Wait Till I Tell You

A Short Story

-Vatsal Shah

[Title Story of the Anthology of short stories and poems, “Wait Till I Tell You”, edited by Vatsal Shah, published in 2017 by Moments Publishers. To read the book online, click the following link: https://issuu.com/vatsalbshah7/docs/wait_till_i_tell_you_pdf]

Yogi changes flights twice before he lands in Melbourne in the early hours of morning and takes the bus to the Youth Hostel at Spencer Street. Yogi was selected as an exchange student to study with The Melbourne Institute of Design in Australia. It is the year 1990. The world is a delightfully different place from today, with internet in its infancy and social media or face-book totally absent. Yogi, barely 21, is full of curiosity and keen to explore the opportunity he is given.

That day,  Yogi meets Debra Hudson, the international students’ coordinator, who greets him with her rehearsed courtesy and superficial smile. “I have arranged a home-stay for you with Ms. Charlotte Pritchard. She is a professional writer, single and lives in Kew.”

Yogi, having arrived on Friday, has the whole weekend to freely explore Melbourne. He wanders casually along the meandering Yarra River admiring the view and absorbing the atmosphere. The juxtaposition of new and old architecture of Melbourne fascinates him. He feels that the city should definitely help his creativity.

On Saturday, he takes the rumbling tram to Kew, which is a sleepy and sprawling suburb with low rise houses. He arrives at house number 42, a neat white bungalow. The doorbell is attended by a lady whom Yogi knows is Charlotte.

 “Hi! I was expecting you. Debra had called. Welcome.”

Soon, Yogi learns that Charlotte separated from her husband, Geoff, a few years earlier and her two teenage children opted to stay with Geoff. Charlotte is a full time writer and has three popular collections of short stories to her credit. Yogi has difficulty believing she is 40 because she is wearing long drop crystal earrings and leopard print pants. He had guessed she was in her 30s. Yogi shifts in the next day.

Monday, at school, he formally meets the Dean. “Sir, may I have the scholarship for board and lodging that you gave the previous exchange student?”

“It was a one-time thing. I am sorry, it can’t be repeated,” the Dean replies firmly.

Although Yogi has sufficient funds to comfortably last him his sixteen-week semester, he is interested in saving money in order to tour around Australia and New Zealand.

At the end of one week, he pays Charlotte the weekly rent.

“I have a suggestion,” he 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.”

“Done,” Charlotte agrees reluctantly, looking skeptically at the strapping boy with the confident grin. She doubts his ability to tell stories as good as the ones she writes.

Little does she know that this would gradually start the carousel of stories from Yogi’s life and his college world, some of which would bring her closer to her story-teller…

***

It is Friday, Yogi is returning to his home-stay, deep in thought about what story to narrate, till he remembers an incident.

“There is a famous family club close to my home in India, of which I am a member,” he is telling Charlotte, who is eagerly listening. “It is built into the natural landscape and has lots of greenery, giving it a feel of a resort. It is my urban sanctuary and I often go there for swimming. The club has a huge swimming pool in the basement. One day I was surprised to see a small boy with his father. The boy was hardly four or five years old, but was very active. He walked sensitively touching the walls and feeling everything with his hands. I thought he was playful, till his father brought him inside the pool. To my surprise I saw that the boy never opened his eyelids. His father greeted me with a ‘hi’ as I entered the pool. We three were the only ones there, as it was late evening.

“The boy was blind since childhood, his father told me. Some genetic deficiency which happens one in a million. I felt sad for him. The father also told me that because it was genetic they were terribly afraid to plan another kid, lest he would be visually challenged too. After some more talk, I introduced myself and he did the same. He was a famous Jeweller, owner of V. Z. Jewellers in my hometown. The name struck me as familiar. I felt pity for the situation they were in, and wondered how the young father would painstakingly raise his only child, through years to come.

“While I was going home, feeling miserable I unexpectedly recalled a news item I had read few days back. V. Z. Jewellers had been caught selling poor quality diamonds to their customers passing them as superior quality ones. It was a big scam and so many of their customers were skeptical of the worth of the jewellery they had purchased from there previously.”

” ‘Nature had its own way to do justice’, I thought while going back home.” Yogi says. Charlotte is awestruck by the story. She hands back the rent to Yogi.

***

 “I have now taken a part time job in the administrative department of college and have many stories to tell you.” Yogi tells Charlotte, wiping himself with a white towel. It has rained unannounced and Yogi is fully drenched as he hastily made his way running from the tram stop.

Charlotte, sipping red wine, looks up at Yogi’s wet shirt clinging to his juvenile torso, his chest and flat stomach highlighted. He looks extraordinarily handsome.

“Instead, I will tell you a tale almost 200 years old from Gujarat, the state I come from. In the north is Idar, a town amidst barren rocky cliffs of volcanic stone. It has a rugged landscape of astounding rock formations. The sun casts shades in yellow ochre. The king Kalyan of Idar was brave. In his court the bards and astrologers had complete freedom to tell him anything, however unpleasant it was.

“ ‘From the 29th day from today, lightning will strike King Kalyan dead’, the astrologer predicted ominously.

“ ‘If this doesn’t come true, then on the 30th day it is my sword and your head!’, Kalyan accepted the challenge confidently.

“It was not monsoon, so Kalyan was sure there would be no lightning. He, however, anxiously made makeshift arrangement in a huge cave along with 500 men and decided to stay there till the D-day. As the days passed, there was doubt lest the prophecy should come true. The population slowly dwindled, leaving only 5 men on the day before last. The king shockingly realized who were loyal.

“It was at this time that a man was galloping his horse steadfastly from the nearby town of Titoi, to the cave. He was the king’s brother, also named Kalyan. Not getting the throne, he had become a rebellious outlaw and looted the kingdom occasionally. This was his chance to capture the king and kill him. At midnight he swiftly entered the cave. Out of nowhere, clouds had gathered suddenly in the sky and it was thundering.

“ ‘Who, Kalyan, my brother? You have come right timely. The astrologer has unfortunately predicted my death today. I now realize who all my loyal friends were. I have extremely wronged you. A dying man has no fascination for possessions or pleasures. I declare you the next king.’ Kalyan was overcome with emotions, his throat choked up as he hugged his brother. At that time the lightning roared and struck like a diamond thunderbolt. It momentarily delved deep into the cave through the chasms in the rock. The outlaw brother fearlessly pushed the king away and took the lightning on himself.  The king Kalyan fell on his knees crying in reverence to his brother’s sacrifice. An outlaw had saved the kingdom.”

Yogi is excitedly gesturing as he narrates this heroic saga. When he finishes, he is surprised to find the overwhelmed Charlotte holding his trembling hands.

***

Many such stories later, Charlotte is sitting with a bunch of papers and pen, on a chair in the garden. The intoxicating aroma of coffee has filled the air, when Yogi enters.

“Today I will tell you a story”, she surprises Yogi before he can say anything.

“A sweet charming girl fell head over heels in love with her classmate. They went through college, their love blossomed gradually and mutually and they tied the knot soon after. The husband worked hard to set up a flourishing business, while the wife willingly- unwillingly became a home-maker. Two kids later, she started to feel a void in her life. It had always been her dream to write. To put into words her feelings. To record the events that happened in her life, in her friend’s lives and people around her. But all this was lost somewhere in her daily routine.

“The girl then took up a job as a teacher in college, to break the pattern of mundane life. She was undoubtedly very successful there, but still the feeling of a void in her life remained. Till she finally gave up and decided to only write.” Charlotte continues her eyes lost in reverie, without noticing Yogi. “That girl is you”, Yogi interrupts her.

“Yes, I had my dream and followed my heart rather than my mind. I always wanted to be a writer more than having a successful career. My husband and kids never got to understanding it. My husband and I sadly separated, when the gradually built up small differences amalgamated into bigger ones. My husband is a wealthy man, and my children see in him a means to satisfying their dream of a materialistic fulfilling life-style. That is why they too left me to live with my husband. I wish I could make them realize that fulfillment in life comes from pride of achieving your dreams. I will never give up on my writing, though I wish I had my family with me.”

On hearing Charlotte’s story, Yogi is lost in thought, as he empathizes with Charlotte’s loneliness.

***

Weeks pass and Yogi’s term comes to an end. Many a times he was let off the rent because of his ever fascinating stories. Neither Yogi or Charlotte could even vaguely manage to convey their feelings for each other during the whole term of their interaction. Yogi’s semester as an exchange student ends and he plans to tour New Zealand before finally returning to India from Melbourne. Charlotte in the meantime pens the short stories she has heard from Yogi and realizes that she feels very close to him. She appreciates his maturity and understanding of life, which is reflected in his stories.

Yogi had talked to Charlotte a couple of times on phone during his tour and had promised to meet her before he  finally leaves Melbourne. During his taxi ride from the airport, Yogi fondly remembers his early days when he had landed in Melbourne and his ride in the rumbling tram to Charlotte’s place. Things had been so uncertain then. He had indeed had a fulfilling time in Melbourne with memories he would cherish a lifetime. When he reaches House No. 42, he is awe-struck seeing Charlotte at the door in a gorgeous evening gown. Charlotte excitedly takes him to her Living Room, where they talk uninterruptedly for a while recalling past times.

 “So now no story telling deal?” Charlotte jokes.

“That will continue in my letters from India.”

“I wish you would never leave and time stops here.” Charlotte utters.           

“Okay, I will tell you a last story before I leave…”, Yogi says his voice choked with emotions. “A young girl lived in a small village in Bali, Indonesia. Since her childhood, she had a fantasy that she was a child of the sea. Her notion became stronger with age as she grew up into a very attractive woman.

“Many young men would plan their day’s schedule such that they would cross her path, and attract attention. Little were they aware that she had started liking an elderly fisherman, as he would go to the sea since morning and return before twilight. She had started believing that like her too, he was born from the sea.

“Her bewildered parents thought that she preferred elderly men to boys of her age. After much persuading her, they got her to marry an elderly doctor. Soon the doctor realized that their married life was miserable, as the girl was stuck with her notion of being a sea-girl. He decided to help her out of the situation and took her on a cruise. During the trip he educated her about the evolution of human beings and how we all start being surrounded by water in the womb, which was quiet similar to her impression as being born of the sea.

“The girl realized how much the doctor cared for her and fell in love with him and they lived happily ever after.” Yogi ended.

“As I understand it”, Charlotte muses, “you are saying that when two minds meet, whatever the age difference may be, love is born? And if this has anything to do with us, tell me now.”

Yogi affectionately takes Charlotte in his arms and kisses her.

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