Tag Archives: short stories

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Update #2

Hola writers and novelists and readers of the blog!

I am back again with another update on my WriMo progress. It’s November the 9th and I am done with the 15K words, very much in line with the goal on the ninth day.

Eight out of the nine days I have been able to complete the daily goal of 1,667 words, except November 7th, when I had gone to visit the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bangalore (I might cover that in another post – let me know in the Comments if you are interested). Primarily, idea is spending more time in solo travel in the coming days and I wanted to make the start from places within Bangalore. There is a lot to Bangalore that I am yet to see and I am looking forward to cover them in 2018.

Okay, back to the writing update now: I am done with two short stories (spanning 6K and 4K words) and am working on the third, which I actually began before the 4K story, but is not complete yet. I am confident, at this rate, I would be able to complete the 50K goal with as many as ten stories. I don’t have ideas fleshed out for all the remaining seven stories yet (have only two more ideas left in my bucket list) and I am constantly looking out for inspiration to strike me. In fact, my Nov. 7th travel plans inspired the third story, which I started writing after putting a temporary pause on the second one.

In the past, whenever I have written stories, I have mostly completed them in a day. I find the process of writing a short story over a course of three to four days very helpful. First, it helps me get out the rut of being the the same characters’ skin for too long a time – I have noticed the plot points tend to suck and I end up beating about the bush too much if I am writing continuously for a long period. On the other hand, a day gives me fresh perspective and new ideas to fill my stories with. Because of my full-time job, I work with a lot of different people, coming across multiple viewpoints and thoughts around the clock. This helps me see life in a different way every single day. All these experience enrich me and by extension, my writing. Sometimes, I find the reflection of the current character I am writing in a coworker. Sometimes, I find a suitable dialogue for my character while I am in the elevator. This has helped me a lot in layering the characters. A charater who started out as docile will suddenly show streaks of mischief because I am in a different mood the next day.

As of work, we had somewhat of a kickoff call on the new project yesterday night. The pressure has not yet started building in and probably won’t as well for most of November, which only helps my cause of NaNoWriMo.

Fortunately for me, I have a senior team lead in the new project, which leaves me with a lot of time to focus on the details of my work instead of worrying about management. I am truly starting to think of it as a bliss. I had been leading a team of four people in my last account and it had kind of thrown me in a dump. It took me a long time to get over the emotional tiredness that the engagement has caused me. Right now, I find myself with a newly-found freedom at work, to do the things that I have always wanted to do.

Meanwhile, I am also continuing with the regime of exercises and good food at home. Any kind of routine makes me feel good about myself: the fact that I was able to get back to my word count yesterday after I staggered on Nov. 7th made me feel so much confidence yesterday.

It is incredible how much a day’s work can do for you: be it in your writing project, or your day job or your exercise routine. If, at the beginning of November, someone asked me to give them a book of 50K words by the end of the month, I would be like, “Are you kidding me?” But everyday, as I spend an hour on writing and consistently meet the daily word count, it feels as if the book is writing itself, without much effort from my side.

How’s November treating you guys? Let me know your NaNoWriMo progress in the Comments below.

Until later, keep at whatever you are doing one day at a time! I will bring you the next update soon! ❤

NaNoWriMo 2017!

Hola novelists!! It’s less than an hour for NaNoWriMo to start. I hope you all have your plots, character sketches and outlines ready. How long has it been for you prepping for the start of November? How long have you been waiting for this day to arrive?

Ask me!

Unlike the last couple of years, I did not even remember NaNoWriMo arriving until last week. Needless to say, I have zero outline/plot/character sketch.

What I have currently are rough ideas for three short stories. So, I am going to cheat a little and go ahead with the idea of creating a short story compilation this NaNoWriMo. I am looking at 15 stories right now as a target, each approximately 2,000 words – so that totals to 30K. Yes, I am not planning on winning NaNoWriMo! I am focusing only on Writing Month for now. Those of you who have been followers of my blog from its early days know that I started this journey with the aim of writing more and more fiction. The idea was to use this blog as an author platform.

However, close to three years since I started this blog, I find myself going more and more personal in my entries, which have made this blog more of a personal journal than an author’s blog. I cannot promise that it will change too much in the next few months, but I do want to get back to writing more fiction.

The idea has always been to publish one book per year. Early this year, I published How I tamed the dragon named fear, a non-fiction on overcoming fear. It’s not been as successful as my first book, Bound by Life, a compilation of short stories. I have also tried my hand at multiple novels – none of which ended in a complete draft.

Yet, for quite a few days, I have been finding a strong urge within myself to form stories, and short stories are my natural way of self-expression. For those of you who’re interested, here’s a small one I shared on the blog earlier.

I will be back with more updates throughout November on how the book is going. But before I end, I want to give you guys a sneak peek into what I want this book to be:

“A collection of urban short stories, with a tinge of day-to-day humor.”

Until later, write more, stay creative! ❤

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 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.


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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Day 7 of Writing 101: Homecoming

“There is more to a boy than what his mother sees. There is more to a boy then what his father dreams. Inside every boy lies a heart that beats. And sometimes it screams, refusing to take defeat. And sometimes his father’s dreams aren’t big enough, and sometimes his mother’s vision isn’t long enough. And sometimes the boy has to dream his own dreams and break through the clouds with his own sunbeams.”
Ben Behunin, Remembering Isaac: The Wise and Joyful Potter of Niederbipp

I was putting off going to the bank for as long as I could. But my daughter, Anita, is persistent. A new bank has come up near our house, and Anita suggested my husband and I create a joint account there. She has been pestering us about it ever since she came home on a break from office.

“Think about it, Ma. You hardly visit that old bank of yours. Why? Because it’s so far! This is near. You can deposit money on your way back from a walk.”

Today’s kids! They know their money better than they know themselves. At least mine does. Last week, Anita did all the necessary applications for creating the account. She had us sign numerous times on a form she downloaded and accompanied us to the bank to submit it. Today, we’re going to make the first deposit to the account. My husband was supposed to come as well, but his knee started to pain again. I used this as an excuse to skip the bank visit, but Anita wouldn’t budge.

The bank is about seven minutes walk. Along the way, Anita keeps blabbering about how much her insurance covers, how much she has kept in fixed deposits, etc.

All my married life, I never bothered about banks. My husband made not much more than was needed for us to get by. The meagre amount that we saved had been used up in Anita’s education. Somehow, this left a huge impact on her – she has made it a mission to have money in the bank. She wants to be prepared for emergencies. I respect her thinking. But I am too afraid of technology. Everything is computerized these days.

When we are inside the bank, Anita fills up a form for something called a remit card – it has to be used for depositing money. This bank does not have paper slips for deposit.

When we are done with the procedure, we are handed a green-coloured card.

“So, this is not ATM card?” I ask Anita.

“No, Ma. It’s a remit card. You can only make deposits with it. With ATM card, you can withdraw.”

Anita was insistent that I apply for the ATM card as well, but thankfully, cash withdrawal can still be done using paper checks! I want to avoid complication as much as I can. All those news about people being robbed after withdrawing cash from ATMs gets to my nerves. Then if you lose the card there’s hell to pay. I lost a SIM card once. We had to go to the police station for the general diary. God! They had so many questions. What a hassle!

Anita and I stand in the line for depositing cash. People, bored people, are standing in front of me. They look at their phones, touch and type. Screens and screens and screens. Mobile screens. Laptop screens. TV screens. All eyes are on screens now. Even the older folk like me have smart-phones. Whenever we meet a smartphone-savvy woman, Anita makes it a point to remind me why I should get one too. I couldn’t care less.

I am next in line to deposit the cash. I push the green card in Anita’s hand.

“What, Ma?”

“You do it. I can’t.”

“Of course not. You’re doing it.” She thrusts the card back in my hand. When did she become this stubborn? What if I do something wrong?

“I will guide you. It’s no big deal, you see.”

“You better do it. I promise I will watch carefully.”

“No, you can only learn by doing it. That’s what you told me when I was in school, remember?”

The man in front of me leaves the line. I cringe inside. Anita pushes me forward. On the counter in front of me there is a small machine, slightly bigger than a calculator. It has numbered keys, like in a calculator. And one red, one yellow and one green key. Behind the counter, a banker, a man with black-rimmed spectacles, is shuffling pages and typing into a computer.

“Here, swipe the card in this slot,” Anita tells me. I never noticed the small vertical slot on the side of the machine.

I put the card and run it along the slot.

The display reads: Please swipe your card.

I swiped it, didn’t I? What is the meaning of this message?

“Not this way. Here, let me put the card in the slot for you again.” Anita re-inserts the card and holds my hand in hers and draws the card along the slot. This time, the machine gives out a hopeful result.

Anita guides me through the next steps.  I type, with trembling finger, the amount I will deposit. Then I press the green button thrice. But where do I put the money?

“The cash, madam,” the banker says, as if reading my mind. “Five thousand rupees, is it?”

“Yes, yes.” I hand over the notes to the banker.

With a whirring noise, a paper slip comes out of the little machine. One end stays attached to the machine.

“Please hand over the counterfoil to me, madam,” the banker says while examining the five hundred rupee notes.

“Tear off the slip, Ma.”

I fiddle at the machine. The paper is so stubborn, it won’t come out. Oh, God! Can I do one thing properly? Why on Earth do these people make simple things complicated? Somebody please give me the old deposit slips!

“Madam, hurry. We don’t have all day,” says the man behind us in the queue.

“Here, let me do it, Ma. It’s simple, see?” She bends the paper towards the keys and tears it off at an angle. The paper gives in easily.

“There are small teeth on this side which cut the paper,” she says, “but if you do it the other way…”

Anita goes on explaining to me how I was doing it wrong. But I am not listening anymore. I am tired of feeling incompetent every day. Every day there is some change. New laws. New technology. The older I get, the more difficult it is to cope. With Anita so many miles away, my husband and I are lonelier than ever. Helpless, too.

On our way out, Anita says, “Wasn’t that cool? No paperwork. No hassle!” She is smiling. She is content with the inventions of her generation. She is proud of digital technology.

I look at her. She breaks out into laughter. “You should see the look on your face, Ma. You look like you have the flu!”

I feel too weak to say anything. My daughter pins her hands on my shoulders and looks at me in the eyes. “I know it is difficult for you, Ma. But trust me, it will get easier,” she says, “Especially now that I am here to guide you through everything.”

“Well, you won’t be here next week when your office starts, will you?” A stubborn tear makes it down the corner of my eyes. Anita hates to see me crying. She gets all furious. But I feel so lonely right now, I can’t help it.

Anita smiles. The smile touches her eyes. She had the same smile when she came home after winning the Best Sportsperson award in school. The same smile when she got her job and flew away to a different state. She wipes my tear with her finger and chuckles.

“What is it? Tell me.” I feel a rush in my blood. What is the girl thinking?

Anita takes out a white envelope from her bag.

“Ta-da!” She waves the envelope in the air before putting it in my hand.

“What is it, Anita? What is in the envelope?”

“My offer letter. I got a new job, Ma! Here! Now your daughter will work from home!”


“Really, really, really!” She gives me a hug in the middle of the road.

My daughter links her arm with mine. We walk on.

Sorry, she walks. I am flying! I am flying along the edges of the clouds.

Copyright © 2015 Arpita Pramanick

“Women beware – don’tcha leave yer hair open after dusk!” – A Horror Story

This story is loosely based on a story that I have grown up hearing (in spite of the fear of ghosts, I begged my aunt to tell me horror stories, and then refused to go to the loo alone). My aunt told me this was a real incident that happened in the family, but I can’t be sure she wasn’t just making it up. There is a popular belief (or superstition depending on the viewpoint) in my part of the world that women and girls should not leave their hair open after dusk; you may want to remember that while you read this story.

“Women beware – don’tcha leave yer hair open after dusk!”

A Short Story

When Shelley was fifteen, she had hair that reached her waist. Girls with long hair were traditionally forbidden to keep their hair open, especially after dusk, but Shelley wouldn’t listen to any of her elder sisters’ plea to do so. Neither did she listen to her mother. She went about the neighbourhood, quick on her steps, climbing trees in people’s yards, picking guavas and eating them while sitting on the crotch of the tree. All the while, her hair swayed with the wind.

“Leave your hair open like this, and the devil will possess you,” said the neighbourhood aunts. But Shelley wasn’t the one to budge.

One day, as dusk waited to turn into a deeper shade of dark, Shelly was sitting on the guava tree in her neighbour’s backyard, chewing the tasty fruit when she felt a cold wind shiver her skin. From the houses came the holy sound of conchs being blown; women were performing their evening prayers. Shelley’s hair gathered around her face with the gust of wind. When the chill was gone, she felt weak and hungry, it was as if she had not eaten anything in ages. The guava in her hand was half-finished, but she hated the taste of it inside her mouth. She craved something hot and thick. Something that would make her feel energetic.

Shelley jumped off the guava tree, a good ten feet high. She landed on the ground easily. Not once did she wonder how jumped from such height – she had always climbed down the branches. But jumping seemed the natural thing to do now.

Inside, her hunger grew. She felt weak and powerful at the same time. With steps as large as four feet wide, she walked to her house.

In the kitchen, Polly, her sister, was marinating chicken in a paste of salt, garlic and turmeric. Her mother was at the oven, stirring something.

Before Shelley knew, her hand reached for the raw meat. She put a leg-piece in her mouth. Vigorously, she chewed it, crushing the bones noisily. It tasted okay, but the salt and turmeric ruined it all. The warmth of the blood was gone from the meat.

“Geez, Shelley! What did you just do?” Polly’s eyes were as wide as saucers. She had frozen in her place, one hand that had risen to remove the locks of hair falling on her eyes was still in the air.

Shelley stared at her sister for a whole thirty seconds, but she could not process why Polly looked so scared. Her mouth was salivating now. She needed to eat more, but the chicken would not do. She needed something with blood. She was so thirsty.

In a split second, her feet took flight and she was gone.

For two days, there was no sign of Shelley. Her family was anxious. Her mother cried all day long. A missing report was filed at the police station.

Neighbours came asking after her absence. When they learnt what Shelley had been doing moments before her disappearance, the women screamed, “She has been possessed by the demon. Oh, how many times we told her to tie her hair. Leaving that long hair open on evenings and sitting on the guava trees like a ghost, no wonder the demon possessed her.”

“My dear Ranu,” said an old woman with no teeth to Shelley’s mother, “you daughter has most definitely been possessed by a demon. You must call the ojha now. Only he can save your daughter.”

So her mother went to her father and relayed the neighbour’s advice. In the evening of the second day, the ojha was summoned. The ojha was a tall man of over six feet. He wore black robes and had vermillion stain all over his forehead. His eyes were darkened with kohl. His face was bearded and a thick, bushy moustache crowded above his upper lip. He wore a necklace of rudraksh seeds. The same also formed wristbands on both of his hands. He lived in a shack near the burning ghat, where dead bodies were burned and the ashes were thrown into the river flowing beside. He was said to worship Goddess Kali and summon spirits on new moon nights, all alone by the river. He had a generous collection of human skulls in his shack, which formed a shrine and an instrument to summon the spirits. He was the one and only person in the village who could remove evil spirits.

As soon as he stepped onto the threshold, the ojha cried, “I smell Death in this air. It is rotten. Evil lurks near.” His voice was cold and deep; it sent chills through Shelley’s sisters and mother.

At night, the ojha arranged materials to make a holy fire. “Depending on how near evil is, the wood will catch fire”, the man said to the family. “I can sense that it will come soon. You all go inside the house now. It is going to be a long night.”

The family huddled inside the house. They had no sleep in their eyes. Shelley’s mother kept crying, fainting occasionally. The girls kept sprinkling water over her face to recover her.

When daylight came, the house was silent. At some odd hour in the black night the family had fallen asleep. They woke to the loud shriek of the ojha.

“O come near and the fire will burn you, you witch! Tell me who you are.”

The family rushed outside. Shelley was standing in the front yard. Her hair was all over her face. She was gritting her teeth. “Eeeeaaaaaah!” she cried, shaking her head like a madwoman. When the hair parted, they saw red marks at the edges of her lips. Her eyes were bloodshot, and she looked straight at the bright flames separating her and the ojha and her family. Her posture was defensive.

“O my God!” cried her mother, “Oh, what happened to my poor girl!” and fainted. She fell on the ground. The family turned to tend to her and Shelley took the opportunity to advance towards the ojha.

“Go away, Ojha!” she shrieked in a hoarse voice that was nothing like hers. It sent chills through the spine of the girls. Shelley’s father rushed inside to bring water for her mother.

“No,” cried the ojha in a louder voice, “Tell me who you are, or by the grace of Maa Kali, I will destroy you! Leave the poor girl, now.” The ojha sprinkled some powder in the fire and the flames rose higher.

The neighbours started to gather. They spoke in low voices, fear evident in their eyes. A baby began to cry in the mother’s lap. The mother quickly put the end of her sari to the baby’s mouth.

The noise distracted Shelley. She looked in the direction of the woman. At the instant, the ojha switched sides. He was beside Shelley now. He had a big broom in his hand. He began to hit Shelley with it. Shelley was unwavering at first. She was still looking in the woman’s direction.

“They killed me and my baby,” Shelley howled, “They killed my baby!”

“What are you talking about? Who are you? Tell us,” cried the ojha. His broom kept hitting Shelley mercilessly. “Tell us or I will destroy you!”

“I am Nihar’s wife. The bastard and his mother killed me.” Her eyeballs were at the inner edge of her eyes.  She seemed lost in thoughts, and the hitting seemed to have no effect in her, though her skin was red now at the spots where she had been hit.

The crowd gasped at the mention of Nihar’s wife. She had been found dead in her in-law’s house three weeks back. On inspection, the cause of death was found to be poison. Her marriage was a failure. Her in-law’s abused her for dowry. The woman was five months pregnant when she died. There had been no police case as everyone assumed that she had taken the poison herself.

“Woman, I understand your sorrow. But why are you torturing this poor girl? Leave her body now!”

“No,” Shelley growled. She turned towards the ojha. Her eyes were bulging. She did not stop the man hitting her, but she did not seem to let go either. “I will not leave the girl’s body. She was sitting on the tree with her hair open, swaying her legs when I found her! Her body is mine now. I will not leave her.”

In a sharp movement, the ojha dropped the broom and picked up a copper pot containing holy water of river Ganges. He threw handfuls of the water on Shelley. The effect was instantaneous. Shelley shivered as if she had been struck by electricity. In moments, she fell on the ground, writhing vigorously.

“Tell me woman, will you leave the girl’s body now? Or you need more medicine?” The ojha proceeded to heat an iron rod in the fire.

“No, no, no! I will go away. Do not torture me no more. I will leave the girl!”

“Give us an indication that you are going away! Break a branch from the teak tree to let us know.”

The audience watched in awe and fear. Suddenly, Shelley’s body rose in the air and she fell down with a thump.

Her mother recovered. “What happened?” she mumbled. Remembering, she cried again. “What happened to Shelley? Where is my baby?” Her father tried to calm her down, patting her head.

Suddenly, a huge branch of the teak tree near the fence cracked. It fell with the loud thud.

The ojha bent down near Shelley quickly. He sprinkled some more water over her, applying it on the spots where the broom had hit her. “She is gone now! Take your daughter inside. She will recover soon.”

Soon enough, Shelley stirred. When she opened her eyes they were no more bloodshot.

The End

© 2015 Arpita Pramanick