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Wind,

Softly blowing;

Faint longing,

Simply growing

For songs of long lost harmony.

***

Got to Jenny Matlock’s Saturday Centus for the “Absent-E”

Yong Joon rushed into the house, leaving the front door bang shut behind him. He flung his school bag on the sofa, kicked off his shoes and stomped up to the little corner that his mother liked to call her “office”. As usual, she was busy typing away at the computer. 

 

‘Aai,’ he called out. 

The fingers on the keyboard paused, then hit the Save button. 

‘Hi Beta, you’re back, how was school today?’ 

‘Aai, I am never going to school again,’ came the abrupt reply. 

‘Why dear? You like school.’ 

‘Aai, what is the meaning of Yong Joon? WHY did you name me Yong Joon?’ he demanded in an apparent change of subject. 

‘Why? It’s a lovely name, and you know that.’ 

‘But what does it MEAN?’ 

‘Come, you must be hungry, let’s eat. I have made your favorite gul poli.’ 

Aai never answered the question, but her eyes grew misty whenever he asked her that. Yong Joon hated himself for making his mother feel this way, but he could not help himself. He had to know. He was tired of the look of bewilderment he got in response, every time that he mentioned his name. 

‘I am Yong Joon.’ 

‘Yawng, June?!’ 

‘Yong Joon, Y.O.N.G Yong J.O.O.N Joon, Yong Joon Deshpande.’ 

‘Yong… Joon..!? Deshpande???’ A quizzical look. 

It happened every single time. Today it was the new teacher in school. ‘Yonn… Yong Joo Joo Joon Deshpande,’ she had faltered even as the other kids in class tittered. 

‘Aai, why did you name me Yong Joon? I hate it, hate it, hate it.’ 

‘My baby,’ Aai replied with her usual hug. 

‘Yong Joon? Tell me what it means?’ he demanded again. 

Aai just held him closer. 

*** 

Sarita knew she would have to answer her little boy someday. His questions took her back to the past and her first love Akash, not that she would ever forget that summer of eight years ago. They had studied together in school, and although college and later work had taken them their separate ways, Sarita and Akash had remained in touch. Slowly, unperceived and unknown at first, the friendship had blossomed into love, and Akash had moved in with her when he returned from a posting at Seoul eight years ago. With him had come his memories of another land; he told her of his days there and they had often watched recordings of his favorite television programmes of the place that had for sometime been his home.  

‘Gyeoul Yeonga,’ Akash had said one day. ‘It was telecast when I was there. Like it? I never really had time to see it though.’ So it was that one Saturday evening they started to see the television serial Gyeoul Yeonga, or Winter Sonata as Akash explained to her. Akash, who had picked up enough of the language during his stay in Seoul, narrated the story to her as she watched the drama, mesmerised by the heart-breaking tale of love and longing. He held her close as she smiled and cried with the characters on screen, desperately wanting the son to find his father and the main protagonists, Yu-jin and Jun-sang, so cruelly separated by fate, to be together again, those sultry Mumbai evenings eight years ago.  

Many a times, back home from her fixed-hours job at a publishing house Sarita would go back to the drama as she waited for Akash to return from his often late-into-the-night work at an IT firm. Akash would come back and exclaim in mock disbelief, ‘Not again, you are hopeless,’ and gather her in his arms. ‘Can’t keep your eyes off Jun-sang, is it?’ he would tease. ‘No, Lee Min-hyung,’ she would tease back, referring to the hero’s double role.  

But Akash was right. She hadn’t noticed how and when Jun-sang / Min-hyung and Yu-jin had become a part of her life. ‘You don’t want to know who has played Jun-sang and Min-hyung? It’s an actor called Bae Yong Joon,’ Akash said. She simply smiled back in return.  

Sarita had forgotten that particular incident. What she could not forget was how tenderly Akash held her as they watched Winter Sonata together. ‘We will name our son Yong Joon,’ he had said, a twinkle in his eyes, ‘you will never look at the baby otherwise.’ ‘Promise,’ her eyes had twinkled back in reply.  

Sarita did not know whether Yu-jin and Jun-sang lived happily ever after because the last few episodes of the serial were missing. But her relationship with Akash was destined to come to an end.  

‘Another assignment, luckily it’s only for one month,’ Akash had announced one day. Sarita had some news for him as well but held back; the surprise could wait for a month she thought, downcast at the thought of Akash going away. She continued to watch her favourite drama wondering how it would end, yet again.  

‘Don’t worry; I will get you the DVD this time so that you know what finally happens. Am I forgiven now?’ And Akash was gone.  

She had left her job, preferring to freelance, preparing for the days that would soon force her to stay at home. She would have Akash back by her side by then; one month would simply fly away. Or so she thought.  

That one month had turned into two, then three…time crawled for her, but the days were simply flying away. At first they spoke frequently on phone, then it was long letters on email; but soon Akash got busier, his letters became irregular, then declined to a trickle and finally dried up into complete silence. She heard from a friend returning from Seoul that Akash was seeing someone else now, a Korean colleague from his company.  

‘Why don’t you tell him you are expecting his child,’ her friends had advised. But she could not get herself to do it and have Akash come back when his love for her no longer remained.  

When the baby came Akash was far from her world. ‘Yong Joon,’ she whispered into his ears as the doctor placed the little bundle into her arms. People had thought she was crazy to give her child such a strange name. But she did not care; there was only one name by which she could call Akash’s son. With the coming of the baby she had thought memories of Akash would fade away. But they had only grown stronger, and the drama they had seen together had become a habit, her only link to his world now so far away. 

*** 

Now that Akash was no longer there, she watched the serial alone. Yong Joon hated the drama she loved so much. 

‘Aai, I hate that uncle.’ 

‘Which one, dear?’ 

‘This one with the scarf and long coat, I hate him,’ Yong Joon punched the air with his fists at his namesake on screen. 

‘Why darling, why don’t you like him?’ 

‘He makes that auntie cry, and you are always crying when you see him.’ 

It made him sad to see Aai cry. Yong Joon never cried, not even when all the boys got together and teased him, ‘Yong Joon, Yong Joon / Come from the moon? / Give Yong Joon a whack / He will surely go back.’ 

‘Tell me what your name means?’ he would ask the others, desperately hoping they would fail this test. 

‘Pollen grains,’ Parag 

‘Matchless,’ Atul 

‘The Sun,’ Mihir 

‘Fragrance,’ Saurabh. 

‘And you? What does Yong Joon mean?’ they would ask in return. 

‘Why should I tell you,’ defiantly. 

‘Hah, you don’t know what your name means!’ would be the mocking reply. 

This would be followed by collective sniggering that often ended in fisticuffs. 

*** 

‘Aai, tell me what my name means,’ Yong Joon wasn’t going to give up today. 

Sarita knew her cute little baby was growing up into a confused little boy; he was slowly drifting away from her and she would lose him some day at this rate. His father was long gone from her world but she would do all to keep her son, come what may. 

‘Come, let’s watch this together today,’ Sarita said, sliding the Winter Sonata CD into the player and pulling her son him onto her lap and into a warm embrace. 

Today she was going to tell him about his father and the meaning of his name. 

___________________________________________________ 

  (To those confused about the nature of this post, let me reiterate: this is a Short Story, a piece of fiction)

May 2017
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