It was six thirty in the evening. The incessant monsoon of Bombay caused delays that led to overcrowding of local trains. That day when Sara boarded the north bound train at Victoria Terminus, she was clueless about what the future had in store for her. She had left her present family to go back home.

At every suburban station, the train stopped and added more people to the already overflowing carriage. Sara was squeezed into the crowd and pushed towards the side of the carriage as people swarmed in. Their hands touched hers as she held on to one of the support columns. Tens of feet were already on hers, pulling her chappals both ways. The human touch that brought her utter disdain since the last four years continued to stalk her.

Overcrowding had made her suffocate. Sweat dripped from her forehead and stained her cheeks with kohl and smudged her face with dark red lipstick. Her tattered clothes, dusty brown face, long unkempt curls made into a half-bun gave her a rather swag like appearance.

When Sara looked at fellow commuters, some pretended to sleep; some looked out of the window when their eye met hers. Some groped her; some tried to peek inside her blouse. Some who seemed worried about her reached for their pockets for small change.

As the train slowed down at the last station with a loud metallic shriek of wheels, a middle-aged man stood aside her waiting to get down. When the train reached the platform, he was pushed by the crowd behind. He lost his grip on the door and was about to fall. Sara took a leap of change. She grabbed his hand firmly and helped him land safely.

As they both settled on the platform, he reached for his wallet and walked up to Sara.

“Here, take this my child.” he extended a ten rupee note.

She was immediately thrown back in time. Those were the days when twelve-year-old Sara used to accompany her mother to sell fruits and vegetables in a busy market on Linking Road. Since she was the most educated in her family, she helped her mother with the transactions and tendering exact change to customers. One thing she had learnt from her mother was never to beg. She could borrow or earn but never beg. But life took a sudden turn when Rashid Uncle, who used to frequent their stall, lured her to his room and laced lollies with sedatives. When she woke up in a dingy shanty, she could feel the intense pain biting between her legs. It didn’t take long for her to realise that she was sold to Rani Madam, the local pimp queen. Since she could work every day of the month, she became hot favourite among customers and in turn became Rani’s hot property. A couple of years later when the customers demanded fresh stock, she was sold again.

She traded multiple hands and was forced with a multitude of customers in red light areas for over four years. Some of her handlers even pinned her to the bed and administered testosterone shots to accelerate her hormonal growth. When one of her customers developed an affinity towards her, she gathered courage to confide her story and seek freedom. He was kind enough to plot her fake suicide during one of his visits and convince the pimp that that he would dispose of her body without a trace. He asked for a large sack that would fit Sara’s body, put her inside the sack and left. The next morning, he dropped her to the train station. She spent a week on the platform, living on leftovers and dropped coins, trying to muster courage and contemplating to take the train and go back home.

“Why are you giving this to me?” she asked looking inquisitively at the currency note. ”

“Thank you for holding my hand. I could have fallen into the gap.”

“You were peeping down my chest instead of looking at the platform”, she grinned.

He hastily buried the note in her half open wrist and dashed away.

The human touch no more felt disdainful. She was back in a world where flesh did not touch flesh only to satisfy sex starved perverts. She was back in a world where money was earned in return for goods or services, as a gesture of goodwill, or given as a donation, and not for illegitimate services. She had started to thrive in the world that she had seen from a tiny window. She wanted to live this moment.

Outside the station, she walked up to a food stall and ordered a cutting chai and a vada pav. She felt the soothing breeze in her hair. Unknown of the fact whether she will find her home again and if she does, will her mother recognise and accept her? The sky rumbled. She spread her hands like a bird wanting to take flight and welcomed the rains. Her tears were joined by the raindrops to create  small streams of happiness flowing through her cheeks.


The Treatment.

The rains lashed on the windows in a torrential rage. The rushing wind, blowing curtains and groaning patients in the ward created a howling melancholy that nullified the effect of anaesthesia on him a bit earlier than expected.

“Hold on. It won’t be long.” She said tapping his arm and removing the sphygmomanometer.

‘Remove this quickly, you bitch.” he stated in a rash voice trying to get rid of the instrument himself and flinging it away.

“You are a strange fellow.  I am just here to sign your discharge.” She maintained her calm.

“Where have you worthless guys got me?” He yelled, still in a trance holding his head in agony and pain.

“Well, you are disturbing other patients. Please remain calm.”

He gazed at her for a minute and submitted to her instructions “Hmm. Your face seems to be familiar.”

She ignored his stare and continued with her notes.  He attempted to sit back on his bed.  Intense pain oscillated in his abdomen

“Aarrgghh! What the f…? What have you filthy white coats done to me? All my nerves seem to be stretched.”

He held his stomach and sank back into the bed.

“We had to operate you. The police tortured you so hard that your internal organs were ruptured. “

“Those bastards hit me for no reason. Wait till I get out of this place.”

“No reason? Are you serious? Everyone in this hospital says that you are a habitual rapist.”

“That’s none of your business pretty. Take your stuff and get lost. “

“Yes I will go, but… didn’t you do it?”

“Did what? I just saw her. Got aroused.  Picked her up. That’s my usual piece of entertainment. But the slimy slut complained. She must have really deep contacts in the system. “

“Didn’t anyone report you before?”

“They must have. But I have my clout. My father is an influential person. Some refrain from complaining due to social stigma their reputation might gain. They also fear not getting married ever. “

“You don’t feel any remorse, do you?”

“Me? These girls are the ones who should have remorse. They commit mistakes by wearing short skirts and provocative dresses. I just help them realise…. “

“But the media reported that she was wearing her uniform on her way to school. ‘

“These school girls are ones who are inviting. Such smooth and creamy skin.  Soft and supple breasts.  Luscious thighs hiding cleverly under the folds of short skirts. I was just the hunter. I stalked her for many days. Nobody complained when she had fun with her boyfriend. When I took the advantage, they badged me as a culprit.”

“Your attitude has not shifted an inch. “

“What attitude? If you want to see my real attitude, then meet me alone, you hot stuff. I will show you my real power.”  He said mischievously, moving his outstretched tongue on his upper lip left to right.

“What power? Are you serious?” she grinned.

“Of course. Meet me once I am outta here. These injuries will fade out in quick time. “He smiled wryly.

Her grins had transformed into short continuous laughs.

“Nobody can even hurt me in the slightest fashion. “He declared.

“You should think before you speak. “

“What do you mean, bitch?”

“Remove those sheets and try to feel yourself below the belt, you son of a mangy dog. Then you would know.”  She said with a vengeance.

“Huh?” Fear crept up his senses as he scraped his hand down under.

He could touch and feel nothing. All his pride, his weaponry lopped off in precision. Angry and desperate, he began to beat his chest and cry incessantly.

“Now, control yourself. Else, the world would know that you are damaged goods. What would the society think of you? Who will marry you?”

“Stay quiet and drown in your remorse. This is a perfect treatment for animals like you.  Surely, some maniac would have boned a retard to pop out a scum like you. “She pressed her hand against his chest binding him to the bed.

“You pathetic f***ks, I will avenge this.”

“My darling, I had baked her favourite chocolate cake that day. But she chose to have sleeping pills instead.’ Her eyes moist as she mumbled to herself.

She flung his discharge papers on his face and began to leave.

Lightning opened up like a knot of white snakes in the charcoal sky, and thunder started to roll.

He kept cursing and shuddering, but she was already out of earshot.

The guide.

“The Guide” is a story of survival. It describes a scene in which a specialised search dog, trained to sniff out ammunitions and explosives, guides a patrol of soldiers through an infested area, to safety.

Thank you to the team of Spark Magazine for publishing my story.

A new beginning…


The nuptial night.

The erring rains.

His broken ankles made it a slow journey. Body cramps and abdominal pain made it lethargic for him to walk the two kilometres he initially traversed with his tractor. The scorching heat made the sweat ooze out of his frail body frame. He tried to soothe his parched throat by reaching out his tongue to the sweat that streamed through small trajectories on his wrinkled face.

The scavengers flew over his head, squawked and feasted on the carcases of his buffaloes. The smell of dead meat and old cow dung reflected in the air by the sun rays. What appeared to be his flourishing field was now a dead and barren desolated area. He had nurtured the piece of land that he had inherited as ancestral property as his child. He had seen it like his child growing from an infant to a toddler to an adolescent to a young man to an old swag.

Until four years ago, the rains sung melodies in his village. The showers bestowed prosperity on his fields and household. The showers sounded like the clinking of bangles and clanking of anklets making his and other children dance in the muddy puddles. He thought he had the riches for his generations. He flamboyantly celebrated festivals in the village. Every day was Baisakhi and every night was Diwali. His harvest of crops resembled an ever-blooming garden.

However, the happy days were short-lived. Last few years, the rains had been erratic. The rainwater harvesting project was yet to receive funding approvals. Until that time, his field was at the mercy of the rain gods.  He wished he could recite raag malhaar  like Tansen to ring in in the rains at his command. The village was scorched. His crops only needed a minuscule of rain for him and his family to survive and manage his loan repayments. Alas, for the second consecutive year, the rains played a truant.

Three years ago, unseasonal rain and hailstorm caused a significant loss of harvest.  The rain swamped away everyone’s home to make it’s own. The rain sang melancholy and screamed as it outflowed gulping down the villages in its path. His savings dwindled, and debts were ever increasing. Even the money spent on Godmen to bring in rains turned to be a vain attempt.

Only if the rains were seasonal and regular.

Global warming, increasing summer heat dried up the dams. Coupled with drought, his farm was converted into a worthless wasteland. The banks refused to give further loans. Cunning bank officers asked the Panchayat  (aka village council) to intervene. The head of the Panchayat colluded with the banks to ensure that bribes were paid to get loans, sometimes the bank officers asked for bribes on their own.Moneylenders charged extremely high rates of interest. Moreover, the conditionalities attached to loans were such that it proved impossible to avail loans once repayments on the previous loan defaulted.

He was blinded by the devilish force of prosperity and wealth so much that he never planned for any such adversities. Like an invisible dragon with dreaded teeth of terror and poison of hate, the rain had started to engulf him and his family.

Only if the rains were seasonal and regular.

Bottles of pesticide were beginning to gather mould. What was their use when there were no crops to protect? That morning, he shared a bottle with his family and chose to walk to his field. He couldn’t see his wife and kids suffer.

The thoughts of happy days reverberated in his mind as he reached his field, which now resembled a graveyard. He slumped to the ground. His brittle knees couldn’t bear his weight anymore. He landed on the field with the support of one hand. His palm scratched against the rocks to peel off his white kurta and brown skin.

The pain in his abdomen grew stronger and vacillated in his body. The blood that he vomited mixed with the dust. Finally, convulsions took over, and he transformed into the next feast for the vultures. Meanwhile, the anticoagulants had made his wife and kids lay in his home asphyxiated with a mouthful of froth.

Hopefully, the compensation guaranteed on his death will pay off the loans to banks and money lenders.

Only if the rains were seasonal and regular.

Write Tonight.

The warmth in the lounge normalised my bones stiffened from the sudden chill outside. The event space in the hotel was populated with accomplished and budding writers, publishers, editors, script writers, and historians. The ambience of the literature festival, aroma of various cuisines and the soft music transported me into liberal fantasy. My reincarnated feelings and her curiosity enveloped the atmosphere. I was meeting her after a long time. As we sat together, amber lights shone onto her and reflected far and wide magnifying her presence. She hadn’t changed one bit.

‘You are my first love. The one I ever yearned for desperately, from the bottom of my soul.’ I said to her, regret in my stomach.

‘That’s quite an expression.’, she giggled.

‘This is where we first met. It was my Uni’s art festival. It was love at first sight for me.’

‘Or rather an impulsive consent?’

‘Whatever you may call it. It felt like a thousand lamps lit inside. There was something very intoxicating about you. You possessed me from all directions. It showed in the poetry and essays I wrote for the University magazine. I didn’t care about my grades nor what the world had to say. I dedicated my days and nights to you. I loved every moment I sang and danced with you. Under the tree, near the sea. We weaved magic together.’

‘I too found a home in a corner of your heart. I thought I would stay there forever.’

‘Sigh! Those were memorable days.’

‘Memorable, but momentary.’


‘I agree. The adventure called life took over. After my graduation, I was overwhelmed by the paycheck and international placement my first job offered. The peer and family pressure, my selfish need to resurrect my family’s dwindling financial condition made me succumb. My greed didn’t stop there. The rat race made me scramble devilishly for all the worldly possessions, only to realise that I was running alone. I made you leave me.’

‘Could I have done anything to change that perception?’

‘No. It was my mistake. My folly made me believe the ridicules that I couldn’t achieve the same heights of prosperity along with you. I lacked the courage of conviction to rebel against convention.  Every day of these twenty years, I convinced myself that I am on the wrong side of things. Something was always amiss. But I never lost the hope of meeting you once again, being engrossed within you.’

‘So what made you come back?’

‘Money doesn’t attract me anymore. Purpose does. When I am old, lying on a hospital bed, I don’t want to die in remorse.  I pressed for a job transfer back to the city six months ago. Since then, I round the corner of this place every day en route home.’

‘I know that first love sticks till the very end. What took you six months to approach me?’ , she chuckled.

‘I wasn’t confident I could match up myself with the same old me.’

‘You make me feel like your ex. What is different about today?’

‘Well, it’s the literature festival with a difference. They have called upon all lost writers to reignite their passion. This is my chance to blend us both into a dimension called forever.’

‘You have a demanding job and a happy family. Do you really see me in the equation?’

A wave of motivation surged inside me and inspired the birth of gentle emotions. I cradled them to form words and they reverberated through my veins. I raised the lid of my laptop, logged in and began typing:

‘True love is uninhibited. Let us make this newfound union a memorable one.’

The words transformed into pearls knotted beautifully to form a garland around her imaginary self.


“Don’t give up your writing. Ever.”


“Thank you! You made me feel so satisfied.”, I smiled.

“It’s all right. After all, I am your writing addiction.”, she smiled, winked and vanished into the literary atmosphere.

The title is a tribute to O.Henry

Trouble Free.



Snooping Along.

“Myra is sleeping. She won’t wake up for another 3 hours at least. You can watch TV till I return.”

Before she could say “OK”, Sonia’s phone started to vibrate.

“I have to take this one.”, she picked up her handbag and walked outside the door holding her phone to her ear.

She gazed at Sonia’s hourglass figure, red gown and sparkling handbag as she closed the main door and unlocked her garage. Being alone, earning $15 per hour for the next 3 hours, and having nothing to do brought joy to her. She was up-to-date with her assignments as well. She smiled, moved her both hands through her waist length hair, immersed herself into the couch and switched on the TV.

After an hour of surfing channels, she was bored and went upstairs to check on Myra. She was sleeping like a daisy. She adjusted Myra back to her sleeping position and straightened the bed sheet and comforter that was crumpled. She put on additional pillows to prevent her from moving towards the end of the bed.

As she stepped out of Myra’s room, she saw the door of the library open. As she moved closer, she could see books spread all over. The  curtains flared from the open window bringing in amber bloom of the sunset. Probably a cat had knocked down one of the bookshelf and then escaped.

“What to do, wait for Sonia. For the six months that I have been here, she has never allowed me into the library?”, she thought, “Let me utilise my free time to adjust these books. Sonia would be happy. She might allow me to read a few books as well.”

She walked along the pile of books, aware of the loud sound of her shoes made when they hit the wooden floor. She didn’t want to wake up Myra. She trembled and bit her lower lip towards the left. She glanced over her shoulder, assured that she was still alone, moved nervously ahead.

As she started to arrange the books, some photos slipped down from a book. The photos were that of a man. The face looked familiar. Yes, he was Sonia’s husband who is missing since three months now. She was startled.

All the photos were mugshots. Each photo had a different name written on the back – John Catli, Jeff Flannery, Frank Bernard. The last one had a big red cross all over it.

She had seen Sonia beat a man in a courtyard. He apparently tried to misbehave. Sonia didn’t stop until he fell to the ground unconscious. Chills crept up her neck and forearms, and she abruptly shivered.

“These names on the photographs…..aren’t these famous contract killers?”, she remembered them from her Criminology classes. Could she have done her husband?”

Portrait Perfect.

Her mystical face embodied joie de vivre.  Her silken hair slumped over the swan-like mane and venus red lips resembled folded rose petals. Draped in white, she was nothing short of a celestial beauty. The jewel-like eyes, megawatt smile and pearly white teeth, this mesmerising beauty made her second to only one – the one whose portrait she was.

Her beauty dazzled as the fading evening rays shone on her.  He bent side ways and looked at portrait at an angle. He picked up his palette and brush to give her a few finishing touches along her light brown hair.

The wind gushed in, blowing the curtains, as if to sing her arrival. The aroma of her scent mixed with the petrichor created by the drizzle.  The fading light was subdued by the brilliance of her presence. Fiction had met reality.

“I knew what to expect when you called me to your studio.”

“Isn’t she better than the ones I have carved out before.” His eyebrows jumped in anticipation.

“Mm..Hmm.”, she frowned to give an incomplete confirmation.

“You know me very well, but you still don’t understand me.”

“Well, you are the first woman I ever knew after my mother.  We’ve been best of buddies through school, college and graduation. We pursued the same hobbies, played the same games, watched the same movies.”

“Yes. We are the best of buddies. So?”, she grinned and gazed inquisitively in his eyes.

“I can capture your spirit on the canvas even in your absence. Howz that for the understanding bit?”

A pause followed. The rain became incessant, splashing in from the windows.

She moved closer to scrutinise the portrait. The depiction so perfect, it had mirror-like precision.

“The hair are a bit too long. eyes too brown. The skin tone is a bit lighter.”, she smiled. Her comment echoed a critical judge in a reality show, who couldn’t find another reason to evict a contestant.

He turned the canvas, took a few steps back,  allowing the raindrops to dash on the portrait and dissolve the masterpiece into mush.

A long silence ensued.

He began thinking pensively of his next attempt.

“Ouch.”, she thought, “The portrait was perfect, my friend, but I want our relationship to stay in the realm of friendship. I don’t want the complexity of a marriage ruin everything. Things are rosy to start with. Lovers soon become strangers. Pain and agony follows. I would never risk our beautiful relationship to dissolve into nothingness like this portrait has.What if my beauty fades away and you stop loving me? Stay my friend, my friend.”

“Forget about it. We are late for the movie.”, she announced before tears could flow and dragged him towards her car.