This fictional dialogue between two friends is in response to IBMC’s task 5. Prakash B. Hegade of ‘Its PH’ runs this challenge and it’s quite engaging. I especially found this task very tough and nearly gave up. But as one of the characters says at the end of this piece, ‘you have to trust yourself before you trust someone else’. So I just kept pushing myself to write it, and this is what i came up with. Hey PH, Hope i did justice to your prompt 🙂
May 15th, 2016
A summer night in Mumbai is never pleasant. Unless you are on the very coasts of Arabian Sea, you can expect a lot of sweat trickling down your body. On the beach it is a different story. The chilly, salty breeze of ocean and the soft grains of the sand on the seashore are soothing enough to calm down a hulk. It does wonders to me too. When I am raging (I do that a lot these days; blame the hormones, as my mom does) I come to the beach nearest to my home, ‘Rocks’. I walk to the shore, take off my shoes and walk straight into the ocean till I’m waist-deep in water. When the lapping waves pull the sand beneath my feet to the center of the ocean, I feel my anger seeping away with it.
It’s very quiet at night on the beach, so that I can listen to the music of the rippling waves. It’s as soothing as a lullaby and it’s my most favorite thing in the world. That and of course the moon. Much of the stars and constellations aren’t visible on the city’s skyline because of Light pollution. But not moon! I wish I could have lived in some quiet place, where I could stargaze endlessly. Here I can only see brightest of the stars and the moon, and despite of this, I can connect to these celestial bodies more than I connect with any human being. I don’t even get along with my mother, and she does so much for me. But she sometimes gets on my nerves.
I generally don’t come to the beach during the day. It’s too bright because of sunlight, and it hurts my eyes. As it is I’m wary of everything that too bright or hot. Mom says as a baby I caught fire several times; even if there was no source of fire near my cradle. When it happened for the first time, I was just over 8 months old and my parents freaked out. I had suffered second degree burns and I was in a very bad shape. They blamed themselves for the neglect. But it happened countless times before they figured out that it was not because of any external factor, something was wrong with me. My mom used to sleep with a blanket and a bucket of water besides me, just in case, to put off the fire. They were at a loss of explanation when one of my dad’s doctor friends thought I could be suffering from ‘Spontaneous Human Combustion’. Nobody knew about the disorder, nobody knew how to treat it. Everyone thought it was a miracle when I stopped ‘catching fire’, everyone except my mom. She thinks it was her efforts. She used to make those weird, smelly herbal packs for applying on my whole body. It used to leave a strange smell on my whole persona even after washing rigorously, which by the way earned me the title of “Smelly-Fish Aditya” by the kids on the block. They would have anyway bullied me for one thing or other. Everyone thought I was weird; a ‘freak’ – they would call me. I remember only one boy was my friend back then, and he too stopped playing with me after his mother told him that I ‘set myself up on fire’ and could ‘burn’ him too. Well, I don’t blame him, and, for that matter any of them. They were kids after all. Most of them were of my age, or a couple of years give or take. And how could I blame them if even I thought I was a freak back then? I blamed my mom for my weirdness for a good part of my childhood, but now I know better.
Things began to change as I grew up. And I grew up quite a lot, well to be precise, over 5’11. And I’m still 17. I’m strong because of my night-time runs on the beach and nobody even thinks of messing up with me. That’s sad, in a way, because all I am itching for nowadays is a good brawl. I feel the urge to beat someone up so badly that sometimes I run for miles and miles just to suppress that urge. Well, what can you say? The victim becomes victimizer. Don’t judge me; I have never bullied a defenceless child for my own amusement. I am in general a little bitter towards the world. Well, most of the times.
Today I am not angry, though. Nervous? Well, a little. When I’m on seashore, I like to consider that I’m the only person in existence, and I make it a point to never share this time with anyone. Not even my mom. But today I’m going to break this self-imposed rule. I’m nervous because I’m generally wary of people. In past whenever I’ve tried to make friends, it hasn’t turned well. Kids at school always saw me as a freak; same case was with people in my locality. And over the period I refused to be saddened by the fact, and gave everyone the impression that I don’t care. So naturally, nobody cares for my existence too.
But this new girl in my high school is an exception. She’s the most popular student in my class right now. Teachers adore her, boys want to get close to her, and girls want to be her. But all she cares about is why the tallest and brightest (Yes, I always top in exam, and no! I’ve no intentions of bragging) boy in the class is a loner. Initially when she tried to get friendly, I tried to use my standard steps to stay away from people – avoid, intimidate by staring down, and if that too doesn’t work, the silent treatment. But she poked holes through all my defences and was standing in front of me every single time. And I started to admire her for her persistence. She’s rather sweet though, so I finally gave in.
And that’s why I’m standing here, waiting for the girl, who might be the one to tame me – Avani.
(To be Continued)
PS: The idea for this story was bugging my head for several
months years now, but I’ve been delaying it for one reason or other. Mainly because I couldn’t find the perfect opening to launch this story. After reading today’s one word prompt, I started writing about something countless, boundless and accidentally stumbled upon the opening of my story. 🙂 Human mind works in a strange way, what else can I say?
I will be continuing this story further, as and when I complete next parts. Till then any feedback/constructive comments are welcome.
She sank on the sofa after the day-long training. It was supposed to be fun – the training. The faculty was good and topics were engaging. A lot of brainstorming was done at the end of the session. But ‘The brainy one’- as her colleagues used to call her, was unusually quiet. The reason was simple – her heart was not at it.
She had no reason to be upset about this whole training thing. She had only asked for this. Actually, she had asked for a few quiet days, still as backwaters. She had everything a woman dreams of, a nice home, a jolly life partner, a bright kid (She should not mention him as kid, though! He’s entered his teens now). The only thing she lacked was peace of mind. She was always bursting with tasks at her hands: getting up at 5, making meals, giving ‘the boys’ a wake-up call, setting up breakfast for them, sending them off to their destination, gobbling her own breakfast, getting ready for office and finally leaving house at 8 o clock. At night: Coming home at 8PM, making dinner, serving dinner, cleaning afterwards, and finally taking updates of her son’s studies and activities. Weekends were also full of activities.
In this busy schedule, she never got a chance to sip a mug of coffee in solitude, curling up on the recliner with her favorite book in her hand. She had many hobbies like gardening, painting, and playing squash. But her life didn’t permit her to take timeout for herself. She never complained about it too, well certainly not until now.
Though, now this had changed. She used to think that nobody cares for her or the things she does for them, or cannot do because of time crunch. Agreed, this was her duty, but that didn’t mean she shouldn’t get a reward. She used to get incentives and awards at work for her excellent performance. Well, she was performing at home too, and she didn’t expect any fancy award here. All she expected was a hug, or two words of gratitude showing that they appreciated what she was doing. But she got exactly opposite of the same. The things that were running smooth were never recognized, and whenever there was a glitch, she was the one to blame. She was also astounded by her husband’s tendency of bashing her whenever her son performed badly. But when the same son would win over something, he used to take the credit.
All these things along with the menopausal hormones led her to think that she was not loved anymore. That whatever she would do, they would never appreciate her. This negativity was weighing her down. So she asked, no, prayed for some quiet days, where she would be free of all this drama (according to her, anyways) and worries. She wanted to live that bachelor life again, just for few days. She wanted to taste the freedom of getting up late, sipping bed-tea, eating meals that were not cooked by her and sleep whenever she wanted. She wanted full access to the TV’s remote control, wanting to watch all the sappy movies which normally she missed because of the game of cricket. She wanted to go street-shopping.
And so, when her boss wanted to send her to the One-month long training to Pondicherry, she pounced on the opportunity. This was the break she was dreaming of. She sought after peace and what other place could be better than Pondicherry to find peace? In her mind the countdown had begun, her travel plan was set. She would visit the Auroville on the first weekend there, then Aurobindo Ashram. Next weekend would be reserved for the beaches. Then she would visit all the temples and churches. And on the last weekend she would go on a shopping spree. But she would not exert on weekdays. Just be the coach potato for the weekdays.
And she followed the routine too, for a couple of days. But at nightfall, she used to become restless, checking her cell phone for countless times hoping to receive a call from ‘the boys’. She missed them a lot. But was this feeling mutual? She sometimes doubted it wasn’t. In the next instant she used to brush them away saying that they simply didn’t know how to show love. Every night she was the one to call them. Interestingly, whenever she called them, they were out having fun.
‘Well, like father, like son. They don’t need me anymore.’
She used to think.
This feeling was what triggered her loneliness. She was in a paradise, but she didn’t wish to open her senses and enjoy nature’s abundant beauty. Every day she met with many intelligent and influential people at the training, but her mind couldn’t focus on the interaction. In her mind the countdown had begun, again!
Finally the day of return had come. She was going back to her old life. She was tired suddenly. The training had been very informative, but extensive too. This demanded a lot of energy. Plus, she also spent significant amount of energy thinking about her husband and son and how they were doing. She was exhausted mentally and emotionally.
That night she slept like a log.
She was a little surprised when her husband insisted that he come to receive her on the airport, but as she had planned to take a pre-booked cab, she told him not to come.
As she entered the lobby to her apartment, she automatically reached in her handbag to take out the keys, assuming that nobody will be home. But as she inserted the latchkey into the slot, the door flew open and her husband greeted her, an apron tied around his waist and a sheepish smile on his face.
“Hi, uhh… You are early!” He said tentatively.
She just stared at him as he stepped aside to let her in and took her luggage to the bedroom. she threw one quick glance all over the living room. It wasn’t messy; they had tried their best to clean it up. But to her eyes everything seemed out of place. The flower vase was out of sight; in place of it sat her son’s helmet. The sofa was adorned with same cushion covers that she had changed one month back. There was dust on the coffee table. She couldn’t even imagine how the rest of the house will look like.
She looked up only to find her husband staring at her. She shielded the reproachful look on her face and asked, “Why are you wearing an apron?”
“Umm… I thought you will be tired after the journey. So I am cooking dinner.”
Her jaws dropped at the unexpected answer. She was about to say something when her son walked in the room and hugged her. She heart was warmed with their gestures. The last time they hugged was his 11th birthday, or was it 10th?
“Hey mom, when did you come?” he said.
“Just now. “She said her voice heavy with joy.
She knew he wanted to say many things but just like his father, he didn’t know how to express things. For a quiet moment they all looked at each other.
“I am happy to see you guys.” She finally decided to break the awkward moment.
“Me too” they said in unison as she laughed at how similar her son had turned out to his father.
“Well it seems you guys have lot of activities lined up for me” she said suggestively as she glanced over the room.
“You know well how hard it can be to cope up with all this with an angry teenager at your side.” Her husband muttered under his breath.
“Dad! You better check what has happened to whatever you were cooking, because I smell carbon.”
Her husband hurried to the kitchen.
She was amused. She couldn’t remember when the last time they had such light-hearted conversation was.
“I think I should go help him” she told her son, who simply nodded.
“Hey mom!” he called out as she rose and took a few steps towards the kitchen. She stopped and turned.
“I just… I just wanted to tell you that I missed you a lot.” He said awkwardly and was quiet for a moment. “And … dad is a terrible cook. We had to eat out every day.” He said with a sheepish smile which reminded her of his father. “And yes, that was not the reason I missed you.” He finished and stared at her, his eyes full with love she hadn’t seen in months.
“I know, I know!” she said, her voice thick with emotions.
She continued walking towards the kitchen to her loving husband who was at present attempting to cook for her. She knew he wouldn’t make it without getting third degree burns, so I was wise to intercept at this stage only.
She smiled broadly as she saw him desperately trying to salvage whatever was there in the saucepan. She was home now, and she was suddenly at peace.
she serves the dinner and does the laundry,
She is the liveliness of house, she is the beauty.
without her the house is nothing but a mess,
She is wife, mother, and a perfect hostess.
Do you know who is she? I know without doubts!
She is the one and only: The woman of the house.
Hi, Posting a short story for The daily prompt:
“You’ve been given a key that can open one building, room, locker, or box to which you don’t normally have access. How do you use it, and why?”
Walking through the misty path of the dimly lit garden in front of my workplace, I was heading to the office’s bus parking lot. The call with client took long. But my wristwatch showed 6:50 PM so I was not in hurry. The bus leaves at 7 sharp.
‘I love December’, I thought as I walked past the sweet smelling vines of Combretum indicum. ‘I think I should plant this vine in my home’ I resolved for the hundredth time. And I knew I probably didn’t mean to go through it. I already had so much on my plate. From 3 weeks I was sitting late in the office and once I got home, I worked there too. And weekends too were working right now. You could say, I was working for almost 20 days, 16 hours a day without a single day off. Planting vines simply didn’t fit my schedule right now. But definitely after this release, I promised myself.
That was the precise moment when it all begun, the moment that started series of all the bizarre incidents. Laying there on the well-manicured lawn, something shiny caught my eyes. At first glance I decided to simply ignore and walk past it, labelling it as my imagination, as December had brought nightfall much too earlier . What can shine so nicely without much light falling onto it? But being the person who always attracts troubles like a magnet, I decided to take a closer look. So I walked towards the lawn where the object was, and knelt beside it. It was a key, a sparkling, golden key, with intricate patterns carved on its bow. Oh wait; it was a peacock, with emeralds and lapis lazuli set on its feathers. I was intrigued. This was not a normal key. This was a key to something special. Like a chest or vault, but definitely an ancient one.
I reached for the key and touched the cool metal. But as soon as I took it in my palms it was burning hot and surprisingly started glowing brightly. Instinctively I threw it back on the lawn. At this point I should just turn away and run for my bus. But curiosity got the best out of me and I decided it needs further investigation. I took out my hanky and wrapped the key into it, careful enough not to touch it with my fingers. It didn’t glow this time.
This was the mistake that haunted me for the rest of the night. Picking up what clearly didn’t belong to me. But maybe I needed to learn this lesson yet. So putting the precious object in my pocket, I swiftly rose and ran towards the bus parking lot thinking that maybe I could still get the bus when it leaves the lot. I knew that I was being overly positive as the driver of my regular bus was really very strict and law abiding and never waited for anyone or anything once its 7 o’clock.
But to my surprise my bus was standing still in the otherwise empty parking lot. I slowed down and started walking towards it. I got my next shock when I entered the bus. I was the only one in the bus, besides the driver. Surprised I called for him, and I got my second shock when I saw that he was not the regular driver of my bus. He was a man in his late 40’s, broad face and deeply set eyes, which seemed too hollow.
“Yes, sir?” he said in a very polite manner.
“W- Where is Lax- Laxman?” I asked, slightly stammering. Laxman is the driver of my regular bus.
“Sit down and relax sir. You have a long way to go.” He said ignoring my previous question and giving me utter shock. My stop was only 30 minutes away from my office. What did he mean by ‘a long way to go’?
“Sir, I suggest you sit down now. We are already getting late.” He said in a polite but equally compelling voice. With no other choice, I sat down in the second row, wanting to avoid him. I suddenly had goose bumps on my body. This guy was creepy. Not only him, but the bus also seemed creepy to me. It seemed my regular bus when I saw from outside. But now as I studied it, it seemed totally different. My normal bus had blue leather coaches; this one had rich maroon velvety ones. My bus has rusty brown interior, this one had mustard yellow, or wait, was that golden? I couldn’t say for sure as it was too dark to even check the time in my wristwatch. ‘I should get a watch with radium on the dial’, a random thought crossed my mind; ‘this one is too antique now’.
I didn’t remember dozing off but when I got up, I saw a pair of dark brown hollow eyes staring at my face closely. I gave a small yelp and pushed him away. He looked baffled and angry, his eyes glowing red which scared me further.
“This is the last stop. Get down now or you will be locked forever.” He said curtly as I stared out the window just to avoid meeting his eyes.
I was in unknown vicinity. I knew the last stop to this bus was ‘Hill road’ after which it would go to some private parking lot, which I didn’t know. Could this be that parking lot? But there were no other buses. The ground was wide and seemed like boundless. Plus it was too dark. I took out my mobile as it beeped.
“I have to deliver the scripts on Monday. Please finish them over weekend and send them to me” – Richa texted.
I checked the time, it was almost 9.
I came out of the bus; the driver had already alighted when I pushed him earlier. I regretted it now. Agreed, he was scary, but he was my only link to human world now. He could have helped me get out of this huge ground. I didn’t even know the exit. I started walking towards north, from where, I felt, most of the light was coming.
After 5 minutes of walking, I could see a tall brick wall. So this was not the exit. And then the idea struck; if I walk following the wall, I might find the exit quickly rather than roaming around the ground and choosing the direction randomly. And so I walked for another 20 minutes. But to my surprise I still couldn’t find the exit.
Disappointment! Hunger struck me like never before as my stomach growled loudly. I was exhausted and didn’t have energy to walk now. I suddenly perspired heavily and took my hanky out to wipe it off my face when I felt something fall down from it. Something shiny! Yes, the golden key.
My sixth sense told me that somehow, this was the root of all the weird things that were happening to me. This shiny object was controlling my fate and I wanted to run away from it. I turned away from it and started walking fast.
“Sir, Hello…!” Someone called me from behind. I paused but didn’t turn. The person walked towards me, or rather jogged, judging by the sound of footsteps. As I sensed the footsteps closing in, I turned towards him reluctantly.
“Sir, this fell from your pocket on the ground” He said, huffing loudly. He was a small man, with Mongolian looks, ‘probably a nepali watchman’ I thought. And he was holding the key in his bare hands. Why didn’t it burn his hands?
“No, it’s not mine!” I lied blatantly. He looked at me with surprise.
“No sir, I saw it falling from your pocket.” He insisted stubbornly.
I cursed him inwardly. Definitely a Nepali. They are famous for their honesty. Why couldn’t he simply keep it with him, just the way I had kept, even if it wasn’t mine? I was suddenly ashamed of myself. Maybe because of this difference between us, the key didn’t burn his hands. I didn’t pick it up with the intentions of returning it to the owner; otherwise I would have returned it to the ‘Lost and found’ desk at the office. And why did I wish that he keep it with him, just so he would also suffer like I have suffered in the past two hours? It was clear to my mind that the key brought ill omen.
I took the key from his hands with the hanky still on my hands, and wrapped it like a detective would do to a murder weapon; which by the way earned a dirty glance from the small man.
“I- uh- I can’t find a way out..” I said, further embarrassing myself. He chuckled and shook his head, signalling me to follow him which I swiftly did.
“How did you end up in this part of the ground, by the way?” He said amusedly.
“I don’t know!” I said absent-mindedly as I saw a small gate 10 feet away. Yellow rays of light, probably sourced from a streetlight, were pouring in from it.
“This is it? Is this the only gate to this ground?” I asked with huge surprise. A 45-seater bus couldn’t have entered from such a small space.
“No, this is the back gate. There are three in total. The main gate is at the front. But it would have closed by now. I am posted to watch the second one at the east. And this one is the service gate; I am going home from my shift, so you are lucky to find me, because this gate is locked generally. And only the watchmen have the keys.” He explained.
I sighed with relief as I stepped in the outside world. It was Hill road. Not wanting to travel by public transport, not that I was completely exhausted and famished, I signalled an auto and stepped into it. Throughout my journey back to home I was thinking about ways to get rid of the key. I felt that nobody should possess it and suffer the way I had suffered.
When I got home my mom was pacing around the living room. As soon as I stepped into the entrance corridor, she leaped for the front door and greeted me with all kinds of questions about how I was late, where was I (Like I could afford to roam around the city with the amount of work I have) and why didn’t I call home to inform. I brushed all of them swiftly and told her to serve my dinner in my room.
I was fast asleep when my mother stepped into my room with dinner.
Next day, as I walked to the usual bus stop, the key not only felt heavy in my pocket, but on my subconscious also. I didn’t want to carry it around but I also didn’t want my family members to find it. My bus still wasn’t on the stop when I reached there. I checked my wristwatch. It showed 6:50. But when I checked the wall clock in my room, it was 7. That meant my watch wasn’t working. I realised that I hadn’t checked it since yesterday evening. Could it be possible that it stopped working yesterday night itself?
It arrived after five minutes and I boarded. Laxman, the usual driver smiled at me and I returned the gesture.
“Where were you yesterday Laxman? You were not driving 7 o clock bus.” I asked.
“What are you talking about sir? I was there, you were not there. I thought you were late yesterday.”
“No but I caught the 7 pm bus yesterday. And I …” I stopped mid-sentence. Maybe the watch did stop yesterday itself. And I got late. But then the other bus?
“Laxman, we have a bus which leaves at 8 o clock, right? How does the driver look like?” I asked carefully.
“Oh, he’s a body builder. He looks a bit scary because of his body and eyes, but he is a good man.” Laxman replied casually.
Good man? Ask me! He practically abandoned me in that huge dark ground. But then I had also humiliated him yesterday by giving out the cry. It’s only natural that he left me alone. But that explained many of the incidents of the night.
So basically the theory of the magical properties of the key was incorrect. But then the burning feeling of the key? I decided to examine it again when I reach office. If it really has magical properties, it could still burn my fingers, and I didn’t want to make fool of myself in public.
I entered my cubicle, logged in and decided to open my outlook first as it always took time to load the mails. Afterwards, I would go to the restroom and check the key again. But as I opened my outlook, a mail caught my attention.
‘Lost my keys :IMP’
I immediately opened it. It read:
I lost my key yesterday evening near the front lawn. The key is custom made with a ‘Peacock’ motif carved on it. If someone finds it, please revert on this mail id.
Shweta was our HR manager. Stunning. Lively. One of the best girls we had in office.
Wow! So the key that brought me ill fate (according to my belief, anyway) belonged to Shweta!
I took out the hanky and unwrapped it. In it was the key, shining happily. I touched it, tentatively, and to my surprise it was cold as dead. I began laughing at my own stupidity. So, it was my own imagination that was playing with me since yesterday. That and the levels of stress took a toll on my mental state and I began imagining things. Some of them were true, but some (like the extreme hotness of the key) were pure imagination. All because of one antique looking key. But it also taught me a lesson- you should not pick up the things that doesn’t belong to you.
And suddenly I realised that’s what I do all the time. That’s why I am so much stressed when everyone around me relaxes and enjoys. Somebody comes to me with his/her task, and I help them out. They go for coffee and I slog.
“Why are you laughing so hard?” Richa was standing beside me.
“Uh- no.. Nothing” I composed myself as I turned around to face her.
“Anyways, did you look at the scripts? I have to send them for review on Monday. Do you think you can complete them at least by Sunday evening?”
This was it. I could say yes and slog some more or I could deny and top in to her ‘Do-not-date-this-guy’ list forever. I chose later, as even if I had chosen the former, there was no guarantee she would date me.
She was frustrated rather than angry when she went to her own desk. But I didn’t care much. I was feeling lighter somehow. I started typing a mail to Shweta which read:
Your key is with me, safe and sound. If you don’t mind we can meet up in canteen for lunch where I can hand it over to you. Please suggest a suitable time for the same.
PS: I think you should keep the key locked somewhere (no pun intended), as the key is so beautiful, anyone could steal it.
I smiled as I pressed the send button. I realised the key was a good omen after all. The golden key opened the door to Shweta for me.