Monday, December 31, 2012

When a housemaid fell in love: My entry for the Get Published contest

This is a love story of a housemaid and a coconut seller based on the cacophonous streets of Kolkata.

Rumki is an 18 year old housemaid employed in a middle-class house in Kolkata. Suvendu is 27, married with two kids and sells coconuts to earn his livelihood. And he is blind. The story takes the readers to a poignant journey as they see the world through Rumki’s youthful eyes, experience the feelings of love & anguish through her naïve heart, and weave a castle of a happier tomorrow through her optimistic imagination. Meanwhile, the harsh realities of this grimy world pose innumerable challenges between them. Adultery, debauchery, crime, or sin- the society may give their relationship any of these names. But will Rumki and Suvendu break all social prejudices to fulfill their dreams?   

What makes this story ‘Real’:

This is one of the lesser told love stories but no less inspiring. The glamour world of celluloid has hardly done justice to the romantic liaisons existing in the lower strata of the society. Even most modern-day Indian authors have preferred to choose college romance or Facebook love, thereby limiting their characters to the more privileged section of the society.
This tale is ‘real’ because it is loosely based on the life of a housemaid whom I personally know.

An extract from the story:

Rumki found herself walking under the heavy downpour as the clouds battled above, and her emotions waged a war within.
‘Am I treading on the right path? Am I living an illusory life?’ she questioned herself.
A streak of tear tried to leak out of her hazel eyes. It flew down to her cheeks where it was engulfed by the rainwater. Images of last night’s incident flashed through her mind like the reel of a blurred-out film….She remembered having unclothed herself but the rest of her memories seemed distant, hazy and unfaithful to her own mind. She had got lost in a phantasmagoria of physical ecstasy which easily overpowered the small amount of guilt which tried tugging at her conscience the whole of the night.
 ‘Would my soul look at me as a tainted seductress? What will happen lest his wife gets a wind of our sordid affair,’ her inner turmoil continued, even as a strong streak of lightning split the dingy sky into two worlds. Ah, the thunder! It brought back warm memories. It was the morning of a thunderstorm when her beautiful eyes had met Suvendu’s blind ones for the first time…….

If you liked my idea and would like to read the full story, kindly vote for me here (please click on the red heart) or on this link Please, please, please vote for me. My life depends on it

This is my entry for the HarperCollins–IndiBlogger Get Published contest, which is run with inputs fromYashodhara Lal and HarperCollins India.

5 mantras to straighten our hairs: My gf prepares a list

Curls may look good on hot gals like Halle Berry and cool guys like Yuvraj Singh. But my girlfriend told me that you are no Yuvraj (and then I retorted back, ‘You madam are no Miss Berry’). After that, it took me close to 45 minutes to quiet her down, since she took offence to what I said. But let’s not get into that!

Eventually, the moral of the story is that, we both realized that our curls need to go and to go for good! With New Year banging on the door, we took a fresh resolution, ‘We resolve that we would straighten our hair this year! Come what may, we would say a final goodbye to our curly messy tresses.’
So, my girlfriend sat down to make a list and I tried to observe the lizard which was aiming for a housefly buzzing near the tubelight. After a full 1 hour, here is what she ( I mean my gf) presented me with:

5 mantras to straighten your hair:

i.                    Shave off your head. If the curls are gone, then the new crop of hair may come out straight, since it may be too naïve to know the nature of its own predecessors and in its ignorant innocence may just come out straight. (I rejected this idea immediately for obvious reasons)
ii.                  Run a hot iron over your curls (I didn’t quite reject it, but asked her to try out first and the poor gal backed out. Huh!)
iii.                Wear a wig (I ridiculed this idea and she showed me that ‘you-dare-ridicule-me-and-then-see-what-i-do-to-you’ look)
iv.                 Go to a beauty parlor and get them done straight (I dare not ridicule her this time but I explained her that it would lead to expensive monthly maintenance)
v.                   Buy a good shampoo that can naturally straighten the hair (I somewhat approved). After some soul-searching it read as:
v.                   Buy a good shampoo that can naturally straighten the hair Sunsilk. (She let out a whiff of sigh and gave me a high-five)

15 minutes later: My girlfriend was ransacking the internet trying to order the right Sunsilk product meant exclusively for hair-straightening. She found it here.
PS- By now, the lizard had already digested that housefly and was greedily looking for what other good things (read ‘flies’) the world (read ‘my tubelight’) had to offer. 

[This post has been written for Sunsilk 'Straight Hair Experiment' Contest, in association with Indiblogger.]

Sunday, December 30, 2012

55 words fiction: The first prayer of my life

As I unfolded the newspaper, the battered face of an innocent teenage girl fell before my eyes.

‘Let the rapist be hanged,’ I prayed. I prayed feverishly. It was the first prayer of my life.

‘Come. It’s time,’ they called.

And in chain and handcuff, I walked to the court to hear the verdict. 

[This story has been inspired from the December, 2012 'Delhi gang-rape incident']

Thursday, December 27, 2012

No shave, no kiss: Story of me and mah gf

[He stood there apprehensively weighing in the risks of the job he was set out to do tonight. The evening sun lit his face. A serene-looking Dumbledore watched him wearily and said in a grave tone, “You need to shave Harry.”]

I texted my girlfriend Sneha, “Wanna go to the movie tonight?”
Her reply was quick but short, “Did u shave today”
I was perplexed. I sent another text. “Wat kinnna qustion is dat. How does my shaving or nt make any diffrnce.”
She shot back with, “Ok I wl go. Bt remembr the ‘no shave, no kiss’ rule.”

And then the memory hit me. The last time we went for a movie, she had got piqued since she complained of my prickling stubble. During the heat of the moment, she had framed a new rule- “The next time we go for a movie, you must come clean shaved, or else I would rather KISS A GORILLA THAN LET YOU SNIFF AT ME WITH YOUR HAIRY FACE.”
That day, I did take the oath but only to pacify her mood. I soon forgot all about it, until that last text burst my bubble.

I texted back, “Luk at SRK. Gals say he luks realy edible in Jab Tak Hai Jaan wd d stubble. I wud luk d same, ryt”
I waited for 15 minutes after which all I got was , “LOL”
My blood had begun to boil by now. I called her up. She picked after nearly a minute, even though she carries her cell on her palm all the time like a mommy kangaroo would carry its cub in her pouch. (Sneha didn’t pick the phone instantly just to make me wait as is the habit of the girl gender).
“Ya say,” was her opening line spoken dully.
Yet I was undeterred. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY ‘LOL’? AM I NOT AS SMART AS SRK? And WHY DO YOU HAVE TO COME UP WITH THESE STRANGE FANCIES,” I shrieked my lungs out. I was shaking in rage. She disconnected without even replying. It worked. In my anxiety, my temper came down. I know well that ‘an angry girlfriend is as dangerous as a howling baby and a well-set Tendulkar. All three can make your life miserable, if you are on the receiving end’.

I called again. I savored the first few seconds of her caller tune and then a lady spoke in her saccharine-coated voice, “The number you’re calling is currently busy…..and blah blah blah.” Sneha had pressed the red button. Now, my anxiety level was reaching dangerous proportions.

I texted, “Aw, sowie dear. I jst lost mah tmper coz I m so messed up wid lyf. U won’t tok 2 me kya *puppy face*”

[I hate the flowery language replacing ‘sorry’ with ‘sowie’ and ‘my’ with ‘mah’, but this was the only way to win her heart, said my fast-working brain. She was addicted to such cheesy words and used them in her most romantic moods.]

My cell buzzed after a minute, ‘K’.

I hate ‘K’ but, at least it was a beginning. Now, I knew I had a chance to talk further. She was calming down (Ah, you are a genius- I said to my brain).

I sent another text, “Sneha sneha sneha, my dear lovely sweetu. We are gonna go 2 d movie tonyt. And I wl b clean shavd. I promise. And ya, I wl use Gilette and not any inferior product. Okay??????” Then I inserted at least 4 smileys to convey that I’m taking her very seriously. (girls can get a bit out of hand if they sense that you are not taking her words seriously).

Her final text read, “Okay dear”. A smiley inserted by her completed the happy picture.

Ah, and the rest is history. What happened in the darkness of the theatre is something between me and my cheeks (and lips too) and would go down with my beard to its grave.

[Harry said to himself, ‘Sir, you too’ as Dumbledore threw back his silvery long beard and the two disapparated.]

This post has been penned for the 'Shave or Crave' contest in association with BlogAdda, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers.

Monday, December 24, 2012

55 word story: I closed my eyes

I closed my eyes. Memories of that barbaric day flashed through the darkness like the reel of a film. A tear tried to find a way out. I breathed a silent prayer in my numbness. Then there was a jerk, a pain as the floor below moved and I, Ajmal Kasaab, was hanged till death.....

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sachin Tendulkar: The day when the Messiah got crucified

23rd December, 2012- the day would go down in my books as the day when a part of my childhood died, a day when the creator of all those memories carefully preserved all these years bid me adieu, a day when the ugly head of reality reared its fanged head to devour on my innocent dreams, a day when the coldness of the chilly December weather seemed warmer than the coldness of the cruelty being blared out by news channels, a day when the Lord himself decided to desert his most faithful devotee, a day when a small big man chose to walk away into the sunset, a day when the Messiah of Indian cricket got crucified by the heavy cross of his own gargantuan expectations, a day when the young blood made a mockery of old age, a day when my world turned upside down, a day when one phone call (from my friend) changed my life, a day when everything else became immaterial & redundant, a day when I mourned the death of One-Day cricket, a day when my childhood hero succumbed to the brickbats, a day when Sachin Tendulkar chose to retire.

All these years, I used to switch off the television when Sachin would get out. Now, WHAT FOR WOULD I EVEN SWITCH IT ON? Oh Sachin, why did you have to retire from ODIs; why did you have to exit so suddenly without any forewarning; why did you have to bow down before the millions clamoring for your blood; why did you have to walk out so silently and so quietly; why did you have to run that scalpel down my chest and into my heart; why did you have to desert your passion and desecrate my dreams; why did you have to grow old; why did you have to end the way you ended! This gentleman’s game of cricket can be so so cruel.

He steals a single, raises his bat and the entire nation orgasms.......

- No more of that. God hangs one of his boots. RIP ODI cricket :'(

-By Ritesh Agarwal

Friday, December 21, 2012

Flash 55 fiction: That's life

I looked at my little son. He appeared jaded and sad.

 ‘Life has been cruel to him’- I told myself. After all, he was only 10 and with no sibling to share his sorrow. 

My gaze met his moist eyes one final time, and then it was all smoke as he put me on fire...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Flash 55 fiction: Home Sweet Home

I pushed the rotten gate and entered the dilapidated mansion. It felt sweet to be back.

A crisp voice cut through the chilly air- “Better leave this place, son. It’s haunted.” The old man looked ill and pallid.

“But where would I go, Sir,” I said. “This is my home for the last 300 years.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Flash 55 fiction: I’m back

The black telephone in his bedroom rang piercingly. Sammy picked it up indolently.

“Hello, who is this?”

“Hello Sammy. Maggie here. I’m back.”

“Maggie who?”

“Ah, remember you dumped my body in the lake. I’m back to seek my revenge.”

Sammy’s eyes widened and jaws dropped. The line got disconnected. Then the lights went off……..

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Shoppers Stop: The magical place to pick eclectic outfits

When the smile refuses to leave my face and when the air begins to smell sweet, you can be rest assured that winter is round the corner. And winter being my favorite season, I put an extra effort in dressing myself up. Plus, with the festive week of Christmas and New Year banging at the door, shopping for clothes becomes a necessity for my survival.
Last night, I found myself in the midst of some chic-looking girls, all gorgeously attired in trendy clothes. I felt shabbily dressed in front of them and more so because another guy (that stupid Anand) had handsomely dressed up in shimmering black. Black always works for boys, but you need to know that I'm still the better guy (that Anand is not as intelligent or as good at heart as I am). But since all gals seemed to have eyes only for him, I walked out of the party. Then I heard a distant sound and found myself in my bed with my alarm clock ringing. Phew, so it was just a dream, though a horrifying one! It was a wake-up call, in both figurative as well as literal ways. I got up, checked up wardrobe and all my fears came true. Yes, I didn't have one exotic dress to match up to my exotic looks.
This meant work, this meant shopping, and this meant going out. But for a die-hard lazy sloth like me, it's very challenging to wade through the crowds and do an entire day of shopping from retail shops. So, I fell back to my most reliable ally during such moments of crisis- texts! I texted some of my high-on-fashion friends. A few of them suggested
Now, brands don't do any magic on me. But if I can lay my hands on something catchy & funky (something that makes me stand out of the crowd), then I am game for it, even if I have to empty all my wallet. Since, internet is just a hand away from my bed, I could access it without having to let go of my slothful attitude.
I logged in to began to hunt for something that would really impress me.

Price: Rs 2495
My first pick was this T-shirt. I bought a full-sleeved one, given that it would be apt for the chilly days ahead. Besides, I have realized that I look better in full sleeves. And of course, I chose this outfit for it's blackish in color (did I tell you about my obsession for black). Since I am pretty fair (touchwood touchwood touchwood), so black gives me that devastating kind of look which every guy craves for.
[Product details: Jack and Jones-Mens Long sleeves crew neck T-shirt. Priced reasonably at Rs 2495]

I had to find a great-looking pair of jeans to go with this T-shirt. And after scouting through the huge gamut of collections, my 'Talaash' ended with this punk-looking one.

Price: Rs 2169.30

This jeans caught my attention since it is greyish-blackish with a light faded shade and has that grungy quality which can lend that perfect cool look. The moment I laid my eyes on it I knew that I had to buy it, or else my conscience would never let me lead a peaceful life again. Plus, it came with 30% off tag and, for once, even my wallet gave its approval (even though, by general norm, it hates to agree with my pricey choices)

[Product details: Lee Mens Powell Fit Jeans.
Price: Rs 2169.30 after 30% discount]

Next, I had to look for an enviable pair of shoes. My old pair was withering away and it had lost its sheen after just a few months of use. So, I was looking for quality this time and hence, shoppersstop became my best source. 

Price: Rs 3,495 
I wanted something different to make the girls look down at my feet. When you are dressed to perfection with a ritzy glitzy T-shirt & jeans, then your footwear may just get lost in oblivion. So, it is vital to select a pair which is cool enough to grab its own share of limelight. Hence, this pinkish one seemed a perfect choice for 3 reasons:
i. The light pink color is a brilliant contrast to the dark colored jeans and Tee.
ii. Its girlie look makes for a funky and style-stating choice.
iii. The price is slightly on the higher side. That convinces me about the quality and longevity of the product (Snobbish Effect, I had read in Economics! Or was it the Conspicuous Effect???)

[Product Details: Jack-and-Jones Mens Rubber Shoes
Price: Rs 3,495]

Rs 799
In a sudden stroke of brilliance, I had an epiphany that if I could add a dash of surprise to my outfit, then I can create magic. How about wearing a tie with this T-shirt. The idea may appear ludicrous to many, but it appealed to my quirky mind (it thinks differently, you see). So, my next purchase came with the following description.
[Zodiac Mens Ties
Price- Rs 799] and it looks something like this 

I wanted minimum accessories coz I didn't want to look brassy and wanted my outfits to get the maximum attention. But I definitely couldn't do without a watch. I would have worn my old watch which is in pretty good condition, but then I caught sight of that dream watch I had been dying to possess since I was in my nappies. This blue-colored, round shaped watch is the stuff what dreams are made of. I could not and didn't want to resist this temptation. So, I bought it. Here is the picture: 
Rs 9,995

Won't it go well with my above black T-shirt? Yes, it will for sure.
By the way, for the pedantic-minded, here is a quick detail:

[Product details: ESPRIT Timeswear Mens Watch- Folsom Blue.
Price: Rs 9,9995 (with 2 years warranty)]

So, these items complete my party-cum-casual-cum-chic-cum-handsome-cum-hunky-cum-cool look. Now, I can attend any party or hang-outs and I'm sure, the eyes of all the sensible girls would be rapt on me. Yes, I can have that effect, but then 'Shoppers Stop' helped too, this time around. 
And finally, I can also go to sleep in peace being rest assured that I won't get another nightmare the kind of which I described at the beginning. Relief!!! 

[This entry has been penned for IndiBlogger's 'Shopper's Stop Perfect Look' contest. The contest indeed gave me a chance to celebrate my bachelorhood and to add some exciting products to my wardrobe. If you too wish to add that sensational touche to your persona, then do plan a visit to the number one destination for clothing & online shopping. Happy shopping, tring!!]

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Aamir Khan and the 7 dreams that haunted me

It’s 12.12.12 on the calendar as I write this. I have just watched ‘Talaash’ a couple of hours back and I have finally lived up to all the 7 prophetic dreams. Yes, an amazing thing that has happened over the past few weeks is that I have been getting a particular kind of a dream repeatedly. I dream that I am sitting inside the theatre and watching Aamir Khan’s suspense-cum-horror flick ‘Talaash’. In fact, I have had this dream 7 times over the last few days, and as late as day before yesterday. So, finally when I decided to watch this movie tonight, perhaps I was just following some divine orders laid down for me by my Mr. God! Having dreamt about this film night after night and waking up to a racing pulse and perspiring face, it finally seems that life has, indeed, come as a full circle.

PS- When I say, Mr. God, I refer to Aamir Khan. He is the God for me when it comes to movies. When he is on screen, everything comes to a standstill, the script takes the backset, the costars become redundant, and the world seems to have come to a stop. And with the doomsday date of 21st December looming large (just 9 days to go), I am glad to have fulfilled my utmost desire. Yes, I have sat through the experience of ‘Talaash’ and care not for the wrath of the impending doomsday. Come and kill me if you want, I am glad that Aamir chose to haunt me through my dreams. Looks like, his ‘Talaash’ ended with me. The answer truly lay within!

~Ritesh Agarwal,

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Walk to Remember Review: The best love story of all times

I have read quite a few epic love stories over the past few years. I have read ‘Gone with the Wind’, I have read ‘War & Peace’, I have read ‘Pride and Prejudice’, I have read ‘Wuthering Heights’. I have also leafed through Eric Segal’s ‘Love Story’ and ‘Only Love’. From a classic like ‘Jane Eyre’ to a modern day internet romance like ‘I too had a love story’ and ‘Love@Facebook’, I have read them all. And then finally, on that fateful night, I read ‘A Walk to Remember’. This book is, without a doubt, the most beautiful love story I have ever read.

Prior to reading it, I had never read anything by Nicholas Sparks. So, I opened this book with zero expectations. The moment I went through the first few pages, the hungry reader within me could sense that something good is on cards this time. And my heart quivered in anxiety after it smelt an emotional upheaval lying ahead.  
The prologue introduces you to a near-60 year old Landon Carter who takes you down his memory lanes into the 1950’s when he was a 17-year old high school student. You see the younger him through his ageing eyes and go through the tumultuous experiences of happiness, then joy, then bliss, then ecstasy and then heartbreak.
Since the story is set in the quaint era of 1950s, it makes it all the more appealing for someone like me who is obsessed with the good, old world and never lets go of an opportunity to read a classic. So, when Landon steps back into time and relives his high school days, the reader is in for a phantasmagoric voyage. The girl who steals his heart is his classmate Jamie Sullivan. She is geeky, unfashionable, overtly religious, annoyingly polite and irritatingly philanthropic. She is everything that a girl should be not! And Landon has always held a strong dislike for her, right from his childhood as they grew up studying in the same school.
So, when Landon falls for this girl out of the blue, the love is all the more sugary, all the more sweeter. But when has love come unaccompanied! It has always been accompanied by bitter pain. The pain at the end is aching not just for Landon but for each and every reader. This is one of those rare books which will really (and I mean ‘really’) make you cry.
The climax, despite all its gloom, is one which will put back that smile on your face. You will go through a rainbow of emotions and your tear will flow down and be greeted by that refulgent smile below! ‘A Walk to Remember’ is the glorification of love, it is a true epitaph for undying love, and it is the greatest love story that has ever been told by a mortal human.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Love@facebook Review: The most gripping book I have ever read

‘Love@facebook’ is the debut novel of the young Indian authoress Nikita Singh and she has definitely made a huge impression with her very first book. As the title gives it away, this book chronicles a love story set in a social networking site in the internet-dominated 21st century world.

Personally, I share a sweet but extremely short memory with the book coz I was through it in just a few hours. I picked up the book (from my collections) at around 11:45 pm, read the info given on the back cover (I always do that first), scanned through introductory acknowledgement and launched myself into chapter 1 (numbered as chat 1). I read the first line and I was hooked. I have read over hundred books in the past 8 years (including 50 in the year 2005) but never before has a book got me hooked right from line 1 (not even Harry Potter). I read and read and read till my eyes dried up and the clock showed 2:45 am. By the time, I had already finished 70% of the book (the book is not quite voluminous with barely 208 pages of large print).
I thought that I would finish it up the next night (I don’t read during the daytime as a general rule) but I proved myself wrong and also broke my self-made rule by running over it in the morning before, in between, and after my breakfast. So, in a matter of 12 hours, I had swallowed the whole book (and also slept 7 hours in between; yes I am talented).
The protagonist of the novel is a 19-year old chic girl (yep, pretty much like the ones we have out here) called Vatsala Rathore who develops a huge crush on a MTV VJ Ron. She sends him a friend request on fb, he accepts, she likes & comments on all his oomphy photos, she messages him tirelessly, and finally he replies. In the weeks that follow, the two have on-and-off conversations through chats, and her crush takes the demoniacal shape of obsession. She becomes his virtual stalker and begins to worship him as a God (mind you, she is not a lovey dovey sort of a girl but has her girlie ego and panache; it’s just that all these go for a toss in his case).
Oh, and did I tell you that meanwhile her best friend Ankit (her best real, non-fb friend) loves her the way Snape loved Lily. He even proposes her a few times but she always turns him down since she doesn’t believe in the concept of love.
In the climax, she finds herself in a dilemma. She has to choose between a virtual VJ Ron whom she has a huge crush on and a real Ankit who has always been by her side.
‘Love@facebook’ is a breezy book which takes no effort on your mind and can be read even if you are not in the mood to read any book. Actually, I was supposed to read ‘A Walk to Remember’ and ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ which my nerdy bookworm friend (remember, I had made mention of this friend during my ‘Life of Pi’ review) has so generously lent to me. But I had taken a 15-day sabbatical from book-reading and thought I would break the hiatus with a light read before launching into heavy books or classics.  So, ‘love@fb’ happened and it couldn’t have been timed any better.
Overall, it is an excellent read and the author has weaved every line with so much wit that a smile will never leave your face. Sample this: “He’s getting hyper. Do something. I made my best lost puppy face and said in a low, scared tone, ‘I don’t know yet.’ His expression changed almost instantaneously. It worked. I’m a genius.”

PS- The book's cover page (see above) is just perfect too. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

When I went for a dinner in a posh restaurant

It just so happened that I planned to dine out one evening. I am very averse to eating out, but it so happened that the day turned out to be my happy birthday and I had magnanimously, in a moment of emotional outburst, promised myself a treat. So, I finished my office and set out to feed my hungry belly with the luscious stuff that the world had to offer.

 I am unmarried and do not have any family as such. I stay alone and happily so. Now, don’t jump into an assumption that I am a social recluse. I have some good and even the usual not-so-good friends in my office and neighborhood. So, I could have easily asked my friends to join me for my birthday treat. It’s not that they would have refused. On the contrary, they would have excitedly canceled all their prior engagements just to gorge on the succulent dishes for which the poor birthday boy was paying. But, I myself chose not to send out invitation to any of them. By nature, I am very frugal and nurture no desire to empty my bank balance to feed lustful friends who have lost the habit of saying ‘no’. Besides, in these circumstances, when they sense that the bill will be on me, they fast for the whole day so that they may sink their salivating mouths into a culinary more palatable than the ordinary home-food. It is a common belief that when the treat is on someone else, then our gluttonous soul lying dormant for all these years suddenly decides to wake up and sniff around. Even the non-foodies begin to lust for the expensive food and even the teetotalers start to plunge their nose into the red wine. Therefore, and wisely so, I deliberately maintained a low profile during the build-up to my birthday, shying away from any limelight and feigning poor health over the week.
So, as I trudged along to the restaurant all alone, there was a spring in my stride and a happy whistle playing on my lips. I chose one of those restaurants in Park Street where I had never been before and was, therefore, looking forward to a fresh ambience. A swish-looking restaurant called ‘Rachel’ caught my eye. I love this name very much and so, despite some initial trepidations, headed towards it.
I stood, somewhat uncertainly, below the flashy neon light. The attendant at the gate looked at me with a not-so-friendly look, eyeing me suspiciously. Perhaps, my shabby clothes made him question my financial viability. But I’m not the one to take such things lightly. I fished out a coin from my pocket and handed it to him. He turned the coin from one side to another with a look of incredulity that I couldn’t fathom. Having surmounted the first obstacle, I puffed out my chest and entered. As I stepped inside, I could make out what the managers were trying to do. They had only installed dim, little lights so that the electricity bill is low. The last time I was in a restaurant in Park Street (it was some 6 years back), the managers were quite considerate about the customers’ requirements and provided ample lights so that they are not inconvenienced.
I poked around. There were quite a few cozy-looking tables. All the ones in the corner had been occupied by couples who were making coquettish sounds as they munched leisurely. Unaccompanied by any lady, I felt a touch out-of-place. Nevertheless, I puffed out my chest again and walked towards an unoccupied table settling down there like a lion about to eat his hard-earned prey.
 I looked around. A waiter caught my eye and walked towards me carrying a menu and a glass of cold water. I swallowed the water in one go and began to study the menu in meticulous details. As I scanned through the dishes, my eyeballs popped out. They had raised the price by what looked like ten times, a contingency for which I wasn’t prepared.  I knew that the country was under an inflationary grip these past few years. But never in my wildest dreams had I imagined that the restaurants were literally toying with the sensibilities of a food-lover. My first reaction was to walk out of the restaurant instantly, return to my humble house and go to bed with an empty stomach and a filled wallet. The stomach and wallet are inversely related to each other. When one of them is fed, the other feels malnourished. But then I told myself that it’s your birthday. And besides, the waiter was standing not far from my table and, for some mysterious reason, had chosen to fix his eyes entirely on me.
I made a mental calculation of the amount of money I was carrying. Then I made a quick price comparison of the items printed on the menu card. The cheapest item was something I had never heard of before. Perhaps, it was a foreign cuisine or maybe a mash-up of different local foods. I am very choosy about my food, but the risk here was worth taking, as my wallet firmly suggested! Putting on a look of pretentious confidence, I raised my hand and gestured the waiter to come. He came mechanically. Despite my inner turmoil, the sheer professionalism in his stride did not miss my eye. I gave the order. I think I noticed a vague sneer on his lips, which I chose to ignore.
I waited for around 13 minutes (or was it 14) surveying my surroundings. The room was quite dark & dull and most of the customers were eating in inexplicable silence and communicating in romantic whispers. And then the waiter arrived carrying a small tray of food. As he placed the plate on my table, I was quite flummoxed by the sight that greeted me. The thing that I had riskily ordered looked unfamiliar. More importantly, it appeared to be a meat product. Being a strict vegetarian that I am, I stay miles away from meat and hence, you can well understand my state of perplexity. Unfortunately, I couldn’t ask the waiter about my fears for I didn’t want him to think of me as an ignorant chap who doesn’t know what he has ordered. I already had a sinking feeling that deep down he wasn’t showing the kind of awed reverence most waiters are accustomed to showing to the wealthy clients.
He went away, leaving me in a state of disturbed melancholia. The food before me looked repulsive, but I had no other choice. From the corner of my eye, I could sense that the waiter was staring at me from his desk. I held the fork and the spoon and put food to my mouth (and not mouth to my food, as some of my gluttonous friends would have done). My intestines began to squirm in protest as I clumsily gulped down bite after bite. Like the expert strategist that I am, I smartly dropped quite a few pieces (almost half of the food) under the table during the course of my birthday dinner. Finally, I was finished with the grotesque thing which I somehow ate and then washed it down with 3 glasses of water.
The bill arrived along with the sneering waiter. I drilled my eyes into the electronically printed bill. The bastards had added about 20% of the menu price for some taxes and services. My blood boiled in wrath and agony. But the waiter was almost leaning into my pocket and I had to maintain an indifferent & unconcerned look to protect my dignity. My wallet threw me a disgusting look after I nearly emptied it of its contents, and the waiter did the same after I gave him a seemingly unsatisfactory tip. As I quietly walked out of the restaurant, I was no longer the haughty lion that had walked in, but a meek rodent who was scampering away. It was a disturbing yet a memorable birthday and my first and last one with ‘Rachel.’

PS- The above account is a work of fiction and definitely not related to my personal life :))

Saturday, November 10, 2012

55 word story: Mom, I’ll miss you

I lay on the shriveled bed in imbecile placidity.  My 35-year son stood before me perhaps musing over the money required for my kidney transplant. With ageing eyes, I vaguely felt tears in his eyes as he whispered, ‘Mom, I’ll miss you.’ But then darkness descended as a pillow was pressed tight against my face....

Friday, November 2, 2012

Life of Pi book review: Surviving in the sea for 227 days

Some of you may have heard of the name ‘Life of Pi’ while many of you may have not. The movie is about to come out in November (2012), so it’s likely that you would be hearing more of it in the forthcoming days. ‘Li of Pi’ is a novel penned by a lesser known author (now more than just a lesser known author) Yann Martel, who picked up the coveted Booker Prize for this book.

I hadn’t heard of this book till a few weeks back. But after I did, I couldn’t stop myself from buying it. It is the storyline of the novel which attracted me. Here is the basic premise I’ll present to you:

“’Life of Pi’ is the story of a 16-year old boy called Pi who finds himself in the middle of Pacific Ocean (after a ship-wreck) in a lifeboat which also houses an adult Bengal tiger. Can the boy live to tell his tale? Can he survive the salty waters, the scarcity of food, the climate, the sea, the desolation and the ferocious tiger? He will, and not for one day or one week or one month, but for 227 days. The question is ‘how’.”

‘Life of Pi’ is the tale of hope in the backdrop of hopelessness, it is the story of courage amidst desolation, and it is the saga of divine faith amidst utter despair. The story is also inspiring, if one can say that even though you are unlikely to get into a scenario where you will have to share a boat with a killer tiger. It is also a story which will, as the prologue claims ‘make you believe in God’.

Pi (the story behind his name is quite interesting as well, as you would learn once you pick the book) is a 16-year old South Indian boy whose father runs a zoo in Pondicherry. When the family decides to sell the zoo and move to Canada, Pi braces himself for a change in his quiet lifestyle. But, in just a few hours, his life turns topsy-turvy when the ship sinks and he is the lone human survivor.

A lifeboat is where he finds shelter as the callous sea devours his family in that fateful stormy night. The morning dawns bright & sunny bringing with it incalculable anguish and agony. But Pi realizes that he has survived and now he needs to survive further (until some help is sent). Inside the boat, there is the tiger; out in the waters, the sharks are waiting! How will he survive the hunger, thirst, starvation, the tiger, the sharks and the sense of extreme loneliness? And then, it hits him! Only one person can help him stay alive! And it’s the tiger! (How’s that, I am not going to tell you!)

‘Life of Pi’ is extremely gripping. I remember one day I just went on reading till 4.30 am before finally chiding at myself and shutting the book to go to sleep. You just want to read on and on and on just to know what will happen the next day and the day after and the day after!

The first half of the novel traces the pre-shipwreck life of Pi and is filled with various interesting anecdotes and funny incidents. The author has masterfully laced the story with humor and has also taken a subtle dig at religious bigotry (though without being didactic or preachy). Pi’s innocence is touching as he secretly follows Hinduism, Islam and Christianity without anyone’s knowledge. He believes in God and not in religion. And it is this belief which will help him during those days when he would be homeless, foodless, humanless and roofless with only the sharks, tiger and the limitless sea for company.

This is a book which is a must-read for adults, youths and even the kids. I thoroughly recommend to all my readers, except one (who will get it directly from me), that you purchase this book or borrow it from a library or from a nerdy bookworm (he is bound to have one copy). And yes, I have my copy, I’m a nerdy bookworm too.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

100 word story: The Mother and the Son

‘Wake up, son. Don’t you have your college today? You have been sleeping like a log.”
‘Oh mom,’ mused Rohan as he lay on the bed, ‘as if I care for the stupid college attendance. I would rather go to the club today.’ He tried to stir but sleep seemed too tempting.
‘Any chance,’ his mom whispered.
‘Not much’, a man spoke in his stony voice.
A desperate tear tried to find its way out as Rohan listened through his state of coma. ‘It was fatal. He was riding the bike too fast,’ the doctor finished. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Crystal: 140 character story

Crystal felt a drop of water on her face as her husband leaned over. He looked at her with unbelieving eyes and Crystal stared back from her coffin. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Flash 55: The night I made love to her

I slipped into the bed and pressed my body against hers. My eyes scanned her naked beauty contentedly. We both smiled as we rediscovered each others’ body. I made love with her till the wee hours. My phone buzzed a lot the whole night. I ignored all texts and my husband’s calls went unanswered.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Don’t kill me, I pray to thou

The sun is over my heaving breast, about to sink into me
The conch shells I can hear afar, seems they are coming for me
Will this be the night when I die
And will the breeze carry my final sigh
Today is Dashami, the end of a fest
It surely is time to put the Goddess to rest
All these years, I was her grave
But I am now ailing, peace is what I crave
My arms are shrinking, shriveled is my bed
The belly of the country, I have always fed
But the nation’s thirst how will I fulfill
After my own sons go for the kill

Author’s Note: The above poem has been penned to highlight the atrocity committed by humanity on the Ganga river during immersion of Durga idols

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Harry Potter series in 180 words

‘Severus, if you truly loved her, you must help me save her son.’

The talking hat sorted him in Gryffindor as he recalled his first brush with his new world - ‘Harry, you are a wizard.’ He looked around and saw Gryffindors cheering, Ron applauding, the twins winking and that bushy-haired girl sneering.
Two years passed, Harry had already thwarted the Dark Lord. ‘But He will return, Harry, stronger and more dangerous’ Dumbledore sighed.
‘Voldemort is BACK, that cup was a Portkey,’ Harry barked amidst tears.
‘Voldemort can be destroyed, Harry. I will tell you the secret,’ Dumbledore spoke through his half-moon spectacles.
“Diary, ring, cup, locket, diadem gone! Polish off Nagini and he will be over,” Harry spoke to Ron & Hermione as he stepped into the forest to meet his death.
Green light, pain, nothingness, and the boy with the lightning scar awoke again!
‘Tom, I am the master of deathly hallows.’
Voldemort was dead, killed by his own curse.
She finished writing and dropped a doleful tear as JK Rowling put down her pen.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mumbaistan book review: Love, loss and vengeance culminate into a gripping crime thriller

Film director and first time novelist Piyush Jha wields his pen to come out with ‘Mumbaistan: 3 explosive crime thrillers’ to give the modern day reader three Mumbai-based crime tales- ‘Bomb Day’, ‘Injectionwala’ and ‘Coma Man’. Here is a brief review:

Story number 1: The book opens explosively with ‘Bomb Day’, a crime thriller revolving around an ACP’s mission to capture a terrorist. ACP Hani can be stern, brutal and even fanatic about his obsession of foiling the plans of Aalamzeb, the Pakistani terrorist who has his own devious arrangement of bombing the city. Based entirely on the pulsating city of Mumbai, ‘Bomb Day’ takes you through its various nooks & corners including the paan-stained and urine-stenched bylanes where life takes a different turn once midnight comes calling. Tanvir Khanzada plays the protagonist and assists ACP Hani in his secretive plans. Rabia Bano is a prostitute and another important character in the plot. To an extent, Rabia forms the backbone of the shrewd ACP’s plans as the murky business of prostitution combines with a man-woman intimacy to give birth to a tale of love! The love story between Tanvir and Rabia makes for a pleasant and heart-tugging read. But there is more to it than what meets the eye. Will this ‘love’ help the ACP capture the eluding terrorist? Or will there be a twist in the tale?
While the language is lucid and the narrative quite enjoyable, it is the climax where the readers get jolted out of their cozy armchairs! This story, with its subtext of romance in the backdrop, can be perfectly enjoyed and appreciated even by those who are not into the crime genre. It is a definite must-read!

Story number 2: The second of the three crime thrillers, titled ‘Injectionwala’, is a tale of vengeance carried out by Dr. Porus Udwadia towards the people involved in the atrocious kidney racket business. Although, he starts out by taking a personal revenge for the death of his father, he is egged on by his girlfriend Dr. Saakshi to slay off all the people associated with this heinous crime. He goes about his business by injecting a fatal drug into the veins of his victims. Even though masked before the society and broadly known as the ‘injectionwala’, who becomes more like a national hero, his activities get discovered by a suspended police officer Virkar. However, Virkar stays silent as he witnesses the dramatic climax unfolding before his eyes. The story is written in a refreshing manner with crisp language and an engaging quality. There is a fair bit of sexual act involved as Porus and Saakshi are almost always bedding each other. The ending comes as a chilling shock and even though justice is served, it comes in the form of an intriguing ‘kiss’.
Jha brilliantly takes a chapter from the real-life crime world and weaves it into a thrilling story complemented with a nail-biting suspense. Some readers may be able to guess the last-minute twist in the tale but a bittersweet climax promises dropping jaws.

Story number 3: ‘Coma Man’, the third of the stories, is more of a man’s personal journey to self-discovery when he wakes up from coma after almost 2 decades. The story is akin to a road journey as the protagonist Samir Khanna travels haplessly and lonely through the various nooks and corners of Mumbai (a city which he now fails to recognize owing to its modern makeover) searching for his identity and his wife Bahaar. In the process, he bumps into Raghu Nadar, a municipal councilor, who has a keen and personal interest on this man for a past tragedy which they both share. Samir, widely believed to be dead by most, slowly regains his memory (albeit in sudden flashes) and discovers a horrific secret towards the end. The climax is poignant and one which will make you feel for the ‘coma man’. Once again, there is a compelling quality about this story as Jha tugs at the reader’s emotional side to tell a tale of love, loss, crime and vengeance.

All the 3 crime thrillers have a different story to tell with Mumbai being the only thread connecting them. The protagonists are well chalked out with a touch of vulnerability, hint of emotion and zeal to fight against all odds. An acclaimed Bollywood film director, Piyush Jha clearly showcases his writing abilities through his very 1st novel. Going by its cover page and its title, some people may not pick it up if crime is not their cup of tea. But that would clearly be a big, big mistake!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cuddling the kangaroo: A dream waiting to be fulfilled

Rome has history, Paris has romance, Thailand has culture and Africa has wildlife! But if I were to go to a place, it would be Australia.

“Mom, look, it’s so cute! It’s still a baby, though” I gushed.
“Don’t go too close to it,” my mom chided me.
“No mom, I want to cuddle it,” I ran towards the baby kangaroo and lifted it in my arms. It flapped its arms and leapt out of my hands and hopped away towards its mother.
I opened my eyes. (Ah, it was such a sweet dream; one that has been haunting me since I first heard about Australia being the land of the kangaroos.). Will the dream ever come true? Will I ever make it to Australia in my next remaining life or will they be as Australia-free as my last 26 years have been?
So, I was thinking of heading to this dream destination in the southern part of the planet (I remember once a classmate from my old school had gloatingly explained how Australia celebrates its Christmas in summer because of its southern geographical location). But, alas, I don’t have that much money right now to make my fantasy come true. So, I had planned to make weekly investments in lottery tickets (yes, given the vast number of permutations & combinations, the probability of my winning the 1st prize is as low as the batting average of Glenn McGrath). But, I think I should seriously consider this option!
And then comes the news that IndiBlogger (my favorite thing in the world) has organized a competition which will take me to Melbourne, if I win (But OMG, the competition is getting scarier with every passing day)!
Now, they have put forth a difficult question in the contest! I mean, what do they mean by ‘what would you like to bring back from Melbourne’? I mean I would want to bring back the whole of Melbourne (and given our geographical area, I am sure that it will easily fit into our country) but well, since I can’t do that (the Australian public would kill me), there are some fond memories that I am sure I can afford to carry back.
I haven’t been to Melbourne (not yet), but I have heard a lot (from that boastful classmate of mine) and have read a lot (in lots of places). So, I know what to expect from this place! Let’s first put our attention to MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) which is a must-visit for a cricket-greedy persons like me. And this website tells me that there is an enchanting National Sports Museum which must not be missed (not unless, you wish to commit sporting blasphemy). Skiing is another thing I am looking forward to. It has always interested me (I mean it looks so inviting when we watch it on films). But will I be able to ski? Nevertheless, even if I fall off recurrently, I will happily lap up the euphoria that this snow-crested Victoria is promising me!
I don’t want to waste away my time inside the hotels (even though these Melbourne hotels are going to be a thoroughly luxuriously pampering experience). Like any average tourist, I am thirstily hungry to do some Melbourne sightseeing. The esteemed and friendly-looking website (which I linked above) further informs me that there are countless attractions in the city. Apart from MCG (I had read a few years back that it’s one of the two favorite venues of Sachin Tendulkar, now don’t ask me which is the second one), there is the Healesville Sanctuary (where I plan to cuddle koalas and kangaroo babies, no matter how much my mom chides), National Gallery of Victoria (Aw, I love paintings and art works, even though I can hardly draw anything of my own), Melbourne Aquarium (finally, I can look at what goes around under the sea), Werribee Open Range Zoo (wild animals roaming freely in the open) and Scienceworks (one can virtually travel through space here). There are plenty of other attractions (yes, plenty) but I am feeling too lazy to write the names of all of them (that actually makes my craving level reach astronomical heights). 

I’m not a big foodie (though occasionally I do allow my belly the occasional euphoria). But Melbourne is so much full of these tempting cuisines, rich wine and delicious-looking restaurants, that even a not-so-foodie like me will spend half his holiday munching and chewing!
Speaking of shopping (and this is specially written for the women), Melbourne presents countless markets, malls and shops- all flaunting international brands and Victorian designer apparels. My wallet is all agog with excitement, waiting to be ripped open (I guess I will be much poorer by the time my trip is complete). Both my mind and my heart are screaming ‘…it's your time to visit Melbourne NOW!’ But will I or will I not, that is the question!
So, will my dream come true? Will I be able to cuddle that baby kangaroo that has made a permanent place in my dreams ever since I was a pre-teenager? (And, I have heard that there are penguins as well, waiting to be cuddled)! Will IndiBlogger give me a chance to live my dreams? Or will all my dreams get trampled by the hoard of competitors, all eyeing this Melbourne trip with a smack on their lips? If I win, I shall be ecstatic, euphoric and jumping up and down (Ah)! And if I lose, maybe I shall go back to my original idea of investing in weekly lottery draws (Oh)!
But…..I am sure one day, somewhere during the journey of my life, I shall make it to Australia and cuddle that baby kangaroo! Till then, it will have to wait…….

Rome has history, Paris has romance, Thailand has culture and Africa has wildlife! But if I were to go to a place, it would be Australia. And now you know why……….

[This post has been penned for IndiBlogger's 'it's your time to visit Melbourne NOW' contest in association with]

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