Scarlet


“Shhh…you might wake her”, said Maya happily pointing at her bed.

Sanjay and Anita looked confused. “Look! She is right there on the bed. She was very tired and wanted to rest.”, insisted their 6-year-old.

By now, Sanjay and Anita were worried.

“Maya!You should not make up such stories!!”, admonished Sanjay.

“But, she is right there. She is wearing a red gown and has beautiful black hair! Can’t you see her?”, responded a hurt Maya.

Anita felt for her daughter. “Look Maya, there is nobody in this room. We understand that since we moved here you miss your friends… It has only been a week since we moved here. We will soon introduce ourselves to our neighbors and you might make some new friends. Now, please get ready for bed…”

Anita tucked the little girl in and kissed her good night. She turned on Maya’s music box but it refused to work!

“Great – another gadget that refuses to work in this house!”, murmured Sanjay as he took it in his hands. It had been rough since the move. The house seemed to be plagued with electrical issues and the temperature within the house oscillated from normal to warm and then cold  multiple times in an hour, which he had attributed to issues with the central heating and cooling.  And now, Maya was making imaginary friends! Was the move to this perfect home a wrong decision on their part?

As he touched the dial on the music box, the power went out bathing the entire house in darkness.

“Must be the fuse… Let me check…”, sighed an exhausted Sanjay. He turned on the flash lights on his cell phone and made his way to the basement.

He passed by the living room where the bulb on their new standing lamp flickering. “That’s odd…” he thought, wondering how the lamp flickered when the rest of the house had no power.

Inside the basement, he was relieved to find the switch board quickly. It was on the wall directly across the entrance to the basement. As he strode towards the wall he tripped on something which  turned out to be a small trunk at his foot.

“Must belong to the previous owners”, he thought. He had never ventured into the basement before and had not paid much attention to it when their real estate consultant had given them a tour of the entire house before the sale.  Located in Ooty the house was a 150 year old stone beauty built during the British Raj. Sanjay and Anita had been offered a  great deal on the house and Sanjay had been eager to complete the sale.

As he bent down to move the trunk aside, it’s top flipped over revealing the contents; some old clothes, documents and photographs. He picked up a photo and examined it by his flash-light;  a chill ran down in his spine. It was a photo of a beautiful woman with long dark hair wearing a red gown.  “Scarlet, at her Debutante ball – 1962” revealed the back of the photo in beautiful black calligraphy.

He was still rooted to the spot when he heard a familiar tune in the still of the night. It seemed to be coming from upstairs, from his daughter’s music box . Then he heard Maya…

“Look ma! You didn’t believe me, but my friend just fixed the music box. She says her name is Scarlet…”

The Amma and her Maid! It’s Complicated!


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Image Courtesy: Internet

Maids – those powerful women who¬†can get away with pretty much everything! You can’t live with them, their attitudes, their non-existent leave plans, their tardiness, their sorry tales and all their drama! Yet, you can’t live without them! A slice of Indian life from the town of Chennaiūüôā

Sunita looked visibly annoyed as she listened¬†to the yarn trailing¬†out of the her maid Anu’s mouth. The woman¬†had disappeared for 3 days in a row without any prior notification, leaving Sunita to handle a house full of guests, the resulting loads¬†of laundry and the never ending piles of dishes along with a full time job!

This was not the first time that Anu, who had received several warnings from Sunita  in the past about being fired  had gone AWOL*.  And yet, here they were again, listening to the tall tales that Anu spun about how her daughter had eloped to get married, while her son was ill from an infection on his foot!

Sunita was exhausted¬†and Anu’s high pitched voice with dramatic undertones irritated her more than usual. She cut Anu off mid way…

“So, is your daughter married now?”

“No amma, she has run away with that useless boyfriend of hers and we are still looking for her!”, responded Anu

“Who is we?”, questioned Sunita

“My son and me, amma!”

” I thought your son was ill when all this happened! You said he cut his leg on some pieces of stray glass and his feet have been bandaged! How exactly is he helping you? I am getting sick of your lies…why can’t you just let¬†me know before you take off? What good is your phone if you don’t answer it?”

“He hurt his feet while¬†we were looking for her!”

Anu was trying hard to patch the gaps in her story. Pushing her luck she continued, “Please don’t fire me amma, I need to take my son to the doctor again¬†and I need more money. Would you consider giving me an advance?”

“What?? You still owe me thousands of rupees in back loans! I am not giving you any more money!”

“But, I need to buy my daughter a new saree and some jewellery….”

“I thought you were angry with her because she ran away with a man you did not approve of! Now, you want to buy her gifts?”, exclaimed a confused Sunita

“I still need to give her dowry…what will my son-in-law’s parents think of me?”

Mindful¬†of being dragged into Anu’s family drama, Sunita raised her voice and ended¬†the conversation “Just get back to work and next time you do this, I WILL fire you!”

Anu scampered away as fast as she could while flipping out her cell phone to call her son and remind him not to show up around “amma’s” house as his feet were supposed to be bandaged!

Sunita heard her and sighed! This would happen again, maybe when Anu’s daughter¬†returned¬†(if had she ¬†run off in the first place) and she would still not fire Anu. ¬†She would probably loan Anu more money to throw a feast for her daughter and new son-in-law.

Finding a maid was the hardest thing to do in the city of Chennai! Yes, the relationship between the lady of the house and her maid could be best described as complicated!

*AWOLAbsent without leave.

How to find a Husband!


“Finding a husband is not a joke, you know!! You simply cannot take the process lightly!”, chided¬†my cousin, Urmi.

“You are 27. Why is it so hard for your parents to find a guy for you? Don’t you know somebody in your circle of friends? You should find a guy, get married and have your first child¬†before you turn 30. Only then, can you have baby number 2 by 32, ¬†leaving a perfect age gap between the kids”

I was still reeling from this unexpected barrage of questions and wisdom while Urmi continued…

“Take a cue from my daughter, Anita – she is in college¬†now, but she has it all sorted out. She wants to be married by the time she is your age and plans to have her first kid before she turns 30!”

Now,¬†I ¬†was berating my choice to spend the weekend with Urmi. But, I was in a new place and had no immediate family around me. My closest connection to home was¬†my aunt’s daughter Urmi. My aunt was a “Ms. Know It All herself”, but I had not expected Urmi to be worse! She had been the cool older cousin when I was growing up. It seemed like things had changed and nobody had sent me the memo!

“Why are Indians so obsessed with getting married?”, I retorted bravely, surprised at the tone of my own voice. I had never been accosted about my single status before and did not have a strategy to handle such confrontations. Yes, I was taking my time to “settle down”¬†but I had never felt the need to explain my choices to anyone.

“Now, you are just being naive!”, she responded. “Tell me, what do you expect in¬†a husband?”

“Excuse me?”, I responded, not sure about response she expected.

“I mean, do you want someone from India or abroad? What are the acceptable¬†locations in India? What are the educational qualifications you expect? Caste? etc., We should draw up a chart¬†with the various qualities that you expect in a husband¬†and then group¬†these based on the priority of these qualities and attack them accordingly”

“Huh?”, was all I could say.

“For example, if location and qualification are¬†important and you are interested in¬†men within the¬†age group of 27-30, we should look¬†for¬†contacts in that location and then check with them if¬†they know of any potential grooms with that particular qualification within the age group we are looking for… and that’s just scratching the surface.We should treat this as a project!”, she finished and looked pleased with herself.

“Well, I don’t exactly have the luxury of time for this project!”, I retorted wondering how her brain had worked this fast in coming up with a plan like that. “In case you didn’t notice I have a full-time job that consumes a major chunk of my time”

“How else do you expect to find a guy?”, she demanded.

“Well, maybe I will go with my heart!”, I declared, putting a temporary end to our conversation that night.

 

 

Also linking to  Writing Wednesdays hosted by Write Tribe

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Image Courtesy: Write Tribe

Let’s Go!


  • 20160810_113505Book Name: Let’s Go
  • Author: Text by Anthra Mohan, Pictures by Rajiv Eipe
  • Publishers: Tulika
  • Price: 150/-
  • Recommended age groups: 2+

My son was about 4 months old when he received this book. And it was his first author signed copy – nonetheless! It helped that the author was a BFF of the SIL. Being the book nut that I was, I put it away carefully and got it out of hiding around the time the little one¬†turned one. You see apart from being a book nut, I was also an arithmophobic; my derivative from the word¬†Arithmophobia¬†“referring¬†to¬†¬†the fear of numbers in general, the fear of math, numerals, certain numbers, calculations, and/or calculus”. ¬†So in the fear of passing this particular DNA to my son, I wanted to make sure he warmed up to the subject pretty early…And this was a¬†lovely book¬†to start this effort!

The book takes children through the numbers, 1 to 10 in the most colorful and entertaining way possible. And, if you happen to have a child that is crazy about vehicles, you will hit the jackpot!.

The book’s artwork by Rajiv Eipe¬†takes you through the streets of a bygone era, and by that I mean the times that we grew up in. Remember your school days, when you used to bike to school or take the bus or even walk in large groups talking about everything under the sun, laughing and chattering away without a care in the world? ¬†A stark contrast to the times that we live in today where kids are dropped off at school entrances in fancy cars chaperoned ¬†by drivers, babysitters and what not!

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Let’s Go ¬†has kids commuting¬†by cycles, rickshaws ¬†(a rarity, these days) and foot while teaching them how to count or at least getting them to recognize the numbers!By the end of 3 or 4 readings my¬†little one was able to recognize all the numbers and Anthara Mohan’s¬†simple, child friendly language got him to¬†recite the lines on every¬†page as we read together. ¬†

It was fun being transported with my son into these colorful pages filled with the fruit sellers, men carrying luggage and scooters with side cars zipping through relatively clean streets that seemed traffic free and actually filled with fresh air!

You should definitely think of giving this book a chance while introducing your child to the world of numbers.

Please note that is not a paid review. A copy of this book was purchased and I chose to write about the book because by son enjoyed it a lot and continues to do so.

Of Being an Imposter, Stopping to Care and Starting to Write!


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Image Courtesy: Write Tribe

Late last night, I read this interesting post about insecure writers or rather writers that suffer from¬†an imposter syndrome. I realized that this definitely ailed me¬†and ¬†that I was guilty of everything mentioned on the list! In fact, even as I write this I¬†suffer from the said disease! The only difference is that these days¬†I am trying my best to get over it and let me tell you it is the most difficult thing to do considering that even as I write this I wonder what the other “better” writers would think of my work?

It is funny because I did manage to get published as a part of an anthology. That time, a panel that had no idea about me had decided that I had a story to tell and it was the most wonderful feeling in the world. Those who read the story appreciated it. One of them even told me that it had a good plot and a wonderful twist while another appreciated the suspense element till the end of the story. Such feedback was music to my ears! But I could not shrug off that annoying voice that questioned me if I could do it again! Could I really tell a story? Also these days everyone is a writer, so how could I dare to infiltrate that sacred space?

It was around this time that I also read about the Insecure Writers Support Group and discovered that I was not alone when it came to having¬†doubts about one’s¬†writing. I also wondered what made us this way? For me, it is the fear of rejection, the fear of being told that I am not good enough.

Yesterday I was introduced to someone who was a “writer” and a “published author”. The moment this person heard that I gambled with words she turned away disinterested. Was that because she was better than¬†me? Again, the cycle of doubts took over my mind.

Perhaps, it all started with the publishing of my first post when I started my blog way back in 2006! I had no fancy dreams of being a writer and my blog was supposed to help me grow as a person while I wrote about what made me happy and what did not. What was beautiful around me and what I could do to make the ugly just a little bit less ugly. Everything would have gone well had I not made the mistake of sharing the link of my blog with my social circle.

Titled “Chasing Stars”, my first post wondered about my¬†generation’s expectations from life and why everybody was busy interfering in other people’s lives when they couldn’t sort out their own. ¬†I expected encouragement and feedback from the people I called “friends”. But then, the reality was that apart from one person who said that she enjoyed what I had written, the other responses I received were on the lines of the following:

  • “Oh, well I don’t read content on the internet which is not directly related to Business studies!” said the guy who spent his time watching videos on YouTube.
  • The person who actually suggested I blog, didn’t even bother to open the link
  • Another warned me about writing anything that remotely resembled my personal or professional life
  • Others merely shrugged their shoulders when I asked them what they thought while some claimed that they had no time to read
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Image Courtesy: Email Forwards!

My confidence took a hit. I took down my post and it still lays buried somewhere in the archives! Later I took down the blog and made three more attempts before I finally settled down here! Also, I decided to stop caring. I needed to write Рfor ME!

And why I am talking about this now? Because personally, I feel that the first step for anybody that wants to write would be to accept their doubts and failures and find ways to move on. The process of writing is similar to the poster on the left and once we take the step to stop caring too much about what the world will think of our writing and write what makes us Faith will be establishedFaith in our own selves! And then hopefully, one day we will turn into the fearless writers that we should be.

Linking to #writingwednesdays hosted by Word Tribe

The Blogathon


It has been an incredible first week of August! For once, I managed to participate in a blogging marathon and complete it. In fact, I was pretty sure that this might turn out much like other writing marathons that I attempted in the past, meaning that  I would not be able to do much after a day or two. Why, I even abstained from displaying the blogathon badge on my blog! But that changed yesterday when I completed the BlogAThon hosted by Blog-A-Rhythm.  The experience of creating and publishing posts on a daily basis was my equivalent of painting the town red. Painting it with words!!ūüôā

The following is the list of posts I created for the Blogathon, listed in order of popularity based on WordPress Stats. Each of these was an experiment to understand what kind of genres I would enjoy writing.

  1. Justice – An experiment in writing paranormal genres
  2. Truant – An experiment to write something short and light that even the most busiest person who stumbles onto my blog wouldn’t mind reading
  3. The Strange Case of Mrs.V – An experiment to see if I could write from life.
  4. Freedom, to Be – An experiment on alternate points of view
  5. Promise – Fiction
  6. Moira and Dreams – Again experiments on fictionalizing some real life experiences.

Here are somethings that I learnt about myself in the past week:

  • That I enjoyed telling stories and  that for some reason I am obsessed  about the triumph of good over bad and the fact that villains in any story should enjoy their “just deserts”!
  • I am not the types to preach with my writing. Nope! I love fiction and I think I will stick to that.
  • I was convinced  that there is an undocumented Murphy’s law that states that the moment one sits down with an idea and putting them into words, they will be disturbed to abandon their thoughts half way! Though I am no wonder when it comes to writing I understood why some writers are referred to as tetchy people!
  • I loved doing research on new words, places and ideas!
  • There is some wonderful writing on the internet and I thoroughly enjoyed reading poems and stories by talented folks
  • I think I might actually enjoy writing more often compared to the hermit crab attempts that I am known forūüôā

thankyouI just want to sign-off shouting out a big “Thanks” to those that took the time to read my posts, comment on the blog or Facebook links or actually share their opinions in person and those lovely people who re-tweeted my story links.

For those of who you who have just stopped by, please take the time to read the posts (if you have some time  that is) and let me know what you think.

Looking forward to more fruitful writing in the future

The Promise


barathonFinally, a Doctor

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism*“, ¬†he declared, and went on to recite the rest of the¬†Hippocratic Oath* with confidence and pride. It was a big day. He was finally¬†Dr.Ram.

He was scheduled to leave the following day to start work at a government hospital located in one of the remote areas of Tamil Nadu. The belt was infamous for its phases of political unrest and events that followed such eruptions.  But he was confident that it would have no bearing on his job as a doctor and the service he intended to carry out for those who needed it.

6 months later Р2:00AM. A Government Hospital, Remote coastal Tamil Nadu

Dr.Ram rushed to  check the pulse of the bleeding girl who had just been brought into the emergency ward.

“Don’t you dare start treating her”, threatened¬†a bunch of burly goons as they¬†entered the ward, brandishing knives at him while one of them toyed¬†with a gun. Much to the doctor’s horror, the nurses and the paramedics scampered away in fear for their lives.They had witnessed¬†such scenes before.

“But, her throat has been slit…she will die in a matter of minutes!”, the doctor tried to reason calmly.

“Enna Saar….?(What Sir…?)”, ” Are you so¬†sincere to your profession that you can’t take a break every now and then?”, declared the police inspector walking into the emergency ward.

Dr.Ram looked surprised and confused. He had heard of corrupt cops, but he finally understood what it meant.

“Just sign the death certificate¬†stating that she was dead on arrival and I will take care of the rest…”, drawled the inspector, casually spitting out the remnants of the paan he had been chomping upon on the clean walls of the ward.

The woman on the stretcher grabbed¬†Ram’s¬†pockets, which was the only thing she could reach out to, from her position. He held her hands in an assuring manner.

Pannalana??¬†(And if I don’t?)”, ¬†Ram challenged the inspector.

“Hmmm…”, said the inspector, his¬†voice laced with¬†less enthusiasm than before. “You see her, lying on the stretcher? ¬†She is a journalist…out to save the world like yourself! She filmed us as we trafficked young girls from the¬†slums, to places on the world map you haven’t even heard of!”

“First we destroyed her camera, and then it was her turn. ¬†Now, here she is, wishing death would come fast!”, laughed one of the men, while he cleaned a dirt finger nail with a knife.

“You disgust me!”, spat Ram.

“Why are we wasting our time with him?”, interjected another goon pointing the aruval*¬†at Ram. “Let’s finish him off”, he smiled as the man holding the gun thrusted its¬†barrel against Ram’s¬†temples.

“Doctor, what you don’t get is that if you refuse to sign, we will find someone else to do so. But we will make sure that you join our journalist friend on her journey to heaven!” finished the inspector

The girls hands dropped from his pockets bringing Ram’s attention back to her.¬†She was dead. In all the time ¬†he had spent trying to negotiate with the mob, she had moved on.

“Now, you have no problems…dead on arrival. It is not such big a lie…”, smiled the inspector.¬†“The MLA will be very happy with you. Infact, ¬†if you want to request a transfer he will make sure it is passed without any hassles”, he continued.

2:30 AM

They make us take oaths that we cannot uphold“, thought Ram to himself as he recalled the lines he had recited with much happiness on the day he was declared a doctor. He watched the backs of¬†the goons and the inspector as they left the hospital with his signature on the death certificate. DOA / Dead on Arrival, it lied in big bold letters.

He turned around to look at the lifeless form of Suchitra – She must have been some woman, ¬†to taken on these kind of vermins!”, he thought.¬†He absent mindedly put his hands inside his pockets and was momentarily distracted by something his fingers had touched.

Ram smiled, as he¬†pulled out a tiny SD card from his pocket.¬†Apparently even the prospect of death, had not deterred Suchitra’s attempt to cleanse out diseases worse than than cancer.

“At least, ¬†this is a¬†promise¬†that I can keep”, he whispered. ¬†Her death was only the beginning.

¬†Today’s Prompt: Promises

* Notes:

  • Hippocratic Oath – The oath is typically taken by doctors and physicians about to embark a career in medicine. Refer to the wiki page. I also found this interesting page that talks in detail about the oath and the modern Indian doctor
  • Nihilism – Refer to the link to understand the complete meaning of this word.
  • Aruval – A type of sickle commonly used in Tamil Nadu
  • I have used some tamil words in the story. The translation immediately follows the words in brackets
  • This short story is entirely fictional. It has been inspired based on what we as the public hear about corrupt government officials some of the scary stories and events that make it to the newspapers.