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!
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.
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!