By Neel Anil Panicker

Today, right now, this very moment, I am stepping out. Stepping out, but stepping out into what? Well, that’s something that I don’t know. At least for now.

I don’t know what awaits me; I don’t know what the future has in store fo me; or even how it’s all going to turn out.

But, what I do know for sure is that I am stepping out of the matrimonial bond that I thought you and I shared. I do know with certainty that I am stepping out of a non-existent marriage. And I do know with absolute crystal clear clarity and with utmost conviction that I am stepping out of something bad.

Though, I am unsure about what it is that I am stepping into; even unsure whether it is good or bad, but if were to speak of the latter, all i can categorically say and say it with the deepest of conviction that whatever I am stepping out into can’t be worse than what I am leaving behind.

#neelanilpanicker #oneminutefiction #iamsteppingout #callingitquits #life #relationships

#neelanilpanicker #oneminutefiction #iamsteppingout #callingitquits #life #relationships

Monday’s One-Minute Fiction: Week of March 19

Monday’s One-Minute Fiction: Week of March 19



neelwrites/differenteyes, differentlearnings/fiction/coachingtime/1429words/25/01/2018

Perspectives shape reality, and we write our own destiny. It is perhaps a hackneyed theme that I use so often in my speaking and writing.

But, a writer writes the destiny of its characters.

Perspectives shape reality, and we write our own destiny. It is perhaps a hackneyed theme that I use so often in my speaking and writing.

But, a writer writes the destiny of its characters.


By Neel Anil Panicker

It’s not done; its plain bad, it’s downright cruel, it’s as if you, a lamb, has been by deceit, led into a dark desolate forest and then left to the mercy of the beasts, the biggest beast of them all, the lion itself, the king of the jungle, making mince meat of you, ripping asunder your delicate heart, its ferocious teeth gnawing at your vitals, wrenching out every shuddering gasp of breath that is left in you.

From across the glass topped table, the two gentlemen silently listened to this interminable harangue, this exquisite metaphorical exposition of one person’s angst against supposedly grave wrongs and injustices, lifting their heads only once to exchange a long meaningful glance before lifting their gaze to look, albeit a tad amusedly at the verbal pyrotechnics of the young man seated across from them.

Finally, and after a good ten minutes had elapsed, one of two passive participants in this soliloquy, an absolute one sided tete ete you may call it for want of a better word__the taller one, the guy with the thick rimmed spectacles and fast thinning hair expertly swept back to half conceal a egg shaped balding pate__cleared his throat and setting aside the hardbound tome entitled Kabir ke Dohe exclaimed, “Mr Sahil, my dear young man, you seem to be unnecessarily splitting your hair over what is in fact a very miniscule matter.”

The words worked like a frontal stab, its pointedness searing through the cotton fabric of the off grey shirt that the 27 year old was wearing and plunging deep into his heaving chest.

As if stung by the deadliest wasp on Planet Earth, Sahil suddenly stopped midway through his speech, his mouth agape like a pre-historic ape, his slim, trim frame now recoiling quicker than an earthworm, his five feet ten inch falling helplessly back into the thick sofa cushions.

Miniscule?”, the voice craoked, this time sans the gravity and timbre displayed in his earlier diatribe.

Did you just say that? Miniscule? Receiving such a negative feedback is miniscule? Is of no consequence? Amazing! I just can’t believe what I have heard, Gagan Sir”.

The man whose name was called out immediately shop up in his chair.

Exactly. And that’s your problem. You seem to…

I seem! I seem what? Here, take a look at this. This is the latest Feedback Report for the last month, that’s January. Of a total of 34 students in my class, as many as 32 have given me a 4 out of a maximum 5, quite a few even 5, the highest ranking, whilst two, just 2 measly students have graded me as a 1. To rub salt to my wounds, have a look at what these two venerable souls have had to say about me. Here, read this. It says and I quote verbatim, “Sahil Sir is incompetent. He needs to replaced. We don’t want him. We believe…”


The voice of the third person, hitherto unheard of so far, now reverberated all across the third floor corner Faculty Room of ‘Coaching Time’ that Friday afternoon.

They are right. They don’t want you, Sahil” That’s the stark truth, accept it, and change yourself.”

What followed was pin drop silence. The tension in the air was so thick that you could slice it with a knife.

Like a hunted down, tired and badly bruised lamb, Sahil found himself pushed to te wall, his hands raised up in abject submission. He sank deeper into the sofa, his eyes staring shell shocked at the two senior Faculty members who now stared back at him, their chins up, eyes shone bright, a quiet feral intensity emanating from every single pore of their bodies that were tucked under Winter Specials__made to order satin embellished body hugging suits.

Sahil, what Gagan Sir wants to say, and that’s something that I fully endorse, is that one needs to pay heed to every single feedback that comes from the students, especially and more so if it is negative. I would advise you to take the feedback positively and work on overcoming your shortcomings”.

Sahil felt like a foot soldier trapped in enemy terrain; captured and later tortured to the hilt, a piece of meat to be used and abused, watched over with sadistic pleasure, fully stripped of the last ounces of whatever dignity that was left in him.

He got up in a laboured fashion, his legs still wobbling, and made a slow painful walk towards the exit door.

It was then that the two-month old words of the HR Head unspooled in his rickety brain like an old vinyl tape played out on a near obsolete recorder.

Remember Mr Sahil Chowdhury, while we at Coaching Time feel immensely proud in welcoming you into this great organization, you should be perennially thankful at being given this opportunity. Also, be immensely proud that you will now have the benefit of picking the brains of the best Faculty who will also be your seniors and mentors. Be ever respectful towards them and grab every opportunity to learn and assimilate best practices from them. That way not only will you become a better Faculty but also will you witness a faster learning curve and, needless to add, a quicker rise up the echelons.”

As he turned the knob and just before slipping out of the Faculty Room, Sahil turned around and, remembering something, smartly walked towards the seated gentlemen.

This time he was however careful to wipe off all trace of negativity from his face.

Instead, freshly donning a manner that could only be termed as the epitome of servility coupled with a low pitched voice soft as feather, one that smacked of utter servititude, he said, “Pradip Sir, You are absolutely right. And you too, Gagan Sir.  There’s so much to learn and imbibe from you boty of you. I promise I shall be extremely careful in future. Your constant guidance and support is what I value and look forward to the most. Have a good day, Sirs”.

And with that he turned away and headed out. As he gently closed the door behind him, he spotted from the corner of his eyes something that gave him deep satisfaction. His boss and Head of the Quantitative Department, Pradip Sinha, and his immediate senior, the one he was reporting into, Gagan Dhillion, were looking at each other, the expressions on their power drunk faces a little more than mere smiles.

Phew! that was close, he muttered as a huge sigh of relief escaped his lips while he wound his way down the hallway.

Dammit, that was close, he admonished himself. If he harboured any hopes of surviving for a long enough duration in this mine infested place, he needed to be careful, double, trebly careful.

What other option did he have, he reasoned to himself. Which organization would be willing to welcome into their fold a convicted rapist, a serial molester of women. If only they knew his past, it be kaput, the end of tye road for him. He had to be careful, damn careful, he reminded himself, as he hurtled down the steps for a cigarette and some much needed shot of fresh air.

It was only after he had inhaled a few puffs of his staple Gold Flake Kings did a smile splash across his otherwise bubbly face. He was recalling the words of his mentor at Tihar Jail, the much feared but hugely pragmatic Tanu Bhai, the one who had taken a shine to him.

‘Sahil, remember in life people rarerly are on the same page. When it comes to human beings there’s never a straight binary__never a yes or a no, a right or wrong, a true or false. It’s all a matter of perspectives. However much one may agree with others’ viewpoints, remember that they are always right, at least in their own eyes. Acknowledge that reality through your actions and body language and you will never go wrong. Instead, you will always end up with not just your bread with a liberal spread of jam on it as well.’

Sahil stubbed his cigarette and pulling himself up, strode confidently back to the office. It was then that he noticed a stream of girls, a few of them clad in half shorts, all laughing and giggling their way, wriggling their ample hips past the massive hallway towards their respective classes.

‘Yes, teaching is a very pleasurable activity’, he reminded himself for the umpteenth time ever since he had joined ‘Coaching Time’ as an ‘esteemed Faculty Member’.



By Neel Anil Panicker

Om Baba watched nee studied her, his eyes, a demon’s, red and bulging out of their sockets as they bored into hers, lasciviously running through every inch of her voluptuous figure.

“My lord, what more can I do. Haven’t I done enough already. Can’t you see that I have nothing more to give?”

Baba darted his charcoal black tongue out, ran it languorously over his thick swarthy lips.

He knew what she was saying.

In the past six months, she had done all that he had ordered__walked barefoot to his ashram, located a good three kilometers deep inside the jungles every single day to recite some incomprehensible Sanskrit verses that he had told her to mouth ten times a day; ensured zero contact with her husband (even going to the extent of sleeping in separate rooms); served him daily the tastiest non vegetarian food that he had ever eaten__his favourite chicken breast, deep fried and liberally sprinkled with spicy condiments.

Each offering had brought her closer to her goal, or so she thought.

“You need a son. Tonight your wish will be granted. God will grant it to you, through me, his medium.”

She braced herself for the final offering.



Weekend Writing Prompt #35 – End of Year Challenge

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Word Prompt

 End of Year Challenge





By Neel Anil Panicker

“It’s the End of the Year Challenge. Who’s up for it?”

None moved, all had their eyes closed and necks craning upwards, not even one daring to look down.

Finally John, ever the court jester, ambled up to the front and spoke, his voice, a broken whisper, “Hey buddies, chin up, it’s just water, plain water. What the big deal? Nothing’s going to happen.”

Three pairs of eyes___Oscar, Harry and Nelson’s__ opened, albeit slightly, and looked at him. Fear writ large on all of them.

‘If you are so confident why don’t you do it, John?’

John looked across at Nelson and suddenly felt blood drain out of his veins.

Cold fear girdled up his loins.

Nelson was the group bully. A hustler, the one who always got away with the ‘easy’ tasks.

John weighed his options. He could say no but then that would be a make him a pussy, a weakling. As such they called him ‘sissy’.

He had to shrug off that label. A new year was about to unfold. He needed an image makeover, gain respect, be counted as a man.

But then what about the flip side? The pond was ten feet deep, filled with water, enough to drown anyone, least of all a mere slip of a boy.

He took a deep breath and spoke, his voice a raised timbre, “Ok, I will do it. But here’s the deal. I need you guys to sponsor me one large Peppy Paneer izza plus Coke every week for the entire 2018.”

A gasp floated through the air. Someone let out a muted ‘what’?

‘Ok, deal accepted. Now jump, Johnnie baby. I don’t think you’ll come out of that alive’.

John caught the leer in Nelson’s voice.

He had to do it__ there was no going back now.

Closing his eyes, John stepped forward and leapt into the cold waters.

As his frail bony self hit the icy waters, he prayed that the swimming lessons that he had surreptitiously learnt on You Tube channels were enough to keep him afloat.

©neelanilpanicker2017 #fiction #shortstory #343 #endofyearchallenge



This week’s cue is SUSPEND…


By Neel Anil Panicker

“Listen, dear friend, trust me when I this and am saying this not out of my hat but out of my experience, a great many years of hard won experience.”

‘Do I have a choice? Go ahead, I am all ears’.


“So here it is straight off the horse’s mouth: If you want to take a wow class and win friends and influence people then you should suspend all judgement.”
‘Hmm…interesting, in this world there is no dearth of free idea floaters and now that I see you too have joined that ‘Entry By Invitation Only’ club why don’t you enlighten me as to how exactly do I go about this earth shattering path breaking pedagogical strategy that you so elegantly have euphemistically christened as SUSPEND ALL JUDGEMENT?’

“Well, first of all you should keep your eyes and ears open in the class to look around for any and all sorts of non-academic activity and that includes all sorts of shenanigans including coochie cooing into one another’s ears, engaging in near animated discussions about the morals or lack of it of neighbourhood street dogs, and even heatedly analysing threadbare the inverse correlation between the rising levels of global warming and the plunging necklines of Hollywood beauties.”

‘There it is, I got it, a bit paradoxical though it may be. First, I need to keep my eyes and ears open and then close them. A class act indeed’.

©neelanilpanicker2017 #six sentence stories #fiction #short story #237 words


Hosted at

challenge 18


By Neel Anil Panicker

I am Pooja. Pooja Sethi in an earlier avatar, and Pooja Matrani in an avatar before that. This is my story. The story of my life. The story of the different Poojas that I was and the slow but steady metamorphosis into the Pooja that I am today.

I began life some forty years back as Pooja Matrani. I was the second of three children. My father was a government servant employed with the Ministry of Urban Development Affairs.

We lived here, in the heart of Delhi, at RK Puram, in a comfy three room government accommodation. My parents, both Sindhis had migrated from undivided Punjab at the time of Partition.  My mother was a Matriculate, which in her time, was a big thing, considering that education was something that was a prized commodity, something which was considered of value only for the men folk, a means to a living.

Women were simply cattle to be bought and sold in the marriage market, their only worthwhile role being to beget and rear children besides cooking as per the gastronomic tastes of all others.

My father too subscribed to this antediluvian philosophy. In fact, he scored one better. On most weekends, his favourite form of recreation would be staying put in his bedroom, drinking and eating to his heart’s glory. He would have company though: his wife, our mother.

There she would be, closeted inside for hours together, only occasionally coming out, scurrying to and fro from the kitchen to the bedroom, her face, bruised and battered, her walk, getting limper as night descended, the heart wrenching screams breaking through the four walls and bombarding our infantile senses until we fell asleep, dullened by the maniacal sensory violence that was inflicted.

It was only much later that I got a taste of what mother must have gone through.

I was eighteen when one day, just back from college, mother collapsed in front of my eyes.

Two hours later, she died at the hospital.

She was too young to die and I was still too young to have learned to live without her.

My brothers, both a year elder and younger to me, took things in their stride, and life soon returned back to normalcy for all except me.

Being the only woman of the house, I did what was expected of me. I took over the kitchen, the laundry, the cleaning and general upkeep of the house besides ensuring that my studies were on an even keel.

A month into this and my father started abusing me. It started with simple things__ a pat on my behind while turning away from him, a well timed brush against my breasts while passing by to full blown feet massage sessions that invariably led to he placing his arms around me.

Appalled, repulsed and shocked by this wanton display of degenerative behaviour by my own father, I soon began to think of escaping from the hell hole my life had turned into.

Succour came in the form of Ronnie, a boy roughly my age, who I had noticed would stand outside the colony gates every time I passed by, be it while on my way back and forth from college, or when stepping out to buy milk and groceries, all tasks which I had to do and which my brothers or father found it below their dignity to undertake.

I found myself returning his smiles and soon enough we started talking.

Thereafter, we met a couple of times outside college and once when he noticed my swollen eyes and inquired of it, I couldn’t stop myself and blurted out the truth.

I told him that my life had turned into a living hell and that I needed to escape.

He understood my plight and offered to marry.

I grabbed at his offer. There wasn’t much to think anyways. Ronnie was a pleasant young man, a graduate, worked at a garment store, was an orphan (said his parents had died when he was a child).

A week after I ran away with him, taking with me only a small bag that contained besides a week’s dresses, an old black and white photograph of my mother, the only physical connection that was left of her.

The following day we got married in a Arya Samaj Temple; a couple of his close friends being the only attendees.

We moved into a rented accommodation, a small two room upper floor barsati not very far from where I stayed.

My new life had begun. I had moved on from Pooja Matrani to Pooja Sethi.


Ronnie Sethi was his name, my husband’s, the man I fell in love with and married, the man I thought was my saviour and one who would help me come out of the living hell my life had turned into.

He was easy on the eye; broad shoulders rested over a moon shaped face topped with a shock of fashionably cut curly hairs. Plus, the ocean blue eyes, an ever present  delightfully naughty glint in them accentuated with a matching smile was enough to make any girl go week in the knees.

The overall effect for me was magnified ten times over for I looked at him as my Prince Charming who had galloped and rescued his damsel in distress.

Initially, things were great, for the first year at least.

Plain happy to have left behind a hateful existence besides being young and in love, I was brimming with energy and high hopes for a lovely future with the man I loved.

Ronnie had bagged a job at a bag manufacturing company and would leave at sharp ten in the morning and be back by seven.

I would wake up with the sun, wash the overnight dishes, prepare breakfast and pack his lunch and  see him off with a kiss.

The whole day would be spent managing household chores, the evenings waiting in anticipation for his return and sharing beautiful moments together.

I was more of a listener and since Ronnie loved talking, I would sit across from him and listen with riveting attention as he spoke passionately about his job, the work, the world around him.

Things went smoothly for the first year but began to go wrong after that.

At first it were just small things. His hours turned a wee erratic; he would leave an hour or so early, come back a couple of hours later than usual in the evenings.

When I would question him about it he would simply give some lame excuse about added pressure at the office and throw words like workload and targets et al, all things I wasn’t too well aware of.

But then slowly I saw that he was clamming up, wouldn’t reply to me, the earlier long, detailed talks full of unbridled excitement gave way to short, staccato bursts, all questions being answered in unemotional, monosyllables.

In the ensuing months things further worsened as he started coming home pitch drunk, delayed handing over money to buy essential grocery items, and began to become irritable when I started questioning him aboiut his changed behaviours.

Things hit a low point when during one such questioning, Ronnie, his eyes, a bloody red and burning with uncontrollable rage, lunged at me and hit me, a hard, painful whack on my face.

I fell down on the floor and immediately blanked out.

When I regained consciousness, I pulled myself up and examined myself in the mirror. My eyes were a bloody mass, black and swollen. Besides, I had lost a tooth.

That evening Ronnie didn’t come home and even the day after.

Anxious and worried, I walked to his factory, the entire three kilometres on foot. At the factory gates I was met by a couple of his colleagues and it was then that I learnt the truth.

Ronnie, my husband, the one for whom I had left my family and the man who I thought was my saviour was nothing but a swine, a lowly scoundrel who was now living in with another woman, a woman ten years elder to him, a woman who worked at the same factory as he.

I found the ground below me had parted and I was slipping into bottomless dark dungeon.

I felt deeply hurt and betrayed. Soon it gave way to anger that finally manifested in sheer hatred towards Ronnie.

That evening I reached home, packed my clothes, and stepped out, never ever to return.

I was walking away from Ronnie, walking away from marriage, walking away from hell, one more time, in just an year.

I was back on my own, again. Only this time I had no home to go to, no one to hope for.

I had burnt all my bridges. There was no going back in life. The only way was ahead.

The future, however uncertain it seemed, beckoned me.

I stepped forward. I had no option. I was back to being Pooja.


…Twelve years later

“And the award for the ‘Most Outstanding Business Manager of The Year’ goes to Pooja.”

The massive 700-seater plush triple deck auditorium of Coaching Time erupted in thunderous applause.

All eyes zeroed in on the first row, where seated amidst the CEO, Director, and senior management was a spectacled woman attired in a subtle off white business suit that further accentuated her charming personality.

Acknowledging the many handshakes, claps and wildly ecstatic shouts of approval that came her way she elegantly made her way to the stage__confidently, assuredly, happily.

She had buried her past and now there was no looking back. This was her rebirth, her reincarnation, her new life.

A new Pooja had taken centre stage, a Pooja who was strong, financially, emotionally, and mentally.

This was a Pooja who had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat; who now looked at life in the eye, unblinkingly;   whose second name was OPTIMISM.

Pooja, the Optimist was what they called her.

©neelanilpanicker2017 #fiction #shortstory #reena’sexplorationchallengeweekend#18  #1661words



29 December 2017



By Neel Anil Panicker

‘Marriage is like a cycle. Once you hop onto it there’s no stepping down.’

“There you go, Reverend Father Ronnie Screwalla. Still sermonising from the pulpit a good 72 hours after Christmas.”

‘Glad you didn’t find it pompous?’

“Knowing you I simply saved my breath, my dear.”

‘I was just proposing to you, my love.’

“Glad you made that clear. I was about to misconstrue it to be some

kind of a warning, perhaps a premonition, maybe even some sort of a veiled threat.”

‘So, what do you say, my darling?’

“Well, it all depends on who does the pedalling?”

©neelanilpanicker2017 #fiction #fridayfictioneers #100words #shortstory