Category Archives: short stories

The rains that wash away

The night was dark and grey. The city lights illuminated it, but the luminosity could not reach the depth of the darkness that lay in her heart. She was walking in the rain, the pitter-patter rain that smelled of late monsoon and a ton of irritation.

She was not angry about getting wet. Even though she hated that her feet was soiled with the water from drainage system.

Her heart throbbed faster because she was lost.

She had just gotten out of her office, a steel-grey structure that was impartial to all emotions. Her umbrella was in her hand. Like her, hundreds of other people left the building at the same time, with their deodorant soaked sweaty bodies, each destined to their own destinations.

Her hostel was two kilometres away. She crossed the billboard of a smiling television actor, with a skin so smooth that she ended up feeling her own skin for the acne. She expected the familiarity of the paan shop right after the billboard. Only, today it wasn’t there.

The road was still filled with mindless traffic, whistles blowing and curses being yelled. The dirty water came rushing at her feet, her trousers.

Her eyes widened and blurred as she saw the unfamiliar buildings around her: a grey-yellow two-story house, a small tin-roofed hut. Where were the tall apartment buildings that lined the road to her flat?

The sound of the rain increased as she crossed a dank pond filled with water hyacinth. She had never known any pond in this direction.

Her hands trembled as she looked at her phone. It read the date correctly. She had not teleported into another century, another city. She searched her contacts for a number. A face popped up on her screen. Quickly, she rubbed out the face from her screen and dialed her mother’s number. The phone rang two times before her mother picked.

“You reached home?” her mother said, amid the buzz of some curry cooking on the oven.

“Yes, I’m walking back.” Her voice was heavy with emotion. Her eyelids were drooping with the heaviness of tears.

“I’ll call you when I reach,” she said, quickly, before her mother could ask more questions. She could not do this anymore.

She had walked into a park. There was a lone cement bench, glistening with rain water, illuminated by a yellow lamp overhead. There was a darkness above it that came from the trees. She walked up to the bench and sat over there. Her umbrella fell from her hand. The bottom of her dress got wet. The tears came pounding from her chest and knocked the breath out of her.

Lost, so lost.

Some years ago, there was a bench like this, in another city, in another park. A man and a woman ate roasted peanuts from a single paper bag. Her head was on his shoulder. It was all water under the bridge now.

She clutched her stomach to stop the pain. The liquid in her belly swarmed up, up, up and came gushing from her mouth. It tasted like rotten worms and failure.

She was too tired to think. So she lied down on the bench. The rain kept falling. The vomit washed away. She waited for the heaviness on her heart to abate.

In a different corner of the park, life went on, as a snake gobbled a frog and passers-by crossed them, without knowing that one less life breathed in this universe.

(c) 2017 Arpita Pramanick

 

Never let go

WordPress reminded me it is my 2 year anniversary today. To celebrate that, 8let me share with with you all a story I wrote today. After all, the primary reason for starting this blog was to become a better story-teller. Let me know what you think!


Never let go

Arpita Pramanick

It was the spring of 2009. The winter chill had not yet gone from the suburban air, but summer was slowly making its presence known. People had begun to turn on the ceiling fans.

For the past few days, thick dark clouds hovered over the small, independent houses as soon as the clocks ticked four. The air would suddenly stop moving. There would be a momentary hot phase. Then the cool winds would start rushing in. The trees would bend with its vigor and the clouds would look darker than ever. They seemed to be carrying deep, dark secrets. Only, the rains would not come as fierce.

In the newly painted Mukherjee house, Supriya was pacing in the balcony. She was frustrated with the clouds. Why couldn’t it rain and be done with? She desperately needed to make a move. Tomorrow, the boy’s family would come to bless her. Probably, the final plans of marriage would also be chalked out tomorrow. Ever since her uncle brought news of this probable match, her mother had been extra cautious with her. She would not let Supriya go anywhere alone. Even her phone calls were monitored, Supriya realized. They would not let her go to the roof even to pick up clothes in the afternoon.

“You are getting married in a month,” her mother said. “I don’t want to wear you out with all these chores now. Just rest and try to look perfect for your wedding.”

But no matter how hard Supriya tried, she could not get rid of the dark circles under her eyes. No matter how hard she tried, she could not close her eyes in the night.

Her mother would notice her restlessness and run her fingers through her hair.

“It is for good, this marriage,” she said. “The boy is an accountant. He can take care of you.”

Supriya tried to think about the boy. Arohan Banerjee. Tall, fair, well-mannered. His hair was neatly combed and he wore a distinctive perfume. He liked books, he had told her. Yes, if her heart was not someplace else, she could willingly marry Arohan Banerjee. She could probably fall in love with him too.

But every time she thought about Arohan, the simple eyes of a dark face would rake through her mind’s eye. Yagnik Roy. Her first love, her heartbeat.

They met in college. He was one of those rare people who was rowdy and polished at the same time. He fought with the guys in the football field when they called names. He answered every question the professors asked with deep thinking and always said something that no one else in the class seemed to come up with.

The beautiful Supriya Mukherjee was initially duly ignored by Yagnik Roy. But once they started talking, everything seemed pre-determined to Supriya.

But Yagnik was not the one who let his feelings be known first. It was just after the Durga Puja holidays in the second year. She had not seen him after the college closed for vacation. Unlike every year, Supriya did not enjoy one day of the glorious festival. Not seeing Yagnik bothered her more than she had thought.

After the college reopened, she had called him after class, held his hand urgently in her hand and told him to accept her. He seemed surprised at first at the urgency of her emotion. But then, the gentle pressure of his hand in hers told her his answer.

Yagnik was a passionate lover. Ever since he discovered love in Supriya, it seemed something in him changed. He became more polite outwardly, but would be very upset if Supriya did not turn up for college one day. It seemed that he wanted her every moment he could have with her. If he saw her talking to some other boy, he would grow tense and refuse to talk to her for days. The said boy would definitely get into some kind of trouble afterwards.

When Supriya finally confronted him one day about his behavior, he simply said, “You are my need. I need you completely or not at all. Your choice.”

As she paced up and down in the balcony, Supriya thought what Yagnik must be going through now. They had not spoken in ten days. He was appearing for job interviews. He had known Supriya’s parents were looking for her marriage and that bothered him.

The last time they had met in a tea shop near their college.

“Give me two months, Su. I will not disappoint you,” he had said. Her hands trembled in his. Had they been in a more private place, they would have kissed.

“I cannot live without you,” he said when they said their goodbyes. “You know I can’t. You have to wait for me.” Supriya almost had tears in her eyes.

Surpiya needed one chance to speak with him. She needed to tell him she was waiting. He  could take all the time in the world he needed, she would still wait for him.

The winds stopped blowing. The clouds vanished. The sky grew dark with evening. The womenfolk began to blow conch shells. The Mukherjee household was preparing to receive the would-be son-in-law and his family the next day.

***

Arohan Banerjee had loved Supriya the day he had set his eyes on her. She had looked absolutely stunning in the blue, checkered sari she had worn when they first came to see her two weeks ago.

Today, however, as she sat on the sofa in front of Arohan and his family, she looked tired.  She would not meet his eyes.

Nonetheless, it was a big day for Arohan. Besides his father, mother and younger brother, his grandmother had also come to see the would-be bride. Madhulika Banerjee put her thin, crumpled, trembling hands on Supriya’s chin and said, “Such a lovely girl. You will be loved more in our house than your are in this house. I, the groom’s grandma guarantee this.” She put her hands on Supriya’s head now. “Don’t look so sad, dear. You will not miss this home at all once you step foot in our house.” She gave Supriya a small golden coin. “My husband gave this to me on our wedding day. Small token from an old woman to the Banerjee family’s would-be daughter-in-law.” Then the old woman kissed Supriya on her cheek.

Supriya fought hard to resist her tears. Somehow, she felt a connection with the old woman. She felt like she could tell her all her troubles. Something Supriya did not even feel about her own mother.

Then the moment passed. The servants brought in food. The elders started discussing possible dates.

Arohan tried to speak to Supriya. But she could not answer any of his questions. His brother, Anuran, was a different case though. He had already started calling her Boudi, the name reserved for sister-in-law. He was still in school. He made her take him into the house, show him around. He looked at Supriya with interest and a happy smile. Clearly, she had been a huge hit with him.

“When you come to our house, I will eat only what you cook. Dada said the fish you cooked the other day was delicious. My mom makes horrible fish. You must cook for me.”

Supriya laughed at the young boy’s innocent demands. No wonder she would be deeply cared for in the Banerjee household. She saw herself in the evenings, watching TV serials with her future mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law while Anuran studied in his room. Arohan and his father would not have returned from work yet. Supriya would be cutting the vegetables as they watched the television drama. Suddenly, her mother-in-law would say, “Careful, Supriya! You would have just cut yourself.” And then she would take the knife and the vegetables and start chopping them herself. She would not listen to any of Supriya’s entreaties to let her continue.

“Just watch and learn. You will have to do this for many more years, silly girl! Enjoy while the old ladies can do the work for you,” her mother-in-law would say.

Four hours later, Arohan’s family left.  Supriya’s father beamed at the hospitality the guests had shown towards Supriya and her family. “Such lovely people! Supriya Ma, they will really take good care of you.”

***

After many days, Surpiya had a good sleep that night. Towards the morning, she was dreaming. In her dream Arohan’s grandmother was patting her head, giving her the gold guinea. Then she was in the bedroom. She was lying on the bed. Arohan came inside and shut the door behind him. It looked like they had been married for some time now. In her dream, Supriya was happy to see Arohan. She was smiling. He came to her and hugged her. His lips touched hers. After a brief moment, when he let her breathe, she looked into his eyes.

And then Supriya woke up with a start. She felt like the dark pair of eyes was still on her, looking at her with pain. Slowly, the pain became disgust. Supriya struggled to breathe. A deep sense of shame filled her entire body. She felt like she had cheated on Yagnik. She felt certain that he had known her deceitfulness and would never accept her again.

“Please. I love you and no one else,” she entreated. Beside her, her mother shifted in the bed, not quite awake yet.

That morning, it rained like it had never rained before. Supriya was completely drenched when she knocked furiously on the blue door Yagnik had shown her. She had never been inside his house.

“Coming, coming,” Yagnik’s voice came. “Don’t break the door please.”

Yagnik was surprised to see the drenched woman at the door. His lips curved upwards in a smile.

“About time,” he said, holding her hand and pulling her inside. “Let me get a towel. The Mukherjees don’t have umbrellas or what?”

“Wait,” Supriya held on to his hand, stopping him from getting that towel. “I ran from home.”

“You did what?” Yagnik cried.

Supriya looked into his deep, dark eyes searching for an answer. Was he angry? Would he make her go away? What would she do then?

For a moment, Yagnik looked into her wet eyes. Then Supriya felt the familiar pressure of his hand in hers. Her heartbeat relaxed. Her body felt limp as he pulled her into a hug. “Good thing is,” he said, “I have a job now.” His lips kissed her hair.

Copyright © 2017 Arpita Pramanick

Frozen Memories

The below story has been applied to four flash fiction magazines and duly rejected. Yet, this story is very special to me. So, I’m putting it out for you all to read. Do let me know what you think of it in the Comments.


Frozen Memories

When I lie on his lap, my head nestled in him, he tells me stories of all the good times we have spent together. He remembers every date we met, every conversation we had. He remembers every time I have said something nice to him, praised him for keeping a promise. When I hear him narrate the days of a previous summer, it feels as if I am in a story. I see us together in that story, sitting cross-legged on the green, grassy field under the stars, watching kids play football at a distance.

As I listen to him, I wonder what it must be to be him every single day – to have little compartments in his mind, filled with happy memories, like shiny wrappers filled with dark chocolate balls that melt within moments in your mouth. Oft times I have wondered, how is it that he recalls the plainest remark I made on any day when months later I have no memory of it? Is it because he hangs onto every word I say with the kindest attention, because he loves me so much? His memory is like an ancient family heirloom – something I have learnt to cherish ever since I discovered it. His memory makes me feel powerful: even though the day is long gone, I know he can make it as real to me as if it were today.

Today, it is different. Today we had a bad fight. It is past midnight and I am lying on the sofa. He is in the bedroom. I bristle in the uncomfortable heat, cursing the broken air conditioner. I am ruminating on the bitter words he and I exchanged earlier.

The thought comes like a sudden chilly wind of a winter morning. If he remembers every date we have met, every word we have spoken between the two of us, he probably remembers every single fight we have had, every venomous word we threw at each other too. Does he compartmentalize his memories in boxes then – pink-red boxes for the happy ones and dark, ominous ones for the poisons?

What it is really, then, to be him, every single day? What is it like to be someone with an infinite reservoir of memories, memories that you cannot erase away? Can you, then, ever escape from naturally drawing on happy memories when the times are good and on the bitter ones when the tides are rough? Is that possibly why he froths a little more venom with every next fight? A little more intolerable, a little more uncaring?

The prickling heat of the sofa is engulfs me slowly, completely, like a water demon. Suddenly, I am breathless. I walk to the balcony and wait for a breath of wind to kiss my face.

There is no wind. The trees are as still as a colorful glass paperweight, frozen in time.

©2016 Arpita Pramanick

Banished Princess

When winter came again, she brought the woolens out. The letter was inside one of the deep pockets in the black cardigan. She found it when she was putting the woolens in the washing machine, to get rid of the dank, closet smell. Her face burned at the sight of the letter, a reflex reaction.

“Meet me in the park at 5 P.M.,” the letter had said. How many years had it been? Four winters, she realized.

Yet, time seemed not to have ticked a minute past since the day she left her home at 4.45 PM, wearing the flowered skirt that he so liked. Her marriage had been fixed, but not with the man she was meeting in the park.

The acid was sudden on her face, and she was unconscious before she could understand what had happened. She vaguely remembered his last words now, “You thought you’d marry a rich guy..” “…live a queen’s life while I pine and die for you?” “Bitch!” and then there was nothing.

Of course, the marriage was called off. Who would marry a girl half of whose face had been burned by acid? But worse were the allegations. Everyone started talking about how the daughter of the prestigious Chatterjees was having a love relationship when her marriage was already fixed. How she had blackened the faces of her illustrious ancestors. Why no one should marry their sons into the Chatterjee family again.

Her father, of course, would have none of what was going on. She was sent to her maternal uncle’s place in the country, where she was passed off as a distant relation, a banished princess.

The washing machine filled up with water. She stroked her face, like she had done so many times in the past four years and wondered if it was enough to drown her pain.

Day 18 of Writing 101: The Package

The Package

Arpita Pramanick

It says it is in Bhiwandi, Maharashtra, India. I do not know if Bhiwandi is a city or a town. I wonder, though, what it looks like.

I am zooming in. The satellite picture shows green and brown, but nothing is clear. So much for technology!

A notification beeps in my cellphone. The package has moved. Now, the painful wait begins.

Three days later, criss-crossing the country, changing hands, it rings as the doorbell.

The man is dark. He is wearing dark blue coveralls and a blue-and-red cap.

“Two hundred and seventy nine rupees, ma’am,” he says.

I hand him the money, counted to the exact rupee. I know these people well. They never return the one-rupee change.

The man hands me the package. I caress it like a long lost kin.

“Thank you for shopping with us, ma’am.” The man bares his malformed teeth. Ugh!

“Yeah, okay, okay!” I shut the door on his face. I can’t wait one more second to tear the cover and hold the treasure in my own hands.

No longer I care what they say about my craft. If no one else buys my book, I will!

I know what I should do. I’ll just order another hundred copies!

Copyright © 2015 Arpita Pramanick

Not Today (Part 3)

← Previously on Scribbles@Arpita (Not Today: Part One & Part Two)

Not Today (Part 3)

(A Short Story spanning a day)

6.20 PM

The hedge was towering over her. The walls were rigid. She had no clue that what was beyond. She walked, slowly at first, in control. She was sure she would find a way. How difficult can a hedge maze be?

She walked on and on and found passages after passages which led on to more passages. But there was no exit. Her breathing grew faster. Her throat felt dry and she gulped her own saliva every so often. There was no exit. She was locked. Locked in a labyrinth with no one to her aid.

The colour of the day was fading fast. Somewhere, far away, the sun was creeping past the horizon.

There was no one. No one to her aid.

Then the birds started to appear. They were small, white birds. She was sure she had seen them before, but she could not place them anywhere. The little birds flew and flew in circles above her head at first. Their screeches grew louder, so she had to close her ears with her hands. And then, the birds broke the symmetry. They started spreading out like a tangent to the circle, and then flew in straight lines along the tops of the hedges. Instinctively, she followed them.

“Ma’am, your bill.” The voice was loud and hammering into her ears.

Adrija started like she had risen from underwater, breathless. It took awhile to focus on the waiter. Her ice cream had melted.

Quickly, she took out the hundred-rupee note from her purse and gave it to the waiter.

“Keep the change.”

She slid the strap of her handbag across her shoulder and got up of the chair. Before she left, she cast one long glance at the large poster on the opposite wall of the ice cream parlour: A hedge maze with a woman lost inside. The woman looked so tiny in the picture that you would miss her if you were not looking carefully.

9.00 PM

Adrija ate a hasty dinner in her hostel room. The food was no different than other days, but Adrija had brought it into her room, unlike the other days. Usually, she preferred to eat with her hostel-mates, sitting on the table in the dining room, watching television and shouting on top of their voices in order to be heard over the noise. Not today.

After she was done with her dinner, she stood before the mirror and looked at herself. She touched her cheeks and lips with her finger and outlined her brow. She ran her finger lightly over her eyes. She looked just the same as yesterday. Only, she felt she had aged by years.

She wondered why the maze generated such images in her mind, because she had been to that ice cream parlour many times, without ever having such an episode. She still had goosebumps imagining the vividness of the incident. She could still feel herself locked inside the green jail of hedges.

The birds! She remembered now where she had seen them. The guy at the mall with the Peace tattoo! He had exact same birds on his wrist.

Adrija was more confused than ever. What did the boy have to do with anything? Nothing made sense. Then again, did anything make any sense the entire day today? First, no notifications on her social media. Then, her friends’ and juniors’ weird avoidance. She checked her phone again. But the gadget had never been more silent.

10.00 PM

Adrija lay in her bed, toying with her phone. For some time, she played Angry Birds. When she was bored, she fidgeted with Talking Tom. It was good to hear someone speak, even if it was her own words twisted in a strange mechanical, cat accent. Couldn’t they make an app into which you could speak your mind and the app would listen and answer you like a human being, a friend?

The maze was a cage. The phone was a cage. The people around her were cages. Once she was inside, she had no way of getting out. No way not to feel bad about the lack of attention. About the lack of noise around her. About the stronghold of silence.

Yet, for the few hours when she was sitting on the stairs in the mall, watching people, as an observer, not getting involved, not interacting, she had felt a sense of peace.

Peace, written in black ink in a fancy font that you see in ancient books. Peace, with little birds circling around it. Peace, with finding a way out of the maze.

3.00 AM

It is late and Adrija is asleep. She is dreaming but she will remember it no more when she wakes up in the morning. In her dream, she is seated in an open air restaurant. There are scores of tables around her. Each table is surrounded by four wicker chairs. A vase of freshly plucked long-stemmed flowers sits on each table. The flowers are white.

Adrija is sipping hot chocolate from a large mug. The guy with the Peace tattoo is walking on the other side of the cobbled street. Adrija does not see him. As she dreams, Adrija thinks that she has never visited this place. It is true.

But she will visit this place, in some years, of course. Because tomorrow, when she will wake up, she will shed her old skin. In six months, she will throw a few clothes in her back-pack and go for a mountain trek where the electromagnetic signals become feeble and feeble as your scale the altitude. There will be no more notifications on the phone.

The End

Copyright © 2015 Arpita Pramanick


This is the end of the 3-part story that started as an assignment for the Writing 101 blogging course. The goal was to write a story spanning about a day. I am thankful to everyone who followed the firsst two parts of the story and offered their feedback. I had not published a serialized story on the blog before, so when I found interest in the story rising among the readers, I also felt excited to write the next part. I must do more of these in future! What do you think?

Day 15 of Writing 101: Not Today (Part 2)

Previously on Scribbles@Arpita: Not Today (Part One)

Not Today (Part 2)

(A Short Story spanning a day)

1:10 PM

It was lunch time. Adrija was sitting in the cafeteria. The two classes after Professor Ghosh’s were as boring as his and she didn’t get any time to speak to Sourav or any of the others about what was going on either. As soon as it was lunch time, Sourav rushed out of the classroom. “I have a meeting at the sports club. Catch you later, Bunny.”

“Don’t you Bunny me,” she wanted to say, but he was already out of earshot.

Just like Sourav, the rest of her classmates quickly crawled out of the classroom before she could confront them. Smita, the fashion queen of the class and a keen observer of what others wore, did not seem to notice that Adrija was wearing a different dress today, which was the oddest thing. Smita was quite known for her tart tongue.

Something was seriously wrong. Adrija could feel it in her bones.

At the cafeteria, Adrija ordered a chicken sandwich and a coke and munched on in a relatively solitary corner of the filled cafeteria. Her confidence was shaken. She dared not approach anyone anymore.

Her mind worked furiously as she chewed. She hadn’t said anything bad about someone and had been recorded saying that, had she? Not that she could remember. Adrija wasn’t the kind of person who spoke behind people’s back. Okay, a little, maybe, but generally she went along with people and they went along with her.

A smile returned to her face. “Do these people think it’s my birthday and want to surprise me later?” But her smile was short-lived. Her birthday was in February and it was only October. Also, all her friends knew when her birthday was. She checked her phone again. Not a single person had liked her good morning status! Not a single comment. No reply in her Whatsapp group. It was as if a she was placed within a microwave shield, the one she learnt about in the electromagnetic theory class. She sent out signals to the world, but they were not received because of the shield. She, Adrja Ray, was being treated like a nobody. She was sure she was going to cry. Something was definitely wrong with the Universe!

Adrija called her mother. She picked up after three rings.

“Hi Adrija! Wassup?”

“Nothing’s up, mum.”

“You never call at this time.”

“Well, I just did,” she shrugged, irritated.

“Okay, okay. Where are you? There’s much noise.”

“College. What are you doing?”

Now, Adrija, tell me, seriously, what is wrong? You don’t call your mother at lunch and ask her what she’s doing. Not on usual days, you don’t.”

“I don’t?” For the first time Adrija realized that it was nearly two months she had last visited home. She couldn’t remember the last time she had a real conversation with her mother. The tears threatened again, but she was determined not to cry on the phone. “Well, nothing is usual about today!” she sighed.

“No? What’s unusual about today?”

Suddenly, she realized how stupid it would sound if she told her mother that no one was liking her Facebook status or replying to her messages.

“It’s nothing, mum! I gotta go, talk to you later. Love ya!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, yes, Ma. Lunch is over. I got classes! Bye!”

2.00 PM

Adrija was back in her hostel room. She couldn’t deal with any more classes. She needed some alone time to make sense of what was going on in her life.

What if people continued to treat her like she was invisible for the rest of her life? She felt a lump form in her throat. She wasn’t used to oblivion; she wasn’t used to being alone. She felt a strong impulse to throw her phone at the wall. It took every ounce of her will-power to resist herself.

5.00 PM

Adrija was at the salon, getting a facial. A mud pack was on her face and two slices of cucumber covered her eyes. The beautician was working at her nails, giving it a fresh coat of paint. She could feel the cool of the chemical on the nails as the brush lingered on them. It was hypnotic, she was almost falling asleep.

6.00 PM

Adrija was sitting on the stairs outside the shopping complex, admiring her nail-art. Her nails now had little flowery patterns done in thin black lines above the pink base. Beautiful! Simply beautiful! She took a picture of the nails and shared it on Facebook via Instagram. Had she quite forgotten what a failure she was on Facebook lately? Good for her!

Lots of people were scattered on the stairs: some couples, a group of boys and girls no older than her. There were even middle-aged people who seemed to have come directly from office: they were in their formals; some even wore ties, albeit loosely wound around the neck.

To her surprise, Adrija liked sitting there, alone, watching the people. She was glad no one was asking her from where she had got her nails done or why she couldn’t get over pink. Not talking, not being loud wasn’t so bad, at least not half as bad as it was in the cafeteria.

Adrija didn’t hear him until the guy was already in front of her, asking, “Mind if I sit beside you?” He was wearing a white v-neck shirt and faded jeans. There was a small tattoo on the inner side of his wrist. It said Peace and had little birds around the word. She did not know him.

“Yes, though I don’t believe I am saying this, but I do mind. Please excuse me.” Wow. This was a first! Where was all this coming from?

Adrija found herself walking towards the ice cream parlour.

“I’ll have the chocolate,” she said, when the waiter looked at her.

…to be continued

Copyright ©  2015 Arpita Pramanick


Here’s the result of the poll conducted on Day 6 of Writing 101.

poll

Even though my short stories rank third in the poll, I decided to give it  shot today because of the following reasons:

  1. Bettering myself at writing fiction is one of the fundamental reasons that motivated me to take W101
  2. After I wrote the first part of Not Today, I wanted to know more on what was going to happen with Adrija and I wanted to know it fast!

So, dear Reader, are you enjoying reading Not Today? If yes, then why? If not, why, as well? Does the narrative keep you interested, or do you feel like clicking away? Please let me know in the comments. I am looking forward to your feedback on this story.

Day 14 of Writing 101: Not Today (Part 1)

Not Today

(A Short Story spanning a day)

7.00 AM

Adrija smiled as she woke up from the dream. She saw herself sipping her favourite cup of hot chocolate in an open-air restaurant she had never been before. The flooring underneath was cobbled. Four wicker chairs surrounded each table with white tablecloth and a vase of freshly plucked long-stemmed flowers.

Today is going to be a great day, thought Adrija as she walked to the wash-basin.

7.15 AM

Ardija flipped open the cover of her smart-phone and checked for notifications of good morning messages on Whatsapp and Facebook. Unlike most popular girls at college, Adrija was admired by both boys and girls because of her easy manners and approachable demeanour. She was slightly plump and dark and had a long, flowing mane. She was forever buzzing with activity and filled with oodles of confidence.

No notifications? Adrija’s face fell.

“Not an issue,” she smiled and typed it into her group of college friends on Whatsapp: Good morning, beautiful people! She added in a few cute-looking smileys and hit Send. She sent a similar one to her group of school friends.

7.30 AM

Adrija collected her bucket and walked to the bathroom. Six girls shared this bathroom and almost everyone left the house at the same time, so the mornings were pretty busy. There was already a queue in front of the bathroom, made by buckets. The blue one in front of the row belong to Sayani, the pink one to Aditi, the bigger, iron one to Rita. Adrija placed hers at the end of the line and returned. She met Sayani at the end of the corridor.

“Hi, Sayani.”

“Hi, you!” Sayani smiled briefly and walked past Adrija.

“What happened to her?” Adrija muttered to herself. Usually, Sayani was a chatterbox and Adrija would take great steps to avoid her if she was in a hurry.

Once in her room, Adrija checked her phone again. There was still no notification on Whatsapp. What happened to everyone?

She quickly opened Facebook and wrote a status: Good morning people, wakey wakey!! and tagged her bunch of college buddies.

Everyday her friends would be online at this time, furiously commenting and liking her status. They’d send her jokes and funny quotes on Whatsapp. Not today.

9.00 AM

Adrija had bathed and was brushing her hair in front of the mirror. She wore a new dress today, a salwar-kameez that she had not worn to college before.

The phone-thing was biting her at the back of her mind. What the hell happened to all the people? Why was nobody replying to her texts and status? Had everyone suddenly gone off the phone and internet? Impossible!

Adrija decided to call her classmate, Sourav. The phone rang for a long time. No one picked up. “Must be getting ready for college! I should get the breakfast, too.”

10.00 AM

With still no notification on her phone, Adrija slowly walked the college corridor. People were rushing past her, busy talking among themselves. No one looked at her. She saw a group of juniors in front of the physics lab, poring over their lab files. Almost all of them knew her from the Music club or Nature club or Science club.

She walked towards them and tapped a bespectacled girl by the name of Leni on the shoulder, “Writing lab reports, are we?”

Leni turned and smiled. “Yes, Adrija Di. Kinda busy. Catch you laters?”

“Yes, yes. Sure thing!” Adrija walked on, curious how none of the others turned to speak to her. Usually, they’d crowd around her and ask her something about the lab report. She had taken the same subject in a previous semester.

10.30 AM

The professor drew a series of sine curves on the blackboard, to explain the effect of Frequency Modulation. Adrija was sitting beside Sourav. She poked him in the arm with her pen and whispered, “Why didn’t you pick up?”

Sourav gave her the ‘don’t disturb me now’ look and scribbled on, matching pace with the professor. Adrija placed her right hand on his copy and eyed him. He glared at her and muttered in a dark voice, between clenched teeth, “What?”

“Why didn’t you pick up the phone? I called. And sent a bunch of text on Whataspp and Facebook, too. I thought you had died.”

“I was busy.” He removed her hand from the copy and attempted to continue his drawing. Adrija quickly placed her hand on the copy again and muttered, “Busy? That’s it?”

The professor turned then. “Adrija, dear, what exactly are you two discussing? Care to share with us?”

“It’s nothing, sir, really!” Adrija gulped. Professor Ghosh was a stern man. He took no crap.

“Nothing, sir. Nothing, I promise.” She frothed in anger and wanted to burn Sourav at the stake, but managed to keep an apologetic smile on her face.

“Are you sure?” Professor Ghosh asked again. His eyes were non-blinking, like a fish.

“Yes, sir! I am sorry.”

“Good,” said the grave professor, “If anyone else has anything to discuss, please feel free to carry on outside the class. Now, moving on the what we were discussing…”

Adrija glared at Sourav as soon as the professor removed his eyes from her. But Sourav wasn’t looking at her. He was busy listening to Professor Ghosh. Adrija had never seen him so sincere.

…to be continued

Copyright © 2015 Arpita Pramanick


Note to the Reader: What do you think is different for Adrija today? Why are the people around her suddenly behaving strangely? Let me know in the comments below.

Note to the ‘Writer’ cum Reader: How is Not Today shaping up? Are you interested in what is happening in Adrija’s life? What’s the best thing about this story and what’s the weakest? Please share your advice with me!

Day 12 of Writing 101: 150 – No more, no less.

Motherhood

She sat in the bus, solemn. Her face was damp, coated with a layer of oil and dust. Her throat was dry.

She ran from her defeat. As fast as the bus could take her. The tears swelled in her eyes, chocking her voice at the base of her throat.

Then, the baby peeked from the mother’s lap, on the seat in front of her. He smiled easily, his cheeks dimpling in the process. The black wisps of hair were ruffled. He sucked on his minuscule thumb, saliva glossing his lips.

Oh well, she thought. I’ll just adopt – motherhood will still feel the same.

A smile crept on her lips, for the first time in the day. It felt liberating to her muscles. She raised her hand and waved it in front of the baby. He split in giggles and waved her back.

Yes, I can still be a mother.

W.C: 150

Copyright © 2015 Arpita Pramanick


P.S: I was away for most of the day yesterday, hence the delay in posting this. Anyway, I am usually long in my rants, but have been trying my at hand at shorter works since W101 started. Hope you enjoyed this one!

Day 10 of Writing 101: Before She Left

Before She Left

~A Short Story~ 

She was cleaning up the mess in her purse: old bank slips, shopping receipts, bus tickets. She took each out and observed cursorily, deciding whether she’d need it again. Then she tore up the slips in as small pieces as she possibly could and threw them into the bin.

Most of the bills had faded: they were printed on thermal papers.

What’s the point in giving bills which are going to fade, anyway? Aren’t the bills supposed to be permanent documentation?

She retrieved a bus ticket –a six month old one– from one of the pockets. It was from her last trip from her hometown to the nearest airport city. Six months vanished in a puff! Six months since she last visited her parents, her brother, and… him.

She didn’t tear the ticket – it was memory. And it was not on thermal paper. She pushed it into a different pocket in the purse, one she didn’t usually use to put the notes and the coins. There she found it.

It was an inconspicuous looking paper. If she was not scavenging, she would not even have noticed it. It was rolled up like a cigarette and flattened from being put in the purse.

She took it out and unrolled it. There was nothing on the side facing her – a blank page that must have contained how much she had paid at some mall or movie. She turned it over.

There, in blue ink were the lines. It was a written conversation. There were two distinct handwritings: one small, curvy; another bigger, looping.

All of it came back to her. She smiled as she saw herself scribbling it, beside the empty glass of cold coffee and some spilled chocolate sauce. The brown on the edge of the slip was testimony to the playful tiff they had over sipping each other’s coffee. They didn’t care if anyone was looking. They were lost in themselves.

***

He was told there was a parcel for him at the reception. He walked the steps instead of taking the elevator.

The girl at the reception smiled at him. Her name was Tias.

“There’s a parcel for me?” he said, returning her smile. Tias was new here. She matched her nail-polish her with her dresses every single day.

Tias shuffled through the drawer and handed him the package wrapped in shiny red paper. A white paper on top addressed it to him, in neutral print.

“Girlfriend?”

A hint of laughter touched the corner of his lips. He shrugged and turned away.

In his cabin, he opened the wrapper, taking care that he did not tear it off. She would recycle it, if she was here. Or better yet, add it to her box of memorabilia. He did the same, put it in his chest of drawers.

But she had never said anything about a parcel in the past month or week. He was sure it wasn’t another of their anniversaries – propose day, first trip together, first kiss etc.

It was a copy of The Fault in our Stars. Of course it was from her. Who else could it be! He turned over the cover page, sure to find a scribbling – after five years together, many things about her was predictable.

There was no scribbling. Instead, there was a paper, pasted on the inside of the cover page.

“Don’t go, please. I miss you already,” it said in his handwriting.

“I miss you already, too! I love you so much; I could never stay away long from you. Promise me you’ll fly to me every other month?” She had written.

“Of course, I will. Loads of kisses. I will visit you every weekend.” He now laughed at the absurdity of flying a thousand miles every week.

He read on:

“Ummmmm. Kisses and hugs. Love ya, baby,” she wrote in her small, curly font.

“Love ya, Cat! Ummmm.”

There was a doodle of a boy and girl holding hands underneath the conversation. She had drawn the guy. He had drawn the girl.

All of it came back to him. He smiled as he saw himself scribbling it, beside the empty glass of cold coffee and some spilled chocolate sauce. The brown on the edge of the slip was testimony to the playful tiff they had over sipping each other’s coffee. They didn’t care if anyone was looking. They were lost in themselves.

Copyright © 2015 Arpita Pramanick


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