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Phantoms on a Desert


Pic courtesy Pikrepo

Somewhere in the arid landscape of the Rann of Kutch, the midnight’s full moon cast two shadows on the salty sands. The shadows were walking in opposite directions, one in the direction of Hindustan and the other in that of Pakistan. They met each other on the way.

A woman all alone in this ghostly land! The male shadow felt a shiver slipping into the marrow of his bones.

The female shadow was even more scared but did not reveal her scare.

The man could not but look into the face of the woman. She looked so beautiful in that radiant moonlight. Beauty was irresistible for him, especially feminine beauty, because he was a writer by profession.

Beauty stopped, stared into the eyes of the man fiercely and asked in an affected voice, “Can you really see me?” She intended to scare him away by making him believe that she was a ghost.

The man was not only a writer but had also dabbled in psychology as an undergrad of the Kerala University before he was hijacked by the serial industry of TV channels. He wrote scripts for feminist serials that the women of Kerala watched in the evenings while their husbands queued up before liquor outlets for spurious brandy sold in half-litre and one-litre plastic bottles. With all the knowledge of psychology he possessed, he understood that this woman who was staring at him was superb material for his next feminist serial.

“I can see your very soul,” he said, “a tormented soul that refuses to yield to an oppressive patriarchal system.”

That rattled the woman. Because she was just what he had said. She was an Afghani woman fleeing from the Taliban.

“Who are you?” She asked.

“You don’t know me?” He forgot that Malayalam soap serials were not watched by Afghani women. “I’m Sagar Kottappuram, writer gifted with the power to make and break destinies.”

Sagar was running out of ideas for serials. All possible feminist themes were exhausted and he wanted to discover brand new themes. Someone in the Malayalam Serial Directors Union told him, while they were sharing a drink, that all brands now belonged to Gujaratis. That is how Sagar reached Gujarat. He was soon fascinated by the romance of the salt marshes of the Rann of Kutch.

“I am Asman Niazi,” the woman introduced herself when she was convinced that the man she encountered in the middle of the night on a deserted salt marsh was not a ghost. She said she was fleeing from the Taliban.

“Ah, the Taliban,” Sagar understood instantly. “The men who make rules for others.”

“Indeed. They make rules for everything including the length of girls’ pubic hair.” Having said that Asman realised that she was talking to a stranger man and not to her fellow rebel women in Afghanistan.

Sagar, though a popular script writer of TV serials, was aware of the changes taking place in the world. In his own state of Kerala people were now not people anymore but Sanghies, Musanghies, and Krisanghies. That is, Hindu right wingers, Muslim right wingers whose survival instincts made them support the Sanghies, and Christian right wingers whose opportunism made them support the Sanghies. In short, Kerala was becoming another Sanghi Land in the Indian Union.

Sagar Kottappuram from a land where Musanghies and Krisanghies vied with each other to take the sheen off the original Sanghies and Asman Niazi from the land of Allah’s soldiers in what once was the Hindu Kush sat down together on a salt marsh under the romantic translucence of a full moon and shared with each other the agonies of their personal quests. It didn’t take them long to realise that both were on a similar quest: the quest for a new brand, a new brand of personal freedom. Words eventually melted away into the bed of salt beneath them. Sobs rose from their hearts. Like every human heart, theirs too longed for bliss. An ocean was raging within the hearts. The urge that lies in the depths of every ocean to touch the sky. And the sky’s urge to hug the ocean. To transcend borders, human limits.

PS. I wouldn’t have written this had it not been for Indispire Edition 386: A young woman all alone on a road in the middle of the night. A stranger approaches her with not-so-good intentions. The woman stares into his eyes and asks, "Can you really see me?" Weave a story. #GhastlyStory


  1. This is a beautifully woven story which the story prompt herself would least expect to realise! The prompt is even shorn off the man with not-so-good-intentions. Marvellous amalgam of the agonized souls!

    1. Thank you. Today's Indian Express carries a long feature on Afghan situation. As I read it, this story began to take shape. I'm afraid India is moving in the direction of Afghanistan with its religious fundamentalism.

    2. I forgot to add that this prompt was my contribution to Indiblogger 😊

    3. 1. Afghanistan is a forerunner of India's predicament, indeed. Really apprehensive about the imminent havoc in the near future, though our prayers shall remain for a better India.

      2. Why the author of the prompt has taken a veer? :o

      Can't help it, it seems! Creativity is ever creative and is in a constant state of Flux!

  2. Hari OM
    This my ether-friend, is a very fine fable indeed. YAM xx

  3. You managed to turn around a prompt like that into your favourite topic with a lot of satire at that!

    1. It's not my favorite topic, Rajeev. My favorite topic is romance. The full moon. Electrifying landscape. And passionate love making.


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