It was a sultry monsoon evening. The town was waiting for rain. Some enthusiastic people waited for the eclipsed moon to peep behind the monsoon clouds. The month of August had come laden with hopes for all – rain for some, eclipsed moon for some and for others a night of magical fireworks.
Amidst all this cacophony, a brooding old man was sitting under a banyan tree in one quiet corner of the town.
Children gathered around him waiting for a story to begin.
“What do you think it will be?” one of them asked.
“Must be some peacock story”, replied Celine, the animal lover.
“No. No. It will be about that girl with the blue umbrella” said Guddu, the hopeless romantic.
“I wish he tells a fairy tale this time” hoped little Ritu.
“Ah! How about Ladoo and his adventures?” exclaimed Bokaroo.
The story-teller remained silent, waiting for someone else.
Seeing a flicker in the sky he began,
“It was the night of the Perseid Meteor Shower”
“Children gathered around the magician”
Then he paused to think. After a while, he began again,
“Every night the magician showed them a new magic trick. Sometimes it was a hidden star and at others, there was a man walking on the moon. But the children loved the magical fireworks that danced with them. It was his best trick.”
Then he paused again. The story-teller thought of his dream and began again,
“One day, what?” asked the children in excitement.
“One day, they grew up. The month of magic had ended. They no longer looked for magic. They wished for a story now.”
“Story? What story? Like the story you tell us?” asked the children in chorus.
“No and Yes. They longed for love instead of magic. They didn’t know that love was magic.
They longed for the moon and forgot about the Perseid Meteor.”
“What happened to the magician? Did he turn into a story-teller?” enquired Ruskin.
“Well, the magician! He was waiting for someone.”
“Whom was he waiting for?” the children again asked in chorus.
“He was waiting for the magic of love. His lady love.”
“Love? What is that?” enquired the children.
“Love can be anything.”
“Anything”, whispered the children.
“Ladoos!” exclaimed Bokaroo.
“Dogs” said Celine.
“Old Ships”, said Evelyn.
“Books” said Ruskin.
“Magic” said the story-teller and continued with his story.
“So he was waiting for the magic to return. It has been 80 years and still he is waiting.”
“Then, what happened?” enquired Guddu.
“Did she return?” asked Ritu.
“Sure, she did. She returned every night riding a black horse.”
“Wow! A lady knight in a shining armour”, said Ritu joyfully.
“Then what did she do?” asked Bokaroo.
“She whispered and the magician played with fire. There were fireworks everywhere. The night sky decked up in colours and the cloud looked like fortresses.”
“Fireworks” whispered the children happily.
“Thus they happily lived in the land of fireworks – the land of story-tellers and magicians.”
“Together they created more stories for you to read and that was their story”, saying this, the story-teller ended his story.
“Ah! What a dreadful story. I didn’t like it”, sighed Celine.
“Tell another one”, insisted the children.
The story-teller quietly hummed a tune. As if he was greeting someone.
He sent away the disgruntled children. On reaching home, the children played the role of the story-teller. They put their parents to sleep by telling their odd tale.
The parents realized that the time has come. It was time for the children to grow up.
It was time to begin a new story.
It was time to be a new child again.
They had all heard this story when they visited the story-teller for the last time.
It was his last story. It was his way of telling that time has come to abandon him. Time to bid goodbye to the magical kingdom. It was his farewell speech. His departure story. It was time to grow up.
It always coincided the night of the Perseid meteor shower. As if there is an unforetold connection between the two – the parting story and the meteor. For 80 years, this has been the parting story for a generation of listeners. Every time, it ended the same way – in fireworks, in the magical realm of story-tellers and magicians where grown-ups were forbidden to enter.
Scarcely, did they know a grown-up was trapped there – in the magical realm of story-tellers and magicians. Little Ruskin was right. The story-teller was the magician. He was the magician in disguise of a story-teller. A child trapped in an adult’s body. Every evening the child resurfaced to tell a story and the adult waited for the story to end.
It’s been 80 years of duplicity. For 80 years he has been playing this dual role. For 80 years the adult is waiting for the child to grow up – to spread its wings and fly to another sky.
8 decades ago, he met the love of his life. He was a little child then and she was her playmate. Together they created fireworks in the night sky. It was the night of the Perseid meteor shower. 80 years since the start of the story.
Then, the war started and the story changed its course.
“I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop,” the story-teller wondered, looking at the night sky.
He was wishing upon a star.
Alas! Time can never be stopped. It can only be lived and they truly did live – in that time, the moment of belonging.
“Now, that time has vanished along with her” sighed the story-teller.
“Yet, it still lives in the dark night. Time is a constant in this universe, in this celestial world”, the eclipsed moon seem to whisper in his ears.
Love has turned him into a stargazer. He has himself become the Perseid meteorite waiting for his Halley’s Comet.
Since then he has paid heed to the whispering of the moon. He had re-lived the story, making it eternal. He became a story-teller, weaving stories with his magical wand. The adult in him has been nurturing the child since then. And now that child has started to grow up. His waiting is nearing an end. The Halley’s Comet is coming. Coming to complete his story.
In the world of murder, mystery, and atrocities she is coming to cast the spell of magic.
But for him, she is coming to end this lifelong triviality. He knew then- wars, riots, drought, flood and other such trivial things can’t end their story. Come what their story would continue. Because without the Perseid Meteor and the Halley’s Comet, this world wouldn’t exist. Theirs is the world within a world. They are the continuity. No amount of separation can end their story.
They are the eternal story-tellers and, this is the land of story-tellers and magicians. They are here for the story to begin and end. Begin and end. Begin and end. They are the story-makers. They are a story by itself.
Hence, he had decided to complete his story. He decided to wait for her. Days, months, years passed by and he still waited for her. Meanwhile, he looked after their children. Took care of the stories. Delivering each of them to their respective owner. The story-teller delivered stories all through the night and during daytime he slept to create more stories. The evenings were reserved for testing those stories. Thus, he took the disguise of a story-teller and tested those stories on children.
Every time, the children approved a story. The story-teller Santa Claus delivered it to an adult. In this way, every adult had a story approved by a child. The stories went on to live a happily ever after life while their parents roamed the planet in disguise of story-tellers.
Meanwhile, as the land flourished its owner grew old. The story-teller was decaying in his own cocoon, trapped in the labyrinth of his magical kingdom. He knew the escape route but he was waiting for his knight in shining armour. He was well aware of his story. His old feeble forgetful mind still vividly remembered her.
8 decades of separation hadn’t gathered rust on their relationship. Rather these 8 decades of separation weaved a beautiful life. A beautiful story. A story that he couldn’t tell the children. As it wasn’t his to tell. Someone else was writing it. It was her story.
He was waiting for the story to end. He was waiting for it to be written.
He was waiting to tell that story.
His final departure.
In between people have been wondering about him.
“You have been telling stories for 60 years. Is there anything left to be said?” inquired his listeners.
“Haven’t you told all the stories?” asked some.
“How do you find so many stories?” asked others.
“Aren’t you exhausted? When are you retiring?” inquired the new story-tellers.
Seldom did they knew his secret. That he, himself was an unfinished story. A story with many sublets – Storylets. Small sublets of a story waiting to be weaved into a string by a writer, the Halley ’s Comet.
For 8 decades the storylets are waiting to be stringed together.
For 8 decades the Perseid meteorite was waiting for the Halley’s Comet.
8 decades of a story to end.
8 decades of story-telling, came to an end that night.
That night, the story-teller told his final story.