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.

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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.

Speakometer…

Book Review

Yoddha the dynasty of Samudragupta – a Book review

Though historians have produced varied versions of the different dynasties that ruled our country, by far the Gupta period has been considered as the ‘Golden era’ of Indian History. Rajat Pillai, the author of “Yoddha the dynasty of Samudragupta” tries to retell a complex episode of that period in an interesting and realistic manner.

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The story begins at a time when Samudragupta, after his lifelong battles and huge territorial success, is an accomplished king. However, he is an exhausted man. He has just won a battle, has his trusted loyal friend Harisena by his side, but his heart aches for something else. He is the king and the most powerful man of ‘Aryavrat’. But there are other things in life that he wishes to enjoy now, after years of hardship and bloodshed which being a king, he had to endure.

Samudragupta for all these years has kept both his sons away from common knowledge. His elder son Ramagupta has been raised as a normal boy in the military camps and his younger son Chandragupta or ‘Chandra,’ as he was fondly called by his foster parents, was raised as a village boy unaware of his ancestry. Samrat Samudragupta battled death conspiracies keeping his enemies at bay for all these years. He doesn’t want his beloved sons to become a victim of hatred, like him. Hence, he had kept them away, far detached from his kingdom. But now its time to bring them back to the kingdom and declare his elder son as the crown king.

The storyline widens after this, as we come to know that a mysterious ‘source’ has deployed a secret spy to kill Samudragupta.

To read the full review, click here.

 

 

 

Book Review

Ikigai, the Japanese secret to a long and happy life – Book Review

First things First. Does the book actually give away the secrets to a happy and long life as is promised on the cover? Well yes, it does. And in doing so it goes on to describe more and more about this mysterious Japanese concept – “Ikigai”

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What is an “Ikigai”?

This Japanese concept, (pronounced Ick-ee-guy), which translates roughly as “the happiness of being busy doing that we like to do,” in a way explains the extraordinary longevity of the Japanese.

This book authored by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles illustrates the concept by studying the lifestyle of the inhabitants of Okinawa (an island in Japan), where there are 24.55 people over the age of 100 for every 100,000 inhabitants, far more than the global average.

 

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“Your ikigai is at the intersection of what you are good at and what you love doing” – Hector Garcia

 

According to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai. Some people have found their ikigai, while others are still looking, though they carry it within them.
Our ikigai is hidden deep inside each of us and finding it requires a patient
search. According to those born on Okinawa, the island with the most
centenarians in the world, their ikigai is the reason they get up in the morning.

The book then goes on to explain this Japanese concept in more detail and how people in certain parts of the country following their ‘ikigai’ are happy, blessed with a long life.

The authors also mention about the “Blue Zones” or the geographic regions of the world where people live longest. He mentions five such places, where topping the list is Okinawa, the island in Japan that lives by the concept of ‘ikigai’ followed by: 2. Sardinia, Italy 3. Loma Linda, California 4. The Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica and 5. Ikaria, Greece. These people are mostly centenarians and have a number of interesting facts about them:

  • Many of these centenarians enjoy enviable levels of vitality and
    health that would be unthinkable for people of advanced age
    elsewhere.
  • Their blood tests reveal fewer free radicals (which are responsible for
    cellular aging), as a result of drinking tea and eating until their
    stomachs are only 80 percent full.
  • Women experience more moderate symptoms during menopause,
    and both men and women maintain higher levels of sexual hormones
    until much later in life.
  • The rate of dementia is well below the global average.

 

Though the author does give due credit to the diet (80% concept), ‘moai’ (the philosophy of community living), some moderate exercise and art of relaxing, the focus of this book remains searching and then nurturing one’s ‘ikigai’

Garcia and Miralles lays down pointers that might help us reach our ikigai. They write, “Follow those things you enjoy, and get away from or change those you dislike. Be led by your curiosity, and keep busy by doing things that fill you with meaning and happiness. It doesn’t need to be a big thing: we might find meaning in being good parents or in helping our neighbours.” 

Victor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor says, “There is a passion inside you, a unique talent that gives meaning to your days and drives you to share the best of yourself until the very end. If you don’t know what your ikigai is yet, your mission is to discover it.

I finished this book in 2 days flat (i.e. after office hours) as its a perfect page turner with numerous examples and case studies which adds value to it even more. I am sure it will be an amazing weekend read for you’all as well.

How many books make us pause for a moment and think deep? Well, this one does. After reading it, you are definitely bound to question yourself, “what is my ikigai?”. That, my friend is the purpose of this book.

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Book Review

21 Dimensions – a small milestone

My short story “Sushila” is one of the winners of the “Fiction writing competition” conducted by StoryMirror. 21 top stories have been now made into a compact ebook called ‘21 Dimensions‘. So, friends, Romans and countrymen, this marks my debut (albeit in a small way) in the world of books.

Sushila, the protagonist of this short story could be any of us. She is a wife, a mother, a regular woman out there. But what differentiates her from the rest is the journey she undergoes towards her ‘real’ calling in life after years of mundane domestication. It’s this amazing journey of her’s that would surely touch your hearts. ❤❤

There would also be 20 other equally interesting stories in this anthology for you, my readers to cherish and devour.

So do visit the link above (21 dimensions) and show some love to this endeavour by StoryMirror Books and to Sushila.. 😊😊

Short Stories

Zindagi, I will rule You – Short Story (2 mins read)

Meera was 35, spinster, heart broken 3 times & bankrupt innumerable times. At this point of her life, just one thing mattered to her. Her OWN self. Honestly, she cared a hoot about the world around. And why should she? Did anyone care for her? No.

On her bedroom was a huge wall poster that read in big letters the biggest stress-buster line that one can wake up to. Every morning she looked at these words, smiled to herself and kicked off the day.

The day she was fired from her previous office almost without notice just because she went late and wasn’t properly dressed most of the time, she had made that poster herself staying awake the whole night. She had tried to argue with the Human Resource Manager that even though she reached late, she always completed the required number of hours, so how does it matter? Also she was working as a back-office executive, so her dress shouldn’t be a point of concern at all! Well no one heard her.

She joined another company the following week and this time, it turned out to be quite good for her. Life is pretty sorted for her now. She goes to her office, does her work and comes back home. She cares a damn about who thinks what. During moments when life pulls her down, she has her hand-made poster that screeches loud from her bedroom wall – Zindagi, I will rule You!

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Short Stories

Yesterday – Short Story (2 mins)

It was their 5th anniversary yesterday. No, not of the wedding, of something even greater than that. ‘Love‘. They had met 6 years ago and the guy had proposed to her 5 years ago on this day.

Unlike all other years, this year there wasn’t any holiday plans around the day. It was rather a formality to sort the remaining stuff between them. They were parting ways.

5 years of staying together meant quite something. Not everything can be returned though few important things were given back to each other. House keys, albums, laptops, bank accounts, all of this was discussed yesterday. They bid a final goodbye to each other.

Did she shed some tears after reaching home? Did he not cry for her? Well, who knew?

On the radio was playing this song as she slowly unpacked her bags in her new apartment.

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away,
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay,
Oh, I believe in yesterday.”

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