Biscuits

Alisha threw the blanket away as she heard the conch shell blowing. Her grandfather was done with his morning prayers. From the side table, she grabbed her Barbie purse, took out the biscuits she had saved, and skittered out of the room, leaving her parents snoring.

Strong fragrance of incense filled her as she entered the puja room. He sat in front of pictures of Gods and Goddesses, his snow-white hair still wet from an early morning bath.

“Good mornin’ daadu!” she said, stuffing the biscuits in her pocket.

He turned around, scowling. “Alisha. What did I—”

“Oh, sorry!” She giggled, and pressed her hands together like one of those classical dancers. “Raam Raam, daadu!”

That’s better.”

“Now come on.” She jumped, butterflies fluttering in her tummy. “Let’s go. They must be waiting.”

“Yes, yes.” He pushed himself to his feet, and walked out towards the kitchen, Alisha following behind like a tail. He picked a bundle of leftover breads from the counter, and turned, extending a hand. “Let’s go.”

“Feeding dogs is a punya – a good deed,” he had told her the morning after they had landed in India, three days back. It was her first visit to her grandfather’s, and she was up early, part jet-lagged, part excited. “They pray for the prosperity of the house.”

She didn’t much care about prosperity, but the beautiful sight of them jumping around, wagging their tails had pushed her to wake up early and come every day after that.  

They crossed the small garden now, and reached the big iron gate. He unlatched the smaller door within it, and pushed it open.

The brown fluffy one, always playful, got to its feet first. It was her favourite of the two. The black one followed timidly behind.

Grandfather tore the breads into pieces and began throwing them away one by one. The dogs snatched them mid-air, chewed in a hurry, and cocked their heads back up for more.

Mesmerized, Alisha took out one biscuit, and tossed it to the brown one. A clean swipe of its long tongue and it was gone. She broke into a smile, and dug out another. But just as she was about to throw it, she felt a jerk in her arm, and the world around her swung suddenly.

Her grandfather stood staring at her, his grip tight around her wrist. “What are you doing, girl?”

She squirmed. “Biscuits daadu. For the…”

“You stupid child.” He slapped his forehead. “These are chocolate biscuits!”

“Yes,” she said, confused. “Don’t they like — Ouch!” She lurched forward as something brushed her elbow. Behind her, the dog stood salivating, its eyes fixated on her hand.

Before she could do anything, her grandfather had leaped in front, swinging a leg.

“NO!” Alisha cried, as the kick caught the dog on the snout with a sickening sound. It flew back, yelping so loud it hurt her ears, and landed heavily on its side. It sprang back up, and bolted away after the other one, its painful screams echoing down the street.

She whirled around and ran back into the house.

Mom was up, coming out. Alisha flung her way into her.

“Eli, what—”

“Nothing!” her grandfather said, rushing in after her. “Got scared of the dog.”

Mom knelt. “It’s all right, baby. It’s gone.”

“Yes. Got a bit greedy, that one,” he said. “She shouldn’t have brought those chocolate biscuits out. Please tell her that it’s not something you give to dogs.”

“Sweety,” her mother said, looking at her hands. “Daadu is right. Chocolate is harmful for dogs.”

“No, God!” he said. “It’s expensive is what I’m saying. I brought them for Alisha, not them d—”

Alisha spun around, wiping her eyes, and flung all the biscuits on the floor.

“Eli!” Mom got up. “Say sorr—”

But she turned, dashed away to her room, and slammed the door behind her. And, sometime later, when mom came in telling her that Daadu was going to the terrace to feed the birds, Alisha turned away her face, and kept watching cartoons, sitting cozy in her father’s lap.

Sundaram Chauhan

35 comments

  1. Talk about double standards. 😕
    Your writing is so crisp and clear Sundaram…it was like all the drama was unfolding in front of my eyes… painful tale but written beautifully 💕💕

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I felt the love and hostility all in one place. You took me there and although fiction, your story, showing a bit of truth too, opened my eyes to a glimpse of culture I don’t ever think of. Nice work!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow. This ending I was not expecting. Talk about the double standard. Very beautifully you have showed how we can love one innocence and hate other innocence. It was so brilliantly written that I could imagine the whole story in front of my eyes. Great work Sundaram.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Yeshu. You know what. I was keeping this one for a long time, fearing I could go wrong somewhere depicting such sensitive bonds, and their play. Then I read that message from you, and sat down to edit it. And here it is. Thanks so much. :))

      Liked by 1 person

      • At times we all need an extra push Sundaram. Glad my message got you to edit and post this. You are right its a sensitive topic which you have touched but you have done that amazingly.

        I really loved your art of writing about the social stigmas and showing the real face of society. It takes great observation and creativity to write such subtle stories and yet deliver a powerful and strong message.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. You really have a special way of telling your stories, Sundaram..Good flowing, real-live dialogue, you bring us all in close, as if we were in the front rows of a stage play, and then…you enact the unexpected.. I never saw the ending coming…but this has happened to me before..because you have the ability to surprise us, even when we think we know where this is heading.I wonder what kind of prayers for protection that dog will give for the house who was unjustly kicked in the snout? Either you believe in something..or you don’t!.. Obviously Daduu only believes in himself. Wonderful writing..that always invites a second even a third reading..Thank you for sharing your talent..with us all. Be safe and Be blessed..

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Karima. Thanks so much. :)) You say it all so beautifully, and it’s a joy to know you enjoyed the story.
      There is such a wrong notion so many of us have about religion and charity. As if they are a means to an end. A very materialistic end. And Daadu is one such individual. The sad thing is that he would never see what the little girl did, and she did it because she still didn’t have those layers upon layers of filters society forces upon us all.
      Thanks for joining in the discussion, and supporting my writing with such amazing words. God bless you. Take care. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is yet again very brilliant writing, you conveyed reality so clearly. Can’t blame the young minds then for getting addicted to the screens after all their joy and sensitivity to life and nature around gets trampled upon in this manner. It is sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Another great piece. Lots of astute feedback already so I don’t have much to add. Just wanted to say that I’ve come to very much look forward to your posts each month.

    In this piece, as with the Newspaper piece, you’ve proven you have a deft hand at highlighting injustices and hypocrisy. This never feels heavy-handed. You present a situation for what it is and respect the reader enough to let them draw their own conclusions.

    I really like this sort of slice-of-life fiction. The family and cultural dynamics at play here feel complex and authentic. Your prose is clear and evocative; you don’t allow writerly artifice to get in the way of the story. Very impressive.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Tom. Always glad to receive your feedback. You dissect a piece so well and make me see the technical aspect of it. Feels good that I’m keeping close to the standards. My only motive is to convey the story, without embellishments, and without interference. Thanks for always supporting me. Take care…:))

      Liked by 1 person

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