Open 2023 Stories - Chaturvedi Divi


Not Just Another Day

By Dr. Chaturvedi Divi


"Yes dear, let us swap our prizes,” Vidya responded to the proposal of her twin sister Bharathi.


That Saturday evening, they were having a stroll along with their parents Siva Kumar and Sarala. It happened to be their ninth birthday. They bought a few toys from an emporium on the market road and started walking towards Lal Bagh.


“Lal Bagh is a popular tourist spot in Bangalore,” Kumar said. He was trying to boost the spirits of the children as they were complaining of too much of walking. Near Lal Bagh, Vidya saw a large number of children of her age group and a few elders, semi-circling a street vendor. She ran towards the gathering ignoring the warnings of her parents. In a minute, she came back with the news.


“The vendor is selling instant lucky-dip coupons to children at two rupees per head. He has already sold 23 coupons and is waiting for two more takers. The draw will take place immediately after the sale of the remaining two coupons. He’ll give away books as prizes. Dad, I want just two bucks please.”


“Kumar, let her have some fun; today is her birthday,” Sarala said.


Kumar searched for coins in his pocket and managed to find two- rupee coins. He gave them to Vidya and Bharathi, saying “You both go together.” Bharathi was a bit hesitant but later ran after her sister. The vendor was happy to see the sisters running towards him.


“Look here, children,” he said, “you all have an equal chance of winning prizes. There’ll be two prizes. Those who aren’t lucky this time needn’t lose their hearts. They are free to join the next round and try their luck again. And …don’t forget to equip yourselves with two rupees every time you join the draw.”


The vendor paused trying to gauge the response. “Now children, you please drop your coupons one by one in this tin box. Please, keep the counterfoils safely with you.” He shuffled the coupons several times and looked at the gathering. The children were waiting for the draw anxiously. Surprisingly, some of the elders too were equally excited though others were very casual and were waiting for the final part of the game so that they could move away with their wards. He reshuffled the coupons and held the tin box before an elderly man in the gathering asking him to pick out a coupon. The vendor read the number aloud and asked the child to step forward with the counterfoil.


The vendor held a book with red cover high so that everyone could see it and gave it to Vidya. It was, ‘Let Us Speak to God.’


“Is the prize a right choice? …Such a heavy stuff for kids,” someone in the crowd murmured.


“Now who is going to win the second prize?” The vendor paused and stretched his hand holding the tin box before a woman in the gathering. She chose a coupon and gave it to him. He read the number aloud.


“She must be the sister of the first prize winner; they look alike,” someone commented.


“Yes, they are twins,” Kumar said.


This time, the vendor quickly picked up the second prize, held it high and gave it to Bharathi. It was a booklet, ‘Beautiful You’, containing sketches and beauty tips. As soon as they reached home, that evening Sarala entered the kitchen and became busy with cooking the special dinner. Kumar was helping her.


In the study, Vidya opened the book ‘Let Us Speak to God’ and became restless after reading one page. She looked at Bharathi who was flipping the pages of ‘Beautiful You’ rather uninterestedly.


“My prize doesn’t serve any purpose” Vidya tossed away her book.


“How do you mean?” Bharathi giggled.


“I can’t go beyond the first page. Let me look at your booklet for a change and meanwhile you can read my book.”


They were so engrossed in reading that they reluctantly left the books in the study when Sarala yelled, “This is for the third time I’m calling you for dinner.”

While moving into the dining hall Vidya suggested, “Shall we swap our prizes?”


Bharathi looked into the eyes of her sister and said “Yes dear.”


While dining Vidya told her parents what they had done. Sarala was apprehensive as she thought that Vidya might have tried to impose her idea on Bharathi. She stared at Bharathii inquisitively.


“Yes mum, I like that book, ‘Let Us Speak to God’ and Vidya is very happy to have ‘Beautiful You’ the other book.”


That night in a cosy bedroom conversation Sarala said to Kumar, “I am a bit worried about Bharathi.”


“Why she isn’t a problematic child.”

“No, not at all, but does she have any independent views? It’s okay now, but when she grows up and steps into the competitive world can she face the challenges? Kumar, I’ve been observing them for nine years.”


“It’s obvious that Bharathi’s interests are different. I don’t see any logic behind the idea that identical twins should think alike and act alike. Anyway, tomorrow morning I’ll speak to them separately and find out their interests.”


In a couple of days, Vidya enrolled herself for drawing and painting classes while Bharathi preferred to learn Piano. “I got inspiration from the sketches in the ‘Beautiful You’ booklet, Vidya said. Bharathi never spoke her heart out.



Vidya and Bharathi celebrated their 16th birthday. That was a special occasion at their school too, being the anniversary day. Science and art exhibitions were held in the school that morning. Vidya could exhibit some of her sketches. In the evening cultural programmes were organised.


Bharathi gave a performance on Piano in the 15 minute- slot allotted to her. Rakesh, the director of ‘Creative Ideas,’ was the chief guest. He was enthralled less by the music and more by the long and tender fingers of Bharathi deftly moving on the keys. She would be the perfect model for the nail polish company ad he thought.


The next day he phoned her father and put before him his proposal. Kumar smoothly rejected the offer. Rakesh was disappointed but he didn’t want to give up. He again phoned to Kumar and said, “Your daughter loves to play piano, am I right?”




“That’s all that she has to do for the ad, of course with a dab of the nail polish we supply. And our payments match the best in the industry.”


Kumar discussed the matter with his wife and children. “I don’t mind playing piano if it helps the nail polish company,” Bharathi said. Kumar and Sarala discussed and concluded that it was a decent offer and it wasn’t wise to turn down.


“Now let us come to the business part. I’ll be at your house tomorrow morning at 10 am to finalise the contract. We have to finish the signing business quickly and move to the studio,” Rakesh told them.


The next morning, minutes before the arrival of Rakesh, the whole family had a real shock. Bharathi cut her index finger deep while slicing an apple. By the time Rakesh visited them, she was sitting in the living room with a heavily bandaged finger. Rakesh felt sorry for her and said, “I can’t postpone the shooting for the nail polish company. I’ll consider you for my next ad campaign.”

At this juncture Vidya came out from her room and said, “I am ready to do the nail polish ad provided you show me making sketches instead of playing piano.” Rakesh smiled and accepted.


After missing the first offer in modelling, Bharathi never thought of doing modelling. She concentrated on music and after five years, she stepped out of the university with a bachelor’s degree in music. During those years, she gave many performances on piano. The only other area she was interested in was mysticism. She made it a habit to read a few pages every day from the book, ‘Let Us Speak to God’, the book she started reading on her ninth birthday. She opted for the music teacher job in the school where she studied.


During those years, Vidya could realise some of her dreams. When she finished her first modelling assignment for the nail polish company, she told Rakesh that she wouldn’t be available for further assignments. She was keen to pursue her studies in fine arts.


After five years Vidya walked into Perceptions ad agency as a visualizer, and quickly rose to the position of Assistant Art Director but soon differences cropped up between her and the director, Raghuram. He reprimanded her for having ideas above her station. She fought for self-regulation in ad agencies and against obscenity. She started feeling void in life. Her mind was often tossed by negative thoughts. I longed for this position. Does it make me feel happy? Did I take the right decision? Should I have thought of becoming a freelance artist?


During this tough period, Suresh, an account executive, stood by her side. After a brief courtship, they got married. On their first marriage anniversary day when she had the impression that she had plenty to feel elated despite all the wrong things happening in the career front, she had the shocking news that her husband was flirting with a model. Incidentally, she came to know that he withdrew large sums of money from their joint bank account. I can’t trust this man any longer. He will simply ruin me, she thought.


When she questioned him that night, he shouted at her and stepped out of the house, slamming the door behind him. She knew where he was going to spend that night.


This man didn’t mind spoiling our marriage day. He came into my life to rob me of peace, she thought. The next morning, she woke up as the phone started singing.


“Happy birthday Vidya.” It was her mother Sarala on the phone.


Vidya realised that it was her 29th birthday. While thanking her mother, an idea came to her mind.


“Vidya, are you still there?” It was her father’s voice.


“Yes dad, I have been longing to visit you. Is it okay if I come to your place and spend the day with you? It was ages since Bharathi and I celebrated our birthdays together.”


“It is a great idea.”


“I’ll reach your place in an hour. She had a gorgeous bath and drove off.


Bharathi, Kumar and Sarala were standing at the entrance of their house awaiting her arrival. Bharathi rushed to Vidya and hugged her.


“It is a pleasant surprise to us. We thought that you would celebrate your birthday with your friends and colleagues in a star hotel as usual,” Kumar said.


“No, let us make it an exclusive family affair, the way we used to do it during our childhood.”


“Come on, let us talk while having breakfast,” Sarala suggested.


“It’s a great family reunion,” Bharathi said.


“Bharathi, do you remember our ninth birthday?” Vidya asked.


“Yes, we had the time of our lives then.”


Kumar and Sarala remained silent, as they understood that after a long time the sisters were pouring their hearts out.


“Our ninth birthday was something special. Those lucky dip coupons, the prizes we won and how we swapped them…”


“The arrangement of things is still an enigma to me,” Vidya said.


“Yes, originally, we planned to go to a movie but we spent a lot of time at the shopping complex. We thought that we couldn’t make it and decided to walk towards Lal Bagh.”


“Bharathi, do you think that it was just incidental?”


“How could it be, Vidya? That apparently inconsequential act of buying lucky dip coupons from a street vendor had a great impact on our careers, nay on our whole lives.”


“Bharathi, I feel that I’m transported back into that time and space.”


“Yes, on that day an opportunity was thrown open, Vidya. It was a celestial hint, veiled in an ingenious way but the rest depended on our attitudes. That book, ‘Let Us Speak to God’, fell into your hands first as you were the first prize- winner. You found it rather uninteresting. Though we swapped our prizes, both of us had equal access to the books but you just didn’t care for it.”


“You are right Bharathi. Friends used to consider that I was luckier compared to you and received encomium of prizes. At one time, I even started looking down upon you. I felt that I scored over you when I could walk away with that modelling assignment which slipped away from your hands. Bharathi, did you ever fancy the idea of finding yourself in my situation?”


“No. I simply didn’t adore that idea. I believed that there was enough room for both of us to live successfully and happily without crossing each other’s interests.”

“Bharathi, despite enjoying good professional status, financial status and social status I feel emptiness in my life.”


“Oh! You never felt intimidated when you faced problems but now, I understand the situation is different.”


“Yes, I have the conviction that I should discover the true meaning of life. Will you guide me?”


Bharathi looked into the eyes of her sister and said in a soft voice, “Yes dear.”



Dr Chaturvedi Divi from India has short stories and poems published in Only Men Please (anthology), Reading Hour, America the Catholic magazine, Twist & Twain, Spillwords, Borderless Journal, Storizen, Riot, Stanza Cannon and elsewhere. He has an MA in creative writing from The University of Wales. His doctoral thesis is on diasporic literature.


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