Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Alone

Mukund picked another photo and decided that now, this one was his favorite. He had changed his mind with every photograph and had spent hours on some photographs. He had saved the album from the fire. The only thing that he could save from the wretched fire.

Mukund pondered a lot where he should put the image of his mom. She was looking prettier than he could imagine. The black and white added to a sincerity to the photograph that isn’t the same in a colored photograph. And yet, Mukund would have preferred to have the photographs colored. He remembered asking his mom as a 5-year-old, why some photographs were colored whereas some were black and white.

“Oh Sweety! It’s because the colors are present in photographs of people who are alive. For example, look here, your grandfather’s photograph is black and white while standing beside her, your father is colored because you have to get him out of the bed for breakfast now. Now hurry up.” She said and Mukund ran up to his father.

He liked to remember that day. It was one of those memories etched in his mind that he hoped would stay even if he forgets everything else. Unlike the memory formed three years ago.

He was at college, last year with a job in hand. To enjoy the moment, he and his friends and gone out and partied late. He had woken up at 10 am in the morning with a girl he had picked up at the bar.

“Perfect.” He said to himself and stretched to relieve himself of the morning lethargy. He looked at the side table to check his phone and saw that the photograph of his family had turned black and white. The only person in color was him. His mother and father were already turned black and white. His younger sister’s face was turning from skin tone to black and white as he continued to look at it aghast.

He opened his phone immediately and saw multiple missed calls and messages. He called back and his friend replied in tears.

“A burglar came into the house. Your father tried to stop him but he was armed…..” Mukund didn’t hear much after that. He was at the airport taking the first flight to his hometown. Within a few hours he was at the place that gave him so much joy as a kid. It was teeming with policemen and neighbours. Some tried to provide him solace by hugging him while others mumbled words of condolences. Mukund barely remembered who was there much alone who said what. The whole world had gone silent for him.

As much as Mukund tried to forget that day, it was beyond him. He couldn’t believe that a day before that, he was worried about getting a job. It seems so trivial now.

Even the fire that burnt his house down today didn’t faze him much. Except for this box of photo albums, nothing was worth preserving in his mind anyways. He had lived alone for the past three years and had bare enough things in his house to survive. With no relatives and no family, he didn’t find any joy in buying anything. While most of these photographs had backups on cloud, he still wanted to hold on to the original versions.

Mukund picked another photograph. He hadn’t seen it ever. It was Mukund’s mother’s great-grandfather along with his family. Mukund kept looking at the photograph with a shocked look on his face. The photograph was old and withered. Its corners were turning yellowish and the whole of it was black and white; except for his great-great-grandfather. He was brimming with vivid colors. The photograph was when he would have been in his prime and looking at it, no one could say that he was dead for decades.

‘Is he though?’ A though lingered in Mukund’s mind. He realised that something was wrong. He checked his computer for the same photograph and realised that even in that photograph, his great-great-grandfather was colored.

“What the hell is happening?” Mukund shouted out loud. In response, his house’s IoT system turned on — ‘Opening News Channel’ — it said and switched on the television.

“In other news, a man has been discovered from the ice. We have yet to understand how he was alive and how old he actually is. He’s still asleep but doctors say that he is in good shape. His photograph is being shown on your screen and if anyone can identify him, please contact the number below.”

Mukund looked at the image on the screen and looked at the photograph he was holding. He fumbled towards the phone and called the number.

“Yes. My great-great-grandfather looks exactly like that. Also, the photo has turned colored. It might be him.” Mukund said hurriedly. He was given an address that he wrote on his laptop. He flicked a tear that was coming from his eye and booked a cab.

Mukund couldn’t believe that he was going to have a family again.