Short Story Archive for Happiness:

Secrets in Safe

Secrets in Safe

Bunty, Goldie and Raja, aka the triad sat staring at the safe they had just unloaded from the van as if it were a cobra!  They had never done anything illegal before but in this case the cause justified the means.  

They were all headed back to India during summer break and by a mere fluke they had been privy to a cryptic text message on a fellow passenger’s cell phone.  They had quickly noted down all the info and had decided to investigate upon landing.

Raja’s dad was a bigwig in the airline’s corporate staff.  Through his aegis they acquired full data with copy of fellow passenger’s passport.  Their job had been made easy by this information.  The safe’s secret had to be unlocked to get to heart of the matter.  Excitement tinged with fear was palpable.

Raja was tall and reedy in structure with a prominent adam’s apple but due to his dark liquid eyes, all the girls shamelessly gave him chase in the college campus.  He was shy to boot.

Bunty and Goldie were the extreme opposites and were constantly riding love’s seesaw on an off and on basis.  Bunty was of rugged build, fair and tall and had a wonderful voice.  Hence he too was much sought after. 

Goldie was the nerd of the triad and hence kept them afloat in studies singlehandedly.    Goldie was hooked on workouts, if not busy solving difficult problems.  He spent half of his free time tackling weights.  His body was like a Greek God’s and hence cynosure of many eyes of both genders.

The passport revealed the name of the passenger to be Salim Malik.  The message had come from a girl named Ameena Begum.  On further research they were able to locate the whereabouts of Ameena.  They had to find the alleged safe quickly to get to the bottom of this plot.  Here they faced a stone wall.  They went into a huddle to solve this issue.

Fortunately everyone was from Mumbai which made things much easier.  They solicited aid from   local police station officer (SHO) who thought if this yields some crime in the making, he would make headlines and hence helped them with all means at his disposal.    With inside information from the cell phone service provider they had nailed down the exact location of the house and hence the safe.   The police usually made the rounds in the riot prone areas and hence their SHO with help from his Mohamed Ali road counterpart, effected a raid on Ameena’s house.

Ameena’s father Abbas Baig was a cab driver and father of five girls.  Ameena’s mother Samina Begum was deathly scared of her bully husband and did his bidding.  Hence the children suffered without respite being girls.  The SHO had seen the dilapidated safe hidden in a small alcove in the backroom wall covered by a dirty curtain.  He told the triad that now it was up to them to retrieve, open and put back without anyone the wiser.

The trio rejected the numerous invites from local friends and relations and went into a huddle.   A series of festivals were imminent and the streets would be teeming with processions and an odd blast here and there to create communal disharmony.  Keeping all this in mind, they designed a harmless noisemaker as a diversion and planted it near Ameena’s house.  As everyone ran out, they ran in and retrieved the safe.  

Finally the SHO with expert help pried open the safe and it yielded three neat dollar bundles along with passports of Ameena, Samira and Aamna the three older girls aged 17,16 and 15 years.  All had Saudi Arabia visa stamps in them.  Apparently the girls were being sold to rich Saudi sheikhs.  They were all shook up to confront this human trafficking by a parent.  Now they wondered how Salim Malik their plane’s co-passenger fit in here.  They decided to visit him.

The SHO explained the whole situation to Salim and then he told them of his own heartache.  He was in love with Ameena from childhood but knew her abba (dad) was bent upon encashing all his daughters and had forbidden them from meeting.  They were only able to meet near their school or the mosque at given times.  They communicated via a note they left under a designated stone at a nearby park.  About two years ago Salim had gone to USA on scholarship and had been saving money to buy off Ameena from her Abba.  The information about safe and other details were messaged to Salim by a desperate Ameena who was scheduled to be married within the fortnight to a Saudi Sheikh along with her two younger sisters who had brokered a deal for all three of them paying handsomely to cab driver Abbas Baig, their father.   Now all the pieces fell in place.  The girls were under age and hence this was an illegal trade.  

The SHO openly returned the safe back to Ameena’s house even as the camera’s from all news channels rolled in live action.  Abbas Baig was arrested and all the girls were rescued.  Ameena and Salim Malik were married by the mosque priest and rest of the girls along with their mother were whisked off to a new neighborhood under different names with relevant paper work, ration card etc…  With Salim’s permission, Ameena sent money to her mother each month to meet all the expenses.   No one missed cruel Abbas Baig.

**

Ten years later

Raja, Goldie and Bunty as preplanned inaugurated their brand new NGO called Safe Haven meant for all homeless, abused and society’s pariahs seeking care and shelter.

The Illegal Squatter

The just completed house was a perfectly wrought jewel box.  Every single detail had been meticulously looked into.  Architect Shiva Shenoy had observed all the Vaastu diktats for his dream home.  It had aesthetic beauty with an inviting openness similar to those amazing floor through homes he had seen in America.  He had selected very pleasing pastel colors for the walls.  Any all old moldings, doors, windows, locks and details that could be salvaged from the old house had been reverently utilized giving the new home an extra élan and character.  An old family portrait occupied a place of honor.   It was an eco friendly green home which would keep house cool in summer, warm in winter, recycle water, and harness sunlight. A wonderful tree house atop an old banyan tree had come with the property along with the old family portrait.  The housewarming ceremony was a mere week away.
 

An unexpected SOS call from their US settled engineer son Shivam saw them on a flight bound for America.  The ceremony would be rescheduled upon return.  Shiva’s office staff started making cancellation calls to all invitees.
**

Ailing prisoner number 8957 had been released with thirteen others in exchange for the one political prisoner.  Pakistan authorities had failed to elicit any credible information from 8957 and had happily gotten rid of him.  8957 was sent to the army hospital.
 

Fingerprints and other tags in his old bag provided some clues and finally he was identified as Caption Karan Singh who had gone missing about a dozen years ago.  Sadly his grieving family of grand parents, parents had passed on due to broken hearts.  His only sister was happily married and lived in USA.  She had reluctantly sold the property and had decided to also leave the family portrait after taking several photographs of it.   The sale was contingent upon two conditions which had to be met.  The family portrait would occupy a place of honor and the tree house would not be cut down.  One friendly request was a permission to visit the property whenever she came to India.  Shiva Shenoy and his wife had acceded to them.  They were empty nesters with a son in USA and daughter in Dubai.  They couldn’t wait to move into their new home.
Jyoti Kanwar Singh, Capt. Karan’s sister was contacted and given the happy news.  Ecstatic with joy, she flew back to India the very next day.  Seeing her brother’s vacant eyes and piteous condition, she was heart broken.  Being a determined lady, she decided to help get him back on his feet.  The doctors suggested he be taken to the old home to accelerate recovery.  They left immediately.
The tree house, family portrait and other small knick knacks still kept in storage in a back shed by the Shenoy sparked some flares of recognition. 
Jyoti would keep talking about all their childhood events of joy sadness truancy and the umpteen tree house parties they had enjoyed together in their
growing years.  Slowly and surely Karan started regaining his strength and memory.  Finally it all came back.  This was like a watershed and they both
wept over the loss of their loved ones.  First thing they did was to have Karan perform shraddha** ceremony for the departed at the behest of their
family priest.  Now they could move forward.
She showed him photos of her husband and twin boys.  Karan was delighted to know that he was an uncle.  She wanted him to migrate but he wanted to stay in the house and resume service if his officer would have him.  She told him the property no longer belonged to them but he refused to budge.  Meanwhile she had to fly back which she did after extracting a promise of weekly phone calls and email updates from Karan. 

**

The Shenoys returned home after a couple of months.  They couldn’t wait to move into their dream home.  They called the pundit for an auspicious time and day for the move.  This time it would be only close family and friends.  All set and fully rested, they drove to their property.  They got the shock of their lives. 
The house was lit and the music was playing.  Gingerly they opened the door and walked in.  They saw a stranger sitting comfortably as though the house belonged to him and they were the interlopers.  Keeping their wits about, they greeted the man and asked to be seated. Then Karan spoke.

Karan told them that he knew that the house was no longer his but he had nowhere else to go. He had grown up here and wished to die here as well.  He wanted to buy it back.  The Shenoys were aghast.  They told him that it was not a matter of money.  They had built their dream home for which they had sweated all their lives.  He could not abort their dream before full term.  They would be devastated.  They had come to an impasse.  They decided to go home and sleep on it and return in the morning in a better frame of mind.  Karan appeared nonchalant.  For him there was no other option!
The Shenoy couple’s heads were in turmoil.  What to do! How to skin this cat!  They thought of various options but nothing appealed.  Their squatter meant business.  He was an army man and they had lots of respect for him and also felt sorry for him.  Poor man! He’d looked so lost but “we want our home backkk” their minds wailed!  They decided to speak to Jyoti, Karan’s sister.  She gave them an ingenious out.
Next morning with a spring in their steps they went to see Karan.    He welcomed them with tea and pastries and reiterated his offer.  They told him to hear their counter offer.
They said why not share this home!  We can build a small outhouse adjacent to the tree house as there was lots of acreage with the property.  This way they would both have privacy and each other’s company when desired.  Karan too liked the idea as he missed the old folks terribly.  He agreed and they came to amicable financial settlement with everything written in black and white to avoid any future strife.
 

The housewarming was attended by close family members of both Shenoys and Karan Singh who had also invited comrades from his old regiment and childhood friends.  Shenoy children, grandchildren and Jyoti along with her seven year old twins and husband were all in full attendance.

 
The faces in the family portrait beamed.  It was as though old ancestors had come home. The branches and the leaves on the old tree shook happily in celebration.

**
Vaastu*:  means the dwelling of humans & Gods. Vaastu shastra is an ancient science which helps one to get the natural benefits
 freely offered by the five basic elements of the universe in which we all live. These basic elements are Akash (SKY),
 Prithvi (EARTH), Paani (WATER), Agni (FIRE), and Vayu (WIND). Vastu Shastra can be applied by keeping in harmony with
 these basic five elements of nature. Vaastu Shastra is an edifice science that was developed by our learned people
thousands of years ago. Its application today is purely architectural and its principles are based on becoming one with nature.
sraddha**, Sanskrit ?r?ddha, also spelled Shraddha, in Hinduism, a ceremony performed in honour of a dead ancestor. The rite is both a social and a religious responsibility enjoined on all male Hindus (with the exception of some sannyasis, or ascetics). The importance given in India to the birth of sons is to ensure that there will be a male descendant to perform the sraddha ceremony after one’s death.

The rite is performed for the deceased father, grandfather, and great-grandfather and also for the mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. It is intended to nourish, protect, and support the spirits of the dead in their pilgrimage from the lower to higher realms, preceding their reincarnation and reappearance on Earth. The rites are performed between the 11th and 31st days after death, depending on caste traditions, and at regular intervals thereafter. The first annual death anniversary is observed by a sraddha ceremony that enables the deceased (preta) to be admitted into the assembly of forefathers (pitr).

Rebirth

Rebirth

Shell shocked she tried to regain her balance. She sat down heavily on the corner of her bed as past twenty years of their marriage flashed by.  Sam had cheated on her all along.  The second mobile phone with its messages from a string of nymphets was proof enough.  She had to get a grip on self and a new life now.  She had to prepare carefully.

~~

Demi aka Damini and Samir Shroff were well known socialite couple, much sought after by high society and numerous ribbon cutting ceremonies.  Both hailed from well to do business families and it was a union of bodies, minds and businesses.  The formula had worked or so it had seemed.  Now it was unraveling.

~~

Sam was a charmer with classic Adonis looks, smooth tongue and a body kept shipshape and in perfect health by personal trainers and nutritionists.  Everyone doted on him including his wife Demi and two college going kids.  He was clueless about the crack in this perfect family portrait.  He loved his family to the extent he was capable of, no more no less.

~~

Demi was beautiful but not a beauty.  She had a perfect body and her pliant face was capable of being gorgeous or not by mere clever strokes of makeup.  She was a makeup man’s dream come true as it could be transformed at will.  She had mastered this skill well and looked her best in Sam’s company.  They featured in Page 3 often as fodder for gossip and rumor’s grist mill.   Strangely, this family was unspoilt and down to earth.

This knowledge of Sam’s betrayal cut her to the quick and she decided to emerge from his shadow and come into her own.  She no longer cared to bask in his limelight.  Enough was enough.

~~

Demi created a new persona taking the latter half of her name “mini” and her parental last name of Mittal.  She created Mini Mittal and brought her to life by slowly adding substance, blood, bones, and sinew to this persona.  She got an affidavit from her maternal grandma regarding her birth date and applied for a new birth certificate under name of Mini Mittal along with new passport, bank account and PAN number for filing income taxes.  Mini was finally born.  Demi celebrated this event with her childhood bosom buddy MK and grandma.  They were sworn to secrecy about this.  MK too had married a social butterfly and had soon realized he did not love her anymore.  The children were another thing though as he loved his two sons dearly and consequently stayed put.  

MK’s family owned newspapers and he decided to offer her an advice column.  This idea had been tossed around recently and she would be a perfect fit.  He knew about her secret passion for creative writing.  Granny transferred a good amount of her trust to Mini’s account after taking her trustees into confidence.  Demi/Mini was determined about not taking any money from Sam.  She had to make it on her own.  Her dual life commenced.  She continued to shine wine and dine with her philandering husband.  In spare time she started writing for the column.  She also purchased a small apartment with a sea view and hired a live in housekeeper.

~~

The advice column slowly built up a good readership and the trickle of letters to the paper soon became a flood.  Circulation increased by leaps and bounds.  Paper was forced to hire couple of eager beaver wannabe journalists to sift through the mail and pick out the juicy ones.  Twenty questions were answered in each column.  In the meantime, Mini Mittal (MM) published her first novel aptly called “Makeover”.  Backed by a reputable publishing house that loved her column and reviewed by the mainstream newspapers, it became an overnight hit.  She attended book readings and signings setup by her publisher within the city.  She left her hair as is with an early cowlick of grey and understated makeup that lent an aura of mystery and solidity to her new persona. Mini Mittal had finally arrived. It was a year today since her new self had been born.  To complete her makeover, she wore padded inner garments to affect a fuller figure.  Now she was ready to walk away from her old self.

~~

Dinner was over and as whole family was present – she called them to the study.

Then, she dropped her bombshell.    She said that she was leaving Sam for good.  In order to preserve the family image she was going to fake her own death by drowning.   She had already created a new life for herself.  Then she informed them that they already knew her under her new name!  Everyone was flabbergasted.   Within few minutes she effected a change and returned as Mini Mittal.  Their collective gasp and jaw drop cut the silence sharply.   The kids and Sam bombarded her with questions.  Her accusing hurt look at Sam aborted his questions and then she told the kids that she was tired of her shallow life and wanted time for herself.  Henceforth she would like them to call her aunt Mini and never mom. She set the date of funeral of former Mrs. Demi Shroff socialite as first of following month.  Next she left to fake her own death.

Demi was gone and Mini was born.

(picture from internet)

With Hope and Prayer

With Hope and Prayer

Shaurya lay on the hospital bed, a broken man.  His grandpa had brought him up his way in the village unlike his siblings in Mumbai. His head was full of principles of honesty, hard work, and filial duty.  Now when he returned home, he was an alien there.  Everyone laughed at him exploiting mercilessly.  Whistling happily he did their bidding until one day he overheard them talking about him with derision.  He was heart broken.

His own kith and kin did not value him.  He lost his appetite and became ill.  His listlessness and lethargy finally hurled him towards suicide.  Just when he was ready to jump off into the Arabian Sea at the Gateway of India, Mumbai, a strong hand grabbed him and held him in a vice like grip.  Angrily he told him” let go of me please, I do not wish to live!”    The savior who was a psychologist had just emerged from nearby Taj Hotel for a walk and fresh air.  He was shocked at this handsome young man of barely twenty five wanting to end his life.  He decided to help him. 

**

Shaurya agreed to be hypnotized by Dr. Homi Mistry.  Gradually step by step doctor took him back towards his
 various births until they came to ancient India and he realized that in one of his previous lives, he was indeed Acharya Charaka!  That startled Dr. Mistry.  He slowly brought him back.  Then he made him hear his own taped voice.  Shaurya was amazed at this revelation.  He was quite familiar with ayurvedic medicines as his grandpa was an ayurvedic practitioner.  Grandpa had already told him that he had the makings of a great healer.  Now Dr. Mistry encouraged him to forget all else and become a master healer!  Shaurya started recalling ancient texts and scriptures and it was as though the floodgates had been opened.    He forgot all about ending his life and started devoting his time to honing his healing skills.  He left home and moved into the jungle and built a cottage for himself.  Wildlife did not scare him as they sensed he was not a threat.  During his brief encounter with Dr. Mistry and world at large, he had realized that the India of today was corrupt with no real values. 

Shaurya/

**Charaka believed that a physician who fails to enter the body of

a patient with the lamp of knowledge and understanding can never treat

diseases. He should first study all the factors, including environment,

 which influence a patient’s disease, and then prescribe treatment. It is

more important to prevent the occurrence of disease than to seek a cure.

He decided to develop a truth virus along the lines of  Truth Serum

used by intelligence wing of government and release this virus in the food and water supply of the country for wider and quick spread. 

**

After lots of trial and error and sleepless nights and back breaking,

finally the virus was ready for testing.  He quickly contacted Dr Mistry

and sought his help.  Dr. Mistry agreed to help test this “truth virus”. 

**

Dr. Mistry had many bollywood stars as patients.

 He decided to test it on them first.

The results were startling.  The truth virus created mayhem and literally wrecked Bollywood.  The stars had infected all those who came in contact with them.  Now all these people started speaking truth resulting in broken marriages, new couplings, real culprits came forward to confess, innocent people was reluctantly released.  Many corrupt politicians and cops became honest.  After the dust had settled, the change for the better could be seen tangibly.  In places where there were roads and running water and wells on paper only now had all those available in reality.  Everyone gradually cleaned up their acts.  Even the polluted air became pure. 

Meanwhile all politicians and corrupt officials were declaring their ill gotten gains and repatriating Swiss bank and offshore accounts.  The treasury was now full to bursting.  All the self aggrandizement statues were removed and only parks and playgrounds were built.  The divide between the haves and have-nots was less startling.

India once again became the” Golden Sparrow” of olden times.

In the meantime, both Shaurya and Dr. Mistry wondered, “how long will it be before a super bug /virus overpowers the truth virus…..  their fingers  crossed in great fervor.

**sourced from internet

The Pink Ballet Shoe- Oxymora replete Micro Fiction

 

The Pink Ballet Shoes

Little Tim was mighty in resolve. Decision made he was happier, forgetting his grief over reality’s pretty ugly truth. His immobile mother loved dancing and he vowed to save money and buy her those synthetic natural pink ballet shoes.

His once joyous home was gloomy due to deafening silence. His vivacious mom was dying.

~~

Tim hated cancer disease that was snatching his beloved mom. He needed her as he was not that self reliant. In his piggy bank he found two dollars and change. Shoes cost $19.99. He hoped for a glimmer of hope in dark despair. He hit upon an idea. He would redeem empty cans for nickels.

~~

Tim did not slack off but worked harder instead. At times he felt jealous of his poor rich friends. Then he realized he was richer than them. His mom had filled his small world with immense love. He felt blessed and sorry for his love starved wealthy friends whose busy parents had no time for them.

~~

Tim succeeded in collecting not less but more than sufficient money for the pink shoes. He stopped immediately as he did not wish to be greedy. Acting naturally when alone together with his mom was heart breaking enough. He ran to the store to buy the shoes before the store closed. It was Christmas Eve.

~~

He sped without halting. He was completely unprepared for the sight of his dad with another woman. Guess dad was a cowardly lion. Tim grabbed the shoes and hurriedly emptied his full pockets. He was just in time. He put the shoes on her feet and his sad mom smiled happily for one last time.

PS: based on movie The Christmas Shoes

(picture from internet)

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