Fiction Park

Gifts

  • The blessings we receive depends on which we choose to count
- Tushar Subedi
I looked up at the starlit sky. I thought it was a pleasant gift—a common gift to all. Then I realised that maybe nature is biased in giving gifts at times. Maybe not all gifts are equal

Oct 15, 2017-Chisapani September, 2017

White clouds had blanketed the mountain peaks spread across the horizon when they reached the top. I heard them complaining, “Where are the damn mountains? Did we just climb all the way up here for nothing?”

“Calm down! Maybe we’ll have a beautiful morning view of the mountains greeting us.”

They looked around. All they could see were the ruins of buildings destroyed by the earthquake.

All of them looked filthy. Their clothes had taints of mud, and they smelled of sweat. They looked at the hotel’s entrance, and read the name out loud. 

HOTEL CALIFORNIA. 

All of them giggled. One of them stepped up to me, and asked if rooms were available. I nodded and scanned them to make a head count. There were seven of them—young men who seemed to be in their early twenties. He turned around to the rest of them to make a gesture, then asked me for the prices regarding lodging and fooding. I motioned towards the hotel reception, and stepped aside. They settled the prices with father.

“Show them the rooms,” father said, handing me a bunch of keys. All seven of them followed me upstairs. They chose a big room where all of them could sleep in. I showed them the washroom and verandah then turned away.

“Thank you!” one of them said. 

I just nodded, and climbed downstairs.

..............

The trek was tiring. We took turns taking a quick shower. I sat by the window, and looked outside. The mountains were still veiled by the clouds. I closed my eyes for a brief instant and then opened them wide attempting an unsuccessful telekinesis to move the clouds away. There was a blend of chaos and calmness on the horizon. A train of thoughts and memories lingered, one over another. I thought of myself, thought of her; I thought about life and existence.  I felt something creeping into my right ear which I tried to shrug away. I turned around to see my friend with a huge grin on his face.

“Let’s roll up these little beasts.”

“Sure thing.”

Meanwhile, four of my companions were already busy playing cards, while one was taking an evening nap. I woke him up to help us. We started conversing.

“Did you notice the son? I think he can’t speak.”

“Ah yes I did. I thought I was the only one who noticed he was dumb.” 

“I am astonished by how remarkably they can make use of hand gestures to communicate.”

After we were done, the three of us headed downstairs to order the dinner.

.............

A couple of hours later, three of them came down to the reception. I was sitting in the corner. They ordered dinner for seven and enquired after my father. I gestured them towards the hotel entrance, and went into the kitchen. After a while, they came back into the hotel with father. I could hear them talking about the massive earthquake two years ago.

“We’re sorry for your loss. It must have been hard for the two of you.”

“Yes it has. But life must go on. We didn’t have enough money to rebuild the house. We’ve been living in this hotel itself since the earthquake.”

For those who come and stay here, this just a hotel—a refuge from their everyday lives. After their trip is over, they have somewhere to go to where they can reunite with their favourite pillow, where every single wall and door smells of familiarity, where everything around them carries their fingerprints and where they share stories of their travel to their families. But for me and father, we have no stories of travel to tell but only memories of my mother and sisters shared in silence. This hotel has never felt like home; it never will. It’s just a hotel for me too, except I have nowhere else to go. I wish if I could just check out and run across to the other side of the road to my home. But all that remains is the ruins; a crooked building with broken pillars—just like me and my father.

Memories brimmed out of my eyes and rolled down my cheeks. I did all the cooking for the guests. Father took care of the supplies and administration. I could still hear them talking but indistinctively. After the dinner was ready, I came out of the kitchen. A young man was patiently waiting in the dining room. He politely asked if the dinner was ready. I nodded and gestured him to call all of his friends. They appreciated the meal. After they finished and went back to their room, I and father ate in silence.

The night sprawled out over the sky. Once dishes were done, I went to the balcony upstairs to get some fresh air. After a while, I heard a window slide open. They were playing cards. I heard them yell “Ace of Spades! Ace of Spades.” I could also hear another conversation.

“You light the fire this time.”

“Alright.”

“I hope it works.”

“This is all we got.”

Then there was smoke wafting out from the window followed by a momentary silence before they burst into laughter. I smiled once I realised they were smoking grass. I could still hear the conversation going.

“So how many gifts have you given her? 

“What do you mean by how many? Does it have to be materialistic or can be in other forms too?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.” *giggles*

“You see. What things are considered gifts actually? I think we need a broader definition.”

“All I asked is how many times you have gifted her.”

“That’s what I’m trying to count. I am not sure what counts as a gift and what doesn’t. The time I spend with her, the smiles I bring to her face, do they not count as gifts? I think they should. Everything is a gift you see. The new experiences I try to give her, aren’t those gifts as well? I have received plenty of gifts back from her too.”

“Hmmm. You make sense. Go on.”

“We have also given each other gifts too.”

“What gifts are you talking about now? I don’t remember you gifting me anything.”

“If I come across a good song or a funny joke, I send it to you, man. That is also a gift.”

Then both of them shared a round of laughter. The young man made some sense actually. I continued paying attention to the conversation.

 “Let’s get back to your question then.”

“What question? I don’t remember. Oh yes! The question. Did you count?”

“No, wait. I’m counting it in my head. I don’t have enough fingers.”

“You can use mine too. I have T-E-N ten of them.”

“Thanks man. You know man, life is also a gift. But you can’t possess it forever. It comes with an expiry date. So we need to share it. Give a part of yourself to others, and I’m sure you’ll receive something back. It’s not about how much we give or what we give, it’s all about how much love and effort you put into giving.”

“Hmm. I think you are right.”

“Look at nature, just look at her. She keeps gifting us every day.”

“Yes, this grass is also her gift to mankind. Cheers to nature!”

They burst out laughing yet again. 

I couldn’t completely agree with the young man. Everything nature gives can’t be a gift. How can the earthquake who took half of my family be a gift? I can’t speak. How is that a gift?

I looked up at the starlit sky. I thought it was a pleasant gift—a common gift to all. Then I realised that maybe nature is biased in giving gifts at times. Maybe I was gifted with a longer life but I wasn’t gifted with a voice. Maybe the young man was right, maybe not. But that night, sleep gifted me a beautiful dream. 

Published: 15-10-2017 08:43

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