A Slice Of Life:
Contest Winners

A Slice of Life

                 An Amazon India Bestseller

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Write Your Own Story Contest

The Winning Sequels

                          #1  The (Un) Blind Date

Manali Desai

Manali is a full-time freelance writer and editor cum blogger. Though that sounds fancy, it came after a few years of working in various fields like Marketing, Teaching, and Content Writing. In her journey as a writer, Manali has authored four books and been a bestselling author on Amazon multiple times. Her short story ‘The Walls Have Ears’ helped her bag the Best Short Story Award in 2019. She also won the Best Author: Fiction Award in 2021 for her debut novel Love (Try) Angle. If not writing, you can find Manali either reading, traveling, or listening to music. 

Kiran and Sudeep.

Kisu.

Randeep.

Keep.

A smile spread across his face as he recalled the quirky portmanteaux, they had been christened with over the years.

He couldn’t help laughing out loud as he remembered a particular one.

Sudan.

This one had come up from a couple they’d met on their trip, quite fittingly, to Sudan. Ragini, the girl, had declared it; while hopping from one foot to another; almost as if she had unravelled the mystery of The Bermuda Triangle.

With twinkling eyes, she had gushed, while holding Kiran’s elbow, “Oh my God! I just realized. Your names, Kiran. They can be combined to form the word Sudan. How romantic! Didn’t you say you guys met here first? This is just a meant to be romance.”

They had both blushed like teenagers as Ragini went on doting over their unbelievable love story.

Sudeep sighed contentedly. Fifteen long years and yet it felt like just yesterday. Not a day went by when he did not thank his stars for when Kiran came into his life, quite by chance.

It had just been the beginning of his career. A simple Sales Executive at the time, he jumped at the opportunity to work in Sudan for a while. Though his parents weren’t thrilled, he managed to convince them by promising to tie the knot with a girl of their choice, as soon as possible.

Not particularly keen at the prospect of being tied down by marital responsibilities so soon, Sudeep had dodged the bullet till he was out of the country. However, the emotional blackmail, especially by his mother, had only increased with distance.

Talk about distance making the heart fonder.

“Just meet her once, Sudeep. What is the harm? We are getting old, and you aren’t getting any younger either.”

Sudeep had reluctantly agreed while grunting and rolling his eyes. He had not even bothered to look at the photos of the girl his mother had shared on WhatsApp. He was sure of his decision to say no to the proposal, while cooking up some excuse.

The meeting time and venue for the ‘blind date’ was fixed by the parents. Sudeep’s mother had passed on the girl’s number to him, but he had not even saved it. So, on the day of their scheduled meeting when he got a call from an unknown number, he had simply rejected it, thinking it to be a spam call.

He reached the venue, dressed at his worse, prepared to be unimpressed. When nobody showed up even after quarter of an hour, he realized he had been stood up.

While waiting for his so-called date, he had ordered a cup of coffee and some snacks. As he was about to call the waiter to settle the bill and leave, his eyes fell on the table opposite his. He remembered feeling dazed. There were no violins playing, neither did his heart break into an impromptu song. But he was left speechless for sure. There she was hair and face all scrunched up and punching away on the keyboard of her laptop.

Of course, he didn’t know right away that she would become the love of his life. But he did feel a tug in his heart, a voice beckoning him to go talk to her.

‘Hi, mind if I join you?’

She had looked at him incredulously but seeming preoccupied, gave him a rushed and reluctant nod. He sat next to her, and the next half an hour went by in silence, as she continued typing into her laptop, ignoring his presence. He had stared at her stealthily, taking in her features, in between gulps of coffee and pretending to be browsing on his phone. Their only conversation, if that’s what it could be called, were his questions and her mono syllabic responses.

‘Would you like a cup of coffee?’

‘Hmm’

‘And some French fries with it?’

‘Okay’

Suddenly, in between gulping the last sip of her coffee, while continuing to type furiously, she squealed, blew a kiss to her computer, and shut its lid.

‘Hi, I’m Kiran.’

He couldn’t help but notice the dimple that showed up when she smiled.

‘Hi, I’m Sudeep.’

Thus, Sudeep did end up with a blind date, though an unplanned one. A year and many dates later, they were married.

They moved back to India when Kiran was expecting their first child. After birthing two children, she had to quit her job as family responsibilities took precedence. Romance took a back seat as taking care of the bills, the children, and his parents, took up most of their time. Things had become quite monotonous and dull, especially for Kiran. He understood and appreciated the many sacrifices she made to make their marriage work. The sadness that crept up on her face every now and then, did not go unnoticed by him.

Hence, he came up with a plan. On their eighth wedding anniversary, they’d gone back to Sudan to recreate the memories of their first year together. That trip helped rekindle their love. It also made Sudeep realize just how much they needed to spend some time with each other, away from the children and his parents.

After returning, he suggested to her that they should do something like this every week; especially when he came back from work trips. It had worked like magic. Kiran seemed happier than before. Even he could not deny the fact that their love for each other had a newfound charm.

He had just returned from one of his work trips. As he saw her entering the venue for another one of their (un)blind dates, the butterflies in his stomach felt the same as they had on that day fifteen years ago.

Sudan.

He chuckled at the apt couple’s name as he stood up to welcome the An to his Sud.

‘What are you laughing at?’

He simply shook his head as he hugged her tightly and looked forward to another evening of love.

                          #2  In your hesitation, I found my answer

Oviya. R

Based in Chennai, this is Oviya, CA by profession, writer by passion. A simple soul willing to explore more and if you love these stories, don't miss out "Quarantine is over" (available on Amazon), my fictional work on beautiful bondings in a family where one man should forgive himself to get back his happy family.

The next three days, the poor soul who occupied that Mr Poker face’s table was left to starve with no response from both Neha and Payal. But deep inside, when the friends stared at each other between servings, they understood that they missed him and wanted to get closure from him in a proper manner. Only then could they be themselves again.

But the stranger never returned.

“Here is a letter for both of you: Neha and Payal”, their pal Akash said handing over a single letter.

As Neha and Payal stood near each other and read the letter, they were shunned at what they read.

“This is Mr Poker face, with the closure you needed. I am going to finally tell you who I love?

First, I have a confession to make. I do not know if you both have wondered at least once or I bet some stranger must have definitely told you: that you should have been born as twins and that is what God originally wrote for you. Unfortunately, the poor baby at the womb of Neha’s mother could not make it to see the beautiful world and Payal’s mother delivered two beautiful non identical girls. My mother, nurse maid at the hospital could not see the mother who lost the child devastated. so, she separated you both and handed over Payal to her mother and Neha to the mother who lost her child. I know you would be too bewildered now to comprehend: let me make it simple: you both are twins!!

Ok by this time, you would have raised eyebrows as to who the hell I was: I am Ranjan, the nurse maid’s son. My mother had seen you hanging around happily and the guilt of burying the secret from has been killing her worser than the cancer did to her body. So, she confided in me to let the truth out to both of you and she was off to sleep permanently. Idiot me!! I could not gather myself to tell you both. But I realized the bonding you already shared. Whenever, I approached Neha, she moved away from me, as she felt that I liked Payal and when I spoke with Payal, all she could speak was about Neha and I realized that you both are already better off as no less than twins and I did not want to confuse your lives. To add to that, I heard the quarrel you both got into because of me and I chose to withdraw from your lives forever.

Passing by the restaurant a few days ago, I noticed that I had made a mistake by forcing myself into your life suddenly and exiting without notice. So, I decided to tell you all that I wanted to. You deserved to know the truth.

And for the answer to the first question, I love your friendship and bonding more than you as individuals and in my game, if you love a flower, you do not pluck it but let it stay with the tree. Best of luck twinnies.”

As the letter ended, tears flooded their eyes as Neha and Payal leaned on each other shoulders trying to take in the truth.

                          #3  Oh so near, yet so far away

Sindhura Bharathi Rajagopal

Sindhura Bharathi Rajagopal is a Senior Consultant by profession and a passionate writer, trainer and speaker at heart.  She resides in the beautiful city of Bengaluru, India.

Sindhura takes immense delight in leading a mindful life, adding purpose to her actions and perspectives. Her parents are her biggest inspiration and her sister, a huge support system – she is especially so attached to her mother who inspires her to be a strong, honest and a happy person.

Travel has been an inseparable part of her life and so, with it came several memorable human experiences, all of which Sindhura loves to weave into stories, poems, leadership lessons et all.

Sindhura strongly believes in looking back at life with gratitude and contentment.      

The next day Sandesh resisted Swapna’s thoughts; knowing she is married left him heartbroken. Although, he endeavored to put up an all okay face.

Swapna invited Sandesh for dinners many a times in the next one year – she always spoke to him with much cheer. This left Sandesh confused because he was just not ready to be a mere friend. Reluctantly he agreed to meet with her on a few occasions while most of the time he kept his excuses ready to turn down the invite.

Once it so happened that suddenly, Swapna went on a leave for nearly 6 weeks.

Sandesh hesitated to talk to Swapna while she was home and chose to wait until she reported back to work.

Swapna showed up finally much to the relief of Sandesh; nevertheless the bright and bold Swapna was gone. She looked disturbed yet tried to maintain her composure.

Sandesh suggested a coffee that evening – he was concerned about her well-being.

Swapna readily accepted.

Little did Sandesh know that, Swapna would talk about her personal life so deeply.

Swapna seemed to be in a haste to let her heart out. No sooner did they arrive at the café than she began talking to Sandesh. Sandesh sensed that she missed him very much.

He let her be and talk all that she wanted to and for however long she desired.

Swapna shared with Sandesh that she was a late-born to her parents. They immensely loved her and had been exceptionally progressive in that her education and career was always given prime importance; however, the decision to get her married quite early was imposed by them despite Swapna’s desperate plea to put it off for a few years.

“I wanted to settle in a job abroad, travel abundantly and then get married.”  Swapna’s sounded nostalgic yet dejected. 

“My husband is a relative of mine. Much older to me and less educated too. My parents insisted that I marry someone they know well so they could be assured I am with the right person even if they passed away while I am in my 40s. ”

“I told them that a girl needs a good education, effective upbringing and a fine earning potential so she can live her life with dignity and freedom.  She can make her choices and decisions. A “perfect” partner, even if one exists is not even the criteria to be happy. “

Sandesh listened patiently to Swapna’s story. He did not ask questions; nevertheless he listened with all his heart.

Swapna spoke at length about how her husband was obsessed with money. It was Swapna’s friend who found a job for him in an MNC despite only a Standard 12 qualification. He worked as a support staff with a reasonable salary. Yet he struggled with accepting Swapna’s higher income owing to which he forced her to part with nearly all her money in the name of business ventures.

Swapna confessed that she tried to save her marriage and gave him money twice; however, his careless attitude and reckless investments resulted in huge losses leaving them with nothing. On many an occasion Swapna brought up the matter of having a child – her husband dismissed it immediately. He feared starting a family meant money and responsibility and hence, declared his objection right away.

Swapna had hid all the pain by maintaining her calm on phone when Sandesh had overheard her in the past. But on that day at the cafe, as he listened intently, Swapna admitted that she was on leave in order to complete her divorce proceedings which got completed on a mutual consent basis. The moment her husband realized Swapna would not meet his extravagant monetary demands, he agreed for the separation.

Sandesh was dumbfounded by what he heard in the end. He empathized with Swapna’s situation. His words of solace just wouldn’t be sufficient for all the pain Swapna had endured. But, Sandesh tried. And he tried sincerely.

Sandesh asked Swapna to be the brave and strong like she always is.

As he held her hand close to his to offer his support, Swapna told him that god has indeed answered her prayers. 

Sandesh liked the hope in her eyes.

“The reason I called you, Sandesh, is because I wanted to inform you that my work visa to travel to UK is on the way to approval. I always wanted to travel abundantly and here is my first step. My parents have been immensely supportive. They gave me hope and strength to pave the path for newer ventures in life.”

Sandesh withdrew his hand not knowing what to say.

“Congratulations, Swapna. ”  Sandesh hid his emotions.

 “God has a way of bringing people together. Yours is a special friendship, Sandesh. Please keep in touch.”

“I missed you so much during the last month and a half.” Swapna looked deep into his eyes.

Sandesh smiled.

In less than four months from that day, Swapna was gone.

For the next one year or so, Swapna kept in touch with Sandesh. They spoke about all the little things in life, the big dreams, silly matters, lot of nonsense et all.

Sandesh regretted not being there for Swapna during the most trying year of her life. In the process of nursing his broken heart, he had missed nurturing a beautiful friendship.

What pleasantly surprised Sandesh was that, despite the distance, their friendship grew deeper with each passing day. At that point, he couldn’t ask for more.

Meanwhile, every time Swapna asked Sandesh if he found someone as interesting, kind, wonderful as him for his life-long journey, he would blush.

Sandesh strongly desired that someday, everything would fall in place thereby aiding Swapna to realize that, Sandesh has indeed found his lady-love. And that is her. 

Sandesh hoped Swapna would reciprocate his love.

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