Short Stories

Caught In The Flow Of Life

Breaking free and blooming…
[Image by Rae Wallis from Pixabay]
बन्दिनी/Bandini (A lady who is in bondage)

Tied to a drunkard good-for-nothing husband, Ma seems to be ready to cross the bridge today, yes she is, I saw it in her eyes, she spoke a different language that silenced him, my so-called father. And we will walk away… away from him, away from poverty… Ma, I promise…

Alas, on returning home, the son found his mother packing bags… she, a ‘bandini’, is ready to follow her old husband to their old village… a broken hut on a parched land awaits her… her home.

पदम्लता का सपना/Padamlata’s Dream

…क्या पदम्लता ज़िन्दगी में फिर कभी सोनापलाशी गाँव की मिटटी पर पैर नहीं रखेगी? जिसका बचपन केशोर्य यहीं बीता हो। सुख शांति और गौरव न सही, दुःख अपमान की समृति का भी अलग ही एक आकर्षण होता है। हो सकता है अपने आपको एक बार प्रतिष्ठित करने की गुप्त इच्छा सात साल बाद दुर्दमनीय  हो उठी पदम्लता में।

जोदू लाहिड़ी के घर खाना बनाने वाली ब्राह्मणी की लड़की ‘पोदी’ को सहसा पदम्लता के वेश में आविर्भूत होते देखकर सोनापलाशी के वाशिंदे कितने अवाक होंगे, इसे देखने की भयंकर इच्छा – जिसे सात सालों तिल-तिल करके पालती आ रही थी पदम्लता…

-पदम्लता का सपना

In the corner of the open veranda, little Podi slept close to her mother, boldly showing her back to the cold winters that kept prodding her. When her running nose and childhood got cured itself and bloomed into a beautiful young Padamlata, people couldn’t believe it nor could they believe when she got married. How did the old maid managed to marry little Podi? That too to a school master?

Word has it that Padamlata has turned into gold… she is a walking, talking bank… one who doesn’t believe in “interests”. Wide-eyed, jealous, in awe… the folks of Sonapalashi village are witnessing this role reversal speechlessly, they speak up only to welcome Padamlata, singing her praises and remembering her late mother.

Padamlata’s dream has come true, elated, she wants nothing more. But back home, her husband has gone bankrupt. His savings, he hid well in the house, are gone.

Exactly how much? Ask Padamlata, for she had secretly taken an amount to Sonapalashi before leaving.

सिक्योरिटी जमा करने के लिए घर-दवार ज़मीन-जायदाद यथा सर्वस्व बेचकर जो दो हज़ार रूपए इकठा किए थे, वह रूपया चोरी चला गया है।  तुम तो जानती हो, चोरों के डर से बक्से में न रखकर, रज़ाई रखने के टाँड पर रुपए की थैली छिपाकर राखी थी, लेकिन वहाँ भी चोर की नज़र कैसे पड़ी, यही आश्चर्य हो रहा है।

मेरा विश्वास है, यह रिश्ते के शत्रुओं  का काम है।

-पदम्लता का सपना

Caught in knots.
[Image by Pavel from Pixabay]
शोक/Shok (Mourning)

Old and ailing mother-in-law is no more, said the telegram early in the morning, just when Mr. Ji was leaving for the office. Imagining how Mrs. Ji will breakdown, shake mountains, tear rivers apart, he left to get his salary first, and later balance the personal world. He left only after tiptoeing to the window, keeping the telegram above the magazine, that too had arrived this morning.

Mrs. Ji unaware, walks to the room, finds the telegram as well as the magazine there; dumbstruck after reading about her mother’s death, she forgets to cry. There is no one around to acknowledge her absolute shock and pain. Her four months old son is crying in the kitchen, she rushes to tend to him.

Ashamed to reach home too late, Mr. Ji finds that Mrs. Ji has apparently not found the telegram; he finally breaks the news to Mrs. Ji, wondering if she hasn’t read it, how come the telegram shifted its place from sitting above to below the magazine and got a yellow spot of turmeric on it.

बेकसूर/Bekasoor (Innocent)

An open and shut case, thanks to so many witnesses who had not seen anything clearly, yet were sure how the business man’s son killed his wife in the darkness of late night by pushing her from the first floor. These witnesses, business man’s close relatives/rivals, had travelled via tram, ran and walked and persuaded the girl’s father to file an FIR before even seeing the dead girl’s face once.

The girl’s father, furious at first, wanting his son-in-law to be hanged immediately, realises it one day that his daughter’s old habit of sleepwalking got the best of her. The sun-in-law was not guilty.

Ablaze and silent…
[Source – Pixabay]
दियासिलाई का डिब्बा/Matchbox

That her suspicious husband read her letter before she could find out, yes, he read it yet again, read it shamelessly and tried to justify his stand, blaming her mother for always asking for money, probably assuming him to be a bank… sparked a fire within her.

Even though she turned this letter and her mother’s request for more money into ashes within herself, she couldn’t swallow her husband’s cold taunt, maybe 100th taunt and began to spit fire.

The smoke could have smothered the husband, but the joint family life quietly quelled this fire, that too unknowingly.

Entering the kitchen with a smile, engaging herself instantly, the wife didn’t let anyone guess that she had been on fire just a while ago.

A woman can also be like a matchbox…

कह न सकेंगे/Keh Na Sakenge (Speechless)

Back quite late, he is questioned by all – his wife, elder son, younger daughter – everyone who is at home. Irked to say the least, his behaviour irked the others. The old chap had come quietly, said he won’t eat and went to bed, then came to the kitchen to finish his dinner… But who is not at home?

His wife declares, as usual, that she will wait for their younger son to return. Slightly worried for him as protests and riots have erupted in the Calcutta city.

Who is not at home? The one who shouted at everyone in the tram and asked to de-board? One of the rioters? Because of whom the old chap, with aching knees, ran to a corner? In hiding he heard gun-shots and then heard someone describe a beautiful young boy with curly hair who had been hit.

The old chap, at home, remembers the sound of the gun shots and goes mum.

Words guide the confused…
[Image by Jon Hoefer from Pixabay]
रीफिल खत्म होता एक डॉटपेन/Refill Khatam Hota Ek Dot Pen (Faulty Pen)

The whole day went in looking for grandma, but when did someone saw her stepping out of the puja room… she left without having her morning tea… not possible… run-run-run… no, not on the terrace or in the backyard speaking to the gardener, not at any of the neighbours’ place, or at the temple, not at her brother’s or sister’s house, not at the ghat or the bazaar… this double storey house has come to a standstill… elder son went to the office nevertheless… he has a government service unlike the younger son who is naturally expected to wait… late-late-late… assigning duties to others and he left… daughters-in-law tackled the chores and the inquisitive neighbours, relatives alike… when kids came home from the school, one spoke, “grandma must have gone to end her life…” and showed a note… grandma had tried to scribble something on it… “but the dot pen stopped working“, said the kid and laughed… the world swirled and the time became stiff as everyone took notice of it… late in the evening they heard grandma’s voice… she was bargaining with the rickshaw-wala… both her sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren came running… she laughed and said she had gone to visit a temple… that is on the outskirts of the Calcutta city…

The family took a sigh of relief… and so did the grandmother…

The illustrious Ashapurna Devi. (1909 -1995)
[Source –]

Winner of the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship (1994), Jnanpith Award and Padam Shri (1976), Ashapurna Devi was an eminent Indian writer who wrote in Bengali. She had the knack for writing realistic, powerful characters, all caught in the flow of life, facing, choosing, accepting, neglecting, forgetting, overcoming, surrendering to the drama… the drama called life.

Read more about her here.

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Meeting a Fool in a Lovely Quaint Place

Raga-rich village scene.
Image by siam naulak from Pixabay.

Every language brings a distinctive flavour in the story, making its world unique and familiar at the same time. The world of Hindi stories always comes across as very honest and subtly profound to me.

Just like visiting a beautiful village, coloured green with flora, blue with water-wells and brown with earthen-wares, the Hindi language stories that I have read till now have become this lovely quaint place in my head.

And the people that inhabit this place, interesting characters from all over India, each one has struggled, battled, lived and loved this life truly.

Malkauns, Yaman, Basant bahar, Darbari, Khayal and other such ragas intricately design the wind here.

The latest addition to this place of mine is a compilation of short stories of some of the most famous Hindi writers of the early 20th century. Munshi Premchand, Jaishankar Prasad, Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, Upendranath ‘Ashk’ and Bhisham Sahani are the greats whom I have met before via their other stories and poems.

The others – Vishambharnath Sharma ‘Koshik’, Sudarshan, Vishnu Prabhakar, Kamla Chaudhary, Jainendra Kumar Jain, Chandragupt Vidyaalankar, Acharya Chatursen Shastri, Yashpal, ‘Agyaya’ and Siyaramsharan Gupt are the ones whom I had the opportunity to meet for the first time.

What a world they have all created – sensitive, soulful, revolutionary and inspiring.

Here, the writer whose short story I would like to share with you is Pandya Bechan Sharma ‘Ugra’.

The title of his short story is मूर्खा Murkha (A Fool).

अम्माँ का नाम गुलाबो, मुँह देखो तो छुहारा, आकृति धनुष की तरह।  गुलाबो अम्माँ की अवस्था अस्सी और पाँच पचासी वर्ष।

[Translation – “Amma (Granny) is called Gulabo (Rosy), face, a dried date, shape, bent like a bow. Gulabo Amma is eighty and five, eighty-five years old.”]

Bang!! That is how the story begins, gripping instantly, visually powerful; it reminds you of an old lady, one who is waiting on the roadside to cross the road or sell vegetables or beg.

The author’s famous penname ‘Ugra’ describes his writing aptly. Ugra means fiery, radical, hot-blooded.

He writes economically, hitting the right chord without any delay, not shying away from the truth, not allowing the eyes to escape, making a satirist out of you before you can realise it and run.

The Story Gist

Amma is old and so is the cow that had for past ten years served the family without a complaint; she gave six-litre milk every day, six of her bull calves and four heifer calves were sold for a good amount.

But now old, she is of no good and thus, Amma’s three darling sons want to get rid of the cow.

Though politically inversely aligned – eldest one a congressman, other a communist and the youngest follows a Hindu party – they have unanimously made up their mind to either sell the cow to the butcher or send it to a cow-shelter or simply abandon her.

But Amma has become a heavy hurdle for them; she is horrified to even hear of such a suggestion about her beloved cow.

She argues with them, starts eating one meal a day so that they still buy the cow’s feed and saves her one wintry night when the youngest son tries to drag the cow away.

Amma lovingly apologises to her; seeing the cow shivering in the cold weather, she runs to her room, calling herself a fool.

Out of the two blankets that she owned, she picks her own warmer one, goes to the cowshed and happily covers the cow with it.


Gulabo Amma’s dear cow.
Image by Prawny from Pixabay.

A two page long short story, dramatically strong, dipped in sweet sarcasm, this piece raises questions unabashedly. What path have you chosen dear one? What rules do you abide by?

You weigh matters miserly, falsely, egotistically and complain of the imbalance. Why do you refuse to learn and almost always forget?

Ugra’s मूर्खा Murkha (A Fool) boldly strengthens the storyteller’s voice; still pertinent to the present times, one looks around to see what all has changed and what has not.

The lovely quaint place is kaleidoscopic in nature; I often see through its lens to pick up the different shades and rhythms of life.

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