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In the Hollow of the Tree | Thokala Shreya

On the last day of my exams, I was waiting for my father to pick me up. It was a sultry afternoon, with no one but few pedestrians on the road. I felt uncomfortable and exhausted and could wait no longer. And the mask on my face added to the situation. I was disgusted at the idea of offline exams, in the pandemic.

I reached home after an hour of suffocation. “Didn’t you come by a car?” inquired my mum, handing me a towel and clothes to change. “We came by the car. But the AC wasn’t working, so we had to suffer.” explained my dad. By then I took a shower and waited for my parents in the dining hall. Dad and I sat down for lunch. Mum served us with brown rice and some curry, while she asked me about my exam. “It was good” I answered.

After the lunch, my father’s PA arrived, to remind him of a meeting. My dad’s a busy man. He never gets time to relax and thus travels by chopper to places(from one state or country to another) make sure he’s on time. Mum’s a bookworm and wouldn’t find time to even look out of them. Being the only child, I’m always bored at home. But I never really got out of my home.

But that summer, as I was done with my exams, I wanted to go somewhere. I decided to spend a few days in our farm house, which is in a beautiful forest area, with a river nearby. I told my father about it at the dinner table. He told, he would agree to it, if I allowed our maid and driver to stay there with me. I agreed to it and got into my preparations. Mum gave me all the instructions, yet she seemed to be worried. “Don’t worry mum! I will call you every single day” I said. “Take care Aarav! I love you!” she said.

We were in the farm house. I loved a company or friends, but, I had no friends. My classmates and few others thought I was boring and supercilious. I didn’t care any of those comments though. I then started to wander about in the forest. It was more than two hours by then, that I had been exploring the surroundings and I wanted to sit down for a while. Luckily, I found a tree with a hollow in it. I was curious to sneak into the hollow, and I was soon inside it. It was spacious but dusty. I sat down in there for a little while and then turned back to return to the farm house. Just then, I noticed a half-knitted sweater a basket of fruits, placed in the corner. I bent down to examine them and on finding a paper with a note on it, I picked it up to read. Being a 15-year-old boy, I was excited on being able to find something like that. “Who would want a jumper in this weather?” I wondered and began to read the note. It said ‘Whoever is reading the note must know that, this sweater belongs to me. You can take the fruits, but please leave the jumper untouched.’ I obeyed the stranger and left the place unsullied. Before I left, I wrote back to the stranger out there, to tell me about him/her. I was inquisitive to know about the person.

When I came back to the farm house, I asked the guard, if someone else visited the area before. But he was oblivious. I wanted to talk about the event that day to my parents, but then I thought they would be perturbed, so I remained calm.

I continued going to the hollow, the following days and every day, I found some fruit and the sweater being left at the same place. There were notes from the stranger. We kept leaving notes to each other, because he wrote that, he didn’t have any phone to talk. His name was Aarush, a daily-wage worker, of my age. He didn’t have any parents so he lived all by himself. I was delighted to be able to find a friend, who never got tired of writing to me. I asked him for his photo, but he didn’t have one. I made sure to leave a note, every single day when I was in the farm house.

After eight days of stay, I then had to head back to home. I was down casted that I didn’t get to meet Aarush even once, in those eight days. I wondered, how did Aarush managed to come and go away unseen.

From then on, I visited the hollow every week to read his notes and write back to him. I wrote to him to come to my home, but he politely rejected me. I presumed, he would be uncomfortable and hence I didn’t bother him much about it.

Eventually, I noticed that sweater was getting ready to wear. It was deep mat-blue colored one. In one of the notes, when I asked Aarush, about the sweater knitting, he replied that he learnt it from an old woman who lived close by his past workplace in just four days. ‘Such a fast learner Aarush!’ I thought. In his note last week, on November, he mentioned that he was going to make the same kind of jumper for me too. I was ecstatic on knowing that and decided to gift him from my side as well.

We, as a matter of fact, never met each other, but our bond grew stronger each day. Christmas eve was on its way and it brought the ice-cold winds with it. It was freezing outside and no one really came to the forest area anymore. It was only us-Aarush and I, who came there to leave notes. I asked him, if he could wait there for me, so that we could meet, but he was too busy all day at work and found time only after midnight. He did not accept any money or other help from me. I loved him for being so bold.

By the New Year, even my jumper was ready. Both of our sweaters had the letter “A” on them, just to make them more identical and spectacular. I gifted him a watch, notepads, pens, and cookies on New Year.

Dwindling rays of sun were trying to infiltrate through the curtains of my room. It was 9:30 in the morning, when my mother hastily came to me and started packing stuff and yelling at me to get ready. We had to go to our granny’s place that day. I remained depressed, while I was in the car. I knew we wouldn’t be able to make it back to home for at least four weeks, and that would be quite a long time for me to be without writing to Aarush.

All those thoughts didn’t let me enjoy the journey. Just then the car halted abruptly and I was awakened from the musings. A boy with a rather bony structure loomed up in the fog. I tried to scrutinize the clothes which turned out to be a pair of patched trousers and a blue jumper, with a glittering letter “A” on it!

Thokala Shreya

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