The cat and the cage

Her grandma had a cat; a cat she found wandering around in her farm when she was a little girl. That was a long time ago. The life on the farm was simple back then. The day her grandma got married, they caged the cat under a big wooden box. Perhaps, they did not want Tufaan to run through all the sweets and the decorations….

metal_cage1Her grandma had a cat; a cat she found wandering around in her farm when she was a little girl. That was a long time ago, even long before India’s partition in 1947. The life on the farm was simple back then.

The little cat loved to run through the farm and all over the house, always on the run. Grandma named her Tufaan, which meant storm.

The day her grandma got married, they caged the cat under a big wooden box. Perhaps, they did not want Tufaan to run through all the sweets and the decorations. The grandma remembered it vividly – the cat scratching the box, begging to be freed. They had to put extra weight on the perforated box to keep her from escaping.

The wedding went smoothly, grandma lived a long and happy life.

“Let me tell you Aman,” Grandma would love to talk about her cat, ” Tufaan was my good luck. Our family’s prosperity is tied to that cat! She was my best fried!!”

Twenty years later, when Aman’s mother got married, grandma told the servants to arrange for a cage. For two days, during the ceremonies, grandma made sure that the cat stayed in the cage.

She repeated the same ritual when he other daughters got married!

“I am not very superstitious, only when it is logical,” Grandma would say if anybody asked about her cat being restrained in the cage during the ceremonies. Nobody questioned her; they did not question their elders back then.

And then, many years later, Aman came to Canada for studies. After her graduation, she got a good job in Toronto and decided to stay in Canada.

For last two years, she was in her first serious relation. She was happy, for a while. Earlier this year, she decided to back out; things were not working out.

Last month she went ahead and bought a large animal cage from the local pet store.

Now, all she needs is a man, and a cat.

Did I tell you – she is not very superstitious, only when it is logical!

Other Short Stories Continue reading “The cat and the cage”

Moving Out

“Can’t you stay?” He pleaded, standing at the bedroom door.
She looked at him, smiled and continue to pack-up her things.
“You don’t have to go. You can stay!” he repeated, this time in a more ‘begging’ tone… a short stoty.

“Can’t you stay?” He pleaded, standing at the bedroom door that was only half way open.
She looked at him, smiled and then continued to pack her things.
“You don’t have to go. You can stay!” he repeated, this time in a more ‘begging’ tone as he gently pushed on the door to open it wider.
She stopped stuffing her clothes into an already full suitcase. Then, she walked over and gave him a big hug.
“You gonna be okay!…Believe me!” She said in an reassuring tone.
He did not say anything, he did not know what else to say.
She returned to her suitcase, started to re-arranged the jeans, trying to make some room for more stuff.
“It is pretty late; aren’t you sleepy?” She said, knowing that he is still there, standing at the door.
He did not reply. he stood there for a few more seconds and then walked off.

He woke-up early next morning, earlier than his normal daily routine. He lay there, in the bed, stretching. The bright light filtered through the customer-made roman shade on the window.
Normally, he would lay there, for ten-fifteen minutes, let his body ‘wake-up’ before getting out of the bed, but not today. He dragged himself out of the bed right away.
He was still tired; he did not sleep well last night.
Rubbing his eyes, he slowly walked over to her room. The door was locked with lights on; he could tell by looking at the gap underneath the door. Obviously, she was awake. He stood there for a few seconds and then decided to walk away. He did not want to bother her again this early.

He brushed his teeth, washed up, and started to get dressed. He put on the blue jeans and the red t-shirt – the clothes she had helped him choose at the Gap store last week.

Lethargically, as if no energy in his ever-active legs, he came downstairs. He slumped in the sofa in the living room and turned on the TV, his usual morning routine. But this morning, he was not paying any attention to the TV; he did not even bother to change the news channel.

Her door opened and she started to bring her luggage downstairs, putting everything by the front door. The big suitcase, the laptop bag, a plastic bag full of shoes, another plastic bag, her favorite pillow, the books… looks like she had packed up the whole room.

He walked over, towards the front door and sat down on the bottom of the staircase, without saying anything.
“come on, lets have some breakfast!” She tried to cheer him up.
Half-heartedly, he followed her to the kitchen. She grabbed two bowls from the overhead cabinet and poured equal amount of Honey Nut Cheerios and milk in each bowl.
“You don’t have to go, you know!” He reiterated his wish as they sat eating in the dining room.
“No, I have to,” she spoke in a convincing tone, like a teacher would talk to a student.
“No, you don’t!”
“You gonna be okay! I will call you; and, you can call me any time! You know my number, right?”
He did not say anything, as if giving up his fight to make her stay. Continue reading “Moving Out”

Weight-Loss Intervention

“it is very noticeable, especially on your tummy!”
“Extra weight doesn’t look good on you!”
“yes, do something. You need to lose some weight!”…. a short story

“it is very noticeable, especially on your tummy!”

“Extra weight doesn’t look good on you!”

“Everybody is asking if something is wrong with you.”

“We have a wedding next month, your own brother-in-law!”

“yes, our own family celebrations!”

“Sari does not look good with tummy sticking out!”

“We love you, that’s why we are asking you.”

“yes, do something. You need to lose some weight!”

Her mother-in-law and the two aunts continue the bombardment. Everyone else is quiet, as if silent witnesses to the ugly situation. Continue reading “Weight-Loss Intervention”

Rendezvous

Love is supposed to make you glow. But in her case, it was the other way around. Maybe it was cursed, she wondered. Perhaps, because it was forbidden.

Love is supposed to make you glow, make you happy. But in her case, it was the other way around. Maybe it was cursed, she wondered. Perhaps, because it was forbidden.

“God damn it!” She murmurs, as another customer leaves her shop without any purchase.
“I really need money! I really need something to support myself.”

She looks in the wall-size mirror behind the counter. He skin pale; the big beautiful eyes don’t hold the same old shine – the glow of a rising sun they once had. Her mom had picked her name – Aruna, literary meaning sun rise.
Even with all the make-up, the dark circles underneath her eyes eclipse her beauty of yester years.

Her father owns the Taj Fashions – an Indian clothing store in Brampton. The well-lit shop in a small shopping plaza is deserted. If the business dies, her income dies – she knows it.
Selling Indian fashion and designers’ clothes is all she has done since she came to Canada. She needs the store to flourish. She needs the business to survive.No customers.
Another ominous sign in two days.

The love brought her stress and misery. It was very hard to hide, to hide from her parents and everyone around her.
Brave and undeterred, she met him every chance she got. He was an addiction, a drug that she needed the most to function.

He made promises, big promises – about them being together, about their future. She trusted him with everything, she trusted him with herself. Like a newly wed bride, she dressed up for him; she did everything for him – everything.

And, all this time, carefully, she hid him from her family, from everyone. Her biggest secret to date. Or, so she thought.

Time changed, it always does.
People. Nosy people. They always find out. The rendezvous, just like an odor, are impossible to hide. Her boyfriend crumbled under the weight of the society. He showed his true colors; he deserted her. He decided to stay with his wife.
Her faith faltered, the rosy future quickly got covered under a dark cloud, just like the dark circles under her pretty eyes. Continue reading “Rendezvous”

A boyfriend, a husband and the God

“Oh God, what should I do!!” She asked. ‘What do you mean?” The God replied…. An unhappy marriage; a boyfriend, and a husband… a conflict and the Creator himself – a short story.

“Oh God, what should I do!!” She asked

‘What do you mean?” The God replied.

“I mean what should I do?”

Silence. There was no response from the Almighty.

“Seriously, I am in pain. Please help me!”

“Pain? Are you sure? Why?”

“You are supposed to answer my prayers, not ask question after question!”

“That is what you think!” He paused. “Why would you be still in pain?” the God asked again.

“My husband hates me, and my boyfriend doesn’t want me anymore?”

” A boyfriend and a husband –  looks like you have one of each. That is non-traditional. Most women have them both covered in one person!” The God chuckled.

“I know, I am torn! That is a sin, right?”

“It depends on you!”

“For my child, I have decided to stay with my husband. Not an easy choice, you know.”

“I know!”

“But he is mad at me everyday!”

“Oh!”

“He found out about my boyfriend!”

“Love is hard to hide, especially the forbidden one!”

“Forbidden, I know, but I could not help it. My boyfriend gave me love that my husband could not!”

“Looks like a bad husband.”

“He never loved me!”

“Did you love him?”

“I tried, yes, since the day I met him.” She paused, “We rushed into the marriage.”

“Why?”

“My parents liked him because he lived in Canada; I did not think twice!”

“Arranged marriages – very common in India.”

“i did not know what I was getting into!”

“That is normal….And, your boyfriend?” Continue reading “A boyfriend, a husband and the God”

The green door

I followed her to the living room. There, in the middle of the fireplace mantel was a big picture of Parkash, smiling. It even had a garland of marigold flowers around it – just like in the movies…NRI story

I cannot believe he is dead!

He lived on the north side of my town, on Dorothy street. I used to pass by his house during my evening strolls. His house had an over-sized green door that did not seem to fit the neighborhood, just like him.

With a white beard and a grey turban; he was easy to spot from a distance. I always found him outside his house, gardening in the front-yard or just admiring the outdoor. As I would walk-by, I exchanged hello/hi with him. I was just being polite – out of respect for our elders. But over time, I made his acquaintance. He liked to talk, I found out pretty soon. Chatting with him became a part of my evening routines.
“Beautiful weather! Nice day for a walk!! Scattered clouds over there, look like a floating goat!!!” He would say random things with a chuckle. He laughed at his own jokes; that used to be a cue for me to laugh.

He was very fond – actually very proud, of India and all things Indian, I could tell. Not that I needed to know, but he often told me the virtues of Indian society, the pride of being Indian. He also reminded me how advanced Indian are, compared to the ‘white people’ as he would call them.

“I was the first Indian in this town” he mentioned one evening, “There were no Indian shops in this area!!”
“It must be hard back then”, I once asked; that was bad idea. For next 20-30 minutes, he told me all about the hardships of being an isolated Indian living amongst white folks.
“Many mornings I used to find eggs shells all over my new car in this driveway; these racist people, I tell you!….”

Sometimes, he complained, but he was not bitter. He told his past stories with the same braggadocio as a captain would shares his encounters with the rough stormy weather.

He was different. I enjoyed these brief daily encounters, and his stories from all over the places. He came across as a fanatic Indian; he never tried to hide his obvious bias for ‘the great India’. Without hesitation, he would share his thoughts about superior Indian culture, the sins of the western society…. But it was never monotonous; he always had new anecdotes.
I did not agree with many of his views, but I never argued with him either. When in serious mood, he spoke like a professor, like a preacher – as if never in doubt. I thought to myself – you cannot change the thinking of an old man, those outdated views….

I recall it was Friday; I did not see him outside his house that evening. It was strange, his absence. Then, even more disturbing, I did not see him for days, for weeks. I looked for him, I even waited and lingered around his house, but he was nowhere to be found. Continue reading “The green door”

‘The Fox’ by Kahlil Gibran

A fox looked at his shadow at sunrise and said, “I will have a camel for lunch today.”….a very short story from Kahlil/Khalil Gibran

A fox looked at his shadow at sunrise and said, “I will have a camel for lunch today.” And all morning he went about looking for camels. But at noon he saw his shadow again — and he said, “A mouse will do.” Continue reading “‘The Fox’ by Kahlil Gibran”

The gold pendant

After the tea, she opened her suitcase and took-out a gold pendant, with a small diamond in the middle. She had it custom made for Jessie. Handing her the expensive gift, she hugged her again… a short-short story…

She does not know her real date of birth; nobody does. By her own accounts, “I was 12 when India became free; when England split Punjab into two parts….” The date on her passport is as random as a weather forecast from a medicine man.
In her 70s, she has outlived all of her siblings, and one of her own sons. Her eyesight is fading. The arthritis in her hands bothers her only during winter chills, “a little pain here and there is good for you; reminds you that you are still alive!” Ups and downs of life don’t affect her much.
She is happy; she learned compromises over the years; she learned how to be content, how to adapt.

Her son greeted her at the Toronto Pearson airport. They hugged, for a long time. With moist eyes, she looked around.
“Where is Anita?” She inquired in Punjabi, the only language she can speak.
“She is still at work maa!” He replied in Punjabi.
“How about Jessie, my little angel?”
“At school, should be home by the time we drive there. “
She looked around – a brand new place, a brand new country.
“Let’s go home maa!” He interrupted her thoughts.
‘Home’, she said to herself, ‘I left my home in India…how many homes one can have!’ she chuckled at her own thoughts. And then, she said out loud, “We need to get two boxes of sweets on the way!”
“Maa, there are no Indian stores on the way! Plus, we don’t eat much sugar anyways”
‘Canada – Strange country’, she looked around, again….

They arrived home. Anita and Jessie, greeted his mother at the door. They hugged, for a long time. Her eyes filled with tears of joys at the sight of her 12 years old grand-kid. She hugged her, again. In a strange way, she felt at home!

After the tea and some rest, she opened her suitcase and took-out a gold pendant with a small diamond in the middle. She had it custom made for Jessie. Handing her the expensive gift, she embraced her her gently.
Jessie took the pendant, looked at it for a long time, as if mesmerized. She hesitated, paused, walked over to Anita sitting in the love-seat.
“I don’t want it, mom!” She handed over pendant to her mother. Continue reading “The gold pendant”

Naming a baby girl

“Yesterday, we were blessed with our second child”, he wrote an email to his friends and family member. “A beautiful baby girl – 7.25 lb, 16.5 inches, brown hair, brown eyes”….. “Cannot decide on the name, suggestions welcome!”

“Yesterday, we were blessed with our second child”, he wrote an email to his friends and family members. “A beautiful baby girl – 7.25 lb, 16.5 inches, brown hair, brown eyes,.. not sure who she looks like.” He ended the email with an open invitation to all, “Cannot decide on the name, suggestions welcome! :)”

Kiran, his wife, wanted to name her Navee; she had always liked that name.
“Umm… not sure about this one!” He quipped.
“It is a cool name, and easy to pronounce, even for Canadians!” she insisted

“What would you like to call your sister?” Kiran asked Sonia, her 6 years old daughter.
“I don’t know”, she was mesmerized by the little thing, “She is so cute! Name her princess!”
“Well, you are my princess!”
“Now you have two!” She giggled

His mother sat in the chair next to the hospital bed, holding the baby, rocking her gently every now and then. She wanted a son, but she was content with God’s will!
“Every child is born with a predetermined luck – a destiny!” She had said when the doctor first gave them the news. “We cannot change it, it is His decision!” She pointed up with her index finger. Continue reading “Naming a baby girl”

The Life Abroad – I

He shared the apartment with 3 other Indian students. A few times a week, they went to the Dixie Gurdwara; not because they were religious, – half of them were not even Sikhs – you just cannot beat the free food, the ‘langar’, the common kitchen…

Life. Life is a sequence of seasons – winter waiting for spring, summer-heat longing for autumn. Life is a picnic in the playground, with bread crumbs scattered all around, attracting the pigeons and crows alike. Life is daydreaming and being satisfied with the resulting illusions.
Life. Days spent surfing the net, wandering in the shopping malls, driving to the country side, watching an old tv show re-run, to relive the past – life is what we never thought it would be.

He was 23 when he migrated to Canada – big dreams, bigger illusions. University of Toronto campus was his home for next 2 years – long sessions in the engineering labs, studying for exams until 4AM… working on the gas-station during week-end… His father, a small farmer in Punjab, sent over money regularly, but that could barely support his tuition.
He shared the apartment with 3 other Indian students – it was cheaper that way, more economical for student life. A few times a week, they went to the Dixie Gurdwara; not because they were religious, – half of them were not even Sikhs, – you just cannot beat the free food from the ‘langar’ – the ‘common kitchen’. Continue reading “The Life Abroad – I”

The fading hue

The bright yellow saree with flowery pattern clings to her tall slender body, almost exposing her. She wears it with grace – her walk measured, her stance determined. Her lips are wide; her smile is big – like a Bollywood movie actress, but less assuming. She speaks with politeness, yet determination of a teacher…a short story..

The bright yellow saree with flowery pattern clings to her tall slender body, almost exposing her to the imaginative eyes. She wears it, the saree, with grace – her walk measured, her stance determined. Her lips are wide; her smile big – like a Bollywood movie actress, only less assuming. She speaks with politeness, yet determination of a teacher. Her animated hand gestures and a fair complexion mislead you to think that she could be Italian. Her attire, the controlled manners, and the lowered eyes give away the secret however, that she is Indian. As she walks from guests to guests, she leaves behind a trace of French perfume; she leave behind many turned heads.. Saying that she is pretty does not do a complete justice.
On her right shoulder she has a flower tattoo – not a real tattoo, no! Her mother would not allow that. It is a kind of tattoo that some kids and teenagers make out of sticky and shiny glitters. She is no teenager, not by any measures except some traces of childish youth left in her heart. She has her own kids aged 3 and 6, a boy and a girl, left for the evening at her mother’s house.
It is a January, a wintry cold weekend. They are gathered for a social evening at her friend’s house, a mansion actually. The big house stands on the outskirts of Surrey, British Columbia. The sunlight from the west filters through the huge windows accenting the silky curtains that seem to never end, not even when they touch the marble tiles of matching floor. Continue reading “The fading hue”

The Madman

One day, long before many gods were born, I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen,—the seven masks I have fashioned and worn in seven lives,—I ran maskless through the crowded streets shouting, “Thieves, thieves…

‘The Madman’ by Kahlil Gibran (Khalil Gibran):

You ask me how I became a madman. It happened thus: One day, long before many gods were born, I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen,—the seven masks I have fashioned and worn in seven lives,—I ran maskless through the crowded streets shouting, “Thieves, thieves, the cursed thieves.”

Men and women laughed at me and some ran to their houses in fear of me.

And when I reached the market place, a youth standing on a house-top cried, “He is a madman.” I looked up to behold him; the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time. For the first time the sun kissed my own naked face and my soul was inflamed with love for the sun, and I wanted my masks no more. And as if in a trance I cried, “Blessed, blessed are the thieves who stole my masks.” Continue reading “The Madman”

Misplaced Nostalgia

Eight years older, moustache missing and 25 pounds heavier, he arrived back in India. His town, however, was not the same as he had left behind. The side-streets where he wandered aimlessly, the school where he learned to day-dream, the grocery store around the corner, the peepul tree next to the pond, the pond itself…. were all gone…

With big dreams, with full imagination, and with an empty pocket, he left India.

“Success”, he told himself when he landed in USA; he was twenty-six.

Since he was a little kid, just like every other kid in his town, his ambition was to go overseas. That is how he was raised.

The culture, the people, the society, and the way everybody was …… everything was different, very different. The life in California was not what he had imagined.

But, he adapted.

It was a big adjustment over the years, many compromises at every turn. In spite of all that, he did not complain much; after all this was his own decision – going abroad.

All those days, all those years  in America, he felt homesick. He missed the life he had left behind. The childhood memories, the old friends, the open fields – he often day-dreamed the life that used to be.  At times, he felt empty inside. He wished he could go back; go back to his real home, his real life.

He worked hard. He made lots of money; a lot of money if you think in Indian Rupees.

The recession came; he lost his job – the high paying engineering job he took for granted. He looked for another job, half-heartedly. No luck. Perhaps he was secretly wishing not to work in US anymore. Continue reading “Misplaced Nostalgia”

Baby Shoes by Hemingway

Perhaps written to settle a bar bet or perhaps written as a challenge, it is said that Ernest Hemingway actually wrote this ‘short short story’. Only 6 words long, the story has a beginning, a middle and an end.

“For sale: baby shoes, never used.”

Perhaps written to settle a bar bet or perhaps written as a challenge, it is said that Ernest Hemingway wrote this ‘short short story’. Only 6 words long, the story has a beginning, a middle and an end. These are thought provoking 6 words forming a story-line. Perhaps, a woman’s life-long pain described in 6 words. Continue reading “Baby Shoes by Hemingway”

Just a job

He had big dream; after all, nobody dreams small. Once in US, he was very optimistic about his career at first… then…the compromise…he needed a job….just a job.. a short story

“You can easily find an Engineering job in your field in America… no problem for a smart guy like you…”
“There is no shortage of work for Indian Engineers…this is just the fact…”
“You will find something – something good, no problem….”
….. Back home in India, just like any typical Indian family, everybody was full of advice. Everyone had told him that it was very easy to get an engineering job in America.

“You can make lots of money in a few years”, His future father-in-law told him at the time of his engagement 3 years ago. A year after that, he was married to Anu.
He used to be very optimistic about his career in USA, so was the rest of his American family – his in-laws.

He had big dream. After all, nobody dreams small.

Once in US, he was greeted by his wife and her family and they welcome him into their home. His old classmates, now living within driving distance, came to visit him.
He was treated like a guest for many months. However, he soon realized, you cannot be a guest for too long. He had to figure out the next step – the job. With all the expenses and cost of living, he needed a job soon. His parents and siblings back home were already calling to check on him; to see when he might send them some money, like every other NRI does.

After a few months, the tone of the advice changed:
“You just need to try a bit harder, maybe try something in lower pay scale to gain some experience…”
“Find a way to get your foot in the door…”
“My cousin started as a technician; now he is the director of engineering…but they are not hiring…”
“You cannot give up…We never give up…”
“You will find something – may be not that good but something… something good….” Continue reading “Just a job”