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[personal profile] cheeni
S egged me on to write something instead of being the constant critic. Critics are the lowest form of life apparently. So here goes, a short story...


"Kamala...", began Rukmini Atthai, calling out to Amma while sitting down from her morning walk with her ipod, the latest gift from her son in Florida.

"I notice you have new neighbors, are they North Indians?"

Amma didn't usually like Atthai's visits, too nosy she said. Irritated at Atthai's discovery Amma replied, "Yes, I've heard they are Gujaratis, they can't speak a word of Tamil. They decided to leave because of all the violence you know, not at all like the South."

Atthai nodding glumly, added, "Yes, yes, Madras is becoming cosmopolitan. These days, one must learn to adjust. After all, it's not like we can stop them from coming..."

"Anjali kanna, stop doing that all the time" chided Atthai at her grand daughter who was busy on her cell phone, texting friends back home. Anjali was visiting from Colorado which Atthai's other son called home. India seemed to bore Anjali, she was the archetypal ABCD.

"Anjali, have you seen our family album?", offered Amma, eager to be the hospitable host. "Let me show it you, it'll be interesting" she said, as she pulled the album off the shelf. "This contains all the photos of our family - six generations in one album".

Amma was the family historian, she always knew who had married whom, and the names of all the nieces, and nephews; cousins and cousins of cousins. Atthai was no light-weight in this department either, so stuck between the two stalwarts, Anjali was assured an in-depth immersion into the genealogical by-lanes and back-alleys of our family.

After feigning interest for the first couple of pages, Anjali began to get genuinely curious. "Oh, this is so cool", she exclaimed, "wait till I show this to friends back home".

"Paatti, who is this?", asked Anjali pointing at possibly the oldest photograph in the album. A faded black and white of a stern figure in a black coat, white fronded dhoti, and a turban with a zari border as broad as a man's palm. "That, kanna", said Atthai with obvious pride "is my great grandfather, one of the first Indian lawyers to be admitted to the bar in the Madras Presidency".

"Patti, do you remember the names of all our ancestors?", asked Anjali, caught up now in the pace of things.

"What are you saying? Of course Patti remembers, how can she forget, aren't we the descendants of Neelakantha Deekshatar?", declared Amma. Despite everything she said, Amma loved Atthai, or, at any rate, at least the lineage.

"Neelakanda who?" said Anjali quizzically.

"Neelakantha Deekshatar was the greatest vedic scholar of his time", "it is said that there was no one to surpass him in vedic knowledge in all of Saurashtra", explained Atthai and Amma in turns.

"Word! What is this place, Sow-rah-shtrah?"

Amma and Atthai looked at each other, and then at Anjali.

"That, dear, is where we originally migrated from, 600 years ago, we couldn't stand the violence", said I, emerging from behind the newspaper. "It's called Gujarat these days."

Date: 2008-08-28 03:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] crabbycool.livejournal.com
congratulations! you have just been elevated to the highest form of life- the writer! use your powers well!

no, seriously, its a great little story, i love it <3

Date: 2008-08-28 07:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sriniram.livejournal.com
/me *feels lucky on the promotion*

Date: 2008-08-28 04:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anushsh.livejournal.com
haha, superr .. totally enjoyed it :)

Date: 2008-08-28 07:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sriniram.livejournal.com
Glad you liked it. Maybe I should worry about my extended Iyer clan skewering me :-)

Date: 2008-08-28 07:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thaths.livejournal.com
I am still stuck in Critic mode....

I liked it as a short story. Until I reached the last line, I did not make the Saurashtra-Gujarat connection. I was expecting the piece to be the beginning of a longer story of some sort with this being a taste of something else to come. The way the last line wrapped it up into one neat short story was good. Still, I am now asking myself who is this narrator character who suddenly emerges in "ta-dah!" the nick of time? What is his relationship to Anjali, Rukmini and Kamala? Is he male? Is she female?

On the negatives... I found it hard to figure out how Rukmini and Kamala are releated. If the narrator calls Kamala as Amma and Rukmini as Atthai, Kamala is probably married to Rukmini's brother. Ah! The sisters-in-law Iyer intrigue and politics!!

Date: 2008-08-28 07:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] udhay.livejournal.com
yeah, but given both "Atthai" and "Amma" are relative references, there *ought* to be an "I", at least by implication. Though I do agree that it is somewhat pat that the "I" emerges only in the last line.

Date: 2008-08-28 09:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sriniram.livejournal.com
Glibness is a common failing of flash fiction it would seem. I hated doing that, but I also didn't want a story that rambled on. It drives home the message in a few words, and the reader is hopefully impressed by the a-ha moment, so the glibness can slip by unnoticed.

Date: 2008-08-29 04:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zeeshanmn.livejournal.com
There are stories with short last lines and there are stories with well-constructed conclusions. Personally I don't/didn't like the last line ending. It kind of terminated the story in a flash.

The line previous to the last line is mysterious, where the women are looking at each other.

But as your first time, you have constructed a very interesting read.

Date: 2008-09-06 11:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sriniram.livejournal.com
Would you have preferred the mysterious ending? I thought most people wouldn't get the connection.

Date: 2008-09-08 09:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zeeshanmn.livejournal.com
I wouldn't have, actually. You have talked about their neighbours.

Date: 2008-08-28 10:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sriniram.livejournal.com
"relative references", oh, I get it :-)

Date: 2008-08-28 08:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sidcarter.livejournal.com
The way the last line wrapped it up into one neat short story was good. Still, I am now asking myself who is this narrator character who suddenly emerges in "ta-dah!" the nick of time? What is his relationship to Anjali, Rukmini and Kamala? Is he male? Is she female?

Is that really important to a short story, to understand the relationships. I think the way it is currently works wonderfully. The audience probably make their own relationships ;)

Date: 2008-08-28 09:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sriniram.livejournal.com
I didn't want to dumb it down with too much description. I like stories that have an a-ha moment at the end, and the better ones unravel like an onion lending more insight with each pass.

The environment I grew up in was very rich in hypocrisy and irony. I wanted to capture some of that here.

I find it delicious that Anjali can't even pronounce the name of her ancestor, and both of Atthai's sons are migrants too.

Re: sis-in-law intrigue - it's always amusing, especially when Kamala lunges to claim herself as a descendant of NK Dikshatar when she's only related by marriage.


Date: 2008-08-28 10:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] usha123.livejournal.com
'and both of Atthai's sons are migrants too..'

That irony was brought out so well.. I don't think there is any middle class Indian family at least some of whose members are migrants .. either in an other Indian state or in 'foreign'. I am so struck by this every time somebody (like that) talks about outsiders coming to our city..

Date: 2008-08-28 10:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] usha123.livejournal.com
not migrants

Date: 2008-08-28 08:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pratibha75.livejournal.com
Nice read. You actually write something beyond gadgets? I am really impressed. You make a very good writer, you know. If this is the first attempt, it awesome :)

Date: 2008-08-28 09:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sriniram.livejournal.com
Yes, I believe outside of the leave letters in school, this is the first "story" I've written intentionally. Thanks :-)

Date: 2008-08-28 09:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sunson.livejournal.com
Interesting short story. However, I couldn't get the sowrashtra part. Are you trying to say that the TamBrams originated from Sowrashtra a.k.a Gujarat of the modern day?

Date: 2008-08-28 09:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sriniram.livejournal.com
That's one theory; the origin of Iyers is sort of shrouded in mystery. There are certainly those who are believed to have come from Saurashtra. I modeled the Saurashtra Dikshathar on an real person who is the famous ancestor of a relative.

Given the general haze around our origins, I felt relatively confident I could get away with it :-)

Date: 2008-08-28 09:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sriniram.livejournal.com
It's for this reason, this controversial plot, that I fear I might invite some Iyer ire :)

Date: 2008-08-28 09:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] deponti.livejournal.com
Liked the SS very much, even though saying so makes me also lowlife...alas, I did see something like this ending coming along, though I didn't think Sourashtra, I thought that it would be something to the effect that "we are Aryans not Dravidians"....

But if this is your first effort...keep it up, as the bride said to the groom on the honeymoon.

Date: 2008-08-28 09:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sriniram.livejournal.com
Liked the SS very much, even though saying so makes me also lowlife...alas, I did see something like this ending coming along, though I didn't think Sourashtra, I thought that it would be something to the effect that "we are Aryans not Dravidians"....

Yes, I've always disliked didactic plots that wave the finger at the reader. OTOH, while writing I realized that they are far easier to write.

Date: 2008-08-29 04:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clueless-rebel.livejournal.com
I liked it. It was well written and a wonderful snapshot of a typical Iyer household.
Thought I'd share this with you, if you haven't already read it- http://tamizhpenn.blogspot.com/

Date: 2008-09-01 11:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sriniram.livejournal.com
Thanks for the link, hadn't seen it before this. Added to my reader.

Date: 2008-08-30 06:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] balaji.livejournal.com
Very nice. Much similar to what happens at home.
-balaji

Date: 2008-09-01 11:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sriniram.livejournal.com
Isn't it amazing that all tambrahm households are the same :-)

Date: 2008-09-05 05:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] karbak.livejournal.com
Regarding criticism, I came across this rather pithy statement a few days ago: "when you don't create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create."

From here.

Date: 2008-09-06 06:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sriniram.livejournal.com
So true, and that twitter page is interesting for many reasons.

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