Short Stories

Hawaldar Raju Bhaiya (Short Story, 2nd part) – 4 mins read

Part II

(Read the first part of the story here)

Mrs. Srikar was a bit taken aback to see Raju at the door. 

“What happened Raju”? She asked. 

“Madam, humse bohut badhi galti ho gayi, humko maaf Kar dijiye” (Madam, I have committed a great sin, please forgive me). Saying this, he folded both his hands and lowered his head. 

Mrs. Srikar was really confused. She couldn’t make anything out of this. 

“What are you talking about Raju? I don’t understand anything”. 

“Kya sir ne aapko Kuch bataya nahi?” (So Srikar sir didn’t tell you anything?) Asked Raju. 

Srikar sir’s cycle

Mrs. Srikar was about to ask him more questions, but just then her phone rang from inside. She excused herself and went inside to take the call. 

Raju stood there, standing and anticipating about the next turn of events. 

After a couple of minutes which seemed like ages for Raju, she came back and stood at the door again. Her arms crossed on chest now.  

“Alright. Now I can make out finally. Srikar just informed me that he reported about the possible theft of his bicycle in the local police station.

You should have been a little more careful Raju.”

Raju hung his head in shame and guilt. 

She continued. 

“But how come a cycle gets stolen early morning and you don’t get to know anything at all?”

Raju was silent. His eyes clearly betraying his emotions. 

She asked again.

“When did you open the main gate in the morning today?”

“4.30 am”. Replied Raju. 

“Hmm. This means that thief entered after that.”

There were a few moments of silence. 

Raju was waiting for an opportune moment to seek forgiveness and tell about his sad state when cutting his thoughts, she said, “Raju, everybody is leaving for their village now, what about you? Aren’t you leaving? How are you managing food and everything else now that there is complete lockdown? 

On hearing this, Raju couldn’t control his tears anymore.

He said, “madam, I have been saving money to go home since the month of March when Lockdown began, but Pawar sir asked me to stay back for a week so that he can arrange another local guy, but didn’t get anyone so far and it’s been 2 months since then. Yesterday, I got to know that someone from nearby area has been arranged and I was planning to leave finally. My parents back home are very worried as they are hearing news of Corona spreading the most in Bambai. I haven’t met my son who is 2 years old now, for almost a year and my wife too is requesting me to come back. I have already spoken to a truck driver Rajesh about my travel and was about to pay him 3500 rupees today for the conveyance, that is why I went to Pawar sir for asking my salary in the morning, madam”. 

“Ok, so what happened then?”.

“He said, I won’t get any salary this month as the cycle has been stolen in my presence. 

I am seeking forgiveness from you madam, give me one last chance. I came to say this. I wanted to meet sir, but he isn’t at home now. Hum unse maafi mangne hi ayethe madam.

I accept it has been a grave mistake on my part, but I do my work very honestly otherwise. I have done double shifts many times but never complained once about it, as it is my job.”

Saying this Raju folded his hands again. 

Mrs. Srikar realised the complete scenario now.

Her heart went out to the mother back in the village, who yearned to see her son amidst these troubled times, to the young wife who must be waiting with baited breath, counting hours and days as to when her husband would arrive and to Raju, the young father who is pining to meet his little one. 

A flurry of emotions gripped her. She too was a mother who was away from her children in this lockdown. Everyday, every moment has been so difficult for her and her husband during the last 2 months. 

Mrs. Srikar controlled her emotions and said, in her usual, steady voice.

“Raju, I completely understand your situation. Our son is in the US, our daughter is in Dubai, and both Srikar and I are dying to meet them and so are they. This lockdown has made all of us so helpless. Flight have been held and none of us can travel for god knows how many more days. But I will make sure that you meet your family and your little son. Don’t worry”. 

Raju felt as if a huge chunk of bricks and stones unloaded from his system. The sense of relief coupled with happiness was so intense that he almost felt numb with joy and didn’t know what to say. 

Mrs. Srikar continued. 

“I will speak to Pawar dada today. Please collect your salary from him tomorrow. And yes, book your bus ticket at the earliest.”

Mrs. Srikar was this middle aged woman, whom Raju always respected, but today, her graciousness touched his heart and soul. He bent down to touch her feet. 

Bohut bohut dhanyavaad madam. Bhagwaan ke rup me aap aye aur humko sankat mukt Kiyen. Hum ye upkar kabhi nahi bhulenge” (From the core of my heart, I thank you madam. You have saved me from this difficult situation, as if by some intervention. I would never forget this kindness in my life.”

Said Raju. 

“I just did what I felt is right Raju. Please pray for my children and for us, hope we all meet soon too”. Said Mrs. Srikar.

Zarur madam. Hum prarthana karenge ki Corona jaldi jaye aur flight chalu ho Jaye. Nischit rup me aap apne bacchon se bohut jald milenge” (Sure madam, I will definitely pray that the lockdown lifts, flights start again and you get to meet your children soon).

Raju came back to his room and sat by the wooden chair. 

He looked at the cover picture of Bajrangbali in his mobile and said ‘He Sankatmochan Hanuman, Srikar madam ne mujhe aaj bohut badhe mushkil se bachaya. Unka aur unke parivaar ka bhala karna Prabhu”. (O Lord Hanuman, Mrs. Srikar saved me from a very difficult situation today, please protect her family).

He then unlocked his phone and dialled the last called number – ‘Sujata’, his wife. 

– Hello

– Hello Sujata.

– ji kahiye..

– Haa suno. Ma bauji ko bolo.. Hum aa rahe hai…”

(Please inform parents, I am coming!!)

Short Stories

Hawaldar Raju Bhaiya (Short Story) – 4 mins read

Part I

Its 8.30 of a Sunday morning. Though in these times of nationwide lockdown a Sunday is no different than a Monday, our protagonist Raju bhaiya, the security guard of ‘Omkar Co-operative Housing Society’ in suburban Mumbai opens the lock of the gate early on for any visitors to come in or insiders to go out and takes the liberty of sleeping a bit more, deriving some leisure in the cozy silence that Mumbai city adorns in the Sunday mornings. 

Raju Bhaiya at Work

But today is a double shift for him, and after grabbing some sleep in the wee hours, he took a long stroll around the building (his daily task), saw the green plants that are have grown so much, quietly, in these few months on the sideways, without anyone tending to them and then, stepped into his small 10/10 ft. security guard’s restroom, beside the front gate of the building and sat on his wooden chair. For a good 30 minutes, he kept staring at his left foot and his right arm, that have been particularly bitten by the mosquitoes last night. After staring aimlessly here and there for a few more minutes, he looked at his watch again. It was 9 o ‘clock now.

Raju was feeling sad and a bit restless today. His eyes were gloomy, his face hung low, his eyes set deep inside the sockets of his cheek bone, his long and thin hands drooping below, bereft of any energy. Sadness engulfed him.

Today is the 16th of May, 2020 and Raju has still not received his salary for the month of April. He was tossing and turning his mobile phone and then suddenly saw Mr. Pawar coming out of his ground floor flat towards the gate.

When Pawar came downstairs for getting his daily stock of vegetables this morning, Raju got up from his chair and after waiting patiently for all these days, Raju finally garnered the courage to ask the chairman of the society Mr. Pawar about his April’s salary. After the regular morning greetings, Raju asked for his salary with a lot of hesitation in his voice and a strange trepidation in his heart.

Mr. Pawar bore an extremely irritable look and as soon as Raju broached the topic of his salary, he veered ahead pushing Raju a few inches behind. A sudden air of fright gripped Raju.

“You think things in the building compound would keep getting stolen every now and then and we will keep paying you your salary on time?” hollered Mr. Pawar.

“Kaahe sir? hum to thik se apna kaam kiyen hain”, replied Raju in his usual timid voice. (Why would you not give me my salary sir? I did my work perfectly well).

“Thik se kaam kiya hai? Mr. Pawar screamed at him and began hurling expletives. He was visibly angry. Almost the entire building heard him shouting at Raju. Raju’s mind whirled 360 degrees, unable to make a sense of anything.

“Sir, hum samjhe nahi. Koi bhul chuk ho gaya hai to bataiye sir”, said Raju. (I didn’t understand sir, please let me know if there has been any misses from my end).

“Ab ye natak band kar. Kaamchor kahika! (stop pretending you careless moron)

“How did Srikar’s bicycle go missing from the compound?” asked Pawar raising his voice a few notches higher.

Raju immediately looked at the cycle stand. Yes, the blue cycle wasn’t around.

He looked at Pawar with a blank face, scared and guilt ridden. “Cycle chori ho gaya sir?” asked Raju.

“What else? When we have such responsible guards like you, this is bound to happen.”

By now, many in the building started peeking out of their windows to make out of the raging hullaballoo outside.

It has been 3 months already that the lockdown kept everyone huddled in their rooms, without a moment of respite, in the often jam-packed 1 bedroom or 2 bedroom flats of Mumbai. Together with all the pent up frustration of the ongoing lockdown and the theft that was discovered in the morning, Pawar became a force to reckon with!

“Dekh Raju, last time when Mrs. Desai’s scootie went missing, I had gone against everyone in the society and pleaded to them saying that you are new at your job and only Rs. 1000 was deducted from your salary, but this time, I will not help you anymore. No salary for you this time. That is your only punishment.” Pawar said in one breath, decidedly.

Raju was aghast! The suddenness of everything was too overwhelming. He couldn’t speak much, nor could he think much.

He kept staring at the spot where Mr. Srikar’s cycle used to be stranded.

“We give employment to people like you, give you money on time and you cannot even do your work properly. Watching YouTube and doing Facebook all the time. Koi paisa nahi milega”. Saying this, Mr. Pawar slung his small black bag by his side and walked away.

Raju stood there like a stone, tears welled up in his eyes.

For the past 2 months he has been planning to leave the city for his village in Allahabad, but has been unable to. First, there was no provision to do so, conveyance wasn’t in place, later on he was asked to stay for a week more by Mr. Pawar so that they can arrange for another guard, and this one week rolled into weeks together. And now when he is about to give the money to that driver Rakesh to reserve a seat for his travel back home, he was told that he would have no money. His savings have been minimum this time due to additional expenses back home, how will he manage without his salary?

As fresh tears flowed out of his eyes, Raju quickly wiped them with his shirt’s wrist collar as they threatened to roll down his cheeks.

He walked a few steps and stood infront of the place where the bicycle used to be stranded and gazed at the emptiness of spot.

“If Srikar sir forgives me, Pawar sir might give me some money this month so that I can travel back home. Let him cut the rest of the money, may be that is the rightful the punishment for my carelessness.” Thought Raju and slowly started walking towards Block B, flat No. 304 – Mr. Srikar’s house, to seek apology.

Though his heart and mind were too occupied to focus on anything, he mentally tried hard to rehearse the words and sentences that he wished to say to Mr. Srikar.

On reaching the door of the flat, Raju gingerly pressed on the calling bell. The door opened. Mrs. Srikar stood on the other end.

To be continued….

Click here to read the second part of the story

Book Review

Autobiography of a Sex Worker – A Book Review

‘Autobiography of a Sex Worker’ by Nalini Jameela translated by J. Devika is the autobiographical account of the famous sex worker in Kerala who chose to tell the world her share of hardships and incidents that led to her being a sex worker and various tales of her survival throughout the years in the sex trade. 
Nalini Jameela, who takes her name from both Hindu and Muslim traditions, worked as a child in the clay mines. She has been a wife,mother successful businesswoman and social activist-as well as a sex worker-at different stages in her life. This is Nalini Jameela’s story, told in her inimitably honest and down-to-earth style, of her search for dignity, empowerment and freedom on her own terms.

The book delves deep into the lives of sex workers, their predicaments, the people they meet it their ‘clients’, the various ‘husbands’ they share their lives with for a couple of years and the stigma of being in a profession that’s a taboo.

It takes great courage for a sex worker to come out and speak about these minute details openly and publish it in the form of a book, especially as lot of their secret ‘business’ locations, client structure, etc., has been revealed.

While reading the book, I almost felt that I am reading the life account of a refugee – so many were the places where Nalini had to go in the course of her life as a sex worker. People who offer mental and physical solace to others have no permanent place to stay and live at the mercy of local police officers and cooperators. Shyam Benegal’s ‘Mandi’ comes to mind at this point. Perhaps, the story of sex workers across the world is more or less the same.

Special thanks to translator J. Devika for bringing out the unapologetic voice of Nalini Jameela, so vividly in this version of the book (the original was written in Malayalam and sold 13000 copies). A revelation of a different sort, the book is both daring and rare in its approach – daring as it’s bringing out the real like incidents of a character who by the virtue of her erstwhile profession (she is now a social worker) is supposed to have kept a secret life; rare as the tonality of the entire book is not in any way seeking sympathy for the miserable state of sex workers. It rather looks at the world around in the eye, through its wonderfully matter-of-fact narrative and shows how life can be lived and won despite being in the sex trade.

What I liked:

Portions where she describes about the time when she brought up her daughter and chose ‘husbands’ for her sake, so that she is taken care of financially are emotionally surcharged. It is passages in a book like these that bring us to a point of unison, where all women are alike. A mother, no matter what is her profession, is a mother, end of the day. More taxing it is, when that mother is a sex worker also.

What could have been better:

Perhaps too many details have been shared about the places where she lived at various points of time. At times, it became a bit repetitive, but overall, the book is a good read.

Book Review

A Time of Madness: A Memoir of Partition – Book Review

Book Title: A Time of Madness: A Memoir of Partition

Publication : Aleph

Author : Salman Rashid

Blurb : During the chaos of partition in 1947, something dreadful happened in the city of Jalandhar in Punjab. As a result of this, Salman Rashid’s family fled Jalandhar for Pakistan, the newly created country across the border. They were among the nearly two million people uprooted from their homes in the greatest transmigration in history. A time of madness tells the story of what he discovered with great poignancy and grace. It is a tale of unspeakable brutality but it is also a testament to the uniquely human traits of forgiveness, redemption and the resilience of the human spirit.

A well known travel writer, Salman Rashid, takes his much awaited ‘first’ trip to India, the country of his origin, in the bid to visit his ancestral home and meet people (if still alive) of whom he heard so much about, back home in Karachi. After several failed attempts at getting a Visa, when he finally got one, he finally takes off his journey with a ‘grainy photograph of a house on Railway Road in Jalandhar’. He described it thus.

“On the twentieth day of March 2008, I headed home for the first time in my life. I was fifty-six years and a month old. Walking east across the border at Wagah, I was on my way to the fulfilment of a family pietas of very long standing. I was going to a home I had never known; a home in a foreign land, a land that state propaganda wanted me to believe was enemy territory. But I knew it as a country where my ancestors had lived and died over countless generations. That was the home where the hearth kept the warmth of a fire first kindled by a matriarch many hundred years ago, nay, a few thousand years ago and which all of a sudden had been extinguished in a cataclysm in 1947.”

At 127 pages, it is a short read but one that makes you stop and process the amount of pain, grief and anger running through the lives of people across both sides of the Radcliffe line (that divides India and Pakistan). The initial chapters are about the author making way into the country of his origin and exploring villages of Solan and Ughi in Jalandhar in search if his ancestral home. Once he meets his people, some real revelations take place that would shock and surprise you. But that exactly is what partition was all about. It’s a personal journey that the author undertakes to better understand his own kith and keen and his roots.

What fascinated me was that the author being a Pakistani himself was quite critical of his own country and pointed out how Pakistan as a Nation State failed miserably post Partition. Vivid accounts of his family being murdered brutally have been narrated as the author discovers these details from the neighbors of the place which could have been his own had the ‘Great Divide’ not taken place.

Written in a fast paced style, the book at times becomes more of a political and socio-cultural commentary than a memoir.

With some chilling accounts of Partition, interesting comparisons drawn by the author between the two countries and a rather free-flow yet engaging style of writing, I would rate the book at 3.5 stars out of 5.

About the Author : Salman Rashid is Pakistan’s leading travel writer. The author of nine travel books, this is his first memoir.

Tiny Tales

Home Coming – (1 min read)

It took the egotistical Shekhar 10 days of cold interactions, distracted office meetings, dull evenings, irregular meals and lonely, frozen nights to finally send an sms that read

‘Are you OK? I AM NOT’

the message had broken the suffocating silence of 10 days but it still didn’t have the necessary ‘miss you’ or ‘ I am sorry’ in it.

Mansi read through those 6 words again and again. His heartache was screaming out those 3 words – ‘I AM NOT’ it was palpable.

The force of love had finally given way to the vast reservoir of raw emotion breaking the walls of several egos in the process.

Inside her, somewhere, a deep breath that was crushed into silence was suddenly released.

When you remove yourself from ‘home’ (seat of comfort and peace) there is not a moment of respite. The toughest way to home is through the heart, but hey! the way to the heart has to its own wayward courses, its troughs and lows, its crushes and blows. It is only through this journey that the heart learns to ‘open up’.

Perhaps, this laying bare of one’s heart (to another person) is, in a way a kind of ‘homecoming‘ too, where there are no inhibitions, no complexes, no egos, no dual selves. And once you are home, the inner battle of pretending to be someone else is over.

Mansi tapped on the reply button and began typing a long message…

Short Stories

Platform No. 7 – Short Story (Part 2)

(Continued from Part 1. Click here to read the 1st part of story.)

Bhola drank a mouthful of water and then started speaking.

‘So the chawl owner with whom we spoke the last week and finalized upon the rate, suddenly refused to give us the room. I had gone to see him again this morning and had a minor fight as well, but to no avail. He is just not relenting. Room dene ka hi nahi hai usko.’

‘Why so?’ asked Aseefa.

‘I told him that you and I are getting married and we needed the house urgently, but it seems he has got some better customer who is now ready to pay much more than us.’

‘How much more?

‘1-2 thousand more’.

‘How can he do this? I will go and ask the owner myself.’ Aseefa was seething in anger.

‘No point of doing that now. He has decided already. It’s ok Assu, we will save more money and get some other better room next time, till that time our platform number 7 is there for us.’ Bhola smiled and stroked her hair strands that were falling on her face.

They both had planned so much around for the past couple of months for their wedding and so was hounding for a room to stay, suddenly it all went into nothingness. Aseefa sat there, not knowing what better to do, silent.

She shed a few tears and looking at Bhola, said with expectant eyes. ‘I don’t want to live in this platform all my life Bholu, you said we will live in a proper room someday, get married and do our own business. I had believed you. Will that ever happen?’

‘It has to happen. It will surely happen. Have faith in me. Thumped Bhola.

It was quarter to 10 am now and they had still not had their tea together. Bhola went and quickly got the tea. The happy-go-lucky Bhola gave the tea plastic cup to her and said in his inimitable style with a broad smile on his face, ‘Sorry madam, aaj late ho gaya’ (sorry madam, I got late today).

Aseefa couldn’t help a droplet spill over from her eyes. This man gave her the most precious thing that she could have asked for – Love. She would go to any length to be with him, thought she. It was Bhola who had assured her that they wouldn’t live along the platform anymore and would live a better life, like all others. It’s one thing to dream and another to see that dream materialize. However, poverty and homelessness wasn’t something that they feared as they had each other to fall back on. Their love and faith on each other was their biggest strength.

They slowly sipped the hot tea together.

Breaking the momentary silence between them, Bhola spoke, ‘So what if we couldn’t get this room, we will save more and more money, and buy a room soon. I wish to have my own shop of perfumes one day. We will do good; I am sure we will.’ Finishing his tea, Bhola said with a renewed energy. His face blushed as he spouted those words, every vein in his body was infused with the will to see the day they so desperately envisioned together. They were not the ones to give up so soon.

As the day progressed, the two once again geared up towards their daily duties,
shedding the temporary malaise over yet another pitfall. The locals trains were wheezing past the track one after the other, indifferent to the rest of the world. Daily commuters, through hurried steps moved up and down.

Aseefa started calling out to her customers (mostly Hindus) for buying flowers from her and Bhola moved around brandishing the small Attar bottles targeting his own set of customers (mostly Muslims).

Amidst all these people who throng railway stations, bus stops, metros & airports every day, these two minuscule creatures thrusted themselves once again in the vast ocean of life. Their hope – to live a better life, their strength – Love.

Short Stories

Platform No. 7 – Short Story (Part 1)

It was the frenzied morning time for office goers of Mumbai and for daily commuters of Andheri station, there was absolutely no time to spare. Amidst those hordes of people moving up and down the railway platform at dizzying speed, Aseefa made place for herself in one corner, with just enough space to accommodate her slender self and her small flower basket.

Every day she sat there doing her daily task of weaving garlands from mogra and genda flowers. She also had Tulsi and Bilva leaves inside a separate bag, for passengers who bought them on their way back home for ‘Pooja’ purposes.

She bought these flowers early morning from a wholesaler and then sold them here.

It was a daily ritual for Aseefa to settle down at that spot outside Andheri station at around 7 in the morning and then have her morning tea together with Bhola around 7.15. Every day they had their tea together. Bhola, an orphan and a fellow platform dweller, was a hawker at the station who sold attar perfumes across the station. Unlike Aseefa, he moved up and down the platform, went inside trains and sometimes, on days when he failed to earn much, he travelled by train and sold his attar in nearby stations areas as well. At the end of the day, they would again meet at the same spot and discuss this and that overall cups of tea.

Today was no different. Aseefa after settling down on the floor was waiting for Bhola to have their morning tea together, however there was no sight of him, it was 8 o’clock and Aseefa became a little worried now.

Through her thoughts was running many threads. ‘Bhola is never this late, what might have happened to him today?’ She fretted in her mind.

‘He was supposed to meet the chawl room owner yesterday and finalize the deal, I hope nothing untoward happened between them’. Vague, disturbing thoughts breezed past her mind.

Aseefa continued doing her work of weaving garlands, small big, large as her mind wavered from one thought to another. They were together for many years now and never once did they miss their morning tea together, barring the one day when Aseefa couldn’t make it to the station as her husband had beaten her up so badly the previous night that she had fallen unconscious. Though he would abuse her quite frequently, Aseefa never had the courage to move out of his house, thinking about her survival and the future of her daughter. But that night something inside her gave her the courage to make the final move, she didn’t deter. The next day she left her alcoholic husband, took her 7 months old daughter with her and started living on the railway platform itself, where she used to sell flowers for the past few years. Since that day, that small pavement outside platform number 7 became her address. And since then, Bhola, an orphan, who used to polish shoes at the platform and has recently started his perfume selling business, are together, through thick and thin.

Their’s was a relationship that grew from being fellow hawkers at the railway platform to acquaintances to friends and finally to lovers. Either of them didn’t have any expectation from each other, yet there formed a strange bond between them that they couldn’t deny within.

Trains went by one after the other, there was no sight of Bhola today.

“Aseefa, where is Bhola today?’ asked Naseer, Bhola’s friend and a fellow hawker.

Aseefa’s face went pale. Bhola did have a second hand small mobile phone that he had managed from someone, but few days back, that phone had given up and there was no means of reaching out to him now. Already tensed, she didn’t know how to look for him now. In a worrisome, she gestured to Naseer, saying she didn’t have much idea of his whereabouts.

Suddenly, breaking the din of the passing trains, she heard her Bhola’s voice.

“Aseefaaaaa..Aseefaaaaa” came the loud shriek from behind. Aseefa turned back, her eyes finally rested upon the man she so desperately wanted to see since this morning. Bhola, her partner was walking towards her in speedy steps.

All this while, she was fearing something ominous and now, finally after hearing his voice and seeing him, there was much peace within her. Bhola came running to her.

Before he could say anything, she snapped at him, ‘where were you? Why are you this late? What all came in my mind all this while. Just because I have accepted to marry you, don’t take me for granted. Don’t you know I worry so much about you? Everyday, my heart skips a beat as I see you hovering from one train to another.’

‘Are Assu, let me breathe, only then will I be able to answer all your questions.’

Aseefa kept quiet. Even though terribly restless within, she tried to retain the anxiety within her and raised the water bottle she carried towards him, asking him to drink water.

‘Is everything fine?’ She asked.

Click here to read last and Final part of the story.

Short Stories

Broken nest – Short Story (7 mins read)

As he switched off the lights of their small bedroom, the world around Varun Pal and his wife of 3 years suddenly came to a standstill. Neither he, nor his wife Madhavi seem to have anything to give each other anymore. Theirs is a done and dusted, dead marriage now that is reeling under its own wounds. The wall clock blared birds’ chirping sound in eleven rythmic repetitions. They had received this wall clock as a wedding gift. Madhavi loved its chirping sound initially, but now it’s nothing more than an unwanted shriek, that’s sounds disgusting to her ears. Amidst the awkward silence of the house, perhaps these two birds seated on their nest, is the only sound that is heard at regular intervals.

The nest is a beautiful one, tiny, cosy, with few tigs here and there. Varun glances at the perfectly built small nest, while it’s pendulum swung from one corner to the other.

Varun and Madhavi had first met each other years back in Art College. Though his family profession was that of pottery, Varun had a special knack for the brushes and the colors. He loved to take his brush through the various contours of the human body and create those bolder lines on the canvas appear real and alive. Varun was a human portrait painter, an artist to the truest sense.

In his 3rd year in Art college, he had first met Madhavi. A dark skinned, slim figured, tall girl, Madhavi didn’t have anything overtly sensational about her, yet there was something that drew him strongly towards her from the day he set his eyes upon her. The whole day would be spent stealing glances at Madhavi at various instances and the nights would be invested in breathing life into her contours on his canvas.

6 years went by, Varun by that time had become quite an acclaimed artist in the small circle of upcoming human portrait painters in the city. Madhavi, was an art teacher in a school by then. Right from their college days, they were as their friends claimed the ‘made for each other’ couple. They perfectly complemented each other and looked just too good together.

After years of endless waiting, life seemed to be in their clasp finally. Their wedding was just a month away and both Madhavi and Varun were weaving hopes of a blissful life ahead.

Everything seemed to be picture perfect, but then that fateful evening happened. Madhavi was returning after taking her tuition classes when a group of hooligans brushed past her pulling the dupatta away from her body.

Madhavi was totally taken aback, not a girl to take anything lying down, she shrieked hoarse and made vehement protests, assembling quite a few passersby within minutes. The guys couldn’t manage to escape and got badly beaten up by an equally irate public on the street.

As Madhavi walked past them, she snatched her dupatta from the guy who had pulled it off. She noticed, his bloodshot eyes glaring at her with fire in them, they were unapologetic, furious, vengeful. Those eyes pricked something within her. Filled with abhorrence, she spat on his face, pulled the edge of the dupatta one final time that was still clutched in his fingers and rushed off.

Same day night, she was shown her place for what she did. A bottle full of acid was smashed at her.

Next day morning, almost every newspaper had her featured on its headlines, her name flashed on its reels in big, bold letters. Madhavi suddenly became a household name, someone everyone sympathised with but noone actually knew much about.

While the world came crashing on her, life was never the same for Varun too. His colleagues, old friends, almost everyone he knew asked him and enquired about Madhavi. As days passed, instead of the news getting subdued, it became even more talked about due to its continued newspaper coverage in some daily or the other.

In his mind, he felt as if the whole world was witnessing and debating the in and outs of a rather personal trauma, his very own tragedy is now out in the market, a topic open for long hours of discussion. In his mind, Madhavi was now a public topic of discussion and debates and sympathy. The simple, undiluted life of a painter who took pleasures in the little joys of life was lost forever.

After a month in the hospital, Madhavi came back home. She looked like an apparition of her former self, far beyond recognition.

She lost her beautiful round lips, her nose and partly her ears. Almost 80% of her face was burnt. Just those eyes remained. Once sensuous and fiery, those eyes looked tired and spent now.

She had refused to marry Varun after the incident, however, it was he who insisted on marrying her. Varun had said that his love for her is beyond everything else, atleast that is what he thought and believed then.

Few months into the marriage, the nights started becoming unbearable. No matter how much he tried to look at her with love, touch her with care and embrace her with affection, Varun couldn’t bring himself to loving her again, it wasn’t possible anymore.

Things changed and drastically so for both him and her. Her lips were badly burnt, the sight that ignited Varun years back, looked sickening to him now. Her nose are now just two blunt holes. Her ears, a small round of flesh put together haphazardly.

Their first night together had left a bad taste in his mouth, post which their love life turned from bad to worse. Varun lost the courage or the will to go any closer. The woman who incited the manly zest in him once, inspired some of his best creations, is today an object of aversion. The woman he wanted to possess so dearly at one time, he wishes to get rid of now with all his heart and soul

Varun is surprised to see this change in him. As an artist, he found all answers to his artistic quests in Madhavi, but today he feels empty, his paintings are no more alive, when he looks from inside his creations, they look vaccuum. Love has left him, life has left him.

Now that the lights are off, they cannot see each others faces anymore. There in that quiet night, two people, husband and wife, lying on either sides of the bed, made a secret resolve.

They know they aren’t required in each other’s lives anymore and that nothing is left of their marriage anymore. There in that quiet night, two people, now strangers, swore to themselves to break out of this meaningless, hollow societal bond that is throttling them every moment of their wakening hours. The wall clock struck 12.

Madhavi took a deep breath and glanced at the small little pendulum nest that was now swinging to and fro. A perfect nest, inside a broken one, she thought to herself.


Short Stories

1 New Message received – 2 mins read (micro fiction)

She considered swallowing the gigantic bottle of pills all in one shot. After hours of contemplation, she could finally come to a logical conclusion, the most logical that she could think of. ‘Take them all and get the job done fast, I need to escape this pain’, she reminded herself. Perhaps, she wanted it like this. No more cacophony, no more creeps wagging their ugly tails around, no more questions, no need of anymore answers, silence and more silence. She felt something overpowering inside her sweep up her throat and as if in a massive thrust, it threw open the floodgates of tears. Warm, salty fluid touched against those cheeks and flowed downwards. She looked at the room one last time and took the bottle in her hands. Just then, she spotted a scrap of paper on her study table. Crumpled badly, it was lying amidst several other stuff, in a dump created probably after a maddening act of pouring out her purse contents onto the table, in search of something. What was it she was searching so frantically? she couldn’t remember it anymore. She kept the bottle aside and took the paper in her hands. It read: Dr. Vijay Bhaskar, M.D, Psychiatrist, counsellor and life coach.

Is giving life one last chance such a bad bet? Something spoke within her. She held the scrap in her left hand and dropped him a text message with the other. She threw the phone on the bed and stared blankly at her yellow wall. 2 minutes passed, her phone vibrated. She looked on. A green light was blinking, it read: 1 New message received

Tiny Tales

40 under 40 (1 min read)

Over glasses of wine, they discussed about ‘him’

It has come in the papers today; he has been named as one of the top 40 entrepreneurs of the country under the age of 40. As the drinks and starters made the rounds in the party that was in, the woman folk began to speak about ‘him’. So many stories of one man, how he helped someone come out of a very difficult situation, how he inspired the youth with his exemplary actions, some huffed, some puffed, the air reverberated with just one name, and why not, he was always the ‘ladies’ man’.

I listened to all of them, quietly, nonchalantly. Then, suddenly someone asked me, ‘hey, are you still in touch with him?’ the ‘still’ in the otherwise inadvertent query, touched a raw nerve somewhere, it pierced me deep. But by now, I have learnt how to put up a blunt face at the mention of his name, or should I say, I have mastered it. Without showing up any bit of emotion, I took a sip of my drink and calmly replied, ‘I used to know him once, not anymore’.