Two to Tango by Narayani & Chandrika

At Beyond the Box, we are constantly thinking of ideas to give something unique, refreshing as well as challenging to our community of writers. Two to Tango is one such endeavour to encourage the participants to work along with another writer as a team and bring about a creative synergy. 40+ teams participated in Season 3 of this one-of-its-kind contest and the winners were chosen by prolific author Kanchana Banerjee. Below prompt was given to the writers and they were asked to narrate the same story from two different points of view. 

Prompt – Write a fictional story in which a book reveals a secret. Feel free to creatively interpret the prompt in any genre of your choice. 

The 2nd Runners-Up in the adults’ category were Narayani V Manapadam & Chandrika R Krishnan (Team 4). Enjoy their story!

Title: Truth Between the Lines

Point of View #1 – By Chandrika R Krishnan

Veni held the thick, yellowed manuscript in her hand and began to pace the room like a prowling tiger. Chitti’s death should not go unsung like my life.

People, whose lives the unassuming lady had touched in her inimitable style, poured in from the time they heard of her demise. Her mother’s nostrils had flared often during the ten-day mourning period, and now Veni understood why. Vijayalakshmi was everything that Meenakshi wasn’t. But when Veni found a fat, handwritten book inside the grey Godrej almirah in her aunt’s room, little did she know that she would discover the magnitude of her mother’s deception. 

All confrontation is based on deception. Wasn’t it true?

Veni doesn’t hold a candle to Meenakshi. She had been told this often, like a broken gramophone record. But this? How could amma pass off chitti’s ‘Washingtonil Ambujam Mami’ as her own, particularly when the serialized novel did to the magazine Malar what the fictional masterpiece on the Chola dynasty did to Kalki sir?

Be the best version of yourself! Meenakshi’s advice for Veni still rang in the young woman’s ears.

“What best version, amma? Should I also appropriate someone else’s work?” Veni laughed hysterically.

All through the years, she had fallen short of her mother’s expectations, and publishers relentlessly compared her work (rather unfavourably) with Meenakshi Rajarathnam. This, combined with her mother’s derision, took its toll on Veni’s physical and emotional self.

I died a thousand deaths, amma. Tears rolled down Veni’s eyes. She looked around the room where her chitti had spent her entire life and decided that she would confront her mother in public on the 13th-day ceremony. Vijayalakshmi Rajarathnam would get her due as the rightful author of ‘Washingtonil Ambujam Mami’.

Oh, amma. I am far better than you. And the next time, I won’t request your approval for my manuscript. It’s time to cast off your shadow and flourish on my own. I have my Viji chitti’s blessings.

Point of View #2 – By Narayani V Manapadam

For as long as I remember, Meena akka was the cynosure of all eyes. She was confident and beautiful. I was just the opposite, content being the ordinary sister to the extraordinary Meenakshi Rajarathnam.

If only Viji had a tenth of Meena’s beauty!

This line tore to shreds whatever little confidence I possessed. It was then I began to pen down my anguish in a diary. I don’t know how and when those juvenile outbursts turned into short stories peppered with complex plots and realistic characters. Soon I discovered my flair for comedy. I had never stepped outside our home in Washermanpet, but armed with a rich imaginative mind, I wrote about an Ambujam Iyer in Washington.

But my joy was short-lived.

I still remember Meena akka’s flared nostrils. She took the fat book to her room. A thousand ominous thoughts swirled in my mind. But when she emerged from the room, smiling broadly, I could sense my dream becoming reality. My perfect akka was proud of me. Finally, I would see my name in the reputed Malar magazine.

Alas! How naive I was!

With trembling hands, I skimmed the pages of the monthly magazine, pausing at the end of the first chapter.

Meenakshi Rajarathnam!

I froze. I went to her room, taking hesitant steps. There she was! Looking regal as usual. Dismissive. Nobody believed my word. They laughed it off.

This is what happens when you don’t protest. You start adjusting. I reconciled to a life of spinsterhood while akka hogged the limelight. Veni’s birth was a joyous occasion. My life revolved around the little angel, while Meenakshi Rajarathnam continued to bask in the fame of Ambujam.

But Lord Muruga, I was guilty.

Veni turned out to be a miniature me. My heart broke every time she sought a word of praise from my sister. But what did she get in return? A needless comparison.

How I wish I had spoken out then.

My cancer cells were multiplying. I knew my time was up. I took out my manuscript from the old trunk and hid it between the folds of my pink kanjeevaram saree. My Veni’s favourite.

I was ready to meet my maker.


Chitti – Maternal aunt (Tamil)

Washingtonil Ambujam Mami – Mrs Ambujam in Washington

Akka – Elder sister

Kalki sir – Kalki Krishnamoorthy, author of magnum opus ‘Ponniyin Selvan’

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