Hope 3/3

Moments flash. Memories haunt. She has horrific visions of her mom tied to a tree and being pelted with stones to death. Her mom twists and contorts in agony, gathering all that was still left in her for futile cries of help. Her spirit deteriorates with time, and so does her energy. 

Nightmares continue to terrorize the little girl. Sleep was not as pleasant anymore. Ghastly images of her mom covered in blood keep lingering in her subconscious. She remembers the last time she saw her, it was right before her mom closed her eyes. She was blinking, but she was looking directly at her daughter. There was hardly any eye contact, but that transient pleasure seemed heart warming. She willed a faint smile and then gave up the fight.

The little girl wakes up to find Uncle Stan dozing off in a lean old chair, seated right beside her hospital bed. She’s told by the nurse that she’s been there for a week now. She wishes it was all just a terrible nightmare, and then she pinches herself, only to find out that it wasn’t. She tilts her head a little to look at the only family she had left, Uncle Stan. 

Soon after her discharge, she’s approached by a local NGO. They promise her food, shelter, and most important of all, education. Weeks later, she’s welcomed into the orphanage. She receives a cordial welcome from a group of kids who were just like her. They all had nowhere to go and had nothing to lose. 

Things around her had changed pretty fast, but she couldn’t shake things off just as quick. She regrets all the times she had been rude to her mom. She misses her bear hugs. She misses all her soothing lullabies while she cozily naps in her lap. She even misses their petty fights. 

She dearly misses her mom. 

The unpleasant hangover seemed to persist. The new surroundings heralded a new beginning. It was definitely a new start. Of what? She didn’t know. Can she now talk to boys? Now that her mom was gone, would it make them any better? Can she now talk back to elders? Will she ever own a smartphone? She knew not the answers and she knew no one to ask. 

But she eventually began to make friends. Wounds were now scars. The orphanage was the tiny thread of life that she was now hanging on to. In fact, it was the only thread. She was still hurting, but she knew that she was growing. She now had a new appreciation for life. She nurtured the flickering flare that kept the cold away. A ray of light in a world of shadows.  An undying spirit in the face of adversity. She had the will to live on. She now had……….hope. 

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Hope 2/3

After a long tiring journey, the bus finally reaches their village. The young girl didn’t know if she was fatigued by the prolonged journey or was just ravenous. It was both.

The young girl’s chest heaves as she embraces the fresh air. Her mother’s face hints a sign of relief. They were finally home, ready for a fresh start. With a new take on life.

They start walking slowly towards the old house they call home. People shoot scornful looks in their direction, she doesn’t understand why. Her mom clasps her by the arm and quickens her pace.

When they finally reach, they find their house much worse than what it had been a year ago. It was more of a rural shelter than a concrete structure. It barely qualifies to be called a house, but it sufficed. No wonder why no one had cared to occupy or demolish it. Nevertheless, it would be their haven now. But God knows it wasn’t meant to be.

A faint knock on the door catches their attention. “We have visitors already?”, they wondered in amusement. The young girl hoped that it would be uncle Stan. He was a long time family friend and had been the pillar of support for their family. The faint knocks stopped and loud thuds took over. Her mom and she were now scared.

She went to the rotten wood door to unlatch it. It was uncle Stan, and behind him was the entire village. An angry mob ready to take charge. Her mom was perplexed, unaware of what was going on. She steps on the front porch and sends the little girl inside to take care of her sister. And then the shouting begins.

“You brought shame to our village”

“You were knee deep in adultery that’s why your husband left you.” Her mom had a sudden moment of realization. “So that’s what Harry told them to keep himself alive?”. The village was more inclined to believe men, so she’d have no use trying. Only uncle Stan knew the truth, but apparently, he couldn’t convince anyone.

“You’re not fit to stay here. Have you no shame to come back?”

“She’s not even worthy of being alive. Better kill the two-faced bitch.”

“Yeah. Yeah. Let’s kill her!”

Then they charge on her. The little girl sits inside shocked at the sight of her mother being dragged away. Her mom’s blood-curdling screams render her motionless. Her mom struggles to look back and orders her to run away. But she was too baffled to move.

“Of what use are these little bastards? Let’s kill them too!”

Some of the villagers rush inside to get the kids. Uncle Stan tries to intervene, in attempts to save them. After all, it’s what her mom would want him to do. He suffers a number of blows but he doesn’t back down. After a long struggle, he feels a little relieved that he could at least save the girl, a redemption of sorts. But that feeling was only short lived. It begins to dawn on him that he couldn’t save her little sister.

Hope 1/3

Luggage is strewn across a little corner in the bus stop. Her clothes are all raggedy and her hair’s rubbish. People feel irritated by their presence and give them despicable looks occasionally. A little child wails in her arms, in want of milk. But she doesn’t have any. The child’s elder sister isn’t much of a help to her mother. In fact, she’s a burden. She’s busy staring at a stranger’s smartphone, gaping at it in fascination. She was once close to dreaming about having it, and that’s about the closest she ever got to owning it.

 

Long before she could fully marvel at it, her eyes fell upon yet another luxury. This one, she could never have dreamt of. She saw a girl, only a few years older than her, who had her arms wrapped around a guy’s arm…..her boyfriend. She had always despised men, more correctly, she was taught to. What her dad had done to their family was unforgivable, and her mom was quick to generalize her dad’s malevolence to all men. All men are the same she had said. Her mom had warned her to keep away from them, and so she did.

 

It was easy until she began to develop feelings for them. “Ehh! They’re not that bad”. But her mom’s vexed remarks still echoed in her head. “Men!”, she’d say with a sigh…..eyes rolled upward. She struggled to suppress the infatuation. She begged to differ from her mom, but couldn’t dare talk back to her. She felt crushed between her mother’s ideals and hers. But she decided to give up hers, cause her mom was always right.

 

Her thought train derails when a dog starts barking loudly at her mom. She tries to shoo it away, but the dog seems adamant. What a pity? Not even the dog was afraid of them. Earning respect in the society was becoming costlier than earning money. Those who didn’t know them despised them, and those who did know, just pitied them. Every passing day was a bitter reminder that they were on their own.

 

Amidst the shouting and noise, a bus comes to a screeching halt. It was what they had been waiting for. The bus was getting cramped and crowded as more people tried to get in. They quickly grab their belongings and board the bus as fast as they can. But not surprisingly, they were the last to get in.

 

They didn’t seem to mind. They had gotten used to it. But now was not the time to worry….cause things were about to change for good. The bus would take them to their village. They were going home.

The Exhibition

She was hit by a flood of happiness when her dad had said, “We’re going to the exhibition today!”. The remainder of the day, spent in wait for that evening, was all a blur. Lessons taught in school were heard but not understood. Food was eaten but not savored. The hot topic of the day was her exhibition plan and she told it to everyone who greeted her. Every time she told someone, her excitement seemed to grow, proportional to the number of people she had enticed.

 

“Samyuktha! Tell me what’s 4 squared two?” She blinked for a second, regaining her senses as she reeled back into reality. But it wasn’t long before she answered. She was a topper. “Concentrate” her ma’am said sternly and she sat down embarrassed. She wanted to listen, so she did. Five minutes pass, and Snap! She was dreaming again.

 

The vast expanse of the exhibition was vivid in her imagination. The entrance was modeled after the ‘Taj Mahal’, which symbolically tried to suggest, that the exhibition resonated with the grandeur of the monument. Petite shelters were lined up at the entrance and were glowing in pink. Kids surrounding the stands, outstretched their hands over the counter in want of feather like cotton candy. Crowded lanes were all tangled up giving, every passerby stuck in the maze, the impression that the place was way bigger than what it really was. The relentless cries of hawkers and the humorless banter of customers, kept the place lively and abuzz.

 

What little solitude was left in the place, was gobbled up by the squeals of excited passengers on amusement rides. This was the second best attraction at any exhibition, and it was only next to shopping.

 

She imagined herself on every one of the rides. In her fantasy, she had the guts to get on the roller coaster. She was tall enough to drive a bumper car. She had the time to admire the city lights from the vantage point when the giant wheel reached it’s zenith. She would’ve imagined a merry-go-round but the continuous spinning makes her nauseous.

 

Food savored at the exhibition was always the same. Typical. It was always Pav Bhaji, Chole Bhature and Cutlet Ragada. It never got better, but it never got boring either. What happened after that wasn’t quite clear. She didn’t imagine anything beyond the fun part, maybe because she didn’t want it to end. But it had to. Cause the time had come for her dream to come true.

 

She wanted to make sure that she’d do every single thing she had imagined. Like a mental checklist. She filled her head with expectations and her heart with excitement. She couldn’t contain the enthusiasm any longer. The school’s final bell rang. She didn’t have to.

The man at the ‘Vantage Point’

From the vantage point,  everything was clear. The aerial view presented him with a different perspective, both visually and mentally. He was in a different world altogether, a world that’s characterized by unfulfilled desires and materialistic detachment. 

He looked down and saw his own house. He’d had innumerably pleasant moments there. But now all that was left was pain. He didn’t want that to be his last glance, so he closed his eyes and opened them again. It was the first day of college, he was so bright and young then. He was making new friends and was soaking in the attention. Just when he was reliving the excitement, slowly, the reel of his life started to speed up. Days and months flashed by. Faces that seemed warm and cordial transformed into evil and prejudice. They still had the same face, but they all looked different somehow. The warmth in the memory was gone. It brought chills to him and he closed his eyes yet again. 

And after opening them, he saw himself sitting in a church,  and was surrounded by people. The Community Church was a good place for a neighborhood reunion. In fact, it was the only time they greeted each other. They all had fake smiles and bare faced lies…..not even Satan in disguise would look more nice. Ironically, that is who they’d just prayed to get away from. His gut wrenched and he closed his eyes to open them to a new scene. 

He saw his 7 year old self playing in the mud. No one around to stop him. Nothing to worry about. No obligations, no liabilities. No proposals, no promises. The kid was lost in his own world, lost in pure innocence.

A wide smirk smears across his face. He finally looked up. He saw a golden vulture circling in backdrop of a snow white sky. It finishes it’s rounds and gently starts to descend towards him. It was time, and he was ready. He wouldn’t have to worry about anything anymore. And again, he closed his eyes, for one last time. 

One Last Time – Part 3/3

“Stella” “Stella” “Stella”

 

She woke up in a trance. Breath heavy. Her chest heaved with fear. Her shirt, wet in perspiration, clung to her supple body. She looked around, panting for breath. It was her bedroom. Then she saw him. He was right there. His face inches away from hers. He could hear her gasps. A concerned look on his face slowly faded away into a cordial smile.

 

“Good morning sunshine”, he said, and took her into his arms. She felt a wave of relief and shyly let him take her. Finally catching hold of breath, she managed an utterance. Those three words were enough. They said it all. The nightmare reminded her of how much she loved him. Made her realize how much she wanted him. How much she missed him.

 

She never should’ve doubted him. He was pure. The beacon of hope in their relationship. She was the black sheep, a remorseful black sheep. But it’s all over now. No more “last times”. She found true love, yet again. And this time, she won’t spoil it.

 

She tries to fight her conscience. She decides not to tell him about the dream or the “me-time”. Honesty can only makes things worse she concludes. She’s off on a fresh start. A resurrection of love. She struggles to put all these thoughts away.

 

All the surge was too much for her. Too much to contemplate. Too much to give her time to notice the red lipstick on his white shirt’s collar.

One Last Time – Part 2/3

The room was just as empty as the bar, except for a teak wood table in the center. The small room was filled with cigarette smoke which made everything hazy. It took a few seconds for her eyes to adjust to the dim lighting and then she saw the silhouette of a woman. The woman was sitting with her back to the door. The woman turned around to see who came in and then Stella saw her features.

 

The woman had a vibrant red lipstick that seemed to glow like radium in the dark. With shiny black hair and a graceful figure, she could easily qualify for a supermodel. Her perfect silhouette was a sight enough to conclude that. But the woman wasn’t alone. There was someone else, a man. He was standing near the table with the woman sitting right in front of him. He looked like a pale white ghost in the fuzzy background. He had his arms wrapped around her and was holding her close. Too close. The woman had a terrified look on her face, suggesting that there was guilt attached to the intimacy.

 

The woman struggles to escape and while doing so, reveals a glimpse of the man. A glimpse of the intruder’s husband. Stella’s husband. She stands there dumbfounded. Never in her dreams had she imagined that it would come down to this. He was ever so loyal, never once he glared at other girls. His purity in their relationship was what intensified her guilt. But now she began to question everything. Momentarily, it made her feel better, a little less remorseful.

 

But she couldn’t believe the breach of trust. A perfect irony to top the icing. She felt tremendous anger followed by a dizzying pain. The small room got smaller. The smoke began to thicken. Her vision slowly began to blur and she started to lose ground. Her husband was moving towards her with arms outstretched.

 

“Let me explain, sit down”

 

“No” “no” she wanted to scream. But her voice wouldn’t come out. She felt a knot in her throat that seemed to tighten when she talked. She started to sweat profusely as the room started to spin around her. She felt her vitals crumbling from inside, churning the life out of them. She could see people talk but couldn’t hear them. All noise was muted to her. The last thing she heard was…..

 

“Stella” “Stella” “Stella”