Categories
Book review

Three in a row – book review

I can proudly and quite unashamedly proclaim that I’m a sucker for chick-lit and romance (er, novels, that is).

A friend was leaving on vacation, and very sweetly offered me two of her novels, that I grabbed outright.

So first, I read ‘The Notebook’ by Nicholas Sparks. I was not expecting much more than a light and refreshing read, and I have to say it proved to be more than that. It was a typically quick read, replete with romance and emotions, suspense and drama. All in all, quite an enjoyable book. Leaves one wanting to either fall in love, or envelope someone special in a bear-hug, and never let go.

****Spoiler alert**** I wonder if this Bollywood movie was made AFTER or BEFORE the book was released?!!!

Rating: 3/5

Then I grabbed ‘A Walk to Remember‘. I was expecting to see the same amount of mush in this book, but very interestingly, I found a lot of humour instead. (Now, if I’m a sucker for romance, then I’m an even bigger sucker for humour :-)) The author does warn you in the prologue. He says, the book will first make you laugh, then cry. I wholly agree. You will have more than a few laughs in the first half of the book, and even the second half, despite being sad, is extremely sweet. The book reminds one of the innocence and freshness of youth 🙂

Rating: 3.5/5 (enjoyed the humour)

And yesterday, I happened to get another book from the library. I had reserved ‘Atlas Shrugged‘ after reading a FB message by Rakesh (and loads of comments from our usual comment monsters :lol:) and I THOUGHT I was going to collect this book, but happened to bring home ‘Dear John’ instead.

Now, I confess felt very slightly bored, at the beginning of the book. However, it rapidly picked up pace, and I found myself, wanting to finish it before the day ended. And I did 🙂 (Kind courtesy: Little brat who very sweetly decided to keep himself occupied with winding his microphone around his hands and legs!!!!)

The synopsis of the book certainly does not do justice to the plot. This is not the usual ‘love story’.

For one, the characters in the book have been etched so beautifully, that you feel their love, their anxiety and their pain. They are very real.

Secondly, it gives one a glimpse into the ugly face of War, and how troops deputed in war zones actually spend their life. One actually ponders about the futility of it all.

And third, the book is not just about the love between a man and a woman, but also about the delicate relationship between a father and son. I loved the way this was brought out, in a very subtle and tender way.

To me, the character that stands out the MOST, is one that is mentioned neither on the back-cover nor the website. It is that of the Father of the protagonist. He is a simple, good man, who lives his life exactly the same way each day, but is a terrible social misfit. The father suffers from autism, and the way he reaches out to his son, in his own unique manner, twists and wrings your heart!!

Every character is true to life, and in those couple of hours spent on reading the book, one actually understands WHY each character takes the decisions he/she does, and how it seems both logical yet sad.

You must read the book, to FEEL what this is about.

I loved it, and I think it has made me more understanding of how a developmental problem can affect the lives of the person and his/her family and loved ones.

A note of caution : .This is a heart-wrenching book. It left me incredibly sad and dejected, wondering why life cannot be more simple. So, please save this for a long weekend, where you can recover and bounce back to your happy self 🙂 before the week begins again.

Rating: 4/5 (Exquisite characterisation)

Something I found to be a common undercurrent in all three books, was the almost naive, but constant emphasis on ‘true and ever-lasting love‘ (assuming, there is such a thing!).

I also liked the fact that the author managed to keep the ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’ from not jumping into bed, at the drop of a hat (or anything else for that matter). I understand that can be quite a put-off for a Mills & Boon fan 😈 😆 but it made ‘love‘ seem more special. Old-fashioned, perhaps. But ‘sacred‘ nevertheless.

As for the language and quality of writing, I was not expecting much, being ‘romance’ and ‘chick-lit’ and all. And neither am I into reading ‘difficult’ books (aka, I can’t understand them 😛 I’d much rather read a simple easily understandable sentence, rather than a paragraph full of words that contain 4 or more syllables! 😆 So yes, the language was simple, engrossing, and made all the books an entertaining read.

I just happened to find this link on Youtube.

So, if any of you happen to be die-hard romantics, do grab a copy and a bunch of tissues.

Happy Sunday, folks.

Categories
Humour Incidents MommySpeak

Little Boys and Littler Girls

Once upon a time (to be more specific, this evening!), a little boy and a slightly littler girl were waiting for their respective parents to finish their work at photo studio.

The two kids started trying to communicate with each other. This is how.
Boy: Leans back on wall, hands tucked into pockets, stares at girl
Girl: Fiddles with her little Dupatta, smiles shyly at the boy
.
In a few minutes, Boy becomes bolder, walks upto Girl. Girl smiles, touches him on cheek. Boy did not expect this, hurries to hide behind his Mommy.
.
Boy asks (booming voice): ‘Why is she touching me?’
Mummy (embarassed): ‘No she isn’t touching you!’
.
Boy: ‘Oh yes, she IS. Why is she doing it?
Mummy (exasperated): ‘Er, because she thinks you are her friend’
.
Boy (does not look very convinced): ‘Is it because I am a Handsome Boy?’
Mummy: (Searches for place to hide her face)
.
A few minutes later, Girl prepares to leave with her dad. Turns back to give that final look, before she walks out through that door!
.
Boy (looking sad) – Turns to Mummy and asks: ‘Where is she going?’
Mummy (with a sigh of relief): ‘She’s going home’
.
Boy (looking perplexed): ‘But, Is she not going to marry me????’
Mummy: Aaaaaarrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhhhh!!!!!
.
………And to think the Boy is not even 4 years old !!!! Sigh!!!!!!!! ………
.
.
.
EDITED TO ADD (2-Sep-10):
.
This morning….
.
Mummy (asks teasingly): The girl didn’t marry you, huh?
Boy (rewinds to last night): Hmmm, no, she didn’t!
.

Mummy (being mean): Why???
Boy (unflinching): She changed her mind! She thought I was a rose-bush!!!
.
Mummy (explains patiently): ‘You can marry ONLY when you are 30 and not 4, GOT IT?????’
Blushing Boy: Nods, smiles, and casually mentions Princess Jasmine!!!
??!!!!*****@@///!!!!%%%@@@??!!!!!!!!!!!
Categories
55-er

Satisfaction (55-er)

She surveyed the house. The party was at 7. Nikhil would be home any time now. To check.

She was nervous. ‘Would he approve, satisfied? Perhaps, flash that dimpled smile?!’

The car honked.

‘Pushpa..’ It was him! She straighted herself. Eyes on the floor.

‘All set?’

She nodded.

‘Y E S ?’

…Ji Saheb…’

‘OK’, he grunted.

She retreated, dis-satisfied!

=========

Okay, its official. I’m obsessed. With Dentists and Cleaning Maids!!!

Brrrrrrrr…………

Categories
Short story

Woman in the rain

I chanced upon this ‘Complete the story’ contest by Yours Truly Theatre on Facebook.

Original story:
‘….rainy day on a bus stand, waiting to get back home, and then suddenly out of nowhere she comes along and then…’

My ending:
==================================================
I held my breath. She stopped right in front of me. Panting.

‘Prashant…‘ she whispered. Still panting. How sweet my name sounded when it came from her!

I didn’t reply. I simply couldn’t.

‘Please… come back’.

I remained silent. This time, she had gone too far!

‘This is for your good! Trust me…‘, she persuaded.

I had made up my mind. I was in pain. Deep pain. If this chasm widened, I would die.

But I was not going back.

‘Come with me’, she continued.

I adamantly shook my head.

Never.

Ever.

Never will I enter her dental clinic again. I’ve had it with dentists!!

==================================================

And folks, you KNOW how much I like dentists.. so this particular ending arises from this post 🙂 and this one.

Categories
Health n Fitness Short story

The shadow – Fiction

[Warning: Long post ahead]

April 1st. The first time she noticed. It was the beginning of Spring. She had been walking down by the river, her mind clogged with worry. The happy chirp of birds, the quack of little ducks, the constant hum of traffic on the road – she didn’t hear any of this.

The image that kept haunting her mind was that of her lost son. The apple of her eye. Lost to her. A teenager, wholly engaged in a world of his own. A world that she wasn’t allowed to enter any longer. The little that she noticed was enough to unnerve her. Wild eyes, pre-occupied and vacant all at the same time. A bunch of supposedly-cool friends, who smoked cigarettes and roamed around the streets, drawing attention by their raucous laughter. He didn’t do any of that, she was sure. Rather, she hoped! But she knew it excited him. It was only a question of how soon he would begin! School progress reports, if they were any indication of a boy’s potential to succeed, held forth very little promise for him!

She had been lucky enough to marry the man she had fallen in love with. They had been friends at college, and had simply decided one day, to spend the rest of their life together! Two happy years later, ‘parenthood’ had overtaken every other relationship. They did not try much, the inevitable happened. She devoted herself to their little son, and he, to his work. They spent their lives in the sort of companionability that borders on solitude.

As she set out on a walk that day, she admitted to herself, for the umpteenth time, that she was now totally and completely alone.

The path she took was by the river, flanked on one side by old residential apartments where she had spent almost two decades, on the other by shiny new skyscrapers.When the skyscrapers were built a couple of years ago, she would spend hours fantasizing life in those swanky apartments. Large French windows allowing for plenty of light, comfortable sofas that couples snuggled in, savouring the closeness of young love, tasteful pieces of art adorning white walls. Today she didn’t so much as glance at them.

‘Quack.. quack..’ – startled, she turned around to look. A couple of little black ducks had swum close to the barrier. Both made identical motions of lifting one wing and ducking their head under. She let an involuntary smile. Many an evening had she spent, walking her little son by the river. He would first pretend to walk slowly, and the moment she loosened her guard, would set off into a little gallop that she could not often match! Often, he would tumble, scraping his knees and elbows, and would run straight back to her to be pacified. She would give a gentle kiss, and Voila! The wounds would magically stop hurting! She had lived a content life. Albeit lonely, for the best part.

She walked up the stairs that led to the main road. Behind her, the sun was setting. It was time to head back home.

That was when she noticed.

A gentle presence. Almost imperceptible. Following her, very softly.

As she turned the corner into a narrow lane, the dark figure loomed up right behind her, then in front, almost in a rush to overtake. For a moment, she thought it was just an office-goer anxious to reach home. But as she watched, the figure grew larger and larger in proportion. She almost gasped in surprise.

She tried to ignore the figure and quickened her pace. But you couldn’t ignore a presence that looked ominous and blocked your path, could you? Small head. Bulky arms. Enormous hips. One could hardly notice the divide in legs. It could have well been just one gigantic stump.

She turned around – a complete circle. Nobody. She hurried in the direction of her home, and tried to think of the dinner she was to prepare that night. Parathas, dal, salad. She simply couldn’t focus. ‘Is this an April Fools Day prank?’, she wondered.

An hour later, she was in her kicthen, rolling parathas – watching them grow from a small ball of dough into a large circle. She felt uneasy. There was a nagging thought at the back of her mind, and she couldn’t put her finger on it.

As she worked, and slowly manouvred her way through the kitchen, the doubt in her mind had grown into a near certainty.

‘It CANNOT be!’ -in her mind, she cried piteously. ‘No! It can’t be!! Simply NOT!’

A voice in her head hummed very softly, ‘It is. YOU KNOW it is’.

She did not mention the incident to anyone. Who could she talk to, in any case? Her husband, who would be glued to the television? Or her son, who was statuesque in front of the laptop! She decided to skip her evening walk the next day.

April 4th. She took a different route this evening. A slightly crowded path that meandered through old residential complexes, new office buildings, and a noisy children’s playground. The playground was the last stop in her hourly walk. The high-pitched sound of happy voices cut through the trees and pierced her ears. She stopped to steal a quick glance at the children and their mothers. The sun was setting.

Suddenly, she was besieged. Again. The figure manifested out of nothing. And loomed up right in front of her eyes.

‘Run’ – she thought she heard a whisper. But her feet wouldn’t listen! Left with nothing else to do, she stared. Unblinking, jaws open. She took in every feature she could. Those gigantic arms and hips that seemed to crush the cavity of her chest! Those heavy legs that dangerously tapered towards each other, threatening to collapse to the ground.

‘You cannot escape… I am BACK’ – it whispered ominously.

A chill ran down her spine. ‘Back for your Birthday, remember?’

The sun set. The haunting ended. Liberation!

April 5th – 6:00 am. Her birthday. Only her mother remembered. She had called, as usual, first thing in the morning. As she stepped out of her apartment, she turned to look. There was nobody following her. No one ahead either. It was too early for even regular joggers! She stopped at the river to savour the smell of fresh air! Pleased, she wound her way back to the playground where she had spent the last evening. The morning was exceptionally bright. ‘A lovely day’- announced a jogger as he raced past. She nodded very briefly, but smiled. He looked strange. A gigantic bald athletic figure. She hadn’t seen him in the neighbourhood before.

That was when the earth gave way beneath her feet. Passers-by quickly rushed to help her up. ‘Thank you’ she muttered, and tried to hobble. She saw an old wooden bench, and sat down to take a few deep breaths. She didn’t realise how long she had been there, until she suddenly noticed that the sun had risen in the sky and it was almost scorching.

She noticed it again, then. Not as enormous as before, but looking short, squat and more ugly than ever!

‘I’m tired! Go away!!’ she muttered. It stayed. She balled her fist and struck hard. ‘Aarrrgh!!!‘ The bench on which she sat trembled slightly. A small dark figure scurried away from behind the bushes. A cat, perhaps. Or a rabbit! Something that could sense the rage building inside her, and had made a wise escape.

She punched the bench again, and again. Then heaved herself up, and stamped hard into the ground beneath her feet. She took off her trainers and smashed them. ‘Leave me alone!!’ she screamed. Kicking, stamping, screaming. ‘You’re disgusting! You fat bi*ch!!’ Saying that, she actually felt sorry for the figure. People walking by stared in horror.

And with that, she sunk back into the hard weather-beaten bench. She was sobbing by then. She hugged herself tight and cried her heart out.

When she was entirely spent, she rose again, composed.

——

‘Where have you been?’ her husband asked. Lines of worry had formed on his forehead. ‘Are you alright?’ She nodded. She allowed him a very brief hug. Strands of hair fell about her tired face.

‘Mummy, where did you go? We were worried!’ She looked startled. When was the last time he had spoken with such gentle care? She just couldn’t remember. He helped her to the sofa. A single tear streamed down her face. He gave her an awkward hug. She hugged him right back. Her husband joined them, hovering around like an eagle guarding his nest.

‘This feels great’ she smiled to herself.

‘Happy Birthday .. darling’ he added with a little hesitation. ‘Thank you’ she whispered.

‘So Mum, what gift would you like?’ her son added unexpectedly.

‘I already got it – just this morning’, she replied, enjoying the brief excitement that sparkled in his beautiful eyes.

Man and boy stared at her, clueless.

Later that day, she reminscied the events in the park.

——

‘Just go away!‘ she had cried.

‘NO! I am here to stay. And its YOUR own fault. Remember?’

She did remember. She did remember that the last time she had taken care of herself was about two decades ago. The last time she had worn a pretty summer frock was just before she got married. The last time she felt good about herself.. she couldn’t remember that one at all.

The figure in front of her eyes was larger than life. It was her haunting. Her retribution, for not having taken care of herself.

The figure was her shadow.

The pitiable shadow of a pear-shaped woman who seemed to wobble on tiny feet. The unpresentable shadow of someone who just threw on a crumpled cardigan and did not even brush her hair. The sad shadow of a lonely woman, who had forgotten the most important person in her life – herself.

‘It IS me… it IS you…’ – it whispered through her tears.

‘I don’t deserve this..’ she cried.

‘You do. And you don’t! But you still have a chance. Undo what you have done!’

‘Who ever FOR?’ she thought wryly.

‘You will see…’ said the shadow, and disappeared from wherever it came.

———

As the husband left for work, and the son, for school, they both walked up to her and gave her a peck on the cheek. This time, it wasn’t an awkward action. Genuine, happy smiles on dear faces. She smiled back at them. ‘I love you!’ she thought, but didn’t utter the words.

‘Luv ya, Mum’, her son spoke first. ‘Love you, darl’, her husband bashfully added. ‘I love you too!!‘ she cried out and gave her son a big bear hug. He promptly wriggled out. Her husband was a little more accomodative.  They left almost immediately. Without bidding farewell, as usual.

‘Come home early?’ she asked longingly. Her son had already dashed out. ‘Er..will try.. but YOU have a great day!’ her husband muttered absent-mindedly, while wearing on his jacket for work.

‘I will’, she replied.

Life was back to normal.

‘I certainly will’ she repeated to herself.

When they left, she noticed a little gift-wrapped box lying on the table. Silver foil, pink ribbons. No gift tag, No sentimental message. But she was not disappointed. This was just they being themselves! Like she was herself too!!

The present was far more beautiful than she could imagine. A beautiful shiny I-touch. She would carry this on her evening walk today, she decided.

The light from the kitchen window fell on her, casting a long shadow on the wall.

She did not feel afraid to look at it any more. It was real. As real as she herself was! Slowly, her eyes moved from the shadow, to the framed canvas picture that was partially hidden behind the huge TV screen. Taken a decade ago. Theme : Red! It was a beautiful picture. A family portrait.

With some difficulty, she pulled it off the wall. Some of the paint chipped off and fell to the ground. It didn’t matter. She stared. At the lady in the portrait. A familiar face, but unrecognizable at the same time. A gorgeous woman! Eyes much like her son’s. She traced a finger on the outline of the family.

She turned back slowly, to look at the shadow.

‘I WILL get rid of this giant’, she said softly.

‘Who ever for?’ – the shadow teased.

 ‘For ME!’, she answered with steely resolve.

‘For me! Happy Birthday to ME’, she smiled.

——————————————-

(Girls and guys, this was in draft for long, and somewhere I think I got lost. Please point out where…. Thanks!!)

Categories
Short story

The birthday present (‘All for love’ – Cafe Gingerchai)

This story is my entry for FINISH THE STORY contest conducted by Cafe GingerChai where we sip thoughts!To get updated on future contests,register at Cafe GingerChai.

Part I (Original story)

[Link to the original post on Cafe Gingerchai]

It was a warm night, neither humid nor too hot – in fact just right for a stroll. But it was 11.30 pm , not late by metro standards. But in the suburbs where the company township was situated, it was way too late. The highway was about ½ km away  and occasionally the hum of heavy vehicles passing by, could be heard but other than that , it was quiet with only the chirping of the cicadas in the background.

    Ranjan hurried along the small lanes of the VIP quarters , isolated and further away, in the moonless night, frequently giving furtive glances around him. He seemed tense but strode ahead with purposeful steps, until he reached a particular bungalow. He stopped in front of it and stared at it for a few minutes. The senior level executives were issued spacious bungalows with lawns while the junior and the mid level executives were assigned one bedroom and two bedroom apartments, a fact that did not go well with them , after all the divide was quite unreasonable they thought. But this was not the issue at the moment. He was here for his own personal reasons…

       It was quiet and dark on the other side of the wall. One notable thing was that the street lights were few and far between and most of them were not working.  The spot, where he was standing was shrouded in darkness, which suited him just fine.. There was no sign of any activity inside the rooms of the freshly whitewashed bungalow of Mr. Gupta. Only a dim red light flickered through the curtains of a room, most probably the master bedroom. He scratched his head and tried to remember if Mr. Gupta had a dog and, No ! No dogs, no watchman., so nothing to be afraid of. Yes! Everything was going according to plan. Mr. Gupta was out with the executive board members in the Company Club house entertaining the overseas client trying to secure the coveted deal, which meant that he will not be back before 2 am. That left him with enough time to accomplish whatever he had come for.

       He gave another glance towards his left and right and also the two bungalows flanking it , but all was silent. It would be a fool who would be out at that hour leaving the comfort of a bed and wife to roam about here and there…. He smiled at the private joke. He touched the gate gingerly. It was an iron gate. He tried to move it but it gave a low audible creak and he stopped.

    “Damn!Asha , my sweet little fool. Why does she have to wish for near impossible things.” He could not afford to make any noise. He was dressed in track pants and a rubber soled shoes . He also shockingly realized that he did not have his cell phone nor any identity proof with him in case of an emergency.

    He decided that the best and fastest approach inside would be to climb over the low brick wall.

   “ Asha! How you bewitch me!” He sighed, “All for love!” The brick wall  was not high  but it still disrupted the normal functioning of his 37 year old  body for a few seconds, after he climbed over and jumped onto the other side clumsily. But thankfully the grass was thick which carpeted both his fall and the noise. He panted. His heart was racing at 100 beats/min ( more out of anxiety) and coupled with that he experienced an alien sensations gurgling deep inside his stomach. After all this was the first time he trespassed someone else’s property.

      He nearly gave up and retreated , but then he calmed himself , took some deep breaths and sat on the soft grass for a few moments.

     “ No snakes, I hope” he thought peering in the darkness. He had to do it today. He was not going to get a better opportunity to come here.

     His hate quotient multiplied, knowing his nemesis Gupta, deserved every bit of it. Mr.Gupta fitted the description of a monster boss to a Tee. Ranjan first came across him eight months back when Mr.Gupta was transferred from their Bareilly unit. The dislike was mutual and the Monster made his life miserable. Finally after requesting the administration and literally prostrating himself in front of them, he was transferred to another unit ,but the scars remained till date . It took all his patience not to physically assault his boss.  He used to often wonder how could anyone tolerate Mr.Gupta. How did his wife and children cope with him? He knew that Gupta had two sons aged 9 and 6 years. What did they think of him? Was this monster a normal person? He did not seem to have any friends or associates either. The only admirable thing about him though was that he had not seen  anyone else with a greener thumb than his. He kept an impeccable garden and was the subject of envy among the others.

      He looked at his watch . He had sat there lost in thoughts for almost 15 minutes. He stood up, smiling , he turned towards the verandah!…

      “Asha,! Its your birthday and I want you to be happy”.he chanted in his thoughts. He felt the air cooler comparatively, on his way back home. Was it so late? He again looked at his watch and then his eyes went to the ‘ package ‘ he was holding. Tenderly , he shifted the banana leaf holding ‘it’ slightly. He smiled , pleased with himself his face glowing with  satisfaction. He did not feel the least bit exhausted after his nightly caper. His step was light and springy.

     He smiled again when he reached his apartment block, but his smile disappeared when he saw the watchman napping in  a chair near the lift. If he was seen , it would give him away  instantly and there would be a big scandal. As it is, it was a small town and things get to spread fast over here – be it news, rumors, fire or illness.

    “What do I do now?” he thought shifting restlessly. There was no other way out.

    He had to take the stairs, but for that he had to walk through the well lit lobby and down the corridor. He looked up at the window of his apartment on the third floor.

   “ All for love”! He sighed and he tip-toed towards the staircase… He gave a last timid glance at the watchman before disappearing up the stairs. “Thank God! He is asleep” and stifled a chuckle at the irony. He started climbing the stairs slowly . sprinting was not an option, lest he woke up the entire household!. Panting, he reached the door of his flat. He took out his key and silently opened the door. When his eyes adjusted in the darkness, he walked past the drawing room to the bedroom. He stared at his wife from the door. She was still sleeping . She looked so innocent and angelic in the dim light. He walked in , sat beside her and touched her cheeks tenderly. She stirred in her sleep . He was still holding the ‘package’ and he moved towards the bathroom, when, she woke up.

    She was fully awake within seconds.

   “Ranjan? Where had you been so long?”

    He froze and then turned around slowly- smiling broadly.

Part II (My entry- completion of the story)

She caught his smile and beamed back.
‘Did you get it? Really? Oh, thank you darling!’, she hugged him clumsily, and grabbed the package to rip it apart.

The cold, dull yellow metal fell into her sweaty palms. ‘Oh beautiful! Divine..’ she cooed, trying the ruby necklace on herself, and glancing at the mirror. ‘Don’t I look gorgeous?’

Ranjan slumped into the sofa, and yawned.

It had been a long night. ‘Hey! I said, don’t I look fabulous?’ He gave an imperceptible nod, and closed his eyes.

Back in the bungalow, Mrs.Gupta sprawled carelessly on her king-sized bed, a dreamy smile adorning her beautiful, full lips. She was indifferent to the loud snores from the boys sleeping in the next room. At 9, they were already teenagers..lost in their world of sport, music and friends. They reminded her so much, of her own past life.

Her thoughts wandered back to college .. the air resounding with laughter, tingling with excitement .. arms interlaced with her lover’s ..as they enjoyed an evening stroll on the beach, or nibbled each other’s ears reading romantic classics in a corner of the desolate library.

They were clearly in love. But he wouldn’t admit it. After all these years, she still could not put her finger on why they could not be united in marriage. They had felt that electrifying current whenever they met.. when they touched. And yet, he had never confessed.. never proposed. At first she had been heart-broken, thinking she was at fault. Gradually, she realised, he had perhaps simply been afraid. Of commitment, of relationship failure.. or parental pressure!

They never spoke about it. Even when they met now, it was in complete silence. It was the pairs of eyes that did the talking.

‘How have you been?’

‘Not bad, and you?’

‘Good.. You know, I miss you’

‘And I dream of you..’

And to a few minutes back, when he had risked all, to be with her at the stroke of midnight. She had blown a tiny candle, stuck hurriedly into a pink cupcake on a banana leaf. They had held each other tightly, in silence. Tears had dried up a long time ago. It was mere acceptance now, of the fact that they tread very different paths. And this was all they could dream of. Hurried, clandestine meetings.

They bit into the cupcake together.. he crushed the leaf.

‘Don’t..we need it, remember?’ she whispered. And proceeded to wrap her old ruby necklace in it. One of the first few pieces of jewellery Mr.Gupta had wooed her parents with. She did not feel for it anymore.. neither loved nor hated it. It was a lifeless piece of metal, something she could not bring herself to care about. However, it had been the envy of Ranjan’s wife.

‘No, Asha.. this is yours’, Ranjan had protested.

‘Its not often that wealth can buy happiness, Ranjan. This is in return for these few moment with you… for these precious, priceless memories on my birthday!’

======

Categories
Short story

Lips unsealed (Short story)

Groups of ill-paid chauffeurs gossiped over a smoke. None of them paid attention to the car in the darkest corner. Nobody cared, really. It was just another car. Tinted glasses, fully rolled up.

From the rear seat came muffled sounds. Floundering hands, unsure of their next move. A young couple, in their early twenties. Half-children, half-adult. Clandestine visits to the local video store had resulted in them getting to watch several tapes that read ‘Tom and Jerry’ but which were more than just a cat vs. mouse tale. They had a vague idea of how lips were to be used. Lips that parted feverishly, lips that burned. Lips – old, but still amateur. It was no wonder, considering that ‘boys from good families’ would never dream of even looking at a woman, let alone kiss her!

As the boy finally moved to the driver’s seat, the girl whispered nervously ‘Are you sure?’

‘Don’t worry… they absolutely adore you!’, replied the boy, giving her a final kiss on her full lips. She smiled. They drove over to the old quarter of the city, where his family lived.

‘Our lord has finally arrived!’, a frail-looking woman taunted as he walked through the rusty iron gate, and splashed his face with cold water drawn from the well. He didn’t reply, but gave her a quick hug instead. ‘Hungry, Amma!’ he muttered. The girl joined her palms and bowed her bead, in a gesture of greeting. ‘Welcome home, dear daughter’, the older woman replied.

Dinner today was an extravagant affair. Different varieties of rice, dhal, coconut-garnished vegetables. A feast in honour of the girl who was to be daughter-in-law. Relatives of various shapes, sizes and age had been invited. They introduced themselves. She smiled, trying hard to remember their unfamiliar names. At dinner, he sat beside her, licking his lips as he relished his favourite dishes.

When he had gulped down the last sip of sweetened milk, it left a moustache of white cream. ‘Look at your future husband! Twenty-five years old and still such a child!’, they teased. She blushed. The evening regaled with laughter and fun! By the end of the evening, she actually relaxed a little, and enjoyed the teasing smiles and affectionate innuendoes from the older women of her future husband.

Soon, it was time for him to take her back home. ‘Girls coming from good families’ didn’t venture out this late at night, they emphasised.

They took a detour through an abandoned road. It suited them just fine. An hour later, he took her to her home. As she tossed about in her bed that night, unable to sleep with excitement, she ran her soft fingers over her cracked lips. She blushed, as her body tingled with excitement. She thanked her stars, that her mother, with eyes like a vulture, had not noticed anything unusual about her that evening.

Back in the car, the boy tuned in to his favourite radio station, and set the volume as loud as he could. He was so much in love. He was happy too, that his family had accepted the girl of his choice. Under normal circumstances, a boy of an upper-caste family marrying into a family that was not Brahmin, would have caused an outrage. Luckily for him, his parents accepted the girl without any visible animosity!

By the time he returned home, the lights were all out. Not wanting to wake up the sleeping family, he walked around the dusty path to the back door. He was surprised to notice an open window in one of the bedrooms. Silvery moonbeams cast long shadows, and carried out the soft sound of late-night whispers.

‘These women!’ he thought, and smiled to himself. ‘They seem so excited about my wedding! Chattering away at this late hour!!’ He discreetly edged towards the open window.

‘You are a fool!’, he heard an angry voice.

‘Hush!’ came the reply.

‘A bloody fool. Had I been in your place, I would have never allowed that lower-caste girl into the family!’

‘I am helpless’

‘Disgraceful! He wants to marry into those, whose impure names are never ever uttered by the same lips that chant our sacred texts!’

‘What to do? He just announced unceremoniously that he had DECIDED to marry this girl! We had no choice!’

‘Stupid woman. People of our caste do not allow untouchables into our house even! And here, we have that little vixen taking over our lives!’

He stared in disbelief. The evening had gone off so beautifully. They had all been so excited, and so happy. But behind all that, the unspoken truth was being unravelled.

He peeped into the window, and squinted until his eyes could see the shadows. A woman sat on a coir mat, her head in her palm, as if she had lost everything. In the light from the candle, her eyes seemed swollen, with crying. She covered her mouth with the edge of her crumpled cotton sari, as if she had lost everything, and had nothing left to say!

As he slowly recognized the shadow of his mother, his lips parted in shock. His mouth went dry. He desperately needed to get away. But he couldn’t move a step. He felt numb. A silent tear rolled down his cheek, and disappeared into the dust.

‘How could you…. Amma !!!’ he sighed, and walked back towards his car. After all that he had heard, he could not face his family, not just yet.

As he tiredly walked out into the night, he felt nothing but the relentless throbbing of his swollen lips.

 

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Book review

P.S. I Love You – Book review

All the while I was reading this book, I kept wondering if I had read it before. Why was it  ‘Oh! So familiar!’. Until I realised that this was a neat concoction of various familiar movies/books. Erich Segal’s “Love Story”, “Oliver’s story”, Sex and the City, and oh yes, “The Devil wears Prada”.

“P.S. I Love You” is about Holly, a young widow, trying to cope with life after the death of her beloved husband, Gerry.

What I liked about the book was its detailed characterisation and imagery. I feel like I personally know the Kennedys and all of Holly’s friends. Extremely well-described emotions like anguish, anger and desolation made me grab a handkerchief rather often! Equally so, I couldn’t stop myself from giggling at the funnier moments (as in ‘Girls and the city’).

My only grudge is that the book seemed to drag in a few places. And the names of the lead characters. Don’t “Holly and Gerry” have an eerie resemblance to “Ollie and Jenny” from “Love Story” ?! The sad part is, unlike ‘Ollie’, who was more in control of himself, ‘Holly’ seems to drown in self-pity. Which made me ponder on this: Universally, why should a widow grieve while a widower is expected to move on ?!

Nevertheless, what with the overwheming recession et al, one might as well grab a copy of this book, and enjoy crying over the mush.

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P.S: I sorely miss my girlfriends after reading this book!!