Saturday, 12 January 2013

Romantic Friday Writers Challenge : New Year! New Love!

It’s time for the first RFW Challenge  of the year!  With the New Year there are some changes there,  the challenge will now be monthly, with an extended word limit and time frame.  Must admit I like both the ideas.  Higher word limits mean more elaborate, fleshed-out stories to read (what fun!), and the new deadline means more time to come up with one and also greater leeway to tell it, all entirely welcome.

Membership is not mandatory for participation, so if you like writing, then do go over and see if you want to give it a try.

Here is my entry for this challenge:

Vikram shakes a spoonful of sugar into his coffee, stirs it and brings the mug through to the sitting room.  A quick sip later, he sets it down; on the lace coaster Anita had got, that looks as frozen snowflake-like as ever.  So many things in this room, in his life are so completely hers that it’s practically impossible not to see her everywhere.  In the stuff she’s left behind, the clothes and the books, her collections of milkjugs, old handwritten letters, brass oil lamps, newspaper cuttings; she’d always been a great one for squirreling.  Friends had helped him pack them off, the ostensible bits anyway.  But many frozen snowflakes in the gullies remain unnoticed; refusing to melt.

He still wishes that things had worked out different.  Sometimes, back from work, he absent-mindedly thinks that he must call her, calculating the time difference as a reflex almost.  Then he remembers and comes to himself again. No-one knows that she is still there on his personal gadgets, password-protected among his Skype contacts and cell-phone shortcuts. A photo of them both, grainy and indistinct, still preserved in one of the rarely used flaps of his wallet.  Shot in their final year at the university, she looking at the camera unsmiling; his face is flung open in a wide smile, his eyes trying to look wicked and not quite making it.

He had teased her about that fortune-teller. They, with friends had visited the winter fair, and trooped into the astrologer’s marquee.  The old man had looked at Anita’s palm and face and mumbled stuff about her past life, mostly accurately. Vikram had known Anita right from childhood, the two families had lived close by.

The chap had stroked her palm, and peered at it; and then mumbled, ”What you think is love now, isn’t.  Real love will come late.”

She had withdrawn her hand sharply, and let the next person take her place.  It was ridiculous nonsense of course, just some harmless fun among friends.  So he had teased her afterwards, but she hadn’t laughed, her irritation mounting at his banter.  A little later, some friend had clicked that photo, a sharp silence in her face forever captured in monochrome.  He had got a copy and carried it in his purse; he always did think that she looked magnificent when she was annoyed.  Somehow the photo had taken on an extra significance, an added shade of humorous defiance when they had got married later.  He had never removed it, stuffing it in all the successions of wallets that he’d used in over two decades. He had never had any occasion to think of the astrologer or his predictions.  He’d never had much use for astrology anyways.

They got married, moved a couple of times, then Vikram had got an offer abroad.  He had wound up his life and moved, and she’d followed him after she found work there; things had fallen into place in uncommonly lucky ways.  The children came, and the beam of their love widened to include babies without weakening its focus on each other. The kids grew up and first Sam went off to university a whole continent away.  Then Vir and Vidhu followed, but were somehow unable to settle down.  So after much discussion she had gone to look after them, leaving Vikram alone and a little at sea.  It had been difficult to get used to the empty nest, a lot emptier than he had bargained for. 

For several months he had felt unsettled; hard done by because he had to come back to a dark home and eat alone; robbed of the pleasure of seeing the children’s sleeping faces at the start and end of day;   the rooms stripped of their laughter and rivalries, the bickering over the TV remote suddenly acquiring a shine now that it had gone entirely quiet.  But he had gone about building his solitary life slowly and painstakingly, employing his empty evenings to pick up a hobby, rekindling old friendships, and acquiring a deeper understanding of himself and the culture he lived in.  And a sudden empathy for many co-workers living here without their families.  He had coped somehow, moved into a smaller home that didn’t emphasise their absence in such an unnervingly pointed manner.

He and Anita spoke every day.  They wrote emails and texts, on screens large and small; shared photographs and updates, in too vehement an attempt trying to erase the distance.  They met every holiday. He never doubted that they would resume their old life from where they’d left off.  And they had done, too; she’d come back once the offspring were settled and there remained no excuse for her presence there.  But something about her, and perhaps him too, had irrevocably changed. Picking up the threads of the relationship turned out surprisingly difficult.  It felt like having to relearn to live together all over again.

They’d had a baffling number of arguments about complete trivia, shockingly vicious, the painful aftermath lingering for days.  One night she’d been disproportionately angry about some piffling serving spoons, claimed to be her favourite suddenly, of which he’d had no inkling. It had ended with the absurd idea of moving back with the kids. 
He’d tried reasoning but she was impervious.  He’d lost it then, at her playing the victim always, supposedly uprooted at every whim of her family.  Did she think he’d had it easy?  She at least had had the children. He’d had nobody. Did she even know what being truly alone was?  A silly argument had somehow morphed into a life-changing one.  He’d suddenly remembered the strange prediction.  Was there somebody else? She’d said nothing, just looked at him appraisingly for a long moment. And then gone back.

That had been a year ago this New Year.

Vikram finishes his coffee and picks up his cell.  Who knows, perhaps it’s time to go wooing again. He dials a number; and waits.






  1. Hi Nilanjana,
    Lovely Story. Felt sad for "Vikram" though.

    1. Hello Vikram, and thank you. If a real Vikram feels sad for a fictional one, then the latter must be convincing. Value your input. Regards.

  2. The story has started well, good read. :)

  3. You write so well....the language is effortlessly lucid. I'm in awe of you these last few days

    1. Awe?? That's seriously unnerving! :) Thanks for the visit.

  4. Its so sad when a life love just fizzles. Moving on can be so difficult. You wrote a beautiful story of Vikram's love, and I could see how difficult it was to give up. So glad he has a phone number to call, and a possible new love to woo.

    Thanks for submitting your excerpt Nilanjana. Sorry you had to sit on that linky so long by yourself :( Very brave of you to be first. I think this challenge was harder than it looked at first.


  5. He's actually calling Anita to see if she's changed her mind, new loving with his old love so to speak. Removed the last sentence so that readers could interpet the end whichever way they wished. So many split continent love stories going on all around me, remote loving is increasingly the norm.

    And yeah, sitting on the linky alone was ordeal I hadn't anticipated at all :)

  6. Ah, those fortune tellers wreck everything. Vikram has lost so much but he is willing to go forward in life. He is rebuilding it. One question--why has he no strong bond with his children? Why do his children seem closer to his wife?

    1. That's a good question. I don't suppose his bonds with the children are particularly weak, but they have now been away from him in a different country for several years. The mother on the other hand has lived with them in that same period. So the extra closeness with her is natural. Thank you for asking.

  7. Yes, I think Vikram meant, Linda, that she had been with the kids, he hadn' butt into the conversation above...

    I was rivited from the beginning. Clever play with tenses too. It worked for this story. I felt his sadness, pathos really, and couldn't take sides--their situation was no ones' fault, really, more circumstance.

    I'm glad to hear he's ringing her first...I took it he was going to work his way through his black book.

    Yes, sorry you sat alone on the linky--this extended linky idea will take a little getting used to. I had my story ready, but kept improving it...or I hope I was improving it...then I got carried away with life and holidays again. I think many of our members are still on holidays, hehehehe.

    Lovely to kick off the NEw YEar with such a great story!!


    1. Thanks, Denise for the feedback. Agree that one can't take sides on this one, like many others,life's not always black or white.

      I signed up early coz I'm travelling for about two weeks, and wasn't sure abt how often I wd get the chance to write/connect..but it was no huge hardship sitting on the linky, love being at rfw and got to read such polished pieces as a result :) maybe you could consider having ppl sign up with intent and then post the actual story when that's ready, like you did for the hol spirit one..just a thought.

  8. Nilanjana,

    Lovely story. Those fortunes tellers can really do a number on you. I saw one several times when I was younger. Horrible--trying to figure out the words spoken. Leaned my lesson the hard way. Great story to come out of this though -- next story I hope we learn of Anita's interpretation!
    Well done, as always! Sorry you were alone for so long.

    1. Pleased to see you, Yolanda! and that you are fine now. Fortune-tellers! Have known some complete frauds and some amazingly accomplished ones too. And it's uncanny what you said!! Because I actually did the story first from Anita's pov and then reworked a second version. I always feel the second version is better than the first somehow, for all challenges :)

  9. Dear Nilanjana,
    Lovely story. I feel sorry for Vikram. I'm glad to read that he was calling Anita. I think he must love her very much and she might love him too. I hope so.
    Travel takes time away from writing. That was my problem in November and December. I only had time for a recipe for the December challenge.
    I like the new once-a-month-format for RFWers. I don't have much time to visit others. This way maybe I can read everyone's post.

    Best wishes,

  10. I was feeling so sad for Vikram, but then he looks like he's gonna be okay. It must be hard to deal with having life change so drastically from what he was used to. It was particularly poignant in view of the history that's written into this story.

  11. Hi, Nilanjana,

    Love the sensitivity of Vikram... such a family man and lonely an lost without them. Sad the relationship fell apart, but Anita seemed aloof from the very beginning. Something bothered her. Its almost like she just went through the paces, waiting for something more to happen.

    Nicely written. Beautiful emotion and descriptions.

  12. Hi Nilanjana,
    You have written a well crafted story and I am more inclined to have sympathy with Vikram as I feel his wife using her children for her own selfish motives. I enjoyed reading it very much.

  13. Fab story- I was completely hooked by your writing- you packed in a massive story in such a short time, and it worked perfectly. i hope his wooing turns out well!
    Nice to meet you!

  14. Wow NB thats an amazing story, so many emotions bundled into one beautifully written story. Liked it thoroughly :D

  15. Nilanjana, this fiction doesn't look fictional at all. Have read and heard about love being torn apart by distances, your story is outright convincing.

    The writing as usual is splendid. I am in absolute awe...:)


  16. Thank you all for taking time to read this post and the feedback. Am currently travelling and writing offline :) Hope to visit and read everyone's posts once I am back. Happy week to all of you :)

  17. wonderful have made this all very real and an emotional piece as well...i was thinking today i hadnt seen you in a bit...glad you dropped that note about traveling...hope they go well and look forward to your return...


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