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Fill Up Those Blanks
by Archana Sarat (Prose - Short Story) | Published On: 17-Apr-2017

It is your birthday. You wake up with a shine in your eyes and a smile on your face. Why wouldn’t you? The world’s most beautiful girl is at your dormitory doorstep to wish you, hug you, gift you, and most probably kiss you, for your birthday. She does it all, under the envious and resentful eyes, that are staring stealthily from the hostel windows. Later, you both are seated, beneath the banyan tree, beside each other, while you open your gift.

It is a white rectangular canvas board. 100% cotton. Pebeo.

You look at her surprised. She gives a dazzling smile. “I saw that painting you had made. It was stunning.  You should make more. You have the talent,” she says.

“Oh! That old one? I made it during my school years. Where is the time now? Mechanical engineering trains my brain to slush. No time for art, but I’ll make one during the semester holidays. Pucca,” you say and pull her close to you.

As exams come and go, semesters keep changing with the seasons. Your holidays are spent in a flurry of parties, booze, dances and hangovers. The world’s most beautiful girl is replaced by a more beautiful girl and then an even more beautiful girl. The canvas board stands upright in the nook between the wall and the bed—empty, blank.

Convocation sees you as the ‘Best Outgoing Student of the Year’. You beam with joy as your parents puff in pride. When you start to pack up, your mother asks you if you want to throw away the canvas.

“No. Now, college is over. I want to paint a nice landscape on this,” you say.

“You are going to carry it to Delhi?” She asks. You have bagged a nice, tidy, five-figure salaried job in your campus interview. The only hitch, that troubled your parents more than you, was that the job was in Delhi.

“No. You take it to Chennai. I’ll paint when I come there.”

Neither do you find time in Delhi nor do you find time in Chennai. Vacations are spent in meeting friends, exploring new places and scouting for prospective brides. Finally, you meet the world’s most beautiful girl. Chosen by your parents, with a strong family background, she is the perfect choice. This time, when you return to Delhi, you take a house on rent.

“It is a 2 BHK,” you tell her. “The extra room is my studio. I love to paint. I want space and proper lighting. It is difficult to paint otherwise, you know?”

She agrees. For a month, the room is empty. You are a newly married man; days pass in exploring each other, physically and mentally, there is no time for anything else. The canvas, that has travelled from Mumbai to Chennai, and now to Delhi, languishes in a corner.

Slowly, the wet grinder moves into the room followed by your wife’s dressing table. Then, comes a crib. It is soon joined by a pram, walker, and then a cycle. With the floor strewn with Lego blocks, and crayon marks and ground rice sticking to the walls, the room does not resemble a studio.

Every Diwali, when you clean the house, you wipe the canvas free of dust and put it back into the corner. You mutter to yourself softly, “Someday!”

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