Desi Drama Fiction

The trains clattered and rattled on rails that had weathered too many rains, seen too many winters. Jeya wrapped her shawl more securely around herself, squinting in the early morning light to make out the time on the station clock. Five to six in the morning. The sun was begrudgingly making its way up from the horizon. Soon its rays would spear the sky like a million soldiers streaking onto a battlefield, and the memory of the night would be lost to the bustle and braying of a busy day.

But that moment was yet to come, and the day was still held hostage by the darkness of the night and stormy grey clouds that showed no signs of relinquishing their reign over the skies.

Jeya sank down further into her seat, the wooden rungs digging uncomfortably into the small of her bony back. A sound behind her made her look around. The station master had come through the old-fashioned wooden swing-doors, which were still moving back-and-forth behind him. He blearily shuffled his way across the station towards the restroom facilities, his mouth agape in an unattractive yawn that seemed to stretch to the sickle-shaped moon in the sky and back. The chai-walla was setting up his stall, whistling a popular tune between his teeth, completely unfazed by the morning gloom. His radio was turned on to a news station, and Jeya could hear the crackle of the waves before the news reporter’s voice added itself to the slowly building hum and noise of the station. A few passengers who’d been dozing while waiting for their next train were slowly coming to, and the scene suddenly seemed to become remote, became something that was unreal and dreamlike to the watching Jeya. In a curious state of detachment, she could almost fancy that she’d wandered into the beginning of a play, and the stage was just being set for Act One, Scene I. In that strange sensation that accompanies dreams, she was convinced that she knew what to do, despite not being given the lines to the play, or the rules of the game.

An announcement was made for the next train arriving in the station, and Jeya tried to rouse herself. Maybe a cup of hot chai would wake her, clear the mists of sleep from her benumbed brain, which had seen and heard too much in the past week to feel anything anymore.

As she stood in line at the stall, she idly wondered when- and if- Mithila would show up to see her at the final destination. Her heart constricted, but Jeya did not have the energy anymore to follow a line of thought that would inevitably fetch up at its foregone conclusion. There was never any doubt about how much Mithila loved her, and how much she loved her sister back, but there was equally less doubt in her mind that Mithila would never put herself in a position that could cause more heartbreak, more rifts in a family that was already dissolving before they’d even reconnected. Mithila had, in fact, stormed at her when she first made known her intention to receive the olive branch extended to them. It was with finality that she’d announced that though nothing would ever get between herself and Jeya (like that even had to be said!), she would not receive her father at her house, no matter how much he‘d reformed.

Jeya understood. It was with sudden weariness and exhaustion that she contemplated the upcoming ordeal of reunion with their father- for it would be an ordeal, she had no doubts about that- and experienced that revulsion of feeling that had struck her as many times as had her innate desire to see her father again.

She suddenly wished that she was back home with Veer, snuggled under his protective arm while they slowly awakened to a new day, their children kicking up a ruckus in the next room and being shushed by their fond, fussy, normal, sweet grandparents- parents who’d never dream of abandoning their son or daughters, to the wilds of a new and bewildering city... here Jeya was swept up by emotion. When she thought of her in-laws, it was with bewilderment and gratitude. She’d certainly struck jack-pot there. Their unfailing kindness, not just toward herself but to her sister too, was something that Jeya would never cease giving thanks for- a thanks that they never took advantage of, never held over her.

‘Chai Madam. Madam!’ the chai-walla called impatiently, jerking her rudely out of her thoughts. She hastily fished in her purse for the change, and thankfully accepted the steaming cup of tea. Sinking back into her seat, she went back over the past week.

It had come as a bolt out the blue, the telephone call. Thinking about it, she still wasn’t sure if she resented him for calling her rather than showing up at her doorstep. He hadn’t been able to reach Mithila, but had somehow managed to get a hold of her number. She hadn’t recognized his voice. Years of chain-smoking and alcohol had made it even more gruff and scratchy than she remembered.

When she realized who it was, her mind had instantly taken flight, her heart stubbornly fleeing to a halcyon childhood. Days when she’d been lifted into the air, screaming with laughter, as her father rushed into the sea, swinging her round and round without ever once dropping her, letting her kick her heels in the water. Days under a sweltering hot sun, walking back from school with her hand firmly tucked into her father’s, stealing a quick moment on the side-walk to eat an ice-lolly, keeping it a delicious and solemn secret between them that ‘Ma must never know!’ Playing tag in the streets in front of row-houses, chasing Mithila, and being chased by their father as their Ma watched from the hall window, laughing at their antics. Sitting down in front of the small telly, doing their homework while they lay belly-down on the floor, him watching cricket, and Ma humming latest songs under her breath as she prepared their dinner...

It wouldn’t do. It wouldn’t do to dwell on them. ‘You can’t go backwards,’ Veer had said when he saw her off on the train, ‘but you can make your own decisions to own the future.’

That’s why she was here. She wanted to heal from her aches, her wondering, those pangs of resurrected heart-breaks. Mithila had been young when their father had disappeared. She’d hated him for what he had done, for she had loved him fiercely with all the honest warmth that only a child could have.

But Jeya had been older. She’d seen the cracks , she’d almost known it was coming, but she didn’t want to see, it wasn’t fair, Ma was gone, it wasn’t right that they’d lose Pa too...

Here she caught herself up. What was the use? What was the use? He’d married again after his wife’s death. He’d wanted someone to raise his children. He’d abandoned them for his pretty wife and their tiny child. They’d gone, leaving two girls in the care of a kindly old neighbor, till his sister’s husband came to pick them up. They’d been passed around in the family. They’d gone to bed some nights, wondering if they’d be split up, terrified that they’d lose each other, the only constant in each other’s world.

Jeya hadn’t cried. She had Mithila to think of- a baby, confused, missing her family, and scared. Jeya had stood up for her when she got into trouble- ‘acting out’, their aunt had yelled furiously, when Mithila had once burst into tears after she’d kept asking what had become of their father. Jeya had intervened just in time before their aunt’s slap had descended.

She knew then that she would have to get a job, get her sister out of their relatives’ care and under their own roof.

It wasn’t easy.

It had never been easy. But they’d had each other.

Jeya was suddenly overcome with a burning sense of foolishness. What was she doing? There would be no answers from their father. It didn’t matter, none of it- it couldn’t ever matter, not to them, that he’d changed. He didn’t know what it had been like, to be volleyed back and forth between relatives like they were garbage. They’d felt discarded, like their worth only lay in their childhood, and once they’d grown into gawky teenagers, their only use was to function as drudges at their aunt’s house. They hadn’t even had a stable home, even though Jeya had begged their aunt to not keep sending them away to people they didn’t even know- she’d do anything, work how much ever round the house, if she’d just let them both stay till Jeya could get a job and move out. Their aunt had thrown back her head and laughed, demanding that if their own father had left them, how could they possibly think that anyone would ever need them? That was the first and last night that Jeya had allowed herself to cry. She decided that night that she’d never again think of their father. Her tears would only be for their Ma, and Mithila.

A train was slowly making its way into the station. Jeya started, realizing that it was hers. Next stop, a couple of hours away from her father...

With a shaky hand, she pulled out her phone. Her fingers hesitated over two numbers, hovering in the air for moments that kept slipping away, ticking, one after the other... then, with sudden decision, as though she’d always planned on it, she quickly pressed on one of them, and waited.

‘Tell me this is folly, and I should turn around and go back to the actual family we have,’ she said rapidly the second the phone was answered.

‘Well, good morning to you too,’ sniped Mithila, pausing mid-sentence to yawn, robbing her voice of any sarcasm. ‘For God’s sake, you know what you want to do, J. I told you, I’d stand by you, and that-’

‘See, that’s why I wanted to talk to you,’ said Jeya rapidly, sounding almost breathless. ‘Even Veer, he doesn’t get it- how could he? His parents are angels, and though of course, every family has its troubles, for the most part he’s been loved all his life...’

‘So what are you getting at?’ asked Mithila after a few moments of silence had passed and Jeya seemed to be trying to search for the right words.

‘Every time we talk to each other- every time- we tell each other that we’ll always be there, we’ll always support the other, no matter what,’ said Mithila slowly. She could hear Mithila shifting around her room. ‘It’s not a bad thing- it’s just- I need to hear it. I-’

‘I do too,’ interrupted Mithila. ‘That’s not a bad thing.’

Jeya shook her head. ‘I’m so terrified some days. That it’s too good to last.’

Mithila was silent.

‘I’ll be there,’ she said suddenly.

‘Wha- what?’ Stuttered Jeya. ‘No, no- I wanted you to tell me it’s okay to hop back on the train-’

‘And then what? What would you tell them back home? That you never want to speak to Pa again? We both know that’s not true. You can’t forget. There was a lot of good before the bad. You know that it was the reason why you even set out in the first place.’

Jeya was silent, feeling deflated. She shut her eyes tightly, a headache beginning to pound behind her temples.

She’d thought she could be free.

‘I’ll be there,’ said Mithila softly. ‘When does your train reach his place? I’ll get on the same train if I can.’

‘You sure?’


They spoke for a while longer as she made her way, reluctantly, onto the train.

Once she’d rung off, Jeya sighed. She should feel guilty, but could only feel thankful that her sister would be there.

Was that selfish?

She didn’t know. All she knew was that her Pa didn’t loom so much over their future anymore.

It was never about him, this meeting. It was for her, it was for them. They could not be held hostage by a past that would never reach them again, no matter how hard it tried. They had to lay down its ghost, once and for all.

The sun had climbed fully into the sky, and the clouds were resplendent with silver linings as Jeya’s train slowly and surely made its way out the station.

February 03, 2021 17:52

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Tracey Fletcher
08:36 Feb 11, 2021

It's always very painful to write about family. This story clearly conveys the emotions: disappointment, hurt, and anger. I enjoyed reading it


Divya Narasimhan
14:35 Feb 11, 2021

Thank you for your feedback. I'm glad you enjoyed it!


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Amy Jayne Conley
21:20 Feb 10, 2021

Oh, this was stunningly written! Your imagery and descriptions are breathtaking! It was an absolute joy to read! I loved the development of Jeya, too. I'm glad in the end she had Mithila with her to do what must have been so difficult! A really beautiful piece of work, Divya! <3


Divya Narasimhan
05:13 Feb 11, 2021

Thank you ever so much! You're very kind :) I enjoyed writing this piece, and I'm so glad you enjoyed it!


Amy Jayne Conley
09:41 Feb 11, 2021

I can tell you enjoyed it! Please, keep writing!! The world needs more of this! :D


Divya Narasimhan
14:34 Feb 11, 2021

Thank you for your kind encouragement! :)


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