This edition of WEP Writing Challenge is a prompt fiction based on the movie “Chocolat”
As usual, I’ve used characters from my writing universe: from upcoming literary thriller, THE BLUE MONSOON. These snippets of prompt-fiction show aspects of the story only hinted at in the novel. Since this is a thriller, and I didn’t get to explore the characters as much as I’d have liked, I’m adding to the cannon, and it will all (hopefully) blend into the tapestry of the book.
——–So here’s my WEP entry, a prompt fiction flash piece I’ll feature only here on this site.—-
Damyanti Biswas © 2023
TAGLINE: Stay in your lane
WORD COUNT: 705 words, FCA
It is one of those new-fangled things, I want to tell my grandson, Pravin. But will he listen to me? Grandkids are fun, let no one tell you different, but a teenager with exploding words, hormones and pimples has no time for advice from a grandfather.
Mumbai, Manesar, Manhattan, makes no difference.
I know this. After all, I’ve had children. My son was just as much of a pain in the neck, never listened to me or my dad.
But my grandson’s plans are something else.
I mean, look. I know our history.
My grandfather cleaned out toilets for a living, the ones from those times when there was no running water. He carried out buckets of shit on his head, for decades. That’s how he raised my father. I try to imagine my grandfather, how he must have borne the stink, the baths he must have taken in the days of very little soap and no water on tap.
My father ended up merely cleaning toilets, because India now had running water. My earliest memory of my father is his hard, phenyl-smelling hand on my head, stroking my hair.
We’ve been making progress, the Tambe family.
By the time I, Surat Tambe, came along, we had schools, and I got to study in them. Not the best ones, because my father could afford no better than government schools, but I studied. Books, notebooks, pen and paper. Math. Biology. Chemistry. And no matter what my father said about ‘cutting dead bodies for a living’, I once caught him stroking my blue forensic gloves, probably wishing he had them in his time.
My son is a physiotherapist. I cut through bones and muscles on dead people. He sets them right on his patients. Sudhir Tambe, son of Surat Tambe, makes people’s pain go away.
My grandson, now, my grandson Pravin Tambe he wants to be a chocolatier, and one day own a chocolate shop.
At dinner tonight, he’s served us chocolate tarts. My son’s apartment is small, his kitchen minuscule, but Pravin vibrates with energy as he shows us the tarts he’s made in the tiny oven that’s turned the warm, humid apartment well near oppressive with heat.
In the family home built on shit and phenyl and formaldehyde, he wants caramel, vanilla, and cinnamon.
He watches videos with recipes. He buys stacks of chocolate and nuts and essence. He talks about the tempering of chocolate—heating and cooling it, the structure of molds, ways to combine chocolates with fruits and nuts. He waxes eloquent about caramels and profiteroles, pastries with chocolate fillings, chocolate mousse.
My phone rings. An unknown number. I know what it will say if I pick it up.
“Stay in your lane, you low-caste turd. If you don’t know what’s good for you, you won’t live to see retirement.”
I’m afraid. I should be afraid, I’m not stupid. Today, the threats are for me. They want me to lay off the case of temple murders. Tomorrow they will find Sudhir and Pravin’s numbers. Threaten my children, my family.
I can tell them to lie low. I can give up the case. But will that stop the name-calling? The derision? The way those high-caste men look at us as we pass on our street? I love Mumbai’s cloak of anonymity, but there’s always someone who knows you, who remembers that your grandfather carried buckets of human waste on his head for a living.
The phone rings again, and I switch it off.
And so what? My grandfather earned an honest living. He raised a good son, and hopefully, a grandson who wouldn’t cower down. I’m the grandfather now. Why should I trample all over the dreams of this teen just because I’m afraid?
“Do you like the tart?” Pravin asks me.
Why should he not make chocolate pastries if that’s what he wants?
“Yes,” I tell him. “You’re good at this.”
Pravin’s pimpled face erupts in smiles. Maybe he’ll lose all interest in baking tomorrow. Maybe he’d want to open a shop, or train to be a neurosurgeon, join the air force.
For each one of his impossible, impractical dreams, I’d say the same thing. Yes, my son. Why not? You’re good at this.
Do you read or write prompt-based fiction? Have you ever participated in the WEP? Have you read an ARC of The Blue Monsoon ? What do you think of this character? Would you like to read his story?
My literary crime novel, The Blue Bar is on Kindle Unlimited now. Add it to Goodreads or snag a copy to make my day. The sequel, The Blue Monsoon is up for pre-orders! And if you’d like to read a book outside the series, you can check out You Beneath Your Skin. Find all info about my books on my Amazon page or Linktree.
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