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IT’S ALL ON THE CARDS! - Shamik Dhar (India)



-         Shamik Dhar (India)


The other day, Suman had said, “You never send me any cards, be it Christmas, New Year’s Eve, or Diwali.”

He was one of those guys who was meticulous in maintaining these courtesies. I didn’t have any appropriate answer. Frankly speaking, I am pretty helpless on this issue. It’s not that I forget, nor is it the lack of interest to keep the fragile flame of friendship burning, but somehow it always turns out that way.

To tell you the truth, I find it practically impossible to select a card for a specific personality. Whenever you send a card to someone it should always have your personal touch, be in accordance with the tastes of that personality you are sending to, and associated with an acute aesthetic touch. According to some, the contents of the card do not matter. They say, “It’s always the love that is associated with it.” I beg to differ on this issue because, it is always the contents of the cards that matters.  That is probably why so many card shops have sprouted up.

I am completely lost whenever I enter a card shop. The sheer bulk of the cards arranged neatly in the racks tend to confuse me. Even though, there are various sections on the racks that classify the cards. They tend to highlight the colour of the changing festive occasions and the changing seasons of the heart but also in accordance to the myriad confusion of relations. However, the predominant section is conferred upon the young love and cupid. Thus, it is the pleas of the enmeshed emotions, which reigned supreme.

Being young and romantic, I too, in fact, was not spared from Cupid’s antics. The eyes had mesmerized and captivated me. I had the feeling that I could immerse myself in the depths of those eyes. Whenever I met her, I wished I could let my heart speak, yet somehow it was quite impossible. The rational intellect insisted that there would always be a next time. The next time was probably tomorrow and that tomorrow never arrived. My intellect became the slave of my heart. It forced me to express my throbbing emotions somehow. It was then that I decided to visit my nearest card shop in search for some appropriate remedy.

As I pushed open the door, the owner greeted me with a smile and his enormous tiger moustache. I smiled back innocently at the man whose moustache were curled, enough to balance a crow at each end. Quite confidently, I started the work. It didn’t take me long to submerge myself into the maze of relations. It was after almost half an hour later, I realized that I was completely lost.

When I looked up, I saw that Sourav, my pal, was also approaching the card shop. I could clearly see him through the tinted glass walls of the exquisitely decorated card shop. Well, if he somehow came to know of my weakness, then the whole world would too. It was a panic, selecting a card before Valentine’s Day, well nothing short of Hara-Kiri!

I randomly selected a card from the special friend’s section. I chose one that was simple and had a hell of a lot of daffodils. Out of sheer panic, I handed the card to the shopkeeper who quickly took note of its price, which he scribbled down on a notepad.

Just as he was about to hand me the card, I stopped him.   “Just a minute!” I said.

The cascading flow of his handwriting caught my attention. I quickly asked him to write a message to express how I truly felt, to capture my emotions, the thoughts that had been raging inside me for so long. I decided to keep it short and simple.  While the shopkeeper was writing it down I was watching Sourav in the meantime. He didn’t seem his usual bubbly self as if lost somewhere. It was evident by the way he made his way, trying to elude the ever-increasing vehicular congestion that blocked his progress. The shopkeeper quickly wrote down my heart's message, put the card back inside the envelope, and placed it on the desk. Sourav was about to open the tinted glass door when I placed the card and slid behind one of the racks so that he would miss me. He had missed me. He was heading straight for the valentine’s section, which surprised me even more.

I pulled myself out from behind the rack, pocketed the change, and quickly slid the precious envelope under my shirt. Now, it was my turn to catch him red handed. I realized that he too was in the process of sending out a heart racking message to his would-be sweetheart. Strangely, he managed to select a card in no time, which annoyed me. As he was heading for the payment counter, I crept behind him and tapped his shoulder. Poor guy, he was almost shocked out of his senses when he turned. Well, I was the last person on earth he was expecting. I twitched both my eyebrows and gave him one of those looks that said, “Got you, man!”

There could be no excuse because the previous day we two had spoken at length in order to convince the other mutual friends of the futility of sending such messages that could be better dealt with by speaking face to face with the beloved. Well, he turned red and started shaking all over.  I decided to give him a break and said, “Well, well!”

I continued, “I will promise to keep this under wraps for the time being if you want, but only if you reveal the identity of the person whom you are sending that card!” He meekly nodded and blurted out the name of the lady and scampered out just like a rabbit after paying the price of sharing such a secret of his with me.

Thanking God, I too ran out. I did not follow him but decided to carry off this mission of mine secretly. He too, must have been thanking his stars for getting rid of me so easily for the time being. It was late, so I went straight for the post office and posted my fate with a five-rupee stamp. Waiting for the deliverance scared me. I was in a worse position than Sourav because he could now speak of his fears and aspirations to me. I on the other hand couldn’t as I was afraid to let go of my dominant position as an individual who is unaffected by such trifle emotions as “Love.” Whenever the phone rang, I assumed it to be from the queen of my heart. The restless feeling continued to haunt me. It tore me limb by limb yet there was no way out.

One fine afternoon, the phone rang. Only after I had picked it up, did I realize it was from none other than my beloved.

“Did you send me a card, Shamik?”

I meekly admitted in the affirmative.

She asked, “Can you come to the District Park now?”


She said, “Yes!”

“Why not? I will make it!” I said.

Then the line went dead. There were butterflies in my stomach. Well, hope springs eternal. I had to make it. My heart seemed willing to pop out of my mouth. I couldn’t stop myself from trying to out jump my leaping heart and stopped only when I realized my younger brother was watching me wide-eyed. I quickly shaved and drenched myself in denim before rushing to her. It was dusk and although the moon was strangely lost somewhere, she stood like Diana, the moon goddess. I tried to get her so close that I could touch her. My rational mind forbids me from doing so.

It was then she delivered her response. “Take your card and go to hell!” she spat as the ashes of my hopes lay scattered.

With due regards to my “crush” and the special friend’s section, I must admit it was the last time I ever sent a card to anyone. When I opened the envelope, out fell the daffodils. The testimony of my misfortune, and it was perchance that I happened to open it to have a last look. Even though the message bore her name on top, and it was printed in plain simple English, “Happy Birthday.” The three-letter word that followed this “Happy Birthday” was quite a misfit. It was “Mom.” Underneath, this three letter word was scripted my proud name “Shamik Dhar.” Being the joker, let me dedicate this to the queen of my heart!