• anjali mohapatra

Contented!!

I took a deep breath, and gazed at the huge photo of my dad and mom, hung on the wall. Both were looking gorgeous, magnificent in their young age, when they tied their sacred knot. Then, I walked slowly towards the teapoy, poured the blackish hot water and milk on the cup, sipped the hot tea leisurely.

The well designed album on the side table, drove my attention. I smiled silently, turning the pages of my album. I was fascinated, went through more. All my past year memories with my dad, nanny and my friends are restored in a single album. Almost all are gone, except few still alive, including myself. A particular photo in Paris hill top, where dad made a funny face just to make me laugh, lured me most. For a second, I rewound that beautiful memory. I engrossed so much in the bygone days images, felt like it happened yesterday!

* * *

A curved road leads to that famous church in the hill top in Paris. I can't remember the name of that church, but the view around it, is still in my mind! Dad had a business conference in Paris, and as usual I accompanied with him, being his sole business partner. I was walking along with dad to see the historic church. So many other passengers, mostly foreign visitors were also had the same destination. I looked around the side views of the road. It looked so weird, when I came across the sign boards, written- ‘Be aware of pickpocket!’

‘Pickpocket?!’ I repeated the word and surprised. Dad gazed at me nodding his head. He was breathing heavily, as he climbed up. ‘Yeah! All around the world, similar things happen, nothing new about it,’ dad said grasping his breath. We continued our walk, till we reached at the spot.

The church was at the top of a hilly area. Down the church, a wide area was encircled by a steel fence. One telescope was fixed near the fence for the visitors to enjoy the distant views. I stood near the fence. Every thing down the hill seemed so small, like - houses, buildings, trees.. everything. I was searching, if I could see the famous Eiffel Tower from that spot. But it wasn't. The amazing part was- a silver coloured stone statue was there on the passage, leading to the front door of the church. Dad preferred to make that statue as a background. So, he turned his back to the statue, made a funny face, and asked me to stand by his side, then asked a photographer to take our snap. It was done. Instantly, I screamed aloud and, thrust myself back, and dad fell back on the other side as the statue hunched over us. I was stunned! ‘Oh my goodness! A man, not a statue! I can't believe it! Dad, look at him.’

‘Incredible!’

‘Yep!’dad waggled his head.

We all laughed.

However, I knew dad could handle the meeting without me, so after spending some time over the hill top, we changed our directions in two different directions. I just stepped out for a window shopping in Parish, and dad went for conference. But, before leaving that place, dad reminded and warned me about the larceny. I shook my head over confidently, ‘I know, dad. Relax!’ I called a cab, started my journey in the heart of Paris- the dream land of millions!

Besides five story buildings, and wide road, the alleys were spread out, where visitors sometimes lost themselves. I left my cab, walked down on the pavement for my window shopping. Few shops were closed, others were crowded with regular customers. While strolling around, across the road near a closed shop, I saw a young man playing guitar, his hat was kept on his side. He was cool, just devoted to the music. People were putting cash in his hat, whatever amount they wish. I never knew that people in Paris too, had this style of earning. ‘Certainly, he earns money in a sophisticated manner!’ I mumbled myself.

After roaming around nearly two hours, I was too tired, and hungry too. I never bought any food for myself. It was always served by the attendants. Suddenly, I felt ‘who cares for rich or poor’! What was my identity over here? Few seconds later, a soft voice distracted me.

‘Excuse, me?’

I turned over my shoulder. A young boy was asking me. I paused a moment, then said, ‘Yes! What do you want?’

He grinned at me, said, ‘Nothing.’

‘But just now, you..’ before I completed my sentence, he babbled out, ‘You hungry? Want restaurant? Come with me, I will show you a decent Indian restaurant.’

I was stunned! ‘How do you know, I am Indian?’

‘Guessing,’he chuckled again.

‘Oh, thanks!’ I appreciated.

My tummy was crunching so badly, I couldn't guess anything, simply nodded my head. He gestured and went ahead of me. I followed him without a word. When I realised that I have left the main road, it was too late. Just near a turning, the boy went so fast, I couldn't see him anymore. Instead, I was surrounded by four five young adults. Suddenly, I lost my sense, God knows how long! They might had used something to make me senseless. After that! ‘God, damn it! I was robbed. My bag, my diamond necklace, everything had vanished!’

I wished to scream at the top of my voice, but stopped trying vague attempt! I looked around, then sat on a patio nearby that road. My mind was completely blank! ‘No money, no card, nothing what can I do?’ I mumbled. My vision became a little blurry, might be the effect of something that they applied to me to make me nauseous.

From a little distance, a figure (somebody) was coming towards me. My bleary eyes were trying to identify but I couldn't. When it came too close to me, I jumped off, frowned and yelled loudly, ‘You??!! Stupid junk! How dare you!??!!’

‘Whoa, whoa! Hang a second! Look, these are your cards, right?’ he tossed the cards.

‘Give me back, or you will be in jail, I swear to God!’

The young boy quirked his lips, said, ‘Fine! Now, go. You will never get it back!’

I didn't want to loose my cards. I thought for a while. I had no mood to compromise with the little punk.

The boy stepped ahead, talked to me in a cool voice, ‘Ma’am! They would hit me, if come to know about these cards. Please, take it and disappear.’

I gave a stern look at him. ‘A new trick?’ I asked fiercely.

‘No, just to help you.’

‘Then, why did you do it, at the first place?’

‘I had no choice, or I would die empty stomach!’

For a moment, I kept silent, then extended my hand for cards. He handed over all my cards to me and turned back. I called him, ‘Hey, what’s your name?’

‘Why?? Appelez-vous la police??’

‘No, no, no la police! Tell me your name.’

‘Thomas,’then he ran away quickly. Only a feeble voice echoed, ‘I am not a thief….’

I didn't know, a strange feeling gripped me tightly!! ‘Poor boy!! He must be a destitute, and now under the guidance of some wrong people. But why do people opt for social crime? Nobody is a born thief, or pickpocket, or anything from mother’s womb! Perhaps, want and need with social pressure, force a person to choose it’s path!’ I had woven intricately so many stories about these robbers. I felt pity for that little boy. The boy disappeared from my sight.

Somehow, I managed to link the main road, hired a taxi, and started for the most luxurious hotel in Paris, where Dad and I were staying.

Dad was really worried for my delay. When I reached there, immediately he questioned, ‘Any problem? How was your day, sweetie? Why so late?’

‘Nothing great. I lost my diamond necklace and my mobile. I was robbed.’

‘Hmm.. I told you!’

‘Sorry, dad!’

‘Well, don't worry for necklace. We can buy another one. It’s already late. Let’s move to dining hall for dinner.’

After a little while, I freshened up myself, then we walked towards the dining hall. Amazing dining hall! People were enjoying the delicious intercontinental food. Being tired, I shortly finished my dinner, and went to bed. But, I couldn't sleep well. Maybe, the robbery or that little young boy’s words, haunted me time and again.

This was the second instance for my emotional feeling!! The first incident occurred in Somalia. Few years back, in Somalia, I really felt miserable for the Somalian children! When I was distributing some dry food, books, toys and other accessories to the children there. A six year old boy looked at me, hiding his face behind his mom’s torn out long gown. I couldn't connect them because of their local language, so I used one translator to help me. Neither the Somalians could understand me.

I gestured that boy to take a toy, but he just glared at me. At one point, I was busy to sort out the toys, suddenly a soft hand draped around my neck and a sweet kiss touched my cheek. I was astonished, and lifted my face. That same boy stood before me, showing his half baby teeth. His sparkling dark eyes filled with happiness! I hugged him. I didn't know how and why I did that! It was a startling experience!! Never before, I felt that feeling!

He held my little finger and pulled me to follow him. Even though my personal guard objected, I went with him. He took me to his house. I was overwhelmed with their hospitality. Dilapidated house, broken vessels and the other assets, gave me a distinct idea of their poverty. But, even within that condition, his elder sister offered me her home made dishes. Perhaps, that love and affection, I was never offered by anyone anywhere! I ate it. I have no words to express our happiness! In due time, I departed from them, but their sweet, unadulterated love drew a deep impression in my heart!

From that day onwards, already my brain cells started war between themselves to identify what exactly a life is!!! Maybe, the second incidence of that young boy, ignited my sleepy mode! I rolled on the bed, tried my best to have a sound sleep! At last, after 3:30 a.m, I had no more thoughts!

* * *

Already sixty years passed, when dad first time officially announced, me as the sole partner of his company. I was twenty-seven, then. I had attended every single meeting with dad, across the countries. Enough experience of life! Before his death, he assigned all his property in my name.

Right now, I am eighty-seven! Perhaps, within these tenure, my brain got matured to opt for a good and final decision. Hierarchically, there is no one after or before me. I never got married. Yesterday, I announced something, because of which there is a huge rush in my house today! People are waiting for me, down the hall. I gave a final look at my ‘dad and mom’s photo, then whispered, ‘Dad! You made me a multimillionaire! You would be surprised tomorrow, it would hit the headline of news papers and magazines too, but hopefully you would be happy! I have completed the right disposal of your huge property! Don't worry. I have duly arranged to live for the rest of my life- a simple life! The rest of the money is properly donated.’

I am fully contented, dad!! I can die peacefully!

The sound of intercom broke the sanctity of the room! I responded with a short answer ‘Coming’

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