Category Archives: Short Stories

Pause.

keyboard-black-notebook-input-163130

As he laid back in his chair, heat exuding from his ears, he looked up at the fan. It wasn’t moving. The surface of the fan gleamed due to the light. He was having trouble breathing. He could feel his ears turning red. He rubbed his chest. The silence in his cabin was pounding at him. There was no one outside on the office floor. They’d all left for home. He could have gone home too. But to whom? And when had he last gone home for someone? Wasn’t it always because he needed food and sleep?

His wife had left him yesterday. The woman he’d been married to for 20 long years, who’d brought up two of his children, who’d never asked for a single holiday in all of those years, who’d been an idol of docile and submissive, left him. And he’d seen no change in her. Just like that, she left. How long had she been packing? How had he missed the change in her? When did his work take over his life? His kids had called him so many times since morning. He didn’t know what to say to them. He still hadn’t managed to call her even once. He felt too ashamed to. Instead, here he sat, staring at the fan, wondering if the sacrifice was worth it.

Graciously Yours!

Advertisements

Puppy Love.

i-am-the-kind-of-person-who-says-hi-to-20796184He looked up at her every now and then. She barely noticed him. Or so he thought. He stole glances, hoping she’d smile just for him. But then he’d look away the moment their eyes met. And curse himself mentally the next second for not having held his gaze. “Woof,” he said, soft enough to have reached no one beyond his tail’s reach. But she heard him! She turned and walked towards him. Picking him up from his litter of nine, she held him up and close, rubbing her nose into his face. “I want this one, Daddy!” she called out, rushing over to the other end of the store, holding him in her plump seven year old arms, her red and white cotton frock rubbing against his two month old skin.

‘Man’s best friend’ they called him. She would be his, though. He knew it already.

Graciously Yours!

In dedication to all dogs I've said hi to! You're the unconditional love people claim doesn't exist. 

Polo, hope you are resting in peace. You were my first.

 

Saving Grace. Part 2.

Continued from…

images (2)

His hand beneath her head, he sat beside her carefully, trying not to jerk her awake. The street was cold, almost wet. He took off his jacket and placed it on the ground. He awkwardly shuffled on to it. He checked his watch. Another 20 minutes to full light. What am I doing here, he wondered. Did I have to waste my night on her? I could have picked a girl today. Business is running slow these days. The drinks never hit him because he never drank. The bar tender knew he never drank on duty and every night was duty night for him. It was in the day that he drank, sometimes after delivering the package, at times after he was done with them himself first.

His boss asked him once, “What’s your type?” “Why limit yourself?” he’d responded. His boss had guffawed and he’d responded with the perfect smile, he’d spend thousands on. He had chosen not to wear braces when young. He’d always been headstrong, a rebel. But that rebellion had cost him thousands, years later. It had the perks too. Women fell for his smile.

He sat looking at her. He parted her hair which was now all over her face. She’d changed a lot over the years, wrinkles hidden with a well skilled hand, lips plumper than he recalled. But he could well be mistaken. He’d, after all, seen so many lips after hers, tasted them, bitten across. He turned her a little more on her stomach. There should be a tattoo here, he thought, pulling her tank top up. Botched up art, it still is there, he thought, running his fingers over the small of her back, a feeble smile playing across his lips. She shuddered involuntarily. There were goose bumps over her arm. She must be cold!

He stood up, looking down at Jane. Dawn had given way to the light. Such a pitiful drunk ball of meat unaware of the fate she’s been saved from. She should thank me well. Shaking himself out of his stupor, he rushed out of the alley. He walked up the street and saw some cabs lined up.

One of them agreed to go. He handed a card to him. Taking Jane up in his arms, he put her in the back seat of the cab, smoothing out her skirt as much as he could to decency. “I’ll call at the hotel in an hour. She better be there by then,” he warned the cabbie. He nodded and drove away.

He started going back into the club, tired, famished and more so, thirsty after the long night. He needed a strong drink. This wasn’t the first time someone had recognized him while he was at work and it wouldn’t be the last.

“Not your type? Some problem with her?” the guard asked Rick, having seen him act out this charade a lot of times but never ending with tucking the girl safely away in a cab.

“Yes,” he nodded. “I knew her.”

Graciously Yours!

Saving Grace. Part 1.

“What are we doing?” she asked, her voice slurred, barely audible in the wooden corridors of the pub’s exit. Her stilettos sounded as she took each step, holding on to his arms, his jacket warm and fuzzy. Her skirt kept riding up with every step she took but she no longer cared. She was too drunk. They both were.

“No clue have I,” he replied, holding himself together by the bare minimum of strength left in him. As he put his right foot in front of his left for the next step, he tripped, almost. She caught him before he got entangled in his own legs.

“You could have lost another one of your teeth, you know,” she said, counting his teeth for him as he stood still for a second, every alternate second. “Some tendisd, you are!”

“My patients need not know that. Shh. Don’t tell them,” he said, as they stepped out into the cold air of the early morning.

The guard saw them sternly as they stood holding on to each other on the cobbled streets. The heels of her stilettos were shaking as she tried to place them rightly between the stones. He held her by the waist, bringing her closer, and whispered into her ear, “I think I need to pee.”

She threw her head back and laughed, almost losing her balance in process. He pulled her closer, both his hands roving across her back, her tank top flimsy even against his soft hands, his face buried in her auburn tresses as they caressed her shoulders. “Come with me,” she said softly, into his ears, slowly pulling him towards the nearby alley.

She entered the alley but she no longer seemed to be holding on to his hand. “Rick?” she said, turning around. Rick stood there, hands crossed across his chest, feet steady, a sinister smile across his face. “Rick?” she kept saying, not being able to fathom why she felt a danger, an adrenaline rush, her mind crying out flight. She stood there, swaying after a while and as she fell onto the street, he rushed to break her fall, placing her hand beneath her head. He blurred out of his sight.

Her eyes closed but she heard him whisper, “You have no idea who I am, do you, Jane?”

4613700232_b846b3ee95_b

Graciously Yours!

Diamonds.

“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” they said. I don’t know who the they here are. I don’t mean I don’t know, I just can’t seem to recall who exactly they are. I grew up listening to mothers say it, the advertisers claim it, movies celebrate it. I was brought up in an Indian middle class family. The view our flat had was of other flats, crammed up in a tower like reluctant matchboxes given a balancing act dare. I was told to dream, but within limits. I had wings which could only flap within the cages they had set up. Again, I don’t recall who the they were exactly. One midnight, that of my 23rd birthday, it was decided that I was of marriagable age. The stroke of the grandfather clock above the living room mantlepiece had magically reformed me from a girl who should keep out of talks of adults to a woman who now had to sit demurely among adults and know exactly what and how much to speak.

page_mccord_floor_three_photography_f3p2883_low

Like the films had predicted, I found my knight in shining armour. He came riding a white horse, literally, on the day of our wedding. He looked wonderful. The night was even more wonderful. I was tired but he was magical in bed! Or at least, what he did seemed like magic to a virgin like me. And in the morning, he presented me with a diamond. My first, though not my last. The one I keep tucked away in my closet between the uncomfortable silk sarees I rarely wear. Now the view from my window has changed. I still overlook concrete towers but posh ones. The view came at a price, not the diamonds, no. The price was having to share my husband. That night, two years ago, he was magical in bed, indeed. The other woman claimed so too. Two years and he had never faltered. Until three days ago.

My husband is away for the week. He says he’ll end the relationship with the other woman. I may be young, but I am no fool. I may be good, but I also have my evil in place. I may think white, but I have my black too. I changed the locks of the house. I installed a hidden GPS tracker app on his phone. I hired a PI to track the woman. And I sold the diamonds. At least, half of them.

My hair tied in a side bun, earrings dangling by my round face, cheeks rosy as buns, the shimmering copper of my dress accentuating my wheatish complexion, I smiled at my reflection and thought, ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, they said.’

The phone rang. The cab had arrived. This was the night I’d let my hair down.

Graciously Yours!

 

Jilebis.

— Looking for feedback. All are welcome. —

As I stood by the small sweet shop in one of the eat streets of the city, waves of hot air hit me from the stove lit ahead, as the heavy late night air settled around me. It was a hot night. The rains had been distant for two days now. It was not humid but it wasn’t cold either. Not the weather which would have been appropriate for steaming, sizzling jalebis but then you can’t say no to the piping hot, deliciously sweetened, freshly fried orange spiral pretzels. Seems more like a sweat shop, than a sweet shop, I thought, seeing beads of sweat run down the forehead of the man, as he poured out the batter from the cone over the boiling oil in concentric motions. The smell of sugar syrup rumbled my stomach. This is more than just the smell of sugar, I figured, a little puzzled.

Smell of butter melting onto hot pans wafted from across the street. I looked around to see my friend standing at one of the shops there. I tried calling out to him to catch his attention. He was fidgeting with his phone. My voice drowned in the clamour of the street vendors displaying their balloons, scarves, fidget spinners, the vehicles trying to honk their way through a mass of people. No one seemed to make way, all lost in the aroma of food, savouring the spices which hit the tongue in spots you’d forgotten existed. You know food porn exists when you see people eating while clicking pictures here, I thought, smiling to myself. I whipped out my phone and texted my friend, One of whatever you’re ordering for me too. He looked up at me almost instantaneously and gave a thumbs up before turning to the man manning the counter there to place a re-order. I made use of my phone and clicked a couple of pictures meanwhile, of the sizzling and now hissing jalebis as they turned crispy enough to savour, of the people lined up by parked cars, bikes, among the moving vehicles, paper plates and disposable glasses of various juices, shakes and tea in their hands, The ten feet wide alley was wide awake as well as sleepy – the upstairs of the residential buildings lined up on both sides seemed to have slept for the night, lights out in most of them.

“Madam, your jilebis,” he said, handing over my guilty pleasure to me. I took the plate and handed him the money. Foodgasm, here I come, I thought, rushing over to my friend across the street, the oncoming cyclist ignored.

wp-1501925642098.

Graciously Yours!

P.S. : I am trying to work on my descriptive writing and if you think this is at least decent enough to garner a comment, let me know. I would love feedback, good or bad.

The Hope?

He sent his father away for breakfast. It was ticking 10 AM. She would be coming over  any time to the shop now. And there she was, clad in a sari, hiding all possible parts with the six yards of cloth. She had a beautiful body, one she should have been flaunting had it not been marred with red, blue, purple and brown. Her eyes showed what the clothes hid.

His eyes lit up and smile broadened whenever he saw her. And when she looked at him and smiled, his wings fluttered to fly! She handed him a list of groceries required. Their hands touched. Neither pulled away. They both knew they wanted it. It was her console and his concern.

 “How are you today?” he asked, while slowly picking out items from the shelves. There was no hurry. There never was.

“Same as yesterday. Same as every day. Existing.”

She was morose today. Anyone in her shoes would be.

“You’ll start living soon.”

“Will I now?”

“Yes,” he said with a conviction she admired in him. He was the reason she had more purple than red.

“He touches you again and it’ll be all over, okay?” he asked her, handing her the packet.

He took the money she gave him and put it aside in a drawer his father knew nothing about.

“I’ll give him a week at the most. He’s a rotten fellow.”

“A week it is then,” he said, looking at her. Her sad smile spiked a pain in his chest. He knew she wasn’t an infatuation. And he let her know. Every damn day.

“I love you,” he said, his parting words.

“I do, too,” she said softly, her day already feeling better and brighter.

He watched her walk away. She was married. She was elder to him. Theirs was a match the society would frown upon.

But he had taken to her like salt to sea. He was her only hope and she his beacon of light. Together they would alight the horizon.

IMG-20160903-WA0001

Graciously Yours!

The Love?

Contd from “The Ideal?”

download

He re-read the letter again in the dimness of the street light streaming in through the window. There was no mention of what really was going on at their place. He liked it that way. Folding the letter inside the envelope, he put it back in the diary where it belonged. He treaded lightly towards the cupboard and kept the diary on top of it. Looking at the woman sleeping on his bed, face towards him, the light unable to flit across her face, he smiled at her lovingly. He rubbed the gashes on the knuckles of his left hand. The gashes were so old, he now referred to them as birth marks. They were signs of his father’s love.

The naive woman thought he didn’t know she wrote to her mother. He loved her for how she covered for him. She really did love him. Was that how his mother was too? Nah, she was better. She never fought back, never talked back. She was always the loving mother, dutiful wife. She didn’t even show her tears to his father ever. His wife had a lot to learn. But she would  – with time. He was sure. Maybe it was time for a lesson soon.

He loved his wife a lot. The marks on her body showed that bright and loud. That was the only love he knew. That was the only love he’d ever known.

To be contd…

Graciously Yours!

Picture Courtesy : Pinterest.

The unseen face.

PST

 

They could not afford the granduer of the Durga Puja pandals which were stretched across the length and breadth of the city. Their idol had none of the splendor associated with the city’s most festive days. They were five women praying to the strongest woman deity they’d ever known, celebrating her stories, wondering if she still existed somewhere among one of them.

Not many of them prayed anymore. Over the years, the numbers at the Puja had dwindled. She didn’t blame them. After all, how long can you fight against your own destiny and hope that things will change, tides will turn and the unthinkable will happen? But she hadn’t been able to forsake praying. That is the one thing that she had wholeheartedly learnt from her mother – to pray.

They weren’t a part of the privileged – if she could put it lightly. Goddesses and prayers couldn’t be an element of their daily living. Far from it, in fact. They lived in areas, the others called red light areas. She never understood where the name came from. She always wondered if the red light signified danger – and if yes, then were they a danger to society or was the society a danger to them?

She seemed to have lost herself in the sounds of the conch shell and the bells. The fragrance of the incense sticks devoured her into a trance.  Someone banged on the door. Snapping out of her trance, she opened the door. “How much longer will you all be at it? It’s almost sun down. You need to get to work,” the lady at the door, said strictly. The lady was not a bad person, but she wasn’t necessarily good either. She was, unfortunately, just right.

“We’ll be downstairs soon,” she said ruefully.

Closing the small 10 by 10 feet spare room which housed a small idol of the Goddess of the season, the five ladies trooped to their respective rooms downstairs. Taking off her red and white bangles, she kept them carefully in a velvet clothed box. Her mangalsutra* lay beside it. She’d never worn it after her wedding day. Tears welling up in her eyes, she kept the box tucked far inside her wardrobe. She removed her red bindi and stuck it on the top of the box. They were to be used again after a long time. Slowly she took off her red and white sari, an attire which held no significance in the life she was living, an attire that was to be kept hidden away from her ‘customers’, an attire that shouldn’t remind them in any manner of the life that was awaiting them outside the red light area.

She was faceless to them. Nameless to them. They wanted it that way. And she wanted to keep it that way too. She didn’t want to think of what her life meant – either to her or to them. She wanted to keep her dreams locked away in that velvet clothed box.

She was a devotee of  the Durga. But she couldn’t harness the Goddess’ strength in herself. They were devotees of the Durga too. And they didn’t want her to harness Her strength.

Graciously Yours!

Picture Courtesy : Prashant from Just Spoken Thoughts. Thank you for coming up with the beautiful sketch in almost no time! Hoping that this post will allure you into further creative collaborations! ;)

*The black and golden beaded necklace that signifies marital connection and is a part of the married Hindu woman’s attire.

The House That Wasn’t. Part 0

Continued from

5 years, 2 months and 19 days ago – 7:30 PM.

Pankaj was trying to close shop as fast as possible. The skies were overcast. He’d decided to leave this town too. He wasn’t sure how safe it was for Tara now. The residents were getting suspicious. Tara was his daughter. He’d lost her mother to a witch hunt three years ago. He was afraid of Tara’s fate too. She was nine but her thoughts hadn’t progressed accordingly. Just like her mother’s. The ‘doctors’ said she was mad. He didn’t believe them. But he didn’t tell anyone about his daughter either.

He made the last sale of the day and hurriedly cycled down to his place. He couldn’t figure out why he was a nervous wreck. He felt something ominous would happen. He shut the door behind him.

Tara’s voice was drifting from the floor above. She often spoke to her toys. “Tara, I am home,” he called out.

She didn’t answer. He walked into the bedroom, onto her toys strewn all over the place.

He could see his daughter hiding behind the bedpost. Walking towards her, he kept asking, “Where is Tara today?” She giggled. He happened to glance outside the window to see a group of people walking towards his house.

Picking her up gently, tickling her so she didn’t protest, he explained to her slowly, “Daddy and you will play a little game now. I’ll hide you and you will keep quiet for five minutes. Okay?”

The bell rang.

“Did Tara understand?” he asked hurriedly.

“Yes, Daddy,” she answered softly.

The bell rang again.

Hoping she had actually understood, he put her down behind the bed again.

Now they were banging on the door.

He hurried down.

There were some kids hiding behind the men. Questions rained down on him. “What have you done to the house? The children say they hear voices from the house. The house throws stones at us, they say. Our children are afraid to come to this part of the town.”

“No, there’s no one in here except me. I am sure your kids must be mistaken!” He sounded confident but didn’t look the least.

Just then, he faintly heard Tara’s voice. He hoped the others hadn’t! To douse it out, he began, “Now if you’re done, excuse me, I have to make my dinner.”

But they had. “Wait. What’s that?” He prayed, she would remember he’d asked her to be quiet! But as fate would have it, she spoke again. This time louder. It spooked out the men. The children ran away to a distance.

“That’s nothing. Just the skies perhaps.” He tried shutting the door, but they were quicker. They barged in. Two men pinned him to the door.

“There’s nothing to fear. Please leave me alone,” he pleaded. He looked at the children standing a few feet away. They looked frightened – of the house or the brutality, he wouldn’t know.

The men split up to search the house. Some took out knives, some had hand-held pistols. Hearing all the commotion downstairs, Tara peeked out of the room. The little child thought they were playing hide and seek with her! She ran to another room laughing!

The laughter spooked them. The men rushed upstairs, each scared but none admitting. The peals of thunder and flashes of lightning were not helping!

“If only Tara would sit quietly in one place,” Pankaj thought. But as soon as she saw a pair of feet coming up the stairs, she braced herself to scare her father. Giggling, blissfully unaware of the danger looming on her and her father, she jumped out of her hiding place, peals of her joyous laughter pulsating through the house! She wanted to scare the man whose feet she’d seen, but death scared her instead.

Screams were followed by thunders outside and cocked guns inside! One of those bullets hit the child and it was the last time laughter was heard in that house.

Until… 5 years, 2 months and 19 days later when…

“She had stopped laughing but the house hadn’t.

Fear crept in her eyes too.”

dark_ancient_house_by_sand3rr
Graciously Yours!