Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Gift of the Magi by O Henry

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young."

The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pierglass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: "Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the "Sofronie."

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.

"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."

Down rippled the brown cascade.

"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

"Give it to me quick," said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim's present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation--as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim's. It was like him. Quietness and value--the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

"If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do--oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?"

At 7 o'clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two--and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

"Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again--you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice-- what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."

"You've cut off your hair?" asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

"Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my hair, ain't I?"

Jim looked about the room curiously.

"You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

"You needn't look for it," said Della. "It's sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year--what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you'll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first."

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs--the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims--just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"

And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

"Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."

The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.
(This is one of my favorite short stories.Have grown up with this.Love the simplicity of the characters and their true love for each other.Love prevails!! )

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Pursuit of Love

And as she waited,tons of questions scurried her mind..."Why am i doing this?I don't want him to know.Or should i just tell and keep things simple...."Suddenly, there was a loud clap of thunder.She looked at her watch."Damn,its been forty minutes, and he is still not here ".She knew that she had to do this.She knew that he loved her too.She saw it in his eyes.He was the one who would always be there whenever she needed support.He was the one who would be there whenever she was lonely.She knew that she loved him.She knew that she loved him truly.But, maybe, he didn't.
But, things weren't the same few months back.They were just friends.She didn't like him for his conceit and promiscuous ways.And he couldn't stand her for her down-to-earth simplicity.Yet, they became friends.And once they started knowing each other, they realised how wrong they were.Today she waited..she wanted him to know that she loved him, she cared for him.And there he front of her, with his affable smile.Pangs of nervousness again raced her body.He was wearing the bracelet she gifted him last week.."So gal, how are you?".She was startled."Am doing great.And you?When is your college starting?"She knew she had to tell him.She had to..really had to.
"Anyways, why did u call me here? Anything urgent?Need help with assignments?"She could envisage that night... she was absolutely clueless about her electronics assignment and had no way but to ask help.And the only person she could count at this gruesome hour was him.She took her phone and dialed his no."Hey dumbo, why do u call at this hour?"."Did i disturb u?",she sounded remorseful."Well, not really.But m gonna kill you if i miss my morning classes,u silly gal.""I needed help for this circuit stuff.Could you just pull me out of the pit?"She wasn't shocked when he gave an affirmative answer.Well, this was just one of the instances when he had helped her.
"Hey silly, what's bothering you?".Oh...She came back from her dreams."Ahh..nothing.I just needed to tell you something". He seemed curious.She again felt pangs in her system.But this time she had to.She couldn't hide it forever.
And, then, she started..."Well,i wanted you to know something".Again,there was a pause.She continued."I don't know how you gonna react to this.I actually never liked you.I never imagined,even in my wildest thoughts that we would share such a special bond.But, more than that,I never imagined that i would start liking you."There was a deep silence.As tears gushed from her eyes,the Heavens seemed to cry with her too.A light rain began to fall.She took a deep breath.Courage was the only thing she needed at this moment.She looked at his eyes.They seemed to speak a lot to her.And somebody spoke.But this time it wasn't her.It was him."I knew this would happen.We have grown so fond of each other.But we both know we can't be together.Life isn't only about love.Its about so many other things.The first time i saw you..i knew i was in love.I had never seen someone as innocent as you.But i needed to bury my feelings.I needed to suppress my feelings.Its not that m cynical about love.But m scared of being hurt.M scared of loving you more than myself.M scared that you would leave me like my first love."She seemed upset."First love?" "Yeah.I was madly in love with this gal.We seemed to be so made for each other.We loved everything about our relationship.We were so much in love.We wished that time would stop and we would be with each other forever.But..God is always cruel.She left me.She left me for another bloke.I seemed to be infamous for my arrogance.And she needed a 'goody two-shoes'.I was left in the lurch.What did i get for loving her? Betrayal? Sorrow? what? That day i decided never to love anyone.These words just look good in fairy tales.They are damn surrealistic.When i met you, i found someone i could trust.I felt that you could understand the 'real' me.But, whenever i thought of loving you,my wounds seemed to get deeper.I can't love you.I can't love anybody." It had started raining heavily.She couldn't see but she knew that he was in tears.Nobody spoke for a moment.Then, she said calmly,"Don't worry.I would be your friend always.I can understand your grievances.But, life is no vicious circle.My mom speaks a lot about 'Karma'.As they say,"as you sow,so shall you reap".You have hurt many with your arrogance and bluntness.I don't tell you to look at life with rose-colored spectacles.But then,we live once and we should try to make the most out of it.Try to look at the beauties of life.Learn to love God.Learn to love yourself.You can find happiness within yourself.Just broaden your vision.Maybe we were never meant to be together.But, i assure you that you will find me near you..wherever you matter..wherever..........."

P.S : resemblance to any character living or dead is purely coincidental! :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Deeper into the abyss.........

I seem to be quite a bit perturbed these days.Feel like I have hit rock bottom.Feel like nothing is gonna come for me.Prospects are bleak.Sometimes, i feel like giving up.Surrendering myself to what people call..'destiny'.But i had never been like this.Never had i accepted defeat in life.What about my dreams of doing my mba from one of the top institutes here.I see so many people who aren't worth anything, savoring the fruits of success.I don't wanna waste my degree in a stupid.nonsense,any tom, dick and harry college.I wanna achieve least after my engineering debacle.Had always dreamed of either IAS or MBA. Now is my chance to do something.To show the world my worth.And i know I can do it. But i don't know where am falling short.Is it practice? But i do toil in the midnight oil always..Then why...why is it not happening.I seem to be drowning and drowning in the abyss.I haven't disclosed about this blog to anyone..only to two of my closest friends.But i will..the day..the day i become somebody.and i promise you.i would try my best to be SOMEBODY............
note to myself : wont waste time because when m relaxing here, somebody else in this world is toiling and i want to and have to defeat that somebody.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


It's been a hectic week..had my exam last friday .though there are still more to come,i seem to have taken a not-so-deserving break!!had started my preps had to cram some 4-5 chapters in a day..tat too for an exam as significant as CAT..paper was easy and as usual, i screwed it(i always screw up easy papers hahaha..that's like my forte).but i don blame myself. for i know a person with meagre 2 months of prep stands nowhere in an exam which was taken by around 2.4 lac people who seemed to b prepared to the hilt!anyways, that's not the end of life.Tats how i always console myself :):)So, any of you, who haven't performed up to the mark or to your satisfaction,don't you worry.Life gives us zillions of chances.What matters is how you make use of it.I never believed in LUCK.i feel we aren't born with our destinies written.We can change it if we want to. But majority of the homosapiens don't feel so or they are too lazy to retrospect but blame others or God..
Ahh..its getting boring now.Studies apart, me going home in the weekend.M super excited.Haven't yet done the tickets though..Air fare seems so expensive..Who the hell is gonna travel for 10k in a spice-jet!!My boy friend is coming from Delhi tomorrow..M so damn happy.But i wouldn't get even 2 days to spend with him..What a tragedy! :(:(
I recently came across this dialogue from one of Rocky's movies..Though m not a ardent follower of Rocky, these lines have inspired and motivated me a lot..Hope it motivates you too.

" The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done! Now if you know what you're worth then go out and get what you're worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain't where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain't you! You're better than that! I'm always gonna love you no matter what. No matter what happens."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

This is it,Here i stand..

Finally i succumbed to my temptations of blogging.Well, diaries had to take a backseat in this age where even emails is considered passe'.About my isn't going that great as it is supposed to be. Overloads of studies, late nights.. has left me wondering if twenty-four hours is enough!Blocked all my accounts presuming that they are the culprits behind me not slogging.But..but..presto..another obsession on its prizes for guessing.ah ha.blogging!puzzling are the ways of human satiety!!!