Escape to Victory


The ringing sound of the alarm clock woke him up. He glanced at the time. It was 6. He resisted the urge to curl back into bed. He did not have a moment to lose. He had exactly thirty minutes to get ready. He jumped up from his bed and fumbled on the window sill for his toothpaste and toothbrush. He opened the door and was greeted by the harsh rays of the sun. The black little dog ran up to him barking excitedly. He ignored her and took steady steps towards the bathroom. As he brushed his teeth, a face with four day stubble peered at him from the mirror. He remembered how his boss used to comment whenever he came to office unshaven. 

But he no longer had to bother about bosses’ preferences anymore for he was now a student again.  As he walked back to his room, she again came running up to him, wagging her tail as if she wanted to set some record for maximum number of wags per second. But he again ignored her and walked up to his room. He reached out to the bottle of water at the corner of the table. It was empty. It was too early to order a new bottle. He would pick up a bottle on the way. He opened the large steel bureau and looked for a pair of clothes. He grabbed the first shirt and pants that were within reach. He had never understood the concept of matching clothes. Who made these rules of what color went with what, he mused as he picked up a set of undergarments and a towel to walk again towards the bathroom.

By now she had given up on him and settled down in her little cardboard box under the printer. She looked at him from a corner of her eyes as he locked the door of his room. As he opened the tap and waited for the bucket to fill, he caught the strong stench of urea. He found the cold water soothing and the sandalwood fragrance of the soap made his mind calm and serene. He felt like he was floating on the clouds as he walked back to the room. His reverie was disturbed by the screech of the chair leg against the floor from the next room. He quickly entered his room, left the bucket under the table and the soap box on the window sill, once again locked the room and was on his way.

He covered his nose with a handkerchief as the sweepers were raising a lot of dust. By the time he reached the gate, the smell of sweat threatened to overcome the sandalwood smell. He walked up to the line of autos and spoke up to the driver of the first one in his hesitant Hindi, “Will you come to Gandhi Ashram?
The driver, a large man with a bald head a bushy mustache surveyed him for few moments and said, “200 Rs, Sir

His face clouded for a moment and he looked around. Not too many vehicles were plying on the road . He took out his wallet from his back pocket and examined the contents. He then kept his wallet back and turned his eyes towards the next auto driver in the line. The first guy spoke up again, “Ok, Sir. 180 Rs.  Last and final rate for you! Hop on.

He paused for a moment and got into the auto. He sighed a breath of relief as the auto got onto the street. He had made his escape. He look at his watch. It was exactly 7.00. He had made it just on time. “Happy Holi,” he told himself. His friends had come knocking at his door this very hour the previous year. He had grown wiser this year. 

My Book Release



I guess people who are connected to me on social media are aware one of my short stories has recently been published in a multi author, multi genre anthology. The best part is it happens to be in my favorite genre - Science Fiction. It is nothing close to what my idols write or the dream story I plan to write one day. But still I feel I made a decent beginning in my favorite genre.

As part of the promotion for this book, I have written an article on the science fiction genre on the website that organized the contest to select stories for the book. Please find the article here I hope it give some insight on the genre to those not initiated into this genre.

The above article is more an impersonal essay. Soon I will be writing a post on my personal experiences with the genre - how I got introduced to the genre, how my interest developed, why I love the genre and all that stuff.

Anyone interested in buying the book can buy at one of these sites. It is a 240 page book titled 'Ten Shades of Life' having 10 stories by 10 different authors and costs Rs. 139.

Infibeam
BookAdda
Amegabooks

I will soon post a review of the book focusing on the other stories on the book as well once I am done reading them. I have interacted with the other authors and they seem like great people. I hope their stories are great too. You can check out the preview of the stories written by fellow author Dr. Roshan Radhakrishnan here.

The Great Indian Braid Hunt



Boom! Boom! The floor was shaking violently. There was a loud noise like a roar outside. “Any one there?” . They timidly peered out of the window to see a fat giant with his stomach bulging out of his blue and white pants, thick red whiskers and a funny helmet with braided hair hanging from either side. They knew they could not remain safe inside the office for long. They had to eventually confront him. So the campaign manager gingerly stepped out and asked in a feeble voice, “May I help you, Sir?


What is the meaning of this?” he growled pointing at the board put outside the office. The board read,


Dear Participant,


We are overwhelmed by the tremendous response to the ‘The Great Indian Braid Hunt’ contest and picking out the winners from the lot has been a challenging task. The contestants were courageous, resourceful, perseverant or all of afore stated. Two contestants were truly outstanding while the others weren’t quite in the same league. Hence only 2 iPads are being awarded besides 3 Playbooks and 10 Surprise Gifts …. and the winners are:


Below were pictures of some of the loveliest young women with lovely braids.

He was feeling a bit confident now. He was used to dealing with the sore losers who could just not accept defeat graciously. “Well, Sir, our judges found them to be the best of the lot.

But they did not even complete the twelve tasks.

The rules never mentioned that the twelve tasks were to be completed.

If that is the case why did you set those twelve arduous tasks?

It had to look like a proper contest, right?

But I was the only one who completed all the twelve tasks.

I understand Sir. But see the name of the contest. It is the great Indian braid hunt. How can we have you as the winner?

The man turned his head and pointed to the braid on one side. “But I do have a braid.

But, Sir, our target customers are not fat oafs.

Who are you calling fat?” he roared and moved menacingly towards the campaign manager.

The campaign manager literally shook in fear. “Not you, sir. Not you. I meant in general. You are so slim and handsome.

He calmed down a bit. “So why did I not win the prize?

Sir, you are not an Indian.

Now where did that come from? The rules never said whether you have to be a cow boy or an Indian to participate.

We left that vague to encourage more participation. But only an Indian can win a great Indian braid hunt contest, right?

How did I win the consolation prize then?

That shows our company’s largeness of heart, Sir. We console all losers irrespective of gender, race or nationality.

Again Obelix’s face turned red. “How dare you call me a loser? I was already pissed about the comment about me not being in the same league. Now by calling me a loser, you have done it.

No, Sir! No, Sir! It is not like that. By loser I meant the people who lost the opportunity to win the prize. By league, we meant people who are in league with our product and our brand.

Ok. Leave that. If you are anyway doing this just to promote your product, what has a stupid shampoo to do with courage, resourcefulness and perseverance?

That is all part of the high level brand strategy, Sir. I am a small man who does what I am told. I was told to organize a difficult contest and pick some winners who look good with the product. I was just following orders.

Then call the one who gave you the orders,” roared the giant.

Soon a jazzy sports car drove in and a suave man in a chic suit stepped out.

Sir, this person has some questions about our brand strategy

He surveyed the huge man in front of him with disdain and said, “Yes?

I wanted to know what do courage, resourcefulness and perseverance have to do with a bloody shampoo.

It is called brand positioning. I think the concept will be beyond your simple brain.

You called me a simpleton?

He caught hold of the brand manager, lifted him to the sky, turned him upside down and shook him like a rat.

Enough, Sir! You have made your point! I understand I have underestimated your intelligence. Please put me down and I shall explain.

See, mister, the brand is not about the product. It is about how it makes people feel. The people pay not for the shampoo but to feel courageous, resourceful and perseverant after using our product.

But how can a shampoo make you all that?” Obelix looked puzzled.

The brand manager smiled knowingly. “See? That is the challenge. What else can any shampoo do but clean the hair? But people are not going to pay a bomb just for that. So we have to create an image that only courageous, resourceful and perseverant people use our product. And as a corollary, anybody who uses our product will feel courageous, resourceful and perseverant. As they say it is all in the mind. That is called brand association.

So this whole thing is a sham?

No. You don’t get it. We are really making people feel good about themselves. Isn’t that great, for the price of a mere shampoo?

Now he looked really confused. He remained in deep thought for a while and then concluded, “These marketing guys are crazy

Women's Day Liebster Awards




It has been some time since I did one of these award posts. The latest one is from Anunoy who I have known well for more than a year now. I can chose either to club it with the two earlier ones or do them one at a time. If I club them, thirty three questions will become an overdose for a blog post. So need to take one at a time. I will start with the current one. With already so much delay, a little more delay won’t change things for the earlier ones. As well do this one time.

The below are supposedly the rules of the award
  1. Jot down 11 things about yourself 
  2. Answer 11 questions set by your gracious nominator 
  3. Nominate 11 deserving bloggers for spreading this love and encouragement 
  4. Now it’s your turn to set 11 questions for them 
  5. Inform them of all these by e-mailing, fb-walling, twittering or commenting on their blog post 

Eleven things about myself
  1. I had no interest in writing even as a hobby till the age of 24, when a friend at office suggested that I should try a hand at writing. 
  2. It took me 5 more years before I took the decision to actually get started on my blog. 
  3. I started my blog with the intention of sharing my analysis on issues in the areas of society, politics and international relations, which was one of the reasons for my anonymity. 
  4. I have a thing for fancy monikers. Earlier I have been ‘Wise Man from the East’, ‘Quest Seeking Wanderer’, ‘The Raven’ and ‘Tale Swapper’ on different online forums and chat rooms. 
  5. After a couple of reproduction of articles by famous persons, a philosophical piece and piece on democracy, I had no clue what to write on my blog. So I took to reproducing the sole poem I had written while at college, speeches I had written while at toastmasters and at the height of desperation, a letter I had written to one of my prospective brides. 
  6. My first attempt at photo blogging was putting pictures of monkeys, stray dogs, buffaloes and donkeys shot using my new 2 Mega Pixel Mobile phone. An my last too. I am not cut out to be a photographer.
  7. My earliest inspiration as a blogger came from the unlikeliest of sources: a blogger turned author, Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan. Reading about her on a popular news website, I realized humorous posts on relationships get maximum readership. 
  8. Based on my insights above, I wrote my bride hunt series that became a runaway success, despite me being an obscure blogger with no networks whatsoever to speak of. I used to get 1000 hits a day when it was running. 
  9. I tried to replicate my success through a series on my unsuccessful trysts with romance. That however turned out to be such an utter flop that I gave up writing on relationships for good. 
  10. My first ever pieces of writing were poems title ‘The Dog Tamer’ and ‘The Dog in the Bog’, silly rhymes making fun of my friends during school days. Unfortunately I did not retain the papers on which I had scribbled either of them. 
  11. I however still retain in my memory, most part of the sole more serious poem I wrote during my school days. I have reproduced it below to the best of my recollection. 

Of give and take 
Our life we make 
But all is fake 
It is time we wake 
And start living for others’ sake 
Or our lives will be, of sorrows, a lake 
For each of us is a different cake 
From the same bake 

My answers to the 11 Questions posed by Anunoy
1) What has been your more satisfying experience- with your desktop or laptop?
The most satisfaction you derive from anything is maximum when you use it for the first time. That is true of computers as well I guess. There were only desktops when I first started using computers.

2) Are you fond of train journey or flight? Reason for your choice?
These days I have begun to prefer flights. Lately I have not had too many pleasant experiences on Indian trains.

3) Which is your dream travel destination? And which one is your favourite one?
Somehow I have been fascinated by Manchu Picchu. Thassos Island in Greece has been the most memorable place I have visited to date.

4) Mention 3 of your qualities which you want to pass on to your offspring.
I have never given a thought to it. But I think children should be allowed to be themselves and be accepted for who they are by their parents as long as they don’t turn out to be criminals or complete wastrels. It is not fair to expect any specific qualities of them. They are who they are, qualities and all.

5) What is the most violent incidence you’ve faced till date?
In terms of physical violence, I can remember numerous occasions of violence both against me and by me. But none of them affected me mentally. I will choose the one incident without physical violence that affected me mentally. That was being robbed of my wallet in a shared auto in Hyderabad. Somehow my first face to face encounter with crime disturbed me a lot mentally as if confirming to me that crime really exists. Till then it had been a theoretical concept.

6) Have you ever felt “I’m the king of the World”? If yes, when?
This is a rather strange question. I have often felt that way in my day dreams. Never felt that way in the real world.

7) Characteristic features/behaviours in people those piss you off?
I think I am wary of people with cold as I tend to catch it easily. So if people are sneezing and coughing around me, I tend to turn irate. I try not to judge people. But still pompousness unconsciously pisses me off.

8) What is your dream job?
As of now author of fiction. Detective, artificial intelligence programmer, computer games programmer and psycho historian have been some of the others in the past. Even my current job was a dream job before I got it. Not that I have much complaints about it even now.

9) Do you ever dream of a world where there is no demarcation by countries and all are free to roam about anywhere without slightest hindrance and hatred?
I fully agree. I believe all these nations are just an artificial freezing of boundaries at some point in history and not as sacrosanct as we believe it to be. If we take an issue, say the Kashmir issue, there is no clear logic as to why it should belong to either India or Pakistan. In fact there is no clear logic even why Pakistan should be a separate country at all. All nations are historic accidents and leaders’ thirst for power that common people take too seriously.

10) At which age you had your first pornographic acquaintance?
At 14, I guess. Out school ICSE biology text book covered the topic in depth. Don’t know if that can be called pornographic content though. If we are talking about stuff classified officially as pornography, I believe it is illegal in India. So even if one were to assume I have had an opportunity to have viewed content of such nature, I would not openly acknowledge.

11) Did you feel good to be nominated or took it as a headache? I swear I won’t mind your honest reply.
It is always good to be nominated for something. But writing these posts too often can be a headache.

Nominations

Now it is my turn to nominate 11 bloggers and shoot my question. Today being women’s day let me use this opportunity to pay my tribute to 11 of my favorite women bloggers by passing on this award to them. Please forgive me if you find this too tiresome. I hope I have framed interesting questions for you. If not, feel free to skip this. Also there is no compulsion to pass on to eleven others.

1. Arti
2. Deepa Duraisamy 
3. Rachna Parmar 
4. Bhavana
5. Zephyr 
6. Kirti 
7. Pooja 
8. Saru Singhal
9. Indu Chibber
10. Farida Rizwan
11. Jayashree Srivatsan

I know I should have written a few lines about each of you but somehow my mind is not working. I don't want to say something very banal just for the heck of it when I could have said much better things if my mind had been working. But it is not and I wanted to get get my post out today. So please forgive my laziness.

My questions
1. One event in your life that you would change if you had the power to do so
2. One event in the history of our nation that you would change and why
3. One event in the history of the world that you would change and why
4. One book that you would wish unwritten from the world and why
5. One famous historic personality you wish unborn from the history of the world and why.
6. One famous scientific discovery or invention that you would like to uninvent and why
7. If you had a chance to be in some other era, which would it be and why?
8. One fictional character you wish had existed in reality and why ?
9. One imaginary invention or scientific discovery that you wish existed today
10. One historic personality you would like to bring back from dead today and why?
11. If you could get into the shoes of a historic personality or fictional character, who would it be and why?

Epic Romances - Books Review



I had heard a lot about Ashok Banker and was indeed excited when his books on Mahabharata were up for review. What also excited me was the interesting positioning of the books. They were positioned as the ‘Epic Love story collection’. By no means can I be considered to have even a remotely romantic disposition. But keeping with the demands of Indian publishers, I have been trying my hand at writing romance these days. So I was keen on seeing how an acknowledged master of fiction writing has handled this genre; that too mixed with my favorite genre of mythology.

To start with, I must say the concept is excellent. The publishers have done an excellent job with the presentation. The books look really attractive in their fascinating glossy covers with beautiful cover illustrations. The small size of the books gives them a cute look making them an excellent option for romantic gift. The other advantage of the size is that the books can be easily carried around and can be finished in a single long bus ride to office. The author has kept the language and narrative also very simple. It is a very easy read and does not tax the mind of the reader too much. So it is an ideal read when one is tired from the day's work.

The stories as such are nothing new for someone familiar with Mahabharata. But probably most of the current crop of youth would have missed Rajagopalachari’s Mahabharata, the Amar Chitra Katha mythological comics and BR Chopra’s Mahabharata serial as well. For them, these books would be an excellent opportunity to get familiar with one of the world’s most ancient and greatest epics. For me personally though the books did not hold that much charm. I have been told these stories in great detail by my grandfather in my very early childhood. Then as I grew up, I read the comics and saw the serial on TV serial as well. So the books felt more like a rerun.

I have read different foreign authors’ rendering of the same Arthurian legends. So I expected something of a similar nature in Ashok Banker’s books. At least the two books I picked for review – ‘Satyavati and Shantanu’ and ‘Amba and Bishma’ however had hardly any novelty factor. There were hardly any new elements or unique interpretations to the already known stories. It was just the basic old story narrated as it is with details filled in. I must say the author has done a commendable job filling in the details though. I especially liked the description of the war scene in the ‘Amba and Bishma’ story. I would actually rate these books a good read in themselves for someone who does not know the Mahabharata stories. But given that it is an existing plot and not originally conceived by the author, I hardly see any strong stamp of the author in the stories. That in some ways can be viewed positively as well. Some readers may like to enjoy the purity of the original stories without them being twisted by the author’s own interpretations and improvisations.

So I would call these books a plain and simple retelling of the original stories from Mahabharata as tales of romance and adventure, leaving out the more philosophical and esoteric elements to make them more palatable for the casual reader.

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

For whom the bell tolls

A book of faces