condition.”
Memories crowded into her mind. She visualized Sam, a tall and lean-built man of mid-twenties, with a pair of affectionate eyes, which looked dreamy whenever he started playing the guitar. Young Jiya was struggling to learn guitar from his tutor, Sam. She was staring at him mesmerizingly rather than looking at the guitar. A mild fragrance of perfume filled the air along with the sweet melody of his guitar.
“Mom…..” Arnav called her softly. Jiya looked at him; her son noticed tears in her eyes and asked, “Mom, are you ok?”
“I am fine, my son;” she said, “The place is dusty, and you know I have a dust allergy.”
“Well, let me clean the guitar, and please wait outside the room.” Arnav compassionately said.
Jiya ran away from the chamber, but the memories did not leave her easily. Her father was a petty businessman; he had very little wealth in hand, except the ancestral house; but still, he never said ‘no’ to any of her wishes. So, when Jiya desired to learn guitar, he brought the most expensive instrument for her and appointed Sam as her tutor.
The first time when she met Sam, she started admiring him. The man had a handsome look and possessed a sober personality, which was enough to charm a young woman like Jiya. Moreover, he was not a stranger but their neighbor. Sam started teaching her guitar, and gradually their friendship bloomed into love. He not only taught her music but also encouraged to attend concerts and functions of other renowned artists. However, in a middle-class society, their friendship did not take time to ignite gossip and rumor. Sam took the matter seriously and proposed to her. However, they forgot that society was still not ready to accept their love. Sam’s mother directly refused the proposal, “Our family does not accept the inter-caste marriage.”
It was the final blow to their love; it ended before becoming a saga. Jiya’s father took it as an insult and fixed her marriage in a business house within a month. Jiya did not get enough time to think but entered a new life almost immediately after her breakup. Her in-law’s family had no scarcity of wealth, but none of them allowed her to pursue her hobby. She did not even touch her guitar for the next two decades and almost forgot that it was placed in a locked room in her parental house.
Recently Jiya had inherited her father’s home and decided to renovate it for renting out. She needed money desperately. Her husband passed away just a year back in a sudden cardiac arrest, and he had left no fat savings for her son’s expensive education in a private engineering college.
Arnav came out from the storeroom, covered with dust, but his face was looking bright, his hands were tightly holding the guitar, the bittersweet memory she had left decades ago.
“If you are satisfied, may we move?” She asked softly.
“Yes, mom, now we can start the renovation.” He nodded.
“Well,” Jiya sighed, “So, what do you think of this guitar?”
“I’ll keep it, mom,” Arnav replied stubbornly.
Jiya was astonished. Arnav never showed any interest in music. “Why? You don’t know how to play it.”
“I’ll learn, mom.” Arnav’s reply made her happy. At last, after two long decades, she could again play the instrument, but at the same time, she felt sad for Sam. Having no idea where he was, but Jiya imagined him standing in front of her. She felt that the fragrance of his perfume was still in the air.
“Mom, let’s go home,” Arnav said.
Jiya nodded and came out of her old home silently.
Though Jiya thought that her son would show interest in learning guitar and she herself would teach him, but very soon, her dream shattered. On the very next day, she discovered that the guitar was missing from the house.
Arnav replied, “I have gifted it to Priya; she will play it in the college fest.”
“What? You have given the guitar to an unknown person?” Jiya yelled, “Do you know, it is not a mere guitar, but a memento?”
Arnav looked guilty and replied, “She will return soon.” He informed, “Do you know mom; her father is an eminent musician….”
“LOL, a renowned musician’s daughter borrows a guitar from an ordinary boy with no such background? Isn’t it ridiculous?” Jiya mocked.
Arnav nodded, “I also felt a bit confused, but she told me that she accidentally damaged her guitar and right now has no time to purchase a new guitar. So, she was looking for a second hand one, and I told her that my mother once played guitar….”
“But my son, you have never seen it before. How did you know that it was well preserved?” Jiya still sounded confused.
Arnav thought a bit and replied, “I guessed.”
Seeing the disbelief on his mother’s face, Arnav suddenly hugged her and said, “Mom, if you attend the function, I bet that you’ll like it…”
“It is a college Fest, Arnav.” She freed herself and said, “College Fests is no place for old parents.”
“No, it is not a college Fest but a cultural function,” Arnav said. Jiya did not initially agree, but her son’s constant request compelled her to change the mind.
With shyness and hesitation when Jiya finally reached the auditorium, she felt relieved to see a couple of old parents among the young crowd. At least she was not too old. Even in the mid-forties, she looked younger than her real age.
Jiya sat in the gallery, and the function began. After a superb performance of dance- drama, finally, the program came to an end. It was announced that renowned guitarist Sam Banerjee would perform along with his daughter Priya. It was the last and final program in the event.
Jiya was stunned to see the man who appeared on the stage just immediately after the announcement. He was no other than her old lover, Sam. Even in his mid-fifties, He was looking handsome in a white kurta, and Jari bordered dhoti. He took his guitar in hand and started playing an English romantic song.
A young woman in blue silk sari appeared next to him with an old guitar. Jiya recognized it. The young woman softly touched its strings and started playing along with her father. Jiya closed her eyes; tears came automatically.
The woman sitting next to her whispered, “Emotional song isn’t it?”
Jiya nodded silently. She overwhelmed to see Sam after two decades. But, he was almost looking the same. Tall, lean, well-maintained health, and of course, the same elegance in performance, all were intact.
“Mr. Banerjee is a renowned artist; he hardly stays in India,” the woman sitting next to her remarked, “He agreed to perform here because his daughter is studying in this college.” She was not at all listening to her but reminiscing the past.
Even in her home, Jiya could not feel relaxed. She took an untimely shower for hiding her tears.
“Mom,” Arnav shouted.
“What?” She asked from the bathroom only.
“Mom,” Arnav shouted from the drawing-room, “Tomorrow, Priya and her dad will come here. She wants to say thanks.”
No…No…Jiya could not meet him again, but she was helpless. A good woman could not refuse a guest. She replied abruptly, “Ok,” and again started weeping.
Yes, Sam came on the next day; she again got the perfume’s sweet fragrance after two long decades. He recognized her, smiled, and started chatting in the same way as he did years ago. Her son Arnav became busy with Priya, and they started a separate conversation in the balcony. Finally, Sam revealed, “Do you know when I saw your picture on Arnav’s Facebook. I wanted to meet you. Priya arranged everything. She told a lie and borrowed the guitar from Arnav, but you know why? Because I wanted to meet you.”
Jiya felt a bit uncomfortable, “You should not.”
“Why? Do you know Priya was also excited to come here?” He sighed, “After all, she never knew a mother’s love.”
“Why? What about your wife?” Jiya curiously asked.
“I am not married,” Sam replied.
“What?” Jiya could not believe her ears.
“Yes, I did not marry, Jiya. Priya is my adopted daughter.” He replied calmly. “I loved you, and only you, but my mother refused the match.” He regretted, “I could not say anything, I could not go against the society….”
Jiya was not at all listening to him. She had started weaving her old dream again, which remained unfulfilled for years. So, why did he meet her after twenty years? Did he want to propose to her again? Jiya had no problem in accepting his proposal, but what about Arnav and her in-laws?
“We could not, but they can,” Sam’s words brought her back from the illusion, “Priya loves Arnav, and if you have no problem, we can fix their marriage.” He looked at her eagerly.
Sam’s last word again shattered her dream; she felt furious, “NO,” she yelled, “I cannot accept a girl without reputed parentage as my daughter-in-law.” Her high speech voice was heard from the balcony as well. Priya went pale, and Sam looked insulted. He nodded his head and asked his daughter to go home.
Jiya did not want to hurt him, but it was too late. Her sixth sense indicated that it might be their final meeting. She closed her eyes, but the tears did not come. She felt a burning sensation instead of wet tears. At least she took revenge. She had successfully returned the same insult her father faced years ago.
Initially, Jiya thought that Arnav would revolt, but he did not. Her son did not even mention Priya’s name in the house after that incident. Jiya felt proud of her son; he could not dishonor her choice.
Five years passed peacefully, and Arnav was now working in a reputed Multinational Company. Jiya asked him about marriage, but her son did not reply.
However, in a traditional Indian family, it was the parents’ prerogative to find out suitable matches for their children. So, Jiya, too, did not hesitate before asking her neighbors and friends about potential brides.
One evening, when she was looking at her potential daughter-in-law’s photos and bio-data, she suddenly realized that it was half-past nine in the evening, and her son did not return yet. She checked the phone, but no SMS or WhatsApps notification was found. She felt a bit angry; Arnav always informed her if he had a meeting or any other engagement after the office hour. She set aside the photos and switched on the TV. She required a bit of diversion from the tension. Suddenly her glance stuck in a news channel. Renowned artist Sam Banerjee had passed away in the morning. His adopted daughter Priya had done the last rites.
“NO…,” she yelled. She was not in a state to believe that she would not meet her lover again in this world. She took the phone in hand and desperately started searching for Priya’s number and suddenly received a message, which Arnav sent hours before, but came now due to network problems,
“Mom, Sam’s uncle is no more. Priya is terribly alone; none of her father’s relatives accepted her. I cannot leave my friend alone. So, I decided to spend my entire life with her. If your house has a room for both of us, then only reply.”
Jiya looked around helplessly, and suddenly her glance fell on the guitar standing at the remotest corner of the room. She felt someone’s presence in the chamber but could not see anyone, only a known fragrance of perfume filled the air, as Sam was waiting for her reply eagerly. Before bursting into tears, Jiya tried to call back her son but could not see the number.