Sunday, September 6, 2009


All around her, Priya saw only colours.

Purvi, looking gorgeous in pink, drawing the colourful alpana. Saniya, looking breathtaking in blue, talking to some guests. Rukmini, a vision in yellow, painstakingly arranging the flowers. They were so lovely, the orange marigolds, the red roses. And then there were those gifts, wrapped in cheerful colours. Happy, bright, vibrant colours. So different from the grey that had permeated her world just a few years ago, when Arun died.

Priya knew if she turned around, she could see Arun's face. He came to her everyday, encouraging her to live her life. Telling her not to lose hope.His face was so real to her, still . The forehead with two deep vertical lines, an endearing feature that showed how much he frowned when he thought. The sharp nose. The eyelashes that would have made any woman proud. His slight smile. That beloved face, with just a hint of a beard. "My 5 o'clock shadow" that's what Arun called it. Priya used to laugh. "How come your 5 o'clock appears at lunch time? Like you, your shadow also hurries through life." She would gently caress his face. How she loved to touch that face.

"Would you like to have something to drink?" Startled, Priya looked at the woman who asked her the question.
"Are you from the groom's side?" Priya was desperately trying to recall her name, not recognizing her at all. And why was this woman wearing white? White was a colour of sorrow. Today was a happy day. She was getting married today.
"My name is Padma, I am here to look after you. Are you feeling comfortable?"
Priya nodded. Looking at the revelry around her. The music. The dance. The laughter. The sound of bangles and anklets. Sounds so different from what she had heard a few years ago.

The wailing siren of the ambulance cutting through the silent night. Priya sobbing, clutching Arun's hand. The swinging doors of the emergency. The frantic conference of the doctors. The mechanical beeps of the machines attached to the still body. All sounds of grief and helplessness. If Priya tried, she could still hear them. If she tried harder, she could even hear the sound of her endless vigil beside her lover, who was slowly fading in front of her eyes.

"Come, sit on the bed. Why are you crying?" Priya was again jostled back to reality. Why couldn't this woman in white leave her alone? Why did she have to disturb her memories of her last few days with her only true love? Priya knew she was only trying to help. Perhaps trying to take the place of the mother who was also snatched away from her just days before Arun's death.

A scream. That was what Priya remembered most when they told her about her mother. They said she was coming to visit Arun in the hospital when the car ran her over. She was coming to ease her daughter's pain. Priya still heard that scream in her nightmares. Her young vibrant mother, suddenly snatched away from her when she needed her the most. And just a few days later, Arun was also lost to her forever.

"Hey Priya, dance with us." Her joyous friends tugged her hands and forcibly took her to the middle of the room. Priya smiled, looking at the faces of her friends. Purvi, Saniya, Rukmini. The pillars of her life. Her support, her strength. The friends who took her out of the cesspool that was her life. They had come after her mother's death. Quietly sharing her grief. Offering her support. " Dance Priya, dance." Amidst cheers and happy bantering, Priya caught the sight of two more people who mattered in her life. Arun's parents. These two gentle, loving souls who took her under their wings. Loving her unconditionally. Keeping her with them. Crying with her. Trying to laugh with her. It was because of them she had the courage to build her own life again. Because of them she consented to marry the young man who was so often there at their house. Today also, they were with her.Priya could see them, just beyond the glass door, talking to a sombre faced man. Was he the groom's father? He looked grim. And who was the man next to them? From a distance, he looked a bit like Arun.

"Priya, come and sit down here." Priya ignored the command of the woman in white and went towards the window. She looked down at the busy street and saw the endless stream of cars. Life went by, no matter what. Was she doing the right thing? The man she was marrying was not Arun. She twisted the ring on her finger. The simple ring with a single white stone. She turned her finger, trying to catch the sunlight. She desperately needed sunlight in her life. She was so tired of living her life in the dark. She needed to feel whole again. She twisted the ring on her finger, slowly at first, then faster. The play of light on her ring was almost hypnotic.

"Come away from the window Priya, sit here. Your family will be here soon." Priya did not pay attention to the voice. The woman in white. That hateful colour. The colour of the walls in the hospital. The colour that was Arun's favourite. The colour of the sheet that covered her mother's lifeless body. She hated it. She saw the white stone on her finger and tugged at it. The ring slowly came off and fell. " My ring! Please, somebody, my ring fell!"
"Come away from the window Priya,"
"Where Priya? Where is the ring?" Her friends were trying to peep over her shoulder.
"Oh, there. Just on the ledge. Go get it. Priya. Just reach over and get it"
"No, Priya step back."
"It is your engagement ring, get it Priya."
"Priya, step back"
"Jump Priya, jump. Get it now. Jump.
"Nooo, help"

Lying on the bed, Priya slowly tried to focus on the people around her. A woman in white. A grim faced man. A woman sobbing.

"We tried so hard to bring her back amongst us doctor. But she has been slipping away ever since her mother died. She just could not get over the shock of seeing her mother lying in a pool of blood"

Priya tried hard to listen to the voices. Arun, that was Arun's voice. Calling her to join him where they would all be happy together. Her mother. Arun. She.
"Mr. Sharma, This is an acute stage and she needs to be monitored constantly. She has started hallucinating and hearing voices. The lines between her reality and unreality have blurred. She is capable of harming herself and others. She needs expert help. I hope you will make up your mind after this episode."

Priya glanced around the room, searching for her friends. Purvi, Saniya, Rukmini. Friends who came only when her world was dark. Her support. Where were they? She saw the retreating backs of her mother. And Arun. Were they leaving too? She needed them so badly. Her eyes slowly closed, shutting out the room, the voices, the people. They always left her.

The old couple slowly emerged out of the hospital. Drained after the lengthy admission procedures. Their tired steps faltering at times. Each holding a hand of the son. Seeking support. Perhaps giving it also. The young man tightly held the mother." I loved her so much Ma. I tried so hard to bring her back to us. But in the end she forgot me too."
" I know son., I know."
" May be if the father had not abandoned her when she was small. May be if I had not been taking so ill at that time." He tried to voice his thoughts, trying to make sense of the bewildering world of his love.
"Yes, Arun, I know."

Holding their son's hands tightly, the man and the woman started the slow journey home.

This is my first attempt at fiction, unless you count those few stories I attempted writing in my school days.
ZB (who else? He will be the death of me one day) challenged a few of us to write this story. As he gave us the story line, the characters, the names, the beginning, the short every thing and asked us to strictly adhere to it, there was not much left for me to do. But I could not stick to the original plot completely. And I did not kill Arun. My blog is a happy place and I could not see a man dying here.
Sorry ZB, I cheated. Am I disqualified?


Sharmila said...

One word ... captivating! Will come back and read it again. First time writing? Nah! Unbelieveable. :-)

ZB said...

I just dont believe that this is your first attempt.Marvelous.

Your story was a different take, this is what i meant by narrative talent. An excellent Example that plot isnt much, its how you narrate. Too good. Waiting to read more stories from you. Thanks :)

Anonymous said...

This was your first attempt!?! It was amazing..I loved every part of it...The beginning...the middle with the woman in white and the ending. I am so very wowed. :)

PS: Love your header :)

ZB said...

you cheated, alright,but you dont disqualify. In fact you took the story to a new level, hats off.

NR said...

It was really excellent!!
Really was this your first attempt...your too good!! Hope to see more post like these!!!

I liked your style of writing :)!!

Keep blogging!!!

sujata sengupta said...

That was a lovely take> Loved the narration, I think I am going to lose the award to you..boohooo hoooo..

Kavita Saharia said...

All the versions i read were great,all had something very special and different to offer....but this one really touched my heart...this story is blessed by Ma Saraswati.

Blunt Edges said...

bravo!!! :D:D:D
loved it...let's have some more fiction here!!!

N said...

this was really well-woven. i like how you tweaked the plot to convey something deeper. her struggle with grief and coming to terms with the world and her life is very well described. made for a very good read! :)

Mohan said...

Good start! Look forward for more and more stuff coming here. Very well narrated and awesomely presented.

By the way.. Happy durgashtami to you in advance :)

Kavi said...

Come on ! This is not the 1st time. Accept it. Too good to be 1st attempt.


Lovely !!

Pramoda Meduri said...

Hi Aparna,

Thanks for dropping by and for introducig me to ur space..u r a good writer and the naration was sooo candid.

Will come back here again for many more posts..:)

Keep expressing..:)

Aparna said...

Hi Namesake,

Excellent style of writing. Loved it and if this is your first please don't make it your last... you will do well as an author. You have written the emotions out too well....


Unknown said...

amazing!!truly fantabulous!!

Mustaf said...

This is so touching!!the choice of words, the emotions everythying was just right :-)

On another note, why did you change the theme? the previous one was just about perfect you could have just added the Durga Puja image there, this one looking pretty dull...may be the color combination, just my personal opinion :-)

SG said...

Nice one. Cannot believe that this is your first attempt.

Gayathri said...

Spellbinding!! Couldn't miss a single line!

rimz said...

awesome n captivating piece as well....
u love kolkta...i loved to know that dearie... r u frm kol?

n ya thnx fr droppin by n commenting in my blog..:)

Aparna said...

@ Sharmila,thanks. It truly was my first attempt. Do not feel very comfortable writing fiction.

@ ZB, thanks buddy. Glad you liked it. I spent a lot of time thinking about the story,kept on thinking on various themes and finally chose this one.

@ Choco, thanks. I do not really enjoy writing fiction. And the header photo is of the 'para' pujo, taken by husband 2 years back.

@ Nazish, glad you liked it, but I do not think I will write any story for a while. I kind of freeze when I start writing fiction.

@ Sujata, the competition is not over yet. There could be a surprise entry from some one else.

@ Kavita, thanks for your lovely words. I was touched.

@ Blunt edges, thanks. But another story? Not any time soon.

@ Nikita, thanks, really appreciate your encouraging words.

@ Mohan, thank you. Am happy you liked the story.Happy Durga Puja to you too.

@ Kavi, I am willing to swear like a school kid, god promise, never wrote fiction except in school. As an adult, this was honestly my first attempt. I am glad you thought it was good.

@ Pramoda, welcome to my blog. I am glad that you liked my story. I hope you will visit again.

@ Aparna, thanks. Though I can not really promise I will write fiction again.

@ Purnima, thanks. Would you like to contribute to this competition? You must write more often.

@ Mustaf, thank you. About the header, I could not add the picture on my previous layout. the blogger design did not permit me. So I had to choose this one. The photo is a personal one, taken 2 years back. I know what you meant by dull. But since the layout designs are created by blogger, could not do much to brighten it. Will change the layout once Puja is over.

@ SG, thanks. This was indeed my first(and hopefully my last) attempt. Can not say I enjoyed writing it.

@ Gayatri, thanks. I am glad you liked my version, though I deviated a bit.

@ Rimz, thanks. I am from Delhi, though I stay in Mumbai now. Being a Bengali, have always loved Kolkata.

abdul hai said...

beautiful written

Ire said...

You say this is your first try? Sheesh! Damn good! Please write more!

AnjuGandhi said...

what a story. i was compelled to read it right till the end
good you have realised your this hidden talent
now let it florish and churn out more and more of such emotinal stories

Neha said...

pretty good aparna...thr is a tough competition between u and gayathri...lets see who is selected by "in ur words" ZB baby? ;))

The Panorama said...

I guess I will just that I agree with all the superlatives:) This was really good, Aparna and actually am glad you gave it a new turn.

Well done!!

Kavita Saharia said...

Aparna ....because you write so well,why not write something about pet-names used in our eastern part of country like bobon,bapi,tukon,mithu ,chotton etc,i find them very interesting and i would love to read something on this subject written by you....we are well aware of some common pet-names used in some other states of the country(thanks to bollywood )but this side is still unexplored...just a simple request...hey!i am getting greedy here...ignore if you don't want to.

Anonymous said...

Very Very Nice....I don't think I should even attempt writing this story. :)

BK Chowla, said...

If you insist that this was your attempt,I would find it difficult to believe.It is a very well written piece

Meira said...

oh...i thought you had written the sequel to the ones on Sujata's blog :D

Shilpa Garg said...

Amazing! Its so very engrossing and poignant too!!

A wonderful expression you have!! Keep writing!! :)

Apanatva said...

Excellent ! for first attempt it is a great success .
keep it up .
It is a heavenly experience to have a grandchild in your lap and witness all the signs of brain development mnt by mnt .

Parita said...

Its hard to believe its your first attempt! its so captivating, too good!

Sumandebray said...

I am there to celebrate the Puja with you ....
I will come back and read the story.. the reviews are great!

Rajesh said...

Very gripping tale. It is not easy to believe that it is only a story as the scenes unfold n front of my eyes.

Aparna said...

@ Abdul Hai, thanks.

@ Nikki,yes, this was my first. Do not really want to repeat the experience.

@ Anju Gandhi,thanks, I feel I am better at writing non-fiction.

@ Neha, You actually did not deviate from the story at all, so I guess you have a better chance at winning the competition.

@ Panorama, thank you. Am glad you liked the twist.

@ Kavita, One day I was really thinking about writing on pet names. The ones used in the Eastern part of India can be at times hilarious. Let's see if I can do this. I will keep your suggestion in mind.

@ Jyothi, please please please write the story.Great profile pic.

@ BK Chowla, it was honestly my first attempt.

@ Meira,both of us had a different take on this. Hope you enjoyed the stories.

@ Shilpa Garg, thank you. Welcome to my blog. Hope you will visit again.

@ Apnatva, thanks. Congratulations once again on the grandchild.

@ Parita, thank you.

@ Suman, please come back once again and give your honest review.

@ Rajesh, thank you. Glad you liked it.

Urmi said...

You have narrated very beautifully. I liked your post so much that I cannot express you in words. You should publish a book as you are en excellent writer. Keep writing.

Minal said...

Good attempt.

Singapore Short Stories said...

Thanks for your comments on my blog! Singapore is really an organized country, just that there are pockets of tradition that our country would like to preserve.

Nona said...

You not only cheated ZB but also me. Arun with his parents taking care of Priya. I was wondering what kind of twist is this!

But I enjoyed the twist since I read Sujata's version first. So, I was expecting something which never happened.

Nice writing!

You kept the man alive! But, the poor old lady is dead! :)

wanderlust said...

That was really beautiful! You really should try yourhand in fiction!

Shruti said...

Hi aparna,
thanks for dropping by and commenting on my post!
I loved the way you narrated the story!
But i was not so sure of the ending. I have certain questions!
#wedding preparations was going on! Well..who is getting married to whom?Arun and priya?

#Is arun dead or alive?

#If arun is alive why priya jumped from the building!

ani_aset said...

superb aparna.It was fairly gripping, seemed like a nice script for a serial :)
Happy durga puja..when does it start?

Aditya Kasavaraju said...

Fascinatign and absorbing tale. I dont believe this is your first attempt in fiction. If so, you are a natural genius.

Arun Meethale Chirakkal said...

Interesting. First I read Sujata’s story and now yours. It’s raining short stories in blogosphere; a big Thank You to ZB.

In fact, I read it twice. And what I got from the second time was quite different from my first reading. Perhaps my judgement might’ve clouded by these lines from the post script:

“And I did not kill Arun. My blog is a happy place and I could not see a man dying here.”

‘You can kill her mother, but not his lover’ I ground my teeth in anger. Then I saw how much Priya loved her mother and that’s what made her life crumble and collapse, perhaps irretrievably. In the first case, that’s my first reading, even the post script had a say. In that sense the story can be dubbed as post modern, right?

Loved the way you put it across and the twist. And the above mentioned part of the PS still sounds enigmatic to me. You haven’t killed Arun, but still it’s no less tragic. Is there hope? Like Priya comes back to life…

Lovely piece indeed. Beautifully written.

toshali said...

so priya died?

Aparna said...

@ Urmi, thank you very much for reading my story and encouraging me to write.

@ Minal, thank you.

@ Singapore Short Stories, thank you for visiting my blog.

@ Nona, well, I thought Priya's mother is already past her prime so let her die. Moreover I needed a reason for Priya's madness. Arun is too young to die. May be he will reclaim his life one day. I cheated ZB because I did not stick to his version completely.Why did you feel cheated?

@ Wanderlust, thanks.

@ Shruti, There was no wedding. Priya was hallucinating all this while. I said that in the end.
Arun is very much alive.
Priya jumped because she was schizophrenic, she heard a voice telling her to jump.
May be if you read the story again you will get it this time.

@ Anirudh, thanks Ani for appreciating. The bengalis celebrate the Durga Puja from Saptami, the 7th day of the Navaratris. This year Saptami is on the 25th of September.

@ Aditya, this honestly was my first attempt, if you do not count my school girl efforts. Thank you.

@ Arun Meethale Chirakkal, I read all the versions of the story and then I wrote this. Wanted to make this one completely different from others.
I think by killing off the mother, I made the story more tragic. The girl completely loses her mind, that is perhaps sadder than losing a loved one.But at that time, I thought why kill Arun? He is in his prime.
I do not know how the readers feel about the story. I did not enjoy writing this. But over the days have grown quite fond of it. Thank you for writing in your candid comments.

Aparna said...

@ Toshali, no sweety, Priya did not die. She just turned mad.

R. Ramesh said...

thanks wishes always..

Sharmila said...

Came back as promised. :-)
And love your description with .. yes, with ... not of ... colours. And love your way of handling the plot ( yes, I read others' too). I am into the other side of prose though ... but you are really good at this and should go on with writing. :-)

Sai Charan said...

Hi Aparnaji :)

Your narration style is exceptional, it captures reader's attention right through till the end.

Thanks for the invitation, well yes, I'll join the celebrations of "Durga Ma Puja" :)

Keep writing many more, good luck :)

Sai :)

Smita said...


Though found it confusing in bits but over all loved the story!!!

U maintained a suspense!!!

Lovely, u shud now attempt more such stories!!!

Sakshi said...

Aww that's your first attempt *fainted*. It was a gripping story and almost made me lean out too much towards the monitor in anticipation. Excellent and what is this competition going on? I think I have missed quiet a few things happening around here bcoz of eating too much BBJ. Need to check out what's going on at ZB's.

Sakshi said...

Btw I came quiet a few times on your blog but it was not loading up and today i got lucky:)

sanjay vyas said...

Had you not informed me about the story i might have missed it as i was not able to use the net in these days.
one of the finest stories i have read in recent times. a woman stuck in a time frame, trying desperately to get free,ultimately accepting it as destiny.great durga puja gift to us.i hope you keep on writing stories on such issues and characters.every year,
we on radio relay special programme 'mahalaya'a day before partipada.happy 'only days ahead' durga puja.

toshali said...

oh well nicely written

The Unsure Ascetic said...

OMG, I have been following all the versions of this story. I loved yours. The perspective was different which has been treated rather strongly. One thing is for sure, I am irritated with ZB for such a sad initial story line, shall request him for a humorous one nxt. Cheers to life. Twas a gr8 debut.

Nona said...

Having read Sujata's story first, I guessed what would be the guidelines for writing the short story. So, I was expecting Arun to die and Priya to live with the in-laws. So, here I'm ready for a smooth ride and then you threw me off balance.

I should have guessed! You don't stick to rules. :)

Aparna said...

Ramesh, thanks, but did you read the story?

Sharmila, fiction is not my cup of tea. I think this will be my one and only.

Sai charan, long time no see. Where were you? Glad you liked the story.

Smita, thanks. Meant a lot coming from you.

Sakshi, Too much BBJ is not good for the brain, you should know better. As long as you read the story, i am fine. I forgive you for coming late. But tell SJ I am miffed. She has not only stopped blogging, she has also stopped reading.Hmph.

Sanjay Vyas, thank you from the bottom of my heart.I am so glad you liked the story. A lot of people did get confused I guess.
Happy Durga Puja to you also.

Toshali, thanks dear.

Abstract Scientist, thank you. I tried to make this a little different as a lot of people were writing on the same line.I am happy you liked my version.

Nona, how well you know me :D

Sohini Rajpal said...

Hey Aparna,

Been meaning to follow your blog but couldnt. Just started reading and realized what am missing out on...Fantastic work man!!! Really good work. Keep it up and am definitely follow your writing. Cheers. Must take an autograph during next Mumbai trip!

Insignia said...


I forgot myself and got engrossed in your narration.

Excellent!! Waiting for more of your fictions

deeps said...

thats true .. love heals as much as it hurts .. dono which order is the best..!!

vooo ... you just go lala .. when it comes to poring down your ideas to the blog post ha?
didnt get though what's broken... maybe i got lost in the flow..

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Swatantra said...

This is superb!! Whatever attempt is it. This is amazing!!

Guruprasad said...

i don't care if you broke the rules that were set for you for writing this story (rules are meant to be broken, right? :) )

i just loved this one!

now you have a bigger problem on hand! you have to keep matching this and outdoing yourself everytime! :)

R. Ramesh said...

thanksssssssssss dearrr...

eye-in-sty-in said...

ok. i got confused. Had to read it twice to comprehend it.... The description of the characters was vivid, but the story thread was winding... "ek kahani" types... I used to like the serial, but some of the episodes confused me... this could have been one of those episodes...

Mystic Margarita said...

Loved it! Very gripping! Hope you continue to write short stories - you have a gift for characterization.

Haven't been very active in the blogosphere lately, will catch up on the posts I missed.

ZB said... many comments...and you still aint pleased with the numbers? I would kill for anything close to half of this. Nobody likes ZB...SOB...EEEEEEEWWWWWWW.....but frankly do you still care for the numbers...For me i am more than happy if Aparna, Sujata, Abstract, Gay3, Jyothi, Anju, Panorama, Neha comment on my is all a bonus....TC:))

Sakshi said...

I have conveyed the sad news to SJ that bcoz she is not visiting your place you have decided to only take me as your Shishya to part with your writing skills :). Hope that threat will lure her here from Zulfi's arms :)

Deeps said...

that was superb piece of it connected to Sujata's version,if I may ask?I somehow felt so.But you gave a different twist altogether which was appealing too.

This is your first attempt at fiction...amazing!keep writing,Aparna!

Onkar said...

Excellent. The piece reveals another side of you.

Diwakar Sinha said...

It was a captivating story.
had a good time with it
nice piece of fiction :)

Sandhya said...

I am a bit late, Aparna. Thank god, I didn't miss it. This is too good. I believe when you say that you wrote it. Your posts are very narrative. Your writing is excellent. This is THE best, Aparna. Keep it up. Dil maange more!

Aparna said...

Hi everyone, sorry for replying so late to all of you. I have been very busy the last few days.

Thanks Sohini, coming from you it meant a great deal. I hope you will also start writing soon. Though I know you are extremely busy.

Thanks Insignia, I am glad you liked the story, welcome to my blog.

Thanks Deep. By broken, I meant the mind. Priya's mind was completely shattered and the line between her reality and imaginery world had blurred.

Thanks Swatantra, I am so happy.

Thanks Guruprasad, I am seeing you here after a long time. I am glad you liked the story.

Thanks Ramesh.

Hi Einstein. I think my mind was wandering, hence the confusion in the story.

Hi,Mystic Margarita, glad you liked the story.

Hi ZB, yeh dil always maange more.But no matter how many comments I get, I always miss the regulars. But yes I am happy with the response. So when do we get the result?

Sakshi, what will it take to tear away SJ from Zulfie's arms?

Thanks Deeps, this was a part of a competion. That is why Sujata's and my story had a lot of common things.

Thanks Onkar, I am glad you liked the story.

Thanks Diwakar, welcome to my space.

Hi Sandhya, I am so glad you liked the story. I was not sure of my fiction writing abilities. I have never written a short story earlier. Hope I was able to describe Priya's bizarre world through my writing.

ekta khetan said...

I don’t know what exactly zillion asked you but this was amazing and the way it unfolded was so unpredictable.

Great job done :)

Should i also try this one zillion? hmmm let me see..

Unknown said...

That is a nice fiction. I am glad you cheated!!