Posted in relationships, short story

The Choice

Avni arranged her luggage beneath seat number three in coach S5 aboard the Bandra-Udaipur Express and waited for the arrival of her co-passengers. She wanted to exchange her seat, as hers was on the top berth and she felt very uncomfortable up there. The train started and her co-passengers boarded from the next station. A young woman who looked like she was in her early twenties was the occupant of seat number one.

“Excuse me?” Avni asked that woman. “If you don’t mind, can you exchange your seat with me? Just for the night. Please.”

“Sure, I don’t mind sleeping up there.” She said pointing to the seat above.

“Thanks. I’m Avni. I’m going to be really grateful to you for this.”

“Oh, it’s alright, Avni. I’m more comfortable upstairs anyway. By the way, I’m Meera. We have a long journey, let’s catch up in the morning.” She said.

“Sure,” replied Avni. “Good night.”

After a restless sleep, Avni woke up to a cacophony of kids playing and shouting. She yawned and saw the time. It was 7 am. She got up and found Meera awake too.

“Oh! Thank God, somebody is awake. I was just wondering how anyone can sleep with so much noise? I want to pee. Here, take my purse. I’ll be back in a jiffy.” Meera hurriedly climbed down.

Avni smiled, took the purse and had a good look at the kids. They looked so fresh. One girl with cute pigtails was fascinated by the scenery and she was happily pointing to the trees and fields outside. Another pair of kids were playing ‘Uno’ with their parents. A toddler was jumping in joy and in sync with the movements of the train. They looked like a big happy family.

Avni sighed and saw that Meera was back. She too went to relieve herself. When she came back, she was happy to find the middle seat back to its normal position. All her co-passengers were awake now. ‘Good!’ She thought. ‘At least I can sit properly.’

“God! These kids…” Meera said, annoyed, the moment she sat beside her.

“Looks like you don’t like kids.” Avni said.

“No, it’s not like I don’t like them… But look at their energy levels so early in the morning. I mean they just got up from sleep right?”

Avni laughed at that and said, “Well they are kids. We have to match their energy levels with ours, and most of us fail to do that. And no, they did not sleep here. They just boarded from the last station.”

Meera made an ‘o’ with her lips and huffed, “That explains the noise.”

Avni just nodded and removed a small diary that she always carried with her and wrote something in it.

Meera was curious and tried to take a peek. But before she could take a glimpse, Avni shut it and kept it back.

“So Avni, what do you do?”

“I work in a corporate as a financial analyst and in my free time, I also volunteer in a school for the differently abled.” She smiled proudly as she said that. “What about you, Meera?”

“Wow, that’s impressive! About me? Nothing. I’m a commerce graduate. I got married two months back. I had come to stay with my parents for a few days. I was missing them a lot, you know. And now I’m going back to my husband’s place in Udaipur.” She continued. “Are you travelling for work reasons?”

Just then the chaiwala came. “Will you have tea?” Avni asked looking at Meera.

“Oh yes, two cups.”

They got their tea and Meera offered some biscuits to Avni which she gladly accepted.

“Just curious to know, what did you write in your diary?” Meera asked.

Avni laughed at her antics, “You must be the gossip queen back home, no? You want to know every little thing as fast as you can.”

Meera pretended to be hurt and sulked against the window. A small diary was then kept in her lap. She turned with a huge smile to Avni.

Avni said, “There’s nothing special in here. It’s my bucket list. Things I’ve always wanted to do in my life since I was a child. I write them as and when I feel like doing something and then put a tick whenever it’s done.”

“Oh, nice. I’m so excited to go through it.” Meera said as she opened the first page.

‘Find someone to call mom and dad – check’ was scrawled in cursive writing. “What does this mean?” Meera asked wide eyed.

Avni crossed her arms on her chest and said, “I was abandoned in a dustbin as a baby. Then taken to an orphanage. I grew up there until I was eight years of age. And this was my first wish. I was adopted a year later by this couple whom I now call as mom and dad.” She smiled through her tears. “That was the day when I decided that I will write whatever I wish to do in this diary and then make sure that I end up doing it.”

“I’m sorry about what happened. But you are really lucky to find them as your parents. And you know what, you are like my elder sister. Even she has a bucket list.” Meera said. And just like that the somber mood was lifted.

She started to read the other entries.

‘Get pregnant – check’

She raised her eyebrows and said in hushed tones, “Oh! That’s why you were so eager to exchange seats.” Meera smiled. “Which month?”

“Fourth,” replied Avni.

“Great. Congratulations!” Meera continued to peruse the diary.

‘Trek to the valley of flowers – check’

‘Road trip to Leh-Ladakh – check’

‘Travel solo in train – check’

“Awesome! You like trekking? And travel solo in train, achieved today, right?” Both of them laughed.

Meera continued, “And you still have to trek to ‘Har ki Dhun’ and you want to climb ‘Mount Everest and learn scuba diving…. Wow….”

Meera sat staring at Avni. Avni giggled and said, “I know I won’t be able to do all of this until my baby is born and maybe at least a year thereafter. But still, I will try my best!”

Meera still continued her staring game. “Now what? Will you stop doing that?” Avni cried. Meera laughed at Avni’s exasperated state and said, “You are really weird.”

“I know. My husband used to say that. And I always used to tell him that ‘I’m not weird, just a limited edition.’ And we both would laugh a lot at that. But I like the thrill of adventures, you know. And my husband is totally the opposite. He will not even sit in the rides of the amusement park!”

Avni got lost in her thoughts at that and when Meera prodded her after a while, she suddenly said, “I’m going to my parents’ home in Udaipur.”

Meera was a bit confused at her sudden change in mood, but nevertheless, she said excitedly, “Great… I’m going to my husband’s and you are going to your parents. How many days are you planning to stay? We can meet again!”

“Yes, sure we can meet as many times as we want. I’m staying with my parents forever.”

Meera was shocked at her response. Why was Avni going to her parents’ home forever if she’s pregnant? She wondered whether she could ask her.

Avni took a good look at her and said, “I know you are dying to ask me the details, so shoot.”

For a second Meera couldn’t believe that a stranger like Avni was ready to share the details of her personal life. But, she somehow did not feel like Avni was a stranger anymore. She felt a strong connection to her. So she asked, “My dear adventurer and mind-reader, what the hell happened?”

“A few days back, I had been to my doctor for my checkup. My in laws somehow managed to find out that I’m carrying a girl. And my ultrasound also showed a slight abnormality. So they gave me two choices: Abort the baby or leave the house. So, here I am.” Avni gestured to herself and the train.

“Abort because you are carrying a girl, NO!” Meera cried. “That is ridiculous! But, what about the abnormality?”

“My reports showed a slight increase in the nuchal translucency. That is one of the indicators of the baby having Down’s syndrome. But, my blood reports are normal. So that could just be temporary. When the doctor was explaining all of this, my in laws assumed the worst. And they are just not ready to listen!” Avni said.

Meera sighed, “Yes, then you are right in doing this. But, what about your husband? Doesn’t he support you?”

“He’s given in to his parents’ pressure. Five years of our marriage mean nothing to him. We were trying so hard for a baby; and now when I’m pregnant, he wants to kill the baby for something that we are not even sure of. And I’m fully capable of taking care of her even if she turns out to be Downs Syndrome. I’m not going to abandon her like my biological parents did to me. I have made my choice and I’m going to stick to it.”

Avni wiped her tears and Meera hugged her, “yes, I’m sure whatever will happen will be for the best. And you deserve the best, weirdo!”

After that, they had lunch. They had tuned off the remaining passengers, being oblivious to who got down or who boarded. They laughed together and spoke about their dreams and ambitions. And in no time they reached Udaipur.

“Finally, our destination is here.” Meera said happily. “Make sure to keep in touch. We are in the same area.”

“Sure, Meera. Take care and see you soon.” Avni replied.

Meera helped her with her luggage and with a final goodbye they parted ways. Avni sighed. Her destination was definitely here, but she had a long journey ahead of her. A journey which she had decided to choose. But she had no regrets. She was determined to overcome the obstacles and emerge victorious at the end of the day.

Posted in Married life, relationships, short story


Shraddha was sipping hot tea in the balcony of her plush two bedroom apartment overlooking the landscaped gardens of the complex where they resided. She was so lost in her thoughts that she did not realize when Sagar, her husband, left for work. This had become a routine thing since the last month or so. They hardly talked, and when they did attempt to communicate, Shraddha would lose her temper and the end result would be a nasty fight. It felt like both of them were treading over quicksand. A single wrong step and both of them would be caught in it with no one to save them.

Shraddha was constantly wondering that what went wrong in the seven year marriage of theirs. She wanted to try, and she did feel that she was the only one trying to save their marriage with no effort from Sagar’s side. The only force that kept her going was their five year old daughter, Aadhya. She din’t want to give up on her marriage just because of a few bad days.

She just could not understand that why the once madly in love couple had become so estranged that they couldn’t even be together in the same room without arguing. Both of them spent extra efforts to not talk to each other in spite of living under the same roof. In the mornings, Shraddha would make breakfast, send Aadhya to school, finish off her kitchen work, pack her lunch and leave for work. At work, she would deal with the problems of her clients and staff. During lunch time, she would pick up her daughter and drop her home with the maid and return to work. Her office, Aadhya’s school and their home was just a few minutes away from each other which was very convenient for all of them. Then, after a stressful day at work, she would be back home. In the late evenings, she would spend some time with Aadhya, cook dinner and later both mother and daughter would be off to bed. Although she had a maid at home, she preferred to cook her own food.

Sagar had a very different routine. He would be the first one to get up in the mornings and head for the gym. He would come home when Shraddha would be in the kitchen busy making breakfast, and he would spend some time with Aadhya, help her in dressing up. By the time he would freshen up, Shraddha would have left to drop Aadhya to school and he would have his breakfast. And when Shraddha would return, he would be getting ready to go off to work. He hardly had dinner at home since the last few days. Both of them were avoiding each other to the best of their abilities. On weekends too, Sagar would go to his office or go out with his friends or sometimes take Aadhya out for a movie. He would ask Shraddha too, whether she would like to accompany them, but she always refused.

Both of them were at a dead end.

But, Shraddha did not like this state of hers. She was feeling trapped with all the emotions bottled up inside her. She wanted to share everything with Sagar, but the fear of rejection from him was scaring her. She was overwhelmed with what was happening. She couldn’t take it any longer.

That day, when she was going to drop Aadhya to school, she saw a grandfather granddaughter duo walking in the park. Looking at them, she remembered her grandfather. How much she missed him!

Of all the family members, she was very close to her maternal grandfather. She would always go to him whenever she had any problem and he would solve it at the drop of a hat! “Where are you now, grandpa? My life is a mess, I need your help more than anything else now” she thought and started crying. She only had memories of him now, for he had passed away when she was eighteen.

Back home, as she got involved in the mundane tasks, she remembered her teenage years when she would be reprimanded for almost anything that she did by her parents. She never understood why she was being yelled at, or lectured for, because it was her normal teen behavior. Her grandfather would always listen to her and at that time he had told her something. Those words had always helped her overcome the hurdles that she faced.

“Life is an exam where the syllabus is unknown and the question papers are not set.” Her grandfather had told her. Those words had always given her hope and the power to conquer all her fears.

And then the sudden realization of her current state dawned on her. That’s when she decided that she wouldn’t give up on their marriage so easily. This was like an exam for her. She would fight for it until she passed. She wouldn’t be trapped in this state forever.

“First things first,” she thought. She sent an email to the HR department in her office saying she would be taking the week off. She felt a sense of relief as soon as she sent the mail. Next, she went to the salon and got a haircut for herself. “It’s high time that I do something good for myself” she thought. Then she took Aadhya to the park in the evening and later they had dinner in a restaurant nearby.

That night as Sagar came home early but exhausted, he was dreading to face Shraddha. He was confused by her mood swings. Initially he thought that maybe she was having premenstrual symptoms, but then they don’t last so long! She would not answer when he asked something and when he would press the matter, they would end up fighting. He just couldn’t understand what wrong he did.

Meanwhile, Shraddha came home with their little one and was surprised to see Sagar early. “Oh no! She thought. “I haven’t made dinner for him and forgot to get a parcel for him as well.” Mentally chastising herself for this silly mistake, she sat beside him on the couch as their daughter went to her room to play.

She held his hand and he looked at her and said, “You look nice.”

“Thanks for noticing.” She smiled through her tears.

“I’ve always noticed you, I thought you’ve forgotten about me these past few months.”

“I don’t know what changed, but let’s promise ourselves to make more effort from now on.” Shraddha urged.

“Yes, we should. I’m really sorry if I have hurt you intentionally or not.”

“Likewise.” Shraddha continued. “Let us go out of town for a few days. I think we need this family vacation. What say?”

“How can I say no to this wonderful proposition?”

They hugged, made their peace and were released from the imaginary trap of emotions that they had entangled themselves in.

We often face such situations in our lives where we feel that our partner doesn’t care anymore. Or he/she has fallen out of love. But, in reality, there’s nothing like that. Instead of trapping ourselves in our imaginary misunderstandings and playing the blame game, it’s better to let ourselves free and communicate. Talking with our partners is the key here. It may not solve all the problems, but we need to start somewhere, right?

Author’s note: This article first appeared as a Featured Post on Women’s Web.

Posted in short story, Uncategorized

Murder in the Woods

“So Mrs. Mehra, can you tell us what happened exactly?” The balding man before her asked.

Eva was seated in a small room with a wooden table and two chairs; one on which she was sitting and the other one opposite her on which this irritating officer was seated.

“Officer Roy! This is like the tenth time I’m being asked the same question! Why? I’m not going to tell you now. You can ask the previous officers who had questioned me in the last 7 days…” Eva yelled.

“Relax Mrs. Mehra. This is the first and last time from my side that you would be asked. I have been assigned the investigating Officer in this case, you see. So it’s imperative for me to get a first-hand count from the only apparent eye witness. So please co-operate, one last time. It’s a sincere request.”

The only thing being it did not sound sincere at all, coming from this man. A receding hairline, potbellied stomach, and loose baggy clothes; he did not look like an investigating officer at all. Eva gave a dramatic sigh and said, “Alright officer. But remember this is the last time. You record all of this if you want. I feel like I’m a criminal, the way you people keep calling me anytime and asking me the same thing over and over again. It’s very difficult for me to relive all that repeatedly.”

“I’m sorry about that, but please. One last time. Promise.”

She sighed again before saying, “Okay, what do you want me to say.”

Officer Roy looked at this tall and frail looking woman in front of him and smiled. “How about you start from that morning? And I want to know all the details. Every single one.”

Eva scraped her chair backwards and went into a deep thought. She started speaking.

“Aditya was an early riser even on weekends. It was a Saturday morning and we were having breakfast. He suddenly asked me, ‘Eva, let’s go out of town for tonight. It’ll be fun. Also we couldn’t go anywhere on New Year’s. So let me make it up to you.’”

“I was very excited at the thought and I screamed in joy. “Oh wow! I so love you very much!” I told him and immediately got down to packing stuff for our impromptu stay. He had already booked a room at a resort in Karjat. In fact, he told me that he had it booked a few days before and wanted to surprise me. At around 9 am we started our journey.”

“What were you both wearing?” Officer Roy interrupted.

Eva looked perplexed at this sudden query, but she recovered herself and said, “I was wearing a teal colored jumpsuit and Aditya was wearing a cream colored t-shirt with brown cargos.” She looked at Officer Roy and said in an amused tone, “Do you even know what a jumpsuit is?”

Officer Roy was a bit annoyed with her attitude, but nevertheless he chose to not answer that. “Continue, Mrs. Mehra.”

“We were following the Google maps very carefully as it was a new area for both of us. I don’t know what went wrong, but about 2 hours later, we entered an area with dense trees on both sides and absolutely nothing else in sight. I got a bit worried and asked Aditya whether we were going in the right direction. He kept nodding in the affirmative. But after a few minutes, we kind of reached a dead end. I mean there was a road, but a car couldn’t go any further on that kind of a road. Aditya had to stop. And now we had no network as well. Going back in the reverse direction was the only thing that we could do. Just as Aditya started reversing the car, I heard a scream.

‘Aditya, did you hear that?’ I told him.

‘No, what?’

‘I heard a woman scream.’

Just then the scream came again. I was a hundred percent sure that it was some woman screaming and not anything else.

‘Now did you hear?’ I asked him.

‘You have gone crazy Eva. There’s no scream. Just the wind playing with your head. Let’s get out of here.’

But I wasn’t convinced. ‘Aditya, wait. I’m going to go and see what is that scream all about. You wait here. What if that lady needs help?’

‘Are you out of your mind, Eva? You cannot go in the woods by just hearing some imaginary scream! Look at where we are. It’s kind of creepy. And who knows that could be some ploy to rob us or something. Just leave it and let’s go.’

But I heard the shout again. I told him, ‘I’m going in there. You wait here. If I don’t come back in ten minutes, please dial 100 and get out of here.’

‘You’ve gone nuts. We really don’t need to get into this. We are here to enjoy our weekend, and let’s just do that.’ He pleaded with me. How I wished I had listened to him.”

Eva started shaking with sobs. Officer Roy handed her some tissues, “here Mrs. Mehra.” She took them and he continued, “I’m sorry that you have to relive all this. But believe me, we too want to solve this case, so that such a thing doesn’t happen to anyone else again.”

Eva calmed herself before saying, ‘I did not listen to Aditya and went in the woods in the direction of the scream. I reached there and saw a woman lying face down in a pool of blood. I screamed and screamed. I dint even bother to see if she was alive or no. I just screamed and ran back in the direction of the car. When I reached back I saw that Aditya was not there. I started yelling his name like crazy. Just then, I heard another scream. It was a man’s scream this time. And I had a gut feeling that Aditya was in danger. I was in a dilemma about what to do. So I dialed 100 and ran in the direction of the scream. I was in shock to see that Aditya, too, was lying in a pool of blood. His clothes were torn and his eyes were blank and open. He looked horrific. I just turned back on my toes, ran back to the car and with trembling hands I drove in reverse until I could manage a U turn. I came back on the main road and stopped there. I dialed 100 again and gave my location. I also called for an ambulance. I was numb with fear. And totally blank. The moment the ambulance came, I explained to them about everything that happened and passed out.”

“Next, when I opened my eyes, I was in the hospital and I have been reliving that day since then.”

Eva wiped her tears and stood up. “Can I go now, Officer?”

“Just a second, Mrs. Mehra.” He quickly called for a glass of water and gestured for her to sit down. “I just need to clarify a few things.”

As Eva had a few sips of water, he asked, “Are you sure you did not happen to notice any heavy object lying out there?”

“I don’t know, I can’t say. I was too numb to actually notice the surroundings carefully. But as far as I remember, there was nothing of that sort in the immediate vicinity.”

“Alright, Mrs. Mehra. I’ll take your word for this one.” He paused for a while before asking, “What about the woman who was murdered? Reena Shastri. Do you know her? Have you heard anything about her?”

“No officer. I have never heard that name before, nor have I seen her before.”

“I find this case really strange and intriguing. Not a single clue. No murder weapon found. Nothing from their call histories. And nothing significant from your house as well.”

He began pacing in the small room, and after sometime, he smiled at her and said, “That’ll be all, Mrs. Mehra. You can go now. We’ll get in touch with you when we find something.”

“Thank you Officer,” she said and left.

Exactly a month later, there was a knock at Eva’s plush fourth floor flat in suburban Mumbai. She opened the door to find a frazzled looking Officer Roy.

She almost laughed at his state but managed to disguise it in a cough. “Did you find out who murdered my husband?” She asked even before he entered the house.

Officer Roy did not answer her question, but rather stepped inside the foyer, took his time to peruse his surroundings and went and sat on the plush sofa in the living room.

“Leaving for somewhere?” he asked after noticing two large suitcases near the dining table.

“Yes, I’m going to live with my parents in Pune. I can’t live here anymore. This place haunts me.” She said sadly.

“Hmm…” came the reply. He just sat there staring into space.

Eva got a bit nervous at this behavior of his and said, “What is it officer? Please enlighten me.”

Officer Roy appeared unfazed. He scratched his almost bald head before asking, “How did you do it, Mrs. Mehra?”

Eva was flabbergasted at the question thrown at her. “What are you insinuating?”

“You very well know what I’m asking you, woman.” He now stood and walked the few steps to stand face to face with her. He was short and reached until her shoulders.

She smirked down at him and said, “Then I guess you will never know the answer to that, officer.”

“You are really smart, Mrs. Mehra. But even the smartest of people make mistakes that ends their good fortune.”

All color drained off her face. She took a step back to process this. She continued with her charade, “I really don’t understand what you are talking about.”

“Well then, let me enlighten you.” He continued. “You remember, you were asked to go through the events of that morning almost eight to ten times before I finally questioned you?”

She nodded in the affirmative.

“So I happened to go through all the recordings a few days back. And I found my clues in them.”

Eva pretended to be unfazed, although her heart was pounding in her chest. She couldn’t imagine making any mistake. Her plan simply couldn’t fail.

He continued, “As I said, making you repeat everything again and again was my idea, because you were my prime suspect right from day 1. So in one of the recordings that you gave to my colleague, you said you saw a heavy wooden rod lying a few feet away. And in another one you said, there was an axe like object lying a few feet away. Whereas in all others you said that you did not see anything else, or rather you were so much in shock that you failed to notice if there was anything else.”

“So?” questioned Eva, “That doesn’t mean anything. I must have said something because I was still under trauma, rather I still am.”

“Agreed, Mrs. Mehra. But you also lied about knowing Reena Shastri. You said you did not know her. Whereas she’s your husband’s childhood friend and you both are friends on Facebook.”

“But I have over a thousand friends on Facebook, that doesn’t mean I know her personally. I don’t even remember adding her!” She said in exasperation.

Officer Roy smiled. His plan was working. He just had to rile her up somehow, so that she would speak up. This was the correct time to throw his trump card. “So, don’t tell me that you did not know that Aditya and Reena were college sweethearts?”

Eva was stumped. She did not know what to say. How could this man know all of this? She couldn’t get intimidated by him. She had to stay calm.

“I know they weren’t in touch on their usual cell numbers. They had separate ones. And we found out about these numbers from your call records. Thank goodness, I took the pains to go through them again. There’s a missed call on your phone from one of these numbers, which I assume you must have done when Aditya wasn’t around. Now that, Mrs. Mehra was a huge mistake. Didn’t you know that all these records can be tracked? So we tracked the phone and we found it in a truck near Karjat along with another phone which I think was Reena’s.”

Eva was speechless. She recovered herself after a few seconds. “You are really very sharp, Officer Roy. I dint think that you would gather so much information so quickly. But still this doesn’t prove anything and I’m as free a woman as I was before the moment you walked in that door. And I’m also a widow mourning her husband’s untimely death. So, I suggest you leave and only come back with some concrete evidence.”

Officer Roy was stumped by this woman’s confidence. She did not show even an ounce of remorse for the great crime that she had committed. And sadly, he had no proof for that.

“So will you tell me how did you do it, Mrs. Mehra? Just for my knowledge.” He thought of giving it one last try.

“In your dreams, officer.” She smiled and went near the door, left it open and gestured for him to leave.

He sighed as he walked past her, gave her one last look before saying, “Enjoy your freedom till it lasts, Mrs. Mehra.”

With that Eva banged the door shut and sank down on her knees, tears pooling in her eyes. She wasn’t a bad woman. No. But she was made to do what she did otherwise she would have been dead by now. But no one would understand her sentiments. This secret would be buried in the recesses of her heart until she is lit on the funeral pyre.

She freshened up and finished packing a few other things that remained. She swore to never return to this damned place and start a new life in another city.

She sat in the hired cab and breathed a sigh of relief. She closed her eyes to take a quick nap and everything that happened in the last two months flashed before her eyes.

The sharing of secret calls and messages by Aditya, her rising suspicions, his late nights, the missed new year’s eve, her constant arguments with him, her finding another cell phone, going through all those messages exchanged by Reena and Aditya, the sickening feeling that she would get every time he would touch her, the lie of their three year marriage, her finding out Aditya and Reena’s intention about killing her, the trip that was supposed to be the end for her, her following them to the location where her murder was planned, her plans to turn the table around, the car stopping at the destined place, the scream, her insisting to follow the sound, her finding Reena there with a wooden rod in her hand, her stabbing Reena in the neck with a syringe loaded with potassium chloride, Reena’s instant death, her hitting Reena on the head with the rod, screaming again and again to get Aditya’s attention, hiding behind a tree, Aditya’s shocked expression in seeing Reena dead, her stabbing him in the neck from behind with another syringe loaded with potassium chloride, his instant death, then hitting him on the head with the same rod, tearing his clothes, burying the rod, the needles and syringes at the site where they were going to bury her, taking their alternate phones from their pockets, breaking them, running back to the car, dialing 100, back to the main road, calling the ambulance, throwing the broken phones in a truck that had stopped by to ask her well-being, the arrival of the ambulance, her fake passing out.

She woke up with a start and beads of sweat rolled down her face in spite of sitting in an air conditioned cab. She was gasping for breath.

“Are you alright, ma’am?” The driver asked.

She had a few sips of water from the bottle that she was carrying, “Yes, I’m fine now.” She said.

Her worst nightmare was over. She could have been a dead woman if not for her instincts. Her instincts to go through Aditya’s phone. To follow him to the woods and hear them planning her murder and burial. Her instincts saved her. She was not a bad woman. It was only her fight for survival.

Why did he marry her if he loved Reena so much? Just because she was rich? How much she hated them both. But they were in hell now. It didn’t matter anymore.

Was she a bad woman, was she not? Was she right, or was she not? She had loved him and all she got was betrayal. Those were the last things on her mind, when she again dozed off; this time never to be woken again.

The packed bottle of water that she had taken from her fridge was poisoned with arsenic by her husband especially for her.

Posted in short story

Physics and Their Chemistry

He perched himself on one of the chairs opposite the Bistro Café and placed his laptop on the table across him. Being the bestseller author that he was, words were supposed to flow naturally to him. But, he just stared at the blank page on his laptop.

He stared and stared. What should he write about? Who was telling the story? And whose story was it anyway? The words fluttered and flew in the wind.

Sighing in frustration, he tousled his blonde hair, shut his laptop and walked till the shore a few feet away. Where was his inspiration? He thought. Currently on a break for a few days, he knew that he had to give his editor something to work on the moment he stepped back home.

He was standing at the popular Baga beach in Goa. A place where people of different countries and cultures blended together. An ideal place for a vacation and some stimulation as well. But, his mind was empty of all ideas. As the sun faded across the horizon, he jogged back to his cottage and decided to call it a day.

The next morning, he woke up groggily to the sound of his phone ringing.

“Hello, is it Nathaniel James?” A soft voice questioned.

He cleared his throat and said, “Yeah. That’s me.”

“Umm… I’m sorry to bother you so early, but I have found your wallet on the beach and want to return it.” The voice said.

“Oh, is it?” He wasn’t even aware that he had lost his wallet. He rummaged through the pockets of the shorts that he was wearing yesterday and was indeed surprised to find it gone. “So, where are you right now? I’ll come and get it.”

“Okay. I’m standing on the beach opposite Bistro Café. There are two flags here, one is a checkered black-white and the other is red-yellow. I’m standing in between the two wearing a purple t-shirt and black shorts. Please come fast.” She said and cut the phone.

Nathaniel splashed some water on his face before making his way to the beach. He reached in a few minutes and saw a young girl waiting exactly where she had described. He also noticed her long black hair flying in the wind and she was really pretty.

“Hi, I’m Nathaniel James. Thank you so much for calling me. I hadn’t even realized that I had lost my wallet.”

The girl blinked her eyes multiple times before she said, “Wow.”

Nathaniel quirked his brow before the girl blushed and said further, “Umm… I’m sorry. Actually, I had found your wallet last evening, but I was too scared to call you. When I finally gathered the courage, I called, not bothering to see the time. By the way, I’m Tanya Desai.” She offered her hand for a shake after handing him his wallet.

Nathaniel smiled, kept his wallet in his pocket and shook her hand, which he found to be cold and sweaty. She was really nervous. “Nice to meet you Tanya. May I ask, why were you scared to call me?”

Tanya gave a sheepish smile before saying, “I thought I wouldn’t understand your English. You all speak in a different accent and really fast. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself. But, the guilt of possessing someone else’s property won out. And before I could change my mind, I called you.”

Nathaniel broke out in laughter, but when he saw that Tanya looked upset, he stopped. “Sorry, but I wasn’t laughing at you. I’ll tell you why my English is like this. That’s because my mom’s French and dad’s Indian. We lived in Paris first. But, I have moved to London now.”

Tanya looked at him in awe. He continued, “Enough about me. What about you?”

“Umm… I have just finished with my 12th board exams. So we are all here for a vacation.”

They started walking along the shore and Nathaniel said, “That’s great. Wish you all the best for the results.”

“How do you know about our 12th board exams, Nathaniel?”

He smiled at the way she said his name, “You can call me Nate. And yes, I know that because I used to keep travelling to India with my dad visiting relatives during holidays. So, what do you want to do further?”

“I am planning to do a BSc. in Physics while simultaneously preparing for the entrance exams to enter the topmost colleges for astrophysics. That’s what I want to be, an astrophysicist.” She said enthusiastically.

“Wow. I’m in awe of you!” Nate pointed towards the café as he said, “Let’s have some tea. My treat. For returning my wallet.”

“Sorry, but I need to go back before my parents send a search party for me.”

Nate shrugged, “Alright then. It was great meeting you Tanya. And thanks again for making that call. I would have been in great trouble if that wallet would have fallen in the wrong hands, you know. It has all my credit cards and other personal details. So, I really owe you for this.” He smiled and added further, “Do keep in touch. You use Facebook?”

“I have an account, but not a regular user.”

“I’m going to send you a friend request and make sure you accept it.” He winked at her before saying, “My phone is either switched off or not with me, or else texting would have been easier. So, hope to meet you again sometime, Tanya.” With that they parted ways.

Back in London, Nate had started working on a story and he was checking a few websites when he had a friend request on Facebook. He usually had numerous friend requests but he hardly accepted any. This one was from Tanya Desai. He smiled as he clicked on ‘confirm’ and soon he had a message from her in the messenger.

‘See, I sent you a request first. Hope you remember me?’

‘Ah yes, how can I forget you? My wallet savior.’

‘You never told me what you do.’

‘I’m a writer.’

‘Wow. Okay. I’ll ping you back later. May be tomorrow. Need to finish a chapter in quantum mechanics. My break time is over. And it’s 10 pm here. What’s the time there?’

‘It’s 4.30 pm here.’

‘Okay, bye and take care.’

‘Bye, good night. You too take care.’

Nate smiled at the conversation he just had. He found her cute. Really cute.

He had random messages from her almost every day. Some days she spoke about the rains lashing the city and how much she hated them, while sometimes she told him about the new theories and formulae that she was learning in her physics class. She had topped her college in the boards and had secured admission in the college of her choice. Sometimes she would explain to him in details about the various theories on electromagnetism and particle physics. Initially, he would get bored with her constant yapping, but wouldn’t have the heart to tell her to stop. Later, he got used to it and in fact would look forward to her messages in his inbox. She had a fixed time; she would chat with him before she went to bed.

He would also tell her about his latest stories and what he was reading. The occasional party that he had been to. He was surprised that Tanya had never seen the interior of a club in the eighteen years of her life.

Six months passed. Nate was done with his first draft. He took way longer to complete it than usual. But at least he had something to give to his editor. And there was one more thing bothering him. He did not have any messages from Tanya since the last two days and he was beginning to miss her. He had left her a good night message, but she hadn’t acknowledged it.

He decided to Skype her. They had shared their details a few days ago and this was a perfect time to make use of that. After calling her for the fifth time, she answered.

He was greeted with a teary face, swollen eyes, messy hair and snot covered nose.

“Oh God. What’s wrong Tanya?” He exclaimed.

“My life is wrong.” She started wailing again. “I’m going mad with this Statistical mechanics. I’m going to fail in this exam.” She said in between sobs.

Nate was feeling bad for her but at the same time he was controlling a chortle that was threatening to escape him. “I think you should take a break from it.”

“Break!” She yelled. “Are you out of mind? I have exams next week!” She said in exasperation.

Now, he burst out laughing.

“You are laughing at my state?” Tanya started crying louder this time.

Nate slapped his forehead and said, “Relax. What I meant is, go out for some time. Do something other than Physics. Trust me, it really helps. Sometimes, when I get stuck with my story that is what I do. Take a break. Enjoy. And approach the matter with fresh eyes. And then, you will see the magic.” Nate coolly explained.

Hearing all this, Tanya stopped crying and said, “Okay. So that’s what I’m going to do. Take a break. I’m going to bed early today. Screw the Physics. Good night.”

“Good night.” Nate laughed as he said that.

The next time when they had a chat, Tanya was done with her exams and she couldn’t stop thanking Nate for the tips that he had given her. Nate was beginning to like this girl a lot. She was naïve yet so smart, and she was beginning to grow on him. And he had absolutely no idea about what she was feeling. She only spoke about her love for physics so far. They had a good five years age difference, and he was a bit scared to broach the subject with her.

Another year passed. There were many changes in Nate’s life, like he moved to a better place, he was done with another manuscript and he was touted as the next big thing in the literary world. But one thing remained constant. His daily chats with Tanya.

They chatted for almost half an hour every day, sometimes even more, at the end of her day. Nate would postpone all his other stuff during that time. She would tell him about the basics of astronomy and her obsession with the TV show ‘the big bang theory.’ She loved that show so much that she had made its title song the ringtone and the caller tune of her phone. He had laughed like a maniac when she said that.

They spoke about their families as well. Nate told her about his younger sister who was trying her luck with her acting skills and Tanya told him about her older brother who was working in the States.

“What about your parents?” She had asked him during one of their Skype chats.

“Buried six feet under.” He said nonchalantly.

“Oh! I’m so sorry.” She said.

“It was three years ago. They knew we were capable enough to manage ourselves. So both of them decided to go together.”

“You sound upset, Nate.”

“I’m not upset, but I miss them really bad. You are lucky, you have both of them in your life.” He smiled.

“Yes, I know. But I end up fighting with them a lot. Specially my mom. She doesn’t approve of my career choice. Worries that I’ll go into space and never come back.”

Nate was laughing at that and she continued, “I’m tired of explaining to her that I just want to be a scientist with absolutely no intentions of venturing beyond the earth!”

And just like that both of them burst out laughing.

He doubted that she knew how famous he was. In fact, he had even asked her whether she had read anything other than physics, to which she had said, “Physics is my one and only passion for now.” He wondered whether she could feel the chemistry between them. Even though they were continents apart, there was definitely a spark which he felt when he heard her melodic voice. He wasn’t interested in the physics which she spoke about, he only wanted to hear her voice. Sometimes, he would Skype her instead of their usual Facebook chats just to see her and hear her voice.

Once, she had surprised him with a new haircut and highlights in her hair. She had them streaked blonde and brown at the suggestion of the stylist. She looked gorgeous, but wasn’t confident about carrying it off. Nate had convinced her otherwise.

Time flew. Tanya was graduating next week. Nate had three bestsellers back to back and he was at the peak of his career. Suddenly, he had an idea. He needed a much deserved break from all the chaos in his life owing to his popularity.

He flew to Mumbai to meet Tanya. He wanted to surprise her and managed to sneak out all the details about her graduation ceremony. And today, he found himself in the auditorium of the Mumbai University for the ceremony. He wondered how she would react on seeing him there.

After the ceremony was over, he immediately rushed outside to catch hold of her. He saw her in the open lawn hugging a middle aged couple, who he assumed were her parents. She looked even more beautiful. He went near them and cleared his throat.

Tanya’s eyes widened in surprise when she saw him and he beamed looking at her. She hugged him and began shouting with delight.

“I think my ear drums have burst.” Nate laughed.

“This is un-freaking-believable!” Tanya exclaimed. “This is going to be the most memorable day in my life.”

“Yes, it is going to be.” Nate said. With that he pulled her close and kissed her. Not caring about where they were, or who was watching them, he kissed her thoroughly and she responded back. They broke apart when they heard some whistles and claps.

Furiously blushing, Tanya looked at him and Nate felt himself drowning in her brown eyes.

“Excuse me? Umm…. Mr. Nathaniel? Excuse me?”

Nate saw someone snapping their fingers in front of him. He blinked his eyes a couple of times before coming to his senses and looked around.

He was still standing at Baga beach in front of the flags that Tanya had mentioned and she, herself was standing before him. What had just happened?

He nodded his head and shook himself out of the dream.

“I’m sorry Tanya. I think I just zoned out.”

“No problem. I thought I bored you with my physics talk.” She started laughing.

“No, not at all.” Nate said. “In fact, I just wove an entire chemistry from your love for physics.”

Tanya gave him a questioning look to which he said, “I’m an author. I’m on a break here for some inspiration and you just gave me one.” He smiled.

“Good to know. It was great meeting you. I’m going to leave now, before my parents send a search party for me.”

“Thanks a lot Tanya. And do keep in touch. You must be having a Facebook account, right?”

“Yes, sure. I’ll send you a friend request later. Good bye and good luck with your story!” He saw her retreating back in the direction from where she came from.

He shook his head and sighed. He headed back to his room with a bounce in his step. He had a story to write. A story which he had just dreamt about. He did not know how the story would end, but it didn’t matter right now. He would figure it out on the way. The best part was that he knew what would be the title of his new book: ‘Physics and their Chemistry.’

Posted in short story

The Girl in High Heels

The incessant ringing of the doorbell compelled Avni to leave the half chopped vegetables on the dining table in a bid to open the door. She was pleasantly surprised to see Lakshmi, her maid.

“I thought you were on leave today. So, how come you are here?” Avni asked as she moved aside for Lakshmi to enter.

“Yes madam, we were supposed to go for a picnic as our kids’ exams got over yesterday. But one of them fell sick. So we had to cancel everything at the end minute. I then decided to come here.” Lakshmi started cleaning the kitchen table.

“See, be careful, and don’t throw those chopped veggies.” Avni turned around to close the door. She saw a young girl standing by the door. “Lakshmi? Did you bring anyone with you?” Avni asked over the banging of the utensils. But, she couldn’t hear the maid’s response.

“Hey, come inside.” She gestured to the girl. She asked her to sit and also gave her a glass of water that was kept on the tea table across the sofa. “What’s your name?” She gently asked.

“Smita.” The girl said.

“Nice name, Smita. You must be Lakshmi’s daughter, right?” Avni quizzed.

The girl simply nodded and sat there admiring her surroundings.

Avni was proud of her house. It was her creation. Being an interior designer, she had made full use of her talents in decorating her dream home. It was simple, yet elegant. Nothing was over the top. All the furniture and knick knacks in the house were carefully bought and placed in strategic locations to add an illusion of more space in the house. The walls were painted white and a contrast was added by the maroon curtains and a couple of gigantic paintings.

Now that Lakshmi was there to look after the kitchen and cleaning, Avni relaxed and decided to put the girl at ease. “How old are you?”

“Sixteen.” Smita said, still not meeting Avni’s eyes.

The girl was indeed very shy. So similar to her younger self, Avni thought. And she had a wonderful idea to break the ice and get her to talk.

“Would you like to help me in cleaning my shoe cupboard? Your mom is never free to do so. And I can’t do it all on my own.” Avni said.

“Sure.” Smita replied.

Avni took the girl near the main door, where the said cupboard was. “See, this is it.” She opened the door.

Smita gasped in surprise and Avni smiled. She knew it was the right decision.

“So many shoes and sandals?” Smita asked.

“Yes, I love shoe shopping. It’s a weakness of mine. Let’s get started then. You remove all the sandals from the top racks while I’ll work from the bottom.”

Avni kept talking about the various pairs of sandals that were removed from their wooden confines. She vividly remembered from where she had bought which pair and how often had she actually worn them. Smita listened to her in awe.

When Avni removed a pair of black peep toes with a three inch heel, Smita couldn’t take her eyes off of them. Everything that Avni said after that went above her head. She was mesmerized by those heels.

“Smita, you can keep these. They will not fit me now as these were bought when I was of your age. But, these were also my first pair of heels and so I really can’t seem to part with them. Now I guess I have found its rightful owner. Go ahead, take them. They are all yours!”

Smita couldn’t believe what she was hearing “Really, didi? These are for me? I can take them?” She hugged Avni in joy, “Thank you didi!”

Avni laughed heartily and said, “Come on now, wear them and show me that cat-walk baby.”

Smita giggled at that, but she was also nervous. She wore them, and they fit her perfectly. As though they were designed for her feet. She took a tentative step in them and wobbled a bit. And she immediately grasped the nearby wall.

“Yes, very good Smita. Walk slowly. You’ll get the hang of it. Keep trying.” Avni encouraged.

After a few wobbles here and there, Smita finally managed to walk properly in her newly acquired heels. “Promise me to take care of them for me, Smita.” Avni said. Smita smiled and promised. They then sorted the other pairs of shoes, discarded a few and kept the rest away.

In the meantime, Lakshmi was done with her stuff and as she was leaving she said, “Madam, I have cooked chapattis and a vegetable gravy for you. And I have cleaned everything in the kitchen too.”

Avni thanked her and waved a goodbye. But she couldn’t meet Smita, as the girl was so excited with her heels that she ran away before her mother.

A few days later, Avni went for a stroll in the park with her husband, Vishal. Both of them were lost in their own thoughts, when suddenly Avni spotted something.

“Vishal!” She nudged her husband, “look at that!”

Vishal was brought back to the present from his daydreams by his wife’s panicked voice. “What happened Avni? Are you alright?”

“Look at that Vishal! See, under the bench.” She gestured.

Vishal peeked under the bench and said, “What? Those are someone’s sandals.”

“Please get them, I want to see.” Avni said, her heart wildly beating in her chest.

She inspected the sandals and said, “These are mine, Vishal. I had given Smita, Lakshmi’s daughter a few days back. How come they are here? I’m getting very scared Vishal. Let’s go home.”

Back home, Avni immediately called Lakshmi and asked her to come over immediately and also get Smita along. The time between the call and Lakshmi’s arrival was spent pacing in the flat by Avni, while Vishal was watching the television. “Relax Avni. Why are you making such a big deal out of it? She must have not liked it. So she threw it away.”

“No Vishal. I had told her how sentimental it was for me. And she had promised me to take good care of it. How can she do that? And if she did not like it, she should have returned it back to me, right?”

Vishal resumed his perusal of the television. There was no point in arguing with a livid Avni. Exactly thirty minutes later, the doorbell rang. Avni sprang towards the door. She opened it and found Lakshmi alone.

“What happened Madam? Everything alright?” A visibly distressed Lakshmi asked.

“Yes, I’m fine. Where’s Smita?”

“Who Smita, Madam?”

“Smita, Your daughter Lakshmi. How can you forget that?”

“But, I don’t have a daughter Madam!”

On hearing that, Vishal switched off the television and joined in. “Come again Lakshmi? You don’t have a daughter?”

“Yes Sir. I only have two sons. No daughter.”

“Then, who was that girl who came with you a few days back when you had come late for work?” Avni asked.

“No madam, there was no one with me. I came alone only.”

Lakshmi then turned to Vishal and said, “Sir, I came late that day and proceeded to do all my work. I found madam by that shoe cupboard. She was removing all the shoes and talking. I thought she was talking on phone. Then suddenly, she removed one black sandal with big heels and placed it on the floor and started laughing. After some time she threw it in the dustbin. I got scared, but then I thought that she was letting go of some of her stuff, so I did not say anything. I quickly finished my work and left.”

“Oh God, Lakshmi, You should have told me immediately. You have my number also.”

“But, where’s Smita, Lakshmi? What did you do to her?” Avni interjected.

“Lakshmi, you go home now. Come in the morning.” Vishal ordered.

He went in the bedroom and got a couple of bottles. “Avni, you haven’t been taking your medicines regularly. Here, take this.”

Avni absent mindedly swallowed the tablets. She had changed a lot in the last six months post the accident. She alternated between depression and euphoria. “Avni, look at me.” Vishal said. “There’s no Smita, alright? You were hallucinating. Please take your medicines on time.”

Avni nodded in affirmation, all the while thinking about that girl in high heels. She was so much like her own self. A little shy, a little bubbly. A hard core heels lover. And then that accident six months ago! She could never wear those heels again.

Sighing and wiping the tears from her eyes, she turned her motorized wheelchair and went back to her room.

Pic courtesy : Google images

Posted in short story

The Missing Paneer

This is a short story depicting the daily struggles of an Indian homemaker living abroad with an interesting twist.

Happy reading!

It was a beautiful Saturday morning in the month of May and while sipping some hot coffee, Rachana could see the morning joggers in the boulevard across her house. It was almost a year since she had moved to Albany with Amit, her husband, leaving the commotion of her hometown back in India. They had rented an apartment in Grove Avenue in the Helderberg neighborhood. She had bickered a lot regarding his choice of housing. She wanted to settle in New York City, but Amit’s office was in the vicinity from where they currently resided and the middle class tenements also suited his budget. As she finished her coffee, she sighed and got back to making breakfast.

After she was almost finished, Amit walked in adorning his usual office attire. At 5’11”, with a 5 o’clock shadow on his chiseled jaw and gelled black hair, he was really attractive. Rachana raised her brow questioning him.

“I know it’s a Saturday, but you know how desperately I want that promotion. I need to work extra baby.” He said in his fake American accent. When Rachana stayed quiet, he pressed further, “Baby, you know we have to send some money to our parents every month and we also want to start a family right? We need every single penny.”

She was seething in anger, but calmed down when he played the family card.

Instead, she said, “I understand Amit. But, please be back early. We have to go for dinner at the Shah’s residence. Vyomi is making paneer tikka masala for me!”

“Oh my god!’ exclaimed Amit. “You have seriously become obsessed with panir. Every single day you want panir. Panir this panir that. I am sick of this panir. Make me some fish for God’s sake!”

Rachana was amused by his rant and said, “Oh but they don’t eat fish you know. They are pure vegetarians. And looks like you are obsessed with fish”, she said pointing her index finger at him.

Irritated, Amit turned around to leave, but stopped when Rachana called him again.

“By the way honey,” Rachana said, “It’s not panir, it is pa-neer.”

Feeling annoyed, he stomped his foot and slammed the door.

“What a brilliant start to my weekend.” Rachana thought. She missed him. The caring and loving Amit that had courted her during their engagement days had transformed into a workaholic one. They had moved immediately to Albany post marriage when he got the transfer. And Rachana being just a commerce graduate with no experience, did not have much to do. Amit wanted to save as much as he could so that they could have a better house and start a family, hence he wouldn’t spare a dime for her in order that she could study further. Hell, she didn’t even want to study, rather she wanted to start her own private investigator firm. She had a knack for it; she had extremely good observation and reasoning skills and she simply enjoyed the challenges. But no, Amit wanted her to do any job that would earn some bucks. There was nothing much here for someone with just a commerce background. And she was just not interested to immerse herself in books.

As Amit left, Anita came from her hiding place under the dining table and jumped on Rachana. Startled by that sudden movement, Rachana almost dropped the bowl of fruits in her hand but somehow regained her balance at the end moment.

“Anita, calm down!” she yelled. “Here, take your food.” She instructed the little cat.

She had named the cat in memory of her maid back in India. Oh! How much she missed her; here, she had to do everything right from cleaning the house to cooking to washing clothes, on her own.

As the clock struck 10 am, she realized she had an appointment with the dentist at the local medical center. Her tooth was troubling her since a few days, so she decided to get a checkup to be safe. She got ready and decided to walk till the center. Depending on the outcome at the dentists’, she may have to hire a cab back home and she could definitely use some extra bucks. Besides, walking was her favorite exercise. Apart from keeping her fit, it helped her to delve in her surroundings.

As she locked the door, she left Anita out and instructed her to stay around. On the street, she met Mrs. Gomes, the septuagenarian next door neighbor. She loved that old lady. Why wouldn’t she? After all, Mrs. Gomes had paid her a hundred dollars for finding her missing dog. That’s when she decided to take her passion seriously and after finding a couple more lost pets, she had made a few hundred bucks! And that is how she had met Anita about four months back. She found a little cat hovering around her door on that cold January morning. Taking pity on the poor little thing, Rachana had provided it food and shelter. Though Amit despised all four legged creatures, Rachana had insisted to keep the cat until they found the owner. She had named her just a couple of months back when she discerned that nobody would be coming to claim the cat.

As she waved goodbye to Mrs. Gomes, and passed by the Shah’s residence, a few doors down the line, she couldn’t help but feel excited for the dinner. She then met Holly, who had sought her help to find out whether her boyfriend was cheating on her. So, after tailing him for a week, Rachana had confirmed that he was a genuine fellow. Holly had then paid her generously. After a brief chat with Holly, she then rushed to the medical center to get the business with the dentist done.

Returned home with a missing tooth, she thought whether she would be able to have dinner. But she waved the thought off thinking that she would only have paneer, which was soft. Oh! How her mouth started watering just thinking about that!

She rested on her bed with a bowl of ice cream and was binge watching a few reality shows on her laptop, when her phone rang.

“Mrs. Basu, Aniket here” there was an urgency in his voice that made her gut clench.

“Aniket, please call me Rachana. What happened?” she asked.

“The dinner is cancelled.” Oh no! My paneer, she thought. But before she could say anything, Aniket continued, “Please can you just come over? Please.”

She swiftly changed into a dress, tying her shoulder length wavy hair into a pony and after a quick glimpse into the mirror, she left. She saw a police car parked outside the Shah’s, and with her heart hammering in her chest, she entered the house.

She saw Aniket answering a few questions that the policeman was asking him and another one was inspecting the house. They questioned her presence in the house to which Aniket mentioned that she was a friend and he had called her for moral support. He then handed a picture to the police man and they left. Aniket had tears in his eyes by the time Rachana approached him.

“What’s wrong Aniket?” she enquired.

“I’m sorry to bother you Rachana, but I really didn’t know who to call. Amit was not answering his phone. I had left Vyomi in the house to go to the mall and get some stuff. When I came back she wasn’t there! I thought that she must have gone out to run some errand, so I tried calling her, but her phone was switched off. So I waited and waited. But it’s been almost three hours now. And I’m really worried. So, I had to call 911.” He sat down on the sofa clutching his hair and sobbing.

“She will come back, don’t worry.” It was all that Rachana managed to say.

The Shahs had shifted here about four months back with the start of the New Year. Rachana wasn’t very close to Aniket as much as she was to Vyomi. She really couldn’t understand how to console him. But considering the time that had elapsed since Vyomi disappeared, Rachana felt fear creeping up on her insides. They were relatively new in the area and she had hardly seen Vyomi loitering around except meeting the neighbors.

“Do you mind if I look around?” She asked him.

Aniket nodded in affirmation and Rachana’s detective instincts kicked in. As she was about to enter the kitchen, Aniket said, “She was boiling milk and was getting the ingredients to make paneer when I left. But when I came back, she wasn’t there and so was the paneer.”

Before she could start inspecting anything, she heard Aniket sobbing uncontrollably. Rachana thought he was over reacting, but nevertheless she pushed him into his room and asked him to rest.

My husband would be happy if I went missing. She regarded sadly. Putting all those thoughts aside, she decided to snoop around. First, she went into the kitchen. There were remnants of paneer in a dish near the sink, but other than that she couldn’t find the remaining ingredients for the recipe. ‘Looks like Vyomi made the dish and ate it all by herself and then decided to disappear.’ She silently mused. Where could she have gone? The Shahs dint look like they were billionaires unless there was hidden treasure in the house for which Vyomi would be kidnapped for ransom. She also noticed that there were very limited things in the kitchen; hardly any herbs and spices, a few cereal packets and a couple of milk cartons in the fridge. It all looked very suspicious, like they were ready to pack and run.

Rachana quickly looked over in the drawing room for anything suspicious, but except for bare shelves, she found nothing. She had come to their house probably just for the second time in the last four months as she and Vyomi would meet at her place often when Vyomi would bring delicious cooked paneer for her. She went near the dining table that was adjacent to the kitchen and suddenly she felt a shot of pain in her left foot. She bent down to find a small, round and sharp object. She gasped at the sight of it. “Oh my God! It’s a diamond.” She whispered. After inspecting it thoroughly she left it exactly where she had found it and went to meet Aniket.

She wanted to inspect his room as well, but couldn’t, as he was wide awake when she entered the room.

‘I think I’m going to head back. Amit would be home soon. Don’t worry, I’m sure Vyomi would be alright and she’ll be back.”

He mumbled his thanks and Rachana left. As she entered her own house, her phone rang.

“Hi, baby.” Amit said.

On hearing that tone, Rachana understood that he was going to pull an all-nighter again.

“Don’t Amit,” she hollered. “You always do that. Always.” She was on the verge of breaking down. “All I need is to spend a little time with you, but no. Your work is more important.”

“Rachana, please understand. I’m doing this for our future.”

“Cut the crap Amit. You have been telling me this since the last six months.”

“A few months more, baby. Please baby.”

“Don’t ‘baby’ me! Are you so bored of me now? You are not even home on weekends! Is there someone else?”

“Oh! For God’s sake Rachana, don’t start with all the accusations again!” He yelled. “Screw you and your perverted thoughts. I have better things to do.”

“Now, I’m accusing you? Really?” She said. When there was no response, she realized that Amit had unceremoniously cut the phone again.

Mouthing some cuss words for her husband, she opened the freezer and started gulping ice cream to calm her nerves. She then headed up to her room. So much for having paneer for dinner, she thought. Amit wouldn’t be back until the next day and after their bitter argument, she doubted he would even come back. She was getting sick of being holed up in the house even on weekends.

But right now, her mind wouldn’t stop pondering about the bizarre things that she found in Vyomi’s house. A diamond, the missing paneer, the bare essentials in their house; she kept ruminating about all of that and didn’t realize when she fell asleep.

She opened her bleary eyes when the cat, all seven pounds of squirming flesh, climbed onto her belly. Squinting into the sunlight streaming in from the open window, she discovered that she was now the weary possessor of a pounding headache, and at some point, had managed to lose both a tooth and a spouse.

Squeezing her temples with her fingers, she got out of the bed and saw that it was almost noon. Her tooth was lost forever, but her spouse should be back soon, she thought.

She went into the kitchen, quickly gulped some milk and cereal and then took paracetamol for her headache. She couldn’t reach any conclusion regarding Vyomi, the diamond and the missing paneer. Sighing, she removed the fish from the deep freezer and left it to thaw. Time to treat Amit, she thought. She showered and changed into a loose t-shirt and yoga pants. As soon as she entered the kitchen, the doorbell rang.

‘Must be Amit’, she anticipated. But, when she opened the door, there was no Amit. Instead, a brown paper bag was placed by the door. She peeked around to see who had left it, but on finding no one, she shrugged, took it inside and closed the door. Before the door shut, she caught a glimpse of a sleek black Audi passing on the street.

She placed the parcel on the dining table and sat down to open it. She found an air tight container and a letter inside the bag. Curious to know who had sent it, she opened the letter.

Dear Rachana,

I must say that you are a really smart and honest investigator. You saw the diamond but left it there itself. Hats off! But you see, you need a little more training to excel. And I know that you are short on resources, so that’s why I have sent something to help you. Hope you make good use of it.

P.S.: The ‘missing’ drama was fake just to divert the attention of a few people who had caught onto our shenanigans. It bought us some time to plan our next move. Anyways, you may never meet us again. Good luck to you and Amit for your future!


Aniket and Vyomi Shah.

Rachana kept the letter back and proceeded to examine the contents of the container. She was astonished at what she saw.

There were five mouthwatering pieces of her favorite paneer tikka. Below the pieces was a sticky note on which the words ‘enjoy the missing paneer’ were written. After internally debating whether to leave a couple for Amit, she decided against it.

As she began to chew a mouthwatering piece of it, she felt something crunchy and spat it out. ‘Ouch!’ She cried. There was a diamond in the paneer! Finally realizing what Vyomi meant, she removed another four pieces from the remaining paneer. Now, she was the possessor of five glittering diamonds that would change her life forever.

She already started dreaming of her new house with an extra room that she could convert into her office. She couldn’t wait for Amit to come home and give him the good news! And so she went on a cleaning spree and cooked his favorite fish curry.

A few hours later, when Amit came home, he was surprised to find his otherwise badgering wife in an extremely cheerful mood. And after he learned about her weekend adventure, he relished his fish curry even more and showered her with a passionate lovemaking.

All the while, there was just one lingering thought at the back of Rachana’s mind. She would never know who the Shahs were. If that was even their real name. Except that the lady made delicious paneer. She would never know whether they were conmen on a heist or undercover cops on some secret mission. But they did give her five beautiful diamonds. So, who they were didn’t really matter, or did it?

At the same time, somewhere on the streets of Albany, a couple was heavily making out on the back seat of a black Audi.

“We did it Aniket! I can’t believe that we ravaged a hundred diamonds from that old woman’s hidden basement!”

“Ninety five sweetheart. You gave away five of them to your friend.”

“But, she deserves it. She’s taking care of our Fluffy after all. Can you believe that she has named her Anita?” Vyomi said.

“I thought we had lost her.”

“Yes, me too, but then I found her happy with Rachana, so I let her be. Besides she would make us too conspicuous in the long run.”

“Imagine the headlines. ‘A couple with a white cat on prowl. Beware’. Aniket burst out laughing.

“Why the missing drama?” Vyomi quizzed.

“It was a perfect cover. I suspected that the Morgans who live across saw us leaving Mrs. Gomes’ house. I didn’t want to take any chances.” Aniket pecked her on the lips and said. “So, what’s our next plan?”

“I think we should take a break. We deserve it. Let’s go to Seychelles. It’s my dream destination!”

“To Seychelles it is then!” they both said. And sped off.

Meanwhile, Rachana was fast asleep with the missing paneer now rested in her gut. She dreamt about solving new mysteries and embracing exhilarating challenges that included motherhood as well.

Posted in Married life, mom's life, Personal, relationships

Hope and a few dreams…

I was merely twenty three years old when I got married. And I felt like I had suddenly been transported to a different world altogether. Being in courtship for almost a year and half, I had the feeling that adjusting to my future home shouldn’t be difficult. But then reality struck.

Staying with a family that is almost like a stranger to you was really tough. My in laws had a very laid back kind of lifestyle. And I was totally the opposite. I was literally struggling to get all the work done before I left for college (I had a few months of my internship left), but it just wasn’t working. That’s when Hope held my hand and told me, “You are more than a wife and a daughter in law in this family. Don’t worry about everything so much. Relax, let go. Things will be fine.”

Those words were like a breath of fresh air. I instantly felt lighter and happier. I concentrated on completing my internship and finally got my degree.

It was a dream of mine to study further. But, I was in a dilemma. Whether to study further or start a family. Husband had left the decision to me. He would support me in whatever I decided. I was stuck. That’s when Hope stepped in again. She said, “Live your dreams dearest daughter. Do what your heart desires.” Those words motivated me further to complete my post graduation.

Then my husband and I embraced parenthood. Each day, since then, has been a roller coster ride. I have my moments, some days happy, some days irritated to the core and some days I’m just in a la la land.

Hope has always been with me during my entire journey and she always encourages me to do more, to be more. When I was at home for a few months post my second baby, she encouraged me to do something that I love instead of moping around. That was when my dormant passion of writing got activated. And it has been blooming ever since.

Over the last few years, I have become aware that there’s so much more to my personality other than being a mother. Every day I see a new facet. Today, I’m a doctor, a home maker, a blogger and most importantly, a dreamer. I dreamt and tried my best to live my dreams. And I can’t thank Hope enough for that. She supported me enough so that I could live my dreams. I feel really blessed to have Hope in my life as my mother in law.

Now, it’s my turn. I always encourage her to do things that she loves. It’s not too late to do that either. There’s more to her too than just being a mother, a mother in law and a grandmother. She wants to be a fitness enthusiast and take up her hobbies of crochet and stitching more seriously. And I keep telling her, “It’s better late than never!”

What is your #MoreToMe facet? Do share in the comments section below.

Author’s note : This post first appeared on momspresso.

Pic courtesy : Google images

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