Karuna – A ‘special’ mother’s story

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Karuna had been up for hours that night, much before her morning alarm began ringing. The impending engagement of the day and the untold agony it entailed had kept her awake.

Karuna had a good mind to call up the authorities and say she wasn’t coming. Well, that wouldn’t be ethical. After all, she had a reputation to live up to! The IT woman, who had made in spite of all the odds, an inspirational divorcee, who had built up her work single-handedly! No, the role had to be played out!

Sighing deeply, Karuna quickly got ready, left instructions to the nanny and left without saying hello or bye to Ansh, her son.

Karuna had been invited as the chief guest at a medal ceremony of a famous school. She was to give a stirring speech, present the awards to the winning children and congratulate the parents while making adequate appreciative noises. Only she knew, how she hated that task.

Karuna managed to get through her speech with her trademark million-watt smile plastered across, after a warm welcome from the teachers. As the shining students started lining up for their medals and as the announcer waxed eloquent about their achievements, a stab of jealousy and anger shot through Karuna.

She felt like throwing the heavy cups and shields on the breathlessly proud parents who were filming every single rapturous moment. If only she could scream aloud at the unfairness of it all! Hiding her tears, Karuna quickly rushed through the ceremony, almost ran from the venue and hid in a nondescript cafe, quickly ordered a strong coffee and let her mind wander to her painful past.

Why couldn’t her Ansh be like these brilliant children? Intelligent, athletic, super smart or beautiful? Why did she have to be the chosen one for such untold punishment? It was incomprehensible that the breathtakingly beautiful and super smart she and her top grader husband Aman could conceive and birth Ansh.

Ansh was what they called nowadays, a special child. Pretty euphemistic, Karuna spat angrily. Initially, all had been good. Both the partners were earning well, investing in cars, a pad in an upscale part of the town, gold, stocks, in that order. And once into their thirties both decided to have a child. Ansh was conceived after much turmoil and multiple visits to the doctors. As an infant, he was doing ok, more or less keeping with the expected milestones. When Ansh turned two, Karuna began to comprehend something was amiss, something was wrong and Ansh wasn’t like others.

A visit to the doctor confirmed her worst fears. In her anger, she had rejected everything, shut herself away from the prying. But she couldn’t keep away from the loving boy.

Aman took the news very hard. He began to work harder and stayed away from home most of the time as if that would somehow obliterate the harsh truth. Whenever Aman entertained his colleagues, he would insist that Ansh be kept out of sight or put to sleep with the nanny overseeing. Out of sight was out of mind.

The stress, the pretenses began eating into Karuna’s psyche and it was a matter of time that Aman and Karuna separated bitterly. Truth be told, Aman did contribute generously monetary wise, but was that enough?

Karuna quit her job, started a home venture while looking after Ansh. The venture grew so did her knowledge about a special child’s needs. She refused to remarry because she felt if the own father couldn’t wholeheartedly accept his son, why would a stranger do so?

So the periodic bouts anger continued at the unfairness of it all, while she tackled life stoically, earning name and fame across the society.

But the scalding tears were shed in loneliness.

Presently Karuna paid up, confirmed with the nanny that Ansh was ok, roamed around the city, unwilling to go home yet, unwilling to face the home truths yet.

But eventually, she had to. Nanny opened the door and Karuna mechanically walked towards Ansh’s room. Ansh was dabbling with colors making bright pictures while having dinner.

As he saw her his eyes lit up, and he waved to her, beckoning her. As a listless Karuna sat next time, he tapped at his drawing and drawled, “Momma” and then offered a spoonful of his dinner. As the tears threatened to overflow, Karuna managed to gulp the food. Ansh then lay down in her lap.

As she stroked his hair, Karuna was stricken with shame.

How unadulterated was this love, untainted by societal goals or rules? She had this and she was rich. That was enough. What happened to the Karuna in her? Was it just restricted to her moniker?

Ansh was her extension, a part of her being and she would do everything to make sure, he had the best.

Agreed, every day was a struggle and the path ahead utterly lonely, but today was done and today’s lesson had been taught.

Love did heal wounds. For today!

Tomorrow? Who knew!

A mum’s tale

Shantanu was sitting at his usual spot, at the head of the table and I was at my usual spot, near the wall, at the alcove, to his left.
He was all worked up, my Shantanu. I wanted to ruffle his hair and say life would be ok. But I decided against it. He was already late for work you see. He wanted to reach before his team came in. Soon the monstrous morning traffic would consume every available space on the roads and my Shantanu hated traffic. It gave him the headaches, he said.
Shantanu folded the papers and drummed his fingers impatiently on the table. He was hungry. I knew he would be served those bland oats and some fancy fruits whereas Shantanu loved my tangy vegetables and Rotis.
I sighed.
Just then Noyinka walked in from her morning Yoga classes, bellowed for breakfast to the person battling in the kitchen.
“Bhaiyya has to leave, Jhumki!”. Noyinka then plonked herself next to Shantanu and chatted non-stop about the world around, without waiting for him to reply. Poor boy! It has been a Noyinka centric world ever since he married her against my wishes and brought her home.
Oh, I haven’t introduced myself have I? I’m Amma, Shantanu’s mother. Noyinka and I have had a frosty relationship at the best. She tried and I tried too. But somehow it didn’t work out and eventually, we decided to ignore each other while Shantanu fretted and fumed. Fed up he, chose work over us. On hindsight, it turned out a good decision.
Anyways, coming back to the present, I watched Shantanu push that bland fare down his throat, kiss his wife on her forehead and rush out. He didn’t even look at my direction. I sighed again, silently followed him, settled in the passenger seat quickly before the driver revved up the engine. Shantanu hated car-conversations. He checked his mail while the driver cursed, cussed and honked and I sat quietly watching the daily drama. Shantanu got down at his office, told the driver to come back later in the evening after carting Noyinka around and walked inside briskly without saying a word or bidding me goodbye.
I exhaled deeply again. Well, I knew it would happen.
I came back all tired and settled near the alcove.
The blessed maid, knowing fully well that Noyinka wouldn’t be back for some time, was sprawled in front of the telly, thoroughly enjoying some regressive Saas-Bahu serials. How unrealistic and far removed from real-life these soaps are I tell you, two women fighting for control of the house or over a man! Just imagine!
With nothing much to do, I settled next to her, watching those numbing serials in a loop.
After some time Noyinka called Jhumki with a fresh set of dinner instructions. Cursing, Jhumki got up reluctantly, switched off the Telly, without even asking me and got to work.
I decided against letting Jhumki know how I felt, quietly settled by the alcove and waited for the evening to fall.
It was almost 9 pm by the time Noyinka and my Shantanu returned. I beamed the moment I saw him. He briefly looked at me and asked for dinner. Jhumki brought out some unpalatable fare. Shantanu looked exhausted, he sniffed at the food, barely nibbled at any. Noyinka didn’t seem to sense any of this. I sat next to son, wanting to soothe him. But then, suffering is personal, isn’t it? I sat by him without a word.
Dinner done, husband and wife retired to their room. I wanted to follow them there too but then there are some boundaries right?
So I settled in at the alcove for the night.
In my photo-frame, on the photo-stand, which is gathering dust by the second.
This stupid Jhumki doesn’t clean the alcove and my son whom I love so much, so much that, I still stick around, doesn’t change the faded garlands adorning my photo often.
What can I expect from Noyinka anyways? Her happy period began when she became the queen of this abode of mine when I popped off suddenly five years ago.
Maybe I will spook that lazy Jhumki tonight.
Just for fun and bide my time till my Shantanu wakes up!

When Anurag Anand Talks About Writing Political Thrillers in Sensitive Times

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Crime writing is an adrenalin-inducing genre of writing. Readomania has a big and proud list of authors and titles from the genre of crime writing and is bringing them all together for the Crime Writing Festival 2019 in the month of May. Throughout this month, every Tuesday and Thursday, Readomania’s thriller authors will feature in live Twitter discussions and answer budding authors’ questions on everything ‘thrilling’.

The Readomania Crime Writing Festival will also hold a contest on the best ‘original short crime fiction’, the winner of which will receive an ebook publishing deal with Readomania’s digital imprint, ReadoShots. There will also be book giveaways to the best question asked twice every week.

So, be on Twitter this whole month of May and tune in to the Readomania Crime Writing Festival 2019.

Here, Anurag Anand talks about political thrillers.

Writing Political Thrillers in Sensitive Times

By Anurag Anand

Cloaks and daggers and a little bit of gore,

A thriller is but life and a tad bit more.

Greed, lust, ambition, and passions,

Myriad motivations make up its core.

Such a cocktail when one sets out to stir,

Of politics and politicians and their heirs…

The rope is tight and the margin so thin,

Of ruffling feathers there’s always a fear.

The times are sensitive, they say…

For, by old rules, they’ve long ceased to play.

There’s the white and there’s the black,

As we go on to write an obituary for the grey.

A writer’s role, as he takes on such a task,

Is, to be honest, and sincere to his readers’ ask.

And to stand by his pen in the wake of accusations,

Of tilting right or to the left or standing on half-mast.

       Politics ranks right up there with Cricket and Bollywood in terms of the passions it ignites amongst us Indians. The myriad characters and machinations that make up the political landscape are discussed and analysed at length at roadside eateries and office cafeterias alike. Come election season and this buzz magnifies, permeating our lives in more ways than one would wish for. It was this widespread appeal of the subject that got me thinking of a story that finally took shape of an exciting political thriller, The Assassination of Rajat Gandy.

Once I was satisfied with the way the story structure had shaped up, I got down to penning its expanded version. This was the easy part. I had enough material from lifelong observation of the Indian political system – greed and lust for power, duality of behavior and fractured moralities – to allow the characters to chart their own course through the pages of the manuscript. Here, the only choice I had to make was whether or not I should mould my characters on real people. I opted for a balanced approach, drawing inspiration from living politicians, but only just. This allowed the story to develop its own unique flavour, without compromising on its relatability for the readers. After all, it was an honest political thriller that I had set out to write.

It was only once the manuscript was ready and I began sending it out to potential publishers that the sensitivity of the subject dawned upon me. Many of the A-list publication houses loved the plot but were weary of commissioning it for they believed it had the potential of ruffling a few feathers. An unwarranted eventuality that they were not willing to risk for the sake of putting out an exciting story.

Their stance wasn’t entirely surprising. The political narrative in the country has never been as polarised as it is now. People are wedded to political ideologies and personalities almost in a manner of blind faith, not willing to acknowledge any faults in those that they side with and unable to see any positives in those that they oppose. I have seen, on social media and otherwise, normal discussions on politics taking ugly turns and friends turning into foes on this account. Passions have undoubtedly been running high, and it is only fair for entities in the publication business then to want to steer clear of any possible controversies.

I went through the manuscript again, chopping, pruning and rewording the potentially flagrant sections, without compromising the essence of the story. I sought opinions from my friends in the legal fraternity as well, before recirculating the story for evaluation. At this stage, I had realised that the one thing that my story couldn’t be accused of – was being politically motivated. If it had to attract brickbats, it would do so from both polarities of the political spectrum. It was an honest story that didn’t take sides. And this, to me, was a source of much confidence as an author. By way of my sincerity of approach, I had managed to create a sense of balance about the story, albeit not in the appeasing sense, and it was now time to put it out there and let the readers pass their verdict.

I was fortunate that the team at Readomania shared my passion and belief in the story and were willing to burn the proverbial midnight oil to get the book out in record time. The Assassination of Rajat Gandy is now out on the stands, and if the initial reader reviews are anything to go by, it has turned out exactly the way I had hoped it would.

RajatGandyToHell&Back

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Amma & Beta

IMG_2050I took the bite. And I took the plunge finally, after dawdling over the decision for months.  Thus I have come to the profound conclusion (of course subject to market risks) that Binge Watching might be good for the brain but is terrible for the body!

Now that we have dispensed with the conclusion at the very beginning, let us proceed further.

Though my son and most have been raving about ‘Sacred Games‘ I was skeptical about taking the plunge. Why you may ask. ‘She is a prude‘, you may conclude. Well, you will understand my predicament better, once you understand my watching patterns.

Once the family has been fed to my satisfaction and Hmm-Husband vacillating between IPL and sleep while Darling-Dotty wonders looking at her mountainous pile of books, ‘what is the aim of all this grind?’, I finally settle with my plate of piping hot food for some serious streaming on my laptop, content with the knowledge that I have seen this day through.

When the very first scene is all blood and gore, naturally you can’t chew on it. Neither food nor the scene. But yesterday was different.  I was in a benevolent mood towards self, as I managed to finish penning a chapter. I was willing to traverse the whole nine yards. ‘Sacred Games‘ was my reward. Like a true blue binge watcher, gave up on beauty sleep and finished the entire series in less than 24 hours. ( Let me gloat Ya, a record for me 😀 )

All through Ashwathama…Sarama…Yayati, I plodded on, pushed myself,  ‘ab aayega twist, ab aageya twist.‘ Only to have the end credits roll. Concerned that I might have missed a vital point somewhere, I called my son to reconfirm the plot. Apart from the marriage of convenience between Bollywood, Mantralaya, Police, and Ganglands, with religious violence thrown as a seasoning, what else was in the offing? ( of course, this is a very simplistic and uni-directional summarisation of the two-threaded plot)

Wasn’t all this already dealt with in Satya or in Black-Friday?

My son answered, ‘Maybe so. I will Google about Satya. Some Manoj had an awesome role na?”

I counted till three and said, ‘Bhiku Mhatre! Manoj Bajpai!’  Sonny said, ‘Mom, my generation has loved the clarity, the sheer honesty with which this ganging up together has been shown in Sacred Games. It is very raw.’

I: ‘You mean this marriage of convenience between powers-to-be and unsavory fringe elements of the society?’

Sonny: ‘ Yup mom. You will take time to get this!’

At that moment it hit me of how paleolithic I was.

But I wasn’t giving it up so easily. ‘At least you wouldn’t categorize me as pusillanimous. Would you? I am open to watching a farrago of content’

I thought I had the last word.

Sonny: ‘Looks like someone is getting ‘Tharoorised

Uff! Me thinks, I won’t go bananas. I gotta ‘scale‘ it down and watch the boy’s head weight.

Who knows what will crash and when?

We are headstrong alright! Mommieee!

Verbal Violence

marriage3NO‘ isn’t just a word but a complete sentence in itself. Doesn’t need further clarification! ” – AB senior baritoned intensely on the telly.

Uff! How many times will you see this nonsense? Can I see some news now?” Husband took the remote from my hand – grabbed more like it – and began to get high on that raucous pseudo patriotic renditioning of events by that finger-wagging news-caster. I slid down the bed, turned and began to play with my phone.

Without any preamble, the husband switched off and grabbed me. He was panting already. “No, not today, I’m extremely tired.” I tried pushing him gently but he was on the top as always. “This is an everyday story.” I went flat, both in enthusiasm and position. My eyes were wet. He thought passion made them so but only I knew the truth. The deed done in two minutes, he was snoring almost immediately like a boring machine.

I finally slept in the wee hours after liking random posts, happy-couple pics. I woke up with a murderous rage, wanting to pound someone. Husband had been up already, tending to his flower bed in our tiny balcony.

Morning, Why do you get up so late? Now you will rush for work, leave a mess behind, get caught in the morning traffic and blame everyone else for your slothfulness. No wonder your boss doesn’t give you important tasks.

Luckily my brain was still fogged out to get the full blast of his words.

Don’t sulk now. I made coffee for you and told the cook to pack some sandwiches too. Don’t waste time on trying to reverse my instructions to her. Get ready fast. We are leaving in 40 minutes

I don’t remember when I started switching off at his sermons. I walked into the kitchen to pick up my coffee.

The cook smiled at me. “Morning Didi” I grunted in return.

The coffee tasted bitter. As is usual, health-conscious-he decided that one spoon of sugar is enough, knowing fully well that I liked three. As I added sugar, the cook said, “You are very lucky Didi! Saab looks after you so well!”.

Too well!” I muttered.

Where are the sandwiches?” I was mild enough, taking care not show how I felt about her take on my marriage. After all, the husband needed her fawning culinary skills to keep his six-pack thriving.

I sipped the coffee as I scanned the dailies. “You are still here! Go take a bath. We are leaving in 30 minutes. Wear that red dress of yours. It brings out your black orbs very well. I will pick you up from your office at 6:30pm. We are having drinks with the Das’s.” Husband declared.

What? I told you, we have to visit Raji’s studio! I promised her. Today is the last day of her showing.

We can always see her concoctions at her home. Das is my new boss and we can’t say no to him. Good for my career, good for us. Now, go rush. 25 minutes to the takeoff!

Why don’t you go ahead? I will take time, I need to shampoo. I will take an Uber.

Really! Leave the locking to you? Have you forgotten how you left the balcony door open last time and the monkey came in and wreaked havoc? Why spend on Uber when we both are going in the same direction? Why are you wasting time chitchatting? In twenty minutes, I will get the car out. You better be ready.

A hurried bath, and a clumsy effort at getting dressed, I was finally out at the stipulated time. Husband had banged on the bathroom door restlessly 5 times by then. Thank God for my humungous tote, which gladly accepted the dry shampoo, straightener, Kajal and the works. I could spruce up at leisure in the restroom later. I packed in the red dress too.

Why aren’t wearing the red dress I told you to? And please be more presentable than this! We are meeting my boss, not some hippy friend of yours! God knows what you do with all the designer stuff I buy you.” Husband was visibly angry as he locked the front door after multiple checking on the various doors and switches of the house.

I don’t know when his words stopped stinging. “ I will…” I mumbled incoherently.

He dropped me at my office. The entire ride was spent in silence as a punishment to me for my lethargy. I was grateful for the non-communication though.

At 6:30 sharp! In a better shape than this!” Those were his parting words as he sped away.

Have a good day, you too!” I waved at the disappearing car.

Mom called as I swiped my card. “Have you reached your office? Guess who was visiting us? Son-in-law’s Uncle. I was telling him, how lucky you are! How well the son-in-law looks after you…Pray, when will I get the good news?

Somehow the entire building looked blurred through my moist eyes! I must change my mascara and the Kajal pencil.

They keep making my eyes wet.

The Awakening

selective focus of cow photo

I sit next to Gauri, the new calf, half mumbling, as she swats the flies off her back with her tail. “They are marrying me off Gauri! Already!” I whisper. “To a man who is as old as Amma.” Gauri nods. She understands everything I tell her. She also doesn’t think I am stupid like the rest of my family.

Amma says, I should be happy. At least I got an alliance. That too without much dowry. They wanted just a calf, to take me! Will you come with me Gauri?” 

Gauri nods again, this time softly. I think she is searching for her mother worried about the impending separation.

*********************************************************

I and Gauri set foot into an alien home, both alone and scared. We become each other’s confidantes. My new husband, though a man, turns out to be an animal in disguise. While Gauri, an animal by birth, is as humane as possible. As I often sit crying next to her, tending to my sores, I see tears in her eyes too.

Why is he so horrible to me Gauri? Doesn’t he see how young and frail I am? Why did Amma marry me off to this monster without any cross-checking? She used to call me her doll. Was I her burden just to be offloaded on any? He doesn’t even let me talk to Amma. I miss her terribly.

Gauri only moos in solidarity.

**********************************************************

Years crawl by. I’m an Amma now. Though I had to abandon my new-born girls, for that flag-bearer of a son. I was still sedated when the husband took the girls away. I shudder when I wonder what was done to them. I never had the courage to ask the husband. I didn’t want to face the ugly truth. Living in ignorance is safer. In hindsight, maybe they had it easier – rather than living in hell.

My routine is spectacularly simple. Rise in the morning, make food, feed the animals and the husband, send the son Shyam to school, work in the farm, wait for the night to fall, wash, cook, eat, wait for the husband to finish his carnal business and roll off while I grit my teeth and stare at the stars twinkling through the holes in the thatched roof, wash myself and fall off to a dreamless sleep.

This routine is so rammed into my barely registering system, that comforting tears have dried up.

Gauri has also become a mother. But in her case, the female progeny are welcomed with festivities.

I still talk to Gauri and she still moos, occasionally nods. But she has become busier and frailer tending to her growing flock.

Days roll by. Uneventfully. Heavily.

*******************************************************

One evening, the husband comes in agitatedly.

We have to safeguard our cows. Nothing is safe around here. We men, are teaming up and will be doing rounds of the village once the night falls. Give me my roti quickly.

As he takes a morsel, he throws the plate and beats the hell out of me.

Bloody woman, been married for so long, yet cannot rustle up a decent meal. Gauri is the only plus point of marrying you.

Taking his lathi he storms off. He doesn’t see that the lathi is blood tinged and that my forehead is bleeding.

After a while, I get up, wash my wounds, apply some turmeric on them and check on Gauri as instructed.

Gauri licks my hand. She knows. She understands.

Husband comes back after hours with his friends. They are all laughing and talking about teaching some wretched infidel, who was caught carting cattle, a bloody lesson. An example has been set and surely there wouldn’t be a repeat. Even if there is, this time there will be mayhem awaiting the scoundrels.

I shudder involuntarily.

The rowdy gang celebrates with Toddy. The friends leave soon. Husband demands freshly cooked food and sex.

I feed him broth and lie down. He hungrily attacks the food and me. This time I feel utterly violated and debased. I have slept with a murderer. That is a new low, if possible, in my utterly nondescript life.

As he snores, I pick up Shyam, my little satchel and run for my life.

Because the broth had a generous quantity of rat poison.

Before that, I cuddle Gauri saying “I have to leave you Gauri for I am just a wife. He will look after you well because you are the cow. This tyranny has to end now…I have tried to stop this monster from hurting more people. In doing so, if I end up dying, so be it. Just breathing, bearing, living is not enough…I have to do more. If I hope to live for some time I have to make a run for it. Destiny willing, we will surely meet someday.

She doesn’t moo. But she agrees.

What happens tomorrow?

That will depend on my catching the early morning train before anyone spots me.

I am Janki and this is my story…So far!

 

‘House-Wife’ Unplugged

promisesThe humble ‘house-wife’ has to be a pro at so many concepts to make sure her house runs like a well-oiled machine. Don’t believe me?

For example –

Chemistry

She can instinctively rattle off what spices go into which item and unnecessary condiments can ruin a culinary delight.

She easily manages to have a rapport with all the teachers and tutors or with the moms of class WhatsApp group

She can smell the chemistry or the budding romance of her brats.


Physics –

She very adroitly balances so many distinct personalities at home.

See-saws between twenty activities simultaneously.

She is the fulcrum. On the flip side, try applying force on her to get work done! You will just have to accelerate your way out of the tempest that could get unleashed.


Maths –

She knows what sells where at what rate.

Commodities pricing is her playground. Try beating her at this purchasing game.

Just watch her divide the food amongst family. No one remains hungry or unhappy. She also remembers every single mark her brat gets, using it to leverage as and when the situation demands.


Arts (Dramatics/History/Linguistics) –

The stories she can spin at bedtime for the moppets can put a Shakespeare to shame 

Her recounting of all the past misdemeanors to win an argument can put the Gyaani Google, out of business.

Words? Words are all she has, to make the heart melt!


EQ – By god, she knows how to make the maids stick and tick. That itself a herculean task to accomplish.

She knows when to pamper the child and when to bullshit the hell out of her brat. Can see through husband’s tall tales uttered to get out of a sticky situation.

IQ – To manage the above said, her IQ has to be stratospheric ain’t it?

Still any doubts?

So, husbands, you have some very big shoes to fill in.

Time to ramp up your act.

Lady, time to flaunt that killer smile and walk ten feet tall!

/author’s note – it is just a funny write-up, no agenda involved whatsoever – Amen */

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