Award Winning Short Story-2021


Award Winning Short Story - 7th Bharat Award for Literature Contest - 2021

Love and Life: A Positive Story

By Dr Shaista Irshad, Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India

 

Mayflies live only for twenty-four hours...”,

Niharika was amazed to read this, and at the same time felt miserable too, that poor mayflies don’t have enough time to live and feel the bliss and beauty of this life. Niharika was a writer by profession and had many books to her credit so far. She wrote poems- mostly romantic and love poems- and also at times had her scribbling on her close observation of nature. She had the flair of embellishing her married life with stunning surprises, wrapped in the sheath of small beautiful romantic packets. She amazed Maani every night when he stepped inside the home. With her sizzling demeanor, sexy outfit, enticing makeup and her flower bejeweled shining smooth body; she left him in awe and amazement, his mouth wide open, and eyes seeking refuge in her, planting caresses on her neck and bare bosom. Life seemed all happy and wonderful as Niharika slept thanking God every night. She was so much engrossed in the depth of her own passion and emotion that she rarely brooded over the reality that her soulful love was nibbled and consumed with a tinge of corporeal desire by Maani. For Maani, love was a need- raw need- of the body; the body that should be fed without bothering about the avalanche of deep passion that illuminated the fringes of dreams that survived on Niharika’s eye-lashes. Both of them were deeply and profusely living their definition of love until the time when Niharika got to know that she was two months pregnant. Whereas on one side the news confused Niharika, as to whether she should be happy about this or upset for letting her life change in such an unplanned way; Maani was on cloud nine. He lifted her in his arms and pecked her on head. He seemed to have gone mad with unexplained happiness that dripped from his hazel coloured face and deep black eyes. His reaction was a parody of the scenes from Hindi movies. Seeing him so euphoric Niharika decided to go with the pregnancy, though for her, the time was still not ripe enough to go with such a huge responsibility.

 

And lo and behold! The life changed in an unprecedented manner. There were certain complications in her pregnancy and her doctor recommended her to refrain from being physically intimate with Maani. With the passage of time she grew groggy and nauseated, not being able to swallow even a morsel without throwing everything in the next instant. Her vehemence and ardour went somewhere lurking behind her bulging belly button. She was slowly getting drifted away from her usual temperament that had kept rabble-rousing her for throwing regular surprises and romantic dinner arrangements for her hubby so far.

 

Niharika needed Maani to wrap his arms around her, to sit quietly under the moonlit night, letting the mellifluous voice of his breath fall on the pores of her skin, and ease the creases her incessant vomiting has caused to protrude on her psyche. She wanted to talk about her baby that did somersaulting in her tummy; that weird sensation that made her wake up during difficult sleeping hours, and laced it with intermittent pangs of anxiety. The more Niharika sought his intimacy, the more Maani was getting busier each day. Niharika’s body, that satiated and adumbrated his concept of love, was sexually dormant now and beyond his reach. He stopped looking at her, staying in a separate room, watching movies and surfing internet. His huge pretentious world couldn’t accommodate and slake the meager emotional needs of his wife. He withdrew himself from Niharika’s romantic world, stopped being the muse of all her poems; the poems that emanated her love for Maani.

Her world unscrambled and kept waning before her eyes till it was left as dregs in the runnels of her cheeks caused by incessant crying. She got so familiar with the kitsch salted tears, that she could feel it on her tongue, even without crying.

 

There began a long trail of complaints, first in the form of whimpering, then rows and then grievous howling. Niharika’s all the complaints and tears fell on deaf ears, the tears that would suffice in irrigating a wilting flower in the desert, couldn’t move the heart of Maani at all. Love was being redefined between them and the final product was like a vestigial organ having no use for the body. Niharika felt so weak, cheated, destroyed and devastated. She tried to love the child; whose nuzzling movements resonated with her each breath. She used the language of love for her unborn child, against the indifference imparted by her hubby’s attitude. She wanted her child to be a happy child, so she invested her whole being in keeping herself sane and happy, happiness as hollow she herself was.

 

Slowly the day came when she was scheduled to deliver her baby through C- section. Her only hope was to see her child for once and then she had visualized herself- in her most depressing moments-dying on the operation table. The operation went well; her doctor managed the complication with great expertise. She and her baby, both were fine and healthy. It was a baby girl. Niharika tried to be happy, but things seemed to have changed irreparably for her. The post- partum depression took its toll on her already suffering psyche and she gave up with life. She stopped hoping good, stopped writing and forgot that she was a happy go- going person, a highly romantic girl who felt that life was little and she had to always live big. She lamented over the life expectancy of mayflies, and there she was, finding life as a long-stretched wasteland, having to walk barefoot and not count the blisters on her sole. She forgot to notice the colour of the sky that delineated the fringes of the wasteland. A girl of colours she used to be- who couldn’t survive without colours, who used to reflect the tinge of brightness in her eyes, attires, flowers and jewels; who couldn’t describe a thing without basking her thoughts in all kinds of colours. There she stood with ‘gray’ dominating her whole being.

 

With the responsibilities of the baby ‘Gul’, she felt she had learnt to live, which seemed to be more a kind of survival than living. She couldn’t shred the moments spent in profound agony and pain, of being deserted when she wanted to be held close by her partner. She mourned her own imaginary and metaphorical death before her eyes each night. Yes! She planned to kill herself. She imagined her body hanging from the ceiling fan each night after she put Gul to sleep. Then she undid the rope that coiled around her neck, stretched the body on the floor and then wailed at her own death; wailed on her own behalf and then on the behalf of her parents and finally on behalf of her 6 months old daughter. This became a routine. She started celebrating her imagined suicide to the extent that she brought herself to believe that she might not live to see the next day.

 

After 6 months, Maani was there again to feed on her body, like parasite comes to the host for survival. Niharika couldn’t conjure up enough strength to stop him. She senselessly observed him undoing the snap of her neckline, then slithering his fingers under her sleeves, then down her shoulder to the waistline. While Maani was busy swallowing the taste of her skin, she quietly left her body and went on with her everyday imaginary ritual of hanging herself. She saw Maani’s mechanical hands stripping her clothes from a distance of a ceiling fan, where she was preparing to tie the noose and slid it around her neck. Maani, undid her bra hooks and let her huge milking breasts fall on the cup of his palms. He looked like a hungry voracious animal ready to lick and slurp and chew and have a feast after months. She already metaphorically hung herself and felt stifled as each breathe was being sucked out of her lungs, with the noose tightening around her neck. Maani aggressively moved over her, stroking, rubbing and crushing her body, a lifeless body supported by dead soul. When he was done, he sprawled over the bed, panting heavily, while Niharika was busy lamenting over her own death, silently howling over her dead body which she herself picked, dragged and stretched beside baby Gul.

 

Maani’s touch and act of physical gratification provided her with the last reason to execute her month’s plan of ending her life. She wanted to convert the imaginary act of suicide into a real one. Next evening, after putting Gul to sleep, she made all the arrangements to relieve herself of the agony and endless unbearable pain of 1.6 years. She couldn’t think of anything except this, that now she wouldn’t have to bear the pain anymore, she wouldn’t have to expect anything, anymore. As she stepped on the double chairs, kept one over the other, to reach the fan, she threw her mantilla over the wings of the fan and started making noose. She slid it easily around her neck and just as she was about to push the chairs away, she heard Gul crying withall her might. She was hungry and only depended on her mother to feed her. Niharika came back to her senses with a jolt, as Gul’s hungry, painful cries went on and on. Who would feed Gul? Maani? who once into deep sleep, can never be woken up even by a severe earthquake? How can she leave her own daughter at the mercy of such an ignorant and careless man? How can she be so selfish to think only about herself? When she has a reason to live and also the reason to love, why shouldn’t she? She is not alone- she has her daughter- a reason enough to devote her entire life fondling and pampering her. She always wanted a daughter. And now when she has, why has she confined her entire life to only that one person who never understood her love? Gul’s innocent face- with thick black curled eyelashes like that of Niharika’s-was an invitation towards life. She was too small to be left behind without her mother.

She slowly removed the mantilla and went to her daughter and picked her in her arms. Cuddling her in her bosom she cried and cried and let her delicate pink lips suck the milk of life from her breast that already overflowed with motherly love. With each sip and each breath, she felt the pain of loneliness and depression rinsed out from her heart.

 

Niharika now knew how to live her life. She understood the God’s plan that whether for one day or for 100 years, life has to be lived with all the might and strength. The hope should never die. She has her daughter Gul and her passion for writing- a reason enough to make her life meaningful. The replacement of love is only love, a love she had for her daughter and for herself. She picked a deep red frock and changed her daughters’ frock, that she had wet.

JURY REMARKS


A well written story and good use of words to describe the plot. I wish the author all the very best in his/her future endeavours of writing.

 

Subhashis Das, India


The story that came to the Winning score, called 'Love and Life; A positive story’, was full of surprises. I felt a range of emotions reading the conflicts and trials as the story unfolded. I was glad the title included ‘A positive story’ since it did not look to be finding that direction.. till the final realizations of what the most sustaining life values were. A well storied narrative of human compromise and unmatched desires that could only conclude well for one reason!

Joan Wilson, United States

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This story “Love and life : a positive story” resonated deeply with me as a woman and mother. Despite all the myths on natural motherhood, the bond of love between mother and child has to be worked on. This story is spot on because it is true therefore universal.

Lucette Bailliet, Australia

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 “This story takes all of us to the emotional depths of the every modern day woman’s life. The story exposes the superficiality of life lived by the majority of the folks irrespective of their gender. Relationship has become a more or less a business type and the role of the life partner has been reduced to a mere profit sharing partner. People are treated as just objects and once the priorities or attraction is lost, life is easily swallowed up by the chaotic waves. Sadly many lives are silently lost in these fluxes for many unknown reasons. Sacrifice, understanding and compassion that hold the life together against any turbulence are the missing elements.”

 “Here in this story, Imagining about a suicide over a long period of time, attempting it and finally getting over it by listening to the miraculous call of the life and responsibility is an inspiring element in this story.

 “I personally that believe this story can throw some light into the life of many around who are otherwise generally seen or understood as okay or good in the eyes of the society.”


This is something really positive… isn’t it?

Gopakumar Radhakrishnan

Founder – Bharat Award for Literature – International, India