Literary Yard

Search for meaning

Story: Marlboro morns

By: Saima Afreen


It was just another day. Another life with usual-yet-unusual breakfast of boiled peas, cucumber slices and a boiled egg with its mouth open in the yellow bowl. Her mouth gaped at the puff of smoke rising before her and vanishing into the thin January air. “Did I not tell you how shrewd people have become! Search on Google and pop will come the phrase that you have read ‘Nothing, and everything, had changed’…,” Said Lavanya icily – her voice sharp as the fork. The fork, which she dug mercilessly into the chunks of tomatoes. They didn’t bleed. A colourless juice squirted in the corners of the bowl. The tea-cup was a distant island at the centre of the table.
“But how do these shuttling-between-cities intellectuals do it. Where the hell is their morality?”
“I tell you, there’s no morality left into this world! It has gone back to the shit-hole these morons came from!”
“But again who defines intellect?”
“Don’t start that discussion. We will end nowhere!”
“Lavanya, come on! Drop the silence.”
No answer. A cold stare. More puff. The room thickened with curls of grey smoke. Thud! Lavanya kicked her pink pumps that flew into a corner. She put on her coat, ran her fingers across her dishevelled hair and dashed out. Emptiness hung in the room. Silent voices still ringing in her ears. She will be gone for more than a month for her new assignment. These Lit Fests seemed to be mushrooming all across the country with every Tom, Dick and Harry taking his or her share of cake. They rather wanted the whole bakery. And perhaps the baker, too with his apron and jars of glace cherries. Bitterness filled her mouth. It was a blob of salt.

The taste of tea still lingered in her mouth. She wanted to freshen up her breath and her mind, too. She tried to get the packet of Tic-Tac from Lavanya’s computer table without getting up. She tried stretching her hand but ended up with a parchment with some phone number written on it. She frowned and tossed it into the air as a tiny ball. Thud! The door opened and a mixed smell of Jovan Musk and Marlboro greeted her nostrils.

She pretended she did not look up. She opened the tabloid she worked for. Last week’s stale news greeted her. She saw her byline flushed in thick orange typeface. A raspy voice on the phone. She concentrated more on the black print. Her mind was confused much like the -50⁰C in US and +50⁰C in Australia that flashed as the teaser on the TV in the lobby. She did not like her own article. She hated it much like the after-taste in her mouth. Yet, it was there refusing to fade away. She saw the name of the accused political leader missing from the article.

“Can’t be!” she muttered. She read again and again. Some other local goon’s name was there known more for his tomfoolery than gundagardi. A hot current ran down her spine. Her ears burned, and her eyes too. The soft light filtering through the closed window panes bathed the cold green marble into a delightful golden hue. It hurt her eyes to adjust to the growing morning light after Lavanya shifted the curtain without opening the windows. She had difficulty tearing her glance from the ash crushed in the golden rimmed china saucer used as an ash tray. She tried finding her week-long research into that. The curtain rings jingled. Her vision travelled to the hem of a house coat dotted with tiny blue flowers. Dainty feet splashed in a pool of white quivering light. Conch shells against a jade sea. Fuchsia toe nails – petals the rivers bring from the ghats of Benaras. She remembered the haiku Lavanya had taught her how to write:
Peacock –
The colours
You left for me
The corners of her lips spliced. She called, “Lavanya! Lavanya!”
There was no answer. A raspy cough. A pair of eyes unblinking – insipid as those of cooked Hilsa. A cloud of puff flew above the Agha Shahid Ali’s ‘The Veiled Suite’. It touched the beaks of a pair of flying wild ducks pasted on the shelf and disappeared.


Saima Afreen won Museindia Monthly Poetry Contest in 2010 and Wordweavers Poetry Contest in 2013 respectively. Her poems were shortlisted for Raed Leaf Poetry Award, 2013. Her poems have been featured in Open Road Review, Brown Boat, Coldnoon Travel Poetics, The Asian Age, Nivasini Publishers, The Telegraph and many other publications. She is from Calcutta and at present lives and works in Hyderabad



Leave a Reply

Related Posts