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

Fantastic Friday Fiction – VII

January 23, 2015

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 “My dear Ritika,

After all this time, I have finally sat down to write this private Facebook message to you because I can no longer bear the weight of all the unspoken words clinging to me, preventing me from breaking free from you.

Remember the first time we met during the Freshers’ Welcome event? I was lost in the huge college campus and you, despite being a fellow first year, confidently guided me to the auditorium. It was only because of you that I did not suffer ridicule and loneliness in that party and in my college days that followed. I was instantly charmed by your charisma and extremely thankful for extending your hand of friendship to the most socially awkward person in the room. No girl had, so much as cast a glance at me or talked properly to me before you. The fat weirdo, as they called me, never had a companion like you!

And I was not the only one – the whole batch was under your spell. Soon, you were getting elected as class representative, organising batch picnics and movie nights, winning singing contests and scoring A-s in end-semester examinations! And when the time came to dine out or party, you were the forerunner in treating your friends and dancing the night away.

Girls and boys flocked by your side for friendship. Senior boys made a beeline to woo you. Teachers were already setting aside for you, the trophy for the best all-round student to be awarded at the end of 3 years.

A beauty with brains, destined for fame and success is what everyone thought of you.

Like many, I too was besotted with you, so much so that I began to agonise over the moments I was not by your side.

Being a member of the hostel IT club gave me access to the server room and the IP addresses of everybody’s computers. I spent each moment outside of class in that room, checking out your internet footprints. How I wish I hadn’t!

Confronting you with details of your virtual life was the most painful and difficult thing I have done in my life. You screamed at me and called me a voyeuristic pervert. Or worse, a back-stabbing friend out to take revenge on you. But you did not realise that I was not doing this out of jealousy or malice but only out of concern for you.

You could have never fathomed the intensity of pain that I felt when I saw the girl of my dreams visiting sex-chat sites every day, kicking up a hormone storm there as “Blue Eyes” and getting handsomely paid for every minute of ‘chatting’ with her clients. I was enraged because you shattered my rainbow-hued feelings for you. I was aghast to find that my first love and my first object of passion was, in fact, a goddess of lust for numerous strangers!

Was it only an online hobby, I asked you. You denied, vehemently. But I knew you were lying. You stupid girl. Did you think that if I knew about the chats, I would not know about the contents? I have seen you making appointments over chats. The timings of each of your rendezvous matched with the times you went out of the campus.

My love for you had ended, forever, before I could express it before you. My heart remained heavy, with all the unspoken words of love which you no more deserved and those of my contempt for you which I could not fully express before you died.

As a result, I became more obsessed with you. You began to seem more alive to me now than other living people because I started spending so much time in the internet reading your thoughts and looking at your pictures.

It is time for me to move on. I have resolved not to visit your Facebook profile, twitter account or Instagram page ever again. I have promised myself that I will delete all your photos downloaded and saved in my computer. Wish me luck, my friend, that I find peace now that I have said all that was meant for you.”

My fingers felt strangely light after hitting the send button. I closed my eyes and leaned back on the chair.

Ping.

A Facebook message sounded its arrival.

“Why did you mix so many pills in my bottle of water that night?” came Ritika’s reply.

———–

Local news correspondent, Bangalore: In a bizzare turn of events, Mahi Sharma, a 3rd year computer science student of AG University was found dead in her hostel room today morning. When she did not come out of her room for two days, the students broke open the door and discovered her hunched over the table in front of her computer. Preliminary medical reports say that she died of heart attack. Around the time of her death, she was typing a Facebook private message to a student of the same University, Ritika Khanna, which was not sent. It must be noted that Ritika Khanna died a year ago in her hostel room as a result of overdose of sleeping pills, which, at that time seemed to be suicide. It has come to light that in the message Mahi revealed her unhealthy obsession for her friend Ritika and accused her of being an escort. The college authorities have declined to comment.

Waiting for the weekends…

January 14, 2015

Waiting for weekends has never been so exciting for me in a long time.

On the next weekend i.e. 17 & 18 January 2015 I plan to park my ass throughout in the inaugural session of Crime Writers Festival, being sponsored by Hindustan Times in Delhi. Ever since I caught the buzz on Facebook, I have kept a hawk eye upon the FB page and registered myself the moment the website became functional. It is free for all and will host a number of authors from the crime/thriller/ mystery genre  both from India and abroad. However, what I am most looking forward to are the workshops – one with Ashwin Sanghi on how to write detective fiction and one with Dibakar Banerjee and Urmi Juvekar on how to adapt a crime novel for the silver screen. Having devoured Satyajit Ray’s articles on screenplay as a child, this opportunity to actually learn nuances of script writing from a real director in close interaction (even if I do not end up writing a whole script ever) is too good for me to pass up.

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The weekend after next i.e. 24 – 26 January 2015, the first of a long series of extended weekends of this year will see me run off to my favourite destination – Jaipur Literature Festival for the 3rd time! Ever since the schedule has been published, I have been crying copious tears since my current author crush, Neel Mukherjee is missing despite being in the speaker list earlier. But I look forward to hearing my another current favourite – Kamila Shamsie.

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Last time I had this much fun in one month was January 2012! I am glad to see that even after 3 years, my idea of having fun still remains the same – attending literature festivals :)

Jogging in the Aravallis Biodiversity Park

January 10, 2015

It is a known fact that Gurgaon is a concrete jungle. What is often not mentioned is that even amidst the dry and reddish brown topography and glitzy, tall buildings, Gurgaon has preserved huge tracts of greenery.

In our quest to add more exercise in our daily life, MH and I landed up at Aravallis Biodiversity Park one Sunday morning. Located a few metres from Guru Dronacharya metro station, the park has little bio-diversity but lots of open space, including a beautiful jogging track zigzagging through the vast fields of mainly shrubs and bushes.

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We also found an amphitheater, which has recently hosted live music shows.

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A number of times, our morning jog were interrupted by the slow procession of these beasts. I am particularly scared of them, having been chased by one during my childhood. So whenever they passed by me in extremely close quarters, I shut my eyes and prayed to the Almighty.

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The concrete jogging path had these leaf patterns, which added a little beauty to an otherwise grey landscape.

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A Few Points:

1. It is safe to follow the trail, unless you are an adventurous soul like us. We deviated from the trail and found ourselves in DLF Phase III! It meant an additional 30 minutes walk back to the gate where the car was parked.

2. There is a small temple inside. Even if you are not the religious kind, you will love the no-frills, lovely abode of God.

3. There is not much biodiversity to spot. However we visited the park a few months ago, so this information may be outdated.

4. It was good to see the amount of effort the authorities have put in to preserve this huge tract of greenery in a real-estate hub like Gurgaon. So please do not litter.

All images have been taken by me with my Galaxy Note II and cannot be copied by anybody for any purpose whatsoever without my permission.

A Walk through Mehrauli Archaeological Park

December 13, 2014

In school, my favourite subject was History – not the mug-up-dates-and-vomit-long-answers-on-examination-paper part of History but the stories-of-the-distant-past part of History. I would sit for long hours with the text book in hand, devouring the real-life stories of wars, intrigue, murder, mystery, love and friendship.

I was biased towards the Mughal era, which had all the elements of a best-seller. In fact this is the only reason why Delhi is my most favourite city after my home town Calcutta, despite its safety issues for women and impolite inhabitants. During my short stay in Delhi in 2007, I was intrigued to see historical ruins standing in the middle of busy roads and immediately fell in love with this place where history is still alive.

I harboured a secret desire to live here. Last year, God answered my prayer.

I was sad to leave behind Calcutta but at the same time, I was eager to begin a new life in the National Capital Region. I kick-started my exploration of history with a walk through the Mehrauli Archaeological Park.

Mehrauli Archaeological Park is in fact, an extension of the Qutub Minar complex, sprawled over 200 acres in Mehrauli on the Delhi-Gurgaon border.

Over 100 ruins dating back to a millennium, from every dynasty that ever ruled over Delhi beginning with the Tomar citadel Lal Kot built by Anangpal I and including British Raj, can be found here. In fact, it is said to be located in first of the seven historic cities of Delhi and is the only area in Delhi known for 1000 years of continuous occupation which continues till date!

Right when we entered the Park, a distant Qutub Minar greeted us in the slightly unforgiving May sun, as if beckoning us explore what lay between.  Beautiful signboards, as if carved out from ancient rocks, directed our paths.

 

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First up, is the tomb of Ghiyasuddin Balban, one of the Sultans of the Mamluk Dyanasty. History says that he was the slave of Iltutmish, who went on to marry the daughter of Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud and ascended the throne after his death.

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It is said to be the first example of a true arch and dome in the Indian sub-continent. Time has been cruel over this piece of architectural marvel and nothing remains of the dome. Balban’s grave is also missing; the grave in the picture is that of one of his sons, Khan Shaheed.

Undoubtedly the most majestic structure in the Park is the Jamali Kamali, a mosque in the name of Shaikh Fazl-ullah aka Shaikh Jamali Kamboh, a poet and Sufi saint who lived in the 1500s i.e. through the Lodhi and Mughal rule.

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Inside Jamali Kamali Mosque

 A very steep set of stone steps led to the tomb of Quli Khan, the foster-brother of Akbar, which land was later bought by Metcalfe.

Exquisite calligraphy border the archway and the medallions on the two sides are inscribed with Quranic calligraphy and floral patterns.

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Beautiful blue-painted interior of Quli Khan’s tomb, which has withstood the rigours of time well.

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We walked past what appeared to be dwelling units from yester-years. Can you imagine a busy day unfolding inside these walls?

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By the time we reached the Metcalfe’s Canopy, the sun was bearing down upon all of us. I tried to use my little photography knowledge into creating a silhouette.

Sir Thomas Metcalfe, who was the British agent in the courts of Emperor Akbar Shah II and Bahadur Shah Zafar II was so much in love with Delhi that he built a country house on the land of Mirza Muhammad Quli Khan and filled his land with many structures. One such is a canopy situated on a gentle slope inside the Park.

Nowadays, it lends a resting space to the weary walkers, romantic couples and stray dogs alike.

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The walking trail, flanked by greenery and leading to the various pages of a history book.

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Much of the Park had been covered in dense forests for years. Conservation efforts have uncovered structures like these, which are said to be examples of the canals built by Metcalfe. There were even signs of a dried-up water body close to Metcalfe’s boathouse.

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Another popular landmark – Rajon Ki Baoli, a three-story stepwell. It is said to be constructed by a certain Daulat Khan during the reign of Sultan Sikandar Lodi. This grand baoli is known to be used as a residence by local masons (rajon) and hence this name.

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At the end of our walk, we have reached closer to the majestic Qutub Minar, overlooking an ongoing cricket match!

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A Few Points

1. Entrance to Mehrauli Archaeological Park is on Mehrauli Gurgaon Road, about 500 meters from the Qutub Minar Metro Station on the Yellow Line (on the left if facing towards Delhi). There is only a signboard which says ‘Delhi Development Authority, Rules & Regulations’, leading to a narrow road which is the entrance to the Park.

2. It can be enjoyed at any time of the day and year. I went early in the morning in May when the air was fresh and the sun less scorching.

3. It is best if one visits in a group. It is a vast area and mostly empty, except may be in the morning when the place is thronged by morning walkers and kids playing all sorts of sports.

4. Few of the monuments, especially Quli Khan’s tomb and the depths of the Rajon ki Baoli are accessible only by steep steps without any support. I suffer from climacophobia (fear of climbing stairs) and so, I had a hard time there.

All images have been taken by me with my Nikon D5100 AF-S 18-55mm VR lens and cannot be copied by anybody for any purpose whatsoever without my permission.

Book Review: God is a Gamer by Ravi Subramanian

November 21, 2014

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What happens when you cross gamer, banker, politician and terrorist with virtual money? God Is a Gamer is a world where money means nothing, martyrs are villains, predators are prey, assassination is taught by the ancient Greeks and nothing is as it seems.

I finished this book in one sitting.

Of course it helped that there was nothing to disturb me. I started reading it in the evening after giving the cook a free rein in the kitchen in the form of “Do not ask me what tadka to add to the dal” and sending a whatsapp message “Hey, hope you had dinner; I am busy reading a book”  to MH who was out of station for work, which actually meant “Can we skip the phone call tonight?”.

I am the kind of reader who, if interested enough in a book, forget the world. God is a Gamer was one such book. Despite being a technology/gaming illiterate, I was instantly hooked to it and couldn’t put it down.

Summary

The story begins like all thrillers usually begin – with seemingly random event descriptions to introduce the key characters. The settings are as varied as Washington DC, Goa and Mumbai and the events range from the murder of a US senator, phishing attack on bank customers and busting of drug racket in Goa. Professional rivalries in global financial institutions, functioning of call centers for credit card services, trading of illegal items in the black market hosted in the deep web with the help of bitcoins via Tor (similar to Silk Road), online gaming, malware attack, alleged suicide of a key character, an FBI investigation – all have been woven intricately to deliver a heady cocktail mix of a story. After all the mystery is solved by FBI and revealed to the reader at the end, the climax shows that what meets the eye is not the truth at all.

The Good Parts

The story line integrating bitcoins, deep web, banking scams, corruption, love, lust, bonds of friendship, politics, FBI, ATM heist races towards its finish in a super-sonic speed.

Technology and banking jargons are easily understood and the explanations do not sound preachy.

Great climax.

The Not-so Good Parts

A few pages before the big reveal, the author describes suspicious behavior of a key character who ultimately turns out to be the mastermind. It somewhat took away the sheen from the explosive climax.

Like almost all other contemporary novels, this one is also not free from grammatical errors, which should have been eliminated during the editing process! I am no grammar Nazi but glaring mistakes halt my reading flow jarringly. I hope the publishing industry realizes soon that readers looking for a good read prefer a grammatically correct read too.

In a few words

Gripping and fast-paced. Unputdownable with an interesting climax. Pick it up for your next journey or for the cold nights.

My Rating

8/10

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com.
Participate now to get free books!

A dream home with Porcelanosa

November 18, 2014

Setting up a home from scratch is no mean task.

After we got over the initial overwhelming feeling of a vast empty 3BHK apartment, we started to fill it up slowly, weekend by weekend.

We scoured the e-tail and retail stores and compared prices; visited to physically check out the items and then loosened the purse string. Slowly the electronics were added followed by basic furniture. Soon, it resembled a home and we began to unwind in the living room watching our favourite series or entertaining guests over dinner and drinks.

Today I found the most interesting topic to blog about in Indi-happy Hours:

Pick as many items as you can from Porcelanosa to build your dream home. Tell us why you chose them and why.

I love to browse through home stuff as much as apparel and books over the internet. Here is what I would do anything  to pick up from the lovely website of Porcelanosa -

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One of the best things about my apartment is the huge master bathroom. I am a hard-core bathtub lover; which woman isn’t? Once I broached the topic with my husband who shot the proposal down for the time being because ours is a rental and he did not want to lug around a bathtub during shifting. But it is my dream home and I definitely want this beauty.

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His and Her wash basin! Stuff that luxurious, opulent living quarters are made of. No more morning skirmishes over who shall be the first to use the basin. No more waiting for MH (aka My Husband) to finish shaving so that I can occupy it. No more telling him to use the other bathroom while he knocks the door down.

We both can peacefully brush our teeth, simultaneously!

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With a shower like that, who would come out of the bathroom?

I am a sucker for the five-star hotel bathrooms. Whenever I get a chance to stay in one, I take an extra hour to complete stuff which I usually finish within 15 minutes at my home. With such a beauty showering water over me uniformly like a well-played music, my home bathroom will be easily converted into a five-star hotel one! I am ready to wake up an hour earlier just to experience this every day.

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With the beautiful bathtub, wash basin and rain shower in the bathroom, I cannot possibly have the boring usual tap! No human being on earth can deny the awesome design of this tap! It is such a blend of aesthetics and technology that, I am sure, receive admiration from MH too!

In case you are wondering about the background of these beautiful products, Porcelanosa Grupo is a world-famous luxurious bathroom and kitchen decor brand, with its presence in about 100 countries. It has arrive in India holding hands with Kolte-Patil Developers Limited for their luxury brand 24K Living.

 

 

Fantastic Friday Fiction – VI

November 14, 2014

It is Friday and I am posting a fiction, that too a 500-word one. I am not sure about the Fantastic part though.

Sapna spotted him the moment he sat down with his plate on the next table in the office cafeteria.

She involuntarily drew a sharp breathe. This guy sported a moustache! Not just a thin line or a medium-thick bush, but a handlebar moustache, just like Amir Khan in Mangal Pandey! It gave his youngish face some definition and a very different flavour of hotness.

From his t-shirt sporting a specific logo, she figured out that he was from one of the company’s many branches all over the country. A few more furtive glances later, Sapna realised that he was much more than his facial hair. He had a tall and lean body, carved with perfection. His arms looked strong, his stomach was flat absolutely flat and he had a head full of lovely jet-black hair.

She had been surrounded by paunchy and baldy men for so long that she had almost forgotten how a chiseled and perfect male figure looked like, until this moment.

Sapna could no more concentrate on her food and the mid-day news airing on the cafeteria TV. Memories of her youth jostled for her attention. Her crush on the cute and nerdy topper of her class, her dalliance with the long-haired rock musician of her college band, her one-year serious relationship with her co-intern whose over-smartness always made her uneasy in public, her secret lust for her husband’s best friend when both of them came to “meet” her – all which had been lying forgotten in the innermost chamber of her mind surfaced with the appearance of this guy. She had almost forgotten what a heady feeling it was to appreciate someone with the sense of sight.

By now her lunch was over. She was sitting all alone, like every day. Her contemporaries usually come down for lunch much later and her team members avoid her table in order to enjoy their one-hour break from their boss.

The guy had also left. Sapna knew she may not see him again in future. He was a momentary distraction from the humdrum of her life.

She went to the women’s loo to touch up her lipstick. The mirror reminded that her greys have become more visible and needed an urgent salon appointment. She walked up to her plush cabin in the corner of 7th floor and prepared to bury her head in the laptop.

Her reverie was broken with a knock. Sapna looked up, startled and slightly annoyed at the intrusion.

 “Ma’am, I am Siddharth from the Bangalore unit. I have been deployed to the headquarters for a month to work with your team for the upcoming event.”

He continued, “I am sorry to have reported post lunch-time. My flight was delayed due to bad weather. If you tell me where to begin, I am ready to start.”

Sapna watched the eager face before her, complete with his handlebar moustache. Carefully masking her happiness, she welcomed him and called in her secretary to make arrangements so that his stay for the next month would be comfortable.

I was having my lunch in my office cafe at a table full of women of all age. A guy with a handlebar moustache entered and everyone started talking about him. I felt they were a little too critical of the poor guy. Then I thought, what if it was a farce? What if they were all secretly fantasizing about him? And so I wrote this story.

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