Call for Short Stories and Poems for MANA HIGHLIGHTS; READ SUBMISSIONS

If you are a writer of poems and short stories, then consider submitting your works to MANA HIGHLIGHTS.

MANA Highlights provides writers of short stories and poems the opportunity to be recognized at no cost, and the opportunity to win a $25 gift card. 

The offer goes as follows:

1. Submit a short story or poem on the topic of your choice (please, no erotica).

2. Number of words for this short story: A minimum of 150 words to a maximum of 500 words. The number of words for the poem: A minimum of 10 words to 250 words.

3. The MANA Review Board will determine the best short story and poem for the month of June. 

4. The best short story will win a $25 gift card. The best poem will win a $25 gift card.

5. The selected works will be posted on MANA’s blog, The MANA Sunriser for three months, depending on the number of submitted works. 

Writers will maintain full copyright.

All short stories and poems for MANA HIGHLIGHTS should be submitted in Microsoft Word (.doc/.docx) format. The deadline to submit your work is June 30.

Send your files via email to:

For more details, visit the MANA HIGHLIGHTS page on 

Check out the short stories and the poem that have been submitted, so far, for the month of JUNE to MANA HIGHLIGHTS:




How did you find the energy,

Mom, to do all the things you did, 

To be a teacher, nurse, and counselor to me when I was a kid?

How did you do it all, Mom,

To be a cook and a friend,

Yet find time to be a playmate?

I just can’t comprehend.

I see now it was love 

That made you come whenever I called.

Your inexhaustible love, Mom,

And I thank you for it all.




It was a totally worse, devastating day for him. 

It was the day his end-semester results came. The dilly-dally moments he spent with his friends flashed through his heart. He used to be a diligent guy until this semester. Now, he joined the elite group of arrear guys. 

All of his ephemeral friends managed to clear this semester. They all had the same lazy, dilettantish attitude even now. They didn’t even care to ask about his results.

He scolded himself for prioritizing his time for these perfidious friends over his parents, his true friends. His parents didn’t scold him. They supported him. Tried to motivate him, and embrace him. They believed in him. He used to be a dumb kid in school days. It was the unceasing motivation and caring of his parents that got him into a premier college.

Now he started to introspect. He started asking himself, "What can I do to get rid of this heartache?"

He remembered Rumi’s wise lines: “It’s your Road. Everyone can walk with you. But, no one can walk for you.”

He said to himself “Firstly, I need to change my friend circle. Even my parents can only support me. The change needs to begin with myself. It’s my Road. And I’m going to lay it slowly but beautifully.”




I had recently been hired into a software company in Bangalore, miles away from home. Not long ago, I had received a wedding invitation from a relative. I had never met them as they were not very close (my uncle’s wife’s sister’s son to be exact), still, I decided to go there. 

This was one of those wedding parties in which you are so distantly related that you don’t even know the bride’s and groom’s names, and you check the invitation card for those. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to do that. 

To make things worse, the board in front of the party hall (which usually said the bride’s and groom’s names) said, “Sharma family welcomes you” instead. "Great, now I am at someone’s wedding whose name is not even known to me,” I said to myself.

It was just like any other Indian wedding party. Kids running around and dropping food; the couple exhausted by the countless photographs they had to take with their countless relatives; teenagers being annoyed by people with questions like “Doctor or engineer?”  Nevertheless, this wedding was different. I finally managed to get a seat. And luckily, a beautiful girl was sitting right next to me.

It was just like any other Indian wedding party. Kids running around and dropping food; the couple exhausted by the countless photographs they had to take with their countless relatives; teenagers being annoyed by people with questions like “Doctor or engineer?”  Nevertheless, this wedding was different. I finally managed to get a seat. And luckily, a beautiful girl was sitting right next to me.

“Hey, I’m Ajay” I said nervously to her, the only girl of my age there. “Hello, I’m Neha” she said politely. Damn, I was surprised she didn’t give me that ‘go-away-you-desperate-nerd’ look. 

“Do you know Samir?” she asked. 

I thought “Who is Samir? Probably the groom.” Instead of explaining to her the complex relation between me and the groom, I told her “Yes, Samir is my friend.”

“Oh, so are you also a civil engineer?” she asked enthusiastically. 

“Yeah, we work together,” I said trying to cover up my lie. 

What followed was the longest and the most-amazing conversation I had ever had with a girl, and I liked everything about her. She occasionally brought up Samir’s name though, and I had to lie my way out or change the topic. 

After some time, I asked “Would you like some ice cream” and she happily accepted it.

I returned with two ice cream cups, and saw Neha putting her phone back in her pocket. She said,"I have to go now. Samir’s flight must be reaching soon.”

Confused, I looked at the stage, and saw the groom who was still sitting there. I vaguely said “Samir?” 

“Samir, my husband, you know him, right? He is returning from Mumbai today” she said doubtfully. 

“Yes, I just..uhm…good bye then,” I said, too bewildered to say anything else. 

“Good bye,” she said and left, having no idea how my heart felt like that damn tissue paper which had fallen from the table and stepped over by more than a dozen people. 

I thought two things right then: (1) Always check the invitation card for names. (2) Screw everything, I have two ice creams now.




As I took the call, my father’s deep baritone voice hit my ears with the same controlling effect it has had for years: “You must have something to fall back upon. What are you going to do if things get wrong?”

Ever since I was a child, I had seen him be like this. He has always tried to use pain as a leverage to push me into doing something good in my life, and that has been his modus operandi.

There are two ways you can motivate someone. You can either use pain or you can use pleasure. With the kind of life he had lived, the experiences that he had had in his life, he thought pain would work better.

If I have a safety net, am I truly going to be able to jump across the abyss onto the other side knowing that if I fall, I’ll be safe? I don’t need that safety net. In fact, that safety net is going to be a disadvantage. I wanted to have so much fear of whatever it is. So much passion, so much aggression, so much frustration; just that drive to be able to make it to the other side because if I don’t, I die. 

There is no second chance. I have to do it, one way or the other. I don’t want a safety net. In fact, if you’ll give me a safety net, I will tear it bloody apart. I want to know if I have it in me. I want to know if I will be able to fly. I will not be able to fly if you are going to weaken me with a safety net.

“Son, you there?” his voice punctuated my chain of thoughts.

“Yes Dad, I am here.”

“What have you decided then?”

“Okay Dad, I will take the job.”

What my father never realized and probably never will is that having a backup option every time was a disadvantage in itself. How was I supposed to give it my all, knowing that even if things did not work out, I would still have something else to fall back upon?

The adrenaline rush that usually makes any endeavor worth the effort is not something I could explain to him. But I knew that it was something mandatory for me to feel satisfied.




It is said that one day the Buddha was walking through a village. A very angry and rude young man came up and began insulting him. 

“You have no right teaching others,” he shouted. “You are as stupid as everyone else. You are nothing but a fake!”

The Buddha was not upset by these insults. Instead he asked the young man, “Tell me, if you buy a gift for someone and that person does not take it, to whom does the gift belong?”

The young man was surprised to be asked such a strange question and answered, “It would belong to me, because I bought the gift.”

The Buddha smiled and said, “That is correct. And it is exactly the same with your anger. If you become angry with me and I do not get insulted, then the anger falls back on you. You are then the only one who becomes unhappy, not me. All you have done is hurt yourself.”




As he walked down that brightly lit corridor of the mall, his thoughts ventured a few years back in time. In what was a terrible time to face then now fitted perfectly into the bigger picture. The answers he had spent years chasing stood right there in front of his eyes. That beautiful woman and the bespectacled little girl trying on outfits at a store a few yards away from him. 

His own little home in the big empty world. He looked, and silently smiled in gratitude.

"Hey, mister!" The voice broke his trance. 

As he turned around, already apologetic for probably a mistaken step, he saw her. Unrecognizable at first but the familiarity about those eyes was unsettling. It wasn't more than a couple seconds that the name flashed in his head. It was her.

"Uh Hi, how have you been?" he blurted with difficulty and a pale face.


"Very well, you tell me." The smile was back. "It's been long," she continued. 

The face he saw now was quite different from what he had known all these years. The "then" straight hair had now been done up in a casual bun with a tiny speck of vermillion at the top center of the forehead. A pair of spectacles were a new addition reaffirming the workaholic that she was. The red and beige bangles on her arms spoke of a recent marriage. She had lost weight, he noticed. 

Clad in a black Patiala suit with a hint of makeup, it was in sharp contrast against the shirts and jeans he remembered her in. He silently looked at her face, her lips moving as she spoke. Yes, she looked elegant. She turned her face away to avoid "that" look. He knew. But what he noted most prominently, no span of years could take away from her, the twinkle in her eyes. The famous twinkle. 

"Long indeed," he replied almost nervously. "So when did this happen?" He continued to ask. 

"Ohh well, I met Akshay about four years ago, we married about a year back."

"That's nice to know, I wish you the best in life." 

"Same here."

"So are you here with him?"

"Oh no! Just me, regular shopping."

They never had many words to exchange. A comforting yet awkward silence started to take over. It was broken by the sound of the little girl calling out to him, "Daddy!!" She ran to him, opening her arms as she neared. He held open his arms and lifted her into his arms!! 

"Hi baby," his face lit up like never before. 

Realizing the presence of the woman in front of him, he introduced the little girl to the lady. "This is Nishtha. Nishtha, say hello to aunty!"

The lady chuckled with a moist eye. "Hi Nishtha, nice to meet you" she smiled adoringly.

The little girl grinned in reply.

"I should probably get going. It felt nice meeting you. Take care."

"Yeah, you take care, too."

"The idiot had still managed to keep me close to himself," she thought to herself as she walked away from him.




There was a man who made a living selling balloons at a fair. He had all colors of balloons, including red, yellow, blue, and green. 

Whenever business was slow, he would release a helium-filled balloon into the air and when the children saw it go up, they all wanted to buy one. They would come up to him, buy a balloon, and his sales would go up again. He continued this process all day. 

One day, he felt someone tugging at his jacket. He turned around and saw a little boy who asked, "If you release a black balloon, would that also fly?" 

Moved by the boy's concern, the man replied with empathy, "Son, it is not the color of the balloon, it is what is inside that makes it go up."

The same thing applies to our lives. It is what is inside that counts.

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