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The Window Of Opportunity

This is flash fiction story I have written during the time when racism and slavery were very much present in the west. Do give it a read and I hope you like it:)

Dear Diary

June 1867

It was five years ago today when Lauren brought me to be her housemaid, to look after her, her husband, and three riotous kids. Taking care of white children, that’s what I do all day, making sure Aliza has her matching top ready with her fancy pants, Martin has his favorite banana shake ready after his basketball practice along with cleaning and cooking for the house. 

   My dad died in the American civil war. My mom was left with me, An 11-year-old, Strolling here and there on the streets of Kansas City to find work and shelter. It was when Lauren Scarlett spotted us and made a deal to my mother at $150. How could she have resisted that kind of money?

   At an age when white children were sent off to school and play. I was meant to clean their shoes and water their lavish garden without a penny getting in my pocket.

   There were times when I would go buying vegetables, I would purposefully take the route from where the central library passed by and would gaze at such a humongous library imagining the number of books to be kept here. Probably 50,000? Maybe more than that, but the sign on the door would remind me to continue walking ahead. ‘Only for whites’.

   My desire to read and the study didn’t stop. Once everybody was asleep, I would walk into Lauren’s study room and look through some books, leafing pages even though I could read much. But one day I was caught by her husband with the Holy Bible in my hand. He took me to my room and chained me by the wall and lashed me with his belt and refused to give me food for the next two days. He said it was the book of the god and only meant to be for them and not people like us. Since then I’d never dared to go inside that room back again.

   A month later, I had a life-changing moment. It was late at night when my Gaze wandered towards the swath of the window along the back of Mrs. Rose Murray’s house. She was a high school teacher at a public school nearby who had just shifted to the neighborhood recently. Her room was just across the window from my shack.

She was sitting next to her window with her little daughter on the study table reading a fairy tale book. I could easily see through the plenty of racks and columns filled with books behind their desk covering their wall.  

   Well. I couldn’t stop staring at them. 

   I glanced back quickly. Mrs. Rose was standing in front of the glass door now. She instantly waved off the curtains and it was all dark again.

   The next Day, Mrs. Rose came on a visit to the house. She spent hours chatting with Lauren and the kids, playing puzzles, cards, and something with dice which I never understood.

  “Would you like some tea, Rose?” Lauren said

  “Sure Lauren”

  “What about you kids? What shall I get for you?

  “Chocolates” Shouted Aliza

  “All right, I will be back in some time”

Rose’s gaze crossed towards me “Come here child” she called out to me.

  I obeyed her “yes?”

  “So, you were the one last night staring me across the window”

  “Yes, I am sorry for that, I was just looking at your books and magazines in your room. I find racks and shelves filled with books very fascinating. I am sorry once again”

  “Have you ever read a book in your life?” I was shocked by her politeness and affability far more than Lauren. 

   “No! Not really, to be honest, My mom did use to read some stories from the newspaper before going to bed when I was young”

   She tucked out a medium-sized paperback from her tote bag and handed it over to me “You could read this if you want, it’s basic English”

  “But my madam won’t allow me”

  “You could hide in your room”

  “All right Mrs. Murray, I will keep it” I took the book from her and tucked it in my t-shirt, and went back to my shack. I held the book in my hands and ran my fingers over the Purple colored front cover, It smelled like heaven.  

   I tried reading the first page ‘I- Am-a-girl’ It felt like an achievement to read those words ‘Tiger-lives-in-the-jungle’ ‘Dogs-are-very-loyal. ’ The first chapter was mostly very small declarative sentences. I spent an hour reading the book after finishing my chores for the night. 

  It was 10 in the night and Mrs. Athena was once again sitting near the window with her daughter Stacey helping her read a book. Her book was green in color with funny animations on the front.

  She spotted me again and passed a subtle smile towards me. I smiled back at her. She instantly picked up a marker and a notebook beside her. She scribbled on it for a sec then held the notebook up so I could read it:

      Did you read the book?

  “I found It difficult to understand as the words were quite small but I anticipated it must be about the book”

I raised my right thumb to indicate a yes I did read. She smiled back.

  In the next two days, I was done with the book. I began to easily read and write words in English, pronouncing to the best I could. The next day when I saw Mrs. Murray by the window I grabbed a piece of cardboard and I wrote:

   I finished the book

She shook her head and smiled back

   That’s good! I will get you another one tomorrow.

Keep reading till then

I couldn’t have thanked her enough for what she was doing for me. It takes courage and bravery to show compassion for people like us in these times. Since then she kept a new book next to her door for which I picked up while running errands and read and read and read.

The day that changed Lisa’s life

   May 27, 202. A day to remember. A day which no one could have foreseen. The day which changed Lisa’s life.

  It all began on a typical day. As she was walking through the store. He stopped her and told her that she had to listen to him closely. He said my life depended on it. Lisa’s eyebrows wrinkled in a confused state, what can a receptionist know something that could change my life, she wondered. Lisa was all ears when he began speaking. ‘Your mom is in DANGER’ The tension in her muscles ebbed a little.

 ‘What! What makes you say so?’

 ‘There was a black hooded tall muscular guy at the store yesterday night who was talking to a friend of his to kill the woman living in 202 East Eden building. I had eavesdropped him while scanning through his items.”

  Lisa’s eyes were wide open ‘No! That’s not possible. Why would anyone want to kill my mom? What has she done?’ Lisa panicked

  ‘ I don’t know. I felt it was my job to inform you’

  ‘So what do I do now?’

   The receptionist gestured a hand to her to wait and that he will be back in a sec.  He brought with him a sharp-pointed dagger. ‘Keep this with you. If you see such a man, DO THE DEED!

   That evening, I was sitting at my dining table overlooking the lawn to keep a check. Here he was! There was a guy out who resembled the kind, the kind that the receptionist was talking about. A black hooded man, tall and muscular. Her fist tightened. Her face became pale. She removed the sharp-pointed dagger from her pocket and walked towards the hooded man from behind and just a foot apart from him sliced his throat and he fell on the wet grass.

  Her mouth hung loosely just as the ground around her began to bleed. Her throat closing in horror at what she had done. It was her dear father whom she killed. SHE WAS TRAPPED. SHE HAD NO ESCAPE.

   His mom Luciana arrived outside at the pool of blood hearing Lisa’s screech. A devilish grin split her face, ‘Good job honey’ she messaged the receptionist down the lane.  

Do give me your reviews on the story. It would help me a lot.

Hope you enjoy the story!!

A fine balance by Rohinton Mistry

Weekly book reviews.

4.5/5 Rating

Its one the best books I have read this year until now , this book has given me an altogether a new perspective to see the world. But I wonder did a world like this really exist in the 1970s? God forbid!!

This is a beautiful compelling narrative is set in the era of ‘state of internal emergency’in the the 1970s in which the prime minister had the power to rule by decree creating dictatorship due to the internal threats. Forced mass sterilization, censorship of press, National beautification in which thousands of slums were demolished creating an environment of social and political unrest.

Author does a great job in carving out the relationship between the four central characters, These folks heralding from different cast and backgrounds are tossed into life threatening situations forging a bond, Dina Dalal who’s husband died while buying ice creams for the family. Two chammars  Ishwar Darji and his nephew Om Prakash who has been a subject to oppressive rules caste system and  have migrated to mumbai to work as Tailors . Fourth character is Mancek Kholah, a 17 year old college student studying  air conditioning and refrigerator living as paying guest in Dina Dalal’s house. These characters repeatedly bump into each other under pure coincidence which binds these characters like glue.
Mistry goes back and fourth in time to show the journey of each character and how they have come together in such circumstances. The novel unfolds the tragedies and obstacles faced by the people due the political and social system formed by the government creating a hole in each of the lives.

Mistry is powerful in his descriptions about random rural oppressions including their families burned alive, castration, mass sterilization, violent deaths without much exaggeration. The ending or the climax of the book will not satisfy you instead make you uneasy and question the purpose of book and its meaning.
There were moments in this book which I felt were to exaggerated and descriptive and could be avoided but overall its a must read book if you want to read about the tragic history of India or just want indulge yourself into the lives of these characters.

Mother’s day poem

On a cold wintry morning,

I wake up see her right beside me sound asleep,

tuck myself into her blanket and wish

her Happy Mother’s day Mom.

I don’t think these 18years would have been possible without you in it

It’s you, who has given me strength whenever I’d lost faith in myself,

It’s you who has always been the first one to congratulate me for all my achievements.

It’s you with whom I feel safe and protected.

 I still remember the time when you were sick but you’d still cook for the family,

I still remember the time when you would cook extra chapattis for school so that I can share it with my friends,

I still remember the day when it was the first day of school and I was crying and weeping but you had to let me go as I’d need to stand strong and tough.

Often I say things which I don’t mean,

At times I even annoy you and yell at you, But no matter what happens no one can replace you.

I just want to thank you,

For your wisdom, your encouragement and showering your love all these years.

Happy Mother’s day to all the mothers out there!

-Simran Hirani