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 Bride Who Would not Burn


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Image Courtesy: Internet

Young and smart Delhi girl Poonam Bajaj takes a chance at connubial bliss with Ravinder Arora, a small businessman from Delhi. The match is arranged by their families and the friendly neighborhood panditji, the marriage broker who is more interested in lining his own pockets rather than ensuring the compatibility of the individuals he sets up for a lifetime of togetherness.

An arranged marriage in India which celebrates the union of two families rather than individuals, is a potpourri of human expectations and this story is filled with the most ambitious ones, depending on which person you ask! The mound of expectations that make up this story are those of:

  1. Poonam, who dreams of a cozy future with her husband,
  2. Mrs. Bajaj, Poonam’s mother, who is in a hurry to get her daughter married and is also kind of broke but nevertheless promises a fat dowry to the family of a possible match for her daughter
  3. Mrs, Arora, who dreams of nothing but a big fat dowry, a daughter-in-law that would also act like a live in maid  and a never-ending sponsorship for her son that would help him meet his business goals
  4. Ravinder, the easily manipulative son who wants the excitement that comes with a pretty wife and a big fat dowry
  5. Papaji, the senior Mr.Arora, a truepenny and Ravinder’s father who genuinely wants his son and daughter-in-law to be happy
  6. Panditji, the marriage broker who pulls of the ultimate coup by bringing all the above parties who have nothing in common together

As a  result, we have a  wonderful book that takes a look at the compelling issue of dowry practices prevalent in modern India in the form of a plot that is filled with humor doused with a heavy dose of reality.

The chapters about Poonam pressing her mother-in-law’s feet while churning out of innumerable cups of tea and dusting most of  time reminds the reader of the umpteen saas-bahu serials that seem to run on cable all day. Then there is a dawn of realization that this is the kind of life that many woman face on a day-to-day basis in India.

The book is written in the format of a play, complete with notes on stage setups, props and costumes. The entire story is a conversation between a judge who would be presiding over the dowry case of Poonam Bajaj who thwarted an attempt to burn her alive by delivering karate kicks to her husband and mother-in-law, a public defender representing Poonam and a litigator representing the groom and his mother.

The author brings the reader’s attention to the double standards in our society as it applies to women very cleverly through the arguments between the judge and the two lawyers. What starts as a conversation of the usage of Section 498 A of the India Penal Code moves on to sensitive issues about how women and men are judged differently based on the way they behave or the various traits that they exhibit as a person . For e.g. A man who is well versed in martial arts would be viewed as strong and brave whereas a woman would be deemed aggressive! A woman with an extraordinary sexual appetite is judged to have a low morals whereas a man with the same desires is supposed to be normal and virile.

The book goes on to depict how weddings these days are more like business deals, ritualistic and a cheap display of wealth and one-upmanship rather than the spiritualistic celebration of love and harmony that they should be. If weddings are about the display of wealth and power, the marriages resulting from such weddings seem to be all about expecting the world of the new bride and her family. Nobody is happy if a bride enters her new home with jewellery and gifts for her new family because when compared to another bride in the neighborhood who probably got more jewellery and bigger, better gifts for her new home.

What started as a practice of a bride’s family giving her a wedding gift based on the capacity of the family during the days when the Indian law only entitled sons to inherit family property has now morphed into an ugly practice that makes it mandatory for parents  to send their daughters to their marital homes with fat wads of cash, gold and diamonds, silks and expensive gifts for her new husband and her in-laws. It seems like an entire country missed or rather chose to ignore the memo that clearly states that daughters can inherit family property too and that there is no need to unnecessarily compensate them in the form of a fat dowry!

The author describes this beautifully through the words of one of the characters that states the following: “only when this age old practice o dowry combines with modern day consumerism that the resulting concoction makes for a deadly cocktail

So what does a family who is not happy with their new daughter-in-law’s dowry do? They turn abusive and in many cases they do away with her for good! In India, women are still burnt to death when they don’t satisfy the dowry demands of their new marital homes and most of their deaths are made to look like kitchen accidents.

What’s worse is the fact  that even the courts of law investigate such cases from the point of view of the abuser rather than the victim especially when the victim does not conform to societal norms of being a woman. And that is precisely what happens in the case of Poonam. The puritan judge that listens to the arguments of the two lawyers believes that on some level that Poonam probably instigated her husband and mother-in-law to set her on fire and that she is probably the one at fault rather than those setting her on fire.

All these issues and more are brought to the forefront by the simple words of the author, Rajesh Talwar. The play manages to keep the reader’s attention throughout and even manages to raise a lot of relevant questions in the reader’s mind. By doing this Mr.Talwar has managed to educate the readers about a very serious issue plaguing the country and has also initiated a thought process on what we could do rid away with this ugly practice still practiced in all echelons of the society.

Since I am someone who feels very strongly about such issues, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend this to anyone interested in reading about some of the cultural practices that plague India. At 223 pages it is a quick and easy read about a sensitive issueIn fact, it would be a great idea to have a student friendly edition of this play to made available at schools all over India to educate our young minds about the practice of dowry and its effects on the lives of the people involved.What better way could there be to nip this process other than making the next generation of young people to seriously think about such issues?

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 Blogathon


It has been an incredible first week of August! For once, I managed to participate in a blogging marathon and complete it. In fact, I was pretty sure that this might turn out much like other writing marathons that I attempted in the past, meaning that  I would not be able to do much after a day or two. Why, I even abstained from displaying the blogathon badge on my blog! But that changed yesterday when I completed the BlogAThon hosted by Blog-A-Rhythm.  The experience of creating and publishing posts on a daily basis was my equivalent of painting the town red. Painting it with words!! 🙂

The following is the list of posts I created for the Blogathon, listed in order of popularity based on WordPress Stats. Each of these was an experiment to understand what kind of genres I would enjoy writing.

  1. Justice – An experiment in writing paranormal genres
  2. Truant – An experiment to write something short and light that even the most busiest person who stumbles onto my blog wouldn’t mind reading
  3. The Strange Case of Mrs.V – An experiment to see if I could write from life.
  4. Freedom, to Be – An experiment on alternate points of view
  5. Promise – Fiction
  6. Moira and Dreams – Again experiments on fictionalizing some real life experiences.

Here are somethings that I learnt about myself in the past week:

  • That I enjoyed telling stories and  that for some reason I am obsessed  about the triumph of good over bad and the fact that villains in any story should enjoy their “just deserts”!
  • I am not the types to preach with my writing. Nope! I love fiction and I think I will stick to that.
  • I was convinced  that there is an undocumented Murphy’s law that states that the moment one sits down with an idea and putting them into words, they will be disturbed to abandon their thoughts half way! Though I am no wonder when it comes to writing I understood why some writers are referred to as tetchy people!
  • I loved doing research on new words, places and ideas!
  • There is some wonderful writing on the internet and I thoroughly enjoyed reading poems and stories by talented folks
  • I think I might actually enjoy writing more often compared to the hermit crab attempts that I am known for 🙂

thankyouI just want to sign-off shouting out a big “Thanks” to those that took the time to read my posts, comment on the blog or Facebook links or actually share their opinions in person and those lovely people who re-tweeted my story links.

For those of who you who have just stopped by, please take the time to read the posts (if you have some time  that is) and let me know what you think.

Looking forward to more fruitful writing in the future

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.

Moira


barathon“She will never find out!”, smiled Maitri to herself as she hid the family heirloom diamonds deep inside her personal locker at home. She was supposed to deliver the the precious stones to her younger sister Deeta.

Their older sister Lakhi, had taken on the onus of distributing the diamonds from their mother’s traditional nose ring between the siblings and she had entrusted Maitri to deliver the diamonds that were intended for Deeta. Never in a million years did Lakhi think that the diamonds would not be delivered or  that her own scatterbrained nature would work against her when Maitri declared that she had never been given any diamonds to pass on to their younger sister…

Maitri had always been jealous of the smarter and better looking younger sister. It also didn’t help that Deeta never bent to Maitri’s bullying when they were kids. Maitri had finally found a way to own something intended for Deeta.  In fact, she had plans to convert the diamond stones into earrings for her own daughter before suspicions could be raised within the family.

Life works in funny ways and late one evening, Maitri walked into her home that had been broken into.

“You have some wishful thinking!”, smiled an invisible Moira, as Maitri rushed into her bedroom and fainted on discovering that the thieves had  broken into her locker and had made away with everything in it.

Notes:

Moirai – The word origin for Moira per Dictionary.com is as follows:

“fem. proper name, one of the Fates, from Greek Moira, literally “share,fate,” related to moros “fate, destiny, doom,” meros “part, lot,” meiresthai “to receive one’s share”

I have used the meaning “to receive one’s share” for my fictional attempt above.

Per Wiki, “Moira may mean portion or share in the distribution of booty (“equal booty”), portion in life, lot, destiny, (“the immortals fixed the destiny”) death (“destiny of death”), portion of the distributed land., The word is also used for something which is meet and right (“according to fate, in order, rightly”)

Today’s Prompt: Wishful Thinking

 

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