The incessant whistle of the cooker woke her up. Her mind was whizzing as put her thoughts into perspective. Five years of hope and hard work that did not yield results.
Ever since leaving school, it had been her dream to become an IAS officer. With single minded dedication she had prepared for the exams. This was her last attempt at the coveted Civil Services entrance exams. She could not make it through the Prelims in her first attempt but progressively improved to reach the Interview stage by her third attempt.
She consoled herself that things could only become better. Yet the next two years saw her unable to ace the interviews. No amount of coaching or studying or motivation or morale boosting seemed to help cross the final hurdle. Time seemed to be running out as she would be reaching the age cut-off for her category.
She gave in to her parents demand and got married.
This final attempt was simply to appease her conscience that every opportunity had been taken up. She was unsure how her new family would react to her dream.
But she was in for a huge surprise.
He took complete control and let her concentrate on her goal. Not a single problem however trivial reached her. She gave all she had to this attempt. Whenever she did find some free time, both of them went for long walks. He introduced her to Classical music. Occasionally they played Rummy.
She felt calm and confident and optimistic. A new job awaited her.
“There’s coffee for you. I am making Alu Parantha for breakfast. Come on….the website should have the results soon.”
So saying her husband of one year opened the Laptop.
I am joining Vinitha in her Fiction Monday series using the Photo prompt.
The paper was blank but Meena’s mind was full of thoughts.. What should she write.. They had a Talk on making a Will and all residents of the Elder Home were encouraged to do so. She had been living here for the last ten years. All said and done she was fairly comfortable. Food, company, medical help and entertainment was quite good.
Nothing to complain really.
Meena had sizeable assets that logically had to be willed to avoid disputes later.
What should she do? Did her two sons deserve anything after the way they had shunted her off to this Home? Sonam was more worthy according to Meena.
She did not remember when she last met her sons. Of late even the video calls had stopped. She consoled herself, that her elder one was busy in his career.. after all he would soon be the MD of his company. The younger one had become a father for the second time and naturally all his free time was spent with his kids.
Sonam had been their neighbour and was the only one who visited regularly. Just chatting with her was the bright point of Meena’s week. They spoke about old times, movies, current happenings, her work. Sonam was to be a mother soon and they had booked a new flat. Meena planned to make some baby clothes for the little one.
Over the years, Sonam became the daughter she never had. The two had become quite close.
Her eyes were moist as she looked back at her life. Was blood thicker than water? Her confusion over, Meena picked up the pen and began writing her Will…
I am joining Vinitha in her Fiction Monday series using the above photo prompt and word prompt ‘remember’.
It lay there on the table, untouched for a week, a seemingly innocent envelope that had become a huge source of discomfort to her. Whoever said letters got lost in transit was obviously wrong, as this envelope had travelled five cities – each time redirected via multiple addresses in hope of finding her.
P Shrikant, Delhi was clearly the original sender of the letter.
The name triggered memories of a tightly shut past. Why would he contact her after six years?
Six years ago she got married and left Delhi and severed all connections.
With Shrikant and all her college friends.
The graduation years were marked by a host of activities and Shrikant was always with her. They studied together, travelled together, and competed for the top spot. She felt there was something beyond friendship between them but was not sure if Shrikant reciprocated. Neither of them spoke and going with her family’s flow she married the chosen Boy as soon as her final year exams were over.
A clean cut was the best to settle into her role as a wife.
She was happy and content now.
A hundred possibilities crossed her mind. What if he wanted to reconnect… Was she ready to go on that road?
Her husband was curious about her sudden agitation. Who is he? Why don’t you open it?
Finally, she did.
With trembling hands, she unfolded the single sheet.
The envelope held her BSc Degree that Shrikant had collected from the University and sent to her last known address.
I am joining Vinitha in her Fiction Monday series.
Yash stepped out of his house eagerly looking forward to closing the deal. This was to be his come-back project after a break. As Yash rose the corporate ladder facing success after success, he unknowingly picked up a routine to which he attributed his success.
The lucky Pen. The lucky Tie. The Auspicious day. The lucky Number.
There was a longer list of no-nos. Saturdays were out of question. Blue shirts were out. And the list increased every day.
The entire team was forced to follow his quirks especially as the company continued to benefit from every transaction he closed.
As the years went by, Yash’s superstitious behaviour became almost fanatic and took on shades of OCD. His individual whims were now imposed on the team; something which the top brass was forced to take notice of irrespective of the successes he brought.
They decided that he either took medical help or would be shown the door.
So here he was, after six months of therapy and medication, ready to prove his mettle. A make or break stage in his career.
As Yash drove out of the building, he floored the brake and broke out into a sweat.
A black cat was crossing the road ahead of him.
Yash compulsively reversed the car.
I am joining Vinitha in her Fiction Monday series using the above photo prompt.
Forty years ago, I came into the Haveli as part of the dowry that Badi Bahurani brought. Yet I spent all my time with Rai Bahadur Sahib. He loved the smooth feel of my skin, my colour and declared we were a good fit! He was indeed a visionary and I saw his company grow from a single factory to the current conglomerate. It was thrilling to see him plot the takeover many a competitor. Sahib was a workaholic and I wasn’t complaining! It meant we could spend more time together and Badi Bahurani was sure I was taking good care of him.
Sangram Bahadur learnt the ropes at Sahib’s feet and I watched him mature into an astute businessman. It was natural for him to take over the reins once Sahib retired and I continued to serve him. Sangram treated me with the same respect as did his father in fact even more so when both my arms were broken. We spent long hours and Choti Bahurani too joined us sometimes. I only wish I could hold his hand when he was stressed out when Demonetisation hit us. But I am sure, sitting together did give him support, peace and new ideas as our company bounced back very soon.
Sangram’s children were not interested in running and taking the family business forward. I had grave doubts about the future.
My worst fears were realised when Sangram Bahadur was forced into retirement due to a massive heart attack. Choti Bahurani did not put up any resistance to the next generation’s decision to sell off the company.
Suddenly I was orphaned. And sentenced to one corner of the storeroom.
The new owners had no place for a 40-year-old wooden chair. With broken arms.
I am joining Vinitha in her Fiction Monday series using the above picture prompt .
Priya had been thrilled to take up the Salon offer. Four sittings for the price of two. An unbelievable deal. At twice a month, she need not look for deals for their upcoming 30th anniversary. She could confidently accept compliments like “you look as if you were married yesterday!”
Appearances had unknowingly become a priority… and she had given in.. As an active member of the Tea party, Cocktail, Kitty circuit; she felt as if she had to look young 24X7.
But of late, this was becoming too strenuous. Suddenly the fine lines needed extra effort to be hidden and the greys appeared faster. Fatigue was setting in. In her fight with Age, the latter seemed to have the upper hand.
Priya was tempted to stop these frequent Salon visits but lacked the will power.
And then, out of the blue, the Lockdown happened. Everything was shut. Salons. Gyms. No parties either.
That meant her wonderful Salon discount could not be used.
After a few weeks of hesitation, she gathered courage to look at her reflection.
The fine lines and greys did not laugh at her.
When she smiled, they smiled back at her.
Suddenly the mirror became her friend as did Aging.
Anita finished folding a tissue into a fan and kept on top of a pile which she had made today. Since there were no more tissues, she started pleating her bedsheet. Tiny folds, each fold precisely put over the one below it.
“They really should be giving me more paper and I can’t find my scissors either..I will tell the lady who brings my meals. Is she Laxmi? Or Parvati?
And why am I here..I want to go home ..”
Anita tried very hard but could not recollect where she was. They said this was her home, but somehow she felt herself a stranger here. Her mind seemed to be shrouded in a thick fog..anywhere she looked was a blank..not even a faint memory.
“Maybe I should ask the kind Man who comes to check on me daily. How does he know I like Mango ice-cream? And rose petals to make into a rangoli**. He seems to know everything about me.”
The doorbell rang and his voice reverberated in the house.
“Kashi ahes? I have brought karanji for you today Aai.”***
So saying he sat down to feed her.
* Aai means Mother in Marathi
**Rangoli are designs created on the floor usually as an auspicious sign.
*** How are you? I have brought Karanji for you today Mother.
Abhi’s cousin had sequinned shoes and Abhie longed to wear them, the only time , when she had envied anyone. Sensing her desire Ma had got her similar ones as a trophy for today’s task. Abhi smiled in anticipation and excitement. After 10 years on this earth, today she was taking her first steps in the Parallel Bars. She commanded her unwilling limbs supported with splints to move ahead one excruciating step at a time. It was tough going.
Abhi thought she would faint as her throat went dry even as the twinkling shoes at the far end beckoned her forwards. She could see herself in the biggest sequin and the shoes glowed golden from sunlight streaming in from the window.
Abhi was almost there… She could sense Ma and Varshadi- her therapist, cheering her on but their words were drowned by the thudding of her heart. Three steps more, two more and then suddenly she was enveloped in her Ma’s arms, both crying copiously as if their hearts would break. Abhi tried to wipe her mother’s tears, which seemed to be glittering brighter than any baubles.. So what if her limbs were not fully under her control and her speech not clear? Abhilasha was one of God’s own children and ‘special’ to everyone else.
The shoes were a perfect fit and Abhi admired her multiple reflections in them. She was tired but agreed instantaneously for another walk. Her life journey would be rockier than most others but she could do it, she would!
Meena sat desultorily in the Mall guarding the numerous bags that Anu, her daughter-in-law had deposited in her care along with the children. Anu was getting her nails done.
Music blaring from hidden speakers drowned out shrieks of her grandchildren playing in the Kids Zone. The Game Console shone with bright lights which made it the top attraction. A toy train chugged past, whistling ineffectively in its attempt to clear its path.
They had been here since the Mall opened and Meena’s knees were protesting. Her feet ached from the unbroken Walking Shoes. Was her Plantar Fascitis returning? Walking on these super smooth floors was not easy at her age.
She was nursing an expensive coffee that had more froth than brew. It was cold now and tasteless . Maybe she should have opted for good old Nimboo Pani instead..
Meena had never understood the attraction of spending time in a Mall.
Before her patience was tested, Anu returned, smiling from ear to ear.
“Thank you so much Maaji. I hope the kids did not trouble too much. Now its your turn. I have booked a special foot massage for you. All you have to do is relax, I will mind the bags and kids.”
So saying she escorted a happily surprised Meena into the Spa she had just exited.
I am joining Vinitha in her Fiction Monday series using the word prompt ‘bright’.
He looked around this office which had been his home for the last decade.
He had started as as a Lab Assistant and rose to be the Institute’s Chief Administrator.
Over the years, the primary school had grown to this premier stature. Professionally, it had been an immensely satisfying journey. Their new building housed a state-of-the-art Sciences Laboratory and a Sports Complex.
Being his last working day he was clearing out the office.
Books. Photographs. Mementos.
Ready to move.
Except for one last thing – A file which was the only blemish on an otherwise spotless career.
It held correspondence about accusations against him about accepting favours for choosing vendors for the new Lab.
In the ensuing proceedings, his words had fallen on deaf ears.
The Board did not believe him when he repeatedly said, “I am innocent.”
Hence this premature retirement.
With a deep sigh, he picked up his bag and walked out for the last time, head held high to his new SUV parked outside.
I am joining Vinitha in her Fiction Monday series using the word prompt “innocent”