Bharat Award Winner - 2015

Sedona is never far from Lausen -
by Subramanian. A, India, Kerala, Palakkad

Award winning story of 2nd Bharat Award - 2015 - International Contest for Short Story

Prayers are always answered in a mystical, mysterious way. Lost alleys in the valley of life are only apparent. On the arrival of springs, clear, azure blue skies would grace the dales.

Presently, a White car was gliding along the All US American Road ‘Red Rock Scenic Byway’. The Highway led to the little town of Sedona and its bucolic winds. Nature presented magical views of Red Rocks and a chain of mountains around the place. The flavor of hues invited any searching eyes. Rising high above such magical views, the Chapel of Holy Cross was one of the most awe-inspiring land mark icons of that little town.

Mr. Lawrence Bragg was on a trail. He was not more than 35. He was now travelling all along from Switzerland on a singular mission. His countenance bore an expectant mental frame of meeting Patterson after an eclipse of several years.

He had no idea of Patrick Patterson’s present moorings. It was a letter from Rev. James which turned the tables. Brag set off. Crossing the North Atlantic, he arrived from Lausen and met Father James at Durham and gathered the details. To the showcase of red rock mountain buttes of Sedona, he was now travelling for a historic meeting. Life would confluence life.

Mr. Bragg tried to recall Patterson. Beyond certain childhood recollections, Patterson remained rather oblivious. Through the veil of the past, the frame of Patterson amounted to only a pencil sketch of faint and broken lines. Certainly, as a boy of eight or nine, Bragg remembered the presence of a bespectacled man often visiting the Durham Chapel Boulevard. He presented to be a well bred man. Sitting under the shades of a big oak tree that grew in the courtyard of the chapel, Patterson could be seen engaging in a light conversation with the Rector of the chapel, Rev. Father Victor James.

The boys would be playing on the courtyard of the chapel. Bragg would often be seen sitting under a cedar tree and watch the proceedings going around. He preferred listening to the melodies of nature. The winds of Chapel Hill Violins brought in the scent of seasons. The sinking Sun over the meadows of BlueCross Blue Shield was a pastoral scene.

He preferred silence to the din of the world. The teachers of Hillside Park School saw in him a blossoming talent at that tender age. During his evening rounds to the chapel, Mr. Patterson’s glances would often fall on this lonesome boy, truncated from the general spin of the world.

As weeks went by, between the little Bragg and Patterson, there grew bondage. During the rounds to the Chapel, Patterson always stole time to be with him. He would enquire about his studies. He would walk around the place with him and talk about people and places, nature and seasons, in a tone that was suggestive of talking to a matured man. Little Bragg would attentively listen. Patterson never diluted his levels.

To Patterson, little Bragg was not little Bragg but his favorite “Macaroni”. It conveyed no particular meaning other than a lovable address.

Along with other boys, Macaroni stayed in the orphanage run by the chapel. Like all other inmates who reached such workhouses, he too had a big tale to tell the world written by an oblivious past. All that Rev. James could now remember was that Macaroni was seen crying on the footsteps of the chapel on a rainy day, about eight years ago. The kid was in tottering stage. He was trembling in the cold wind. His little eyes were searching for his mother.

And where was she? Nobody actually knew. Only the cutting wind and the fallen leaves of the Boulevard knew the truth. Rev. James got a letter from the kid’s pocket and his heart nearly leapt out of his ribs in anxiety but the high tides soon subsided. The letter practically revealed nothing. It only pleaded Rev. James to take care of the kid and be brought up well. The letter also conveyed a story of a broken relationship and an attempt of suicide with the kid. After all, the poor mother hadn’t the heart.

Rev. James had read such letters on several occasions in the past – broken family relationships, diseases, penury, love affairs, elopement, suicides – all such complexities of life had brought children to the doors of the workhouse. Often times, the church bells had rung at unusual hours. So, the latest tale was not more than a paper boat in the ocean of life.

Rev. James advertised about this missing boy but to no avail as usual. The world has its own hide and seeks games. Chances of meeting tempered winds are less possible in quelling currents. Thus, under the wings of Rev. James, little Bragg began to gain grounds. The workhouse became his very home and the Boulevard, the playground of his life.

Rev. James, Patterson and a young couple Florian and Audrey from Switzerland – Bragg received lease of life from all of them.

Patterson’s native haunts were Sedona. He belonged to the winds of the Village of Oak Creek. He was a well bred man who served the US Postal Department in different capacities at various towns. His ancestors still retained the credit of being part of that historic Pony Express mail delivery system of US which formed one of the longest and hazardous routes among the dense prairies and the rocky lines of Nebraska to Sacramento. Those were the 1860s.

It was during his tenure at Durham that he had come in contact with Rev. James and Macaroni. Philanthropy enriched Patterson’s life. Wherever he lived, he did leave an indelible mark by way of services.

So, Patterson naturally got along with the activities of the chapel. Those visits glued bondage between him and little Macaroni.

Patterson had a son by name Collins. He was a smart boy who fared well both in studies and music. The boy had multifarious talents. Naturally, he was very much part of the annual Verde Valley Music Festival conducted in every October. The festival happened to be a fund raiser for Native American Scholarships at the school.

Thus, at a tender age, his fragrance was wafting beyond the bounds of the Oak Creek. He was really a blossoming bud on the Oak Creek valley. Collins was left under the care of his grandparents for one sole reason - his health could not really fair under other climatic conditions. However, he joined his parents during vacations and on one such occasion……..

Let me draw a deep breath at this juncture.

Let me continue the tale in my naive language.

Heart disease disturbed Macaroni’s life for long. Heart transplantation was the only solution. The world was aware of Macaroni’s deteriorating condition. Money and medical support were no problem but to get a living heart was the real hurdle. Who would come forward? Body organs are unlike grocery items. While man draws blood of his fellow men, he forgets that life is dearer than all the idiosyncrasies of the world.

Doctors were on the hunt. Progressive deterioration finally led Macaroni to the confines of hospital. It seemed to be a losing battle. Prayers touched the limits of the skies. Rev. James and Patterson were much tossed and swayed.

Parallel to this tragedy, Patterson witnessed another personal tragedy. Little Collins suffered from pneumonia for a few days. He was admitted. Sometimes, an ordinary fever may seem to be very innocent but death may be lurking within it’s the precincts. Before it was dawn, the dusk arrived and drew the curtains over the short life of little Collins.
Patterson was naturally shattered. His prayers did not give conclusive answers. Somewhere, the equations showed a mismatch.

Yet, he could defy the surging winds. In whispering tones he conveyed the doctors:

“You may try my son’s heart on little Bragg. His life is also akin for me.

I give my consent. Paradise Lost in one sense can be Paradise Regained in another sense. I fully comprehend”.

The doctors were now on a momentous trail. Patterson’s prayers were finally answered in a mystical, mysterious way. The tone of his heart set the standard. Though his prayers could not save his son’s life, they saved another precious life. Macaroni was soon backing in life.

After that, Patterson soon moved out of Durham for other places in the priorities of life. Though he occasionally felt the ruminations of those Boulevard winds upon his chest, he was at intangibility to revisit those springs.

On his retirement, he returned to his native winds. He led a peaceful life with the memories of the past.

Now, Bragg needed parental care. On seeing an advertisement, a generous couple from Switzerland approached Rev. James. Little Bragg knew that he would soon be leaving his meadows. Sitting on the steps of the chapel, he solemnly wept. James uncle patted him and said:

“My darling, weep not. This is only a summer vacation for you. You will be back. I will be waiting for you under these oak shades”.

Thus, holding the arms of Florian and Audrey, little Bragg voyaged into the expanse of life.
It happened about 25 years ago. He remembered his Durham days and the face of Patterson but he was not aware of the truth that Collins was living through him. One day he received a letter from Rev. James.

“Dear Bragg, I want to see you in my failing health. An important mission is waiting for you. The river will be meeting the ocean. Do come. Uncle James”.

Bragg was left to bewilderment. He felt a deep stir. In no time he set out for Durham.

Uncle James received him in joyful tears. Old winds fanned their memories. The past sang an ode of common mirth.

The truth was revealed. Bragg listened to the whole account of Rev. James in awestricken silence.

“Now, you can see the significance of this trip. You owe your life to Uncle Patterson. Now that the truth is revealed, I can die peacefully. You may go and meet him without fail. He is living in Sedona”.

So, Bragg set out to meet his benefactor. Naturally he was feeling guilty but was helpless. Who did reveal to him of the truth earlier?

The car finally halted before a wicket painted green. The wooden fencing that ran around kept within its bounds a small farm house and the view suggested Bragg of a classical rural landscape painting.

An old man appeared at the door. He looked at the incomer with inquiring glances but was at his wits end to recognize his old Macaroni of the Durham chapel.

The puzzle was finally solved and both of them were in heavens. Springs sprang forth. Across the passage of time, the olden Boulevard winds brought to them the mellower tones of life.

“Darling, I have really gotten back my lost treasure. We must celebrate this occasion. Open the doors; let the wind chimes be sounded!”

Macaroni stayed there for a week enjoying the fountains of life. In a lighter moment, he asked:

“Uncle Patterson, why can’t you join me for the rest of your life or at least be with me for several months? You are getting old and a change could be imminent”.

Patterson smiled through the corner of his eyes.

“Macaroni, you are indeed a lovable boy. This Oak Creek wind is enough for me. These vales are my living forces. It is only a natural thought to have my grave stone laid in familiar winds. I can perfectly absorb you. I am contented. See, separation is counted by the level of disownment and isolation and not by distances. When we are no more in different hemispheres, where is the feeling of estrangement anymore? I am not a philosopher but, life has its own voices”.

Patting Bragg, Patterson further endorsed:

“Sedona is never far from Lausen”.

Jury Remarks

Jury : Chryssa Velssariou, Larisa, Greece

A little abandoned orphan boy's life is saved. Death gives its place to hope. Life is winning. A dead boy’s father is consoled through another boy's survival. A sacrifice to love without waiting any payback. The respect and spontaneous gratitude in retrospect of the grown man who has been benefited. The final paragraph which characterize our epoch of great distances and internet, which proves the power of the human soul to make distances and absence disappear: "separation is counted by the level of disownment and isolation and not by distances. When we are no more in different hemispheres, where is the feeling of estrangement anymore? I am not a philosopher but, life has its own voices". These are the qualities of this short story which made me offer to it my best note, although I believe those qualities are far feasible in our cruel world. Anyway literature is fortunately there to give us hope and dream.

Of course congrats to the organization of this contest which gives the opportunity to young writers to show their talent and be encouraged through the reward. I also commend the secrecy and objectivity with which the selection of the best stories has been realized.

Jury : Annie Christopher, Bournemouth, United Kingdom

Through the eyes of the writer we are presented with a well balanced short story that leads us skillfully through a gamut of human emotions. The story gently weaves a tale of rejection, separation, loss, a gift of love, reconciliation, truth and ultimately acceptance. A delightful read…
As the winner of the first Bharat Award for Literature - Short story competition 2014 I was delighted to be invited to help judge this year’s competition, and have been pleasantly surprised by the range and variety of genre encompassed in the excellent short story entries. The results were very close and all who entered should be proud of their work. ........

Jury : Swapna Behera, Odisha, India

Together we walked; together we enjoyed the journey of Short Story Contest of the 2nd Bharat Award International Contest.

The stories together is a kaleidoscope of different countries, different themes. All the stories represented Nava Rasa (Nine emotions of human beings), at times tears came while reading them. Yes, it is an amazing experience of being with the elegant emotional movement of the stories on the ramp of the vision.

Stories represented different cultural and ethnic background with multiple values. A couple of stories reflected child psychology in a lucid manner. Some stories depicted themes based on globalization, the human agony, the inner conflict of brain with heart.
The winning story Sedona is never far away from Lausen has got the beautiful theme of love, empathy, kindness and sacrifice to the optimum. The climax sentence of the story was ‘Paradise Lost in one sense can be Paradise regained in another.’ The high voltage philosophy of life was woven around the story of a boy .The symphony of the story was a legacy - To live through the lives of others.

I congratulate all the winners and participants.

I wish and thank Mr Gopakumar Radhakrishnan for this effort to bring creativity into international platform.

Long live Creativity. The more we use the more we have. After all creativity is to imagine without any fear

Founder - Bharat Award, Gopakumar Radhakrishnan

Ah! What a fantastic story is this ? isn’t it ? Imagination at its best and that too in a very simple flowing style, adorned with soft chiming vocabulary without any sort of projecting stones or edges in the presentation. Human sentiments, values of universal love, kindness, and care is painted altogether with the colors taken and mixed from a different culture and natural background with characters so perfectly playing to their rolls altogether make it a skillfully presented short story. It is really amazing to see the journey of the author from the village of a different country imaginatively to a far off land just like what ‘Bragg’ was naturally doing in the story to unwrap the mystery around his own life. Author has taken me to the winds and whispers of the Cedar trees and those distant boulevards ...I must say this author is blessed and very beautiful.