Enslaved

dales-waterfall
Photo (c) Dale Rogerson

Enslaved

Words 102

“There!” Mohini huffed from the gentle climb on to the dam, “This is where I grew up, beside the mighty Ganga. Beautiful isn’t she?”

Sia blew on the bubble till it popped. “Sure.” She ruminated, busy taking selfies. “The mountains in the distance look better. She’s too dull and bloated, like an over-fed slithering python for my liking.”

“She wasn’t always like this. She was free, fresh and sparkling, singing her song while skipping and dancing her way over boulders and stones.“

“What happened?”

“She was dammed up for the greater good.”

“How much longer Mohini?” Her husband called. “I am hungry.”

***

Written for the Friday Fictioneers – a story in 100 words or less. Thanks to Rochelle for hosting the challenge and Dale for the photo prompt. If you want to read the other stories inspired by this prompt (or add your link) click here.

A Survivor’s Tale

Photo (c) Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

A Survivor’s Tale

Words 98

It was dark and the weight crushing.  

Life oozed out bit by bit.  

I struggled to survive, one breath at a time.

 Loneliness engulfed me. 

Oh the pain the anguish the isolation – all for what?

Doubts racked me.

Why struggle so much?

Who cared whether I lived or died?

Why not just give up?

Give in.

I tried.

Believe me, I tried hard to give up.

But I didn’t know how.

I only knew one thing.

My time would come.

And it did.

That’s my story. What’s yours?

She swayed and dipped, offering me yet another luscious mango.

***

Written (after eons) for the Friday Fictioneers – a story in 100 words or less. Thanks to Rochelle for hosting the challenge and the photo prompt. To read the other stories inspired by this prompt click here.

Full Moon

gah_window
Photo (c) Gah Learner

Full Moon

Words 102

“Why are you packing?”

“I’ve had enough.”

“But why? You know I love you!”

Love?”

“Yes. A thousand times yes. My love for you shines brighter than the moon.”

“That I agree.”

“Then…?”

Your love lives off my love. No wonder it’s fickle and ever-changing.”

“Don’t say that!”

“Why not? It’s the bitter truth unlike your sweet lies. Your game is up for I can see through your fake protestations of undying avowals of love.”

“Don’t be so mean. My love for you is pure!”

“The only thing pure about you is the darkness of your soul.” He picked up his bag.

***

Written (after an eon and this one too almost slipped out – or perhaps it would have been better if it had missed the bus) for the Friday Fictioneers – a story in 100 words or less. Thanks to Rochelle for hosting the challenge and Gah Learner for the photo prompt. To read the other stories inspired by this prompt click here.

 

SPF: Reality Bites

SPF 08-19-18 Anurag 2
Photo (c) Anurag Bakshi

SPF: Reality Bites

Words 101

Amidst thunderous applause Kali walked up to the dais to receive her award from the President of India. Not just a wife and mother, she was a woman of substance – of the likes of Madame Curie. Pride and exultation filled her as she surveyed her family cheering and clapping until their throats and hands were sore.

“Wonderful groundbreaking work Madam,” the interviewer gushed. “You are truly an inspiration for all women and we are extremely proud of you.”

“Thank you.” Kali said modestly.

“Tell us Madam who was your inspiration on this long and difficult journey in a male dominated field?”

“My inspiration?” Kali laughed. “Everyone!”

“That’s interesting. Could you elaborate please?”

“I was named Kali because I was dark. I was also given other names because I was fat and short.” Kali shrugged. “Rejected by suitors and reviled by society I turned to my first love, academics.” Kali smiled. “So here I am.”

“What about your husband?”

“He’s been a pillar of strength all throughout. He took care of home and children while I slaved away in the laboratory…”

 

“How long does it take to make a cup of tea?” A querulous voice demanded.

“Coming.” Kali switched off the gas.

***

Written (after a long time!) for the Sunday Photo Fiction – a story in 200 words or less. Thanks to Susan for hosting the challenge and Anurag for the awesome photo prompt. To read the other stories inspired by this prompt click here.

 

 

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – VIII

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4: The Unfinished Story

Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

Chapter 6: A Lovely Confession and a Spat

Chapter 7: To Hell and Back

Chapter 8: A tête-à-tête

Today was the day!

Exam over, she was rejoining office after a week’s leave. As she dressed her heart thudded with anticipation and nervousness. She dithered over her dress and changed thrice before settling on one. Stop it she scolded herself, you weren’t this nervous before the exam!

Yes, but he was sure to be there waiting for her after work. She wanted to make sure she was well armed with a thick shapeless drab dress and a severe bun topped with her forbidding spectacles.

But to her dismay he wasn’t there. Nor did he turn up the next day. She checked his last updated status. He was online! She hurriedly exited her app. She was relieved she told herself firmly. This was for the best. For him.

“Miss me?” Once again he popped up when she was least expecting.

“I thought you’d gone back to hell.” She stilled her leaping heart.

“I tried,” he fell into step beside her, “but they threw me out.” He grinned engagingly.

She couldn’t help smiling back at him.

“Oh! Hurry they are going to tow away my car!” Before she knew it she was in the car with him.

“Where’s the tow truck?” she craned her neck.

“Must be coming.” He slid the car into motion and winked at her.

“You think you’re very smart don’t you?” she seethed. “Fine. Let’s talk.” She crossed her arms and glared at him.

“Not now.” He focused on the road. “I don’t want to to have an accident.”

She pressed her lips together. “Where are we going?” she asked stiffly.

“To my office. We can have privacy and your sensibilities won’t be offended either.”

She looked away. She yielded the battle and asked. “Are you okay enough to drive?”

He shrugged.

“I mean your leg was broken, so it must hurt?”

“Not as much as it hurts when you rebuff me.”

Sudden tears clouded her vision. She looked out of the window and blinked rapidly. It wouldn’t do to breakdown so easily. She re-bolstered her defenses.

“What do you want?” she demanded aggressively as she faced him in his cabin.

“I thought I had made it clear.” He threw the car keys on the overloaded table. It slithered over the plastic folders and dropped down through a crack in the middle. Lovely sighed and picked it out. Unable to find a reasonably safe place she slid it into the pen stand making sure to keep the distinctive key chain hanging out. “I want to marry you.”

“That’s the trouble with you Sonu,” she faced him with a stern face. “You don’t have vision.”

“Vision?”

“Yes.” She nodded. “You just care about the present. Instant gratification, with a complete disregard for the future, which trust me, will come, sooner or later.”

“What are you talking about?” Sonu was clueless.

She pointed to his messy table. “You threw the car keys without a thought for how you have found it later. All you were concerned about was getting rid of them. But you will leave this room sometime? You will need the car keys? Better to keep it somewhere you can easily find it?”

“I always throw my keys there and I have never ever had any had trouble finding it.” Sonu declared.

Lovely threw up her hands. “That’s neither here nor there. It just proves what I think – that you have no vision and have not spared any thought for the future. Can you seriously see us together? For decades?”

“I can’t see it any other way.” His eyes were soft and warm as they rested on her.

Frustrated (partly because of the way her heart leaped), Lovely almost stamped her foot. “Uff. Please none of this romantic drivel please. Marriage is no child’s play and it’s for a lifetime. Think about it. More than fifty years of commitment to the same person. Can you do it?” He nodded. “I don’t think you can.” She shook her head.

“How can I convince you I am serious? I don’t know about the future but I do know I won’t be able to live for very long without you.” She opened her mouth to give him a dressing down but he forestalled her. “For the past two months as I lay on the bed battled pain and agony of physiotherapy and learning to walk again,” his eyes bored into hers, “all I could think about was you. That you were there waiting for me or worse slipping away from me, kept me going. I pushed myself harder and harder, ignoring the pain. I had to get back on my feet as soon as possible, before someone else snapped you up.”

Lovely’s eyes dropped. She clamped down on her rising answering emotions and rallied. “I am glad I could be your inspiration but this doesn’t prove anything. In fact it seems to me that I am a toy, which has been denied to you. And the novelty of it has you hooked. Soon this craze this obsession will wear off and there would be nothing left.”

“You don’t understand! If I had the slightest doubt that this was an infatuation, I would have never asked you to marry me. I would have wooed you made love to you, got you out of my system and gone on my merry way.” His lips twisted at the shock in her eyes. “Been there, done that,” he gave a self-deprecating cough. “But,” he hastened to reassure her, “With you I don’t feel like that. I just want to be with you.” He looked at her helplessly. “I can’t understand it myself. It’s a weird feeling, uncomfortable and disturbing. Yet exhilarating.” He ran a hand over his hair. “God! I am not making any sense am I?” he groaned.

Unfortunately only too well.

Lovely clenched her fists and forced her jumping nerves to calm down.

“Look,” Sonu got up from his chair and drew up one across her. He leaned towards her, “there’s nothing to worry. I’ve got it all sorted. I…I mean we, Titu and I talked to everyone and they have no issues with me being the groom instead of Titu. Even Ghasitaram has no problem, in fact he has already sounded out your grandparents.” He smiled triumphantly at her. “They have no issues.”

“What about me?” There was just the faintest tremor in her voice. It cracked and she automatically raised her pitched to cover it. “Have you got me sorted too?”

He looked blank which served to fuel her anger.

“You didn’t think about me, my feelings at all did you? Why would I say no to such a brilliant catch isn’t it?” she jeered. “Why can’t you get it through your thick head that I don’t want to marry.”

“But why not?” Sonu stared. “I am financially sound, reasonably good looking and from a decent family, no in-laws to worry about, what’s the problem?” He looked irritated and frustrated.

“The problem is that it is all about you, the others.” Lovely said. “There’s nothing in it for me. My feelings what I want doesn’t matter at all.”

“Okay. Okay.” Sonu raised his hands and backed off. “Okay fine. We’ll talk about you, what you want. I just thought of removing any concerns regarding familial opposition or hurting Titu’s feelings etc which may have bearing on your stance. If you have any other concerns, we can sort it out together. I promise. So let’s see,” he counted on his fingers, “Titu doesn’t have any problem, my family, your family don’t have any issues,” he grinned, “neither do I. So only you are left.” He tapped his chin. “You are worried, I won’t let you work? But of course I will! I already…”

“You know what galls me?” her tone was conversational as she interrupted him.

“What?” he asked warily.

“This thing about you will let me work. Why would you say such a thing? As if I were your bonded laborer or something. Male chauvinist,” she swore under her breath.

“Hey come on!” Sonu protested. “It was just a figure of speech. I didn’t mean anything other than I fully support and respect your decision to work. Like I was saying, I have my heart set on being IAS officer’s househusband. You go out and set the world right and I’ll keep your home sparkling clean, fresh and welcoming. I’ll look after the children, send them to school, make them do their homework…”

“What if I don’t want children?”

“Every woman wants children!”

“I think you know by now, I am not every woman, at least not your idea of every woman.”

“But you like children!”

“How do you know?” she crossed her arms.

“You told us, that you wouldn’t marry, but you would adopt a child, maybe more.” He shrugged. “But if you are getting married, may as well have children and have fun trying,” he winked.

Her lips quivered and firmed. “What if I don’t want to try? Or have fun?” Angry with herself for allowing the bitterness ooze out, she walked to the window.

***

Click here for Chapter 9: The Ugly Truth

 

 

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – VI

Like I suspected this story is not going to finish in 6 (or 7) parts but to make up for dragging it, I will be posting chapters daily (if you like of course!)

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4: The Unfinished Story

Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

Chapter 6: A Lovely Confession and a Spat

“Where were you?” a bleary-eyed Titu attacked him the next morning as Sonu sat on the balcony his tea forgotten and crinkling. “I waited and waited for you.”

Sonu started. “But why? I texted you didn’t I? It was late and I…”

“Late? It was barely 11 pm!”

“Yeah. I guess I just wanted to be alone.”

“Alone and you? That’s a first! What’s wrong with you?”

“Wrong? Nothing. Everything is right. Just perfect. You know Titu it’s such a wonderful feeling to be in love. I don’t want to share it with anyone, not even,” he looked at him apologetically, “With you.” He shook his head. “I feel as if I am flying and there’s nothing I cannot do.”

“Oh my God,” Titu retired precipitously to the kitchen for some caffeine boost. So armed and somewhat rejuvenated, he returned to harass Sonu. “You are serious about her? Wasn’t one evening with her enough to get rid of that whimsy?”

“Nope. A life time wont be enough.” Sonu was serene and confident.

“She agreed?” Titu’s heart sank.

“Not by a long shot.”

“I am sure she’s playing hard to get to pique your interest and keep you hooked. She’s smarter than the other girls who are so obvious in their intent.”

“You misunderstand her.”

“And you understand her?”

“Not yet.” Sonu shook his head. “But there’s something in her eyes, a deep seated pain, a wounded look that slashes my heart.” He clenched his fists. “I want to kill whoever put it there,” he growled.

“My, my!” marveled Titu, “what an active imagination you have?! I also met her I didn’t see anything like that? She was laughing and chatting as normally as anyone else, perhaps,” he amended, “a little bit more sense than the average behenji. That’s her only claim to fame.” Titu declared. “Listen Sonu,” he cautioned, “don’t get taken in by the tragedy queen act. She’s not our type of girl. Just forget her and move on.”

“And I am wondering just who is my type of girl? Someone who dances well, parties and drinks? Didn’t we agree that we wanted to settle down?”

“But she doesn’t want to settle down does she? She said it very clearly that she wasn’t interested in marrying. So even if you do manage to convince her to marry, I am warning you, housekeeping will fall on your shoulders.”

“All that is inconsequential and a tiny price to pay if she will agree to have me in her life.”

“You’ve lost it man!” Titu was worried. “You and I are going to Goa and not coming back until you are completely rid of this evil spirit.”

Sonu didn’t object and went along with his friend’s suggestion. If Titu was right, it was an infatuation, a passing obsession, might as well take measures to rise above it. She deserved better and more than a passing interest. Yet in the midst of exotic locales, high on feni and romantic beaches, all he could see was her – laughing teasing, brooding, resigned, blanked out and that raw anguish that had flashed in her eyes before it was tucked away out of sight. Something horrifying had happened in college that much he was sure, but what? He raised his glass at Titu gyrating on the deck with a crush of people shook his head and turned away to admire the colors of sunset. Would she have found this romantic or would she have made some cutting comment about nature showing off? He clicked a picture and wished he could send it to her. But she had deigned to even share her number. Now the only way to contact her was to go to her home. Unless…

“Hi! I’m here to discuss a loan.” Sonu landed up at her bank.

Lovely jerked up. “What are you doing here?!”

“Told you,” he grinned, taking the seat across her, “I want a loan.”

She looked at him primly and straightened the sheets on her table. “I don’t deal with loans. I deal with claims,” she shot him a look from her brow, “I’m the bank’s unofficial troubleshooter,” he could have sworn there was a gleam behind the spectacles, “and I have special permission to shoot troublemakers.”

“Well,” he shrugged toying with a stapler on her table, “if you can’t give me a loan, I will stake a claim to your time.”

“I don’t have any time.” She dismissed him.

“But you will go home?” He pointed out. “I’ll drop you home.”

“I can go home by myself.” She snapped. “Thank you.”

“It’s no trouble.” He smiled setting her teeth on edge. Ignoring him, she nodded to the customer standing behind Sonu. “Yes? Please tell me.” She invited.

Unfazed Sonu stood up. “I’ll catch you after work.” He sauntered away while she stared at his retreating back with annoyance and anticipation. Contrarily to punish him (and herself for that transgression, that leap in her heart) she dithered over her work, until she was all caught up. Let him sweat it out, she was still seething over his high-handed behavior, but he was probably cozily ensconced in his air-conditioned gas-guzzler, she thought sourly switching off and locking up for the day. Or maybe he had gotten bored and left, she couldn’t help looking this way and that to see if he was actually around.

“Looking for me?” he popped up from behind.

Arrogant and full of himself, he definitely needed to be taken down a peg or two. “One can’t be too careful,” She curled her lips, “with the kind of good-for-nothings loitering on the streets.”

“What do you mean?”

“The streets of Delhi are choc-a-bloc with suited and booted,” she gave him a scathing disgusted look, “rabid dogs.”

He turned on his heels and walked away.

Good riddance to bad rubbish, she thought triumphantly. But it was a hollow victory. And it was strange how much space ‘rubbish’ could occupy her mind.

She couldn’t get his hurt expression out of her head. Every time she tried to focus on her studies, his eyes would flash up on the pages of her book – surely that hadn’t been a hint of tears? What had she said that he got so upset? She shut her traitorous book with a snap. And why did she care? Because what I said was plain mean? Besides what right did she have to insult him like this?

But it was okay for him to pester and harass me?

He wasn’t harassing! That’s just his way.

Yeah right, make excuses for him. What about me?

Apologize to him.

To him?! But why should I? He started it.

So you finish it. By apologizing. Show him that you are a better person. Can you do that?

I guess. But what if he takes it as encouragement?

Surely you know how to control one man? And you want to be an IAS officer?

She sighed. She had been way out of line and he deserved an apology. Staring at his calling card, she dithered for a long time. Should she call him? Should she apologize in person? Maybe she could pay him a visit at his office? But wouldn’t that give him the wrong message? Give him a tacit license to dog her steps. Besides they had nothing in common. What was the point in building a relationship that was based on a false premise? Relationship! She didn’t do relationships! Darn him for wasting so much of her time and thoughts! She needed to study. May as well be over and done with it.

She texted him – Hi.

She stared at her phone. Single tick. Double tick. No last seen status. Perhaps he was asleep – it was 3 am. Her heart thudded. The ticks turned blue. He was online. She sat up clutching the pillow to her middle. Why was he not responding? Perhaps he didn’t know it was her? Her DP also gave no clue as to her identity. It’s me, Lovely she typed and then hesitated, Jigyasa.

Still no response.

She checked the DP, it was him and he was still online. Was he ignoring her or was he mad at her; or worse hurt because of her?

It is Sonu isn’t it?

He was typing!

No.

She stared. She could have sworn it was him.

Oops. I did check the DP.

Did you?

She frowned and checked again. She almost gasped with surprise.

A mangy unkempt dog stared back at her.

I am sorry. It came out spontaneously.

For what? He wasn’t ready to absolve her so easily.

For crossing that line

Prove it

Prove what?

That you are sorry. Meet me after work tomorrow.

No.

Fine. He went offline.

I’m busy tomorrow. She yielded. Maybe on Friday.

Great!

Already regretting her hasty decision (and annoyed that he did take her apology as a license to continue pursuing her), she typed back but why do you want to meet me?

Even I wonder.

Her heart thudded.

I just have to. Like an addiction I am helpless

Her heart stopped.

I can’t stop thinking about you. It’s as if there’s nothing in my world apart from you.

She felt hot and cold. Her fingers shook as she slowly typed. Perhaps that’s because I am the new toy that you cannot have.

Perhaps

She swallowed hard to dislodge the lump in her throat.

Or

She froze and stared at her screen.

I have fallen in love with you

Tears rolled down her cheeks. She wiped them away fiercely. You are crazy

Yes. About you

What do you know about me?

Nothing. But that doesn’t matter. I only know that I cannot live without you.

Sweat beaded her brow. She felt as if she were flying yet a dreadful weight dragged her down.

Her phone pinged.

Let me live. Marry me. Please.

Go to hell. She switched off her phone and gave into the luxury of gut-wrenching sobs into her pillow.

Heavy eyed and listless, she got through the next day alternating between exhilaration and dread of meeting Sonu. She cautiously and reluctantly switched on her phone at the office. Disappointment tore through her. Not a single message from him. She was the new toy. He was already bored of her. Or accepted that she was unattainable. Well that suited her just fine and she was well out of all that mess she had sworn she would never get into it. She threw herself into her work. But she couldn’t resist checking her phone about a million times. He wasn’t waiting for her outside the bank either.

This wasn’t like him to give up so easily she couldn’t help thinking. Had she again hurt his feelings by saying go to hell? What if something had happened to him?

What do care? She jeered herself. And what do you know about him? Nothing right. Just be thankful that he is out of your hair and get on with your life. Stop moping and get back to studying.

She pulled herself together and immersed herself into the world of academics. Like always this was her sanctuary her abode of peace and tranquility where she could forget about the world, and herself. Yet once in a while Sonu managed to intrude here as well. Where was he

By the next day she was concerned enough to call up his mobile from the office landline. She didn’t want him to get the wrong message again. But his phone was switched off. Why would he switch off his phone? It’s not like she was pursuing him.

Maybe someone else was. Maybe she had come back into his life. Maybe he was regretting his hasty declaration. Maybe, argh!

Forget him. Move on.

I would if only I knew he was fine.

Why do you care?

There were no answers or she didn’t want to admit to them. She had only one thought – how to get news of Sonu?

After three dreadful days her phone pinged.

Hello from Hell.

***

Click here for the next Chapter 7: To Hell and Back

 

FFfAW: The Pick-me-up

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The Pick-me-up

Words 175

“Come for a walk?” Reema was at the door. “Please! I need to vent.”

“Sure.” Dia shut the door behind her. “Yikes it is hot!” she gasped.

“I know,” Reema agreed, “But I simply had to get out.”

“What happened?”

“It’s every damn thing,” Reema groaned, “and the weather isn’t helping. I have an office deadline, college cut offs and admissions are giving us sleepless nights and on top of it, my father-in-law.”

“What’s he done?”

“He has begun to invite random people home.” Reema groaned. “We’ve guests for dinner and lunch.”

“Just make twice the amount.”

“One batch is pure vegetarian.”

“Oops!”

“Exactly.” Reema sighed. “But there’s one good thing.”

“What?” Dia wiped her brow.

“I don’t dread Hell anymore.”

“Right. It couldn’t be hotter than the kitchen.”

They laughed.

“I guess I better get back.” They traced their steps back. “I can see another crisis looming.”

“What?”

“The husband has a cold.”

“Oh no!” Dia commiserated. “Poor you.”

“Thanks for the shoulder.” Reema grinned.

“Anytime.” Dia winked. “But remember, it’s my turn tomorrow.”

***

Written for the FFfAW challenge – a story in 175 words or less. Thanks to Priceless Joy for hosting the challenge and I am happy to have managed to rise to the challenge this week. Successfully or not, is up to you to decide! To read the other stories inspired by this prompt click here.