Saturday, 15 December 2012

‘The Curse’- My entry for the Get Published Contest

The Idea

 “Love is hell; anarchy,” Radha Krishna’s [RK] father bellowed at his son when he knew that RK was in love with one Meera whose caste was a few rungs lower than his own. While the lovers stood before him panic-stricken, the father continued his diatribe against love rather nonchalantly. “Your love-shit would only bedraggle our family honor. Krishna, since you violate ‘Manu Dharma’ for love, you can’t escape from its curse. Your love, I’m sure, will end only in a shambles.”

Pitifully, the Indian society is still mired in hopeless conservatism, with family honor and casteism as its planks. Parents, living in their own cells of tradition, never accept their children’s love. While aggressive ones, to save family honor, do away with their sons or daughters, the less aggressive curse the love of their wards to get doomed like what RK’s father did. RK, though walked out on his family, defying his cherished family honor, was in the emotional doldrums not able to pursue the logical end of his love. He became nebulous being haunted by his father’s curse.

By a quirk of fate, RK went to US for official work. When it was time for him to return home and tie the knot, terrorists blasted the World Trade Center where his office was located. A drama unfolds.

What makes the story real?

‘The Curse’ is a story both real and fictional. It exhorts those in love not to get furious with parental dissension to their love. Lovers would better sail with their parents and persuade them to bless their love.

The night was young, but intriguing. Meera was restless, dark despair ran through her mind. She saw something ominous in the gathering darkness. All through the day, she felt nightmarish allowing her to be swept away by inexplicable scary thoughts. She didn’t know why she was feeling like being in the eye of a storm. To drive away the scary thoughts mushrooming in her mind, she turned on the TV. She grimaced when all channels running special news bulletins. She became curious, focused her eyes on the TV screen.

“Today a black day for America,” a young, flamboyant newscaster, sporting a black top, read the news in a somber tone. “Terrorists”, she continued, “having hijacked civilian planes, crashed them into the Twin Towers and made them collapse like a pack of cards. Pentagon too was hit by another plane. Over 5000 people are feared dead.”

Meera was perplexed; her heart thumbing, felt like falling into an abyss. She had beads of sweat covering on her forehead. She began breathing hard. However, her eyes were still focused on the TV.

News clippings now showed the collapsing of the Twin Towers; they were plummeting to the street below. Interminable billows of smoke hung over Manhattan’s sky. Red tongues of flames melted the monumental structures of the Towers.

“Krishna”! Meera screamed her head off, fainted and collapsed on the floor.

This is my entry for the Harper Collins- India Blogger Get Published contest, which is run with inputs from Yashodhara Lal and HarperCollins India.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

My Dear Tiny Tot!

That you’re only twenty-weeks –old fetus, a girl in the making, doesn’t stop me from telling you about a hard and heart-wrenching truth. It’s about Female Foeticide… a brutal practice brazenly followed by men/women out here in India for the reasons best known to them. My dear child, it looks like a sin to be born a girl in this holy land of ours. God forbid.

 Your three sisters are no longer in their teens; they have now grown up, and are waiting to be married off. But to marry them off will be like bending the sky. For their marriages, demand helluva money as wedding dowries or groom prices. I’m scared because we would never make out such money during our life time, as the minimal wages we’re getting from paddy fields as labors take care of only our hand to mouth life.

Our financial strains apart, your father and his ilk now came to know about my conception. I conceived fourth time after several years. Surprisingly, they were happy because they thought that they would at least get a son this time… a son who’d add to the family workforce; work with them in the fields and tap more income for the financially distressed family; and take the oars of the family from your father and feed us in our old days. This way the people around me glorifies a son and condemns a daughter as an albatross on the neck of a family. And your father is no exception to this misconception.

 Ultrasonic or simply saying the ultra scanning was the villain. The moment your family came to know that I wasn’t carrying a boy but a girl, they became wild. While your grandma started shouting at me and calling me names, your father beat me blue as if I was the only reason for your creation.

 ‘What we feared all along now comes true’, your grandma bellowed at me, wailing and beating her wizened chest with her hands. They all felt thunder-struck and even planned to abort my pregnancy. But, I stood my ground, resisted their move with all the strength at my command, and cried my head off pleading with them not to kill you now, but donate you to a Child Care center after your are born.

 My child, though they seemed pacified with my words, you are not still out of woods. Foeticide is in the offing, waiting for you with an axe. For, your grandma, a hag, won’t let you free. Engaged by the family, an ayah from a local hospital is waiting with a bottle of ‘kalli pall’ [potion; milk extracted from a poisonous plant like colotropis], she would either spoon feed you with a dose of such potion to kill you instantly, or insert paddy seeds into your nostrils to stop your breathing for good. Either way they’d kill you, my dear, kill you to lessen the financial burdens they will have to bear if you’re allowed to survive.

Until now, I’ve done what I could to the best of my power. I’m now helpless, baby, and utterly helpless to save you from the baby-killers… the fetus eaters.

You have no options. All doors are shut on you.

 So pray to Lord Shiva, the Destroyer. Pray to Him to take away what Lord Brahma had created. Do you know about Thavam [penance]? Hmm … it’s like this. Close your eyes; stop breathing; and pray to Shiva to make you melt down in my womb.

You would die honestly in my womb if Shiva grants what you want. Honey, it’s better to die in your mother’s womb than to be killed ignominiously by your heartless relatives. My sweetheart, I swear on your head that Lord Shiva would listen to your prayer and stop you coming alive into this cruel, patriarchal world.

Helplessly yours,

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Up Above the Sky

Sunk into darkness and eerie silence, nights always give me the creeps. However, I can’t wish them away just like that. It’s past midnight. I find the sleep elusive. I toss and turn on the bed. I now get into my feet; walk to the window and look out at the sky. She’s not azure. The dark, passing clouds, making the sky a canvas, draw on it sketches of beasts and beauties. Sketches, both absolute and abstract.

Now, I see in the canvas a silhouette of an elephant squatting between two narrow rocks. Following this, comes a lion with abundant, flowing mane. But before long, the nocturnal clouds erase them … replace them with the shadows of dogs and cats; donkeys and does et al. So fastidious are the clouds that they never allow an image to remain on the canvas even for a moment.

To my great joy and excitement, the canvas now displays my mom’s turmeric anointed face with her deep-set eyes gleaming and forehead sporting a big red Bindi. “Amma”, [mom] I cry aloud as I did decades ago when she was carried to the crematorium.

  Thoughts fly.

  It was the month of ‘margazhi’ [winter]. I was bedridden with measles. Mom had just returned home from the temple braving the icy weather. She had been doing this for long; going to the temple at the wee hours during the winter and praying for me. But tragically, she died during one of those winter mornings. Massive heart attack. She complained of chest pain and collapsed when she was feeding me plain rice porridge. Isn’t god cruel sometimes?

‘Mom, can I rest my head awhile on your lap? Will you please rock me the way you did when I was a kid so that I can catch up with the elusive sleep’, I moan and gaze at the sky again. I feel flustered. For, mom is not there. Dissolved by the clouds, she is now only in bits and pieces. I can see only her nose- ring.

  “When will I see mom again”? I implore to the clouds, my voice trembling, tears streaming down the cheeks.

  “Never again. What you saw was not your mom, but an optical illusion”. The clouds quip while vanishing around the corners of the sky.

  I stand stupefied by the window looking at the sky, which is as empty and void as my mind.

  Mom, are you really an optical illusion?” I say to myself, but can’t see the sky for tears.