Saturday, July 11, 2020

Veerappan: Chasing The Brigand

Title: Veerappan: Chasing The Brigand
Author: K. Vijay Kumar

Veerappan is a name too well known to all of us. Being a nomadic brigand who used the Sathyamangalam forests as his turf, Veerappan rose to infamous heights as a Sandalwood smuggler and brigand that every household in the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu knew about and feared. The brigand was finally done away with in the successful Operation Cocoon of 2004 led by K. Vijay Kumar, IPS and chief of the Tamil Nadu Special Task Force(STF) that was involved for years in tracking and capturing Veerappan. This book is a narration of the true accounts, to the best of his knowledge, that led to the final Operation Cocoon where they managed to trap the infamous bandit. 

Vijay Kumar says in the book: "I wanted this book to read like a thriller." And, it was exactly that. Chasing The Brigand narrates the story in a manner so gripping that it is impossible to keep the book down until you get to the end. The incidents that the officers of law, including policemen and forest officials, who were part of the teams that worked for years together attempting to capture and make Veerappan surrender are so enigmatic, dramatic, and command bravery beyond our imagination, that the lines of what we'd think as exaggeration start blurring. The whole book and the events described in the book make you feel like you are watching it all through your own eyes. 

The twenty year long fight with Veerappan has been captured in a compulsively absorbing narrative, starting from when the fight began significantly to how K. Vijay Kumar, the author, got involved with the STF to details of all the major attempts to nab the infamous brigand to finally nabbing him in 2004 through Operation Cocoon. Each and every person mentioned in the book aroused a whole another level of respect, awe, and admiration- including the author himself, DGP Walter Devaram, ADG Kumarasamy, Shankar Bidari, DIG Radhakrishnan, Sanjay Arora, Ashok Kumar, Hussain, Rajarajan, Kannan, Shrinivas, Gopal Hosur, Nataraj, and many many more from both the teams in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. 

Through the incidents, there is a revelation of Veerappan, his family, and his gang members, through the encounters that these officials had with them. While reading, I got a rising feeling of how some of Veerappan's actions were similar to the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, and I just had to read a couple of more pages after this thought, when I came across the author drawing a similarity too. Here's the excerpt talking about the conditions that Veerappan put if he were to surrender:
"One of them was that Veerappan be kept in a special camp in Tamil Nadu, where he would receive visitors freely. It reminded me of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, who had got a jail built to his specifications, comprising a soccer field, a bar, a Jacuzzi, his own guards and women of his choice. But Jayalalithaa, then the Leader of the Opposition, blasted Veerappan’s request."
Veerappan also tried to imitate Che Guevara, wearing a beret like him and clad in his standard green outfit. One remarkable thing about him was that he managed to be highly aware of politics, not just of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, but also all of India and even the world, sitting in a secluded, uninhabited terrain of the dense Sandalwood forests. He had the support of the villages that he frequented through a constant build up of fear, and any attempt by the police to get to him, however secretive it was maintained, managed to get to him as a tip-off. 

The read was absolutely thrilling, and I loved it. It brings immense respect to all the officers and the teams of both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, whose bravery is unparalleled, and a reverence to the many who lost their lives trying to nab him. I loved every chapter, every incident of the book, and the story carried me along with unwavering attention. Every time an officer went in, I found myself hoping they'd nab him. The story has a very fluid narrative, building a whole big picture of 20 long years of struggle through the dots of small, significant incidents which fueled strategies and learning. 

Once I began reading, my hands flipped the pages involuntarily and my mind ran along with the story. It's racy, gripping, absorbing, fascinating, scintillating, and it chills you to the bones when you realize it's a true story! I have made sure I don't talk one word about any incident from the story itself, because I strongly feel that the beauty of the read was in the build up that the book achieves. And, that is something that I would hate to spoil for you. I spotted this book yesterday night, started reading out of curiosity, and couldn't put it down till I finished it. The book is a must-read!

Friday, July 10, 2020

Murder In Beltour | Chapter 10 | Who Killed Ruchi?

Sunanda waited in her office for Saira and Diya. She had called for them one day before when she had to report to the University on the findings. As she sat there, she had a slight smirk on her face that refused to be wiped out.

A knock at the door brought her back to reality from the meandering thoughts. Raghav let in the two girls. Sunanda briefly thanked Raghav, as she always did, and the door closed leaving the three of them to themselves.

“Hi,” said Sunanda, breaking the silence and smiling. This was a different smile although. A smile that wasn’t restricted to its tight professionalism.

“Do you have something you want to ask us? We already told you everything we know,” said Diya. Sunanda continued smiling.

“Please make yourselves comfortable. I am here to tell you something, not ask you,” said Sunanda, and let out a long breath. The two girls sat down, confused and doubtful. “Hear it like a story, like a puzzle that gets solved and sorted.”

She gave a pause for a moment, and then she started.

“A fire breaks out in your hostel and a girl dies. The girl is Ruchi. Your college authorities approach me to take up the case. The next day Dev, a shattered employee of the Boss who had been quit the previous day, arrives and tells me about an attack planned on The Period, a magazine that had plans to release footage that would put the Boss in trouble. Dev claims that he didn’t know about the fire and that Ruchi had died. He claims that he didn’t know that I worked for the Boss, and he also claims that he didn’t know I was taking up the fire case. And, according to Dev, Ruchi was supposed to carry out the attack on The Period. How did they both come to me? Was it a coincidence?

Now, on the day of the fire, Ruchi was supposed to get a note that had to be delivered by Dev. But, at the last moment Dev quit and Yash was sent instead. The package went to the warden who gave it to you. And, you never gave it. So, Ruchi must not have gone out in the morning. And, in the afternoon, someone set fire ablaze and it killed her. It couldn’t have been someone from outside the University. That doesn’t seem possible considering the evidence through the surveillance cameras. So, it had to be someone from the University. Who could have started the fire?

The fire seemed like it began from the window corner, yet that’s a mislead to shift the attention to an entry from the window. But the tool mark visible on the bottom of Ruchi’s door points to an entry from the main door to Ruchi’s room. While the person trying to break in had tried to use a ledge and break the room, the break had been unsuccessful. Instead, the newspaper trails indicate the drag mark on the arch of how the door had been opened. Ruchi must have heard the noise and opened the door when the attacker was trying for a break entry. Who did Ruchi see?”

Sunanda gave a pause again, and looked at the girls. Saira and Diya were sitting up straight and staring at her, their mouths partially open in anticipation. Sunanda gave a quick laugh and started again.

“Your dean has close connections with The Period, a friendship with the editor in chief of the magazine. Dev was fired suddenly, and the next thing he does is come straight here to report like a good man. Isn’t that strange? Dev was jobless, homeless and penniless. When a man is put in such a situation, he doesn’t become good all of a sudden- he becomes desperate. Desperate for money, to sustain, to live. He wouldn’t have the guts to come and report. No one would, and that’s natural. Yet he did. Why? Because, The Period paid him to report to me. But, why? How does The Period gain from that?

Dev came and tried to convince me that killing Ruchi was the Boss’s job. But, he was paid by The Period to say so. Did someone from The Period kill Ruchi? The Period also pushed your Dean to ask me to take up a case. So, it wasn’t a coincidence. But, why me? I worked for the Boss, too. And, I stopped. And, The Period must have thought that I would be the ideal person to accept Dev’s story in my past anger and write off the case on the Boss. That was their best shot. And, if I did, then the next trouble onslaught would be between the Boss and me, and The Period wouldn’t have their name involved. Very calculated.

But, who inside the University worked with The Period? It wasn’t the Dean who set the fire. It was the girls’ hostel and no man has been seen to enter the hostel in the surveillance footage. So, it must have been someone from the University and the girls’ hostel.”

Sunanda paused again, and then looked at Saira. The girls were still sitting in anticipation and bated breaths.

“Why did the warden give you the message instead of giving it to Ruchi herself? To avoid any suspicion. The message to Ruchi was not really from the Boss. It was a fake one that The Period created to get Ruchi out in the morning, and to finish her off. But, that didn’t happen to their disappointment, thanks to you Saira. The message never reached Ruchi and she never came out. So, the warden had to execute Plan B. A fire, in her room, that killed her. The tool marks match with the ledge that is there in the warden’s room.

But, if The Period wanted to kill Ruchi, and the Dean was their friend, why didn’t they close it as an accident? Because they wanted the blame to go to the Boss. That would only reinforce what they were planning to release about him through the footage. So, now you can see who killed Ruchi. But the case is not here today to find who killed Ruchi, but to frame who they wanted to be the killer of Ruchi.

The whole stunt is choreographed. Everybody is a player- your Dean, Dev, The Period, everybody.”

There was a minute of absolute silence. Then Saira spoke.

“Why were you keen on knowing if my room was open?” she asked.

Sunanda seemed a little taken aback, but she managed to give a smug smile before she answered. “I saw the same tool mark in your room. The warden had entered your room to check where the package was before she proceeded to Ruchi’s room,” she said briefly.

“So, why did you tell us all this?” asked Diya.

“Well, I wanted to tell the people who knew a little background but aren’t involved too,” said Sunanda, her composure coming back to a normal. “And, I am going to the police with the truth, I’d be glad if you two can stand testament to what I told you.”

Saira and Diya nodded gravely. Sunanda gave them the air of importance that would convince them to agree. After a couple of more exchanges, the girls took their leave.

There had been a play of power, a choreographed stunt by The Period. Yet, the one thing they miscalculated was that Sunanda had been fired by the Boss. Sunanda had worked for the Boss and been way high up in the ladder. For reasons unknown, she quit and was yet left alive for so many years by the Boss though she knew too many things about his deeds. They didn’t bother to find out why, in their excitement to frame him and add to their success. And, she did solve the case. She didn't lie. She just hid a small part of the truth that changed the game. Sunanda ensured that the girls had left before she placed a call on her phone.

“Boss, it’s done. The warden will be transferred to the base tonight. All the arrangements have been made. With the warden considered to have fled, The Period will be successfully framed, and no way they can run it. You’re safe.”

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Murder In Beltour | Chapter 09 | Dev’s Story

Dev had joined on the low-rung of an inconceivably complicated interconnected network of thugs, the head of which was someone called the ‘Boss’. Dev was not someone you could call a good man, but with a slight push he was capable of being one. And, the ‘Boss’ had given him several top-down orders to be executed. Sometimes, they were petty thefts of things that seemed insignificant to Dev. And at other times, it was either a job to threaten someone or finish them off. 

Dev wasn’t someone you could call a good person, yet he wasn’t so devoid of emotion to be capable of shooting someone dead. Or, stabbing them, or any other physical violent means of bringing death. So, he had never been assigned anything more than poisoning someone once. And, with this weakness came Dev’s downside- he never really progressed up the ladder like the others did. Like Yash did. As always, Dev got the job of delivering a message to Ruchi one day, as he was always the one to do such trivial jobs. But, the job was taken back from him, and Yash was sent instead. And, then he was made to quit, and was sent to the streets. 

The Boss had made one mistake- of thinking Dev was as much a fool in his head as he was physically. Dev was sharp in his senses, his eyes and ears always noticing and hearing things. And, by the time he was thrown out, Dev knew quite a bit about the plans that were being whispered through the hierarchy ladders. There was going to be an attack on the owner of The Period.

He had rushed to a detective so that he could find more, and make sure it didn't happen. That’s when he had met Sunanda, another woman who had worked for the Boss but had been way high up in the ladder. For reasons unknown to him, and he didn’t dare ask her, she was left alive by the Boss though she knew too many things about his deeds. He had narrated everything he knew about the plan to her. 

As rumoured in the rung of the ladders, The Period had a set of sixty tapes with the whole history of the Boss since twenty years ago, when he was in his formative years to rising a terror ladder. Who was the Boss exactly? And, what did he terrorize? Dev did not really know exactly, and to Dev’s best knowledge, nobody seemed to know when he had worked with them. The Period, over the years, had grown so big that threats weren’t really effective with them. The Boss wanted the editor-in-chief done away with, to induce terror, stall the project and destroy the content they had. And, it had been rumoured that Ruchi, a very trusted aide of the Boss, was supposed to do the job. 

But, by the time that Dev had gone to tell all the little conversations that he had heard, Ruchi had already died in a fire. When he had reached out to Sunanda to save the editor-in-chief, she had already been involved in the fire case in which Ruchi died. How did both the cases come to her? Was it mere coincidence?

Sunanda sat in her office, her notebook in front of her, and her thoughts turning over what all the case had thrown at her. Sunanda had seen the paper trails and the tool marks at the bottom of Ruchi’s door. And, Saira had kept her door unlocked for two minutes. Somehow, all of them were involved: the Boss, The Period, Ruchi, Yash, Dev, and yet, something was still missing for her. Who did Ruchi have to meet the morning she died?

Sleep took over Sunanda as she worked it out all on her mind- over and over- was it the Boss? Or, was it The Period? She fell asleep on the table, her notebook still open and a pencil still clutched in her fingers. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Of Mice and Men

Title: Of Mice and Men
Author: John Steinbeck

George Milton and Lennie Small develop an unusual friendship as field workers in the plantations in California during the Depression, as they pursue a common dream- to have and settle in a piece of land that they can call their own. George is not educated, yet intelligent and assumes a self-imposed responsibility to protect his friend, while Lennie Small is a bulky man with a mental disability and a kind heart. Among the thousand problems they face in the fields they work, George and Lennie are given a ray of hope when Candy, an elderly ranch handyman, offers $350 contribution in order to help Lennie and George buy a farm, while asking them to return the favour by letting him stay with them. Do they get to live their dream? That forms the essence of the story. 

Of Mice and Men is a heartwarming story that talks about two important things- friendship and dreams. While the men migrate from different places to work in California for a living, loneliness becomes something inevitable due to the inhuman behaviour they are subjected to, and the only healing they find for it is in friendship. So, the main themes that form the crux of this story happen to be friendship, dreams, and fate.

This is a very quick read of about a 100 pages, and it has a very beautiful story in it. Steinbeck's narration, as always, is gripping and it holds your attention to every word you read. The book also has a typical Steinbeck ending- no sugar coated happiness, but he leaves the reader with just the incident, however bitter, that feels real. But, this is not a sad book. There are plenty of joyful moments that make you appreciate the smallest comforts and the truest joys. You are sure to love Lennie, and also the other characters, by the end of the book. This is a classic that can be read in a day, and is a must-read. 

I absolutely enjoyed it. It was unputdownable!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Murder In Beltour | Chapter 08 | Ruchi

Dev and Sunanda were sitting in her office. Sunanda was looking at Dev closely. Neither of them spoke, and yet it seemed like Sunanda was waiting for Dev to tell her something. When he didn’t, she broke the silence finally.

“So, he didn’t ask you to deliver the message to her?” asked Sunanda.

“No, I was supposed to initially, but then the plan changed. Yash was going instead of me. I don’t understand why he quit me, but I know that they were planning an attack on The Period,” said Dev.

“Are you sure?” asked Sunanda, looking down into her notepad, and doodling frantically on the top right of the page.

“I volunteered to be a part of it, and was rejected. I came here hoping there is a chance to save The Period from him, but the whole thing has gone haywire. Why would he kill Ruchi?” said Dev, in a tone of complete perplexion.

“There is something amiss, Dev,” said Sunanda, in a voice barely more than a whisper, as she mechanically thickened the outer linings of her doodle.

There was a curt knock on the door, and Raghav, the boy at the desk,  entered. Sunanda looked up at him.

“Miss, there are two girls who have come to see you. Shall I send them in?” he asked.

“Two girls? Not now, ask them to take an appointment for tomorrow,” said Sunanda, dismissively. But, as Raghav was about to leave, she called him back. “What are their names?”

“Saira, miss, I asked only one of them,” said Raghav.

Sunanda and Dev exchanged glances, and Raghav waited patiently near the door.

“I should leave,” said Dev, getting up from his seat.

“No stay, they don’t know much, you’ll be safe,” said Sunanda. Dev, after a few moments of thought, dropped back into his seat.

“Send them in, thank you Raghav,” said Sunanda, closing her notebook.
Raghav went out, and sent the two girls in. Saira and Diya entered the office room. Dev glanced at them, with a brief smile.

“Yes, how may I help you, girls?” said Sunanda, putting up her tight smile again that said get straight to business.

Saira and Diya each picked a chair and settled in comfortably, to the surprise of Sunanda. She raised her brows at them as if to ask them the question again. Diya let out a full, long breath, and then looked at Saira. Saira was staring at Dev.

“Who is that?” asked Saira. “We need to talk in private.”

“Yes, please meet Dev Som. He is my assistant, and he works on every case that I do. Everything you say is confidential, so feel free to go ahead,” clarified Sunanda.

“We know the boss killed Ruchi, and so do you,” said Diya.

Dev and Sunanda exchanged glances. “Is that so?” said Sunanda plainly.

“Why aren’t you being clean about this? We know you worked for the boss, are you covering him in this case even though you don’t work for him now?” asked Saira bluntly.

“Excuse me, girls, if you are here to question my credibility, please show yourselves out. You can address whatever your concerns are about me to your University,” said Sunanda, her tone slightly off, yet her face keeping up the tight smile.

“We have something that you may like,” said Diya.
“And, what is that?” said Sunanda.
“A threat message, for Ruchi from the boss.”

Sunanda at once became alert and active. She whisked open her notebook. “You have the message?” she asked eagerly.

Saira handed over the ripped package with the file and the note on it. Sunanda grabbed it from her before she could even extend it completely. Dev looked tensely at Sunanda, in anticipation.

“Be energetic like the outstanding, unique Redshank. Mornings are better in the balcony. Boss,” Sunanda read out loud.

“The Period?” asked Dev.
 “Or the boss, we can’t discard that,” said Sunanda.

Saira cleared her throat loud enough to get their attention back to her. “Sunanda, can you please tell us what that means to you?”

“Ruchi was supposed to meet someone in your playground in the morning of the fire,” said Sunanda softly.

“What, it wasn’t a veiled threat?” asked Diya. Sunanda stayed quiet, but Dev answered.

“No, it is a part of the series of instructions for something. Ruchi worked for the boss, too.” 

Monday, July 6, 2020

7 Bollywood Movies I Really Like

I have probably watched way more Bollywood movies than movies of any other language, weirdly. I also have to give these movies a fair credit for making me more comfortable with listening to Hindi for longer periods of time. While there were many I regretted watching thanks to the very typical formulaic stories, there were some that I really enjoyed watching. Out of the ones that I enjoyed a lot, here are the first seven that came to my mind when I wanted to write this post!

1. English Vinglish. The story is simple, beautiful, and very relatable to most of our lives. We all have at one point or the other teased our own parents, grandparents, friends or people we know for their English. Or, sometimes the viewers might be the ones who regret about not being great at this language. While we might have done that with no intention to put them down or hurt them, and they also sportively take it as a joke, we hear them comment sometimes that they wouldn't be the butt of the joke if they knew better English. Sridevi as Sashi puts up a very enjoyable, real and beautiful performance. English Vinglish is heart-warming to watch. 

2. Hindi Medium. This was a hilarious, yet important, take on all that parents do, and the sheer desperation to have their kid study in a "reputed school". The story also gives out an important message that we need to try and make every school worthy rather than go to any extent in order to get that one school that we idolize. Irrfan Khan brings light and humour into this simple tale, and every moment is enjoyable. I really enjoyed this one.

3. Barfi. A love story, but a realistic and stunningly sweet take on many different things. Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra were brilliant, and the whole screenplay was beautiful. The movie leaves you feeling a warmth and magic that you should definitely experience!

4. Rang de Basanti. What is not beautiful in this film! The story, the screenplay, the music, and the whole air that this film brings is one that fills you with energy, awareness, a sense of pride, a sense of what is right, and the film holds your attention every second of its runtime. The film has a star-studded cast, and unquestionably brilliant performances. This is one of the movies that leave you thrilled watching it!

5. 3 Idiots. This movie is a sensation in itself. I think the credit completely goes to the screenplay and the absolutely relatable dialogues. It also addresses a well-known, but ignored fact on how we are taught, and how we learn in schools and colleges. It is a movie that gives you a message, keeps up the humour, entertains you thoroughly, leaves you smiling thanks to the stellar performances, and you just sit back and have fun watching!

6. Kahaani. Kahaani has been one of my most favourite films. It is solely carried by Vidya Balan, and she does absolute justice to her character. This feels like reading a mystery-crime-thriller all rolled into one with a pregnant woman looking for her missing husband, and makes you sit up straight in anticipation and keeps you on the toes when it comes to the storyline. We are all left hanging all the way to the very end till we finally watch the twist unfold on screen. This is definitely a movie that I thoroughly loved!

7. Piku. A simple story about an old man who thinks he is going to die of constipation. Every dialogue in the film is brilliant, and the simple story is so well-written and well-played that you can't help but smile. Again, star-studded, this movie has some of the most effective performances I have seen. Love it!

I have seen so many more, and I have also enjoyed many of them. But, like I already said, these are the 7 movies that came to mind when I sat to write this post, and hence they feature here! Which is your favourite? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Murder In Beltour | Chapter 07 | The Message

Diya was sitting cross-legged on the floor in Saira’s room, deep in thought. Saira had just told her that the private investigator worked previously for the Boss who might be the main reason for the fire. But, how did things fall in place so perfectly?

“Do you think she is lying?” asked Saira.

“No, the message that I read did ask her not to take it up. If she was still working for him, then the Boss would have wanted her to take it up, I think,” speculated Diya.

“What are you thinking about, then?”
“I was thinking about Ruchi.”
“What about her?”
“Do you remember the first day we all came to college? We were standing outside the hostel, and we met these new girls. I remember Ruchi was also there, and we were just chit-chatting.”
“Yeah, I remember.”

Diya stayed silent for some time, her expression lost in thoughts again. And, when she spoke again, she left the previous train of conversation abruptly.

“It is impossible that someone from outside could have caused the fire,” said Diya.

Saira nodded, and both of them were silent, racking their brains to comprehend what was happening. Saira was staring into her table when she noticed the unopened parcel.

“Diya…”
“Yeah?”
“I have Ruchi’s parcel. The warden gave it to me the other day and asked me to give it to Ruchi on the way, and I forgot completely. It was just on the morning of the fire. Do you think I should give it to that investigator?”
“Open it,” said Diya, jumping up to a stand enthusiastically and reaching out for the parcel on the table.
“Wait.”

Saira and Diya looked at each other, Saira eyeing the package  doubtfully.

“What if it is something like a bomb inside? Maybe it was supposed to have blown up her room or something, we don’t know,” said Saira, her voice faltering.

Diya sniggered. “You do have a great sense of imagination, my friend,” she said, jokingly.

“What if-” started Saira.

“We’ll know what when we open it. Ruchi is long dead.”

Before Saira could say anymore, Diya tore the package open. There was a blue file inside, and the file was empty. But, on top of the file was a sticky note.
“Be energetic like the outstanding, unique Redshank. Mornings are better in the balcony. -Boss”
Saira and Diya stared at the note, and then after what seemed like an eternity, looked up and stared at each other, thoughts racing in their minds in a muddled run. Diya finally broke the silence.

"So, was this a threat?" she guessed.
"But, why the file then?" asked Saira.

Diya nodded speculatively. "Maybe, for it to just seem like a package."

"Maybe, but the message makes no sense. It says morning, but the fire that killed her was in the afternoon. And, I still don't know why Sunanda was interested in knowing if my door was open," said Saira, crinkling her nose and face as she read the message once again. "I think Sunanda might know better. But, we don't give this to her unless she tells us something more."

*

Read Chapter 8!

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Why I Can't Ever Complete A TV Show

I landed in college to discover that people can get hooked(or, call it addiction) to something called TV Shows, and binge watch them on Netflix/Prime. Many of them had entire seasons of different shows downloaded on their laptops so that they can conveniently spoil their night sleep in binge-watching even if the wifi network is poor, and then sleep comfortably the next day in A/C classrooms. I did check out a couple of them. And, after several attempts I have concluded that TV Shows really aren't for me. Maybe, once in a while, there may be some interesting show or episode, but that still doesn't ensure I have the patience to stick around till the end. 

Why can't I ever complete a show? Why is that I am not able to sustain interest in them though others do?

1. A good story alone doesn't ensure that my attention can stay. It requires it to be engaging in every episode, because TV Shows are very prolonged. Honestly, most of them are just a more sophisticated, fancier version of the serials that my grandma watches on TV. 

2. Most of the episodes are highly repetitive. By that, I mean that there is a very predictable pattern and a formula that most of these shows apply to their episodes. While reading a series might be fun, seeing them for tens of hours really isn't that much fun for me.

3. Interest frizzles out. They drag the story way too much that you just stop wanting to even know what happens.

4. They make me feel drained, after watching long hours. Movies are much better. Short, the longest being maybe 3 hours, and engaging, and gives you a good break before you can get back and do the rest of your work. 

Reading elaborately makes me happy, and it feels interesting. I also really enjoy watching good films. But seeing elaborately on a TV show makes it tiring and stretched, and absolutely boring after a point. I am in no way denying that there are some really wonderful shows that are interesting and engaging, but I am not a great fan of this medium of story-telling, especially where there are 5 seasons x 15 episodes x 1 hour. Might as well cut out all those suggestions, I am never going to get around sustaining my interest in them or completing them. 

But, if you want to prove me wrong with a gem list, your suggestions are welcome! Do you have a show that you think is extremely engaging in its story? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, July 3, 2020

Murder In Beltour | Chapter 06 | Questions

Saira had been called to the Dean’s office regarding the fire. She waited outside the office, tense and fidgety.

“What?! Why you? What do you have to do with it! You didn’t even know there was a fire, you were sleeping!” Diya had exclaimed when Saira told her about the call. “You don’t even know what happened.”

“I don’t know, but they won’t know that. My room is on the same floor as Ruchi’s. Let’s see what they want,” Saira had replied.

Standing there, Saira’s thoughts wandered back to the day of the fire. She was sleeping deeply, and she remembered nothing. She wasn’t even someone close to Ruchi, after all they had a very polite hi-bye relationship that faded away into a curt smile. What could they possibly want to know from her? The opening of the Dean’s door by a woman, Sunanda as they had called her the other day, brought Saira’s thoughts to an abrupt end.

“Saira?” asked Sunanda.

“Yes, ma’am,” said Saira.
“Please call me Sunanda,” she said, smiling professionally. “Saira, please take a seat. I won’t take much time, I have a couple of questions that I want to ask you, that is all.”

“Sure. The Dean isn’t here?” Saira was confused. The Dean’s office had only this woman and no one else. But, she had got an email saying she needed to meet the Dean. Sunanda looked up at Saira.

“No,” she said curtly. “I am Sunanda Amble, and I am a private investigator. I have been asked to investigate the fire by the Dean of your college, and hence I am on this case. I need to just ask you a few questions, and then you can go back. Please take a seat.”

Saira sat down slowly in one of the two chairs in front of the Dean’s desk. “Investigate? So, it wasn’t an accident?”

“I’d advise you to just reply to my questions, and not ask any yourself. So, where is your room?”
“Second floor.”
“Number?”
“42.”
“Do you know Ruchi?”
“This is a small place, we all know each other. She lives on the same floor as me, so I saw her often. But, I don’t know her well enough beyond the smile we gave each other as we passed.”
Sunanda paused and nodded.
“Can I know what you usually do around afternoons in college?”
“I sleep. Everyday.”
“And, on the day of the fire?”
“I was sleeping, as usual.”
“How deep?”
“I can’t sleep at night. I have trouble sleeping at night. So, afternoon is the time I make up for it. I wouldn’t know if an elephant was stomping around when I sleep in the afternoon.”
“Do you lock your room while sleeping?”
“Yes, always.”
“What were you doing right before you went to sleep?”
“I came back from the University classes.”
“And?”
“And, slept.”

There was a long pause. Sunanda stared at the notebook in front of her.

“So, you came straight back from the classes, and slept?”
“Yes. I always do.”
“You never left your door open and went anywhere?”
“No.”

Saira was confused. Why was the woman repeatedly trying to figure out if her door was open? Did it matter?

“Okay,” said Sunanda, dragging her voice.
“Uh, I think I went to fill my water bottle before I went to sleep.”

Sunanda’s eyes darted back to Saira.
“When?”
“After coming back to the room, and right before sleeping. The cooler is just down at the end of the floor. Ruchi’s end.”
“Did you leave your door open?”
“I latched it from outside, but didn’t lock it. The cooler was right there.”
"How far is your room from Ruchi's?"
I am not sure, but around 8-9 rooms away, I think."
“And, how long did you take to get back to the room?”
“A couple of minutes. Maybe two or three. Not more than that.”
“Right, thank you very much.”

Sunanda suddenly seemed to be scribbling tons of notes into her notebook, and Saira was curious to know how it mattered.

“Why? How does it matter?” asked Saira.
“That’s my job, Saira. Thank you for your cooperation,” said Sunanda, politely. “That is all, you can-”

“Something isn’t right. You are involved in this beyond being a private investigator, aren’t you?” asked Saira plainly.
“Why would you think that?” Sunanda’s tone was smirky. She went back to looking into her notes, and scribbling with a pencil.

“Who is the Boss?”
Sunanda’s face turned white like a sheet, and for a brief moment Saira thought that she saw a hint of fear. A couple of moments passed, and then Sunanda looked up from her notebook.

“Excuse me?”

“Who is the boss? And, why doesn’t he want you to take up the case?”

*

Read Chapter 7!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Silence

Silence. 
Defined to be 
a complete absence 
of sound. 

And yet, 
silence can speak a thousand words, 
silence can be deafening. 
Silence can be voluntary,
silence can be forced. 
Silence- sometimes appreciated, 
and at some other times, condemned. 
Silence is sometimes a necessity, 
while in some other you are expected not to be. 
Silence sometimes has a rhythm, 
and yet sometimes is a chaotic disaster. 
Silence can make you calm, 
and yet drive you mad.
Silence is sometimes peace,
and sometimes the very opposite.
Silence can be a noiseless place,
and sometimes be the midst of noise.

Can one experience have so many facets to it?

Silence.
One of the most intriguing- 
of all the sounds we hear. 
Yet there is never complete silence, 
there is always your breath and mine.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Murder In Beltour | Chapter 05 | A Hunch

Sunanda checked her watch, it was twelve noon. The sun was blazing hot, and the heat was unbearable. She scanned the semi-burnt room. A table in one corner, with a whole lot of burnt junk on it, a pile of ashes from what must have been a stack of writing paper, spilled mud from the broken pot of an aloe vera plant, and every inch of the room was closely observed and recorded by her. Having taken all the notes that she needed to, and looking around repeatedly for something that she missed, Sunanda stood in the centre of the burnt room where the girl died, as her eyes darted sharply from place to place. 

The char patterns, the direction of the melt and the heat shadows showed a clear place of the origin of the fire. Dev walked in at the moment, and she gave him a brief glance before turning her focus back to the room, and specifically the window. 

“Found anything? You have to hear me out, it will help,” said Dev. 

“Not here, you came at a time I had to leave, so be patient. We go back to my office and then you spill the beans. But, till then, I would request you to zip your mouth and act like an assistant,” she said, without glancing at him and her tone in a slightly loud whisper. 

“But-” he began, but Sunanda cut him off sharply. Then she turned back to the desk and the broken window, and walked closer to it.

“It started from the desk, the char pattern is all too clear, and the desk is near the window. No plug points around the desk- couldn’t have been a circuit fire that began there, and if she did not start the fire by herself-”

“Of course, she did not. I know that for a fac-” started Dev again, but was once again cut off mid sentence. He gave an exasperated sigh.

“-then it leaves us only one option through which fire can come from outside. The window,” she completed, taking a careful peek outside the window sill making sure she doesn't touch it. “I don’t want to hear anything from you before I finish my inspection of the room, please. I don’t need a pre-influence before I take my first look. That would be a route to failure in this case.”

Dev nodded slowly. “Okay, so what do you think is the cause?”

“There are only three possible causes for a fire,” she replied. “It can be chemical, electrical or natural. While the origin place of the fire is too simple to identify here, and I can’t understand how and why that is so, the cause I can only take a wide guess. I don’t think electrical, and I have a hunch it’s not chemical.”

“What did the fire services tell you?” asked Dev.

“They think accidental, and the University feels it has been purposely set-”
“It has been. I know-” started Dev, but she glared at him.

“You ask questions, then you wait for answers. Don’t jump in.”

Sunanda sniggered at him. “A fire is usually a complex event whose origin and cause are not obvious.”

“But you just figured them out, they are fairly simple in this case at least,” commented Dev, walking up to Sunanda who had by now bent down to scrutinize the bottom part of the main door to the room. 

“Too obvious, and that can never be,” said Sunanda, taking out her camera and clicking a shot at what she was scrutinizing. Dev bent down to check what she clicked. 

“What did you click?” he asked, not able to notice anything obvious.

“Burnt newspaper trailers, and tool marks,” she said pointing to them in particular without touching them. “And, that’s the right hunch.” 

“Did you collect other types of evidence?” asked Dev. 

Sunanda gave a short, incredulous laugh. “I am just going to leave that question and rightfully conclude that you know nothing about crime scene evidence. Let’s get going and hear your story.”

*

Read Chapter 6!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Tuesdays with Morrie

Title: Tuesdays with Morrie
Author: Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom loved his sociology professor in the University during his college days, and attended every lecture of his. But, as time flew after graduation, the University and the professor both slip from his mind for a long period, until he learns that his favourite professor is in his last days. Tuesdays with Morrie is the collection of discussions that Albom has with his professor Morrie every Tuesday, just like he used to during the University days. The book is a collection of conversations that Albom has with Morrie on the last few months approaching the professor's death. The conversations are open, thoughtful discussions on a wide array of themes including love, work, community, family, aging, forgiveness, and, finally, death.

Tuesdays with Morrie feels like you are reading a story, rather than a non-fiction. It shows Albom's journey in figuring out what these things mean to him, with the help of Morrie's narration of his own story. Morrie's story is touching, real, and gives Albom a guidance to figure out what life means to him. Albom describes this book as "one long paper on what was learned". And, I think that's the best one-line summation that anyone can give about this work.

We all have a professor or teacher either in our schooling or during our University days whom we looked up to and had meaningful conversations with. We tended to attend every lecture of theirs, look forward to their classes, be curious about their views, and seek help and guidance from them when we find ourselves stumbling with baffling and deep questions. All of us have experienced something like this in someone, even if it wasn't our teacher- it could have been a friend, our parents, siblings, grandparents, or anybody. So, I think it is very relatable to see where the story is coming from. 

However, you cannot seek answers in the book. The book is just about the process that the author went through while discovering the meaning of life with his professor. The book is a beautiful record of how he meandered through his thoughts, and how he took the story of Morrie. And, according to me, what the book ultimately tells the reader is not the answers in themselves, but to stop, speculate, introspect, and take the interest to find the meaning for yourself. 

I really like the book, and especially its narration. The conversational tone that is maintained makes the whole process of reading the discussions pleasant and evoking. I really liked how there were no conclusions concretely established, and how Albom stood by the simple narration of his views, and let the reader think for themselves. Such narrative makes the reader enjoy the book much better, whatever subject it is on. 

I enjoyed reading it very much. It's a lovely read!

Monday, June 29, 2020

Murder In Beltour | Chapter 04 | Sunanda

Dev was taken inside by a boy who must have been sixteen or seventeen years.

“Straight in. You see the cabin?” asked the boy, pointing his hand towards an opaque wooden door.

“Yes, thank you,” said Dev. The boy nodded, and went back to the front porch to assume his usual position.

Dev walked up to the door, but stopped. He examined the heavy rosewood door on which a shiny plate carried the name of the person whom he had decided to meet- Sunanda Amble. With a sigh, he pushed the door open.

Inside, was a lean, young woman, poised on a high, fashionable chair, who must have been no more than twenty-five. She was wearing a skinny jean, and a crisp, white formal shirt, that fit on her perfectly. Her springy hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail that fell down till  her shoulders. She had a tight, formal smile on her face. Her hands were rested on the teak table in front of her chair.

Sunanda gestured Dev to sit down in the chair in front of hers with a wave of her hand.

“Yes, Mr. Som? You-” Dev cut her mid sentence.

“Just Dev, please,” said Dev. Sunanda smiled tightly.

“You must be here with a reason. I guess you know me, but for formality's sake- I am Sunanda Amble. I am a private detective. I am in no way affiliated or associated with any firm or establishment. I have my own contacts when I need information. I respect my clients’ privacy, and anything that you say here doesn’t go out beyond that rosewood door. So, please go on,” she said in a breathless, quick string of sentences, smiling her tight smile.

“Okay. I-I-” he mumbled, not knowing how to start. “All right, I have reason to believe I am not like any other regular client of yours. Before I say anything, I need a hundred-percent guarantee that nothing ever ever-”

Sunanda gave a firm assurance of confidentiality. Dev still felt nervous. He wasn't sure, now that he had come so far, whether he was doing the right thing. He would get eliminated from the face of Earth in no time, if found.

“Okay, okay. See… Let's get this straight,” said Dev, looking right at Sunanda. “If anything ever goes wrong in this process I might be as well dead as a doornail.”

“What do you do?”

“You could call me something like an ex-criminal,” Dev said, finally gaining confidence about the idea.

“How much of an ex exactly? Two, three years before?”

“Till yesterday.” Sunanda’s brows rose in a question, but she said nothing.

Dev, who was fidgeting with a pen on the table, put his hands a little farther away on the table- more to the lady’s side than his. And, immediately, an alarm started ringing. The footsteps of the boy on the porch could be heard in the corridor connecting the porch and the room.

Dev, reflexively, swooped down and cut the alarm. Sunanda looked down, rooted in her spot, her eyes wide and suspicious at the man- Dev Som as he called himself.

“Miss is in trouble?” cried the boy, as he burst inside the room.

“No, thank you, Raghav. It was an accident,” said Sunanda, calmly, and sent the boy off.

“What was that for?” asked Dev sharply, as soon as the boy went away.

“You kept your hand rather far away from yourself, on the table. Very much on my side… I happen to be in a field where I talk to a lot of people, like an ex-criminal,” said Sunanda, slowly, taking a look at her client in detail for the first time.

“No, but it is this alarm…The alarm only the workers of the Boss have, how? Who are you? Did you work for him, too?” Dev said to her, his eyes boring into hers.

“And you knew how to switch it off, which only some of the men of the Boss know to do,” she replied, her tone exactly matching his. There were a couple of moments of silence. Then she broke it by a simple question.

“When did he quit you?”

After a few moments of more silence, Dev said softly, “Yesterday.”

“And, why are you here?”

“I want you to take up the Beltour case, I want to remedy what the Boss started through me.”

*

Read Chapter 5!

Sunday, June 28, 2020

What Is Good Comedy?

Comedy and humour has always been and will always be something that we all connect to as humans. In today's world, we have many different platforms to express humour- even as a profession! There can be different kinds of comedy on places, things, practices, customs, norms, people, anything and everything. So, what is good comedy? Is there anything called good comedy?

Well, you might say that a good comedy is one that can make it's audience laugh- that's basic. Is there any other parameter? For a statement or an act to become comedy there are two parts that we can clearly see: 
1. Someone must do the act or make the statement/story/etc.
2. Some others, hopefully a majority, must find it to be funny.
You cannot claim something to be a comedy. It must be one, and that is solely decided by whether there are people who find it funny. If no one finds it funny other than yourself, you can't really call it comedy. So, the second part basically decides whether it is a comedy or not. We all know this, and this is not what I am here to talk about. I want to talk about the third factor. As long as there are people who crack the joke, and people who enjoy/feel-bored, it is absolutely fine. The problem arises as to the question of whether it is good comedy only when there is a third factor of people (the ones closely associated with your joke, and a majority in that sample space) who are hurt.

What is good comedy? People laughing at jokes may not make it a good joke. A good joke, ideally, should be one that is enjoyable the most to the person or the group of persons connected to the place/person/act/practice that you joke about. In a not-so-ideal situation, you can water down the "most enjoyable part" to at least "not hurt". It ceases to be a joke when there is someone hurt by it. 

The person not being "sportive" enough, or not taking it "like a joke", is never a reason to justify their hurt. Being sportive or not is their choice. Since you are drawing fun at their expense, you don't have the right to overstep beyond what they give happily. I think this is the primary difference between classic, enjoyable, observant, and truly witty humour to that of insensitivity in the guise of humour. 

In today's world of memes and stand-up comedies, and several other expressions of humour through books, movies, theatre, art, and what not, it is better for all of us to carry this thought, and make humour stay true to its sense. 

I love humour, it is one my favourite genres to read. I love the subtle yet strong English humour of Wodehouse, and the sarcastic humour of Shaw. I also have loved and read essays and writings of Robert Fulghum, Erma Bombeck, and recently read hilarious ones such as The Mezzanine, and Me Talk Pretty One Day

After all, as Erma Bombeck said:
"When humor goes, there goes civilization."

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Murder In Beltour | Chapter 03 | Diya

Diya and Saira were standing outside the hostel. The fire that had happened a couple of days ago caused a major destruction to the hostel, and all the residents were shifted to another building temporarily inside the campus of the University. A girl had died in the fire, and that had set the University and the residents on a binge-discussion. Diya and Saira were no different from the rest of the University residents.

“But, how? How did the fire break? The college is not disclosing the cause of the fire, how is it possible that they haven’t figured that yet?” said Diya, incredulously. She had been tripping on the thought of how careless and off-handed the University seemed about giving them the concrete answers that they deserved. Well, if the house is set of fire, then there better be answers for those living in it!

“There are rumours that this was not a mishap, and it’s an attack of some sort. But I think that’s absurd,” commented Saira, gazing on the burnt walls in the upper part of the hostel, partially collapsed. “What do you think?”

“I don’t know… There are too many questions, most of them vague and improbable, if you consider it to be an attack,” speculated Diya. “But, there are also weirdly pieced facts that the University has told us. How is it that no one except Ruchi was in that part of the hostel when the fire broke out? Isn’t it odd considering that we all know the third floor corner is one of busiest? Most of the rooms there are occupied. Also, I didn’t really see much of Ruchi before this incident. Maybe something was wrong.”

“Suicide?”

“Really? Burning down a hostel? I don’t think, though we never know anything about these things. I hope the University gives us some explanation.”

“Well,” started Saira, in a long, stretched out tone. “We have to just wait and watch I guess.”

“There is no time to wait, come on Saira. Why is the administration so quiet about this? I feel like something is amiss.”

“Let’s not overthink where we don’t even have the base to think.”

The sound of a car pulling up near them, in front of the hostel, cut off their conversation. A lean, young woman stepped out of the car, dressed in a casual pair of jeans, a white tee, and sneakers. She had a small duffel on her back and she tugged it as she stood observing the slightly dilapidated structure. Soon, the authorities of the University came along, and the woman exchanged curt pleasantries with them.

“So, shall we head in? I’d suggest as few of you to accompany me as possible. Two is the cap,” she said, briskly and in a matter-of-work tone.

“We are very thankful to you, Sunanda, for agreeing to come today,” said the Dean as he, Sunanda, and one more faculty walked into the hostel. “This is a matter of the highest urgency to us.”

Diya and Saira looked at the woman going inside, each speculating in silence as to who it could be. Finally, Saira broke the silence.

“Let’s go grab something to eat, I’m starving,” she said. A notification sound made them both turn to its source. It was from inside the car. Saira ignored when she realized it was the phone that was inside on the seat of the car. But, Diya looked in for a few more seconds, and her eyes fell on the screen. Her heart pounded, and her eyes widened. The lit home screen had one short message from the Boss.
Let go of the Beltour case, and I’ll spare you.
*

Friday, June 26, 2020

Me Talk Pretty One Day


Title: Me Talk Pretty One Day
Author: David Sedaris

Sedaris tries to live his life in France without knowing French, and tries to get away without learning, after some frustrating attempts. Drowned generously in humour, Sedaris's comic essays are a riot of laughter to read! Me Talk Pretty One Day is split into two parts- part one, and part deux. The first, about his life before shifting to France, and the second, about life in France. The second part has some of the finest humour and very relatable essays that I have read, that primarily included grounded and hilarious speculations by Seadris and his partner Hugh. 

My favourite chapters were ones where Sedaris hilariously takes on IQ tests. I loved the general thoughts on languages and learning it. It was very, very relatable. The keen observations, and the blunt honesty in those words make you giggle. This is a book that everyone can relate to, or draw parallels from! It's witty, and bitter, and delightful- all at the same time. And, that is what makes this book a really fun read.

If you are one of those people who start looking for some meaning to extract from a book, maybe this one isn't for you. A book need not always give you a coherent message, and in fact, like I said in my review of The Mezzanine, books and essays that are written with good humour and keen observation can be a pleasure to read sans any concrete story or message. In fact, it is the absurdity of it all that makes the read that much more fun. Sedaris is a very quirky writer, and to me this book was absolutely enjoyable. 
"When you publish a book, you expect that somebody somewhere will buy it. What you don’t expect, and what I’ve never quite gotten over, is that they may actually read it as well. Everything else is gravy."
And well, what Sedaris may not have expected is that his readers not only buy the book and read it, but also are absolutely entertained by the lovable banter and fine humour! The narration is sparkling and takes us through a ride of sweet, bitter and funny struggle of the writer and his life in France!

I loved it!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Longfellow on 'Old Age'

Old age is something inevitable for all of us. Today, I read this piece by Wadsworth on Old Age from my collection- The Complete Poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Since I liked it very much, I wanted to share this beautiful piece with you all. So, here you go:

The course of my long life hath reached at last,
In fragile bark o'er a tempestuous sea,
The common harbor, where must rendered be
Account of all the actions of the past.
The impassioned phantasy, that, vague and vast,
Made art an idol and a king to me,
Was an illusion, and but vanity
Were the desires that lured me and harassed.
The dreams of love, that were so sweet of yore,
What are they now, when two deaths may be mine,—
One sure, and one forecasting its alarms?
Painting and sculpture satisfy no more
The soul now turning to the Love Divine,
That oped, to embrace us, on the cross its arms.

Hope you enjoyed it!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Weaving A Web Of Equal Resources and Abundant Opportunities

The internet has opened so many portals for so many industries, since its advent. One of the most important changes that it has created is our perception on how to learn today. Any skill, any subject, any opportunity can be utilized and learnt over the web today. We have brilliant platforms such as Coursera that let you do full professionally recognized courses and issue certificates that have value. In fact, the web has transcended borders to make available the best of things in the world in your six inch smartphone screen. 

While it is fair to debate whether all of us can afford to access the internet itself, I am sure affording a course from Yale wouldn’t be possible too for those who couldn’t afford an internet connection. The world is bridging a very significant gap of not having access to resources by putting out the platforms of education on the internet. And, it is much more affordable today than what it was before. 

Using the power of the virtual world to reach out to corners where it’d take another decade to make resources physically accessible is the very power of this medium. It is better to exploit technology to cover the wide gap of needs, and put it to use that can do the society a lot of good. Technology and the reach of the internet not only covers just rural set-ups, it covers especially the urban set-up where the needs are much more and yet the cost of living is ever-rising. 
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
― Nelson Mandela
We can educate ourselves, and contribute by sharing what we know- on the internet. Embracing this to push to a world where resources can be shared equally is a positive way of looking at it. There is no point just coming up with faults and loopholes in this system, and it is obvious that there will be. So, what we need to find are solutions to fix them, and treat this as an opportunity to make the world a place with equal opportunities.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Murder In Beltour | Chapter 02 | Dev

‘QUIT’ said the message.

Dev couldn’t believe it. It seemed to have come right from the ‘Boss’. He stared at the piece of paper that had come to him, through a known messenger, sealed tightly. He read it again carefully, though there wasn’t much to read. 

    Well done Dev. Mission successful. Now QUIT before death. Else, death awaits in an hour. -Boss    (12.15)

Why would his Boss do this? Ask him to quit when he has just achieved his position in the brotherhood? Something was amiss. He was completely shaken. He really hadn’t expected anything of this kind to happen. The message was already old by three-quarters of an hour. He read the message again. Was this a code to a new mission? Didn't seem like that. What should he do now? He had two choices. One, to go and quit from the brotherhood, like what the message asked him to do. Two, wait and see till the end of the hour, hoping that the message has a side meaning or some clue for him. 

Conveniently, Dev chose to do the second. He just couldn't fathom being thrown away like that after all that he had worked. The last quarter was passed with tense silence and repetitive reading of that single-lined text. The clock ticked away till 01.15. Dev breathed a sigh of relief allowing a snug smile tug at his lips. Just then, the doorbell rang. Dev’s heart leapt at the unexpected ringing. Fear gripped him again. He opened the door slowly. To his extreme relief, the face of whom-he-thought-a-friend peered at him with a grin.

“Thank God! It’s you! Come on in, I have the most bizzare-” said Dev opening the door wide. 

The next thing that Dev knew was a hard jab on his face, and a punch landing on his gut. He fell to the floor writhing in pain. The man stepped in deftly, leaving the door half closed. 

“You should have gone after the warning message from the Boss!” said the man, with a derisive, ridiculing look that spelled you-aren't-good-enough. 

“Yash? You are not here to kill me! I am your friend- we are like family!” said Dev, panic rising and his voice quavering, as he clutched his abdomen and managed himself on to the feet. 

“Anything to please the boss, buddy. He is family. Not you, not anyone,” laughed the man.

“Yash, Yash, no! You will not do it!” pleaded Dev. A blow on his nose again sent Dev doubling on the floor holding a bloody nose. But this time, the door was on his side. “Yash, Yash, stop!” he cried.

Yash slowly took out from his pocket a dagger. Realization crashed on Dev. It couldn’t be, but it was. Dev searched his adversary's eyes for a non-existent sign of hope that he wouldn't do it. Yash wouldn’t hesitate a moment to stab him dead. Yash advanced, ruthlessly, slowly and steadily, eyeing his target and not wavering for even a fraction of a moment.

“Yash! This will not help you. Where will you go after you kill me? You will be dead! Boss will do away with you, too. I just realized that, he doesn't care. Don’t-for both our lives! Just stop, and we can set things right. We have a chance, Yash, listen to me,” whispered Dev, as fear wouldn’t allow him to be any louder. 

Dev, didn’t know what to do. His breathing was becoming heavier. Yash was near, advancing closer. Suddenly, with a spurt of courage from an undefined source, he pushed open the door near him, and sprinted down the alley with all his energy to God-knows-where. Behind him, he heard his attacker’s footsteps for what seemed a long time. Then it suddenly died. But, Dev continued running, on and on and on, until he crashed down on the street, unable to move any more. Exhaustion took over as the world went black for the young man.

After many hours, he woke up with a start, to find himself on the hard tar road. A few moments of confusion was followed by a hard-hitting recount of everything that happened, and it felt to him like a hard punch on the gut that leaving him in writhing pain. He realized fully well what his position was. 

No home. No job. No money. But, an opportunity to set things right.

*

Monday, June 22, 2020

5 Fun Reading Lists With Something For Each Of Us

Have you already read all the books on your list? Looking for good resources to fill up your reading list again? Check out some of these brilliant reading lists that can get you going for the next few months. Also, most of these resource links have further links inside them to guide you to several more interesting reading lists on their website! 

1. For those who love the solved and unsolved mysteries of Science, and the men and machines behind it, check out this wonder list of The Greatest Science Books of 2016, a treasure compilation by none other than our favourite brainpicker! Popova writes in her introduction to the list:
"The question of what makes a great book of any kind is, of course, a slippery one, but I recently endeavored to synthesize my intuitive system for assessing science books that write up to the reader in a taxonomy of explanation, elucidation, and enchantment."
The books in this list seem very interesting, and are essentially a part of my to-read list. Hope I can get to them soon, covering a few of them before college reopens!
 
 2. For the authors, writers, and all those who love the craft of literary expression: how about Hemingway's list of essential books for aspiring writers? Because, Hemingway believed and said:
"As a writer you should not judge. You should understand."
Writers can also check out this list of 24 books that shaped one of the greatest writers, Gabriel Garcia Márquez. This list looked so wholesome and endearing that I had to include it all in my own to-read lists!
 
3. Are you in the a-book-a-day-keeps-the-gloom-away phase? The Reader's Digest list on 18 classic books that you can read in a day is absolutely wonderful. This is a list I can endorse, having read some of the brilliant classics in the list such as The Little Prince, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451, The Great Gatsby, and many more!

4. Are you curious what other authors are themselves reading? I came across NY magazine's article- 23 Authors on 26 Books They’re Reading to Escape the Present Moment- a list that was chosen during these tough times to read, and escape to the better world among books, and also part of an "ongoing effort to provide productive distractions from what’s happening outside of your windows and on your screen" from the magazine! Do check them out, there are some very interesting titles from Hemingway to Austen to Phyllis Grant, and so many more! It's a fresh list, and something you should definitely check out.

5. Do you have young kids, brother or sisters around you? Do you want good books they can read during this lockdown? You can check out my reading lists where you'll also find a review for each book. You can also see my post on Literature For Young Girls, my all time favourite books, and other reading lists.

Check these links out in leisure, and do follow my blog to keep getting new suggestions and book reviews! Happy reading!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Murder In Beltour | Chapter 01 | Saira

Saira was lying on her bed, her back facing the ceiling, her mind and body in a deep lull. An old, battered ceiling fan spun at a disgraceful pace coupled with a brash, rattling sound that was an irritant to the ear and racket loud enough to have woken up the whole colony. But to Saira, the noise of the fan was soothing- a familiar, comforting and monotonous lullaby that kept to its reassuring rhythm in her world of chaos. 

A day in the life of Saira was made up of five hours of University lectures, another three hours of back-breaking academic work requirements of the University, a good solid period of relaxing after the long day that started as a break of one hour but extended to an ungraciously long five hours of wasting time, three hours of long, luxurious meals, two baths for an hour and a half each that wasted all the water resources available as Saira conveniently stood under the mellow, cool shower lost in her thoughts and unproductive daydreams, three hours of trying to sleep, and then a sleepless night. But every afternoon, Saira slept blissfully, like a child, like a warrior in peace, like a vagrant comes to rest, taking in the monotonous rattle of the fan as a child takes to the lullaby. 

Any student at the University of Beltour, a prestigious institution for the study of Law nestled in the heart of the small, bustling town of Beltour in the southern part of the country, was considered to be a top performer- an assumption the world made by default. Saira, like the rest of the other students in this University, was promised that the 'Beltour-ite' tag would ensure that the rest of her life is a heaven if she managed to clear the entrance requirements and aptitude tests for this University. And, Saira aced them to secure her seat. What a proud moment it was for all who knew her! And, what a relief it was for Saira who believed that her life is now set!

Diya was her best friend from school, and another girl who was promised a bright future on entry into the esteemed institute. And, they both got sailed through inside in a bout of success after their schooling. Diya had always been a natural fighter when thrown in a race of competition. She was the kind of winner one never felt bad losing to and who made it look like she deserved to win, and she always won. A happy girl with a breeze of confidence, and a steady look at her goal, her march to victory was mostly unwavering even when there was an equal match for her.

Saira always had a subliminal pride in her friend, something that went beyond the superficial successes and was more about her very spirit. The two of them had always dreamt of the day they would start something together, and watch it grow under them. They always saw their lives entwined as the best of friends- extending it to even their professions.

A loud thud on the door of the room made Saira jump up from her deep slumber. Someone was banging the door hard and calling out her name. And, along with the bang she heard a high-pitched siren. Her head spun in confusion. What in the world was happening? Was it a dream?

'Saira! Saira! Open the door,' yelled the girl outside.

'Who's it?' Saira called back, her cluttered mind unable to register or recognize the voice. Her heart was pounding fast from the sudden banging noise and the siren. Her reflexes were slow, and her eyes were hazy and unfocused. She got up to open the door, steadying herself.

As she pulled the door open, she saw Diya standing there.

'What's-' started Saira, her eyes wide awake and reflecting the alarm from the chaotic noise. Her nose caught the smell of smoke, and she gave a short cough.

'There's a fire in the hostel. Let's get out.'

*

Saturday, June 20, 2020

10 Things You Can Blog About

Do you have a blog? And, are there days when you don't know what to write about? Here are some ideas from what I have written about and explored in the last 194 days of blogging everyday across various subjects- books, movies, stories, art, life, law, and more!

1. Write about a hobby, or something that you learnt to make/do recently.
2. Review a book, movie, game, product, service, food, or anything at all that you used, watched, or read. 
3. Elaborate on a thought inside your head. 
4. Write about the favourite people you admire (with or without names).
5. Write about places. 
6. Write a poem.
7. Write a story, or you can run a chapter series with 1-2 chapters of your story every week. I'm thinking about trying this out. 
8. Pitch an idea. If you want to collaborate on something, then let people know how to contact you so that anyone who reads the post, and is interested to work with you, can ping you!
9. Share anything interesting that you came across in the recent past. Or, share the interesting resources that you use/come across with your readers.  
10. Rant. And, provide actionable solutions, if you can.

There are so many other ideas, and once you get that small hitch, it's happy writing till you hit that publish button. Keeping an editorial list ready to publish on your blog can take your writing a long way, because then you'd have something to go up anyway, and you would be stressing about what to write for what would go up on another day! This will make sure you aren't writing for the sake of just putting up something. 

If you enjoy reading my posts you can subscribe and read them in the comfort of your inbox!

Also, I have a series of chapters ready to roll out as an interesting short tale for you all, with two chapters coming out every week! I am very excited to have my first chapter up tomorrow! 
So stay tuned, and see you tomorrow!

Friday, June 19, 2020

The Muse Mode (And, Mood)

Art: by me :)
The environment you are in plays a big role on what thoughts come to you when you sit down to write a story. Essentially, to write a good story, you slip into what I'd call the 'muse mode' (or, muse mood- whichever way you like it!). 

So, what's the muse mode? The muse mode is when you stare into infinity, irrespective of whether it's an ocean or a wall in front of you, and you are lost in the deep muse of what your protagonist(s) sees and does. You live the experience as you write it. Though we write a novel, we actually see the events playing out as we write it and even when we read it. And, most often than not, you become the protagonist and see it through your eyes when you write the story. 

That has always been my experience. Whatever form of story it is- a novel, a play, a short story, whatever- the best pieces written are the ones where you lived them through while writing. That is why the setting that you are in can influence a lot. What you can write from your heart in a fresh, open space one serene morning, is different from what you can write in a cab stuck in traffic jam. There is no hierarchy in standard with respect to them, as long as they are written from the heart, living that moment. Sometimes, we may carry the feeling from the serene morning, and live through it again to write about it in a cab stuck in traffic. The muse mood is still about the morning! A virtual muse mood, without an actual setting that demands it, is also very much possible, at least for writers who love the story they are writing. But, it is not possible for me to write without creating this mood. 

So, identifying your muse mode and writing genuinely is what can make a story actually reach out to people. Anyone who writes would definitely understand what 'muse mood' that I am talking about. And, if you don't understand what this whole post is about, I have an interesting exercise for you. Write 3-4 pieces, preferably stories of about 500-1000 words each, and write them each in different settings, different times. Then, go back and reflect on where you were and what you wrote!

Note: The drawing is inspired from a scene from the movie Whisper of the Heart, where Shizuku sits looking outside the window - deep in thought! Hope you get the mood I am talking about from the picture!

Ans, happy writing this weekend!