Posted in The Short Story

Project Humanity

pic

Amrita made her way through the crowded platform to the Ladies Compartment. It was the Kurla Local, the train that she caught every day. Weaving through the thick crowd of people, she deftly moved ahead.

She had to reach home on time. It was already very late. The sun had set and the night sky was full of twinkling stars. She had to get dressed for her niece’s fourth birthday party. She had gotten a new dress stitched specially for the occasion. It was a glorious green suit with a bright yellow duppatta. The combination brought out her happy-go-lucky personality very well. She had carefully wrapped her niece’s gift almost a week ago. She knew she would be reaching home late and will not get any time for last minute decisions.

Her job, working at the South Mumbai branch of ‘Get Well Soon N.G.O’ left her exhausted. She didn’t have any strength left to go an extra mile for her family. The truth was, she went too much of extra miles for the people her N.G.O helped. She dropped them to the doctor’s clinics, picked up their luggages, helped change their dressing, uplift their depressed mood, and had impromptu gatherings for the sick. Her work was only limited to handling the accounts but she did so much more.

No one had told her to do all that. She did everything of her own accord. She loved helping fellow human beings. Her behavior did not go down well with her folks. In her quest of being helpful to society, she had almost forgotten her family. Her mother often complained that she was not at all bothered by her daughter’s behavior toward others, but was rather disturbed about her behavior towards herself. “Amrita ought to think more about herself,” were her mother’s exact words.

Now climbing aboard the train, Amrita smiled. She was living for herself. Her mother just didn’t understand as yet. When she saw a smile on a young girl’s face as Amrita bought her a giant soft toy, the joy that filled her heart was something that she couldn’t explain. Not to others. Not even to herself.

She sighed. It was difficult. She did her best to please others. But a person could only do so much. She wished there were others like her out there, who cared about someone’ feelings and were not selfish in their desires, who would, in a heartbeat save someone’s life.

But unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Even in this crowded train, no one spared the other a glance. No one got up to offer their seat to a needy person. Everyone had a different definition of “needy”.

Amrita sat on her usual fourth seat; the small space enough for her tired legs to relax.

She checked her phone. Two missed calls. Both were from her sister. She quickly sent a reassuring message to her sister. She wasn’t going to miss the birthday party of her one and only niece. She was on her way.

As she put her phone away, she heard a harsh whisper. The lady right opposite her was furiously whispering on the phone. She seemed to be having a fight.

Amrita couldn’t make out the words but she didn’t miss the tears that the lady was trying hard to blink away. She looked away, a stone set in her heart. Why was it that some people were happy and the others didn’t get an ounce of happiness? Of course, happiness was a very relative term, but looking at the lady made her feel protective towards her. She definitely didn’t look happy.

She stole a glance at the lady. The tears had escaped her eyes and were copiously flowing down both her cheeks. The lady wasn’t making any effort to wipe them away. She still had her right ear pressed to the phone. She wasn’t speaking, only mutely listening. It looked as if whatever the person at the other end was saying was making her cry harder.

As Amrita debated what to do, she noticed that the train had begun moving. Two stations had flown by without her noticing. She quickly looked at her fellow passengers. A middle aged woman with a young daughter, both staring out of the window; an old lady shooting furtive glances at the crying lady; two college girls discussing their upcoming assignment, completely oblivious to the happenings in the train. Amrita’s neighbour, on the other hand was looking at the crying lady, an uncomfortable expression on her face.

Good, Amrita thought. So she could approach someone if they were required to help the lady.

As the next station approached, the middle aged woman alighted with her daughter, freeing up the window seat. The old lady scrambled and sat there, leaving distance between her and the crying lady. Amrita’s neighbour got up and sat on the seat behind Amrita, showing her back to the crying lady. The two young girls had moved on from discussing assignments to cell phones.

Amrita sighed. This was not good. Shifting in her seat to make herself comfortable, she looked at the lady. She was no longer crying. Her tears had dried on her face. Her expression had changed from a sad face to a determined one. She had switched off her cell phone. Not noticing Amrita’s gaze, she got up and approached the door. Amrita craned her neck; the lady threw her cell phone out. Then she calmly came back and resumed her seat.

Amrita’s thoughts were in a scatter. What had just happened? Did the lady just throw her cell phone out? What if someone wanted to contact her? Why would she do something like that?

Amrita looked at the lady again. She knew that only she had seen her throwing her mobile away. The other passengers were not bothered. The lady had shut her eyes. Amrita’s only window to her feelings was gone.

Maybe throwing her mobile had made the lady feel better. Amrita tried to reason with her mind. How could she approach the lady without upsetting or angering her? As she was racking her brain for an idea, the lady opened her eyes. Quietly, she got up and made her way toward the door, leaving her small purse on the seat. She looked around the compartment to see whether anyone was paying her any attention. Amrita pretended not to notice the lady’s movements. She was staring at the purse that the lady had left behind.

What was happening? What was she planning to do? Why was she standing so close to the door?

Amrita already knew all the answers. Quickly, she made up her mind. Grabbing the purse, she walked towards the door. She tried to calm her thudding heart. Approaching the lady, she saw that her feet were halfway outside the train.

Panicking, Amrita said hoarsely, “Excuse me ma’am, you left your purse”.

The lady turned around, her hair whipping her face. She has really beautiful hair, Amrita thought.

She stared at Amrita. There was no expression on her face. Her hand was loosely curled around the door handle. The other hand was hanging limply at her side.

Amrita swallowed. This lady needed help. She hoped that her intervention would prevent her from doing anything drastic.

“Your purse,” Amrita said again, trying a polite tone, holding out the purse towards the lady.

The lady looked at her purse; hanging from Amrita’s outstretched fingers. Then she looked up at Amrita. Seeming in a daze, she stepped forward and accepted her purse.

As she moved away from the door, Amrita exhaled heavily. Trying to keep her voice light, she asked, “Are you alighting at the next station?”

The lady didn’t say anything. Amrita continued enthusiastically, “It’s my niece’s birthday today. She’s turning four today! I’m very excited. My sister is throwing a party and I am going there now.”

The lady flicked a glance at Amrita but otherwise remained mute. “I was in a fix about the present for Kajal, my niece. She already has many dolls and I didn’t want to gift her one more doll,” Amrita babbled. She described the jigsaw puzzle that she finally settled on as the gift in detail to the lady, explaining the endless search and the perfect wrapping paper. She moved on to Kajal’s attire for the evening. She was dressing as a fairy, complete with a tiara and a wand. She continued with portrayal of the menu for the party, giving relishing descriptions of the desserts.

The lady finally turned towards Amrita, her mouth in a scowl, her eyes flashing annoyance. Turning her back on Amrita, she went and sat in the next compartment, which was closer to the door. She sat near the window, blocking Amrita’s view of her.

Amrita debated her next move. She ran to her seat and picked up her satchel and two bags. She made her way to the lady’s seat and plopped down right next to her.

This time, the lady’s eyes were flashing fire. “I never got to tell you about my job,” Amrita said cheerfully, as if they were in the middle of a conversation. The lady turned her head towards the window, resolutely staring at the passing darkness. Amrita started with her job journey, telling her everything from her college graduation till her realization that she wanted to go into social work. She knew that the lady was irritated, maybe even angry. But at least, she wasn’t near the door anymore. And if she had to go that way, she would have to pass Amrita.

“Next Station-Kurla,” blared a woman’s voice from the speakers in the train. Amrita’s breathing became heavy. She couldn’t leave the lady. No, she wouldn’t leave her alone. What if she boarded another train and…. No! Amrita couldn’t even let her thoughts finish.

The train pulled in at the station and everyone alighted. Soon, it was only Amrita and the lady in the train but both of them didn’t move. The same train was scheduled to depart for CST in the next fifteen minutes. New passengers were boarding the train as Amrita and the lady sat silently next to each other.

“You should leave now. You will reach late for your niece’s birthday party,” the lady said softly to Amrita, not looking at her. Amrita sat up, stunned. This lady had heard everything she had spoken.

“What about you?” Amrita asked.

“I’ll be fine,” she replied.

As Amrita started shaking her head, the lady spoke, “I will truly be fine. That moment has come and gone. Thank you for….thank you.” Her voice was subdued.

Amrita opened her mouth but nothing came out. The lady smiled, a dimple appearing in her right cheek.

“Really. Go. Don’t keep Kajal or your sister waiting. And you have a packed day tomorrow,” her voice was kind and she stood up from her seat.

She walked towards the door and stepped on the platform, Amrita scrambling behind her. Suddenly she remembered that the lady didn’t have a phone. “Do you want to call someone?” she asked.

The lady raised her eyebrows and blushed, “No,” she shook her head.

“But,” Amrita protested as the lady waved her away.

“I live close by. I will manage”.

“Okay,” Amrita said in a small voice. She started walking away from the lady but only after a few steps, she turned to check what the lady was doing. She was standing and staring at Amrita.

Amrita walked back to the lady and enveloped her in a fierce hug, “Please take care,” she whispered. Pulling back, embarrassed over her emotions, she pulled a card from her satchel, with her name and details of the N.G.O where she worked. “If you need anything, please call,” she pushed the card in the lady’s hand.

The lady blinked away tears, staring at Amrita. She nodded dumbly.

“Okay. Bye,” Amrita cleared her throat and walked away, wondering when and if would meet the lady again.

The lady, meanwhile, looked at the card, a smile on her lips. Boarding the train again, she stood at the door. Opening her purse, she took out a mobile phone. Dialing a number, she pressed the phone to her ear.

“This is Cadet 637 reporting in. Suitable, if I may say, perfect candidate found for ‘Project Humanity’”, she spoke.

“Details,” the voice on the other end barked.

“Amrita Lokhande, 25, works at a N.G.O”.

“Good. Let’s bring her in,” the voice seemed pleased.

So was the lady. Hanging up, she resumed her position on the seat as the train began moving.

 

Advertisements
Posted in The Short Story

Twice upon a story

In keeping with the tradition that I have set for myself and for you, my lovely readers, here is my second short story. This one is my personal favourite. Hope you feel the same. Have fun reading!

Not the last

Rajesh watched as everyone chattered excitedly. They were here.
It was the first day of the 42nd Annual Athletic Meet of ‘Lokmanya Tilak High School’. They were all standing under the hot sun, wearing their house caps and discussing amongst themselves the events of the day.
The school ground was a little far from the school building but the ten minute walk had only added to the already high spirits of the students.
Standing classwise, Rajesh stood third in his seventh grade row of boys. He was short for his age. Blinking nervously, he pulled his cap lower on his forehead. He belonged to the Yellow House, the House known for its athletes. Every year, the ‘Annual Cup’ was lifted by the Yellow House athletes.
Sadly, he hadn’t contributed much to its glory. This year, he wanted that to change. He was going to run for himself. He hoped in the process, he wouldn’t let Yellow House down, like he had the past few years.
His school had made participating in the sports meet compulsory. Everyone had to participate in at least one event. Since he was neither good in team events nor in individual sports, he had settled for running in the 200 m race every year.
And every year, he had stood last. He had been the last to finish the race. The teachers encouraged him to finish the race but Rajesh only felt humiliated to do so. It wasn’t as if anyone was making fun of him. But he, himself was fed up of being the last to finish the race. He had never qualified for any event.
This year, he had decided that he would not finish last in the race. He didn’t care if there was one person behind him or two, as long as he was not the one behind everybody.
And he had worked towards it as well. With the help of his P.E teacher, Kirloskar Sir, he had practiced every day. He had arrived early in school every day without fail and run the whole length of the school ground. He had hoped that this would help him achieve the goal of not being the last.
As the teachers took the attendance and sent students classwise to sit in the shade, under the tents erected around the ground, to watch the events unfold, Rajesh felt a glimmer of hope.
Maybe this year would be different, after all.
He watched as the chief guest arrived and was felicitated by their principal. He watched as the games were declared open.
Soon, the events for the senior boys began. He saw how they ran as if their life depended upon it. The senior girls’ category was no less.
Rajesh knew that in no time it would be his turn. The Annual Meet was spread over three days and that day, only the qualifying round, the heats -where the first round of all the events were concluded, would be held.
He wasn’t paying much attention to his friends. They weren’t the ones who had to worry about being the last in any event. Sure, some of them did come last, but not consistently every year in the same event. He really wanted and hoped that this year, things would change.
He couldn’t really recall what had motivated him towards this goal. Nobody had teased him. Nobody had even pointed out that maybe he should participate in some other event if the 200 m seemed difficult.
Maybe they didn’t care at all- what he did or didn’t do.
His parents didn’t have any idea that today was his sports day. They hadn’t even noticed him leaving early for school every day. They were so wrapped up in their own busy lives that they didn’t have time for their only son.
Rajesh was afraid that Kirloskar Sir would share his parents’ indifferent attitude. If nobody else, his P.E teacher would have definitely known how weak Rajesh was in sports. But Kirloskar Sir had surprised him. He had encouraged him and guided him towards his goal. He hadn’t even laughed at Rajesh’s goal. After all, Rajesh’s aim was not standing first, it was not standing last.
With his P.E teacher’s support, Rajesh’s confidence had grown. He was prepared for his event today.
When the announcements for the 200 m running qualifiers were made, Rajesh was ready. He made his way towards the starting line. Kirloskar Sir grinned at him. He found himself smiling in response. He took his place in the first slot and listened to his teacher’s instructions. Everyone was to run in their own track. Nobody was to begin running before the clap was sounded. The top four in each would qualify.
Rajesh found himself nodding at the instructions. He looked straight ahead towards the finishing line.
A group of teachers and senior students stood in a loose cluster on the ground. Kirloskar Sir waved a green flag at the party. A senior student mimicked the action from their end. They were set. The teachers would observe the event to decide the students who had qualified.
“On your mark,” Sir’s voice boomed. Rajesh bent down on one knee, placing his hands on either side.
“Get set.”
Rajesh pushed up his ankles.
The clap sounded.
And he was off. Rajesh could feel his heart beat. He took strong strides pushing him forward. His hands cut the air around him. He did not look anywhere but at the finishing point. His goal was clear in his mind. He ran, and ran, feeling the ground under him slip behind.
Breathing heavily, he closed the distance between himself and the finishing point.
“Very good,” he could hear the teachers exclaim. He didn’t care. Turning around, he saw that he was not the last. Three students reached the finishing line after him. He pumped his fist in the air. Tears welled up in his eyes. He looked at Kirloskar Sir and saw him giving him the thumbs-up. Rajesh grinned.
“Your name?” someone asked him. Rajesh looked up to see a senior boy wearing the Yellow House uniform grinning down at him.
Rajesh didn’t know why his name was being asked. He hadn’t finished last! That was all that mattered. He grinned at the boy.
“All the best for the next round!” a teacher thumped his back.
Next round? Wait a second. He backed up. He hadn’t finished last. Three boys had finished the race after him. In every qualifying round, seven students participated. The first four to finish the race qualified for the next round. He sucked in a breath.
He had finished fourth. He had qualified.
He looked at the senior who was still grinning at him, a pen and a notepad in his hand.
“Rajesh Pawar,” he said proudly.last-lap

Posted in The Short Story

Once upon a story…

Hello friends! In this page, I will try to publish one of my written short stories…hope you enjoy reading them! This is the first story.

The One Hope

Lattika was sweating profusely. Clutching the edge of her saree pallu she wiped the beads of sweat dotting her forehead. She took a deep breath. But even that did not help. The air all around her was hot. The newspapers had been right. The temperature had been rising steadily these past few days. The month of May was truly going to be the hottest in the history of Mumbai. Standing at the bus stop, she looked around; the crowd was getting restless, increasing in number. There had been no sign of a B.E.S.T bus since the past thirty minutes. The traffic was also moving at a slow pace. Suddenly, the man standing next to her gasped. He had spotted a bus. It was making its way towards the stop. Finally. It didn’t look as if the driver was planning to stop the bus. The past two bus drivers had done the same thing. But the commuters, both travelling in the bus and those standing at the stop raised a big hue and cry. A big commotion ensued leading to the bus stopping and a handful of people getting off, while double the amount trying to get in, Lattika being one among them. She really couldn’t afford to wait more. She did not like being late for work. Gripping the handle near the door of the bus tightly, she had managed to plant a foot firmly in the door. Then she had pulled herself through the door. Now she stood on one of the stairs in the doorway of the bus. In the next fifteen minutes she had managed to purchase her ticket and wade her way through the crowd to stand near the seats reserved for women. Travelling in such crowds always reminded her of the overpopulation of her city. Nobody was really bothered about the strain it put on the city’s limited resources. Everyone was only busy in their mission to fulfill their dreams. This thought made her smile, because she was one among the people who wanted her dream achieved. She wanted to be a mother. She looked at the symbol above the ‘Reserved for Women’ sign, painted between two windows of the bus. It showed a mother with a child. The seat was reserved for a woman with a child or an expecting mother. Lattika had the opinion that reserving only two seats for the expecting and young mothers made no sense. What if there were more than two expecting mothers in the bus? It was sad really, that women themselves refused to get up to offer them a seat unless specifically asked to. She shook her head. Why was she getting all worked up? She didn’t plan on climbing in any bus when she would be a mother-to-be, or when her baby would be young. She smiled. She was saving everything that she could for her dream. She wanted only the best for her child. Once upon a time, her husband, whom she had married at the tender age of sixteen, had supported her. That was twenty years ago. Today, he was busy with his new life. He still loved her and she still lived with her husband even in the present day. But he also loved his second wife and his two boys. They also lived with her husband. She didn’t give up hope, however. She couldn’t give up hope. She knew she was born to be a mother. The bus conductor called out her stop, bringing her out of her reverie. She pushed her way to the door, descended the stairs, stepping on the road to watch a huge billboard on the bus stop of a film star promoting a baby soap brand. There was a lovely picture of the film star with her son, both of them smiling, She blinked. Such advertisements kept her motivated. She turned around and crossed the road carefully, showing her palm to slow a speeding taxi driver. She made her way towards ‘Sushruta Maternity Home’, her workplace. The Home was a three storey building, dedicated only to expecting mothers. Situated in the shade of the many trees surrounding it, Lattika ascended the stairs leading to the reception. Smiling at the receptionist, she made her way towards the second floor. She was a worker at the Home and used to sweep and mop the floor to keep the place as clean and sparkling as a mirror. As she deposited her bag in the room meant for workers and walked to her supplies closet, someone touched her arm. It was Dr. Ranganathan, the friendly gynecologist who always spoke in English with her because Lattika had insisted so. Lattika had studied till the eighth standard in a good English medium school. She was fluent in English. Circumstances had forced her to discontinue schooling after that. However she still spoke English whenever she could. She even read the English newspaper which the Home subscribed to. “How are you today Lattika?” Dr. Ranganathan asked, smiling at her. “I am good, Doctor”, Lattika replied. “Come with me”, Dr. Ranganathan said, tucking a strand of stray hair securely behind her ears. Still smiling at Lattika, she led her towards her cabin. After making sure that Lattika was seated comfortably, she made her way around the table and seated herself in her armchair. beamed at her. Lattika had hoped that whenever her dream became a reality, Dr. Ranganathan would play a part in it. She had been impressed by Lattika’s hope and desire and had encouraged her to keep her dream alive. Now, facing Dr. Ranganathan, Lattika’s heart beat furiously. “I have good news”, Dr. Ranganathan spoke, her face breaking into a smile. Lattika’s eyes widened and she clutched the arms of her chair. “You are pregnant”, Dr. Ranganathan announced. A lone tear escaped Lattika’s eyes.