Friday, June 28, 2013

Correction (Micro Fiction)

Cantonment bungalows can take you on flights of fancy. Everything can seem right with the world as you step out of the car, swinging a tastefully wrapped gift, hugging to yourself cosy thoughts of the waiting hospitality. “What a fabulous lawn!” Komal turned to her husband, the fairy lights throwing her warm smile into soft focus.

They picked their way carefully over the cobbled path, Garv keeping a steady hand under his wife’s elbow, thoughtful of her party footwear.

The host couple was waiting graciously at the other end and soon enough the evening flowed along on smooth rounds of drinks, music and effervescent banter. “Is your son home today? How have the auditions been going?” Komal had heard from Isha about their twenty three old aspiring actor son. “He will show up for dinner,” the hostess responded, looking away.

With the bonhomie having reached comfort levels, acerbic anecdotes had begun to roll off artful tongues. Before long, they were all moving in to Isha’s elegant dining hall. A gastronomic high was clearly guaranteed if the visual treat was anything to go by.  Komal lowered herself onto an ethnic chair with a plateful and looked around.

A tall young man had entered from the rear door. She watched him stand still near the table, gazing down at the prawns. He seemed as though he was in a bubble wrap, unseeing and unhearing of others.  He reached for a plate. There was the slightest hesitation when he reached the table end. Beckoning him close, she patted the chair besides her. He came over and sat down obediently.

“Hi! I am fascinated by your choice of work,” she began. He responded instantly, “You know Auntie, acting is a very dirty line. There are mothers who bring their daughters to directors; you understand what I am saying. Also, any idiot can get a six pack at the gym these days. Have you read the Laws of success by Napolean Hill? He talks of the mastermind. I shut my eyes often and picture myself on the screen; I hear the hall resounding with ovation, it is as though the audience are chanting my name.”

Komal placed her plate down gently on the peg table, narrowing her

eyes. “You did not go to NSD or FTII, so how do you plan to crack this?” her voice was tentative, a little unsure at his stilted intensity. He sprang up, “Oh! Would you like to see my blueprint for success?” Komal was led at a brisk pace to his study, “Here, I have organized myself,” he pointed her towards the computer chair. The two turned to a medium sized green board. There were grids and columns under heads such as: personal, social, professional, emotional. Subheads included: make four influential friends; put on 8 kilos; play basketball 45 minutes daily; clean up spoken Punjabi; don’t be picky; NETWORK. Her eyes stopped at ‘BHAI!’

His high strung voice nagged at her “We skyped with my brother last night. He was depressed over some exams. I don’t know man, here, look at this book. He wrote this when he was twelve! See all those shelves there; he has read them all. He is a champion shooter; a phenomenal dancer. At our school, everyone would tell me, “You can’t be Karan’s brother?!” All my life I have been compared with him; he is better built, fairer, scores more. It hurts.”

Conscious of the sudden silence from the dining hall, Komal got up. She parted the curtains, feeling an odd sense of guilt at having glimpsed something painful and private. Isha was seated right across the study. Their eyes met, held briefly then broke contact in haste.

Forcing herself to stay upbeat through the goodbye speeches, Komal let the mask drop as soon as their car pulled away. She gnawed at her lip, brows furrowed. At the red light, she turned to her husband and asked quietly, “Garv! Have we been too ambitious for our children, pushing them beyond what their caliber justified? Time for a mid-course correction?”

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