A MIRACLE. ‘ How can I get out of this disaster?’ demanded Sajjan and it was simply aimed at himself. Sajjan Singh lived in a small village about five miles from a big town and where he journeyed daily to do various carpentry jobs, as his way of earning a living. He lived in the village with his elderly wife and though the marriage had lasted over thirty years, there were no children from that union. He made his living as an expert carpenter. It was his family trade passed down from generation to generation and he learnt his trade by serving an apprenticeship under his father .By watching his father’s way of working, he learnt that first he had to make the layout of his work, by measuring, marking and arranging material in accordance with the particular site and then advising the client as to the best material and timber suitable for that job. Over the years he had become proficient in recognizing different kinds of woods and have developed instincts as to its beauty and durability for any perspective structure. He had to cut and shape wood or other material using hand tools such as saws, chisels, drills, sanders and planes. Then he had to join the materials with nails, screws, staple or adhesives. As a last step he had to test the accuracy of his work with spirit levels, plumb bobs or framing squares and make any necessary adjustments. He firstly started on small-scale jobs such as repairing broken doors and windows but as he became more confident, he tackled the job of planning and making new doors, windows and stairways. Once when he was about twenty-five years of age, he took a contract to design the whole woodwork structure in a newly built house. Most people were satisfied with his work and craftsmanship, and combined with his mild mannered personality, he became popular with the building contractors and the village folks. People became fond of his honest and humble personality and came to consult him about usage of different kind of wood, both native and from distant lands. He could recite merits of his native wood such as kikar, tali, and neem and - their strengths and weaknesses. Planing and shaving the wood took on a special significance for him. He liked the formation and grains of newly shaved wood and the smells exuded when being planed. After being shorn of their outer rough stuff, the timber took on appearance of some newly wedded bride with all its charms. Life of Sajjan as a carpenter consisted in the building something such as furniture, houses, doors, windows or fixing broken things such as tables, chairs and which involved expert technical devices. Beyond these processes, he had to satisfy the desires of his client as to what the final product would look like and had to make rough sketches to show to the client. Sometime he felt that as a maker he was participating in an act of creation akin to an artist or a sculptor and this idea gave him an emotional uplift and an intellectual satisfaction. He wanted to carry out these creative instincts to a wider scope of his work and wanted to do things, which had some mark of innovation. * After his teen years he began to feel for the need of some companionship other than the company of his own sex and thought of which made him uncomfortable as the society around him looked upon this topic of man woman relationship in a narrow sense. His elders gave him the impression that to them only valid relationship between the sexes was within the premises of marriage and even that within the bounds of arranged marriage only. He instinctively felt the there was more to man woman relationship. When he looked at the pretty face of a woman, he was transported into a new world and he tried to dismiss it as just a fancy on his part and tried to analyze it using all his discriminatory logic but it did not work as he could not pinpoint it within his rationality. * That perfume wafted around and jasmine flowered in an array of intoxication, some icy white fire with a slow penetration into the territory of senses. As the fire ignited the soulful vistas of tall trees added their distinction and where the wind slept covered within the canopy of leaves. The calm was broken with a scented waft and the wind rose to gather with a passionate desire for movement and everything became awake within that movement. The scattered clouds gathered themselves sensing the movement and arranged themselves in pleasing patterns decked against a background of misty cerulean skies. A bluish tinge spread over the land toning it with delicacy of exquisite longings. ‘We are your way to Chambeli.’ They announced ‘You are my quest, my beloved fairest of all.’ Sajjan whispered ‘ You are my quest for beauty. A quest for longing.’ The clouds responded fused with the wind and lead him to the market where the Jasmine flowers were being offered to all the lovers of beauty. Little bazaar was covered in tiny lights of different coloured small lamps set on each stall. The bazaar became a venue for hidden desires through things offered and each person became involved to decipher the meaning of their longings. ‘A garland for your beloved!’ the garland seller shouted Dozens of garland were arranged on a shiny pole, carried by that seller. ‘You must have me.’ A chambeli garland whispered And Sajjan bought one for his beloved, for the girl who lived across the town. He did not know her name but has watched her moving across, watched her graceful gait, watched the life oozing out of her slender body. There was great deal of poetry in that slender form. He called her Chambeli, the jasmine flower. Sajjan had followed her in secret and found out the place where she lived and only other person he could see about was a middle-aged woman entering the house and which he presumed to be her mother. Days passed in love pursuit and a familiarity began to grow between two young souls through a communication of silence. The pursued and pursuer liked that game. One day he said hello to her and got a reply through her smile, which lit up his inner being and his whole world was suffused with a celestial light. * One day someone important called at his house and left a message for him to come and see a rich landlord living some distance from his village. He ‘supposed to be important’ was waiting for him on consultation of a special building project. Sajjan had never received such an invitation before and was keen and curious to carry it through and visit the party concerned. On the following week he took an afternoon off his work and cycled to the place of the landlord and announced his arrival, in connection with the left message. He was shown into the sitting room and seated himself there. Looking around, he was impressed by the grandeur of the building and especially of the furniture it contained. The furniture was of unusual shape and structures and he marveled at the craftsmanship involved. At last the landlord arrived and greeted him in a courteous fashion and when he inquired about the furniture, the landlord explained that it was created under the guidance of an expert craftsman to the design of the landlord’s taste. This conversation led to the reason for his call. The landlord explained that he was in the process of constructing a building not far from his place and which was to going be a center of learning and entertainment for the benefit of the people living around that district and this was service to the community. He was going to bear the cost of the whole project. He took Sajjan to the site and which was keen on the idea of novelty and creativity in that building and wanted to combine these elements. He wanted to leave something behind him, which would be worth admiring for the future generations for its grand structure and design. He was acquiring some timber, worth its weight in gold from a far off province and wanted to employ an expert craftsman like Sajjan to work out the construction of doors and windows using that special wood .He had heard about his reliability and honesty and could trust the job to his hands. The wood he was acquiring was a special brand of sandalwood, scented and exuding its perfume throughout the building and surroundings. It would be design that would delight all the senses including eyes and nose. That large construction would have a central courtyard with fountains and garden. Of circular shape it would be surrounded by rooms and corridors through which the visitor would enter the inner yard. Sajjan’s job would be in constructing some tall and engraved doors made out of sandalwood, twelve in all. Six for entering the rooms and six for exit from the central courtyard. The paramount consideration being the precision working of the valuable timber as there was no margin for an error. Sajjan should go away and think about it and to give him an answer as to his acceptability of the project. Sajjan pondered over the offer. It was an awesome responsibility though and he counted pros and cons for the proposition and in the end accepted the offer .He waited for the material to arrive to start work. * After two weeks of waiting, he was invited to visit the landlord and he duly arrived. There was a cloud of scented air surrounding the building and reckoned that the said sandalwood his desires of creating something new and grand for that structure. With eager anticipations he brought out his sketchbook and began to measure the sizes of the empty doorway spaces as to workout the timber sizes required to fit those. He allowed a generous fit. He cut the timber into sizes and began to shave and plane it. After each stroke, he lovingly caressed it, taking in all the perfumes to intoxicate his senses; the scented air reminding him of the days when he was courting his girl Chambeli and in appreciation of her beauty took that scented garland for her as an offering to that maid. Slowly he worked on the timber and it took him a month to prepare and in spite of his humble temperament, he was so proud to be engaged in that project. Each night he slept a peaceful sleep. At last the day arrived for the final scrutiny. He proceeded with eagerness to the site and brought out all the cut timber pieces to give it a final check. He opened his sketchbook and his measuring tape and started the process. Something was wrong there; the measurement of the first piece was erroneous. He tried second time and it was short about two inches in its measurement. His heart sank and felt dizzy. He blamed it on his over-excitement and measured it again with all the other pieces but same thing was happening. It was drastically wrong as everything was short. He felt sick in the pit of his stomach and took himself off excusing his absence on sudden illness. As soon as he reached home, he took the refuge into his bed. ‘How can I get out of this disaster?’ There was no way out and went to see a colleague. The following morning he went with his colleague to the site and requested him to measure all the timber pieces and write down the results on a piece of paper and bring out to him. All the time he was praying that he was wrong but all his hopes were shattered when his colleagues confirmed the previous results. He went pale and deathly sick and fell on the floor. His colleague assisted him and took him home. He was a highly skilled carpenter and much respected for his trade and precision work but how could he account for such a blunder? He could not. He was not a rich man and how he could compensate for all that expensive wood. He might be taken to the court and charged for mishandling the project. He could not bear the idea of his incarceration in a prison. All night he felt feverish as in hell dreaming various dreams of dread and doom overpowering him. All the pieces of the timber were flying about and hitting his body and he was being wounded with each piercing and was about to die of exhaustion. There was no hope and all was lost. He woke and nearly jumped out of bed. He decided that in the morning he was going to see the landlord, confess and then walk out into the wilderness and hang himself. He went to the site with sweaty brow and trembling body. The landlord was not in and he was required to wait. Involuntary his hands brought the timber and he measured it again and behold! the timber measured three inches in excess of required length and same thing was happening with all the other pieces. It was beyond his comprehension. A miracle had happened and in order to accommodate it within himself, he must leave the things behind as otherwise he would be choked by the intensity of the unknown. The following day, he resigned left his place and vanished as never to return again to that structure. Durlabh Singh © 2013.