Tag Archives: short story

Blogging with regularity: Introducing the regular features on Scribbles@Arpita

I have been blogging since March-end, so, it’s close to four months since I started. During this time I have experimented more than once with blog, both in terms of content and appearance. Today, I’d like to familiarize my readers with the recurring features on my blog.

As most you should know by now, my blog is mainly about writing (and becoming a writer). Usually, I post on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The Wednesday posts feature reviews/interviews/my suggestions to other authors.

On Saturdays, I am more experimental. As part of the Saturday Specials, in May I ran a weekly series of Guest blogs. In June, I am writing short stories. I plan to try newer things with this feature (maybe book reviews and short stories by guest bloggers/interviews with new authors).

 Here are the links to my regular features for your easy perusal:

Interviews: Monthly

Reviews: I haven’t formed a pattern for this yet, but this is also going to be monthly.

Short Stories: In June these formed part of Saturday Specials. In future, I intend to post monthly/every two months in this category.

Saturday Specials: I try to mix and match with this feature. So far I have published Guest Blogs and Short Stories.

With time, I am evolving. So is my blog. I hope to experiment more with the regular features in future. I love browsing ideas for Saturday Specials in the beginning of every month. It feels good to be the God of my own world: I am free to decide what I post here, and I can choose from endless possibilities.

As a reader, would you like to see any other feature on my blog? Please let me know in the comments.

Bound by Life – The Grand Release!

O my! It’s 20th June already. After all these weeks and all the hard work, my first book is finally releasing today!  For those of you who are visiting this blog for the first time, here’s some context: Bound by Life is a  collection of ten short stories based in India written by me, Arpita Pramanick. If you’re wondering who Arpita is, please check out my About page.

THROWDOWN

To honour the birth of my precious little book, I had decided to write stories every Saturday of this month. But since it’s the grand release today, I decided to make an exception. Today, I’d like to share with you the stories behind the stories in Bound by Life. By that I mean the stories of what/who inspired me to write each story of Bound by Life.

As a little girl, I had been indecently touched by a man at a local fair. I couldn’t have been more than twelve or thirteen at the time. That left a deep scar in my mind. I was so shocked at the time that I had not able to share the incident with anyone. For years, I tried to stay as far as I could from crowded places. I was scared of getting onto public buses. In general, I tried to stay as far as I could from men. When I started to write Bound by Life, that incident was one thing that I knew I had to share. I had kept it within myself for too long! Ultimately, that led me to write The Silent Victim, the very first story of the book.

Earlier this summer, a small circus had come to show in our neighbourhood. It was nothing fancy. In fact, the kind of props and lighting they had, I kinda thought the people at the circus were not making a lot of money. They had the usual tricks that they show in circuses: acts with knives and hats, trapeze. There was even an elephant. But the star of the humble show was a small, black goat. Now, I am not going to divulge how that little quadruped was special (you must read the book for that), but that inspired me to write The Last Show.

There are ten stories in Bound by Life, and each story has a story behind its origin. I’d have loved to share those here. But it’s not possible to do so without giving something away about the stories themselves (Spoiler Alert!). Hence, I want you all to read my book and find them out.

Bound by Life is my first book, and of course it is very special for me. I have already written about the things writing this book has taught me. Oh, in case you’re interested, I am still looking for bloggers to spread a word about this book on their blogs/websites. I have been giving away free Reviewer copies in exchange of an honest review since last week. Check this blog-post to receive a free reviewer copy.

Bound by Life is available in thirteen marketplaces through Amazon. I am sharing six of those here. It is priced at $3.00 (US dollars).  Please search the name of the book with the author’s name (that’s Arpita Pramanick for you) to see if it’s available in your local marketplace.

Bound by Life US       Bound by Life UK       Bound by Life India       Bound by Life France     Bound by Life Canada     Bound by Life Japan

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THANK YOU!

Cockroaches and Chickens – A Short Story

Rima was in her final semester of college. She shared a room at a paying guest accommodation with a girl who worked in an IT firm. Her name was Shyamoli.

Every Saturday morning Shyamoli left for home, returning on Monday after office. Rima had the room entirely to herself during the weekends.

On this particular Saturday afternoon, Rima was studying on her bed when a brown cockroach landed beside her pillow. Rima definitely wasn’t one of those girls who jumped at the sight of cockroaches. Her reactions were more restrained, like, “You think you can scare me? Huh? Come try me!”

She eyed the flat shiny brown mass, and the cockroach stared back, as if almost looking into her eyes. The audacity!

Rima selected a medium sized book from the ones scattered over her bed, and almost hit the cockroach. Almost! The arthropod was faster than her. It crept into the crevice between the bed and the wall. Realizing she had no intention of touching its hideous hairy legs, Rima backed away, and immersed herself into her books. How long would it hide anyway?

Later that night, Rima was watching old episodes of Castle on her laptop. She had had her dinner, brushed her teeth and changed into her nightgown. She had even hooked up three sides of the mosquito nets over her bed because she knew she’d feel too lazy afterwards. Rima perched herself in the small space on the bed that the half-hung mosquito net allowed. It was too hot to sit inside the net. One by one the episodes continued on her laptop as Rick Castle and Detective Beckett’s chemistry intensified. Rima loved how confident Stana Katic was as Detective Beckett.  If only I could be like her.

When finally Rima thought it was enough and closed her laptop, it was half past two. The house was eerily silent. Even the girls in the next room who were shouting while watching some stupid romcom had fallen asleep.

Rima stifled a large yawn. She hooked up the fourth corner of the mosquito net, and went inside to tuck in the bottoms of the net below her mattress. And then she saw it again!  The cockroach.

“I am too sleepy to run after you now. Go away!”

The cockroach sat unperturbed, staring at Rima with its lidless eyes.

After five minutes of intense staring, Rima had had enough. The cockroach was at the corner where she was about to tuck the net in. Exasperated, she thumped on the bed, hoping the impact would scare it away. It worked, but not in the way she hoped it to. The cockroach ran towards the other corner, between the wall and the bed.

Now, how was she supposed to find the cockroach and hush it away if it chose to sit in a crevice too narrow to slide her hand in? She was tired of this catch-me-if-you-can game.

Outside the net, Shyamoli’s bed stood, the bed sheet neatly covering it. Her blanket was folded on one end, and the pillow placed on top of it. The pink plastic broom with which she tidied the bed lay in front of the blanket.

Rima eyed her roommate’s bed with desire. Her eyelids were drooping, and the tube light seemed too harsh.

Will Shyamoli mind if I slept in her bed for one night?

Of course, not! She answered herself. At any rate, she’d tidy the bed first thing in the morning. Shyamoli wouldn’t even know her bed had been slept in. Plus, Rima couldn’t sleep in her bed when she knew the cockroach lurched at some corner. It would definitely come out to crawl all over her as soon as the light was switched off. Ugh! Those thorny legs.

Rima took her pillow, and hurriedly un-tucked the mosquito net. She hurled herself onto Shyamoli’s bed, and switched off the light with a flick on the bedside switch.

On Monday night her roommate returned. Rima was in her bed, reading. After Shyamoli had freshened up and tied her hair in a pigtail, she asked, “Hey, where’s the broom? I left it on the bed I think.” It was Shyamoli’s habit to dust the bed every night before going to bed.

Rima eyed at her roommate’s bed uneasily. Really, where was the broom? No one else came to their room except the maid. But she wouldn’t steal a broom, would she? Rima panicked. The room was her responsibility when Shyamoli wasn’t there.

Oh my God! She remembered then. The broom must have slipped under the blanket when she had lain on the bed. She had her feet towards it while sleeping that night. Geez, she had totally forgotten about the broom! Now Shyamoli must suspect something.

Hurriedly, Rima got off her bed and raised the blanket before Shyamoli could ask, “Hey! What are you doing?”

“Here you go!” Rima handed the broom to her.

Rima waited for the next question, “How did it end up there?” Should she explain now about that night? What if Shyamoli shouts at her? She knew she would, if she came to know Shyamoli was sleeping in her bed. Suddenly, the cockroach episode felt too silly.

“So…” Shyamoli began. Rima pursed her lips and eyed her. “How was the weekend?” Shyamoli finally asked and proceeded to tidy the bed.

Rima released the breath she had been holding back. I am such a chicken!

© 2015 Arpita Pramanick

Thoughts on the short story “So you’re just what, gone?” by Justin Taylor

This week on my Twitter feed I read the story ‘So you’re just what, gone?’ by Justin Taylor. You can read the story here. Now I will be honest, on the first two reads I did not get the story. That’s not to say I did not understand the story. I did, except for the ending. I have read other stories online on The New Yorker that made me go like, “Wow! That was something.” But this story did not inspire any such emotion in me on the first reads.

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Image Source

Photograph for The New Yorker by Brian Finke

I spoke over the phone with my professor, Mr. Shreedeep Gangopadhyay (who, by the way, is an occasional author and has shared two of his shorts in his guest post on this blog), about the story at length, going to the extent of narrating the whole story to him without summarizing (and may I mention, caring not two hoots about my grand viva of the final semester of engineering, which was due on Tuesday) and asked him the same question that I put on Twitter: “So, what’s the hitch?” Our discussion ended on a note that there might be something which we were missing, which the editors definitely saw. Perhaps Mr. Gangopadhyay would have a different opinion if he’d read the story himself.

Then I read the author’s interview about this story on The NY. That gave me an insight into the story which the story itself didn’t give.

The author dissected the protagonist, Charity’s character, who is this teenage girl who boards a plane to her Grandma’s place with her mother. They get different seats on the plane, and Charity sits beside a man, who introduces himself as Mark and makes indecent advances towards her.

This isn’t exactly the entire theme of the story, but is an important part. Now, from the author’s interview, I got to know certain patterns about Charity that wasn’t obvious to me from reading the story. For example, Charity is shown using Instagram in this story and the author says this is because:

 …she’s a highly visual person. She’s always alert to color and to light and is interested in composition, in image-making. This is why she prefers Instagram to, say, Twitter or Spring.me.

I hadn’t given her using Instagram much thought until I read the author’s views. I only imagined it to be a random platform she happens to use, just like I use Facebook or this blog. But the fact that the author put some thought before selecting the platform she uses was intricate to me. It made me truly appreciate the thoughts that go into character-building in stories/novels. In fact that explained the ending to me partly as well, the scene where Charity takes a picture of fish guts and a picture of the inside of her mouth and Instragrams it. I made a mental note to plan such things for my characters too (which would be something new for me, for I am more of an organic writer, writing stuff as they come to me).

Another thing which Justin pointed out, that “her thinking is far more nuanced and articulate than what comes out of her mouth,” became apparent to me as I read the story once again. For example when her grandma says some nasty things, she only cries out and calls for her mother. She knows perhaps she should complain about Mark Perv’s (that how she saves Mark’s name on her phone) advances, but she is undecided about it because complaining about him would also mean explaining herself to everyone else, an idea which she isn’t particularly fond of.

I found I enjoyed the story better after I had read the author’s views, but I guess I would have preferred if I saw the nuances myself (then again, I’ll admit I am not much of a trained reader, and am only finding my way through). If not anything else, this story will stand out to me as the piece where the author really does speak successfully through a teenager’s voice. He does the point of view pretty well, for it’s indeed quite difficult to see this world through someone else’s eyes, especially if that someone else happens to be a sixteen year old.

Choices – A Short Story

I am immensely delighted to inform you all that one of my short stories, I am Mala, has been accepted for publication in the eFiction magazine (Yay, looks like my endeavors are starting to pay off!). It will come out on 1st May, 2015. I am Mala is the story of a young Indian woman named Mala who becomes a victim of the dogmatic caste system. The eFiction magazine is available on Amazon as a Kindle ebook. Do buy your copy! I am so excited to hear your feedback about my story!

Meanwhile, here’s another story from me for you to enjoy this week!

Choices

Smita lay on her bed, feeling the rough bed-sheet irritate the inner side of her left calf. She rested her right leg on the wall, trying to absorb its cool in her skin. Moisture seeped through the pores on her brown skin. Even though the fan whirred above her dutifully, it was hot. Typical Indian evenings.

Smita counted the days on the brown lines of her fingers. Starting from the little finger on her right hand she stopped in the middle of her index finger. Fourteen days more. Just two weeks.

The fluorescent lamp in the room was switched off. However, plenty of light came through the window to illuminate the book shelf on the opposite wall, two feet from her bed. Books that she has been accumulating through the years stood next to each other on the shelf. Some of them had tattered spines, the ones she had bought from the old book stores.

Two weeks and a new life. A new city, far away from the comfort of familiar walls, far away from this hot, sweaty bed.

Her parents were both out this evening, working their asses off in the store where they sold little electrical gadgets. Her father was a part-time electrician. For years, he visited the clients’ places repairing their wiring system or replacing their fans and tube-lights. In the last few months, however, he complained of weak vision in both eyes. Her mother started frequenting the shop then, to help him out. They couldn’t afford someone to help at the shop. They did not make enough money for that.

Four years back Smita had wanted to become an engineer. She was good at physics and mathematics. However, her joint entrance rank for engineering did not allow for a seat in any government college. She did not have the magic certificate that declared her as a scheduled caste.

Privately-funded colleges were expensive. Her parents sat her down and said, “Please don’t worry about the money, dear. We will manage. We’ll take a loan or something. Do not cut back on your dreams.”

Smita argued, “No, Baba. I love mathematics. I could go for a B.Sc.”

The next day, her father had taken her to her higher secondary school. He wanted her to talk to her chemistry professor. The professor was a short woman who wore circular specs on the ridge of her nose.

“Smita, come in!” Her teacher called her to the staff room.

“Thank you, ma’am! My father wants me to talk to you about my college preferences.”

In the next half an hour, Smita had her future chartered before her. Her teacher was a convincing speaker. Pursuing dreams was at the top of her list of priorities, for herself and for her students.

Today, four years since that conversation with her chemistry professor, Smita lay on her uncomfortable bed, counting the days remaining for her to join her first job.

The job was right out of an IT engineer’s dream. The promise of a handsome paycheck and onshore opportunities hung before her like a lollipop on the rope in a chocolate race for primary school children. The minor setback was she had to leave her home town. She had to go to a city in a different state which took three days to reach via an express train.

Ever since she could remember, her life had been a series of repeated events, no variation, no changes. Life at home would remain strikingly same even as she left. Her mother would wake up at six in the morning, prepare simple breakfast of hand-made rotis and a vegetable. After breakfast, her father would leave for the shop at around eight-thirty. After he left, her mother would sweep the floors of their two-room house with a wet rag which she occasionally dipped in a bucket full of murky water. Then she would proceed to cut the vegetables for the lunch.

When the fish soup was cooked and the rice boiled, her mother would take a bath. For the next half an hour her mother would sit before the twelve idols of Hindu gods and goddesses that flanked a sanctum in one corner of her parents’ bedroom. Her mother would meditate, burn incense sticks and arrange fresh flowers in front of the idols.

These days, after her mother completed her prayers, Smita and her mother ate their lunch. Soon after, her mother packed some curry and rice in the three-bowl steel lunch box. Smita would then ride her pink bicycle and ferry the food to her father’s shop, balancing an umbrella in her left hand to cut off the glare of the angry sun.

She would stay there for a while, helping her father out with the sales, which were far between these days. In the evenings, after the sun hid his face, she cycled back to her house. On most days her mother would already be ready to leave for her shift at the shop. Her father found it more difficult to see in the evenings.

In two weeks, her life would be different. She would ride a sleek car provided by the company to and from her office. She would probably buy sets of clothes she had so often admired on the mannequins of the recently opened shopping mall.

After she left, no one would read these books anymore. Neither of her parents was a book-worm – they simply did not have time for the simple pleasures of life. Who would carry the lunch box after she left? Would her father brave the sun in the hot afternoons for a lunch? Or would her mother walk all the way to the shop, an umbrella in her left hand and the lunch box in her right? Or would she learn to ride the bicycle?

In her schooldays, when Smita was promoted to a higher class, her father struggled to buy her books. Even now that she had graduated, the financial picture remained the same. No, there was a minor change, she corrected herself. Now they had this added burden of an education loan. Also, they had to save up some money for her father’s treatment, his eyes got worse each day.

Yesterday at dinner she asked her father, “Baba, do you really want me to take up this job?” She wondered if her mother could handle everything alone after she left – the shop and her father’s treatment.

He father smacked the fingers of his right hand clean (he really loved this mutton curry that her mother cooked once a month). Then he adjusted his spectacles and said, “What alternative have we got?”

No alternatives. She could try for other IT companies, of course. But all of them would transport her to glossy metros. The teaching job at the local school couldn’t possibly pay off her loan. Government jobs were a gamble anyway – you could try for five years and still have nothing on your hand.

Smita wanted to think of the better things. Something that would make her lips curve upwards. Couldn’t I have some more choice in my life? She asked aloud. No answer came.

Only a lizard croaked on the wall.

Smita watched the whirring fan above her – the contour of its blades made a perfect circle. The individuality of each blade was lost in the motion. In motion they became something they were not – something they could not choose to become but couldn’t prevent as well.

Smita scratched her damp scalp as she watched the blades move. No choices, she muttered. She turned over in the bed and killed with a single slap the mosquito that was blissfully sucking blood at her ankle.

 The End

Does Smita’s story leave an impact on you? Please let me know what you feel about this story in the comments section. Like they say, it’s feedback that helps authors grow!