top of page
Image by Camellia Yang

Yarns
of
November

The Weekly Yarns

November 2023

Emboldened by the resounding success of The Daily Verse, we have started The Weekly Yarns, where we upload stories, flash fiction, anecdotes and musings of writers. If you have a story to share, please send it to editor@thewiseowl.art

Week 4, November 2023

Image by Pauline Bernfeld
Heart Outline

The Little Acrobat

By Jaanvee Bose

Damn!!! Suchitra muttered aloud. Another red light!!! She clamped her lips together to stem the rising tide of anger and frustration. She wondered if she would make it in time for her presentation. She had started out an hour earlier to avoid getting caught in the morning traffic of office goers. But here she was caught in a traffic moving at a snail’s pace. She loved Delhi. Ofcourse she did. It was where she was born and brought up, but the everyday traffic snarls made her gnash her teeth in despair. Her fingers beat an impatient tattoo on the steering wheel.  She revved her engine impatiently as she saw the light turn green. Her car inched forward slowly but much to her chagrin, the light turned red again. Double Damn!! If this Hide n’ seek continued, she knew she would not make it to the office in time. She had taken the Purana Qila Road abutting the Supreme Court building, as the Google map had shown less traffic on this road. But it looked like Google had it all wrong today. Her promotion depended on the presentation she gave today. She had been assiduously working on it for the last ten days but never in her worst nightmares had she envisioned a scenario where the roadblock to her promotion was not her ability but the Delhi traffic. She closed her eyes in disgust.

 

The sound of a sharp tap broke her reverie. She turned her head. Her eyes caught and held a pair of dark kohl-lined eyes, twinkling with amusement as they peered in. The eyes were set in a small elfin face, tanned by the sun to a golden brown and covered with a powdery film of dust. The hair was matted but pulled back in two neat braids with discoloured ribbons to hold them in place. The colour of the hair was a sandy brown. It probably came from lack of nutrition rather than a salon visit, she thought clinically. The little girl, thin and scrawny, barely reached the top of the window of her low-slung Honda City. Suchitra guessed her age would be 6 or maybe 8. She wore a flower printed frock in an indeterminable colour and a salwar in the same colour. She had an aluminium ring in her hand which she held up like a trophy for Suchitra to see. Suchitra looked closely. The ring was probably the wheel of a small bicycle with the spokes removed, although the jagged edges still remained. Suchitra raised her brows in query. The little girl looked delighted at having caught her attention. She gestured towards the divider and headed there with a little skip and bounce. Reaching the divider, she did a graceful cartwheel and a backflip. By then a young boy, about her age, had arrived with a dhol slung across his narrow shoulders. He began playing the dhol in rhythmic patterns while the little girl did back flips and cartwheels without missing a beat. She then picked up the ring and, using it like a hula hoop, dexterously did an amateur rhythmic gymnastics routine while slithering in and out of the hoop. She ended her performance with a neat dive through the ring which the dhol boy held up at a height of about 5 feet. Suchitra was stunned by this impressive display. She hunted in her purse for some money to give the little girl. But the lights had turned green and the cars behind her in the queue began honking impatiently. Suchitra quickly pushed her gear stick and began to move. Her eyes slid to her side mirror. She caught a glimpse of the little girl, her eyes glistening with disappointment as she saw the car moving away. Suchitra quickly slid down her mirror and waved at her. “Main kal bhi aaongi” (I’ll come tomorrow”), she yelled. She saw the little girl again in the mirror, this time waving back, her face lit up with a huge smile. Suchitra suddenly felt light-hearted. That bright smile of the little girl stayed with her the whole day.

 

She somehow managed to reach her office in time and breezed through her presentation with complete assurance. Her boss, who was known to be tight-fisted with his compliments had been fulsome in his praise of her work.  In Suchitra’s mind, the little acrobat had become her lucky mascot. While heading back home that evening, she stopped at a candy store in Khan market and picked up a couple of chocolates and a packet of candy, thinking she would give it to the little girl the next day. The image of the little girl stayed with her as she fell into peaceful slumber that night.

The next day, Suchitra woke up early and dressed quickly. She downed her sandwich with a cup of strong coffee and headed for her car with a bounce in her step. She headed down the same road she had taken yesterday. She crossed the Indraprastha park and headed for the Purana Qila. As she neared the lights that turned into the Supreme Court Road, she noted that the lights were green. She slowed her car, earning a few irate glances from other car drivers but luckily the traffic was thin. As she neared the lights, they turned red. She heaved a sigh of relief. Then she laughed out aloud. My God!! Imagine being happy because the lights had turned red. Controlling her amusement, Suchitra braked to a halt and looked around eagerly. There was no one on the divider strip. Her heart lurched with disappointment. She looked at the sidewalk on the left. There were three children sitting under the tree with their backs to the road. She looked carefully. The child in the middle wore her hair in two braids. Maybe she was the little acrobat. Suchitra pressed her horn twice, hoping it would attract the children’s attention. It didn’t. Suchitra rolled her window down and yelled ‘Suno”(Listen), as loudly as she could. The little girl started and turned back to look. Suchitra slumped in relief. She was her little acrobat. She waved, yelling “yahan aao"(Come here). The girl looked startled and then recognition dawned. She shook the shoulder of the boy sitting on her left, pointed to Suchitra’s car and started making her way through the cars towards her. With one eye on the lights, Suchitra quickly scrabbled in the bag for the chocolates and candy she had bought yesterday. The lights turned red just as the little girl reached her car. Suchitra quickly shoved the chocolates and sweets in the girl’s hands and said, “This is for your beautiful performance yesterday”. The girl gave an angelic gap-toothed smile. It was like the sun had broken through the dark clouds. At the impatient honking of the cars behind her, Suchitra pressed the accelerator and moved forward. Her side mirror showed the image of the little girl smiling rapturously while the boy who had played the dhol yesterday, draped a protective arm around the girl and looked a little suspiciously at Suchitra’s car. 

 

From then on, Suchitra made it a point to carry something for the little girl every day. Sometimes it would be sandwiches, sometimes it would be ladoos or jalebi, at times it would be the leftover paneer from yesterday’s dinner or a couple of apples. The little girl would receive her offerings with a huge smile, with the dhol boy standing at her side like a guardian angel, as though trying to keep all harm at bay. One day when Suchitra arrived at the red lights, the little girl was doing her acrobat routine. While doing her cartwheel, her frock rode high, revealing her thin torso with the ribs jutting out. Suchitra promised herself she would get her more food. A wolf whistle cut through her reverie and made her turn around. She saw a couple of middle-aged men ogling at the little girl. Suchitra was upset and perturbed. The bastards!! She cursed under her breath. The girl was little more than a child for God's sake. The little girl had no protection against these rabid wolves except for her dhol player who was a little boy himself. This realization made Suchitra wring her hands impotently. That day, during the lunch hour, she took an auto to the Janpath market and picked up a couple of track suits. She made sure that the track top had elasticized edges which would not allow the top to ride up. That evening while going home, she turned back from the Purnan Qila road hoping to find the little girl on the sidewalk. But there was no one there. Disappointed, she went home, hoping she would find Kartab the next day. In her mind Suchitra had started calling the little girl ‘Kartab’.

 

The next day, as her car inched towards the Purana Qila red lights, Suchitra looked around for Kartab. There seemed to be no one on the sidewalk or the divider. Suchitra turned back from the Purana Qila road in order to make a second run past the lights, hoping she would spot the girl. But the sidewalk was still empty. Suchitra felt a sense of gnawing premonition. Had something happened to the girl? She prayed fervently hoping she was fine. That day when she reached her office, she contacted her friend Manya, who ran an NGO for orphan girls and told her about Kartab. Manya promised to take on the girl provided she came willingly. Suchitra heaved a sigh of relief and decided to go looking for Kartab.

 

On her way back home, Suchitra parked her car outside the court premises and walked towards the Purana Qila side. She was determined to find the little girl and get her off the unsafe streets of Delhi. She waited for almost an hour on the sidewalk but to no avail. Kartab did not come. She asked a vendor if he knew her. He looked at her strangely, and shook his head. Suchitra went back home that day feeling drained and defeated. Where could she find Kartabr? That night she had bad dreams. In her dreams, she saw Kartab running with two men running after her. The next morning, on an impulse, Suchitra took a day off. She was determined to look for and find Kartab.

 

She parked her car outside the court and walked to the sidewalk. In her hand she carried the bag containing the tracksuits she had bought. She stood on the sidewalk, looking around, hoping some miracle would happen and the little girl would appear with that angelic smile on her face. After waiting for what looked like an eternity, a dis-spirited Suchitra began to trudge back to her car. On the sidewalk, on the opposite side of the road, she thought she glimpsed a mop of sandy brown hair. With all her lung power, she yelled out “Kartab suno”(Kartab Listen). She started running down the sidewalk. Heaving and panting she reached the point where the sidewalk ended. But it was empty. Her shoulders slumped. She turned around and began walking back, her eyes wet with tears. And then suddenly, from behind the tree, the dhol boy materialized. Suchitra looked at him carefully. His eyes were red. They looked at Suchitra with a dead, closed look that scared her. ‘Kartab?’, she said in a shaking voice. He shook his head. Suchitra caught his shoulders in a tight grip. “Where is she?” The little girl who did Kartab?” He shook his head again and swallowed hard. “Her name was Pari”, he said almost under his breath. “They killed her”, he mumbled softly. Suchitra’s heart contracted in pain.” “What are you saying? Who killed her? Come with me. We will file an FIR in the police station”. Slowly, haltingly, the whole sorry story came out. Two men had followed them when they went home that ill-fated evening. They had forcibly picked Pari up and headed with her towards the Purana Qila. She could not shout for help because she was dumb by birth. She had, however, slipped out of their grasp and run towards the road. An oncoming SUV had slammed into her slight body, and she had died on the spot. The driver of the SUV had not even waited to see if the girl needed to be taken to the hospital. Sobs wrenched their way through the dhol boy’s slim frame as he haltingly narrated the tragedy. The plastic bag fell from Suchitra’s nerveless hands. The bright red track suits lay strewn on the sidewalk, like the blood that had drained and pooled around the body of little Pari. Tears streamed down Suchitra’s cheeks. She scrabbled in her bag, took out a couple of 500 notes and tucked them into the dhol boy’s fisted hands. Then she started to walk back. 

The next day was overcast and gloomy. Suchitra somehow managed to get ready for her office. Her feet dragged as she walked to her car. As the Purana Qila lights approached, she felt a sense of extreme loss. The lights turned red. She waited, not looking either at the sidewalk or the divider. There was a tap on the window. Suchitra’s heart missed a beat. She turned slowly hoping to see dark kohl-lined eyes twinkling with amusement. Her eyes met red-rimmed dark eyes. His hand tapped at the window again. She started to roll down her window. Two 500 notes were thrust in and before she could say anything, the dhol boy walked away. The lights turned green. Impatient honking pulled Suchitra out of her daze. She shifted gears and her car slowly inched forward. Everything was blurred as she accelerated away. She thought she glimpsed a bright smile and twinkling kohl-lined dark eyes in her side mirror and almost turned back. "Take hold of yourself Suchitra", she muttered. But a force beyond her control made her roll down her window and wave. A final farewell to her little acrobat. 

Week 3, November 2023

Image by Floris Bronkhorst
Treehouse

Treehouse

By Sangeetha Kamath

Back in the late '60s when I was five and full of fairy tales, I imagined the mighty oak  in our backyard to be a magical one---what with a flurry of songbirds of every kind and their brood, on the branches higher up.

 

That summer, during the holidays, Papa and my much older brother Sean set out to build a treehouse.

 

Oh, boy! Wasn't I thrilled to bits!

 

It was fitted into every curve and nook of the branches of the oak. They seemed to hold up and cradle the treehouse in their Herculean arms. It was just that bit taller than Papa.

 

The treehouse saw many sleepovers, doll tea parties, playing Red Indians and festive Christmas lighting.

 

 ***

 

A time came when Papa and Sean were enlisted into the Vietnam war. Mama would  sit by the radio clenching and unclenching her hands, listening to every bit of news. Our anxiety was gnawing at us.

 

It was on one ill-fated evening when Papa's platoon was gravely wounded. They didn't get timely aid and eventually, none made it.

A few days later, Sean's plane was struck and had nosedived into the thickets of the forest. It had burst into flames upon impact!

 

This double blow shattered me.

 

I retreated into myself and spent most of my time inside the treehouse. I felt comforted, sensing Papa and Sean in every essence of this haven.

 

As years passed, the treehouse started looking weather-beaten.

 

 Papa and Sean would varnish it and repaint it every year. 'The boys' day out' they would call it when they spent countless hours nurturing it. I would be only too happy to get in their way as did Petite, our newly adopted kitten then.

 

***

 

Time went by and surprisingly, it was the tree which decided that it would be the first to go.The roots started getting a slow rot and termite infestation. We called a handyman to dismantle the treehouse which was groaning with the lack of sturdiness of the tilting branches.

 

A lumberjack was called to saw off the tree and haul away the wood! My 'magic tree'...!

 

The treehouse had lost its tree, like I had Papa and Sean. These were huge episodes of losses.

 

But, I refused to let my treehouse go along with the hacked oak, stomped my foot down, and finally, Mama agreed to keep it. It became a makeshift shed in a corner of the garden and a humongous cat house for Petite and her generations of litter.

 

***

 

This Christmas, I painted the treehouse and also festooned it with lighting after many years, but it still waits for some laughter. My arms may not be wide enough to cradle it like the oak, but I lean on it to give and also receive some solace.

 

At times, I can almost hear it whispering to me when it creaks: "You must adapt to change and learn to be your own pillar, rock and anchor, just like I have, brave girl!"

Sangeetha Kamath is currently based in Singapore. As a contributor to various national and international anthologies of poetry and short stories, her work has also found it's way in literary journals and emags. As a regular participant and a winner in various poetry platforms and short story contests, she has found her true calling in the writing world. When she's not writing and reading, illustrating and journaling take up a major part of her day.

Week 2, November 2023 2023

Image by Content Pixie

Memories

By Emiraldo Prifti

Schooldays I

Class

Only now, after time has erased the traces of uncomfortable past sensations, and all that remains is a memory, likely processed and transformed by imagination into a nostalgic image of movement and comfort, would I like to revisit the noisy classroom of that September day. The sun was descending onto my aged, black, wooden bench, and I sat still, held captive by the shame of wearing a huge oversized t-shirt of my brother, who was four years older than me.

Schooldays II

Screenshot 2023-12-03 at 6.34.27 PM.png

Or, I recall the instance when the shadow on my teacher suddenly halted near my desk. Silently, she observed the book, its pages bearing the portrait of the author of our national renaissance literature. Thoughtful the author was funny drawn with a mustache, glasses, and a cigarette dangling from his lips. Though the words lingered in my throat, stifled by embarrassment, she knew that the old book had passed through various hands before it found its way into mine and maybe she was smiling like I am doing now. 

A Museum's Silent Screams

Image by Chase Lewis

As I stood in the dimly lit museum, a slender beam of sunlight pierces the heavy windows, casting a warm, ethereal glow across the room. In its path, a delicate dance of dust particles becomes visible, suspended like memories waiting to be rediscovered. I got lost in front of a young soldier, immortalized in marble. His youthful face was etched with a mix of determination and fear, capturing a picture  of time. His left knee was bent, a vivid depiction of an old wound, as he stand with an outstretched arm, desperately trying to ward off an impending attack. I can almost sense an entire world of history beyond the marbles, where the whispers of the past yearn to scratch their stories onto the walls and reach me. The air carries an ancient scent, a testament to the endurance of time itself. While I gaze upon the silent sculptures, it's as if I can hear the echoes of centuries past. They seem still, frozen in time, but in reality, each one is a silent scream, an impassioned plea to be heard, to reveal the truth. Regrettably, I can’t deciphering their secrets, unable to lend voice to their narratives, I remain a bystander in a silent symphony of history. I can’t help!

Emiraldo Prifti enjoys writing poetry as well as prose. He does both in his spare time.

Week 1, November 2023

Screenshot 2023-12-03 at 6.37.53 PM.png
French Cafe

The Chase

By Urmi Chakravorty

Her less frequent dreams were those of their grey-and-white home with a garden, the animated laughter of the kids, her husband stoking the bonfire on a cold winter evening, and their neighbourhood lined with the burgeoning cherry blossoms in spring. They made her smile in her sleep – a wry smile hovering around the lower fringe of a tear-stained face. Pretty much like a lone flower sprouting in a dilapidated brick wall.

The more regular and compelling ones were those of an attempted escape through the inky night…the deafening rat-tat-tat of an automatic rifle…the bbrrrrt.t.t.t of enemy bullets ricocheting through the air. Utter mayhem and the smell of gunpowder, a loud thud and multiple screams, a spray of scarlet and three bodies slumping on the ground! Memories that hounded her relentlessly, and made her bolt up straight on the bed at midnight, perspiring profusely. Twelve-month-old visuals that refused to leave her alone. The war had ended, thanks to a humiliating truce. Rehabilitation measures were underway. Life was limping back to normal. But her mind refused to come to terms with her loss. Her family, her entire universe, had been wiped out in a single stroke, like so many others’ - the biggest fallout of a mindless, unprovoked conflict!

Since then, she had never been able to get a good night’s sleep. She tried everything - from coffee and alcohol to music, aromatherapy, even sleeping pills. Nothing worked. Her emotions were perennially on a boil. A mishmash of distant sights and voices eddied inside her brain, both in her sleep and in her waking hours. She felt like a hapless animal trapped amidst a blazing forest, desperately seeking an escape route!

How did I survive? And why did the others perish? I feel so guilty! Lord, what do I do?

She pondered hard and finally, decided to approach an NGO, especially directed to counsel war survivors and grieving families. With trepidation hammering against her rib cage, she sat facing the counsellor, a middle-aged man with kind eyes peering out of gold-rimmed glasses. He spoke to her in a reassuring tone; she found herself trusting him and bared her soul. She spoke, she sobbed, she finally let go of the baggage she had been lugging around for a year. He told her it was her destiny that she survived, not her fault. She was suffering from what was commonly known as ‘survivor’s guilt’.

On the counsellor’s insistence, she started visiting their child-care facility. It housed children from age zero to eight years who had been orphaned in the war. They were children of various temperaments and backgrounds, bound together by a common fibre of displacement, loss and suffering. She read them stories, cuddled them, nursed them in sickness, cracked jokes, solved riddles and played with them, as if she had suddenly found in them her raison d’etre. Her day often began with the gift of a wildflower or a freshly fallen russet leaf, scooped up by her eager bunch of friends. To them, she was the mother figure they were looking for. Someone they could run and cling to, and hug for no rhyme or reason. On her part, she gladly invested all her maternal love and attention in these innocent children, robbed of parental care at such a tender age. Her heart felt lighter, devoid of its crushing burden, like a swollen river which had finally emptied itself into the sea after a long, chequered course.  

Gratitude flooded her heart, left moribund for the past one year. She felt glad she had regained her emotions. After what seemed aeons, she slept well. Without nightmares. Without pills and potions. The voices clamouring in her head had been quietened; the chase was over!

Yarncasts

Listen to our Weekly Yarn writers rendering their stories

Image by Daniel Schludi

Neera Kashyap reads 'The Replacement'

bottom of page