It is the late September of 1970, today’s autumn morning in the english house of Davidson’s started rather hastily than usual. It is the last weekend of the autumn carnival at their town before it moves to Scotland. The kids 10-years old Sebastian and 5-years old Betty are running impatiently up and down the house. After several weekends of broken promises by their father Mark, an insurance broker, is taking the family to spend the entire day at the carnival . Emily, their mother, a nurse has been preparing the entire meal course since early morning, still knowing that the kids will eat the carnival food.
The kid’s grandfather, Edward 60-years old, a tall retired colonel with long moustache, started to live with his son and family, after his wife died 2 years ago peacefully in her sleep. Other than his daily appearance at the dinner table, he preferred to stay in his room facing the fields and the road with his scotch, books, a radio and some photo albums.
Edward had spent most of his years away from his family. The only way his marriage evolved was through the long letters from his wife with his occasional brief responses. Not until after his retirement, his wife’s delicious cooking had made him gain pounds hurting his age, which he refused to let go off, as his only visible memory of her.
He was a philosophical man with a deep sense of observance. He could not express himself in speech as much as he could do in his writings. Being the only family he was left with, Edward started writing letters to his son and grandchildren, keeping bundles under his desk. The letters had everything which he could not share or express otherwise- his life, emotions, experiences, lessons and when he could not express them in words, he drew small figures in the sides of the page.
The infectious carnival curiosity of the children and Emily’s declaration of the kitchen being closed for the entire day made Edward to accompany the family to the fair.
Sebastian and Betty with there excitement , Mark and Emily with the essentials and food and Edward with his diary and pen left for the carnival.
Entire Town is Here!
The giant wheel held high in the midday sunny sky. The field was full of humans of all ages. The carnival had everything for every audience- swings, dance acts, puppet shows, mouth watering food aromas.
“Well, this surely will take an entire day “ – Edward murmured to himself. Searching through the field, he saw an empty bench. He signalled to Mark to where he will be sitting and walked across the field hurriedly.
It was an old long wooden bench by the river side, small ripples in the water reflecting sunshine, wild grasses swiftly dancing through the autumn breeze. Edward sat on one corner with his eyes closed and took deep breaths for few moments to shed off the overwhelm running inside him due to the crowd. He thanked in his heart to have found such a quiet place amidst the noise of celebrations.
His deep breadths were interrupted by a movement on the other corner of the bench. Edward opened his eyes and looked.
“Will it be alright, there are no other empty benches on the ground” Shalini asked gently.
Shalini, 55 years old doctor became a young widow and a mother at the same time. She came to England to complete her medical studies with her infant daughter and stayed here ever since. Sometimes, she also took classes of Indian cooking for the neighbours. Her daughter Nitya and husband Shobhit, led a busy life of doctors as well, leaving there 10 year-old son Anand, mostly under her care.
Practicing medicine and cooking for her grandson were a means to pass her days with the occasional visits from loneliness.
Today’s autumn morning brought blissful memories of her marriage to her husband on this day . She wore her husband’s favourite colour warm yellow salwar kameez with an embroidered pink dupatta. Her grey with a subtle touch of black hair were tied up in a bun and wore a red bindi on her forehead.
Edward nodded with a smile.
As Shalini kept a bamboo basket by her side, a beautiful butterfly stretched its tiny orange-black wings on the bench from near by shrubs.
“Its time for these little creatures to migrate. Did you know butterflies are cold-blooded?” Shalini asked gently.
A sudden rush of distant memory flashed across Edward’s face.
The Stormy Night..
Did you know butterflies are cold-blooded? asked Doctor Ravi Chandra looking at the quiet butterfly on the dimly lit wall by the lantern kept on his table on a stormy night of 1940. He had a unmatched fascination for the species.
Edward was returning back to his station in Darjeeling in India when he got stuck due to the unpredictable weather of October in a hospital compound in Siliguri, for a week .
The two men talked about their stories of war and death in those stormy nights.
“No” replied Edward looking at the rain and thunder through the window.
“I hope it finds the warmth to fly and migrate from this weather” said Doctor Chandra filled with sadness in his eyes.
A nurse came rushing in asking the doctor to immediately accompany her in the next compound to attend a serious patient.
Doctor had just finished writing a letter to his wife. He hurriedly put it in an envelope to address it , grabbed his coat to leave when he asked Edward , “Could you deliver this letter to my wife, she is stationed at the clinic in the village of Ghoom on the way to your station.
Edward assuringly took the letter.
“Take Care Lieutenant “ said the doctor taking a last glance at Edward.
“You Too” replied Edward.
The next day came with a silence. Edward decided to leave for his station and came out of the compound to go and meet the Doctor when he saw the horror around him. The compound in which he stayed still remained to the much of its original state but the compound in which the doctor went the previous night was completely washed away by a land slide leaving a rare chance of any survival.
Edward spent the next few days in the rescue operations but could not find the doctor.
With a heavy heart he left.
On reaching the clinic in Ghoom to break the sad news to his wife, he found that the entire village was emptied a few days back due to the storm news in Siliguri. He tried but could not find any whereabouts of the Doctor’s wife.
Till the time he was stationed in Darjeeling, he failed every time in his efforts to find her.
Among all the memories he had, the memory of that stormy night always brought him sadness. It reminded him of his unfulfilled promise and yet somehow pulled him to become a better man for his family.
The letter gave him the inspiration to write to his wife, son and grandchildren.
“Yes… an old friend loved to tell stories about these little insects.” replied Edward smilingly.
Both continued to look at the small butterfly with silence and a sort of remembrance.
The silence was broken by the chirping of the birds in the trees.
Edward took out his diary and reached for the end where he had still kept the letter from that stormy night. He took a deep look at the envelope which read:
My beautiful butterfly.
He smiled briefly, closed the diary and returned his gaze towards the river.
Shalini took out an old book from her basket which was a gift from her late husband.
She opened the first page which read.
My beautiful butterfly.
With moist eyes, she softly touched the old ink with her wrinkled fingers.
She turned the page.
And began reading the book…once again.
———————————The End ———————————-