Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 141 Should I believe?

When Chloe Castelle walked the ramp the world of Parisian fashion held its collective breath; she was beautiful. She could make the work of any designer look good, even the mundane and the ordinary.

She had a show in Milano and landed late for the Saint Laurent show.  Makeup, hair and fittings were all done at the same time, a manic energy in the back stage area filled with cigarette smoke and rounds of espresso to keep alive and kicking.  The music came on, claps from the other side of the wall, the show had begun. Chloe was the showstopper, ten minutes more she told herself.

The floor assistant signaled to her with her fingers, two minutes, Chloe nodded and then absent mindedly gazed at an open laptop carelessly left open on a poetry website. She read the poem on the page, what she did not know was that it would change her life forever. Her eyes scanned the poem, “Waking, The crumbs of euphoria linger, The ringing laughter, The silly banter, The scent of her being, The sly glancing, Linger” Chloe was so lost in the poem that she missed her cue, the assistant had to push her onto the stage.

The flashbulbs popped and the beaching strobes blinded her, this was not new to her, she was accustomed to it but on that day something odd happened, between every flash she saw the lines of the poem, flash, “A piece of paper, Torn, Carelessly placed, Digits written with the color, Color of her lips, Mere ten jabs to her voice, Ten jabs away, The promise of more euphoria” More flashes and then more lines of the poem, “And yet so many jabs at euphoria, The memories of so many, Laughter, Scents, Banters, Glances. And yet this morning I wake, Alone, Wake again to another promise, On the bed of many dead ones.”

Chloe felt like the poet was talking to her, it was like he was in her mind, in the light of the glaring flashes she found the words floating towards her, “The piece of paper, Torn, carelessly placed, The look lingers, Hope lingers, One more time, One more chance to wake, Wake to euphoria”

She stepped back into the green room and read the last lines again, “The moment passes that decides forever, I hold breath then let go, I let go, Forever begins all over again, In search of forever.”

It was late at night, Chloe was exhausted but she could not sleep. She had to know more about the Poet who could write those lines. She knew like her he was a lonely lost soul. Michel Dubois, she liked the name. The website had an email contact and Chloe, spontaneous as she was, decided to write Michel an email.

“I found the treasure of your poems. They have my heart, Chloe Castelle.”
The next day she received an answer from him, “Are you the poet or am I?  Or then are you ‘The Great Chloe Castelle’ ?”

Anton was doing her hair, she asked him to stop, she had to respond to the email, she giggled like a child as she responded, “I am Chloe Castelle but not really great!”

“My poems have your heart and you have mine,” the mail came back quicker this time.

Soon the emails moved to text messages and then to whatsapp messenger. She loved his voice when they spoke for the first time. Three weeks into their constant chatting she asked him to write her a poem. He did.

“Should I believe?
Should I believe everything happens for a reason? 
Should I believe in Destiny?
Should I believe you are here for a reason?
Should I believe you sigh when you hear from me?
Should I believe when you close your eyes you see me?
Should I believe you think, if only?
Should I believe you are so many unsaid thoughts?
Should I believe you are so many feelings?
Should I believe you smile to yourself? Should I believe you have a secret? Should I believe I could be your secret?
Should I believe I make a difference? Should I believe you hear music? Should I believe I could be your music? 
Should I believe you have dreams? Should I believe I  could be your dream?
Should I believe that silences have meanings?
Should I believe I could be your silence?
Should I believe there is no beginning? Should I believe there is no end? Should I believe it is right for me to believe?
Should I believe that love is what I believe?”

She cried when she read the poem. The she reread the poem and cried again. Then through her tears she wrote him a mail, “You should believe.”
They fell in love.

There was one problem, Michel refused to meet her. He told her that he was not what she imagined. He was only good enough to be loved over the Internet or a telephone call. Should she meet him, she would be disappointed. Chloe told him that it was not fair of him to decide for her. Michel relented finally but she would have to come home to see him, he would not step out.

Chloe found Michel’s apartment with a fair amount of ease, tucked away in a lonely street off Trocadero. When the door opened on her and she stepped in she realized why Michel did not want to see her, he was in a wheelchair, paralyzed waist down.

“This is my life,” Michel explained to her, “I have so much love to give but I can only do it through my poetry. My body has betrayed me.”

Chloe went down on her knees to face him, “I love you Michel Dubois, I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

“Why would you do that? You are a woman that all the men in the world would want to make to love to and you want to be with a man who cannot do exactly that? Do you know that I have nothing but words?”

Chloe held him very tight, “Michel, men may love me with their bodies, your words make love to my soul.”

-Arsee.

 

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 140 Be You

There was a time when Franco was the toast of Rome. He was the head chef of the fine dining Italian restaurant off the Piazza Navona aptly named the Caesar’s Buffet. There was a time when the restaurant was pre-booked by the European cuisine aficionados weeks in advance; there was a time…. That time was past.
 
Two years ago the owner of the restaurant, Mr. Puccini passed away quietly in his sleep, leaving in his wake a time of disquiet. Santino Puccini, his son, did not like food as much as he liked money. He wanted to add another floor to the restaurant and change the menu to one that suited every palate.
 
“When you try to please everyone, you please no one! We are the Caesar’s Buffet and not the Piazza Express!” Franco had said in the firmest way he knew but sadly it wasn’t firm enough. Franco had always been a mild mannered man, a lot of his friends would think him non-confrontational and they were right.
 
“There were two kinds of people,” Laura, his wife would tell him often. “One, who explode and get all the anger out of their system and two, those who implode and constantly slow burn within themselves. But you are the rare third kind, you don’t feel any anger at all!” He would laugh at that elucidation of his personality because he knew that Laura saw the real him.

Laura did know Franco better than anybody and she knew he was hurting terribly since the change happened in the restaurant. Yet, whenever she tried to broach the subject he just brushed it aside like it was just a figment of her imagination.

The new floor came up and with that came another chef to “share the burden” as Santino put it succinctly. Very quickly the other chef became the one in charge and he was just left to do the mundane work. Then came the hard blow when everyone but a few of them did not get a raise and Franco was among the few. The connoisseurs stopped visiting the restaurant that was now full of American tourists. Franco was dying a little everyday but would not speak about it.

Laura noticed their personal relationship change, Franco was depressed most of the time and not the romantic Italian lover she knew.

It was a warm summer night. Laura joined her husband on the patio of their apartment that overlooked the Tiber. Franco was quiet, smoking his pipe and looking out at the river.

“Do you know about the frog experiment Franco?” Laura asked him. Franco looked at her and shook his head, not really interested in the experiment.

“They say when a frog is put into hot water in a saucepan it jumps out but when put in cold water it does not jump out…”

“Laura, anyone would do that! Why would you need an experiment to prove that?”

“Franco, listen to the whole thing. They say that a frog can regulate its body temperature, so when you put a frog into cold water and then very gradually begin to heat the water, the frog does not notice the change but becomes more active in the water to keep its body temperature in tune with the water.”

Franco stopped looking out at the river and turned to Laura, interested.

“The water gets hotter and the frog grows more active till the frog gets tired and cannot regulate the body temperature anymore. The frog dies in the hot water. It has spent too much energy trying to deal with a problem that would never go away. It has no energy left to jump out.”

Laura kissed Franco, gave him a tight hug and then walked back into the house allowing Franco to take in the night and his future.
Six months later Franco and Laura invited everyone they knew to the opening of their own restaurant, a fine dining Italian restaurant.They called it, “The Leaping Frog”.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 139 The Wait Was Worth It

The cold wind found the tiniest gap between the wooden boards and whistled through them. Don checked the level of battery on his phone, 38% it read. There was no network anywhere in the mountain lodge, a fact established earlier in the evening when he had first taken shelter there.

He wondered if Rachel was alive, he could not hear her scream anymore. He could let himself out of the basement and check on here, as he should, but he had dumped the burden of bravado very early on in the evening, he felt safer hiding behind his cowardice.

The lights had crashed out and the generator had thrown out a gallon of black murky oil and then died. If Rachel was dead then he was the only one to survive. He knew for certain the four others were dead. He also knew that all of them had assembled at this mountain lodge high up in Rocky Mountains not by accident but by a sinister design, the design of the entity that was getting rid of them one after the other. He had no reason why they were the chosen ones.
Don held his breath as he heard sound of footsteps on the wooden boards and quickly turned the light of the cell phone off. The footsteps were coming towards him, slow, measured and unhurried. If the entity decided to fling the trapdoor open and walk down to him, he had no plan of resistance. Hiding was the only plan he had.

The footsteps were just above him now, on the wooden boards that made the floor of the kitchen and the ceiling of the hole that he was hiding in. He could do nothing to stop himself from shaking and tried very hard to suppress the urge to scream out loud. Not that anyone would come to help him, there was nothing but snow for miles around and the relentlessly long night to add.

The footsteps began to move away from him, slowly but surely. Don found himself able to breathe again and with the breath came a sense of relief, Don collapsed on the cold stone floor. Something told him that it was still not safe to turn the light of his cell phone on.

Lying on the cold stone floor Don thought back to the blizzard and how each one of them had landed up at the Mountain Lodge. He was the last one to arrive after his car was snowed in half a mile away on a lonely stretched of road. Rachel was trekking with her friend Gloria, Adam a wild life photographer was filming the forest in the snow, Noah and Sarah were on a skiing trip though they never got to Aspen and all of them found the isolated lodge by sheer chance. It seemed like a good place to ride out the storm, what they did not know was that there was a bigger storm waiting for them inside the lodge.

The wind lashed against the boarded doors and windows carrying with it angry flakes of snow that remained stuck to the glass, slowly forming a veil of white hiding the outside from the six of them.

Adam was the first to go, found dead with a kitchen knife embedded in the side of his head. At that point the rest of them thought perhaps there was a psychopath between them but when Sarah died and Noah was the only one who could not be accounted for at the time of her death, it became clear that there was someone or something that wanted them dead.

Noah, crazed after Sarah died, tried to make a dash for his car but reached only as far the porch. They found him hanging by the strong birch beams that made the façade. Gloria disappeared soon after and then there was only Rachel and he.

Don could not hear the footsteps anymore; he felt it was safe to turn the cell phone torch on. In the white luminescence he found that he had fallen on a part of the basement that had a lot of unused stuff dumped in a corner. A white sheet seemed to flit in the heap, calling attention to it. Don grabbed the sheet to discover that it was an old black and white picture. On the back of the picture were scribbled the words, “Ski trip Christmas 1948”, Don turned the picture around and what he saw drained all the blood from his face.

It was a picture of seven friends; all of them looked the same, Adam, Rachel, Gloria, Noah, Sarah and he. They were dressed in ski gear and toasting something with joy on their faces. What the hell were they doing there easily twenty-five years before all of them were born? Then Don looked at the seventh one in the picture, she was pretty and as young as them but if she was with them then, why was she not there with them now? Suddenly the light of his cell phone went off. It would not come on. Then he heard the wind howling through the boards change its whistle to a word, it was not his imagination, he was sure it was saying something. He tried to steady his breathing to be able to hear something above the thumping of his heart. The wind seemed to say, “you…. Dooonnn.…” Don began to shake uncontrollably, banging his phone with the palm of his hand, light…. he needed light! Then it came on.

In the whiteness of the phone light he saw the seventh girl standing in front of him, her face was half eaten, her hair matted into rope like strands, her teeth black and yellow and her eyes, they were half white with the effect of cataract.

She smiled, “We meet again Richard.”
In that second Don’s heart stopped, he fell on the cold floor. The light of the cell phone went out.

The wind howled through the tiniest gap in the wooden boards, it seemed to say, “the wait was worth it….”

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 138 Justice Denied

Nobody really knew Dr. Sampat. Nobody knew what kind of doctor he was. They just knew that he was a doctor because the nameplate outside his house said so. The neighbors would see him leave home for work in the early hours of the morning and return only late at night, he kept to himself. Dr. Sampat lost his wife years ago to an autoimmune disease; she was the only family he had.

Dr. Sampat was an enigma albeit a reticent one.

It was shocking for the neighbors to see him being arrested early one morning. A seventy-year old man, handcuffed and walking with his trademark slouch towards a waiting police van. No one knew what crime he had committed. The whisper going around was that it was murder.

The next morning the newspapers announced that Dr. Sampat had been arrested for the murder of Rohan Raichand, the spoilt brat of a wealthy father. Rohan was arrested, tried and consequently acquitted for the rape and murder of a sixteen year old but the odd thing was that he had died of a respiratory failure and Dr. Sampat was not even his doctor then how in the world was Dr. Sampat responsible for the death? Things were getting only murkier.

The hearing was slated for a rainy July morning. Dr. Sampat had refused a lawyer, “I do not need saving”, were the words he had said softly at the bail hearing. The media interest in the case was understandably enormous and the courtroom was jam packed with the eyes of the world trained on the goings on in a single room of a large city.

Dr. Sampat took the stand meant for the accused. He looked calm, stoic even.

“You have refused any kind of legal representation, is that correct?” The Judge asked of Dr. Sampat.

“Yes, your honor, that is correct,” Dr. Sampat acquiesced.

The judged nodded and gestured to the Public Prosecutor to start the proceedings. The Prosecutor cleared his throat with an eye at theatrics of a career making trial.

“Dr. Sampat, you have confessed to the murder of Rohan Raichand, yet you have told the investigators that you will only reveal your motivations and the modus operandi in court, so here we are, waiting for you to tell us everything.”

“My wife passed away when Barkha was only five years old. I was left without anyone in the world, without any friends or family. Barkha and her parents became my family, though they did not know that, they still don’t. I would look at the family of three from my bedroom window, I had a view of pretty much all the windows of their house. I saw them having dinner and had dinner along with them, I would wake up roughly the time they did and have my breakfast with the family. I could not hear them but from their faces and expressions I began to understand what they were talking about. I enjoyed the time I spent with them. And Barkha? She was the sweetest little brat in the world…”

The courtroom had never been this quiet, ever. The only sound was the pain filled voice of Dr. Sampat.

“I watched Barkha grow up, watched her study late into the night, watched her birthday parties, watched her cry and fight with her mother, watched her come home triumphant after her boards, watched her talking to her friends on her brand new cell phone late into the night, watched her dress up and feel beautiful… and then one day I watched her come home dead, raped and murdered. I was devastated, my family had been attacked, it was like my grand daughter was dead, murdered.”

Dr. Sampat took a moment to gather himself. The Jude asked the clerk to give him a drink of water. The courtroom remained quiet, waiting…

“It was in a courtroom like this that I sat everyday for two years and at the end of the those two years I watched the guilty bastard, Rohan Raichand walk away acquitted on all counts. There was just not enough evidence or lets say that if there was evidence it was lost under huge heaps of money. On that day I walked out of the Hall of Justice and decided to exact justice on my own. I owed Barkha that, I owed her parents that.”

“So how did you kill him Dr. Sampat?” the Public Prosecutor asked.

Dr. Sampat looked up at the crowded room for the first time and spoke louder, “I invented my own weapon. A bio-genetic missile.”

The court looked stupefied. “Explain to the court!” the Judge demanded.

“I realized that there was no way that I could kill a man at my age with conventional weapons, also I would never get passed his ring of security,” Dr. Sampat continued to explain. “So I fell back on the work I do. I am a genetic scientist and my work is the study of diseases embedded in the DNA code. I had a way of killing him but I needed a sample of DNA. I stated following him and what would have been pretty tedious was made easy by a power up there; Rohan walked out drunk from a party and vomited on the sidewalk. There was enough DNA on the sidewalk to do a lifetime’s research. Once I had his DNA I researched and engineered a virus that would only affect his DNA. Like a guided missile that did not carry a nuclear warhead but a virus as its payload, then I let the virus loose near his house.”

“And this would not affect other people?” the Judge had now taken over the questioning.

“No, your honor,” Dr. Sampat looked the Judge in the eye. “The virus must have caused a cold or a mild cough in the area but when it found Rohan Raichand, it nailed him. The DNA sequence matched and the virus in him was incurable.”

No one uttered a word in the courtroom. The most potent weapon of the century had been used by an old man who was wronged.

“Did you call Rohan on his cell phone from different numbers everyday asking him if he could breathe?” the Prosecutor asked, moving on.

“Yes I did.”

“Why?”

“Cause I knew he was finding it difficult and I wanted him to know that someone was happy for his predicament.” Dr. Sampat said without a grain of guilt. “I wanted the rapist feel what it feels to be a woman whose breath is taken away from her.”

“Dr. Sampat, does this mean you have invented a genetic missile that can be used by anyone?” The Judge almost looked ashen.

“Yes Sir, it will now be available on the market.”

“Why? Why did you have to be so cruel to everyone? This rape was not everyone’s fault!” the Judge cried out.

“It was Sir! I realized there was only one way to make women feel safe, make men feel unsafe. Now I have leveled the playing field. If a woman lives in fear, now, so will men.”

-Arsee.

Fiction · Krishna · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 137

Meera sat alone outside her temple, the night sky filled with its billion stars and the little oil lamps that she lit seemed to mesh into one big blanket of twinkling light, like fireflies that cloaked her into a world where only she and her Kanha existed.

The cold air of Rajasthan did not bother her; she was lost in the thoughts of her husband,her Kanha. A beatific smile on her face and a song forming in her mind in the praise of her Lord, she did not need anything else.

“Are you smiling because she you do not want to show your pain? Is the smile hiding the tears that you want to shed?” Kanha stepped out of the temple and sat down beside her, he seemed troubled. Mira looked up to find her Lord staring at her with his intoxicating lotus eyes.
“Why would I be suffering Kanha when you are here with me?” Mira said a voice that was gentle as the wind.
“Meera, you may suffer this with a smile but it is hurting me. I cannot take this anymore.” Kanha was clearly distraught.
“And what troubles you my Lord?”
“You are suffering in my name. Your in-laws give you a goblet of poison, the so-called pious of the court call you names, you have to sleep here in the temple, in the cold, you go hungry for days, you fall ill… I just cannot take it anymore. I am hurting, please stop this, please go back to your family, you need not tell the world that I am your husband!”
Mira smiled at Kanha, “Ah! My Lord is worried?”
“The world thinks that I am this Idol of stone, that I like to be prayed to and enjoy the attention, that I feel nothing but they don’t know how much I am suffering in your suffering!” Kanha’s eyes welled up with sorrow.
“So is my Lord worried about my suffering or is he worried about what the world thinks of him?” Mira teased Kanha.
“You can argue better than me sometimes!”
“Most times,” Mira teased again then smiled and put her head on her Lord’s shoulder. “If you are so concerned about me why do you keep saving me from poison goblets and snakes that they send for me? Why don’t you take me away from all this? Why don’t you take me with you?”
Kanha shook his head with exasperation, “I have made this world for everyone to follow their free will. I cannot interfere with the design of this universe. If I start doing that there would be chaos Meera.”
“Then let it be and just enjoy the starry night with me, let me hold your hand and sing you a song my Lord,” Mira did not allow Kanha to argue more and began to sing Kanha a beautiful song. Kanha cried his silent tears through the night.
 
As the years went by Kanha saw his beautiful bride suffer in silence, her only crime was her love for him. He saw her leave the kingdom of Mewar and go on a pilgrimage; she went to Dwarka and then to Vrindavan. She would not eat, her health was failing and she was getting older, he worried for her all the time.

He hated the laws of the universe he had made himself. He wished Meera would understand, he wished she would live like the queen she was, he wished she would not suffer so much in his name and most of all he wished he could be more than a helpless God.
On a cold morning in 1547 Meera lay at the feet of his stone idol in the temple and Kanha had had enough. A large number of people would swear later that they saw the temple doors close miraculously and when they opened Meera was gone. Kanha had taken her away.
 
Sitting by his side in a place after death Meera asked her Kanha, “So what made you change your laws of the universe and take me away?”
Kanha held her close and said with a smile, “It was not me but the entire universe that bowed to your love Meera. The Lord of the universe was no match for your doting Husband. Your husband changed the laws of the universe for you my love”

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 136

In the year 1970 a computer could take up an entire room, in the year 2018 everything that was in that room could be put into a cell phone with ten times more power. In the year 2021 everything that was in the cell phone could be put into a single blood cell. In the year 2025 genetic engineering could use nanotechnology and inject computerized cells into the blood, diseases could be cured easily. In the year 2035 came the first hybrid human, from the age of three to the age of eight all kinds of different software were injected into her, language, mathematics, communication skills, geography, history, science and everything else that a human being bcould require and more.

In the year 2045, the institution of schools ceased to exist, they were not necessary anymore, everything could be downloaded into the human being in stages.

It was a great time for everyone who could afford technology but it was hell for those who could not. Human beings had become like computers; if they were not upgraded they became useless.

Stella worked as a city cleaner and Mike was trying hard to get a job. Mike used to drive a cab but since teleportation became a reality no one needed cabs. It was a year since Mike had been unemployed and cleaning did not really pay Stella well. Yet, money was not the problem, the problem was the upgrade.

Both Stella and Mike hadn’t gotten themselves upgraded in four years and their software was really out of date. It had become impossible to communicate, their neural pathways could no longer connect to the super computer, they were lost most of the time and matters had come to a point where they could not even access their own memory. The software was just too old.

Mike saw the red blinking message on the right side of his field of vision. It said that if he did not get a systems upgrade by the next day he would be shut down. Stella came home and told Mike that she was seeing the same message flash in her vision.

They watched the sun set behind the glass dome that covered their city, it kept the toxic atmosphere out and the air clean. They held hands and shared the last of the energy drinks that they had. None of them spoke; there was nothing to talk about. It was the end of the road for them.

“We have credits enough for one upgrade, why don’t you get an upgrade, I don’t mind shutting down,” Stella smiled at Mike and made the suggestion seem pleasant. “You mean exist without you?” Mike asked her. Stella did not respond but looked away. “I am not existing without you. What is there to exist for?”

They sat alone for a while more and then suddenly Mike got up with great excitement, “I have an idea! What if I get a hacked software upgrade? It works for most people and besides, this is not for a long-term plan, this is only till we have enough credits to get us both proper upgrades. What do you think?”

“Those hacks are not reliable Mike! They can shut down anytime!”

“Anytime is better than tomorrow Stella,” Mike argued.

Stella thought about it for a while and then nodded slowly. Mike ran to her and gave her a kiss. He bounded out of the house filled with a new sense of hope. Stella smiled to herself, she knew why she loved him so much, he was just filled with hope all the time.

It was past midnight and Mike had not come home. The old software had restricted their interpersonal communication so Stella had to use the cellular device. Mike did not answer the phone but instead it rang in the house. Mike never left the house without his cellular device and then she realized that Mike had not taken any credits with him. How the hell was he going to get a hack? In a heartbreaking moment she realized what he had done. She ran out of the house, she had to get to the law agency and ask them to send out a message looking for Mike. But she stopped on the staircase; the law agent was already there to see her. It was too late. Mike had shut himself down so that Stella could exist.

Stella let out a blood-curdling scream as she collapsed on the staircase.

The next day Stella was at the upgrade center, she wanted to shut down after Mike had gone but she would never want Mike’s death to go in vain. She had to exist to honor his shut down.

As the upgrade robot connected her to the super computer he looked at her and smiled, “You look sad, people getting upgrades are generally very happy.”

Stella said nothing in response.

“Do you seek any new software out of the quiver?”

“Do you have anything that cures a broken heart and takes away human misery?”

The robot looked at her confused, “I have no idea what that is.”

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 135 Silent Prayer

Tvam-Eva Maataa Ca Pitaa Tvam-Eva| Tvam-Eva Bandhush Ca Sakhaa Tvam-Eva| Tvam-Eva Viidyaa Dravinnam Tvam-Eva| Tvam-Eva Sarvam Mama Deva Deva||

Shreya began every morning of her life with this prayer, it meant, You Truly are my Mother And You Truly are my Father, You Truly are my Relative And You Truly are my Friend. You Truly are my Knowledge and You Truly are my Wealth, You Truly are my All, My God of God. And she meant every bit of it because for her God was everything. She was an orphan and grew up in an orphanage but she never felt less deserving than anyone else. Her God made sure that she had everything that others had. She was a brilliant student, did her Masters in the Arts, she met Naitik, simply put a good man. She had a home, a family and all that she could ask for in life. She was thankful to God.

The long month of fasting was the toughest for Shreya. She would wake up early, say her prayers, make lunch for Naitik to carry to work, then pack the little tiffin for her eight-year old Karan and then quickly dash off to the departmental store where she was head of sales for the Ladies’ apparel department. She allowed herself only water through the day and survived on fruits at night. Yet, she was only filled with gratitude.

Shreya had just gotten back from work when Malti the domestic help brought to her attention that Karan had not eaten anything at school. His tiffin was untouched as it had been packed. Shreya was very surprised and caught hold of the brat sweating and just back home after a game of cricket.

“You did not eat your lunch Karan?” Shreya asked the question admonishingly.
“No Mom. I did the right thing,” he answered, distracted.
“Right thing?” Shreya was appalled.
“There is a new boy in school who told me that even his Mother fasts and that he does the right thing by not eating because she is not eating.”
Shreya felt so much love for the little boy’s innocence.
“That is only for Mothers and not a little child. You must eat? Alright?”
“Okay Mom!” Karan did not argue and ran in for a shower.
 
The next day at the apparel floor Shreya found a beautiful young Lady absently going through some dresses on display. “Do you need any help?” Shreya offered with a smile. The Lady smiled back and shook her head then she looked back at Shreya, “Your son did the right thing, I heard?” Shreya was stumped. “Are you the Mother of the new boy in school?” The Lady shook her head again, “I am a Mother but not of that boy.” The Lady then put the dress back on the rack and left the floor. It was enigmatic to say the least.

That evening at home the story repeated itself, Karan had not eaten and this was becoming stressful for Shreya who was already weak with all the fasting. She gave Karan a piece of her mind and told him that no matter what anyone said he must eat. Karan shrugged and nodded.

But the next day it was the same and the day after that. Shreya decided enough was enough. She marched to the school and to the Teacher. “This new boy in your class is asking Karan not to eat his lunch and Karan is listening to him and getting weaker everyday. I am very concerned. Perhaps you should talk to this boy and ask him to stop influencing my Son!”
“Mrs. Gupta, you seem to be mistaken, there is no new boy,” the Teacher seemed equally baffled. 

Shreya could hardly concentrate at work that day. An array of disturbing thoughts stormed her mind. Was her Son mentally ill? Was he seeing things? Was this a kind of anorexia? Then a voice broke her reverie, “Your Son still doing the right thing?” Shreya looked up to find the same beautiful young Lady holding a dress in her hand. Shreya was not in the mood for polite conversation, “Look here! If you and your son are playing some game with my son I will have you arrested. Are you some kind of a witch? What joy are you getting by doing all this?”
The young Lady smiled, “You say your prayers every morning? Tvam-Eva Maataa Ca Pitaa Tvam-Eva? You call God your Mother and Father and yet you do not realize that the way you hurt when your child does not eat, so does God! Any Mother and any Father cannot bear the pain of seeing their child suffer. You cannot see Karan’s suffering and God, your Mother and Father, cannot see yours. It is so simple Shreya.”

Shreya was rooted to the floor, dumbfounded. “Now if you don’t mind I would like to try this dress,” the young Lady turned around and walked to the changing room. “Who are you? How do you know my name?” Shreya called out behind her. The young Lady did not answer and shut the door to the changing room.

Five minutes later the door opened lazily and there was no one inside. The dress lay on the floor, untried. Shreya stood there overwhelmed.

That evening Shreya noticed that Karan had eaten his food. He sat lovingly on his Mother’s lap and said; “The new boy said he won’t come to school from tomorrow. He said your Mother knows why.”

Shreya closed her eyes and said a silent prayer, indeed she knew why.

-Arsee.