*Beautiful tales of the Macabre*

The Man Who Called Himself Robi

I was aware of a hundred different sensations, coursing through my body, as I watched the fireflies light up the entire pond, their ritual dance awakening everything around. The greenish glow emanating from their tiny bodies seemed to infuse fresh life into the deadpan and tired mustiness of the tiny jungle that surrounded me.

The weathered pebbles took on a new life of their own. The banyan tree seemed to lift its roots and dance to a fox-trot. And I fell more and more in love with the tiny beings, making a mental note of all those things that I would write about, in this anthology of firefly poems, I had long been planning on, when, a voice spoke:

“My fancies are fireflies,

Specks of living light

Twinkling in the dark”

I looked around, nothing. I waited, held my breath, and looked again. From a little clearing in the thicket of trees that surrounded the pool and beyond, an old, old man in pearly white robes, with an equally dazzling white beard, smiled and walked towards me. But I remained, unruffled.

“Hello, Aindrila”, he coughed. Now, I was amazed. “Who are you?”, I asked, rising from my seat on the damp grass, bewildered, and almost a little scared. “Ahh, let’s just say, I’m Robi”, he smiled. “I’m quite famous around here”, he added.

I frowned, “Well I have never seen you before, so I’d take that with a pinch of salt. Now, tell me, who are you really?”

Robi arranged his robes a little, combed his long white beard with his fingers and replied, “I have met Einstein you know.”

“You haven’t. Einstein has long been dead. This is 2016.India, 69 years post Independence. I don’t see how, you could have ever met him” .In my mind, I almost jumped a little, at having successfully won over the old man in this strange battle of words.

“I have met Einstein, have had tea with Gandhi .I live on in the hearts of so many people-I’m loved, worshipped, remembered in almost every corner of the country .I weave magic with my verse ,break hearts with my prose and inspire youth with my poetry .But on a lighter note ,I really didn’t see the Nobel Prize coming .Ha-ha.” ,Robi laughed ,a deep ,sonorous laugh. The laugh of a wise man, who knew things.

Something in the way he said it, tingled my spine. I looked; the fireflies had stopped dancing too. For almost an entire minute, the fluorescent halo seemed to freeze in time, the banyan tree didn’t look quite as alive as it had seconds ago, and I found the pebbles lying dull like old times. A tear rolled down my cheek, and it surprised me. I wasn’t crying, or was I?

I rubbed my eyes and Robi was gone .The tall, old, ancient man with those somber words of his, had just vanished.

My phone beeped. It was 5 in the morning .A flock of beautiful, white birds, a little like cormorants, native to Tripura, flew by, on steady wings of hope and courage. The buzz of the fireflies slowly died down, like the last cracklings of ember giving way to a resolute powder of ash.

My young Pishi (aunt), toothbrush in hand, ambled by lazily; stretching and yawning .I pointed to the clearing and asked, “Pishi, did you see that old man, who just walked away, into that thicket?”Pishi made a smug face and remarked, “Go, sleep Tinni. You haven’t slept all night. You’re imagining things. No old man came by. The gates were locked tonight, like always.”

I was puzzled .I slowly labored back to my room .A book of Tagore anthology, called the Gitobitaan, lay open on my mother’s table. I looked at the page that someone had apparently been reading . “Jonaki” .That would mean fireflies. I slightly shivered .Then I quickly turned to the cover page, with a picture of Tagore on it. The man, who’d visited me   , a while ago had looked exactly like him .Tears welled up in my eyes again.

I remembered, “I didn’t really see the Nobel Prize coming”.

I realized, He had been here, tonight.

Kaviguru Rabindranath Tagore.

Or, Robi as he might have pleased.