The year was 2011. I turned thirty on 29th May and was about to get married in three weeks. I had taken a week off in April for the engagement (ashirwaad, as we call in Bengali), and had applied for 2 weeks’ leave in June for the wedding. So, the birthday celebration was restricted to office colleagues and a couple of friends in Mysore. When I spoke to Ma that afternoon, she insisted that I buy a new set of clothes for my birthday. I laughed it off, saying that I was already getting an ensemble of clothes for my wedding. That was the end of the conversation, or so I thought.
On the day my husband and I left our hometown to begin a new chapter as husband and wife, Ma handed me a new salwar kameez set. During the peak rush of wedding preparations, Ma and Baba hadn’t forgotten my birthday gift. Little did I know that it was going to be my last birthday gift from her. In five months, her love and gifts became a memory for my survival.
In the last decade, I’ve restricted my birthday gifts to usually books, journals, pens, cakes, or items related to my writing journey. I never accepted a dress for my birthday. But this year, I made an exception. When Baba asked me to purchase something of my choice, I asked him to buy me a new dress. It took me a decade to get over the fact that Ma would never coax me to get a new dress for my birthday again. Besides, 1.5 years of the pandemic taught me that it is essential to savor every moment with those who mean the world and hold on to them as tightly as possible.
Amidst all the gifts, the kid gave me the most thoughtful one. While drafting the second novel, I wrote the plot, updates, and scenes in a journal simultaneously. By the time I sent the story to my literary agent, I reached the last page of the journal. While I got a few amazing notebooks/diaries as gifts, the child made his father search for an identical journal and pilot pen sets so that I feel happy and write a story for him next.
Tender moments and thoughtful gestures like these make me believe that we still have hope left in the world.
It’s a great feeling to get back into this recap mode sharing throwback memories from 2018. After January, February and March, April and May, we move on to the middle of the year as I cherish memories from June and shudder at the thought of July this year.
June marked my entry into fiction writing as I participated in the Write Tribe Festival of Words for the first time. I discovered my love for writing short stories and flash fiction and my blogging journey took off in a new direction.
Zain glanced through the messages of his old school buddies Whatsapp group. Most of his friends had pictures clicked during the ongoing Durga Puja as their Whatsapp status. Some of them had updated Whatsapp status video related to pandal hopping and celebration.
Despite belonging to a different religion, Durga Puja had always held a special place in his life because of his best friends, the twins Samay and Srestha. But the equations changed on a different night of Puja, twelve years back.
The three of them were soon to leave for different cities for higher studies. Zain had been dating Srestha for six months then. Before he got an opportunity to talk to Samay about their relationship, Samay had walked into Srestha hugging Zain on their terrace on that unfortunate night.
Samay had asked Zain to choose between their friendship and his love for Srestha immediately. Zain had picked their friendship at the cost of breaking Srestha’s heart. Zain left his hometown next month with a vow to never return again.
Srestha had been married to Samay’s senior in Engineering college three years back. This year, she had returned back home with a broken spirit and bruised body after months of physical abuse by her husband. Zain had come to know about it through the Whatsapp group.
Even after so many years, he had kept his heart sealed for Srestha. He waited for the day when Samay could display the requisite faith in their friendship to let him take his relationship with Srestha to the next level. Until then, Zain kept the flame of hope alive in his life through his unrequited love for Srestha.
Tanu checked into the thirteenth floor of the hotel in the city of her birth. She had found love here. They been best friends in school and moved on to different streams in college. Eventually, they had accepted and acknowledged their feelings for each other.
But like most of the love stories, she had been left heartbroken. Her lover had married someone else under pressure from the family. Tanu remembered the nights of tears and pain. She had left the city thinking it would help her move on. But with time, Tanu had realized that loving someone else was never going to be an option in her life.
Last week she had received a mail. It read,
Section 377 has been scrapped. I know it’s been eighteen years since we last spoke but do you think we have a chance now?
She didn’t know if there was a future but what she understood was that Sudha also still loved her. Tanu had decided to give it a chance.
Looking at the skyline from the glazed window of her room, her heart thumped loudly as she waited for the bell to ring. Sudha was due to arrive anytime now.
This is the 7th post written as part of the #MyfriendAlexa campaign as per my theme ‘Shades of Perception’. You can read the first six 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 third 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
The incident dates back to July 2011. I was heading a Bank branch in Mysore at that time. It was the first month after marriage and my husband had just relocated from Kolkata. I had a strange obsession with finding an accommodation near my office. Thus with every transfer or job switch, my address kept changing. The house where we resided as tenants were barely two kms from my Bank. Mysore was a town that thrived on human interactions, so almost everyone in the neighborhood knew about my doctor husband and his banker wife.
As per our daily schedule, my husband had to leave quite early in the morning while 8:45am was when I usually took an auto to the Bank. This made locking the house my responsibility. We occupied the first floor of the house and it had two open balconies. The front one led to the main entrance and the one at the back faced an area designated for a park. It had a large number of trees. My house owner had warned me about rechecking the locked status of both the balcony doors before leaving the house. It was for our own safety, he had wisely said. Unfortunately, I neither had a chance nor considered this piece of advice important enough to pass on to my husband.
It so happened that on a particular morning in July, I had to leave the house much before my usual time to attend a meeting. I had wrongly assumed that he would check and lock both the doors before moving out. The meeting had been a full day event and I returned home directly from the venue quite early in the evening. My house owner, who was generally a pleasant man had a very disapproving look on his face. Without thinking much, I walked up the stairs to open the door.
The word ‘shock’ would be a very mild term to express my reaction next. For every nook and corner of my apartment was occupied by a bunch of monkeys. They seemed to have had a satisfying meal of fruits, chips, biscuits and whatever they could lay their hands on. The flat resembled a house struck by a tornado. I let out a scream while wondering how to get rid of the monkeys. In a while, there were neighbors from the surrounding areas near my apartment churning out ideas about how to chase the monkeys away. Some of these ideas were so bizarre that they could put the word ‘innovation’ to shame. To anyone willing to lend an ear, my owner kept talking about how he had cautioned me about the danger of keeping balcony doors open. I honestly had no clue that when he spoke of how unsafe it was, he had monkeys instead of humans in mind.
Half an hour had passed and the monkeys couldn’t care less. They had comfortably settled in. I was getting worried about the uncertainty of being a resident here anymore. Suddenly I spotted my husband getting out of an auto downstairs. I started rushing down the stairs. Mysore was still considered as a conservative city with a good percentage of my neighbors falling in the category of senior citizens. I knew that at that moment they were looking, but I didn’t care. I ran to him anyway just like Kajol in the climax of the Bollywood movie DDLJ. I couldn’t resist myself from hugging him tight though I knew we were in the streets and all pairs of eyes were on us. My husband was still not sure why there was a crowd in front of our house and my sudden public display of affection but the actions of newly marrieds are rarely justified. He had attributed it to my overflowing love for him while in reality, I was breathing a sigh of relief that I finally had someone who would probably be a little less scared than me.
Finally one of my office boys arrived with a group of people who managed to drive away the monkeys out of the house. They grudgingly left but not before eating away all possibly edible items, throwing away quite a few things including one of my oldest mobile phone sets and creating havoc in the house to such an extent that the effort required in fixing it led to a slipped disc injury in less than two weeks. But that’s a story for another day.
Through the classroom window, Tiya spotted Raisha slouched on the ground. She ran down the array of stairs to call Arjun. They needed to carry her back home immediately.
“I had to give up my cricket match for this wasted friend of yours.” Arjun sounded annoyed. “You have been trying so hard but she doesn’t want to cooperate at all.”
“We have been dating for two months now but do you know how scared I would feel to even walk down these stairs alone? When I shifted from Jhansi to Delhi, I was bullied incessantly in the campus for my looks and accent. Raisha barely knew me yet she stood up for me. When she realized that I missed home, she started finding excuses to take me to her house. Her mom made me feel like family. Raisha had grown up without a father but when she lost her mom to cancer three months back, she sunk into depression and turned towards drugs. How can I abandon her today when she needs me the most?”, tears rolled down Tiya’s cheeks.
Arjun held Tiya’s hands firmly. Together, they would help a friend retrace her steps towards a normal life, he promised.
This is the second post written as part of the #MyfriendAlexa campaign as per my theme ‘Shades of Perception’. You can read the first post written around the same picture prompt here.
For this challenge, I will be using four photos as prompts to weave two flash fiction stories and one real story behind the picture. Stay tuned to read the third post that will be about this picture and its significance. 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
This year, T and I completed two decades of being friends. This is inclusive of the few years of dating and seven years of being married. I had written a post some time back describing how it took us a decade, a broken relationship each and three cities to realize that we were destined to be together. This time, I thought of writing about the fate of romance post marriage.
We were married in June 2011. During that period, my Banking job had me posted in Mysore and T relocated from Kolkata to enroll in an M. D. course there. The initial few months were filled with fun, frolic, and food. We realized that we had so many things in common. We loved movies, experimenting with food and traveling. While I loved the mountains, he preferred the sea but we considered that to be an opportunity to explore different locations together. If there was one area that we never wanted to visit, it had to be the Forests. That is why despite being so near, we never planned a trip to Bandipur or Masinagudi. Truth is that I’m actually scared of any creature bigger than a cockroach. So from lizards to elephants, I would not want any kind of rendezvous with them.
Birthdays and special occasions meant grand celebration with cakes, flowers, balloons, and gifts. Life couldn’t have been more perfect.
If you ask me what gift can make me the happiest, I would always say books. The smell of a book or the feeling evoked from touching it is sanctimonious for me. That is why if someone asks me to choose between a paperback or e-book, I will always choose the former.
Books have been an integral part of my growing up years. My father, now a retired Mathematics Professor has always been fond of Bengali literature. My mother would read out stories from the children’s books and my fascination for the written word began. Once I discovered the love of reading on my own, I sucked into a world of my own.
I must have been in class 5 when I was introduced to Satyajit Ray. During summer vacation that year, one of his Detective novels ‘Sonar Kella’ adapted to a movie kept playing on TV. I was enthralled by it. I remember studying hard for the final term exams that year because Baba had promised a double treat of books by Ray if I ranked in the top three.
Thus began my journey with the razor-sharp and intelligent sleuth Feluda aka Pradosh C Mitter. Assisted by his cousin brother Tapesh Ranjan aka Topshe and friend Lalmohan Ganguly aka Jatayu, they traveled from the banks of the Ganges in Benaras to the Thames in London.
Each year, I would eagerly be waiting for the book fair held during winters. I would pick up all the new Feluda books, Ray’s other books, and some more detective thrillers. These books were then kept in Ma’s custody until my second term exams were over. I can never forget the way I would rush back home to claim my most cherished possession after the last exam.
Throughout my growing years, winter afternoons had occupied a special place in my heart. I remember sitting on a carpet spread over the veranda floor, sipping coffee and reading books. Ma would give me company some days and so those afternoons were spent narrating a story from any of my favorite books to her.
My husband (T) and my toddler (also T) are the best of friends. Senior T is posted in a city far away from Kolkata. He travels back to the city only over the weekends. Whenever Senior T is at home, Junior T doesn’t leave him even for a minute. With the onset of monsoon seasons, Junior T has been suffering from recurring viral fever. A couple of weeks back, he was still in the recovery process and had been missing his father a lot. His father decided to surprise him by turning up a day earlier than usual. On spotting his father after waking up, the surprised toddler jumped on him out of joy while senior T instantly lifted him up higher leading to a moment worth capturing.
If someone asks me what makes me happy, I can probably recollect only a couple of things that really make me feel like I’m on top of the world. But till date, I have never really sat down and listed them. This prompt gave me an opportunity to take a break from the usual routine and reflect instead. I started remembering moments, people and things that made me happy. So here’s my most precious thirty –
The three men in my life –
My toddler, my husband and my father bring out the best in me. I am the happiest when I am around them. Spending time with my father, having a heartfelt conversation with my husband and cuddling my toddler always bring a smile to my face. Also, the story time that I have with my toddler before he sleeps every night last is our moment of togetherness and bonding.
I have a handful of friends but I am grateful for their presence in my life. Conversations with them really lift up my spirits.
I quit my job as a Banker to chase my passion for writing last year. And till date, I consider this to be the best decision of my life. When I write, I am the happiest.
The tag of a published author –
This year in the month of May, I published my debut novella ‘Deal of Death’ on the Blogchatter platform. Until then I was a blogger but this opportunity made me an author. While I am still giving it finishing touches before putting it up on Amazon, I will always consider the moment of transitioning into a published author as one of the happiest ones of my life.
I love the rainy season, especially if I have the option to stay indoors. The smell of the earth after rains is probably one of my most favorite ones.
Purchasing and reading them, especially thrillers gives me a high. I am still orthodox in the way I read my books. I prefer to hold them while reading instead of the e-book version. Also, the smell of a new book is beautiful.