100 Word Stories
Good storytelling is most challenging when it has to be brief. So, we were excited by our readers' stirring response to our call for complete stories with a beginning, middle and end. And in not more than 100 words. Here are the 15 winning entries!
TOWARDS FREEDOM (1st Prize)
"Jana gana mana …"
The schoolboy squirmed. Another two minutes? He knew he should stand at attention. The drillmaster's cane loomed large.
"Vindhya Himachal …"
He grunted in discomfort. This was unbearable. He considered making a dash; after all he was in the last row. What if the master noticed? The cane loomed again. He gritted his teeth.
"Tava shubha …"
This is it. He cast his eyes around.
"Jaya he …"
He started running.
"Jaya he …"
He was almost there.
"Jaya he …"
The chorus floated from afar. He was already in the toilet, heaving a relieved sigh.
--Subramaniam Mohan, Chennai
THE WINDOW (2nd Prize)
On a windy winter morning, a woman looked out of the window.
The only thing she saw, a garden. A smile spread across her face as she spotted Maria, her daughter, in the middle of the garden enjoying the weather. It started drizzling. Maria started dancing joyfully.
She tried to wave to her daughter, but her elbow was stuck, her arm hurt, her smile turned upside down. Reality came crashing down as the drizzle turned into a storm. Maria's murdered corpse consumed her mind.
On a windy winter morning, a woman looked out of the window of her jail cell.
--Saanchi Wadhwa, New Delhi
IDENTITY CRISIS (3rd Prize)
The country was on fire. Communal riots had paralyzed most of the state.
Reyaz, with the help of a friend, got a fake identity card--his new name was Rakesh--and booked a ticket to Aligarh. The ticket checker on the train asked for his identification--Reyaz nervously showed the one he had recently procured. He seemed satisfied and Reyaz heaved a sigh of relief.
At Aligarh there was none to fear. "Assalamu alaikum," said Reyaz to ward off a group of enraged people. The angriest of them, with bloodshot eyes, approached Reyaz and asked for his identity card.
--Junaid H. Nahvi, New Delhi
LEERING LOTHARIO (4th Prize)
She peered over the open magazine, and there he was, still staring at her, disconcertingly. For the past 30 minutes, she'd endured his irritating attention. Time to call airport security. The burly cop strode in purposefully, with a sleek Alsatian on leash. "Sir, there's been a complaint. I need you to come with me. Quietly, please," he growled. The leather-jacketed man didn't move a muscle. His hands were rock-steady on the trolley handle in front of him. The cop waited for a minute, and then reached out to handcuff the Ray-Ban-wearing guy. The hands were locked in rigor mortis.
--Ed Sudhir, Bengaluru
"Do you believe in shooting stars?" she asked.
"There is no harm, is there?" She paused. "I'd love to sit in the balcony amidst all the flowerpots and watch the busy world go by."
He said nothing. She needed no assurance, no promise. She squawked a reply when they asked if she was ready to go back to her room. It would be another 10 minutes before the duty nurse wheeled him away.
She had laughed at the last tooth he had lost. He had teased her about the silver hair at the back of her sweater.
--Maya Davi Chalissery, Thrissur, Kerala
A BROKEN PROMISE
Hearing a knock on the door, she hustled towards it with her little feet, her lips uncloaking the cutest smile and her voice singing, "Daddy's home!" Her mum, glued to the news channels for the past week, approached the door hesitantly and opened it with trepidation.
Two men in military uniform were standing at the doorstep. One of them handed her an envelope with a mournful expression, adding plaintively, "We're sorry, Mrs Bhatt."
"Where's my dad, Uncle? He promised we'll celebrate Diwali together this time," exclaimed the girl. They stared helplessly, with a lump in their throats and moistened eyes.
--Aditi Sharma, New Delhi
MEETING THE ONE
They met at a cafe, stealing glances at each other while the parents spoke animatedly.
They remained silent throughout, only exchanging shy smiles while ordering snacks at the counter.
Returning with the food, he moved to the head of the table to get a good look at her.
Noticing his manoeuvre, she smiled down at her coffee, making him beam like a proud schoolboy.
When the two families parted at the end of the meeting, he rushed back to the cafe, praying that the girl, who had been at the table behind theirs all afternoon, would still be there.
--Preyanka Paswan, New Delhi
It was pouring, as I entered a nearby porch.
Out of the blue, a kid startled me from behind--I panicked and scampered away. His father asked him not to scare anyone.
After some initial hiccups we became good friends. I often visited their house, ate with them.
One day, while I was slurping down the milk, a man entered their portico, begging for food.
The father yelled at him and pushed him out of the entrance.
I was terrified, and in a jiffy, I ran away screaming, "Meow! Meow …"
--Aswin R. S., Chennai
Border guard Melissa Walter fumed, "Madam President's lost it." A new batch was arriving. The count had crossed 10,000. "As if the country doesn't have enough mouths to feed."
Officer Gerald was off-duty, so here she was, about to 'welcome' refugees. The boat arrived. She pasted on her best professional smile.
So many people, all skinny and gaunt. Teary, scared eyes, with a weak gait. Clinging to the elders, the children walked on.
"Look!" a boy exclaimed, dropping down. "The sand is so soft here. It's not red. Can I touch, Mama?" he pleaded.
Melissa stood still, stunned into silence.
--Geetha M., Kanchipuram
Varun called his friend over to his house. When he arrived, he told him he had to speak to him about a problem. They both went up to Varun's room.
"What is it?" asked the friend.
"I think I am having an identity crisis," said Varun.
"What do you mean?" asked his friend.
"MOOOOOO!" he bellowed like a cow.
His friend stood frozen, in stunned silence. Varun burst out laughing, "I was just kidding!"
"Are you sure? Because we just ran out of milk," came the reply.
--Aditi Ashok, Chennai
Out jogging, I saw two elderly women hugging each other and weeping inconsolably. The women had been good friends, living in adjacent apartments on the ground floor, for years.
One of them was now having to shift to the fifth floor, as the house owner wished to undertake major maintenance work.
Since there were no lifts in the building, she would be carried upstairs, unable to come down--ever again. Her friend, just as frail, would not be able to visit her upstairs either. Accepting the inevitability of their permanent separation, the poor dears said their final goodbyes.
--Deepak Nair, Thiruvananthapuram
ALL'S FAIR IN LOVE
As a married couple, they led a charmed life. Jantu had his own circle of friends and Tulu had hers. And every morning they exchanged and savoured their previous day's experiences over breakfast.
Jantu was not immune to the seven-year-itch, though. The days he strayed were few and far between. Faithful Tulu was quietly accommodating. On the nights he slipped, Jantu would indicate it by skipping his daily apple at breakfast.
That morning, Jantu was devastated to see Tulu's favourite pear was left untouched.
--K. L. Narayanan, Bengaluru
THE UGLY TRUTH
"Hello," said the figure cloaked in darkness.
"Who are you?" I asked.
"I am that which you fear the most," it said to me and stepped into the light.
What I saw next sent me into a paroxysm of fear. There stood a creature most hideous: twisted body, gnarled fingers, with a semblance of what might have once been a face. Chillingly revealing a gaping hole where its heart should have been, spilling oily blackness.
Overcome with revulsion and trembling in horror, I fell to my knees.
"I am you," said the creature.
--Vaishnavi R. Krishna, Thiruvananthapuram
During our visit to Egypt's Alexandria National Museum, I took my five-year-old son to the basement to see a mummy and started explaining what it was. Confused, he bolted from the room and rushed to his mother, who was busy chatting with other tourists.
He told my wife breathlessly, "Mum! Dad just showed me another mummy. He is looking at her."
Surprised, my wife followed him to the basement. She sized up the situation instantly and retorted, "Oh! Mummy is a daddy."
Confused, sonny asked innocently, "If mummy is the daddy, then who is the mummy's mummy?"
--Dhananjay Sinha, Kolkata
It was 9 a.m., 26 January. The politician's car, on the way to the flag-hoisting ceremony, stopped at a red light. A 10-year-old street vendor came running to the car and waved the tricolour, hoping that selling one more flag will help him buy some vada pav. With no intention of buying, the politician rolled down the window and smirked, "Today you are selling the national flag. On other days, I have seen you sell toys, umbrellas and kites. Is there anything you have not sold so far?"
"Our country," the boy retorted at once.
--Kalpesh Sheth, Mumbai
All entries have been edited for clarity. They were graded on grammar, language, originality, plot device and storytelling technique by RD editors, basis which the winning entries were selected. Winners will receive book prizes, courtesy HarperCollins Publishers India.