Today’s post is going to be a fiction story. I read a lot of fiction. And many a times you can even catch me daydreaming a story, playing a role or intently watching a character unfold in my mind.
When I was a kid, it used to be my favourite pass-time during travel. Think of a few characters, entwine their lives, throw in a few complications and elaborate their reactions, either from one point of view or several. What I did not realise then was that I was essentially practicing story writing. I did not put those things on paper back then, but it provided a continuous stimulus to my brain. Now, I not only think of that alternate fictional universe, but also put it on paper. Sometimes. For posterity.
This time the prompt was provided by an online women’s magazine Women’s Web from Sylvia Plath’s book The Bell Jar. Here goes the story -
“It went on for 10 years. Every time he came home drunk I would hurry my children to bed, to avoid them seeing their father in a sloshed state. Dishevelled hair, unkempt clothes, sluggish words and the worst was the violence. No, he never hit me, because he knew I would hit him back, but the lamps, plates, glasses took the fury. And every morning he woke up to be a good husband, helping with breakfast, asking the kids about their day and dropping them off to school. As if the drama of the previous night never happened. But I knew he remembered what he had done last night, from that look in his eyes, which he thought he had concealed well.
I don’t remember how it started. How my life came to be a series of calm-before-the-storm days, tumulus evenings, insomniac nights and shocked mornings. I was a law professor when I got married, imparting so-called wisdom to my students. The right to stand up for yourself, never tolerate injustice and live as a free citizen. But eventually I had to stop working full-time, I simply couldn’t keep up with the facade of normalcy. Sure, I still did assignments, but never had the courage to go back and stand in front of zesty 20 years olds and give them hypocritical speeches.
It was almost as if I got sucked into a hole. Slowly. The first kid happened when he was still a social drinker, albeit the socializing happened quite frequently. First two years went by totally engrossed in the kid, while managing a full day job. Then the second kid happened, by an accident. Pressures increased, finances got strained, and his drinking became an everyday affair. At first I thought he had lost interest in me or wanted to avoid the conflicts of parenting, then I thought maybe he had an affair, but then I gradually realised he was drinking too much and too often. Simple as that.
I tried different methods to help him let go of it. Casual coaxing, emotional conversations, silence treatments, warnings, threats and then finally packing my bags and going to my parents’ house with the kids. But he always convinced me to come back. I would look into the mirror and wonder – how did I reach this stage? Since when did I become so tolerant? Was it for the kids? It must be. That was the only rational reason. But it was not. The kids were scared of him. They didn’t know which father was real. The one at night or the one in the morning. They hated weekends, and dreaded holidays. Slowly, they became reserved, quiet and hardly spoke.
Eventually it all became routine. I was unfazed by it, or perhaps so disturbed that I never remembered what normal felt like. Then one day, I met an old friend, who was the head of the law department at the college where I studied. He wanted me to come onboard, be a senior lecturer, write in the legal journal and be a part of the college again. I said I was not sure. He persisted. Then thinking I had nothing to lose, and extra money would always help, I resumed back being a professor. The husband was unperturbed. I was careful to not let his routine get affected, and he did not mind. I got a new surge of hope, enthusiasm, and the kids seemed to like it. After initial period of doubt, I was back in the game. My students loved me, I got published in the International Law journal, I had a direction to my otherwise rudderless life.
Or so I thought.
Till one day, three years later, when he had a stroke. Paralysed on the left side, unable to eat, drink, pee or defecate without help. The drinking stopped, yes, the withdrawal symptoms lasted for a month, but then we were just left with half of him and none of me.
The kids eventually went away to college, and I was left here. Nursing a thankless man, who I felt nothing for.
Every once in a while I would look at the journals which featured my articles, and my brain and hands would ache to be in rhythm again, to think and simultaneously write. And then I would hear a wail from the other room, pack off the papers and address the wailer. It went on.
Last month, he died. I am 50, and free, first time in the last 25 years. Or so I think.
I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”
P.S : This is fictional. Has no resemblance to any person, living or dead.
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Okay, so this weekend bake were these dainty primed Pecan Coffee Cupcakes.
I adapted this recipe from Cupcake Lover’s Guide an advertorial pamphlet I picked up while strolling in the Mumbai Fort area. It’s a nondescript little magazine, but all the 20 odd recipes looked very promising and they are turning out great. And this one is a one bowl recipe. Just add everything together and bake!
One bowl Pecan Coffee Cupcakes
What you will need :
- 175 gms self rising flour
- 175 gms softened butter (salted)
- 175 gms castor sugar
- 3 eggs
- 3 tablespoon cold espresso coffee
- 3/4 cup chopped pecans
For the buttercream
- 115 gms butter (salted) at room temperature
- 200 gm icing sugar
- 3 tablespoon cold espresso coffee
- 12 pecans, halved for decoration
What to do :
- Pre-heat oven to 180C. Line a 12 hole muffin pan with cupcake liners.
- Put the flour + butter + sugar + eggs in a large bowl till well combined.
- Stir in coffee and pecans.
- Divide the mixture in 12 muffin liners.
- Bake at 180c for 15 minutes till risen and firm to touch. Cool on a wire rack.
- For the buttercream, cream butter till soft. Sift in icing sugar and beat till pale and light.
- Add coffee and mix well together. With a piping bag, swirl a small layer on top of each cooled cupcake and place a halved pecan on top.
- If using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the cupcake batter as well as buttercream. Salt helps bring in the flavor. I always use Amul butter for all my bakes.
- These cupcakes come together in literally half hour. And pecans can be blindly substituted with walnuts.
- If using regular all purpose flour, reduce 175 gm flour by 2 teaspoons and add 2 teaspoons of baking powder.