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This is a short story written by me (Hasan Zahid) in English. Itís a story about a girl named Natsumi I met in Hiroshima, Japan. She was a beautiful girl of about 21 years of age. She worked in the reception desk in our center (where I was attending a training program on Environment Management).
The theme of the story revolves round an Ďimpossible missioní of a secret Ďromanceí between an aged man and a young girl.
Iím a short story writer of Dhaka, Bangladesh. My short stories have been published in several newspapers and magazines. My first book of short stories was published in the year 2008. My Bengali translation of Alice Munroís short story collection ĎThe Progress of Loveí has been published in February this year (2010). The review on the book has also been published in the literary pages of daily newspapers.
Hiroshima International Plaza in Higashi-Hiroshima was the place I was accommodated while attending training on environment management. Higashi is an evergreen countryside of Japan. I found there an evergreen girl called NatsumiĖa girl of about 21. She worked in the reception desk. Natsumiís ever-smiling face had something to offer to the guestsĖsomething enchanting! Her smart gesture and ever-sprawling warmth had aroused an emotional content in me.
I had to look for her every alternate day. She had shifting duties. I was looking for her one evening and I asked another girl on duty, when would be Natsumiís turn? Tomorrow morning. So I prepared myself that way, wore best dress. Yes, I found her working on the desk. We started gossiping.
One day I requested Natsumi to guide me in shopping as I was very weak in Japanese language. Natsumi agreed. On a weekend we met at Fuji Grand, a large shopping mall. After the shopping was over, we sat at a restaurant inside the mall for lunch. At that moment a queer feeling came over my soul again, a very bad feeling. Every time when I talked to her or wanted to feel the warmth of the sweet company of a young woman, that bad feeling always had pervaded me. A feeling of helplessness and discontent. A feeling of insufficiency. That I couldnít please the girl despite my relentless effort. That the girl was not contented inwardly but was always pretending to be so. At one stage this feeling started tormenting my soul.
But Natsumi was quiet and calm, even more normal than before at lunch. I lost my words. I was deeply contemplating further on how to please the girl. Can any gift please her? Or money? But how much money did I have?
-You seem quiet and depressed. Anything wrong? Natsumi asked me.
-No. No. Nothing wrong. I was just thinkingÖ
-Yes, please go on. Smile on Natsumiís face.
-I was thinking that Iím too old.
-Too old for what!
-Too old to enjoy a girlís company.
-Thatís it! Youíre not right perhaps. Natsumi paused for a moment, took a piece of chicken fry and then said, Iím enjoying your company since we met.
I laughed and tried to be very informal and normal before Natsumi. But the queer feeling went on.
After the lunch that day almost a month had passed since I didnít meet Natsumi. Partly because I was busy with training activity, partly because I was struggling inwardly. Meantime Natsumi made several phone calls to my suite. Every time I talked less, remained cool and indifferent. I decided to attack Natsumi indirectly.
After some days I got an email from Natsumi. She invited me to a dinner at China Town. The place was not far from our dormitory. I replied to her message accepting her invitation.
Natsumi closely observed me for some time and then said: Youíre not spontaneous as before, you seem reserved and less spoken.
-Yes, Natsumi. I suddenly asked her, what is your religion Natsumi?
-No certain religion. She answered smilingly; sometime we follow Shintoís.
-Huh! That sounds well, itís better to follow some religion than following nothing, I grinned. Natsumi nodded.
Again I asked her, you know Basho?
-Basho! I mean, is he a famous person? Natsumi frowned.
-Matsuo Basho, I said, a famous person worldwide. A famous poet in Japan, as Tagore in our country.
-Are you interested in poems?
-Very much. You know, Basho is the father of Haiko.
-Yes, yes Haiko. This time Natsumi could recognize that she heard of Haiko.
I recited at once:
Furu ike ya
mizu no oto
Old pond ó frogs jumped in ó sound of water.
-Excellent! Youíre a genius. Natsumi almost shouted. Then she said again: You must be a poet in your country.
-I donít claim myself to be so. But some call me so, I said.
With the thought that I had avenged Natsumi enough I started to frequent on the lounge to see Natsumi. Adding insult to injury, for the next few days, I didnít see Natsumi in the reception. I inquired the other girl on duty about Natsumi. She said that Natsumi was sick. I collected Natsumiís cell number from the girl on duty.
But I was not getting the tempo. Was I too old? Too old to do everything I was doing? Yes, definitely, I had passed forty springs! And she was only 21! Maybe Natsumi was curious about me for my impossible mission and she became interested in playing gazelle-cheetah game. Her interest was not for falling in goddamn love with a poor old soul!
The next day I received Natsumiís call instead. In a weak voice she complained why I didnít call her?
I had no answer. In fact, why didnít I call her the very moment I collected her cell number! I vigorously wished to bring the souvenir of a piece of love with me to my country where no woman was willing to love me. But I couldnít act that way!
-Well, Iím getting well. In next 2 days, Iím joining again. Natsumi said again.
-Most welcome, darling. I said.
I was wrong. It was my complex that I failed to understand Natsumi. The next weekend we had a program to visit Miyajima, a World Heritage Site in Japan. We twoĖNatsumi and me. In fact, the proposal came from Natsumi. But Natsumi didnít know how to reach there, she even hadnít been in Miyajima ever. But I knew. I knew it from the guidebook. Miyajima Island is reached by ferryboat (10-12 minutes) from the pier, which is a few minutes' walk from JR's Miyajima-guchi station. About 30 minutes by train from Hiroshima. We were staying at Higashi Hiroshima. Now to reach downtown Hiroshima, we had to reach Saijo Railway Station first to reach main Hiroshima. From there we had to catch the ferry to Miyajima Island.
After reaching Miyajima both Natsumi and I were lost in the wilderness. I hadnít seen such a beautiful site ever before. Natsumi and I rode on the rope car. Here in the deep flowery jungle Natsumi disclosed herself. We sat under the canopy of trees. Natsumi said:
You know, we are very poor. My father died in a car accident when I was too small. My mother works in a department store and she earns a little. Iím studying at Hiroshima Shudo University, and my younger brother was born immediately after my fatherís death. Now we are unable to carry on family expenses.
I patted Natsumi on the back and said: Donít worry, soon you will have the degree and you will join in full time job and earn a lot.
-You know, I even donít have a bike to attend at your centre for my part time job. Everyday I have to come to the Kagayama Hospital by bicycle from my house to catch the bus to your centre. Some times, the timing of the bus doesnít match with my shifting duty.
-Thatís pity. I murmured. I suddenly kissed Natsumi. I saw tears in her eyes. She returned the kiss with much more warmth and lust.
-Day after tomorrow youíre getting a bike, Natsumi.
-How come! Where will it come from?
-From a showroom.
-Who is going to pay?
-No. Thatís your hard-earned money. Donít deprive your wife of the money.
-I donít have a wife.
-Are you not married!
-I was. But she threw me like garbage.
-I couldnít buy many things she wanted.
-Thatís the reality. Natsumi murmured. But I think, youíre a nice man, whom a wife should love. Inability to buy things shouldnít overpower real love.
-All wives generally do not think and love that way.
-Thatís the mystery of the universe.
-But I canít take the bike, itís your money.
-Itís not my money. Itís your countryís money. JICA is giving me the training. Theyíre also giving me thousands of yen. Iím doing nothing.
-Well, how much money will you get in here?
-Handsome enough to buy four bikes at a time. Just think, if I buy one bike for you, even then I can take huge money with me to my country. Now decide, shouldnít I buy a bike for you?
-Yes, you should buy. Natsumi answered gladly.
Now Iím back to my country with thousands of yen. But whom will I give the money? To Rita? Who even didnít wait for my better days to come? To Natsumi, who is no more in the world? I think Iím responsible for her death.
She died of a road accident while driving her bike. And that occurred after my departure from Japan.
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"A story of harsh reality and romance." -- Saif Ali Khan, Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
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© 2010 Hasan Zahid
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