X-Factor !!

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She walked enthusiastically holding her husband’s hand while the beats of the drum resounded through the society.

They were a picture of gaiety.

She wore a pink bandini saree and her large kohl laden eyes brimmed with light and happiness.

He walked with his head held high, beaming away to glory.

He was a proud husband.

Rainbow Housing Society had a star amongst them. Soon the place was thronged with reporters who wanted to get the latest scoop on her and outdo the rival channels. Seema, the lady in the pink saree had won a popular singing competition and so people were bound to be curious about her.

The residents were thrilled beyond words. Each one of them claimed to be close to Seema. Each one itched to share some anecdote from the pages of her life before she became a celebrity.

I had seen Seema and her husband Manoj’s journey at close quarters and today, I felt happy from the bottom of my heart.

Manoj worked in a bank and Seema was a housewife. They were newly married when they had moved in the society. Manoj had humble beginnings but by dint of his hard work and sincerity he got a decent job in a reputed bank in the city. Before moving to the big city, his parents who lived in a small town in Haryana, got him married to this petite young girl Seema who was clueless as to what the city had in store for her.

The couple got along wonderfully and they were happy living the life they only dreamt of. Initially, Seema was awestruck at every little thing, be it the vast shiny elevator or the luxurious swimming pool in the society. She gloated at everything in amazement. She could not believe her luck that not only did she got to live in an upbeat society but she also had a loving husband.

Seema had always been fond of music. Her grandfather was a trained classical singer and she had been singing with him since she was a little girl. She found music cathartic and so every day in the morning once Manoj left for work and she would finish her usual chores, she sat and did her riyaz. She had a soulful voice.

Her neighours listened to her mellifluous voice with rapt attention and though people in the society were sensitive about loud noises, no one seemed to mind the soft and soothing voice that echoed through the alleys of the society every morning.

Surprizingly, Manoj had no inkling about this hidden passion of hers. So, one day when their neighbor, Mrs. Gupta, who was a blabbermouth, told Manoj animatedly,” Your wife has such a beautiful voice. My father- in- law listens to her every morning before he goes for a walk.”

Manoj was caught unaware. He had no idea that his wife loved singing. He did hear her hum softly often when she would cook in the kitchen, but he did not pay heed to it.

That day when Manoj came home I sat next to their flat. I also loved listening to Seema’s voice. It transported me to a serene spot.

As Manoj entered in, I followed him. I was curious to see what would transpire next. Manoj was jumpy. He immediately asked Seema to sing for him. As he sat there at the oak dinning table, listening to his wife’s voice, he smiled.

He had made up his mind.

From then on, I would see the young couple leave every evening on their scooter.

Manoj had enrolled Seema in a renowned music school in the city. For the next six months she went there for the evening classes.

Then, one fine day one of the popular music shows had its auditions in the city. Seema was apprehensive to the core. She was even nervous and had stage fright. But Manoj steered her through all the stages and the rest as they say is history.

Today, as the couple stood posing for pictures for the paparazzis, my happiness knew no bounds.

The next day newspapers were swamped with words like ‘She had the X factor which made her win the contest’. But, I knew who the ‘X-factor’ was?

Such tales of love made my presence in the Rainbow Housing Society worthwhile in the true sense of the word.

 

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(I am taking part in  and today is the twenty fourth day of the challenge. Today’s letter is ‘X’).

Image: https://www.indiamart.com/proddetail/indian-woman-portraits-by-photographs-11803796873.html

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Worthless !!

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In the corner most flat on the fifth floor of the Rainbow Housing Society stayed a middle aged couple with their teenage son. The man had a receding hairline and a bespectacled face. His caricature like face was enough to make me notice him for the first time. His wife on the other hand had a pleasing demeanor and it seemed she must be quite a beauty in her hey days.

But, of late she seemed perturbed. On other days, she would smile at everyone that crossed her path when she walked briskly in the walking area. Being one of the oldest residents of the society, she knew almost everyone. So, it was not difficult to gauge that something was awry.

Even her husband did not look in the best of his spirits. He had even stopped visiting the society gym.

I had not seen their son too who used to regularly play basketball with the other boys.

Winters had made its presence felt in the Rainbow Housing Society and there was a chill in the air. I would often see the two watchmen sit huddled near a tiny bonfire. I also lingered nearby and the small fire made me warm and cozy.

On such a cold wintry night, I saw the boy walk hastily towards the elevator. He looked upset. I wondered what brought on the air of glumness on the otherwise sprightly family.

I resolved to find out what was amiss.

I followed the teenager and as he reached his home on the topmost floor, I stood there next to him. The door opened and we were greeted by the boy’s mother, who seemed agitated.

She walked inside and banged the door.

The boy’s father sat on the living room couch and looked at the boy questioningly.

“Come and have dinner. What took you so long? You must be loitering around with those weird friends of yours. They are the ones who have put those thoughts in your mind. I have told you so many times that they are filthy rich. They can afford to choose such careers. They do not have to worry about their future. You will end up being nothing but worthless and penniless if you follow their footsteps.”

The boy looked clearly annoyed.

“Mom, first of all let me be very clear that I am not aping them. I have decided to become a cinematographer as I want to be one. There is a good college in Hyderabad and I will take the entrance exam this year. I know, it will take a little longer for me to be financially stable as compared to your friend’s children who are becoming engineers and managers. But, at least I will be doing what I am passionate about”.

To this the father, who was intently listening to the mother- son conversation, spoke, “You can follow your passions once you have a steady career. One can always pursue his hobbies later in life. You are such a bright student. Do not give it up for being the artsy type. Your mom is right. It is worthless to pursue such a career which does not guarantee that you would have a steady source of income”.

The boy looked at his parents and immediately rushed to his room fuming with fury.

Now I knew what was hounding the happy family. Everyone in the human world has aspirations and dreams. It is at times not possible to find a harmony between what you want and what you should want so as to have a secure life.

Parents always want the best for their children. I feel that parents can guide their children but they do not own them. They should become the wind beneath their wings and be there by their side on the journey called life, but the children ought to choose the final destination.

Parenting in the human world is a tricky business. Isn’t it?

With this thought I turned around and walked past the moonlit corridors of the Rainbow Housing Society.

 

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(I am taking part in  and today is the twenty third day of the challenge. Today’s letter is ‘W’).

Image : http://www.paintinghere.org/painting/a_young_man_in_a_boat-19801.html

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Vagabond !!

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Whenever new residents moved in and became a part of the Rainbow Housing Society, I was ecstatic. I looked forward to witness humans in their varying colours and so when the vacant flat on the fourth floor was occupied by three young boys, I was delighted.

The boys seemed like an interesting lot. The day they shifted, I meandered on the fourth floor wanting to know their whereabouts. But, I was surprised to see that they stomped inside the flat with backpacks and a couple of other bags and did not possess anything else.

I presumed that they must be just one of those bachelors who had the basic necessities and who were callous and carefree.

The day they moved in, their neighbor, an old couple who stayed alone, decided to welcome the lads and invited them over. The old woman was a wonderful host and she looked forward to hosting her new neighbours.

The three boys who must be in their twenties wore haggard jeans and quirky t shirts as they gleefully stepped inside the living room of the old fellas. The living room walls were adorned with lots of photographs. It was not difficult to make out that the pictures were of the old couple’s children and their grandchildren.

The old lady who looked graceful with short grey hair brought sumptuous looking snacks and sat next to the boys.

“What do you guys do? Are you working in the corporate sector? Both my sons too work in IT. It is good you all moved in. The house was vacant since long. You can come over whenever you like. Both me and uncle would be happy to have you.”

At this one of the boys who was the most chirpy one exclaimed,

“Thank you so much Aunty. The food is yum. We do not work anywhere; we have come here for a couple of months only. We will be going for a trekking expedition. For this we had to rent a flat for some time.”

To this the old man who looked visibly curious asked him, “Oh, so you have come for a holiday. But, you must do something for a living? Where do you stay permanently?”

This time another boy who had a pigtail, answered, “No uncle. We do not have a permanent home. We keep travelling the breath and length of the country.  We work on short projects which keep us financially sound. It enables us to afford our travel expenses. We met in one of the trekking programmes in Himachal. Since then we have been together owing to our shared interests. You can say we are vagabonds”. He smiled.

The old couple looked flabbergasted. They did not know that people could lead such lives. For their generation, a sense of security was pivotal for a fulfilling life. Having a steady job and a family was a pre requisite to have a happy life.

They were oblivious to the fact that things were steadily changing. Humans were no longer stuck up in a rut. They were realizing that life could be meaningful even if you trudged on unconventional roads.

I was mighty pleased to see that human beings were forsaking the usual path and treading the road less travelled and living life on their terms.

After all, you only live once. Why not live it up?

 

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(I am taking part in  and today is the twenty second day of the challenge. Today’s letter is ‘V’).

Image : https://fineartamerica.com/featured/bandipur-hills-trekking-anil-singh.html

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Utopia !!

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Life is full of contrasts and Rainbow Housing Society was not alien to this fascinating pattern. People who possess something mostly do not realize the value of it while those who are bereft of it yearn for it with longing.

The two families on the first floor lived next to each other and were a glaring example of this phenomenon. Flat 111 was the residence of a family which consisted of a husband, wife and their three children. Flat 112 housed a young married couple.

Flat 111 was always brimming with noise and chaos. The three children that resided in the flat were aged 2, 4 and 6 years. The kids were extremely mischievous and the mother was forever screaming at the top of her voice to keep them in check. Madness was the order of the day.

The young couple in 112 was married for the last eight years or so but they did not have any children. Peace prevailed in their home and it was a no- clutter zone. Soft music played in the evenings while the couple sat smiling and talking blissfully.

I loved witnessing the activities of both the houses at close quarters. But what baffled me the most was that both the women from 111 and 112 appeared gloomy and unhappy.

I failed to understand as to what bothered them? Both had loving husbands and were in the pink of their health.

Little did I know then that human beings are pessimists at large? It is arduous for them to be complacent and count their blessings. Unhappiness clutches them inadvertently and they let it thrive.

One day as I was sleeping like a log on a warm summer afternoon, under the shade of the tamarind tree, I heard loud wails. I instantly walked towards the sound. It came from flat 111 where the woman with the three kids resided. I immediately went in and I was taken aback at what I saw. The woman sat on the living room floor with tears in her eyes. She looked pale and fatigued. Two of her children ran around the house quarrelling and throwing things at each other. The youngest who must be two, sat in a corner crying his lungs out.

Suddenly, the bell rang and I was shaken from my reverie. The lady stood up from the floor wiping her tears. The door was opened and the woman from 112 stood there appearing worried. Like me she too would have heard the loud wails.

“Hope everything is fine. Is the little one unwell? You look so exhausted. I will take the little one with me. You look after the two of them and get some rest. Looks like you are sleep deprived.”

“Thank you so much. I am fine. Just a little overwhelmed. Looking after three young children is not easy. I broke down. I have called my husband. He will come early from work. But, glad you came by.”

The woman in 112 smiled and went back to her house. I felt that something was amiss. So, I went in with her. She sat down on her living room couch and looked at the white wall with weary eyes.

“Here I am dying to hold my child in my arms but God is keeping me away from the joys of motherhood and then there is my neighbor who has not one but three children. How ironical is that! “

I could not help but wonder that happiness is often elusive in the human world. Why can’t they live in the present and thank God for what they already have than worry about what they don’t?

But, it was easier said than done. Isn’t it?

 

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(I am taking part in  and today is the twenty first day of the challenge. Today’s letter is ‘U’).

Image: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/two-women-faces-horst-braun.html

Posted in A to Z, Flash Fiction, parenting, Short Story, Social Lens | 8 Comments

Turning point !!

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She had a skinny frame and long black hair which serenaded on her back. I would often see her drive in the Society precincts on her scooter. She was a teacher and every morning she would leave her flat on the fourth floor and walk laboriously towards the parking area with a helmet in her hand.

She had a teenage daughter who left for school a little earlier than her. The mother daughter duo had been staying in the society since a year. The woman seemed mature and level-headed. The girl on the other hand was chirpy and full of life.

The woman would often walk outside the society in the evening to buy grocery and other sundry items from the shopping mart which was close by.

On weekends, she would take her daughter for tuition classes.

I would often wonder as to how mundane the woman’s life was. She played the role of both the mother and the father and in her bid to provide well for her daughter I rarely saw her loosen up.

It was a cold wintry evening. Children thronged the park and their happy chatter reverberated through the park. As I loitered on the fourth floor, a door opened and the teenage girl strolled towards the elevator carrying a badminton racquet.

Curiously, I stepped inside the flat. The living room was sparsely decorated but it was immaculately clean. The woman was nowhere to be seen. Just then, I heard a soft moan. I hurriedly went inside the bedroom from where the voice seemed to be coming from.

The woman sat there on the bed staring at a piece of paper. She had tears in her eyes. I went close and realized that it was a picture of a man that she looked listlessly at.

“I miss you so much. We were such a happy family. I never thought I would be able to live through this tragedy. You know how dependent I was on you. I had never worked outside the vicinity of the house. I did not know how to drive. But, some invisible power gave me the strength to go on. I had to go on for our daughter. Can you believe that I joined a school, learned how to drive a scooter and now manage everything on my own? It is rightly said that you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”

With this, she wiped her tears, caressed the picture with her hand and kept it under the pillow. Slowly, she got up and went towards the kitchen. She warmed up some milk, went to the balcony and called out to her daughter, “Riya, come back. You have to finish your homework too”.

She hummed a song as she came inside. She looked happy. It was as if the short chat with her husband had cleansed her and instilled in her the strength to go on in the journey called life.

I was left wondering as to how life can be unfair for some. A once happy woman was turned into a bereaved widow owing to the cruel twist of fate. But, I was glad that she took the reins of life in her hands and refused to be bogged down.

I had seen multitudes of people from all walks of life in the Rainbow Housing Society. Though each one was different but how they faced the adversities life deluged them with, was praise worthy and which made me fall in love with the human race all over again.

 

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(I am taking part in  and today is the twentieth day of the challenge. Today’s letter is ‘T’).

Image: http://webneel.com/webneel/blog/25-beautiful-rural-indian-women-paintings-by-tamilnadu-artist-ilayaraja

Posted in A to Z, feminism, Flash Fiction, Short Story, Social Lens | 12 Comments