When Archana Sarat Talks About Getting Inside the Criminal’s Mind

Screen Shot 2019-05-04 at 1.40.25 PMCrime 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, Archana Sarat talks about ‘getting inside the criminal’s mind‘. It is gripping.

5th session of on by  16/5/19, 8PM on ‘Getting Inside the Criminal’s Mind’ The best question wins a copy of her book.

Getting Inside the Criminal’s Mind

By Archana Sarat

Narrating the story of Swarna, in Birds of Prey, through her own eyes, can easily be called as the biggest writing challenge I’ve faced till now. Here was a woman loved and respected by all; she was timid and caring. She loved children and could never harm another living creature. How could she ever be a criminal? A perusal through the newspaper every day is enough to acclimatize us to the fact that criminals come in all shapes and sizes, gender and background. A qualification, or lack thereof, makes no difference to the mind of a criminal.

Causes of Crime

While the government seems obsessed with dealing with the results of crime, it is the duty of writers to ponder about the causes of crime. When we understand what made our criminal what he is, it helps us write and understand him better. Every criminal is aware of right and wrong and they know the potential consequences of their actions. Still, they can shut off this awareness long enough to commit the crime. While some of them regret their actions later, most of them have a fanciful tale of how it wasn’t their fault.

While all criminals refuse to take personal responsibility for their actions and blame others, there are others who would do ‘anything’ in their pursuit of money, power, and control. Some of our politicians are examples of this! For some criminals, this is an easy way out. Stealing the music player or the tyres of a parked car can be an easy way to fill the pocket when compared to working for an entire week to earn the same money.

Understanding the different kinds of criminals, and the causes that shape them can help us write them better. Poverty is the first and primary reason why most people turn to crime. Sadly, the divide between the haves and have-nots is continuing to get wider; crime will only increase in such a society. It is not surprising that most criminals are from the poorer sections of society.

Not all criminals are poor. Some of the goriest crimes are perpetuated by the ruthless rich. What makes a rich person commit a crime? What drives him? What makes him lose his empathy? A history of childhood neglect and abuse is one of the most common reasons for crime in such sections of society.

Not all criminals are abused. Sometimes, a man has everything —a loving family, a good job, financial security—but still, he becomes a criminal. Mostly, in such situations, the man falls prey to a habit of alcohol or drug abuse. A problem of addiction, coupled with low self-esteem, could prove to be dangerous.

Not all criminals are addicted. Sometimes, a person commits a crime in a moment of passion. A flash of fury can be dangerous if a person does not know how to control his anger. One interesting thing to explore in such situations is why does the person have anger management issues?

Not all criminals are angry. Sometimes, the cause of crime runs deeper. Just like any other physical or mental ailment, this kind of criminal suffers from the lack of a sense of empathy and a sense of understanding. Right from a young age, this criminal cannot control himself from injuring others. Sometimes, he feels guilty too. However, his lack of empathy soon overpowers his guilt and he continues his life of crime. This kind of criminal requires psychiatric help.

Stepping into the Shoes

When I wrote about child sexual abuse in Birds of Prey, one of the first questions that was shot at me was whether the abuse was my personal experience. While I was delighted that I could write in such a manner that readers mistook it for a personal experience, writing those particular chapters was traumatic and distressing.

Before working on those chapters, I read extensively about child sexual abuse. Next, I went through medical examination reports and postmortem reports of actual crimes. Some of them had explicit photographs that still haunt me and give me sleepless nights. After that, I had the opportunity to speak to a few victims. I spent more than a month on this research to understand the level of brutality and callousness needed to perpetuate such crimes.

I put myself into the shoes of the victim and agonized over every hurt and every wound. Words froze and it was one of the worst writer’s blocks that I went through. I couldn’t believe how one could do such things to poor, innocent and helpless children.

It was time to put myself into the shoes of the criminal. This can be one of the most challenging activities for any writer. Unless you are a seasoned criminal yourself, it could be near impossible for you to imagine why you are doing what you are doing. This is where it helps to understand the causes of a crime. Now, you have situations to put yourself into that shows you why you became such a person.

Finally, the words started to flow, and the book was written. Getting into the mind of a criminal and exploring your way through it is a must for every aspiring crime writer. It is definitely not a pleasant experience and could scar you for life, but it makes your writing stronger, sharper and better.

 

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The Awakening

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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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Kahani Ek – Teen Endings

 

Kahani #1

“Neha, I’ve chosen a boy for you”

“But Daddy I love someone deeply”

“Girl, Mine works in a Fortune500 company”

“Daddy, mine says I’m his good fortune, has 500 nice things to say about me”

“Neha, my Raj will take you for a cruise on the Thames, for dinner by the Eiffel Tower”

“Daddy, my Rahul will take me to Tirthan and serenade”

“Neha, think about your FB profile after marriage!”

Neha thought deeply.

After fifteen days NehaRaj updated her FB, Instagram with pictures of her honeymoon in Europe with hashtags like #soulmate #truelove

Love is also being practical!

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Kahani #2

“Neha, I have chosen a boy for you”

“But Daddy I love someone else deeply”

“Neha, My choice works in a Fortune 500 company”

“Daddy, my choice says I’m his good fortune and has 500 nice things to say about me”

“Neha, my choice, Raj, will take you for a cruise on the Thames and for dinner by the Eiffel Tower”

“Daddy, my choice Rahul will take me to Nainital and serenade”

“Okay Neha, how do you like your FB profile to look?”

Neha thought deeply.

After a few days, Neha updated her FB profile, Instagram with pictures of her checking into a Grad-School with hashtags like #LoveCanWaitStudiesCan’t  #LifeGoals

Love is also about loving self! Deeply!!

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

Kahani #3

“Neha, I have chosen a boy for you”

“But Daddy I love someone else deeply”

“Neha, My choice works in a Fortune 500 company”

“Daddy, my choice says I’m his good fortune and has 500 nice things to say about me”

“Neha, my choice, Raj, will take you for a cruise on the Thames and for dinner by the Eiffel Tower”

“Daddy, my choice Rahul will take me to Shimla and serenade”

“Okay Neha, how do you like your FB profile to look?”

Neha thought deeply.

After a few days, Neha Rahul updated her FB profile, Instagram with pictures of her checking into an Airbnb with hashtags like #LoveMakesTheWorldBetter #LifeGoals

Because Rahul completes Neha! Neha treasures Rahul

Because True Love is a difficult treasure to find and hold onto!

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Dilemma

On a stuffy day, the husband went off on his weekly trip to the districts to oversee and number crunch for his happening business.
The wifey was bored to death because the house was running like a well-oiled machine, thanks to the lovely Bangla machinery who had their own separate entrance to the pristine premises ( by the euphemistically worded ‘service entrance’ )
The bacchus had their day-long school and then in the evening the driver would cart the brats to their various classes (football/swimming/dancing etc)
So the wifey decided a day with her intimate girl-gang was her savior from boredom.
The snazzily named WhatsApp group buzzed like mad and the girls set up a date for the afternoon.
The wifey pitched for the talk of the Gaon, the newly opened coffee shop which served ridiculously priced, fancily named potions which were akin to dishwater. This coffee shop was tucked in a happening book-store. Maybe some titles which promised much gravitas could be procured too. These pathos pages looked good on the coffee table next to the leather sofa. Plus these titles were sure-shot conversation starters where the assembled guests tched-tched in empathy and then moved onto discussing their latest holiday in Tuscany.
The wifey fired up her laptop and Googled ( Funny how a proper noun has become a properly acceptable verb) about the said coffee-shop, clicked on images to check out the interiors. The girls would be Instagramming later about the date. The pics had to be ‘Ohh-La-La’.
And the wifey sat stunned. ‘She was shocked’ would be an understatement. Someone had hit her in the solar-plexus and continue to pummel her in the gut.
The wifey enlarged the image for greater clarity. It was unmistakable. The man in the picture with his hands cupping his cheeks, and a salivating puppy dog expression was her husband alright, listening with rapt attention to a woman in black. She had her back to the camera, so only her long shiny tresses were visible.
More than the woman in the picture, the glint and the looney smile on her husband’s face, burnt the core of the wifey.
When was the last time he had listened to her thus, putting all his paraphernalia down and gazing into her black orbs?
Uff? This was unbearable. True, it was an innocuous snap. God knows who all had seen this and laughed behind her back. What gory stories did this picture hide?
But did she not go out with her male friends? Of course, the husband knew all about it! Did that settle the issue then?
The Whatsapp group buzzed questioningly. She ignored her phone as she tried to make sense of her predicament.
Should she question the husband or not?
And the husband’s call was coming in to announce that he had landed safely.

Should she pick the phone and lash out straight away or wait for him to come back to his lair? The phone went quiet but a loving ping with red hearts arrived. It was the husband confirming that he had landed and was hoping to wind up the work soon as he was missing her already. This was definitely new. Missing her and sending red hearts – What was happening. What obvious signs had she missed?

The wifey then canceled the date using the ‘That time of the month‘ clause, got ready quickly taking care to dress conservatively. She didn’t want any undue attention on her you see. She then set out to the coffee shop in question.

The coffee shop at that hour was barely occupied. Suited her just fine. She disappeared into a wing selling Non-fiction, which gave her a 180-degree view of the coffee shop. The morning shift was changing and the new cashier was taking over.

Wait, there was something vaguely familiar about him. Trim, dressed in black and long tresses with a hint of golden highlights. As he turned back to adjust his counter, the wifey stared at the stark motif on his T-shirt. It was a giant slash across 377 written in bold golden letters on a  rainbow flag. The very same motif that was on the black shirt of the lady whom the husband had been listening to.

The wifey froze.

She couldn’t do this guessing game anymore. She marched straight to the counter and cooed softly, “Hi there, I was going through the images of your coffee shop and couldn’t help noticing your T-shirt. You see this picture on my mobile? This too has the same design. What does this mean?”

The man at the counter stared at her and gravely asked, “Are you from the press?”

“No”

“That sign means down with Article 377! LGBTQ lives matter!”

The wifey didn’t quite know how to proceed now. She decided to take the harakiri plunge anyways. “Oh, I didn’t know that. So you must have many supporters then. Like this one” She said tapping at the picture on her mobile.

“Why that’s me in that pic.” Nodded the man happily. The wifey now gulped.

“And this one?” She was barely audible when she pointed to her husband’s face.

“Ahh! The Man! He is an ardent supporter of our gay cause. He is a dear friend of mine. He often comes here to prep us up.” said the man with a flourish.

“Dear friend huh? Prepping up huh? Really?” A girl who was whipping a cup of cappuccino guffawed loudly, winked at the man and backslapped him while the man blushed to a deep red.

The wifey stared at them blankly. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t sit. She couldn’t comprehend.

So her husband had colorful secrets and she was the perfect dour cover. And now what?

The wifey came home eventually and waited for the husband’s version of the naked truth while she went through their joint accounts, immovable and movable assets.

Both had some cleaning up to do. One had to come clean. The second had to clear.

Because marriage is also about being practical!

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When Padma Bani Paula – The background Story

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What do you do when a seemingly harmless email pops up, asking your permission to publish your story?

First, you check the date. Nope, it ain’t April 1st. Then you pinch yourself. Having screamed out aloud, you then trawl the emailer’s online presence. Once satisfied with the credentials, you then succumb and open the gateways to the dreams, that you didn’t know existed!

Five years back, if someone told me, that I would be a story-teller one day, I would have wryly remarked, ‘that’s a tall story’. After all, I’m not trained in the subtle nuances of this tricky language nor did I harbor any dreams of getting published. Ever! Mind you, I had even declared Florence Nightingale to be a promiscuous one! Well, I thought, that was a terrific adjective. 

But when Readomania gave a new direction to the meandering Moi, I started moonlighting seriously as a tale-spinner. Taken up by my giddy new avatar, my mater and pater took their roles of direction-givers very seriously. I would often get FaceTime lessons from them on sentence formation and grammar intricacies. I finally drew a line when my daughter threatened to do the same.

I learnt early on in life, ‘either you like it or lump it’ and the easiest way to cope with life is to laugh at it. I started dabbling in funny pieces, as they resonated with others.

Readomania ran a couple of story-contests where the requisite genre was humor. I wrote a small story based on the ladies around my condo.

This time the Gods and their Goddesses were solidly on my team, though I hadn’t promised them any special services of 100 laddoos or 10 coconuts. This story struck a chord with Readomania and a germ of a novel was born.

And a meeting with the head-honcho, Dipankar Mukherjee, was set up at a happening coffee-shop.

I still remember the first time, I was going to meet Dipankar. I was figuring out mentally, ways to sound intelligent. This was a novel idea you see! I had to assimilate so much and I was barely equipped.  Meanwhile, my excited young daughter came running and offered me her school notebook (with the school logo, picture, and postal address) to take notes. My husband sagely suggested taking my red pen along.

(I also moonlight as a tutor! I tell you, it is all about confidence! With a straight face, you can pull off so many fast ones on the unsuspecting public 😀 )

If only I had recorded Dipankar’s absolutely nonplussed reaction for posterity! What violent churn of emotions went through his mind as he saw me plot-plotting with a red ink pen in a school notebook! Must have had a second thoughts about the whole deal surely.

Now that the story was progressing well (on paper that is), a laptop was the next natural acquisition. I wanted the best ( My dear Mac-Air, my partner in this writing journey) and I wasn’t settling for a gift. After a slog at work, with my husband playing the Santa, on a cold Christmas afternoon, we brought her home.

The setting was ready, yet there was barely a skeleton of a plot.

How much could you stretch a 200-word story? Stretch I did!

Having wound the story up at 22k, I felt I had arrived. Dipankar was patience personified and it was back to the drawing board. Apparently, I had to add more 😀 So I took expert advice.

Deepti Menon and Vasudha Chandana Gulati read the first draft and gave their inputs. Arpita Banerjee was extremely supportive during the initial stages. Indrani is probably the nicest editor one can ask for. I’m sure Gods were remembered by all of them, at various stages. (My dear supportive fellow Readomaniacs )

It was a tremendous learning experience. Multiple layers were added and characters with enough back stories surfaced. Slowly the story began to stitch itself seamlessly.

During these iterations, for a while, my magnum-opus remained just that.

‘A work in progress’! (just like me)

While the rest of the world zoomed ahead brilliantly, inflicting me with those eternal existential dilemmas.

What is the worst emotional hara-kiri an author can do to self during this waiting period?

Get those very colorful and lyrical invites to the book launches of friends, foes, and countrymen, just to add some gravitas ( more like filling the seats actually ). Talk about rubbing salt on the wounds!

Vexed, I continued to attend those book launches, looked wise, picked up a copy, made some noise about how well my 9th draft was coming along (if someone asked, that is) and dragged myself home.

I became an expert at grinning and bearing it. ‘Someday I shall prevail!’ was my clarion call.

Destiny was with me. And just like that, one fine day, the editor sent a cryptic mail – ‘This is good to go’.

And that’s When AJ Bani Author!

A long cherished dream was finally a reality. I made it!

I don’t know what tomorrow holds nor do I want to unduly worry about it. I want to savor this moment, cherish and lock it up forever. Right now, I feel at the top of the world.

I keep my fingers crossed and pray that the world embraces ‘When Padma Bani Paula’ like Shah Rukh welcomes his heroines – Dono Bahein Poora Phelake :D

WPBP – my second chance at acing Karma!

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My labour of love has reached many homes

Now please utter those three super magical words.
‘Bought Your Book’ 😀

Please click on the link shared below 🏵

https://www.amazon.in/dp/9385854615

#Readomania

When death comes calling

love3I had been very restless since afternoon.

Apparently, one’s sixth sense warns you when something terrible is about to happen. I couldn’t quite put my finger to it, but I knew, all I had to do was to wait for the Tsunami to unleash its expected destruction.

I haven’t made my introduction yet have I?

I am…Why go into names? I am one of those thousands of brides whose husbands have gone back to the war front to guard the nation or to war-torn nations to earn some much-needed moolah, after impregnating us.

So that I’m not alone in his absence. I have someone to tend to, attend to.

How many tearful and sleepless nights had been spent clutching the cold pillow for comfort?

How many festivals went by praying for his safety, while every inch of my core pined for his smile, the twirl of his moustache whenever he saw me eyeing his broad back surreptitiously?

One fateful day, he became a mere statistic for the government. They declared him, ‘missing in action’.

And my reality came crashing down and an ambivalent paradise became my escape.

The rest of the world got on with its business while I oscillated between prayers and pathos!

Was he there or not? Am I a wife or a widow? With every turn of the calendar, our memories together started getting hazier. A vigil was all I had. I barely remembered the timber of his baritone. He even smelt and looked different in my dreams.

I was angry with myself. I wasn’t even loyal or devoted to the idea of my missing-for-long-husband.

What had I become?

The mounting debts, growing kids, whining elders and reducing income had robbed me of my softcore.

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And the Tsunami came as silently as possible but with an unforeseen vengeance.

A clinical declaration by the powers-to-be said, my husband had been shot dead. And the body hadn’t been found yet.

But the mourning by all had started almost immediately.

The depressing wailing was soon seeping into the muddy crumbling walls whereas I just wanted to sleep.

A painless sleep. A dreamless sleep. A contented sleep.

I sat with the wailing mob, watching them beat their chests, watching the evening shadows make patterns on the closing-in-walls.

I thought of running away from this morbid courtyard but I still participated in the proceedings wordlessly.

My eyes were totally dry. Why wasn’t I crying?

My aching breaking body gave out a huge sigh of relief.

I realized I didn’t have to tend to his memories anymore.

I could exhale. I could breathe. I could restart from where I had paused my life. I could move on.

Oh, Lord! Why was I turning out to be this monster? Why wasn’t I grieving?

I then understood, because I loved him so, his death shouldn’t be my sentence.  He was in a better place and I was too.

I had punished myself enough by vacillating between hope and despair. Now I had a closure.

It was time to let go. It was also the time to cherish him and grieve too.

And I crumpled up and bawled away.

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39 lives!

And so many interconnected dependent lives

Pregnant Dreams and Hopes on pause

Now a mere mirage of 4 years of relentless, restless wait

Cruelly wiped off with a mere declaration.

Will there be closure? Even peace?

When you have a family to come back to You are one of the luckiest on Earth!

 

/* For those who lost their loved ones in the line of duty. A loss is tough to deal with but the uncertainty is even tougher*/