A novel is to be read for enjoyment

If it doesn’t give that, it is, so far as the reader is concerned , valueless. In this respect every reader is his own best critic, for he alone knows what he enjoys and what he doesn’t. I think, however, that the novelist may claim that you do not do him justice unless you admit that he has the right to demand something of his readers. He has the right to demand that they should possess the small amount of application that is needed to read a book of three or four hundred pages. He has the right to demand that they should have sufficient imagination to be able to interest themselves in the lives, joys and sorrows, tribulations, dangers and adventures of the characters of his invention. Unless a reader is able to give something of himself, he cannot get from a novel the best it has to give. And if he isn’t able to do that, he had better not read at all. There is no obligation to read a work of fiction.

-Somerset Maugham, Ten Novels And Their Authors

Apple And Abigail: Books And Romantic Relationships

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Apple had very few relationships compared to Abigail. Most of the lessons she learned about relationship were from Abigail’s many failed ones. Since the day they met, Abigail has been claiming of finally finding the one”. Apple attributed this to Abigail fondness of reading romance novels during her teen age years, books she stumbled upon on her mother’s shelf. Those Mills and Booms and Harlequin Romances have filled Abigail’s head with skewed ideas about love. While she on the other hand had been fond of reading English classic novels and had grown a little bit cynical about love especially after reading Wuthering Heights where she decided Cathy, the heroine of the book was a little too neurotic for her liking. Abigail absolutely loved Cathy’s character when she told her about the book. After reading it she went on for days as if she was Cathy’s reincarnation.

“I am a Cathy. I am so her. Oh my God, Apple. Thanks for lending me this book.”

Apple had always preferred Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennet among the heroines in classic English novels when it comes to love. Jane Eyre and Elizabeth were subdued and dignified unlike the overtly passionate Cathy, although she still slightly disapproved of their weakness for charming aristocrats.

Apple and Abigail were sitting in a cafe late that night. Apple was consoling her distraught friend who recently found out through Facebook that her boyfriend Oliver was cheating on her. She saw him kissing another woman in bar on one of her friend’s photo in Facebook. A snapshot caught the moment while a group of Abigail’s female friends were posing for the photo. Although his face was not recognizable, Abigail could tell it was him.

“Maybe he was just drunk.” Apple said earlier when Abigail lamented what happened.

“So what! That’s not an excuse besides I am sure he did plan on cheating on me. He lied to me where he was going that night. He said he’s having dinner with his dad. “

“Why did Anna post that photo before telling you Oliver was in it?” Apple asked, frowning.

“I guess Anna did not notice that it was him making out with someone or she wouldn’t have posted it. Anna did not remember seeing him that night. But I recognize the t-shirt he was wearing instantly. I gave it to him”. Abigail wailed.

“Did he admit it was him? “

“Yes! He said he wants to start seeing other women.” Abigail wiped her tears.

“You’ll get over him soon, I am sure.” Apple said, patting Abigail’s hand.

“I won’t! I really, really loved him. He is my soul mate. “

“You said the same thing about Bryan. Yet, you started going out with Oliver only after a few days of breaking up with him.” Bryan was Abigail’s last boyfriend before Oliver.

“ I know. But I totally misread Bryan. He keeps giving me mixed signals. I thought Oliver was not a player.”

“Of course everyone’s a player. Consciously or subconsciously. You know that.”

“ I know but sometimes, I still believe there is someone out there who just loves. Like Heatcliff . Someone who will love me absolutely, maddeningly.”

Apple rolled her eyes. “ Heathcliff is a fictional man. Written by a woman. A woman’s wishful thinking. I’ve always told you that men are more like Tomaz from that book Unbearable Lightness of being. In the novel, Tomaz made love to everyone women he met. ”

“Oh how dreadful. Why do you keep reading books like those.”

“Unlike you, I don’t look at the world in rose tinted glasses.” Apple retorted, losing patience with Abigail who seemed to have learned less from her own failed relationships.

“What’s wrong with rose tinted glasses? That makes the world bearable to look at. “

“Well don’t complain when you get disillusioned.”

Abigail sighed. Feeling defeated. “I suppose you are tired of hearing about my heartaches. “

Feeling guilty for being harsh, Apple took Abigail’s hand. “ Not at all. I am here aren’t I?”

“ Thank you for meeting me at such a short notice. I really appreciate it. You are the only one among my friends who have the patience to listen to me. Most of my other friends are so self obsessed. They have no time for listen to my problems. Their problems are always more important. Ugh.” Abigail paused.” I’m sorry I’m doing the same thing. Tell me what’s happening with you. What have you been up to? “

Apple blushed unexpectedly. “ Well, I met someone.”

A Queen Without A Castle

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Illustration by Harry Clarke

The old do envy the young indeed! These budding blossoms primed for the adventures of life. Their first kisses, first heartbreak and first love thrills. Awakening to truth and clarity is not far behind. Some will embark on a futile search for the meaning of life. Then in frustrations will hurl infinite questions that have no answers. Oh the passions and the disillusionments that will oscillate their body and souls. Those were my thoughts as I gazed upon an elderly lady from across the flat who was watching wistfully the young girls playing in the park. Three generations of women, the past, present and future, we were like the circle of life representations.

Quite frequently in the afternoons I see her sitting elegantly in her balcony. Her dignified head titled slightly. I could see she must have been very beautiful once. Her features are regal. An arrogant nose softened by doe like eyes.

I often made up stories in my head about her past. Of how this aristocratic personage had fallen in deep destitution. Their flat was the shabbiest among the colony. Paint chipping off the wall. Undusted windows and lopsided walls.The abode is decorated with lonely ornaments of neglect. A stark contrast to her constant well heeled appearance. My imagination led me to a possibility that she maybe born into nobility. A princess who was dethroned in a bitter twist of fate. She eloped with a poor man, perhaps? I am always amused seeing her with royal bearing alighting from her beat up Maruti Suzuki as if she’s stepping out from a golden carriage. Lifting her shimmering floor length Shalwar Kameez gracefully, she would ascend the stairs as if on the top a throne was waiting for her.

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A Remorseful Succubi

Illustration by Harry Clarke

Beauty and youth. What a dazzling combination. To bewilder and to sparkle. Days filled with sunshines. And men worshipping at her feet. Love was a game she played with wanton and mischief. Never lacking in affections and adorations. Long curvy limbs draped in elegance gliding across the room. Luxuriant tresses falling on her shoulder, parting in the middle concealing a corner of her dark smoldering eyes. Her red pouty lips in a half smile. Who can resist her? A waft of her perfume caressed the cheeks of those she passed by. And she is never forgotten.

She preyed on men for their vanity. Narcissism drives these fools to pursue her relentlessly. Remorse for these men she had none. Most often the ego was shattered more than the heart. But once or twice in her wild abandon innocents were trampled upon. Usually unsuspecting girlfriends. Occasionally she is left to wonder what are these fine women doing with this kind of men. And there was one in particular she could not forget. Christina was her name.

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Tokophobia

20120803-105231.jpg ” You’re pregnant! You’re pregnant!” her mother kept saying. She stared at her mother feeling sick. She did not know who had gotten her pregnant.

“ We have to find you a man to keep you warm at night. It’s painful being pregnant.” Her mother added. Looking at her very strangely.

She was holding her stomach. Something was moving in there. Her eyes grew large. She felt sick again.

She went to school the next day thinking her future was ruined. She kept thinking about the horrible experience of delivering a baby. The pain, the dampness and cold. She did not know how she knew about those feelings. Her young mind must have accumulated it from stories she had read.

“I have to lose the baby!” Continue reading

Why I Write

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Telling stories has always been a way of expressing my self, my beliefs and my feelings. I found that it can a drive a point more effectively than a long rhetoric. Stories have won me many friends when I was a kid. Especially horror stories. Kids like to scare themselves silly. I can have them cowering under the covers after I am finished. And since I love to read at a young age I never run out of tales to tell. And now that I am grown up I am happy to share stories I wrote myself. Though I remember having written a short novel when I was in highschool in one of my notebooks. My classmates read it and passed it around. I knew then that I wanted to be a writer. So thank you for sparing a minute or two from your busy lives and stopping by at my page to read some tales I’ve written. You bring a smile to my face. 🙂

My dream is to become a master story teller. From whom words will flow smoothly like water from an eternal spring. And everyday of my life I am working on that.

©JMKhapra

Of Men And Stupidity

” Men are so stupid! ” A friend had declared while slumping on the chair of the cafe. She sounded like it was the first time she had that realization. I checked my watch. Judging from her tone this chat over a cup of coffee would take a long time.

” Husband problem? ” I asked. But I already knew the answer. She really didn’t need much encouragement. She nodded and started with the litany of complaints against her husband.
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I Waited For You But You Did Not Come

What to do. I sit. I stand. I stretch my legs. Where the hell are you? I walked around the house.  But there’s nothing to do. The tv is on. You left it open for me. As if that will compensate for your absence. Yeah, I like listening to music occasionally but mostly I don’t know what the hell is going on inside that box full of unintelligible noise.

Bored, I went to sleep. Hoping this will fast forward time. I dreamt of food. Chicken. Hmm. Eggs. Those are my favorites. Waking up,I felt hungry. Leave it to you to keep my food out of my reach. I drunk some water and begun the cycle again. Stretching. Sitting. Walking around. Why is the time not getting any faster?

Finally in utter frustration I saw the pillow on the bed and shredded it into pieces. I’ll show you! Then the plants did not escape my wrath. Ha! This will really rile you up! The newspapers! You are next! Looking around  I am unrepentant of the destruction I caused. That will teach you to leave me all alone again! Continue reading

That Woman In Red

Where she goes nobody knows. Where she lived nobody dares go. Her backyard was the forest. A secret maze of tall ominous looking trees hide her cottage from the rest. And whenever young Marie would see a dark red diaphanous long dress or a red velvet coat she wears. Her eyes towards the horizon. Her gait confident, oblivious of everyone around her.

“ I want to wear a dress in that color.”  Marie told her mother one day when she saw the woman in the town. She looked suspiciously at the woman. “ Men never marry a woman in red. They want women in pastels.”  Marie frowned.  “But men do sure like women in red.” She remarked. Her mother snorted.  Marie can see men ogling the woman in red. The woman would occasionally  look at the men sideways and the men would have an expression Marie thought indecent.

“She doesn’t have any friends in the town,” Lilian said while drawing circles in the sand with her fingers. Marie copied her and drew a heart and wrote  the name John in it.

“Mother seems to hate her. But father always have a dreamy look every time they would talk about her.” Continue reading

When Narcisuss Fell In Love

I’m a good looking guy. I knew a lot of women were attracted to me. So I carried on for years charming every single female I came across with. I thought I was doing pretty well with my life. But when I turned thirty I felt a nagging feeling that my life was shallow. I was not really doing anything important like saving the world or curing people. I was looking for a little substance in my life so I decided to quit my job as a visual artist and tried to write for a travel magazine. I would not save the world but at least I could help promote the beauty of the country. I thought that was a noble cause.

I was excited on my first day on the job. I knew the women would fall all over me. I was warmly accepted. Before the day was over several female co workers had stopped by my cubicle to welcome me. My editor, Albert assigned one of the writers to orient me. Her name was Ann. I spent only an hour with her and I hated her already.

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