Written by: Tulika Saha

The evening had been sultry and the night air was humid and oppressive, not unusual for a summer night in Mumbai. The Bhai Pratap complex, despite being an upscale project with all facilities, could not escape the weather. Nor could Chetna. She woke with a start and, after several glasses of water, she was still unable to fall asleep again. Not that her apartment lacked air conditioning. It was just that she did not use it often as it caused her limbs to ache in the morning and it was difficult to get through the subsequent day. The flat was still as she was all alone. So she walked through the large bedroom to the living room and then to the children’s bedroom. As she entered the children’s bedroom, the moving curtains reminded her of days when the room had a loving occupant. She had hardly changed things since Ashok, her adopted son had left home to work in a software company in Bangalore.

She heaved a sigh and walked back to the living room. She could not remember when she had last asked him to turn down the volume of his favourite music channel. Suddenly she could not stand the house any more. She wanted to feel the cool light of the moon that shone through her bedroom window. Chetna hesitated. Was it safe? Then she decided she had nothing to lose. So she picked up the key and walked out of her apartment. She locked the door carefully and took the lift down and walked towards the garden seat. It occurred to her that she had not really felt the night air on her skin for an awfully long time. She stared at the sky. The stars seemed distant through the thick air. The watchman called out to her. “Can’t sleep,” she replied.

“Don’t worry, I am here. You may sit as long as you like,” replied the watchman.

She observed the twinkling stars for a while. Her thoughts drifted back to when she was young. She remembered the huge quarrel she had with her father for insisting on taking up a job in the prestigious Hong Kong Bank. She moved to the quarters when she became eligible, much to her father’s chagrin. As if that were not enough, she firmly refused to consider marriage. Her mother, though a stalwart supporter of her independence, could not agree with her on this issue. But Chetna stood strongly independent. It was only after her father passed on leaving two school age children behind that her mother began to appreciate her daughter’s decision. She saw how she could commit to her career and how she rose quickly in the organisation, unhindered by the fetters that would have been fashioned by a husband and children. Once she satisfied her career ambitions she had adopted Ashok.

Her younger two siblings grew up, were married and settled down. Chetna’s mother had spent some time living in their homes too. But she always came back to Chetna.

Writing order: Suraya Dewing (NZ), Anna Zhigareva (Scot), Tulika Saha (India), Donna McT (NZ), Rosemary Wakelin (Aus), Hemali Ajmera (India), Linda Alley (Aus), Kalli Deschamps (USA), Gabrielle Burt (NZ), Jasmine Groves (Aus)


This is a beautiful piece of work by one of our Indian writers. Although Tulika writes English with a graceful flair, one can hear that faint Indian tone in the narrative, giving it a refreshing 'new' but colonial flavor. The descriptive passages are eloquent and I liked the strong Indian sense of family values that is part of their culture. All in all this is a well written preface that had me wishing Tulika was writing the whole serial as a project. I really liked this.
Ray, thanks for the compliment. Can you, just for the sake of information, point out those parts which bring out an 'Indian tone'?
So that if I want to write in some other setting.................Thanks
Oh.. by the way.... I in fact began writing it, but then decided to put it up on story mint.
Tulika, this is so beautiful. I feel for Chetna, understand her only because of the way you have portrayed her. I hope when it's my turn i do your starter justice. :)
Thank you so much Roseyn.
I love the insight into having a teenager at home captured with the sentence "She could not remember when she had last asked him to turn down the volume of his favourite music channel". That one sentence captures her sense of loss and her relationship with Ashok. We also got her back story in an evocative way with atmosphere of her almost melancholy reflections. Beautifully done.
Thank you, Suraya. It was my endeavour to cut down on the narration of past events. You are insightful as ever!