Mar 20, 2011

Whimsy: Sally and Jack

Perhaps she should have known something like this would happen. Life has the strangest ways of closing circles. She understood this when he played ‘Sally and Jack’, that incredible melody which the other had sent her so long ago. For almost 2 years she’d listened to its plaintive melody as she read her books or fed the ducks in the pond nearby. Things had changed in the last 3-4 years and she’d gotten busier. ‘Sally and Jack’ had slumbered uninterrupted till he brought them back to life yesterday.

Ever since she came to know she’d finally see him face to face after almost a decade, she’d been wondering how it’d be like; what he’d have become – after all he was the one who’d been to the edge of the precipice and back. He was better now, she’d been told, but then better often turned out to be a poor substitute. 

Their first encounter was nothing like it was this time. How could it be? She’d been an undergraduate and he a lanky smart-alecky kid still in school!! She had been impressed by his vocabulary, his grasp of vernacular literature, but still he was just another smart kid. Over the years as the families grew more familiar, they both discovered a wealth of topics to talk about.  They talked and debated and discovered and laughed and grew.

Even the conversations would have been fine had it not been for amit dutta and the guitar classes that commenced. He’d call her up to find out which song she wanted him to learn during the week and go about resolutely mastering the most difficult melodies and beats. On her part, she was a tad miffed that nothing seemed too difficult for him. From nirvana, to billy joel, to eagles, to pink floyd, robindrosongeet, to Bangla rock, to grateful dead, and led zeppelin – he played them all for her. Perhaps that was the beginning. 

Later, sitting alone in Virginia when she heard that he’d gone missing somewhere in the bleak snow-clad Adirondacks, she often wondered if it’d been best if they’d never gone on the trip together. Nothing took place, nothing was argued about and yet it washed away everything that they shared. Space and time are great forces of division and she tried to make him comprehend that. But how could he? He was just a cocky 18 yr old who thought topping the JEE gave him immunity from rejections.

Much later came the stories of his disastrous marriage, the cancellation of admission at Virginia Tech, stories of his alcoholism, pneumonia, and his journey to the Adirondacks and finally threat of deportation from the US. She was in Virginia too, but she'd made no attempt to seek him out. But she'd thought of him often, wept and raged and prayed that he would pull through.

All this played on her mind as she rang the bell that evening. She wondered what he’d think of her. She had her children with her now, a few grey in her hair, and of course, a healthy dose of cynicism within her. Reality check - maybe he wouldn’t even remember her.

He’d put on a lot of weight, must be the steroids at the rehab, she mused silently. One minute she was ringing the bell and the next she found herself enveloped in the warmest embrace she’d experienced in a long long time. There must’ve been about a dozen people in the room and yet she was neither conscious of them nor mindful whether her 3-yr old son was putting his shoes outside the door as she’d taught him to.

Later it seemed incredible that they had spent that much time together that evening, next to each other, he playing one incredible song after the other. She cueing requests, he playing. In between, he’d request her for a drink or a soda or simply extend his hand for her to hold. He’d made her daughter sit on his other sit and taught her how to strum the cords on ‘ajeeb dastaan hai ye’ in a matter of a few minutes. They didn’t speak about what had transpired in Virginia, the hell he’d been unfortunate enough to glimpse at such a tender age, the lines it’d left under his eyes. He only asked her why she’d had tears when he started to play ‘sally and jack’. She told him.

She resolved that she’d spent the next day not doing any of the things she’d grown accustomed to. As she lazed in bed late the next morning, she recalled the moment when he’d suddenly strummed ‘keno megh ashey, hridoyo akashey, tomate dekhite chayena’ and almost on cue she’d picked up the tune and started singing. Everyone there had sat in stunned silence for they knew she didn’t sing anymore. Her sis-in-law, who’d  loved her robindrosongeet so much, had hugged her later. She smiled at its memory and opened her mail to send him an especially difficult tune after nearly a decade. Would he be able to do it again within a week, she wondered as she clicked on ‘Send’.


indiana said...

indeed a sad day for him if ever he reads this post hmm

drift wood said...


I guess then this piece of writing falls flat on its face! The idea was to explore a region of comfort, of redemption.

stonetemplepilot said...

Hey relax I'm just a totally warped armchair critic who doesn't know his A from his B's !!

D said...

More often than not, time and space are overrated. I hope she could see that finally.

drift wood said...


I dunno. They are dimensions that define and measure and carve so much of our lives.