Monthly Archives: June 2016

Soya — Flash Fiction # 8


He stared across the Sea of China sitting inside a sushi bar in Otaru Port thinking absent-mindedly about that slim Chinese girl in Xidi Village when a tiny drop of soya sauce fell on his shirt sleeve and doggedly defied to be washed off for the rest of his life like the pretty, embarrassed face of the Japanese waitress.

 

 

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Choice — Flash Fiction #7


He spent the day debating in his mind, should he or should he not, only to realise towards early evening that there was no third choice, and she arrived precisely at the same conclusion, but not before early next morning, which, needless to say, was most unfortunate.

 

 

Love — Flash Fiction # 6


He was madly in love with her though she was madly in love with him. But he was madly in love with her. Whereas she was madly in love with him. Yet, he was madly in love with her already, as we saw at the very beginning of this heart-rending tale.

 
 
 
 
 

Flying — Flash Fiction # 5


A baby caterpillar was slowly crawling up, its belly clinging to the bark of a tree. It had no idea that it was eventually meant to turn into a butterfly.

On a branch of the tree, a bird and its mate had built a nest. In the nest lived their young ones who had not yet learnt to fly. Their mother spotted the caterpillar. She flew down and picked it up in its beak and sped up to the nest to feed the young ones, hoping they will turn strong and learn to fly soon.

The caterpillar never found out about flying.

One of the small birds in the tree fell on the ground during its flying lesson. It hopped around helplessly not knowing how to fly back home.

In a hole in the ground near the tree lived a hungry snake. It watched the little bird for a while, slithered close to it and then swallowed it up.

The young bird never found out about flying.

One doesn’t know what happened to the snake.

Probably it never found out about flying either.

 
 
 
 
 

Faux Pas — Flash Fiction # 4


Torrential rain in the evening. The foggy orange halo of the car headlights approaching from the opposite direction lights him up briefly. He walks briskly yet carefully, or he might slip. He carries no umbrella. And he removes his glasses and puts them in his pocket. Glasses are a hindrance in the rain.

Drenched to the skin, he clenches on to a satchel with his left hand, its strap wound securely across his right shoulder. The stuff inside the satchel has to remain dry. Not the rest of him, even though his right hand presses down on a handkerchief spread on his head. His hair is wet and sends down streams of water down his face. A handkerchief offers no protection in the rain and keeps his right hand unnecessarily occupied.

He doesn’t search for a shelter. He is in a hurry.

She stares through the window and thinks of him. It’s her birthday. But the stupid rain is delaying the stupid man. The reservation in the restaurant will need to be cancelled perhaps. Getting late. She calls him up.

His phone begins to ring inside the satchel. But his hands are occupied and it is raining. He cannot answer the phone. It keeps on ringing, much to his irritation. I am coming, I am coming. Can’t you see it’s raining? He yells silently. A wayside tea stall is still open. People huddling under the tarpaulin shed held insecurely by bamboo poles.

He walks in and reaching inside the satchel, he pulls out his phone and answers the call. Without his glasses he cannot read the name of the caller. Have you reached your hotel yet? she asks from the other end. Oh! It’s she, not she, he whispers to himself. Silently again. No, I am stuck. It’s raining hard. Where are you stuck? In a tea stall. Take care, don’t get drenched, you will catch a cold.

He sneezes hard. But you have already caught a cold. No, no … he protests and then sneezes again. This time harder. Why are you lying to me? She sounds suspicious. You had better come back immediately, she orders. Get into your dry clothes here. You don’t have to spend the night in that cheap hotel.

He begins to plead. The dress is still dry inside my shoulder bag. It could get wet if I walked back to your place now. The hotel is closer. What dress? she asks charily. Why, the one I bought for your … He realizes the faux pas and barely manages to hold his tongue. My what? she demands. Silence. My what? she raises her voice several decibels.

Why are you screaming? It’s your dress. The dress I bought for you. When did you buy it? You were here only an hour ago. Did you have it with you? Yes, he says. I mean no… I bought it after I left your home. Another faux pas. You went to buy me a dress in this torrential rain? I wanted to surprise you tomorrow, he replied pathetically. But you said you’ll be away from town by early morning and won’t be back for two weeks. Did I? Sorry, that’s what I told my business partner. To avoid him. Dirty liar! Come back immediately. And keep that dress dry. What colour? He collected himself now. It will be a surprise, wait, just wait. And ended the call abruptly.

The phone began to ring instantaneously. Oh shit! She won’t leave me alone. He rejected the call. But the phone came to life again. He had to answer. I just told you I am coming back. Can’t you believe me for once? When did you tell me that, the voice at the other end inquired. We didn’t speak since early morning today! A third faux pas now. It’s not she, it’s she. Oh, I thought it was the business partner. Sorry. Business partner? Is the partner a woman? No, she’s no woman. A man, but he has the voice of a woman. He’s gay I think. You deal with a gay business partner? What on earth are you up to? You are chatting with your business partner after promising to take me out to the restaurant? Have you forgotten that it’s my birthday today? Are you cheating me? You never told me of a business partner. Of course not, why should I lie? I have even bought you a present. It’s in my satchel. Still dry. I see. What present? A silk saree. It’s a work of art. You’ll love it. What colour? Be patient. It’s going to be a surprise. Anyway, I cancelled the reservation in the restaurant. Your trousers are still in the laundry. Only your sleeping pyjamas are dry here. Can’t wear them to a restaurant. Come back as soon as you can. The rain has stopped, but it can start again. The sky’s still overcast. Yes, yes, will be there in a jiffy. He disconnects and comes out of the shed.

When the phone rings again. What’s it now? he thinks miserably. I just told you I’ll be with you in a moment. What? When did you say that? You hung up on me when I asked you what the colour of the dress was. I wanted to surprise you, he said. You didn’t, you were simply lying. You have something up your sleeve. Come right back here and admit if you have the courage. I suspect you are having an affair.

He stands on the pavement and doesn’t know which way to proceed. The direction he was headed for till now or the one he had come from.

It begins to rain again. He covers his head with the wet handkerchief and presses down on it. Handkerchiefs are useless when it rains.

 
 
 
 
 

Mysteries — Flash Fiction # 3


Part 1.

Forty years ago.

A crowd had gathered. Mostly nosey neighbours, watching in silence. A few mumbling to each other in tones expressing dismay. No one knew exactly how to react. It must have been early morning when it was noticed.

Who was the first one to locate it was a mystery, no less mysterious than the identity of the man whose foot, amputated at the ankle, lay discarded in the middle of the street. The right foot. Thick coagulated blood covering the wound and a bit of white protruding from the middle. Fibula? But for the foot, it could have been a small saucer smeared with layers of strawberry jam, topped by vanilla ice-cream. No one eats ice-cream that way, from an inclined saucer. Not that anyone wished to find out how it tasted.

Possibly a man, as opposed to a woman, by the size of the foot. No footwear. But for the strawberry part, it was not a blood smeared foot. As though neatly sawn off by a surgeon. Clean enough. Sunburnt skin. Possibly the man was not as dark as the sunburnt foot. Idle speculation.

Part 2.

The courtyard of the three storied mansion was separated from the street by a boundary wall. On it lay the man. A rope loosely tying his hands together. Loosely. No sign of force. Small man, long hair. He was wearing a disheveled dhoti and a white kurta. He lay on his back staring straight at the sky. Except that his eyes were still. He was quite dead. No sign of blood at all in this case.

It was not his ankle that lay on the street beyond the boundary wall. Couldn’t have been, or else he would need to be a three legged creature. Both his feet were intact. Not tied together. Uncovered. No slippers or any other footwear in the vicinity. Like the foot, less than fifteen yards away. Besides, he was a fair skinned person, colours did not match. The crowd watched and wondered. Whispering to each other. Did he jump from the balcony? Was he pushed from behind?

No one knew if the man, whose severed foot lay on the other side of the boundary, was dead too. No one even knew who the man without the right foot was. Some knew the man in the courtyard. Vaguely.

Part 3.

The police arrived and before anyone could be questioned, the inquisitive crowd dispersed. Few wished to be involved. Bengali middle class. It lives in mystery novels in the security of second hand bookstores.

Part 4.

The body with the feet and the foot without the body were carried away.

People spoke to one another in hushed tones whenever they passed that way. Not for too long.

Part 5.

Memories fade.

Mysteries don’t.

Forty years later.

 
 
 
 
 

The Neem Tree — Flash Fiction # 2 (Transcreation)


Some tear away leaves for grinding.

Yet others fry them in oil.

To apply on ringworm afflicted skin.

A panacea for a variety of skin ailments.

Many eat the tender leaves.

Raw, uncooked.

Or, sautéed with eggplant.

Helps the liver.

Endlessly many chew the young twigs … to keep their teeth healthy.

Practitioners of traditional medicine praise it to the skies.

The wise are pleased to see it grow next to one’s dwelling.

“Breeze filtered through Neem leaves is good for health. Don’t chop it down,” they say.

No one chops it, but they don’t care for it either.

Garbage collects on every side.

Some build a paved platform around its stem. That’s yet another piece of junk.

Suddenly one day a maverick arrives.

He stares at the Neem tree with rapt attention. He doesn’t tear any part of the bark, nor the leaves. He does not snap a single twig. He simply keeps gazing.

Spellbound.

And then he says, “Oh, how exquisite the leaves … magnificent! How pretty the flower bunches … as though a flock of stars has descended from the blue sky on to the green lake below … Lovely …”

He stands staring for a while and then goes about his way.

He was not one for diseases to cure, but a poet pure.

The tree wished it could leave with the man. But it failed. Its roots had penetrated deep inside the earth. It remained standing in the middle of the garbage heap behind the house.

The condition of the docile young girl married off in the crammed household next door, brimming though she is with housewifely virtues, is no different.

Transcreation of a classic Bengali Flash Fiction নিমগাছ (neemgaach) by Banaphool. It was originally published in 1946 in a collection called অদৃশ্যলোক (adrishyalok, translated “invisible world”).

 

Floral Design — Flash Fiction #1

The two of them came out of the Coffee Shop on the other side of the street as the two of us were emerging out of the car intending to try out the joint.

I would not have noticed them had she not stared back at me with a frown, before turning around and walking away with him. Or was it the eyeliner she used that drew my attention? He didn’t need to look at me. Or else, he would need to wave. He had known me ever since I was born. She was around forty-five perhaps? Smartly dressed in black trousers and a top with a colourful floral design. Didn’t take in her footwear.

“Look!” said the other she to me. “Don’t,” said I instinctively, helping her to cross the street and enter the Coffee Shop.

He had been a university topper all through his student life. He met his future wife at college. Tall, fair, beautiful. Talk of the college. Handsome, successful young man. Smart, beautiful girl friend. Only son of a well-off father.

The first tragedy struck when his mother sustained a cerebral stroke, paralyzing her right side and destroying her speech for the rest of her life. The only words she spoke were — “kokon aache”. No one knew what they meant.

And then one early morning, the old father expired. He was heart-broken by the sight of his wife’s incurable paralytic state. He had been an angina patient as well. He had a heart problem too many.

They got married. They had a child. The child grew up, the paralytic mother died several years later. Tragedy struck again. She developed a debilitating form of arthritis. The handsome tall woman shrunk and grew small in size. She couldn’t move her limbs, walked with help, painfully bending forward. He cared for her. Never ate non-vegetarian food at home, she being vegetarian. Did everything that a woman would not let others do for her. Ended up his daily morning chores combing her thinning hair. Then left for the college where he taught.

Life moved on. Ailing mother taken care of, ailing wife’s routine suffering. His bright academic career ruined. No one heard him complain. A daughter in law arrived one day, chosen by the wife. Happy, smiling, friendly. Then came a grandson.

Life was not totally unfriendly, that’s rarely the case.

Smartly dressed woman in black trousers and a top with a colourful floral design. They had walked away, but she had briefly summed me up. Alerted perhaps?

No story is ever complete.