Catching up with an old friend

Chat with old friend who found me using Facebook Friend Finder ….

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Old Friend : OMG, so you are a hot shot author now.

Me : (Trying to be modest and underplayed) Yeah, I have a couple of books published

O F : Well, you always wanted to be a doctor

Me : Yeah, didn’t everyone else?  It was a done thing those days ….

O F : What?

Me : Adults would ask, “Beta badhe hokar kya banogey?” and we would chant, Doctor, IAS, IPS, Engineer. 

O F : You always said Doctor

Me : The idea of cutting people open must have sounded like fun to me

O F : So how come you’re not one?

Me : (Trying to wriggle out of admitting that I dropped out in the second month of med school) You wanted to be in IAS, and now you’re in marketing.

O F : Well, it pays better and does not get me posted out of Calcutta.  You can’t take a Bong out of Calcutta

Me : So how’s Didi?

Nice try … but he did not take the bait.

O F : (Still persisting) Never thought you’d be working in corporates and writing novels.

Me : (Uncomfortably)  Erm I work in one corporate only.

O F : And your marriage broke

Me : (Wishing I could strangle him through the computer screen) Yes

O F : You are Ritu Jain from Imphal and from Hindu College aren’t you?

Me : (Scowling) Was.  Now I am Ritu Lalit

O F : (I could sense the avid need to learn more gossip) You have changed so much!  How could you?  He was your big romance, how come?

Taking deep breaths, reminding myself that I once actually liked this bloke, and preaching myself tolerance…

Me : That was then, this is now.  You’re right.  I changed a lot.

O F : Like how?

Me : I got infected by Black Spider venom.  So I have this uncontrollable urge to kill or destroy old loves and old friends.  It is a problem but I am learning how to control it, and to live with it.  

O F : You’re not serious?

Me : Try me

Facebook, I owe you big time.  Haven’t had so much fun in ages 😛

Livin da vida loca

Get me to the book launch in time

Our first stop en route to the book launch was Chandigarh.  We reached Chandigarh at 8 p.m. and were welcomed by rain.  Ah bliss!  One major observation I have to make here is that people in Punjab haven’t disrespected nature at all.  I mean India is majorly agricultural right?  You go to Haryana, U.P., Rajasthan and you see rampant greed which has turned these states into dust bowls.  Punjab is green, even in the month of May. The air is cleaner and pleasant.  I mean you get out of the station and breathe in a lungful of fresh and oxy-rich air, instead of dust.  So refreshing!  It brought smiles to our faces, and so did the old world courtesy of the cab driver who was taking us to Patiala.

And then Kunal Marathe did something that floored us.  He rang us up and asked courteously, “What’ll you have for dinner?  The kitchen will be closed by the time you reach the hotel.”

Wow!

He must have had zillions of things to do, what with the book launch the next day, with Maharani Preneet Kaur as chief guest and all that.
But he thought of us, and asked us what we’d want to eat!  Kunal, you are a very considerate and gracious host.   Thanks!

We reached Patiala, were welcomed by Kunal and the food.  I loved the hotel, it was so old world and charming, but more of that in a bit.  We simply hugged Kunal and tore into the food like starving wastrels.  Swear we did!  And Kunal sat with us.  He kept telling us, ever so politely,  that he had to get up at 6 a.m. and be at the venue by 7, but poor chap, when the Lalits turn on charm, one succumbs. 😛

We finally went to sleep at 3 a.m.

Kunal had his revenge in the morning when he rang me up at 7 and told me that I was responsible for getting the boys and me to the venue before ten.  And he kept ringing me up every ten minutes or so!  Good gosh!  Talk about pressure, that too when one has to drape a sari and put on make up!

In my normal day I wear jeans and tatty tees, or kurti and tights.  I put on sunscreen, and that is all.  I don’t do girly very well, not even a lipstick.  Naturally I got stressed.  And it did not help matters that after every phone call I rushed to the room the boys were sharing.  They were in a vacation mood, so hurrying them up was quite a job.

I am sure he was chuckling at the effect he was having on me.  Finally, dressed and breakfasted, we reached the venue …. which was awesome!

Ishaan at the venue

Yes those planes are real!  My plane mad son could not get enough of them.

Entrance

And this was the entrance to the club hall.

And we got there in time, before the chief guest arrived.  Yes, sir, we did get to the book launch in time.

And found that I had got my leg pulled oh so thoroughly, by no one but the one and only Kunal Marathe.

Me speaking at Delhi book fair

This was taken in winters at the Delhi Book Fair, at the authors corner, where I was reading from another book of mine.  Please take close look at my attire, dressed for comfort, warmth and ease of body movement.

But Kunal told us that there was a dress code.  We were supposed to wear sarees etc.  And I fell for it, hook line and Sinker.  I even went to the extent of getting a saree made for the occasion!  Heh 😆

Me at podium

Very few ladies were wearing saris, most of them were in salwar kameez.

Well played, Kunal, extremely well played.

But I have to admit, I looked nice.

Other posts in this series :

From Delhi to Chandigarh for the book launch

The book launch

 

Confessions

Haters

Alright, I have to admit that this post is heavily inspired.

No, not the Anu Malik kind of “inspired” but nevertheless …

I recently joined a Facebook page called Confessions.  The premise is interesting.  You post whatever your gripe is anonymously and get it out of your system.  It raised a lot of red flags in my brain.

Red Flag 1 : Confessions

Red Flag 2 : Anonymous

 Sleaze Alert!  Whine Alert!  Backbiting and Slander galore!

ROFL!

Don’t ask me why I did that.  I guess I need a life, clingy eight year old kids, troublesome boyfriend, husband whatever …

A life time of bouncing from crisis to crisis does that to you.  You aren’t complete until your arse is on fire, your credit card maxed out and collection goons are laying a trap to repossess your car or home.  When you’ve lived a life like that, a life where your biggest problem is power outages in your colony is kind of humdrum isn’t it?

So this blog post is heavily inspired from Confessions.

No, I am not going to talk about the men in my life or any such thing.  Being mysterious is much more happening than a tell-all journal, which may be such a climb down from the lurid fantasies one invariably creates in the mind.

I am going to talk about what happens when bloggers turn authors.  Here are some confessions or observations based on personal experience and that of other blogger-authors.

Now we bloggers have a closed community.  We are expressive, opinionated and closet ledger keepers.  We keep a close watch on the number of hits our blog has got, how many people have commented on our post, and then we reciprocate by visiting their blogs and commenting.  Such reciprocity, such democracy. 

THOU SHALT ALL BE EQUAL

And then one blogger breaks ranks and writes a novel!

Gawarshhhh!

It infects the blogosphere!  Everyone has a novel inside him or her which is desperate to break out.  For me it was Preeti Shenoy’s 34 Bubblegums and Candies and Varsha Dixit’s Right Foot Wrong Shoe.

So I wrote the book that was desperate to break out from within me, A Bowlful of Butterflies.  It had a middling kind of response but that’s alright.  Everyone knows that one does not make money from novels, not unless one is Chetan Bhagat or Amish Tripathy.

I am sure there are others who got motivated by me.  Now we moved into another world.  From humble and equal bloggers we entered the highly competitive world of novelists.  By the way, the world of novel writers is replete with examples of cut throat competition, betrayal and intrigue.  No, not in the pages of the novels but in the real world.

You have this nice blogger friend, you visit his/her blog and comment.  He/She visits yours and comments.  It’s chugging along nicely.  Then suddenly she/he announces that he or she has a book deal by one of the biggies, Harper Collins or Penguin!  Now what do you do?

Feel outclassed?  Naah!

Send a shot and succinct “Congrats”

On an afterthought add a smiley  🙂

Bad mouth the publisher (not in print though).  Remember the novel that is desperate to break out from within you?  No, definitely not in print.

Turn up nose and say you do not read Indian authors in English.  Munshi Prem Chand was the last stalwart in desi literature.  Feel free to substitute Premchand with Tagore or any one else …

Resist urge to delete the blog link from your reader … we need to keep abreast with competition.

Once the book is out demand autographed free copies for your Bua, Naani and 30 assorted relatives.  (This is fellow author Nandita Bose’s solution.)

Tell everyone loudly and emphatically that you have a real job/business.  It’s easy to write a book, you just have too many responsibilities and can’t write one, yet.

Write a nice review of the book in your blog, say that it is nice, the story is wonderful, the premise original … but …

Munshi Prem Chand was better

OR

Dan Brown does better action

OR

Description is lacking/excessive/heavy

OR

Characters are unreal

Remember to just put one of these things.  You do not want to make an enemy.

Oh and then as a final twist to the knife

Mention the book’s price and ask whether it isn’t too much

Meanwhile – happy blogging 😀

The Princess of Nonsense

“Oh but she was a tiresome child, I did not mind that at all, but let’s face it dearie, she was huge!”

Sir Mouse cleaned his spectacles and peered at the princess who was fanning herself with a bunch of forget-me-nots.

“And she kept disappearing and leaving only a grin. D’ye know how creepy it is to just have a grin staring at you?” The princess shuddered delicately.

“Erm, I think you are mixing up Alice and the Cheshire Cat.”

She looked apologetically at her long suffering courtier and said, “Sorry Sir Mouse. I am a bit mixed up today. Ever since you told me about a man who leaped out of a bath tub and ran naked in the town yelling something, my nerves are shot.”

“That was Archemedis and he was yelling Eureka. He discovered some formula.”

“Humph, he shouldn’t have lost them in the first place. Careless bloke. He possibly lost his towel too. If you ever take a bath, please check if the water is right. The only reason to leap out of a bath is if the water is hot. Then, in my opinion, you should yell “watersshot watersshot” and not Eureka Eureka.”

Sir Mouse kept his opinion to himself and said “Yes your Majesty”

“Now Sir Mouse, you may go. I am bored with you and the school work. Send me my waiting ladies.”

Sir Mouse gathered his papers and left barely concealing his relief. The wizard had to be given a scold. Those forget-me-nots were not helping. The princess was getting more nonsensical by the minute!

The princess flung the bunch of flowers into the waste paper basket and stomped a petulant foot as she scolded her waiting ladies, “The satin dress is way to tight. I hate scarlet, it makes me look so pale. Go and call all cloth merchants. I need a dress done up in linen and gauze, yes it should be rose colored. I hate these dresses. Go, now!”

The poor women rushed out. She threw the offending dresses after them and slammed the door shut.

A man laughed as he came out from behind the curtains, “Excellently done my love.”

She sighed, smiled naughtily and said, “The things I have to do to just spend some time with you.”

The path of royal love is always devious

Deja Vu

Deja Vu

It was our honeymoon, I a naïve girl, newly introduced to the pleasures of sex, could not keep my hands off Navin, my husband for the past six days. He was strutting around like a proud peacock, my arm around his waist.

Mall Road, Simla

Life was perfect wasn’t it?

I stole a glance at his face, the angular lines of his cheek bones, the broad forehead topped by a mop of curly hair that I longed to run my fingers through. Yummy.

“What?” he asked, his voice laced with laughter.

“You look good enough to eat.”

“Should we go back to the hotel?” he asked, his eyes alit with desire.

“What’s the hurry?” I asked. I did not know much, but I knew this – a little bit of anticipation improves the outcome of passion. Ours was an arranged marriage, where parents decided on our spouses, and we found nothing wrong in it. He was seven years older, and I knew I needed someone older, more mature. I was just a silly girl … he would look after me.

Lost in each other, we walked exchanging sweet nothings. It started drizzling and we snuggled closer, ignoring it. It always rains in Simla, and we loved the rains. But it soon developed into a downpour. Somehow we took a wrong turn and got into the non-touristy area of the town. We looked around for a tea stall, a restaurant, anything to escape the downpour.

He looked pale, upset. I was silly enough to think that it was something to do with me. I withdrew slightly, noting the tension in his body, the restless fingers that ran through his hair, brushing the drenched hair, the nervous way he cleared his throat.

“I feel as though I know this place,” he muttered.

“Deja vu?” I teased, but got no answering smile.

We walked or rather, he led and I followed, he seemed to know where to go.

He stopped in front of a small cottage, no different from the others in the lane and whispered, “I think we can spend our time on this porch.”

It was a small wooden porch, nothing remarkably different from others we had crossed. Shivering, I followed him to the porch, staring at him as the world around me wept.

An old man opened the door, peered at us and asked, “Kaun Hai?” (Who is this?)

My husband looked at him and then as if compelled he brushed past the astonished home owner into the small living room.

An old woman was lying on the couch, she opened her eyes and tried to raise her head on her elbow. But she was sick and weakened.

“Tara,” he said in a hoarse voice, choked with emotion.

“Tara!”

Those eyes smiled slowly, possessively. “Vivek” she whispered softly.

And then they fluttered slightly and fell shut.

He turned and ran out, he fled without a backward glance. For that moment, I think he forgot me, he forgot himself, he even forgot that he had never been in India ever … in this life.

I did not stop either. Scared out of my tiny sheltered mind, I ran after him. My eyes wept and the rain water washed away the tears

Two Days Ago

“Where were you two days ago?”

I looked at the stern face of the police man blankly.  For a split second I could smell the wet mud, hear the roar of thunder as the parched earth eagerly swallowed the rain.  It had been hot, very hot, 48 degrees.  As usual, there was a power cut.  I remembered two days ago very clearly.  Unable to sleep, I had walked out of the house to soak in a bit of rain.

“In office” I ventured tentatively.

The police man exchanged glances with the woman police officer.  She looked on quietly.

I felt the sweat trickle down my back.

“Madam, we are not talking about the day time.  Yes you were in office during the day.  After that?”

The thunderstorm had given the city a reprieve.  It was just 40 degrees now, air-conditioning was more efficient.

“Oh I see.  Sorry Sorry,” I nodded slowly.  I came home.  I used the metro.”

“Who was in the house at that time?”

“No one.  Suresh was out on tour.  I unlocked the house and came in.”

“Are you sure Madam?”

“Yes!  If Suresh was home, I would have cooked proper dinner.  I am not the kind of wife who gives her husband a sandwich for dinner” I said indignantly, tears welling up in my eyes.  Mother had impressed upon me that a man has to be given his proper dal-roti-sabzi, that too freshly cooked.

“So you made a sandwich?” the woman spoke for the first time.  Her accent was rural, Haryanavi.

“No” I whispered sheepishly.  “I went to McDonalds and bought a burger.”

“Then?” asked the man.

I looked away.  It was a chicken cheeseburger, with extra cheese and a large bag of fries.  I had ordered iced tea with it.  It had been a Saturday.  The mall had been full of families.  Then it struck me.  “I met Suresh’s friend Arvind over there.”

“Do you have the bill?” asked the police man.

I nodded.  Then I opened the fridge in which the brown bag was still sitting with the left over fries and rummaged in it.  There it was, the slip, grease stained, but the date clearly visible.  I handed it to them.  The woman went and opened the fridge, took out the bag and peered in.  “You can take it Madam.  I think I’ll never have a burger again.”  I tried to keep my voice steady but failed.

They stood there impatience emanating from their bodies in waves as I sobbed in my chair.  I could hear the ancient noisy fan groaning as it completed its rotation time and again.  “You knew the woman?” the woman asked.

I looked at the photo she showed me and flinched.  The two of them, naked, blood around their bodies mixed with wine from the broken bottle.  I looked away and shook my head numbly.

“I’ll never eat a burger again,” I said disjointedly.

“Madam we found the woman’s name and her address.  She went to school with you?”

I looked at them dumbly.  Sweat was rolling down my back, and my shirt was sticking to it.  Then I whispered, “Did she?  Who?”

“Naina Misra.”

I screwed up my forehead in concentration, and then nodded wearily.  “She was with me in Class VII.  Then her father shifted out.  I did not know they knew each other.”

They nodded and the man said, “You know the drill.  You have to stay in town while the investigation is going on.”

I nodded and they left.  I peered out of the window; the woman was eating the fries.

Naina Misra … she was a friend, at least I think she was.  We had met her unexpectedly in Thailand, the summer before last.  I had never thought Suresh noticed her or remembered her.  Well, I was shocked when they walked out of a swank restaurant that night, obviously high on expensive liquor, great food, and lust.  I had thrown the burger away, my appetite gone.

Followed them. Called her husband from the resort.

Two days ago ….

Two days ago I made that phone call that cost two people their lives.

Another GBE2 prompt

Writing a best seller from a formula

I read this online somewhere and it was mind boggling.  Sorry I did not keep a link

Apparently mega hits like Gone With the Wind, Peyton Place, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Firm, and The Da Vinci Code follow this formula. There are some content variables or such like …

Damn I need to find that link …

I copied the list, which I am saving here – to refer to at leisure

1. The hero is an expert.
2. The villain is an expert.
3. You must watch all of the villainy over the shoulder of the villain.
4. The hero has a team of experts in various fields behind him, etc.
5. Two or more on the team must fall in love.
6. Two or more on the team must die.
7. The villain must turn his attentions from his initial goal to the team.
8. The villain and the hero must live to do battle again in the sequel.
9. All deaths must proceed from the individual to the group: i.e., never say that the bomb exploded and 15,000 people were killed. Start with “Jamie and Suzy were walking in the park with their grandmother when the earth opened up.”
10. If you get bogged down, just kill somebody.

Off to kill a character now ….

Nitwit Oddment Blubber Tweak

What would your head have been doing in Hogsmeade, Potter? Your head is not allowed in Hogsmeade. No part of your body has permission to be in Hogsmeade.” (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

Sunil chuckled and shook his head, reading and re reading the words.  “I tell you Rowling is sheer genius.  No one can create such a wonderfully sarcastic character like Snape.”   Ayesha looked up from the vegetables she was chopping for dinner and smiled at him.  Really he had the enthusiasm of a child.  The cat jumped on to the table and curled up next to her hand.

“Back to Potter are we?” she murmured as she stroked the cat who started purring loudly.

He flushed looking almost boyish in his embarrassment.  “I know it’s a kid’s book.  There is no such thing as magic.  But the author has talent.  Now look at Dumbledore.  The guy is a crackpot, but so immensely quotable.  Remember his speech at the sorting?  ‘Nitwit, Oddment, Blubber Tweak’?  It is a sarcastic reference to the four houses.”

“I know dear.  You told me that earlier.” She said fondly.

“I wish the world she created was real.  I wish quidditch was real,” he sighed.  “But there is no such thing as magic.”

Ayesha smiled as she snapped the beans for the stew.  “I think there is magic.  The best magic is cooking food.  If I am angry or depressed, the food I cook just doesn’t taste the same as it does when I am happy, even though I use the same spices and ingredients.”

 

(Image sourced from Google)

He waved that away and looked out of the window sadly.  “I hate my job.  I wish I lived in a world that was magical.”

She snorted, “What?  You actually wish for some evil creatures like the Dementors to exist?”

“Oh dealing with them would be much more fun than being a junior accountant at Patel & Chawla Accountants.  I hate my job,” he said petulantly.  “Do you know what Chawla sir said to me today? …”

He went on droning about how depressing and boring his job was.  She let him speak, as she bustled about in the kitchen, cooking the meal.  The bread machine pinged and the delicious aroma of freshly baked bread made him stop complaining.  He picked up the cat and put it on the floor, and drew his plate forward, taking a huge helping.

There was silence as they ate their meal.  Then he gave a sigh of contentment and said, “I really don’t know how you do it.  Each meal is so tasty.”

“Like I said, cooking is real magic.”

He snorted scornfully.  “If you had magic, you could have got me a great job, a challenge for my intellect.  With that kind of money we could get a cook too.”

She smiled serenely and said, “I like to cook.”

With a patronizing smile he nodded, “Simple chores for a simple intellect.”

She lowered her eyes so that he would not see the anger that blazed in them but her mouth tightened.

He dropped an absent minded kiss on her head and went to the bedroom.

She waved her hand and the door shut noiselessly.  The cat stretched and said, “The man is blind and a pompous fool!”

“I know,” she said with a smile.  “To use his favorite author’s terms, he is such a muggle!”

“How do you tolerate him?”

“Hey he has given us a home.  We need to hide and recover from the last war we were in, so don’t knock it,” she grinned as she magically cleared the kitchen and did the dishes.

“Such tolerant behavior Ayesha” the cat grumbled.

“Nah!  I am not a saint.  I am going to inflict another dreadful working day on him, the poor dear!” she grinned.

 

 This is in response to the WEEK #53 (5-20-12 to 5-26-12): Pick a Line from a Book and Write from There prompt of GBE2

 

On dealing with loss

Not many people know that I am an orphan … in the classic sense of the word.  My father died more than a decade ago, and my mother about four years ago.  But that was to be expected, considering that I am in my fifties.

The death that shook the foundations of my being was the death of my brother.  I was 22 and he was 21.

People thought we were twins, since we were very close and always completing each other’s sentences.  We had a bond that was very strong, and we had a sibling war happening every minute of the day – even after I was married and lived away.

At first I felt rage.  Uncontrollable rage, because I felt he betrayed me by dying.  Wasn’t it our unspoken pact to be there for each other?  Why did he have to be a jackass and die on me?  I know its not rational – heck I even knew it then … but the emotion was there nevertheless.  Then came the agony, the pain, the suffering, the tears that could not be stemmed.

I did a lot of things to cope.

But with time the pain left.  There is a God up somewhere, I firmly believe that.  He is indifferent to the suffering humanity in his own way.  Not a sadist, but not a mother clucking over us and trying to shelter us from whatever pain and suffering we face.  Supremely indifferent to our tears, he nevertheless gives us the strength to carry on and the power to heal us.

With me what happened was that the pain became the balm.

Not a day goes by without remembering Dony.  When I see siblings fight, tease each other or hug each other, I am reminded of Dony.  My sons remind me of him, the way they wrestle, pillow fight and tease each other.

But I remember him with a smile.  He was not perfect, he was quite a pain in the butt.  But he was my brother, my companion, my partner in countless pranks.  No memory of my childhood is complete without him.

I wrote my first book, A Bowlful of Butterflies, as a celebration of the bond between siblings.

It is my tribute to brothers and sisters around the world.  It is my humble effort to relive and translate into words the bond I shared with my brother, the bond I carry in my heart and mind forever.

Seeing the book in print brought tears to my eyes, but with a smile.

Live on Dony and yes, if you tear any page of my book, I will hunt you  to the end of the universe, find you, and kick you in the ass!

 

Parents raise you, the spouse lives with you, but it is siblings who really shape you as a person