It was a cold, rainy night.
The entire stretch of the Highway No. 13 was drenched in water.
Raphael had gone to the neighboring city for selling his sculptures. All the marketing and exhibits had taken up his time. He now wanted to reach his home before late night, which was the reason why he was taking the shortcut on this Old Highway. This was a major source of transport during the olden times, almost a century ago. However, owing to the construction of a new direct connecting flyover between the two cities, this highway was rarely used.
Today, owing to heavy rains, the new freeway was totally jammed with vehicles.
Raphael had then decided to use the older highway.
Hell with it, man, he thought, people appreciate my arts, but no one’s ready to purchase. They happily buy those unmeaningful, weird artworks by popular sculptors. I work hard & every week try & create a new masterpiece, but who cares? They say my artworks are not more detailed, they lack the touch of emotions…Oh c’mon. Just say you don’t want to purchase. Why to give….
His thoughts were interrupted as his mobile buzzed.
“Yaa mom…. Yaa I’m on my way back…. Yeah, I’ve taken those medicines. I’m no longer hallucinating now….Ok. Ok. I’ll drive safely.”
As he disconnected the call, suddenly he saw a girl at the roadside. Surprised, he stopped the car & looked in the rear mirror.
There was no one.
Am I feeling delusional?
Rubbing his temples, he started the car.
As he rode off, still engrossed in his thoughts, suddenly his car received a strong jerk. An old modelled sedan, he had purchased it last year, & now, in the heavy rains, the engine suddenly stopped working.
Irritated, he stopped the car at one layby. Without caring for the rains, he came out & opened the bonnet. He tried fixing the spark plug, tried tightening the bolts on the battery, but nothing worked. Frustrated, he called the helpline of the car’s company. They informed that a mechanic will soon reach the location.
Raphael was now left alone. Feeling hungry, he looked around & saw a nice, elegant Gothic-styled building on his left with arches and stone facade. The upper two levels were dimly lit, and on the lower level was a nice, old fashioned restaurant named ‘200 years.’ It had a clear glass shopfront and an old styled retractable awning above it. Through the glass, he saw that the interiors were dimly lit
Delighted, Raphael approached and saw a bearded old man, walking slowly towards the kitchen exit. He rapidly banged the glass door to grab the old man’s attention and pleaded him with folded hands that he was hungry. The old man gestured back saying that the restaurant is closed. But Raphael kept on pleading & urging him to open the door.
Finally, the old man turned back.
“Come in…” he called out as he opened the front door, “And please shut down your car’s hood. Those cars come with a very expensive engine. Someone may rob it, creating more problems for you.”
Raphael nodded & went outside. He returned after a while, carrying two bags with him. One travel sack and a trolley.
“Sorry to trouble you sir. My name’s Raphael. I was just heading back to my home, but my car had different plans.” He smiled as he said the last sentence.
The old man grinned a little & said, “I’m sorry, nothing’s available in the kitchen right now.”
“Please sir, I’ve travelled almost 300 kms without food since today morning,” Raphael requested, “I’m OK with anything that you can prepare. I’ll pay you double the rate…”
“I’ll see what I can do...” the old man said after thinking for a while.
Raphael then looked around as the old man slowly walked towards the kitchen. It was a small but cosy restaurant, with not too much chairs spaced around. It was a small gothic styled food outlet, with wooden tables & chairs & arched doors, with exposed stone walls and rustic stone floor. The lights also were antique, with dim lights & high false ceiling. On one wall, there were small portraits of various kitchen items. On the other wall, which was finished in textured Stucco Plaster, were the portraits of the two most popular paintings: The Mona Lisa & The Last Supper, both of them created by the master himself, Leonardo Da Vinci.
As he admired the interiors, the old man returned with a tray of hot soup, a grilled sandwich with lots of fillings & a dish of Pasta Carbonara with bacon.
“Wonderful…awesome…!” Raphael said as he tasted the food. “I think you must be a good cook…! You cooked all the dishes so quickly and with such an awesome taste…!”
“People say so….” The old man said, smiling.
“You must be cooking these dishes quite often in the restaurant…” Raphael said as he cherished the sandwich. “I think this dish must be your Plat-du-jour. Something which is special as compared to the usual menu.”
“Not quite often…just sometimes.” The old man said shrugging his shoulders.
“You should prepare such delicacies quite often. Your outlet will be famous. You know, you can create such special dishes on a weekly basis & mention that on the notice board outside. People these days love to have such things almost every day. They are tired by having the usual food with the usual taste. When you do something different, people would just love to eat it…!”
The old man smiled & stared at him.
Finally, he said, “As a Sculptor, what was your most amazing & the best sculpture you’ve ever created?”
Raphael gave a shocked look to the old man. How come he knows I am a sculptor?
“I’ve not yet achieved it…” he said, “But you know, I have this thing to make a new sculpture every week. I’ve set this deadline to myself. Every weekend, I’m ready with a new sculpture to be displayed in my studio. I think people love to see a variety in designs. I display all my latest work outside my shops. People love to see it. Some of them even agree & pay a handsome amount for the sculpture…!”
“Do you feel content when you look at your complete artwork? Do you absolutely love the final creation created by you in the end?” the old man asked him a question to the point.
Raphael thought for a while. Keeping his fork & spoon down, he looked at the grinning old man & said, “Honestly, no. I always feel I could have done better, infact much better if I could have more time to do it. But, you know, people come to my studio just to see a new thing. They just love all the new sculptures that I create. That’s why, every week, I keep a new statuette ready for art lovers.”
As Raphael said this, one small drop of sauce fell on his white shirt, creating a red stain.
“Use the tissue & wipe it off.” The old man said.
As Raphael cleaned the stain, the old man continued, “My son, quality is always much more important than quantity. You always focus more on quantity. You’ll create many sculptures, but forever you will never be happy whenever you look at them.”
The old man then pointed at a portrait hung on the wall. It depicted 5 number of spoons with 5 different spices tied together with a rope. Other small pieces of spices were scattered around.
“That portrait says a lot of things. If you observe, all the spoons are of the same size with the same amount of spice in it. To have a perfect dish, all the spices must be added in the right proportion in the mixture. That’s what makes a tasty flavour. A good recipe, my son, is like preparing a painting, done very skilfully by adding the right amount of colours at the right locations, by taking care of the proportions & efficiently adding the details which speak out on their own. And all of this, my boy, is achieved when you give enough of time, enough of efforts to prepare a single recipe…!”
Raphael listened intently to the old man.
“But what will I say to all the people who come to see new attractions every week…?” Raphael asked.
“People always love attractions. But they also love a wonderful detailed piece of art, the one which you prepare so elegantly, so perfectly, putting all your creativity & efforts in it. It is always fascinating to see a nicely done beautiful artwork than something which is prepared just for the sake of creating. It may not happen suddenly, it may take time, you may have to create multiple versions before you zero down upon something. But the final piece, my boy, should be worth watching at, something which relieves out the pressure on the eyes of the viewer.” The old man replied.
Raphael then thought what the old man had said. He only focussed on creating more & more pieces of art every week, rather than preparing one single piece with outmost efforts, without giving proper thought to every element. He then looked at the portraits on the wall, The Mona Lisa & The Last Supper.
“There are lot of stories which say Da Vinci took more than 4 years to finish the Mona Lisa. During his time there were many other painters who painted equally nice paintings, but you know why he became famous? Because he gave a lot of thought to every element, to every feature, to every detail & that’s why he could create Masterpieces. He took lot of time to understand every portion & proportions in his paintings. Which is why the world today recognizes him as one of the best in the art of painting & sketching.” The old man said, still smiling.
“I only create one recipe per month, but sometimes, I take more time because I keep giving lot of reasoning to that single thing, to one single spice, to every single bit of ingredient that I add in the dish. And after I am properly convinced, then the dish is final & approved from me.”
“Does that mean I should spend one month on one sculpture?” Raphael asked.
“Not necessary, son,” the old man replied, “but I would suggest don’t finalize anything till you are convinced. You may be assured by one week, or one day or one month, but the ultimate point is, you should be happy & content that you have created something different about which you are proud of…! Something that at which you will point every time & say to yourself that yes…I created something different. People may not be satisfied, they may not even approve, but my child, remember, you are the creator. You should be happy with your creation. Do you think Da Vinci’s paintings were approved by everyone? Do you think Bernini’s sculptures were loved by each & everyone? Of course not...! They faced lot of criticism. But that did not stop them from creating masterpieces…!”
As Raphael finished eating, the rain stopped. He then got a call from the automobile company’s representative that he is waiting outside.
“Thank you, sir, for the wonderful treat that you gave me.” Raphael said as he stood up to leave. “I’ll surely keep all these things in mind.”
“You’re most welcome son…” the old man said as he gathered all the utensils.
Suddenly Raphael remembered something.
“Hello Sir…I didn’t get your name...” but his sentence was cut half as his mobile rang again. The representative was calling him to inform that he was near his car. Raphael tried to look towards the kitchen service door but the old man had already gone inside.
Taking his two bags, Raphael came outside & saw the representative standing next to his car, waving at him. He hurried towards the representative & opened the bonnet.
After working for about half an hour, the car finally started.
“Thanks friend,” Raphael said, “And if you’re hungry, you can grab a bite from that restaurant. The owner cooks amazing food…!”
“Which restaurant, sir...?” the representative said, looking around.
Turning around, Raphael said, “That o….” but he suddenly stopped.
There was an old, burned building from where he had just stepped out a little while ago. In the little light of the dawn, he saw the whole building was charred, with the entire façade left unattended for years. He stepped closer & saw that the glass door through which he entered was not present, there were no those old-style interiors, nothing of what he had seen a little while ago.
What the hell? Where did all of it go? I just came out from here, after having that wonderful dish from the old man...! Where is everything? he thought.
Panicked, Raphael turned around & saw the representative standing behind him.
“As far as I know, there was a restaurant here, almost 200 years ago. It was run by some old man, who was very famous as a cook. It got burned down in a fire. Since then, it is the same building. No one has renovated or purchased this plot since that fire happened.”
“Oh just shut up man,” Raphael answered irritatingly, “I just had food inside…! I met that old man…! I was having a superb conversation with him…! Look, there is a stain on my sh..” he looked down and was shocked again, as there was no mark of the sauce on his shirt.
Raphael was so horrified he was unable to speak.
“It’s OK sir. Maybe you were hallucinating. Or maybe the old man wanted to help you…” the representative said as he sat on his two-wheeler & rod off.
It was almost morning time now.
Raphael just kept staring at the dead façade.
Did I actually meet him? Or was that just my imagination?
Still wondering about the facts, he came & sat in his car. As he started the ignition, he mentally decided to follow what the old man had said.
2 years later
Raphael was riding in his Rolls Royce on the highway No. 13.
“You’ve become quite famous now,” his secretary said who was seated on the front seat, “People have just loved what you create. You just do one sculpture per month, & that’s what people love. All your sculptures have been sold for millions of dollars in the past one year. Why don’t you do more sculptures? You can make more money by marketing more & selling more…!”
“Let’s focus on the quality. Not on the quantity…” seated in the back seat, Raphael said.
Suddenly Raphael told the chauffer to stop the car.
Taking one rose from the bouquet that he was given; he crossed the road & stood in front of the same old burned building. Placing the rose on its pavement, Raphael said, “Thank you, whoever you are, for showing me the right path…!”
“Where had you gone sir?” his secretary asked as Raphael came & sat back in the car.
“To meet an old friend,” Raphael answered back, smiling.