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Modukuri’s Musings

Updated: Oct 18

Throughout history, societies have always been plagued with issues. Almost all individuals are dealing with at least one societal complication in their lives. Sometimes, it seems like modernisation has addressed a difficulty for all future. Still, the issue just reshapes itself with a new mask.


“Modukuri’s Musings” by Harsha Modukuri is an anthology of five short stories discussing contemporary issues in our society. Dealing with eccentric characters through a fictitious narrative, each story shows how societal shortcomings, when not addressed, cause damage that is at times irrevocable.

 

Disclaimer: For ages above 18 only.

 
Illustrated by Nisha Yadav

Contents


Free Access

  1. The Third Side

  2. Missed Call


Exclusive Access

  1. Spiteful Spirit

  2. Unseen Face

  3. Honoured Love

 

Credits

This contribution is edited by Manognya Bethapudi & Tarun Chintam & illustrated by Nisha Yadav.

 

Product

This anthology is available in paperback & ebook.



 

Musing I

The Third Side


If at times, being a part of a family is a living hell then sometimes, not having one is also a living hell. To most of us, it is the need to be loved and the importance of affection we seek are the factors that dictate the lives we lead. Our ups and downs mean nothing on a professional level when our lives are saturated with misery as we cling to what we haven’t been given.


“The Third Side” by Harsha Modukuri is a story of how two characters, who have the same need but come from two opposite positions, meet and find peace in each other’s company after leading miserable lives.

 

Part I

Heads


His unruly hair hiding half his face, his hands and legs trying hard to teeter through the mud, Vinay tried not to fall off as the bag on his shoulders weighed too much for his frail body. He was excited though. He’d been selected as a winner in four of the competitions, and he’d get prizes for them on the coming annual day. So, the rain hadn’t completely dampened his emotions and he expected an easy walk home from school. As much as he wanted to return home along with his friends, they had cycles and he had to always walk.

​​All throughout his journey, there’s only one thing that’d been running in his mind for an hour and that was how to ask his parents to come for the school’s annual day celebrations. They never attended any event on their own and even when requested, they always had an excuse ready. Even then, this year was special for him and he wanted his parents there. So, he decided to ask them politely and even explain the events and everything if needed.​ Excited, he pushed open the gate and scanned the windows of the hall. There’s no one in it. So Dad wasn’t home. He walked in and set aside his bag and called his mother. There was no response. All right. She’s sleeping and is sick again. He felt sorry for his mother. He never knew why but he suspected there was more to the story his parents told him about their love and the eventual marriage. This isn’t love. This can’t be. He never saw any affection between his parents. His father loved him, sure, and his mother loved her son the way every mother would do, but was there ever a tinge of love between them? He’d no idea and there’s always one or more secrets lurking in those quarrels and shouts. They never ate dinners together, they never went out to see movies. They never did anything as a family. Vinay thought many times to ask his mother about this, but he couldn’t come up with the proper words and the embarrassment of hurting her caused dread in his stomach. But again, there was no way he could have put it without hurting either of his parents. He’s fourteen and just beginning to understand and see things in a different way. Life wasn’t too reductive and binary enough like before. Dad wasn’t home. “Oh it was one of those days of too much work at the office” is what he used to think earlier. Now he certainly knew that Dad wasn’t home because he hated being here and there was definitely somewhere else he’d be peaceful and comfortable. A place where he met his old friends or probably, a place where he’d never have to see the faces of his wife and son. His thoughts came to a halt as he heard a whimper from the bedroom. Realising he must attend to his mother, Vinay walked into the room to find her awake and smiling at him. “I’m sorry about not making anything for you today Vinu.” “I’m not feeling hungry maa.” “Why don’t you go out and get yourself something?” “I don’t want to go maa... it’s raining.” “Oh... is he home yet?” Vinay just nodded saying no and his mother’s face couldn’t help but reveal her sorrow.

 

In the end, it took Vinay four more years to stumble across the truth that he thought would set him free and cleanse his mind once and for all. But it only brought more burden and pain to his life. Initially, he thought it was one of those regular fights wherein in the end, his father would spend most of the night watching television and not eating at the table. But Vinay had no idea that this was going to be a different one.


His mother had been brave and patient and she always stood up for herself. Anything and everything could become a point of contention and Vinay at the age of eighteen was convinced that his parents were itching for a fight. It’s almost like they hated when everything was calm and fine and now didn’t even bother about him. They acted as if he had never existed.


On another rainy day as it drizzled, Vinay was back from school and from the gate, he was greeted with loud shouts, vessels crashing and steel plates clanking. Then he saw two figures standing six feet apart, one hunched and not able to stand properly, the other with a monstrous visage, ready to pounce on anyone. He did not dare to enter the home and hid behind the main door listening to them.


“I wouldn’t have married you if you were not pregnant.”


“Then maybe you should have had some restraint or at least help me ab...”


“We were having fun before things got serious!”


“I loved you.”


“I did too but not enough to spend a lifetime with you.”

“You should have told me that nineteenth years ago. We could have avoided all of this. We could have put an end to all this suffering and misery.”


“I had no choice. Everyone around insisted we should marry.”


“So you married me to torture and seek revenge?”


That silence was chilling and that was the end of it. At last, Vinay found the missing pieces he was looking for the last couple of years. Though he knew his parents didn’t love one another, he didn’t expect such hate too. A couple of hours later, Vinay realised, it isn’t just hate but more of a man holding everything in his life against someone.


This addressed a lot of questions, but it also raised a slew of new ones that he hadn’t dared to ask either of his parents. For a time, his father and mother were together. The woman was madly in love with him, but the man was simply infatuated and looking for something else. Instead of facing this difficult fact and hurting her once, he decided to make her life miserable on a daily basis. The Gods, however, had other ideas, and they cut short the life of this woman and granted her some mercy.

 

After a long day at the office, Vinay returned all wet on his bike as it poured to see his father waiting at the entrance. He knew something was wrong but after a brief discussion with his father, he couldn’t help but control himself when he asked, “Cancer?” “Yes. She lived with that disease for eight years.” “Eight years? Why was I not told? It’s not that I lived in a different house.” “Your mother insisted on that. She thought that’d make you sadder.” “Sounds more like convenience. A betrayal if I have to choose the correct word.” “Whatever... I don’t have time to argue with you about that.” “You didn’t have time to tell your son about his mother’s health. So I don’t blame you.” “That isn’t the story. See, I spent a good deal of my life living with someone I hate. Now I see this as a release, a release from everything that kept me chained. So I want to move out and live with someone I love.” Fed up, Vinay pointed towards the main gate as he said, “Go on...” “Yes, and as for you, you’re twenty-five and you have a job. I will leave the house and everything else to you. Just don’t expect me to take responsibility for your life. Even if I did, you’d hate me for that. I know this because I hate what my parents did in the name of responsibility..” ​ Exhausted, Vinay closed his eyes as he said, “You don’t have to explain all of that Dad...” “Good. I will stay in touch.” As the middle-aged man walked away, Vinay thought, “I hope not. I hope you forget that you have a son and live the life you always wanted.”

 

Part II

Tails


Saatwika fixed her gaze on the ceiling, the fan, and the stunning arrangement of various pictures that sparkled in the dim light. They’re stickers of some kind. She recalled a brief conversation with Sandhya, who had come to see her. This was after the Gift had come for Sandhya of course. That was what moving out meant for the kids in the orphanage.


The parents would arrive first, and the kid would have to spend a few days or longer at the residence of the adoptive parents, after which the parents would decide whether to keep the child or return him. That sounded cruel to Saatwika. She often thought, “What if I like the house and the people there and they decide to send me away? What if I don’t like how they treat me and yet should I accept it as the chance of luck and find my place?” She knew she wasn’t to make a choice, a choice that’d probably make or break her life. Nonetheless, they called it ‘The Gift’.


The pictures on the ceiling dimmed out, one by one, leaving a little cat picture on the corner of the room. Recalling their name, Saatwika remembered the name ‘Radium stickers’ and switched on the light so that the other pictures would absorb some light and well, give company to the lonely cat.


The door opened and a middle-aged man was in the way, his eyes squinting at the girl.


“Is anything the problem?”


“No.”


“You turned on the light?”


“I wanted to see the stickers again, all of them.”


“I’m afraid it’d take hours for that to work. You should sleep, Saatwika”, he smiled.


“Good night!”


“Good night...”


And the lights went off and the door’s closed again.

 

As the sunset on a cold evening, the warden asked, “But I don’t understand what you’re saying. She’s a very good girl. She’s pretty. She’s a bright student. Anyone would love to adopt her.”

Sipping his tea while facing the warden, the man in his thirties replied, “It’s not that she’s not an adorable girl. It’s got something to do with her past. I can definitely see she’s a lively girl and catches everyone’s eye. Tell me ma’am why she isn’t adopted till now?”


Illustrated by Nisha Yadav

Disappointed, the warden replied, “We just couldn’t find a proper family. That’s all.”


“Convenient as it is, but it is a lie. I know it and you know it too. It is because her mother was a prostitute.”


Glancing at the well-off brute, the warden assured, “Was a prostitute. She died and the girl had no idea. There’s no one who came forward to claim her. There won’t be any problems or complications about that.”


“Exactly. We don’t want any complications. The truth cannot be hidden for a long time and it will haunt her for the rest of her life. She wouldn’t be accepted by our extended family.”


“Sir, you know we can work together to bury the truth for good.”


Unfolding his legs and leaning forward, the man placed his cup of tea on the table before asking, “I just wish there was an easy way out of this. It’s not that we hate her. On the contrary, we feel sorry for her.”


“Well, you took her home, you bought new clothes for her. You fired up her hopes and now how can I break her poor little heart?”


“I can make it up to her. We don’t want her in our house, sure but we’re willing to deposit some money...”


Fed up, the warden concluded, “No sir, I don’t think you deserve any respect and I am glad I can show that discourtesy on your face. You made it easy for me. Please go away.”

 

Saatwika came back from school and the warden asked her to meet her. Even though she knew it was about the adoption visit and most of her friends would be cheerful about it, Saatwika wasn’t. She has already had too many bad experiences with them, and now she’d rather prefer to spend her childhood in this orphanage.


“It is a very good family, Saatwika. They liked your photos. They even talked to your School Principal.”


“They won’t like me when they come to know about my past.”


“You can’t be so sure about it. There are generous people…”


“You mean they could be the couple who won’t think that the child of a prostitute would become like her mother?” asked Saatwika looking at the floor.


Lifting her head, the warden replied, “No one has ever said that and no one would ever say that.”


“That’s what the previous couple meant by complication, ma’am.”


Holding her hand, the warden said looking into her jaded eyes, “We shouldn’t give up every time life seems too bleak Saatwika. It is our job to keep seeking.”


A faint smile appeared on Saatwika’s face and the warden immediately instructed, “Now I want you to spend two days with this new couple too and give them a chance just like they are trying to give you a chance.”

 

After six more adoption visits, Saatwika was finally able to convince her warden that no one was interested in taking her. Her past stood behind her, ominous and threatening. It was wise of those parents to walk away from something like this, she thought. There’s no point in living with someone who just had pity for you and for those who were fortunately not pitiful, they tried to restrict her a lot because of their insecurities, so much so that it almost felt like a prison.


Years flew by and Saatwika graduated, got a job and left the orphanage. Her luck in men seemed to be the same as her luck with adopted parents. She met a lot of them and none of them proved to be honest and faithful. While she showered all the love she could, she rarely received anything in return. There were physical desires and passion, but all of it evaporated with the sunrise and in place of them, there was this hesitation, suspicion and uncertainty.


For a while, she kept believing it was going to get better but time and again, life beat her down. As soon as she entered her thirties, she started living alone and preferred a place where families lived -- families with grandparents and children. Families that saw and endured one storm after another and stood together to give their children a chance at life. However, not everyone was ready to give her a house to live in because a free young woman could derail marriages. That’s the most common excuse she’d been asked to believe.

 

Fortunately, after a long search, Saatwika found a new house of her own choosing in one such area. There lived a simple little family across from her. A tall handsome young man, his wife and a little boy who was too shy to meet anyone’s eyes. Saatwika longed to start a conversation with this family, but none of them was approachable.


The man seemed to be too busy with his work and was rarely seen at home. The woman rarely stepped out and even when she did, she looked like she’s not interested in anything but her illness. She never smiled, but rarely looked at people and when asked a question, her answers were short.


The youngster kept to himself, and everyone could set their clocks by watching his comings and goings. He never took a different route, and he was never seen interacting with anyone other than his parents and two friends. Saatwika felt bad for him. He should have been mine, the boy deserves every bit of love but the parents are too busy and hateful to appreciate the gift they have. Oh, how ironic, I always wanted to fit in yet I couldn't find a home, this boy has everything, yet there was no love.


However, it was loneliness that bonded the naive wife to Saatwika over time. Though she never spoke much about her family issues, Saatwika could clearly see for herself how her husband had affairs and wouldn’t even bat an eye if his wife killed herself. As their bond grew, she heard the truth that he never loved her in the first place and was forced to marry her considering the circumstances.


However, before Saatwika felt a moment of pity for the husband’s ill fate, she couldn’t help but see the suffering and torment he inflicted upon his wife and his child. Looking at the three of them who had everything but responsibility and commitment, Saatwika wanted nothing but to help her friend in her family life. But in time, things only got worse.


Saatwika’s friend died and her passing was followed by the parting of ways of the son and father. The home that she sought to help withered like a tree in a storm.

 

Part III

The Flip


In hopes of honouring her friend’s memory, Saatwika tried to advise the boy every step of the way. In the beginning, he pretended to listen to her. With time, he neglected her and in the end, he shut her out of his life by just disappearing one day. He was never seen in that street, nor was there any address of the communication. Saatwika tried to reach out to his father, but the man was reluctant to help her.


“He can take care of himself,” he said.


“You don’t worry about anything. He has a job, he has enough money, and owns a house...”


“But no one ever loved him right?”


And the father cut the call. Even though she knew Vinay was setting himself up to fail big, there was nothing Saatwika could do.

 

Years later, Saatwika saw the lights in her opposite house all lit and the doors were open. She wanted to walk in and look at the boy, but she was not so sure. Does he remember me? She figured she’d wait out the day and meet the boy if he showed up on the street. That didn’t happen as she fell asleep sitting on her balcony and the boy left his house in the middle of the night.


Later she came to know that the boy married a girl and the marriage was unsuccessful and as part of the divorce agreement he had to sell the house and give some money to his wife. That made her very anxious and sad. She would have guided him and he could have avoided all of this. He was scammed, definitely. I can see that. Someone thought he’s easy prey and used him. But not anymore. She searched and searched for him but was to no avail. Nothing showed up, not even a single thread that could take her somewhere.


The next news she heard was about his arrest. The boy became a man and a drunkard-- in that order and created a bit of nuisance before someone’s house and they got him arrested. She went to the police station to meet him. But he was already released and again there was nothing for her to go on.

 

Five years later, tired and fed up, Saatwika visited her old orphanage; she found the building dilapidated and unoccupied. There were so many memories there, most of them pleasant and happy. Visiting the new warden’s office, she was taken to her old warden’s room. Sitting before her mistress who was now bedridden, Saatwika greeted her. The warden smiled, turning towards her. With teary eyes, Saatwika confessed, “I have come to admit my failure to find what I seek mistress.”


Still smiling serenely, the warden replied, “Fear not Saatwika. Sometimes a lifetime isn’t enough but we have to keep going, child.”


Broken, Saatwika asked, “But I don’t see why I should anymore?”


Extending her hand the warden pulled her close as she replied, “Simply because you could and you should Saatwika.”


Approaching her, Saatwika replied, “But he is spiralling down into madness and is ruining himself...”


Placing her hand on her cheek, the warden didn’t even ask if it was her son or boyfriend or husband but simply replied, “So do all of us at one point or the other in our lives Saatwika. None of us could truly stop the fall no matter who we are and no matter what we can do but we could always be there to help them rise.”


Looking into her warden’s hopeful eyes, Saatwika said, “But I can help him stop the fall.”


With a smile, the warden replied, “I could have helped my daughter choose a better man to marry than a cheat. I could have helped you from wasting your life seeking a family and I could have helped many others lost in their journeys seeking things that don’t make any difference to anyone. But… the harsh reality of life is that you could never help those who don’t seek it.”


With tears rolling down, Saatwika asked, “So we just see them fall?”


The warden simply nodded her head in agreement and Saatwika hesitantly asked, “What if the fall is the last of them?”


As her smile disappeared, the warden lost in her thoughts replied, “Then we live with the loss and pain they have left us behind.”


A moment of silence followed before the warden continued, “But to give up on them as they give up on us isn’t just cruel. The regret of it shall consume our entire existence and haunt us till our very end.”


Tapping on her cheek and seeing the smile reappear, the warden said, “I think you haven’t failed yet child…”

 

Musing II

Missed Call


Is it true that all casual relationships are genuinely casual? How can one point to anything and say, “This is where it becomes serious?” or “This is where their hearts, not just their bodies, start talking?”


“Missed Call” by Harsha Modukuri starts with two friends discussing their romantic relationships. While one feels he is simply enjoying life’s blessings, the other believes it is his entire life, something that defined him, something that filled all the gaps in his existence. They’re each expecting to meet their respective love partners that weekend, but they have no idea what surprises, reveals, and presents are in store for them.

 

Ravi was prepared to get away by 6:00 so that he could be at his best for the evening. He was expecting the last call of the day from the onsite team, ‘Indulgent pigs’, he said ironically, forgetting that once he wanted to work from onsite more than anything, even Anusha, and that led to the postponement of their marriage for almost two years. He talked in a stoic way when at 5:35 his subordinate, a fresh recruit, asked for his help on a bug and requested his authorisation before she could update it in the codebase. The fresher, Naveena, did not hesitate to remind Ravi that a similar situation, a couple of weeks ago, forced him and his team to work on Saturday too.

Ravi checked his Whatsapp and was irritated to see no reply to his messages. Was this Friday going to be the same as the previous one? Or was it just a once-in epoch miracle? The phone wriggled like a worm and there was a new message. He unlocked it and the message was from his son. It read, ‘We are at Sunitha Aunty’s place, Dad’. Ravi was disappointed as he was expecting a reply from another person. What was happening to him? He would have jumped to see his son’s messages a couple of months back. He sighed and continued running the script he had written. He ran it and after one glance at the output and the number of redlines highlighting the errors, Ravi knew he would not be leaving anytime before 6:00. Anusha died in an accident last year and the responsibility of taking care of two children fell on him. Her death shocked him, to say the least, but he recovered from it early and the life of a single parent has become acceptable, demanding and something he never wanted to fail at. He has been successful ever since. He brought back his attention to the work. He was aware that mistakes were not acceptable in his job, and mistakes made hastily on a Friday evening, would bend his knees and extract the punishment in the coming weeks. He called Naveena and asked her to re-run the module. She said it was working fine and could push it through. She came to his desk again and asked, ‘What are your plans for the weekend, sir?’ ‘Something you wouldn’t expect,’ Ravi said, rising from his chair. He went to Praveen’s desk and was surprised not to find him there. He called him and there was no response. Ravi grew closer to Praveen in these months, though he was just another fresher. Praveen should always be grateful to God, as the latter has given him both brains and looks. There wasn’t any girl who was not charmed by him, but rumour is it that Praveen fell for Nabha and she has a reputation which was not easily decipherable. Ravi knew that this wasn’t just a rumour and Praveen had been courting her for months and it was sometimes uncomfortable for him as Praveen sought his advice as if he had mastered the Art of Romance and Seduction. A few minutes later, Praveen came to his desk. Ravi was finishing up for the day, still a bit irritated for not getting the reply. ‘Still not in the weekend moods, Senior?’, Praveen chuckled while taking a seat beside Ravi. Ravi did not try for a rejoinder but said, ‘You’re young Praveen, don’t tease the old boys who envy you,’ he added, ‘these old boys shouldn’t become the reason for the delay in your promotions’ ‘If I get a promotion or onsite too early, I’d know who is behind it,’ Praveen said, ‘and if these things were delayed, guess it doesn’t take much to figure out who is behind them.’ ​ Ravi talked about his usuals and Praveen listened to him sincerely. He also threw a rumour that Naveena is hitting on Praveen. They had coffees and Praveen was learning how Ravi handles things. He was surprised to find Ravi was not as organized as he always thought. It was 6:15 and Ravi clicked on Shutdown. ​ ‘Nabha and I are planning to spend this weekend and Monday too’, Ravi initiated, ‘All I need is your permission for leave and your flat keys?’ ‘Flay keys? Calm down, my boy, calm down, Ravi continued, ‘I might run into my plans too. Sorry.’ ‘So? You have taken up a lover at last?’ ‘No. Not a lover. But a friend with benefits.’ ‘Achha, but that’s not the rumour ringing in my ears since last week’, teased Praveen. Ravi gave a wink and threw a wry smile. It’s been a year since he lost his life, he didn’t fall in love with another woman, for the young and rich he is, there wouldn’t be any problem when he seeks out one. He didn’t sleep around too, though he came close to that many times. He couldn’t date young unmarried girls, because there were already enough boys chasing them. He never went far enough than asking a woman out to lunch. ​ There were only four unmarried women close to his age, and he didn’t try to play his tricks on them. The one woman he was very interested in making it abundantly clear that she wanted to spend the night and all the rest of the nights of their lives with him, a marriage, a contract again he didn’t want to jump into. In all those twelve years in IT, if there was one thing that Ravi understood without any knowledge transfer, it is that any over-friendly move made by a male can land him in consequences that may inevitably destroy his career and throw heaps of shame on him. He had to make only one mistake, and he would be labelled as Chaser or Player and a hundred different words. Then, every other woman and man treats you like a creature straight out of a garbage can. These were not the tags he can proudly show on his shoulder, being a single parent and father of two beautiful children.


Illustrated by Nisha Yadav

Praveen poked him on his shoulder and he woke up from his thoughts. ‘What?’, he grunted.


‘Flat keys, my brother’


‘I told you…’


‘You told me many things...’, Praveen interrupted ‘But it’s the only place, you see, I can have my shenanigans and errands peacefully.’ He smirked and his mouth opened widely showing his white teeth.


They both took up their bags and walked towards Naveena’s desk and asked her to bring something better on Monday that was cooked by her Mom and not her. She made a face and scowled. Once they were in the elevator, several other familiar faces greeted them, all worn out, restless and yet pretending to be ready for the weekend.


No wonder they make memes on Software Engineers, Praveen thought.


A few minutes later, they were in Ravi’s Hyundai. The Hyderabad traffic was just about to become worse. Ravi said he’ll wager two thousand that a pedestrian can easily reach the junction instead of them. He was checking his mobile regularly and that made him restless and angry. He cursed the man who designed the options to turn off the blue ticks in Whatsapp, but not the woman who used that feature.


Ravi did not say a word but observed everything. ‘Tell me Praveen, how does it feel to be in the warm hands of someone who loves you, I’m afraid I lost that touch a year ago.’


‘No, you did not,’ Praveen tried to be careful.


‘Yes, I did,’ Ravi said, as their car crawled around the Biodiversity junction. It would be another one hour more journey in this nightmarish traffic. But they didn’t have a choice.


‘So, how’s everything between you and Nabha?’ Ravi continued, his eyes fixed on the road and his thoughts elsewhere. He had no deep interest in Praveen’s relationship, but he did not want to appear unconcerned.


‘Great! I’m glad I met the right woman,’ Praveen was quick, ‘She’s beautiful, understanding’ he also added, ‘and playful too’


‘’Playful huh?’, there was a touch of sarcasm in Ravi’s voice, ‘You seem to be enjoying your youth, it seems.’


‘Not as much as you enjoyed, dear Sir’


‘Aha’


Soon there was a buzzing sound and Ravi unlocked his phone and read the message with a beaming face. His face instantly turned glorious as if it had been polished with those Egyptian face packs Cleopatra used. The message was from the woman he slept with last week and now he was sure the same was going to happen today too, with a chance of luck, he’d be spending some good time with her during these two days.


Ritika, she was called, a middle-aged woman, whose husband was sent to work at the client’s location and thus she was forced to keep her desires to herself. The message read, ‘At my place again, Love’ and Ravi wheeled the car at such a speed that it came close to an auto-rickshaw and its driver gave it back every ounce, cursing Ravi and his entire family.


‘What is the matter chief?’, Praveen asked, unable to hold his curiosity.


‘You have the keys, he said, giving his keys and placing them in Praveen’s palm, ‘Till Sunday evening’, he added, ‘And please wash the sheets when you’re done or take them with you, don’t leave them on the bed’. Praveen chuckled. ‘I’ll hang you out from my balcony if you don’t, ' Ravi finished.


Praveen groaned and said yes. He muttered something about flavours and Ravi caught it with perfection and teased him, ‘So, you’re trying flavours boy’, he said, ‘You have come a long way.’


‘She insists, we use them,’ Praveen turned his face down and his cheeks went red.


‘Well, be careful, that’s all I can say…’


As the car crossed Mehdipatnam and stopped near a familiar food truck, Praveen waved goodbye and left.


It’s nearly 8:30 when Ravi parked his vehicle in the cellar. He climbed up the stairs to the first floor and was disappointed to see the door shut, not locked and there was not even a light in the house. Is she sleeping?, he wondered and pushed open the door and entered. His hand was grabbed by Ritika and in a swift motion, he was rushed inside. Ravi stood there motionless and looked at her. She wrapped a towel around her hair and that fell on her shoulders. That was all and he stood against the door, locking it from behind, and provoking him to look at all of her. Last week was a mistake, he thought, he was drunk and she was drunk and we found peace in each other’s arms. But today it was madness. This was her bold invitation and it seems like she’s whispering in my ears softly how much she desires me. It sank him down and flooded me. His children, friends and Praveen, everyone and everything seemed trivial now. His desire was strong and overwhelming enough to risk his life and reputation to indulge in it.


They both discovered peace and warmth again. Ritika shook him awake the next morning and they made love again. For the next two days they pretended to be man and wife, but the fears of Monday enveloped him from Sunday evening itself. They just sat on the couch and talked that night, cut off from their phones and the world outside.


The farewell kiss Ritika gave him was so intense that he wished that next Saturday would come sooner. He checked his mobile, there were two missed calls from his son and one text from him. There were a couple of missed calls from Praveen and he swiped them left.


He thought, ‘Kid’s still in confusion about which flavour to use,’ chuckled and went home. Though a pinch of weariness took him, he was in his best mood, nothing could go wrong. He had a great weekend, the last week had been bloody at work, and so will this week be, but he had thoughts of Saturday, again. It’s not the sex he was craving for, it’s the human contact, it’s the resting shoulder. Suddenly, he missed Anusha very much. If only she had listened to him that day. He was in the office, at the desk checking his mails. Praveen was nowhere to be seen, late as usual on Mondays.


He went to grab a coffee and the machine was trying its best not to deliver anything. Naveena was seen at her desk, her face lying on the desk and sleeping.


‘You shouldn’t be sleeping on Monday, miss’


She looked up at him, eyes red and moist. She was crying.


‘What happened? Is everything okay, Naveena?’, he muttered.


‘You didn’t know?’


‘Didn’t know what?’


‘Praveen took his life, he swallowed a bottle of Ativan on Sunday’, she said half crying and the words uttered fell on every syllable.


Ravi’s mouth slackened and his eyes widened in disbelief. He moved back slightly and shook his head. A tingling was rising in his heart and his stomach hardened.


‘But why?’, he asked, wiping his tears from his left eye.


‘Nabha and Praveen, they spent Saturday together it seems’, Naveena said, ‘But when he came again on Sunday, she was seen with another man in an objectionable manner….’ She was cut off.


Ravi felt tremors rising in his heart, he walked away from her. He checked his phone. Two missed calls from Praveen at 8:55 PM, on Sunday. He wiped his tears again and entered the elevator. If he had only picked up his call.


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Musing III

Spiteful Spirit


Vishwanadh disagreed with his father and passed over a good government job to pursue his passion. This made him successful and famous but deprived him of everything that a human connection offered. He watched his son grow up and was unsure what to do about him. When a dark desire takes root in his heart, he finds himself in a dilemma.


“Spiteful Spirit” by Harsha Modukuri explores the story of an insecure, unhappy, faithless & sad man who would stoop so low for his validation that he would seclude any deserving person from their reward even if it is his blood.

 

Vishwanadh was forty-two years old. He had a wife, a teenage kid, and enough money to live well. He was a lonely guy with few acquaintances, and his wife was as strange to him as his next-door neighbour. When he returned from coaching camp last month, he took his family to a beautiful restaurant, spoke precisely three sentences to his wife, nodded three times to his kid, and then they both started chatting. He didn’t feel alienated or alone since, according to him, this is how all family outings operate. He activated his Bluetooth and began listening to the match broadcast.


Vishwanadh thought he was correct, and his way of life shaped him into the man he is today. Unfortunately, there was no question that the guy had no social life, no one to confide in, and that his marriage was more of a necessity than something one would do when they loved so much. He used to retreat at the first sign of affection from anyone, including his parents, and he assumed that this was how everyone lived.


The more he became successful in what he had done, the more he believed everything was all right. What he never foresaw was that one cannot go on doing what they’re good at till they die. Careers end, and one would be forced to live with some sort of family and if that family doesn’t mean anything to you, you’re in trouble.


Vishwanadh’s father used to play Cricket, and when he represented the state, he became eligible for a government job. As soon as he got the job, he moved away from the game because the purpose was served, and he accomplished what he intended to. The only thing he didn’t foresee was his son liking the game. Like all boys of his age, Vishwanadh loved playing Cricket, it offered him so much, and the time he spent on the ground with his friends made him happy. He resented going to school and even home sometimes, and it was the ground where he found his friends and like-minded people. Unlike in school, there wasn’t much to master here. His coach said he was a natural at hitting the ball, and his fielding was okay, so everything came easily to him. His friends always wanted to understand how he played and why he was so good. His father had other ideas, but Vishwanadh never thought his father would stand in between him and his goals.


The boy’s passion was contagious, and Vishwanadh’s father couldn’t help discussing the game with him, a game he used as a ladder to get a job, a game that is so volatile and doesn’t offer any stability to people who want certainties in life. But that was his problem, and he never realized that. Vishwanadh never wanted anything to be certain, he just wanted to play as much as he could and he thought this would make him happy and it was only his happiness that mattered.

 

“I don’t believe he’s very interested in what you want to accomplish with your life,” his mother added. She could feel the disappointment on his face as she stood next to him on the balcony. There was nothing this boy hadn’t attempted to do to satisfy his father and get his devotion and love. But, whatever the son had done, his father was unconcerned. This compassion and love, the father felt, should be reserved for oneself and should be used sparingly on others.


Pavan was well aware of his father’s unwillingness to be open, as well as his seeming indifference to everyone in his life. The old man had always been an absent parent to him, and despite the fact that they shared a house, they never had a moment to call it theirs.

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