The Menace of Advancement

There was a time when things were different. Samina wondered where that time went. When there were no mobile phones and social networking services and people just sat face to face to talk to each other. Nowadays these young people didn’t have time for anything. Just rushing about everywhere glued to their mobile phones. Texting had replaced real conversations. And the children were even worse. Instead of playing outside they were playing those dastardly games on their iPads.

Samina adjusted the chair in front of her and put her legs up so that the sunshine would warm them. Her doctor had told her that she needed Vitamin D and the sun helped produce it in the body. She put the newspaper to one side and looked around. The gardener was completely useless and the garden looked a mess. How she wished she had more energy to do it herself. She would show him how to look after a garden. She remembered how she had won first prize in the “Best Garden” competition and she had been too shy to collect the prize. Instead Ahmed had collected in on her behalf. What a wonderful time that was. When husbands would come home from work much before night fell. And these young ones today; they seemed to spend half the night at work. They didn’t know how unhealthy it was for them and their families.

Samina wondered what Ahmed would have thought of this new lifestyle. It probably was good that he didn’t live to see this day. She remembered how he would make sure that all the children sat together at meal times and recounted their day. Nowadays everyone had their own timings and nobody sat together. There was one eating in front of the TV, another one in her room and the youngest just ate like a bird.

Just then her oldest granddaughter came sobbing into the porch “Oh Grandma, my life is over!”

Drama, there was too much of it these days.

“What happened, dear?”

“It’s Imran, I’ve had it with him. I never want to see him again.” Imran was her fiancé of ten days.

“What did he do? He’s such a nice young man.”

“He told me that my new hair style doesn’t suit me. If he’s not going to support me in my decisions what kind of life will we have?”

There was too much contact these days between the couple before their wedding. Samina remembered how she had seen Ahmed for the first time on their engagement and the second time on their wedding. Still they had spent a wonderful 52 years together.

“I’m sure he didn’t say it like that. And please dear, don’t jump to conclusions over such a small matter”.

“Oh Grandma, you don’t understand!” wailed the distraught young girl and went back inside the house.

Yes it was true, thought Samina, she didn’t understand this young lot at all. They didn’t have the resilience and tolerance that she had as a young wife. Of course there were going to be problems but you were supposed to stick together and solve them, not just quit on each other.

With the sun shining on her and a breeze blowing across the garden, Samina had begun to feel sleepy. “I’ll just have a quick nap before afternoon tea” she thought to herself.

She dreamed she was sitting on a boat in a lake full of lotus flowers. She was drifting without any paddles when she saw Ahmed on the shore. Her heart skipped a beat. She wanted to row towards him but she didn’t have any paddles. He was waving and smiling from the shore. She used her hands to steer the boat towards the shore. Ahmed held out his hand to her.

“Grandma isn’t waking up!” shouted the little boy clutching an iPad in one hand. “Mummy, come quickly”.

—————————————————————–

This story has been written for the Speakeasy #147 in which the first line was given as “There was a time when things were different.” and reference was to be given to the photo prompt (two parrots).

Fair and Lovely (short story)

I have spent years chasing the tail of my darkness. I used to spend all my pocket money on beauty creams promising to lighten my skin tone. But unlike those girls I saw on TV in “Fair and Lovely” ads I would not transform into a white beauty in 14 days. Not even in a month.

I was the only sister of 4 brothers. My brothers would tease me calling me a “Kali Bhutni” (black demon) and tell me that no man would ever love me. I would tease them back by telling them that their wives would refuse to cook their food in fear of spoiling their white hands.

I would often hear my mother talking to my father about me in the courtyard at night. “What will we do? Who will marry her?” she would say to which my father would reply “Why? She’s educated and talented, any man would be lucky to have her.” I loved my father more than anyone in the world but my mother was right. Many women from nearby villages who were hoping to find a daughter in law would come to our house since my father was well known and respected in the village. But when they would see me they would leave in a hurry giving some excuse or the other. Soon I stopped coming in front of these women even though my mother kept harassing me.

My father used to play cards with his friends every Friday afternoon after prayers. My mother thought it was all a waste of time, but my father saw no harm in it. They played without money and it was just a chance to sit together and gossip about the village happenings. My brothers would watch them in the courtyard and I would peek out of my room much to my mother’s annoyance.

It was one such afternoon that I saw him for the first time. He had come with his father and was watching them play and listening to their gossip. His smiling face lit up my heart and when he said something to his father I strained my ears to hear his voice. When someone made a joke and everyone laughed, he laughed with them and my heart skipped a beat. I think it was when I was trying to compose myself when my younger brother noticed me staring at the stranger.

“Apa Bhutni what’s going on?” smirked my brother. “Shut up Abrar” I said and quickly went inside my room, shutting the door. That evening I wrote my first poem. I had tried many times before but I think I had lacked inspiration. Now my feelings flowed into words and my words took flight like butterflies in the wind.

A few days later I caught my younger brother stealing from my mother’s jar of change. I didn’t rat on him, instead I asked him for a favor. “Do you remember that young man who came with Chacha Rashid? Just give him something and I won’t tell Ammi what you were doing”.

The next Friday afternoon as I was peeking out of my room I was sure Haider (for that was his name) glanced towards me. I darted inside and prayed that he had not seen me for I was sure that if he would see me he would never want to talk to me. That evening Abrar brought me a message from him. My hands shook as I opened the piece of paper.

It simply said: “You are as beautiful as your words.”

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This short story has been written for The Speakeasy #145 where the first line had to be “I have spent years chasing the tail of my darkness.” and some reference was to be given to the art prompt, a painting entitled The Card Players.

Beauty and the Beast (Short Story)

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There was a crash in the hallway. The little boy went running out of the house shouting “It was an accident, it was an accident!” He ran through the gate without looking back.

His aunt was the strictest woman he had ever encountered and Ali had never been more scared of anyone in his life. He hated coming to visit her but his father had insisted that the beauty of the place she lived in, more than made up for any sternness on his sister’s part.

When at last he was too tired to run anymore, he stopped and looked around.

This place was more beautiful than any he had ever seen. There were slopes of green grass with bright flowers and fruit trees as far as the eye could see. Red and purple spotted butterflies danced over the flowers. Each slope had a stream of sparking clear water with orange and yellow fish swimming in it and occasionally jumping up as if to admire the scenery. The air was fresh with a lingering fragrance of fruit and flowers.

The serenity of the place did not betray the dangers lurking within.

Ali picked a juicy red apple from a tree nearby and began to devour it.

Meanwhile a search party consisting of his parents, his aunt and her driver had already begun to look for him. “There are wolves out there at night” his aunt had warned his father, “We have to find him before dark”.

It was some time before Ali realized that he was completely lost. He had done some exploring before on his previous visit but he had never ventured this far before. “Never mind” he thought to himself, “I’ll live here forever. There’s enough fruit and water. I won’t go hungry”.

When the search party found him a few hours later, he was lying fast asleep in thick green grass with a pile of apple cores and orange peels next to him.

“Oh Ali, you gave us a scare!” said his mother hugging him.

“Never do that again, young man” said his father.

“I’m sorry” said Ali with sleepy eyes. “And I’m sorry Aunt Wajiha for breaking your vase.”

“It was just a cheap copy I bought in a sale Ali, do you know there are wolves in these parts at night?”

On their way back home Ali couldn’t help but thinking about what his aunt had told him. Is that where he had seen her sneaking off to one night? Is that why she lived here far away from civilization? And is that why she was so mean? Ali wondered if he had inherited any of her werewolf blood. Suddenly he felt excited about the rest of his holidays.

Maid to Order

She was a diminutive woman with a quiet manner and a kind face.

She pushed the stroller with the little boy as her “Madam” walked ahead at a fast pace. Her uniform was a long checked shirt with loose trousers. She was not spoken to except to be given instructions. Her charge in the stroller let out a cry and the woman walking in front of her turn back to glare at her. “Keep him quiet” she snarled. As her employer entered shop after shop she was given heavy shopping bags to hold as well. Finally after 3 hours they returned home.

She lived in a small room cum store in the corner of the 5 bedroom villa. Her work had been detailed to her since the day she arrived from Philippines.  She was to clean the entire villa every day, do the laundry and ironing and look after the little boy who was not yet going to school. Another maid was there before her and had the bigger room. She did the cooking and looked after the elder girl when she was not in school. She was from Indonesia and didn’t speak much.

Their madam did not beat them like the stories she had heard from other people; she gave them food and one day off every month, but she was not kind either. They were allowed to phone home once a month only.

She lived for the 15 minutes she would get to talk to her family every month.

She had left her 5 year old son with her sister and come to work in the Emirates so her son could have a better life. Her husband had left her for another woman years ago and didn’t bother to send their son any money. Now thanks to the money she was sending home he was going to a good school and could buy his books and clothes. But her heart would break every time her son would ask her when she was coming home. She would keep telling him soon but she knew she had 18 months left before she could go home.

She also looked forward to the half hour she had every afternoon when she would take the little boy to the park. She could talk to the other maids while keeping an eye on the boy. She felt she could breathe again when she was out of the house.

That fateful day as she was bringing the boy back home in his stroller, her mind was elsewhere. Her son was sick and she had not been able to talk to him during the call. She was so occupied in her thoughts that she didn’t see the yellow sports car speeding down the street as she crossed the road. She was shaken out of her reverie as the car honked. She panicked as she saw the car heading for the stroller. She only had seconds to make a decision. She pushed the stroller hard out of the way and braced herself. The brakes screeched but it was too late.

As she lay dying on the street she saw the boy crying in his stroller. He was crying for her. She had saved him, but her mind had only one thought.

“Who will save my son now?”

This story has been written in response to the Daily Prompt: Imagine All the People and inspired by a scene at a mall.

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