‘Serendipity’ – Featured in ‘Love Across Borders’

‘Love Across Borders’ is an anthology of short stories about human relationships across the border, conceived and published by Indireads as a literary and civic initiative. My short story, ‘Serendipity’, is one of the stories included in this anthology. The e-book can be downloaded for free.

Given below is a blog post written by me, as featured on the Indireads website – a brief synopsis of the story and the inspiration behind it.

When Indireads asked me if I was interested in writing a short story for an anthology that focused on the India-Pakistan theme, I was more than happy to jump on board. I tried my hand at two or three different plots, but it was a romance that finally turned out to be the best fit.

Neha, an Indian, and Riyaz, a Pakistani, meet at Changi Airport in Singapore, while they are en route to Mumbai. Sparks fly (the good kind), and Riyaz insists they should forge ahead, but Neha is troubled by the rift that divides their countries. Later, Neha decides that matters of the heart cannot be impeded by lines on a map and tells Riyaz that she wants to meet him. However, their hopes of a happy reunion are thwarted when the Taj, where Riyaz is staying, is bombed in a terrorist attack. Whether their romance is burnt to cinders, or if they meet again is the crux of the plot.

The idea of getting the characters to meet at the airport of a country foreign to both appealed because Indians and Pakistanis are often a lot friendlier when they meet on grounds away from both homes. I wanted to stress the notion of how, when you strip away the burden of social restrictions, bonds can be forged a lot more easily. I wove in the Taj Hotel bombing (2008) to show that such attacks claim the lives of people—no matter which country’s passport they hold. Above all, I wanted to write a story that touched on differences, but in a way that sought to highlight that they are largely in our minds.

– Read more about the anthology on the Love Across Borders website. To read my short story, and others in the anthology, download your free copy.

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‘Beautiful’: Winner of Indireads Short Story Contest, 2013

My short story, Beautiful, was picked as a winner in the ‘romance’ category in the Indireads Short Story Contest 2013. The story is centered on the memory of a teenage boy’s first love, and the recollection of it several years later. An extract is given below – you can read the full story at this link.

“You are sitting across the table, smiling at me. The candle placed between us, and the overhead chandelier cast a beautiful glow over your kohl-lined eyes. Or maybe it is your happiness that lends that sparkle to your eyes. Your lips are full and pink—beautifully contoured, and sparkling with lip gloss.

You love me. Do I love you? But you never asked. You just lowered your eyes and asked if I have ever loved anyone. I smile back at you. You always did have a way with words.

I would see her every morning, sitting on her haunches, stooped over to draw a kolam—a traditional pattern made with rice flour and nimble fingers. She would begin with a dot, a line, a curve. Within minutes, an intricate pattern would evolve.

The entry to her house was opposite mine. I was staying with my grandparents for the summer. My father needed to travel for work, and my mother claimed she was going along to ‘take care of him’. At 13, I knew it was not the full truth. But at 13, I didn’t know it was their last chance at making the marriage work.

I loved my grandparents’ house—it was small and functional, with a garden that my grandmother tended to religiously. There were a couple of trees and some flowering plants that grew in a neat line along the wall. At one end was the gate where I would stand each morning, a cup of coffee in hand, waiting for her. I was tall for my age, so I could easily peer over the top of the gate. When she emerged from the house, I would pretend to be lost in thought, and therefore, not notice her smile. 

For the next ten minutes or so, I would stand at the gate, watching her embellish the design with little details—a flower here, a dome there—until it all came together in an artistic piece. When she finished, she would look up and smile again. This time, I would smile back. She would pick up her bowl of left-over flour and head back into the house. I would drain the dregs of my coffee and head back into the house. We never spoke.

(The story continues – read the rest of the story here)