Designed by Neil D’Silva 

Vengeance –A

Sting in Every Tale 

A WRIMO INDIA anthology

Edited by

Sonia Rao 

Disclaimer : All proceeds from the sale of this anthology will be donated to NaNoWriMo. 

Designed by Sujata

Patnaik 

Blurb 

A reply to a perceived injustice can take many forms one of which is vengeance. An eye for an

eye can only end up making the whole world blind, is what Mahatma Gandhi once said. And it seems to

be coming quite true, if latest events world-wide are an indication.

Is there any hope or are we hurtling towards extinction?

Hopefully, the stories will explore some of these questions. But that is on the macro level. It

might be easy to look at things objectively, in black and white, when it is other nations involved. Or even

other people. We are able to be more forgiving of transgressions when they don’t involve us

personally.

But how would one react if they found themselves in the maelstrom of situations that do fall

somewhere in the grey area of life? With no definite black and white answers?

How would a jilted lover react in face of infidelity? Or how would a friend avenge the murder of

her best friend? Or, is it fair to be punished for a crime that you were not brave enough to

prevent?

These and many more questions connected to vengeance have been grappled with in this

anthology.


created by Archana Sarat 

EXCERPT OF FIRST CHAPTER

​Bus number 131 whirred away, pulling its own weight unwillingly. It was one of the many buses

to pass through the Relief road, a busy road in the old part of Ahmedabad. Shazia had an option, the

crowed 88 or the overcrowded 131. She preferred to be 30 minutes before time to board 131. Her

choice was motivated by her love for the palindromic 1-3-1. Her undying infatuation with prime

numbers was inexplicable.

Nineteen year old Shazia loved numbers, and to be more precise, she adored Mathematics in all

its form. She also loved the rules, the principles, the working theorems, the equations which tried to

make sense of the majestic menagerie of numbers. She was fascinated even by the mere shape of

numbers. She did not remember when or even how her romance with Maths began. But in her earliest

memories, she preferred practicing her numbers over the alphabet, she remembered that she recited

tables better than her nursery rhymes.

She was short and a bit stocky. Also, a couple of shades darker than was acceptable in the

marriage market. However, her looks never bothered her, nor did she ever yearn for fairer skin, or

thinner body. What she craved was a disheveled mass of hair, for some uncanny resemblance to

Einstein, the only pop icon modern science managed to have produced. But her mother plaited her hair,

dashing her hopes to ground. She also longed for a pair of spectacles with glasses so thick that it blurred

her eyeballs, indicating the wearer’s brilliance. But she, despite getting checked for vision from her

mother’s ophthalmologist, was denied the hallowed implement. Thrice.

Shazia valued her bus ride a lot. She had to convince Papa to allow her to commute to her

college on her own. She had concealed her indignation about needing her father’s permission for every

little trifle, even after being categorised as an adult by the Government of India. Papa consented only

after he was told that Noor too would start using the bus if Shazia were to give her company.

Go Rolling Tales: Roll out writer’s block

How many of you writers and budding writers complain of general lack of inspiration? You may crave for a helping hand, some divine inspiration, some planetary conspiracy, actually anything but yourself who enables you to write words; until words become a line, and lines swell into paragraphs and fill up pages.

A few months back, I came across an interesting game, called Rolling Tales, created by a Delhi based company called Chalk and Chuckles. It comes with 9 dices, out of which 6 are illustrated writing prompts and 3 dices indicating dominant emotions in the piece to be written, furthermore, there is a paper folder with separate sections for plotting, drafting, revising and editing. I bought it as I thought it would enable my son and I to create stories around diverse objects. I never expected it to be more than a weekend activity with my gabby three year old, however, I postponed unboxing it for some reason.

One afternoon, I was so dazed and uninspired and had no clue on what to write. I looked around the room and saw a glaring yellow box. The Rolling Tales game box. I was a bit hesitant, shall I actually utilize the game I bought for my preschooler, to work out the haloed writer’s block?  Wasn’t I a serious writer, after all? Thankfully, I didn’t give in to my cynicism.  I opened the cloth pouch, and rolled out three dices. I was amused to draw out the most bizarre prompts ever! I strived and created an equally bizarre story.  So, the days when I feel too constricted, I actually roll these magical dices and churn out stories of very different styles, setting and even genres. I could experiment a lot because of these.

I looked at the box carefully, it read, Age: 5-99 years.

There isn’t any age bar for telling and enjoying a story, and surely none for learning to tell a story!

Be on a roll!

Bahubali, Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Bechdel Test

Plot one: (Setting : Some Century BC,  Mahismaati)

After the night of magical union, I decided to plunge into my deadly mission. I sedated him, my own love. He who had made me aware of my beauteous form, he who had initiated me into the pleasures of bodies, it was him, whom I  cheated.

How drab was my life before I met him, how I had disregarded my youth, my desires, and how he made me get in touch with my true self, “You are a girl,” he had said and “I am a man.” All those years of merciless martial training seemed worthless at that ephemeral moment of carnal knowledge.

I must have been thinking of him, when I was ambushed by the soldiers of the Empire. I had lost all hope, when he struck them like a thunder, he took on the entire army, he recused me, he made me swoon over him, all over again.

I was wounded. He dressed me very tenderly. He had taken a decision for both of us, he firmly declared, “You cannot go, I shall take your mission forward. You are mine, and so your enemies are mine, your mission is mine too. I shall go and rescue Devasena!” His determination muffled my efforts of  dissuading him. He marched towards his mission. I pray he comes back safe, I pray he succeeds in rescuing our Queen, my Mistress.

He shall get all the glory in this world, which was meant to be mine. But he deserves it, of course. And I? I shall wait. Wait patiently, wait quietly, and sigh.  While my feminine heart shall beat rhythmically in a body with heightened consciousness of its weaknesses and beauty.

Plot two: (Setting: Contemporary Old Delhi and POK)

People may think he is stupid, but I love him.

How can anyone look like a Greek god and be so simple? He is innocent; so very childlike. With chiseled muscles and body of Hercules, he bows down in front of every stray, rabid monkey that hops his way. I mean, how cute is that?  Isn’t his a heart of gold? He is working hard to get a house. My father knows how important it is for a man to be the primary earning member of the family, he is sort of training my love in masculinity. And my man is ever so eager to please, to prove.

Things were perfect till he found himself a lost girl. My hero is now determined to send the girl back to her parents in a different country. I even gave him the money we were saving up for our house. I had to support his mission wholeheartedly. After all, his mission is my cooperation.
He is long gone, and I am waiting. He shall return only after handing over the girl to her parents. I shall wait. It comes to me naturally. Mother keeps on asking if I know of his whereabouts. How do I know? I only know of my part. I make sure that I look like a woman waiting for her man should look like. I wear no extra makeup while he is away. Father is worried stiff, sometimes, I suspect that he is worried that he shall return, rather than being afraid that he won’t.

Plot three: (Setting: Two women discussing which films to watch, it is now called Bechdel Test)

Woman One:  “I have this rule, see…I go to a movie if it satisfies three basic requirements. One it has to have at least two women in it, two, who talk to each other,three, about something besides a man”
Woman Two:  “Pretty strict, but a good idea.”

Plot Four: (Setting: Parallel Universe)
Two star studded films, released  this July, flops after failing the Bechdel’s Test.

Excerpt 1

He borrowed slate and chalk stick from the estate accountant’s son, after he decided that he shall learn to read and write. Enough of asking others to write his letters. Enough of shelling out an anna every time there was a missive to be read. Pieces of paper will talk to him too. Now books will open up their secret world for him too. Who knows, perhaps, after learning to write, his father may grow fond of him?  He struggled with the first two letters, “aa” “aaa”. How serpentine these letters were! Wish it were easier than this. It took a lot effort, just holding a puny chalk between his stubby fingers. His fingers hurt. He immediately wanted to give up the pursuit. There were many more of these shapes to go. Its surely was way more simpler to speak than it was to read or write, he thought. He could have spoken so much during the time he was merely practicing first two of this large set. Show me your next letter, son” he asked the seven year old. The boy pulled out a twig from the nearby branch and drew on the red mud, “ee, eee”. He then, with a lifted chin, recited the entire set, “aa, aaa, ee, eee, uu, uuu, ae, ai, ao, aou,…” as pompously as an estate accountant’s son ought to.  Ramappa couldn’t bear the gibberish anymore.Don’t show off! Go slow boy.” You look like a bull and have a brain of a bull too!”the boy retorted. If you act too smart, I warn you, your teeth will all come rattling down. Just write the letters I need to learn today, and be off. ” The boy whispered, “Stupid Bull!” before bolting away. To be laughed at by someone so young hurt Ramappa a lot. But the latest epithet confered to him by his father had stung him deep. The words”Illiterate boar” resounded in his head constantly. Ramappa was determined, he spat the chalk stick he was nibbling at and carved, “ee” which such ferocity that it sounded like screeching car tyres on monsoon roads.

Someone hurled a stone at her sky.

Someone hurled a stone at her sky.

The glazed ceiling came tumbling down, though the target was high. There wasn’t a crash, nothing brash, just a gentle swoosh of a blanket slipping by. Now, the moon was cracked in the middle, frayed at edges, an anemic blot in the crumbled remains of the western sky. The sky splinters dropped down as snow flakes. The blue crumbs fell with a sigh. Refused to melt so on the warm earth below. Chemical arrogance, some thought it was, this blatant refusal to blend, with the elements of the periodic chart. Or was it stubborn sadness, fanatic discontent of the migrants with shattered hearts? They floated clumsily, those miserable shiny dots. Hungry kids tried to tease them, touch them, hoping they balm for their craving guts. But they refused to be touched, closed themselves shut. Ethereal, but condemned to earth, these blots, just like her who owned the sky. What hope could she live by?

Someone hurled a stone at her sky.

Mindfulness in the Kitchen

In the quiet time of a high decibel neighbourhood, when most of the living souls are fast asleep, you hear the steady stream of flowing water, the occasional gurgle of the sink, a gentle swoosh of scrubbing, utensils rubbing against each other, friendly banter of steel products,

“Time for a bath, you oily minx!” greets a pot

“The pot is calling the kettle black, you greasy pig!” a saucy sauce pan retorts.

The clean pot, pan, boilers of all shapes and sizes, ladles and spoons big and small come gleaning clean.

After a while, you hear wood pecking sounds with inconsistent rhythm. That’s vegetables being chopped: heap of onion slices, shreds of radishes, cubes of tomatoes bleeding out juice. Then starts the musical whirr of the mixer, working its way on the masala. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

The pan on the stove will start puffing shortly, while the pressure cooker eagerly wishes to whisper a secret. “Psst, psst, lisssssssssten”, it goes.

But the pan is unimpressed, it keeps making smoke rings and blowing on the cooker’s eager face. Cooker has to gulp it down, suppress its emotion, till it cannot contain itself at all. Then it burst out with a deafening scream. The pan who had snubbed the cooker, gives it a silent deference, “Wow, man!” Being accustomed to crying out loud, the cooker now screams out every now and then, till a pacifying hand turns off the knob of the stove, “Cool down dear friend and we shall see what’s inside, but first let the steam off.” Cooker exhales deeply, “Ahhaaaaa!”

Pulses are done just right.

Then comes the tempering. Watch out for the naughty little mustard seeds running off the kadhai, but then finally hissing into submission. Some jeera powder, some haldi, some hing, and what fragrant gandharvas will float in your kitchen.

And I watch all this action unfold, with a mix of anxiety and patience. I love the beauty of everyday chores, especially while I am not doing it! Actually, while I am at it, oh, I sting, I bite and brutally too.

A writer, a mother, full time Assistant Professor in a college, I already had my hand full, or so I thought. Life without a maid, I knew was going to be challenging. Every day, I ended up watching chaos unleashing in my house. I remembered Yeats as I tidied up the disarrayed house for n’th time,

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”

I was exploding. Oh, the drudgery of it. How different is a woman’s work from Sisyphus’? A constant sense of déjà-vu. The endless cycles of laundry, like Karmic cycle, what goes around comes around, and dirtier! I scourge the greasy utensils, but the thought of doing it yet again, in a few hours stained my mind. Countless meals to be prepared, cooked, fed and eaten. Meals to be frozen, reheated, distributed, disposed. Oh the rigmarole of every life! Shouldn’t I be doing something more important? Or glamorous than this? Can’t it be any better for a gazillions of women around the world?

I tried patience. I failed. I tried laziness, the famous ‘I don’t clean the lot till it rots’ attitude, it was a disaster. I tried Gratitude, “I am grateful that I have a family to cook for, a house to clean, I have so many clothes to wash, which means I have dough to buy them.” I felt less dis-empowered.

Then one day, I read Leo Babauta from Zen Habits blog. And I read this in one of his posts:

“Washing dishes can be as great as anything else, if you decide to see it that way. You’re in solitude, which is a beautiful thing. If you do it mindfully, washing dishes can be pleasant as you feel the suds and water in your hands, pay attention to the dish and its texture, notice your breathing and thoughts. It’s meditation, it’s quiet, it’s lovely.” – Leo Babauta

Thich Nhat Hanh in his The Miracle of Mindfulness also writes about the wonders of everyday work in developing mindfulness. I must say, this knowledge changed my relationship with housework. Instead of seeing myself as a drudge, I now see it as a ‘me-only time’. It makes me push my limits, it makes me move out of my comfort zone. I may not be in the best of moods while mopping that corner near the cupboard, but I am doing it without whining, which is a galactic shift.

Since a few days, I think I have got a handle into doing dishes. I prepare my lectures, plan my day and visualize my book chapter while washing utensils. It certainly doesn’t seem like a waste of time.

The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. – Agatha Christie

So, there you go, all you need is a perspective.

“sssstttt”, coots my pressure cooker in agreement.

Why read Poetry…

IMG_1386

This is a shout out on why read poetry when you can be called cool or hot or whatever temperature setting you are comfortable with, by doing hazaar other stuff.

Wait! Please don’t minimize the window, don’t stop reading this post, not yet.

Why so aversive to reading poem? I know, a few years back, when language first came to you, it came through lullabies that your mother sang for you. Socialization came to you through nursery rhymes. So deep down, there is that soul of poetry which high decibel i-pods could not drown. My mother sighs even today, when she fondly remembers that truthful cow, Punyakoti, from the poem taught to her in school. My grandma’s trained voice still falters, choked by Karuna Rasa, every time she recites of the mother breastfeeding her calves for the last time. My friend dotes on Charan Kanya, a Gujarati poem about that girl in the forest who scares away lion through her sheer gaze. This unnamed girl has a celebrity status in Gujarat for so many generations now.

Read poems because they are a part of you, your world, your social fabric, your moral fiber.

Read poems, so that you can connect to those who are dead already, but speak through the invisible wall between this life and after.

Our Gods arrive to us with lotus legs, in the chariots of heavily adorned poems.

Love happens when you grow so heady that you exhale borrowed poems like your own. On reading Sonnet 18 in that excited state, does bard’s English bother you? No, you float. You mount on that verse and rocket away to the moon.

Adorned with alankaras or bare, packed with a rhyme scheme or without surround sound, poetry plays us. Starts off with the flutter of a butterfly’s wings, it goes out to rearrange the stars. Every time it rains, or you see a flower in bloom, poetry gives you the words, the skeleton in which you can flesh out your feelings. Every time your heart is torn apart or manhandled or walked over, poetry provides you that balm. Like strong tobacco you can fag it out, or drink it deep as Devdas did his alcohol.

It’s so tiny, yet all encompassing. It’s the crunchy nut of knowledge in the shell of words.

It does not provide statistics, neither working principles or truths, nor anything quantifiable. Who has ever become a millionaire by reading wayward verses? But those who don’t read poem at all, may as well stop reading altogether, and accept the poverty of their lives. Because all the prose in kindle won’t sweeten their little minds. Or give them wisdom; that outdated word; or a profound perspective on love, life and this world, that countless PDFs of downloadable poetry so freely provides.

Poetry is a terrific container, air tight, non-spill , better than your Tupperware. Every time you open it, you sniff that personal homemade aroma, that bitter-sweet- tangy smell of reheated memories come back fresh, despite all the preservatives in the deep freeze of the past.

Relive again,

 That special glance,

Finding luck when you had no chance

That cup you shared looking at the moon

Bathing in the first rain of monsoon

That never ending winter of pain,

Crying till you laugh insane

Your father’s jokes,

Your mother’s hair

Your old socks,

That long drive,

Those impossible travel plans

All those moments that make up

The slow motion,

Vintage movie of your life.

So, every time you feel you are about to burst out but you are speechless, every time you open your mouth with a mindful, but no word peters out, try a spoonful of Poetry.

Keep it in your mouth for a while. Slowly suck every word, one after another. Then chew unhurriedly. Finally, swallow it.

Feel it slide smoothly down your throat, feel it mix instantly with your blood.

You may have some burning sensation somewhere in your midriff.

Experts consider that normal. Its a litmus test used for differentiating the alive from the dead.  But if this sensation persists, I insist that you consult a fellow reader or a lover. Share a poem or two with her. Pass it around.

Repeat the process, if required.

Dosage: Once a day before going to bed. At least.

For Best Results: Read it aloud

Expiry: Eternity