|Creative Writing Competition 2012 India|
|SETTING||Terrace OR Bedroom OR Living Hall|
Editor’s Choice: Short Story on Infidelity – YOUR PLACE OR MINE?
Arumugam was cursing the salty paste of perspiration, grime and dirt that stuck to his body like glue since morning. It was a hot day, rather one of the hottest days of the year, the mid-day paper had said. While people outside fought the scorching sun by sporting umbrellas or just pulling a piece of their attire over their head, he sat at home, on his bed that was his home-inside-home for almost ten years now and grunted like a wild animal in distress. His wife came upstairs with a glass of cold grape squash and wiped his slippery body with clean towels dipped in cold water.
He showed her his “hot spots” and the meek woman happily obliged. Arumugam watched his wife’s movements patiently (for that is all he could now: WATCH)-the way she moved, the arch of her elbow keeping pace with the rest of her body and the dexterity of her thin, bony fingers. Anyone could tell that she was a beautician by the way she kept her hair neatly pinned to one side and by the strong, alluring fragrance of the baby cream she used.
“I will have to go out today…have to get body wax from the city” she said as she placed ice cubes on his shoulders and back.
“Oh…why….today again? Isn’t it too hot a day to get something like body wax, Alagi?”
“No, the students come to me now…they say in Coimbatore they charge double and the Chinese women hurt them bad…A couple of girls are coming today anyway”
She said and coiled the pallu of her sari around the waist. The engineering college in Ettimadai was a crowd-puller for LOVELY BEAUTY PARLER that Alagi ran single-handedly in the living room of their modest house. She’d used pink motif for the entire set-up: Pink curtains, a large pink oval mirror and a pink salon chair (she had it specially painted).A pink name board said FACIAL-100 Rs (200 Rs less than what the Chinese charge in Coimbatore), WAXING-100 Rs FOR ONE LEG/ARM (100 Rs less than what the Chinese charge) and THREADING-10 Rs (30 Rs less than what the Chinese charge).
“Not so bad for the wife of a handicapped ex-construction supervisor”, they said. “Not bad at all”.
Alagi ran her fingers through her hair for the umpteenth time now and looked at herself in the mirror. She twitched her nose and made a funny expression. Today was the day. This time he wouldn’t escape her lovelorn eyes. It didn’t matter if people saw them. She just had to meet him, tell him how she’d fallen in love with his golden voice, how he’d managed to save her from a world of dissatisfaction , from her husband……
Her flashy pink second-hand Motorola-Razor rang.
“Darling?” she whispered.
Nothing but heavy breathing could be heard on the other side.
“Muthu darling?” Will I see you at the market? Will you come today? Just today?”
There was no answer.
She waited a while before cutting the call and proceeding to Ettimadai bus stop. She ran her fingers through her hair and wiped the dots of sweat that were starting to form on her forehead.
He stared at the ceiling fan. It rotated slowly, making a creaking noise that silenced the silence in the bedroom. Dust had settled on its blades. Dust had formed elsewhere in the room too-under the bookshelves, on the table desk and in his heart. He’d never really believed in the concept of getting bored until he fell from the seventh floor of a skyscraper in construction and suffered multiple injuries. He became a celibate tortoise (the bed being his comfy shell) overnight- he was simultaneously bed-ridden and wife-“rid”-den. He could bear the former but not the latter.
Boredom had made him a part of it. First, he read voraciously, rummaging through newspapers and health magazines, trying to expand his rather limited knowledge of knowledge. Boredom won in the end. Next, he took a liking to gossips about busty actresses and media expose’s on their love life. Boredom won by a narrow margin. Later, when he stopped reading altogether, Boredom proved it was invincible.
Technology saved him. Money was never a problem because he had a decent sum locked up in the bank, the money he’d carefully saved not smoking, not drinking and not sleeping with seductive harlots on nights of complete loneliness. He got himself a brand new second-hand Nokia basic set. He played snake on it. Many winning streaks and high-scores later, boredom made a nasty return. Snake slithered out of his life. He didn’t give up. He bought another set, a newer one, and played Snake 2 on it. That didn’t last long either. This one slithered out faster than its predecessor.
Reading came back to him in a rather interesting way: in the form of a phone directory. Technology followed in the form of a dozen mobile phones and mobile numbers. This time, Reading and Technology united in synergy to oust Boredom once and for all; to pull out the never-ending roots it dug inside him.
The first number he dialed belonged to one Ms. Aarti Sivakumar who resided in RS Puram. He dialled the number with the sort of excitement that a curious teenager has when watching porn for the first time.
“Yello”…he said, “Yaar Pesaringa?” He hoped to get an abuse or a “Sorry wrong number” or both.
To his amazement a man answered. The person started talking to him as if he were a long-lost friend or a distant relative catching up on current “affairs”. The talk covered various topics-people, politics and even plants. One would be amazed at the things strangers loved to discuss. Arumugam was more than amused. He believed that if Ms Aarti Sivakumar was living with the gentleman he talked to for five hours at a stretch, then it was high time she landed in a mental asylum. He took no offence to the old gentleman though-he was as gay as glee and glee as gay.
This event had certainly slowed down the “excitement”, though Arumugam was far too determined to give up.
However, he swore never to crank call anybody whose name started with “A”. He was “A”rumugam, look at his condition now! The construction company that hired him was “A”xis Constructions, look at how they doomed him!
Arumugam rang up people. He talked. He flirted. He enjoyed.
People(Females) responded back. They talked. They flirted. They enjoyed.
He imagined a little acknowledgement in the invisible diary he carried around inside his head:
I am thankful to the following persons for the following things:
(1) To Aandavan (God), who created enough lascivious women for disabled men to lust after, to court and inevitably to ignore when the lust dies. (Just like most men).
(2) To Axis Constructions, who provided the platform for the disability, rendering me a life of imagination and creativity (The things I do with creativity…my, my!).
(3) Finally, to my beautiful wife Alagi, who gave me enough love to let me go and mind her own business. (Whatever the hell that business is).
So on this particularly hot, hot day Arumugam decided to heat up things in a different way. Boredom was fighting to get back on his nerves. He had to do something different, but what? Something that would scare the shit out of Boredom that it would never, ever in its right mind, think of coming back.
He knew it! He would call one of his telephonic girlfriends home, show her what a waste of time it was to romance him and he would laugh roaringly on her face. He would give her the surprise of a lifetime and later, rave about it to the Malayali guys who ran a small Dhaba down the main road (The only men he called).
The bi**h deserves it, he thought, she would never go out of her way with a man again. Never.
He called her Seetha, though heaven only knew what her real name was. He’d got her number from one of the Dhaba guys .She was probably the fiftieth woman Arumugam had seduced through serial-calling.
He heard one of his favourite songs playing loudly in the background. Bi**h is at a disco or something.
“Darling, you make me feel like a woman…” she said and let out a little “Aah” that he thought was sensational. He could imagine it: Full red lips encircling a small, round mouth and the sweet words that came out of it….He got butterflies and moths and dragonflies in his stomach.
“Today? I don’t have much time today, darling, what about next week”?
His heart sunk.
“No, not today. I don’t think it is possible”.
His heart sunk even further. He started pounding his chest dramatically.
“Ok, I will think about it. SMS me your address. I will have to go to Saravana Complex first. Some fresh jasmine flowers wouldn’t do us any harm, would they?” She laughed her peculiar laugh that made Arumugam feverish.
“Can I make a call? Wait ok.” She forgot to put the line on hold.
Arumugam overheard her talking to a man…some man called Muthu and telling him that she’d meet him as decided.
“Darling, that was just my brother, Muthuselvam. He will be leaving for Ooty today so we have a small get-together that I just cannot avoid, Sorry. ” She said.
Brother, yeah right, my foot.
“Oh Kadavule! I have to make one more call. Will you call me back?” She cut him off before he could reply.
He tapped his bed three times out of Frustration. Before he could let Boredom accompany Frustration, he got a call on his non-secretive mobile phone, the one that legitimately belonged to him. It was Alagi.
“I have to make a stop at the Saravana Complex and then go attend Lalitha’s dance performance at the city hall. I had completely forgotten about it. I will be late, ok?” She spoke in haste.
“So did you not get the wax from the usual shop? Why are you going to the supermarket? And who’s Lalitha?”
“Darling don’t act like you know all my friends….What has gotten into you?” She spoke, half-irritated and half-amazed.
“Tell me” He prayed to Aandavan and crossed his fingers so that his worst fears wouldn’t come true.
“Lalitha is my childhood friend, you’ve met her before…at the Kovil…and I thought I might as well get some jasmine flowers to wear in my hair because the ones they sell on the roads aren’t fresh enough. They wouldn’t do us any harm, would they?”
Arumugam heard his favourite song coming to a close in the background. He squeezed the cell phone as hard as he could. The ceiling fan made a louder creaking noise. It was accompanied by the ringing of his “other” phone. He threw it out of his double-sashed window. Coiling up like an underdeveloped foetus (With everything curled up except the paralysed legs) on his comfy water bed, he felt more dirt pile up in his heart.
That guy from the Dhaba was right, women sound very different on the phone. Drastically different.
When Alagi returned from the “performance”, the sun had set and the sky acquired a serenity.
“Lalitha was spectacular, you know?” She called out from the door. “The poise, the grace and the energy? Unbelievable.” Her lips formed the most perfect curve when she smiled.
He was reading a book when she suddenly barged inside the room. He didn’t speak for a while.
“Darling” he said.
Darling? She was puzzled.
He looked at her from the edge of the book.
“I was thinking that maybe I know this Lalitha of yours and her husband. Isn’t he called Muthu?”
“Muthu?” She froze. “Yes, of course, why, do you know him?”
“Ofcourse, we are childhood friends as well. Isn’t he the one who sells jasmine flowers at Saravana Complex? I bet you bought yours from him. That man has quality I must say…look at the flowers in your hair. They don’t look like they’ve been touched.”
“I must get your hot water ready. You must’ve been tired waiting” she said and clumsily walked out of the room, not looking back as she walked.
“Make the water boiling hot. It has been a long day”
He smiled his Arumugam smile and vowed to change his name for now he would hate “A” for as long as he lived. Boredom began to live under his bed. He didn’t care anymore.
|Creative Writing Competition 2012 India|
|YOUR PLACE OR MINE?|
|Relevancy of chosen setting||20||17|
|Relevancy of chosen object||20||17|
|Significance of chosen theme||20||19|
|Selection and development of characters||10||8|
|Selection of time frame, description of place and environment||10||8|
|Plot of short story||10||8|
|Conflicts in short story||10||8|