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December 15, 2014

Flash fiction: 'Followed...'

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A cloth purse slung over her delicate shoulder and a iPhone in hand, Trina was walking back home. It was late evening. The street lights were dim and the alley was dark when suddenly she realized someone was following her.
Her pace quickened. She wanted to reach home fast.
Just then, another follower.
She wondered why this was happening today. She was the plain Jane...the girl next door. .any kind of attention surprised her.
Two minutes later, someone else joined the followers. This time she noticed it was her colleague Akash from work.
He hardly looked at her in the office...and now...what was he doing following her? There was a strange mix of anxiety and uneasiness creeping within her.

She thought for a moment and typed furiously on her cell phone.
'I think...' she paused, then continued typing, '...I am going to be the next big celebrity around here. ‪#feelinglucky
*************
Tweet sent!!

She smiled and checked her notifications again. Her boss had just 'favorited' her latest update. She was home. 
It was time to log in from her desktop!

December 01, 2014

Short story: The kiss of love



"It's going to rain. Let's leave from here. It looks like the skies are brewing up a storm," Asif voiced his concern.
"I don't mind facing any tempest as long as you are there with me," whispered Adaa, her soft eyes gazing longingly into his.

They were two young souls madly in love with each other...Asif and Adaa. Every evening, they would visit their favorite spot, sit on the same park bench and discuss their insecure future, the constant threat that loomed over them owing to the one innocent crime they had committed...the crime called 'love'.
The conservative mindset of their own orthodox families had made it even worse. Coming from two different Muslim backgrounds, they were innocent victims of the 'Shia-Sunni' hatred that existed in most of Lucknow those days.

"They won't let us live, Adaa. I have tried to convince them in every possible way," Asif pointed out. He was well aware of the barbaric nature of the punishment that would lie in store for them.
There was a determined look in Adaa's iridescent eyes, a mixture of passion, helplessness and rebellion. She brushed the tear rolling down Asif's cheek, and held his rugged face lovingly in her delicate hands.

"Then there is only one option left for us," she said ruefully, fishing out a small bottle of cyanide from her hand bag.

They were found lifeless the next morning on the same park bench. A mad beggar said that he had seen them kiss after which they held each other's hand and closed their eyes---the same peaceful condition their bodies were discovered in. But the two families paid no heed to his mumbles. They ruthlessly separated the two bodies from each other and used their contacts to close the case.

Even today, residents of the town claim that they see two spirits hover near the park bench every stormy night.
Asif and Adaa  knew that their love would never be accepted. Not wanting to lose each other, they had decided to take this one final step...they had decided to submit to the tempest together.
Finally they are in a better place where societal norms and taboos are not important, where religion, castes and sects do not matter...where love is the only religion!

November 20, 2014

Sample chapter from 'Twists Of Fate'





Chapter  10
Mrunmayee gazes at her reflection in the mirror and cringes on realizing that the pink top would have suited Nandini more. She needs to lose a little weight around the shoulders, and it fits a little too snugly over her ample bosom, making her look like she might spill out any moment. She had tried on a deep purple kurti earlier, which on the other hand, had fit her just fine. But there was something about the pink top that allured her. She had overheard Nandini talk about it with the sales person in charge and had immediately asked him to hand it over to her to try on.
It's funny how our desires often tend to circle around the whims and fancies of others rather than the self. One school of thought has a convincing explanation that this is because we live in a society that makes us want to be pleasing to others more than the self--a rather selfless trait, so to think. But then there is this other theory which eventually concludes that we do all of this to please no one but the self...because praise and compliments are what the devil thrives on, and we are in no significant way any different.
Mrunmayee changes back into her sari and walks out of the changing room with nothing but the pink top in hand surprising the sales person who goes inside the trial room to collect all the discarded choices mentally cursing all womankind for their indecisive nature.
“Is something wrong? You look as pale as a ghost,” she asks a flummoxed Nandini who seems to be now lost in a whirlpool of mixed emotions.
“It's nothing. I actually remembered there is some other place that I need to be.” Nandini pauses and then hastily blurts, “Your husband said he would be here in ten minutes.”
“Are you sure you are okay? You do look a little flushed,” asks Mrunmayee, still a little confused.
“Oh yes. I am perfectly fine. Just need to catch up with a few friends and make up for a busy week. You have a great anniversary.”
“I can understand,” she sighs. “Neil, my husband, is constantly swamped with work too. It's only weekends that we get to spend quality time with friends and each other.”
Then watching Nandini fidget with her purse she bids her farewell, not wanting to delay her anymore.
“It was lovely meeting you. Thanks for all the trouble. I'll keep in touch...”
“Sure.” Nandini smiles feebly. She says goodbye to Mrunmayee and rushes away from the scene.
While on her way out of the mall, she senses an acrid distaste in her throat and an urgent need to throw up.
Nandini rushes to the nearby washroom. A sense of relief floods through her body, to find an unoccupied cubicle. As she flushes out the bitter taste of bile from her system, she wishes she could do the same to the equally bitter hatred that she has been harbouring towards the woman for all these years.
The fascination...the admiration...the marvel...the novel appreciation for this lady disappears, just like the keen interest in befriending her. Mrunmayee's neatness...fashion sense...organized behavior...feminine etiquette, all seem suddenly so fake and manipulative now.
It is ridiculous how biased bias can be. Everyone, at some point in life, encounters it--in the bitterness of defeat, in the envy of success, in the happiness of someone we consider less worthy. It is absurd how envy makes people pick up pointless and baseless faults in those they had once appreciated. What is even weirder is how some choose to cleverly mask it, like a zit concealed with loads of makeup, unaware that with time it is sure to wear off and reveal its ugly self.
Nandini does not wear makeup. Somewhere down the line, she had lost faith in all things made up.
Now confined within the four walls of the bathroom cubicle, amidst salty tears and faded memories, she recollects all those times she has promised herself not to fall weak. But when has life been predictable? It has its own plans, that only time can unfold…
Neil had not recognized her voice, though there was a sudden pause on hearing her speak.
But Nandini, how could she not know it was him??
The smell of phenol and the restless foot tapping of the women waiting outside does not allow her to stay in there for a long time--the limitations of a public restroom.
Dabbing her eyes dry, Nandini scurries out of the phenol and makeup scented atmosphere and steps out into the long corridors which would further lead to the exit of the plaza.
As she crosses CBTL on the way out, flashes of the past come to life before her downcast eyes as if the clean mopped marble flooring is a plasma screen featuring her life in motion picture. She tries hard to push away the scenes. But the pause button fails to please her, and the reel only manages to play faster. No amount of pushing any button in the dark recesses of her mind manages to eject this relentless recording, and she is forced to go back to that day she confronted Neil…their last meeting, as if it just happened yesterday.
 It was exactly a month after Sharvari's wedding.
“Byomkesh Da called yesterday. He and Protima Boudi want to meet us regarding the children. Debojit has grown up into a fine young man, and I am sure he will keep Nandini very happy. It would only be wise to say yes,” Mr Mazumdar discussed with his wife over dinner.
Something about the Joshi wedding had evoked a sudden sense of parental responsibility in them. It was as if the differences between husband and wife had decreased, and their daughter had become the focus of their joint attention. Nandini did not know whether to be happy or sad about it.
“And it's not like Nandu can find a good boy for herself like our Appu did. With her shy and timid nature, we would have to wait for a hundred years before someone comes and professes his love for her,” he grimaced.
Aparna had married Atul after three years of clandestine courtship. At first, her decision had raised a huge hue and cry at the Mazumdar house. However, all had gone well after Atul had convinced them that he and his wife would live separately after marriage, instead of with his parents in their humble home. The loan for the house had already been sanctioned, a fact that Aparna had confirmed before she agreed to marry him. Atul's poor parents had been distraught over their only son's decision, but they had bestowed their blessings on the couple anyway. However, neither Aparna nor Atul had tried to persuade them to attend the marriage, acting totally indifferent to the hurt they caused to their breaking hearts. Mr and Mrs Mazumdar had not even noticed their absence. They were only too pleased at their daughter's organized planning that had roped in a worthy groom who would dance around her little finger.
However, with Nandini next in line now, they were worried. They believed their younger daughter's reserved nature and self righteousness were uncharismatic traits, unworthy of attracting any male attention without their help.
Nandini wanted to scream at them, tell them that they need not worry, that she had already found a very good match for herself, someone much better than their stupid Debojit Chatterjee. Instead, she ran off to her room and cried all night. She could not wait for Neil to take the lead anymore. She would have to confess to him; she was so sure the idiot was too shy to ask her out.
She had caught him stealing glances at her at Sharvari's wedding. Over time, he had grown to be so fond of her. Nandini had grown to be a close friend. If Sharvari and Adarsh could realize they were in love with each other in such a short time, surely Neil too must have recognized his feelings for her, she thought. Weren't the endless conversations between them proof enough that they cared? After all, love is often revealed by the mundane gestures of day to day life. You don't need to scream out your feelings. When it's love, you just know…and Nandini knew!
However, it was only when she spoke to Neil that she realized how little...
“B..ut…but Nandu,” he stammered, startled by her sudden confession, “You n...never told me...”
A tear rolled down her cheek. “I thought you always knew. Neil, I have had feelings for you ever since I realized the meaning of love, and somewhere down the line, I thought you understood…and reciprocated.”
Neil did not know what to say. It was true that he and Nandini had become good friends over the years. It was Nandini's constant phone texts and cheerful calls that helped him through a rough day at his new job. She would be the first one to wish him on birthdays and other occasions, sometimes even before family. He would counsel her, guide her, advice her. She would in turn listen to him rant about his seniors, complain about his team and justify his dilemmas. Nandini was aware of Neil's weakness—his lack of strength when it came to making decisions.  She believed he too harboured a silent love, just like the one she had been hiding in her heart. Neil knew that Nandini had learned to face her own demons in life. It was this truth that always made him feel protective towards her, and the fact that his friendship meant the world to her, meant a great deal to him.
“Friendship? Is that all there is between us??” she asked. She had never believed in an overt display of affection. If Sharvari and Pari could have guessed her feelings for Neil years ago at fifteen, how could Neil be so blind even after all these years?
Looking at his flustered expression, she could not stop the tears from streaming down her face. “Neil, my parents want to get me married to some man I don't even know. I can't imagine a future without you. In my thoughts, I am already Mrs Nandini Neil Joshi since the day I fell in love,” she panicked.
She covered her face with both her hands as if she had mustered all the courage in her shivering body to say all that she wanted. Neil was now staring at her in surprise. He had never heard Nandu speak with such conviction before. Where did she hide all this passion, all these emotions?
“Nandini, I know you are a very sensible girl. I have always respected your maturity. If you think with a clear mind, you will see that I am not the best guy to be in love with.”
“You are perfect for me...” she was still sobbing.
Neil wanted to hold her trembling body. For a moment, he felt a strange attraction for her vulnerability. He wanted to calm her down, hold in his arms and console this graceful creature who was so enamoured by him. He was tempted to fall in love with her.
But would that kind of love be strong enough to break the shackles of rigid orthodox? Would her passion help her surpass the permanent sea of mediocrity he was living in? Could this affluent 'Malabar Hill' girl be happy with a middle class 'Shivaji Park' boy like him? Neil felt like he was at both ends of these questions. He could imagine an uptown girl challenging him in the same tone someday. He could understand how much it would hurt then. But he could not make up his mind…he had felt his emotions scatter especially after the confusion that had set in lately.
Too many doubts were subconsciously creating havoc inside his head. He wanted to ask her how, where, and when it had all happened. However, his heart was posing other questions. Was he guilty of sending out mixed signals? Or had something changed between them? Was he really afraid to confess his feelings? Or was he facing an emotional dilemma between the head and the heart? Had his heart never felt a thing for this girl baring her soul in front of him, or was it having second thoughts of late? He wanted to ask a lot of questions…to Nandini…to himself…to his conscience. But he was too embarrassed to find out the answers.
“No, Nandu, it's not possible. It's never going to work out.”
“B...ut Why not?” She was being adamant now.
Again, he controlled the strong urge to tell her the truth.
“Neil, I love you!”
She had finally said it. She had mustered up all the courage inside her to utter the three golden words she had rehearsed saying in front of the mirror so many times before. She felt a strange weight leave her shoulders--a weight that had been pressing upon her all this while as if the entire world was balanced on its tender support. She felt relieved yet apprehensive, nervous yet excited, tense yet happy, brazen yet bashful; a flurry of young emotions created ripples within her as she caught his gaze and lowered her eyes almost instantaneously.
The air above them had suddenly started feeling heavy, the tension palpable.
“N..Nandu, you don't understand,” Neil stammered, indecisive whether to continue or not.
A pregnant pause later, he let out a defeated sigh and said, “There is someone else...”

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'Twists Of Fate' is available at Flipkart and Amazon.in
You can view the video trailer here: video

November 06, 2014

Quote #2 from 'Twists Of Fate'


Hey guys,
Do you remember the childhood games we used to play? Snakes & Ladders, Hide & Seek, Chinese Whispers...we have so much fun playing these as kids.
And then we grow up, and all these games change meaning!
At times we have to befriend a few 'snakes' to climb a few 'ladders'...
Sometimes we hide and wait to see who will come searching...
Chinese whispers, the game we played in school, changes into a more dangerous game in society...
Sharvari, Pari, and Nandini are finally here...to tell their story!

You can now order your copy at Flipkart:
http://www.flipkart.com/twists-fate-english/p/itmefaa9gna7zhzg?pid=9789350881002&otracker=from-search&srno=t_1&query=twists+of+fate%2Bpriyanka+naik&ref=7509b88d-e62f-4aa3-bd57-e640a428ed5b
Also available at Amazon.in and Infibeam.

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Cheers!

October 31, 2014

October 21, 2014

Happy wali Diwali to you


Wishing you all a very happy Diwali. May this festival light up your face with a million watt smile that finds a zillion reasons to stay forever! :)

October 06, 2014

'Water Girl'


They called her a child of the sea. Even as a baby, she would love the splashing sound of the waves, the sweeping motion of the water as it washed over her feet. She was happiest when her parents took her to the beach. While most children were busy building sand castles and collecting shells, she would spend hours gazing at the sea, appreciating the setting sun, focusing her sight on distant sailing boats, smiling at the ebb and flow of the tidal current. Her friends would fondly call her 'Water Girl'.

As she grew up, her love for the sea translated into songs. She had a beautiful voice and soon enough her talent, like her beauty, was recognized far and wide. They said she had great potential. That night, her parents held a special beach party.
She wore a gorgeous blue dress, blue like the color of the sea, blue like her innocent eyes which matched it. A tiara of fragrant flowers held back her lovely straight hair. There was food and wine. There was song and dance......and amidst all this, she vanished!

Some call it a suicide. Others say it was a high tide and the strong waves swept her away. But only a few believe in what could have actually been...
She was a child of the sea, and the sea called her home!

October 03, 2014

A special Dusshra wish

Here's wishing all you blessed people a very happy Dusshra!

Just like Lord Ram won against the wicked king Ravana, may the good in us all triumph over the evil...
Today, let's eliminate at least one bad quality we possess. Be it anger, lust, attachment, greed, excessive pride, jealousy, injustice, cruelty, selfishness or ego...each of these ten vices (represented by the ten heads of the demon king.) need to be recognized and fought against. Let's start with ourselves...

So which head of Ravana (within you) are you going to slay today? :)