Thursday 1 July 2021

Short Fiction 2021 Shortlist

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Short Fiction
Prose 500
Short Story

Harshita Nanda
Vigneshwar JAniruddha Taunk

Anahita Bharucha George Swaim Nalini Hattiholi

Neha Khatri Preetha Vasan

The Dancing Queen by Harshita Nanda

The party was already in full swing when he reached. The dance floor was full of youngsters gyrating to the latest party anthem. His eyes searched and found her sitting in one corner. Even though she was talking to the lady seated next to her, he knew she wanted to dance by the way her foot tapped with music. He went to the D.J. and whispered something in his ear. At the DJ's nod, he went to the lady and handing her a bouquet of roses, asked her to dance. She blushed but accepted his outstretched hand. As he drew her to the dance floor, the music change. It was their song. they looked into each other's eyes, smiled as they started moving in symphony. They dipped and swayed, oblivious to the other people on the dance floor. Mesmerized by their dance, the dance floor emptied. As the notes of the music ended, he dipped her for one last time. There was silence for a couple of minutes before the whole room erupted in applause.

Looking at her flushed face, he grinned and said, "Dadi, you are still my dancing queen"!

How Sin Came To Earth by Vigneshwar J

Many centuries ago, there were no idols of god. God appears as a bright light, and not seen with naked eyes. His shadow projects on the ground and seen. People could worship his shadow and ask him anything. He appears at morning of every day.

One day a woodcutter chops down a tree and sits down for a break. He wonders what to do with the tree. An idea strikes him. ‘God appears only at morning everyday, if I carve his shadow off the tree trunk, we could worship him throughout the day’. He carves the shadow of god, and takes it to the village. The villagers start worshipping it.

As usual, the god appears in the morning and sees the villagers worshipping the shape of shadow made of tree trunk. He becomes angry and leaves, never to return. Years pass by. 

One day, one villager wants to lend some money to another. He takes him to the place where the shadow is, and gives the money to another being the shadow as witness. Then they leave the place. On their way back, the lender thinks ‘before the god was everywhere so if I do anything wrong he would see me but now he is in one place, how could he see me if I do anything out of the place he is present’. Therefore, he beats up the borrower and takes the money. Lender rushes to the village and says to the villagers that the borrower betrayed him. Villagers believed the lender.

That is how people started doing sin. Believing that the god is in one place and not everywhere.

Issues by Aniruddha Taunk

"What are you writing about today, Sir?" Chinamma asked casually as she finished off her day's work as a domestic help for the house. Shardindu replied, his passionate self, "I am writing about the water shortage in the city.". She smiled with affection. He was a journalist, and she liked to listen to him talk about such stuff. Not just him, but the Lawyer Madamji, or Gupta babu, the bureaucrat, or Sheena, the actress. They all seemed to know how the world worked.

Shardindu was right, they only got six hours of water supply in a day. These were two storey, eight bedroom row houses in this prominent part of the city. But on the other hand, the journalist and his wife were only two people in this large house. The entire locality had families like this, just a couple, or a nuclear family with just one or two kids. In fact, the actress had this entire house for herself.

In about a month, rains will fall and their extended balconies would be clogged with water. Structural problems, they said. And Chinamma would have to clean tank-worth of water, just throw it down the drain. In the meantime, her elder daughter would place buckets, pots, mugs under the leaks of their house. If it was raining, they would have water everyday for four months.

Infusion by Anahita Bharucha


While growing up Sanjana knew this. Theirs was the poshest house, on one of the poshest street of the most happening city in the country. They would travel to New York for holidays every year and stock their house with the newest gadgets from the stores there. Their mahogony tables were topped with Tiffany lamps, their kitchen was stocked with Tupperware products and they cooked their food in the non-stick cookware. Room fresheners, floor wax, and oh so many things, fragrant and shiny! Their taller-than-pappa fridge and air conditioner had arrived in a wooden box and bubble wraps that they popped the whole day. None of this would be seen in the country for at least two decades. Some of the richest businessmen would drop their jaws at how much customs had been paid for all these gadgets.


And then twenty years into her marriage with Ranveersinh she discovered this. All fragrant scents had showered her with estrogen, entering her bloodline and stealthily killing the other hormone, progesterone. Their refrigerator and air conditioner had released chlorofluorocarbons not only infusing pollutants in their lungs but in their environment. Except that it was not just them anymore. Others had joined in on them as taxes on these "conveniences" dropped and they became affordable. What they didn't know was their city no longer had a morning mist. It was a chemical fog, a slow killer, willingly bought into their life, paid for, to slowly rot away their insides.

Self-Actualised by George Swaim

Theirs was a small rented place, dusty and on a loud street. They struggled to make ends meet, despite the welfare cheques they received. His mother prayed that he would learn. She spoke of how God's creation was full of wonders and how he should discover them all. Don't give up on school, his mother said and so he didn't.

He had found a solution to study, to record it in his mind for sometime for the exams, anything that he was required to, without comprehension. In that way, he would be free to plan his business once he graduated high school. But tried as he might he couldn't find a business plan nor a funding for the n number of businesses that he had planned. And unwillingly he registered for college. It would be a business school. But nothing materialised even then.

Then his mother called him at their religious congregation to speak. Angry as was, he spoke of unfairness and social justice and everything his mother had said for years. He wondered aloud where God was. These were tough times, and a few more people called him to speak. They paid him money this time suddenly his God was kinder. More offers followed with more money. He soon figured that his business model was made in his childhood by his mother and by his recording mind.

Bland by Nalini Hattiholi

Ira spent every afternoon watching these serials, the saas-bahu dramas, they were called. Lying down in front of the TV, along with her mother-in-law, until they caught their short nap. She would cover her daughter's face, "This is boring, you should watch cartoons, okay?" Her mother-in-law would say that these girls were being dramatic for no reason. Ira would wonder if these women were as bored as her, which is why they created these tensions, to make life interesting. She could have watched something else but her mother had informed her that this would be disrespectful, so she continued to watch and act interested in these dramas that were all alike.

Then her mother-in-law passed away and she switched to watching other series from around the world. Stories of brave women around the world. These women were not creating drama, at least not for the sake of it. They were fighting for their identity, their love or simply discovering themselves. She had lived out her life but now her daughter would watch the stories of these powerful woman. A girl with potential, just like so many people. She wouldn't be a bland person, dulled into afternoon sleep with drama. This girl slept with great dreams, and woke up with a passion to achieve them.

Ignored by Neha Khatri

She was still getting used to her new family. They seemed like a jolly lot. It was better that they had moved into her house. She sensed that they would look at her with some extra wonder than she would have imagined, some might even call it shock.

She was called the silent one. She decided not to disturb them. It was good that she didn't feel hungry anymore. And even now she would sit in her favourite corner for hours singing her old songs. These were nice songs, she imagined that would endear them to her. But instead they seemed to approach her with caution if they ever did.

This mother was nice too, always smiling, may be she would like her too. Not like her previous mother who thought she was ugly. "How did I bear such an ugly kid? Who would even believe it? And who will marry her?" As soon as she had the fair one, she left her here and went away to the city. For some time she ate the food left at home, then she found some money and bought some food. When the money was finished, she ate some grass or flowers growing in the small garden. It tasted so horrible, she would rather go hungry.

Then one day she stopped being hungry at all. And then she discovered she could fly. She had never shown anyone, she could fly. So as the kids wandered into her corner that day, she flew towards them. And that is how she was left alone again.

Blood by Preetha Vasan

The wind whips his raincoat. The storm will not let him see beyond his hands. He has to secure the ropes and the tape. His phone buzzes. He covers it with his gloved hand. He had been right all along. The parents will not pay. The twins stare at him despite the rain stabbing their eyes. He wonders what it should be: knife or gun. Neither. The first will be a bloodbath; the second too noisy. But he can cut without letting a drop of blood. He is not a paediatric surgeon for nothing: Professional healer by day; passionate killer by night. Only this time he had become somewhat greedy, hadn’t he? Greed is not good. Greed has led to demanding ransoms, and getting new sim cards. So much mess; unlike bloodless incisions. He looks at his erstwhile patients. Their eyes have the same incredulity when they had first stepped into his clinic. Which one first? They are so identical even death can’t tell them apart. His surgeon’s knife flashes white in the lightning. Tomorrow they will cordon off this place with a red tape which will say, “Crime scene”. He loves that: the drama after the deaths. He has been watching it for years. Tomorrow’s twin murders will be better. He must prepare his dialogue when the police come for the interview, get his best suit to be on TV. After all these are the commissioner’s daughters.

She pauses, debates between commissioner and prime minister, chooses the former, and mails her agent but not before making sure he leaves that one clue her detective, famously called the “Indian-Poirot”, will detect in the last but one chapter.

After all aren’t murder mysteries, as she tells her students, all about narrative.

Short Fiction
Prose 500
Short Story

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