The Gifts

Flash fiction is something that Bhavya and I both love writing. To write a story in 55 words is fun, and challenging at the same time. We’re trying to write 55 Fiction for Week 4 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge in July. We’re doing posts on the same theme each day (like A to Z in April). The theme she chose for Day 22 is GIFT.


UBC DAY 23 – THE GIFTS {55 FICTION}

 

The new microwave sat proudly in its place. His wife had felt the need to show off his recent promotion. It was his gift to her.

Outside, the dhobi’s children were playing. The younger in the discarded box, the elder pulling it.

“To see happiness in little things. That’s a gift too,” he thought, smiling.


(23rd July 2014)

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Black Coffee

Flash fiction is something that Bhavya and I both love writing. To write a story in 55 words is fun, and challenging at the same time. We’re trying to write 55 Fiction for Week 4 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge in July. We’re doing posts on the same theme each day (like A to Z in April). The theme she chose for Day 22 is BLACK.


UBC DAY 22 – BLACK COFFEE {55 FICTION}

 

“Black, with two lumps of sugar.”

She was waitressing to pay her fees to medical school.

She was running the night shift alone that night.

He had known. He had raped her.

Years later, she tricked him into a relationship.

New name, new identity.

“Black, with two lumps of ricin.”

That was how they parted.


Author’s Note: Ricin is one of the strongest poisons known.


(22nd July 2014)

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What She Wanted

Flash fiction is something that Bhavya and I both love writing. To write a story in 55 words is fun, and challenging at the same time. We’re trying to write 55 Fiction for Week 4 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge in July. We’re doing posts on the same theme each day (like A to Z in April). The theme she chose for Day 21 is BUTTERFLY.


UBC DAY 21 – WHAT SHE WANTED {55 FICTION}

It had flown into her bedroom one morning, and she had wanted one after that.

This one had the most colorful wings she had ever seen… yellow and pink, blue and green.

It was time. She took the knife, and sliced.

“Happy birthday, Sneha!” came the chorus, as she cut into the butterfly shaped cake.


(21st July 2014)

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Darkness

When something bothers me, the only way I know to ease that itch is to write. The last story I wrote still left something that needed to be written out. Another story. I didn’t know how to write it. And then, it just happened. Like a bolt out of the blue. Like the story couldn’t be said any other way.


DARKNESS {A STORY}

The room is dark. The thick dark curtains drawn across the window stop any light from coming in here, into my life. Nothing around me. Except for the green lighter. Left by that stranger.

Click.

The flame appears, tear-shaped. Warm. Comforting… almost. I let my fingertips touch it, leaving a bit of me with it. A memory flickers, then I blow it out.

Darkness.

Just like me.

Click.

The memory flickers again.

There’s a cake. It has lit candles on it. I count eleven. I smile. I blow out the tear-shaped flames. I hear applause. I cut the piece with a knife. The blade glitters in the light.

I blow the flame. The memory vanishes.

Darkness.

Click.

But still only darkness. That’s the memory.

My bed. I’m on it. Many hands hold me down. Someone blows. Their breath on my clit. Cold. I realize there’s nothing covering it. A candle is lit somewhere. A hand moves toward me. I see that blade glittering again.

I blow the flame. The memory vanishes.

Darkness.

Click.

The blade cuts me. Below. I scream. At least I think I do. All I see is a flash of white in my eyes. Pain shoots up my spine. The world starts to spin. Quicker. Slower. Quicker and slower at the same time. Then it stops. The room spins back into focus. The blade glitters again. It finds its mark once more. And the world spins again.

I blow the flame. The memory vanishes.

Darkness.

Click.

I’m on a mattress. Alone. In the dark. It’s not my room. I call out. A light is turned on. I feel pain shooting up my spine again. I see the mattress. It is red. Becoming more red. With my blood. I black out. Darkness.

I blow the flame. The memory vanishes.

Darkness.

Click.

The tear-shaped flame returns. It has been my hope, my friend, my everything.

I remember the eleven candles.

I blow. The flame vanishes.

Only my tears remain. Always.

Darkness.


Writing from first person was never going to be easy. Jaibala told me so, and so did others. It was discussing the inhumane nature of this so-called custom of FGM that brought out that POV debate. This is the only other way I knew the post could be done. I realize one or two posts alone cannot do anything to make a dent in the practice. But like I said before, I just had to get it out.


(18th July 2014)

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In Her Eyes…

I have this adamant streak sometimes. I don’t know why. I have a sensitive side too, and that was pricked badly by a story written by one of my closest friends. It was a discussion with her that has led to this story. That, and my adamancy to attempt what she wrote from a different point of view, even though I knew what it’ll take out of me. This is a fiction story inspired by real elements. The credits of the plot go entirely to her. The link to her take is at the end of this post. Please do visit her after you read, and give her the praise that story merits.


IN HER EYES {A STORY}

There is no moon in the sky tonight. Looking out the window of my room, I had noticed it earlier. A breeze comes through the window. It is the one that usually croons Aaliya and me to sleep. But tonight, it does little to dry the beads of sweat on my forehead, the drops that trickle out from my eyes. Thirty years it has been, but I remember every moment like it happened just two seconds ago. I remember the promise I had made to myself then, chanted with my prayers every day. Those are the same words I murmur, my voice breaking with each passing second as I tug at the knots of the rope holding my hands and feet to the corners of the bed. It was history repeating. And I had to stop it.

I hear the voices chanting in the distance. The slow measured chanting of the prayer. Just like thirty years ago. It had done little to calm me then. I remember the look in my eye still, like the lamb being taken to slaughter. I had been pushed into a room then, on my 11th birthday, my braids falling open and my white school skirt sliding up as I fell on the bed. A scream breaks through the monotonic chanting, and my struggle with the ropes become frantic. I hadn’t had the chance to scream back then. My mother had held my mouth closed, my aunt had held my hands tight behind my back. From the moment I had fallen on the bed, I had known I was trapped. Today was Aaliya’s 11th birthday, and her Naani had pushed her into the room soon as she returned from her school. I’d screamed, tried to get her out, but the man had been stronger. He had carried me to the next room, pushed me on to the bed and held me down as my mother and brothers’ wives tied my hands and feet to the bed’s corners. He had shown the glint in his hand as he walked out, locking the door behind him.

The knots give way, and I rush to the door, but the bolt outside doesn’t give in as easy as the rope. Another scream echoes through the long hallway, and I know I am too late. I remember it had happened to me. The ladies had sat around me, chanting while the man had pushed my feet apart, and taken out the blade. He had held my skirt up, and with a deft swipe, found his target just as my mom had let go of my mouth. My scream had echoed then through the halls, rising above the meaningless chants. My mother had had no mercy. She had held me tightly as he swiped again. The blood had stained the bed, and he had pressed my skirt back down, staining it deep red too. Forty minutes… forty long, hard minutes, that was how long it lasted. Mother had locked me up for forty days after that. She needn’t have shown that mercy. I couldn’t have moved even if she had wanted me to.

The third scream jolts me back. I know the second swipe has also finished. I sink to the floor, my feet numb, the tears falling freely, my scream echoing in the hallway too. The sound of the bolt makes me look up. My mother is there, and my mother-in-law too. They look chuffed at their victory… at my defeat.

“Humare Izzjat pe daag lagane chale the aap. Dekho uski iccha, tum nahi kar paaye. Aab aap ek acchi ma ki tarah jaake apne bacchii ka khayal rakhe.” (You were going to mar our honour by your actions but see His will, you could not succeed. Now go and tend to your daughter like the perfect mother)

My feet refuse to move, but I drag myself across the hall to the room. Standing at the threshold, I see my Aaliya lying there on the bed, her skirt stained deep red from the gashes on her clit. She looks at me. In her eyes, I see the fear I had then, I feel the pain I had felt then. In her eyes, I see the emptiness of a broken promise. In her eyes, I see the questions she would ask of me soon. “Why?” she would ask, and I don’t know what I will tell her. I don’t know if I can stare into those eyes without feeling pain, shame, guilt and anger. If I could, would I be her mother?

Nothing has changed. I was butchered thirty years ago. Today, my daughter suffers the same fate. Would it come soon… the change… the change that takes away the fear in her eyes?


Jaibala Rao, my friend who wrote the original story, is quite a talented author. Read her piece titled “Failed Determination” and you’ll know I’m right. The story maybe fiction, but the practice of FGM {Female Genital Mutilation} which it talks about, is very much in practice within many communities across the globe. I read about it after I read Jai’s story, and it is very hard to imagine the pain each girl goes through, let alone do it from the first person voice of a loved one, or the girl itself. I hope that change, it comes about soon.


(16th July 2014)

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Helplessness

Society has certain “customs” that are followed blindly. Almost all, if not all of them, are senseless. Bhavya and I decided to write on a few of them for a week of the Ultimate Blog Challenge in July. We’re doing posts on the same theme each day (like A to Z in April). They are fiction here. But it may be someone’s reality. The theme for Day 14 was DOWRY.


UBC DAY 14 – HELPLESSNESS {55 FICTION}

 

“Just thousand rupees sir,” he told.

The foreigner looked at him curiously.

“Nine hundred,” came the counter-offer.

“It’s a matter of life or death, sir. Only thousand, I beg you.”

The deal was struck. And he rushed back inside.

“Here. I have it.”

His daughter cried, helplessly.

The lakh now complete, the marriage was solemnized.


Author’s Note: In India, the dowry system (dahej in Hindi) is the payment of money or expensive gifts to the groom’s family along with the bride. The gifts are supposedly to help the newlyweds start their new life, but the system itself is said to be a financial strain on the bride’s family. The payment of dowry has been prohibited by both Indian civil law as well as Indian penal code, but the practice still continues, and is considered a factor in observed domestic violence against women. (via Wikipedia)


(14th July 2014)

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It’s All In A Name {Finale}

Bhavya and I love to write fiction. We attempted to write stories based on words on every day in April, and it was fun. For a few days of the Ultimate Blog Challenge in July, we are again trying to write fiction, but this time, we are keeping the name of the central character the same. This is Part 6, and the final part of the series. The character name is Elizabeth.

Previous Parts: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5


UBC DAY 13 - IT’S ALL IN A NAME {FINAL PART}

Elizabeth spoke about her dream, the launch of a record of English songs, written by a new songwriter, put to tune by him or another new face in music, and of course, sung by someone new to the industry. She spoke with passion, one that moved Faiza and Rishabh to believe in her project as much as she did. But Javed wasn’t hearing a word. His mind was elsewhere.

“Sparrow. Is she Peter’s wife, or sister maybe? Sparrow isn’t a common surname, is it? Maybe I should check the telephone directory. There could be other Sparrows too. Maybe she might not be related at all. Don’t panic.”

It was a pinch that got him back to the studio, a hard one on his back by Faiza who was sitting next to him. He jumped at that, and the two women laughed seeing that.

“Welcome back, Javed. Good to know you are already dreaming of the project’s success,” Elizabeth said with a wink.

Javed pulled at his collar, suddenly feeling himself go red and warm. But he smiled, and said a quick sorry.

“Elizabeth, how do you plan to invest in the record? I mean finance-wise. Surely you have some number in your mind.”

He had expected Elizabeth to react with anger, and say it is none of his business, but to his surprise, her demeanor didn’t change.

“Please. Call me Liz. And to answer your doubt, I do not have a number in mind at present. I’m blessed to have been born into, and married into money. My husband’s company XLEnt Technologies makes a bundle, and I spend it on a life of luxury. Well, you could say this is my luxury.”

It had taken all the willpower he could muster for Javed not to jump up again in panic. But Faiza had noticed that something was bothering him.

“I think Javed needs some fresh air. We’ll go outside for a bit. You two continue making plans,” she said, standing up. Javed thankfully followed suit.

“What is the matter, Javed?”

“I can’t tell you just yet. I need to think of it. Could you offer them my apologies? I need to be alone for a bit.”

Javed had walked off before Faiza could protest. But she let him.

“If I tell her, she’ll be hurt. The project will be scrapped and Faiza will be disappointed. If she separates with Peter, I’ll be fired too. But if I don’t tell her, she’ll not know her “generous” husband is two-timing her. And I’ve to work with her too. I can’t morally do right to someone who’s sponsoring a dream. Even if the dream just came into my life. What do I do? What do I do?”

He spent that night, sleepless. The next morning, he dropped by the studio. He wasn’t surprised to see Elizabeth still around. She had sounded that serious about her dream.

“Javed! Hope you are feeling better. Faiza told us you were feeling woozy and had to walk it off.”

Javed just nodded.

“If you’ve come to see Rishabh, you just missed him. He got a call from someone and had to leave for a bit.”

“Er… actually, I was hoping… hoping to run into you,” replied Javed, an unusual anxiety cropping up in his voice.

“Me? Whatever for? Don’t tell me. You wanted to see a statement of my account to verify my investment, right?”

Her casual tone immediately put him at ease.

“Er… no. It’s more of a personal matter.”

“No Javed. I cannot go on a date with you. Faiza won’t forgive me!”

He almost laughed, but stopped himself in time.

“I work for your husband’s company!” he blurted out before she could interrupt.

She looked confused, and he continued.

“I recently joined XLEnt. Your husband… he hired me for the vacant HR position.”

“Oh! You’re the one who has replaced Nina. Nice girl she was. Tell me, does he still do the secretary every chance he gets?”

The confused look had gone from her face to Javed’s just then.

“That’s why you came to see me, isn’t it? Well, you don’t have to. I’m glad you chose to tell me, but I already knew. That’s why I’ve filed for a divorce.”

“But you said the investment came from his earnings!”

Elizabeth laughed at that.

“Well of course, my friend. He has to compensate me for the trauma I’ve been through, right? I walked in on them doing it. That’s why Nina was fired, poor girl. He blamed her for not keeping me occupied with girl talk for long enough. He sets the heights for stupidity, Peter does.”

Javed nodded, agreeing to that.

“Well, let me not keep you. Peter will be wondering where his HR officer is. Call Faiza, if you haven’t already. She was worried. And I can’t have my lead singer worried, can I?”

Now that was news to Javed, and he smiled. His song, to be sung by his future wife… that sounded heavenly.

When he entered the office, he noticed Anamika wasn’t at her desk. He knew where to find her of course. When he barged into Peter’s office, she was on her back as usual.

“I’m sure you can find someone on short notice, as soon as you come out of Anamika. I quit!” he said, and walked out. Looking back, he saw the door still open and neither of them had bothered to get up and close it.

He was sure the record project would be successful. Between Rishabh and him, they could produce wonderful lyrics and tunes. And Faiza’s voice was amazing. He had heard her one day at a rehearsal for some function in her old college. And then there was Elizabeth, their friend and benefactor. Almost god-like.

He realized the wedding would have to be put on hold for a while. That he hadn’t a clue what lay ahead for him. But the previous night, he had decided that any money coming from Peter was dirty money, especially when he was going to be working with Liz. As he headed to meet the group at the studio, there was only one thing worrying him.

“How do I convince Ammi about this?”

But there was a smile on his face again. He believed. And both those things, like his name, was eternal.


~~ THE END ~~


(13th July 2014)

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I live in words…