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:
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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!!

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

Categories
Short story

The old armchair – fiction

[Warning: Very long post ahead!]

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‘Aunty-ji, Aunty-ji, open the door!’. Loud shrieks woke Mrs Marathe from her daily siesta. She hobbled slowly from the airy balcony, back into the sparsely furnished hall. The clouds were looming into darkness, although it was only 4:00 pm on a hot summer afternoon. By sheer force of habit, Mrs. Marathe peered through the faded looking glass. Satisfied that it was indeed the girls, she unlocked the chains that held the door.

Lavina and Priya barged into the hall, and dashed into their room toward the rear end of the old apartment. Mrs.Marathe followed them but stopped just outside. It was her policy to never enter the rooms of her paying guests, though the children did not mind her gentle presence. ‘Arre, what happened? Sooo arly today? College bund (closed)?’, she enquired.

The girls had pulled several outfits out of the small wooden cupboard and thrown them onto the bed, all quite breathlessly. ‘Sorry Aunty-ji, we forgot to call and tell you earlier’.

‘We are going away!!’ – they yelled in unison. They looked at each other, their cheeks burning pink with excitement.

Mrs.Marathe stood as still as a statue. She looked at the two glowing faces. Of all the paying guests she had had over the last ten years, these were the only girls who had managed to carve themselves, a place in her heart. The others had come from good families too, had had excellent upbringing, but had always treated her as only a landlady, a stranger who hailed from several generations before!

Mrs. Marathe lowered her gaze to the ground, as if to examine the grey-black speckled tiles on the floor, for the first time. At 80, she had finished living almost her entire life. She had married well, had three children, two of which migrated to foreign shores, leaving her behind in their ancestral home. The third had been prompt enough to sell that beautiful house, and send her away to this apartment. ‘This is a residential area, Aai, you can relax here’, he had said. True, this was a beautiful locality in the heart of Pune. Green leafy trees, wide roads, and to complement the stillness, a neighbouring college that buzzed with the lively banter of youth – the sound of distant chattering voices that kept her company through the otherwise quiet day.

Lavina and Priya were students of that same college. Both were in their late teens, came from middle-class backgrounds, and were studious, respectful and very friendly. They had spent many an evening, chatting over a cuppa, in that balcony, Mrs.Marathe sunk in one arm-chair, Lavina perched on the arm-rest, Priya in the other arm-chair.

‘Oh, theek’ Mrs.Marathe whispered slowly, and exited to the balcony. For two reasons. First, it would allow the girls to pack. The second, and real reason being, she did not want her eyes to betray her emotions in front of them. Her eyes had been accustomed to seeing people leave her. Her parents, her husband, children.. infact everyone she had known ever! Except for a handful of friends who, like her, were supposed to enjoy ‘retired life’ in the same neighbourhood. She knew, that at 80, she was supposed to be more ‘in control’ of her emotions than the two teenagers who were at that very moment, excitedly stuffing clothes and shoes into their bags.

‘Rent is high.. I can reduce..’. ‘They want telephone? Or come home late!’ She was already thinking, quite involuntarily, of why the girls were leaving, and how she could convince the girls to stay.

Her life was an empty page now. All the work of rearing her children now finished, she had nothing to do, but ‘relax’. How she hated that word! ‘You’ve worked so hard all your life, Aai. Time for you to take rest now’, they would always say to her. That she lived all by herself, with her nearest relatives living four hours away in Mumbai, hardly made a difference to their stance. She had been too hurt to argue with their logic.

She had gracefully surrendered before the war could even begin. Retired to her little shell, and sported a content smile. Always.

Her three sons would faithfully call her every Sunday. The same, standard questions.

‘How are you, Aai?’

‘How is your health?’

‘Are you taking care of yourself?’

‘We will come to visit you soon, Aai’.

They were loving boys. They had always respected her and her late husband. Always ensured she had a steady source of income.

But they hardly came to visit.

In the two years that Lavina and Priya had lived in her apartment, they had never seen her sons. Never heard of her going to meet them in Mumbai or Dubai either, where they now lived.

‘Arre, I am too old to travel’, Mrs.Marathe would always say, when they broached the subject.

‘Too old’, Mrs.Marathe thought to herself, and stifled a laugh. She laid a wrinkled palm on the jaded edges of the arm-chair and thought to herself.. ‘People envy my restful lifestyle. My slow-paced life. My indulgence in books. The rare afternoon tea parties I have with acquaintances from two generations before them! And whenever I want to DO something.. GO out.. play with my grandchildren here, they say ‘Relax, Aai. Don’t stress’. And I continue to plough through this lonely, lonely life.. this .. this curse’.

Suddenly, someone hugged her knees. Mrs.Marathe looked down to find Lavina crying in front of her. ‘Please don’t cry, Aunty-ji, please don’t’, she pleaded. Priya walked behind her arm-chair and gently placed her arms around Mrs.Marathe’s frail shoulders and gave her a peck on her cheek.

Mrs.Marathe smiled, and touched her cheek. How she longed for her own grandchildren to give her a kiss like that! She touched both her cheeks again, this time. They were wet. Tears were streaming down her pointy chin, and had made her green cotton sari damp where they fell! She instantly covered her face with her knotty palms. And let go of all the emotions that had been binding her heart, like a thick rope around a brittle vine. She shuddered for a few seconds.

‘I don’t want to Relax. I want to Live!!’ she cried.

Lavina and Priya held her close. Suddenly, they were the parents, and Mrs.Marathe, the child – desperately seeking solace.

In about fifteen minutes, Mrs.Marathe had calmed down.

Priya rushed to fetch some cold water. ‘Feeling better, Aunty-ji?’ Lavina asked softly.

‘Yes, my dear. I am sorry! For crying like this. You got frightened?’

‘Not at all’, they cooed. Priya gently stroked her silvery hair. Lavina massaged the frail legs.

Mrs.Marathe looked on at them. What relation were they to her? Neither her children nor grandchildren had displayed so much affection towards her until now. She was suddenly exhausted. ‘I want to take rest’, she whispered.

The girls supported her carefully, into her bedroom, fluffed up her pillows, and eased her onto the bed.

‘Aunty-ji, by the way, will you be OK when we go?’

Mrs.Marathe blinked hard. She suddenly realised, this was what caused the outpour after all. The girls going away from her. The tears had however, drained her of both energy and emotion. ‘Yes, don’t worry’, she replied and smiled faintly.

‘Its only for a week! You know, there was this sudden announcement in College, about a fully sponsored training programme, an entire week – in GOAAAAA!!! And guess what? We BOTH got chosen!!’ The girls looked at each other and grinned. Lavina clapped her hands like a child, who had just been given a lollipop! Priya let out a low whistle.

Mrs.Marathe smiled. The enthusiasm was infectious. Suddenly, she realised. ‘Then, you will come back?’ she asked with barely noticable a tremor of excitement.

‘Ofcourse Aunty-ji!’, they chanted happily.

‘This is our home’, Lavina exclaimed. Mrs.Marathe squinted.

‘She means, like our home’, Priya added quickly, not wanting to irk their already distressed landlady.

Mrs.Marathe laughed. She stretched out her hands towards the girls. They held her palms tightly. Almost as if they were afraid to leave her alone.

‘This IS your home, children. For as long as you want’.

The girls enveloped her in a gentle hug, and rushed to get on with the packing.

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[Another para left – will be completed tomorrow 🙂 ]

[P.S: Had written this quite some time back, and was too bored to read and edit… so I leave the job to you 🙂 There must be a lot of language/syntax errors, please do help edit this!]

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
Movie Review

Why its possible to like ‘Pyar Impossible’

At first it was the cast that put me off. The title too. Expectations therefore were at an all time low.

So when a friend sent me the DVD, I promptly discarded it for a time when Sky TV would let me down by not airing anything worthwhile.

Lest I sound crazy, let me state very clearly (in Bollywood jargon) that this was not a ‘mind-blowing’ movie. Nevertheless, there are some aspects that I really liked. And here are the takeaways from the movie.

1- That the heroine, Alisha (played by Priyanka Chopra), comes across as such a wonderful, confident and happy woman, who struggles hard to juggle her career along with her personal life. This is so different to the heroines of a bygone era. Earlier, divorce was taboo, and the divorcee (strictly, the woman) would have to look sad, depressed and repentful, missing ‘her man’ at every juncture!

In sharp contrast, Alisha is a very happy and intelligent woman, not regretting the past, and only trying to strike the right balance. She enjoys her successful career, and is a really cool mum. Hats off to such characters, and may there be many more like them.

(A pity, though, that despite her obvious affluence, she doesn’t have much money for clothes. She seems to wear her little daughter’s outgrown shorts. And her other outfits seem like there wasn’t enough material left over to make a complete dress! Sigh! Yeah, I can see you gentlemen are resolving to watch the movie right away!)

2- That the ‘nanny’ is a man. I didn’t actually see parts of the movie, as I was multi-tasking with something in the kitchen, but yes, it was a very pleasant experience to see that a nanny need not necessarily be a woman. It can be a man too. Maybe this is lift-off from Mrs.Doubtfire, well, atleast partially. But it is good to see Indian audiences can accept this fact. There can be male nannies, there can be house-husbands, and there is nothing wrong about it. I like it!!

3- That the ‘male nanny’ did not find it ‘beneath his dignity’ to entertain the kid or to simply be a nanny! Even in the scene where he is given a long list of household chores, and cheekily outsources it, there is no indication that he thinks ‘being a man is reason enough to not do the chores’. To me, it just came across that he simply did not have a clue as to what to do / or / felt overwhelmed, and so outsourced it. That again, shows a shift in attitude and culture, as a whole. Even if it only represents one small portion of society, still, its a breakthrough, isn’t it?

4- And this song, is what actually made me want to see the movie in the first place.

The hero says ‘love’ is based on looks. For someone who looks bad, finding love is ‘impossible’. While Alisha first refutes it, she later on realises that, that is indeed true. Nobody gives a second glance to someone who looks like a geek, or is ugly. Now I partially agree with this. People (both men and women) give a lot of weightage to looks, far more than what is deserved. And many a time, love is not reciprocated simply on this count. All the same, I also believe, when someone only looks ‘average’, the love that one finds is very genuine, as it is based on something more substantial than just looks.

5- Then, I loved this line by Alisha ‘I’m not a princess. I’m an ordinary girl, but when I’m with you, I feel like a princess’. Well, what more can one say? That is what love is all about!! If your partner can make you feel special, what more can one ask for? The romantic in me loved this typical crazy Bollywood scene!

6- And lastly, I liked the character played by Dino Morea (and not just because it is played by him 😉 ). This character again, came across as a confident young man, who knows the difference between Right and Wrong, and consciously Chooses Wrong. And in the end, when ‘Truth triumphs’, he is equally sportive. He does not do any ‘dramatic repenting stuff’, and not does he ‘swear revenge’. He simply acknowledges the other’s success. I think that is a very nice trait to have. To be able to lose graciously 🙂

So, now I’m not asking you to watch the movie. Watch this song, for sure.

There are a lot of aspects about the movie that are not so good … some of the stereotyped college scenes, the little daughter being so grown-up, that there is no change at all in the looks of main characters despite the time-leap. Despite all this, though, I think the movie has its positives. Apart from the above, Priyanka Chopra looks stunning, the music is pleasant, and every actor perfectly fits the role.

So, those of you, who have found your soul-mates, congrats once again, and work hard to continue to treat them like a Prince/Princess as the case may be 🙂

And to those of you who are looking for love, all the best 🙂 I hope you will care to consider values that will last forever 🙂

Happy Weekend, all 🙂

[P.S: All pictures, courtesy the great WWW. Linked them back to the original source whereever possible]

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
Thought and Reason

Signing off…

Thank you, folks, for your overwhelming response to my previous post and thank you, Blogadda for showcasing it 🙂

And today, its time to ‘sign off’.

No, I am not taking a blog break or anything of the sort. Am too much of a blog-addict to do that!

I was just clearing up a stack of old emails today. Friends, old schoolmates, collegemates…ex-best-friends.. and every time I had to ‘sign-off’, I was thoroughly at a loss as to what to say! In the good old days, it was just a plain, simple ‘Yours lovingly/affectionately’ as the case may be 😉

But today…the list is bewildering… Have a peek!

‘Love’ – Ooh la la 😉 WTH are you talking about?! You don’t use that word any more! 😯

‘Luv’ – too young…quite unnecessarily close too! Could probably use this to address an old-flame 😉

‘Regards’ – too formal…like you don’t know them anymore?! 🙄

‘Warm regards’? – Again, formal, and forcibly warm 😀

‘Best regards’– Sounds like a job application 😦

‘Best wishes’ – Boring!

‘Yours’ – Huh? Crap!

Confusing, isn’t it? This is why I have resorted to a simple ‘Cheers’… as in ‘cheers..have a nice day’ or ‘a toast to being happy..no specific reason’.

So, how do you sign off ??

Cheers 😉

Categories
Poem

The Ghost

She would sit hunched,
Every night.
Ever watchful
Of Ghosts
Lurking behind shadows.

Waiting patiently,
Every night.
Adamantly keeping open
Drooping, heavy eyelids,
Ears tuned to whispers from the unknown.

She would fall into an abyss
Some nights,
Of sleep, so overpowering
He would then appear
In her dreams.

Caressing her gently
At night…
His touch, cool and tender
on her hot forehead.
But when she awoke, startled

She would find darkness
Every night!
And then she would wish for
An apparition, even frightful
Of the ghost of her lover!

For ghosts,
Were more tangible
Than dreams.

 

(Girls/Guys, you know that I know a sh*t about poetry..but I attempted this on some sudden …ahem.. inspiration. Please let me know, HONESTLY, what you think? Does it seem, even from a distance, something like a poem?… Thankidou!)

Categories
Incidents

Biggest ever compliment

Since I bombard you with my various rants, I thought I must share something happy too 🙂

It was quite windy, but I wanted to take sonny cycling, for atleast 10 minutes while before the sun set for the day. So I got him ready first, put him on his trike and snapped the seat belt into place. As I got ready myself and was about to wear on my shoes, he suddenly looked at me, and said ‘You’re the coolest, Amma’ !

I am sure he has no clue of what it means. He must have just seen something on TV.

Still, this undoubtedly, and most most certainly, is the biggest ever compliment of my life!! I am so grateful!! Thank you, Rishi baby.

Categories
Thought and Reason

The strongest woman

I’ve been reading a lot of entries to the Mother’s Day contest being held by Indus Ladies. They range from pathetic short stories like mine, to interesting tributes, to the author’s mothers. Though I found some of the real-life experiences too gory for my liking, most of the entries that described either the lovable antics of the children or the touching sacrifices of the parents really pulled at the strings of my heart.

So, here’s a tribute to the strongest woman I know.

She was nearly 15 when she got married. From a remote village in Tamil Nadu, where she spoke nothing but Tamil, she moved to the fast-paced and very cosmopolitan city of Mumbai, thrust suddenly into English-speaking social circles. Then blessed with four children in a row, she had her hands full. When suddenly her husband retired, and almost immediately passed away. The children had not even completed their education.

Not fully educated, no bank balance, no friends, poor relatives. I would have crashed in that situation. But not this woman. She held her forte. And once the children had grown up and got married and had their children, this lady, was again called upon, to perform the motherly chores for her grandchildren.

She looked after 4 of us girls. In a  tiny two-bedroom apartment. On a limited budget. With no maid-servant. No fridge. No grinder. And no TV, for God’s sake! Should I even bother to mention that there were no Diapers in those times? Feeds, potty, bath, cooking, cleaning… she did all this, single-handedly. And she never once grumbled or complained. Never bore a grudge. Even her eyes did not betray her struggles. And today, she eagerly waits. To take care of her great-grand-child in the same way that she did all her children and grand-children.

This awesome woman, is my grandmother. Mrs.Shanpagavalli Raman. The most graceful, angelic woman I have ever known. I love you, Mummy. I wish I were a little like you.

Categories
55-er Awards Short story

First love (55-er)

They gathered around, roaring with laughter. She flushed, as the tyre went flat when she mounted the bike. “Not my fault!!” They guffawed louder. As they wiped their tears, she spotted him. Watching disapprovingly. His thick crop of hair waved above the deepening furrows on his forehead.

She would be in love with him, forever.

 

(Shortlisted as a finalist for a Sulekha EYC contest. This is what the judges had to say:“…captured everything in such a neat and small package”)