Tuesday, May 02, 2006

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Sunday, October 09, 2005


Thank you for your fantastic response. Here are the results,

1. Tulsi - 81 points
2. Tangent - 62 points
3. Ram - 51 points

Congratulations, winners! Tulsi, your voucher will be sent to you.

A polite reminder to all participants. If you haven't sent Rs. 100 (or its equivalent or whatever you can) to Projectwhy , now would be a good time to contribute. It is for their aid this competition. Thank you.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Vote for the winner

What a fantastic response! Thank you everyone for participating in and for publicising the Projectwhy short story competition.

Here are all the entries I received. I would really appreciate if you could go through all the stories and vote for your top three. It'd be nice if you could also mention why you like them. Please post your comment on this post. Could you leave your name if you are not a blogger? Thank you.

Each participant gets awarded points for the votes he/she gets. For each no.1, the writer gets three points, for no.2, two points and for each no.3, one point.

At the end of the week, the writer who gets the most points is declared winner and gets a £10 voucher to spend on amazon.com.

Those who come second and third receive a mention. Sponsors for second and third prizes welcome.

A note to the participants - I've tried to link your name to your blog where I know of one. If you'd like it changed, then please do let me know. Thank you.


Poornima Sanjiva's entry

Now and then

She was looking back…..to the days, when she used to think that her dad knew everything. He was the best driver, he was the strongest, and he could handle absolutely anything — be it any trouble at school, with the principal, dad could be trusted to make it fine. How could she have been that stupid, to say the least? And when she wasn’t well, all she had to do was to tell mom, and if needed the doc uncle, who was second only to god (with the capital G), he could actually work miracles; you just had to go to him. And later with mom at your bedside, voila! The sickness disappears.
She tried hard to remember when exactly in her childhood, she had started perceiving reality the way it was….huh! Not that it mattered now. She was happy she had gotten back her common sense and had not spent her life thriving on tell-tales. She had now learnt--learnt to behave, learnt to understand, learnt to apply reason, learnt to compartmentalize, to develop defenses….Of course there were times when she wondered “what if I’ve got it all wrong?” …but then those were just passing thoughts.


Natarajan Raman’s entry

Childhood hero

Last night when I was relaxing in the bed, all of a sudden, I heard a lot of noise. However, I could clearly hear what people around were talking.

“Should not let such guys go. Let us bash him”, Said one.

“Let us take him to police; else he would become a big criminal tomorrow. Rogue…!” said the other.

Assuming something serious must have happened I rushed outside, only to find a small kid with a book in hand, surrounded by many ‘prudent’ individuals bashing him.

He would not be more than eight. I stopped them and asked,”What has happened?” They said, “This rascal from slum has stolen this book.”

Looking at the book that was almost torn, I was surprised and asked him “Hey didn’t you find anything else better?”

He did not reply, as I asked him again, he mumbled with tears, “Anna, tomorrow is Gandhi Jayanthi, I always wanted to have one photo of him. As I saw his photo in this book, I just took this to have a closer look at it; I did not intend to run away with this.”

There was no face then, leave alone noise.


Tulsi Keshkamat’s entries

A responsible child

I was considerably clean. And neat. I ironed my own school clothes, washed my socks. I braided my own hair and was proud of my 'primness'. I was kind to her because she had failed and the other girls werent too warm. But I hated her tardiness. I could not fathom her untidy or overoiled hair, or her grubby socks. I included her in games, but I felt a pang to let her dig into my lunch box. I secretly looked down upon her for being lazy, since she wasnt foolish. And I didnt know what luck meant. After all I had seen her younger brother and sister. They were reasonably clean. The teachers were surprisingly forgiving towards her, but I could not overlook the unstarched school shirt. I had hardly known guilt the same way until she told me exactly why she bore the humiliation. She was the eldest of 4 children. And she had no mother and no time.

Just a Man

He was the strongest person in the world. No jokes. He was. I'd seen him once in a fight; something not many children can talk of. Unless their background was questionable. As in, fathers don't hold a street goonda by his collar for bothering their daughters. Well, mine did, for my elder sister. I never saw him cough, sneeze or lie down without reason. Obviously, he could do anything he wanted, or I wanted. When I witnessed the first major earthquake of my area, I was not scared. We were rushing out of the house. And he was trying to open the inside door, the main door and the gate as fast as he could. He didn't panic. Or didn't show it. But I couldn't fathom why he didn't stop the earthquake instead. I couldn't believe it when he said he couldn't. Since then, I've known he can't do everything in the world. He can't stop earthquakes.

Cycle waala

My parents couldnt afford the auto rickshaw pickup to school. But it was getting increasingly difficult for them to drop me. I couldnt be trusted on the bicycle yet. So he was assigned the task of pedalling me on his ancient Atlas Goldline. He was a known simpleton. Instead of him telling me stories, I regaled him with my classroom encounters. He had probably never been to school himself. But his manners were impeccable. On the last of my fifth standard annual exams, my Mom handed him some extra money. I was thrilled at the prospect of biking to school the next year. I would miss him, but I was practical. And it made me uncomfortable to see a big man like that cry big fat baby tears. He was back the following morning. With a black statuette. He knew I used to stare at it on the way home, at the potter's. My manners hadn't allowed me to reveal my secret desire to own it. I smiled, his face glowed. I got a new bike and he slowly faded out of my memory. Until this morning. When the statuette quietly sitting in the balcony slipped and crumbled from age. And I realised why grown ups cry at things like that.


S. Ramasubramaniam’s entries

Bicycle Rider

The arrival of bus services in the village of Lalgudi was an unexpected blow for Raju. This meant that Vadivel Ayya would not take him to school in his bicycle anymore.

Vadivel Ayya had served in the army till he lost his right eye.

“ It was not so bad as losing an arm or leg…but the girl who was supposed to marry me did not think so…However, strangely I could not cry even when my mother passed away…So the eye took away all my sorrows as well…”, Ayya had once said to Raju.

Initially, Raju was afraid of the one-eyed army man. The first day of the ride, he was so afraid that he had got fever in school. Slowly however he saw the warmth behind the tough exterior. Ayya took good care of Raju. Thanks to him, Raju came to know about the latest gossip in the town and this added a lot of prestige amongst his friends.

Now, after four years Raju and Ayya were about to be separated.

In the far distance Ayya was receiving his settlement from father. Raju was stunned with what he saw.

Tears were streaming down his left eye.

Hide and Seek

“I want to play Hide and Seek with you”, said Raju to the kids in the street

“No, you don’t belong to our group. You are too small to play”, the leader of the group exclaimed. There was a general murmur which suggested that the group seemed to agree.

“Let him play”, they heard Ram’s father say. As they were playing in his compound, they had to let Raju play.

The game started and it was Ram’s turn first to seek. He counted hundred while the others hid in places in and around the compound.

Raju hid in a small tool room in the car shed.

Half an hour passed, Raju was feeling thrilled. They were unable to catch him. They would have to concede defeat.

An hour had already passed and Raju was feeling elated. He decided that it was time to tell them what he thought about their inability to catch him.He had braved insect bites, oil smell and cobwebs. Now, in future they cannot refuse to let him play. He went crawling to the compound wall. He got up cautiously and peered out of his hiding place.

All the boys were playing cricket seriously.

The Bargain

Mother sounded agitated.

“Ponni, Listen, the maximum I can give you for this poor quality brinjal is Rs. 8 per kg. which is twice than what they are worth.”

“Mother, you are the Bhonee (first sale for the day) and Iam ready to sell at Rs. 10 per kg but I cannot reduce any further”, pleaded Ponni.

“When I go to the market they tell me half of the rates you quote. I see no reason why I let you continue to loot me like this”

Ponni got up. “Sorry, I bought these brinjals for Rs. 8. Iam going”

“Okay, Okay” said my mother hastily. “The final rate is Rs. 9 per kg and let me hand pick the brinjals. Also, Give me a handful of coriander free.”

My mother went triumphantly into the house and announced, “I have saved around Rs. 15 today. I don’t know what will happen to this house, if I don’t slog around”

“Mother, Iam leaving” said Ponni and positioned her basket on the head.

“Oh! Ponni, Wait a minute”, Mother came back running.

“Here is Rs. 200 for your child’s medical treatment. Let me know if you need something else also”

Personal Decisions…

Sekar appealed to the Principal “Sir, My father is waiting outside your room. I have been told that Iam suspended for a week. May I know why?.”

“I will tell you why, Sekar. In our college, students do not smoke cigarettes in front of a professor like you did yesterday”,said his Physics professor seated nearby.

“But Sir, Smoking a cigarette is a personal decision. In fact I never noticed that you were there Sir.”

“No, Our College produces prime ministers and supreme court judges. I cannot let a student of this institution to smoke a cigarette in front of his professor. Go out and Send your father inside!”, the Principal thundered.

Waiting outside, Sekar knew that his father never forgave easily and this incident would strain their relationship forever. “He would never trust me again”, he thought.

Father come out slowly. He seemed hurt and angry.

“Iam sorry father, I have failed you”, cried Sekar.

” No, Son, This incident is not about you …It is a reflection upon me…Iam sorry…. I have no right to criticize …Let me promise you that I will not smoke again. Never”, he said throwing a Marlboro packet into the dustbin.


Kasturi Keshkamat’s entries


I belong to a family of atheists. As a child though, I used to feel, I ought to believe in all that my friends believed in. My best friend and I used to sit under a Gulmohar tree and have our tiffins during school recess. We used to water the tree with our water-bags, say a small prayer and put a morsel of food from our tiffins. The following day, we would find that food gone..we would be pleased thinking God had partaken of our offerings.Then, one day the contractor came and cut that tree and a few more..They built a church there.


Every summer, I used to visit my grandparents and stay for an entire month with them. Every summer in anticipation of our visit, my grandfather would buy a lot of mangoes for us and we would have great fun feasting on them. He would personally pick our mangoes for us and soften them by putting appropriate pressure around the top of the mango so that all we had to do was suck all the juice from them.We have grown old now and my grandfather older, he can no longer walk around the house, has diabetes and has grown very weak, but his eyes still light up at the thought of our visit, he still buys mangoes for us and we soften them now, just enough for him to suck the juice through; that is the only time he is allowed to have something sweet.We owe this to him, after all he gave us some great childhood memories.


Mahesh's entry


Rajan stood watching them play – he, the one who could not run about like them all. He, who didn’t have to pay attention to what his teacher was saying in class because he didn’t need to; he, who could have told you what the largest twin primes less than thousand were even when abruptly woken up. Such was his fate. He resigned himself to watching them. The unexpected happened.
One of the boys looked at Rajan, and decided it would be to his own advantage if he were to persuade the others to let Rajan join the game. He knew cricket was not a game that kids afflicted with polio could really play, but he thought he would try as well since he definitely needed Rajan’s help in preparing for the rapidly-approaching exams. At any rate, he had nothing to lose.
He spoke to the captain of the other team. Since they were both good friends, they asked Rajan if he was interested in joining them. His eyes lit up as he nodded. They told him he could only be the umpire. He agreed gleefully. After all, being part of their group, even as a non-player was much, much better than not being included at all.


Chenthil's entry

"You shouldn't have let this happen. Why did you not bring her for monthly check up?"

"No Doctor, last child was born ok, so we thought..."

"You people think you are doctors yourself. Do you know what has happened, this child is mongoloid. There are further complications. If checked before, we could have aborted it earlier. This kid has to be put in an institution. Now how are you going to manage... ". I didn't complete the sentence "with your clerks salary"

The only sound in the neonatal ICU was the whirring noise of the AC.

"Doctor..". It was the chief nurse. She pointed to the monitor. The ECG was erratic.

"Check the oxygen", I rushed to the kid. No use.

I turned and looked at him. There was a sigh of relief in his eyes before the tears came.


Aparna's entry

A simple state of being

This whole childhood thing, its not as simple as it sounds. I am telling you this right away, in case you are one of those sentimental beings who fawns on children, calling them my dah-lings, my angels and things like that. They’re really not that simple, and do you know, they even understand your language beyond the baby talk you lisp with such effort. No, sirs, nothing simple indeed.
My own home has two of them, and they will stop at nothing to get around to the things they want. You say they don’t have any patience, no no my good ladies, believe me, they do. They can wait all day until you tire of telling them not to disturb the carnations in that vase, so prettily arranged. And finally, when you tire (which you will), they will leap in to the kill. Only then will they dismantle the patience that they have stored up all day, discarding it like a gift-wrapper.
When they are done, they look around calmly, hoping to spot my black tail that quivers, as I try to squish myself under the bed. That bad doggie, catch him, they say, solemnly shaking their heads.


AF’s entry


“Mom how was your childhood” asked her daughter one day, “It was wonderful sweetie” she replied. It hit her hard then, will her daughter ever have all the small pleasures she had during her childhood, climbing trees, eating stick ice and kamrukatu from the road side vendor, driving around in the cycle, meeting friends, enjoying with cousins, having grandparents and family around all the time. Since now the place she lives in, people are scared to allow kids to play alone outside or talk to each other due to child molestation, kidnapping, drugs and what not!


Varun’s entry

The Childhood Race

I watched the kid run; windbeater that he was. Naked slim waist upwards, he started his race from one end of the potholed street to the other regardless of the other runners, pushing them one by one into the sidelines. I did the same during my childhood race.

With a hundred yards to go his pace slackened and the bully caught up. “Hai! Hai!” I cried and punched the empty space before me giving him a boost using which he surged ahead-yet again! Arms pumping up and down with innocent fury, the desire to win burning bright in his russet eyes, the twelve year old sped along like a road runner-On towards the finish, just like I had done.

Perchance I scanned the finish line and found an ugly stone, the same ugly stone, just before it and screamed “Watch out.”

Today he did. During my day, I did not.

He jerked and twisted his entire hip just in time to avoid that stone which I did not see during my childhood race.

He won. Back then, I only fell.

With wild ecstasy and a tinge of jealousy, I rolled my wheel chair noisily, painfully forward to hug my hero.


Kay’s entry


Annual day function at a local school. He had come as the chief guest. He was an alumnus of that school. He talked about the innocence of one's childhood that gets lost as he gets old.

He recalled his school days – soon forgotten little quarrels with friends, last minute assignments, cricket matches at short notice, road side snacks & friends who did not care about money!

He compared it with his current life – never ending pinpricks with business partners, unethical practices in businesses, no time for play, health problems & acquaintances who want nothing but money!

Everyone loved his speech. They were thrilled to hear the greatest entrepreneur of their city talk about his childhood experiences. Another side of his personality was revealed.

He completed his speech with ‘God, give my childhood back’. That drew a big round of applause.

As he was heading home, I asked him

‘I can turn you back into a child. Shall I’?

‘Who are you’?

‘They call me God’.

He started sweating. He thought for a moment and said – ‘Don’t take my talk seriously. I do not want to go through everything again. I am happy what I am’.

I smiled and disappeared.


Tangent’s entries

# 1

Today would be a red-letter day in my life. Hadn’t slept a wink over the last few days. Had bragged about it for days to friends ...... Doordarshan news had spent a full 5 minutes on this. The Hindu Newspaper ran special supplements .Shops offered special discounts….Newpapers were scoured. I memorise trivia , to impress friends ..Amma wakes up 5.00am prepares a tiffin carrier full of food…yes appalam is a must…I wake up at 5am too…a quick prayer to all Gods.(They know what I want to happen today)....quick mouthfuls of dosais..and an hour later in Pallavan bus No. 25B , along with a hundred other noisy people to make the one hour journey. To paradise. To Chepauk. To watch India play England. My first `live’ cricket match!


The opposite apartment neighbors had moved out a month back. The new tenants were moving in next week. Heard that they had a kid my age. Just what I wanted..a friend.. I was real eager…I could play French cricket..run races ..play carrom board…have macho Phantom/Tarzan fights, Bombay Trade (the Indian version of Monopoly)…..I could get him to play driver/conductor and certain other inconsequential trival games that only a second-grade boy can understand…The move-in day came. Truck load of household stuff – green color steel cupboards…lots of noise…Nice family.
But…how was a 7-year old boy like me to understand that Kiran could be the name of a girl?


It was the day when I was stepping into adulthood. I was moving from 5th standard into the 6th. Suddenly I was a big boy. Suddenly I realise the past years of toil..Suddenly,I have moved past the first seven years of schoollife. Suddenly from primary school into secondary school. And suddenly from science, the subjects became divided into physics, chemistry and biology…and language became second language and third-language.
It was all so sudden. It all changed - the first day when I wore uniform full-trousers instead of the short khaki-drawers.


“You cannot even become a porter at a railwaystation!” – thus spake a furious appa, when we both realized at the same time, that I had missed a question ` Write an essay about a railwaystation’ in my first ever Hindi annual examination.
I swear that question wasn’t there when I saw the paper in the exam hall. I swear it wasn’t.
But I look back at it and smile…and it’s irony….I do work on the platforms… …it’s called windows, solaris.,…net…


The depression caused much elation. It was in the Bay of Bengal! And on a school-working day. Avidly watching the news or hear the radio say beyond `telengana,rayalseema..' ` fishermen have been advised not to venture into the sea'.. to blurt out that `schools would be closed'..that darkening skies and swirls of water and whooshing winds. The precise moment of pleasure occurred when the change from the school uniform into the non-uniform `colour'dress.


It was Diwali day. We had more paper trash from the cracker-bursting than the apartments next door. Our crackers were louder… ..we had more fun..we had more trash....we won!
Until those ragpicking kids came. clothes.in tatters..searching for unburst crackers in our pile of papertrash…. their Diwali was yet to begin.


It was always comparisons. Look at the upstairs kid..he's learning the tabla. Look at the kid downstairs..he has got more marks that you… look at your cousin..she has won a certificate in..Math Olympiad. Look at that kid in the next apartment block…he won a proficiency medal…he runs faster..she eats quicker... he wakes up earlier.…..it was always comparisons..Pity….. the kid did not know how to compare his parents against others.