Shanta hurriedly stirred the onion fritters while her husband waited with a cup of sweet tea. A few drops of boiling oil leaped on to her wrists angrily, but she was used to burns. She had cooked for her family for more than 40 years; her hands were full of scars that stayed with her like bad memories. Shanta’s husband entered the kitchen impatiently, inhaling the fragrance of coconut oil. “What do I vote for?” she asked. “Ram’s temple or Babur’s mosque?” He laughed aloud. She turned the fritters again—not very kindly this time—and stabbed at one mercilessly while it was still hissing in the wok. Her husband moved aside. “Who sent YOU the link to vote?” he asked, still amused. Shanta switched off the stove, brought out the fritters and arranged them in a plate for her husband to eat. She then hobbled to the sofa, picked up her phone and deleted the link. No man—whether Hindu King or Muslim Emperor—would get her vote. Besides, the sun had set, leaving behind a terrible darkness. She lit a lamp and carried it to the door, bringing grace and light into a world filled with ugly shadows.
Are we born to automatically be part of a community, religion, nation, tradition? Why can’t a person turn away from all of this and make himself up as he goes along? Who says we must be burdened with upholding all that we are born into?
Philip John’s wonderful piece on belonging nowhere to no one. On being a community of one. Click here to read his story.
Ending a story in 101 words is challenging yet stimulating. So here’s my 101-word story (hope you write yours soon!):
Read Forbidden Love
Julie unclasped her brassiere, brought out a dripping breast and thrust it into her baby’s mouth. She watched her hungry daughter suck fiercely, milk running in rivulets down her chin. A few men stared at Julie’s swollen breast. The guard checked his rulebook to see if it was okay for a woman to breastfeed in public. Someone clicked a picture. Perplexed, Julie covered her breast with an arm, but was surprised at how forcefully her daughter pushed it away. She smiled, sat back and held her child closer, allowing nature to dictate terms for once. She stayed on the platform even after her train arrived; her baby wanted more milk and there was ample on the other side.
(Image: Wikimedia. Anja Kiel, BreastfeedingMums.com)