A Short Story by Vasu Gangapalli
It was one cold December evening, Ashok entered the Café Coffee Day to have a hot cup of Cappuccino as he didn’t smoke or drink, and this was one way to fight chilly winter to some extent. He found all the tables completely occupied, except one in which one woman in her thirties was seated reading some book. As he neared that table, he had a closer look at the book which she was reading; it was ‘Soul Talk’ by Rachna. Rachna was his favorite writer and he had read most of her books including this one. Rachna never gave any interviews nor shared any of her snaps anywhere. Hence, he didn’t know how she looked like?
‘May I sit here? All the other tables are occupied..’ He said, placing his fingers on the chair.
‘Sure..’ The woman whose face was hidden behind the book replied, without bringing down the book and even having a glance at him.
‘Thank You…’, Ashok said, pulling the chair and occupying it, ‘I have read this book twice..’ He added.
‘Nice to know that!’ She said, bringing the book down and keeping it on the table, she wasn’t as attractive as he had anticipated, but had a wonderful smile and beautiful eyes. She lifted her hot cup of Cappuccino and had a sip.
‘What would you like to have, sir?’ asked the waiter coming towards their table.
‘One hot cup of Cappuccino, please!’ Ashok said, looking at him.
‘Sure, sir!’ He said, going to the next table.
‘So what did you like about this book which made you to read it twice?’ She asked, ‘By the way, I’m Ritu..’ She added, retaining that wonderful smile on her face.
‘Oh, I’m Ashok…’ He said, smiling back, ‘Well, I liked the story so much…‘Well, to quote from the book ‘Sometimes, not so attractive body could hide the most wonderful and beautiful soul!’’ He added.
‘But then most of the men prefer woman with beautiful bodies than souls, isn’t it?’ She asked, ‘Then how would a beautiful soul really matter to someone? If given a choice between say that beautiful woman in that table and me, whom would you prefer?’
‘True! I may prefer her!’ He said, having a glance at that woman in the other table, ‘But such beauty doesn’t last forever, isn’t it?’ He asked, turning and looking at her.
‘Come on, even we don’t live forever, do we?’ She asked, turning the pages of the book, ‘So what’s the point in choosing an average looking person like me?’
‘Maybe, you’ve the point! Is that the autograph of Rachna? May I have a look…?’ He asked, trying to have a closer look. Ritu pushed the book towards him and he felt the words written by his favorite writer with his fingers.
‘From your curiosity, I assume that you haven’t met her in person, right?’ Ritu said, having another sip of coffee.
‘No, I wasn’t so lucky…’ Ashok replied. Meantime, his cup of hot Cappuccino arrived to the table. He picked it up and had a sip.
She realized that it was time for her to leave and she stood up.
‘I’ll have to leave now…it was really nice speaking to you, Ashok.’ She said, smiling at him.
‘What about the book?’ He asked.
‘You can keep it! I have her autograph in another book….good night!’ She said, leaving.
‘Good night! Thank You!’ Ashok said, flipping through the pages of the book and he found a Café Coffee Day tissue paper on which something was written and to his surprise the handwriting matched with the author’s writing inside the book. The realization soon dawned upon him that Ritu was his favourite writer who wrote with the pen name Rachna. He rushed outside the Café Coffee Day looking for her, but she was gone!
Sometime later, in her apartment, Ritu was feed up of men rejecting her every time she thought she had found her man. She didn’t want someone to marry her seeing that she was a famous writer. Hence, she distanced her writer self with a pen name. She picked up The Body Shop visiting card which someone close to her had given and dialed the number. Forty-five minutes later, a black car arrived before her apartment and the driver tied a blind fold covering her eyes. The car reached the destination after a long drive and she was taken down in an elevator. Someone removed the blind fold and she closed her eyes unable to take so much brightness at once.
‘Welcome to the body shop!’ The stranger dressed like a surgeon cried with a warm smile on his face. He took her to a system and ran an application. He asked her to make a note of the body in which she liked to get her soul transferred in. Ritu went through the collection of bodies and chose the one she liked most. He came back, he saw her selection.
‘Good choice! That body belonged to the soul of a famous model,’ He said, handing her some papers to sign and then he said, ‘Please follow me!’
‘Would I get her voice as well?’ Ritu asked curiously.
‘Nope! You’ll retain your voice..Just her body would be yours…nothing more than that! You’ll have your feelings, memories; almost everything that belongs to your soul would be only yours!’ He added, taking her to a place which resembled a huge operation theatre. He strapped her to a chair, smiled at her and said;
‘We are going to start the process now. Are you ready?’
‘Y….es…’ She said.
‘Just relax yourself. Everything would be fine!’ He said smiling, holding her hand and pressing it gently and she smiled back at him nervously.
Few hours later, she was taken in front of a huge mirror and she had a glance at her new look and was pleasantly surprised. She looked stunningly beautiful, ‘Am I dreaming this?’ She asked, smiling at her reflection in the mirror.
‘No, you’re not!’
‘Alright, may I see my old body once, please?’ She asked.
‘Sure, follow me!’ He said and led her to a huge hall which had many bodies kept inside glass cases. Finally, he stopped at the glass case which had her body. She kept starring at her body and she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Her hand touched the glass case and a drop of tear rolled down from the corner of her eye…
‘What would happen to my body?’ She asked, wiping her tear drop.
‘If someone comes and chooses your body then they will have it!’ He replied.
‘I may come back for my body, so could you please hold it back for sometime?’ Ritu asked.
‘Well, at the most I can hold it back for two weeks and not more than that!’ He replied.
‘Fine. Please do it!’ She said, having another glance at her body, before taking leave.
Next morning, while she was passing by some street someone shouted at her, when she turned, she found a young man running towards her.
‘Alina, where have been? You’ve missed three to four modeling assignments so far…’ He said, trying to catch his breath.
Ritu just smiled at him and replied, ‘I had been on a personal vacation!’
Soon, Ritu started doing the ramp walk wearing new designer clothes. Initially, everything seemed interesting and something different. But soon monotony set in and she started hating her new life as a model. Days went by, then one evening, she saw Ashok enter the Café Coffee Day, while she was having her coffee. He walked up to her and said;
‘I think I have seen you some where..’
‘Maybe, on some cover of magazine as I’m a model,’ She replied.
‘Oh, yes,’ He said, ‘May I sit here?’ He asked. ‘Sure.’ She replied.
‘Your voice reminds me someone…’ Ashok said, taking the seat opposite to her.
‘Really?’ She asked, smiling at him.
‘Yes… I met her sometime back…but I don’t recall whom I met and where?’ He said.
They chatted with each other for sometime. When they were about to part, she asked him;
‘What are you doing this evening? Would you like to go on a date with me?’
‘No, I am looking for someone with whom I have fallen in love with..’ He replied.
‘Is she more beautiful than me?’ She asked.
‘Her soul is most beautiful!’ He replied smiling, ‘Now, I remember…it was my favorite writer Rachna whom I had met sometime back on this same table. You know what? I had met her again few days back and she pretended as if she didn’t remember me at all…’ He added sadly.
‘What? You met her again? Are you sure about it?’ She asked quite shocked.
‘Yes, I’m sure about it…’ He replied.
‘I’ll have to leave now! See you later, bye!’ She said, rushing out.
Sometime later, she reached the body shop. Then:-
‘I told you to hold back my body!’ She cried, rather annoyed at the stranger.
‘Well, I did! I only gave it away after two weeks when an old lady insisted only for your body…I had no choice..’ He said.
‘An old lady?’ She asked, surprised.
‘Yes, follow me…’ He said, leading her to the huge hall, where the body of the old lady was kept in a glass case. Ritu kept staring at the body for a few seconds and then said, ‘I need this body! And her address!’
‘Are you sure?’ he asked.
‘Yes, I’m!’ She replied.
Some hours later, her soul was transferred into the old lady’s body. And he gave her the old lady’s residential address.
‘Just give me call when your body is ready and I shall put your soul back to where it belongs!’ He said, smiling at her, ‘and I hope it happens pretty soon.’
‘Thank You,’ She said, leaving.
It had been tiresome to Rosy who had aged gracefully. She felt her ever youthful soul was now trapped in an old body, which was weak. She wished that she could lead her last days being active like she was before. It was then she came across the body shop and contacted them. Soon, she was there and she ended up selecting Ritu’s body. Somehow, this particular body attracted her more than other bodies.
‘You could’ve far beautiful body than that one,’ The stranger had said.
‘No! I have made my choice!’ She said sternly.
Now, Ritu in the old body reached the given address and rang the door bell. After sometime, her physical self came and opened the door. Both of them were shocked, and kept starring at each other in disbelief for a couple of minutes. There was pin drop silence.
‘Please do come in!’ Rosy said, finally smiling at her old self.
They sat in the living room and Rosy asked her maid to get some coffee and biscuits for them.
‘Now, tell me about yourself? Who are you?’ Rosy asked Ritu.
Ritu told her the complete story. The maid came with a tray filled with two hot cups of coffee and a plat filled with assorted biscuits. She kept the tray on the small table before the two ladies, and went inside.
‘Wow! So you’re the famous writer Rachna…I am really honored that I’m dwelling in your body and wise versa. I have been your fan and read most of your books…’ Rosy said, pointing her finger at the bookshelf in which were her books.
‘Nice to know that..’ Ritu said, picking her cup of coffee, dipping a biscuit in the coffee and having a bite.
‘It would be my pleasure if you agree to stay with me in my last days. You can have back your body once my time comes to leave this materialistic world!’ Rosy said.
‘Thank You for the invitation. I would stay with you…’ Ritu said, ‘Now, I would like to hear your life story..’
‘It would be my honor to narrate my simple story to a great writer like you. I always had a wish though this would be my last wish..’ Rosy said.
‘What is it? Please tell me!’ Ritu asked, coming forward.
‘I wish someone could write my story for others to read about me and to remember me while I’m no more!’ Rosy said.
‘Well, if your story sounds interesting enough then I promise that I would write it for my next book.’ Ritu said.
‘Oh, God, I just can’t believe what I just heard. It is like a dream come true as I am confident that you would like my story when I conclude my narration.’ Rosy said, coming forward in excitement.
They both retired to the bedroom which had a fire chimney. They sat before the warm burning fire, as Rosy started to narrate her life story to Ritu. Who got so much interested in the story that she started taking notes in a note pad. It was just before dawn when Rosy concluded her wonderful life story and Ritu had tears in her eyes.
‘I’m sorry for making you cry, my dear.’ Rosy said, holding Ritu’s hand and pressing it gently.
‘It’s alright!’ Ritu said, wiping her tears away.
‘Now, tell me, did you like my story? Would you write it?’ Rosy asked, with excitement in her eyes.
‘Yes, I liked it a lot! I would start writing it today itself…’ Ritu replied.
‘Thank you very much, my dear. I might not be around to read it though. Anyways, I wish you all the very best!’ She said, resting back on her easy chair ‘Now let us get some sleep…’
‘Alright, good night.’ She said.
‘May I know, what would be the title of this book?’ Rosy asked, yawning in sleep.
‘Soul Talk!’ Ritu said, looking at her peaceful body in sound sleep.
She stood up slowly, walked towards her body, bent down and kissed on her forehead, and whispered, ‘I’m glad that you borrowed my body and I got to meet a beautiful soul like you!’