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Welcome to the myriad of moments that whisper into my Life!

The End of Honour

October 18, 2014

“I want them both dead. I want to show to everyone in this town that Bhairon Singh Thakur does not spare even his own daughter when it comes to preserving the sacred caste system of our society.” The MLA’s temple throbbed in anger. “Make as many pieces of their body as you want but make sure the faces are recognisable.”

“Jee Malik,” replied Mohan from a respectful distance. He owned the largest meat shop in the town and did not hesitate to butcher human beings occasionally for some extra money.

Next day, Mohan asked his assistant to man the meat shop for a few hours so that he could follow the girl and find out her low-caste lover.

For the first few days of the week, she went to her college and returned home straight. Then on Thursday, after college she took a different route with one of her friends. Mohan followed in quick steps. She entered a house, which seemed to belong to the friend. After two hours, she returned home.

Next day, the same event repeated. Mohan went to keep an eye on the back side of the house but saw no one leaving for an hour. He returned to the front and waited for three more hours on the road. The girl was not seen anywhere.

Mohan had heard that Bhairon Singh’s daughter was no fool. She might have identified Mohan and his purpose. No wonder, Bhairon Singh’s own people had failed to identify the lover till date.

But he also figured out that she somehow used this house to go to places she did not wish others to discover.

He decided to temporarily stop and wait.

After two weeks, Bhairon Singh sent a message that he had acceded to his daughter’s request to stay the night at that friend’s place for joint study and instructed him to use this opportunity well.

That night, Mohan stationed another man at the front gate. At about 11.30 pm, he spotted a familiar figure leaving the house through the back door.

She reached the town park and went inside through an opening in the barbed fence.

Another hooded figure was waiting for her. They hugged each other tightly. The quiet night carried their whispers to Mohan, crouching behind a nearby bush.

“We have to run away tonight or they will kill us both,” the female voice urged.

“Where do we go?” the male voice sounded scared.

“Somewhere very far, may be to another corner of the country. I have brought some money with me.”

The male figure hesitated. “I don’t have…..”

“It does not matter to me.” She held his hand.

Mohan approached them, a meat-chopping knife in his hand. He flexed his fingers and imagined the crispy feel of thirty thousand rupees.

The two figures sensed him and turned around.

The bright full moon bathed all of them in light.

“Baba!” cried the male figure. The silence of the darkness carried his scream far and wide.

This is another of my experiments in confining a story to 500 words – no mean feat since I love long-winded descriptions and character sketches. The idea of the story has been taken from a 55-word fiction of mine appearing here.

The Pen Warriors – Post 20

September 26, 2014

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Too Late for Atonement – Chapter 19

Read Chapter 18 by clicking on the link

She was Joseph’s daughter.

The other daughter!

Shekhar rubbed his temples for the umpteenth time in an attempt to shake off the persistent headache. Cups of hot tea, Amrutanjan balm, Crocin tablet – nothing gave him any relief for the last couple of hours. The more he thought about the girl he met at the Bombay Hospital morgue, more his head ached.

He was my father.

Her voice, almost choked with emotions, echoed in Shekhar’s mind.

Suddenly he was overcome with rage. How could a scumbag like Joseph beget such sweet girls like Jennifer and Roohi? He would always protect Roohi from the incorrigible truth about her father. But that girl was all alone now; grieving for a man whose various misdeeds, especially his indiscretions with Tara and scores of other women would never be known to her. Shekhar prayed that she never knew the truth.

The world lauded that man as an astute business man and philanthropist, but Shekhar knew what a two-faced asshole he was. On one hand, he would create job opportunities by setting up factories in remote villages, drive clean environment campaigns and set up charitable trusts for eradicating poverty, polio and tuberculosis and on the other hand, use the village women as baits to obtain governmental approvals, flout environmental laws rampantly and channel unaccounted funds through those very same charitable trusts!

He never understood how a smart, practical and level-headed Tara fell for that bastard Joseph. He was always a hit with women, with his salt and pepper hair, tall and lean well-exercised body and impeccable dressing sense, coupled with his ever charming smile and courteousness!

Shekhar felt as his head would burst. Thinking about Joseph never did any good to him, unless he was writing an expose article about him. What started as a vendetta against Joseph became a lucrative part-time business for Shekhar. Slowly, he developed contacts, all of them anonymous, to tip him off on various white collar crimes, which would otherwise go undetected.

He had never been happier at anybody’s death, not even Osama Bin Laden’s.

He opened his mailbox – the one which belonged to Gambhir Gupte to check on latest updates.

An unread mail from HackPro sat in the primary folder.

Shekhar gulped down the last of his tea and pulled the laptop closer to him. An email from HackPro always carried solid info.

Have solid evidence that Joseph was being blackmailed for the last two months. Emails were sent to him asking him to confess his crime or else they would be public. The emails only mentioned about something which happened at Lex Juris. The sender turned out to be a law student named Cyrus Daruwala. Check out his personal blog, especially the last post where he clearly mentioned feeling happy for someone’s death.”

Beads of perspiration dotted Shekhar’s forehead!

Cyrus Daruwala! The one who wanted to meet Gambhir Gupte to share stories.

Was it providence that led him to both Cyrus and Jennifer on the same day?

Shekhar felt goose bumps on his arms. He knew it in his bones that he was about to uncover something very big.

His headache was gone.

Read the story so far here:

Prologue || #1 || #2 || #3 || #4 || #5|| #6 || #7 || #8 || #9 || #10 || #11 || #12 || #13 || #14 || #15|| #16 || #17 

This is what we, The Pen Warriors have for you in the second round of Game of Blogs. Wish us luck so that we can take our story into the third round :)

Me and my team, The Pen Warriors, are participating in the ‘Game Of Blogs’ at BlogAdda.com. #CelebrateBlogging with us.

The Pen Warriors – Post 12

September 22, 2014

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Too Late for Atonement – Chapter 11

We have qualified in the first round of Game of Blogs and this post of mine contains all the links to the story so far. Once you are done, click on this link to read Chapter 10 of this story. 

What happens when one’s deepest desire comes true? How does it feel to finally laugh out aloud? How should one celebrate the fulfillment of his life’s biggest wish?

Drown himself in drinks? Dance on the streets? Sing karaoke?

Or just write to let it all out of the head?

Since the moment my father was asked to leave Lex Juris in disgrace, I have wanted to work there one day. Since the day we fled Mumbai in the darkness of night, I have wanted to return to this city in broad day light, unafraid of loud whispers and pointed fingers. Since the day I came to know the reason of my father’s misfortune, I have wanted to avenge him.

On both the Sundays that I have spent in this city, I spent half a day at our old colony in Dadar. I sat in a decrepit Irani cafe, opposite our old home, sipping chai and drinking in the atmosphere of my childhood. Thousands of memories kept me company while I silently sat amidst my chaotic surroundings.

My internship at India’s best law firm has been very good till date. I have been put on a due diligence right from my first day and have experienced the trial and tribulation of working on a real transaction.  One of the managing partners even told me that he was satisfied with my research on a law point which had stumped him earlier. I am also getting to work with the litigation team on a number of high-profile criminal cases. A pre-placement offer from this firm looks a real possibility now. I hope to achieve what my father could not do.

But today I am not celebrating because of my professional successes.

Today, I am the happiest because of the joy the news channels brought to me, relaying the same news over and over again; each one showing the same inset photo of the person supposedly dead from an accident on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

Since then, I have been replaying those conversations in my head which I have never forgotten.

“I know it is him. I am sure of it, my boy. He did this to me to make sure that even if I speak out against him, no one will believe me.”

“I had the documentary evidence to prove all his misdeeds, but now I have nothing. How do I convince my firm that I was not at fault?”

“He saved his reputation by tarnishing mine. He will never rest in peace.”

“Remember son, what goes around comes around. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Never be dishonest, steal, lie or kill. Never.”

I feel light with happiness. My head buzzes with drunkenness of ecstasy. My steps falter towards my paying guest room as they develop a spring in them. I stretch out my arms and take a deep breath.

I am finally free of my nightmares.

Cyrus hit the “Publish” button of his blog and opened another tab. The night was still young for him.

He typed “Gambhir Gupte” in the Chrome browser and stared at the results it threw up. All of them led to articles written by the man in various newspapers but nothing was there about the man himself!

He finished reading the last of them. The manner in which this Gambhir Gupte researched on white collar crimes and laid out his inferences in his articles fascinated Cyrus. Word was out that no one, not even the publishers of the articles knew his identity since the articles arrived at their inbox from untraceable IP address or public fax machines. A mystery crime journalist, thought Cyrus with a chuckle. He had always wanted to build a career in criminal law; this man piqued his interest.

‘I wish I could track him down. It would immensely benefit my career and above all, my plan,’ thought Cyrus, before shutting down his laptop.

Read Chapter 12 of the story by clicking on the link.

Me and my team, The Pen Warriors, are participating in the ‘Game Of Blogs’ at BlogAdda.com. #CelebrateBlogging with us.

The Pen Warriors – Post 4

September 15, 2014

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Too Late For Atonement – Chapter 3 

Read the FIRST, SECOND AND THIRD parts of the story by clicking on the respective links.  

As his bedside Orpat clock raced towards midnight, the uneasiness in Cyrus increased. He had been trying to decide for the past one hour how this year he could possibly avoid the ordeal which was waiting for him.

Should he lock himself up in the bathroom? Or hide in someone else’s room? May be the deserted recreation room downstairs was the best hiding place. Only if the end-semester examinations were not scheduled at this time, he would have stayed out of this place each time, he thought gloomily.

Cyrus continued to stare ahead on the opposite wall, where remnants of Katrina Kaif, Aishwarya Rai and Salma Hayek gave him company.  The laptop in front of him was inviting him to websites with photographs of a variety of women but he could hardly concentrate.  The cupboard on one side of the tiny room lay open, its contents overturned. Cyrus had been trying to look for a really old T-shirt and shorts which he did not mind sacrificing in the ensuing event. At that moment, his scowl could turn a living being into ashes.

Suddenly, there began loud, continuous knocks on his door.

“Cyrus, open the door.”

“Oye Cyrus, 12 baj gaya. Darwaja khol be.”

“Jaldi khol, wait mat karwa.”

With a resigned sigh, he approached the door.

A loud chorus greeted him with “Happy Birthday!” The sea of smiling faces of his classmates and seniors did nothing to lift his mood or wipe away the scowl from his face fully. He was dragged out of his room and taken to the terrace of the boys’ hostel.

A metal table with cheap laminate top, taken from one of the rooms, had been laid out with food and drinks – chicken kebabs, mutton chops, peanuts, potato wafers, KFC chicken wings, 3 bottles each of Blender’s Pride and Old Monk and 5 crates of Kingfisher Strong.

As part of the birthday celebration tradition of National Law School of Delhi, Cyrus was first made to gulp down a bottle of beer at one go amidst loud, rhythmic cheers of “Daruwalla”. After he emerged chocking and coughing, he was suspended in air from his arms and legs, while the boys counted and kicked his buttocks and back with the enthusiasm and glee of an energetic five-year old.

After 22 birthday bumps, his t-shirt lay torn, revealing red welts on his extremely fair back. He winced as he was put down on the ground. Boys who had already started finishing the bottles were now singing ‘Happy Birthday Cyrus’ in loud choruses.

One of them demanded a birthday treat at China Wall, the newly opened restaurant in the vicinity. The rest thumped his back to show their support.

Cyrus was livid. At the boys’ hostel, each and every student’s birthdays were celebrated with the help of a common fund where contribution by all was mandatory. On top of it, one had to treat a certain number of boys, especially a group of senior boys to dinner at a good restaurant, even if one never interacted with them. Shameless freeloaders, Cyrus thought with disdain.

With a non-committal nod, he excused himself from his own birthday party, where everybody else seemed to be having a good time. One of the boys handed over his huge square-shaped spectacles, which had fallen off his nose during the celebrations and now had a broken handle. Cursing beneath his breath, Cyrus walked slowly back to his room, grimacing from the throbbing pain in his back.  Once he was out of earshot, he swore loudly at whoever invented birthday bumps.

The corridors of the six-storied hostel building were deserted, with most of them up on the terrace. Cyrus stopped at the balcony outside his room and paused to let the cool night breeze soothe his body.

Cyrus’s thoughts wandered to his father’s memory, his first law teacher. He had been the one to encourage Cyrus to go through his briefs from a young age and offer his opinion. “Law is only logical reasoning. If you learn the art of logically deducing and explaining all that happens around you, you will master the law,” he used to say.

The knot in his stomach tightened. His always-jovial and loving father and one of the top lawyers of Mumbai was kicked out of the law firm merely on the basis of an allegation. A false allegation, thought Cyrus bitterly. Even after giving 25 years of his life to the firm, no one listened to his father’s protestations of innocence!


To escape the disgrace, his family was forced to relocate to Delhi. The Sunday walks on Chowpatty, fierce competition to finish his mother’s patrani macchi and the weekend lessons in law between the father and the son stopped. His father struggled to keep jobs while Cyrus struggled to cope with the brash and arrogant persona of people around them. When his mother could not be treated for dengue on time because they could not afford the medication, Cyrus realised how much their family savings had dwindled. Soon thereafter, his father died a broken-hearted man.

“Baba, I will never let you down,” Cyrus promised himself, for the hundredth time.

His month-long internship at Lex Juris, a leading law firm at Mumbai was about to start. He would soon finish what he had started a very long time ago.

Me and my team, The Pen Warriors, are participating in the ‘Game Of Blogs’ at BlogAdda.com. #CelebrateBlogging with us.

Read the FIFTH, SIXTHSEVENTHEIGHTHNINTH AND TENTH parts of the story by clicking on the respective links.  

This is what we, The Pen Warriors have for you in the first round of Game of Blogs. Wish us luck so that we can take our story into the second round :)

The Game of Blogs!

September 12, 2014

Are you addicted to the Game of Thrones? Then you will surely be interested in the Game of Blogs!

Blogadda is organizing a Game of Blogs as one of the means to #CelebrateBlogging this month. Just like the many faces of the politics of Westeros, the Game of Blogs weaves storytelling, blogging, blogger networking all into this one activity.

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The activity involves telling a story through a team of bloggers for 3 weeks, at the end of which the best is published as a book by Blogadda! Just like scores of characters are bumped off in Game of Thrones, a jury panel comprising of some of the biggest names in contemporary English Literature will bump off teams at the end of every week.

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We bloggers said, “Challenge accepted”!

How could I not participate in this activity? I am fan of collaborative blogging contests, having won the Bloggers Premiere League in August 2010. It was instrumental in pushing me into different genres, hone my editing skills, connect with some fabulous bloggers and take pride in a joint achievement. Now that I am drifting in and out of writer’s block, I grabbed this splendid opportunity to get back my mojo :)

After a long wait, we were finally slotted into teams of 10 bloggers. I am a part of The Pen Warriors! :) If you want to know  who my team members are, follow the links as and when they appear on my blog :)

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After a nail-biting wait, Blogadda released the 5 main characters around whom all the teams have to weave their stories. Same characters; numerous stories! Check them out below -

  1. Shekhar Dutta - Stay home Dad, freelance writer, Hindu, Stays in Mumbai
    Description - French beard, bald, average height, fair, thin specs, lean, wears t-shirt & track pants generally, ever smiling.
  2. Tara Dutta – Shekhar’s wife, Media professional , career oriented woman.
    Description - Fair, short hair, tall, prim & proper dressed, wear formals & high heels.
  3. Roohi Dutta – 9 years girl, Shekhar and Tara’s daughter.
    Description - Fair, healthy, notorious, 2 ponytail, wear frill frocks.
  4. Jennifer Joseph –  Photographer, Christian, Stays in Kochi (Kerala)
    Description - Dusky, average height, tattoo on right hand, wears casual shorts and tees, lots of accessories, always carries a camera.
  5. Cyrus Daruwala – A law student, Stays in Delhi
    Description - Tall,  extremely fair, big specs, curly hair, stern face, beard on the  chin.

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Stay tuned for the story. And wish me luck!

Book Review: Private India by Ashwin Sanghi & James Patterson

August 27, 2014

private-india

When a series of seemingly unconnected murders rock the city of Mumbai with the macabre rituals and artefacts found around the corpses, Private India, a leading investigation agency takes the case. Santosh Wagh, the head of the organization, has only one mission. He needs to stop the killers before they strike again. However, in a city of over 13 million people, he finds that the clock is ticking too fast. He finds himself pitted against underworld dons and a Godman who isn’t what he seems. However, the worst is yet to come and Private India itself may be threatened with a revelation that could destroy the entire organization.

I must be honest. I read this book only because of Ashwin Sanghi. That man knows how to weave a compelling story around history and mythology and I was keen to see what he has done with this one.

I had only heard of James Patterson as #1 thriller writer in America but had never read of his books. A Google search later, I was more knowledgeable about his Private series and his protagonist Jack Morgan. This book is a collaboration to bring Private, an exclusive and world’s best-known private investigation firm to India.

If I say anything more about the plot than what is given in the blurb, I might reveal spoilers. So I will straight go into the review.

In a true thriller style, the authors introduce numerous characters right in the beginning. They include the Private India head Santosh Wagh, ex-police officer and alcoholic with a troubled past, his colleagues Nisha Gandhe, ‘head-turningly attractive’ ex-police, medical examiner Mubeen with a tortured history in America and technology expert Hari with a secret. Then there are Jack Morgan from Private L.A playing an important role, Assistant Police Commissioner Rupesh Desai with a history with Wagh, the various victims with their varying background and dark deeds, a gambling-addicted top lawyer, a Mumbai don, corrupted godman and a serial killer on the loose. Not all characters come alive; in fact some are very sketchy. They left me wanting to know more just so that I could figure out why they did what they did, especially in the sub-plot of Hari.

The plot is fast, engaging and interesting. The authors have added interesting mythological (Durga avatars) and historical (thugs) twist to the tried-and-tested serial killing premise. However, at the end, I was wondering the purpose behind the thug reference. The climax involving the identity of the killer was truly mind-blowing; however the extra few pages involving the India Mujahideen and the bomb blast plot felt too stretched. Why did the authors feel the need to include every topic of current affairs into the plot? Why is Mumbai made synonymous with bombing conspiracies? What was the significance of Hari’s sub-plot? But for me, the most difficult question to find an answer for was the reason behind one of the character’s need for sex-change. I was unimpressed with the over-simplified reason given in the book.

Sanghi is known for his meticulous research but I expected more from him in this book. Oh and one more thing – in the age of Google, one need not rush to the library to read up on any topic, including Durga avatar. Such small details should not be overlooked.

I have time and again complained against poor editing and grammar in a lot of contemporary authors’ works. This one is no exception. It really kills the story bit by bit.

Over all, Private India is a fast and enjoyable read if you are not the nitpicking kind.

My Rating – 6/10

 This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

No more Facebook on my Phone – A Mid-Year Resolution

August 25, 2014
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I recently read this article and paused to think.

In an essay on Emily Dickinson, the poet Adrienne Rich once wrote, “It is always what is under pressure in us, especially under pressure of concealment—that explodes in poetry.” We live in a time in which little is concealed, and that pressure valve—the one that every writer is intimate with—rarely has a chance to fill and fill to the point of explosion. Literary memoir is born of this explosion. It is born of the powerful need to craft a story out of the chaos of one’s own history. One of literary memoir’s greatest satisfactions—both for writer and reader—is the slow, deliberate making of a story, of making sense, out of randomness and pain. In the inimitable words of Annie Dillard, “You may not let it rip.”

Dani Shapiro wonders whether the constant need to fill the social media with out lives’ details robs us, especially the authors, of that feeling of ‘need to say’ ones’ story in the book form. Where is the need for writing a memoir when almost everything has been told on Facebook? Writing a book is a laborious process while updating status or tweeting or blogging a 500-word post is enjoyable and grabs instant attention.

In the words of the author,

I haven’t shared my story, I want to tell them. I haven’t unburdened myself, or softly and earnestly confessed. Quite the opposite. In order to write a memoir, I’ve sat still inside the swirling vortex of my own complicated history like a piece of old driftwood, battered by the sea. I’ve waited—sometimes patiently, sometimes in despair—for the story under pressure of concealment to reveal itself to me. I’ve been doing this work long enough to know that our feelings—that vast range of fear, joy, grief, sorrow, rage, you name it—are incoherent in the immediacy of the moment. It is only with distance that we are able to turn our powers of observation on ourselves, thus fashioning stories in which we are characters. There is no immediate gratification in this. No great digital crowd is “liking” what we do. We don’t experience the Pavlovian, addictive click and response of posting something that momentarily relieves the pressure inside of us, then being showered with emoticons.

I have no plan to write any memoir, unless my life turns immensely interesting tomorrow. However, I do want to say stories – stories that I have been gestating inside my mind for long. Recently, a tag was doing rounds on Facebook where one had to share a certain portion of one’s manuscript or work-in-progress. I was tagged twice but I refrained, despite an urge to share a snippet and gain some ‘likes’. My baby is still infant and shy. It is not ready to face the world yet.

While I mostly agree with Dani’s views, I wish to disagree when it comes to blogging. My blogging and writing are poles apart, even though they are connected. Blogging helped me in getting my writing voice back. Blogging led me to write more and more short fiction and get recognition, which in turn, brought the confidence to attempt a long one. For that, I shall forever to grateful to my blog.

However, social media (minus blog) is harmful for a writer in many other ways, in my opinion. I have realised I wander into Facebook every time I take a writing break. I spend more minutes going through the album of a recent Europe-returned friend than on researching for my book. I click on every article, every video posted on Facebook and lose track of time.

But sometimes, Facebook brings gems like this article and forces me to think about what I am doing.

I toyed with the idea of going off Facebook (I am hardly on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc) for a certain length of time and see the effects. But a lot of information on writing, contests etc have come to me through Facebook, which I do not want to miss out on. So I decided on a middle path – I have decided to delete the FB app from my phone and log only through laptop. Once I have finished FB-ing, I would switch off the wi-fi and open the word document. Once earlier, I had to go completely off FB due to lack of connectivity and I became accustomed to living without knowing every single detail of others’ lives. I hope to do the same again, this time for the sake of my writing.

I am blogging about it so that it is out in the open; so that I cannot cheat. There, I have said it.

 

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