Yogi changes flights twice before he lands in Melbourne in the early hours of morning and takes the bus to the Youth Hostel at Spencer Street. Yogi was selected as an exchange student to study with The Melbourne Institute of Design in Australia. It is the year 1990. The world is a delightfully different place from today, with internet in its infancy and social media or face-book totally absent. Yogi, barely 21, is full of curiosity and keen to explore the opportunity he is given.
That day, Yogi meets Debra Hudson, the international students’ coordinator, who greets him with her rehearsed courtesy and superficial smile. “I have arranged a home-stay for you with Ms. Charlotte Pritchard. She is a professional writer, single and lives in Kew.”
Yogi, having arrived on Friday, has the whole weekend to freely explore Melbourne. He wanders casually along the meandering Yarra River admiring the view and absorbing the atmosphere. The juxtaposition of new and old architecture of Melbourne fascinates him. He feels that the city should definitely help his creativity.
On Saturday, he takes the rumbling tram to Kew, which is a sleepy and sprawling suburb with low rise houses. He arrives at house number 42, a neat white bungalow. The doorbell is attended by a lady whom Yogi knows is Charlotte.
“Hi! I was expecting you. Debra had called. Welcome.”
Soon, Yogi learns that Charlotte separated from her husband, Geoff, a few years earlier and her two teenage children opted to stay with Geoff. Charlotte is a full time writer and has three popular collections of short stories to her credit. Yogi has difficulty believing she is 40 because she is wearing long drop crystal earrings and leopard print pants. He had guessed she was in her 30s. Yogi shifts in the next day.
Monday, at school, he formally meets the Dean. “Sir, may I have the scholarship for board and lodging that you gave the previous exchange student?”
“It was a one-time thing. I am sorry, it can’t be repeated,” the Dean replies firmly.
Although Yogi has sufficient funds to comfortably last him his sixteen-week semester, he is interested in saving money in order to tour around Australia and New Zealand.
At the end of one week, he pays Charlotte the weekly rent.
“I have a suggestion,” he tells her in his most charming way, “I know you write short stories. I can tell you a new story each week. If you find it interesting and of any use to you, would you consider letting me off the rent for that week.”
“Done,” Charlotte agrees reluctantly, looking skeptically at the strapping boy with the confident grin. She doubts his ability to tell stories as good as the ones she writes.
Little does she know that this would gradually start the carousel of stories from Yogi's life and his college world, some of which would bring her closer to her story-teller…
Writing order: Tulika Saha (Ind) Vatsal Shah (Ind), Suraya Dewing (NZ), Sumanda Maritz (Sth Africa), Roseyn (Aus), Donna McTavish (NZ), Ray Stone (Cyprus), Gabrielle Burt (NZ), Linda Alley (Aus), Ashutosh Shukla (Ind).