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Defiant Dreams - Tales of Everyday Divas
by Readomania (Book Preview) | Published On:

Defiant Dreams is an anthology of women-centric stories written by 24 different authors. We present to you one of the stories.

Built From the Ashes by Radhika Maira Tabrez


Nikita sat edgily, waiting to be whirred into motion. Through the small oval window on her left, the shimmering lights of Seattle accosted her. Her beloved city where she was born, where she had built a happy life with her family and had never wanted to leave, ever.


The city, she was now leaving, for a place she had never even been able to pronounce the name of, properly.


“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome onboard Continental Airlines. Our flight time to Cochin…” The pilot started the announcements in his customary tone. The stewardess hurried down the aisle, making final checks before the take-off. A few bags in the overhead bin above Nikita’s seat needed some readjusting, so it could be shut properly. She hurriedly shoved things about, to find the perfect permutation to stow them correctly, until her hand touched cold metal. Her fingers calculated what it could be, for a few seconds; before her eyes saw it. The horrified hand shot back, with surprise and a tinge of respect. It was a brass urn of a peculiar kind. Her eyes instinctively dashed to the sole passenger underneath it – Nikita’s teary eyes were glued to her, hoping that she wouldn’t have to explain what the urn contains.


What an absolutely insufferable thing to have to say to someone – ‘It carries my husband’s ashes’.




Nikita stood across the road, bags by her side and her clammy hands holding the urn. On the other side, the house of Sandeep’s parents stood judging her, as cynically as she expected its inhabitants to. The long flight from Seattle to Cochin and the five-hour taxi ride from the airport to this tiny hamlet of Arattupuzha, was far easier than the ten steps she needed to take, to cross this narrow street.


The dilapidated house had a pall of grief, invisible yet stifling. Her panic hit its peak.

She looked at the urn and thought of Sandeep. He always held her hand while crossing the streets. Her hands clasped the urn tighter and she took the first step. She was here to keep her promise made to the man, who had always kept his. Sandeep deserves that she gives it her most earnest effort.




Kedar and Arunima Narayanan had lost their son many times over in the last twenty years. The first was when he accepted a scholarship from a corporation which took him to America for higher studies and a subsequent job. The job came with a ten-year contract. The second time was when Sandeep decided to marry a Punjabi girl, Nikita Bajaj, against his father’s explicit disapproval. The third one was rather subtle and gradual. It happened over the next many years; over dwindling phone calls and a long period of absence. The loss had been mourned by the Narayanans years ago, and the agony had somewhat subsided.

Or so they thought.


Two weeks ago, when Nikita had called in, to tell them that their only child has passed away, the pain regurgitated. However, silence had long become the language of grief in their elderly household. When Nikita came, that deafening silence was the only thing that greeted her.




Arunima was in the kitchen, trying to make her everyday tasks stretch out as much as possible. When one is as old as she was, filling up the hours of the day becomes an elusive art. Nikita had been here two days and so far Arunima had managed without exchanging even a single furtive side glance, let alone a few words. All because of the fact that Nikita was asked by Kedar to stay in the outhouse at the far end of the courtyard. Arunima knew her husband wouldn’t approve of her speaking to the unwanted visitor. The fact that he let Nikita in was in itself a wonder; which Arunima was quite certain, happened in the shock of the moment. What else could one do, when they find the most unlikely of the guests standing at your door, bearing the most horrifying thing one can ever bring you – your son’s ashes?


Arunima was distractedly sifting the flour, when a rustle made her turn around. Nikita stood there, looking hesitant yet hopeful. Arunima froze and her eyes dashed to the clock, mentally calculating the time left for Kedar to be back from his walk.


‘I think Acha is out for his walk…can we please talk, Amma? It’s important.’


Arunima was taken aback when she was called ‘Amma’, by the woman she had once, a long time ago, considered her nemesis. She was astounded by the warmth and a sense of belongingness it filled her with, inside. How was that possible? Isn’t this the same woman who had been the harbinger of the breakdown of her happy family? To her mind, Nikita had after all been an extension of Sandeep’s existence, for better or for worse. She felt as if Sandeep was calling out to her. But her eyes, her heart and her motherhood parched for years, weren’t ready for that moment, or that rationale. They gave up.


Nikita rushed over and hugged her. It wasn’t a premeditated move, rather animpulse fuelled by the incoherence of their situation; but the longer it lasted, the more right it started to feel to both the women.


Amma…Sandeep loved you and Acha a lot. He was very sorry. His biggest regret in life was that he didn’t come back and see you even once. At first, it was only because it would have been emotionally difficult, because of Acha’s stand against our marriage. And then, I guess… as the years passed, the gorge just became too wide to leap across. I know that is a pathetic excuse but…’ Nikita struggled to deliver the words she had been practicing for the last few weeks. ‘I know you think he failed you. And probably, in a way, he did… But Amma, I came here to confess that it was my fault, not his.’


She waited to see a reaction on Arunima’s face. But she was too distant to have any; distant from this conversation, this moment and Nikita. Nikita was prepared for much worse; name-calling, yelling, even being thrown out of the house. This silent loathing wasn’t as bad, she thought to herself.


Amma… I was very young when Sandy… er… Sandeep and I fell in love and got married. I had never lived outside of the U.S. and dreaded the idea of coming here. I didn’t know your language, your customs and to boot, I knew that you disliked me. I often comforted him, and myself by thinking that as the years pass, your anger and our embarrassment will subside. His ten-year contract with the company gave me just the excuse I needed to keep our visits from happening. Then the kids came and I found another excuse that they will not be able to adjust… I am sorry. Very sorry. I never thought of all that I put you through. It isn’t Sandeep’s fault at all. He loved me too much to make me do anything I didn’t want. He just wanted me to be happy.  I now know that he would have wanted you by his side. Amma, will you please forgive me? And him?’

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Member Since: 03-May-2016

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