Category Archives: Book

Romi and Gang: Book Review

romi and gang

By Kartik Kannan

To paint an image, this is basically a ‘Swami and Friends’, for the kids who grew up playing Gully cricket in the 90’s. While ‘Swami and Friends’ and ‘Romi and Gang’ are different from the generations that they picturise, the quality and simplicity in writing is similar. The book is a refreshing read into the daily lives of Romi, Sulkhi, Golu and Sunny, whose lives are based around the 3 pillars of cricket, school and their tryst with the maidan. The story re-connected me with my childhood, and brought back memories of gully cricket. As an Indian, most of make that transition from child hood to Adult hood, by spending more time with our studies, gradually leaving the memories of gully cricket a distant and fading dream. This book has taken me back in time to re-affirm the importance gully cricket once had in the list of ‘priorities’

The first chapter draws the connect to its audience, like Tendulkar took to opening the batting in his first game. The image of a helmet(albeit a scooter helmet), 4 stumps, bat and gloves lying unused, as the 4 of them were busy searching for the lost ball in the bushes, replaying the trajectory of the shot to locate the ball. During my growing up years, I remember searching for a lost ball in the bushes , usually with a lot more gusto, so as to make hay (read as getting a few overs to bat), while the sun shone( make use of whatever little light was there).

Adding flavor to the description are the real world connects to ODI cricket played in the 90s’. Whether its the 1992 World Cup labels, the Bumper Sportstar issues, the posters adorning the walls or the parallels drawn between Romi’s innings of 47 and Sachin’s 47 ( In the 1995 New Zealand Cricket Centenary tournament). The innocence of the conversations makes you nostalgic of the simple 90’s, when ‘priorities’ had still not swamped you. I basically rediscovered that lump-in-the-throat feeling, that was last felt when India chose to turn up on Friday’s at Sharjah to lose to Pakistan in the 90’s.

The backdrop of the school, adds more memories, whether its the PT room’s active inventory, or a scooter (I imagined a Bajaj) within the school premises of a teacher which we eyed with mischief, or conversations with a topper girl, whose parent taught at the school.

I am not going to talk more about the suspense or the climax, but I’d recommend this for a beautiful Saturday read, so that by Saturday night you are hunting all your childhood friends on Facebook to re kindle the emotions of childhood so beautifully captured by Tushar in ‘Romi and Gang’.

PS: While we don’t require to any more handle clumsy antenna’s on the terrace to get any free feed/signal from Prime Sports any more, I’d give anything for the sheer fun of what we did growing up in the 90’s, to be associated with cricket(even if it means looking like Sachin in Ambrose’s pads) I am going next month to my native city, to catch a glimpse of whatever’s left of the little maidan that we once used to play cricket in. Thanks Tushar for rekindling the memories.

Some More PS: You can purchase the book here in its print avatar, or buy the kindle version here

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The Ghost of Kothi No. 136 at Punjabi Bagh

This is a short story by Ravi J Singh. For those of you who feel excited by fear factors, keep a lookout for the series.

Ghost

“Do it fast guys, we are already late and the installations cannot be delayed more”. Vardha, the South Indian team leader almost shouted on his fabricating team. He nervously looked at his golden chained Timex watch tied to his left hand. Droplets of sweat were now visible on his forehead and temple area, though it was a cold night of Delhi in January 1998.

Work pressure and deadline can have this effect on the leads after all. But was the pressure really so much on Vardha Swami Narayanan, a 33-year-old recently married guy from Madras who immigrated to Delhi seven years ago, that he was sweating profusely in a cold night of January of Delhi. The minute needle of his watch touched the number 3 and the hour needle was on 12. A worried Vardha looked at his guys – Ghanshyam, Kishore and Surinder – all young lads in their early 20s, who were trying to assemble the signboards with their trembling hands.

They wanted to get over this ordeal before 12:30am, and so did Vardha. All of them were aware of the fact that a big showroom opening was scheduled of one of their regular clients, and all the signboards had to be installed before 11am in the morning. They still had good 10 hours to complete the job, which by industry standards, were more than enough to complete the job.

Despite this, they were in great hurry. Was it the long working hours? Probably not, because working in night meant 1.5 times extra regular income and free night meal! And 500-600 rupees extra was lure enough to keep any fabricating guy working whole night.

Everything was fine till last week when that incidence happened with Radhey and Kishore…

…The same incidence happened with Srinivas and Mishra four days back and with Sonu, Mangal and Vishnu yesterday.

And, it happened to all of them in the fabrication area and around 12:30am. The area which was a long covered passage connecting the 200sq. yard lawn to the back side of famous Kothi no.136 of Punjabi Bagh area in West Delhi.

Punjabi Bagh is an affluent upper-class area of West Delhi, primarily comprising kothis (villas) ranging from 1500 to 3000 sq. yards. And, of course, true to its name, the majority of the population is of upper business class Punjabis. Like the Bhallas, who were the owner of Kothi no. 136, many had their business establishment within their villa.

So, the ‘Bhalla Niwas’ which was the name of Kothi no. 136, was planned in a way where the front 2/3rd area was utilized for the lawn, car parking and residence. And, in the rest 1/3rd were crammed the reception, design studio, printing unit, fabrication area, finance dept, a stinking urinal and a big 50 years old Peepal tree. The thick Peepal, with its roots emerging from the branches, looked horrifying, especially at night. And it happened to be at the other end of the fabrication area.

Currently the trio was fighting against time to finish their work and escape the place before 12:30am. Vardha, yet again, looked at his bejeweled watch, which was a dowry gift. The clock struck 12:28. It was in no way they could complete the job in the next two minutes.

Suddenly Kishore shouted “wo aa gayi, wo aa gayi“, threw his tools and ran towards the reception area like a mad dog. Ghanshaym and Surinder stood on the spot clueless and so did Vardha. They looked terrified and unsure. Is this really happening to them…the incidence which happened to seven people in their organization in last 10 days on three occasions! And, Kishore was the only one who had agreed to work at night again despite going through the now-infamous incidence. This incident has been talked and discussed incessantly by the 35 odd employees of Bhalla Signworks, situated in the Kothi no. 136 from last 10 days.

While they looked around unsure, they suddenly heard the voice!

…to be continued

Elizabeth Bennett…uhm…Darcy!

This is Sampurna Majumder’s homage to the attractive and vivacious Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, which completed 200 years in 2013.

jennifer-ehleIf Elizabeth Bennett would have been alive today, what would she be doing? At twenty and one, searching for a husband and marriage would probably had been the last thing in her mind. Then what? Studying in college for a degree and later focusing on a career?

Well, 200 years later, Elizabeth Bennett remains one of the much-loved fictional heroines ever produced. Her wild ways, sharp wit and frank disposition makes her as alluring as ever. Elizabeth is probably the heroine we all want be secretly. Despite residing in a rigid society that is steeped in moral codes she rejects all corsets of conventions by out rightly refuting the likes of Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine de Bourgh. She firmly believed that women have every right to marry out of love and their own will.

However, she is not without her follies. She is easily clouded by Darcy’s remarks and mistakes his reserved nature as arrogance. This leads not only her rejecting his proposal but also considering him responsible for creating differences between her sister Jane and her fiancé Mr. Bingley.

The outspoken and straightforward Mr. Wickham impresses her and she is carried away by him so much so that she even goes on to the extent of falling in love with him. Though warned by her best friend Charlotte and Caroline Bingley, she does pay much heed only to be disheartened at Mr. Darcy’s revelation of Wickham’s true character.

miss-bennetBut she is intelligent enough to realise her follies but does not give up on her prejudiced mind easily. It takes Darcy a second time to approach with his proposal.

She is not cowed by Mr. Darcy’s social and economic superiority, but challenges him. Even when she is called an ‘obstinate headstrong girl’ by Lady Catherine, she is not scared to retort. She stands her ground saying that Mr. Darcy is a gentleman and she is a gentleman’s daughter.

There’s a real sense of new order coming in, that of Elizabeth’s vitality and her ability to stand up for herself and her family. In this case, consider the case of Kate Middleton marrying Prince William. The fairy tale love affair does remind us of Elizabeth and Darcy and also that whatever ‘class’ we are born into, as human beings we are equal.

Whatever it may be, Elizabeth Bennett will continue to be our beloved fictional heroine of all times.

Oh Mr. Darcy!

Jane Austen’s celebrated novel, Pride and Prejudice, completed 200 years in 2013. On this event, Sampurna Majumder pays her homage to the extremely disagreeable but irresistibly handsome Mr. Darcy – the man who’s appeal years could not take away!

Colin-firth-mr-darcy

Last night I was watching the screen adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Almost every sentence of the book had been adopted. I was relieving every bit of the pages from of the book.

Well, it is a truth universally acknowledged that even 200 years down the line, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy continues to linger in the collective imagination of women across the globe. I first fell in love with this “most disagreeable man” when I was barely 12. And then once again while in high school and I still continue to fall for him every time I read (or re-read) the novel or watch the screen adaptations.

But what is it about this disagreeable man that turns him into the most desirable one by the end of the novel? A lot has changed since Austen’s novel was published. We find Elizabeth Bennett challenging every social more about society and marriage and standing by what she believed in – marrying out of love. Today’s women are socially and economically independent. But Mr. Darcy’s appeal has not waned away.

So what is it about this conceited ‘gentleman’ that still women yearn for? Well, let’s ponder over it a little:

mr-darcyAccording to some, he is the archetypal alpha male, emotionally unavailable and emerges as the good responsible guy at the end. It is probably his mysterious and intriguing nature that women find appealing. There’s something very fascinating in a man who stays aloof and chooses to confide only in the woman he admires and makes her feel privileged. Yes he is blunt, but at the same time he is fiercely protective about people he cares for.

Darcy embodies the perfect example of a ‘diamond in the rough’. At first impression he comes out as conceited and arrogant who is only mellowed down by the goodness of Elizabeth Bennett and also his younger sister.

Most importantly he does not try to be the knight in shining armour to win Elizabeth’s love. He is secretly involved in Elizabeth’s life and considers her as his equal; and he doesn’t pretend. He is matured enough to realise his pride and when he does, we find him going back to Elizabeth and asking her hand in marriage for the second time (since Elizabeth rejects the first proposal).

The irresistible Mr. Darcy has stood the test of time and the various adaptations have proved it time and again. Be it Mr. Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones Diary or Mr. Big in Sex and the City, Darcy’s various avatars continue to enthral us.

Love in the Times of Recession – Chapter 3 – Blink

last-meet-sad-couple

The first week of October also saw a new batch of students entering the campus. They came in as a whiff of fresh air for the students of Batch 5, who were facing many a turmoil due to recession in the markets. Many new girls caught the eyes of the boys who were in their best behavior and clothes.

An informal ice-breaking session was conducted in the first weekend, to get to know the new batch. A fun filled two-and-a-half-hour session ensued where the entire batch of 48 students were asked to perform a few tasks. Towards the end of the session, Ashima walked up to the front of the class to make an announcement.

“Folks, it was a wonderful opportunity getting to know you all on a personal level. On behalf of the students of Batch 5, it gives me great opportunity to invite you all for the Fresher’s Party to be conducted in two weeks time. The theme for the party will be disclosed just a few days before.”

Ayushman joined Ashima “But before you people start rejoicing about the Fresher’s Party, let me break some bad news”

Groans were heard from all corners of the class.

“Its tradition in our college to conduct a business plan competition just a week before the fresher’s. We introduce you all to BLINK…an annual competition, where all of you will be tested on your presentation skills and innovative ideas.

Business plans are decision making tools. A good business plan can help to make a good business credible, understandable and attractive to someone who is unfamiliar with the idea. Preparing a business plan draws on a wide range of knowledge from many different business disciplines.”

Ashima chipped in “The entire class will be divided into 6 teams of 8 each. The common ground for all of you would be e – business, with respect to specific domains that will include Auction, e – learning,  Entertainment, Investment, Kids, Matrimony, Real Estate, Social Networking and Sports”

“The terms and conditions for the contest along with the list of groups will be mailed across to your group ID. Any clarifications, you people can always reach out to me,” concluded Ayushman.

At the end of it, Ayushman heaved a huge sigh of relief. It had been one hell of a ride to convince the class to adhere to the tradition at the campus. Because of the placement scenario, which was nowhere close to satisfying, most of the Batch 5 students were least interested in conducting the event. They wanted all their energies to be focused on the placements.

But Ayushman was different. He wanted the contest to happen and had his selfish reasons as well. Ayushman, by nature was hungry for fame.

He lobbied hard and managed to get them interested in the event. Ashima on the other hand worked hard in the girls’ hostel to make sure the fairer sex understand the importance of the contest being held. Finally there was a consensus on everything. From people sitting in the class to attend the contest, to the topics that were to be given to the juniors, everything was agreed upon.

A lot of ego-messaging was done to get the guys and the girls ready and Ayushman and his team made sure they leave no stone unturned to make the event one of the best ever held in the history of the college.

12th October 2011, the day of the BLINK dawned. The judges for the evening were Mr. Sainath, a former alumnus and a financial analyst, and Mr. Krishnan, a software engineer from Microsoft. Ayushman and Ashima were the unanimous choices for hosting the event.

This day was going to be the turning point in the life of Ayushman Bhatnagar.

Ashima was looking very pretty that day. Dressed in a white salwar kameez, she was dressed to kill. As he walked towards her, he saw her talking to Rahul. She was pretty, he thought. And when he finally joined them, she looked his way with a pair of hazy eyes that kept on coming.

“Hi,” she said as she offered her hand, “I m pretty nervous. I hope you aren’t. Hope we do a good job in there.”

But as he shook her hand and met those striking brown eyes, he knew before he’d taken his next breath that she was the one he could spend the rest of his life with. She seemed that good, that perfect…Ayushman was completely bowled over.

Ayushman and Ashima started the proceedings and each of the 6 teams proved their mettle, vying for the first place. The judges had a tough task in deciding the winners as every team tried outdoing the other.

After the event the judges spoke a few words of encouragement for both the batches. They said they understood the difficulty the seniors would have gone through coming up with the contest especially because the placement season was on and was impacted by the ongoing slowdown.

They saluted the resilience shown by the students of Batch 5 in these times of distress. Unfortunately not any of them knew that this show of strength was fading at a cancerous speed with every passing day.

All through this, Ayushman was absolutely quiet. He was so smitten by Ashima that he couldn’t peel his eyes off her.

“What is happening to me?” he wondered.

Later that night, Ayushman was very restless in his room. He just couldn’t take his mind away from Ashima. As much as he tried shutting her out of his mind, she kept flirting in absence.

He dished out his mobile from under the pillow and re-read the message she had sent him last week.

“Tomorrow, at 6 in the evening. I shall meet you in Barista,” he replied back.

This Book Is A Copyright of the author. Any Infringement or usage on any other website will invite legal action. 

The Photograph above has been taken from http://www.facebook.com/taylor.maries.photos. For more such pictures visit the wonderful page.