By Neel Anil Panicker

A modern, independent, confident, strong willed, free soul person.

That’s what she would be described as in any other ‘evolved’ society’.

Barbarous, uncouth, slut, immoral, man eater, hedonist.

That’s what she was called in the narrow bylanes of Kolkata of the twentyfirst century India she lived in.

A Kolkata that was once the capital of the Imperialist Britishers, a Kolkata that is still known by its better known epithet ” cultural capital of India, an India that shouts from every available rooftop that it is well on its way to be the “next economic power house of the world”.

Not that Kakoli Banerjee minded, or even cared less or more for these “flowery’ ways that denizens, both known and unknown to her, choose to describe her life persona.

Ever since her parents died in a tragic road when she had just stepped onto teenhood, leaving her all alone in this bad, bad world, Kakoli has been on her own.

Her impoverished parents left her with no social security net. Saddled with zero money and forced to abort her education midway, Kakoli found no takers for her.


None inluding all the so called “social welfare organisations” came forward to help the poor hapless child, to help extricate her from the constricting shackles that bound her in a tight, breath squeezing clasp.


She survived, somehow, for the first sixth months, taking care of a well meaning but equally destitute nonagenarian widow. In return, she got to share some of the food that she would cook for the elderly woman. This way she just about managed to keep body and soul together.

But things plunged further south when one day the lady died and the child again found herself staring at the bottomless pit was life.

With none to even ask of her well being, leave alone help the poverty stricken orphan girl, Kakoli spent the next one month in utter penury.

Days spilled over into nights, weeks into months, and she turned sickly. One evening she just collapsed and passed out on the street opposite her shanty.

When she awoke the next day, she found herself in a hospital bed.

A woman, in her mid-forties, her face heavily powdered, was smiling down at her.

“My name is Maya. You can call me Maya Aunty. I brought you here. I take care of girls like you who have no one in this world. Come with me. I will give you a home, food, good clothes. I can see you are a beautiful girl. I will show you how to make money and be happy in this world with.”

For little Kakoli, the words of her unknown benefactor were like manna from the skies.

She was staring at life at the crossroads. She didn’t know which way to head, what to do, who to ask?

Life’s existential problems seemed to have no answers.

Befuddled to the core, all she could manage to say was, “I will do whatever you”.

The next day she began life in Maya  Manzil, the biggest barter house of North Kolkata, the place where men and women met to live and let live lives of fulfillment, even if the pleasures where transient and only of the physical kind.

At least, it gave to Kakoli and innumerable other unfortunates like her a second chance to weave for themselves the delicate fabric of life that was torn asunder by a callous combination of fate and the nonchalance of a deeply flawed, insensitive self serving fickle society.

Slut, call girl, immoral; or bold, independent, strong____call her whatever, ten years later, none of these epithets bothered wee bit Kakoli, the undisputed queen of Lal Bazaar, the place she was born in, the place that had once never bothered whether she lived or died.

#neelanilpanicker #flash #fiction #shortstory

Photo Challenge # 287



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