The write club Feb 2018 edition has a total of eight stories (yup, we kept the numbers strong) from eight different authors.
But I cheated again and submitted one of the stories from my book, The Case of The Punctual Phantom
Look, I am sorry again, but writing is hard, you guys!
Anyway, now that you are here, you could read a sample of the featured story (and my story) and decide to buy the full edition of the magazine by clicking on the link below, or you could give it a pass 🙂
Either way, I am glad you’re reading this right now!
The kindle version can be bought (free for kindle unlimited users) from here
A Full Circle
~ Chethana Ramesh
‘Ma, I’m busy. I’ll call you back.’
Okay, she began to say, when she realized that he had already hung up.
Seema sighed. Navin never had time for her anymore. When had he ever had time for her anyways? She couldn’t recall the last time he’d spoken to her at leisure. It had been this way ever since he had moved to his own apartment at the other end of town.
What had he told her when he had bought the place? That it was a mere investment; he’d no intention of staying there at all. He practically cleaned out their life savings and the gratuity that Rishab had received during his golden handshake a few years ago. But then, he’d been transferred to Jalahalli by his company, it was a promotion no less. He couldn’t have refused such an offer. And then, it only made sense that he would move to the apartment which was only a stone’s throw away from his office.
Seema picked up her glasses and wiped them carefully in the pallu of her soft cotton sari. Her mind flew to his childhood years when Navin couldn’t go a day without his beloved mother.
Rishab coughed raucously from his perch on the sofa. His cough was getting worse. He’d refused the antibiotics that the young doctor had prescribed for him. Rishab held a deep mistrust for doctors, especially the young things that inhabited the nursing homes these days.
‘What do they know about our ailments?’ Rishab would grumble. He’d lost almost 11 kilos in the last three months, but refused to follow the advice of any the doctors they visited. He’d never got over the demise of their longtime friend and family physician, Dr. Batra, who’d passed away from a sudden heart attack a year ago.
Seema knew that Rishab would never admit the real reason for his endless ailments. She knew that his ego would never accept the fact that their only son had abandoned them to their own devices and moved on to greener pastures that didn’t include caring for aged parents, although their son had had no qualms about soliciting their assistance to achieve it.
A twinge of guilt made its presence felt in Seema’s heart. Rishab had refused to part with his gratuity fund, especially since Navin had already lost all the money they had given him after selling their only house. It was Seema who’d insisted that they had to support their offspring in all his endeavors, however far-fetched or foolish they may be.
Thirty three years had passed since Seema had entered Rishab’s sprawling bungalow as a shy bride from a small town of Arasikere taluk in rural Karnataka. It took her almost two years to adjust to the hustle and bustle of Bangalore. She’d been awed and charmed by the handsome young man, who was a successful architect with ancestral wealth.
How easy, oh, how easy it had been for the girl from a family of limited means, to settle into the affluence of the lifestyle wealth could offer. They would never have dreamt during those days that they would end up with no roof to call their own in only two and half decades from then.
Navin insisted that they sell their bungalow to fund his penchant to study medicine abroad.
‘I’ll earn it back within a year after I graduate, dad,’ he insisted to his father. ‘I’ll buy you a new bungalow, a much nicer one; this house is so old anyways…’
Rishab finally relented to his only son’s compulsion and for the first time in their married lives, Seema and Rishab had begun to live in a much smaller rented home.
Seema was jolted out of her reminiscence by the sharp barking of a dog on the street. This house was so small that they could hear the honking traffic on the busy ring road nearby. They had to keep the windows constantly shut to avoid the dust and pollution that made its way into their living room.
It hadn’t been easy. They’d gotten rid of most of the heavy furniture for stuff that was more compact. The housekeeping staff had to be relieved one by one and Seema understood how much she’d relied on the fleet of maids to keep her home functional.
The second blow was when Navin quit his studies during the final year of medicine.
“Sorry mom and dad. Very sorry. I can’t do this anymore…’ His curt email to them read. They barely got over the shock when he flew back to India and insisted that he would start his own garment business.
Seema gave up most of her jewelry and then some, to fund her son’s latest fad. Two years was all it took for Navin to end up with losses that took a further toll on their lifestyle.
Navin finally settled into a regular job as a counselor in a pharmaceutical company. It seemed like a fresh ray of hope for the weary couple that their son had finally found his calling and would set them back on the road to the affluence they had previously enjoyed.
What a wasteful exercise it had all been. And now, their son had nonchalantly moved on to his own three bedroom apartment, with no intention of including his parents in his new-found prosperity.
‘Get me some water,’ Rishab’s curt voice broke into her reverie.
Seema got up slowly, taking care to place her small feet neatly into the hawai chappals, before she began to walk. The coldness of the bare floor seeped through the thin soles of the worn-out slippers and stung her feet. Her arthritis had gotten worse over the weekend and she stopped her daily morning walk in the park because she was unable to keep up with her walking partner, Alamelu. Alamelu suggested Seema to visit a bone specialist she knew, but Seema had dilly dallied after she found out that the man charged only an arm and a leg for his consultations.
She had just poured the water from the jug into Rishab’s steel glass, when he was engulfed by a fresh coughing spree that made Seema wonder if his lungs would finally burst under the pressure.
‘Hot…hot water’ Rishab managed to sputter, before he began to cough again. Seema poured the water into a pan and lit the stove under it. It took her a full two minutes before she realized that the water had boiled and almost evaporated. She’d just been standing there lost in her thoughts staring at the pan, which was almost empty now. She became aware of her wet cheeks just then and realized that somewhere along the journey into the past she’d begun to weep softly.
She poured a fresh glass of water into the pan and wiped her tears away. It was then that her unseeing eyes focused on the end of a brochure that she’d absent-mindedly tucked behind the tin of sugar last week.
She reached for the brochure and read it thoughtfully.
About the Author: Chethana Ramesh is a freelance soft skills trainer. She holds a Master’s
degree in Information Studies, from the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore.
She has worked with various corporates across myriad fields and has also been involved
with a reputed NGO for the differently-abled, in Bangalore.
An avid reader, she owns a humongous collection of books. She is passionate about poetry
and fitness. Her other interests include photography, social media, blogging, music and
travel. She lives in Bangalore with her family.
Just another day
I am already late for the interview and there is a hanger bump on my shirt in the shape of an unused condom. I stretch it, like it’s a pair of chubby cheeks or a freshly chewed gum—but that’s not enough. So I uncoil the iron and plug it in, only to find out that there is no electricity. My cat intently stares at me and flares his whiskers, as if, he had warned me about this possibility last night.
“Alright … I get it!” I stretch my gibbous collar, a little more.
But because he thinks he is better than me, he doesn’t believe in yelping back at me. He runs instead, almost immediately to my shoes—they are unarranged and lost in a pile—and takes a long aggressive leak. He never blinks or holds it back while he is at it. He is spoilt, and takes matters to his heart—quite like she does.
He yawns, which I know, is his signature shrug and sometimes a middle finger to me—he is really like her.
“I’ll be late.” I toss a chunk of cat-food at him.
“I’ll be on the kitchen counter, spilling milk.”
Did he just say that? My head is buzzing from last night.
I step out of my flat, on to the narrow lanes of North Delhi, where the kids—they look orphan with the clump of mud they are clothed in—are playing cricket. There is a scrawny guy, who is like the single wicket at the non-striker’s end that he is standing behind; short, alone and pointless. He is ruminating gutkha crumbs like a buffalo, and scratching his groin in threadbare pajamas, that are clearly a misfit to his chicken legs. The colony kids call him, Bhaiya, out of respect. They assume, he is a senior in some school or college, but I can tell, he is a man. He is a man, and he is jobless, and he has been jobless forever.
On my way to the auto-rickshaw stand, I stop at a local rundown restaurant. It’s more of a Dhaba, but the waiters are dressed in shabby aprons, so I am not quite sure. I am not hungry at all, but I still want to eat—just in case.
The guy dumps a damaged round plate on my table that can barely hold the weight and sogginess of puri-sabzi, before I even place an order. But like how some rats are immune to radiations, I am immune to the lack of innate courtesy in this city. I take a loathing look at the amount of oil in the food—it’s made out of cholesterol and devil’s intentions—and politely ask him to take it away, and instead, make me a sandwich. And although, I say it without a hint of perverseness, he frowns like she does, every time I ask her to make me a sandwich.
He goes to the kitchen and comes out fleetly; he has the agility and teeth of a squirrel, but petting him gently, or feeding him nuts would not be such a good idea.
His brisk effort at making the sandwich, doesn’t go very well with my idea of hygiene; I am skeptical that he had the sandwich in his pocket all this while. So now, I have several questions about the sandwich and the detergent used for cleaning his apron, but he disappears like the squirrel he is, when I look up from my plate.
I separate the slices; it has cucumber and onion rings sprayed with black salt for a fillet. I take a small bite of it and slackly draw my grumpy cat with ketchup on the uneaten crumbs.
There are three bins, with “metal”, “plastic” and “paper”, labeled on each. I throw the ball of tissue paper in the metal bin, because that’s the closest one to me, and also because this city has made me an asshole.
There is a guy washing his hands in the washbasin and I am waiting right behind him. His gargles are calling for help; he must be drowning inside his mouth. He is brushing his teeth with fat hairy fingers, but if you look closely, you’d think, his hands are desperately trying to gag him to death—as they should. I try to be patient, but he takes me for granted, and there are two people hunched over me in the queue. One of them has a farting breath and I can smell it from the back of my head. He could use a sanitizer for his mouth, but talking to him early morning would still be my newly acquired nightmare.
The guy at the washbasin, is now blowing his nose in the tap, and wetting his hair at the same time. He takes out a tiny pink pocket comb, challenging my patience. And at this moment, I expect him to also take out a shampoo sachet and a face-wash, a soap bar and a loofah and take a quick shower.
He finally turns around, shakes water off his hands—on to my cream shirt—and stomps off without apologizing for it, stepping brutally on my suffocating toes.
I walk to the metro station. I am not sure what the population of this city is, but there is definitely the population of an entire city inside this metro train. Some passengers are fidgety assholes; their priority in life is to hustle their way in, elbowing one chin at a time, to find an empty seat. They also challenge the laws of physics, by filling up space with mass and expecting more space to appear out of nothing.
There is a guy with a ratty backpack that is dangling on his tummy. It makes him look like a kangaroo mom, and with him, there are two other guys hugging a support pole intimately—like lesbian strippers.
Something tremors my pants. I am sure it’s a phone on vibration, but in this crowd, I am never sure if it’s mine. I try to reach my pocket, but I end up touching someone’s crotch, so I hold back. But it vibrates endlessly, to an extent, when the weird lady next to me starts grinning just by the idea of it.
I pull it out; it’s not a call. There are fifteen messages from her—they are mostly emoticons; Barbie, aliens, fireworks, hi-fives, stilettos, cats, slutty lips, weird cats, fireworks, princes, hearts, pink hearts, tiara, kisses, umbrella, moon, popsicles, beer—that mean nothing to me, or to any grown-up man. I half-type a reply, to a point where I feel equally stupid, and erase it.
Someone’s chin is touching my shoulder. I am sure he is reading my texts—because they all are, whenever they can—so I elbow his belly; it’s bouncy and clammy, when the train comes to a halt at the next stop.
This stop, bustles like an ant colony, and here, no one cares—if you fall, fuck or fly!
About the Author: Well, that would be me 🙂. And you’re reading this on my blog. So …
About Write Club Bangalore: It’s a weekly meetup group of writers, that’s been consistently running for past 7 years.
Every week we assemble at 2 in the afternoon and write on a prompt given to us by the host. Then we read (out loud) whatever we have managed to write, one by one, and the host, or the other members of the club, tell us how good or bad the pieces are.
Post the writing session, we have coffee at a close by restaurant and we often debate (and/or joke) about everything under the sun. The waiters at the restaurant probably hate us, because we are usually very loud. But then it’s a lot of fun. I mean, I could go on and on about the group, but I can’t put it in words. Why don’t you check out the official website instead?