Monday, January 18, 2016

High stakes - a fiction based on indian mythology by Toshali

Draupadi was an Indian princess born out of fire to King Drupada of Panchala. Arjuna, the third Pandava, won the challenge put forth by Drupada for the princess’ swayamwara, thus winning Draupadi’s hand in marriage. When the Panadavas reached home with Draupadi, their mother Kunti, as was her habit, asked the brothers to share whatever they had “won” and thus Draupadi became the wife to five brothers.
High stakes alludes to the game of dice played between the oldest Kaurava and Pandava princes: Duryodhana and Yudhishthira.The Pandava prince continued playing, in spite of losing his palace and wealth. His pride did not allow him to accept defeat. Finally, when there was nothing else to lose, he wagered his wife Draupadi and lost her too. Duryodhana attempted to disrobe Draupadi in front of the entire court while her husbands watched helplessly. Draupadi vowed to avenge this humiliation and not tie her hair until she bathed it in the Kaurava prince’s blood.
In 2014, around a 100 women celebrities ranging from A-listers to D-listers had their nude images exposed on the Internet by hackers who broke into iCloud’s then flawed system by “brute force” attack. The most shocking part of this scandal was the number of people who chose to blame the celebrities for taking naked pictures rather than the hackers who invaded their privacy. This modern day scenario that plagued the western world is in many ways similar to the disrobing of the mythical Indian princess Draupadi. The following fictional story is set in America in 2015/2016 and tells the story of Drew Rudi. Drew parallels Draupadi and AJ and Ray parallel Arjuna and Yudhishthira respectively.

“Draupadi’s eyes flashed fire. ‘I shall never forgive the Kauravas for doing what they have done to me. I shall not tie my hair until I wash it in Dusshasana’s blood’”
- Devdutt Pattanaik

28th December, 2015
“Drew Rudi’s name is added to the ever growing list of celebrities whose nudes have been leaked. With over 500 reposts, Rudi’s seems to be the most popular right now. Whether this is due to her position as the CEO of her new company or the appeal of her figure draped over lavish furniture, find out today at - “
AJ slammed the TV shut.
“I can’t believe this. The nonsense that the media is spewing these days. How about reporting the mass shootings in the country instead?”, shouted AJ. It had been only two days since the incident and the media was abuzz.

“It’ll die down in a week or two”, sighed Ray from the couch, “Anyways, it’s not like we can do anything.

“But who could have done this”, responded Drew, “More importantly, how did they get hold of it in the first place? Only two people have ever seen my nudes and well, those two are right here. None of you would do it…”

“I’m ashamed you’d even think that, Drew.Let’s make up for it, date night tonight?.”

We’ll go to the fancy place down the street,” Ray agreed, “I’ll pay.”

AJ and Drew nodded their heads in agreement.
“Well, I’m off to work now “ , she said kissing Ray and AJ goodbye, “You two should get going as well. We’ll meet at 9?”

“Yeah, perfect.”, they responded in unison.
Drew had started her own designer label - Illusions-  a few months ago. Followed by the big launch the label had caught the eyes of several haute couture stores and individual buyers. Her designs were inspired by cultures from all over the world.  
She had met AJ and Ray soon after college. The three were young and carefree - experimenting with life. A three-way relationship seemed good at the time. Down the years AJ and Ray discovered that they were not interested in each other and decided to “share” Drew.It was an open relationship with the men having other partners on the side. Drew had too much on her plate to think about the injustice of the deal. Moreover, she loved them and wanted them happy. They had fun when they were together and she did not allow her mind to think of the times when they were not. So far, it had worked perfectly.
AJ was a celebrated actor and Ray was an artist. They were both intelligent, handsome and supportive of her. When they shied away from meddling in the case of the leaked nudes, Drew was not just surprised - she was hurt. The three of them were like a family; they had always had each others backs. It wasn’t as if Drew was asking them to give up their lives for the search; she just needed their help in finding the culprit. Unless one of them had something to do with it.

“May I take your coat, Ma’am?”
Drew shrugged off her blazer and handed it to the man. Giving him a tight smile she walked to the table where Ray sat drinking.
“How was your day, love?”, Drew asked, wondering how to confront him.

“I have something to confess. I’ll just wait till AJ gets - ah, speak of the devil.

Drew sighed and tried to curb her growing anticipation.

“Last week, I was down at the bar and it was late and I’d had one too many - it all sounds so stupid now. I was playing poker with the guys when this new dude walked in. Name was King or something. Said he’d bet his bank account that no one in the whole bar could beat him. Well, I couldn’t very well let that be, now could I - “

“Of course, you couldn’t”, sighed AJ, “And he wanted Drew’s pictures in case you lost?”

“He had the audacity to challenge me, the greatest player. The one who never loses. ”

“And you had the audacity to agree to his terms!”, cried Drew pushing her chair back, “Did you not think, for even a second, that if this King was willing to wager his bank account, he might have not been bluffing?”
“No, yes, I don’t know, Drew. I was drunk, I wasn’t thinking, I was confident that it wouldn’t happen. I could not say no to the challenge and - “
“Well of course you couldn’t say no to the challenge.But who gave you the permission to wager me, my self respect? You don't own me, I am not your bloody bankaccount.
With that, Drew grabbed her blazer and walked out of the restaurant into the December chill. She could feel indignant tears pricking her eyes. It dawned on her that the fight for this injustice was hers alone. She had to find King and bring him down. While she felt bare without the support of her lovers, it strengthened her will to win this battle.

Two nights later, Drew was furiously typing away at her computer trying to  find “King”. She had looked all over the Internet, asked all of her sources and had even contacted Ray to find out whether the man had provided a first name. It was only when she was flipping through the invitees list of Illusion’s New Year’s Eve party did she finally come across the name again : Dave King, founder of Raves, a rival designing labelSome litigation suit had thrown the company off market for some time which was why Drew hadn’t formed the connection. Her eyes gleamed as a plan formed in her head. She dialled up her press contacts inviting them to the New Year’s bash with the promise of a never-before exposé.
The party at the Ritz Carlton was on a full swing. Drew scanned the room for Dave King and found him at the bar talking to a man in a gold suit. She straightened her dress and walked over with victory on her mind.
“Mr King, a word.”
“Drew Rudi”, King smirked looking Drew up and down,“Last I saw you, you were wearing less.” The man beside Mr King laughed nervously and excused himself.
“What gave you the right?”, Drew exclaimed in feigned anger provoking him to say more. “What did you even get out of it? How could you, a person with a mother, a sister, a wife even think of committing such a horrendous act?”

“Hold up, hold up, what am I being accused of?”

“You know what I’m accusing you of! For spreading my private pictures online.

“Your private pictures? Well if they were “private”, your boyfriend shouldn’t have shared them with me! Once he gave them to me, I could do whatever I wanted with it. That is, after all, my right.” smiled King maliciously.
“You tricked him into sharing those pictures - “

“Tricked him? I won those pictures fairly. He shouldn’t have challenged me and taken the risk”, King responded smugly, “And well, if all I hear is correct, you already have two boyfriends seeing you naked, what’s a few more people, eh? The more the merrier, right?”
The press, meanwhile, was feasting on this exchange rather than the delicious spread.  
“I’m going to destroy you, King,the same way you got me. I won’t rest till your company is ruined. Did you think leaking my nudes  would give you leverage on 2016’s market? Think again”, Drew spun around and pointed to a petite woman who stood self-consciously at the podium.
“I’m Jennifer, Dave King’s former secretary at Raves. Last year I filed a sexual harassment case against my boss but his power and wealth were worth more  than my pleas for justice. The company and this monster suffered minimal losses while I have lost all my credibility. So when Drew approached me and offered me the chance to tell my story in front of the press, I jumped at the opportunity. Nothing would make me happier than to see the monster pay for his crimes.”
Cameras flashed and journalists typed away on their pads ready with headlines for the new year. The blood drained from Dave King’s face as he found no suitable escape from the fate that awaited him. Drew thanked Jennifer for agreeing to be present on such short notice and encouraged her to press fresh charges  against King, assuring her of all support.

1st March, 2016
“Raves shuts down as King found guilty of sexual harassment charges on more than one account. His downfall began with him being revealed as the man behind Rudi’s’ leaked nudes and- “
Drew switched off the television and sipped her coffee with a smile. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Medusa by Toshali

It feels great when your child shares your passion. I am lucky that my girl is keen on books and enjoys writing fiction.

This is one of her stories that I have shamelessly copied here.

"With the one, Medusa, dark-maned Poseidon lay in a soft meadow and amid the spring flowers”

“Ssh, keep quiet! It’s Don!”
A group of giggling girls scrambled past Mimi as she was on her way to class with her best friend Henna.
“Mimi, did you hear what Don did this time?”
“What? Got elected to run the state?”
“Haha, no, he got awarded the student of the year award. Pretty impressive for a new student, right?”
“Hmm yeah, I’ve seen him around but don’t know him very well.”
“Oooh, I would love to get to know him. He looks delightful. And his voice...oh my god would you look at the time! I’m late for class! See you at tonight’s New Years Party?”
With that, Henna took a left and disappeared from Mimi’s sight leaving the girl to her own thoughts.

LOUD -There was no other word to describe the rowdy scene in front of Mimi’s eyes. The music was overpowering and the leers from the guys in the crowd made her skin crawl. She tried searching for Henna but to no avail.
“Hey, you’re Mimi right?”
She jumped and turned around to see Don standing behind her with a beer in his left hand and his other outstretched towards her.
“The music is  deafening in here, want to ditch and drive around the city instead?”
“Uh, yeah, I guess. Sure. Don, yeah?”
“Yep, don’t worry. You’re in safe hands.”
Don chuckled and they walked out of the venue hand-in-hand and moved towards Don’s bike.
“Wow, fancy stuff.” , Mimi whistled.
“Well, being the minister’s son does have it’s advantages”, said Don winking, “ Now, where can I take you?”
“Wherever”, smiled Mimi.
They zipped down the Marine Drive with bright lights  flashing in their eyes and laughter playing on their lips. The city of dreams had gained another dimension of beauty, anything seemed possible. It was 11:45  - 15 minutes till the fireworks.
Don pulled up near an old, crumbling church and got off his bike.
“If we climb to the top there’s a room where we can watch the fireworks from. No one else knows about it - no one will see us.”, Don said while helping Mimi get off the bike. She nodded in reply and began to scale the staircases to the top of the church until they reached a dimly lit room at the top. The room itself was nothing fancy, a plain door, large stained glass windows and a small altar by the side of the room. The most spectacular feature however was the view. The city looked dazzling and the uproar of the roads became a distant hum. Don brought out two bottles of  beer and laid out a mat.
“Five  more minutes, jaaneman.”, Don whispered, “ What do you want right now?”
“To rule the world”, grinned Mimi, “And you?”
With a single syllable Don closed the gap between the two of them and forced his lips on hers. His heavy breathing suffocated Mimi but there was no one she could call out for. That’s when the slow throng of a city counting down the minute to a new year began.
“59, 58, 57…”
Don’s hands were snaking behind her back to unbutton her top.
“45, 44, 43…”
Kicking and screaming, Mimi tried to escape but she was only gagged in response.
“32, 31, 30…”
The rip of fabric echoed through the room.
“24, 23, 22…”
Her cries for help turned to whispers to a god, any god, for mercy.
“12, 11, 10…”
Mimi could not see anything anymore, hot tears blurred her vision.
“3, 2, 1…”
Fireworks exploded in the distance as Mimi shrieked in agony. Her cries for help were muffled by Don’s sick grunts and the cheers of Mumbai. The last thing she remembered was hot, white pain and the monstrous look on Don’s face.

A door creaking open woke Mimi up the next morning. She sat up immediately and grabbed the closest thing to her - a delicate dupatta. Tears welled in her eyes as reality hit her. She, Mimi Das, the pride and joy of her family, had been raped.
“Hookers these days! “, a voice cried sharply, “Do you have no shame? Committing such atrocities in the house of god! Leave immediately!”
Mimi staggered to her feet clinging onto her dupatta. Mumbling something incoherent she tried to run away as fast as her frail body would permit. Not a single vehicle on the busy road outside stopped to offer help and so she walked back to the hostel, flinching with every step as the events of last night replayed in her head. She finally reached her hostel and was greeted by friends rushing towards her with questions in their eyes.
She could not do this right now, she wasn’t even ready to accept sympathy. Her protection was her dupatta and with that as armour she walked on.
“Mimi! We’ve been looking for you! Even Don said he had no clue as to where you could be!”
At the sound of that vile beast’s name, fresh tears filled her eyes and she pushed through her friends to run to her room. Switching the heater on, she stepped into the scalding water intent on scrubbing off the filth that seemed stuck to her body. Like thick, black tar it refused to be wiped off by any amount of cleansers. After two hours, she walked out of her room in a fresh set of clothes and a blanket wrapped tightly around her to be greeted by Henna.
“Oi, why didn’t you allow me in? I’ve been waiting forhours.” Henna teased, “Arrey, now don’t cry. Sit, sit. Do you want some tea? What’s up?”
“Henna he - he to- touched me. It was - he - midnight - at the church. Henna he - he ra- “
“Oh my god, Mimi, no! Don? He would never! Anyways, do you know how many girls would die to be in your place? What are you even crying about? Look, you just need some rest. Probably just a hangover, it’ll pass.”

Time and tide wait for no man and they certainly didn’t for the girl who refused to let go. She used the same dupatta to shroud her face, trying to protect an already infiltrated fort. She had tried to fight for herself, even file a case against Don but he had been right - being the minister’s son did have its advantages.
Mimi’s father refused to look at her and barred her from the house. Don’s popularity in the college  had blinded her friends as well. They refused to believe that such a genuine, charismatic person could have any hint of a venomous spirit. The lack of support from friends, family and society pushed Mimi to the brink and led to many a sleepless night and hallucinations. She woke up screaming, sensing snakes slithering over her body whispering obscenities into her ears.
Society is not kind  to a rape victim, and even less to a pregnant rape victim. So Mimi went to the only person who would have to listen to her - her mother.
“Maa, I have something to tell -”
“How dare you even come here? How dare you step into this house? Have you not shamed us enough?”
“Maa, please. Maa no one speaks to me anymore, even the nuns don’t allow me in to pray. I have to tell someone otherwise I might just die.”
“Die? Would that even be the worst of it? What do you have to say that could shock me anymore?”
“After that night...I am pregnant, Maa. With his child.”
“You are WHAT?”
“I don’t want it. I want no part of it growing in me. I tried distancing myself from him for three months only to find that I still have a part of him inside me.”
“Well, I’m not letting you go to the doctor for this. The Das family has already became the joke of the city. I refuse to be humiliated even more.”
“I can’t keep him, Maa. Not even for these 9 months. I cannot, I cannot - “
“Fine, then. I’ll do it myself. Although remember Mimi, this child might be the only thing that loves you.”
“Perhaps, but I could never love  it back. It’s every breath would be a painful reminder of him.”
Her mother called her up a few days later informing her that the supplies were ready. Mimi was nervous, but what was the worst that could come out of this? She walked into  a dark room and laid down on the bed.
“I hope this works out for you.”, her mother whispered while sterilizing a scalpel, “It might cut the strings holding you back.”
“Thank you,” Mimi smiled softly, “Maybe there still is hope.”
Mimi sat up to hug her mother but failed to see the scalpel. There was an audible gasp and the metallic smell of blood filled the room.
“Oh god, what have I done!”
“It’s ok Maa” , responded Mimi weakly, “Isn’t this what you wanted?” With those words she sagged in her mother’s arms and breathed her last.
It is said that when people die, their life flashes before their eyes. However, all Mimi saw was tragedy and punishment. Perhaps that’s what you deserve for being born a woman in today’s world.

By Toshali, grade 10