“Two Hearts” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual International Short Story Contest 2018 written by Kanchan Bhatnagar, DAV Senior Secondary Public School, India.
James, a cool dude from Canada, lands bang in the middle of Punjab to tie the knot with his 10th-standard sweetheart, Sue. He's too hipster for social constructs like marriage, commitment and monogamy. Sue, meanwhile, has been waiting with baited breath.
Once the pre-wedding rituals begin, James finds out that he has a curse and must marry a tree before he marries Sue, in order to avoid bad luck. Both Sue and James' families convince him to do it for the sake of the ritual and soon enough, he finds himself tying a thread around a huge tree while circling it. Wedding accomplished. He reluctantly marries the tree, which is duly chopped down after the completion of the ceremony.
With one slight hitch that is. The tree happens to be the resting place of a certain Punjabi-girl ghost called Pari- by way of the tree - is now bound to James and automatically follows him back to the mansion in which the wedding party is put up. Pari is a spirit who lived in that particular tree and hence claims to now be 'married' to him (James). A lot of confusion around the unseen entity ensues, and eventually, James finds out that Pari is being haunted by something as well. Her past. Then the story is taken into a sepia-filtered Punjab of diffused sunlight, brown-green clothes, brick houses, poets-in-anonymity and soulful songs and continues in flashback. Pari is a bright young woman who never fails to read the works of a poet that is regularly published in a local weekly. Everyone thinks that the poems are written by the singer, who is the heart-throb of the village. Pari, it turns out, was a poetess who fell in love with a singer. Roop ,the singer confronts Pari's brother who was against their idea of marriage and admits to having been an alcohol addicted and good for nothing who still is not worthy of her, but tells him that he is going to Amritsar to record all the songs written by Pari and will eventually return and ask for her hand in marriage.
The very fact that Pari writes poetry as a revelation to her brother, and as time passes he too reads the poems and starts appreciating her obvious talent. Meanwhile, Roop records the songs in Amritsar and is paid a handsome fee of three hundred rupees. He immediately sends the entire amount as a money order to Pari's brother, along with a letter stating his intention to return and marry her. Pari's brother, by now convinced of Roop changed nature and good intentions as well as the deep love between the couple, starts the preparations for her marriage.
On the day of the wedding Pari waits for Roop along with all her relatives and the entire village, but eventually the day ends with him nowhere to be seen on any of the buses from Amritsar. Her brother has to face the intense embarrassment and shame of sending everyone away, and this in turn hurts Pari so much that she commits suicide due to an overwhelming sense of sadness, despair and betrayal.
She was abandoned on her wedding day and committed suicide by hanging herself from the same tree that James would marry almost 98 years later.
Back to the future, James takes it upon himself to free Pari of this half-dead state. A chance conversation with his grandmother and a quick Wikipedia search later, we find out that Pari's lover was actually at the Jallianwala Bagh at the time of the massacre and was killed there.
James, Sue and Pari's ghost quickly embark on a road trip to Amritsar, where they find her lost lover's VFX-rich ghost lingering around at Jallianwala Bagh. Pari is reunited with her lover and as they hug, they burst into stardust under which James embraces Sue and his fears about true love melt away.
Before they both ascend to heaven Pari thanks James and Sue for what they did for her and told them to love and cherish each other always, and that is what they promise each other as they embark on a new phase of their very own love story.