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MILES APART

Written By

Anasua Ghosh

Published by: OnlineGatha The Endless Tale


Address: Keshav Complex, S1 first floor, Faizabad
Road, Indira Nagar Lucknow - 226016
Contact: 0522- 4004150, +91-9936649666
Website: www.onlinegatha.com
ISBN: 978-93-86163-78-3
Price: 270/ All Rights including Copyrights reserved with
the Author

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Pvt. Ltd. The site is a step into the online literary
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This book has been published in the good faith that
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The author maintains the copyright of the book and
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publisher and the author.
MILES APART

INDEX
1-

Chapter One

2-

Chapter Two

24

3-

Chapter Three

32

4-

Chapter Four

40

5-

Chapter Five

47

6-

Chapter Six

53

7-

Chapter Seven

59

8-

Chapter Eight

66

9-

Chapter Nine

72

10-

Chapter Ten

79

11-

Chapter Eleven

86

12-

Chapter Twelve

98

13-

Chapter Thirteen

106

14-

Chapter Fourteen

114

15-

Chapter Fifteen

122

16-

Chapter Sixteen

129

17-

Chapter Seventeen

138

18-

Chapter Eighteen

144

19-

Chapter Nineteen

154

MILES APART

20-

Chapter Twenty

162

21-

Chapter Twenty one

170

22-

Chapter Twenty Two

178

23-

Chapter Twenty Tree

185

24-

Chapter Twenty Four

197

25-

Chapter Twenty Five

206

26-

Chapter Twenty Six

212

27-

Chapter Twenty Seven

221

28-

Chapter Twenty Eight

226

29-

Chapter Twenty Nine

232

30-

Chapter Thirty

237

31-

Chapter Thirty One

246

32-

Chapter Thirty Two

252

33-

Chapter Thirty Three

256

34-

Chapter Thirty Four

262

35-

Chapter Thirty Five

269

36-

Chapter Thirty Six

276

37-

Chapter Thirty Seven

287

38-

Chapter Thirty Eight

291

MILES APART

Chapter One
Presenting Gia Mukherjee

Happily ever after does not exist, does it?


Nope, it is just a fragment of imagination. Right?
Well, this is the story of my life. I keep asking
questions to no one particular. So, quite naturally, I
get no answer. Long ago people have abandoned me
as an outcast who is slowly drifting away from the
reality.
My friends, meaning, the girls who went to
school with me, get puzzled whenever they see me.
They think I am either crazy or a slut who cannot be
let loose around their husbands. Not to mention
around their kids. Sad, for them. Not for me.
I am thirty two. Not married. It is a sin many
cannot seem to forgive. My relatives cannot stare
me into the eyes. They fear that I will never be able
to become a mother. So, it is my mother they turn to
(no they dont have the courage to ask me). But, the
poor woman (my mother I mean) does not have any
answer. Therefore, she cannot impart any
knowledge.
But, hey, I am not single either. I am engaged
to get married to the most wonderful man of the
world who loves me with all his heart and lives off
my money. I cannot complain much. In fact I
MILES APART

should not complain. Serves me right for being a


feminist. It is me who keep insisting that women
should become the bread earner. So, here I am
earning the bread of my so-called business man
boyfriend Tamas Kar.
Dont get me wrong though. I am not a
grumpy fast aging middle aged woman. Rather I am
quite a childish and energetic female who tells her
true age to watch people widen their eyes in
surprise.
By the day, I work as a content writer. I write
truck load of foolish keyword based contents to earn
bread for my family and of course you-know-who.
By the night, when everyone retires to bed, I sneak
out my notebook and pen to write mystery novels.
Getting published and gaining worldwide fame is a
dream that keeps me going, even though the darkest
days of my life.
Even though Mr. Wonderful makes every
effort to make me penny less, I am thankful. Each
time I look up, I say a prayer of gratification. My
creator has gifted me with a very loving mother and
an excellent sister. Together they propel me forward
and keep me happy.
My father? Well, he has departed the world
long ago. I doubt he had the premonition of meeting
Tamas Kar. Poor daddy, failed to tolerate the joy of
coming face to face with such a wonderful man.
Anyways.
MILES APART

A sharp ringing wakes me up from my trance.


My head throbs. Before my eyes, I see words
keywords. Life of a content writer. I sigh in disgust.
My phone keeps ringing with insistence that I
answer. Must be a bitch of a caller, I think, fishing it
out of my pocket. Ms Wonderful, Mr. wonderful
wonderful sister. I cannot help making face. Then I
draw a breath and strike a smile. Of course, she
cannot see my smile but she can hear it in my voice.
Hey di, I say in a sing song voice.
Hello, she answers in a cheerful tone. What
are you doing?
I am farting, I want to say, but, wisely dont. I
remind myself who I am talking to. Madhuri Kar
Chatterjee. So, I say, Returning home di.
Good, good, good, she says as if I give a
fuck about her opinion. Have you seen the photos I
have uploaded in facebook? she asks.
Here you go. Of course, I have, I say,
maintaining the cheerfulness and keeping the smile.
How am I looking in the pics?
Like shit rotting dry in the street. Beautiful
di. Marriage totally suits you. While I say this, I
cannot help looking up to say thank you to my
creator who has given me the ability to lie through
my teeth.

MILES APART

It is my mother-in-law. She makes me take


care of myself. A happy voice. She believes my lie.
Unbelievable.
Lucky you. I can totally understand why her
mother-in-law is so eager to make her presentable.
A futile effort, the poor woman is putting in, if you
ask me. Douse a crow in milk every day, it will still
remain dark and ugly.
You have gained weight, she says. You
have become round.
So much for faking appreciation. Yeah, I
dont get much time to work out. I say. What I
dont say is I can always lose weight bitch. But,
you my dear will forever remain ugly.
Work out. And with that she rings off. Not
even a bye or good night. My daddy used to say no
matter how much money you have, your upbringing
will always show like unhealed scars.
I stare at the phone a moment longer, silently
uttering some choice adjectives. Then I resume my
lone walk towards my home. I amuse myself by
comparing Madhuri with her namesake, my favorite
actress. The contradiction the images bring made
me chuckle. Poor Ms. Dixit Nene.
Why this hostility, you might be wondering. If
I am so disgusted with my life, why I am not
walking out on Tamas? I will come to that as this

MILES APART

continues. Sometimes holding on is easier than


letting go.
Today, I have decided to take the long cut.
Maybe walking a little longer will help me shed
some weight. That weighty remark still stabs where
it hurts the most. People these days, friends and foes
alike, make it a point to remind me that I have
gained weight.
Even a couple of years ago I flaunted my 25
inch waistline. I still remember how young men
turned their heads as I used to pass by. I was a small
celebrity. Then Tamas happened in my life. And I
slowly vanished from public eyes.
It is not that I am not there. I always am. It is
just that people seem too unnoticed (if thats a
word) everything but me. Old furniture anybody?
Yeah, I guess, you get the point. Firmly, I tell
myself that writers of my level dont bother with the
everyday feminine vanity. Sadly, I fail to suppress
my disappointed sigh each time young men eye my
sister and treat me like a shadow who shouldnt
have been there at all. Wrong time, wrong place.
Huh, I should have been born in some other age.
This just does not suit me.
What hurts most is the fact that there is only
one human being to blame for the misfortune. You
know who it is? Bingo, its me. I am the only one
who is standing between my old figure and me.

MILES APART

Work out. Her suggestion rings in my mind. If


only I could commit to it. Earlier working out had
been an addiction. I had to do it. Now, the prospect
of sweating and stretching fills me with dread. Even
if I start, I know it will last for a couple of days
only. Then I will quit.
My phone vibrates again. Mr. Wonderful this
time. Hello, I say without bothering to layer my
tone with cheerfulness. No smile this time.
Where are you? he asks.
Going home. I have no desire to see his face
tonight.
Heard you are throwing a daru party.
Mamas boy wants a party.
Who said? I ask. To be frank I am already
tired of his nagging for money at the end of the
month.
Its the word of the town.
There goes the new book I have planned to
buy, I think with regret. Today is Wednesday.
Lets booze on Friday na. I dont want to end up
with a hangover tomorrow in the office.
Lets party tonight. Tamas hasnt been
taught to take a no for an answer. Bad upbringing.
Some parents simply dont know how to bring up a
decent kid. You gotta spend some time with Tamas
to understand what bad parenting can do to people.
MILES APART

10

But, Tamas, I say, already losing my battle.


Either we party tonight. Or, we dont party at
all, says Mr. Wonderful.
I let out a breath of frustration and anger. For
one brief second I look up. Why? I think why me?
Why this no good asshole? Like always Almighty
answers me back in utter silence.
So, by now I guess you have gotten the
picture. I am happily engaged to be married to a
worthless piece of junk. Each moment I live in
dread that someday I will have to marry this
creature and accept his hoard of ugly looking
relatives as my family. Call his pimp looking
mother mom and produce uglier children who
would grow up to become drunks of the town.
But, then again I have a unique quality. I am
always hopeful. I look forward to a better
tomorrow. You know, I keep projecting my life
without Tamas anywhere in the proximity of my
presence.
Four pegs of old monk later, I stumble back
home. Mom has her usual stern expression on her
face. My sister Anya already has retreated to bed.
She will not get engaged in what is about to happen.
You are late, mom complains.
Damn straight I am. Yeah, I was doing some
important work. Like taming down Tamas Kar and
his sudden mood swing.
MILES APART

11

It is 11:11. Mom points at the wall clock.


Yeah, I can see. I am painfully aware of my
slurred voice. I am hungry. Though I am not, I
need to get her attention away from me.
What about Tamas? Wont he come? mom
asks.
No, not tonight. Yes, he eats at my place. I
not only take care of his end of the month booze, I
feed him too. His family owes me a lot.
With hurried steps my mother leaves the
scene and goes to kitchen. I drop my weight (which
is not light) in one of the living room chairs and
stare out of the window. Not for the first time I go
back in the past just to say no to Tamas proposal of
getting married. What was I thinking? I want to ask
my current self. But, since my current self hardly
can think straight, I get no answer.
To make the matter worse, my mother returns
with a plateful of rice and chicken curry. It smells
good. But, my stomach rolls. Kolkata weather is not
suitable for old monk. I look down at my plate and
throw up.
Presenting Samrat Bhatia
Oh shit man shit. Have you looked at the
time? I am late. Well, then I think philosophically,
everyone should get late once in a while. By now,
my team expects me to be there in the office before
dawn breaks free. Why not give them a heart attack
MILES APART

12

today. A break day you know. So, I slow down my


pace.
Inside my backpack, I have the new John
Grisham packed. This book has gotten me hooked
and this is the book that has kept me up all night
long. So, I can safely put the blame of being late on
the shoulders of Mr. Grisham. A chuckle forms on
my face at the thought of putting the blame on John
Grisham. I can imagine the look my teammates will
give me lest I say John Grisham has gotten me
late.
Even as I go near my office building, my
mind drifts back to the maze of the plot. I want to
know what Rudy does to save the bad faith case.
Thank God I am carrying the book inside my
backpack. Today is going to be a hell of a day. I
will keep taking frequent pee breaks.
Sometimes I wish I had the ability to spin a
tale like Mr. Grisham. There are stories inside my
head. Plots crawl everywhere. Characters nag me.
But, I dont know how to get them behave like real
humans.
Trancified in my thought, I stumble. This
takes me a couple of steps forward and makes me
enter my office building with a sense of flying in.
Rita, the receptionist, looks up and rolls her eyes.
Here comes Sam.
Sam you are late, says Rita. She digs in her
handbag with a frown. Must have forgotten her
MILES APART

13

lipstick. I look up at the wall clock, yeah, I am late


for sure. Its 11:11 already.
Yeah, yeah, I know. This I say over my
shoulders just to be polite. But, she does not hear
me. With her head bend over her handbag she keeps
digging.
It usually takes exactly half minute to reach
fifth floor where my cabin is. But, today is not a
normal day. Today everything seems to hold me
back. It takes two foot tapping in irritation minutes
for the elevator to get started.
What they try to tell me? Should I look for
symbols? Ha, ha.
Why are you chuckling Sam? asks Navneet
Pande, my team leader.
Because I am happy today. This reply gets
everyone to look up and stare at me. Yeah, yeah, so,
I am always happy. So what?
Navneet rolls his eyes. Aint you always
Sam. He pauses. Then adds. You are late.
Well, yeah. I am sort a late today. My
apology. Been up almost all night long. One breath
and so many words can be injurious to health. So, I
let go of the breath and find my chair. Today, I need
to give a speech before a collective assortment of
hundred corporate honchos. They all want me to go
down. They all are waiting for me to go down.
Almost urging the downfall to happen.
MILES APART

14

The speech that would make my trip to the


higher management is clipped inside my backpack.
It took two nights sleep to finish writing this piece.
No, it is not a masterpiece. Yes, it will gain
attention and arrest it too.
With surprise the realization dawns inside my
heart. Whoa, just one more step to six figure salary.
I have spent years working for this day.
Happy and content, my hand reaches inside
my backpack to find the speech. A tinge of pride
passes through my chest as the stake of paper comes
out. I spend couple of hours going through each line
I have written. Of course, as promised my breaks
frequented a lot. My teammates eye me each time as
they have never seen anyone going to bathroom
with their backpack slugged over their shoulders.
Wisely, no one says anything.
At exactly three in the afternoon Navneet
comes with his usual frown. He looks at my happy
face and his frown deepens. Do you always smile
like this? he asks. Even in your sleep? Now, he is
crossing his limit. But, who gives a damn anyways.
Sam, I am talking to you.
Well. Oddly all my sentences begin with
well nowadays. God knows why. I sort a love my
smile, you know. It makes my narrow face look
fuller. Even as the reply escapes my mouth, my
smile widens. Navneet shakes his head in disgust.
You are an asshole Sam. A filthy asshole.
MILES APART

15

What have I done to deserve this hon or?


ask without letting go of my smile.

To this Navneet does not reply. His face


breaks into an angry growl as he drops into his
chair. Kaustav has denied my access from the
server.
Oh, so thats the reason of going after my ass.
Kaustav Bajwa has fucked with Navneets position
again. Without feeling least bit sympathetic I turn
towards my computer. Checking mails is not a
priority for me. But, today just to avoid Navneet
thats what I do, turn my undivided attention
towards an inbox which contains nothing but mails
from customer care.
Somewhere in the distance a phone rings.
Someone picks it up. And then someone shouts.
Sam, Kaustav wants to see you.
Now? This is uncalled for. Everyone stays
out of Kaustav Bajwas way, even the CEO himself.
What does he want?
His majesty knows.
Of course, The Almighty Himself. Because,
saying no can earn me a crimson slip (yes thats
pink slip for me), I pull myself up from my chair. I
think I should go for a smoke break before going to
Kaustav.
Be late and he will light your ass for a
smoke.
MILES APART

16

Welcome to King Joffrays court, I joke


though no one gets it.
Hi, I say after stepping inside the risk
territory.
Kaustav looks up from his laptop with a smile
at my greeting. His face glows each time he smiles.
Its open and warm (one of my girlfriends described
it that way), almost loving. And it never ceases to
fool people. Girls fall for his smile. Men trust him
when he smiles. But, by now everyone knows what
happens when Kaustav smiles. Think, I should be
looking for another job.
Sam, you have grown taller in one day, he
says.
For a moment, I stare, not knowing what to
say. This is a rare occasion. Usually coming up with
jabs quicker than blink of an eye is my
specialization. But then again this is Kaustavs
magic. Finally, my throat clears up. Nope, I am
still six feet, havent grown an inch taller. I dont
get it. Koustav cracking a joke can mean anything.
His smile grows wider at my statement. Yes,
my heart beats faster now. What goes inside my
mind, no one will guess. Have a seat.
There you go. I drop my weight down on a
leather executive chair. These are made to bestow
comfort. Yet, I feel as awkward as I would have felt

MILES APART

17

had I been sitting on a rocky mountain with bare


ass.
I have seen your report. Koustav turns to
face his laptop. You write well. His smile gone
now, he looks at me with a stern expression. Ever
considered writing fiction? Though it is spoken in a
soft, low tone of voice, my cheeks feel like Kaustav
has risen his hand and slapped me hard.
Well, I say, again I begin with well. II
sometimes try my hand on writing short stories and
stuff actually.
You write like a fiction writer. And of course
your reports are all fictions, Kaustav says. Now, he
tilts his head to fix me with a disapproving stare. I
dont think you are ready for the presentation
today. My heart slams against my chest and beats
like mad boxers throwing punches at each other.
Arun will take over. You can go on with your usual
tasks.
In other words, my promotion along with the
pay hike goes out of the window. Without saying
anything I pull myself up and head for the door.
Samrat, Kastavs call stops me. Its nothing
personal.
Yeah, I know.
Back to my cubicle, I sit facing my computer.
Kaustav has fucked me. To avoid my teams
sympathetic glances, I log on to a professional
MILES APART

18

networking site. Its been a long time since I have


checked or updated anything. Maybe today
something will come up. Well, something always
does, doesnt it? While browsing my own profile,
my eyes fall on her smiling face.
Nothing to write about. Yeah, simply nothing.
No word comes to my mind. Nothing creates any
meaningful sentence. For the last couple of hours,
blank screen stares back at me. It keeps mocking or
keeps urging me to bang some quick words down
quickly. Today is not the day. Simply not the day. I
mutter under my breath.
Inspiration? The saddest part of my life is
even when I try to find it with a baseball bat it
remains as remote as the stars shining down upon
us. Even in the morning at office I have failed to
produce any foolish content.
The fact that I write for the US based lawyers
can give you an idea how tedious and boring my
working life can be. All day long I spend digging
out yet another repetitive content about either DUI,
Tax Evasion or First Degree Murder. And when
these are not enough to make my already colorful
life dazzling with bright hues, there is always
family law. You know what that is? If you dont
know consider yourself lucky. Because, I do. And I
am not happy about it.
To make the matter interesting, the project
manager has ordered meall of uscontent writers
MILES APART

19

I meanto write news based content. Well, where


do you find juicy gossip about divorces or child
support? To this question Mr. Manager does not
have any answer.
And I dont give a damn.
One more minute and I will switch off the
laptop. I promise myself for the tenth time. Today is
really not the day. Not only I have failed to meet the
word count target. My team, Man Utd, has lost two
to three as well.
So, here I am locked in a crammed room
which others use for item dumps and trying to write
my blockbuster. Strangely my mind finds peace
here and usually I can write. Though I dont know
why I write. Rejection awaits me like an eager lover
at the end of each novel. Yet, I dont learn. A vice
which is sure to cost me a great deal someday.
After a while which seems like an hour, my
mind snaps. And the decision to quit for the day
emerges out. But, before logging off I find myself
signing in to my email ID. This I usually dont
check. Nothing useful ever comes. But, today I have
time to kill as no one is going to call me. Mr.
Wonderful isnt in Kolkata. I have convinced him to
go and see his parents. The poor old couple must
miss having their wonderful son at home.
I roll my neck as gmail gets connected. In my
head crawls my main character. Should I change the
POV? A first person. Should I try my hand on it?
MILES APART

20

Maybe I should take my hero on a test drive first in


this POV.
Questions fog my mind. I think I should hit
the bed. Sleep is better than getting all fucked up
over POV. Why bother anyways? I have always
been afraid of first person narration. It narrows
down the plot. How will I add details? Who will
include additional information? etc
I look at the wall clock, yeah its 11:11.
Getting some sleep will be better. My hand raises to
turn off the laptop when my eyes fall on a mail
almost waving at me for my attention. I am not
someone who opens random mails from strangers.
But, something about the subject line hits into my
heart. I open the mail.
As assumed it is from a stranger - Samrat
Bhatia. And he has found my email ID from a
professional networking site. To his credit he is
aware of the fact that he has breached professional
ethics. Usually, I send these types of emails to junk
box and spam the sender. If you dont know how to
use LinkedIn, you should not be there at all.
But, I make an exception to this one and lean
forward to read it. Immediately, Samrats voice
draws me in. For the first time in my life I hear my
own writing voice coming from someone elses pen
(errkeyboard).
Hey there,

MILES APART

21

I know I am breaking a code of professional


ethics here. I know this is the most ridiculous thing
to do. I shouldnt have been sending this email. But,
you know what, in my life I have never done what I
should be doing. It is always the opposite. I make
sure to travel where no one goes. I make sure to do
what no one does. Thus, this email.
Today has been one hell of a day for me. And
I was sort of blown out of proportion. So, this mail
might be the effect of my derailed state. But, I am
not out of my mind. I would really like to know
you.
You might take me as a guy who shoots girls
random emails. But, trust me (of course why should
you) I dont do things like these. I mind my own
business and people around me also mind my
business. They just dont seem to leave me alone
with my thoughts.
Truly speaking, I dont know why I am telling
you all these. I even dont know why I am so
comfortable writing to you. Hell I dont even know
you. Please dont get me wrong, I am not nuts
(maybe a little). I just could not stop myself from
sending this email to you.
Of course, you have the right to send this mail
to spam. You can delete it and forget all about it.
But, maybe it is our destiny to become email pals.
Though I will not force you to write back to me, I
will request you to bang a few lines down and hit
MILES APART

22

the send button. If you dont like exchanging mails


with me, you can always quit.
So, before I lose my nerve, I think I should
quit. Hope to hear from you soon.
For a minute I sit doing nothing. The mail has
been sent three days ago. So, I am already late in
replying. Of course, I should not reply to it either. I
drum my index finger on the keyboard and think. It
is not ethical. Once Tamass face pops in my mind.
Why the fuck am I thinking like this? I wonder.
This is a just an email. Nothing else. If so, I drum
my finger some more and wonder, why does it feel
like something out of ordinary is about to happen?

MILES APART

23

Chapter Two
Samrat Bhatia
Oh damn, have you seen me lately? No? Well,
neither have I. Kaustav as you already know has
fucked my ass royally. And he will be back for
more. That much you can be rest assured of.
Although my ass should be hurting, it is not.
Something else is aching. It is down the soul.
You know what I mean? Well, I dont. Never in this
lifetime has my soul ached. Today it does.
Yesterday it did. Think I am going crazy? Think so?
To tell you the truth sanity is a virtue God has
deprived me of when He created me.
Three days have passed since the email I shot.
She hasnt replied back. What do you think, she will
reply or wont she? Maybe she has already sent the
mail to the junk box and has spammed me.
Oh man please, dont make me panic. To
make the matter worse, my eyes fall on the wall
clock of my office, it is 11 minute past 11 and I am
late again. No one has waked me up. Who would? I
live alone after all.
Today no one looks up to give me that stern
Sam-you-are-late-again look. Which is fine with
me? Today, I dont feel like talking to anyone. This
is purely new. If you know me, you will know that I
MILES APART

24

am a verbal marathoner. I live to talk. And if I am


quiet, it means something very deep is going on in
my life.
Sam, Navneet says as soon I drop my
backpack (no I am not carrying John Grisham
today) on the table. Kaustav asks to see you.
There you go again. I remove my glasses to
wipe sweat from eyes. Kaustav calling, you know
what does that mean, right? By now, you should
have an idea about the chemistry I share with this
guy. His smile makes my day. And my frown
makes his. We are soul mates from different
lifetimes. Him Karan, me Arjun.
What does he want? I ask.
Navneet turns towards me in slowest pace
possible. His bloodshot eyes find my bright ones.
He looks me from head to toe. A tingling sensation
passes through my spine at his stare. No, dont get
him wrong. He is a married man who humps any
willing woman in the proximity. Sam, how long
you know Kaustav Bajwa?
Last two years. By now the foolishness of
my question has dawned in.
And you dont know that no one knows what
he ever wants? Navneets practiced act of fake
patience sort of unnerves me, if you know what I
mean. He wants to see you as soon as you arrive.

MILES APART

25

And I have arrived late. Today as well. Damn


the world. So, is it serious?
Navneet looks me up and down again. Dont
make the Great One wait. You know what happens
when someone does that right? He is already
waiting for thirty long minutes.
What Navneet hasnt said and what you
havent heard is Kaustav is waiting for thirty
minutes to fuck my ass. Well, Kaustav always gets
what Kaustav wants. I replace my glasses on my
long nose with a ceremonial effectiveness. You
would think that I am armouring myself before
joining a war. To tell you the truth it is war for me.
War of asses.
Now, dont just stand there. Move your ass.
Navneet urges me.
Kaustav greets me with his smile. Girls go ga
ga over this smile. They cannot have enough of it.
Yet, each time this guy smiles, my hand itches.
Yeah, right, to slap him hard.
Sam, you take your time coming to office
every day, says Kaustav. Warning bell jingles
around me. What will you say to this? Nothing?
Rito. So, I keep my mouth shut. I want everyone
on office premises by 10 each morning. The 10 has
a voice highlight. Am I clear? he asks.
Yeah, you want us to get started as soon as
possible right?
MILES APART

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Correct. He leans back and looks at my eyes


straight. Those eyes can hold anyone captivated.
Once you are caught in the maze, you are a prisoner
for lifetime. You will keep burning in hell. So, I
look down at my feet.
Awww damn. You know what I see? On
Tuesday morning I have chosen to wear my worn
out blue Nike. Thank God Kaustav cannot see my
feet. The moment a word of gratification escapes
my mouth, Kaustav pushes himself up on his feet.
Heart, my heart, slams against my narrow ribs. To
hide my feet I move behind the table which
separates us.
Dont worry I like your Nike, Kaustav says.
Asshole. Sorry, I failed to find my formal
shoes. I run my fingers through my hair.
No problem. Kaustav looks unusually happy
today. Someone will surely taste the shit. I just hope
this someone is not called Samrat Bhatia. Sam, I
have a project for you in mind. He stands by the
window and lights a cigarette. He is a threecigarettes-an-hour guy. Yet, his lungs are still fine.
We all are standing with palms attached in mock
prayer that someday, Kaustav will go down with
lung cancer.
Of course, you should not wish for someones
death. But, you havent met Kaustav Bajwa. Once
you have, you will cross all the boundaries of ethics
and human morality. He is like Argentina. He will
MILES APART

27

make you want to use your hand to score a goal


even if you are the most ethical human soul ever
walked the earth.
When I do not ask what project he has in
mind for me, Kaustav turns around to face me. We
are launching a cricket magazine.
Huh? My eyes widens at this. Cricket
magazine?
Yeah, It will be dedicated to IPL only. You
know gossip, review and preview. He gives a
sophisticated shrug.
Brilliant Idea. When everyone is getting sick
of IPL they are launching a magazine. Cool. What
does that have to do with me?
You will lead the writing team. Kaustav
drops the bomb.
What? I ask. I am not a writer. I mean I am
not a professional writer. I cannot write articles and
other stuffs like that.
My protest falls to deaf ears. Kaustav waves
his right hand and dismisses me. If you want to
stay with us, you will have to take care of this
magazine launch. He pauses for a dramatic effect.
I know you are a good writer. I have seen it in your
reports.
I fail to come up with a suitable reply. So, as you
can guess, I depart with a smile pasted on my face.
MILES APART

28

Cricket magazine? Cricket? For Gods sake. I


have always hated the game. And my time will be
wasted writing about IPL gossips. Whatever that
supposed to mean. Back to my seat, I decide not to
do anything. For a moment I even consider going
home calling sick. But, then again who will I go
back to? Undecided what to do now that Mr. Big
Boss has totally gotten my career into the rock
bottom, I log on to my email ID.
My heart skips a beat. She has written back to
me! Navneets voice rings in my ears. But, I fail to
hear him. Frankly, I dont even try. This mail can
mean a lot. Or it may mean nothing. She might have
written it to curse me. Even then I have a reply.
Never been a guy to rush anything, I take my time
opening this mail. My heart races like fighter jets on
warring sky. What has she written? A smile
automatically spread over my face as I let my eyes
do a quick skimming.

Hey,
Sorry for the late reply. After a lengthy day of
writing foolish contents, I hardly find the energy to
log on to Internet and check mails. Frankly
checking mails is not on my to-do list. Nothing
important ever comes to me. So, I always skip the
checking part. Thus I havent come across your
email. It is books I find solace into not net.
Anyways it is a pleasant surprise to hear from
you. While reading your mail, I felt like you are
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29

sitting across me and talking to me in person. Thats


saying a lot about a writer.
Your voice has a light touch which is both
refreshing and soothing. You know what, I am bit
sarcastic. Scratch the bit part. I am sarcastic. I keep
running my mouth like my life depends on it. And
do the thinking later. It has gotten me into trouble
many times, both professionally and personally.
But, do I care? Of course I dont.
It is already half past 11 and now I gotta go. I
have some writing to do. You must know that I am
a content writer. But, right now I am not writing
content. I am writing a murder story. And nighttime
is the perfect time to craft a tale layered with dark
characters.
You know when everyone retires into their
secure state of slumber and night begins to whisper
forbidden secret, I bring my notebooks and pens out
to go on a joy ride
Looking forward to your reply.
Something shifts deep down inside me. I can
feel it. Have you seen my smile? Well, it has spread
across and now is stretching ear to ear. Only once
before I have felt this kind of joy at receiving
something as simple as a letter.
I still remember that day. Dad went to an
official tour. And upon my insistence he wrote a
long letter to me. I still have it stashed somewhere.
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Today so many years later, I feel the same euphoric


joy.
Why are you so happy? asks Navneet.
Kaustav has given you a promotion keya?
Nope he hasnt. But, someone has given me a
precious gift.

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Chapter Three
Gia Mukherjee

Has he written back? My hands keep typing


while my mind keeps asking the same question.
Now, this is something new. Long back, almost two
years back, when I committed to marry Tamas, I
have sworn off men from my life. In these two
years I have kept my vow. Not that my occasional
glance has never fallen on any man, but this anxious
eagerness to hear from someone is nothing like
anything I have experienced before.
Should I log on and check? For the tenth time
I ask myself. Logging on to personal mails can be
injurious to health at least in my company. There is
a giant server in eighth floors IT room. It monitors
all our computers.
Yet, something inside my heart pushes me for
a sneak peek. Arey what will happen? The boss will
not fire me for checking my mail. Despite what our
team leader/project manager/bosss side kick Ratul
Sharma says, I am considered among the elite group
of content writers. Of course, my productivity and
quality go up and down like yo yo frequently. This
is the down time of my life.
You okay? asks Mitali Bose. She sits beside
me. She shares my birthday. She matches my shape.
And also my mind. When I first joined SKZ
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32

Solutions, Ratul had high hopes that Mitali and I


would make the worst enemies. Sadly (for Ratul
and not for us), we have become best of friends.
And now, we pull Ratuls leg together.
Her question brings me back to reality.
Realization that I have been staring at the screen
with a strange frown dawns on to me. Umm, well
not really. I dont feel like writing.
Do any of us? Mitali asks. She is one of the
best SKZ has ever found. Her language and the way
she expresses herself reflects years of hard work. In
these two years, I have learnt a great deal from her.
Each time she edits contents, she finds me staring at
the screen, like an eager puppy looking for a piece
of bread.
Yes, piece of bread thats what I call the
pointers that I collect and nurture. These are the
precious jewels which will someday make my
dream come true.
Gia wanna go out for a coke? asks
Madhumonti. She is a promising writer with a flair
for technical content. Her language has an edge that
will take her far in her career. She is a dear friend.
Unlike others who have abandoned me as an
outcast, she has accepted the fact that sanity is not
bestowed on every soul.
To get my mind off the emailing turmoil, I
grab the offer. Make it a Thumps UP and you have
deal. I get up to my feet and turn the PC monitor
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off. You want something darling? I ask Mitali.


Content in her research work, she does not even
look up. Get me a cake.
Sure, I will.
Thumps Up, one chicken sandwich and a
chocolate pastry later I return with a flurry of
questions in my mind. Has he written back? How
does he look like? Does he have a girlfriend? Does
he write to girls often? And most importantly how
does it matter? Even if he has a girlfriend or writes
to all the girls in this universe, it should not matter
to me. Right?
Technically, it should not. But, then again I
have always been a creative person. My heart does
not understand the technical regulations and
formulas.
Here is your chocolate pastry. Mitali looks
up this time and gives me a toothy smile. I love her
smiles. And her wise cracks. And her writings. And
her unconditional acceptance. Never before I have
come across another person, male or female, who
hasnt tried to change me a bit.
Whats wrong with you? she asks me again.
We sense each others discomfort. And I know I can
tell her. She will not judge me. But, something
holds me back. No, I am not afraid of being accused
of two timing. I am not two timing. Am I?
I am not feeling like myself today, I reply.
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34

All is well with Tamas? she asks.


Yeah, wonderful. I paste a smile on my face
that feels as fake as my answers. I am so grateful
for this man. What have I done to deserve him?
This is a question I am about to ask Mr. Almighty if
we ever come face to face in life or beyond.
By 5.30 in the evening, I am almost finished
with my days word count target. Should I check
my mail? This time I give in to the overwhelming
urge. Seconds later I find myself leaning forward to
hide the PC screen with my body (a healthily large
one) and checking my email. Yes, its there. He has
written back. Though my heart races and demands
that I go through it, I push this urge away. No, I will
not go through it in hurry. This is something my
mind wants to devour. I will wait till I get back
home, till I am alone with myself.
Why are you grinning at the screen? Mitali
asks. Her stare makes me fidget like a teenager
caught having sex in the washroom. Whoa, where
the sex part comes from?
Well, I am reading a funny article, I say.
This lie is not necessary; yet, my heart jealously
guards the secret that I have come to call only my
own.
What article? she asks, interested now.
Since I am a pathological liar, I never find myself
out of replies. Funny CVs. Just read the article.
Its hilarious.
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35

She turns towards her PC screen looking for


the article, believing me. I let out a breath of relief.
Sam has written back. What will be the future of
this email exchange? I wonder, not for the first
time.
Gia, you are staring again, says Anya, my
dearest sister. She frowns at me. Tamas who sits
beside me grins at the jab. He turns to look at me.
It is her habit to stare, he says. What do you
look for in people?
What indeed? Instead of answering I flash
them a smile. In my mind I keep counting minutes.
When everyone will go about their own way and I
will be left alone to read Samrats mail.
But, from the look of Tamass face, it seems
like he will not go too soon today. You tell him to
make an early move because you have worked to
do, he will keep complaining for the next thirty
days.
Tamas reaches for yet another roti. After
dinner lets go for a bike ride.
Every day I live dreading this suggestion. Not
that I dont like to go bike riding, but, the after
dinnertime is mine only. This is the time when I
sneak away from the reality and create my tales.
What pisses me off is Tamas knows how jealous I
am of this time.

MILES APART

36

I have work to do. Not today. Yeah,


sometimes it is important to be blunt.
Every day you have worked to do, he says.
Grumpy little kid.
Without looking at his face, I answer, I am in
a middle of a fix. Failed to write for last few days.
Tonight I need to get some words down on paper.
The blocking part is true. I have in fact failed to
produce anything for the last few days. Blank
screen has become a dear friend who would not
leave me alone. I know it is an excuse and that
writers block does not exist, yet, every day I find
myself sitting helpless, staring at the same spot,
urging the characters to act, to be human, and to
feel.
Tamas says nothing. He keeps his gaze at his
plate. From the way he chews gives me an idea of
what he is thinking. My nerves feel the storm that
brews inside him. This is gonna last for a long time.
Yet, I find myself not caring at all.
By half past 11 everyone retires to their
rooms. Tamas goes off to his own apartment that he
uses as his office. And I settle down with my laptop.
Samrats mail has a light tone. It makes me smile.
Though I hear my own voice in him, my voice lacks
the engaging and inviting nature. This makes me
love Sams writing even more.

Hey !

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Dont worry about the delayed reply. To be


frank I was a little scared. I thought you have taken
my suggestion to your heart and deleted my mail. I
even thought of sending you a sort of reminder. You
know a second mail. May be eventually I would
have ended up sending you one, regardless of my
big mouth suggestion.
Anyways, lets not dwell in the past. I should
take this opportunity and answer your mail. Shit
man, I have never done anything like this. But, hey
it feels good.
You read huh? That I should have guessed
since you are a writer. I have been a content writer
once. Not that anyone knows about this. I used to
freelance for a travel magazine. It was a lot of fun. I
read too. In fact, I am a voracious reader. Maybe
that is the reason connecting to other readers comes
easily to me. Not that I fail to connect to the nonreaders. But, to tell you the truth that requires a lot
of work.
What do you read? Romance? Mainstream
drama? Chicklit? I guess you must be a thriller and
mystery sort of person. So am I. Buying books is a
favourite hobby. Nothing gives me more pleasure
than being near books.
Wow, you are writing a murder story. I cannot
tell you how impressed I am. This reminds me of
the time I have left behind. Its been long I havent

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written anything. Long ago writing short stories has


been my favorite past time. Missing those days.
Anyways. So, Gia (that is a cute name) tell me
something about you. Where do you stay in
Kolkata? Where do you work? How do you spend
your weekends? How many friends you have? What
do you dream of when you lie awake at night?
Forgive me for prying. But, I just want to know
about you.
Until the next mail
Novel forgotten now, I eagerly reach for the
keyboard. A little nagging voice keeps asking me,
had I uploaded a recent pic of mine in Linkedin, had
Sam been still writing the same mails? To be frank,
I am not too eager to find out by sending him
anything that will show how I look now. We are
after all never going to come face to face physically.
Right?

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Chapter Four
Samrat Bhatia

What the fuck? I wonder. Have you seen the


time? I cannot believe my own eyes as it fall on the
wall clock hanging across my bed. 5.30 in the
morning. Man I have never seen morning in its
early glory. I turn and look at the window. Darkness
still fogs outside world. It is usually from 6.30 Pune
sees any flicker of sunlight.
Not surprisingly my mind wonders has she
replied. Probably she has. A warm glow passes
through my body thinking about her email. Like
her, I also feel that she sits across me and we are
conversing physically. What her voice will sound
like? Sweet? Husky? Harsh? Well, nope you cannot
expect a face with that sweet smile will be paired
with a harsh voice.
Two hours huh? I roll to my right side and try
to get some sleep. Only Gias face forms in my
mind. Her wide smile, her glowing face and her
bright eyes, a long time later my hands itch to hold
a girl tight against my chest.
I am back to my own form today. It is not
even 10 and my eyes can trace the top floor of my
office building. Before rushing out, I have logged in
for reassurance that she has written back. Of course,
she has. Now, all I want is to hide myself in my
MILES APART

40

cubicle and read her mail. And then answer it line


by line.
Empty reception area greets me. It is not time
yet for anyone to come to office. Silent and
brooding, the building seems to be telling thousand
tales of love and betrayal. Wow. Whats that?
Where does that come from?
A grin forms on my face as a story begins to
take shape. A dead body inside an elevator, a series
of misleading clues and a dozen suspects, clichs
can be good. But, how one creates misleading
clues?
This question still rammed my mind, as I get
off at tenth floor. Kaustav Bajwa stands at the
corridor. In his right hand he holds a cigarette. His
eyes stare out the window. And his face (I can see
only the side of it from where I stand) reflects none
of the arrogant pride he usually carries around with
himself. If anything, the asshole looks really sad.
This I am ashamed to admit, makes me sort of
curious. Why a guy who earns a huge six figure
salary a month will be sad?
Good morning, I say to get him out of his
lingo. I wish someday he goes merry riding in one
his lingos and does not find his way back.
Kaustav turns towards me. And his eyes
widens. Surprise. Kaustav loses control for a
fraction of second of his life. My lucky day that I

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witness this scene unfold before my eyes. Should


buy a lottery today.
Sam? he mutters the word with such
intensity that you would think he is really happy to
see me. Then his eyes fall on his wrist watch. It is
not even ten yet.
To this I shrug. Yeah, I sort of could not
sleep. Gia woke me up. But, this I cannot say. I
used to come to office early remember? Lately I
have lost my touch.
Kausav smiles his signature wide, open smile
in reply. Fallen in love or what?
Being in love keeps people up? I am
discussing love and its effect with Kaustav Bajwa.
Wow man, no one will believe me. But
Correct. He nods. You are glowing too. I
guess you will like writing gossip for our IPL
magazine.
See Kaustav, I am a Mar-Com specialist. I
am not a writer.
Your Mar-Com reports read like fiction. You
are better off writing for the magazine. His tone
will make any stranger think that he is chatting with
an old friend. What happens to him after ten in the
morning?
You are pushing me off the hook, I say. My
career will come to a stunning halt. Four years of
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hard work will be wasted. Yet, nothing disrupts my


mood. Why am I happy? You can ask me that.
Everyone should ask me that. Fuck if I know.
Kaustave lifts his narrow shoulders in a
graceful shrug. You gotta do what you gotta do
man. We need to launch this magazine. And you
will make it a success. As if this world runs by his
order. Dont you dare let me down Sam. I am a
patient man. But, only up to a limit. Talk about
threats. Without making any more attempts to be
decent, I bow out. Meaning I give him one of my
toothy smiles that women find so cute before
disappearing inside Mar-Com room.
Fuck the asshole. You ever walked inside
your own office and failed to recognize anything?
Well, today is the day for me. Darkness welcomes
me today instead of bright tube lights. Today, no
hum of CPUs or chatter of voices intrudes my
mind. Only silence echoes. It could have been
creepy. But, it is not. I grin at the empty room. My
heart beats faster against my ribs. It almost drums
its way somewhere. Why this sudden racing
around? Then I remember. Yeah, the email. Gia
Mukherjee. With her name, her face pops in my
mind. So beautiful.
Without wasting time, I switch on the PC. Its
silver glow adds to the mystic aura of the room. I
lean forward and get ready to go through my
morning delight.

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Hello,
Good to know you write. I find strangely
connected to people who writes. Others just treat
me as an outcast. Maybe I am. Since the days of
childhood, I have been treated as one. No one has
ever tried to understand. No one has ever cared. Not
that I care too much about that. Every time someone
agrees with me, I feel that I am doing something
wrong (yes thats Oscar Wilde).
But, I should have guessed that you are a
writer. Your mails are so engaging that I would love
to know what you can do with a character. What
type of short stories did you write? Romance?
Horror? Mystery? I guess you write comedy. You
should. You have the gift of making people smile
even when they are going through the darkest phase
of their lives. At least you make me smile.
I am a thriller person. I live for thrill. I watch
thrillers too. John Grisham is one of favorites. In
fact I am reading Rainmaker now. This is the fifth
time I am reading the novel. I cannot get enough of
it.
Have you ever read John Sandford? He is
pretty famous among men. You should absolutely
try reading him. He is awesome. Sandfords Broken
Prey is a treat any thriller lover will devour with
pleasure.
Hmmwhat I dream about huh? No one has
ever asked me this before. It is complicated. When I
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44

was a child I dreamt of owning a unicorn. Then I


grew up and with shock I got to know unicorns
dont exist. I cant tell you how upset I was.
Now, I dream of getting published. Before
dying I want to see myself in print. Every night I
crawl in bed with the fear that I will die without
making it. My weekends are rather boring. I stay
home with a good book. Occasionally, I booze till I
pass out.
Friends huh? I dont have many. My sister
and a colleague who has come close enough to call
a friend. We share our birthdays.
Now, you tell me something about yourself.
Where do you live? Who is there in your family?
How do you spend your weekends? How many
girlfriends do you have? What do you dream of?
What do you do for living? I am prying too. But,
then again it is good to get know each other.
I will be back soon. Till then stay safe and be
happy.
She makes me smile. If you can see me, you
will catch me grinning at the screen. How will she
be face to face? It would have been great to sit by
her and talk. I guess we will be able to talk for
hours.
My smile lasts for another two minutes. Then
Navneet walks in. He stops short at the sight of me.

MILES APART

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Then he frowns. Then he looks over his shoulders


before saying to me. Kaustav is looking for you.

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Chapter Five
Gia Mukharjee

Middle of a novel is the toughest to write.


This is the time when the first glow of plotting dies
down. Words and ideas begin to fade. And writers
(at least me) find themselves working harder to
make things work. Sometimes each sentence turns
out to be a labor that I can do without. Middle is the
part where most writers abandon their novels.
Relationships are exactly like the same. A
couple of years later, the first glow of falling in love
fades. Things to talk about vanish. And what
remains is a sense of entrapment.
And when you have a man like Tamas Kar in
your life, this middle phase does not take long to
come.
When you two are getting married? Anya,
my sister asks me.
This is a question I dread to face. Tamas looks
up from his cell phone. His face though dark looks
pale. His eyes helpless. Playing the perfect victim.
Married? I ask not looking at any of them.
Yeah, Anya says.
This time I make myself look at Tamas. Our
eyes meet. No spark of love or anything else passes
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47

between us. Are we ready to get married? I ask


without breaking the eye contact. What I do not ask
is do you expect me to take care of the family
alone? How much do you earn anyways? Not a
dime. I take care of your weekend booze. I pay for
your food. Fuck, the leather purse you carry in your
pocket has been bought by my money too. And here
you are dreaming about marriage. Get real. Or,
rather be a man for a change.
Anyas face flushes. She looks at Tamas and
then looks away quickly. Embarrassed. I am
helpless.
Sis you gotta get married. She is the voice of
reason. The one who tries to make things right.
Proper princess of the family.
Yeah, I know. Marriage? Even with my best
effort I cannot picture myself married. At least not
to Tamas. But, that can wait right?
Wait? Anya asks. To emphasize her
question she gets up to her feet. Mom is asking
when you are going to get married. Everyone is
asking the same question. You are already above
thirty. You dont earn a six figure salary. And your
career as a novelist is going nowhere. What exactly
are you waiting for?
That question again. What indeed? I fall back
in silence. Numerous times I have asked myself the
same question what I am looking for. No one has
ever made any effort to answer back.
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Let the money flow, I say in a low voice.


Without money marriage cannot survive. And I
dont, as you say, earn a six figure salary to take
care of a family alone. With that I storm off the
room, leaving a crimson faced Anya and gloomy
faced Tamas.
This will cost me a big deal. Tamas will not
take this lightly. For a moment I stop on my track
and look up. Even though I am not a religious
person, time to time my angry gaze seeks the sky.
Who am I looking for there? Cant say. But, it feels
good to glare up.
Today, I dont glare though. Instead I flash a
sarcastic smile. What have I done to deserve this
man? Not for the first time in my life I ask.
Why have you committed to him? My sister
asks. She stands at the bedroom door and frowns at
me. Anya does not raise her voice. Shouting is
below her standard. So, she keeps her voice low and
words slurred. This affects the heart not mind.
I take a step backward. Tamas hasnt come for
dinner tonight which is expected. He will not eat for
a couple of days now. Hopefully, not eating will
help him reduce a bit. I am not ready for marriage.
Yeah, not to Tamas anyways.
Not ready for marriage? Anya narrows her
eyes. She looks really mean with her hair down on
her shoulders, her thin arms perched on her tight

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49

hips and her fair face flushed with irritation. You


have committed to him.
How can I tell her why I have done this epic
mistake? I sigh in regret, wishing to go back just
once and write another present.
Sis he does not earn anything. He just
pretends to be a businessman. You know better than
anyone what he does all day long. He plays candy
crush. This I have found by stumbling inside his
office one day without notifying.
Anya looks down. Her face loses every trace
of anger. Then, she looks up calm, calculative and
warm. Walk out then. Her voice still does not rise.
End the relationship.
End it. A tempting offer. Yet, I cannot end it.
I just cannot. I cant sis. I have to stick around.
Anyas face becomes puzzled. She stares at me for a
moment longer before nodding her head. She does
not even ask why I cannot end the relationship.
Fine, have it your own way. Mom is expecting you
to tie the knot. With that she walks off, head
hanging over her chest.
If there is anything I hate looking at its the
dejected feature of my sister. Yet, I cannot help it. I
cannot marry Tamas. I cannot walk out. Unless my
creator does something about it, I am stuck for my
life. Dear Lord are you listening?

Hey baby,
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50

I used to write. That was then. But, it seems to


me that fate is asking me to start writing again. My
boss has shifted my department. Now, I will be
leading a team of ten content writers. We will be
writing for a cricket magazine. Man, am I scared.
You are damn right I am. This is completely new
for me. Never thought life will come to this.
So, to answer your questions, I live in Pune in
a hall kitchen. The back side of my apartment looks
out to an endless field. When everyone goes to
sleep, I sometimes stay up and stare out at the
darkness. I feel so connected to nights. This is the
only time, I can be absolutely myself.
How many girlfriends do I have? Hmmnow
thats a tough question. How many exactly? Ten,
twenty. I dont count numbers. I have numerous
girls who are friends. But, no one special. Been
single for the last four years.
I have been a Mar-Com before Mr. Kaustav
(thats my asshole boss) has shifted me to the
magazine department. So, now I am a professional
writer who does not know what to write about.
Pretty sad huh?
I live alone. My native place is in Kolkata. I
was born and brought up there. Even today my
grandparents live there in Lake Town. When I was a
kid, I lost both my parents and my elder sister in a
car accident. I am sort of the last one standing.

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What I dream of? Well, dreams come rarely to


me. I take life as it comes. Maybe someday I will
understand what I want from life. Maybe someday I
will come to know why I exist. Until then, I just
enjoy living life.
I will wait for your next mail baby. Please
write back.
Just an innocent email, I tell myself. Just an
innocent one. If it is so innocent, why the fuck I
havent told him about Tamas?

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Chapter Six
Samrat Bhatia

What the fuck? I ask. It is already 11:11 in


the morning and I am already in office. Only today
is Thursday. Hence power is not there. Navneet
paces in the semidarkness. His face drawn in a
frown, he looks up time to time. May be checking
for Kaustav. To tell you the truth we all do that time
to time.
The entire Mar Com team sits and prays that
power comes back. When will we send the report?
asks Sachin Tewari. He is the new joinee, still
waking up to the corporate life.
Navneet halts. He lowers his gaze and
captivates the kid with one of his angry glare when
the door opens. We all turn in anticipation. Kaustav
walks in. He takes his turn to look each one of us
into the eyes before honoring us with one of his
signature smile. Here you go, I think.
Power will not be back before 4.30 today.
How does he know? You never ask that. Kaustav
knows everything. So, what we gonna do is
Now, bare your ass. We go back home now. No
point in staying in the office wasting time. We
return at 6. Tonight we stay in the office. He

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flashes a smile. We mean you. I will be operating


from my home.
That is so okay with us. We simply dont
wanna spend a night with Kaustav Bajwa. Like kids
obeying the order of their principle, we move while
Kaustav watches, hands buried into his pocket.
As I move towards the door, he says. Not you
Sam. I need to talk to you.
Why the fuck havent you said that earlier? Of
course, you dont ask that to Kaustav. Not if you
still want to work for the company. So, I force
myself to stop. Yeah Kaustav? I say.
Follow me. He passes through the door and
walks out. Silly man, does not know thats what we
have all been doing since joining ABZee
Consultants Pvt Ltd, following Kaustav Bajwa.
So, I follow him to his cabin. If you are ever
stricken by ill fate and walk inside Kaustavs cabin
the first thought will be what a cramped space.
Yes, you can barely move your arms sitting here. If
you want to stretch after a tiring day, you will have
to push both the walls with your palms. Of course,
Kaustav does not have any problem sitting in this
room. He does not move his arms. He moves his
fingers to fuck us.
Have a seat. He points at a chair while he
remains standing by a white board which he uses to
strategize.
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I would have loved to stand, but, the cramped


space does not allow the liberty. So, I drop myself
in the pointed chair. Sweat trickles down my back.
It is end of April and heat keeps rising. Staring at
Kaustavs blank face, I can feel a storm going on
inside. Something keeps bothering him. Only I
dont give a fuck what it is. But, something tells me
if he can come out of the cage, he will be a better
boss.
Tick of wall clock keeps reminding me that
time does continue to pass. Yet, my boss hasnt
even spoken a word since we have entered the
room. To get his attention, I clear my voice. And it
does work. Kaustav looks at me.
You wanted to tell me something. I try to
imitate his style of smiling. But, of course his smile
is a gift God hasnt bestowed on all of us. So, I fail
to initiate the impact.
Yeah. Tomorrow, you will get to meet your
team. From now on you are not a part of Mar Com
department. You will be heading the IPL Mag. So,
you will no longer sit in that room. Since we play
musical chairs every week, this hardly succeeds to
create any surprise. I want every one of the IPL
Mag team to write five thousand words daily. This
you will have to QC and if require edit.
Fifty thousand words? I ask, not believing
my luck.

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I am bringing you a team of expert writers.


You wont have any problem editing their writings.
But, every day I want fifty thousand words mailed
to me EOD.
I get it.
He looks me up and down. And please dress
like a team leader. Your journalist looks has started
to get into my nerves.
You want a corporate honcho?
Correct.
You know we all get back what we give. Life
always makes us stand where once we have put
someone else. What I fail to understand is what
the fuck have I done to stand where I am standing.
Fifty thousand words daily? Shit. Shit. Oh shit man.
Do you know what does this mean? You have any
idea? I will fuck lose my mind.
Back at my place, I finally get a chance to log
on to my laptop. Yes, I smile. She has remembered
to write to me.

Hey Sam,
Can I call you something Sam? Thanks for
your permission (yes I am grinning here). So, you
are the last one standing huh? The lone ranger? Or,
the worrier who makes it alone. I know it is tough
losing a loved one. I might not be the last one
standing like you. I dont want to be for sure. Not
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courageous enough to survive it. But, yeah I also


said good bye to the man I loved most in my life.
I am talking about my father. Even after so
many years, the memory of the day is still fresh in
my mind. I miss him. I still do. There are times I cry
for him when no one is watching or no one is awake
to see my tears.
But, I admire your strength. Even after going
through such a huge loss you have managed to
remain young and jovial. People usually become
brooding when life seeps everything out from them.
I think your boss Mr. Kaustav has taken a
wise decision. You should try your hands on
writing. You have the gift of storytelling. Dont let
it go to waste. Maybe this is your destiny. We all
must answer our calling right? I have answered
mine. Now, maybe its your turn.
Unlike you I am a dreamer. Even when I am
awake I can dream. Dreams keep me alive. The
visions keep me going.
Think the mail is getting heavier than it
should be. So, I am gonna stop here. Dont wanna
spoil your mood with my emotional baggage. Do
send me your first article. I will be waiting for it.
Dont forget to write. I will be waiting.
With my finger tip I touch the screen. My
heart aches a little. Memories which I have buried
deep inside my soul and vowed never to face come
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flooding out. I remember my mom, her smile, her


voice and her loving glance. With a start I realize
Gia reminds me of my mother. Maybe this is the
reason I have reached to her on the first place.

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Chapter Seven
Gia Mukherjee
You look dreamy. Mitalis voice brings me
back to SKZ Solutions.
Dreamy? Now thats something new. I touch
my face with my hand to assure myself she pays
compliment. What exactly does that mean?
You are glowing. What happened?
Thats about it nothing happened. I lean
back in my chair. In front of my eyes is a half
written article about money laundering.
White collar crime is interesting. I once
marveled at the chance of being able to gather so
much information about law. But, now after one and
half years of writing about law and the pitfall of
breaking it, my heart has raised both hands in
surrender. It says not anymore. And since heart is
the main organ which makes the process of creation
an absolute pleasure, I fail to meet up to the
expectation.
You are acting strange lately. Mitali is not
someone who lets go easily. Neither do I. we both
hold on tight. Thats what has fucked me in the first
place. I have been taught to stand till the end. Never
to back down. Never to retreat. Nah, I am not a
Spartan trained to win battles or die fighting. I am
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just a normal human being with upbringing which


wont allow me to break free.
Yeah, I am sort of in love, I say. Telling her
will be easy. She will understand. Yet, tell her
what? That I am acting like a teenager? That I am
into an email marathon with a stranger who lives
miles apart? Will I ever be able to tell anyone?
With whom? she cuts me a curious gaze.
This time I flash a smile which makes my
eyes brighten up. With myself of course. Can you
find me a better option?
She shakes her head in a you-are-crazy
manner before turning her gaze towards her PC.
Finally, I find myself alone with my thought.
Losing weight can be a trying task. It has been
a long time since I have done something about my
weight. Yes, I have tried to work out. But, the plan
hasnt worked out. I finally have given up.
They say you become what you endure daily
in your life. I can feel in my gut which way I am
heading. To get back to shape I decide to walk back
home. Five minutes on foot and the first curse
leaves my mouth. I stumble. My phone flies out of
my hand.
Kolkata street, I sigh.
Another five minutes and I stumble again.
This time instead of blaming the street, I look for an
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auto. A sense of guilt keeps nudging my soul as the


auto zooms ahead.
So, how was your day? Tamas asks.
I stare down at the glass I hold in my hand
and the black liquid. This I should not be drinking, I
think to myself. Not if I want to lose weight. But,
with Tamas aroundI let out a long breath.
How was your day? This time he reaches
out and places his hand on my thigh. It is not my
day he is concerned about.
Usual. I finish the drink in my hand with a
gulp. He takes it for a refill. At least for five
minutes his hands will be occupied.
But, as always my plan fails. Tamas sets the
glass aside and traces my jaw line with his fingertip.
This is the time I should close my eyes and throw
my head or something like that. Yet, nothing
happens. Now, after so many days I dont try to
fake anything either. Its just that I feel nothing. Not
that I dont feel anything. Tamas Kar has a gift of
draining me off any emotion.
His fingertip now traces my lips. With his
other arm he circles my waist and pulls me near. As
he lowers his face down, a vision flashes in my
mind. My already numb heart starts racing. Without
waiting for any more time and damage I push
Tamas away.

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Mom will be worried. I jump up to my feet


and back away. Besides I am hungry. Lets go
home. Before he says anything I turn around. My
eyes refuse to look at his face which I know has
turned brooding by now. Not that I blame him.
You know? he says. Here comes the
cliffhanger shot. You should marry a seventy year
old man. He wont try to have sex with you.
Duh. You get the point?

Hey Gia,
I love your name you know. So cute. So tiny.
Just like you. Although I have never seen you, but, I
know somehow that you are cute.
You see, I am not courageous. No one is. It is
just that survival and life demands it. Courageous is
all I can be. I still remember the day I have lost my
entire family. I was in the same care at the backseat
sitting by my sister. We were fighting you know?
No it was not a malice quarrel. It was a playful fight
where we both laughed. Then everything went dark.
When I opened my eyes next day, my life had
changed.
Your mail can never be heavy. I like to hear
from you. I like to spend time with you. Your words
bring fresh gusts in my life. I feel alive when I go
through the lines you have written.
Tell me about your losses. I want to know
about them. Tell me about your fears I would like to
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know about them too. Tell me what makes you


angry. Tell me when you break down. Although I
dont want you to break down, but you know we all
go through times in our lives when we do shatter
down to pieces. Reach out to me if a time like that
comes to your life.
I promise I will leave everything and rush to
be with you.
So, you dream huh? Dream of getting
published? I believe getting published is not as
important as writing itself. If you know you are
good, its enough. Right? Even if no one knows
what you are writing or how good you are how does
it matter?
Purely my own perception by the way. Of
course, you should get published. I want you to get
published. You must be good. I know it in my heart.
I can never forget to write to you. No matter
what you will keep getting these mails from me till
the death do us apart. Lol. Too heavy a promise
huh?
Chalo, I will say until the next mail. Stay safe
and keep dreaming.
Its not that I am an emotional fool. But,
something about his way of expressing makes my
heart ache. The ache, where does it come from I
dont know. Before the first mail I did not even
know he existed. I still dont know him. Yet, it feels
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like I have known him for a long time. It feels I


have been waiting for this man only.
Someone is playing guitar. I can hear it. Or, is
it my heart? Maybe its my heart. Maybe I am
hearing thing. But, finding the source of this music
suddenly becomes important. The urge dominates
everything, all my senses. And finally nothing but
the urge remains real.
Without looking back, I rush forward. Ahead
stretches a path I have never traversed before. My
footfall marred the untainted ground. Yet, I take no
notice. I run. My heart guides me forward.
Finally, my gaze falls upon a foggy figure.
My heart skips a beat. Its been a long time. So long
that I have almost forgotten. My pace increases.
Blood oozes out of my feet. But pain fails to stop
me.
The figure turns to look at me. Like always
his face remains blurry. But, it does not matter. My
heart recognizes him. He opens his arms. And I run
into his embrace. We hold each other tight. I hold
my breath and cling to him. A familiar feeling
spread through my heart. I know I am home. Our
heart beat together in a harmony as if they have
become one. I tighten my hold for I know the dream
will break soon. And it does.
In the darkness I lay with a sense of loss that
washes over me each time I wake up from this
dream. Finding him even in my dream feels
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magical. Each time my heart skips several beats.


And each meeting feels special. Each time letting
him go leaves me with an emptiness that will not go
away.
Will I ever be able to see his face? Will we
ever come physically together? I guard my eyes
with my right arm and try to sleep. The evening
with Tamas comes back to my mind. I still
remember the vision that flashed through my mind.
Its him. Every time I try to get close to a man, he
comes back. In my mind, in my dream, I see him. It
is as if he asks me to wait for him. And I do. Like a
fool I wait for him. I dont even know he exists or
he is just a fragment of my own imagination.
Whoever he is, he seems like a part of my
soul that I am searching for. Maybe someday he
will find me. I just hope to be free to accept him in
my life when he decides to come home to me.

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Chapter Eight
Samrat Bhatia

Tremor shoots through my spine and I wake


up trembling. Darkness wraps itself around me. And
I lay listening to the sound of my breathing. You
will think that I have gone running, the way my
breath keeps coming out in short intervals.
I roll towards my right side and circle my arm
around the woman sleeping naked beside me,
Nikita, my colleague. Her warm flesh and smooth
skin fail to chase away the emptiness that twists my
heart. I close my eyes, bury my face into the hollow
of her neck and inhale. Her hair smells like lemon.
Her skin feels like satin. Yet, she is not the woman
of my dream. She fails to give me the sense of
homecoming.
Who is she? Where is she? How long will I
keep searching? How long will this pain last? In the
end, I roll away and get up to my feet. I need time.
Even in my dream she touches me in a way that I
keep searching for her in reality. Will I ever find
her?
Like a man possessed by spirit I turn towards
my laptop. No, I cannot hold her in my arms. She is
too far away. But, I can reach her through her
words. I can touch her in my mind while reading
her mails.
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She hasnt disappointed me. I find a new


email from her.

Hello,
So, you want to know about my loses. Fine, I
will tell you. You want to know about my fears.
That I will share with you as well. But, not today.
Not through this email. Someday surely.
Yeah we all break. We all get shattered down
to pieces. Some of us get ourselves up and get
going. Some perish. Looks like we both have pulled
ourselves up and walking the walk. I admire your
courage. It is something I have always craved. But,
I am simply not born with it.
Writers write. Yeah I agree. Getting published
is just nothing compared to the pleasure of writing.
Yet, I cannot seem to get past the desire to see
myself in print. It is what I live for. It is what has
become the centre of my life.
Thanks for telling me that I can reach out to
you in trouble. No one has ever told me that. I
appreciate what you said. But, you are in a fix you
know. I might reach out to you at every single
problem. I might keep bothering you with
everything that goes on in my life. Just kidding. I
only bother my sister.
So, what about that article of yours? When do
I get it? Writing to you is becoming a habit. Think
you have made a mistake by sending that first mail?
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Well, what made you write to me in the first place?


I would surely like to know. It was a surprise. A
pleasant one.
Ops, its late. I gotta go now. I gotta write.
Will get back to you soon enough. Please write
back. Please stay safe. And be happy.
I feel my smile grow. It would be nice to hear
her voice. It would be nice to sit across her and have
these conversations face to face. It would be nice to
hold her close and make her forget the world exists.
Home coming. I suddenly realize that the
emptiness is not there anymore. Usually, the dream
leaves me craving for fulfilment. The feeling lasts
for days. For days, I search for her in every face I
come across. No, I havent seen her face. No, I
havent talked about her to anyone. She is my
secret. If I divulge her, people will call me crazy.
Only you know about her.
She will come to me. My mind has always
told that. But, these twenty seven years of my life I
only spent looking for her. She hasnt decided to
make her grand entry.
Sam. I feel Nikis touch on my bare
shoulder. She traces the length my neck with her
finger. With her other hand she starts messaging my
chest. Her long hair brushes my face. I can smell the
lemony fragrance. Working baby? she asks in her
usual husky voice.

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I lean back and rest my head against her


breasts. Feeling nothing. The dream and then Gia
have teamed up to strip me off my energy. Usually I
keep going. Usually I dont wake up at middle of
the night to read email of a total stranger.
Come to bed, she whispers, letting her lips
caress my ear. To accentuate the effect, she bites
my earlobe with her lips. Going to bed will be a
mistake. I will make a big mess. So, I hold her hand
to pull her close. She breathes with anticipation.
With my eyes I trace her face. Then plant a quick
kiss on her lips.
Go back to sleep. I will come after finishing
this.
She straightens. Not happy. With her hands on
her bare hips she stares down at me. What are you
doing by the way?
Emailing someone I dont know, yet feel like
I know her from different lifetime. Freelancing. I
smile at her. This is very important. And I tell the
truth.
So, you are not coming to bed? She backs
away from me. In her voice rings a note of
displeasure. Maybe she is right in getting angry. Of
course she is right. Who am I to tell otherwise? She
has sacrificed going to a pub to be with me after all.
So, I owe her a good time.

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Of course sweety, I am coming to bed. This


comes with my toothy smile. Those who havent
seen it, have no way of knowing how convincing it
is. Even Kaustav sometimes believes in this smile.
Just a few minutes. Let me hit the send button and
we will go roller coaster riding again.
Phew she believes me. Her face lights up in a
dazzling smile that will make any man go hard just
by looking at it. To be frank it has worked its magic
on me too. Getting hard and then getting
Goosebumps down the pits of my stomach finally
got us together. We have been seeing each other in
bed for a while. Yet, that does not stop me from
shooting random mails to a random girl who lives
miles away from me.
Asshole, you might call me. But, hey shooting
mails is something I dont do. Gia is special. I still
dont know what prompted me to compose and send
that first mail. Not that I am regretting. I dont
regret, you see.
By the time I compose yet another mail to her,
sun sort of makes its first appearance. In Pune
daylight does not spread that early. Yet, today it
looks brighter than the usual days. It is the sun or is
it me?
With the thought still in my head I walk back
to the bed. Thankfully, Niki has drifted to sleep or
else she would have asked for the roller coaster ride.
Standing by the bed, I look down at her naked form.
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Her ass can blow your mind. What the fuck was I
thinking when I asked her out?
The search for the woman of my dream will
get me into a lot of trouble. This knowledge has
been with me for a long time. I have never tried to
look at it closely. My eyes burn. Since today is
Saturday, I can sleep late. Careful not to wake her
up, I slip inside the cover and drift away, hoping to
see her again, hoping to hold her again. Yet, deep
down inside I know she will not pay me a visit. At
least not today.
As I go deeper into the state of slumber, my
phone vibrates and then starts ringing. Driven by
reflex I reach for it and check the number. Kaustav.
Cocksucker. Asshole.
Hey good morning, I greet. Daylight streams
through the cracks of the blinds.
Good morning. I need you at office. Make it
fast.

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Chapter Nine
Gia Mukherjee

Whats your favorite posture? asks Payel


Guha.
Startled at the question I look around myself.
This is a Saturday afternoon crowd at South City
mall. Like every other place Barista is also
overflowing. I lean forward to sip from my cold
coffee.
Payel tilts her head, allowing her thick, long
hair to fall on her creamy shoulder. Her favorite
sitting posture. She peeks at me through her baby
blue eyes (a generous contribution from Bosch and
Lomb). Come on tell me.
Questions like these are the primary reason
why I refuse to meet Payel. We went to college
together. And despite being from different planet
we sort of hit it off pretty well. From my part it was
a grudging respect. From her part it must be pity.
So, here you get us the real life manifestation of
Betty and Veronica. Only Betty has a figure to die
for which real life has deprived me. Nope, not life,
me, I have deprived myself of the figure to die for.
You have done it right? she leans forward
now. Her gaze not prying but piercing. For exactly
two minutes she holds me captivated with that baby
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blues of her. Then a smile plays on her face. I


wont blame you if havent. Tamas looks like a
lousy lover. It strikes her funny. She throws her
head behind and gives a peal of laughter.
Men, young men, old men, middle-aged men,
turn to drool at her. They stare till her laughter lasts
then lower their gazes. A twinge of envy passes
through my heart. Once I captured these gazes too.
That once seems like another lifetime.
So, hows that sister of yours? Payel asks.
She has grown up to be a good looking woman.
Anya? Despite myself I smile at the thought
of my sister. She is into business with Tamas.
Saying this I hold my coffee like an armour
between me and Payel for I know whats about to
come.
Business? she asks. Together? Her face
reflects a fusion of disgust and amusement that only
Payel can master. How could you let it happen?
I lift my shoulders, seeing no point in arguing.
Also, seeing nothing wrong in the business
partnership. Yet, I keep my mouth shut. Payel does
not like to be interrupted or opposed.
Who? She narrows her eyes. Exactly is the
signing authority?
This will be a long conversation. My mind
plans escape routes. What will deter Payels
attention? A very good looking guy. Well, have I
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told you I live in Kolkata and good looking guys are


all movie stars we drool from a distance? So, thats
not about to happen.
Payel leans back, folds her slender arms in
front of her chest, waiting. Gia dont tell me Tamas
is the signing authority. Dont tell me you have
given him every right to walk away with the profit.
Why will he walk away? If you care to
count I can give you a thousand reasons. But, not
today. He loves me.
Anger close to animosity flashes in her eyes.
Yeah he does. Today he does. He after all eats at
your expense. Again she leans forward. But, baby
remember something very carefully. People like
Tamas are waiting to stab everyone who dares to
come near them. Its not their fault. Its the liquid
that flows through their veins. Its in their blood.
Her last warning rings through my head as I
walk back home. Its in their blood. How corrupted
someones blood can be? Well, soon I will find out.
Why do I always have to force you? Tamas
asks through his glares. It seems like I am touching
someone elses woman. He backs away from me in
the manner of a victim.
Looking at him, I only feel guilt for failing to
be the woman he wants. Love? No I dont feel it,
not anymore. I guess we are going through a premidlife crisis. If this is that what will happen when
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mid-life crisis will really hit our relationship. Will it


go that far? Dont ask me where the question comes
from? But it does come out from the deep water of
my soul which tells me something wonderful is
waiting for me somewhere in the distant future.
Well, right now, that future seems so distant that I
cannot even imagine it unfolding in the reality.
Dont you feel like touching me? he asks.
His six feet two frame looms over me like a stormridden tree about to collapse. Dont you feel
anything?
Yeah, it comes down to that only. Feeling.
Not that I blame him. Nope, I dont. Feeling huh?
Sorry to say, I feel nothing. Not for Tamas
anyways. Lets not get into that shall we?
Silence makes things better. But, sometimes
silence creates mayhem in meaning. When he gets
no answer from me, he almost jumps forward. Do
you wanna die a virgin huh? To this I say I nothing
either. What will I say? With Tamas in my life I
will probably die a virgin. I accept that. What
makes me go weak down the shallow corner of my
heart is the vision of marriage with Tamas. What
occurs every weekend, the sexual frustration I am
talking about, will occur every day.
I have a suggestion for you, he says coming
close. He leans forward and holds me by my arms.
His nails dig into my flesh. It hurts. But, I swallow
the gasp. Marry a seventy year old who will not
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want to fuck you. Clich, but then again what can


you expect from Tamas Kar? With that he pushes
me away. My back hits the wall. My pride hits,
needless to say, the gutter, once again.
Six old monk and a one litre coke later I come
back home. Umm, I dont exactly come back. I
stumble back home. Mom to her credit says nothing
about my condition. Nowadays she says nothing
about anything. Philosophical? Nah. Plain simply
tired of me and my way of living life. It hurts to
think I have let everyone down in life.
I have let my father down when he lived. I
could not get a job and support him in his days of
struggle. I have let my mother down. I have failed
to be the daughter she deserves. My sister? Well,
she needs a sister who can guide her, not someone
who gets drunk every day and stumble back home.
I have even let my creator down. He has given
me the gift of expression and I have failed to get it
out in the open.
So, what I do? I hide inside my writing room.
In search for solace. That seventy year wala
comment still stinks. I boot my laptop and log on to
my email ID. Sam has sent his email.

Hey Gia
Man I am falling in love with your name. Its
so cute and tiny. I believe you are also cute. Dont
ask me how I know. Do I sound like a teenager?
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Well, cant help you know. You somehow bring the


teenager out in the open. The boy who has lost his
way in the past finally is coming home.
Hey, have you ever felt like you are searching
for your home? That there is something or someone
waiting for you? That you are on the earth to meet
this person? I might sound like a young adult novel
writer, but, I sometimes feel like it.
Anyways, lets not get into that. So, tell me
how was your Saturday? You partied hard I guess. I
was in the office with Kaustav. He kept telling me
about his magic and how I need to make this mag a
hit.
Dont know what I am going to write. I have
never done this before. Seems to me I am doing a
lot of things that I have not done before. Can I share
a secret with you? Well, I am scared. I like to write
but writing for an IPL gossip magazine? Man I hate
cricket. I truly do. I always did. I always will. I only
watch soccer.
Enough of moaning and groaning. Tell me
how are you? Tell me what have you been doing?
Missed me? Well I did.
And yeah my first article huh? Sure I will
send it to you. Try sending some of your writing to
me as well. I know you are good. Still I want to read
to make sure.

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Chalo I gotta go now. I am pretty tired. I will


see you around. Stay safe and have fun.
Oh, jeez, if only I could turn back time. Nope
this is not Aqua singing, this is my heart wishing.
Tamas. Tamas Kar, my epic mistake.

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Chapter Ten
Samrat Bhatia

11:11 when I walk inside my office building.


Yeah, you have noticed it, I know you have. I am
late again. But, after the ass fucking Saturday, I
think I deserve a break. Evidently Kaustav does not
believe so.
Our receptionist (I forgot her name) looks up
and shakes her head. Kaustav wants to see you. He
is pretty pissed.
When he isnt? I ask.
You dont get it Sam. He is not smiling
today.
Not smiling? My jaw drops. What the fuck
does that mean?
Yeah, Kritika is here.
Oh fuck I turn on my heels, slip and run
towards the elevator.
You are located on eleventh floor. I dont
stop to revert.
Late. Kaustav sits across a bulky woman in
her late twenties. She glares at me. Kritika Desai
does not look at anyone - she glares. We call her
glaring queen for nothing, you know?

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Yeah, I sort of lost track of time. I kick an


invisible stone just to keep myself busy. Kritikas
stare is disarming.
You sort of lose track of time always.
Kaustav looks at me with a frown. Nope, he does
not glare. At least I have never seen him glaring at
anyone. He does not have to. Your team is waiting
for you since ten.
Now, that is something. It has slipped my
mind totally. But, I cannot reveal that to him, can I?
You bet I cant. So, I remain quiet.
Follow me I will introduce you to them.
Kaustav pushes himself away from the table and
gets up to his feet. Not for the first time I wonder
how a man does not even come closer to five feet
seven inch can reflect such a personality. Every
room this man enters, he arrest all the attention.
From the corner of my eyes I look at the object of
Kaustavs attention. Not a very pretty sight.
Tearing my gaze away from Kritika, I turn to
follow Kaustav. Thankfully, he will remain in the
tenth floor. At least I wont have to see him every
waking moment of my professional life. For that
respite I am thankful to the gentleman sitting up
there and watching over me.
This is your computer. He points to a place
at the corner. And thats mine. The chair next to
mine.

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Okay, I say. So, much for the silent thank


you.
And this is your team. He spreads his arms.
With a sense of rising discomfort I look at a group
of fifty people.
They all are required for a cricket magazine?
I ask. Something is not right here. Means so many
of them?
I didnt tell you did I? Kaustav asks. His
face breaks into a smile. Here you go.
No, I dont think you have told me. To keep
my hands off him, I bury them into my pocket.
This is going to be a lifestyle magazine. You
know like PopSugar.
What sugar? I ask. Now, thats something
new.
Check it out. Kaustav backs away. And
guys, this is your project manager. He is the one
who will lead you. So, cooperate. They nod and
look at me, expectant that I will say something
which will mean something.
PopSugar? Well, I gotta check that before
doing anything else. Nikita, I remember with
delight that she reads all sorts of lifestyle
magazines.
Niki. I peek inside my old office room. You
got a minute?
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Look who is back, says Navneet. He does


not look pleased to see me. Then again he never
looks pleased ever. Yet, he gets up to his feet and
comes to greet me. Even though I dont want to, my
gaze falls down for a fraction of second. Navneet
wears a light blue, cotton shirt today. The fabric,
thin and smooth, has failed to hide his man boobs
and to make the matter worse the air conditioning is
running on 15 degree. It feels like Siberia. And the
temperature has succeeded in erecting a lot of
things.
Nikita catches my eyes. Her face brightens in
a knowing smile. Hey Sam, hows the weather up
there? she asks through escaping giggles.
Gonna be pretty hot, I say. Navneet has
moves away by now. He sits under one of the two
air conditioning machine, getting as much cold air
as he can. Somebody should tell him, I think.
Kaustav will sit beside me.
Ouch. This is a collective gasp.
Yeah, you can say so.
So, any cute girl in the team? asks one of my
colleagues.
Havent noticed yet, I say. Which is true, the
PopSugar has robbed me off my ability to think
straight. Whats a PopSugar? I ask.
Nikita laughs. The sound explodes in the
room like symphony coming out of some unknown
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musical instrument. Thats the largest read lifestyle


magazine. Why ask?
Kaustav wants something like that.
What happened to IPL gossip? Navneet
asks.
Evidently that will not gonna be torturous
enough. The smile I flash has no humor in it. In my
place no one will be able to smile. If you have a
boss like Kaustav, you will know what it feels like
to walk in the office every day, not knowing whats
gonna hit.
So he wants PopSugar? Nikita comes to
stand by me. Her firm boobs brush against my arm,
a clear indication of whats in her mind. To my
surprise, I move away, not a long distance, but, a
step backward. Thankfully, she does not notice.
He or Kritika? asks Navneet.
Kritika of course. You think Kaustav knows
about PopSugar? Nikita asks. She still smiles God
knows why.
It is a wonder that Kritika knows about it, I
say. Its a lifestyle fashion magazine after all and
Kritikas fashion sense can help you write many
joke books. Yes, its that damn funny.
Her husband is a fashion writer isnt he?
Nikita asks.

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He is an aspiring fashion writer. Runs a blog


that no one reads. He is in IT actually. Navneet
holds his head with both of his hands while loading
us with his information.
Poor Kaustav, Nikita says.
Poor me, I say.
Arey yaar, you check the site na. Navneet
finally turns to face me. Why are you bugging all
of us?
True, why indeed? I know why. I dont want
to sit by Kaustav. Fuck.

Hi,
You know I am drunk. I am writing this mail
after six old monk. Dont hold me responsible for
the words I am writing today. I dont know what I
am writing. I only know that I am writing to you.
Its you and that matters.
Yes, I also feel the urge of homecoming. Only
I dont know where my home is. I dont know
which way to turn to. I dont know who to ask for
the direction. I am lost.
Its good that the little boy is coming home. I
just wish the little girl who has lost her way comes
home too.
Sounding too heavy huh? Well, I am not in
my brightest mood today. I had a terrible fight with
my boyfriend. Yes, I do have a boyfriend. I did not
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tell you. I was afraid, you would walk away had you
come to know about this. I am sorry. You have the
freedom to walk away. But, please dont. In this
short period you have come to mean a lot to me.
I dont know what I am writing. I cant even
see the words properly. The mail must be full of
typos. Pardon them if you can. And do write back. I
will be waiting.
She has got a boyfriend. Now, why does that
surprise me? Everyone has got a boyfriend or a
girlfriend. Yet, it somehow hurts. A stab of rage
shoots through my heart at the image of her with
another man. It is serious? How serious? I want to
ask. I even open a word doc to compose a mail to
her. Only today fingers refuse to write. After a
while I give up my attempt to finish the mail.
Even though my heart twists in discomforting
directions something deep down inside keeps telling
me to wait for the right time. When is the right
time?

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Chapter Eleven
Gia Mukharjee

Pain shoots through my head as I try to open


my eyes. Damn. What have I done last night?
Slowly, very slowly, the fog thins. Everything, that
has happened last night, comes flooding down.
Tamas. His touches. His disgusted face. And
thenoh fuck man. Now, I remember. I have shot a
mail to Sam. What the fuck have I written?
Usually it takes me thirty minutes to brush
and get over with the morning rituals. Today, even
though I have no plan of going to office it takes
only ten minutes.
I must have let my mouth run. A common
story of an occasional drunk,I think philosophically.
Someday I might even try to write it down. But,
first thing is first. What I wrote to Sam.
Yeah, of course, trust me to make a mess of
everything. I did write about Tamas. Then again, I
should right? What the fuck have I expected from
this mail shooting marathon anyways? What makes
my heart twist is the fact, that there is no mail from
Sam today.
The wall clock says it is only 8.30 in the
morning. Waking up this early is pretty unusual for
me. 11.30 is my normal timing on off days. Yet,
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here I am sitting in my writing room, logged on to


my email ID trying to make sense of a nonsense
situation.
So, should I shoot him another mail saying
that I dont have a boyfriend? Nope, I cant do that.
I simply cant. I want to. Yet
So, when are you tying the knot with
Tamas? asks my aunt. Visiting relatives.
When is your daughter getting a divorce? No,
I dont ask the question, however tempting it is. I
will soon. When he learns to earn some money,
this I dont say either.
When? You are getting old.
Right, old. When I will become a mother? I
am a woman after all. These all come and go in
silence. Yeah, sort of. Though I dont look thirty
two, do I?
To this question her face darkens. She will not
admit that yes I look younger. Somehow relatives
dont seem to look at the brighter side of the
situation. They are the ones who hold on to the
gloom like bats hang on to tree branches.
And my relatives. Well, they have specialized
in complaining and thats all I have inherited from
my father. His relatives complaining. And the
cousins who are too proud to complain will make
you feel like a worm crawling around to cause
trouble. Attitude? Yep, you get it.
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You have gained too much weight. Start


yoga. Finally she blurts out. When your aunt says
you are fat, you are fat. Warning signs should start
buzzing. Aunts are usually the cheerleaders for
weight gain and plump bodies. Your face is
becoming rounder with time. I can even see double
chins.
My God, thats something. My mother, who
does not say anything, nods her head this time. I
tell her to work out.
Start yoga.
At 2.30 in the afternoon, after checking for
Sams mail for the tenth time, I find myself logging
on to youtube. Yep, I want to learn Yoga. Dont ask
me how long will I continue with it. The initial buzz
of excitement will run down a couple days later.
And usually I quit when this phase hits.
This is the Gia Mukharjee I dont recognize.
Where is the girl who could not sleep without
working out? Homecoming, Sams word comes
rushing back to me. Finding the way back will not
be easy. Yet, the girl gotta come back. She needs to
find herself.
My phone vibrates, Tamas. Now what? Then I
remember this is the first time in two years I have
forgotten to ask him whether he has finished his
lunch.

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Hello, I say, not feeling like dragging on a


conversation now.
Not a single phone call since the morning.
The usual grumpy voice.
Yes, I was sort of busy. Lie. Tamas knows
it.
Busy in doing what?
I called to say good morning right?
But, you havent called to ask whether I had
lunch.
Cant you call me sometimes? I ask. This is
getting too much.
You are writing again, right? he asks.
Of course I am. Thats what I do.
How many of your novels have been
published so far that you are putting such an effort?
he asks in a voice that can push anyone over the
edge. But, I am not in a mood to fight at that
moment. So, I press my lips together and swallow
the vile reply that befits such an attack.
Not a single one. It hurts, you know. When
effort of eleven years leads to nothing but rejection,
it kills a part of you that never comes to life.
Something long ago has died in me as well. The
excitement, the child like pleasure of writing and
the hope, they all have died. What remains is a

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sense of numbness that will not let me give up.


Sometimes when everyone sleeps, I do cry alone. In
a time like that I wish if only I could give up. I
cant and that is my curse. That inability and Tamas
- gifts from the unseen gentleman up there make me
wonder every moment of my waking lifewhat have
I done to deserve such a life. Why cannot life be a
little smoother? Not much I am asking for, just a
little smoother path or may be a flicker of light
which will show the way ahead.
What are you chasing anyways? he asks.
You have all your focus on getting published. Have
you ever thought what you will do if you never got
published in this lifetime? His voice rises. Will
you spend your life writing like this? What will
happen when you will become a mother? Will you
still spend time reading and chasing a dream that
has no connection with reality?
If I never get published in this lifetimeWell,
I have never considered it. This is not an option.
Not a possibility. It cannot happen. To my horror, I
feel tear drops streaming down my face. I have
given my life to writing. I have never tried to do
anything else. I never opted for higher education,
better jobs, and responsibilities.
When everyone sleeps, I stay up. When they
party, I come back home. When my friends got
married, I chose to remain alone. To reach a
destination that does not have a roadmap. And now,

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he, Tamas Kar, who lives off to my money, asks me


if I never get published.
I am not saying you will not get published.
My silence gets him tame his voice down. You
might. You write pretty well. But, you need to
divert your focus sometimes. You need to have a
life. Which means, get drunk at every given
opportunity. That is having life from Tamas
standard.
Hmm, I will call you back. Gimme
sometime. I am working. Without waiting for him
to say anything else I disconnect the phone. If I
never get publishedit remains in my mind as I log
back and hit the compose. Soon, I find myself
pouring words down to Sam. This can become a
habit. My eyes stink. Soon I start sobbing. This has
not happened in long time. Emotion to me
symbolizes rage and frustration. This grief, this
mind numbing sadness and the sense of losing
something precious have never stampeded my heart
like this before. And this scares me.
Chapter Twelve
Samrat Bhatia
They say everything happens at the right time.
Only in my life, do you know, its always the wrong
time. My eyes burn. My head aches. And my heart
races likewell anyways. The wall clock says its
past 11 in the night. I dare to sneak a glance. Yep,

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11:11. Why this number is jumping at me every


time I look at the clock?
This question does not linger for long.
Kaustavs face comes to view. He sits beside me in
his chair with a carefully blank face. His eyes dont
leave the screen before him. Neither does he frown
even for a moment.
God Almighty has gifted this man with power
not even Mr. Nolan has dared to instill in his
legendary Dark Night. After editing ten thousand
rotten words, my eyes, my mind, my heart and my
entire being have refused to function. Nikita will be
waiting for me at home. Probably naked. And this
scares me. Today, I am not exactly confident about
the blowing power of my windpipe.
Kaustav turns to look at me. His face does not
break with a smile this time. Ever since Kritika has
joined the team, his smile has taken a permanent
leave. Poor bastard. Deserves all the pain he gets.
You are not working Sam. His voice is
meant to send a chill down my spine. Only I dont
feel my spine. There is nothing within me. There is
nothing inside me. All I see is words. All I feel is
words. And all this in a bad way. Meaning words
are gawking at me. They are pouncing at me.
Tonight I am gonna have some worldly nightmare.
I am not capable of reading anymore shits.
This confession escapes my mouth before I get a

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grip on myself. Where the fuck have you found


these writers? They are not bad, they all are mad.
Kaustav turns to face me. Do you have any
idea what does it take to hire fifty people in two
days? He looks down at his hand. Then nods. I
know these guys are pretty bad. We need to find
some people who can both write and edit.
That can work well, I say, stretching my
arms. But, who will interview these people?
Us, Kaustav says. You and me, who else?
But, writers need to sit for a writing test
right? I ask. Who will read all those test papers?
I will find someone. Kaustav looks at his
watch. Almost 11.30. The quality these guys are
producing, we can kiss our lives goodbye.
I have some other idea. Do you want to
replace the entire team?
Not everyone, but, yes most of the team.
How about calling them to conference room
tomorrow and pour out some frustration? I know
shouting does not make a person write. But, it can at
least make them more focused. Their problem is
not their language. Their problem is lack of
research. They dont do it. I point at the screen.
This is a half-hearted effort.
Still lets prepare a test material before hitting
the road. Tomorrow after the meeting, you can
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throw the requirement at our new HR. I see a


satisfied glint in his eyes.
Sure, I will. I open a new word doc. So you
wanna make them flunk or pass?
Kaustav laughs. Lets flunkingly pass them.
At 1.30 in the morning I stagger back home.
A heavy hammer pounds inside my head. My eyes
ache now. Tomorrow, we will hold a meeting at 10
in the morning. How we are going to hire a team in
one day and how we will launch a magazine in just
seven days, is something remains to be seen.
Sleep, I need eye shut, badly. In my bed,
however, I find Nikita, naked, waiting for me.
Hey, she says. Her face softens at the sight
of me. Kaustav will kill you softly.
I drop on the bed without bothering to
undress. We need a new team or a more focused
one, if we want to get this thing launched on time.
Wow someone is working too hard. You
need to release your energy baby. She comes close.
Warmth of her skin touches me. Smell of perfume
catches my breath. She leans forward to plant a kiss
on my forehead. Her long hair brushes my face.
Few weeks ago this would have been enough to get
me up and going, no matter how tired I was. But,
tonight is not the night, I guess, for nothing makes
me feel anything. Instead of reaching for her, I roll
away.
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Tomorrow I have a meeting at 10, I say. She


looks at me for a beating moment and then nods,
understanding. To my relief she moves away from
me. Feeling like a fool, I climb up beside her and
try to catch some sleep.
You have changed, Nikita says. Her voice
rings with something more than anger. You are not
the same Sam, I knew.
Of course, I am not, I say. Kaustav has
fucked me real hard. He has ruined my career. And
now he is trying to drive me to suicide.
Dont blame him, she says. Its not him. Its
you. She inches close to me. With her hand she
starts caressing my chest. I swallow. Now what?
You gotta understand something about me. I am not
a romantic. Maybe a bit. But, not the Dil to Pagal
Hai type. Though I dream of a mysterious faceless
female, I am not what you call a romantic fool. I
would have rolled on top of Niki, if I could. But, I
cant. I am numb inside. Or am I dead inside?
I am damn tired. I hold her hand, draw it to
my mouth and kiss it. Lets get some sleep.
Once again she moves away and this time
remains away.
Vibration of her breathing keeps me awake. In
the darkness I lay quiet, listening to the whisper of
night. Sleep, I need to sleep. Yet, I cannot. My head
aches. Eyes hurt. Yet
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She is right. I have changed. Somehow.


Something inside me has changed. I am not the
same Samrat Bhatia who used to walk the earth. I
might look the same but I am a different man now.
What has changed? Not knowing scares me. And I
am scared for I dont know where this change is
leading me.
At 3 in the morning I sneak in the kitchen and
log on to my laptop. I need to write to her. So what
if she has got a boyfriend? If the relation was strong
enough, I would not be writing this mail to her now.
Things break. Miracles happen. Of course, they do.
What was it Noah said? Science does what it can
and then God steps in or something like that. Maybe
if I do what I can, God will step in.
Is it infatuation? I damn well know it is not
love. It cannot be. Love does not happen like that.
Then what is it? What thread binds us together like
this? Ever since the first mail, I have thought of
nothing but her.
My heart skips a beat. Even though I havent
written to her, I havent expected her to write to me
either. But, she has. Just a paragraph. But, enough
for me.

Hey Sam,
Thought you have forgotten me. So, this is a
reminder that I do exist. Of course, I have sinned by
not telling you about the relationship I have. But,

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then again it should not matter, should it? After all,


we are friends. Right?
Anyways, you might think otherwise. I wont
blame you. But, I will keep writing to you until you
reply. You know why? Because I am committed
now. To the friendship. And I cannot quit. Not even
if you want to.
So, if you find time and remember me. Please
write back. Or else I will write to you.
Until the next mailstay safe.
Miracles huh. I look up with a question.

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Chapter Twelve
Gia Mukharjee
If I can go back, will I make the same
decision? If I can turn the clock back in motion, will
I still be walking the same road? Probably, I will.
Probably, I will still be with Tamas. He has his
usefulness. He is my karma. I am nullifying it.
Every day I tell myself to hold on, for life
does not last forever. Someday it will all come to an
end. Someday the frustration will cease to wreak
havoc inside my heart. All I gotta do is hanging on
tight. But, my knuckles have already turned white.
And I can feel my grip slipping.
Through Bryan Adams soulful voice, my cell
phone cries out breaking the spell and bringing me
back to reality. Sometimes I forget to put it in silent
mode. As always my first instinct tells me to let it
ring. And today, I follow it. I let it ring. To hell with
it. After a while the call gets disconnected. I blow a
breath of relief and then it starts ringing again. What
the fuck? Once again I refuse to answer.
But, when it starts ringing the third time, I
move my healthy limbs (I am a Bengali and when a
Bengali says healthy, be careful). A call from Delhi,
I let out a gasp of irritation. Now what?
Hello, I sing.

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Where have you been? she does not sing.


Well, I was in bathroom. I am down with
fever. So I am home. I am on sick leave, taking a
break.
Okay. She says. Not bothering to ask me
how I am feeling, she continues, So, what are you
writing nowadays?
Writing? I ask, not getting where this leads.
Well, contents.
Not content silly. In her voice I hear a note
of suppressed frustration. I am asking about your
own writing.
My own writing? Now, I am uncomfortable.
Well, writing a mystery novel. Sort of mystery
thriller combination.
Okay. Surely not interested about my
writing, she continues. See, Ritik wants to write a
novel. He says you will be the best person who can
co-write it with you.
Huh? Why should I co-write anything with
her husband? Whats his genre?
He wants to write mainstream drama.
Not my genre. I dont want to write it. This
much I finish without stopping for a breath.
Besides I am busy writing a novel of my own.

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With your own effort you have failed to get


published, she says. Her voice can freeze erupting
lava or fury of Mother Nature anytime. Have you
ever considered the fact that you might never get
published without a helping hand?
Twice in two consecutive days, the same
question, only I have nothing to say to this. True, I
have failed. True, I am ready to fail again. True, I
will keep up with this till the death does us apart.
But, it hurts when it comes from people who dont
have a speck of passion in their bones.
No, I havent considered it. Which is true? I
dont have time to think about it. I dont have time
to dwell on miseries or failures. I can only take the
pain and move forward.
Ritik is planning a novel where the
protagonist takes life as an experiment, she says as
if the conversation in between hasnt taken place.
He will come to the end of his journey and will
realize that he has gained nothing from life.
Fabulous, I should congratulate him for the
great idea. Okay. But, does Ritik has got an outline
of the novel?
Outline? Not surprisingly Dear Madhuri
hasnt heard of outlines.
Yeah, the initial roadmap from which a novel
comes to life.

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You make outlines before writing a novel?


she shrieks as if she has seen a spider.
We all do. Or, so I know. Well, some of us
do. Right? We all cant be panthers. I am one by
birth, but, experience has taught me to be a plotter. I
will not write a single line of a novel without an
outline in my hand first.
Where is your creativity? she asks. If you
have to follow an outline, you are not creative at
all.
That does it. Cool, I am not creative at all.
Since your husband has got Tolkins imagination,
why doesnt he write his own novel down? It
sounds harsh to my own ears. She of course feels
bad about the tone.
Okay, I will call you later.
Five minutes later my phone starts ringing
again. Tamas. I dont have to check the number to
know.
Hi, I say. What are you doing?
Di called you? he asks.
Yeah she did. She asked me co-write a book
with her husband. Fuck, I am not in mood for this.
Maybe you should. Maybe you will get
published.

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Published? I ask. What makes you think I


will get published by co-authoring?
You have been trying a long time to get
published. You have failed. Now, try something
new. I hear his smile in his voice along with the
sarcasm.
Rejected Tamas. My novels got rejected. I
havent failed. Not yet, I say. I will fail the day I
give up.
Its all the same. Dont you think? he asks.
Rejection, failure. The bottom line is you havent
been published and that matters. He pauses. I can
feel something else is coming. A cliff-hanger. To
everyone else. If not to you.
I let out a long breath after he disconnected.
To everyone else huh? To hell with them.
I dont think its gonna work out, says
Aryan. His name isnt Aryan for real. If you check
his birth certificate, you will find him as
Shibshankar Banerjee. But, he refuses to be called
Shib or Shankar. Injurious to his music career, he
chips in, every time someone dares to address him
by that name. And hence Aryan has emerged out of
nowhere. And we are forced to call him, wellyou
know what.
Whats not gonna work out? I ask.
We are at Dakshinapan, watching the last
light of sun fade. A group of students play guitar at
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a distance. One of them sings along with the tune. A


traditional evening at the oldest shopping mall of
Kolkata.
Gia and Tamas. Aryans flat voice and
indifferent tone make me turn to face him. Though
my heart already knows what he declares, I decide
to fight for the relationship. Its been an effort of
two years after all, knuckle breaking, yet
What makes you think so? I ask, pretending
to be offended by the comment. Soon its gonna be
a statement of some kind. Aryan will surely come to
tell me I told you so. He is a I-told-you-so kind of
a guy.
Think? he asks with his usual chuckle. I
know its not gonna work dear. What made you go
for this guy on the first place?
Is it because he does not read? I ask.
Fuck reading. Most of the guys dont read.
But, Tamas is everything a girl like you should stay
away.
Woman Aryan woman. I am gonna turn
thirty three next month.
You look twenty years younger, he says.
Like thirteen?
Not that young. His face, half hidden in the
falling darkness turn to stare at me. What made you
go for him?
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Truth telling gets people feel lighter. But, it


makes people feel guilty as well. Its because of
my mom and sis. And also my relatives.
They chose him for you? he asks. Where
did they find him?
Why do you dislike him so much?
Because there is nothing to like about him.
He is an asshole. I am telling you. He gives me a
bad vibe. Aryan cracks his knuckles when he gets
excited. Right now he is trying to double crack his
knuckles. He does not have any knowledge. He
does not have the desire to work for his future. How
long will you support him?
This I am also asking myself. I dont know.
Through the veil of shadows, I look at him. I am
scared, you know. I might have to marry him
You didnt answer my question. Why him?
Because he was the only available option.
Meaning? Aryan leans forward to catch a
glimpse of my face.
My relatives were trying to find me a match.
Finally, my truth will come out. I can hold it inside
me no longer. I didnt want to get married. Not
then anyways. I wanted to wait. Something told me
I should wait. I pause to look at him. But, no one
wanted to listen to me. And I was out of job back
that time. So, I needed someone who would stop the
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torture for a whileforever. I add as an


afterthought.
Wow. Aryan gets up to his feet. He
stretches. A group of girls sitting behind us gives a
collective gasp. Aryan is a looker, tall, fair, lean
masculine with a pair of dreamy eyes. He has
decided to flaunt a rugged look. Thus, he has
stopped shaving. Therefore, his face is covered with
greenish stubble that adds to his appeal. After
giving the girls a treat for their eyes, he sits down
beside me. You have any idea what a mess you
have made out of your life? he asks.
Yeah, I totally fucked it up.
Yes and you need to unfuck it. Get the hell
out of this relationship. Look at yourself. He leans
back to look at me. Weight gain, not taking care of
yourself, wearing out dated clothes. Is this really
you? he asks. Where is the girl I had a crush on?
Where is she?
Where indeed? I dont know.
I cant walk out. I cant break this
commitment. Darkness conceals my eyes,
thankfully. Or, else Aryan will see how hard I am
trying to fight back my tears. If he walks out, I will
be saved. If only he walks out. I bury my face into
the hollow of my palms and let tear drop roll away.
Wash it off, I beg. Wash off the frustration before it
kills me.

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Chapter Thirteen
Samrat Bhatia
So, how long have you been working for this
company? asks Ria Mitra. Her name makes me
uncomfortable. Its too similar to her name. And to
top it all she is a Bengali, from Kolkata. And she
sits beside me.
Meaning I sit squeezed between her
andwell this is 9.30 in the morning and I dont
want to utter his name. It is not about morning. I
dont want to utter his name ever. You know each
time you utter the name of the devil he gets more
powerful. So, nowadays I sort of refrain myself
from saying names which bother me. If only she
keeps quiet.
Last two years, I reply.
And you like being here? she asks looking at
me with a smile.
This question makes me turn and look at her.
She is cute. Very cute. Oval face, large eyes, sharp
nose and glowing skin that makes you overlook the
fact that she is dusky. Today she wears a pair of old
jeans and a cotton top which outlines her curvy
body. She has her hair pulled back in a knot behind
her head so that her face can be seen unobstructed.
Nice package. I would have asked her out, ifI

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halt. I hold the thought. Think it over. I would have


asked her out, if? If what?
To tell you the truth, I dont dare to fully form
this thought. Let it be. Let it hang. The time to
finish it will come. Somehow I know it.
Ria stares at me. Hers are eyes bright with
anticipation, taking in everything as if she is
roaming the ancient city of Rome rather than being
on the floor of one of the largest corporate of India.
I realize she is waiting for the reply.
I make it a point to like it everywhere, I say.
This does not satisfy her. And I am not about to
encourage anymore questions. So, I decide to shift
the focus a bit. But, then her face changes. She
transforms from wide eyed curious to wide eyed
dreamer. Her smile becomes soft and she looks
through me. Numerous times I have seen this look
on numerous female faces. And so, I dont have to
turn around to know that The Great one has arrived.
Should I tell him that today he is late?
Good morning Sam, he says in a soft voice.
Then again he says everything in a soft voice and
succeeds in making a statement.
Morning Kaustav, I say.
Good morning, Ria says in a shy voice. The
initial friendliness disappears. She reaches behind
her head and unknots her hair. It falls below her
shoulders in shinny waves. These I witness from the
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corner of my eyes. Kaustav, however, does not even


spare her a glance. He boots his laptop and sits
waiting for the screen to come to life. Poor girl,
does not know where she is trudging.
Have you explained to her? he asks without
even looking at me.
Yeah. Of course I have explained to her that
she needs to learn the art of nodding. This is king
Kaustavs court after all.
Everything? he asks.
Yeah, everything. Gimme me a break man.
Good. Still without looking at me. Hmm
About an hour and two thousand crappy
words later, I sneak out for a smoke. There is
another reason, I want some alone time. Something
nudges inside my head. Something disturbing.
So, I go behind the office building light a
Classic and sit on under a tree. From my backpack I
retrieve a hard cover notebook and a pencil. Gotta
know what crawls in and out of my head.
Soon, time flies by. I find myself amazed at
the world that comes out of my own heart. Yeah,
you are right. I feel a slight bout of pride as well.
YetI am a long way from finishing a novel. All
my ideas come and go. The flurry lasts for a few
days. With the initial glow of having a great
storyline, fades my desire to see it to the end. This
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story also gonna follow the same path. My heart


knows it even though my head says This is it.
My mother kept telling me to stick to one
project for a long time to finish it. Even today if I
close my eyes, I still hear her voice, layered with
affection, saying, Sam, learn to commit to one
project. Or else, you will never be able to finish
anything in your life.
Today her face does not form along with her
voice. No matter how hard I try, her image is
slipping from my grasp. Within a few days, she will
remain hanging on the wall of my hall.
Vibration then shrill ringing of my cell phone
brings me back. Automatically I turn my left wrist
and look at my watch. Its been forty five minutes
since I have left the office. Kaustav is making the
call. Maybe he will fire me today. This thought does
not come with fright. Instead I feel comforted by the
knowledge.
Without bothering to answer the vibrating
phone, I get to my feet and head back to the office.
Afternoon sun glares down from the sky. My throat
itches. In front of my eyes I see black bubbling soft
drink. I will give anything for a Coke.
My phone continues to vibrate. I am coming. I
am coming. I scream in my mind. Where have you
been? asks Kaustav. His usual stony expression has
turned grim. You left at 11 and disappeared. He
wants to know something.
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I was downstairs brainstorming. My voice


comes out through my tight throat. I need a Coke.
Through the corner of my eyes I see our office boy
running by.
Brainstorming what? he asks. His face
softens a bit. This expression almost makes him
look like a human. Well almost mind you. I was
looking for you everywhere. You were not even
answering your phone.
I am sorry for that. I just went downstairs for
a smoke and an idea struck me. I reach inside my
backpack to retrieve the hardcover notebook.
Kaustav peers at it. Whats in there? he asks.
Motivation is eternal right? I ask.
Yes. He nods. For the first time I hold his
undivided attention.
Since we are launching a lifestyle magazine,
why dont we keep a motivational zone? I lay my
plan before him. We will run stories of people who
have struggled to climb the ladder in their lives.
Like Chicken Soup? he asks.
This surprises me. Kaustav knows about
Chicken Soup. Yes somewhat like Chicken Soup
but with an added layer.

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Which is? He leans forward, interested.


We will also promote talents like dancers,
writers, singers The list can go on so I let it float
in the air.
What will be our profit? he asks.
More readers. People who look for gossip
will read us. But, what about people who arent
looking for gossip or fashion tips? I ask. That is a
huge number. We can grab them too, if we start
promoting them. We will call ourselves talent
makers.
Kaustav nods. Good idea. But, who will
write these motivational articles?
I will do it, I say without hesitation. I would
love to do it.
It settled then. Do it. He gets up to his feet
and gives a sideways look. Dont disappear without
letting me know.
I stroll back to my seat. Ria leans forward to
ask or tell me something. Only, I dont have time
for casual goofing right now. There is something
pending. I havent done my ritual. I havent written
to her. The need to reach out and hold her tight
numbs me. If only I could touch her. If only I could
call her mine. Infatuation? You can call it so.
Obsession? May be. But, whatever it is the bond is
stronger than anything else I have experienced.

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True to her promise, she has written me a


mail.

Samrat,
I sort of like your name. It reflects power.
You know I missed you. I missed reading your
emails, so alive with vigor. The energy your mails
carry gives me a positive vibe. So, whats going on
in your life? How are you? How is your new project
going? Written your article? Remember to send me
a copy.
Even though it does not seem that you want to
know, I still would like to tell you that I am doing
fine. Very good in fact. I have a groovy idea for my
next novel. This is gonna be a blockbuster thriller. I
even have selected the lead for my novel.
Do you like Gerard Butler? I love him. And I
think he will make a great hero. And about the
director? Hmm Mr.Nolan anybody?
Just kidding yaar. Had to jot some words
down to fill the page. Hence the blabbering.
If you never write me back, I will understand.
But, every day, you will receive a mail from my
side. Its a commitment.
My mail will find you tomorrow. Till then
stay safe.
The need to tell her everything overwhelms
me. This is a new feeling. I open a word doc to draft
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a letter when Kaustav walks in and stands beside


me. Lets go to the conference room. The CEO
wants to talk to everyone.
With a nod of my head, I close down the doc
and log out of my mail ID. Later tonight I am gonna
write to her. I promise myself.

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Chapter Fourteen
Gia Mukharjee

In the middle of the night I wake up, shaking


and trembling. Outside raindrops beat against the
window pane. I turn my head to look at Anya. Her
deep breathing stirs the room. Without even
checking the time I know its 2.45 in the morning.
For the last few days, I have been waking up at the
same time.
But, today it is something different. Today I
can feel a strong sense of emptiness down my heart.
The same dream. The same man whose face I
cannot see. Why does he come back? And more
importantly why am I having this dream so
frequently?
A sudden bout of restlessness captures me. I
cannot lay back anymore. Tomorrow I have office.
Yet, I need to do something. I need to go home.
And there I stop myself. I am home. There is no
other home for me.
Lying still feels like wasting time. My head
buzzes with words and I know what I have to do to
tame myself down. I need to write. And its about
time I do some real fiction creating as well. For the
last couple of weeks I have only been talking about
writing. The glow of getting ideas eventually fades.
It always does. Finally, it comes down to sweat,
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blood, frustration and typing. Not romantic enough


huh? Not supposed to be.
Writing is not romantic. Maybe the notion of
being a writer is. What many dont know or cannot
seem to accept about being a writer is it takes hard
work and persistency. Not everyone is born with
Oscar Wildes talent.
At least not me. I doubt whether I am born
with any talent at all. What I do have is a strange
unwillingness to give up. It is unfortunate. It is sad.
And it hurts like hell. But, even if I try my best, I
cannot let go. Once I commit, I stay.
So, I write. Every day. I write because after so
many years (I have lost counting how many) I
cannot seem to imagine my life without pen and
paper. My story is boring. I only know how to read
and how to write. People, especially men, gradually
back away from me.
Of course, it takes some time for them to
realize that whatever I am carrying is either genetic
or incurable. I am beyond any help. They run away
when they understand that I am damaged forever,
that writing defines my life.
There is another problem I have. UmmI
dont know how to put this. But, I keep correcting
others grammar all the time. Initially they
appreciate that I am making an effort. But, as time
passes it gets into their nerves. One of them named
me Grammar Nazi with loving appreciation. I sort
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of carried the nickname with pride for a couple of


days. Then dropped it. Because I had real hots for
the guy and he was a great kisser, I forgave his
audacity.
What most dont understand is that I am born
this way. I cannot change myself. I have lived the
life of a social misfit. Maybe I will die as one. No, I
dont have any problem with this.
Tonight, I am gonna plot my next novel.
Meaning, I am gonna outline it. A road map is all I
need.
As a habit, I check for Sams mail the first
thing after logging in. Disappointment washes over
when I find not a single line from him. Maybe he
does not want to talk to me. It hurts. Then again I
am powerless to make him write to me. What I can
do is keep writing to him. One day he will surely
write back.
But, first thing is first. I need to get some
words down on paper.
Once long ago when I was a kid, I remember
waking up from sleep in the middle of the night and
writing down stories. What I wrote I cannot
remember. Eventually the nocturnal hobby became
my life.
I enjoyed writing. Now, it has become like
breathing. Its there. I need it to stay alive. But, I
dont notice it.
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If you ever wrote anything, you must know


the phenomena of getting the first line down, right?
It does not happen at the beginning of the novel
only. For me it is a beginning every day. Hence I
find myself staring at the screen with blank face and
equally blank eyes, trying to find the truest line I
can write. Not that it has helped me a hell lot.
Nope, I have written and got rejected. And
then I have written again and got rejected again.
And thenwell fuck. Let it be.
I sum up a quick email to Sam and hit the
send button before I lose my nerves. Why am I
doing this? What is this bond? I dont know. I dont
want to find out. Sometimes answers seem
unimportant. To me writing to Sam is like warming
up for a serious writing session.
A movement somewhere gets my attention.
My cell phone. Someone texted me. At this time of
night? What the fuck? I reach for the device. Gotta
be Aryan.
And it is.

You up? He asks.


Yeah I am. I reply.
Man Utd lost. Come his reply.
Ops I forgot about the Red Devils and Real
Madrid match. Once I had to watch them all. But,
this cannot say to Aryan.
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Yeah I know. As I type the reply, I frantically


log on to Google. I need to know what happened.
Sadly, I dont know a single footballer of the team I
used to support like crazy. Two years ago I knew
them all, even the side benchers.

You watched the match? He asks. I know he


does not believe me.

No. I was writing. I lie.


Writing? Writing what? You just finished
writing one novel. Aryan is that friend of mine who
knows everything about me. Well, not everything.
He does not know about Sam. Neither does my
sister.

Yes, but, I just got this groovy idea. I am


excited. This is the problem with me; I get excited
with each idea till they reach the middle. And
thenI sort of retreat from pushing them any
further.

This is three in the morning. Very soon you


will lose your mind. Get some sleep. This comes
from someone who is texting me at three in the
morning, crying for Man Utd.

Why are you up by the way? I ask.


I am composing a song. Cannot sleep. Think I
will lose my mind soon enough.
You have already succeeded in doing so
Aryan. I write, smiling now.
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Lol, Lets meet up tomorrow for a cup of


coffee. We will discuss our nocturnal creations. His
texts.

Sure I will.
After this I find myself staring at the blank
screen, thinking what to write. This state is like
investigating a kidnapping case. The more time you
spend pondering, the worse it will get. Wired
metaphor. But, it is true.
Knowing this of course does not help. I still
spend eternity looking at the screen before me
wishing I could have a glass of old monk to
electrify my imagination. This is also not true.
Alcohol does not help me write better. I doubt it can
help anyone. You gotta be Stephen King to pull off
a masterpiece in drunken state. I am not him. And I
always fuck up. WUI (writing under the influence
of drugs or alcohol) does not serve me well.
What are you doing? the question makes me
look up. Anya stands at the threshold of our
bedroom. Her eyes though fluffy with sleep, they
blaze with anger. Its three in the morning.
Yeah. I could not sleep. So I thought of
plotting the new novel. This I say in one breath.
Though Anya is younger than I am her opinion
matters to me.
Get back to bed. We will talk later.

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UmmmI am in trouble. Without saying


anything I log off and crawl back to bed.
You are obsessed sis, Anya says. Her
usually large and bright eyes look even larger and
brighter. She glares at me. It is 7.30 in the morning
and we are having a coffee time conversation.
Errin this conversation I am the one sitting back
and doing the listening. What were you doing up at
three in the morning?
I could not sleep.
Anya leans forward as she always does when
making a statement. Sis, do you even enjoy
writing? she asks in a gentle voice. Do you do it
because you love to do it or has it become a habit?
This stops me. I have never considered this.
Do I love doing it? Probably not anymore. Yet, I
cannot say this. I cannot lie to Anya either. She sees
through my lies as I see through hers. So, my mind
tells me to keep quiet.
You are focused on being published. She
pauses to look at me. Do you even notice anything
anymore? Do you notice anyone? Her questions
dont have the usual irritation Tamas displays. But,
they are thrown in a way to make me feel uneasy.
I do love doing it. My protest sounds weak
even to my own ears. Why else I will wake up at
middle of the night to write?

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Because you are obsessed. You are stifling


your art. Her voice has lost its initial frustration.
She is pleading now. Let it breath. Set it free. Or,
else you will never get to the print.
This remains in my mind. I reach office half
an hour early today. And immediately I log on to
my email ID. You know why, dont you?

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Chapter Fifteen
Samrat Bhatia

Morning again. For the first time after getting


shifted to magazine department, I jump up from the
bed. Today we are going ahead with the
motivational column of ours. I already have
composed an article for the first edition. After going
to office, I will edit it and then send it off to
Kaustav.
Light gust of wind laps the blind of my
window. It is still dark outside. I can see glint of
stars. Like the ancient people, I once believed that
the stars are the eyes of God. That He is always
watching us over.
In the backseat on that fateful day, this is what
my sister said to me just before that truck rammed
our tinny car. I regained my consciousness for a
brief period of time. It was dark. What bothered me
most was the emptiness that surrounded me. Whiz
of breathing should have stirred the air. But, it was
still like calm water.
I even risked a slight movement. Pain shot
through my nerves. It reminded me that I was still
alive. And then I felt it. I felt my sisters hand
clutching mine as if assuring me, telling me to hold
on a moment longer. With strength that still was
inside me, I held back, knowing no matter what I
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would have to make it. Before trudging into the


merciful state of nothingness, I became aware of the
coldness of her hand.
Why? I bury my face into a pillow as if it
could hide me from the pain that twists my soul
each time I dare to remember. Why memories are
crowding me like this? Why they would not leave
me alone? Why?
Each time I feel like running ahead, they
come flooding. Their force pushes me back into the
state of gloom no matter how hard I try to swim
ahead. I need to get it off my system. I need to reach
out to someone I care for.
Fifteen minutes later I sit with my laptop. Its
been a while I have written to her. Today I have to.
I have to reach out and touch her, even if not with
my hands. A smile plays on my mouth as I log in to
email ID and find a mail from her. Its a short one
but its enough to brighten me up.

Dear Sam,
Man it seems like I am playing a role in Dear
John. How are you? What are you doing? How are
you coming up with the new job? Of course you
will ace it. I know. You have the gift to be a great
storyteller. I just wish I also had the gift.
Anyways, I am doing well. Trying to outline a
novel. I know, I have just finished writing one. But,

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I cannot stop. I am suffering from some ailment


which is yet be named I guess.
Writing to me is like therapy. Without it, I am
lost. The characters in my head demand that I get
them down on paper. They say write about us or we
will revolt. It scares me. I will have to get them
down on paper or I will go crazy. If you havent
experienced it, you will not understand what I am
talking about.
Anyways, let it be. I will forever keep ranting
about writing. This is my gift. This is my curse too.
I am a prisoner of my own desire. And I search for
no escape. There I go again.
See, you do this to me. Whenever I write to
you I feel my pen (err fingers find lives of their
own). I should quite now. Or, you will read Atlas
Shrugged Volume 2.
Hope to hear from you soon.
I will write back
She is obsessed with her love for writing. This
is a glaring truth. In her each mail, she writes
something about her writing. Another novel? She
has just finished one. I sit back. Even I like to write.
But, I dont have her passion. She is living for that
craft of her. What am I living for? True I am
earning good. True I am getting used the new job.
But, is it enough?

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She always manages to make me feel


incomplete in some way. Even though I love her
passion, I also feel inadequate to match her drive.
Without knowing I move my fingers. They create
sentences. I let my eyes do a run down before
hitting the send button.
Who is she? Ria whispers the question in
my ears.
Though I sit beside her, today, I almost dont
hear. Funny thing you know, I am here, yet I am not
here. My head buzzes. And my feet dont touch the
ground. To get my attention she nudges me.
I turn to look at her. Who is who?
That woman? she points with her eyes.
What woman? I feel like a zombie. But,
nothing simply registers in my mind today. All I can
think of is a woman who is staying miles apart.
Distance, fucking distance, it hurts. Have you ever
been in a relationship where you cannot touch the
person you long to be with? And most importantly
have you ever been in a relationship where your
head says no, yet, heart wont let go? You have
been? Cool, then I wont have to explain anything.
And you know the most disturbing part of the story?
I dont even know what I feel is obsession or
something else. Pretty funny, if you sit back and try
to analyze.

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You okay? Ria looks worried now. And why


not? I sit beside her. I might bite her and she would
have to go for series of injections.
I guess. Loo, the idea strikes me. Thats the
best place to hide for a while. Once I hid in loo for
an hour to finish reading The Broker. Navneet
discovered me. Had it been Mr. Great, I wouldnt
have been sitting here today.
Who is she? Ria asks again. This time I
follow her gaze. Kaustav stands at the farthest
corner of the room, leaning against a table, his face
carefully blank and eyes pleading. Standing just
inch away from him is Kritika, face contorting in
disgust, hands on hips and eyes narrow in
accusation.
Kritika. She does something high end for the
company which we dont know. I look away. The
scene is way too familiar.
Is she his wife? Ria asks. Is there a touch of
apprehension in that tone? Is there? Of course there
is. Poor girl. Someone should tell her to back away
when there is still time.
No, they are best friends or so they say. I
give it a careless shrug. To fuck with it. Kaustav
will not spare her a glance. Today, she wears an
oversized yellow kurti and faded blue jeans. Her
hair is unfashionably tied in a knot. And her eyes
which could have been a plus point of her feature, is
hidden behind a pair of black rimmed glasses. With
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that demeanour Kaustav Bajwa is an unreachable


entity. She should be looking at the gate keeper or
something.
Yeah, yeah I know, I am being mean. She is
sweet. But, she irritates the shit out of me.
Fuck buddy? she asks with a sly smile.
People say so. Yet, how does that matter to
me? They fuck each other, they fuck the entire
office, and my life will be the same. Unlikely, this
I mutter under my breath.
Before my eyes is a long article, titled Style
Your Palazo Pants. Before reading this, I hardly had
any idea what a palazzo was. Now, I know and trust
me I feel no sense of pride in knowing this.
Ria fidgets in her seat. This is an indication
that Kaustav is arriving.
Good morning guys.
Good morning, Ria says with the enthusiasm
of a kid. This goes unnoticed of course. Kaustav
looks at me with his prize winning smile. Of late,
we have been working closely like striker and
midfielder.
Sam, we got a meeting today.
For that motivational section? I ask.
Correct. This guy is a dancer, runs his own
dance school.
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How you caught hold of him? I ask.


He had been a classmate. Then he left school.
Dropped out. His eyes scan the hall before coming
to stop on my face. You want a rag to riches story,
you talk to this guy.

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Chapter Sixteen
Gia Mukharejee

You know Pantaloon is giving 50% discount


offer on every purchase. A woman in her late
twenties says over phone. This stops me on my
aimless stroll among dress hangers. I turn to see on
which item this offer is applicable. The woman
rattles on in a cheerful tone. I really like two salwar
suits. Okay. You know, you wont have to give
me anything on our anniversary. Can I buy these
now? She runs her hand through her hair that lay in
a mess over her shoulders. She has straightened it
sometimes back. And now with fast vanishing effect
she looks like in need of more brushing rather than
chic.
My eyes go down at the rack she stands by.
With big red numeric 20% is glued to it. From the
corner of my eye I detect a movement. You are
eavesdropping again, Anya says in an angry
whisper. She links her arm with mine and gives a
tug. But, I hold on.
Wait, I whisper back. My eyes refuse to
look away. The womans smile vanishes. She
narrows her eyes and leans forward, listening. One
heartbeat. Two. Three. And then she disconnects the
call. She runs her hand through her hair again
before turning around and walking away. Hubby
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must have said no to the purchase. With a sly smile


plastered on my face, I turn around to face my
sister.
She watches me with narrow eyes. What?
she asks.
I narrate. My smile widens. Now, Anya too
smiles. She shakes her head in dismay. Sad. Why
dont they earn their own money?
I give a shrug. This is an easy life sis.
Working needs commitment and hard work.
She shakes her head again. In her hand she
holds an orange kurti with yellow flowers printed
on it. I stand back and watch her check the price
tag. A smile plays over her face, a disappointed
smile. Without further assessment of the dress, she
hangs it back.
You want it? I ask.
Anya looks at me. Her eyes smiling. No.
Come on I will buy. I stand there, insisting.
Nah. She starts moving away.
Finally, I follow, unwilling to walk away yet
afraid to lose sight of her. It only costs Rs 799.
Not that I earn a lot but I can buy my sister a kurti if
she likes it.

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Her long straight hair bounces as she shakes


her head. Nah. I will buy it when money starts
rolling.
This I have been hearing since she has
decided to venture out with Tamas. You know since
the last one and half year. When money starts
rollingwell WHEN exactly? Wisely I keep my
mouth shut and let it pass.
You wanna have coffee? I ask. Lets hit
CCD.
Anya turns to look at me. Her gaze moves up
and down, eyes scrutinizing. Oh God, please spare
me, I pray. He answers immediately like always.
Have you seen yourself lately? Anya asks.
For the first time since coming to South City
mall, I become aware of what I am wearing. A pair
of blank jeans that has seen its better days, to go
with it I have chosen a black full sleeve t-shirt. I
have accessorized this ensemble with a pair of
slippers and a denim hand bag. My hair, my
beautiful curly, messy hair, hangs in a mess over
my shoulders. Picture perfect.
When was the last time you have gone for
eye brow plucking? she asks. Buy some clothes
sis. Before I get to say something she moves for
another attack. The only thing you ever buy is
books. You cannot wear books. You need clothes.
Look at yourself. Her face contorts in frustration.
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You are a mess. Where is the Gia Mukherjee, men


stared at and chased?
Where is she?
I look down at my feet. Patches of chipped
nail polish catches my eyes. Immediately, I look up.
My eyes fall on a king size mirror fitted to a pillar
opposite me. The person in the mirror stares back at
me. What a sigh, I move away in haste.
When your own reflection bothers you, there
is a problem. I recognize this. But, what makes me
stick to the image is comfort. Yes, I am comfortable
in this mess. Clothes dont interest me. Of late
nothing interests me. Mine has become an
existence.
What? Anya
something or not?

asks.

You

gonna

buy

Buying clothes is a depressing task. You


would not agree, if you are not overweight. For me
it seems like showing the dirty under garment with
holes everywhere. You get the point, right? Good.
I move away from Anyas questioning glare
and inch closer to the clothing racks. Nothing
attracts my attention long enough for me to want to
buy it. Or, maybe I dont understand fashion. Either
way, the clothing racks or the clothes fail to evoke
anything in my heart.
Check this one out. I turn to look at a pink
floral printed kurti. Anya gives me a hopeful glance.
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I dont like pink. Without any further word I


look away and my eyes fall on another giant mirror
hanging on the opposite wall. Again the reflection
or the woman who stares back at me makes me
cringe inside.
You have no fashion sense. Anyas low yet
angry voice hits me directly in my heart. What she
says is true. I am the last person to disagree with it.
Fashion to me is what earth is to air. We just dont
go by together.
Gimme a break sis. I finally raise my hands
in mock surrender. I need to go back home. I need
to write. This is my easiest way out.
Fine. She places the kurti back at the
clothing rack. I have to go back to office. She
says. Immediately I sense her discomfort. She looks
away when I raise my eye brows. I need to send the
company profile to a client.
Okay, cant it wait? I ask. To accentuate the
doubt in my heart, I look at the watch. Its almost
7.30, sis.
Yeah, its important. She says still not
meeting my eyes.
In such situations when you know you are
being lied to, the best thing to do is back away.
Truth eventually comes out. And I believe Anyas
truth will come out some day. Although I can guess
where she is going, I dont want to charge like a
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mad bull at her in effort to get the truth out. If


defence is stepping forward, it is best to step back,
for a while anyways.
So, I nod. Relief floods in her eyes. Fine. Just
be home on time.
I left her there, sending text furiously to
someone. I walk out of the mall. Tamas is in
Jamshedpur. Yes, thats where he lives with his
parents. And he still is not back yet. So, it is my
sister who takes care of the company. I want to
help. But, I know nothing about business. All I
know is how to write. Do I really? Had I knew
would I have gotten rejected so many times? Doubt,
yes, I have doubt. I have doubt on my ability. I have
doubt on my story telling skill. I have doubt on my
existence.
Frustration can be maddening. My pace
increases as I near my home. I can see mom
standing at the balcony looking down. Her face
breaks into a smile as she sees me. This is what I
come back to every day. This is what keeps me and
my sister going. She is the oxygen that keeps my
heart beating.
Today, I surprise myself by hitting the floor.
Well not literally. I went down with all my vigour
to work out. Once I specialized in diamond push up.
Today I want to see if I can get close to it.
Nah, its not that easy.

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So, I dont push myself beyond five. Had you


seen me, you would have known that five push up
in this shape is too many. Waaayyy too many.
Anyways.
In the end my writing calls me away from
weight loss. Guilt keeps nagging me in the depth of
my soul. But, I suppress it by saying that writing is
more important to me than working out. I am a
writer after all, not a body builder or a model for
Gods Sake.

Gia,
Hey there. Sorry I sort of disappeared. Which
was unintentional? I did not want to desert you.
Frankly, I feel terrible for doing it. But, my
schedule keeps me busy so much that I cannot think
of anything else. This lifestyle magazine will take
my life. Kaustav that is my boss is ready to
slaughter me. He does not understand that I have a
life.
He does not understand that any of us have a
life to speak for. He wants us to work and die on the
floor. Sorry for the outburst. I did not mean it to
happen like this.
What I wanted to say, I missed you. I missed
writing to you. Your lettersI mean your mails
kept me going. They were like flicker of light in the
gloom. And to them I clung to. Each day I rush to
office thinking in the back of my mind when I will
log on to the net and read your mail.
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Do you know, after a long time I saw my


mom in dream. Her face I was forgetting. It was
slipping past my mind. But, last night I saw her,
smiling down at me.
Its been such a long time that I have seen her.
And you know the saddest part; I will never see her
ever in this life. So the dream is special to me. And
you are the only person in this world with whom I
can share it.
You might think I am acting like a child,
crying for my mom. But, to be true, I do cry for her.
Tomorrow is her birthday and I have nothing to
give to her. This hurts more than anything else.
I am sorry for the emotional bullshit. But.
Sometimes I cant help acting out of my character.
Gia, even if I fail to write to you, please dont
stop writing to me. Please stay in touch. I have
forgotten how it felt like to be alive without your
existence in my life.
I will be back soon. Till then stay safe and
have loads of fun.
For a long time I stare at the screen. My heart
twists. Emotion, pain and something else I cannot
recognize keep churning from the depth of my soul.
I blink a couple of times to keep the tears from
flowing out. This is new. I dont cry reading mails
of a man I havent seen in physical world.

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There is nothing usual in this situation. Of


course, you must have a pen pal sometimes in your
life. You must have fancied yourself in love with
someone you havent seen. I agree. But, for me this
is the first time that I feel this connected to someone
who just exists through his words.
I dont want to complicate my life. Its an
easy and comfortable journey I always hoped for.
Yes, you can laugh at me for choosing to be a writer
when I wanted it easy. But, you know what we
dont choose to be what we are. Our fate makes us
this way. It is in our destiny to create plots and
characters. Blessed are the souls who can walk
away. I cant. Maybe I am cursed.
Tamass voice rings in my head You are not
only obsessed, you are cursed by imagination. This
is all you can think. You are not fit to be a life
partner.
Yet, he still is with me. Who else will feed
him twice a day and take care of his booze at the
end of the month? I just wish God sends a slut with
easy access to G spot. So, I can dump this
wonderful creation of nature on her.

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Chapter Seventeen
Samrat Bhatia
Just a few more steps and I will be with her. I
will see her face. I will hold her tight. And I will
never let her go. Few more steps. Today, I will
wake up only after seeing her face.
My fingers halt on the keyboard. I cannot type
any longer. Where will I go with this story line?
There is nothing more to write about. So, I turn my
head to check the time. Shock jolts through my
body at the sight of the clock 11:11. Immediately
I lean forward to take a look at my computer. Its
11.50 pm. Again I turn to look at the clock. Yes,
11:11. Whats with the time?
That clock is not working. Amrit Agrawal,
the new editors voice comes from not far away
from me. Tiredness reflects from his tone. And
when I tear my gaze away from the clock to look at
him, I find him sitting hunched in his chair. Hard
day. But, I cannot show mercy. He needs to hit his
deadline.
Can I go home? he asks with hope.
I look down at him. You know your word
count target?
Yes, I do.

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What is it? I ask though I know.


Five thousand per day.
How many of words have you written so
far? I ask.
Three. I can see his face turning crimson.
You gotta come early tomorrow. He nods.
And write two thousand extra words. He nods
again. Dont be an idiot. No one can write seven
thousand words a day. I snap. Focus guys. This is
an important project. I shake my head in disgust.
Now, go home. I will talk to Kaustav.
I stand in the parking lot looking for my
motorcycle. Then it comes back to me. I havent
brought it today. Its in service centre. Fuck.
For a moment I stand undecided. What the
fuck should I do now? How am I goanna get back
home? From a distance I see a head light
approaching me. Ria comes to stop before me. Her
eyes smile at me.
Forgot something Sam? she asks.
Yeah my bike.
Where do you stay? she asks.
Sanjvee
I live nearby. She smiles at me. You gotta
ride behind though.

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I dont mind. I say. Any other time I would


have flirted with her and sit close. Today I just
cannot bring myself to do it.
When is your date of birth? I ask. Dont ask
me why.
11th November.
Holy shit! 11:11. I need to do something about

this number. Or, I will go crazy.


Empty streets zoom past us along with lone
riders. We go ahead in comfortable silence, both
lost in our own projected world. I want to get out. I
want to run out. Life seems to be closing down on
me. It is surrounding me like a thick black snake. I
cannot breath.
These bouts, unfamiliar they might be, seem
my own. Pain even though uncalled for make me
feels alive. Why am I suffering? Is it because I am
away from her? Is it because she has a boyfriend? I
cannot bring myself to think about it. Why?
Numerous times I have felt like looking up and
asking God why does this happen to me? Over and
over again why this similar pain, similar journey?
Why?
Do you have a girlfriend? Ria asks.
Do I have one? Yes, I have. I hear myself
saying. She is a writer. I add. She is from
Kolkata. Why the fuck am I saying all these? All
the lies. Yet they seem so real.
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Writer Ria asks. I feel her smile rather than


see it.
Yeah writer, she writes mystery.
So, a mysterious woman huh. She smiles
again.
Yeah, you can say so.
Back at home, I still think of the lies. She is
not my girlfriend. She has a man in her life. Why
the fuck I cannot seem to accept the fact. Each time
I think about her with someone else, a jolt of pain
shoots through my chest. The maddening fact is the
feeling does not vanish. It remains inside my heart.
It is there. It keeps reminding me of the dream that
cannot be mine. Yet, my heart refuses to accept the
truth.

Sam,
I am glad you have finally written back. I
cannot remember waiting for something as fiercely
as I have waited for your letterI mean email. I
finally can breathe easy now.
If I say I understand your pain of losing your
parents, you might not believe me. But, I do. I do
understand what you are going through. I
understand what you might be feeling. This is what
I feel all the time as well. I miss my father. Though
I dont talk about it, to anyone, I miss him every
day.

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I miss fighting with him. I miss talking to


him. I miss looking into his eyes and watching my
victory and defeat both reflecting down there. I miss
having him by my side.
I dont remember his face. Its only his voice
that keeps me going. Each time I am sad, each time
I am down, each time life becomes too hard to take,
his voice rises, from the depth of my soul. He tells
me to hang on. And I do.
In this life I have only met critics, people who
are ready to pull me down and keep me there. Yet, I
survived. And I will survive. And you will keep
getting my emails as long as I do low. That my dear
is not a promise, it is a warning. You have got me
for life loll. Meaning as long as my life continues.
Dont worry I am not going to die yet. I am
going to live. I am going to live to write. I am going
to get published and most importantly, I am going to
meet you in person before dying.
Hey, take a break and come down to Kolkata.
We will have some fun together. I will wait for your
emails. Try to jot down a few lines at least. Make
my day.
Stay safe. And write back.
I blink, trying to fight the sudden stinging in
my eyes. My vision blur for a moment. It is not her
pain, making my soul twist. It is rather something
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coming from deep within. To tame the suffocating


numbness, I massage my chest, hoping for a
moments respite. But, it does not vanish. If
anything, it rises. It does till I choke.
Without bothering to switch off the laptop, I
press the power switch. In the shadowy gloom of
my room, I stare at the dark screen. Is it stress? I ask
myself. Is it sign of upcoming depression? Or is it
something else? Something deeper than any clinical
ailment.
With this question in my mind, I climb in my
bed. Like a ball I curl to one side and rock myself to
sleep. I remember feeling like this for days after I
lost my entire family to that one truck. It is familiar,
yet, more intense.
Before drifting, I open my heart and let one
last prayer out from the deepest depth of my soul
please bring a slut to her boyfriends life. Free her
for me.

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Chapter Eighteen
Gia Mukherjee

Life beats you down. It breaks you to pieces.


It chokes you. It drains you out of your last breath.
But, you gotta stay alive. You gotta make it. It aint
how hard you can hit. Its how hard you can get hit.
Take the pain and move forward.
With the Rocky Balboa punch line I end my
blog post. With the frustration down on paper, I feel
lighter. Yet, something is down there. Emptiness, I
have never known before keeps vibrating down the
soul.
Its not heaviness inside my head. Its just a
sense of heaviness down the heart. Choking
sometimes, engulfing the others. Breathing
exercises only increase the intensity.
Gia, calls Rahul. Now what?
I turn back to look at him, not bothering to
answer.
Sir wants to see you. He looks at me with
amused eyes.
Why? I ask.
Only sir can tell you.
Okay. I rise from my chair eyeing Ratul.
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Keep your cool, Mitali whispers.


Be cool. Be cool. I keep chanting while
rushing out of the room. Our boss, yeah we call him
boss. He has a strange notion of life. He thinks
females dont work. He feels if you can write 2000
words today, you should be able to write 2500
tomorrow. The SEO executives take frequent smoke
breaks and they work. We take a stroll after 5 for 10
minutes and we dont work. Life of a content writer,
you know.
They say content is the king. What they dont
say is that the writers are the slaves.
Sir, I say taking a peek inside.
Come in. from the tone of his voice you
would not guess what he feels or how he might
react. So, I amble inside. My eyes fall on the wall
clock behind the boss, it is 11:11. I remember
noticing this number before. What I dont remember
is where I have seen it. Have a seat.
Yes, something is definitely wrong. Carefully,
I pull out a chair and congratulate myself for not
making any sound.
You are going out of control, says the boss
the moment my ass touches the chair. Oh fuck.
Sir I feign innocence.
Yeah you are not working with the right
attitude.
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I smell a rat called Ratul behind this. Sir,


who said it Ratul? I ask. Due to the emotional state
I am in or due to the person I am evolving into, my
temper seem to be rising all the time. And today, I
let it out.
Not exactly Defensive, yet
Sir, if Ratul does not like my work let him
say so to my face. I will get another job. And it
would not take me more than a week.
Yes. I said it. Yes. To my boss. No. I cannot
take them back. So, I push myself away from the
table, rise to my feet and excuse myself.
My fingers drum on the keyboard in front of
me. Words, since 8 in the morning I have been
searching for them. Unfortunately, even after 10.30,
I am still searching. This is disarming. Irritating
even. Yet, nothing forms in my mind.
Vibration of my cell phone gets my attention.
Mitali. Hey. I try to smile through the emptiness
of my voice. It is not just my heart echoing silence;
my voice has turned hollow as well.
Hey. Hows you? she asks. An unmistakable
sadness vibrates in her voice.
Doing fine I pause for a moment. Then ask,
Hows the gang? Gang is our team of content
writers.

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They all are missing you, she says. Her


voice trails for a minute. What made you say those
things?
This question keeps coming back time and
again. The last two days I have spent wondering it.
What I havent found yet, is an answer. I dont
know. I just said.
Sound of heavy breathing comes from the
opposite side. I could see Mitali blinking tears. Yes,
I miss her too. Thats your problem Gia, you just
say. You never think. She pauses. You are so
much like me.
Hows Ratul? I ask. Happy that I am gone.
Beaming in delight Mitalis voice drops
down to whispering level. Yesterday he wrote a
blog post for an US client. He wrapped it up with
We should take care so the clients can rest in
peace.
Rest in peace? I ask. RIP? Does he know?
Well, now he does. Mitali sighs.
Our project manager huh. I laugh. Lets
meet up this weekend.
This Mitali likes. Yeah sure. Lets go for a
movie.
With that promise, I disconnect the phone.
Yes, you got it. I have lost my job. The boss has
cleared my salary of the month and the next. The
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golden hand shake, you know? So, I have money


right at the moment. What I dont have is a way.
True, I will be able to get a job. Anytime. All I gotta
do is uploading my CV. The calls will keep coming.
But, somehow, I have failed to apply.
Rather than wasting time, trying to write
anything else, I move to the balcony. Sun has
decided to stay hidden behind the veil of clouds.
Smell of wet soil would have cheered me up in
some other time, but, today, I remain as detached as
a viewer watching a 3D movie.
The only task I have performed like a ritual is
writing to Sam. Like dragging air in my lungs, I
need to write to him. It is so much like writing
letters to me. He does not reply most of the time.
But, that hardly makes any difference. For the
solace of my heart, I keep the words going.
You want to eat something? Mom asks from
behind. My heart skips a beat at the sudden
intrusion. Even though she stands inches away from
me, I havent heard her coming. James Bond can
learn this trick from my mom.
No, I am not hungry.
Moms face tightens. She looks at me without
saying a word. Then her quiet voice grips my heart.
You havent eaten anything last night either.
Memory of last night is a blur. When I come
to think about everything else has blurred in my
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mind. What remains is the moment I am standing


in. The only truth. And the pain. Another truth. I
draw a lungful of air again just to relieve the
heaviness of heart. But, it the pain remains.
Moms eyes scan my face. Your skin has
tanned.
Now, this is something. No one can claim that
I am fair. Dusky maybe. But, not fair. Getting
tanned means going the before state of fairness
cream advertisement. Besides, I dont go out in the
sun. When I fail to say anything, my mother retreats
leaving me ?.
This is Shubha Das, Anya says to me
pointing to a female standing at the corner of a
square room with fading green paint. The assistant
branch manager. Tamas uses this apartment as his
office and makeshift home. But, you know what? I
fear that he will use this as his home for the rest of
his life. Now, you see why I want to stay
unmarried?
Who hired her? I ask, not really caring for
the answer.
We both did, Anya says. Tamas wants a
manager who will take care of this branch.
Really? He wants to branch out? I ask.
Funny, you cannot run one branch properly and you
are actually planning to set up another one.

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Anya gives me a please-dont-laugh look


before nodding. Yeah, he is planning to.
Gimme credit, congratulate me for not rolling
my eyes at this. But, the prospect seems funny.
Branching out huh. Where is Tamas? I ask.
Went out for tea.
Tea? Okay, that explains his absence. Tea is
very important.
Have a seat, Anya says. I have a proposal
for you.
Ever the business person, she always has a
proposal and solution for every problem. Though I
am not in state to hear anything or comment on
anything, I pull a chair to sit.
Madam, calls Shubha. She comes close to
Anya with a cell phone in her hand. Mr.Tribruwal
wants to talk to you.
As Anya speaks in the phone, I take a moment
to study Shubhas face. You ever seen the rear end
of a pig? No? You should see her face. Its the same
effect. The tragic fact of her looks is she is fair. Too
fair. And her fairness is like daylight highlighting
her ugliness. She gives me a not so welcoming
glance before ambling away. Whats her problem, I
wonder.
Hey, a male voice calls. I turn to see Tamas
the boss walking in. His face beams at the sight of
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me. You would think he is really happy to see me. I


want to tell him I dont have a job, so cannot
sponsor his booze anymore.
He comes close and brushes his thumb on my
cheek then goes straight for Shubha. Whats the
news? he asks. Shubha leans forward to study
something when Tamas pokes her in the stomach.
She gives a scream and jumps up to her feet.
Hmmm I think. What kind of a woman allows
her boss to poke her like that? This I wisely dont
voice. Surprisingly I feel no pang of jealousy either.
Besides, who would like to go around with an early
fifty lookalike? A small voice from inside says
Tamas. This too I ignore.
Anya comes into the office. Tribruwal cant
pay us now, she says. I think we have to visit him
once.
Tamas looks at her. His bloodshot eyes
remain steady for a while. Then he shakes his head.
I wont go for payment collection.
But Anya tries to speak.
I wont Anya, Tamas yells.
His voice echoes in the tiny room. Shubha and
two other girls working as recruiters halt to stare. I
look at Anyas tightening jaw. She nods and turns to
walk away.
Guilt grips my heart. For the first time in
many days I feel something other than the
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emptiness. She is going through this because of me.


I brought Tamas and I am the one responsible for
the mess.
Madam, I will come with you. Shubha
comes to stand beside Tamas. I again experience a
hmmm moment. Again I say nothing.
Sis I have to talk to you. Anya looks at me.
Yeah
Not here. She avoids looking at Tamas. This
she does when she is angry. She will make you feel
like a piece of furniture. We walk out.
You have lost your job right?
Dont remind me. I miss my gang. I was so
happy. I almost cry out. Yeah
I have a writing project. This will earn us
forty thousand. You will get fifteen.
Anyone would have jumped at the offer. But,
you are not dealing with just about anyone, are you?
Do I have to work from home? I ask. That will
kill my productivity.
No, you can sit in our office and work from
here as well.
Gimme a day to think about it.
I turn to look at the office. Tamas stands by
the door, Shubha inches away from him. They seem
to be engulfed in some serious conversation. Anya
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does not notice what I do. The chemistry is


unmistakable. Yet, jealousy does not clutch my
heart. Am I for real? With the question nagging in
my heart, I walk back home.

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Chapter Nineteen
Samrat Bhatia

By now, I believe you have all understood


the vision we have for this project? Kaustav says.
He leans back against the wall and looks at us all
with his usual calmness.
Though everyone nod their heads in
agreement, I know they have no idea about any
vision. I also know they dont even believe this
project will last for more than a half dozen months.
But, fear keeps them quiet.
So, to propel the project forward, the editors
will also help the writers. He pauses. Dont freak
out. You wont have to write. You will just teach
them to write.
Teach them, Ria says. How
Kaustav throws an impatient glance at her.
Each morning one of you will sit with them and
train them. You can take turns in this tutorial. Or,
you can select one of the editors to work as a
trainer.
Great idea, says Amrit. He flashes a smile so
loaded with joy that we all look away in
embarrassment. But, Kaustav to train people to
write we need people who at least have idea about
the language. He pauses. Lately, my English is
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going downhill due to the crap I read all day long.


To make the matter worse, I dont get time to read
literature to purify my soul.
If they dont have any idea about the
language, you have to give them ideas. Never
before I have heard Kaustav speak so low. It hits its
mark and Amrit nods. And exactly from when we
are going to start this tutorial? His eyes roam and
touch each one of our faces.
Tomorrow morning, Ria says when no one
shows any effort to answer.
Kaustav smiles, Correct.
How are we going to tutor the writers and
then finish our work? Ria whispers the question.
Her eyes roam around the room to find if anyone
watches us talking in low tones. Nope, none notices
us.
Dont ask me. In my mind I keep crafting
my next article. I will write about the entrepreneurs.
The first years struggle will be a great story. I gotta
outline the article. Ask the big boss. It is already
past 7 in the evening and I am craving for
something to make me feel alive. Yes, Gias mail
would have helped. But, today I have not found
anything from her side. Making a mental note to
check later on, I move out for a smoke.
Why have you stopped eating? Kaustavs
voice stops me on my track. What are you trying to
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prove anyways? Standing with my hand on the


doorknob I ask myself, should I walk out or should
I go back to my seat. Do I really need a smoke right
now?
I wont eat, Kritika says. Till the time you
tell me whats going on between you and Nikita.
Jeez Kritika, she is handling a brand new
project. I need to guide her.
Fine but you dont have to smile at her all the
time, right?
Smile all the time huh? This time I turn the
knob and walk out. To fuck with them and their
love life. Kritika turns to glare at me, her signature
gesture. The glaring conscience.
I am going out for a while, I say to Kaustav.
Embarrassed at the intrusion, he nods. His
face looks flushed. So, someone can rattle Kaustav.
I chuckle silently. The two stand facing each other,
waiting for me to go out of ear shot distance. What
a couple, I almost shake my head.
Outside I light a cigarette and lean back
against a tree. Far away full moon floats on the
bosom of the sky. Her silvery ray washes over the
street. In times like this when moon blooms in her
full vigour, my mind wanders back to the days of
childhood. Tales my mother used to tell me come
back.

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My phone vibrates. The trance shatters. Fuck.


I fish the device out, expecting Kaustav. But, its
Ria. Yeah what? My voice sounds sharp. I am still
not out of the fantasy land yet. This I am going to
write to her tonight. You must have noticed how I
avoid taking her name. Each time I do, my heart
aches a little. Yeah a little, but it aches. Will we
ever be together? Our meeting though unusual
might not mean anything. She has a man in her life.
Why do I have to remind me this all the time?
Ria is saying something. Yeah sure, I
mutter.
Sam, I am asking you something. Her stern
voice finally penetrates my mind.
What? I ask.
Where are you? she asks. I am starving.
She is starving, how I can help subduing her
hunger. Before I can stop myself the question
comes flooding out of my mouth. You want to eat
me or what?
A squall of laughter booms from the other
side of the phone. To be frank, it sounds good to
me. Yeah, if I can. Her sing song voice gets me
smile too.
For the first time in months, the fog of
heaviness thins a bit. I drag air in my lungs, feeling
light. Today, I am going to write a lengthy letter to

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her. It has been a while since I have written


anything to her.
So, you want to go out for a sandwich?
There is no shortage of sandwich shops in FC
road. Usually crowd start thickening after 7. Some
come around to munch. Some just stroll by seeking
company. Right now, I am seeking nothing. Food
no. Company nope.
Nah, I am not hungry. Besides I have loads
of work to do. Today I am going to hit the shack
before midnight. With the vow, I disconnect the
phone.
Thirty minutes later, I hear the growl. It
comes from deep down my stomach. I should have
gone for the sandwich. Right after the thought
escapes my mind, I feel a nudge at my arm. I turn
my head to see Ria standing by the desk. In her
hand is a box.
Sandwich, she says, placing it down before
me.
Should I say thank you? Then I decide against
it. How do you know I am hungry? I ask.
How would I know? she asks. I got it for
free with mine. So brought along it
Oh, I should have guessed. But, I give her one
of my grins anyways. For hours I have been trying

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to log on to my mail. Now armed with the


sandwich, I do. And I find her mail waiting for me.

Sam,
You have a cute name too. How are you
doing? My life is going on. Oh, I have lost my job.
They said I have attitude problem. Maybe I do have
a slight problem with my attitude. But, is it anyway
of treating someone who produces three thousand
publishable authentic words daily? Of course no.
They have no idea what they have lost.
Kidding
I am missing my friends. They have never
been colleagues. They have been friends. Unlike the
rest of the world, they have accepted me the way I
am. Anyways, they are still around. Only I am not a
part of their world anymore.
What I dont know now is what to do. Should
I look for another job? Or, should I go for
freelancing? I think freelancing is the better option
as I have to focus on my novel as well. I started
with the first draft. Only a couple of thousand words
done. But, you know this is just the honeymoon
period. The real work begins after the first draft is
done.
Do you know what that is? Well, its called
editing. I dread it. I have always dreaded it. Nothing
makes the art of writing less glorious than
mechanical editing. Of course in my case it is not
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editing. I rewrite the entire thing again. Hopefully,


this time my novel will see the light of the day.
Meaning, this time it will get published.
I will send you the draft when I feel its
decent enough to send someone. Please gimme an
honest feedback.
Uff, this whole mail I wrote in one breath.
Chal, I will write to you again. Till then be good
and write back.
Long after finishing her mail, I sit looking at
the screen. Once again, I get swept by her passion.
Intensity of her enthusiasm dominates everything
else. It is as if nothing exists to her than the craft
she wants to master at any cost.
And like always she makes me feel how
aimless my own life is. She holds a mirror in front
of me and shows me the void I try my best to
conceal. My eyes turn to look at Ria. She sits with
her head bent over her keyboard. Her eyes narrow
and mouth drawn in tight frown, editing a crap for
sure.
Hey, I call. She tears her gaze from the
screen and looks at me. Wanna have dinner with
me? I ask.
No, please dont frown. I am not dating her or
anything that foolish. Tonight, I need some
company as I eat. Someone who does not make you

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question your own existence can be a good


companion for a time being.

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Chapter Twenty
Gia Mukharjee
Aching finger tips stop me from typing. To
get some relief I rest both of my hands on the
keyboard. Before me is a screen. A word doc is
open. Few more lines and I will reach the
destination. This means I will hit todays word
count target. But, The End is far away from today. I
will get there, one word at a time.
These two words are priceless. At least to me.
Those like me who are not born with the talent,
know how much struggle a finished novel see. Each
The End calls for a celebration. No, I dont
celebrate it. Because, with The End comes a
dreading realization. I have finished writing yet
another tale. This means I am ready for yet another
set of rejections. Yet, I cannot stop. Yet, I cannot
stay away from jotting down words. Blankness
hurts. I am afflicted by the need to fill every blank
page.
How I wish to quit. How I wish I could cure
myself. But, in this life cure is not possible. If I ever
come back again, I will try to stay away. I will try
not to dream. And of course I will try not to wander
through the less travelled road.
The digital clock on the table is flashing
11:11. This I have been noticing a lot lately. What I
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forget each time is to dig deeper about the meaning


of the number. Tomorrow I will start working with
my sister and you know-who. What bothers me is
Shubhas presence in the office. Something about
her does not hit the right cord with me. But, then
again, this is a common feeling that I experience
about most of the people who crosses path with me.
For a diversion, I log on to my mail. Today
Sam does not disappoint me. He has written.
Eagerly, I open the mail.

Gia,
My dear. How are you? My life is stuck.
Dont want to sound gloomy. It feels good to write
to you. So, you are about to finish your novel huh?
After that straight publication. Wow. How about
sending me a copy of your novel? I want to read the
best seller before she even makes it to the top
selling list.
Also, I want to read something other than crap
loll.
So, how did you end up losing your job?
What propel you to get into a war of words with
your boss? Not that I blame you for losing your
cool. But, baby sometimes you gotta hold your
tongue. I have become a practiced one. You would
have been too had you met Kaustav.
Anyways, lets not talk about him.

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I also want to write something. But, I lack the


character building skill. What I have is a gift of
description. People call it the gift of exaggeration.
Maybe if keep at it, I will end up writing some
worth reading lol. I am laughing a lot lately. You
know humourless laughter. Anyways before your
life becomes humourless due to me, I will quit.
Keep writing to me. And send me your novel.
Take care.
Yeah sure I will. After sending him the doc, I
sit back and think about it. My mind craves for a
fag. Of late, smoking has become yet another one of
my vices. Frankly I dont know how many more I
will have to lug forward. Should I blame Tamas for
this downfall of mine? Nah, it is me who has gotten
me here. And I am going deeper into the pitfall each
passing day.
A shrill scream makes me halt on my track. It
has come from Anyas office, CZ Solutions. I hurry
inside to find Tamas chasing Shubha around a long
plastic table. She gives another scream as Tamas
hand reaches for her stomach for a poke.
What would you have said had your fianc
done something similar? Put a stop to the madness
of course by yelling, right? Well, I am not you. So, I
say nothing. Quietly I step back and move out of
their ways.

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Does she even know what she is inviting


home? I wonder. Nah, she does not. Poor girl.
Somebody should tell her. Well, not me though. I
have lot in mind right now and Tamas and his slut
are hardly my concerns.
Finally, after two more rounds of screaming
and running around their gazes fall upon me. Hey.
Tamas smiles. Not a single crease of embarrassment
crosses his face. Smooth as Devils tongue he
beams at me. Come in. Have a seat.
Anya says you have a project for me. I hang
by the door like outsider. Yes, I have given CZ
Solutions its name. It was me who paid five
thousand rupees when Tamas failed to arrange the
amount for job portal.
Gratification, I have no desire to ask for. But,
had his parents taught him anything other than
making demands, he might have become a better
man or rather a man who can pay for his own meal.
Yeah we do have. He moves away from the
door to invite me inside. Daylight shows a lot of
things clearly that darkness hides. In the golden hue
of sun I get a chance study Shubha better, once
again.
A fair face with narrow eyes and wide mouth
teams up with greasy hair. She is thin at the waist
and wide at ass end. Must have been humped
numerous times. I make a note to ask my sister
where this creature has come from.
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Have you met Shubha? Tamas asks.


No, I say. We havent been introduced.
Tamas reaches out to hold my hand. He pulls
me inside and turns towards Shubha. This is my
would-be Gia.
Her smile lacks any warmth but its fine with
me. I am not looking for a friend in this dismal
setting for an office. How Anya puts up with this is
a question.
How old is she? I ask my sister. We sit in
South City malls CCD. People crowd in front of
KFC, waiting for their orders to arrive. Quo gets
longer by the second. This is an inspiring sight. I
tell myself that the founder of KFC has been
rejected numerous times before making it big. If he
can, so can me.
Twenty five, Anya says. Her eyes turn
narrow as she studies the menu.
Huh? I lean forward to check whether she
kids me or not. She looks like nearing forty.
My sister sweeps me with a mocking glance
and a smile. Nope my dear. She is a young woman
of twenty five. She has been harassed by her
previous boss and thus CZ Solutions.
I see. Though I dont. I cant imagine a man
trying to force Shubha into doing something she
does not desire. She should have taken the offer of
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her boss. To get a man interested in her, she needs


to cast black magic spell.
Voodoo. Anya corrects me.
Whats your typing speed? The question
makes me turn to look at a fair childish face. The
girl smiles at me.
This is a very good question. Whats my
typing speed? I dont know. I didnt learn to type.
An expression of disbelief crosses her face at the
answer. Its true.
Wow. She beams. I wish I could type that
fast too.
From the corner of my eyes I see Shubha
looking at the keyboard. Her face reflects a sign of
disgust.
Why is she always inside your room? I ask
Tamas. Though I feel nothing it hits me somewhere
down the heart to evoke a sense of irritation.
You are jealous, Tamas says in a sing song
voice.
Have you been inside my heart you would
have understood? It is not about jealousy. It is about
victory and defeat. It is about who walks away with
the trophy, although Tamas Kar is not a trophy of
any kind.
Is it wrong to be jealous? I ask.

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Tamas reaches out to hold my hand and I step


back. No ways. I am not in the mood. With Tamas,
I am never in the mood. When I was sixteen year
old, I dated a classmate. That kid had better sense of
seduction than this creature. If you cannot make
your woman moan your name out, you should not
call yourself a man.
No. Its not. He tries to hold my hand again.
I again step back.
We sit inside CZs office. It is after 8 and
everyone has left. I hoped to go for a bike ride. But,
looking at Tamas mood, I dont think it is at all
possible. So, I decide to go home.
There is no sexual attraction between us,
Tamas says in a high pitch voice. He either shouts
in frustration or he complains in a guarded voice.
Today is the day of his screaming. You are
incapable of having sex.
How long do you go through this kind of
abuses? But, I do accept it. I also feel guilty for not
being able to give him what he wants. Feeding him
every day is not enough. Maybe I should set him
free.
You are free to go if you are not happy with
me. This I say past a large lump in my throat. To
my surprise, I feel tear drops sliding down my
cheeks.

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Stop your melodrama. Tamas comes to


stand inches away from me. I have seen and
tolerated enough of you. Yeah sure. You dont go
to office every day. You dont buy food and booze
for me. None of these I say aloud. None of these
come out of my throat. Go home and tell your
mother that I wont eat at your place tonight. Yeah,
he does us a favor by eating with us. It does not cost
me money to feed him every day.
Answer does not come out. So, I step towards
the door. Tamas calls me back. When I look over
my shoulders to gaze at his face, he gives me a
sarcastic smile. You keep setting me free. The day
I set you free, I will not take you back.
Take me backwell it gets me thinking.
Should I walk out? Should I kick the asshole from
my life? But, I cant. Had I not believed what I give
today comes back to haunt me tomorrow, I would
have ended it right here, right now. But, I am not
allowed to walk away. Like the way Duryadhan
asked for war, Tamas has to cut the last thread off
too. Or, else I am doomed for this life and the life
next.

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Chapter Twenty One


Samrat Bhatia

Oh! I rub my eyes in helplessness. Why? Why


do I always put myself into a position from where
everything can go downhill? It has been a ground
breaking question I keep asking myself. But, I never
learn. I never try to amend the errors and erase
them.
It is past two in the morning. Tomorrow is
Saturday a break from Kaustav and his endless
effort to make all our lives a living hell. So, I
prepared myself a lengthy dinner of dry chilly
chicken and Old Monk. And I decide to read Gias
novel.
Man what a mistake, I rub my eyes again
hoping it will clear my head. But, it does not. I have
asked her to send me the draft. And now I am
burdened with the responsibility of giving her an
honest feedback. What will I say to her?
No, she is not bad. Her English is good. She
writes without making any grammatical error. Yet,
something does not sound right. Her writing or her
conflict building does not have the reaching out and
grabbing the neck sort of approach. If anything I got
bored with her narration in just two pages. And she
has a problem with collective nouns as well.

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Should I tell her? Of course, I should. How


else will she improve her writing if she goes on
doing this? But, I also have to cushion the blow
with gentle words. She is high strung. Even if she
does not say so, even if she does not show her
emotion, I can feel it. Her energy is too strong.
Sometimes it repels my energy and takes over my
soul.
And this happens each time she talks about
her passion, her writing. How can someone love
something with such intensity? Once in this life, I
will love to experience that feeling of complete
devotion. But, that comes later on. I touch the
keyboard and start typing. Dont know what she
will say or how she will react to it, but as her friend
I take it as my duty to let her know.
Then an idea strikes me. Ideas always strike
me. And each time I act upon it, I get my ass
fucked. Yet, I dont learn. Instead of telling her
what I found wrong in the novel, I decide to make
some corrections. Maybe she will understand where
she is going wrong with her narration.
I am disappointed guys, I say to the pair of
eyes, thirty pairs to be exact, staring at me. What
you have written last night is not below standard.
Its so below the standard that if Dickens reads this
he would quit being a writer.
They all blink at the attack I have launched
early in the morning, surprised at the sudden
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behavioural change. Frankly, I have surprised


myself too. This should have been Kaustav saying
all these. Instead I happened by in the office before
the clock struck 10 and called for the team meeting.
Youre writing sucks. I say this to all of
them. What the fuck kaleidoscope means? I turn
to look at one of the writers. A tall guy in his bad
side of obesity called Pritam.
Colourful. His voice does not rise. But, his
glare flashes at me.
And why not colourful? Why that word? I
snap the question. In the back of my mind rings
Gias reply to the email I have sent last night. Yeah,
you are right; the lecture did not go well with her.
But, I will get to that. First lets solve this.
I was trying to be metaphoric.
Metaphoric? I ask. That moment the door of
the conference room opens and Kaustav walks in.
His eyes fall on the assembled crowd. Then he
looks at me with question in his gaze. They have
done what they shouldnt have. Wrote craps. I
inform. My voice rises. So, Pritam, thats your
name right? I ask and then proceed without waiting
for an answer. What is a metaphor?
He mumbles something. I detect a hint of
smile at Kaustavs face. What? I ask. I cant hear
you. What is a metaphor? This time no reply or

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attempt to reply comes. He keeps his eyes down and


stares at some invisible spot that none of us can see.
This docile act of avoiding a question gets my
blood boiling. I am asking you something. Fine
you dont have to tell me. I am telling you. Your
writing sounds like shit. Now, you get a metaphor.
Pritam looks up for just a fraction of moment before
dropping his gaze once again. Dont use a
metaphor if you cannot handle it. I let go of a long
breath. Now we will have to work our asses off to
get the pieces readable.
This is the reason, I was talking about the
tutorial, Kaustav says just the moment I finish
talking.
Tutorial can teach them to be a better writer.
Tutorial cannot control their intellectual arrogance.
Yes, intellectual arrogance, thats what she has got.
The problem with Gia is she thinks she is very good
when her writing can only pass as average. To make
the matter worse, she is not willing to learn from
her mistakes.
This time Kaustav looks down at his hand.
When he looks up his face lacks any hint of smile.
In fact he looks tired. Kritika is surely wearing him
out. For a second I feel pity for the man. But, then it
vanishes as quickly. Guys. He faces the team.
This magazine is important. To me, to the
company. We need to get it launched and make it a

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hit among readers. If you dont work hard, we fail.


And I refuse to fail.
With the quality of writers they are hiring, the
magazine is destined to fail. Cant we hire people
who lack fondness for metaphor?
This time Kaustav smiles. His face brightens
up but then the fire dies. Why did you write it? he
asks. Big words dont help.
They dont make you sound wise either, I
cannot help adding. If anything you appear to be a
show off.
Sams is right, Kaustav says. I keep my eyes
down, afraid to meet the stare of my team. Kaustav
and me teaming against them, is a scene from a
fantasy movie. And it is taking place in the moment.
But, trust me I have no desire to join
Kaustavs team. If anything I still hate this man and
will gladly get his ass royally fucked if fate bestows
the chance upon me. Yet, here I am shouting at the
team with top of lungs.
Get back to work, Kaustav dismisses the
meeting with a final wave of his hand. Sam hold on
a moment.
Gosh, I am not in the mood to tolerate another
one of Kaustav session. My head buzzes already
and its not even 12 in the noon yet. As demanded I
drop my ass on one of the chairs and wait till they
all disappear.
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Learn to stay calm Sam. Kaustav tells me


when we find ourselves alone in the room.
Have you read what they have written in last
couple of days? I ask.
From the expression of Kaustavs face I can
understand that he hasnt gone through any of the
articles so far. Lucky him. No.
Good for you. I crack my knuckles. They
all need rewriting, not editing.
You want another team? he asks after a
lengthy pause.
What I want does not matter. What the
magazine needs matters right? I ask. If it runs at
the same pace and they keep working the way they
are working right now, we will be launching the
magazine in the next millennium. With the heels of
my hands I rub my eyes. Even the editors need to
work properly.
Yeah, I agree. This I should have recorded.
First time in two years, Kaustav agrees with me
about something. I think you should head the
editorial team.
Me? Now, that comes as a surprise. I am
not capable enough to head this team. Frankly I
just dont want to be the scapegoat in this corporate
game.
Oh you are. He smiles at me. You can
handle it. I know.
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Since Kastav thinks so, I have nothing else to


say about it. It would have been nice had the uplift
came with a pay hike.
As if reading my mind, Kaustav says, And
you get a hike next month for the added
responsibility.
That is fine, I say, sitting back, suddenly
feeling drained. But, dont depend on me too
much. This comes as a surprise, more to me than
Kaustav. I might not stick around for a long time.
Ever the frosty king Kaustav does not even
blink. Instead he flashes yet another tired smile at
me. You are not quitting tomorrow are you?
No, not tomorrow. Even in the morning I
did not know I am about to quit.
Maybe not even next month or next year, he
says. Take the responsibility. This comes as
another surprise. He did not order me. Rather he
requested.

Sam,
Thank you for the corrected pieces. I did not
know I have wasted my good years being a bad
writer. Had you not happened by, I would not have
realized either. You said my writing is boring. That
I put too much emotion in the story line and drags
the plot on. So, can you please tell me how I can
make myself write like Stephen King or rather write
like you do
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Anyways, please keep sending more corrected


pieces. I will be waiting.
This mail she has sent at 5.30 in the morning.
Short, snappy and rude. I dont know what got her
so pissed. I dont even know what she was doing up
so early in the morning. She is not an early riser by
far.
By the end of another hectic day, I find
myself sitting in the darkness, with the glow of my
laptop upon my face, editing her novel. Dont ask
me why I am still at it. Dont ask me why after the
angry mail, I feel like doing it. Dont ask me,
because I dont know. What I know is rewriting her
tale gives me kind of peace I never knew possible.
While doing this I can forget everything else and
become a new man altogether.

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Chapter Twenty Two


Gia Mukharjee

Corrected pieces huh? I fume inside. Dont


ask me what makes me so angry. Dont ask me why
I banged the words down like that and hit the send
button. I dont even know Sam well enough to
behave like that to him. Yet, it seems like I know
him. Everything about him is so familiar. Is it
because he is so much like me, I am feeling like
this? Or is it something else?
My fingers drum on the keyboard. Today I
have made an exception by not sending Sam a mail.
The result is a feeling of emptiness. It seems like I
am detached from my own soul. That I have not
talked to myself since the morning.
From the corner of my eyes I see Shubha
sitting with a blank expression on her face. This, I
have noticed, is a permanent expression that she
reflects all the time. It is as if nothing makes sense
to her.
Tamas walks in from wherever he has ambled
by in the morning. And Shubha leans forward. She
wears formal, short sleeve shirts with upper two
buttons down. So, whenever she leans forward she
shows a very developed part of her body. You get
the point? Cool. To be frank she leans a lot each

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time Tamas passes by. Whether he notices or not I


hardly have any idea.
Real men cannot be stolen. I have read it
somewhere. And this worries me a lot. You know
why? Well, real men buy their own food too. Since
Tamas does not, the quote might not be applicable
for him.
Anya maam, Sweety, the junior recruiter
calls over phone. We need to talk to you.
Anya has gone to a client meeting. Most of
the meetings she attends. Tamas? Well, he has
defied Lord Krishnas own words. Krishna has said
life without action is not possible. You gotta see
Tamas Kar to know how wrong those words have
been. Life without action huh? But, then again
playing candy crush is action, I guess.
After the conversation Sweety disconnects the
phone and comes to sit close to me. You know,
she says in a low voice. Today I have lost 100
bucks.

Lost? I narrow my eyes. Is this the first


time? Dont ask me why I have a feeling that she
has lost money in this office premise before. But, I
keep it inside my soul.
No, I have lost more than 1000 bucks, she
says. All of us have lost money here.

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Hmmm. When was the first time you lost


money here? I carefully keep myself from uttering
the word stolen.
First time Sweety looks up trying to
recollect. It was two days before Shubha came.
That means one and half month.
Almost she nods.
I look at Tamas. He stands close to the front
door, his head bent on his smartphone (his fathers
gift to him), playing candy crush. No, I dont want
to say it. I dont even want to think about it. But, I
have my doubt. Cant be. Cant be.
I look down and begin typing. My mind goes
back to the stealing incident. Who can steal money
from the recruiters bags? They keep their bags
inside and people only access the room to go to
bathroom. What I dont want to think is, sometimes
Tamas locks the door and goes to sleep in the
middle of the working hour in that very room.
Who do you think is stealing money? I ask
Anya. We are in our usual place, CCD of South
City Mall.
Anya twirls a lime coloured straw to melt the
ice cream of her Devils Own. She says nothing.
Her silence keeps solidifying the nagging doubt in
my mind. Cant be. I say to myself.
One of the recruiters, she says after a while.
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This time I reach for the straw of my Choco


Frappe. After twirling it a couple of times I look at
her. You think its Tamas?
A smile plays on her face. He does not run
out of money. I have noticed it. Even when
registration money does not come, he carries a
loaded wallet.
Cant be. Yet
I gotta keep my purse close, I guess, I say
under my breath.
You have handed over your purse to him a
long time ago sis, Anya says. Its him who
controls your money. Not you.
Truth hurts. But, then again, I have put myself
in the position. This exploitation, yes it is
exploitation, though Tamas will not agree. To him
exploitation means sex and he is not getting any
from me. He gotta learn to be a human first before
he gets any from me.
I hate summer. Yeah, pretty funny, you know.
You are born and brought up in Kolkata. Yet, you
hate summer. This is the dominating season of the
city after all. Winter does not last more than a
couple of days. Even a couple of days cold is a
refreshing respite. Anyone who loves winter should
find another city to live, not Kolkata.
But, my love for Kolkata is greater than my
love for winter. I will never be able to settle
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anywhere else in this world. You take me away, I


will still come back. You keep me tied, I will tear
everything to return.
Yes, that much I love this city. Despite
everything, the dirt, the potholes, the people who
dont know how to walk the street, Kolkata runs
through my veins. It beats against my ribs. It makes
me look forward to a brand new day. Here I was
born. And here I am going to die. Only if we had
more days of winter.
I hate Kolkata, Tamas declares.
My eyes rise for a fraction of second, before
going back to the screen. Kolkata is very upset. We
Kolkatas will try to kill ourselves because you
dont love our city. With carefully projected
calmness I touch the keys and begin typing. Dont
get hyper. I say to myself.
Its so sticky. He wipes sweat from his
forehead. Its impossible to survive here. And that
Kolkata mentality
Yeah, even I cannot tolerate their mentality,
Chips in Shubha.
This must feel good, I think, to have a
permanent cheerleader who will agree with
anything you say or think. Is there anything Tamas
feels or thinks that Shubha does not agree with? I
truly doubt it.

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Tamas looks at her and flashes a smile.


Anyone with right mind set will hate Kolkata. His
voice is just high enough to tick me. Any other day
I would have worn my armour and would have gone
fighting. But, today I have no desire to fight with
him, not over Kolkata, not even over John Grisham.
So, my gaze remains on the screen and my fingers
keep going. I need a job, I tell myself. I need to get
out of this hell.
Anyways, Tamas opens his mouth in a wide
yawn. I am going inside for a while. Dont disturb
me. With that he disappears inside the bedroom
and shuts the door. And it is only 12.30 pm in the
morning.
I look at Anyas neutral face. Had you been
here you would have felt it. A storm of rage brews
inside her, though she does not show. A twinge of
guilt passes through my heart again. Its me who
has put everyone in this situation. If only I could go
back and undo what I have done. But, I cant. I am
stuck. I am stuck till someone takes this load off my
shoulders. Someone crazy enough to love a loser or
someone desperate enough to accommodating him
between her legs.
Right now, I can do only one sensible thing. I
updated my CV and uploaded it in Naukri.
Someone will call me soon. Someone has to. Before
walking out of the office, I check my email once.
Dont ask me what I expect each time I take a sneak
peek. But, every now and then I log in and check
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my email. Maybe he has written back. But, for the


last five days we are not talking to each other. This
detachment hurts. But, I cannot blame him. It was
me who had waged the war.

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Chapter Twenty Three


Samrat Bhatia

You are just under work pressure or you are


just going through some bad phase of life? Ria asks
me.
We sit facing each other in a rooftop caf near
our office. Her face reflects curiosity and something
else I dont recognize. Lately she does not pay
attention to Kaustav. It is me her entire self is
devoted to. Though I dont mind the attention,
sometimes she just chokes me. Like now. She has
dragged me here after office.
Work pressure I guess, I say, focusing on
the sky and the stars rather than Rias probing gaze.
She places her elbows on the table and leans
slightly forward. You are fighting with your
girlfriend aint you? she asks. Her eyes shine with
amusement or pleasure.
Girlfriend A long breath escapes my heart.
Today, I regret the lie. Yet, it has been told and I
need to play along. Nothing of that sort. Yeah we
are sort of going through a rough period.
Hmm. She looks down to gaze at her coffee.
You should take a break and go meet her. Long
distance relationships are difficult to handle.

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This seems funny to me. Really? I ask. You


are quite a relationship expert aint you?
I read Nicholas Sparks. She smiles at me.
How can I compete with this knowledge? I
read John Grisham, I say.
Grisham she wrinkles her nose. I dont
understand him.
This is a fact. You need to have high IQ to
understand Grisham. Is my argument to those who
say Grisham is technical?
Oh! Yeah, she reaches out and gives me a
playful shove across the table.
Oh! Yeah, I play along, enjoying her
company and the innocent chitchat devoid of any
expectation.
Tell me about her. She says after a couple of
sips from her coffee.
Her? I stop for a beat to absorb the demand.
She adjusts her thick glasses to fix a steady gaze at
me.
Yeah her. She repeats her demand. How is
she? What she looks like? What she writes? Why
you two are fighting? Tell me everything.
Tell her everything. Now, I have to fabricate
some facts. Although I feel like I know Gia, I dont
really know her. And this teenage crush can get me

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at the wrong end of others jokes. Well, we met


through a social media site. Which is true?
Nowadays, every couple meets through
social media site. Her expert comment makes me
smile again. True, nowadays every couple meets
through social media site, either Facebook or some
other site. Gone are the days of public chat rooms.
Then what happened?
We find that we are too similar. We both like
the same things. We both find crowd boring. Even
when we met we both were reading the same
author. Hearing myself I find it hard to believe that
two people can be so similar. You might laugh at
me but it feels that we are the same people, only
different names and bodies. Okay there is difference
too she knows where she wants to go. She knows
what she wants from life. I dont. I pause. I am yet
to find out.
Ria keeps her eyes fixed on me, her stare
steady, almost unnerving. Then she asks a question
which makes me inhale sharp. You are seeing
11:11 everywhere? There is a touch of smile at her
face. But, she does not look like she is joking.
Yes, I am. I say, careful now. How does she
know?
And it had started right after you two met
right?
Yeah
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You seeing 11:11 so many times that you


think you are going crazy or something, right?
Right. I lean forward, coffee forgotten now.
Whats going on?
Instead of answering she leans back and looks
at me through her glasses. Is she really your
girlfriend or you are just trying to fake it till you
make it?
Now, thats something. Seems like she knows
everything. Why not tell her the truth? Huh, well.
We havent met
Physically yet. She takes away my words
and finishes what I was about to hesitatingly say.
Yeah For the last two months I am
exchanging emails with her. Now, I feel like a fool.
So much for growing up, I think.
And she is in Kolkata. Rias smile spreads.
She again reaches out but this time she pats my
hand. Does she have a boyfriend or husband?
Caught, I feel like a kid with candies in my
hand. But, from the look of her face she appears to
know everything. Yes, she does have a boyfriend.
Cool. With two large sips she finishes off
her coffee and raises her hand to call one of the
waiters. Another cold coffee. Once the order is
placed she turns to face me. Samrat, my dear, you

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wo are the chosen ones for a very unusual


experience of life.
What experience. I finish my coffee too and
place order for another one.
Souls connection
I dont think I get you. A fairy tale is about
to come this way. But, she has been banged on to
the most of the facts and guessed things right. I
think whatever she is about to say is worth hearing
out.
We live nearby, she says. Have dinner with
me.
No thanks, I deny. I will buy something on
the way.
I want you to meet my grandparents. I live
with them.
Her grandmother opens the door. She is a
small woman in her late sixties or early seventies.
Her silver hair was loose on her shoulders,
complementing her white knee length gown.
Looking down at her face, the storm within calmed.
She glows like the stars.
Hi honey, she says with a wide smile. Her
eyes brighten at the sight of Ria. Come on in.
We step inside. This is my grandmother
Tamara. Ria looks up at me with a smile. And

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granny this is Samrat Bhatia. He will eat with us


tonight.
Even if her grandmother is bothered by the
prospect of feeding a healthy young man, she does
not show it. Her face keeps reflecting the same glow
of pleasure. I guess joy is a permanent reflection of
that face. Please come in son.
Its a tiny cottage type house. Bright oil
paintings hang from the sitting rooms walls.
Though I know nothing of art or colours, the
paintings strike me as high quality. I step closer to
take a better look.
Landscapes Bright, colourful and dreamy
landscapes stare back at me. The world around me
vanishes. Ria vanishes. Her peasant looking granny
vanishes. I get transported to a world that does not
exist. Or, does it? Fairy tales are not true. Or, are
they? With my finger I trace a small tree house
painted in one of the images. What has she said
about tree houses? Funny, everything I come across
makes me think about her. What is the mystery?
What is the magic?
You like art? Tamaras voice brings me
back to this world. I turn to find a tall, lean man
standing close to her. In contrast to her pale
complexion, he is dark. Both his hair and beard are
salt and pepper. He has the similar joy reflecting
from his face. His eyes smile at me rather than his
face. In the depth of his stare I find recognition.
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You look like you are wearing dark cloak of


night, he says.
This reminds me that my skin has darkened in
the past month. It is strange, I dont venture out in
the sun. In fact, I enter office before sun goes up on
the sky and get out after sun down, in the middle of
the night.
Yeah, I have tanned.
They smile together. Looking at them, I feel
Goosebumps rise on my arms. They dont look like
two people standing together. They look like one.
This too will pass son, they say in unison.
Tea or coffee Tamara asks.
Colors and images keep us going. We sit
around a table made from cane. Tamara keeps
serving coffee and we keep chatting. Today is
Friday, no office tomorrow. Satyaki, Rias
grandfather turns out to be an excellent talker who
engages without effort.
Oh, I say resting my back against the wall.
They have set up the sitting room in Japanese style.
Everyone sit on the floor surrounding the serving
table. I relax with the coffee. Though I feel good
being here, I still dont get why Ria brought me
here on the first place. You learnt to paint from
somewhere? I ask. Yes, Tamara says. She
exchanges a glance with her husband. They smile at

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each other, before saying in unison, From each


other.
Okay, I say, not getting the point.
She has the vision which I lack. I have the
eye for colour which she lacks.
You two balance each other, I say.
Of course we do.
Ria was sitting at the corner sipping iced tea
and munching on chicken sandwich. She hasnt said
a word since the coffee starts rolling. Now, she
moves and leans forward. There is a reason I
brought Sam here. Her grandparents turn to look at
her. Sam is in love with a girl he hasnt met and is
engaged to someone else. She pauses for a
dramatic effect. And Sam is seeing 11:11 every
day.
Satyaki looks at me with a sympathetic smile
as if I have cancer. Maybe thats what I have
cancer, inside my heart. Or else I would not have
done what I have done. Sending a total stranger a
random email is an act of insanity.
Whats this 11:11 is all about? I ask when
the silence stretches too long. They all sit in their
own trance, lost in their own world. My world, the
world I go wandering about, has vanished from the
face of heart. I want to get it back. I cannot. What is
happening, I dont know.

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11:11, Satyaki says. It sounds like a sacred


mantra. The first time I encountered 11:11 fifty
five years back. That was the same day I met
Tamara.
Oh uh.
I did not exactly meet her, he continues. I
saw her paintings, hung in front of a Church.
Though they lack proper colours and no one wanted
to buy them, they spoke to me. Something about the
landscapes she painted made me want to go drifting
in them. I knew I could make them come to life
with colours.
Achha, I force myself not to gape with
mouth hanging open. So, you havent seen her
when youwellumm?
Yeah, it was an instant connection on my
part. And I had to know her. Satyaki plays with his
glass of cold coffee for a while as if trying to decide
how to say without looking like a fool. I did not
have the money to buy her painting. So I stuck a
letter of appreciation to one of the frames. Of course
I said nothing about the colour mess up.
It is like my own story.
It is like hundreds other stories. There are
people who are destined to meet each other but
fated to stay apart too.
We are miles apart.

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We were miles apart too. Satyaki smiles.


She was married to someone else when I saw her
painting.
That is a blow. I lean forward coffee
forgotten. What happened then?
Its a long story. Lets just say we fought the
dark forces to be together. We are from different
religion and that was a big problem. Then she was
married. It was a mess.
About that 11:11?
Thats a sign from the divine powers that you
are about to make or have already made a
connection to your other half. To yourself rather.
Myself? I ask like a fool.
Yes, yourself this time Tamara speaks up.
When God creates human souls he divides them
into two parts, one male is energy and other female.
These two energies incarnate in different lifetimes
to acquire experience and get ready to meet each
other.
Okay, I say because there is nothing else to
add to this. Never have I heard a more bizarre
theory? One soul in two halves, one me, another
you, sounds like Yaah Chopra movie. Dil to Pagal
Hai, anyone. I guess you got it.
Something on my face must have shown the
disbelief, because Satyaki only smiles. I had the
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similar expression on my face when I first came


across the theory of twin flames. People might
laugh at it. But, son
There are things in heaven and earth, says
Tamara.
Than are dreamt of in our philosophy,
finishes Satyaki.
If you could look at them, you would have
believed in the fairy tales. But, my mind has gone
through lifetime of corruptions. Since the early days
of childhood I have endured only pain and losses.
As a result, I have grown up to disbelieve anything
divine, anything that has a touch of fairy tale in it.
For me life is a hard-core thriller where you get
beaten down until you can go down no more.
See, I dont disbelieve you or the theory you
are telling me. Of course it must be true for you
two. I hold up my hand before either of them gets a
chance to speak up. But what makes you even
think that Gia and I, I mean this girl and I are soul
mates or whatever you are calling it.
Twin flame, Tamara says.
Yeah whatever. Though I argue, though my
lifes journey holds me back from believing in it,
there is a part of my heart that knows that what they
say is true, that fairy tales are true, that God exists,
that true love exists. I havent even seen her. This
can be infatuation or obsession.
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Right this can be obsession or infatuation or


something deeper, Satyaki says. This might not
mean anything or this might mean everything.
Yes, its you who needs to decide. I dont
like the way Tamara smiles at me.
And what about this skin darkening thing?
Something tells me they will connect it to the twin
flame theory.
Satyaki looks at his hand, thinking in silence.
Before the twin flames meet each other or unite in
physical world, they go through soul purification.
Someone called it dark night of the soul. How
poetic. Wisely, I dont say this. Not only heart goes
through the dark phase, even skin gets tanned.
Its not easy to endure this phase. But, no one
can help it. The heaviness comes from deep down
inside and chokes till every emotion dries down.
Tamaras eyes lose focus for a moment. Then they
come back to look at me. But, as he said, this too
will pass. She pauses. And you two will unite.
This she says in such a low voice that I almost miss
it. But, I dont. It rings inside my heart with each
beating.

You two will unite

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Chapter Twenty Four


Gia Mukharjee

There was a time women looked at me with


envy and men with desire. I thought it would be like
this always. What I hadnt counted on was the fact
that life changes in a blink of an eye. I did not
consider that I might lose interest in working out
and gain weight.
Lately, my weight has begun to piss me. Each
time I pass by the only mirror of our home, I make
sure not to look at my reflection. I know who I will
see. Half of the working day, I spend writing
articles and blog posts, the rest of the working day I
read fitness blogs. Not that they help. I get excited
reading about the exercises. But, when it comes to
doing them in reality, I have my excuse ready I
need to write. I cannot waste time working out.
This excuse has started to get into my nerve.
Each time it pops up I push it away. Thats what I
push, not a muscle. For the last two years I havent
worked out for a single day.
Hey fatso Tamas calls I look up. He lovingly
calls me a lot of things like hippo and pig. I wonder
if his father uses the same words to address his
mother. She is a locker who can scare anyone to
heart attack, even the Amazonians. Why else do you
think the son and daughter are so good looking?
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Anyways, I keep my mouth, tight actually. But,


Tamas is a fortunate man. He is born without the
sense of right and wrong. A psychopath without
courage to kill or thirst for bloodshed I guess.
Yeah! What? I ask when my cold stare fails
to penetrate his shell. From the corner of my eyes I
see Shubhas beaming face. She does her best not to
grin at the fatso call. But, it is there and she cannot
hide it.
You done writing? he asks.
Done writing? I havent written anything
today. Since the morning I have only read fitness
blogs and mentally prepared work out routines.
Though I know I will not stick to it for long, blood
inside my veins starts pounding at the images of the
blogs. After a long time I feel like actually sweating
it out.
Almost. Once I spent night after night
talking to him. Now, it has come down to one word
answers. Strangely it does not hurt. Nothing hurts
any longer. Nothing bothers me either. The familiar
heaviness inside and occasional twists of pain are
the only two senses which make me cry when no
one is up. Other than these I am fine. Happy even.
Lets go for a ride and then have a party. He
grins at my sister. Whats say Anya?Anya turns
her gaze at Tamas. No one can match my sister in
competition of cold stare. Her face does not react. I
am going to meet a friend.
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What friend? Tamas asks.


You dont know all my friends do you? she
snaps.
Fine. He turns towards me. What about you
and me? Lets party.
I am gonna meet Aryan, I say. Its been a
long time since we have seen each other.
For a moment that little boy beam falters.
Then it returns with its full vigor. When you
gonna come back? he asks.
9, 9.30, dont know. I say.
No probs, I will make all the arrangements.
We start partying from 10. You ever had the urge
of slapping someone hard to rattle brain tissues?
No? Well, right now I feel that way. If only I could
slap this guy once. If only his parents had done it.
Carefully, I pull myself up on my feet; switch
off the PC and turn to face Tamas with a smile.
Very well. You buy everything and make the
arrangements. I will join you at 10.
Any other man would have been insulted.
Then again other men have other parents. You
know parents who know how to bring up a son and
make him responsible. But, not his parents. So,
Tamas beams. That will cost 1500 bucks, he says.
I detect not a touch of shame in his face.
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My cold stare transforms. Not into a warm


smile. Into a frosty glare. You are an expensive
boyfriend you know? I say with a tilt of my head
so I can see his reaction from a different vantage
point. He gives none. His face turns icy this time.
And his eyes narrows. Do I spot an expression of
utter satisfaction on Shubhas face? Even if it is
there, I feel no need to linger and waste time
thinking about it.
As I march out of the office, I hear Tamass
growl. Find an inexpensive boyfriend.
As I make my way out towards Dakshinapan
(yes thats our favourite meeting place) memories
of my father flood back. I see his face. He brought
up two daughters. Neither of us has become an
insensible piece of junk. My father being a man of
principle made sure that we were responsible rather
than happy. Of course, he bought us things and gave
us a comfortable life. For that he worked all day
long. But, he never did anything to turn us into
anything like Tamas Kar. Maybe his father should
have taken a crash course of child upbringing from
my father.
Dont bring them to the earth, if you cannot
bring them up to be decent. I want to tell his
parents. They love me like their own daughter. Or,
so Tamas says. I have my doubt. Each time his
mother sets her eyes on me, I feel discomfort of
hatred. Yes, it is there. She knows with me comes
no dime of dowry. Even if my mother could pay, I
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will not allow. I am done with feeding him. Next


time I will get a dog.
Another fact about me his mother finds
worrisome is my habit of reading. Why should a
woman bang her head against the pages of book?
She has asked me once. They should pay attention
to family and bringing up children.
Fantastic philosophy. Ground breaking.
So, you out of job, Arya says with a grin.
Not earning any money huh?
Sorry to disappoint you, I am earning money.
I am working on a project which pays well. This is
true. I would have continued with it had it not been
related to Tamas and his firm.
Then why not stick around? he asks.
Sticking around means seeing Tamas every
day since morning to evening. Its straining my
nerve. I am not being able to write.
With passing minute crowd thickens. People
of all ages come to this mall to sit and socialize.
Some of the unfortunate souls come alone to just sit
and be with themselves. I crack the knuckle of my
fingers, a habit I am trying to get rid of for a long
time. But, it does not seem like I will succeed at
least not in this life.
You have tanned, Aryan says after a while.
Yeah I know. Thank you.
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No, I am not trying to pull your legs. You


really look tanned. It is as if a shade of darkness has
enveloped you.
I scrub my face wishing I could take off all
my troubles with my hands. But, it is not likely.
Trouble does not just go away. You gotta deal with
it. And right now I need a job. I need to meet
people. It helps me in character research. I feel
abandoned, alone. Everyone else is moving, life is
moving. I am the only one standing at a distance,
looking in.
Get me a job. Aryan knows a lot of people
from high end through his event.
His dark eyes probe my face for one
speechless minute. Then he nods. No probes, he
says. Send me your CV. Or, better yet just drop by
my studio tomorrow.
To hear you play? I twist my hair around my
finger. Usually I wear my hair short. It hangs over
my shoulders in a mass of curly hallo. It sounds
better than it actually looks, you know? For the last
couple of months I havent gone for a haircut.
Though I have no fondness for long hair, I sort of
like the feel of its soft texture brushing my back.
Apart from this another question just keeps me from
slicing it short again. How long my hair can grow?
Suddenly I want to discover that.
Aryans eyes never leave my face. You look
better with long hair you know that? he asks. No I
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dont know that. Ever since the day Tamas has


entered my life I have forgotten the fact that I can
look good too.
So, should I let it grow further? I ask.
Yeah sure He reaches down and picks up a
pebble. Come to my studio tomorrow. I will
introduce you with someone.
Who will give me a job right? I ask.
Yeah, this guy is a senior VP in a web
development company.
What does he do in your studio?
He is sponsoring my album. The dudes
grandfather is a sucker for creativity.
Sounds interesting. Where did you find this
guy?
Aryan chuckles at the question. He heard me
play on the street last month.
Now, that is news to me. You played on the
street?
Yes, to expand professional networking.
A long breath escapes my throat. I wish I
could read my book on the street too. It would have
at least given me a way to get some audience.
You can do that. But, since your book is in
English it will not attract many readers. Beside, you
will make it. Soon. My intuition says so. He pats
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my hand with his own. What happened to the novel


you have written?
People say it is boring.
Tamas Kar is included in this collective
noun? he asks.
Not really.
Then its boring I guess. Aryan pulls himself
up on his feet. He extends his hand towards me to
pull me up. You need to do something about your
weight dear. If you really wanna hone limelight,
you need to look good. People pay for the package.
In reply I only look down. These past few
days I have done enough research about weight
loss. I have learnt enough moves to crush every bit
of extra flab off my body. The only lacking factor in
this mess is my will power.
You gotta do it for your own self. Aryan
says in a soft voice. Looking good is everyones
right. They just dont exercise the right.
It takes courage to cast light on yourself when
every nerve of your body screams for darkness. For
the first time in one year, I finally make myself
switch on the lights and face the mirror. A round
faces stares back at me. Her eyes the colour of night
sky, dull night sky, need a touch of life. They look
dead. Below her chin is a hint of a double growing
fast.

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Even though I want to stare away, something


inside my heart forces me to keep looking. Through
my t-shirt I can see my stomach bulging out. The
most agonizing sights are the love handles. Nothing
can hide them. And the denim I chose to wear today
makes them stand out like two heads hanging out of
bus windows.
What a sorry sight I have become. Tamas
does not let me workout. He wants to be with me all
the time. I fume. But, deep down inside I know the
truth. I know that Tamas has nothing to do with it.
If I want to work out, I will do it no matter what,
just like I find time for writing.
Anything wrong sister my conscience
(meaning my sister) asks from the threshold of the
room.
I have gained weight.
Anyas eyes widen. My God, really. Thanks
for telling me. I never noticed.
One thing you have to give my sister, she can
make a perfectly bad situation worse. I turn to look
at her. Dont joke sis.
I am not joking sis. But, since you have
noticed it, start doing something about it. Writing is
not everything in life you know?

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Chapter Twenty Five


Samrat Bhatia

Sun hasnt risen today. From the window of


kitchen I can see gray clouds turning into inky black
mass of canopy. Soon, rumble of thunder will begin
echoing. Wind slams with force of beast hissing for
revenge.
I rest my ass against the wall and stare out.
My head feels empty like my heart. Even though it
beats, I dont think I will ever feel anything in this
life. Last night I have done some research about
twin flame. Even now I dont accept the theory of
one soul in two bodies. But, the twin flame
relationship is pretty similar to what Gia and I have.
Though we have not talked for a while, I know we
will end up with each other again.
An hour later ramble of thunder begins
echoing. I dress into a black track suit and hit the
road. Its been a while I have done any running
around. Blood pumping is good for brain, mine
hasnt been working lately.
Sam, good morning, a familiar voice calls
on to me.
I turn to face Satyaki. His forehead gleams
with sweat. But, his eyes have the satisfaction I
have witnessed last night.
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You look tired. He extends his hand to shake


mine.
Last night I was dark. Today I am tired. We
start jogging together. The rhythm feels good.
Yes, you have darkened. He corrected. You
are not dark. It seems like a curtain has enveloped
you.
I see. I dont.
Ria does not jog? I ask trying to steer the
conversation away from me. Though this mans
attention irks me, I like being with him. His energy
propels me to think that everything is going to be all
right.
Nope, she is a late riser. And on Saturdays,
she will never wake up before 11.
I chuckle. Once I have been like this. Now,
sleep has become an alien thing. I keep waking up
in the middle of the night.
Tamara used to jog with me, Satyaki says
after a long pause. But, last month she has sprained
her ankle.
You two do everything together? I ask.
We do. They say same poles repel. What
they forget is same elements become one. His
laughter lights up my mood all ready. Tell me
about you. He invites. We still jog together. As an
old man he has a fit body. I have to give him that.
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Me I look at him, thinking where to start


from.
Ria told me about your parents.
Yeah, I lost them when I was eight. Grew up
with my grandparents.
Satyaki halts on his track. How was the
childhood? his probing gaze should have been
prying but all I feel is warmth.
Childhood huh. I try not to think of my
childhood. Not bad. They gave me everything I
needed. They gave me everything they thought I
should need.
It was more of a prison than a home to me. I
was not allowed to watch television. I was not
allowed to play soccer. They monitored each book
that I read. Junk food was not allowed, not even
once in a while. And I was forced to study science
because boys dont study arts.
We fall into light jog once again. What do
you want to do in life? Whats your passion? he
asks.
Books, I answer without thinking. I love to
read. This is true. Before he asks about genre I add.
I am a thriller person. I read only thrillers. Nothing
heavy.
This makes him smile. At least you read. He
looks ahead. In this smartphone era. His voice
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laughs rather than his face. Since you love to read


why dont you join our book reading club? he asks.
Book reading club. I ask trying to keep
sarcasm out of my voice. They exist?
They surely do. Satyaki nods. Come to my
home at 6 this evening, you will get to meet my
club.
Though I mumble I will try to join them, I
know in my heart that I will go. And true to this
knowledge I find myself standing by the front door
of Rias grandparents home at 6 sharp.
Hey, Ria says as she opens the door. Her
face glows under the white light of a CFL bulb they
have hung at the front porch. Grandpa said you will
come. She looks feminine in a floral printed knee
length cotton dress. Come in. She reaches out and
holds me by my hand. Once inside, she calls her
grandparents. Sams is here.
The sitting room fills within 6.15. They are all
happy. They are all arrogant about what they read.
And they are of different ages. One young man in
particular gets my attention. He is a dancer by the
night and a software engineer by the day.
Rusty Adams, he says grabbing my hand in
his long one. Nice to see a young face around. He
laughs. Not that they are old at heart. Just face.
Before long we start talking. Rusty dreams of being

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choreographer and someday directs a movie like


Step Up.
What you want to do? he asks. And I know
my MarCom dream will not earn much respect.
Maybe outside these walls, but not here.
I wanna be a writer. I want to write to inspire
people. I blurt out before I can stop myself.
So, you write?
I try but I seem to fail at creating outline.
Rustys face turns thoughtful. You need an
architect who will build your story for you.
An architect huh I think of Gia. She is angry
with me for calling her boring. But, somehow I
know she is the one with whom I am going to write
my blockbusters.
You mean to say co-authoring a book?
Dunno, says Rusty. Maybe someone with
tenacity and passion to see it till the end will be able
to help you.
What do you like so much about her? Ria
asks. We sit in the backyard of her house. Tamara
has built a small garden with swing. Smell of rose
and some other unknown flowers fragment the air.
With my long legs I keep the swing moving. My
watch says its already past ten. But, I have no
desire to get back home.

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Rather I like to sit there in the garden and


look at the stars. Rias question makes me look at
her. She sits close to me maybe a little too close.
I dont like anything about her. I confess. I am
tied to her. I dont know how. Maybe its magic.
Maybe its a curse.
She inches closer to me. Now, I can feel her
warmth on my arms. Though it feels wrong, I make
no move to get away. Life with her is easy. She is
not driven by passion and she does not expect
everyone to have the desire to die for passion.
Is she good looking? she asks, still pressing
herself against my arm.
Mmmyes. According to the pic I saw. My
voice surprisingly remains calm. What do you like
so much about Kaustav? This question does what I
thought it would, she moves away with a scowl.
I dont like him. I sort of idolize him.
Okay, cool. I get up to my feet. I will see
you on Monday. But, she grabs my hand.
Lets go for coffee tomorrow.
I will let you know.

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Chapter Twenty Six


Gia Mukherjee

The senior VP is a tall, lean man in his late


thirties who likes to promote people with passion.
Aryan introduces me as an upcoming mystery
novelist which I am, only I have been upcoming for
a long time to be comfortable. Fuck the sarcasm.
Shyamak Rajwar tilts his head and looks at
me. Why mystery? Why not romance? Thats more
feminine.
Well, this you should not say you know.
Really? I ask. Because Aryan is a friend, I make
myself say this with a smile. PD James was a
man?
No. But, romance is a womans genre.
General belief my dear, he laughs.
Gia is looking for a job sir, Aryan cuts in.
Rajwar looks at him. Yeah, you said. His
dark eyes turn towards me. What type of job are
you looking for?
I am working as a content writer, I say.
Never before I have sat for an interview midst
drums and guitars.
For how long?
Last five years.
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Rajwar nods. See, there is an opening. But,


the work requires creativity and in-depth
researching ability.
Okay. If it is technical content, I can kiss the
job good bye.
My grandfather wants his life story to be
written before he dies. Rajwar inspects his right
hand. A man of astrology, his five fingers display
five different types of stones. He is not doing well.
For the first time Rajwars face loses its brightness.
You can come down tomorrow at my office and
have a discussion with him yourself.
Every family hides some kind of secret.
Every family has some unique tales to tell.
Hrishikesh Rajwar stands in the middle of a huge
conference room his hands buried inside the pocket
his dark brown trousers and his eyes fixed on me.
Strangely, his stare does not make me feel
awkward. Even your family must have some secret
right?
I tilt my head and wrap my hands around the
huge coffee mug that has been placed before me.
Well, if we all know it, it would not be a secret
right?
Mr. Rajwar throws his head behind and
laughs. The sound booms around the corner of the
conference room. My shoulders relax at the display
of lightness.

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You never thought about writing your own


family story? he asks.
No, I havent. I admit. There is nothing to
write but rivalry and jealousy. With my father side
of family, you can write another Mahabharata.
From Dhritarashtra to Shakuni, every character
exists. This thought halts my other thoughts and I
think hmmm. Maybe I can give it a shot, write a
family thriller based on my family.
Families are strange communities you
know? Mr Rajwar sits for the first time. His face
glows. He does not look ill. Tall and well-muscled
he looks in his early sixties rather than late
seventies.
Yeah I know. I truly do. Even today eleven
years later I can still recall the day my father died as
clearly as it has happened yesterday. He was lying
on the bed lifeless and my aunt (my fathers big
brothers wife) was begging in front of my
neighbours for a secured job for me. At least she
could have had the decency of waiting till they took
the body away.
What does your father do? Mr. Rajwar asks.
This question has never ceased to make me
feel awkward. I shift my weight and then look up at
him. I dont have a father. Once saying this I shift
back and wait for the next inevitable question. Do
you have a brother? Duh No, fuck I dont have a
brother. I dont need one. I have myself and my
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sister. Thank you very much for your worries. But,


this I dont say to Mr. Rajwar. He is too old for my
verbal abuses.
Tough life huh? he asks with a smile.
Could have been. But, it is not. I say with
honesty. My neighbours helped me a lot in that
time. They got me a job and settled me down. Life
started rolling again. Slowly we forgot what it had
been when dad was alive.
Wont you get married? he asks in a
grandfatherly way.
Tamas with his red eyes and cracked lips pops
in my mind. Not only he is an alcoholic, he steals
from the girls who work for him. He is a very good
example of very bad parenting. But, not a very good
example of a man who can take care of a family.
I dont have any plan as of now. May be
later.
What are you looking for? he asks.
What? I dont know. I shake my head with a
smile. I dont know.
We all are looking for something. The faster
we identify this the better it is for us.
I gather my courage and ask, What are you
looking for?
He looks down at me and laughs. Me? I am
looking for a peaceful death.
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I lost my father at the age of eighteen, Mr.


Rajwat says. Like a secretary I write it down. I was
not worried because we had a family business. This
too I write down.
Mr. Rajwar has hired me on the day of
interview. The inside news is he has rejected twenty
writers before hiring me for the position. Though I
dont know whether I should be proud of the fact or
just be worried, I enjoy being here.
Hrishikesh Rajwar lives alone in a five
bedroom bungalow type house painted in off white
in Thakurpukur. According to him he came here
looking for peace. But, from the sight of the
development going on around his house, I dont
think the peace will last for a long time.
We sit in first floors balcony. This deck type
balcony wraps itself around the front side of the
house, looking out at a vast field and a generous
expansion of sky. I can live here for the rest of my
life, sitting in this balcony and looking out.
What do you write for yourself? Mr. Rajwar
asks as I begin to drift.
I used to write mysteries. Used to. Yes.
Lately I find no pleasure in writing. Each line that I
type down on paper comes after too much effort.
And when they do come out, I feel no sense of
accomplishment at having to write them. This hurts.
I am losing my craft. The writer in me is dying. But,
who cares? No one will ever know that a human
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being called Gia Mukherjee ever existed. This life


will end with the end of my body. This hurts too.
Sams words float in my mind. He cares for
my writing. Maybe I should not have attacked him
the way I have. Its been almost a month, I havent
heard from him. I havent written anything to him
either.
Used to? Mr. Rajwar asks. You dont write
any more?
His eyes make me shift my weight. I look
down at the green spiral notebook clutched in my
hand. What should I say to this? Nothing. So I keep
looking at my notes. How would I decipher my
handwriting later on is a question bothers me each
time I look down at the pages of the notebook.
Gia. This time I am forced to look up. And I
do. I meet his gaze. What happened? Why dont
you write any longer?
Now, this is a personal question. Mr.
Rajwar, I begin.
You can call me grandpa like everyone else.
Everyone else is the family, the rich and
famous people with big cars and expensive clothes.
They have a life that you will crave for. I do too. Of
late I find myself looking out and wondering what
is the meaning of this life? Why am I alive anyway?
If I die today, my dream will die with me. I will not

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be able to write that blockbuster. But, am I writing


that blockbuster? Do I have anything to say?
These questions keep coming back like bullets
each time I touch my keyboard with my fingers.
What do you do when your own reflection mocks
you?
Okay. I say in a low voice.
What do you write? he asks.
Oh God. I remember what his grandson has
said to me about mysteries. I should lie. But, if he
asks for a sample? I write thrillers. I blurt out,
bracing myself.
John Sandford type? he asks.
Yeah. Not as good. Not even close. He is a
master story teller. I am just a rookie, looking up to
Davenport. Sort of.
Hmmm. I love thrillers. I love Sandyford.
He pauses for a while, looking out the balcony.
Bring me your thriller.
Thank God I havent lied. My phone vibrates.
Tamas. I look at my boss for permission to receive.
He nods.
How are you? I ask.
Doing good. You called. His voice sounds
unusually grim. Someone must have denied him
daru.

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Yes, I called. Had lunch? I ask.


Lunch? Tamas says as if the concept of
eating lunch is a new ground breaking one. I dont
have time for eating. I only have time for business.
My jaw almost drops at the statement. I have
had the good fortune of working inside the premises
of CZ Solutions for about fifteen days. During the
time I have seen Tamas doing only two things,
playing candy crush and poking Shubha with his
fingers.
Oh, good, I mutter. Earn money.
Of course I will. I have to.
Attitude, I want to roll my eyes. For the past
two years, Tamas has not only eaten at my place
every day, he has borrowed more than fifty
thousand bucks from me.
Boyfriend Mr. Rajwar asks. His penetrating
gaze makes me fidget in my chair.
Yeah. There is a helpless drag in my voice
that even I noticed.
He does not make you happy. Observes the
old man.
Tamas parents have brought him up to be
happy. They havent taught him to make others
happy. But, I cannot say this to the man sitting
across me. He still watches me. So, I drop my gaze
at my feet and remain quiet.
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The old man reaches out and lays his hand on


my head. Do you believe in destiny? he asks.
Destiny? Yes, I do. I nod.
Trust this old man, you are destined to rise
high in your life. He pauses for a moment. Only
you need to have faith.
Faith? Two years with Tamas Kar has robbed
me off any faith on any unseen entity. The only
faint thread of faith or affection that still lingers is
for my pen and words. But, even that is fast
diminishing.
Do you believe in God? asks Mr. Rajwar.
Do you believe that someone is watching over us?
No. I shake my head. And I am not a
believer. And I dont want to know about God
either.
The old man laughs at the outburst. You will
have to if you want to write my biography. His
gaze catches mine again. I dont believe this man. I
know something else is cooking. But, I cannot say
no to him, not because he is my current employer.
In this couple of weeks I have come to respect him
like a mentor.

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Chapter Twenty Seven


Samrat Bhatia

My life has always been planned. I always


had a fair idea about what to do tomorrow. Six
years in MarCom then promotion and then abroad.
Pretty simple huh? Yeah, I also thought so. I even
worked six long years for this dream to come true.
Only, every fairy tale has a twist, a faith testing
twist rather. I am going through it.
Do you even think of tomorrow? Ria asks. It
is Sunday night and we are dinning with Rusty and
his girlfriend Elena. The question is directed at me.
No, I dont. Not anymore. Once I used to.
What happened then? Rusty asks. In his
hand he clutches a can of diet cola. How much
calorie he will prevent gaining by slurping that only
God can say. But, Rusty is confident that diet colas
help in keeping body flab less. For his sake I hope it
is true.
Kaustav happened and my carefully planned
career went out of the window.
What you do now? he asks after another
slurp.
I edit magazine contents.
What magazine?
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An upcoming one, Ria supplies. She leans


slightly towards me. A couple of more inches and I
will sit sandwiched between her and the wall. We
are the editors. He is the chief editor.
Wonderful, Rusty says though his face
remains the same. In the background Backstreet
Boys sing I Want It That Way. So, whats your
future plan? he asks. You want to stick to this job
forever or want to start something of your own?
Something of my own Now, I have never
thought about it. Business comes with all sorts of
headaches I rather stay away from. Nope I am not
going to start anything of my own.
I am not talking about business. How about
writing something of your own. You know for your
own pleasure.
We have been through this path before. I
dont like when people try to push me somewhere. I
am not going to admit but I have rewritten a large
portion of Gias novel. Her concept is good. But, I
failed to find the hit that will keep people continue
reading. I know I can help her. Only, I dont want to
trudge somewhere she does not want me.
Maybe someday I will. I am on my fifth peg
of Old Monk. My head hasnt started to buzz yet.
But, I feel my body relaxing. Tomorrow might be a
hell of a day. Going to office with hangover does
not appeal to me. But, who cares, I am not working

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for anything important. The magazine might not


even get launched ever.
Some days seldom come my friend.
Rusty, Elena finally says her word of the
evening. Since the time she has walked in, she has
kept to herself, never uttering anything throughout
the dinner. Not even alcohol loosened her a bit.
Leave him to find his own path. Remember how
you found yours?
Hows ? Ria asks as I reach for my half
empty (or half full) glass of Old Monk.
He wanted to be a business man. But, he
found himself dancing all the time. Now, he is
planning to open his own dance school. This she
finishes in one breath. I envy her stamina.
There is one funny thing about the creative
types, Ria says. Her speech sounds slurred. They
make no sense. She giggles at her own joke.
What would her grandparents say to this
wisdom? I make a note to ask them later on. But,
now I need to get back home. I need to do some
rewriting. Yep, you have guessed it, Gias novel. It
has potentiality. But, who will tell her that. She
hasnt even written to me once since the first
feedback.
I gotta go now. Come on I will drop you off.
I get up to my feet. Ria does so too. But, she takes
my arm and hugs it tight. Yeah, I can feel her
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pressed against my forearm. Not that I am the sex


starved psycho type, but, I do have some feeling.
Rusty looks up and winks at me. I dont like
his smile. With effort I push her off the table and
struggle my arm away. An angel, I am not. But, I
respect her grandparents. And I dont want to get
into any type of emotional complication right now.
God knows I am through a lot. And there is a lot to
consider.
As I have expected, she sits too close to me. It
is alcohol or just her hormone playing shit who
knows. I dont want to find out either. A couple of
deep brushes later, I pull at her front door. When
she makes no move to get off, I turn to look at her.
You are home.
It is after eleven thirty. Most of the houses
stand in darkness. Street of Sangvi stay alive till ten
at most. I look up hoping to catch a glimpse of her
grandparents. But, no such luck.
I gotta go home, I say again. This time she
moves. Closer. Should I push her off the motorcycle
and ride away? But, she climbs down.
Good night, Sam. Her voice has turned
deep. Her usually cheerful eyes now reflect desire.
Before I open my mouth to say good night, she
comes close, wraps her arms around my neck and
takes my lips into her own. My spine stiffens. I
should push her away. But, my hands raise and pull

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her closer against my chest. I hold her tight, kissing


back.
I am not going to blame it on alcohol.

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Chapter Twenty Eight


Gia Mukherjee

So, all is well in the office? I ask, raising my


voice to make me hear over. Saturday evening
crowd in South City Mall can be louder than
cheering soccer fans.
Mitali sits back with her glass of coffee.
Usual. Her face breaks into a smile. Sir wants us
to write four thousand words every day.
Four thousand I ask. They have so many
projects?
Nope and thats the comedy of errors in this
tragedy.
Duh. I look around. We are sitting in the
food court with chicken bucket from KFC and tall
glasses of cold coffee from CCD. Rajwar is paying
me high for doing almost nothing. I doubt the old
man needs someone to talk to rather than getting his
story written.
Hows your new job? she asks.
Cool. I keep talking to this eighty year old
business man. You know interview him. Then draft
it in story style. Yeah thats what I do. Mr. Rajwar
does not even check it. When are you getting
married? she asks after a while.
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Maybe never. At least if Tamas is the man in


my life, I will not. Lets see. I dont have a plan as
of now.
Mitali looks at me without blinking. You
love Tamas? she asks.
A lump forms in my throat, choking me. I
swallow hard before smiling. Yeah, I do.
Wow, Mitali says. You took two full
minutes to answer that.
Its either I stay in the relationship and die
every day. Or, I walk out. Any love I ever felt for
Tamas has died long ago. Now, I just try to avoid
being with him. But, maybe it is not too late. Maybe
we could still revive the relationship. Once there
was friendship and affection. Maybe there is still
hope.
My steps turn and I find myself heading
towards Tamas place where he lives and runs
office. Is he home? Yes, he is. I can see his
motorcycle parked at the front door.
I knock. Silence deepens at the sound.
Nothing moves inside. I strain my ears to hear well.
But, cannot. I knock again. Nothing. A
discomforting thought pops in my mind, is Shubha
inside?
After the third knock, the door cracks open.
Tamas peeks out. He has aged, I realize. With effort
he flashes a smile. Hey.
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Hey there I smile back. He does not move


from the door. And I dont walk away either. Can I
come in? I ask.
Now, he has little choice but to step back. I
enter. My eyes fall on the door that connects the
front room to the inside one. It is tightly shut.
Locked from inside? Should I stiff arm it a bit? But,
I decide against it.
Without moving my head I do a quick Feluda
like scan of the room. So, you are not going to your
aunts place? I ask.
Of course I am, Tamas says. He positions
his body to block me from going for the bedroom
door. I was wondering do you have five hundred
bucks? he asks.
Yep, I say. I dig into my purse and retrieve
the note. Here you go.
I will return this as soon as I get back. Well,
where have I heard this before?
No problem. I smile at him. Chalo have
fun.
As I walk back, sight of Shubhas purse and
hanky lying in the pile of files form in my mind. For
one maddening moment, I consider walking back
and finishing this off today. But, someone holds me
by my heart. Let it the fruits ripe first then only reap
them.

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Pandavs had strong reasons to want


Kurukshetra. But, it is Duryadhan who voiced the
desire, Mr. Rajwar says. From the morning he has
only talked about Mahabharat. Lord Krishna has
made sure that it is Duryadhan who demand the
war.
Hmmm. Any specific reason for that? I ask.
My grandmother used to tell me the stories of
Mahabharat when I as a child. Then the characters
of the epic became household characters. But, with
time and age they fade into oblivion.
Yes, of course, says Mr. Rajwar. Karma.
Karma. Of course. I nod.
You dont believe in karma right? he asks.
I do. I smile at him. I have seen it happen,
you know what goes around comes around. I have
seen what I have given coming back to haunt me
numerous times.
Care to explain?
There was this girl, a content writer. She
joined Her humiliated face still floats in my
mind. She had problems with writing. I look down
at my hand.
What you said to her?
She wrote content. It had some errors. A
lump forms in my throat. I still feel the sting of my

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own words. I told her I wouldnt read this crap


even if I get paid for doing it.
Mr. Rajwar
happened?

smiles.

And

then

what

I got a freelancing project through one of my


friends. I pause as the butler brings lemonade for
us. The client said he wouldnt read my articles
even if he got paid to do it.
Deep throated laughter booms in the balcony.
We often forget that we are setting ourselves up
and not others.
Yes, but, I always get the bad things I give.
Never in this life have I gotten back the good ones.
My voice sounds hurt and betrayed.
Really Mr. Rajwar asks.
Yeah
Have you ever done anything good for
anyone? he asks.
To this I fail to find any answer. My eyes fall
on my shoes on their own. I know what he says is
right. I live for myself.
You need to control your arrogance Gia.
This time Mr. Rajwars voice softens. You have it
in yourself to make it big. But, your attitude can get
you into trouble. My attitude huh? It has already
gotten me into big trouble. I have lost Sam. I have

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lost my job. And I am stuck in a middle of a


mayhem which does not allow me to grow.
I am already in trouble. I dont know what
my face reveals but my heart feels helpless. When
you know that you have problem yet you cannot
walk out, it hurts. And my life seems empty. Ahead
I see no purpose anymore. Each life has a meaning
to it, mine doesnt. Yet, suicide is not an option for
me.
I was just like you when I was getting
started. The old man sips from his lemonade. I
was arrogant. I was proud and I thought I knew it
all. He looks at me with a smile. Sounds familiar?
Damn straight it does. It is me he is talking
about. I nod.
But, sadly, I knew wrong. I had to soften up.
I had to accept that I was not good enough. I had to
bend to the wind. He smiles a gentle smile. We all
must learn this lesson before making it big. We all
must fall face first on the ground before running
ahead.
I being me cannot accept this without protest.
But there are people who have succeeded without
struggle. I know a lot of them.
The old man does not get angry to the protest.
He only nods. Yes, there are these lucky ones. But,
their success doesnt last past their lifetimes.

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Chapter Twenty Nine


Samrat Bhatia

Hiiii. I look up with a smile at the cheerful


sing song greeting. Ria stands by my chair, looking
down. Her face glows with smile. I cannot help
smiling back.
Hey, I greet her back.
You kiss well, she whispers leaning forward
towards me.
Thank you. I bow my head. Dont blame it
on alcohol, I say to myself for the hundredth time.
So, coffee after office? she asks. At your
place. She adds after a beat. Her hair falls on her
face in a glossy mess.
Its better if we go at your place for the
coffee. It is unusual but, I am not ready for
anything emotional right now.
Ria shakes her head. I want to see your
place.
My place is in a mess. A window pops up
and Kaustavs message comes to view conference
room ASAP.
ASAP he says, ASAP I enter the room.
Kaustav sits alone at the head of the table. His eyes,

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tired and tensed, turn at me. With a sweep of his


hand he points at a chair.
Sam, you are doing good. Even his voice
sounds drained. Kritika must be doing a hell of a
job sucking him dry.
Thank you. When the mag will get
launched?
It will take a while. He toys with his phone.
IPhone I mean to say. I am going to Mumbai for a
couple of months. You will have to take care of the
magazine department.
That takes me aback. Kaustavs place in the
company is an important one. I dont want it. But, I
dont think I have a choice.
When will you be back?
Back? His voice trails. Soon. Sooner than
you expect. He stands up and extends his hand.
All the best Sam. You have the talent to drive a
team forward. I will email you the promotion and
appraisal letter.
Promotion and appraisal letter, I get up to my
feet in slow motion. Finally, I will be able to earn
the money I always wanted to. But, why the victory
feels empty? I take his hand in a firm grip. We
shake it and leave the room.
My fingers move to the keyboard and I log in
to my mail id. Not looking for anything special. Just
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want to delete some junk mails. But, I get another


surprise in shape of Gias email. Its been a long
time since we have spoken to each other.

Sam,
I am sorry I reacted like a child. An arrogant
and angry child, I guess. Its been a habit for a long
time. I am doing my best to get rid of it. I think you
are right I am boring in a way. My narration
stretches and my hero feels more, acts less.
Anyways, It has been a long time. How are
you doing? Are you angry with me? You have a
right to be angry with me. Maybe we can make a
new start. Like you know treat this first mail of our
conversation. Maybe we can chat online sometimes.
Or maybe we can exchange texts. Its up to
you totally. I just wanted to say I have got another
job. A groovy one. I am writing the biography of a
business tycoon. The old man is a darling and he
treats me like a granddaughter. I have learnt a lot
from him. The best one is to control my temper. I
am trying. I swear I am.
Please do write back.
I sit staring at the screen. Once I even raise
my fingers to type a few lines. But, she is right its
been a long time. I feel no urgent drive to write to
her. This comes as a surprise. She makes me
question my sanity. She makes me question my
drive for life. She makes my life look like a series
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of aimless episodes. It is better without her. It is


better with Ria. She does not live to make a name
for her.
My hand withdraws and I delete her email. In
fact, I delete the entire conversation, the series of
emails that we have shared. A thing of past, I say to
myself. Nothing more than some frenzied lines
written in madness.
Hey, heard the good news, Ria comes
beaming at me. I hit the logout button and turn
towards her. Congrats. Lets celebrate. She throws
her arms around my neck and holds me tight. I feel
all the eyes turn and fix on us. But, she hardly cares.
How you want to celebrate? I ask.
Lets booze till we pass out, she says. At
your place. In her eyes I can see mischief.
My place is in a mess, I say which is true. I
can visualize my room loaded with day old clothes
and soda bottles. It is not a place where you take
someone for the first time. Besides with the pay
hike, I can shift to another apartment. This I need to
consider before making any decision.
So, you got a pay hike? she asks. Her tone
smiles at me.
Nah. I dont know why I lied. Maybe later I
will share the news with her.

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Written to her to let her know? This time I


hear something very close to bitterness. Strange I
feel no such male animosity towards Kaustav. Of
course, I hate him. But, I have always hated him.
Not, yet my reply does not please her. She
glares at me before walking away. Hell hath no
fury, I think, smiling.

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Chapter Thirty
Gia Mukherjee

So much for being the Samaritan. I toy with a


string of noodle with a stainless steel fork. My sister
sits near me, her head bowed and her face hidden
behind locks of her glossy hair. Should I drop a test
bomb? I decide to do it.
I think Tamas is humping Shubha. This
startles Anya. She looks up from her plate and
stares at me. Tamas is having an affair with
Shubha. I repeat. Disbelief then denial and then
disgust, her eyes reflect them all within a span of
half second. Yeah, that fast. You dont believe me?
You gotta see her.
She shakes her head. Sis, get a reality check.
Okay? She says after taking a graceful sip from her
glass of cold drink. You have decided to spend
your life with that man. Have some trust on him.
Who feeds you all these things? she asks.
It is you see the story of my life. Not only my
sister does not believe me, she always stands by the
outsider. Why I bother with her anyways? I just
have this feeling.
Get it out of your head. She dismisses me
like I am one of her employees. You think way too
much. You know that?
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What would you have said had this been your


sister dismissing you? Nothing right? Well, I decide
to keep my mouth as well.
After my mom and Anya retire to bed, I take a
sneak peek of my email. No, nothing from Sam.
Yes, it disappoints me. More so, because it has been
my own fault. I have chased him away. Anyway
My phone vibrates. I know who it is. Tamas.
Hello, I say, not feeling like talking to him
now. Why havent you come for dinner tonight?
I was busy. Come the proud reply.
Food does not come for free, I have to buy it.
But, I am not Tamas Kar. I am not brought up by
parents who should not have been in this earth to
begin with. So, I dont say this. Mom was waiting
for you.
Tell your mom not to wait for me anymore.
Sure, I will. In my mind I see the food mom
has cooked so lovingly for him. I also remember her
face when I said that he has an affair with Shubha.
No, not even my mother believes. It happens when
you smile the most and laugh at everything life
throws at you. No one takes you seriously. Your
pain is fake and your doubts are nothing but the
fragments of your imagination.
Okay, I will.

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You want to watch a movie with me? he


asks.
I look at the clock. Its well past 12.30. No
not tonight.
Not even if I come to pick you up? he asks.
No, Tamas. I drum my fingers at the
keyboard. I am working on a novel. Crafting the
outline. Cant come now?
Thats all you do all the time, he says. I can
hear his angry growl. Whats the use of such hard
work? What have you achieved so far?
Nothing. It hurts. But, its true. I have given
this craft everything I have. I have denied myself
social life. I have denied myself sleep. But, I have
achieved nothing so far. Each morning I wake up
with the fear that I will never get published. With
this same fear I crawl into bed.
And when I chase this fear away, there is
always Tamas to remind me how miserably I have
failed in life. At least I earn money to buy food for
my family and him.
I am asking you something. His voice turns
cold. What have you achieved? Have been
published? You still are a bad writer.
You see, I am not Lord Krishna. I cannot sit
back and allow someone to commit hundred and
one sins. My patience snaps. At least I earn enough
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money to feed myself and my family. How much do


you send home to your family? Now thats a cheap
shot befitting someone like Tamas. I am not an
angel. But, usually I dont assault people with such
animosity. When I am angry or hurt I turn to pen
and paper for solace. But, today I am done with his
continuous nagging. If you are not happy with me,
you can very well go and hump a whore.
Silence echoes from the other side. Tamas
does not speak for such a long time that I thought he
has disconnected the phone. But, then sound of his
heavy breathing comes booming into the phone.
Crazy bitch, he whispers with all the hatred
he can summon in two words. And then the line
goes dead.
Crazy bitch, I stare at the device clutched in
my hand. Nice little gift after feeding him for two
years. Should I tell my sister? On the second
thought, lets just sit on it. My face feels warm from
the abuse. Though I use slangs all the time, I have
never been called a bitch before. I dont think I
qualify in the list of bitches. Crazy bitch. It stings.
This is Ashutosh Verma, Mr. Rajwar says
with pride. My nephew. His eyes shine with
happiness and delight. He is the superman of the
family. He can do anything.
The superman, however, turns red at the
enthusiasm of the old man. He flashes me a smile.
And I smile back.
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Hi. I extend my hand. He grabs it in a firm


shake.
Sit near me. Mr. Rajwar invites us. We
obey. My gaze clashes with Ashutosh as we sit.
And he smiles again. I cant help smiling back. I
want us to get into publication. As soon as we
settle down the old man declares.
This makes Ashutosh cough. You want us to
get into what? he asks.
Publication The old mans voice is low but
firm.
And we will publish whom? The question is
carefully crafted. Ashutosh leans back to stare at his
uncle. For this you have summoned me to Kolkata,
leaving everything?
Yeah. Mr. Rajwar does not seem too
bothered about his grandsons reaction. I dont
know why you work for someone else when you
have your own business. This though said in mock
anger, Mr. Rajwars eyes smile. And I have a
writer in mind. We will launch ourselves by
launching her.
My heart skips a beat. Man, please I dont
want any favor from anyone. I dont want to be the
writer they want to launch.
Ashutoshs eyes turn towards me. He looks at
me for a minute then tears his gaze away. Who is
this writer?
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Its her. Mr. Rajwar says pointing at me.


We will launch ourselves by launching her.
No, sir pleases. I get up to my feet. I am not
ready to get published.
Ashutosh looks at me again. Launching a
writer requires hard work. We need to get her ready
for the camera. He pauses to look me down. Only
writing skill will not help.
Exactly, Mr. Rajway says clapping his
hands. This is the reason I called you here.
What do you eat? Ashutosh asks me.
See I dont think you should be taking the
risk. I am not good enough to get published. I dont
think so. But, neither of the men pays any attention
towards me.
You need to lose weight, Ashutosh says as if
I havent spoken. You need to change your
dressing style as well. That faded jeans and shirt
will not help your image.
So, what do we do? Mr. Rajwar asks.
We spend a couple of months helping her
shed some weight. Ashutosh pauses to look at me.
A lot of weight.
You have to be here. When we launch her.
This is not a request the old man makes. This is
more of an order.

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My head buzzes at the thought of being


scrutinized by them. But, they dont seem to take
any of my words seriously.
You send me your novel. Mr Rajwar says. I
will do the literary analysing. While this guy gets
you ready for the media.
I stand there jaw dropped. Never in my life I
have seen anyone so eager to help me out. And
today my skeptic mind will not allow me to accept
the favor without protest.
My face must have revealed my feeling. Mr.
Rajwar smiles at me, his eyes assuring. Dont
worry. You will make us multi-millionaire.
Me? Am I good enough? Tamas voice rings
in my head, asking me what have you
accomplished so far. How? I chock the word out.
How do you know?
I know talent when I see it. You know it
takes one to know one. The old man throws his
head behind and laughs. His deep voice booms
inside the room. Ashu you love challenges right?
he asks.
Of course I do, Ashutosh says with a
mischievous glint in his eyes. And making her thin
is going to be the biggest one.
They both laugh out loud at the joke. I dont
feel like joining in. I am scared. I cannot name it.
Dont even know what makes me shake. But, there
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is something deep inside which twists my heart.


They say it is harder after getting published. I have
never thought I will be published ever. Yes, I want
to. I desperately do. But, I never considered the
possibility that I might get to the print someday.
What am I going to do now?
My head still feels light when I walk back
home. On my way, I have stumbled twice, missed
my stop, yet I keep grinning like an idiot.
Hey mommy, I say as my mother opens the
door. Whats for dinner? I ask without stopping to
breathe.
But, my mothers face does not break into a
delightful smile. She stares at me like she is seeing
me for the first time. I even detect tear stains on her
cheeks. Has she been crying? My heart slams
against my ribs.
What happened? I ask. Where is Anya?
Mom does not answer right way. She only
throws a hesitating look over her shoulders. There
in the bedroom.
I rush inside. I need to know that she is doing
fine, that she is all right. I find the bedroom dark.
Anya sits in the gloom, with her knees drawn to her
chest and her head buried in them. I can see she is
crying. Darkness bothers me. I slap the switches and
flood of white light spread in the room. What
happened sis? I ask her. She does not answer. I
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walk up to the bed and lay a hand on her head. Hey


what happened sis?
She looks up and fixes her tear washed eyes
on me. Sis I am sorry.
Well, that gets me. Why?
I didnt believe you when you She sobs
and the rest of the sentence loses its way inside her
throat somewhere.
I have a sinking suspicion. But, I want her to
finish what she wants to say. When I I prompt.
Tamas is fucking Shubha, she says with a
heave of sob.
For a moment, I stand still, not knowing how
to react to this. Am I expected to cry? Or, am I
expected to burst into cold fury? But, I feel none of
the emotions. Only relief bathes my heart. Crazy
bitch huh? Shubha does not even know what is
about to hit her. Poor girl. I just shake my head as if
I am shaking the past off.
Time to move ahead. And it comes from the
heart

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Chapter Thirty One


Samrat Bhatia

You are still busy with her novel? come an


angry growl from behind.
It is after 11 in the night. We have processed
fifty articles for the magazine. After Kaustav has
hauled his ass, I have ended up with the
responsibility of going ahead with the magazine
launch. And I have pushed the team like my life
depends on launching the magazine.
No, I am not busy with anything, I say. My
voice strains with tiredness. My head has refused to
work a long time ago. So, I thought of going for a
quick break and skim some of the lines she has
written. And then Ria appears with her usual energy
and rage.
Hmm I can see that. She is usually a sweet
girl with cheerful nature. Only when she is
confronted with Gia her temper bursts free like lava
in volcanic eruption.
Why havent you gone home? I ask, closing
the file with a swift movement of my finger.
Was waiting for you to drop me off, she
fumes. Thought you are busy with magazine
launch at the other side of the threshold. But, you
are doing someone elses job.
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I told my arms in front of me in a protective


gesture, praying for patience. I am not doing
someone elses job. My voice is calm yet cold. I
was doing some polishing off. If its help her get
published, Why not?
Rias face contorts and I grit my teeth.
Control, I say to myself. If she is not good enough
why the fuck she is trying to get published? And
why you care?
Why do I care? Why? I dont know. It just
that her failure seems like my own failure. She is a
friend.
Is she? Ria asks. Just a friend
We are not in contact. I cant believe I am
having this conversation at this time of night. For
the last couple of months we are not in touch. She
wrote to me, I didnt answer. You know that.
Ria blinks her eyes. Dont you see that is the
thing about twin flames, they meet then they
separate. To meet again forever. Whoa, I think. My
jaw drops open. I stare at her not knowing what to
say. This theory seems too bizarre to me that I have
not even paid any attention to it. Yet, everyone is
doing their best to convince me that a girl who I
havent even met and lives miles apart is a part of
my soul.
Look, I finally find my voice. Dont cry
and all. I dont believe in this theory.
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She leans forward and stabs her finger at my


chest. Your believing or not believing hardly
matters. You cannot deny the truth. You two are
destined to be together. With that she storms off.
I bury my face into the palms of my hand and
close my eyes. Dear God wherever you are, please
give me strength.
She makes me go crazy sometimes. I cast a
helpless glance at Rusty.
We are sitting in NXT in FC road. This is a
place to check out when you are in this city. Of
course, dont come here if you have something
serious to discuss. You will not be able to hear
anything over the music. You gotta shout to match
the volume.
Rusty takes a log swallow from his beer glass
and looks thoughtful. Oh yeah? he asks.
Hell yeah I nod.
They are like that only, Rusty says. The
more they love you the more they make you go
crazy.
Right Its my turn to take a long swallow
from my beer.
You drink beer like it is water. Rusty
observes.
Yeah, I like the bitterness beer leaves
behind.
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Write poems. Rusty looks around and then


leans forward towards me. He is going to make a
statement. What do you like about Ria and who is
girl from Kolkata?
He asks instead.
Ria is a fun loving girl. She makes me
breathe easy. I pause. And her. Yes I still find it
difficult to say her name. She is a friend. An email
friend like a pen pal.
I see. He nods. So what you like about
her?
I havent met her to like anything about her.
I admit. She makes me question a lot of things
about life which sort of bugs me.
Like what?
She is a lot like me. Reads and writes. I
finish my beer and raise my hand to order another
one. But, writing for her is life. She lives for it. Her
passion makes me ashamed. I feel empty before
such intense passion.
And thats why you dont want her in your
life any longer.
I swallow. Is that the reason? Or, I find it
easier to maintain a relationship that is accessible? I
dont know. But, something about Gia repels me. I
cant seem to connect to her any more. And I think
it is better this way.
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She is too far away, I say. Cannot reach her


even if I want to. Havent even heard her voice?
Maybe you will when the time is right.
Rusty raises his glass for a toast. I do the same. The
clank gets consumed in the heavy drum beats.
I love the way you smile, Ria whispers in
my ears. She inches closer and finally sits with her
butt pressed against my thigh.
We sit in her bedroom. Her grandparents have
gone to visit some relatives and we find ourselves
home alone.
Even in this situation, I cannot seem to stop
thinking about the magazine launch. Its only a
couple of weeks away. If anything goes wrong. If
people dont accept the magazine. There are a lot of
ifs going on. With each passing day I understand
what Kaustav goes through every day. His tension
and the daily pressure he works with have become
the parts of my life too.
Your mind is somewhere else, she
complains in a childlike voice. Or is it with
someone else? She waits for a beat before adding
it.
To this I have nothing to say. Time to time I
do regret deleting the mails. They seemed like
burdens for that one misleading moment. But, now I
dont feel so any more. I even itch to write to her

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too. But, its been a long time and I have already


lost the momentum.
I am worried about the magazine launch. I
confess. It is eating me up.
She gives me a mischievous smile at the
statement. You need a much required release, she
whispers again, this time breathing against my neck.
Goosebumps prickle through my body at the
touch of her hot breath. I grab handful of her hair
and pull her close against my chest. We tumble
upon the bed together. I press her down on the bed
with my body. She feels soft and ready to go.
It does take much time to get out of our
clothes and build up the climax. Soon, I circle her
waist with my arms and enter her. In the moment of
excitement I close my eyes and shout out her
name

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Chapter Thirty Two


Gia Mukherjee

Six months later


You have grown as a writer in these six
months, says Mr. Rajwar with pride. I can
understand why he is beaming like a delighted
father. The past six months he has spent in building
me up.
Nothing went past him and he forgave no
error. Even a slight mishap of metaphor got his
attention and brought a scolding for me. Time to
time this training seemed harsh and merciless to me.
I even experienced frequent urges to quit. But, I
held on, knowing that I can only benefit from this
harshness. And to grow, everyone needs a guide, a
mentor. I am fortunate enough to find mine in Mr.
Rajwar.
And have shrunk as a person too, says
Ashutosh in such a serious tone that I throw my
head back and laugh out.
It hasnt been easy you see. It hasnt been a
smooth road for me. Ashutosh kept making fun of
my weight like he had nothing else to do. Finally, I
started my daily workout once again. Slowly at the
beginning. Then it became my habit. The addiction
I missed returned with full throttle.
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I sweated like it is the stimuli that keep me


alive. And a month later, I again resumed my old
workout schedule fifty pushes, fifty squats, fifty
bridges, three hundred kicks and three hundred
punches. I must say it feels good to be back in
shape. Now, you can all say hellos to the girl that I
am.
And yes, I have quit boozing. Now, with Mr.
Wonderful gone from my life, I have no need for
the liquid stress buster. It is modern day Devdas in
reverse motion.
It took a lot of work though, I say putting
my hands on my waist, enjoying the feel. Thanks
to you I can look at my reflection once again.
Ashutosh waves his hand in dismissal. No
need to thank me baby. He grins. I am getting paid
to do my job.
Hows much? I ask.
A lot which we will earn back from your
thriller. Mr. Rajwar flips through the manuscript I
have submitted. This is good. I must say, you will
keep a lot of people awake.
She cant be that good, Ashutosh says with
another one of his grins.
I have made her so. Again that pride rings in
his voice.
Yes, you have. I nod my agreement. Now,
what? Yes, I am sort a curious to know. They have
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made me write my thriller under tight observation.


They have even made me get back to shape. I
hardly thought such things were required.
Now, we promote you. Ashutosh gets up to
his feet.
That requires investment, I say. My heart
sinks each time they discuss the money they are
spending on me. Earlier the failures had been mine
alone. Now, if I fail, I will take down a lot of people
with me. This I cannot tolerate.
Dont worry kiddo, says Mr. Rajwar. You
are cheaper than a lot of investments I have made so
far.
I can only keep my fingers crossed at this.
Nothing else comes to my mind. I dont even know
what they have planned for the future.
So, how exactly you guys will promote the
novel?
We wont promote the novel silly, Ashutosh
says. We will promote you. It is important to build
up the writer brand. He turns to leave then halts.
Oh, do you have a blog? he asks.
Yes, I have, I mumble. But, I havent
updated it for a long time.
Is it a paid one? Ashutosh asks.
Nope

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You use a free blog? Ashutoshs face


contorts in mock disgust. You should be damn to
hell.
I have been through hell and back. I grin.
Remember Tamas Kar?
Oh, that drunk ex of yours? Ashutosh asks.
What made you hook up with him on the first
place? he asks. Then he raises his hand up. No
dont tell me you loved him.
I was affectionate, I say which is true.
So, you didnt want to break up with him?
Ashutoshs voice turns challenging.
A pause, thick as muddy water, materializes at
this question. I put my hands on my hips (toned this
time) again and tilt my head. My long hair falls over
my shoulders in shinny disarray. A smile flashes to
brighten my already beaming face.
You know, I say in a thick voice and slow
pace. Pandavs had more reasons to want
Kurukshetra. But, it is Duryodhana who voiced the
desire. So, it is him who faced the jurisdiction of
karma.
Ashutosh blinks. You taught her well. He
looks at a beaming Mr. Rajwar.
The old man nods. I taught you well too. His
voice sounds happy. But, I detect a touch of
tiredness in it.
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You need to rest. I sit beside him once


Ashutosh disappears.
Mr. Rajwar looks at me and for a while
neither of us talks. Then he reaches and folds my
small hand in one of his large one. Promise me you
will keep growing as a writer. Promise me that you
will never submit to arrogance. Promise me that you
will never be satisfied with your work.
I put my other hand on his. I promise. But,
you will be there to scold me back on track
whenever I falter right? I ask.
To this the old man smiles and nods his head.
I will be with you as long as I can. But, I am aging.
And sometimes you must travel alone to discover
what you can accomplish.

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Chapter Thirty Three


Samrat Bhatia

Six months later


I am more or less satisfied with the progress
of the magazine, I say to my team. Kaustav sits at
the corner of the room trying to look content but
somehow his face does not obey and he keeps
frowning without his knowledge. The traffic is
increasing. And the most important fact is
peoplereaders are coming back for more.
I am thinking about launching an app to gain
maximum exposure, says Kaustav. This is his
second input of the day. First he has proposed
launching another magazine in the next month.
App? I ask. My brows shoot up at the
suggestion.
Yeah, he says. Nowadays everyone is into
app. Why not us? The more it gets downloaded the
more exposure and money we get.
Carefully, I circle the table and drop on my
chair facing Kaustav. What has happened to this
man? I want to know. Where has his common sense
gone for leave?

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Why would anyone download a magazine


app? I ask. This is the second time I am
contradicting him.
In these six months I have changed a lot.
After Kaustav left me in the middle of nowhere, I
sat with Amrit and recreated the entire plan. We
have stuck to the initial idea of lifestyle magazine,
but I have dome some changed in the presentation.
Now, we call out motivation story section the spark
spot. In the last two issues of the magazine we have
covered four rags to riches stories. People like it and
we are getting request for more such stories.
Why not? he asks.
Kaustav, people download apps with utility.
I lean forward to make my reason firm.
From his blank expression, I can very well say
that he hasnt got it. What the fuck is going on with
him? At this rate his will not only get himself
ruined, he will take us all with him too. I shake my
head with a smile.
Would you download such a magazine app?
I ask.
This nails him and he leans back to think
about it. Maybe no. I dont congratulate myself as
his shoulders sag. But, there must be something we
can do to make them download the app.
Of course we can, I say. Last couple of days
I have thought of nothing but how to get more
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exposure. And I have a groovy idea. We can add a


gaming zone to the app. This game will lure people
to download the app.
Finally, Kaustav smiles. Cool, but what sort
of game?
Have you checked Bungies latest? I ask. No
I am not a game freak. But, I do my homework
before laying out a plan to someone.
Bungie? Well, you dont expect a man like
Kaustav to know what Bungie is. So, I take the
liberty to explain. That is a computer game
development company.
Okay lets check it out. Kaustav gets up to
his feet and nods at the team. Thanks guys. See you
all in fifteen minutes.
Once they all leave, Kaustav leans his back
against the chair and looks at me. You are doing a
very good job.
I nod, trying to be modest. The job I have
done is pretty neat.
You wanna go back to the MarCom
division? he asks.
Do I? I visualize myself in the MarCom
division. No. I like being here. Nah, this suits me.
I thought it would. Kaustav flashes a tired
smile at me. Our magazine has reached a million
readers this month. And the credit goes to you
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alone. He pauses. You are from Kolkata are not


you? he asks.
I am. Though I havent been to the city in
last two years, I still can smell the air and hear its
noise. Yes, I sort of love Kolkata.
We will have to hit the city this month,
Kaustav says. He toys with his pen.
Really I ask.
Yes, really He nods, drifting for a moment.
We have been hired to promote a book and a first
time writer.
We as in I ask.
We as is our magazine, Kaustav says. They
want to reach out to as many readers through us as
they can. The book will get launched in three
months. And we have been given the responsibility
to build the writers brand within that time.
That is news. If someone is hiring you to
promote something, you have done a good job.
Who hired us?
A man named Hrishikesh Rajwar. He is a big
scale industrialist. Kaustav tosses the pen down
and gets up to his feet. He is getting into
publication and launching a writer no one has heard
about. This is not the first time he is launching
someone though.

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I follow Kaustav out of the conference room.


Do we both have to focus on this job? I ask.
Mr. Rajwar is the mentor of Pravin Kedia the
founder, Kaustav says. When Pravin was starving
Mr. Rajwar hand held him and guided him to
success. He has invested in the company as well. A
large amount of money
Oh. I guess that is serious business then.
Who is the writer we are gonne promote?
The name is Kaustav checks his iPhone.
Gia Mukharjee. She writes thrillers. And from the
sample chapters, she is good at it. Pretty well
I look up and my eyes fall on the wall clock.
After six long months, I find myself staring at
11:11.

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Chapter Thirty Four


Gia Mukherjee

These people dont understand that they need


to have good communication skill to land a job.
Anyas furious voice makes me look up from the
keyboard.
What people? I ask.
Most of the job seekers. She pulls a chair
and drops her weight across me. We have
discovered a small caf near our home which most
of the time remains empty. This has become my
favourite weekend writing place. No I dont
brainstorm anything here. For that I require silence.
Here I rewrite.
Thats why they dont get jobs and put the
blame on Kolkata job market, I say. The waiter
approaches us with a smile. By now he has come to
know our names.
The usual or should I bring our special cold
coffee for you two? he asks maintaining the smile.
Anya coughs at the suggestion of cold coffee.
She has spent last night sitting up, coughing her
heart out. Hot chocolate for me she sniffs the rest
in.

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Iced tea with lemon, I say. This will be my


third glass. But, of late iced tea has played a big role
in my writing. We have become inseparable.
Once the waiter disappears behind the kitchen
door, Anya turns to face me. You sure you are not
angry with me?
All our recent conversations begin with this
question. And I have begun to dread it totally.
Nope, sis. Please forget it happened at all. I wave
my hand in not so graceful motion.
I did not believe you. She looks down at her
slim hands.
You did not believe anyone can fall for a
female like Shubha with all her beauty and wits, I
say in a voice which begs no further stretch to this
topic. But, Tamas found her to be his exact match.
Someone who is willing to part legs whenever a
dick comes calling.
I feel guilty, she says.
Please dont. I lean back to look at her.
Tamas has kicked her out of the business without
returning a dime of the money she has invested.
And now, she is working freelance to gather fund to
set up another business. Many would not have
mustered the courage to go about it the second time
after the first setback. I admire her for what she is.
You are the only one who lost in this entire deal.
You have lost too, she says.
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What have I lost? I ask eyeing her with a sly


expression.
You have lost Tamas, she says. Her face is
intense and serious. She still cannot believe that I
have not suffered a bit. Because of me, she adds in
a low tone.
Yeah, such a big loss. I throw my hands up.
Dear God please bestow strength upon me so that I
can remain calm and strong in this dire situation of
life.
Anya laughs. Very funny. She shakes her
head. But, its good sis you havent suffered. I am
glad for you. She stares at me for a long time then
smiles. You look wealthy.
And not healthy right? I grin at her.
Nope
Your Promotion team is arriving tomorrow
morning, Mr. Rajwar declares the moment I step
inside his house. You need to be there at my office
to meet them. They will tell you what to do to build
brand image.
This is the part in this entire deal which keeps
bugging me. This is necessary? I ask. Last
evening, Ashutosh took me shopping. He has spent
ten thousand rupees on clothes. And ten more for
hair and makeup. I turn to look at my reflection.
You are looking great, Mr. Rajwar says.
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Fine. But, I have come here to write your


biography, not to launch myself. I walk over to him
and kneel on the floor. With his hands in mine, I
say, Dont spend so much for me. What if I fail to
earn it back?
Of course you will earn it back. I have spent
the last six months criticizing you for nothing, you
see. He pats my hand like he always does when I
am unsure. I want a star writer to write my
biography. I want everyone in this world to know
what struggle I have been through. And if you are
not a name, I will not gain the popularity I want.
This does what it should. He convinces me. I
look into his eyes and nod. Okay, if you say so.
Though I have not worked on your biography in last
six months, I will get it done.
Take your time kiddo, he says with a
satisfied nod. Tomorrow is the big day. Dress up
for the occasion and act like a star. Praveen is
sending a shark to promote you.
A shark I ask already losing courage.
Yeah, so he said. But, this guy can make
miracle happen. When I raise my brows, the old
man shrugs. It is the word of the town.
To meet the PR team, I select my attire
carefully. It takes full twenty minutes to decide
what I am gonna wear. This is new to me. Earlier, I
used to drag out whatever came to view.
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Appearance has been least of my concern.


However, now, I do check myself out in the mirror
once in a while (yes now I can look at myself
without feeling an eighteen-wheeler zooming by
into the stomach).
Though Mr. Rajwar has asked me to dress up,
I decide against picking up something too flashy.
For the day I follow Clair Underwoods power
dressing style. A blue knee length cotton dress and a
pair of matching peep toed high heel pumps. To
accessorize this look, I choose a yellow hand bag,
hoping to break the colour monotony and a pair of
silver dangers for my ears.
Yeah a lot has changed in these six months.
The process of discovering myself has been
wonderful. Through the ups and downs, I learnt that
like everything else in life you gotta work to be
beautiful too. You earn the right to look good by
hard work and commitment.
Mr. Rajwars office is in Minto Park. Its a
fourteen floor high rise covered with black shinny
glasses. The entire building belongs to the Rajwar
Group of companies. I look up and down feeling
like a dwarf in front of such enormity.
My watch says 10.49 in the morning. The
team will be waiting for me, only I dont know at
which floor. So, I give Ashutosh a call.
Ashu, good morning, I say.

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Good morning sweetheart, comes Ash toshs


cheerful voice.
I am standing in front of the Rajwar
building.
It is not Rajwar building silly. Its called
Govardhan.
My mistake. I admit it. Okay Govardhan.
But, which floor. Its so big.
Eleventh floor.
I turn my wrist and check the time, 10.52. As
I step inside, my phone buzzes again. This time it is
Mr. Rajwar. I halt on my track and press the receive
button.
Good morning.
Where are you? the old man asks without so
much of a greeting.
Getting inside Govardhan, I thank my lucky
stars that I am on time. Come to eleventh floor we
are waiting for you.
The door of the elevator opens at the 11th
floor at exactly 11 in the morning. I dont step out
of the car, I jump out of it. Just at the entrance of
the eleventh floors office, my eyes fall on a tall.
Lean young man in faded blue denim and white
cotton formal shirt. He has folded the sleeves and
that shows his well-muscled arms. He has teamed

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this semi-formal attire of his with a pair of white


sneakers.
He eyes brightens through his rimless glasses
at the sight of me. And then he looks up at the wall
clock. It is still 11. He grins at me. My heart does a
little tap dance at his smile. There is something
unnervingly familiar about him. It is as if I have
seen him somewhere before. But, I am sure I have
not.
I run a hand through my newly styled hair,
once again cursing Ashutosh for spending such a
high amount for nothing. The elevator door cracks
open and Ashutosh walks out.
The star is here finally, he yells at the sight
of me. He keeps calling me a star. Says this will
build the subconscious acceptance.
Yeah finally I smile aware of the steady
stare of the young man standing at the entrance.
Come inside. Ashutosh looks at the grinning
narrow face and walks over to open the door for me.
A strange urge to turn and hold this guy in a
tight embrace sweeps my heart as I pass by him. I
look up and stare into his eyes. My heart slams
against my chest again. His face breaks into a smile
that says he knows what I feel. I dont wait to
examine what I feel. Too long without a man, I tell
myself.

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Chapter Thirty Five


Samrat Bhatia

11th floor at 11, well, this seems like


something out of fiction. Nicholas Sparks. I have
never been a romantic type. But, this incident
changes everything. I rest my back against the wall
and close my eyes. Man she is beautiful.
I dont want to act like a pervert asshole. But,
as she passed by me, I did have a strong urge to pull
her against my chest and kiss her senseless. My
arms ached to hold her. I am here to promote her,
not to start an affair, I remind myself for the
thousandth times. But, how long my control lasts, is
something to see.
She does not know me. But, in her eyes I saw
something. It is as if she knows me. I know her too.
For the first time in my entire life, I believe in the
theory of twin flame. 11th floor at 11, well, thats
sort of a miracle.
My phone buzzes, Kaustav. Time to face her.
Will she believe in the theory of twin flame? This is
something to see.
Where have you been? Kaustav asks as I
enter the conference room. She is sitting beside Mr.
Rajwar. From the look of it the old man is pretty

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protective about her. One wrong move from me and


I will be six feet down under.
Was making some calls. Her gaze clashes
with mine. I gasp as my heart slams against my ribs.
Man, she can be dangerous.
Calling your wife? Kaustav asks.
Yeah, the fifth one in Greece I drop beside
Kaustav.
This is the writer you will promote, Gia
Mukherjee. Mr. Rajwar presents her with a pride
only fathers feel for their daughters. And honey,
this is your PR team. His cell phone rings. He
checks the number and looks up at us. Just
aminute
Once he walks out of the room, Gia turns
towards Kaustav. What exactly you guys gonna do
with my novel? she asks. I love her voice. I mean
what is the promotion plan?
To this Kaustav flashes a smile. But, before
he can say anything Gia speaks up. Anyone ever
told you that you have a great smile. Almost like the
first ray of dawn.
Dont ask me what I feel to this open flirtation
of hers. But, Kaustavs face turns red. He blushes. I
cannot believe my own eyes - Kaustav Bajwa
blushing.

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No, no one ever did. He shakes his head,


smiling. First ray of dawn, I still cannot take it.
Oh, but you have. Keep flashing it often.
She flashes one of hers now. And they look into
each others eyes for a while before Kaustavs
attention turns towards me.
This is my partner and your book promotion
consultant Samrat Bhatia. Her eyes blink at the
mention of my name. I am glad that at least she
hasnt forgotten it by now. But, to her credit, she
recovers in an instant. Her face becomes the
beaming mask she has been wearing. She nods
acknowledgement.
Hello Samrat.
My friends call me Sam, I say.
She tilts her head and looks at me. You are
not my friend.
I let one side of my mouth turn up in a half
grin. My enemies call Sam as well.
This time she smiles at me. Thats about it
Mr. Bhatia. You are not my enemy either. With
that she dismisses me. My heart swells with love I
never knew possible to feel. Her boyfriend is a
lucky man.
Mr. Rajwar walks back with a wide smile.
Thank God you have broken up, he says to Gia.
Broken up? Well
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She raises her brows in a question. Well?


Single female writers are in demand.
Ashutosh supplies from behind.
What nonsense, she says with a disgusted
scowl. I still see no need for all these. Why cant a
book well written get public attention?
Because public dont buy what is good for
them. They buy what comes with shiny packages
and media coverage, I say. Dont believe me?
Look around yourself and see what is selling. I
pause. Power of persuasion. I add and to my
surprise
Power of persuasion, she says at the same
time.
Exactly, Mr. Rajwar agrees with us. So,
you two what are the plans?
We can start with media coverage. Kaustav
proceeds. You know with a press release sort of.
Or, we can hook up with a radio station and
start promoting her book from tomorrow. I add.
An interview will not hurt either.
No. Gia shakes her head. No way
What? Kaustav looks confused.
Dont worry limelight will not swallow you.
I assure. I can feel her fear even though she does not
show it. Inside she is shaking. Once again I feel the
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urge to take her in my arms and hold her there till


she feels like facing the world.
I am not afraid of limelight, she says and
drops her gaze down. Throughout the conversation
she remains silent. We plan and re-plan and then
plan it again. Frequently my gaze turns towards her
but she avoids looking at me.
What happened with your boyfriend?
Kaustav asks somewhere in the middle of the
conversation. This question makes her eyes shoot
up at him.
Does it matter? she asks.
Yes, we will have to build your struggle story
to make you a star. Kaustav flashes his signature
smile and she responds automatically. It might be
painful for you though.
She pushes her cheek with her tongue and
thinks about it. Will it get published in
newspaper? she asks. In her eyes I can see wheels
turning around.
Kaustav looks at her for a whole minute, their
eyes not leaving each other. Yes, it will get
published and broadcasted throughout the nation.
A smile plays on her face and makes her eyes
brighten up. Fine, I am ready to tell my story. She
heaves a sigh as if calling for courage. Mr. Rajwar
lays a hand on her shoulder. Dont push yourself if
it is too painful.
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She shakes her head. Its not painful though a


little pain once in a while is good.
Finally, we met, I say to her in a low tone of
voice. We are heading for South City mall in a cab.
She is going home. I am pretending to visit the mall.
In reality, I just want to be alone with her for a
while. Maybe I can tell her about the twin flame
theory. In front of us a car slows down enough to
get our cabby slow down too. My eyes fall on the
number plate. Its 1111.
Yeah she looks out of the window. Finally
Care for a cup of coffee? I ask.
She turns her right wrist and looks down. It is
well past 3.30 in the afternoon. Yeah, we can South
City.
Since, we are going there
Okay,
meanwhile.

will

check

out

Startmark

What happened to your boyfriend? I fail to


contain my curiosity any longer. Why did you kick
him out of your life?
She rubs her hands together. The cabs air
conditioner is making a direct assault at her. Tamas
is fucking a whore.
A hooker I ask, surprised someone can
throw something as precious as her away for free
fuck. Then I remember my wish that night. I prayed
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to God that he brings a slut in her boyfriends life. I


had no intension of hurting her though; it came out
in a whim.
Yes, a hooker. She turns her eyes towards
me for the first time since leaving the Minto Parks
office. He hasnt hurt me. He has humiliated me in
front of the world.
The control I have braced for loses its grip
and I reach for her hand. She does not resist when I
squeeze it. Now, its your turn to humiliate him.
She curls her fingers around my hand and
looks up wide eyed. For a woman of over thirty she
is doing a great job of looking like a teenager. I
cant humiliate him.
Of course, she cant. She loves him. My heart
aches a little at the thought. I can understand. You
love him.
Her innocent eyes turn mischievous. A sly
smile plays on her lips. Its not that. To be
humiliated you gotta have self-respect. His parents
havent told him what self-respect looks or feel
like.
Huh? I throw my head back laughing,
Wonderful parenting.
Blood corrupted blood. She rests her head
against the window, her hand still linked with mine.
I dont want to let it go, not ever, not in this
lifetime. You know gandda khoon.
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Chapter Thirty Eight


Gia Mukherjee

Dreams come true. All you have got to do is


keep going after it without expecting success. It is
sacred. It demands sacrifices. And when you give it
everything you have. It turns into a reality.
Six months earlier I had been a content writer.
I was writing keyword based contents. I was
earning a meagre amount of fifteen thousand rupees
which in Kolkata market will allow you to qualify
over the poverty level.
And my personal life Well, lets not discuss
about it shall we? I am alone, but, I am free. There
is hope now, where there was only horror then. I
still draw sharp breaths inside when I think of
Tamas and the life I had spent with him. Strangely
with him vanishes the gloom I kept carrying along
with me.
Sis I need your help, Anyas voice comes
floating from the bedroom.
I cast a look at the sky at the gathering mass
of grey clouds. A gust of wind passes by, evoking a
shudder. Man, its chilly. Seems like its gonna rain.
November Rain. Rather late November rain.
People make a huge fuss about rain and the
romance it brings along with its droplets. But, I
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dont feel comfortable in downpour. Cloudy sky


makes me think of the days when I had nothing to
look forward to.
Of course, Kolkata summer will make you
beg for rain. But, Kolkata monsoon will make you
cry in despair. Its not romance, its potholes that
come alive at this time of the season.
Sis, Anya calls again.
Yeah What? I retreat from the balcony and
the reverie I have drifted to.
Anya sits on the bed with a scowl on her face.
In her one hand is a thick hardcover notebook and
in other one a pen. Her expression turns from
helpless to grim at the sight of me.
What? I ask again.
I have got a project, she says.
Okay. I nod. It will be rude to say I am not
interested in your projects as I dont understand
them. But, she is my sister and she patiently sits
through my plot ideas, feigning interest. So, it is my
turn to pay the favour back.
Its motivational training, she says when I
immerse into silence.
Motivational training, I ask. How do you
train someone to be motivated?

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How Lord Krishna motivated Arjun to join


the war? Anya snaps at me.
Lord Krishna? He recited Gita. But, that was
the Lord Himself. Yeah, I am not a believer. But,
Lord Krishna fascinates me. Whatever he has said
or done to help the Pandavs win their war is a
lesson. If you can learn from it, you will benefit in
life. My own opinion guys, not preaching anything.
I dont preach.
Yes, that was the Lord Himself, Anya
agrees. But, He used words to motivate Arjun
Right
I nod, not getting where the conversation is
going. Yeah true
I need a study material which will touch the
heart. You know motivate people to dream and
chase their dreams.
Now, I get it. And who is gonna write this
motivational speech?
You Anya smiles. You are best person to
write it down.
Me? I think of Sam. He will be the right
man to get this done with. I will have to ask him
tomorrow.
And I need a speaker too.

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You are ready to pay these people or you


want them to do it for free? I look at her with
suspicion in my eyes.
Uh well She looks down at her hand. I
am not getting a lot of money for this.
Which means I will have to do it? I will write
the motivational speech. But, I am not gonna deliver
it. I am not a public speaker. I pause for breath.
Where this motivation speech is taking place?
IMC college auditorium, she says. This one
project can get us a lot exposure.
IMC is a big one. I will talk to you tomorrow
about this.
IMC Sam asks. We are standing at the same
spot we have met a couple of days ago. Now it
seems like I knew him forever. Thats a big one.
Yes, I nod.
And your sister has a contract for
motivational training in this college? he asks again.
Yeah, I say again. My gaze falls on his
chest. Desire, I never knew possible surges at the
sight. If only I can hold him in a tight embrace. Sam
follows my gaze. I look away but not before he
catches the longing. His smile though knowing
warms me up. I smile back.
This will be a great move for your
promotion. We will set up radio coverage for this.
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After the speech you can do a read aloud from your


book. Sams eyes become intense as he plans.
Lets run it by the big boss though. Dont know
what he has planned.
IMC Kaustav says in the same tone. Oh, we
will do the first sneak peek of the book synopsis
there. His gaze turns at Mr. Rajwar who nods his
agreement. His face looks unusually pale this
morning. I look at his eyes. They have lost the life
which has once brightened my dying spirit.
Are you all right? I ask. I dont want him to
go through any kind of stress due to me. He has
done what no one ever did for me.
Yeah, he says in a tired voice. I am doing
fine kiddo.
With a burst of hot air and a smile Ashutosh
walks in. He takes one look at my skin tight dark
blue denim and white silk shirt and a smile plays on
his face. Have you seen her six months earlier? he
asks Sam.
His eyes fall on me not for the first time. But,
now his gaze remains. Well, nope. He shakes his
head.
She looked like two persons into one piece of
cloth, Ashutosh says spreading his arms apart to
give them an idea how huge I was. Now, she has
reduced to one person. He laughs. By the way,

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your horoscope says you will inherit paternal


property.
Really, I ask. I have already inherited
paternal property.
This gets everyones attention. Even Mr.
Rajwar looks at me with curiosity. Whats that?
Ashutosh asks. He touches his balding head
whenever he is confused. This time he does it with a
blank stare.
I pull a chair, drop in and look at each staring
face. Well, I have inherited a curious assortment of
complaining and jealous relatives.
A peal of laughter bursts at the answer. They
will never know how serious I am. You wont
understand this either. How would you? You
havent met my fathers side of relatives after all.
Well, lucky you. I sometimes wish I havent met
them either.
Anyways
So, when is the training session? Kaustav
asks. He is a man of work and words, never wastes
time joking around. In his smile I detect a touch of
sadness. But, I dont want to dig deeper. Not yet
anyways. Kaustav Bajwa will make a character to
stay up the night for.
Day after tomorrow, I answer.
You have the material ready? he asks.
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The speech you mean to say? I ask.


Yeah
I have a done a rough draft of the speech.
Show it to Sam, he points at his companion.
The guy has a thing for fiction. He gets up to his
feet and heads for the door. I will see you all
tomorrow morning. Gotta meet someone who is
interested in sharing the cost of book launch with
us And with that he departs.
Well okay. Should I email it to you? I ask.
Yep I will check it, Sam says.
I pull my phone out of my handbag (yes this
is a new phone), got online and send the speech to
Sam. Over to you, I say.
Sam pulls his phone out, looks at the screen
and nods. Received
The two men present in the room look at us
with strange expressions on their faces. How you
know his email ID? Ashutosh asks.
My hand freezes. How indeed? I am not
supposed to know this guy right? Well, I I begin
then look at Sam for help.
We used to write to each other. You know
email pals, Sam says with his eyes intact on the
screen, reading my speech.

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You two know each other from how long?


Mr. Rajwar asks. He leans forward with a hint of a
grin.
For a year or so, give and take a couple of
months I think honesty is the best thing here, since
Sam has played the whistle-blower.
Umm, I guess some of you dont know what a
whistleblower is. It is not someone who blows
whistle. It is a legal term of an employee who helps
law enforcement to incriminate their own
organization. I used to write law, remember?
Through mails, Ashutosh asks.
Through our written words, yes, I say.
And you two came face to face day before
yesterday for the first time in this building? Mr.
Rajwar asks. His eyes shine like a kid looking at
chocolate.
Yes, Sam says. He pushes his phone away,
done with the reading. With his elbow on the table,
he looks first at me and then others. We met here
for the first time on the 11th floor at 11 in the
morning. 11:11.
My heart skips a beat at the reminder of
11:11. Whats with this number? I ask. But, Sam
only smiles at me before turning the conversation
over to the promotion plan. I sit through it, waiting
impatiently. I need to get him alone.

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Whats with 11:11? I ask as soon as we walk


out of the office building together. I have been
seeing it all the time. I am still seeing four 1s
together.
It is the number of twin flame, Sam says.
Whats a twin flame? I ask. Above our
heads sun turns its voyage towards west. Now, only
the last stroke of bright orange hue lingers. This is
my favourite time of the day. Sam follows my gaze
up. We heave a sigh together.
Sam looks down at me with a grin. I know
some bizarre theory is about to come out. He must
have detected my doubtful expression. You can
laugh at me or you can accept. You know mano ya
na mano? A pause and then he speaks again. You
gotta keep an open heart. His voice barely rises
over the noise of traffic, yet I can hear him clearly.
His eyes remain on me, pleading me to believe.
Okay. I told my arms in front of me. Go
on.
First find a place to sit, Sam says. Shall
we?
We find a half empty coffee shop at Minto
Park Crossing. I lean back to listen though I am not
in the mood for any fairy tale. Something in Sams
voice demands attention. Soon he hooks me with
his tale of twin souls coming together. In my head I
see the possibility of a block buster story.
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So, according to you, we are I dont finish


the sentence. Twin flamenice one. The theory is
good though, I add a moment later. No doubt
about it. But, so are fairy tales. Since Snow White
does not exist, how can this theory be true?
How do you know fairy tales dont exist?
Sam asks.
Oh please. Now dont tell me happily ever
after exists too. I wave my hand in denial. Its
fascinating. Touching even. But, I dont believe in
it.
How can you explain both of us noticing
11:11?
Samrat, its a time. Everyone notices it, I say
in desperation.
I havent, he says. Not until now.
Very well I raise my hands in surrender. I
still dont believe in it. Sam flashes me a smile
which says he knows what I am feeling. You
checked the speech? I ask.
Yeah, I did.
Hows it? I put my elbows on the table and
leans forward towards him. Not engaging enough.
Not engaging enough, he says at the same
time.
Oh please, we say together.

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You are stealing my thought, I say.


You are voicing mine, he says.
Oh man, we say it in unison again. And then
Sam leans forward places his lips on mine gives me
a soft yet firm kiss before moving to the counter to
place our order.

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Chapter Thirty Seven


Samrat Bhatia

It was not my intension to kiss her in a public


place. I wanted our first kiss to be special and long
and deep and lingering with promise. Yet,
something about her just does not let me be in
peace. I just could not stop myself.
In my haste to get away from Gia before the
kiss became a public offense, I forgot to ask her
what she wants to have. Like a fool I stare at the
menu for a couple of minutes then I order for hot
chocolate for me and cold coffee with ice for her.
I am sorry, I say to her when I return with
the payment receipt. Her face breaks into a worried
scowl at the apology. I am sorry for kissing you
here in public. I wanted to do it in proper manner.
You know inside a bedroom. She gifts me a sharp
intake of breath. For a moment I get tempted to
carry on, to see how far we can go together. But, I
dont want to scare her away. So, I change the topic.
You know I met a girl named Ria in Pune
right after we started emailing to each other.
Her face relaxes. She leans back, keeping
distance from me. Okay. In your office?
Yeah. She is an editor. I dont know why I
am telling her all these. Only, I cannot stop myself
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from blurting out the truth. A childish girl with


mixed up views and a great body.
This time she smiles a sly smile. Okay then?
I was attracted to her. Strongly. Her smile
vanishes. I feel her retreating into a shell.
Thats why you didnt answer me back the
last time I wrote to you. We pause as the waiter
comes with our orders.
Yes and no. Since, I have started it. I need to
end it and hope that she forgives me. You made me
question my life in a way that I retreated. Compared
to your life mine seems like nothing but an
existence.
I never told you that. She digs her straw into
the coffee to stir the ice cream.
No you never did. But, you kept talking
about your writing. This made me ask myself what I
am living for.
Her face does not show any expression. So,
you found it? she asks. What you are living for?
I look at her for a long time before nodding.
Yeah I did. I sort of found it. We both sip our
beverages in silence for a few minutes then I say, I
have rewritten that novel of yours.
Which Then realization hits her. Oh that
one? She laughs. You were so right, it was boring
as hell.
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I guess I have turned into an exciting roller


coaster ride.
Then lets publish it, she says. After this
one
Co-authoring huh? Clearly she is enjoying
this.
Yep I feel my face breaking into a wide
smile.
So, whose name will appear first? she asks
in a playful tone. Mine or your
Your name of course, I say. She smiles.
Then I add. Gia Samrat Bhatia. The smile
vanishes but a hint of it hangs back on her face.
Tell me about this girl, she says. Ria.
Well yeah, I was attracted to her. She did a
fair job of getting meyou know hard. I dont
know how much to tell her. Then I decide to tell it
all. So, finally after a tap dance we ended up in her
bedroom.
She nods. From her face one can guess
nothing. It is completely neutral.
Sowe get done with the foreplay. Then at
the moment of climax I scream. Gia looks down at
her hand, nodding her head. Her discomfort is so
evident from her body language that I make hurry to
finish the tale. Your name. She looks up in
surprise. Yes and Ria slapped me so hard that I
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flaunted a bruise the next day. This makes her


laugh. Before, I can say anything else, my phone
buzzes. Kaustav. Now what?
Sam, Kaustav says as soon as I hit the
receive button. Where is Gia?
Huh? She is here with me.
Meet me at Belle Vue nursing home, he
shouts.
Belle Vue nursing home I repeat not getting
what he is saying.
Gia does. She jumps up to her feet, splashing
coffee on the process. Mr. Rajwar, she says. Is it
Mr. Rajwar?
Mr. Rajwar has suffered from a massive
stroke right after you two left. He is in ICU,
Kaustav says loud enough to reach everyone in the
proximity. He is in bad shape Sam. Bring Gia
quickly.
We run out of the coffee shop. She hails a
cab. It takes us five minutes to reach Belle Vues
front gate. Kaustav stands at the entrance. His face
like always reveals nothing. He looks at Gia and
says, He is asking for you. She runs inside. When
I try to follow her, Kaustav and Ashutosh both stop
me.
Let her be alone with her mentor, Ashutosh
says.
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Chapter Thirty Eight


Gia Mukherjee

Smell of medicine along with blood makes the


air heavy. I inhale as I run through the corridor.
Drops of tear slip down my face. I make no attempt
to wipe them away. Whats the use? They will come
flooding again.
Finally, I stand in front of the Mr. Rajwars
cabin. In another life I stood at this very spot
bracing myself to the scene inside. It was in another
nursing home. It was for another man. But, the
feeling is the same. That day, I failed to take my
father home. Today I just hope history writes
another story.
With shaking hands I open the door of ICU.
Mr. Rajwar lies wrapped in tentacles of tubes. My
vision blurs. I blink to look down at him, trying to
detect the rise and fall of his chest.
As if feeling my presence his eye lids flutter.
He blinks. I inch closer careful not to disturb his
position or the tubes attached to his body. With
effort he opens his eyes. Recognition reflects in the
gaze as it falls on me. His hand rises. This time I
move forward to clutch it in mine.
Please dont go, I whisper, kneeling down
beside his bed. Please dont leave me. Not now. I
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pause to look into his eyes. He can understand my


words. Through oxygen masks he smiles. Who will
applaud when I will win the Booker? My throat
closes up. Tears gather in my eyes. I let them flood
free again. Who will criticize my novels? Who
will?
His fingers curl around mine. I can feel only
love in the old mans touch. Has it been only six
months that we know each other? I wonder. Feels
like a lifetime has passed since. I look into his eyes.
We stare at each other for a long time. Finally, I see
the goodbye in the gray depth of Mr. Rajwars eyes.
No, I say. I am not ready to say good bye. I
am tired of saying good bye to people I care for.
Please God not this time, at least let him live for a
couple of more months. I want to see pride
brightening up those eyes when I hit the bestselling
list.
Slowly, very slowly, life sips out of his eyes.
His grip over my hand loosens. I hold back, not
ready to let go, not yet. But, everyone has to let go
sooner or later.
Outside I come face to face with Shyamak
Rajwar. This is the second time we are meeting. I
wouldnt have recognized him anywhere else. We
look at each other. I shake my head. He nods his.
What happened? Sams question does not
register in my mind. Mr. Rajwars face keeps

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coming up. What happened? This time he holds


my elbow and turns me around.
I wanna go home. My voice barely above
whisper, yet, Sam understands.
The rest happens in slow motion. It is as if life
passes by while I stand and stare. Sam calls a cab.
He pushes me inside. Kaustav reminds me of the
big press conference he has arranged for IMC
motivational speech day. He reminds me of the
book launch and something about being strong as
well.
On the way, Sam pulls me close against him. I
lay my head against his chest and hear his heartbeat.
It keeps my mind off the thought that I have lost the
only man who has tried to push me forward.
You are home. Sam nudges me up from the
trance. I turn my head to look out. Yes, I live here.
My hand shakes when I try to unlock the door. Sam
does it for me. I half stumble, half walk towards the
front door of my home.
Thanks Sam for everything, I say. Then turn
around to walk inside and everything goes blank in
front of my eyes.
Bright light blinds me and I close my eyes
once again. Something smells really good. Flower?
Or, room freshener? I try to open my eyes but again
the bright light shoots sharp pain through my head.
A low moan escapes my mouth. Hey welcome
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back writer, Sams voice rings from somewhere in


the distance. Open your eyes sweetheart.
I do. This time it hurts less. Through blur I see
my mom standing by the foot of the bed beside
Anya. Sam sits at the edge of the bed by me.
Hi, Anya says. Her eyes are enveloped by
dark circles. Layer of tiredness masks her face. I
never thought you would be a fainting type.
What happened? I moan the words out.
You fainted, Sam says. That was five days
ago. Then you were out with high fever.
Oh. Everything comes back in fragments.
The promotion plan, meeting Sam, the motivational
speech and finally Mr. Rajwars death, they all
come in separate frames.
Since you were out, Sam had to take care of
the press conference and motivational speech,
Anya says. He was damn good.
No doubt he was. I look at him with a smile.
He takes my hand in his. We thought we have lost
you. For the first time since meeting him, I witness
anything but smile in his eyes. I witness fear.
They all want to read your book. Anya is not
done with information. Its a hit sis. We are just
waiting for the release date.
True, Sam takes over. My head spins at so
much information dump. I am going to be
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published. Mr. Rajwar has done the impossible once


again. He has picked up a pebble from the street and
turned it into a piece of diamond. With this thought
I drift away.
When I open my eyes again, Sam sits by my
bed reading a thick paperback. He smiles his usual
hearty smile at me. Hey welcome back again.
Then he shakes his head. Clich huh? I nod
because my throat feels like sandpaper. So, how
about publishing that book we have been planning?
What book? I stare at him. The co-authoring one?
His eyes twinkle. Ready to attach our names
babes?
Am I?
The Last Words

Two years later


You really needed a new car? I ask.
Sam holds the steering wheel carefully in his
hand. Through the rear view mirror he casts me a
glance. Nope. I want it. With expert hands he
turns the wheel to pass a motorcycle. There is a
difference babe.
Yeah, there is. So, how long this car will
hold your interest?
He lifts his shoulders. Dunno. As long as it
can. Or, the day your third bestseller gets launched.
He grabs my hand and places it on the handbrake.
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How is the married life honey?You have been


asking that for the last two years, I say.
I will be asking this for the coming two
hundred years as well. He slams his right foot on
the brake at a red light near bypass. I am going to
Germany next Friday. Care to come along with
me?
To deliver another one of your motivational
speeches, I ask.
Yeah He nods, drumming his index finger
on the wheel as he waits for the light to turn green.
I finally found my calling. When those kids look at
me with awestruck eyes, I feel my existence
counts.
I am glad. I am for him. Its not only Anyas
business which has grown. Sam has made a
reputation as a motivational speaker too. Had I not
been out with fever, this would not have happened.
I look up to say thanks to the man who has given
me back my right to live. Mr. Rajwar wherever you
are, keep guiding me forward.
I love you, he says. Come with me.
Sure I will. It would be nice to write a thriller
in the backdrop of Germany.
Its been two years. Yet feels like yesterday
when we first came face to face with each other. I
have never known I will be able to love someone
like the way I love Sam. We do have a very
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passionate sex life. But, that is not all. We are each


others bestest friends. We share our lives and thats
the best thing about our relationship.
Wow what an ass. Sam whistles.
I turn my gaze at the pavement to see Shubha
leaning forward to retrieve something, showing the
world her ass crack. A couple of feet away stand
Tamas with a scowl on his face. His t-shirt echoes a
story of defeat and poverty.
Well, I guess something never changes. I hope
they find their horror ever after in each others
arms.
The Beginning

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