The Lost Fragrance, Amit Dasgupta, Wisdom Tree, Pp 216. Rs195.00
WRITTEN by an Indian diplomat, here is a story weaved meticulously making one recall the past era when characters were conjured by uttering or word or by the sleight of the hand.
An exceptional school teacher, who teaches a dry subject like geography in school making it so interesting as to become the children’s favourite, becomes a balloon maker after 30 years of teaching. This happens when he sees in a dream a flute player telling him to help a Little Girl fly. The teacher is utterly shocked as he does not know how to make a human being fly and nor does he know where the Little Girl stays. The flute player also tells him that the Little Girl lives in the Land of the Blue Jasmine.
The teacher has to first find the girl who, as the flute player has revealed, “will be different from the others for she is The Awaited One.” He mentions about his dream to his wife who tells him that she too has seen the same dream. She also tells him to find out how aeroplanes fly. He takes leave from his principal, promising to return to school when the children have their exams.
The teacher makes balloons in all colours and sizes and the children gather around him, helping to fill air into them. Since the teacher’s first love is teaching, he finds he can teach geography and mathematics through the balloons. So he makes balloons in triangular, hexagonal shapes to explain the concepts in an unusual manner.
Next, for one month he works and makes a huge balloon out of nylon clothes lying at home. The children queue up to puff air into it but cannot fill enough. Their parents try but fail too. In the village lives an orphan girl and the teacher and his wife have seen the girl a number of times come and help in filling air into the balloon. They find out from her that in the evenings she works in a cycle shop. One day the Little Girl meditates for seven days and sees her mother in her dream. On the eighth day, she begins to fill air into the large balloon made by the teacher. She ties one white and one black string to the balloon. On pulling the white string, air comes out and on pulling the black one, the air stops. The Little Girl gets into the balloon and the old teacher and his wife give her the necessary things to carry with her on her journey into the sky on to the Land of Blue Jasmines. On the way she meets a crow, who decides to accompany her on her travels. They meet an Old Man with a white beard who is called Lost. He takes them all to his village. Little Girl remembers her dead parents and begins to weep. She sees a dream in which a slithering Serpent swallows her father as she hides, cringing in the shadows. Her father tells her that the Serpent is his younger brother, who would try to kill her. One day the Old Man begins to play a haunting tune on his flute. He is called Master and he teaches the Little Girl to play the flute in the meadows of the blue jasmines. Little Girl at Master’s behest continues to play the flute as storm, wind, thunder and lightning wage a war against her but the sweet notes from her flute drive them away as also the consorts of the Serpent, who have come to overpower her.
The serpent brings Little Girl’s parents in front of her but Master advises her not to get enticed because it is a trick played by the Serpent. Though she wants to hug her parents and tell them about her loneliness, the old man advises her to “let your parents go on their journey and join the sky. You have the sound of the flute and the fragrance of the jasmine…Remember your mission.”
The story was written by the author after he lost his father whom he loved very much and whom he recalls sitting on his favourite chair when alive or when reading the notes he has left behind.
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