More September Highlights – An Omnibus And A Review


William Burkholder is a poet-editor, artist and an activist. We have been Facebook friends since 2009. He is also one who published my poems in Troubadour 21 when I was at the initial stage of learning. He is also co-founder of SCCA (The S.O.U.L Collective Of Collaborative Arts ). a non-profit corporation.

product_thumbnail.php(Pic sourced from lulu.com with William’s permission)

Sometime back he compiled an International ‘Collaborative’s Omnibus‘ which is the fourth collection of creative works published by the Source of Universal Love and has work of many good writers from across the globe.  I am honored to be part of this collection. The Omnibus includes 10 poems and 4 short stories written by me. It feels good that people across the globe are reading my words and buying this book to aid a charity.

I am deeply grateful to William for making me a part of this noble initiative. It feels good when your hard work is recognized and appreciated.

Your support matters too. Do buy your copy and check out the other books by the Source of Universal Love.

The another big news of this month is that my review of author Nabina Das’s short story collection “The House of Twining Roses: Stories of the Mapped and the Unmapped” got published in the Singapore-based journal Kitaab. I absolutely love reading kitaab and it feels awesome to be a published there. The essay was read and appreciated by many good writers/editors and that itself is an encouragement. I am not a reviewer so when the author feels that my “words are gracious and constructive in their critique”, this means a lot. Maybe this is a sign that I should explore new possibilities.

Special thanks to Kitaab editor and writer Zafar Anjum  and review editor Monica Arora for accommodating my review. It is a milestone for me to be a part of such prestigious journal.It feels good to have a circle of supporters and mentors. Each one of you is special.

Here is an excerpt from the review,

  “Living in two or more places at the same time defines the coordinates of Das’ collection of stories. The nature-culture dualism in her stories, a rather likable binary, plays out effortlessly. The two female protagonists in “The House of Twining Roses” represent the two houses, two different ideologies, two life choices of women who grew together yet in different ways, like the two kinds of plant life around the house – the roses and the eucalyptus. The theme in each story too operates on two or more levels, I feel.”

I have known Nabina since almost seven years and I greatly admire her writing. The House of Twining Roses is a fantastic read. I recommend it totally. You can read the full review HERE.

September began with mixed feelings but I guess the universe has a way to close and heal open wounds. I am attending book readings, launches and other creative meets in my city and finally stepping out of my cocoon.

“Something’s lost but something’s gained in livin’ everyday.” says Joni Mitchell and I couldn’t have agreed more.

Proud Moment – Short Stories in Le Zaporogue 13 and MiCROW 8


Year 2013 has started on a great note. Two short stories featured in two illustrious literary publications. It is a blessing to have friends who support, encourage and unconditionally help me learn and polish my writing constantly.

737210_10151282170373138_889503477_o

In January my short story ‘ The Bookmark’ shared space with some fine writers, poets songwriters and photographers in Le Zaporogue 13. You can click on the link and download it for free or purchase it too.

There are some other wonderful treasures in Le Zaporogue Store. Do take a look.

Le Zaporogue 11 has some of my verses and  if you are passionate about poetry please feel free to click on the link and download this edition.

I want to thank author and friend Sebastian Doubinsky  for giving me this platform to showcase my work.

582517_4613963663135_1292476766_n

Riding on the back of  late spring  breeze came another surprise. This time a Flash-Fiction ‘Jason‘ based on the theme ‘Luminous‘ has found place in MiCROW 8 : Luminous  . This edition of Full of Crow flash fiction supplement section includes wonderful B&W photographs and some exceptional stories. You can read online , download the pdf. file or purchase the chapbook HERE . Check out the gorgeous FULL Of Crow ,a semiannual publication of very short stories and prose.

Thank you Michael. J. Solender  for giving me this opportunity. Looking forward to co creating more miracles.

This year I was able to break many mental barriers and swallow my self doubt to a large extent. I think I am more confident, more focused and tuned to myself and writing now. I am glad to have found mentors who helped me achieve this. Onward we go, one step at a time.

 

Related links :

online and print publications

Zaporogue 11

 

Photograph credits belong to the rightful owners. 

My Poems In ZAPOROGUE 11


The new year started with this fantastic news.  I feel honored and over the moon to be part of this illustrious literary magazine.  You can download it for free   LE ZAPOROGUE 11    or buy a paperback  LE ZAPOROGUE 11

The magazine has some  great literary works by some of my friends who are brilliant writers  ( Matthew Bialer  , he is an amazing photographer too among other things. Check his FB Profile   and Maree Scarlett  , the gorgeous poetess from Sydney )  and other very talented authors.

Last year when SEB DOUBINSKY,  a friend and author of  GOOD BYE BABYLON (Black Coffee Press), asked me if  I would like my poems to be published in his literary zine.  I was thrilled to say the least.  For a moment it seemed like I have hit a jackpot and I eagerly said, “Yes, I do. I do.”  It came as a best new year gift to me. 🙂

Seb is a professor of literature in Aarhus, Denmark, a published literary critic and an acclaimed poet with a great eye, a sense of mission and a kind heart. You can see the passion with which he brings out this amazing magazine. Do  read.

Thank you Seb for showcasing my work. For a learner there can’t be anything so  heart warming than this. 

You can view the Author’s Spotlight  HERE 

“Marijuana Dreams” on Smoke Site


Marijuana Dreams

With feverish longing
I roll your sensuous
Slender frame
between my fingers.
My mind fogged with
dusky marijuana dreams.
Translucent, veiled thoughts
wrap me in a smoky warmth.

Read more on the site The Smoking Book

The poem has appeared online but I do hope it will be selected for the final version of the SMOKE anthology from the small press Poets Wear Prada. It is the first time my work has been recognized online in such a big way.

Do visit the site and read some amazing poems from Nabina Das, Ritu Lalit, Roxanne Hoffman, Joy Leftow, DubbleX and many others.

Happy reading … Enjoy

Under The Dogwood Tree



The rivulet gushed through the picturesque forest .It was spring in England .Sam looked around him, this was their favorite spot .The place was vibrant with colors .A carpet of bluebells under lush green tall trees, delicate wild flowers of hues that only God could paint with his magic brush, daffodils swaying with the gentle breeze. The flaming colors of rhododendron lit up the hill sides. Along the banks of the rivulet and under the trees narcissus filled the air with their intoxicating fragrance .A palette of red, pink, yellow and blue.

Sam waited for Dan to arrive .They had spent some of the most memorable evenings there .Sitting under the pink Dogwood tree whose gently arching branches leaned over to kiss the sparking water of the rivulet .He smiled as he remembered the most intimate moments Dan and he shared in that magical unspoiled beauty around them .The place was secluded and so there was no chance of any disturbance.

Distractedly Sam plucked a blade of grass and started nibbling it, a maelstrom of emotions and remembrances engulfed him.He watched the small pebbles roll into the cool waters in front of him. A leaf fell from a tree into the water, and was carried away by the swift current .Sam wondered where the rivulet will take the tiny leaf .Where its journey of life will culminate? Such is life, he thought.

Where we have come from and where the river of life will take us no one knew. We may glide gently down the current like this little leaf and during our journey we meet whirlpools and rocky shores, rapids and precipices, and many obstacles. His eyes followed the little leaf till it disappeared from his sight forever. So it is with man, he thought. One disappears from sight—Death takes him.

Dan had taken a day off to meet Sam .He wanted to set things fine before Sam left the country .They were a couple and had spent great times professionally as well as on personal front but things had gone out of his control lately. Sam was demanding more time and attention, he was not happy of their undercover relationship. While Dan was successful, handsome top level award winning journalist Sam was an upcoming photographer. A simple soul with great looks but a complex personality and responses that drove Dan up the wall.

Sam had started quarreling with him over the attention he paid to all the lovely girls who seem to gather around him like honey bees .He was sure Dan was sleeping with some of them and that made him furious. Dan was bisexual but kept his sexual preferences under wraps due to his Indian background and the position he held in his profession. This troubled Sam no ends .He wanted Dan all for himself .He wanted to be socially seen with him, accepted by the friends and colleagues.

They had talked about it for hours together but Dan was firm about his decision and Sammy could do nothing about it. There was a whirlpool of emotions inside the young man .They had been together for last ten years but the distance still remained.

Sam was getting less assignments now as he spent most of his time in pubs or trailing Dan to wherever he went, keeping an eye on all that he did .Dan was getting very irritated by this constant bickering and being followed all the time .The fights were increasing every day .Dan felt sorry for Sammy and tried to counsel him but to no effect .It made Sam more stubborn and furious .He started taking drugs and resembled a ghost on the sidewalk.

Dan knew Sammy was going to loose his job one day but could not do anything. He had fallen in love with a beautiful Italian girl and did not feel the same for Sammy the way he used to .Something had changed in him, though he still felt sorry for his lover.

Sam slowly receded from his life and Dan became more and more involved with his new found love and life .One fine day he met Sam at a party. He looked well. Their eyes met over hundreds of people laughing and chatting over drinks. Dan tried to look away, feeling uncomfortable and guilty but Sammy came towards him, smiling his beautiful smile .Dan felt something cut deep into his heart .The ache made his eyes moist. They shook hands like old friends and hugged.

Sammy told Dan that he was leaving the country and wanted one evening with him in the forest near the rivulet.

Dan remembered how enchanting the place looked in spring and quickly agreed to come that weekend.

Sam saw Dan walking down the path towards him. He got up and went to hug his friend .Dan felt a sudden rush inside him but managed to remain calm .He did not want to start it all over again.

The two men sat on the bank of the rivulet chatting about all the fun they used to have .It was like old times. And time stood still.

Sam had brought some of Dan’s favorite things to eat, complete with the cutlery, glasses and wine .They had a hearty meal together listening to the birds and taking in the breathtaking beauty that lay before them.

Sitting under the blooming pink Dogwood tree whose flowers as delicate in color as fine porcelain Dan looked around the swirls of lilac, gold, and white formed by bedded-out pansies which they has planted there together .

It was getting a little windy and late so Dan decided to say his last good bye.

For the last time the two lovers embraced.

Just as Dan turned to leave Sammy picked up the steak knife

It had been an hour since Sam had been hugging Dan’s body .His eyes swollen with crying .He kissed Dan’s forehead and ran his fingers though his rich black hair.

“Goodbye Danny I love you’’

After a seven day search for Danish, who had gone missing, the police found a decomposed body of a male in a fisherman’s cottage, with his wrists slit and a freshly dug shallow grave near the rivulet in the forest.

Near the grave on the Dogwood tree truck was etched:

DAN AND SAM

AT LAST

IN DEATH TOGETHER

Rapture


Rain, thunder and lightning, she could see it all from her bedroom window. It was a freezing December night. Unusually dark.

Stretched casually across the emptiness of the bed, she spread her delicate, bare arms on her sides. Her palms up. The luxurious raven black curls fell over her well rounded shoulders.

She closed her midnight dark eyes slowly. Her breasts rose and fell in tune with the rhythm of her heartbeats .She moved her shapely slender legs .The satin sheet beneath her, creased a little.

She lay stark naked on the king-size bed of her master bedroom. Her body aflame with hunger. The intoxicating aroma of the scented candles drifted in the air.

The lighting flashed through the stately glass windows, revealing the curves of her slightly tanned body. She resembled the Greek Goddess of love, beauty and sexual rapture, Aphrodite, sculpted exquisitely in marble.

Flawless.

Suddenly she felt a warm touch upon her arm, sliding down slowly towards her palm. Warm strong fingers lightly slipped between her fingers. She felt a tender palm press against her palm. He unexpectedly pulled her close to his strong warm body. She could hear his heartbeat merging with her own.

She was thirsting for this meeting, her heart beat loud and passionate against his chest ……. it had been so long .She wrapped her arms around him and drew him closer .Their bodies pressed in a tight embrace. Her soft lips, full as ripe fruit, touched his forehead while his hands slid between them caressing and feeling her firm round breasts .A passionate kiss followed intense love making.

For the next couple of hours they lay engulfed by the raging fire of passion. Their bodies melted into each other. She was in the world of orgasmic fantasy.

None of them said anything. Their eyes never met and she didn’t realize when she fell asleep encircled in his arms. Inseparable.

The first rainbow hued sunshine filtered through the glistening glass.

The bed was empty. The satin sheet, crumpled and moist, had slid to one side of the bed.

Did he leave before the daybreak or was it all a dream?

She just did not want to know and didn’t care. She stretched herself, satiated and whole.

She gazed out at a glorious morning knowing that life was never going be the same again.

It was a warm December morning when she woke up alone in an empty room.

The Verdict


She watched the mob with vacant dry eyes. Her legs and arms felt heavy .She had been tied up to the tree for more than five hours now .The remains of what were her clothes, hardly enough to cover her body.
She winced as a stone hit her forehead, unable to move .Blood tricked down her tear streaked cheek.
“The bitch” someone shouted from the mob.”Kill her, it will be a lesson for the rest of them “another voice came from behind.

Her first crime -being a woman

second – supposed infidelity

her silence- a sign of her guilt.

The entire village had aided her husband, a drunkard and a man of low reputation.

The tribunal which included her son, husband and father had declared her guilty of a crime she never committed.

The mob was getting hysterical .She stared blankly at her teenage son heading the mob, shouting names, calling people to make this an event that should be engraved in every woman’s heart .She glanced at the half circle in front of her .She shuddered as a flash of blinding pain shot through her head .slowly the mob began to become a blur. The blood began to flow down her body from the gash on her head and tricked down on the pile of stones and small bricks near her feet.

The evening sun slowly turned the sky crimson .The local police stood like mute spectator, rooted to the ground as the “mob justice “continued.

Her husband ,who was besides his son ,came up to the tree where she was tied .He pushed her chin up and looked into the intense eyes of his wife .he quickly pulled away and spat on her dead body .

“Justice is done “He shouted and started walking away.

.

Soumya’s marriage was arranged by her father .She was hardly sixteen and had protested against it, but was forced to end her childhood and go with a man whom she had never met .She detested it.

Life had been a roller coaster ride since then .From the day she set foot in Rajveer’s house her ordeals started .Not only he sexually ,emotionally abused her ,he drank gambled and visited prostitutes while he was away supplying goods in his truck. He was a shiftless man and often beat her up in bouts of rage.

Her father, whom she had supported all along by working at houses and earning money, had given up on her long back .He too like Rajveer was a sucker for money and did shady deals and small time peddling of drugs .

Soon she became a mother and with that added responsibility, had no time for own self. She led a lonely life, kept to herself and never raised any objections to her husband’s daily abuses .Mainly because she was too exhausted and knew that simple protest would lead to further damage to her body, soul and mind .In silence she suffered.

For the last twelve years Soumya had not been out of her so called home, except for her delivery or on some religious occasion.

The fair was making the villagers dizzy with joy. Her son told her stories of all the fun women were having, of colourful stalls, games and variety of latest fashion clothes.

Soumya’s heart ached as she listened to all this .It took her back to her own child hood when she too would eagerly wait for the village fair and spend a time of her life, doing all that she loved to do. She remembered the last time she went to the fair with her friends and how she had won her favorite silver purse, just before they left the fair .The purse she had proudly carried on her wedding day.

Rajveer was out of town and she decided to take the risk of stepping out of the house with her son.

Her son was overjoyed and so was she .They spent two days at the fair, living the happiest moments of their lives but somewhere inside her, a fear was rising.

She knew the coming days will bring her unimaginable pain ….but she had not expected what really happened after Rajveer returned.

Hell broke loose the moment he came to know the events of last few days .People added spice to the story and convinced him of her involvement with some man who had come with the fair.

The village grapevine took a wicked delight in making up stories and, they reached Rajveer’s ears faster than a forest fire.

His blood began to boil, the fire of revenge and anger began to consume him.

This time he wanted to do something that would make history .Mad with fury he bribed the local policemen, the sarpanch and the other important people of the village.

The silence of her otherwise violent husband petrified Saumya .She knew there was a storm in waiting .Every day she prayed for her life.

She noticed that the father and son spent many hours together, out of the house.

That her son eyed her with a look of contempt and avoided her at all times .Soumya knew something big was on its way .But what?

On that fateful day, she was alone at home; the men had not come home at night .The village panch sent a messenger to summon her at the chupal .There were serous charges against her.

Soumya quietly listened to all the accusation, false witnesses including her own son in mute silence.

The verdict was given .There was no other punishment for adultery, than death.

She was supposed to be stoned at a public place till death.

The Prize


Radha was very fond of accessories .She loved to collect all kinds of things that would go with her meager wardrobe .she would scan the old magazines ,watch the fashion trends on the T.V. ,see closely how the women accessorized their outfits, in the houses she worked and tried to find something similar for herself .

In the beginning of the month after collecting her salary, she would go to the local market and explore .The vendors knew her well by now and called after her, to check out some new stuff that had just arrived .Then the bargaining would begin .After endless debate, the vendors would reluctantly give her what she wanted in the price she quoted .She was good at it, and why not, she had to budget everything.

She worked from six in the morning till six in the evening at five different houses, to earn enough to keep the things going .However; she made it a point to keep a certain amount separately for herself.

One day one of the ‘aunties’ in whose house she worked, asked her if she could accompany her to the nearby mall for shopping .The only mall the small hill station had .It had just come up and all the big people went there .

Radha did not think twice before saying yes .She liked the lovely Dimple aunty .They went to the mall and as the lady shopped for her things Radha watched everything with great excitement .A whole new world had opened in front of her .She thought she was in a dreamland. She could not believe that people had that much money to buy such expensive stuff.

As she was scanning one of the show windows, something caught her attention .It was a scintillating silver color purse .She could not take her eyes off from that thing .Radha remembered some film star carrying a similar one in one of the programs she saw on the T.V.

She mustered up the courage to see the price tag ,which itself looked so expensive .The numbers on the tag made her head dizzy .Even if she saved all her salary ,all her life ,she could never think of buying that thing of beauty .The image stayed in her mind .

That evening Radha and her friends went to the local fair .It was one place everyone went to .It brought with it moments of relaxation, joy and fun .It was also a meeting place for many people. Radha was overjoyed .She went to all the stalls ,checked out the new stuff ,ate pani-puri and jalebi ,went on a ride on the merry-go-roundand played games .Something she loved to do .She always won something or the other but today the luck was not on her side .Apart from some trinkets she did not get much .

The day was drawing to a close and it was time to return home .The girls chatted happily and moved towards the main entrance .Just then Radha saw a game stall she had missed .She quickly counted her coins .Not enough for the ticket, she thought sadly .Something made her try her luck and dragging her complaining friends, she went to the stall .After much persuasion, the owner agreed to let her play once .It was closing time and he too was winding up. The business had not been so good.

Radha aimed her ring carefully. Which number should it be?

Two, she decided, as it was her birthday.

Taking an aim, she threw the ring at the far end of the table and squealed with joy as it hit its mar

She could not wait to see her prize .The shopkeeper looked irritated and kept muttering something .Then he went behind the curtain and came out with something wrapped in a newspaper.

Handing it to Radha he said, “You sure are a lucky girl “

.Radha could not hold her excitement; neither could her friends, who were jumping all around her.

Her eyes popped out at the sight of what she saw.

A silver color purse with an uncanny resemblance to the one she had seen in the mall that morning.

The Cottage -2


“Are you sure Raul that you want to live in that cottage?” Karan asked as they sipped hot frothy coffee at their old time regular hangout.

‘Yes, 100%”, Replied Raul. He had no second thoughts about it.

“When is your wife coming?”

“Tonight” he said as they paid the bill and walked out of the café into the long winding path.

It was cold and breezy; Raul pulled the zipper up to his neck and rubbed his hands to warm them a little.Not much had changed here, in this little town in the hills. They walked quietly till Karan’s home .Each one absorbed in his own thoughts.

Rabia was elated when Raul told her of his plans over the phone. She always wanted to go back to India. Since their marriage she had spent most of her time writing her thesis etc and then the pregnancy. He on the other hand traveled a lot due to his assignments.

She had met Raul in the university, the talented Indian boy whom everyone raved about .After a few meetings they had fallen in love and getting her father’s blessings was such one more reason to add to her happiness .They loved each other and complimented each other in every way .She a musician and he a painter.

As she lay swaying with the baby in the hammock under the large tree in their London home, she dreamed of the lovely hill cottage Raul had told her about.

Raul waved at his ravishing wife, as she walked passed the security check to meet him .He hugged her and kissed his year old son. He introduced her to Karan, with whom she had spoken many times on the phone.

They drove to their new home filled with mixed emotions.

Rabia fell in love with the place, the moment she saw it.

She loved the huge glass windows, beautiful gardens and the lovely terrace .She kissed and thanked Raul.

Karan watched the happy family and prayed for them silently.

Raul took Rabia on a tour of the cottage and the gardens and the more she spent time their, the more she loved it. Even little Danish squealed with joy as his parents took him around the gardens in his pram.

Many a times the family would go on nature trails near the cottage. Everything was just too perfect.

Time flew and Raul spent most of his time painting, sketching or strolling in the gardens .Many a time Rabia found him standing on the terrace or in the garden talking to him self or lost in rapt attention.

Danish had started school and was full of stories from there.

The date for exhibition was drawing near and Raul spent long hours painting. She glanced at the colourful canvases spread all over his work room.

Most of them were of the cottage and its surrounding areas and many more of a beautiful young woman with lovely expressive haunting eyes. Rabia looked at the woman closely, she seemed to hold her gaze and that disturbed her.

Danish needed a room to himself and on one evening Rabia asked Raul if they could decorate the terrace room for him, which was locked since they moved in .Raul’s reaction took Rabia by surprise .She had never seen him so disturbed by something .After a definite NO from her husband, who seemed to be acting very strange lately, Rabia decided to let go of the topic.

One afternoon, after putting Danish to sleep she was coming down from the stairs, when she heard some noises. Quietly she moved in the direction of the sound .It led her to the terrace room .The door was open.

She watched as her husband spoke to himself in that empty room .She glanced around .Toys closet, a bed for a child, sketches. The room seemed to have been unused for a very long time .Yet there was something that brought her husband there not once but many a times .She remembered Raul standing on the terrace laughing or muttering to himself on many occasions .Rabia almost let out a scream when she heard another voice there ,a voice of a woman .

“The time has come for me to leave Raul” the voice said. “You always asked me how I died so before leaving I thought I should tell you the story.”

“After my parents forcibly took me from here, we shifted to Delhi. I was never happy .I missed my home, my friend, whom they called a bad spirit, and you, though we never spoke to each other.”

“I was put in a hostel. After completing school I decided to take a trip back to this place and without the consent of my family, drove here .I wanted to get here as fast as I could, as if some force was pulling me and missed a turn due to thick fog and darkness .The car crashed into the rocks hundreds of feet into the valley .It was an instant death .they found my body after many days”.

My heart was here so my spirit followed it and here I have been since long. It was a joy to see you the other day, and when you moved in, it made my family complete, but now I need to go with my little friend here. Our time is done here.”

Rabia felt as if she was dreaming, it could not be true. Her husband was, all this time talking to a dead woman. Her head began to spin.

She held the railing of the stairs and quietly came down.

She did not ask Raul about anything, thinking how to solve this crisis.

Raul left in the morning with his painting, for the exhibition. He was going to be away for a few days and Rabia was scared .She called Karan.

He listned to her, with a grave expression on his face and said “Rabia I know about the spirit. We were kids when this girl stayed here .Raul and I used to wave at her from the road .I think he liked her and so did she but they never met .Then the family went off suddenly .This time when Raul came here he saw her again ,I thought he was imagining things but when he decided to buy the cottage ,it was clear something was not right ,but I was told to keep shut .I am sorry but now the pressure is off my head ,I guess you should get some help .”

“No”, Rabia said.” I will handle it but thanks anyways”.

That night, she took little Danish in that room; both mother and son spent some time there looking at the things playing with some toys.

Raul came back, with all his painting sold .She congratulated him and kissed him. He was happy to be back.

For some days he wandered around the place, as if looking for some thing or someone and then one night told Rabia that the terrace room could be used for Danish.

They cleaned it and, redecorated it, retaining some of the original stuff.

Danish was elated and loved his new room, the toys and the terrace.

That night, Rabia confided in Raul about all that she had seen and heard .Raul listened to his wife in amazement. He was surprised that she could handle the thing so courageously .He smiled at his wife and apologized for not including her in his secret. He felt it would disturb her and maybe they too will have to leave the cottage he loved so much .She understood .She loved him.

Raul no more spent his time talking to empty spaces and Rabia silently thanked the two spirits for leaving them.

Rabia took up music classes and life became stress free and happy again.

Danish was eight now, a bright little bundle of joy.

One evening Raul and Rabia sat in the garden when they heard a thumping sound from inside the house .They immediately left the tea and went in .The sound was coming from Danish’s room .Raul’s heart started to beat faster and Rabia was scared.

They found Danish hammering a nail into the wall.

“What are you doing Jan?” Raul asked him gently.

Danish turned and gave a dimpled toothy smile and held out a painting to his dad.

Raul and Rabia looked at each other .It was a picture of a young woman and a girl with golden floating hair.

“This is a parting gift from my friends .They said good bye to me and gifted this. Isn’t it lovely abba”?

“Yes it is”, both His parents said in unison.

The Cottage


The drive to the cottage was a beautiful one .Tall pine trees on both the sides, sloping valley, like a green carpet dotted with flowers, on the left side and rugged cliffs jutting out of the mountainside on the right .The road was smooth and well maintained.

The Rathor family had bought the cottage at a cheap price .It was a two story cottage with a huge garden and a servant’s quarter on one side .When Tarun saw the add in the local newspaper, he just could not believe his eyes .immediately Tara and he decided to grab the deal .They were sick of the pigeon hole they currently lived in.

He smiled at his lovely eight year old girl, who was jumping on the front seat of the car, excited about the new place.

The cottage was well painted; furnished and carpeted .They moved in and loved to explore areas around it. Both, Tarun and Tara, worked in a add agency and had busy shift duties .They called Tara’s younger sister to stay with them. Tanvi was delighted; she loved the company of her aunt, who was a fun person to be with .A college graduate looking for job.

Karan and Raul noticed that the cottage had new occupants. Every day on their way to the convent school at the next turn, they would stop to pluck apples from the tree near the boundary of the cottage .Today, their hopes dashed when they saw the little girl and her parents moving around the gardens .Raul liked the girl and would always find a way to catch a glimpse of her, through some large glass window of the cottage .She too had noticed him and sometimes smiled or waved at them.

Tanvi spent most of her time in her room, near the terrace, sketching beautiful pictures. She was a good artist for her age.

She would collect all her drawing in the evening and happily show them to the family, chatting continuously about the Jim Jam cookie party, she and this ravishing girl friend of hers had .She would narrate in detail all that they did together. According to her ,the girl spoke excellent English ,which was difficult for her to comprehend at times and made conversation difficult but they managed to convey their thoughts always .she spoke a few words of Hindi in a way that made Tanvi roar with laughter .She would imitate and say those words ,which puzzled her parents . She also mentioned that the girl lived in her toy closet and could come out through the closed door.

The parents were concerned, because the pictures showed a girl of about ten years of age, wearing frilled, high collar, full sleeved frock, very old fashioned boots and her hair fell over her shoulders, in curls and curls of golden waves.

It was surprising; the way Tanvi drew the details of her friend’s clothing and accessories.

Surely, the friend Tanvi talked about and drew so accurately, was not of their times .She seemed British and Tanvi had never seen any pictures or read anything about the British times .The child looked absolutely at ease and happy with her imaginary friend .

Life went on and every day some new story about the friend would come up in the evening .Tara asked her sister to keep a watch on the little girl.

One afternoon, as Tara was tending to her rose garden ,her sister came rushing through the glass doors ,her face white as a chalk .Tara dropped everything ,as Jahnvi dragged her through the lawns ,into the house ,on to the second floor terrace room of her daughter .

There ,in full view of them ,sat Tanvi surrounded by her toys ,dolls and other stuff ,The place in front of her ,in that circle of toys ,was empty .Enough for a small child to sit .Tanvi was happily chatting to someone sitting opposite to her .She offered her imaginary cookies and giggled at some joke .

Tara squeezed her sister’s hand, both the women were frozen at the doorstep of the room .Tanvi did not notice their presence and kept playing .Tara listened hard, she was terrified when she heard a soft musical voice of a girl speaking in perfect British English .She couldn’t trust her ears .She watched her daughter, with eyes filled with unknown fear .Her mouth was shut, but the voice of the girl kept ringing in Tara’s ears.

She turned to look at her sister, who had gone white in the face and looked sick .She did not have to ask, to know that she was not the only one who was witnessing this strange presence of the spirit in her house.

She brought herself to reality and rushed inside the room .Picking Tanvi up in her arms, she rushed out, followed by her sister, who by now was sobbing uncontrollably .Tanvi kept kicking and protesting that she wanted to spend some more time with her friend, but Tara threw her in the car and drove off to her mother’s place along with her sister.

They never returned to the house again .No one bought it after them.

It stood there, majestic as always.

Tanvi walked about in the gardens around the home, where she played and danced and spent some memorable moments as a child .After so many years, the place still looked breathtaking as usual.

The room, where she held her Jim Jam parties, was dusty and full of cobwebs, but exactly the way it was left that day.

She was happy and loved her home.

The convent was celebrating its annual X-mas festival and had invited old students too.

Raul, now a painter by profession and Karan, a photographer, were also invited.

Walking down the familiar path, Raul felt a pang of nostalgia hit him.

The cottage looked unattended but as lovely as ever.

He glanced through the gardens and windows and there he saw her .For a moment he thought he was imagining things .She was beautiful and was smiling .With her was another small girl with long golden hair .He stared at the window in disbelief .

Nah, he thought, it was just a hallucination .But then she waved at him.

He turned to Karan, who was clicking some pictures.”Did you see her? How beautiful she has grown?”

“Who?” said Karan.

“The girl who lived in this cottage .She is back. There she is at the west window.

Karan looked at his friend .He could see nothing except an empty cottage and an unkept garden.

.