Friday, 27 June 2014

Not An Ordinary Love Letter

Rakesh and Rumi were in their eighth grade. Adolescence is an interesting phase of life. Guys get to learn many new things and girls start getting undue attention, particularly from the senior guys. Well, some smart girls also make their first boyfriend. Rakesh had a crush on Rumi. He had even expressed his love to her many times, but Rumi was not interested; neither in Rakesh nor in any other guy. She was matured enough to think beyond love and wanted to concentrate more on her studies. Gradually Rakesh was getting obsessed with Rumi. He wanted to win her heart at any cost, but he didn’t know how? Some of his friends had tried to help him. His friends played the mediator role and exchanged messages between them. But Rumi was not at all interested. Rakesh was getting crazy and his condition was becoming miserable day by day. Rumi’s thoughts and images kept occupying his mind. Then one day, out of the blue Rakesh had an idea. He thought to write a love letter to Rumi. Well, not an ordinary one, but love word written with letters of dripping blood, his own blood.

It was middle of the night and Rakesh was pretending to sleep. His parents were already asleep in the next room. Rakesh calmly got down from his bed and started to walk towards his study table. He switched on his table lamp and then opened his geometry box. He picked the compass and stared at its extremely sharp edge. Rakesh wanted to pierce his skin to get some blood. He had also placed a small container on the table to collect his vital fluids. He was a little confused with which part of his body he would pierce. Lost in his thoughts, he was very anxious and also very scared. He was sunk in an ocean of emotions. Even though Rakesh was distracted by the annoying mosquito sounds and their bites, but those tiny irritating creatures couldn't take away the feelings he had that moment. Rakesh tried to be calm as he feared his parents might wake up. It was a long night for him, but he was successful in his mission. He managed to express his heart in a couple of lines, written entirely in blood.

The next day one of his mediators passed on the note to Rumi. The guy had conveyed to her that Rakesh had written it with his blood. Rumi read those beautiful words. She took the letter close to her nose and inhaled a cloud of air making a loud sniffing sound. She could smell blood and became very emotional. She looked at Rakesh and their eyes met. Rumi didn’t know what to do and she was on the verge of crying. Rumi hadn't spoken to Rakesh for the last few months and now she wanted to talk to him. She became very emotional for Rakesh, but she was still hesitant to talk to him directly. During lunch break she talked to Rakesh's best friend Santosh. Rumi said to him that she was very disturbed.

'Why Rakesh had to do this? I’m feeling so guilty. I was always rude to him. He loves me so much, he had cut his finger to write to me,' said Rumi and tears streamed down her cheeks.

On seeing her condition Santosh felt very bad and he said, 'Rumi, I have to tell you something. Actually,  last night Rakesh had seriously thought to pierce his finger and take out sufficient amount of blood to write a long letter to you. But he was scared to hell. He tried his best, but couldn’t dare to pierce his skin. He then came up with an idea. During these monsoon days, Rakesh's room is usually a shelter for mosquitoes and they use to suck his blood all the time. Last night he had killed about fifteen to twenty mosquitoes with his hands; all of them were healthy, loaded with fresh human blood. Rakesh somehow managed to write a couple of lines using those mosquitoes blood'

PS: This is a true story, but the names of the characters have been changed.

Saturday, 21 June 2014


'A prostitute turned entrepreneur, who hires a ghost writer to make a biography. 

A murder that she was accused for and her vision to legalize prostitution completely in India.

A parallel conspiracy that threatens her life and her vision.

A forgotten tale of mermaid, that must be told.

Time is ticking and history would be altered. What would be the fate of Nazaqat?

Will she succeed in her vision or she would end up as a victim?'

Naazani Singh Shekhawat is a girl from Dehradun. She had a lonely childhood, her mother died while delivering her and her father was a general in Indian army, who would be either on duty or boozing with his friends. Her father had always lived a disciplined life; too strict on the people around and on himself. Naazani had always lived a life of desolation; motherless girl, an insensitive father and a limited number of friends in her all-girl-convent school. Life was quite boring for her after she returned home from her convent school. She confined herself within their old fashioned luxurious house in the valley of Dehradun.

But life was entirely different for Naazani after she moved to Delhi for her higher education, particularly after her encounter with Sharat. Sharat was an opportunist guy who had smelled business the moment he met her. Well, Naazani was an epitome of beauty and with every passing day she was becoming more and more exotic. She had the seductive killer eyes and guys were just crazy for her. Somehow under Sharat’s influence Naazani entered into the world of prostitution, that too wholeheartedly. She was happy and loved her profession. She enjoyed experiencing new guys and found it very interesting. Naazani used the name Nazaqat and she became famous with this name in her darker world. She was living a dual life, one that of Naazani and another of Nazaqat. Naazani was humble and a very sensitive girl, while Nazaqat was opportunist, selfish and egoistic.

Several years later, Naazani is quite older now. Nazaqat in her, had already died. Naazani had filed a petition to completely legalize prostitution in India. This has made her a celebrity and she is constantly in media headlines these days. And very recently she has been accused of murdering her close friend Biplab. Is it a conspiracy? Well, the climax of the story is very interesting and I was really thrilled.

I enjoyed reading the book; it’s a crime thriller. But throughout the story I couldn’t understand the character Nazaqat. Neither she was money hungry nor the author has portrayed her as a hardcore nymphomaniac. I completely failed to understand why she continued to be a prostitute. I could only make out that Nazaqat loved to meet new people, talk to them and sometimes also enjoyed seducing them. But God has designed human beings in such a way that women need not indulge in prostitution to experience such things. 

The author Harsh Agarwal is a young writer who made his debut in publishing industry at an early age of 19. He is an Engineering graduate, but nowadays he’s into full time writing business. Apart from writing he also runs an organization ‘The Asylum’, which aims to help aspiring authors. Due to some reason Harsh had written Nazaqat with a pseudo name of Sasha H Singhal. After reading the book I asked him why he had published it with a pseudo name, ‘were you afraid of your parents?’ Well, Harsh simply burst into laughter and replied, 'no, that was not the reason'

Title: Nazaqat
Author: Sasha H Singhal
Publisher: Half Baked Beans
Genre: Fiction (Thriller)

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Delhi Summer

After passing out of college some of my good hostel friends went to Delhi to start their career. The market was badly hit by recession those days. Well, I didn’t know much about recession and all; the only thing I knew was that none of the companies were hiring freshers. After staying at home for a couple of months I was absolutely bored. I felt a sense of anxiety at the reality of my situation. I didn’t have any clue what to do in life and simply decided to go to Delhi to my friends. It was the month of March, so we didn’t encounter the lethal winter. Even though none of us had a job, but life in Delhi was cool.  I smelled freedom yet again, as if I was out of my cage and could fly like a free bird. 

The weather in Delhi was pleasant initially, particularly in the evening; the moderately chilly breeze felt sumptuous. We stayed at a place named ‘East of Kailash’. The place was considered to be a posh area, but we lived in a ‘Dhobi’ washerman’s colony. For the first time I witnessed a modern ‘dhobi ghat’ where they washed cloths in some giant washing machines. One day, my good friend Javed came to meet us. He was staying in Delhi for the last few months and was familiar with the surroundings. He lived in Lajpat Nagar and it was not very far from our place. In the evening he took us for a walk to show his locality. We visited Lajpat Nagar market. There was a person who was selling soup in his thela. There was a huge queue and I wondered if the man was distributing soup for free. Javed said that his soup was very famous and his business was at boom in the winter. My friends wanted to taste it, but I was not very interested. Well, I was more into solid food and some hard core liquids. I considered soup kind of stuff as luxury and a waste of money. But I was quite fascinated with the price of the soup, there. There were a few varieties and the usual chicken soup was priced at Rs 10. I thought it was worth a try.

'For Rs 10, even if I get the smell of chicken that would be more than enough,' I wondered.

Without much expectation I also lined up in the queue. When I got my bowl of soup, Oh dear! I was mesmerized with the aroma. It was so refreshing and also there was adequate amount of solid chicken in my bowl. It was delicious and that was one of the best soup I ever had.

A few days later, one chilly evening, I had a craving for that soup. I asked my friends, but nobody was interested to go that far. So I went alone, had my soup and returned. On my way back home, I was lost. I knew I was somewhere near ‘East of Kailash’, but I was utterly confused.
I asked one middle aged and a decent looking man, 'Uncle Ji, ye, East of Kailash kidhaar hai?'(Could you please tell me where is East of Kailash?)

'Aree Behenchod, East of Kailash pe khade hoke poochta hai ki East of Kailash kidhaar hai'

The man replied sharply and in a rather weird manner, with the F-word.  He tried to convey me that I was already in East of Kailash. I was totally stunned with his behavior; not that I wasn’t used to such  holy words, in fact I preached those with my friends. But I never expected that from an elderly stranger and I was a little disappointed. The man then asked me where exactly I had to go in East of Kailash and guided me properly. Within a few days I understood that entire Delhi was just like a hostel where people love to greet others with one F-word or another, just to add a little more intimacy, a little more love and a little more gravity to their greetings. 

Time passed by and soon we started to feel the Delhi heat. I noticed the Delhi men got busy with their coolers in their balconies. Summer had arrived. We were aware of Delhi summer, but experiencing it for the first time was a different matter altogether. Initially it was hot, then it became unpleasantly hot and then the heat turned brutal and unbearable. Delhi summer had really frightened me. Neither I nor any of my friends had a job that time. Forget about Air Conditioner, we didn’t even have one of those local made coolers. After lunch we usually passed time in a nearby cyber cafe. Using internet was secondary for us and our primary intention was to enjoy the AC there. The cafe guy had already increased the price by Rs 5 per hour. So instead of two, three of us started to occupy the same computer. During the day I gulped enough quantity of the street lemonade. I was quite fascinated with the special looking bottles sealed with a marble stuck inside them. Those were served chilled with fresh lime juice and the special Masala. The street lemonades were like saviors and they cooled us off for a while.

Our life was a little normal after dark. That was the time when I experienced how it feels to treat 10 pm as evening rather than night. But I remember that some nights were equally brutal as the days. Those nights I used to have shower multiple times, after every hour. Immediately after shower I used to stand under the fan. It felt really good, kind of cooler effect. But the water droplets on my body would disappear within a minute and soon the heat started to strike all over again. Our room had turned into a heater and the walls were radiating heat all around. I felt I was in hell. On a few occasions I had thrown a bucket of water at my cotton mattress. It worked for a few minutes and then I felt as if I was sleeping in a big pot of boiling water. Well, I had many sleepless nights that summer. I remember there was a sugarcane juice stall near to our colony. The guy used to come early in the morning to start his business and a few times, I was his first customer for the day. Unable to get any sleep for the entire night I went to that juice stall. I found the guy was not ready yet, he was still busy settling his stuff. Once he was ready, I gulped four to five glasses of icy chilled sugarcane juice and returned to my room. The juice inside my body somehow managed to resist the heat outside and finally I was able to get some sleep.

These days, a serious power crisis is going on in Delhi. I can’t imagine how the people are surviving without power, there. On top of that, the summer is ruthless this time; I’ve heard that sometimes the mercury rises beyond 48 degree Celsius.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Tin Fish

During our college days, the hostel was more than a home for us and we were pretty much addicted to the place. I loved to remain in the hostel, doing nothing. Life was so cool, the place created happiness and serenity. Now what to say about our hostel food? I think it’s more or less the same story everywhere. But no matter how the food was, everyone used to eat gracefully. Every year our hostel warden kept changing and they all preferred to visit only in freshers and farewell nights. Also, they usually showed up when most of the guys were in their normal state of mind, before the party got wild. Many of the hostelers were confused to see a stranger in the hostel premises and after knowing he was our Super Sir, the guys simply disappeared. Everything related to our hostel including our canteen, was managed by us, the hostelers. Every month the guys used to choose a new mess secretory and the entire responsibility of the mess was with him. The best thing about our hostel mess was that it was more like a home. Many were not satisfied with the regular food and desired for something extra.  The canteen guys were aware of such demands and they always used to keep boiled potatoes, raw onions and green chilies. Such luxuries were usually limited to the seniors. I remember a few such seniors who always used to yell at the canteen guys, 'bring boiled potato, fast', 'fry the boiled potato with onion and green chilies, and get it fast'

Boiled potatoes were in great demand and it lasted only for a limited time. Whosoever wanted to worship boiled potato, had to eat early. After the boiled potatoes were finished, guys used to ask for fried green chilies and onions. When the onions also got over, the chilies became highly demanding. My good friend Bhushan liked the 'Onion-Chili' fry to such an extent that when he was our mess secretary he introduced the recipe as part of the main course. Well, it took many of us by surprise when we had to finish our meal with dal and onion-chili fry. Apart from those yummy extra eateries, we also had the luxury to prepare some customized special food like chicken, egg amongst others. Sometimes a group of guys used to contribute money for their special meal. Usually one of the hostel cooks prepared the delicious cuisine, but some of the guys had a chef in them and they participated enthusiastically. Such exclusive meals were usually relished a little early or a little late from the usual mess timing, just to avoid the public assault on the food. 

Gradually I also became habituated to such exclusive meals. That was the time when I tasted Tin Fish for the first time. Some of the shops near to the college used to keep Tin Fish and it was quite popular among many of the hostelers. Tin fish preparation is very simple and takes only a few minutes. It’s utterly yummy and I became its fan in my first encounter itself. I remember, those days one tinned fish cost 50 rupees and usually we used to contribute 10 rupees per head in a group of five to enjoy our splendid meal. Those days some of us were regular Tin fish eaters and we had become addicted to it. We usually used to prepare it with boiled potatoes. Years later, nowadays also I prefer to keep Tin Fish in our refrigerator. My wife also loves it a lot. Sometimes when we are tired or there’s nothing to prepare, we usually end up making Tin Fish. The recipe is very simple and can be prepared in ten to fifteen minutes.

1. Heat cooking oil in a pan in low flame.

2. Meanwhile chop an onion and some green chilies, add them and saute till golden brown

3. Quickly chop one or two tomatoes, add them and mix properly

4. Add turmeric powder and salt, stir for a while. I usually add boiled potato or green papaya or pumpkin in it. In case of papaya and pumpkin, the recipe will take a little longer. But last time I prepared Tin Fish with only tomatoes.

5. Stir it for four to five minutes till the tomatoes get fried properly

6. Add the tuna fish along with 1/2 cup of water and cook covered for a few minutes.

7. Add freshly prepared ginger-garlic paste and mix it thoroughly

8. After a few minutes add freshly chopped coriander leaves

That’s it and done. You will get aroused with the tempting aroma and once you grab a bite, I bet the prepared Tin Fish won’t last for long.

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