24 September, 2014

Bards of the Blogosphere: Chapter 5 (Week 2) - The Calm Before the Storm #CelebrateBlogging

Note: This is the fifth chapter in the "Game of Blogs" by BlogAdda for the team "Bards of the Blogosphere" 




Read the previous part here.

***

“Leaders on the dais and my dear countrymen, a very good morning to all of you!”
 

The crowd roared its approval, with a fanaticism for a political figure that is second nature to Indians alone. The Minister basked in the approval; he sometimes couldn’t decide what he had stepped into politics for – the power or the popularity – while the former gave him the control he craved for, the latter was what went straight to his head like a glass of fine, heady wine.   
 

“I stand before you to ask you, my brothers and sisters, for help…”
 

The crowd quietened down, eager to know how they could help their great leader. 



PC: Here
“…help in grabbing an appalling problem that is weakening the very fabric of our society and removing it right from the roots!”
 

The crowd went ballistic. The Minister smiled and waited for more than a minute before raising his hand. But the moment he did, people stopped clapping abruptly and quietened down.
 

The Minister’s aide sat on one side of the podium, thinking about how he had the crowd eating out of his hands. I don’t have to worry about the next elections, if we keep going this way, he thought wiping spittle off the side of his pan-stained mouth.
 

“Kidnapping the budding youngsters of India and selling them off to the highest bidder for flesh trade, drug peddling, cheap labour, organ transplant, begging and child pornography – there are criminals in the country who are becoming richer than the Tatas and Birlas by doing such nefarious, utterly condemnable activities. One minute the child is safe, ensconced in the love and care of her family and the next, she is stuck forever in the grubby corner of some brothel, lands away from everything she calls home and forced to service men twice her age and do other unimaginable acts. Is this what the world has come to? IS THIS HOW WE TREAT THE LAKSHMIS OF OUR HOMES?!!”
 

The crowd was lapping it all up, he made sure of that. He was a powerful story-teller; his words had moved stones, in the past.
 

“As a son of the soil, as a citizen of this great nation of Bharat, I feel ashamed of myself. Ashamed that I’m not able to protect my daughters, my sisters…. The fact that these men exist, in itself, is a black mark on my face, on my reputation. And I refuse to stand by and watch anymore. I simply refuse.”
 

Cy sat at the podium, waiting to see where this is going. He wondered if something good could actually come out of it – on any other day, he would eat his hat rather than believe an Indian politician but today, today was different. He had an audience with the Minister later and he hoped against hope that that would be a step towards the light at the end of the tunnel.
 

“Let me tell you something….1779 children were kidnapped from their homes and trafficked in 2013 alone. One THOUSAND seven HUNDRED and seventy nine. Does that sound like a statistic to you? A mere number? Let me put a face to that number then, let me enlighten you on what that number means. The “mere” statistic means that, last year, close to two thousand families lost a child – parents losing the apple of their eyes, the one who they gave birth to, nurtured, cared for; siblings losing their playmate, the one who they sat down for dinner with, shared chocolates with, fought with…. All reduced to just a number to us. 

PC: Here
We don’t care, do we? We sit in our houses and say ‘that will never happen to us’ and continue with our lives, not bothered that for every number in the statistic, there is a family ripped to shreds, a life lost to a baseless, animalistic need, need for money, for physical pleasure, for cheap thrills…. An innocent, beautiful, full-of-life child sent to hell to rot for the rest of her life.”
 

The crowd had gone deathly quiet. The purport of his words was sinking in. Jen thought, this, right here, is a lesson in influencing people… Dale Carnegie would be proud. 
 

“I have a request, my dear brothers and sisters, a favor to ask of you loving people. The Government, the ruling party can do only so much to prevent such grave crimes. We do not have eyes and ears everywhere, nor do we have the manpower to combat and put a stop to human trafficking in a country that is home to more than a billion people. 

So I ask YOU to be our eyes and ears, YOU to be our manpower, to co-operate with the authorities to ensure that the action plan we forge is implemented successfully. Report suspicious activities, alert authorities where necessary, stand up for what is right without fearing anyone or anything and put the country’s needs before your own. I ask you to help us save little girls from becoming just another number in yet another statistic. Will you do that for me?”
 

Hearing the rousing words, goose bumps rose on people’s skin. Every last able-bodied man and woman in the crowd swore to be a better citizen and Jen was appreciative of the Minister’s efforts to create awareness, despite being supremely skeptical of the ilk of politicians.   
 

After a few more words on the same lines, the Minister bid adieu and went back to his seat on the podium for a few minutes to a standing ovation, much to his aide’s delight. When the next speaker started his speech, he, quiet as a mouse, walked off the stage and asked to be taken back to his room. 

Almost no one noticed… except Cy. And Jen.
 

Together, but far apart, they thought, “So this is it. In some time, we shall know if the efforts will bear fruit.”
 

And Jen sent up a small prayer towards heaven, “Please keep him safe, Lord. Please.”
 
***



Read the next chapter here.

The team Bards of the Blogosphere comprises of Divsi, PRB, PeeVee, Arpita, Datta, Neeraj, Nupur, Sulekha, Maria and Roshan.

14 September, 2014

Bards of the Blogosphere: Chapter 4 - The Phone Call #CelebrateBlogging

Note: This is the fourth chapter in the "Game of Blogs" by BlogAdda for the team "Bards of the Blogosphere" 



Read the first part here, second part here and the third part here.

***

Her denim cut-offs drew a few glances as Jennifer made her way through the mass of humanity that was spilling over into this lane from Kinari Bazar. But her eyes were scanning the crowd for a hint of red. By the time she spotted the burkha-clad lady who had called her earlier, her tee was sticking to her back and she had started feeling the weight of the camera slung on her side.


PC: here
The black lace burkha prevented Jen from seeing any part of her contact but her eyes, but the eyes said it all, didn’t they? There were eyes that spoke of the kindness of the soul, some of depravity, some spilled over from carrying the burden of existence for too long while others did little to hide the malice that was mingled in the blood, definite and inseparable. The woman turned around and their eyes met over the milling crowd, Jen knew that she had found the right person.
 

But she knew better than to approach the woman. She maintained eye contact but poked around casually in the box of chudis in the stall next to the woman, her army of colourful bracelets giving her the perfect cover. After just a while, the mysterious woman started off at a swift pace, not looking over to see if Jen was following. By the time Jen noticed that she was on the move, the woman had almost been swallowed up by the crowd. But not quite.
 

Jen dropped the tinkling accessory and took off on the trail of the contact who was to lead her to her destination. The woman turned a corner. Jen turned the same corner a few seconds later but to her dismay, the woman had vanished! Her eyes darted from one person to another, she was just about to give up when she saw a wisp of red disappearing into a doorway on the far left.
 

Wiping a drop of perspiration off her forehead before it could cloud her vision, Jen strode towards the doorway, with a premonition that her destination was very close. She entered the darkness that shrouded the doorway with faith that comes with having walked a hard path in a life riddled with pain and suffering – there is a point in space and time in one’s life when implicit, innocent trust changes to deep mistrust of everyone and everything, which further mutates to a kind of strength that helps one cut through everything that stands in their way between them and their goal – that is true faith, however negative the connotation.
 

The darkness engulfed her but just until her eyes got used to it; Jen spied a small table on the reception desk – the place looked like a run-down hotel that lost its charm and its customers at the turn of the century. She walked to the table, the soft tiptap of her boots unsettling what looked like at least a decade’s worth of dust – only the swishing trail of her burkha-clad friend that started at the door and ended at the back door, off to the left, told Jen that she was in the right place. 

She spied a single key on the table and picked it up, wondering what it opened. Closer examination revealed a room number, 14. She looked around quickly and made her way to the right where she had spotted room number one. The passageway got darker as the dank smell of disuse filled her senses, she finally came to stop in front of one door, slid the key in and opened it. The door swung open quite noiselessly, surprising for a place like this, one would think. She stepped in and flipped a light switch, hoping against hope. She was rewarded when a single zero-watt bulb switched on right in the middle of the room, illuminating a Nokia 1100 placed precisely at the centre of a table.  

PC: here
From this point, the routine was familiar to her – two strides to the table, she picked up the mobile and switched it on. Her foot tapped impatiently making a click-clack against the wooden floorboard. The instant the light came on, she clicked once on the green call button and then again. The call went through, the urgency of the matter highlighted by the immediacy of reception – less than half a ring later, Jen spoke into the phone, “Is everything ready, has the school perimeter been secured?” After affirmation, she enquired, “When is it going down?” She paused for a long minute, patiently listening to the answer – her general impatience quelled by the gravity of the issue, she took matters of life and death very seriously.
 

“You realize what the consequences of bungling this up will be, right?”
 

One minute later, the call disconnected and she set the phone back on the table where she found it. Instinctively, she slid her hand under the table and Jennifer’s fingers came into contact with hard metal. One hard yank later, the Glock came away in her hand and a note slipped down to the floor. She retrieved the note, taking care not to leave marks in the dust – leave photograph with key, it said. She checked the barrel of the gun, it had a full clip left in it.
 

Everything wrapped up to satisfaction, Jen placed the note on the phone, retrieved a bottle of Absolut from her backpack and doused the phone and the table top with it. Then she held the lighter to the side of the flimsy wooden table till the flames caught on. After making sure that nothing else would burn down, she was very meticulous that way, she backed out of the room, out into the passageway and to the reception once again. 


PC: here
A handkerchief came out of backpack, the key was wiped clean and placed exactly where it had been found. A happy, carefree Roohi smiled at her from the photograph, she was drawn to the childlike innocence, a quality that Jen herself had lost a long time ago – she forced herself to place the photo, face down, next to the key.
 

Jennifer stepped out the doorway, into the blazing summer sun of Delhi, for once actually she was actually glad for it. A few steps towards the Bazar, she hailed a cab asking to be taken to the airport.
 

It was 12.47 p.m and it was like she had never been there.   

***


Chapter five is available here.

The team Bards of the Blogosphere comprises of Divsi, PRB, PeeVee, Arpita, Datta, Neeraj, Nupur, Sulekha, Maria and Roshan.


10 September, 2014

"Private India" - Book Review

I have had a long-ish relationship with James Patterson novels and the sheer thrill of reading about murder and mayhem keeps me hooked to the genre that he has mastered. I remember reading my first Alex Cross novel while I was still in school, publicly aghast and secretly thrilled at the kind of language and the ferocity of the crimes described. It was a very good way to lose my innocence, in a manner of speaking.

The remnants of the thrill (for it’s been a long time since I had my nose buried in a James Patterson title, I hadn’t even heard about the more-than-6-book-old Private series) ensured that I added “Private India” to my cart when I happened to edit a book description at work. But just before I went ahead and bought it, came BlogAdda’s book review program, I tried my luck and the book was delivered in less than a week’s time. For free, mind you. Imagine my delight.

I haven’t read Ashwin Sanghi, nor do I intend to. I have to admit that it was a bit of a dampener to have him collaborate with Patterson – I really did expect a mess of a book. And at 450-odd pages, I was wondering how I was going to finish it in time for a review. But I needn’t have worried, the print is HUGE and hence it took me all of 4 hours to wrap it up.

Read the blurb here:

First, the bad:
•    What. Is. Up. With. The. Drama!!! So much of Bollywood-style dramatics happening throughout the story, almost making it seem like someone had a movie in mind rather than a book. Jack Morgan’s presence feels useless, to say the least.
•    Though the background story of the lead is a run-of-the-mill one, it could have been dealt with in a much more engaging manner. I feel that the whole emotional angle has not been exploited completely.
•    Trying to Indianize western characters is one of the big mistakes Indian writers make. We should stick to our own kind of characterizations without trying to ape the kind of descriptions of characters that the Westerners have. Capturing the nuances of Indian-ness and the quirks that come with being innately Indian are not only very interesting but also something that most pop Indian writers ignore.
•    The plot within the plot hasn’t been executed well, thereby making the bigger picture of terrorism seem like just an appendage when it could actually have added to the story.
•    The usual Patterson villains are creepy and eerie, the villains in this book are sort of bland.
•    Jack Morgan’s somewhat lukewarm acceptance of his friend/lover’s murder is disturbing.
•    I failed to fall for the underdog lead character, which is actually a first. 

Now, the good:
•    Classic James Patterson-style narration – a chapter about everything else and then a chapter about the murderer, alternated. I loved it, to say the least. If this was penned by Sanghi, he has managed to carry it off with élan.
•    Slow build-up to a fitting finale, most of it was executed well, making it a very racy read. Staccato bursts of chapters keep you riveted.
•    The ending leaves the thread open to more from the series and if executed better, I’d definitely like to read.
•    A drastic reduction in the number of typos and spelling mistakes and grammar errors from the last so many Indian-English books which I have read. Only a few phrases stand out as having heavy MTI, so to speak.

On the whole, a decent read. Next time you settle down for a long train journey or find yourself out of things to do on a Sunday afternoon, pick this one up. Whether you like it or not will depend on what literary diet you are on: Kafka-lovers will thup at the book while Bhagat-lovers will be overcome with joy.

I consider myself to be somewhere between the two, so I give the book a 3.2 rating out of 5 - 3 for the mystery, 0.15 to Patterson and 0.05 to Sanghi.  

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

18 August, 2014

Mandatory Murphy Bashing Monday


Monday is the day

•    Cats decide to scratch me awake
•    Heater decides to not heat
•    Soap decides to disappear
•    Cats (again) decide to play with the roll of toilet paper
•    Shampoo decides to get in my eye
•    I forget to pick out clothes, as usual, and I have to make do with one of my black T-shirts.
•    Blow dryer is missing
•    Straightener not working
•    Can’t find my Lacto Calamine
•    Leaning Tower of Clothes in my wardrobe decides to tip over
•    Whiskas gets over
•    I forget to pack last night's alu sabzi for lunch (which is going to rot by evening:/)
•    Bag is not packed
•    Laptop charger is not around
•    Shoes pinch
•    Activa doesn’t start
•    Petrol is below the red line
•    Caretaker wants caretaking money
•    Wallet is empty. Like EMPTY empty
•    Hunger pangs are clawing the stomach lining
•    Traffic light, which is ALWAYS green when I usually pass, turns red
•    Huge bus decides to plonk itself right in front of me
•    Another huge bus decides to plonk itself on the other side
•    Bag straps are too tight
•    Remember that I forgot kajal
•    Accidently bonk the office laptop on my desk
•    Pantry runs out of all kinds of food
•    Friend doesn’t show up on time (so I can crib and get it out of my system)
•    Day starts with escalations after escalations

Monday is also the day when 

•    When my sweetie pie in the office brings THREE WHOLE BOXES of Chips Ahoy! and hands them over to me, making me want to bear hug her all day long.


Fuck you, Murphy :P

P.S: For those who are not familiar with Chips Ahoy! Here:


 

13 August, 2014

My Dearest....

.... Daughter,


People say your life changes after you have a baby. They say that, apart from the complete change in the focal point of life, one starts to live for the baby. I wonder if that is true – I find it difficult to care about most people beyond a certain level, I can’t picture myself giving my everything up for anyone else other than my own mother. I wonder how much I will love you, whether I will be any good at it.

What is the world like when you are reading this? Right now, I hear news – the Fifty Shades of Grey trailer, Beyoncé’s song; flights being shot down, disappearing; people, societies, cultures being bombed out of existence, massive corrosion in safety to human lives…. Yes, that IS the order of our priorities. Has anything changed? Become better? ....Worse? I pray not.

Forget the world for now – we are capable of being truly ignorant of how insignificant our individual lives are in the face of the bigger picture, so let’s make use of that talent – tell me about you. What are you like? Do you look anything like me? Do you like to read? Dance? Or are you more like your Father? Do you pick out tomato peels from food like your Uncle? Do you sneeze explosively like your great Grandpa? Do you know how to ride a bike? What are your favorite subjects? Do you love English like I do? Whoever you are, remember that you are the best you, possible. It is easy to get caught in a society full of comparison, trying to be better than this person at this and that person at that. But, trust me, just like we all have unique thumb prints, we all are so very unique that trying to better someone at something will only be like pitting oranges against cows. Unless you are setting world records.

Also, always remember to say “thank you” and “please” and then smile afterward. People might laugh at you, for believing in such supposedly outdated manners, but being nice never hurt anyone and never cost anything. And keep in mind that your aukaad is shown, not in how you treat your seniors or your peers, but in how you treat those who are beneath you. Waiters are not there for your convenience, rickshaw drivers are not your personal drivers and nobody in this world is yours to order around. Humility and politeness are two forgotten traits that both your mother and your grandmother are determined to inculcate in our offspring.

By the way, little one, do you know that there is a theory that we were born of stars? That we are made of stardust? How truly awe-inspiring is that? To know that we are truly precious. The theory fascinates me to no end. But if I love you as much as I am supposed to, I’m sure I’ll think everything you are made of is better than stardust itself. 

By now, I’m sure you have heard my holier-than-thou litany about how I don’t believe in religion. And yet, we pack up and go to Church on Sundays, we walk around temples and the nav grahas, you see me fasting and whatnot. Don’t be confused. Always remember that you are but a tiny, very tiny (but cute), part of humanity and that there is always a higher power to surrender to. That the God we say resides in us is that conscience that pricks when you put a foot forward on the wrong path. Abide by that, and with our blessings, you will never go wrong.

Take care of yourself, won’t you? It is okay to go nuts once in a while. But live healthy, mind AND body. With family history of a wide spectrum of diseases, it is important that you treat the body that God has given you right. It is the only body you have and if you damage it with as much Coke and fries as your mother has, you will have to face the consequences yourself – there IS no spare.

Fall in love as many times as you want. But marriage is for life, so choose wisely. Having a boy around might be fun but unless you are independent and strong, it is easy to lose your own identity in the relationship. Respect yourself. Very important. But don’t take yourself too seriously – you should always be able to laugh at yourself. And never, ever, ever toy with anybody’s emotions. Breaking someone’s heart will hurt you more than anything else can.  

Being alive is not an easy feat, my love. Life constantly throws googlies at you to test you – there will be highs so high that euphoria will go to your head and there will be lows so low that you will just want to give up. At some points, life will be a breeze but at most points, every single day will be a struggle to just get through. But regardless of which point you are at, keep in mind this too shall pass. It’s gotten me through some tough times. And never forget that I will always, always be there – you can come to me for anything without fear of judgment or consequences. We will ride the storm out together, if that’s what you want.

And whatever you do, however you live, you must always be able to do two things:
1)    Look yourself in the eye in the mirror and sleep a good night’s sleep.
2)    Never be ashamed of owning up to who you really are, in front of anybody. 

I promise I will try and give you the very best of everything I possibly can. Promise me you will be the best you, you can possibly be.

So much to say, so little time… I now realize that a lifetime is not enough to prepare you for life.

Lots of love,
Your Mother, when she was 24.
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