Naval Langa (born 15 September
1953) is fiction writer. "Message from the Garden" is his famous novel.
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Short fiction by
Message From The Garden..... (a novel)
THOUGH the meeting wasn’t a premeditated or diarised one, it ended with a
difference. The difference I was never prepared for.
August was in its youthful days. Thrashing rain. I drove through the downpour
that was acting as a sword, dividing city dwellers into two sets. Half of the
dwellers ran into their houses; and another half ran out of their houses.
Reason: they held restricted amount of faith on their walls, the sliding walls,
weak by age and neglect.
Covered with water, the land slept unpredictable beneath. My casual object was a
building on the opposite edge: a shopping complex, lighted up with neon tubes in
one side; and on another, blue with power-cuts. The multi-storey composition of
shops and offices stood on an uncertain ground floor involving a crude parking,
ancient potholes, and garbage of a folded past. The entire city wasn’t a
Rajpore, the city of tallest temples and lowest roofs, was nowhere on the map of
India before an army camp of British soldiers decided to extend its tenure. Easy
water and tobacco farms provided running and fuming reasons. Thereafter the fair
climate, its central location, and an all-weather racecourse played a populating
role. The officers, advanced in age, wearing remarkable weight of medals—heavier
than the heads they had rolled—on their uniforms, started to like the place.
They, the officers of advanced age, lived to pass their December days in playing
golf and clapping for fours, sixes and falling wickets. The game was their
mantra of relief between two wars. They all clapped triumphantly when the great
second war ended. They walked out, leaving all the catches dropped, when the
newborn nations washed their undefined borders with blood.
I looked through the reluctant recess of rain and stationed my car on a frontal
space. Just below a ‘No Parking’ sign. I would be back in minutes, and nobody
would mind it on such a day, I thought. First step in water, second on stony
land, and I jumped on the curved steps. Then Tick Tack Tick: my high heels
I went into Kanan’s shop.
Kanan: an authorized owner of ten-by-thirty feet of hard soil in middle of the
market. In addition, he owned rich layers of fat around all of his bones, a pair
of pail eyes like a fasting cat, and a height just above the poverty line.
Whatever amount of other features, properties he carried on his not-so-bad face,
half of it would be an ample stock for a grocery trader. And yes, I liked him.
Not for his saccharine words or the balances he had jailed in bank accounts, but
for he was my friend’s husband. My dead friend’s husband.
Kanan looked at me and stopped counting of his rain-thinned trade. Though I
wiped out the drops of water running on my face, while entering, I cared little
about my Golf Club jacket, red shirt, and blue jeans, which were still spotted
with ashes of the rain. The dust and droplets.
“Would you tell me the date?”
“Oh Sweta. I really need you today.” Kanan tried to pre-empt a strike, which
meant he hadn’t packed my provisions as I had phoned. “But you asked me… some
“The date from which your mind has stopped working.” I tapped my fingertips on a
wooden counter and scrolled my eyes on a shelf.
“I was just thinking of you.” He screwed a cold drink and put it before me.
Meekly. “I met one very special man today. Intelligent like you. The gentleman
is recently appointed on a high post at city civic office.”
“Everyone is special and gentle for traders like you. Greedy stock of
creatures.” That was how I could respect his clan.
Standing in a corner I ran glances over a loft where the stuffs like bakery,
tinned butter, and pickles were piled up. Random looks at all the kith and kin
of human food, and I fished out a chocolate box and one single-woman-sized
butter-tin. Canned food was not my branch of interest. A jam-bottle, sitting on
an upper loft and Punjabi pickles of my taste from a lorry-fresh box ended the
“He is really a nice man: a charming face, pleasant nature, and the man of
“Great. Then what is he doing here? He should be in Hollywood.”
“If you wait, he will be here.” He failed to find a better rejoinder to his
petition. Kanan passed his palm on head, where middle-aged hair-army was
retreating with a cleaning speed. “You will find him interesting.”
For me, ‘men’ were never ‘interesting’. Especially the men sitting on high
positions remained my distaste. Reasons were generic. I had read lurking lust in
their eyes at all the places: schools, colleges, offices, and company parties.
Whatever they sought from me, I gave them only one thing: hate, the consolidated
hate. The whole tribe of ‘you men’ was just like a swarm of skin-germs; and
germs deserved hate and repellents.
I placed a cheque on cashbox and unheeded what he said. I was in hurry, and I
held a controlled amount of faith on Kanan’s narratives. Swiftly packing my
articles, without looking at him, I crossed the floor.
“Sweta, please.” He had unbroken hope of an insurance agent.
I stopped defiantly and turned my head. “I am not interested in seeing your
‘very, special, man’. Okay? I’m going.”
Had I gone to Golf Club there wouldn’t have been such a reorder in my life. But
I looked at the oceanic outfield and decided against the Club. Golf people were
good people. No one ever asked me why, where, when again et cetera. They avoided
trivial issues; they talked only about the sticks they used, the clothes they
wore, and the cars they imported last.
As I descended few steps, there emerged an athletic figure of about six feet.
Ascending with ease. I paused for a moment to gauge the contours of the
interesting emergence: a man with harmoniously arranged face, his simply
tailored and quiet clothes, and eyes looking at signboards upside. The eyes, not
as black as his curly hair, looked like a pair of birds flying in search of a
secure place for building a nest. After analysing the pensive design of his
face, I sensed much more than what Kanan had reported.
When he was at striking distance, I lashed out a considered question. “Are you
the ‘very special man’, a bald man in the shop is waiting for?”
It seemed the aggressive query baffled him and it took some moments to get his
wonder subsided. When recovered, he looked to have filtered the connotation of
word-bullets shot at him.
“Ma’am, I like the storm in your words and it will be nice if you join me.”
........ to be continued