Strange Concoction

Richa Dewangan

© Copyright 2021 by Richa Dewangan

Photo of various tiles.

Learning the realities of life as we grow makes us mature or scared or aware or practical or.... until we realize that acceptance is the only way. Not in, nor out, but through the tunnel. Reality and imagination go hand in hand, incomplete without each other. Strange Concoction is the story right about it.   

It was an urgent task, not laborious. Due to urgency, it became arduous. We were rushing in narrow alleys of old houses, crossing over the stinking decomposed small-animal remains on the corners of the turns, tucking handkerchief on nose tightly and periodically wiping the deodorized sweat of back of neck and forehead. It was humid with sunlight. I could only imagine the suntan happening to me as I walked hurriedly to pace as fast as my father. He knows the ultimate ways to get things done punctually, at any cost. The man who knows the spells that work in reality: DDH (determination, diligence, honesty). He has the energy of that lightning bolt even when tiresome. So possibly, I was the one delaying it all.

We lived in our colony some 5 kilometers from this village. Albeit having lived here for the past three years, we had never incurred this kind of urgency. Though in an hour it could have been done; it took 5 hours. That day was a holiday which we were not aware of. In fact, it was not even a national or official holiday, just culture in some parts of India, folks of certain localities enjoy a self-imposed public holiday for their local celebrations. They bother to help only after loads of requests. After enquiring from door to door and hovering like dragonflies we finally reached our destination. Even though everything was shut off in this partially developed village, we hit a stroke of fortune.

As we entered, my father took a seat after giving instructions. All we had to do now was waiting and all I could see were those people who were staring. I got a little closer to them. The couple was looking at me, smiling, dressed in their wedding attire. The bride was dressed in orange and golden lehenga. She had a dupatta embellished with a shimmer of yellow-red covering her head. She was indeed one desi epitome of beauty. Her curious, kajal-lined eyes almost shyly were glaring and glittering with happiness. Her beaming smile was evidence of the unfathomable length of years, she had been preparing for this day. The groom was exactly her height and matched her with Sherwani, a golden embroidered stole, and a traditional wedding turban worn by grooms across Indian culture. They both held hands, reinforcing, to perfect a lifetime of promise. Another couple kept a steady gaze, were older, roughly aging thirty years of togetherness. They were dressed decorously. The wife in silk green with silver-string embroidered saree and the man in a check-formal shirt of blue and white. They were also of the same height and expressed thousand years of expertise in married life.

My father interrupted my musing and asked me to sign the papers. I signed them and saw a brother and sister sitting on a car roof. Spaced close to the two couples. The boy was younger than the girl by about three years and mischievous. The kind of little sibling who does the deed withal the elder ones gets scolded. Sign of a solid brother-sister bond. He was pointing at the sky as if told to do so. He did it like a pro. The girl held him close following the line of sight, where he pointed, with exquisite smiles that could melt a stone heart.

My father-companion, kind and restless, asked me to sit, standing up from the only chair available since it had been 2 hours, to which I politely refused and asked him to sit until our problem was solved. I noticed a celebrity couple looking at each other, showing their fake love and smiling as if they will stay together forever. Their attire was the most expensive one. I could see them more clearly than the rest. The dulcet 'hero' embracing, looked into her eyes, acting like they have a never-ending story to talk about in telepathy. She faked happiness, like that of a lioness who had just come back from a hunt and has enough to satisfy the need of his lion and cubs, knowing the lion can eat up to 16 pounds from her hard-long day.

A tall, slender man with thick hair and mustache came and asked me to sign again on a different paper this time. I signed it. I noticed a kid trying hard to stand, probably taking one of his first steps. He was radiating the innocence of a dove wearing a yellow striped bear onesie. His hood had protruded fluffed ears which I wanted to play with. He had big eyes and a cute smile that made his cheeks look stuffed with at least two plums.

I was handed over the papers to verify: self-attested, filled, photograph pasted, previous mark sheets attached, all done. All checked on my behalf. It was then double-checked by my father. After this, I would have to go to the hospital for a medical examination and get a signed certificate. I knew the changes happening in my life. I knew it would be hard at first. My new college will make me busy. Though I was least interested, it seemed logical to join a master's course when the pandemic was still happening. I have always been optimistic. I just wanted to go with it.

I moved a little when a short woman brusquely asked me to step aside (she was yelling in her head; stop blocking the entrance!). Despite the anxiety for my future endeavor, my gaze was stuck at a man. For the first time being an adult myself, I wished I had magical power. I did. Really. The way I always imagined as a kid, especially during the funeral of my grandmother. I had literally prayed the entire day for her to wake up like the way it happens in fantasy series or in tooth fairy cartoons. Only to grow up and realize if my prayers were heard, it would have been either too spooky or a miracle. Yet that day I prayed for a miracle. The man appeared younger than his forties. He was staring across the hall. He had all colors of life but frozen pardo in memories of his loved ones. His face conveyed an expressionless headshot. I did not know who he was or where he was from, but I knew his name: Shri. Ram Prasad Ghode. I knew his birth date: 24th January 1975. I knew his date of death: 16th September 2020. What if he wondered why humans moved so much? from his frame. What if the alternate universe is materialistic? We are; alternates? I wished the magical picture frames from Harry Potter to be a reality.

I instructed the format of another certificate to be printed. The shop cum workroom was the only one in the village where lamination of previous and color printing of new certificates could be done. An old man was also present in that moderately furnished, space-lacking studio asking to frame his son’s photo with bronze and wooden finish demure frame. To put his son’s name, D.O.B, and D.O.D. at the bottom in black capital letters. He slowly ambled outside with his stick. I wanted to ask the shop owner why are they writing D.O.D.? To mention the lack of modesty towards their beloved's life span? As if his life did not matter? but I knew the answer. They are people of a village with exposure to little knowledge or curtsey of language. My chemistry teacher from school always said “Little knowledge is a dangerous thing” and hither if not dangerous; it was a pity.

The strange concoction of newly wedded bliss, of the strong couple; going stronger, of two siblings; embracing each other, of celebrities modeling and posing for a rather rich shutterbug (hung on this wall to lure villagers), of toddler learning the basics and of the reality of an unfortunate man each uniquely framed on the same wall of a hundred square feet room. It was a complete display, advertising the photographer’s many services or instead, depicted life in all forms of realism.

From all the photographs, what if my presumptions were wrong? Maybe the new wedding was not much of a happy union. What if the old couple had only one picture and were sad all the time? What if kids have now grown up to be separated? What if the celebrity couple weren’t really faking? and she was paid more than the hero (Yass!)? What if the clothes for the toddler were borrowed for his photoshoot and lived a meager life?


The next day was the deadline for documents submission. DDH spell worked again. We were able to post documents timely.

In this world of Instagram: Who knows what's fake; Who is the real snake; a viral video for goodness’ sake? It makes my stomach ache. Yet considering it to be true even if they are faking, without minding, I habitually accepted my version of imagination of those happy stories even if it replaced the truth. Until one picture spoke reality: Of life and death, and even though it remains ultimate universal certitude, I hoped for magic. I hoped for an instant change or maybe I just wanted to go with it.

Hola! I am Richa Dewangan. I am an electrical engineer by profession and am currently pursuing my master's degree. I am an ardent reader of short stories. As a kid I would write poems but never really got an opportunity or platform. I came across your portal last month. of course I have written many job seeking applications (boring.). So here I am compelled with my inner voice. I hope you like it. 

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