The Big C


The two men sat at the bar of the dingy little pub, a beer clutched in each hand. They didn't know each other, but it's said that no one's a stranger in a pub. Soon, they started talking.

Akhilesh had been in the Kargil war, and had survived to live the tale. It had emboldened him in a lot of ways, to the extent that sometimes, he thought himself to be invincible.

Bimal had had a quiet life. Working in a government job most of his life, he hadn't really had the most exciting of lives. He had worked hard most of his life, and it was only during the last few days of his life that he started frequenting the pubs of Delhi.

"Big fan of Foster's I see," said Bimal, as Akhilesh started on his fourth bottle. Akhilesh wasn't all that much in the mood for a chat, so he just smiled gently at the old man sitting next to him, trying to ignore him. "I've somehow been a bit too loyal to the Indian brands; Mohan Meakin's to be more precise," continued Bimal, "hence the taste for Golden Eagle. You've tried it?"

Akhilesh still ignored Bimal. However, there's something about having a drink or two that really makes you not care if someone's listening or not. This was almost the case with Bimal on this particular night. He'd downed seven bottles already, and was on his eighth.

"I've earned the right to live life precariously I think. God himself gave me that sign, by showing me that I don't really have those many days left in my life anymore. I should make the most of whatever little days I have at my disposal." These lines got Akhilesh interested, in spite of his best efforts to ignore this man. Bimal noticed that he had finally gotten the audience he was craving for; he cleared his throat, and told Akhilesh the punch line of his little story.

"I've been diagnosed with the Big C. The Doctors say that I've got a year more to live, maybe a little less."

***

Akhilesh had not been a stranger to death. Being in the army means that you are surrounded by it, and you don't have a choice. Yet, somehow Bimal's story was like an iron fist to the stomach. The fact that winded him more was that he didn't even know this man… and yet he was affected by his illness, in some weird way. That night, Bimal and Akhilesh didn't drink much once they got to talking. Bimal spoke about his life, about all the things that he had wanted to do in life. He told him how he had believed that old bearded man who had told him he would live till at least a hundred and ten. "I've been robbed of thirty years, I should sue!" Bimal joked.

He talked about his many loves – for the woman he had married and shared his life with, for the colors of the world, for the sunrise, and the sunset. He opened Akhilesh's eyes to his love for life itself.

Akhilesh listened to every word that Bimal said, and the talk sobered both of them – so much so that they didn't even sway once while they walked to door, a first for Akhilesh. Akhilesh used to think himself as a selfish man. That night he surprised himself, when he found that his eyes were moist as he walked into his little flat, and he knew that it wasn't for himself.

***

Akhilesh and Bimal started meeting regularly. Since he was starting to get weak, Akhilesh would visit Bimal's house. One day, Akhilesh found Bimal staring at a big blank canvas, a palette of colors in front, and a brush in his hand. The canvas seemed to be begging for the first stroke of the brush, yet Bimal couldn't deliver. "I've already ruined four canvases. I've always wanted to be a painter, yet nothing I make on the canvas makes any sense. Have you done anything of this sort before?"

"I have no idea how to paint. I've never done it, nor have I ever been interested in it. I guess you start by some random strokes, and just go on after that", said Akhilesh

Bimal touched the brush to the canvas for the first stroke, but something was lacking. He couldn't do it, the stroke came out all wobbly, and the next few strokes were the same. In the end, Bimal gave up the idea for the day.

"There's juice in the fridge, in case you want some. I had to get rid of the beers, my system can't take it anymore", Bimal told Akhilesh.

***

Bimal tried his hand at painting a number of times, but there was no success. Soon, he found that the simple act of going outside, standing and attempting to paint was becoming more and more tiresome for him. From then on, whenever Akhilesh came to visit him, the unfinished painting used to be the first one to greet him. Bimal had told Akhilesh that he would move it somewhere else, but Akhilesh insisted on letting the painting be exactly where it was. He convinced Bimal to keep the painting where it was, and also instructed the caretakers not to move the painting – no matter what Bimal said.

Bimal was growing thinner with every passing day. It was evident that he wouldn't last long, but he still looked forward to the time Akhilesh would come over, and talk to him for a few hours. He had a number of visitors, but to him Akhilesh was different. In his presence, Bimal felt different too, almost the same way he did when he had met Akhilesh the first time at that bar of the dingy little pub.

"I wish I had the talent enough to paint the myriad of colors on the sky, on those special days. If only I had heeded what my mother had told me a long time ago, and had gone for those painting classes…"

"Don't think so much. You've done a fairly good job with that canvas outside. We can always tell everyone its modern art", said Akhilesh.

They chuckled at that small joke, and then Bimal went back to looking outside of the window, at the red hue painted over the skies, at the beautiful sunset.

***

It was on a beautiful, cloudless day, that Bimal never woke up in the morning, and missed the sunrise. The funeral was arranged at the place Bimal had chosen, a little bit away from the hustle bustle of the city. A mokshadham in the suburbs was where Bimal had wanted his body to be cremated, be one with the earth and the skies, with that last puff of smoke. There were quite a few visitors, some of whom cried. Akhilesh wondered how many of them knew how much Bimal had wanted to paint, but couldn't do that till the end.

While coming out of the crematorium, Akhilesh chanced a look at the skies. It was exactly the way Bimal had described he wanted it to be – the hue of the skies, the mix of blue with violet, yellow with red, the distinct orange in the sky that made it look unique. He was the only one in the whole crowd who smiled when he saw that scene.

"There's your masterpiece, Bimal. You finally made it", said he.


 

***

Image Courtesy Deltasly

40 comments :: The Big C

  1. nice one.....but i think there is mistake in the last para first line...shudnt it be akelesh rather than bimal....

  2. Awwwwieeeeeeeeeee......good one!!!

    LOVED the narrative.

    No one's a stranger in a pub. True. Rather at the bar of a pub, I guess. ;)

    Isn't it amazing how b'ful everlasting relationships are started at the most unexpected of places ?

    And OMG! I suddenly wish that I hadn't left a lotta things I used to do as a kid - sketching, being one of them. :(

    Once again, you're back. With a bang!, I must add. :P

  3. @ Ratul... nice to see that you were the first one to read it. And thanks for pointing out that error, corrected it... thanks man.

  4. @ bondgal... It is amazing how the least expected places can suddenly spawn a friendship so deep... I've experienced that quite a number of times myself. And yes, it's never too late to going back to the things you left a long time back, so go ahead and start sketching again :)

    Thanks a ton...

  5. "There's your masterpiece, Bimal. You finally made it", said he...
    Beautiful..
    You know, I wanted to read the last line of this story when I was just half way through..For some reason or may be sheer coincidence, the punch of your stories is in the last line.. I am not complaining about the narrative, ofcourse.

  6. @ Netika... Thanks a lot for reading and the comments... and I enjoy the punch being in the last line... although, I'm hoping it's not getting cliched now... is it?

  7. Hey it was wonderful arnab.....
    soncha nahi tha ki aise end hoga...
    good one...

  8. @ Mahesh... Thanks a lot.

  9. A good story, I like the beginning this time more than the rest of the post.... but i think i missed the ironic twist in the end.... as all ur stories mostly tend to end that way... Good job buddy!!!!! Keep writing!!

  10. @ Diva... I tried not to keep an ironic twist to the story this time, wanted to write something a little different. Good to know you liked it, thanks :) Cheers...

  11. ooppss...hey nw u have changed your writing style...
    anyways...Very well pen down...
    I like the whole storyy...but wht i felt... if u dont mind....
    It is too lengthy and in middle of this i lost interest but as u knw i m the dedicated reader so i hv to read the fulll
    Sorry....
    i liked your ending line...

    There's your masterpiece, Bimal. You finally made it", said he.

    Missed ur twist.....keep writing
    Cheers.. n hv fun..

    n yes this time i m late for comment.. haaaaaa....

  12. That was an amazing read dude... loved the flow of words....

    enjoyed it much... keep them coming :)

    take care... cheers...

  13. No no, not cliched.. Just that I could see the last line written in isolation and I guessed its going to be THE ONE. So, just because I have read other pieces of fiction from your end, I knew this one is going to have a great narration; I asked myself to wait. :)

  14. @ Pallav... Well, I wanted to change the style of writing a little bit this time, didn't want the posts to become stereotypical. Also, the post had become quite lengthy, something that even I noticed when I finished it... but then I didn't want to shorten it, wouldn't do justice to the story if I did. Thanks for sticking by, and reading till the end... :) cheers...

  15. @ Arv... Thanks a lot man, will surely try to keep them coming... cheers...

  16. @ Netika... I actually didn't want to have that twist in this post, somehow wanted to write in a slightly different style from the way I've written the last few stories. I hope you weren't too disappointed... :)

  17. A beauty there! Very nice. :) Loved that bit about no one being a stranger in a pub. True I guess. :) Good work, keep it flowing! Cheers! :)

  18. thnx....nd nice layout!!

  19. @ Tara... it somewhat is true, but somehow it's not restricted to the pub itself. Strange friendships occur at stranger places :) Thanks a lot for reading, cheers...

  20. @ blue eyed soul... Thanks a lot for visiting :)

  21. see..This one didn't even get a chance to burn out..somethings just have to fade away.. :)

    very well written..u really do have a gift..

  22. @ Niti... Yeah, in a way you are right I guess, but then again, exceptions should always be there... Thanks for reading, and liking the story.

  23. aye.. it my first time here.. and I have goosebumps. U'r a story teller? U say it wonderfully! :)
    I'll be reading ur previous stories soon! :)
    Good work!

  24. Good one! Enjoyed the pace at which u narrated it!

  25. @ Shruti... Welcome, and I hope you enjoy reading the stuff here. I am something of a storyteller, but just out of interest... I tell stories 'coz I like to :) Thanks for reading... cheers.

  26. @ akanksha... Welcome back! And I'm glad you enjoyed the change of pace in this one, I wanted to do things a little bit differently here...

  27. Okay..am doing that again...

    I have stood up frm my chair and I bow down to u... This is another awesome story frm u...

    How do you do that? How do u involve ppl so much into it?

    U r really good... and am sure u knw tht.

  28. @ Harshita... Thanks so much for those awesome comments, there's nothing more motivating than that for me to keep at it... and I guess the best bit for me is when the readers get involved, and leave comments on the posts, like u :)

    Thank You.

  29. khub bhalo laglo.

  30. when I was going through the story in the midway I thought it is going somewhere on the lines of "Last leaf" (by O'Henry)!!I was wondering how you are going to relate the canvas with the life of Bimal.Yes,you did it brilliantly:)

  31. Top-deck narration, buddy... I second Kunjal. Sidney Porter did come to mind whilst reading your composition.

    Tc.

    Peace.

  32. @ Preetilata... Dhonnobaad. Onek din baade dekha, amaro bhalo laglo.

  33. @ Kunjal... Thanks a lot. And yes, The Last Leaf by O'Henry... I just couldn't remember the name of that story! Thanks for that too man...

    Welcome to Technicolor Collage, have fun reading the stuff here. Cheers...

  34. @ Kartz... Thanks a ton man, for all that appreciation...

    Peace...

  35. Hey!!
    Thanks a ton for commenting !!
    Thanks for your warm wishes too ! :)

  36. @ Cursed... Thanks for reading. Welcome to Technicolor Collage :)

  37. Nice..
    Brilliant end ..

    Please do have a look at my attempt of stories ..

    http://arnavspeaks.blogspot.com/2009/02/confession-of-victim.html

    http://arnavspeaks.blogspot.com/2006/12/thing-to-dream-of-and-not-to-tell.html

    http://arnavspeaks.blogspot.com/2008/08/hum-bhi-insaan-hain.html

    http://arnavspeaks.blogspot.com/2009/02/courage-to-continue.html

  38. @ Arnav... Thanks for coming by and reading. Will surely visit your blog, and read through the stories too.

    Cheers...

  39. Ah....this is really very beautiful...
    I loved it :)

  40. @ Pavitra... Thanks a lot :)
    Cheers...