Wednesday 25 April 2018

Short Story 18 : The Bridge of Doom.

Theme : Horror.

I delight in what I fear.

-  Shirley Jackson

I have never been a fan of horror stories, although I glean a lot more fun to write, rather than read horror. A good horror story can annoy, terrify or in some cases, haunt our dreams or nightmares. The challenge of horror stories is to enter the readers' psyche, enough to scare, disturb, or disgust them. 

However, horror can be rather tricky to pen well. It is my personal belief that horror-writing requires above all, an active imagination.

This is my third attempt at writing a tale of horror. The first one, The perfect Lover was set within a haunted mansion, and the second one, The Ghost of Airawata panned out in a forest. I decided to use an outdoorsy backdrop for this one as well, with an element of water under a bridge. I must admit that I haven't had this much fun writing and editing any story in a long time. 

Horror is indeed great food for the hyperactive imagination that constantly plagues me, which is why there is ample room in this story, as in most of my stories, for the readers' imagination to go haywire too.


The Bridge of Doom.

‘What the hell am I going to do now?’ I agonized. ‘How the fuck did I get into this mess?’
It was all Mohit’s fault. The asshole. I know he goaded me into this challenge, with the sole intention of showing me down. He’d be glad if I were to die. He’d be able to charm Roshni then, with me conveniently out of the way.
Oh God! What would Roshni say if she knew I’d gotten myself into this unholy mess? I won’t even tell her, I decided.
How had it all come to this? I wondered again for the umpteenth time.
All I did was join my so-called friends for a round of drinks over the weekend. I can’t recall how the topic of the damned bridge came up in the first place. And when it did, like always, we could never really stop going on and on about it…
All those fucking rumours…all those dead people…all the disappearances.
The Bridge of Doom, it is called. And for good reason. It isn’t a very large bridge, only around 7 metres wide. It’s not even too long actually, only one and quarter kilometer long, flanked by a tall tower on each end. It is a strong bridge too, made of solid concrete and steel, built against the backdrop of the Shola hills at the outskirts of the town. The railings are rather rusty and weathered, but still sturdy along the first few yards, while non-existent towards the other end.
So why is it doomed? Because, it is haunted. Or it is supposed to be. Well, it is one thing for people to scoff at the stories one hears, about the host of evil spirits that haunt the place. It is quite another for the same people to have the gumption to hazard a journey across it, after dark.
My phone began to buzz. It was Roshni. Damn, maybe she heard about the challenge and called me to dissuade my foolishness. Well, if she knows me well enough, I’d rather die than admit, even to her, that I was fucking scared, shitting bricks in my pants at the thought of what was to come...but, hey, ‘Cool Neel’ would never let on his true feelings even to the love of his life.
I ignored the call and opened my wardrobe. I gazed at the rows of outfits, trying to decide on the most suitable attire to be found dead in. I reckoned a pair of dark blue jeans and a black pullover over a grey tee, would suffice to bring on sufficient mystery and aura that would surround the circumstances of my death, if my body was ever found.
A total of 57 people have disappeared on the bridge, over the last three years alone. I have travelled over the structure quite a few times, during the safe period. People do risk travelling across the damned thing during the mornings between 9am to 4pm, 5 pm at most. It is after sunset that the place is supposed to get dangerous.
No one really knows what happens out there. There are no survivors to recount their experiences to us. Legend however has it, that the sinister happenings involve humans being turned into pseudo-animals, sometimes blessed with long talons and inverted claws to boot.
And I, Neel Vasudevan, despite being 32 years old, despite being a silver-medalist in the final year of engineering college, despite being a successful software engineer, was foolish enough to have accepted the dare that would probably be the end of me. I don’t even want to go into the details of how I was teased, tested, goaded and hooked into the sheer idiocy of it. But then, I have always prided myself over my courage, or atleast the mask of nonchalant courage that I always don, especially in the presence of my so-called buddies.
To cut a fucking long story short, I, Neel Vasudevan was due to cross the goddamned bridge, at midnight, that very day. And, three hours away from the event, I wondered for the umpteenth time if I was dropped on my head as a baby, or perhaps bonked over my skull sometime in childhood.
The deal was for the rascals to pick me up at 11.30 PM from Rakshit’s place. The five of us, Rakshit, Praveen, Ashok, Mohit and I, would travel to the bridge, where I’d be duly dropped off and 20 minutes later, I would meet the fucking hooligans at the other end.
They would wait for another 20 minutes or even half an hour before they decided that I was no more…the kind souls.
I looked out of the balcony to glimpse a bolt of lightning tear across the front yard of my building. The accompanying clap of thunder seemed to herald the call of my doom to the whole town…
For the first time in the five months that I had lived in the tiny 1 BHK apartment, I walked up to the dust-ridden shelf in the corner of my living room, the tiny space that Amma had set up for me to offer my prayers like the good Tamil boy I was brought up to be. I poured some oil into the lamp in the left had corner of the shelf and lit a match against the sooty wick. Particles of dust and a tiny dead cockroach floated atop the glistening oil. Poor bastard, I thought as I fished out the body and flicked it out of the balcony.
The digital clock on my wall showed quarter to eleven. It was time to leave, perhaps for the last time. I took one last look around the apartment, trying to summon up non-existent nerve and locked the main door, before making my way towards Rakshit’s house.


‘There’s still time, just say you won’t do it, man…’ Rakshit whispered. The unusual silence in the car seemed to amplify his whisper, although no one else appeared to have heard him.
I pretended not to hear him. I chose instead, to contemplate the dark shadows cast by our receding headlamps behind us, from my side of the window. I hoped my racing heartbeats wouldn’t make themselves heard over the roar of the old car’s motor and the din of the raging storm.
The Alto offered no resistance against the biting cold as it ferried its five solemn passengers, bounding over mounds of earth and sinking ruthlessly into potholes, before heaving itself over to our destination.
Another roar of thunder shattered the sky as I took a deep breath and stepped out into the rain.
My dear buddies never got out of the car. I could feel the heat of four pairs of eyes boring into my back as I headed to the bridge, my head held high, my breathing heavy, my heart in my mouth and the cold raindrops piercing my exposed face and forearms.


The sheets of rain made visibility zero, I could not see beyond four feet ahead of me.
Hope I don’t slip and fall over the low edges into the gory river, that would be a terrible way to die… I thought.
I could hear the roar of the Urmi River churning below the layer of concrete separating my feet from her whirling depths. It seemed to resonate the churning of my stomach, even as my heart made its presence known with irregular thuds that competed to be heard over the racket of the storm.
It’s okay, Neel, it’s okay. It’s just a bridge, a road, no ghosts here… I told myself constantly, as I hurried across the spooky bridge. My feet made no sound against the stones, although water sloshed against my shoes as I walked. The chill bit deep into my skin, threatening to engulf my very soul in its ruthless darkness.
I knew I was almost halfway across already, although I could see neither the end of the bridge nor the beginning where I came from, when I  turned for a quick glance behind me, without slowing down my pace.
Ghosts do not exist, ghosts do not exist...
I repeated the mantra in my head. I’m gonna win this fucking challenge! I’ll show those assholes what Cool-Neel is made of. They’ll never dare to take me on ever again.
A breezy way to make ten grand in twenty minutes, I almost smiled as another clap of thunder tore the sky.
I thought I’d called my own name. Except that the voice was so unlike my own.
I felt an invisible ice cube make its way slowly down my already chilled spine.
My legs began to move faster, on their own accord, even as I willed myself not to run. That was not the deal, you see. I would reach the end long before 20 minutes if I ran across, my friends would have already reached the end. It only takes 13 minutes for the Alto to reach the rear end of the bridge, via the roundabout route to the other bank of the Urmi.
‘Neel, stop. It’s me!’
Don’t turn Neel, keep going! I told myself.
But then, I am me. The dumbass, the moron, the retard. So of course, I stopped. And turned.
There he was. The man. I couldn’t see his face at first, it was a mere blurry impression of a human being about 5 feet tall.
I was about to bolt, when the fuzzy vision came forward and I recognized Rana Singh! Rana, who had disappeared over this very place two and a half years ago!
‘Neel beta, how are you?’ He smiled.
‘Er uncleji, I’m alright…’ I stuttered like a parrot that’d just begun to use its vocal cords.
‘Chalo beta, let me walk with you to the other end, so that u can be safe…’ he smiled more, raindrops glistening on his shining smooth skin of his whitish face.
And I had no choice but to let the long-since-missing Rana to fall in step beside me.


Twelve minutes later, I turned to give one last wave to the smiling old man and walked haughtily towards the Alto that waited for me a few yards away from the end of the bridge of doom.
I expected the assholes to at least greet me with a high-five or at least a grudging smile. But they had none of that waiting for me. They looked at me with almost glazed expressions in their eyes. I took my place next to Mohit, in the backseat and with a start of glee, I realized that they were sitting motionless, with stiff gaits.
‘Hey guys! I’m okay! Look I’m back and I’m still in one piece! See…’
I held up my hands to show them that I was indeed back in single piece, vaguely aware that my hands felt heavier than they normally did.
‘Hey Mohit, gimme a high-five man!’ I urged my ruddy-faced companion of two years.
He turned his head towards me. I saw tiny silver glints in the corners of his eyes in the semi-darkness, as he lifted his hand obediently to pat his palms against mine with a resounding clap, except that it sounded more like a thud than a clap.
I began to laugh in exultation, when the sound froze against my throat in a gasp. Mohit had not let go of my hand after the high-five. The long talons held on in an iron grip, but that was not what terrified me more than the whole muted terror I’d experienced on the journey of twenty minutes. Rather, the hair on my nape stood at right angles to my back, when in the dim yellow haze of the interiors, I saw the dark brown talons of my own hand, holding on to the cold pink ones that belonged to Mohit.
I shook off his hand with all the strength I could muster and swung my head around to the other guys. None of them moved a muscle.They sat staring ahead of them, with eyes that gleamed like those of zombies intent on an invisible prey. I glimpsed another pair of brown talons, that belonged to Ashok, who'd driven the car, gripping the steering wheel of the car. 
Sheer panic seized my senses, as I threw the door open, to bound out of the vehicle. One shoe caught against the edge of the seat and bounced against the half-open door before falling into the slush with an audible plop. I was vaguely aware that my shoes seemed grotesquely torn, in gaping cracks around it edges, as if my feet had grown too big for them all of a sudden.
I put my foot out of the door, on the ground in my hurry to get away from the monster-car and felt the cool earth envelop my foot.
A short flash of lightning illuminated the ground and in those two seconds, I felt my eyes widen further, when instead of my toes, I saw a large hairy heel where my toes should have been. In that instant before the radiance disappeared, I saw the long coal-black claws protruding out of five grisly sockets, where my heels used to be.
I froze in that position, one inverted claw-foot out the door, one talon-paw on the handle, until the smashing thunder faded into a deep rumble and stopped altogether. The steady beat of rain over my exposed face, slowly cleared my head.
My phone began to buzz. I knew it was Roshni, frantically trying to reach me, agonizing if I had come out of the nightmare, alive.
I took a deep breath. I smelt the earth, the water, the fragrance of crushed grass across the meadows, and even the dripping juices of rain-ravaged foliage amidst the trees. I sensed an enticing scent of live flesh, of small creatures scurrying about under the ground, across the forest and hidden in invisible nests in the trees. Yes, I was alive, indeed.
I pulled my shoe-less paw back into the car and shut the door. The roaring storm played a sinister symphony to the bridge of doom, as our car pulled away from the concrete structure, looming in a mock salute, a gigantic tomb in the stormy night.

Bridge Paintings : Claude Monet 
Images: Google

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Book Review 2 : Mrs. Funnybones, by Twinkle Khanna.

A Review.

Book 2 of 2018 : Mrs.Funnybones. 
Author: Twinkle Khanna

It was mid-February already and I'd only read two books until then. I know that sounds pathetic, but then, I did read 2 books in a row the previous day. And this is exactly the kinda light reading I pick up, in between reading hardcore thrillers. Breezy books allow our minds to 'cool-off' from the hard, gory, suspense that churns the grey cells into mush within the skull.

I was halfway through a thriller by Dean Koontz & picked this one up, to allow my haggard brain to recoup.

The first thing that hit me when I began to read Mrs. Funnybones, was that I'd read some of it before. I then remembered that I had indeed come across the same paragraphs in her newspaper articles already. I realized that the book was probably a compilation of some of her articles that were published on her columns in the Times.

I had the pleasure of listening to Twinkle Khanna speak her heart out at the Bangalore Literature Festival and she did repeat some beautifully rehearsed portions of the more humorous parts of her book. She began with her signature introduction of herself including her family & pets, and her whole chat with Darius Sunawala was interspersed with portions from this book (although she was there to promote her next book 'The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad').

What strikes you the most about her is the candidness and lack of decorum, so to speak. Here is one star who blatantly refuses to be politically correct, and that in itself a breath of fresh air in an industry filled with spineless bimbos. She has no qualms about mocking the quirks of society, her family, especially her own superstar mom and true to her name, all of this is woven with dry humor and irrepressible wit.

Mrs. Funnybones is a book that most Indian women would connect to, even as they nod vigorously, smirk, giggle or burst into outright laughter at some of her observations and anecdotes.

One has to remind oneself that she is talking about the star Akshay Kumar, when she brazenly refers to him as the 'man of the house'. Or that this woman who discusses everyday problems like any other middle class housewife is actually a Bollywood star. So, a superstar's wife faces almost the same trials and tribulations as does an average Indian woman...or so Mrs.Khanna would have you believe. Food for thought indeed. 

There are instances in the narrative that makes you do a double-take. Like the part when she claims to have taken her baby to the loo in the airplane to check on a soiled diaper. Really? And we thought our stars hired a fleet of maids for such mundane things such as changing baby diapers.

The portions where she points out the futility of fasting for the husband on Karva Chauth takes on a note of wry humor when she backs it up with research data. And yet, one cannot help notice that she appears to follow all the said rituals that she vehemently scoffs at.

Lemme tell you what I found most hilarious/bang-on/profound in Twinkle Khanna's debut offering. 

The Hilarious:

A wise woman keeps her hands firmly in her pockets & does not accidentally unzip anything, including her mouth.

The Bang-on: 

Box people who undergo liposuction & claim how they lost all their weight just by eating three healthy meals & two nutritious snacks every day.

Box people who post minute-by-minute updates on Facebook depicting every detail of their December getaway. There are only so many 'Gee my life is wonderful' statuses that other people can bear.

They won't arrest scores of men who publicly unbutton, unzip, pull out their dangly bits & proceed to urinate on a wall right outside the police station, but for reasons still unknown to me, opening a single top button has become the crime of the century.

The profound:

We come from darkness, live for a short while in a blaze of light & sound and go back into darkness. Yet day after day, we go on pretending that we and our loved ones are immortal.

..trying and holding on are complicated & challenging things, but the most difficult thing in life is to love fiercely & then let go. 

I'm rather relieved that the plagiarism specialists of the tweeting community have not copy-pasted these lines as much as they'd be expected to. I hope these quotes don't end up on Twitter as 'self-made quotations', as much as Paulo Coelho's words do.

There's a lot more to glean from this book, but I figure Mrs.Funnybones may prefer that you buy her book, instead of reading it all here for free. 

Photo: Chethana Ramesh

Book of your life - Poems.

Theme: Book.

Happy #WorldBookDay! 

I decided to pen two poems in honour of the World Book Day, albeit in a different vein. 

My poems use the word 'Book' as a metaphor, rather than the usual parlance. 
Book of your Life.

I'm not a footnote, 
a word, or a mere line, 
not even a quote
that makes the para shine; 
I live in the story you wrote, 
in your gossamer ink fine; 
On every page, I fluidly float,
for your book of life is mine.


Open the defiant door 
to reveal the book of your life; 
Erase the words that tore 
chasms between us, like a knife; 
Allow our dreams to soar 
in pages of love that is rife, 
Let our quills explore 
new stories, devoid of strife.

Images: Digital art from Google.

Monday 23 April 2018

Book Review : Fear Nothing, by Dean Koontz.

A Review

It has been rather challenging to keep up with my reading amidst everything else that catches my fancy, especially penning poetry and stories. I do seriously hope to achieve at least the minimum standard of 60 books that I always manage to read every year.

I figured it maybe a good idea to share my reading with you amazing folks, not only because it would fuel my inspiration to read more than I do, but also because I hope to inspire you guys to read more too. 

I've decided to post mini-reviews of all the interesting books I read this year. I call them mini reviews because I will touch upon only those points that I find riveting and leave out the parts that I do not find interesting.

My reviews are based solely my own views and opinions. Further, I shall post excerpts that I found most compelling in the books I read.

Readers and book lovers may hope to glean some insight into the books from my reviews, that serve more as blurbs than reviews per se.


 Book 1 of 2018 : Fear Nothing.
Author: Dean Koontz.

This was Book 1 of the year 2018, that I read in January.

I finished reading the first book of the year & emptied the first bottle of wine, in the first week of the new year.

Jacob's creek was the perfect accompaniment to the roller coaster thrill-ride that this novel is. Books and booze, an unbeatable combo.

As for the book, trust Dean Koontz to give you some good heebie-jeebies, even as he urges you to 'Fear nothing'. The book is impossible to put down, even as you wanna do just that, to give yourself a break from all the chills that run up and down your spine.

What I find most compelling about a Koontz novel, however is his prose. The descriptions of every element, be it nature, darkness, feelings or just plain characters is at a different plane. 

Koontz is truly the king of similes and metaphors. His elucidation is so complete that the reader can visualize the scene with utmost clarity and live the feeling of each character.

The protagonist Christopher Snow, endears himself to you from the word Go. One cannot help but feel his pain at being the victim of a disorder such as XP. It is hard to put yourself in his shoes and imagine a life without light, especially sunlight. 

And yet, his positivism towards his hardships and his life, almost borders on psychosis. His wry humor is infectious and living the darkness of the night world through his eyes is a revelation. 

As for his dog, Orsen, you would have to be really hard-hearted to not fall in love with this hyper-intelligent adorable canine.

If you are a thriller-lover as I am, this book won't disappoint you. The suspense moves at break-neck speed and you would be chagrined to realize that you've turned so many pages that have spanned only a few hours of a single night. Nail-biting sequences inter spaced with heart-wrenching scenes, laced with dry humorous wit in just the right places, this book is worth every minute you spend on it.


 Here are some tidbits from the novel, that I found interesting. Do lemme know if you find them enticing too. 

The first big hurdle is believing you can actually do it. Putting aside your doubt, your cynicism, all your preconceived notions about what's possible and what isn't. Most of all, hardest of all, you have to stop worrying about looking foolish, 'cause fear of being humiliated really limits you. .

Knowledge seldom brings peace. A hundred years ago, we didn't know about atomic structure or DNA or black holes - but are we any happier or more fulfilled now than people were then?

Truth is sweet but dangerous. People could not go on living if they faced every cold truth about themselves.

You ever feel this emptiness? An emptiness so bad you've got to fill it or you'll die, but you don't know where the emptiness is or what in the name of God you're supposed to fill it with?


Photo : Chethana Ramesh

Monday 16 April 2018

Catharsis - A Poem.

The morbid cloak of dark
is a cruel cape;
attempts she, to embark
on a valiant escape,
flees to lustre, a mere spark,
heedless of a thorny drape;
Delicacy rips, wounds bleed stark
vicious thorns tear & scrape…
freed at last, albeit a laden lark,
with a new destiny to shape. 
Image : Google.
Painting of woman : Artist Juan Miguel's 'Wounded'.
Note: I have merged part of the painting, with the picture of thorns to build the scenario for the context of my poem.

Short Story 17 : So close and yet, so far.

Theme : Loss.

The story of a loss can be hard to explain and harder to describe on paper.
                                                                        - Jessica Handler.

There is no dearth of literature describing loss. While loss of love, particularly romantic love, takes more precedence in literature, there are kinds of loss, with myriad shades to it that offer ample scope to write about.

I have attempted one such piece of fiction, which is an all too common scenario in the world today.

So close and yet, so far.

They are all here. Every one of them. I am surprised. No, I’m in fact, pleasantly shocked. After all, why would they have come now, after all these years?
Eight years, seven months and twenty two days, actually. That’s when I was officially declared as a loner, so to speak. Or a destitute, an old woman with no one to call her own. Orphaned in old age. I feel the cracked skin on my face crease sorely while I smile.
I turn my head slightly, trying not to wince at the ache this minimal movement causes me. I can hear a shallow scraping noise, stemming from somewhere near me at regular intervals. It coincides with the spurts of searing pain that shoot down my throat, down to my heaving lungs…wait, is that my own breathing?
My eyes focus on a vision, two feet away from me. Ah, wonder of wonders! Shravan is here! The same Shravan who had put me here in the first place. Here, as in, this old age home, if this godforsaken place could even be called that.
‘Ma, we can’t afford your expenses anymore, Radha has threatened to divorce me if I do not send you away…and you know how difficult it was for you to find a bride for me in the first place…and now after the twins were born, the expenses have shot through the roof…’ he had said, not meeting my unflinching gaze.
He seems…sad now, somehow. In fact he is weeping. My son has not aged a single day, I notice. My heart swells in pride, as I take in his straight jet black hair combed neatly to the right of his broad forehead. And hey, his wife is here as well, with their twins. 
Ah, my grandchildren. They are as cute as they were when I last saw them all those years ago. There is something odd though. They do not seem to have grown much despite all these years. How is that? I wonder.
And what are their names now…something that rhymed with my son’s wife’s parents…I cannot recall their names. They stare at me, holding hands, confusion writ in their large eyes. They look miserable too, although the mickey mouse on their identical T-shirts look happy enough. They seem to be wearing the same clothes they used to wear when I still lived in their home. Do they still remember all the stories I used to tell them? I hope they do…I wonder.
I hear a muffled sob on my right. I turn my head slightly towards the sound. Ah, there’s Jahnvi, my daughter. When did she return from the UK? Jahnvi, my goddess. Oh, she is weeping inconsolably. Her young son clutches the ends of her red pallu, tugging it to get her attention…ah, she has worn the saree I had bought for her ten years ago, just before she had left for the UK as a new bride. She had scoffed then when she saw my gift, hadn’t she?
‘Ma!’ she’d cried in exasperation. ‘Who in their right minds wears sarees in London, ma? Rakesh has already bought me a brand new wardrobe of western clothes, all paid for in pounds you know…’ the pride of a new bride flaunting the successful husband, his enviable wealth & his amorous generosity was evident in her tone. 
‘I’m leaving all these old-fashioned clothes right here with you, give them away to some…some orphanage or something…,’ she continued her instructions to me, as she shoved my Kanchivaram silk gift into the plastic bag with the said clothes. I thought of the two and a half hours I’d spent going from one shop to another, hunting for the perfect gift for her.
I’d held back my tears then and smiled at her, but she had noticed neither. Ah, the pompous, hyper-excitement of a small town girl going abroad for the first time in her life…
I smile now at the memory, the memory of my only daughter parading her elevated status, to her imbecile mother. And yet, here she is, at her mom’s deathbed, wearing the same saree. How had she gotten hold of it now, after so many years? 
I try to smile more and wince as the cracks of my laugh lines break against my haggard skin. I become aware of suffocation deep in my chest. I recognize the well-known feeling.
My throat is parched, I need water.
Would Jahnvi understand that I’m terribly thirsty? If only she would stop crying and look at me once. Surely my cracked lips and dry tongue would indicate to her, how dehydrated I am.
Jahnvi, the Ganges river. If only she would pour a little water down my shriveled throat now…I continue to stare at her bent head, wordlessly willing her to look up at me.
It was Goutam who had insisted on naming our children Jahnvi and Shravan.  Goutam, my dear husband, who had passed soon after the twins were born to our son. If only Goutam had lived for another few years, I lament for the millionth time since his death…
I turn my head slightly to look back at my son. He is holding the twins in his arms and whispering something to them now.
Shravan…why had Goutam named our son Shravan? Something nags my mind. Ah, yes! Because he had been born a long six years after our wedding. Shravan, the name of a son, who’s love for his parents was the stuff of mythological legends.
I smirk, as I contemplate the son fate had blessed me with, instead.
My throat issues a new protest and a volley of coughs racks my chest all of a sudden. I feel Jahnvi’s soft palm on my chest, patting me. She murmurs something soothing to me, I cannot understand a single word. She seems to be talking in another language. Oh yes, it must be the new accent she’s been practicing, the one which she said was ‘cool’. It sounds the same as it always did on the phone…when had she last called me? Was it 5 years ago? I cannot recall.
My cough subsides, more out of sheer exhaustion than relief. Water. I need water. One glass…or just half a glass shall suffice. Oh, how it would feel, how blissful it would feel, to have the languid flow of that divine liquid down my gasping mouth, my dry tongue and arid throat.
The torment is down to my belly now, the cancer that has seized my insides and ravaged my very soul…or is it a tumor? I did not understand what the doctor had diagnosed last month, he’d been more interested in flirting with the warden’s young daughter, than tend to his ancient patient, with one leg in the grave. After all, why would he bother with an old hag like me? I couldn’t even afford his consultation fees, let alone the treatment.
I close my eyes and concentrate on the grating noise, emanating from my throat. It seems a lot louder now. A cuckoo begins its song of joy, from the mango tree outside. The calculated rhythm of its tone, matches the garbled noise of my throat with unerring precision.
I open my eyes.
The wall, the same wall that I have stared at for many months now, gapes back at me. My son and his lovely family have now been replaced by the face. The grey-black face, the mocking face, that everyone else calls torn, half-peeled paint, sneers down at me, with the same cruelty, yet again.
I look away, towards where my daughter had been a little earlier. There is a wooden table that stands crookedly with one leg broken. 
An unwashed plate, wearing leftover stains from this morning’s breakfast of one katori of dry upma, leans against the wall. A stainless steel lidless jug, yellowed with years of accumulated grime, stands precariously balanced in front of it, on the wrecked table.
Ah, water. Wretched water. Blessed water. So close and yet so far…
I know that the attendant assigned to me, albeit reluctantly, wouldn’t bother to look in on me until it is time for my breakfast tomorrow. After all, how would she know that the old hag in room number 8, is close to kicking the bucket tonight? Not that she’d have bothered with me, even if knew, in any case.
I smile again, heedless of the pain my despicable body assaults me with.
Loss. The inevitable price one must pay, for having bestowed love. And I had imparted love with unconditional abandon.
Love. Love that I had given to a husband, who had loved me too.
Love, that I showered on my children, without restraint.
Love, I believe I once had from the same children, but eventually lost, although I know not why.
The greater the love, the higher the torment of its loss.
But now, as I count the wheezing breaths that herald the end of my fifty nine years, I do not crave the loss of love or my loved ones.
All I desperately crave is…a last sip of water.

Image credits: Google.
Old woman Paintings : Artist Juan Miguel's Wounded series.