The last leaf

Comments 15 Standard

A short story by O’Henry. This was also a part of our English curriculum. My memories as a student have always been vague as I was never interested in studies. Surprisingly, there are a couple of stories from the English textbooks that I can recall. I would rather say, I don’t just recall but also think it still drives my approach toward different circumstances.

The Last Leaf is one of those. It is a story about a young girl Johnsy, who is struck with illness and is not able to recover due to her lack of willingness. The falling leaves of an ivy wine tree near her window in the hospital turned out to be her reason. Day by day she counts the number of leaves left and is confident that with the last leaf falling she also has to die. Her mother Sue worried about her condition reaches out to old Behrman. Behrman – a failed artist. Despite his 40 years in the field, he was still not able to create that masterpiece which he always wanted to.

Hearing Johnsy’s imaginations and Sue’s worries he gets ready to help her. While Johnsy is asleep, Behrman goes to the other side of the window and takes his position.  A cold rain was falling with some snow.

The next morning, Johnsy insists her mother open the window shade. Sue obeys. To Johnsy’s surprise there stood one ivy leaf without being affected by the rain and snow. Later that day, the doctor says he is positive now of Johnsy’s recovery since she was responding well. He leaves the room referring to another patient that he had to attend. It was Behrman struck by Pneumonia too. His chances of living narrow.

That afternoon, Sue came to Johnsy’s bedroom and said –

“I have something to tell you, white mouse. Mr. Behrman died of pneumonia to-day in the hospital. He was ill only two days. The janitor found him the morning of the first day in his room downstairs helpless with pain. His shoes and clothing were wet through and icy cold. They couldn’t imagine where he had been on such a dreadful night. And then they found a lantern, still lighted, and a ladder that had been dragged from its place, and some scattered brushes, and a palette with green and yellow colors mixed on it, and – look out the window, dear, at the last ivy leaf on the wall. Didn’t you wonder why it never fluttered or moved when the wind blew? Ah, darling, it’s Behrman’s masterpiece – he painted it there the night that the last leaf fell.”

Such a touching story! Behrman’s masterpiece didn’t lead him to gain wealth or fame but saved the life of a little girl. Gave her the hope to live and in the process lost his own life. In our own lives, we are tangled in the web created by ourselves and make them our yardsticks to measure our success. Success is not about our capability to fulfill our materialistic wishlist. If today, we are able to give a ray of hope to someone, that comes back to us in the form of self-contentment and gratefulness.

Let there be a little bit of Behrman in each one of us!

Here is a picture from my own garden of the Arabian Jasmine. Every time it blooms – it gives me happiness. And the bud? It symbolizes hope, isn’t it?

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Ayesha’s Tragedy

Comments 7 Standard

Just like everyday, Ayesha returned home late after a long and tiring day at work. She had dinner with her family and excused herself for bed. She could never go to sleep directly without listening to some music or reading a bit. Ayesha led a life surrounded by a lot of people but she was at peace only when she was all alone by herself with her headphones on – dreaming about accomplishing her dreams. To her, music was like the blood pumping into her heart. Her passion for music was well known to everyone in the house and was often scolded by her mom for not concentrating on her tasks because of music.

Reading through some pages of Sherlock Holmes, she fell asleep, not realizing the lights were still on. She had entered into her zone of dreams where she was once again in the midst of things she liked the most. Suddenly, she woke up to a loud thumping at her door. “Who’s there?” asked Ayesha. “It’s us!” came a shout from the other side of the door. Still in a shock and rubbing her sleepy eyes, she opened the door to find her mom and dad standing there. She stood staring at them wondering what could have compelled them to wake her up at 2:00 in the morning. “What happened? Is everything alright?” she inquired.

With a worried face, her mom replied –“No, nothing is alright. We heard you singing in sleep”.  “What! Are you out of your mind? I’ve been in deep sleep and I know for sure, I haven’t been singing.” “No” came the response from the other side. “You have been singing, we heard you singing aloud. You were singing an old Bollywood song. And since you have been singing in your sleep, it seems like evil has come over you. We observed that you haven’t been praying enough lately and now the consequences are visible.” “But mom, I…”. “No, don’t say anything. Come downstairs with us now and let’s pray for you”.

Bewildered and irritated, she accompanied them downstairs. And there she was, sitting at 2.00 a.m. in the drawing room. Her mom handed her a Bible and said “Read this and ask for forgiveness of your sins”. For almost half an hour, she sat there like a statue. Not understanding what to do, she finally submitted herself to her parents and read the Bible. Taking this step was like freeing herself from jail. She was allowed to go back to sleep.

Next day, early morning – it was again time to go to office. The previous night’s hangover forced her not to talk to her parents and leave with a gloomy face still wondering what made them act so weird and deprive her of sleep.

As soon as she reached her office, she got a call. She answered the phone to find it was her brother Roger “Ayesha dear, how are you doing?” With a grim face, she replied “I am okay”. Roger continued, “What had happened yesterday?” Ayesha sighed, “Not again! Don’t remind me about that”. “Hey, hey, hey my little sister, don’t you worry. That was me singing in the middle of the night with my headphones on because of which I didn’t realize that I was loud enough to be heard downstairs. Sorry for what happened last night! It was all because of me.”

Ayesha froze there thinking whether she should get angry with him or laugh at the silly incident.