She laughed. Laughed in delight.
She was about to leave for home.
To her village.
She was going on a vacation.
“Off season” they said.
She liked home. And she always liked the lights.
Every year the first few weeks of vacation were full of light.
Sudden flashes. Sudden bursts of joy.

The man walks in. He has been staring at her for a while now.
The half smoked cigarette dangling from his mouth.
He gives her a half grunt and walks away scratching his privates.
She brushes his image aside with a wave of her hand.
She had one more round of threads to tie.
One more round of wickers to set.
And the gift she was preparing would be ready.

The gift for the princess who lived far away in the big city.
Daughter of the king who paid their wages.
The king who would to anything for his little princess.
They said the princess also liked lights.
Maybe they were twins separated at birth?
She wished she was a princess.
A princess who people would pay to make happy.
Maybe she indeed was a princess.
Kept in hiding from evil armies.

It is late and she is alone. She is also afraid.
There are not many people around.
And the man has started lurking around again.
Should she just complain to the wage manager in the morning?
As if reading her thoughts… he spits a fury of red paan on the wall and walks away.
She is almost done with the task.
The knots are tied. The shiny shreds of paper are set.
She must clean up the working area now.

This was the part she hated most.
The careful removal of the powder residue from the work slab.
And the yucky way it all stuck to her.
The way it crept on her when it mixed with sweat as she walked back home.
The vigorous washing with the same water over and over again.
It made her sick for hours after. And killed her appetite.
She could hardly remember a night when she hadn’t woken up breathless.
Or gone to bed with a full stomach.

She was dusting the mat when he walked in again.
He smelt of alcohol. His clothes were paan stained. His trademark half smoked cigarette was in place.
She realized with panic that they were alone in the huge factory compound.
The man approached her with a snort of sorts and smiled to show stained teeth.
She thought of seeking help from the night watchman at the factory.
Only to realize it was him.

He walks up to her and mumbles a sweet nothing.
She walks back towards the corner.
He steps forward. Yanking off his lungi.
She screams. He laughs.
She tries to lunge out at him.
He gropes her and throws her back.
Not before she has scratched his face.

He lets out a yelp.
And shoving the lungi aside with his foot, he marches forward.
As he approaches her, he picks out the cigarette from his mouth and throws it aside.
She lets out a loud scream and closes her eyes.
She is taken aback.
There is light everywhere.
It is no longer dark. And the man has vanished too.
She is safe. She is alone. She is warm.
In the safety of her solitude, at last she feels like a princess.

In a far away land, the king summons another craftsman.
Another gift is commissioned.
What the princess wants, the princess gets.
And indeed she does, a box of her favorites. The biggest. The loudest.
The king presented it to her with a mock bow, and said “Happy Diwali”
She laughed. Laughed in delight.


Anonymous said...


harjee...It is beautiful... touching and just amazing...The parallel drawn between the village girl and the city girl connected by that explosive medium is striking and very appealing...I know I give too many compliments. But I really mean them. Hope to see u write many more pieces like this.

Casablanca said...

Do we blame the princess for the village girl's rape? We cant play blame games... there is much more to do.

Anonymous said...

okay...there are two things...

1st, this was just fabulous!lovely... I didnt get to know wat was goin to happen till the end...really well written...

2nd, as casablanca said, we can't afford to paly blame games...I dont burst crackers, coz of my own reasons...but this job is their very livelihood!and try as u mite...somethings u can't change...

hmn....anyway, still loved it.

AakASH!!! said...

Just tell me one thing:

Did the first girl die?

Arunima said...

everybody has gone home and I am stuck at work. I am missing home. boo hoo.

Anonymous said...

This was masterpice...!!! I am at a loss of words here...so I will just say that after a long time I am reading a really good post in blogosphere!!! Awesome!!!!

Anonymous said...

@AakASH: The cigarette stub ignited an inferno that took the girl and the watchman with it.

Anonymous said...

oh my gosh wot was that...incredible

.:Infektia:. said...

awesome! It's absolute delight...I wonder from where u have things like these come into ur head

Anonymous said...

abs amazing... just loved it... i agree with yashita that i couldn't get what it was till i reached the end...

i am also a strictly no cracker girl and that makes me admire this even more...

kitsch said...

hmmm..read it finally!!
And liked it..only i don't like sad stuff!!

AakASH!!! said...

@Silverine: Aww shucks! how could i miss that?! *beats myself on the head*

And now i can say with surity, i know what this is, simply awesome.

AakASH!!! said...

But even then: does she really die?

aakriti said...

Shocking and stunning! Very well written.

Mathanki said...

The beginning got me all curious, and I loved the twist in the last two paragraphs, the way the story unfolds!

nowheregirl said...

what happened to the 1st girl... didnt understand...
and the cause-effect logic is too simplistic dontcha think...

shruti said...

the end was unbeleivable...

Anonymous said...

harjee ji my diwali was crap hope urs was a bright one...ur is post ke liye main pehle comment de chuki hoon....its amazing......the turn of fate of destiny ....bakwas isnt it... i mean to say life is bakwas inst it...tamarind

the pooh said...

:) loved it ! thoroughly ...the highs and the lows...beautiful...sorry i came here late! better late than never right?

FiNK said...

hey.. kinda interesting... i like how it ends... *bang*

Spazsim Chasm said...

It's been a while :) glad your back by the way.

Sensitivesmile said...

Really Really good!! The inquisitiveness and curiosity is well maintained till the end.

AakASH!!! said...

Ahemm ahemm. Kahaan hain ap sarkar?
Aur haan, hum bhi post kar diye hain.:-)

Anonymous said...

hey i'm seriously touched man. This is kinda like one of those stories which never end. they sorta be with u much after u've finished readin them.. am so glad i came to ur blog today. And finally i'm compelled
to leave a comment :-)
- kaajari

Anonymous said...

hey i'm seriously touched man. This is kinda like one of those stories which never end. they sorta be with u much after u've finished readin them.. am so glad i came to ur blog today. And finally i'm compelled
to leave a comment :-)
- kaajari

"sen"sational said...

write a book.

zeena said...

Hi Harjee, nice one!
Left me with a heavy heart though.

Idle Mind said...

vous parlez francais bien!! mais malheureusement je n'ai pas compris quelques choses que vous avez ecrit :-(

AB said...

read it many times,
over the past week.

good to have u back, Harjee

ps: i've been stalking u on orkut :)

Neha Bhatt said...

Maybe you should have seen my face when i read this...my eyebrows were knitted in concentration, my face scrunched up, wave of fear, breathlessness, then heart stopped beating for a second or two...and then i smiled. ok im not being dramatic, it did have that kind of an effect on me .

mahima said...

fucking amazing harjee..sorry i didnt read this earlier..
so so bittersweet..tho more bitter than sweet.
goes to show eh? 2 sides to a coin..

lovemarks said...

I'm at a loss to comment here... filled with too many emotions...shock, disgust, confusion, sadness...

relentlesslyrestless said...

really intersting..the play between two worlds..and leaves a lot to the reader's imagination- which is what i like best about it..

Minakshi Singh said...

I visit and read this once almost every alternate day... I guess I even remember the lines now...

Definitely your masterpiece... so far :-)

Hamster Babe said...

Yikes!! Its the truth and its scary. Well written though :)