Thursday, April 30, 2020

Book Preview - Blasphemy - The Trial of Danish Masih




The beautiful cover in blue entices, and the title sears, as does the subject which has been treated brilliantly.

Given the above premise, one would expect Readomania's latest offering, 'Blasphemy - The Trial of Danesh Masih' by Pakistani author, Osman Haneef, to be a difficult read!

However, 'Blasphemy' is just the opposite, its author a master craftsman! 

I bought the eBook, this morning, and had every mind of racing through it so that I could do a decent preview of it. However, the author had a different idea. From the moment I picked up the book to read, I was drawn in, mesmerised by the felicity of his language and the power of his narration.

I have had to drag myself away from the book in order to write this preview, and I look forward to going back in to savour the rest of the story, as soon as I am done with this.

What Readomania Says:

Readomania announces the release of Blasphemy – The Trial of Danesh Masih written by Osman Haneef. The e-version is now available and will be followed by the paperback version, which we hope to release in the next few months as we gain clarity about the coronavirus pandemic. The book explores the insiduous and morally corrosive power of Pakistan's blasphemy laws, and the courage of the individuals who challenge it. The book has received several endorsements from celebrated writers, who acknowledge the importance of its narrative in the current socio-political milieu of religious intolerance that is sweeping across the region. 

‘In this novel of quiet creeping horror, Haneef forces us to confront the supreme evil that lies at the heart of Pakistan’s blasphemy law.’ - Aatish Taseer, writer/journalist

‘A courageous and forthright survey of Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The narrative should also persuade Pakistan’s intelligentsia to ponder what they have made their state, especially its legal system, and society into.’ 
- IA Rehman, Director–Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

‘Love, the law, religion and violence―this book’s got the lot. And it’s a cracking read too.’
 - Owen Bennett-Jones, former BBC correspondent


‘You have to remind yourself that Osman’s novel and the characters he conjures are fictional because they are convincingly real, so much so, that their words stay with you long after you have put down the book.’
 - Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Oscar-winning filmmaker



Book Blurb

A Christian boy in Pakistan is accused of blasphemy―a crime punishable by death. Haunted by a tragic past, a young lawyer named Sikander Ghaznavi returns to Pakistan after many years abroad, and takes on the defence of the boy. He reaches out to the sharpest human rights lawyer he knows―the woman he has loved for years, but now another man’s wife. As they deal with their unresolved feelings, the lawyers confront a corrupt system, a town turned against them, and a prophecy that predicts their death. Will they save the boy? Or will the city of Quetta, its prejudice inflamed by religious extremists, consume them and deliver them to a deadly fate?



About the Author Osman Haneef was born in Pakistan and, as the child of a diplomat, grew up in different cities in Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East. He studied creative writing at Yale, Stanford, Colby, Curtis Brown Creative, and the Faber Academy. He won the Frank Allen Bullock Prize for creative writing at the University of Oxford. In a parallel universe, he has worked as a tech entrepreneur, a TV actor, a strategy consultant, and a diplomatic adviser. He was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2017. He lives with his family between the UK and Pakistan. 

About the Publisher

Readomania is an independent publishing company based in New Delhi. Established in September 2014, the house publishes an eclectic mix of fiction and non-fiction, with a focus on new writing and new voices from the region. For more information please contact dipankar.mukherjee@readomania.com Readomania Publishing 908 Vishwadeep Building, District Centre, Janak Puri, New Delhi – 110058.

Book Preview - Blasphemy - The Trial of Danesh Masih by Osman Haneef


The brilliant cover in blue entices, the title sears, as do the words of Aatish Taseer: 

"Forces us to confront the supreme evil that lies at the heart of Pakistan's blasphemy law." 

Given the above premise, one would expect Readomania's latest offering, 'Blasphemy - The Trial of Danesh Masih' by Pakistani author, Osman Haneef, to be a difficult read!

However, 'Blasphemy' is just the opposite, its author a master craftsman! 



I bought the eBook, this morning, and had every mind of racing through it so that I could do a decent preview of it. However, the author had a different idea. From the moment I picked up the book to read, I was drawn in, mesmerised by the felicity of his language and the power of his narration.

I have had to drag myself away from the book in order to write this preview, and I look forward to going back in to savour the rest of the story, as soon as I am done.
Blurb:
A Christian boy in Pakistan is accused of blasphemy - a crime punishable by death.
Haunted by a tragic past, a young lawyer named Sikander Ghaznavi returns to Pakistan after many years abroad, and takes on the defence of the boy.
He reaches out to the sharpest human rights lawyer he knows - the woman he has loved for years, but now another man's wife.
As they deal with their unresolved feelings, the lawyers confront a corrupt system, a town turned against them, and a prophecy that predicts their death.
Will they save the boy?Or will the city of Quetta, its prejudice inflamed by religious extremists, consume them and deliver them to a deadly fate?
What Readomania says:
Readomania announces the release of Blasphemy - The Trial of Danesh Masih written by Osman Haneef. The e-version is now available and will be followed by the paperback version, which we hope to release in the next few months as we gain clarity about the coronavirus pandemic. The book explores the insidious and morally corrosive power of Pakistan's blasphemy laws, and the courage of the individuals who challenge it. The book has received several endorsements from celebrated writers, who acknowledge the importance of ts narrative in the current socio-political milieu of religious intolerance that is sweeping across the region.










‘A courageous and forthright survey of Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The narrative should also persuade Pakistan’s intelligentsia to ponder what they have made their state, especially its legal system, and society into.’
– IA Rehman, Director–Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
‘Love, the law, religion and violence―this book’s got the lot. And it’s a cracking read too.’
– Owen Bennett-Jones, former BBC correspondent
‘You have to remind yourself that Osman’s novel and the characters he conjures are fictional because they are convincingly real, so much so, that their words stay with you long after you have put down the book.’
                              – Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Oscar-winning filmmaker




The author of Blasphemy..., Osman Haneef is as multifaceted as the book itself. He was born in Pakistan and, as the child of a diplomat, grew up in different cities in Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East. He studied creative writing at Yale, Stanford, Colby, Curtis Brown Creative, and the Faber Academy. He won the Frank Allen Bullock Prize for creative writing at the University of Oxford. In a parallel universe, he has worked as a tech entrepreneur, a TV actor, a strategy consultant, and a diplomatic adviser. He was also selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2017. He lives with his family between the UK and Pakistan.




The Kindle edition is already out and hopefully, the paperback will also be available soon. Do pick up the book for it is a keepsake!


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Cooking, My Waterloo!





“Oh, you’ll pick it up in no time at all,” said my husband cheerily when I broke it the news to him, after marriage, that I knew no cooking. “Beginners make the best cooks. So, there is plenty of hope for you. Besides, I’ll eat whatever you cook, and I’ll grin and bear it too.”

He ploughed manfully through a soft, soggy egg placed artistically over 2 charred bits of toast. Nothing, it seemed, could daunt him. “You’ll be the best yet!”

A year later, his confidence had taken a downward plunge as I continued to place burnt offerings before him.

However, my enthusiasm found itself growing as the days passed. In fact, I decided to start creating my own recipes. When my cakes refused to rise, I crumbled them and served them mixed in ice-cream. Every time, I tried out something new, which tasted funny, I would give it an artistic name and pretend that the end result was exactly what I had intended to make all along.

Once, lady’s fingers was on the menu. Humming to myself, I started preparing the vegetable, liberally dousing it in water. But soon, I found all was not well and waited dubiously for hubby’s return.

“Hi! What have you murdered today?” was his heart-warming greeting. “Is it potato, cucumber…?” His voice trailed off as he surveyed the concoction before him. I waited till he had taken a tentative bite and then blurted out what it was supposed to be.
“Do you mean you actually put water in it?” According to him, even a 4- -year-old would know that water and lady’s finger were things alien.

As I cleared the mess away, 2 of my friends landed up and burst out laughing. For the next few days, people kept asking me for my “brand new recipe”, and I never dared commit the same blunder again.

Another time, my husband’s friends suddenly showed up at breakfast time. Bread and eggs would have been the usual choice, for as my husband puts it, if hens stopped laying eggs, the Army would find it difficult to survive for the ladies would be deprived of their favourite dish. Anyway, I happened to be out of eggs and decided to offer them upma instead.

As the shouts of “Ma’am, we are hungry,” echoed and re-echoed, I frantically put the sooji into the pan without checking the water. The gluey mess was hailed by them as if it were the prize exhibit in a culinary competition.

They dug into it with great enthusiasm, but after the first mouthful, all conversation ceased. Even my husband who normally manages to carry off any situation was speechless.
As I stood by helplessly, one of the visitors turned to me and mumbled, “Ma’am, it is excellent, but I can’t get my teeth apart.”
 Thereafter, I never heard any of my husband’s friends make the mistake of asking me for upma.

Recipe books lie all over the house giving the impression that I am a superb cook. As my husband remarks, “She can cook with one hand.” Just as people start to look suitably impressed, he adds, “The other is used to hold on to the page of the recipe book. And God forbid, if the page flips over, her mutton korma ends up as Caramel Custard, and she follows the recipe to its finish, even to the extent of adding sugar instead of salt.”

When old friends meet my husband, they generally tell him that he has put on weight after marriage. And he grins and remarks, “That is due to my wife’s cooking.” I wait for the catch and I am never disappointed. “I eat her mess at home,” he elaborates, “… and then I make a beeline to the Officers’ Mess to get some proper food into me. These double meals are my undoing.”

There was a time when one of my curries turned bitter. I dropped a slice of bread in it, as advocated by my recipe book. But I was not aware of the unwritten clause which said the aforesaid slice had to be removed after a while. So, it remained, and crumbled and distributed itself generously in the curry.
 The bitterness was still there; so, I added a spoonful of sugar, and gave the dish a vigorous shake. But now there was a sickly-sweet taste competing with the bitterness. I put in a dash of curd to the mixture – and then, finally gave up.

My husband says that if there is one creature on the face of the earth who really enjoys my cooking, it is Bozo. The day dawned when I had made a bowl of potato stew that looked and even tasted right. I was making chapattis while my husband was beating eggs to make what he does best – an omelette.
Suddenly, we heard an ominous slurping sound from the dining room. We rushed in there to find Bozo happily engrossed in licking off what was left of my precious stew.
What followed was utter chaos – my running after Bozo with a broom, and my husband running after me, trying to restrain me.

But I could not get over the fact that the only palatable dish that I had ever cooked was fated to be eaten by a dog, even if the said dog happened to be a major shareholder in all the food cooked in the house.
Later, my husband said with a twinkle in his eye, “Thank God for this – or I would have had to eat it.”
When we finally gave Bozo away to a friend ( we had been posted out to a place where accommodation was not assured), he remarked (our friend, not Bozo) in wonder, “Gosh, that dog eats everything – and anything.”
My husband countered that by saying, “He and I have been through the same gruelling routine.”

Now 8 years have passed since the time I added water to lady’s finger. Today, maybe, I have improved in cooking. My toast turns crisp, and eggs set well, my dosas are almost paper-thin and my macaroni is well-cheesed.

The most apt proverb that can be applied to my culinary talent could well be, “Better late than never.” However, this marginal improvement does not impress my friends. One of whom recently presented me with a lovely book on Middle Eastern Cookery. Inside, she had written – “Happy Cooking, Deepti,” with a tiny postscript for my husband: “And all the best, Gopi!”  


 Published in Woman's Era

 September 1992




Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Vignettes of Life by Sujit Dutta




Reading this book by Sujit Dutta is like a tour, starting with the sighting of a mysterious woman in a deserted cottage right to the fourteenth story that ends on a tantalizing note, and a rare pearl. The author lauds the magnificence of India through descriptions of his protagonists’ lives, knotted through emotions veering between hope, love, loyalty, friendship and ambition.

The Army connection is palpable. The stories travel from the ice-capped Himalayas in Ladakh and the allure of Guwahati, to the “haunting whistle of the steam engine” in the Delhi Rail Museum, and lost memories in Kolkata. As the river flows silently in Puducherry, the poignancy of the loss of parents comes out in Barmer, even as a sister waits for her brother’s homecoming in Bhopal. A hopeful couple meet in a Mumbai suburban train and rise above the vicissitudes of life.

Two stories touch upon the war in Jaffna and a natural disaster in Canada, events which cause the protagonists to change the course of their lives. The author has researched extensively, given the statistics. The brilliant book cover in yellow beguiles.

The stories, treated with tenderness, speak of the complexities of the human psyche.

197 words

Book Title: Vignettes of Life

Genre: Fiction, Short Stories

Author:       Sujit Dutta

Published by Evincepub Publishing

(I was offered a copy of the book by Literoma Publishing Services in exchange for an honest review.)

Friday, April 10, 2020

Stupidity Has No Religion!





In today's world, it is easy to paint everything with a communal brush. What could be simpler than labelling a particular group and throwing invectives at it, especially when it happens to be part of a minority community?  

So, this massive gathering was held at Delhi, that of a preachers’ group that believes in spreading its principles by travelling from place to place. There is nothing wrong in that if one looks at it through the lens of religion. The Constitution of India has it down pat… freedom to practise one’s religion.

Where, then, does this turn into a problem? Not just a little, irksome problem, but one that affects the entire country, in the light of the world-wide pandemic that is being fought on a war footing? It turns into an insurmountable problem when, despite repeated warnings being given, the principles of social distancing being shouted from the rooftops, myriad images of wearing masks, washing hands, keeping a metre away from another person, staying home and staying safe, one sees this huge congregation breathing together, living together and believing that no harm could come to them. Well, sadly, harm did come, not only to them but hundreds more, once they left the gathering and got back to their homes, infecting everyone they met on their journey, and many more back home.

This is the height of selfishness, of stupidity. One person explained this behaviour on television, saying that this group was a simple group that wandered around, preaching their principles. Thus, they may not have realised the extent of their folly. To that, my answer is, ignorance is no excuse, when the whole world is in peril.



On the 5th of April, the government said that 30% of the infections in the country were linked to this one meet. 1023 cases. 22,000 people linked to the group. The primary contacts quarantined. Across 17 states. The statistics are out there for anyone who wants them.

This reads like something out of a horror film, doesn’t it? Well, it is our very own horror film. The head of the group was charged with violation of government directions in respect of the restriction of gatherings and safety measures, including physical distancing. The attendees had been in close community interaction, in prayer, during meals and in travel, all of which put them in high risk of contagion.

There were attendees from various states like J&K, UP, Assam, TN and Kerala, apart from foreign participants from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Saudi Arabia. Criminal cases were charged against the foreign members which could prolong their stay in India by up to 5 years.

The slum in Dharavi has always been a high-risk area, considering the density of its population. Immensely frightening was the news that linked the death of a 56-year-old garment shop owner who died of Covid-19 to the above-mentioned gathering which led to an exponential increase in the number of cases across the country. It was believed that he had lent his flat to a few attendees, who could have further come in contact with others living close by.

Just when one would have expected people to have understood the gravity of the situation, especially in a state like Tamil Nadu which has been monitoring Covid-19 cases so stringently, a news item appeared of the funeral of a man which was generously attended by a throng of friends and family members, in spite of the government directive not to have more than ten mourners at a time. The final rites were performed after the protective covering was removed from the body. Later, it ensued that the man had died of Covid-19, and the entire throng was put in quarantine. The two sons of the man were booked immediately. However, the damage had already been done.



When a national lockdown is in place, why on earth do people flout rules and act irrationally? The above mourners should not have participated in the funeral. There have been so many deaths in this period of lockdown, where only the immediate families have performed the rites, thus obeying the directives of a government that has been striving to bring the pandemic under control.

 Five days remain for the original lockdown to end. One never knows how long it will take for the nation to get back to its normal swing of things. There is no magic here. The government and the heads of state are in discussion about the best possible solutions. Social distancing will have to continue, the precautions set in place will need to become part and parcel of our daily lives.

Just when there seems to be a tiny light at the end of the tunnel, another news item catches our eye; that of a privileged person getting permission from one of the administrative authorities to take his family members and friends to a hill station, despite prohibitory orders. Apparently, there was an entourage of 23 people all along for the ride. The gentleman in question has been named as an accused in a legal wrangle, and yet, his privileges obviously override his scruples. The good news is that he has been detained and booked under Section 188, for violating the rules of the lockdown.

 Ultimately, what remains in the collective consciousness is the fact that, at a juncture like this when being safe is the priority, a few should not be allowed to break out and endanger others around them. Strict, punitive measures have to be taken against those who do so for they are public nuisances and should be treated as such. Cardinal Richelieu, the man who turned France into a strong centralized state under the reign of King Louis XIII, couldn’t have said it better.

“Harshness towards individuals who flout the laws and commands of state is for the public good; no greater crime against the public interest is possible than to show leniency to those who violate it.”






Sunday, April 5, 2020

SHAKUNI & THE DICE OF DOOM by Mallar Chatterjee




Book 2 of the Mahabharata Series

Shakuni has always been an unforgettable figure in the Mahabharata, the base villain  portrayed as shrewd and unscrupulous with a problematic leg. This stereotype was further reinforced by the effective performance of Gufi Paintal in BR Chopra’s Mahabharat, in which the ace actor milked the role for all he was worth.

Mallar Chatterjee, in his latest book titled ‘Shakuni’, the second book of the Mahabharata series published by Readomania, goes beyond this charismatic character to provide answers that have not been touched on in the above television show or in most books that have been written on the subject.

Where did Shakuni come from and why was he so filled with venom and a need for vengeance? “I shall destroy the entire clan you are so proud of and make you watch the ruin.” Why does this thought come to him and who is he addressing?

The book begins on a thrilling note with anonymous characters and a mention made of a special gift that was never delivered, which gains significance at the end of the book.

It is noteworthy to see how, in those times, humiliations were levied with such ease, provoking embers of rage that went on to create immense feelings of revenge. Egos were huge, people were larger than life, especially amongst the clans like the Vrishnis, the Yadavas, the Kurus and the Gandharas.

An old prophecy plays a significant role, one that will herald strained relationships leading to a tragedy of epic proportions abounding in an atmosphere vitiated by jealousy, malice, hatred and unbridled corruption. Royal marriages are political alliances of convenience, aimed at annexing other kingdoms and amassing power. Thus, women like Gandhari and Kunti play their parts in enhancing the strength and prestige of their husbands.

Many questions crop up. Why was Gandhari in love with darkness? Who was Kunti before she became Kunti? More importantly, why did Shakuni refuse the throne of Gandhara? The courtiers had decided to confer the title of ‘Gandhara Ratna’ on him, feeling that “A Gandhara without Shakuni was much like a night without the moon.” Besides, he obviously loved his kingdom and he knew that “this beautiful kingdom and the unsuspecting people loved him so much.”

What makes this book intriguing is the new angle that the author gives into the thoughts of the main characters like Devavrata Bheeshma, a man troubled by various undercurrents within his mind, thoughts that were probably not explored by Vyasa when he wrote his epic. Vidur, the wisest of them all, also reveals certain frailties that he did not act upon, but which lay dormant in his mind.

This book becomes Shakuni’s own as the readers are introduced to his wife, Arshi, a woman of acute insight, and his young son, Uluk, who misses having his father around. Nowhere in the original epic does anyone even muse on Shakuni’s family members, surprising actually when you consider what a significant role he plays in bringing about the ruin of the Kauravas. Yet another question that comes across in this book is this.
 “Who is the real nemesis of Hastinapura?”

The past, the present and the future come together, held in place by a riddle that is thrown at Shakuni, one that holds the key to a tenuous future. Shakuni strides like a colossus across the book, as colourful epithets are used to describe him. He is a fox, a sadist, the mastermind with unmatched brain power, as cruel and unforgiving as a serpent. He insinuates himself in the affairs of Hastinapura, creating a niche for himself among the Kauravas.

What is fascinating is the way Mallar Chaterjee has allowed the character of Shakuni to develop, from a callow youth to a protagonist with incurable wounds in his mind. He evolves from a petty conspirator to a man on a serious mission, his mind ravaged by a new set of evil ideas.
“Well before the children of Dhritarashtra and Pandu came into being, Shakuni had started casting them as important characters in a gripping play that he was going to script and direct.”

If there is any moment where the readers feel sympathy for Shakuni at any stage, it is quickly wiped out by what he himself terms as his last strike, which “would inflict on his enemies a wound more grievous than what his notorious dice had done.”

So, there you have it, the saga of a man who feels himself wronged and sets out to avenge his wrongs. This is a book that stays in your mind much after you have read it, maybe because the author starts from a story oft told and meanders into regions never trodden upon before.



Happy birthday, darling Zoyu!


TO AN ADORABLE 4-YEAR OLD

4th April, 2020 

There is this little girl, who’s taken over many a heart,
A tiny firecracker, who knows she’s a class apart!
Her eyes glow with a twinkle, her long hair does swing,
She runs amok all the time, with a cartwheel or a spring!
It’s tough to hold her back or even to pin her down,
She’s a flash of lightning, a jewel in our crown,
She does a tiny pirouette, a teeny-weeny twirl,
Then she steals our hearts again, this adorable little girl.
Zoyu Moyu, on this extra-special day when you turn four,
May every joy be yours, may you receive blessings galore,
May you live long, that winsome smile on your face,
May you laugh through life, traversing every pace,
May all the joy in the world find its way towards you,
Happy birthday to you always, our darling Zoyu.


Thursday, April 2, 2020

A House Filled With Women





There is this house which is filled with women, apart from one tiny pug, aptly named Pugloos, who has no idea what he is doing in that house, and with a name like that, I am not surprised, poor soul! He floats around, confused, his eyes clouded with cataract, bumping into corners and people. He barks occasionally, just to remind people that he is a dog and very much around.

Luckily, there are some alert neighbours who keep an eye on the house, and no one can come in or go out without their know-how. There are CCTVs all around the house that work overtime to record comings and goings. To top it all, the inhabitants have offspring who keep strict vigil over them.

The ages of the women in the house range from 80+ to 40+ and they all have their own favourite spaces. If, N, the oldest, a bundle of energy, likes the bedroom which doubles up as a music room, and the easy chair in front of the television, J, the second in command, a cheery meticulous soul, prefers the living room and the verandah in front where she can pick up calls from her daughters, living far away in the US. She spends times watching old classic movies and providing instant recipes, when asked.

B is a tiny little dynamo who bustles around, speaking her mind and clashing with all the others in turn. Size has nothing to do with it, after all.  She can be pugnacious; surprisingly, the word has nothing to do with ‘pugs’, two of which are cosily ensconced under chairs and under feet. Pugloos has been mentioned earlier, but he has a mini partner named ‘Midukki’ (which means ‘a smart little thing!’), aptly named for she, like most of the women mentioned above, has a mind of her own.

The two other women in the house are less visible. K, quiet but diligent, works upstairs like an automaton, sweeping, swabbing, dusting and ironing. She also has the honour of bathing the two pugs in a grand bathtub which is only used for this purpose. Baths by humans are had, stretching precariously over the bathtub, hoping against hope that the bather does not topple in by chance.


                                                                   123RF.com

The last woman, M, could be wearing the Potter Cloak of Invisibility, so insubstantial is she. Her domain is the kitchen where she churns out set dishes, mostly approved by N, whose taste buds have a mind of their own. M talks once a year, and when she does, she is not heard because people around have forgotten that she has a voice. So, she lives on, like Moaning Myrtle (Yes, I admit I have Potter mania), unseen, heard rarely, barely existing.

Getting back to N, there is no doubt that she is the big dynamo, having lived her entire life like one, getting things done in a jiffy at the click of a finger. So, she does get mighty riled if her little dynamo, B, does not snap up and do things her (N’s) way; hers (B’s) not to reason why. B has her moments when she shuts down completely, exhausted after having run up and down the stairs about twenty-seven and a half times, bringing down a book, a pen, around four pairs of spectacles in varied shades and for varied purposes, a half-read Kindle and a smart phone that has never been used smartly before… you see the pattern?

J has all the right qualifications to live in this house. She is a sister-in-love, a doctor, a septuagenarian who otherwise lives alone, and a go-to person at every stage. However, her biggest asset is her sense of humour, which causes her to giggle at the funny situations within the house, amidst two dynamos who never tone down, two others who never snap up and two canines who are in between. Her full-throated laugh can diffuse a clicking time bomb and it is a mercy that she is around to do so.

So, the other day, N decided that she was at the right age to play table tennis. Orders were given and even in a state of lockdown, two TT racquets and several balls were brought over home by an obliging gentleman. Then it was discovered that there was no net and the same gentleman procured the same, after which he was invited to play with the zealous sportswomen in the house, namely the older two.

Unfortunately, neither could hit a ball since they were rusty, not having picked up a racquet for over half a century. As a result, they all had a lark, a few booming laughs and that was the end of the game.

Likewise, B was made to scrabble around for an old board game. “Let’s play Scrabble!” came the order and after two days of desperate hunting, that too was given up as a bad idea. Hardly a red-letter day, pun intended!

Through all this, there was one thing that kept N at the top of her game, actually two things. One was watching her daily soaps, with the television at top volume. The neighbours could watch the soaps on mute as the volume was generously being provided next door.

The second thing was music… the love of her life. This was the time when N decided that she, (read B) would sort out her audio and video collection. Since N had a healthy collection, she placed the lot on her bed and began listening to them, one by one. Every time she finished with one, she would place it in a cabinet that had been bought off the local post office, a wooden one with plenty of tiny cubby holes, each of which was labelled. So, Lalgudi Jayaraman went into one, Ananda Shankar into another. Malayalam film music lay alongside Hindustani classical, Bombay Jayashree had her own niche, while ‘Bhavayami’ had no niche, because it was played and played and then, played again. Yesudas hits had pride of place, with instrumental music and English rhymes nestling in a corner. All very well, till N decided to take all of them out again and listen to them once more. Guess who had the onerous task of clearing up after!





The lock-down has had its advantages, no doubt. It has kept us all out of trouble and has shown us what all we can do when pushed to a corner.

That was exactly what happened in the house filled with women as well. While sorting out her old files, papers and letters, while listening to ceiling-pounding music resembling the Shiva tandava, N hoped to compose the Ganga, one of her dream projects. She even suggested that she should start dance classes for the other women (B, K and M), who, till now in their lives, have shown no interest or flair in anything even closely resembling the arts. J would maintain the beat, of course, along with her giggles.


                                                                shutterstock

J, for whom cleanliness is a mantra, opened out the refrigerator, the kitchen cupboards and the adjoining drawers and got them squeaky clean… a lesson which hopefully will live on even after she goes back to her home. Her own refrigerator back home was getting the same beauty treatment via her telephonic chats to her Jeeves.

B continued to live her life in between the onslaughts from the big dynamo and watching her own soaps and movies, her main grouse being that she could not visit her favourite banks and supermarkets. Not that she had to worry for the supermarkets had provisions to deliver. (Pun again intended!)

K, who otherwise lives across the road, shifted in, bag and baggage, so that she could avoid meeting the virus on her way in and out. She had a break from her normal life, and I wonder if she did regret her decision after moving in.

Finally, the one person whose life did not change in the least was M, who continued to live like an insubstantial sprite, the silent worker who knew that, though invisible, she was essential to the running of the household, mainly the kitchen. 

For as someone wise put it, Virginia Woolf, I think,
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”



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TALES THAT ENTAIL BY JASEENA BACKER

  ‘Tales that Entail’ by Jaseena Backer is an anthology of stories that are hard-hitting and realistic. Right from the first story, the auth...