Category Archives: fiction

Two romances and some catching up

Chicklit

So I woke up early this month, figuratively of course, to find that I was five books behind in my Goodreads Challenge. All through this year I had maintained a steady pace and kept a book or two ahead. But these last few months had been exceptionally trying and I lost touch.

I was pretty freaked out, I do hate backing out on a commitment even if it is to myself. And so I went on a reading frenzy. I am so very glad I took up the Challenge. It proved a great way to get my reading back on track.

I’d set aside a pile of books to read but I put them all away in favour of something light and happy. Something that wouldn’t demand much from me in terms of attention because the children were home and I knew I’d have to be on random call. So I picked up my favourite go-to comfort genre – light romance.

I began with two books I’d picked up during a Books by Weight sale. They’re both fan fiction in a sense – one on my all time favourite book, Pride and Prejudice and the other on a television series I loved, Downton Abbey (My ringtone has been the theme song from the show for a long time). Interestingly, both brought together American and English sensibilities that was fun to read.

While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax

… is the story of three women living in an upmarket apartment building but very different in their circumstances as well as attitudes. The concierge is a fan of the show  and organises a screening of the first two seasons. He invites the residents for an evening of sampling not just the show but also a bit of British culture. That’s where three women end up connecting and sorting their lives.

Although this is definitely chicklit, it isn’t about twenty something women complaining about bad dates. The women are older, Brooke is a single mom to two kids, finding her feet after her recent separation from her husband, Claire is an empty nester struggling to write a novel while Samantha is someone who marries for security and money and is trying to understand her relationship with her husband. Those individual stories were  interesting. And there was romance too, so that was a bonus.

However the story had nothing to with the series so I was a little disappointed. The title lead me to believe there would be some kind of a connection. Conversely, having watched the show isn’t necessary to enjoy the book, so that could be a plus. As a standalone book, it was a decent enough read.

Me and Mr Darcy by Alexandra Potter

..is my other read. It is the story of a 29 year old American girl Emily who runs a book store. I loved that bit. Any self-respecting female runner-of-a book-store has to be in love with Mr Darcy and so is Emily. The yearning becomes stronger as a result of scores of really bad dates. It’s Christmas and everyone is going away for a holiday and on an impulse (which might have been a nudge by her fairy godmother) she takes up a Jane Austen guided tour. On the bus she realises she’s the only young person around among a sea of silver-haired women other than the rather obnoxious reporter, Spike. He’s out to discover why Mr Darcy remains the heart-throb of women across ages.

While on the tour, Emily encounters Mr Darcy, the real Mr Darcy. The difference between real and fantasy blurs as Mt Darcy begins to fall in love with her.

This is a light easy read if you have nothing else to do. There’s enough humour to keep you going with some really sweet bits. However there’s a supernatural element that didn’t come through and in the end the book ended up as a rather confused mix. It remains a forgettable read.

Oh my one source of annoyance was an Indian character called Parminda. Please, it’s ‘Parminder’. And she’s into yoga. In Goa. Such careless stereotyping puts me off, even though it’s just a small side character.

After these books I went on to read a bunch of others:
Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies by JK Rowling
Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbagh
Rekha, The Untold Story by Yasser Usman
Letters from Kargil by Diksha Dwivedi
Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult
Origin by Dan Brown
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

That’s nine books in a month! I didn’t even know I was capable of this. And with that I’m all caught up with my challenge. I can now relax and read at a steady pace through December.

So what have you been reading? Did you take up a reading challenge? How’s it going?

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Linking up with #Chatty Blogs from Shanaya Tales

And with My Era’s #BookTalkbooktalk-badge-2

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Colours of Friendship

ShortFiction

‘You draw a red arc like this,’ said Sita, taking Anjali’s index finger in her hand and tracing out the shape on the drawing book, ‘and then inside it you make an orange one, then yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet and Voila! you’ve made a rainbow.’

Anjali tried to dredge out some memory of the colours from the cobwebs of her childhood, when she still had some vision. ‘Violet, Indigo, Red, Blue,… Rainbow,’ she repeated after her friend, wonderingly. She savoured the words on her tongue, like the flavours of a delicious new dish – so very different yet beautiful together.

Smiling, Anjali took out her box of colour pencils and handed them to Sita who picked out the colours for her one by one, as they bent together drawing out the rainbow of their friendship.

Written for the following prompt from Write Tribe

rainbow

The Call of the Wind

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‘Mama may I roll down my window, please?’
‘No don’t.’
‘Why?’

Saba sighed. After a not-particularly-good day at work she really could do without this. This is the worst part of parenting, she thought to herself, this having to always always explain yourself.

Seher’s ‘Why’ still hung in the air waiting for her response.

‘Because,’ said Saba trying to summon all her patience, ‘it’s dusty and noisy and hot.’

‘But it isn’t. Look ma how the trees are swaying. It’s breezy. And there aren’t so many vehicles, pretty please?’

And this, was the second worst bit –  a No was never really a No till it was said over and over and over again. She felt a headache coming on. Thank goodness it is Friday evening.

She had got back from work looking forward to a quiet weekend, to putting her feet up and settling down with a hot cup of tea. That’s when the children had reminded her of the ‘promised’ treat to that new restaurant.

That would rank as the third worst thing – that kids never let you forget the promises you make them. It was a whole different thing, however when it came to promises that they made you, she reflected.

And so she had had a quick shower trying to wash off the day’s frustrations, had pulled on a tee and a skirt and here they were some 15 kms out of the city with Seher sitting beside her and Kabir in the back seat. She hoped the google lady knew where she was taking them as traffic thinned. She had considered calling off the treat but the dread of the children’s protests had made her drop the idea. Besides, a promise was a promise.

With Aarib away on a month-long assignment and she being taken up with this new project at work, the children had been left pretty much to their own selves. She realised she had missed spending time with them – their earnest conversations, silly antics and their banter.

If only it had been any other day.

Oh well thought she. It is as it is.

‘Maaa.. pleeease, may I?’ asked Seher yet again, her voice taking on a definite whine. Her nine-year-old was persistent if anything.

‘It isn’t even hot’, piped in four-year-old Kabir, ‘It’s starting to dribble’.

‘It’s drizzle dufus’, corrected the older one scornfully, ‘It’s starting to drizzle.’

‘Look na ma, it is drizzling’, she exclaimed pointing to the tiny droplets on the windshield going from a whiny irritated tween to an innocent animated child in the space of a moment.

‘Oh alright,’ said she reaching out to switch off the car air conditioner. Sometimes it was just easier to give in.

As the windows went down, fresh cool breeze rushed in pushing out the artificial cold inside the car and spraying the three of them with a fine mist of rain. Saba gasped in surprise while Seher and Kabir squealed for joy.

The wind tugged at Saba’s hair, tangling her short curly mop, smoothing out the knots of tension that seemed to have become part of her of late. She stuck her head out of the window letting the wind push her hair off her face, feeling lighter and happier than she had in a while.

Suddenly it didn’t seem imperative for them to reach the restaurant soon. Before she knew it she was braking the car, guiding it to a bend in the road and stopping. And then, on a whim, she opened the door and stepped out, followed by two very startled and delighted children. Saba smiled as they turned their faces up to the sky and ran around the car flapping their arms like wings, undeterred by the drizzle. The breeze whipped her skirt around her ankles and tugged insistently at her stole. She took a deep breath inhaling the petrichor, revelling in the promise of more rain.

For one small moment her thoughts drifted to wet car seats and even wetter children. And then they were all swept away as Saba gave herself up to the call of the wind.

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Written for the prompt ‘The Call of the Wind’ for Day 7, the last day of the second edition of the fortnight-long #Bar-a-thon.

barathon

The Fragrance of Love

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At the first hint of his arrival she would start withdrawing – quietly, unobtrusively. Gathering up her diaphanous gown she would go around swiftly, pulling down the thick green curtains of her tiny room. And she would sit, waiting for him to leave.

He would arrive with a flourish – happy, cheerful, too cheerful, she thought – sure of everyone’s adoration. He was a star, the darling of the people. ‘We love you’ they chanted, ‘You are our very life’. He soaked it all in – all that adulation, the applause – like it was his due.

She felt his compelling presence, right there, outside, coaxing her to come out. As if he couldn’t fathom why someone wouldn’t be delighted by his presence. But she refused, pulling her curtains tighter together.

What is with this mass hysteria? she seethed. She hated the loud colours he sported, hated his haughtiness, his smug smile that seemed to charm everyone.

And then in her mind’s eye rose up the other one, unsolicited unbidden – her one true love. All the bitterness drained from her and her lips curved up in a tender smile. It was his gentleness that had first struck her. Or was it simply the contrast that had intrigued her? Drawn her to him? His simplicity over the other one’s ostentation, humility over arrogance.. perhaps. ‘He is but a pale shadow’, said the others. But not to her. To her he was the world.

The excited buzz of her friends outside broke into her reverie. She was tempted, for one tiny instant, to lift that curtain, to step out. And just as suddenly the thought left her. Her friends would have to choose – him or her. She stayed stubbornly in.

The hours passed slowly until finally she heard him begin to say his farewells. He was leaving. ‘Come back soon. We’ll be waiting for you’, said his adoring fans. ‘I’ll be back’, said he with a wave of his hand, smiling still, ‘But I have other places to go to’. And then in a blaze of colour, he was gone.

Inside her room, she heaved a happy sigh. She reached out for the curtains, pulling them aside with a flamboyant flourish, revelling in the caress of the cool breeze, lifting up her face to soak it all in. Her gossamer dress fluttered gently, teasing her, tickling her, drawing out a spontaneous delighted laugh. Soon, very soon he’d arrive… up there, lighting up the night sky – her one true lover.

This one is inspired by the Moonflower that is said to bloom at dusk and fold up by the morning.

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Written for the prompt ‘Suns and Lovers’ for Day 6 of the second edition of the fortnight-long #Bar-a-thon.

barathon

 

 

Lord of the Files

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‘Hello! Good morning. How may I help you?’
‘I want an appointment for this weekend’.
‘We don’t work on weekends.’
‘Oh yes. Darn it! How could I forget! How about this Friday?’
‘Friday? This Friday? This Friday is just three days away. We’re all booked.’
‘How about next week then? Monday?’
Sigh! ‘We’re booked all of this month ma’am. This is not your walk-in-when-you-want establishment, you know.’
‘Yes yes, I know. I’m a regular. I do understand. It’s just that this is urgent. Please squeeze in an appointment for me. Any day this month will do. Please.’
‘Umm… let me see. How about you come in next Friday. I’ll see if I can put you between two appointments. But no guarantees, okay? And it will cost you.’
‘That’s fine. Absolutely fine. I’ll be there.’

The next Friday saw Sanaya waiting anxiously, at the edge of a sink-right-in sofa, fingers crossed, hoping her tryst would happen. Anxiety made her revert to her childhood habit and she bit her nails as she waited. She caught sight of herself in the large mirror across the sofa and pulled her hand out with a frustrated jerk, looking around guiltily to see if anyone had noticed. She could not possibly be seen sitting here biting her nails, she’d be thrown out, barred forever, perhaps. She shuddered at the thought.

Tina walked out with a smile and a sashay. ‘Hello ma’am, relax!’ she said, ‘He’ll see you in a while.’

Sanaya gave her a tight, nervous smile.

A bell tinkled musically somewhere deep inside and Tina looked up from her desk, ‘You may go in now, ma’am,’ said she.

At those magical word Sanaya felt her tense muscles relax. Oh thank God, she muttered. All would be well now.

She walked into a large room that somehow managed to look cosy. One of the walls was painted a happy lemon yellow while the others were shades of pink and lavender. A fuchsia rug lay at the bottom of a silver pink sofa, a turquoise and scarlet painting graced the wall above it while yellow bean bags and rosewood easy chairs were strewn around the room. In the middle of this colourful chaos sat the Lord of the Files.

‘So what was the desperate hurry, my dear? asked he.

‘Thank you so very much for seeing me at such short notice. I know this is last minute but I have a crucial Board meeting and I couldn’t possibly go like this.’

Sanaya held up her hands with her bitten through nails. He took them in his, fingering the damaged bits with gentle fingers. Sanaya was a regular and he was privy to her nervous secret. ‘It’s been a stressful month and I’ve had just too much on my mind,’ offered Sanaya as a rather sorry bid at an explanation.

‘Hmm… bad, bad, very bad …… but nothing that cannot be set right,’ he sighed. And then with a shake of his head and a ‘tch tch tch’ he reached out for his toolbox, picked out the gentlest of files and went to work on her nails, buffing and polishing them to perfection.

Half an hour later she walked out of the nail spa her confidence renewed, her secret safe with the Lord of the Files.

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Written for the prompt ‘Lord of the Files’ for Day 5 of the second edition of the fortnight-long Bar-a-thon.

barathon

Kick Like a Girl

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‘Go away. We are in the middle of a game,’ said Rishabh as soon as he saw Raina approaching the field.

‘I want to play too,’ said she.

Not again, sighed Rishabh. As if living with a twin sister wasn’t bad enough, she must now follow him to the playground and embarrass him before his friends, he fumed.

The ‘friends’ were a group of older boys. It was after months of hanging at the sidelines that he had been given entry into this elite big boys’ football club and now here she was spoiling everything. Personally, he liked playing with Raina. They had spent the entire vacation fooling around with the ball and he had to admit, she was darned good at the game.

He knew, however, the other boys would never let her join in. I wish she’d just disappear, thought he.

But that was not to be.

She walked right into the field and stood there more real than ever, her hands at her waist, chin stuck out stubbornly, bringing the game to a standstill.

‘I want to play too,’ she announced.

The boys, some eight or ten of them, walked up and surrounded her.

‘Go away girl, just because your mom bought you a jersey, doesn’t mean you can play football,’ taunted one of them.
The others laughed.
‘Football has nothing to do with clothes’, she shot back.
‘Let her be’, Rishabh rushed to her defence, ‘Go away Raina, please.’

His irritation was now tinged with concern and a tiny note of pleading crept into his voice. He stood there, looking from the boys to Raina, torn between standing up for his sister and siding with his friends, hoping she would just go away.

‘I’m not going anywhere,’ said she, reading his thoughts. You know I’m good Ri, tell them.’
‘It’s a boy’s game,’ said Sharman, the tallest of the lot, flexing his shoulders.
‘No it isn’t. The game belongs to anyone who knows how to kick a ball,’ Raina maintained.
‘Well then shoot a goal and show us what you’ve got’, said he pointing slyly to the goal post at the far end of the field.
‘Hey that’s not fair’, protested Rishabh. It’s way too far, even for you.’
‘Shut up, big brother,’ said Sharman, ‘Go on girl, kick the ball and own the game.’

Stupid, stupid, stupid Raina, thought Rishabh, she’ll never be able do it and then we’ll both be sitting in the stands forever.

But Raina was already tightening her laces with a determined look on her face. This was war, and she was going to win it. She ignored the mocking glances of the other boys as well as the anxious one of her brother.

She stepped back a few paces, took a short run up positioning her foot so that the inside of her shoe made contact with the ball. And she kicked with all she had, just like she’d watched Messi go for it hundreds of times. The ball rose up obediently in a glorious curl and smashed into the goal post shattering all stereotypes into a thousand tiny pieces.

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Written for the prompt ‘War and Pieces’ for Day 4 of the second edition of the fortnight-long Bar-a-thon.

barathon

The Meeting

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It’s going to be a tough day today. I can feel it. I know what you are thinking, ‘Since when did men start doing this intuition thing?’ Not my style either, but today I feel it in my gut. I mean how much fun can it be to meet up with your fiancee’s US-returned childhood pal? The one who thinks she knows my girl waaay better than I ever will and loves her waaay more than I ever will do? The ‘I got married before you so I know all about men and I’ll check out your fiancee for you’ friend.

It might have been fine if it were just her. But there’s also the husband to contend with. The ‘Jiju’. Ugh! I hate the sound of that word just as much as I hate it when Aditi goes on and on about him. But then I focus on that tiny endearing lisp she has and I can put up with almost anything. I do love this girl. More than I ever loved any girl, more than I thought I could ever love any girl. Aditi. I love her for her passion, for her strong sense of right and wrong, for the way she stands up for what she believes in, the way she talks – with her entire body – her eyes dance and her hands move as fast as she talks. Oh she can sweep a thousand people along simply on the wave of her enthusiasm. Within the space of a few months she had taken over my first love, Golf.

But I digress.

The thing is I need to get it right today because these guys are important to her. I dressed with care picking out a blue check shirt and my favourite tan jeans.

I arrived well before time but there she was, already. Aditi waved at me like seeing me across the road was the happiest thing that had happened to her. I forgot my nerves, my heart gave a joyous leap and I waved back at her. Sometimes I wondered at this miracle – the miracle that made her love me back just as much as I loved her.

Behind her stood Kirti and the ‘Jiju’ – the two spokes in the wheel of my perfect love story. I crossed over and as she made the introductions I sensed I was being sized up. I sensed a tinge of approval from Kirti but the ‘Jiju’ looked like a tough nut to crack. We must be about the same age, I mused. But he had a huge Rajput moustache that made him look some ten years older. We shook hands and walked into the restaurant.

In that instance I began to empathise with all those girls who had ever had to walk into a room with a tray laden with tea and samosas when the groom’s family came for the bride viewing.

We settled down and Kirti asked me about my parents and work and the wedding date. We seemed to be getting along pretty fine, better than I expected. I would have relaxed but for the Jiju who simply stared on. He was beginning to freak me out when he said, So what’s your handicap? You do play golf, right?

Man oh man! A fellow golfer! Who would have thought! And just like that the ice was broken.

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Written for the prompt ‘Of Ice and Men’ for Day 3 of the second edition of the
fortnight-long Bar-a-thon.

barathon