Biography

Blame it on Destiny

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Ravina leaned back on the sofa and sighed. She emptied her glass and stood up for a refill.

“The way I see it, there is no such thing as a real life character,” she said and disappeared into the kitchen to fetch ice. “The mind only has perceptions and could one person’s version ever be the truth? For example, you may write about Mr. Batliwala, my next door neighbour, about how he is the quintessential Parsi gentlemen who possesses the expected things, an old Beatle convertible, a dog and vintage furniture. You may presume that he goes to the Fire temple, eats eggs over his vegetables and fights with neighbours who defy the law.”

“Right,” Sharmila said and joined her when she returned to the makeshift bar on the dining table.

“But Mr. Batliwala may be a law-breaking con-man for all you know. Therefore, if you did make him a character in your book based upon some obvious assumptions, it would still be an outrage to say that the character was based on a real person. The only real person inside Mr. Batliwala is the one Mr. Batliwala knows. And his life may turn out to be the exact opposite of what you expect.”

“I’ll tell you what?” Ravina stirred their drinks and leaned forward. “You write your book. Let it be published. Then we’ll get in touch with all these people and see what has become of them.”

Sharmila considered the challenge. She picked up her glass and sat down on the sofa to stare at the hills in the distance. “Perfect,” she said after a moment of deliberation.

“In all likelihood you may be right,” Ravina said and joined her on the sofa. “If not...”

“If not? Do you want to place a bet?” Sharmila asked with a giggle.

“Oh, no,” Ravina replied and held up her glass to make a mock toast to their secret pact. “If you are wrong, we’ll blame it on destiny.”

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Barefoot to Paradise

Excerpt from the Novel

“And what was destiny? An unknown path taken after making a conscious choice? And if I had decided to paint, then why not one person, not two but the world became collectively responsible for my choice as they got to decide whether or not I could paint? I felt as though the world were just a giant accomplice to destiny. And the way towards my future was through an ajar door, open wide enough for me to peek and hope and yet not wide enough for me to see what lay beyond it. I could either be complacent and shut it or believe in myself and open it.

The door began to give me sleepless nights. It forced me to seek omens that better days were around the corner. Alternately, it made me overwrought and thin and reduced me to a sobbing heap on the bathroom floor. Ironically, it was this door that also made my heart skip and soar because the only way I could justify my existence was through my work.

A significant part of life would have remained behind an ajar door had I decided not to open it. The way I saw it, I didn’t have much to be afraid of. If it opened to success it could be applauded as a wise decision and if it opened to failure it could be dismissed as destiny.”

Anamika

Excerpt from the Novel

For days Anamika looked inside the postbox. It was to form into a habit. She hadn’t cried since Rajbir left. She didn’t cry when her letter didn’t receive a reply, when the telephone didn’t ring or when the clouds returned and brought memories of childhood’s first rain showers. She didn’t cry when the local theatre screened Mirza Ghalib again. She didn’t cry when she heard the familiar couplets of poignant Urdu poetry played and replayed and embedded in the deepest recesses of her mind. She didn’t cry when she stood alone in the pouring rain and watched young lovers walk by, or when Rajbir’s parents sold their home and moved away. Then one afternoon she baked a cake and forgot to take it out of the oven on time. She cried then as if it was her heart that had burned and not the cake.

Layer upon layer of emotion fell over her.

There was nobody to share her pain. She felt buried somewhere inside the four walls of her house. It had far too many nooks and corners etched by the past. She felt isolated with the chiming of doorbells that didn’t bring Rajbir in. She felt coated by the sounds of telephones ringing, street vendors arguing, car horns honking, and breakfasts cooking.

Layer upon layer upon layer.
Neighbours talking about all and sundry. Stopping her in the porch to speak of newspaper headlines. Was the news of murders so exhilarating? Was it important to know in one chance meeting what she was studying, wearing, doing, eating and whom she was meeting?

Layer upon layer upon layer.

Monosyllabic replies, “Yes,” “No,” “Hummnn, I read the news. Very sad,” “Philosophy and psychology.” “This sari is from Papa’s shop,” “Having lunch at the club,” “Meeting a friend,” “Goodbye.”

Layer upon layer upon layer.

Songs on the radiogram, cinema talk, loud parties, dinner table clutter, lonely sunsets, balmy breezes, still nights, changing seasons. Peel off the layers her soul seemed to cry, “Check once to see if I’m alive.”

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