This story is my attempt to write using the epistolary form. In an epistolary novel the story progresses through letter exchanges between characters. I am taking liberty with the literary style as well as with the rules of grammar. Pardon me if my story makes no sense at all. Or if I fail to stick to the topic of the month.
I am trying to use the topic in a grammatical sense. The story will naturally have a lot of discussion on the usage of shall and will.
5th January 2005
It’s been a long time since I whispered your name softly in your ear while you sat on your armchair with a book in front of you. You and your creased eyebrows hated such distraction. I want to make fun of you again by calling you Mr. Grammatically Correct. It is almost a month since we separated. Still your memories keep lingering in my mind.
It feels odd to pen down a letter knowing that I shall never post it. Our houses are only a few lanes apart. I shall probably hand over this letter to your younger sister, Riya. She will silently tiptoe into your room and keep it on your study table. My letter will perhaps get lost in the pile of scattered books. Or you may pick it up, look at it from the corner of your eyes, and toss it back on the table. You said you didn’t want to meet me again. So, I assume my writing will not melt your heart. Your heart is not made of wax. It will not soften so soon.
There are loads of shall and will in my last paragraph. My head is whirling at their sight. I don’t think I can rewrite it without your help. Forgive me if I have again got confused over the usage of shall and will.
The grammatical usage of will brings back to me my fond memory of you. I can feel a broad smile with exposed teeth spreading on my lips. I want to recount out first meeting again. If you remember, a few years back, I went to meet my college friend Riya in your house. Back then she and I were first year History Honours students. My family had just moved into your locality. Our luggage bags were still lying unpacked and spread out on the cemented floor. I walked through the lonely lanes to your house.
I was about to put my finger on the calling bell switch when I heard your deafening tone. Murmur of students’ voices made way to my ears. I sneaked into your house like some stray animal would walk in unnoticed. I paced softly towards the hall room where you were conducting your coaching class. The poster stuck on the yellow plastered wall read ‘English Coaching Centre.’ My ear was still fixed on your loud accent. On reaching the half-closed door I touched it lightly. The door opened on its own. I stepped back in surprise. I didn’t intend to disturb you. Shockingly you were not bothered at all. You didn’t move your eyes an inch from the blackboard. You verbalised every word that you chalked down on the board. I could hardly see your face as cigarette smoke had filled the room. It made my vision hazy. As I walked a little inside the room, I saw an ashtray on the side table. The left away bit of cigarette was still burning on the silver tray. I realised you might be a popular teacher, but you possessed the bad habit of smoking.
Ignoring the unlikeable part of you, I tried to concentrate on your voice that had drawn me into the room. I was that bee who was drawn in by the smell of nectar. I looked intently at the blackboard. I realised you were teaching the grammatical rules of using shall and will in a sentence. ‘It’s important to remember that shall is used only with I. Will is used with second person you or third person he/she/it or they.’ Then you gave a few examples: ‘I shall go to school’ and ‘He will play cricket.’ The students sitting in front of you nodded their heads in response. Suddenly, I asked unconsciously, ‘I often say, I will go to college or I will complete my homework. Are they grammatically incorrect?’ You looked at me with furrowed eyes. You didn’t ask who was I or why was I there in your room. You simply replied in a strict tone. ‘There are exceptional cases when will can be used with first person I. For example, when you say ‘I will eat dinner’ you give emphasis on the fact that you will definitely eat dinner at that point of time. It is used to give emphasis on a statement. Likewise, shall can also be used with we/they/it in rare circumstances. Is that clear?’ I moved my head up and down like confused students in any coaching class.
Soon you ended the lesson with the class. The students’ jostled out of the room. I saw a lean figure of a man in his early thirties walking towards me. The film of fading smoke was still wrapped around you like a curtain. ‘You didn’t understand what I tried to teach you. Isn’t it?’ You questioned me. I tried to change the topic with my trembling tone. ‘The signboard tells me that this is an English Coaching Centre. So, are you Mr. Grammatically Correct? I can assure you that it’s an uncommon name.’ You answered back in your husky voice, ‘My name is Arup. Students appreciate my willingness to teach English Grammar in detail.’ I giggled. ‘Yes! I just witnessed your fascination with shall and will.’ Your face grew darker. Creases appeared on your forehead. ‘Why are you here if you are not looking for an English teacher?’ You asked me. ‘I am here to meet Riya.’ I replied in an inaudible tone. I didn’t wish to offend you again with another joke. You pointed your finger straight inside the house, and gestured me to walk inside. ‘Thank you.’ I walked away without looking back. For days my heart pounded on my chest to know if you would ever like to meet me again. You had already marked a lasting impression on my mind with your grave disposition. I liked you since our very first meeting. The reason for the same is still unclear to me.
Back to the present, I don’t think you will write back to me. Or meet me even if I insist. But this letter is my attempt to remind you of the lovely times we had together. I wish nothing in return. May this letter find you in good health.
With lots of love,
10th January 2005
I hope my letter teaches you a few letter writing rules. I know you hate me for being grammatically correct. But when one delves deep into a subject, one becomes a little obsessed. I am sure you secretly admire my passion for grammar.
Coming back to the topic, what made you think that your letter will find way into my dustbin? Though I did try to bat an eyelid on seeing it and turn my face away. Nonetheless, you always find a way to touch my heart. Writing your letter using a scented ink pen is silly. Yet, it suddenly reminded me of your sweet fragrance.
I remember you didn’t look back at me on out first meeting. You simply walked off to Riya’s room. A few strands of your long black hair touched my face as you passed by me. The smell of your perfume remained in my room for days. It reminded me of you. Every time I closed my eyes your face appeared before me. I stretched my hand a few times, hoping I can feel you standing in front of me.
I miss you. Your giggle still rings in my ears. It irritates me at odd times. Mostly then when I am teaching something very serious like Narration Change. Oh! I forgot for a second that I don’t teach anymore. I used to.
Do you remember the day we fought over grammar and literature? You insisted, ‘There are far more interesting ‘will’ in English language than grammatical usage of will and would. Why don’t you teach literature? Try teaching some story on human willpower? They will make lessons fun for students like me.’ Now, I feel you should start an English class and teach them yourself. You are that literature-type.
Since we are going down the memory lane, let’s talk about the monumental day of our life. The day I confessed my love for you. You were sitting on the wooden swing in the porch. My dad had constructed it for my sister, Riya. She never used it. She felt dad betrayed her by leaving us alone at an early age. I never blamed him. He had to leave this planet against his will. No one willfully embraces death. Anyways, it was lovely to watch someone like you mount on it like a child. A wide grin appeared on your face as the swing moved to and fro. I watched you from the window for quite some time. Unhurriedly, I walked up to you. I held the chains of the swing with a tight grip. It stopped swaying. You turned your face sideway and lifted your eyebrows. There was a confused expression in your face. I said, ‘Will you like to stay in this house forever?’ You stood up rapidly from the seat. I feared I had offended you. To my surprise, you held my palm and pulled me towards the swing. You signaled me to sit by your side on the swing. We sat and looked at the house in front of us. Birds were chirping in the nearby mango tree. A butterfly came from nowhere and sat on your shoulder. ‘I will,’ you assured. ‘But I hope you will give me a proper marriage proposal someday.’ You rolled your eyes. I moved away from the swing seat. I sat on my knees before you. ‘Will you marry me?’ I asked. You nodded your head in consent. A reddish blush appeared on your cheek as you shied your face away from me. It was a perfect day.
Not every picture perfect moment lasts forever. There are good days and bad days in our life. A month back my voice suddenly grew hoarse while teaching Class X students. I thought I was tired. My throat was strained due to shouting. I took the warm water bottle from my side table. I gulped down half a bottle water at one go. I was sure I would feel better. In the evening, Riya summoned you as I was unwell. I could hardly talk. I held your palm as you sat by me on the bedside. We stayed still for a few minutes. I again tried to speak. I attempted to voice my thoughts. Only a dull and faint tone came out of my mouth. I couldn’t even call you by your name. Ratri! My dear!
We visited doctors and hospitals. Everywhere I was advised voice rest. They said smoking has choked my voice. I felt helpless. I couldn’t bear the thought that I wouldn’t be able to teach anymore. It was like a knife was stabbed on my heart. Yet, I couldn’t yell aloud. I wanted you by my side this whole time. But I had to push you away. You are just 23. You have your own happy life to lead. I can’t hold you back. I don’t want you to wait for me till I get well. Truth is I may never get well. So, it is better for us to part ways.
But why am I replying to your letter if everything is over? I have asked this question to myself a thousand times. I guess I wanted to say, or write down what I can’t say anymore to you. I care for you. I will love you forever. When I write the word ‘will’ I really mean to emphasize that my love will last forever. Never doubt that.
By God’s will, if we ever meet again in future, let the destiny decide our fate.
11th January 2005
Dear Mr. Grammatically Correct Arup,
This is to remind you that I respect your will. But I will keep writing letters to you until you stop being stubborn.
You are not dying. You are just suffering from a disease that will be cured soon. I prefer to be an optimist. Get well soon!
Your heart’s darling,
1st February 2005
You didn’t write back to me for a really long time. I hope you are in good health.
I am still waiting for you.
12th May 2005
Our will or willpower can indeed help us to combat with diseases. My brother Arup was not suffering from a fatal illness. He just lost his will to live. Your letters kept his optimism alive. Every time I walked noiselessly into his room to keep your letter on his study table, I knew he noticed. I saw him laid on his bed with half-closed eyes. Your letters kept him going through this tough phase of his life. He wanted to get better. He stopped smoking. He took all his medicines properly. I have never seen my brother so disciplined before.
Yesterday, we went to the doctor’s clinic. After medical examination he told to Arup, ‘You can lead normal life from now on. Keep taking the medicines. And don’t smoke. Smoking kills.’ The doctor smiled for the first time during this six months treatment. I saw my brother’s face beaming with joy. He is able to speak in an audible tone again.
Ratri, it’s time for you to pay a visit to my brother. I know he will not write to you. He will not invite you home until he is fully cured. But I know he wants to meet you. I believe you are eagerly waiting to see him as well.
Your loving friend,
13th May 2005
Your younger sister Riya informed me of your recovery. I should probably throw away my pen and paper right now. I can simply run to you and wrap you in my arms. However, I believe our love survived so long by virtue of these letters. You should definitely teach letter writing rules to your students from now on. Your grammar bonded us together. But these letters made our attachment stronger.
‘I will love you forever’ is now a promise you need to keep instead of simply writing it down on a piece of paper. So, be prepared.
By the way, have you already started your coaching classes? English Coaching Centre of Mr. Grammatically Correct! Is there any chance I shall again walk into a room full of students? I think it’s better to look for my grammar book before meeting you. Probably I kept it on the bookshelf. Or maybe on the table drawer. I am confused. My head is spinning again. But I really need to look into the rules and usages of shall and will before facing you again.
I shall hopefully visit you soon.
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