Category Archives: challenges

Short Story Challenge 2014


Genre: Horror/ Setting: Advertising/ Character: Bully

Nayantara’s Revenge

Sonalee screamed. It was a blood curdling sound that ripped through the evening sounds of the forest and sent shivers down the spines of all within earshot. Everyone froze, even the continuously chattering monkeys fell silent. It was as if some supernatural being had said the magic words in the childhood game of “stop” and the small film crew shooting a commercial in the forest had turned into a tableau of stone.

Shrikant, Range officer of the Junona range where the film was being shot, was the first to recover. Rushing to Sonalee, now collapsed on the grass, he shook her, gently at first, but then with more urgency when she did not respond. Her mouth was open and her eyes, huge stricken orbs. Her once beautiful face was ghostly pale and for a moment Shrikant thought she was dead. Gently he lifted her head and put his finger to her delicate nostrils, relieved to feel the uneven ebb and flow of air on his finger tip.

The worried crew edged towards the young woman, eyes darting around them, mouths clamped tight shut.

“What’s wrong with her?” Shouted Avinash, the much hated film director and company owner.

“I don’t know?’ Shrikant replied curtly.

He disliked everything about Avinash. The way he treated the film unit, always shouting, barking out orders, leering over the women, picking on the weaker ones. If it weren’t for the fact that Avinash was his boss’ relative Shrikant would have kicked his butt a long time ago.

“We need to get her to the camp and try to revive her.”

“Leave her! There’s nothing wrong with her! She’s just faking! We carry on filming” Avinash screamed.

Shrikrant ignored him. He was broad and muscular and easily carried  Sonalee’s limp body to the jeep, calling out to Jaya and Pushpa, two crew members “Sit either side of her, make sure she doesn’t fall! Hurry!”

Shrikant jumped into the driver’s seat, turned on the engine and pulled away leaving the rest of the unit, and a furious Avinash, to follow in the van. Camp was four kilometres away but the road, a mere dirt track, made it impossible to drive quickly.

Darkness had fallen on the trees and a heavy winter mist was settling in making it difficult to see beyond a few meters. The trees that had looked so lovely and inviting during daylight assumed sinister shapes in the dark. There was a mood of nervousness among them, a feeling that something dreadful was about to happen. All they wanted to do was reach camp, abandon the shoot even, go home.

Shrikant was negotiating a huge pothole when he felt the hairs on his neck stand up. A strange voice hissed, “Stop the vehicle.” He looked behind and saw that Sonalee had regained consciousness and was trying to get out of the jeep.

Her eyes were wild and her nostrils flared as she struggled with Jaya and Pushpa and shouted in a deep husky voice “You mother fu…., I said stop the vehicle at once.”

“Don’t let her get out!”

Jaya and Pushpa began whimpering.

Remembering something he had read in his childhood, Shrikant pushed down hard on the accelerator and turned the jeep towards a temple of the goddess Kali that he knew was a few hundred metres away. He was aware he didn’t have much time; they had to go fast.

“Hold on tight.”

They pulled up sharply in front of the stone idol of the goddess Kali the scourge of the forces of darkness. He hoped his hunch was right.

The granite Kali idol was almost as terrifying as Sonalee had been. This slayer of evil, had eight arms, each one carrying primitive weapons or a demon’s head. Her tongue protruded from her mouth, and her huge bulging eyes glared angrily down on them.

As soon as they entered the temple grounds Sonalee slipped back into her stupor much to the relief of Jaya and Pushpa.

The van caught up with them and the worried crew led by a fuming Avinash got out.

“Why have we stopped here?” he demanded.

Jaya and Pushpa spoke at once, an incoherent babble.

“Shut up both of you” Avinash snarled, “I am asking you Shrikant, Why are we here?”

“I think she may be possessed. I am sending for Penta Talandi the witch doctor.”

“What nonsense! These things do not exist! You of all persons should know this. I demand you take us all to camp, NOW,” Avinash screeched.

Shrikant turned on his heels and walked purposely over to the van driver.

“Don’t you DARE walk away from me! I will have you whipped!”

“Rafiq, there is a hamlet about a kilometre from here on the road to the camp” Shrikant spoke quietly to the driver. “Ask for Penta Talandi and tell him there is an emergency and he should come immediately. Don’t stop for anything till you reach the hamlet.”

Seeing the reluctance in the driver’s eyes he gestured towards the group huddled around Sonalee.

”Take Jaya and Pushpa with you. Don’t worry, we’re all scared”.

Rafiq smiled at him gratefully.

Jaya and Pushpa looked to Avinash for permission. His face was contorted with rage.

“Go on then, go! What’s it to me?! I will just take the time out of your wages!”

They jumped into the van and drove into the mist. As the engine faded, there was only silence. There is never only silence. Where was the cheep cheep of the crickets and the comforting voice of a hooting owl?  Something was very wrong.

They huddled closely together, seeking comfort in each other, even Avinash joined the group.

Shrikrant switched off the jeep’s headlights.

“The battery will run down.”

Darkness engulfed them “Please keep them on” a nervous voice in the dark. Ignoring the plea, Shrikant switched on his LED torch and all eyes turned towards him.

“Anyone have a lighter or a match? We’ll make a bonfire. Get some dry twigs, but be careful and don’t go too far.”

No one dared to venture outside the temple perimeter. They collected the wood casting nervous glances over their shoulders, waiting for something, or someone to pounce on them.

They gathered enough for Shrikant to start a small fire and huddled around it, not caring about the smoke that burnt their eyes and flavoured their breath.

“How much do you have to shoot still?” Shrikant asked in an attempt to break the silence and lighten the mood.

“Well, eighty percent of the work is finished. It is an advertisement for a famous Jeans’ brand. We are hoping to finish by tomorrow” said Vinayak, the camera man.

“Do you think it is possible with Sonalee in this state?”

“It HAS to be possible and there is nothing wrong with Sonalee. I bet she has taken some drug earlier” interjected Aviansh. “I am going to punish her for being so irresponsible.”

Vinayak looked at him with distaste and said,” You can’t be sure what happened, give her a chance Avinash.”

“You don’t tell me what to do Vinayak!” Avinash snapped.

They settled back into an uneasy silence.

Finally they heard the sound of an approaching vehicle and, as the headlights of the van appeared on the horizon, bobbing up and down as the vehicle negotiated the rough terrain, their relief was palpable.

The van came to a halt and a tall dhoti clad Adivasi, whose forefathers had roamed the forests since ancient times, emerged. He walked towards Sonalee and the crew fell in behind him.

He examined Sonalee, then nodded to  Shrikant and motioned towards the jeep hinting that he wanted to speak in private. Avinash tried to follow but the Adivasi shook his head and Shrikant pushed him away.

Penta Talandi spoke quietly. “This is serious, Sahib. I warned you not to shoot in these parts. The girl is possessed and will die soon, but before that she might take a few lives”.

“I’m sorry Penta, I could not stop that idiot from choosing this spot. He is connected to the Chief Conservator and threatened to get me transferred if I did not comply. This girl must be saved. Do whatever you can, she must live.”

“I will have to perform Kali pooja immediately. It will be hard. I suspected something like this so have brought a cockerel to be sacrificed along with the other things I will need.”

“We will have to inform everyone what this is all about. You make preparations and I will tell them about it.”

As Penta moved towards the van Shrikant headed back to the waiting group.

“So what’s this hoo haa about Mr Ranger?” Smirked Avinash.

Shrikant ignored the sarcasm.

“She has been possessed by a churail that used to haunt these parts and is in danger of dying as well as posing danger to others”

“Nonsense, there are no such things. You are trying to protect this girl. I demand you put her in the jeep immediately and take us all to the camp. I will deal with this bitch tomorrow morning.”

Shrikant looked at him with contempt “You can go if you want to. I won’t allow you to touch her.”

Avinash motioned to the crew to follow him and started towards the van. Before anyone else could move a cackling laugh split the air. Everyone, except Penta who was chanting mantras, oblivious to everything around him, froze.

The laugh was coming from outside the perimeter of the temple, from the darkness.

A second cackle propelled them into action. Screaming, they ran towards the sanctum sanctorum and took cover; Avinash looking like a dog with its tail between its legs.

Penta Talandi’s chants grew louder as he invoked the goddess. The cockerel struggled in his hands. Penta drew his knife and cut its throat in one smooth motion, then let the blood flow on the mouth of the idol. The city bred onlookers closed their eyes in fearful disgust. The girls hugged each other and shook like leaves in the autumn wind. The blood flow stopped and with that, eerily, so did the cackling. There was a defiant scream and the branches of the big banyan tree near the temple started to shake. Penta broke a coconut at the feet of the Goddess and gave each one a piece of the kernel.

“Keep this with you till you reach your home and no harm will come to you” he said in a grave voice.

“What are we doing here?” A calm female voice asked and everyone looked in wonder at Sonalee, now wide awake and looking as fresh and beautiful as she had earlier in the day. No one said a word as Shrikant took her hand and guided her towards the jeep.

“Let me tell you a story.” It was Penta. “Long time ago these lands were owned by the Deshmukh family of Warora. It was in 1947 that the Zamindar’s wife Nayantara died during her pregnancy due to negligence on part of her philandering husband. As the legend goes she became a churail and started killing all the males of that clan one by one. They tried every preventive remedy prescribed in the Puranas but could not prevent her ravages till the last of the males of that clan was dead. Each death was horrifying with their bodies sucked of all the blood and semen and even the youngest looked like an old man when he died. I do not know why she has resurfaced.”

“Did you say Deshmukhs of Warora?” Avinash asked almost choking on his words. “We are not going back to the camp. Take us back to Nagpur immediately.” He was shaking as if stricken by ague.  “Please Shrikant I beg you.” He whined. Gone was the swagger of the bully.”You can send our equipment later”.

Shrikant looked at Penta. “Will you come with us?’ Penta nodded in agreement.

It was a very quiet group that travelled 200 kilometres to the city that night. Only when they reached the safety of their homes did some of them realise that they had wet their pants.

Work at Sunidhi Advertising had returned to normal and the finishing touches to their latest ad were being given in the studio. The remaining shoot was completed employing technological trickery. Avinash was back to his bullying ways and seemed to have forgotten the episode in the forest.

“The laughter must have been some wild animal making noise and that idiotic Ranger was ignorant about it. Or maybe because I am a descendant of a bastard son of the Deshmukh’s must have saved me” he thought. He drummed his fingers on the desk expectantly.

Sonalee had been very cooperative to his advances since coming back and had agreed to see him today in his studio. He had planned her seduction to the last detail. The door opened and he looked up. Sonalee entered wearing a very sexy outfit that showed every curve of her youthful body. Her face was flushed with desire and it was as if it was her and not Avinash who was the predator.

“Let’s go” she said in an urgent whisper as she took his hand and pulled him towards the inner room. Avinash followed her mesmerised by her sensual walk. Once inside she did not wait for a moment and undressed herself, wrecking his plans of a slow seduction.

“What are you waiting for?” she asked him as he stood transfixed looking at her curvaceous body. “Don’t you want me” she taunted him. “Of course I want you” he said and flung his clothes on the floor and pulled her to the bed. He kissed her on the mouth fervently and placed his hands on her ample breasts. The nipples were hard and he closed his eyes in wonderment.

“Got you, you bastard” he heard a gruff voice saying and as he opened his eyes in surprise, his mouth formed a scream, but this time no sound came out. What he saw in front of him was a hideous naked old hag with sagging breasts and an ugly, wizened, face, her mouth curled in a triumphant smile, her long matted hair falling to her waist. He looked further down and saw the feet were pointing backwards.

“Oh my God it is you!”

The next morning the cleaning lady entered the studio and ran out screaming in terror. Avinash Deshmukh was found dead. He was forty years when he died but the body was that of an old man drained of all blood and his male member was destroyed beyond recognition. Nayantara’s revenge was complete.

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It had been a very busy day full of business meetings and client visits that kept me away from the internet. Finally it was all over and impatiently I opened my mail.  I glanced at the mail box and my eyes fell on the second mail and I froze. The message said it was from my wife. Now, why would an email from the spouse freeze one’s blood you might ask. I was shivering like a man with ague as my finger clicked to open the mail. My heart beat must have been like that of an unfit man running uphill and I could barely see the text.

Darling,

I hope you are having a good day at work. I will be out the whole day with Pammi to shop for her daughter’s wedding. If late, we will eat dinner at the Taj. You can also join us if you have the time. See you later. Don’t work too hard. 

Love Kshama.

I turned the air conditioner on to full but still my sweating did not stop. “What’s wrong with the email ?” I hear you ask again. “It is an ideal email written by a wife to her husband!”

“Yes, nothing wrong with the contents” I splutter. “The problem is I have not shared this address with anyone except Amla, my lover.”

‘You go home and check your Emails. You read the second mail and freeze…’. Begin the story from here.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda

True love


This was written for a screenplay competition in the format required.

Title : True Love

Couple find if they truly love each other in a Yoghurt Shop in a surprising manner.

Ext. Crowded shopping mall in festive season. An attractive couple are window shopping. Close up of them as the youth wipes off the sweat from his brow.

Saurabh

Boy, it is so hot. Shall we have an ice cream sweetheart?

Surabhi

Darling you know ice cream is so bad for my figure. Let’s have yogurt instead. Look, there’s a shop.

Ext. Couple walk towards a brightly decorated “Lord Krishna Yogurt Shop”

Int.Various flavors of Yogurt on display.

Saurabh

I am having strawberry flavored, I suppose you want the same.

Surabhi

Oh no, my favorite is mango. I will have a cup of that.

Saurabh

Darling, we are so much in love and engaged to be married. Shouldn’t we be sharing the same flavor?

Surabhi

Ha, ha, we can do that when we get married my love. Have patience, it is just fifteen days from now.

Int. Shop. Long shot of shop with  Saurabh buying Yogurt. In the meanwhile a well dressed old man approaches Surabhi. Saurabh returns with the cups.

Surabhi

Darling, this is Mr. Agnihotri and he has something very interesting to say.

Camera pans on the old man. He has a greeting card in his hand. Shows it to Saurabh who is eyeing him suspiciously.

Agnihotri

Good afternoon sir. This is a special greeting card.

Saurabh

Oh yea? And what’s so special? Looks ordinary to me.

Agnihotri

No Sir. You see, you can write any address on it, this card will always go to the person you truly love.

Saurabh

You got to be joking, right.

Agnihotri

Ten million rupees is not a joke Sir.

Saurabh

What do you mean ten million?

Agnihotri

Buy this card and you will know.

Saurabh

Ok how much?

Agnihotri

Not so fast sir…you have to agree to send it to the person you love the most. If the card reaches the person you have addressed it to you will get your 10 million.

Saurabh has a smirk on his face and winks at Surabhi.

Saurabh

What if we both participate?

Agnihotri

Of course you can Sir. We will be delighted and you can win 20 million.

Both look greedily at the card. They grab at it and almost tear it.

Agnihotri

Patience my young friends.

Int. Shop. A crowd has gathered around the three. Some more want that card.

Agnihotri

Gentlemen, anyone can buy this card and have a chance of winning 10 million. But if your card goes to another address you will have to pay with your life.

There is a collective gasp. Camera zooms on expressions of the crowd. No one steps ahead for the card, but the two.

Agnihotri

Ah two very lovely and loving persons. Give them a big hand everybody. And could you please write down the addresses on the card?

Int. Shop. Camera on Saurabh who smilingly writes down the name and address of Surabhi  on his card

Saurabh.

Done

Agnihotri

Alright so you want me to send them by courier or by post?

Saurabh

Oh no not by the Indian postal service. She would get old before she receives the card. Now that we both are here, can I give this card here and now?

Agnihotri

Ah you do not want to wait to get your 10 million eh? Alright go ahead give the card to your beloved.

Int. Shop. Camera on Saurabh as he gives card to Surabhi. Victorious smiles on their faces.

Saurabh

Where is my ten million old man?

Agnihotri

Of course you will get it Sir. Don’t you want the lady to give you her card for her ten million?

Saurabh

No, no. Give me my money first. Only then she will give her card to me.

Int. Shop Long shot of crowd applauding the lovers.

Agnihotri

Here is your check for ten million.

But before he can give the check something strange happens. There is a gasp as the Card flies from Surabhi’s hand into  Suarabh’s hand again.

Agnihotri

Sir you can try again.

Saurabh gives it to her again. She keeps it in the purse. There is a click and the purse opens automatically and the card jumps on to a startled Suarabh again. He has gone ashen faced and Surabhi is dumb founded. The crowd is stationary as if in trance.

Saurabh

What kind of joke is this?

Agnihotri

Again sir, this is not a joke. This card is never wrong. It seems you love yourself too much. Much more than you love your betrothed. Alright young man, get ready for your punishment.

Int. Shop. Camera zooms on a sinister looking man in black suit. He comes forward and takes hold of Saurabh.

Sinister man

Come my friend it is time to go.

His voice is a deathly hiss.

Saurabh

No, no please I do not want to die so young. I have not even finished my yogurt.

Sinister man

Well you gambled and lost. Rules are rules.

Surabhi who is in state of shock suddenly breaks into action. She falls at the feet of the old man.

Surabhi

Forgive us our follies Sir. Please do not make me a widow before getting married

Old man looks another way. Surabhi is desperate.

Surabhi

Please Sir. I will be your slave, and do your bidding all my life.Or better still take my life.

Agnihotri is getting emotional too and finally relents.

Agnihotri

Ok little one. Just this once for your sake I will give you one chance. You can address this card to the person you love the most and if it reaches the right person we will spare this young man’s life. Needless to say you are not going to win any money now.

The girl is reluctant to write on the card. The boy pleads.

Saurabh

My love only you can save me.

The girl is still hesitating.

The boy moans.

Saurabh

Now I know you do not love me truly. Oh you can even write the name of your childhood sweetheart from whom I have parted you forcibly. But save me please.

Crowd is divided. One group wants her to write on the card and the other wants her to leave him to his fate.

Int. Shop. Camera on girl as she writes on the card. She hands the card over to the old man. The card flies out of the hand of the old man and hovers in the shop looking for the addressee.. As the Camera fades a voice is heard saying

Young man you are saved.

My most beautiful thing


 

Life had so much to offer,

So many beautiful things.

They got supplanted all

The day you were born.

 

The apple of my eyes

For a score and three years

Your beautiful smile,

Brought sunshine each and every day.

 

Along came Prince Charming,

Band, baaja, baraat…

Mother-in-law et al,

Took you away from Dad.

 

A new family you have,

Fresh challenges beckon you.

The focus of your smile

Has shifted….

But you still are and will be

My most beautiful thing!

 

Today I’m taking part in the My Most Beautiful Thing Blogsplash to celebrate beautiful things – inspired by Fiona Robyn’s new novel, The Most Beautiful Thing. Bloggers from all over the world are taking part and writing or posting pictures of their most beautiful things today. Find out more here and see everyone else’s blog posts here

A note


 

On Tuesday the 24th of April, I’m taking part in a Blogsplash to celebrate beautiful things, inspired by Fiona Robyn’s new novel, ‘The Most Beautiful Thing‘.

People all over the world will be blogging, tweeting & writing about their own most beautiful thing. You could also be one of them. So how about joining the bandwagon?

You could post a photo or write a prose piece about your most beautiful thing. You could write a small stone or show us a piece of artwork you’ve made in honour of your most beautiful thing. It’s completely up to you. You could be extravagant and post a whole series of your most beautiful things, so says Fiona.

Writing Our Way Home are making a directory of everyone who’s taking part, and they will also re-post their favourite entries on their blog over the following month.

If you’d like to join her, email fiona@writingourwayhome.com for more details. Till tomorrow when I will be back with more on the most beautiful thing for me.

My Most Cherished Book


Picture courtesy Wiki

Over the fifty-two or is it fifty-three years of my existence I have been a rolling stone that gathered no moss, but I certainly have gathered a lot of books. Being born in a not so well to do family I did not have the luxury of owning books as a child, but was introduced to their wonders by my mother, an avid reader herself and a member of the hallowed Albert Edward library in Pune. From the age of nine I was introduced to fairy tales from various countries, then Enid Blyton, followed by Alistair Mclean and then the much maligned but secretly coveted by all, Harold Robbins. The first book I bought from my savings was ‘Where Eagles Dare’ by Alistair Mclean and after that I have bought so many that finally I had to donate books to a local library. Still I have kept some that I cannot give away and those range from Mills and Boon (I told my sisters I read those to learn the workings of the female mind….how naive one can be eh?) to ‘Hundred Years of Solitude’ (Have actually read it and it’s not there just to impress visitors) But the most cherished book that has been on my shelf longer than most is ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ by Baroness Orczy. It has been there since 1974, when I was a mere school boy.

Strangely, for someone who wanted to be an Engineer all his life, I loved history more than any subject. The setting of this book was perfect for my taste. Also it was a book where the woman’s character was given equal if not more importance. In fact the whole story is that of the conflict in her mind about the apparent loss of love of a doting husband. Maybe it was so because the author was a woman. Having read about the French Revolution in the school history books my knowledge of it was much sanitized. I thought of it as an idealistic uprising of the peasants against an unjust feudal system. Then I came across this book and I got to see the other face of the Revolution. Along with Charles Dickens’ ‘The Tale of Two Cities’, it taught me that there are always many facets to history and one must know most of them to have a balanced view. It also appealed to the romantic in me. The struggle between love and pride, where love finally wins. Last but not the least it was the character of Sir Percy Blakeney that appealed to me the most. The indolent dandy he portrayed to hide a sharp and brave brain fascinated me and I tried to model myself on those lines, so much so that even now I think the real me is hidden behind a mask. Of course I have not had the pleasure of saving people from the guillotine and this attitude did not help me in any way in my romantic adventures (Do I hear you say that it serves me right for trying to learn about women from M&B romances?)

The matter is giving away books is very painful. Most of my books I have donated to a library and few of them have taken by friends never to be returned. My favorite P.G. Wodehouse now adorns the shelf of a very dear friend Shaila so I won’t be giving this book to her. Pushkin and Chekov will have to go to the library. The Kamasutra has already been gifted to my son. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s books will remain as memorabilia on my shelf, but ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ will go with me on my final journey. Maybe I will meet the Baroness there (assuming I will go to Heaven) and she will sign it for me.

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