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The days of Falling leaves - [Indianization of O’ Henry's "The Last Leaf"]

The days of Falling leaves

(Adapted from “The Last Leaf” by O’ Henry)
Sumita and Korobi has been friends from childhood. To be exact two little girls embraced each other on the very day Samar Babu, the father of Sumita returned home from the office with a stranger girl. The girl was thin and pale visibly suffering from severe malnutrition. Samar Babu was a clerk in a trading farm with a meagre income to feed his family. Sumita’s mother was particularly not happy to feed an extra mouth but Sumita became very fond of the company of Korobi. Samar Babu raised them like two sisters with love and affection. Despite the hardships both of them had been passing their childhood days in the twentieth century Calcutta.
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original abstract art by me
Sumita and Korobi had been very fond of paintings and went to Calcutta Art School for training in paintings. After graduation they decided to open their own studios and devoted their life to art and culture. Meanwhile Sumita’s parents died and they have no other in this world. They went to Almora, a hilly town in the northern India with pines and birches to spend a vacation. They loved the place so much that they decided to settle there in a nineteen century old bungalow with a row of trees in front of the window in close vicinity of the boundary wall. The scenic beauty of the place may mesmerize any artist and they can spend their last penny to depict them in their creation.
Then came the ugly winter. The mercury dropped below 5 degree Celsius. Both Sumita and Korobi got themselves homebound as their warm upbringings in Calcutta had no such experience. The scenic beauty was gradually disappearing, the trees were losing their leaves, the nature was sporting a dejected look. They were alone except Buru Pagla, an old painter who lived nearby. Buru Pagla learned his trade in Shantiniketon but reasons unknown left the lucrative job to settle in Almora. He didn’t hold a brush for the last twenty years.
With winter came a certain Mr. Pneumonia. Pneumonia ravaged through the little town. The tiny town hospitals were overcrowded with patients. In a matter of seven days, it claimed ten people. Sumita and Korobi were frightened. Buru cheered them a little bit with his funny stories and anecdotes. They sang Rabindra Sangeet together to spend the lonely cold evenings. But they are not spared by the Pneumonia. One morning Sumita woke up coughing and had a high fever. She dreamt of sweet winter sunshine of Calcutta but to no avail. All she could do was lying on her bed and gazing towards the remaining leaves of the trees through the window.
Horribly worried Korobi called a doctor. After examining the patient the doctor opined that Sumita had an one in ten chance of recovery. He said to Korobi, “ Your friend’s chance of recovery depends on her will power. I think she already decided that she would give up. The entire medicine box couldn’t do anything for her unless she changes her mindset. Cheer her up”
Korobi replied, “ Only one thing in this earth she loves – to paint. To paint the green leaves breezing in the wind”
“ Paint! No way! She is so weak that she can not even take her own medicine. Well, I will try my best to use all my clinical knowledge for her wellbeing. But…. Well good bye for the day. Take care of your friend”
After the doctor gone, Korobi went to her room and cried out loud. Then she had to make a decision to paint a landscape. They had an order to deliver two landscapes within two weeks. She had to make that happen. Otherwise, it will be impossible for her to meet the treatment expense of Sumita as well as their day to day living. So she started to work on her easel in Sumita’s room. She was suddenly drawn attention to Sumita’s bed as she heard “ Ten”
“What are you saying my dear? Are you planning to visit 10 College Street?”
“ Nine” a minute later “Eight”
Korobi looked through the window. Outside there was a foggy chilly afternoon. A pale bare yard. A row of trees standing in front of the boundary wall. The trees had no leaves. But wait…. There were several leaves on a brach of tree.
“ What’s the matter Mita?” asked Korobi
“Six” whispered Sumita. “ Two days ago it was almost a hundred there. They are diminishing very fast. Oh! another one goes. It’s only five now”
“Five of What dear?”
“Leaves of that tree. When the last one goes, I will leave the world. I know that for the last two days. Didn’t the doctor say the same?”
“Stop talking nonsense Mita. You will come round soon. We will visit Calcutta soon. Now I have to finish the landscape. Wont you get some hot chocolate? You need some warmth.”
“No need to bring hot chocolate. Let me count the leaves till the dusk. When I last one goes, so will me.”
Korobi became restless to hear the insane idea. She begged, “Mita dear! Please let me finish the paintings. I have to handover this one to Mr. Chatterjee next week. Try to take a nap now. You will wake up fresh and energized. We will have a old days rainy day Adda. Don’t you remember how Baba told us ghost stories in those frosty chill evenings.
Sumita gave up arguing. “ OK. Get me wake up when you are finished. I will see the last leaf droppingof the tree. Then I will say goodbye happily.Kobu I am tired of waiting. I am tired of lying like statue. I want to be relieved of thinking. I want to fall down smoothly of my own pace.”
“ Try to sleep. I will search Buru Da out. I decide to request him to tell some stories of Mandala, Ramkinkar Baiz, Radhabinod during his Ashram days. We will visit Poush Mela this winter.”
Buru Pagla was in his room. Korobi told her about Sumita and her strange wishes. Buru was furious. “ How ridiculous it is to compare her precious life to those absurd leaves. A pretty girl like her can never think of that.”
She was very ill. Doctor gave no hope. Her mind is also cloudy. Buru Da you know how close we are. We are. I can’t think of a single day without her .”
“ No! Sumita can’t leave us. Look Korobi I learnt my skills from none other than Nandalal Bose. I heard singings of Gurudev. I am telling you after twenty years I will paint a masterpiece with her as a model. She can’t really deprive us. Let us confront her.”
When two entered Sumita’s room she was asleep. Night had set in. Silently Korobi drawn the curtains down over the glass window. All of a sudden it started raining with stormy chilly wind. Korobi entertained Buru Pagla with hot coffee. Buru bid goodnight and went out.
The next morning Sumita woke up more weak, more feeble. She called Korobi in a low voice. “ Kobu open the window. I want to see the the last leaves”. Korobi opened the window. It was a sunny morning. The weather improved a lot. No leaves! No! There was the last one, protruding from the branch just over the wall. Still dark green with a tinge of yellow on the edges.
“ That’s the last one. I thought it was fallen in the last night. Somehow it managed to survive. So did I. My meaningless life get one more day.”
“ Mita dont speak like this. If you don’t want to live for yourself, then think of me. How can I live without you. I will prepare some food for you. Please have some”
Sumita didn’t answer rather closed her eyes. She fast fall asleep. She woke in the evening and immediately ordered to pull up the curtains. Korobi obeyed. But see. The leaf is still hanging from the Branch. Sumita was looking at the last leaf for quite some time. Then she turned towards Korobi who was preparing some chicken soup and wiping her eyes.
“ Kobu, I have been bad. Bad to you as well as to myself. A little leaf can manage to survive against all odds. I realize it’s wrong to loose hope. Please bring some soup. I will eat.”
Sumita had a good sleep that night. In the next morning she told Korobi, “ Sing a song Kobu. Purono sei diner kotha vulbi ke re ai…”
Doctor paid a visit in the afternoon. He opined that the patient had improved dramatically. He advised Korobi to take c a good care of her and feed well.
The next day Sumita improved more. Doctor declared “ She is out of danger now. Proper nutrition will expedite the recovery.”
In the afternoon two friends sat together in Sumita’s bed. They became nostalgic. They chatted, they laughed, they planned to visit Ganga ghat in Calcutta. Suddenly Korobi fumbled to say something to Sumita.
“ Mita I have to tell you something. Our great friend Buru Da is more. He died today of pneumonia in the hospital. He has been ill for only 3 days.”
“ Remember the day when you were looking through the window to find the leaves were falling fast. He was discovered in his room the next morning- high fever, not in his senses, socks were wet, soiled, shoes were covered with mud. They didn’t understand how this happened.”
“Then somebody discovered a ladder in our boundary wall with art supplies under the bare trees. There were two oil colour green and yellow.”
“Mita look at your last leaf. It’s still as fresh and green as first day. The leaf is not moving when the wind blows. No Mita it’s not the tree’s leaf. It’s Buruda’s last masterpiece. He painted the leaf on the night the last leaf fell.”
Sumita and Korobi sat together in utter silence. Perhaps they are enchanting “Om Purush ottom”.

Tags : Abstract, Art, Drawing, Painting, Story, 

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