#1000 Words Tales August Entries
Winning Entry by Reshma Dugar
I struggled towards the flight ticket counter with the bulky pot of staghorn, an extemporaneous decision to carry it along, jutting out of my trolley. In my mind, I was assuring myself that I would get away with my plan of convincing the authorities to allow me to carry this pot as hand baggage, by employing my charm and diplomacy if needed. I wasn’t ready to give it away as check-in-baggage, skeptical of it being mishandled or uprooted by the ground staff. Even the “fragile” tag didn’t assure me of its safety.
Just as I had anticipated, the airline staff refused to allow this as hand baggage for security reasons. Damn, this bad, bad world for throwing trust away from our hearts, we have fashioned our ways of life in such a way that every object, every move, every intention is judged with scrutiny and suspicion. Mine was just a pot, so simple, so pure, such a beauty, what harm could it possibly do! Sadly, they dug a huge screwdriver into the pot, like a dagger through my chest, quite confident that they would unearth a bomb or maybe some gold bars, the action nauseatingly distressing to me. This bonsai plant was not used to such loathsome manhandling. For the past thirty years or so it had been natured with so much love and care that it bled now. It was a connoisseur’s piece used to being shown off and winning accolades at flower exhibitions all over. It had earned the title of the “KOHINOOR” making its owner swell with pride. So, this transition is disturbing when this pot becomes a symbol of threat rather than beauty.
I had already begun to arouse the interest and anger of both the people around and the people in the queue behind me, waiting for their turns. The spark of controversy building just over a pot of staghorn. Shamelessly, I carried on with the arguments, they accusing me of breaking rules and I justifying it as an exceptional case, not the least bothered about the crowd this scene was attracting. Higher officials of the airline and security were called upon one by one, and I relentlessly tried to assure them that it was just a flower pot, within the permittable weight, and free from all terrorist and economic hazards, pleading them to dig no more, punch no more, scrape no more, please, “just let it be”.
Eventually, they agreed to allow me to carry the plant not the pot, quite assured that I couldn’t possibly separate the two and I would give up. But to their dismay, in a momentary decision I upturned the pot crookedly and gently patted it on top. Out came the moulded soil, the roots like shining veins entwined through it. It must be the adrenalin within me that gave it such a shimmer. “Here goes the pot’ I said, as I cast it away. The naked soil was compactly held by the very old sturdy roots, making it possible for me to hold it just like that. I would stay static for the next few hours.
All through my journey, till I reached home, I knew I was attracting glances, causing a spectacle, but who cared? Not me! I had it my way and I was jubilant about it.
Here I had brought this bonsai to a different temperate zone, away from its natural habitat and its guardian or rather soul companion. I was acutely aware of my responsibility of keeping it alive, hale and hearty in its new home, it carried a legacy, was an heirloom jewel. As I sat down to repot it, I nursed its wounds the same way as I had nursed my father during his last days, with deep love, reverence and affection. Tears flowed unrestrained and I poured my heart out, unleashing the gravity of my loss. It stood firm; it did not droop nor did it lose its glister as if keeping up that promise made to my father to look after me. It had stayed his confidante for three decades and hence the loyalty was deep rooted.
After weeks of nursing when I was sure of its survival, I placed it on a high chest of drawers near the window, in my living room where its requisite of the right temperature, the right amount of light and the right quantity of humidity would be met. It was one of those priceless artifacts that adorned my home and the cynosure of all eyes.
Each time I walk past it, its long ferns brush my arms like the way my father had patted me, bestowing his blessing. I have succeeded in bringing him near me and keeping him alive to be my very special confidante.
Shortlisted Entry by Sudhan
Shiva saw the blind man again after 3 months.
It was lunch time and Shiva was on his way home from college. He had taken a circuitous route to drop off a friend and head home, when the signal turned red. It was three months ago but there was no mistaking it, it was the same man.
He was standing near the zebra crossing,wearing an over-sized shirt buttoned up to his neck and a cheerful smile pasted on his face. His right hand was outstretched, holding a stick. There was a bag filled with ball point pens in his other hand. As the man waited patiently for someone to help him cross the road, Shiva felt a terrible sadness. Cold hands rose from his chest and gripped at his throat. He wanted to cry, but he was unable to. There were no tears.
Constant honking of horns brought him out of his reverie and he noticed that the signal had turned green. The blind man was still standing there waiting for help. He moved his car and parked it on the side of the road. Got out and walked back towards the man.
He held the man’s hand and waited for the signal to turn red again.The man’s smile broadened.
“Oh,thank you so much sir!” he said. Shiva remained silent.
Once they had safely crossed the road, the man said,
“Thank you for spending your time to help me.”
Shiva did not reply. He just stood there with his jaws clenched. He was burning in guilt. He felt relieved that the man was unable to see his face.
The blind man waited for a few seconds expecting a reply,but hearing none,he started to turn around and go wherever poor blind men go.
“What is your name?” Shiva asked in a constipated voice.
The man turned around with a broad smile.
They shook hands.There was a moment of awkward silence.
“Are you selling those pens? How much?” Shiva asked.
“Five rupees sir. Top quality. Great grip and extremely smooth.” He said and showed a pen. He also took out a small scribbling pad and encouraged Shiva to try it out.
“No that’s alright. I’ll take ten pens.”
“Ohh . . . Sure sir!!” said James as his face filled with joy. He counted ten pens and handed it over to Shiva. Shiva gave him the money and walked back to his car with the pens.
From that day, it became a habit. Shiva started to take the same round about route to go home for lunch. He would stop near the signal to help James cross the road. He frequently bought some pens too.
As days passed, James started to wait for Shiva and the two shared some small talk before parting ways. During the days when he could not go, Shiva made sure to send one of his friends to help James.This continued for a couple of months.
One day after crossing the road, James said, excitedly,
“Sir, I want you to meet someone!!”
Shiva watched curiously, as he inserted his hand into his shoulder bag and took out a puppy. It was very small, probably a week old, and nestled comfortably on James’ palm. It was as white as a summer cloud with a few brown spots on it’s back.
“Sir,meet Milky.” James said,beaming.
Shiva’s face went pale. Those cold hands again rose from his chest and grabbed his tongue this time. He felt a terrible sadness wash over him but still there were no tears.
Oblivious to Shiva’s predicament, James continued, “A neighbor found her in a ditch near my home. I was told that she looks as white as milk, hence the name.”
“Please wait here” Shiva said and helped James sit on a stone bench nearby. He went away and returned in a few minutes with a paper plate, a pack of biscuits and a cup of milk. He set the plate on the bench and crumbled a few biscuits on it and poured the milk on top. Then he took Milky from James’ hand and placed him near the plate. Milky smelled the plate and started eating it right away. Shiva sat there carassing Milky’s back.
“I had another friend like him, sir. Johny, his name was.” James said.
“He died in an accident, a few months back. I used to sell pens near the Centenary church. He was hit by a car one early morning and died on the spot. He was like my own kid, sir. He used to guide me everywhere and listen to all my stories, he was my only companion”. His voice broke and he lifted his thick black glasses to wipe away the tears.
“I stopped going to that church after that, I cannot forget his dying cry. The way he howled, before he stopped breathing.”
Shiva shuddered. He remembered that day well. He was returning home from a friend’s place, early morning on a sunday after a wild party. His head weighed a hundred kilos and he had a throbbing headache. He was speeding away in his SUV, to reach home before his parents woke up and he got caught.
That’s when he heard the thud and the howl. He didn’t know what he had hit. The howl made him forget his headache for a second and he steadied his car, stopped and lowered the glass to check what had happened.
In the mild sunlight, he saw a man wearing thick black glasses, sitting in the center of the road with a dog on his lap. The man’s shirt was red with blood and he was screaming “JOHNNY” repeatedly at the top of his voice.
Shiva jerked back to the present with something soft nuzzling on his stomach. He looked down to see Milky barking softly and trying to find its way into Shiva’s shirt.
“I think she likes you sir.” James said in a joyous voice.
That’s when the tears came.
Entry by Soumyodeep Chaterjee
A Zoo Story in the Time of Corona Virus
‘It’s too stuffy here, Baba! I can’t come out.’ Like some midget, I found myself lost amidst the claustrophobic obnoxious crowd of the bus. Suddenly, a familiar hand pulled me through the thick of the entangled legs, and I found myself landed on the footpath of Exide crossing at Rabindra Sadan, heavily panting.
We took the footpath opposite Nandan and Shishir Mancha Art Gallery under AJC Bose Flyover. Unlike every day, there were very less people plying on the footpath, and the vehicles were also too rare to find. As we reached SSKM Hospital crossing opposite Rabindra Sadan, Baba, pointing at the hospital gate, told me, ‘Do you know, there are many doctors and nurses work in this hospital?’ Suddenly, I behold a fierce grizzly bear inside the hospital gate; staring at me. Its eyes were burning bright. Thinking to be some nightmarish hallucination, I took to my heels to catch up with my Baba. We walked through the footpath of AJC Bose Road, crossing many avenues, which were mostly deserted. However, inside me, a strange eagerness wrapped with excitement was lurking as we were approaching close to the Zoo.
Upon reaching the Zoo, we found people streaming through the gate into the zoo. So, we lost no time. After purchasing the tickets, we stood in the queue and slowing entered the Zoo. It was a dream-come-true; lush-green landscape, and amidst the canopy trees were an array of cages incarcerating innumerous animals and birds. Suddenly, a colorful illuminated display-board held my attention – BEWARE OF WILD ANIMALS. DO NOT ABUSE OR PLAY PRANK ON THEM. I grew serious.
At first, we came across different deer: brow-antlered, sambar, barking deer, etc. Strangely, they all gathered together and looking at me like some jinis enchanted by its master. Then, there were innumerous birds of different species, stationed in different cages, fluttering frantically and shedding their feathers all around. The monkeys, langurs, chimpanzees from inside the cages on the other side, as I observed, were squealing and yelling at me, displaying agonistic behavior, as if, trying to intimidate me of some inevitable premonition. Gradually, an unknown fear took hold of me pressing on my chest with untold weight. I frightfully pressed onto baba’s hand. However, all those while, Baba seemed strangely unaware of the abnormalities all around.
Then, I passed by crocodiles and alligators basking in the sun. Suddenly, I noticed the reptiles were gravely sick with some unknown disease. Upon asking, one of the care takers informed us that they were infested by some unknown but deadly virus. My expectation and excitement, beforehand, I found, gradually razed to the ground. Next, we passed by some enchained elephants, struggling to break-away their chains. Then, we reached beside a lonely bear, striding all across inside the contour of its boundary, tiresomely and heavily panting, bowed down by its weight. Beside the bear, we came across some fierce tigers and blood-thirsty lions inside a single protected periphery, trying to tear-apart each other.
While bewitchingly witnessing such frightening abnormalities inside the zoo, I was anticipating some catastrophic misfortune might befall upon us when suddenly, to my utter dismay and horror, I found the elephants, breaking there chains, madly darting towards me. Next, couldn’t find Baba anywhere around, I started running hysterically. It was a total mayhem – all the cages were busted, iron-bars were broken, boundaries were razed, and all the animals were running frantically, as if fleeing from a horrible monster. People were mercilessly attacked, mauled and trampled by those desperate wild creatures. They all broke away through the gate of the Zoo, scattering in all direction.
After running nearly for half an hour or so, I found myself standing at the gate of the SSKM hospital worn-out and exhausted. Upon looking at the desolate street, I spotted nearly thousand of animals of different species approaching from the direction of the Alipore Zoo. They passed by me, as if, in a somnambulistic state. I stood still petrified like a stone, witnessing such a nightmarish phenomena alone standing at the hospital gate, when suddenly, I heard a wild gaping growl from behind. Turning back, I saw that the same fierce grizzly bear with its wide cavernous jaws and monstrous claws jumped upon me.
I jumped out of the bed, sweating and throbbing with terror, shivering uncontrollably. It was 8 o’clock in the morning. It took some time to regain my pulses. I heard Maa was speaking over the phone to her mother in a muffled voice. She felt helpless. Three days back, Baba had the swab test report confirming Covid-19 positive. They took my Baba away. None of us knew where he had been taken to. Weary and exhausted, I went to the washroom. Munching on some biscuits, I hurriedly dressed-up myself and sat for my online classes. But, I couldn’t concentrate on my studies. I was bit scared, perhaps, still haunted by those animals, stalking me with their somnambulant gaze from inside my head.
In the next room, Dadubhai, turning on to a news channel, was listening to an important announcement by our honorable Prime Minister that Lockdown had been extended from 185 days to 215 days- ‘Stay at home. Stay safe.’ He then flipped to another news channel. Again, the same news: the mounting incidents of wild animals intruding into the human world, freely roaming on the deserted streets in the cities of Italy, Spain and even in some cities of India, perhaps, enjoying the freedom of a quieter world.
My online English class was going on. Unmindfully, I turned behind, outside my window into the blue sky, beholding a fleet of chipping Chorui-Pakhi (House Sparrow) flying through my window grille. Suddenly, an ominous fear grasped me. I turned back to my online classes.
Entry by Ratna Prabha
The Green Goblin
Ganga couldn’t sleep a wink. She tossed and turned in her bed. Her sister, Gowri, sleeping on the other side of the bed said, “What’s wrong with you tonight, Gowri? Why are you not sleeping?”
“Nothing, akka. Just worried about my upcoming exams. Haven’t really been studying well the last three months.”
“Aww c’mon, my brilliant and beautiful little sister. You hardly study, and yet top the class. Your chemistry teacher talks highly of your knowledge levels.”
Ganga could hear the tone of pride in her akka’s voice. She hugged her sister in happiness and joy. She would be eternally grateful for Gowri, strong, sturdy, and wise. Ganga was more than 15 years younger than Gowri.
Their mother had succumbed to childbirth complications while delivering Ganga. The elder sister became a mother to her little sister. Gowri ensured Ganga was never denied anything in her life. Ganga’s deadly combination of ravishing beauty and brains made her a star in the neighbourhood.
“I am also worried about your decision to marry Arun, akka. You do know what happened to his previous brides, don’t you?”
“That will not happen to me! The poor man has had a tough life and he deserves happiness. I love him too and we will make a happy couple. The best part is I will be living next door and can continue to be here for you.”
Ganga cringed inwardly at her sister’s words. She wished she could share her deepest secret with her akka. But, the world including her akka was not ready for it.
She thought to herself, “Why can’t people accept that it is perfectly normal to fall in with a man more than twice her age? Love doesn’t give you a warning. It just comes and you get lost in its beautiful mire.”
“Is it my fault that I didn’t fall for any other man but my new handsome 45-year-old neighbour, Arun, when he moved into the neighbourhood, a year ago? Yes, the same man her akka wanted! He was witty, gentle, and the nicest man I have ever met.”
She had approached Arun with her proposal within a week of his moving in. That’s how sure she was of her love. But, he had brushed her off laughingly. He called it an infatuation. When she persisted, he got angry and told her to stop being crazy because he saw her as a younger sister.
Ganga decided to keep her feelings to herself for the moment. She decided to give it a few more years for Arun to come to terms with the power of her love. Her akka had taught her she should never be denied anything.
Also, his marriage is not likely to get finalized any time soon. Who would want to marry a 45-year-old man even if he had a good job and was a nice person?
But then one day, his parents came home with his wedding invitation. Gowri was shattered. She went into a solitary jealous rage. The green goblin threatened to tear her apart. She wilfully worked to keep it in check and wait for the inevitable to happen.
The night before his wedding day was the most agonizing night. Her heart broke into a thousand pieces. But a strange news woke her the next morning.
Arun’s bride-to-be had died the previous night. It looked like an old heart problem that killed her. The bride’s mother had gone to wake her up and found her unresponsive to her calls.
One of the relatives who had come to attend the wedding was a doctor. He examined her and declared her dead. Perhaps, the excitement of the wedding might have triggered the latent heart problem? God favoured Ganga!
Interestingly, another proposal came to fruition for Arun within three months of the unfortunate incident. The green goblin took control again. She had believed that God was on her side when the first bride-to-be died. But now a second one!
She didn’t know what to do. So, like the previous time, she decided to wait and watch. The wedding ceremony was an anxious affair for everyone considering what had happened the last time. But, to everyone’s relief, it went off without a hitch.
The bride came to Arun’s home in the evening. Ganga and her family had gone to welcome her to the neighbourhood. Ganga tried her best to remain calm but the tears came anyway as she hugged the new bride. Gowri noticed her crying and asked her what was wrong. Gowri simply said, “Something seems to have gotten into my eyes.”
The next day dawned bright for everyone except Ganga who had cried herself to sleep disturbed by the imaginary intimacy scenes between her beloved Arun and his new bride. But again, fate seemed to intervene. Arun’s new wife had died the previous night.
At midnight, Arun had come out of his bedroom calling his parents frantically. His wife seemed to have passed out and was not responding to his calls. She was rushed to the hospital where she was declared brought dead. Arun’s house turned into a graveyard for nearly a month after that. He had gone into depression.
And this evening, Ganga heard the most horrifying news. Gowri and Arun had announced their engagement. Gowri had helped Arun during his difficult times. The two had fallen in love, it seems. The elders were thrilled at the news. Ganga and Arun were made for each other.
No way! How could Ganga agree? Couldn’t she see that the deaths of the previous brides were no coincidence? Couldn’t anyone connect the hugs of death Gowri gave them just as she had given her sister tonight? Couldn’t they understand that her jealousy needed the satisfaction of feeling the poisoned pinprick gently plunge into the skin of her victims, even if it was her own beloved sister?
Ganga looked down at the dead face of her sister and cried piteously.
Entry by Alipi Das
“Twirl the flute, sip slowly, roll it in your mouth. Feel the taste of the wine, shut your eyes and sense the Symphony. Relax.” Jay whispered into her ear, rubbing his nose against her earlobes and teasing her tall, elegant silhouette with his frolicking fingers. His toned physique and deodorant uplifted the ethereal mood.
“Ah, the right moves to entice,” Mini reflected. At last, she was to reach the summit she craved for in her life.
She positioned herself to highlight her dusky beauty against the backdrop of the crimson sunset.
Unfortunately, her attention was wavering. Her mother’s nagging words crossed her mind and bombarded her judgements. She was furious and discarded it like a paper ball.
The dreams were big. It all began in a small town near Dumka, India, in a lower-middle-class family. From an early age Mini with dark skin and masculine features, was scorned and scoffed for her looks, “Kali Mata, Kalu,” were the labels tagged by her male classmates and nosy neighbours.
Her mother lamented while oiling and tying her long black braids, “Who will marry you, Mini Singh?”
Mini’s grit and determination to succeed increased with each crude, sarcastic tag. She had to avenge her humiliation, to float and not to sink under pressure. She excelled in sports and fought her way to the state and national levels. The news was on social media. Her height and physique were an advantage and played a role in gaining access to the modelling world in Mumbai.
The fashion and advertisement industries were quick to notice. They grabbed the lucrative opportunity and groomed Mini in beauty and poise. A fast learner, Mini became the face of the famous products she represented, which sold like hotcakes to the masses. She leaped and bounced up the ladder and soon became the showstopper for distinct brands. The money flowed like honey on the pancakes.
She stepped out from her dressing room in a dignified composure. “You look gorgeous darling!” the chubby photographer complimented at the backstage.
She acknowledged it with a nod. Her adrenaline rush was high after the quick copulation with the marketing honcho before the stage show.
The right contacts led her to the target. It was Jay Thakur, who owned international conglomerates. The modelling assignments for his enterprises fell on Mini’s lap. She became their brand ambassador, the position she tussled with ten other competitors, and snatched it from their grasp.
The last leg of the race was to eliminate his girlfriend, and stake claim of the position.
“Mini, too much greed leads to a plethora of problems. You might not like either our sermons or our status, but throughout we have lived our lives with fewer riches, but immense dignity. You are our daughter, and your welfare is our only priority.” Her experienced parents’ advice fell on deaf ears.
To Mini, the thought process belonged to archaic rational set up, and not in tandem with her current race to riches.
“I’ve called to enquire about your health and requirements, not free advice. People are jealous of my status I understand but stay out of my personal life and business.” Mini disconnected the mobile and flung both herself and the device on the linen sheets of her king bed.
God had blessed her with these divine instincts. The mole she planted to follow Jay, informed her about a deal to take place at a high-end hotel during the wee hours. She patiently waited for it to be finalized. The opportune moment had arrived. The stakeholders left, she stepped inside the near-empty restaurant.
There were endless reasons to meet up Jay on formal and personal levels. She was a seductress and was quite accomplished in this art. The paparazzi plunged in their business, and she won her trophy.
Mini gave into Jay’s demands uncompromisingly. She upended her position as Jay caressed and plunged into her derriere. Her plotting mind raced towards her plan of raising the topic of marriage. Along with it came her right to be the stakeholder of his companies.
What a blissful feeling! One of the powerful ladies in the world, the entire universe stooping at her feet and dying to kiss and hold her hand, as she disembarked from her private chartered flight.
Jay played with Mini’s silky locks. She placed her head on Jay’s hairy chest and in a flirting tone subtly asked, “Do you love children Jay?”
Jay calmly stared at the beauty of the deep blue sea from their bed and heaved a relaxed sigh, “Let’s have dinner, I’m hungry.”
They dipped their feet inside their hotel room pool and nibbled the food. The azure sky and the turquoise sea met at the horizon of this exquisite island, as the multiple hues of the setting sun played gleefully in the waters and the serene atmosphere.
Jay switched off Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 playing at the background and stated, “Mini, I know women find me attractive because of my wealth. I’ve changed girlfriends in my life like my inner garments. Do you know why?”
Mini’s eyes twitched, the sensation was queer, and signalled a premonition.
“I’m unable to father a child due to my biological disorder. Once the doctors corroborated my health conditions, I had made a legal decision. My properties were donated to charitable organisations, who are entitled to it after my mortal remains leave this planet.”
The Bible defines lust as sinful, something that is very different from love. Lust is selfish, and when we give in to it we do so with little regard for the consequences.
The head pounded, Jay’s words vibrated, a bolt from the blue. The maddening questions rotated, “BUT WHY?….. All spoilt?”
The morning calmness transferred the senses into tranquility, “What now?” Her mother’s serene face flashed like a dash of lightning and flooded her memory. Mini couldn’t flush it out anymore…. “It’s high time to pull the brakes…. Yes, to start afresh…. If Jay can, so can I.”