Monday, October 31, 2011

The coin collection- Part2 [2nd Version]

Note: Yes! You read it correct. Here is a Version 2 for part-2 of the story. Hang on till the new Part-3 and let me know which one you like. :P

Read Part1 here

Part-2 [Version-2]..(the first para is same as the first version- it changes from the second para)

Asha’s mom was amazed at the dedication of the little girl to save money. What did she know about money? How innocently she dreams, Uncle Scrooge! She wiped a happy tear from the corner of her eye before it rolled out on her cheek.  The rest of the afternoon went by in cooking the lunch, talking to the maid, catching up with the Sunday serials and handing out cups of hot coffee to her husband. “It is not hot enough” he would flatly refuse, returning the cup to her and she would repeat the process till it was boiling hot. “It is too hot now. Why can’t you make a cup of coffee?” he would get angry. Thoughts rushed through her mind; a faint familiar feeling of pain strained her.  Was he punishing her, proving to her that she wasn’t good enough a wife, now because she is working? What is so wrong about a woman earning better than the man she lives with. What is that futile Ego? And where was that pride when he had rummaged through her cupboard? When he robbed his own wife of the meagre hundred, two hundred she had carefully placed between the ironed saree folds?

She only hoped and prayed that he would leave Asha’s coins untouched.  “Amma, am-ma come see my box it is full!” Asha pulled the loose end of her mom’s dress, while bouncing in the air,” Come, Co-me, Co-me Amma.. see it is fu-ull!” She quickly shushed her and followed her to the room. Much to her delight, the little girl did manage to fill the box. Later that evening they went to a near by shop and got it changed to crisp notes. The final count was a hundred and twenty three, a priceless saving of her eight year old. She carefully rolled the hundred rupee note and tucked it under the paper of the coin box. She pulled out some loose change from her purse,” Here you go Asha, now you can collect again!”

An innocent child has the eyes that can see people without bias. Asha was no different. She would hop around with delight and tell her father;” Appa I saved two rupees” It was only after several reckless remarks that she had started to ignore his presence. How knowledge can rob away some senseless happiness? Nobody asked her to but she had learned to tip-toe and make sure the coins didn’t juggle enough to catch the attention of Appa. “Did you save a Rupee?” he would snicker at her. She would hang her head down in anger and do the bravest thing a child of her age could do. She ran to her mother. “Don’t let him bother you. Here take a rupee.” Amma always managed to patch the cracks made by Appa in Asha’s illusion of a happy childhood. But, Asha, she was maturing at a remarkable rate.

She would startle her mother with some blunt questions,” Amma, why does Appa not like money?” Amma would feel guilty of all that Asha could have overheard. Could she tell her that it was only her money that he didn’t like? Asha knew nothing other than Appa throwing a bundle of tens on the floor shouting,” Take that money! I can earn well enough!” She had crawled under the bed believing that it was a bad dream. With gentle sobs and anxious eyes she had waited till she saw Amma’s feet walk in. She jumped into her arms and had embraced her with a delight of not having lost her. There was this strange fear about Appa. She always thought her could hurt her mother. Maybe it was from watching Amma cry whenever Appa spoke to her. The best advice her young mind could offer was,” We should stay at Ajji’s house. Appa never comes there”. How simplistic was Asha’s comprehension of the complex life around her. Her mother feared the day when see would see things deeper and clearer.

A woman is like that string that holds different relations in a marriage. If she breaks off, all the beads fall apart. What is the victory in that -to run away?

To be continued... :P

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The coin collection - Part3

Read Part1 here
Read Part2 here

“Whatever happens… ?“ did Amma just say that! Asha choked on these words and tear welled up her eyes. She turned her face away and secretly wiped the tears on her t-shirt sleeves.  Her mother sensed her discomfort. She hugged the girl and wept mumbling between sobs,” I didn’t mean that. It is all going to be fine. I will be fine. We will be fine. Nothing is going to happen to me.”

That night when Asha cried, something changed. Her mother had realized how much pressure it was on a child who is twelve. She felt miserable that she had no plan, no idea no way figured out. All she knew was the money could be put to some use when Asha grew up. She thought about it the whole night. Her mind was suddenly occupied with a thought that had never crossed her mind. There was a strange excitement about this thought. “What if?” she caught herself wondering and shuddered at the possibilities. Helplessness burdened her. There is no place for a woman who walks out on her man. But could she just disappear into the darkness and never see him again? What about Asha? She couldn’t leave her behind. Tears poured as she snubbed the thought of killing herself and the daughter to end it all. “No, I will never do that. I will be a bloody woman if I do.”

When Asha got up the next morning, she found her mom in the kitchen, as usual. But there was something different about her. She had never seen Amma like this ever before. She handed the coffee cup to Appa before he even asked for it. She added a couple of biscuits too. It all felt awkward. Amma had always had this look of a warrior; there was a subtle anger in everything she did, a sublime display of strength and resentment in her eyes. But, today she appeared like nothing touched her. There was no emotion, just a faint smile when she looked at Asha.

Little worried Asha left to school. Her mom had waved her and there was the faint smile again.  She had to have faith in Amma. She thought about all the decisions Amma could take, did she decide we leave this place and settle far away from appa? She was a strong lady, but would she do that? She had never thought about it in all these years.  Paralysed with thoughts she sat inattentive. “Asha? Asha? You need to go.” She shook from her thoughts when the teacher called out to her. “What happened?” she asked. “Your mother.. your mother..” the lady was struggling to find words. An intense pain rushed thought her heart,” What happened to my mother? Please!” The teacher finally spoke” Your mother is in the hospital. She is fine. But you need to go”

Asha jumped off from her school van and ran in the first direction she saw. She wanted to kill Appa. How could he? He was horrible but she always thought he couldn’t harm them- physically. She knew he couldn’t. How could he? A peon from the school who had accompanied her directed her to the room 306. She saw lot of police uniforms. She didn't know what to expect. She gulped down nasty thoughts nagging her mind and walked in. She found Amma, wrapped in bandages. One hand was in fracture plaster and her left leg was hung high. Her cheekbone was swollen and her face was red. There was a needle stuck to her arm and transparent liquid dripped. She sat next to her not knowing what else to do. Amma was sleeping. But there was a faint smile. She was beginning to wonder when the police officer called her,” Asha. I want you to answer a few questions. Your mother will be fine. She will recover soon. Can you talk to me now?” Asha looked at Amma and nodded. The officer asked her,” Think properly and tell me, could your father do this?” Asha turned around in disbelief. She looked at that faint smile on Amma’s face. She knew the truth. But she wanted sound unsure,” I think Appa did it.” The officer questioned her further,” Why would he do that? Can you remember anything happened yesterday or today morning?” By now she made up her mind she looked Amma, her faint smile. She had to have faith in her. She framed an answer and lied,” Appa did it. Amma and me used to save money- some coins. Appa wanted Amma to give him that money. They were fighting about it all the while- about the coin collection.”

P.S: Did the story move as expected? Did it take a nasty turn? Do find it believable? Any complaints? Any suggestions..? I am all ears.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The coin collection-Part2

Read Part-1 here

Asha’s mom was amazed at the dedication of the little girl to save money she knew nothing about. How innocently she dreams, Uncle Scroog! She wiped a happy tear from corner of her eye before it rolled out on her cheek.  The rest of the afternoon went by cooking the lunch, talking to the maid, catching up with the Sunday serials and handing out cups of hot coffee to her husband. “It is not hot enough” he would flatly refuse, returning the cup to her and she would repeat the process till it was boiling hot. “It is too hot now. Why can’t you make a cup of coffee?” he would get angry. Thoughts rushed through her mind; a faint familiar feeling of pain strained her.  Was he punishing her, proving to her that she wasn’t good enough a wife? What is so wrong about a woman earning better than the man she lives with. What is that futile Ego? And where was that pride when he had rummaged through her cupboard? When he robbed his own wife of the meagre hundred, two hundred she had carefully placed between the ironed saree folds.   

But then why did she feel guilty? She couldn’t even look him in the eye. It was not fear. Definitely not fear. It was perhaps -disgust. And, the guilt, the woman was burdened by it the day she was born. She felt guilty when her parents spent even that final rupee of their savings on her wedding. She felt guilty about being beautiful, about attracting too much attention. About being looked at with endearing eyes by strange men while her husband felt nothing! On one drunken night he had confessed,” I can’t bear you being so strong. You make me feel miserable about myself. Why can't you just be a bloody woman!” She had thought of talking it out discussing it but she held her tongue. The following morning she pretended nothing had happened and he played along, life slipped into the same miserable rut.  There were nights when she watched Asha sleep; thinking what would happen to her future. How will she ever earn enough to pay for her college? Would she ever have that kind of money?

“Amma, am-ma come see my box it is full!” Asha pulled the loose end of her mom’s saree,while bouncing in the air,” Come, Co-me, Co-me Amma.. see it is fu-ull!” Much to her delight, the little girl did manage to fill the box. Later that evening they went to a near by shop and got it changed to crisp notes. The final count was a hundred and twenty three, a priceless saving of her eight year old. She carefully rolled the hundred rupee note and tucked it under the paper of Asha’s coin box. She pulled out some loose change and threw them in,” Here you go Asha, now you can collect again!”

It took Asha four years before the exact value of rupee got into her head. Four years to grow out of that innocence, look around know how strangely rich and poor they were. Appa had these bouts of lavishness and he filled the house with fridge, a washing machine and a fancy colour television. She would believe they were rich enough to afford these luxuries. But then later she would hear amma cry and speak to her appa,” I can’t pay for this. We have a little girl to educate! You know how they talk when they come to collect the money for all the debt you have created? I am begging you. Stop! It is enough.” She had asked her mom on one such dark night,” Amma, why can’t we pay them the money I have? You won't have to listen to them” Her mother shot an angry glance, almost terrified at the thought,” Never even mention about spending that money. I know it is hard. But don’t ever do that! Whatever happens..”

To be continued...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The coin collection [Short fiction-Part1]

Asha hobbled her way to the kitchen where she usually found her mother during the mornings. She rubbed her eyes adjusting them to the light that pierced her. Her tiny feet touched the ground and waves of tingling sensations made her feel funny. A soft white cotton gown with fading red flower prints made her look adorable. Her hair bounced, recovering from the twists and twirls they had been subjected in her sleep and the faint pillow prints still showed on her cheeks. Without opening her eyes she clung on to her mom who was pulling out some bags. “Did you brush your teeth?” she asked. To which Asha whimpered as if that question ruined her morning.

In a hurried tone her mom said, “Oh, okay! So you can’t come with me then. Since, you haven’t brushed your teeth.”  With these lines she had managed to zap the early morning melancholy between her and her sleepy lazy daughter who she knew hated to brush. Now wide awake Asha tugged her mom,“Where are you going amma? I will come with you. Pl-ea-se!” Her mother had replied,” But, I don’t have the time. If you brush in five minutes we will see!” Asha quickly disappeared into the bathroom and came out with a wet face and little toothpaste foam she had managed to spill on her gown. Her mom helped her changed her clothes and they left for the vegetable market.

Asha liked to accompany her mother on all her purchases. Unlike appa who wouldn’t budge on her desire to buy a toffee or two her mom would make sure she got some goodies. There were times when she got balloons and a big chocolate bar with a purple wrapper. It was usually during the first week of every month. Her mom had once explained it to her,” Amma got her salary, Asha.” She had spent the whole day trying to spell it,” Sa-la-ury.”

They made the usual stops at the same vendors, like they did every week. “Madam, today grapes are very nice. Take a kilo or two. Taste them, don’t buy if you don’t like them” the fruit vendor plucked a couple of grapes and placed them in Asha and her mom’s hand.  Little reluctant she looked at her mom and popped into her mouth after her mom did the same. They bought half a kilo and moved ahead to finish the remaining shopping. At every seller they stopped, there was an exchange of notes and a slipping of coin or two after some bargaining. Her mom handed over these coins to Asha as she struggled with the now heavy bags dragging them from one stop to another. Sometimes more coins were added and Asha had to fill them in her frill gown pockets and sometimes she dutifully searched the one or two rupee her mom would need and promptly handed it over on request.

There was a sense of ownership for the money. But she knew that money belonged to her mother. She secretly hoped that her mom wouldn’t require the change and she could go home with her two tiny pockets - full of coins. Her mom never insisted on collecting back the coins from her. But, Asha would ask if she could add the change to her piggy bank to which she would not be given a negative answer. Asha would sit on the floor and pile up her coins in batches of ones and twos and estimate the money she had. It was a action she had picked up from the Uncle Scroog cartoons and dreamt of swimming in a pool of coins someday. She never understood why the coins on television were golden and yellow while all the coins she had ever seen were only grey. “Why do you save these coins?” her mother had asked her once. She didn’t have an answer. She didn’t know anything about money. She just replied,” I feel good amma. I like to pile them up and count them. I will be Uncle Scroog!”

When they came back from the vegetable market, Asha asked the same question and quickly ran into her room and added the twelve coins she had in her pocket to her collection. 

To be continued...

Why I read [Tag]

Nay! I am not for the TAGs and TAGging..I think it throws your readers off track. It appears like a little misfit post on your blog. (don't you think?)

But this one I could delay but couldn't pass. I love reading and Yuvika Tagged me here so that I can tell everyone why- so here it is:

I never, never , never ever read as a kid. I was more like learn from people and not from books kind. I had lot of child philosophies against books. And I had believed that fiction is pointless. How ironic that I aim to publish a fiction book some day. So, for that half of my early life, I was the kid who read books on science facts, self help, body laguage.. blah blah blah when my happy friends went "aww.. " and "how nice!"on Sweet Valley, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Harry Potter and likes.

So, the first book I actually read was  "Da Vinci Code" which I spotted on father's bookshelf. I read and that was the day I got hooked to fiction books. The way the author had twisted and tricked my mind with words giving me a feeling as though I was witnessing the entire drama in person was fabulous. I picked up couple of more books by Dan Brown and finished all his works in no time. Since, then I had been on look out for suggestions from some well read crowd to direct me where to start reading from. I slowly braved and moved to Paulo Coelho, Ayn Rand and some light reads like Arthur Hailey and Sidney Sheldon. So that was when I read because I was taken over by the power of these writers to create something that lingers on your mind for days and years after you shut the book. I can still feel that burn at the tip of my toes when I think of the Cardinal being burned in Angels and Demons. I can smell chanel 5 when I read Sidney Sheldon describe the lady in the plot. I read to have my tricked, to have my mind played for a while, to escape from this time and transport to where the writer wants me to be. 

I random read lot of quotes and essays. I read them with the sole objective of gaining a little wisdom and they never fail me. There was also a phase when I read lot of poetry just to be aware, to know how the well respected poets write. 

At a later stage I had this sudden interest in Indian Authors. I read and re-read the works of few authors and got addicted to the writings of few stopping only when I figured out I had read every word written by him/her.  That was then time when a hope was seeded in my mind, that I too could write. After some glorious failed attempts and struggling with my sub standard English. I finally hit it off with the short fiction and we are going strong. :P Now, if you have a look at my bookshelf you can tell, I am heavily intoxicated by the short stories. I get these short story books from the library. I buy these short stories on Flipkart. I read these short stories on the net. And, each author has a style, a topic close to their heart and they all have a way with words with their readers and I read  to learn. So, now my reading is mostly like a learning exercise and I am sure having fun applauding some great short stories. 

To conclude: I read because there is a takeaway. 

@Yuvika- I hope I didn't disappoint you. :)

I will leave this post without tagging anyone. Just pick it up if you like the tag idea.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tell me something about you [Poem]

How naïve can you be, when you ask-
Tell me something about you dear,
How foolish is that, not to know,
Merely lending an ear is not how you hear

I will still tell you, that I lived twenty four,
Already changed like a million fold,
Little different I am each time,
Each time, my feet touch the floor

But, if you want to persist, pursue this goal
Be a friend, a friend till I am trembling old
And that’s only way will hear my dear,
Something about me- without being told!


Monday, October 24, 2011

Uncertainties [Poem]

(c) Ashish Arora Photography- Used with permission

I can only see as far my sight,
My mind is made up; I am ready for the flight,
Over the hills, I will fly, into the open skies
The reflection of the world, I will behold in my eyes

Too young, they tell me, what do you know?
These wishes are pointless, someday you will grow.
Uncertainties will ground you, like these pebbles, under your feet,
I am sorry, my child, someday, destiny you shall meet.

They say, I might be left gloomy and teary-eyed,
But what if; I make it, to the other side?
Let the fate come find me, somewhere on the path
At least, I can pride, I had braved a start.


P.S: This was written as a part of Captured writings. The guy who clicks these beautiful photographs you can check his page here . 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Two mothers [Short Fiction]

Please, please! Drop me one message- once you reach fine. Can you do that for me?”I hear my mother snicker, as I talk to my little girl. I throw a furious look at her and she bends her head down like punished a child. After finishing the talk and waving my daughter a goodbye, I join mom at the dining table where she tries to appear engrossed in cutting vegetables. Her silvery, shoulder length stylishly cut hair, bounces with the chop of the knife. There is a smile she is pressing between her lips. My anger vanishes and we both burst out laughing.

Overjoyed, little tears flow and rub them off still laughing. A little nagging thought attaches to my mind. I abruptly stop. She reads my mind,“ Oh dear! No.. you will do fine!” and walks to where I sat. Burying my face in her embrace I mumble without looking at her, “Mom, why is it so difficult to be a mother?” She gently kisses my forehead,” Because I cursed you to have a difficult child, as difficult and as painful as you were.” We both laugh. “Now don’t think so much you silly.” with those words she hobbles to the TV room and switches the television on. I wait for her to say the same words she says everyday,” Aye, which channel does that show telecast on?” With practice, I answer,” Channel 15.” If I ask her now, about the guy who had chased me till house some fifteen years ago. Pat, she will reply. But a TV show she watches daily, she won’t remember its channel or even its exact name. That's how the memory of a mother works. 

I walk into kitchen and start to cook. When she says,” Put the tomato in the end. They fry very quickly.” I tell her I saw her doing just that all my life. “I am delighted; I never knew you paid attention.” she laughs. This was one of those skills I had picked up sitting on the kitchen slab passing this and that to her when she cooked. I shake myself to the present and place the cooked food on the table and check the time. It’s been a while. She should have reached by now. I look at the empty message inbox and a chain of thoughts jail me. I feel weak and vulnerable. Suddenly exposed to pain. Has she reached safe? There are so many accidents these days. What about those stupid men who will be gawking at her? What if she got into a fight? What if she had started an argument with someone? Yesterday there was a molestation case reported in the similar area. A message beeps, “Mom, reached safe. Don’t worry.” My mind is out of shackles now. What a relief! That one word- safe, is what I wanted to hear, like every other mother.

We eat and I listen to mom’s version of the serials she watches and smile wide eyed at what she believes will be told in the following episodes. Time passes and other members of the family have come, everybody except -my daughter. I can't sit in my own house. I sit in the verandah, my eyes scanning every girl on a Scooty that even remotely resembles her. My ears all alert to pick the noises that usually precede her arrival at home. I drop her message,” Let me know if you got held up by something.” But, fail to get a reply. As my worry worsens with every passing second, my mom offers me company and we wait for my daughter like she had once waited for me. “Her class might have got extended. And they don’t allow mobiles in the class. She told me that once. She must be on her way.” She tells me this and yet I catch that little pray she does, hoping this is what is true. “I am hoping the same mom. I am hoping the same.” I reply holding back a million insane thoughts haunting my mind. Times change, generations’ change, our attitudes, our lifestyles,- everything change! Everything- but that span of time, when you wait for the arrival of a little girl you want to shield from this bad world.  That little girl you want to protect for all the horrors you have heard, all the cruelties you have read or have unfortunately witnessed. That time when we the contemporary women, bear the same mindset of every mother who has ever lived. That time- never changes.

A little later a tiny yellow headlight peeks through our front gate and I breathe for the first time in an hour.We, two mothers watch 'the daughter' walk towards us- safe and share a smile. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A senseless insecurity [Short Fiction]

I had been running away from my college memories. But today they hit me like an arrow in the back. I logged onto facebook, it was a lazy Sunday afternoon. There was nothing better to do and I decided to deal with the pending friend requests. Some I confirmed right away,  little unsure I left some unattended, a few I bluntly ignored.  But this one request, I accepted with lot of hesitation and reluctance. It was a classmate from my graduation days.

I had started hating myself back then, because of this one guy. Arvind Thripati, the name sounds pretty normal but he was a charm. His wit and smartness had caught the attention of all, including mine. Being the little wise and rational girl I was- I could differentiate between a general liking, an infatuation and love. I was positive and still am sure that I just liked and admired the young man for how he carried himself.  I often found myself battling this need that had captured my mind. I wanted a friend. A friend as witty and as cool as him, a rational mind to talk to. And, we did talk for a while. 

Suddenly he had withdrawn. Not only that, he refused to acknowledge my presence and say a simple hello.  I had spiralled into emotional labyrinths analysing what had gone wrong. I was a blunt, straight forward, no bullshit girl and I never saw any reason for anybody else to be otherwise. Why couldn't he  just tell what's wrong? I needed to know. I had even confronted him once to which he gave a how dumb can you be smile and walked off. It had stayed with me for days- that disgusted look on his face. Finally, after loathing myself for almost stalking the guy and nearly begging for his company I snapped. I decided to hold my self respect high. I too ignored him refusing to see his face or respond to any general queries. I hated him for being hurtful. I even deleted his number and removed him from the friends list on social networking sites. It seemed like a brave achievement at seventeen. 

Even after that day, I always questioned myself, pondering maybe, I wouldn’t have behaved appropriately. Perhaps I clung onto him too much, gave him a wrong impression. Did I like him? I did. But I don’t anymore. Did I love him? I didn’t. I never did. But it mattered, because I, I was ignored and I wasn't told why. For the rest of the college years- I had learnt to be little aloof, giving space to people, sometimes more than they require. I never entertained many friends. I didn’t need them. But once I moved out of college I bounced back to normalcy with ease and learnt a worthy lesson or two.  Yet still, college became that word which reminded me of my dumbness in dealing with people and made me feel less sure about myself. It wasn't a pleasent memory.

This, was that discomforting time of my past I never wanted to think about. But, today out of the blue- like a disowned memory always does, it strayed into my present and itched my mind. I wondered- why now, after ten years Mr.Arvind Thripati needs to have me on his friend list?  Was I a puncture to be patched in his list of friends that he suddenly felt the need to deal with? My anger raged and I changed my mind about adding him and was about to block him out when, a messaged popped up. 

Hey Aditi,

Sorry, for being the person I was. God knows why I was like that college. You were more sensible than me back then. I feel terrible about how I behaved.

So how are you? What are you up to?


And there is was- all I had wanted to know. It wasn’t all my fault. I was not as stupid as I thought I was. There still are a few things I wished I never did. But, I can live with that. We all are, in our own ways a little unprepared for every situation and stage of life. How easily we feel miserable without the knowledge of who and what the person is all about- burdening ourselves with self doubts.  I felt bad about myself all this while but he inturn was regretful about how he had been. We both felt that the other had handled the situation/college better. It became all clear at once. Like I needed mine, he needed a closure too. A reply, saying- "It's okay." or "I understand" was all he wanted. An eternal peace rushed through me as my senseless insecurity, harboured overed years disappeared from the dark corners of my mind.

I re-read his message with a smile and logged off without responding.

Camera Crazy [Poem]

Twice I had kept aside a thirty grand
Saving rupee by rupee, clutched in my hand
I longed to wear that Nikon strap around neck
Have a SLR that shoots, even a dusty speck

The first time spent it on a jolly trip
A vacation with mom, the camera I could skip
Little burnt, little sad, I waited for a month more
But the cherished times, healed my sore

The second time I enquired, joyful and glee
I had enough cash to be paid as fee
Then a sudden call came from a kin
A worry I could solve with the cash in my tin

Now, the third time, I have planned -all it takes,
On January 12th, an SLR would click my birthday cakes
Now, suddenly an opportunity has come for a tour
I might have a reason to travel to Singapore

Can I manage both, I was questioning myself?
Little math and a negative answer presented itself
Now I sit and wonder how ironic -this position
A place where I can click, or,  a camera in possession?

Why do you need an SLR, had questioned a friend?
Do you wish to be a photographer, follow the trend?
Oh what the hell, I photograph well even today
Would a point and shoot, make the image –ugly and grey?

So, I find my misery of months suddenly futile,
A desire I held dear, Oh so juvenile
I would rather travel, see the world with a naked eye
Capture it in memory, the beauty of the sky!


P.S: True Story :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The silhouettes [Short Fiction]

It still looked the same as it did a year ago. The waves still shimmered as the sun lingered clumsily on the greying sky.  There were the usual sounds - a melancholic overlap of laughter, conversations, some hawkers and, most soothing of all, the gushing waves.  And then, there were silhouettes- few young, few old, some lovingly coupled and some miserably lonely -lonely, like her. She longed to step into this withdrawing day and become a faceless counter, a shadow on this beach.  Disappear away- like him.

Here she was, after a year of inconsolable sobbing, denial of his absence and accepting the unfair life.  Her life, at the this moment, was defined by the profile of woman- hands folded, neatly resting above closely drawn knees, the outline of her face looking at the beach. Her hair flowing freely and her mind knotted with thoughts and memories-just another silhouette with a story. It was here that she had found him, a few years ago.  From a blurred black image of a stranger, he had moved into her life - filling it with all colours of joy she could have imagined. She held back tears that threatened to break into an outpour of everything she had deeply shut. An unbearable pain rushed through her body. A boulder of grief shattered her like it had happen just yesterday. Destiny had wiped him out of her life cruelly. The dreams they had built together like gleeful children, collapsed overnight.  She felt a stab as she watched the kids build sand castles,” Don’t, it won’t stay.” She wanted to warn.

It was then that her thoughts were suddenly interrupted. She felt the eyes of a stranger glance upon her. She fidgeted uneasily embarrassed about being caught in a private movement.  She stared blankly at the beach still cautions of the man, trying hard not to look at him. She felt weak, vulnerable and strangely exposed. But he stood there adamant, his eyes still caught on her.  She emptied the sand from her sandals and in one hurried movement got up and started to walk away. He followed. Her heart paced and her feet dug deep into sand as she ran, slowly, awkwardly, not wanting to give away her fear.  For a minute she contemplated about stopping and confronting him.  But then she heard him call her, “ Please, wait! Wait.. a minute. I need to thank you.”

She stopped and turned to find the middle aged man run towards her. She saw his face now, he looked dignified and there was genuine look which kept her from running away. Catching breath while puffing and panting he spoke,“ I am sorry, You don’t know me. I.. I wanted to give you this.” She took the photograph from him with trembling hands. He continued,“ I had clicked this about a year ago. I have been trying to find you both since then. I am a photographer. And this photograph has become one of my most appreciated works. I wanted to thank you and gift you this. I bring it with me everyday. And finally, I saw you now. I wasn’t sure at first. But then..”  he stopped as he saw her cry with joy and pain, her eyes never moved from the photograph. She looked at it dearly and clung to it like a scared child to a mother. Unsure what to say he finally said,” I am sorry.. I didn’t mean to

Without a word she hugged him with the deepest sense of gratitude, her gentle sobs with a dash of laugh confused him. He let her hold him not knowing what to do.  She loosed the embrace and spoke hugging the photograph close to her heart, “ This.. this is the biggest joy that I have felt in my life THANK YOU. I have no words to express how grateful I am. He died the night this photograph was taken. This was our last moment together”. The man was so moved he only managed to mumble in a muffled voice,” I am so sorry to hear about that.” They, two strangers, now connected by a mutual grief sat down and wept- two black contours on the magnificent beach.

Later that week she got the photograph beautifully framed. It was a silhouette of a couple, him and her holding hands and walking, with him leading her and guiding her as the sun silently withdrew throwing a golden light on the beach-the photographer had put up an apt caption,” I will walk you through darkness-forever.”  She had found her strength to live by.

P.S: This was supposed to feature in Captured Writings. But somehow the story didn't seem to fit well with the photograph and new story replaced this one to compliment that image. You can read that version here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Old Friends [Short Fiction]

Oh my God! This is you! How are you dear? It’s so nice to finally meet you. Long time!! Long long time! Ten years? ” I only manage to nod my head with a heartfelt smile. The words I had planned to speak feel heavy on my tongue as she spoke everything I had decided to say when I meet her.  

We sit down for a cup a coffee at Barista. I let her place the order for both of us. Too embarrassed to have received a call she excuses herself politely and walks a few steps away.  From where I sat her face is just the way it was in my memory several years ago. The only difference being how her hair has grown beautifully long adding more charm to her pretty face. I watch her pace up and down speaking animatedly. Her eyes dart my direction and her muted lips speak,” I am sorry” she hasn’t changed much- I catch myself smiling at the thought.

I was surprised by this invitation. She had written-“I know.. it’s been so long!! I am finally in your city. Let’s catch up!” It is not that I hadn’t been in touch with her. But we had slipped to a stage where we both were too busy with our lives. There was a lot to talk, always, but there was never a time and place where this talking could be done. I accepted the growing distance and we were reduced to friends who just call on birthdays. And, the dreams, the talks and innocent confessions of the school girls that we were back then, feel unfamiliar and odd. Odd, like those old photographs in weird clothes and funny unformed faces that we hide coyly from people who know us today. I have changed, my dreams have changed, my priorities too. And I know that she too has drifted away from what she had wanted to be. 

A worry wraps itself around me.  I don’t want her to spill out the details of the girl I had been to the woman I have become.  What if she finds my weak, fearful soul while she reaches out the dauntless ambitious girl I was? Did she too change from the perky free spirited girl to a mature woman with a family, career and responsibilities? Would she understand if I break down, unable to hide the grief of my stalling marriage? Would she respond with the concern of that loving friend or would she cringe away in disgust- disappointed with me when I explain the helplessness that led to my now non existent career?

My thoughts break with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. I am shocked to see her sitting right across me. I was so lost I never saw her walk back towards where I sat. In an attempt to conceal the thoughts printed on my face I hide behind the coffee mug.  I make a futile effort to clam my apprehensions by sipping the caffeine and try to appear casual.  I manage to surface a smile, while still looking away when I feel her eyes glance upon me. Tears threaten to roll down my cheeks and I feel her hands grab mine in the most reassuring manner. Comfort soothes my tensed body. I finally find the courage to look into her eyes and they speak out to me.  That moment I know, she knows- she understands. The ten years of no communication shatters with this silent, wordless conversation. 

P.S: If you haven't read the pervious short fiction- do read that too Revathi is a must read on my blog.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Revathi [Short Fiction]

“Here is your seat. Call Ramesh when you reach Bangalore.  I have given him the coach details. And.. just take care okay?
Being instructed of travel cautions by her daughter made her feel like a helpless young kid. Her attention drifted with a gentle tap on her shoulder accompanied with the words,” She is calling you.” The old lady turned her head and waved a final goodbye.
She was re-adjusting the bag when the girl next to her offered to help. She resisted,” I.. will do it. Thanks!” smiling politely hiding a bit of irritation. With a new found determination she pushed the bag that was too stubborn to move into the inadequate space below the seat.  Celebrating the little accomplishment she dabbed the beads of sweat with the loose end of her soft, white cotton saree. It had faint prints of blue buds splattered across the white in a systematic fashion that splashed an aura of calmness around the woman.  A pair of grey clothed half shoes wrapped her feet in comfort. She looked at her fingers noticing the waves of wrinkles floating on her skin. The oldness struck her and a discomfort spread through her chest.  It disturbed her- how the identity gets erased with age- old woman is how they all define her -no mannerisms, no attributes and no personality! Can I help? That’s all they ask. As if incapability was stamped on her face.
She finally paid attention to the girl sitting next to her, looking at her for the first time. A fashionable haircut with the hair covering half her face was the first thing that caught her notice.  A cheerful green t-shirt with a huge red heart at what seemed like an inappropriate location for a print was the second thing.  The old lady predicted that pretty soon a pair of music blabbering earphones will be taken out of the girl’s bag shutting her off from any possible conversation.  She was reminded of her own daughter when in twenties. She turned her face away and stared blankly at the window presuming the young girl wouldn’t want to be bothered. 
After a little unplanned nap the old woman looked around to figure out where she had reached. Her feet felt tizzy with the constant movement of the train. She turned around to find the girl’s face beaming. She was looking at her with a smile. Words were banging through the corners of her lips as if she wanted to talk. She smiled back, little hesitant if she should enquire about the need for a conversation. Noticing her smile the girl spoke with joy and unknown familiarity, “I got short listed for a play!“ The old lady was battling on choosing the possible positive reaction. She glanced around to find the usual crowd- some people who were of the similar age of the young girl. She was struck by surprise as to what would have made her- a sixty seven year old lady a part of this unusual conversation. Masking her surprise she extended her hand and conveyed her happiness and best wishes to the girl. The girl talked animatedly about the drama classes and about this big play that was to be staged in front of some reputed actors. The words- so cool, horribly good, incredibly hot, OMG darted in and out of most of her statements but there was never a mention of words like-  old, help or amma. The old woman had read about the play. Had overheard a conversation about the possible purchase of tickets- she struggled as she responded back trying to match the excitement of the young girl with the handful information she had.
 She was being talked to like a friend- by a girl who was of the similar age as her daughter. The observation that the girl was almost over a decade younger than her daughter added an additional delight.  The next one hour went by with conversations about movies, about artists and the old woman found her herself up to date with each piece of information the girl had to offer. Being a silent spectator to the conversation between her growing and now grown children was the source of this knowledge. She noticed how her words, statements and participation was well received with eagerness by her friend, a young girl, like -her daughter younger, much younger than her daughter.  The old lady recollected all the moments when she had willingly extended her presence as someone more comforting like a friend rather than a mother. There is an age when being the mother to one’s own children can be hurtful and not being able to be looked upon as a friend is even more painful. She had crossed this phase long ago. The hurt had healed. Her children were now grown up man and woman and took utmost care of her well being. Yet she yearned to be included in the discussions they assumed would not suit her- age? What had interest got to do with it? And here she was juggling words with a young thing, in a conversation about the current world- their world, the world her children belong to.
The journey was nearing its end with the Bangalore platform vaguely in sight. The girl pulled out her mobile and asked the old woman’s number- to keep in touch. The old lady looked at the screen as she spoke out each number while her eyes matched it with the number that was punched.  She was about to say her name,”Revat……” when she saw the girl type- Old Aunty- Shatabdi Ex where her name was supposed to appear- probably with a aunty or Mrs. tagged along with it. The girl picked up her bags in a hurry, gave a warm hug to the lady. Before dashing towards the door she tucked a piece of paper with her name and number in the old lady’s hand as she spoke, “Take care aunty.. it was very nice meeting you! This is my number.”  
Revathi’s eyes found Ramesh who had made his way into the coach to HELP her – the old mother, the old lady- the old aunty?
Later that night along with other discarded belongings of the travellers a tiny unnoticeable piece of paper with a name and number was dumped in the railway trash.

With you- all along [Part-2]

Read Part-1 here

Her slender frame was bent like a bow by the luggage she flung on her back. Her white shirt crumpled where the bag met her body and made a random design on her skin. Dragging a trolley bag behind her Aakriti regretted telling her mom,” You will come to the station and we both will cry. I am starting to work. It is a new phase. I don’t want to cry. You people don’t come. I will go by myself.”  It was like the first breath of independence.  She made  sure she didn’t do anything that her parents did that reasoned why she wouldn’t get a coolie to life her bags, why she wouldn’t tag along a water bottle from home but buy it here in the train. Her face almost turned blue as she stopped breathing to staunch the smell from making way to her tongue through her nose.  The train arrived and she pulled herself together ready for the tussle and tug of war through the door.  C1 – 59 she verified her ticket. A young woman looked at her with a sheepish smile. She was told that the little girl whose nose seemed to be running perpetually, who, disgustingly wiped it off with her tiny finger with a mark of perfect and routine – was her daughter who couldn’t travel alone.” My seat is C1-03. You are travelling along right? Please make this adjustment from me.”The place already seemed germ infected. The little girl’s hands dabbed all over her seat. Aakriti passed a smile with little effort and dumped her luggage at seat no. 3.

“I will call when I reach. I will be fine. You people take care. Now don’t delay me or I will miss the train.” with these words Aakaash darted his way to his coach from the crowded platform. Worried and loving eyes of his parents lingered on him till he disappeared into the crowd. Though Mr.Sharma never showed the pride he had for the boy the tears that welled up his eyes and a swollen chest gave away his happiness about how the boy has grown and was now on way to make a living for himself, “Eh.. Shanta.. my son. Engineer, joining work? Can you believe it?”  C-47 Aakaash reached the seat to find it occupied by a couple who clutched their hands as they saw him. He sensed the request he spoke politely making an effort to keep away traces irritation in his voice, “ Which is your seat number?” The man explained himself with a sense of urgency,” This is my wife. We are travelling together for the first time. My seat no. 2” The stupid smiles of the couple meeting Aakaash’s eyes and made his way to the seat before he actually puked!

It was now only a matter of time before conversations weave their way through the awkward recognition of an unpleasant meeting few years ago. A silhouette, dreams of making it to IIT. The placement in the same company, same location- smiles shared, crushes developed and blooming love swept their lives. 

P.S: The story had started with the idea of a series of meetings till they grow old. A feeling of "what could have happened if..?" in both their minds. A affection which cannot be placed as love nor just familiarity or infatuation.. just the destiny bringing them to together in awkward moments where they support each other without notice. Ah! But.. I guess that can't be squeezed in a short fiction. So their lives change and they meet and fall in love. What happens to them later.. I'll let the readers unfold it for them in their own thoughts. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ashes- grey and dark

I stumbled into darkness;
Wandering in search of light
A boulder of grief; shattered my soul
Wings broke; before the flight

Where within me were hidden; these demons?
Where, when and how- they grew?
Why wasn’t I aware of the wounds?
Beneath the skin- I am black and blue

Ache is now a blessed companion
It crumbles and strengthens my being
Yet within me are ashes; grey and dark
No reason for disagreeing!


P.S: Sorry I broke the continuity of “Withyou- all along” short fiction- will get back to it by next week.

Monday, October 3, 2011

With you- all along [Short Fiction]


The light just started to break through the dark. The flickering street lights seemed to cast a magical spell on the roads. The streets lit up and shined golden one moment and turned black cold in the next second.  The light bugs had lived their life span and had dropped stiff underneath the street poles. The breeze was cool and serene. Dried fallen leaves playfully rolled with the wind. 

Apart from the milkman who silently swooshed past him on his bicycle Aakash didn’t spot a single soul. His walk had been complimented with a jump as he hummed a merry tune. There was something nice about having the entire city to him. He stretched his arms and ran like plane on a runway, childish he thought to himself but did it anyway. This was the best part of his day- walking to railway station at four in the morning at boarding the four forty five Memu to Vadodara.  He suddenly pulled back his outstretched arms as a light from an apartment interrupted his friendly darkness.  Now too cautious of his tall body, moderately built frame he walked like a gentleman.

The following day the light irritated him further. His solo ownership of the early morning was being infringed. He paused a moment to catch the culprit. He felt the curtains slide but assumed it was air and his dreamy eyes still heavy with sleep.  The routine followed and curiosity builded. He imagined the anger that would engulf him if he finally saw the person switching on that light. He was positive it would be a grumpy little old man too meticulous about picking up the morning milk in person to ensure fine quality.  A silhouette cured his curiosity, and surprisingly his anger. Was that a girl?  At seventeen he felt excited about the silhouette- unreasonable, he told himself- wishful thinking- and left it at that. After a week the light never switched on.

The alarm blared into ears. Aakriti helplessly tried to place the hand on the snooze but kept missing it. Her eyelids felt burdened by heavy boulders of sleep.  She finally slammed the alarm on the floor and kicked herself out the bed after the alarm failed to shut up. She picked it up with a wicked smile and spoke to it,” I knew you were good!” and pulled out the batteries. She peered through the window and let the cold air caress her face. She spotted a grown up man or boy swinging as if he were a plane. She couldn’t make out the face or the features. Just the outline of a happy young man- is there a possibility he is homeless retard- who feels so happy in the morning?  She flipped the light on and pulled a fat book lying in an untouched dusty corner of the study table. She took a week’s time to figure out the desire to secure an admission in a good college was nothing in comparison to her desire to have a sound sleep.” Lets just say- I am contended with little.” she justified herself at the breakfast table in an attempt to convince herself of the decision but publicly announcing it without guilt.

A year later…

The room was jam packed. The air was humid with sweat and heavy breath. The uncertainty of the future of thirteen hundred prospective students added a buzz to the room. Announcements from different speakers overlapped and left the worried parents clueless about the procedure.  A young lady walked to the main entrance of a local college auditorium. “Queue list one to sixty three- one to sixty three Walk in right now. If you don’t report by the time your number is called, you miss the counselling- I repeat- you will miss the counselling“. The woman felt exhausted by the first announcement of the day. Her hands already felt sweaty and the crowd would just get worse and worse till the end of the day.  As much as she loved working in a college- enjoying the summer breaks she hated the admissions season for obvious reasons.  With her last words a part of the impatient crowd stormed through the door and crashed past her as if she was no more needed after the much awaited announcement she made.

“Why can’t you decide? You said you want to Computer Science, now what happened?” her father looked confused. Aakriti extended a- you know how I feel look to her mom who had decided to remain silent in the father daughter conversation.  “Papa, it is not a good college!” she mumbled. Her father tried his level best to make her decide, “Aah. Listen. If you like sleeping so much young lady- I can tell you a college any better than this is going to do a good job depriving you of it. And it is a decent college.”  A little drop rolled off her cheek. But she nodded her head in agreement.  Her thoughts were interpreted by a loud reprimand..

“I sent you all the way to Baroda. Wonder what you studied there. You didn’t clear IIT and now sixty third in line for the admission of a local college. You won’t even get computer science. Are you even listening to me…?” Aakash was looking at a girl sitting two rows ahead of him crying? He never understood the fuss girls made about education. Half the girls don’t even work after education. They take away the seats of the boys who have no other option but to take up jobs. He smirked and spoke to his father without weighing his words, “ Dad, see that girl she is crying.. ha ha ha.. she is bloody some thirty ranks ahead of me and she is crying.!” His dad screamed in anger, “ Oh atleast she is crying. You idiot! You have no bloody shame. Eh Shanta? Your son.. shameless!”

She wiped off her tears and shot an angry look at smug, shameless face laughing at her. She quickly and now more confidently proceeded to the next formalities – She wouldn’t be an IITian but atleast she was better than someone!

4 Years later..

To be continued.. 
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