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Prologue

He looked around the store purple hues with just the corner LED bulb switched on. He couldn’t risk being seen. He would lose all that he had worked for in the last 10 years. He grinned as he remembered his journey… the hours of hard work, the greasing of palms, the lost body count….

His eyes widened as he took in the beautiful silk camisoles to his right… arranged as per the shades and sizes. On his left were pairs of corsets and panties combined and hung to give it an erotic hue… There were black and white portraits of women oozing sensuality… he had no doubt they did… if the growing bulge in his pant was any indicator of the same.

He took in a deep breath looking upwards and the lovely lavender peppermint flavor wafted through his nostrils. He smiled to glory and moved ahead in between the racks hearing the silky swish of the lingerie. In the next fifteen minutes he had seen everything… sensual night gowns so see through… he almost came in his pants, belt with stockings, garters, overalls and an assorted combinations of bras and panties. The woman knew what she was doing he shook his head thinking. She had a gold mine here… and in that head of hers. He held himself through his pant as he thought of her. How many times had he jerked himself off ever since she had been his object of fantasies? How many times had he wanted to just… spend a night with her…. feel her warmth as he rode her or feel her luscious lips around him moaning as he came?  He took a nearby nightgown and stuffed it into his mouth to stifle his cries as he came… 

He knew the property in and out.

The fiery bitch was all the more appealing when she opposed him…full of conviction. She would be an asset to his business if she joined him. She would do it… he would make sure of it… He chuckled as he thought of her abiding by his rules in and out of the bedroom… It would be fun… made him hard again…

Panting heavily, he moved towards the storeroom. He knew the property in and out. The storeroom had to be there and with it the information he wanted…. He would soon be a rich man. He reached the locked storeroom but with a snide smile used the key… one of the few he had made when she had lost her bunch of keys last week. He laughed as he thought about his brilliant plan…she was clueless. She was only too relieved to get back her keys which she had accidentally lost. But that’s how he was here now… in her world. Very soon he would be in her house too. He opened the door to the storeroom and walked in. He switched on the light bulb and looked around. He was right. What he wanted was right there in front staring at him… right where that map had revealed.

Before he could move ahead, he felt a prick on his neck. He could barely react, before that strong hands held him from behind and pulled him out of the storeroom. He tried to move his hands. He was a strong man for crying out aloud… but he couldn’t… he was paralyzed. His eyes grew wide as he realised the fact. His vocal cords weren’t working too.  He couldn’t utter a sound. The hands holding him released him and he fell like a heap on the floor. Suddenly his mouth was opened and something silky was pushed into it. His breathing was getting laboured… when he saw a purple lacy bralette hanging before his watering eyes. He blinked but that too was getting difficult. Soon a pair of gloved hands tied the skimpy lace around his neck and tightened it.

Rot in hell…asshole. I won’t let you lay your dirty hands on the box nor….on her” was the last whisper he heard and recognized in his ear before darkness claimed him.

Clinicologues fiction

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Clinical experiences embedded in the cocoon of the fictional world. The purpose being spreading disability awareness.

    the revelation….

    Chapter 4

    She was frowning …

    He then asked in his voice sounding hollow. “whaath happen?” (What happened)

    She was annoyed by now; she asked him, “Why are you speaking like that?”

    His smile dropped and he frowned and looked away… it was then she saw something in his ears. She was now in tears. “What… what is that? In your ear?” she asked pointing to his ear.

    He sighed and took that out of his ear. It was a pink coloured shell like structure with a wheel like thing attached to its one end. “Ith a hearin aidh. Aai haafa Hearin phoblam…. I am hearin Impaith…” (It’s a hearing aid. I have a hearing problem. I am hearing impaired. )

    She folded her hands. She didn’t understand the flow of emotions she was going through at the moment. She blinked back tears as she looked away. She was feeling cheated.

    She looked at him. He was putting the aid back into his ears and looking at her… his face devoid of expression. She said with a strained voice.  “Why dint you tell me this before? You discussed the world with me for…two whole months. Didn’t you… didn’t you feel it necessary to tell me about this?” she pointed to his ear.

    Amishi was rooted to the floor. Suddenly the whole world around her had stopped. She gathered herself and released her hand from his grasp. He indicated for her to sit. He dragged her chair out for her, like a gentleman and then took his seat opposite to hers. He kept his hands folded on the table and with that smile lodged on his face he asked moving his hands, “Tho… whaat dho yuu wan tho eeth? Thaanwith ith beth hei” (so… what do you want to eat? Sandwich is best here).

    He looked stricken. He drove a hand through his hair and said, “aam thsohrry… aai dhon no whath thu thse… I thoth yuu wiil Undhuhthsaan… thsohrry.” (Am sorry…I don’t know what to say…I thought you will understand…sorry)

    She stood up pushing back her chair. Sniffling tears she said, “I…I want to go home.”

    Then she turned and left without a backward glance.

    That night she kept looking at her phone but it didn’t ping… there was no message from him, for the first time in two months. She was surprised she was still waiting for his messages…

    Today…

    It was two days since she had last communicated with him. Last night she had googled about hearing impairment and its effects. She had stayed up long into the night reading about how people cope with the disability arising. She realised Pavan wasn’t stone deaf. She read about the different categories of hearing impairments. She also read about hearing aids. Their benefits for the hearing impaired and limitations. Considering what people face or go through, Pavan seemed to have done well for himself. She realised she wanted to know more about this part of him….this aspect of his life, his struggles and how he overcame them. The information on internet though was enlightening and she felt she understood his situation better. It wasn’t like she didn’t understand his speech at all… but she was upset because he had hidden it from her. Why did he do that?

    She wanted to speak with him and clear things. She knew there was more to it than just what met the eye. She wanted to hear him out… his side of the story…? Occasionally she felt guilty as well. The signs were there in front of her all the time… she was the one who didn’t realise it. Somehow it dawned on her that it made no difference to her if he had this impairment. He was still the same guy…whom she had fallen in love with…without hearing him speak…

    She was a social worker for crying out aloud. The first thing they were taught was empathy especially when they worked with the differently abled. Her Pavan…. Yes HER Pavan was different…he was special…

    She missed him…. Even yesterday when she was busy in the fieldwork she thought about him. She visualised his stricken look when she had left the café. Her heart was breaking. Her eyes welled up every time she thought about him. She wanted to share her day with him. Her project  had got cleared because of his tips. She wanted to tell him about that. She had started reading about parallel algorithms and had surprised her techie brother with her knowledge the other day… she wanted to boast about that to him… there was a huge void suddenly in her life.

    Somehow the library walls felt like closing in on her…

    None of her friends from school or college could match up to him when it came to comfort levels or matching of wavelengths. She had started to depend on him emotionally and intellectually. He had ruined her for anyone else. And the way he addressed her… her heart always fluttered and yearned to hear more from him.

    Yesterday she was busy with the emotionally draining field work but today she longed to see him… she wasn’t even able to focus on her lectures.

    She had to take action. Where was he?

    She took out her phone and typed,

    Hey football guy, you didn’t play the match today? SITians missed their defender today…where were you?

    There was no reply though he had seen her message. She waited for half an hour with a pounding heart before she dialled his number. The ring tone was heard but he didn’t answer it. She started to worry. Was he alright?

    She messaged again,

    Hey you ok? I am getting worried…

    Immediately there was a reply

                                     Hi beautiful

    Sorry for what transpired

    Trust me…though I ache

    That wasn’t what I desired

    Your heart I didn’t want to break

    I fought the world and now am tired

    I want to no more stay awake

    I miss our moments together

    Let’s stop this communication once and forever

    Henceforth find no more odes

    I will miss you for I love you loads…

    Pavan

    That broke the dam and her emotions flowed… She didn’t care that three were people watching her. She covered her face with her palms and sobbed.  Her heart fell… she could fell it break into tiny pieces…

    How could he alone decide to stop communicating? Why was he punishing her like that? What was her fault? Yes she was shocked…. But who wouldn’t be? She deserved a second chance… would he ever give her one?

    She wanted to tell him…She didn’t care he was hearing impaired… She still loved him for who he was. But if only he would hear her out….just once. Her study holidays were commencing in a couple of days. It was not possible to meet him for at least a week. How would she bear the grief? She had to be strong. She had to study for her final exams….

    She wanted to desperately mend things between them. As tears trickled down her cheeks she hoped it wasn’t too late for them…..

    As she travelled back home later that evening her brother had switched on the car stereo… He was a diehard Kumar Sanu fan. The song playing was from the movie Deewana suited her state of mind aptly:

    Teri ummeed tera intezaar karte hai

    Eh sanam hum tho sirf tumse pyaar karte hai….

    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvevXfFGPFY)

    Copyright Disclaimer: All content posted here is a work of fiction and original work based on the author’s imagination. There is no intention to disrespect any person or faith. Any resemblance to any person living or dear is purely coincidental. No part of the content can be copied, reproduced or posted anywhere else either entirely or in parts, without the consent of the author.

    missing…

    Chapter  1

    Amishi was waiting for the lecture to get over… How she hated research methodology… She couldn’t tolerate statistics subject. In the final year of graduation studies, this was a compulsory subject. She was doing her bachelor of social work and loved studying humanities, science and technology and most of all the field work.

     She loved to be a part of the group visits to various places where the need of a social worker was immense. She loved seeing the changes they made in the lives of people who genuinely needed them. Just yesterday she had been to a municipal hospital. They were following up every week with this young girl all of 16years. She was from a remote village on the outskirts of Lucknow. She had an affair with her relative who was of the same age and landed up being pregnant. The girl had been scared to reveal anything to her parents fearing backlash. However one day her mother suspected something wasn’t right and by the time they rushed to the government hospital close by, it was late. The pregnancy couldn’t be terminated. The social worker there had counselled the angry parents and the girl too. They were convinced to go ahead with the pregnancy and give away the child for adoption. The counsellors there were threading on bare ice because there was a high possibility that the parents would have visited a quack and risked the girl’s life. But fortunately, they had agreed and brought her to Mumbai away from the prying eyes of the village. Here too Amishi’s team headed by her supervisor had been continuously counselling her, talking to her… for last 3 months. They had spent days and many hours of field work…even going beyond the call of duty to help the girl. Finally yesterday she had an induced labour and luckily without any complications delivered a healthy baby girl. Though the young mother was prepared to hand over the child, she was sobbing uncontrollably wanting to see her baby, even though she wasn’t shown the baby as per rules. The parents and Amishi’s supervisor who was a clinical psychologist tried to calm her down but eventually she had to be sedated. The child was sent to the NICU for care taking.

    But Amishi was pleased to bring about some kind of closure for that girl. Many times no one understood the importance of her work… accept for him.

    The professor announced the project work in Research methods bringing Amishi back to the present.  She was happy the lecture was drawing to a close…She had to rush out of her classroom before her friends started to question her or look out for her.  She couldn’t wait to visit the place she loved the most these days besides her field visit, the college library. She had her hours piled for study and project work and the next hours would be spent in the library… where she would get to see him.  Especially today….it was important that she see him.

    Amishi rushed to the library located on the fourth floor of her college building. She spent time after lectures in the library daily… especially in the last two months before leaving to go home at 8PM.  Her brother picked her up from the campus gate at 8PM daily. Today she had about 2 hours with her…  Most of her classmates either went home or stayed late in the cafeteria. She had escaped them to go to the library. Final exams were close.  Their study holidays were starting next week.

    Today there were barely two other people in the library besides the librarian and her assistant. Amishi was more than happy. It meant lesser people would spy on her. Not that she bothered but she preferred to keep her secrets to herself. She placed her book stack on the corner most table near the window and dragged her chair towards the window. She took a book in her hand and looked out across on the football ground.

    Where was he? She thought… the entire football team of Siddhartha Institute of Technology was present on the ground. But he wasn’t seen… her heart fell. She had waited all day long to catch a glimpse of the most handsome guy she had ever seen in her 21 summers.  The guy who had made a mark on her heart… on her mind…on her soul. She couldn’t sleep last night though she was bone tired after field work. He kept invading her dreams. She waited for the next half an hour for him to make an appearance but… he didn’t turn up. Every time there was a goal or cheer she looked back in anticipation but… he wasn’t there.

    Was he alright? She worried. Was he …angry? After what had transpired between them couple of days ago, would he ever want to even see her? But she wasn’t at fault, was she? What could she do? She just reacted that way….

    Tears rolled down her cheeks and she brushed them away with a frustrated hand. Since when did she care so much about a known stranger?

    Yes… he was a stranger who had the most expressive face and the most beautiful eyes that looked into your soul. He read her like a book.  He looked at her like she was the only girl on this planet… made her feel beautiful inside-out…  Before him, she had been like an empty canvas which he had filled with colours of life. Even now her heart fluttered thinking about him.

    If only life were so easy and restricted to special moments… If only life were predictable…If only she knew how she was supposed to react that day…. If only she could rewind back two days of her life she would move heaven and earth to change everything.

    But if wishes were horses….

    Copyright Disclaimer: All content posted here is a work of fiction and original work based on the author’s imagination. There is no intention to disrespect any person or faith. Any resemblance to any person living or dear is purely coincidental. No part of the content can be copied, reproduced or posted anywhere else either entirely or in parts, without the consent of the author.

    the special sister…

    The special sister…

    Sumona was waiting eagerly for the school van. It was 1PM and her younger child Raj was due to return from school. She was thrilled at the prospect of knowing how his day was. She wanted to find out all the information from the Ayah whom she used to pay extra for these tidbits. Today too she held a fifty in her hand and her eyes were glued to the entrance of the lane.

    Sumona felt a hand on her shoulder and turned around to see Kamala aunty.

    “Oh…hello Aunty, “Sumona said with her eyes back to the road.

    “Waiting for little Raj, Sumona?” Aunty asked.

    “Yes… actually they are late by five minutes…” Sumona sounded worried.

    “Don’t worry Sumona, they should be close. You know the traffic these days… Anyways I will take your leave. I am going to get bread. Do you need anything?” Kamala aunty asked.

    “No …. It’s ok Aunty…” Sumona replied distractedly, her anxiety levels starting to rise.

    Sumona had a reason to worry. Her five-year-old son Raj had Down’s syndrome. He attended a regular school in the nursery section. Her older daughter Ananya was also in the same school in the seventh grade. Raj wasn’t speaking fluently as yet and she began to fear for his safety. Sumona called the driver repeatedly but the call wasn’t connecting. She called the school and they informed her that the van was yet to leave today. They had gotten late because of some dance practice for an upcoming event in school and they had apparently messaged the parents. Sumona checked her mobile. There were no messages… the school was still considering Raj tentative? After four months? They hadn’t added her number to their group message system…

    Different scenarios came to her mind in the next five minutes. She was in tears… worry for her son eating her up… her heart shredded to every last bit.

    Sumona’s life from the last few years flashed before her eyes. She had a life she had always wanted. A loving husband Rakesh and a cute daughter Ananya who was a quick learner. Sumona worked in the IT industry and was a team lead in a software company. She had consistently moved up the corporate ladder. Rakesh worked in the pharmaceutical industry where he was the general manager in the company where he worked. Ananya had grown up with nannies and then from the age of two onwards she attended a professional daycare. She was an achiever from the word go and transition to school was a cakewalk for her. She was not just good in studies but also a lucidly competent dancer. Dance was not just her passion but she was touted to be a child prodigy and Sumona and Rakesh ensured she got the best training. They even had teachers come home on weekends in addition to the dance class she attended. She was also attending gymnastics to improve her flexibility further. They had a great lifestyle only confined to dreams of the common man. They lived in a posh locality in a huge three BHK flat in a high rise. The society boasted of all modern amenities with a huge play area for children. Ananya attended a nearby Cambridge board school which not only helped her maximise her potentials but also gently nudged her to become the confident little kid she had metamorphosed into. Sumona and Rakesh had loved the place at first sight mainly because of the proximity to Ananya’s school. The EMI was exorbitant given their expenditure but since them both had great jobs they had gone ahead.

    All was going great till one day, about five years back… Sumona realized she had skipped her periods. She had been thoroughly stressed at work and felt that must have contributed to the same. However, within two weeks her worst fears were confirmed. She was pregnant. They had thought their contraceptives were fool proof but were proven wrong. What followed was a huge emotional turmoil for Sumona. Rakesh and she were not prepared for another child…. They fought almost every day. Rakesh had even contemplated terminating the pregnancy to which she had initially agreed but then couldn’t get herself to do it. Her parents were no more and her in laws were in their village. They refused to help out. Sumona and Rakesh had an inter-caste marriage. Rakesh hailed from Vijaywada and was from a family of farmers and landowners. Her in-laws had never accepted her so she didn’t expect any support from them. Sumona had decided to bring up her second child just like Ananya and went ahead with her pregnancy. She worked throughout her antenatal days. She worked extra hard so that she could enjoy her six months maternity leave hassle-free.  She very often skipped her obstetrician appointments.

    Finally, on the day of her delivery she had some complications and had an emergency C -section. She wasn’t conscious but when she came to, she heard soft crying. She turned around to see Rakesh crying silently with his head bent low. She was suddenly worried.

    “What is it Rakesh? Where is the baby…?”

    Rakesh looked up into her eyes. He looked angry… “I had told you not to have this baby…” he said accusingly.

    Sumona was confused and scared…  “Where in my baby Rakesh? Is it a boy or a girl…?”

    “He…. It’s a boy. But…” Rakesh looked away.

    “But what… Tell me something Rakesh. Where is he?” She was getting agitated and breathing hard.

    Rakesh came to her and held her hands. “Sumi, our baby is not… not normal. Doctor said…something synd…syndrome. He is now in the NICU. He has trouble breathing. Doctor said something about a hole in the he…heart.”

    Sumona started to sob… Just then the room door opened and eight-year-old Ananya came running in. “Ma… my brother is the cutest baby on earth…” She was beaming. She held her favorite teddy from her childhood. “…Ma…I got this for him. Will he like it…?”

    Sumona hugged her daughter. She was already feeling better now.

    Soon they took Raj home and from day one it was a huge struggle. Raj was soft like a jelly.  He could be bent in all ways and Sumona was scared to even hold him. Rakesh plunged himself into work and was barely at home. Sumona suffered from post-partum depression and amidst this chaos it was Ananya who spent time with Raj. She helped Sumona with his baths, changing diapers… rocking him to sleep. She sang songs to him and even tried to play with him. Gradually Rakesh too started to show interest. When Raj was five months old, he had his heart surgery. It was a taxing time for the family but Ananya was at her chirpy best.

    All this while Ananya’s grades never fell, but her dance took a back seat.

    Raj started to develop better. But he needed therapies. His physiotherapy was taking place almost daily at a private center and Ananya used to visit the sessions every single time.

    Soon it was time for Sumona to join back to work. However, since she couldn’t keep Raj with nannies, she had to leave her job.

     The loss of her job meant loss of income and they had to heavily cut down on expenditure. The biggest blow was they had to change Ananya’s school to her current state board one  because the fees were now beyond their reach. And the final nail in the coffin came when they had to totally stop her dance classes. The ones she attended were expensive and the cheaper ones were not up to the mark. Ananya never uttered a word about the changes. Rakesh and Sumona had talked to her about these and she had accepted everything like a pro. Sumona was at times worried that her daughter had matured way beyond her years.

    The honking of the van brought her back to the present. A smiling Raj stepped out of the van assisted by the ayah. Sumona gave her the fifty and asked her about his day. She was pained to know that Raj wasn’t selected to perform in any event.

    Later in the afternoon as Raj slept after lunch, Sumona kept thinking how she could calm herself. She was agitated. She was tired of seeing people treat Raj like an outcast. Many of her neighbors sneered at him. Some laughed and made fun of him, called him names. But Raj only smiled and went to them. He was such a friendly and smart kid.  Ananya’s friends used to come home often and they would play with him for some time. He had learnt so many things from them. If only people gave him an opportunity…

    Ananya had taught him to dance. Raj also loved to dance.  He was very flexible. He was able to do steps which even typically developing children of his age couldn’t do. But why didn’t his school teachers give him a chance? Sumona knew it was futile to ask them to involve him. Later that evening when Ananya was back from school, Sumona told her about Raj not been taken in the programs.

    Ananya took out Sumona’s phone and asked her to record their performance. She switched on the stereo and it played Raj’s favorite song and they danced together. The number was choreographed by Ananya and she had taught Raj. Sumona’s eyes filled as she saw the performance. She felt awful… Ananya couldn’t pursue her passion and yet she never complained.

    Ananya convinced her to upload the video on youtube. Within an hour they had about fifty likes and views.

    Ananya’s friends shared the video among their families and within a day the video had gained immense popularity. The following day Sumona received a call from the school to arrange Raj’s costume since he was now a participant in a dance number in school. To their surprise he had picked up the dance with ease.

    On the day of the event, Sumona and Rakesh were thrilled to see Raj standing right in the front and he didn’t even need cues. The entire hall roared with a thunderous applause. The school gave him a special performance award.

    The event was a game changer for Raj and everyone around him regarded him with renewed appreciation. There was appreciation flooding in from all around and he thrived. He even started improving in his academic concepts. He now loved learning. Everyone around him tried to teach him something or the other and they were proud of him when he learnt them. Ananya and Raj made a few more videos which were all a hit.

    A few years later

     Sumona was very happy today. Raj was awarded the performer of the day award in his school. He was in the fifth grade in an integrated school, where there were other educable children with special needs. He was now loved and accepted. He was admitted to that school about three years ago and Sumona had started working again. It was difficult getting back and she felt like a fish out of water. But Raj had inspired her. If he could be a different fish in the society and stay in the water happily then why not her…? She restarted dance class for Ananya who was now in college doing her graduate studies in humanities. Even today she was Raj’s biggest supporter. She taught dance to Raj even today. Raj had become famous not just in India but abroad as well for his dance moves. He had given quite a few performances choreographed by his sister. She had even arranged a performance of his in her college festival which was appreciated by all. Ananya was approached by other parents of children with special needs to teach them dance and she was considering pursuing it after her graduation.

    Sumona’s phone pinged, getting her out of her reverie. She had received an email from an NGO which worked for the disabled and was asked to give an interview on her journey with Raj so far. She had already spoken with them last week and this was a formal invite.

    The interview was live in front of an audience. Many of them were parents of the children with special needs. Sumona spoke about Raj’s habilitation via therapies and his development so far. She then added, “We consider these children Disabled. But Children like Raj have proved that they are specially abled.  They all need an opportunity which itself is a blessing. Raj has been blessed too. He has a very special ability via a very special person. That’s Ananya, his guardian angel, a special sister…”

    There was not a single eye which wasn’t wet…

    Copyright Disclaimer: All content posted here is a work of fiction and original work based on the author’s imagination. There is no intention to disrespect any person or faith. Any resemblance to any person living or dead or any community is purely coincidental. No part of the content can be copied, reproduced or posted anywhere else either entirely or in parts, without the consent of the author.

     

    1) romance brought alive….

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    2) clinicologues….

    Fiction villa…

    #romancebroughtalive…

    #clinicologues

    “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” ..

    It’s been a childhood passion for writing fiction. The tough perils of life left little time to pursue the same. But then you come to a phase of life where you decide…. THIS IS IT.
    My Eureka moment happened early this year. I got on the writing bandwagon and having finished my first novel… am on with my second. It’s been amazingly cathartic to pool out your fantasies in print.
    Will be sharing excerpts from my novels here. But this page is more about stories mostly short ones, I want to share with interested readers.
    Feel free to comment. I eagerly await your feedback.
    Thank you for reading and hope you enjoy reading them as I enjoyed writing

    -Priya

    Book Review: Secrets of Mango Rain

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    Author: Nirmala Pillai

    The author has delicately woven myriad strands of love, hate, longing, retribution, misunderstandings… in the tapestry of this saga. The story spans across two countries and cultures. Made in three parts, the author has carefully developed the character arcs for all the characters and they brilliantly spring to life as the story progresses. It’s simply unputdownable.

    The book traverses the journey of young Valsa who is unceremoniously ‘left’ at her maternal home in Kerala, called ‘Raavilath’ at the ,mere age of 8. Her parents who had fled to Mumbai following their interreligious marriage that was considered taboo, had passed in an accident and in moments she had been orphaned. The maternal grandfather hated the little girl and didn’t fail to demonstrate his hatred. He called Valsa a ‘devil’s seed’ set to destroy the ancient clan. The turmoil and uncertainty always loomed over the love Valsa received from all others at Raavilath. Sven, her Swedish-Indian cousin comes into her life when she is a child and he protects her from all agony, shielding her from the harsh realities of life.

    However, a naive Valsa messes it up when she is 12 and is sent to the US to join her aunt and her other cousin, a single mother. She makes a life for herself, especially with her friends Glenda and her stepbrother Jason who was Sven’s doppelganger.

    When she is 18 she returns to Ravilaath and realises all her misadventures in the past were a result of her insecurities from wanting to belong to Ravilaath and her love for Sven. Sven promised he would wait for her but she had to see the world before that. That turns out to be her breath and motivation to live, her existence now relying on the slender thread of this hope. However, the news that Sven married his ex-girlfriend Erika, shatters her resolve and she tumbles into the abyss of misery.  She spirals out of control as drugs take precedence over logic and soon she attempts to end her life.

    Jason reenters her life and brings her out of despair and they confess their love for each other. Valsa, on the path to recovery, begins to feel the closure she desperately sought as well as the sense of belonging to someone. Fate has other plans though and Jason a member of Doctors without Borders goes missing. Valsa decides to bring their child into this world and returns to Raavilath. Life finally comes full circle for Valsa.

    The story keeps you hooked as you wonder what direction Valsa’s story will take and the author has arranged the plots and the characters beautifully as they compliment Valsa. The story not only intrigues you but takes you on a beautiful sojourn of God’s own country.

     

    “Will you still take him…?”

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    Short story of 1000 words for the platform, Artoons Inn.

    Theme: ‘Beyond the obvious: sometimes questions are complicated and the answers are simple’

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

     

    “Will you still take him…?”

    I stared down at the cul-de-sac corridor even as Naina’s grip on my arm tightened. Apprehensions loomed large over the polished neatness of the pediatric unit. I thought I was accustomed to it all but in the tapestry of life everything seemed futile

    The cacophony of the pediatric OPD across the corridor was getting to me and I wanted nothing more than to run away from this predicament. But that wasn’t on the agenda, right? I couldn’t unravel the tender threads of my vulnerability especially before my family’s archaicism bursting at the seams.

    “Mr. and Mrs. Sharma?” A fresh voice broke me out of my reverie and as if on autopilot, we walked towards the assessment room.

    “It’s… going to be fine, right?” Naina’s voice quivered and I held her hands. I had to be strong… for the two of us.

    ‘New-born and pediatric hearing screening’ read the fading letters on the nameplate, loosely attached to the door.

    Naina and I huddled close to each other in a dark outer room as the audiologist began the test. Naina began to pray hard, the flurry of whispery drawls thickening every second. There was a thick file next to the audiologist, filled with medical reports from the past month. And this was an extended check-up born out of a spectre of uncertainty.

    I couldn’t dare to look inside the assessment chamber; instead, I only stared uneasily at the file where the sliver of light from the inner chamber fell on the cover.

    The name column was blank.

    The address was ‘Miracle Orphanage’

    The file belonged to the cherubic toddler seated with the social worker in the inner chamber… the child who already had a piece of our hearts. The child squirming with unshed tears swimming in his beautiful brown eyes… eyes, similar to Naina’s. I knew in my heart he was looking for us…

    I yearned to cry out loud; to unleash emotions raw enough to reverberate through the annals of time. He was my ‘son’… my Devashish….

    Well, not yet.

    I couldn’t bear the surge of emotions and left the room. I sighed, my gaze drifting towards the posters of little children adorning the gleaming walls. A palpable sense of disquietude crawled over my skin.

    I was thrown down memory lane, retracing the steps of bygone moments outside the obstetric ward in this very hospital. I paced uncertain steps while the love of my life, Naina faced the painful IVF turmoil, our hearts intertwined in a dance of hope and longing. Our archaic Marwari lineage demanded progeny in the early years of marriage. Our desires too echoed in harmony with those ancestral expectations. We yearned for the pitter-patter of tiny feet to grace our shared existence.

    However, our fairy tale came to an abrupt halt as two years down the line, we couldn’t conceive; all treatment models and surgeries proving futile. In pursuit of improving the physical parameters, delicate tendrils of her mental anguish were shadowed into an abyss of oblivion. Taunts and epithets rained down like arrows on my poor wife, each barb a venomous sting on her fragile spirit. She bore it in stoic silence while I only watched her further wither away with every failed insemination cycle…

    In a moment of resolute clarity, I declared to my family that the problem lay in their scion, their pride. That reduced their tumulus whispers and baring the initial sermons on the inconceivable notion of male infertility, I was spared the torment. Naina could finally breathe easy. Yet the insidious void remained especially when children frolicked in the world around us.

    The embers of hope stirred yet again when a suggestion to embrace adoption arose.

    “But that won’t be yours…” Naina had spoken with unshed tears.

    “The child will be ours” I had proclaimed.

    Despite family protests, Naina and I registered with CARA* immediately.

    Lady luck beamed her grace and the counsellor soon called to check out a ‘match’

    Two months ago, that morning, we watched in wonder as he flaunted his toothless grin, his drool glistening as he stood on wobbly legs, clutching the edges of his baby cot in the orphanage. In that moment, it became clear to us… he was meant to be ours. Our Devashish… the embodiment of countless prayers we had fervently offered to innumerable gods.

    We visited the orphanage daily to be with Devashish and our family eventually gave in to our boy’s charms. Yes, he was ‘ours’ already.

    Everything sailed smoothly till the BERA* test was positive and they suspected hearing loss…

     

    I was called back inside the testing room and the audiologist confirmed our worst fears after the behavioural audiometry.

    “The reports indicate that the child has severe to profound hearing loss…” The audiologist continued her tirade about the rehabilitation measures…that could help his development.

    The world faded away and I held Naina’s hand dragging her out even as she protested. I needed to breathe… The walls were closing in…

    I walked oblivious to my surroundings, into the hospital gift store. Was it providence?

    I wouldn’t know.

    “Will you still take him, Ria…?” A man at the corner of the store asked his little daughter. She held a wooden doll with a broken leg. “…he is broken”

    “So what Daddy? I can fix him and he will be just fine…” She hugged the doll.

    Something tugged at my heartstrings and suddenly, the complexities clouding my mind dissolved into nothingness. I now had the answers to my unasked questions.

    I looked back at a teary Naina and at that moment our solemn nods affirmed unspoken decisions binding our fates together.

    “He… is ours… our son.” Naina cried.

    In that testing room, that boy embodied more than just a diagnosis; he was our Devashish. Our emotional connection transcended mere blood relations. Nothing else mattered now… family, society et al.

    Hand in hand Naina and I walked back towards the assessment room; to sign the final set of papers and bring our son home.

     

    Author notes:

    *CARA: Central Adoption Resource Authority is an autonomous and statutory body of Ministry of Women and Child Development in the Government of India. It was set up in 1990. It is a statutory body under Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.

    *BERA: Brainstem Evoked Response Audiometry is an objective test used to determine how electrical waves are sent from the eighth cranial nerve to the brainstem in response to click noises delivered through the ear

    Book Review: Scarred Earth

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    Author: Bhaswar Mukherjee

    In a single line, this is a marvellous piece of literature dripping with pathos.

    The story is divided into three parts. The first is based in a lesser-known place called Banguran where the protagonist Baruni, who is just 13, faces the worst horrors of her life. As events unfold in the garb of communal violence the author manages to grip us to the cruel acts justified by the facade of religion and revolution. In 24 hours Baruni is dislodged from the life she had led to date, her body and resolve battered beyond recognition.

    The story then moves to Kolkatta where Muneim, a teen from a privileged background detests the very life he has had so far and is desperate to break the shackles of an authoritative father. He revolts to study local shattering his father’s dream of sending him abroad resulting in a permanent crack in the father-son relationship. Despite his brilliance and struggle he innocently has to bear the brunt of rotten luck.

    The finale is in Siliguri where Baruni relocates for higher education. She meets Kunal who falls for her but in a strange turn of events she is faced with her dark past, which comes back to haunt her.

    Does Baruni attain retribution? Does Muneim overcome the curveballs thrown his way and does Kunal emerge from the burden of revelations about Baruni and his family?

    The book is nothing short of a masterpiece and as a reader, I was hooked to it throughout. The author’s impeccable research and intelligence as well as a strong command over language is reflected throughout the book.

    I am engulfed with poignant longings even hours after I have finished the book. I ardently hope the author comes up with a sequel.

     

    Book Review: The Man Who Avenged Bhagat Singh

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    Author: Abhijeet Bhalerao

    Bhagat Singh was someone I have always revered and that is why the title caught my attention. The author is known for his expertise in history and that is seen through the immaculate detailing and thought-provoking write-up.
    Besides the plot of how Bhagat Singh’s death was avenged, the story tells us about the sacrifice by the freedom fighters because of whom we breathe freedom to date. The revolutionaries were very young. Bhagat Singh was in his early 20s while some were in their teens. They didn’t hesitate to lay down their lives for the country.
    The protagonist Baikunth Sukul emerged from the shadows and stayed right there as he trained and eventually followed his idol Bhagat Singh’s path of freedom struggle and the movements. The betrayal of Phanindra Nath Ghosh hit hard as the revolutionaries became sitting ducks; Phani Babu who once was a part of the movement, turned approver and revealed it all to the British. It didn’t take long for the powerful English to take out the pillars of revolution one by one beneath the façade of ‘fair’ trails.
    Phani Babu was provided security by the British but eventually, it proved futile against the brilliant warrior, Baikunth who slayed the traitor.
    The author has vividly described the complete evolution of the plot right from when Bhagat Singh killed Saunders to the smoke bomb in the parliament to the freedom movement that never lost its momentum spearheaded by Chandrashekhar Azad.
    It’s a lesson to us all to realise how invaluable freedom is, particularly since it rests on the sacrifices made by the bravehearts. The author’s work is commendable. It’s not preachy, yet it is an invisible punch to the solar plexus and forces you to sit back and think.
    This book can well be passed off as non-fiction. A must-read for history lovers.

    Book Review: Stolen Legacies

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    Author: Aditya Banerjee

    A thriller plot revolving around a stolen box from the state archives. This according to the police of the time is considered insignificant. However, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    A couple of young journalists Manik and Kedar look into it. While the former is reeling under the pressures of a scandalous article the latter is less liked in the organisation.

    The pox turns out to be a Pandora’s box holding secrets which if revealed could cause unimaginable chaos. The backlash received for the innocuous article seems to have multiple layers stemming from the box itself.

    The author has extensively researched the media play at the time and has creatively weaved the plot in its intricate fibres, using politics and corruption to complete the sinister picture.

    This even applies to current times where the media have a role to play and move beyond tabloid gossip. The repercussions of the revelations in the story bring out the essence of the plot leading it to a crescendo of climax.

    The author’s research is commendable and so is the ability to balance multiple layers. The only drawback as a reader I feel the colloquialism could have been done away with and the language could have been crisper. This could have increased the pace of the narrative. Occasionally, there is a redundancy setting, and the author probably would like to look into it.

    Overall an interesting read.

    Book Review: Devi- the mystery of the Kolkata Murders

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    Author: Prasun Roy

    A beautiful story set in the backdrop of the famous Navaratri celebrations in Kolkatta.

    The author uses every day from Mahalaya to Maha Dashami as a chapter to highlight aspects of a series of crimes, their investigation and finally culminating into a climax. The endpoint is victory over evil which is the significance of our festivals.

    Amid the festivities, a fugitive business baron Durgacharan Mahesh is being extradited from Spain to Kolkatta en route to Mumbai. Police Commissioner Chouhan and his team are given the task of successfully transferring the baron amidst the high-tension duty of maintaining law and order during the festivities. However, a murder takes place and they are left with a  clue, the word ‘Devi’ written in blood beside the body. This is followed by a series of murders with similar MO and the word written and the police are clueless about who is the self-proclaimed vigilante set to right the wrongs. The dead people are connected to heinous crimes from not very long ago and the police are at a loss even as bodies pile up.

    The story moves ahead as secrets from the past unravel and finally ends in a stunning discovery.

    The author through this story has thrown light on how the rich and influential get away with sinister crimes and the cascading effect remains in the form of disgruntlement and very often resulting in vengeful activities.

    The end is a bit rushed, otherwise, the story keeps the reader glued.

    Book Review: Club you To Death

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    Author: Anuja Chauhan

    A sheer piece of brilliance. The book is a thriller spruced with humour throughout. This makes the book a light-hearted yet riveting read.

    The story takes place in a fictitious club frequented by the whos who of the elite Delhites, The Delhi Turf Club (DTC). All hell breaks loose when a hunky personal trainer is found dead under a heavily loaded barbell. There was no love lost between the dead man and Mr. Khurana whose wife was a contender for the post of the club president. The death turns out to be a homicide and the needles of suspicion point towards the Khurana couple along with a few others.

    Crime Branch veteran ACP Bhavani Singh is handed over the case that takes the capital by storm. It turns out that the dead trainer was deep in mud and had dirt over numerous elite members of the club that he used to blackmail. If revealed to the world, some secrets would be disastrous for the so-called high society privileged.

    As the law enforcement begins to process the evidence obtained, they dig out yet another body… this time the skeletal remains, buried three years ago in the club premises… both figuratively and literally. Among the club members, the police take the help of Akash ‘Kashi’ Dogra who despises everything the DTC stands for and his ex-girlfriend Bambi Todi who loves the place like a second home.

    A crime that seems simple enough on the surface is deep-rooted and eventually, the skeletons begin to tumble out of the elite closets.

    The end catches you unawares. The author has beautifully woven the plot taking it to a logical climax and making you want for more. She has explored interpersonal relationships with great Elan and one can’t help but wonder at the hypocrisy of the elite resulting in closely guarded secrets.

    Commercial fiction at its best!

    Book Review: Souffle

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    Author: Anand Ranganathan

    The novel is a compelling page-turner and keeps you on the edge of the seats till the end and yet the last paragraph too leaves you wanting for more.

    Business tycoon Mihir Kothari falls dead after he takes a bite of the specially prepared souffle earmarked for him. The circumstantial evidence points towards renowned celebrity chef Rajiv Mehra. Soon, other evidence emerge and that helps the police build a watertight case against Rajiv. So compelling is the evidence that the defence has nothing to counter the prosecution and Rajiv is sentenced to death. This brings an end to the high profile murder case taking the country by storm. However, Inspector Dayanand Apte, the case in charge despite soling the last case of his career before retirement, is not a happy man. He feels there is a void that can’t be explained, lacunae that can’t be filled…

    Parallelly as Rajiv is transported to a holding place where the gallows await him, the vehicle meets with an accident resulting in the death of all the police personnel but Rajiv escapes with injuries.

    The rest of the story follows the pursuit of finding the truth with a few red herrings thrown the reader’s way and I give it to the author for the vivid imagery he painted. helps keep you glued.

    On the flip side, however, there are a few moments that turn the tide of the story but don’t seem to be plausible. For instance the execution of a capital punishment so quickly… however high profile the case may be we know how staggered our judicial system is. Also, Rajiv fighting a trained assassin and even managing to kill him, seems impossible… Or the inspector going way ahead of his boundaries post-retirement…like travelling abroad to find clues…There are a few of these absurdities.

    The plot is brilliant and if these few drawbacks can be taken care of then the book is a masterpiece.

    Book Review: Kids Kidney Kidding….

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    The book is authored by renowned pediatric nephrologist Dr. Pankaj Deshpande.

    He has used anecdotes from his clinical practice to spread awareness of different nephrological issues. The USP of the book is, that each anecdote is laced with humour.

    Whenever children come for a medical procedure or visit a super-specialist the parents are already tensed because of the case history. The doctor plays a vital role in not just diagnosis and treatment but also in easing the parents’ anxiety and apprehensions. I have personally experienced Dr. Deshpande’s expertise for my son when he was younger.

    Every story written in this book has a personal touch and promises to leave the reader smiling even hours after you have put it down.

    Special mention to the cartoonist who has recreated the characters including the author himself!

     

    Those interested in reading this can connect as follows:

    To request a copy, please send a WhatsApp message sharing your address to 9326896414
    Book priced at Rs 350 (plus courier charges extra)

    Book Review: The Mussoorie Murders

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    Author: Divyaroop Bhatnagar
     
    The premise is ‘suspense personified
    Two parallel plots involving two ghastly murders, with about 60 years in between them. That’s the premise of this story where the author has brilliantly weaved the plots together of their accords and finally merged them into an unbelievable climax.
    When Margaret Maynard-Liddell is murdered in 1909 in a hotel room locked from the inside, the shockwaves traverse across the systems involved in solving the high-profile murder but it remains unresolved. Decades later, a wealthy heiress, Anahita Billimoria is murdered strikingly similarly and the MO appears to be alarmingly identical. However, with the advent of technology and communication services, Avijit Sarkar an Oxford returned detective plunges headlong into the case to help the police. The needle of suspicion points to several people, right from an old housekeeper to an estranged brother, an absentee husband a fraud godman and his apprentice.
    As Avijit joins the dots the mystery unravels.
    As each layer of the saga unfolds, unbelievable pieces of evidence show up and Avijit succeeds in nailing the culprit this time.
    How uncanny is the similarity of the murders separated by decades? Is there a true connection? Is the old cold case also resolved in the undercurrents of the present one? Who is responsible for the crime… is it someone close to the heiress?
    The author has succeeded in maintaining the pace of the narrative and the language is lucid. The language takes you back in time and is apt for the periods of plot occurrences.
    The book has been taken up for screen adaptation and I eagerly look forward to watching the characters come alive.