Short Story: Tree of Wishes

She left and three years later, I received a letter. After three years of no contact, I received a letter from her- one that told me why she left, why she gave up, why she never returned. I never understood her. She was my true love, my happily ever after and she left.

John. You will receive this letter long after I’ve been gone- where, I can’t tell you because I know you will never, ever forgive me.

The day she left, we hadn’t any electricity. The heating in the apartment was dysfunctional and the room had felt so cold and miserable. I made us coffee while she sat on the table, clutching her favorite pen. There was just enough illumination in the room for us to see each other, but we never did. We never saw what could have saved us from drowning. I never saw the abandonment in her eyes; she never saw death in mine.

I have to leave- she had said finally, once the silence had amplified all the words unspoken. I nodded.

I never asked why; she never ventured.

There is a tree on the other side of the river, north to the roundabout that we met on, on New Year’s Eve. It is believed that if you whisper what you want to the trunk of the tree, you get it. A superstition I never believed in. Until I met you.

On the sixth day after her departure, I looked up the tree she talked of. Turns out, they call it the Tree Of Wishes and it is a fairly popular tourist spot in the city. A week later, as chance would happen, I had to meet with a friend near to the place. We had Thai food and while returning, I walked past it. It was a huge wide-trunked tree, its foliage expansive and some roots emergent. By the river, it looked majestic.

I wondered if I would have known about it had she not left me. I was a person of reason. Wondering around in the other side of the city for pleasure was something I would never do. That day, sitting on a bench near it, I looked beyond the river, into the city, hoping that by some strange way of fate, she would walk past the tree, talking to it of her plans of coming back. But of course, she never did or I wouldn’t have let go of her.

Getting take-out from the same place that night, I returned to our home, but I have never been back.

You were a wish John, a dream come true. You gave me a reason to be happy. However, it never takes long for dreams to metamorphose into nightmares. Happiness is fleeting.

I remember the day I found her crying. I had barged into the bedroom. Curled up on the floor behind the bed, her eyes were puffed up and her chest labored as she shook. She didn’t ask me to stay, nor did she ask me to leave. She just looked at me, for one infinite second, and everything inside me moved. There was nothing I could so. I simply sat on the floor beside her and took her head in my lap. I asked her what was wrong. She didn’t reply. So I just sat there until she fell asleep and I fell asleep beside her that night.

This became a ritual- she would break down, I would sit beside her, and we would both fall asleep. She never told me why she cried, I learnt not to ask.

I realized that this was the only way there was- not talking about it.

The truth is- I was afraid. I had fallen in love for the first time. I had never found myself dreaming about someone before, looking forward to talk to them all the time, and sleep with them, and cook with them. I never felt that and suddenly I was feeling all of it. It was as if I just realized that there are infinite shades possible or that there numbers never end. I didn’t know how to control my feelings for you. All I knew what I felt was never ending. And I was so afraid. I was so afraid of the immensity of what I felt.

The day that we met, she was talking about her favorite book with her best friend at the cafe where I worked part time. She wore a white button down with cute light blue flowers and jeans. She had a black coat on and a smart scarf that tied around her neck. Her hair was tied in a high ponytail but a lock of hair framed her face on one side.

Her eyes were sparkling, her expressions was animated and her hands danced around in front of her. Never once did her gaze shift from her friend while they talked and they sat there for over two hours, both lost in conversation. She looked so passionate, so vocal, so in the moment that I was mesmerized. When she left, her server handed me a tissue paper she had asked him to, bearing her name and number. I was shook.

I called her that night and she invited me over. She took me to her roof where we drank beer and watched the stars. We were facing the immensity.

I was so overcome with emotion every time I saw you that I would cry myself to sleep for being so lucky so as to have fallen in love with you. But I guess that is where everything went wrong. I had dived headfirst in love with you that I didn’t realize how much it hurt me. Until slowly, the pain was all I felt, and then, nothing at all.

By the autumn of our relationship, we were just two people who shared a house. There was no conversation, no luster of the time passed by. We hid behind the ghosts of who we used to be, not once realizing that we’d have to shed that persona someday. I did long shifts at work and sat till even later at the bar while she stayed home, doing whatever she did all day.

Her breakdowns were much more frequent and prolonged, so were our silences. Perhaps, the only time that we talked and touched and bore the faintest resemblance to who we used to be was the time when she broke down. But what we felt for each other had long since vaporized. We were two actors in a play- we were playing the part but we had long ago emancipated from the character.

It was around this time I started writing- about what I felt or rather, not. I wrote about our past lives, our present selves. I wrote about who we used to be, about what made us work, about how we were two people who were stuck together out of habit and how we were two people who had lost themselves and were thus losing the other. I wrote about myself, of who I was now and who I used to be. I wrote about what I wanted and what I didn’t. I wrote about my day, my job, my breakdowns. I wrote about you.

It was by chance that I came across her journal. Hidden in the sock drawer of our limited, shared closet, I had asked her what it was when my hand brushed against its cheap plastic cover by accident. It was then, with a faint smile that she had told me, she had started writing. I had just returned from the bar and was a little buzzed; when she had told me that, I was so surprised that I kissed her roughly. That was the last night we ever made love.

The events of that night are still unclear. What stands out, as brightly as a summer sun, is the smile on her face when she told me that. It was magical, transporting me back to the time when we were in love, and I had remembered a little something of the first day that we met. On our first date, she had told me that all she wanted to do was write. I had asked why.

Words are the powerful tools, we as humans have, she had said. We can make someone, break someone, hurt and love someone, all with the power of words. If my words can change even a single person’s life, I shall be the most fortunate person in this world.

These words still echo in my ears sometimes.

John, writing gave me a purpose in life. It gave me meaning again. We had stopped talking long ago. Our relationship had died. We were just too scared to pick up the pieces and move on. We walked on those pieces every single day. And seeing those times killed me, they did. My world that revolved around us was empty because you weren’t there, John. And no matter how many times I called for you, you never came back. Maybe you weren’t the person I wanted. Maybe because you weren’t that person anymore. Maybe you never heard my cries for help. It doesn’t matter anymore. The truth is that writing made my world feel a little less lonely.

The day she left, we hadn’t any electricity. The heating in the apartment was dysfunctional and the room had felt so cold and miserable. I made us coffee while she sat on the table, clutching her favorite pen. There was just enough illumination in the room for us to see each other, but we never did. We never saw what could have saved us from drowning. I never saw the death in her eyes; she never saw abandonment in mine.

This letter will reach you long after I am gone. My moving out was step one in moving on, in learning to feel again the same way we felt when we first met all those years ago. It was finally collecting the pieces and storing them respectfully for they were memories of a life that I had loved, but lost. It meant walking on a path unknown. It meant learning to fall in love all over again.

But I couldn’t. I couldn’t. I couldn’t see people anymore. There was no one who looked at me the way you did when you first saw me. Or maybe, I didn’t have eyes for anyone anymore. My world was a perpetually hazy cloud that refused to fade away; it was the winter morning fog that never settled. I had lost myself, I had lost you, I had lost my life. There were few moments of clarity. In fact, the only time I felt clear, alive was when I wrote. So I tried to do that every day. And I started a novel. And I wrote. And I wrote. And I wrote. Until it finished and I stopped. And I knew that that was it. That was my end.

Her novel got published two years ago. It received critical acclaim and was the recipient of multiple awards last year. I never tried looking for her, she never tried to contact me. I continued living in the same house; the walls faded, the heating stopped working, the curtains fell apart. I lived in a place that had seen me fall in love and fall out of love. The memories of my past also faded, until I barely thought of her, but some days, I would encounter a piece of paper in her writing, or a book that she had bought, or scent of her favorite perfume and I would go back to visit those wonderful years that night.

Still, I came across her interviews many times in the newspaper, but there was no pang in her heart, until one day, six months ago, a newspaper reported of her death. Apparently, she had overdosed on some anti-depressants in a motel room not far from our house. All her earnings were bequeathed to multiple charities. She left me this letter and her pen, the same one that she was clutching when she decided to move out.

Many times, over the past two years, I’ve heard people talk about her book reverentially. I’ve read about how it has changed people and lives.

I’ve never managed to read it myself. I can’t.

So I carry it with myself. All the time. In the hope that one fine day, when the sun is bright and the day beautiful, I will go by the Tree of Wishes and read.

So dear John, all I want to say is that I hope you can forgive me. I like to think of you as my closest friend and whenever I am stuck, I think of what you would do. Right now, as I sit with these pills in my hand and a glass of wine on the bedside, I imagine you wary, coming closer to me as you try to talk me into abandoning these pills. But by now, I expect you to have learnt that I am not much for caution and that diving head first is more my style.

Woh Kagaz Ki Kashti

Read this for reference before continuing.

Sixteen years later, a full fledged, voluptuous, long dark haired girl lies on a bedsheet on the floor of her room, next to the two mattresses, both of which are depressed with mountainous solids, covered in bedsheets and flanked by multiple pillows on either side- her parents.

The room is bathed in a gentle red hue and the air conditioner’s low, constant hum creates a drowsy, comfortable atmosphere. A guitar is in one corner of the room, against the wall, behind which the red lights twinkle lazily. The opposite wall is covered entirely with scraps of paper, some printed, some written on- by crayons, pencils, pens, markers, so much that the blue paint of the wall is hardly visible; things that may make no sense to someone who doesn’t look close enough. Each bit of paper contains thoughts.

It was something that the two sisters started earlier in the year. They put their thoughts on scraps of paper and struck them to the wall. Song lyrics, some random poems, lists, words, quotes, essays in the newspapers they liked, some important deadlines, written in bold; it was their mind on the wall. It contained candid snaps of their lives. There are times when each one of us wishes to read other people’s minds. The sisters’ minds were on this wall, right here.

In the background, from a small speaker, in a low, smooth voice, sings Jagjit Singh her father’s and her favorite shayari- Woh Kagaz Ki Kashti.

“It is an experience,” she had urged her parents who were both in their beds in the adjoining rooms when she had asked them to accompany her to her bedroom. “I want to give you The Experience.”

The Experience referred to something that she had, well, experienced just that evening. She’ll lose the lights and light up the red ones, she’ll set the temperature to an optimum, she’ll envelope her body up to her shoulders in a bedsheet, arms beside the body and play this song from the speaker. She’ll close her  eyes and let the song wash her over. She’ll inhale each beat, she’ll exhale each note, she’ll feel the music unravelling her, she’ll feel the words crawl up her skin. She’ll conjure images in her head, as each combination of words will make sense, second after she has registered them. She’ll let each chatoyant of every word that left his voice, enter her being and imprint permanently in her mind. Sometimes she will open her eyes and look at the shadows that the red lights will make in the room, and the music and the light will complement each other perfectly. She will think of songs that may make her feel the same way that she is feeling now. Her mind will produce a blank slate. That is when she will feel weightless.

Her parents were in the same position, eyes closed. She can feel the music weigh her eyes, and she knows that she’d be asleep soon. She pops her eyes open and looks at her parents’ resting bodies. And suddenly, she feels guilty.

In twenty three days, she would be leaving for college. For four years. For the first time, she’ll be away from them- away that she will never see them daily, away that she will not hassle with her mother over the quality of the food, away that she will not hug her father and kiss him goodnight, away that will not curse her sister for not having set the beds, away that her parents will not barge in on her before dawn and catch her on the phone. She felt guilty for leaving them with nothing after eighteen years of love and effort they put in for raising her; she felt guilty for leaving them empty handed. She felt guilty for having discovered The Experience so late that she won’t be able to compose a playlist of songs suitable for it. She felt guilty for receiving all the time. She felt guilty for taking so much from them. She felt guilty for having thought that she’d enjoy hostels, when the truth is that her heart would always be there, in this house, in this moment, when she is guilty and they are weightless.

Her parents were perfect. How can she ever have thought of leaving them, how could she have fought with them for something as stupid as a mobile phone? How could she have ever thought of living alone, embracing adulthood, when she still needed her mother to tell the doctor what was wrong whenever they visited one, for her? How could have she ever thought of doing laundry when she didn’t know how to operate a washing machine?

How could, how would she leave them? 

She looks at them. She wishes, suddenly, to be two once again, when her father came from the office, straight towards her for a hearty kiss, and her mother bathed her in a small bucket in the kitchen. She wishes to be two again, because she knows she’d have sixteen more years before she’d have to leave them.

Getting up from the floor, she goes and lies down between her parents, who are, both, fast asleep by now. She cuddle with her father, his arms around her. She extends her hands towards her mother, who holds them both between her own, warm palms, as Jagjit Singh sings in the background, “Voh kagaz ki kashti, voh baarish ka paani…”

*

Sorry for the long absence. Please check the Facebook page for details. You can follow TWPM on Instagram @theakankshavarma where I post lots, and regularly. Also follow at Twitter under @axavarma. Enjoy!

Ishmeet, Gayatri And Forever.

Glossary: 

Diwali, Holi- festival in the Hindu calendar, celebrated across India. 
Badaun, Uttar Pradesh- a district in the state of Uttar Pradesh
Bauji- father
Mausi ji- maternal aunt
Agra- a city in Uttar Pradesh
Ludhiana- a city in the state of Punjab ( predominantly Sikh community)
Chennai- a city in the southern state of Tamil Nadu

~

quotes-cool-words-quotes-Qotes-quotes-Asian_large_large

We were born three hours, two minutes and twenty seven second apart, on September 23, 1939. We hit off immediately. Our mothers’ were best friends, and our fathers’ bonded over politics, and so, as far as I can trace back, we spent every Diwali at their house and Holi at ours. I was the elder, something I reminded her at least once every day, much to her dismay.

I lived in a government colony that was separated from the rest of the city. Our area was actually green and clean as compared to the rest of the dusty and dirty countryside. Her house was next door. The accommodation that the newly formed Indian government had provided us was comfortable, on account of our fathers teaching at the Government College in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh.

Those days were amazing. There were no cell phones, no televisions or radios. One simply spent time living, not surviving. We did not live in a fantasy world warped with the idea that the number of likes on our picture and the friend we have on Facebook made us happy. We liked company of people. Ishmeet was the one person I always wanted to talk to. She was my best friend.

Our day would start by us meeting for our tuition that would happen at our houses alternatively, then we would have our lunch which we followed up by a walk. Sometimes, when we wanted to go out, bauji would send his driver and we would go for a drive in that old rattling Ford. In the evening, we had classes at the University where our fathers taught, and after that, we would go to the other’s house for dinner. Finally, at around eight, we would retire for the night, only to look forward to the next day. Where there was Ishmeet, there was Gayatri. We were friends’ forever. 

When we grew eighteen, Ishmeet’s father fixed her marriage with Gurvinder Singh. He was a nice lad of twenty four, practicing law under the tutelage of his father. He was an alumni of the university and had had his eye on Ishmeet for a long time. I liked him because I knew of him to be a respectable man. Besides, Ishmeet was happy, and so was I.

I, on the other hand, wanted to continue my education, an idea my father supported with gusto. He was way ahead of his time, and so he enrolled me for a Masters’ In English in the Agra University, very renowned back in the 1950s’. I left for Agra, where my mausi ji lived in the summer of 1957, after a tearful farewell by Ishmeet. We promised to keep in touch by exchanging letters. And we did, until I got the telegram in the fourth year of my education, by which I was been courted by a fine man with the name, Vikram Sanghwal, that Ishu had borne a child. It was a girl and she had named her Diljeet.

By then, Gurvinder had shifted to Ludhiana, where he had been appointed as a district prosecutor. I hadn’t seen her in over four years, I immediately booked a ticket to Ludhiana, with a stop at Badaun, to congratulate her. Vikram insisted that he accompany me, so I let him. I liked him, and it would mean that Ishu could meet him too. There was no awkwardness between us when we met. Pregnancy had done her well and she looked very beautiful. And Diljeet had literally won my heart. She was exquisite. Vikram and Gurvinder became good acquaintances and we spent a delightful two weeks there, during which Vikram proposed to me.

He told me how he had already talked to my father and how much he loved me. I said yes, and we got married on December 11, 1962. He was an amazing husband, we three years later, I gave birth to the most beautiful boy, who we named Anurag. I had been working as a professor in the Agra University by then, and was up for a transfer. Ishu and I were still in contact, but it was less frequent now that we had our own families to look after. Our letters had been exchanged with phone calls and our visits by photographs.

The next few years passed in a blur. I was busy with my family and my job and Ishu was busy with hers; I’d heard that she had started her own boutique. We sent some two three letters an year, rest all contact was sporadic, but we were happy. We met for some two three times during that period.

The year I turned forty two was an eventful one. Our small family of three had grown to a big litter of six, and I had been promoted to the position of dean in the Department of English in the Agra University. It was when I got my transfer. Be it luck of pure coincidence, it was to the University in Ludhiana. I was exhilarated at the prospect of my Ishu everyday again. When I called her, she was surprised to hear my voice but when I told her, she had screamed.

We shifted there in March 1982. Living at a distance that took some five minutes to cover, we met each other every day. We shared the same rapport now that our parents had shared back in the 1930’s. We were family. The kids mixed well with each other and the next year, we shifted from the University accommodations to our own house in the same block as the Singhs’.

Then came the fateful year of 1984. That morning started just as it did every day, with me going to the University early morning and the kids to school. Vikram had been in Chennai for a conference and Ishu had called me in the morning, “G, come over for lunch. Bring the kids too. I’ll make biryani.” I had replied, “I’ll be seeing you.

The day had been a hard one and I was wishing for lunch. On returning, I found the colony unusually quiet. I stopped in front of Ishu’s house and found the door ajar. It was unusual. On entering, it seemed as if the entire community was inside. Making my way inside, I found Gurvinder crying and Anurag hovering around nervously. I was shocked.

“What happened?” I had asked. Turned out, Ishu’s throat had been slit. The entire room was splattered with blood. Beside her body was a newspaper clipping that had screamed, “PM ASSASSINATED BY HER SIKH BODYGUARDS, Unrest in the city.”

I never saw her again. It was then I realized that forever is such and incorrect concept.

~

Social Niceties.

Oh, I wish it was socially acceptable to stare. Shamelessly. Relentlessly. Hopelessly. Continuously. That’s what is spinning in my mind as I try to stare at him, without making it evident. But, I can’t help myself. The minute he enters the room, the suddenly gloomy atmosphere charges up, birds chirp, wind blows, flowers blossom, joy springing in our school cafe, and he blissfully unaware of the some bashful glances and the not-so-bashful stares he was attracting. I was one in the middle. The one who was speculatively glancing and slyly staring.

He was literally the most perfect man I’d ever seen. Beautiful, observant eyes, easy, haughty jaw, silky hair, great, tall, athletic body. I am swooning both in and out. My mind is picturing teenager-y scenarios- we get married, have kids, two girls and a boy, named Holly, Keira and Jack. Live in a four bedroom beach house, have a great, lovely life. He, on the other hand, is walking in a easy manner, carelessly passing his hand through his hair, and throwing flirtatious smiles at those who were brave enough to battle their eyelids at him. I tense when he starts making his way towards me. And… walks right past me, joining the pretty long (and not to mention lucky) line for lunch.

I nudge Abby, my best friend, and quite fortunately, the school student tutor. “Hey, who’s Mr. Hottie?”

“That’s Dylan. Joined recently from Sydney Academy, San Francisco. He’s here for an exchange program. And as I know you, my lucky friend, are, like most of the girls here, lusting after him,” she winked conspiring, “Please do the honors to show him around here.”

I grab my bad, hugging her tightly at the same time. “You’re the best, girlie!”

I make my way towards him, my heart thumping loudly, all the while hoping I don’t fart, burp, let my stomach make growling sounds, trip while walking or the worst, faint under the affect of those magical blue, piercing eyes.

I’m almost a few steps away, when I see something that immediately makes me want to take a U-turn. Hottie has stuck his finger in his nose, and is busy.. picking it’s contents. Examining them. Playing with them. Turning them round in his fingers, making shapes. He isn’t shy from giving it a very careful search, poking around the corners tugging at the edges. Letting it fall on the ground. And then he proceeds to the next. The same careful evaluation. Gross!

As I carefully, with a sudden annoyed anger, make me way back to my seat, where I see Abby in tears of laughter, all that comes to my mind it: Staring is so much better.

picking-nose01

Two Tired.

imgp15881

Yesterday was my birthday, I just turned twenty five. And the funny thing is that they made is special without even remembering it. They took me out for ice cream, after such a long time. And I was thinking all along how I can love this fool of a guy so much. To be truthful, from the day he started riding me, he’s been pretty much the apple of my eye.

I still remember that small, young boy, who loudly exclaimed at the store, “Papa, ye scooter bohot acchhii haii.” Annoyed me a little, after all, he woke me up after a long day of test drives. Then he started fiddling with the gear, then the mirror, until his father said sternly, “Rahul, stop that! We’ll come back later,” he added politely to the attendant, and dragged the seven year old Rahul away.

Time passed and I gave up on ever finding an owner, when suddenly, one day, his dad marched in again, his hair greyer, and proudly said, “My son scored 75.8% in his Boards. I want to buy that scooter for him.” Of course, he wasn’t the old Rahul I had made acquaintance with, but he accepted me and took me in, under his wing. Since then, I ‘ve been with him in all the time, I’ve seen all his colors, and have known him as well as he knows me, or he thinks he does.

Because, I remember the time when he first rode me, the cold wind kissing his tousled, brown hair. He laughed and laughed and laughed and talked and drove, all at the same time. I remember the time when he sneaked out of his house to the party. Oh, what fun I had, when he tried to quieten the grunts with blankets, and the thrashing he received later. I remember when he took me to that college bike trip to Jaipur. When he and his friends rode pillion, two or three at the same time and they’d all shout themselves hoarse. I remember the time when he carried his sister at the time when she broke her leg. It was from that moment that he assumed the role of the protective elder brother. I remember how he collected money from his friends to cover that dent. I remember how he’d volunteer to bring late night ice cream when everyone was at home just so he could meet her, his girlfriend. I remember how hesitant he was when he kissed her that night, the melting ice cream in one hand and her face cupped gently around the other. I remember all the moments that they spent together in the summers he was home from his hostel. And I remember the day they got married.

But then, they bought “something they could comfortably seat them and their children, a long term investment”. A car. A big car. Despite my happiness on seeing them flourish, I felt sad. That little corner in my heart that said, “Your time is over.” But, miraculously, it didn’t. He took me and his wife to the haat to but vegetables. Took his daughter to ice cream with me. Took me when he needed space or needed to get away from the cacophony of the daily life.

And today, I heard a 47 year old Rahul saying, “Tomorrow, I’ll teach Raina how to ride that scooter, it’s been a faithful companion. Besides, it’s a little old. Some exercise will do it good.”

The Wedding Bells.

images

Early morning madness. Men drinking cups of tea while laughing raucously. Small children running helter-skelter. Women scolding them and then laughing it off. Inside the room, the atmosphere of silence prevailed as the girl stared at her made up face in the mirror. “Didi, you’d have to wear you lehenga now, if you want to reach the parlor at time.”

“Diya, don’t forget your big gold necklace, okay?”
“Okay,” she whispers nervously. Her heart beats faster as she steps gingerly into the perfect red lehenga. She feels a thrill of excitement as she looks at herself in the mirror. Ajay will be star struck.

*

The afternoon sun shines magnificently above them as they rush their way on the rickshaw to the nearest court. She sobs quietly in his shirt and he pats her head soothingly. He knew that that it was her only option and that it hurt her. Her parents would never agree to her marrying a lowly office clerk.
“It’ll be all right, Ganga. Don’t cry, please, it’ll be all right,” he murmurs quietly in her hair.
She whispers back, “Don’t worry, Krishna. I won’t let his men get to us, our happiness, and our marriage.”
“I know you won’t. I trust you.”

*

“No sir, not my daughter,” she cries as she clings to his leg mercilessly.
“A deal was a deal. Five years ago, you promised, didn’t you?” he shook his leg. Not hearing a reply, grabbing her hair, he yelled, “DIDN’T YOU?”
“Yes sir,” she screamed. “But sir, she’s my daughter. My only daughter, you can’t just marry-“
“I can do. You didn’t pay you money, did you?” he said, suddenly quiet. “So, now you have TO LET HER GO.”
He wrenches his leg free from her grip as his men tackle her daughter, who was too little, too scared to understand what was happening. She lies on the ground begging, crying as they drag her daughter, her dreams shattering, and her hopes drowning. Only the flat truth before her, she’d never see her beloved daughter again.

*

The veranda air was silent and somber. The woman’s sob were disguised with quick motions. She hardly notices the quiet whispering as she efficiently removes her jewelry and puts it in the box, never to be used again. She hands her a grey gown and lifts her up. She carries her across the veranda, to reach the door that just escapes the morning sunlight. She pushes her inside, and shuts the door just as the banging starts.
“He was my husband mother. I can’t do this mom, please,” she shrieks from inside.
She replies, wiping her tears and turns back, “He was my son.”

Daddy’s Misery.

So I WAS studying mathematics but ended up here. A short story which I hope you like. It’s titled- ‘Daddy’s Misery’.

Daddy’s Misery

What did he do? What did he do wrong? Where did he go wrong? He pondered over this question while he held her hair as she puked for the sixth time that night. He had come here with a lot of trouble, to her aid. But what happened? Life, he guessed, as he accompanied her back to the hotel bed when she finished.

He knew something was wrong just when she called him. His worst fears were confirmed when she opened the door, blood pouring down her nose. The room looked unswept, uncleaned and smelled like shit. But what he noticed were the long paper tubes that were scattered in the room. He remembered the first time he had seen her do coke. He had just returned from a tour and entered his house, when he saw her and her friends on the couch. She didn’t deny it surprisingly. “You said you’d forgive the biggest mistake if it’s just once. It’s this one. Daddy, please help me.” He had her in a rehabilitation center for the next six months where she showed considerable improvement.  After three more weeks, she was officially cured. That that was four years ago. He had made it a point to talk to her every day, no matter how busy the day might’ve been.  But lately, they had drifted apart again. Her calls had become less frequent, and she herself had become moody and irritable. The last week, she had called him at four in the morning and just asked, “Dad, how will I get out of this darkness, this abyss?”

He softly stroked her hair as she began snoring. Looking at her, he whispered, “You knew the way in, darling. Only you know the way out.”

My Rendezvous With Aliens

It was late in the evening. My parents had gone out and I was having the time of my life as one generally does in their parents’ absence. From computer to television and from friends to family-I had them all over. Basically, I had been doing all that was restricted to me, and mostly enjoying it.

Suddenly, the lights went out. It was already 8:00 pm and pretty dark outside. I was all alone in the house, in entire darkness and no one to call out for. I was scared. Even though I knew it was childish, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that this was unusual. Still, I waited-with my fingers crossed- for the light to return.
During that time, every movement, every sound, every whisper of the wind sent a chill up my spine. I sat as still as a corpse.

It was also the time that I realized that the wind had sped up and there was a stormy feeling in the atmosphere. Also, there were perfect conditions for a storm to arrive-a dark night, lights out and a cloudy, misty sky.
I was also sweating profusely due to the non functionality of the fan and the A/C. Slowly, I groped my way from the bedroom to the balcony- in entire darkness. I felt my way up the hook of the door and opened it. It opened with a bang. Instantly, I could smell the dust that was mixed with the air.
As soon as I stepped into the balcony, the floor started trembling, the railing started shaking and the windows started banging on their panes. A gradual, small light started coming nearer.

It was only a matter of seconds before it became so big that I had to shield my eyes behind my hand to prevent them from blinding. The light was so bright and dazzling that I could feel the heat it was emitting.
Also, the door closed itself automatically and a tiny iron nail fell on my extended palm. I was extremely surprised. As soon as it landed on my palm, it started swelling and in a minute, was bigger than an over laden truck.
Then, in a very condescending manner, I saw a giant circle that was carved itself out of the iron nail. It unlatched itself completely from the vehicle and fell down. From it came at least six people-rather creatures- who looked like a combination of a man and a dog. They had the torso of a man and the rest of the body as a dog. I had never been as frightened as I was at that moment. The blood froze in my veins. They all were taking serious, measured steps. Then, the smallest one stepped forward.

“Hello! Sorry to disturb you, but can you please tell us where we are?” he asked in an extremely squeaky voice. He looked like their leader.

I closed my mouth. I was finding it difficult to choose the right words.

“Um, we are, um, on the Earth”, I replied, my voice shaking.

As soon as I spoke, there was great diversion among all of them. All of them started talking excitedly.

The leader said something to them that I could not understand.

“And who are you?” he enquired..

“Well, I am Akanksha”.
“From?” he fired back.
“From Earth.” I replied quickly.

I debated whether to ask them the most obvious question. Before I could dwell on my thoughts, I blurted out.
“What are you?”
It was horribly rude, but they didn’t seem to mind.
“We are the Kartanarians from Karats Land on C12Baranu.  It is 725 trillion light years away from here. I am Zorrowitch and these are my fellow travellers. “

I didn’t know how to respond. It’s not every day that you meet someone from another planet, practically an alien.

“Is everybody on your planet like this?” he wanted to know.
“Yes. And on yours? ”, I questioned.
“Sure. No wonder, I am surprised. It’s the only planet that I haven’t researched on, that has life.  You do have a first class security system.” he joked.
“Researched on?”  I asked.
“Yes. I am the most senior scientist on my planet. And I have researched over 50 planets where life exists.” He answered modestly.
“Cool! Would you take me to your planet one day?” I was really beginning to like him. He was open, genuine and friendly.
“Sure. Why don’t you join us? We will be searching this area a little.”
“I would love to. But I can’t. I have to tell my mum and dad. They would worry if I disappeared somewhere just like that.”
“Okay later! So, Let’s go.” He said to his colleagues.

They said something I couldn’t understand

“Oh yes! Could you please tell me the way to Pluto?” He asked innocently.
“How would I know, Zorrowitch?” I burst out laughing.
“Yes! How would you?” He got busy with some papers.
“Bye then! See you later!” He cried as he boarded the vehicle.

I waved him back and with a tinkling bell, he left.

I returned to my room and realized that the tinkling hadn’t stopped, identifying it as the door bell. I ran forward to attend it. It was my parents.

 “Where were you? We’ve been waiting for a long time.” My mum accused me.
“I was talking to a friend.” I replied.

Indeed I had!