Laila’s Brother – a short story

Just as young Laila switched channels on the television, she paused to focus on one and looked intently at what they were showing.

Suddenly she shrieked, “Maa! Look!!  Isn’t that brother?  Look! They are showing his pictures.”

Maa thought Laila was, as usual, merely day-dreaming. And so she didn’t come out.

Laila said it louder this time, and Maa stepped out of her kitchen to cast a casual glance at what her ten-year-old insisted on showing.

True indeed! There he was. Her son.

Various pictures of him were being shown on a TV show. His boyhood picture, and also one as a young man in a group hug. But she wasn’t very sure which one was him although she could tell.

Maa was shocked as well as too confused. “I have not seen your brother since long. Is that him?”

Now Maa was not even listening to the voice on TV, for at this moment it all felt like a dream. “You are right Laila! Of course it is him.”

His boyhood pictures – that is how Maa had ascertained it was indeed her son. And that’s the only way Laila had recognized her brother the moment she saw him on TV.

Laila had not seen her brother in real life. Not exactly, as she was almost a baby when he left home without telling anyone. But she had grown up seeing various pictures that she often saw in her Maa’s hands. His pictures that Maa carefully kept locked in her wardrobe – a young boy flying a kite, a simple student engrossed in his books, a devout praying to the Almighty, and many more.

Admiring these pictures, so many times Laila had secretly wished she could see her brother even if once, and play with him. She had heard stories that her brother was a bright and sharp-minded student so she aspired to be like him.

And now…intently watching her son on TV,  the dazed Maa said “Laila, that’s what he looked like when he left home. Only twelve. Still baby faced. But what is he doing there?”

Laila was not listening anymore, and not even watching TV. Soon she sneaked out and got busy playing with her friends.

Maa changed the channel but her son was on this one too.

“Hang on! What’s that?” she murmured to herself as she looked closely, for this channel showed more of his pictures. She had never seen her young boy carry a huge real gun in his hand. She suddenly remembered he was very fond of toy guns. Always.

With her hand on her open mouth, she sighed “He had a fighter in him. But God! What has he been up to?” 

This time Maa paid attention to what they were saying. The female newsreader referred to him as ‘Mastermind’. He had fought with the whole world. He had taken lives. He was the vile schemer who planned it all, she heard that voice say.  But how can she believe that her innocent boy can do all that?

Maa was sobbing incessantly. Her eyes glued to the TV, tears blurred her vision and she couldn’t see clearly what they showed. She began to remember his childhood even more.

As a boy he was a rebel. As a seven year old he had fought with the whole community that he won’t allow a goat to be killed in the name of sacrifice.  When did he become a butcher? She wondered. At what age did he first kill a human being?  14? 17? Or later? She’ll never know, thought Maa.  He also wanted to do big things; wanted to be famous. So this was the big thing he did now? He has become popular all over the world. Maa cried as she thought of all this. Now the whole day, media will broadcast his name, relay news about her 24 year old boy behind some major killings. Did she give birth to this dreaded man? 

The more she thought of him, the more she couldn’t contain herself. Again and again Maa banged her head against the wall, beating her abdomen that gave birth to this child, slapping her breasts that nurtured him.

The whole world knew what he was up to. Only I didn’t.  He has been killed and the whole world knows it. The whole world is rejoicing his death, but how can I? The whole world hates him but I can’t!  I can’t! I never will. How can I? But I must. I must…”

Saying this, Maa broke down. But just as she saw Laila coming inside, she wiped her tears and switched off the television. She also decided to not let Laila see any TV for a few days. She didn’t want Laila to hate her sibling – her only brother.

Laila came in and asked innocently, “Maa! Is brother coming back?”

Maa felt like saying, “No Laila, the path he chose to walk, is only one-way. There’s no return from there.” But instead, pulling her daughter close to her by waist, she said, “I do not know, dear. Hope he does!”.

At least for now this seemed to be the right answer.  Maybe sooner or later, the older Laila will find out, but by then she’ll prepare her daughter to handle the truth.

Soon Laila went to her room feeling happy. Outside the house, exhausted sun was on the last leg of its daily journey. Maa switched off the light and sat in the dark, brooding and weaving all sorts of thoughts.


At that moment somebody knocked.  Maa hesitated, and then opened the door. It was police, who came to inform the obvious.

All these years she had waited for the officials to bring some news about her only son’s whereabouts. But they had no clue. Sometime back cops had come asking for him but she had no idea. Now the police as well as Maa knew it all, but the game was over.

The police went away as it came.  Maa was aware it was their last visit. Police will not come back anymore. And neither will her son.

~~~ ~~~

Friday Fiction with Ronovan Writes a new story writing challenge.

Copyright © 2015 Alka Girdhar

We are Paired Forever, Paired Apart or Paired Never

There are all kinds of pairs and partners in this world. Some continue to be pairs for as long as they live. Others drift apart. Then there are also people or things that are better off alone, or they just happen to be so.

Paired Forever are things and people who flourish together as a pair. There is so much dependency on co-existence that if one goes missing the other has no identity, the other becomes nothing.

If we lose one sock from a socks pair, that pair becomes incomplete and useless. We store the remaining sock for some time hoping to rediscover its partner, after which we get rid of this lonesome piece. Same applies to shoes or slippers, even more so.

Likewise, earrings have identity only as a pair. A single piece of earring, howsoever precious, is of no use.

Other than these, there are slightly less dependent type of partners. They too are ‘paired forever‘ created to be together but they merely compliment each other.

P1060139A particular knife looks good with a particular fork, and also they are practically useful together as a pair, but we can use this knife without its matching fork. P1060136Salt and pepper containers are another duo that form a part of the set although they can exist by themselves too.

Similarly there are cosmetic things around our homes, like shampoo and conditioner pair, or a nail polish remover that finds purpose in wiping off nail polish. A toothbrush needs a toothpaste, though it need not be a specific toothpaste. Likewise, we have ‘soap’ and an accompanying ‘soap dish’.

Around my house, I noticed decorative pieces that look better as partnered pairs. This partnership does not provide any usage except for aesthetic appeal. Even this elephant pair with with a broken leg looked good once although possibly now it brings bad Feng Shui, as only complete pairs bring love and luck. It’s a memory from my native land so didn’t have a heart to throw it straightaway.

These were non-living pairs that go together. Among living beings, that is birds, animals and humans, we have permanent pairs that not only look good together but also compliment each other in their utility and essential nature.

There are love-birds, those gorgeously bright parrots known for their monogamous love towards their partner. They cling to each other, feed each other and are depressed if made to live without each other. How many human couples can claim to have that kind of monogamous bond?

In Australia, we have beautiful white Sulphur–crested Cockatoos, very loud parrots that are commonly found in Sydney suburbs where they walk around on our grassy yards. They are often seen around together in very lovey dovey moods.


A happy pair of cockatoos walking in my front yard, and one lonesome fellow.

One morning, I saw a group of very noisy pink-necked Cockatoos. They sat on the roadside electric wires for half-an-hour. Some were happily paired, while single birds looked lonesome sitting next to the lovey-dovey pair.


Other than these totally devoted love-struck parrots, most birds do like to move around as partners. How about this rare picture of a gorgeous bird-pair clicked in Cairns, Queensland Australia?


             This bird pair in Cairns starts its morning together.  Half and Half

All these above living as well as non-living pairs are ‘made or meant for each other’ type of pairs.

Other than the above ‘Paired Forever’ pairs, we also come across pairs meant to be Paired Apart. At one time they were dependent on each other but with time they learn to do without each other.

However, some of these Paired Apart do continue to work as pairs, as and when required. They are together but almost like separate entities, and like two banks of a river, they co-exist from a set distance.

Many husband-wife or lovers’ pairs are happy like that. Two independent souls not suffocating each other but supporting just right. This casual pairing is great for one’s personal growth as long as the bond does not become so lose and casual that they cease to be a pair. Conscious bonding is necessary for such pairs.

Bond between most siblings is also more or less like that – firstly paired close then paired apart. This sweet partnership evolves and they drift apart over time. As they grow older, their life goals take them away and they leave the nest to settle in their own lives. Moreover, they soon form a pair with their married partner or lover. Priorities change altogether.

malana 2

Two sisters – click to enlarge

But at least during childhood, siblings play together and there is complete and possessive dependency in every way.

In this picture that we clicked in the poorer areas of a unique Himalayan village called Malana, two sisters can be seen moving around in synchronisation. It seems to be a give and take relation as the older sister looks after the little girl, while the younger one provides company. Likewise, in cities too, when parents are off to work, siblings form a close bond in their studying and playing activities.

Thus, we see most people do form a pairing bond at one time or the other, whether it is life-long pairing or a short term bond after which they move away.

And yet, a very less proportion of people are never paired, quite like most others are. Theirs is a solitary life, either self-chosen or destined.

Like, there are children who have no siblings. They form a strong bond with their available parent till they move out to pursue their own life and find their life-partner.

Then there are also people who waited forever for their true love to come along and found none till their last days. There are others who got love but lost their partner – due to circumstances in life or cruel death.

And rarely, there are some saints and ascetics who chose to stay single, without a desire to have any better half. Theirs is a pursuit towards higher goals and quest for truth

Either way, people who have seen loneliness often become stronger because of this. The whole world is their brother or sister, their bonds are not formed on the basis of demanding all-consuming relations. They get love from most unexpected quarters and give where it is needed the most.

Moreover, to be paired forever does not always mean it is true love or a close bond. Likewise, to be bonded and cared for in life, one does not need to form a pair. It is preferred by most but not always so.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~~

For: Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Pairs
Daily Post’s wekly challenge: Partners.

All pictures are self-clicked. Please click on them to view their full-sized version
©Copyright-All rights reserved by 2015-2016

Good or Bad – Let it be

Hasty changes
Unimagined gains
Unforeseen challenges
Tested my patience
…as they do in all years

Let go, move on
Carved new trails
I let hope and faith
Heal my baffled heart
…like I do in all years

Isolation does not kill
But wrong people will.
Detachment and rumination
Granted soothing peace
…had longed for it in all years

Pensive pen moved
Witty words poured
Call it blogging or writing
Wonderful blogging friends
…took care of me this half-year


The poem was for The Daily Prompt: How is this year shaping up so far? Write a post about your biggest challenges and achievements thus far.  State of Your Year

(And similar poems I wrote in December/Jan for the New Year 2015 :
Happy New Second and The Renovated Me)

Sun, Space and Verdure

There is one question that a migrant to a new country, esp. a western country, gets asked very often, “Where do you come from?”

Of course the intention is to define the personality of that person and attribute certain traits typical of their race and native land. Otherwise people are curious about what memories and what local experience we carry about the place where we come from…

But…where do I come from?  If a person spends more than 20 years at one place and then another twenty at another place, interspersed with months here and there, then the whole concept of belonging gets lost.

And yet, even migratory birds are born in a particular nest and if they could remember, they would also say, “That is my home nest”. So the fact remains that, having been born and brought up in Chandigarh, that is pretty much ‘where I come from’, I suppose.

Located near India’s capital Delhi, my home-town Chandigarh is a beautiful city in northern India. It is referred to as ‘The City Beautiful and its original motto was ‘Sun, Space and Verdure’.  Verdure means greenery.

In comparison, Sydney where I have now lived for the last two decades, is also very much about sun, space and verdure. And blue skies. But Sydney is also about expansive beaches.

Both these cities are beautiful. How did this happen to me? God’s been kind. They are actually beautiful cities, not because I like them.

So there you go. This itself is a speciality of Chandigarh City – the abundance of open space and greenery. Other than that, it is this city’s high literacy level that defines the city rather than the heavy industries, business, film industry or movie stars. A huge number of Chandigarhians are from the public services, administration or education.


Such roundabouts are spread all over Chandigarh


Women on two-wheelers, a common local sight. I used to be one such.                   pic credit : discoveredindia

Thus one feature worth mentioning in Chandigarh’s travel guide would be that there are well planned big and small gardens throughout the city.

Zakir Rose Garden is one of them. It is Asia’s largest Rose garden with more than 1500 different species of roses. An annual rose festival is held here with cultural shows. Growing up in Chandigarh, in a family of seven, we siblings and our parents, our weekends were often spent packing our meals and going for a picnic in one of the gardens and parks, Rose Garden predominantly one of them.

Rose Garden, Chandigarh

Rose Garden, Chandigarh – India,  Pic credit: scorpion

Another not to be missed local feature of Chandigarh is Rock Garden which is innovative and unique in its craftsmanship of objects that were totally assembled from waste material and useless things thrown away by people. The garden has lined or grouped figures and dummies that are made of scrap, broken glass, bangles, ceramic cutlery and other waste. There are miniature water-falls inside to add to the beauty.

As I see it, the concept of Rock Garden proves that, if we want to, we can create something beautiful even out of scrap, the leftovers. Or should I say crap. That our life might have once been full of broken pieces of scrappy incomplete experiences, but it is up to us to make it meaningful by uniting and compiling these fragmented bits and shaping them into a complete beautiful whole. Now that was excessive!

Situated near this Rock Garden, we have Sukhna Lake, a man-made vast lake amidst the abundance of fine nature. It has nice eateries, fun elements for kids and then there are water sports like yachting and water skiing and so forth. There are birds all around seen from far and near.

Sukhna Lake is a place where you are bound to feel great – whether you come early in the morning when it is quiet and natural or during the day with chirpy lively crowds around or else at night when it is well-lit and sparkling.  I must add, that this is a favourite outing spot for locals of all age-groups. My own childhood and early youth days were spent walking up to Sukhna Lake, jogging there and then walking back home.

Sukhna Lake

Sukhna Lake. Pic: self-clicked

Thus Chandigarh is similar to my current home Sydney in its gardens and greenery but it is different to Sydney, the ‘city of beaches’ for another reason.  Chandigarh is at the foothills of mountain ranges called Shivaliks. As one enters the city, one can see the far off mountains.

I remember, when I was a girl, standing outside our house I could see the far-off mountains that were sometimes hazy and over-shadowed by clouds but often bedecked by star-like twinkling lights. Being a dreamer, I used to be extremely charmed by the view and would specially go out at night to see if the far-off lights were bright or not as the view changed each day. Those days, the mountains seemed very far away so I used to wonder – ‘Who are the people who live there?’.

So travelers if you ever plan to visit Chandigarh, you can have these mountains on your travelling list. Go to these hills and do find out who are the people who live there.  I haven’t discovered this till now as nowadays I do not visit Chandigarh very often, what with my hectic schedule I don’t even get time to know (again) all the people within my close families, many of whom, esp. the elderly, have left this world without saying their last goodbye to me.

***  ***

. Most pictures self-clicked
Rock garden: whatagreenlife

© 2015 Alka Girdhar

Conjugal Contract

The benign benefactor
saw her
convinced her
challenged her

Come live with me
and get the gifts
A huge hamper package
new city, home, friends
money, food
Can’t promise love though
and in return
you must give up
all that is yours

she took the offer
to begin her life

Years down
the package lies limp
half-open, half-closed
in her empty hands

Some gifts good and bad
she devoured dubiously
Most fell down fractured

One exquisite gift
in the mystery box
she adores
holds on to, too tightly

This bundle of joy
was not even bargained for
but is there for her

© 2014 Alka Girdhar


My poem in response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Mystery Box.”  that says:
‘You wake up one morning to find a beautifully wrapped package next to your bed. Attached to it is a note: “Open me, if you dare.”  What’s inside the mystery box? Do you open it?

My friend had the above experience, and I wrote my poem when she was sitting next to me.