Monday 18 December 2017

Short Story 13 : A full circle.

Theme : Melancholy.

Heart-breaking tales may be hard to write, without sounding melodramatic. Sad events cannot be used only for the sake of making the story tragic.

I personally find it easier write stories that are drawn from situations that have happened to people I know or heard about, in real life around me. It is not uncommon to find such situations that leave us with feelings of frustration or helplessness and give us a taste of grief. 

This story is an attempt of mine to showcase a scenario that is all too common in the current fabric of our society. I hope it touches a chord with the readers to unlock the intended melancholy.


      A full circle

‘Ma, I’m busy. I’ll call you back.’
Okay, she began to say, when she realized that he had already hung up.
Seema sighed. Navin never had time for her anymore. When had he ever had time for her anyways? She couldn’t recall the last time he’d spoken to her at leisure. It had been this way ever since he had moved to his own apartment at the other end of town.
What had he told her when he had bought the place? That it was a mere investment; he’d no intention to staying there at all. He practically cleaned out their life savings and the gratuity that Rishab had received during his golden handshake, a few years ago. But then, he’d been transferred to Jalahalli by his company, it was a promotion, no less. He couldn’t have refused such an offer. And then, it only made sense that he would move to the apartment which was only a stone’s throw away from his office.
Seema picked up her glasses and wiped them carefully in the pallu of her soft cotton sari. Her mind flew to his childhood years when Navin couldn’t go a day without his beloved mother.
Rishab coughed raucously from his perch on the sofa. His cough was getting worse. He’d refused the antibiotics that the young doctor had prescribed for him. Rishab held a deep mistrust for doctors, especially the young things that inhabited the nursing homes these days.
‘What do they know about our ailments?’ Rishab would grumble. He’d lost almost 11 kilos in the last three months, but refused to follow the advice of any the doctors they visited. He’d never got over the demise of their longtime friend and family physician, Dr. Batra, who’d passed away from a sudden heart attack a year ago.
Seema knew that Rishab would never admit the real reason for his endless ailments. She knew that his ego would never accept the fact that their only son had abandoned them to their own devices and moved on to greener pastures that didn’t include caring for aged parents, although their son had had no qualms about soliciting their assistance to achieve it.
A twinge of guilt made its presence felt in Seema’s heart. Rishab had refused to part with his gratuity fund, especially since Navin had already lost all the money they had given him after selling their only house. It was Seema who’d insisted that they had to support their offspring in all his endeavors, however far-fetched or foolish they may be.
Thirty three years had passed since Seema had entered Rishab’s sprawling bungalow as a shy bride from a small town of Arasikere taluk in rural Karnataka. It took her almost two years to adjust to the hustle and bustle of Bangalore. She’d been awed and charmed by the handsome young man, who was a successful architect with inherent ancestral wealth.
How easy, oh, how easy it had been for the girl from a family of limited means, to settle into the affluence of the lifestyle wealth could offer. They would never have dreamt during those days that they would end up with no roof to call their own in only two and half decades from then.
Navin insisted that they sell their bungalow to fund his penchant to study medicine abroad.
‘I’ll earn it back within a year after I graduate, dad,’ he insisted to his father. ‘I’ll buy you a new bungalow, a much nicer one; this house is so old anyways…’
Rishab finally relented to his only son’s compulsion and for the first time in their married lives, Seema and Rishab had begun to live in a much smaller rented home.
Seema was jolted out of her reminiscence by the sharp barking of a dog on the street. This house was so small that they could hear the honking traffic on the busy ring road nearby. They had to keep the windows constantly shut to avoid the dust and pollution that made its way into their living room.
It hadn’t been easy. They’d gotten rid of most of the heavy furniture for stuff that was more compact. The housekeeping staff had to be relieved one by one and Seema understood how much she’d relied on the fleet of maids to keep her home functional.
The second blow was when Navin quit his studies during the final year of medicine.
“Sorry mom and dad. Very sorry. I can’t do this anymore.’ His curt email to them read. They barely got over the shock when he flew back to India and insisted that he would start his own garment business.
Seema gave up most of her jewelry and then some, to fund her son’s latest fad. Two years was all it took for Navin to end up with losses that took a further toll on their lifestyle.
Navin finally settled into a regular job as a counselor in a pharmaceutical company. It seemed like a fresh ray of hope for the weary couple that their son had finally found his calling and would set them back on the road to the affluence they had previously enjoyed.
What a wasteful exercise it had all been. And now, their son had nonchalantly moved on to his own three bedroom apartment, with no intention of including his parents in his new-found prosperity.
‘Get me some water,’ Rishab’s brusque voice broke into her reverie.
Seema got up slowly, taking care to place her small feet neatly into the hawai chappals, before she began to walk. The coldness of the bare floor seeped through the thin soles of the worn-out slippers and stung her feet. Her arthritis had gotten worse over the weekend and she stopped her daily morning walk in the park because she was unable to keep up with her walking partner, Alamelu. Alamelu suggested Seema to visit a bone specialist she knew, but Seema recalled with a sardonic smile, how she’d dilly dallied after she found out that the man charged only an arm and a leg for his consultations.
She had just poured the water from the jug into Rishab’s steel glass, when he was engulfed by a fresh coughing spree that made Seema wonder if his lungs would finally burst under the pressure.
‘Hot…hot water,’ Rishab managed to sputter, before he began to cough again. Seema poured the water into a pan and lit the stove under it. It was a full two minutes before she realized that the water had boiled and almost evaporated. 
She’d just been standing there lost in her thoughts staring at the pan, which was almost empty now. She became aware of her wet cheeks just then and realized that somewhere along the journey into the past she’d begun to weep softly.
She poured a fresh glass of water into the pan and wiped her tears away. It was then that her unseeing eyes focused on the ends of a brochure that she’d absent-mindedly tucked behind the tin of sugar last week.
She reached for the brochure and frowned in concentration, as she read it thoughtfully.
‘Beautiful surroundings nestled in the heart of nature…hospital a stone’s throw away…doctor on call…safe and secure…like-minded company…’ The keywords jumped out at her.
A host of pleasant images played upon her thoughts. A ray of hope, reluctant but persistent, began to wheedle itself into the dark contours of her mind.
‘Seemaaa, how long will you take to get me a glass of water?’ Rishab’s voice roared from the living room.
‘Coming,’ she called. She poured the water meticulously into his cup and placed it on a tray. Holding the folded brochure under the tray, she balanced it with care and made her way slowly across the tiny kitchen.
Rishab sipped the water noisily and smacked his lips in appreciation. How easy it is to make him happy, Seema thought, as she gazed at her husband’s wrinkled face with affection.
She waited until he had emptied the water, retrieved the cup from his hands and placed it on the stained glass tea table with a little clunk. She then sat down on the sofa next to him, handed him his reading glasses and placed the brochure in his hands.
‘What’s this?’ He put on the glasses and peered at the cheap paper, trying to decipher the words on it.
Seema said nothing, but watched him intently.
A host of emotions played across Rishab’s face: Enquiry, confusion, comprehension, anger, and then slow resignation.
‘Is this what we have been reduced to now?’ He asked after a very long time. The pain in his eyes tore at her heartstrings.
‘It is the best thing for us to do now, Rishab. At least we can be independent and happy…besides we will be very comfortable and well taken care of…’ Her voice began to break before she could complete the sentence.
Three weeks later, an aged couple got out of an OLA cab and made their way haltingly on the dirt path, towards the slightly dilapidated building, with a faded board that read ‘Sai Baba Ashram for the aged’, on the outskirts of Hosur.


Picture credits : Google images

Friday 15 December 2017

You, the woman of strength - A Poem.

Who are you, dear woman, wherein lies your power?
Are you a bastion of ability or a delicate flower?

You are a daughter and a daughter-in-law;
You juggle multiple roles with aplomb and inspire awe

Sometimes the mother, other times the wife;
You are entwined in perpetual responsibilities, perils & strife

Hidden deep within your soul, lies a latent little child;
Rarely does the woman in you, go completely wild

There may be spells, when you've nothing to say
But there are times, when you allow your demons out to play

Mere living sometimes, is such an endless grind,
Strong that you are, you learn not to mind.

No matter what happens, you never lose hope,
For you are aware that life is but a tangled rope.

You live each strand of life, across its entire length
From each arduous journey, you draw your immense strength.

You're underappreciated and rarely get the respect that is due,
but you barely falter and always remember to be you.

In this tug of war of existence, you hold on really tight,
you know you can't lose, if you pull with all your might

You're a source of inspiration, a powerful strength-mine
Try as they might, your foes can never dull your shine.

You do not fret, for when you decide to win
You draw fortitude from deep within

Stay strong lovely lady, the likes of you are few
Well done, oh woman of strength, kudos to you!


Picture credits : Google.

Tuesday 28 November 2017

Short Story 12 : The Ghost of Airawata.

Theme : Horror

Most horror fiction is riddled with clichés. Although it may seem that there is nothing new in writing horror stories, it is by no means as pessimistic as it sounds, because the theme in itself is fundamentally timeless.

I generally despise watching horror movies, but the attitude does not extend to reading horror fiction. I have come to discover that I absolutely revel in the process of writing horror stories. This is my second attempt (after my Short Story 9: The Perfect Lover), at trying to send chills up the readers’ spines.


The Ghost of Airawata.

I wish I wasn’t alone. I wish Rudy was here. Better still, I wish Rudy was here with Tiger.
I love my own company. I generally love being alone, doing random stuff all by myself. But today is different. This is unknown territory, dangerous to boot. And I've no idea where I am going.
The sun disappeared behind the canopy of trees exactly twelve minutes ago. I know this because I checked my phone. My battery is down to 18%. My phone has already beeped the warning to connect it to the charger. I wish I could charge my phone. I do have my charger in my duffel bag but where does one charge a phone in the middle of a forest? Not that a fully charged phone would do any good here where there is absolutely no connectivity.
And this noise. Whoever thought being away from all the traffic of the city would be peaceful, didn’t get lost in a jungle after dark. Creatures of the night come alive when the city goes to sleep. There is so much noise here. The loudest is perhaps the shrill chirping of crickets and the hum of mosquitoes,  almost the size of bees, buzzing constantly above my head.
I am so thirsty. All these mosquitoes must mean that there is water nearby. I don’t know what to do. I have no idea which way to go, where to sleep…I’m not even sure I can set up a tent in someplace all by myself. Bear Grylls would know exactly what to do here. He would probably capture some juicy crickets and churn up a tasty meal out of them, maybe he would garnish the insects with these mosquitoes too…
I pull out the bottle from within my bag and chug in the last of my water. I know I shouldn’t empty the last ounce of water, but panic makes one desperate in ways that a normal brain under normal circumstances cannot fathom. I know there are three Good-day cookies left with me, but no more water…
Rudy wouldn’t have emptied the water. She would have saved it until morning. Rudy…why did she refuse to accompany me on this…this tour? Perhaps she had the premonition that things would go horribly wrong, especially with the jinx that I seem to perpetually carry around with me all the time.
I move my flashlight slowly around me. All I see is thick foliage, bushes, tree trunks, around me. There is an occasional rustling in some bush or the other, I hope they are only rats or maybe baby snakes looking for food. The rock I’m sitting on is damp, it has rained earlier in the evening. The ache in my calves and ankles is steadily increasing now. If only I knew which way the road was…I miss Tiger more than ever. Tiger, my tiny little mongrel would have known the exact way back to the winding road. But Tiger was safe at home, back in Kerala, with my sister Rudy.
I should have refused the unbelievable offer that the wily travel agent enticed me with. After all, why would they offer a five day tour of the Airawat hills and accommodation at such a gigantic discount unless something or the other was wrong with them?
I had no idea I’d end up alone in the forest when I cheerfully boarded the ramshackle bus five hours ago. The gangly guide promised that we would reach the jungle trail resort by evening. If only the bus hadn’t broken down…How stupid I was to have gotten down from the bus to join the rest of them who decided to walk the rest of the way...It was supposed to have been a cool nature walk of a mere two kilometers from where the bus conked.
I pull myself up from the rock and begin to walk again. The road is to the northwest. I know that much, from the map we had pored over before we naively decided to cut through the jungle shortcut that rascal Sohail in our group claimed to know very well…Does the group even realize that I was left behind near the banyan tree?  I hope they do, I fervently pray that they are looking for me…if not…I dare not think any further.
Why, oh why the hell had I stopped to click that stupid selfie? I should have had the common sense to stay within sight of the group and save the battery of my phone…I must attempt to find that damn road.
It isn’t the darkness that I fear. I find darkness comfortable and even soothing. It’s not even the animals I dread, especially the elephants that are supposed to inhabit this area. There is something more terrifying here that I do not want to encounter.
I know the side of the forest that the sun set, so I gauge the Northwestern direction and begin to push my way across the prickly undergrowth. I feel the sting of the many scratches on my face and some minor bruises on my legs and arms. These jeans of mine weren’t meant for these harsh conditions, but how would I have known that?
‘Squiiissh!’ I hear the loud noise even as I feel the slimy rush of something gooey under the soles of my loafers.  Yikes, I have stepped on some wet creature, maybe a large snail…hope it isn’t a snake! I begin to walk faster now, not even waiting to see what unfortunate creature got under my feet.
The travel guide’s words echo in my head. What seemed like a joke during the sunny afternoon seems sinister in this semidarkness of the jungle.
‘The ghost of Airawat forest’, he had said solemnly. That got our attention alright. ‘The ghost of Airawata’, he repeated for effect, ‘haunts the jungle, preying on lone travellers especially when it rains.’ I’d joined the others who had laughed it off, trying to hide my nervousness.
 ‘He was a mahout who was killed by his own elephant. It was during a routine elephant ride in the jungle safari that some travellers had poked the animal with a sharp stick for fun. The elephant had become so agitated that he had chased the whole group for a few meters. The tourists ran helter-skelter, but Shambu, the mahout had stood his ground. He had trained the animal since he was a baby and thought of it as his own child. But that fateful day, the animal refused to follow his orders. Pushing the man on to the ground, he had trampled over him until his body was a mass of crushed bones and bloody matter…’
No one had laughed then.
‘It has been seven years since the incident, but many of us have sighted Shambu’s ghost. His face and body appear crushed, with only his ribs and thigh bones gaping out from within gooey tissues,’ the tour guide finished with a flourish.
I have watched a lot of horror movies, but even my vivid imagination could not conjure a crushed ghost with partially jutting out bones.
I had chuckled nervously then. But now, I’m able to see the apparition clearly in my mind’s eye.
‘What does the ghost do?’ a tall girl had asked the guide.
‘He kills whoever ventures into the forest after dark… No one who has entered the forest after sunset has ever been seen again…’ His voice had trembled slightly when he said that. ‘Revenge, he extracts revenge from all the travellers who dare to enter his territory…
Keep away from the forest after sunset…’ he had warned before the bus began to move.
My pace quickens, my breath is already coming in gasps with all the exertion and perhaps the fear that engulfs my mind. I push through the foliage the best way I can with the thick bamboo stick I’d found near the rock earlier.
Stay calm…stay calm...ghosts do not exist…; I repeat the mantra in my head. And the apparition appears only when it rains…and it isn’t raining now.
As if on cue, multiple streaks of lightning brightens the sky. I look up, awestruck at the vision of terrifying beauty.
Pearly lines scatter across the inky sky to form grotesque white roots, that shoot out of the smoky clouds and reach down to the silhouettes of pine trees below. 
My eyes follow the line of the streaks down to the earth and in the last flash, I see something that makes me go from joy to terror in the span of three seconds.
Joy, because in that flash of light I see the road snaking up ahead, only a few meters away. Terror because I see something else standing…or floating…something that wore black and white at the same time, in the middle of the very road that I have been looking for.
Darkness. Utter darkness envelops me, as a huge grind of thunder shatters the sky. Is my mind playing tricks? Is that the ghost I'd just sighted in the middle of the road? And why is it dark..? I realize that I have dropped the flashlight in my shock.
I go down on my knees and feel around the wet slush for the flashlight. My mind is racing while I try to draw on the last vestiges of my sanity. Is it my imagination or is there some sinister presence waiting for me to approach it?
I feel the cold metal brush against my fingers and grab at it blindly. I try to find the switch that puts it on and hear an audible click as my thumb finds it. Nothing happens.
I bang the torch against my palm trying to get the light back on, but to no avail. The cold breeze makes the goose-pimples on my skin feel like marbles but then, my shirt has stuck to my moist back. I hear an odd whistling noise and realize that it is emanating from my own nostrils. I’m breathing so hard, my panting breaths have begun to come out in high-pitched whistles. It seems to match the chills going up and down my spine. Two large drops of wetness falls on my wrist and head. It has begun to rain.
I’m still grappling with the flashlight when I feel, more than see the presence in front of me. I look up involuntarily, just as a fresh bolt of lightning reveals an apparition two feet away from me.
And this time, I see enough before the darkness descends on me again. I see the black of dried blood and rotten tissue. I see the white of a rib-cage and long femur bones jutting out from amidst the murky mass. I see a perfect grey square, where the head and face should have been. What is left of it, reminds me of flat screen television screen with a gory display of a flattened nose above gaping teeth and broad ears, all smeared together against a solid invisible wall of air.
I hear a frantic barking somewhere behind me…Tiger! Was Tiger here somehow, dashing across the jungle to save me from the deadly ghost? The rain beats down around me, a puddle has formed around my legs. My vision has blurred into a haze.
‘Romaaaa,’ That’s Rudy’s voice calling out to me. I would be safe at last!
They would never believe that I had actually seen the Ghost of Airawat hills. Maybe I should have clicked a selfie with it before it disappeared.
I shut my eyes when the feel of icy skeletal fingers wind around my throat, just as another clap of thunder shatters the sky.


Picture credits : Google

Monday 23 October 2017

Bliss - A Poem.


Blissfully naïve & childish
hopelessly smitten,
oblivious to anguish
fate had written...

a heartbreak,
heart at stake,

of impending sorrows
& lurking in shadows…

Picture : Google


Monday 16 October 2017

Short Story 11 : Escape?

Theme: In the end…

What drives us? More often than not, the answer falls under the ambit of ‘a zest to complete a quest’. The eternal mysteries of the unknown beyond, spurn explorations, thus making life interesting and involving.
Thus, we are perhaps at our imaginative best when there is no conclusion, especially since the gross realities of life offer none. Authors who pen inconclusive stories engage the readers at an individual level, pushing them to ponder new dimensions to enhance creativity, based on their individual personalities.
This is a story with an inconclusive end that allows readers to conclude whatever seems obvious or comfortable to them.

He is here! In this city! I know it. I just know it, as surely as I’ve always known that there is no escape for me. And he is following me, only a few paces behind this crowd of people separating us.
I feel the rise of panic in my gut. Panic, laced with utter despair, bordering on defeat. How long would I have to run?
Three years, seven months and eighteen days. That’s how long I’ve been on the move, constantly dodging his relentless stalking. How had I gotten myself into this mess?
One is rather stupid when one is a twenty one. Stars in my eyes, dreams in my heart, how carefree, how naïve I had been on that fateful day I’d landed in this city of horrors.
Bengaluru…the city of dreams, atleast for glossy-eyed, small town people of Arasikere. I’d thought I’d fled from a horrible life when I packed my meager belongings and set out from the slum where I had lived all my life, from that hell-hole called home on that night in August. My step mother was only too happy to see the last of me. She neither attempted to stop me nor enquired where I was going. If only dad were still alive…Thank God, he had managed to give me a decent education before he passed on.
It took me exactly five days to run out of money in the posh metropolis. As it turned out, my school friend Suguna, who had married a guy in Bangalore and moved to the city a few months ago, had been grossly exaggerating the wonders of the city, that made hundreds of hapless innocents flock to its shores in the hope of making something out of their loser lives. Suguna worked as a maid in one of the swanky apartments and told me unceremoniously that I had to find my way around if I had to survive here. She did set me up in one of the PGs for a month, although the advance swallowed most of my lifelong savings of hard-earned pocket money.
My average scores in the tenth grade landed me a job as a receptionist in one of the real estate agencies, where Mohan was the sole agent. I should have heeded my instincts the first time I met him in the reception of the tiny office. My mind had screamed ‘Run’. But of course, I hadn’t. Where could I run to anyways?
Mohan had made his shady intentions amply clear within the first week. He’d keep brushing his arms against mine, passing too close in the narrow corridors, asking me out and ogling at my breasts shamelessly, even as I fumed in utter revulsion. After all, why would a young, fairly good looking girl want to have anything to do with a short, paan-chewing man of fifty eight? His large lusty brown eyes had a disgusting way of popping out of their sockets, while he kept smoothing his grey, oily hair over his balding scalp. An adam apple the size of small fist, bobbed up and down every time he spoke my name in that raspy voice ‘Anjum’. I never hated my name more than when it was uttered by him.
My boss was an aging lady who treated him with utmost respect not only because he sourced out regular customers for the agency, but also owned a lion’s share of the company’s stocks. Not to mention the fact that he was her distant nephew, her only relative in the city. It was useless trying to complain to her about his unwelcome advances. Besides, what options was I left with?
It had been on a rainy Friday night a week later, that an inebriated Mohan had banged on the door of my PG. I’d tried to call the owner in panic before I realized that the family that lived below our row of tiny rooms had gone away for the weekend. And the females who lived in the adjacent rooms pretended not to hear anything, even as I screamed my lungs out in fear. I had known that this was a common occurrence in this part of Shivajinagar, where you could get a room with non-existent security for a mere 1100 bucks a month…but I’d been left with no choice at that point of time.
It had taken all my strength to fight off Mohan’s claws that fateful, pouring night. The door had burst open on its hinges within the first five minutes of his jamming on it, but I’d been ready. I’d already slung my rucksack with five pairs of my clothes, a couple of books, certificates and the last of my money, over my back. I grabbed the large black umbrella the lady downstairs had given me the previous week and jammed the sharp end into his bulky belly with all my might. Long story short, I managed to get away with only a few scratches on my face and bruised elbows when he flung my thin frame against the peeling walls…
I spent the night huddled in the store room of the building under construction next door. I knew I had to leave the city if I had to escape from this demon. But I had no intention of leaving empty handed.
The next morning, I slipped into the office long before the cock had risen to his daily song. I knew Mohan had handed over three stacks of two thousand rupee notes a customer had paid him, to Ma’am, for the new deal on airport road. He told her to keep it with her for safe-keeping over the weekend, before the buyers arrived on Monday. Being the first one assigned to open the office before Ma’am came in at her own convenience, I always carried the keys to the office in my bag.
It took me a mere five minutes to unlock the office, then the door to the inner chamber and key in the combination to her safe. The old lady, bless her soul, never bothered to be careful while she used it. She was unaware that her receptionist had long since noticed and memorized the set of alphabets and digits that were typed in…
I smuggled the bundles into the last pouch of my rucksack, and left the office locked as before. I then headed to the Majestic bus terminal to board the first bus to Belgaum.
I wasn’t a thief, not until that day of utter weakness, at least.
Sometimes, desperation drives us to do things that we normally wouldn’t even dream of doing. In my case, it was a sense of revenge coupled with hopeless despair…
Besides, I’d been so confident of getting away…
Obviously, fate had other plans for me. That day had only been the beginning of the perpetual horror. What followed was a long series of moving from one place to another all over the state, while my stalker turned my life into living hell. I’d even considered surrendering to the police, before good sense kicked in. I knew that this man had greased more palms in the police department during his crafty real estate dealings than the number of hands I had shaken in my lifetime. I knew that he hadn’t lodged a police complaint against me, for reasons more devious than I want to consider. It would only be a giant leap from the frying pan into the fire…I’d heard enough stories about him to know that I’d only land up in his den instead of jail.
Mohan had never let me go. He’d persued me relentlessly with the agility and cunning of a wild cat hunting its prey. No sooner would I find a job and begin to settle in one place would he make an appearance in the vicinity. If only I’d had the means to shift into one of those swanky apartments that offered some semblance of security for its women. If only I’d known someone in this town who would be willing to protect me…But then, it takes very little time for a lone woman in a big city to realize that the world is full of more predators than do-gooders.
It took more than three years of this dubious hide-and-seek game, before I finally relocated to Mangalore, having landed a job, over a telephonic interview from an ad column in the newspapers. I’ve been overjoyed to have achieved a promotion to an office assistant for a slightly higher salary, with accommodation only a few blocks away from the premises. My office isn’t too fancy, but offers me a breathtaking view of the ocean from my seat, through the window on the first floor. The three lakhs I stole from Mohan is secure in an FD, in an SBI account in Belgaum…
Merely three weeks later, which is today, I see the one person that makes frosty chills run up my spine. My mind has been so engrossed with an imminent sales proceeding documentation this evening, I fail to notice him following me from the exit of my office. It is while crossing the water logged streets, fifteen minutes into my journey towards home, that I glimpse those terrifying brown eyes glaring at me from over the heads of the swarming crowd. I begin to run, without thinking, towards the beach.
The light drizzle that had begun when I left the office is now a heavy torrent. The beach is deserted. I trip over the sand, my legs sinking into its soft depths, but I cannot stop. He catches up to me just as I reach the sloping rocky stretch beyond the broad sandy region.
He makes a grab for my arm, while yelling my name along with a few expletives, above the din of the downpour. I bend down to pick up a rock, with both my hands and smash it against his head with all my strength. He lets out a shriek, clutching his head, even as a red stream adorns the side of his face. The waves lash against our feet, I know that the tide would be coming in fast now. He falls then, on his face, over a stray patch of sand, his legs draped in an awkward angle over the rocks.
I dash blindly back towards the road, over the slippery shore, without looking back. Wet sand granules have filled into my loafers sending prickles of pain shooting up my feet. I reach the top of the slope, panting for breath. Is he following me? I hazard a glance backwards. The supine body lies in the same grotesque manner that he fell in.
Is he alive? Or is he dead?  I can’t stay to find out. I don’t dare the risk of getting caught by him again.
I shift to an obscure hotel at the other end of town and wait it out, pondering my next move for three days.
I wait impatiently for some news of an unclaimed body found on the beach, but none is forthcoming.
Was he washed into the sea when the tide rose during the night? Or had he regained consciousness after I left and lived to hunt me another day?
I begin to pack my belongings all over again, clueless about my next destination.


Tiny Angel - Haiku 1

Haiku is a traditional form of Japanese poetry. Haiku poems consist of 3 lines. The first and last lines of a Haiku have 5 syllables and the middle line has 7 syllables. The lines rarely rhyme.

I have always wanted to attempt a haiku chain where each of the lines in each poem rhymes with the other. This is one such attempt.

Tiny Angel

A tiny angel spreads love and beauty within cosmic universe. A sweet evangel of blessings bestowed herein sung in cyclic verse.


Monday 9 October 2017

Short Story 10 : Because, my name is Gauri.

Theme : Psychological story.

Psychological stories deal with some disturbed aspect of the human mind, whether insanity or an altered perception of reality or simply some inner struggle with an element of control over the human mind. The aim of this story is to take readers inside the mind of the protagonist and have them wonder what happens next.

 Because, my name is Gauri.

I’m going to die. I know it. I just know it. I mean, I know that everyone dies, eventually, but this is different. Because, I am going to die soon.
I shouldn’t even be alive, in the first place. I should have died ages ago. Its sheer luck or I should call it my rotten luck, that I’m still around.
‘Manu…’ Didi calls out to me from the living room. Didi, my sis, caretaker, mentor…whatever.
I’ve no idea why Didi is so kind to me. I have never been the sort of sister that one could love. But Didi feels a sense of duty or maybe guilt towards me, because she knows I’m going to die soon.
‘Manu,’ she calls me again. The door swings open and her head peeks in.
‘Get up, lazy bones, her voice is strained with the forced gaiety she tries to infuse in it. ‘It’s time to rise and shine...’
Her head disappears. I smile. My name isn’t really Manu. It’s actually Gauri.
I stare at the ceiling. So, one more day of life. This so-called gift called life. Life in a wheelchair. Ha, the very irony of it!
My gaze shifts to the dots on the wall opposite to me. They mock me like they always do. They aren’t juts dots, they are part of the face. The crooked eyes, broad nose and big mouth of the face formed on the wall two years ago when the rains lashed the city. 
The face was wet at first for a few days. Then Didi got the leakage in the wall repaired, but the features remained, dry and clearer than before. They had to remain. My mornings never begin without me viewing the face. Each morning, I watch it taunt me with ‘One more day, just one more day…’
I know you think I’m not normal. That psycho psychiatrist had fancy names for what he calls my ‘condition’: Paranoia, resultant of acute depression. Haha! Paranoid and me?
What people fail to realize is that it takes a hell lot of courage to accept the truth for what it is, especially when it stares at you in your face. Accepting your imminent death is not paranoia.
There have been too many signs. They all begin at the root of my name. Yes, my name. What’s in a name?
Gauri. A beautiful name. A terrifying name. The name of a goddess who symbolizes both kindness and terror. Good and evil…
For me, my name signifies only one thing:Death.
Each time I remember my name, I see the myriad faces of death dancing in vibrant colors of the rainbow, in front of me. They turn from blue to red to pink to yellow and finally black. As black as death. 
Because for me, the name stemmed from death, you see. I was born merely a few hours after my grandmother breathed her last one winter night, succumbing to the pneumonia that had ravaged her system for a week. Mom promptly decided to name me after her beloved mom, Gauramma.
In fact, my aunts never tire of telling everyone who listens, how my mom’s grief at losing her mother was so great, that it almost induced the miscarriage of her seven-month old fetus. That underdeveloped fetus was then delivered at the hospital and preserved in an incubator for a week, before the doctors at the Government facility deemed it necessary for mom to make room for the new patients. I should have died then, but it was my first escape.
Just so you know how I have arrived at the theory of my escapades, let me tell you that I know the exact count of the number of Gauris that have died in just the past two years. 
Didi thinks I only play those silly kiddish games like solitaire on her Samsung tablet. Or listen to the boring instrumental music that she loaded on it for me to ‘soothe’ my mind. The crazy psychiatrist told her it would keep my mind away from undesirable influences.
Little do they know that I’m a pro at playing with keywords on search engines…Why, I even managed to weasel out the wifi password from the old fool next door. The look of hopeless pity she gives Didi and me every time she visits us puts me on the edge, but I’m civil and well behaved with her because she is my only source of gossip updates around the area.
My meticulous Google research concluded that there have been exactly 9 Gauris who have died in India alone, of various causes in just the past 24 months. I know that their last names and spellings may have varied, but mom should have known better than naming me after her departed mother. Is that called a co-incidence? Only a moron would believe it to be so.
My parents should have changed my name the day I contacted pneumonia, when I was 8. That was in winter too, just like it happened with my grandmom. But they never realized the connection, because I was cured by some twisted miracle doctor. Mom didn’t see anything wrong that my dad passed away soon after that.
The next time I begged mom to let me change my name was when I turned 10. My classmate Gouri (spelt with an ‘o’, not an ‘a’), died of a head injury when she fell off the 8-feet, metal trapezium-shaped structure at the Government park.
That’s when I knew that my fate was sealed too. I even tried to prove to mom that I would meet with a similar end. But then, even after I climbed the same trapezium and threw myself headfirst off its topmost hinges, all I got were a few bruises. But then, instead of me, it was mom who succumbed to a freak accident a few months after that.
I knew then, that fate was determined to torture me a lot more before letting me get my blessed escape.
‘Gauri, get up! Er...Manasa, Manu…’ Didi bursts into the room, anger seething in her voice. See, even she knows the truth though she pretends otherwise.
The face on the wall makes ugly expressions at her. Why does she bug me so much? After all, all I do in bed is ponder the truth about myself. I have done this all night for the past couple of years.
Didi grabs my arms and yanks me up. She is rather strong for her age. At 32, she is almost 12 years older than I am, but she lifts my body as if it weighs nothing.
‘Have you been dreaming those awful dreams again? she asks, watching my face closely.
‘No,’ I reply.
I want to tell her that they aren’t dreams. Dreams are different. These are my thoughts, my convictions, my realities, my truths. One cannot escape one’s own truths and realities…but Didi prefers to believe that mental psychiatrist, than her own sister.
Didi shifts my frail form into the wheelchair. I try to look into her eyes, she avoids meeting mine. We’ve been through this scores of times before. I’ve tried to tell her many times that the very reason she is stuck in a life of being my nurse since my parents’ death, is because of my conviction.
Like I mentioned before, I should have died long ago. That accident had happened to ensure my death. Again, some twisted irony made me survive. 
I watched Maddy, my pet Pomeranian, get crushed under the wheels of a tow truck that afternoon, a year and a half ago. I’d taken him for a walk on the highway and the huge vehicle had suddenly veered out of control towards us. I waited for my head to get under its wheels too, in that split second. But then, the tyre stopped exactly 13 inches away from my eager face. I still don’t know how it managed to mash my legs to pulp though…
Didi did relent under the pressure of doing her best for me and changed my name to Manasa after that. But it was too late by then. I knew that Gauri would accompany me to my grave.
I begin to notice that Didi has been talking to me. Of course, I barely listen to her words these days.
‘Be positive, think good thoughts, it is all your imagination...’ she drones on, as she moves around my room, making my bed and putting away my clothes. 
Positive imagination? That is such an oxymoron, given my current situation. 
And then, I hear it, blasting out of the TV in the living room. My head shoots up when the name…my name, is uttered by the newsreader. My wheelchair is facing the door, I see the TV screen clearly. A woman is sprawled across the ground, crimson stains on her clothes.
‘…the noted journalist, Gauri Lankesh was shot dead at around 8 PM last evening…’ screams the news anchor. Didi has heard it too. She stands still, intently watching my face in utter shock. She seems powerless to do anything else but stare at my glazed eyes and fast breathing.
I watch the footage of the gruesome murder on TV intently. I see myself very clearly on the ground, in that navy blue and red churidar, blood stains adorning my abdomen. And wonder of wonders, Gauri Lankesh has short cropped hair too, just like I do! If that isn’t a bolt of reality pointing to the future, what is?
It seems as if the Gods finally got tired of the guessing game and decided to give me a memorandum for my death. I am going to get shot in the back and chest. It is so exhilarating to know how my end is to occur.
My laugh begins to reverberate across the room. My eyes are fixated on the body of the woman whom I didn’t know, whose existence I hadn’t even been aware of, until now.
I cannot stop laughing now. It has been a while since I laughed this way. People have always shied away from me when I did. I have heard fancy terms for my laughter too….words like ‘hysterical’ and maniacal’ have been used to describe my mirth.
Didi jerks out of her reverie and dashes to the living room to switch off the offending TV. But the sign has already been delivered.
I continue to howl in joy, my head shaking from side to side. My palms thump gleefully on the armrests of my wheelchair.
I hear Didi’s voice in the kitchen. Snippets of her conversation reach my ears as I inch my wheelchair forward, to switch the TV back on.
‘Yes, doctor…she saw the news on TV before I could switch it off…pleaseappointment before 6 PM, please try doctor…
Didi finally bursts into tears as my delightful shrieks are drowned out by the frenzy of reporters on News 9 channel, churning out all the gory details of the death of yet another Gauri.