A part-time Gift

Written in response to: Write a story about a teenager whose family is moving.... view prompt


Friendship Inspirational Teens & Young Adult

‘Great! We’re done,’ remarked Sanjay, surveying the covered furniture, closed curtains and the three large blue suitcases.

He sniffed as he recalled his childhood in this old manor, right in the middle of nowhere. The old radio still stood on the cabinet, its antenna protruding like a spike; right where his grandfather played Kishore Kumar’s songs while sipping his morning tea.

Sanjay shoved his hands in his jeans and walked to the kitchen. At once, his nostrils seemed to fill with the overwhelming aroma of hot vadas made on Diwali. He ran his fingers over the dusty oven his family had bought years ago in a sale (and never used) as the dust made him cough.

‘Bro! Are you coming or not?!’ yelled Arjun from outside. He was the most excited about going to Mumbai.

‘Give me a moment, will you?’ retorted Sanjay to his younger brother, annoyed at having his stupor interrupted.

‘—and bring that album too, Sanju!’ his mother added.

Sanjay rolled his eyes. He walked upstairs and opened the old cupboard, an army of cockroaches flying past his ears. He waved them away and pulled the drawer open. Shifting the yellowed-papers aside, he located the album and brushed the dust off its leather cover. He sighed and tucked it under his elbow, and began proceeding downstairs rather slowly.

It was just that summer when he had finished his school. Right when he was thinking of enjoying his long holidays with his best friend Ravi, his father had received a transfer letter to Mumbai. Everyone was thrilled to live in Mumbai. His mother had delightedly announced that she would send him to St Xavier’s college while his ten-year-old brother maintained that he would one day roam all Mumbai.

Much unlike others, Sanjay did not quite share the others’ elation at moving to a city. He did not wish to live his home behind. All he wanted to do was to stay there, stroll among the towering cypresses, tread on the soft grass cushion, lay down by the pond and gaze up at the blue, undivided sky. He knew that Mumbai would bring greater opportunities for him; but it wouldn’t necessarily bring greater happiness. Their place there would always be a house: never a home.

Shaking himself mentally, Sanjay hoisted his backpack on his shoulders and turned for one last look at his childhood home. Never before had he appreciated how beautiful the mango tree looked with its boughs spreading open in a welcome embrace. Strangely, it felt as if he hadn’t spent enough time with the tree even though he sat beneath it nearly every day.

‘Come on, bro! We’re getting late!’ groaned Arjun.

The family hurled their suitcases in the car trunk, with a lot of grunts and snorts from Sanjay’s father and Sanjay. Everyone contentedly sat down as Sanjay opened and closed the door for his mother, brother and father.

‘Are you coming? Or I should invite you with a formal invitation?!’ barked his father, turning the ignition on when Sanjay had silently stood outside his car for nearly five minutes.

Sanjay looked back wistfully and opened the door to sit down when—

‘Sanju!! Wait!!!’ panted Ravi, galloping to him and grabbing his shoulder for support. ‘I was…coming!’

Sanjay grinned broadly and threw his arms around his best friend’s neck. He ran his hand through Ravi’s short, curly hair and his leather jacket. ‘I was thinking you wouldn’t come,’ he said softly.

Ravi pulled back. ‘Are you mad?! How could I miss saying goodbye to my best friend?’ his voice choked slightly on the last word and he looked away, blinking furiously. He exhaled and pressed a small wooden box with the letters ‘R’ and ‘S’ untidily carved upon the lid.

Sanjay pulled the lid open and raised his eyebrow slightly. It contained a handful of sand.

‘A fist of sand as parting gift?!’ snorted Arjun, peering over from the car window. He giggled. Ravi wiped his hands on his trousers.

‘G-good luck,’ said Ravi, holding out his hand.

Sanjay nodded; but no words left his lips. All the things he had been planning since days for this moment just washed out like a layer of sand when washed with water. He gripped Ravi’s hand and shook it firmly, trying to control his eyes from swelling. At last, both friends let their restrained tears roll down their cheeks as they hugged each other possibly for the last time.

Seven years later, Dr. Sanjay was sitting in his cabin after finishing his last OPD patients at Dreamlight Hospital, Mumbai. He took off his rectangular glasses and leaned back in his chair, letting his eyes drift around the square room.

Several photos hung on the wall behind him; almost showing his entire life from infancy to adulthood. That day, however, his eyes were locked on his SSC batch photo. A faint smile passed on his lips as he remembered his school days and how much fun he had with his chum Ravi and how they had accidentally broken their science lab’s apparatus and hid it secretly (under the cabinet).

His eyes then passed on the little hourglass his wife had gifted him. He looked back at Ravi’s photo and sprang up. The meaning had finally clicked.

Sanjay walked over his private cabinet and took out a small wooden box with the letters ‘R’ and ‘S’ untidily carved on its lid. He slid it open and ran his fingers over the cool, soft sand.

The sand, unlike time, was slippery. It was not just a tool to measure time; it was time itself: their time. The evenings they had spent wandering on the beach, the times they had raced along the rippling waves, the times they had aimed at their neighbors’ trees to enjoy fruits and what not! It was not just a handful of sand; it was a hand full of time.

And it was the best parting gift Sanjay had ever received in his entire life.

February 11, 2022 09:29

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