BlogchatterA2Z~Marriage

Bhoomi sensed a change in Anita after the visit of Derek Rogers. While outwardly Anita seemed to be the same, she was a little more distracted than usual and let Harish get away with a lot more pranks. Though Derek did not visit again, Bhoomi could see that Anita’s glance went towards the gate more often. Bhoomi, however, didn’t have much time to focus on Anita’s problems. Something seemed to be brewing at her grandparent’s house. Something, that involved Bhoomi and Shalini.

One day, when Bhoomi reached home after a fun day with Harish and Anita, she found her mother, grandmother and aunt in the drawing-room, surrounded by silk sarees. Bhoomi’s aunt was placing the folded sarees on Shalini’s shoulders, to compare it with Shalini’s complexion. The sarees were then kept in accept or reject piles. Surrounded by the stack of sarees, Shalini stood still as a statue, nodding yes or no, only when spoken to. Looking at the three of them, Bhoomi felt a frisson of fear. She disclosed to Harish the uneasiness she felt by the shifting winds at home. Harish, in his nonchalant way, told her she was borrowing trouble. Harish counselled Bhoomi to wait and see what happens. But it was getting harder for Bhoomi. Her grandmother and aunt had started keeping a tab on her comings and goings. They frowned upon her constant running away to Anita’s home to play with Harish. They wanted her to wear fancy frocks and be neat and demure all day long. And then one day, her aunt dragged her back when she was sneaking away to meet Harish.

The aunt gave her a hard slap for disobeying them as they had forbidden her to go to Anita’s house. As Bhoomi looked at her aunt in hatred, her aunt dropped a bombshell. Her aunt told her that Shalini’s marriage had been arranged. The groom was an Indian businessman based in the US. Match with him would help Bhoomi’s uncle’s business in India. The prospective groom had been kind enough to turn a blind eye to Bhoomi’s parentage and was willing to adopt her. Shalini and Bhoomi would be relocating to the US after the wedding, which was to take place in September. The aunt warned Bhoomi not to jeopardize the match by associating with ragamuffin Harish and spinster Anita. Bhoomi “owed it to them“, according to her aunt.

Bhoomi couldn’t believe her ears, how could Shalini forget the love she had for Ram Singh? On top of that, they had to leave India. How would Bhoomi survive in an alien land? First, she had lost her father, and now she would lose Harish and Anita too. Shalini found Bhoomi hours later, crying her heart out in their room after the altercation. Shalini patted Bhoomi soothingly but kept quiet. Shalini knew that words would be futile. Bhoomi was in too much pain to understand why Shalini had said yes to the marriage. Shalini was tired of feeling helpless, of being unable to help her child. She was aware of the constant bullying of Bhoomi. Shalini was struggling to survive without Ram Singh. Memories of Ram Singh kept coming back again and again to torture Shalini. It was like having a constant thorn in her heart, making her bleed. She kept dreaming of the simple, love-filled life she had before. Of the happiness, that had slipped away from her.

The only recourse left for Shalini was to move away, to go so far away that the memories couldn’t touch them. Shalini wanted to make a new life for Bhoomi, away from the negativity, the criticisms, and the memories.

And so in America, the land of new beginnings, Shalini wanted their lives to begin afresh.


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BlogchatterA2Z~Love

Bhoomi ran to Anita’s home and came to an abrupt halt. A gleaming white car stood in the driveway. Bhoomi wondered who the visitor was. Anita had not had a single visitor in the ten months Bhoomi had been visiting her. Feeling hesitant in entering the house as she usually did, she skirted the house going to the back where Harish and Makhan’s room was. Bhoomi found Harish playing there with Sheroo. After petting Sheroo, she asked Harish who the visitor was. Harish gave a disinterested shrug and replied that some angrez Laat Saab had come. Bhoomi gave an irritated look to Harish, she was curious about the unknown stranger. On further prodding, Harish divulged that when Anita had seen the stranger, she had gone white with shock. The gentleman had called her darling and had taken her hand. They both had then gone inside and been there for the better part of an hour. Bhoomi was mystified. She had never seen Anita get even a letter, then who was this stranger who called her darling. Questioning Harish more didn’t help. He didn’t care about Anita’s visitor, he was more interested in finding if Bhoomi had managed to borrow some money from Shalini for the kite strings, which Bhoomi hadn’t. Bhoomi played with Harish and Sheroo, but her mind was on the car and the stranger. Suddenly they both heard the car door slam shut. They ran to the front of the house to see the car reversing away from the driveway and Anita standing quietly on the verandah. Bhoomi could see that Anita seemed a little agitated by the way Anita stood, with her arms crossed across her chest. Bhoomi ran to hug Anita to ease her discomfort. As Anita’s hands came around Bhoomi to hug her back, a tear trickled down Anita’s cheek. Anita’s heart had been disturbed by the visitor from the past. She couldn’t believe that after twenty years, Derek Rogers was back.

Born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, Derek had been the equivalent of royalty in the British community of the town. Derek and Anita had known each other when children, but their lives had diverged as they grew up. Derek, following his family’s tradition, joined the army. Soon he was posted overseas during the second world war. Anita grew up to be an exotic rose. Full of wit and beauty, she was much in demand, with many suitors. One day, while hurrying out of the bakery with a cake for her best friend Edith, she bumped into a solid male form in an army uniform. It was Derek. As Anita looked into Derek’s blues eyes, both felt a sizzle between them. Anita blushed and stammering an apology, rushed away, leaving Derek staring at her back. Thus started the courtship of Anita and Derek. It soon became very obvious to the town that they both were deeply in love with each other. Each day that Derek could spare from his leave were spent with Anita. With the war soon over, Derek had started thinking about resigning his commission from the army and joining his father’s business. A year passed by in daydreams and whispering sweet nothings to each other. 

It was a crisp autumn night. Derek and Anita were enjoying a dance party at the club. Derek looked exceptionally handsome in his Army uniform and a row of medals gleaming on his chest. At twenty-five, he was filled with good humour, ready to lend a helping hand to a friend. Anita wore a peach coloured silk with silver heels. Her neck was adorned with the pearl necklace her father had gifted her recently for her nineteenth birthday. Her dark, wavy hair inherited from her mother, were cut into a fashionable bob. She glowed with happiness and love. After a vigorous foxtrot, Derek held on to Anita’s hand and drew her outside, away from prying eyes. There, under the twinkling stars with air perfumed by the roses, Derek went down on one knee and proposed to Anita. At Anita’s excited nod, Derek gently put on the sparkling ring on Anita’s finger. As Anita breathed in Derek’s cologne, she couldn’t believe her good fortune. Not only had Anita found her Prince Charming, but he also loved her deeply enough to ignore the fact that Anita was half-white. Anita knew that while her beauty and money had opened the doors of society for her, she was still not totally acceptable. They called her an exotic rose not only for her beauty but also pointing to her mixed parentage. That night Anita felt as if she was the luckiest girl alive.

While the two lovers were lost in their world of love, the world around them was changing. India was undergoing a metamorphosis. The dashing new Governor-General had announced that the British would be leaving India, leaving behind two countries instead of one. The mad frenzy of partition had not yet reached Anita’s town. Life on the surface continued its placid pace, but there were rumblings underneath. The British community realised that they now needed to make a decision about their future. Slowly, the families started packing and leaving. Anita’s father was in a quandary. He was white, but he had been born and brought up in India. Britain was alien to him. He had no desire to start life afresh in a cold, uninviting country, leaving the life of luxury he enjoyed. India was dear and familiar to him. India was the country that had given him the love of his life, and where she was buried. He decided not to leave Ethni, the home he had built for his love.

Two months after their engagement, Anita sat on the verandah, pensively thinking about all the friends she had already waved goodbye to. When Derek roared up on his two-seater Roadstar, Anita’s face lit up with a radiant welcome smile which faded on seeing Derek’s serious face. He brought ill tidings. His father had sold their estate to an Indian princeling. His family was moving to Britain by the end of the month. His father didn’t want to stay in a country governed by “darkies“, said Derek. Derek had the option of either staying with his parents or continuing in the British army. Either way, he too would be leaving India. He had come to beg Anita to elope with him, to start life afresh in a new country, leaving everything behind.

Looking into Derek’s handsome face, Anita wanted to move into his arms. She wanted him to take her away with him. Anita was totally sure of Derek’s love for her. However, she couldn’t help but focus on the word “darkies” uttered by Derek. Anita was aware that Derek’s parents had not been happy with their engagement even though they had not verbally said anything untoward to Anita. But hearing the word had made Anita aware of the fact that if she did elope with Derek, the word would always be in the background. Here in India, in this house, Anita was free. If she chose to go with Derek, she might have to face the animosity of his parents later. Anita’s heart wanted to shout “yes”, but when her lips moved, the word that she spoke was a soft “No”.

Derek couldn’t believe his ears when Anita said no. He raved and ranted, asking her to come to her sense. Even though Anita did not understand her decision herself, she refused to budge. Intuitively, Anita realised that she would have to suppress her Indian half to please Derek and his family. Seeing Anita implacable, Derek roared off in a cloud of dust, leaving Anita standing on the verandah with unshed tears in her eyes, alone.


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BlogchatterA2Z~Kites

Makhan was appointed by Anita as a watchman to guard the precious fruit of her trees. As part of his salary, Anita gave a small room at the back of her house for Makhan and Harish to stay. After seeing Makhan’s hard work at Anita’s, Bhoomi’s grandfather also appointed him to take care of their garden. With a steady income now coming in, Makhan was now thinking of asking Anita to put in a good word for Harish for admission in a private school. Makhan knew he would not be able to afford the fees but he hoped that with Anita’s standing in the town, she could get Harish an admission under the charity quota.

That summer became very special for Bhoomi and Harish. Despite their first meeting when Sheroo had tried to eat Bhoomi’s doll, the fatherless girl and the motherless boy formed a close bond. Bhoomi, by nature, was a serious child. She always had her nose in her book or was observing plants and leaves. Harish, on the other hand, was very active, always running around and getting into scrapes. Still, being children, they found much in common. Anita’s home became their hideaway from the world. They spent their whole day in the orchard, either playing imaginary games devised by Harish or with Bhoomi reading out stories to the rapt audience of her doll, Sheroo and Harish (for though Harish did not like to read himself, he did enjoy listening to a good story).

Anita, at first, was wary of Harish’s growing influence on Bhoomi. She felt hurt and left out when the two children went on their imaginary adventures. Bhoomi had become a constant in Anita’s lonely life. Anita loathed to share her with Harish, especially with his mischievous habits. She felt that Harish’s boisterous behaviour and disregard for rules would harm Anita’s relation with Bhoomi. But little by little, when Anita saw the sadness in Bhoomi’s eyes replaced with mischief, Anita decided to give way to Harish monopolizing Bhoomi’s time. Anita realised that she enjoyed having the children, Makhan and Sheroo in her life. They became a pseudo-family for her. The laughter and shouts of the children caused more smiles to bloom on Anita’s face. Even though she outwardly continued to scold Harish for not taking baths regularly and for getting into mischief, she daily slipped extra leftovers to Makhan for Harish. Recalling her own childhood and her own fondness for sweets, Anita started treating them to cakes baked by her. For both the children, this delightful concoction of flour, eggs and butter was new and magical. They fell in love with cakes, with the chocolate cake being their favourite. According to Harish, no one could beat Anita in baking a chocolate cake. He tried each and every trick to flatter Anita so that she would bake cakes frequently for them.

One day, as Bhoomi was settling down again with a book, Harish declared that the day was perfect for flying a kite. Bhoomi confessed to him that she had never flown a kite before and he was shocked. Harish was incredulous that she had never enjoyed anything like that before. Harish shook his head sadly and proceeded to rectify the lapse in her upbringing. During the afternoon siesta time, when Anita would be in her bedroom, and Makhan snoring on a charpoy under the mango tree, the two children would sneak off to the out of bounds terrace of the house. They would spend the afternoon flying kites, with Harish teaching the intricacies of kite flying to Bhoomi. Bhoomi would hold the kite aloft between her hands, while Harish would walk back until the string was taut. He would then tell her to let the kite go, and Bhoomi would throw it up. With a snap, the wind would lift the bamboo frame of the kite. The sail of the gaily coloured paper of the kite would fill with wind, causing the kite to climb in the sky. Some afternoons there would be kite-flying matches, with much roaring and shouting by the neighbourhood children. There would be competitions on cutting and taking over other’s kite. Harish used to be in his element at that time. However, Bhoomi didn’t enjoy them. All Bhoomi wanted was that the kite climbed high in the sky. She used to lie down on the terrace and look at the brightly coloured kites flitting in the blue sky as colourful specks. Bhoomi knew that the freedom of kites was an illusion, kites were being controlled by the flyer. But in Bhoomi’s mind, the kites were free. From high up in the sky, kites could explore the whole world. Bhoomi wanted to climb high like the kite, to escape her home, her sadness.

Bhoomi wanted to bottle her memories of these summer afternoons. Somehow, she had the intuition that the peace she enjoyed was an illusion and would not last. Unfortunately, she was correct.

Photo by Mitosh on Unsplash

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BlogchatterA2Z~Joy

Makhan and Harish felt a deep void after Malathi’s demise. Try as much as Makhan could, he couldn’t reach out to Harish. Both were so wrapped in their own sorrow, they couldn’t see that the other was suffering too. Moreover, Makhan was struggling for work too. With no land left to cultivate, he couldn’t go back to the village. In the town, as a daily labourer with no other skills than farming, he didn’t have better-paying options. Money became a constant worry. It had been Malathi’s dream to give a good education to Harish, but at the moment, Makhan was barely earning enough to feed and clothe them. Decent education for Harish was becoming a distant dream. Harish, lost after the death of his mother, became sullen and morose. He developed a propensity to get into mischief. He refused to listen to anything that Makhan said, blaming Makhan for bringing Malathi late to the city. He started skipping school and loafing around the alleys.


One day, as usual, he had cut classes and was on the way back home when he came across a group of boys huddled together. When he peeped over, he saw a tiny puppy barely a month old. The cruel boys had tied a tin can to the puppy’s tail and they then prodded him with sticks. When the puppy tried to move away from the stick, the tin can rattled, startling the puppy. The poor puppy, hurt by the prodding and the rattling can, was whimpering piteously. It darted this way and that to free itself. This just seemed to goad the boys into hurting the puppy even more as they laughed cruelly at the puppy’s attempts to escape. Harish felt sick, seeing the callousness of the boys. But he knew he was not strong enough to take on the whole group. He felt in his pocket and found the whistle Makhan had bought for him from the village mela last year. He gave short blasts through the whistle, like a police sepoy. Hearing the whistle, the boys got scared and abandoning their cruel sport, took to their heels.


The moment they left, Harish ran to the puppy, picking it up gently. The puppy whimpered anticipating more pain. Harish gently untied the tin can, all the while stroking and shushing the puppy. The puppy realised that this human was not going to hurt him anymore and snuggled closer. Harish couldn’t help but hug the puppy closer, no one had hugged him after the death of Malathi. Harish welcomed the physical contact. He decided to take the puppy home. Let Makhan try and take the puppy away, he thought belligerently.


That night, when Makhan reached home weary to the bone after lifting bricks the whole day, he saw the boy and the puppy curled up together on the mat. As he came closer to stroke Harish’s hair, the puppy snuffled over and tried to lick Makhan’s hand. Makhan couldn’t help but chuckle at the little one’s antics. Like Harish, he too fell in love with the little puppy. The puppy became a part of their broken family, and they decided to name him Sheroo, or the brave one. Sheroo’s arrival meant that they both now had a common link to bond with each other. Sheroo brought a ray of joy to their morose lives. Money was still tight, but Sheroo’s antics kept them entertained.


One day on his way back from work, Makhan was accosted by his neighbour, who knew Makhan was looking for a regular job. The neighbour told Makhan about an opportunity to take care of an orchard. The job would guarantee Makhan a steady income for at least three months. If Makhan did his work deligently, the memsahib might keep him for longer, said the neighbour. This is why that summer Makhan, Harish and Sheroo, found themselves at Miss. Anita’s home.


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BlogchatterA2Z~Innocence

Makhan Lal was a simple man. He grew up in a village near the big city. After an idyllic childhood, Makhan became a farmer like his father. In due course of time, he married a demure village damsel called Malathi. Malathi and Makhan were soon blessed with a baby boy, whom they named Harish. Makhan was happy and content in his small world. He would rise at dawn and leave for his fields. After a few hours of work, he would be back home by mid-day where Malathi would have already prepared the afternoon meal. After the meal, he would rest for some time and then again go back to the fields. He would then come home only by sunset. Malathi’s whole day used to go in taking care of Harish and other domestic chores. In the evenings, both would sit together on the charpoy in the courtyard, little Harish playing on the floor near them. They would discuss their dreams and desires for Harish. Malathi used to share with Makhan her dreams of making Harish a big government officer. Makhan, mesmerised by the fire in her dark eyes, used to nod his head, vowing mentally to make all Malathi’s dreams come true. Life was simple, uncomplicated.


And then one day, Malathi fell sick. It started slowly, with Malathi feeling more tired than usual. She being a cheerful woman, at first ignored it, but then that tiredness developed into a fever. After a few weeks, she recovered, but her illness lingered. She became pale and listless. Makhan worried for her and wanted to take her to the big doctor. But Malathi knew money was tight, last year’s crops had not brought in the expected income. She convinced Makhan not to worry, doing her chores with the same cheerfulness, albeit a little slowly. Malathi’s hide and seek with the illness continued for a couple of years. Each attack of the fever leaving her weaker than before. Makhan continued to persuade her to go to the government medical centre, and she continued to convince him not to worry. Until one day, Malathi couldn’t get out of bed. Distraught, Makhan took her to the doctor, who shook his head sorrowfully and said Makhan had come too late. Malathi couldn’t be treated with the basic facilities that the village health centre had. She needed to be taken to the big hospital in the city. Makhan knew that the hospital in the city would be an expensive proposition. But he had no other option, he had to save Malathi at any cost. With a heavy heart, he sold off his ancestral land and locked up his house. Packing up Malathi and Harish, Makhan moved to the big city.


The city baffled the three villagers. It was loud, noisy and crowded with people rushing around. Makhan took a small room with a kitchen on rent. He enrolled Harish, then a boy of nine, to the government school. And then started the everyday struggle to show Malathi to the doctor. Makhan’s savings were greatly diminished by the expenses of the city. On the days he didn’t have to take Malathi to the hospital, he used to leave early in the morning to sit at city’s clock tower, to be hired as a labourer. Life became fraught with stress about Malathi and money.


Despite all of Makhan’s efforts and Harish’s prayers, Malathi faded away. Exactly a year after they had arrived in the big city, Malathi slipped into the other realm. Makhan was devastated. Malathi had been his anchor. But like all sons of the soil, he was practical too. He knew he had to be strong and had to make a decent life for Harish. He had to make Malathi’s dream come true and make Harish a government officer.



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BlogchatterA2Z~Harish

Bhoomi was just seven years old, yet she was sensitive enough to understand that her grandmother disliked her. It might have to do with the fact that her grandmother had hated her father, or maybe because Bhoomi was a constant reminder of her mother’s rebellion. The fact remained that Bhoomi’s grandmother was either nagging her or scolding her for imaginary slights. The rest of the family also took their cue from her grandmother and made life difficult for Bhoomi. She was constantly bullied by her cousins and taunted by her aunt. She liked her uncle, Shalini’s brother, the best since he ignored her completely. Shalini knew Bhoomi was not happy, but she was in no position to help Bhoomi. Shaken by Ram Singh’s demise and the constant dislike of family members, Shalini seemed to be struggling emotionally. She had lost the desire to pit her will against the odds. Dependent on a family who didn’t want both of them, Shalini was helpless. All said and done, Bhoomi’s school fees were being paid, both of them had a roof over their head and two square meals a day. According to Shalini, it would have to suffice. However, it was not enough for Bhoomi. She needed love and attention, which, in Shalini’s absence, she received from Anita.

Finally, summers started, and so did the much-longed-for summer vacations. Bhoomi preferred escaping her own home and spent more time at Anita’s. Anita was happy to have a companion to spend time with after so many years of solitude. The days would be spent reading or drawing. The air heavy with drowsy heat made physical activity undesirable. The trees were laden with unripe litchis and mangoes, tickling noses with their sweet-sour smell. Anita had been muttering about getting a watchman to keep an eye on the trees, else the thieves would strip the trees of fruit. She needed to sell the fruit in the market to keep herself financially afloat for a couple of months.


The memories of that particular summer afternoon were crystal clear in Bhoomi’s mind even years later. That afternoon, fruits and money were the last things on Bhoomi’s mind. She had wanted to draw outdoors that day. When Anita told her it was too hot to be sitting outdoors in the afternoon, Bhoomi had argued that it was cooler under the trees. Anita, always indulgent with Bhoomi, gave in. Bhoomi dragged a mat out to the neem tree close to the house, the only tree in the orchard that was neither mango nor litchi. The neem tree had become Bhoomi’s favourite. She enjoyed lying under it, watching the filtered sunlight make different patterns on the ground. A family of squirrels had also made the neem tree it’s home. Bhoomi used to spend hours watching them run up and down the tree trunk. That day, her grandmother had taunted her once again on how dependent Bhoomi and Shalini were on them. Her grandmother’s words dripping with bitterness had made Bhoomi miss her father even more. Bhoomi wanted to erase the pain of her grandmother’s words. She decided to plan for the future and design their devasted house in the village. The house, which Shalini had vowed to get re-built, but seemed to have forgotten. Bhoomi was totally engrossed in drawing her dreams when Anita came out to call her.


Anita knew that Bhoomi had been hurting emotionally. To make Bhoomi feel a little better, Anita had baked a chocolate cake, Bhoomi’s favourite. Seeing Bhoomi drawing intently,Anita couldn’t take her eyes off the charming picture Bhoomi made. Bhoomi’s blue frock, and hair tied up in a high ponytail, made her look similar to the doll lying quietly by Bhoomi’s side. Bhoomi seemed oblivious to the world around her, humming to herself as she drew. Bhoomi’s intentness in drawing seemed to have pushed back the bitterness spewed by her grandmother in the morning. Anita wished she could frame the image of Bhoomi forever in her mind. Her heart felt heavy for this innocent child, who seemed to have been abandoned by her family. Anita knew that Bhoomi was not her daughter, not even related to her, but she still couldn’t help falling in love with Bhoomi. Anita let out a small sigh. The sigh seemed to contain her love for Bhoomi as well as her own loneliness. She decided to let Bhoomi be in her world and turned to go back inside when suddenly the peace of the afternoon was shattered.


A large, filthy dog, came running into the orchard, screeching to a halt in front of Bhoomi. Bhoomi shrieked as the dog caught her doll in his mouth, giving it a vigorous shake. An equally filthy boy came running behind, skidding to a halt in front of Bhoomi. He tried to pull out the doll from the dog’s mouth, falling on his behind as the dog suddenly let go. Bhoomi and Anita stared as the boy sprawled on the ground, laughed madly. Harish had entered their lives.



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BlogchatterA2Z~Geraniums

Bhoomi’s grandparents were pleasantly surprised when they learnt that Bhoomi could read and speak fluent English. To show themselves as benevolent grandparents, they enrolled Bhoomi into the exclusive Convent school of the town. They couldn’t do anything about her unfortunate parentage, they mused, but they could try and give her polish. And that was where Bhoomi met Miss. Anita Fernandes, who was Bhoomi’s first-grade class teacher. Anita, at that time, was a rather staid 39-year-old. Anita had joined the convent as a teacher after the death of her father. The financial condition for Anita was turning precarious, and she needed an income to sustain herself. In a class of sixty, it was difficult for young Bhoomi to stand out, but she did. Anita first became impressed by Bhoomi’s knowledge about the environment, and then she was drawn to Bhoomi’s sad eyes.

By a quirk of fate, the orchard that Bhoomi had glimpsed from the autorickshaw while waiting for the family to pass their verdict, belonged to Anita’s home. Anita and Bhoomi’s grandparents were neighbours, the two grand old properties separated by an almost non-existent wall. Bhoomi, who had always loved trees, was curious about the orchard next door. She used to see the trees and a house half-hidden behind them from the window of the room allotted to Shalini and Bhoomi. She wanted to go and explore the grounds. However, unsure about her place in this new world, Bhoomi kept quiet. One day, when she could no longer hold her curiosity, she deliberately threw her ball into the orchard. While the ball was retrieved in a few seconds, Bhoomi walked around exploring the grounds clutching the ball as an excuse. She was inspecting the flowers growing wild under the trees when Anita, out on her constitutional, bumped into her. Anita was as startled as Bhoomi. But then Anita was shocked by the way Bhoomi held herself, almost as if she expected Anita to hit her or at least shout at her. Anita’s heart melted. She called Bhoomi inside her home for tea. Over a cup of tea and a plate of cookies, Anita and Bhoomi realised they both loved reading. It was the first day of friendship for the two lonely souls.

Little by little, they came closer. Bhoomi started visiting Anita every day. She found peace and quiet at Anita’s home. One of Bhoomi’s favourite place became the verandah of Anita’s home. With comfortable wicker chairs and surrounded by pots of multi-hued geraniums, it was perfect for reading. Bhoomi and Anita spent hours there, reading quietly, the air perfumed with the geranium blooms. Years later, whenever Bhoomi came across geraniums, she would crush the leaves, and inhale their scent. The perfume would remind her of the quiet afternoons spent reading with Anita.

For Anita, Bhoomi became a companion, someone to ease her loneliness. After her father had passed away, Anita had suddenly realised how empty her life had become. In that huge bungalow, filled with dark furniture, she felt oppressed by the memories of the past. She had become invisible in a town where at one time, everyone had known her. Years of taking care of her father had taken a toll on her. She now felt weary to the bone, struggling to find a purpose in life. The arrival of Bhoomi was like a breath of fresh air in her stale life. Bhoomi’s radiant smile and curious mind charmed Anita. She would scold Bhoomi for minor transgressions, but both knew it was only for show. Anita knew that she had no claim on Bhoomi or her love, and yet she couldn’t stop caring for the little girl. Both had started becoming attached to one another, depending upon the other to bring sunshine and escape. And then, Harish burst into their lives.


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BlogchatterA2Z~Family

Shalini had grown up in a town at the foothills of the mountains. Shalini had been young, vibrant and very beautiful. Belonging to a wealthy, business class family, she had been the apple of her parent’s eyes. Shalini had been pampered and protected throughout her life, her every wish and whim granted. What Shalini hadn’t known was that she would be indulged only to a point. Her life was beholden to her parents. The full weight of family honour was on her slender shoulders. She had to follow the path they had set out for her. But then, she went and fell in love with a totally ineligible Ram Singh. 

Ram Singh had been the son of a munim who worked for Shalini’s father. Shalini met Ram Singh in college, where he used to work as a teaching assistant while trying to complete his post-graduation. Unassuming at first glance, Ram Singh was a force to be reckoned with when his passion was aroused while arguing for the rights of the people living in the villages. Slowly, Shalini became mesmerized by his fiercely intelligent eyes. Ram Singh, in his turn, became enamoured by this diminutive girl passionate about the environment. As expected, Shalini’s parents raised a furore when they came to know about this illicit love story. They felt Ram Singh and his family were beneath their status and class. They got Ram Singh expelled from college and made it very difficult for him to live in the town. But they didn’t expect their quiet, biddable daughter to rebel. Shalini was as strong as she was beautiful. She refused to follow the commands of her parents to give him up. Shalini eloped with Ram Singh and the family washed their hands of an ungrateful daughter, declaring her to be dead to them. 

Shalini and Ram Singh got married in a simple ceremony in a temple. They both decided to settle in the hills to escape the wrath of her parents. Ram Singh put aside his dreams of becoming an IAS officer and took up a series of low paying jobs to sustain them. Ram Singh’s father also came along with them, giving them his life’s savings, which helped them buy the land for their house. He had passed away peacefully a few months after Bhoomi was born, happy in the knowledge that Shalini and Ram Singh loved each other deeply. Shalini and Ram Singh had to count their pennies and pounds, but that never bothered them as long as they were tied to each other by heart. In the past seven years, Shalini’s family had never reached out to Shalini even once, to ask about her or the daughter she had borne. And now suddenly, their long lost daughter was standing on the front door asking for help.

Leaving Shalini and Bhoomi standing out on the verandah, Shalini’s family, consisting of Shalini’s parents, her brother and his wife, huddled in the drawing-room to decided what to do about them. Shalini’s sister-in-law raised the point that their standing in society would take a hit if they welcomed her back to the fold. “Shalini has lived like a lower-middle-class housewife, she will not be able to fit in with people of our class now. And the presence of the mongrel Bhoomi will only make people point fingers at us “, she argued. Shalini’s mother, whose heart had softened on seeing Bhoomi’s cherubic face, hardened again at the thought of the family’s name being dragged in the mud. Shalini’s father was also stuck on the point of the family’s honour being smeared by Shalini’s elopement. Shalini’s brother, however, cinched the answer by using the point of family’s honour against them. He justified helping Shalini by arguing what would society say if they threw out Shalini, now that she was destitute. He gave them the idea that even after so many years, Shalini was still beautiful. In return for the family’s help, she would now have to agree to marry a person of their choosing. They could make a good advantageous match for Shalini which would remove the smear caused by her eloping.

And thus, for the sake of keeping their face in society, Shalini and Bhoomi were grudgingly accepted into the home. Shalini and Bhoomi became the unwanted members of the family .

Photo by James Day on Unsplash

This is post has been written for Blogchatter’s #BlogchatterA2Z challenge.

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BlogchatterA2Z~Exile

When Shalini first told Bhoomi about her decision to go to the town for a few days, Bhoomi had been excited. She had never been to town. It would be an adventure, she thought, just as she had read in the books. She would discover a new place, away from the sadness of losing Ram Singh. Initially, Bhoomi had enjoyed the journey, pointing out trees and stones to her doll, which Bhoomi had insisted on bringing with her. However, as the distance from the village grew, Bhoomi started feeling anxious. The hairpin bends of the mountain roads made her feel sick. Bhoomi watched the forest and the mountains passing by with diminishing excitement. As the bus drove farther away, Bhoomi felt as if Ram Singh was slipping away from her again. Bhoomi felt as if not only had she lost Ram Singh, but also her beloved forests. How would she survive without them, she wondered. Shalini had told her that the town was also in the mountains, but the earth looked flatter here, there were no peaks to climb. And where were all the trees, she wondered, all that she could see were houses with neatly trimmed lawns. It was a listless, wan Bhoomi who stepped down from the bus, her doll clutched tightly to her chest.

On getting down from the bus, Shalini and Bhoomi were baffled by the noise and the number of people around. Bhoomi clutched her mother’s hand uneasily. She was overwhelmed by the sensory overload of the bus stand. Her ears assaulted by the noise of running engines, the harsh beeps of the horns, the hawkers peddling out their wares in strident tones. The air was foul with the diesel fumes and the stench of garbage piled up, making her gag. The sheer number of people jostling, bumping into each other, was paralysing to the girl brought up in the isolation of the mountains. Shalini, too, seemed a little agitated. She kept adjusting her dupatta with a nervous twitch. As Bhoomi tugged Shalini’s hand impatiently, eager to escape the foul place, Shalini gave a small sigh. She picked up the trunk and clutching Bhoomi’s hand tightly, hailed an autorickshaw.

After giving the driver the address, Shalini settled back into the seat with a sigh and closed her eyes. Bhoomi looked curiously at her mother, she had never seen Shalini so quiet and withdrawn. The journey into the town seemed to have drained Shalini completely. Giving Shalini the time she needed, Bhoomi looked out of the rickshaw. The rickshaw drove into a part of the town where the houses seemed to grow grander, the lanes quieter. She breathed easier as the cacophony of the bus stand receded. Bhoomi was surprised when the auto-rickshaw stopped in front of a white bungalow. Constructed in a colonial style, the bungalow had a perfectly manicured lawn bordered by neat flower beds. She could also see a mango orchard at the back. Shalini asked Bhoomi to wait in the auto while she walked up the drive and rang the doorbell. A regal-looking older woman in a crisp cotton saree opened the door. The woman looked remarkably similar to Bhoomi’s mother. That was the first time Bhoomi saw her grandmother.

It was the first day of Bhoomi’s exile from the mountains.


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BlogchatterA2Z~Devastated

Early next morning saw Bhoomi’s parents gingerly walk through the burnt remains of their home. They had spent the night in Sarpanch’s home, but Shalini had wanted to check if anything salvageable was left. Ram Singh, in the meantime, was mentally trying to make decisions for his family’s survival. He knew he didn’t have enough money to rebuild the house, and with the harsher winter months yet to come, a shelter was now the priority. He should have converted this house to a brick house before deciding to add another room, “now we are left with no home”, Ram Singh thought despairingly.

Gingerly picking their way through the still smouldering remains of the house, they tried to save whatever they could. But only little could be retrieved, a few pots and pans and a steel trunk. Most of their clothes, except those kept in the steel trunk, had burnt down. As had Bhoomi’s books. Bhoomi’s doll, which she had dropped while running pell-mell, had miraculously survived. Sighing, Shalini dragged the steel trunk outside. As she looked at the village, she felt despair rising up again. Most of the houses were damaged. People who were injured were awaiting their turn in front of the makeshift first-aid booth under the willow tree. The whole village seemed to have borne the brunt of nature’s fury. It seemed as if the Earth Goddess had tried to punish them for their sins. “Forgive us, Dharti Ma”, muttered Shalini.

Inside, Ram Singh continued to rifle through the debris, hoping against hope that he might find something of value that could help him save his family. He decided to go into the room still under construction, hoping that he might find some materials he could salvage. The materials could be used to build them a temporary shelter until he figured out how to raise money for the house, he mused. Muttering to himself, he walked into the unfinished room while Shalini waited outside, willing him to hurry up. She wanted to go and hug Bhoomi, to thank God that they had all escaped unscathed physically. Suddenly the ground trembled again. As Shalini steadied herself, she heard Ram Singh’s shout. Rushing in, she saw Ram Singh unconscious on the floor. The aftershock had caused an unstable beam from the unfinished roof to fall on him, crushing him. Shalini watched in horror as his lifeblood seeped out in seconds.

The next few days passed by in a blur for Shalini and Bhoomi. They could not believe that someone as strong and full of life as Ram Singh could be gone. While Bhoomi wallowed in misery, Shalini knew she now had to make some decisions regarding their future. Their house was gone, as was the love of their life. They could not exist on charity and needed to take steps to rebuild their lives. A week after Ram Singh’s funeral, Shalini steeled her emotions as she opened the trunk that had escaped the fire.

The steel trunk had a few of their finer clothes, but that was not what Shalini was looking for. At the bottom of the trunk, was a red suit, embroidered delicately. It was the only thing she had brought from her parent’s house. Wrapped in the folds, were two photos. One was of a regal-looking couple, her parents, the other was of Shalini and Ram Singh. Taken on the day of their wedding the photo showed both of them looking shyly at the camera. What the camera hadn’t captured was how deliriously happy they both had been on that day. Shalini felt a stab in her heart looking at the photo. The pain of losing Ram Singh was like a thorn in her heart. Wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, she pulled out the dupatta of her wedding suit. The edge of the dupatta was knotted to hide the only money she had left, one thousand rupees. Not much, but enough to get her and Bhoomi to the big city. Shalini had no desire to go back, but now, with the house destroyed and Ram Singh dead, she knew they were destitute. She had no recourse but to ask for help from her parents, the same parents who had pronounced her dead on her wedding day. Squaring her shoulders, she decided to take Bhoomi and leave the village the next day.

Shutting the steel trunk with a clang, she vowed one day she would rebuild their devastated house and return to the village, where her heart lay. What she didn’t know was that she would never be back again.


This is post has been written for Blogchatter’s #BlogchatterA2Z challenge.

You can click on the Alphabet to read the post corresponding to it.

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