Kahani Ek – Teen Endings

 

Kahani #1

“Neha, I’ve chosen a boy for you”

“But Daddy I love someone deeply”

“Girl, Mine works in a Fortune500 company”

“Daddy, mine says I’m his good fortune, has 500 nice things to say about me”

“Neha, my Raj will take you for a cruise on the Thames, for dinner by the Eiffel Tower”

“Daddy, my Rahul will take me to Tirthan and serenade”

“Neha, think about your FB profile after marriage!”

Neha thought deeply.

After fifteen days NehaRaj updated her FB, Instagram with pictures of her honeymoon in Europe with hashtags like #soulmate #truelove

Love is also being practical!

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Kahani #2

“Neha, I have chosen a boy for you”

“But Daddy I love someone else deeply”

“Neha, My choice works in a Fortune 500 company”

“Daddy, my choice says I’m his good fortune and has 500 nice things to say about me”

“Neha, my choice, Raj, will take you for a cruise on the Thames and for dinner by the Eiffel Tower”

“Daddy, my choice Rahul will take me to Nainital and serenade”

“Okay Neha, how do you like your FB profile to look?”

Neha thought deeply.

After a few days, Neha updated her FB profile, Instagram with pictures of her checking into a Grad-School with hashtags like #LoveCanWaitStudiesCan’t  #LifeGoals

Love is also about loving self! Deeply!!

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Kahani #3

“Neha, I have chosen a boy for you”

“But Daddy I love someone else deeply”

“Neha, My choice works in a Fortune 500 company”

“Daddy, my choice says I’m his good fortune and has 500 nice things to say about me”

“Neha, my choice, Raj, will take you for a cruise on the Thames and for dinner by the Eiffel Tower”

“Daddy, my choice Rahul will take me to Shimla and serenade”

“Okay Neha, how do you like your FB profile to look?”

Neha thought deeply.

After a few days, Neha Rahul updated her FB profile, Instagram with pictures of her checking into an Airbnb with hashtags like #LoveMakesTheWorldBetter #LifeGoals

Because Rahul completes Neha! Neha treasures Rahul

Because True Love is a difficult treasure to find and hold onto!

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When Padma Bani Paula – The background Story

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What do you do when a seemingly harmless email pops up, asking your permission to publish your story?

First, you check the date. Nope, it ain’t April 1st. Then you pinch yourself. Having screamed out aloud, you then trawl the emailer’s online presence. Once satisfied with the credentials, you then succumb and open the gateways to the dreams, that you didn’t know existed!

Five years back, if someone told me, that I would be a story-teller one day, I would have wryly remarked, ‘that’s a tall story’. After all, I’m not trained in the subtle nuances of this tricky language nor did I harbor any dreams of getting published. Ever! Mind you, I had even declared Florence Nightingale to be a promiscuous one! Well, I thought, that was a terrific adjective. 

But when Readomania gave a new direction to the meandering Moi, I started moonlighting seriously as a tale-spinner. Taken up by my giddy new avatar, my mater and pater took their roles of direction-givers very seriously. I would often get FaceTime lessons from them on sentence formation and grammar intricacies. I finally drew a line when my daughter threatened to do the same.

I learnt early on in life, ‘either you like it or lump it’ and the easiest way to cope with life is to laugh at it. I started dabbling in funny pieces, as they resonated with others.

Readomania ran a couple of story-contests where the requisite genre was humor. I wrote a small story based on the ladies around my condo.

This time the Gods and their Goddesses were solidly on my team, though I hadn’t promised them any special services of 100 laddoos or 10 coconuts. This story struck a chord with Readomania and a germ of a novel was born.

And a meeting with the head-honcho, Dipankar Mukherjee, was set up at a happening coffee-shop.

I still remember the first time, I was going to meet Dipankar. I was figuring out mentally, ways to sound intelligent. This was a novel idea you see! I had to assimilate so much and I was barely equipped.  Meanwhile, my excited young daughter came running and offered me her school notebook (with the school logo, picture, and postal address) to take notes. My husband sagely suggested taking my red pen along.

(I also moonlight as a tutor! I tell you, it is all about confidence! With a straight face, you can pull off so many fast ones on the unsuspecting public 😀 )

If only I had recorded Dipankar’s absolutely nonplussed reaction for posterity! What violent churn of emotions went through his mind as he saw me plot-plotting with a red ink pen in a school notebook! Must have had a second thoughts about the whole deal surely.

Now that the story was progressing well (on paper that is), a laptop was the next natural acquisition. I wanted the best ( My dear Mac-Air, my partner in this writing journey) and I wasn’t settling for a gift. After a slog at work, with my husband playing the Santa, on a cold Christmas afternoon, we brought her home.

The setting was ready, yet there was barely a skeleton of a plot.

How much could you stretch a 200-word story? Stretch I did!

Having wound the story up at 22k, I felt I had arrived. Dipankar was patience personified and it was back to the drawing board. Apparently, I had to add more 😀 So I took expert advice.

Deepti Menon and Vasudha Chandana Gulati read the first draft and gave their inputs. Arpita Banerjee was extremely supportive during the initial stages. Indrani is probably the nicest editor one can ask for. I’m sure Gods were remembered by all of them, at various stages. (My dear supportive fellow Readomaniacs )

It was a tremendous learning experience. Multiple layers were added and characters with enough back stories surfaced. Slowly the story began to stitch itself seamlessly.

During these iterations, for a while, my magnum-opus remained just that.

‘A work in progress’! (just like me)

While the rest of the world zoomed ahead brilliantly, inflicting me with those eternal existential dilemmas.

What is the worst emotional hara-kiri an author can do to self during this waiting period?

Get those very colorful and lyrical invites to the book launches of friends, foes, and countrymen, just to add some gravitas ( more like filling the seats actually ). Talk about rubbing salt on the wounds!

Vexed, I continued to attend those book launches, looked wise, picked up a copy, made some noise about how well my 9th draft was coming along (if someone asked, that is) and dragged myself home.

I became an expert at grinning and bearing it. ‘Someday I shall prevail!’ was my clarion call.

Destiny was with me. And just like that, one fine day, the editor sent a cryptic mail – ‘This is good to go’.

And that’s When AJ Bani Author!

A long cherished dream was finally a reality. I made it!

I don’t know what tomorrow holds nor do I want to unduly worry about it. I want to savor this moment, cherish and lock it up forever. Right now, I feel at the top of the world.

I keep my fingers crossed and pray that the world embraces ‘When Padma Bani Paula’ like Shah Rukh welcomes his heroines – Dono Bahein Poora Phelake :D

WPBP – my second chance at acing Karma!

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My labour of love has reached many homes

Now please utter those three super magical words.
‘Bought Your Book’ 😀

Please click on the link shared below 🏵

https://www.amazon.in/dp/9385854615

#Readomania

When death comes calling

love3I had been very restless since afternoon.

Apparently, one’s sixth sense warns you when something terrible is about to happen. I couldn’t quite put my finger to it, but I knew, all I had to do was to wait for the Tsunami to unleash its expected destruction.

I haven’t made my introduction yet have I?

I am…Why go into names? I am one of those thousands of brides whose husbands have gone back to the war front to guard the nation or to war-torn nations to earn some much-needed moolah, after impregnating us.

So that I’m not alone in his absence. I have someone to tend to, attend to.

How many tearful and sleepless nights had been spent clutching the cold pillow for comfort?

How many festivals went by praying for his safety, while every inch of my core pined for his smile, the twirl of his moustache whenever he saw me eyeing his broad back surreptitiously?

One fateful day, he became a mere statistic for the government. They declared him, ‘missing in action’.

And my reality came crashing down and an ambivalent paradise became my escape.

The rest of the world got on with its business while I oscillated between prayers and pathos!

Was he there or not? Am I a wife or a widow? With every turn of the calendar, our memories together started getting hazier. A vigil was all I had. I barely remembered the timber of his baritone. He even smelt and looked different in my dreams.

I was angry with myself. I wasn’t even loyal or devoted to the idea of my missing-for-long-husband.

What had I become?

The mounting debts, growing kids, whining elders and reducing income had robbed me of my softcore.

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And the Tsunami came as silently as possible but with an unforeseen vengeance.

A clinical declaration by the powers-to-be said, my husband had been shot dead. And the body hadn’t been found yet.

But the mourning by all had started almost immediately.

The depressing wailing was soon seeping into the muddy crumbling walls whereas I just wanted to sleep.

A painless sleep. A dreamless sleep. A contented sleep.

I sat with the wailing mob, watching them beat their chests, watching the evening shadows make patterns on the closing-in-walls.

I thought of running away from this morbid courtyard but I still participated in the proceedings wordlessly.

My eyes were totally dry. Why wasn’t I crying?

My aching breaking body gave out a huge sigh of relief.

I realized I didn’t have to tend to his memories anymore.

I could exhale. I could breathe. I could restart from where I had paused my life. I could move on.

Oh, Lord! Why was I turning out to be this monster? Why wasn’t I grieving?

I then understood, because I loved him so, his death shouldn’t be my sentence.  He was in a better place and I was too.

I had punished myself enough by vacillating between hope and despair. Now I had a closure.

It was time to let go. It was also the time to cherish him and grieve too.

And I crumpled up and bawled away.

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39 lives!

And so many interconnected dependent lives

Pregnant Dreams and Hopes on pause

Now a mere mirage of 4 years of relentless, restless wait

Cruelly wiped off with a mere declaration.

Will there be closure? Even peace?

When you have a family to come back to You are one of the luckiest on Earth!

 

/* For those who lost their loved ones in the line of duty. A loss is tough to deal with but the uncertainty is even tougher*/

Never Too Late

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This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

She sat on the bed caressing his pressed, crisp uniform, wiping away the non-existent tears. The tears had dried up but the searing, gnawing, ache remained like a permanent cloak, sapping all her energy and zest.

‘Is it already a year? Wasn’t it only yesterday, that the moment the informer had called, he wore his uniform and ran to attend the call of duty, promising to finish his favourite meal later, when he returned successful?’

He never kept to his promise. A definite first!

Only a dreaded call ensued, a casket clad in the Tricolor arrived  and a swarm of grieving people descended into her empty home.

‘He embraced death to give us a second chance at life’, they held her and shed copious tears as he was given the ceremonial send off.

The number of visitors reduced to a trickle as the cruel time marched ahead and she was left alone, tending to her permanent sores.

Public memory is ephemeral. If this were to be the harsh reality where everybody had moved on, while only her world had been devastated, why did he take this step? Not one remembered his sacrifice and yet he never shirked his duty. Did he even think about her or the repercussions, in his last minutes at least?

Why didn’t he leave the call of duty to others?

As the dark evening set in, the phone rang.

“Namaste Maam, we are having a service tomorrow in the memory of your brave husband. The very reason, we live…Could you please come?”

She smiled for the first time in the day.

They had remembered. It wasn’t all in vain.  It is never too late to remember your martyrs or to salute them.

She cuddled the uniform once again, feeling his warmth envelop all over her. She didn’t feel lonely now!

When you live for others…You live on…For ever

 

A dream to remember

 

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This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

Author’s note :  It is actually surreal that this week’s Write Over the Weekend (WOW) prompt, asks us to tell BlogAdda, about a dream that has stayed on, in our subconsciousness. A dream to remember, that often makes us sit up and wonder about it’s mysteriousness. I had this dream about a year back.  I wrote this note to self, all about it, lest I forget the dream, with passage of time.

I reproduce the same  here-

It was one of the most difficult cars to navigate. A mother-of-pearl-white, gigantic Ambassador. That too for a person like me, who did not know how to drive! Against my volition, I was just thrust into the driver’s seat and asked to drive…Just like that!

The controls were all wired terribly wrong. A bus-like gear system, clutch else where, an accelerator in place of a brake and adding to this chaos was the incessant traffic. Enough to break a person.

To my utter delight, I coped beautifully. I drove slowly, avoided collisions and managed to park in a beautiful, lush green colony with happy faces and gamboling children.

Alas, the dark night came in sharply. It was time to head back. The evening traffic and T intersection seemed impossible to overcome.  I then realized with a start, that I was in the rear passenger seat.

A pristine-white clad man with the most benevolent smile, was in the driver’s seat. He navigated with dexterity and cautioned me about an open door in the front, next to the passenger seat, where my first born was sitting.  As I sat transfixed, able to comprehend the gravity of the situation but simply unable to take any action, the pristine-white clad man shut the door for me and continued cruising along.

I saw that there was a steering wheel, clutch, accelerator, brake, in front of me, attached to the driver’s seat.  I tried to use them, to no avail. As the dream ended, the meaning of this entire sequence, hit me with a startling clarity.

All along, I had thought, it was I, who did the driving but all I had, were the dummy controls!

It was all along He!  And Him alone, who steered, navigated the course of my life and who watched out for me!!

Especially when the troubles hit me, making me paralyzed with fear.

So I could hope to soar, with renewed spirit and vigor, with a strong belief that I wasn’t alone in this journey of life!

 

I shall go on

#Blogathon #ALetterToHer,

#AFightAgainstDomesticViolence  

 

Khaab ZNMD

Dearest AJ,

It is me, your long forgotten self-confidence. It has been a while since we last met, isn’t it?

Firstly, isn’t it strange to pen a letter to self? Sometimes, when the outer world smothers you, emasculates you, you need your dormant, deep-hidden, inner-self to find voice and tell you  to hang on, to inhale and exhale. To live beyond the simple day-to-day surviving.

Now, walk to the nearest mirror and take a long look at self. Do you recognize this tired, listless, lifeless reflection? Well I don’t!

Was this the same wondrous visage that went about chasing rainbows, spread life, laughter wherever she went? How many tears have those sunken eyes shed, to lose all their luster? Why are those dry, cracked lips curved down? Where has that sunshine smile disappeared?

Dig deep into your soul and pull out that lost ‘You’. You were the one who was going make the impossible, possible. Find the strength honey, to believe, to breathe, to move on and to march ahead.

You have to remember the promises you made to yourself. Now make them a reality. You owe that much to yourself.

Rise up like the Phoenix from the very ashes of your present, to soar high and paint a much brighter tomorrow.

The pain is searing I agree! The humiliation is beyond endurance and you blame yourself for all that has gone wrong in this relationship!

What will others say?

No dear, no one gets to have an opinion on your life, unless they are paying the bills. On hindsight, not even after that! 

So walk out before even you forget that you exist. No doubt, it is going to be a Herculean task to rebuild but we both are going to do so, brick by brick.

Do read Meena Kandasamy’s latest novel, When I Hit You  http://bit.ly/Meenabk2.  It is an account of an abusive marriage and it forces one to examine the notions of domestic abuse.

I will be waiting for your resurgence.

Till then,

Yours truly

AJ

 

Fresh Beginnings

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It is that time of the year, yet again. The night before Holi.

As I watch the raging fire, I wonder about the three things that I would like burn this weekend.

My angst,  my anger, my loss of faith! So the willful mind begins to meander.

On any given day, one will find me shuffling along, on the dirt tracks of Lodhi Gardens. Most often, I sit at the foot steps of the tomb, watching the artists work, hoping to find peace.

They say, the mausoleums bring solace to the searching and tired. But even here, I am restless. Nothing fills this terrible vacuum.

Eventually, I drag myself back to my place. I cannot even call that. Just empty brick walls which remind me of you every second and the laughter that once filled these spaces!

Mechanically, I finish the daily humdrum and go to work. I’m always the first to report and last to leave. I work till I drop. Someone reminds me it is time to eat. I nod and continue. One thing is for sure. Out of sheer ennui, even the polite and kind social graces have begun to dry up. Also I’m flagged out of most of the happening soirees.

How long can one try?  

I come back to sleep only when I am barely able to stand.

These days, I use only the crowded public transport but I still feel all alone in the entire world. I want to scream my lungs out but the words don’t come out. Do you know how it is to feel lonesome in a crowd? That droning drowning sound of silence in your ears when there is babbling cacophony around? 

It wasn’t always like this. I  had you – my loving wife  and our beautiful daughter. Our  perfect family! We made just enough to let our lives bloom.

And then on one fine day, I decided to surprise you with a car on your birthday. You were ecstatic and the pure joy in your eyes made you all the more irresistible. I promised myself I would show you how I felt, later that night. But first we had to take the car for a spin. Daughter  jumped into the backseat clapping and singing. You,  my wife, sat next to me. You looked specially beautiful in your red sari. As I sped, I turned to take in your beauty, to give you a quick peck and BAMMM

I never saw the truck ramming into us. All I remember was the car spinning and my blackening out. And just like that, in a flash, everything was finished. I was left to bear the painful brunt. That has been my singular reference point of self-loathe! 

I destroyed my ephemeral heaven with my own hands and created a permanent hell.

But for my momentary lapse of concentration, You would be there with me right now. Everyone says,”Stop blaming yourself. It was all destined. You cannot do anything about it.”

What do they know? Were they there in my seat?

The elders constantly deliberate marriage for me.

Don’t they know that the living dead have nothing to share or give.

Your love, my love, holds me hostage to the memories we have made. With all my willpower, I try to inhale. I barely breathe!

So I just bide my time. May be just maybe, I will find my miracle, my saviour!. 

Till Then…It is my cross to bear!

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

what I DIDN’T do this weekend!

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‘This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

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Firstly, I did not let the clock run every second of my day.

Then I did not walk away from the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. I did not give my usual perfunctory glance to the news rags, thinking it is anyways all about gore and loot.

I also did not stop myself from admiring the wondrous sunrise or sunset. I didn’t run away from the beauty of blooming buds, without wondering about God’s dexterity and artistry at infusing so much of colour and beauty all around.

I didn’t slink away from conversations, citing lack of time. I didn’t stop myself from ruffling a cherubic moppet’s hair as she jumped around in gay abandon. I didn’t hesitate from complementing the neighbourhood beauties or berating the unruly wastrels.

I did not put speed-breakers on my cartwheeling heart,  when a precious goodie I had been lusting after, arrived.

I didn’t follow that four lettered word called diet.

I didn’t not fail to see  the goodness in others and not let the chain of passing the baton, stop with me.

I did not stop those tears rolling down or try to hold it all together.

I didn’t wrinkle my nose at the pervading polluting smells.

Instead, I exhaled the dullness out and inhaled deep and let life fill all over me. Slowly and suddenly all at once, like love.

As Mandy Hale said “You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go and see what happens.” 

Simply put, I didn’t fret or fume or beg for God’s bigger mercies!

His blessings were already there. I just didn’t see them clearly, earlier.

Letting go is learning to live!

 

A Valentine Tale

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Aslesha looked around her office. Somehow there was too much red all around, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner.

Aslesha hated February. It was the month that had given her love and also had asked so much of her.

Aslesha instinctively looked at the date and shuddered.

14th Feb, was just a week away. It took her a whole year to recover from the effect of this day. Year after year. A never ending emotional ringer

For, it was the day, when Amir had proposed to her and years later, on the very same day, she chose to pull the plug on him.

Amir And Aslesha, were as different as chalk and cheese. She was a beauteous brainy. He was a brawny charmer. They were classmates at the university. Amir was struck by the thunderbolt as soon as he saw her. He pursued Aslesha ardently. Aslesha came from a very conservative background and she knew that religion would be the deal breaker. She tried her very best to keep away but soon succumbed to his wooing. Two years whirred past, while they became closer and closer.

They both acquired their degrees and were now ready to take on the world. They decided to get hitched. All hell broke loose in their respective families. Hastily alternate alliances were settled after threats of suicides and mass killings.

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One fine day, Amir and Aslesha escaped to the Maximum city, after tying the knot and disappeared into the pulsating crowd. It was the 14th of Feb. They both found jobs and set up a small loving home. Soon Shehzyada, their son, arrived on the scene. Everything was just perfect though Families had disowned them

They say,  life comes in waves of crests and troughs.

One evening, Amir wound up his work quickly and was on his way home. He was already running late. They were to watch the latest flick and then plan about their 5th wedding anniversary.

He never made it home.

Aslesha collapsed in a heap when that dreaded call came. His parents came running but her parents hadn’t forgiven her yet. All called her vile names and said she was bad luck personified, who claimed  her husband’s life.

The doctors soon gave up. There was no question of reviving him. It was just a matter of time – Unplugging the ventilator and seeing the flatline.

Yes, some of his vital organs could give a breath of life to some very needy. It was her decision to take and her’s alone.

As her world came crashing around her, as her relatives, who were supposed to be her strength, castigated her, as they threatened to take away her prince, she became rock solid and took the toughest decision of life. She made Amir live on, with her supreme sacrifice. She saw hell on earth while she became the angel to many.

It was 14th Feb. She then rose like a phoenix from hers ashes. Work consumed her and her son became her strength.

It was the constant ringing of her phone that finally brought Aslesha into the present.

It was Aaron on the other side, confirming their dinner plans, for the evening.

Aslesha, wearily made her way towards her pad. Sheh, her now strapping son, was in his room, studying.

How was your day? Have your dinner on time. I’m going out..”Aslesha said.

Aaron?” Sheh asked. Aslesha merely nodded.

Mom, what are you going to do about his proposal?

Sheh!!” Aslesha was angry now.

Mom, you deserve your share of happiness. Put your past behind. We have had so many discussions on this. You cannot let the poor guy hang around forever. You will never see those days again. Don’t hurt so much. Embrace the joy that Aaron promises you!

Sheh! You are talking beyond your age. I do not appreciate this. And..

Mom, just give it another thought. Okay?” Aslesha fell silent as Sheh got up to hug her and comfort her.

Aslesha then went for her dinner. Loving Aaron was waiting patiently. He popped the question again.

Aslesha, My love for you, is enough to see us through. I won’t leave you. Ever! It is a promise. Abide with me.” Aaron held her hand as she wept.

Aslesha finally took a leap of faith and a shot at embracing life again.

Aaron and Aslesha got married with Sheh being the best man.

It was the 14th of Feb. marriage3