She runs her hand lightly on the spines of the books on her towering shelves. She picks one at random, reads a few pages, puts it back, picks another, puts it back. Her mind cannot stick to the story, or the characters.  When it does, she feels even more lost and trapped. All her books seem to be about inevitable pain, and helplessness in front of fate. Even the summaries on the back of the books talk about already “doomed” protagonists. When did her books become so depressing, and cynical, and tragic? She remembers when she started reading “grown up” books; books that were not in the Young Reader’s section at the book store. She was thrilled, she felt like a grown up. When did growing up become synonymous with tragedy?

Unable to settle, she roams about the house. Her grandmother’s room looks to the east, and the rays of the sun are slipping through the crack between the two curtains, lighting up the haze of dust. She draws the curtains aside, only to be blinded by the light. She cannot comprehend the emptiness of the room, but the utter silence is somewhat comforting. After days of endless chatter of her relatives, the necessary small talk, the societal rituals of mourning, the silence feels like waking up after a long harrowing nightmare.

The landing on the first floor opens to a terrace balcony. A worn out yoga mat sits in the corner, its navy color fading. She wants to smile at her innocently good intentions. She tries to ease the wrinkles on her forehead, but that is oddly uncomfortable. Her face struggles to get back to the new normal, unable to handle the momentary release from the strain.

Memories of this terrace flicker across her eyes. She remembers sitting her in the evenings, getting her hair oiled by her grandmother, eating almonds. She remembers endless games of carom, accompanied by lemonade. She remembers the frustration and sleepless nights, when she dealt with  her exam stress by walking to and fro in the cool night air. She remembers tears of joy and relief at finally getting admission to her first choice of university. She remembers dance practices and hard work. She remembers long discussions, the aimless chatter, the unhesitating laughter. She remembers the mechanical answers as she replied to variants of Congratulations on your first job! She remembers the loneliness that slowly sneaked up on her, as she became quieter and quieter. She remembers the months of guilt as she willed herself everyday to function, to show up at work, to pick up the pieces of her life, to switch off the autopilot, to do more than simply exist. And she remembers the phone call, the dread, the cold sweat breaking over her again and again, as she begged, and prayed, and hoped, that she had heard wrong, that Naani was fine, that it was not her fault that she had not been available to talk, or to listen.

The attic smells musty. No one has come up here since ages. The place is crammed with boxes, and knick-knacks lie scattered on the floor. She sees several dinner sets that they never got around to using, each gifted to the family by someone or the other every Diwali. She sees her old bicycle, stabilizers thrown into the basket. There are four huge boxes full of old photo albums, picture stories of three generations.

She has never been intoxicated. Always the model child, she never had the urge to try out something forbidden, to experiment, to experience. She never rebelled, never sneaked out at night, never had a secret party, never even painted her nails black. She wonders if she missed out on things, but she knows, deep down, that she never would have dared. She has been raised on a diet of obedience and guilt.

And yet she often finds herself thinking of the small bottle of brandy in the medicinal cabinet nowadays, fighting a mad desire to take a couple of swigs. She wonders, almost academically, what it would feel like to be drunk. Would she really forget for a while?

She finds what she is looking for. In this corner of the attic are boxes labelled Books. Here lie the stacks of Nancy Drew, the literal mountains of innumerable series of Enid Blyton, the Judy Blumes. These are the books that made her fall in love with reading. These are the characters that are brave, and never fail, and are always the heroes of their own stories. They are never hindered by things outside their control, they never feel helpless.

She is meticulous this time, and picks up the books in order of their series number. The characters wave at her like old friends, the familiar words ease the knots in her stomach. If she concentrates very hard, she can just taste her childhood. She tells herself this is healthier; at least she’s not zoning out in front of the TV.

It is dark in the attic. Her eyes turn red with strain as she devours book after book. The characters from all the series are getting mixed up but she doesn’t want to stop. As she drags herself down to her bedroom after several hours, her eyes nearly closed, her head pounding, and her body heavy with tiredness that comes from mental exhaustion, it strikes her that the brandy may not be the only way of getting drunk.

A Bookish Love

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla

It was a stupid decision, they said. You are wasting your grades; you could easily get a better internship! But they did not understand. They did not know the absolute need, the compulsion to be there, among all those long, towering shelves of books. It was there, amidst the musty smell of books, that he could breathe.

He had his table by the classics section. It was the best table; he could see the black penguin covers, even if he was not allowed to pick any and read it during the day time. Their being there in front of him, just existing, was such a comfort. He helped people find the books; rarely did he use his computer to locate any book; he remembered where each of them was. Tolstoy’s War and Peace next to Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment… Bronte’s Jane Eyre besides the row of Jane Austen books. His  hands lingered on the books; the touch was both familiar and exhilarating.


She had not been to the bookstore for four months now; an eternity. The work at the make-up aisle was mind-numbing, and hardly paid for the bills. There was no extra money for books, no extra time for perusing the different sections of the bookstore.

But she was here finally; a Tuesday when the mall was unexpectedly closed for maintenance. She felt herself in familiar territory; there was an ease in her walking now. She had a fixed routine. First, she went to the New Arrivals, reading the back covers of expensive hardbacks that she could never afford. She kept in mind the titles of the books she liked, making a mental note to buy them once they were old enough to be paperbacks or second-hands. Next, she browsed the Fiction section. Here, she opened the latest John Grisham, and read about 50 pages, standing. She would continue it from there the next time she was here. Crime and Mysteries came next, after which she walked straight past the Romance section to the one she loved best; the Classics section. Here, she walked up and down the line of shelves, reading the titles and mentally ticking off the ones she had already read. In this section, she could transport herself back to older times, tragedies of the war and the pain of betrayal. Here, she could rejoice in the “happily ever after” of Pride and Prejudice and cry at the unresolved ending of Gone with the Wind.


He saw her take a book in her hand and put it in a different shelf below. He stood up to prevent her from messing the shelves, but stopped. The book was A Picture of Dorian Gray, and it did belong to the lower shelf; someone must have picked it and then put it back in the most convenient spot on the higher shelf. He was surprised; she was a customer, why should it matter to her?

He slid back in his chair and watched closely. He saw her picking up book after book, reading the back covers, reading the first few pages, smiling and nodding at times. Always, she put the book back in its right place. As she browsed, she straightened the books that were not in line. It was almost an unconscious action; she displayed no exasperation on her face.

He saw her picking up yet another book now. After deliberating for a moment, she put it back. Then she picked it up again. He strained to see what book it was; Wuthering Heights.


She opened her purse. There were only Rs. 170 in it. The cost of the book was Rs. 160. That would leave her with just enough money to buy a bus ticket to home. There were still four days before the month end. There were still groceries to buy and bills to pay. Reluctantly, she put the book back on the shelf. She would buy it the next time. Slowly, she walked out of the bookstore.


He saw her returning ten minutes later. She walked with purpose now. Hurriedly, she went back to the Classics section, picked up Wuthering Heights, walked to the counter and bought it. He saw her smile once she held the book in her hands, now her own. The tension in her eyes eased gradually. With lighter steps, she walked out of the bookstore again.

He had never seen her in the bookstore before. He did not know who she was. But sitting here on his hard chair, among piles of books, he knew he had found the girl he would love.

Blog Review: 2014

2014 has been a very happening year for me. There have been many defining events. The coming year is going to bring even wilder changes! I hope that my blog will continue to reflect the things happening in my life and that my writing will stay true to the person that I am. 🙂

Blog-wise, the year saw a lot of poetry, and some life moments in between. Here are some of my favourite posts this year:





Silent Love Poem


You Lied, Mother

The Empty Page

There Was Nothing To Be Done


Not Being Able To See

Being Enough

On Vulnerability, Bravery and Failure

Last year, my Reader was filled with these wonderful blog reports. I started blogging in February of 2013 and hence, did not get it the last time. This year, this little surprise was waiting for me in my inbox. 🙂

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,000 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

I hope the following year sees more eclecticism in my blog posts. 🙂

Have a wonderful year ahead!

Happy New Year – Festive, sparkling and glistening cake pops | niner bakes



Download / By Sunset Girl

She stood waiting, unsure whether to sit. It was an empty room mostly; a green, old and worn-down sofa, a chair with a broken back, a small table. A small, grilled window looked out to the busy street; a lot of noise. But she did not hear the noise; the turmoil inside her was too great in itself.

It had been three years since Maya had last seen her father. A small time, really, but she had lived a whole new life during that time. Resentment, anger and shame had filled her in those initial days. Now, it was replaced by dread. She had a thousand questions for him, but no words.

The door opened and her father entered. He had not changed much, nothing that struck her. It was almost too easy; there was no shock that is usually present when you see someone after a long time. It was, as if, a continuation of the past, as if no break had taken place. It scared her more.

He shuffled over to the sofa and sat down with a grunt. She was somewhat hurt. Had she hoped for some change? Had she perhaps expected an apologetic behavior, awkwardness mixed with sorrow? Shame? Remorse? It bothered her that even after such a long time, this small act by her father affected her so much.

Positioning herself on the chair, she looked resentfully at him. She had thought that time would heal the wounds, or would at least make her detached enough for this meeting. But she was still so trapped into all those emotions. She wanted to get up and run away. She wanted to hit him. She wanted…anything, anything that would release that burden that had been making her shoulders, head, her entire body, ache for three years.

He broke the silence.

“Maya… You’ve been well…?”

Such a cursory question, something that she would have answered immediately at a social gathering; Yes, very well. Thank you! But she wouldn’t answer today. She hadn’t come here to have pleasant chats about the weather, ignoring the elephant in the room. She had come to…to… Why had she come here? She asked herself again. She still had no definite answer.

You have been well?” she asked, unable to keep her tone less accusatory.

“Ah, yes, well… The neighborhood is nice.”

A silence again.

He stood up and shuffled inside. A minute later, he came back with a glass of water and a plate of biscuits.

“You liked these ones… Marie biscuits…” he ventured.

A pain had now settled in her heart. This was difficult, more difficult than singular hatred for somebody.


Daddy! Look what I brought!” Maya shouted with glee, holding the trophy in her hands.

She burst into the house, but her father wasn’t in the drawing room. Impatiently, she ran back to the kitchen garden; her father was very big on home-grown vegetables.

Kitchen…Living room…Study… Maya rushed upstairs to find him. The door to her parents’ bedroom was half closed. She pushed it open. He was there…


The maid came running at the sound of the glass shattering.

It had shaken her, that she was still so possessed by old nightmares; incidences that she had thought to be buried. She wasn’t ready to do this, wasn’t ready to look into her father’s eyes.

The ride home was uneventful. Her taxi passed through familiar streets but she was lost in a whirlpool of her emotions.

She regretted her decision.


The girl was too scared to scream. And she was so tiny; she couldn’t have battled a man of her father’s size alone. In fact, both of them together could not have made a difference either. But Maya’s father stopped on seeing her enter the room. He didn’t say anything. Maya would not let him. She could not stop screaming. The girl rushed to Maya as soon as her Daddys hands loosened. She was trembling with fear and still couldn’t say anything. Maya couldn’t say anything coherent either. It was all a jumble of words; accusations and disgust.


The taxi came to a stop at her hotel, and broke her flow of memories; memories that she had locked deep within, and which were now open and unwilling to be subdued easily. She still shuddered to think of what would have happened had she not reached her house in time. More than that, she shuddered to think what would have happened had she stopped screaming and allowed her father to talk. Her father was never at loss for words. He was a lawyer; he would have made such convincing statements. And she knew she would have believed him. Like she had all her life.

She returned home the next morning.


Sitting in her psychiatrist’s office,  Maya could not help remembering the faint memories of her childhood… how Daddy used to wink at the waitresses, and then laugh innocently when he caught her looking…how he would stare at women who passed by them every morning while they went for walk in the park. Had he always been a pervert? Had she just been too trusting or too preoccupied to notice?


Her father acted as if nothing was wrong, as if the very basis of all relationships with him hadn’t changed. Her mother had been too ashamed to speak to her. The girl, her father’s student, hadn’t made any complaint. A lot of money was involved.

Why did her mother choose to turn a blind eye towards his follies? What happened to all her teachings about truth and pride? Why did the girl not speak up? Maya could not decide whose behavior troubled her more.


She promised herself that she would return again some day; when it would be less painful, less humiliating, less … personal. She would then return as just a researcher, merely curious to know the mind of a criminal. Till then, this story would remain broken.


It was her decision to abort the child. Her own. No one asked her to. No one advised her to.

Her husband wanted her to abort. He knew the pregnancy was dangerous. He knew he loved her too much to risk losing her. And yet, when she had told him her decision, there was…something. Surprise, a mild shock, or was it disgust? Did he want her to beg and cry to keep the child? Did he want to be that voice of reason in the midst of unreasonable maternal instinct? Did he want to prove that he loved her but he considered the fact that she loved herself to be unwomanly?

She saw these emotions passing through his face, but the final one was relief. She was relieved herself to find that emotion on his face. Relieved to know that despite all, he loved her.

The doctor came in then. He nodded when they told him, his eyes all the while on her husband. He was the one who must have convinced her, of course. He waited politely for her to shed a few tears, which she did. But the doctor looked on quizzically. She was in physical and emotional pain, no doubt. But she seemed composed when she signed the papers. No hysteria, no drama, no refusal, no changing the mind at the last moment. Perhaps she was in denial; this was all a bad dream.


Photo via Google Images


She felt every movement, everything that was being done to her. For all her years to come, she would be able to remember exactly what was done to tear her baby apart from her. Her husband said all the right things, did all the right things, and still, she felt he wanted to detach himself from it all. His comforting her felt slightly cold, his demeanour slightly icy.

The following few months were painful; the words and the sympathy felt forced. She wondered whether he blamed her for losing the child. She wondered if their families thought so too. His mother resolutely accepted when they told her, but she kept waiting for her daughter-in-law to break, to reproach him for making her do this.

“Maybe it’s all for the best. She isn’t…well, it’s difficult for women nowadays to appreciate the love for a child…” her mother-in-law broke off when she saw her standing at the doorway. She had been stricken by the words. Was she really not loving enough to be a mother? Did people imagine it was easy for her to let go of her child?

If she had wanted to risk her own life for the child, would that have made her a good mother? Wasn’t “sacrifice” the accepted standard for the society for being a good mother? Wanting to live, wanting to try again for a child, wanting a healthy pregnancy, wanting to be able to see her child alive and happy; this was perhaps, too selfish.

“I want to try again,” she told her husband one day. “We should see a doctor about the complications.”

He agreed, if only to make her happy.

“Do you think I’ll be a good mother?”, she asked him, five months into her pregnancy.

He nodded, smiling slightly, before turning away.

He didn’t ask whether she thought he would be a good father. Neither did his parents, who were very supportive of him when he wanted her to terminate the first pregnancy.

The girl was born healthy and on time. The family rejoiced. She was the perfect baby.

“Do you think I am a good mother?” she asked again when Tanya was a feisty seven-year-old.

He hugged her impulsively and tightly. She caught the words I’m sorry… breathed into her ear.

She grieved again, after all these years; this time, only for her lost child.

Mommy Trap

Blogtember Day #13

Thursday, September 19: Creative writing day: write a (very short) fictional story that starts with this sentence: “To say I was dreading the dinner party would be the understatement of the century.” The story does not necessarily need to have a conclusion – you can leave your readers wishing for more!

To say I was dreading the dinner party would be the understatement of the century. But my older sister was organising it and I had no excuse to miss it.

Shalini was 34, married and had a 5 year old son. The guests invited to the party were mostly her friends. They were all mothers with kids ranging from 4 to 7 years of  age. Needless to say, as a snarky seventeen-year-old, I wasn’t too thrilled at having noisy kids all over me, calling me auntie.

But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was the Competition. Oh, it wasn’t called that, of course. It was called “Encouraging the kids to speak in public.” Which translated into “My kid recites poetry better than yours does!”

And thus, the torture began. For forty-five excruciating minutes, I was subjected to repeated recitations of “Baa Baa Black Sheep”, “Twinkle twinkle” and “Hickory Dickory Dock.” Some kids were multi-taskers and could sing and dance at the same time. Action song, the enthusiastic moms called it.

The kids were enthusiastic too. They had no qualms in being asked to recite something that their previous competitor had just recited. Or maybe they were convinced that they could do it better. Oh, the winning spirit!

That night, I made myself a promise. I would never, ever make an exhibition of my kid like that, whenever I had one. I would always remember the plight of poor guests. More importantly, I would never try to show that my child was better than the others. My child would never be a rat-race contender.


12 years later.

To say I was dreading the dinner party would be the understatement of the century. I was organising it for the PTA members of the kindergarten school that my four-year-old daughter, Aisha went to. All the mothers were coming along with their kids of course. The dreaded Competition had come back to haunt me!

The starters were served and all the moms and kids sat in the living room. The room had the buzz of last-minute preparations before the beginning of a play.

The room began to quieten slowly. The stage was set. With a deep breath I braced myself.


And said, “Aisha! Come and recite the “Baa Baa Black Sheep” poetry that you learnt in school!”, and to the audience, proudly, “She does it so great with actions!”

The Other Life

Then she woke up.

She didn’t want to. She really didn’t. For a few minutes, she tried putting herself back to sleep, tried to dream the same dreams that she had been having. But alas, that wasn’t to happen. Sighing, she got out of bed to make herself a cup of tea.

As the tea brewed, she sank back into the chair, closed her eyes and relived those dreams that had left eyes minutes ago.

Girl on chair

Photo via Pinterest

The girl was six. It is strange how in dreams you just know these things; age, feelings. She was sitting on a swing, laughing, while her parents looked at her lovingly. What was surprising that nobody told the girl to get down and let her brother sit. Nobody told her not to laugh so loudly. Dreams were so abstract sometimes, she mused. It was as if it didn’t matter that she was a girl.

The dream changed the scenes suddenly, as dreams usually do. One moment she was giggling on the swing, a mere child, the next moment, she was twelve. She wasn’t really afraid of the stain that she had found on her bed sheet that morning, just curious. Her mother was smiling at her, carefully explaining her the red, but she didn’t say anything about keeping away from others. She didn’t say that for five days every month, she would be untouchable. She didn’t say that her childhood was suddenly, brutally over. Dreams glossed over the truths of everyday life.

Time passed so quickly in dreams; it was the one quality that dreams shared with reality. The dream began to gather speed now. She saw quick frames of her school, her university, the scholarships, her office. Dreams had an uncanny habit of concentrating too much on the minute details while breezing through the major happenings. She saw her home, her own home, with cream curtains and bookshelves that scaled entire walls.

Only, it was a lie. All of it, the school, the university, everything. She never went to school after she got her period. She helped around the house, minded her younger brother. One evening, she was told to wear that new sari that she had got on her birthday. Some guests were coming. Six days later, she was married.

The dream didn’t show those initial days after marriage, nor the subsequent years of abuse that followed. It didn’t show that endless wait for something; anything; the wait for life to happen. She was still stuck in the same heartless, loveless, bourgeois marriage. It was strange; all she saw was an alternate life, the life that she could have had, but didn’t.

For five whole minutes, she allowed herself to go over each minuscule detail of that other life. She roamed about her house. Lovingly, she browsed through her books. She felt the smooth silk curtains in her hands. She admired the artwork on the walls.

Then the tea was made.

The husband woke up then. He came to the kitchen and grunted for tea. She poured him the cup and started brewing some for herself again. Her husband wasn’t an evil man. He just never knew any other way to live. She looked at him for a long moment before turning away with regret and helplessness.

She went to the window sill to feed the pigeons. Then suddenly, she gave a wry smile. At least she had her cream curtains.

Darkness in Light

Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.

-Albus Dumbledore

It was dark and the woman hurried to her home. The wind was biting and the sky looked as if it was about to snow any moment. Not many people were about; in fact the woman saw only one fellow who sailed past on a cycle. The woman pulled her shawl tighter to her body, shivering.

“Snow in October! It’s unheard of!” she muttered to herself as the first flakes started falling down.

Suddenly there came the sound of firecrackers. Diwali crackers.

“To think of playing about with crackers in this cold!” she exclaimed again to herself.

To think that her three children did not have a single sweater in the cold season and people were spending money on fire crackers whose smoke would stay in street and pollute her children’s home and surroundings. To think that people were making merry while her children were starving.

“And on Diwali too!” she cried bitterly, and concluded her melancholy thoughts.

She reached home to find her children huddled under the one tattered blanket that sufficed for the whole family including her drunkard husband who wasn’t at home then. Probably still drinking away in the ‘festive’ season.

The eldest child, her daughter was holding the blanket around the younger kids; another daughter and a son. The younger ones were both looking out of the window at the fireworks show in the sky, with a hidden longing that could be seen only by their mother. They had since long learnt to not voice their desires because even their young eyes could see the pain of their mother when she had to refuse them. But try as they might, they could not control their eyes which still looked about hungrily at everything that they wanted but couldn’t have.

“Boom boom!” the youngest daughter shouted suddenly in glee, as another round of fireworks went off.

“Father’s not home yet,” the eldest said.

“I don’t think he will be home any time soon. We might as well start the dinner,” the woman replied wearily.

The woman had vowed to herself that whatever happened, she would at least provide her children a feast for the festival. She was working day and night doing the Diwali cleaning at people’s places during the day and cooking at the roadside eatery every evening for half the salary as the men got for cooking.

She asked for advances from people who were kind enough to trust her. This Diwali, her children were going to enjoy a delicious feast and get decent gifts and new clothes. Her youngest daughter was going to get her “boom boom”s. And her husband was not going to spoil anything.

“Tomorrow you will come with me to the market to buy vegetables for the Diwali dinner,” she told the eldest.

At that moment the husband staggered at the door and fell down near the foot of the bed, in a state of drunken stupor. The woman said nothing but started serving the meal to the kids.

The husband got up somehow and settled on the mat near the stove.

“Give me money,” he told his wife.

She replied that she did not have any. Such lies had become common for her as her husband was fond of gambling. Her children’s education was important to her, and she saved as much as she could. She hid the money from her husband, giving it to her sister for safe-keeping, and depositing it in the bank, out of her husband’s reach.

The husband now slapped her and accused her of lying.

“What did you do with Diwali bonus?!” he shouted.

The woman told him that it was spent in the household expenses. Of course he did not believe her. He has seen her working extra time.

“Don’t you try to hide the money from me!” he bellowed.

He started rummaging about the utensils to find the money. He was aware that his wife sometimes kept the money in one of the big boxes used to keep the flour.

“No, no!” the woman pleaded as he threw the flour box down. The flour spread on the floor and with it came a small plastic bag, the woman’s Diwali savings.

The husband slapped her again and stomped out of the house with the money, and his wife screaming at him about the kids and Diwali and education.

She stopped following him after realising that it was of no use. Then she went inside to see the eldest daughter putting the flour back in the box, trying to get rid of the small stones and dirt mixed with the flour. They both cleaned up the mess without saying a word to each other. The younger children were also as meek as mice after their father’s outburst. They hadn’t got used to it even though they saw it frequently enough.

The woman looked at her first born with grave eyes now. Her fifteen-year-old daughter was soon to be married to a thirty-three year old man with a disfigured leg. The marriage was to happen because the woman’s husband had taken a ‘loan’ from the family. The woman had been against it. But of course, it didn’t matter.

She had considered running away with her children but then where could she go? She did not have enough money to establish herself anywhere else. Her savings were too meagre. She had let go of all her belongings because of her husband’s doings. Only once did she put her foot down. That was when he wanted to stop the eldest daughter from going to school because he drank down the school fees. The woman had begged her sister for the money then. She could not let her daughter go down the same fate as her. However, a worse fate was now looming up.

The woman herself had been married off at the age of sixteen. Her husband was unemployed at that time too, and they lived off his elder brother’s earnings. The brother’s wife gave birth to a son, and now, the brother had no more money to give to them. So, they shifted to another house, bought on the woman’s small dowry and her elder sister’s loan. Ten whole years had been spent in repaying that loan. The husband stayed unemployed even then and she soon began to worry about how to pay for basic necessities. The hunger caused her husband to get irritated even more, and he beat her regularly to vent off. She took up the work of the domestic help, hoping that it would be temporary, and that the husband would soon get a job. But he soon saw the benefits of letting his wife work and splurging her money on alcohol and gambling. It had been seventeen years now, and she was still a housemaid.

She regretted having kids sometimes, because she could not provide enough for them. She spent several nights cursing herself and crying because of being unable to satisfy their hunger. Then she promised herself that she would try harder. Then she tried. Then she broke down with overwork. And then she cursed herself again.

Still, she somehow managed to save enough to send her children to school. But on many days, it was either the groceries or the husband’s alcohol. There were many fights; she was abused to the hilt but what was to be done? Life had to go on, and she went with it. She endured the harassment, the poverty, the drama of everyday life. She even tried to find amusement in it.

But as happens in many such cases, when life tries you too much, a bursting point is finally reached. With this woman, it reached today, when her attempt to provide a little enjoyment to her kids was spoilt. It was to be a farewell from her to her eldest daughter before she got trapped in the same life of marriage as her mother. It was a feast for her son who had never tasted anything but boiled rice and half-cooked rotis; a gift of firecrackers and light to her youngest daughter. And it was spoilt.

The woman shrieked in misery and cursed her husband loudly. The eldest watched in shock as her mother screamed and thrashed about the room hysterically. In all her fifteen years of life, she had never seen her mother lose control like this. She was badly shaken. The other two were also scared out of their wits.

It went on for half an hour, an hour, two hours. The woman was now sobbing loudly sitting on the corner of the bed. The husband returned then, after losing all the money to his gambling mates. They did not look at each other. They did not say anything. The husband slurred at the woman, switched off the light, and fell on the bed.

The children had fallen asleep by then too. The woman was sitting alone by the window, still weeping. Suddenly, there was a huge commotion outside. A Diwali rocket had fallen in the empty shed near the houses of the cluster. People started shouting and running outside. The eldest woke up in the noise. She grabbed her brother while the woman grabbed the youngest daughter, and rushed outside. The husband was still passed out drunk.

The fire spread to the hay roof of their house immediately, and an explosion took place. It was the gas cylinder. The fire engulfed the entire house before anybody could grasp what had happened. The fire brigade reached the spot soon after two more houses had been burnt.

The woman held her children close as they watched their house being doused. She knew that she was now a widow. It was odd; she felt nothing but pity for the man she had lived with for seventeen years.

“Boom boom!” the youngest whispered to her mother suddenly, pointing at the flames.

The woman looked at her. The youngest smiled at her nervously, still afraid of her mother’s breakdown.

“Boom boom…” she whispered back.

The sky was reddening. The woman sighed. It was a new morning.