Monday, December 6, 2021

The Ten Commandments of Evil by Vignesh Sivasankar

 


‘The Ten Commandments of Evil’ (Readomania) - the cover says it all… hinting at stories that pulsate with evil, a reversed ‘Z’, a demonic baby with a glinting eye and words scratched out in a frenzy! What sends a further chill down the spine is the suggestion that these could be “horror stories based on actual events?” The question mark at the end offers no comfort at all.

The horror begins from the first story itself, ‘Twins’ which hints at Satanic events leading to an absolute catastrophe. What is so sinister about a pair of twins? As the mind reels, ‘Shades of Odour’ describes ten-year-old Reeha who experiences phantom smells which ‘unwrap the reek of people’s souls’. Will she be able to unravel the mystery behind the mysterious deaths that she witnesses?

“Death has never been mellow.” Shekar, the psychopath, is surrounded by speaking walls that bring him to the brink of hallucinations, “his soul releasing the captivated ghosts of his past’. Why does he prefer death to the present life that he leads?

If I had to choose one of my favourite stories, the next one would probably be it. ‘The Guest’ reveals the mindset of a murderer who openly avers that “the rodent enters the house to create some permanent damage”. Even as he carries out his gruesome task, the denouement of the story is mind-blowing.

‘Unknown’ is another chilling tale with psychological undertones meshed with superstition and possession. How does Govind, a meticulous scholar in parapsychology, view the events that take place in his village and how far does he believe in the supernatural story that is being bandied around by the villagers?

Most of the stories in this anthology bring out the fact that truth can often be stranger than fiction. If ‘An Affair’ hints at paranormal haunting and telekinesis, ‘Fallen in Love with You’ highlights how the mind can conjure up strange delusions that can appear eerily real.

“Demons are pure evil. They like darkness. The only way nature exhibits darkness even during the daytime is through shadows.” When Satvi, who has an overactive imagination, faces betrayal from those closest to her, there is only one avenue of closure – that of darkness, and ‘Shadows’, which is also the title of the story.

‘Sunstra Pakpao’ begins with a doctor trying to bring an estranged couple together by ‘reigniting a lost love’, and just when she feels that she has shown them the way towards reconciliation, the horror descends, ending in a gory finish. The last story is named aptly ‘Scarier Than Death’ and deals with the predicament of a rich industrialist who turns into a helpless wreck after a car accident. What are the repugnant phantoms that assail him with spooky manifestations? Is it the fear of the unknown or are his past sins catching up with him?

All the stories reveal the quagmire that the human mind finds itself in through hallucinations, delusions, psychic appearances, astral projections, macabre materialization and paranoid schizophrenia.

Vignesh Sivasankar does not believe in mincing his words. These tales are dark and gritty. They are not a pleasant easy read. They reveal unspeakable evil, the language used reeks of evil and is raw and unvarnished.

Readers who savour the genre of horror would find this book right up their alley.

 

 

 

 

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Demigods are Alive - Long and Short Stories by Monalisa Joshi

Photo credits: Deepti Menon

The world knows that there is an unwritten code of conduct that women across are expected to adhere to. It takes a strong woman to break out of these invisible fetters and live life on her own terms. Monalisa Joshi’s debut book titled ‘Demigods Are Alive’, published by Chrysanthemum Chronicles and edited by Nandita De nee Chatterjee, celebrates the sagas of six such women, who look for love in their lives, unwilling to settle for second best. The title is significant. Demigods are alive, but her women protagonists deny “the control of a patriarchal society”, choosing to free themselves “from those perennial manacles”, as the author herself puts it.

Does Mohua really know what she wants out of life as she moves towards another man because she feels trapped in her marriage? Is she willing to forgo her role as a wife and a mother to turn into an infidel muse? Which will win – romance or real life?

Chitra sacrifices her own life to bring up a family that she had always considered and loved as her own, but finally she stands at the threshold of life, wondering whether the choice she had made is the right one. Does she have the courage to break the confines and move away, opting to live a life filled with joy and love?

What is the connection between the love story of Devi, an Indian woman, Abigail, a British officer and Calcutta pudding? When circumstances turn tragic, can love survive in its purest form? Is the relationship termed loveless or selfless when a woman takes care of a man, despite everything? The denouement in this story is tender, proving that love and forgiveness can erase years of hatred and frustration.

When life becomes a nightmare of abuse and insomnia, a woman finds a solution to live through it by staying in a dream state, where she finds the perfect lover. The two worlds of dream and reality collide, and finally she makes the choice that makes her happy. A fantastic story that comes across like a dream sequence!

The title story, this is the tale of Ulma who has a past, one which she has kept hidden. There is an element of mystery in the events that unfold. Why did she spend nights in the room of Kunwar, the King of the land, and why did he suddenly accept her after ignoring her for so many months? Envy and hatred play a significant role in the larger-than-life scenario, and the suspense and intrigue make this one of the most interesting stories in the anthology.

Psychology lies at the heart of this story, as Neelima and Monjunath return to Barrackpore to start their life all over again. Memories that have been erased, resulting in amnesia, are rekindled all over again, and the drama that has been the fa├žade of their lives translates into a brand-new life where husband and wife decide to live together in harmony.

This book reveals how vivid Monalisa Joshi’s imagination is, as her stories, and the characters who live within them, leap out of the pages into the consciousness of the readers. There are women who desire and women who sacrifice, but nowhere are they portrayed as weak or indecisive. It is for this very reason that, though they are steeped in the past, they are modern in their outlook, which makes it easy to relate to them. These two ideas have been incorporated brilliantly on the cover. The black and white front cover showcases a haveli with a beautiful woman in traditional wear; the back cover blazes with a fiery red-haired lady who looks out at the word with defiance and confidence.

At the end, the reader is left with myriad emotions, but the overriding one is exemplified in a quote that says it all:

“The world needs strong women – women who will lift and build others, who will love and be loved, women who live bravely, both tender and fierce, women of indomitable will.” Amy Tenney

 


Monalisa Joshi - Writer and Chief Editor, Chrysanthemum Chronicles

 

 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Leaves of Autumn and Other Poems by Vasudha Pansare

 

“But after sixty,

She lived her dreams, Forgot her tensions,

Her life got a new dimension,

She felt young,

And ready to begin

A new adventure.”

(Always Thoughtful)

The cover image is one of autumn leaves strewn around, and the image continues in the first poem in Vasudha Pansare’s book titled ‘Leaves of Autumn and Other Poems’ (Authors Press). She begins with the words

“I imagine my poems,

Scattered like colorful, bright leaves,

Fallen everywhere,

Delighting each eye…”

From the first line onwards, Vasudha draws her reader in with such evocative lines, as she goes on to continue

“My poetry blooms like

A beautiful lotus

On the pond of my mind…”

There is no doubt that many of her poems brim over with optimism and honesty. ‘Looking Through the Window’ describes the delights to be found outside – a canopy of green leaves, birds and squirrels, happy children and a gurgling stream, ending with the memorable lines,

“However beautiful and comfortable

The house, what you really need is a window.”

Joy seems a common theme in several poems like ‘The Eternal Summer’ which reminds one of Tennyson's ‘The Brook’.

“I flow, I gurgle, I trip happily like a stream,

My waves dancing and gleaming with ecstasy…”

‘Rhapsody’ carries on this theme of joy as it waxes eloquent about children eating ice cream, teenagers falling in love, mothers with babies and artists and poets creating a rhapsody with colours and words.

Love is also a motif that runs through certain poems – ‘The Courtship Days’, the beautiful ‘Sunshine on Her Face’, (“Oh the sunshine on her face,/ Bestows a golden brightness/ Upon my imagination.”) ‘The First Touch’, ‘Intoxication of Love’ and ‘My Heart Belongs to You’, ‘Waiting For you’ – none of which are in a sequence as above, revealing the free-spirited and untrammeled mind that the poet displays.

Vasudha Pansare’s words are as effortless as a stream that runs clear. She uses words that are familiar and memorable, preferring to paint word pictures of simplicity rather than beguile the reader with elaborate artifice. She leaves much of herself in her poetry.

“I live in the moment,

Without the burden of the past.” (A New Beginning)

Another poem that evokes nostalgia and the poet’s own past goes thus.

“I remember when I was a girl,

Waking up to the soothing tunes.

Of Marathi bhajans and songs…” (Radio)

The poem goes on to describe how the lyrics of old film songs reminded her of her mother’s passing away, after which she could never “listen to those lyrics/ Without tears in my eyes.” ‘A Tribute to My Father’ reveals how much the poet was influenced by her broad-minded father.

Certain poems hint at a sense of disillusionment and anger at the prevailing state of affairs. ‘New India’ is a short lament on how students, journalists, citizens and farmers protest, but to no avail.

In the poem, ‘Justice’, Vasudha questions injustice, inequality and a decline of morals, ending her diatribe with the words “Where is Justice?” So many things in her country make her angry, she expounds in ‘Anger’ - abused women, police brutality, farmer suicides, mob lynching…

“The greed of the rich

Who don’t share their wealth…” followed by

“The corruption and callousness of

Leaders who don’t care for the common people.”    

However, hope and optimism return in ‘The Shooting Star’, as she wishes fervently for the eradication of the virus, the end of the suffering of the poor and luck and good fortune to all nations, a poem which reads like an anthem for these times. In this context, she also talks about the exemplary work done by doctors and the medical fraternity in ‘A Tribute to Doctors’

Vasudha Pansare’s poems can be read by people of all age groups because they talk of issues that affect people everywhere and exalt virtues that could bring harmony to the world and “end conflict and wars”. Two poems touch in their poignancy, speaking of the hardships that soldiers go through (‘Soldier’) and how glorious it is when he comes back, having endured untold hardships. (‘Homecoming’)

“Who can understand the worth of home and family

More than a soldier?”

One can also catch glimpses of Vasudha’s love of English Literature in poems like ‘Nature’s Symphony’, reminiscent of the Romantic poets, ‘The Golden Lady’ which was inspired by a painting of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, ‘What is Death?’ which spoke of death as an immortal carriage, reminding one of Emily Dickinson, and of course ‘Awakening’ which seemed inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘Seven Ages of Man’.

One of my favourite poems in this collection is ‘The Lighthouse’, maybe because it suggests that teachers and leaders should be like lighthouses, guiding children and people in times of crisis. She also adds -

“We need lighthouses of healing,

To get rid of the pandemic,

And bring back the light of happiness.”

‘The Child Within Me’, ‘Chasing the Wind’, ‘Leave Her Alone’, ‘Behind Closed Doors’, ‘The Unfinished Story’… these and many of the poems within this wonderful volume strike a chord in the heart. 125 poems that encompass a whole world within them and leave the reader with a feeling of fulfillment at the end, and apt illustrations by the extremely talented eight-year-old, Mihika Gupta, make this book a keepsake. The fluidity of the poet’s language makes this a delightful and easy read.

One poem which tickled my fancy is ‘The Making of a Poem’ which visualized the poem as childlike, impish, twinkle-toed, a mischief- maker and absolutely delightful.

And to end with a final quote from ‘The Artist Within Me’…

“Words swirl in my mind,

Images brighten and fade away,

There is a constant rhythm and music,

The cauldron of poetry

Is always bubbling

Imagination works overtime.

The artist within me is mostly

Alive and kicking.”

 

                                          Image Credits: The Wonder Women World

 

 

 


Thursday, September 30, 2021

THE JOY OF COLOURS: #MYFRIEND ALEXA - RED

 RED

                                                                Unsplash

It was a day of jubilation for the CBI, and for the police force of the city. Notorious serial killer, Kalia, had finally been nabbed after an exhausting hunt.

Kalia, who had murdered eight men over a period of twelve years, had terrorized the entire state. No one knew where he would turn up and since his weapon was an axe, he always left behind a scene covered with lurid streaks of blood. The forensic team would have to wade through rivers of red before they could pick up anything that could serve as a clue. Kalia also seemed to have a warped sense of humour. On the wall above where the body was found, he would draw a crude smiley with the victim’s blood, a sight which made the investigators irate indeed.

“It is almost as if he is mocking us, isn’t it?” AJ Sinha, the chief investigator, remarked, his eyebrows raised in disgust.

“Yes, Sir, no doubt about that! He thinks he is above us,” his second-in-command, Bakshi responded, as he delved around the body, using tweezers to gently place little objects in a plastic bag. His gloves were already drenched with blood.

There were no fingerprints of the killer anywhere. He swooped down on his unsuspecting victim, butchered him, and disappeared into thin air. The victims were all men in their late thirties who had mediocre jobs and seemed happy to remain where they were, without striving for promotions or raises. They were family men who seemed content to live in a sea of complacency.

It was the eighth victim’s body that provided the investigators with their first clue, a chance fingerprint that got away from the murderer. That fingerprint was checked against their records and finally it led to a nondescript criminal who had been caught in a petty robbery. His name was Kalia, and after his first bout in jail, he had vowed that he would never be caught again. When the murders began, he was methodical enough never to leave his fingerprints anywhere, but he was also diabolical enough to want to make a mark, without implicating himself. Hence, the crude smileys in red!

The investigators knew that they had a watertight case. There was enough evidence to send Kalia to the gallows where he would be hanged until death.

Govind Ram, the lawyer, prided himself on his sense of justice. Every criminal deserved a chance to be heard in court, and when he was appointed Kalia’s advocate, he made up his mind to do the best job ever. If he succeeded in proving that Kalia was not in his right mind, it would be a feather in his cap. After all, this case was making headlines all over, and he wanted to be right there, in the public eye.

Kalia was sitting in his cell, staring at the grimy wall, when Govind Ram made his first visit. As the jailor rapped at the bars, Kalia turned his head, and looked at the two men. His eyes were expressionless, and the lawyer felt a chill go down his spine.

“Hey, you, this lawyer has come to see you!” the jailor rasped.

Kalia’s eyes flickered for a moment, and he laughed, a strange, nasal laugh.

“I don’t need any lawyer. I can fight my own battles.”

“You will go to the gallows if you fight your own battles,” retorted Govind Ram. The nasal laugh came again and Kalia sized the other man up. Finally, he nodded, pointing to a worn-out chair in front of him.

Two hours later, they had finished their discussion and the lawyer felt that he had the upper hand. He had managed to convince Kalia that he would be hanged unless he had the proper person to argue the case for him. Kalia was chastened and he was willing to do anything to escape the gallows. Sinha and Bakshi approached Govind Ram, trying to convince him of how dangerous the prisoner was, but the lawyer took no heed of their warnings. This was a case that would bring him much publicity after which the sky would be the limit.

The sessions began and Govind Ram coached Kalia on what he was to do and say in court. Kalia proved to be a willing pupil and often, he astonished the lawyer with how well he followed his orders.

“Can I confess and say that I am sorry for my actions? Will they let me go then?” he suddenly asked one day.

The lawyer shook his head. “Your hands are stained with red. Eight times over, and each time an innocent has died. There is no way any jury will let you off, if they feel that you were sane when you committed the murders.”

Kalia listened gravely. There was remorse in his eyes. He had no idea why he had shed so much of blood. Maybe, there was a trace of insanity within him that had made him commit the murders.

Govind Ram was elated at the way the case was progressing. He had chosen the jury members with care, and Kalia had changed into a model prisoner. In court, he did exactly what he was told to do. After months of arguing and deliberation, the case was finally coming to an end. The night before the verdict was going to be announced, Govind Ram went to Kalia’s cell.

“Tomorrow is D Day, Kalia. After that, if the verdict does our way, you will be termed insane and will be put away in an institution. However, if the doctors find that you are improving, you could be out some day.”

Kalia folded his hands in gratitude. This was more than he had expected.

The next morning, Kalia was declared insane and sent to an institution recommended by the court. The headlines sang praises of Govind Ram and his victory. This was, indeed, a feather in his cap. When Kalia was taken away, he smiled at the lawyer victoriously.

Two days later, in the middle of the night, Govind Ram heard a noise in his kitchen and went to check.

The next morning, he was found in a pool of blood, a smiley in red on the wall above. Kalia, who had escaped from the institution, had struck again.

  I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter's #MyFriendAlexa. You can read all posts at BlogChatter

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THE JOY OF COLOURS: #MYFRIEND ALEXA

BLACK

                                                                 Unsplash

She watched, entranced and horrified, as he strode towards his victim cowering in a corner of the room. His face glistened with anticipation as he lifted his knotted whip and brought it down on the back of the terrified man who screamed as the cord tore at his lacerated flesh.

As Rukmani watched, tears flowed down her cheeks. Why was Johnny so cruel? Or was he Tony, Zapata, Murugan, Gokulnath… every role he played showed him in a negative light, the arc lights shining on his swarthy face even as he played the villain to the hilt. Besides, he had one fetish that he refused to part with. He wore only black, a colour that made him appear more menacing than ever.

Rukmani had seen every movie of his, starting from when he had acted as a young boy accused of outwitting an entire gang of smugglers. It was then that one of his directors fathomed the potential he had to be a villain.

“Boy, you have the look of a villain!” he smiled, patting him on the shoulder.

The boy had no idea whether he meant it as a compliment. The next remark put that doubt to rest.

“Besides, you are no beauty. No one will risk you as a hero!”

That was the turning point. From then on, Badrinarayan turned into Tiger Raman, the black-hearted foil to the swashbuckling hero, who was always fair and handsome. While the women swooned over the hero, the meaty roles went to the villain in black whose performances brought life to the films.

Rukmani was one of those avid film goers who devoured every scene, wide-eyed. She was simple minded enough not to realise that these were only roles on the silver screen. Every time Raman molested a girl on screen, or robbed an innocent man, she brandished curses on him. When he tied the hero up and threatened to kill him if his ransom demands were not met, Rukmani’s eyes would emit sparks.

“A curse on the villain! How dare he touch a hair on the hero’s head? He will get his just desserts!”

When her daughter, Sarika, tried to calm her down by telling her that movies were not real, she would push her away, muttering, “Don’t brainwash me into believing that! That Raman is a true scoundrel. He must be one in real life too.”

When Raman got married to the glamorous Tanya who had done a few cameos in movies and then faded away, the paparazzi went crazy. They were nicknamed ‘The Beauty and the Beast’ by unfeeling journalists. One particular journalist accosted Raman as he was getting into his car.

“What do you feel about being called the beast who wed a beauty?” she asked shrilly, trying to stop him from entering his car.

“How would you feel if someone called you that?” he replied politely, but wearily. “Obviously, not happy!”

As the years went by, Raman’s roles started getting more and more lurid. He was soon the most visible face on screen. Every time the directors had a powerful negative role, they would ask for him. The awards he won for his portrayal covered a whole room in his opulent house. Tanya’s most common complaint was that his wardrobes were filled with black shirts and pants because he only wore black in keeping with his on-screen persona.

Then one day, Sarika came running to Rukmani.

“Amma, did you hear the news? Raman is being felicitated in the Town Hall here. He has completed forty years in the movies, and he is being given a award by the film fraternity.”

“Here? In our town?” Rukmani could not believe her ears.

“Tickets are available for the public. Don’t you want to go and see him?” Sarika had a mischievous smile.

“No, no, why would I want to see a villain like him?” Rukmani shook her head, alarm in her eyes.

However, there was a tiny flutter within her heart. Imagine being able to see a man whom she had seen so often on the silver screen?

“Appa would have wanted you to go,” whispered Sarika.

Rukmani’s husband, Selva, had known of her passion for movies and had taken her to many of them, till he succumbed to a heart attack one evening, and left her and Sarika quite alone in the world. Maybe the mention of Selva made her change her mind. He would have wanted her to go; he would have taken her for the function had he been around.

The Town Hall was milling over with people, all agog at the thought of seeing their idol in real life. Rukmani and Sarika were sitting in the second row, even though the tickets were slightly pricey.

There was a sudden hush in the hall as Raman strode in, clad in his customary black shirt and pants. His face shone in the bright lights of the auditorium. Rukmani held her breath as she watched him. He was better looking in real life, was her first thought. When she whispered to Sarika, the latter laughed, saying, “That’s because he has no make up on. In movies, he is always made up to look like a villain.”

The function went smoothly, as speakers waxed eloquent on Raman’s life, his movies, his talent and his achievements. Rukmani heard everything, mouth agape. Raman seemed like any other man; he did not come across as evil in the least. She was a trifle disappointed because she had expected him to be louder, to stride across the stage with a sneering laugh. Or maybe look lasciviously at the pretty young things who were waiting to take selfies with him. This was not the Raman she was expecting. Her eyes filled with tears, but she knew not why she was shedding them.

Raman stood up with a smile.

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for this wonderful honour.” He spoke for about fifteen minutes, and Rukmani listened to him in rapt attention. Finally, he paused, and then said, “I know many of you think that I am like my screen persona – evil, immoral and inhuman. Believe me, I am none of those things. This award proves that I am an actor, able to emote on screen and leave my roles behind me.” Smiling, he went on, “If I had committed even a quarter of those crimes in real life, I would have been behind bars, believe me.”

He then pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket and smiled again.

“I am speaking of my real-life persona like this only because I have here a letter that a young lady wrote to me. She said that her mother was a huge fan of my movies but that she disliked me intensely because she felt that I was a villain in real life. Could I please call this fan of mine onstage? Mrs. Rukmani Iyer!”

The blood rushed into Rukmani’s head as she looked like a deer caught in headlights. She glanced at Sarika who pulled her to her feet.

“Go, Amma!”

Raman stood on stage, smiling at her, his face gleaming in the light.

“Mrs. Rukmani, it is so good to meet you.” He held his hand out and she took it timidly, as she looked into his eyes. Gentle brown eyes with a smile in them! Could these eyes ever hurt anybody? The answer rose within her heart.

 She smiled back at him, her heart beating at the sound of the thunderous applause from the audience.

It was time to let the misconceptions fly away!

 

 I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter's #MyFriendAlexa. You can read all posts at BlogChatter

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Sunday, September 26, 2021

THE JOY OF COLOURS: #MYFRIENDALEXA

 BROWN

                                                                      Unsplash

The brown earth drank in the moisture that the monsoons had provided greedily, the first rains of the season. Farmers had been praying for this, as their crops had begun to wilt, but now, at the first drop of deliverance, they had perked up, lifting their heads for succour.

Sujata smiled at her husband, Milan.

“The Gods have heard our prayers. We will have a good crop this year.” Her careworn eyes were bright again, as a ray of hope had entered her heart. Looking at the tiny dusky babe who lay in the makeshift cradle created from a sari, she smiled. He had brought the rains, and the good luck along with him. On the day he was born, their landlord had summoned Milan.

“Milan, you are a good worker. If you are ready to work more, I will increase your wages,” he had announced, clapping the younger man on his shoulder. Milan had winced at the hearty blow, but his heart sang with joy. There was so much they could do with more money!

Sujata was thrilled when she heard the good news.

“Our little one has brought luck with him. Maybe, it is time our fortunes changed,” she remarked softly, as she caressed the tiny downy head of her son. “We should name him Bhagya.”

The name stuck and Bhagya’s birth was celebrated in a grand fashion, with the word ‘luck’ firmly attached to him from the very start. As he grew older, the fortunes of the family flourished, and the brown patch of earth that formed the crux of their property blossomed with the best crop that had been seen in the village. Bhagya studied at the local school and though he was an average student, he was popular with his teachers and his peers because of his helpful and friendly nature.

By the time Bhagya was a teenager, he was a strapping young lad who looked older than his age. He was as brown as the land itself maybe because he spent much time in the sun. He was his father’s shadow during harvest time. However, as time went on, Bhagya turned a trifle lethargic. Now when his father needed help, he would make excuses. He had a gang of friends with whom he spent the whole day, and at times, his parents did not see him till late at night.

Years went by, and Bhagya finished school. He got admission in the local college which was around six kilometres away. He was a regular student except during the days of the harvest when he and Milan would work together in the field.

Things came to a head when, one day, Milan needed help with the harvest.  Bhagya was nowhere to be seen and to top it all, there was a sudden downpour which ruined the crop.

When Bhagya returned, he saw his parents sitting on the floor in utter dejection.

“Where have you been, Bhagya?” his mother got up and strode towards him, her eyes emitting fire.

“I had some work in college,” was his immediate response.

“With your gang of friends?” Sujata spat the words out. “What was so important that you abandoned your father during the harvest when he needed you urgently?”

Bhagya opened his mouth to reply, but Milan quelled him with a glance filled with disgust and disappointment.

“Don’t bother talking to him, Sujata!” he said wearily. “We have lost everything anyway.” He rose and walked into the next room, his shoulders bowed.

Bhagya’s eyes filled with trepidation.

“Ma, I am sorry! I didn’t realise this would happen.” He had never seen his parents look so dejected.

Sujata’s eyes filled with tears. She turned to him despondently.

“Maybe we pampered you a bit too much. You were always our lucky charm from the moment you were born. Even today, before the downpour, we still had faith that we would be able to salvage the harvest.” She burst out crying.

Bhagya’s eyes were also moist. He knew that he had failed them, but of late, his brain had not been functioning the way it should have.

It was a hard season for the family. Not only had they lost the crop, but they had a massive loan to pay off to the village moneylender whose interest rates were crippling. There was not enough money to buy new seeds even, and the brown land lay before them, fallow and uncultivated. What was worse was that Bhagya could not pay his fees though the college had given him some time to pay up. But with no money coming in, things were looking grave.

However, there was one more blow staring Milan and Sujata in the face. They had been called by the Principal of Bhagya’s college.

The Principal looked at them gravely. When he finally spoke, his words struck them to the heart.

“I am sorry, but there is no easy way for me to say this. Bhagya’s grades have been going down and at this rate, he will fail this semester.” His heart went out to the two people sitting before him looking helpless. So, he did not speak about the nonpayment of fees. However, Milan’s response was prompt.

“Could you give us some time more, please? We will collect the money for Bhagya’s fees as soon as we can.”

“Of course, “was the answer. “However, do keep an eye on your son. He needs to bring up his grades.”

That evening, Sujata went into Bhagya’s room to place his washed clothes in his cupboard. Bhagya had stepped out for some fresh air.

When he got back, his parents were waiting for him. He already knew what the Principal had told them that morning.

“Is there anything you want to share with us?” Sujata asked, quietly.

Bhagya looked puzzled and shook his head.

“If your grades fall further, you might fail.” His father’s voice was controlled.

Bhagya nodded but made no reply. He walked across the room, but as he reached the door, Sujata called out his name. Bhagya turned only to see her hold something out in her palm. Something that sparkled in the light. Bhagya started at the sight of the syringe, his face wan in the dim light.

The brown earth looked pale in the morning sun. It had been an exhausting period over the past six months, and Milan and Sujata had skimped to save money to buy new seeds.

Bhagya was at a de-addiction centre, trying to get rid of the demons that attacked him when the craving hit him, which was often. His body rebelled, leaving him screaming in agony. The doctors had advised his parents not to visit him till he was a bit better.

It was time for the next harvest. The brown land was covered with a lush green crop, healthy and abundant. Life had started looking up again for the family. Bhagya was back home with them. He had turned into a strapping young man again, his face brown from helping his parents in the fields. He was determined not to make the same mistakes again.

Milan smiled at Sujata, his heart brimming with satisfaction as they looked at the crop. Their luck had, indeed, changed for the better.

I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter's #MyFriendAlexa. You can read all posts at BlogChatter

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Friday, September 24, 2021

THE JOY OF COLOURS: #MYFRIENDALEXA

 INDIGO

                                                                       Unsplash

The riverbank looked like a patchwork of colours with clothes of various hues drying on the rocks, vivid in places, and faded at others. Gopal, the dhobi, was busy with his latest bundle. His back ached as he bent over, slapping each garment against the smooth rock that he had created as his special niche. As he squeezed the soap water out, he heaved a sigh, looking up at the clear sky. The sun shone down fiercely, and he was grateful for the warmth that drank up the moisture from the clothes he had already washed. Another ten minutes and he would be ready to fold them in a neat bundle so that he could place them in a white sheet to be distributed to various houses.

The whites were the problem. They needed to be scrubbed till they were squeaky clean and then immersed in a solution of indigo blue which would enhance their pristine whiteness. Gopal had pitched a clothesline only for the whites and as they flapped, hands and legs moving in the breeze, he could almost imagine them as real persons.

“Hey, Gopal, have you finished?”

Kaveri’s dulcet voice penetrated his thoughts and he stood up with a start. His beautiful Kaveri, as vibrant as the river she had been named after! She stood before him, her kohl-lined eyes sparkling, as she smiled at him. She was like the sun, he thought, as bright and as warm. One day, when he had earned enough, he would marry her and live happily ever after.

“Gopal, stop daydreaming! Is my bundle ready?” Kaveri’s voice broke through his meandering.

“Almost done!” He folded the clothes that belonged to the landlord, Ram Charan, and tied them into a neat bundle.

“Make sure you get paid,” he said to her. “He hates parting with his money.”

Ram Charan was the wealthiest man in the village, but also the biggest miser. He squeezed his tenants dry, compelling them to pay for all repairs, sometimes twice over. Since he owned most of the houses in the village, they had no other choice but to pay up. Most were labourers and daily wage earners who could not afford to build a home for themselves.

Kaveri sashayed off with the bundle, aware that Gopal was looking at her. She was not coquettish by nature, but she was in love with Gopal, and she waited for the day when she would be married to him, and they would live in a little house of which she would be the mistress.

Ram Charan was sitting outside on the porch of his house.

“Kaveri, do you grow more beautiful every day or are my eyes deceiving me?” he chortled. He enjoyed flirting with the village damsels as long as his wife was not within earshot.

Kaveri tossed her head.

“Maybe you should call your wife and repeat that question, “she said in a loud voice, glancing towards the inner room of the house.

“Hey, no need of that! I was only joking!” Ram Charan said softly, casting a worried glance behind him. His face darkened as he watched her leave.

Having received the payment for the clothes, Kaveri made her way back to her tiny house where she lived with her mother and younger sister, Rachna.

Her mother had made rotis and potato, and she placed a plate of it before her elder daughter, with an onion on the side.

“Kaveri, Mohan had come earlier asking for his payment. He was apologetic but said that we had to pay him for three months of groceries. He wondered if we could pay him at least a token amount.”

Mohan, the grocer, was in love with Kaveri. He had made overtures to her, hinting that he hoped to marry her. However, Kaveri kept rebuffing him. His fascination for her ensured, however, that they got their groceries on credit. She was surprised that he had raised the issue of payment now. Maybe, it was because he had heard about her and Gopal.

Gopal had just finished soaking his whites in indigo. They sparkled like a washing advertisement on television. He smiled, as he hummed, “Washing powder Nirma…” under his breath. No one could make the clothes look as clean as he could. Was it in the strokes he applied, or was it because he enjoyed the whole process of pounding the dirt out and making every garment pristine? Maybe it also had to do with his upbringing, when his grandmother, God bless her soul, had regaled him with stories of good winning over evil – the tales of Krishna and Rama, the avatars of Lord Vishnu. With sound good sense she had added, “It is like washing clothes – removing the dirt on them.”

From that time onwards, he felt that what he did was a metaphor for turning evil into good. No little spot escaped him, and he would spend hours washing it out, stopping only when it had disappeared. No wonder then, that he was the most sought-after dhobi, and he took great pride in the fact.

Then, one evening, all pandemonium broke out.

Kaveri and Rachna had been walking home one evening when a couple of assailants pounced on them. There were three men, and since it was twilight, it was difficult to distinguish them. They had covered their faces and the leader had disguised his voice as he barked orders to the others.

“Grab them and tie their hands up,” he said in a guttural voice. As the girls attempted to scream, they were gagged and dragged along to a deserted barn. Kaveri tried to signal to her sister, but Rachna was too terrified to respond. Eyes closed, she kept whimpering.

The men were muttering amongst themselves. Kaveri thought she heard Ram Charan’s name being mentioned. Before she could react, one of the men grabbed her. As he tried to kiss her, she butted him with her head as hard as she could. He slapped her hard and she lost her balance, hitting her head against the wall.

When Kaveri regained consciousness, it was dark in the room. Her head was aching, but she tried to look around her. When her eyes got used to the darkness, she could see a figure lying against the wall in front of her. She tried to get up, but a bout of dizziness overcame her.

When she finally crawled towards the prone figure, she was horrified to see that it was Rachna. Her eyes were closed, and she seemed to be hardly breathing.

“Rachna, Rachna, wake up!” she whispered, shaking the girl frantically. Rachna’s eyes remained closed. Kaveri got to her feet with difficulty and hobbled to the tiny window. It was dark outside. There was a breeze blowing and she could see the village lights at a distance. She shook her head, trying to keep her chaotic thoughts in order. There was a deep dread within her mind.

What had the men done to Rachna and to her?

There was a groan behind her. She rushed over to Rachna, whose eyes had fluttered open.

“Rachna, my dear, I am here!”

Rachna stared at her for a moment and then her expression cleared.

“Kaveri…,” she whispered.

“We need to get out of here at once. Can you walk?”

Slowly, she helped the other girl to her feet. There was blood on her white kurta, blood that seemed to have seeped out during the struggle. May it not be anything more, Kaveri prayed silently.

The local doctor examined them in silence.

“Dr. Sajan…?” Kaveri’s voice was apprehensive.

He shook his head. “No harm done!” He smiled at her relieved face.

It was as if a huge weight had rolled off her chest. Rachna was untouched, and so was she.

Gopal was irate. “Kaveri, how dare these men abduct you both? Who are they anyway?”

“I think I heard one of them mention Ram Charan,” she replied.

Gopal wanted to go over and interrogate Ram Charan right away. However, Kaveri shook her head. “Let it go, Gopal. Luckily they did not harm us.”

“We must make sure they do not do it again,” he retorted. “These men feel that the village girls are their personal property.”

However, the matter was dropped. Gopal was like a shadow. He went everywhere with Kaveri, and soon, he proposed to her, not only because he loved her but so that he could be a protector to the entire family.

Kaveri sat by the window looking at the railway track that shone silver in the moonlight. She turned to Rachna, her eyes filled with concern.

“Are you feeling fine, child?” she asked.

Rachna nodded, her hands curled over her stomach, as though trying to protect the little life within, a consequence of the attack on them. She had been unconscious at the time.

It had only been weeks later when they sensed the cover-up. Kaveri had immediately guessed the identity of one of the perpetrators.

 “You and your accomplices need to confess your crime. It was an act of cowardice to rape her while she lay unconscious.”

He had protested. “I have no idea what you are talking about. How dare you accuse me and my friends of the crime? For all we know, your sister must have had a secret lover!”

Finally, she broke through his defences when she threatened to talk to his family.

“Do whatever you have to do,” he said in desperation. “They will not believe you anyway. You have no proof. There were two others with me after all!”

The moment he spoke, he realized he had made a grave error. Kaveri pounced on it immediately.

“I am going to the police right away. I have your name. They will get the other two names out of you as well.”

He succumbed to her pressure and promised her that he would do the right thing. He wanted a couple of days to set his affairs in order and Kaveri agreed. Much to her chagrin, he reneged on his promise.

 The body lay by the side of the railway track. It had been crushed by an approaching train and was almost unrecognizable. The police had already cordoned off the area and covered the corpse with a while sheet. Was it suicide? Or an accident? The villagers huddled around in shock. This was an unfortunate death. The man had been highly respected in the village.

As the ambulance made its way towards the clearing, the family of the man sat around, wailing as they beat their breasts.

“How could he have fallen on the track?” sobbed his distraught mother as her husband tried to comfort her. The man’s two siblings stood around, two monuments of despair. The whole village was cast in gloom at the death.

“How will we live without you, dearest Sajan?” the mother continued to cry loudly as the hospital attendants lifted the body of their doctor, their eyes filled with sorrow.

Gopal was busy washing clothes when Kaveri handed him a small bundle. Amongst other clothes, there was a white kurta – the one that Rachna had worn when she had been accosted. The police had already examined it and added the details to their evidence file. The new bloodstains would not be noticed, especially not after Gopal washed them away and soaked the garment in indigo.

 I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter's #MyFriendAlexa. You can read all posts at BlogChatter

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#MyFriendAlexa 2021 #AlexaRanking #shortstory #writing community #blogchatter #BlogchatterTea


 

 

 

 

 

 

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