Schrödinger’s Diary by Sudarshan Purohit
Neither of us knew till the end who exactly had taken the diary. It was a fact, though, that both Drish and I believed we had it. Certainly the diary was a great gift. Gupta Uncle knew us well, and knew our interest in writing.
He reached our home the day after Christmas. I’d taken three days off and come to my hometown. Drish, on his yearly visit to India, had been at his parents’ place before coming here. He was staying over with me for two days before going on back to the US. Gupta uncle, a family friend, had been very close to us from our college days, when we’d both been regular visitors to his home. We greeted him with much enthusiasm. The conversation meandered about the usual topics – our college classmates, Gupta uncles’ family, the state of the college now, the job market in the US. We all had lunch together.
As he was preparing to leave, Uncle slapped his forehead with mock consternation. “I almost forgot! I have a gift for you.” And he opened his bag and took out the diary. “Sorry, I had two of these, but I had to give one of them away. Perhaps you guys can have a writing competition and decide which one deserves it.” He added with a twinkle in his eye, handing it to us.
It was beautiful. Brown leather binding, creamy smooth pages, a full page for every day of the year (none of that miserly half-page-for-Sundays stuff), a Parker pen tucked into a little slot in the binding.
“You take it, Drish” I said in a smallish voice after Gupta uncle had left.
“Of course not – I don’t want to carry it all the way to Chicago!” Drish said in an equally unconvinced voice.
And we left the topic at that. Drish was leaving the next day, anyway, and we were too busy talking about all sorts of things. I too would soon be back at my job.
Now I am pretty sure I picked up that diary a few hours before I left. But we were in a rush – Drish’s flight was around the same time, and we were to drop him off at the airport. So I might be mistaken.
But anyway, I do remember pulling it out of my bag when I reached my lonely apartment in Mumbai, absently putting it on a shelf.
However, the next time I picked it up and opened it to write in – a couple of days after the New year, it had some stuff already written in it. In Drish’s handwriting. I figured he’d begun writing in it before he left, but then forgot to take it along. But the entry was for the previous day, 3rd January – why would he write on that page?
Wow, this diary is great to write in – the feel of the pages alone is worth it. Today’s happenings are: the cute girl on the 4th floor smiled at me in the morning. I met my deadline by lunchtime, which means I just browsed the ‘net till it was time to go home. Now waiting for some inspiration to strike so I can write a proper story in here.
It has only been two days since I got back here from home and already I’m homesick. The taste of mum’s Yakhni Pulav still lingers, having a hard time digesting the bland stuff here.
How come Americans don’t enjoy sitting around and chatting? Everyone’s so quiet and still here. Been knowing them for years, but I’ll never get used to it.
I felt a chill in my spine. Why, this was…he must have written this today, a few hours ago – the US was half a day behind us. But how…? Maybe he hadn’t left at all? A moment later, I got it. Drish must’ve written this before he left, a practical joke of some sort. Thankfully, he’d left half a page blank. I pulled out the pen and started writing, whimsically addressing my diary entry to him.
Drish, you lout. Why do you want to ruin the diary before I’ve even written in it? Still, it was good to see your writing again. I suppose this is your idea of a joke or surprise for me. We Are Not Amused. Anyway, here’s what happened to me today…
And so on. I filled the rest of the page in the same vein, put the diary back on the shelf and went off and had dinner. Then I turned on my computer to connect to the net and check for mails. Maybe Drish would be online, too.
He was. And the moment I logged into the Instant Messenger, his message popped up. Hey dude! Howz you?
Fine. I replied. But what do you mean by writing stuff in the diary and then leaving it behind?
There was no response from the other end. Finally, he said, What do you mean? I didn’t leave it behind.
Are you sure?
Of course yaar – In fact I filled in my first entry last night.
This was odd. Are you sure? When did you take it? I typed.
Right before I left. Ummm, I can’t quite remember taking it, but I’m sure I did. I even wrote in it.
That cant be, I typed. Because I have it here with me. And I wrote in it too.
Drish typed, BRB.
Then, a couple of minutes later, he typed What the…??? Who wrote this stuff after my entry?
My head was reeling. What does it say? I asked him.
It says: Drish, you lout. Why do you want to ruin the diary before… WHAT THE HELL IS THIS??
Drish, you wont believe this…
I wrote that. Just now. I have the diary in my hand right now, and I wrote that stuff in it a half hour ago.
Eh??? How can you have the diary? I have it with me.
Suddenly it struck me. Do you remember actually taking it? I asked.
Not quite, everything was really rushed that last day. But I know I intended to take it, and I’m pretty sure I must have, sometime.
It’s the same here, I typed. I don’t exactly remember taking it, but I’m sure I did, sometime during that last day. And I have it here, in my hand now.
This is weird. Write something in it.
I pulled out the pen and added a sentence after my entry. Drish, can you see this?
Almost immediately, letters began to appear after my sentence. In Drish’s handwriting. Yes, I can. 🙂
I almost dropped the diary, I was so shaken. After a moment’s pause, the letters continued. There was no one present at the time either of us took the diary, eh? No one to observe, to fix the position of the diary as being in either your hands or mine. In fact, if your dad believes that neither of us took it, he’s probably got it in his hands too.
I began to grin. And then :
You’re darn right I have it in my hands!
It was my father’s handwriting.
Cover pic by Carol VanHook.