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Half-an-Hour

January 21, 2014 | By

“Oh you mean, the elevator? It’s stuck. Must be a power cut,” Sandip said and asked again, “Are you ill?”

Short Story: Half an Hour

“Oh you mean, the elevator? It’s stuck. Must be a power cut,” Sandip said and asked again, “Are you ill?”

The drooping head with its scraggly mop of hair sagged further on the man’s chest as the lean body slowly slid against the metallic wall of the elevator.

Sandip took a step backward watching the man go down on his bent knees. He clutched his school bag tightly, peered at the man and asked softly, “Are you ill?”

The man dragged his head up with obvious effort. In the semi-darkness of the tiny elevator, his face was not clearly visible though Sandip could make out the signs of a thick unkempt stubble.

Sandip pressed his back against the elevator door, trying to give as much space as possible to the untidy sweater-and-jeans-clad figure heaped against the opposite wall.

“Why isn’t… why isn’t this thing moving?” the man mumbled in a croaky voice.

“Oh you mean, the elevator? It’s stuck. Must be a power cut,” Sandip said and asked again, “Are you ill?”

The man shook himself a little as if trying to shrug off his drowsiness. He leant forward blinking at Sandip. “Do I look ill sonny?”

“Well, yes you do. Mom told me not to speak to strangers. But our science teacher today said we should always help sick people. Can I help you?”

“How will you help me?” the man managed a wan smile. “Are you a doctor?”

“Yes I know how to be a doctor,” Sandip said proudly, pulling himself up to his full height of three feet two inches. “I cured my sister’s doll. She had malaria you know.”

The man laughed. The drowsiness was slowly leaving him. “If I had malaria will you be able to cure me?” he asked watching the school uniform-clad six-year-old amusedly.

“Yes certainly!” Sandip replied and rubbed his freckled nose, excited at the thought of treating his first human patient. But the next moment disappointment showed in his eyes. “But my medical kit is at home.”

The man laughed aloud again. Sandip smiled, a little relieved at the man getting back to normal in the cold and claustrophobic elevator. “The minute the lift starts I will quickly get my kit. I live in flat no.24, on the sixth floor, the one with Mickey,” he added quickly.

“Is he your friend?”
“Who, Mickey?” Sandip giggled surprised at the man’s complete lack of knowledge. “Mickey Mouse is a cartoon character stuck on my door, didn’t you know? Sonu of flat no.12 is my best friend. And there is Rinku, Toby and Vishal. They are also my friends but they live in the other building.

Who are your friends?”

“My friends?” The man smiled sadly. “No one wants to be the friend of a drug addict,” he added, as if talking to himself.

“What is a drug addict?”

The man rubbed his tired bloodshot eyes. It was his turn to be surprised at the boy’s innocence. “A drug addict is a person who does not need malaria to die. He kills himself,” he said bitterly, with a catch in his voice.

Sandip was a little taken aback at the sudden change in the tone of the man’s voice. He watched the man for a while and then said comfortingly, “I know people die only when they fall sick or someone shoots them with a gun. If you are not ill, you cannot die yourself,” he said, determined that he had his facts right.

The man threw his head back and laughed heartily. “You watch too many films,” he said. A moment later he doubled up, clutching his stomach groaning in pain as spasms rocked through his frail body.

Sandip dropped his bag in surprise and hurriedly held the man by his shoulders. “Are you getting stomach ache? Then you must be hungry,” he said with a confident nod of his head. He quickly pulled out his plastic flowery lunch box and offered the sandwiches to the man. “Here have my lunch. I didn’t eat it because a classmate gave us a birthday treat,” he explained.

The man looked at Sandip in amazement. “Why do you offer your lunch to me. I am totally worthless,” he said, shaking his head in disgust.
“I always share my lunch with my friends,” Sandip replied, surprised at the question.

Slowly, with an effort the man raised himself, supporting his hands against the wall. He looked at his little “friend”, twenty years his junior, who was naïve enough to misinterpret his withdrawal symptoms as hunger.

“Why don’t you join us for cricket this evening,” asked Sandip.
“Wouldn’t your other friends mind?” the man asked, uncertainly.
Sandip shrugged. “If you are my friend you become their friend too. Simple,” he said in a matter-of-fact manner.

Suddenly the lights came on in the elevator and with a lurch it started moving upwards, half-an-hour after it had ground to a halt. Moments later it stopped on the sixth floor and the doors slid open. Sandip picked up his bag and stepped out into the corridor. “Bye for now,” he waved his hand.

“Remember cricket on the central lawn at 6:30,” he said and winked, “We need a grown up umpire to keep us from fighting over every ball!”
The man grinned and gave a thumbs-up sign as the elevator doors slid shut.

As Sandip rang the bell of his flat he wondered what the man’s name was.
“Doesn’t matter. We will call him friend!”

Editor in Chief, Learning and Creativity; Consulting Editor, Silhouette Magazine As a professional business journalist, Antara spent 14 years covering business stories but alongside kept alive her passion for writing on cinema. She writes extensively on the changing trends of music, direction and filmmaking in cinema and her articles aim to provide well-researched, complete and accurate information on the legends of cinema for the movie enthusiast. She is also the Founder-Editor of Blue Pencil, a New Delhi-based publishing house and recently edited and published Incomparable Sachin Dev Burman, the biography of SD Burman written by HQ Chowdhury. Her articles have also been published in Dearcinema.com and Du-kool.com. Antara is Editor-Creative Director of Wisitech InfoSolutions Pvt. Ltd.
All Posts of Antara Nanda Mondal

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