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Next Time by Abhishek Srivastava


“Teena”
“Present Ma’am” replied Teena.
“Yash”
“Yes Ma’am”, said Yash.
 “Zubin”
There was a silence in the classroom. “Zubin... Aren’t you listening? I am calling your name”
“Yes...yes ma’am”, said Zubin hurriedly waking up from his world of dreams, the little dreams of a sixth standard lad but of immense importance to him.
“All right kids... So today is the last day of your school before summer vacations. I have already given you homework. So you all must be visiting various places this summer. So when you come back after holidays you must bring a travelogue written by you only... I repeat... it should be original. Ok!”
“Yes Ma’am”, all replied in chorus.
Zubin was very happy. Why shouldn’t he be? After all he was going to visit for the first time out of the town this vacation since last three years. Her mother has promised to him. She has saved ten thousand bucks for the trip to Zubin’s maternal grandparents place in Manali, a hill station famous for its scenic beauty.
Zubin was a boy from humble background. His father was a clerk in a private firm but he chose to give education to him in best school of the town where he used to study with kids of elite class. After every vacation his friends used to narrate their experiences of having fun and adventure in places across the country. Zubin could only visualise images in his mind of what it would like be to bathe in a waterfall or travel in a ropeway.
Zubin ran to the home after the school hours. “Mom, where is dad? Has he taken reservation in the train? When are we going?”
There was an awkward silence. Then his Mom said, “Go and first wash your hands... dinner is ready.”
Zubin smelled something wrong. At the dinner table Zubin’s father told him that his grandpa is admitted in the hospital out of a minor heart attack and they do not have enough money to visit Manali this year.
Zubin went to his study table and started writing a travelogue; after all he needs to win this year too in the travelogue competition.
Her mom came with tears in her eyes and started caressing him... Zubin said, “No problem momma. I am happy.” His voice stumbled as he spoke and tears rushing through his cheeks he said, “Next time...”

Perspective by Gautam Banerjee Back to Top

Hari’s mother started vomiting immediately after her evening meal. Pressing her stomach she retched and threw up again and again. She wailed, complaining of a severe abdominal pain. Seeing the awful mess her mother-in-law was making, Mala slammed down a broken plastic mug before her.
“I can’t clean up your vomit! Use this!”
Too weak to retort, Hari’s mother pulled the mug to herself.
Neither Hari nor Mala tried to comfort the old woman. They no longer showed any sympathy to her frequent bouts of illness.
She groaned and writhed in agony.
“Get me some medicine please!” She said meekly.
Hari couldn’t see her face. The kerosene lamp was put out for the night.
“It’s late mother. Shops are closed.” Hari’s voice sounded gruff.
“Please!” She was weak and barely audible.
Hari clenched his teeth. “Stop whining!” He was losing patience.
They wouldn’t get a wink of sleep that night.
“I promise an offering to Goddess Kali the day she dies.” Mala muttered under her breath while patting her youngest who had started weeping in her sleep.
Hari envied his kids who slept soundly.
Many a time he also wished his mother had died. This emaciated ailing woman, an onerous burden, only ate and slept. For a casual worker like Hari, with six mouths to feed, her death would definitely be a relief.
“Medicine! Where will the money come from?” Mala hissed, grinding her teeth. “Now and again she’s sick. Are we millionaires?”
The stagnant air sharply smelled of vomit. Hari lit the lamp. His mother moaned and grimaced. In between gasps and retches she puked up a dark, foul fluid.
 “I can’t bear the pain anymore.”
Her constant nagging was getting on his nerves.

A waning crescent moon still hung in the sky when Hari carried his mother out of his shanty on the outskirts of Kolkata. Her frail body was unbelievably light. Scanning his surroundings Hari almost began to run. The old woman opened her eyes enquiringly.
“Hospital,” Hari said.
She looked askance at her son but only whimpered.
Hari’s feet were almost numb as he reached a far end of the empty railway station. He staggered. Sweat broke across his forehead and his mouth was dry.
His mother, in a state of semi-consciousness, was breathing in shallow gulps.
Boarding a train they crossed a few stations, how many Hari couldn’t remember.
It was almost dawn when Hari abandoned his mother under a tree. He slipped away without looking back. The old woman had passed out without knowing that her trust had been betrayed.
The following night, after a long time, Mala undressed and cuddled up to Hari. Their 60 square feet shanty had enough space and privacy, she thought. Running his fingers over her undernourished body- all skin and bone- her matted hair, sunken eyes, perched lips and sagging breasts, Hari wasn’t excited at all.
Instead, he felt completely drained.
Then, curling into a fetal position, he clung to his wife and began to sob.

Silence by Lakshmi V Back to Top


It was the morning of hot weather. Nevertheless I had decided to just keep silent the whole day, since understanding one another headed towards negative vibration.
As I adjusted to look up the sky, my thoughts sought to collect the importance of a wedding - the kanyadaan, parents giving away the daughter's hands in the bridegroom's hand!
It was the D-day, surely our day too, lest we even realised that, the gloominess of the biggest separation was going to standout - that of a mother and son!
Silence, tears, consoling words - that's the end of the huge preparation.
But, God's plans submerged all our plans. The music was played, chants reverberated, the greatest role of the kanyadaan shifted!

The bride stood strong, the groom accepted, we too remained silent in that cluster of acceptance and adjustment. That's life!
Untitled by Kamalika Ray Back to Top

They are inside the main hall of the Central library, all of them. About twenty-seven people huddled together into the gap between the two tallest and longest bookshelves.
The lights are on, thankfully. So are the sound boxes, through which they can hear the alarm, incessantly going off every ten minutes, ever since the first warning came. That it was an emergency drill they were conducting, for a bomb alert.
The warnings too have been going on ever since.
They were first told to move away from the windows. Then, after two minutes, almost in a panic, the mechanized voice told them to come together, preferably in a covered place.
The sleepy librarian, fifty-eight year old Suresh Joshi, awakened into sudden activity,held his paunch protectively with one hand like a pregnant woman and used the other hand to vigorously wave and collect all of them like cattle herd to that spot between the bookshelves.
Their usual hideout in all drills.
The drills on an average last for about fifteen minutes.
But it has been more than forty-five minutes now. The wait has started to get on their nerves. If it’s just an emergency drill, it surely should not be taking this much time, should it?
Two impatient students in a bid to look ‘cool’, were already taking calculated slow steps out, mainly to tease the tense librarian. They giggled when Mr.Joshi’s quivering voice requested them to come back.
A queer nagging fear pricked up somewhere in the alert minds. Was this damn thing a drill or not? Few started to write messages to family. Starting with innocent enquiries and then revealing their own situation, deftly disguising the seriousness behind a joke.  But mobiles started ringing anyway.
And though the next warning prohibited them to talk on mobile phones, some of the angry ones, kept on at it.
Fifty-six year old Mrs.Mitra was browsing the History section, when the alarms went off. Not yet ready to become a part of history herself, she had readily followed all directions of everyone and stood in the middle of the group. But now, after carrying her eighty kilos for so long, her little tired feet were giving away. She was on phone too, talking to her retired husband at home in hushed whispers. Considering the possible dire situation she was in, she now imagined that her words might be the last ones being spoken to her husband. Well in that case, she decided, to choose her words well.
“Don’t waste the Mutton curry left in the refrigerator if I die. Eat it up, as if you didn’t know. Otherwise I won’t rest in peace. And the maid, I have paid her in advance. Don’t let her fool you into paying again, in my absence…”

Mrs.Mitra’s words were cut short that day, by another alarm.

No, she didn’t die. Nobody did.

It was the last announcement.
A clear female voice ‘hugely regretted’ the delay and then finally, told them to relax, go home and live.

Rust in Trust by Dr. Diwakar Pokhriyal Back to Top

“I will not marry now,” She said in anger.
“No beta, you should marry at this age” Her parents tried to make her understand.
“No, I will marry a boy of my own choice” She was adamant.
“No, we will also check. After all, it’s the matter of your life” They said.
“I am mature enough to take care of that,” She said and left the room in anger.
“If they think I can’t live on my own then why they want to marry me” She was thinking and suddenly her mobile rang.
“Hi, how are you” A smile crossed her lips.
“Missing you,” A boy was on the other side.
“Let’s marry,” She said in a flash.
“Ok, should I come to your home?” He joked.
“My parents will not agree,” She said in a low tone.
“Let’s run away. Once we will get married they will surely accept us” He said.
“But I am scared” She opened her heart up.
“Don’t worry I am with you. We both will be happy forever my love” He said in a romantic tone.
“Ok then on Monday night” She decided.
“Done, I will let you know the time. Love you” He said and they disconnected the phone.
On Monday night she was feeling anxious. It was after all the question of her future. Indecisiveness was at the peak.
“Should I go or not” She was thinking.
“But I love him a lot” Her mind was wandering.
She again looked around and slowly started to walk.
“No-one should see me. I should move silently” She looked around and found everyone sleeping in his house.
“Oh God, please help me, no one should wake up” As she prayed she heard some footsteps.
“Oh No,” She ran inside the bathroom.
After some time she looked at her watch and realizes that she has to hurry.
“Let’s go,” She thought and came out of the bathroom and slowly walked out of the house.
Her destination was still at some distance. She ringed the bell.
“Hello, where are you?” She said.
“I am coming for you, my love” A voice came from another side.
“I am about to reach,” She said in excitement.
“I will be there in few minutes darling,” He said.
The darkness was at its peak. Trees were breathing life in and out and humanity was drowned in the world of immature dreams. She stopped and glanced at the endless road.
 A car headlight flashed and her smile widened. It was the perfect time they had planned to flee to unite forever.
“Why are you late,” She said while opening the door and went inside.
The door closed and car started in a flash. As she hopped into the car, she realized the fluke.
“Who are you?” She was surprised.
“You should ask that to your boyfriend” The man laughed and pounced on her.
 In an instant, her life was over. She didn’t realize when the rust mixed with trust.

 

Escape by Anila M Vivek Back to Top

Apertures opened slowly... It was floating in a fluid like substance. Dark walls closed in on all sides. It tried to move but no avail… Exhaustion creeped in - sounds drifted in from far away - the apertures closed…
The next time, it awoke to a feeling of energy. There was a cord connected to one of the walls to the middle of its curved shape. Strangely it seemed to be gaining more strength from the cord. It tried to push against the walls of captivity, but soon tiredness crept in…
At times there was prodding and an invasion seemed imminent but nothing happened.
Sounds could be heard more clearly, all types of noises assailed its senses but the struggle against the walls yielded no result. A few sounds could be sensed continuously. It could feel a tingling sensation at times. When the walls were pushed the sounds grew louder and the tingling was more frequent.

Then when it had gathered enough energy and strength, it started pushing with all its might. Strangely, the walls seemed to help now. It pushed, struggled, fought. It seemed like the walls wanted to get rid of it. There were louder voices and more unbearable clamour. It pushed its way through a narrow opening. And then light hit. The blinding light drew a sound of happiness, anticipation and excitement…Free at last!
Surprised, elated and overwhelmed. The struggle seemed to have ended after ages of captivity. The strength derived from the cord, the relief on reaching a new world, the shiver of anticipation – it emitted a sound on its own trying to express its feelings for the first time, in the new unfamiliar territory.

“Congratulations!  You have delivered a baby girl!”
“Oh look at her flailing fists! Isn’t she a darling?”
“She takes after me…”

The welcoming voices, the caresses, the kisses…

Okka Aidu Rupayala by Sajeev Kumar
 
“Uncle, okka aidu rupayala!”
The thin but penetrating voice made my eyes roll up to see the source of the out stretched hand! 
A ragged looking, ill clad boy, probably ten years old! My immediate reaction was an irritating denial, which was soon overpowered by a thought, 
"May be this poor boy really wants to drink a glass of lemon water to beat the heat!’
I was on a tender coconut water mission for my wife  last summer! 
The coconut vendor’s shop was about one furlong from my house. 
The above mentioned scene occurred just hundred meters before the ‘tender’ man’s shop at a cool drink spot! It was around 7 p.m.

“Come back”, I screamed at the boy, who had walked away in desperation! When I handed over a five rupee coin to him,

I could see an ocean of gratitude in his big, but painful eyes. He looked at me with an awestruck expression for a while, and then disappeared in darkness! I stood dumbfound!  I crossed the busy, narrow road with a lot of difficulty; the remarkable traffic sense of multitude stole ten minutes of my time just to achieve the task of crossing the road!  

Reaching the tender coconut seller’s shop, I ordered my stuff. “Bhai, ek bottle”! These coconut vendors are great business people; they sell each coconut for thirty rupees during the peak summer season;

the customers have the option of buying single ones or a 650 ml full bottle! They are equipped with new plastic bottles to meet this challenge! I always buy the full bottle for Rs.100!

Because that comes with an absolute guarantee of satisfaction; we can always see the quantity of water due to the transparent character of the bottle!

This guarantee would not apply when you buy a single coconut; you would be lucky if there were a glass full!
When you enter a tender coconut vendor’s jurisdiction, you’ll not miss the ‘slate’ board, bearing the cost, which varies depending on the mercury scale!

In fact, the slate manufactures owe a great deal to these coconut vendors.

They are the only souls who made a fortune with the ‘slate’ boards, which were the ‘chrome books’ of last generation!

Now no schools use them! The slate industry would have gone out of business if the coconut vendors opted for a different mode of advertisement!
“Sir”, the tender coconut wala called me to hand over the bottle; I paid the amount! 

While coming out of the shop I happened to glance upon the next shop, which was of a flower seller’s!

The beautiful ambience of yellow and orange flowers was obstructed by the figure of the boy, who had run away with the coin.

I, with a trembling sense of curiosity, went closer. A dam broke in my heart! The vagrant boy was dressing his younger sister’s hair with strings of jasmine flowers!

I realised it was not to beat the heat, but - the day was of festival Ugadi!

 
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