Random Tales

The Letter

Samantha picked the letter once more. Maybe the words had changed, her mind said to her heart. The letter contained just three words but their weight was slumping her shoulders and making her tired with each passing second.

‘I am done.’

Ashfaq had left in the morning before she woke up and all she got was this letter. No explanation, no reasoning, nothing. Just a letter with three words. Even a hollow statement of care would have been comforting to her but Ashfaq wasn’t like that. He spoke little and to the point.

‘Anything more is just flub,’ he often said.

Samantha looked at their fight yesterday. Was it that big of a deal? Was he overreacting? Had she crossed some invisible line?

“No, our love can’t be this weak that it can’t stand a single fight,” Samantha said to herself trying to make sense of the situation. Tears start to pour from her eyes.

Urooj came in the room and picked up Samantha. “What happened?” She asked Samantha. She looked at Urooj with glassy eyes.

“Ashfaq left me. How could he leave me, all alone?” Samantha said showing Urooj the letter with three words written on them.

Urooj sighed. She picked up Samantha and helped her sit on a chair.

“Can you believe it? Ashfaq left me because of one small fight.”

“What was the fight about?” Urooj asked Samantha.

“Silly thing. I got drunk last night and acted a bit crazy. He had told me to not drink too much but I still did it. He was mad last night. He took care of me the whole night and then left in the morning. He was so kind. How can he be so cruel? I know it’s my fault but he didn’t give me a chance.”

Urooj cradled Samantha who was crying uncontrollably now.

“Mom. Please calm down.”

“But the letter.”

“Forget about the letter.”

“You’re right. Ashfaq hasn’t taken his clothes and everything except for his phone and wallet were still in the house. In fact, it is technically his house. How can he go from his own house?” Samantha said with some comfort.

Urooj nodded, now, tears glistening her eyes as well.

“He will be back,” Samantha said confidently. Her wrinkled fingers clutching the letter in her hands.

Urooj helped her mom lie down in the bed. She couldn’t get the letter out of Samantha’s hand, as much she tried. Once Samantha dozed off, Urooj came out of the room.

“It’s her third attack in two days,” Urooj said to her brother James who had been in the other room, talking to the lawyer.

“The doctor said that these attacks would go away with time. We have to be patient,” James said hugging his sister.

“She’s not ready to leave the letter.”

“Frankly, I’m surprised that she still had that letter.”

“Yeah. When dad used to say that they kept everything, he wasn’t joking.”

“Yeah. I still wish she had not kept the letter. It takes her back to 35 years ago. And I tried telling her that dad came back after a couple of hours but she doesn’t hear or understand it at all.”

Urooj nodded. Their mom and dad had a fairytale love story. Except for that one day, early in their relationship, when their dad got too frustrated with their mom, the two never left each other’s side. For more than 35 years, they were together, until two days back when their dad passed away.

Urooj and James were sad but their mom was shattered. She was holding on to a meaningless letter, waiting for her boyfriend to come back. A boyfriend who came back and became a husband and a father. James and Urooj looked at their family picture from a few years ago. The four of them were smiling with a small caption –

Samantha, Ashfaq, James, Urooj – the perfect family.

“Miss you, Dad,” Urooj said.

“Miss you, Dad,” James said.

Story Collection - MSPM39

Story 36/39: Mom

It isn’t often that the world changes. It isn’t often that it changes for the good. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising that Nehal didn’t believe that what was happening in front of her was true.

“You’re not joking?” She asked her father once more. He nodded with affirmation. She started to sob.

“Hey, sweetheart! Don’t cry. This is what you wanted, right?” her father said.

Nehal nodded as she tried to wipe tears from her eyes which continued to get wet with her overflowing eyes. Her father hugged her tightly.

“Thank you! I’ll pack my bags.” Nehal said and her father nodded with a smile.

He stood up and saw her daughter run back to her room. She had been asking for this for more than six months now and it was only now that her wish had turned into a reality. Six months ago, her mom and dad got divorced. At the age of ten, it was hard for her to understand all the reasons for their divorce but she had seen them fight enough to know that they weren’t happy together. She had accepted the divorce better than both her parents had anticipated, except for one thing. Her father had gotten custody whereas she wanted to be with her mom.

She tried to accept it but in truth, her mom was more fun. So, for the past six months, she had been trying to convince her dad to send Nehal to her mom.

“You know it will be easier for you to get girls if you didn’t have to show them a daughter.”

“You know a growing child needs a mother.”

“You know I will come and meet you often.”

“You know…”

“You know…”

“You know…”

Each day, a new ‘you know’ would pop up over breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Nehal knew that the key to success was persistence and eventually, she succeeded. Her father relented, on the promise that she would meet her thrice a week. Nehal intended to keep her promise. She loved her father and if he was as fun as her mom, she would have stayed.

She packed her bags in record speed. She didn’t need to pack everything as this was going to be her room anyway. Just her favorite clothes and toys.

“Nehal, sweety! Your mom is here to pick you up.”

“Awesome! I’ll be down in a bit.” Nehal said checking her room for anything she would need urgently.

“Okay.”

Nehal checked her room and once satisfied, she carried her bag outside. Her room was at the right angle from the living room and she heard her parents talking before they could see her.

“You couldn’t keep her for six months.” Nehal heard her mom’s laughter. She had missed this laughter.

“Yeah! Just, take good care of her.” She heard her father say with earnestness. She heard a hint of sadness in his voice that she hadn’t recognized before. At that moment, it hit her that she hadn’t thought about how her father felt until then.

‘It’s okay. It’s not like I’m leaving him forever.’ Nehal said to herself.

She strained her ears to hear more.

“You know what Kartik, I have changed my mind.”

“What do you mean?”

“The amount you are giving me isn’t enough to take care of your spoilt brat.”

“She’s your daughter too, Kashmira.”

“Only because you wanted a kid. I never had an interest in one. I told you that before we got married.”

“Yeah. I know. I’m sorry that I tried to convince you. I had hoped that with time your mind will change. I’m sorry.”

“You should be. You tried to hold me down when I’m made to fly. And now, you are again clipping my wings by tying this kid to me.”

“She loves you.”

“Of course, she does. Unlike you, I know how to have fun. Even I would have stayed if you weren’t this boring.”

Nehal heard the conversation with a chill flowing through her whole body. The conversation continued.

“If you hadn’t forced me, I would have gotten an abortion and we could have been happy together Kartik. Why did you force me to have a kid that doesn’t even love you now?” Kashmira’s voice was now louder than normal.

“Shh… She might hear you. You know Kashmira. Once I knew that you were pregnant, I couldn’t let go of her. She’s my daughter.”

“It was just an accident Kartik. You let our relationship die for an accident.”

“Please Kashmira…” Kartik pleaded.

“You know what’s funny Kartik. You chose her over me and now, she’s choosing me over you. For all you being a dad, you failed both me and her.” Kashmira said, her voice getting haggard.

“I know. I’m sorry Kashmira. Just, please take care of my baby. I will give you any amount you want. Just, don’t let her down. She wants a mother. She needs a mother. Please, be her mother.”

“I will try Kartik but she will always be the reason who killed our relationship. If you didn’t force her on me, we would have been together. I will try to look past that but I can’t promise that. I loved you and you chose her.”

Nehal couldn’t take it anymore. She walked slowly to the living room. Her father was sitting on the couch with his hands on his head, defeated in every way. Her mother’s face had tears on them, the same way she had some time back. She looked so much like her mother. ‘How could she hate me so much?’ The pinching thought hit her heart.

Kartik realized first that Nehal was in the room.

“Hey, sweetheart! All set to go home?” Kartik said in his best neutral voice. He tried to have a smile on his face but faltered. Her mom quickly wiped her face with a tissue and smiled at her.

“Hey, love! My baby is ready?” Kashmira cooed at Nehal. Nehal broke down.

“I’m so sorry mom! Dad! I’m sorry you both are divorced because of me.”

“No love. Don’t even think like that. It was my fault and my fault alone,” Kartik said picking Nehal up in her arms.

“I’m not going to push myself on you mom. I’m sorry. I will stay with dad.” Nehal said between her sniffles.

“No. It’s fine. No trouble.” Kashmira said, uncertain on how to handle the situation.

Kartik wiped Nehal’s tears.

“You are troubling no one Nehal. What you want is the most important thing. Tell me. What do you want and that is what will happen.”

“Yes, Nehal. Your dad is right,” Kashmira added.

Nehal continued sobbing for some time but eventually, she calmed down. Kartik and Kashmira sat in front of her.

“Will you be able to forgive me, mom, ever?”

Kashmira looked at her with an aloof kindness.

“I will try love. I will try my best.”

“And dad? Will you forgive him for… for me?”

Kashmira looked at Kartik who looked at her. They both knew what she was going to ask.

“I don’t know love,” Kashmira said with honesty.

Nehal nodded.

“Then, I have decided. I will stay with dad. I don’t want to be a burden on you. But I have a request mom. Can you spend time with us one day a week? Maybe someday, you can forgive both of us?”

Kashmira nodded.

“We can try that but I can’t promise you anything.”

“Just promise me that you wouldn’t leave me… us forever.”

“I can’t…” Kashmira started but then stopped.

“I promise you, Nehal,” Kashmira said and opened her arms towards her. Nehal hugged her and once more broke down. Kashmira looked at Kartik uncomfortably. He pulled Nehal towards him where she continued to cry.

“I’ll meet you on Sunday then?”

“Yeah. We can go to Disneyland.” Kartik said, tentatively.

“Sounds like a plan,” she said with a nod and then turned to Nehal.

“Bye, love.”

“Bye, mom.”

Story Collection - MSPM39

Story 15/39: Again

“I’m not sure about this Dave,” Sarthak said sipping his coffee.

“Don’t fret. It’s just a blind date. Besides, I know Jaz is gonna be perfect for you,” Dave said with confidence.

Dave and Sarthak had known each other for over four years now. They had worked together in the same company and would often party together. Recently, Dave moved to a new company and met a girl whom she considers perfect for Sarthak. So much so, he basically pushed Sarthak to meet this girl without so much as showing her photo to him. “It’s a surprise,” Dave had said. Sarthak hated surprises.

“There she is,” Dave said looking at the door. Sarthak’s heart stopped.

“Hey, Jaz,” Dave said and hugged Jaz. Jaz smiled warmly looking at Dave and then turned to Sarthak. Her smile froze and confusion and then realization started taking shape on her face.

“This is Jaz, Sarthak. And Jaz, this is Sarthak. He’s one of the best guys I have ever met and she’s one of the most amazing person I know. And trust me, you guys have the same taste in almost everything. I’ll leave you two now. Have fun!”

Sarthak and Jaz continued to look at each other without saying a single word. Dave was too excited to notice the expressions on their faces. He pushed Jaz on the seat in front of Sarthak and left.

Sarthak didn’t say anything but kept staring at Jaz. Jaz looked at the coffee and would take a glance at Sarthak’s face which had anger written all over it. After over five minutes had passed, Sarthak looked at the watch and said, “Dave would have left by now. Bye Jasmine!” and left.

“Sarthak!” Jasmine said feebly but Sarthak had almost dashed out of the coffee shop.

If someone asked Sarthak to describe his journey to his home, he wouldn’t have an answer. All he could think about was six years ago when he had met Jasmine for the last time.

“I need a break,” Jasmine had said.

“What do you mean?” Sarthak asked.

“I can’t handle all this – relationship, career, my family,” Jasmine said.

“You can tell your family about us. I’m sure they will like me.”

“No! I’m not ready yet. I… I… I just want some peace of mind. Can we please take a break? Three months. That’s all I’m asking.”

“Jasmine, there is no such thing as a three months break,” Sarthak pleaded.

“I need it. Please. Let’s not talk for three months. I want to gather myself.”

Sarthak was about to oppose but the look on Jasmine’s face told him everything. He simply nodded.

The three months passed. Then six months, one year, five years, and now, it was six years later that they saw each other for the first time. Sarthak spent every single minute since then building a career that could give him pride and drowned himself in his work, hobbies, and other activities that could help him forget about Jasmine. He checked the calendar and realized that six years had passed. He looked at the mirror. Did he look like this six years ago? Surely not! There were a few streaks of gray but he was definitely fitter now.

“She is not seeing anyone,” Sarthak spoke and was filled with a mix of sadness and joy. He didn’t know why he was feeling either. Neither did he know why he was so angry right now. Life had moved on, he had moved on, right?

Jasmine paid for her coffee and got up. She also picked Sarthak’s coffee and threw it in the trash can.

Six years and he still recognized her in a second. Her heart had exploded when Dave told her about Sarthak. At first, she thought Sarthak wanted to meet her but when Dave told her that he is keeping the photo a surprise for both of them, she realized that Sarthak had forgotten about her. Her heartbeat had been like waves under the full moon when she got out of the cab to meet them – going higher than she wanted.

And then, he recognized her in a flash. She wanted to smile at him but his face scared her.

“I should have said something. It’s not like he left immediately. I had five minutes.” Jasmine lamented.

She reached home and washed her face. She had been crying the whole way back. Not the loud crying of pain but the somber tears of loss. A feeling she hadn’t felt in the past six years. Her breakup with Sarthak had been the exact turning point that she had needed to push herself. She worked hard for three months on a project and was promoted and transferred. Life got crazier and it was a month later that she realized that she had to talk to Sarthak. She kept delaying it, partly out of fear and partly because it was pointless now. They were in different cities, doing different things in their lives. And then, it was too late. He never messaged her either.

Then, her thoughts moved to the good times she had spent with him and she couldn’t understand why they had broken up even though looking back, her life had been better after that. Her thoughts muddled and mixed among themselves confusing her further. Thankfully, they didn’t last long and finally, she dozed off.

The next morning, she woke up and saw a single message on her phone.

‘Wanna restart?’

She was wide awake now.

‘Yes.’

‘Tonight. Coffee. Same place. Same time.’

‘Ok.’

Sarthak saw Jasmine’s message and smiled. He had spent the whole night wide awake, all his suppressed emotions overwhelming him in one short burst. He remembered all the good times they had spent, reading each others’ minds, spending hours talking about nothing, and helping each other build their dreams. He went through all that and came out of that tunnel with only one thought – Dave was right. She was still perfect.

He replied back – ‘Ok.’

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Marriage

Siddharth stood at the end of the cliff contemplating suicide. Rishika was sitting in the car, waiting for her husband to come back from peeing.

This was the summary of a relationship that had completed five years two days ago. A day hadn’t gone by when Siddharth didn’t think that he was better off dead. A day hadn’t gone when Siddharth thought of leaving Rishika.

Rishika on the other hand was madly in love with Siddharth. She had loved Siddharth since the first day she met him. The two had arranged marriage and while Rishika had gotten everything she had ever asked for, Siddharth had lost everything.

“I can’t marry you Siddharth. I can’t go against my parents.” These were the last words of his first love. These were the words that pushed Siddharth into marrying Rishika and these were the words that taunted and tortured him every day.

Siddharth threw his cigarette stub in the lake below. He would be next. Siddharth didn’t know how to swim and it would just take a few minutes before he would finally be free of his pain. A pain which he couldn’t share with Rishika. In the past five years, he had tried to tell Rishika about his past but he just could never share it.

“What would I say? That my greatest regret is marrying you instead of her.” Siddharth said, almost whispered and finally took his step towards the lake. His heartbeat increased in anticipation. He tried not looking down at the lake and simply walked as if on a footpath.

“Nice lake Siddharth.” Rishika said holding Siddharth’s hand. Siddharth turned sharply and saw Rishika looking at the lake beside her.

“When did you come?”

“Just now. I was getting bored and I realised that you must have found something interesting.” Rishika said admiring the view around her, oblivious to the scene.

“Yeah. It’s an interesting lake. Quite deep too.” Siddharth said with a longing. He felt he shouldn’t have smoked the cigarette. It took a lot of time.

“Do you wanna jump?” Rishika asked point blank to Siddharth.

“What?” Siddharth said flabbergasted.

“Yeah. It would be great fun. I love cliff diving.” Rishika said holding Siddharth’s hand. “We can dive in together.”

“I don’t know how to swim.” Siddharth said. The last thing he wanted to do was dying in a way to make Rishika a suspect.

“Don’t worry. I won’t let anything happen to you.” Rishika said squeezing his hand. “Now, let’s jump.” Rishika spoke and pulled Siddharth along for the jump.

Siddharth’s mind was filled with images of his first love, slowly being substituted by Rishika’s face. Things had indeed changed over the past 5 years. Maybe, in the past 5 minutes.

Rishika helped Siddharth get off the lake and the two reached back the car half dried. The rest they wiped out by the towel.

“Rishika. I haven’t told you about Shraddha. I am sorry but you should know.” Siddharth began. Rishika nodded and sat in the car attentively. Siddharth started his part with Shraddha and didn’t stop for the next an hour. He told everything about the relationship, the breakup, his marriage upto today’s suicide attempt.

“I’m sorry Rishika. I am just a broken person who can’t ever be healed.” Siddharth said with his head hanging.

“Your mom told me about Shraddha even before our marriage. She told me that you are not in a good place and I will need to work hard to keep this relationship alive. There’s a reason we had a 6-month courtship. I wanted to be sure.”

“Sure of me?”

“Sure of the fact that every time you think of jumping of a cliff, I am there to hold your hand.”

“You knew but didn’t say anything?” Siddharth asked, slightly impressed.

“I hoped one day you would tell. Besides, even if I force it, it wouldn’t have changed anything.”

“You are awesome!” Siddharth said looking at her, his mouth opened agape.

“I know.” Rishika said smiling. “And now what? Are you still committed to committing suicide?” Rishika said with a smirk. Siddharth smiled.

“No. My commitment to committing suicide is over.”

“Good.” Rishika said and kissed Siddharth, her husband for the umpteenth time and Siddharth, his love for the first time.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Definitely Tomorrow

Mayank looked around his room and sighed. It was a mess. The bedsheet was crumpled as if he had spent the night fighting with it, which in hindsight maybe how he slept. The pillow was in the middle of the bed instead of on top and the sheer number of electronic gadgets on the bed were a fire hazard for sure.

When Mayank’s eyes moved away from the bed, the sight was even worse. Where the bed at least had scope, the table had lost its identity completely. Everything from papers to boxes to books were on the table. He couldn’t even identify which was which at this moment.

“I will clean this up. I promise.” Mayank said to himself for the umpteenth time. Right now, that was all he could offer his room. He was getting late for a meeting and has managed to oversleep even in this strenuous situation. This meant that the room could only look at him in hope. Mayank tried to find the watch he had received as a gift but couldn’t find it in the pile in his table so he jumped to the next best thing — his smartwatch. It was an important meeting so he had wanted to look the part but as life would have it — that wasn’t possible today.

Mayank left the room and locked the door. As soon as the door was locked, Mayank’s mind got wiped clean. There was no room anymore to clean, no problems to sort inside the house. His whole mind shifted to the task at hand — getting a cab to reach the office at time.

Mayank was just in time for the meeting.

Once the meeting was over, Mayank felt the thrill of holding the room by himself. This was his first time with such a huge responsibility and when his colleagues gave him a treat, he just couldn’t say no.

By the time he reached home, he was completely smashed.

“Tomorrow is Saturday. I will definitely do it tomo…” Mayank said to himself and fell on the bed. Before he could complete his statement, he had dozed off.

The room remained in the same state that night, as with every previous night since she had left.