The hand of fate (a short story)

Posted by Yashika Totlani Khanna on 3:27 AM
The sun was still up when she left the office. Summers in Delhi were brutal and the sunlight was still sharp well past 6 in the evening. Dressed in a simple lilac chooridaar suit, with a white silk dupatta around her neck, Lakshmi walked in slow, tired strides towards her car. Her jaipuri jootis felt clammy under her feet and she had already broken into a sweat from the short walk from the office to her vehicle. With bulky files in one hand and car keys in another, she finally settled down into the driver’s seat and revved up the engine.

Grooooom… started her silver Honda Civic like an obedient servant. As Lakshmi slowly steered her way out of the crowded parking lot, she shot a quick glance at the imposing office building. Amidst the several floors and cubicles that it encompassed, she occupied a small desk as the Marketing Associate for a leading FMCG company on the 10th floor. Lakshmi liked her work, but on days like today after several meetings and a multitude of tiring conversations, she felt drained and completely bereft of energy. This, despite the knowledge that it was the earliest that she had left work in months.

At home waited no one in particular. A rusty apartment in a crowded locality in Delhi – Lakshmi’s house by characterized by crummy walls, chipped paint, stained curtains, an empty fridge and a hardly-used kitchen. She lived alone and her kaam-wali bai came to clean and wash every morning before Lakshmi left for work. The apartment was once plush, but the lack of maintenance had reduced it to its sad state of unkemptness.

The relationship that Lakshmi shared with her bai was one of the few that she could sustain at this point in her life. At the age of 32 years, without a husband or a child, life anyway didn’t come easy for Lakshmi. When she had graduated from business school several years ago, her parents had dreamt big dreams for her. But when the pressures of rigorous jobs (and living alone) consumed her, Lakshmi had found solace in the company of a man. A man who had later got her pregnant and then refused to share a part of the blame and responsibility. After he broke her heart on a rainy winter evening and left her to fend for herself, Lakshmi had decided to build a life alone. But an abortion had became imminent, and after wilfully losing her child to a callous surgical procedure, Lakshmi had lost a part of herself too.

She no longer wished to engage in the daily mundaneness of regular life. Nor did she make friends, continued to stay wary of men and falling in love, refused to engage in household work and seemed to have lost all interest in even cooking square meals for herself. Directing all her efforts towards her job, Lakshmi had found a vent for her simmering rage through the way of work. And on days like today when she could leave office earlier than usual, Lakshmi slipped into glumness and dark contemplation. Her mind would travel back to her poor lost child, and with it the lost opportunities, and she would start judging herself through the prism of a miserably failed motherhood. She thought it was the hardest burden to carry, and consequently, she occasionally lapsed into brief spells of depression and severe self-criticism.

As she drove her Civic for a few kilometers and entered a busy market area of the city, she looked around on a red traffic signal to distract herself from her dreary thoughts. Her eyes fell upon a mother scolding her two children for demanding ice-cream each time they saw a vendor. A part of Lakshmi’s stomach churned with over-bearing longing and she thought about how different life would have been if she had decided to keep the baby and raised it alone. But Lakshmi knew that she didn’t have the courage to brave the constant sneers of the society, and she tore her eyes away from the angry mother and looked ahead, waiting for the light to change to green. And thankfully, with the signal, changed her pathetic mood.

After 30 more agonizing minutes of weaving her way through the crowded market traffic, Lakshmi hit the expressway, but was still half hour away from home. The subsequent easing away of the brief spell of road-rage gave way to a pregnant silence, and soon Lakshmi was sucked again into the melancholy mood that continued to gnaw on her insides. No more traffic jams or car horns were around to distract her from succumbing to her now persistent inner unrest.

She knew that deep below, she was very upset. Still hurt and dejected by the betrayal of the man that she once loved with all her heart. Three years had passed since the tragic events, and he was even married to someone else now. What was worse, was that his wife was expecting a baby in just three months. Lakshmi knew all this because she had never stopped stalking him. Sometimes on social media and sometimes through her friends, she knew where he lived and what he was up to most of the time. Even though he made much less money than she did now, he at least appeared to be happy. And that tore Lakshmi apart because she felt alone in bearing the brunt of hardship stemming from the loss of their child and relationship. She constantly lived with the guilt of having exhumed an innocent life because of her cowardly lack of options, even as the man of her dreams who was responsible for the loss continued to live like nothing had happened. She felt tortured and slighted by his ignorance and according to her - his cold apathy.

Something turned inside of her at the thought of her past lover’s unborn child, and the bright future that lay ahead for the baby, and the unfairness of it all screamed out at Lakshmi & ran its pointy fingers on the walls of her fragile heart. The pain in her gut became unbearable to carry and out of nowhere, she decided to turn the car and give a piece of her mind to the unassuming scum-bag. While her purple jhumkas made slight chiming noises along the small bumps in the road, Lakshmi made a rough change of gears, and suddenly steered right to make a U-turn.

And then it happened. BAM!


When an eye-witness was asked for his testimony about what he had seen, he narrated that a furious looking woman had suddenly changed lanes at high speed on a dangerous express-way, and had been hit by a truck coming from behind her car. The hood of the truck had rammed straight into Lakshmi’s car door, and the light of life had almost immediately been sucked out of her as a rod of steel tore through her brain. Her frozen face now wore an expression of frigid horror, like it had never recovered from the sight of the approaching truck. The grotesque creases on her body almost told the story of a life full of disappointments and injustices. Her story of loneliness and betrayal seemed to have come to a sudden, but fitting end, in the savage accident.

The eye witness, of course, had only seen an ordinary woman die in an unfortunate accident. But on a deeper level, fate had dealt its final blow to Lakshmi and taken away whatever little remained in her puny hands. Her struggles with life had come to an abrupt end and maybe her soul had finally been reunited with her unborn child. The child - that was the only source of light (and darkness alike) in her now extinguished life.

The next day when the bai knocked on Lakshmi’s door to clean the house, no one answered. The forever grieving and lonely Lakshmi didn't live there anymore...


This was a good crisp story that touched elements of frustration, loneliness and anger. I liked the imagery of how she looks at a mother and a child and feels a burden of guilt. I felt though that her death was a bit too abrupt. The story seemed ripe for a deeper pathos and exploration. Yet, it held my interest and touched a chord. Keep writing, this is a challenging genre - to write a really short story and still make it impactful. Good start!

Very gripping, edge-of-the-seat story. Excellent visual imagery, the pathos, anger, guilt all becoming a part of the reader. At times the sadness becomes too over-bearing, and one starts looking for relief. When Lakshmi hits the expressway, it is like a huge relief. The end is too abrupt. A fantastic story.

Lazy knight: Thanks for the comment and the suggestions! Shall delve deeper into the pathos in subsequent stories :) Just wanted to make an impactful start here. And a bigger thanks for the patronage :)

Anuraag: Thank you Anuraag for the kind comment! I am going to keep writing short stories now (have decided to explore this terrain), so do keep reading and giving me your comments :) They are deeply appreciated!

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