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.

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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’.

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!