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The Key


We always conceal our threads when they begin to stray. Owing to someone else or to ourselves. Then, the facade is eventually broken by age and we start to even spot the most modest strands of them all. It takes a long while for us to learn and ignore these lost threads but we do accomplish it. And when the final moment arrives, they are precisely cut.

Rishi had been six when he felt his life unravelling for the the first time.
A long and severe Monday had led him to come home and slump into an armchair inside his sitting room. For a while, the rain drummed a slow monotonous beat to Rishi’s sorrows until the door tuned in with a creak and his grandmother entered the room.
She stoped dead in her tracks at Rishi’s desolate stance and frowned at him. Her happy boy had no cause to be sad. ‘What happened, Rishi?’, she asked, an edge to her voice failing to hide under the shadow of her concern.
At the sight of familiarity in his grandmother, Rishi’s eyes leaked tears, streaming down his chin. His voice wobbled as he forced out a reply- ‘I..slipped an..and the boys laughed an..and they-‘ and grew into gasps of full-fledged sobbing. His grandmother had rushed somewhere in the middle to hold him inside the circle of her arms.
The foggy gaps wedged between the raindrops on the window captured a heart-warming picture of the grandmother hugging her grandson tightly to her chest. After Rishi’s sniffing had silenced, she slowly unclasped her arms around him and muttered a quick- ‘wait a second,’ before strolling out of the room.
He stared after her, feeling both numb and heavy at the same time. 
The incense sticks that his she had set off a while ago, were launching a cloud of smoke and fragrance. It slowly escalated and Rishi could smell the scents of wildflowers unfurling about the room.
The door creaked open to let his grandma back in. There was something metallic clutched in her hands that he couldn’t quite discern. Something that was exceedingly tiny. Fortunately, there was no need for him to fathom it out in his fantasies for his grandma quickly crossed over and revealed the object. Lying on the palm of her hand was nothing but a small rusted key. Rishi glanced at his grandmother, puzzled. ‘What is this, grandma?’
‘This is your key, Rishi. Your key to all your locks.’, she said and settled herself into an armchair facing him. 
‘What do you mean?’ He asked.
His grandmother’s eyes sparked. ‘Sometimes life imprisons you, Rishi and it may chain you to uncertainly’s wrath.’ She leaned forward, her eyes still shone as she went on- ‘It yields a complex lock, impossible to pick at and keeps you stagnant in time. But there is always a key to it and that key is always in your hands, Rishi.’
‘But I don’t understand what are you talking about, grandma. What key?’ Rishi asked, his face painted in bewilderment.
‘The key that opens up your hopes, dreams and aspirations. The key which is contained in you to make them a figment of reality.’ She said and held up the one in her hand before thrusting it into his palm. ‘Now, I don’t expect you to comprehend this now but when you’re older, you’ll see it. You’ll come to realise that you can chase away darkness with a snap of your fingers. That everything is ultimately and unfailingly up to you.’
The rain had resumed its fleeing after a short halt. Altogether, with its incessant pelting and the intensity of the growing incense, topped with his grandma’s unfamiliar expression, Rishi felt an uncanny surge of feelings erupting inside him. But it was short-lived for his grandmother suddenly let out a laugh and scooped him into her arms, vanquishing his thoughts as rapidly as they’d come.

When Rishi eventually grew older and did learn to see it, he knew almost instantly that he would treasured that day forever.

The evening wind howls softly like a muffled scream and zooms around all the lights, crowds and colours. The sky is donning a coat of gold and crimson, streaked with a brush of emerald. Twilight is yet to come.
A throng of people wait in the queue to ride the giant roller coaster but Rishi, a young man with hefty shoulders strides the other way, his gait tainted with stumbles as he braves the aftermath of the ride’s thrill. He hears a kid back in the front crying in exasperation, probably at the guard’s refusal of his meagre height. Rishi eyes the smaller version of the ride situated nearby and sniggers. 
Bright lights of neon colours dot the cheery expanse and he finds himself pining to enter the abundant toy and candy shops. On top of this torment are the vivid Ferris wheel and a lively carousel, vying to make him succumb to their magnetic spell. But Rishi shakes it off and increases his pace. He shoulders past an old man, bumping into him in the process and sticks out his tongue at the man’s angry glare. 
Nightfall slowly unfolds its way into the sky. Rishi sneaks a peak up and realises that it’s time to go. He takes one last look at the carnival before raising his arm and snapping his fingers, making the world around him whirl like a hurricane. Colours fade to white and give way to a golden light, devouring everything up to an extent at which Rishi had to glue his eyes shut. When he finally opens them, he’s back in his room and his ten-year-old body. The box which lies before him flashes a circle of light inside, like a halo. Rishi rakes a hand through his hair and then smooths it over his body. A happy laugh escapes him as he peers at the box and its lock dangling from it. He triumphantly gets hold of the latter and fishes out a tiny key from it and he begins tracing his fingers over its rust as if he was regarding a priceless possession. A smile creeps into Rishi’s face, in unison with the echo of his grandmother’s words, still etched in his head like a good song. 
‘Everything is ultimately and unfailingly up to you.’

22 thoughts on “The Key

  1. What a gorgeous story, Shruthi. It’s amazing, heartfelt, and so empowering. “You’ll come to realise that you can chase away darkness with a snap of your fingers. That everything is ultimately and unfailingly up to you.’.” Wonderful. 🤍

    Like

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