Friday, September 21, 2012

Up close...

Smitha was furious with her maid. She’d clearly left instructions for her to hang the clothes on the terrace; and now look what she’d done. Left the damp lump in the bucket and disappeared.

She lugged the heavy bucket up the stairs to the terrace herself, cursing beneath her breath. It was around 9 pm. Luckily for her, the air seemed relatively dry; she figured the clothes would be crisp as notes in the morning.

The night sky was clear, and the faraway sound of traffic sounded oddly comforting. She immediately decided that she’d sit around and look at the city lights once she was done hanging the clothes. The terrace was twelve floors up and she could see a whole lot from here. She smiled and walked to their part of the building. She had had to come around the huge water tank, almost hidden from the terrace door. She started undoing the knotty clothes in front of the hanging line.

She was onto the fourth or fifth garment when she heard a distinct sob.


She stopped for a second, frowned, and went back to her clothes.

There. Another.

She now stopped and turned in the direction of the sob.

“Who is it?”

It was coming from behind the water tank, on the other side. She knew some kids came up here in the evenings to thrash out little kiddy strategies, teens came up here to pour their hearts out to their besties, sometimes even grown-ups came up here to make those clandestine phone calls, or that all important business deal without anybody’s interruption.

In short, the sob wasn’t a surprise to her. It was probably that girl Mamta – always got picked on by the other girls.

And she was right. It was indeed Mamta; she stood below the water tank sobbing heavily.

Smitha’s heart went out to the poor girl.

“What happened, child?” She said, reaching out to touch the girl’s shoulder, when her cell phone rang. It was Charu, her neighbor. She’d wished her a half hour back, on her way up from the basement.

“Hi Charu,” Smitha said cheerfully.

“Smitha,” Charu said, sounding distressed. “Where are you? I came by to your flat, it was locked.”

“Oh, I’m on the terrace. That stupid Raji again forgot the clothes…”

“Oh my God Smitha, you’re there? How … see…you…no…some…ibble..pnd…”

Charu’s voice was breaking. Smitha walked away from Mamtha towards the parapet, a little out in the open.

“Hello? Your voice is breaking ” She said, wincing.

“I said, you’re on the terrace..didn’t you see? Something terrible has happened,” Charu said.

“Didn’t see what?” Smitha cupped the receiver of the cell in her hand. Charu wasn’t still very clear, but this was better.

“Didn’t anyone tell you?”

Smitha was getting a little irritated now. “Arre, I told you na I was here all this while. What happened?”

“You know, that girl Mamta….she…she” Charu started sobbing.  “Oh God..Smitha..she  jumped from the terrace a while ago…it’s so…horrible,” Charu said and started crying.

Smitha was near the edge now. Did she hear her right? Did Charu just say Mamtha had jumped off the terrace? What the hell…? She then looked down. There was a crowd gathered below. The wind carried sounds of crying and shouting intermittently. It was chaos. And there, in the midst of it all, lay a limp form, quite a mess.

Smitha’s hands trembled, throat went dry, and her head reeled as she turned slowly. The wind howled. Mamta was now standing behind her, in the semi darkness  – staring at her -  tears mixed with blood running down her cheeks.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Welcome showers...

“Hello, Beta” Said the elderly woman standing at the doorway.

Seema smiled respectfully. It was raining outside.

They had shifted to this flat only the previous day, and a whole lot of things were still in disarray.

She invited the senior lady inside anyway.

“Oh no dear, my husband is waiting for his tea, I have to go. Some sugar please, child, if you don’t mind?”

“Oh, of course aunty…”

Seema gave her the sugar. The granny thanked her, turned slowly, and walked to the house opposite theirs.

A moment later Seema slapped her forehead. How insensitive of me. She took a step back in for their umbrella; the poor woman might get drenched.

But as she was about to grasp the umbrella’s handle, she stopped…and stood straight.

Wait a minute. It’s been raining the last one hour. And aunty was bone dry when she came. How…

She then slowly craned her neck out.

The old lady stood near the gate and waved at her; and slowly disappeared even as Seema watched, her mouth open, and her heart beating furiously, much like the lashing rain outside.


Monday, September 03, 2012

The spook spreads...

Ok, first things first. I'm getting published. Yep. :)

There. Said it finally.

I've been putting off sharing this piece of news for a while now. In a world of record-breaking 'likes' and 'trending', I'd like to think of myself as an exception to the rule. Some of my co-bloggers who've also over a period of time, become good friends, know this. So, this also goes out to them. My friends out of the blogosphere have been asking about it, wanting to know more, a few of my colleagues know it too.

So then, what has kept me from sharing it with you guys? Nothing, it's just that I'm a little of an introvert when it comes to these things. I know, I know - you need to make use of Internet today to promote yourself, get out there and let the world know. Visibility and all that, yeah - I know. But..that's just me, I guess.

It's gotten me this far, so I'm not complaining.

I started blogging, as most of you know, about 9 years ago. At that time, the blog was just another outlet for me to vent my thoughts, feelings, observations of life. Nothing more. As time flew, the blog also took the shape of a canvas. A canvas where I painted my thoughts in a different color. Fiction.

I've always been a story-teller. To the point of someone having to clamp their hands on my mouth. "Stop it." Yeah, that crazy. But that was just verbal. And back when I was a kid, not now (Thank God!) So, when I was in school, my classmates looked forward to the 'free' period, usually a day before the weekend; the last two classes. It was meant for recreation. Teachers took their students out for a small 'nature-study' tour around town, or...just utilized it for crafts, entertainment, or some sort of talent show.

And when they needed a break from all this, a filler - There was always Sri. :)

God knows how I'd conjure all those yarns up. From kiddy cops 'n robber stories, to all sorts of adventure trips around the globe, you name it, my kitty would have it. Sometimes I'd get bored of it myself, but those guys would goad me on.

Anyway, coming back to the blog - I started writing fiction just to kill the monotony. I felt non-fiction was getting repetitive, everyone had something to say about their lives, I had had my say too; so why not try something different? I pulled back at all those imaginative strings I had as a kid, and put it to use on the blog. One story followed another, and there was no looking back. I and my readers escaped into this tiny little chink in the wall and entered a world where there were no deadlines, EMIs, targets, heart-breaks, break-ups, or anything that resembled real life as we saw it. I started enjoying it, my readers enjoyed it. It was good fun.

And then, one day - out of the blue, my wife said - "I think you should get these out to the real world. Seriously."

I'd not thought about that. I was kind of toying with another draft, which I thought would go to the publishers first, but that was, and is, still crawling. And I was happy was my cocoon. Here, there were no strings attached. I was reluctant. But she didn't give up. Meanwhile, my co-bloggers started egging me on as well (those who did would remember all those comments, emails, and chats, God bless you) :).

So, I thought - what the hell. Let me try it. And so, sometime in Feb/March, I sent a few samples to a publisher. I'd heard stories about rejection slips and heart-breaks, so I thought nothing of it once I was done mailing it.

Three months later, I heard from them. I saw the subject line on the email and sighed. " it comes." I imagined things like "Hi your samples, but we're afraid we cannot accomodate it in our schedule now", or "Hi Sri, read your sample stories. We'll get back to you shortly" etc etc. But, surprise surprise - they wanted to publish the stories.

I read the email again, just to make sure it was addressed to me, and that I'd read it right. Ok, they had the title right..they had the email subject right. It was indeed me they were talking to. Of course, they asked for the whole collection first. The confirmation came a few days later.

So, then there it is, in a nutshell. (Whoa, that was a 'huge' nutshell, huh? Typical of me...)

But it's still some way off - only after April '13. That gives me time to come up with several more stories; as my editor suggested. I'd also like to come up with a few offline, just to keep the suspense alive, when you actually get to the book, if you know what I mean.

About the publishers; contrary to what I'd heard about publishers in general, these guys are mighty nice. None of those 'snooty' airs about them; no condescending tone in their voices. And my editor is a really nice person. I'm looking forward to working with her. I signed on the dotted line a month or so ago.

But, but, but...this in no way means I'm done here. No siree, far from it. I love this space, I love you guys. I could never give it up completely. Not for anything in the world. So, I'm gonna be around, penning more stories. Only thing different, to a certain extent, could be the frequency. As some of you might know, I'm also working on a full length novel. My editor has graciously agreed to look at that one as well; so I need to get her something soon, right? And sometimes, just sometimes, juggling gets a little challenging. So, I might not post as frequently. I'll come around though, once a while, engage in banter with you guys, and go back to work on the book. I know all your wishes/prayers are with me on this one. Of course, for those wanting to go into the finer details, you're free to email me. :)

And of course, closer to the publishing, I'm also going to talk about it on my Facebook page (another thing I'm horrible at; but my editor, God bless her, has promised to help me out with that one). So, starting now, whenever you find time, do send me your FB IDs if you don't mind, so I could include all of you there, to keep abreast of what's happening.

And once the book is out (the first one), you guys'll know about it first - when, how, where...etc. And all of you had better make it to the launch. No, I mean it. I want to see every one of you there. Because, it's only because of you guys that I'm out to spook a whole lot more, out there. Now, you might've thought "what the hell, why should we be the only ones getting scared?", but I don't care whatever sentiment was behind the prodding. I, want to see each one of you there. Yeah?

So there.

And oh yeah. The publisher? HarperCollins. :)

See ya around.