Banaras Dreams- by Nidhi Paneri



I was the only one included in the boy’s night. The boys who claimed to be wild wolves of Banaras, had open-heartedly made me a part of their pack. The other girls didn’t understand this special treatment, they felt that they had just about everything that I had.  The wolves loved the fact that I never fussed. They treated me like one of them, and I so loved that. They never stared at my cleavage or butts, they showed their love for me with their macho back pats.

We five girls chatted away on Meenu’s roof top. The evening Aarti chants could be heard loud and clear. Banaras evenings were epic. The pundits would practice their daily Aarti in chorus and later a grand show would be put up at the ghats. I was the listener always. The girls terribly needed someone to hear their shitty girl talk, so I was the one dragged into these girl gossip sessions. Fortunately my phone beeped.

Message: ‘At the ghats @ 9:00pm.’

I  jerked my hand in the air and snapped my fingers, finally I could be away from here. I always enjoyed male company. My intellect was far beyond the normal girl talk. “Got to gooooo,” I raised my hand for a high five. None of the girls responded. I shrugged, tied my hair into a tight bun, put on my black sweatshirt, climbed down the creeky wooden stairs much faster than any of the girls could, jumped over the last four steps and stormed out of Meenu’s home.

“You behave like a boy and I will break your legs,” mother had warned me. My mother’s treacherous firings often echoed within my head. But this was me. I couldn’t change. My father  thought I was too influenced by the evils of the western culture, my brother had strong predictions that I would land up all by myself, old and lonely, the only person who didn’t judge me was my childhood friend Raghu. He saw in me what nobody could.

As usual he was there, waiting on his antique Vespa, outside Meenu’s home. “I love you,” I pecked his cheek. “Joothi (Lair),” he replied. He told me that whenever I expressed my love for him. Raghu took me seriously on very rare occasions and that bothered me.

“Shwetu look Ramji kaka cut off his chotti (ponytail),” he remarked as we passed Ramji’s poster shop. Every home  in Banaras would have atleast one poster from Ramji Kaka’s shop. I was lost in my thoughts.

“Shwetu what are you doing?” Raghu asked, “Kya soch rahi hain? (What are you thinking?)”

“Nothing.” I replied.

I ruffled for the paper in my pocket. I was going to spill it all out tonight. He had to know how I felt for him. I took out the paper, and read it once again. I gripped it tight against the breeze.

Dear Raghu,

You are the one for me.

Love you forever,

Yours Shwetu.

It was just perfect. I had poured it all out in one single line. Raghu wasn’t much of a reader anyways.

The narrow streets were so full of people at this hour. Raghu dodged his Vespathrough the crowd, “Raghu, It’s best to walk down now, just park here,” I said pointing at Lala’s tea stall. Lala kaka would never mind a scooter parked near his stall. Infact no Banaras local would ever have any problems, they all had large hearts.

“What’s that?” he asked. He snatched the paper from my hand. “No! Raghu,” I shouted. My stomach felt funny. My heart thumped louder than ever. My mind felt foggy.  He was about to unfold the letter when his gaze drifted to a slender figure that approached towards us. She was tall, wore a lot of make up, and I didn’t quite like the way Raghu watched her. The two of them exchanged smiles and she turned to walk towards the ghat. Raghu grabbed my hand, stashed my letter into his pocket and pulled me along with him. The way he pulled me along with him didn’t feel good. The pull felt more like a push. My eyes were soggy much before we reached the ghat.

I looked up at Raghu, trying hard not to break into sobs. “Where are the boys?” I asked Raghu. I completely ignored the presence of the other lady. “Shwetu, I want you to meet Shaira,” he spoke with a radiant face. His happiness beemed on him. “Shaira? She’s a muslim?” I asked, astonished at how Raghu could have a muslim lady love. Shaira walked up closer to me. Close enough that I could see her red lipstick smudged on her teeth as she flashed her coy smile at me.

I wanted to push her into the pond right behind us. I pulled my fingers into a fist, gave a tearful look to Raghu. “Shwetu?” he spoke as softly as he could. He quite didn’t understand the look on my face.

There were children playing cricket on the side.  They stopped playing as their ball plopped into the pond water. “Oye Ranjeet, dekh ke khel ( Play carefully),” I shouted in anger. One of the boys shouted, “Shwetu didi don’t be so angry, you can bat today.”

I stepped forward, and clenched my fists tight.I looked up at the open skies. I was about to do something that was so out of my character. I breathed in deep and pushed Shaira into the pond. Raghu gaped at me for a second and rushed to help his lady love out. “Pagal ho gayi hain? (Have you gone crazy?)” Raghu shouted. Shaira’s eyes popped out, her drenched body shivered. “What kind of friends you have Raghu?” she snarled.

“What’s wrong with you Shwetambra?”

This was the first time he had called me by my real name. At that moment pushing Shaira into the pond water was wrong but it still felt so right.

“Read the damn letter Raghu, just read that bloody letter,” I said.

He took out the paper, tore it to pieces and threw it on my face. If heart breaks could be heard, mine would have been the loudest.

Everything was clear.  My brother was so right, I was going to land up all by myself,  old and lonely.  I turned away, ran to the boys and picked up the bat. It was my turn to bat now.




The streak of horror refused to leave my face, even after I splashed it with cold water. I wanted to comb the loose strands of hair that fell over my swollen eyes, but I didn’t carry a hair brush. My eyes were filled with wrath. An ocean wouldn’t be enough to extinguish it. I was hurt in every possible way a human can be. My throat was sore from all the screaming. My heart was numb. There was an agonising pain all over; the kind of pain that I couldn’t pin point to any doctor. My fairytale prince had turned out to be a demon.

I pulled out the fine jewellery that hung from my ears and neck. The sight of the blue sapphire engagement ring on my ring finger made me throw up. “Damn! Damn!, why did you have to be so stubby,” I cursed my slender long finger. The ring was stuck. My body was feeble, I couldn’t gather more strength to remove the sapphire. I stopped trying.

My tan hand bag lay open on the washroom counter of the hotel suite. I scurried through it for a sharp object. The dim lit washroom made it difficult to search through the items in it. I didn’t carry a blade, but a crochet hook would do the job. I would have to thrust the hook deep within my flesh. It would take a couple of sharp jabs, before I would see darkness forever. I slumped on the edge of the white bath tub, with my eyes shut tight. I wanted to prepare myself for death. I had heard elders say that people would see their childhood memories before they died, but images of the events that followed after Ravi’s phone call this afternoon flashed infront of me.

Ravi had put forth his last bachelor wish. He expressed his strong desire to meet me in the evening. “Come on Chitra, my Jaan, didn’t anyone tell you that it’s your duty to fulfil your to-be-husbands wishes,” he said in his usual flamboyant style. “Yes..errr…No,” I had said. He made me so nervous. The elders had drilled it into my head that it was inauspicious to see each other before the wedding. “Can’t you wait for one more day?” I asked. “Not even a minute.” he replied. “I am sending Manav, my cousin, he’ll bring you to me,”

“But…but…” He hung up. Ravi would never take a no for an answer. It was a tough job to leave a house full of relatives. The house was no less than a fortess. I had climbed down from the broken, rusted spiral staircase from behind the house.

“Where are we going?” I asked Manav.

“Ravi has booked the hotel suite room for two nights,” he said. His voice was grime.

“Manav, I will be skinned if my family gets to know about this.”

“Chitra, I am not sure if I am doing the right thing by taking you to him today, but for a person who wants his peace its best to do what Ravi orders.”

“I’d rather be with Mithoo today,” I said aloud. I was shocked with myself as I wasn’t used to speaking my thoughts aloud. “You have a pet?” he asked

“Yes, it’s a talking parakeet, been there with me for over twelve years now, he is old, so I had to leave him at the animal hospital,” I said. My eyes filled with tears. I missed Mithoo.

I had learnt to contain myself. An orphan child, especially a girl child, got to see the real world much earlier and closer than the lucky ones who had their mummas and papas. No one wanted to know anything about me through all my growing years. People showed interest only when I was ready to invest in them. Emotional investments didn’t count. It didn’t take me long to realise that my so called family of aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces spoke well with me only a couple of days before and after my salary day. The rest of the days they would dissect every word I’d say, every dress I’d wear and every morsel that I would cook. It’s only after Ravi’s marriage proposal things changed for the better. They called it “The Million Dollar” proposal.

No matter how things changed, my past had taught me valuable lessons of life. All of us live with our past. All of us allow it to shape our future. But some of us know how to shrug the past. I think that’s who I am. Despite the challenges I had faced, I had dared to dream of a better future.

Manav studied my sullen face. “You better take care of yourself, Ravi and his friends have been drinking all afternoon,” he warned.

“Alcohol?” I asked. My eyes widened.

“No water, “ he laughed. “I am sorry if I sound foolish, but Ravi had told me that he had never touched alcohol.”

“Really?” he gaped, “Then it must be the alcohol that comes running to him,”he said. There was anger in his voice.

We were engaged for six months, and I thought I knew him fairly well by now, but now I felt like I didn’t know him at all.

“Ravi is a charmer, he could charm a dead woman!” Manav remarked as he swivelled the car in the hotel porch.

“I shall wait here for you, Chitra,” Manav said. He bent his head low enough to see my face. He was genuinely concerned about my well-being.

“Thanks,” I replied. The well-built security guard opened the glass door for me. I walked slowly in to the foyer of the hotel. It was majestic. The sight of a beautiful floral arrangement underneath a large chandelier made me forget my purpose of being there.

“Ah! There you are, my Jaan!” Ravi said as he walked with his arms open towards me. He looked handsome in his red checkered shirt. His hair were gelled and he wore an expesive watch on his right wrist. He had a great collection of watches as opposed to the only one black leather watch that I owned.

“ We weren’t suppose to meet today, why don’t you understand?” I asked.

He turned himself to face me, here was love and need in his eyes. I lowered my eyes with shame. He looked at me as if he was ready to eat me up. “You are mine now, to-be- Mrs Kapoor,” he whispered. I could smell the alcohol. He had mint in his mouth, but the stench of liquor pissed me off. I turned around to leave, but he caught my hand. “I need you,” he begged. He went down on his knee, “How can you refuse a bachelor’s last wish?” he said aloud.

The next thing I knew was that I was squashed between the suite room’s wall and Ravi. He kissed me with passion. The kisses slowly turned to bites. I screamed in pain as his teeth gnawed into my skin. He bit me here and there, all over. His hands hovered around the edge of my kurta, but I stopped his hands from reaching there again and again. He was annoyed and hit my hand hard. I screamed again. Just then my phone rang. I tried hard to push Ravi off me, but he was heavy. I found it difficult to breathe. The moment I could catch my breath I shouted “Ravi stop, My phone is ringing.” He moved a bit. I stooped and elongated my hand to reach for my phone from the study desk. My limbs shivered, my fingers trembled as I answered the call. It was the vet.

“Yes Doctor Saheb,” I answered.

“I have some sad news for you,” he said with a heavy voice, “I am sorry Chitra, we will have to put Mithoo to sleep today.”

“Nooo…Nooo…Doctor Saheb, don’t do that,” I cried.

“Beta, he chokes on his food and his frail body isn’t responding to any drugs, it’s best to free him from his suffering,” he said, “ I can’t wait much, maybe an hour at the most.”

There was a lot of commotion and Doctor Saheb’s voice broke. I could barely hear a few mumbles.

Ravi tried to grab me again. But I flopped on the floor, my back brushed against the wall. I folded my hands and pleaded Ravi to let me go. “Ravi, my Mithoo is going to die,” I cried.

“Oh, come on, Chitra! It’s just a parakeet, I’ll buy you a new one tomorrow. It will be my honeymoon gift to you.”

Nothing can replace my Mithoo, the thoughts remained within me. My slience resonated in the posh hotel room. Everything looked blurred. I got up to move towards the door, when I felt a hard kick on my calf. I stumbled and fell.

“So your parakeet is more important to you than your fiancé, huh?” he growled. He pushed me away with his feet to clear his way.

I dragged myself to the washroom, and here I sit preparing myself to face death. Mithoo’s sweet voice echoed in my ears. We would sing Happy Birthday songs together. I looked up at my imaginery god to tell him about my final wish. I wished to see Mithoo for one last time. I heard Ravi talk over the phone. “Can’t you follow one simple order, just drop her off home, Manav!” he shouted. “I haven’t done anything to her, she wouldn’t let me!” he screamed before he banged the door shut. I heived a sigh of relief and got myself to look as normal as possible.

Manav was waiting in the porch. He jumped out of the car and ran to open my side of the car door. “Shit! Shit! What did he do to you?” he asked. I didn’t know what to say. “Let’s go to the doctor and then to the police.” “No! I want to meet Mithoo please, he is in the Safdarjung animal hospital, if you don’t mind,” I requested.

Doctor Saheb was outside with Mithoo in his arms. He gently put him in my arms. My beautiful Mithoo was defeathered. “Mithoo..Mithoo..” were the only words I could manage to speak. He was too weak to open his eyes. But I could tell that he heard me. He feebly tried to move his right wing. I kissed him, “I will always love you,” I whispered to him. I wept as Doctor Saheb took him inside.

“Let’s go home,” Manav said. “No! I’d rather die than go home, they will force me to get married to the demon tomorrow,” I said. I raised my finger to remove the blue sapphire ring again. ‘Let me help you,” Manav turned it around a bit and it slipped off.

“You are going home to pack your bags, you either die today or learn to live,” he said with a stern voice. “Mumbai wil teach you the value of life and freedom, what happened today will soon be your past, it might be tough, but it’s better than dying like a coward.” He held out the ring to me, “Throw it, right now.”

As always I decided to shrug my past. I threw the ring in the gutter. I watched it sink beneath the algae waters. ‘It’s a matter of time, everything disappears,’ Manav whispered. I nodded to agree with him. I turned around to open the car door, but before I could, Manav held it open for me.







The Deceptive Liaison

young woman with a veil close up portrait studio picture

I observed him. His nostrils flared. I knew it was time, I shut my eyes and began counting in reverse order…ten…nine…eight…seven… Before I could complete the count he slammed hard on the accelerator, the speedometer spurred from sixty kilometers to a hundred and thirty in less than a second. The windows were rolled down, the wind flew my hair, but as I opened my mouth to speak a few strands got in. I swirled my hair behind, as Jai, took a sharp turn. I extended my hands to grab the dashboard for support though I had the seat belt on. I asked as calmly as I could “Jai, What are you so upset about?” My voice was shaky, the speed at which the air got into the car made me feel that my words were spoken from afar. “Damn, Damn… it’s not just you, it’s you and him!” he spoke. “He who? Vikram? Is he the one that’s bothering you?” Jai had always missed the thread of faith in our relationship. He would find my silence just as deceiving as my words. He kept quiet, just slammed at the accelerator again.

Our car screeched to a halt outside his favourite bar, The Dunkers. I called it The Drunkards because whenever Jai would return after his boys’ night from The Dunkers, he would be sloshed. These were the times he stayed over at my apartment. He wouldn’t dare face his mom in that state. He would tell me how much he loved me and then zonk out. I’d have to change him in bed.

He banged the door shut. “I can’t believe you just hurt her,” I said, shocked at the way he had just treated his Mercedes. It was his life. He grabbed my upper arm tight, and pulled me inside with him. “You are hurting me,” I complained. He let go. I rubbed my palm over to soothe the pain.

The bar was dark. There were a few flashy lights, but they moved along with the music beats. All I could make out was that there was a lot of red colour splashed across the walls. I saw Jai, he took the stairs to the wooden deck a floor above. I did not want my blood to clot from where he had gripped me, so I headed to the counter to get some ice. The bar man got me a bucket full of it. He knew I was with Jai, and I had expected nothing less than a V.I.P treatment. “Madam, we have a safety first aid kit, if you need one let me know,” the bar man gave a slight bow. I sat on the bar stool rubbing the ice on the grip marks, when I heard someone whisper a ‘Hello Eisha’. The voice was familiar, but when I turned around there was nobody. I got back to rubbing the ice. ‘Surprise!’ Vikram sprang from behind. There was a sudden jerk and the ice fell on my lap. “Oh my god! You scared me,” I said. The ice had melted, and my white Chanel dress was wet. Vikram grabbed a napkin to help clean up the mess, but I pushed him away. Jai shouldn’t see him here, not with me. “Go away!” I ordered. Before Vikram could come to terms with what seemed to him like an odd behaviour, Jai came and stood in front of us.

“There you are my brother,” Jai hugged Vikram. “So Vicky, you want to have a drink with my fiancé huh?” he asked swaying a bit. From the way he spoke I could make out that he was a couple of drinks down already. “No Jai, I was just helping Eisha.” “Oh yeah, my little darling needs your help, eh?” Jai shrugged a bit and pushed Vikram down on the floor. “Am I not here for her?” Jai rolled up his sleeves. “No Jai, for heavens sake don’t do this, not here please,” I pleaded. There was no way Jai could have survived a hands on fight with Vikram, but Vikram wouldn’t hurt him as he was under Jai’s obligation. Vikram got up and straightened his body hugging tee shirt. “Be careful there bro.” Vikram gave him a long hard stare before he disappeared into one of the dark corners of the bar.

Jai had funded Vikram’s new gym, though he was never interested in building health. Vikram was a huge guy. Jai believed Vikram took injectable steroids. But I knew that it was his hard work. He had dedicated his life to fitness, as a trainer. Jai wouldn’t understand the exercise regimes and diets, and the good part was that he didn’t even try to. Business and politics ran in Jai’s blood. He could smell money and intentions. Jai and Vikram were un-identical twin brothers, born five minutes apart but they were poles apart.

Their father had handed over a large part of the family business and finance matters to Jai, before he retired. Even Vikram’s wealth had to be managed by Jai until Vikram started making his own buck. They were thirty-seven years old, Jai believed it was high time Vikram learnt to earn and settle down. “He needs to get serious about life.”

A small crowd gathered around us. A scantily dressed woman peeped out from behind Jai, it was her- the devil- Mira. “I know what you are up to!” she screamed, her finger pointed towards me. I looked at Jai, he quietly made way for another drink. He could never tell her anything. They were friends since school days. It had been a year since our engagement, but his friends had still not accepted me. I had never felt this humiliated before. I quietly went and sat down on the bar stool again. My head felt heavy, and my shoulders drooped forward. I stared at the beautiful wine and scotch bottles displayed in the slots designed to hold bottles of a million different shapes and sizes, it made a perfect backdrop for the long, black granite counter.

Jai still had his drink in his hand when he came and patted my back. “I am sorry,” he said. He held my hands gently, and pulled his bar stool closer to me. “ So did the scene that you just made make you happy?” I asked looking straight in to his doe eyes. “I don’t know why I feel the way I do Eish, you know that I love you very much, but something pinches my instincts all the time,” he sounded very honest. “And you know what? It’s very hard for me to speak to you right now, you know how I like to keep things to myself,” he said lifting his glass to sip in his expensive scotch. I gave a slow nod. And looked back at the stylish man who sat on the other side of me. I studied him for a minute. He was of no match to Jai. Not many could afford the scotch Jai drank, the watch he wore, the car he drove, nor the shoes he had. He pulled out a red velvet box from underneath his coat and kept it in front of me. “What’s this?” I sat up straight. Everything was forgotten. “It’s a small gesture of my giant love for you,” he smirked. “Come on open it.” I slowly opened the box. It was the most beautiful diamond bracelet that I had ever seen. It had the brilliance of a galaxy of stars put together. “Oh my god, thank you Jai, this is brilliant, it’s beautiful, I don’t know what to say…” Before Jai could make me wear it, I picked it up and put it on myself. He smiled, “You have no patience.”

I wanted to dance, I wanted to let loose and I wanted to guzzle down a bottle of champagne, but Jai wasn’t going to approve of that. And right now I didn’t want to upset him for a minute. I put my arms around him and puckered a deep kiss on his lips. “There she goes again,” Mira came in. “Mira, do you have a sensor or something? You somehow sense my happiness. It’s funny how you are always there to ruin my moment,” I stood aplomb. I wanted to slap her. But it wouldn’t be the right thing to do, “Not now Eish.” I calmed myself, and clenched my fingers in to tight fists. “Hah!” she laughed, as she sensed what was going on in my head.

“Please can you drop me home?” I turned to ask Jai. He asked the bar man to get the bill He made the payment, and planted a friendly kiss on Mira’s forehead. I chose not to acknowledge her good-bye greeting. We headed towards his car. Jai was in a good mood. He whistled the tune of his favorite love song, while he drove.

The building security guard flashed a smile when he saw Jai, he greeted him, “Good evening Saheb.” “Kaise hon Bhavarsingji? (How are you Bhavarsingji?)” Jai inquired. “Sab theek hain Saheb, apki duan hain (Everything is fine with your blessings).” He looked beyond Jai towards me and his smile disappeared. It annoyed me because he never smiled nor greeted me. I had even caught him give me spiteful stares. “What’s his problem?” I asked Jai. The sparkle of the diamond bracelet caught my attention again. It made me forget the security guards temperament too. He turned the car engine off in the porch. “Don’t bother,” Jai’s voice was soft. He began to play with my hair. He came closer to smell them. “I am coming up with you,” he said.

I was worried that I’d upset him again if I would reject his wish. “Err…I don’t think this is a good time, it’s that time of the month, you know what I mean right?” “Well yeah, I know.” He was dejected. “I am sorry baby.” I made a sorry face at him. “Eisha, I love you.” He cupped my face and tried to explore the world he saw in my eyes. “I can never read your eyes, and that drives me crazy,” he complained. He slumped back in his seat and turned on the car ignition.


“Good night, Jai,” I wished him. I got out of his car, and slowly walked to the elevator. I admired my bracelet as I rode up to my apartment on the tenth floor. I unlocked my apartment door. It was set to perfection. There were candles placed in the center of the table, the music was set at the right volume, the lights were dim and the smell of chicken biryani wafted through the air.


“Everything is ready darling,” Vikram came out from the kitchen. He still had the apron and the chef’s cap on. “You look like a professional, may be you should consider cooking over training?” I laughed.


“Yeah right, and let Jai kick me out of the family wealth?”

“No, he won’t do that once I am his wife, it’s just a matter of time honey, just a few more months, and you’ll have your way and I’ll have mine.” I put forward my hand and let the bracelet dance around my wrist.




“Now let’s eat I am starving.” I stuffed a big bite of the Biryani in his mouth. “I love you, Vikram,” I whispered in his ears. “Yeah I know I can see that in your eyes.” He poured some wine in my glass.

The Offer

imageA Mercedes driver carried a grumpy woman, followed by an auto rickshaw driver who carried a dozen happy children.. The Merc driver parked the car at the side, opened the door for his Memsaheb as quickly as he could ( he feared angst from the lady perhaps). When the lady went into the shop the driver crossed the road and went up to the rickshaw driver who was dropping off a kid. He spoke to him for a bit and came back looking sad. I asked the Rick driver what did they talk about? He asked me if I could drive an automatic car and if I would like to swap jobs with him.

“He offered you his job?” I asked surprised. “What did you say?” I asked.”I can’t drive automatic cars,” the Rick driver said. “You should learn driving automatic cars, you’ll get more money,” I said. “I drove a BMW before I started driving this Auto rickshaw,” he replied.

Venky & Lola (FLLT exclusive)

venky and lola INTRO

It all began with a high pitch sound. I was just two hours and twelve minutes into Superatindo game and only five minutes short of winning level Five, when I noticed that the sound I was referring to was my mom’s screaming.

“Venkyyy….put that thing away”.

“It’s not a thing amma, it’s a z-pad, an electronic gadget, a WOY-line tablet manufactured by and please just two minutes more….pleaasssee….”

Mom wasn’t interested in my knowledge sharing. She said that she had been screaming for the past five minutes, but I swear I hadn’t heard a word.

I could see a mover and packer truck parked outside from our kitchen window. As the truck moved I saw a girl wailing away sitting on the front steps.

“Look at that poor girl; she must be our new neighbour” Mom said

“She’ll get over it amma”.

Moms never understand about being left alone for a while. She filled my hands with a box of Idlis.

“Go take them and become friends with her”.

“Noooo…” I begged.

Before I realised mom had pushed me out of the house. I slowly tugged myself to the new neighbour’s house.  It was the weirdest first meeting ever.

“Hi, I am Venkatesh Murli Prasad”.

“Bohoooo….Bohooo….I miss Queen”, she sobbed loudly.

“The Queen?  You mean Queen Elizabeth?” I asked.

“No stupid! Queen was my cat in London”, she said wiping her runny nose with her shirt sleeves. She looked up at me and her loud sobs changed to a hideous pig like laughter.

She rolled and loathed, laughing.

“I am Lola, I come from Britain, but my sister and brother, think I am from Bratland”, she said once she gathered herself, and there she let out her funny snorts again.

“What’s so funny?” I asked

She held her tummy and snorted…errr….laughed again until tears welled up in her big froggy eyes.

“What’s the reason that you laugh like a mad girl?” I asked again.

She grabbed my hand and pulled me inside her house. We both stood in front of a large mirror in the bedroom. My cheeks flushed after I saw my reflection.

A bird was busy building her nest in my noodley hair. I have had embarrassing moments, but this was the father, as we say “Baap” of them all!

I froze.  Lola fell on the floor and rolled all over, laughing in snorts again.

This was the worst that could’ve happened to a good human being like me. When I found some movement in my limbs, I raised my hands to help the chirpie fellow. The more I tugged at my hair, the more it tangled.

“I shall try the reverse effect on effects method. It will transfer the kinetic energy of the bird into stationary energy and then ….”

“Shut up Venkipedia!…You are a talking Wikipedia!”

Lola snapped her fingers, went out of the room and returned with a pair of scissors.


venky hair saga


“What are you going to do with those?” I asked, my body shivered.

Before I could stop her, she chopped off a large chunk of my hair. My heart skipped a beat.

“Those locks were precious to my mom, she thought of them as a sign of a real man”, I couldn’t believe it, but I was whining.

“How could you do that?” I asked.

“Like that”, she replied, chopping off another lock of my curled darlings.

The bird flew away and my hair that once carried it’s nest lay on the floor.

“What was I going to tell amma?” and, “What was I going to tell Appa?”

I no longer wanted to be friends with this brat. This was the end of the shortest friendship. I had made up my mind never to speak to her again. I picked up the Idli parcel, she didn’t deserve a single bite of those, and left her house.

But things normally never happen the way you intend them to be!




Room No 567


Room No 567

Short story by Nidhi Paneri

Kris dodged his ball out of the elevator into the lobby. His restlessness was sometimes beyond his control. “You don’t have your frontal lobes yet,” his dorky elder brother Matt had said  every time Kris would get anxious. ” Frontal lobes? What ever was that supposed to mean?” Kris normally shrugged off anything Matt said. Ringing the doorbell was so not his style. He kicked his ball in an attempt to hit the door of his house, but instead it bounced and hit the door of their neighbouring apartment-apartment number Five-sixty-seven.

“Kris!” he heard his mom shout. At the same time he heard his ‘never-seen-before’ neighbour’s door click open. His mum and an old lady stood face to face. The old woman was bent and crooked. Her silver hair was tied up in a neat bun. She wore a light floral printed frock that was too large for her tiny frame. His mom dissolved her frown for a minute to share a polite hello and then wore it again. “Kris, you better apologise, right now!” she ordered. Kris could smell the buttery aroma of cookies. He sniffed with his nose: the air seemed to carry the tempting smell to his stomach. “I am sorry, may I have one of those yummy bakes? ” he asked

“No!” his mom snarled, “Its dinner time and you haven’t taken a shower as yet.”

Mom directed her gaze at the old lady with an authoritative look. She was so used to spurting out orders at the kids that she sometimes forgot to “unmum” herself. Matt often called her as the mother of the universe. And then he and Kris would laugh at their own silly joke.

“It’s ok,” the old woman said in a shaky voice. “One cookie hampers no one’s appetite”, she added turning around to open up the door completely. The duo walked into her apartment. It had clean lines, with lots of flowered pots, neatly arranged on the bay window wall. His mom saw the lady beyond her silvers and crookedness.

“I am Carla,” Kris’s mom introduced herself.

The warmth of the apartment cooled her off.

“You must have been rather beautiful as a young woman,” Kris’s mom said admiring her grace.

“Yes darling ”, she said, as she showed a photograph hung in the hallway. In the portrait sat an attractive lady with a crown on her head and a bouquet of flowers in her hand.

“So pretty and poised,” Kris’s mom admired.

“This was way back in 1945,”she said with a smile,“ I didn’t win that crown”.

“Oh! You didn’t”.

“No! It was the year of world war, it started on the day of the pageant,”she said and looked down at her feet. “The funny thing is that I left my wedding for this contest”.

“You mean you left Mr. Right for the crown? Did you?”

“Yes, I did,”replied the old woman.

“If mum was alive she would’ve been around your age, in fact she got married in 1945,”said Kris’s mom.

The old woman studied her for a minute. “You strangely remind me of someone, someone very dear,” the old woman said, her emotions almost choked her.

“What was your mother’s name?” she asked, widening her doe eyes.

“My mum’s name was Mary, Mary Anne”.

The old woman’s eyes filled with grief. She grabbed the nearest seat as quickly as she could.

“And what was your father’s name?” she asked with much hope in her voice.

“Joseph, my father is Joseph, he is still with us, but he is in the hospital,”Kris’s mom replied.

The old woman clutched the silver locket around her neck and tears began to flow, “Mary Anne, my Mary Anne”. She looked up at Kris’s mom and opened the locket. Kris got her a glass of water.

On one side was the same beautiful woman in the portrait and on the other side was her mum. In between the pictures there was a small engraving ‘Sister’s forever’.

She looked up at Kris.

“Joseph, I hope he has forgiven me?” she held Kris’s moms hand in hers.

“Forgiven you? I don’t understand?”

“He is the Mr. Right I left behind at the altar”.