Sunday, December 23, 2018

Behind Closed Doors

The moment Raksha entered the house, her two aunts who were visiting her parents slunk out of the house. She turned to look at her mother askance. Her mother slapped her forehead and went in. Her father sighed and said, "It looks as if we are keeping you getting married... So that we can enjoy life from your income."

Raksha didn't bother to reply, knowing how far she had travelled and how she had to just ignore these petty insinuations.

The moment flashed before her eyes, when she had stood alone, trembling, facing her greatest dread.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Infidel

"What!!!!" squealed the girls. Reema sat with a smug smile, accepting the congratulations. "How? Where did you meet him? You dark horse!!! Sankalp! The hot actor! God, how, how, how?" They demanded that she share everything from the first meeting to their becoming a pair in great detail.

Reema obliged, adding all the little nuances - real and imagined - that she knew would gratify her friends' curiosity and also increase her popularity. The evening stretched but the questions remained unending. Still, mindless time compelled them to finally call it a day and leave. Reema walked with her friend Sahana to the two-wheeler parking and sat behind on the pillion. She had observed that Sahana had remained silent throughout and now couldn't help egging her friend, "Are you jealous?"

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Written in Stone

It was a piece of rock
Standing atop a hillock
Surveying the lands below
Silent, with a majestic brow

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Poster Boy

Govind walked down the lane a couple of times, working off the steam of disappointment. He had been rejected yet again for the job he had applied because he did not have the right qualifications. And any attempt to start something on his own also became difficult due to the lack of the right papers and permissions.

As he took a turn, he felt hungry. He looked around to see if there were any food stalls and could find none. He stood at one corner and observed the people who passed by. He did the same at various points. Finally, he felt he had found what he could do - set up a food cart that would cater to the workers of the nearby mall. He started offering a simple fare, expecting only the cleaners and helpers to use it from. But as even the white collar employees started frequenting his stall, he added dishes and found his clientele increasing even further. He had to extend hours, as now people working on all three shifts sought his stall out. He employed two boys to assist him with the expanding business.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Be All

It was a dreary day. Parul was glad when she shut the computer and got up from her place at work.

"Hey Yamuna, how about a cup of coffee?" she asked her colleague on her way out.

Yamuna looked up with tired eyes. "I really have to meet this stupid deadline tonight."

"Come, a coffee can't hurt! You look like you need it too," Parul tried to persuade her colleagye. She herself was not eager to get back to her lonely apartment, though she didn't want to linger in the office either.

But a Yamuna with a deadline was as good as having a monkey for company. She was jumpy, restless and constantly distracted. Well, maybe monkey wasn't the right comparison. They could sit still doing nothing, but not Yamuna with a deadline!

Sighing, Parul decided to take leave. Yamuna too seemed equally pleased to see her go. A chuckle escaped Parul as she realised that just for one moment, both had felt relieved to see the last of the other.

That only redoubled her sense of poignance, reminding her she had no one in this vast city that she had chosen to find work in. What a war she had waged with her mother to win this freedom to pursue her dreams, do her own thing, to make her mother realise that marriage was not the sole purpose of life.

But while work life wasn't bad, she missed her family, her friends, having familiar faces around her. She couldn't face the thought of yet another lonely dinner in her small house she had taken hoping to entertain family and friends. She stopped by a bar and ordered herself a drink and dinner. She shut her eyes to savour the drink, imagine for a second that she had company, and absorb the ambience.

When she opened her eyes, she choked on seeing a man sitting across the table.

"Hi, sorry, didn't mean to startle you! Do you mind if I join?"

She bit back biting words and nodded. "I don't think you gave me a choice there," she took in his appearance. Dressed in cauals, he looked smart. His accent was polished. And though he had taken a seat before seeking her permission, he seemed well behaved.

"I am sorry, I didn't mean to intrude but everybody else seems to be in a group. You are the only one sitting alone and with a chair to spare," he said smiling, taking the sting out of the insinuation that she seemed lonely.

"So are you," she pointed out defensively. "Alone, I mean," she clarified.

"Yes, so I am." He signalled to a waiter and placed his order, graciously asking her if she would like to order anything else. She shook her head. She may have ordered a second round of her drink, but she was not about to take that risk with a stranger sitting across her.

"I am here on business, have a meeting tomorrow," he launched into an explanation, telling her his name, the industry he worked in and the general purpose of his visit. She waved it away. "You are not obliged to explain. I am done anyway and shall leave in a few minutes," she said, trying to act cool.

As he waited to be served, he put her at ease by talking of general things. Soon, she was ordering her second drink and was deep into discussion about the merits and demerits of brands. When he invited her to share the meal, she helped herself to a small part just to keep him company. She didn't mind waiting for him to finish, and when he insisted on paying for her dinner and drinks, she agreed reluctantly.

She was exhilarated as she strolled down the streets aimlessly with him, glad of his amusing company, glad of company, glad to be out with someone other than her colleagues who politely included her in their jaunts during tea breaks but left her alone most evenings to fend for herself.

"You must be late, I am so sorry!" Puneet, that was his name, apologised.

"No, it's ok. I can get back whenever I want," she said.

"No curfew?" he asked with a chuckle.

She looked at him enigmatically, and changed the topic, "I would like to rest my feet a bit."

"I am staying nearby, we could go for coffee at the restaurant there," he offered and she nodded. From there to his room and to his seemed like natural progression.

Breaking away with great reluctance a little later, some of her loneliness abated, she refused his sleepy offer to spend the rest of the night with him. She stepped out of his room, headed home, shocked but not regretting that one moment!

When she got out of the cab and looked at the dark, silent house she lived in, her desire to run back to the near-stranger was a strong impulse that she fought hard. Those few moments with him had not changed anything for her. It had been at best a diversion, but she was back here, to this lonely place she had chosen.

When she called her mother that morning, she stunned herself as she reluctantly told her mother, "You mentioned there was a boy in this city... I would like to meet him."

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Missing

Thirty-year-old Ashwin checked his watch impatiently. He was excited, beyond words. He was going to spend time with his classmates from the first school he had studied in till class 8. They were going to spend a couple of days in a beach resort. It was not the resort that mattered, but the time he would be spending with these long-lost friends.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

A Drop in the Ocean

I walked by the beach
When a drop fell on me
Meeting an untimely death
Vanishing from the face of earth
It set me thinking
How like us it is
One among million
A drop in the vast ocean

Mighty when in a mob
Striving to be more than a drop
To follow a lifecycle
To dry up and then be reborn

To meet its destination
Right at birth
Or to travel far
Crossing several hurdles

Sometimes to reach the goal
At times being waylaid
Coming to an abrupt end
Only to come back again

Does it want to escape?
Blow like the wind?
Roar like the fire?
Be at peace like the ether?

Like us does it too seek
To be something other than it is?
The drops makes me wonder
Are we all the same?

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The End of the Endless

My grandfather sowed the seed
Look how strong is the tree,
Even though he is gone, and so will we
This will stay forever sharing its bounty.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Social Extreme

Anger, anger, anger
At perceived offenses
At opinions that differ
At those we see as the other

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Crossed Wires: Part VIII - Short Romance

For earlier parts, click here:
Part I
Part II 
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII

The sense of deja vu pressed Barkha down. Dheer, the prospective groom, sat where Sumesh had. His parents seemed like simple people who were willing to go with whatever decision their son took. Dheer seemed friendly and easy going. She just had to utter a word and all his attention turned to her immediately with evident interest. But she couldn't think of saying anything of interest, confining herself to answering questions directed towards her. No questions arose in her mind about his work, interests, personality. She had no curiosity about the kind of person he was. Though he had even features, he made no impression on her heart. Because it was already preoccupied with thoughts of another, one who had been distracted by thoughts of someone else when he had come to see her!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Crossed Wires - Part VII: A Short Romance

For earlier parts, click here:
Part I
Part II 
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI

"So, this is it?" Prateek said as he got up and shook Barkha's hands. "I think the content has come out really well, what do you say Sumesh?"

Sumesh nodded curtly. Barkha smiled in relief. The emotional drain was too hard on her.

"Make sure the payment is on time, Sumesh. Barkha, once it is launched, we will have to consider other content, of course... Blogs, case studies, marketing content... the whole works, you know."

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Crossed Wires - Part VI: A Short Romance

For earlier parts, click here:
Part I
Part II 
Part III
Part IV
Part V

Her mother's observations worked on Barkha's mind. What concerned her more was, whether Amrita too had noticed her aversion to discussing Sumesh and how she had interpreted it. That night when Amrita and she prepared for bed, she brought up the topic of Sumesh. "He seems quite popular at work. Even the girls in my office titter when he is around..." She smiled.

Amrita smiled back and said, "Only you seem resistant to his charm."

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Crossed Wires - Part V: A Short Romance

For earlier parts, click here:
Part I
Part II 
Part III
Part IV

Amrita entered the dining room sulking. Barkha glanced at her and then continued helping her mother set the dinner table. Shikha was amused and teased Amrita, "Storm in lovers' paradise?" Amrita was not amused. She served herself food and went back to her room with the plate, shutting her mother and sister out.

Barkha and Shikha exchanged glances. Barkha shrugged and the two sat down to have dinner. "Is dad going to be late?"

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Crossed Wires: Part IV - A Short Romance

For earlier parts, click here:
Part I
Part II 
Part III
"Hey, it was great walking down the market road that evening. I never thought shopping could be fun. BTW, you haven't mailed me the details about the services you offer," Sumesh pinged Barkha.

Barkha was startled. She remembered his request well but had not taken it seriously. She did not want to take it seriously, in fact, fearing any unnecessary interactions with him. Thirdly, of course, she did not have his conact details and was above asking Amrita for it.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Crossed Wires - Part III: A Short Romance

For the earlier parts, click here:
Part I
Part II -

"Barkha di, you have to be home on time," Amrita warned her sister. "I am nervous, and I need you," she added plaintively. Barkha was no proof against such a plea and she rushed back home to help her younger sister get ready.

Amrita had got a red with gold salwar set ready, but Barkha put it back in the wardrobe. Amrita's wardrobe didn't seem to have what she was looking for and so she went to hers. She came with a seagreen shimmering crepe sari contrasted with a red embroidered blouse. She was amused at how shy Amrita felt when putting on subtle make up that discreetly highlighted her features and combed her hair such that it framed her lean face.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Crossed Wires:Part II - A Short Romance

Read Part I of Crossed Wires before proceeding

"He wants to meet you," Shikha looked confused as she informed Barkha. "Alone..." Her expression turned questioning, hopeful that Barkha may have the answer.

Barkha shrugged, surprised at the request. A faint ray of hope sprang in her heart though she pretended to be indifferent. "Whatever for?"

"I don't know, his mother seemed very uncomfortable when I probed. He wants to speak to you..."

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Crossed Wires: Part 1 - A Short Romance

"Which one?" Sumesh asked, trying hard to seem indifferent but clearly eager.

"The girl in blue," his sister Priya mumbled to him, looking across the rows of diners at the wedding dinner they were attending.

"Both are in blue," he said puzzled seeing the two girls seated next to each other.

Priya slapped her forehead. "One is blue, the other is in indigo."

Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Elusive Future

"Madam," the agent, Vikram, smiled. "Your investment in one of our products is maturing madam..."

"Yes, that's right," 43-year-old Bindu smiled and responded.

"We will process it and make sure it reaches your account within 10 days. But meanwhile ma'am, we have this scheme which has been doing very well in the market. If you put in, let's say, about 2 lakhs annually for five years, it will start giving you returns from the 8th year for the next 15 years. So if you see..." And he quickly did a back-of-the-envelope calculation to tell her how she could earn an annual income of x amount, draw a loan against the amount and the final maturity amount with the bonus.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Puppet

Shankar grinned hopefully at his colleague Sadhana as she walked in and placed her bag under her seat. She smiled and waved, making his heart somersault. He waited for her to finish her morning ritual of drinking water before turning to him and narrating some adventure or incident - she found spice and thrill in even the most ordinary, and managed to make it sound exciting enough for Shankar also to want to be a part of it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Poor Copy

"We have been waiting for you all day," Shilpa said with wide-eyed wonder seeing her nephew at the door. Raj was looking dapper in his grey suit, white shirt and red tie. His cropped hair highlighted the leanness of his face, his sharp jawline a proof of his efficiency and focus.

He smiled sparingly and walked in past his aunt with a nod. "There was cocktail and dinner after the full-day seminar, but I couldn't refuse your persistent invitation," he said, smartly weaving in the fact that he was giving up something better for having dinner with them.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Veil of Waves

They rose and fell, night and day, without respite. Sometimes in the middle of a hot day, they lay down dull awaiting the next breeze to rouse them again. Sometimes, in that dull moment, they sank to the bottom, pulled down by undercurrents. They rose this way and that, they were pulled this way and that. When the sun and the moon shone, when the the bright light brought them under the spotlight, they rose to capture the glory and imprison it forever. But when the orbs were covered and darkness fell, they touched new lows, grumbling and complaining.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Awaiting Inspiration

Not inspired by Mother's Day
Not inspired by any other tale
Staring blankly at the white page
I wonder what I can write today

Monday, April 30, 2018

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Summer Heat

Ankita, her husband Satish and their son Bhavesh entered Nikita's cool abode with a sigh of relief. "It's so hot outside," Ankita complained and wiped Bhavesh's face. The 7-year-old pulled away, embarrassed at this molly coddling in front of others.

Yug, Nikita's husband, joined them with a warm smile. After the usual exchange of greetings and enquiries, Ankita asked about their son Aditya. "Where is he?"

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Give Her the Sword, Give Her the Gun

A face and limbs,
Just like any other
A curve here, a curve there
Too young even for that

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Dead and Buried - Part IV

Start reading this short series here:
For Part I, click here
For Part II, click here

For Part III, click here

"When will you reveal the true secret?" Ila asked eagerly.

Shekhar grinned sheepishly. "In good time."

"You said there is a murder in the film too? Who is going to die?" she probed.

"You," he said. Her startled look made him smile. "Don't worry, you are not just a corpse... You are also the one who is going to be romancing - not one but two men."

"Don't make it sound like an incentive!"

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Dead and Buried - Part III

For Part I, click here
For Part II, click here

Continue to Part III -
"I will stop you," the voice screamed in his head as he fell back.

He snapped his eyes open and found himself surrounded by white. The only thing that told him he was alive still was the pain that shot through his body. He felt needles poking him all over. Not needles, shards, he corrected himself. He tried moving but a gentle hand restrained his desperate efforts. "Please calm down." He looked at the woman speaking to him and for a minute, the white she was dressed in made her look like an angel. But instantly he identified her as a nurse.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Dead and Buried - Part II

Start with Part I. Click here If you have already read it, then read on...

The show must go on.

"Shabir's death is shocking," Shekhar told the reporters when they accosted him at the condolence meeting. "Right at my doorstep, right in front of my eyes, in the most unexpected manner!" he said. "He was so excited about the role I had in mind for him! We were just shaking hands on it when it happened..." he tweaked the truth a bit to add spice.

"Can you tell us about the role, sir? What are you going to do about it?"

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Dead and Buried - Part I

"Wow! That's a fascinating story," Shekhar Bajaj exclaimed when the villager, Manoj, completed narrating the incident. Shekhar got up and looked around the haveli that was now in shambles. Manoj looked uncomfortable as he stood, shifting his weight from one leg to the other.

"I think it will make for a wonderful movie," Shekhar muttered to himself.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Thoughts on Women's Day

Frankly, I have none
For I don't feel like one
I am a free spirit
Taking one body now
And changing it next minute

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Limericks by Ashwath Srikant

When rushing to school, he paused to rattle off a couple of limericks that he had made up. That night, I asked him to pen some and here is the fruit of his effort:

I saw a boy
Whose name was Roy
He was drinking water
Sitting near a potter
And then he bought a clay toy

I saw a cat
Running on a mat
It slipped there
And lost some hair
And now it looked less fat

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Musings on Death

What is the formula
To measure our lifespan?
What is too young?
When is the right time to be gone?

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Brand Love

Lavanya sensed something brewing when she picked up her pre-teen son and teenaged daughter. "How was your day?" she asked as they got into the car.

"Mom, you have to get me an Adidas shoes," son Shail said in a stern tone.

Lavanya pursed her lips. "Haven't we gone through this several times?" she asked as she started the car.

"All my friends have branded shoes. In fact, Jose has shoes in all the brands, he has branded pens..."

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Why Me - Part II

For the first part of this story, click here

The world became black, and then suddenly too bright. Someone was jostling him. And then all went quiet.

"Please behave yourself when you are with uncle, Bharat," Shyama said, the attractive smile that had so bewitched him turned into a thin line of disapproval.

Amit felt Bharat reasserting himself as he turned all his attention on his wife. "You are there to keep me in line," he said with an edge to his voice. She placed her hand on his arm and Amit felt a rush of tenderness. "Please don't make it difficult for me," she pleaded.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Why Me - Part I

Amit stood smoking in the open area behind the confectionary he had opened in a busy mall in the city. From there, he could see his neighbouring restaurant, and felt a twinge of jealousy yet again. It was, as always, busy serving visitors while his team was still getting things ready. He went in and shouted, "Lazy fools! Be sharp!"

He entered his small kitchen behind the serving counter and found his chef and the cleaning lady giggling about something. "Is the food ready?" he asked sternly.

The chef, knowing how indispensible he was, asked him sharply, "What do your diners want?"

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Ephemeral Life

Even exhilerating joy
Does not forever last
So also sorrows deepest
Soon from us they part

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Diamonds That Became Shards

"If He resides within,
Why do I seek Him
In the wilderness without?"

He abandoned that poem, unable to proceed. That's how the saints seemed to have sung of God. He wished to, too, but could not find himself inspired enough. He decided there was nothing to be inspired about, that it was all a sham. Otherwise, wouldn't he have experienced it himself?

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Perfect Revenge - Part II

Continued from Part I

Giri's head reeled as Kala finished narrating the story of how Radhakrishnan and she got married. While his story differed in a few minor points, it was almost as if he had seen their lives playing out in front of him. The most intriguing was when Kala mentioned a stranger. "My brothers were intent on killing Radha and me for daring to cross the caste barrier and getting married. They caught us by the waterfall, meeting clandestinely. That day, they would have killed him and got me married to someone else..."

"But there was another man who happened to be there, who saw the atrocity and intervened..." Giri said with glazed eyes. It was the very nightmare he saw, the very nightmare he wrote about.

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Perfect Revenge - Part I

Giri woke up with a start, the nightmare too real for comfort. The dream had chased him through his childhood, making him run to his mother every night. When he became a teenager, he learnt to deal with his fears, but that didn't make the nightmare any less...nightmarish.

Slowly, the fear of going to bed and see this sight made him delay his bedtime. Even as an adult, he found the nightmare disturbing, and the predictable repetitive imagery compounded the problem, making him feel stressed even during the day. He worked out, not so much to keep fit as to tire himself so that he could get dreamless sleep. He found only limited success in that.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Dis-chord - Part II

Click here for Part I

Sharada felt heart-broken. Caught up in her own misery, she remained inure to the eyes turning towards her. She was puzzled at Harish's abrupt departure. She was hurt that he had not said a word about her performance. And to think that she had kept her eager parents away for today's debut, pretending she was nervous, all the while hoping to make it special for Harish and her. What a fool, oh, what a fool! She looked up with eyes flashing, and came to her senses as she realised she was still in the dining room. Prying eyes turned towards her, making her realise that she was being melodramatic.

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