Saturday, August 04, 2007

Vanilla

Hmm....so i decided it was time to start writing my fifteen minute stories again, in which I just pick up a random friend and then spin a story around him/her in fifteen minutes. sadly my writing skills seem to be rather rusty, and I ended up writing it in 25 minutes, and it didnt even turn out great. Oh well.... haven't blogged for a long time....so thought I'd put it up. Please do tell me your views...um...criticisms...whatever!







Amit closed his eyes and took a deep breath, taking in the thick salty ocean air, feeling his lungs slowly inflate with a heaviness he had never been able to comprehend. He had missed this so much, the sounds, the smells. Taking off his shoes, he rolled up his pants and started walking along the beach, the wet sand curling warmly between his toes, only to be washed away by a frothy wave. He looked at the horizon, wondering what all lay beyond his view, beyond his reach. And as usual he had that odd feeling that there was something awaiting him out there, right beyond the horizon, hiding from him, teasingly calling him towards itself.

Seating himself down on an expanse of smooth black rocks, he sighed. Why was he here? This isolated beach was peaceful, yet it brought no respite to him. He knew there was something here for him; he just had to find it. Looking out at the endless expanse of water, he thought about his life. It had been rocky, and uncertain, but now it was stable. He was rich, had a beautiful wife and kids who loved him a lot. What more could he possibly want from life? Satisfaction eluded him, however hard he tried. It was like a constant itch, which kept reappearing at odd spots every time he scratched it.

There was a pleasant wet sensation on his cheek, and he sat up with a jerk, surprised that he had dozed off. He turned around to see a golden retriever next to him, tongue hanging out and panting from a recent exertion. Patting him, he looked past the animal to identify the owner, but the beach was empty. It was only him and the dog.

“Where did you turn up from?”

The dog barked, wagging its tail twice as fast. It nestled up to Amit, and after a few minutes, deciding that it had had enough adoration, let out a woof and headed off.

“Wait!” Amit looked at the dog, now running away from him. He didn’t want it to leave, somehow, not wanting to be alone with his thoughts again. Then, without thinking twice, he headed after the dog. They left the beach and headed towards an expanse of land with dense overgrown trees that Amit had always assumed was uninhabited. But as he made his way through the thick undergrowth, a small cottage came into view. It was old and tattered, yet there was a homely feel to it. As the dog headed straight through the open door, Amit paused, suddenly very uncertain. As he turned around and started walking back to the beach, a voice called out to him,
“Oi! Where are you going?”
An old man had appeared from inside the cottage, the retriever bouncing along behind him.
“Um… Actually… I was just…”
“Why don’t you come inside?”
Amit looked at the old man. He seemed too frail to actually be dangerous. Finally, realizing that it would probably be an interesting experience, Amit nodded, and followed him inside. The cottage was small, but cozy. The wall was adorned with framed photographs of picnics and what appeared to be the old man’s family. He pointed to a small wooden dining table, and Amit took a seat, the retriever now resting its head on Amit’s lap, looking up at him with sad gleaming eyes.
“That’s Brutus.” Said the man, in a gruff voice. “And I’m Suraj Patel.”
“Amit.” He paused, wondering what he was even doing inside this house with a stranger. “I’m sorry Mr. Patel, I didn’t know anyone lived on this beach. I hadn’t meant to disturb you”
“No no!! Not at all...” Mr. Patel shook his head as he walked slowly towards the kitchen and opened the fridge. “It gets very lonely here at times. Mind you…I love this place, but it’s always nice to have company every now and then.”
He removed a huge carton of ice cream from the freezer and placed a bowl in front of Amit.
“Here… You’ll love this.” And with that he started scooping out huge chunks of vanilla ice cream.
“Um.. Thanks, but no thanks.” Amit hesitated, wondering what was the best way to refuse without being rude. But then he just went along with the truth. “I’m not really fond of vanilla.”
Mr. Patel suddenly stopped, the spoon in his hand frozen midway between the carton and the bowl. He looked at Amit with a very odd expression, whether it was anger or shock, he couldn’t tell. Weirdly, it seemed almost like…amusement.
And then suddenly, the old man’s face broke into an understanding smile. “Aah… you know, I was very much like you when I was your age.” He paused, served out the ice cream for himself then took a seat opposite Amit, who by now was feeling quite uncomfortable and confused.
“In what sense?” he finally asked.
Mr. Patel took a bite of the ice cream, and his face relaxed into a serene expression, one of pure pleasure. “Well, I just didn’t like Vanilla ice cream. I liked fudge, and black current and all those other exquisite flavours, but never plain Vanilla.. it was just too….well…vanilla.”
“Hmm..” Amit couldn’t really think of anything else to say. “It’s not a big deal. I’m just not too fond of the flavour.”
“Oh but it was a big deal for me.” Continued Mr. Patel, still extremely engrossed in his bowl. “Ice cream was an obsession for me. Sadly, my house always had only vanilla stored in it. So I would go out everyday in search of new flavours. And oh my, did I ever come across the most delicious flavours! Butterscotch, cashewnut, mango, truffle, choco chip, strawberry, raspberry…everything imaginable…even bubble gum flavoured ice cream!”
Amit opened his mouth to interrupt but changed his mind halfway. The old man was obviously off his rocker. It was probably better just to humour him for some time and then leave.
“I would set out everyday, to new places in search of more exotic flavours. It was exciting, everywhere I went, I knew there was something better waiting for me out there. Hundreds of ice cream makers around the world, thousands of flavours… but everytime I returned home, I would find the freezers stocked with the same old vanilla ice cream. I didn’t even feel like touching it. Why should I, when I knew there were much better flavours in the world.”
“I travelled around the world, tasting everything possible, the best ice cream makers in every country, and they were delicious. Yet, none could satisfy me for long. I still hadn’t found that perfect flavor, the one that would give me enough pleasure to suffice for life, which I could stock up on, and remove that awful Vanilla which would just not budge from my freezer.”
Amit wanted to ask him why he didn’t stop stocking the Vanilla ice cream, but Mr. Patel went on, by now seemingly lost in his own world. He seemed to be narrating the story to himself, only briefly aware of Amit’s presence.
“I knew I was going to find it, it was only a matter of time. But time was running out. I was starting to grow older, and the obsession for the perfect flavor seemed to have taken over me. Until one day, when a storm came, trapping me inside my house. However much I tried, I just couldn’t get out. The thought of all the pineapple and sundaes and splits out there tortured me day and night. And the very thought of vanilla revolted me. But as the days moved on, and the storm didn’t seem to b showing any signs of giving up, I felt defeated. I dragged myself down to the fridge and took out the vanilla ice cream and took a tiny bite, just enough to keep the bad dreams away for some time.”
Despite himself, Amit felt a slight curiosity arise within. “And you liked it?”
“Weirdly, my boy, I absolutely loved it. I couldn’t believe that the perfect flavor had been right there in front of my eyes the entire time, and I had kept leaving its comfort and going to far off places to search for it!”
But then, it was after all, just vanilla.”
“Just vanilla? Are you crazy?” the old man seemed hurt, and Amit wished he had kept his mouth shut. “Don’t you see the beauty of Vanilla? It’s simple taste, without which no other flavor would be possible? The slight saltiness mixed with the sweetness… the peaceful and comforting colour… and you know what the best part about vanilla is? The amount you can do with it!”
Amit raised his eyebrows, wondering why he was still sitting here listening to a batty old man. Yet, he stayed glued to his seat.
“You can add nuts to it, all kinds of them. You can add chocolate sauce on it, or make milkshakes or mix it up with other flavours, or add strawberry syrup, or…”

Amit sat on the rocks, staring at the horizon, waiting, for what, he wasn’t sure. He was so used to it by now that he barely felt anything wrong with sitting on the rocks and gazing at the sea for hours. Yet something was nagging him, a constant weight inside him, but he couldn’t understand what it was. It had been there for quite a few days now; it had been tugging at him, following him wherever he went. It stayed in his mind even when he sat on the rocks, or when he slept. Nothing seemed peaceful anymore. He wanted to get rid of the feeling, yet however much he’d try, he just couldn’t go back to his old state when he used to come to the beach. As the sun set over the horizon, casting a red blanket on the surroundings, something in Amit’s mind clicked, and he finally made a decision. And he knew it was the correct decision, the weight inside him already seemed a bit lighter.

He went back to his room, and within fifteen minutes had packed all his belongings back into his backpack. Getting into the car, he took one last look at his surroundings, and for once didn’t regret it at all. This time things were different, he could feel it, he was different.

He drove back home, back to his family and his life, humming to himself all the way, stopping just once, to buy himself a tub of vanilla ice cream.

3 comments:

Hemant said...

true (i.e. if I understood the underlying theme)

Anugoonj Ranjan said...

yeh Amit kaun hai...????

btw tis a well marshalled piece of blog...theres a paucity of such organised writing in the blogger world...

Kudos!!!!

shreya said...

Thanks!! Got a nice comment after a long time. :)