Skip to main content

I ask, you write 11

Thank you for a great variety of stories. It's truly wonderful. Time for another question and hopefully, a whole lot of answers from you.

First it was red. Then yellow. Now it's red again. Why can't Shailu make up her mind?

Good luck with the stories. Please keep them short and post them in the comment section. Thank you.


A4ISMS said…
Shailu froze as she eyed her reflection in the mirror. She smoothed down the aquamrine dress she had picked up at Splash. No, she decided, nobody can say I am on the wrong side of forties. No one had better, she added to herself, after the thousands she had spent on cosmetic surgery! Mmmm! All those nips and tucks are worth it. She pouted at her own reflection and said, Sinful, Shailu… absabloominglutely sinful of you to look so young. She blew a kiss to her reflection and picked up her handbag.
As she rummaged through it, she ‘flashed back’ twenty years. As a twenty two year old combination of brain and beauty, she had the world…( at least all the young men of the world)
At her feet. Backed by her father’s wealth, she was the Paris Hilton of her area. She had painted the town in various shades of red then! And then, she had met Gaurav Kumar and had fallen hopelessly in love with him… enough to give up all her wild ways and tie the nuptial knots with him… The two of them had been the talk of the town… invitations to their parties the most coveted achievement.
Somewhere they had both sobered down and the wild shades of red they had painted the town slowly changed to yellow…changing shades and mellowing in brightness as their kids were born and they discovered new meanings and nuances to their perceptions of life.
Now her midlife crisis tormented her. The kids had grown up and gone away… Gaurav had turned into a garlanded portrait on the wall and Shailu had been desolate… When she realized that losing oneself in self-pity was hardly going to help, she had picked up the pieces of her shattered life. The cosmetic surgery, the VLCC, the shopping sprees had all been worth it. Here she was looking like a Katherine Hepburne rather than Audrey, smart, beautiful….mature. She was ready to paint the town red once more, wasn’t she? She was going to the Disco tonight with Dr. Shetty. She knew she wouldn’t ever paint the town in those shades of red anymore…no more scarlet, no maroon… no magenta…. Maybe shades of russet or terra cotta? She wondered. Somehow, she couldn’t make up her mind.
Anonymous said…
Shailu was a beautiful, intelligent girl. Beauty and brain is a deadly combination. This attracted lot of good looking guys especially Mr.Y.
Shailu felt that Mr.Y is the man in her life till the day she saw X rated pictures of Mr.Y and another girl in his laptop when she was waiting for Mr.Y at his home to get ready for a date. Shailu immediately left the place and stopped (RED) all the communication between Mr.Y and herself. She even sent him all the gifts and even the engagement ring.

But the thought of Mr.Y lingered in her mind continuously and she couldn’t take the breakup. All the beautiful dates she had with Mr.Y flashed through her mind. She thought to herself that Mr.Y was the perfect man and every woman would definitely fall for this Tall, dark, handsome, self made man who was highly successful. She also thought that every man has a past and thought Mr.Y should have had an ex girlfriend and thought of meeting Mr.Y and demand an explanation. She wanted to surrender herself to Mr.Y (YELLOW). She still was a bit hesitant.

Her friends came to know about her breakup with Mr.Y and took her to a bar to cajole her. It was there she saw Mr.Y with another girl so intimate and making love to her.
She immediately erased all the memories of Mr.Y (RED AGAIN).

She still feels that she should go to Mr.Y and ask him to marry her. Shailu couldn’t make up her mind because she loved Mr.Y truly and her love was pure. But how can she forget Mr.Y’s infidelity.

PS: I have compared Red, Yellow to Traffic Signals

monu said…
Choices spoil one , they say...yes, they really do.They confuse you and leave you wondering as to which one would be better.

It wasn't just Shailu, most of us are like that aren't we? give us a choice, and see our eyeballs rolling in our own eyes without our knowledge....

New toothbrush, blue or red or yellow? thats all you have? No more colours? most of us would go on....

Well, but you see, shailu was a little different. All her life, and that is only 11 years of it,she never did have any choice. There was just one good dress, one decent shoe, and just one of everything, and second of the same was redundant, coming as it did of her parent's measly income.

And so that day, when she got two hand-me-down dresses from the rich girl across the street, her parents totally didn't blame her when she sat confused, as to which one to wear.....
Shirsha said…
'Bloooonk, blonk..', The school van driver honked again!
'Shailooooo, can't you hear that? What is wrong with you!? Just leave the mirror and go, plz!' Shailu's mom yelled in frustration at her teenage daughter.
But Shailu, before the mirror, couldn't care less, though she did feel guilty for delaying everybody in her van, but still, see, the thing is, they dont understand, the red jacket, it is cute, it's like a riding jacket, and fit her well and she felt nice and warm in it. But the yellow one, it was tight and allowed her to show off her tiny breasts better, and how important that would be when she was going out with Aftab this evening, after school. Oh! she remembered, she must tell her mom about the 'play auditions' after school today!
Shyam said…
13 years is that exact age when a girl is no longer considered “little” and is not yet treated as a young woman. It’s the age when a girl usually tries to be older than she is, the drawback being that her reactions to everything are still instinctively childish. It’s the age when a girl can get her first serious crush – and not necessarily on someone of the opposite gender, because that intense but undefined feeling is the outward manifestation of a longing for things as yet only vaguely imagined. And that feeling is no less intense for being directed at more than one person at the same time.

That, in a nutshell, was Shailu’s dilemma.

She was going for a barbecue party with her parents. The idea of the barbecue did not attract her so much as the knowledge that two of the people she secretly most admired would be there as well. Jason and Sirisha. Jason, a godlike 16, a top athlete, blue eyed and black haired, who had been her neighbour for the last 10 years but had suddenly turned into a Greek God in the last year. And Sirisha, who was in Shailu’s class but was so trendy, attractive and worldly-wise that Shailu would have given her right arm to be like her.

She wanted to let them know how much she thought of them, but in a subtle way that would not make her stand out like a fool. Her plan was to give them each a perfect rosebud from the garden.

She had two of them - a red one, and a yellow one. She couldn’t decide, however, which one was for whom. The red rose for Jason, and the yellow for Sirisha. No, red roses meant love and she would just die if Jason laughed at her. The red one for Sirisha, then. But would someone think she was in love with Sirisha? In love with a girl? No no, the yellow one for Sirisha… but… what did yellow roses signify?

Shailu simply couldn’t make up her mind.
At first Ramesh had found Shailu’s indecisiveness endearing. He had thought it was her way of making him feel important. That she valued his opinion. She would call him up in a breathless quandary – “Should I make rotis or stir fry for dinner?” He would hear her frantic call from the changing room at M&S – “Do you think I need extra support?” Four years of “Should we go to Mallorca or Fuerta Ventura?” and tearful “Should we call the Swami’s over for lunch next week?”

Ramesh had decided enough was enough when she landed up at work in near hysterics because the stylist had asked her how she wanted her hair cut.

“Make up your own god damn mind Shailu! You’re an adult for God’s sake!” he’d bellowed that evening.

What a mistake that had been. Now he had to eat rotis and stir fry for dinner. She bought three pairs of shoes instead of one. And invited people he couldn’t stand over for dinner.

The living room walls were the last straw. One week red. The next yellow. And then red again.

Ramesh opened the front door, hoping that she’d finally settled on a colour.

“Hello darling! What have you been up to today?” he murmured as he hugged her close.

The yellow and red candy stripe wallpaper answered his question.
A red bindi would do she supposed. But she was wearing a chiffon sari in a lovely shade of pale gold. And that yellow bindi would look perfect. She stared at the pretty bindis all lined up like miniature Christmas trees. Hmm. Why not wear that yellow one she’s been eyeing forever but so hesitant to pick up?

The thing is, Shailu is scared of yellow. Ever since she was three and was kidnapped and held for twenty days in a dingy warehouse. And if she hadn’t been tied up, gagged and terrified right opposite an ugly yellow spot in the wall in front of her, she may have picked the yellow bindi without a thought.

And that thing with the yellow scarf in college. It got caught in a nail in the bus seat and almost strangled her before she choked out a weak ‘help’.

And of course the Dal Tadka episode on her wedding anniversary. Just when she had thought she had broken the jinx and had worn her new yellow-rimmed glasses to dinner. She couldn’t get the smell of yellow dal out of her hair for days. Even the waiter’s repeated apologies didn’t help.

So it was back to the big question. Red or yellow? Or red?

At last she decided to brave it out and carefully peeled off the yellow one from the paper and stuck it precisely in the center of her forehead. And smiled. It matched perfectly. She was ready to go.

Halfway to the party, their car broke down. Her husband flagged down a passing car, which just happened to have a maniacal driver who drove himself and his hitchhikers into a tree.

Her yellow bindi shone bright as the cops loaded the bodies onto the ambulance.
Coorgi at large said…
The revolution had finally begun…..
There was panic in jayanagar, and koramangala had already been won. Looking down at the sea of dazed, wounded and confused people, shyam felt for the first time what usually was the prerogative of generals and rulers; the feeling of absolute power .He was however brought rudely down to earth when he saw Shailu across the street. First she turned red, then yellow and then red again.
“why cant she make up her @#^$ mind?”
Shyam tried in vain to check the deep contempt and loathing that he felt for his elder sibling.
“How could she have any sympathy for the people who threw stones at her, who violated her on a daily basis, who ran over her parents making them orphans at a young age?”
It had taken him 5 painful years of meticulous planning and organization to reach this stage. And now, when they were on the cusp of victory, his very own sister stood between them and the arrival of the “glorious age”. An age when traffic lights will control Bangalore…..
Tangent said…
She had just taken up her job as the traffic controller ......

little did she know that her indecisiveness was cuasing mayhem on the streets.
The Kid said…
In her 30 years of service as lead of the elite bomb disposal squad, Shailu had never been in an accident. Somehow, she has always escaped the grim explosion that takes away life or limb. But today was different, she was not diffusing some RDX. Shailu had been assigned to diffuse the primary charges in an armed thermonuclear device.

Earlier the police had got a phone call about a bomb and they had located the device. The device had been moved it to a ship on the Bay of Bengal to minimize impact on the population. Now she had 5 minutes and a nuke to diffuse.

She removed most of the sheath and metal and was looking at the wiring. She deciphered the circuit board and all she needed to was figure out which wire she had to cut. The Red or the Blue. Shailu smiled. If it had been a movie, the audience would be sitting on the edge of their seats waiting in suspense to know about the wild guess the actor makes. It took her 30 seconds to find out that she will need to cut the Red wire and short a transistor to diffuse it. But Did Shailu want to diffuse it?

She had a 30 year itch. She had not seen an atomic explosion. The world had not seen a terrestrial detonation of deployment capacity fusion bomb. She had not even been in the vicinity of any explosion herself. Obviously she could not see this explosion if it detonates. She would die from the initial gamma ray burst, even before she could see a single spark. Red or blue?

Shailu felt very very naughty that day.
iamvisheshur said…
all her talent and work rested on this her master peice..she needed to choose what would go well with the height of the sea,the blue sky and the sand of this majectic shore she had closed to down to yellow and red first it was red then yellow again red she needed to sit and think it out she lay down on the sand and saw the beautiful sky it was mesmerising she added the choice needs to be mesmerising..
Chockalingam said…
When Sow. Shailaja, the daughter of Ramanatha Bhagavadhar and Mrs. Bhagavadhar, wed Chi. Zameer at a registered marriage office in Dombivili, the ceremony was sparsely attended. Apart from the fact that the Bhagavadhars, the traditional carnatic music teachers from Alanganallur, disapproved of the wedding in the strongest possible terms, Zameer was also on the radar of ACP Sadhu Agashe. So the wedding was strictly low profile. Even the registrar did not know he was performing an illegal intercaste ceremony of a muslim mafia don with a hindu demure damsel.

Sheltered from the bad elements since child-hood, Shailaja had chanced upon Zameer when she went to visit her elder brother Somasundarara Bhagavadhar's scintillating AIR recital in Shudda Bhairavi. Standing outside the studio in a half-saree chewing pottu-kadalai, Shailaja waited for her brother to send word. Meanwhile, outside the studio, ACP Imtiaz Siddiqui and ACP Jatin Shukla brutally gunned down Zameer's deputy Feroz in a fierce gunfight, but not before Zameer knocked off a few tullas with his expert marksmanship. Shailaja had never seen anything this exciting in her entire life, and she immidiately jumped into Zameer's open Benz and took off with the gangster.

Don Zameer was always on the run since his early childhood, when he had stolen a double-roti from his childhood chum Ravi, who had purchased that very roti after considerable sweat and toil polishing the boots of Don Samant. Since then, Zameer had sworn he will become a Don just like Don Samant, and make lots of loser bootpolish boys polish his dirty boots on the same Marine Drive where his childhood chum Ravi, now Inspector Ravi Verma, had given chase. All this running had left no time for the refined sensibilities in life, and Don Zameer was at a loss when his newlywed bride Shailaja Zameer asked for a nice wedding present. Taking the advice of his assistant deputy Thambi who was from the south, the Don and Shailaja arrived at the posh seafront shopping mall in Juhu, and headed straight to the newly opened Tantex lingerie store.

Shailaja was mesmerized by the colorful Tantex bras and Tantex panties since she had never seen such colorful inner wear in her ancient temple town of Alanganallur.
Shall I wear this red panty ? How about this yellow bra ? She pestered Don Zameer.

Arre, tu kuch bhi pehen le, muje to sirf utaarne ka hai, replied Don, and scooped her up in his arms.

You Might Also Like

Voicing Silence 1

There is no nice way of saying this so I will say it as brutally and as unvarnished as it needs to be said. I was sexually assaulted when I was ten and a half years old. While I recall the precise details of what happened that night, much of what happened in the immediate aftermath, I have little memory of. In the days and months that followed, I became increasingly angry. I would smash things, kick people, yell, scream and throw a tantrum at the drop of a hat. I was labelled difficult and called names. Rakshasi was a regular epithet and it clung to me like an dirty scent.

There were so many incidents of rage from those years and most involved destruction of some sort. I once lost a card game and went about meticulously ripping up an entire pack of cards much to the amusement of the gathered extended family. There was some other minor provocation which ended in a lovely red dress which was a gift from abroad being shredded to pieces, again to a mute audience

Word got around that I wa…

Voicing Silence 7

(To get a background on this series, I suggest you start with the first post here and then scroll up)

Headphones recommended

(Click on image for link or click here)
Written and narrated by  Abhi Arumbakkam
Animation and edit  Lucy Lee
Sound Louise Brown
Music Nefeli Stammatogianopoulu & Stelios Koupetoris

Sivaji, Jayalaitha And Us

I first noticed it when Sivaji Ganesan passed away. As someone born in the 70s, much of my growing years was marked by the rituals of Sunday evening Tamizh cinema and Friday night Oliyum Oliyum. And Sivaji Ganesan was a permanent fixture in them. Anyone who was melodramatic was a 'Sivaji' and rhymes like 'Sivaji vayile jilebi' were very much part of our book of nonsense rhymes.

So much so, I remember being fourteen and being part of the school drama team enacting a popular scene from Sivaji's Thiruvilayadal. It was a plum role that we all vied to play. Sivaji played Lord Shiva in the movie and in our minds, he might as well have been immortal. So years later, when news broke that he had died, I was in utter shock. Heck, I was not even a fan. Apart from Motor Sundaram Pillai and more recently, Thevar Magan, in every one of his movies, I felt Sivaji had outacted the entire cast. As if to tell the producers, you've paid me a lot, so let me give you your money'…

Tide - 17

Part - 17 “Are you waiting for me, Kamakshi?”, asked Padmaja a little breathless from climbing the stair case. She had never been particularly slim. But lately, she had noticed a tightening of her blouses, particularly around her upper arm that she taken to using the stairs over the lift.
“Hmm? Everything okay? Why do you want me to keep quiet? What is the matter, Kamakshi?”, Padmaja reeled off questions with mounting alarm.
“It's nothing”, hissed Kamakshi between gritted teeth guiding her neighbour by the arm away from her own door. “Come in to my house. I need to tell you something, Padmaja”.
And once inside, Kamakshi's behaviour was even more erratic. She said something about a letter and answering and now meeting someone and the man waiting for her at home.
“Where?”, demanded Padmaja.
Kamakshi silently pointed her finger at her neighhour.
“Where? In my house?”
Kamakshi nodded.
“Have you gone mad, Kamakshi? I gave you the keys in case you don't see me for days a…

What Would You Do?

This afternoon, I went to our local leisure centre to use their steam room and sauna. I had an hour to kill before it was time to collect my son and the leisure centre is across the road and I couldn't think of a better way to spend a tenner and so I went. No sooner had I settled into a corner of the steam room than I heard a voice ask me, 'are you from India?'. Yes, I nodded before it struck me that if I couldn't see the person clearly neither could he. Yes, I said. To this he (by now I could make out a dim outline of a man) volunteered in a very heavy accent 'My country Bangladesh' and then went on to ask me if I lived locally and if I was living with my family (yes and yes, I answered) and told me that he worked in a local Indian restaurant as a chef and that I should visit them if I hadn't already.

Having exhausted his arsenal of polite questions to ask a rank stranger, he fell silent. Shortly, I left the steam room to take a shower before dipping into…

Tide - 7

Part 7

Dear Mrs,
With regards to your advertisement in last Sunday's Hindu. My name is Mr.S.G.Santhanam. I am 65 years old. I retired in 2007 after 40 years of service in the Indian Railways. My daughter and my son are both married and settled abroad. I am in good health except for slightly high blood pressure. Last year I have undergone an operation for a growth in my retina and now my eyesight is better than it has ever been. I follow a strict vegetarian diet (no oinions no garlic) and I have managed to bring down my cholestrol levels also. Recently I have suffered from pain in my hips and my doctor has adviced me to go for a hip replacement operation which I am due to have some time in the next month. So if you reply to my letter, I can arrange to meet you before I check in to the hospital as I will have to be in bed rest for 6 weeks after my operation. I have also attached a photo of myself with this letter. This was taken before I had my new set of teeth.
Your's sincere…

Voicing Silence 4

(To get a background to this series of posts, I suggest you read the first one here, the second one here and the third one here)

Some years ago, my mother mentioned to me that she had attended my sexual assaulter's Sashtiabdapoorthy and I was appalled. This filthy beast was a pillar of the society and had had the temerity to invite my parents to its (no human pronoun for it) birthday celebration. Suffice to say I was apoplectic.

It was also around this time that the whole sordid episode of Jimmy Savile came to light and I had a thought. I began to wonder if I could take my abuser to court on historic sex abuse charges.

For days I fantasised about dragging the filthy piece of shit to court and have it look me in the eye as I would recall in graphic detail what it had done to me. Then, I would watch with glee as it lost its house, its job, its status in the society and delight in the gradual unravelling of its life.

I would have my perfect revenge. I would be able to show it that i…

Voicing Silence 2

(To get a background to this series of posts, I suggest you read the first one here)

I realised, almost instinctively that what had happened to me was not a one-off. A casual conversation with a cousin revealed that she too had been touched by the same person. She didn't give me details but all she said was, "that one, him, you know...he's a devil" and gave me an almost imperceptible nod. A secret code that meant that she knew about what had happened to me too. It was our shared language of shame, wrapped in silence and consigned to the deep recess of our minds.

Every now and then the incident would get an airing but I would almost dismiss it by making light of it. During joint studies with classmates from the 11th and 12th standard, two of them talked about the improper touching that had happened to them as children with an almost casual aloofness that I added my incident (for it was now entombed and labelled as Exhibit A in my mind) to the mix. Being abused was so…

Voicing Silence 3

(To get a background to this series of posts, I suggest you read the first one here and the second one here.)

In the intervening years since my assault, the whispers grew ubiquitous. Hushed conversations from scarred friends who all talked in coded language about what had happened to them. I should have stopped becoming angry but I just couldn't. Instead I channeled all my rage into the blows I rained on the random stranger who once groped me as I was walking past him one evening when I was in my early twenties. The nonchalance with which another pervert thought he could get away with pinching my breasts made me chase after him faster. But I could rarely sustain the rage which would blaze fiercely and frequently but never long enough for anything positive to emerge. There were no planned course of action to follow through, it was largely fire fighting on a daily basis.

And then something happened a decade ago which reminded me of what triggered my anger all those years ago. I won…

Voicing Silence 5

(To get a background to this series of posts, I suggest you read the first one here, the second one here, the third one here and the fourth here)

For years I had been wondering how to articulate my trauma. And then, a little while after I'd moved to the UK, I'd done courses in documentary film-making and had started telling factual stories. Could there be a possibility there? What purpose would retelling a personal story in all its gory detail serve? And is this what I wanted?

In 2013 I watched Yael Farber's Nirbhaya in Edinburgh to an auditorium full of sobbing men and women. I found its portrayal in all its attendant specifics and bit too real. Even the actors playing it had each suffered horrific abuse and it was their own story that was being told. It was discomfiting and I knew I didn't want to go down that route.

A year or so later, I met with Leslie Udwin, director of the documentary India's Daughter, the day
after it had been banned in India. Leslie was de…