The Blue Bird Of Paradise

The Blue Bird Of Paradise

After days of procastination, Akshaya finally decided to get a stack of her photocopies framed up. Couple of weeks back she plunged into the “OPERATION DECLUTTER” of her home which was then, these long forgotten priceless possessions were found on the attic trapped in cobweb, searching for the exit lost too deep just like us entangled in the intricate web of life.

Her idea of Memory Wall is refreshing in itself. As an attempt to pause, relive and cherish the magical moments turned into forever memories captured, she chose the wall next to the bed in their bedroom to hang the photo frames.

It’s a sunny Saturday morning in the month of March and the sun shone vibrant in the sky. The weather too is lazy provoking her to stay home. However, she shook the thought off her head and got busy in finishing the house chores. Amid, she roughly calculated the other errands that she has to run from the market along with photo framing.

Around quarter to three in the afternoon, Akshaya reached the Sardar Patel Bazar Street where an array of shops stood extended a mile in length. Parking the bike in a corner she walked down the aisle of closely knitted shops that showcased a variety of goods & commodities.

The summer wind is dry and swayed the dried leaves few inches across the road. Sun rays filtered through the trees fell on the ground in slits making a chain of geometrical patterns of shadows.

Akshaya enquired a few shops but luck wasn’t in her favor. While at few places the wooden frame designs didn’t match her choice, the price margin was invariably high at many other shops. Some people directly rejected to take the work as it wouldn’t yield much returns. A few others went to the extent of passing uninvited  pieces of advice to seek online portals and get the work done.

Akshaya scratched her temple in despair. Although she knows how to look out for myriad choices over the  internet, she tends to prefer online deals as the last alternative. Not losing hope, she wandered the bazar streets. Her search led her into a narrow lane where she found a small shop that made her foot steps come to a halt.  The tiny shop exhibited our well known gods and goddesses framed up in discrete ways. They glittered and spread golden tinted sparkles across the shop which seemed like a shower of blessings bestowed. The dim background augmented the effect. Wooden boards and pieces of distinct shapes and sizes were scattered around the shop and amid them she saw a man who must be roughly around mid thirties busy at work. Hesitant to start a conversation, she kept thinking and looking around. A few moments later,  for the first time, he noticed her presence. He approached her and gave a discreet polite nod. Akshaya reciprocated the gesture.

“I was wondering, if you could frame up few photocopies,” asked Akshaya clearing her throat.

He smiled and nodded in affirmation, “Yes Madam, that is my work.”

Akshaya let out a deep sigh of relief. She briskly brushed off the sweat pearl from her forehead and showed him the photo prints.

He took a look at them in silence, went inside, shuffled a pile of wooden frames in the faint background until he found few suitable ones and brought them to Akshaya.

“Please check these frames and choose any of your choice Madam…”

Akshaya was taken by surprise when she looked at the variety of frames. Frankly, her judgmental monkey mind never expected the little shop to have a good range of collections. Belittled by her perception, she avoided further eye contact with him and examined frame by frame.

“Are there any other designs?” she enquired going through the lot.

“There are a few others, however these will suit best for your photos, Madam,” he explained.

“Hmm…Ok, let me select from these ones then…”

A few minutes later, Akshaya picked a design from the given samples and with a satisfactory look, finalized the design.

He quickly counted the photo prints, a total of 15. In a pensive mood, he started to scratch the back of his ear.

Interpreting his gesture, she asked the final amount to pay a little in advance.

“Actually, there is a problem, a shortage of 5 frames for the selected design,” he said in an uneasy tone continuing to scratch the back of his ear.

Akshaya’s spirits crest fell. She was already exhausted and the ray of hope that twinkled has just vanished like a speck of dust in thin air.

“What to do now? Different frame designs will not go together. Can you check if there is any alternative,” asked Akshaya in a dispirited tone.

“Are there any other designs as a second choice, Madam?”

She looked at the frame samples yet again top to bottom. None interested her. She nodded in disagreement.

“No problem Madam, will try for them in other shops and if I find them will give you a call,” he assured her.

She looked at the person standing in front of her. A thin middle aged man of about moderate height, who is assuring her that he will look for the deficit frames while she had come across people who directly or indirectly rejected her. Her crest fallen face sparkled a smile for the first time in the entire afternoon. She thanked him profoundly and gave her contact number.  Little did she expect a call back from him, however, she was glad to meet the man, who he is, a humble and plain spoken, greatly inclined towards his work, a sort of human species that is on the verge of extinction.

Akshaya left the shop and he went back to his world to continue his work. The evening sun streaked the sky in orange and red hues. Twilight slowly fell upon the tiny stars which emitted radiance in elegance. A flock of birds flapped their wings in chorus as they hurried to their nests. Akshaya ran few errands on her way back and returned home exhausted calling it a day.

“You look worn out to the core. How was the day?” Neel asked from the kitchen seeing Akshaya flip her sandals.

“Am just going to put a battery down sticker on my forehead and doze off,” said Akshaya shoving herself into the sofa in the living room.

“Seems like you had a rough day and a tough time,” Neel winked at her passing on a glass of freshly made mango smoothie, his new culinary trial.

“Don’t even ask, I had a wholesome one..,” blurted Akshaya as she gulped down the entire mango drink in a shot.

“Ummm….this is surely a heavenly potion in this hot summers,” she exclaimed slurping the last drop relishing it to the last sip.

“So, battery’s recharged !” smirked Neel.

While they conversed and exchanged laughs, a starry night with cool breeze slowly settled in nudging the busy city life into solace.

After two days, Akshaya received a call and Neel could notice her eyes twinkle with joy from the edge of the newspaper he was reading.

“It’s ridiculous, but you know what Neel, this person actually called back and said, he was able to gather the deficit pieces from his acquaintances,” Akshaya beamed cheerfully.

“Sounds great !!!”

Thanking her stars, she reached the shop a few hours later. He greeted her politely and showed the designs.  She scrutinized them carefully to check if they were all of the same design and let out a satisfactory sigh.

“Thank you very much for finding these. It must have taken all your time and effort.”

“A little Madam! It took some time to find a similar design & size along with the frame color texture and hence the delay,” he said in an apologetic tone.

“I can definitely wait, but I didn’t expect to hear back from you”

He passed an uneasy smile yet again and collected the pictures from Akshaya.

“Please take a seat Madam, fixing the pictures into frames will not take more than thirty minutes,”  saying so, he got engaged with the work.

As said, he completed the work on dot. The frames looked graceful not to mention the pictures that fit in just right. They reflected the best moments of Akshaya’s life. The people she love, the places she went and the plethora of memories she made along her journey. The moist in her eyes blurred the image in front of her. She rolled her shimmery eyes up and fluttered the eyelids to dissipate the tears ready to trickle down her cheek.

“This is incredibly beautiful !”

The price was fair and reasonable for the work done and most importantly for the honest attempt made by him. Pleased with his work, Akshaya settled the payment for the framing with a content smile and thanked him profusely.

As she was about to leave, “Madam !!!”, he called out. Akshaya turned around and looked at him.

“You gave a little more than the actual price,” he clarified.

She was taken by surprise. “Please keep it,  it’s a token of happiness for your sincere efforts.”

“Thank you for your kind words, Madam. Its my pleasure that you are satisfied. Customers happiness is my greatest delight. And, I have just done my job,” he said modestly handing her the additional cash. At that moment, she saw a spark of content on his serene face.

Akshaya was filled by a profound sense of reverence for this man who reminded her of a very important lesson:  ‘Happiness is a state of mind and the choice of an individual regardless of one’s social stature.’

She notices him return to his paradise with the invisible blue bird of happiness perched on his shoulder chirping in glee and it is best to leave them there, untouched by the world, or even by her timid applause.

Akshaya’s mobile buzzes cutting in the cloud of thoughts and reflections. The mobile screen flashes a missed call from Neel and a News Minute byte which read- ‘World Happiness Report 2021: India ranks 139 out of 149.’

*

Suchitra Reddy

Am Currently working as a software professional. Apart from the mundane IT life, I love to pamper the creative side of me. I love to read books of any genre. Our Indian Epics fanatasize me a lot leaving me awestruck everytime I read them. With the love for reading I have started to pen down short stories a year back. I shall continue to write as it gives me a high everytime I write.

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