Monday, 28 December 2015

If you live in the southern part of the city or its suburbs, where the languid marshlands are rapidly usurped by boxes made of mortar and concrete, and travel in auto rickshaws for daily commuting, you must have sat in my auto-rickshaw. I drive an auto-rickshaw for living; like thousands of young men of the city, who left their school, midway. I ply between two important squares of south Kolkata. If you are curious to know which one is mine, I`d suggest to take a note of the catchphrases written on the hind screen of the autos. Most of them are littered with cheap and clich├ęd slogans; but the one with “Love is a quivering happiness” is mine. It`s the only auto rickshaw in the city to bear such a beautiful quote. I doubt if any auto driver has even heard it. Whenever I read the line, a strange sensation rises in my heart; a pleasant but perilous feeling as if I were standing on the edge of a precipice and watching a descending cascade tumbling down into a great depth, which will eventually take me along, crashing into a whirlpool of scattering silvery flakes, the droplets catching the resplendent splinters of the setting sun.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Well, last few weeks were very busy, and I couldn`t find time to share my first published story to my friends and faithful readers.
The upper one is an e book published last week by a group of writers, called WRIMO INDIA. This is a name given to the writers from India, who write a 50000 word strong novel on November, every year in 30 days. The organisation is called NANOWRIMO ( November is the writing month), which is a big non-profit endeavour to inspire and urge the wannabe writers to shake of the procrastination and write regularly. WRIMO INDIA comprises of few hundred writers from India who take the writing challenge every year.
This book, an anthology of 21 short stories, is the outcome of collective decision to write stories on a single theme, vengeance.
So, there are 21 stories of vengeance, each one unique in its own way.
The upper photo is the actual cover page of the ebook, while the photograph showing my story is not there in the book; it`s the image, that came into my head while writing the story. A field, with some shrubs and trees around, the blue morning sky and some broken poles - an eerie feeling that you will get when you finish my story.
Hope you enjoy the literary feast, and if you do, don`t forget to comment. All comments are welcome. 

Friday, 30 October 2015

Courtesans of Karim`s Street by Debotri Dhar

It`s the story of Megan, Dr Megan Adams, an young green-eyed mint fresh academic who had recently accepted a teaching position at Newark, a city tainted with drug, murder and high crime rate. She is a proclaimed feminist, honest and headstrong, but had had made a couple of wrong choices in the past. She fell in love with a debonair professor who is a habitual philanderer. Megan`s sincere compassion for her students had been misinterpreted by her college authorities for which she might have to face disciplinary actions. She is in deep confusion about her relationship with Kevin, her best friend. These are all usual complications of living in a modern society, but as the story unravels we find she has a past - a closely guarded secret, brought to light by an anonymous cuss letter. She undertakes a journey to India in search of the truth and meets Naina, another green eyed woman and realises that she is her step sister, both having been fathered by the same man, Sikander, who was a descendent of the courtesans of Karim`s street.

I am not going to elaborate further on the story as there are many sub plots that should be left for the readers to find out.

Written by Debotri Dhar, an serious academic and feminist who holds degrees from Oxford and Rutgers, the book is a reader’s delight from the first page, especially the readers who are fond of reading elegant prose, unusual metaphors, stunning simile and have an eye for sensory details. The first half, when the conflicts are being built up, is griping. The characters of Stanley, Kevin and Shakuntala are nicely etched, particularly Stanley; he is such a likeable man, big-hearted and witty. But Deborah, Megan`s mother, who has been portrayed as a bored and misunderstood housewife isn't believable; more so when we read how a dignified wife of a career diplomat had sex with a wanton tourist guide. Nowhere the author explained why Stanley was cold to her, more so when we know Deborah had a wretched past, much abused in her childhood but had a loving and caring husband.

Naina, the legitimate daughter of Sikander, is a feisty woman – almost the alter ego of Megan. Her journey is equally fascinating; particularly the bonhomie she shared with Megan unaware of the reality is touching. I liked the moment when two green eyed women break into an impromptu gig of kathak while an onlooker encourages them to carry on. But her music fellowship, that too in the US is hard to believe and comes as forced, imposed upon.

The resolution part has been done in exposition mainly in the form of excerpts from Deborah`s diary which was the weak link of the whole story. It made the reader lose concentration, despite powerful prose. As a reader, one is likely to wonder who wrote the cryptic letter to Megan that kick-started the whole journey, but the author forgets to inform us about it.

However, this is one book, written with utmost care and embellished with a wonderful cover. I strongly recommend the book for them who savour good writing in English, but not the average readers who are in a hurry to devour a story in a period of few hours. I`d rather say that the book has to be sipped slowly like a glass of chilled Chardonnay, and not  gulped down like a shot of tequila.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Bruised Balsam

This is the story I wrote following Chetan Bhagat`s preface for Write India story competition of TOI in September 2015. The first paragraph is Chetan`s.

She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf. ..(Chetan Bhagat`s preface)

The horde of pedestrian on the sidewalk marching in hurry, the mad rush of the week-end traffic racing towards the city centre, were all visible like the long shots of a silent movie. Inside the cafe, under the muted illumination, the air smelled of coffee; the aroma of the roasted beans lingering, masking the smell of raw blood.

What do I do now? She thought. There are only two options. She can jump to her death into the dark waters of the river that is ten minutes walk from here or surrender. In the former case, her story ends in two minutes because she doesn`t know how to swim. Police will register a case of suicide and simply close the case. But if she surrenders, she will be charged for murder in cold blood and hanged, the circumstances that led to the so called man-slaughter being conveniently ignored by the judge.

She knows how judiciary works in this country; how justice can be bought, manipulated by the rich and well connected. Even if she escapes the gallows, a rare possibility of course, she knows she would have to spend rest of her life in the darkness of the dungeon to prove yet again that justice is still blind in this country.

Payel doesn’t like either of the two. She believes her case has enough merit to be considered as legitimate outburst of a woman against tyranny and humiliation. It`s not her fight alone; she represents thousands of women like her who had been denied of their place in the society that had always painted women as object of desire. How can the society accept a monster of a man who plays with the emotions of a simple girl for years and dumps her when time comes marry? It`s a fight she is determined to take on chin up; but to become eligible to fight, she must protect herself and find people to support her. Her mind raced against time for suddenly she became aware of the fact that more than two hours had passed since she had fled the hotel room. It`s hard to believe that no hotel staff had walked inside and discovered the corpse in the midst of puddles of blood that might have congealed into brown jelly by now.

She knew there were enough clues around, and it wouldn’t take long time for the cops to find her out. Every minute is precious; you must decide fast, she told herself. But where will she go? Is there any safe haven for a girl with the city police in hot pursuit of her? She doesn’t know. The world suddenly felt like a savannah with predators lurking behind every dense shrub. As if a fishing net was closing in and soon a pair of invisible hands was going to smother her.

She suddenly noticed the waiter was standing in front of her to clear the table, but wasn’t able to do so because she was still holding the empty mug.

“Oh, I`m so sorry,” she said and withdrew to let the mug be cleared away. She gave him a silly smile and leaned back on her chair. The waiter wiped the table dry with a mop and as he did so, his hand made a couple of sweeping arcs dangerously close to the heaped up scarf. The acute awareness of the blood-stained knife, still wrapped in her scarf lying next to her handbag sent chills down her spine.

Must get rid of this, she thought. This is the only direct evidence that could lead to her arrest and prosecution. Clutching the heap with the knife inside, she struggled to stuff it into her handbag casting alert gaze around if anybody was watching her. The bag swelled up grotesquely in the middle like a precociously pregnant girl. She ignored the prying eyes, paid at the counter and stepped out.

The sidewalk wasn’t crowded. A few evening ramblers milled around while a couple of office-returned waited at the dimly lit bus stop. She waited and got into the first bus that pulled in.

Was killing him the last option I had? Was it possible to persuade him one more time? Payel closed her eyes to reflect. Her mind raced seeking the answer to the redundant question though she knew this wasn’t the time to chew the cud. Having seated in a corner while the bus sped along the crowded road shaking the weary passengers returning home at the end of the day, she couldn’t stop recalling the events.

Mahesh had checked into hotel Carlton on the midday. He had booked it earlier and texted her the address. As she was filling up the visitor’s register stating that it was a business meeting she caught a glimpse of the executive`s leering face that was hovering on her breast.

Payel knew this was not going to be any different from their previous rendezvous, all of them ending in wild orgies, Mahesh trying out all different postures as if she were a slut who had been paid for taking part in those weird debauchery. She didn’t mind them in the beginning, considering them one rare passionate indulgence but when the relationship didn`t grow beyond fornication even after two years, Payel had enough reasons to believe that she had been duped.

“I don`t like doing those silly things all the time! Can`t we sit down and talk about something?” she objected.

“Are you crazy? You want me to spend ten thousand bucks for looking into those eyes of yours? ” Mahesh snorted while peeling off her kamiz. At times Mahesh acted mean as if it were only for sex that they ever wanted to meet up. He waited for the door to be closed behind them to start groping her like a dog in heat licking the back of its bitch. Even now Payel felt his greedy hands hovering around her neck and trying to unhook her brassiere.

“Wait a bit Mahesh. I have something to discuss.” She said.

“The whole night is there to discuss.” He said and took a long swig from his glass of whisky. Lighting a cigarette he took a few hurried puffs and stubbed the butt into the astray as if unless he was primed with those intoxicants he wouldn’t be able to savour the act. The next moment Payel knew, she was stripped of the last shred of cloth on her body and she closed her eyes for yet another episode as Mahesh began devouring her in his drunken crudeness.

After a while, even though she wasn’t mentally ready, Payel felt she was getting aroused and her own body was letting her down, accommodating the hirsute male despite all the gall she had against him. The room smelled of burnt cigarette and whisky despite the split AC throwing fresh chilled air towards them, and later as their naked bodies lay entwined on the bed Payel watched Mahesh`s flushed contented face resting on her chest as if the bliss of orgasm was still lingering in him.

The man was great in bed, Payel had no doubt about it, but even after two years of courtship she wasn’t still certain about her place. At times Mahesh seemed to be a sincere and caring man whom she could trust with eyes closed, but at others he remained unfathomable and rude. Payel knew he had been fighting an acrimonious legal battle with his wife since years and therefore when she was confused she always awarded him the benefit of doubt. But two years was a long time to take a final decision; and for Payel, a woman of twenty five, she was half way down her marriageable age already.

“Have you thought anything?” Payel said running her fingers through his hair.

“What am I supposed to think?” Mahesh asked turning on his back, facing the ceiling. His strong muscular forearm rested on her belly as he gently stroked her bare navel.

“Like when are we going to get married?” Payel said.

“Haven’t I said until I get the divorce from Sanjana nothing is possible?” His voice seemed chafed.

“How long it`s going take? I have been listening this for aeons!”

“Legal matters take time. And that fucking lawyer of her is making things complicated. But don`t worry, things will be settled soon.”

“Aren’t you telling me this since the last one year?” Payel said.

Mahesh sprang up from the bed and crouched like an animal on the prowl.

“Because that`s all I know. There is nothing I can do about it. How many times do I need to tell you that?” Mahesh screamed and glared at her. The diabolic glint in his eyes seemed too overwhelming. He squeezed her cheek hard. Payel cringed like a slender roadside balsam plant that bows to the wake of the crosswind when a huge gleaming SUV races down at top speed.

“Why do you freak out like this whenever I bring up the topic of marriage?” she said like a bruised balsam flower.

“Because you know the truth; yet you accuse me as if I am trying to run away,” Mahesh let her face go with a mild nudge.

“How would you know the girl`s plight when she has to answer hundreds people who are sitting on a high horse to judge her?” Payel said. “How long do I have to lie to my parents Mahesh?” She asked, tears welling up in her eyes.

“No need to act smart! Life isn’t a Bollywood film! Who told you to beat the drum in the bazaar? Didn’t I tell you not to talk about our relationship until we get married? Can`t you keep anything within yourself, you half-wit slut! ” Mahesh hissed.

“Mind you tongue Mahesh, you are crossing the limit.” Payel said.

“Who do you think you are? A sati?” Mahesh blurted. “Huh! A woman like you should feel fortunate just to be able sleep with me!” Mahesh said reclining on a heap of two pillows, crossing his legs and kept on spewing venom. “Have you ever counted the gifts I have given you? Those jewelleries and saris are worth of a few lacs?” Mahesh yelled.

“I didn’t ask for the gifts. You gave it on your own.” Payel said.

“What do you think I gave you all those for? Don`t act so naive that you don`t understand anything! I didn’t gift those to worship you! This is how I repaid you for all your services.”

“Don`t say that for God`s sake! I am not a slut. I didn’t do all these for money. I love you and all I did was to prove my sincerity.”

“Love! Bullshit! I know how the whores like you shed crocodile tears!” Mahesh grimaced as he took a long draught from his glass and wiped his lips.

It was at this point Payel resolved to avenge her humiliation and betrayal, and even the score for she had no doubt left in her mind that Mahesh would never marry her. The delay of getting the divorce was just a ploy to con her into this sordid relationship. You must pay for it, she muttered under her breath as she swallowed all the humiliations silently.

Mahesh cussed her in his drunken rage threatening her with worse consequences if she ever tried to confide in others till he fell asleep and began snoring. It didn’t take much time for Payel to decide how she was going to pay him back. The kitchen knife lying beside the fruit bowl seemed brand new, its edge sharp enough to cut deep through human flesh.

On an insane frenzy like someone possessed, Payel stabbed him in the left of his chest with all her might and Mahesh woke up from his drunken stupor with tearing pain to find blood spurting out of his chest in jet and splattering onto the face of a woman who held a knife dangerously inches above him and was screaming like a maniac. Mahesh tried to get up, but like a man-eating tiger that had tasted blood already, Payel slashed his throat in one sharp strike and silenced him for good. Mahesh dropped dead like a beheaded goat.

“Madam, where will you get down?” the voice of the conductor brought her back.

All the passengers had got off and the bus had reached its terminus. Payel got off to find herself in a dark alley beside an over bridge where dozens of buses were garaged for the night. A tiny dimly lit eatery was still open with a few men eating their dinner on the go. The red neon signs of the railway station could be seen at a distance against the dark sky. It shouldn`t take more than ten minutes. Payel stepped up her pace.

(beta read and edited by Prachi.)

Debashis Deb

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Horse rider

I wrote this story following Amish`s preface for Write India story competition of TOI in August 2015. The first paragraph is written by Amish.

Close to the city of Paithan, in a small village called Sauviragram, which lay along the banks of the great river Godavari, lived a woman named Ilaa. Being cotton farmers, her family was well to do, but (did not feature amongst the most affluent people in the area) not among the richest in their area. It was the harvest season, and cotton had to be picked from the plants. The wholesalers and traders from Paithan would be arriving in just a few weeks, carrying gold and goods for barter. They would exchange what they carried for the cotton that the farmers grew. The bales of cotton had to be ready in time! Work was at its peak!

But Ilaa was not to be found in the fields. She wasn't working. Instead, she was sitting by the banks of the great river Godavari

'I am sick of this!' she grunted loudly.
Top of Form

“Sick of what Illa?” Her friend Sumati asked.

“Marriage. Is it the only thing a girl is raised for?”

“No; marriage is important, but it can’t be the only thing in a woman’s life.” Sumati said.

“Father says that he is going to marry me off this winter.”

“That`s a good news Ilaa! Why are you making a face? Who is that fortunate man?” Sumati asked.

“A businessman. His name is Govind.”

“Govind? That cloth merchant from Paithan?” Sumati asked.

“How do you know him?” Ilaa asked, surprised.

“One of my cousins is married to his neighbour. During my last visit to Paithan, when we went to the bazaar, my cousin took me to Govind`s shop. He has a sari shop, a fairly big one.

‘’Yes, the same one, I guess. Last year when he came to buy cotton from us, he told haughty stories to impress my father. After he was gone, father babbled all the day about how big and flourishing his business was. How a young man like him had done it all alone. He came to our house next week with the proposal of marriage and a gift of paithani silk saris. How barefaced can a man be! He said that those saris were made from precious China silk and that he got them weaved by his own private craftsman only for us! Big mouth! I know he has a business, but it`s not as big as he boasts it to be. Whatever he says, he makes up most of it, I am sure; but my father wouldn’t listen to me.” Ilaa said.

“What happened after that?”

“I convinced my father to allow me to complete my music training, and got the marriage postponed by a year. But this year, he is adamant about putting a date to the marriage. I heard Govind is going to visit us next week with his parents to fix the date."

“But how do you know that he is a swindler?”

“You have to just look at his face to know what kind of man he is. I feel he is just another wanton scoundrel, under the guise of a gentleman.”

“Why do you think so illa?

“I don`t like the way he looks at me. I find his stare disturbing. I feel as if he were undressing me with his eyes.”

“Are you sure you are not imagining things? That might be his way of expressing his feelings. I think he has fallen head over heels for this gorgeous damsel.” Sumati smiled and gave her a playful nudge. “Some people are not so good at those social skills. So far I know, Govind has a reasonably good character, and he is still a bachelor. ”

“So, does that empower him to marry a girl even if she isn’t willing?”

“No, that`s a different matter altogether.” Sumati said. After few minutes of reflection she said again, “I have a feeling that you have somebody in your mind. Am I right Ilaa?”

Sumati saw her friend looked away, avoiding her gaze as if the truth would be revealed if their eyes met. She held her friend`s chin and turned it towards her.

“Look at my eyes.” She said,” Now tell me what`s the matter.”

Ilaa` s cheek was flushed, crimson, as though all her blood had risen to her face. Her beautiful eyes, framed by dreamy, long eyelashes were shinning like never before. Is that the face of a woman who had fallen in love? Sumati wondered.

“Are you in love with somebody?” Sumati asked. She was clueless about her friend`s ire which apparently had no basis. Most girls of the village were married off at an early age. Eighteen was right age for them to get married. Though her own story was different; she had a club foot from birth that made her limp, but it was expected that suitors would bid for Ilaa, a beautiful maid of a well to do family, who can read and write as well. Govind, though illiterate, was a well heeled man and would have made a good match without doubt. He had a bald patch which was rapidly growing, hidden under his pagdi; but how would that matter when he was able to gift his would be wife a couple of golden bordered silk saris? After all, men are not judged by their looks!

Ilaa lowered her gaze. The setting sun in the west had turned the sky magical, luminescent. The gentle breeze carried a sweet smell from the cotton fields, afar.

“Yes, I am.” Ilaa said.

‘’Who is he?” Sumati whispered.

“A horse rider.”

“A horse rider!” Sumati said, her eyes were wide and mouth gaping in surprise. “But who is he?”

“A soldier.”

“A soldier also has a name! Come on Ilaa, tell me. I am your best friend!”

“I don`t know his name. But I know if I am to marry someone, then it will be him.” Ilaa said.

“Oh God! You sound like a moony.”

“If I close my eyes I see him galloping away by the river. He rides like a storm, he is fierce like a tiger but he always slows down when he spots me returning home with my pail of water. I can smell him from distance; I can recognise him from the canter of his chestnut.”

“Has he told you that he loves you?”

“No, not yet. We haven`t spoken, but I know; eyes don’t lie.”

“So this is the reason why you dislike poor Govind!” Sumati said.

The bank of mighty river was desolate except the two friends sitting under a coconut palm. A boat was ferrying the villagers from Nandagram, the village that lay across the river. Ilaa was lost in her day dream when Sumati said,

“Tell me more about your soldier. Tell me when did you meet him for the first time?”

“I met him here, on the bank of Godavari.” Ilaa said. “It was an afternoon like this, a year ago. The king`s soldiers had camped somewhere far in the empty cotton fields. The harvest was over already. I was going back home, humming a song. Then I heard trot of a horse following me. I dismissed it thinking I was hallucinating because there wasn’t anybody around except the kid that never lives me alone, capering ahead of mine, its bell making sweet tinkles. Then a man spoke.”

“Was he the soldier?” Sumati asked.

“Yes, it was him. I didn’t know him, but he was in warrior`s livery, with the royal insignia engraved over his left chest. With one look at him, I knew he was a soldier. When he got off the horse, I was trembling, thinking what wrong I had done, but he was quick to recognise my apprehension.” Ilaa said.

“Didn’t he tell you anything?” Sumati asked.

“He said he was a soldier but there was no reason to get scared of him because he wasn’t in hot pursuit of an outlaw, and strolling on the bank of Godavari was not an offence at all.”

“Didn’t he ask your name?”

“No, he didn’t. He just mounted his horse and galloped away. After he had left, I stood there flabbergasted for some time. I was wondering why he got off his horse.” Ilaa said.

“It`s surprising.” Sumati said.

“We bumped on each other on the streets and bazaar, but we never spoke. It was only during couple of weeks ago, he asked my name.”

“At least now he knows your name.” Sumati said.

Both the friends had a hearty laugh. As they were coming home they met a couple of bullock carts returning, packed with bales of cotton procured from their village. A few scrawny bare bodied kids screamed and ran after the carts just to annoy the coachman.

When Ilaa returned home, she met her father and two elder brothers sitting in they yard discussing something. They suddenly became silent as they saw her approaching. Her father looked angry, his face stiff, vacant vacant for a few moments then all hell broke loose.

“Where have you been for the whole day?” Her father demanded.

“I was with Sumati in her house.” Ilaa skipped the river bank sojourn.

“No, it`s not true.” Her father roared.” I checked. You went there but after some time you sneaked away with Sumati. Where did you go?”

“We went to the bank of the river.” Ilaa said.

“Why? Whom did you meet there?”

“Father, you are mistaken. I haven’t met anybody there. We went there just to sit and talk; nothing else.” Ilaa said.

“Aren’t you two gossiping all the time at home too? What`s the need of going to the deserted riverside in the afternoon and invite trouble? Haven’t you seen the royal army parading in the nearby ground? ”

Ilaa`s heart missed a couple of beats on mention of the king`s soldiers. So her father knew about the drill that the king`s force sometimes undertake at the riverside. Was he aware of her secret admirer too? But how could that be? She didn’t even know his name! Except exchanging few glances they haven’t done anything so far. Then suddenly she recalled she had told him her name when they met last. But why was her father suspecting her to be a dissolute? Did the soldier send a proposal too?Top of Form

Her mother, who was watching from the door step, came to her rescue.

“For God`s sake leave the girl alone. She is upset already, and three of you will drive her mad!” she said.

Illa ran inside, leaving her fuming father in the yard, who now chose to torment his wife instead. She heard her father yelling maxims to his wife that longer a daughter remains at her father`s home more trouble it brews as the parents lose their grip upon their children after some time. He would, therefore, take no chances and arrange the marriage as soon as possible.

Later at night when her mother retired to bed after the day`s work, Ilaa decided to speak to her mother.

“I don`t want to marry Govind.” She said.

“Who said you have to marry him?” Mother said.

“Father. Didn’t he declare so in the afternoon?” Ilaa said.

“That`s his view, and he can`t be blamed either. Daughters should be married above and for all I know, Govind is richer than us. So, there is nothing wrong in the thought. But, my daughter`s happiness is the most important consideration for me. If you aren’t willing, I won`t force you.” Her mother assured her.

Ilaa cuddled her mother, “I love you mother, I know; only you will understand me.”

Her mother, while accepting the praise, said, “Will you tell me the truth?”

“Yes, Mother. Ask me, what you want to know.”

“Who is he? For whom you are rejecting the cloth merchant?” Her mother`s voice seemed mysterious.

The night was dark; but it was darker inside the room for the oil lamp, the only source of light, was stubbed out. Ilaa squinted to guess her mother`s expression, but all she saw was a blurry silhouette. The elderly lady probably had kept her eyes closed, though she wasn’t asleep yet, waiting for her daughter to reply to her question.

“A soldier.” She said and thanked the darkness to provide her the anonymity.

"A soldier?" Her mother said."What's his name?"
"I don't know."
"You said you have chosen him!"
"I don't know anything about him except for he is a soldier".
"Oh my god! I thought you had something in your head! But it seems you have nothing but cow dung."
Ilaa didn't speak. Her mother spoke again.
"Did you meet him today?"
"No. When we last met, a fortnight ago, he had asked my name."
"So you told yours but didn't ask his!"
"I was nervous mother! I couldn't look at his eyes."
"They are so mesmerizing!"
"Silly girl! Haven’t you lost a golden opportunity? Unless you tell me the name how do we get to know about this soldier? At least we need to know that he's not married already!" “ I don`t believe he married.” “ Did you ask him?” “ No, I didn’t even ask his name!” “ You can`t trust a man at his face. I have seen more men than you, my girl!” Her mother said.
"Oh God! What's going to happen if he's married already?"
"You'd have to forget him for good."
"I can't. In that case I won't marry."
"My poor girl!" Her mother said, stroking her hair.”You will forget everything my daughter, time is one great healer. I can tell you that.”

Both remained quiet for some time. They heard a pack of jackals howling in the bamboo thickets. Soon the household dogs woke up and began barking to chase the wild animals away. The noise continued for some time, rising to a peak as the canines screamed and clawed their enemies, then the noise began to dwindle, and she heard some sad yelps of the dying dogs hurt in the fight. Soon the wail trailed into silence again, fitfully broken by the chirp of the crickets. She whispered, “mother, are you awake?” The tired woman was already asleep, she didn’t reply. Ilaa got up from the bed. She opened the window overlooking the valley.

An owl hooted from the mango tree in their back yard. The sky was dark; the bluish white incandescent moon shone behind a veil of cloud.

Soldier! Horse rider! Where are you? Illa heard herself calling.

Debashis Deb

Friday, 14 August 2015

Suggested by two of my writer friends, I read this book through the last week. Both my friends vouched for Hanif`s impeccable, stylish prose, and I wasn’t disappointed. It was such a pleasure to read. In addition of being witty and humorous, Hanif`s writing exuded class and perfection of the craft honed by somebody who loved written words. The book for me was a learning experience; and for once I imagined enrolling myself for some creative writing course!

Ali Shigri, an air force trainee tells the story in first person alternately with the author, who speaks in third person POV. This is one example of superior writing skill that enthrals the reader to turn the pages fast and a tool for the newbie writers to take note.

Nobody knew how the presidential aeroplane, Pak One, exploded after being airborne in 1988 with General Jia-ul Haque along with many top ranking army generals of Pakistan and the US ambassador Arnold Rachel. Hanif has weaved his own theory, which didn’t appear a cock-and-bull story for once even. President Jia-ul Haque appeared a pitiful religious old man, misunderstood by his wife and unaware of the conspiracies hatched by his own men who harboured their own secret ambitions. Hanif made us to believe in his story that unfolded slowly and deliciously like a ripe mango, peeled, pieced and served on a platter of spotless china with fork and spoon.

The novel won Shakti Bhat award, long listed for Booker and Gurdian first novel award. The book has something bright and breezy about it for the whole of the last week I felt very energetic and buoyant. I was surprised to recognise that it was Hanif`s writing that had brought the change into my psyche and taught me a thing or two, to incorporate in my own writing. Maybe like my friend, I will keep it at number eleven for the hundred books I loved to read.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Random Ramblings: Two

The book cover of my first novel is ready. 

I owe it to Sayani Nandi, an energetic girl who volunteered to do it.

But so far I have rewritten only eight chapters out of thirty-three. Every day in the morning, after I get up from bed, I promise myself not to open the social media, whatsup and facebook to be precise, and concentrate on my work. The primary job, which provides me the daily bread, has become routine and doesn't intrude into my private space now. Besides, I have learned to moderate my aspirations and therefore I can squeeze out reasonable time for my new hobby, writing. But, even then why I am not able to finish what I had been planning? I was wondering about it for some time, and today, after I have read the news about Anuradha Roy`s third book has been long listed for Man Booker 2015, it has begun haunting me for “Banalata Sen” one of the best poems of Jibananda Das, that I have used in my novel, had found a prominent place in Anuradha`s novel too. At this rate, if I keep on procrastinating, soon people might condemn me for plagiarisation.

I have heard about her somewhere, sometime back, but haven’t read any of her books. I read what the blurb of the book”Sleeping on Jupiter”, and it seems interesting. Jarmuli, a temple town sounds like Puri, but the author had rejected the suggestion, that`s what the reporter writes. For those who are interested to buy the book or e-book, here is the link.

And for more discerning followers of yours truly, here is the link for long list of Man Booker award 2015.