What’s in the trunk? #WriteBravely

 

What's in the Trunk_

‘I’m glad we’re leaving this place. It spooked me out,’ said Ravi hoisting his rucksack onto his back.
‘Really? I thought it was fine. I enjoyed the quiet,’ said Soumya.
‘It wasn’t just the quiet. First there’s that deserted burnt down portion at the back, then look at these cobwebs. The sheets smelt musty and weren’t they too cold? Plus did you see that hag at the reception? Given a choice I would have turned back.’
‘But we had none. I am just glad we found a roof over our heads in that rain. I’ve never seen lightening like that. The weather was spooky that’s all. And now we’re going home, so it doesn’t matter,’ said Soumya

‘Ma, can you come out, please?’ She heard her six-year-old twins calling her.

She glanced at Ravi, ’Can you finish up here?’ I’ll go see what the chintus want.’ Ravi nodded zipping up the strolley and wheeling it towards their SUV.

They were on a day trip to Mahabaleshwar and the rain gods had decided to open up. Within minutes the usually beautiful ghats had taken on an ominous look with monsoon waterfalls spilling onto the road and the threat of landslides becoming only too real. The family of four had to take shelter at a run down bungalow-hotel.

Soumya was surprised she had never really noticed the bungalow during their numerous trips to the lake town off Pune. It was almost like it had sprung up out of nowhere.

Ravi had been dubious all along. He was a light sleeper and had woken up during the night several times insisting he could hear babies crying. They had finally gone to investigate, only to find nothing. She had slept off after that but Ravi had lain awake tossing and turning.

The morning had dawned, dull and overcast, but at least the rain had stopped. Soumya walked out briskly to check on the twins’ latest adventure.

Half an hour later they were all in the car and on their way home.

They had barely gone a kilometer when Ravi said, ‘Did you hear that?’
‘What? Crying babies?’ teased Soumya.
‘No.. the tyre. It’s making a strange sound, like it’s bumping along the road.’
‘Lord! I hope it’s not a flat. Oooh maybe your hag doesn’t want us to go. Maybe she did some black magic to bring us back to her haunted house. Maybe she’ll keep us there forever’, laughed Soumya.
‘Stop joking,’ said Ravi tersely. Soumya looked up surprised. He seemed to be on edge still.

‘Hey,’ she said gently, ‘what’s up?’
‘I don’t know’, muttered Ravi, ‘I just don’t have a good feeling about this whole thing. I cannot get the sound of those crying babies out of my head.’
‘There were no babies Ravi, relax,’ she said giving his shoulder a squeeze, ‘It was just an old rundown house’, she said, ‘not haunted’.

‘Haunted? The house was haunted?’ squeaked Kitu.
‘….and I slept through it! I didn’t even see a single ghost,’ was Soha’s regretful rejoinder.
‘Shush both of you,’ said Soumya, ‘I was just pulling daddy’s leg.’

The rain had begun to fall again and the skies had taken on an ominous blackness that seemed to deepen by the minute. It was almost like last night was replaying itself. ‘Only this is daytime,’ thought Soumya, ‘Thank goodness.’

And then they all heard it, again – an incessant bumping that seemed to shake up the SUV. Soumya turned to look at the twins. A look of panic passed between them.

‘I need to check this’, said Ravi bringing the car to halt on a shoulder of the road. He stepped out with an umbrella. The rain was coming on faster now, in thick translucent sheets that seemed to block off vision completely.

And there it was again. But it wasn’t the tyres, it was the trunk. And then he heard the babies again, crying. He exchanged a worried look with Soumya who had got down to check what was taking him so long. ‘Should we look?’ asked Ravi. ‘We have to,’ said Soumya, pushing down her panic. Ravi’s dread seemed contagious and she felt her heartbeat spike up. They approached the trunk cautiously.

For one small moment Soumya wondered if the old woman really had something to do with it. Nah, she wasn’t worried about ghosts. It was the living that scared her. A kidnapped child, perhaps, who the woman want to get rid of? She shook her head. ‘What am I thinking,’ she told herself sternly and gave a shaky laugh, ‘Let’s look’.

Together they lifted the trunk and there in a broken down wicker basket were four tiny black kittens, shivering and jumping, crying to be let out.

Ravi heaved a sigh of relief, while Soumya bellowed, ‘Kitu, Soha,’ didn’t I tell you we could NOT take the kittens home.’

*************

Written for the Write Tribe Festival of Words June 2018 for the Day 2 prompt ‘Use this idea to write a story : You’re traveling in a rental car when you hear the thumping of a flat tire. You pull over and discover the thumping is not coming from a flat, after all, but from the trunk. What or who is making the noise?.’

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Under the Water

12 ideas for the perfect

‘You’d never believe me if I told you that I can breathe under water, but it’s true and I can prove it,’ Jai said earnestly.

She sighed! She had absolutely no will to have this conversation. She glanced at her son’s stubborn face, ready to argue till his last breath, and she let out another sigh.

It had been an exhausting week at work and she had been looking forward to this weekend getaway with Sumit and Jai, her three-year-old. It was visions of a quiet sunlit pool that had kept her going through the week. And now this!

She glanced over at her husband sprawled on a deckchair, his face hidden behind a book, then looked back at Jai.

‘Baby, you can’t breathe under water. Humans can’t.’
‘I can.’
‘Only fish can breathe under water, darling. You need special things called gills to do that. Humans don’t have any.’
‘I don’t need gills. I can breathe without them. Some people can do things that no one else can. You remember how you could open that jar of Horlicks which I couldn’t? And Spiderman stopped a whole train. Krishna lifted a mountain. It’s just like that.’

She cursed all the superheroes of the world who had sprung up recently in her three-year-old’s life and filled it with new and interesting possibilities. She knelt down to him and, struggling to keep all traces of annoyance out of her voice, she tried again.

‘That’s different. That’s about strength. You will be able to open that jar when you are older. Tales of Spiderman and Krishna are just stories, but you’ll never grow gills,’ she said.
‘You’re not even listening to me. I told you I don’t need gills. I can breathe without them. I can prove it. I can. The other day I put my nose in the water cup for one whole minute and I didn’t even drown.’

She looked at her three-year-old with utter frustration and found her frustration mirrored right back on his small face. ‘Why don’t you believe me?’ He insisted stamping his feet.

She looked at her husband.

‘Sumit’, she finally called out, ‘can you put down that godforsaken book for a minute and come here?’
‘Hey, what did I do?’ said he peeking from behind his book.
‘Jai says he can breathe under water and is refusing to wear the tube in the pool,’ she said.
‘I don’t need the silly tube,’  reiterated Jai.

‘Fine,’ said Sumit, ‘let’s do this.’
He put down his book and walked towards Jai. taking his hand he walked down the few steps into the baby pool and gently lowered the little one into the water, tightening his hold on his pudgy hand till Jai was completely submerged. Within two seconds he shot up coughing and sputtering.

‘QED’, said Sumit throwing a dimpled smile at her, ‘problem solved’.

Just as a matching smile was beginning to replace her shock, Jai piped up, ‘You know ma, the other day I jumped from the sofa and I actually flew across the room. Really, I did. You’ll never believe me but I can fly. I can prove it’.

She looked at the little earnest face and the still shivering figure of Jai and then at Sumit and they burst out laughing.

**************

Written for the Write Tribe Festival of Words June 2018 for the Day 1 prompt ‘You’d never believe me if I told you that I _____________, but it’s true and I can prove it.’


Write Tribe

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologies #BookReview

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Book Title: My Grandmother Sends her Regards & Apologies
Author: Fredrik Backman

It was with a happy sense of anticipation that I picked up this book. I’d loved A Man Called Ove and had turned quite a Backman fan. Plus the title conjured up cosy warm images of a sweet eccentric old woman. 

The story

Elsa is an almost eight-year old whose only friend in the whole world is her cantankerous rebellious granny. They are both ‘different’ and ‘difficult’. Since when Elsa was a baby her grandmother tells her the story of the Land-of-Almost-Awake, an imaginary land which has five different kingdoms. There are trolls, dragons and snow angels in these kingdoms as well as monsters and deadly shadows.

When Elsa’s granny passes away she leaves behind a bunch of letters to be delivered to people who live in their apartment complex. Elsa gets these letters one at a time through a treasure hunt. Each of them is designed to help her get to know the residents, to perhaps form a connection with them. As she does that, the imaginary and real worlds come together and help mend her broken heart not only brining her closer to her own family but also forming a large extended one.

The review

The premise of this book, the idea of it, is absolutely fantastic. The execution, however, fell far short of my expectations. I had a hard time ploughing through this one. To begin with I couldn’t get myself to really like either Elsa, who is precocious and much too grown up for her age, or her granny. That Elsa is a Harry Potter fan redeemed her just a tiny little bit but I couldn’t make myself feel for her at all. She seemed to know and understand more grown up thoughts and feelings than all the grown ups in the story.

Then there was Granny. She was just annoying, and not in a sweet funny way (like Ove). A lot of her sequences seemed to be written with the deliberate idea of making her sound crazy. They made for great quotable quotes but did little to make her likeable. She passes away early in the book, but in the bit that we get to see, she is irrational and unpleasant to everyone (except Elsa).

Granny  didn’t make sense to me. We get a glimpse of her younger days through accounts from other characters. Apparently she had been a conscientious doctor and had touched many lives through her courage and compassion and had forged unbreakable connections. The two images – the passionate doctor and crazy granny – just didn’t come together for me.

She is also said to have struggled with guilt because she couldn’t spend enough time with Elsa’s mom, Ulrika. If she did regret it, I thought she would have tried to make up for it in some way. However, all she does is make life difficult for the pregnant Ulrika, who was my favourite character in the book – harried yet struggling to keep her cool with very little help from either Elsa or Granny.

Then there was the Land-of-Almost-Awake. I started out loving the concept of all these  imaginary characters finding parallels in real life. But that became my greatest gripe. The imaginary lands were just too many and they got so very complicated that I couldn’t keep track. Rather than adding to the story, they slowed down its progress unbearably, till it became one big confusing mess.

The end was somewhat interesting but by then I just wanted the book to finish.

Oh and Britt Marie is a side character in the book. Britt Marie Was Here was on my TBR but now I’m wondering if it’s worth it. 

This one was a waste of a great idea.

Last thought: You can give this one a miss.

Grandma’s words of wisdom #BookBytes -1

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I finally finished reading My Grandmother Sends her Regards & Apologies by Fredrik Backman and it is full of interesting quotable quotes. Here’s one that caught my eye and is so full of wisdom.

Granny then said the real trick of life was that almost no one is entirely a shit and almost no one is entirely not a shit. The hard part of life is keeping as much on the not-a-shit side as one can.

The language might not be quite kosher but granny does have a point.

#BookBytes

If you’ve been dropping by here you’ll know I used to do Teaser Tuesdays. Well with my rather disorganised reading/writing/blogging pattern I struggled with getting the post up on Tuesdays. And so I thought I’d just go with #BookBytes. The idea remains the same except I can post any day of the week.

You can join in too. If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage that leaps out at you demanding to be shared don’t ignore it. Share it on your blog. Leave a link in the comments and I’ll drop by.

Jinnah Often Came to Our House #BookReview

 

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Book Title: Jinnah Often Came to Our House
Author: Kiran Doshi

The best way to learn history is to weave it into a story, a fictional tale with a dash of drama. When an author does that, and does it well, history becomes a captivating story rather than a dry collection of facts. It becomes easier to understand, to sympathise and to identify with. That’s exactly what Kiran Doshi does so very brilliantly in this book of his – Jinnah Often Came to Our House.

So he takes one of the most intriguing characters from Indian history – Jinnah, puts him in the story of Sultan and Rehana and sets it in the backdrop of the Indian struggle for Independence.

What we have then is a gripping book.

The story begins with Sultan a well-to-do upper class Kowaishi Mohammedon lawyer, or barrister, as they were called then. He is in the process of separating from his English wife. He then woos and weds Rehana, sets up his practice and goes on to make a mark in the Indian legal system. He vows to remain apolitical, to stay away from the freedom struggle, to focus on being just a lawyer. He fights cases for Hindus and Muslims alike, hence the nickname Azad.

This is also as much, perhaps more, the story of Rehana – the only surviving child of a forward thinking Muslim professor. She falls for the witty Sultan and fits into his life and his family like a long-lost piece of jigsaw. She wins over Bari phuppi, the matriarch of the family, who bestows a grant on her to set up a school for muslim girls (which she later opens up to all girls). Strongly influenced by Gandhi ji, Rehana later joins the Congress and fights for India’s freedom.

Most of all, this is the story of Jinnah, woven beautifully, inextricably with these two characters. Jinnah who is Sultan’s very famous senior and later, a friend. Jinnah, who parries and argues with Rehana in Shakespearean quotes and also nurses a soft spot for her.

The book talks about his turbulent marriage with Ruttie, the effervescent Parsi girl young enough to be his daughter (he was just three years younger than her father) and his brotherly affection for his (quite unpleasant) sister, Fatima. It talks about his journey from a pork eating, cigarette smoking liberal Muslim who believed firmly in Hindu and Muslim unity, to the man who fathered a separate nation for the Muslims.

The Review

The biggest strength of this book is its smooth gently-flowing narrative that keeps the reader turning pages.

It gives a fascinating glimpse of the Bombay of the early 20th century. It talks about upper class Muslims of that time, when men went hunting and got together at clubs to gossip; when the streets were washed by the bhishtees and the first Rolls Royce rolled out; the time when electric fans, flush toilets and hydraulic lifts were things only the very high-class could afford. It was absolutely fascinating.

While I was aware of the facts that lead up to partition I had little idea of the way the Congress spearheaded the freedom struggle, the various factions within it, the motivations of the people who joined it as also those of the few who decided to stay away. There was also the formation of the Muslim League, the way Jinnah initially distanced himself from it, decried it for trying to split the country on communal lines and then how he joined it because, as he said, better him than a conservative Muslim.

He continues to work for an Independent India till the Gandhi wave takes over the Nation, sidelining him completely. From the most respected man of the country he is suddenly lost in this wave, turning angry and bitter. It broke my heart a little bit to watch him change page by page until finally, driven largely by his ego, he decides to write a different history. And we watch as he singlehandedly forges a new country banishing India and Pakistan to eternal enmity.

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The book opened me up to new perspectives.

For instance there’s Gandhi. I have come a long way from idolising him to demonising him in my early youth, to now finally accepting him as an extraordinary man who had his flaws. The book reinforces that image. I could see how frustrating it would have been to live and fight along a man like Gandhi. Many of his decisions made sense only to him, though they were right on principle they took away from the freedom struggle. For people like Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose and perhaps even Jinnah in the beginning, the freedom struggle was supreme but for Gandhi it was his principles that were most important.

Despite all the complications, the twists and turns, Kiran Doshi manages to tell this tale simply and with plenty of humour. 

Last Thought: Absolute must-read.

You can buy Jinnah Often Came to Our House by clicking on the image below.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you buy the book on Amazon through this link, I will get a referral fee, at no additional cost to you.

The Graveyard Book #BookReview

 

The graveyard book - Book review

Book Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman

The only Neil Gaiman book I’d read was Coraline, which I’d loved. This one had long been on my TBR and finally I managed to get to it.

The Story

A baby who has just mastered the art of walking, wakes up in the middle of the night. Eager to try out his new skills he climbs out of his crib and makes his tottering way down the steps from his nursery and out of the house. He has no idea of the dangers that await him out there. Or also, the bigger danger that he has escaped – a killer is out to finish the family. He stabs the baby’s parents and older sister but has to give up in frustration on not finding that one last member.

The child makes his way to the local graveyard where he is adopted by the ghosts and is named Nobody Owens. Nobody, or Bod finds friends, parents and a mentor among the dead. The graveyard becomes his home. But he is human after all, alive and very curious. As he steps out, he finds the graveyard is perhaps the safest place for him.

The review

This is a delightful little story – Gaiman’s tribute to the Jungle Book (did you notice the similarity in the title?). Just as Mowgli was adopted by the animals of the jungles where he was abandoned, so is Bod adopted by the ghosts of the graveyard.

He learns his alphabet from grave headstones and is coached by his dead friends in ghostly skills like fading, haunting and dream walking. He meets up with a variety of graveyard-residents  – the good ghosts and the bad ones, ghouls, witches, night-gaunts and the Hounds of God.

His life might seem boring what with barely any friends and even fewer living ones, but he manages to get himself into plenty of adventures.

The most intriguing bit is obviously the setting. It creeped me out a little bit in the first few pages but by the end of the book I found myself wishing Bod would just stay there in the graveyard with his ghostly parents and his mysteriously fascinating mentor; that he wouldn’t lose his special graveyard powers or venture out in the world; his potential be damned!

But step out he does, sampling school life for a bit and even making a friend but he always returns to the graveyard.

For someone like Bod who can see and interact with ghosts, the distinction between the dead and living is rather blurred. His mentor/guardian puts things beautifully in perspective.

“You’re alive, Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you can change the world, the world will change. Potential. Once you’re dead, it’s gone. Over. You’ve made what you’ve made, dreamed your dream, written your name. You may be buried here, you may even walk. But that potential is finished.”

I loved how simple yet profound that quote is and how clearly it helps Bod separate the living from the dead. That is perhaps what gives him reason to give up his dead friends and seek out living ones.

The writing is simple, the story extremely engaging. Each of the chapters is written out like a short story and yet each of them moves Bod’s story forward.

I found The Graveyard book a wonderful read-together book for me and my tweens. The idea of ghosts beyond the scary evil forces they are made out to be is such a novel one. Like Gaiman says in one of his interviews, this one is ‘Not a children’s book but a book that children will enjoy’ as will adults.

Last thought: Go read it.

You can buy The Graveyard Book by clicking on the image below.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you buy the book on Amazon through this link, I will get a referral fee, at no additional cost to you.

The Graveyard Book #TeaserTuesday

With the holidays upon us I have been in a happy reading space. I had long wanted to read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman  and I’m glad I finally did. It’s a delightful read with a rather different perspective of things.

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When you’re brought up in a graveyard with ghosts for friends you stop fearing death. So what can scare you then? Are there things worse than death?

Sharing a passage from the book for Teaser Tuesday – the brain child of Should Be Reading.

Silas said, “Out there, the man who killed your family is, I believe, still looking for you, still intends to kill you.”
Bod shrugged. “So?” he said. “It’s only death. I mean, all of my best friends are dead.”

Drop by for a review of this gorgeous book, coming up soon.

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If you fancy joining in, here’s how…
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
• Share the title and author so other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

Which was the last book that kept you up through the night?