Monday 10 June 2019

Short Fiction 2019 200-300 Words Shortlist

Arkadeep Sengupta       Mridula Dua       Sudha Viswanathan          
 Shivani Dua   Zainab Inamdar

The Day After Death
The day after death is an industrious affair. A gathering of mourning hearts. The commotion of wailing lament frequently getting suppressed by the bustle of chaotic chatter. Strange faces popping up here and there, engaging in careless flimflams. Dark and gloomy corners lit up. A riot of flowers brought in. More creaking of doors, swaying of windows and shattering of hope. In the mirror reflections of many mortal shadows trapped. Colourless clothes against blue curtains. Gaudy garlands wrapped around dull photo frames. Sombre voices heard- a cry here, another laughter there.  Stories told, secrets revealed. Old dusty memories reawakened. Now and then, cluttering of plates, aroma of half-cooked food, tinkling of empty glasses on pristine table cloths. The fragrance of fresh flowers obliviously mixing with the sooty smell of incense in closed damped rooms. The whiff of known living bodies recollected, the scent of the dead ones remembered. Pain felt, anguish heard, regret seen.

The night before was quieter. A different world altogether. Soft sobs caught, tears noticed.  Unexpected meetings happened. Mournful words exchanged. Forgotten memoirs recalled. Odour of flowers, incense, more flowers, freshly peeled off paint, old books and memories. Life valued. Inevitability of death acknowledged. The loved one kissed with affection and love folded beautifully- no creases, no unwanted folds- to be put away till eternity.

The day gone and with it gone all the bustle. Withered flowers put away. Cloistered rooms no longer smell of incense. Mirrors no longer reflect trapped shadows. No longer creaking of doors and swaying of windows. Stench of worn out paint, old books, unwashed curtains linger. Galvanised emotions gathered to be put aside. Memories start to fade. Half broken hearts beginning to mend. A flux of alternatives thought and love bade farewell again. 

As for now, it is quiet, quieter than usual.
Arkadeep Sengupta

Iron Woman

Ironically, it’s called the ‘Iron Man’ while in real lives; it is the women who are the keystones of everything. These are my ‘Iron Women’.

Looking downwards from the stage where I was about to receive an award, I saw those two pride eyes which were filled with happiness and contentment. The curve of her lips completed my victory. She completes me. She is my mom. She is a perfect mom, a doting daughter, a caring sister, a diligent worker at office and at the same time an amazing home manager.
“I can give birth to live,

It’s on tears that I thrive,
A daughter, a mother and a sister too,
Every color of me is beautiful and true,
Look beyond the man-made bans… Yes, I am a Woman!”

 Another one goes back in July 2018, when I first joined my college OPD where physiotherapy therapy is provided. I was undoubtedly exhausted by the end of 4 hours and I still an hour to go for, when I heard a giggle coming from the young school girl. Suffering from Sacral agenesis (abnormal fetal development of lower spine), she had the innocence and carefree of any third grader. I immediately began with her exercises. Initially, it was curiosity that glued me to her. Soon enough, it was her courage and an urge to live life the fullest that cast a spell on me and changed my outlook.
Being less than half my age, she taught me one of the most important lessons in life- to be grateful no matter what. Happiness will follow.

“With no bend in her spine but one in her knee she couldn't run like me she travelled through life without a safeguard giving a fresh edge to the Canvas of Art
Not crying over the hurdles instead laughing her way through the puddles”
Just like iron, women just need to be cared for and they return it many times over.
Mridula Dua

The Encumbrance

 Sound of abuses and screams were coming from the house at the corner.  It happened almost everyday. The family comprised a daughter and her aging parents. All her siblings being married off, she was considered an encumbrance. Her fault was that she failed to get a suitable match for herself despite passing the age limit prescribed by the society. She silently suffered the taunts and abuses of her parents, relatives and neighbours. After this abusive drama, she used to go teary eyed to the balcony to lighten her grieving heart in the company of her green friends-her plants. Everyday she went to them and talked as if they were listening and supporting her. Her love for plants was ineffable. She forgot all her worries in their company. She watered them and took care of their every pimple or itch.

Her green friends never abused or screamed but only loved her. She felt relieved and got a fresh lease of life when she was with them. She talked to them, patted them and congratulated them whenever they bore a new leaf or bud. That day, for the first time she retaliated leaving her parents aghast…how dare she could speak her heart out? She bluntly announced that since it was no fault of hers, she didn’t wish to marry. Being sick of this daily drama, she just wanted to find solace in the company of her dear friends. She went to the balcony –her haven. She touched her plants lovingly, humming…  “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her” and lay down near them. They swayed and caressed her. She could hear her parents still screaming at her. Suddenly the noises started dying down. She could feel the love of her plants drooping over her. She closed her eyes. She could hear the heavy footsteps of her mother coming towards the balcony. Then there was silence. Her mother, blind with rage came rushing. Her foot hit something… She gave a shriek. It was the cold body of her daughter- her dear plants drooping over her… She had released them of the encumbrance.

Shivani Dua 

They Taught Me Generosity
Kausthub was waiting at home for the pizza that now sat next to me in my car. However the Bangalore traffic was delaying me.

Bhook Lagee Hai MemSaab, Kuch Khaane Ko Do.” That was a boy more or less Kausthub’s age, who approached me at a signal. His eyes fell on the pizza box. I ignored him steering my gaze in the opposite direction. 

For a few seconds I blamed the parents who had brought him to this world and left him to beg like this. My flow of thoughts got interrupted as he delicately banged on my window glass. I threw a derisive glance at him. Thankfully the signal turned green and I pushed my way through the traffic only to hear a huge screech from my tire. It had got punctured right in front of a car mechanic shop.

Some men set to work while I called my ten year old son and assured him I would be home in another half hour, with his pizza. 

In the meanwhile I caught site of yet another girl begging.  There was a four to five year old kid clinging to her and howling.  ‘It must be her brother,’ I thought with fresh resentment for a new set of irresponsible parents. She herself looked not older than eight. 

I spotted the same boy who had asked me for food. Someone had given him two pieces of sandwiches. As I watched in disbelief, he approached the girl with the kid brother and said, “Looks like you two are very hungry; have these.”
Though the girl’s face lit up at the sight of food, she asked with concern, “What will you eat then? Come let all three of us share it.”

My eyes turned misty. They taught me Generosity.  Mrs. Sudha Viswanathan

Mother Taught Me
She watched a mother shoo her kid for pointing at someone. "It's not right," she said. But then Shirin looked away as the man next to the mother stared at her legs. "What did his mother teach?" she wondered. Hardly a bit of skin visible between below her knee length skirt and ugg boots. But he had found something to see. She knew he had concluded something about her when he didn't even know her name. He was a nameless man too, one amongst many, a symptom of the bigger disease.

"The sari is decent," some said. Some said it was the burkha. Then some said, "Jeans were good but they outline your legs." An outfit that was decent for one part of the town became indecent by the time the other end came. These were the discussions she overheard everyday on the train and beyond. 

Worried mothers at home, over-worried neighbourhood aunties who were more concerned about you than their own daughters, the elder brother, "the-good-friend... There was nothing more urgent than what a woman wore. Others can worry about endangered vultures, we worry about vultures that roam the street. The morality struggled hard to fit into anything that was not being judged. 

 But what cloaks a woman's sense of security is the male gaze. After all who could decide what came first, the shame, or the cloth to hide it?
Zainab Inamdar  

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