Category Archives: Fiction

She & I #ShortStory #Love

“Doesn’t it boggle your mind sometimes?” I asked.
“What?” she replied.
“How, in this very moment, thousands of people in the world are falling in love for the first time? How, at this very second, thousands more are sharing their first kiss? How, in the breaths we just took, millions of people just held hands with someone special to them…. and how, thousands of them are never going to let go? How, there are hundreds of thousands of embraces being shared by couples who spend each day in the… the… glorious agony… of love? How there are pulses racing faster and hearts pounding louder and butterflies fluttering in every direction inside thin, fat, chubby, six-packed stomachs… how thousands of romantics are living and dying in the pause, right now, before that ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, and how millions of lives are changing forever with the answer? How there’s love and requital and happiness; and how there’s love and heartbreak and pain; and how, in this very moment, there’s so much love… how, in this very moment, there’s just… so much love… that has been found, forever, and ever?” I took a deep breath. “Doesn’t it boggle your mind?”
“No, it doesn’t.”
“Why not?”
“Because for me… in this very moment, there’s no one else but you and me,” she said, firmly wrapping her arms around my soul.

Oh, it was so easy to fall in love with her.

Note: This story was first published on August 31, 2014. It was written for Daisy, my fiance at the time, who’s now my wife :).

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© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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A Diwali Story #Mothers #Love #Diwali

Something beautiful happened to me earlier this year, when I was visiting my parents in Bahrain, the country that I grew up in and call ‘home’. Like every year before this, my vacation at home was again distinctly marked by my fondness for my first love – the bed I slept in while growing up. Each day, I would celebrate the happiest part of my childhood by sleeping in my bed for the most, because there really are no better quilts, no better pillows, no better ACs, and no better air than the ones there are in the room you grew up in.

Of course, the time I was awake was spent trying to find the secret to happiness in life on Facebook, Twitter and Watsapp, like always. The only time I’d reluctantly get out of my bed was when my mother would call me for food – my other first love. During the time it would take me to gobble up ghar ka khaana, which would largely consist of all my favourite dishes (because I don’t come home everyday, na), I would have quick conversations with my mother, which would largely consist of answering just one question: “Tu karta kya hai saara din laptop aur phone mein ghus kar?” (What do you do all day buried in your laptop and phone?).

I would obviously make long-winded speeches on intellectual stimulation and expanding the horizons of my mind and how she wouldn’t understand about it all, after which she would threaten to throw the dessert in the garbage bin, prompting me to opportunely hug her and tell her how much I love her and how I’ll never touch my gadgets again. Once she’d give me dessert, I’d compliment her once more, and then run off to my room for ‘5 minutes’, after which the cycle would repeat itself at the next meal.

A few days before my vacation was to end, my mother asked me to take her shopping. I took time out from my busy schedule of faffing, and took her to a local mall, where my mother proceeded to buy an iPad to understand what the fuss is about, why today’s generation is so crazy about all this technology, and of course, because one of her friends had bought it too. Even as I imagined scenarios of ‘Uska iPad mere ipad se safed kaise’ (How is her iPad whiter than mine?), my mum finalised a shiny white one, after going through approximately 389 shops in search of the right price.

The next couple of days were spent in teaching her how to use one, answering a couple of thousand questions every minute, from how to ‘shut it down’ to how to ‘do Facebook’ on it. My mum’s had a Facebook account for a while now, but this was the first time in years that she was actively trying to use it. While I was happy to teach her the way around an iPad as long as I got her famed desserts, I couldn’t figure why my mother was suddenly so taken in by technology. She seemed as excited as a first-year college student in an exotic foreign university, and went about learning everything possible with a fervour I usually save for my work during appraisal month.

My questions to her on why she was so keen in becoming the next Steve Jobs would be drowned by her questions on whether she could use the iPad to call and text, or some such similar query. The answer to my curiosity about her curiosity presented itself unexpectedly when I managed to pry away the iPad from her gaze to play around with it myself. Before I could go about my own business, her open Facebook chat stared right in my face, and I noticed she had just finished having a conversation with her close friend.

I was (obviously) going to log out when I spotted my name in the conversation. Being inquisitive, I proceeded to read that bit of the conversation, only to have my heart melt away in its entirety. Her close friend too, like me, was surprised about my mother’s sudden interest in technology and had asked her why, after all these years, she was so taken in by the social networking phenomenon. My mother answered: “My son doesn’t have the time to talk to me face to face, so I hope that once I learn Facebook and Whatsapp, I’ll be able to be his friend again.”

I’ve often found that it’s not days, months or years, or big, intense or drastic events that alter your perspective and teach you glorious life lessons. It’s the tiny little moments of life that come out of nowhere, when you may find yourself doing something most mundane and rather unremarkable, like going on a long walk because no autorickshaw would agree to ply you, cooking for yourself a half-burnt dinner because the bai’s grandfather passed away for the fourth time in the year, or being stuck in a never-ending traffic jam because you got adventurous and took a new route, that change everything.

It’s funny how you have the greatest epiphanies during such unsuspecting moments; you may see something, hear something, feel something, realise something or even remember something, when nothing especially special is happening with you, that has the most profound effect in a way that it becomes life-affirming. Life really does happen when you are bang in the middle of it all… life happens when you are in the middle of life.

Life happened to me in that moment I read that Facebook conversation of my mother. I was overcome with all the love that exists inside me in that moment, for possibly the best mother that ever was, and at the same time also found myself feeling acute pain, for possibly being the worst son that ever was. But mostly, I was happy and grateful to the universe for slapping me across the face, and I only wished I could have seen that conversation earlier – many years ago.

As I hugged my mother that day and ensured that I spent every waking moment of the rest of my time in Bahrain in her company (to much of her surprise: she even asked me to ‘go play with the phone’ because she was so sick of me hanging around), the irony of modern life dawned upon me – that in spite of being more connected than ever before (through Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, BBM, Gtalk, etc), we are getting increasingly disconnected with each other.

When was the last time that, instead of posting a message on their Facebook wall, you picked up the phone to call your friend or meet them on their birthday? When was the last time you spent an entire conversation with your loved one, without once looking into your phone or being irrevocably distracted by it? When was the last time you truly took a holiday where you closed your eyes to relish a beautiful view, instead of trying to capture it for ‘likes’ on instagram, or when you actually enjoyed the full extent of the company of friends and family, without trying to constantly stay ‘updated’ on the social media you precisely use to enjoy the company of friends and friends?

This Diwali, I’m lighting a diya each for every mother and every son or daughter, so that they may overcome the divide that technology has become, and genuinely ‘connect’ with each other. I’ve shared my happiness story in the hope that instead of trying to make our lives awesome on Facebook and Instagram, we make them awesome in real life by rekindling our human connections again. Thanks to that moment, I know I have, and will continue to always do so now, although the paradox that is technology, hasn’t escaped me: How technology itself was the catalyst to bring that moment about, and now that I’m away from my Mum again, I use the same internet messengers to keep in touch with her and ‘be her friend’ 🙂
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Note: 
This column first appeared on Yahoo.com on November 6, 2013

Link: http://in.lifestyle.yahoo.com/a-diya-to-connect-beyond-technology–055054565.html
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

Short Story: The End

12 December, 1999

A strange sort of emptiness took hold of me. As I stood there, every inch of me perspiring, and sweaty hands making it difficult to grasp the rough and battered hold of the bat, several unconnected thoughts flashed in my head. Memories, rather. Good memories. Things weren’t supposed to turn out this way. But at that very moment, as my heart thumped in my chest, and my breaths came in short and deep breaks, everything around me seemed to be slowing down, and turning sour. The memories, the people, my life so far. Everything was turning sour. I was not a bad person. And a strange sort of emptiness took hold of me. At that very moment, more than the fear of losing my degree, more than the fear of breaking my skull, more than the fear of Baba’s wrath, the fear that he might be slipping away gripped me. At that moment, everything ceased to matter. I never did anything bad to anyone intentionally. The ugly, loud and deafening abuses that filled the air, the throngs of people that were coming towards us with blood and vengeance on their head, the odd tear that trickled down my cheek, merging with the beads of sweat and dying a slow, noiseless death as it fell to the uneven concrete, everything. Why was this happening to me? At that very moment, the only thing that remained, amidst the ruckus, the penetrating shrieks and the pounding of my heart, was the look in his eyes. When I pushed him. That look kept interfering with my vision, my thoughts, the memories, the melee, the loosening grip of the bat. I was very scared. I heard the crack when he fell to the ground. And I saw the blood as it started to flow slowly, just so slowly. It was dark. It could have been red, but it was just dark. It was a sight I can never get off my chest. I was standing right there then. I couldn’t be a part of this. I was standing right there then. The bat was now an extension of my arm. I could feel the cuts, the coarse edges, the jagged rubber, I could feel them all. I was ready to take a swing. But was I so full of hatred yet? I was ready to take a swing, all right. But was I ready to take the swing? I hated myself at that moment. I was so full of questions. And there was no time to contemplate answers. They kept drawing near. I could hear the frightened footsteps of the others as they dragged back through their feet the impending doom every tiny second they could, as the bats and stumps shook in their hands as much as they did mine. My grip was loosening. They swung at me. I flinched, but I didn’t scream. I staggered, but I didn’t fall. I could have swung back. I was ready to take the swing. I heard shrill cries of my name behind me, and piercing abuses ahead me. I heard bones cracking all around, and I heard pain. I heard pain the second time today. I threw my bat away. I didn’t take a swing. Instead, I waited. Then, they swung again. This time, I heard nothing. As I lay on the ground, smeared in my own blood, a strange sort of emptiness took hold of me. 

Note: This story was written by me around 7 years ago.. it is part of a larger story that I hope to write some day. 

Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).

© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

Short Story: A Love Story about to happen…

It was Mumbai being Mumbai. The rain was outdoing itself, just like it had done so yesterday, just like it had done so the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that… it was just about that time of the season when the junta had stopped romanticizing the bloody darn showers, the bloody darn non-existent ‘hot pakodas’, the bloody darn ever-existent ‘cutting chai’, and bloody darn romance itself, which, incidentally, was uniquely and singularly absent from Aniket Hazare’s life.

Aniket Hazare. Ha. The lesser said about Aniket Hazare’s life, the better. To be very honest, the only thing remarkable about Aniket Hazare’s life was how utterly unremarkable it was. Yes, Aniket Hazare was Arthur Dent, but before he hitchhiked across the galaxy, and become the unlikely hero of a bestselling novel. The only thing heroic about Aniket Hazare’s life was that a man with the same last name had managed to unite the country together in a revolution, ironically, for, hating the country together. Well, almost.

Aniket Hazare’s glory had been just as short-lived as the revolution was. When the revolution had begun, everyone and their various ignorant, non-Maharashtrian relatives wanted to know if he was related to the other, more famous and utterly remarkable A Hazare, and simply wanted to say how proud they were of him. But when the revolution abruptly ended, while the glory abruptly ended too, somehow Aniket Hazare’s surname metamorphosed itself into some sort a trigger that would elicit the most strongly-opinionated comments from everyone and their various ignorant relatives, Maharashtrian or otherwise.

And when these diatribes did not even diminish a respectable amount of time beyond the point – and there needs to be a word for this – at which it stopped being cool to talk about it… let’s call it the ‘hipster point’. So when these diatribes did not even diminish a respectable amount of time beyond the hipster point, it made Aniket Hazare very angry. Well, not *very* angry. Just a sufficient, unremarkable amount of angry that a sufficiently unremarkable sort of person like him would get. Except that Aniket Hazare managed to channel this anger into a heroic hobby, if ever there was one, and that would turn out to be the only other heroic thing about Aniket Hazare’s life.

But apart from this heroic hobby, Aniket Hazare was as much a hero as Daarshik Godbole was, and we all know that Daarshik Godbole is no hero. But like every unremarkable, plain-looking middle-class Indian fellow, Maharashtrian or otherwise, with a flat-ish screen TV and a high-ish speed internet connection, Aniket Hazare was no stranger to dreams.

Aniket Hazare loved to dream dreams. He loved to dream coloured dreams and Technicolor dreams, realized dreams and incomplete dreams, romantic dreams and horror dreams, Indian dreams and foreign dreams. Aniket Hazare loved to dream dreams because unlike the remarkable case of his unremarkable reality, Aniket Hazare was a hero – the hero – of his dreams.

Aniket Hazare was the hero who won the fair maiden, who ran towards her in slow motion in a garden full of roses and lilies and daisies, and who eventually ended up doing unspeakable deeds behind a sunflower in close up, after having run around a tree for the amount of time sufficient for a hero to run around trees. The hero who won the fair maiden, who he met by a fortuitous accident on a sunny day or a rainy one, in an elevator or an escalator, in a plane or on a tram, on an empty road or in a traffic jam.

But on this day, when Mumbai was being Mumbai, and the bloody darn rain was outdoing itself, and there were no bloody darn hot pakodas and no bloody darn cutting chai in the bloody darn traffic jam, that was ceaseless at its origin, and ceaseless at its destination, Aniket Hazare’s life was being its usually unremarkable self, and there was no fortuitous accident waiting to happen, and no likely love story involving a fair maiden whose car had given up on her, and who, for some strange reason, wanted to hitch a ride with him to Borivali.

And just then – like in all great romantic stories that no one ever reads these days, in which the phrase ‘just then’ would indicate something wholly magical – the world became very still, as there was a knock on the window of Aniket Hazare’s Maruti 800, which was just as unremarkable as he was, or perhaps, even more so, and it was a fair maiden with a red umbrella, fighting off the furious rain, who for some strange reason, wanted to hitch a ride with him to Borivali. Something wholly magical was about to happen.

 

Note: This story was first published on June 28, 2013. The part II of this story was never published (or written :p)

Link: http://goo.gl/SgwF08

Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).

© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

Short Story: The Stranger and the Gentleman

Nikhil:

I wasn’t sure if I was being extraordinarily cool about this, or if I was being extraordinarily stupid. To be safe, I kept a note in my hotel room that said this: “Going to a night club with the owner of an Egyptian club. His no is 734xxxxxx. He drives a light green Nissan with number plate xxxx. If I’m kidnapped, please pay my ransom… please!”

I don’t party, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. I do like to have a fun night out every now and then, but my friends feel I am from outer space because I suffer from the severe deficiency of “having a life”. So it would have sounded quite ironic to them that the reason that I mysteriously disappeared was that I had finally decided to go to a night club, except it was on the invitation of an unknown Egyptian shop-owner, and it was hundreds of miles away from home. On the bright side, if I’d be released after my abduction, they would definitely not pester me to go partying with them again!

Yes, I wasn’t exactly confident of my decision to decide to go partying in Egypt, of all places, especially when I hadn’t informed any of my colleagues about this, especially when the shop-owner who invited me to his own night club had also told me, “Beware of Egypt shopkeepers – they are all out to fleece you”, and especially when I don’t even party!

From the time he graciously picked me up from my hotel and we were on our way to a night club in a place completely alien to me, I admit, I was apprehensive. What was the catch? Why had an Egyptian shop-owner invited a foreigner at least 15 years younger to him to his night club? I didn’t look too rich, I had made it clear that I’m from India, and well, India isn’t exactly the land of the rich, and I hadn’t even bought that many souvenirs! Did he just instinctively take a liking to me or was he going to drug me and hold me for ransom?

He got us a VIP seat at the night club, he got a grand dinner arranged, and we watched some fine belly dancing, an Egyptian cultural phenomenon. But then, when he started to tell me his rags-to-riches-to nearly rags again story, it started becoming clear: he was going to ask me for money. He told me of his troubled childhood, how he overcame it, how God kept testing him by putting his family through still more hardships, and how he’s trying to stand up on his feet now with his businesses.

At the end of the evening, he drove me back to my hotel. I got off, and he bid me goodbye and wished me a safe journey. I was confused. As I wished him the same and was about to get into my hotel, he called out to me. I guessed that he would now ask the favour. But Syed, instead, shook my hand and asked a promise: “Promise me, you’ll be my friend. I don’t have many.”

I stayed awake that night for a very long time.

 

Syed:

“So who are you buying all these things for?” I asked

“Well, I’m gifting this stuff here to my mother, I’m gifting this stuff here to my father and this stuff here is for my brother,” the young man answered.

“What are you buying for yourself?” I asked out of curiosity.

“Nothing. I don’t have any money left, and besides, I’m not much of a shopper,” he replied frankly.

“You sound like a gentleman,” I said to him. “I don’t meet too many gentlemen in Egypt. All the shopkeepers here try to fleece the foreigners, and all the foreigners are only out looking for a good time to care about that.”

“That’s very kind of you,” the young man said, with a smile. “I’m glad I decided to buy all my souvenirs from this shop, you seem very nice yourself!”

“Thank you,” I smiled back. Without giving it too much thought, I took out my card and gave it to him. “My name is Syed, and I also own a night club here. If you’re here tonight, give me a call. I’d love to have you as a guest at my club.”

The young man thanked me courteously, promised me he’d try to come, and then used our newly-formed friendship to negotiate harder! I didn’t expect him to give me a call, but he did. I was happy to take him to the club – he reminded me of myself when I was his age. I would spend all my money on my family and never save for myself either. I told him of my younger days and how I would go to different countries too, since I had to sell my goods. He seemed a bit distracted, maybe he had an early morning flight to catch. I think I had a little too much to drink though, because I unnecessarily bored him with my stories. We still had a very pleasant time, and I think I made a good friend today. I hope he keeps in touch, there are not too many gentlemen in Egypt.

 

Note: This story was first published on October 9, 2011. It was written for an online group. It is inspired from a true incident in my life and the man in the picture above is actually Syed.

Link: http://www.facebook.com/notes/nikhil-taneja/short-storyflash-fiction-the-stranger-and-the-gentleman/10150339998472945

Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).

© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

Short Story: Lost in the Fire

“Yes, I’ve cried a lot since it happened though I don’t know why. My heart is heavy, but memories are fuzzy. The Lord saved me today, maybe this is in gratitude.”

“I don’t know what I was doing on the porch when the fire broke out. You’ve told me yourself that I’m not allowed to get out of the house. Maybe I was suffocated. I don’t know if the gas suffocated me. My head hurts now.”

“I don’t want to be here. I’m not ill, the girl is. And no, I don’t believe she is my granddaughter. Why was she inside when I was out on the porch? That’s how I know they are lying… I’m sure she was trying to steal something. If she indeed cared for me, she wouldn’t have left me alone out on the porch. Only the Lord cares for me now.”

“What is that, you say? No, of course I didn’t turn on the gas. Why would I leave it on and go out of the house? I don’t remember why I was on the porch only because of the trauma caused by the fire, not because I’m forgetful. Stop lying to me! I’ll remember as soon as I’m out of this forsaken hospital! Please go now. I don’t want to talk to you.”

“Wait! Please don’t go. Please help me. I don’t know why the Lord is playing these strange tricks on me. I’m crying but there are no tears. You say I have a condition but I don’t believe you. You say you are my son but there are no memories. I want to go home but I don’t know where that is. Please help me. Please take me home. Please don’t go.”

Note: This story was first published on October 8, 2011. It was written for an online group. 

Link: http://www.facebook.com/notes/nikhil-taneja/short-story-lost-in-the-fire/10150338867182945

Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).

© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

Short Story: Freedom

“So how does it feel?” I asked.

“I’m scared,” she half-smiled, not attempting in any way to hide her anxiety.

“About what?” I asked, pretending to not know the answer.

She looked at me nervously, but didn’t say a word. Instead, she let her brown, deep eyes do the talking.

“You won’t get caught,” I smiled reassuringly.

Her hand was inches away from mine, but I wasn’t sure if I’d come across as romantic or rash if I held it. So instead, I directed her attention towards the vast blue ocean in front of us.

“Forget about your father,” I said. “Forget about traditions. Forget about religion. Forget about restriction. Forget about punishment. Forget it all, and close your eyes. Close your eyes and take a deep breath.”

As if waiting to hear those precise words, she closed her eyes. In the deep breath she took, there lay another brave little step in taking on the world she could only resent, but not desert; that she could only disturb, but not defy.

She opened her eyes once again to the gorgeous view in front of her.

“How does it feel now?” I asked

“It feels like freedom,” she smiled, as my hands gently reached for hers.

 

Note: This story was first published on October 17, 2011. It was written for an online group. We were given the above image and asked to write flash fiction on it.

Link: http://www.facebook.com/notes/nikhil-taneja/short-story-freedom/10150350016672945

Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).

© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.