In the 2016 edition of the Tata Literature Live MyStory Contest, we had over 1850 entries and 30,000 votes.
Below are the five winners picked by our jury from the 25 entries with the maximum number of votes.
They are not in order of positions.
Votes – 438
My dear Teacher, I am sorry for having forsaken you !
On a habitual trip of scavenging for fresh books on the market last month, I ended up visiting the
book store that hasn’t failed bibliophiles for generations. Even in the chaos of the busiest market in
Cuttack (Odisha), the quaint “D.P. Sur and Sons – est. 1914” is reminiscent of the secret corner at
home that you retire to for unabashedly smelling book pages. To my surprise, the shop was filled
only with books of medical studies. The current owner, Shri Tarun Kumar Sur, didn’t seem amused at
my ignorance . It was almost as if he had got used to politely turning away book lovers with a heavy
heart. He was so endearing (I would have cast him as the grand-dad in my version of Kapoor and
Sons) that I couldn’t stop myself from having a chat. And when I left the shop, I had this gut
wrenching feeling – of being a part of a generation whose teachers and guides, in the words of the old
man, “felt forsaken and lonely” and “found gratification and solace in the books around them”.
Looking back, I feel that even though I love my teachers, I have seldom done enough to express it.
Their legacy is us, their students, who somehow don’t manage the time to check on their teacher’s
retirement plans – for most likely they will be lonely as parents too in the sunset years of their lives.
Compare the amount of pride that they take in sharing our success stories on social media – with that
of our interest in their achievements. Those difficult adolescent years when I felt my family didn’t
understand me, I found comfort in speaking to that teacher. That cut throat competitive environment
where I was pushed a step closer to cynicism , I took a step back to innocence realizing the humility
that teacher brought to the classroom every day. Those days of paranoia in office when I didn't get
gratification for my work, I thought about my physical education teacher who did her work with
unadulterated joy even when we hated her for making us sweat out in the sun. I am what I am for
what my teachers have made me – yet I have somehow made peace with not looking back at them
To my Teacher.
I am sorry for having forsaken you. I know that perhaps you have already forgiven me. I know that
you will probably do everything to deny my fallacies and instead take pride in what I have achieved
so far. But you are human too, just like my parents and have every right to feel that anguish that I
have caused you by that neglect. For all those years that I didn’t say it- You mean the world to me !
Votes – 429
My name is Andromeda. I don’t exist. At least not to most of the world. My friend, Jane is
wonderful exception. She’s also the only friend I have. I have been here for as long as her, but
no one seems to notice me. Jane is only one who could see me. And since we’ve been friends
since birth, I never realized that there was an invisibility cloak draped upon me that made me
We tried yanking it off for a very long time, but we couldn’t even find where it begins from.
Jane then decided that it was probably too big for me and thus spread far across the floor, way
beyond our reach.
I have been with her since forever, because a time before that forever was a time when Jane
couldn’t think and remember, and in my opinion, it’s a time when Jane was not fully human
either. Confused? Don’t be. These humans pride themselves on their uniqueness, their massive
brain power, their cognitive abilities that are far better than any other animal that happened to
dwell upon this planet. So it’s common sense right, humans that lack these powers aren’t really
human at all.
So before forever started, Jane Bennett wasn’t human. But she sure was a baby. Our summer
vacations were full of hide-n- seek, strawberry ice creams and fighting for the TV remote with
her notorious brother, Jeremy. We raced to the swings, ran around the garden and slurped
lemonade after returns home drenched in sweat. Those were my favorite months, times when
had Jane truly to myself. But like in every beautiful story, this one too has an ink blot. Ours was
when we started to attend school.
It was very disheartening to begin with, especially since both Jane and I had been looking
forward to school life ever since we got to know that it was where Jeremy disappeared for most
of the day and learnt new things from. I had indeed fawned over notebooks, textbooks,
registers, worksheets, pens and pencils with Jeremy, we had always been attracted to playful
You can imagine my pain when I realized I was different. The teacher never called on me for
homework, I was never given holiday projects and none of the kids even looked at me. No one
noticed me. I was segregated. No one wanted to know about me (except for the kindred souls
who took time to listen to Jane, but they couldn’t see me either, so they waved to wherever
Jane pointed at and smiled when she told them that I waved back). I was ignored.
“If they can’t see you, they are losing out! Don’t feel bad, you are special, and I’m sure one day
you’ll become a very important person- and then they’ll have to notice you!”, Jane used to tell
me, “In fact I feel so lucky sometimes, I’m the chosen one, the one God selected for being YOUR
All those words comforted us for some time, but when something echoes for too long it loses
I hated school, just like every other student in my class. However for a different reason
altogether. I could have stopped going to school altogether. People like me needn’t go anyway,
it couldn’t help us.
But I went for Jane, she hated to be without me. I felt the same too. So maybe there was
perhaps a small speck of selfishness too in my decision, because I didn’t want her to go there
without me, make new buddies and become separated.
But you can’t change what’s written in the stars, unless some way you make them fall in love
with you. Haha, I didn’t even have the reassurance that stars could see me, much less care for
In February, I saw myself begin to fade in Jane’s princess mirror. Was I dying?
Jane no longer spent all her time talking to me. She had other people to interact with, other
places to go to. And I played no role in any.
She didn’t push me out of her life, she simply put me on the periphery. I made excuses for a
long time, she was human, she had other obligations and she would soon make it all return to
normal. We were meant to stay together forever.
However, the new way of life became our ‘normal’ and I slowly found her essence slipping away
from me. I tried coming closer every time she wandered away, but the distance only increased.
When I asked her about me fading, she replied with callousness, “Oh but you’re just the same! I
know you, you’re mine after all! Don’t worry silly!”
Yet somehow that felt like she reassuring herself, not me. And that’s when it hit me, I was her
creation. Entirely hers. Jane’s imagination had thought of me years ago and her love had
breathed matter into me. But Jane was changing. And the person she was soon growing to
become, couldn’t support me anymore. The new Jane couldn’t keep me alive and breathing. So
I let go. I closed my eyes and stood in front of the mirror. Slowly, breath by breath I felt myself
break apart, my body loosening and floating away, until each part vanished into nothingness.
The mist and fog that I left behind would haunt our room forever, and years later if Jane would
cry on having lost me and her childhood forever, I would echo the howls for her.
Votes – 428
We heard the loud scuffling last night. Thud, thud, thud. Ignore, must be the cat going crazy as usual. My father woke up at around 6:45 am and mumbling something about a cup of coffee, made his way downstairs, right into the crime scene. There were signs of struggle in the living room and the dining room. With a careful voice, he called me down and we followed the blood and the mess to the TV room, and discovered the body. There she was, her eyes shut, blood on her chest and around, her sorry figure looking half as thin as it should’ve been. Right in the middle of the room, among a hurricane of feathers, was the body of the bird my cat killed. Tiger was watching us, her head cocked to one side, with an expectant look on her face, closely watching our reaction, searching for a hint of pride. We cleaned up quietly as my brother glared at her. I was disappointed, but it wasn’t really her fault. This is what cats do, I thought. They kill birds. You have a cat, and there was a bird. Deal with it. But this bird was one of the two birds that graced our terrace every morning with their twittering. They were building a nest, giving our home the opportunity to house two, and potentially many, more to come. Four of their nests had been a part of our home a few years ago, so these birds meant something to us. My reminiscence was interrupted by a shriek. “OHMYGOD!” my brother screamed. Fluttering, the soft beating of small wings, under the sofa in the living room- the male bird. The other of the two. Confused and flapping hard, with terror. He was trying to get out of the house, only to hit glass windows and fall, repeatedly. He was injured; entire portions of his tail were missing. The longer feathers in the living room scene were his. I gasped as I realized that there was no way my cat could’ve brought both of the birds in with her. Truth was, the male followed her in, he flew after the female to help her, protect her, save her. He didn’t give up, he came for her. He could’ve remained outside when she was taken, but not only did he enter the house, he even went downstairs, fought, struggled, tried. But in vain. I’d witnessed true love. The sort of commitment and dedication we humans consider animals to be, unlike us, too lowly to be capable of, when in reality, it’s the other way round. The nest is going to remain empty. I opened the window, and he flew out. Two hours later, he was still there, perched on a single branch, twittering alone.
Votes – 404
When the cracks first appeared, she decided to ignore it. Who would care for it anyway, those blemishes on the wall. It was his job and he just may do it once she tells him to. Maybe. It’s been 30 years and the cracks couldn’t have appeared earlier. She tried to remain oblivious of the inevitable danger those cracks posed. Only last week when her favourite set of china cups showed the premature lines of fracture, her nerves were worn to a frazzle. She tried to repair it with milk and was successful. To a certain extent. But do flowers give off the same scent once conquered? And the week before, she had to bear the eternal loss of her prized photo frame that held her photograph with her parents in a gilt edged frame. Her parents had gone gentle into the good night, and now their dusted memories were lost forever in the ashes of time. She had cried, for the treble loss. Ready to waste away more tears to time. This week eroded her remaining happiness at a pace collectively quicker than the last two combined. Her wedding sari was ripped at seven places and all the town’s darners had refused her help. She had then carefully assigned her sari to dust, wrapping it carefully in a time stained box. Her mirror, which previously belonged to her daughter, was also rusting along the edges. Her daughter was gone too. Now in Canada, she had secluded herself from their lives very conveniently, letting them into their lives as little as possible. She still bears the burden of anomalous upbringing. 25 years and she couldn’t even nurture and bring up a proper child. ‘What more could have I done?’ she sighs, her fingers tracing her slight wrinkles and crinkles. Age had blenched her black hair white, and she was unsure of an added hue of wisdom. She bores her eyes deep into the unfamiliarly familiar face. 30 years and she was noticing it for the first time. Perhaps, she has betrayed the image. But to betray she should have first belonged. The mirror and she were physically apart but joint identities. The rust and those wrinkles, those greying hairs and stooping shoulders and lacklustre hair. The harshness of reality was engulfing her, drowning her in despair. With doctored dreams, or perhaps no dreams, with her share of sorrows not sad enough and joys never happy enough, she was one of time’s numerous hapless products and victims, aware that circumstances were more or less beyond her control. She had blend into the background of wherever she was – daughter, wife and mother but never herself. She continues to stare at whatever remains of her now. Cracks have appeared deep within. She continues to stare at the stale glass, those cracks of the walls visible too. She continues to stare at the rusted edge dabbled with memories, unsure whether he will take notice of the cracks this time. She continues to stare at herself, whiling away time, withering away even before she gets a chance to blossom.
Votes – 396
A FULL CIRCLE
“Hello. Who’s calling?”
“Charmen.. Mahroosh here..Listen Aman is dead.. Hello Charmen, are you there?”
Charmen let a sigh of anguish looking at the expanse of the night lit golf course through her large French
windows. The PYTHON had been finally engulfed. Her mind raced quickly to the many incidents, as
though she had been put through a swirling vortex head down and what she could witness was only the
terror unleashed on her unsuspecting belief.
“Wish Mahroosh had not called in!!”
She had reconciled to the demons haunting her. Her mind had chosen the comfort of the torment being
inflicted sporadically when her hormonal cycle played rogue.
She needed to grab a bite. She looked at the calm face of Gaurav and wanted to snuggle back into the
silken covers, hugging him, wanting to be held, but she had a zillion things going on into her head.
“What did Mahroosh tell her last week, when she went to discuss the cover page for her book due to be
published? Why is Mahroosh always talking Gaurav’s language?”
“Charmen, there has been a phenomenal organic growth, but why is there no mental liberation? Why
can’t you ever be content with your babies that you create? You could aspire for the Pulitzer, but for
that you need to be your own benchmark. You have to free yourself, attain a breakthrough. Your growth
has all been about restructuring, not a change.”
The sun would be up soon and the house would be full of early morning chants, “We are getting late. Is
the breakfast is ready? Why do we have to eat Indian Paranthas, why can’t we endorse Kelloggs?
..blah..blah.. blah”. The incessant clichéd cacophony… but all of it is so endearing.
If it hadn’t been for Gaurav twenty four years back!! The evening hues of the settling sun, the playing of
the violin strings by a lesser known aspiring musician, and then out of nowhere, Gaurav on his knee.
“Will you marry me?” She had been taken aback at the sudden proposition and had to fight between
tears of having been betrayed by Aman and the opening of a new life.. no.. opening of a new world with
Today, she has all that she had thought UNATTAINABLE in terms of materialistic world yet her mind
often reverberated to the hurt that Aman had caused her.
It all began, soon after her graduate year, when she had shown her hand written novel to Aman. He
read the first few pages with stoic attention and then displayed evident disinterest in reading any
further. Charmen was taken aback at his sudden lackadaisical attitude. On repeated questioning about
his lack of concern, he said “Charmen, this is totally amateurish writing. How could you even think of
taking it to a publisher? Writers are born after devoting endless hours to refining their own work.
Readers are only interested in accomplished literary writing. This is THRASH.
Charmen could vividly recall each tear down her cheeks. Her best friend of five years could say such
nasty words. If only, he had said it gently. Charmen let off another sigh.. If only she had not been naïve
that day and entrusted her book to Aman. If only she had seen the mask he was donning.. if only she …
The Mid-day newspaper, that she bought everyday while travelling from Churchgate back home..It was
almost as though, someone had stabbed her heart, bleeding her every artery. Skipping all other pages,
she had jumped to the page where readers contributed their stories. In a bold typecast, was the title of
the story “Tridevi versus Tridev” and at the extreme right was the picture of Aman, beaming, no..
mocking at her stupidity. She got down at Charni Road station and looked for a public telephone.
She had to talk to Aman and ask him why he had out rightly sent her story to the newspaper, claiming it
to be his brainchild. Her mother was right, he IS A PYTHON. He had been all this time sweet talking to
her, sizing up her capacity to create and now he had unabashedly devoured up her stories.
“Hello Aunty!! Is Aman Home? I have called him up a number of times and today he has got my story
published under his name.”
“Charmen, I had told Aman to keep away from you, right from first day of college. He took so much care
of you and this is how you accuse him.
Aman … Just hear what this shameless girl, Charmen is saying that you have stolen her story. I had told
you that girls coming from lesser family should be kept at an arm’s length. But you never listen to me..”
“Darling, why are you up this early?” kissing her honey dew tanned bare shoulder, he drew her into his
arms. The love of her life always smelled edible no matter what hour of the day it was.
“There is an email from Mahroosh on my cell phone… your book … no, no … our sweat and toil…”
“Please don’t tell me it has got rejected again. ” Charmen carefully put her coffee mug on the Kitchen
“Always negative!! My gorgeous Pumpkin (kissing her on her rose cheeks) ..It has been nominated for
this year’s Booker Prize”
“Our book … Booker prize …How??? How is it possible?”
“Didn’t I tell you all these years to believe in the intelligence of the universe to bestow upon you, my
lady( taking Charmen in his arms)..With the best.” The theatrics in Gaurav were always such a blessing.
“Oh.. also …(taking a sip of Black Coffee) Aman has also sent the congratulatory message to Mahrooosh..
Want me to read it? … (Looking at Charmen’s wide expression)… What?”
“Aman is dead.”
“Dreaming again of his death!!!”(chuckled Gaurav)