Why the Caged Bird Doesn’t Sing

caged-liz
Photo (c) Liz Young

Why the Caged Bird Doesn’t Sing

Words 100

“Once upon a time, I was young, happy and carefree.” He said addressing gathered guests on their gala anniversary celebrations. “Until I met her.”

Laughter.

“But,” he raised a hand; “I experienced true happiness only after marriage.”

“Awww.” They nudged her and giggled.

Whenever your demands were met, she smiled at them.

“Thank you for the greatest joy of my life,” he pointed, “my darling Jaya.”

Whom you wanted me to abort, she swallowed.

“I am now the proud husband of a Bank Manager.”

Cheers and claps.

One who is not allowed to manage her own account. Her father beamed.

***

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

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – II

Click here for Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Sonu flicked another glance at the girl. “But you have to admit there are advantages of having a like this girl as your wife. She would be only too grateful to be marrying anyone, leave aside someone so handsome as you, not to mention well off as well.” He clapped his friend on the back. “And she won’t say much either if you have interests elsewhere.” He winked.

“But what about my reputation? What will everybody say when they see my wife is a behenji?”

“Relax Titu! Why worry when Sonu is here? Let’s play along until it’s time to pull the rug and get rid of the girl.” He grinned. “Sweety was one hell of a teacher – she gave me some pretty neat ideas.”

“What are you two boys doing standing over there in one corner and gossiping like girls?” Dadi called. “Come and meet Lovely.”

At the meeting venue after the initial rounds of niceties, a round of tea and snacks, Mrs. Sharma set the ball rolling. “Let the children get to know each other.” As everyone nodded, she added, “Sonu you also go along.” She smiled. “You don’t mind do you Lovely beta?” she asked the girl who dumbly shook her head.

“So your name is Lovely?” Sonu cursed himself for the inane remark. But he was rather short on inspiration and pressured to break the escalating silence and disdainful disapproval emanating from the girl. What business had she to look down upon them?!

“My name is Jigyasa but I asked too many questions and wasn’t beautiful enough so my granny changed my name to Lovely.” She met Sonu’s look of surprise calmly enough. “Are your names actually Sonu and Titu?”

Sonu coughed, “My name is Sudarshan and his name is Trilokpati.”

Lovely’s eyes gleamed through her thick spectacles, “The Master of the Three Worlds,” it was her turn to cough (or was it to smother a giggle?), “but not mine.”

They stared blankly at her.

“Why are you both so surprised?” She asked aggressively in contrast to her demure cat-got-my-tongue look earlier. “Oh I get it,” she nodded, “I am so plain and ugly that I would be grateful and ready to marry any man. Even if he looks panic stricken at the thought of being tied to me for the rest of his life and his best friend is already plotting ways to get rid of me.”

Sonu opened his mouth but no words came out of it. Titu didn’t even try to speak.

“Why don’t we sit?” She waved to the comfortable lawn chairs under a colorful umbrella. “Should we order something?” She asked as the waiter hovered obsequiously in the background.

They shook their heads.

She raised a hand, “Three cups of tea and one plate pakoras.” She turned to the boys. “Paneer or mixed?” The cat had got their tongues. She sighed and said, “Two plates, one of each.”

She looked at them with a gleam in her eye.

“What’s so funny?” Huffed Sonu.

“If only you could see your faces,” Her lips twitched.

“So you were pulling our legs?” Sonu was on shaky ground. He couldn’t even decide whether that was better or not.

Lovely sobered and shook her head. “No. I am serious.” She paused. “I have no intentions of marrying you or anyone else. But,” she looked at them sternly, not unlike their 4th grade Hindi teacher, Mrs Dandona, “we won’t tell the others just yet.”

“Why not?” Sonu asked suspiciously.

“I have my reasons.” She said shortly.

“And why should we go along with you?” Sneered Sonu.

“Because if you don’t,” her lips thinned and her eyes narrowed (Mrs Dandy for sure!) “I will marry Titu.”

“Not if I can help it,” snapped Sonu immediately on the defensive.

Lovely looked at him pityingly. “You are a glutton for punishment aren’t you?”

He frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Didn’t you learn anything from your run in with Sweety?”

They gaped at each other. “You know?!”

“Every sweet little detail, down to the tiny mole near Sweety’s belly button.” Her lips curled.

“Who are you?” An all too familiar sinking feeling enveloped Sonu. It was déjà vu. He stood up with his fists clenched. “Who sent you? Sweety?” He hissed.

“Relax!” Lovely rolled her eyes. She sat back as the waiter returned with their order. “Mmm hot sweet tea and crispy pakoras, what more can one want right? Go on dig in.” she urged before busying herself with the steaming goodies.

“Tell us,” Sonu bit out, “Otherwise…” he put a hand on Titu’s shoulder and stood up.

“So how’s it going?” Sonu and Titu turned around in surprise. Ghastiram stood there with a benign expression on his face. “Ah pakoras!” He reached out and helped himself to one. “Why are you boys standing?” He asked. “Urgent call of nature?” He laughed at his own joke. “Sit down, sit down.” he urged Titu.

“Please sit Dadaji,” Lovely got to her feet. “Please have a cup of tea.”

“No thanks beta.” He put his hand on her head in blessing. “You know Titu, Lovely is a very sweet girl.” He cast her an affectionate glance. “I’ve heard nothing but praises from everyone.” He patted her head “So warm and giving. And very mature and understanding.” He patted Titu. “Since she is my chuddi-buddy’s granddaughter, I didn’t want to keep her in the dark about anything. That’s why I told her all about Sweety and Pihu and,” he shook his finger at him, “you better tell her all about any other girl whom you may have had in your life. Best to start on a clean slate.” He took another pakora. “Carry on.” He said genially and moved away.

“He told you about Sweety?!” Sonu whistled.

“I don’t believe this!” Titu wore a dazed look, “Dadaji told you about the mole near Sweety’s belly button?”

Lovely shook her head. “No. He gave me all the wedding ceremony videos, including the jaymala.” She paused. “He wanted me to take an informed decision.” There was a faint note of incredulity in her voice. And a sneer.

“Oh so that is why you don’t want to marry Titu? Not that he’s desperate to marry you.” He exchanged a glance with Titu. “As if anybody could be.” He completed under his breath.

But she heard.

She stiffened and her lips twisted. “That suits me fine.” She looked at them with defiance. “I have no desire or intention to get married.”

Sonu relaxed. He reached out and took a pakora. “So why did you agree to come today?”

***

Click here for Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

 

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – I

A couple of weeks ago, I watched this year’s sleeper hit Sonu ke Titu ki Sweety, a well-made and enjoyable film. Yet, the misogynist core (and the cringe-worthy picturization of the otherwise peppy songs) was rather jarring and hence this sort of sequel to the movie. But I hope it also works as a standalone story, which as usual became longer than I intended it to be. Hope you will be (as usual) be kind enough to accompany me on this journey as well – a five six part story (so far!)

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

The entire gang had gathered in the sprawling drawing room at Ghasitaram’s behest. Unlike his earlier devil-may-care attitude, the Sweety fiasco had made him realize the importance of the kind of person who was going to be his grandson’s wife. That Sweety hadn’t even been married to Titu and she had already cleared the kitchen of his staple non-vegetarian diet and got her talons on the family coffers had given him the jitters.

“This time there will be no mess ups,” he declared, “for I will choose the girl.” He shook his finger at his grandson Titu and practically brother Sonu, “You boys better watch your step. I don’t want any hanky-panky.”

“Yes,” agreed the beleaguered Titu, “Sonu, this time you better not mess up,” warned Titu, “I’ve had enough of these roller coaster relationships, I really do want to settle down.”

“What?” Sonu was incredulous. “I don’t believe this! Are you blaming me for your woes? How is it my fault that you always manage to attract the wrong sort of girl?”

“But you are the one who created all the drama,” Titu’s mother handed him a cup of tea. If only you hadn’t put a spoke in the wheels, today Titu would have been married and I would have had grandkids on my knees.”

“But for me,” jeered Sonu, “you all would be out on the streets and Titu would be playing nanny to someone else’s child. Come on Mummy, who has a kid within three months of their wedding?”

“You know what I mean,” Mrs. Sharma was unfazed. “Don’t leave everything until the last minute. Speak up well in advance. We are modern family with a progressive outlook, but still it is embarrassing to have our son’s wedding called off during the jayamala ceremony.” She looked at the two boys. “You have no idea of the kind of snide remarks and comments I have had to deal with since then.”

“Not to mention all those accusations Sweety leveled at Titu. Of dowry, of initiating physical relationship on the promise of marriage and then breaking the promise, ” Mr. Sharma picked up the thread, “Only I know how I kept Titu out of jail and the court cases are still going on.”

“You don’t worry about that Uncle,” Sonu lolled about on the sofa, “The list of guys who were similarly lead on our Sweety the Great is growing longer and longer. She will be the one behind bars and very soon,” he promised.

“Yes, yes Sonu,” Titu folded his hands and bowed to him, “We are eternally in your debt but could your instincts kick in a bit earlier than for the absolutely the last minute?” He pleaded. “I still have nightmares, that I am married to Sweety. He shuddered. “This time I will see the girl only after you give the go ahead.” He clapped his friend on the back and turned to his mother. “Okay Mummy?”

“How can he do that?!” Mrs Sharma objected. “What if he likes the girl?”

“Mummy!” the boys chorused in protest.

“I saw a tele-film,” Mrs Sharma waved them into silence with a flick of the knife she was wielding, “Somebody sent his friend, who liked the girl and then he lied that the girl wasn’t good, with the intention of bumping off his friend…”

“Oh please Mummy, what awful serials you watch!” protested Titu while Sonu was up in arms, “You seriously think I’m going to steal Titu’s bride? Fine! I won’t say a word! Better still I wont come to see the girl.” Sonu got all worked up and emotional. “I won’t come for the wedding. I’ll go off to America…”

“Bye.” Ghasitaram rolled his eyes at Lalu who jerked his thumb towards the door. Ghasitaram nodded and raised his hand, “We are going tomorrow to see the girl. Whoever wants to come, can come and give their opinion otherwise hold silence forever and ever.” His eyes pierced Sonu before exiting with Lalu.

“I don’t believe this!” Sonu was frustrated, “I save you all from that controlling maniac and instead of being grateful and appreciative, everyone is blaming me? What &^&%&% nonsense!” he kicked a chair and yelped as he got hurt. He limped he away.

“We’ll wait for you tomorrow.” Dadi called. He turned to grin beatifically at her. “Only you understand my value Dadi,” he swore reaching for her feet.

“Okay okay fine fine.” She sniffed. “Be ready on time.” She waved him away.

Suited booted, primped and polished, they left the next evening for a prospective bride viewing. “I know the family very well,” Ghasitaram, informed them on the way, “Lallan and I were in school together and would have been in the same college also but for the Partition.” He looked at Titu and Sonu, “We were like you too, inseparable.” He sighed. “We met again after decades at the hospital where he is admitted.”

“Haww,” Mrs. Sharma commiserated. “What happened? Hope nothing serious?”

Ghasitaram shook his head. “Things look bleak. He’s had stroke and he’s paralyzed from one side. His wife is also a patient of diabetes and high blood pressure. They are worried about their granddaughter and her marriage and want to make sure everything is settled before any eventuality.”

“So you offered my grandson as a sacrifice?” Dadiji snorted.

“It’s not like that,” Ghasitaram denied, “I’d stake my life on my friend Lallan and I’ve met the girl. She is biddable, decent, polite and well mannered.”

“A killjoy for sure,” mumbled Sonu to Titu under his breath, “and boring.”

“Yeah I want to party have fun and enjoy with my wife not sit and read the newspaper while she shells peas,” Titu grumbled.

“Life is not only about partying and enjoying,” Mrs. Sharma said, “it’s about settling down, taking responsibility and you like matar paneer don’t you?”

“Uff Mummy please!” both Sonu and Titu groaned. She laughed and shook her head. “You know what the problem with you boys is?”

They shook their heads. “You don’t know what you want in life. No matter how modern you may pretend to be, ultimately everyone wants a wife who will sit and shell peas for you.”

“Right.” Ghasitaram agreed. “Partying is for girl-friends.”

“Exactly why I didn’t get married,” Lalu kaka added.

“Don’t lie,” Ghasitaram leaned towards him, “you didn’t get married because she wouldn’t have you.”

“Shush!” Lalu kaka cast a pleading glance at his long time friend and brother-in-law.

Ghasitaram smirked.

“Oops!” muttered Sonu to Titu and hung back letting the others move on ahead. “Quite a contrast from your kind of girl isn’t she?” He surveyed the prospective bride as she went through the traditional motions and decorous greetings from the safe distance.

Titu seemed tongue-tied as he stared at the girl.

“Lovely is not so lovely eh? In fact, quite the frump.” He nudged Titu. “And you are already besotted? Snap out of it man!” He rolled his eyes. “At least get to know her first.”

Titu shook his head. “That’s your department. I just want to settle down with whoever you give your thumbs up to.”

“That’s crazy!” Sonu protested.

“Is it?” Titu asked.

Sonu looked away guiltily.

“Mummy is right. I don’t know what I want.” Titu sighed. “In any case, this time I don’t think either of us has any choice or say.”

“What do you mean?!” Sonu was taken aback.

“Mummy warned me that this meeting was just a formality. Grandpa has his heart set on this marriage and this meeting is just a formality.”

Sonu whistled. “Since when did he start taking so much interest in your marriage?”

“Grandpa apparently got the jitters when Sweety cut off the kebab and chicken from home. Ever since then he’s been having nightmares of my future wife cutting off his daaru and kicking Lalu kaka out of our home.”

“Serve the old geezer right,” Sonu snickered. “If I hadn’t spoken up in time,” Sonu said in self-congratulatory tones, “this is exactly what would have happened. Mark my words.”

Titu nodded glumly. “This time he declared he wasn’t going to let any girl but the one of his choice to enter his house.” He took another look at the overdressed, caked slightly plumpish girl wearing a thick oily plait. “You think I could ever be besotted with that…that…” words failed him. He looked reproachfully at his friend. “You don’t know me at all if you think this is my ‘besotted’ expression. I was just trying to imagine myself tied to this woman for the rest of my life.” He shuddered.

****

Click here for Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

 

WPS: (Not) Made for Each Other

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From Google Maps Coniston Water Lake District England

(Not) Made for Each Other

Words 150

“How was it?!” They crowded her.

“The weather was awesome!” She sighed dreamily. “Rolling clouds, the light drizzle…”

“How was he?”

“A bear with a sore head.” She giggled. “Poor thing was starving. We forgot the biryani.”

Poor thing! They nudged each other. “How did you appease him?”

“I shared the chocolates he had got me.” She giggled.

“A romantic!”

“A romantic stick in the mud.”

“Meaning?”

“He made such a fuss about a few drops of water! Anyone would think he was made of salt.”

 

“How was the picnic?” It was his debriefing time.

“She insisted we walk in the downpour.” He sneezed. “Romantic nonsense on an empty stomach.”

“What happened to the biryani?”

“She forgot it in the car.” He scowled. “Then she hogged up most of it.”

“You two are so meant for each other!”

He glared at his sister.

“You are already blaming her.” She giggled.

***

 

Written for What Pegman Saw – a story in 150 words or less. Thanks to K Rawson for hosting the challenge. To read the other stories inspired by this challenge click here

This one is another take on the same theme as here.  Returning to flash fiction after quite some time and am feeling rusty. Do let me know what you thought about it and if you read both which one you prefer. Thanks for reading. Have a good day!

 

SPF: Life Notes

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Life Notes

Words 200

“Cheers!” They clinked glasses of preferred poisons.

“When did we last meet?” Priya asked.

“Rhea’s wedding.” Molly winked at Priya as she raised her glass in a toast to Rhea. “So Rhea, did our advice help?”

They giggled at her blank look.

“The birds and the bees.” Priya prodded.

“Oh please!” Rhea smacked her forehead. “Couldn’t you girls have given me some better advice?”

“Like what?”

“Like how disastrous it is to have a joint bank account with your spouse.” Rhea shuddered. “If only someone had told me to keep our accounts separate.”

“Money sweeter than honey.” Molly giggled.

Priya poked Molly. “What would you have done differently?”

“I would’ve prayed harder for my children to ignore me.”

They stared.

“When my children left home and promptly forgot about me, I was devastated.” Molly said. “After several tragedies, broken hearts and late night calls I realized the harsh fact of life.” She grinned. “If your loved ones don’t miss you, they are in a happy place.”

“Your turn.” They looked at Priya.

“I would’ve stayed connected.” Priya looked at them. “I would’ve stolen some time for my friends.” She swallowed. “Invested more in myself, my constant and often only companion.”

***

This photo prompt was one of my earliest (second or perhaps the third) attempts at flash fiction. You can read it here if you wish and let me know which one you prefer – if at all!

Written for the Sunday Photo Fiction – a story in 200 words or less. Thanks to Alistair Forbes for hosting the challenge and the photo prompt. To read the other stories inspired by this prompt click here.

WPS: Into the Maelstrom

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Photo from Google Maps

Into the Maelstrom

Words 151

“Exams over?”

She gave an ecstatic twirl. “I am free!”

“Free?” I queried. “But what about admissions, career…”

“None of that nonsense for me,” she dismissed with her nose in the air. “I have my future all planned.”

“Let’s hear it.”

“First college for some graduation course…”

“Which course?”

“Whatever I qualify for.”

“Okay. Next?”

“Prince Charming will find me and sweep me off my feet. I will lead him to a merry dance, before agreeing to marry him.”

“Wow.”

She smiled dreamily. “A stupendous destination wedding with both Shah Rukh and Salman Khan dancing and then go abroad for our honeymoon.”

“Where abroad?”

“Anywhere! The States to do lots of shopping.” She giggled. “Visit all the famous tourist spots, go trekking, camping, just him and me.” She clasped her hands. “It will be the most romantic time ever.”

“Nice.” I said. “And then what?

“I haven’t thought further than that.”

***

Written for What Pegman Saw – a story in 150 words or less based on locations chosen from Google Maps. This week we are off to Yellowstone National Park in the US and on my bucket list. Thanks to K Rawson for hosting the challenge. To read the other stories inspired by this prompt, click here.

Enough of Double Standards

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Photo (c) Bjorn Rudberg

 

Enough of Double Standards

Words 100

“Belated happy birthday!” Shipra greeted Deeksha.

“Thanks.”

“How did you celebrate?”

“We didn’t. We are still in mourning.”

“Oh I am sorry.” Shipra offered her condolences. “Last year too you couldn’t celebrate as your father-in-law was unwell.”

“Yes.”

“It must be over six months since he passed away?”

“Yes.”

“Yet your husband attended his cousin’s wedding last week?”

“It wouldn’t have looked nice if he hadn’t gone.”

“So only you’re expected to mourn?”

“That depends.” Deeksha said. “As I am integral part of their family, they made sure I participated actively in the wedding festivities soon after my father’s death.”

***

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