Days and weeks went by. It was a month since Gopal had left. The old man worked tirelessly. It was all there, in the stone the strong, straight shoulders of Krishna, his soft curved hips, the pointed fingers holding the flute delicately to his lips, his serene face eternally beautiful – the old man could see it in the stone. He could feel it. He only had to set it free with the chisel.
He didn’t feel hunger, he didn’t feel thirst. He was driven by the strong desire to finish the sculpture in time. It was his biggest piece of work, his best. It would also be his last.
On and on he worked, his chisel striking the stone again and again. But then came the day when the old man felt his strength ebb. His shoulders began to ache, his arms felt heavy and his vision blurred. Overcome with fear, he sank to his knees and prayed. The old man prayed a lot these days.
“Masterjee,” Salim said, “you haven’t touched your food again. Please have some rice and vegetables. You only had a glass of milk for breakfast. Have the curd. You like curd, I know you do.”
The old man looked up. He whispered, “I don’t think I’ll be able to finish it. If Gopal was here, it would be different. He hadn’t yet learnt to carve the finer details but in a year or two he would have learnt surely.”
Some weeks went by. It was almost a month since Gopal left for Agra. The old man worked more and more. He carved the shoulders, the hips, the fingers holding the flute of Krishna perfectly. The flute was held on the lips delicately and the face was beautiful, the old man could see what he had carved out of the stone. He felt that he has to set the sculpture free with the chisel.
Krishna carved by the old man (Image for understanding purposes only)
The old man was neither hungry nor thirsty. He just wanted to finish the sculpture on time. It was the most important piece of work for him so he wanted to give his best and also it could be his last piece of work.
He worked more and more with his chisels. But then one day, the old man could not take it anymore. His shoulders were aching, his arms were too tired and his vision started reducing. He was scared, he prayed to god on his knees, and he started praying often.
Salim saw that his master did not eat his food, he coaxed him and requested him to have some rice and vegetables. From morning the old man just had milk, so Salim asked the old man to have some curd as he knew that his master liked curd very much.
The old man looked up at Salim; he was worried and said that he would not be able to finish it. If Gopal had been there, it would have been different. Though Gopal did not learn the intrinsic details of carving, but in a year or two, he would have learnt for sure.
Meanings of difficult words:
|Ebb||(Of an emotion or quality) gradually decrease|
|Blurred||Unable to see or be seen clearly|
|Eternally||In a way that continues or lasts forever; permanently|
|Finer||Of very high quality; very good of its kind|
State Council of Educational Research and Training (2019). Term-2 English Standard-7. The Last Stone Carver-Sigrun Srivastav (pp. 109-116). Published by the Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation