Once Upon a River:
The eighty-five ghats that form a crescent-shaped riverfront project a majesty that gives perspective to the vicissitudes and vanities of death unfolding in its lap. Janvi has read in a tourist guide that the city of Varanasi derives its name from two rivers: Varuna, which flows from the northern end, and Assi, which meets the river Ganges in the south. The city is compared to a goddess whose arms are the two rivers. It is said that like a mother, without judgment, Varuna and Assi embrace, coddle, and cradle all who come: sinners and saints; wealthy and destitute; male, female, and in-between; all who come to Varanasi seeking something.
As proof of the power of the river, they keep coming, in ever larger numbers……
Read full story in Verdad Magazine and the Penman Review...
The Open Door by Neerja Raman
The door is open.
Why is it open? What is in there, past the open door?
Arms folded on my chest, stooping as if to block the world, I march across our front lawn and stand on the sidewalk. I stare at the house opposite ours, which has been vacant for months.
It looks occupied, but I don’t see a moving van or cars in the driveway.
Did they fly in?
Someone inside flips a switch, and a bright light streams through the open door………
Read full story in Origins Journal
Uptown Girl by Neerja Raman
In a few long strides, the elegant woman clicked her black heels across an expanse of opulent granite to park herself and her wheeled luggage at the lobby registration. She rested a handbag on the polished mahogany, poised to take out a wallet, and smiled at the man behind the counter.
“You have a reservation for me? Jeena Mann. Jeena with a J. And Mann—with two Ns.”
At forty, Jeena looked thirty and radiated uptown chic. She dressed in Alfani suits, silk shirts, and classic pearls; a colorful scarf to lend flair and draw attention, but with sophistication to blend in upscale surroundings.
Even so, this uptown Jeena diligently nurtured a downtown edge. It alerted her to danger so she channeled stress responses into positive energy, and over time it became her secret weapon in a mostly male professional environment.
As desired, Jeena’s brisk yet warm demeanor elicited prompt, courteous service. The clerk logged her name into a computer, then looked up at her. …Read full story in East Bay review:
Garden of People by Neerja Raman
Winner – 2017 Fiction Katha Contest
“Daddy, is native a bad word?” I say softly, half hoping the urge to ask would go away.
My father leans his tall frame over the balustrade. He is inspecting his garden to make sure that plants needing protection have been tended to; each one has a small dried bamboo-leaf thatch roof supported on sticks that traps the night dew and prevents moisture from getting into the leaves where it can freeze. There is a chill in the evening air. Tonight, the temperatures are expected to dip. An overnight frost is long enough to kill his delicate new seedlings.
I grasp the importance of his job, and why he concentrates so much, and perhaps, that is why, I have chosen this moment to ask my question. I had blurted the only sentence that came to mind.
I stand on my tippy toes, bolstered by my elbows, chin resting on a flat surface of the low wall, staring at the garden. I am preoccupied with feelings that clang inside my head. Thoughts jumble themselves up till I don’t know what to say but the urge to question does not pass. With effort, I marshal my words, enough only to voice the same query again….
Read full story – India Currents