THE SHORTEST STORY OF MY LIFE
“A short story is on that you can finish reading while standing in a queue for a bus”, said a writer. The poor fellow did not know that in this age of innovations and fast movements hours pass like minutes and minutes like seconds. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries novels of 500 or 600 pages were read with pleasure. In the new millennium people haven’t time enough to afford this luxury. Long letters have given way to short ones. The Indian Prime Minister, within a week visits three most important countries of the world—USA, Russia and England. He besides a large number of people—businessmen and politicians, has talks with the-Presidents of Russia and USA and the Prime Minister of England. He doesn’t miss the opportunity of delivering a speech in the United Nations Organization. He also addresses a gathering of Non Resident Indians in New York whose relatives and friends died in the terrorist attack on the two towers of World Trade Organization. Well, on the 13th of November 2001 he was backing home to celebrate Diwali on the 14th.
Isn’t a tour of thousands and thousands Kms. I have referred to above squeezed in a time bottle of a week only. Well, I remember a still compressed one—a story told in a fraction of a minute. I was studying in Mumbai, but could not get a seat in the hostel. I was from Chennai. Gurumukh Singh a lively Sikh boy was from Punjab. God had given him the gift of making friends. He befriended S. R. Shah from Gujarat and N. M. Reddy from Andhra Pradesh. We four decided to have a small flat on the 16th story of a multi storied building. It was two years before the terrible Gujarat earthquake. We enjoyed staying up and up. There was a lift and a key room too. If two or more than two persons lived in the same flat they called leave the key in the room-on a board of course. If the lift didn’t work there was a staircase too.
Back after Diwali break we took a fancy to enjoy a night show. It was after midnight that we reached our haven. The lift was not working. Naturally, with the support of some snacks and biscuits we were obliged to take a flight on the stairway. But silence would be tiresome. It was decided that for every four or five storey’s one of us would relate a story. Shah was the first to tell the story of the golden queen who waited for 100 years for the young prince whose touch would turn her again in flesh and bones. Quite interesting, it lasted for a five storey climb. For a flight of three storey’s I related the story of Subhash Chandra Bose-how disguised as Pathan Ziauddin he moved from Kolkata to Japan via Russia-finally reaching Burma where he organized Indian National Army. Five Storey’s more were covered. We were quite tired. Still there was no option. It was the turn of Reddy. He covered three storeys in telling about the bravery of young men who fought against the Nawab of Hyderabad. He wanted to merge Hyderabad with Pakistan. It was a story of valour and patriotism of not simply the Hindu and Christian population of Hyderabad but of the young men from the whole country who fought against the army of the Nawab.
Now 15 storey’s were covered. Only one remained. More than an hour had passed. It was the turn of Gurumukh Singh. We asked him to tell a short story that would be over within five minutes. He was silent— in a mood to recollect something. When we were just to reach our flat he said he would tell the most fascinating short story. He just uttered six words “Kunji to thalle hi rah gai’ -The key has remained in the key room below.