Monday, 24 July 2017

Short Story 4 : Lucky.


Story Theme : Two sides to a story


Nature is fundamentally chaotic. It has no distinctions of right and wrong. Natural occurrences have no obligation to favor a particular outcome. Only the rules of cause and effect hold ground. Nature is both the creator and the destroyer.

Humans , though a part and product of this very nature, are antithetical to its chaotic foundation. One of our fundamental survival tactics is the imposition of order onto chaos. This results in us viewing our world in a monochromatic manner: the good and the bad.

The characters in our stories, fictional or otherwise, also act as the flag bearers to this line of thought : There’s a protagonist who fights the antagonist and defeats him/her to the delight of many a reader.

Reality however, works its charms upon us in a kaleidoscopic fashion. Many instances in life keep reintroducing us to the most obvious truth, that what we perceive to be polar opposites exist within an entity, and complete it.

Humanity is the very manifestation of scattered seasoning:  a potpourri of qualities in contradiction to one another, all combining to paint the picture called life, each adding its own hue, texture, depth and contrast. The wise of our race recognize this, realizing that our full potential cannot be reached without exploiting them all.

We may be unable to control certain events or situations that occur in our lives, because it is beyond our capacity to do so. However, our beliefs and perceptions determine how we respond or react to them and to the people around us.

This story is based on the premise that sometimes, life allows us to see both the sides of a coin, and gives us a chance to examine our long-held, adamant beliefs and choose to change them.

*****
Lucky

‘I hate my parents.’

Nikhil turned towards his friend in surprise.

What? What did you say?’

I said, I hate my parents.’  Sujan replied.

‘Oh, so…that’s the problem, is it? Is that why you’ve been down in the dumps from the past month?’ 

‘Yes, and I’m waiting for the day I don’t have to depend on that old man to finance my studies anymore, and not listen to his wife’s droning advice either…’ Sujan’s voice held intense disdain.

Nikhil took a gulp of his scotch and regarded his friend quietly.

‘I’m sick of them. I’m sick of all the rules. I’m tired of all the expectations they thrust on me. I wish I wasn’t even born to such…selfish, miserly people.’ Sujan continued. ‘I mean, look at you! Your parents are so cool! They even let you booze and take your girlfriends home.’

Nikhil detected more than a tinge of envy lacing Sujan’s tone. It wasn’t the first time Sujan had expressed comparison of this nature between them. In fact, Sujan had been at it constantly ever since he had visited Nikhil’s sprawling bungalow, three years ago when they had become friends in the first week of college.

‘So, what exactly is your problem now?’ Nikhil asked, refilling his glass. He poured a top-up for his friend before handing the glass to him.

‘My dad has refused to let me pursue my PG in the John Hopkins University. He says he can’t afford it! And mom! Mom supports his decision. In fact, they want me to find a job, now that my degree is over.’

‘Hmm, so why don’t you just find a job, then?’ Nikhil asked, nonchalantly.

Nikhil’s tone infuriated Sujan even more. He plunked his empty glass on the wooden table-top and glared at his companion.

‘What do you mean, find a job? Easy for you to say, isn’t it, ‘Mr. Industrialist’s son!’ Sujan’s voice held undisguised spite. ‘You don’t have to worry about building a good future, you lucky scoundrel…your dad has laid it out for you in a silver platter, hasn’t he?’

‘Oh, cut the crap, idiot! That’s not fair! I still have to work for my future, I still have to study and pass these useless exams. It isn’t as if those foreign universities offer seats to undeserving people…’ Nikhil argued.

Sujan picked up his backpack and stormed out of the restaurant.

Nikhil didn't know that his parents had gladly allowed and financed his siblings to pursue their dreams, despite all the hardships they’d endured. His dad sold their site in Mysore to fund his elder son’s medical seat. His parents had always loved his brother more, the lucky rascal…

And Ma had sacrificed all her ancestral jewelry as dowry, to get his sister Sona married to the guy she’d fallen in love with. The selfish female was fortunate enough to have had the best of both worlds…

And I’m the scapegoat, destined to pay the price for being the youngest in the family, he thought bitterly. His parents had always been partial to their first born. After all, the elder son would upkeep them during their yesteryears, wouldn’t he? And their daughter was the darling of the family, of course, she’d care for them more than anyone else…

‘Good riddance! Who wants to take up the responsibility of those two, anyways?’ his thoughts were malicious, as he made his way back to the hostel.

***

Three days later, Sujan was seated on the carved teakwood swing in the enormous balcony of Nikhil’s room, overlooking the expansive swimming pool of their bungalow. He had come to apologize to Nikhil for his behavior the other day.

Nikhil is so lucky to have been born in a stinking rich family. He is so blessed, to live amidst this, this profuse lap of luxury…Sujan’s thoughts were wistful, as he waited for his friend to return from his gym session. What’s taking him so long? He should have been here ages ago…

Just then, he heard loud voices from the lower floor, and then…Crash! He jumped up from the swing in alarm. Maybe someone had fallen and was hurt!

He rushed into the room and crossed over to the half open door, when he stopped short, in shocked confusion.

‘Oh, go to hell, asshole! Yes, I am in love with Edward. I have been with him for over a year now. What are you going to do about it? What have you been doing anyways? Have you ever been there for me? Do you think I don’t know about your affairs with all those harlots when you travel on your so-called business trips?’

Sujan stood rooted to the spot. That was Nikhil’s mom, Raina auntie’s voice!

‘Shut up, bitch! Look at you!’ It was Uncle’s voice. Sujan was appalled at the language between Nikhil’s parents, as much as the nature of the exchange between them.

Nikhil’s father continued, ‘Just look at you! You’re just an ugly, gross, fat shrew who knows nothing about keeping a man happy! Yes, I have been with others on and off, and why not? Haven’t I provided you with all this extravagance? 

     And don’t think I don’t know that Nikhil isn’t my son! I have known the truth about him since a very long time, you slut! You ought to be glad…and grateful, that I’ve provided for that bastard all these years, despite knowing the truth! I even put up with all his drinking and womanizing…’

‘Ha! Provided for him indeed! What choice do you have? The whole world would laugh at you if they got to know that you’re incapable of fathering a child…and don’t pretend you care for Nikhil! You allow him to do as he pleases only because you neither have any control over him, nor do you even care how he ends up…’ Raina auntie’s tone spat venom at her husband.

Sujan felt the earth move beneath his feet. What was he hearing? He shouldn’t even be here, listening to this horrible conversation! He had to leave, without their knowledge…

He tip-toed further back into the room, quietly went through the other door, crossed over beyond the balcony to the spiral steps in the corner that led into the rose garden, and made his escape from the side gate to the back street, hoping no one had noticed his presence there. He returned to his hostel room in a daze and spent the rest of the day pondering over what he overheard at Nikhil’s house.

After tossing and turning through a sleepless night, Sujan went to his usual haunt Shree-Sagar, for breakfast the next morning. For the first time in years, he was unable to enjoy his food. His favorite masala-dosa tasted like leather and the coffee made him nauseous. He finally called his mom, trying to ignore the guilt that ate into his insides.

‘Ma, I’ve decided to start working after my results are out…’ he began.

‘How are you, beta? I was just about to call you!’ His mother’s high pitched voice interrupted him. ‘Your Bhaiyya called from California. He has agreed to sponsor your studies in that university you chose. You know, your dad had sent him an email, reminding him of all the sacrifices we made for him to let him study medicine. We both feel that it is time for him to return the favors he received, as the eldest of the family…’

Sujan was dumb-founded.

Ma continued, ‘And Sona didi has agreed to pitch in too, beta. She  pawned most of the jewelry we gave her during her wedding, without her husband’s knowledge…her in-laws will raise hell if they ever got to know, but she will manage somehow…you can use the money she sends for your other expenses in America, beta…’

‘I’ll call you back, ma…’

Sujan hung up the phone and broke down in tears, unmindful of the curious stares of the people around him.

*****

Orange Parrot.

PARROT FISH

It is strange how we never get to visit some famous places in our own cities, despite having the time and means to do so.

I visited Cubbon park after a very long time and came upon the Government Aquarium at its entrance. It was a shock for me to realize that I've lived in Bangalore for so many years and yet, never visited the largest and most famous aquarium in the city.

And the Aquarium was a true revelation. Although, a lot of species of those water marvels did catch my attention, this one is by far the best.

Apparently, the name 'Parrot fish' is derived from their fused teeth, which bear a strikingly close resemblance to the beaks of parrots. It was no wonder that I thought of these glowing beauties as the cutest and most attractive among all the hundreds of exotic varieties of fishes exhibited there.

Just as I was about to move ahead to the next display, another one of those lovely orange creatures peeked out from inside the clay pot in the centre of the aquarium and then glided smoothly into view. Alas, it made itself comfortable behind the rock before I could capture a good view of both of them together.

At Rs.10 per ticket, the Bangalore Aquarium with a humongous collection of fishes from all over the world is definitely worthy of a visit. 



Friday, 14 July 2017

Short Story 3 : The Indecent Girl.


Story Theme : Stereotyping 

A stereotype is a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image of a particular type of person or thing. 

In social pathology, a stereotype is any thought widely adopted about specific types of individuals or certain ways of behaviour, intended to represent the entire group of those individuals or behaviours as a whole.

Stereotypes reflect expectations and beliefs about the characteristics of members of groups perceived as different from one’s own. They are a cognitive component and often occurs without conscious awareness.

In literature and art, stereotypes are clich├ęd or predictable characters or situations. 

Storytellers have drawn from stereotypical characters and situations to immediately connect the audience with new tales, throughout history.

This short story is an attempt to base a work of fiction on a few typical gender stereotypes that plague our society.

*****

The Indecent Girl

‘Look at that skirt! Oh God...Just look at it! I can’t believe this!’ Shashi’s voice held shocked disbelief. ‘And that top is too tight! She looks so…’ He was at a loss for words.

Suman tugged her tight outfit a little lower over her exposed thighs, as she turned to smile up at the guy next to her. Her long silver earrings twinkled like stars, as they reflected light from the neon bulbs of the wide corridor. She said something that made the guy wink at her and let out a guffaw. She threw back her head to laugh and her thick mane glistened, swirling in velvet waves around the pale, bare skin of her petite shoulders.

‘Cheap da…she looks cheap and slutty.’ Rakesh completed Shashi’s sentence for him. ‘And look at the way she’s flirting with him…he is thoroughly enjoying the view she’s offering him through that plunging neckline…’ he added for good measure.

They followed Suman and her companion from a discreet distance & saw them head towards the elevator. Just as she was about to get onto it, she seemed to trip on her heels and the tall guy snaked his arm around her waist to steady her. Her tight skirt rode a couple of inches higher as the elevator made its languid ascent to the top-most floor of Garuda mall.

‘I can’t believe this!’ The loquacious Shashi seemed to have lost his usually extensive vocabulary. ‘I just can’t believe this, da!’ he repeated for the umpteenth time in the past half hour.

They got on to the elevator and turned in the opposite direction when they reached the top floor, to avoid being seen by Suman, while they still scrutinized their targets in subtle detail. Suman now stood with him in the short queue at the ticketing counter of the multiplex.

Shashi didn’t miss the lecherous looks from the numerous males and the envious glances from the females, that Suman invited as she walked with slow grace towards the arched gate of Screen 2. She slipped her hand casually into the hook of the guy’s elbow, chatting animatedly with him, as they passed through the entrance. Shashi seethed as he noticed a firm breast within the taut fabric of her halter, grace his arm as the lanky fellow turned to let her precede him…

***

‘I always knew she is that kind of girl, bro!’ Rakesh smirked.’ Didn’t I tell you? All these north Indian girls are like that only da!

‘I can’t believe she did this yaar!’ Shashi tried to control his sobs. ‘I love her!’

They were now seated at the booze joint on the third floor, nursing icy Kingfishers.

‘Haha…I always told you she was not the right girl for you! Do you know she even tried to hook me too in the beginning? I never told you how much she used to flirt with me, because you liked her so much...’ Rakesh tried to induce a piousness that he did not feel, into his tone. ‘Of course, I ignored her completely until she tied the rakhi, you know…’

‘How could she have done this to me, yaar? How?’

‘Dump her da, just dump her…’ Rakesh replied. ‘Such girls don’t deserve love from guys like us…’

‘She even agreed that we could get married after we completed our degree da!’

‘Yeah, and you believed her? Such girls will roam around with all the other rascals and then marry good fellows like us when they want to settle down da…they want all these rich fellows to enjoy and loaf around with and then get married to seedha-saadha types like you..’

‘How could she have gone to watch such a movie with that…that fellow yaar. It seems it is a blue film with all kinds of lousy scenes you know…and she never told me she drinks! Imagine yaar, she was aaraamse boozing with that fellow…’

‘Yaar, I’m telling you such girls will do everything before they get married…you can’t trust such females to be loyal to you after marriage also…’

‘I thought she was a good, decent girl da!’ Shashi’s voice began to break.

‘Then why did she wear a dress like that and go with some random fellow to watch a movie like ‘50 shades of Grey’? God knows what all they both did, sitting inside that dark theatre, da! Do good girls do such things, tell me?’

‘I had planned to watch it with her on our honeymoon da! Now my life is over…just over…’ Shashi began to sob.

‘Just imagine what would have happened if you had taken her to your parents! Your Amma would have freaked out if she came to know that her future daughter-in-law wears such indecent clothes and goes to watch sex movies with paraaiah men!’ Rakesh’s voice held suppressed elation that Shashi didn’t notice in his state of melancholy.

Rakesh tried hard to mask the glee he felt at his friend’s misfortune. He reveled in bliss as his words added fuel to the flame raging in Shashi’s mind.

After all, it had taken herculean strength for Rakesh to watch the girl of his dreams fall in love with his best friend. It had taken immense self-control to watch the love blossom and grow between them for the last two years, while his heart ached for her. 

It had taken Rakesh daily Google counseling for a month, to deal with the shock of having the only beauty among the five females in Mechanical Engineering class of BMT Engineering college, call him Bhaiyya and tie a rakhi on his wrist on that fateful day last year.

And now, all of that had come to a fitting end. This evening, they had watched Suman slip into the gleaming silver Audi outside her PG, when they had gone to meet her as usual. It was customary for Rakesh to accompany Shashi in the evenings on the pretext of dropping his friend to her PG. That way, he could get a glimpse of Suman, sometimes even a smile and a wave from her, before he took off to his place.

Today, however, had been different. Shashi had called Suman to tell her that he wouldn’t be coming over. He’d wanted to surprise her with a bouquet of her favourite roses and Swiss chocolates, before he broke the good news to her. He’d expected her to swoon at his feet when he told her that he'd finally cleared all the arrears from the first two years of B.E. and had only three more subjects left to pass. 

Everything had turned topsy-turvy though, when they saw the docile girl who only wore only churidaars to college, emerge from her PG building, clad in a short black skirt, a bright red halter top and 3-inch black stilettos. The same girl who wore flat slippers coupled with two oily braids to college, had let her hair down, and how!

They had followed her into the mall and watched the tall guy joke with her as they proceeded to watch the biggest blue movie of the year. They had waited in the mall till the movie was over, when a fretting Shashi nursed his broken heart, while Rakesh secretly rejoiced in his friend’s misfortune. They had then followed the couple surreptitiously to the restaurant in the food-court and watched them order a Mojito each.


And now, 26 hours later, they sat on the stone bench on the terrace of his rented room, trying to discuss the future course of events.


Just then, Shashi’s blackberry began to buzz.

He switched on the speaker phone and Rakesh watched his face rearrange itself in the appropriate expression of indignant anger, before answering ‘Yes, Suman? What is it?’


‘Hey Shashi, why are you avoiding me? You haven’t picked up my calls since last evening. You know I wanted to tell you, I had gone out with my cousin brother yesterday…u remember I told you he is coming from the US, na?


You won’t believe, he had bought a new dress as a gift for me and convinced me to try it out. I wore a skirt for the first time in my life, Rakesh…I think you will love me more in western outfits…he was teasing me endlessly for being so self-conscious…’ her voice took on a shy overture while she said this, before she continued, ‘And you know, he didn’t know that I don’t drink and bought me something that I thought was juice and then wondered why it tasted so funny…


Suman paused to catch her breath, before she went on, ‘The worst part was, we didn’t get tickets to the Hindi movie we’d planned to watch, so we ended up with some horribly cheap English one…’ Suman’s voice trailed off, in what seemed to be embarrassment.


‘Cousin Brother? Did u say Brother? I love you, baby,’ Shashi exhaled in a rush of emotion as he wiped tears of joy, while a gobsmacked Rakesh looked on, in intense disappointment.



*****


Women have been the targets of innumerable stereotypes from times immemorial, ranging from the usual victimizing to the incredibly weird. Some of the common stereotypes I’ve tried to inculcate in the story are:
  • Girls who wear short dresses and/or drink alcohol have a questionable character.
  • Boys don’t cry.
  • Close friends always want the best for their buddies. They would gladly give up their love-mates for friendship. (Bollywood influence, perhaps?)
  • People who are from a different place, with a different culture cannot be trusted.
  • If a girl watches an adult movie with a guy, she is of questionable character and unworthy of trust.
  • If a girl hangs out with a guy who isn’t related to her by blood or marriage, she is in a questionable relationship with him.
*****

Chick in a flower




A little baby chick, peeking out from its deep enclosure, from within folds of fluffy-soft secure plumage...can you spot it? 

Nature never ceases to amaze.

This is a male Pumpkin flower in my garden, waiting for his female to bloom for him...

I was enthralled to recognize two little 'eyes', a cute, round 'nose' in a chick-like apparition from deep within the flower.

I love clicking macro shots, because they always divulge hidden wonders to us, that we normally wouldn't notice otherwise. I'd never have seen what the lens revealed to me, until I zoomed into the picture I'd casually captured.