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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Bitter – An Excerpt


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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Second Best

Keyword: Second-best

The door swung open and a young woman in an elegant black cocktail dress entered the room. She had a cigarette pack and a lighter in one hand, skillfully balanced along with a clutch.

“Hope you don’t mind,” she said lighting up, even though it was a smoking room. “If I don’t have one right now I will lose my mind.”

Neeru grabbed Sanjay’s glass and gulped down whatever little remained of his beer, wincing at the bitter taste. Her own wine glass lying empty on the table. She glared at her as if willing her to leave the room by the sheer power of her venomous stare. She didn’t like the intrusion. Wanted to be left alone. It was enough that Sanjay was here, trying to placate her. Playing the trusted family friend. It isn’t true, Neeru. He still loves only you. You are reading too much into things. Right. Reading too much into the late night messages, the scent of jasmine on his collar, his impromptu book tours, and that no-reason-smile on his face.

She made a move to get up, but there was nowhere else to get away from the gossiping crowd. Besides, he was downstairs, with her. Whom she thought was “her.” And she didn’t trust herself to behave.

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The Audition – Conclusion

“That’s your home?” said Ridhima. Marvelling at the four-story mansion that sprawled before them surrounded by acres and acres of fresh green, manicured lawns. Against the azure sky, it looked like a scene out of a fairytale. Whoever knew there was so much open space in a city like Delhi. If she was still angry with him for keeping such an important fact about his life – his family – a secret from her, it was fast dissipating. Getting replaced by childlike wonder and awe. A kid lost in a candy store.

Somewhere at the back of her mind, he feared, realization may be dawning that this grand place, this entire estate, could someday be theirs.

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Our Lady in the Sky – Part 5

“People of Uri, can you hear us?” spluttered the radio in the dark late one night. Mrs. Godse had been trying to adjust the radio knob furtively, to drive away the silence. But all she got was static. Right turn. Static. Left turn. Static. Round and round and round.  Still more static. The radio host with a thick, syrupy voice had obviously dozed off. And the songs had eventually run out. It was this silence or the static … or the incessant crick-crick-crick of the crickets down below.

“People of Uri” had slowly returned to their daily routine, waving at her as they passed by to work in the fields or attend school or from the rooftops and windows as they dried laundry or cleaned house or just reposed in their chairs. Mrs. Godse was no longer a novelty but a part of their daily lives. Ever present. Like a fruit hanging from a tree. She wasn’t going anywhere.

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Our Lady in the Sky – Part I

Key Phrase: Fat Lady in the Sky

One bright day, the sky froze over the village in a dome and cracked like an egg shell at the curves. Yet it held together, by some miracle.

A child below, who had been flitting pebbles across the pond in his backyard, curious, flung a large rock at the now-crystallized sky and watched it smash through. Like a stone through a glass pane or a windshield. Nearly missing the fat lady gliding across in a hand glider.

She shot, “watch out.”

And the child cackled. “Look, look, there’s a fat lady in the frozen sky everyone.”

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The world’s falling apart. My world, the world around me; going up in ravenous flames like the Californian woods, with the roar of Greenland’s glaciers crashing into widening oceans, with the rage of tornadoes ripping through the Midwest like angry gods settling their differences with crazy arm sweeps.

Towns are dying. Worlds unknown, cultures unheard of are fast turning into dust. Like Atlantis and Avalon and others before them — great giants brought to their knees by temperamental gods.

The earth’s cracking up, like my heart, releasing the spirits long trapped in its bosom. The rivers are no longer flowing, but are mere stagnant, withering pools.

The bogs are burning, the woods are burning, the air, the seas, our homes are burning. It’s only a matter of time when we will all go up flames. And the wars we rage within and with each other, over land, oil, food, water, over love even, would cease to matter. Or matter more, more intensely than before … For what else would be there but now?

The seasons have already lost their color. One long, dry spell of white hot blaze. Blades brown and crisp like crackling crunch under trees naked with shame. Time, it seems, has given up on healing us as well.

Our atmosphere is a paradox. Thinning and bloating up at the same time, with foreign molecules worse that CFC fattening up on heat and the sun shredding away the ozone layer.

The preacher says there’s nothing like global warming. That climate change is God’s realm. Like life, like death. The scientists and leading thinkers disagree: how can you be so blind when it’s staring right in your face?

And I wonder if God has a kill switch, a restart button to reboot the whole damn world, my heart, and let them start all over again.

Seven Lives

Keyword: Findings


Mittenwald, German Alps, 1885

I find him on a train. It is the last one out of town. He is standing next to the exit. Raindrops dancing off his face. My letter clutched to his heart. We kiss and make out before a wistful old lady who has clouded irises, but is well aware of the ways of desperate souls. She plays the violin and speaks of her lover from her youth, unmindful of our hot breath clouding the car’s chilled window panes as another steam train whistles by. We escape our feuding families, our conflicting pasts, but we never make it beyond the fjord.

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The Couch

Keyword: Couch

Oh, that big, fat, white monstrosity! That ugly, bloated mass of foam and springs. It could be the lost art of Leonardo Da Vinci or Raphael or Caravaggio, the way she goes on and on about it. Posting reviews on sites in the middle of the night. Snapping arty, tasteful photos of them for all her friends to enjoy slash envy on Twitter, Facebook, and whatnot. Posing like friends, like long-lost lovers, like a mother dotting on her favorite child.

You may notice that I, her dear beloved husband of two years, is nowhere in the frame. She has disowned me for her new love … this l-shaped mass of fabric that commands attention from all corners of the room, lounging regally, like Uncle Benny, drunk and woozy in his three-piece pinstripe suit and a sharp bow-tie, that happy, stupid, glazed look on his face.

There’s no escaping this thing.

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