Rant. On Writing.

I have heard from a lot of people that writing is one of the most strenuous and lonely pursuits that us humans can undertake. Of course its not as extreme as tight rope walking or mountain climbing or cross country swimming but its a very taxing thing to do. I have been (posing as) one for some time now and I can totally vouch for the lonely and stressful bits.

And unlike mountain climbing or tight rope walking or tennis, the rewards of writing are rather scarce, to say the least. If you have conquered a high peak, you are at the top of the world, literally. If you have walked on a tight rope, you have conquered, not one but two of man's greatest fears - height and nature (gravity, wind, nerves etc). If you have endured a long swimming route, you have pushed your physical limits and placed yourself in top 0.001 percentile of all humans to have walked on the Earth.

But writing, even if you manage to finish a short essay, what do you achieve? I dont understand at all why would someone want to write. Take me for example. Why do I write?

One may argue that once your have finished something, you get a shot at immortality. At least temporary immortality. This is true for all artists actually. If not for The Count of Monte Cristo and other such brilliant pieces of work, no one would have known Dumas. If not for Godfather amongst others, no one would have known Puzo. So on and so forth. So writing gives you an opportunity to create something that outlives you. And if you do it well, it can outlives your next few generations as well.

I, being a religious follower of the Society for Hedonist Indians, believe in instant gratification. And I know that things that give me fame, money, notoriety, etc after I am dead are of no use to me. So what could the pursuit of writing get me in this life time? From a few friends who have been able to do so, I think the right answer is audience. In this connected world, where every human has not just one mouth but multiple outlets and platforms (blogs, twitter, facebook etc) to rant about things, being a writer gives you access to certain audience. And that audience allows you to create something that may outlive you, even when you are alive.

There are no guarantees mind you that there would be audience, glory, riches or anything else. For every piece that gets successful, there must be 1000 others that rot in anonymity. But I think that shot at immortality is too tempting to let go. No?

Chapter 3. The Letter.

This is part 3 in a series. You may want to read part 1 and part 2 first.  

"So who do you think wants to kill you"?, asked Prakash, to no one in particular. He always let his questions hang in the air like that. One of his theories was to ask questions to no one in particular and let the audience answer. And more often than not, whoever responded first, in all likelihood happened to have a solid motive for the crime.

The scene in Nidhi's bedroom was morbid. She sat curled up like a fetus on the sill of giant french windows. The sill has been designed to hold a small platform that someone could sit on. It looked like the comfort place for Nidhi. It was padded with a rich cushion and there was a small coffee table next to it. Nidhi was holding onto her knees in front of her chest and was rocking back and forth slowly. If this was not for real, it could pass off as a scene from one of her numerous rom-com movies. Nidhi was the undisputed queen of Indian romantic movies of this decade and along with Kabeer Khan, had inspired millions of love stories.

She was wearing a light pink linen tank top and white hot pants and despite her distraught shape, a generous amount of her flawless skin was on display. Despite his known aversion to the members of opposite gender, even Prakash could not stop admiring Nidhi's well sculpted body. Prakash concluded that Nidhi must be the kinds to go to the gym religiously. Prakash also noticed that the windows behind Nidhi overlooked the garden and the swimming pool. Thanks to the Ashoka trees, from Nidhi's vantage point, you could not see anything outside the house. And vice versa.

In the room, in presence, in various states of distraught was Nidhi's entourage. Next to the french windows, on a writing table sat yet another strikingly good looking woman, of about 25 or so. Her hips were casually resting against the table and her arms were folded in front of her chest. She was wearing a pair of skin tight denims and a bright tee shirt. Prakash guessed that she must be Payal, Nidhi's manager and close friend. Prakash quipped to himself, "Even this Payal could be an actress". On the bed, sat the famous Neelima Kapoor, Nidhi Kapoor's mother. Prakash did not have any difficulty identifying her. He had seen his share of films when he was young. Though Neelima was old now, one could see that she would have been a splendid beauty in her heydays. Next to the bed, on a chair, sat Naveen Kapoor. He still had a look of hostility in his eyes and body language. He was talking softly to Neelima and Prakash could not hear their conversation, even though he was in the same room as them. Two servants, apparently a middle aged couple were busy tending to all those present in the room. The lady was standing next to Nidhi and the man was standing against a wall, close to Naveen.

Unlike the rest of the house, Nidhi's room was rather spartan. Apart from rich embroidered curtains, thick rugs and cushions in all shapes and sizes, a very few items of vanity were at show. Unlike the reception hall and her study, the bedroom did not have a single picture of Nidhi or her movie posters. Prakash found it rather strange. Prakash also noticed that the room did not have a single book. It did have a large Sony television and a few bollywood and hollywood DVD stacked neatly in the cabinet, just the way books and vinyl records were stacked in the office. He also saw a Harman Kardon music dock on the writing table where Payal was standing, connected to a mobile phone. There was no music playing though. There was some sort of a walk in closet on the far side of the room and Prakash could not see it from where he was standing but could make out that it was a dressing room, closet and storage, all rolled into one. There was another door next to the closet. It apparently led to the bath.

Prakash waited for Nidhi to answer but she continued to rock back and forth slowly on her hips. When no one else volunteered an answer, Prakash started to move towards Nidhi but Naveen interrupted, "This is not the right time to ask her such questions. Cant you see she is already troubled. If not for the shoot yesterday, God knows what would have happened. You must leave us alone now. I'd have a word with Commissioner Sharma."

Prakash shot an angry glance at Naveen. Prakash's eyes were hard and cold like a stone. Even though he was a small man, his eyes could easily send shivers down the spine of even hardened criminals. But Naveen did not flinch. He instead got up from the chair, walked between Prakash and Nidhi and folded his arms over his chest. Prakash realized that Naveen was either overprotective of Nidhi or was trying to shield her for some reason. Prakash said, "I am merely trying to help your family here, not that I want to. I don't really care about these mutts but the letter is a serious matter. I am sure you must be used to getting death threats all the time but do any of you realize that this time it is for real?"

Prakash took back a step. He was about to go out of the room. He paused and said, "Tambe, give me that letter." Without waiting for an answer, he literally snatched the letter from Tambe and placed it on the empty chair that was previously occupied by Naveen. He continued, "This letter was in the typewriter in the room downstairs. If after reading this, you change your mind, you may talk to Mr. Sharma and come see me at the station."
At the mention of the typewriter, Nidhi turned her neck slowly at Prakash. Prakash noticed the movement and for an instant he and Nidhi were looking into each other eyes. Prakash thought that Nidhi's eyes were her best feature and could now imagine why all her films did so well despite lack of any substance. Nidhi broke the gaze and glanced around the room, searching for the letter that Prakash was talking about. She found it on the chair and then she stared at it, wrapped inside a transparent evidence bag. She looked at the letter and then at Prakash and then at her mother, Neelima. Finally she rested her eyes on the letter.

Prakash noticed Nidhi staring at the letter, he turned around and left the room. Praveen followed him with a nonchalant walk. Renu was too dumbfounded to make anything of this. She was standing close to the door and after Prakash left the room, everyone, except the famous Nidhi Kapoor, was starting at her. She did not know how to react. She retraced her steps, turned around and stumbled out of Nidhi's room.

Renu climbed down the stairs and ran after Prakash and Praveen. She caught up with them when they had reached the lawn and were almost out of the main entrance to the house. Renu said, "What is this? You would simply walk away? Shouldn't you investigate further?"

Prakash looked at her, began to talk, and then stopped short in his tracks. He was staring at something behind Renu. Praveen and Renu turned around as well and they saw Nidhi Kapoor running towards them. They were stunned at Nidhi's sudden transformation from a shock-stricken young dame to having total control of her sense.

"Wait, wait", she was panting. She continued. "Sir, wait a minute please. I want to speak to you about this". She was holding the letter in her left hand and was waving it frantically in the air. Behind Nidhi, Prakash and party could see Naveen Kapoor and Payal Chopra trying to catch up to Nidhi.

Prakash said, "What about it? Clearly your uncle believes that he does not need my help. Contrary to popular belief, we are really short staffed and..."

Nidhi interrupted Prakash in mid speech. She said looked him into his eyes and said, "Ok, stop it. I apologize for my uncle. He is like that only. Please. You know, my dogs and cat were very important to me. I am not worried about the attack or the letter. I have been getting such threats since I was a kid. But I really want to see the bastard punished. Please help me."

By this time, while talking, Nidhi had come really close to Prakash without anyone realizing it. She was holding onto Prakash's arm by now.

Prakash underwent a sudden transformation. He looked at his arm. Nidhi realized it and let go. Prakash said, "Ok, I would need to ask you a few things. You will have to lodge an official police complaint about this letter. Can we sit somewhere quiet?"

Nidhi nodded like an obedient school kid and led them to her bedroom once again. She went and sat on her window sill. Prakash asked everyone else to wait in other rooms while he interrogated Nidhi at length. Renu observed that Nidhi was composed throughout the entire interview and volunteered information at a few places even though she was not asked.

After Nidhi, Prakash spoke to Payal, Neelima and two servants. He did not interrogate Naveen. Prakash relied on his memory to notice details and interviews, Renu on the other hand took copious amount of notes of all interviews. Praveen in the meanwhile had left to work with the rest of police team that had arrived to take a stock of the crime scene.

Prakash eventually got Nidhi and Naveen in a room and said, "I'd be leaving now. My team is already here and is working in your study. They would leave in a bit. I would need those CCTV tapes as and when you can get those. Please send them over. And let me know in case you need an extra cover of security."

Prakash and Renu walked out. As they were coming out of the house, Renu asked, "What do you make of these interviews"?

Prakash said, "Everyone seemed to cooperate. I could not read anything in any one's body language. I don't think someone would have had the balls to barge into the house with all the security and electronic surveillance. The animals were plain unlucky. Everyone believes that if Nidhi was not out for a shoot, she wouldn't have been with us."

Prakash continued, "It has to be an insider. But cleaving these animals like this, I don't think a woman is capable of doing it. Naveen Kapoor looks like those typical rich snobs but I he is not capable of hurting anyone. He is a rather meek person and he hides behind his loud mouth. If he wasn't related to Nidhi and Neelima, he couldn't be anything more than a mere orderly in a large building. So I think I can rule him out but I have been wrong in the past. The servants have been with Kapoors since last 15 or so years. So I don't know. Everyone seems to be above suspicion. I have asked Naveen for tapes from CCTV. Let's see what comes out of those. What did you think?"

Renu was back to her usual self, "Hmmm, makes sense. I thought as much. I have a few observations as well. But before that, I am starving. Can we please go and grab something to eat please?"

Prakash was getting irritated. He said, "I'd be in my office. I'd drop you to some place on the way."

Renu played along, "Of course. Now that you have The Nidhi Kapoor's phone number, why would you talk to a mere reporter? That Payal is not bad either. No?"

Prakash shot an angry glance and did not say anything. Renu continued, "But what was in that letter that made her forget all her worries and run to you like that?"

Prakash took the letter out of his pocket, handed it over the letter to Renu and said, "Here, read it for yourself. Hand it over to Tambe once you are done."

Dear Nidhi,

I have been trying to get in touch with you for so long. I have tried to speak to you so many times but you are always busy. Today Nidhi, the separation from you got the better of me and I had to come and meet you. I went to your film set but you had left by that time. I thought I would catch up with you here at your home. I knew you would be in your study. Didn't you say so in your interviews?

I came here and well well well, I was surprised to see all those books. I did not know you were interested in reading. You have never mentioned that anywhere. But it was a good surprise. May be when we are together, we could take a few books with us for the holidays.

Coming back, I loved your room and just when I sat down on the couch to play some music, your dogs and cat starting growling at me. Thanks to that documentary about you on the Discovery channel, I knew about them and I had come prepared. I had a pack of biscuits laced with sedatives and it was easy to pacify the greedy animals.

I just sat there and I waited and waited and waited for you. Since I did not have anything to do, I thought I'd play with your pets. But the silly creatures were almost asleep and were no fun. And I thought, why not just remove them from the scene altogether? I started with the cute pug. I know you call it Cho. Ever since that mobile phone company used it in their ads, every one has bought one. Did you also get it because of that ad Nidhi? Even if you did, thanks to me, its gone now. I held the pug in my arms and twisted it neck like a coil, like that wristwatch that you had to wound regularly. I did it till the neck snapped with that sweet sound of the bone breaking. Its the most comforting sound ever Nidhi, the sound that a bone makes when it breaks. Someday I would make you hear it.

Ceaser, the bulldog was next. You know I tied one of it hind legs to the writing table. I actually wanted to write this letter on its belly. I would have been the best love letter ever. I started to write but despite the drugs, the damn dog did not stop moving at all. I got so angry so angry that I just stabbed him in the belly with your pencils. And then it started to cry. Can you believe it? Cry! A dog. I just plunged a pencil in its face so that it would stop crying.

The cat, was surprisingly easy. I merely had to lift it up and slam it on the floor some three four times. You know I was surprised to know that cats don't really bleed as much as dogs, or even us humans do.

And then I cleaned all the mess. I piled them on top of each other on the nice carpet. It made a brilliant sight. And then I started to wait again! I waited till almost the morning. I wanted to stay longer but I had to go. If I am missing from my room for too long, they will know. And I don't want them to know about me. But of course you know who I am. Don't you?

I will be in touch. Will meet soon. You and I are meant to be together. This word can't keep me away from you any longer. There are so many things that I need to tell you Nidhi, so many.
Till the time we meet, you please take care. And wait for me. 

Renu got so engrossed in reading the letter that she did not realize that Prakash had left her alone in the sprawling lawns of the Kapoor's. She looked around and found Tambe smirking at her. Tambe said, "Madam, saheb has left. I am also done talking to the guards. I am heading towards the police station. Do you want a lift?"

Renu nodded and said to herself, "something is not quite right here. I cant put a finger on it yet though". She was now riding shotgun in an open jeep of Mumbai police and it was flying down the empty expressway.

Of punctuations and grammar. And on writing.

I have spent a large part of last few days thinking about Nidhi Kapoor and Prakash Mohile. For the uninitiated, these two are the lead protagonists in my latest attempt at writing fiction. I dont have a name for it as yet, I am open for suggestions. But its a novel length piece of crime fiction (about 80,000 words spread over 20 - 25 chapters).

But the thing about cooking fiction is that you have a vague idea of what you want to write about. You come up with a setting, you draft your characters and place your characters in the setting and try to bring that vague idea to life. You take liberal doses of inspiration from things that you have read and experienced in the past. And you mix these and some other things into a concoction. Finally you try and put this mix into words.

And this is where you fuck up. When it comes to actually putting pen to paper. Especially when you are not a native speaker of English and you are brought up in a society that discourages use of Hindi. As a result, you grow up confused and you dont have command over either language. You think in Hindi, translate it in English and then you write. As a result, the grammar and the meaning of what you want to say go for a toss. If you try thinking in English, since your vocabulary is so tiny that you cant find the right words to put your thoughts on paper. So, when you want to talk about a good looking woman, you can only use words like gorgeous, beautiful, brilliant, awesome. Since you dont know synonyms like astonishing, awe-inspiring, breathtaking, exalted, formidable, frantic, grand, imposing, impressive, magnificent, majestic, mind-blowing, moving, overwhelming, shocking, striking, stunning, stupefying, wonderful, wondrous, you get repetitive and monotonous. And despite your brilliant narrative, the text becomes boring. And then you cant pin point your mistake.

So today while I was stuck on the third chapter of the Nidhi Kapoor saga, I decided to make a list of things that I dont know and I need to work upon. Here is the list. If you can help, I am willing to pay for it...
  1. When I use quotes to denote a dialogue or a statement by a character, do I put a full stop after closing the quotes? Or before that? What if my character is asking a question? Does the question mark come after the quotes? And do I put a full stop after that? And yes, I did clear CAT with flying colors.
  2. What is a good way to break paragraphs when you are writing something? And are there any established norms for the same?
  3. The difference between choose and chose, loose and lose, anyway and anyways, even though and despite. And a million other common mistakes that non-native speakers like me make
  4. Vocabulary. I read somewhere that an average human being knows about 15000 words. The great writers however know some 100,000 66, 000 words. I am sure I dont know more than 10,000. I need to work on it. Can someone help me with some tips on these? 
  5. Formatting for readability. How do I format my text that it is readable. I know that people dont really read every word but they skim through the text. So, how do I format text so that while skimming, you focus on the essential bits, that are important to a crime fiction? Is the F pattern true for fiction as well?
  6. More people like Pressfield? I read his blog regularly and love his advice to people like me. He's really really good. Are there more people like this? I dont want self-improvement advice. I want insights from people who have been there and who have done that.
Thats it. I just need these 6 things. I already have a brilliant support group - a set of people to whom I email everytime I write something - for feedback. Most of them are busy and cant really respond fast enough but they give me enough insights and I really value their inputs.

Thats it for the time being.

I am also looking for an editor who can work with me on correcting these grammatical errors that I make in my texts. And a researcher, who could help me plug loop holes in my text. Anyone?  

Relationship Status?

As a 30 year old teetotaler, bald, fat, poor, boring individual with close to nil social life, I get asked this question quite a lot. And most times I dont have an answer. Today, however, I have one.

My current relationship status?
Sulking in my bed, listening to Mohit Chauhan on loop (this track), reminiscing of days when I was with sgMS and missing her terribly.

What I want from life. And two sidenotes.

Today Yesterday, the 11th of June was a mother of a day. It started like any other day and I was obviously late for work. Not that I cant wake up, but the place I live at, the cars are parked two rows deep and its a herculean task to get your car out of the driveway before 10 in the morning. Sounds stupid but these are the things that make India awesome and Indian life full of fun and excitement. And even though I love these at times, most times I curse and want to get out.

So I was late. On normal days its not a problem because I work at a setup where we dont have HR (or HR policies) and thus we dont have time sheets. This means that you merely need to show up at work before your boss does. And my boss, the hedonist and party animal he is, comes by 2 (in the afternoon). And most days I get away with it and am fine. 

Today Yesterday, I apparently had a meeting at 11 that I wasnt aware of. While I was blissfully driving towards work (FYI, drive to work takes 2 hours, each way), for no reason at all, the battery of my phone conked off. And I swear that I had charged it to 100 percent the night before. But like all other humans, I am helpless when technology wants to play funny games. And that is when a regular old boring day translated into a time sink.

I use another phone when I am in Mumbai and a very few people have that number. And since no one could reach me on my regular number, everyone started calling me on the number. Every one from my boss, my admin guy, the client, the neighbor of the client, my team, everyone called me atleast thrice. All for the meeting that I was supposed to be in, that no one had bothered to inform me about, that was supposed to start at 11. The meeting at 11 had some 11 participants in it, I was the 12th. Everyone, including a lot of high ranking officials from one of the largest companies in the world aka client aka God aka the creature that is never wrong, were waiting for me. I reached the meeting room as 12 and when I opened the door, I saw 11 bored faces staring at me. One look and I could tell that at least of 10 of them wanted to be anywhere but in that conference room. And all of them were expecting me to lead the meeting. I obviously did not know what I was doing there or who had called that meeting or what would I talk about in the meeting. Hell, I didn't even know the names of 9 out of those 11 people.

But, thanks to my MBA, I faffed my way out of the meeting. Funny that most people in that meeting were MBAs themselves and yet they could not figure out my faff. Wonder why. I somehow wriggled my way out of the meeting, only to get stuck in the bureaucratic maze that my workplace is. Bureaucracy, in a company that has just about 100 employees and in a branch that has just about 50. We do take somethings seriously here.

And then after that I dont remember what exactly I did but when I checked the time next, it was 8 PM. Luckily, a very dear friend was nearby and I invited her over for dinner, at the place where I had this meeting. We had our food and Diet Coke over a conversation that had no purpose apart from catching up. Like most of my dinner meetings with friends, I would have spoken for 80% of time, the other 20% spent in eating and drinking. Poor her. Side note: If I could have more days like this where I do a lot of work, I catch up with a friend after work, write something when I am home, I would be sorted for life. Ofcourse I need to add a few things - namely atleast a cuddle with sgMS, lot of money, lot more time to cook up new projects, a shower couple of times a day and a lot of travel to break from the monotony. What else could we ask for from life? No?

So, coming back to the day, I dropped my friend to her car and plunged into work. And then suddenly it was 1130 PM. I was tired out of my wits, not because I had lifted weights or something but because I had a million things on my head. I think exhausted would be a better word. I realized that mental works tires you more than physical labor does - may be a lesson for training, once I get fit again. I also noted that I had walked quite a bit during the day. I need to buy some good walking shoes. Heard that Asics are good but havent tried em. Ok, so I walked at least 9672 steps, as captured by Moves (Side note: amazing app. Must have even if you are not trying to lose weight).

The next day (which is technically today, since I am writing this at 1:33 in the morning) I had an early start. I needed to leave home by 630. And hence I left at 12ish. I reached home, did some bits of work, wrote this (still writing) and finally off to wonder land.

Of course not without dreaming of Nidhi and sgMS.

P.S.: Just realized that I am beginning to talk a lot about work in recent posts. Note to self. Stop doing that. Work rather on creating a brand out of thyself. 


The other day I was at my cousin's place. Since he just got that home, hes got tons of shiny objects that I love to play with. One of them was a weighing scale, the kinds you see at expensive hotels. And now when I have been running intermittently and controlling my food intake, I decided to measure the impact. I ought to have lost a lot of weight in last 6 months! All the hard work has to pay off. I had kept a serious tab on my fetish for junk food and cola. I was bound to have lost weight.

With butterflies in my stomach and a heart that was jumping so hard that it could pop out of my throat, I tapped on the scale to activate it and then I stepped on it. To measure myself.

They say when you face death, time flows slower and the entire life somehow flashes past your eyes. And that is what happened when I saw the number on the weighing scale. I was struck by a lightening. As ferocious as it would have been when the day of reckoning would have tormented mother Earth. When all Dinosaurs perished and when we were engulfed in a white storm. The time stood still. 

And like all victims of calamities that us humans cant control, I went through the following five stages of emotions - anger, denial, question, acceptance and depression.

It started with my pent up anger coming to surface. I was angry at myself for letting the athletic me of the late  nineties to have become the fatso of now. Like most things in life, I did not plan for my inflated belly but I know that I could have controlled it. And to be honest it does not take much to do so. And yet I let is grow like crazy. To a point where I cant breathe after even little exertion.

Next up was denial. When I tried to tell myself that its not me and may be the weighing scale has made some mistake. May be the scale was rigged and its a conspiracy against me and my weight loss mission. May be its an attempt to derail me from writing the Nidhi Kapoor story.

And then the question. I questioned Mother Nature. I asked about her decision to punish me. Me of all her 7 billion children. There are times when you want her to select you and shower you with goodies but at times like these when she singles you out and slaps you hard in the face, you wonder, why me.

I realized that like lot of other things this has been forced upon me. Yes, I am responsible for a large part of it. And I accepted the way I am. I told myself that I'd be happy and try to live with my chin held high. I would close my eyes everytime I see someone who is fitter and leaner. That in reality means that I walk like a blind man, for everyone else around me is fitter and leaner than I. But since I have accepted to live with this, I shall do so.

But the hard part is to actually do it everyday. Day after day. Hour after hour. Minute after minute and second after second. There is no way I can keep depression away from my head. Not about my poverty or about my thinning bank balance. But about my uncontrollable weight. Whatever I have tried, may not be much. But it definitely is not working. The only options left for me, as I see, are either to go into the sharan of Nirmal Baba, or renounce from this material life and goto the mountains. But I think going to mountains requires serious commitment and effort. But then, I wish I was the kinds to put in effort :(

Chapter 2. Cho, Ceaser and Cookie.

This is part 2 in a series. You may want to read part 1 first.

Prakash observed that the office was not big compared to the opulence and grandeur of the living room that he had just crossed. An impressive polished teak table was placed in the middle of the room. Behind it was a window overlooking the garden, it had lilac chiffon curtains on it. A shiny iMac on the table was facing that window. There was a pen stand that had immaculately sharpened pencils, sharpened ends facing up, in it. Next to the stand were loose sheets of paper, fluttering under the constant waft of air from the aircon vent write above it. They were held back by a figurine of Sheldon Cooper, the character from the TV series Big Bang Theory. It was a picture perfect setting for a writer. The writer could walk upto the desk any minute and start scribbling out his best seller. And then Prakash saw it, the typewriter, perched up on the other end of the table. And a sheet of paper hanging out of it. The paper had something typed on it. It also seemed to have crimson spats on it. From where Prakash was, the spats looked like dried blood stains.

The wall on the left had a floor to ceiling high bookshelf, filled meticulously with books, mostly on film, television, biographies and other such popular titles that people merely collect, to show off, and not read. The shelf was designed like that in libraries. Wooden shelves, spaced at regular distances, and without a glass door. On the other side of the table, along the right hand wall was a huge bright yellow couch, enough to become a makeshift bed if required. And placed between the table and the couch was a huge gramophone and an envious collection of vinyl records stacked as neatly and orderly as the books in the bookshelf were. Looked like Nidhi Kapoor had a fetish for all things retro. And she was orderly in her approach and everything was neatly stacked. Any amateur people-watcher could tell that she was at least a borderline case of obsessive compulsive disorder and Prakash was no amateur.

There was a oval rug on the floor between the door and the teak-wood desk. The rug occupied most of the empty space on the floor. Looked like an expensive piece of accessory but it had soaked in a lot of blood and had become messy. Renu, when she entered the room behind Prakash and Praveen in a hurry, had stepped on this rug. Renu was wearing her regular Kolhapuri chappals and if she wasnt numb with what she saw, she wouldve felt thick sticky liquid on her feet. Since she had stepped back to hold on to the frame of the door, she had left a distinct U shaped mark of her Kolhapuri chappal on the rug and at the entrance of the door. The red U mark pointing towards the story unfolding in front of her.

When Renu came in, on the rug, she saw lifeless bodies of two dogs and a cat. And not just lifeless but the murderer had used these poor animals as a canvas to show off his or her creativity on. A pug, that probably suffered the least when it was killed, had its neck twisted at an unnatural angle. The eyes were still open and were staring at the entrance. The brown skin had turned dark with all the blood that had dried. The jaw was open and the tongue was cut by its own teeth, probably, the pug was trying to breathe once its neck broke. The other dog, a bull dog, had suffered the worst fate. It had  multiple stab wounds on its body and one of the pencils from the desk was stuck into its face, right below one of the eyes. It was lying on its back and and a huge blot of blood clot was visible on its entire belly. One of the legs was amputated and the bone was sticking out of it. The cat had deep cut on its shoulders. The white fur had turned red and the head was split open to reveal pinkish mass beneath the white and grey lumps of hair.

Dead bodies of all these animals, or whatever remained of them, were stacked close to each other and they looked like a heap of flesh and bones, gathered carelessly in the middle of big puddles of blood on the rug. And Renu was probably so disturbed because she loved pets. She herself had a cat at home. The cat at home, she called it Felix, was her only companion in fact. There was no dearth of suitors, she was young, very attractive and on the fast track to being successful. But for some reason she kept everyone at bay. She did have a few people that she would get sloshed with and then get one of them back home for the night. She probably wanted a similar arrangement with Inspector Prakash, get him drunk and invite over to her apartment. But right now, she could not think of anything else. Her gaze was fixed onto the heap of dead bodies and she seemed to have lost her speech. Tambe, when he saw her slump had rushed to help her but Prakash had stopped him from going.

"Hmmm... When did you discover this?", Prakash asked no one in particular, but everyone knew that the question was addressed to Naveen Kapoor. Prakash was as composed as if he was in the familiar garden where he went for his morning yoga sessions.

Naveen was clearly uncomfortable in the room, made more uncomfortable by Prakash's indifference and Renu's trauma, he said, "I dont know Inspector. We found these today morning when Nidhi came into her office. Poor girl is still in shock. Cho, Ceaser and Cookie meant the world to her. She would take care of them as if they were her children".

Tambe stared long and hard at Naveen on the children remark. Prakash looked at Tambe and then turned back to Naveen and continued, "No one at the house saw or heard anything? The security guards? If someone had to kill these animals, they had to get access to the house. And dont dogs and cat make a lot of noise? There is no way someone maimed these animals and no one heard a thing". More than anything else, Prakash was talking to himself. Tambe knew it instantly, he and Prakash had been together since Tambe moved to Mumbai, from Satara, another district in Maharashtra. Tambe was a beat constable there and he had been promoted 4 years back.

Naveen said, "These were very friendly dogs. They did not bark even if you took their food away. They have been, had been, with us since Nidhi was in school and she had trained them well. Of course Nidhi's father, late Nishant Kapoor, was a famous actor in his days. He always had money and time for these things. And the guards, they are not allowed in the house. Their only job is to remain outside the gates and control the maddening crowds that throng our home incessantly".

"Mr. Kapoor, I asked if someone saw or heard something. I am not interested in the life and times of Kapoors", Prakash said curtly. He apparently had no time for vain indulgences of Kapoor. 

"Are there more dogs, cats or other pets in the house? Did you interrogate the guards?", Prakash was getting impatient and wanted to get over with the case as soon as possible.Even thought this looked like a petty crime where a few pets have been butchered but the way they were executed methodically, in cold blood, was making Prakash skeptic.

"No. No. I havent had time to ask anyone. Nidhi discovered this... mess and she's gone in shock. She is upstairs in her bedroom with her mother and her assistant Payal. I have been tending to her. It was only when Payal reminded me to call the police, I spoke to Raj Saab", replied Naveen.

Rajkiran Sharma was the commissioner of police and he had instructed his office to give this case to Prakash Mohile's station. Everyone knew that Prakash was a no - nonsense officer and was least likely to get influenced by the high profile nature of the case. He is also known to keep his distance from the media. So the unnecessary leaks could be kept in tab.

"Hmm.. ok. I would want to talk to every member of the house, including the servants. I want to spend some time here by myself. Please wait for me outside till then", Prakash said, while walking towards the table. He continued, "Tambe, take Renu Maam out of the room and get someone to get her some water". Both statements were more of orders, rather than requests. Tambe was used to these but Naveen Kapoor wasn't. He started to revolt but decided against it. He did not want to be in the room with dead bodies anyway. Naveen started to go out of the room, paused momentarily when he saw Renu on the door. Renu was still staring at the mangled bodies and seemed to be shivering.

Naveen said, "You know Inspector, this is exactly how I found Nidhi, right here on this door". And with this, without waiting for an answer, Naveen side-stepped Renu and walked out.

Moment he was out of sight, Tambe muttered, "Sir, something's wrong. Naveen is not as worried as he wants to appear. But who would kill these poor animals. They had a far far better life than most of us anyway. They live in air conditioned rooms with enough food to feed five families, and access to doctors that take more money per visit that we spend on medicines in our entire lives".

"And this is why someone killed them Tambe. Lets stop chitchatting and go through the crime scene. But first take care of Renu maam please", instructed Prakash.

Tambe headed towards the door to tend to Renu who looked visibly shaken. Before Tambe could help Renu, she realized what was happening around her. She got up by herself and walked out. Tambe followed her out. Prakash silently saw them depart and turned towards the table again.

Prakash liked to work like that on most of his cases. He'd take one long, hard, unbiased look at the crime scene to acquaint himself with it. Then he would talk to everyone who could have had anything to do with the victim or the crime scene. Finally he would just let everything simmer in his head and wait for dots to connect. Every new evidence added another layer of connection between the dots and he kept on breaking and making these connections. And finally he would get the answers. Answers to even seemingly impossible cases. His repertoire of successful cases included confiscation of a large stash of illicit drugs and the famous hit and run by son of a leading industrialist. In both these cases, they did not have a single clue. Only a crime scene and tyre marks on a dusty road and a grainy footage from a cctv in the other. And yet Prakash was able to close those cases.

He was always called in when there were cases that seemed too complex for the police force to handle. Of course nothing in his countenance gave that away. He was rather small, compared to other police officers. He would be about 5 feet 8, very fit and was almost bald. He kept his head shaved and no one could tell that he was 34. He came to Mumbai with his mother and sister when he was ten and the city was still called Bombay. His mother was a successful theater actress in Pune, some 160 KMs from Mumbai. His father, a school teacher and their's was a love marriage. But right after Prakash was born, the daily grind of the household got to the nerves of his parents and they had started quarreling occasionally at first and then almost everyday. His mother harbored the desire to be a film star and father liked the small town life on the outskirts of sleepy Pune. Differences became so much that Prakash's mother decided to move to Mumbai with the kids in tow. But reality hit harder and sooner than she had expected. Her only appearances on screen were a few sightings in the background scenery and a couple of side roles as character actress. She, like others, turned to alcohol, in attempt to find solutions and success. Even that dint help. And when Prakash was all of fifteen, his mother committed suicide, depressed about girls half her age getting meatier roles than her. Even in her death, she did not get any mention in the newspapers. By this time, Prakash's father had moved away from Pune and a young Prakash could not trace him. Prakash came back to Bombay and put all his energy and time into his and his sister's education.

In Nidhi Kapoor's office, despite all the other overpowering odors of excreta, animals, burnt flesh and air conditioning, there was a distinct whiff of some variety of lavender perfume in the room. Prakash made a mental note about the perfume and started to examine the room carefully. The first thing that he went to was the typewriter. On it was a sheet of paper that had some sort of typed letter on it. He carefully clicked the picture of the type writer and the sheet of paper hanging from it, with his phone and tore the sheet away. Prakash had a blatant disregard for protocol and yet he was careful enough with anything that he could use as evidence at a later date. Most other officers would wait for police photographer to arrive and take pictures of the venue before they start with the investigation. Not, Prakash. He liked to take action and swift action at that. He knew his technology and knew that pictures from an iPhone are as good as the one from official police cameras. And no one used the pictures anyway, except the newspaper hounds, when the pictures were leaked.

He started reading the letter, written in chaste English. It was apparently addressed to the deceased animals. Tambe was back by then and he saw Prakash reading the letter in rapt attention. Tambe guessed that the letter must contain something important, or else Prakash wasnt the kinds to put too much attention into reading. He dint even read the newspaper or the official reports.

"Whoever wrote this, definitely has a knack for writing good prose. Too bad, the letter is at the crime site, or the writer could have written a few films for Kapoor clan", said Prakash and handed over the letter to Tambe, who carefully sealed it in an evidence bag. Tambe really wanted to read the letter but he wasnt good with English and more importantly he knew that while Prakash goes through a crime scene, Prakash wants everyone on their toes.

Nothing else seemed out of place in the room. The window behind the table was shut tight. The lawn beyond the window had a small swimming pool in it. The water in the pool was clean and calm and the umbrella next to the lounge chair was folded. The entire periphery of the house was covered with high walls, barb-wired at the top. Tall Ashoka trees had been planted along the wall, to afford privacy.

Prakash thought out loud, "So whoever did this, had a lot of time to go about carving these animals. There is precision of a careful planner. Apart from the foot mark left by Renu, there is no other trace left by the killer. The killer has to be somebody who knows this house and this room well. Animals are never friendly to strangers and there are no signs of any struggle. There is no way all three could be killed at one time. We can atleast get an autopsy done to estimate the time of killing of these". Tambe was trying to think hard as well.

"Look Tambe!...", Prakash suddenly exclaimed with excitement.

Prakash had reached the other end of the room where the large gramophone was placed next to that yellow couch.. Prakash suddenly bent over the gramophone and had pulled something out from the pie of vinyl records.

"What is it sir? A vinyl record? I have seen many of those a Lamington Road market.", Tambe was trying to think hard and figure out the reason for Prakash's excitiment. May be the record had some finger prints or some blood spats or something that they had missed all this while.

"An original record for Pyasa, the Guru Dutt movie. I have always wanted to own one of these. It would fit in well with my collection of...", and Prakash paused in the middle of the sentence.

Tambe was thrown offguard for a minute when he heard the mention of Pyasa. He knew Prakash liked Guru Dutt but he could not make the connection between the crime scene and Prakash's evident excitement. Before he could say something, Prakassh had paused in mid sentence and had started to walk towards the book shelf on the other end of the room, his eyes fixed at a spot on the top shelf. Tambe, being an experienced policeman realized what was important and his gaze followed Prakash's. Prakash was staring at a point on the top corner of the book shelf.

Prakash side stepped the rug in the middle of the room and crossed the entrance to the room and reached the bookshelf. He said, "Looks like someone has borrowed a book from this shelf. And a fat book. There is no way the book shelf would have an empty spot like this when every inch of available space on the shelf is crammed with books. And I can bet no one here touches any books. These are meant for display only!".

Tambe replied, "How do you know sir that these are for display. And may be a book is missing. Or someone took it on loan. What does a missing book has to do with our case sir?". Tambe was amongst a handful of colleagues who could afford to question Prakash's judgement.

Prakash answered, "Look at the shelf. All books are lined neatly as if they were lined with a ruler. There is a thin layer of dust on the shelf. Probably the cleaner did not get time today. The spot on the top shelf however, is clean. Very clean. So clean that its out of place. Its as if there was a book there and someone dragged it out of there to make space. Also people who read a lot, read more than one book at a time. And they always leave the books they are reading at strange places. My sister does that. The house is full of books and bookmarks". Prakash paused to examine the titles on the shelf.

"And look at the gramophone there", Prakash pointed and said, "someone plays it regularly. There is not a speck of dust on it. The vinyls are stacked neatly as well but some of them are not in their jackets, like this Pyasa record, and some have been left right next to the player. Its odd that a room kept as meticulously as this would have an empty space in the bookshelf".

"You are right sir. And who wants to read only biographies and film books. Where are the magazines? And our staple evening newspaper, Maha Sakaal?", quipped Tambe. He continued, "Sir, which paper does Renu madam write for?"

Prakash replied carelessly, "I dont know that. Raj Saab hasnt told me that. Its some secret assignment for some international newspaper or magazine. All I know is that I am supposed to keep her in tow for a month. And that means we have to tolerate her for 15 more days".

Tambe began to laugh. He was the kinds that had infectious laughter. When he laughed, you could see all his teeth. And laugher sounded more like a roar.

"Whats so funny that you are laughing? And we are done here. I have seen what is there to be seen. We wont find anything of interest here. Ask someone to seal this room", Prakash instructed.

Tambe nodded and flipped out his walkie talkie to call for this colleagues.

"And lets go and talk to Nidhi Kapoor. You always wanted to meet her. Right? Here is your chance. But before you talk to her, there is something very important that I want to do. That letter that I gave you Tambe, I have to ask her something about it". Prakash said and he headed out of the room. He also threw the vinyl that he was so excited about, at Tambe, who caught it deftly. Tambe left the record on the yellow couch and rushed behind Prakash.

Renu was standing outside the room, facing the door, still looking at the mangled bodies on the rug. She was using the wall to support her back and her entire demeanor seemed resigned, but in control. She tried to collect herself when she saw Prakash come out. Prakash looked at her, paused and said, "Oh yes, you! I had almost forgotten about you. Are you alright? I want you to come with me when I talk to Nidhi Kapoor. Can you do it?"

Prakash rarely waited for answers. That was his way of working. His orders often came in guise of requests, and requests in guise of questions. This sounded like a question and Renu knew immediately that this was a request.

She said, "Yes I think I am ok now. I would come along. I need to catch whoever did this. Bloody butcher needs to be punished". This was the first time Renu had shown any kind of serious emotion. So far, in her two weeks with Prakash and Praveen, she hardly let her true emotions surface. She started following Prakash with hurried steps. Prakash was anyway always in hurry and now had Tambe and Renu in tow.

And they left the room, the way they found it. Only thing they had taken from the room was the letter from the typerwriter. And the only thing they had left behind was a pointed U mark from Renu's Kolhapuri chappal on the expensive rug.

Here it is - the writer's block!

I think its a been a week since I started that little project and it was good going. Till some days back. When the writers block hit me. And I did not write then. I did not write yesterday either. And I did not write the day before. And the day before that.

I have all the excuses that the men have come up with, since time immemorial - no time, no inspiration, no ideas, no laptop to write on, no electricity at home etc.

But end of the day, all these are mere excuses and nothing else. I really enjoyed those nights when I dint sleep and I wrote. When I deliberated over each word that I want to put forth on the blog. When I searched for etymology, origins, synonyms, antonyms etc of words. When I went back and forth and changed tenses and grammar, since I suck so much at it. When I desperately tracked new visitors and growth stagnation in the charts. When I reply to numerous comments (for some reason I still dont get any comments on the blog, so cant track those). When I pimped the links of new posts on social networks and other such places. When I waited desperately to get feedback on what I write from friends and strangers.

Those were good days It was a brilliant week. And that week taught me that I am not as fickle minded as I think I am and once I put my head to something, I can actually do it. Good news for Nidhi Kapoor. I sincerely hope Nidhi does not meet the same fate as the guard of clock tower. In fact I hope that Nidhi would bring the good old guard back to life, if all goes well.

And there is another learning. I got obsessed with writing. Everything else that I spend my time on, ideas, businesses, talking, reading, exploring, surfing , thinking was all put to rest. I was focused on writing. The entire day, I would look for things and ideas that I could write about. And I could not wait for the night to arrive before I pen the thoughts down. Apart from writing, the other two things that have ngrossed me so much were code and poker. Thanks to my MBA, I cant code no more. And thanks to my peanut sized brain, I can not play poker no more.

But, but I can write. No one else can take that away from me. Its a singular activity that requires little or no influence from other factors. I dont need money, I dont need resources, I dont need physical fitness, I dont need a large team. All I need is little motivation and I need Google to research what I am writing about. For something like clock tower, I dont even need to research! I just need to do. To turn up everyday. And ship. A really good friend told me about how Charles Dickens wrote a lot of his work. He would publish things in a periodical and then work on the next chapters. I think I can relate to what he was doing. May be he also needed motivation, push to work. And this was his way to continue writing the longish pieces of texts. Note to self - read the tale of two cities.

Coming back, I need to get back to writing. And start writing lot more. Everyday. 1000 words.

The grand thekas of Gurgaon! - Edit 2

I wrote this yesterday and while I was writing this, I wasnt sure if I liked what I wrote. So I decided that I would re-write it. Here it is.

Meet Salman. He is barely of legal working age and despite not being as famous as his namesake actor, this Salman has a fan following of his own. He is one of those numerous waiters serving guests at makeshift "government approved drinking places", or thekas, in Gurgaon. Thronged by sparsely educated locals and highly educated employees of the multinationals alike, these thekas provide a safe haven for those wanting to indulge in their favorite spirit. And Salman knows his patrons and their whims and he knows how to take care of them.

Salman knows what snack goes well with what kind of alcohol and is quick to give his recommendations. Guests must buy their alcohol from a "government approved wine shop" and then they may choose to sit at these thekas, located often right behind the wine shops. Thekas are so comfortable that they can put cigar lounges at five star hotels to shame. These thekas offer a wide range of options to patrons. From seating in an open courtyard to rooftop seats to air conditioned rooms  to separate enclosures for women to private cabins, they have it all. Of course you need to pay a premium for facilities like aircon and privacy. Not to mention things like cigarettes, lighters, snacks, cuisine from almost all over the world, juices, mixers, ice cubes, glasses and other such paraphernalia that you need when you want to booze.

Salman also has the knack of remembering his patrons by their names and their favorites. He can count about 40 guests that are regulars and Salman knows what would make them happy. This is probably why Salman is so popular amongst patrons at Knight Riders, the theka where Salman works. Even the managers and owners are not complaining as Salman requires far less motivation or supervision while he's working. Salman says he and other waiters, have just two types of patrons - rich Haryanvi villagers and second English speaking office workers. 

The rapid transformation of Gurgaon from a sleepy farming village into the millennium city has given rise to a new community of nouveau riche. These men have sold their farming land to builders and developers as astronomical rates. As a result, there is an entire generation of Haryanvi young men with a lot of money, big cars, too much time and nothing to do. Needless to say in the era of globalization and exposure, these men indulge in "royal" pursuits. Of drinking and gambling. Gambling is still a taboo in India, everyone does it but secretly, drinking is the new social norm. Most evenings groups of these young brash Haryanvi men would head out to a theka and ask someone like Salman to put on some latest bollywood music. Music that would anyway be drowned by the vociferous laughter of these men.

Large parts of the land sold by farmers was turned into commercial and residential properties by the builders. And businesses, both domestic and international buoyed by the India growth story seemed to have an insatiable hunger and capacity for these office spaces. So what probably was once a agricultural land growing wheat, now that a sky scraper, made of steel and glass, that houses thousands of white collar employees. Most of these employees live dysfunctional lives (of India in 21st century) and have a lot of money and time to spend, with their colleagues at informal or formal parties. And more often than not, these groups end up at places like these, and call for Salman to get them their cheese crackers and chicken tikkas.

Funny thing is that all these wine shops are temporary in nature. They are apparently supposed to renew their lease and license every year and despite coming with an expiry date, the owners invest like anything in these wine shops. The decor, the collection, the ambiance, the staff, the service, all of it is at par with any high street shop, if not better. If you want a lesson in visual merchandising, there is no better place to learn about it, than at these wine places. Since alcohol companies cant advertise on mass media, they spend a lot of money on these shops and turn these into their marketing and communication playground.

But despite the temporary arrangement, business is good at these makeshift drinking places. Salman is not complaining. If not for this place, he would probably be an office boy at one of these companies. Here, apart from his salary of Rs. 6000 a month, he takes home as much each week in tips. He says, "On the month ends when most office going people have their pockets full of their salary, I get more tips. I love those days". And while he was reminiscing about those days, he spotted on of his regulars enter the AC room that he tenders to. Beaming from ear to ear, he put his cleaning cloth back on his shoulder and rushed to the table of another patron.

The Nidhi Kapoor Story

Did you like this post? May be you want to read my first book - The Nidhi Kapoor Story.

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