ArTales Artales 25

The Lucerne Book Store

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“Rashi, come on, hurry up. The cab has arrived. You know how the traffic is in Mumbai,” Meera Screamed while waiting for the lift.

“Yes, Maa, coming.” Rashi picked up the house keys and mobile and rushed out. 

The mother-daughter duo had planned a vacation for a week in Switzerland. The doctor had suggested taking a break after Rashi lost her memory in a flight crash. Though she survived, she suffered from Amnesia and could remember only her name. She did not recognize even her mom while she was in the hospital. But as months passed, she got used to Meera. 

Rashi had been to Switzerland a couple of years back with her friends. She also captured quite a few pictures. Meera made every effort to get her memory back through those pictures, calling her friend’s home and doing everything Rashi loved, but unfortunately, nothing helped restore her memory. 

Memories got erased from her life like some stains from fabric. Rashi occasionally struggled to remember her past, but sadly the canvas of her past life remained blank.

Hence Meera decided to take Rashi to Switzerland again as the place did magic with its picturesque view. Moreover, it was Rashi’s favourite destination.

But for Meera, this was her first trip to Switzerland, and she was very excited. The flight was on time. Both Meera and Rashi were bookworms. Hence the eight-hour journey wasn’t boring for them. 

It was 6 a.m. The flight landed with a thud. Gathering the belongings, both waited for their turn to get off the flight. No sooner they stepped out, the wind hit their face like a blast from a hair dryer. It was bone-chilling cold outside.

Painted in red and silver, an air-conditioned train halted at the underground platform. Meera was astounded to witness the trains arrive on time and with such precision.They both quickly got in and took their seat. 

The beautiful train quietly sealed itself and continued its 45 min run to Lucerne. As the train moved, Meera jumped with joy like a small kid.

“Oh, the widespread greenery and nature are mesmerizing, beyond my imagination.” Meera expressed.

“Yes, maa, it is so beautiful.” Rashi agreed as if she was experiencing all that for the first time.

Because Lucerne was the most convenient location and nearest to the train station, they decided to stay there. Moving from one location to another was thus easy. The apartment was spacious and elegant. After relaxing for a while, they came out to have lunch. 

Rashi had carried enough books and was in no mood to get one more. But the bookstore in Lucerne was so attractive that she couldn’t resist and ended up opening the store door and sneaking in. 

The store was big and had a wide selection of books in genres, from thriller to Romance to Travel. There was also a play area for the kids, a small library-like place, and a café where they served coffee and fast food. The arrangement was fantastic. 

“Rashi, I think a store like this we should have in Mumbai too. Right? Buy, read, allow the kids to play and have some bite. All in one place. Indeed a cool idea.” Meera remarked. 

Meera loved reading books on travel and tourism. So she went to that section, whereas Rashi looked around for the latest fiction books. The area was huge. Thirty minutes she spent rummaging through the shelves but could not decide which one to take. 

The owner of the store, a sweet mid age lady with salt and pepper hair, stood next to Rashi.

“Hi, mam. I noticed you are unable to choose a book for yourself. Well, can I help you?” The store owner asked.

“Oh, sure. That's sweet of you. I am looking out for fiction story books.” Rashi replied.

“Ok. Mam. But can I suggest something?” The store owner said hesitantly.

“Sure, please go ahead,” Rashi said with a grin.

“We have a good collection and the latest non-fiction books. This way mam.” The owner said and directed her towards the right. 

“But I prefer fiction,” Rashi repeated while following the owner.

“Yes, of course, mam. But I suggest you read this book. I am sure you will love it.” She picked it up from the shelf and handed it to Rashi.

“And why do u think I should read this,” Rashi questioned.

"Mam, 'You and Me' is one of the best-selling books not only in the town, but also in many other nations, and is written by a new author. In a short amount of time, this author has established himself. I only have one book left in stock. You are the fortunate one. The owner answered and grinned.

“Oh, these strategies and tricks for product promotion. The author must be paying a significant amount of commission,” Rashi thought and chuckled.

The book seemed more pricey than usual, and the cover page was not very catchy. But isn’t it wrong to judge the book by its cover, a thought popped up, and she ultimately chose to purchase it. 

“Well, if you insist. How much is this?” Rashi asked as she reached for her wallet to make the payment. 

Meera chose a book as well. Rashi tucked the books in her blue bag and bid goodbye to the owner. It was already 2:00 PM. They discovered an Indian restaurant a few metres away and stopped for lunch there.

Immediately after reaching the apartment, Rashi sat with her new book. She found it interesting and did not move until Meera scolded her to go to bed.

The following morning they began their trip. The first one on the list was Mount Titlis, situated 10,623ft. 

Meera had never experienced snow before nor seen it (except in movies). Though Rashi had visited earlier, she did not remember anything. So she was equally excited to experience snow. Above all, a cable car ride to Mount Titlis, from the base of the mountain to the top, was an adventure by itself. 

“Mom, look at this place, painted in white. So amazing, naa.” Picking up the snowflakes from the ground, Rashi called her mother.  

It was as soft as cotton. Both played with it to their heart's content.

The next on their list was to visit Mt. Jungfrau, situated 13,642ft from the base. It was called 'The Top of Europe' and, for more than 100 years, the Jungfrau railways travelled to Europe's highest-altitude railway station.

This experience was like going to heaven and coming back. The beautiful view was just indescribable and breathtaking. 

Seeing Rashi lost in a web of thoughts, Meera asked, “What happened, baby? Why are you looking lost and sad?” 

“Maa, I…I think I have been here earlier.” Rashi muttered, standing at the cliff of the mountain.

“Oh, do you remember anything else?” Meera asked with hope in her voice.

“No, Mom, just that……..Sandeep, she yelled.

“Rashi, are you ok? Who is this Sandeep?” Meera grabbed Rashi's hand and saved her from falling.

“Mom, I don’t remember. I wanted to call you, but why this name escaped my lips, I don’t comprehend.” Rashi said, sobbing.

“Ok. Calm down.” Meera consoled Rashi and, both downhearted, boarded the last train that took them down. 

“Mom, what are you jotting down in your dairy?”Rashi inquired.

“I am writing all the names of places and my experiences,” Meera replied.

The next on their list was Geneva City, surrounded by beautiful lakes and gardens. The garden was swathed in various shades of violet, yellow and red flowers. It was a real feast for the eyes.

Mom, I have come here with my friends Suja and Ramya. Moreover, there is something special about ‘You and Me’ book. As and when I go through the pages, I feel like the characters from the novel had been a part of my life in the past. I feel it in my bones, and that brings solace.

“Rashi, are you crazy? The book might have details that one could relate but, it is just a coincidence. But wait, what did you say? You have come to this place with your friends Suja and Ramya?” Meera uttered in surprise combined with joy. 

Meera felt the destination and the book, both doing magic in restoring Rashi’s memory and thanked the universe.  

Meera and Rashi never felt tired of travelling during their stay in Switzerland due to the pleasant climate and wished they could stay for some more days. But they had already booked their return tickets. 

It was day 6. They reached the apartment around 5 p.m., after picking up a few more giveaway items from around the vicinity. They hit the bed soon after dinner as they had an early morning flight to catch.

The sun rose again in a pool of crimson and gold, spilling light all over. At around 7 a.m. they reached the airport with a heavy heart and bid goodbye to the beautiful place with great reluctance.   

Their flight to India was delayed by an hour. So both mother and daughter decided to wait at the airport lounge. The lounge was pretty cold. While Meera was wearing her jacket, Rashi pulled her floral scarf from her handbag and wrapped it around her head and face.

“Beta Rashi, do you want anything to munch?” Meera asked and went around to see the food spread.

“No, mom. I am fine. Rashi filled a mug with hot chocolate and occupied a corner seat to read. The seat opposite her was empty. Meera had not returned. She was on some call.

“May I,” a voice interrupted. 

Rashi did not look up but nodded her head in the affirmative. 

He took his seat. While he was busy scrolling his phone, a girl tapped him on his back and said, “You are the author of the book, ‘You and Me’ Right? Can I get your autograph, please?”

Rashi looked from the corner of her eye for a nanosecond. The guy got up to thank the girl and gave her his autograph. Rashi buried her head and got back to reading. By the time she realized, she was holding the same book, he had disappeared. Rashi rolled her eyes to look for him, but he was nowhere around.

Meanwhile, Meera returned and asked, “Whom are you searching for, Rashi?”

“Maa, the author of this book, ‘You and Me’, was sitting beside me, and I did not even realize. I missed the opportunity to ask him the source of his inspiration for this story.” Rashi murmured in a low voice.

“Oh, is it? Don’t bother. Maybe next time.” She consoled and smiled at her.  

Yeah, Rashi replied half-heartedly and kept a bookmark inside the page before closing the book. People had started boarding the flight. Meera and Rashi rushed towards the boarding area.

The flight finally took off, and soon they were home.

The next day Rashi buried her head again into the book. The initial pages were interesting, but mid-way, she started to feel restless. Something was bothering her, but she couldn’t comprehend what it was exactly. Some blurred images crossed her mind and then disappeared like some paranormal.

Rashi decided to put the book aside and read something light. But the book and its contents somehow clung to her, and she felt her life has been robbed of the peace she desperately needed.

“Mom, I need to talk to you. This book is making me feel rather restless. The occurrences listed seem familiar, but I am unable to recollect.” Rashi expressed.

“It is just a book. So don’t get stressed. Keep it aside and sleep.” Meera suggested.

“No, mom. This is not any ordinary book. It has something to do with my life. But what?” Rashi looked tensed.

“Ok. Go to sleep for a while. We will discuss this later.” Meera said.

Meera kept aside her work and picked up the book to read. After reading a few pages, she realized Rashi wasn’t wrong. The description of the girl, college, love for fast food, trips, everything, felt familiar.  

But the pages towards the end were blank, and the story seemed incomplete. What was it? Why has he left the story open? Will there be part II, or the book does not have an ending? These questions raised its head.

That night Meera could not sleep a wink and remained disturbed. The following morning she managed to get the publisher’s contact number who had published this book. After myriad requests, Meera got the author’s number.

“Hello, is this Sam?” Meera checked over the phone.

“Yes. May I know who this is?” Sam asked.

“I am Meera from India. I got your number from the publisher who published your novel 'You and Me'. I recently visited Switzerland along with my daughter for a week. During our stay in Lucerne, she picked up a book from a store, written by you. Since then, she has remained disturbed. Even I could relate to this story. It looks like you have described all about my daughter. How do you know her? Why have you written about her? Most importantly, there is no end to the story. Why?” Meera poured questions.

“Rashi is alive? Are you Rashi’s mom?” Sam inquired, astonished.

“Yes, I am Rashi’s mother.” But….

“Aunty, My name is Sandeep, and Sam is my pen name. Rashi and I knew each other from our school days. My dad got transferred to Switzerland when I was in my 2nd year of B.SC. After graduation, I, too, moved to Switzerland to stay with my parents. But I was in touch with Rashi.” Sam informed.

He continued, his voice choked, “Aunty, do you remember, a couple of years back, Rashi and her friends had come to Switzerland for a vacation? I met Rashi, and we decided to spill the beans to our parents soon. We desired to marry each other. However, fate had other plans for us. She was on her way home when the plane crashed. The news that nobody survived flashed on all the news stations. I was overwhelmed with grief. I did not have your number either. My dreams came crashing down like a house of cards.”

“Yes, son, she survived but does not remember much about her past life. When she started reading your book, she could recollect a few instances but not clearly. I think you can help her recover.” Meera said with a teary eye.

“Sure, aunty. I would be more than happy if I could do that. You cannot imagine how happy I am to know Rashi is alive. I am coming to India in a few weeks to attend my cousin’s wedding. I, along with my parents, will meet you both soon.” Sam said excitedly.

“That’s sweet of you, Sam. I appreciate. I would have never known about you if not for this book. Thank you for that. Do keep in touch.” Meera replied and disconnected the call.

“Rashi, keep that book aside. There is a surprise for you. Do you know whom did I speak to? I spoke to Sam, the author of ‘You and Me’. He is coming to India especially to meet you. Isn’t that great news?” Meera spilt the beans.

“Are you serious maa? From where did you get his number?” Rashi said with joy in a voice.

“That’s a secret. Keep yourself free next Sunday.” Meera uttered.

At last, the day arrived, and Sam and Rashi met. It was their first rendezvous after years. Rashi's mother prayed and hoped this meeting to be fruitful and changes Rashi's life forever.

Sam took Rashi around the college premises, canteen, and shops they often visited. She enjoyed his company.

“Sam, I have a question to ask. Why have you kept your story open? Besides, after reading your book, I felt I had visited Switzerland with my friends Ramya, Suja and Sandeep. My mom had mentioned this trip some time ago, but I did not pay any heed as I did not remember anything.” Rashi asked.

Sandeep beamed and said, “Rashi, I am Sandeep, and Sam is my pen name. The story is all about you, me and our love. I kept it open because I thought I lost you in an unfortunate plane crash.” 

"Oh, that's why I saw those hazy images of the events mentioned in your book," Rashi muttered.

The book partially changed her life, and Sam gradually became successful in restoring her memory completely after their rendezvous again. 

Meera got all the answers to the questions that floated in her head.

Sam authored Part II of ‘You and Me’ book and this one, too, captured the hearts of many. 

By: Sheela S. Iyer


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