“I have a suggestion,” Yogi tells her in his most charming way, “I know you write short stories. I can tell you a new story each week. If you find it interesting and of any use to you, would you consider letting me off the rent for that week?”
– Wait till I tell you, Preface by Vatsal Shah
This multiple author serial contains the collection of stories and fables that Yogi, an Indian student in Melbourne, tells his homestay host Charlotte. My contribution is Chapter 9.
Yogi arrives at his homestay, his clothes damp from an unexpected shower. He finds Charlotte sitting by the big bay window in the living room, gazing at the sky.
“Look!” she says, pointing.
A faint rainbow arches over the eucalyptuses. And Yogi knows. It is time for The Story.
There was once a young man in India who fell in love with a beautiful girl. Her name was Lalita and she was an optometrist’s assistant. The first time he saw her she was sitting at the reception desk, fingers absently combing her dark, glossy hair. As she heard the door she looked up at him with cookie dough eyes. Her moist lips parted in a smile.
After that, the young man invented excuses to return to the optometrist. His lenses were too strong, then too weak. The eye doctor would test his vision while the young lover focused on Lalita’s breasts instead of wall chart behind her.
Three weeks later, the young man’s father said to him: “It is time you were married, son.”
The young man agreed.
“One of my clients has a daughter – Kalpana.”
The father showed his son a photograph. The young man he didn’t see Kalpana’s pretty curls, nor her kind eyes. He was looking at the blotchy birthmark on her right cheek, shaped like the wobbly sketch of India he’d drawn at primary school.
“I cannot marry her, father.”
“Let me tell you something, son. I was once in love with a girl who would not have me because I wore glasses. Kalpana is from a good family and most importantly, as a librarian, she shares your love of stories.”
The young man pushed his own glasses further up the bridge of his nose. He had been working a screw loose so he could return to the optometrist tomorrow.
“It’s not what you think,” he defended himself. “I love another.”
“Then you must follow your heart,” his father said with a sigh.
So the young man married Lalita. Kalpana’s family were among the guests. During the dancing, she sat alone in the corner. The young man pretended not to see.
Two months after the wedding, Lalita’s belly began to swell. The young man was surprised, but ecstatic. He celebrated Holi, the Festival of Colours, with even more gusto than usual that year. One night, as he laughed and attacked his neighbours with coloured powders, he noticed his wife had disappeared. Concerned about her condition, he returned home to find her in bed – with the optometrist.
The young man staggered out into the street. A child’s water bomb slapped his cheek. Blue tears trickled from his eyes.
“Yogi? Are you alright?”
Puzzled, the young man looked up at the rainbow face. Every inch of her skin was smeared with coloured powder. Then he realised. It was Kalpana.
The rusty chimes of Charlotte’s doorbell bring Yogi back to Melbourne.
“Are you expecting someone?” he asks Charlotte.
She frowns, shaking her head and gets up to answer it.
The next chapter, Chapter 10, is written by Indian author Ashutosh Shukla. You can read Ashutosh’s chapter and the rest of the serial on The Story Mint website.