Saturday, May 11, 2013

6 Pallod Farms
Monday 25 March 2013
Dear DVRRao,
1st Paragraph Competition-
Congratulations on your story 'Omigosh, What Have I Done?' for being
chosen as a runner up in our ln our inaugural  Paragraph Competition.
The competition received a fair amount of submissions and your story went
through vigorous readings and assessments to get to this stage. Baden Prince
Jnr. and all the other readers involved, thoroughly enjoyed the variety of
stories entered. If you are a part of a writing network then please let others
know of your good news.
You will find enclosed two contracts, one of which must be signed, and
returned to the address below along with a copy of your story, via e-mail, to, by Monday 27 May 2013. This is an
opportunity for you to review your work and make any minor adjustments
before publication. After all the stories have been received we will compile the anthology. A
proof of your story and biography will be dispatched to you around late
October/early November. Promotions

With so many writers based all over the world, putting the anthology together
is one of our most challenging tasks. We take the time to read through every
story, create the look of the book, correct errors, and make changes that you
bring to our attention. 

The process is a lengthy one but we hope that the out come will be worth it.

We would appreciate your co-operation as we assemble the book. If you
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feels the whole progression seems rather slow!
congratulations, and we look forward to working with you.
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Ohmigosh, What Have I Done?

The drive home was slow: the flat tyre made it seem to last a lifetime. Even my usual game of mimicking other drivers didn’t help. A lone packet of vegetable lasagne stared back at me from the middle shelf of my otherwise bare freezer. I kicked off my shoes and tried to relax, but the mistakes I’d made earlier at work kept sneaking into my thoughts. The microwave pinged. At the same time, the phone rang. I was in two minds: answer it, or let the machine kick in? Years later I came to regard that moment as the single biggest mistake I ever made, one that I would regret for the rest of my life.

            To hell with it, the microwave has already stopped by itself, so I picked up the phone.  It was my wife calling from across the country where she went for speaking at a seminar on, of all things, women's rights!  What women's rights?  They have all the rights and we have hardly any and we are always wrong.  She missed the flight and will come the next morning, late in the morning, closer to lunch time.  I will be expected to meet her at the airport.  It won’t matter to her that my twelve noon meeting with my client is important to me.  If I don’t go to fetch her I will immediately be branded an inconsiderate hubby, all romance gone within a mere eight months.  Huh, some female logic.  Why can’t women think like men?  God bless Prof 'Iggins.  Actually she said "I am coming tomorrow morning, landing at 11-10."  Already irritated, I shot back "You get home on your own, I am meeting a client at noon."  She disconnected without saying anything, must have slammed the phone down, so I imagined.

            I immediately regretted my curt reply.  She is also under pressure at work, taking time out for this seminar had meant extra work and late nights for her over the past week or so.  I kept telling her that speaking at the seminar is not worth all the stress she was undergoing and that she better do her normal work which was stressful anyway.  She often complained that her design work at the firm of architects is like working in a pressure cooker.  Once I joked that she can only think of a pressure cooker as an example as she has nothing better to do than cook.  She flared up and did not speak to me for three days.  For the life of it I just could not understand why she had to take offence at such an innocent and innocuous remark.  After all, she uses the pressure cooker and grumbles about it.  My woman had always been beyond my comprehension.  She is so logical at work and so illogical at home.  It seemed as though she has a Jekyll and Hyde split personality.

            Where has all the romance gone, I asked myself often.  She always had the time to meet me at least once a week, never said anything about tension or pressure of work at her office.  Would always rendezvous at seven pm looking like an angel and beaming with joy.  We were so happy wooing each other during the thirty three months of courtship we enjoyed.  It was sheer bliss and ecstasy.  I had no reason whatsoever to even dream that she will change so much and care little for whatever I tell her or ask her.  It seemed that we are already living in two different worlds.

            I well remember the day I ran into her, literally.  My car went for servicing and it was one of those rare occasions when I chose to take a bus to get to the service station to collect my car.  I could have taken a cab, but ... but...  I was running to the bus as people were already boarding and it will leave if I don't make it.  I bumped into her and the shaggy dog she was holding in her arms fell onto the footpath and started yapping in pain.  She almost fell herself.  But she straightened herself, picked up the pup, glared at me and started moving.  She did not even say a word to me.  I felt so guilty.  The bus started off.  So, I followed her, apologised profusely and asked her what she was doing with a shaggy dog.  When she came out of her office to go to a construction site she found this poor thing yelping and limping with a hurt hind paw.  Though it presented a repulsive sight, she picked it up and was going to a vet when I bumped into her.  Touched by her compassion for the poor thing, I offered to drop her.  I flagged down a taxi, dropped her at the vet's clinic and went on to collect my car. 

            Pretty girl, smartly dressed, an architect to boot and so compassionate and considerate as to take a dirty filthy street dog, even soiling her spotlessly clean dress.  That was too much to not think about her over and over during the night.  Her pretty face and elegant demeanour kept haunting me, yes, haunting me through a night when I could only sleep intermittently.  The next morning I walked into her office and found out where her place of work was.  It was a cubbyhole which was hardly bigger than the huge drawing board she was working on.  I stood behind her for a few moments and gave a half hearted little cough.  She spun round and on seeing me her mouth broke into a wide, happy grin.  I apologised for what happened the previous day, which was just an excuse to meet her.  She was clever enough, or may be perceptive enough to divine my real intentions.  I admired her sense of compassion for the poor and downtrodden, like hurt pups.  She apologised for not thanking me enough.  I suggested that we meet for coffee when the office closes.  She was willing to jump at the offer of having coffee at the nearby Barista outlet.  How could she not, considering that the he-man standing in front of her - that's me - had drop dead looks, even if I say so!  I had and still have a very high opinion of my own looks.  I guessed or assumed that her knees must already be turning watery.  Still, she made a valiant effort and said that she had to work late, as she had already lost some time the previous evening and agreed to meet me only at seven thirty that evening.  That was the beginning.

            Our weekly trysts were the ideal any couple in love can hope for.  It was not coffee at expensive places all the time.  At times it was just a walk in the park holding hands and buying chocobars or spun sugar candy.  That would be the occasion which would put us both into splits of laughter since we just could not master the art of eating the huge big stuff without it sticking all over our lips and noses in funny shaped bits.  We would look at each other and laugh.  We would give names to the shapes of the bits of the pink coloured candy and laugh again.

            Her mother never considered my salesman's job of selling computer hardware and software as a secure profession unlike her daughter's.  My parents had not much to offer as a backup for her daughter's continued security with me in times of bad sales seasons.  After we had been seeing each other for six or seven months her mother 
sensed that her daughter was having late evenings or rather much "later" evenings than normal late working.  She discovered an almost constant pattern to it and confronted her daughter.  Mothers are women who had done everything that the daughter was doing now.  It is really a repeat of what she did in her youth, but still she was not willing to accept such innocent and normal behaviour in her daughter now.  The mother battered away at the daughter until all her defences broke down and she was reduced to a tearful and helpless little baby and admitted to seeing me regularly.

Then all hell broke loose.  She forbade her daughter from seeing me.  My economic and social status was not up to her expectation.  Actually mine would easily match that of her family.  Her father had a good job with an engineering firm, while the mother satisfied herself with being a homemaker.  But adding the incomes of father and daughter put me at a very bad disadvantage, financially speaking.  We were reduced to seeing each other at the gate of her office for a few precious minutes.  Sometimes I would ride her home in my car and steal a few more minutes with her before dropping her off at her bus stop, which was a good seven minute walk away from her home.  She had a scooter, but some time ago she fell off and bruised herself badly and that was the end of her scooter rides as her mother forbade it.  I asked her if she cannot make her father overrule her mother’s decisions.  She smiled and said that her father will never hear the end of it if he said anything contrary to her mother’s decisions.  They were ironclad.  Unchangeable.  Immutable.  Only her mother’s writ runs in her house.  She, her father and her younger brother had no say in anything.

Finally, one day, the inevitable happened.  Her brother, returning rather late from his game of cricket happened to see her getting off my car.  Gleefully he gave the electrifying news to his mother and the daughter of the house was unceremoniously and arbitrarily sentenced to simple imprisonment at home for a day.  After the one day hiatus things got back to normal with meetings at the office gates, rides in the car to beat the bus timings and quick trysts among the bushes in the park.

With no notice whatsoever, one fine day she told me that she cannot play this game of hide and seek anymore.  She cannot live a lie over extended periods of time and that she was feeling guilty cheating her parents.  And she did not see any point in continuing if they cannot marry with her parents’ approval.  No more meetings, no phone calls and no nothing.  The end.  Finale.

The best I could do was to get into a huge sulk.  With great difficulty I managed not to hit the bottle.  I could not concentrate on my work.  My commissions were slipping.  While there was no immediate danger of losing my job, my star rating among my co-workers took a beating.  After a month I told myself “if not you, someone else” and started looking at other girls.  But in my warped imagination none came up to anywhere near her.  She became the ultimate standard against which I started comparing every girl I wanted to date.  None came up to match her.  In my imagination she became the incomparable angel.  That led to disappointment after disappointment.  Where was my life headed?  I did not know.  I did not care either.  I descended into wallowing in self pity.  My shoes were not gleaming any more.  I did not care even when the crease on my trousers ceased to be razor sharp.   All those things which were so important to impress her seemed inconsequential now.  Finally I decide that I cannot keep descending into depths of despair and decided to get back to concentrating on my job.  Once that decision was taken it was surprisingly easy to get back to normal.  Six and a half months went by.  Things were back to normal, except that there was no girl in my arid, barren life.

When I returned from a sales call our receptionist gave me a slip of paper with a phone number on it.  My eyes popped up when I recognised the well known number.  She responded to my call with eagerness spilling over in her voice.  It was obvious to me that she was waiting for my call.  She said she had made a choice between her past and her future.  I am her future and she chose to ignore her parents, who are her past.  It was a pleasant surprise but a bit disturbing.  Is it right for her to almost disown her parents for all practical purposes?  What if the parents give trouble saying that I had forcibly taken away their precious daughter?  What if they report to the police?  The police will harass us even though we are both consenting adults.  I had questions and questions with no satisfying answers.  She kept on suggesting that we make our life together.  No wedding to save costs.  Moreover, how can there be a wedding without the parents giving away their daughter?

So, we settled for a living-in partnership.  We both spent money renting a one bedroom flat and furnishing it and stocking it with food.  One fine evening she got into my car when she finished work and we drove home.  On reaching our new home she ceremoniously boiled milk, vermicelli and sugar and we both ate it wishing ourselves a sweet beginning and long long sweet togetherness.  Then she called her parents and broke the news.  Initial hiccups over we were supremely happy, she playing the perfect wife and I trying to play the near ideal husband.  Or so I thought.

Some seven weeks after our life together the usual and natural minor differences started cropping up.  Nothing serious.  She objected to my leaving a wet towel on the bed.  I did hear that wives like to play mother to their husbands.  It was okay to be ticked off by my mother when I left wet clothes and things all over the house, but a loving and loved wife, an almost-wife doing it?  It annoyed me but I took it in my stride.  Then she worked longer and longer evenings at work.  Naturally, she has work and she is good at it.  No, actually she is one of those who strive for near perfection.  I am proud of it, though I missed her sorely at home in the early evenings.  I was told of long suffering wives who wait eagerly at home awaiting the arrival of their hard working hubbies, generally with a cup of hot, welcoming cup of tea.  It seems the roles were reversed in our case.  I can’t possibly wait at her office indefinitely to pick her up on my way home, as I used to do in the early weeks of our life together.  But I waited at home impatiently and eagerly for her, though not with a cup of steaming hot tea, the lazy goat I am when it came to doing any housework.

Things became more and more trying and difficult progressively as the days rolled by.  I could never fault her as work is important for her.  My job did not involve working late hours and I am not the type to hit the bottle.  In fact, I waited for her arrival so that we could share a drink and relax before she busied herself in making some dinner.  I never could figure out how she could produce such wonderful meals in such short times.  I was never sure when I was disappointed or when I was annoyed with her late working.  Has the romance gone out of our togetherness so quickly?

Now this.  Did she really slam the phone down in anger?  I will get to know only when we cosy up at home after work.  It was past six thirty and already dark when I got home after an especially unlucky day when I could not close even a single sale.  I got in with my own key.  Evidently another long day for her at work even after returning from an out of town assignment.  May be a long day because of missing work when she was out of town.  What’s new about her late working!  Immediately I stepped in I could sense something amiss.  Call it sixth sense or whatever.  There was something eerie about the place.  Wild imagination, ha!  Everything was in its usual place except for an envelope on our bed.

My dearest,

I get the feeling that you do not really understand me anymore.  You are just tolerating me.  My work, including going out of town for a cause I believe in is important for me.  The enthusiasm on seeing me home after a long tiring day is gone from your face.  Your show of interest in what I did during the day is just that, a show.  Your accounts of what you did and what you achieved during the day have lost the verve.  I believe it is time to accept the fact that the romance has gone out of our relationship.

            Thank you for the good times we had.  Goodbye.

There was no signature.  No crosses.  No circles.  That’s it.  The irreversibly concluding act.  How unpredictable can she be!

DVR  Rao (Nani)

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