It was a familiar face! A recognisable expression; a well-known look. One of those people from the days of the past, the days that I never very consciously recalled or looked back upon in the midst of my constant toil for a living. But, there seemed something about the face that I could still recollect, even after so many days of detachment.
I had gone to the countryside hill for nothing more than a necessary holiday. The previous night, I had stopped at a small hotel near the greenfields, at the intersection of the roadway and the lake.
In the morning, deciding to take a stroll through the fields, and get a sight of the land far away from settlements, I walked slowly, staring at trees and shrubs, and the more complex arrangements of the simple elements of nature.
At a place like this, little did I expect to stumble upon this familiar face. An old friend from school! Oh what nuisance it is, I thought. These were people and times that I had prudently left behind. What was the need to bring back the old ghost?
While I wondered, lost in my own mind, a voice, a very familiar one, called out, “Are you looking for something, sir?" Of course, it was the same man, and he was talking to me.
"You, mister", I asked, "Have I seen you before?"
"Perhaps you have, sir. I live right there", he said pointing at a cottage across the field, higher uphill.
"I am the Seeker of the Lost", he asserted, “Is there anything that you have lost, sir?”
"No, not at all", I said, and started walking my way back to the hotel. He had a puzzled look on his face as I left him there. He most certainly did not recognize me.
At the hotel, the waiter served me my tea that didn't taste distinctively different from what I drank every day. I thought to myself, how lucky that man would've been, to have forgotten all about the wistful days of the past, which I somewhere deep down, have tried to do, never very successfully.
It seemed like he had uprooted from his older soil, and now began to live alongside trees and newer trees, and formed newer roots in place of the old ones.
I finished my tea and returned to my room. The image of the standing assembly of trees that I saw, kept reappearing in my mind, and then that face. It occurred to me that I had work to do. Although it was a holiday from work, I still had a list of investors whose annual amount of payment I had to calculate. I had them written down in my work diary, with the names of all the other investors, listed against the sum of money they would be given at the end of the year. This diary, I had very thoughtfully kept in my pocket, so that I could open it at ease and do my calculations whenever it was possible.
I put my hands in my pocket, only to find two leaves of grass and some sand. The diary was missing. I was sure I had it when I went for a walk in the morning. Where could it have gone? I wondered if I had dropped somewhere on my way.
I rushed out of my room, to the hotel office workers. I asked them if they saw my diary, or whether they could find it. "Surely, sir. But let me first report it to the Seeker of the Lost", said the worker, "He is the one assigned to look for things that people lose on their long journey through the mountains. He has found so many things for travelers: lost pens and wallets, watches and hats..."
"Alright, alright", I interrupted in panic, "Please send for him. Doesn't he live across the field?"
I waited an hour, sitting in a small wooden chair in my room, almost losing hopes of ever being able to find that diary, and then hearing knocks on the door, got up again.
I opened the door, only to see the hotel worker standing, disappointed, with no diary whatsoever, but a piece of paper. He said,"The Seeker of the Lost has left. He left behind this letter for you."
I closed the door, went back to my chair, and began to read the letter. It went like this:-
Dear friend from the past,
It is not that I did not recognize you, only that I didn't do it immediately. When I went back to my little cottage, it struck me that the man I met was you. I recollected what your face had looked like in the past, before our separation, and with that I began to recollect various other people, and happenings, from those same days that I have always intended to leave behind.
I also understood, that like me, you too don't intend to fall down the same landslides of time, to the same old days, and like me, you too wish to move further, for only those who move further, come up this hill road.
Here, in this little town, I have purposefully lost everything that held me behind, and have taken up to search for other things, newer things. Not those that are for me, but those that are for everyone.
People call me the Seeker of the Lost, as it seems to them that I find for them, what they lose.
They don't see that as they come here, they also lose a segment of themselves to this place. I find that segment, and store it safely and bottled. And, in return, I give them what they came here to look for.
You won't be needing that diary anymore. You won't be required to count the bills for people, and you won't have to give away all of yourself to matters that are as trivial as this.
I have decided to leave this town, and venture to some other. My job is to seek lost things for people; not lose myself in my own past. And with you here, I shall always be brought back to the same place where I started, because seeing you will lead me to reminisce about the olden days, that are of no relevance to me anymore. As I leave, you will be assigned my place to help the folks here in their search for lost things.
Now you will be the Seeker of the Lost.
And only a while after I finished reading it, I heard someone knocking at my door. I reached out and opened it, and there was a man, probably a traveler.
"I'm not able to find my sketchbook", said the man, "Are you the Seeker of the Lost?"
This Night Owl Original has been authored by Suryashekhar Biswas, a media undergrad who likes to read history and Nazim Hikmet poems.
Image used belongs to @annejettd