Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The monkey and the fez hat

It was a beautiful summer evening. In a city that could be anywhere in Europe, with its sidewalk cafes and restaurants, and live music in the background. There were loud laughs in languages sweet and sour. And the aroma of fresh baked bread wafting through the air. There were handsome waiters and pretty waitresses ferrying glasses full of beer to the tables. People who were not eating or drinking, were engrossed in conversations, books, or the people around them.

And then, there were the honeymooners. There were plenty of them at this time of the year. And you could tell them apart from the rest of the crowd, since they didn't care much for the things around them. Most of them were so absorbed in each other, that they could hardly care about the beer, the fresh-baked bread, or the live music.

There was one such couple sitting on a table close to the edge of the wide sidewalk. They made a handsome pair. But they were a very accomplished couple as well. He was a budding cardiac surgeon. She was on her way to take over the world with her Harvard business degree. And, at that moment, neither cared about their careers. Or, their lives ahead. They had a bottle of champagne on the table. And they were having a good laugh about something. Suddenly, they heard some beautiful music. It was so mellifluous, that even they looked up from each other's eyes. They saw a young gypsy boy approaching them. He was dressed in colorful clothes and was playing a haunting tune on the accordion. But, what made it stranger was that he had a monkey with him, dressed in a colorful orange jacket. It was wearing a red fez hat.

The gypsy boy and the monkey came close to the table. He played for a few more minutes and finished the tune. There was a round of applause. The boy bowed. The monkey made a face at the young couple, and oddly enough, it seemed like it flashed them a smile. Then, it took its fez off and put it on the young man's head. They both laughed. The young man took off the hat, stuffed a few dollar bills in it and put it on his wife's head. The monkey reclaimed its hat from the woman and winked at them. The gypsy boy started another tune. They walked off to the end of the long street. And disappeared behind a tall building, where the evening came a little before it came elsewhere. It was the nicest thing to remember their honeymoon by, on the last day of the most wonderful week of their life.

They went back to their lives. First, their careers took their lives over, and then, the kids. The years became decades. He had become a very successful surgeon. People came to him from all over the world, to extend their leases on life. She bought and sold companies like peanuts, and was a businesswoman to be reckoned with. They had all the money in the world. And very little time. Specially, for each other.

Often, he would dream a dream. About a beautiful summer evening in Europe. He would be sitting with her, enjoying his glass of champagne. And then, he would see the gypsy boy with the monkey. As the beautiful music stopped, and the monkey placed his hat on his head, he would hear his wife's sweet laugh. And, just when he was about to place the hat on her head, either his phone would ring or hers. Sometimes, he would have to run to perform an emergency procedure. Sometimes, she would run to renegotiate a failing deal. And then, he would wake up.

He never told his wife about his dreams. Over the years, he didn't dream those dreams much. And when he did, they would be short. But, he wanted to go back to those beautiful streets with her one day. Now that the kids were grown up and he was looking at retiring next year, they could perhaps go and search for the monkey with the fez. Perhaps.

She had to miss his retirement party. He was planning to surprise her with a trip to Europe, which he had planned for months. But, she had something important come up and had to fly out at the last moment. At least, she wouldn't have to feel guilty about letting him down, since the whole thing was planned as a surprise for her. When he came back home that night, the place never looked emptier. It was perhaps very empty for a long time, but he was just beginning to notice. He had a lot of plans. When his wife came back, they would explore the Sahara desert on a camel's back. And swim with the fishes around the great barrier reef. And of course, they had to go back and look for their friend, the monkey. With the red fez hat.

That night, the dream came back to him. He was sitting in an ocean-side cafe in Los Angeles. He could hear the waves crashing on the shore. He could feel the salty air on his face. And he could hear the beautiful melody on the accordion, as his friends, the gypsy boy and the monkey, approached him. The monkey put the hat on his head. He looked across the table. For the first time in his dreams, there was no one sitting on the opposite side! He put the hat on the table, and gave the monkey a lot of money. They both bowed and walked away. The gypsy boy was still playing the accordion. As the music faded away in the distance, he looked at the hat. He was smiling.

They found him the day after. When the papers weren't picked up and the milk was unclaimed. He looked very peaceful in his sleep. He was smiling.

She was walking into her meeting when the phone rang. She froze for a moment but didn't let her emotions show. Her presentation would decide the fate of millions of people around the world. And, she couldn't let them down. When the presentation was over, one of her rivals walked over to her and congratulated her for her victory. He couldn't figure out why she looked so defeated. And morose.

It was a long flight back home, but she couldn't eat. She kept staring at the television screen in front of her, and then, she felt asleep. She had a strange dream. It reminded her of  something from the past, but she couldn't quite place it. She was sitting on the sidewalk of a beautiful European town, with music in the air. Her husband was sitting with her, and they were enjoying a glass of champagne. Suddenly, a gypsy boy with a monkey on his shoulder walked over. The monkey grimaced at her and pointed to the table. There was a beautiful red fez hat on it, next to the bottle of champagne. She picked it up.

As she looked up, she saw that her husband was not in his chair any more. The music had stopped. And, as the gypsy boy and the monkey walked away, she woke up. She was crying.


3 comments:

  1. There is an old saying-You can't have the cake and eat it too. When people have money, they do not have time for love. When they have time for love, they do not have money. If ia survey is conducted, I think many or majority will say thay would like to have money rather than love.

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  2. Compromise is vital... Everyone should learn that...

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