Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Optimism: The Opium that Fills our Hearts

            “A person without hope is as good as dead”, my best friend used to say. She is no longer around to push me out of my frequent lethargic states, but her words stay on, coming alive with occasional phone calls, E-mails and facebook chats. In a world filled with weariness, fret and fever, a world from which we long to escape, optimism is the last beacon of recourse; the banner that proclaims the significance of light which can’t be redeemed without the presence of darkness around. For me that beacon is . . . my home, the light house that guides my way when turbulent storms rocks the boat.
          I don’t have particular moments to recount because all elements that constitute my home are precious and they permeate hope and the strength to move on. Greeting smile of my Papa, bitter gourd curry of my Mom (my favorite), jokes and pranks of my siblings, and the little garden in the front, shade of the coconut trees, smell of jackfruit and guava in summer . . . home is an urban paradise which asks me to look up and go forward with steady steps fixed firm on the ground.
          Well, this may be the usual ramblings of any hostler. Having grown out of the nest years before, we are no longer affected by that homesickness that makes a fresher cry in her sleep but still it is the last place of refuge when your colleagues speak against you, friends betray you or when you get scared of the coming exams. I still cherish the sight of my sister's running legs coming towards me in welcoming gratitude when I get back home for the vacations. Finally this is the place where you are accepted, believed and loved.
My Home
          From the small kitchen table where we share our food to the computer room meticulously arranged near my cot, the place has our hand prints and it contains our memories under its firm shelter irrespective of the changing colours and paints it takes every five years. As stable as its base and the supporting pillars, home symbolizes for me the steadfastness I need to acquire to reach my goals and it fuels me with the optimism that “this too will pass”.
          My house which has completed its silver jubilee years ago showcases the imagination and planning of a handful of people who worked hard from its design to the collection of brick and mortar. Thanks to them and because of the timely caring of my parents it is withstanding the pressures of time, sheltering the third family who has come to live under its protection.

          Housing is a necessity, it is the hope and refuge we look for after tiring days. So meet Look Up, the new housing brand pledged to share the positive spirit of life and is driven to revolutionize real estate with their 10x mantra.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Cocktails for Three - Madeleine Wickham

Date of Reading: 04/02/2015
Author: Madeleine Wickham
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Place: New York
Year: 2006
Rating: 4.5/5

         As most of the Sophie Kinsella books have passed my 'read' list, there was no other way but to shift the attention to Madeleine Wickham ones, though the novels are quite of a different taste and it is hard to believe that they are from the same pen. And after much soul searching in different reading groups, here I am, with 'Cocktails for Three' a story blended with love, humor and mystery.
         Three cocktails, that is what Wickham offers in this single volume; three stories with their sole connection knotted around a cocktail bar in Manhattan, involving the lives of three women who are unable to say 'no' because they are too good and is determined not to fail. And that is their hubris -- by not opening completely to their best friends and by keeping up the image of the invincible lady, they lose their battles . . . or almost. This is not an Aristotelian tragedy but a story that reminds us of the significance of relationships (whether that is friendship, love or marriage) and the importance of asserting one's identity and above all, not to be ashamed of yourself.
         
Candice, Roxanne, and Maggie are three best friends who work in the fashion magazine, Londoner. Maggie is an editor, Candice conducts interviews, and Roxanne is a glamorous freelancer. In the first of every month they meet together for cocktails in a quiet Manhattan bar, which by the beginning of the story has become quite popular and therefore noisy.
         All three has a secret not shared to anyone. Roxanne is having a secret affair with a married man. Maggie is in the advanced stage of her pregnancy but she is afraid of motherhood but her proud self doesn't allow her to give a hint even to her best friends. Candice's father had robbed people of money by persuading them to invest on his schemes and the details revealed only after his death shattered her life along with her mother.
         On this particular day in the bar she finds an opportunity to diminish the guilt that weighs on her, when she meets her high school classmate Heather Trelawney. Heather's family has gone bankrupt due to their association with Candice's father and she dropped out of school when her parents divorced. Candice assists her in getting  a job in Londoner and even shares her flat with Heather against the better judgement of her friends. But Heather had other goals in her mind.
          As per her husband's wish who wants their children to grow up in an unpolluted environment, Maggie moves to a country mansion where she feels utterly alone in spite of the frequent visits of her mother-in-law. And the arrival of the baby exhausts her completely but she is too embarrassed to ask for help.
         Roxanne is devastated with her secret lover, Ralph, who is the owner of the Londoner. He refuses to go for a divorce as his little son may not comprehend the situation. But now his days are running short due to the attack of cancer that is creeping on him, a fact he hides from his lover. 
Madeleine Wickham
           Meanwhile Heather has started her moves. She makes Candice do her works, steals her ideas and finally succeeds in splitting her from her cocktail club friends. She soon loses her job too for a crime she has not committed but forged by Heather. 
         Ralph dies leaving his house to Roxanne and thus gives legitimacy to their relationship. And when Maggie breaks down in frustration her mother-in-law intervenes asking her son to take equal responsibility in taking care of their baby. They decide to move back to London so that Maggie can resume her job.
         Candice finds her refuge in Ed, her rich neighbor who always wanted her to understand his secret feelings. The calamity brought down by Heather brings them together and she learns from Heather's brother that she was offered education and security by their stepfather but she just chose to rebel.
          Roxanne and Maggie clears Candice's name and their friendship is back on track. Story ends with the baptism of little Lucia and she is welcomed to their cocktail club.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Ramayana The Game of Life (#2): Shattered Dreams

Date of Reading: 16/02/2015
Author: Shubha Vilas
Publisher: Jaico
Place: Mumbai
Year: 2015
From: BlogAdda 
Rating: 3.5/5

            This is the era of retelling for Indian mythology. Ever since the success of Amish Tripathi more and more writers have ventured into the market with counter narratives to our favourite epics or by giving voice to a minor character ignored in the course of main events. As I was familiar with a few of them, the task of reading a work which is faithful to the original version of Ramayana proved difficult than usual.
          Shubha Vilas' Ramayana, let me assure you, is not a novel; I would rather call it a spiritual guide on Ramayana. He hasn't made any changes to the original story but the plot is enriched with some additional details like how Nemi became Dasaratha or the origin story of Ravana which was completely new to me. And the constant use of capitals when it comes to addressing Rama (the personal pronouns like 'Him, His' are capitalised in the beginning) constantly reminds us of the divinity status attributed to Rama by the author and gives the atmosphere of a religious book though it is claimed to be a gripping new-age thriller.

          If you are familiar with the outline of Ramayana, there won't be any problems starting from the second book without reading the first. Most often we get the feeling that this is an English translation of the verse epic to prose as the metaphors like lotus feet, lotus face and trees shedding the leaves due to grief are repeated without any change which is felt out of place in a prose narration and also in a modern retelling for laymen.
           What is commendable about the work is the little words of wisdom added as footnotes which takes us to the deeper levels of Ramayana and teaches how a story that happened thousands of years ago can still inspire us with new notions. This self-help book is not a one time read, but something to be cherished always and as Bacon reminds us it is to be "chewed and digested".

Short Summary:
         
Dasaratha wakes up from his nightmare drenched in sweat, haunted by the curse which is looming over his life. In an urgent court meeting next day, he declares Rama's coronation and the whole of Ayodhya rejoices in the news except one. Manthara, the hunch backed maid of Queen Keikeyi warns her Queen of the dangers that may happen if her son, Bharata, is not declared as the king. Keikeyi redeems her two boons from Dasaratha and asks kingship for Bharata and fourteen years of exile for Rama. 
           Rama, along with Sita and Laxmana, sets out immediately and the old king dies of separation from his son. Bharata, returning from his maternal home, is astounded by the turn of events. Embarrassed by  his mother's actions he tries to pacify Rama to return to Ayodhya but to no avail. Finally taking his brothers sandals Bharata returns to the kingdom and promises to rule it for fourteen years with Rama's sandals on the throne. Rama, along with others moves to Dandakaranya forest.

Quotes I Liked:
". . . jokes can be costly. Although meant to lighten life, when shared with the wrong people, jokes could end up burdening our lives" - 89

"Seeing the positives in every situation is the nature of a pure mind" - 129

"Good relationships survive when those involved realize that the greatest gift two people actually have is each other." - 131

"Finding fault with your own thought process is an important aspect of growth, but seeking forgiveness for faulty actions is important for survival" - 184

"Lamentation that causes prolonged inaction is actually irresponsibility at an individual level and leads to chaos at a collective level" - 281

"One should fear an untruthful person more than a snake. Every good quality has its foundation in truth" - 354 

About the Author:
         
Shubha Vilas, a spiritual seeker and a motivational speaker, holds a degree in engineering and law with a specialization in patent law. His leadership seminars are popular with top-level management in corporate houses. He also helps individuals apply the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana and other dharmic traditions in dealing with modern day life situations. He believes that a good teacher always sees the process of learning and teaching simultaneously as an inherent aspect of personal and spiritual growth.

This review is part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Half Girlfriend - Chetan Bhagat

Date of Reading: 12/12/2014
Author: Chetan Bhagat
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Place: New Delhi
Year: 2014
Rating: 3.5/5

          An intriguing title and a love story with beautiful twist; as always Chetan Bhagat didn't disappoint. There are some things that attract me to a romance story. One, obviously the habitual pleasure it offers to a lethargic mind; we could easily guess the story pattern most of the times and reading the story turns out to be a pure joy of finding out the way this special novelist treats this most popular theme.
          Secondly, the background where the story is set. Romance novels are the best way to know the average life style of a common man (middle class or rich -- interestingly the poor section of the society doesn't have much time for love as there are more pressing concerns) in a country you are interested to know more. And that is the most delightful part in 'Half Girlfriend'.
           Bihar, the poorest in a poor country, shines brightly throughout with their warm hearts and tasty litti-chokha making best of their limited circumstances. Thanks to Chetan Bhagat, a state which rarely comes to lime light is gifted with a chance to speak her story.
         Author is on one of his regular book tours in Patna when he meets Madhav Jha who runs a school in Dumraon. He comes with a set of journals which originally belonged to his half girlfriend Riya who is dead now. Reluctantly and at the same time intrigued by the term 'half girlfriend' Chetan accepts the tattered notebooks and meets the guy again next day to hear his story.


         Madhav and Riya meets at St. Stephen's College, Delhi in a basket ball trial outs. Friendship blooms immediately but Riya is reluctant to move forward to a physical relationship. So she becomes his half girlfriend which is closer than a friend. She hails from a rich family where girls are not regarded worthy of attention and for her Madhav's love and care is a fresh breeze.
         When Madhav pushes forward his love interest their friendship breaks and later Riya discontinues her studies to marry Rohan. Madhav completes his graduation but turns down the job he is offered, to help in his mother's school.
        The village school their family runs is in a pathetic condition and so when Bill Gates visit India for his charity foundation, he too applies for a grant. They are offered one opportunity to present before the delegates and for the above purpose Madhav is needed to give a speech in English. He starts taking English classes in Patna where he meets Riya again.
Chetan Bhagat
         She is a divorcee now and his forgotten love blooms again. Though his mother resents this relationship, she helps him tackle the speech and the event becomes a huge success when they win the grant from Gates' Foundation. In between Riya disappears leaving a note saying that she is affected by lung cancer and would like to spend her last days alone. Madhav is completely shattered and when years later she gets her journals from her old landlord, he didn't have the heart to read them.    

        Chetan compels him to read some specific parts where they come to know that Riya has lied about her sickness as she doesn't want to create a conflict between Madhav and his mother. Her former experience in marriage has taught her a lot about spiteful mothers-in-law.

         Madhav leaves to New York to find Riya where he suspects her to live as a singer. After three months of search, in a dramatic climax he finds her singing in a bar and a romantic episode comes to much awaited closure. Author visits the couple again when they are blessed with a boy. 


Some interesting quotes:

'Sometimes following your heart leads you nowhere"

"If you live in a hostel, never throw away food"

"Why do companies bother with such interviews? Perhaps it makes them feel better to talk about the problems of the world, even though the actual job involves sitting at a desk and punching formulas into spreadsheets".

"Girlfriends come and go but, thank God, mothers don't break up with you"

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Saturday, 15 November 2014

Lust for Life - Irving Stone

Date of Reading: 22/10/2014
Author: Irving Stone
Publisher: Arrow Books
Place: London
Year: 1935
From: Prachand Narayan

          They say, if you perform a bad concert, you will be rewarded with shoes and rotten eggs; if its an excellent one, there is the thunderous applause; and as for a marvelous concert (ooh, that's the best part), there is a stunning silence to greet you from an audience who is not yet back from their musical world. 'Lust for Life' is the last one, you won't want it to get finished and the heaviness in your heart will increase as the pages get thinner and thinner.
        Three years back I heard a little remark from one of my friends, "I fell in love with Van Gogh with 'Lust for Life'"; well, it took me this much years to get my hands on it, but the waiting was worth it; it was everything that I dreamed of.
        Though its a fictional biography of the famous painter, most of the things are accurate and is based on the letters that Vincent wrote to his younger brother Theo. And second to Vincent, Theo is the person who catches a reader's eye, whose unflinching support (mentally and financially) to a good for nothing eldest brother produced an icon we know today. 

Sunflowers
        Irving Stone has successfully captured the fullness of Van Gogh's life, (his lust for life as the title suggests) and we are introduced into the frenzy of creation and the joy of fulfillment on finishing his two famous paintings, among others, namely 'The Potato Eaters' and 'Sunflowers'. This is not just the story of Van Gogh the painter, but also Van Gogh the lover, Van Gogh the missionary and mostly Van Gogh the man. And it will surprise you for sure.
         Story begins in London where young Vincent falls in love with his land lady's daughter who, he later realises to be already engaged. With a broken heart he returns home to Holland and turned his attention to become a missionary. His mediocre speaking skills fails him in this respect, but because of his devotion he is sent to preach in Borinage, the coal mining district in Belgium. He sets to work passionately, living with the miners as one, sharing their poor circumstances and giving them the comfort of the Gospel. But when his efforts to improve the miner's conditions fail desperately, he loses his belief.
         
Starry Night
In this depressive conditions Theo finds him and offers him a monthly allowance so that he can pursue his dream of painting. He returns to his family in Etten where he falls in love with his widowed cousin Kay. But his proposal proves fatal to their friendship and to recover from this unrequited love he moves to Hague, searching for a master in his cousin Mauve. They got along well in the beginning but soon began to differ in their opinions. Meanwhile Vincent is exorcised from the artist community because of his relationship with Christine, a prostitute. He treats her and her child as his own but financial difficulties drove her back to the streets and Vincent too leaves for Nuenen where his parents live now.

         There he devotes himself to his passion and paints till the sun goes down. Margot, his neighbour's daughter falls in love with him, but her family opposes the marriage. Fated to choose between her family and lover, Margot attempts to kill herself, but saved in time by Vincent. He too leaves the place after finishing the painting Potato Eaters
Potato Eaters

         He stays with Theo in Paris and is introduced to the paintings of impressionists which are an explosion of bright colours. He moves to Arles and there staying in the yellow house produces the most magnificent creations in his life. But too much time under sun, makes him prone to epileptic fits and in one such occasion he cuts his left ear. This eventually lands him to the next turn in his life: St. Remy asylum where he spent an entire year.
Vincent Van Gogh
          Theo (who is now married with a child), again comes to the rescue and after spending sometime with his family, Vincent moves in with Dr. Gachet, a specialist in nervous disorders. But his brother's financial crisis worries Vincent and in a state of deep mental torture he shoots himself. Unable to comprehend his brother's death, Theo too follows him after six months due to weak health and he is buried alongside his brother.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Celebrate Blogging Contest: When the Diamonds Danced - Chapter 26

Team: Alphabet Soup
You can read the previous part of the story here

Chapter – 26
“Paaa . . . ni”
“Amme Mahamaye!! All in your grace”, head priest sighed in relief and whispered a short prayer in honour of the deity. Devi has come back home and she has safe guarded the child.
Roohi is mumbling again, “paani”. She hasn’t opened her eyes yet, but clearly her consciousness is setting in. They need to hurry, he gestured to the fellow priest who was tagging along, “Shankara, run before me and inform the others. Get some water on the way”.
The little, lean priest didn’t need further encouragement. The thick forest is getting on his nerves and they are yet to reach the clearance. Noise of a stick breaking somewhere, then another . . . Was it a bad idea to leave the two constables behind?
“Roooohi!”
“Oh! Roohi my darling, are you alright?”
“What happened?”
“How did you get her?”
“Where are the others?”
It’s a commotion and by the time Memana Namboodiri got back to his senses, Roohi was lying on the lap of a weeping Tara. Shekhar’s eyes too are filled and he wrapped his hands protectively over his exhausted wife and darling child.
          Jennifer opened the eagle flask, her constant travel companion of years, poured some water and put it to Roohi’s lips. Her face is gaining back its natural hue and the small eye lids flickered for a moment before revealing the brownish light inside.
          “Mumma?”
                                                          *****
          Manu is sitting calmly under the shade; the two constables are standing guard watching his movements. It seems unnecessary though, the little rascal is too clever to do any such foolish things. Under different circumstances, he could have been mistaken for a second Buddha with that calm, meditative look and sharp eyes that seems to pierce through one's heart.
          “So the thief has come back from the dead. Why may I ask?”, Sudheeran’s words were dripping with sarcasm.
Manu appeared nonplussed. He wasn’t expecting anything else from someone born with a silver spoon in mouth. He, on the other hand, had to get through with the scraps they got as a poojari. His father was no Drona to bring the real milk to his son, he needed to step into his place . . .
          “Why? Do we need some special medicine to make your majesty speak?”, Sudheeran’s words broke his reverie. The spoiled brat is demanding answers.
“I never left. Not really. I had my ways to know what happens here in my village. Time demanded me to stay away for some time. Father, that good for nothing coward, was too scared to sell the idol. And without the chosen child, no one can access that location without suspicion of Devi’s wrath. Then there was the chance of the fake idol being found.”
“So you killed Shivan to get away”.
“Don’t be so sure. I am not a murderer. Shivan was already dead when I found him in forest, I just exchanged his talisman with mine and made sure his body is not found easily. By the time they came on it, signs showed that its me.”
“A perfect getaway”
“Told you I was never really gone. I knew I would be back one day”.
“Too bad we spoiled the party on this second coming”, the constables too laughed on hearing Sudheeran’s words. Suddenly they could hear the voices of the other search party. That had the quick effect of calming everyone.
“Quick! It’s not too late. Release me now and we can share this fortune. You will need that to clear your secret debts, Mr. Varma”, colour drained from Sudheeran’s face. No one is supposed to know about that. Manu’s face beamed triumphantly.
But only for a moment.
Varma slapped him hard. "Never ask me to share our Devi's wealth! Never again!"
“Mr. Varma, are you fine?”, Ravi has come to take charge of the scene; “What the . . .”, his body went rigid on seeing Manu’s crest fallen shape.
“Yes, that is Manu. Our culprit”, clarified Sudheeran.
“Manu? Manu who? This is not Manu”.
                                      *****
Read the next chapter here in Reema's Blog
"Me and my team, Alphabet Soup, are participating in Game of Blogs at BlogAdda.com. #Celebrate blogging with us".

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Business Doctors - Sameer Kamat

Date of Reading: 19/09/2014
Author: Sameer Kamat
Subtitle:Management Consulting Gone Wild
Publisher: Booksoarus
Year: 2014
From: the author in exchange of an honest review

         Crazy! I thought on reading the cover blurb. And the reading proved that even better, with the text moving us deeper and deeper into a wild imagination involving a management consultancy.
         There is an obvious debate on who the hero could be. All eyes may turn to Michael Schneider, but I will prefer to think Angie, the brain power, as the main character. Surely she pulled the strings and others danced; her weapons could be traditional and questionable (seduction and sweet talk) and much of her actions might be behind the curtain scenes, but in a society where the fair sex is put aside as foolish and toys to warm men's beds, her conduct should be excused (well, that is if you believe in the Machiavellian dictum of end justifying the means . . .).
           One last word on the format. Front cover is great, but the choice of font style and arrangement of paragraphs are disastrous. It doesn't produce the usual magic of making us want to pick the book, the moment we open it. Now to a brief summary:
           
When Stephen Woody's mafia empire goes bust, his pretty wife Angie advises him to take the help of a management consultancy, just as one go to doctors to get cured of the disease. Her use of the term 'business doctors' in this particular case gets stuck and according to her plan Woody approaches Michael Schneider whose firm was then facing the problems of recession. 
         Strange though it may sound, Michael accepts the proposition and gets detour of Woody's 'business'. He and his companion Martin analyses the data and put forth a solution: new recruits. Woody convinces Michael to stay with them till the matter is finished and he devices a plan to get the recruits from the prison.
             This make over costs Woody six million and Michael uses the recruits to get the money in various ways (kidnapping, bank robbery etc.) which also tests their reliability. A tiny glitch happens when they discover who the donor is: Stevie McMohan, the very man the recruits kidnapped for ransom. An angry Stevie kills Woody, leaving the business in Angie's hands.
       
Sameer Kamat
She pacifies the opponents and takes over the charge and her secret affair with Michael helps into get his loyalty in the venture. She plans to act as a regent until Michael gets accepted as the true leader. WFB is back in the game.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Celebrate Blogging Contest @ BlogAdda - Chapter 12

Team: Alphabet Soup
Read the previous part of the story here

Chapter 12

“A fake idol!”
Shekhar stood there with his eyes aghast.
“Where is the original idol? Where is our Amma Mahamaaya?”, someone piped in.
“What is the use to ask this dim witted viduan? He can’t even do a proper theft. Even now, look at his face.” It is Sudheeran Varma, his face flushed with these unprecedented events. Clearly this festival too has no plans to go unnoticed from the media eyes.
The wise mad man saved Shekhar from the trouble of replying, “Only the chosen child can take the idol out of the temple. Anyone else attempting that will become the victim of Devi’s wrath”.
“What! What if I have gotten Devi’s wrath? Why did you make me do it?”, Dutta screamed.
“It was my karma, and you are safe. The idol is fake”.
He turned to the police, “He will be fine. But be quick in finding the idol before doom falls on the entire Vajrakshipuram.” Saying so he walked away, brandishing that heavy stick of his against evil spirits.
Shekhar sighed heavily. This is going to be a very long day.
                                      *****
Inside the temple office Sudheeran Varma paces restlessly as the High Priest looks on. Years of experience have taught Memana Namboori of the fury of his patrons and he dared not step in.
“We can’t afford a media exposure now. It will only delay the investigation”, it’s the Inspector. They all know what such news can do with the already restless devotees – riots and blood bath. Bloody hell! He is not in a situation to meet an agitation now. His hands are full enough.
“And you need to address the crowd, Mr. Varma”
"And what do I tell them?", Sudheeran sounded confused.
"If I may suggest, there are no auspicious hours this month. You could tell them that the idol has been found and the procession will have to be postponed", it is Memana Namboori.
“Hmph”, Sudheeran too seems at a loss for words.
“But we can’t let the crew leave the place.”
“That won’t be necessary. We are not leaving anyway, that is without getting an answer”, says Tara bombarding the meeting with her calm, cool demeanor.
“Well! Well! What’ve we got here? A journalist spy in our midst! Mrs. Dutta, do you have any problem reading that ‘no entry’ sign in front of the door?”, clearly the Inspector doesn’t welcome the addition to the audience.
“Only when it concerns my daughter Roohi, and the reputation of my husband”.
“And we are partaking in this investigation”, she added as an afterthought.
                                      *****
          Her media training has equipped Tara well for situations like these. She just needs to play the correct cards and this will produce an exclusive for the channel. As expected the Inspector is suspicious of her intentions, but the temple authority is devoid of alternatives. Alienating the press won’t be a bright idea at this juncture; it required only a slight probing from her part for Mr. Sudheeran to put the seal of approval.
“Mamma”, Roohi’s voice took her back to the present.
“Oh, my darling. I am so glad to see you safe”
“See, see, look at the pictures I took with Jenny Aunty”
“You both seem to be in nice terms already”, she welcomed Jennifer with a warm smile.
“She is a dear. No one can resist loving her”
Tara updated Jennifer with the latest turn outs.
“Sounds interesting. Count me in”
                                                *****
Cyrus has come to a dead end; if he needs to further this case there should be a lead, an invisible link to connect the scattered dots. He has gone through the files again and again. Nothing. Except a mere gut feeling that something is definitely fishy.
He may get some answers from the procession. But it seems the plans are to be changed for one month. That silly writer has spoiled everything with his stupid theft. Yet, something is not exactly right. If the idol is found, then why the heavy guard inside the temple? Only one way to know.
Just before the ring goes to voice mail, Jennifer’s deep voice cuts in.
“Cyrus, can we talk later?”
“This is urgent. Can we meet?”
“I am busy right now. You know of my assignment with N9”
“You won’t regret it”, he sounded desperate even to himself.
“Let’s take a walk. Meet me near the street light. Five minutes.”

It seems the police or the assurance of Sudheeran has failed to pacify the devotees. Anxious faces lurk around; there won’t be any peace till the procession and festival happens. The Bhagawati has to be satiated to bring prosperity to the land.
In spite of her visible tiredness, Jennifer has retained the sharpness in her eyes.
“What’s it all about?”, as usual there is no time for pleasantries.
“Heard about the commotion inside. I was worried. About you.”
“Seriously Cyrus, is that all? Then I am fine, as you can very well see.”
“Sure”, Cyrus smiled wryly. This is not going as expected. “So it seems they are postponing the procession”
“Mm”
“I was curious. Why do they want to do that if the idol is found?”
“Let’s cut this crap.” Jennifer narrowed her eyes, “What about you telling me the real intention of your visit?”
He doesn’t know her. Not enough. But the odds are against him. It is either packing the bags for Delhi or having to trust someone.
Cyrus took a deep breath. His moustache glistened with sweat under the afternoon sun.
“This happened fourteen years back during the last procession. The child who carried the deity was found dead. The priest who accompanied her was unconscious and half paralyzed. They carried out one investigation, but the postmortem report sounded convincing enough for them to close the case. The child drowned to death. The priest just remembers slipping and falling, nothing after that. I came upon this case for my project work. This all sounded too unconvincing and I thought this year’s procession may show some light to it. That’s why I’m here. I know there is more to the theft that happened today. But only you can help me in that.”
He can see Jennifer is not convinced. He opened his back pack and showed her the case files, his hunches, notes and related reports.
“I was intending to publish this in my blog but thought better of it. It might cause many controversies and open up Pandora's box. Not that I have many followers!”
‘Alright.’ She tells him what happened inside.
‘Yes! I knew it. Last time when the child died, the priest also collapsed. I felt this was too mysterious. This might have some connection to it.’
‘Wow! Cool down man. Don’t make any conclusions now. And one important thing. You should investigate on your own. If the culprit is around, he’ll soon know that we are working on the case. He’ll keep an eye on us. But when you work aloof, he wouldn’t know. We won’t meet anymore. Our conversations should be discreet. Is that clear?”
Sounds weird to him. Can he trust her? Is she here for photography or is there something hiding behind that foxy, watchful eyes? 
He pushed those thoughts aside. All the same, he needs her.
He will have to trust her. At whatever cost that may be.

You can find the next part here

"Me and  my team, Alphabet Soup, are participating in Game of Blogs at BlogAdda.com. # Celebrate blogging with us."

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Celebrate Blogging Contest @ BlogAdda - Chapter 7

Team: Alphabet Soup
Read the previous part of the story here:
Chapter 6 on Aashish's Blog 

Chapter 7

Cyrus weighed the pros and cons of taking up a hotel near the airport or head straight to Vajrakshipuram. The last flight out of Delhi to Cochin didn’t leave him with many options. After giving it much thought, he decided to start for Vajrakshipuram immediately.

The sheer impulsiveness of his decision had rendered him with stranded. Taxis were pre-booked and the ones which weren’t refused to ply. Cyrus followed the advice which a helpful cabbie offered.
‘No taxi going tonight. TomorrowTomorrow! All sleeping. All drunk. Highway, ask lift. Give lift’

Cyrus heard the rumble in his tummy. Chancing upon a roadside eatery on the periphery of the road leading to the airport, he stopped to answer the grumbling in his empty stomach.

Having been directed by cabbies to try his luck on the main road he flagged down a truck. The truck driver was on his way to Trichur & offered to drop Cyrus off at a point where he could get to Vajrakshipuram on his own. 


Jennifer had a late start to her journey. However, stubbornness was one of the many traits she had acquired from her parents, and so, once she had decided to do something, she wanted it done immediately. And so, she started for Vajrakshipuram in her car.


After an hour long drive, she decided to take a break at the highway petrol station. It was all by chance that Jenny and Cyrus were in the same shop and were queued before each other for payment. The truck driver had dropped off Cyrus near the petrol station. Realisation dawned upon her as she scouted her bag to pay for the food she had purchased. In her rush to leave for Vajrakshipuram, she had forgotten to withdraw money.With no cash in her bag, she looked embarrassed, and was about to return the goods she had bought when Cyrus offered to help her by paying for them.


His eyes fell upon her noticably innumerable tattoos & weird piercings. She saw him noticing them and smiled. He started forming a character assessment of her in his mind.She seemed innocent at the same time, there was a fire in her eyes. As their eyes met, he was breathless for a moment before snapping out of his law school mindset.

Over a small thank you conversation, she told him she was on her way to the temple. Cyrus asked, "Oh great! I am headed towards the temple too. A truck driver dropped me off here. Can I join you? ".

Jennifer nodded her head in confirmation and extended her hands, 
'Jennifer Joseph'. She introduced herself to the good Samaritan.

'Cyrus Daruwala.' 

'So, what is a pretty lady with don't-know-how-many tattoos and piercings doing in a temple, may I ask?'

'I am a professional photographer. I work on a few freelance projects. Currently working on a project on temple architecture as well as a bit of prying and prodding of my own.' She winked.
You don’t seem to be from this part of the country, what has brought you here?'


' Umm... I am a law student at The National Law University, Delhi. I have heard a lot about this festival. This festival intrigued me and I wanted to visit and take a look for myself.'

‘So it is true, lawyers are liars! Try another excuse, and this time be creative.'


Cyrus was impressed at Jennifer's sharpness. But he didn't want to let anyone know of his reason for being in Vajrakshipuram.

'Suprising as it may be Madam,that is the truth. My dad was a history researcher and I have read his papers regarding this temple, its myths and traditions. Got me curious and here I am.'

After carrying on with some small talk, Jennifer dropped Cyrus outside a hotel. She had however done her own research and had pre-booked a room at Hotel Devikrupa. All she needed now was a quick nap, change of clothes and get prepped with her camera for the festivities.

Cyrus managed to coax the manager of the hotel to get him a room at last minute notice. Jenny, however, still played on his mind and he repented for not having taken her mobile number. But soon, he began to think about the purpose of his visit. He had to focus on that now. Being a law student, he couldn't afford to have any sort of distractions in his work. 

                                      ***
It was mid-afternoon. Jennifer decided to wear her only traditional dress to ensure an unrestricted entry to the temple, without any problems. The outfit managed to cover most of her visible tattoos.
Since the deity is visible only on the day of the procession, not many people visit the temple interiors. She began clicking the pictures of the domes, the pillars and the tiny chambers. Without her knowledge, she was moving into the restricted area of the temple. 
'What are you doing Kutty? Don't you know this is a restricted area?' An angry male voice boomed.

She had forgotten to switch off her camera flash and the light had caught the attention of one of the priests passing by.  
'Sorry! I - I didn't know that.' Jennifer hadn't noticed the sign as she was immersed in her work.


‘Devi maa, why are all these bad omens occurring now?’ the priest muttered.
  
‘Child! A sign is put up right there. Don't tell me you did not see that!?' Before she could offer him an explanation, he called out to the other priests. 

                                        
                                          ***
Escorted by a milieu of priests and temple authorities, she saw a motley group of few men, and a woman carrying a child already laying await outside the temple office. 


'What happened?' A fat guy in the office asked.
'Caught this one, clicking pictures in the restricted area.'
'Who are you?' the fat guy questioned Jennifer.
Jennifer thought for a while. She knew all hell would break loose if they knew that she was a Christian, 'I am Jaya Lakhshmi.'

'You are a Hindu. Don't you know there are restricted areas in temples and that there might be a reason for us to make it restricted?'
'Yes, can someone give me a chance to speak?' Jennifer was getting restless with all the accusation.
'Tell me.'


'I came to learn about the temple architecture. I am a professional photographer. I was awed by the sculptures and wandered a bit too much. I didn't notice the sign. Please forgive me.'

'Alright. We will let you go this time. But listen carefully. Photography is restricted in the temple premises. You need the authorities' permission even if you have to cover the processions. Keep this in mind. You may leave now.'

The priest who caught her enquired, 'Are you letting her go? For all we know, she might be someone indulging in black magic. Look at all the paintings on her. Shiva! Shiva!'

'Namboothirippadey!. She is speaking the truth. Let her go.'

Jennifer left hurriedly from the room, before they decided to change their mind. On her way out, she winked at the little girl who smiled back at her.
                                     ***
Read the next part here.

"Me and my team, The Alphabet Soup are participating in Game of Blogs at BlogAdda.com. #Celebrate blogging with us."