Struggle for Existence – Arijit Mukherjee, West Bengal

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He was sitting by the window leaning against his study table, his vision was hollow, didn’t focus on anything particular. It was raining outside, giving the bushes and thickets a relieving bath in the hot summer. Suddenly two hands hugged him from behind, “Hey! It’s a beautiful day”- Ana, his wife said.

“Huh” came a short reply
“What about coffee?”
There was no reaction at the other end.
“Hello?? What about coffee?”- This time more intense.
“Yeah? Sure!!”. His spell broke and came a puzzled reply.
“Is everything okay with you Dave? You look tensed”
“Umm..to say the truth, nothing is okay”
“Tell me”. Ana held David’s shoulders tight and made him look at her.
“I lost my job two months ago, no regular income for long. We even don’t know how to sustain in the next days. What will happen now?” David broke down.

“Don’t worry, I have some savings which will help us to continue for few days, I guess you will make out something within that. And in the meantime, I am looking for a work. Let’s be optimistic” Ana assured.
“But still….” , Ana stopped David in between by kissing him on his lips.
“All will be okay Dave…keep faith” she whispered.
David was not comforted even after his wife’s assurance. He held the coffee mug in his hands and smoked cheap cigarettes.
When people suffer from financial crisis, even the cigarette holds evidence of it.
David called up Mrs. Jones, under whom he has worked for two years as an accountant. But his irregularity and lack of punctuality cost him his job. But personally Mrs. Jones liked David as a good and generous man.

Unluckily, Mrs. Jones couldn’t assure Dave of anything. Time to time, more or less came the same reply from every acquaintance. “Dave, nice to hear you after a long time….umm…at present…situations are not vacant” or “okay, I will let you know” or sometimes “I am trying to do something mate”.
All these led Dave into a more depressed state. Only the butts of his cigarettes knew how desperate he was to get a job and run the family.

Rain kept showering continuously, flooding the tunnels beside the streets.
“Ana, shall we get rid of our old car and have some money instead” Dave said
“No honey! Don’t be so insensible…that’s your dad’s last memory you have!! We need it when it rains or snows hard as today, you will not get any public transport in such conditions. And stop worrying for some time, you will get crazy or else” complained Ana
“But…” Dave was stopped as Ana put her finger on his lips
“No but…come for dinner. I made your favourite dish this evening”
The whole night David couldn’t sleep. He kept tossing in his bed continuously. Ana seemed to have no effect of the crisis, she slept peacefully as it appeared. But David missed to notice her silent tears that made her pillow wet under her head.

*******

The rain didn’t stop next morning, rather it was accompanied by hailstorm. The weather report showed, situation can become worse.
There were no supplies at home. No milk, no butter, no beer, no whiskey, no cereal, not just a piece of meat even.
Ana seemed to reveal her nervousness for the first time, “what should we eat today?”
-“Have you got noodles?”
-“Yeah, just a few packs left”
-“Boil them with salt, let’s see if it does any good”
Dave continued to smoke.
“You will burn your lungs” shouted Ana.
“Let them burn. Still better than a burning head” Dave smashed his ashtray on the floor.
“Stop this Dave! You are out of your mind” Ana bursted.
“I’m not…I’m not…do you know how it feels to remain unemployed for about two months and not even having money to look after the family, taking care of beloved wife? Have you ever thought?” David thundered.

Ana began to sob silently, she knows how to keep smiling even in the toughest situations but this time she failed.
“Why did they throw you out of the job? Why did your friends leave you when you needed them?” Ana asked, choked out of tears.
“The answer is your deadly passion of writing stuffs that do not occur in real life” Ana continued.
“Don’t disrespect it Ana, it is the thing that gave me my first job, although I lost it for the same…but still…” David paused to exhale the smoke out of his lips.
“You know what Ana? It was my writing that attracted you towards me. You fell in love with a young, aspiring writer and not with a heavy spectacled accountant with a head like a calculator” David resumed.
-“Be reasonable…it won’t earn your bread today”
-“Someday it may or it will”
“If the rain doesn’t stop today, we need to starve from tomorrow” Ana said to herself.
“Smoking kills hunger a bit” whispered David.

******

Both remained quiet for hours but they were sharing their thoughts within themselves endlessly in a mode which no one could see. Dave looked at the leaking sky above and Ana couldn’t help but to look at David with utter surprise.

Someone once said, ‘A hungry stomach and an empty pocket teaches the best lesson of life’

Their thoughts were disrupted by a sudden screech of brakes. Both of them looked out of the window. An expensive car stopped in front of their little house.
Three ‘Men In Black’ came down with a brown packet and within no time they banged the front door.
Dave got up and went forward.
“Is this where Mr. David Rich stays?” said the first
-“yes, but now it’s David Poor to be correct”
-“Huh! Anything wrong?”
-“No…er…sorry”
-“It took us two days to locate your place. Damn it!”
“May I know the reason to organize a ‘mousehunt’ for me?” asked David
“The ‘International Publishing Company’ has considered your book for publishing. It is your first copy and the legal documents for copyright and royalty” said the man handing the packet to David.
Dave stood there awestruck, hanging the lower jaw in utter astonishment. The International Publishing Company!! The greatest publishing house of the country is ready to publish his works! David made it sure that he was not dreaming.
“You soon become rich, Mr. Rich. Wish you good luck! And buy a good house at a better place so that next time we find it easier” said the third, holding umbrella.
“Thank You!” David spelled out almost mechanically.
Ana listened everything from behind, her eyes glittered with tears. She hugged her husband tightly, who still couldn’t believe what took place just then.
Both of them were in tears, hugging each other tightly. But suddenly Dave shove Ana away. He torn apart the packet and pulled out the contents, a beautifully covered book came into his vision. He brushed his fingers over the cover just as a mother nurturing her new born baby.
When the fantasy broke, Dave’s eyes fell on one of the papers. He read it again and again. His smile disappeared faster than a drop of water on hot sand.

The paper stated-

Literary Members 200 USD
Lucky Draw winners 500 USD
Amateur Writers 1000 USD
Granted On Special Consideration 2000 USD

The next page stated that he was someone who belonged to ‘GRANTED ON SPECIAL CONSIDERATION’ category.
He looked up at Ana who still didn’t know what Dave has just seen. The paper fell down from David’s hands. Ana sensed something unnatural. Without a single word she picked up the paper and the secret was revealed to her too.

Dave sat down on the floor and spoke coldly with a smile of sarcasm on his lips-“For the first time ever, I felt a sense of prosperity but it vanished within no time. Six months of hard work, nights without sleep, losing of job, on the verge of becoming a beggar…….success knocked at the door but couldn’t enter inside.” he covered his face with hands.
Ana got up, placed her hand on his shoulders, jaws unusually tightened, burning eyes.
“Dave, we both still have our kidneys” she said.

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