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The Crow's Tale of the Masks and a Lost Friend (standard:romance, 1376 words)
Author: NILANJAN HAJRAAdded: Feb 02 2007Views/Reads: 3153/2213Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A multi-layered story of identities, love and loss!

The Crow's Tale of the Masks and a Lost Friend 

By Nilanjan Hajra 

Cawing of crows intruding into peaceful slumber is an insignia of dawn. 
That's how I guess it is all over the world. But in India and certainly 
in our Bengal we have a beautiful exception to this rule.  This 
occurred last night. My restful oblivion was gradually but firmly 
broken apart by a steady din of cawing crows coming from the ancient 
pipal tree just opposite to my bedroom window.  I was certainly not 
feeling like the enlightened Buddha.  And was in fact a trifle angry at 
the night that seemed to have slipped past without my making full use 
of it.  But as I walked up to the window my frustration melted into an 
amazing feeling of sweet pain. It was a brilliant moonlit night. One of 
those rare nights, which in Bengali we call Kak-jyotsna. These 
otherwise intelligent crows had clearly been fooled into believing it 
was already dawn.  I was enjoying the quaint beauty and the flute-pain 
when a crow hop-skipped on to my window pane and narrated the following 

"Many years ago there was a small boy who used to feel sad for no
apparent reason.  One night an Angel flew down to him, woke him up from 
deep slumber, hurriedly put a mask on his face, and said, 'Quietly come 
with me.'  The Angel clutched his hand tightly, and the two took a 
flight.  Within moments they landed in front of a large fair.  The 
Angel told him, 'Wait here. And don't even try to take off the mask.  I 
will be back in a moment.'  It was a huge fair.  Dazzlingly lit with 
lights of all hues.  There were more people than he had ever seen in 
his life. And vendors offered all kinds of mouth-watering fast food on 
make-shift stalls outside the fair rampart.  Just as he was toying with 
the idea of peeping inside the fair-ground for a moment, the Angel 
reappeared, and brought along a little restive girl wearing a strange 
mask.  The Angel then put the boy's right hand in the little girl's 
left hand, and said, 'you can go in now. You'll find everything you 
ever wanted in this fair.  But remember, never, never take off your 
masks when you are with each other, or when you are inside the fair.  
If one of you takes off the mask the other one will be in grave danger! 
 Whenever you feel sad', the Angel continued in a mysterious tone, 'the 
mask will enable you to fly down to this fair.  Now go, and explore!'  
By the time both of them shouted together, 'what danger?' the Angel had 

"So the two of them went in hand in hand, and soon found out it was
really the Calcutta Book Fair.  For hours and hours they had a 
delightful time, which they never shared with anyone else.  From that 
day every time they felt sad they just flew into the fair.  After a 
long time both of them were a little surprised to find that both of 
them felt sad at the same time.  In time the little girl was curious to 
find out how the boy really looked.  She even told him once, 'why don't 
you pull off the mask? Just for a moment?'  But sensing the great 
danger that might befall her, the boy had jumped back.  He of course 
had no problem imagining her face.  To him she was sometimes Liesl of 
The Sound of Music, sometimes Tagore's Mrinmayee, sometimes Fermina 
Daza, sometimes that nameless girl whom Mayakovsky had challenged to 
play the flute blowing a drain pipe, and some times Matilde...  The 
girl was also becoming pretty naughty.  She would often suppress her 
own sadness for a while, and come late.  The boy would search for her 
madly in that huge fair ground, running from one gate to another.  And 
then she would suddenly appear, shaking with a disarming laughter, and 
pull his hand from behind.  It never so happened, that she didn't come 
at all. Year after year after year flew past.  And the happiness in 
those two little hearts began to flower into a sweet pain, exactly as 
you are feeling now. 

"Then one day just as the two were entering the fair, she felt a tug at
her hand and it slipped out of his.  At that precise moment everyone -- 
millions of them it seemed -- wanted to enter through the gate.  The 
ruthless crowd pushed her apart, and kept pushing her until she 
completely lost sight of him.  She called out his name, again and 
again.  But the din drowned her small voice.  As for the boy, for a 
moment he was stuck watching a dirty old lady begging outside the gate 
hugging in her lap a small rickety child with a large stomach.  By the 
time he realized that he was no longer holding her hand, she had 
completely disappeared.  It will take the whole of this night to 
mention all the places where he searched for her.  From rallies to 

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