Sep 28, 2014

WOW-When I met a stranger...#CelebrateBlogging




That evening had been like none other. 

The prelude was a lovely start to a beautiful Winter's Saturday at our Pune home. My Papa's childhood friend, whom I address as Bappa and his loving wife- Pachchi had visited us after ages. And in tow were Pachchi's Sister and Brother-In-Law. Over the home-cooked Lunch of typically favourite dishes from our Konkani cuisine, began a jolly good chat between the group of wisened minds. Pachchi's Brother-In-Law who she addressed as Bhavaji thankfully had an extremely jovial nature and he had soon livened up their get-together with his impromptu jokes.I found him very entertaining and it was a relief to realise that I wasn't feeling pressurised to behave in a certain  manner as the elderly usually tend to expect. I was least bit bored between them, like I'd dreaded.

"Oh! Come on, Vasant. It's my son's car. The driver will drop you two back after dinner. It will be great fun, I promise! The more the merrier, you see?" Bhavaji had already begun making plans of taking Papa and me along, in their SUV back to their farmhouse at Lonavala, where Bappa and Pachchi were spending the weekend. And to my surprise, my father, a complete recluse readily accepted their invitation, too. 

Within no time I found myself travelling with Papa's friends, happy to see him mingling with people, like before, when Mummy was still around. 

As the car pulled in at the porch of the farmhouse I caught a glimpse of a pair of Red Hot Shorts jump off the swing and rush in. Probably someone hadn't expected guests to join the party. Soon a reappearance was made, now decently dressed in a cool pair of Track Pants, Tee, Jacket et al. It was the son!

Bruce Willis, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson were all handsomely bald and I had a fetish for the like. This was reconfirmed with just one look at 'the son'. Plus he was sporting a French Beard. My heart was thumping louder than ever, pushing against the wall of my rib cage. He promptly and politely came up and introduced himself to Papa. And then turned towards me.

It wasn't my imagination. Our eyes met like the much prophesied boy-girl meetings. We stared into each other's eyes, deep. Shook hands. Exchanged pleasantries. Smiled. A lot! And both our minds had already traveled elsewhere. 

In my mind, I'd just met a stranger who exuded an inexplicably familiar warmth, 

Just like in a typical Rom-Com, the man wanted to show-off and impress which was becoming a bit too obvious, even to Pachchi. He'd pulled them off the porch and invited everybody into his bedroom, despite their protests. Simply because he wanted me to know what a movie-buff he was, with his gigantic collection of DVDs that he watched on his exclusive Projector and Home Theater System. And as luck would have it, I was seated right under his over- head cabinet. 

Plonk! 
Star Wars had decided to jump off the shelf while he was rummaging through his collection, selecting a movie that our elders would  like. And it had landed right in the top of my head. 

"Ouch!" I went and as if I'd been most awfully hurt and bleeding, the very next minute I was being served an Ice-pack on my head, by this gentleman.

The buffet dinner ended with an even louder guffawing session at the porch. I'd done a lot of talking and laughing, cracking jokes too!

The Winter's night at Lonavala was chillier than I'd expected. I was shivering like a frail leaf in the wind. Before I could turn to complain to Papa, I found a jacket being draped around my shoulders.

" I think he reads Mills & Boon!" I said to myself, laughing.

Had I ever imagined that the sun would set that day, leaving behind so many hopes in my heart?

"Vasantu we must meet soon again. Stay in touch" Bhavaji was now quite pally with my Papa but all evening I'd been wondering what I should address him? He wasn't like any other acquaintance to me now. I also couldn't bring myself to call his son by his name.

"What is wrong with you Vibhuti?" I reprimanded myself for beginning to think and act like a giddy headed teenager.

The driver had suddenly gone missing and it wasn't a surprise for me that the replacement at the driving wheel was none other than the man-of -the-evening, himself.
I couldn't help grinning!

As we bid adieu I could feel something tug at my heart. I had already started to feel a sense of belonging here between all those people, suddenly. The long drive back was full of soulful music and more meaningful conversation between him and my Papa, who was seated beside him. I was in the back, feeling exceptionally quiet from within. It felt like I had nothing much to say. I decided to enjoy the drive back while I listened in on their conversation. I could feel his eyes, watching me from the rear-view mirror all throughout.

This was the only stranger who had knocked me out of my mind and had got my heart thumping wildly, with just a whiff of his perfume. I didn't want to part with his jacket. I didn't wish to part with him.

"Do come over for Coffee!" Papa had given an added lease of life to the beautiful evening, just as we drove in at our society gates.

More deeper delving into the past and narration of life experiences began at the Coffee table. I was thrilled to see Papa take so much interest in getting to know this man.

"Had he read it in our eyes? Was my Papa keyed into my mind?" I could only wonder.

As the clock's face read 2am. it was time for him to leave and begin his drive back to Lonavala. I followed him down the stairs to wish him safe journey. I observed his fit physique, his agile gait as I tailed him to the SUV.At that moment a strong urge to hug him took over me. And he did. Just as the car key sent a beeping signal, before he could jerk open the door, he whirled on his heels and suddenly pulled me into a tight hug.
Right there in the middle of the parking lot.

Next I knew he was adjusting the rear view mirror and backing the car out. Rolling the glass down, he popped his head out.

"You can call me Baji!" he'd told me, with a wink.

" You have, my number, I'm no stranger now. We can go out on a date tomorrow!" He was so much in control of things already. There was something so reassuring about his presence. His hug had given me an instant sense of security.

He had flashed that knowing smile again and driven off.

"WOW!" I said aloud, finally finding my voice.


This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.
Check what is going on in#CelebrateBlogging.



Sep 26, 2014

Jeep & Bourbon- Chapter 18 #CelebrateBlogging



 Read the previous chapter HERE


Chapter 18: Knock, Knock, Whose There?


I knock on the door and wait. The name plate reads Ahujas. He is not just a rental tenant then, I deduce.

This morning we had exchanged  a quick hello and smile but that was all. It would be nice to befriend the new neighbour. After all a stay-at-home dad also needs some friends to keep him sane. I am quite confident of finding a friend in this Super-Model. His smile was very genuine too. The eyes weren't vacant like they usually are when someone is giving you that fake smile. I'm proud of myself at this moment as I attribute this keen sense of observation for my great writing skills.

How casually Aryan Ahuja, a Pg.3 Super Model, had attended Roohi's birthday party last month, just at the little one's behest. And he also brought her that lavish present which was totally uncalled for. What a friendly gesture! Who does that nowadays? We didn't get a chance to share much the other day, the conversation revolving mostly around Roohi.

Now only if he opens this damn door! I grunt, getting a bit impatient after ringing the doorbell for a second time.

Finally I hear footsteps from behind the door and it swings open after a little clicking of locks. Atleast three, I am still busy making mental notes. It seems to have become a habit now. Almost like a spy.
You have been reading and writing too many murder mysteries, Shekhar. I chuckle.

"Yo! Dude, how have you been? " Booms the tall and muscular Aryan Ahuja. He's quite the happy-go-lucky kinds I see, laughing and hugging people. His PR skills seem to be very strong.

" Aah! I just thought I'd drop by to say Hello! And Oh! Yes, your courier had arrived yesterday when you were probably out. So yeah! here it is." I hand over the packet, I've been holding all this while. Seems quite heavy and soft. I'm sure he's shopped for some more clothes, online.

" Oh! Dude thanks a ton man! I've been waiting for these. Come on in, I'd love to show you my latest buy. I'm quite crazy about apparels. Do you have a term that too? You must know. You are a writer aren't you?"  He's patting my back and pulling me in.

As I step in, I am taken aback by the swanky interiors of his flat, quite contrasting to my next door humble home. Just hoping my face doesn't reveal too much of what I'm feeling right now. It's a great big mix of awe, envy and a hurt feeling rising up from my empty pockets and tugging at my heart.
I pull myself back into the now and think up an answer to his question.  

" Oniomania is the term for the compulsive desire to shop. I'm not sure if you fit that bill. I will have to research what apparels crazy people are referred to as." It sounds like I'm rambling on in a desperate attempt to break my awkward silence.
Fortunately, it looks like he hasn't noticed. He returns back from his bedroom, already changed into the brand new Shirt, Jacket and Trousers.

" What do you think? Fits me well?"

The luxurious Prussian blue shirt is well teamed with a Slate grey formal trousers and a matching Mandarin collared detailed waistcoat. As a freelance commercial copywriter I've learnt to recognise the myriad hues and colours, unlike most men. And I'm also able to appreciate the evolving Men's fashion. This also comes in handy when I'm building my characters in my book.

" Wow! Aryan, your choice is impeccable, my friend" I begin to shower compliments generously.

" I'm to attend an exclusive Premier night, tomorrow. You think, I can wear this dude?" Aryan Ahuja is too kind, asking me for my opinion on fashion.

"I am the happiest lounging about in my Track Pants and Tees for you see I have nowhere to go." to hide the slight exasperation that has entered my tone, I hurriedly add, "You have made a tremendously good choice there, I must say."

Aryan Ahuja is preening before the mirror while my expert opinion has almost fallen on deaf ears . Aah! These models are so tiresome. I am already beginning to get a bit bored with all this playing along.

"May I take your leave now Aryan? I can see you are busy. I didn't mean to disturb you." I'm heading towards the door again when he makes these clicking noises with his fingers.

"Oh! Come on, dude, you leaving without a drink? Sit down, make yourself comfortable, let's have a beer or two. The weather demands it!" Aryan's welcomed me with flailing arms and an animated voice, to his small bar counter in a corner of the living room. An invitation far too difficult to resist. The in-built refrigerator looks like a Pandora's box of alcoholic goodies. The plush Sofa and a chilled beer in hand I've just stepped into a Mind Spa!

From here this friendship is growing. We are both sharing a lot about each other. Him and me, taking turns at telling our tales, shuttling between the past and the present. I have told him much about myself but also successfully managed to go right about Tara. I don't wish to let him in on the strain in our relationship, just yet.

I have learnt that Aryan Ahuja, hails from Delhi, hates books, is the average Metro-sexual male of today's times, is very straight in his choice of mates and also in his way of speaking. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, the Industry has welcomed this son of a liquor baron and has immediately propelled him to Super- Model ranking. However I am happy that despite his influential background, he has no qualms in befriending me, an obviously middle class writer who hasn't been able to make much out of my career.

"And Aah! Yes, dude I love travelling." He's now risen to fish out his digital SLR from the adjacent cabinet and is showing me all the fantastic pictures from his recent blogging tour organized by the Mumbai metropolitan government. The glint in his eyes as he shows one fantastic click of Mumbai's beautiful glimpses after another, says that he loves Photography too as much as he loves travelling, blog-hopping and shopping.

"Very interesting!" I observe and just then, as one frame switches over to the next, I suddenly remember we have been invited to Jenny's home in Kochi.

"Hey, Aryan have you ever been down South? Kochi, have you been there? My family and I are planning to go on a trip soon. Have been invited by my wife's photographer friend who runs a home stay there." I inform.

"Oh! Cochin? Dude, I just love the coastal areas. It's going to be an adventure, dude. Don't think twice, Go for it!" Aryan Ahuja has sealed the deal for me.


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

Little did Aryan Ahuja know what an adventure it indeed was to be for Shekhar Dutta, just as he had unknowingly, predicted. Sitting there, beer in hand, chatting with a new found friend, Shekhar had not imagined even a wee bit of the ugly episodes that were to unfold. If he had had the slightest inkling that they would be doing everything other than staying at Jenny's Kochi home, Shekhar wouldn't have gone ahead and confirmed the plans with Tara.

Shekhar stood at his favourite spot in his apartment balcony again, reminiscing the sequence of all the bitter episodes from his recent past. He took a deeper puff at the cigarette held between his forefinger and thumb. He always felt like he had a certain connection with the Dusk. It was like the coming of age, at twilight. He was thankful for the view his flat granted, given that rarely a Mumbaite got to see a piece of the open sky, suffocating between the skyscrapers.

Each swig from the bottle of Beer helped him get over the most harrowing days of his life. His days were laden with memories that he would have to fight till new happier memories were made. Stronger memories that could wipe out the pain from those dark days at the beach somewhere between home and Kochi.

The last phone call from Bangalore had suddenly brought everything gushing back. Why was his past knocking at his door again? He'd thought he'd left it far behind. Was he to let him get to him again?
Shekhar debated with his fears." ...but what had Jenny and poor Cyrus got to do with how things went on the trip? Poor Cyrus Daruwala was just another kid trying to help. And Jennifer was only being kind. In fact she was a victim too, after all, wasn't she?"

"I'll call and confirm the plans with Cyrus right away. Tara will get a chance to make amends with her dear old friend Jenny while Cyrus puts up with Aryan. His flat has ample space to accommodate the Parsi Bawa. It will be brilliant actually."  Shekhar made up his mind and cheered himself up.
Shekhar picked up his smart phone and typed into Cyrus Daruwala's WhatsApp window, " Bring it ON!"  
  

  
   “Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at BlogAdda.com. #CelebrateBlogging with us.”

Sep 24, 2014

Jeep & Bourbon- Chapter 15 #CelebrateBlogging


Chapter 15- Beware of Strangers!



Read the previous part  HERE


Beefed up biceps, pecks of perfection, that swagger and macho jaw-line. One of Aryan Ahuja's portfolio picture is open on my screen. She's mailed the best to me, she said. Jenny has spotted this 6 feet -something model in a blog-post written by Cyrus. Indeed great material for our magazine's 'SPOTLIGHT' section for this month.

 I'm working from home today and for the next couple of days until I'm sure Roohi is totally fine. Though it's been difficult to focus on work, all of this morning, Jenny's coercive call has got me back on my toes. A dozen pictures and  'Attaching just a few for your kind perusal'  says her mail. I smirk but immediately hit the forward button and there his pictures go to our Editor's Inbox.

"Phew! Quite a tease, this man!" I catch myself thinking.

 "When did you change, Tara?" I question my own integrity.

As a collegiate, I was always the last amongst the girls to fall for such superficial beauty. It was always the brain and not the brawn that drew me towards. My life has been blessed twice over and also betrayed by the same raw intelligence, that I sought in my love interests.

"So has my heart subconsciously switched choices?" I wonder.

Jenny has been my 'bestie' since, God knows, forever. Jenny and I have such beautiful memories of hanging out at the college Katta. Her penchant for boys and a string of them that followed her everywhere, like little puppies. She never seemed to have a 'Type' in the choice of boyfriends or lovers, call them what you like.

 "How can you possibly not have a 'type'?"  I have grilled her many a times only to be given that befuddled look. She could almost pass off as an innocent and naive angel, if only I'd not known that she was definitely otherwise. The only common factor between all her crushes, boyfriends and lovers was that they were all, mostly, terribly good looking.

" Hell no! This chunk is definitely Jenny's kind of hunk. And my heart was just throbbing on her behalf!" I laugh aloud.

I'm staring at my screen in bewilderment.
Is this some kind of a game that destiny has been playing with us? Who is this Cyrus Daruwala and why did he have to join us on our trip to Kochi, quitting his train journey to wherever he was heading? And then the same Cyrus is also best pals with this Super Model who again happens to be our next door neighbor.

Aryan's pictures have revoked my memory of the seemingly harmless, bespectacled Cyrus Daruwala's lop-sided smile that always seemed to jeer at me. There's a tingling sensation in the back of my neck, foreboding some ill-omen?

"Desire definitely ain't a mere coincidence!" I decide. Jenny has taken this bait. I will not!

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

" She's like this butterfly flitting from one flower to the next" Cyrus grunted under his breath, shredding the white posies petal by petal as he stared at her back while Jennifer was hunched over her laptop reading something intently.

He was always this wayfarer, an utter gypsy soul. If it wasn't for the leg he'd have been back on the chase again.

" Yes!" Cyrus punched the air as an idea came to his mind which seemed to be the first positive thought in ages.

 He needed to focus. He needed the money and Jeremy would be ready with wads of it if only he could finish the damn task on hand. Shekhar had proven to be luckier than he'd assumed. And he was definitely as slippery as an eel.

"After that obnoxious scene before his eyes, at that beach, the poor weasel chose to return to the same old life? Back to being the doormat for Tara, that he'd proven himself to be. Has the man no spine? " Cyrus wondered.

"Shekhar, you are one of a kind!" he laughed, nodding his head while Jenny turned around staring at him with her doe eyes.

Their eyes met. Cyrus was quick to flash a broad smile at her.  Jenny was his only ticket back to Shekhar. He had to keep his charm on. He would try and get Jenny to pack their bags for a trip to Mumbai.  

"How the hell should I get her into this?" Just as his mind was troubled with this new challenge, Jenny presented him with an answer.

"I will ignore your maniacal laugh Cyrus but only under one condition. You get me to this dude. You owe this to me Cyrus Daruwala" Jenny had said turning the screen of her laptop to face Cyrus.
Cyrus could not believe this stroke of luck. There it was. Lo & behold! Jenny had not only discovered his blog but also spotted the picture of Shekhar and his friend Aryan Ahuja in the same frame, possibly at Roohi's birthday party. The entire Universe seemed to have conspired to let him get to Shekhar again.

Who would have thought that a casual friendship could prove to be the main link to his prey?  

"Hey, I remember posting that picture. I'd specifically asked Aryan to share a candid picture too. I wanted to show how handsome he could look even when he wasn't flexing those muscles." Cyrus had purposely launched into casual banter so that Jenny would be convinced that none of this was planned.

He was cut short by Jenny who got straight to the point.  
" And don't tell me you still haven't realised that its Shekhar there in the same frame, beside Aryan." exclaimed Jenny.  

Cyrus was himself astonished at the turn of events. Poor Shekhar had unknowingly walked right into his trap by befriending one too many strangers.

Mamma told me, don't be talking to strangers...
Cyrus was humming, a grin breaking all over his face uncontrollably, almost revealing his sadistic pleasure but it fortunately went unnoticed by Jenny since her back was turned to Cyrus again.

" Cyrus are you with me?" Jenny interrupted, clearly irritated by his evasiveness .

A sudden calm had come over Cyrus from the knowledge that his chance to bait  her was here. Cyrus quickly brought his facial expressions under control for fear of letting the cat out of the bag. Feigning a pondering look he managed to drag his leg and moved towards Jenny and her laptop. 

Bending over to peer at the screen, Cyrus continued, " And I was wondering all this while, why I'd found Shekhar 's face so familiar? Ofcourse! I know what you want, Jenny. Let's go meet Aryan. Especially now that I know Shekhar and Aryan both know each other, we have more reasons to go visit them."

Cyrus began excitedly packing up his belongings, ignoring the shooting pain that still wouldn't let go off his leg. They would be off to Mumbai in no time. There was no stopping him from reaching Shekhar now. 

"What a bloody interesting coincidence!" Jenny had chimed, staring away into the distance, already day-dreaming.

She failed to catch the sly smile cross his face as Cyrus concluded, " Lucky!"  


Jeremy would have been so happy to know that he had not failed at the mission after all.


You can read the next Chapter 16: J for Jealousy by Romita Dey  …
“Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at BlogAdda.com. #CelebrateBlogging with us.”

Sep 13, 2014

Jeep & Bourbon Part 2 #CelebrateBlogging

  By the Team:

 Read the previous part of the story HERE


 Chapter 2: Touch- Me-Not


“You’re my superstar!” he’d said and I’d fallen for him almost instantly but then he flew away to the States never to return.

“Tara, you truly are worthy of your name” Shekhar had said, looking up from the script I’d written for our college drama. Sheku was the only guy who was as perfect as that ‘first love’ of my life. That winning smile, the glint in his eyes and the awe in his voice is etched in my memory, like it was yesterday.

Now he just sits there with that smile pasted on his face, come what may! To the extent that it now appears fake. How can anyone be so happy and contented with himself? Fifteen years of lolling about in those track pants and Tees, writing a stray article here and some web content there.  Sheku, Oh, Sheku! Today, you’re just a mere shadow of that man I’d married. Where’s that promising young writer with frizzy hair, that complete creative genius?

“Dreams? I don’t think there’s much left there!” I slide my fingers off Sheku’s bald pate.
“Look he keeps it so smooth and shiny. Everything just slides right off!” I hear myself saying, as I tickle his French beard. Those shots were one too many for me, I suppose. I can hear myself laughing too!

“BITCH!” Jennifer gurgles, picking up her camera once again. The flash tells me there’s going to be another awkward photograph of me and him. Try as we might, we haven’t been able to pose happily for a single picture together, in ages.   

“Jenny, just you wait!” I kick off my Pumps and begin chasing her around the coconut trees, like little school girls at play. Jenny in her shorts and Tee, with all those baubles bobbing about her neck, looks like one too. As we stop, gasping for breath, I cannot help but notice Cyrus ogling at Jennifer again, through his oversize spectacles.

“Why the hell did Sheku have to let this strange Parsi Bawa tag along with us? The chain smoker and the drunkard, a perfect match indeed!” I whisper to Jenny.  Jenny and I go way back, to the dorm days. I’m so happy that we have remained the best of friends despite my demanding career and her Photography keeping us apart for a year at stretch, this time.
I can say almost anything and everything that comes to my mind and I know Jenny will never mind. She will never judge me but how do I tell her that I know more about her American beau, much more than she could ever. 

I am brought back by Sheku’s voice.
“You’ve achieved your dreams and ambitions. I’m happy for you. You’ve blessed me with a beautiful Roohi.” he trails off.
Typically Sheku, making a feeble attempt at brushing off my rebuke with a sickeningly sweet response.

His words draw my eyes towards our little angel. Roohi is 9 now. Soon she will be celebrating her first double digit birthday. She loves ice-creams and frilly frocks and those expensive Barbie dolls. An animated 3D movie every Saturday at Inox is a must.
“What do you know, Sheku?” That’s exactly what I’ve slogged for. No regrets. My only regret is YOU!” I’ve almost barked it out aloud. I quickly gulp down yet another shot instead.
I let the cool sea breeze play with my hair. My head suddenly feels lighter than ever. Memories of giddy-headed sea-side escapades with Sheku, back in the days, come like tides. I am off, barefoot on the cool sands to the distant end of the beach, away from it all. The spray from the high waves wets the front of my white shirt and adds to the salty aftertaste of those shots, on my lips. I shut my eyes and opened my arms to the full moon in the open sky. A momentary respite.

“Expecting a miracle, are you Tara?” I’m becoming quite a soliloquist.

I suddenly catch a faint scent of Mimosa in the air and open my eyes to see a bunch of pretty lavender flowers being offered to me. 
“These look so other-worldly” I am cooing like a teenager and readily accepting them, while being increasingly aware of romance tingling my senses.

Held firmly by the elbow, I’m swirled around to come face- to- face with him.

“Oh! It’s you!” I exclaim, partly shocked, secretly thrilled.

“Freedom comes on quaint wings,
And yet fly, thou shalt not!”
 The baritone voice is waxing lyrical.

I reached up to wipe off the Jeep’s grease from his left cheek, as I peek over his shoulders to check if Jennifer would notice her boyfriend’s prolonged absence.

“I’m feeling adventurous!” I reply.
 




  


“Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at BlogAdda.com. #CelebrateBlogging with us.”
  



Sep 5, 2014

A tryst with Cyclophobia - a True Story......

On the occasion of TEACHER's DAY I would like to pay a tribute to a different kind of teacher. I had the privilege of sharing some very beautiful days in his company, when at Karla, near Lonavala in Mahrashtra. That phase of life was abruptly cut short by an unexpected turn of events and as destiny would have it, we lost him, very suddenly. Within those couple of years the amount of knowledge he had imparted, the thoughts and principles he had shared left a lasting impression and have also transformed me into a better, thinking person, I can most definitely say.

My maiden publication of short stories titled 'Not Totally Unbelievable' was dedicated to him- my Father-In-law and my mother, the Teachers who taught me so much in life from their anecdotes, stories and quotes. Oh, why did you'll have to leave me so prematurely?

So here's a funny but true story from the same book -'Not Totally Unbelievable' that was based on my Father-in-Law's personality, his belief in a higher power in every aspect of life!

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


“Aagya Baitan, Telya Masaan, Jantar ki Khopdi, Bhaisasur!” This deep, throaty, ominous sounding chant rented the chilly evening air on the patio of our sprawling farmhouse. With still, undisturbed eyes like poached eggs, the twenty and odd, mix of gurgling tots and chatty adults watched the enthralling performer in rapt attention. It was Daddy, at his elemental best, performing his famous magic tricks. Only the knowing knew that the fearsome mumbo-jumbo was a random mix of irrelevant Hindi words personally coined for pure entertainment. This was the highlight of the weekend merry-making, where Daddy’s fan following of relatives would huddle together and enjoy to the hilt.
Daddy was a people’s person alright! He once draped a colorful red sari and even talked some of his cousins to don their wife’s saris too. Then they danced that famous jig ‘Mere Angne Main’ with swaying hips and lip-synced to the music with red rouged lips. Just like it was right out of that Bollywood movie and had their audience in splits.
Daddy could stretch to the limits in playing host at his party. Well, so giving was Daddy that his relatives had not spared even borrowing his air-conditioner for good.
This lanky septuagenarian’s company was of wholesome goodness and there wasnt a single visitor’s soul who would not vouch by that. Even the ladies of the family always picked a tip or two from this culinary creative genius. With his knack for cooking up a sumptuous menu, all that his kitchen dished out was lapped up within nanoseconds. From Prawn starters, followed by soup to the main course and a yummy caramel pudding for dessert, was all gobbled up as soon as it was served at the table.
Lovingly addressed as ‘Daddy’ by the youngsters of the clan, my father-in-law also went by the nickname ‘Bhavaji’ which means respected brother-in-law in Konkani (a widely spoken language along the south-western coastal belt of India.). Taking the old highway from Mumbai and mid-way to Pune you could drive-in to our haven. And it was most likely that you’d find the lovable Daddy perched on his bucket swing, his throne of sorts, on the patio, if its day. By night you’d find him before the television set. He hardly slept. He’d spring up and out of his reverie to warmly greet you with open arms, all smiles. Friends were more than welcome any time of the day or night, rain or sunshine.
On one lazy Sunday afternoon, came on his old moped, Mr. Gulrajani, his old friend from Talegaon. “Arrey Tu? What a pleasant surprise! Come in, come in!” Without wasting time on exchanging pleasantries, the dear old Sindhi got to business. “Let’s go get some meat. My taste-buds are longing for your spicy curry in this chilly weather.” And that was what Daddy dreaded the most. “Argh!” thought Daddy, “I don’t mind the shopping, but the ride on his wobbly M80. Save me, Lord!”
Daddy could feel his knobby knees go weak even at the thought of pillion riding. Before the journey could even begin, a pearl of sweat tickled Daddy’s brow. Daddy reluctantly straddled the mount while his feeble pleas went unheard. Daddy’s pride kept him from vehemently speaking up about his fear of riding bikes. The motor purred to life once again and the twin riders were off.
The speed at which they were moving, Daddy could have easily walked right beside Mr. Gulrajani and his bike to the station. Trembling knees et al, the duo finally made it to the Lonavala Mutton Shop. Slicking back his tousled silver hair, the pilot of the M80 got off and immediately asked Daddy to excuse him, stepping away for a quick smoke. A not-so-surprised, but irked Daddy proceeded to pay for the meat.
Like a glimpse of the sun from behind water-laden dark clouds, a bright thought dawned on Daddy. He felt a sudden assurance rise in his heart. “The speed at which Gulrajani was riding his phutphutiya, a fall is certainly not something I need to fear,” said Daddy to himself.
Now, smiling like a valiant hero, Daddy was ready to start the journey home with new-found self-confidence. He was happy that he hadn’t forgotten to wrap a muffler around his neck and his ears were safely snug in the thick woollen monkey-cap.  As they drifted past the toll naka, Daddy closed his eyes, face turned up to the clear blue sky he was enjoying the cool mountain breeze on the contours of his wrinkled face.
Only when he opened his eyes again, things were different! Neither was Gulrajani nor he on the bike. A crowd had gathered around them and were peering down in bewilderment at Daddy. “What does Gulrajani mean by coming so close and breathing heavily down my collar?” thought a befuddled Daddy and as he tried to turn around to take a look at his nosy friend, he was jolted back to his senses.
 “We had a fall?” Daddy inquired with Gulrajani while he was being helped back to his feet. “How?” Daddy continued to ask but there was no answer.
“Like it is God’s decree, my bike journey mysteriously always ends this way!” a nonplussed Daddy thought aloud.
 The crowd dispersed as quickly as it had gathered. And the duo was left to their fate, pushing the remains of the two-wheeler home, in weary silence.


Sep 3, 2014

PRIVATE INDIA: A book review



Book Title: PRIVATE INDIA
Genre: Murder Mystery
Author: Ashwin Sanghi & James Patterson
Publisher: Random House
My Rating: ****

Ashwin Sanghi- one author of today's times whose work I really admire. Became a greater fan of his after Chanakya's Chant. All his books have been based in history and enumerate theological and mythological topics. PRIVATE INDIA -this book belongs to such a different genre visited by the author which also happens to be my favourite, that's how I got very intrigued. Also the idea of a collaboration between two famous writers who have very distinctive styles of writing was unique to me. James Patterson- heard a lot of good about his books but never picked up any of his works, so my mind was like that empty cup!  

Having picked up the book and read through a few pages, I'd immediately shared at my Facebook Page.." Short chapters. Extremely easy comprehension. No complex story telling but prose that triggers great visualization. Suspense and drama, a perfect murder mystery...Remembering my Poirot-crazy days while I turn pages with Wagh and his cane...Super happy that I picked the book up".

Even after reading the book to its last page now, my first impression about the book remains the same. 

Succinct writing that evokes emotions, fairly good use of great words and a style of narration that keeps the tempo of the story built up right till the end. Especially since the serial killer is on the prowl taking down one prey after another in quick succession, it was most essential that the reader remained on the edge of his seat,  turning the pages as quickly as the days went by in the story. 

I must say that Ashwin Sanghi has let the characters in the story develop gradually but so very beautifully. Be it the protagonist Santosh Wagh who is investigating the crime scenes as a PRIVATE sleuth or the underworld goon Munna, I liked the descriptive nature of the story-telling that led the mind into making mental images of the characters, their lifestyle, their personality, their psychology too. Santosh Waghs struggle with his bottle of Whisky to douse the pain stemming from the loss of loved ones, made him so real. I could also feel it, when Mubeen wanted to get the hell out of Dr. Zafar's ghoulish morgue and I could actually feel the chill and stench in the morgue. The most profound scene that has stuck in my mind is the one that was narrated nearing the climax, at the Parsi's Tower of Silence. So morbid, so gripping!
I have grown up reading Agatha Christie's Poirot and Sidney Sheldon's series of books. Not to mention the innumerable Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books read as a younger mind. I cannot deny I was beginning to think how different could this book be, when there were a string of seemingly unconnected deaths in Mumbai, that Nisha Gandhe, Mubeen and Hari Padhi were investigating alongside Santosh Wagh? Given that I'm a confessed Cinophile, taking off on movie marathons, watching foreign murder mysteries, thrillers, Hitchcocks and even the gruesome true-some, I wasn't expecting that this book would draw me in the way it did. How? Ashwin Sanghi did it, by giving that unexpected dash of spice to the story by adding a pinch of Indian Mythology to it all!
The plot as it began to unravel really surprised me. And the involvement of a Nimboo Baba in the scene kept me hooked. Also the parallel fear of a terrorist attack besides the hunt for this serial killer made for quite a multilayered plot. 
However what went amiss for me was a bit more about the expression of motive in the murderer. When the author was giving me a peek into the mind of the serial killer, I wanted to begin hating him for the probable filth on his mind. That part din't pan out as powerful as the potential it carried to be. Felt as if some pages had been edited out or something, in a hurry to wrap up the case.

Or probably it was just me, not wanting the book to end. :)

Overall, a very good book for all murder mystery fanatics.