It wasn’t as if she had expected any loving words. It wasn’t that she hadn’t known that he’d treat her like garbage. She knew it all. Still, she let him into her life, time and time again. When he said he loved her, she pretended to believe him. If he didn’t treat her like a priority, she played the fool and made excuses on his behalf. Thankfully, one fine day it struck her. No wise person spends half her life on a person who cannot define ‘respect’. And she was intelligent in every other way.
The next day, Vrinda wanted to take her precious gift to school. Her mother said no. “You can come home and use it again,” she told her. But Vrinda wanted to show her friends the camera. “I want to take pictures of Meghna and Nandini,” she explained.
Her father suggested that she invite her friends over to visit. Vrinda agreed.
So that Saturday, Meghna and Nandini came over with their mothers. Vrinda’s mother made Chinese food for them. She also made a chocolate cake. When her friends came over, Vrinda immediately clicked pictures of them. Then she asked them to sit by Chiki and took pictures again. “Say cheese!”
The mothers got busy talking about school and the gloomy monsoon weather. Nandini thought the camera was better than her mother’s phone camera. “Your pictures are so bright,” she exclaimed.
Meghna said they should go to the garden and take pictures of flowers. The rain had stopped for a bit, so they did just that. They found some curious crows who posed gladly for pictures.
Then it was time to eat. Vrinda and the others sat around the dining table, while their mothers served them. When Nandini was about to put her fork in the food, Vrinda shouted out: Wait!
Everybody looked confused.
Then they found out why Vrinda had said that. She wanted to take pictures of the food. Nandini was annoyed. She was hungry. Still, she waited while her friend clicked picture after picture from different angles. Meghna thought Vrinda was too crazy about her gift.
“You haven’t opened all your gifts,” she pointed out. Vrinda replied by taking a picture of her. “Hey! My mouth was wide open in that picture because I was talking,” frowned Meghna.
Finally, Vrinda’s mother told her to put the camera away and let everybody eat in peace.
After their meal, Vrinda took her friends to her grandma’s room. Grandma loved telling stories. She hugged them all and started telling them the story about the time she had cooked lunch for 50 people. “Did you take pictures?” Vrinda asked her with the hope that she would say yes.
“There were hardly any cameras in those days, child,” her grandma replied.
Then she continued her story as Vrinda’s mind wandered. “Life without cameras…” She hugged her camera close. Then she had an idea. But she would need her parents’ help.
That evening, she told her parents that she wanted to make a collage of photos for her grandma.
“We can put pictures of her and pictures of all of us with her over the years,” Vrinda explained.
“Daddy has taken many pictures. I have taken a few too,” she added.
Her parents thought it was a great idea. They agreed to put together the collage. They sent grandma to Ruby Aunty’s house. “Aunty is missing you,” Vrinda told her.
The moment she left the house, they got into action. They took out albums and selected photographs. Then they pasted them onto a big piece of cardboard. Vrinda decorated it with glitter. Vrinda was excited. Grandma would love it.
When grandma saw the collage in her room, she shrieked with delight. “Who did this?” She was almost jumping with joy.
“Vrinda,” said her father. Grandma hugged Vrinda tightly and mommy took a picture with her camera.
First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)
It was getting late. The new book was waiting by her pillow, just thirty pages read. Two soft blankets were spread out in anticipation. The ball of fur on top of them was purring softly. He was tired of waiting for her. “This was my first party in ages,” she apologised as she changed into her pyjamas. He ignored her. The book stayed closed to show disapproval. But when she slid herself under the covers, the feline child readjusted himself between her ankles and the book opened itself in her hands.
Rita dreaded Valentine’s Day. It was the worst day of the year. Every year, she would wake up on February 14th and say, “Mommy, I’m too sick to go to school today.” Her mother always knew why she wanted to stay home. “Come to breakfast. Daddy and I have something for you.”
This year, Rita was not ready to leave her bed even when she knew her parents had bought her a wonderful gift. She had seen her father trying to hide the large box that contained the set of books she had been asking for. There were pictures of her favourite characters on the box.
“Get up!” Mommy called out for the fifth time. Rita got up. She went straight to the living room where her father was waiting. “See what you have here,” he said with a smile. Rita opened the box and ran her fingers over the books. They were so shiny. She wanted to stay home and read all day. Then her mother handed her a bright pink envelope. Rita knew what was inside. It was a Valentine’s Day card. She didn’t want it. She wanted a card from a boy who liked her, not from her parents who felt sorry for her. Still, she didn’t want to hurt their feelings, so she opened the envelope. It was a cute card with a teddy bear saying Happy Valentine’s Day. Her parents had written: Lots of love to our little girl. Rita said thank you and went to get ready for school.
The day could not end fast enough. Every class seemed to drag on and on. Rita and her classmates wanted it to be 3 o’ clock. That’s when the last bell rang. That’s also when the teacher, Mrs. Gupta, would distribute the Valentine’s Day cards. There was a shoe box for each student, and they all had the whole week to buy cards and place them in each other’s boxes.
Rimi had asked Rita if she was giving anybody a Valentine. Rita shook her head, making her ponytail hit her face. “No! Valentine’s Day is silly.” Her friend tried again. “Rita, remember how Arjun gave you chocolate once? Maybe you could give him a card.” Rita laughed. She knew that Arjun didn’t like her.
The bell finally rang and Mrs. Gupta started distributing the boxes. “Class, please be patient,” she said because Partho was standing up excitedly. He was the most popular boy in class so he expected many cards.
When Rita’s box was sitting on her desk, she did not open it immediately. She wanted to go home. Mrs. Gupta walked over to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Go ahead.” Last year, her box had one card from her best friend Ruby. This year, Ruby had moved to Delhi, so her box would be empty.
Everybody started going home. Rita decided to get it over with. She took the lid off her box as if she was uncovering a creepy lizard. There was one card from Rimi. It had a picture of a clown and said that Rita was a great friend. Rita put the card into her bag.
As she walked toward the school gate, she saw Preeti showing off her valentines including one from a boy. She continued walking to the gate, looking down at the ground to avoid talking to anybody. Suddenly, she heard a boy say, “Rita, wait!” Rita turned around. It was Arjun!
“Hi,” she said. Rita wondered if she should ask him about his new pet dog. They were neighbours, so she had seen his father walking their pet. Arjun interrupted her thoughts when he said, ” I have something for you.” Rita asked, “What?” He held out a chocolate. “Happy Valentine’s Day!” Before she could say thank you, he ran out the gate. Rita had a good Valentine’s Day after all!
I’m almost near the three year mark. Yes – three beautiful years of being my own boss. There have been good months. There have been bad months. Still, there hasn’t been a moment that I’ve regretted saying goodbye to my secure, full time job at a top newspaper. Ex colleagues have asked me how I do it. They’ve admitted that they don’t have the courage to face a life of constant networking and pitching. It seems so much easier to have somebody place your work on your desk every day. It also seems like a better deal to get paid days off. Yes, you get a steady salary on a regular basis. But wouldn’t you kill to work in your own room, with your cat sitting on your lap? On that note, I want to share some of my learning experiences with you.
What I did wrong
1) I went crazy thinking I could be a famous book author and devoted most of my time to writing two books last year. Instead, I should have spent a lot of time pitching story ideas to magazines too.
2) I never tried to get into the international freelance writing market. I could’ve earned more money at better rates.
3) I sold some short stories for ridiculous rates. It was as if they
were doing me a favour paying me a token amount.
4) I never tried negotiating payment rates. Sometimes clients do agree.
What I did right
1) I blogged regularly and built an audience for my writing.
2) I wrote two nonfiction books and in the process improved my interviewing skills because I had to talk to so many people for research.
3) I never wrote for free except my first ever published article on education times.com.
4) I realised that just writing for Indian clients won’t support my lifestyle and became a freelance editor too. I edit business documents and manuscripts among other things. And editing usually pays better.
5) I banned my lowest paying clients from my list and found a few well paying ones to replace them.
What I plan to do from now on
1) I have started pitching story ideas to various publications, on a regular basis.
2) I will negotiate for slightly higher rates.
3) I will aim for at least two international clients on my list.
4) I will remember that a published book or two can rarely meet a person’s needs.
Would love to hear from other freelance writers.
“Everybody has one!” Leena was crying to her parents while they ate dinner. Her father chewed his food. Mummy tried to say no for the hundredth time. Leena’s little brother, Dev, played with his peas.
“Leena, having a pet is like having another member of the family,” she said. “Your father and I both work outside all day and you are not ready to take care of one,” she added.
Papa asked Leena to eat her dinner. Leena swallowed everything. She had a plan. She would have a pet by the morning. “I will have somebody who will love to take walks with me and Dev,” she decided.
The next day, Leena woke up early. She hadn’t slept all night, thinking about her new pet and how she would take care of it. She went straight to the kitchen, feeling happy at the sight of the bright fruits and vegetables. Her eyes and hands found her new pet – a purple, chubby, big brinjal. “So cute,” Leena said out loud.
She carefully carried the brinjal to her room, hugging it tightly against her chest. In the room, she took out a string from one of her salwars and tied it around her pet. “See, Brinjal,” she said. “Now you have a leash.”
Mummy called Leena to come for breakfast. Dev was already there. It was Saturday so Papa was home too. “Coming Mummy,” she replied, patting Brinjal on his head. She was ready to introduce him to his new family.
When Leena reached the table, Brinjal was following on the leash. Her father saw it and looked surprised. “What are you doing with a brinjal on a string?” He asked with a laugh. Mummy came to see Brinjal. She began to laugh as well. Dev giggled because they laughed.
Leena was upset. Why were they laughing at her sweet little pet? She picked Brinjal up from the floor and put it on her lap. She rubbed it lightly so Brinjal would feel less bad about her parents’ laughter. “It is not a string, Papa,” she said. “And nor is Brinjal a Brinjal anymore. He is my pet,” Leena announced.
Papa started to say something but Mummy interrupted. “Oh! Then you and Brinjal should eat now.” Leena ate but didn’t know where Brinjal’s mouth was. She let him sniff the food.
After breakfast, Leena painted a picture of her pet. Brinjal sat and watched her. “Don’t worry. You’ll look nice in the painting,” she told him. She did not notice her brother staring at Brinjal.
Later that day, Ina visited Leena. She brought along her cat, Pushu. “You will like playing with Pushu,” said Ina. He likes to roll around and play with a dancing string. “See this.”
Ina took out a long string. She moved it around. Pushu rolled around the floor, catching the string in his tiny paws. He even said “meow” each time he could grab it. Leena was impressed.
It was time to introduce Brinjal to her friend and Pushu. “This is Brinjal. My new pet,” explained Leena. Ina’s eyes became round. This was the first time she had met this kind of pet.
“Pushu can play with Brinjal now,” said Leena, making Brinjal sit in front of the cat. The cat forgot his string. The two friends watched him stare at Brinjal.
“Pushu has never seen a brinjal before. He must be wondering what Brinjal is,” Ina told Leena.
Leena was sad to hear this. She told her friend that Brinjal was not just any brinjal. “Please be nice when you talk about my pet.”
Brinjal continued to sit silently while Pushu sniffed his head and touched his cheeks with his paws. Ina and Leena left the room for cookies.
When they came back, Brinjal was gone. “Pushu, where did you put Brinjal?” Leena was upset. Ina told her that cats do not like brinjals. Leena did not know what to say. Ina was being very rude.
Soon, Ina and Pushu went home. Brinjal was still missing. Leena looked under her bed. She searched her closet. She even checked her pillow cases.
“Mummy, I have looked everywhere,” sobbed Leena. Papa had an idea. “Let us check the roof. Brinjal may have been bored inside the house,” he said.
They all went to the roof. The crows said hello. They had no news of Brinjal it seemed. Suddenly, Leena remembered that she had not seen her brother in some time. “Where is Dev, Mummy?” Her mother said that he was taking a nap. Leena was angry. She wanted everybody’s help to look for Brinjal.
Leena went to visit her sleeping brother in their parents’ bedroom. “Dev, wake….” She didn’t finish her sentence. Brinjal was sleeping next to her brother!
Leena was happy to see how much Dev loved Brinjal. She placed the blanket on them. Brinjal’s round head peeped out. “Sleep well, Brinjal.” She kissed him lightly on his forehead.