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.
I grew up as a single child in a small town in Bengal called Berhampore. Every year my Professor father ensured that we had two vacations. The first one was always planned and it took us to Kolkata, then Calcutta. My mother had her parents staying in that city and I was amazed how different a metro city was from my town. But what I would look forward to was the unplanned vacation to a new destination during summer holidays. My parents would keep me guessing until we reached the spot. As I grew up, I would try to open the bags to see if winter clothes were packed because that would mean a vacation in the hills. Every year that I went back home, I took back fond memories of places I have visited and left a part of me in those places.
Much later, when I asked them about this game of suspense, my Dad had disclosed that he wanted me to feel the thrill of exploring the world without any preset ideas. He believed in striking a balance between bucket list, which helped tick off items after fulfilling of wishes and #TheBlindList which taught me to keep my heart and mind open to experiencing new things. This is how began my journey of travel to explore new destinations. Darjeeling, which was one of the first ever vacation spot for me is a personal favorite even today.
As I grew up, I moved to Kolkata for higher studies. This was my first date with the world. An eighteen-year-old was trusted by her parents and Permitted to stay on her own so that she could pursue her dreams. There were deterrents in the form of discriminatory behavior in college, heart breaks in the form of relationships gone wrong, harassment by random men that led to cringeworthy moments but I didn’t let the negativity ruin my journey.
I grew up in a household where speaking the truth was not just encouraged but diligently practiced. Baba always believed that when one speaks the truth, one always stays true to their conscience. Besides the stated facts always stay the same. Ma had the same version personalized when she had asked me to always be the first one to let them know the truth, even if it was something that might leave them appalled. Such principles shaped my nature and character in such a way that I grew extremely close and comfortable with my parents. I knew that I was believed in my house and was one of the strongest factors that built my confidence. The only not so likable attribute that I developed because of speaking the truth was my inability to sugar-coat my words or be diplomatic in my approach.
#MeToo was a movement started last year by Tarana Burke that exposed monsters like Harvey Weinstein. Since then, there have been skeletons tumbling out of closets everywhere. However, it is only recently that this movement gained mass momentum in India after Tanushree Dutta called out Nana Patekar in a decade-old case of harassment. And for the past few days, there have been stories about media personalities, journalists, writers and stand up comics. People like Utsav Chakraborty, Gautam Adhikari, Kiran Nagarkar, Kailash Kher and many others have been called out by women who have faced harassment in their hands. India has finally woken up to #MeTooIndia and #TimeUp movement.
Amidst all this, I realize how pathetic the state of affairs is in our country. Is there any girl who has not faced harassment at any level ever? Right from being groped in crowded buses, receiving unsolicited pictures of private parts, getting masturbated at and being felt up, the list seems to be endless. Beyond a point, every girl has learned to keep her sixth sense in the maximum alert mode and be armed with a device for protection like a pepper spray. Even I have had the most horrible experiences. Most of these abusers were random people whose perverted minds derived pleasure from such sickening acts. But what does one do when this kind of sexual predator lurks in their closest circle!
S has been a family friend for ages. His father had been my Baba’s friend and mentor. Despite the huge age difference, I grew up calling S as Dada (elder brother in Bengali). I had met him many times as a child and always found him to be affectionate and caring towards me. So, I was taken aback when I felt his hands brush my chest area on the pretext of picking up a paper from the table. I was barely thirteen then. But I was so sure that it had happened by mistake that I forgot about it soon. Unfortunately, this started becoming a pattern very soon. I met him during family functions and festivals and each time he made me so uncomfortable that I started avoiding him. The mere sight of him would make me run indoors. Sadly, my parents loved him like their own son and they could never understand my sudden disappearances. The hide and seek game went on for another two years till it was my board exams and I was excused from attending all events until I completed my exams.
I stood near the door of the ICU gathering my thoughts. I knew that I would be bombarded by questions the moment I walked out. I understood how anxious they had been for the last one week. It was not easy for any family to see their child in a state of coma with little hope for revival immediately after giving birth to a baby.
They had been hesitant to consult me until it became evident that the pregnant girls’ condition was worsening. Her blood pressure refused to come down even as the due date drew nearer. Her body had started swelling up because of fluid accumulation leading to edema. I wonder why her gynecologist didn’t realize the criticality of the situation and insist on a premature delivery!
I took control of the situation despite knowing that I was mostly fighting a lost battle. Getting a team together in a Government hospital of a Tier-2 city wasn’t an easy job. No gynecologist was ready to take her case initially because of the risks involved. So I had no option but to encash on my personal equations within the fraternity to ensure that she gets the best facilities despite limited means.
A week back, her c-section had led to a successful delivery. The families danced with joy as the bundle of happiness arrived in the form of a baby girl. I left the hospital around 2am knowing that God had helped me win a race against life. Both the mother and baby had been doing fine.
But my happiness was short-lived. At 6am in the morning, when my phone screen buzzed with a call from the hospital’s land-line number, I knew there was bad news. My fears were justified as I was told how the new mother had concussions followed by a heart attack. She had slipped into the comatose state. I rushed to see her in the hospital ICU. Except for her eyelids, no part of her body responded.
For the last one week, she had been on life support system. I saw the families crumbling in front of my eyes, trying to fathom the uncertain future that lay ahead. It pained me the most to think of the plight of the newborn. Every time I saw the baby, I was reminded of my own two-year-old.
The TV channels had been abuzz with Industrialist Ajay Raj’s life imprisonment term. The CBI investigation had revealed a Bank locker in the name of his deceased second wife Nita containing shocking details of Ajay’s illegal dealings. He was arrested with charges of murder of Nita.
Tia sat on the cane chair sipping wine. The gorgeous view of the sea made her nostalgic.
“Lawyer Misra has sent across the papers. You’re now the legal owner of your mother’s empire.”
Tia smiled at the lady with gratitude.
Ajay had killed Anu for her property. However, Anu had outsmarted Ajay by naming the then eight-year-old Tia as the official heir to her property. If anything happened to Tia until she turned eighteen, the property was to be handed over to a trust.
Except Anu and lawyer Misra, only Anu’s best friend Nita had known about this will. Nita had stepped in to protect Tia by marrying Ajay.
Tia had turned eighteen last month. Knowing that Ajay had been planning to get rid of her next, Nita and Tia had devised a plan of faking Nita’s death. It had not only saved Tia but together they had managed to avenge Anu’s murder.
This is the 11th post written as part of the #MyfriendAlexa campaign as per my theme ‘Shades of Perception’. This is a sequel of the 10th post that can be read here. Link to the remaining nine posts is 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.
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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.
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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.