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Beneath the Drizzle: Rainy Day Reflections
The rain brought much-needed relief from the relentless heat. For the past week, temperatures had been breaking records, but thankfully, the afternoon showers had finally cooled things down. I stood at the entrance of the hotel, where I had just wrapped up a very productive meeting about an exciting new project we were about to start. Now, as I watched the drizzle form tiny rivers in front of the road in the hotel, I once again checked the Uber App on my phone. The App indicated my ride was approaching, showing a picture of a man named Rajesh as my driver. When the car pulled up, I was surprised to see a woman behind the wheel.She rolled down the window and smiled warmly. "My husband is not well, so I am driving today. Please don't mind," she explained."Not at all," I replied, returning her smile as I climbed into the back seat. "Hope he feels better soon.""Thank you," she said, adjusting the rear-view mirror. "My name is Anjali, by the way."As we drove through the rain-slicked streets, I noticed how confidently Anjali maneuvered through the heavy traffic. "Do you drive for Uber often?" I asked, curious."Not really," she admitted, her eyes focused on the road. "I mostly stay at home. I have small home bakery, where I make things based on orders. But today, with my husband unwell, I decided to step in.""That's impressive," I said, genuinely admiring her determination. "It must be tough managing both the bakery and this." Anjali laughed softly. "It's challenging, yes, but you do what you have to for family, right?"We drove in silence for a few minutes, the rhythmic sound of the windshield wipers filling the car. I watched the city pass by, thinking about how everyone's life has its unique struggles."Do you enjoy baking?" I asked, breaking the silence."Oh, I love it," Anjali said, her face lighting up. "Baking is my passion. There's something magical about creating something delicious from simple ingredients. And the joy it brings to people…it's priceless."Her enthusiasm was contagious and I found myself smiling. "What's your specialty?""Cakes," she replied instantly. "Especially birthday cakes. Each one is like a blank canvas and I get to create something beautiful and unique for each customer.""That sounds wonderful," I said. "It's amazing how you're managing both your bakery and driving today. It must be really hard."Anjali shrugged modestly. "We all have our battles. My husband and I have faced many struggles in our life, but we've always kept fighting. We dream of a time when our hardships will end and we have never lost hope."She paused, glancing at me in the rear-view mirror. "My husband helped me set up the home bakery, but it's more than just a business to us—it's a testament to our perseverance and love. Every cake I bake and every customer I serve brings us one step closer to realizing our dreams. Even on days like today, when things don't go as planned, we remind ourselves that each challenge is just another ingredient in the recipe for our success." The car came to a halt, the sound of the engine idling punctuated by the steady rhythm of raindrops. In front of us, a line of cars stood motionless, stranded on the waterlogged roads.“This is the problem here,” Anjali sighed. “A few minutes of rain and all the roads are jammed.”Caught in the traffic jam, I found my curiosity piqued. “Tell me about your earlier life,” I asked gently, sensing she might be in the mood to share.Anjali glanced back at me and began her story. She and Rajesh grew up in the same village, their love blossoming amidst the rustic backdrop of rural life. But their path was never smooth.“Life was hard growing up,” she started, her voice tinged with old pain. “My father was a drunkard who beat my mother almost every night. My elder brother had eloped with the neighbour’s wife, leaving our family shunned and pitied by the villagers.”Rajesh’s love for Anjali was unwavering, but his family’s refusal to accept her was equally strong, largely due to her father’s reputation. The situation reached a tragic climax, when one night her father’s violent rage resulted in her mother’s death. He was arrested, and in the midst of the chaos, Rajesh brought Anjali to his home, defying his family's wishes.“When his family refused to accept me, we decided to leave the village and start fresh in the city,” she continued. “Rajesh already worked as a driver, so he found a similar job here. But it was the beginning of another struggle, one that continues to this day.”Anjali's voice held a quiet strength as she spoke, her words weaving a tale of perseverance and love against all odds. Despite the relentless challenges, they had managed to carve out a life together, building their dreams one step at a time. The rain continued to fall, but inside the car, a sense of warmth and hope seemed to grow, a testament to the indomitable spirit of Anjali and Rajesh.Eventually, we reached my destination. As I gathered my things, I turned to Anjali. "Thank you for sharing your story with me. It's truly inspiring. I hope your husband feels better soon, and I wish you both all the best with your life journey.""Thank you," Anjali replied, her smile warm and genuine. "It was nice talking to you. Have a great day!"I stepped out of the car, feeling a renewed sense of positivity. Anjali's story was a reminder of the resilience and strength people possess. Despite the struggles and challenges, there is always room for triumph and joy.As I walked towards my building, the rain started to ease and a sliver of sunlight peeked through the clouds. It felt like a sign—a promise of better days ahead, no matter how tough things might seem.
18 May '24
5 min read
Stories
Beneath the Drizzle: Rainy Day Reflections
The Ultimate Guide to Content Writing: Tips, Strategies, and Best Practices
Content writing is a critical aspect of digital marketing, playing a pivotal role in attracting and engaging your target audience. Whether you are a seasoned writer or just starting, mastering the art of content writing can significantly boost your online presence. This guide will walk you through essential tips, strategies, and best practices for creating high-quality, SEO-friendly content.What is Content Writing?Content writing involves crafting compelling and informative articles, blog posts, web pages, and other written materials for digital consumption. The primary goal is to inform, engage, and convert readers into loyal customers. Good content writing combines creativity with strategic planning to deliver valuable information in an engaging manner.The Importance of SEO in Content WritingSEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the practice of enhancing your content to rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). High-quality, SEO-optimized content increases your visibility, drives more organic traffic to your website, and ultimately leads to higher conversion rates. Effective SEO strategies include keyword research, on-page optimization, and creating high-quality backlinks.Key Elements of Effective Content Writing1. Audience Understanding - Know your target audience. Understand their needs, preferences, and pain points to tailor your content accordingly.2. Keyword Research - Use tools like Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, or SEMrush to identify relevant keywords that your audience is searching for. Incorporate these keywords naturally into your content.3. Compelling Headlines - Craft attention-grabbing headlines that accurately represent the content and include primary keywords.4. Engaging Introductions - Start with a hook that captures the reader’s interest and clearly states what they will learn or gain from reading your content.5. Structured Content - Use subheadings, bullet points, and short paragraphs to make your content easily scannable. This improves readability and keeps readers engaged.6. Original and Valuable Content - Provide unique insights, actionable tips, and valuable information that your audience cannot find elsewhere. Avoid plagiarism at all costs.7. Clear Call-to-Action (CTA) - Encourage readers to take the next step, whether it’s subscribing to a newsletter, downloading a guide, or making a purchase.Best Practices for SEO Content Writing1. Optimize Meta Descriptions and Titles - Write concise and compelling meta descriptions and titles that include your primary keywords. This helps improve click-through rates (CTR).2. Use Internal and External Links - Link to other relevant pages on your website (internal links) and reputable external sources. This enhances your content’s credibility and SEO performance.3. Optimize Images and Multimedia - Use relevant images, videos, and infographics to break up text and make your content more engaging. Optimize these elements with descriptive alt text.4. Maintain Readability - Use simple language and avoid jargon. Tools like Hemingway Editor can help ensure your content is easy to read.5. Regularly Update Content - Keep your content fresh and relevant by regularly updating it with new information, especially in fast-changing industries.Strategies for Effective Content PromotionCreating great content is only half the battle; promoting it effectively is equally important. Here are some strategies to help you get your content in front of a larger audience:1. Social Media Marketing - Share your content on various social media platforms to reach a broader audience and drive traffic back to your website.2. Email Marketing - Use email newsletters to distribute your content directly to your subscribers, providing them with valuable information and keeping them engaged.3. Guest Blogging - Write guest posts for reputable blogs in your industry. This helps you reach a new audience and build backlinks to your site.4. Collaborations and Influencer Marketing - Partner with influencers or other businesses to co-create and promote content. This can significantly expand your reach.5. SEO Optimization - Continuously optimize your content based on performance metrics and SEO best practices to improve its visibility and ranking over time.ConclusionMastering content writing is essential for building a strong online presence and engaging your audience. By combining creative writing skills with strategic SEO practices, you can create content that not only ranks well on search engines but also resonates with your readers. Implement the tips and strategies outlined in this guide to enhance your content writing efforts and achieve your digital marketing goals.For more insights and updates on content writing and SEO strategies, stay tuned to our blog. Happy writing!
19 May '24
4 min read
Education
The Ultimate Guide to Content Writing: Tips, Strategies, and Best Practices
Good luck
Romola was sitting in the lobby of ‘Hilton’ along with her team waiting for the chairman of T&T. It was a big day of her career as she was about to sign her company’s biggest and most prestigious deal with him. Dressed in a crisp business suit, she was running through all the papers calmly. Satisfied with her presentation and paperwork, she closed her eyes and rested her head on the back of the plush sofa. As usual, her heart was wretched and gloomy. She felt listless and empty.“Good Morning, Ms. Ramola. I apologise to keep you waiting,” said the chairman. Ramola immediately came out of her thoughts and shook his hand, trying to be cheerful, and replied, “Not at all, sir; in fact, you are just on schedule and we were a bit early.”The meeting started and was a hit as expected. The chairman signed the contract and said, “You are brilliant, madam. I am looking forward to working with you and your team.” The overjoyed team congratulated Ramola for her outstanding presentation and leadership. She agreed to see them all later in the day since she was too exhausted and then turned to go to her room.While she was casually crossing the lobby when suddenly she saw a familiar face in the corridor. “Sonia...” her voice seemed to be stuck in her throat. Sonia turned and froze seeing her. Sonia’s eyes were equally lifeless and blank, or maybe Ramola was simply assuming that. After an awkward silence of a few seconds, Sonia croaked, “It’s good to see you again, Ramola, after, well, 10 years!” ‘It’s been ten years. Why does it still hurt like there is a new scar in my heart ten long years after that terrible night?’ thought Ramola. “Good to see you too, Sonia. After college, you absolutely disappeared,” Ramola blurted and became embarrassed of her own comment. Both of them then walked toward the reception while Ramola kept avoiding the piercing gaze of Sonia’s eyes.“Coffee?” asked Sonia, to which Ramola nodded. The two college best friends who were meeting after ten years like strangers, finally decided to sit in the hotel lounge for a coffee. Sonia held Ramola’s hands, looked into her eyes, and asked smoothly, “How are you?” The familiar warmth and tenderness broke Ramola and she replied, “I can’t tolerate it, Sonia. I can’t... it is killing me.” Hearing this, Sonia sighed and, with teary eyes, replied, “You are not the only one in pain, I feel the same. We did it together, why are you blaming yourself alone? You left and I couldn’t even muster the courage to talk to you again. That night changed our lives forever. I clearly remember those lovely college days before that incident...”TEN YEARS AGO….Ramola and Sonia were in the last year of their master’s degree course from an ‘A-listed’ business school. With pensive eyes, they both would always talk about their future and making big in the corporate world. They both were ambitious, intelligent, smart, and focused young women, sure of their abilities. Ramola was the malicious one whereas Sonia was the calm and composed one, yet they were inseparable. Their friendship included some healthy rivalry, whether it be in their academic work, some submissions, or even in their boyfriends—of which Ramola had many.Sonia smiled thinking about the day when Ramola entered the room cold sighed and wide-eyed, “Oh, he kissed me today, Sonia! I am so delighted!” Sonia rolled her eyes and ridiculed, “I hope this one stays. You and your long list of boyfriends which keeps changing,” saying that she sighed. The two friends giggled together at her comment. Sonia knew Ramola, she was impulsive and barmy. She would never take anything seriously and used to think that she could get away with everything. She was the biggest prankster. Sonia never liked this aspect of her personality. She tried explaining this to Ramola but as it’s said ‘You can only lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.’ Ramola never paid any heed to Sonia’s advice. Ramola was brilliant, without a question, but her mind was also wickedly sharp.One day they had to work on a lengthy assignment. The hostel was quiet as everyone was working on it. Sonia didn’t sleep for the whole night and finished her work, however, Ramola was nowhere to be seen. The next dayRamola entered the class with a swollen face and bandaged hand. She convinced the teacher that she fell off the bike and couldn’t finish the work. Sonia was quite concerned for her but when they returned, she removed the bandage and shrieked with joy, “I fooled the teacher yay! It is absolutely nothing, I partied yesterday since I wasn't in the mood to work on that assignment. Now that I have a week's extension, I will finish it slowly.” Sonia was shocked and said, “How could you be so stupid, Ramola? What if he suspected something? It would have ruined your final grade. You are so bright that you could have finished it in a jiffy, why did you...” “Nothing happened, so relax! Stop talking like my mom,” shouted Ramola, cutting Sonia in between. Sometimes she would go to a restaurant, find some faults in the order, and get a free meal. She used to call all of this fun which Sonia never approved of but somehow Ramola would never listen to her.Sonia and Ramola never dreamed they would have to pay such a high price one day for all these little pranks and antics. There was a shy girl in their class named ‘Rashi’. She was from a small town and was too naive. She was in awe of Ramola and Sonia. She admired them and used to love hanging out with them. On the other hand, Ramola enjoyed teasing her and played plenty of pranks on her. She would take all that leg pulling in her stride and always kept smiling.As they entered their last week of classes, students were relaxed, partying, and awaiting their informal results before returning home. All of them were excited about the beginning of their new professional lives. Some of them already had appointment letters in their hands and some were applying. One such day, Ramola brought a packet into the hostel. She called Sonia and Rashi into her room and with a twinkle in her eyes mentioned, “Girls, do you know anything about Ouija board?” Sonia was exasperated and almost lisped, “Yes, I know but I don’t believe in such things.” However, Rashi expressed her ignorance of this and showed her curiosity. Ramola announced in a deep voice, “It’s a magic board, by using it we can call spirits and control them. They will answer us whatever we ask them.” With a little nervousness, Rashi pleaded, “Please! Don’t say anything, there are no ghosts in real life. They exist in stories only...” Ramola blabbered, “They do exist and today you are going to witness something amazing. Do you know why it is called Ouija? Ouija means ‘good luck’ in ancient Egyptian. It is said that when the board was used for the first time, it gave the name Ouija to itself.” Rashi looked impressed and enlightened by Ramola’s wisdom. She was giving Ramola spellbound stares, which she found to be quite endearing.“So girls, tonight we are going to play Ouija,” declared Ramola. “I am scared,” said Rashi. Ramola hugged her and said, “Don’t worry when the great Ramola is with you.” The three friends went to mess for dinner. Later in the evening, Sonia asked Ramola, “Are you serious? Do you really know how to do it and what to do?” Ramola giggled. “I know nothing, I just want to pull a prank on Rashi. I’m going to scare her to death today, so just have fun.” Sonia panicked and pleaded, “Please! Everything is not for fun, Ramola. I don’t want to be a part of this stupid prank. Why do you have to scare poor Rashi?” “Ok... ok... If she appears terrified, I’ll stop right away, and we’ll inform her that it’s a joke. I won’t go too far with it. Just a bit, please. College is coming to an end. When will this time come again? One final prank, please,” requested Ramola. Sonia gave in and decided to play along.At night they sat around the Ouija board holding hands. There were candles in the room and Ramola smartly fixed the magnets on the board. “Any holy spirit passing by, please come here... any holy spirit passing by, please come here...,” they started chanting. After a few minutes, the board started shaking. Ramola gasped, “Are u here?” The coin moved and ‘yes’ appeared on the board. Rashi was pale. She tried to pull her hands away. But Ramola and Sonia held them tightly. “Are we gonna pass our exams?” questioned Sonia. The coin rolled and reached ‘yes’. Rashi was scared and started shouting, “Stop... stop, please stop.” Sonia looked at Ramola and she summoned, “Ok, you can leave, we want to stop it here.” ‘No’ appeared on the board. “Please leave, we are so sorry to call you,” cried, Rashi. Suddenly, Ramola started speaking in a strange voice as if she was possessed. She stared at Rashi and started howling in a coarse and harsh voice, “I love you, Rashi. I won’t leave. I will be with you now and forever. You will be only mine, Rashi. I love you, Rashi... ha ha ha... come here, I want you. Come to me, you are my lost love.” “Stop, Ramola, please... you said you will...,” screeched Sonia. “Who is Ramola? She is not here, it’s me and I love Rashi. I will marry you, Rashi, come here,” Ramola’s turned her face away from Sonia and her sinister voice was echoing in the room. Sonia turned toward Ramola trying to stop her and, in the meantime, Rashi rushed out hysterically, followed by Ramola. Sonia roared with all her might, “Rashi, wait it’s a prank, wait...”, but before hearing anything, Rashi sprinted. There was some water on the terrace due to rain and she slipped and fell off the fifth floor trying to save herself from devilish Ramola. The girls heard a ‘thud’ which was followed by a deep silence. Sonia and Ramola stood there stunned and frozen. Everything after that was like a haze for both of them.An ambulance was called and she was declared dead upon reaching the hospital. Police came and suspected nothing but an unfortunate accident. No one doubted them. The case was closed soon. Rashi’s parents came and met Ramola and Sonia too. Both the girls were crying terribly, which was assumed grief as they were good friends, and no one could figure that it was actually guilt.Sonia and Ramola went back home scarred for life. PRESENT DAY …“I see Rashi even today. I dream of her asking why I did this to her. I will die of this guilt,” sobbed Ramola. Sonia whimpered, “Two years back, I went to see her parents in my last attempt to find some solace and forgiveness. They are no more. They lost themselves and their sanity when they lost their only daughter. We killed not only Rashi but a whole family. We have to live with this pain now. I think this is our punishment. We will never be able to lead a normal life. This pain, this suffering, this guilt is a part of our life now.” Ramola shrieked, “Yes, there is no forgiveness for us, as we never dared to admit it. It is our sentence, our imprisonment.” Wiping her tears, Sonia got up looking at her watch. Ramola looked at her and whispered, “Can I have your number? Can we be in touch again?” “No, I am sorry, this is also a part of our suffering.” Before Ramola could say anything, Sonia went out of the lounge and she kept staring at her back with blank and teary eyes.
18 May '24
10 min read
Stories
Good luck
Raj Vs Loot
I have a genuine objection to anyone putting the word ‘Raj’ or ‘rule’ after brits or mugal. My objection stems from the fact that such a person is clueless- he/she either, has no idea what the word ‘Raj’ means or is blissfully ignorant of what brits or mugal did to Bharat. (Though I won't blame them, as they have been deprived of the truth.)The education system introduced by british is so biased and untruthful, that its a crime to call it ‘education’ at all. It can at best, be called ‘Propaganda-system’. Sad part is, it continues till date, completely unchecked. And even after so many years of ‘independence’, we have neither a plan to change it nor we have a way to identify and punish ‘the intellectuals’ who kept us in dark, for the last 7-8 decades.But I am tempted to course-correct such Sanatanis who have become completely cut-off from their roots and also, have been fed lies in the name of ‘history’, all their life.What does Raj mean? In Bharatiya context, Raj means to rule justly. A Raja was supposed to be like a father or a mother figure for his Praja (subjects). He thus was entrusted with all the responsibilities a parent has toward his ward. He was bound by Dharm, to treat his Praja as his children.It is the foremost duty of a parent to protect and to provide for their child. In a way, a parent prepares the ground for their child to grow uninhibited. This includes protecting a child from external threats, maintaining peace and order within the household, giving the child all that is necessary for him to achieve his full potential, so he grows to become a healthy, well-intentioned, skilled and wise individual.On similar lines, a King or Raja was to protect his subjects from external threats, to maintain internal peace and order and to give all that is necessary to make his subjects self-reliant. These Kings were highly commited people, who kept the interests of their subjects above their own.In Ramayana, Ram ji and Sita ji go to seek blessings of their Guru and under his guidance, observe fast the night before Ram ji is to be announced as heir-apparent. All through their lives, both Ram and Sita were super aware of their public image. They did not want to give even a slightest chance to anyone, to question their integrity. In Mahabharata also, there is a particular stress by Yudhishthir and the rest of Pandava brothers, to keep their image and conduct, above reproach. This is not to be confused with ordinary people bothering about “log kya kahenge?!” The issue here was to be a King or a Queen, who is genuinely respected by the masses such that his/her word will prevail. What does this suggest? It suggests that Kingship was regarded as a sacred and grave responsibility.These Kings were remarkable. They were great statesmen, diplomats and nation-builders. They knew their job was not just to protect their borders. Their job was to promote scientific enquiry, all forms of arts, and culture etc. High premium was placed on brains over brawns- “Svadeshe pujyate Raja, Vidvaan sarvatra pujyate.”- this shloka speaks volumes about the mindset of our ancestors. They knew the value of right thinkers and right thought, as right thought will translate into right reality for the subjects, some day. And I am not talking in abstract. There are countless accounts of foreign travelers to Bharat, where they have mentioned in detail, about beauty and opulence of Bharat. With well-planned cities, broad roads, mammoth temples, stunning palaces, majestic forts, palatial houses, granaries, exceptional irrigation and sewage systems, state-of-the-art Gurukuls, well-stocked and spectacular libraries, Bharat was a go-to place for seekers of knowledge and traders alike. What this speaks of, is the might and vision of our Kings of yore. (For all those who dismiss this as some conspiracy theory, I have only one question. Do you really believe that mugal or brits came here to civilize us? Can any people undertake such an exercise? Can they have so much human and financial resources at their disposal, to send it to some faraway land to ‘civilize’ the natives there? No. They came here because they heard accounts of a glorious and opulent land called Bharat. But it was our misfortune that we failed to fathom their true intentions and opened our doors quite unsuspectingly and generously.)Contrast this with brits and mugal. These were the invaders who came and like a parasite, looted Bharat through and through. Under their tyranny, there was no question of protecting and upholding the dignity of the Bhartiya people. Our people were in fact treated as sub-humans. During mugal period, among other things, dignity and honour of Hindu women and children was at stake. The so called shehenshah, akbar is said to have hosted mandis, were cultured and beautiful Hindu women were sold for a few rupees. It was in this period that the human trafficking, hetherto unheard of in Bharat, had become rampant. And as if this humiliation was not enough, it became criminal for Hindus to profess their religion in their own lands! Some morons argue that during mugal ‘raj’, Bharat continued to contribute to 1/3rd of world trade. That means nothing as the money would go to maintain the harems of these rascals. There are actual accounts of once glorious Bhartiya cities reduced to slums with only the sultan's palace-when he was alive and his makbara-when he had kicked the bucket, looked resplendent in the entire landscape. Is this Raj? If mugal crossed all boundaries of humanity, civility and decency, brits did not trail far behind. From stealing wealth of knowledge contained in Sanskrit manuscripts, shamelessly translating it to latin and then ridiculing the very language, looting the resources of Bharat, dumping their sub-standard goods on impoverished masses of Bharat, brutally silencing any voice that spoke of Swarajya, sowing the seeds of division among Hindus by creating imaginary oppressed caste-list, openly claiming superiority of their own faith over others, proselytising arrogantly by ‘harvesting’ the souls of poor and emaciated Hindus in lieu of a few grains of rice, stripping and raping Bhartiya women, selling them as slaves to various colonies, orchestrating artificial famines by directing the resources of this land to fund their stupid wars, promoting voices of sold-out brown sahibs, leaving these very stooges to ‘rule’ Bharat after 'independence’, dividing Bharat mercilessly and there-by allowing brutal massacre of Hindus and horrific rapes of their women to ensuring Bharat never again becomes a super power, these looters did it all. Is this Raj?Don't go by what the west or bollywood wants you to believe. Raj or satta is never to exploit the masses. Rather, It is meant to protect them and give them everything that will help them grow. True progress is possible only when there is peace and contentment, which comes from absence of fear. The fear and insecurity that gripped Bharat since the invaders came, is what aborted and distorted our progress as THE greatest and oldest living civilisation. Never forget.Now the question remains- Can we really call those who exploited our ancestors and gave them untold torture, as ‘Raja’ and their period of loot as ‘Raj’? Would it not be a colossal wrong on our part, on two counts- firstly a huge disrespect to our own great Kings and secondly, giving a clean-chit to the deranged invaders who were nothing but looters and rapists?
16 May '24
7 min read
History
Raj Vs Loot
Scarlet and the Wolf
"Finally! Took you long enough" grandma huffed. “Seriously,Scarlet, someone your age should be able to gather some berries in less than an entire hour.”"Sorry, grandma",I mumbled, looking down. “I had to walk a bit to find the white-spotted berries-”“And there you go again with the excuses. You talk too much, honestly. Go make yourself useful and get the washing done.”"Yes,grandma".While washing I kept thinking about what grandma said. Am I really that slow? That useless? I shook the thoughts away. My mama,when she was alive, always told me I was smart. She loved me. Thinking of her always brought a smile to my face,but when I think of living with Grandma my whole life.........I suppressed a shiver. Grandma was my father's mother; and I have never known my father. Was he like this too? Fussy, bitter and always angry? I found that hard to believe. My mama would never have married such a man. When she was alive,we lived in a nice cottage at the edge of the woods, and we always went into the forest together to pick fruits and herbs. But after her death, I have to live with Grandma in the clearing deep inside the forest. With a sigh,I gathered up the washed clothes in a basket and went to hang them up.“Scarlet! Scarlet! What has the girl got up to now? Scarlet!”"I'm here,grandma", I panted, having run over from where I was setting the table for dinner.“Took your time coming over,huh? Well now,go and get me some blue peaches for my dinner.”“Now? But I've prepared dinner, I've made-”“I don't want to eat any of that. Get me some blue peaches,and go now!”“But grandma, it's night! How can I go into the forest in the dark? The moon's not up tonight.”“Well,take a lantern.Are you hoping I'd change my mind if you keep giving excuses,Scarlet? Show a little more gratitude for all I do for you and go get the peaches.”So I left the house on that dark night to get peaches for my grandmother,only a candle in my hand. I took my mother's old red hood from my bedroom and wrapped it around myself. I tried to imagine my mother was there with me,guiding me through the dark forest. I knew the peach tree was only a short distance away from my grandmother's house,but I seemed to be walking forever. At last, I felt like I couldn't do it any longer,and I stopped. I knew I shouldn't,but I just couldn't keep going anymore. I saw a big tree near where I was,and I went to lean against it. Immediately,a bright light flooded the place. I gasped and tried to shield my eyes from the glare. When they adjusted,I saw a huge shape looming over me. I couldn't make out its shape at first.....but once I did,I almost screamed. But I couldn't find my voice. It was a huge wolf,with grey and white fur intermingled on its body, and orange eyes like molten lava. It stood staring at me,not blinking,for what felt like forever, but probably only was a couple of minutes. Finally,it moved back a bit,and growled, “Who are you? Why did you invade my territory?”"I-I-I am S-Scarlett,my lord. And I came here to.....for my grandma....she..." I tried to tell my story properly and explain myself,but I could barely keep my head straight. I was terrified, and all I could manage was stammering out words. The wolf had heard enough, however.“Your grandma! You invaded my territory because of your grandmother?”"No! I mean,kind of,yes,but it's complicated,I mean,I didn't mean to come here,I was just looking for peaches and I think I got lost...." I was full on rambling now,and I was unsure the wolf was even paying attention to my words. But after a while it looked thoughtful,and nodded. “So you didn't mean to come in here? Hmm I see. Well then,I would give you one chance to get out of my lair.”"You-you would? Thank you,O great wo-" The wolf glared at me. I turned and started running.I ran and ran till I couldn't anymore. I didn't know where I was,and I had lost the candle at some point. But I didn't care about any of that. I still had my mother's hood,and blindly I tried to feel my way to grandma's house. I was already tired from having walked all the way into the woods,and the encounter with the wolf had left me badly shaken. Still,I persisted. Finally,finally,I saw a small ray of light in the darkness. I dared to hope that I was close to my destination,that the light was kept on by grandma, waiting for her beloved blue peaches. I pushed myself to keep going, just a little further. Several minutes later,I collapsed just inside the doorway of the house.I heard a woman's voice nearby. "Ah,Scarlett! What happened,child? Why are you in such a state?" I froze. It was my grandma's voice,but.....it wasn't. My grandma never talks so kindly. She would never ask after my wellbeing first,if she asked at all. I expected her to have thrown a tantrum about blue peaches by now. Instead,she was concerned about me. That wasn't.......it wasn't the way things were done in our household. I looked up at her face,and she looked like grandma,but her face was much more kind,and she didn't look angry or on the verge of yelling,which had virtually never happened before. I shakily rose to my feet. Best to go with the flow, and apologize before she could start yelling at me. "I'm sorry grandma,I couldn't find the blue peaches you wanted. I got lost,and there was this big wolf-" She looked confused for a moment,as if she didn't know what I was talking about,but then her face cleared. "Ah,yes,the peaches. Well,never mind the peaches now,dear,you need to rest. Come, sit on this chair." Dear? Who was this woman and what has she done with my grandma? I was too tired to think more about it, however. I gladly accepted her hand and sat down. She brought me some food (the miracles never cease) and helped me to my room when I was finished.When I woke up the next morning,I felt like something was off for a moment. Then I realised that I'd been woken by the sunshine creeping into my room, and not by grandma's voice yelling at me. I slowly remembered the events of last night. Remembering the wolf had me shaking,but I was also weary of this sudden change in grandmother's behaviour. Why was she being so nice all of a sudden? I remembered mentioning grandma to the big wolf last night. Did the wolf do some sort of magic on her? That didn't make much sense. Even if it did any magic,why would it make grandma nice? Wouldn't it want to kill...............A sudden thought occurred to me. No, surely that can't be? I shook my head as if to shake off the thought and got up to do my chores for the day. More surprises awaited for me, however. I soon found that the washing and dishes from last night had been done,and grandma had also started cooking. When she saw me,she smiled. “Good morning,Scarlett,honey. How are you after yesterday?”“I-I'm well,thanks, grandma. Have you finished all the chores already?”“Ahh,yes,yes I did. I was up early,you see,so I thought I might as well. But you can come help me cook now! I'm cooking stew!”"Stew?" I went over to the stove. Sure enough, big pieces of meat were floating around in the soup. Off to one corner,I saw some more meat, enough to feed us both for 4 days at least. "But,grandma," I looked at her, “where did you find all this meat?”This time, I was sure she looked startled by the question,but she composed herself quickly. "Ah,I bought it yesterday,of course. I was saving it for today! Isn't this a nice surprise?" "Oh,yes,of course," I mumbled uneasily,now certain that something was wrong. My grandma has never bothered with housework from the time I was nine or ten. She taught me how to do everything and then left all the work to me. The most she contributed was yelling for me at intervals to finish this chore or that. This woman standing near me was not my grandma. At that moment, I was terrified, because I had a very good idea about who it was instead. And that meat in the stew........could it be.......could it be grandma? The very thought was enough to make me nauseous. But I couldn't decide what to do. Confront her-it? That could go very, very bad for me. So I decided to stay silent for now,and pretend to be as calm as possible. “Grandma,can I go exploring in the woods then? I can bring some fruit for us.”“Oh,sure,dear. But don't go too far,and be back soon.”As I walked through the forest, I thought about why the wolf would come into our house and pretend to be grandma. And how? Is it some kind of sorcery,or illusion? I was almost certain that it was the wolf,and also that the meat for the stew was.....I couldn't think of that without wanting to vomit....my grandmother's body. How,then,does the wolf had the same body? I could understand why it would want to kill grandma,but why stick around, pretending to be her......? Suddenly,I stopped in my track as a sudden thought came into my mind. A chill seemed to seep into my marrow as I realised the wolf's next target could be....well,me. But then I frowned, because it seemed unnecessarily complicated. The wolf could have killed me easily last night. It could have killed me at any point when I was sleeping and even this morning. I considered my options. Confronting the wolf could be dangerous, but merely living with the wolf was dangerous enough. Can I run away? But I had nowhere to go,my grandmother was my only living relative. After much thought and roaming around,I noticed noon approaching,and hurried home,still indecisive. But once I saw "grandma" eating the stew in our dining table,my resolve hardened. Maybe it was foolish,but confronting the wolf was much better than waiting for it to kill me. I slowly walked inside and sat down on a chair. "Dear Scarlet, you're back! I was starting to worry! Here,have some food." She/it said, passing me some stew.I looked at her/it dead on,and said flatly, "I'd rather not eat my grandma. I know you killed her, and I know you're the wolf I met last night." Silence. The wolf stared at me,and it was beyond bizarre to see that calculating gaze in grandma's face,but I reminded myself that this isn't grandma. That grandma is dead.Finally,the wolf spoke. “You're clever. Yes,indeed, I am not your grandma. And yes I did kill her. That is the punishment for trespassing in my lair.”“Then I suppose you're going to kill me now,too?”The wolf looked surprised. “You? No. Why would I kill you?”It was my turn to be surprised. “What do you mean? I-I entered your lair! You just told me the punishment for that-”“Ah,but you were acting on your grandmother's instructions. You are but a child, it was your grandmother who was the real culprit. I realised soon that you were not to blame.”"So-what, you're just going to let me go?" I said in disbelief. “Then why are you even here, pretending to be grandma?”"Ah," the wolf sighs. “I stayed in your house to protect you, I suppose. I knew it must be hard for you,losing your grandma. I didn't want-”I laughed out loud at that. And laughed. And laughed. The wolf watched me,looking concerned. After what seemed like forever,I was finally able to form words. "It's not-" laughter threatened to overcome me again. "It's not like that. At all. I'm glad she's dead. We've known each other for about a day,but you've already treated me a lot better than she ever had. You actually treated me like a granddaughter. She-she" this time anger threatened to overwhelm me as I laid bare everything to the wolf. How my grandma treated me,how I've had to put up with her because I had nowhere else to go,how she basically treated me like a slave, how I ended up so deep in the forest just because she had a craving, and somewhere along the way I realised I was crying. The wolf was looking at me sympathetically,still wearing my grandma's face. That jars me out of my ramblings,and I finish lamely, "So yeah. I hated her, and I'm glad that she's dead." The wolf nodded. Then it said thoughtfully, “But,now that she's dead,you don't have anywhere to go,right? So what would you do?”I tilted my chin up,defiant. "I'll live here,of course. I have always done all the work, anyway. I know where to find food. I'll be fine on my own. Better than I was with her, really." The wolf hesitated for a moment, before saying, “All right. But I think you should get a dog,for protection. I have some relatives-”"That's not a bad idea. But wait," I narrowed my eyes. "Why do you care about my protection?" The wolf looked embarrassed. “I suppose I've grown somewhat fond of you. You have gone through enough already. I don't want any harm to come to you.”Unbidden,tears welled in my eyes. This wolf,whom I had thought a monster,is a nicer creature than my grandma,who,by all accounts,was human. I swallowed and managed to say, “Thank you. You said you had relatives......?”"Yes indeed. The most majestic dogs in this forest. I'll send one of them over to you in a few days." The wolf resumed his true form then,and said, “Farewell,Scarlet. Oh,and you still cannot come in my lair.”I smiled. “I'll keep that in mind.”Three days later,I was washing my clothes when I heard a sound at my door,like someone's bumping their body against it. I open the door to find a large brown dog. The dog looks at me and says,"You are Scarlet?"I stared at the dog in surprise. “You can talk??”The dog looks offended. “Yes,of course I can talk. I'm Toby.”“Um, it's very nice to meet you,Toby.”Toby moved inside my house,sniffing, “Nice house you got here.”“Thanks.”“You got any treats?”I laughed. “Yes,yes,I have treats. Come to the kitchen.”2 years have gone by after that. Me and Toby are still living in the house that belonged to my grandmother,the house that I once hated and have now come to love, because now we've made happy memories here.
18 May '24
13 min read
Fiction
Scarlet and the Wolf
DOUBLE TROUBLE
It was still dawn when I stepped out of the cab and walked towards the entry gate of the Delhi airport.The early morning February air was pleasantly cold. I was travelling to Bengaluru to attend a college friend's wedding. It had been four years since we graduated from the same college. This wedding was also going to be a reunion of our batch mates. But what I didn't know was that the reunion would begin much ahead of time, right in the queue in front of the airline check in counter. I was almost sure it was she. Same height! Same long hair! Same complexion! Curiously, I had my eyes glued to her. And then about sixty odd seconds later, when she turned, she proved me right. My ex- girlfriend stood two places ahead me in that queue. We had never met after the college farewell. Rina... that quiet girl, joined us in the second year of our post graduation. Our first year went away in fun and frolic. Little bit of studies, more of projects, assignments and internships. Who could ever forget the night parties at the girls’ hostel! It was more exciting as admission there was forbidden. Rina had migrated from abroad to continue her studies in Mumbai. It was the annual fest time, and we came closer as we were burdened with the duty of guest entertainment. The fest days used to start at seven in the morning and end by twelve at night. We were busy looking after the comfort of the guests… the stalwarts from different fields. Rina and I never got time to sleep. Sometimes, we dozed off on the chairs or the floor of the auditorium only to wake up to the shrill sound of our cell phone alarm.'I have something to say…' I looked up at the tired, pretty face.'Yes, yes… go on. You need the notes or you want me to complete your assignments..!''No… let it be.''No problem, go ahead…'Her cell phone rang.'Excuse me…' She moved away. 'Yes mamma, how are you now? I am good… yes, I am in college. I don't know if I will be able to make it this time… there's a lot of pending work… I will call you later.' She left the room, even without looking at me.'What did she want to convey, does she have the same thought which is clouding my mind these days? Oh gosh, I didn't even allow her to speak her mind out…'I was thinking about Rina a lot but couldn't gather the courage to tell her.'Did she read it in my eyes? Yes I have developed a special feeling for her, without even knowing her properly.' 'What about dinner tonight at Gangotri? It's a veg restaurant.' I stopped her at the stairs. She nodded her head in approval and smiled. I longed to take that delicate body into my arms. There is something different in her eyes… is it sorrow... despair? 'How do you know, I am a vegetarian?'We were at Gangotri, dining over kashmiri pulao and paneer butter masala. She didn't allow me to order anything more. I was relieved. The monthly expense was yet to get transferred to the bank.'Is everything alright? You look worried…' I touched her hand.'I am fine…'She was so quiet and I was the talkative one. I had a feeling she wanted to hide her tears.'You eat so little, you’ll feel hungry at night.'I wanted to serve her some more pulao. She resisted. 'I will not be able to… please.' She held my hand. A sudden shiver ran down my backbone.'Go and rest Rina, you look very tired.''So do you Ray, but I must say... the fest was fun. You might have experienced it last year too!''Yes, we were just freshers then. The fest arranged by our college is very famous but the students are so overburdened with duties that they hardly get a chance to enjoy… you wanted to say something, the other day… what was it?''Forget about it,' she smiled, waved and boarded a rickshaw. Rina was not there for the first lecture. My eyes searched for her in every nook and corner of the college, after the class. What might have happened, I was worried. My friends had started making fun of me. They sensed some kind of a special relationship between us though we had never even spoken to each other about it. I didn't share my thoughts with her, nor did I allow her to do so.'Hey, Himeli! Have you seen Rina?' Himeli was her roommate.'She left for Bengaluru by the early morning bus, Ray. Her mom is not well. Why? Didn’t she inform you last night? You were there at Gangotri…' She winked at me.I took out my cell phone to call her but hesitated.-Let her call, why couldn't she inform me before leaving Mumbai…. I was annoyed and worried at the same time. Why is she so quiet? I don't know anything about her nor does she. She wanted to convey something… I wanted to kick my ass. I was so stupid. Nearly fifteen days had passed. I had lost all interest in college. I dragged myself to the class and to my surprise found Rina sitting with Aditya, jotting down something hurriedly. Rina and Aditya looked up at me.'She has so much to cover, I don't know how she will manage it… the examination is knocking at the door...' Aditya sounded worried.Rina smiled faintly.'Where were you, Rina? You never informed me. I tried calling you a number of times but your phone was either switched off or out of reach. Are you alright? You don't look good.''Aunty... her mom has left her Ray…' Aditya spoke on her behalf. Both of them were from the same city, they knew each other well.'Ohh, I am so sorry.' I took a seat beside her. I grabbed her at the lunch break and dragged to the canteen. I ordered dosa, coffee and settled down at a corner table. I held her hand. She kept on staring at me. Tears started rolling down her cheeks. I went closer and wiped off the precious pearl beads.'Would you mind coming to my place today, I am all alone for the time being.''I will, I have so much to share…' She pressed my hands hard. My eager waiting ended when Rina stepped into my room in the evening. I didn't let her say anything, I didn't utter a word… just held her tight and kissed her lips. She started trembling in my arms.'I love you Rina. I wanted to tell you this for so long.''Say it again… Ray.' Rina had tears in her eyes but her lips were smiling.'I will wipe away all your grief… just be mine.''I am yours.'I was in seventh heaven. I was the luckiest person alive. We started spending all our time together… studying, shopping and dining. At last the D-day arrived… It was our college farewell. I was looking for Rina. We were to depart the very next day as our final examination and campus interviews were all over. We had to wait for the results while applying for jobs. She was nowhere to be found.Reluctantly, I came to the auditorium. Programs were on and my eyes searched the hall for the tall, fair, freckled- spectacled girl with long silky hair.An odissi dancer stepped in, the audience hooted and whistled to greet the guest appearance. I was astounded. It was Rina! Was she my very own Rina? Yes she was. I was mesmerized. I knew so little about my love.I went backstage to congratulate on her marvelous performance and found Aditya there with a floral bouquet. They were quite close. I was heartbroken. I tried to call Rina, the network was out of reach. I made up my mind and reached Rina's rented apartment to bid her goodbye. I would go back to Delhi and Rina, to her native place, Bengaluru. I found the main door unlocked, which surprised me. I peeped in. It was dark inside. An eerie silence surrounded the whole place. I walked towards Rina's bedroom and pushed open the unbolted door. After a while, when my eyes got acquainted in the darkness, I saw two figures locked in each other’s arms, ignorant of the outside world. Suddenly, the room got lit up with the passing light of a car. I stumbled on something like a bag and banged myself on the door as I tried to enter the room. The couple turned. Darkness engulfed the room once again. I dragged myself towards the main door.'Stop, Ray… wait…'I heard footsteps behind me. I hurried down to the road.'How could they do this to me... how, how could Rina be so unfaithful? Why did she come close when she already had a relationship with Adi?I felt warm liquid trickling down my cheeks… disgusting! I wiped it harshly, with hatred. After we were done with the boarding formalities, I got closer to have a better look at her.'Rina! The word gushed out of my mouth unknowingly.She turned back. Her eyes twinkled.'Oh my God, it's you Ray! Where have you vanished? I tried my best to find you… but all in vain.'The flight got delayed due to the evil foggy weather of Delhi.We stepped inside a café. She ordered coffee for both of us.'I am hungry, would you like to have something, Ray?'I didn’t want anything to eat.She had a sandwich and kept staring at me while munching it.'Going to attend Adi's marriage?' Rina smiled.'Yes, you?' I was dying to know about Adi's bride… was it Rina! But my inner instinct, my so-called male chauvinism had stopped me.'Yes, I will be there at the reception but it's my hometown too. We’ll have a nice time meeting old friends after such a long time. I had asked Adi about you… so naughty of him not givimg me a hint. Now I understand. I have to admit, it's quite a pleasant surprise for me.'I was surprised too, to find a very different Rina. That extremely quiet one had turned into a cockatoo. How could I tell her that I could never forget that innocent, freckled face? I will never forget her… she was my first love. I found myself surrounded by my college buddies at the reception hall. We talked and laughed like young children. The newly wedded couple, approaching hand in hand caught my attention. The groom wore a beaming smile while walking with the most beautiful bride by his side. -Rina!She was looking fabulous in her bridal dress. Good Lord! At least, they were faithful to each other. I was happy. But she didn't reveal it to me at the airport that she was going to get married to Adi.A sudden pat on the back forced me to turn around.A smiling, pretty face greeted me.'Rina!'I turned to look in front, Rina with Adi was smiling at me. I was puzzled.Rina started laughing her heart out.'Look at this one, he is still bewildered. Ray! Adi has married my twin sister Rini. I heard everything from Adi. You should have trusted your love and met me at least once before you left the city with lots of misunderstanding. The odissi dancer was Rini too. It was our friends' plan to surprise you… it was sad that they became the victim of their own prank.''Should we arrange for another reception here, just now?''No, no… we want it in Delhi. We want another occasion to enjoy.' The mob vetoed Himeli's proposal. Rina's eager body clung to mine. I was thrilled.
16 May '24
10 min read
Relationships
DOUBLE TROUBLE

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