Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Evil That Men Do...

I find it difficult to breathe today... I have been trying to stem the anguish within my heart over the past twenty-four hours ever since I heard of the Chennai horror story of a tiny little girl having been brutalized and gang-raped by twenty-two monsters. To call them animals would be doing animals an injustice, for they could never stoop to these levels of degradation.

My heart aches because, till November 19th, 2017, I lived in the same apartment in Chennai, a space which I considered a haven of peace, where children of all age groups played and lived in perfect harmony. We would smile in pride when we watched children playing basketball and cycling in the evenings. Mothers would hold their toddlers by the hand and walk around the building, often sitting in the children’s park when out of breath.
It was assumed that the building had all the facilities required for a life of ease – well-maintained lifts, electricians and plumbers on call, an office that looked into every requirement of the dwellers, and above all, an efficient security agency that had a plethora of security men who were there in case of every contingency.

Nothing could go wrong, it seemed, in such enviable surroundings.

The horror unfolded two days ago on national television, a ghastly litany of gang rape, drug abuse and sexual violence, at the centre of which was a tender life that had been brutalized by twenty-two monsters, from the ages of 66 to 23. Each of them was an employee working in the apartment, all wolves in sheep’s clothing.

My heart sank further when I saw their photographs. I knew many of these men.

The genial lift guy who would sing out ‘Good Morning’ with a cheery smile
The prompt electricians who would walk in to repair tube lights and fans, whenever a complaint was lodged
The polite water suppliers who carried cans of water and came in to place them in the kitchen
The extra friendly security chief who sat at the gate and waved his hand every time he saw me

I stared at all their faces in the photograph on television, in which the word ‘ACCUSED” was written in letters of blood red.

These were the men all of us living in the apartment had trusted implicitly. After all, weren’t they the ones who were posted there to keep us safe?
Men in their sixties, fifties, forties, thirties and twenties... predators, vampires, beasts... RAPISTS!
Thank God there were no juveniles who would have got away, scot-free.
It was almost as if a common voice had whispered in their tainted minds, “Be the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it.”

What is it we want for these rapists? Castration? Hanging until death? Or a living death that condemns them to a life of pain and agony? How can we sit back and let little children suffer such heinous attacks, again and again? Isn’t it time our country had laws that were strong enough to act as deterrents? The gang rape in Delhi sent shock waves throughout the country, enough to amend the law. But has anything changed at all? Rapes are still happening with impunity, and rapists continue to terrorize children and women, confident that they have enough time on their side to be able to live a full and fruitful life, before the law takes them in hand, if at all. Babies, adolescents, teenagers, young and old women – no one is safe from these predators. After all, India has been labelled the most unsafe country for women in the world. And no one cares a fig!

What has happened in this apartment building is something that all of us need to think about. Despite CCTV cameras all around, this gang of men still managed to pull off a crime this terrible, this unforgivable. Not one of them stopped to think of how they would have reacted if this had happened to their own children. It is these kinds of incidents that bring home the fact that danger lurks not only outside, but within the safe confines of one’s own home environment. It has become mandatory for parents and teachers to insist that their little charges know, not only about safe and unsafe touches, but about the possibility of predators all around them. We all need to hammer this idea into the heads of our little ones, and look out for every tiny sign of discomfort that could give us hints and clues of abuse, sexual or otherwise. 

Today, the ladies in the apartment have come out of their homes and are manning the main gates, barring the entry of visitors. They are badly shaken, being mothers of young ones themselves, but are determined to stay on at their posts and fight this out to its inevitable conclusion. In their hearts, every child needs to be protected; they weep for the little one who was violated. It is for them, and for every single one of us, to explain to our children, in no uncertain terms, that the world is no longer a safe place.

For in the words of ex-President Barack Obama, “This is our first task – caring for our children. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we’ll be judged.”

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Spotlight: Missing, Presumed Dead by Kiran Manral

Dear Friends,

Kiran Manral is a well-known Indian author who has written a number of books that have captured the pulse of readers everywhere. Her latest book, Missing, Presumed Dead, is a psychological thriller. The cover and the title speak for themselves.

                                                                   PRESS RELEASE

                                               an imprint of 
                                          Manjul Printing House

                                a must read psychological thriller
Kiran Manral

“A gripping and sinister tale. Kiran Manral holds you with every page.”
- Ashwin Sanghi

Missing, Presumed Dead is a disturbing look into a broken marriage that has been torn apart by emotional distance and mental illness. The book takes us down scary pathways where we are forced to reckon with ugly truths about love and death, and the loss of everything we hold dear—including ourselves. The novel is a mystery cum drama, packed with all the elements that make a thriller.

The reader is left to keep guessing till the very last page!


In a dysfunctional marriage, it may seem convenient when the wife commits suicide, but things aren’t always what they seem...
Battling both a fractured marriage and the monsters in her cranium, Aisha leads a sequestered life on the outskirts of a bustling tourist town in the hills of North India. She struggles to stay functional, and tries to wean herself off the pills that keep her from tipping over the edge. Prithvi, the husband she loved once, seems as eager to be rid of her, as she is to flee from him. Only her children keep her tethered to her hearth.
One rainy afternoon, the last thing Aisha expects to see is a younger version of herself at the door. It is Aisha’s half-sister, Heer, her father’s illegitimate daughter from another woman. Despite her misgivings, Aisha lets her into the house, and she stays over. Two days later, Aisha goes into town and never returns. Seemingly unperturbed, Heer slips into her missing sister’s shoes effortlessly, taking charge of the house, the kids, and even Prithvi, who responds to her overtures willingly.
 A note found in Aisha’s wallet states that she has taken her own life, though strange happenings leave plenty of room for doubt. But, if she is not dead, where is Aisha? Is she really dead? Did she commit suicide as the note found in her wallet states? Has she been abducted, run away or in hiding? Why does Prithvi not grieve for his deceased wife? And why does Heer walk out of the house one fine day, leaving no forwarding address?
As it examines the destruction a dystopian marriage and mental illness leave in their wake, Missing, Presumed Dead brings us face to face with the fragility of relationships, the ugly truths about love and death, and the horrifying loss of everything we hold dear, including ourselves.
About the author:

Kiran Manral published her first book, The Reluctant Detective, in 2011. Since then, she has published eight books across genres till date. Her books include romance and chicklit with Once Upon A Crush, All Aboard, Saving Maya; horror with The Face at the Window and nonfiction with Karmic Kids, A Boy’s Guide to Growing Up and True Love Stories. Her short stories have been published on Juggernaut, in magazines like Verve and Cosmopolitan, and have been part of anthologies like Chicken Soup for the Soul, Have a Safe Journey and Boo. 
She was shortlisted for the Femina Women Awards 2017 for Literary Contribution. She is a TEDx speaker and was a mentor with Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walk 2017. The Indian Council of UN Relations (ICUNR) supported by the Ministry for Women and Child Development, Government of India, awarded her the International Women’s Day Award 2018 for excellence in the field of writing. Her novella, Saving Maya, was longlisted for the 2018 Saboteur Awards, UK, supported by the Arts Council England.

For interviews, reviews and excerpts please call or email:
Megha Parmar, 9711404608,

PB | Fiction | 268 pp | Rs 350

Excerpt 2

Missing, Presumed Dead

She remembered that she hadn't taken her medication that morning. Had she taken it the previous day? She couldn't remember. If she skipped it for too many days, the red curtain of rage dropped over her eyes, making her lash out at whatever came before her. She had tried to do without it earlier. Sometimes it worked well, and at others, it didn't. She found herself falling swiftly into the trapeze of mood swings, without warning. Sometimes the children bore the brunt of her unannounced rage. She could see herself reflected in their eyes, a feral creature, when they began backing away from her, fear flooding their hearts. If she could find the strength, she would hold herself back, walk towards the kitchen and start cleaning up. It soothed her. She would clean and scrub and scour till her fingers bled. It kept her calm. Sometimes she wasn't quick enough and the rage would take over, and she would fling and break things. The kids would flee to their rooms and lock themselves in, trembling at the monster unleashed from within their normally placid mother. It happened rarely, now that she had the medication to keep her brain chemicals on a leash. Prithvi was the only person who could manage her when this happened. Managing her sometimes meant that she woke up to a bruise on her face and no idea how it had come about. They circled each other like gladiators in a ring, terrified to give an inch or lose their lives. Their weapons were words that slashed, stabbed and eviscerated the soul.

Prithvi was careworn now, like Aisha was. She kept away from him and he from her. The mattress of their bed sagged at the sides. They slept, backs turned towards each other, at the edge. That succinctly defined their life together, a careful negotiation of treacherously demarcated territory that neither dared cross. A no man's permafrost of land in their bed, between their bodies, the bone-numbing chill taking up the space, where love had disappeared.

Do read the book and post your reviews at Amazon and Goodreads. Thank you. 

When Padma Bani Paula by Anupama Jain

The quaint cover of ‘When Padma Bani Paula’ gives a whiff of the story that unfolds within the book, with a pack of interesting characters that lead the story on to its not-so-inevitable conclusion.

Padma Luxmi, the unabashed heroine, moves on from her South Indian roots replete with conservative ‘pavdas’ and jasmine strands to an exciting life that she considers her due. Having always hated her name, she is elated when her boss, Saugata Bose, gives her the trendy moniker of ‘Paula’. The book traces the growth of Padma to Paula, as she traverses along a path, at times thorny, at others pleasurable.

Padma grows up in an atmosphere where Nanna and Amma, her parents, enjoy a “comforting silence after a shared laugh over the silliness of their children.” She has a bitter-sweet relationship with them and her mother sums her up rather aptly when she calls her “a rebel without a cause” always hankering after what she cannot have. Her younger brother, Krishna, is, as most of his species, mostly indifferent, but surprisingly mature when he senses a crisis in her life.

Padma’s parents urge her to work towards a career, and a thriving one at that, a desire that strikes a chord within her. It is in college that she falls headlong in love with the flamboyant Rohit Malhotra, and ends up “metamorphosing from a rough, unpolished diamond to a sparkling one.” Varun RaiChand also enters the fringes of her life, albeit unnoticed by Padma, only to emerge later in her life.

When heartbreak follows, she rises like the proverbial phoenix, picking up the pieces of her life to emerge stronger than ever. A dichotomy now takes over, as she makes a success of her career, and yet, is torn between two suitors who woo her ardently. It is to author Ms. Jain’s credit that she does not divulge the identity of the lucky man till the last page.

Anupama Jain is most known for her sparkling sense of humour, and there are instances in the book when this flair comes through, whether it is in the myriad nicknames that describe the lesser characters, like Heartthrob Hunk, Roving Eye or the formidable Mrs. Meddlesome, who “seemed to have discovered the colour fuchsia, with a veritable vengeance” and “overflowed the tiny lift cubicle.” One particular turn of phrase that evokes a smile is the description of Padma’s music-loving roomie who thought 6 am was late morning and sang “as if a pack of hyenas were stretching their vocal cords, turned on by the cool bracing morning air, audience preferences be damned.”

A colloquial writing style coupled with words and phrases that are used by the modern generation make this book uniquely different from most others. It is also a tale of second chances, where, in Paula’s words, “She tried, she made mistakes, she fell down, she got up, she dusted herself, and she walked again. Wasn’t that the way the brave or fortune hunters lived?” A philosophy that gets repeated over and over again in many a book!

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