Categories
Thought and Reason

Reason to smile

Found this article on the Rediff website and felt a ray of hope 🙂

http://news.rediff.com/slide-show/2010/may/25/slide-show-1-these-little-aids-orphans-have-a-reason-to-smile.htm#contentTop

Do read it 🙂

I found some of the claims hard to believe, like the Doctor being able to change the behaviour of the children in just 6 months time. Also, many of the links are outdated, from several years ago.

Nevertheless, I think this is an extremely noble thing to do. May there be more people like Dr.Manorama around. The world will certainly be a wee bit happier 🙂

And, I hope that we too, contribute in some way or the other, to those less fortunate. And help them too, to relish this beautiful world 🙂

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
Short story

The last paragraph

Okay! And here’s the last paragraph (well, not exactly one para…) to the story of The Old Armchair.

I did try my best… to wriggle out of writing the conclusion to the story 😉 but you guys/girls kept close watch 😉 So here it is. As always, please let me know what you think….

——————————————
Priya noticed her mobile flashing as she unpacked her suitcase.

‘Gues wat I found 2day? – Lav’
‘Er..wat?’
, she sent a text back.
‘Wooden armchair!!! Exact same thing!’
Priya smiled. She instantly knew what Lavina was talking about. ‘Wow! 1 4 me pls?‘ she typed out on the phone.
‘Done!C u soon!’ – pat came the reply.

She smiled again. Eight years had passed since they had graduated. She still remembered the day they left Mrs.Marathe’s apartment. She and Lavina had been in tears. They were both overwhelmed with emotion. It was all too much to handle. Bidding farewell to a wonderfully carefree college-life…to freedom.. and to Mrs.Marathe.

‘God bless you!’ was all she had said. Mrs.Marathe. Along with her blessings, she also gave them a little idol of Lord Ganesha each. ‘You will call when you have time…?’ she asked eagerly, but trailed off without waiting for a reply. She hobbled back slowly, to her favourite arm-chair. It was time for her daily siesta. She didn’t stir as the taxi came to take them to the station. She didn’t open her eyes as the girls touched her frail palms to bid farewell. If she did find it hard to swallow that lump in her throat, she didn’t let them notice it.

————–
The girls moved to different metros. A lot happened in those eight years. Priya built a successful career, travelled a lot on work, was engaged to be married. Lavina on the other hand, chose to build a family. She had two beautiful cherubic girls. They reminded her of herself and Priya. And the happy days they had spent in Pune.

Priya and Lavina had both called Mrs.Marathe regularly for the first couple of months after they had left college. They called her every Saturday, as they knew Mrs.Marathe’s sons would call every Sunday.

‘Hello Auntyji! How are you?’
‘How is your health?’
‘Are you eating properly?’

As they became busier with their lives, however, the phone calls gradually became less frequent. In a year’s time, they had almost entirely stopped.

Over the years, they had even forgotten the old telephone number. When Priya finally moved to Bangalore, where Lavina now lived, they met frequently and whenever they reminisced the old times, they couldn’t help thinking of Mrs.Marathe. They would feel a surge of warmth. And of guilt. They never spoke about it aloud. But it was there.

They didn’t try to look up the old address. They didn’t try to contact her again. They didn’t expect to see her again.
——–

A week later, Lavina had delivered a beautiful arm-chair at Priya’s house.

‘Wow, Lav. This is beautiful Nearly the same thing as what Auntyji had!’
‘Yep! Bought a pair, one chair for each of us’,
Lavina replied softly, and smiled. Priya smiled back.

As she gazed at the chair, a tear rolled down her cheek. ‘Lav…‘ she whispered, her voice trembling.

Lavina did not reply. She stifled a sob instead.

They stared at the arm-chair that had been placed in the verandah. It was a beautiful mahogany colour. Standing there. Simple. Sturdy. And silent. Silently observing the world whizz by. Just like Mrs.Marathe once had. Probably still did!

‘To Auntyji!’ she said suddenly, and raised an imaginary toast.
‘To Auntyji’ Priya chimed in.

———

Categories
Short story

The old armchair – fiction

[Warning: Very long post ahead!]

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

‘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.

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

[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
Movie Review

Where is 15 Park Avenue?

It isn’t very often that one trembles with emotion after watching a movie. Switching channels over the weekend, I just chanced to catch a glimpse of the movie 15 Park Avenue on Sony TV. Two minutes into the movie and I could not surf and skip away to another channel. This was a compelling watch (if there is any such term!).

I’m not going to bore you with the story line, as it is already available on this link on Wikipedia. And if you do wish to watch the movie first, it is available on Youtube 🙂

But a word of caution – if you do watch the movie, you must prepare yourself for a bit of confusion when it ends. For, it ends quite abruptly, and leaves plenty to the imagination / interpretation of the viewer.

The movie was extremely disturbing. From various angles.

First, ofcourse there is Meethi, the girl suffering from schizophrenia. Konkana’s performance is absolutely fantastic! You cannot but help feel touched by her innocence and feel awful about her medical condition. It was disturbing to see how engrossed a person can be in his/her ‘own world’. When we see so-called mad people on the road, they too, are probably suffering from something like this. Its terrible even to watch. One feels sorry, sad and angry. The poor patient, starts to believe that the family that cares for her, is infact against her and prohibits her from living what is reality, for her!

The scene where Mithi is raped is gut-wrenching. Unlike Bollywood/Kollywood movies where rape is cinematised, this particular scene is taken very decently, but has immensely disturbs the viewer. One can actually empathise with the trauma of rape. One feels sick (and sad and angry) at the thought of it.

The way she is abandoned again, is so touching. I especially liked the scene, where when Jojo tries to place an arm around Meethi, she first shrinks. Then she tries to nestle into him, but when he taps her shoulder, she notices something. She realises what his true emotions are. That he does not accept her any longer! And she returns to her shell.

Second, seeing the family suffering as much as the patient herself, again disturbs you. Everything, every action, has to revolve around the patient. And all the time. It must be so demanding on the family. A myriad of emotions there.. sadness, frustration, anger, helplessness, care and love!

Third, Meethi’s fiance, Jojo who has ‘settled down’ and has a beautiful family of his own. One can visibly notice his feeling of guilt (of having abandoned Meethi), the strong emotions of his wife (fear, anxiety) and the way he is torn between his conscience and practicality.

And finally, the character of the Mother was very movingly etched. Its hard to imagine the plight of a woman, whose children are suffering from different problems. One is schizophrenic, another has broken relationships and the third just does not care!

Altogether the movie was deeply disturbing. It makes one think, if do nothing else!!

And now, the most important scene of the movie – the finale:

Where, Meethi searches for 15 Park avenue.

Meethi unites with her family, while the others are left searching for her.

I found various interpretations of the ending of the movie on the internet.

One view was that infact, it was the older sister Anjali who was schizophrenic. This does seem a little plausible, considering that Anu herself had broken relationships and the Doc always seemed to be with her. Though, I thought the Doc had a little more than professional interest in her 😉

Another interpretation was that Jojo was schizophrenic ?!! Now I don’t subscribe to this view because the character seemed to be quite straight-forward.

Now, my interpretation of the ending is:

When Meethi finally sees her home and family at ’15 Park Avenue’ she enters it. But well, all that is illusionary, so in reality, she actually just gets lost. Another name to the list of missing persons!

Anjali keeps looking for her, and keeps asking people for the ‘illusionary address’.

This is what is most striking about the movie.

Though Anu KNOWS it is not real, she believes in her sister’s delusions.

She believes that just as we live in the ‘real world’, the illusionary world of her sister’s is true too.

She believes that ’15 Park avenue’ IS a REAL address and that they will find it, and find Meethi there!!

Now that does not make her schizophrenic. While she is a strong, practical woman, this belief of hers, impractical as it sounds, is REAL to her. Again, while that is her reality, for passers-by, that again, seems to be a delusion.

So what is reality and what is delusion? Its a big big question. An unanswered one in that. Because there is no answer. Each to his own reality. Each to his/her delusions.

To me, the movie only serves to show how much reality is intertwined with what isn’t real. The delusionary Meethi finds her reality. The pratical Anjali actually believes in the delusions.

Now go watch the movie, and add your interpretations 🙂

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
55-er Short story

Romance at the table (55-er)

Her gaze, to the floor. His, on her.

‘Pop’! Champagne.

‘What are we celebrating?’

‘Our seven-year-itch, honey’.

She shifts uneasily.

They plough through the four-course meal.

‘Burrrp’. She glares.

‘Sorry!’ he smiles, picking his nose.

The bill arrives. ‘ Crap!!!! 7000 bucks?’

She watches, aghast. And suddenly, laughs.

‘Happy Anniversary’. Hands him the yellowed divorce papers.

Categories
55-er Short story

The second-born [flash fiction]

Green-masked faces crowded around…’Push harder!!!’

The ugly yellow lizard watched, unblinking.

You’ll understand..’ she murmured.

..my little girl.. fair.. pretty.. just like Sister..’

‘Focus!’

‘And this second?!’

‘PUSH!’

‘…What if… she’s .. you .. or me???
…Another lifetime.. of inferiority begins…’
[Blink]                                              ‘PUSSSSHHHH!!!!’
She gave in.
——
It was a boy.
She laughed.
She cried!