Monday, May 7, 2012

The Attack

Applause and cheers filled the room as the birthday candles were blown out. The digital camera cast its lighting flashes on all the assembled faces - All displaying mirth- All except one.

No one noticed Shilpa slipping away into a bench in the corner of the room. With her eyes staring away into oblivion beyond the walls, she tightly gripped the teak handle, her knuckles white. She was sweating profusely and taking rapid breaths, almost panting. The clenched teeth and a face that had gone extremely pale by now made her expression ghastly; she held her clasped fists between her legs and started counting inaudibly.
Regaining some composure, she rushed inside the rest room and began splashing cold water on her face as mother had always advised.Her nerves soothened a little. She wiped her face with a tissue, added a touch of make up and came out to join her friends.

It was 9 when she reached home. Chitra was watching the evening news , a glass of buttermilk in her hands.

"Hey baby, you are back! I was just about to call you" she called out looking at Shilpa through her reading glasses almost ready to fall off from the tip of her nose.

Shilpa threw her bag on the coffeetable and slumped on the couch next to her mother.

"How was the party? Had fun? Well, Ritu is the richest girl in your college! It should have been mind-blowing"

'Oh ma!' Shilpa gave out a desperate cry and hugged her tight.

Pulling her back to face her, she asked 'What...What happened?' . The look in Shilpa's eyes explained it all and Chitra's expression slowly transformed from one of concern to one of understanding.

"You had an attack again."

Shilpa nodded sadly. "I think it was the candle mom. I had so gotten over all of that, Its been almost 5-6 months now since the last one.Now again!"

"Its okay sweetheart. Everything takes time. Remember what the doctor said. Not to expect it to vanish just like that? " and she gently patted her daughter's cheeks.

"Hmm. I guess so. It was not that bad this time. I became normal pretty quickly"

"Thats great, isn't it? Go have a bath and come. Lets see if we can catch any good movie on TV today"

An hour later, Rani Mukerjee, SRK and Kajol started singing Koi Mil Gaya on the TV screen.
Shilpa was reclined on the couch, her head resting on her mother's lap. It was her all time favorite movie and she slowly got immersed in it, forgetting everything else.

Chitra gently ran her fingers through her daughter's hair. "She has got her father's face but her mother's hair !"she thought - "Radhika's hair!"
Like  a million times before, she travelled back in time into the memories that would haunt her for life.
Radhika's last telephone call still echoed with perfect clarity in her ears. In between muffled sobs she had said "Atleast earlier he used to promise every now and then, to give up this wretched habit. These days he does not even seem to bother.Its almost like he is not there in my life. He is lost with his bottles. My screams and quarrels are falling on deaf ears. He does not talk to me at all and the silence is all the more irritating. Life is miserable!"
The next evening Chitra decided to stop by at Radhika's house on her way back from the NGO office. She opened the gates and found the husband lying sprawled across the doorstep . Radhika's voice vibrating with fury and emotion could be heard from inside, the child's cries faintly bordering it.
"Why did you marry me? And why father this child? To show us such days?You wont listen to me, no matter what? What will make you stop? WHAT?
Enough Now! We will go..WE WILL GO....Not from this house but from this world..Then may be you will mend your ways..."
Chitra rushed inside and the entire scene unfolded within seconds. A strong smell of kerosene struck  her like a bolt . Two year old Shilpa was sitting on the floor and trying to stand up. She appeared wet and  was howling, stretching her arms out.
A few metres away, Radhika stood still like a statue, staring at her husband, kerosene dripping from her eyelids and hair, a hypnotized look in her eyes and was laughing hysterically.

Seeing the lighter in her hands, Chitra screamed"Radhika, What ...What are you doi!" . Before she completed her words and took the next step, a blast of fire blinded her for a second.
The flames engulfed Radhika; She let out a bloodcurdling cry and started rushing towards her daughter.
In a swift, Chitra scooped up the child and rushed outside hiding her face in her chest.
Hours later, as she stood at the hospital looking at Radhika's blackened and charred face a thousand questions ran in her mind. "How could you Radhika, how could you? Taking your own life is cowardice.Who gave you the  right to take a child's life even if its your own?" She was not heartless to ask these to a dying woman.
Hearing a loud thud Chitra sprang back to the present. The remote had slipped and fallen on the floor from Shilpa, now fast asleep.
Fire triggered panic attacks in Shilpa. The memory had faded, but her subconcious mind refused to let go of the horror.
'Did I act right that day,Shilpa ?Did I? Was there any chance for me to have saved your mother as well?' Chitra wondered again.
I read recently in the news that a lady had set herself and also her baby on fire after a quarrel with her drunken husband and both had succumbed to the injuries. This inspired me to write this story


  1. The narrative is psychologically astute and moves well between time lines. The story opens up well and I was gripped as a reader. Like the piece:)

    1. Thanks Bhavana. And special thanks for specifying what you liked rather than single-word praise. Thanks a lot :)

  2. What a brilliant narrative, I literally had goosebumps during the final part of the story. Very nicely you have differentiated the flashback and the present with a different font color. :)

  3. Gripping.
    Brilliant narrative on a subject that I've always wanted to.

    1. Thanks a lot Navin. Thanks for stepping in and for the comment :D

  4. i ditto akshay ...had a chilling experience towards the end !

  5. J..what a wonderful piece of writing!! The way u have demarcated the flashback from present and tied the loose knots on shilpa's subconcious mind letting go of the fear of fire is brilliant!!

    1. Thanks a lot for the comment Priya. :D Good to know that you liked it.

  6. It was disturbing and numbing... I loved it...

  7. One request, please enable email subscription...Google connect does not help when you post something new...

    1. Thanks a lot for the suggestion and Done!

    2. Thanks.. :) I am officially stalking your blog now... :)

  8. FINE GRIP:) loved the way you started to moved !
    very touchy cause.
    Espl that "What are you Doi..."
    before completing the words thing AWESOME inscription !
    rock on madam :)

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  10. Gripping. Love your narrative. Glad to have found your blog through Indiblogger..following you now..:-)

    1. Hi Uma,

      Thanks a lot....The only place on earth where following and stalking gives you tremendous joy is the blogosphere ....Thank you so much :D I am on cloud nine :)

  11. Woah, this sent a chill down my spine. Sad, how misery drives a woman to the edge of sanity.
    Thanks for sharing this :)