“I am sorry Simone. It’s all my fault. I should have been more careful” Jeet said with a nervous wobble in his voice.
“But how did it all happen?” Simone asked frowning nervously as she pressed her thumb on the receptor at the door.
After finding their daughter missing from the park, Jeet had called his wife Simone, and they both reached their home almost at the same time.
“Myra wanted to go to the park, and I was busy uploading this weekend party’s menu on our refrigerator. I made her wear her ear cell to keep track, with an intention to join her within half an hour. But when I reached the park, she was nowhere. I tried contacting her, but her ear cell was out of reach” Jeet replied almost at the verge of crying.
“OMG! But what about the security robots? Didn’t you ask them?” Simone’s heart had started racing fast at the prospective danger.
“I definitely did. But they said they saw her walk with the person she was sitting with in that bench a few minutes ago. And then Myra and the other person went to another part of the park. I rushed to that area and asked the security Robo too, but they said she never went there. I drove around the entire area but found no trace of her.”
“With a person? Which person? There must have been a recording of the person?”
“Yes. I got the recording. Look”
Jeet tapped at his watch, and a floating screen appeared in front of them at their kitchen-cum-drawing room wall. The date on upper right corner read March 2076. A lush green park with three benches in a row on its left. Two women were sitting on the first one, on the second one a man and on the third a little girl with a book on her lap. The girl was wearing a purple sleeveless cotton frock, and her long black hair was dangling over the book.
“What’s that on her lap?” Simone asked surprisingly as it looked a little fatter than an e-reader.
“Oh, that’s a book. A paperback. I forgot to tell you that we found one when we were going through some old things that I had packed and kept in our storeroom” Jeet replied.
She kept reading for some time. Few men, women, and children passed, looking curiously at the book. And then a man in his fifties paused in front of her and kept staring at her. He was wearing a bottle green T-shirt and white jeans. The man at her tiny face and then sat beside her. They started talking, and then after a while, they both stood up. The girl followed the man and soon they were out of the screen area.
“Mr. Ghosh? The mysterious book-keeper he is” Simone screamed alarmingly.
“Who? The one for whom Arnab says is in some illegal business? I never saw him, but had heard a lot.”
“Yes. He works as a book-keeper and stays at the far end of the block. And Arnab is right. Nobody knows where he vanishes every weekend and sometimes at certain nights too. Not even his family members. He must have kidnapped Myra” Simone dropped herself on the sofa and started crying.
“Kidnapped! No Simone! Please don’t say that” Jeet said panic-stricken sitting beside her.
“Oh, my! Oh, my! He must have heard us when we last went to the park and discussed it” Jeet blurted suddenly remembering something.
“What? What he must have heard?”
“Myra wanted a new book just like the old one we found. And when I said it’s difficult to get one, she started pestering me to find one. He must have been around and must have used it as a bait to lure her.”
“And you are telling this to me now?”
“I am sorry, but I never thought it important enough to discuss. And you were so busy these days.”
Simone looked away and then in a moment wiping her tears started clicking on her watch cell.
“Don’t worry. I have a friend in the police department. We will find her in a jiffy” Simone clicked on her ear cell and called out her friend’s name.
Jeet too started calling everywhere he thought Myra might have gone, though she was never allowed alone even a block away. Nobody gave any positive reply and disappointed, Jeet slopped on the sofa remembering the day they found the book.
It was a cloudy Saturday, and Myra’s football class had got canceled. Simone had left for her office, and Jeet was just about to switch on the 3D printer when Myra called him from behind.
“Pops, I am feeling bored. Can we play something together?” She asked with a smile, the gap in her milk teeth making her look cuter than ever.
Jeet decided to work from home and be a house-husband. He had seen her father slog all through his life working for a multinational and he hated it. His father seldom got time to spend with him though whenever he did, he gave his full attention to Jeet. But they were rare moments. Hence, he chose 3D designing that allowed him to work as a freelancer from home. And he loved every bit of it. There was a mad rush in the first few morning hours, but once Simone left for office and Myra for school, he was on his own to work peacefully at his own pace. This arrangement also gave him an opportunity to spend a good time with Myra once she returned home from school.
“Myra dear, why don’t you read something? Do you want me to upload new books to your e-reader?”
“Nope. I am tired of staring at the screen. I want to do something else” She said looking around the room that Jeet had converted into his workshop.
“What’s inside that pops?” Myra asked looking at a big carton above the cupboard.
“Well, that contains some old things that I took out from my cupboard to make space. You want to have a look?” Jeet asked well aware how disciplined Myra was.
“Wow! That might be interesting.”
Jeet pulled it down, placed it at Myra’s room and went back to his workshop to finish his work. But he wasn’t able to continue for as long as every other moment Myra returned with an object she wanted to know more about. Finally, Jeet decided to join her and went to her room.
“Okay let me show you my treasure myself and tell you all about them.” Jeet sat on the floor and took the palm-sized camera gifted by his grandmother from Myra.
“This was how a camera looked like years ago. My grandmother was fond of photography, and she had bought it with her savings. Later it wasn’t of much use as we used smartphones and ring cameras. But, she was quite attached to it, and when she found that I am fond of photography too she gave it to me” Jeet said fondly turning around the Golden Nikon Coolpix S3300.
“It’s a bit heavy but beautiful.”
“And this is my father’s wallet. I forgot what’s inside. Let me check.”
“Oh well, it’s a 5000 rupee note. It’s probably from my father’s first salary.”
Myra’s eyes widened as she touched the flimsy note softly.
“Yeah! I saw its picture in my history book. Did you had to always carry few of them for shopping?”
“Not me, but your grandparents had to initially”
“But what if they needed more than 5000?”
“They had to carry more such notes. And there were many denominations, like 100, 200, 2000.”
“Okay. I get it. There is something else too in the purse. What’s this?”
“Oh, it’s a car key. They used to have keys like this for every type of doors.”
“Even house doors?”
They took out few more antique objects such as a cardholder full of credit cards and visiting cards, a headphone, a smartphone with a charger, a metal piggy box with coins jiggling inside until the cardboard box had just one item left.
Jeet picked the bubble wrapped thing delightedly and kept looking at it with a smile on his face.
“Let me guess what’s that…. umm…. it must be an old laptop. I saw one at my school museum.”
“No, my dear. It’s something else. It’s a book.”
“A book. You mean the paper book?”
“Yes. A paperback. The last one, written by your grandmother.”
“Wow! That’s great! How I wanted to own one when you told me once that she was a great writer. But why didn’t you show it to me then?
“I forgot that I have one. Good that we found it.”
Jeet unwrapped the plastic cover and took out a book, a box of pencil and a drawing copy.
“Is that the book?” Myra asked looking at a rectangular book that had glossy colurful images on the cover.
“Oh no. That’s my drawing copy. It’s the one which I used when at Grandma’s place.”
Jeet turned the crisp pages with his fingertips and showed her his silly childlike sketches. He felt nostalgic and sad. It’s ages he had touched a paper and a pencil.
“You were so good at drawing! They are so cute and lovely. And what’s that? A real pencil! I saw that in my history book” Myra screamed with joy.
She grabbed the pencil and finding a blank page in the drawing copy she looked at Jeet for permission.
She scrawled excitedly at the paper for the very first time, softly gliding the lead on the paper. She laughed hysterically as she wrote her name.
“Oh, my! It feels so good. Very unlike writing on an e-paper.”
“Yeah, I know. It’s amazing!” Jeet said.
She wrote her mother’s and father’s name and few of her friends and then suddenly realizing that there are only four blank pages left in the drawing copy she stopped writing.
“You can keep the copy and the pencil.”
“Thank you pops! You are the best!” Myra said quickly pushing the copy and the pencil by her side.
“Okay wait, let me see what’s more here” Jeet scooped inside the carton, frantically looking for something.
“Here it is. Have a look.”
It was a beautiful card that had flowers made up of something Myra had never seen.
“These are curly wooden shavings of a pencil.”
“But how did you shave it? With a knife?”
“No. With sharpeners. They sharpened the lead when we twisted the pencil, and the shavings like this would come out.”
“Wow! how pretty they are!” Myra adored the card for few seconds and then kept it beside her latest possessions.
Jeet then handed her the fuscia blue book that had an image of space on it. Myra delicately opened it and traced her fingers on her grandmother’s name printed on the old yellow paper. As she turned pages, she found few dried flower petals pressed in between. She looked up in surprise at her father.
“Dear, in the old days’ people, used to keep flowers gifted by their loved ones inside their favorite books to restore them as fond memories” Jeet explained.
“Oh wow! That’s so lovely. And these spots?” She smiled brightly and showed few brown spots on the old paper.
“Well, that must spill from your grandmother’s coffee or tea she must have drinking while reading.”
Myra caressed those marks as if trying to connect to her great-grandmother. She then closed the book and placed her cheek against it.
“The book has a peculiar odor but I kind of like it. Not of coffee or tea or the flowers. But….” Myra was suddenly at a loss for words.
“Like a biscuit, that’s slightly salty and sweet and soft and crumbly.”
“Exactly! Pops can I keep it with me please?” Myra asks adoring the book.
“Yeah. Why not?” Jeet agreed knowing very well how caring Myra was about all her things.
Later that night Myra tried telling Simone about the book, but she was too tired to listen. For days Jeet saw her little daughter spending good time with the paperback, the red pencil, and the drawing copy. And then one day when they visited the park she told her father that she had read the book three times and loved it.
“But pops I want to read more books, and also I need more paper and pencil.”
“Honey you have so many books in your e-reader, and you already have the latest version of e-writer.”
“No. not them. I want the real ones. The paperbacks. It’s different reading a story printed on a paper than one that simply emerges on screen. You can turn the pages, you can’t flip the pages back and forth, you can’t place a bookmarker, can’t keep flowers in between the way you can with a book. A screen does not smell too. I also found that there use to be erasers to rub off the pencil marks. I want a sharpener and an eraser too.”
“I understand dear. E-readers are a great convenience, but nothing could beat the feel of books. Okay, I will take you the Books and Stationary museum this weekend. There you will find all types of interesting stationaries used once upon a time.”
“Wow! That would be great! Do they sell them too?”
“Well, I am sorry no. They are just for display.”
“But I want to have them and use them.”
“Myra paper is no more produced that way. It’s only used for packaging. And pencils are no more manufactured.”
“But why? It’s so much fun writing with a pencil.”
“To save trees. To make paper and pencils trees need to be cut. And that’s not a good idea. We need trees to keep our environment healthy.”
“But we can again grow trees.”
“Myra, with the type of population we have, to have a healthy life we don’t have enough place to plant too many trees. Trees take time to grow, hence cutting them and growing again would mean a loss of fresh air and oxygen.”
Myra slumped in the metal chair sadly clutching her great grandmother’s book. She was unable to understand the reason accurately as to why no paper and pencils are available, but she quite realized that she won’t be able to read and write the way she wants to. Jeet noticed shades of dissatisfaction in her eyes but didn’t know how to bring a smile back on her face. Considering it as a passing fad, he walked back home with Myra and soon forgot all about it. But now, that Myra had suddenly dissapeared, Jeet realised he should have taken Myra’s emotions more seriously. What shall he do now ? How shall they find Myra? Jeet felt the world turning upside down.
……..to be continued 🙂