Responses to a Demonetisation Short Story – can you guess what they might have been?

As previously mentioned, I’ve been taking part in a short-story writing challenge this year. One of the December stories, and surprisingly only one, had the ongoing demonetisation fiasco as part of its theme.

The story was a simple one. A man takes his last ₹1,000 note to market to buy a longed-for item. To his dismay, his is informed that his ₹1,000 note is no longer acceptable. He is emotionally crushed by confusion and disappointment at this news. But later, along with a group of others, he is serendipitously gifted lots of newly-minted ₹2,000 notes. The story is a fun read and, pardon or not the pun, right on the money in terms of being bang up-to-date. The story line even ends on a happy note (a rare thing in the short story world – short-form writers tend to be joyful realists).

However, out of the critiquing round, can you guess what was the most consistent response?
Was it that the characters were not well drawn?
No.
Was it that the setting was not well described?
No.
Was it lack of a good plot?
No.
Was it that the sudden appearance of new ₹2,000 notes was unbelievable?
No.

OK, suspense over. The consensus was that given the story has an upbeat ending, in amongst the₹2,000 notes there should be plenty of ₹100.

I think this tells us something about people’s true reactions to the demonetisation debacle – which continues unabated – despite Modi’s ascertion that all would be well for everyone by 30th December. Sadly, with only a few days remaining, we still have no sight of the necessary and much needed ₹500 notes or even access to larger daily ATM withdrawal amounts.

Now remember, the story ended on a happy note, yet several of those critiquing the story wanted an additional hit of realism added to the ending. Here’s why.

Much as those ₹2,000 notes would have been welcome, cash is cash is cash after all (hear that Modi and all), those darn ₹2,00o notes are difficult to deal with; many people and businesses cannot constantly give away their precious ₹100 notes as change to every customer. Nor are there enough ₹10 or ₹20 notes to make up that short fall. All in, every day people are continuing to struggle. For some, farmers and labourers in particular, they are facing starvation for themselves and their families, employers can no longer employ workers, or they use workers but can’t pay them. There is much strife and much fudging of the truth around this. For example, propaganda abounds about villages that have gone cashless. IN TRUTH these villages are not cashless, they are poor, have low internet connectivity and regular power outages daily. IN TRUTH cashless educators have simply been to the village and inducted some of the villagers about the processes around being cashless. Giving advice and training about how to process cashless payments is far from being truly cashless, a state which I feel most villagers would decline if they were offered the choice.

Here I am going to do a ‘I told you so’ mini-rant given I expressed this belief back in November  – the ongoing push towards a cashless society was the true motivation behind Modi’s demonetisation drive, and not the hounding of black money dealers he originally declared. Because anyone with even an ounce of savvy about how corporations and governments are behaving can see that being cashless means the populace at large become more visible to an ever-increasingly despotic and authoritarian notion of governance.

As things stand, we in India are only a few days away from Modi’s earlier assertion that things will return to normal by year end. Given the images of long ATM queues, lack of useful change at shops and businesses, and the long, long wait for new ₹500 notes to appear, me thinks ‘normal’ is still some weeks off.

Fortunately, Mr D and I are currently blessed to have minimal needs as well as the opportunity to withdraw cash from a bank branch other than SBI: we’re not hungry; our bills are minimal; we plod on. I’m still hankering after getting certain tasks and jobs I have on my To Do List attended to, but for now they are still deferred until there is cash to fulfil them – clearly that’s a minor worry. For now I am on a Modi-imposed belt-tightening drive. The skipping is helping too.

But back to that short story. I’m truly hoping the writer is even now doing her last round of edits and getting it sent out. The timeliness of the plot line and the wonderful twist at the end are a winner!

Happy Holidays Everyone
   ❤︎    

 

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A Kiss to Remember Him By – A Short Story

That Kiss. It had meant something. She was certain. So why would he not reply to her texts? Why the sudden silence after all the talk, the sweetness, the fun, the laughter? And that kiss?

She had been reasonable. She had been fair. Her messages to him had been benign: How’s it going? Hope your hangover’s not as bad as mine LOL. Are you free this weekend to meet for coffee? But nothing: no response; not a silly emoticon; not even a curt rebuff. Where had she gone wrong?

She trudged back in to work on the Monday after the weekend that followed their after-work Friday-night jaunt, and that kiss. An empty text message inbox and overflowing mind still tormented her.

Mid-morning he appeared at her office door. ‘Hi. I think you’ve got something of mine.’

‘Uh?’ She looked away from her computer screen and up at his face. The face with which she had shared that kiss. Sensing how shapeless and humdrum she must now appear – make-up less, hair unwashed since Saturday morning, dressed in black jeans and black jumper – she couldn’t have felt more unworthy of that kiss.

Knowing her bravado on Friday night had been buoyed by alcohol, she nevertheless truly believed in the deep connection she had felt with the man who had just now walked into her office. She had not hesitated when he had moved closer to her on that pub banquette; hadn’t recoiled when he had whispered to her the secret of his strangeness. Instead she had leaned towards him and felt the sweetness of his breath send sensual messages skipping across her nerve endings. His tongue in her mouth had been like nothing she had imagined, not even in the fantasies of her many lonely nights. His kiss, like his secret, had been otherworldly; her whole body had responded as his tongue, his lips, had played on hers and she had felt a swell of sensations in her crotch as his hands had held her face to his.

‘I reckon you’ve got something of mine? From Friday night?’

‘Really? Like what?’ She became aware of how vacuous she must have appeared to him, as though he had been explaining the philosophy of quantum physics. For a moment the shape of his irises narrowed giving her the impression of the arrow slits of an ancient castle, equally disquieting.

‘My mobile phone?’

‘Uh? I mean, really?’ she frowned at him.

‘I spent all weekend checking the places we went to, even tracked down the cabbie we got. You probably grabbed it when we were rushed out of that pub,’ he said. ‘You’re my last hope.’

‘Oh, OK. Let me have a look.’

She rummaged in her cloth backpack, pulled out headphones, wallet, make-up bag. She didn’t pull out the spare tampon, or chocolate wrapper, nor the two used tissues or the dried apple core.

‘Oh God.’ Her hand felt the hard, smooth edges of what she immediately recognised as a phone that was not hers. Pulling it out of her bag cautiously, as if taking a Fabergé egg from a velvet-lined box, and with a physical sensation in her belly as though a sack of rotten eggs was about to explode, she knew exactly what was waiting for him, about her, once he had charged it, once he had accessed his messages, once he had read the trail of texts she had sent since Friday night, through the entire weekend and even that very morning: Don’t know why you’ve not replied all weekend. Was Friday night so awful? Really enjoyed getting to know you. Was hoping we could spend more time together. Cannot believe you’ve not replied. That’s just plain rude. Please don’t come see me for a while. But here he was with a cool outstretched hand, fingers slightly webbed, skin rippling drily. His hand hovered momentarily, then took the phone from hers. She felt her stomach gurgle – those eggs felt ready to explode. When she lowered her eyes and saw her belongings strewn across her desk she grabbed at them and started shoving them back into her bag.

‘Right. Thanks. I’ll be seeing you then,’ he said.

‘Yeah, right,’ head down, she continued to grapple with her things as she listened to his receding footsteps.

She threw her bag onto the floor then flopped back in her chair. ‘Oh God. Oh God, oh God. My life sucks.’ Immediately she remembered, that kiss. It had been a taboo-breaking kiss, but she had enjoyed the thrill of it and now wanted to dive into what lay beyond, the way a free-diver plunges into the ocean. She had liked her first kiss with a reptilian-human hybrid. She had liked it a lot.

A Montage of Confusion – a story

May 2011 seems like forever ago. That’s when the following story became my first successful submission winning first prize on the website Cazart. With the hindsight of writing practice and courses taken during the intervening years, I can see the story needs all sorts of improvements. That said, as Cazart no longer exists I thought it’d be fun to post the story here.

Caveat: I recently had a piece of micro-fiction that I thought was tongue-in-cheek cute get turned down due to ‘tones of eroticism’, so if you don’t want to read text containing any kind of reference to sex or human sexual anatomy I recommend you turn away now.

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A Montage of Confusion

A photography exhibition in an East London gallery. Only the young and fit need apply. Only boy-men wanted.

One friend asks another friend to take a photo of himself. The first friend has asked a lot of other friends to do the same. Take a photo. Use the first friend’s bathroom mirror. A reflected self-image. Semi-clothed to fully-naked. Rear view, front view, hard or flaccid; any pose will do. A montage of exhibitionism, vainglory, honesty.

Each friend comes alone, the camera already in position. When he is happy with his image he sets the camera in motion. Click. One friend has the head of his penis coyly peeping out from the top of his jeans. Click, click. Someone has a leg up, the light glinting off his neatly trimmed blond hair. Click. Prune-like, dark-skinned bollocks frame one friend’s light-skinned, semi-hard penis. Click. Another friend challenges and taunts the camera while keeping abs taught. Click.

A photographic montage of male youthfulness is mounted. The first friend’s girlfriend goes to see the show. She checks out all the photos, stands back, moves closer. She tilts her head this way, then that; she smiles a half-faced smile.

In the queue at the Brick Lane Bagel Shop she waits, but isn’t there. On her way back to the first friend’s flat, she nibbles and chews. The montage mounting in her mind. When she arrives, the bagels are gone.

Click. First her bare midriff. Click. White flesh against black and green lace. Each photo revealing more. More of her made explicit. Click. A finger-pinched nipple. Moistened lips. Click, click. Lips held wide and wet, her crotch laid bare, fingers pressing there. Click. Printing the photos from his computer she leaves them in a trail from front door to back bedroom. She wanks. She waits.

The first friend finds her, bit by bit, his pleasures rising. He knows not to hesitate. He begins to please her until finally he mounts her. Just before he comes she pauses, mid-thrust, to ask – What do you prefer, fucking me or perving over your friends? – Which direction is your swing at? – I don’t know if I can live like that.

His weight collapses on her tension. Both lie slowly panting, their intimacy lost to ambiguous confusion. The air heavy with more questions, fewer answers.

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Feel free to comment and (with due regard for author copyright despite the need for additional editing) share widely. Thanks for reading.