Monday, July 22, 2013

Frankly Spooking now has a face

Ok, so the count-down has kind of begun and in all good spirits (no, no..that pun was unintended. Honest) the book now has a face. Well, some parts are still missing, but yeah, more or less.

Here it is!

Frankly Spooking on Facebook

And as we inch closer to the release date, I'll keep the page updated with news, ads, and other tid-bits. So, come all, come ye, spread the spook...err, love.

All are invited.

Wait...that sounded too formal, no?

Come on over then, what're we waiting for? Bring your folks too :)


Sunday, July 21, 2013

'You're selected'

From the Frankly Spooking Outtakes


Virkar squinted his eyes and looked at the monitor, concentrating deeply. His face wore his usual frown when he was deciding something. Saakshi sat beside him and stifled a yawn. She looked up at the clock. 2.30 AM. Gosh. But this profession was such. And she knew what it meant to be Virkar’s assistant. He was a hard task master.

They were looking at screen-tests of candidates for Virkar’s new movie.

“Sir, which one do you think fits the bill?” She said finally, unable to control herself. Virkar didn’t like interruptions when he was at work.

He frowned some more and muttered something to the tune of ‘rich kids, useless, they think they’re all salman..’ etc.

He reclined in his seat finally and stretched, a loud yawn escaping his lips.

“I don’t know Saakshi. What do you think? I go with number 23. For the guys, I’ll put my money on 16. He’s not the best, but much much better than the rest. Everyone else is shit.”

Saakshi moved the cursor back to number 23. The girl was reading out from the script, and then she was enacting the scene as told to. Saakshi looked at her test for a while and pursed her lips, nodding.

“You’re right. She’s got the right kind of look, and also it doesn’t look artificial. No?”

Virkar nodded and rose. “Ok, I’m off. Do you want me to…?”

“No sir, I’ll doze off here itself. I’ve informed Saahu, he gave me the keys,” Saakshi said with a tired smile.

Virkar shook his head and waved at her before walking out of the studio.


Saakshi decided to look at the applications again before hitting the sack. She settled down on the couch and grabbed the writing pad with the applications from the center-table, resting the sheets on her chest, flipping through each one. The test video was still playing on the system. Some guy was doing his ‘salman’ act.

She came to no. 23. She read the details about the girl. Then she slowly sat up with a puzzled look on her face. The girl in the photo looked somewhat different from the one in the video. Was it the hair?

She pulled out the sheet from the lot and got back to the laptop, pulling up the test video again.

She saw the girl in the video and looked at the photo in the application. It was a totally different girl. How on earth did that happen? She looked back at the screen.

The girl was now looking straight at her, her eyes piercing Saakshi's.

“She fell ill, Saakshi – so I took her place. I’m good, no?” She said, coming very close to the camera now.

Saakshi's heart felt like a huge piece of lead, trying to thump its way out.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Be on Time...

From the Frankly Spooking outtakes.


The jogging track was hexagonal, roughly – though one couldn’t really ascertain that for sure. It just closely resembled that particular shape. Joggers came in around 5 am, when the park gate opened, and one could see a lone soul or two, still jogging, even as late as 11 am. The shady trees around the track made things easier. The same routine repeated in the evening, starting around 5.30 pm, till almost 9 pm. That was when that scraggy old security guard came tapping his stick on the cement track, shooing the health freaks out. Of course, evenings also were a time for the kids to go screaming all over the place and couples to cootchie-coo to their hearts’ content, on the benches alongside the track, a little away from it.

Suresh came in at 4 am and jumped the compound wall. The security guard was not to be seen in his usual spot. It was still dark, and he wanted to make the most of it. Got too damn crowded afterwards. He quickly warmed himself up in the park and stretched a bit using all those parallel bars in the play area. Once he was breathing a little heavily and his limbs had loosened up, he stood by one of the benches and sipped some water from his hipster.

He completed two rounds on the track and slowed down a bit for the third one. He looked at his wrist-watch. Good time.

Somewhere during the fifth round, he heard footsteps behind him, accompanied by that all-too-familiar heavy breathing. Ah, it begins now. Soon the place would be teeming with joggers. He wanted to quickly finish his jog and move on to stretching. He had a favorite corner where he did that. Five more rounds and he was done. The gentle breathing behind him continued, but he didn’t look back. He moved to a side of the track – maybe the fellow wanted to overtake. Didn’t happen, though.

He was onto his sixth lap when he suddenly felt his speed increasing. Like someone had just given him a good, firm push. He slowed down and looked back. What the hell…

There was nobody behind him. Huh? Maybe it was his own breath, echoing in his brain or something. He continued jogging, puzzled. At the end of the seventh lap his feet picked up speed again. This time there was no sign of slowing down.

“Hey,” he said involuntarily, and ordered his muscles to slow down. Nope. The speed only increased. He was running very fast now, his heart fighting to cope, and his lips going dry. He winced and tried to run off the track, but his feet were stuck to the track and he just couldn't control his muscles and veer away.

He wanted to scream but he couldn’t. All his energies were being taken up by his heart, pumping blood through his veins, like a locomotive. His eyes were watering and head pounding. For a bystander, it would look like he was doing a 1500 meters sprint, only faster. The speed kept going up. He wondered how his feet were still on the track. His knees cried out and his lungs were about to explode.

Suddenly, the speed reduced until he was back to his normal jogging pace. But he was done. He ran off the track and collapsed in the middle of the park, on the grass. As he lay there, his breathing sounding like a hand weaver’s loom in overdrive, his eyes still adjusting to the view above, he heard the footsteps back on the track, and the heavy breathing.

“Who….who’s ….there?” He managed to say in between the heavy panting.

No reply, just the footsteps and the breathing.

A while later, when the blood had returned to his face, and his limbs (though beaten) were not groggy anymore, he rose and walked slowly towards the gate. It was still dark, but the gate was open. Shit, the guard is here.

He was about to walk through when he almost bumped into the guard, who was blocking the gateway.

“Damn, you scared me, man” Suresh said. The guard just stared back and stepped aside with a grunt. He glared at Suresh. "You are jumping wall and going. Not allowed. See?" He said and pointed at the sign-board.

Park Timing: 5 am – 9 pm

Suresh didn’t have the energy to argue with him and just nodded. “Yeah, yeah, I know.” He walked past the guard.

"You running very fast. I see from here. Don't run like that, that also so early morning. Mist. Cold. You will die.”

Suresh turned. "Huh? You saw me running?"

The guard grinned a toothy grin and nodded. Then he pointed back at the board.

"5 am. You come. Not before. Ok?"

Suresh brushed him aside and started walking away. “Ok, ok".

The guard laughed behind him and remarked. "Otherwise tomorrow you will run more fast."

Suresh turned. "Hey, listen it's none of your goddamn..."

There was nobody there... and the gate was locked.


Saturday, July 06, 2013


From the Frankly Spooking outtakes


Nidhi sat in front of her laptop, her hands poised on the keyboard, face contorted into a knot of fury. Just what did these dumbos think of her? She was the nerd of the class, but that didn’t mean they demean her in this manner?

All that talk about ghosts and supernatural beings got to her earlier in the evening. They had managed to make her bunk the last language hour class, but at hind sight she felt she could’ve as well attended it. Couldn’t these people find a better topic to talk about?

It all began when Priya started talking about how her sister saw a ghost in her hostel bathroom. And that was it – everybody had a story to tell. Somebody’s aunt saw a ghost, somebody’s uncle saw one, heck – Rajiv’s brother even got to dance with one. Nidhi rolled her eyes as she recalled each one of those so called ‘anecdotes’. Losers all.

And when Nidhi asked them if they personally had seen even one ghost, none had an answer. That alone proved that there were no ghosts. Nidhi was smug about it, only to be rebuffed by them all. To the extent that they said she couldn’t see ghosts because ghosts didn’t like intelligent folks. They seemed to draw strength only from weak minds and hence tended to harass only them. So Nidhi would never get to see or talk to a ghost. Ha, what a genius explanation.

Now, as Nidhi opened her Facebook account, she decided to post about it. She sat in front of the screen, her mind a blank. Then she started typing.

About two years ago, my brother came running down from his room and whimpered to my parents – there’s a ghost in my window, there’s a ghost in my window. My papa went up with the scared little mouse that my brother is, and discovered the ‘ghost’ in the window was nothing but the shadow of a branch right outside, falling on the glass pane. It shook gently in the wind, thereby giving a feeling of ‘someone’ instead of the real thing – something. That is, the branch of the tree.

Which brings me to the question – do ghosts exist? Do they really exist, or are they just fragments of one’s imagination. After all, come on – I mean, nobody has seen God, right? I’m not comparing God with ghost, but the phenomenon is more or less the same right? In my opinion, unless you personally ‘experience’ something you cannot really say it exists. At least not with the confidence with which we so easily believe in the existence of supernatural beings which can’t be commonly seen with the naked eyes. We humans are so funny. On the one hand, we would not like to believe something which happens right in front of our eyes, but something such as a ghost, we’re only too ready to believe in.

I think it’s time we changed. It’s time we became aware of our own stupidity. And what for, all this? It does nobody any good. The weak just get scared, and the other folks just derive pleasure out of scaring them. So, I would like to take this opportunity to start a little contest here. In the comment box here, come up with an original ghost story. The best one wins a prize. The prize is a secret, and only after the recipient gets it, is he or she allowed to reveal it to the world. Howzzat? So come ye all, put on your best spooky hats and start penning away here.

She then added - Those folks who feel the comment box is small, could also email me. My email ID is the same as my FB ID. So get cracking folks.

She let out a sigh and  sat back, reading her post once again. After making a few changes, she hit the ‘Enter’ button and saw the post appear on her wall. She smiled. This should be fun.

She was about to leave to bed when (eyes slowly widening) she saw the cursor on her screen move on its own and click the ‘Like’ button.


Friday, July 05, 2013

Thus spooked Phatichar

Ok, the word is out, at least from HarperCollins’ side. They were not kidding when they made me sign on the dotted line and told me that they’d print the book. Amen to that.

And here’s proof. Of course, in all good earnestness I shared this link on my Facebook timeline (at the marketing head’s behest). And for those who haven’t added me on their friends list yet, or for that matter, have no intention of adding me ever, here it is:

Funny title isn’t it, for someone who likes to spook the *@#$ out of folks (I didn’t purposely write the first letter because there are too many ‘comfort’ swear words people like to use these days so they can replace the letters with whatever they prefer, be my guest) . See, I’m such an accommodative spooker. No, really..frankly speaking.

Ahem. Over to more serious business then.

What I’ve been told is over the next few weeks, the publishers are going to do the following, not necessarily in the same order, but..well, more or less – get the books fresh off the press, release the electronic version of the book cover, garner some interest by way of teasers, contests (hopefully not, I can’t imagine anybody wanting to participate in spooky contests), get some ‘important’ (I surely hope not ghosts) people to share ideas and opinions about the paranormal etc., release some sort of an ad campaign for the book, all of these on their Facebook profile. And oh, yes – reviews. A very important part of any promotional activity, nothing new about that. The book’s gonna go to some select publications, personalities etc, and receive some feedback from them. Things such as ‘This guy’s a freak, what sort of a healthy, normal thinking person in their sane minds would write stories like this, gimme a break’, or some such thing hopefully. And yes, I might have to do some interviews, hopefully during daytime (if all goes well after the reviews, that is). On second thoughts, if something spooky happens, they might wanna speak to me all the same. Hmm, never thought about that. Shudder.

And! After all this, if people still have any inclination at all to get spooked  any further...

They’ll release the book to the various book-stores, online and offline. After that, you know the rest.

Nice, huh?

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Count down

‘The book’s gone to print,’ my editor said a couple of weeks ago. It was only then it sank in (well, to be completely honest, it still hasn’t) that from here on, I had absolutely no control over the words I wrote for the past 6-7 years, and a few I wrote some months back.

It has its own destiny to face now.

A grueling month it has been. Edits, rewrites, discussions, late night chats with editor over the nitty-gritties of plot, blah, blah, and blah. Phew. As I reclined in my seat and absently counted the number of stories that I had sent, I went ‘huh. This many?’ Yeah, I’d sent 83 stories to be precise. And they picked up how many? Thirty. Thirty that the editor ‘felt’ were the best of the lot. That speaks a whole about the effort I’d put the last so many years. Thirty lousy stories were worth it. That’s all? I grimaced. But then wait a minute. Isn’t blogging all about that? Of not having to worry about best or worst, and just keep at it so you satiate your creative appetite? Be that as it may, I was (guiltily so) somewhere in the back of my mind, happy that I was done with it. Finally. It’s done. There won’t be any more of those ‘hmmm, wonder how this story would look in a published book’ kind of thoughts running in the back of my head. There'll be stories for sure, but they'll be different.

So. No big deal really, right – you blogged, now you published. And you had it all made. The package was all there, waiting to be picked up.

No siree. Uh huh.

It’s not that simple, unfortunately. Writing on the blog and writing for a book are like looking into the model of the planet rotating on a plastic axle and looking at it from up above the sky. From up there, you can only look at it (once it’s done) and either draw in a breath, or spit out a frustrating scoff. Well, either ways, it’s too far away to be actually able to do something about it. One can’t really fix those craters visible on the moon, right?

Believe me, it's nerve-racking. But then, was it fun? I guess it was… at hindsight. While you’re in the eye of the storm, all you want to do is get it over with. But now that I think about it...yeah, it was fun.

So, then what next? Well, for starters, the book is scheduled for an August release which is like a month away. The marketing head contacted me and rattled off some things that sounded like marketing-speak  - like it should. Only I can’t claim to have understood it completely. I’ll let it pass. Suffice to say I understood the important words like ‘online promotion’, ‘media reviews’, and some others I don’t remember at this point. I’ll be probably talking more about it in the days to come.

And I’ll need your help. Because, I for one, suck big time at marketing and promotion and publicity and all those things that help sell an ice-cream to an eskimo. I’d rather just hand over my ice-cream to a guy astride a camel in a desert (not sell it). But then I know we’re in the real world. And especially in today’s world, we do need to have the capability of selling ice-cream to an eskimo. And whether or not I like it, the book is now a finished product.

I just hope the people out there read it. And enjoy it. Just like how you all did.  That’s what matters to me. So, you'll help spread the spook..err..word when it comes out, won't you? I’m counting on you guys here.

 And oh yes, I'll be back here. This is home. Really.