Showing posts with label Short Story. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Short Story. Show all posts

Saturday, November 11, 2017

On a Bad Note

Lokesh heard the unmistakable alert of a message in Whatsapp just as he finished his meeting, he checked his phone out of habit. It was from his wife Sulabha. He opened it and saw the message, "I found this awesome song... Listen to me sing..." And a popular song. He frowned and clicked the link. It took him to a different app. He wondered if it was a virus and quickly exited. But by then, he had another message from her. "Did you listen?" Now a request was a command.

He did, and felt even more scared. He paused it and stared at it for a few moments. Then he lowered the volume and played it again. Technically, he could say he had listened to his wife sing without lying though he couldn't hear much. What he heard did not inspire him to hear any more.

"How long? I am waiting for your comments" and there was a love symbol.

"I am at work, darling... Listened in low volume... Good effort..." he replied cautiously.

"How disappointing. You have to put in more effort to listen closely! Never mind, after you return, we can listen together!"

He stared at the phone miserably. "OK," he replied without enthusiasm.

However much he delayed, he would have to go home. With a heavy heart he left the office and headed home. He stopped on the way to buy some sweets and savouries, hoping the pleasure of this unexpected treat would make her forget her song. There was no chance of that, but no harm in trying.

There she was, all smiles, waiting eagerly for him to arrive. She couldn't wait for him to get ready, but the treat kept her busy for sometime as she placed everything neatly. "So sweet of you! Did you really love it so much!" she said and hugged him as he took in the dim lights and the placement of the snacks in the side table. She sat on the sofa and smiled at him invitingly. He did, feeling like a sacrificial lamb. They had been married long enough for her to know his emotions and body language. He had to brace himself but without it showing in any way. Thankfully, today she was so engrossed in her own singing that she barely noticed his stiffness or the pain flickering in his eyes.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Yes, I Do

Govind stared at the note in his hand. Just one line, "Yes, I do." No signaure to tell him who had sent it. But he didn't need one. He knew just who could have sent it. And that's why he stared at it in disbelief.

23 years! 23 years gone in waiting for a reply. Hope, such a funny thing. Even in the face of evidence to the contrary, it had wafted around him at unexpected moments. A song here, a flower there, a phrase somewhere, a laugh... Anything could trigger a memory, a longing, and with it, hope. That their paths would cross, that their eyes would meet, that their hearts will unite, that their bodies will become one.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Vanity Fair

Saraswati bustled around, calling up caterers and making arrangements for her son's birthday party that week. Her phone buzzed. She looked at the name that flashed and rolled her eyes in frustration.

"Hey Saras! Are you very busy?"

"Yes Rekha," she replied. "Tell me, is it something urgent?"

"Hmmm... Actually, I posted a poem in the morning... I wondered why you hadn't liked or commented..."

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Homecoming

Shweta was so excited as she waited eagerly for her son Megh to come home for good after 4 years of engineering life in a college in Tamil Nadu. He had came home regularly during vacations the first three years. But in the fourth year, he had opted for internship in Bangalore! The parents had traveled to meet him and spend some time with him. But work and the younger daughter Varsha being in the 12th put severe constraints on the time. It always made Shweta feel guilty that she could not be there and had to let her son suffer bad food.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Swearing to Death

Vasanth got down and looked around. The manager came running to him. "Welcome, sir... Very sorry to hear about your loss," he said obsequiously. Vasanth nodded even as the manager gestured to a service staff to take Vasanth's luggage - a small suitcase and an airbag. The manager led Vasanth to the reception where he completed the formalities for registering.

"Lunch is being served..." the manager gently urged him.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Waiting Room

Dinesh Mittal climbed up the five steps leading to his doctor's clinic and paused for breath. He opened the door and the receptionist smiled at him. "Please be seated Mr Mittal. Dr Batra will see you in a few minutes."

Mittal nodded and sat in the chair placed for waiting patients. He had retired four years ago. Now, every time he came to see the doctor and waited in this room, he felt it represented his life - a long wait before the final end.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

An Off-Day in Yamaloka

"Chitragupta," Yama called his accountant, looking at the karmic ledger of earthlings. It weighed heavy on his hands. Not getting a response, he raised his voice and called out more authoritatively, "Gupta!"

A smug looking Chitragupta entered Yama's official chambers. "Did you call me, Yamadeva?"

Yama peered at him from under his eyelashes. "You took your own time..."

"He, he, he," Chitragupta responded with a sheepish laugh. "I was exchanging notes with the income tax department official... I don't mean currency note... you know... I mean..." he blabbered. Seeing Yama's stern look, he immediately got on with his explanation. "He is yet to be allocated his next life... and drops in often to request a good life... He has promised..." Chitragupta gulped, realising he had said more than was needed.

Yama took in Chitragupta's growing belly and sloppy appearance. "Several pages seem incomplete, Gupta... You seem to be slackening..." Yama looked up and locked his gaze with his accountant. Chitragupta met it without flinching, though his smile became fawning - another new. "Nothing of that sort, Deva... All in good time... Errr... There are some...formalities to be completed. Have asked the waiting souls for some details... Once it's in..."

Yama frowned. "You mean you are not able to keep track? Since when did we need to get "inputs" (here he put air quotes around the word) to fill in the details?" Chitragupta hung his head silently. Yama sighed and continued, "Sometime ago, you said the population was increasing too fast and death rates correspondingly high. You asked for a system upgrade and we did as you wished. I thought the system was going to take care of everything!"

Chitragupta scratched his head. "Errr... I forgot password... And it is not compatible with our old systems... So..."

Yama shut the ledger sharply, expressing his displeasure. "Come on, I have never seen you like this! For the last few years, your attitude has been undergoing tremendous change! It is affecting our work and reputation."

"I am so sorry, sir, if I have not given pleasure. But you know how it is, long working hours with no corresponding increase in compensation... And also, the world is changing... So must we," he slipped that in quite unconsciously.

"Indeed? How must we change?" asked Yama coldly, disturbed by this transformed demigod in front of him.

Chitragupta sat down in front of the god and whispered in a conspiratorial, "We keep track of people's actions and reward or punish accordingly. But people try to escape the consequences of their actions by appeasing one god or the other. And the gods reduce or eliminate the consequences, undermining you, My Lord..." he observed Yama as the latter became thoughtful. "Nobody cares for their actions anymore. There are so many loopholes that they escape their karma. Your importance is waning. They fear you only in their death... But nobody fears when they are alive!"

Yama frowned, quite confused. Chitragupta ignored him and continued, "But where can we catch them?" Yama looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "When they come here, for their accounts to be cleared and when we decide what life they will have next." Yama looked shocked. Chitragupta nodded sagely. "The income tax official worked for the Indian government. All these years, he has been clearing files and knows how to keep the poor souls who come to him in his grip. He has given me useful tips on how to go about it..." He pointed at the ledger. "Keeping that open... That's the first step."

"How does that help?"

"We can fill it up the way we want... In return for favours," Chitragupta winked.

Yama was taken aback. "What favours do you need? You have no needs!" he said dourly.

"That's the mistake we make, Yama...ji. We must create needs and we must have them fulfilled. I will get the list..." He was out and back in no time, holding a long list. "I am making that official help me with it and that's why I am holding him back... Errr, when he is being reborn, he wants to become a minister. That will be helpful to us in furthering our cause... Do you think we can comply...?"

"You...!" Yama bounded up from his seat and made for Chitragupta, who fled the room. "I have work to do!" the accountant shouted back."

Yama shook his head and wondered if it was better to leave the corrupt souls in the lower world instead of having them influence his world too! He saw Chitragupta's list on the floor. He picked it up and glanced through. His mouth watered. Shaking himself, he crumpled it and threw it into the dustbin. In his wrath, a plane full of people crashed into the sea, a bus was set ablaze, a train went off the tracks...










Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Only True Love

"What!" Preethi asked in shock. "But Madhu was not even fifty yet, was she?" she asked Karan, her husband of 50 years.

Karan too reeled under the shock as he reread the message. Madhu, one of their chirpy neighbours, had passed away in her sleep apparently. Her children were still in college. Madhu's husband Ravi was running his own business. The two were in the forefront of any cultural events in the building, singing duets, organising tambola, putting up a skit... She walked regularly and seemed eternally cheerful and friendly.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Signs of Prosperity

Rakesh Sinha eyed his son Sujay with pride. He was just 30, and he had already bought a flat in an upmarket locality. "Papa, you enter the house first with ma," Sujay said and his wife Chandni nodded with a smile.

Rakesh and Kamla entered the house - feeling overwhelmed that their eldest son at least had achieved what they themselves couldn't in all these years. Rakesh had worked for 45 years in a government department, rising up the ranks but still only modestly. And it had showed in the way they lived.

Rakesh's eyes brimmed as he saw the sparkling new home. Dull walls, leaky roofs, makeshift homes - that is what they had managed with most of their lives. In the initial years, he had to take care of his parents and siblings. Then, what he earned barely met the needs of his growing children. Though loans started becoming available when he was in his late forties, he could not afford the EMI. They had shifted from one rented house to another, sometimes changing children's school to suit the locality, sometimes the house closer to where they studied. They had to be happy with the simple joys life offered. And the greatest relief was when a loan was repaid.

Luckily, he had been able to give his children good education - or rather, they were able to make the most of what was available and all were in good jobs, earning well... And here was proof that their sacrifices had paid rich dividends.

He felt a tremor in his heart every time he thought of the loan that Sujay had taken, but his son and daughter-in-law had assured him that the repayment terms were very reasonable and easy. "In your times, being indebted to anyone was a shame... Now every one has at least one EMI to pay," Sujay assured his father.

"Times are changing," Rakesh agreed. His friends seemed to have similar stories to tell. In fact, they were envious of the current trend. "If only we had had this facility! We could have done so much for our children!"

Friday, July 28, 2017

Out of Depth

Alone, his back to the world, Mari preferred to dip deep into the pool of his emotions rather than have the noise disturb his peace.

What would he like, truly? Why, the view of the hills on one side, sloping down into green valleys with a silent lake in their amidst, where he could fish when he wished in peace.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Spirit of Music

Saveri sat at her aunt's feet, watching with awe as the elder lady, with her eyes closed, strummed the tanpura and matched her voice to the tonal sound. Even that fundamental element of music emanating from that divine voice was perfect. Saveri opened her mouth and winced at the harsher sound that came from her own throat. Albeit in the right pitch, it lacked finesse. She tried to subdue the harshness by constricting the throat.

Her aunt looked at her kindly. "Don't hold back!"

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Classmate

Saveri was excited. She had just been added to the Whatsapp group of the school she had studied but for two years in Mumbai.

It had been a rude shock at that time, about 25 years ago... When she was just an 8-year-old... They were living in Delhi before that, and she had grown up ensconced in the warmth of her grandmother's love. Suddenly, after her grandmother's death, Saveri's distraught father had sought a change and gone to Mumbai, his wife and Saveri in tow.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Hands That Stir the Pot - Part V

For Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV

When she came to, she was lying on her mother's lap. Revathi was fanning her with the pallu of her sari, while Gautama sprinkled water on her face. Seeing her revive, he helped her up and gave her some water to drink. She saw the anxious look on his face and felt her eyes welling up in relief.

"How are you feeling?" Gautama asked Shravanti solicitously.

She nodded in reply.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Hands That Stir the Pot - IV

For Part I, For Part II, For Part III

Part IV Continued

Their swords clashed. Shravanti felt her entire body tremble at the impact. As they sparred, she became painfully aware that mere hacking away at firewood or practicing with a young student did not prepare you to meet a battle-hardened bandit. Most of her energy went only to keep her body straight. She was also ashamed to realise that the bandit was toying with her, the leer on his face suggesting the fanciful thoughts that flitted through his mind, and that he could make short work of her if he so desired. Any fancy footwork and agility won her a slash, but the bandit seldom drove home his advantage.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Hands That Stir the Pot - III

For Part I
For Part II

Continued
"Vikrama's father Saranga and I were very good friends. Vikram was just around 10 when you were born. Saranga and I decided to get the two of you married when you came of age. Five years later, we even formalised it with an engagement ceremony... The marriage date was fixed for two years later, when Vikrama's apprenticeship under his father would be over," Gautama said, gazing out of the window with a far away look. "There was much hope, many plans... Soon after your engagement was fixed, one evening he visited us. It was all fun and laughter when you entered the room with a sword almost your size. We were amused and though I tried to dissuade you, Saranga encouraged you to slash like a swashbuckler with the weapon. Unfortunately, when you plunged, you tripped and injured Saranga severely. We rushed him to the doctor and bore the expenses of his intense treatment, which was a big draw on our limited resources. It also severely crippled Saranga, who could not continue to give training in weapons. He was unforgiving and within a few months, both of us fell into bad days... Saranga blamed us, you specifically, for our misfortune. Our friendship soured..." Gautama hesitated.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Hands That Stir the Pot - II

Click for Part I

The man stood tall and broad, intimidating her with a glare that made her heart tremble.

"You have repaid my trust well," he said in a quiet, deep voice.

Shravanti lowered her head, her face pale. Ajaya, who had run ahead, saw the threat to Shravanti's person and regretted leaving his weapons behind near the tree where they had been sitting. But adept at the art of turning even a twig into a weapon, he picked up dry sand and stole up to the man.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Hands That Stir the Pot - I

Shravanti walked down the path, her hips swaying gracefully as she balanced a pot on her head and a sickle in the other. Her youthful body was wrapped in fine, soft cotton that highlighted her curves. If one were to overtake her and catch a glimpse of her face, their heart could not be blamed for forgetting to beat on seeing the delicate features that seemed to be engraved perfectly.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Abandoned Queen

"Narayana, Narayana," our very own friendly neighbourhood Narada entered Vaikuntha. His eyes twinkled, and mentally, he rubbed his hands in glee. He expected a storm would have disrupted the peace of his Lord's domestic bliss, and was surprised by the evident calm, contrary to his expectations.

In fact, the Lord and His Consort welcomed him with twinkling eyes. "You seem disappointed to see us, Narada?" Narayana teased him.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Ghost of Nest

Niharika embraced Neha affectionately. "I am going to miss you all... Keep in touch," she said as she kissed the little ones, all excited about moving to a new city.

Neha nodded. "I have left my house key with the manager to show the house to prospective tenants. Just keep an eye, though."

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Goal

Sheela typed away seriously on her computer, compiling the report about the latest project she was working on. At every stage, there had been delays, hurdles they had to overcome, unexpected calamities that created situations needing fire-fighting, resource crunch... a zillion other things. But the team had worked hard, overcoming each hurdle and ready to face the next... Finally, when the project was ready, the customer had delayed implementing it up due to some team churn at their end.

While she felt euphoric, she also wondered if all the sweat had been worth it. Now, as she typed out the details, of course there was pride. But there was also wonder. Are deadlines really worth it? This was not the first time that the client, after putting pressure, had become slack. Or, having implemented, they failed to use it effectively. Or even if they did use it well, they rarely acknowledged the development team...

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