Catharsis

This is a guest post by Rafaa Dalvi who blogs at www.rafaadalvi.blogspot.in and tweets at @TheWittyKid
PS:It’s a short story!

Silence.

Pitch black darkness.

Except for a circle of blinding light in the middle of the room. And at the centre of illumination a man, chained to a platform, with electrodes all over his body.

He is naked. Stripped off all clothes.

He has ‘The Fringe’ haircut.

The silence is shattered by the steps of heavy boots as a figure steps into the light from out of the shadows. Dressed in a black cloak, he leans forward and smiles at the prisoner.

“Good evening. You can call me The Shadow. And you are looking at your downfall.”

The prisoner looks up and can see anger and hate in his eyes of his captor.

Holding up a newspaper The Shadow reads:

If you are sick and tired of watching Justin Bieber all over the place, then beware you are suffering from Bieber Fever.
So get set to learn music form the Justin Bieber School of Music, wear your love for him by buying dresses from his clothing line, get a recording deal under his music label, spend quality time with your close ones at his chain of restaurants and pit your talent against others in his reality shows.
“Justin Bieber as a brand is a ‘cute and talented’ person and wants to work hard and continue to do so,” Bieber said.
His fashion label, designed along the lines of his songs, kicks off with T-shirts that will hit the local stores soon.
Bieber will also starting his own line of salons whose branches will be opened in all the major countries.

The Shadow stares straight into the eyes of his captive.

“So Bieber, why don’t you start by telling me about this Bieber Fever— this huge conspiracy to corrupt the youth of the world? You think I don’t know that when a man or a woman buys a Bieber Tshirt, they actually sell away their souls to you? You think I am unaware that you are trying to start a new cult? That these so-called Schools of Music are nothing but devious churches whose only job is to preach that there is only one true saviour— the ‘cute and talented’ Justin Bieber? What were you going to call your followers? Your Biebs?

The prisoner tries to turn his face away as The Shadow’s words and spit hits him square in the eye.

The Shadow gives a humourless and cruel laugh.

“I am sick and I am tired of you, Bieber. Turn on the TV and it’s you. Go to any part of the world and I can hear your music blaring. I see ladies wearing revealing “One Less Lonely Girl” tops and all the rowdy low lives flirting with them singing ”Love Me”.”

Bieber smirks.

“You are a disease, Bieber. And you need to be eradicated.”

Bieber knows that The Shadow has stripped him naked and shorn him off his dignity. He realizes that his manhood (seriously?) is being silently mocked.

The smell of fear invades the room.

Bieber remains silent.

The Shadow whispers “I don’t think you understand what sort of trouble you are in, Bieber. Trust me, when I say I will send 440 volts of electricity through your “Eenie Meenie” if you continue to remain silent.”

Bieber finally breaks his silence.

“You have made a big mistake and now you will suffer for it. You have chained my hands, my legs and wired my entire body. You have even wired up my “Eenie Meenie”. However, you forgot one simple thing.”

“What the hell are you talking about? Everything has been planned meticulously by me. You are looking at your downfall.”

“No, you are. You forgot to gag me.”

Before The Shadow can react, the prisoner unleashes a blood-curdling “Baaaaaabbbbbbbbbyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy“. The Shadow is flung away. Glass and wood splinter fly all over. Tongues of blue electricity leap outwards. The prisoner sings “Ohhhhhhh Baaabbbbbyyyyyyyyyyyyyy” drowning out the metallic voice in the background:

“Level 5 security breach. Facility lockdown. Quarantine process activated. Biohazard uncontained and dangerous.”

The Shadow clutches his ears in pain. His ear drums have been blasted to pieces. Blood trickles down his body.

As he drifts away into the darkness, the last thing he sees is the naked figure of ‘The Fringe’ haircut Bieber flying into freedom.

Epilogue:

The Shadow awakes. A golden gate lies ahead. A light blue cloudless sky all around. A gentle breeze. And he feels peace.
An old kind man comes upto him and says:
“My son, welcome to heaven. Peace be with you.”
The man has ‘The Fringe’ haircut. And his white gown says “Never Say Never”.

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The Heartless Heart

He stared. He stared hard. Those mystic blue eyes shown through the photograph as if she actually wanted him to look at her. He sat by the window with an open mouth. Not by shock, but by being astounded. Tearing his eyes away from her angelic face, he looked out of the window, straight into the night. In his dreams, this moment would be complimented by some deeply romantic and slightly sensual music with lovey-dovey lyrics as he stared into the stars, tracing out her name with his fingers, in an outlandish attempt to reach something far away. But in the mediocre reality of today, all he heard when he stared into a black, starless sky was the barking of the stray hounds and the religious tune which was now every other car’s reverse warning tone. Still, one thing remained. His heart pounded just the way he imagined it would.
How had he reached this place? At 17 this poor chap was supposed to be ruing over how girls don’t dress provocatively enough and then after a sad nod, return to his textbook. Instead he was sitting by a window like a love struck idiot. He pondered deeply over his life and believe you me, with genuine concern. You see, Rahul had always been one of those “good, sorted” people. Academically sound with a flair for his talents, he was a friendly guy with a regular life. He had a level head, but a delicate heart was what formed his Achilles’ heel. Planning and scheduling was his forte, and somehow, he had forgotten to consider his heart in his life plan. Or maybe he had, like an over smart MBA graduate from a fancy college, allotted a future time for his romantic pursuits. But, since when has the human heart considered the brain’s advice? Everyone knows that the heart is heartless itself.
He shifted uncomfortably as he considered doing what anyone might have done- “asking her out”. He squirmed as different scenarios jogged his mind faster than the square root of energy divided by mass. The fear of rejection, ostracized reactions by parents, the inevitable break-up, the emotional impact, all of it struck him in one go. Just as he was about to cringe in prospective fear, a thought flashed through his mind. Sitting by the beach, watching the sunset with her, with her small delicate fingers in his long but delicate ones. The smile on their faces and her awe, love and a bit of annoyance struck laugh as he showed her the sunset twice just because of his textbook. Her eyes would light up when he spoke of…
“RAHUL! Dinner’s ready, put the plates on the table, Ridhima will serve the food and I’ll make the rotis!”
His mother’s voice broke his chain of thoughts. He smiled, although the fake one with a tinge of sadness as he acknowledged the odd thoughts he just experienced. He quickly exited from the “View Display Picture” menu of his Blackberry and started towards the dining table. As he headed out of the room, his eyes were reflected in the mirror. To a bystander, they were the eyes of a geek, a social nobody, a love struck idiot who had no chance with any girl, let alone the girl of his dreams. But all I saw was conflict, grief and joy. All I saw was a seventeen year old boy, in a state, he didn’t deserve to be.


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The Bankster By Ravi Subramanian-A Review

Intricate detailing is what makes a thriller what it is. The Bankster is beyond the usual suspense thriller. Veering with multiple scenarios playing at our simultaneously, it makes for a fabulous read, especially in India’s emerging culture which is exponentially rising into the corporate lifestyle. The subtle, yet commonly gossiped about fact that powerful corporate houses run the nation is well weaved into the plot as Mr. Subramanian takes you on a simple, yet enthralling ride

This 358 paged novel is Ravi’s fifth novel with the banking world as its set (however, I confess to not having read the other four before). But, with all honesty, I regret not having read them as this book was simply wonderful. Dealing with three different parallels at the same time, Subramanian slowly unravels a web of mystery linking a covert CIA agent, an anti-nuclear power plant protest in India and a series of death of a certain bank’s employees. Most authors writing thrillers fail to clearly link these sets in a convincing manner, often disappointing readers. However, The Bankster pretty much clearly exhibits the links and demonstrates their entanglement.

The nucleus of this book is its radical, coherent yet brutally simple analogy to different current situations. Ravi brilliantly has drawn some of the world’s most familiar happenings into an elaborate piece of fiction to expound some thoughts which gets you thinking. The familiarity between the Kundankulam nuclear power plant protests and the fictitious protests in the book is point blank and obvious but does explore a delicate side of the world of International relations by sly hints. Also, by dumbing down complex banking strategies and terms, Ravi has eased the burden on a common reader. This is a problem rarely addressed by authors and often becomes a stigma. I quote one of my friends who supposedly read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code with one eye on the book and the other on the Google search results of the various terms thrown at her. At face value, The Bankster is both easy on your mind as well as Internet bills.

Moving on to the book’s Achilles’ heel, we arrive at something which is debatable Although the book slowly lays out the detailed plot and the mystery breaks free perfectly with logical arguments, the method, to me was a bit unrealistic. To me, a media personnel deciphering extravagant clues and connecting the dots, that too within a fixed time period of 48 hours is a bit tough to accept. Although Ravi seeks to augment this fact by detailing Karan (the media guy)’s character with investigative training and a natural flair for deciphering cases, it still remains tough to accept. Another counter to this can be Karan’s support team consisting of some trusted colleagues and his girlfriend, I would like to iterate that their contribution pales in comparison to Karan’s as he clearly steals the limelight.

Overall, this book is a masterpiece and simply un-putdown-able. Ravi draws you into the world of GB2 and controls your emotions like a puppet master. When I picked up the book, the first thing that leaped out was a line out of the Wall Street Journal saying “Meet the John Grisham of banking”. Suffice to say, I second it.

The Standing Coin Rating: 7.5/10

Like: Easy to read, Draws the reader’s attention into a detailed world, Radical new theories

Dislike: Single character essaying the role of a super intelligent hero comes across as unrealistic

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Life,Shife Tey Cornetto Khana

As I walk down the street, I see numerous eyes boring towards me, in an almost hate inciting manner. Men, with unkempt matted hair and bloodshot eyes, women with a slight sneer and noses flared in the not cute way. Even little children seemed to hate me, as they looked at me with the looks reserved for the uncle who takes away your ball when you break his window. I quickened my pace and kept walking, with admittedly a creepy little feeling right at the back of my neck, ignoring the sudden cold I felt. Damn! This bad phase was getting to me. Just yesterday I had a mock paper for an entrance exam I will be taking with lakhs of other students sometime next year. I still couldn’t remember my result and not suppress the feeling to throw up. Like all those moments, I start seeing flashes. The whirring of the fan as I read “Saransh Sharma, All India Rank 68”. The not-good enough look on my parents’ face, the slightly pale but reminiscent of the original white color tiles of the floor as my professor hurled his sarcastic comments, everything.

As I reached the odd looking shop and smiled at Jagran Chacha, he appeared to be in a bright mood. Here’s why it was fishy. Jagran Chacha was infamous for his grouchy expressions as he read the Dainik Jagran editorials perennially. He last smiled during the monsoons of 2010 when apparently his village had been nominated for a development award. I plonked three moldy 10 rupee notes on his table and wordlessly picked up my Ice-cream. That’s one thing I loved as a regular customer! Every afternoon at 1.30 my double chocolate Cornetto awaited me at Chacha’s shop. The small talk with Chotu and Chacha, was admittedly not the day’s highlight, but yes, it did figure into my daily dose of indulgence. Ironically, I decided to forgo today the one thing that I needed the most, an off chit-chat.

As I stood outside the shop and took a bite, I wondered about my precarious decisions and the mess that I know called life. One of my friends had once postulated “If you’re sorted right now, it just means God’s planning some mischief, Satan-style”. Strange isn’t it? Life suddenly changes paths without a warning, everything loses order or sense and you descend into chaos. That’s what was happening to me. I had potently decided that I needed to take some bold steps to curb my problems. Giving up on the supposed vices of teenage life was a priority. My sister already laid claim to my cell phone, and social networks were to be closed at the click of a button. Sorting and planning were my buzz words for the day as I miserably started off with the waffle of the cone. I don’t know why, but ice-cream, especially a Cornetto always brings me to my senses. Once I actually sat down to find the reason behind it. I even tried to interpret some deep meaning behind the melting of the soft chocolate flavored disk and I reached a sensible conclusion which read “If it’s hot, it’ll melt you dummy!” So I let it be.

Biting into the bottom half of the cone, I saw an uncanny scene. Right across the road, a small little boy, perhaps the age of three or four, the rags made him look older though, was walking. An insignificant empty can sat right in the middle of his path. The boy stopped in his tracks, and with eyes full of snide yet innocent curiosity, began examining it. He prodded it with small squishy fingers, stared at the nearly gone label and measured its size. Perhaps it was a religious thing or maybe an odd fixation, but he wasn’t going on further, as if the can was stopping him. Seemingly seeing no alternative, he did what most of us do to feel good; he started crying. He cried et he wailed, but the can didn’t move. How was the young child to know that like most people today, metallic cans too didn’t have hearts that melt at the sight of someone else’s anguish. Just as I bit into the best yet unfortunately the last bit of the cone, I saw the child wipe his snotty nose of his rag like clothes and angrily stand up. If I had not known better, I would have thought it to be the angry young man look of Bollywood. He raised his leg, and in perfect arc, swung it with force towards the can and kicked it straight across the road where it rolled over to God knows where. With a smile, the kid walked on.

I hastily wiped my spectacles to remove the oily, sweat smudge. As I put them back on, everything seemed to change. The bloodshot eyes stare seemed to be more of a stranger’s courteous acknowledgement than hate. The woman’s flared nose as she bargained with Jagran Chacha over something seemed cute again and Chacha’s grouchy expression was back. The kids were giggling at me and my slightly displaced look. As I exited the shop, the afternoon seemed brighter and so did my mood. I wondered why I was thinking so oddly. Maybe, it was the spectacle’s smudge or perhaps the ice-cream. I’ll never know, but the best part is, I don’t want to know.


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Love,Peace And Happiness By Rituraj Verma-A Review

 

Life is an oddity. Everyone seeks different things at different times. To a 6th grader, happiness would be a 90+ score in maths but to a 42 year old woman, it could be the smile on her child’s face. Love at the age of 15 means that you are in a relationship for more than a year or two. Strangely, it stands in a different spectra altogether for a 34 year old. This book, ladies and gentlemen is a unique work just because of its different approach.
This 223 paged novel is not for the weak hearted or for fantasy fans. Using interconnected short stories, Verma has created a niche for his writing by exploring something narrowly restricted but yet open to a vast audience. This is how unique the Indian literature readership is. By bringing out lively characters, near life like situations and different walks of an Indian’s life, LPH becomes a inner probe as each story challenges you to find something in yourself which the characters with their elaborate descriptions, complement.
One of the best parts of this book is that the characters are not people unlike us. They are simple personas replicated from real life which everyone can simply relate to. I completely agree with the author when he says that in all probability, we have met people like these in different phases of life. Some are winners, some are extraordinary achievers, some are plain losers, some are damaged, and some are disturbed. But the point remains that the character portrayal in this book is excellent and are more alive than expected. Also the “hatke” factor of the book is that it has URLs at the end of every story to alternate endings (a reader can also submit his or her own alternate ending online) to each short story. Thus, each story, although sticking to a central theme and message, gives you the ability to fiddle around and decide the recipe of the perfect match to the story.
Arriving to a gray area which conflicts with me, I found the philosophical discussions expounded by the characters odd. Not that I’m against it but to me, characters having spiritual conflicts and arguments about petty issues was weird simply because as I mentioned earlier, the characters are more lively than usual books and we can associate them with someone we know. Now, in that context, their conversations, if not in sync, create a paradoxical oddity. Although the idea of proposing deep ideas via character thoughts and conversations is nothing new but Rituraj’s bluntness and the book’s X factor in itself pulls it down.
Overall, the book was a good read. Definitely a must if in need for a inner seeking but won’t recommend it for a fun filled holiday or enjoyment weekend. Such books are special and heavy duty, suitable for reading with a deep heart and an open mind.
The Standing Coin Rating: 6/10
Like:  Brilliant life like characterization, unique concept of alternate endings online, Indian audience focused
Dislike:  Spiritual discussions although profound, seem to be unnatural for the characters. They feel like a hand sewn onto an amputated man. Works, but just not the right grip
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The Krishna Key By Ashwin Sanghi- A Review

In an era when India and in its essence, India’s youth is losing touch with Indian mythology,  The Krishna Key and in a broader sense, Ashwin Sanghi’s own distinctive genre is a game changer. Combining mysterious mythology, excellent research and some enthralling fiction, the book can simply not be put down. The book slowly lures you into a seemingly simple waltz which suddenly turns into a spicy tango as each page leaves you yearning for more.
This 464 paged novel is unique because of several factors; the so called “Indian” style of writing, a simple yet deep character embodiment combined with a Dan Brown like narration and plot makes for a brilliant read. Being a consistent Sanghi reader, the tone and pace of the book was nothing new to me although to first time readers it may seem slightly odd but you catch on within the first 100 pages.
Moving on to the core X-factor of the book that is the blunt and simple expression of history in combination with myth.  Ingeniously Sanghi uses logic and seemingly simple connect-the-dots narration to solidly bring credential to seemingly absurd mythological claims. Simply put, if a book can convince me that a Shiv Lingam is an ancient representation or a model of a nuclear reactor in just about two pages, the book is meticulously researched and the author has a super power to cut the crap when it comes to information. Interestingly, the Krishna Key also shows the other side of Sanghi which is of an excellent fiction creator. Dramatization, suspense and elaborate scene setting are a part of his style which beautifully fits in with the obviously exhaustive research.
Zeroing on to the rare down trends of the book, I personally felt that the climax was well rather anti-climax. Quite similar to Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol and most of Ashwin’s past books themselves, the ending had a spiritual as well as philosophical edge to which the build up was rather lacking. The transition from finding something substantial to finding something metaphorical and cryptically spiritual is rather quick and surprisingly, but not in the good sense. Apart from that, the novel did not lag anywhere. Although there were clearly some issues at the editorial (For example, on  Page number 301 of my paperback edition, the character Radhika is referred to as Priya who is an another character), these issues are ignorable and can be easily fixed in future editions.
Overall, this book is a wonderful read for all fans of the thriller or historical fiction genre. For kids and teenagers, it is  an opportunity to learn the logic and history behind many of our existing beliefs while for the analytical adult( or young adult), the book, like the previous ones by Ashwin, present a wonderful and fresh new look on the concept, evolvement and emergence of religion which admirably plays a huge role in all our lives.
The Standing Coin Rating: 7/10
Like: Style of narration, Brilliant mixing of fiction, myth, history and logic
Dislike: Anti climax end, Editorial mistakes
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