May 3, 2008 at 4:22 pm (Shiladitya Sarkar, Short Story)

Algae grow over the carved path that leads to her house. At night, away from her, Aniket waters the plants in a small roof-top garden. Each time he passes a row, he concentrates, careful not to water more than necessary. But sometimes he forgets. The spray can, held at a slant, keeps dripping. At such times, with the water trailing near his feet, the sides of his kurta wet, the green of the leaves dark under the muted terrace bulb, he is overcome with guilt remembering his small room. The room where paper-flowers flutter whenever the south wind blows in. Each flower dangles on a dry stem once the fan is turned on. 


Evening. On the pavements in the city’s busiest crossing, young lads sell jasmines. His girlfriend buys some, smells them while walking. He keeps himself on the side of the traffic, careful that she doesn’t trip or hit a lamppost. To ease her, he talks of many things, often about the flowers he grows in his rooftop garden: golden marigolds, karabi, water lilies…


“Must be a gardener,” she tells her friends.


“Bring some flowers for me,” a friend requests. “My vase is empty,” a cousin pleads. “Roses would look lovely by my harmonium,” a neighbour wishes.


Aniket’s room is near the staircase landing. On his way up or down, he meets many people. They greet him, say a hello; they ask for his flowers too, those that he grows in his garden. He tells them his stock won’t make stunning ikebana. He has no elegant bonsai to offer.  Maybe, some marigolds or a dahlia.


She visits him, often in the afternoon.


“Let’s sit outside,” he tells her. She hesitates, her face marked with a frown, as if surprised listening to the flutter of coloured plastic sheets inside the room. He switches off the fan. He wipes off the glue stains on the floor. He insists they sit by the terrace door. But she wants him in his room, by the window. She moves around the space slowly, careful not to miss a step. He grows afraid. What if she finds the touch alien … what if the glue smells give away his deceit? He then talks of many unconnected things: how a snail is different from a shark, a pebble from flowing lava.


“Do rolling stones ever gather any moss?” she asks abruptly. He laughs, thinking how the simple word ‘pebble’ has taken her mind towards a proverb. A week before, on a Sunday, she asked if he knew of any landscape artist. He mentioned a few names which sounded strange to her. “Artists,” he said, “wonderful painters.”



“No … not them. An office colleague will be moving to a new apartment building next August. He wants a landscape designer to do up the complex.”


Alone at night, watering the flowerpots on the rooftop, Aniket wonders what it takes to be these unique gardeners, folks who doll up concrete spaces with a green lie.


He wonders, notepad in hand, how tiring it would be to tame and trim the nature.



An old lady, his neighbour, whispers, “What is her name, the one who visits you?” Eyes glistening, the old lady adds, “Isn’t she lovely?”



“A nice girl,” he replies. “Loves flowers, most.”



 Shiladitya Sarkar




1 Comment


    enjoyed reading the story ….

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