Monday 10 May 2021

Drabble 2021 Longlist

Scroll down to read the stories.

Short Fiction
Prose 500
Short Story

Theresa Fernandes
Sharmistha Bishnoi Samarth Sadhu

Zainab Inamdar
Sangeetha Kamath Natasha Sharma

Anahita Bharucha
Palvi Ghonkrokta
Bindu Saxena

Divya Garg
Sudha Viswanathan
Bhupendra Dave

Geetanjali Maria Divvisha Bharti Chandra Sundeep

Swatilekha Roy Devika Dhond Ritika Sidhwani

Kaustubh Hiremath Tanvi Sishtikar Suchit Gada

Meghana Acharya George Swaim Aniruddha Taunk

Neha Khatri Nalini Hattiholi  Nita Sachdev

Tarini G Kanishk Patel

 The Usurper by Theresa Fernandes

As the virus teemed and the numbers around us rose, she went over and over her almanacs, hoping to see her answers in the stars. When it all had begun I had laughed off her old ways. Now that I saw more mishaps around me, reliable and time-tested medicines working worse than water, I stood hopeless, for some of her miracle to work. But it seemed neither her faith nor the cure was working. Neither belief nor logic could fight this battle. Typical to a war zone, it was only a ruthless enemy that was making the rules and breaking it at their convenience. And just like a war zone, more of the ground was covered with dead bodies. This virus was an enemy unforeseen, and it was claiming ground.

Easy Leap by Sharmistha Bishnoi

It would be your most defining year. Your entire career depends on this. She had heard that for so long. Her friend slacked but she coaxed her to study. 

Then she fell ill, struck by the virus as the prelims came. Down to sixty after a shining 90+ all her school life. "Don't worry, you'll score in the finals. They matter after all," she was consoled. 

While her friend, all healthy, did well. She got what she wanted, fifty is all. 

Then the finals came, and the virus struck again, this time on the school board. "There will be no exams for the tenth grade. All students will be graded on their school performance." They announced. And that was that. 

It is neither the meek, nor the geeks, but the lucky ones who will inherit the earth.

September Rains by Samarth Sadhu

It must've been more than a decade since I left for Chicago after my mother died, blaming my father for it. Why and how I didn't know. It was raining that day as it is today. The difference is that day my father was hiding his tears while I stayed silent. And today I am hiding my tears, while my father is silent, stone cold, dead. My silence is piercing.

I tried to sooth myself with music, "Wake me up when September ends..."
"What song is that? Don't tell us. We know what new songs are about," some relative said. I went back to the rhythm of the September rain outside and inside me.

Happiness In A Box by Zainab Inamdar

It was almost magical how boxes upon boxes arrived at your doorstep with a click of a button. The momentary rush of anticipation as she opened the box, half expecting the thing to not be there and then finding it, her gift to herself. It had broken a long pattern of disappointment. Something that she had invested in and it actually being delivered. Family, friends, colleagues, all who left her, not counting the imaginary romances that vanished as reality flashed its light on them. All gone, except Amazon. 

Amazon delivered A to Z,  ending a cycle of disappointment.

What A Soup by Sangeetha Kamath 

She's engrossed in a cartoon show on television. How angelic she looks in pink on her special day today. I'm preparing her favourite, Cream of Mushroom Soup! 

She beams when she sees the special lunch and claps her hands in delight with every spoonful I feed her. She relishes every drop of it.

"I'm full, Amma, I'm sleepy now..."

I dab her mouth and lips with a baby wipe.

When she's asleep, I whisper a "Happy Mother's Day to you, Amma..."

Dementia! Wicked and wild...

Today our roles are reversible--

In a heartache, I'm the mother and Amma, you're my child...

A Double Date by Natasha Sharma

The fire spread in her belly. The touch was electric yet so- illicit. Nadia was on a double date with Aditya and another couple, Sharan and Richa. The sexual tension between them was palpable. She averted her gaze.

She couldn’t concentrate on the conversation, her heart throbbing. Her reaction, a betrayal, out of control. She sneaked a look and when their eyes met, time stood still.

She excused herself, seeking solace. Exiting the bathroom, Nadia bumped into someone.
“Do you feel it too?”
She gulped as she met Richa’s eyes, exchanging currents, lust.

The fire spread in her belly.

The Protest by Anahita Bharucha

Unbeknownst to her, her body had been throwing silent protests within. Who could've known that the well-sculpted, elegantly draped body which looked like the epitome of femininity was only false packaging of sorts. Her uterus had its own mind. Without seeking any permission from her it had pumped up its estrogen and testosterone, no pills to assist. While the progesterone struggled to register a presence. What a pity too, discovering this protest just when she had decided to turn her womb into a home.

Tomatoes by Palvi Ghonkrokta
"Avoid Basheer's shop, his limp son, the mukhbir, will know," whispered Abu, "And come straight back".
My nine year old hands trembled beneath my pheran like they had when the Afghan held his cold, sinful knife to my face.
"I want tomatoes" he'd thundered, flinging the haaq bowl.
Of the three, the Afghan was most violent, the Paki quiet and always cleaning his gun and the Koshur jovial and up for chess anytime. 
In the distance I heard a gun shot, then a few more and three days later the paper carried a photo of the tomato-loving Afghan. 
Mukhbir = informer/spy
Pheran = Kashmiri woollen garment worn by both men and women 
Haaq = a type of saag (greens)
Koshur = Kashmiri 
My Nothing by Bindu Saxena

The book I authored lay before me. I looked at it with nothingness. Suddenly, Nothing knocked on my five doors. It engaged me in something with Nothing in it. It is nothing new, but it is everything to me.

As I embed my thoughts, in nothingness, there emerged something - described in manuals, poems, and songs. In that something, I found the silhouette of my Nothing. I see it every second of my day engulfing me in its fold. My mind refuses to keep it off. It is there – everywhere, in every pore. What did you fathom, O Nothing sunshine-summer?!  
Somewhere in The Future by Divya Garg
27th March 2024

She was sweating profusely seeing him bleeding like this. Somehow managed to take him to the nearby hospital - hurriedly filled out all the forms and completed the formalities. They were rushing him into the ICU, time was running faster and slower at the same time. She was impatiently looking in their direction - unsure of everything that had happened a few seconds before. And then just right there, before beginning the procedure, the doctor asked someone to check with her as she had missed filling one field: Religion; where she had mentioned: Human. 
Will I Be Yours? by Sudha Viswanathan

'How mellifluously do her songs flow!!! Her voice is so very enchanting. Will I be able to join her in a duet anytime in life??? I want to be by her side forever and forever.'

He mutely appreciated her songs.

'How sharp does his brain work??? The answers to every mathematical problem are at the edge of his tongue, ever ready to spill. Will he accept a duffer like me forever and forever?'

She, too, yearned for him.

'Love is blind,' they say, and so were the two; students of Vidya Niketan for the visually handicapped. 

God’s Gift to Adam and Eve by Bhupendra Dave

After creating universe, the God thought of giving all virtues to Adam and Eve as a parting gift. "But you have not yet created love. How will they love virtues and hate vices?" Satan asked. 

God therefore took all that was the best to create love, and hatred from the rest. But when He saw the identical boxes of virtues-vices, he got confused.

"Make two parts of each for each box," Satan proposed.
"But I want to give them only virtues as a gift,"
"They are intelligent enough, so no harm in giving them both the boxes."

So, God gave them both the boxes.

Murder by Geetanjali Maria 

The light green leaf swayed gently in the breeze. A water droplet held fast onto the leaf lest it fall and break in the motion. Reshma watched the plant and the water droplet enjoying their morning dance, paired beautifully. She felt something rise up in her chest. She wanted to touch the droplet, feel its coolness, break it. The plant was hers. Its leaves were hers. How dare the droplet? In one sudden movement, she jabbed her index finger into the heart of the water droplet. It was no longer a water droplet. Blood flowed down her index finger. 
Destined Travel by Divvisha Bharti

She sat at the window waiting for the fellow passengers' on-boarding. Someone tapped on her shoulder. This is my seat, can  you please move. She did so unwillingly.

In that one hour and thirty minutes flight from Bengaluru to Mumbai, she sat disappointed. But little did she know that everything was going to change. She got selected for the role in the web series she was going to audition. All this while, she was in her character, dressed like one. The person whose seat she sat on was none other than the director of the production house, producing the series.

Happy Times, Finally! By Chandra Sundeep

My painful cries went unheard in the din. A wedding procession passed by, but the revelers ignored me. 

A puppy licked my open wounds. The dried blood - my prize; a reminder of my horrendous escape from the brothel.  

Soon, another procession passed by. But this time, sorrowful wails accompanied it. Unseen beings greeted me with a welcoming smile.   

I drifted along, embraced by calm and peace.  

A broken girl and an abandoned puppy bid me farewell. 

Scarred remains left behind. Amidst the clouds, I smiled for the first time in forever. 

I never knew I could be happy too!

Out of Place by Swatilekha Roy

Dad loved metaphors, be it the sickle in his deathbed or the yellow tile in the kitchen. An odd nagging presence, this tile kept reminding us of its improperness amidst its blue brothers. When I complained, Dad would say, "That’s the beacon for my home-bound ship". Hence, it stayed.

Today, when my orderly stepfather finally uprooted it, I felt little relief. "But that was Dad’s metaphor!" I argued. Caressing Mom’s smock firmly, he pointed out, "And it doesn’t belong in this home". 

Where Is He? By Devika Dhond

It marked the end of yet another run-of-the-mill day. Two pairs of gummy eyes that toddled behind the third petite-swift pair, had zoned into a blur of imagination, forecast zzzz…

Circling around the haze of midnight’s sleep, she tried to pat his back to reassure his position, subconsciously. His bantam structure went missing. Stirred out of the haze she yelled. Where is he? He didn’t fall, he would cry, but he cannot get off the bed yet.

Within thirty seconds of a frantic search they found the innocent brat relinquishing his arms to a snooze near their feet.

The Daze by Ritika Sidhwani

There were a few who knew of his habit and they would shame him for it. "Even Lord Shiva used to take a puff, once in a while," he used to retort. But it was true, under the daze, he was a different man, so relaxed and kind. He was so certain the dance of colours in front of him was divine in nature. He felt love not just for the humankind but all living beings. He could've been composing music which he didn't remember. 
Once he was done, he would be back to his Self and turn into the bothersome internet troll everyone had come to know and loathe. Somewhere between being the brave warrior on the Net, the short coward in the real world, he always believed he was his real self only under the daze.

Growing Up by Kaustubh Hiremath

"Tell them I am not home," he said waving his hands off. "But Shishir, this is your cellphone!?" His wife said. He was running out of ways to avoid these people. He had wanted to direct a movie. There were scraps of paper and stacks of paper somewhere forgotten. And instead this, a share-market broker, he had become. Creating false value for companies he didn't believe in. If he didn't quit now, his heart would explode any moment.

Ghosts by Tanvi Sishtikar

"It is different during the night. May be the body chemicals respond differently to the night. May be the moon does something, just like it does to the waves, it does to emotions. But she could swear she could hear them talk, tell her secrets. She could see ghosts. How had she seen a knife floating and hitting Rajvansh's back? Or else how would she know the Guptas' marriage was in trouble?" 
She sat on the psychiatrist's couch not knowing she was there and talking aloud.

Standstill by Suchit Gada

The movie set was made up, all ready to get rolling. They had delayed it for a year. But Sutej Nanda had no trust in this movie. "People like offbeat movies these days," the AD said. "Yes, they do, but would you look at the script. What kind of story is this? A virus attacks all mankind and the world comes to a stand-still? Who would believe that?" But he couldn't break the writer's heart, a sweet intelligent kid. So he sent him a text, "Hey, this story is so unique. I will definitely start shooting for this in 2020."

Priorities by Meghana Acharya

She was an up and coming journalist. She was as smart as she was brave. She covered riots as willingly as she did a sports event. She was personally helping raise funds for a free public school. Just one rupee per person.

But that mole on her nose bugged her. It looked like their channel's logo, round and red. "It looks cute," her loved ones insisted. Then one day it was gone, her nose had become blemish-free and chiselled. The mole was gone, and so was the school fund.

Those Two by George Swaim

It was about those two. One so full of positivity and the other so full of negativity. They could never be together. But they kept going round and round as if around a ball of lightness. There was one more who couldn't be bothered. So here they were, a family, a unit. Here they were, strong, in an almost impossible to break bond they called an Atom.

Obscenity by Aniruddha Taunk

They were a religious family. They read their scriptures and they performed their rituals. They never condoned any blasphemy. They hated Obscenity especially. 

So they got ready to speak about it at an event. It was a government sponsored facility. They got there in their Mercedes. She liked to be presentable so she wore her most bespoken jewellery. 

"Would you like to have some breakfast?" The organiser asked. "No, we never miss the breakfast spread at the Marriot," they said. And they started speaking to the unwashed and hungry about the vices of Obscenity.

Ghoul by Neha Khatri

Ghoulish is a word coined by Shakespeare. It comes from the Arabic word "Goule". 

Nis was hungry since ten days. He was not going to steal again. He didn't know he was stealing, he had just taken the meat because he found it. He had been "exiled". What he didn't know was all around the world, human conscious was being reshaped. 

In barren desserts, neither an animal could be hunted or hardly a plant lived. Then at night, some people came and dug up the ground and placed a dead man in. It was unbearable. As soon as they left he put his mouth to the man's guts and filled up. His new name was 'Goule'.

Hiding by Nalini Hattiholi 

Seema was hiding her bruises behind her sunglasses. Shalini was hiding her emotional wounds. Disha was hiding a secret bank account. Why couldn't she have something she could hide? Her muscles deteriorating so visibly now, she had to be moved to the hospital. HIV they found out and gasped. "She had looked so simple, could she really have?"

What she had decided to hide was her husband's repeated betrayal. He was the carrier and now a receiver of unsaid sympathies.

Salt by Nita Sachdev

Salt was such an essential ingredient of any food. She added it to everything because he liked it. He ignored her. She also added it from her tears and her sweat. He ignored her. It could be the fire from the stove or fire from her stomach pit that dried up the salt. Then he lost his job. Now she uses the salt to rub into his wounds.

 Closed Doors by Tarini G

She was whisked away from her giggling friends by her new husband. Happiness behind closed doors of their new home. They got together once a day at least for a little chat. And then they were gone, each in their own home, each making sure their life was not a fodder for gossip. Each hiding their surprises and shocks behind closed doors so that when they got out they could look all the same. Mirrors of each other, in their jeans and tops. Their mothers had done the same in their salwar kameez and their grandmothers in their saris. They are all the same outside but behind closed doors they each have a different story.

Kaleidoscope by Kanishk Patel

For a city bred man, I was surprised Rohan had never seen a Kaleidoscope. Later, I discovered he didn't know many things. "These people want to live in our country but don't want to follow our culture," Rohan said. What luxury to be bothersome to perfectly every-man strangers! I stopped the Kaleidoscope. "Why did you stop it? It's beauty is in its constantly changing patterns," he said. For a simple village-man like me, this selective wisdom is astounding.

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