Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Book Review: Words of Smiths- An eclectic collection of poetries

Book: Words of Smiths
Publisher: All About Books Global
Page: 122
Price: Rs 199
Genre: Poem/Poetry

Review: ‘Words of Smiths’ is an anthology of poems inked by young budding and amateur Indian poets. Presented collectively by WizKonect and ‘All About Books Global’, this book is an endeavor to bring to foray some hidden talents and some thirsty desires of scores of young writers.

The poems which the book comprises of have been selected out of a nationwide poetry contest and hence are a potpourri of romance, pathos, joy, grief, love, lust, destruction and death. Majority of the poems, nevertheless, are love poems which are undoubtedly the firm favorites with the young Indian minds. It is needless to say that most of the poets whose works have got published in this volume are young hailing from various towns & cities of India and mostly falling in the age-bracket of 20s.

It is difficult to review each and every single poem that finds space in this issue. Some of them are heart-wrenching while some dabble in satire, and some meander over to the tabooed territories of adultery or unrequited love. Some poems look pretty amateurish, while there are some which would spellbound the reader or provoke some rich contemplation.

There is this poem by Sukan Dev titled as ‘The Sane Insanity’ that narrates the tale of a female foetus and   speaks of the bestiality of cruel human society. Its lines go deep into the heart-

“At a very special moment,
Dear, I was conceived
Ignorant of the ghastly torment
By which my origin deceived………
Sometimes now I ponder
God has been fair to me unborn
For me cheated even of a beginning, I wonder
What would it be for all those SHE born?”

Another poignant poem titled ‘Silent Night’ speaks of love lost and the pain which follows. Coming from the quill of Ila Garg, an excerpt goes as-

“The one who was always there for you
Suddenly without a word leaves you…
Tearing your heart apart, he goes away forever,
Leaves with unfulfilled promises, and comes back never.”

Different poets touch upon different subjects sharing the commonality of the element of pain. If Abhishek Banerjee and Urvija Rishi present agony of ‘Solitude’, and ‘Loneliness’, then Gaurika Bathla pens a poem of hope, aspiration and apprehension in ‘Tomorrow’, and Saloni Khurana whips social norms in ‘Dowry’.

Overall, ‘Words of Smiths’ is a set of beautiful poems which can be read and reread during pensive and reflective moments of life. They may not make you feel cheerful about life but would give you something which you can relate to. They would show you the truth on your face in a harsh and oh-so-painful way!

['Words of Smiths' can be bought at great discounts from uRead.com using this link.]

-Ritesh Agarwal

[This review has been written on special request by the publication house 'All About Books Global'.]

The Hungry Tide Review: Amitav Ghosh spellbinds at Sundarbans

Book: The Hungry Tide
Author: Amitav Ghosh
Publisher: Penguin Viking
Pages: 430
Price: Rs 399
Rating: 4.2 out of 5

Review: ‘The Hungry Tide’ is one of those rare books which will not just amaze you with its detailed analysis of human relationships but will also enchant you with the unblemished narration. Besides, it is a book having intriguing settings which itself raises the interest level of the reader to meteoric heights. And Amitav Ghosh is one of those authors who can be compared with none other than Amitav Ghosh himself. He elicits so much respect, bordering on reverence, that as a heavy reader, you immediately begin to look up to him as a man with extraterrestrial intellect and eruditeness.

‘The Hungry Tide’ is the story of many lives of many people residing in the ‘tide country’, better known as the Sundarbans. This book is a foray into the lives of all those countless, nameless and faceless people who brave the tide and the tiger to survive in this Mangrove-infested unfriendly geographical area. For a common city-dwelling reader, this book will be a journey into an unchartered world where life does not come easy and every moment poses a battle for survival.

Spread over 430 pages, the author’s pen has so much to tell that it is frightfully hard to jot down a synopsis of the story. There are multiple characters and their lives do get crisscrossed as emotions overlap each other and new relations are born while some old ones die. Still, it would be fair to say that ‘The Hungry Tide’ is essentially the story of Piya and Kanai, the lead protagonists with completely different backgrounds, professions and mindsets. It is through sheer serendipity that the two chance upon each other in the ‘tide country’ and soon fate strings them together with fetters of companionship. While Piya is a cetologist who travels to Sundarbans to study the elusive dolphins, Kanai is summoned there by his aunt Nilima who wants her nephew to read the notebook left behind for him by his late uncle Nirmal.

Other vital characters whose lives entwine alongside them are Fokir, Moyna, Horen and Tutul. Then there is the late Kusum whose fiery personality and revolutionary spirit come to the fore once Kanai starts reading his uncle’s notebook.

The book is charged with heavy yet restrained emotions. Be it the subdued silent love story between an America-bred Piya and a boatman Fokir, or be it the love-hate camaraderie shared between Piya and Kanai, or be it the bitter-sweet symphonies of matrimony which Fokir and his wife Moyna experience- all these human relationships have been explored by the author in their profound and precise vividness.

The crafty author stitches up an engaging style of narration where he shifts from one story to another in every succeeding chapter with the ease of a seasoned writer. The language is so delightfully chaste and idiomatic that the book can be used as a case-study for amateur writers and students. The depth which Amitav penetrates in the crevices of human hearts and merely through use of words is a subject of sheer incredulity. 

Despite being a thick volume, ‘The Hungry Tide’ has no dull moment. The plot is devious, the narrative is poetic and the characters are potent. From death to life, from romance to malice, from hope to desolation, from thrill to quiet, from drama to history, from religion to revolution, from the tabooed tiger to the marauding cyclone-this book has got it all.

There are books, there are good books, and then there are books like ‘The Hungry Tide’. In one single word, it is a rhapsody. Ghosh, simply, sweeps you off with his tide of words.

-Ritesh Agarwal
Email: ritzy182000@gmail.com

[This review has been written in association with MySmartPrice/Books, the best place to find out the lowest price of books, mobiles and a whole lot of mercantile products.]

Saturday, April 27, 2013

10 reasons why you should try TRESemme

TRESemme, as a brand, has developed a niche of its own in the market dedicated to hair care products. TRESemme’s shampoo and conditioner have become the firm favorite of many women all over the world, and its popularity continues to soar with each passing day.

No matter whether you have good hair or bad, you should give this product a try. And it’s not just because it is one of the most recommended and innovative products for hair repairs! Here are 10 reasons why TRESemme can weave magic into your tresses:

i.                    For hydration: The stifling heat and the lack of nutrients in our sedentary diet have accentuated the cases of dehydration of manes. TRESemme is tailored to moisturize and condition the parched areas of your scalp to provide hydration.
Jingle to remember:

“If TRESemme is what you try, your hair won’t remain dry”

ii.                  To smoothen rough hair: Along with dryness, roughness is another major complaint by most 21st century women. Because of its high-formula protein and vitamin, TRESemme reduces the roughness and smoothens your manes with regular use.
Jingle to remember:

“If you suffer from rough hair, then TRESemme will take your care”

iii.                To savor the fragrance: TRESemme is extremely fragrant and its smell would brush on to your hair leaving behind a that-boy-is-gonna-fall-for-me feeling.
Jingle to remember:

“TRESemme radiates that awesome smell, which can cast that drool-worthy spell.”

iv.                 Reduces hair fall: TRESemme, if used for a few months, would definitely reduce hair fall (if you are suffering from the problem). With its deep nourishing and conditioning properties, it can completely arrest hair fall in women of all ages.
Jingle to remember:

“If you are depressed over hair fall, then TRESemme sure shall make it stall”

v.                   No itching: Even though the market is flooded with myriad hair care products, many of them cause extreme itching and irritation. The great thing about using TRESemme is that it does not cause any such problem.
Jingle to remember:

“TRESemme comes with special innovation, now you’ll face no itch, no irritation”

vi.                 Say goodbye to frizzy hair: While some shampoos make your hair frizzy and pretty unmanageable, TRESemme comes with no such adverse effect. This is another reason why it should find a place in your wish list this summer.
Jingle to remember:

“If you have hair that gets frizzy, then TRESemme shall make things so easy”

vii.               Add luster to your manes: TRESemme adds luster and shine to your manes, which automatically make you feel like a princess. For silky, smooth and shimmering tresses, this product is the perfect thing for you.
Jingle to remember:

“If you want hairs with shine and gloss, then TRESemme is every shampoo’s Big Boss”

viii.             Used by professionals: TRESemme is used not just by commoners but also by professionals. Models and actresses bank on it to get those swoon-worthy, ramp-worthy lustrous and lovely locks. Bollywood actress Diana Penty is one of the many celeb users of the product. Watch this video to find what she has to say about her experience- http://www.youtube.com/user/tresemmeindia
Jingle to remember:

“If Diana Penty’s locks you really envy, then why not shop for the reliable TRESemme”

ix.                 Convenient to use: TRESemme’s packs are designed in a manner that you always enjoy complete control over the quantity you wish to squeeze out. Besides, the product can be found easily in both online and offline stores. You are not going to face any hassle in this context.
Jingle to remember:

“It’s time to STOP hair abuse, TRESemme is so easy to use”

x.                    Affordable: TRESemme is one of those rare things in the world which is affordable and excellent at the same time. If you prefer economy while grooming, then this product should satisfy you completely.
Jingle to remember:

“If you are always pressed for money, then TRESemme is your honey bunny”

[This post has been inked for TRESemme hair care product in association with IndiBlogger.]

Monday, April 22, 2013

Don’t Walk Away So Far

Don’t walk away so far….
That you walk away too far…
That when you choose to return
That if you choose to return,
You may find me gone…..

Don’t walk away so far….
That you leave me so behind
That you make my hopes fall…
That you steal my memories all…
That you can no more hear my call…
That you leave behind a wall
Too strong…too opaque…too impregnable and tall……

Don’t walk away so far….
That you seem a distant star…
That your picture gets to blur
That your memory begins to pale…
That in loving you
That in waiting for you
I may entirely fail…..

-Ritesh Agarwal

The Power of Silence

'Silence' is a highly misunderstood word. It does not bring complete silence after all. It does come with its characteristic creepiness and puts its fingers over the lips of all those cacophonic noises. But then, it also gives birth to new sounds- the ticking of the wall clock, the chirp of the cricket and the 'meow' of that faraway cat....

Silence is powerful…more powerful than the sound it silences! A silent stare has greater power than an absolute shriek, unspoken words carry a deeper message than the ones which are uttered aloud, and the silence that follows a silence is more all-encompassing than the sound which precedes it.
Silence may appear to be silent but it is actually multilingual. It can speak many languages and can elicit more emotions than any word or several words taken together. Silence of a mother projects anger, silence of a friend depicts disappointment or betrayal, silence of a lover portrays pain, and silence of a life chronicles death.

It is the power of silence which often leaves us speechless after a hypnotic spectacle or a great artist’s dazzling performance, for no word can evoke an emotion as strong as silence can. And silence, after all, is the best form of adulation, applause and even envy.  

If agree, then you readers may leave your wordprints behind by inking a comment below, or you may choose to wield your power of SILENCE. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

My bucket list: 10 things I wish to do before I die

After keeping all my years of clandestine desires tucked guardedly in my inner closet, today I have decided to strip my heart. This is a personal list of things that I always wanted to do, things that I have still not been able to do, and things which I wish to do before I die….yes, ladies and gentlemen, here comes my very own…bucket list.

1.      Getting published: I am a freelance writer by profession and a story-teller by choice and passion. So, there are no ifs and buts about this one. I have got to get published. It is one of my most ardent desires, and, of late, this desire has taken shape of a frenetic obsession. I hope one day you readers would hit the pillow with a copy of my book in your hand. And that day would come indeed, coz I refuse to die…until and unless I get published. After all, my legacy needs to be left behind ;)

2.      Owning a pet dog: As far back as my memories would take me to, I can easily remember nurturing this desire all the time. Even as a child, I would scurry off to a flat on the top floor of my building to fondle the pet dogs they had. My mom would never allow me to get a pet dog citing several reasons. She would quote financial problems and the usual worries about ‘who would potty train the dog and wipe off his shit’! But one day, I do intend to bring home a dog, perhaps sometime in the later stages of my life.

3.      Learning to play a violin: I’m not a big music buff and I hardly listen to songs. But I do have a penchant for melodious symphonies and have always nourished the desire to hold and play a violin. I do wish to take up a tutorial on it sometime during my remaining years.

4.      Parasailing: This is a desire which has taken birth in recent times. Of all the adventure sports, I am most fanatic about parasailing (I’m scared of bungee jumping, and do not have any swimming skills to go for scuba diving). I almost had this wish fulfilled on my recent trip to Digha and Mandarmani (beaches in West Bengal), but owing to adverse wind conditions, they denied permission. The next time I hit a beach destination, I would make sure to parasail.

5.      Visiting the Eiffel Tower with my loved one: Ever since I saw the Shammi Kapoor-Sharmila Tagore block buster ‘An Evening in Paris’ as a child, I have always craved to visit this so-called city of romance. Visiting the Eiffel Tower and standing/sitting/walking hand in hand with my loved one has always been a secret fantasy.

6.      Going on a wildlife trip or safari: Though I do not watch TV these days, except for an odd occasion or two, when I do feel like turning it on, my fingers instinctively begin to look for ‘Animal Planet’, ‘Discovery’ and ‘National Geographic’. I’m a wildlife buff, but have never been on a wildlife trip. It is my great yearning to visit some wildlife sanctuary. And if I can have it my way, I would opt for the Amazon Rain Forest. Ah, anacondas, so deliciously sinister…my eyes are hungry!!

7.      Marveling at the underwater world: I do have a strong fascination for the underwater world. And even though, scuba diving may not come easy to me, I am game for anything which can give me a glimpse of ‘what lies beneath’. May be through an aquarium or through some other means, I hope I will, one day, get a chance to witness what the oceans hold in their underlying bellies.

8.      Catching a comet or an asteroid: I remember having spent a couple of nights on the terrace during my earlier years when a comet or asteroid was expected to dazzle the sky. But I have never quite got a good view of such a spectacle. I do hope to catch it offguard one day when it is breezing past our planet and is unaware of my voyeuristic eyes.

PS- It is, of course, much more appealing to get hold of a piece of asteroid or to even land on extraterrestrial places like moon and Mars. But that would be fanciful and inanely unrealistic.

9.      Meeting Kritika and Rose: In the second half of the year 2011, I bumped into two most wonderful people in Kritika and Rose (her good name is Shweta) on Facebook. And I’ve found two most endearing friends in these two. We are, however, distanced by geography since they reside in different parts of the country. It is preposterous to even think of bidding the world adieu without meeting them at least once. Hopefully, the day is not too far away!

10.  Winning an IndiBlogger award: Though I have been regularly partaking in most of the contests organized by Indiblogger (a blogging platform for Indian Bloggers), I have never won any trophy. Either due to lack of quality or due to dearth of votes, I had to turn back dejected. But as is said, it is better late than never, and I do hope that one day I would have an IndiBlogger trophy to flaunt on my blog.  

~Ritesh Agarwal


17th June, 2013: I have achieved #10. I have won an IndiBlogger prize today for the TressMe contest. It wasn't the big trophy though, but a secondary prize of Shopper's Stop Voucher.

29th June, 2013: I have achieved wish #1. I got published in an anthology called 'Lovelets'. My short story 'Love in the times of War' got selected. Today, I got hold of my author's copy and saw my name in print!

30th July, 2013: I have achieved wish#6. On 24th July, 2013, I visited Bharatpur Bird Park (Keoladeo National Park) in Rajasthan.

19th February, 2014: Achieved #9 partially. Met Rose (Swetha) in Goa during our trip.

27th March, 2014: Didn't technically achieve #2 coz I didn't get a dog. But brought home my first pets (rabbits Hunny and Bunny) on 27th March 2014 from my friend Mickey.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Horror story: Near…nearer…nearer

If you are expecting a young, handsome man like me, or for a debonair siren who turns out to be the evil blood-sucker towards the end, then you are in for a major disappointment. The protagonist of today’s bedtime story is ‘you’.

Yes, you are walking down the street on a dark moonless night. No, it is not my figment of imagination and neither is it some hand-knitted fancy tale! In no unreal terms and in a moment of complete sanity, you are actually straddling down that street on a dark moonless night.

You are not sure why you are out of your secure walls at this ghostly hour of the night. You are not sure where precisely you are heading to. But you know that you are not dreaming, and neither are you sleep-walking. Everything is real…as real as the ghost you are likely to encounter tonight. After all, without the moon at the helm of the sky, the dark clouds get all the more fearless. They seize possession of the entire sky and not a single star is permitted to shine down.

You are striding past the bucolic old shop. You used to buy books from this place when you were a child, some 20 years back. But now, it stays locked and chained with metals which have dismally rusted. The pesky old man who ran the shop had hanged himself in a stroke of delirium. But you are unnerved; you walk on.

The eerie-looking peepal tree comes to sight. Even in the complete darkness, you can discern its green foliage silhouetted against the black lake. You have grown up hearing haunted tales about this peepal tree. Your mind is blurting out a warning. You must not go near it. You have already stepped inside their premises. It is a tabooed territory. Who knows what awaits you there? Back out, says the mind. But your frenzied soul has taken possession of you. You continue to trudge along. Your pace is brisk, even brisker than the heart which is thumping with indecent loudness. The tree is coming near…nearer…..nearer

You come to a halt by the tree. The lake is looking serene. You can feel a pleasant breeze washing over your face. The silence seems too silent to be true. And suddenly, you smell something…something really bad. The stench is nauseating and it is getting more and more powerful with every passing second. You glance around and try to trace the source of the stench amidst the sea of darkness. But that thing is invisible. The smell is becoming overwhelming. It is coming near….nearer…nearer

You know that you have got to run. But is it too late? Have you been spotted, and marked out for tonight?
You muster all your strength and make a sprint. You dash past the tree, and towards the unknown arms of sepulchral darkness. You run with all your might without ceasing till you have outrun the stench. Your legs are growing weary, but you can still hear your heart pounding feverishly. Your face and arms are all sweaty. But the wind has turned a biting cold. You wonder why the sudden chill. Is the nature conspiring against you, or is it some impish sport of the cloud? Or have you reached the graveyard which you know should have arrived by now.

Your legs have begun to wobble. They are tiring out. But you cannot afford to stop running. Your heart won’t listen to you. There is a cold breath of ice which is hitting the nape of your neck. This can be nothing more than the wind which has chosen to turn hostile today. Or it can be something more sinister, something more harmful, something more vengeful.

Yes, that graveyard must be around. You can make out the smoky figure of the ruined church which overlooks the gloom. You can feel the presence of the rotting weeds. You are terrified, lest those weeds would jut out from the ground and run themselves all over you. You can feel the existence of death. It is there. You are being watched. The silence is so profound that it is deafening to the ears; the darkness so absolute that your eyes have been blinded.

You have lost sense of time. You do not seem to realize that dawn is approaching fast. It is your only hope. But it is still some distance away. The cloud is still murky and the sky mysterious. Can you survive this night?
Your legs have resigned and so has your heart. You slump down over the grassy weeds. You can feel the stony tomb below you. Why the ground rumbles? Is something breathing beneath?

There is a rustle of the leaves. You look across your shoulder. The darkness is impenetrable. In the pregnant silence, your brain calculates fast. Was it the wind again? Or some insect or a rat? You train your ears and wait. You expect another rustle. You hold your breath willing the leaves to rustle again. Perhaps, a presence would be comforting. Aloneness is frightening. But no, the rustling never comes. The silence returns with an intimidating force. You let out your breath. It breaks the stillness for a moment, but silence claws back winningly.

You wait, you wait, you wait. You wait for something to happen. But your effort is going in vain. Your expectations aren’t coming true, and it is the unknown you fear.

The hours trickle by. The clouds seem to fade. Dawn is getting near…nearer…nearer

And then you hear a morbid sound. A rusted chain is being dragged. You feel that stench again. The icy wind seems to howl once more. Your legs have already surrendered. You cannot get back on foot.  
Dawn is just some minutes away. But the stench is turning stronger. The chain is getting dragged…near…nearer…nearer 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I too had a love story Review: A tear-jerker till the last page

Book: I too had a love story
Author: Ravinder Singh
Publisher: Srishti Publishers & Distributors
Genre: Romance
Pages: 213
Price: Rs 100
Rating: 4 out of 5

Review: ‘I too had a love story’ is the debut novel of young Indian author Ravinder Singh. This novel penned in an autobiographical style is highly poignant, painful and gripping, and has catapulted the author into the league of national bestsellers. It is not a literary masterpiece by any means but will wrench your heart apart if you happen to be a hardcore devotee of romance.

The story traces the real-life tale of the author and introduces itself with the catch lines ‘do love stories ever die’ and ‘not all love stories are meant to have a perfect ending’! Thus, the reader is made aware, on the onset, that the climax is an unhappy one, a la that tear-jerking Titanic.

The plot, therefore, is fairly predictable. However, it has its own trajectories and there are moments which would send those vibrations of shock pulling you out of your bed late at 3 am (if you are a late night reader a la me)! But admittedly, the novel is noteworthy not for its knowable plot or average narration but for the emotions which overflow in an intoxicating overdose.

To serve a gist- Ravinder and his old friends chance upon a reunion and debate about finding their perfect matches from online matrimonial sites. While the rest head back to their old office routine, the protagonist Ravinder, in one stroke of serendipity, opens a matrimonial account and bumps into a pretty young Khushi.
The next few pages get lost in their slow but sure development of friendship, affection, love and desire. The two, demarcated by geography, connect through technology, with internet and mobile stitching up a 21st century love story.

And unlike many real-life love stories which fade away over the net, this duo does turn up for an actual meeting. It is on the Delhi airport that Ravinder first sets his eyes on the rapturous off-shoulder attired Khushi. But what happens next is a thrilling episode of romance, escapades, separation and promises. But, wait…that’s a chimera! Not all love stories have a happy ending….

This book is not one for the intellectuals. It is all about heart. So, if you only stack those Booker Prize copies or the classic volumes of Dickens and Austen, then this book may not be for you. The language is simple and admittedly amateurish. It would be fair to say that Ravinder’s pen has poured more emotions than adjectives. But the book grows on you with each turning of the leaf. One may feel a sense of disappointment or a lack of respect while leafing through the initial chapters, but the book gets better and better, literally scaling up in an ascending order. If the start is ordinary, the climax is extraordinary- not for any surprising plot, but for the tear-jerking effect.

It is hard not to drop a tear as you turn the last page. The memories would stay with you for quite some time. Call him the Nicholas Sparks of India if you want, but Ravinder Singh is here to stay. He may not produce another book of such an emotional magnitude, but his debut work is certainly a masterpiece……albeit only for the rom-com loving generation.

PS- I wonder why they never made a film version of the book. It certainly has all the ingredients for a lovey-dovey Bollywood romance. Karan Johar, are you listening? 

~By Ritesh Agarwal
Email: ritzy182000@gmail.com

Monday, April 15, 2013

55 word story: I love you…..still

“I love you,” Fred whispered. “Do you love me still?”

He willed her to respond…., move…., whisper back.

Fred’s hair had greyed, but she still looked 28. Young, sassy, exuberant and full of life- even after two decades.

He bent down- “Happy 48th birthday…..I will never let you go”- and kissed her chemically preserved body. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Photography: A cat in a dark alley

A stray cat venturing out on its own in a dark alley on a moonless night

"The best way to get on with a cat is to treat it as an equal, or better, as the superior it thinks itself to be."

Friday, April 12, 2013

55 word story: The sole inheritance

His life is a sorry tale of wretchedness and penury. Tattered clothes, soiled face and bony body!

An ornately-clad teenage boy arrives, flings a coin and whisks off in a fancy car he has presumably inherited from his super rich dad.

He gazes down dolefully at the latest catch by his begging bowl….his sole inheritance. 

[You may also like to read 'The Hand', one of my favorite 55-word stories. Read it here.]

Monday, April 8, 2013

A story written in 20 minutes

Ratika took out her pen and opened her diary. Her ego had challenged her mind to pen a story in just 20 minutes. She knew that it would be tough but she had to go ahead, since turning back was not an option.
As she put the nib of the pen on the paper, words began to flow out on its own. She wrote:

“I was driving down the road leading to Dover Lane. It was pretty late and the darkness was all-encompassing. I could sense the presence of the moon even though it would steal a glance only from the concealment of the curtained cloud. The road ahead was deserted and I wasn’t anticipating any rendezvous.

But just when you take your bad luck for granted, good things happen to you. A woman suddenly materialized in front of my car and waved me to stop. I pressed the brake and the car halted. She leered into my window almost coming too close in the darkness. Her perfumed hair nearly kissed my face as I smelt the fragrant waft with ecstasy.

She broke my reverie. “Can you drop me to Orchard Lane?”

I smiled to myself and replied. “Oh yes, get in.”

She was lovely and youthful. I noticed her smooth and waxed arms and her perfectly sculpted eyebrows. Her smile had a fleeing quality about it. It vanished the moment it appeared, but it gave a jolt of excitement even for those tiny seconds when it would crease her soft lips.

There was an unnatural amount of redness in her lips, though there was no trace of any lipstick or gloss. I stifled my curiosity and steered the car ahead.

“Do you mind if I smoke,” I casually remarked and lit a cigarette before giving her a chance to reply. It was a mistake on my part because she instantly raised a vehement protest, as if her life was at stake.
I chucked the cigarette out and glanced at her. She was mumbling something which I couldn’t decipher or discern. Suddenly, she appeared pale as if struck by a burst of sickness. I felt that she may lose her consciousness, though she recovered soon enough. I reached out my hand and touched her forehead, expecting a temperature. Her skin was strangely cold and too icy for my comfort. I recoiled and danced a quizzical eye- “Are you okay? You seem sick.”

“I am alright,” she replied but with some hesitancy. I am just being summoned.

“Summoned? By whom?,” I enquired in mild curiosity.

“By my master. He is a devil and he controls my spirit,” she answered in a worrying tone.

I was amused and felt that she was mentally unwell. I fished out a bar of chocolate from my pocket and offered her. “Eat it. You will feel good,” I suggested.

She looked at me in a puzzling manner and backed out. Her eyeballs seemed to turn red. “I need to go, or else he would come here.” Saying this, she disappeared in the thin air, leaving me appalled and stunned. I fainted and the car crashed somewhere.

Ratika put down her pen and looked at the watch. She let out a grunt, realizing that she had missed her deadline by 1 minute. It took her 21 minutes to complete the story.


I stopped typing and looked at the watch. It was 6:20 pm. I had achieved what my character Ratika had failed in. I wrote the story in exactly 20 minutes.  

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Flirting with Fate book review: A shockingly compelling read

Book: Flirting with Fate

Author: Preeti Singh
Genre: Crime fiction
Publisher: Mahaveer Publishers
Pages: 248
Price: Rs 150
Rating: 4 out of 5

Review: ‘Flirting with Fate’ is the debut novel by author Preeti Singh who not just makes a powerful foray into the world of writing but also makes an indelible impact. The tagline of this crime fiction reads ‘Karma always returns’, and even though it may seem a tad didactic at first glance, the plot is surprisingly fresh and the story irresistibly engaging. Some may feel that this is some piece of philosophy going preachy on stuff like ‘karma’ and blah, blah, blah. On the contrary, there is no such preaching and only a subtle implication of ‘karma’ towards the end.

The story revolves around Anand whose life is sketched out meticulously right from his birth till his downfall. The major portion of the book is set in ‘Palash’, an orphanage, and this is where the author has scored. There is a rustic feel which is very heart-rending and reminiscent of old Bollywood capers like ‘Mr. India’ and ‘Brahmachaari’. The life in a shabby and poverty-stricken orphanage has been described in a charming manner. But just when the readers begin to settle down in the comfortable milieu of serenity and harmonious togetherness, they are jolted out of their stupor with a series of shocks.

Despite being pampered and nurtured like a royal prince, this ungrateful boy (Anand) turns heartless, greedy, salacious and vengeful. He is a psycho child who takes sadistic pleasure in harming others. The diabolical mind of the pre-teen child has no repentance as it conceives plans of carrying out gruesome murders for personal gain. The number of crimes escalates with each passing year, and Anand gets away with them with his effortless deftness.

The book has been written with a lot of heart, and it is apparent from the way the characters have been sketched. The portrayal of a child’s innermost secrets, unspeakable fantasies and impenetrable thoughts is really commendable because of its depth and precision. The language is lucid and simple. But it is the narrative style which deserves the highest adulations. The author, in a stroke of serendipity, sketches an animal character whose depiction is a fine blend between humor and satire. The orphanage houses a dog named ‘Fluffy’ and it is his soliloquies and monologues which make the readers laugh, cry and think at the same time. Fluffy also assumes the role of a narrator and his characterization has plenty of innovative creativity, thereby making him a class apart. Take for instance his aggrieved monologue when an ageing Fluffy lets out a sigh and tells the readers that Penny (the neighborhood bitch) doesn’t pay him any attention and he fears he would die a virgin.   

Other characters- be it the caring old lady Sribehen or the soft-hearted Mr. Gonsalves or the love-deprived Sunita- are chalked out well and have been given adequate space. But by and large, we see the world through the eyes of Anand and how he relates himself to the non-central characters.

There are a few glitches which the author and her team seem to have missed out on. The age differences between the characters fluctuate a lot, and even though this does not affect the storyline directly, it leaves a dubious impression on a pedantic reader’s mind. But this is a minor glitch and may easily escape the eye of a casual reader.

The climax too is refreshing and even though it seems a bit hurried, it goes with the theme of open ending. This is another bold move by the author who chooses to ditch the conventional, clich├ęd path and trace out her original route fearlessly.
All in all, ‘Flirting with Fate’ is a riveting read and an exhibition of masterly narration. It will shake you, stir you, shock you but leave you satisfied. A shockingly compelling read!

PS- You may not like this book if you only prefer sexualized mushy romances dished out by today’s modern day authors. Even though, this book has a few love scenes, its chief strength is its plot & narration.

~Ritesh Agarwal

[This book has been reviewed by me on special request by author Preeti Singh.]

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