Thursday, 23 August 2012

Some Excerpts from a Book I'm Writing...

"Spring in the two big cities of a burgeoning India, is reduced to a precursor to the start of a long and hazy summer. Up north, Delhi heaves a sigh of relief having put the freezing months behind but, stops short of rejoicing because the dreadful summer months are already poised to sting. Halfway down, south of the Vindhyas, Bombay welcomes Alphonso mangoes making an appearance at the traffic signals along with the ripe strawberries that are slowly beating the retreat. 

The ‘pleasant’ weather adds to it a bit of a ‘scorch’ and everyone starts counting months to Monsoons when things would ‘cool down’. In the villages and small towns across India, spring is a time for festivities and for thanking nature for a bumper harvest. It is a time to celebrate renewal. It was a warm spring day in both Delhi and Bombay. 

In Delhi, the Gulmohar trees had set the sidewalks aflame painting the town red, while in Bombay, the sea was calmly welcoming tourists on overnight itinerary on their way to Goa for the annual carnival. Air was full of promises and hope and young lovers thronged everywhere making the most of the balmy weather to stroll hand-in-hand, looking into each other’s eyes, promising whispered inanities and stealing kisses, knowing very well that it was all for the time being. Radios blared in the auto-rickshaws everywhere belting out songs of longing and revolt."

On a Sunday morning while Bombay teems with traffic with everyone rushing out for brunches and picnics by the sea, Delhi slumbers, has a lazy breakfast in a huge dining room and then settles into the squishy couch with a remote making plans for an evening of cultural soiree preceded by a slothful siesta in the afternoon. 

On a Sunday morning life stands still in Delhi to breathe in the fresh spring flowers tumbling out of pots in the balconies of the middle class and growing in profusion in the gardens of the rich. Everyone stopped to stare and smile taking pleasure in enjoying the warmth after the bitter winters and a pleasant respite before summer rushes in.

While life in Bombay runs ahead at a breakneck speed, intent on catching time with both hands to wring and extract every bit of pleasure out of it. The day is usually filled with picnics, meetings with friends and relatives and eating out with families or better still, catching back-to-back movies at a multiplex or the latest play at a theatre. No one relaxes in Bombay, not even on a Sunday in spring.

There is laughter everywhere in both the cities. 


In Bombay locals on Monday morning resemble a busy anthill after a few drops of rain have fallen on it. Humans swell into the platforms and there is not even an inch of space to be found anywhere, either inside the carriages or outside. Finally, they trickle out on the street with the determination of worker ants scraping food for the winter months pushing it back to the ant hole and then returning to gather more. Surely, no one needs so much food!

Sometimes, commuters hanging out of the doors of the coach even get pushed out to death because it is impossible to be human in this kind of swarm. Nothing, not even the fear of deadly bomb blasts deters the population from ditching the locals on weekdays.

To Astha the Monday morning crowd brought back memories of the press of bodies at Har-ki-Powri at Hardwar on Maha Kumbh. Hundreds descended on the banks of the Ganges to purge themselves of their sins by taking three dips in the river on the auspicious day that falls once in 12 years. The entire city of Bombay seems to be paying penance for having enjoyed the weekend by jumping into the locals boiling with commuters on Monday mornings.

The sprawling city around his balcony was the capital of free India. It had been built seven times and destroyed as many since the Mahabharata. The ghosts of the packs of wolves must still be lurking around from the days when it was Khandavprastha before the forests were sacrificed by the Pandavas in exile to build the mystical Indraprastha, the abode of Indra, the king of Gods. The packs of animals, roaming freely in their primeval habitat were rendered homeless maybe they died howling at the moon, imploring it to rescue them from mindless hunger that follows loss of habitat. It was perhaps still their ghosts walking the streets possessing the pie dogs on full moon nights, engaging them in a timeless a ritual that was inescapable, even in death. 

Mario looked at the full moon from his balcony and wondered at its luminescence. The night-time smells of tropical flowers filled his nostrils calming him down and lulling him to a sense of peace and probably also addling his senses. In the distance he could hear the dogs howl and snarl probably maddened by the hypnotic pull of the magnetic moon. Didn’t wolves howl on full moon nights?


“What? But, sir that could cost you the movie, it is one of the most high-profile this year!”

“I hate it anyway, so no loss.” The shrug accompanying the short dismissive sentence was slight and nonchalant, artistically measured and perfect in every way. This was a well-rehearsed trademark Joy Kumar gesture, one of many that defined his much-loved bad boy persona onscreen for the millions of die-hard fans.

“But, the girl? Sir! She’ll never ever get any work after this.” The timid voice from a young intern at the back of the group inside the designer van made everyone go quiet for a second, all eyes trained on her and then, pandemonium broke loose. All the senior members of the young team trying to get in a word edgeways, completely ignoring the girl and her point. All but, one man continued staring at her thoughtfully while her stomach churned faced with the famous hooded-eye look the most sought-after romantic hero in the entire country was giving her. This, she thought was the look almost every girl in the hostel had pinned to their locker wishing, sighing and hoping to get one day in person from the man in front of her. Her insides were melting slowly and then her heart almost stopped, skipping a beat when the face staring at her with those intense gooey eyes broke into the famous lopsided smile. “You are right little girl. By God you are right! If Zaraa was to suffer for this then I’d lose face. And my image is important. Right?”

Swallowing a lump the size of a boulder in her throat, the girl nodded vigorously, unable to get even a single word out of her choked mouth. Then he smiled at her once more adding a wink for a good measure making her almost faint for lack of oxygen in her already labouring lungs. Apparently happy with at her reaction, Joy turned his attention to the babble around him calling all discussions to a halt to brief the team of his plan.

"Then there were pictures. Framed pictures, unframed pictures, stuck on the wall with a bit of glue pictures, small pictures, big ones, mediocre ones caught by private camera persons at parties and functions and the beautiful glossy ones that screamed professionalism. Also, there were these other pictures that almost engulfed the space in their profusion. They were choking the room by their presence, screaming for attention. They were strewn all over the place. These were the portfolios pictures left there by people in search of a break. There were pictures of young and old people, boys, girls, eunuchs, dwarfs, giants, wrestlers, body builders, models, happy people, serious people, sad women, brash men, half-clad slip of girls, busty teenagers, mug shots, profiles, bust... 

They were everywhere. Perhaps they had started by being stacked on the table but, many had fallen to the ground. Some were heaped on the corner of a sofa at the other end of the room. There were several box files with pictures stashed inside them on a rickety shelf that may have seen better days standing silently under their weight at another corner. Many had become crumpled and some like the one near her feet had marks of having been trod upon.

These were peoples’ dreams and a testimony to their struggles. Her pictures too must be stashed somewhere in this room but, they had somehow been noticed - it had to be luck. Nothing happened in the industry without luck. She had been chosen over thousands for the job. How could it not work out now? Please, please whoever is in charge of luck in heaven, help!"

The two in the corner thinking they could make a get away started slinking towards the door but, as they reached it, it opened with a huge crash. Arjun breezed in like a torpedo with his fist clenched and finding Ro standing in front of him swung his arm in an uppercut immediately drawing blood from his brother’s broken nose. At the sight of blood splattered all over the carpet and on Arjun and Ro’s clothes, Udi who was still fighting to breathe through his clogged air pipe, fingered his purple hued neck, gurgled once then, gave up and fell unconscious in a heap at Shekhar’s feet.

Mario looked away from the scene at the door to Vikramjeet and mouthed, “rapists and cowards.” Then, sauntering up to the desk where Durga was still sitting calmly and started the process of shutting down the laptop and dismantling his camera.

~ Shoma (WIP novel project!)

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