The Curious Case Of A Loner

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Sneha had always been accused of being a loner. She would often ponder though, whether she actually was a loner and if being one was a crime so to say. She was not bitten by the wanderlust bug. She found solace in books and enjoyed her company the most. Planning a holiday and then the eventual packing paraphernalia would give her the jitters- always. Was she downright laid back, she would wonder. Well for a long time her world was unfettered by any chaos and she reveled in the blissful company of her own self.

She did have friends but the shenanigans of a ‘Sex and the City’ kind of friendship was nowhere to be found. Was it even real, she would often muse. And in the absence of a ‘bosom pal’ it was quite convenient for her to lean back to books and her own blessed company.

Then she got married. And as luck would have it, she got hitched to someone who was an extrovert par excellence and who swore by ‘long drives’ and outdoorsy excursions. But, she remained unscathed by his exuberance and slowly and steadily they found a middle path. He could not move her from her comfort zone and life went on with the usual ebb and flow.

Soon monotony gripped her from behind like a dark stranger. She was miserable. Things that brought joy unabated- now seemed drab. What was missing in her almost perfect life? Sneha felt weary and soon realized that she would have to shun the land of the ‘Lotus Eaters’ and instead of living a life of languor look for newer exciting pastures.

A trip was therefore planned. They would spend a few days in the hills. Sneha was still dubious about this whole scenario. But, she conceded thinking how bad can it be. The hills were probably calling out to them.

The day she reached the sleepy hill city, she was smitten with it. It was as if life had come to a stand-still. And she was enjoying it. She liked the slow-paced aura of the place and those serpentined mountain lanes caught her attention like never before. She had extensively read Wordsworth when she was a teenager and even later, but never did it dawn on her that he was right after all. Nature do things to you which you cannot possibly explain in words- may be sketch out a hazy image to people like the Romantics did. But, it affects you way deeper than you can paraphrase through words.

The cool air cleansed her much tired mind and she felt rejuvenated. So- this is why people go about travelling the length and breadth of the world, she said to herself. The tiny break and the rendezvous with the hills gave her perspectives anew.

It is indeed good to be hidden in the safe vestibules of our home and mind, but, we humans cannot possibly reside in ‘a land where all things always seem’d the same’ (Lotus Eaters- Lord Tennyson).

And so, as the trip came to a bitter sweet end, Sneha realized that- “The vacation we often need is freedom from our own mind”. In these last few days she had not just come out of her shell that she had hitherto formed around herself but she also truly broadened her horizons-literally.

With a smile on her face and a glow that nature bestows on you- she headed home. Will she continue to be a loner and escape being a wanderer? Well- it is a start for sure 

Image Source: Christophe Dutour/Unsplash

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Posted in opinion, Short Story | 2 Comments

And She Ran…

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Trishna walked laboriously towards her apartment and looked around. The morning breeze blew her hair and the sunlight sieved through the foliage making her face shine brighter than ever. January mornings in the city were both serene and surreal. But Trishna could not care any less.

She entered her house and plonked on the beige coloured couch. She slowly moved her palm over the couch and sighed. Her mind unwittingly went back to the day when they had gone furniture hunting just after they had landed in the city. It had been six years.

She stood up and reached the bedroom. The big mirror seemed to be staring at her. The reflection did not please her but it did not surprise her either. There stood a plump, middle aged woman in her sweat pants.

Trishna realized she had errands to run and also buy a birthday gift for her daughter Tara. The mere thought of Tara brought a smile on her face. Trishna’s life revolved around Tara. Sankalp her husband was a wonderful father and every time Trishna saw the father-daughter duo she felt conflicting emotions erupt within her. “He is such a loving dad. I cannot be selfish. It is good for Tara”, she would tell herself and push the revolting thoughts in the innermost sanctum of her being.

She stepped out quickly collecting her car keys. She had to be back on time to pick Tara from the school bus.

“Hey, in a hurry?” a voice jolted her back to the present. She turned around and found herself standing face to face with a woman. The woman looked younger, way younger than her. She wore gym clothes and smiled from ear to ear.

“Hii, yes was just heading out”, Trishna managed to blurt out.

“No worries. I am Sneha. I have just moved next to you. 302. I thought I should introduce myself. I am a kindergarden teacher and I have just moved to this society as it is quite close to my workplace”.

“Oh great. I am Trishna. It is so good to meet you. I have a four year old daughter and we have been staying her for a while now. My husband Sankalp works for an IT firm. Do let us know if you need anything. Please feel free to barge in anytime”, Trishna said trying to sound as friendly as possible.

“Yes, I will. Thank you Trishna”, Sneha smiled.

The next few days Trishna would often see her new neighbor Sneha. Sometimes she would be returning after her work-out session while on some days she would be seen strolling in the society park. Trishna often looked at her bemused and could not help marveling at her exuberance which was almost infectious.

But wasn’t she like Sneha, once upon a time, she would wonder. Maybe we all have to grow up and face the bitter realities of life, she would think.

It was one of those days when Sankalp was out of town and Tara had gone to her Nani’s place for the long weekend. Trishna chose to stay back. She avoided company. Especially people close to her reminded her all the more of the lie that she was living and the farce that her life had become.

Just then the bell rang. “Who could it be at this hour”, Trishna wondered.
Sneha stood at the door beaming.

“Hii. Sorry to bother you at this hour. But, I ran out of coffee. Can I borrow some?” Sneha looked at her, doe faced.

“Yes, why not. Come in. In fact, I was going to make some for myself. I was alone. My daughter and husband are away for the weekend.”

“Perfect. I will join you in that case. I was bored to bits too.”

Trishna was taken aback but swiftly got around to showing some enthusiasm. She was not hoping for any company. In fact, with both her daughter and Sankalp away she could for sometime shed the garb of normalcy that she wore everyday and stare at the reality of her life.

“Tell me something about yourself Trishna”, Sneha sat on the kitchen slab picking up the coffee mug.

“Uh, what do you want to know?” Trishna felt utter discomfort at the presence of this uninvited guest. She had lots of friends but gradually she had pushed herself to this cocooned existence.

“Well, what are your interests? What you used to do before Tara was born?”

“I.. I ran an event management company and I was into fitness. I organized marathons and even participated in them”, Trishna stuttered.

It had been a while since she had envisaged herself doing any of the things she had just mentioned. It seemed as if she was talking about her alter ego who was lost in a quagmire of misfortune.

“Wow. Now I know why you looked familiar. I remember reading about you in a health magazine”, Sneha chirped.

Trishna nodded nonchalantly and looked the other way.

“I have an idea. Why don’t you come running with me tomorrow morning? It will be fun.” Sneha said out of the blue.

Before Trishna could answer, she said, “I will ring your bell at six in the morning. Be ready”.

The next morning Trishna hesitantly got into her fitness gear. She headed out and slowly started sprinting. As she did she felt an adrenaline rush and with that all the memories came gushing at her. She thought of how she had met Sankalp seven years ago and how they were ardently in love. Her mind took her back to those years when she had married Sankalp much to her parents chagrin. The first year was like a dream. Soon, she had Tara who became the focal point of her life. She used to be a strong and independent woman. She was a fitness freak, a successful entrepreneur. Then, one day all hell broke loose. Sankalp had been going away for official trips on and off. And on that fateful day she found out. He told her he was in love with her colleague. He told her he did not love her anymore. But, he would never leave her. He wanted to be the best father to Tara. He said he was sorry but he was in love. Trishna’s world fell apart. It was as if she was living in a fool’s paradise. She could not tell anyone. She felt embarrassed. She looked at little Tara who had just started saying her first word- ‘papa’.

So, she carried on living a life of pretence. But, her confidence and her self-esteem stumbled like building blocks. She shut down her company. She became a recluse. Her parents and loved ones thought it was depression. She told them she was seeing a therapist. And that shut them up. She no longer despised Sankalp. She was numb.

“Trishna, lets head back. It is enough for today I guess. You are a pro I must say”, Sneha’s voice brought her back from her reverie.

“Yes, let’s go back”.

From that day onwards, it became a ritual of sorts. Every day the two women would run for hours. Trishna felt an unusual surge of energy and she looked forward to the morning runs.
******************

It was early in the morning. As she was warming milk for Tara, she saw Sankalp hastily get into the washroom. She suddenly found herself at the door.

“Yes, I would meet you at the hotel. I know you wanted to have a beach holiday. I will reach Goa tomorrow”.

Trishna stood transfixed and an errant tear trickled down unabated. She knew he was seeing her. He never said he wouldn’t. But, all these years she had sequestered herself in a box and deliberately shut her eyes and her heart to him. Hearing him talk to ‘her’ made her feel nauseated. She felt something churn at the pit of her stomach.

Wearily, she walked out. She saw Sneha already standing there. “Oh, you are here. Let’s go”. Trishna followed her and she ran. She ran till her body could permit. And as she sat down, she bawled. Sneha immediately came and held her. That day Sneha held on to her and after hearing her out, she said, “You have to stand up to yourself. Your daughter needs to see the old you- The one whom she would be proud of. You owe it to yourself. You are an achiever. Do not let him define you”.
****************

A month had passed.
Trishna was a bunch of nerves today. She stepped out and looked at the vast expanse of space staring at her. It was a familiar turf. The biggest marathon event was to begin. She closed her eyes and she ran. She ran away from her inhibitions, she ran away from pretensions and societal norms. And as she reached the finishing line, she smiled. She had found herself.

Image Source: Pexels(Leah Kelley)

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Redemption

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Circa 2110

Dr. Treud’s clinic was swarming with men. Men of varying shapes, sizes and ethnicity had lined up in his swanky clinic. The waiting room which shone radiantly underneath the translucent walls looked almost unreal.

Dr. Treud was one of the most prominent psychiatrists of his times.
After a hard day at work, Dr. Treud sighed and lamented the loss of ‘them’. Almost all his patients had similar symptoms. They were depressed, they felt their lives were mundane and they had pent up emotions which marred their mental well-being.

It had been some years since the world had begun to be inhabited by ‘men only’. The fairer sex had bidden adieu and though scientific breakthrough ensured the process of procreation, only the male progeny could be birthed.

Women had been trampled from times immemorial. All over the world they had fallen prey to inhuman acts like rape, molestation, subjugation and so on. Even the ones who asked for equal rights were mockingly termed as ‘feminazis’.
So, gradually ‘Natural Selection’ took its course and slowly but steadily women disappeared from the face of the earth.

Men grappled to face this new reality and the downfall of humanity almost hung over their heads like Damocles’ sword. They felt incomplete. And why wouldn’t they? The yin had lost its yang.

Long, long ago John Gray had coined the phrase, ‘Men are from Mars, and Women are from Venus’. Today Dr. Treud knew how important the opposing traits were to maintain a fine equilibrium.

Was there a possibility of redemption? Dr. Treud was sure that nature would one day bring back the women folk. Lesson had been learnt. With this thought, he opened the website http://www.wearesorrybringthewomenback.com just as the sun emanated its crimson light and heralded the start of yet another day.

This post was written for a prompt wherein we had to picture a day on earth without women. First published here: https://artoonsinn.com/2019/03/07/redemption-2/

Image source: pexels

Posted in feminism, Flash Fiction, Social Lens, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why The New Amazon Prime Show ‘Made In Heaven’ Is A Must Watch

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Marriages are made in heaven, they say. But, there is indeed more to it than what meets the eye. I have always admired Zoya Akhtar for making films that dig deep and unearth those raw emotions which mostly stand masked in the societal milieu. And she never fails to impress.

Made in Heaven is a nine episode web series that recently premiered on Amazon Prime and is garnering rave reviews from one and all. Created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Katgi, the show showcases the grandeur and opulence of big fat Indian weddings while bringing out the bitter realities that lurk beneath. The protagonists Karan( Arjun Mathur) and Tara(Sobhita Dhulipala) run a wedding planning company called ‘Made in Heaven’ and while they create the grandeur of a heavenly wedding for the elite and filthy rich Dilliwallas, they become party to a lot more than they are hoping for.

Packed in nine episodes the narration is taut and each episode portrays the team of ‘Made in Heaven’ plan a larger than life wedding only to come face to face with the myriads of social evils that loom large behind those luxuriant mansions and seemingly perfect world of the uber rich.

‘Irony’ plays hide and seek throughout these nine episodes and as ghosts of patriarchy, infidelity, avarice and deceit are brought out from the closet, we also learn about the lives of the protagonists. Be it Tara, the entrepreneur who has founded the wedding planning company and who is perfection personified with her classy attire and chic looks or Karan who grapples hard to come out of the closet, everyone is fighting his/her own battle.

Power, Money and Image are the three aspects which work in tandem and often one or the other takes the centrestage. Respect is non-negotiable but one needs to be practical as well. And we are made privy to the fact that today’s generation is quite sure about what they want, through the stories which are told.
While prepping for the D day of the privileged, the protagonists find themselves struggling in their respective lives as well and often the two lives merge. Tara was once a middle-class girl and has risen from her humble beginnings to become the wife of a business tycoon. She is miserable knowing about her husband’s illicit affair. But, she meanders through as this is what she skillfully worked towards- a life of riches. Little did she know that everything comes with a baggage.

Karan is closeted and has not come out about his homosexuality and is living a life of pretence. But, gradually he gains the strength to stand up to who he is and I loved how the makers have made a strong and pertinent statement about homosexuality and depicted the emotional upheaval of homosexuals in a brutally honest manner but not without an inherent sensitivity.

The supporting cast fits like a fiddle and adds to the storyline. Jazz aka Jaspreet(Shivani Raghuvanshi) brings the perspective of a lower middle class Punjabi girl who is fascinated and taken by the wedding business of the rich. Kabir (Shashank Arora) who is the photographer/videographer makes you go into a trance of sorts as he summarizes each wedding journey in a poetic fashion. You turn pensive and make your own interpretations.

What was most interesting to see was how women are depicted in the show. They are no more the naïve and demure ladies of the past but are sassy, ambitious, practical and times even unabashedly conniving. They are no more vulnerable and we are often made to wonder amidst the fancy frills of the weddings as to why getting married is the end all or so to say the happiest day in a woman’s life. The show subtly even questions the relevance of the institution of marriage. It brings to life some gutsy women- the bride who majestically walks out of her wedding mandap when she realizes that her parents are made to pay dowry, the elderly woman who chooses to get married in the evening of her life, the politician’s daughter who yearns to marry a man from a different religion amidst her parents heinous efforts to stop her. But, then there are also flawed women and seeing these layered characters you often lose the sense of right and wrong which I think is the beauty of the direction.

Whether we choose to shut our eyes or stare through the sunlight, the fact of the matter is that our society is changing remarkably- at times for better and at times for worse. Made in heaven mirrors the Indian society with its follies and foibles and in doing so presents us real people sans any value judgment leaving us ruminating but with a faint smile on our lips.

Posted in Pop culture, Social Lens | 1 Comment

For Heaven’s Sake

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The dilapidated three storied building was abuzz with activity and commotion. The air was replete with volatility of sorts and the three men sat on a worn out couch which stood majestically in the living room of one of the houses. Each one waited to set the conversation rolling and put things in motion.

The room cut a sorry figure. A lone window peered at you as if it would whirl in fresh air any moment. But, there was hardly any greenery in the precincts of the building. The air was heavy. The residents had got accustomed to their surroundings and though they cribbed, nothing changed. But, today they had raised an issue, which needed to be addressed as a battle it could ensue.

Lokesh, Keshav and Shankar had come together for an emergency meeting of the residential society which was usually held once every month. But, owing to some unforeseen developments here they were.

Lokesh was your quintessential brooder. He seemed level-headed and smiled at the other two who appeared both cruder and shrewder. Nevertheless he exclaimed in that husky baritone, “So, Keshav, why are we here today? I thought the society meeting was due next week. I am a builder, a contractor. I do not have all the time in the world to come here and listen to your wayward rantings”.

Hearing this Keshav smiled. He was quite a looker this man. He could easily make you swoon and make your heart croon. He turned towards Lokesh and uttered, “Yes, we know you are a busy man. But, this matter needed your intervention. There is utter chaos. Belligerent forces are at play. The people of this society have turned quarrelsome, meddlesome and I no more have any say. I am the President of the society but seldom any heed they pay to what I say…nay”.

Hearing this, the third musketeer Shankar, who sat at the distant edge of the couch, exclaimed, “What exactly is wrong, would you elaborate? I could set things right in no time. Do we need to use force, let me know I could coerce and bring these people on the right course.” He had quite a persona. He wore a tiger print shirt and his unruly hair fell till his shoulder and a grotesque tattoo near his forehead lent him that ‘cool’ look.

“See the thing is that the residents of these apartments are unfortunately at loggerheads. There is a vacant piece of land just outside the building. Now, one of the residents on a whim announced that a temple ought to be built here. But, some people from a different religious sect urged to build a mosque at the said spot. This caused a rift and people grew adrift”, Keshav said frowning a little.

“Why do they these people have to fight over such a petty issue and pray tell me how do we navigate a breakthrough? I cannot stand them casting aspersions at each other. Why not destroy the bone of contention, let us plan an intervention and mete out a full-proof solution”, Shankar said looking at the other two questioningly.

“Religion cannot be tampered with here; the sentiments attached to it go beyond the sensibilities of anyone. When I had built this housing society people loved peace and lived as amiable citizens. But, slow and steadily, brotherhood gave way to forces like staunch devotion, greed and a gamut of filthy notions. At times I wonder, are these the same people who moved into the then shiny homes of the building that I so lovingly built. I often marveled at this project of mine with a hint of pride and thought that I had woven a colourful and exquisite quilt. But, wings of change blew so hard and today my beloved people are falling apart”, Lokesh took a deep sigh and got lost in introspection.

Both Keshav and Shankar looked at each other and instantly knew they would have to take the matter in their hand and restore peace in the erstwhile la la land.
The meeting was called off that day and it was decided that soon they would talk to the people and make the discord feeble.
****************
Two months later…

The same room. The worn out couch. Three men sat smiling, boy they seemed happy one could vouch.

Lokesh started off, “So, I believe peace has been restored in the land and people no more gang. But, how did you trample the hostile voices and left them with a dearth of choices?”

Shankar answered, “They were busy fighting for the said land and looked at each other with scorn while we wondered how to take the bull by the horn. Just then, consumerism spread its wings. The place where religion was to find a seat was now taken over by a rich businessman to erect a swanky mall, with all the shenanigans and blings.”

Keshav laughed heartily at the irony of the situation. Nevertheless, he was happy that the people were no more fighting over religion; in fact they were already dreaming of the luxurious mall and saw a glorious vision.

So, the matter stood resolved. The three musketeers stood up and grinned.
Just then, a smoky halo of sorts surrounded them. The boorish men now metamorphosed into the holy Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh and within no time disappeared into thin air.

Tomorrow would be another day in the alleys of the ‘Bharat housing society’.

This was first published here: https://artoonsinn.com/2019/02/20/for-heavens-sake/

Posted in Short Story, Social Lens, Uncategorized | 1 Comment