Monday 29 September 2014

I think I can

Thought for the day-

I think I can be anyone. I can be Newton, I can be Einstein, I can be Gandhi. But all the ways I imagine to be, they give my imagination a finite roof, a limit. So, I choose to be no one but myself. Who am I? Now, you cannot answer that. That is something only I hold the answer to, and that gives me infinite chances. 

Friday 26 September 2014

Episode 18- Not so smart

Me and my team Inspirati are participating in the Game of Blogs contest by blogadda and we're writing a serial story. We're right now in Round 2 of the contest and this is the last post from our side for round 2. I'd like to thank all my lovely teammates for just being there. I've made some great friends during this contest and I am thankful to Blogadda for that. Thanks guys! 

Aryan looked in disbelief at those two plane tickets. 'So, Tawde wants to take Roohi with him? This whole kidnapping, the human trafficking racket operation, it all was a big lie then?' But it all didn't add up. Tawde was an honest cop. Sure, he had taken bribes and 'compromised' with the system but that was just to fit in. Aryan could not fathom the possibility of Prakash being a criminal with intentions of selling a little girl. 'Is Tawde in trouble? Is someone making him do it?' Aryan stood still holding the tickets; he stood there in a trance-like state as a gush of breeze made the curtains in the room flutter and only snapped out of it with the sudden sound of a lamp smashing on the floor.

He put the tickets down on the mattress and reached for his gun sensing a tense encounter. He then swiftly turned around only to find a cat making its way to the kitchen. Wiping the sweat drops off his forehead, he shooed the cat out the kitchen window and bolted all the doors again. His heartbeat was up. He then looked at the gun that he had taken out just at the thought of Tawde entering the premises. The realization that his subconscious no longer trusted his old mate- Tawde dawned on him and his heart began to beat with emotions that he himself didn't quite understand. 

He then pictured a helpless Roohi on her way to Dubai with a man unknown to her, namely- Prakash Tawde. The faces of her helpless parents flashed in front of his eyes. Tara's screaming, Shekhar's blank, sorry eyes haunted Aryan. Why did he agree to this mission? He knew there was a risk of losing Roohi in the mission as it was but, he counted on Tawde's wily intellect to plan for any emergency. He could have said 'yes' to anything that Tawde proposed. He was comfortable letting Tawde steer the mission and had comfortably settled with the role of the second fiddle. Now that he had proof in his hands that Tawde himself might be a compromised party in his team, the uneasy feeling of the onus of finding and rescuing Roohi falling on him slowly pinched and pulled Aryan out of his thought process.

He carefully put the tickets back in the folder and put it under the mattress. The worst of his fears had come true. He wiped the sweat off his brows and adjusted his collar. It was time to do something and that too, soon.


'Kamla aunty, can I sleep here?' Roohi said pointing to the floor. Kamla, a woman with a heart that had hardened for the small sorrows of life, smiled and asked in Hindi 'Why beta? This is just a rug. You are a princess, you get to sleep on fluffy pillows and a bed of your own.' The sarcasm in Kamla's words was lost on the little girl who sought nothing more than some peaceful sleep. Roohi replied in a monotonous voice with a lowered gaze, 'They are squabbling again and the voices are low right now but I know they are about to scream at each other. I think this is one of those days where the fight ends with Mom shouting and crying and Dad leaving the room angrily, slamming the door on his way out. The door makes a really scary sound on being slammed. I really don't like that sound aunty.' Roohi raised her gaze as she finished that difficult revelation and found Kamla looking at her with pity in her eyes. She continued, 'I would have hidden under my bed but it really messes up his fur', she said pointing at her teddy bear. Kamla smiled. The innocence was amusing and it tugged at places in her heart she didn't know existed but there is one organ which is more important than the heart. Organ that guides the brain to do things it doesn't want to do, organ that helps one override every emotion other than the one that arises from it. The name of that selfish organ is 'stomach' and that mean emotion is 'hunger'. 

Kamla had seen hunger, it had terrorized her, it had lurked in her kitchen, her chawl and as all doors closed around her, it had climbed inside her bones and enslaved her. She knew that this girl was her salvation, her ticket to a relatively convenient life. Heck, she could finally forget her growing up years. She was sold too. She fought her way, earning the trust of the very teeth that picked her apart. What makes this kid so special that she shouldn't go through all that roughening?

Roohi's parents sleep in different rooms and let Roohi fight her own monsters. Kamla's parents had no different rooms to sleep, they had only one room. It wasn't as if they never fought but they had their reasons to bicker. Real reasons, unlike these rich peoples' reasons. Reasons that involved hunger and helplessness. They even slapped each other, Kamla often tried to stop them and go slapped too, but after the fights, they had no where else to go so, they would sleep on the same mat with Kamla and her three sisters by their side. They slept like a unit, connected to each other and it was so hard to tell where the somewhat softer mat ended and the rough, hard floor began. Even the slaps, the cries, the pain was put to sleep in the night. After everyone was asleep, Baba would ask little Kamla in a hushed tone if the slap really hurt and when she nodded, he would laugh and say that it was really not smart of her to come in the middle of the fight. She would nod and smile; and then they all would fall asleep. It was not a perfect world but it was a happy family and Kamla didn't deserve the pain of the separation that had followed after the monsoons forgot to show up in their village. Father committed suicide and mother fell sick. Next, stomach took over heart and then the rest of the memories went blurry. The rest of her life can be summed up as the feeling one gets just seconds after a slap. Just a blank resonance. Who brought her to Mumbai? How did she forge the connections with people who sell girls? Her heart wasn't there to answer those questions. The stomach had filled in for the spot and it was hard to argue with its eloquent replies.

So, when Roohi came scared to Kamla, Kamla had promised her a land full of dreams. To describe that land to Roohi, Kamla perhaps didn't really use a lot of creativity. She might have just dug deep in her heart and described the place little Kamla wanted to go to. A place where no parents fight, no teddies get their fur dirty hiding under the bed from all the noise; and where every little girl is treated like a princess. She lured Roohi that dream world and swiftly put a tape on her mouth and whisked her away. It was Kamla's way of declaring to Roohi that the place was not real. The real life is what follows after you've hit the bottom. She knew Roohi was helpless and in her heart, as a toughened survivor, she wanted to bestow her life wisdom onto Roohi. When she tore down Roohi's dream world, she felt somewhere in her heart that it was only for her betterment.

The speeding car hit a speed-breaker and Kamla woke up from the memories. A frail Roohi lay in her lap, her neck flailing from the jitters of the journey. The earlier plan included the usual - taking the girl and supplying her to a bunch of people much like a grocery item. The new plan had made her weak. This close approximation with the victim of her actions, all those childhood memories rushing back were new to Kamla. She tried to support Roohi's neck and looked at the gentlemen sitting in the car. They said they were headed to Delhi but they got frequent phone calls and they always kept discussing among themselves. The unfamiliarity, the hushed tones, the whispers and the sneaky eye contacts among them had made Kamla further uncomfortable. She wished she could ensure where they were going, she wished she could read the signs on the road. She wished she knew how to read. 

She sat motionless looking at Roohi for a while and then resolved something in her mind. Clearing her throat, she called out to the guy driving the car, 'Bhaiya, please stop at the the next dhaba or petrol station, I need to use the washroom.'   Her head was spinning with a sudden rush. She was going to do something which was not very smart... after a very long time. 


“Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at #CelebrateBlogging with us.”

Thursday 25 September 2014

Book Review- God is a Gamer- Ravi Subramanian

ISBN- 978-0-143-42139-9
Title- God is a Gamer: Is revenge a crime?
Author- Ravi Subramanian
Publisher- Penguin Books, India
Genre- Thriller
Pages- 310
Price- Rs 299
E-Book Available

Ravi Subramanian is now a well-known name in Indian fiction and he seems to have taken his job as a thriller writer more seriously than ever before with his book "God is a Gamer" that I have just finished on request. Yes, it is an autographed copy and it is an honour to having been invited to review it.

About the cover-
A silhouette of a man standing in front of the White House adorns the cover of the page. The tagline "Is revenge a crime?" raises questions which cannot be answered by just flipping through the initial pages of the novel which is the sign of a good thriller. The introduction at the back also reveals almost nothing about the plot and if anything, it only adds to the mystery. The fonts could have been less generic though.

About the plot and characters-
The book opens in a fragmented manner with different chapters opening in different settings and the tying up of all those fragments is what constitutes most of the novel. The concept of bitcoins and the details of various other news-y stuff like wikileaks and VPNs are educative and make the novel more contemporary. It cannot be said that the novel is in the unputdownable category as it is not your proper thriller per se. It has murders and intrigue but there are so many things happening in it that you might need to put it down, get some sleep and catch up with all the happenings after a break maybe.

The main characters of the novel are Aditya, Swami, Sundeep, Adrian, Varun, Tanya with a longer list of side characters like Swami, Malvika, Stan, Mike, Gilian, Gloria, Josh aka Rudra etc. My point is that there are one too many characters so, it is virtually too difficult to predict the ending and to point out who is the quintessential "bad guy". The long cast might be the weak point of the novel but it more than makes up for it in the end.

About the book
Penguin has done a good job with the editing overall. There were no printing errors and the pages along with the cover are of good quality. The writing is tight and the words are not forced. The language is pretty fluid as the novel switches back and forth from America to India. It seems to be written with a furious pace and then edited and compiled sensibly as there are many things that are at first left hanging in mid air and then settled before the end. The best part of this novel is getting to the later pages. The initial buildup and suspense might get tedious but it all becomes worthwhile once the clarification session begins. Do not try to read the last pages first like a greedy reader as that's where all the fun is concentrated.

Just to add as a footnote, the novel could have been further edited to streamline the plot at certain places but I think the author must have meant to create the chaos and only the patient readers would get through past 270 pages to find the real treat.

I'd give the book 3.5 stars out of 5.

Check out the author's Facebook, Twitter and Website.

Monday 22 September 2014

#Inspirati presents Episode 11- Jigsaw pieces

Team- Inspirati

**Episode 11**
 Jigsaw Pieces

Previous Episode- Tables turned                                                                      Next episode 

It is an overused cliche that before you slip into the claws of death, the thoughts that grip your mind besides absolute fear are of the things that matter to you the most. Before Cyrus slipped into the coma where his consciousness projected on man-made devices neared zero and the resounding thud of a soundless fall hit his brain, his mind flashed a montage of all the memories that had constituted his seemingly soon to be concluded stay on God's green Earth. It was funny how the image of Jenny, his sweet Jen lingered and not even an ounce of jealousy or pain surrounded that image. The very first day when he had literally gone out of his way to give a guided tour of the serene Andaman and Nicobar islands to Jen, feigning to be a tourist guide Pappachan. She still called him that sometimes and it warmed his heart. After the tour, she had signed up for a guided tour to Cyrus's heart and it had led her to some beautiful memories; memories so grand that they're incapable of being captured in any photo album. Cyrus's mind as it slipped away, flipped through those very memories. When the mind is on limited time, it avoids things that don't really matter and helps us sort ourselves in the clutter of memories. There was no clutter, there was just Jen, and a few more things...


The opposite of this disenchanted, fearless near-death feeling- which Cyrus had felt before slipping into the vacuum of coma is the feeling of fear of letting go, the fear that comes from being too involved for too long. Was it this fear that had fogged Tawde's judgments? He had a mind which could handle multiple complicated cases at a time doling out instructions to constables while handling aggrieved victims and wily attorneys at the same time and that too in the dirty underbelly of the city called Mumbai where there was no time to sleep for the burglar or the police. With such an alert mind, it was queer to such disheveled appearance both mentally and physically. Ever since the first day he had taken up this case, he was in charge. There was never a moment when his stoicism took a backseat or his thickly set jaw and firmly resolved eyes showed anything but commitment to get to the bottom of this case. But today, after one drink too many, it was a different Tawde.

It was the first time Jen actually cared to read his first name. Inspector Prakash Tawde his nameplate read. The nameplate sat crooked on the top of Tawde's khaki pocket. Everything seemed crooked to Jenny. The first time she had come to meet  Tawde in her capacity as a professional with Vijay, she was impressed with the lecture about social responsibility and loss of human values that he gave with a hint of compassion in his eyes. Now that those eyes seemed to blink too much and shifted their gaze repeatedly to avoid eye-contact, all those big words seemed like a facade. Jennifer was ready to accept the things she had read in the email Cyrus had sent, the secret blog, the revelations. She was unsure she knew Cyrus all this while. "So much for long distance relationships" she thought to herself and a wry smile came to her lips. There was some mist in the corner of her eye but she fought it back.

She even shuddered to think of the time when she had seen Roohi for the first time on the beach and the first thought that had come to her mind was to call and inform Tawde. Cyrus had even tried to warn her not to call him and they even had a fight when she pushed for it fiercely. She had mentioned how Vijay would have understood her, oh! How helpless poor Cyrus must have felt! The pieces were falling together. But wasn't it Cyrus who ended up calling Tawde later? Was he himself sure of what he had unveiled? Or was it because he sensed that things were getting out of control and Tawde would never let anything happen to Roohi?

Our Story

As Shekhar literally dragged Tara out of Aryan Ahuja's house, Tara's anger found a new target in Shekhar. "Shekhar Dutta you coward!" she shouted, "You knew that guy has something to do with our daughter's kidnapping and you are still trying to be a respected individual in the neighbourhood, apologizing to him and dragging me away! Are you even a man!?" she ranted on. Shekhar had half-expected this reaction and partly, his ears had grown accustomed to the insinuations regarding his manhood. He hugged Tara tightly and let her calm down; he was trying just like the way he had tried in the initial days of these daily scuffles. It was only after some roughening up that both of them had stopped fighting the current and started flowing in it instead. Now that Roohi was gone, the current got stronger and so did their efforts.

"Inspector Tawde had just mumbled in incoherent gibberish that Aryan Ahuja knew about Roohi. He even sounded drunk. How do you think shouting at Ahuja is going to solve anything?" Shekhar calmly spoke while caressing Tara's soft hair, hair which usually were tied up with not a single strand astray, hair that were the complete opposite today- messy, open and disheveled. He stroked her cheeks and Tara's anger melted away in tears. Tears that had reddened her nose, her cheeks, tears that had meant tiredness, frustration and maybe submission. She nodded unknowingly as they stood in an embrace.


As Jennifer absorbed the shock of the news of Cyrus's condition, Tawde had some time to himself to come back to his senses. He was a well built man and although he allowed himself momentary lapse of judgments, he made sure that he cleaned up real good after creating the mess and that was how he had survived in his job where there was nothing but mess. He gathered himself and stood up grasping the table that adorned the side of his bed. He had a sofa in his bedroom which gave it a very isolated hotel room kind of look. He was used to having all his things in one place. It did seem as if he had collected remnants of his past in one dark room as the rest of his two bedroom home was nearly devoid of any major furniture. His place reeked of a tragic life and a broken or estranged family. The alcohol and the mess were just small confirmations of that tragedy.

He could deduce that Jennifer had come to know something. What and how much was anyone's guess and that's why Tawde decided to play it safe.

"So, you think you know everything?" Tawde asked regaining his composure.

"Well, I know that Roohi and Cyrus are in this condition because of you." she said with quivering lips. The word "coma" still echoing in her mind.

"That is totally uncalled for, and you are doubting an honest police officer. I know everyone has reasons for thinking a certain way and doing certain things. May I know what is yours?"- Tawde went on, apparently now seeming in charge of the situation.

"Uhh... how can I trust you with my source when it says that you are hand in glove with the criminals?" - Jennifer muttered immediately realizing that she was talking to a policeman.

Prakash Tawde was now completely out of the effects of all the alcohol he had consumed and the flashes of all his gross mistakes came to his mind one by one. It was a dimly lit room but the sweat drops on his forehead had started their journey down his temples. He remembered the phone call to Shekhar. Did he tell the Duttas about Aryan? Ah good grief! It was just a small argument with Aryan, how could he be so foolish? Jennifer was too moved to notice this sudden surge of fear in Tawde's eyes.

"Please Tawde, I am tired of this! And Cyrus is in coma, just cut it out and let Roohi come back to her parents." she changed her tone as Tawde seemed to be radiating different vibes.

"Hey! I am sure there has been some misunderstanding, let me handle this. It is okay if you do not trust me but I am committed to this case and I assure you I am just a police officer doing his duty."- Tawde softened.

"Alright but if what I have come to know is true, you'll not be spared Prakash"- Jennifer called him by his first name for the first time in this conversation immediately realizing that she had done so.

Calling someone by his first name has an effect of enhancing or lowering your respect to an individual based on your tone. In Prakash Tawde's case, it was weirdly both. He smiled and offered to usher her out of his house. He needed time to think. There was too much mess to clean up at hand now. For starters, he had been ignoring the vibrating phone in his pocket and he knew it was an important call.

Aryan Ahuja calmly picked up the knife that had fallen on the floor after the drama had concluded. There was a wry smile on this middle aged man's face. He had a natural calm disposition of a monk but the whirlwind of contradictions in his mind was building up silently. The calmness of his face defied the reality, the tension in his house which was rigid enough to be cut with a knife. He went to the bathroom to take a shower and regain his calm, half expecting Tara Dutta to again break into his house and try to jab a knife in his chest. Did he actually deserve it- he wondered as he went on wash his face with warm water. He reflected on some of the old memories of Roohi and he did not know whether to smile or feel sorry.

"Why do Mom and Dad fight so much, Uncle? Is it my fault?" she would ask and Aryan would just look at her with pitiful eyes. "Of course not, beta. Don't worry..." is all that he could say. He was half-tempted to take Roohi away from Tara and Shekhar that very moment. He would just pat her head and continue helping her with her maths homework. For Roohi, he was a neighbourhood uncle with all the answers. The trail of thoughts ended as he turned off the shower. The answers had stopped coming to him as the mirror in the bathroom fogged up from all the steam from the hot shower. He was not the uncle with all the answers anymore.


To be continued..

Read the next episode here

“Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at #CelebrateBlogging with us.”

Thursday 18 September 2014

How to eat a rotten banana- An unhelpful guide

Baggout Contest- Planning a celebrity wedding

Baggout Blog Contest
So, I was invited by Baggout to write this post where I could plan my favourite celeb's wedding and I think I'll choose Thalaivar again for my hypothetical planning as I find him absolutely adorable. Check my previous post for Baggout here.

So as Rajni saar was getting married and he wanted someone to plan it for him as he was too busy keeping the Earth spinning, the rivers flowing, the wind blowing and the birds flying. He handed the task to me and trusted me to do it dutifully. Well, that is not entirely true, he told all the birds and animals to keep an eye on me and report to him in case I am found slacking or being careless. This clever move by thalaivar has kept me vigilant and dutiful as I am now scared of every dog in the colony which stares at me and every pigeon that lands on my terrace. In the pigeons' cooing, the dogs' barking, the cats' meowing, the crows' cawing all I can here is- "We're watching you! Are you doing your job well? We're watching youuu! Watchinngg youuuu!!"

This has given me several sleepless nights and finally I have found a solution to this shopping dilemma that had befallen me. A solution for all my worries, a place where I can shop with coupons and cashbacks, to the maximum of my efficiency with minimum worry as the site's amazing schemes blow my mind away.

Rajni sir cannot blame me of being too careless with the money as the site offers a wide range of discounts and offers- the site is Click here to check it out-

I set out to shop for a good sherwani first and for that I had to first check with Jabong coupons- click here which had coupons worth 1500 and upto 6% cashback. I chose a sherwani with shape-shifting features as sir, we all know can transform himself into any shape according to the demand of the scene and situation. He can even be superman so, I bought a cape with the sherwani just in case, you know.

Then I shopped for a good headgear from Baggout's range of coupons from Myntra- click here where they are offering 10.5% cashback. The cashback received by thalaiva is distributed among all the national and private banks of the world and the remaining amount is donated to charity as we all know. We chose for a Rajasthani pagdi to make thalaiva look even more royal than he already is.

We did want the groom to look modern and carry some modern gadgets with him in order to remain connected with his fans and worshipers. We went to the flipkart page click here to shop for tablets and mobiles of sir's choice. Now he can offer e-Ashirwad to his devotees during the wedding also.

And as it was Rajni sa's wedding, some advance planning is needed because as we all know, sa can look into the future and foresee any forthcoming events. We planned his honeymoon from the voucher available via on - click here and booked tickets for Switzerland on thalaiva's own airlines that he'll be gifting himself as a wedding present.

After that, the baby and the rest of sir's family life is also foreseen and planned by Rajni sir. He gave me clear instruction that he wanted the baby products from the Babyoye page of baggout click here which offered upto Rs 188 of cashback.

All this shopping and planning was done within an hour as the task was made easier and cheaper by Baggout. I went with the bill to Rajni sir and sir patted heavily on my back for such efficient job due to which I traveled around the globe and came back just in time to submit this post.


Book Review- Ri - Homeland of Uncertainty- Paulami DuttaGupta

ISBN- 978-81-928937
Title-  Ri - Homeland of Uncertainty
Author- Paulami DuttaGupta
Publisher- Fablery (Fablery's Ri, isn't that musical?)
Cover design- Sunill Kaushik (Yes, Sunil with two L's)
Price- Rs 150
Pages- 127

I was contacted by the author to review her book which is based on the National Award winning movie by the name of Ri. It won the Rajat Kamal award and was in Khasi language.

About the author-
The author has written the screenplay for the movie Ri and is an author and journalist. She started her career with All India Radio and has had formal education in English. She has worked with Times of India and has contributed to novels and anthologies along the course of her career.

About the cover-
The cover paints an eerie picture of the violence-ravaged North-east of India. It is themed in black with sad faces marking the conflict through their expressions. It has tempted me to watch the movie and actually gain a view of what the landscape looked like. It turns out that the cover has been taken from the movie poster itself and the faces of the artists playing characters of the movie adorn the book cover.

About the book-
The book is fairly short and can be finished in one or two sittings. It is thrilling and the violence is shown with a humane side to it so that Indians who are not really aware of what a local goes through in the areas struck with terror can read a close account of the situation. The language is lucid and there is no ambiguity in the plot. There is no desperate attempt to build up a suspense or any inappropriate attempt to justify war or crime. The pages are nice and the book is error free. Congratulations to the publishers for that.

About the plot-
The characters of Emika and Manbha stand out as the two main characters of the plot. The terrorists are shown to be working on Meghalaya's independence and seemingly intelligent conversations in the form of debates constitute the later part of the novella which is the backbone of the whole story. The characters although introduced only in passing, evoke sympathy. The police officer named Kyndiah is the protagonist waging lone war against the terrorists. His character is also defined nicely. The encounters have not really been elaborated and there has not been any attempt to stretch out any particular sequences which makes the book realistic and believable.

It is an earnest attempt and such books deserve to make headway in the mainstream market so that empathy and brotherhood among our countrymen can prevail.

I will give the book 3 stars out of 5.

Saturday 13 September 2014

#Inspirati presents- Longing Hearts (Episode 2)

Previous Episode                                                                                                         Next Episode

Team- Inspirati

**Episode 2**

Our Story

Tara opened her eyes in the drawing room of her two bedroom apartment in posh suburbs of South Mumbai. The first thought that struck her was of her daughter. Oh, how she wished that all this was just a bad dream and her doll would just come running and cajole her into tying her hair in the adorable twin ponytail pleading that she was getting late for school. As the mortifying fear of her daughter's disappearance gripped her, she wished that this was just one of those days when she accidentally fell asleep on the couch working on her laptop and had an awful dream. The cuckoo clock struck 8 and sent numbing sensations to all the happy memories that her mind was trying to conjure up in order to fight the impending ordeal of her daughter's disappearance.

She sprang up from the sofa in hopes to get through the chiasma of impending doom and supposed nightmare- as the wait itself was gripping her by the throat and eating away on her heart. Her prayers went unanswered as her husband Shekhar Dutta's tense countenance ushered her into the waking world. Before Tara could speak anything, she could read in Shekhar's eyes all the pain, all the worry that riddled her heart too. It was as if both of them were looking into a mirror and the gush of exact same emotions had brought both of their thoughts to a perpetual halt; with choked throats, they shared a glance. Tara, the less aware of the scenario of the two, having been unconscious for a good ten minutes, dropped the heaviest question in the room- "Where is Roohi?" Any other day, a terse question with such an obvious reply would have returned a snide remark from Shekhar but, today was different. It was worse than the days when they would snap at each other at every little thing which was so hard to imagine for the Duttas who had almost resigned to fate and had readied themselves for a divorce and had assumed that the worst had already befallen them.

Their guilt of Roohi's suffering due to their personal rifts was already gnawing away at the very fabric of their being. Both Shekhar and Tara, having been cut-off from their families, knew very well, the pain of an offspring who feels unwanted. Tara wasn't Tara Dutta always. She used to be Tara Malhotra, the confident Punjabi girl of Shekhar Dutta's dreams, the girl who brought Shekhar, the college favourite, on his knees right in the middle of the campus. Shekhar too, was not this bald, lean guy with a French beard and a smile that denoted more resignation to fate than delight; he was Shekhar- the poet. His couplets in Urdu were returned by sighs from women; when his fingers strummed the guitar, the whole campus used to drop everything they were doing and gather to listen.

All these now seem more like flashes from the past life instead of things of past; Shekhar's guitar is long gone and so is Tara's smile. Well, the smile makes cameos in the little innocent questions of Roohi who was still unclear about the word 'divorce'. In Roohi's little mind, she had defined "divorce" as some awful thing which will solve her parents' problems but will make a scary monster named "Divos" come live with them. Roohi never asked anyone about "Divos" because she knew saying his name was bad luck. She was worried as to where would they make the monster sleep? She already had enough monsters under her bed and knew that "Divos" would just make other monsters more ruthless. "No, they should not get 'Divos'!"-- she used to think in her mind and resolve firmly to stop them. At a subconscious level, she knew that the word meant something else but was afraid to ask as she was sure the new meaning would be even more horrible.

"Where is Roohi?!!" Tara's question still loomed in the room, now having ballooned to gigantic proportions after being repeated for more than three times. Shekhar, regaining his composure, trying to think of the answer to that question as if his life depended on it, could only say, "She is missing. I have looked everywhere." with an apparent fear that was unchained through his own words. That fear was now gushing in his veins, popping through his eyes and was visible in his quivering voice. Tara stood up and picked up her phone. There was something in the way she took charge that Shekhar's manhood felt belittled again. This time he let her make the calls and sat back on the sofa; he had practiced the art of playing the second fiddle so perfectly thus far that it seemed natural to him. To be true to his own self, he wanted to call the police but on some level, he wanted Tara to come to her senses and take the decision herself. He was unsure whether it was the right thing to do for some reason.

Tara looked at the frail, unsure Shekhar whose simpering made her want to rip him apart but, she understood his dilemma too and reassured herself that this time was not to feel angry but be supportive of each other. As the phone rang in the police station, she wondered whether this was the same Shekhar she had met in college.

It was her first day in college and as Tara Malhotra made her way in the campus, her eyes met with a charming stranger with a guitar. He had the charm of drug-addict, bad-boy rockstar. His curly hair, unkempt beard and mysterious smile made it impossible for Tara to shift her gaze in any other direction but the one in which he was headed. She had dreamed for a rebel. A bad boy who is just sufficiently bad that can be fixed; a guy with whom she can share her ambitions without getting judged. She looked at him and saw her conduit to salvation. She had rebelled against her parents to marry him. The same guy sat sipping water, simpering like a mouse on the sofa as she called the police and asked to register her complaint. She felt her temples turning crimson red with frustration but she focused on the task at hand.

As Shekhar sat back on the sofa, he breathed deeply for the first time since the shriek he had heard in the garden. He had run out to see his wife fainted. A sixth sense or maybe the fact that Tara is not one of those faint at heart made him suddenly conclude that something was wrong with Roohi. He had run out of the apartment building premises for almost a half a mile in search of Roohi. He had sent the guard on the lookout too. Neighbours who had rarely seen this measly recluse come out of his flat were just amused at the sight of him shouting. A friendly neighbourhood lady finally joined in the search and also helped Shekhar in taking Tara inside the apartment. It had been so long that Shekhar had held Tara that he had forgotten how to hold her. With a worried, weak heart, as he laid his gaze on Tara's motionless limbs, he held her fingers and felt the vulnerability returning in them after all these years.

Tara Malhotra had a strong confident personality but it was powerless in front of the poet's charm. Her vulnerability was one thing that had attracted Shekhar. She'd make him feel in charge and he felt recognized and appreciated. As her admirer, Tara had told him that he should pursue his dream of being an author and Shekhar saw the look in her eyes which meant that she wanted to be his pillar. A pillar that he had sought all his life. Ever since the first slap he had gotten from his father for choosing to study Arts over Science, he had been on the lookout for another pillar. In Tara's big beautiful eyes, sharp, shapely nose, delicate, rosy fingers- Shekhar felt validated again. He wanted to be an author again.

But as soon as Tara had come to her senses, even her smell turned alien. Shekhar knew that Tara would take charge as soon as she wakes up. He sat back on his sofa and sipped the water from a glass gently to muffle the screaming monsters inside his head. He knew that there was a bigger worry at hand, their beloved daughter, the only thing that held them together was missing.

Next, Shekhar and Tara were sitting in the police station as Inspector Tawde sat to listen to their complaint. Tawde, who had seen many such cases when the child would just go out to play and the parents would come running to lodge an FIR was understandably skeptical. "Are you sure, she is not just out playing with some neighbourhood kid?" he said without looking at them and looking at his paperwork instead. Tara was furious, her swollen eyes and nose red from crying had added to the effect as she blamed Tawde for incompetence. Shekhar who was mellowed by then, asked Tara to relax which further infuriated Tara. "Are you really Roohi's father? How can you ask me to 'relax'? No, I will not 'relax', Shekhar Dutta!"- she cried almost breaking into tears. Tawde was stoic and unperturbed having seen such cases by the dozen daily. He switched to Marathi and asked the couple to make some calls and ascertain that their daughter was really missing before lodging the complaint. Shekhar gently explained to the inspector how they live in a gated apartment building with a guard and also how he had created a ruckus in the building and woken up everyone as soon as he figured out something was wrong. Tara's crying had stopped and she looked up at Shekhar's face with a hint of admiration for the first time. She didn't know what all had transpired in the ten minutes in which she had blacked out. Shekhar looked at Tara with a calm reassurance and held her hand. Tara wanted to hug Shekhar but held back and just placed her head on his shoulder. Tawde finally wrote their FIR and held out the pen for them to sign. Tara took the pen in her hands at once and then handed it to Shekhar.

To be continued...

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Friday 12 September 2014

When a story weaves itself.

Fiction at best, can change minds and introduce new ideas. It opens horizons and tells the mind that there is a world beyond what it can see. It also is the pinnacle of human imagination and is a way mankind's stamp of approval for superiority above other animals. Yes, we are the only species on Earth which can weave stories. Take that, weaver birds and spiders!

But, how does a story create itself? Nothing can arise from zero, right? Great men have held that there is no such thing as an original idea as our scope is limited, our thoughts have a finite space and the supposedly endless imagination also has a ceiling above it. We can write about things that are known to us; even when we write science fiction about aliens, we give them human emotions and try to look for meanings. Sure, there are authors like Chekhov who believed in aimless fiction where there was no meaning or sense to things just like real life; but that is again inspired from real life. How on earth, then, can one come up with a story that can make the audience marvel and applaud?

There are literary tools and there is a theme to every story, sometimes the endings are predictable, sometimes they are not. A good story, unless it is not a suspense thriller, doesn't really rely on its unpredictability. We say things that we know in the story, we have characters that look and feel familiar and we let them be human with their lives and make mistakes, fall, rise etc. In my humble opinion, the story is good only when the author can convince the reader that the turn of events logically follow. And the logic is hidden like a treasure in the pages of the book.

Why a character would behave a certain way, why the circumstances present themselves the way they do; a story is a retrospective study to make sense of everything by connecting dots that are kept blurry at the onset. Yes, there are novels and stories where the dots are blurry the whole while and you would know the hero from the villain till the end, that kind of stories also come to their ends - not on paper/ screen but in the readers' minds as they are left open for interpretation.

This artful convincing lies at the heart of story-writing for me and remains to be achieved in all my attempts at the same. Sometimes, the story writes itself and that is when the characters are so well defined that they start writing the plot themselves. For me, a good story gives me the smiles that come from knowing someone so close that you can predict their next move. "That is so typical Jennifer"-- when that aha moment comes, it is the best joy of reading.

More later!

Keep writing and reading!

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Delhi- As I have Understood It

I have stayed in Delhi for over an year now and I have taken a sip from the city's unflinching beauty every now and then, enough to write an ode to the city. It is a metropolitan but within it, there are small towns with the quirkiest of creatures walking its streets. It is a delight at times and at times it becomes the irritating impersonator who wants to be a big city but you want to slap its skull and tell it that it is trying too hard. It has gathered the metropolitan inconveniences like traffic, shops that are far apart and amenities that cost higher but it uses them with the same small town fingers that it has always had.

The shopkeepers wake up late and there are very few breakfast outlets open before 8 in the morning keeping in mind maintenance of the big city inconvenience but, the laziness in opening the shops is essentially small town-like. If one happens to roam on the streets, he is sure to catch discussions on politics and issues of national importance keeping with the image of the nation's de facto political capital but on the same streets, there is littering, spitting and all things uncivil. There are humourous strangers, friendly senior citizens that paint a delightful, humble picture of a friendly small town and then there are angry mongrels gnarling, ready to begin street fights and tempers boiling at the drop of a hat in the traffic keeping with image of big city frustrations.

I have been to the Nizamuddin dargah and the qawwals there enchanted me with their singing and for some unknown reason, their lame, weak cat which roamed the corridors of the shrine took a liking to me and sat in my lap the whole time I sat to listen to the Sufi music and I petted her with a strange sense of deja vu rising up my toes; as if I had known this place in an earlier life. That's what Delhi is supposed to do to you. I have gone to the Siri fort and have danced to the guitar beats of perfect strangers as my feet started tapping to them unknowingly. Delhi is poetry for those who can read it. It is both a winter poem with soft, tender snowflakes in it and it is also a song of the Indian summer that can burn your skin. 

Delhi is where Punjab meets Bengal meets UP meets Bihar meets Tamil Nadu meets Haryana and you push your fingers in your ears anticipating an explosion while to one's delight, they all get along pretty well and how! We flaunt Mumbai for its tolerance but look at Delhi- it takes everyone and turns them into Delhites. 

I often perch myself on my rooftop and indulge in a bit of bird-watching myself, pretending to have Ruskin Bond-like affinity to all creatures of nature. No, I do not keep water for the birds like good ol' Mr Bond, nor do I know the names of all the thrushes and parakeets that pass by my tiny space above my head on my terrace. Yet, I do marvel at these avian friends of ours who diligently follow the routine of their simple lives, with their innocent simplicity. I am sure they know not any other way being birds of the sky, else they'd have corrupted themselves too and sat chatting with their friends on the tree after a late night sleepover instead of following diligently their daily commute. No sir, they don't. I don't understand their routine though. It is the uncertainty of the day that is enough to bog any human soul down; I rarely see these birds feeding themselves- most of the time they are perched atop a cable, an antenna or a water tank- in the process of their struggle. How do they drag themselves out of the coziness  of their nests to face the brutal days? 

The most glorious of them all is the hawk. It flies high above all other birds, establishing its dominance. Kites and hawks are aplenty here; and can be seen gliding high above in the skies with their flawless long-spanning wings which turn not so flawless in the seasons of kite-flying. Children fly kites in Delhi on the days around Makar sankranti (January) and Independence Day (15th Aug). These are scary times for the birds I believe as many get trapped in the sharp thread ie manjha and get injured. I've seen a kite struggle to fly with only one good wing. It was not a pretty sight to see the ruler in shambles. 

The crow is another curious creature here. It can be seen in tussle with most other birds or among its own folk cawing loudly. It is considered to be the rat of the skies which is unfair because I think pigeons must get to share that rare honour. Pigeons have been known to perch themselves at strategically located venues where their excrement has the highest possibility of soiling the hair, clothes or shoes of a human. It is considered to be a lucky charm but I think it is just something we made up to feel better about being shit on by another being. 

I see no sparrows here and that is sad because sparrows, growing in a small town, have been my childhood companions. The way the mommy sparrow and the daddy sparrow search for a real estate to start their family is absolutely adorable. Yes, they do cause nuisance but you bear them like you bear the nuisance of children. Crows and pigeons are the grown up teens which you want to send away from and never see again except when they do well in life and are looking dapper sitting on someone else's porch, shitting on someone else's lap.

More later,



Book Review- The White Tiger- Arvind Adiga

The White Tiger.JPG
Title- The White Tiger
Author- Arvind Adiga
ISBN- 8172238479, 9788172238476, 978-8172238476.
Publisher- HarperCollins

So, I finally know what the hoopla was about as I finished reading "The White Tiger"- the 2008 Man Booker prize winner, Arvind Adiga's claim to fame. I finally understand the criticism about it being too angry and too critical but the metaphors; guys! the metaphors- you have to hand it to Adiga for coming up with so many great original expressions. In terms of depth, the novel is fairly ordinary as it is just an exaggerated story of Indian poverty and corruption with lots of human excreta and debris thrown in but the words are crafted with deft clarity. You have the ravens dipping their beak in you, you have the wild boars licking their teeth and then you have the white tiger himself. Balram, the central character is Adiga's angry protagonist who is going to get in your brain, build himself a hut and thatch the roof with Marxism and socialism and ask you to come in gently while shouting at the top of his lungs forbidding you from the same.

It is alienation personified, or rather biblified as I'd like to call it. But leaving that aside, the metaphors and only the metaphors are the saving grace of the book. Plus, there is this ability of the author to drop a bomb at the end of the sentences so that one is compelled to turn the page. His narration, risking exaggeration on my part, sounds somewhat like this- "I am a gentle kid, I love flowers, butterflies and oh yea, I am a murderer!"

I think the conviction in the novel is the only thing that steered it ahead in the Booker prize race but Booker or no Booker, the book deserves a reading for all the activism that it evokes. Even if you disagree with it, it will make your perspective shift a little. The author is also successful in leaving those subconscious trails in your brain which light up when you are reading the consequent pages and evoke that 'aha' moment which is pretty sweet. For example, the monkeys from the protagonist's childhood village again reappear in the later pages metaphorically in the form of his peers in the drivers' community. It is interesting to note and brilliant on the part of the author. He mentions eagles while describing the Delhi sky by which he might have meant hawks or kites but that is just a small issue that worries only me, I s'pose.

Yes, the novel deserves all the criticism it has gotten for all its exaggerations but it also deserves to be read. It is an easy read in terms of language and it is evident that the message is stronger than the plot.

I give it 4 stars out of 5.

Monday 8 September 2014

Book Review- 60 Minutes- Upendra Namburi

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ISBN- 978-93-84030-24-7
Title- 60 Minutes
Author- Upendra Namburi
Publisher- Westland Ltd
Genre- Corporate Drama/ Fiction
E-Book available
Price- Rs 350/-
Pages- 361

This is a tale of twisted morals, a world of conniving people and cut-throat competition. Upendra, the author is a sales and marketing professional which will be clear by the first few pages into the novel as the language is mostly corporate jargon. He is an engineer and an MBA, seemingly the route to being anything in India these days. He is an evolving blogger and writes for newspapers too, lives in Gurgaon; and is on "his voyage to writing the triumvirate of novels" which have numbers in their names. His first novel 31 was a bestseller.

The book starts off with a neat table of contents like a textbook and displays the 26 chapters with their titles. Every chapter starts with powerful, slightly cheesy prose poetry and the plot races off from the word go. It is not a page turner for those who are uncomfortable with markety stuff and uses terms like 'selling short', 'going long' profusely. I think the book's target audience are the finance people and they will actually love the book as the author has not held back in terms of inner politics and the insider stuff.

The characters are layered and flawed- which is beautiful. The character of Maithili comes across as a rather strong one and seems to be the most thrilling character of the book. Agastya is the pivotal character and his adversary Sailesh keeps the thrill alive on the business front as Maithili takes care of the emotional aspect.

The plot is supposedly promised to take place in one hour and is based on the events that transpire in that slot but understandably, there are many flashbacks that help the author make sense of the ongoing turmoil. The flashback is a handy tool that Upendra uses to explain the quirky behaviours as and when they unfold. It also somewhat takes the thrill of guessing away as any answer is possible based on the unknown events of the past which are many. It seems to be too chaotic a world to be true at times.

The writing is crisp, the thrill is present, the characters bring lot of masala to the plate and there is a lot of bush to be beaten around due to the present of many side-characters. There are as many characters in the book as there are workers in an office and sometimes you wish the clutter was a bit less as the names keep on piling up but, this is no "War and Peace" and the read is easy enough.

The pages are crisp, recycled paper; the size of the book is perfect for outdoor reading, the cover art is minimalist and attractive, the city lights paint an apt picture. I finished the book in four days which was a bit longer than expected.

I'd give it 2.5 stars out of 5