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Category Archives: Short Stories

Arun looked up at the sky and saw a lazy sun, its rays scattering over the road.  He claimed a red bus and clambered aboard, after winning a battle of the door with four other contenders. He could see regular crappy classes ahead of him. It didn’t look like anything would be special on his birthday. He couldn’t expect his friends to be creative enough to do something funky and out-of-the-box for him; all they would do is pester him for a treat. But even that prospect didn’t seem very bright. There were too many classes today. There was only one way left…
“Mark our proxies…” was what they thought would be the last thing they would say before the college gates were behind them. He messaged his friends in the other branches “to reach the gates ASAP” and felt himself almost triumphant in making his day better than what it could have been.
Thumb working furiously on the phone (he was glad he had asked for an Iphone on his birthday), he dashed down the steps. Just as he typed a “k”, a voice called out, “come here”. His heart nearly stopped when he saw his Physics professor beckoning him to a room. He followed with a heavy heart. “You guys, too!” Sir pointed to his pals following him. Stuck…attendance gone…were the only words that revolved in his mind. Before he could think of a cock-and-bull story, sir continued, “I wanted to show you all something.” And for the first time, he saw excitement and fire in the old man’s eyes-a positive infectious flame, whose warmth one would want to be infected with.
“The European Journal of Physics has published my research. 10 years- not a day less- on the subject I have worked. But it has all borne fruit…” As he scrambled through the cupboard, the students stared at each other, relief and awe writ large on their faces- relief as their attendance was safe and awe in respect of their teacher.
Sir’s excitement was truly contagious- stories of his work, all his experiences tumbled out and no one realized that time was passing. ‘How could somebody love the subject he abhorred so much?’ Arun wondered. His mobile was driving him crazy; he thought his pockets would rip because of the constant vibrations of his phone. He retreated to a corner and checked the phone screen. Gosh! 15 missed calls, 20 messages! 1 hour gone! They had to leave ASAP…but the Prof was on a roll…even the students egged him on.  An hour floated by. The vibrations in his pocket had now come to a standstill. What was the point of bunking the classes if they were stuck here? Even if they managed to get free, they would probably miss the morning show. He felt distant and morose as if losing control of everything. It seemed to be the research paper’s birthday, not his. How could his friends get engrossed in a “research” that was miles away from their standards? They couldn’t say they had classes because they were on a bunk.
He slid away quietly and trudged down the steps to the canteen. Sipping a solitary cup of coffee, he felt no better than the ’solitary reaper’- uncared for, unloved…he decided to go home and drown himself in the vast ocean of social networking sites. That was easy and hurtless.
However, before he could get up from his seat, hoots and wolf-whistles sounded and tight hugs gripped him. Astonished and gasping for breath, he extricated himself from his friends. Some of his effervescence returned when he saw all his friends, arms outstretched waiting to punch him, engulf him. He was hammocked by them and carried to the lawn. Cake war and friendly punches followed with food, food and food. There’s a saying that the way through a man’s heart is through his stomach. On Arun’s birthday, this aphorism proved truest of all. 

All day long, Samir felt something nagging at the back of his mind. It was a mixed feeling- a feeling of excitement and apprehension. As he prepared to leave the office, he remembered. And a wave of discomfiture washed over him. He knew he was the only one who could do it.

He drove to a nearby market and parked his car in the space left by an outgoing SUV. Locking the doors, he walked with a heavy tread towards a chemist shop. He didn’t know what to say. Obviously, it was not a crime and yet he couldn’t just bring himself to do it. After all, he had never been one of those confident people, neither in school nor in college. And now even after reaching adulthood, he was always fraught with nerves and this time, he actually had a reason.
He pushed open the glass doors and entered. Hovering uncertainly, he wondered what to do, what to say, more importantly how to say it. He stood like that for a few minutes. He knew he would have to say something sooner or later. But he couldn’t help standing still.
“What do you want Sir?” 
A man behind the counter had just released a customer. Samir turned beetroot red. It was even worse now that he had been singled out, that he was being asked directly. He babbled the first thing that came into his head- the name of some moisturiser that he had seen in Ekta’s bag. The salesman dug into the shelves, looking for the product asked, while Samir heaved a temporary sigh of relief.
“Anything else Sir?” the damned salesman had returned sooner than expected, bringing along with the moisturizer, a fresh burst of color to Samir’s cheeks. 
Samir stood transfixed for a moment, not knowing how to respond. At one point, he decided to drop the idea. However, he had resolved to do it that day. He didn’t want to give up. Not at that point. At least not at that point of awkwardness, when the fellow at the counter was ogling confusedly at him and he had almost made a fool of himself. So, he mustered all his manliness and decided to take the plunge.
Manforce“, the words came out in a croaky tone, slightly broken. But thankfully, the salesman seemed to have understood.
“Flavored or normal?” he had the audacity to ask. Samir felt as if he must have looked naked to everyone at the shop. He felt as if every eye was on him, wanting to know what his preference would be. If he said flavored, they would probably take him for a kinky sort. If he chose normal, they would probably classify him as a noob in the bed business. But he preferred noob to kinky. So, he went for the ordinary one.
“How many?” 
The sales guy was now definitely making fun of him. Samir’s face assumed a darker reddish hue, if there could ever be such a shade. He muttered through gritted teeth, “A pack of 5 please”. 
Now he was just waiting impatiently to get it over with. His modesty had already been battered to pieces. He was now merely trying to salvage the vestiges of his virtue as all the buyers and sellers alike looked on, as if watching some freak comedy show.
“Here,” the now-superior-for-having-sort-of-caught-Samir-in-the-act sales guy handed him a black package, as if it contained sanitary pads or something. Sanitary pads would still have been better, for that matter.
Samir was ready with a 500-rupee-note. He could have ran away without waiting for the change had he been financially that stable. But, he was not. So, he waited while the cashier fished out the balance notes from a drawer. As soon as Samir got the money, he stuffed them in his pocket without bothering to even open his wallet.
He pushed the door, set to walk out of the hideously focusing limelight. 
Surprisingly, the door didn’t budge. He pushed it twice…thrice. 
So much for manliness. He wondered if he was pushing the wrong end of the door. He remembered having seen something similar in an advertisment of glass wherein people failed to perceive the glass barrier and rushed into it, thus banging their heads. But he didn’t think that was the case here.
He felt as if the people at the shop had trapped him, as if they wouldn’t let him escape unless he told them what he was planning to do with the stuff in the black package, to whom he was about to do it all, where, how and all sorts of vivid details. His face had reached boiling point and its redness measure had surpassed the topmost calibrations.
Just then, someone from outside the shop pushed the door and entered the shop. Gosh ! He just had to pull !!! He had managed to avoid maximum number of circumstances in his life that concerned all those fears of his about public speaking, interviews and so on. However this time, he had been caught with his pants down. Literally to some extent. His confidence had taken a sound beating. 
All the way to his car, he wondered about the travails that he had to endure for a night of happiness, for a night of Ekta. 

They were lugging things down from the second floor to the road where the truck and the car were waiting. Jai huffed and puffed, taking large noisy strides down the stairs, carrying two plastic bags. Jaya Sharma, Jai’s mother, shouted, “Where is the bag of handkerchiefs? And the bag of socks? Are you carrying it Jai?”
Jai gritted his teeth and reluctantly answered in a low voice, “Yeah mom…I have them”.
“Everything taken?” Jai’s father asked his wife. “All the big stuff is in the truck. Just make sure all the trousseau and your make up kits and the “important little” things have been take care of,” he further ordered. “This is my fifth trip and I don’t want to make one again!”
“Don’t be such a control freak now!” Jaya retorted. “Everything has been done! Come mother, let’s go.” With this, she started escorting her mom-in-law out of her puja room.
“Wait…just let me check on a few things,” Jai’s grandmother peered into the empty rooms. “Oh you forgot this jug in the kitchen, Jaya!” she exclaimed, picking up an antique looking jug with JJ inscribed on the bottom face and tucking it beneath her armpits.
***
The ‘Sharmas’ had settled in their new abode. It had been a week since the final day of shifting. Relatives and guests had started pouring in.
On this particular day, Jaya was hurriedly frying some frozen potato wedges and corn fries for Mr. Sharma’s friends who had come to see the newly-built house.
“Get the glasses ready,” Jaya ordered her son.
Jai quickly put the glasses on the tray.
“Now just pour the juice in a jug,” she instructed.
Jai looked around, opened the cupboards and brought out his favourite jug- the antique one with a silverish patina and intricate designs carved on it. For Jai, the best part of it was the initials JJ artistically inscribed at the bottom face of the jug.
“Put that down, will you?” Jaya snapped at her son, snatching the ancient-looking urn from him and opened another closet to fetch a glass jug.
***
Maji…
Jaya placed a plate of food in front of her mother-in-law.
“I wanted to ask about that old ceramic jug. Don’t you think we should give it to Omwati ?”
“Omwati ?!” the old woman’s pitch rose. “She hardly cleans properly! She always tries to shirk work. Every time I see her, she is standing with a broom, sweeping lazily. She doesn’t even bend while sweeping. What kind of a cleaning is that? No way should you give her anything!”
Her mother-in-law was vehement and totally in favor of keeping the urn.
“Besides, that jug is so pretty. It has been in our house for as long as I can remember. I think someone gifted it to you on your wedding day. Wasn’t it your classmate, Jaideep? I don’t think you should dispose of it like that. By the way, just get me a glass of water, Jaya.”
And thus ended Jaya’s hopes of getting rid of the antediluvian jug.
***
“Please come in.”
They ushered in their neighbour, Mrs. Verma, who was an ebullient woman of about thirty. She came in with a little girl, who was an uncanny replica of her mother’s. “Hello! It’s very nice to have you here! My daughter will finally have someone to interact with in this building. She gets quite lonely. Also, there are some wonderful hobby classes in the next street! We could get them admitted, you know! Then we could chat and all while taking them there! I get bored at home all day,” Mrs. Verma gushed.
“Yeah…that would be great!” Jaya put on her most convivial demeanour. “Jai come here! Come and meet a new friend of yours.”
As Jai shyly shook hands with Preeti, the women started chatting and the kids went to play in the dining area. A while later, they saw Preeti whispering something in her mother’s ear.
“No! That is a most impolite thing to ask!” Mrs. Verma was heard chiding her little daughter. “You go play and don’t you dare behave like that!” After her mother’s admonition, Preeti’s face fell and she sat down.
“What happened, beta ?” Jaya called Preeti to her side. “What do you want? Tell me…Is Jai being naughty?”
Preeti glanced at her mother once but on insistent cajoling by the ‘new and nice’ aunty, she burst out, “I want that silver pitcher but Jai says he won’t give me.” And she started to sob a little.
“Very bad, Preeti. Very misbehaving of you.” Mrs. Verma tried to discourage her daughter. But Jaya had already got up.
Presently, she emerged from the dining area with the old faded urn and handed it to the little girl, who jumped in exhilaration.
“No, no, no Mrs. Sharma! You mustn’t do this! ” Mrs. Verma protested. But Jaya was hell bent on getting rid of the God awful jug, that was refusing to exit her life after having spent ten useless years in their house.
***
“Mom ! There is Verma aunty at the door!” Jai called. As Jaya proceeded to the door, Mrs. Verma started apologizing, “Actually this is about that jar. Preeti has gone to sleep now. And I came to return this. You know my husband; he is very particular about such things. He is slightly touchy about taking things, especially valuable stuff. Also, we have only just met. So, please don’t mind!” 
Jaya couldn’t help but take it back.
Off went another chance of throwing away the damned jug.
***
The clattering noises from the kitchen meant that the dishes were being washed. As Jaya piled on dish after dish, an idea struck her. She saw the jug perched innocently on the kitchen slab. If she were to accidentally slide it over the edge or wave her hand in a moment of decided recklessness in a certain wayward manner, the jug would reach the destination she desired for it. Thus, while wiping the plate and before placing it on the rack, she touched the jug with a plate with amazing adroitness so that it teetered on the edge of the slab hanging on for dear life. She went on cleaning, hoping for the jug to fall but it held on fast. Then she dropped all subtlety and plunged into deliberate action. The old container would easily have fallen and shattered into a million pieces had it not been for the hero who saved it. Mr. Verma himself was much astonished at his heroic deed.
“Careful Jaya! Don’t be in such a hurry! We would have lost a beautiful receptacle if not for this fortunate accident.”
***
Jaya had decided now. She called the washerwoman in the evening one day.
“Rama, you were talking about that woman who collects old stuff, right? Clothes and utensils and the like? I have some really good things from my old home, things which I don’t need anymore. So, send her in whenever you can.”
***
“Madam, 300 is too much. I can only manage 200,” The scavenging woman had her own rules and conditions.
“Fine!” Jaya said. “Just take it.”
She was in a mad hurry to bid adieu to the ill fated jug.
***
“Look what I have got here!” exuded Jaya’s father-in-law as he took off his sandals at the doorstep.
“Give it to me! ME! ME! ME!” cried Jai in glee.
“What is it, baba ?” Jaya came with a glass of chilled water.
The old man gushed happily, “I bought this beautiful antique vase for just Rs. 500 from the Budh Bazaar. See!”
Jaya unwrapped the newspaper which enveloped the gift. She gasped in shock.
There it was- the jug she had gotten rid of a few days ago. The symbols JJ stared out at her.
She settled for the fact that Jaideep would probably never go away from her life. She should have realized as much when she named her son Jai. The jug would probably never leave her house as long as she lived, just like the memory of the man she had once loved.  

~~~RAKHI SPECIAL~~~
She was strolling in the market, looking for gifts. The chattering crowds and the hustle bustle of the market were like music to her. It had been so many days since she had walked like this among people. Free and unhindered. Had her husband known that she was wandering in the market alone, he would certainly have freaked out. There are as many downs as there are perks of pregnancy. She thoroughly enjoyed her hubby fussing over her, making dinner, taking her out for walks, shopping for her and so on. Just that his apprehensions put a kibosh on her solitary outside activities. He wouldn’t let her out of his sight for fear of some mishap. Today, he was in the office working late as he was taking the following day off so they could spend Rakshabandhan at their in-laws’ place. He had a younger sister, who was in college. Since he would be late in returning from office, he had reluctantly acceded to Radha’s idea of choosing a gift for his sister. However, he had extracted a promise from Radha that she would take the neighbouring Mrs. Verma along. Mrs. Verma had already left for her relatives’ place. As a result, Radha had to go alone, an opportunity she did not regret. Her husband, Rohit cared for his sister like a father. Probably that’s where his fretting and worrying came from.
Radha glanced at a golden purse with a beaded chain around it. She wondered if Naina would like it. No…it was too jazzy. She should look for something decent and yet smart. Her eyes fell on a grey purse in a square shape. It certainly looked different and yet she had seen it before. Oh yes! That’s what Varun had chosen for her on one particular Rakhi. But the thought of Varun made her heart clench. It was painful to think of him. Or of her parents. Especially today. On the eve of Rakhi.
It had been four years since she had left her maiden house. There had been a terrible quarrel and she had opted to live with her chosen mate much to the chagrin and anger of her parents. They did not approve of Rohit. Because he did not have a very high paying job. He was not an MBA after all. He worked in the delivery department of a small company. They had met on the metro. While she was returning from college, he was usually returning from work. How they talked and when their chemistry sparked is another story. But before long, they knew they wanted to spend their lives with each other. When they broke the news to their families, they were met with two opposite reactions. While her in-laws welcomed her with open arms, her own family severed all contact with her. She could understand her father and mother. But her brother too? It was quite unbelievable. She had always found support in Varun. When she wanted to go to a disc with friends, it was Varun who convinced their parents to let her go. It was Varun who always took her shopping even though he cribbed and complained a lot while doing so. It was Varun who always got her thoughtful gifts on Rakhi. She remembered their childhood when they used to invent games of their own. There was one particular ritual which they used to follow that stuck in her memory just because it was so ridiculous and weird. Taking cue from mythological shows, they used to create a sacred potion which they called as the power potion or the potion of life. They used to pour water in an earthen bowl (the mud pots that were kept unused in the storeroom) and take a candle out into the balcony. Then they would say all kinds of hocus pocus and light the candle. Placing the bowl above the candle, they would say one by one- “earth, sky, air, water, fire!” and after the pronunciation of the five essential elements, they would pour the water into two glasses and drink them in a most formal manner. To them, it was a sacred potion made of the five basic elements and contained utmost potential.
Radha laughed inwardly as she thought of the stupid tricks they used to cook up. Then the laugh turned bitter as she realized she sorely missed all those idiocies and oddities.  
The memory of the day she had stormed out of her house was clearly stamped in her mind. Varun did not support her. He disowned her as easily and heartlessly as if nothing of value had ever existed between them. She had spent four Rakhi-less years. Four years of not seeing her parents or her brother.
While such thoughts invaded her mind, she walked past a herd of cows contently grazing on a pile of garbage. The dairy owners let the cows loose in the evenings, thus creating chaos and unnecessary traffic. Thankfully, there hadn’t been any accidents owing to the docile creatures. But that status was going to change today. As Radha walked onward, she didn’t see a calf lying down and stumbled on its legs. The squeal of the calf was not the turning point but the sudden obstacle took Radha by surprise and she moved to her right in a protective move. Just then, a scooter rushed by, hitting Radha in her side, causing her to topple over the calf, which elicited a plaintive cry from the animal. The pain rocked her consciousness and threatened to engulf her. She saw people hurrying toward her but could not keep her eyes open any longer.
It was the umpteenth time that his phone had rung. ‘Who was calling at this Goddamned hour?’, Varun wondered, rubbing his eyes. He clicked open the flap and saw the number. His face hardened. Why would Rohit be calling him? And that too at this time of the night? He decided to ignore it. The rings stopped after a while. He went back to bed. But a sense of unease had taken hold of him. Rohit had called him only twice before. Once, to apologize in an effort of reconciliation and another time, recently to inform him of Radha’s pregnancy. Not very fruitful conversations both, he must admit. He was still deeply stung by Radha’s treachery. But none of those calls had come in the middle of the night. He decided to let his guard down for a while. Before he could harden himself by reminding himself of his sister’s betrayal, he had already dialled the number.
“Varun….Radha…”
“Why did you call? What happened? !!”
“Radha was in an accident…” and Varun didn’t need to hear the rest of the words. All his pride and hurt forgotten, he told his dad that he had been called urgently to a friend’s and rushed to the hospital Rohit had mentioned.
Radha was covered in a white sheet, her eyes closed and her body moving rhythmically up and down in the action of breathing. Varun looked at her through the jalousie. Radha hadn’t changed much. Women rarely do for that matter. Her cheeks were always sunk in a certain manner, which Varun had often teased her about as witch’s cheeks. She had always been plump and now looked even healthier in the hospital room with a mound in the middle of her structure. He wondered if she was safe…if the baby was safe.
He kept looking at her for another hour or so when Rohit came and thanked him for coming. He offered him something to eat but Varun refused.
Varun could not decide if he should tell his parents about Radha. They might take it badly. He decided to wait till he heard from the doctor. It was nearly morning when the doctor let them in the ICU. He couldn’t bear to see her ebullient sister so helpless and wounded lying on a drab hospital bed. His vision grew misty and it took all his self control to prevent tears from breaking through his eyes. He wondered if it had been his fault and his intransigence that had led to all this. Had they reconciled their differences, his sister would not have been roaming around alone and nothing like this would have happened. That rascal Rohit ! It was his fault ! He couldn’t understand the reason why he was at daggers drawn with Rohit. Rohit did not earn very well…accepted. Apart from that, there was nothing that hateful about him. His family was decent and had accepted Radha and welcomed her. Perhaps he was just not ready to relinquish his sister to another man. Perhaps he abhorred the idea of her sister’s devotion and love to another man. That sounded highly ludicrous even to Varun himself. But feelings do not follow norms. Just like at this point, his long-upheld pride and animosity had been punctured by his conscience and the old deep-seated affection he always had for his sister.
He hurried out of the hospital. Right outside the gates, stood a tea seller, offering tea in earthen cups. He bought two, paid him and rushed back to the room where his sister lay.
He pushed open the door carefully, trying not to give Radha a shock. Rohit stood beside her, cradling her head. “I told Radha that you came, Varun. And she is out of danger now. I will give you two a minute to yourselves.” and so saying, Rohit exited the room.
“Have this…”, Varun said, handing one of the tea cups to Radha. “It is a power potion made of the five basic elements, remember?” A faint smile played on Varun’s lips. “It was prepared outside with the sky and the air and the other things. You will be fit and running in no time. Come on, have it !” Radha was not as capable as Varun in stemming the floods behind her eyes. Her tears flowed freely as she sipped her tea. This was probably the most poignant Rakshabandhanof her life.     

~~~RAKHI SPECIAL~~~

Every year on Rakhi, their mom and dad used to buy things for them, which after the Rakshabandhan ceremony, they gifted each other. Adi and Pia used to receive similar gifts- mostly clothes, which left no ground for arguments since Adi would receive a jeans-tee set and Pia would get a frock or a jeans-top combo. However, if they got chocolates, excitement and anticipation would rage in their minds and they would compare their brands and tease each other over which was the more chocolaty of the chocolates. Soon, mom and dad started giving them chocolates of the same brand, in different packages perhaps but not different enough to make them quarrel.


One Rakhi, their parents changed tact. Mom had asked both of them to choose gifts for themselves instead of the ritual of handing them gifts to be given to each other. Ecstatic on getting to choose their own presents, Adi chose a Tetris game and Pia went with Hershey’s box of huge chocolates.


That Rakhi morning was an exhilarating one with the kids full of cheerful expectations and unlimited joy. As a result, Pia was extra polite while tying the rakhi on Adi’s wrist and putting the gulabjamun in his mouth while Adi was generous enough to offer his sister a sweet. After the rituals were over, the time for gifts finally arrived.


They handed each other their respective polybags, trembling with delight. Slowly they unwrapped their packages, savouring the moment of happy knowledge and playing at a make-believe surprise game. However, the game turned out to be true as their faces betrayed intense confusion and significant disappointment when the gifts were finally out in the open. Their gifts had been exchanged ! Mom confirmed their suspicions. They had chosen gifts not for themselves but for EACH OTHER. Hark! What a disheartening end to a hopeful morning! They had to contend themselves with accepting the others’ gifts and making ‘pacts’ and ‘agreements’ to use each other’s possessions.


Another Rakhi arrived but the previous year’s deceit had dampened their gift spirits. Coincidentally, they had had a bit of a spat a few days preceding the festival. Adi had told off on Pia to their mom. Pia had upturned the bowl of custard as she tried to fetch some water from the fridge. Adi had grabbed the chance and run straight to mom telling her everything. As a consequence, when the time for buying presents for Rakhi arrived, they did not put utmost thought into each other’s gifts because they were apprehensive about the other choosing mediocre stuff for them.


Rakshabandhan was finally here. The sweets were ready and their relatives had arrived. Mom was in a resplendent saree, dad in a dapper maroon kurta and the kids too sported elegant traditional outfits. The mantras were uttered, rakhis tied and presents given/received. As Pia unwrapped her gift, her eyes fell on the penstand that she had selected for her brother. On the other hand, Adi too looked flabbergasted holding the sketchpen set he had chosen for his sister. The siblings just couldn’t follow the kind of game that their parents were playing. It seemed that their parents would always outwit them in their quest of fostering love and affection between the two.

~~~RAKHI SPECIAL~~~

“Do you remember where that old phone of yours is?” Mimi’s dad asked her.

“I guess it is in the study table drawer in Ravi’s room, I will have to check.” 
She faintly remembered putting that small black old phone away on her last birthday as she received a brand new phone with a 5-inch screen replete with Android OS and a cute Hello Kitty cover.
Ravi was four years younger to her and was still in school. He was supposed to get a cellphone after his tenth board exams. Consequently, he had to make do with leftover phones of mom, dad and this time his elder sister, as his phone’s display had stopped displaying anything.
He managed to rummage through the wires and other electronic junk and emerged with her old black phone. As their mother placed breakfast in front of them, she realized she was running late for the 10 a.m. class and hurried out.
Her day at college was uneventful save something nagging at the back of her mind. She couldn’t seem to place her finger on what that something was. She decided to ignore the feeling. On getting home, while she was having dinner, hungrily stowing spoonfuls of rice into her mouth, her phone beeped. It was him, reminding her about the report the next day. And then like lightning, it struck her.
All of a sudden, she couldn’t wait for Ravi to sleep. She desperately wanted him away for some while. She hoped he would go to the washroom or just anywhere so she could have a look at her old phone. 
But he deliberately seemed to linger, longer than usual (obviously to her hyperactive imagination) around his new phone. But Providence was not so cruel. Dad called him for some work, which was likely to take some time. She stole over to his room, grabbed his phone and thumbed through the messages part. There was nothing except operator notifications and a few other random messages. Her little brother’s messages had not populated the inbox yet. However, the inbox was not her concern. She scrolled down to ‘Sent Items’ and ‘Drafts’ to ‘My Folders’, her heart almost jumping out of her chest. 
And there it was ! That old folder of hers, that she had titled ‘NEW FOLDER’ to disguise it. That was where the clandestine conversations were stored. She clicked on it. Her heart sank to the level of the earth’s molten core as she saw those lovey-dovey exchanges between her boyfriend and herself. 
Yuck ! To know that her brother must have read them! Those messages to write which she had had to combine all her poor creative faculties together and often take the assistance of mushy Internet lingo…those messages which seemed sweet only when you sent them but ridiculous and cloying sugary on reading them later…to think that those highly confidential and personal messages of hers had been perused by her brother! 
She wanted the earth to swallow her and never burp her out again. She shuddered to think that he might have come across some saucy messages, that had been sent and received more recently than mushy ones because sensuality usually leads the way to sexuality in a relationship. 
Mustering whatever courage and dignity she had left and dispelling disturbing thoughts, she got back to the ‘My Folders’ menu and while travelling down found another folder titled ‘new folder’- all in small letters, which was weird because she had never seen such a folder before and didn’t remember creating any such with the same name. On entering it, she found a dozen or so texts to/from her brother’s girlfriend. The messages were personal enough to indicate that they were lovers but quite lame compared to her ‘mature’ messages. She started wondering that perhaps he had deliberately created this folder, may be as a sarcastic message saying- ‘Sis, you would always be one step ahead ! Precisely why my new folder is all small lettery compared to your NEW FOLDER in blaring capitals’ and a winkie emoticon ahead. It was as if he was taking baby steps in the dating world following in her footsteps. Mimi wished she could turn back time. Oh that cunning rogue!  
I was in school then, class 10th probably. I am terribly afraid of reptiles, especially lizards. Once, very recently, I waited for an hour or so for dad to come and unlock the door for me because there was a lizard on the ceiling above the locked door of my house. Sometimes, I marvel at my imbecility.  

She adjusted her spaghetti top as her mother kept ordering her around. All the stuff from her room was being shifted to her mum and dad’s. Their residence was an inferno of things pell-mell about the house. She was trying to be as careful & quick as possible in obeying her mother. Although she was damn exhausted, she knew that her mother’s agony was greater.
There had been no power supply since two hours. Their guests had just left. Her brother had been stationed at the bed near the computer table to keep a lookout for the reptile. It was this hell of a thing which was the key reason for their world turned upside down. The entire family was frantic,that is, if you count her sense of obedience, his younger brother’s know-it-all attitude and her dad’s desperate efforts to humour his wife and most importantly, her mother’s lizard phobia which had turned out to be a menace.

There was a huge bang but it had missed its target. The cold-blooded beast darted inside. It seemed to be quite an experienced one, knew where to hide itself from the prying eyes of the family. Niti’s mother was probably the only person who was always keen to avoid lizards. She detested pariplanetas, ants, crickets, moths-yes- but she more than loathed lizards. She shuddered at the thought of the little animal. Soft, brown and skinny with two little black slits for sight and a life-saving tail (which it has probably shed thousands of times), this cousin of gecko was, for her, Satan himself, in all his appalling crudity.
Niti’s father dived but could muster just a few roaches from under the bed. Her brother, however, had four araneas to his credit, which he handed over to her and dashed off to fetch their special “life” bottles which housed all kinds of grotesque “treasures”, some of them including ants, caterpillars and so on.
A jubilant scream erupted from the depths of the cupboard, followed almost immediately by a terrifying yell. The two siblings rushed to the scene as their dad picked up the irritating animal from their mum’s shoulders and chucked it away in the bin. Finally, after all that scramble, they had caught hold of the culprit.
As the residents of no. XX returned to normal activity, Niti suddenly caught sight of two slits behind her study table. Her eyebrows disappeared into her forehead as she detected a peculiar, weird as it was, twinkle in the little reptile’s eyes.

There was a book meet in IHC (India Habitat Centre). I was in class 9th perhaps. My English teacher had accompanied me and we were discussing R K Narayan’s works. Towards the end, we all were asked to come up with some funny anecdote. So this was mine. I have a habit of storing everything, however trivial. This is one of those. 

“Autograph! Please, oh, please!” and I pitied on the little being craving to possess it. Thronged by students and people from all sides, I was actually sandwiched between my bodyguards. Out of the blue, came a reporter with the respect and elation one feels on encountering someone great and lord-like. “This book, please, sign it ma’am,” and as my hand moved over the soft cover of my own book, people cheered enthusiastically. Just then, I felt a nagging pain at my nape, I was about to warn my bodyguards to take care that the crowd doesn’t get the better of them, when there was a huge thud and reproaches. My eyelids heavy, somehow I managed to open my eyes and instantly my hand rose to shield my face from the fierce sun. Suddenly I recognized the all-too-familiar voice of Mum and when my hips began to ache, I found I had fallen out of my bed. Damn! It was wretched Monday! Hateful Monday! Maddening Monday! Why did this fateful day have to arrive? But not a single scream of my inner self reached mum who never spared a single opportunity to reprimand me of my worthlessness and hopelessness. Sweet Saturday and Sunday had flown off, as if. All my homework and learning work remained pending. Head heavy with Mum’s scoldings and pending work and what-nots and cursing everybody in sight, I reluctantly stood up wavering, reached the washroom and started applying Dad’s shaving cream on my toothbrush.

This is a tribute to my sweet buddy Aparna. She is an avid cricket fan and when Sehwag and Pathan came to Jamia, I felt like writing this for her. All we managed to see was Sehwag’s head among the sea of our fellow JMIItes.   

It was the fourth class in a row this week I was missing!
But for my friend, it was different. I knew how passionate she was about cricket. Although we played badminton in our free time, she always talked about cricket. While we listened to songs, she had her ears glued to cricket commentary on her phone. She often said that had she been a guy, she would have gone for cricket as a profession.
However I was only humouring her by bunking classes to meet Sehwag and Pathan who were supposed to arrive at the Jamia Sports Complex for the Delhi Daredevils’ practice for the IPL. We squatted in the court, watching the eagerly waiting crowd. There were some with pens, slam books and cameras and there were us, with nothing but hope and desire to see the cricket heroes.
My phone beeped. I opened the message, glancing at the screen- 12:10. 
The SMS read- sir has left. 
I looked at her- “We need to go- only this class…then we will return in the break…pakka!” 
She didn’t seem to hear. 
I tried again- “Maximum backlogs in this subject…28 last year, remember?” 
I had touched a nerve. 
As soon as the “backlog” class got over, we ran to the sports complex, food forgotten. The scene had transformed, the road was adorned with Mercedes and Volvos now. Security guards surrounded the place.
“Have they arrived?!” I asked an acquaintance. 
“They just left! See!” he brandished his autograph at my face. 
Crap! My heart sank- not for me, but for my friend who was willing to miss any amount of classes just to see the cricketers. Her face had such a forlorn look that I couldn’t just leave the matter at that.
We kept roaming the grounds. I ignored the SMSes on my phone that some friends faithfully sent, notifying us about the entry and exit of teachers.
“What are you people doing here?” 
We looked up. 
It was the “backlog” sir. What luck to have attended his class!
“We missed meeting Sehwag and Pathan. They left an hour ago”, I replied.
“But I just took Pathan’s autograph in the auditorium. Go right in and hurry up,” Sir said.

It seemed as if my friend had topped the semester and the “backlog” sir had awarded her the highest marks, so happy she was. We dashed to the auditorium and joined the crowd thronging the celebrity.
As we walked to our bus-stop in the evening, comparing Pathan’s autographs, I wondered- an entire day bunk was not much compared to this sense of accomplishment and jubilation on our faces…