The Family Heirloom – Part 2 (Conclusion)

Keyword: Heirloom

The cold water came as a shock, forcing Nadini to resurface and gasp for fresh air. She gulped a mouthful and dove again, plunging into the relative darkness with each stroke. But her lungs won’t let her go all the way. The cold water reigned at her arms and strangled her for air. She made her way back to the shore, empty-handed, and collapsed on to the dark, moist soil that wrapped her wet skin.

With each breath the scent of ripe guavas drifted through her inflated nostrils, overwhelming her with insatiable desire. The coarse yet soft texture of the guavas turned acrid in her mouth. The memory of the servant boy who moved like liquid gold over her sister’s milky skin had forever tarnished its taste for her.

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The Family Heirloom – Part 1

Keyword: Heirloom

Nandini slashed through the dense undergrowth, ripping apart the hammock of weeds that knitted the woods together. The machete’s rough edges—corroded black with years of neglect—made the task harder than it seemed.

With each swing, the pulse beneath her eyelids throbbed a second faster. With each cut, the woods echoed with her heaving breaths; the buzz of honeybees and the songs of mainas fading away into the stillness of the noon air.

Sweat streamed down her face—blinding her momentarily, choking her senses with its acrid taste. The silk shirt clung to her skin like a wet tissue paper. Her tiring nape, aching back and blistering hands made the agony of a hot Indian summer unbearable to her overworked arms.

She wasn’t used to labor in any form or sense of the word. But the thought of her family heirloom, resting at the bottom of the pond, willed her to action.

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A perfect human

Keyword: Perfection

Death was the first to go. I spliced it out. One diseased strand at a time.

Then came fear. Then stupidity. Both holding me back from realizing my true potential. Both keeping me from seeing what I, the world could truly be.

Laughter, who needs that.

Tears, toss it out.

Speech, pointless. Words just confusing. When tech can communicate for us, read our very minds.

Who needs love of music and arts when there are bigger questions of science and God and everything in between and beyond still to be explored. Mankind to be pushed into space.

Little by little I lose myself. All the unnecessary bits.

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Bitter – An Excerpt

1.

Bitterness rose up her throat like bile. And if there was anything Anuja detested, it was the taste of bitterness filling her mouth. Turning her into a replica of her mother. Bitter to the bone.

She’d gobble down sugar by the handful. From the canister in the kitchen at first. Then from her stash of candies, cookies, and sweet buns from the neighborhood grocery store. Just to drown out the choking, nauseating taste. If only for a while.

A trick she’d learned the first time her mother threw Blenders Pride at her head, missed, and smashed the dressing table mirror instead.

Gobble, gobble, gobble. You ruined my life. Fat, ugly, whore.

Gobble, gobble, gobble. No good, just like your no-good, two-timing loser of a dad. You’ve even got his stupid, squinty eyes.

Gobble, gobble, gobble. I could have been someone. Like Marilyn Monroe or Sridevi.

Gobble, gobble, gobble. Fat, ugly, whore. You ruined my life and now you won’t even let me watch TV in peace. Get out of the way. I don’t want nothing to do with you.

All day long on weekends and after-school hours on weekdays, her mother bickered from the living room sofa.

And all day long, Anuja craved sweets.

Read the rest of the story here: Bitter

Superstitious – Part 5 (Conclusion)

Keyword: Superstitious

“See you tomorrow at 7 then,” I remind Deepa before getting off the school bus. “We’re so going to have an awesome time!”

“Yeah,” grins back Deepa, grooving in her seat, to the amusement of others, “the best! You sure your Mom’s okay with it? She isn’t worried about, you know,” she shrugs and spells out the word B-O-Y-S.

“Of course, she’s cool. Temporary insanity.” I shrug back.

If she isn’t yet, she will be, as soon as Dad gets here.

“See ya,” I wave from the sidewalk. Sunny mimics me and I thump his soft, silky-haired head. I’ve already doled out my entire collection of tenners to him. At least he should act the part. “Go to your room and act sick, will you?” I tell him. “But not too sick. Remember, you get better as soon as you see Dad. I don’t want to spend the entire weekend babysitting you and Mom.”

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Superstitious – Part 4

Keyword: Superstitious

“Dad, she’s gone completely insane,” I tell him over the phone. “She won’t let me go to the dance and is spending loads on teleshopping thalis to save the world.”

After a prompt rebuke, “Beta, how many times have I told you not to swear,” he suggests riding the wave till Sunday, when he returns. She has even made him change his flight date from Saturday to Sunday, as nothing, absolutely nothing, is to be done on that day. But, of course, pray.

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Superstitious – Part 3

Keyword: Superstitious

Three days to “doomsday” and Mom turns into this zealot baba follower who refuses to do anything but watch Baba ka Darbar all day long. Remote in one hand, phone in another. Ordering a thali the moment a new prayer service goes live.

“How come he’s live?” I say, munching on crackers with toppings of ketchup and mustard sauce, our gourmet lunch for today. “Shouldn’t he be hiding somewhere, performing some ‘yugya-shagya’ in secret?”

Mom shudders at this and looks about fearfully, as if waiting for lightning to strike and smite us all out of existence. When that doesn’t happen, she finally speaks. “Baba has his ways,” she says mystically, “and don’t be disrespectful, Rinku. I have taught you better than that.”

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The Intervention

Keyword: Intervention

“I am a tree,” I tell them but they laugh. “But I am, I’m a tree, I’ve roots in this place, sunk deep into the earth.” If you move me, I’ll die.

“Do you realize how insane you sound,” they say. “This is no way to live. Stuck in your room all day long, not eating or drinking or meeting friends.”

“I work,” I tell them, “from home. It’s called telecommuting.”

They smirk.

“We’ve never seen you do anything. You don’t even comb your hair anymore. When was the last time you bathed?”

“Bathed?” I don’t know: yesterday, or a week before yesterday? “Why should that matter though?” And for whom should I clean up?

They crowd about me then, my uncles and aunts, near and distant cousins, and so-called friends — like a pack of hyenas too lazy to hunt for themselves, gleeful at the prospect of feasting off my ready despair.

“Now don’t be a fatalist,” says an aunt I don’t recall having. “Life’s beautiful, full of possibilities,” another cousin adds.

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Stopover

Keywords: Bus stop

She is always there at 8. At the bus stop next to the florist. She sits there tapping her foot, watching the open sky change hues over the vacant lot across the road. Sipping the coffee she brought from home. In a thermos. Softly humming a song. The air around her alive and full of promise. She sits there, not once checking her watch. Only pushing off when the first of the daily commuters arrive, when it’s time for the 8.45.

I ask her why she comes here. There’s a perfectly beautiful park two blocks down. Is she here to meet someone? Could I interest her in a bunch of fresh peonies or a freshly brewed cuppa from down the street?

Nah, she says. Gives an easy smile. A strand of hair swaying across her youthful face. Though she’s no beauty, there’s a brightness about her that’s hard to miss.

You can sit here a while though, she says, patting the empty space next to her. If you’re not in a hurry.

She gives me a once over. My attaché, the crisp business suit and tie, shiny shoes polished to perfection, reflecting my scrubbed clean face, hers if I move in any closer, are not doing me any favors.

Sure, I say and sidle over. But only for a while.

The bus comes and goes.

Superstitious – Part 2

Keyword: Superstitious

The next day, Mishra aunty, mom’s bestie and satsang buddy, the one with the broad-bordered Kanjivaram sari, rings of all sorts swallowing her fingers whole, and a large black dot warding off evil on her rolling chin, comes to tea.

She is worse than mom.

“The universe is trying to tell you something, I always say,” she says, reverentially, over a cup of Darjeeling special, which she sips noisily, sitting imperially on the three-seater sofa, leaving no room for anybody else.

Today, it is the neighborhood cat, black as a moonless sky, the devil’s pet incarnate, which has her all riled up.

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