The Proposal #FridayFictioneers #FlashFiction

hearty-bread

Soft breeze rustled whisking away the autumnal leaves to places unknown.

He was besotted with her from the day he had met her.

It was at this bistro, on this table that he had proposed to her. He did not have a ring and there were no other shenanigans that filled the air, barring a bread.

“My heart belongs to you”, he had said.

It has been two years since the day he proposed.

The fiendish clutches of destiny snatched her away a little too quickly. But, he knew his heart is still hers and would be so forever.

 

(99 words)

 

 

Linking up with Rochelle Wisoff for Friday Fictioneers, a photo prompt flash fiction. Thanks © Kelvin M. Knight for the photo.

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‘The Closure’ #FridayFictioneers

danny-boweman-1

As Shakti disembarked from the bus, an eerily beautiful sight beheld her. The overcast sky, the deserted pathway, all seemed to be calling out to her. She had made the journey at last. The unfathomable desert would be her final sojourn.

Arjun had drawn such vivid images of the place, that she felt a sense of déjà vu.

Her soldier husband had lost his life on the very ground she stood on.

As she sifted the sand through her fingers, she could let go of her misery and only a sense of pride pervaded through her.

She smiled.

 

(99 words)

Linking this with #FridayFictioneers hosted by the amazing Rochelle Wiseoff.

PHOTO PROMPT © Danny BowmanPHOTO PROMPT © Danny Bowman

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‘Father and Son’ #FFFAW #FlashFiction

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He maneuvered his fingers with dexterity and within no time the shadows were formed.

Vineet was not always so good at this craft that amused his son to the hilt. He could still remember the day vividly, when after months of denial he had accepted his son’s autism. He was appalled and constantly questioned ‘Why him’? But, slowly and steadily he realized he would have to take charge and accept the challenge life had thrown at him. The initial days after the diagnosis had been daunting. To his dismay, no matter how hard he tried, five year old Ansh would look at him listlessly.

Then one day, during a power cut, while lighting candles, Vineet leisurely made shadow puppets on the wall. As, Ansh looked at the two barking dogs, he smiled.

Stunned, Vineet made growling sounds as well. Ansh giggled like a boy his age. Vineet was jubilant.

He had found his son finally.

 

(155 words)

 

This my entry to the flash fiction challenge, Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers hosted by the amazing Priceless Joy. We are given a photo prompt and approximately 75-175 words with which to create our stories. This challenge is open to all who would like to participate. Thank you artycaptures.com for the image.

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The Neighbourhood Aunty

I rushed through the stairs, taking a quick peek at my watch. It was almost nine. “Damn, I am running late”, I almost said to myself. I was usually a stickler for punctuality and reached everywhere on time. But, today was one of those days when I was late for work and I was indignant. Yesterday, one of my old friends happened to be in the city and so we had to catch up. He had come over at my apartment and we chatted way past midnight. It was good reminiscing the good old college days when we were young and naïve. He talked about his family, his children and I told him about my son Ishaan.

Ishaan was the apple of my eye. Other than my mom, I only had him for a loved one. Of course, I had lots of friends too and some of them really stood by me in thick and thin. I had an amicable relationship with my ex husband Vishal and we shared a joint custody of our son when we parted ways, some ten years ago. Ishaan was a teenager then. Vishal was not a bad guy, but over a period of time, our priorities changed. Everyday scuffles heightened and so we made a conscious decision to separate. I worked in the hotel industry and was fiercely ambitious. Initially, Vishal supported me in my professional endeavors, but gradually we began to quarrel over my work schedule. He wouldn’t hear of it, when I had to go for conferences abroad or when at times I had to stay up late at work. Eventually, there came a time when we couldn’t stand each other. As time elapsed, the sourness of our relationship dwindled and we became friends again.

So, here I was ten years later, a fifty year old single woman, staying alone in a high rise building in Delhi. I still worked in the hotel industry and was at a top position at the Taj Group of hotels and earned a good six figure salary. Ishaan, was now an engineer, working in Bangalore in a reputed MNC.

*******

As I fidgeted with the car keys, I saw her. She was standing in the balcony staring at me. By now, I had grown accustomed to seeing her whenever I left for work. We never spoke to each other, though she stayed in a flat next to mine. But, I could see her, her eyes steering through me whenever I left for work and came back home. I usually worked late at the hotel, as I was at a pivotal position there and did not take my work casually. Infact, I loved my work to the brim. It was what I was good at and it kept me going. But, on weekends, I partied hard. I went to pubs and called my friends over. I wore whatever I felt good in without an iota of doubt. And that is what bothered my next door aunty to wits end it seemed. I felt her presence everywhere. When I waved goodbye to my friends at wee hours, I saw her window curtain move, when on weekends I dressed to please myself and tiptoed down the stairs wearing my fanciest stilettos, I met her with her steadfast look directed at me. It unnerved me immensely. I used to be extremely comfortable in my skin, but as soon as I saw that look, I became conscious. The look seemed to deride me, judge me. And no matter how hard I tried I could not ignore her.

While I lead a promiscuous life (as per her, I was sure), the aunty next door led a simple, uneventful life. She stayed alone as her husband had passed away a couple of years ago after a prolonged illness. Her daughter, who lived in another town, visited her at times. But, other than that, there were hardly any visitors that I knew of.

It was a crazy day at work that day. We had two groups of foreign delegates coming over, who meant to stay at our hotel for a week. I hardly had time to grab lunch and just like that it was eleven in the night. I hurriedly got up with an intention to rush home as exhaustion loomed large over me. Just then, my colleague Akash, who himself was gearing up to go home, saw the fatigued look on my face and offered to drop me home. On some other day, I wouldn’t have conceded but today I was extremely tired and my entire body ached. I did not feel well.

Akash dropped me home and as I thanked him profusely and turned around wearily, with slumber overpowering me, I saw her. I could not possibly miss her silhouette near the balcony. I wondered as to why she lingered in the balcony so late at night. Oh, she must be standing there to see as to how long it would be before I return from work and who would accompany me. I was furious. With laborious strides, I reached inside my flat, plunged on the bed and instantly was sound asleep.

Next day, it was a Sunday and so I woke up late and languidly went about doing the usual chores. My mom called and told me she would visit me in the afternoon. She came to meet me every fifteen days or so and I looked forward to meeting her. We were best of friends and I felt like a little girl when I was with her, quite unlike the feisty boss who you could not fool.

At around two in the afternoon, I heard the door bell ring. There she was standing, smiling at me. I hugged her and we perched on the couch and chatted for hours. Then, I told her about the next door aunty, how she was getting on to me and how I had come to despise her stalking behavior. To this my mom smirked. I knew instantly that she was keeping something from me. I cajoled her and finally she told me. What she vented out made me enraged and I stood up. So, while my mom was coming towards my flat, the next door aunty saw her and told her, “Mandira comes late from work. At times, strange men come to drop her home at random hours. Also, she has late night parties and many a times her male friend goes back in the morning. You should tell her to mend her ways. This is not how women her age ought to behave.” To this my mom said that she could not possibly ask her fifty year old daughter to not live life the way she wants.

While I was mighty proud of my mom, I barged out of my flat on a whim and rung the doorbell of the adjacent flat. The familiar figure came out and the barrage of emotions which I had kept in check hitherto, were let loose. I questioned her as to why it should bother her as to how I live my life. I was a grown woman and she had no rights whatsoever to meddle in my life. She knew nothing about me. As I stopped blabbering, I was overcome with emotion. Aunty held my hand and took me inside. She made me sit on a chair and got me a glass of water. As I sat there, she spoke, “Mandira, I am sorry I spoke to your mom. Yes, you are right I did not have any right to tell you what is right and what is wrong. I lived a fulfilled life when my husband was alive. After he passed away, I was always melancholic. His memories were etched too deep in my heart to forget. I wanted to move on, but I just could not muster up the courage to do so. And then, you moved in. I saw as to how as a single woman, you lived a carefree and happy life. You did not bother as to what people thought of you. Age seemed like a number to you. I got envious. I wished to be like you. I wished to start over. But, I could not. Instead I started keeping an eye on you. I reckon, as I am from a different generation, it is difficult for me to break the stereotypical image of how elderly widowed women ought to live. But, please forgive me, if you can”.

As I listened to aunty with listless eyes, I was stunned. I did not see this coming. But, I knew what I had to do. I rose, and hugged her. We stood like that for a few minutes. None of us uttered a syllable. But, both knew that we had carved an unusual camaraderie and we were now not alone in our journey called life.

 

 

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When My Child was worried about what others thought of her!!

Just when you thought parenting could not be any more warped up, you are thrown off balance yet again. Yes, bringing up a child is the most challenging job that is and trust me this is not a hyperbole. Each age group brings with it different sets of troubles and you glare at your tiny pint sized elf, cluelessly.

My little girl is five years of age but she has an individuality of her own and is extremely clear about what she wants and what she doesn’t. The other day, as I send her off to her evening ritual of going to the park, and take a sigh of relief, quickly grabbing a simmering cup of tea, I hear the door bell ring again, stirring me up from my sweet solitude.

I open the door only to find my daughter looking flustered with a frown on her tiny forehead. When I make an effort to know what has happened that has made her come back so soon and what is with the long face, she tells me in a disappointed tone that two of her friends did not like what she is wearing and it makes her look fat. I swallow hard, take a deep breath trying hard not to break in to fits of laughter. She looks pretty serious about the aforesaid allegation and looks at me annoyed. I tell her that her dress, which is a denim dungaree , paired with a white tee, is cool and she is so lanky that I wonder what makes her believe what her friends had to say.

She listens to me, still unconvinced, maintaining, “But, they said so”.

At this point I wanted to make my daughter understand the bigger picture and bring home the fact that it does not matter what other people think of you and what matters is that should be comfortable in your skin. But, I struggle as to how to get this in her little head as even we as adults grapple with issues germinating from low self esteem coupled with our constant bid to please people.

It was then, that it occurred to me that when it comes to kids, preaching is not enough, but demonstrating what we want them to inculcate through our actions is the key. Children subconsciously pick up what they see around them every day. So, we have a larger role to play in what they perceive as right and wrong.

At that juncture, as I was faced with the task of immediately pacifying my girl, I tried telling her as to how one should not be bothered by what others think of you. I told her to go back in the same outfit and face them. It took Herculean efforts and a big pep talk to achieve this but alas my daughter went back to the park all charged up.
But, I could not help but wonder what I as a parent should do so that in the longer run, such a thought never crosses her mind. After a lot of retrospection, I came up with the following pointers:

Showcase that you have a High Self Image: If the parent does not have a positive self image and is forever in self doubt, then this state of mind is certainly going to rub on the child too. He will end up thinking that it is purely normal to constantly doubt yourself. So, make an effort to have a healthy self image, and never exhibit that you are not sure about yourself in front of your child.
The other day, my daughter was preening in front of the mirror and she uttered, “Am I looking fat?”No points for guessing from where she got this from! Such assumptions if not nipped in the bud can lead to low self esteem and your child could be party to body shamming.

‘Every child is Unique’ dictum: Children are endowed with varied abilities. Some are good artists while some are good at sports. Some can be good at a multiple things while some can be just about average in almost everything. Point is, you need to be the best version of yourself, in accordance with your abilities. We as parents need to bring home this important message to our kids. I am reminded of a beautiful quote from Dr. Zeus, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

Overparenting is a big No: It is imperative to keep an eye on your child and boost his morale and prepare him for the big vile world out there. But, at the same time, do not over indulge yourself and let Nature do some of the teaching. Once, he is faced with real life issues, he/she will learn things which no one can teach him. Prepare him to seize the day but do not pester him/her.

We are constantly making endevours to lead our children towards happier and fulfilled lives, and for this to happen ‘being yourself’ is the most important lesson which we ought to impart to our children. If you are unabashed about who you are, you will in turn know how to stand up for yourself and no one can make you feel sorry for yourself. If as a parent you can pass on this lesson to your child, he will never worry as to what others think of him.

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Baaz ( Book Review)- Tribute to Our Men In Uniform

Anuja Chauhan is one author who knows how to touch the farthest corners of your heart through her characters. Her latest book Baaz, too will not miss a stride when it comes to tugging at your heart strings and giving you the feels. I picked up this book as I happened to read one of her earlier books called ‘The Zoya factor’ and had fallen in love with it immediately. Well, who can remain untouched by the charms of the ‘boost brown eyes ’ of Nikhil Khoda( let’s not digress- see this is what Anuja Chauhan’s heroes do to you). And so I set upon to read Baaz with oodles of anticipation.

Baaz is a tribute to our men in the uniform as it entails the story of Ishaan Fauzdar aka Baaz , a small town boy from Chhakahera, Haryana, who goes on to become a fighter pilot in IAF. The book is set during the 1971 India- Pakistan war and apparently reels with dog fights and captures the war in full throttle. But, Baaz is not just a war book brimming with adventure and valour but it also unfolds a love story. The protagonist Ishaan ( Shaanu) is a cocky Haryanvi lad who gets adrenaline rush in jumping across open wells and trains. He joins the IAF as a fighter pilot and finds himself amongst the class of suave , elite, gentlemen officers who know how to follow orders and are trained to kill. Patriotism runs high and that is when Tahmina Dadyseth steers down Ishaan’s life, sweeping him off his feet. Tahmina is a Bombay based Parsi girl, a third generation Fauji brat and the sister of a dead fauji. She is disillusioned with the concept of war and borders and is a pacifist. The ideologies of Ishaan and Tehmina are poles apart and that is what makes their love story intense and unusual.

Anuja Chauhan has a penchant for writing in crispy, Hinglish dialect and she has held on to her style in this one too(thank God for that).The  romantic skirmishes between Ishaan and Tehmina have that toe curling, mushy feel to it which is characteristic of Anuja Chauhan. The dialogues between the characters are funny and she has named her characters so wittily that you just cannot stop grinning. Some of the names are- Commanding Officer Carvahlo (known as ‘Kuch bhi Carvalho’) , Macho- Da (The Mukti Bahini Chief), Shaanu’s fellow flyers –Janardhan, Gonsalves and Mansoor( nicknamed- Jana Gana Mana). This sort of quirky wordplay is pure Anuja Chauhanish and makes reading her books all the more delightful. And of course, how can I forget, the instance wherein the children at the orphanage insist on listening to the “Geetu” song which is none other than – ‘Mere sapno ki raani kab aaye GEETU’. The book is enthralling with such uproarious tit bits which makes the ride entertaining.

The conversations between the characters are intense and the best ones are the ones between Ishaan and Tehmina or Tinka as she likes to be called. They are clearly from different walks of life and have different sensibilities and I guess this causes friction but at the same time brings them close to each other inadvertently. The secondary characters are rounded ones and have distinct voices of their own and lends the same to the storyline deftly, be it Tehmina’s aunt Kainaaz Dadyseth, Ishaan’s coursemates Raka and Maddy, his father Chimman Singh Fauzdaar( who insists on him posing in front of a transport aircraft rather than the fighter plane he flies as it is bigger in size) and so on.

Camaraderie and friendship looms large in the fauji world and I was glad that Anuja Chauhan did not miss to capture that bond which Ishaan has with his friends and coursemates Raka and Maddy. Also, the way she depicts the bond between Ishaan and his sisters is endearing to say the least. Life in the fictional Air force base of Kalaiganga is portrayed to the point without any exaggeration.

Tehmina as the female protagonist is feisty, confident and does not shy away from voicing her opinion. She is also rebellious and independent and goes on to act in a soap advertisement, adorning a bikini. She becomes a rage in no time amongst men but that does not seem to bother her much and she is not afraid that it will tarnish her image. Ishaan is the real hero of this story and Anuja has left no stones unturned to make him this swoon worthy handsome lad with ‘Kota grey eyes’ and brazenness which is hard to miss. But at the same time she portrays him as someone who does not feel embarrassed in the least when he tells his girlfriend that his sisters taught him how to knit. He is also least affected by the fact that Tehmina is part of a bikini clad cameo.

As the story unfolded I was immersed into it ‘baaz ke maafik’. It is evident that a lot of research must have gone into writing this book as the 1971 Indo-Pak war comes alive right in front of us. The scuffles between the Gnats, MIGs , Sabres are pacy and do not stretch at all.

Going forward, Ishaan and Tehmina are drawn towards each other despite their disparate views. But, as a war breaks they cannot help but grow apart as Tehmina cannot fathom the very idea of somebody ‘enjoying a war’ while Ishaan is excited and charged up as this is what he is trained for.

From Bengal we are transported to Dacca, where a war is on in full swing and amidst this tension and aggression , love finds its way for Shaanu and Tehmina. The climax of the novel is as if you are watching the climax of a movie. You can actually picture Maddy’s helicopter dashing on the window as he rescues Ishaan and Tinka and it seems larger than life. I sat in utter disbelief as Ishaan Fauzdar gears up for his last fatal flight. As much as I bawled after the end, I must add that I found the end befitting. The end lingers and stays with you and I felt what I felt when Jack dies in the movie Titanic. It is heartbreaking but it is eerily beautiful. Most importantly, to my mind, it enforces the fact that war is futile and as to how our Faujis are these brave men who are out there to protect us without questioning the thought behind it.

As a woman, married to an Airforce officer for the last eight years, I found Baaz all the more relatable. In the current era of jingoism and hyper nationalism, Anuja Chauhan harbingers a balanced view point wherein by bringing together two characters, she goes on to establish that though war is futile and ‘people are just people’, but at the same time, those soldiers who are trained to protect our country from hostile forces are doing what is expected out of them. I liked the fact that Anuja Chauhan brought forth the apprehensions and insecurities that the family members and loved ones of the faujis are faced with everyday and as to how they still stand strong. I loved the way how towards the end both the characters kind of find peace with what the other person stands for.

All in all, the book is a must read and leaves you with a sense of je ne sais quoi (read the book to know what this means) !!

 

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My long lost friend…

The faraway look of desolation was difficult to miss when I meet you after a hiatus. We are sitting face to face after a decade. You are chatty, you laugh at my jokes while we reminisce the days gone by with nostalgia peeping in from all nooks and corners. But, I could gauge that something is awry behind your premeditated mannerisms. You are not the same girl who broke into uproarious squeals of laughter at the drop of a hat. You have changed. For a moment I think that the travails of time have transformed you. Time moulds and reshapes our very being and we stand staring at our new selves that stare at us across the mirror each morning. May be you too fell prey to the clutches of Time.

You are a wife now, a mother to a two year old child. As I ask you about the little girl of yours, there is a glimmer in your eyes. And just like that I find my friend. You go on talking animatedly about your little bundle of joy like a child who has suddenly found himself in a toy shop. Then in a blink of an eye, you look glum again. You constantly check your watch and you jump with a start only to tell me that it is time to head home. I make a mental note to call you the next day as I find you eerily distant.

The next day as you pick my call, I sense something in your voice. Is it fear? You sound afraid of something. I beseech you to confide in me, but you are too shaken up to concede. I rush to be with you as I know you need me. As you open the door of your apartment in that posh building, I am stunned. You are bruised and you are not at all like the woman I met a couple of days ago. As I comfort you, you break down. Tears give way to shrieks of pain and misery which were buried deep down in the chasms of your heart. Yes, my apprehensions were not baseless. You are a victim of domestic violence. You had been suffering abuse since the day you were married. The perpetrator of this heinous act is the father of your child. I look at you questioningly as to why you have been enduring the pain. Your silence tells me the answer as you look at your two year old girl who is building blocks at a distance, oblivious to the fact that her mother’s abode has stumbled and shattered into pieces long ago.

You are wretched, you are lonely and you are scarred. But, you are the same woman who not many years ago, was elected Vice President of the College Council. And how can I forget when you stood up for one of our friends who was groped by a pervert in a city bus. No, I refuse to perceive you as a meek woman who does not have the courage to stand against wrong. You have to be a role model for your little girl not by bearing and becoming a sacrificial lamb in this patriarchal society but by standing up for yourself.

As you listen to me, fresh tears well up in your eyes. The trauma and fear which had hitherto stopped you from taking a step forward dwindle slowly but steadily. May be you had the strength within you all along. May be we all do. There are many such women who lead dual lives and are victimized. I hope and pray that may each of these women find the courage to rise from the throes of fear and subjugation. But, at times we need an anchor, we need someone to give us that little nudge which leads us towards the path to freedom and happiness. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we look around and be that anchor for someone who needs us?

 

# This post has been written as a part of the Blogathon #ALettertoHer by Women’s Web to create awareness about domestic violence.

# I am looking forward to read Meena Kandasamy’s new book bit.ly/Meenabk2 as it is time we come out in the open and talk about domestic abuse since it is embedded deep in our society.

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