Category Archives: Short Stories

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?”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Graciously Yours!

The Love?

Contd from “The Ideal?”

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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.”

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Graciously Yours!

The House That Wasn’t.

dark_ancient_house_by_sand3rr“What is it that is stopping you?” she asked. “Come on in! I am sure the place isn’t haunted.”

He stepped in. His torch was slipping from his hands due to sweat. In the eerie silence of the house, the buzzing quiet of the night outside seemed favorable. All those stories he’s heard in his life of 19 years came back to haunt him.

“Will you even move?” his girlfriend whispered.

“How did she even manage to get the keys?” he wondered. He took his first step forward and his shoes clicked louder than ever. Coherent thoughts were giving way to fear again.

“Couldn’t you wear sports shoes or rubber slippers?” she whispered angrily.

“Well, you never told me you’re going house hunting today,” he retorted, scared of his own foot step.

“Take your shoes off,” she said, “or you’ll scare the ghosts away!”

“I am not going to do that,” he said.

“Fine. Then try and be less noisy,” she said with gritted teeth.

“If you could be less nosy,” he mumbled under his breath.

She held him by the wrist and walked around. The furniture was strewn all across the floor. Cobwebs shone into the torch light, dancing around him. The musty smell of the place was getting on to him. He spotted a cracked mirror hanging on the wall ahead. He averted his eyes lest he saw something he wasn’t meant to.

She kept talking to him but not one word got through to his conscious. His mind had its own set of defenses in place. His body was tense and alert. She stepped on to broken glass. His scared jump had a feline touch. She laughed at his reaction. Her laugh echoed in the house. It was scary. It wasn’t the laugh he had fallen in love with.

Soon he’d know why. She had stopped laughing but the house hadn’t.

Fear crept in her eyes too.

Continued…

Graciously Yours!

Picture Courtesy : Pinterest.

Happy anniversary, indeed!

The last piece of cake was smeared on his face!
“Twenty years of marriage! What’s the secret?” asked a colleague in jest!
“You agree more than you disagree. And you learn to shut up!” Sameer replied at once.
“At least there’s someone who can shut Sameer up,” they joked!
Only they didn’t know it was a joke.

Like every night, that night too he went back from office to find his dinner laid at the table. Hers was however missing. He checked his text messages. An unread message from her said she’d return late after dinner.

Post dinner, he returned to his room – his part of the house.

Normally, he’d have slept after reading a book for an hour or so but he’d expected today to be different. He’d wanted it to be different. Probably he should have made it different. By his bedside was their picture. From one of the early vacations in their marriage, when they were still young and so much in love! Time and tide waits for no man and didn’t wait for them either. They both took each other and time for granted. Constant fights and tiffs led to so much disagreement that they found it easier to live in separate rooms. Yet, surprisingly either didn’t want to leave because they still enjoyed each other’s company. It was a strange situation. And had been for more than a couple of years now.

For some reason unknown to him altogether, he walked over to his wife’s room today. Her room was so much neater than his. He could smell her in there. Nandini’s bedside had a picture of theirs too. A more recent one. In front of it, lay a slightly wilted rose. Surprised, he went and picked it up. A note lay beneath, “Wait up for me today, will you? Happy anniversary!”

***

She came home an hour later. He was barely managing to keep his eyes open, but the minute she walked into the hall, sleep left him for the night. And for good! Her tired eyes smiled on seeing her husband waiting.

“How did you know?” he asked, as she came and sat beside him.
“I was hopeful,” she said, barely meeting his gaze.

She nestled herself in his arms and every single fight that they’d had over the years seemed to melt away in that moment.

Probably, this was their second chance.

Night smiled as it fell upon the two souls. It pushed them to a closeness that not even dawn could penetrate!

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Graciously Yours!

Picture Courtesy : Pinterest

The Drop.

The old man had been unwell for more than a couple of days now. The fever wasn’t breaking. He wasn’t worried about himself though. He was worried about his garden. He’d newly planted Canna Lilies in them. They were Madam’s favourite. He would have instructed his helper how to care for them well but the helper was on leave. Either ways, he wasn’t too keen on his helper’s work.

This evening, he’d tried walking out to the garden but he barely managed to reach the door of his own room. The doctor had been called. He prescribed some medicines and assured it wasn’t anything to worry about. The old man chided the cook, “I told you so.”

It hadn’t rained for a week now. It was unusually hot. If it didn’t rain soon, his garden would start wilting. In a long time, he wished his helper was here. Or at least the rains were. Either wish seemed far from being realized.

His son was around the same age as his helper. Every time he saw his helper, it reminded him of his son; a reminder that wasn’t happy or heart-stopping, a reminder that was melancholic and heartbreaking. His son was a charm with plants, but didn’t see the charm in them. “I want to do something bigger,” he used to say.

But the old man didn’t know anything bigger. Sure enough, there were bigger businesses he knew about, like the one Sir and Madam were doing. But at the end of the day, even they would come and admire his work. “What was bigger then?”, he thought. Even after his son had started working in another city, he stayed back with Sir and Madam. They loved his work and he used to love working for them. They’d given him a place to stay in their servants quarters.

After the doctor left, he tried sitting up to look at what he could of his gardens. It was dim now post dusk and his feeble eyes didn’t help either. He spent his evening alternately watching the blades of the fan rotate and dozing.

Night fell early and in spite of having slept almost all day, he slept like a log through the night too. He awoke well after the Sun had risen. He was rolling in sweat and blankets. The fever had broken. He turned towards the window and there were drops of water clinging onto the grills of the window.


Picture Courtesy : @main_samay_hoon on Instagram.
Picture Courtesy : @main_samay_hoon on Instagram.

Hopeful, he went up to the window. It wasn’t an easy walk but far less painful than yesterday. Indeed, they were water droplets. As he stood in the pool of water below his window, his eyes saw moist and glistening grass outside his window. The flowers were gleaming and waving at him in the morning breeze. He was ecstatic. The God loved His work too!

Graciously Yours!