The fishermen had informed the local police on spotting a dead body on the beach. Tia identified it as her stepmother Nita’s body. The preliminary investigation had established death by drowning. It was shocking how Tia had lost her mother Anu exactly in the same location and also by accidental drowning a decade back. Considering that Anu and Nita had been best friends since college, the similarity in the pattern of their deaths was beyond explanation.
Tia glanced at her father Ajay with questions running through her mind while pouring him a cup of tea. Did he follow the same modus operandi in getting her out of his way as her mom, she wondered! She was confident about his involvement in this unnatural death but lacked evidence to prove her point.
Ajay had been watching Tia very closely while sipping tea on the portico. Did she kill Nita to avenge the death of her mother Anu, he pondered! He knew that Tia had always held Nita responsible for Anu’s death and his ill-tempered daughter spelled danger during her moments of fury.
Mistrust and suspicion lingered in the air between the father-daughter duo as they watched each other’s next move closely.
This is the 10th post written as part of the #MyfriendAlexa campaign as per my theme ‘Shades of Perception’. You can read the first nine here.
For this challenge, I am using four photos as prompts to weave two flash fiction stories and one real story behind the picture. This is my fourth and last picture prompt. Stay tuned to read the second flash fiction that I will write around the same picture in my next post. You could also consider subscribing to my blog if you like reading my stories.
I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter
Delhi is the first city that gave me a feeling of responsibility that comes along with freedom. I had spent three years at the Presidency College Girls hostel in Kolkata during my graduation. But, in 2002, when I moved out to Delhi for my first post-graduation, it was also for the first time that I realized the state of being very far away from home. During my two-years stay there, I made some wonderful friends and was exposed to multiple cultures, languages, cuisines, and festivals.
After moving out to Bangalore in 2004, I never had a chance to return back here. Two months back, my husband had an opportunity to visit the city for his official work. Knowing my attachment to Delhi, he booked tickets for both the toddler and me. When we checked into the Taj hotel property, little did I expect the room to become a personal favorite! It wasn’t just the huge glass window pane that provided a gorgeous view of the Delhi sky but also the corner of the room dedicated as a working space that stole my heart. In the game of peek-a-boo between light and darkness, I sat down to write my second detective thriller.
This is the ninth post (nonfiction) written as part of the #MyfriendAlexa campaign on the theme ‘Shades of Perception’. You can read the seventh flash fiction around this picture prompt hereand the eighth one here. For the first six posts, you can click here.
My son has been traveling since he was 1.5 months old. We have taken him to various beach destinations. But I have always loved mountains a little more than the sea. Last October, after he turned two, my husband and I came up with the idea of a vacation to Shillong and Cherrapunji. Our memorable stay at Ri Kynjai resort, opposite Umiam Lake was followed up by the experience of walking among the clouds in Cherrapunji. The boy loved everything about the trip.
This picture was taken on the way during our road trip from Shillong to Cherrapunji. The windswept Kansh grass caught my attention. I stopped the car and walked outside to get soaked in the beauty of nature. A small house surrounded by hills and slopes was a soothing sight. I stood transfixed for a while before capturing this moment through my lens. This picture is no less than frozen memories of witnessing nature’s beauty at its best for me.
This is the sixth post (nonfiction) written as part of the #MyfriendAlexa campaign on the theme ‘Shades of Perception’. You can read the fourth flash fiction around this picture prompt hereand the fifth one here. For the first three posts, you can click here.
Amay inhaled the fresh air with a feeling of nostalgia. Looking at the hills through the window, his eyes brimmed with tears. He was back home. He remembered his childhood spent amidst luxuries in a plush Government bungalow. But his father had died of lung cancer when Amay was barely five.
His mother had been employed by the same organization on sympathetic grounds but they had to vacate the bungalow. With the meager salary, they could only afford this small house on rent. Amay had grown to love the slopes, hills, and fields in the surrounding. He kept excelling in academics and his school supported him through scholarship.
Seven years back, he had made it to one of the top medical colleges. Despite some earnings through private tuitions, financial constraints would have shattered his dreams hadn’t his mother taken up odd jobs to support him.
Dr. Amay Mhatre had returned as a doctor in this town hospital. He recollected the stunned looks of the interviewing panel when he had asked for a posting here instead of a metro city. But Amay knew that his mother felt a sense of belonging here and for him, her happiness was the biggest priority.
This is the 5th post written as part of the #MyfriendAlexa campaign as per my theme ‘Shades of Perception’. You can read the other piece of fiction based on the same photo prompt here and the first three posts here.
For this challenge, I am using four photos as prompts to weave two flash fiction stories and one real story behind the picture. This is my second picture prompt.
I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter.
On 13th Sep last year, when I took the plunge to switch my career choice from being a corporate employee to a solopreneur with this blog, I honestly hadn’t expected this journey to be one of the best experiences in my life. After moving back to Kolkata in 2016, I had decided to take a sabbatical. The purpose was to step back from the jazz of being a high-profile Banker and analyze what made me the happiest. Between being a hands-on mother to an infant and reading every single book that I could lay my hands on, I realized that I looked forward to the quiet time every night when I gave a structure to my thoughts by writing them down in my diary. This had become my coping mechanism to deal with my mother’s sudden demise and then a routine that I enjoyed the most.
I also have an honest confession to make here. I doubt if I could have broken the mold and ventured into this new territory hadn’t I taken some time off to get used to the phase of salary credit messages not arriving every month end and rewards and recognition parties not happening every quarter. Also becoming a mother had suddenly brought about a spectrum of change in my priorities.
I really didn’t have a plan when I started out. I wrote on topics that I was fond of like food, travel, movies, and books. Either the narrative was based on my personal experiences or it was of the nature of a review. It felt great when celebrities, authors and restaurant management appreciated the efforts through a message or a re-tweet. The personal journey category came next and it is still one of my favorite corners of the blog. Just before my toddler started his preschool, I decided to write about parenting based on the current stage in my life. It took me a while to write about topics closest to my heart like normalizing breastfeeding, the taboo associated with menstruation and gender stereotyping as part of my social issues column. They were all based on my perspective and experience. My confidence got a boost when multiple articles were featured and trended on portals like Women’s web, Youth Ki Awaaz, Momspresso among others.
Until this period, I rarely read or interacted with other bloggers. I realized my approach was incorrect at different levels I participated in the Blogchatter A2Z challenge in April. It involved a lot of dialogues and suddenly I was exposed to a wonderful community of bloggers and their fabulous work. My blog had started receiving a good number of visitors as well. This was also the period when I heard of other blogging communities like Indiblogger and BlogAdda.
The next best thing happened in May when I turned an author with my debut Detective novella ‘Deal of Death’ as part of the Blogchatter Ebook carnival. From a blogger, I had transitioned into a published author. June brought along the Write Tribe festival of words followed by Bar-A-Thon in July. I had finally discovered my love for writing fiction and flash fiction posts. It was thrilling to weave a story around a prompt in a restricted number of words. Quite a number of posts made it to the featured section and the top posts in Indiblogger. August brought in a pack of surprises. All the posts written on WOW prompts won the WOW badge by BlogAdda. But the best was when one of my stories made it to the nine winning stories in the Lights, camera, Chatter contest by Blogchatter and I went on to narrate it live on FB. I wrapped up the month winning the Muse of the Month contest by Women’s Web.
September began with a positive note as I won the first prize in a blogging contest. But what I really look forward to is the new journey that I am about to begin as I take on the role of an invited speaker guest at the Women’s web Breaking Barriers event in Kolkata this weekend.
Overall, the experience has been extremely satisfying and humbling. Summarizing my learnings in just six points, I would say –
1. Read, reciprocate and engage – I would call this my biggest takeaway for the first year. When I started out, I would publish my post and wait to be discovered. I rarely visited or read others. It is essential to understand that without engaging in a meaningful conversation with others, there’s very little that we can achieve in the blog-o-sphere. Do note the word ‘meaningful’ here. It goes beyond the great post, well written, nice story kind of comments.
2. Optimum utilization of social media for promotions – As much as it is necessary to write, it is also important to promote it on social media for wider reach. However, I would suggest not to overdo it. I have received good response using FB and Twitter as a medium. It is only recently that I have started focusing on Instagram and Pinterest still seems like a far-fetched dream. Having said that, I would emphasize the fact that great content definitely gets rewarded eventually.
3. Do not hesitate to seek help – During the initial months of blogging, I had been snubbed by a senior blogger for asking some ‘frivolous’ questions. We have definitely moved beyond that incident today but this bitter experience conditioned my mindset in a way that I stopped seeking out help. It was only after I met Maya, my closest friend in the virtual world that I realized the technicalities of blogging isn’t so difficult. I will also be eternally grateful to another close friend of mine Ashvini for being a great support and introducing me to the wonder-woman of the blogging world Shailaja. It is really difficult to meet a person as helpful and knowledgeable as her. I have met so many amazing bloggers and writers of late that I realized how vibrant the blogging community is.
4. Take your time to find your niche – Despite the fact that I got a lot of appreciation for my movie reviews and recognition for my articles on other portals, it was only after ‘Deal of Death’ released that I figured out where my heart lay. I started putting my heart and soul into my stories as I transitioned into a fiction writer. In the near future, I have plans of starting a YouTube channel dedicated to the art of storytelling and narration camera.
5. Explore other possibilities in the same domain – I always prefer to call myself a writer because that covers both aspects of being a blogger and a published author. Now I also add the term storyteller to describe my profession and I am looking forward to donning the cap of a speaker next. I have grabbed every relevant opportunity to explore something new and it has turned out to be beneficial.
6. The long-term vision of sustainability – When I started out, my tagline read ‘Embarking on a new journey’ because that described my state. With time, I realized that my blog was basically very high on emotions. Recently, I redefined the tagline as ‘Words, photos & emotions’ summarizing what this blog is all about. Whether blogging is a hobby or a full-time profession, there needs to be a purpose of its existence. As a matter of principle, I don’t do promotions irrelevant to my blog. I have lost out on the financial gains but it makes me happy.
It has been a great year with the booming stats, awards, and recognition. I hope to work harder and bring in stories of wider variety in the future. Thank you for the continued support and love. I’m planning a surprise as part of the birthday celebration very soon, so stay tuned for further details.
Last week onwards, I have started an initiative called the detox day. On a predecided day of the week, I stay away from mobile, laptop, and all social media apps. For these two weeks, it has been Saturday. I spend all my time with my family. Now, I’m the kind of person who promptly responds to a phone message, a DM or a WhatsApp message but I am a little lazy in making and receiving calls. Most of my family members keep complaining about my non-accessibility over the phone, especially the bad habit of rarely returning the calls.
But this week was different. I’d really been affected by the news of the flood-hit Kerala. Quite a few of my B-school batchmates were from this state. After my detox Saturday, I started my Sunday searching for a Kolkata based NGO who were planning to carry relief items to Kerala the coming week. Three numbers were listed. Finding the first two numbers busy, I called the last number.
“Hello Sonia,” a deep voice answered.
A few years back getting addressed by name by a stranger would get me worried. But these days True Caller made that look plausible.
“Hi. Apologies for unable to address you by name because Facebook only had the numbers mentioned. Actually, I have called to ask about the process for contributing to the relief items. I have clothes that could be of help to someone there”
“That’s a noble thought for a good cause. But you need to call the volunteers for this”
“Oh, aren’t you a volunteer?”
“Well, I am expecting some funny reactions to this but I am God. You can choose to call me anything – Bhagwan, Allah, Wahe Guru, Jesus, Almighty.”
“Oh really! Good to see that at least the names belonging to different religions can co-exist. Here we do have a tussle at intervals to figure out whose God is the greatest.” I said sarcastically. This man was wasting my time.
“You still don’t seem very convinced about talking to God.”
I woke up this morning with a bad migraine. The wall clock announced the time as 6 am. Looking at the toddler sleeping beside me, I felt guilty. Yesterday had been an extremely depressing day for me. The editing part of the first novel has been pending for quite a while. The boy had been falling sick quite frequently for the past one month. Last week he had come down with viral flu and had to be confined inside the house for the whole week. Yesterday he wanted to go to the nearby play zone quite badly. Fear of an infection again made me discard the idea. When every mode of trying to make him understand failed, I yelled at him. My son is generally a very sensible kid and so, I try to be as gentle with him as possible. The sleepless nights for the past few days and the slack in my working schedule finally got on my nerves and I vented it out on the hapless boy last evening. I regretted it immediately and apologized to him. I don’t think he even remembered the incident when I put him to sleep last night but I stayed up feeling extremely annoyed with myself. Few drops of tears ran down my cheeks at this moment as I ruffled his hair. That’s when I saw the writing on his magic slate. It read,
Today is your last day on Earth. You have ten hours left and so go ahead and do whatever you want to.
The countdown to say goodbye has already begun.
P.S. – This is not a joke.
I read the message couple of times to ensure that this was not a prank on me. I tried deleting it by pressing the delete button above the writing area on the slate. The words were still prominently visible. It took me a while to understand what was happening. I was going to die and had only a few hours to savor my last moments on this planet.
Looking at my toddler and husband sleeping peacefully, I started shedding silent tears. Oblivious to the grief ahead, they were cuddled up. To get a grip on my emotions, I decided to walk out of the room towards the balcony. My father had arrived here a couple of weeks back to spend some time his grandson. I saw him reading the newspaper in the sitting room while passing through this area. After my toddler started school, I rarely had the luxury of spending time appreciating the beauty of nature. But today I decided to relish every single moment.