Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Old Flame


(Woman’s Era, August (First) 1992)

[Magazine blurb: For years she had been plagued by doubts---- now she had a chance to give him a taste of her own torment!]

Sixteen. Not one or two or a dozen, but sixteen. Sarita didn’t consider herself jealous, but sixteen photographs, her husband’s arm around a different girl in each one--- was a bit too much.
They had not been mailed to her in a brown envelope. Nor had she discovered them in some secret cubbyhole. They were there for all to see with other photographs in the album of Sagar’s trip to the USA.
He had been there for a year. His company had sent him on a course to a University there before their marriage. Sagar himself had shown her the album soon after their marriage. He had even told her the names of some of them. The others, he said, he did not remember. Didn’t remember, or were their memories too precious for even their names to be disclosed? Even then, her heart had constricted, but she had felt she was too new in his life to claim the right to know everything, even though she was his wife. Especially because she was his wife. An arranged-marriage wife.
“So these are your American girlfriends”, she had joked, hoping he would deny it, or at least give some explanation.
“Yeah”, he had said with an exaggerated American accent and a smile. Was he laughing with her, at himself, at the alleged tendency of Indian men to go berserk abroad? Was he smiling reassuringly? Or, horrors, was he laughing at her, at her ignorance of some secret, private memories?-------

---------Sometimes she built up such a case against him that she seriously considered making him feel the way she did. How would she feel if she suddenly produced snaps of herself with some other man’s arm around her? Or, if he came home to find her having coffee with an old flame of hers? But then she wasn’t a casual person like that. She hadn’t even held hands with anyone. There were no old flames to rekindle, even in pretence. ----------

----------Her silence seemed to bring Sagar out of his usual reticence.
“Look Sarita”, he said, “do you expect me to smile upon casual relationships just because I was in America for a while? There is such a thing as false broadmindedness you know.”-------


Cover Girl

The first short story I ever wrote. It was published by Femina in the Aug.23-Sept.7 1987 issue.

[Femina’s blurb: What miracles a photograph on the cover can work. No wonder being cover girl is the ultimate fantasy of most girls. Or is it?
A tantalizing short story by A.V.Lakshmi


Chandra yawned. Only, on Chandra, it couldn’t be called a yawn. It was just a delicate opening of her mouth, discreetly hidden by long, pink-tipped fingers. She put the book aside. Maybe a cup of tea would freshen her up. After all, she mustn’t appear sluggish when those people came. They had called her a human dynamo, hadn’t they? .............

A piece of glossy paper was clutched in the toddling urchin’s grimy hand. It made him less noisy. He would look at the bright colours on it for hours. His mother had given it to him. There were many more where that came from. She could give him all the pages of the magazine which the memsaab had given her. Except one. …….

(From the diary of Priya)
12th Jan: Oof! Reached home so late today. Not a single bus for ages. Have they been burnt, I wonder? College is fun, except for getting there and back! I nearly developed roots at that bus-stop today. Plus a brand new slum has come up there, to house the road construction labourers. As soon as the road is repaired, I suppose they’ll start digging it up again for something!

27th Jan.: Guess what! I’m actually on the cover of a magazine! Well, actually I’m what they call a passerby in the background….
….. slum belle ( I suppose that’s a variation on the institution of the original village belle!)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

My Kind of Day

This was published in Femina(September 8-22, 1983). The editor then was Vimla Patil. The column itself was called "My kind of day" and there would be doctors, lecturers, women entrepreneurs and the like featured in it. I thought, "Why not a day in the life of an ordinary college girl?" and dashed this off. Going through this article now brings back memories----


My day begins very properly at 6 a.m. ----as a good student’s should. Only, I don’t begin it. I rise up from my dreamless sleep, prise open an eye with my fingers and look at the clock, (which, being an electronic digital affair, keeps me guessing whether it is 5:19 or 6:10 ---the numerals look similar). At this point, the open eye indignantly closes, refusing to do more work than its partner, and I am only awakened around 7:15 by mummy’s nth and final call for those wishing to get ready at a reasonable rate----meaning something not resembling fast motion scenes in films.
I drag myself out of bed (getting out of quicksand is easier) and begin the process of getting ready. That involves last-minute ironing for everybody, since I am the official dhobi of the house, and listening to dad’s sermons about on doing such things the night before. Giving a helping hand in the kitchen and having at least two minor squabbles with kid sister, together take 45 minutes or so, and then there is the inevitable clash at the bath. This in spite of carefully thought out plans, which would compete with army exercise strategy any day. Well, somebody has to beat a retreat and it is usually my sister, who is only too glad to postpone a bath (indefinitely!)
Then I beat a path to the breakfast table and hurriedly pack a lunch box, surreptitiously slipping in such items I cannot manage right then, but which mother insists I consume. Fortunately, mummy’s new job has divested her of the eagle eye which she used to have.
After that, it’s off to the bus stop to squeeze into a bus crammed to bursting point. I normally switch buses midway. So at the halfway stop, I wait for the college special bus and in the process bump into friends. While we discuss the latest in everything, the bus arrives and we get in, choose seats, and continue. Twenty minutes later, I am in college, with 10 minutes to spare before classes start. This time is spent either in the library, or just climbing the flights of stairs to the top floor at a leisurely pace. Then it is slog-slog-slog concentrating on a lecture, taking notes or facing a surprise test. The end of each class results in hustle-bustle, gathering up books and rushing to the next class to bag good seats (front row or back, depending on the mood.) Unexpectedly, we get a free period. I make the most of it: doing a bit of everything in a short hour---library work, completing half-done assignments, plus invariably, chatter.
Lunch time. I have to contend with the items I could not manage at breakfast and thought I could at lunch. Then off to the canteen and from there to any vacant room to direct a play for my class. There is a college cabinet meeting to attend, after which I go and watch my friends at their dance practice.
Afternoon classes are waded through and then we wait for the college special bus to turn up. This being one of those days, it doesn’t, and we go to the regular bus stop in the hope of catching an ordinary bus. No luck. Each bus driver baulks at the sight of so many college girls, who will surely all swarm into his bus, impeding progress. So each driver promptly steps on the accelerator leaving us high and dry. Finally, thanks to obliging car-owners and kind bus drivers, we manage to make it to the station to go our separate ways. An interminable wait for my one-and-only (bus) which will speed me (not exactly) on my way home, and finally I’m actually home, ravenous and tired. After a snack and a wash, I curl up with a book, dead to the world until dinner time. Dinner time is time for arguments and anecdotes. The last stages of the meal are superfast for us (my sister and I) because the last one up has to clear the table.
After dinner, I do my class assignments (there is never any dearth of them), swotting for a test, writing something for a magazine (college or otherwise); designing a churidar kameez or anything else I feel like. I finally retire when it is quite late and only after daddy and mummy have jointly threatened not to wake me up in time for the next day.
As someone said: Every day, I do two things I dislike---- getting up and going to bed!