Monday 12 June 2017

Short Story Contest powered by Half Baked Beans- Ibadat

The team at Half Baked Beans hosted UNNS-The Captivation inspired short story contest. The theme was to write one story each on the seven stages of love.

Here is the winning entry on the third stage of love-Worship by Sai Shikha

Black Ice

“What is it about crowded places that makes people claustrophobic?”, Mrinal had often wondered, but she found her answer today, on the corridors of ‘BLACK ICE VINTAGE HOME’. The thought of coming across a thousand unfamiliar faces and watch her own reflection in their scars made her resolve cringe.
‘ BLACK ICE’ had its own reputation as a personality building centre that helped young women, most of them, acid attack survivors, and others with any slackening mishap or abnormality, to regain their confidence and take life in their stride.  A lab accident at school brought sixteen year old mrinal here, with sulphuric acid burning a part of her face and leaving her scarred, not just physically. Mrinal was skeptical about this place, where she would wake up to see faces much like hers, disfigured and shaken, virtual mirrors that would taunt her in a silent undertone.
She was asked to see Mrs.Sunaina Gupta, founder of BLACK ICE, as she personally looked into fresh admissions. Mrinal flipped few brochures while waiting in the lobby for her turn. A few minutes later, she was ushered into a simple office with caramel furnishings.
“Come in, mrinal”
Mrinal saw Mrs. Sunaina for the first time. She had a milky complexion, doe eyes and a straight nose and most of all, an angelic smile. But, what betrayed all that beauty was a long burn scar over her left cheek.
“Fill it up, here”, she extended a proforma.
“I don’t want to be here. I am absolutely fine.”, mrinal sighed.
“Of course, your file says you missed your board exams because you feel intimidated by the looks people pass on your face. You have trouble falling asleep, and you wake up to night sweats. That’s quite a deep explanation for ‘fine’, don’t you think?”
“Okay, all that’s true. But, I don’t need those counseling stuff from someone who barely knows me, to be okay.”, Mrinal fumed with anger. “Why did you even start this sort of organization? Is it a sin to make truce with what a person’s life has become! Why is regaining normalcy such an obsession?”, she rattled on.
“Interesting question. Ready for an answer?”, Mrs. Sunaina replied, and began---  “I used to be a passionate dancer. After several auditions, I was selected as the lead dancer of ‘Dance India Group’, and had to perform a stage show at World Cultural Meet, San Francisco. But, three days prior to the event, a rogue infatuated with me spilled vitriol on my face.”, Mrinal listened aghast.
Mrs. Gupta continued, “What followed next was the assassination of all my dreams of being a renowned dancer. They never see your moves and rhythm before your face. When the priority is scarred, then so is the entire life throbbing behind it. I plunged into an abyss of depression and attempted suicide thrice. Nothing could make me feel better in my own skin and bones, until one day, Mr. Atul Gupta stepped into my life. He was the coordinator of ‘Swag Dance Troupe’ and he roped me in for an international concert being held at Dubai. I was elated beyond reprise. The performance happened to be a dance-drama, where I had to play the role of the protagonist. I was stupefied thinking how someone could easily look past my scarred face and give me this huge opportunity. But, that overwhelming realization fled with the announcement of mask theme. All dancers were supposed to cover their faces with masks, which obviously would conceal my hideous face. Yet, I was happy about the ephemeral anonymity as well. On stage, my performance outshined others and my bruised esteem somewhere began to heal with the loud accolades and ‘once more’ hooting from the audience. There was a moment of stupor, when I forgot about my scars, while basking in the stardom and glitterati.”
Mrinal was listening attentively but her expressions changed after hearing Sunaina’s following words. “Moments after the euphoria, the ground under my feet slipped when the chief guest asked me to uncover my mask, as he wanted to click a selfie with the star of the night. I stood there, rooted with downcast eyes. Perhaps, the moment of detour to reality had knocked. I decided on an escape plan, and ran away towards the back door. I was sprinting fast, but a firm grip on my arm halted me. I turned around to see Mr. Atul Gupta holding my hands.”
 “Go to the stage and don’t fear removing your mask”, he barked at me.
“Are you crazy? They would see my face and all those praises and adulation would turn meaningless. I don’t want to return with a sour splash of criticism after so much of hard work.”
He still didn’t let go of my hand. “You are what you think yourself to be. Thoughts become actions and actions build life. Don’t betray that brave Sunaina inside you who yearns to be known for what she really is. Gather a bit of courage and let the world know the real you. Please try, for me, for that hope brimming within you”, his words carried meaning in the mist over his eyes as well.
“With a heavy heart, I retraced my steps towards the stage, an unknown clumsiness descending upon my nerves. Then, with great effort, I removed the mask.”
“What happened then?”’ Mrinal sprang up from her chair.
“There were a few seconds of absolute silence, but the applause boomed the theatre again, this time, several decibels higher”, Mrs. Sunaina beamed.
Hence, your answer is – “Since God finds it cumbersome to reach each one of us, he sends Samaritans as his Gabriels. One such person was Atul, who has been my anchorthroughout the tough sails. He wasn't the shield that protected me, rather he became the sword that made my fingers yield to the fierce grip.I worship him for the confidence he lured out of me. Today, if I am able to speak up on the crests and troughs of my past without an ounce of regret, that is because i met someone like him, a man who sees a self-made woman in me. We worked together, our hearts gave away and we have been married since 10 years. And, I am trying to be someone'sGabriel too, through this foundation.”, she smiled.
Mrinal was left with tears streaming down her cheeks. She had a tough time signing the form, thanks to blurry vision from the bubble of tears. She flashed a smile, and walked back to the door, but stopped midway to ask, “Why did you name it ‘BLACK ICE’? Quite a weird name”.

Mrs. Sunaina smiled again. “Well, ice is cold and rigid. But, black ice has a bit of warmth, as well”, she winked.

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