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

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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’.

Short Stories

The Window letter – Short Story (4 mins read)

I was sitting at my study table and trying to concentrate on the most difficult and awful subject of all – Geography.

Though my face was buried inside the books, I could sense those large eyes stealing furtive glances at me. That familiar body moving around in the terrace across my open window. I raised my head to have catch a glimpse of her and after few missed glances, as our eyes met, a rush of flood streamed down my adrenaline. That one flash of a moment infused so much warmth in me. My insides were raging as I could feel the sweat in my palms in that chilly, wintry morning.

She was wearing a yellow dress and had covered her head with a brown coloured scarf, making the arrival of winter quite clear through her fully covered dress. There was something in her hands today, some sort of an envelop that she was carrying, trying hard to hide it from me. Amidst looking through my window from her terrace intermittently, she chatted away with her cousins in gay abandon. I watched her, every bit of her, mesmerised. Her eyes, that beautifully crafted brow line, her open hair, her cheeks, her moving lips as she spoke, her hands, all of it. I was drinking every bit of her visually. On hearing the heavy footsteps of my father, I quickly went back to my book. Father entered my room and after few moments of supervision, left. I kept my eyes steadily glued to the lines of the chapter that was opened in front of me, all the while.

Before I could realise anything, she threw the letter at me all of a sudden. I sensed something hitting my nose briefly before falling down at my table. One look at the terrace and she was gone. I caught a glimpse of her yellow dress vanishing in a jiffy before my eyes, as she ran inside. Her other cousins were still there in the terrace.

It was a small letter with a rose stuck to it. The entire envelop had the fragrance of the newly blossomed rose, that she might have plucked from their terrace garden.

I opened it with all my heart.

Words braced me like soft flower petals. I was drowned in them.

Many such letters were exchanged between us after that.

She always aimed the letters really well. Her letters fell right into my study table through the open window.

Dhaniya, our servant called out to me. He placed the evening tea on my table.

I came out of my reverie.

I looked across the window. An old, dilapidated house stood in front of me. The windows of the house are broken now with moss growing from every part of the shattered bit that’s left of this house. The terrace that reverberated with the gaily laughter of my girl, now stood there with bare skeletons, as if crying hoarse over the lovely days gone by.

My son came running towards my room as I took the tea cup in my hands. ‘Is this the window you wanted to show me Daddy?’ His boyish curiosity apparent in those eyes. ‘But you said, there was a wonderful view of a terrace that has a beautiful garden? This is such an ugly sight!’

I was just about to answer him, when my wife entered the room and announced that special evening snacks is being made for me as I have come to my native house after 15 years and I am expected downstairs at the dining table.

15 years. Yes, going abroad for studies and then job and family has taken away 15 years of my life, yet it all seems like just the other day. I took one more glance at that empty, before moving out.

They had left many years ago. Their house too had no one to look after it now. Where is she now? She too must be married with kids? Is she happy in her life? Well, who knows?

Nothing remained of those times anymore, nothing remained of us, except the memory of our stolen glances and those letters that she aimed at me through my open window.

History

‘Partition’ and its reflections on Indian cinema and literature

In the half century since India was partitioned, more than twenty five million refugees have crossed the new frontiers mapped out by Radcliffe between East Pakistan and the state of West Bengal in India. The migration out of east Bengal was very different from the rush of refugees into India from West Pakistan, which was immediate and immense as was the way the disposed were received by the country to which they fled. Unlike refugees from the west, the refugees from the east did not flood into India in one huge wave; they came sometimes in surges but often in barely perceptible trickles over five decades of independence. The element of violence in the Punjab explains why millions crossed its pain in 1947. By contrast the much larger migration out of east Bengal over a much longer time span is more complex.

There are several people from that generation who lived those days and are invaluable historical archive and so much that happened during partition needs to be cataloged. I had the privilege of an interaction with one such person, an inhabitant of Jadavpur area that falls under the 24 Parganas of West Bengal, who spoke of his ordeal post crossing the border.

We chatted over cups of tea and the mood slowly turned from a lighthearted discussion to a somber and painfully nostalgic recount of an era long forgotten yet very much fresh in the minds of its victim. After crossing the borders he lived in a rented house along with 5 other families in the Southern fringes of Kolkata which then looked much different from what it is now. He says that he felt an utter vacuum all of a sudden and at times even resolved to go back, however responsibilities of looking after his younger fellows and concern for everybody’s security held him back. As I listen to him intently, his story continues. Mr. Choudhary had gone to his village in Chittagong after some years in 1964 in the hope of getting back the lost affection and loving touch of his motherland. But what surprised him was equally sad and cruel. He met with an old friend (Muslim) there and at seeing him, the friend cried with fury, “tora akhono benche achish?” (So you people are still alive?)

Such was the state of chaos and violence that people were supposed to be dead when they were quite alive.

Right from suffering the incessant taunts of being called a “bangaal” which invariably meant to be a derisive comment- a mockery on their accent quiet different from the people of West Bengal to have bored down the fact that the same lawns where they would play, the abundance in terms of food from their own fields, the love and the azure blue sky was forever gone. This man said emphatically, “I have left taking milk after leaving my place”- a strong rejection emerging out of extreme pain.

Such severing of ties led to the formation of lot of organization by these East Bengalis – a way in a way in which their ruptured identities received some kind of assuage. As a result there was Dhaka Kalibari, the East Bengal club, etc. Mr. Choudhary himself is part of an organization called “Chattogram Parishad”. As I asked what exactly the members do in such parishads, he replied with a lot of warmth that they talk about their food, folk songs, culture, etc.

The harrowing times of partition speak volumes through Indian literature and cinema. In Bengali literature, partition is often seen in its metaphysical terms. The hurt is not in the body but in the soul. Madness is not a trope in Bangla stories and cinema, rather it is a nostalgia and a constant dazed search to know how and why and wherefore. The pain comes out effusively through cinema and other creative arts and bear witness to the feelings of bewilderment, loss and dislocation.

The grim savagery of that tumultuous period where men were killed in huge numbers in communal riots is brought out quiet nonchalantly by Hasan Azizul Haque in his Bengali book “Ekattor Korotole Chhinnomatha”. He writes, “It was not known to me that when human corpse is afloat in water, men’s bodies float facing the sky and women’s bodies float upside down”.

National award winning renowned director Ritwik Ghatak’s emotions and artistic self were more analytic than his reasons. They defied his piteous ideological repertoire to produce some of the finest psychological documentation of the Partition. His self-destruction through alcoholism, like that of Manto, could itself be read as a statement- as a trauma of partition violence and as interjections of the larger self destruction he had seen around him.

In Ghatak’s “Komol Gandhar” one can recollect the poignancy of the sequence where Bhrigu points out to Anushuya the other side of river Ichamati (river connecting west and east Bengal) saying, “that was our land, our home”. The anguish embedded in these lines speaks profusely about the state of thousand others like Ghatak.

The pain and agony at leaving someone’s homeland coupled with a deep sense of abandonment led to immense hatred, so much so that one would imagine killing even strangers they have never met. In one of Ghatak’s the short stories, ‘Sarak’ (the road) Israel who is supposed to leave his home (in India) for Pakistan when asked by a friend, “who would stay at your place now?” replies seething in anger, “who knows? Whoever he may be I will find no peace until I can tear him to pieces. He is my enemy now; the whole country is my enemy”.

A small yet strange episode in one of Ghatak’s lesser known films made for children, “Bari Theke Paliye” sums up the trauma of Partition as it haunted the creative minds who lived those times. Ghatak had extrapolated this episode into the original story by the famous children’s writer Shibram Chakraborty. It depicts the young hero’s encounter with a motherly, old, heavily myopic women wearing a plain dark bordered white sari who befriends a child in the streets of Calcutta and is mistaken for a child lifter and badly beaten up. While being beaten, she pathetically cries out that she was not trying to steal the child, that the young boy reminded her of someone else. No one listens. Her accent makes clear which part of Bengal she is from. Is she a refugee who has lost her own in the holocaust? Ghatak does not say. Nor does he in any of his writings later on explain why he had to introduce that scene in the midst of such a charming, innocent story of a young boy’s escapade in Calcutta.

Lessons from Life

Death versus ‘hope’ of life:

My dear ones, one thing that I want to say at the beginning of this article is that, you are all born champions and trust me when I say that. It is the just a matter of time, for you to truly realize that potential and get going towards it. There would be hurdles in the way for sure, but who said that life was a bed of roses?
They say that the path to heaven is through hell. There is always a light of hope at the end of the miserable tunnel. When we suffer and languish in pain, somewhere deep inside us keeps accumulating that small desire to overcome this terrible situation. It is this flicker of hope which needs to be capitalized on our lives. That ray of light in the pitch dark tunnel may have the power of turning the wheels altogether.

Let me tell you all a real life incident here.

Elizabeth (name changed) is today leading a life like any other woman. She has even married and the husband and wife together run a cafe in the US. But 10 years ago, her life was not even remotely close to what it is now. Let us lift the curtain and show you what it was.

Elizabeth in her own words says, ‘my age was around 16 or 17 at that time. I was literally flying. College, friends, all night parties, drinks, drugs, boyfriends and exotic dates with them. I had it all. Life is moving in a super fast pace, of which even I couldn’t keep a track of at times. I had a packed schedule and didn’t realize how time went by. But sometimes, I felt exhausted, there were early symptoms of anemia but I ignored them, until my mother fo9rcibly took me to a pathologist. After few days it was time to collect the report. I was reluctant to go with my mother as I friends were supposed to be waiting for me in the car.

I was getting restless there in the hospital. Are they going to wait for me this long or leave for the venue? What am I going to wear for the occasion? My mind was whizzing with all these details.
The doctor came with the report and placed it on my mother’s hands. Her face turned ashen. She looked at me gravely and passed the report. ‘Leukemia’, it read. The doctor said that the germs have spread a lot and treatment needs to start immediately. I and my mother were stricken by a thunderbolt. We sat there in his cabin, unsure of what life had in store for us.
Parties, dates, fluorescent lights of discotheques, all vanished into thin air in the flash of a moment. The doctor explained to me about the disease in detail. It was worst than hearing a death penalty in a court of law. I was admitted the following day. Life seemed meaningless.

It was as if death was always lingering behind me, like a shadow and I had to fight with every single nerve of my body that was giving up slowly. But what’s amazing is that, amidst the din of catastrophe, I could sense the subtle music of hope in the deep recesses of my mind. In those dark hours when my body was almost giving up, death was almost there staring at my face, waiting to snatch away my life; I realized the value of this life. I had misused it, taken it for granted. I had abused myself and was paying heavily for it now. There is so much more to life. I realized, I wanted to live, much more than ever again. Yes, the willingness to live was stronger than anything else at that moment.

After few weeks, the doctors said that the treatment would get even more painful as they would begin ‘bone marrow’ treatment. In the coming days, I was subjected to 6 hours of radiation which is close to the radiation of 62000 x-rays. Today, even thinking about that pain that I went through gives me shivers. It was totally unbearable. I agree, despite my fighting spirit and the immense support of my family, there were moments when I felt like dying. I couldn’t take the pain. But deep inside someone, don’t know who, kept telling me, ‘I was not born to die like this. I will live’. I was fighting death from each and every pore of my body. On one such day, when my parents came for a routine visit, my mother broke down looking at my bald head and almost skeleton frame. I had looked at her in the eye and said, ‘the day I am out, I will click a picture and trust me I am going to look fab!’ Tears rolled down heavily from her cheeks.

Every time before a new treatment, the doctors came and read out a routine declaration that said, if treatment doesn’t work, and I eventually die, the hospital is not responsible. Everytime they read it, I would close my ears with my fingers tightly and then sign on that paper without reading a single word.
After almost a year, one day the doctors said that my treatment was over and that I could go home. Though there were few restrictions, I was far better now. What’s more, I had defeated death by then. But what made me defeat it? Medicines? Naaah, I just wanted to live and was determined to fight death, no matter what. Today, after a decade, I still follow lot of restrictions post my treatment but life is beautiful 😊😊

Short Stories

Thread of faith – Short Story (5 mins read)

Every morning Sakina Bibi puts a thread around the huge Banyan tree outside the Laxmi mata temple. Though it is primarily a Hindu site of worship, but the people of Dharampur believe that whoever ties a white thread around this old tree, get their wishes granted, sooner or later. This is why everyone, the rich, the poor, the locals as well as people from adjacent towns and villages come here to tie the thread, making their earnest wishes.

Sakina Bibi, now a septuagenarian, was once known far and wide for her beauty and grace. They say that the son of a rich Hindu Landlord from an adjacent village had fallen in love with her intoxicating beauty and had even married her. No one had ever seen both of them together though. She was from a poor Muslim family and he, the eldest son of a Hindu Landlord who owned huge plots of land, a marriage between the two, especially all those years ago, was absolutely unthinkable!

But then, the older folks  Dharampur speak in hushed tones about how Sakina bibi was seen many times those days wearing Sindoor and red bangles. Whenever she went out, she would instantly pull the pallu of her saree and try to hide the red streak that adorned neatly across the parting of her hair. Everyone knew that she was married, it was like an open secret. But she was never socially accepted by that man. Few thought of her as a brave woman who lived life on her own terms, few thought of as a fool of the highest order to have wasted her life on a man who would never give her any social sanction. Salim miyan, her poor old father requested her daughter to marry many times and he managed to get few good matches as well, but Sakina would have nothing of it.

The ailing Salim Miyan had a sudden heart attack one day and left for his heavenly abode leaving behind his small tailoring shop in the local bazaar, a little hut, a charpoy and his only daughter, Sakina.

Though she never bore any child, Sakina bibi had never married again. Her father was a very good tailor who would stick clothes to perfection. Sakina had learnt the skill very well early on and that is what she did for a living for the rest of her life.

It is said that this man, the rich landlord’s son had married later and had two children with his wedded wife. Sakina, they say, knew everything about it. In the initial years, her wellwishers coaxed her to get married to some decent guy and set up a family, but later on, seeing her utter reluctance and blindfolded devotion towards that man, people stopped broaching the topic  to her slowly, over a period of time.

One day, Sakina bibi was working inside her small shop as she heard a young man shouting in the middle of the bazaar asking for everyone’s attention for making an announcement. As more people gathered around him, he said in a loud voice ‘Chandrapratap Singh, the eldest son of Raja Vir Pratap Singh, has been missing since last night from their haveli (Palace). If you people find him or see him anywhere, please come to the haveli and inform us. We would give Rs. 5000 cash prize for the same. Here is his picture. I am going to paste it across all corners of the area. Thank you.’

Soon after, he and his people started pasting the picture all over.

Sakina’s heart skipped a beat. Where has he gone, how can he be missing all of a sudden? She thought to herself. She went breathless for sometime.

Sakina bibi was seen dishevelled and unkempt,  for days after that incident. She would be unmindful most of the time. Someone who was so good at her job, would often put the wrong stitches and make clothes totally unfit to wear. She would blabber things to herself and the suddenly be quite. She would hardly eat and slowly became a thin frame, with hollow, empty eyes. One’s heart went out at the sight of her.

Many years passed after that, and Sakina Bibi grew older by the day. Those emerald eyes had lost their lustre by now, they struggled to find out the contours of the stiches through the extra thick glasses that she wore.

One didn’t get to see much of her now. She opened her shop early in the day and closed it quite early too. She didn’t speak too much to people as either, neither did she go out anywhere other than her home and shop.

However, one saw her every morning tying a white thread around this old Banyan tree.

From the time her ‘man’ went missing, everyday, without a fail, she has been tying this thread for over 40 years now.

No one in Dharampur village has ever seen anybody from Chandrapratap Singh’s family to tie a thread around the tree.

It’s been so many years now, who knows where he may be, who cares? But Sakina ties the thread every single day of her life. What does she pray and for whom? For a person who couldn’t give her any social sanction? For a man who lived his life away from her with his own family, never caring to know much about her? What really bound her to him? Can love really be so selfless? Is it possible to love someone like this with an unshakable faith made stronger by the day like those bundles of white threads put together?
Well, who knows what goes on between the hearts and minds of two people. It is the beyond our periphery.

It is 4 am now and as the morning sun slowly emerges from the sky, dispelling the darkness of the night gone by, Sakina Bibi walks slowly towards the old Banyan tree. She will tie the thread around it now. The thread of faith, of hope, of love.

Short Stories

Silver Anklets – Short Story (3 mins read)

It’s Dhanteras today. Panduranga, the garbage man or ‘kachrawala’ as he is mostly known by the residents of Palmwoods Society, is already at his task. A poor garbage collector, Pandu is known for his smiling face and a pleasant gesture. In the 10 years of service in Palm Woods Society, no one has ever seen him with a glum face ever.

But today, unlike all other days, the similar glint in his eyes was missing.  While leaving for work this morning, he had a massive fight with his wife Kamla regarding the same thing that’s she has been nagging on for all these years now. Her distress is that Panduranga has never bought any jewellery for her. He is generally not known to lose his temper so often, but today he couldn’t take this accusation anymore. In a fit of rage, he raised his hand at her and hit her twice on her face.

As he picked up the garbage bags from each house, the beautiful face of his wife came flashing past his mind. ‘How could I just raise my hand on her? Whatever it is, she had been with me and lived this life of misery and hardship all this while and raised our children with all the care in the world. How will I go back and face her today?’ His remorse knew no end. His heart was churning with guilt and he felt his throat gathering a lump. Tears of frustration almost welled up his eyes as he quickly shrugged it off and moved on to the next house, for collecting the previous day’s waste.

****************

Arun and Soumya just shifted to the their new rented apartment few days back. This is their second flat in the two years of married life.  The dreadful ’11 months housing contract’ in the city of Mumbai renders many people with the same fate. The owner of their previous dwelling had made it very clear to them last month, in no uncertain terms, that they need to vacate this flat before Diwali as he has his own ‘plans’. Frustrated, distraught and almost paranoid, they spent their weekends scouring through the city lanes and by-lanes for an afforable dwelling entire last month. And now, finally, they have re-settled in this new apartment.

As the bell rang outside, Soumya reached out for the door. After giving away the day’s waste, she quickly collected all the bags that she had to dispose off after their recent shifting and said, ‘Bhaiya, kuch extra samaan hai, jo hum bech nahi pa rahe hai, aap lenge kya? (There are few extra stuff that we are not being able to sell off, will you please take them?)

Pandu gave her a blank look. His mind was whizzing with other thoughts and he was quite confused also. ‘Is she going to take money from me or is she just giving away like that?’ He thought to himself.

Soumya spoke again, ‘so should I bring the bags then? I have put everything together in that. You can please take it home.’ Pandu simply nodded.

She then brought 3 big bags full of lot of household stuff all put together. ‘Things that we poor people cannot afford to buy in this lifetime, these moneyed people just dispose them like that’, Pandu thought to himself. He took the bags, thanked the lady and her husband, who waved from afar, and left.

On his way back home a sudden thought crossed his mind. His eyes beamed with joy.

*************

It is Diwali today. All the buildings in the area are decked up with colourful lights and beautiful Rangolis have deftly adorned the floors of the houses.

Pandu’s wife is quietly doing her household work. Last night, her husband had hardly eaten anything. He was miserable and was repenting his misdeed, his face had said it all. They both had slept apart from each other last night. Today as she is putting the Rangoli on her small courtyard, her heart is aching for her husband. This man, her husband works so hard every day of the year, even on Diwali he collects garbage from homes. Why did she curse him like that? She shouldn’t have done it at all. She thought to herself. She wiped her tears while constantly praying for her husband’s well being.

In the afternoon, Panduranga came home, all soiled and tattered after his day’s work. Seeing him enter the house, she quickly went inside and fetched a glass of water for him. Panduranga had the glassful and the slowly pulled out a small puuch from his pant’s pocket and handed it over to his wife.

‘What is this?’ she asked, surprised and amazed.

‘Open it and you will know’. He said, a play of mischief in his eyes.

She took the pouch from his hands and slowly removed the upper layer packing. As she removed the last thin layer of transparent plastic, she saw two dazzling silver anklets cling to each other. She took them in her hands, the tinkling sound making waves of joy in her heart. The sight of this beautiful pair of anklets brought tears in her eyes, choked with a sublime emotion, she couldn’t speak anything anymore.

‘Devi laxmi has blessed us, otherwise from where would I get so much money as to buy you silver anklets? A young couple yesterday disposed off 3 bagful of clothes, gadgets, carpets, curtains and so many things. I went all around places, got the best bargain out of selling them all and collected 1500 Rupees. With that I got you this payal. I had cried within a thousand times after hiting you that day and prayed to God earnestly that I would never repeat the same. Mata rani must have heard my prayers. God bless that couple.’

 

Wiping a tears of joy, they both hugged each other. Outside as the air filled with the din of the fire crackers, their hearts rekindled with the ever-so-old, ever-so-new emotion that can heal all maladies – ‘Love’. All darkness extinguished now, Deepavali had arrived!

 

Tiny Tales

Unusual love story – (1 min read)

His sated eyes steeped with the intoxication of love was searching her, groping past her. His lovesick eyes spoke volumes of his enchantment with the lady lying beside him. He turned towards her and gazed into her deep, maddening eyes.

She slowly got up.

‘Is this moment for real? or am I dreaming all the way?’ He wondered in his mind.

‘My time is up. I have to leave now. Please make the payment at the counter. And.. If you want, you can give me some right now.” She said, all in one breath.

His reverie broke.

He took out few pink notes from his wallet and handed over to her.

‘Thank you Saab’. The money brought a subtle smile on her lips.

She left.

While moving down the staircase of the VIP room, she wondered, ‘why does this gentleman come for me every time and doesn’t even reap his money’s worth?’

While driving down the ‘forbidden lane’, he thought to himself, ‘so what she lives in these lanes and asks for a little extra money every time, I Love her‘.

Not everything in this world can be measured with the yardstick of ‘logic’ certainly not Love.

– Speakometer

Short Stories

Kavery’s tough love – short story (5 mins read)

Monisha had rushed to the hospital the moment she learnt of Mrs. Kavery’s heart attack early in the morning, through an sms from Ria, her childhood friend.

The patient is stable now, she learnt from her dear ones, much to her relief. It was the visiting hour, and as was the norm, only one visitor was allowed at a time.

As the other family members and close friends of Mrs. Kavery took turns to meet her, Monisha stood outside, in the waiting area, recalling fond memories of Mrs. Kavery Krishnamoorthy, her kathak teacher of 17 years, her guru, her god.

Kavery amma, as she was known by everyone was known for her strictness, impeccable discipline and a no-nonsense attitude. She was unbiased in her ways and always praised the one who deserved it rightfully. She lived her whole life with a lot of principles. A body that moved like a bird, was lying now in The ICU bed, motionless, with pairs of anxious eyes hovering over her. She would often reprimand her students for making mistakes in their dance steps, but then she would later on affectionately put her hands over their heads and with that rare, elusive smile tell them “well, that’s my tough love”.

Monisha looked at her watch. It is 10.30 am now. She raised her forehead to check if the relative who went inside to meet Kavery amma is coming out. She has to wait till he come out, so that she can move in. She slowly walked towards the a double chair set placed nearby.

As she folded one leg over another while sitting on the chair, one glance at that slight burnt mark around her right ankle brought back images of that day. She can never forget it all her life.

Years ago, when Monisha must not have been more than 12 or 13, Kavery amma was teaching some basic mudras to her girls. After teaching for hours at a stretch, she was visibly exhausted and took a cup of hot tea, served by her maid and sat down on a cane chair in their garden. Monisha was making a silly mistake again and again. Kavery rectified her many times, it was a very basic foot movement, however Monisha wasn’t paying much attention and repeated the mistake many times over. Kavery was watching her amongst other girls. When that particular step had to be done, she saw Monisha take the same wrong step once again. Her anger shot up like wild fire and bang she threw the hot cup of tea at Monisha’s foot. The small cup broke as soon as it fell on the grown, but the hot liquid had burnt a part of Monisha’s skin around the area it had hit. Everyone including the house maids who were moving in and around Kavery’s garden uptill then, were shell shocked. Monisha’s heart was thumping in her chest. Kavery asked everyone to leave, barring Monisha. The poor girl was shedding copious tears of fear by then. Kavery lowered her voice and said, “do you wish to be a world renowned kathak dancer one day? I see that potential in you. Tell me if you wish to be or not.” Monisha nodded in the affirmative, in between tears. “Then you have to pay a price for it. You don’t receive ‘jay jay kaar’ (appreciation) just like that. Come, I will apply some burnol on your ankles.”

Kavery amma had taken Monisha’s feet onto her lap and put the cream over her ankles that day. She had said that she lost her temper not because Monisha wasn’t being able to learn, but because she wasn’t paying any attention to her instructions.

Over the years, the burn had disappeared, but there remained a small mark, reminding Monisha of that day.

Kavery had been so cruel to her that day. But the respect and admiration she had for her teacher, never diminished even by a bit in all these years. Today, she is a renowned Kathak artist herself and owes every bit of her achievement to Kavery. It was Kavery, who had inculcated in her the two vital principles that shaped her into what she is today : dedication towards the art and sincerity towards one’s goal.

The relative who was inside came out and submitted the visiting card to the warden. The warden signalled to Monisha for her to come and collect the same. She went up to his desk and took the visiting card from him. It was her turn now to go and meet her beloved Kavery amma.

 

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– Speakometer

Short Stories

The lonely house – short story (5 mins read)

(Pic Courtesy : Rajarshi Chatterji)

From across the long alley riding past the busy street shops of Heerapur, there stands an old dilapidated house, a few kilometres away.
If one looks straight from Dhaniya’s tea stall, where I often frequent ever since I have come to stay here, which is around a month back, one can get a diagonal view of this house. Apart from squirrels and rats rustling past the wild bushes encircling the house in the day and some jackals and hounds barking ominously in the night, the house is by far abandoned by humanity.

“It used to be a government house during the British Raj, which has been looted and raided by thugs of a nearby village, years ago”. Say some locals.

Others have an interesting tale about the house. Dhaniya, the tea stall owner falls in this category. He seems to know about this area, its history and its people quite well. He puts the big kettle onto the oven, points his chin towards the direction of the haunted house and speaks, “they say, in this house lived a ‘White Sahab’ (English man, probably a British official) who had a young and beautiful daughter of aroung 16-17 years. This girl had fallen in love with a local guy of this area. Nobody knows much about this boy. The father was strictly against this match and had warned his daughter to sever all ties with this boy. When the White officer realised that his daughter was adamant and wouldn’t listen to him, he imprisoned his daughter inside the house. She wasn’t allowed to go out of the house, whatsoever. The servants who worked in their house at that time where witness to this cruelty of the man. Once she had tried to sneak out to meet her lover with the aid of a trusted servant, both of them were not just caught red-handed, the servant was later beaten to death for his disloyalty towards his master.

Few days later, the young lad, the daughter’s lover was found dead on the road, his body packed inside a sack, badly mutilated.

One had never heard about the daughter ever again. They say, she never even tried to run out of her caged life after that. The officer was often seen in his car going out and coming into ‘this house’.”

As I sip my morning tea, sitting on the slender wooden bench at Dhaniya’s tea stall, thoughts meander through my mind. This white girl might have loved the local guy so dearly! Their love defying all barriers of caste, colour and creed.

Did she commit suicide after learning of her lover’s horrific death? Or was it her father who after getting the boy killed, finished his daughter as well? Was she sent to England, back to her family? Or did she live on in that haunted house, which once had light and laughter run through its every brick?

“Who knows what’s the truth”, said Dhaniya while serving tea from a big glass to smaller glasses on the tray. “No one strays past this area after 8 in the night. Once, a few years ago, the night watchman was on duty in this area and had heard some strange noises coming out of this house, he had fainted out of sheer fear.

Next day morning, when he was woken up by fellow passersby, he said he had heard a female voice singing from inside the house, on further probing, he said it was some English song that he had heard”.

Ever since that day, neither the night watchmans, nor anyone else have dared to walk past the lane beside the house at night. Even we had to put our stalls at a safe distance from that lonely house.”

Even years later, different versions of the story around this house hovers through the lanes and bylanes of this place. Will this cover of mystery ever be lifted from this lonely house? Will someone someday find out who sang the song that night? I sink into deep thought, startled and intrigued myself, while slowly sipping into my hot, masala tea.

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