Submitted into Contest #47 in response to: As you check your mail, you notice a letter that makes you stop in your tracks.... view prompt



                                  NOW YOU CAN SING TILL ETERNITY.

You stared at the email message on your computer; your mind was racing so fast that the words became obscure and implausible. There were just three lines, but enough to make your life--the life you had worked so hard and sacrificed so much to build--begin to crumble around you.

Dear Samina madam,

This mail is to inform you that the CD you sent across today has no songs recorded. If you wish to participate in the selection, kindly send another CD with your recorded songs before 7 pm, failing which, you will be disqualified from further rounds.

As if there was a total solar eclipse, the room darkened in your eyes.

‘How could this happen? You tried recollecting each and everything that took place in the morning.

You distinctly remembered that with the red-colored box held possessively in your hands, you had walked towards the room where your husband Harry was getting ready to leave on an official tour.

Standing behind him, you had helped him put on his coat like you always did when he left for work.

"Here, Harry," you had said, handing him the red-colored box. "Please do not forget to drop this with Nancy at the audition center on the route to the airport. My sincere efforts and umpteen sacrifices are all concealed in it. I have given my best performance." Your eyes had turned damp as you could visualize the arduous journey that you had undertaken so meticulously for years.

 However, your desolate look lightened in anticipation of the results of the much-awaited contest for, 'The best female voice,' the following month, for which you were submitting the entry. You were certain that your sanguine expectations would be realized and you would become a renowned playback singer.

 Harry had cautiously taken custody of the box from you. Passionately planting a kiss on your forehead, he had wished all the best and left. Precisely 50 minutes after that, he called to say that the CD had been handed over to Nancy, who is your friend, and the main person instrumental in driving you to participate in this contest.

There could have been no omission on your part. You clearly remembered that you had placed the CD in the red-colored box, with your name and other details written on it the previous day itself. There was no other similar box in the house that could have created any skepticism.

Fresh sweat broke on your forehead, even in the cold air-conditioned room. You nervously looked at the clock. It was 1 pm. Six hours before you could hand over a new CD.

Aspiring contestants needed to record three songs of different genres. An eminent panel of the jury would then call the best three to perform live in their august presence, and the most deserving one would make it big in the world of playback singing.

 Though it didn't sound impossible, it was not that easy to go through the full ordeal in six hours. Recording three songs with the required percussions and a sound recording room in such short notice was a scintillating task.

Suddenly your face lit up as you remembered that you had a copy of the original CD. 'How could I be such a fool to have forgotten it?' you scolded yourself for your memory lapse and frantically began rummaging the cupboard where you had placed it, but it was missing.

Racking your brain to the maximum possible intensity, you tried hard to recollect if you had kept it elsewhere, but no, not that your stretched memory could answer. You had kept it right there.

Your throat parched, and you held your splitting head between your palms. Something suddenly struck your memory as a flash of lightning.

'Oh good God, how could I have been so naive to be thoroughly bowled over by their sweet talk?'

You suddenly recollected that your stepmother had come to visit you the day before with Mona, your step sister.

You were well aware that your stepmother had carried nothing but deep seething hatred for you right from the time she married your father nearly two decades ago.

As they had portrayed it to be, the purpose of their visit was to wish you the best of luck for this selection. It was intriguing, though, but your soft and delicate heart that had been yearning for their love and affection was overwhelmed to see them at your doorstep with a wholly changed disposition and kind gesture.

All these years, your stepmother had left no stone unturned to find ways and means to hinder your prospects of becoming a renowned singer. You felt desolate to remember that your father, who passed away only a couple of months before, carried this regret to his grave, that he could not do much to promote his daughter's talent.

 "Come on; we cannot send her for all this rubbish," your stepmother had jeered at your father when a similar opportunity had come across your way when you were only eight. There was a massive hunt by the music world for a child singer.

 "That all is a complicated affair. One of us will have to accompany her off and on. We have better things to do. Your job is even otherwise hanging precariously on the verge of being given the pink slip, and I cannot afford to call off the food supply in my home mess. If I declare it closed now and then people will stop coming here for the food. This is a steady income compared to your unstable job."

Your father could say nothing in retaliation. His job at the leather factory was genuinely not going fine. To supplement the monthly expenditure, your stepmother ran a small hotel from home.

You were a gifted child with a melodious voice and ability to grasp musical notes. You had been a prodigy to be very precise, and a golden opportunity as this should not have been let to slip off. Your stepmother had never been in favor of your love for music. There was constant bickering in the house over a decent amount of money being spent on your training. Still, your father, who otherwise always maintained peace by never raising his decibel levels, would listen to none of this banter regarding your music sessions. He had this strong inkling that you would be a great singer someday.

The opportunity lost did not hurt an eight-year-old. You were too small to realize what you had been deprived of, but it wasn't the same for an eighteen-year-old. Once again, this drama was repeated with more intensity when your music teacher expressed her will to take you to a dais where you could prove your mettle in singing and emerge as a famous singer.

"Look here; we are trying to seek a good alliance for her. It is just not possible to keep postponing this. There is yet another girl in the house who has to get married off. This singing and selection will take a lot of time, with too many elimination rounds and stuff. Moreover, who can guarantee that all this will lead to her fame? It may be a serious wastage of time and money." Your stepmother had stated categorically.

All arguments and ways to convince your stepmother fell into deaf ears. This time you felt the pinch and had cried till such time that you thought your heart would break.

However, you could see your perennial woes getting some respite in the form of a passionate soul mate in Harry. He had been supportive enough to allow you to continue with your practice sessions and participate in many stage contests.

You had, however, faced some resentment from your mother in law who had been pretty upset that you had premeditated upon this idea of not wanting to get into the intricacies of motherhood till such time you had accomplished an individual feat in the field of music—a yardstick you had set for yourself.

Sacrificing so many things from your favorite ice cream to the lovely pain that a mother undergoes when her child arrives into the world, you had meticulously crossed this distance.

With the CDs missing, the prospects of your making it big in the music world seemed to be waning as the time tickled slowly.

Your stepmother had cried her heart out and asked for a pardon thousand times requesting you to let bygone be bygone, and then she held both your hands and kept her hand over your head, and had blessed you with significant achievement in this venture.

"I am certain that you would meet with success and reach the zenith soon."

'How well she had enacted the drama!' you thought bitterly. As if she had rehearsed it several times to confirm the factuality.

On mentally running over the events retrospectively, you realized that seizing an apt opportunity while you had gone into the kitchen to make tea and snacks, Mona had kept you strategically engaged in some conversation.

Your stepmother, who had expressed her wish to go in for a siesta, must have sneaked near the cupboard where she had seen you place the CDs after playing the songs. She would have then swapped it with a plain one and also taken away the copied one.

It was a well-planned move that would have never evoked anybody's suspicion. The duo had stayed until late evening, saying they wanted to meet Harry too since he was leaving for an extended tour. You had by then sealed the red box in their presence. They must have been waiting for this and left with the feeling of triumph for having carried out their plot successfully.

If fate had been favorable on your side, someone would have come wanting to hear the songs, and then you would have looked out for the copied CD and maybe the cat would have been out of the bag, but destiny was not in your favor, and nothing of that sort happened.

At 2 pm, you desperately looked upon Harry for some emotional support, but his phone was switched off. You guessed he must be with his colleagues in the airport lounge, waiting to be ushered into the flight and might contact you once he gets free. It should be another ten hours before he reached the destination and could get in touch with you.

You wiped your tears and tried fighting the fresh bile that threatened to come out of your mouth. The mail had upset you so severely that you went through a bout of vomiting and felt weak. However, you had to think fast. A lot of time had already been wasted in remorse. Confronting your stepmother would only lead to more wastage of time. She was not going to accept her offense.

You decided to immediately contact Peter, your friend Rosy's brother, who recorded your songs. You thought you could request him for a session before 5 pm to allow you some cushion time to go and hand over the CD, but that is if he had no other recording scheduled.

With some iron resolution, you washed your face clean, took warm water with salt to ease your throat, and left the house. You were determined not to give up. You had been looking forward to this for almost two decades. There was no way you would allow this opportunity to slip.


Samina came out of her reverie when someone tapped her shoulders.

She had gone into a trance sitting on the sofa set in the reception of the recording center.

"Madam, it is time for recording your song." A beautiful girl announced, fluttering her eyelashes.

Samina got up and smiled. All this while her subconscious mind had been recollecting past events that occurred almost six months ago, reminding her of each and everything that had dramatically unfolded.

She had, however, crossed all the hurdles and was at the recording station, to record her first song as a playback singer.

Thunderous applause followed by the composer and his team, when she completed recording the song.

The moment gave Samina the much-awaited sense of achievement, and a strong intuition indicated that she would soon be counted among the renowned playback singers.

 Acknowledging all of them with a nod and eyes brimming with tears, she rushed out to meet those who had helped her accomplish this feat.

Hugging her stepmother and sister Mona, Samina let her tears roll down her cheeks.

"Thanks for helping me with the recording that day. If it hadn't been for both of you, I cannot imagine what I would have done; Peter being out of the station.

Thanks a ton, Mona for taking me to your brother in law's friend who had this recording facility. I am sorry that I suspected both of you for having tried to sabotage my diligence. God is indeed great that he accidentally made us bump into each other while I was madly rushing to find someone to record my songs."

It was an emotional scene where the three hugged and cried. The mother; asking to be pardoned for many of her previous offenses and the sisters giggling like school kids.

The office boy interrupted them, saying, "Samina madam, someone has come looking out for you in the reception," he handed a visiting card.

Samina's face turned red as she saw it. 'Harry Jones,' VP Sales, Savy textiles and garments.

She bitterly handed the card back to the boy and said, "Tell him I am not interested in meeting him."

Samina felt a soothing but firm hand on her shoulder. She turned back to meet her mother's misty eyes with inquisitiveness and anxiety writ large on them.

"No, mom, please do not ask me to pardon him for what he did. He breached my trust. I handed the red case with the CD to him, believing that he would safely deposit it with the audition center, but he ruthlessly threw the recorded one and placed a plain one in the box.” She tried hard to fight back her tears.

“He very strategically misplaced the copied CD too. I had placed my full faith upon him, and so blind was my trust that not once did he feature in my frame of suspicion. All the while, I only thought that you and Mona were responsible for the loss of the CD. I kept framing my mental picture of how you both could have possibly carried out the whole exercise. I had been such a fool to have trusted him unconditionally. I still have his malicious message he sent me upon reaching his destination."

'Dear Samina, by now, you must have come to know that your songs have not been submitted, and by far, the deadline for submission must have got over. I swapped your recorded CD with a plain one, and I am also having the copied version with me, rendering you helpless.

Call it Male Chauvinism or whatever you choose to, but my ego did not allow me to let you go. I know you could have made it to the pinnacle with this audition, but I definitely wouldn't like to be known in public as the husband of a singer.

 I chose this move also to avenge you for having made my mother yearn for a grandchild. When she passed away with that emptiness in her heart, I had vowed to teach you a lesson and deprive you of this pleasure of being called a famous singer. I adapted this strategy to complete my revenge.

It will take a lot of time before another such opportunity comes your way.

Well, I do not deny that we had arrived at a consensus regarding parenthood. Still, I started having my doubts about the authenticity of your promise since you were getting more and more involved in your practice sessions and seemed to be only thinking of this audition. What if you go back on your words of starting a family once you get to the pinnacle and start spending more and more time with your rehearsals and songs?

 I know Rosy's brother is out of town, and he will not be available to re-record the songs. By 7 pm, it would have been impossible.'”

Samina bit her lips in resentment after reading the message out again.

"This was pretty unfair. It wasn't that we had not discussed this before. Both of us contemplated the subject of parenthood. Harry had agreed to my proposal of accepting the responsibility of motherhood once I accomplish the feat of carving a niche for myself. I don't see how I am responsible if a frivolous doubt about my promise had crept into his mind. How can he accuse me of having played with his mother's emotions?

He tried calling me many times during his stay there because he learned that I had submitted my songs and have got through the first round. I never answered his calls and chose to ignore all his messages. I cannot live with a man who has adapted the dirty play to throttle my efforts. This act of his is serious backbiting, and you can never expect love and affection from such a person."

"Samina, but must Harry not be informed that you are expecting now and his child will be born soon?" Mona looked at her sister, half hoping that her stance would change, and the bitter, harsh feelings for her husband would thaw; but Samina looked invulnerable. She shook her head firmly and walked out of the studio with determination lit large on her face.

Her first song took the music world by storm, and offers came pouring in. And then she sang till eternity.

‘Now you can sing till eternity!!!’ Her mind declared.

Sudha Viswanath

June 25, 2020 14:04

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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