Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Butterfly Effect

Short story
Shilavati was bored.  She had everything she wanted.  A huge LED screen with more than 200 TV channels and a resounding Dolby sound system filled the vacuum of her days with light and sound.  There were manservants and maidservants waiting for her orders to fill the emptiness in her ego with a glass of fruit juice or a ride to the shopping mall.  Yet she felt bored.  Her two children were at school and husband was in the office of the MNC which paid him more money than they really needed.  The family used to go for an outing almost every weekend.  Yet she felt bored.  She switched the channels on the TV.
The English news channel was discussing whether death penalty fitted in with contemporary civilisation.  Within months of becoming the President, Mr Pranab Mukherjee had sent two persons to the gallows and dismissed the mercy petitions of the killers of Rajiv Gandhi.
Why is there so much brouhaha about executing some criminals?  Shilavati wondered.  Aren’t we a species of creatures that kill other members of the species for flimsy reasons?  Like for upholding the wishes of some amorphous god who allegedly spoke with a mouth that he never possessed to a man who heard the divine utterance differently at different times!
Will Pranab da be an inhuman President merely because he sent a few heartless criminals to the gallows?  What about the Chief Minister of a state who presided upon the assaults, rapes, expropriation and murders of hundreds of people and yet is poised to become the Prime Minister of the country?  Is he more humane than Pranab da?  Who decides the humaneness of each individual?
We are a funny lot, mused Shilavati.  We are never contented with what we have. The reality elsewhere is always better.  Our own reality is never satisfying.  Kaikeyi is not content with the opulence in the palace.  Even Rama’s filial devotion, let alone Dasaratha’s marital commitments, cannot make her contented.  It is not enough to crown Bharatha the king, but Rama has to be exiled too.  Discontent becomes malice and malice froths in Kaikeyi’s heart just like the beer being poured into the mug.
Shilavati sipped the beer.  The beer frothed in her mind.  The froth charged her laptop.  Faces came and went on the social network.  One face froze the froth in the beer: like whisky being added into the frothing beer.
Narottam was a friend she had acquired among the many faceless faces in the social network.  An entrepreneur, Narottam was usually on the move.  He had breakfast in London and lunch in Paris.  At least that’s what she was given to understand.  Shilavati envied Narottam’s fortune.  She visualised him ensconced on a burnished throne in a Venetian barge. 
“Life is like an exotic fruit, the juice will dry up if you don’t relish it in time,” Narottam had written in one of his many wise SMSes.  As his messages became juicier they decided to exchange them more discreetly than at social networks.  The mobile phone became the privileged bearer of the juice that overflowed from their laden hearts.
“I’m getting so bored here day after day,” complained Shilavati when many juicy messages had already been exchanged.  “Take me with you to the exotic lands.”
“Okay,” agreed Narottam.  “I’ll take my darling to paradise.  There we will together create a new world.  The gods will envy our love and the apsaras will fill our goblets with heavenly wine.  Our hearts will be intoxicated with the love that Vishwamitra and Menaka forged...”
“Bring all your jewellery.”  Narottam’s supernatural fantasies ended rather too prosaically.  “There’s some hiatus in the business.   America has announced pulling out its troops from Afghanistan.”
Shilavati did not understand what Afghanistan had got to do with it all.  But she was educated enough to know about the butterfly effect.  If a butterfly flapped its wings in Beijing’s corridors, there may be a cyclone in Washington DC.
All her gold jewellery and the diamond love bands gifted by her husband packed in a bag, Shilavati walked gracefully with the gait of a swan into the foyer of the penthouse where Narottam had promised to provide her the paradise.
“Where’s Narottam?” she asked the group of young men who walked into the foyer one by one as if materialised from the thin air by a wizard’s magic wand.
“We are all Narottams,” they laughed.  And they carried her along a corridor where there was no wing-flapping butterfly.
The sun had not risen when she woke up, her head weighed down under the effect of some drug, on the side of a deserted street somewhere in the outskirts of the city... feeling bruised all over, scratches and bites digging in her skin... unable to take a step forward.


  1. It reminds me not to feel bored while munching kilos of potato chips, watching hundreds of TV channels showing stupidity and ebook-reader full of useless books .. and remember the good old days when all we had was vividhbharati and there was no boredom! :)

    1. Abundance can be a very serious problem, Sunil ji. It is, in fact.

  2. Immaculate story...loved all the way through...!!!

  3. Superb write up Sir with some really genuine facts presented.

  4. Well penned...thought provoking!

  5. Hi Sir, it is written very well. Feel sad for the ending. I would love to change the ending, with your permission ofcourse.

    The sun had not risen when she woke up, her head weighed down under the effect of the overdose of the beer she drank last evening. She sprang out of her bed to see the bag with all her jewels, safely put under the cot. She turned around when her children ran into her with open arms. Shilavati felt thankful like never before and hugged her children tighter than ever before.

    1. I wrote the story after reading in the Malayala Manorama a report on the experience of a woman in Kerala who left her husband and children for the sake of an online friend who cheated her in circumstances similar to those given in the story. Truth is stranger than fiction?

  6. That was a perfect story. It held me in its vicious grips even as I suspected the precipice to which it was finding its way. Somehow I see two moral stories embedded in the tale. One, the treacherous fruits of meandering online by bored women; two, abolition of death penalty in 'contemporary civilisation'.

    Sir, in the given state of affairs of this nation, 'contemporary civilisation' is an oxymoron. The very word 'contemporary' stinks of rot and disorder. And if you could forgive this moron, I am against the abolition of capital punishment.

    And I loved these lines: "Shilavati sipped the beer. The beer frothed in her mind. The froth charged her laptop. Faces came and went on the social network.

    1. Thanks, Uma, for interpreting the story this way. I was indeed trying to look at the nature of 'evil'... boredom is a major source of many evils.

      I'm aware of the complex nature of what I undertook to perform in the story. Quite a few themes in a little space...

  7. Nicely written with some stinging comments which many people will miss. You have said that her husband was paid him more money than they really needed. Infact, do we have much more than we needed? Is abundance stifling creativity?

    As a filmmaker, will I be more creative with the existing equipment if I know that I cannot get the latest and the greatest lens or camera or other such equipment?

    A few years back, I was driving a National Geographic photographer and infront of us there were poeple hanging from a bus. We started discussing about the fire in the belly of the people here. The ones who come up after such struggle shine.

    1. I'm sure you're aware of the Middle Path suggested by the Buddha. Virtue lies between the extremes. e.g., ambition lies between greed and sloth.

      If necessity is the mother of invention, as has been said, abundance can stifle creativity.

      Poverty, hunger, etc belong to one end of the spectrum, and excess to the other. Both are fatal to the human spirit.

      At any rate, I wasn't trying to present a thesis on anything here. Literature only seeks to prod the reader into thinking! Answers are not given in literature; they have to be arrived at by the reader...

  8. A story which compels one to think of various issues- abundance, social networking, trust, family love,stranger fascination, fantasy land and of course the butterflies.Kudos!!!
    Silly Smiles... Take you Miles :)

    1. True, Surbhi, there are too many themes packed in that short span... I realised that only when I reread it after posting it. Of course, i had not thought that this story would draw so much attention!

      Thanks for the visit and the comment.

  9. Excellent moral here Matheikal---some people do not know what is good for them.

    1. Thanks, Indu. True, many people get misled by technology ...

  10. When'll the the misguided young girls understand the real world? Too painful!

    1. Some people learn by observing others, while quite many are condemned to learn it painfully.

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