September 13, 2005

the girl who read a little boy’s story

this picture has been haunting me since a long time now.

it belongs to a book of short stories, russian i think, that i had read when i was really really small. my father had got it from one of the churchgate streets, where books are priced at rs 5. i don’t know why i think they are russian stories, maybe because i still have some of the sketches i made from this book. and the author had a russian sounding name. i don’t recall the last time i saw the book. maybe, as we grew up, my sister and i, it got bundled along with all the other amar chitra katha and indrajal comics we used to read, and is still lying at a raddiwala‘s shop somewhere, or on someone else’s bookshelf.

the picture (in the book, and one-that-keeps-coming-to-me) is of a little boy, about five i think. golden, shiny hair, like the artists paint of blond people in flesh tones. the boy is wearing a loose white shirt, full puffed sleeves with a bright button at the wrist. it looks like he is cared for and loved, but he is sad. in his hand he holds a brand new trumpet, golden, like his fine hair.

the boy had always wanted the trumpet so he could play it for his grandfather, who is his only best friend. his parents buy him a trumpet, but almost immediately forbid him strictly from playing it. “son,” they say, “you must not play a trumpet when there is a death in the family, especially when it is your grandfather’s.”

i remember reading the story as a child, and how it had a terrible effect on me even then. i remember thinking of my own grandmothers, and imagining their death. of the jaggery-wheat laddoos i would never get to eat. i remember being frightened by the very idea. i remember having decided at that very moment, with the book still in my hands, that i would never ever want anything so bad…because wishes have such bad endings.

ps: well, coming back to the point of this post, does anyone remember reading this story, or where i can find the book again?

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