Penance


stairs-735995_960_720“Bare your souls, repent your sins and cry your hearts out! Let it all go!”, declared Swami Swaymbu in the most Godly way possible.

“Drop your belongings at my feet. These things are nothing but the dust that cloud your spiritual ways. As your material possessions make their way to those that  deserve them, your worldly worries shall vanish.”, he finished with élan.

As the mesmerized devotees dropped their wallets, jewelry and even property papers into the large bins specifically set up for this purpose, Swayambu turned around and winked at one of his mistresses. His stomach rumbled with hunger but he cheered at the thought of her serving him his favorite meal at the ashram when he was done taking care of the donations. It was a hard days work and these days it was becoming quite a task to convince these educated fools to part with their money! With investigative journalists on the loose and media attention on religious leaders and cults, any religious leader worth his salt would need to tread carefully, leave alone a self made one.

But Swamyambu had been clever enough to never get caught and had accumulated enough wealth to take care of all his needs and had more beautiful mistresses at his service compared to a King’s Harlem!

“All is good.Maybe, this time I can go on that world cruise…”, he thought as he shut his eyes and got into the well rehearsed lotus position which ensured that he would not be disturbed by eager devotees who always wanted his blessings. Nobody disturbed a meditating yogi.

                      *************************************************************************************************

Swayambu stood alone in a eerily silent and dark world where even the air seemed still.
“Where am I…anybody there?”, he called out.

He looked around him. Was he stranded in mid-air?
“Am I dead? Is this the underworld?” Such tales had been conjured by thieves like himself to dupe others, so it couldn’t be true…could it?

Fear shrouded his being as he began to fall.

“HELP!! Please!”.

Magically, a red stone path appeared under his feet. Relieved, he started walking as fast as his legs would take him. Soon he was running – for some strange reason, heat was emanating from the stones on the pathway crippling his ability to stand or walk. When he looked down, he found raging flames of fire which threatened to swallow him at  as they playfully licked the stones.

“Oh God, please help!”, he cried.

He was sweating profusely,  his feet were burnt and he gasped for breath. He could run no more. Then he spotted them – oh! how beautiful they looked and they were opening.

“The gates of heaven!”, he screamed delirious with delight as he sprinted towards the open gates.

He didn’t know what hit him as he plunged into the fire filled abyss below. The last words he heard before he turned to ash were from the the chuckling voice of the devil

“Bare your soul, repent your sins and cry out loud. Drop at my feet and beg for mercy as you make your way to where you really belong!”

The Devil sure had a sense of humor.

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#feedyoursoul #mytheme2017 #BarWoWe #Writing #fiction

The Speaking Ghosts of Rajpur


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Image Courtesy: Internet

Book Blurb: It is India of early 1990s – the ‘picturesque’ small-town of Rajpur is in ‘full summer bloom’ and there is a definite sense of mystery in the air. Amidst its scenic setting each year a group of boys band together to spend their summer vacations – going cycling to far-off forests, sharing books, discussing everything under the sky and ogling at girls…

But as youth would have it, their curious minds are more inclined to seek adventure and (hopefully!) uncover some mysterious affair. However, unlike their previous vain attempts, this time certain unusual events and the sudden appearance of a curious case of a ghost in their midst seem to hold the promise of some real adventure.

In the pages of The Speaking Ghost of Rajpur rest assured you will soon be whisked off and plunged into a headlong journey of adventure and romance of your own – on a path of discovery of friendship and brotherhood, of life and love – and, who knows, you might even get to encounter the Speaking Ghost itself!

A bunch of friends, a summer when days are longer than nights,lazy afternoons spent doing nothing, reading comics or in siesta, first crushes and all the little tales that fill young adolescent live…Now, add an abduction, terrible tales of human sacrifice, a conman and a self-declared Swamiji and you have “The Speaking Ghosts of Rajpur”

An extremely detailed account of an unforgettable summer in the life of Shoumo, who along with his brother Shaumik joins his cousin Joy to spend their summer holidays in the sleepy town of Rajpur. I started reading the book waiting for ghosts to appear and start their ruckus anytime but then got drawn into the lives of the main characters and their plans for the hot summer days. Reading a book like this will definitely make a reader pause and reflect on their own childhoods and adventures that came with it. The author has done a wonderful job in recreating the small town like Rajpur and has given it a lot of color making it pulse with life. It reminded me of another popular sleepy town from Indian literature – Malgudi! Every character that appeared in the book seemed to have a story to share and the local scene and scenery of Rajpur has been detailed very well.

This being said I should be honest and admit that the book was a little too detailed, almost to the point of exhausting in some places! I was once given a piece of advice from a fellow writer about how a successful author should avoid over the top details and leave something to the imagination of his / her readers. This book definitely suffers from this issue wherein the reader a subject to loads of details about the friends, their friends and almost everything they did that summer before actually getting to the core plot.

Speaking of the plot, it is definitely a very good one especially something that would appeal to the inner detective within us! If only the plot did not suffer from its sudden appearance and disappearance throughout the book, it would have been a more thrilling read.

The cover of the book deserves a special mention. Having created by the author himself, the cover is an ode to a carefree childhood and of course the author’s artistic streak –  A perfect face for this book. 

In spite of what I have mentioned the book was a pleasant read. Remember the first time you watched a horror movie with a friend and pretended not to be afraid? Or how about doing something utterly ridiculous and maybe even slightly dangerous so that you would be accepted into the “IT Circle” at school? This book is all that and more – a blast into the past, a time machine that takes you back to a time when there were no responsibilities or barriers, when everyday was filled with pure joy, where every little discovery  and first experiences mattered – A reading experience to cherish from first time author Priyonkar Dasgupta.

I would definitely recommend the book to those that can devote some quality reading time in their lives. I would like to sign off wishing you a happy journey to you childhood!

I won a review copy from The Tales Pensieve as part of Reviewers Programme. Register on #TTP for lots of #book fun and activities.

The Promise


barathonFinally, a Doctor

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism*“,  he declared, and went on to recite the rest of the Hippocratic Oath* with confidence and pride. It was a big day. He was finally Dr.Ram.

He was scheduled to leave the following day to start work at a government hospital located in one of the remote areas of Tamil Nadu. The belt was infamous for its phases of political unrest and events that followed such eruptions.  But he was confident that it would have no bearing on his job as a doctor and the service he intended to carry out for those who needed it.

6 months later – 2:00AM. A Government Hospital, Remote coastal Tamil Nadu

Dr.Ram rushed to  check the pulse of the bleeding girl who had just been brought into the emergency ward.

“Don’t you dare start treating her”, threatened a bunch of burly goons as they entered the ward, brandishing knives at him while one of them toyed with a gun. Much to the doctor’s horror, the nurses and the paramedics scampered away in fear for their lives.They had witnessed such scenes before.

“But, her throat has been slit…she will die in a matter of minutes!”, the doctor tried to reason calmly.

“Enna Saar….?(What Sir…?)”, ” Are you so sincere to your profession that you can’t take a break every now and then?”, declared the police inspector walking into the emergency ward.

Dr.Ram looked surprised and confused. He had heard of corrupt cops, but he finally understood what it meant.

“Just sign the death certificate stating that she was dead on arrival and I will take care of the rest…”, drawled the inspector, casually spitting out the remnants of the paan he had been chomping upon on the clean walls of the ward.

The woman on the stretcher grabbed Ram’s pockets, which was the only thing she could reach out to, from her position. He held her hands in an assuring manner.

Pannalana?? (And if I don’t?)”,  Ram challenged the inspector.

“Hmmm…”, said the inspector, his voice laced with less enthusiasm than before. “You see her, lying on the stretcher?  She is a journalist…out to save the world like yourself! She filmed us as we trafficked young girls from the slums, to places on the world map you haven’t even heard of!”

“First we destroyed her camera, and then it was her turn.  Now, here she is, wishing death would come fast!”, laughed one of the men, while he cleaned a dirt finger nail with a knife.

“You disgust me!”, spat Ram.

“Why are we wasting our time with him?”, interjected another goon pointing the aruval* at Ram. “Let’s finish him off”, he smiled as the man holding the gun thrusted its barrel against Ram’s temples.

“Doctor, what you don’t get is that if you refuse to sign, we will find someone else to do so. But we will make sure that you join our journalist friend on her journey to heaven!” finished the inspector

The girls hands dropped from his pockets bringing Ram’s attention back to her. She was dead. In all the time  he had spent trying to negotiate with the mob, she had moved on.

“Now, you have no problems…dead on arrival. It is not such big a lie…”, smiled the inspector. “The MLA will be very happy with you. Infact,  if you want to request a transfer he will make sure it is passed without any hassles”, he continued.

2:30 AM

They make us take oaths that we cannot uphold“, thought Ram to himself as he recalled the lines he had recited with much happiness on the day he was declared a doctor. He watched the backs of the goons and the inspector as they left the hospital with his signature on the death certificate. DOA / Dead on Arrival, it lied in big bold letters.

He turned around to look at the lifeless form of Suchitra – She must have been some woman,  to taken on these kind of vermins!”, he thought. He absent mindedly put his hands inside his pockets and was momentarily distracted by something his fingers had touched.

Ram smiled, as he pulled out a tiny SD card from his pocket. Apparently even the prospect of death, had not deterred Suchitra’s attempt to cleanse out diseases worse than than cancer.

“At least,  this is a promise that I can keep”, he whispered.  Her death was only the beginning.

 Today’s Prompt: Promises

* Notes:

  • Hippocratic Oath – The oath is typically taken by doctors and physicians about to embark a career in medicine. Refer to the wiki page. I also found this interesting page that talks in detail about the oath and the modern Indian doctor
  • Nihilism – Refer to the link to understand the complete meaning of this word.
  • Aruval – A type of sickle commonly used in Tamil Nadu
  • I have used some tamil words in the story. The translation immediately follows the words in brackets
  • This short story is entirely fictional. It has been inspired based on what we as the public hear about corrupt government officials some of the scary stories and events that make it to the newspapers.

Freedom, to be


barathonI am not disappointed by the fact that God gave me big feet. It is because of them, that those tiny shoes never fit.

It is because of them that I was able to live up to my name. A beautiful Greek name meaning “resurrection”. I resurrected my life which was confined to living under the shadow of a beautiful sister to that of a woman who lives by her own rules.

I always wonder if it suits Cinderella to live within the stifling walls of a grand castle adorned with stained glass windows. To live each day having to look like perfect arm candy alongside Prince Charming, while having to follow every rule under the crown that was ever written; to spend her days as dictated by the Royal planner.Seems to me like she won her freedom from the clutches of my mother, only to be step into a life akin to that of a beautiful bird inside a splendid golden cage.

Could that ever be my life? Would I be happy with such a life?

A tiny cottage in the country with a little garden and my precious solitude;  travelling on a whim and interning under the best street artists of Paris while meeting new people and soaking in new experiences. This is my life.

And I will always have what Cinder lost when those shoes fit. My Independence.Freedom to be.

You still don’t recognize me? The world refers to me as one of the ugly step sisters, but I will always remain  the  feisty, strong and brave Anastasia.

Today’s prompt: Tiny Shoes

Notes: 

Refer to Wiki for the meaning of the name Anastasia

Refer to the Wiki for the list of characters who figure in the story of Cinderella and the characterization of Anastasia

His Story


IMG_3920630 C.E. King Narasimhavarman admired the stretch of the sea shore that was the pride of his city. He was confident that this was the spot chosen by the Gods to grace the gem of all his conquests – Mammalapuram. Few nights ago, he had dreamt about a series of temples adorning the shoreline. He knew what he had to do. He would  commission his best architects, sculptors and builders to build a series of temples by the shore.  The temples would be connected to each other via perfectly lawned pathways, an avenue of flowering trees and have allocated spots for water fountains, meditation, yoga and relaxation for the visitors. He visualized majestic doors flanked by tall lion statues at the front and rear of every temple, which when opened would serve as a gateway into the world of a majestic Hindu God or Goddess. Those involved in  spiritual pursuits would  feel at home within any of the 7 temples that would adorn the shoreline.

IMG_1975He wondered how the number 7 made his way into his thoughts. That mysterious, magical number 7 – for 7 planes of consciousness, the 7 avatars of Goddess Shakthi, the 7 sages of Hinduism, the 7 musical notes…Yes! He would build 7 temples.

He shut his eyes as he visualized the temples. A light blue temple for Lord Vishnu as he rested on his majestic Adisesha, a golden temple for his consort and goddess of wealth Sri Mahalakshmi. This would be followed by a modest temple for the land’s favorite yogi Lord Shiva, which would connect to the beautiful and colorful temple for his other half and sister of Vishnu, Goddess Parvathi / Shakthi.  Next, a temple whose halls  would be filled with silence that would be befit the concentration required  for the creator of the universe, Lord Brahma, connected to a beautiful white temple for his consort and the epitome of wisdom, arts and learning, Goddess Saraswathi. Her temple  would become the haunt of scholars, artists and seekers of knowledge. Last but not the least, the 7th temple would honor the 9 planets that revolved around the Supreme Power.

Mamallapuram would have the blessings and protections of the Trinity and Tridevi.

Year 2016

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Image Courtesy: Internet

A group of students majoring in history took notes standing in front of a 6 foot statue of a lion, listening to a lecture about the history of Mammalapuram. The statue had been washed ashore after the Tsunami  that occurred during the Christmas weekend of 2004, had wrecked havoc on the state of Tamil Nadu. Initial research by the department of archaeology had suggested that the statue belonged to one of the 6 temples that lay submerged under the sea.

“Legend claims that Lord Indra, the God of the heavens had been so jealous of this earthly city that he sank the temples during a great storm. Seems like he was mad considering the king has not dedicated a temple to the Lord of the heavens …” smiled the professor.

“However, even Indra could not stand up to the protector of the world and today only one temple remains. Someday, we hope that we will be able to excavate the submerged temples and understand their stories…”, finished the professor.

While the students dispersed, only Simha remained, pondering about the lion. He had been dreaming of opening the doors of a temple for months now, as tall lions looked benevolently upon him. Even in his dreams he had smelt the sea.

Like a flash of light, it all came back; the purpose of the temples, their exact positions and the knowledge of what lay buried within the secret chambers of every temple.

He finally understood the meaning of his dreams. That the doors that he had envisioned to guard the temples, also guarded the treasure maps that would uncover a great amount of wealth hidden around the city of Mamallapuram…That it had been him who had commissioned the temples centuries ago!!

The wheel of time worked in mysterious ways and this time it had brought back the one man who would restore this city to its original glory.

Doors

Note: The short story you just read was the output of an imaginative mind. In case you were about to leave any comments here calling out historical inaccuracies, please note that all the elements detailing the 6 temples that currently lay submerged under the waters at Mammalapuram a.k.a Mahabalipuram were fictionalized. There have been are no historical records detailing the temples, the purpose behind them or any treasure of any sort. 

Eyes Wide Open


The sight of the Eiffel Tower made his heart dance with joy. Oh! It was good to be back home…His country had lost almost all of their foothold in India by the end of the Carnatic wars thus ending all French ambitions to establish a French empire in India.He had returned home with the defeated troops after a long and strenuous journey across the continents. His comrades were either tired, sick, depressed or dead! But not him. He would soon be the toast of the French court. He smiled to himself.

indian_hindu_god_lord_tirupati_venkatachalapathy_venkateswara_sri_ranganathaswamy_srirangam_image_high_resolution_desktop_wallpaperThe weight of his shabby back pack made him slouch. But he was happy to suffer the pain caused by 38 kilos of the precious stone.  He had accomplished the impossible. Disguising himself as a Hindu convert had not been challenging, but stealing the beautiful diamonds that were shaped like the half of a hen’s egg had been. And how could it not? The diamonds had served as the eyes of Lord Ranganatha,  located  deep with the sanctum sanctorum of the Srirangam temple.

He had strangely been unnerved that night. Which thief wouldn’t be, considering that the entity he had robbed was revered as the supreme power by those beautiful South Indian locals. However, here he was now and it would only be a matter of few hours before he would receive his million francs. Yes, it would be a new life from tomorrow.

Just as he took the turning into the dark alley that housed the location for the illegal sale, he was grabbed by a dirty peddler who held a knife to his neck.

“The bag or your life”, he whispered into the soldiers ears.

They fought until he was free of the load on his back. He watched as the peddler ran swiftly down the dark alley with what would have been his bright future. But it was what he heard that chilled him to his bones.

Just as he turned the corner, the peddler looked back and exclaimed “Vous savez, mes yeux étaient ouverts!! – “You know, my eyes were open!!

The next morning, some urchins found a wounded and blind soldier who had no recollection of how he had got there.

In response to the daily prompt from WordPress, I was inspired by the Wikipedia snippet I read about one of my favorite Gods Lord Ranganatha who is located at the Ranganathaswamy Temple located at Srirangam. 

Open

The fruit of discovery


My first real attempt  at writing a fictional piece. Thanks to the writing prompts by The Book Club. The piece is purely fictional though I did find some inspiration online about the places and characters mentioned. If you enjoyed reading it, drop me a comment.

http://www.tbcblogtours.com/writing-prompts-.html

Picture Courtesy: PWP – The Book Club

Spring 1610

The county of Lindsey was bathed in specks of green and clear blue skies. It was windy and cool but that did not stop Lizzie from walking around the little garden pond scattered with lilies trying to meet the sun whilst competing for space with their siblings who had formed pretty islands of red, pink and white over the cold, muddy brown waters. Out here in the beautiful and modest gardens of Woolsthorpe manor, Lizzie was free to be herself, free to dream about the poems she would write and the books she wanted to read. She knew that day dreaming would never make a difference, but she dared.

She turned to look at the manor where her mother spent her days working with the family, skinning chickens, rearing sheep, cleaning the sheds and tending to the hearth. It was a hard life but with a drunk for a husband and a young daughter, she had to do her part to ensure a life better than her own for her daughter. The kind Ayscough family whom she worked for, loved Lizzie like their own, so much so that their eldest daughter and Lizzie’s best friend Hannah even shared rooms on those nights when it would be too cold or dark for them to return to their tiny little cottage miles down the road. As the smell of young apples from the orchards wafted in with the cool spring air,  Lizzie wished for a better fate. She could not dream of a life with no expectations or unfulfilled dreams for the daughters she might have one day. She would live her life making a difference in this world… No! She would never be just another woman in a mans world.

Winter 1610

Lizzie looked on sadly as her best friend tossed a handful of earth on the simple wooden coffin. Hannah was kind enough to hold her mother’s hand, while she wept over the fresh grave. Lizzie’s now non-existent heart pained for her mother who would spend the rest of her life lonely and sad.

“But, what was I supposed to do mother, when all hopes for a fruitful life were shattered to smithereens when my drunk father chose to marry me off to another like himself”? As she sobbed next to her mother, she tried to explain how she had  tried to run away, about how she had been caught by her drunken fiancé and how she had fallen off her horse as she tried to fight him.

“I thought I had my foot firmly in the saddles”, she cried…”but I toppled trying to fend him off hitting my head on the rocks…..”

Her mother could only hear the wailing of the wind and as she left with Hannah the smell of apples wafted into their nostrils leaving behind the memory of a feisty best friend and daughter.

Few days later, Lizzie  watched as Hannah planted an apple tree over the grave, in memory of her dear friend.

She moved to sit on the branches of the apple tree whose young leafy branches caressed Hannah gently across the cheeks…She wondered if she would ever move on without making a difference.

Summer 1666

Lizzie watched the manor from her favorite position on the now sturdy branches of the tall apple tree. She noticed young Issac walk outside the house, in a pensive mood. Just yesterday she had heard him talk with great excitement about science and his studies about gravitation with his mother, her good friend Hannah. Forgotten dreams haunted her again while a young duckling wandered away from the pond.  Lost in her thoughts, she failed to notice the apple that was about snap off the branch which could no longer take its weight. The duckling was under the tree when the apple chose to snap. She swooped out to sway the apple from falling on the duckling, making a whoosh sound that distracted young Issac from his thoughts. As the apple fell to the ground, she found Issac staring through her at the tree and then apple with an expression that she could not fathom. Something had happened…but it was far beyond her realm of understanding

Summer 1686

It was a quiet evening and Lizzie found Hannah walking towards her tree. As Hannah sat down at the trunk of the tree, she unfolded a letter which she read aloud.

“Dear Mother, it is with great happiness that I write to you today to let you know that I have presented my theory of the universal law of gravitation, a part of my very first book titled Newton’s Principia,  to the Royal Society of England. This has been accepted by the Society in spirit…”

Eyes brimming with tears of happiness, Hannah looked up to the tree and mouthed the words “For you, my dear friend Lizzie…you have poised this world for greater changes….”

Suddenly, Lizze felt lighter than usual and started moving to the portal of bright light that had just appeared before her. But not before leaving her friend Hannah with a gentle caress of a breeze filled with the scent of fresh apples..