SHE – But what’s wrong with gifting an AC?
ME – Look, all that an AC does is sucking the interior temperature and pushing it outside! Implication? The outside temperature continues to grow! That’s global warming!
SHE – Yeah.! I know the science!
ME – But knowing science is not enough. You would continue to use AC because the globe is warming and the warming continues.. Look.. Any Invention should, if possible, eliminate its need and not strengthen its necessity!
SHE – But I didn’t invent an AC! Willis Carrier did!
ME – Yeah.! But you are strengthening its necessity!
SHE – So what should we gift them? A ceiling fan?
ME – That won’t help the humidity!
SHE – But this is hill station! It’s never humid here!
ME – But what if after a year, they move to a coastal place? That would be humid!
SHE – That’s a maybe case! And maybe they have better things to pack and move than a ceiling fan!
ME – Let’s not gift them a ceiling fan!
SHE – Okay.! But you wanted to gift them something that would help them in the summer! You don’t want to gift an air cooler because it takes in water and in summer there might be water crisis! No to an AC because it would strengthen its necessity! Ceiling fan would not help in humidity! What’s left? Ice packs?
Silence followed by an exchange of mild laughter….
SHE – Let’s stick to my first plan! Let’s go for a bouquet and a gift voucher!
ME – That would be a fall back option, if we can’t decide on anything!
SHE- We better decide now! Once we cross the city, there are no shops near the resort to buy any gifts!
Silence… As I begin to think..
ME – Let us go-to a nursery!
SHE – Nursery? To gift an admission to their future kid, kids?
ME – No.! The plant nursery!
SHE – You planning to gift them..
ME – (interrupts) Yes.! You guessed it right! Planning to gift them seeds.! (Pause) and a pot! They can sow the seeds in the pot!
SHE – But I thought you would say plants, at least!
ME – That’s not a bad idea! We could gift them the plants!
SHE – Seriously! You want to walk into a wedding hall holding a flower plant!
ME – I had mango plant in mind! You know, with mangoes in them!
SHE – Seriously? Mango plant with mangoes in it? That’s called a mango tree! And I am not carrying a mango tree into the wedding hall
ME – Why not?
SHE – Two reasons! One, I don’t want to carry a mango tree into a wedding hall. Two, I can’t carry a mango tree! Not into a wedding hall, not into a restaurant! I can’t carry it anywhere, because I am not a superwoman!
She was right. How can I gift them a mango tree, if I can’t carry it.?
SHE – Unless…
ME – Unless..?
SHE – Unless it’s a Bonsai..
Bonsai is not a bad idea, I felt!
ME – That’s exactly, what I had in mind! Bonsai, that’s the word and the gift that I was looking for!
After buying the bonsai tree..
SHE – But you were so adamant about gifting them something that would help them beat heat!
ME – And who does it better than plants? The bonsai mango tree will live in their room, suck all the CO2, and give out oxygen! That would be cool! You know what; I should name this – The Mangold Star AC.!
SHE – ha ha… Like the Goldstar AC? That’s lame!
ME – May be its lame, but it’s still cool..! (Pause) And oh! Wait! Whenever the girl feels like having a mango, she need not climb the tree or pelt stones! Because it’s a bonsai tree and the fruit will be at hand’s reach!
SHE – And when the tree has no mangoes left?
ME – She can buy them from the market!
After arriving at the resort..
ME – What happened?
SHE – The receptionist is telling that they have only two rooms left and only one of them has AC.!
ME – And what did you say?
SHE – I told her that she is wrong!
ME – What?
SHE – Yes! They have two air conditioned rooms!
ME – Okay! Then we don’t have a problem right! Everything is sorted!
SHE – Yes! I shall be taking the one with the Bluestar AC and you will be taking the one with the Mangold Star AC..!
A moment of silence..
ME – That would be cool! (Laughs)
SHE- But, I have never danced before!
ME – Liar! Everyone would have! At least in their kindergarten days, you know during the annual day functions! Or At least in the bathroom!
SHE – But that’s different!
ME – So, I am right!
SHE – Right about what?
ME – About you dancing in the bathroom! That’s weird you know! Because, I only sing!
ME – Anyway! Imagine that this is going to be your last night before you die!
SHE – Who is going to kill me? You?
ME – I can! (Pause) I mean, I have the ability to!
SHE – Ah! Do you?
ME – Yes! I can choke you to death! Or may be stab you with the butter knife!
SHE – Butter knife is blunt! It can’t kill me!
ME – Ah! I don’t believe your word! Let me give a try!
I looked at the butter knife, picked it up and tried stabbing her!
A moment of Laughter….
SHE – See… I told you! Butter knives can’t kill me! (Laughs)
ME – Okay! Forget butter knife! But there could be earthquake, the pub roof might collapse! Some female might try using her deodorant! Since the deodorant is inflammable, the candle in the corner table might explode! The pub might catch fire! We might get roasted like chicken!
ME – Okay! That’s horrible death! Let’s imagine something that is less horrible! Oh! What if you swallow the chicken bone and choke to death!
SHE – Both of us know that it’s never going to happen! I don’t eat chicken!
ME – Or a potato! If you swallow it whole, even a potato can choke you to death! (Pause) Or maybe you step out of the pub; some drunk female runs you over on her scooter!
SHE – This is disappointing, I thought you would save me!
She puts up a sad face! Laughs exchanged..
ME – Anyways! My point is! Think that you are going to die this night! And that you will never be able to dance after this! So it’s now or never!
SHE – If it’s going to be my last night before I die, I have better things to do! I have a long bucket list!
ME – How long!
SHE – 53 items!
ME – 53? What weird wishes do you have in there? Things like Jumping into the volcano!
SHE – Now I have 54th entry in the list!
ME – What? You want to jump into the volcano! Seriously?
SHE – No! I would want to stand on the top of the volcanic mountain, stare down at the lava and photograph it!
ME – Or you might as well swallow the potato and choke to death!
ME – But seriously… why don’t you dance! Look around! So many people on the floor, dancing!
SHE – Yeah! But I can’t dance! I don’t know to dance!
ME – Come on! You just need to move your feet or may be sway a little! No one’s expecting you to do dance like Hrithik!
SHE – Yeah! But moving the feet or swaying the body, for that I need to feel the rhythm! I am bad at rhythms!
ME – Okay! Look at it this way! We have been sitting here, sipping onto our drinks for so long! Among that dancing lot, there are bad dancers as well as good ones! Do you remember any of their faces?
She thinks for a while and nods a no.
ME – There you go! You had better things to do than nit-picking! Same case with others! Those who are dancing are too busy with their dance! Those who are not dancing are either waiting to hit the floor or might be way too nervous! Just like you!
A moment of silence…
ME – Look! The bottom line is, this is not some stage program and the spotlight is not on you! Everyone has better things to do than watch you dance! So hold my hands and join me in the dance
She appears hesitant…
ME – Okay! Let’s try this! I shall go there, dancing alone for a minute or two! Like real bad dance! Ugly and weird! That way you might get inspired!
SHE – Inspired to do what? Dance badly?
ME – Dance decently! Or may be badly! Look I have already told you, no one’s going to remember your face! Give me a moment!
I got up and slowly joined the dancing crowd. I began to move my feet, then the torso and after a few seconds, the head!
The DJ moved onto the next track! I closed my eyes and began to shake my hands and legs wildly! The track continued for a minute or two and when the DJ changed the track, I opened my eyes to walk up to her and drag her into the dance.
And when I opened my eyes, I found myself in the middle of the crowd who had stopped dancing and were staring at me! Ugly stares!
I quickly walked up to her.
ME – I think we need to leave! People are laughing at me!
SHE – Come on! It’s okay!
ME – I danced real bad, didn’t I?
SHE – Yep!
ME – How bad?
SHE – Bad enough to inspire me!
And she dragged me into the dance floor. She started moving her feet, the torso and then the head!
She – Ah! That’s weird.!
Me – Weird as in good weird?
She – Bad weird! Every person wants to, you know run away from the routine. From the ecosystem they live in. Away from people they know, places they have been, sounds they have heard
Me – You might want to change that last statement!
She – Okay! Away from noise! To places filled with soft sounds..!
“Scarcely filled..!”, I offered a correction.
“Yes.. Scarcely filled! But the point is not that. The point is, you are telling me that you spend your vacation visiting market places! That’s bad weird”, she shrugged her shoulders.
Me – You don’t see my point! Life is not our loyal Butler. He doesn’t serve you with the best of the butter cakes!
She – Butter cakes? Eww..!
Me- Okay..! What cake do you like? Lemon pound cakes?
She – Plum cakes..!
Me – It has no butter?
She – No..! It has wine and plum..! I think we are moving away from the central discussion!
Me- Yeah.. We are. So yeah.. You see, life isn’t your loyal Butler. He doesn’t serve you with the best of the plum cakes. So you ought to train yourselves for the worst. So that when he serves you with the worst ones, you don’t have complains. And when he serves you with the delicious ones, you feel exhilarated
That was a beautiful explanation, I felt. I had offered a different perspective, a fascinating philosophy, a packet of wisdom, a capsule of happiness! Or at least I thought so.!
After five strides by the second hand of my tiny little watch, she spoke!
“You know what! That doesn’t make sense!”, She laughed.
I looked at her for a while.
“You know what! I think, even I have begun to feel the same, I said.
She was right! I had not served her with a fascinating philosophy, a packet of wisdom or a capsule of happiness! That was just a bucket load of nonsense!
“What did you write?” she sounded curious.
Rudwig smiled at her and pressed the paper into another fold. “Are you done yet?” he asked her, while putting the folded paper into an envelope.
“I thought I had all the time in the world”, she complained and buried her face back into the paper.
They were on the green grounds of Welsa, under one of the large Palmigo trees.
“But Willy will be here any minute. And I don’t want to include him in this game. This should stay between us, we two”, he issued his share of complaints. William was the other kid in the neighborhood. Rudwig had always insisted that Jenny should stay away from him.
“But Willy is a nice g..”, she was trying to put forth her argument, but Rudwig’s upset looks didn’t let her complete it.
After about five minutes, Jenny appeared content with whatever she had written. She looked at Rudwig and smiled.
“The paper, put it in that envelope”, he instructed her while pointing at the envelope that laid next to her.
After she pushed the folded paper into the envelope, he wrote their names on each of the envelope and sealed them in a plastic bag. He then put the sealed bag inside a large glass bottle and poured the blue colored liquid into it.
“What’s that?”, the ten year old Jenny asked him.
“I borrowed it from Uncle Hanks. He had told me that it prevents the paper from ageing and would keep it safe”, replied the eleven year old kid.
He then closed the lid of the bottle and lowered it into a hole that he had dug up in the ground. The 4 feet deep hole had taken him more than an hour to dig.
“So, what next?”, Jenny asked.
“So, we meet here after ten years and then we shall unbury this time capsule. We will then read each other’s secrets clear and loud”, he said.
“Ten years it is. Under no circumstances shall the capsule be unearthed before its time”, she giggled after making a loud announcement.
“Ten years it is”, he adjusted his hat to suggest that he would keep the word.
“Yes! Until then, my secret stays with me and yours stays with you. Nobody else should know the secret”, she smiled.
“Yes. Nobody! Except the time capsule”, he added and both of them laughed.
After two years, upon his father’s job transfer, Rudwig had to move to the city of Nuivenna.
“So when am I going to see you again?” Jenny had asked.
“In the summer break, I shall board the first train to Welsa”, he had promised.
“You shall write to me until then, wouldn’t you?” she had asked.
“Yes!” he had smiled.
“Keep away from the city habits”, she had smiled after issuing the instruction.
“And you..! You keep away from Willy”, he had laughed.
Weeks passed and then months. They wrote to each other every second day. Rudwig shared stories from his new school, the life in the city and much more. Jenny wrote about her music classes, her new pets, how Willy fixed her bicycle and much more. They also discussed about the trending topics like newly elected president of United States – Grover Cleveland and about the arrival of Statue of Liberty in New York.
Eight months passed and then all of a sudden Rudwig stopped receiving letters. He grew worried and wrote to her a couple of more times, but with no luck.
And then, on one day he received a letter from her parents informing him about her untimely demise. She had died due to the yellow fever.
He wept and wept for weeks. Her death had pushed him into a state of despair.
In the break of summer, he caught the first train to Welsa. Upon reaching Welsa, he straight away went to the green grounds. He spotted the Palmigo tree under which he and Jenny had buried the time capsule. He wanted to read Jenny’s secret.
He picked up a shovel and began digging. All of a sudden he remembered it- words from Jenny.
“Ten years it is. Under no circumstances shall the capsule be unearthed before its time”, was the agreed upon word. That would be eight years from now.
He refilled the hole and walked back. He promised himself that he would return after eight years to open the time capsule.
After eight years..
Rudwig was in college now, pursuing his degree in art history. He had been waiting on his heels for the day he would be able to read Jenny’s secret. And when the day arrived, he rushed to Welsa.
Welsa was no more a town, but a large city.
When he reached the green grounds, he was heartbroken. On the once green grounds of Welsa, now stood a large factory guarded by tall brick walls. “Welsa steel factory”, the board read.
He knew where exactly the capsule was buried, for the old Palmigo tree was still there. Under the tree staring back at him was a large stone sculpture that stood as a pride of the factory. The capsule would be right underneath it, he knew.
He thought of placing a request in front of the corresponding authority, to allow him to displace the sculpture and dig up the ground beneath it. However, he was appalled when he learnt that the factory was owned by Willy’s father.
He feared that Willy might get to know about the time capsule and would try to break open the secret.
He travelled back to Nuivenna. “A day will come when I get to read Jenny’s secret. That will be the day when I will be the owner of this land and this factory will be brought down to rubbles. I shall wait until then”, he had silently vowed.
He began working as a clerk for one of the businessmen of Nuivenna, who was into railroad constructions. He quit his job after a few years. From the savings that he had, he started selling goods door to door. He sold items like perfume and other cosmetic products.
All that he was trying to do was to gather enough money to buy Willy’s factory.
In the year 1905, Vyzan – a neighbouring country had declared a war on Originia. The president had urged the Originian men to fight for the nation. Rudwig joined the army and participated in the war.
After 3 long years of battle, Originia won. Rudwig was one of those two hundred brave soldiers who were honoured with the President’s medal.
He travelled to Welsa during the snowy winter, to see if the factory still stood there. The factory was still there, but it had only grown larger. The tall brick walls were now replaced by steel gates, gates that surrounded a large acre including the old Palmigo tree.
However, when William learnt the news of Rudwig’s arrival, he rushed to meet him. He told him how dearly he had missed Rudwig all these years. He kept asking him about the tales of war and heaped praises on him for fighting for the country.
“How much would it cost me to buy this from you?”, Rudwig had asked after the tea, leaving William confused.
“Why would you want to buy the factory Rudy? My father wouldn’t allow that”, he had replied.
“You have built your empire on something that’s dear to my heart. Let it take years and decades. But a day will come for sure, when I will own this”, Rudwig had uttered those words.
Upon returning to Nuivenna, Rudwig invested the savings from his earlier business and his military rewards into the ferry service that a friend of his had started.
The business took off really well and earned Rudwig a good fortune. He bought a low cost ferry and started his own small scale cargo service.
Very soon he had competitors – William one of them. William had ventured into the business of Cargo shipment and had vessels of all sizes. Rudwig’s business started shrinking and his aversion towards William began growing the other way.
With every day passing William’s business grew only bigger. He had ventured into multiple business lines varying from health care to automobile, retail to real estate.
With whatever money he had, Rudwig left to Cercia, a neighbouring country. It was a poor state, fighting its socio-economic adversities. Rudwig bought a farm land and in parallel began a small money lending institution.
He began cultivating fiber crops and had the borrowers working for him in his land. His cotton exports grew bigger. Few years later, he stopped exporting raw cotton and decided to start his own cotton mill.
His business grew, but he was still not in a position to buy the steel factory from William. William had turned into a powerful businessman and was counted amongst the riches of Originia.
Rudwig developed thoughts of expanding into a new vertical. He discussed with the state, the need of owning military weapons and that manufacturing them would be a low cost affair than importing them.
With the state aid fund, Rudwig built defence machinery plant. For ten good years, his company continued manufacturing arms and sold it to the government.
In the year 1914, the Great War broke out between the great economic powers. William, who was one of the most influential figures in Origiana by now, had urged the President of Origiana to promote peace amongst it’s neighbouring nations.
The President invited his neighbouring countries including Cercia to sign a peace treaty. Under this treaty, the countries were required to stay away from the war and had to stop investing in military weapons.
The President of Cercia signed the treaty and the government stopped its defence investment with an immediate effect. Rudwig had to shut down his weapon manufacturing plant. He understood this as a tactical game play by William to ruin his business.
The Great War stopped in the year 1918. Over the next five years Rudwig tried running various business but with no great luck.
Rudwig was fifty and unmarried. His lifetime goal had turned into bringing William to ruins, and to buy his steel factory. Rudwig had believed that it was William who had stood between him and the secret of Jenny hidden in the time capsule. A secret for which he was longing since years.
He started a small scale steel plant in Cercia. However, the quality of the ore available in the lands of Cercia was low, it didn’t flourish. He then re-began his money lending institution, this time at a larger scale. Over the next ten years, it grew into becoming the largest bank in Cercia – “J.R bank of Cercia”.
The sixty year old Rudwig, travelled to Welsa and met William. William was preparing for the presidential elections.
“How are you doing Rudy?”, William had greeted him.
“I am doing good. Good luck with your elections Willy”, he had wished him luck.
“I assume you are here with an offer to buy my factory”, William had smiled.
Rudwig understood it as William’s attempt at mocking him.
“No.! Not now! Not before you are forced into selling it to me”, he had said.
“Oh.! Rudy..! You could have it. I will be more than willing it give it away for you, as a gift”, William had offered.
“Not as a gift Willy. I had told you, I will force you into selling it to me”, Rudwig had smiled after declining his offer.
“But why not?” William had asked.
“Good luck with your elections”, was Rudwig’s response, before making an exit.
William won the elections and became the president of Origiana.
Meanwhile, Rudwig exploited his financial stature to gain a stronghold across the political ranks of Cercia.
He contested the next term elections and went onto become the president of Cercia. Over a period of five years, border disputes rouse between Origiana and Cercia.
William wanted to initiate peace talks with Rudwig, but men in the assembly urged William to wage a war against Cercia. William put forth his refusal to do so and stepped down from the presidential position.
The new president took over and declared a war against Cercia. Rudwig who had secretly revived the defence wing during his ongoing tenure, was well prepared for the war.
The war lasted for six months and Cercia had managed to defeat Origiana.
A month later, Rudwig travelled to Origiana with a feel of pride of having won the war. He wanted to visit William and tell him that the time has arrived for him to take over his factory.
When he reached Origiana, he was devastated by the sight of pain and death of the people over there. He was heartbroken, for he believed that he was responsible for the sorrow of the country in which he once lived.
“Jenny wouldn’t be happy, if she was alive”, he thought. The guilt swarmed over and he disappeared silently.
No one heard from him for about a year or so.
“Willy..!”, he was struggling to keep his eyes open.
William had moistened eyes when he sat next to the bed on which Rudwig laid. They were in a hospital.
“How did you get to know that I was here?”, Rudwig asked.
“Rudy.!”, said William. “I think you need to rest”, he added. William’s grand kid brought a flower bouquet and placed it on the table besides the bed.
Rudwig was battling his life after developing serious heart conditions. He had grown pale and weak.
“Rest? That I would Willy, but only after I issue my apology to you, for having hated you”, he paused for a deep breath. “I need to apologize for all the agony that I brought upon the country”, he added.
William held his hand firmly and smiled. “I stayed away from the war, because I was afraid of being a sinner. If I were brave, I would have stayed in the position. I should have protected my people either by preventing the war or by winning it. I did neither of those”.
He continued, “War was inevitable Rudwig. If not you, somebody else would have done it. No matter the choice that you made, you stood by your people and that is what matters”.
“ Oh.! Willy.!”, Rudwig was in tears. “You are bringing upon so much peace to the heart of a dying man”.
William smiled through his sadness and so did his family.
“If only you could do me one more favour”, Rudwig asked with a pleading eyes.
“I have my assumption Rudy. Now you tell me, if I have assumed it right?”, William asked.
“You could have all my wealth and all my fortune. I had earned it all for the only thing that mattered to me on this earth. For something that lies beneath your steel factory. Please let me have it and allow the man die in peace”, he sobbed while he pleaded.
William’s son stepped forward. He had the glass bottle in his hand. He placed the time capsule next to the bed.
Rudwig looked at William and then at the capsule in disbelief. He was looking at it finally. The glass bottle -soiled by the age, filled with pale blue fluid and inside which floated a sealed plastic bag.
Rudwig had no qualms and complaints. He didn’t want to know how William learnt about the time capsule, for the only thing that mattered now was to read Jenny’s secret.
He signalled William’s son to open the bottle for him. He took out the plastic bag and wiped it clean before handing it over to Rudwig.
Rudwig opened the bag with his trembling hands. He took out two folded papers from it. “Our secrets”, he laughed in joy through his tears. “Of mine and Jenny!”.
He opened them, but his struggling eyes couldn’t help him read. He handed them over to William’s son. “Could you read it for me, Son?” he asked.
He nodded and opened the first paper. The words were almost faded and faintly visible.
“Jenny is the most beautiful girl in the world and I love her”, he read it.
“Ah! Ha ha! That is my letter! This is embarrassing. Wrote it as a kid”, Rudwig laughed while offering justification. William’s family smiled.
“Read Jenny’s secret now, will you?”, he asked.
William’s son opened the other paper. The words were not as faded as those in the other letter.
“It says”, he paused and smiled. “Rudwig is the most handsome boy in the world and I love him”.
“See.! I knew..!”, Rudwig had exclaimed in joy before breathing his last. William smiled through his tears. He was content, for having seen his friend die in peace.
The day Jenny died; William had rushed to the green grounds. He had dug up the hole below the Palmigo tree and had unearthed the bottle. He had known about the Time capsule all along, he had watched Jenny and Rudwig burry the bottle under the tree.
He had opened the letters and had wept hard after reading them.
After slipping one of those letters into his pocket, he had torn a paper from his notebook and begun to write.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
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