Writing desk

All you have is what you are, and what you give.”


― Ursula K. Le Guin

 

Published stories, essays and reviews

The complete collection...well, almost

Here are some of my pieces published in journals in India, Singapore, Europe and US. Some are hard copies only...

The visit

When she told people that she was living with her relatives, away from home, she rose even higher in their estimation, like a shooting star fleetingly illuminating their world, whose brilliance had to be committed to memory before it vanished. She never once said who these relatives were or that the person whose room she was inhabiting was in the same school, in fact sitting on a bench behind her right now, listening. And when I took it upon myself to redress this act of omission and tell people that it was us she was living with, they looked at me not like a generous host, but like an undeserving sky trying to lay claim on some of her luminescence.

Photo credit: kabir cheema on Unsplash

The visit.jpg
Birdhouse.jpg

October 3, 2020

In theory, the lockdown should’ve suited him fine. He didn’t go out much anyway, nor did he meet a lot of people. He liked to potter about in the garden and shed. But the lockdown ripped his life open.

Photo credit: Mark Tegethoff

'Elephant in the city of blind' featured in Popshot, Jan 2020

January 20, 2019

Elephant settled on the couch and took a sip of water. The doctor, already seated, focussed on him with his unseeing eyes and waited for him to start. Elephant had concluded that the doctor didn’t do pleasantries not out of impoliteness but out of an overzealous watchfulness of time, and over months, Elephant stopped asking how he was and launched right into the session.  

“I left my herd and came here because I was tired of everyone telling me what I could and could not do. No one can see here, so I can do what I want, right? Wrong. Your city is no different. People decide, very quickly, who they think you are, and just like that you are trapped in their impression of you for the rest of your life.”   

Screen Shot 2020-04-13 at 6.12.29 PM.jpg
Shady tree

'Call centre' featured in Singapore Unbound 2019

January 20, 2019

We were a survey company and our job was to ask questions. I was in a team along with three others, Raymond, Lucy and Siti. There were twelve or so others who worked on different projects. All of us worked on a system called HeartToHeart. All we had to do, every morning, was to log in to our systems. From there on, the computer all but took over. It dialled the phone number of the people we had to interview. If the person was busy, it showed us how to arrange a call-back. If they were free, it told us whether to say good morning, afternoon or evening, how to introduce ourselves and what questions to ask.

Photo credit: Shireesh Vasupalli

 
Sand

'Dear Singapore' featured in Litro

December 2018

Dear Singapore,

Looks like it is time to say goodbye.

It was thirteen years ago that I set foot on your shores, as a starry-eyed, newly married, first-time expat.

I vividly remember my first walk to the East Coast Park. I made an animated call to my family back home to tell them how unbelievably clean the city was. There was no litter and no stray dogs. Even the dried leaves fell from the trees gracefully and carpeted the ground in a beautiful pattern.

I remember standing at a pedestrian crossing at a quiet road, feeling silly waiting for the man to green.

Photo credit: Shireesh Vasupalli

'It's in the eyes' featured in Out of print

September 2018

Megha learnt to read early. It was a month before her sixth birthday when she finished her first big book. It was The Mystery of the Hidden House by Enid Blyton. She had discovered it in her father’s bookshelf, sandwiched between his thick medical journals. The pages had turned a bright ochre and came off easily. Her grandmother said that one of her cousins had left it behind many years ago, and she had saved it for Megha for when she started reading.


Megha was drawn into the world of the Five Find-outers and dog. She read about the mysterious goings-on in the British village of Peterswood with envy. She imagined herself in her their midst, holding secret meetings behind her parents’ back and looking for clues. Unlike them, ‘things’ never happened to her in the northern Indian town of Kanpur. Most of her afternoons were spent in the dispensary at her father’s clinic.

Carpenter
 
Peeling paint

'The painting in my sister's room' featured in Cecile Writers

July 2018

My sister’s bedroom looks like a museum. There are things everywhere. The silver candlesticks are from Mother’s gold and silver pair, her chipped tea set was a retirement present from school, the evil eye was sent by a former student, the list goes on. Every trinket tells a story. Of people that have come and gone from her life. Fossilized remains of relationships that have become extinct.
Now she lives a solitary life. I tell her to go out, just to get some fresh air. She says she doesn’t need to. That the room is alive and the things all talk to her. I fear that the isolation is getting the better of her senses.

The bigger sin in Nanoism 

January 20, 2019

He dithered at the church door as his mother lay in the hospital, wondering which would be the bigger sin, lying to her or to himself.

(This is all of it, really)

Photo credit: Shireesh Vasupalli

Church
 
Beach with footsteps.jpg

Flotsam featured in Burningword Literary Journal

January 20, 2019

“This started when I moved to Amy’s house,” Judy said, as she and James set out for their evening stroll. It was the same stretch of the East Coast Park that they had walked every evening, for the last forty-seven years. James was still in his work clothes, a navy-blue Coast Guard uniform. Judy wore a beige top over black trousers.

“A churning in the stomach. Heart hammering loudly into my chest, drowning all other sounds. It grows faster, like going downhill on a roller coaster. My hands shake and go cold. See…”

Photo credit: Shireesh Vasupalli

Comings and goings featured in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal

October 2017

Bahadur came to the Sharma household on Narender's tails. He wore a black t-shirt and a navy blue trouser that was too big for him, which was kept in place with a brown canvas belt. He carried a small satchel which looked almost empty. His light brown eyes were narrow, and puffy and he hardly spoke. By general consensus, his age was pegged at ten years.

Photo credit: Shireesh Vasupalli

Stray dog
 
Singapore street

Love in Singapore featured in Quarterly Literary Review of Singapore

July 2017

Veerpal was thinking what to make for lunch when the doorbell rang. She worked as a helper to Maya Aunty, who was herself an agent for domestic workers. At the door was a new girl who had just arrived from the airport, with a handbag and a single suitcase in tow. She was in her early twenties, like Veerpal. She looked exhausted from the overnight journey. Veerpal let her in and walked her to her own room, which they would share for the next few days.

Photo credit: Shireesh Vasupalli

Weight featured in Thrice Fiction

April 2017

The gentle king was gripped by a frenzy of reclamation. Having gnawed at his own hills and rocks, he turned to his neighbouring kingdoms, buying their sand for its weight in gold. “We cannot claim what isn’t ours,” his councilmen forebode.

Photo credit: Shireesh Vasupalli

Sand and sea
 
Baby hand

I did not know in Mothers always write

December 2016

I did not know that it would be like this.

That a part within would grow and climb out of me and become something so beautiful.

That someone weighing 3.74 kilograms would make my world dance with a flick of his little finger—your entire hand the size of my thumb, your fingers delicate as a baby grape, long and slender like an ape. I shook hands with a monkey once. I wait for you to grow up to tell you this. I hope it will make you laugh. Like bubbles do.

Photo credit: Shireesh Vasupalli

July 2016

Rituals are like little diyas that light up the sides of our journey through life. They remind us to pause and enjoy our milestones and celebrate our relationships. In a country steeped in culture and tradition, we Indians have blessed ourselves with rituals around every corner at almost every waxing and waning of the moon. So much so that very often form takes over substance and we lose sight of the deeper meaning of what we are celebrating.

This year, as I prepare for Rakshabandhan, one of my favourite festivals of the year, I do so with many questions ringing in my mind.

Photo credit: Shireesh Vasupalli

Rakhi
Mango tree

Summer Song

March 2016

As their taxi pulled away from Changi airport’s spotless arrivals hall, Agnes was struck by the dazzlingbrightness of Singapore. Bathed in sunlight, the highway shone like a mirror, zipped together with animpeccable row of white, mauve and magenta bougainvillea running through the middle, flanked bygreen trees arching towards each other in the sky.

 
Man with Book

हिंदी में

English में एक line होती है, कुछ ऐसे ... एक हिंदी को हिंदुस्तान से निकाल सकते हैं, मगर हिंदी से हिंदुस्तानी को नहीं। हिंदी में बोलने वो बात बिलकुल नहीं आती जो English में आती है। और ये बात मेरे मुंह से थोड़ी अजीब है क्यूंकि मेरे writing process मैं, ज़्यादातर मैं सोचती हिंदी में हूँ, और paper पर words English उतरते हैं।


ये हैं कुछ कवितायेँ , एक ८-९ साल की लड़की की ज़बानी... और बहुत हैं, धीरे धीरे कर के डालूंगी 

गर्मियों की छुट्टियां

तड़कती गर्मी में, दो महीनो के लिए

School क्यूँ बंद हो जाते हैं,

ये सोचने वाला सवाल है। 

मेरे हिसाब से गर्मियों की छट्टियाँ

Teachers की चाल है।


Parents परेशान हो जाते हैं,

कहां-कहाँ घुमाएं, क्या-क्या खेलें?

बच्चे दुखी हो जाते हैं,

दिन भर parents को कैसे झेलें। 


ले-दे के entry होती है

दादियों-नानियों की,

और वही रामायण-महाभारत की

घिसी-पीटी कहानियों की।


ऊपर से holiday homework,

बचे कुचे मज़े का भर्ता बना दो

सिर्फ English, हिंदी, maths ही क्यों

Greek, Latin, French भी अभी सिखा दो।


कोई मानने को तैयार नहीं है

ये सब teachers की चाल है

बाकि की छुट्टियां कैसे कटेंगी

आधे ही दिन में बुरा हाल है।

सीता माता vs Captain Marvel

दस रुपये क्या मांग लिए 

ग्यारहवीं comic खरीदने के लिए,

Papa ने reading homework ही ख़त्म कर दिया

और दादी के पास बैठा दिया,

'अच्छी बाँतें' सीखने के लिए।


दादी लगीं रामायण सुनाने ,

वो चार किलो का पोथा उनको ज़बानी याद है।

लेकिन आज मेरा दिमाग ख़राब था,

मैं बोल दिया, "ये कहानी बिलकुल बर्बाद है...

क्यूँ सीता माता जंगल चलीं गयीं राम के साथ?

क्यूँ आयोध्या में रह कर प्रजा को नहीं संभाला?

क्यूँ रावण से खुद fight नहीं कीं ?

क्यूँ राम को अग्नि परीक्षा में नहीं डाला ?

और gender equality को एक बार के लिए side में रख भी दें,

तो कैसे एक rare golden हिरन को मरवा डाला?”

दादी बोली, "सब भगवन की माया है,

एक कहानी के ज़रिये हमें धर्म का मार्ग दिखाया है।"

"तो मेरी Captain Marvel कौनसी कम है?

कहानी solid है, character में भी दम है.

Alien Skrulls को घुमा के देती है ,

अपना spacecraft खुद चलाती है,

दो-चार planets के अधर्मियों का विनाश करके,

धरती की रक्षा करने आती है।

दादी ने ध्यान से पूरी comic  सुनी,

उनकी आँखों में चमक आयी,

Black Widow, Nebula, Gamora, सब देखीं,

Wonder Woman उन्हें सबसे ज़्यादा पसंद आयी। 


बोली, "चल शाम  को इसकी वाली पढ़ेंगे!"

मैं बोली, "जो आज्ञा पितामही,

परन्तु इसकी वाली के लिए,

ज़रा दस रुपये लगेंगे। "

 

Events

Signing.jpg

'Love in Singapore' featured in Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Four (Epigram Books, Oct 2019) 

Photo credit: Alia

'Summer Song' featured in Fresh Fiction from Singapore II, and anthology by Writing the City and NLB - July 2016

Photo credit: Shireesh Vasupalli

 

About Nidhi

I was born and raised in India. Having spent over a decade in Singapore, I now call London home, though much prefer to inhabit the land of fiction to anywhere else.

 

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