Z for Zest for Life and Z for Zucchini and Sweet Corn Fritters – A to Z Blogging Challenge 2021

How does one come to terms with grief and the loss of a loved one?

Kannan tried to come to terms with the absence of his mother. Immersing himself in work, or books, or music, or cinema; things that he loved before; no longer gave him peace or happiness. A sense of fulfillment always seemed to evade him in anything that he did.

His experience in the hospital when he got operated was life-changing of sorts. The duration when he was in sedated sleep; there were lots of vivid dreams. Snow-capped mountains, flowing streams, green meadows, sandy shores by the blue seas; these were some images that played in his mind. Then there was a dark tunnel through which he was travelling and he could hear the voices of his mother, his grandmother, and several others whose deaths he had witnessed. At one point the tunnel ended and there was a bright flash of light. When he opened his eyes he was in the room assigned to him and no longer in the operation theatre. After the discharge, it took a fairly long time for him to recover and during this time he thought a lot about the vivid dreams or visions in the operation theatre. He could not define them or interpret them.

Was he expected to travel to the mountains? Or to seashore? What did the voices of the departed souls signify? He could not get any answers. What he understood was that once again; Life had given him another chance to live; and now it was up to him to figure out how to lead it. He could either wallow in grief and self-pity and make life miserable for himself? Or, he could lead life with a purpose and try to help others in any way that he could.

Kannan decided something. He knew that he had no control over what hand destiny would deal him? He thought as long as he was alive he would lead life with zest. Happiness or Joy was not something that could be purchased for a price in a shop or an online shopping portal. It was a quality or emotion that would come from within. Happiness is what he would seek and happiness is what he would make the purpose of his life. If the book of Kannan’s life was filled with pain and struggles so far; from now on; he would attempt to fill those pages with happiness and a zest for life. If someone was destined to join him in this journey; so be it. If he was destined to travel alone; then so be it. Kannan smiled at his mother’s photograph. The red rose that he kept atop the photo fell down. It was a sign, a blessing; that he was on the right track.

Z for Zucchini and Sweet Corn Fritters

Zucchini is quite fascinating. Though it resembles the cucumber it does not belong to the same family of fruits/vegetables. The local vegetable vendors used to call it as “organic cucumber” and price it at roughly double the cost of regular cucumbers. Amma used to love zucchinis a lot and when in season, I used to regularly buy it from Mambalam vegetable market. Amma loved to eat it as a fresh salad with onions and tomatoes and also used to pickle it in brine along with carrots, beetroots, ginger, pepper, and green chilies. To culminate this series, I would like to share with you a recipe of zucchini and sweet corn fritters.

Ingredients:

Four medium sized zucchinis.

100 grams of boiled sweet corn kernels.

A mixture of all-purpose flour (maida), rice flour, and besan or chickpea flour in equal proportions.

Spice-mix powder – turmeric powder, red chili powder, coriander powder, and chat masala.

Cooking oil of your choice. We will use olive oil for this recipe.

Process:

Peel the zucchinis and use a grater to grate them finely. Now take the finely grated zucchinis in a white muslin cloth and squeeze the cloth to drain out the water content in the zucchinis.

Now in a mixing bowl, mix the zucchinis, sweet corn kernel, the three-flour mix, spice-mix, and salt add a small quantity of water and ensure that you have a batter mix that is not heavily diluted. Shape tikkis out of the batter and cook on a tava with olive oil. Turn the tikkis/fritters over with a spatula and ensure that it is properly cooked.

Serve with a chutney/sauce/dip of your choice. Note you can also add mashed potatoes to add additional flavour to tikkis. You can also experiment with the flours and use millet flours for the batter-mix.

To everyone who read the posts in this series, left a comment, liked the posts; thank you for your valuable time. I wish you a pleasant day ahead and I hope that we all find the happiness that we seek.

Thank you and God bless us all.

Not All Women

Not all women cheat men,

Not all women cheat other women,

Not all women wax eloquent about inner beauty,

And yet pass sly comments on other women equating them with transgenders.

Not all women, take advantage of a group of people,

And use them to market their books.

Not all women claim to be feminists and proponents of equality of genders,

And then go about bashing other women who do not agree with them,

Or call all men as lecherous bastards.

Not all women lust after married men and destroy happy marriages,

And then play the victim-card saying that the man made the first move.

Not all women talk about respecting elders,

And then go about driving a wedge between a man, his mother, and sister,

And then setting up a house with the husband.

Not all women are famous authors of books for children,

And yet claim that children should not be brought into this world.

Not all women are gossip-mongers who spread slanderous rumours,

About other men and women and destroy the hard-earned goodwill of innocent people.

Not all women claim to be psychiatrists and healers.

And set up counselling sessions to talk about life,

And then go about destroying the little remaining confidence of emotionally scarred people.

Not all women claim to be bi-sexuals, abuse, and suicide-survivors.

And go about trash-talking others who do not agree with them.

Not all women go about calling themselves “daddy’s little princess”.

And then abandon their poor old parents without a care or worry in the world.

Not all women fall in love when still in college,

Choose to forego their parents and family and even choose to change their religion,

And then when left in the lurch attempt suicide,

And permanently scar their parents and siblings.

Not all women are drama queens who seek to use men for their own benefit,

And then leave the poor man in the lurch, making him wonder where he went wrong.

Not all women are so insecure that they need a 4 A.M. friend to speak to;

And then spread rumours about the poor chap thinking he will never come to know about it.

Not all women are spiteful and nurse a bitter hatred for other women,

But still pose together like besties for Instagram photos,

And then bitch about each other with other folks.

Not all women are like the people described in the lines above.

There are women who genuinely care for others,

Who strive to make an honest living,

Despite all the problems that they face.

The single mother struggling to give her child a good future.

The young daughter caring for her ill and elderly parents,

The women who face a hostile male-dominated workplace,

And still shine forward with the quality of their work.

The woman who stands up for other women without bashing men.

The woman who values friendship and trusts men and women in equal measure.

The woman who will never spread rumours about others.

The woman who believes that true-love still exists,

And does not go about bashing all men and other women.

The woman who chooses dogs and cats over humans,

And is still respectful to humans.

A salute to everyone of you.

#NotAllWomen

2020 – A Gratitude Post

As the year 2020 draws to a close here is a small not of gratitude and thanks.

Bhanu Amma, Bragadeesh, & Appa.

Thank you for your support and guidance. Without Bhanu Amma’s support Amma’s first annual rites would never have happened. For four days in a row she got up early and prepared food for the priests. It is not an easy task and “devasa sappaddu” is a special form of cooking that has its own set of rites and rituals. Am forever indebted to you for this support.

Bragadeesh – We have known each other for five or six years now? I have seen him progress as an author, entrepreneur, social media influencer, and an individual. He has several successful books to his name, manages the operations of an American firm right from Chennai, manages to meet his fitness goals, and take time out to travel and meet friends. He was the one who was present when I was surgically operated. Again, deeply grateful for your support.

Appa – Soft-spoken and gentle he underwent a major cardiac surgery this year and by God’s grace he is stable and recovering fine. He is the beacon of positivity and inspiration for Bragadeesh, Suresh and, I. Even when one talks for a few minutes with him, one is sure to be enlightened and get knowledge on a wide variety of topics.

Venkatraman Shastrigal

Thank you sir for ensuring the rites and rituals were done month on month without fail and the annual rites were completed without a hitch.

Dr. Ganesh, Dr. Sai, Dr. Krithika

Thank you for your support, guidance, and medical advice.

Meera Shiva

Thank you for placing your trust in me and giving me work in the form of editing your manuscript when I was badly in need of a job and money. Thank you Meera and I eagerly await the release of your novel.

Alfred

Thanks for the reference for a job. At a point when I was worried how I am going to manage things, I spoke to Alfred and through him I received a reference for my current job.

My Current Employers

Thank you for your support and faith in my abilities.

Seemita, Divya, Prem Hari, Karthik, and the members of the Mudita Book Club

In the last year, I have consciously tried to stay away from arguments in several social media groups and I stick to sharing views on the posts of a limited set of people. The Mudita Book Club has been very close to my heart since its inception and I enjoy the conversation about books and movies among the different members. It was wonderful to receive books as gifts from Seemita, Divya, and Karthik and the cookies that Swetha gave us were simply mind-blowing. Thank you friends. Special note of thanks to Solomon who organizes the “Secret Santa Event”.

Avis Sir and Vaani ji

Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts and writing to me.

******

I am staring at an uncertain future as 2021 beckons. I may bid goodbye to Chennai for good over the course of the upcoming year. I have spent 22 years here. The better part of my life here. After a point of time, one wonders what is the meaning of this existence and what is our defined role in the larger scheme of things? I am hoping I will find answers to my personal quest. So a note of thanks to Madras that has seen me evolve into what I have turned into now. Till we meet again. Om Namah Shivaya.

Image from Forbes Magazine

Ramblings on Food, Decision-making, Life, and Death

One of the key problems that I have observed in my behaviour in the time since Amma’s demise is my inability to make decisions swiftly. As long as Amma was alive, I was able to make decisions swiftly. Every decision revolved around reaching home on time to give Amma her insulin injection before she would have diner. Any purchase that I would make it would be based on how it would help simplify things for Amma. At a point when cooking duties would come to me as Amma would be become bedridden with unfailing regularity, I would cook with minimal salt and oil as per the doctor’s recommendation and keep the spice-levels subdued. I would cook in a manner that would help Amma digest the food easily. At one stage, Amma was struggling to even chew rice properly. So I would cook the rice till it turned really soft and grind it in a mixer with boiled vegetables and cereals. She literally turned into a child who was to be fed Cerelac and Farex in the last few days as the output of the ground mixture would be similar in texture to baby food. Now when I am all alone and have to cook for myself – the challenge is to ensure that I do not make too much. Having cooked for two people for so long, to all of a sudden just make food for myself and remembering that I cook proportionately, took some time to get used to.

Breakfast after trial and error has now been fixed to oats and milk with fruits (banana or apple) and a couple of raisins and almonds. This has become a staple now.

Lunch is rice, mixed dal (moong, toor, and masur) cooked with a tomato and some sambar masala and salt. Sometimes, I get white and red pumpkin from the market. I slice some of the pumpkin and add it to the dal. One vegetable – potato, or ladies finger, or brinjal sabzi with or without onions.

Dinner – It is mostly dosai. Sundays are allocated to grinding the batter. It lasts till Wednesday or Thursday. The remaining nights it is one version of uppuma or the other – ravai, aval (poha), millets khichdi.

Now why did I ramble on food when I wanted to write about something else??? Have to change the title of the post now.

I wanted to write about my inability to take a proper and swift decision on any issue. For more than a year now I am battling sleep issues and after work from home started my complete sleep-cycle has gone for a toss. Medication that has started after surgery has also impacted the sleep cycle. Now I only get to sleep after 4 AM. I lie on the bed thinking about Amma, about life, choices, people who have been a part of my life and who have left my life after getting their tasks done, and leaving even without a farewell, a lot of things cloud my mind. Overthinking has been my bane all along and it will take me to my grave soon for sure.

Should I continue to live in Chennai? Shall I move to Nagpur, or Calcutta, or Bangalore? What if I were to become a digital nomad and keep travelling and working from wherever I am? What about the house in the village? Shall I vacate this rented accommodation and transport all my stuff and keep it locked in the house in the village? Books accumulated over all these years? Are they safe in the village house? I even dread visiting the village because I think rats would have eaten through the cardboard boxes or the basic plastic doors of the shelves to eat all the books. What if someone has drilled holes into the walls and taken things from the house? These kind of questions keep me awake.

How easy it would be to run away from all this…. assume another identity, and start life afresh? When will the time come for me to visit Kashi? When will Mahadev call me? One of these nights when sleep refused to bless my eyes, I came across a fascinating video. This was a man from Italy who came to Varanasi and integrated with Sanatana Dharma to become a bona fide Baba and being appreciated and accepted by the locals as one of their own.

At other times there is a deep-rooted desire to move to Thiruvanamalai and be a part of the Ramana Ashram there. Not able to make any decisions clearly. Sometimes there is a thought what if this life were to end all of a sudden. What would happen? If I were not to wake up tomorrow? How long would it take before people would realize that I was no more? May be if the neighbours spot newspapers outside the door and milk packets staying outside, they would worry, and then break open the door to discover me. These are all thoughts that cloud the mind.

Will this life end like this? Meaningless.. without achieving anything of significance, without leaving a legacy for another generation, without leaving a bit of myself in someone, without finding someone, without fathering a child, or adopting a child, or making a difference in anyone’s life? What if this great cosmic dance were to end? How would you remember me?

Hospital Adventures

After Amma’s demise in May 2019, I have struggled a lot in keeping my mind calm and going about with my day-to-day activities. Since October 2019, I have had a strange health condition that was not diagnosed properly despite meeting different specialists. There was a presence of blood in my saliva/mucous and I would keep worrying that something terrible was happening to me from inside. As Amma had lot of issues with her heart and lungs, my first fear was that something was wrong with my lungs or the bronchial tracts might have developed a tear. This was what the pulmonologist also felt and he prescribed medicines. Things would seem fine for a few days but again the problem would resume. The pulmonologist put me on strong medication and this would impact my sleep-cycles. It reached a stage where going to office would be a struggle as I would not be able to get up in the morning on time. Chest x-ray, CT-scan, blood-tests, everything would turn up negative, but there would be no end to the episodes of blood in the mucous. Eventually, I decided to quit my job and left to visit my sister in Feb 2020. We visited an ENT specialist in Nagpur and she conducted a laryngoscopy in the hope that there might be some issue in the throat. That too turned out fine and she prescribed some medicines related to prevention of acid-reflux and for about ten days there was no issue. I was under the assumption that whatever was plaguing me had healed. With a national lockdown imminent at any time, I returned to Chennai. The day I landed here, I again started to expel blood.

Despite consulting so many people, I found no solution to the crisis. My good friends Dr. Ganesh Puttu and Dr. Sai Sriram, said not to worry and it could be some minor ulcer and not to risk any serious surgery as the Corona crisis was at its peak. In the interim, my entire sleep pattern went for a toss. I was not able to sleep till 2 AM. Then I would get up by 10:30 or 11 in the morning and hurry on with trying to sign-in on time and work-from-home. It was at this time that I decided to get in touch with Dr. Krithika Iyer, whom I had met as part of a book-group on Facebook. She listened to me patiently and asked me to do some basic blood tests and referred me to an ENT specialist Dr. Shankar Kumar.

When I visited Shankar sir – he conducted a nasal endoscopy and asked me to do PNS CT-scan. The diagnosis was clear – I had a deviated nasal septum and a nasal polyp, which was causing all the troubles. Improper diagnosis had led to the polyp growing in size, and he recommended that I opt for surgery at the earliest. When I spoke to my uncle and aunt and my sister and brother-in-law they asked me to handle the situation carefully. Dr. Ganesh and Dr. Sai also said that I could wait for a couple of months for the situation to improve as we might get a vaccine for Covid by December and things would be safer. In the interim, I managed to sign-up for employee insurance through office. I then underwent the pre-operative tests that included the HIV and Covid-tests and thankfully everything seemed fine and I received a date of admission to the hospital from my doctor.

Bragadeesh was of great support and he was my attendant in the hospital. We took a cab from home and reached the hospital by 7:45 AM. After some basic tests by the nurse, we were allotted a room on the fifth floor. The room was spacious and we were informed that by 10 AM – I would be shifted into the operation theatre. I was asked to change into the hospital gown and made to wear an underwear made out of polyester.

I was given a tetanus shot. An ECG was also taken to ensure that the basic parameters were fine. Then I was wheeled into the operation theatre and given anaesthesia. They shaved a portion of my hand where the IV-drip would be connected to the vein. It pained a bit, in less than five minutes I was out cold. Before anaesthesia, Shankar sir said that the surgery would go fine and I was not to worry. Bragadeesh said, that they called him once the polyp was removed and they showed it to him. Doctor said that polyp was non-malignant and that was a big relief. Somewhere around 1:30, I was moved back to the room and I was conscious but extremely drowsy and my throat had gone dry. I was to be given water only after 4:30 PM. It was crucial that I spent the time safely without vomiting or displaying any other signs of discomfort. Plus they had packed my nose with some special bandage and I felt there was a huge weight on my nose. My voice completely changed and I was struggling to sound audible. Was drifting in and out of sleep. At 4:30 PM – I got vegetable soup. Then I drank some water. I was recovering fine. Bragadeesh said he had chicken biriyani for lunch. When I sat erect there would be fluid discharge from the nose and I got really scared. Doctor and nurse said that this was normal and I should not worry.

For dinner, I had idlies and I really savoured them – as I was eating something solid after nearly 18 hours. We were watching the IPL match at night in the room. Then fell asleep. Woke up some time around  2 AM. Bragadeesh was in deep sleep and he seemed extremely exhausted. I was awake – some time around 4 AM duty nurse came and checked. They wanted to introduce Paracetamol via the IV-drip- but I said my hand was hurting and the nurse removed it. Breakfast was again idlies. Doctor sir came by about 8:15 AM – he said I was making good progress and removed the nasal pack. It felt that a great weight had been removed from my nose. Doctor said that I would be discharged in the afternoon.

The hospital sent the bill details to my insurer and by 5:45 PM they received clearance. I had to pay about Rs 21,000 from my pocket for elements not covered in the bill. By about 6:30 PM we had departed the hospital. By 8, we were home. Bhanu Amma made chappatis and dal and sent it to me for dinner through Bragadeesh. I was exhausted – ate and just slept. Bloody CSK lost the match – is what I learned in the morning. Recovering now – there is mild discomfort in the nasal region and this should heal as the course of medicine ends. I am hoping sleep patterns will get corrected soon.

This is a gratitude post – thanking Bragadeesh, Bhanu Amma, Dr. Krithika, Dr. Shankar. Dr. Ganesh, and Dr.Sai for their support and guidance.

SPB – The Legacy Lives On

We had been closely following the news since August when SPB had been admitted to MGM Hospital in Chennai. The appearances made by SPB Charan on news channels sharing updates on his health made us believe that he was on a slow road to recovery. But all our hopes were dashed yesterday, when the hospital put out a notification stating that he was extremely critical. He passed away this afternoon, a few minutes after 1 PM.

What do we write about this soft-spoken, humorous gentleman, an engineer who won a music competition and then went on to become one of the most loved singers in India singing over 40,000 songs across multiple languages in a career spanning 50 years. His combination with Ilayaraja, Vairamuthu, and Mani Rathnam created beautiful numbers that shall stand the test of time. He became the voice of Kamal, his introductory song for a Rajini movie ensured that the Superstar got a hit. In addition to cinema, he sung numerous devotional songs.

He was a brilliant actor as well. Watch this television serial where his pairing with Lakshmi is exemplary, the genius of KB is showcased in the casting and the direction. Do watch the serial.

Here he is the investigating officer in “Thiruda Thiruda”

This scene from “Kaadhalan” where he plays the doting father is heart-touching.

Watch the full movie “Mithunam” (Telugu) where Lakshmi and SPB are paired again.

Sharing some songs below that I keep listening on a regular basis. No top-list or rating one song above the other, just a collection of songs that lift one’s mood.

“Mere Jeevan Saathi” from “Ek Duje Ke Liye”

“Sach Mere Yaar Hai” from “Saagar”

“Saathiya Ye Tune Kya Kiya” from ” Love”

“Aate Jaate, Hanste Gaante” from “Maine Pyar Kiya”

“Mandram Vantha Thendraluku” from “Mounaraagam”

“En Kanmani” from “Chittukuruvi”

“Shankaraa..” from “Shankarabharanam” – The movie fetched SPB his first national award.

“Tharapadham Chethoram”

“Mannil Indha” – The original breathless song.

“Satham Illatha” from “Amarkallam”

“Kaadhale yen Kaadhale” from “Duet”

“Kodi Mangani” from “Party”

“Naguva Nayana” from “Pallavi Anu Pallavi”

“Illamai Itho Itho” – The default Happy New Year song in Tamil Nadu after the movie released.

Just a few memories from the innumerable memories that he has given us. You are now a celestial body like the moon that you sung about so often. Om Shanthi sir.

In the Name of My Father

It is apparently a day that the world celebrates fathers, along with music, and yoga. Friends and acquaintances on social media are putting up posters and photographs celebrating the lovable bond that they share with their fathers. Men and women smiling and posing with their respective dads. There is a deep void that I have when I see these photographs and messages. I have spent very little time with my father. Growing up, there is a big gap in my life, where I did not even know where he was, as a small boy, I was under the impression that he was working abroad. He made an appearance for my sister’s wedding and after a few days again he was gone. When fathers used to accompany their children for events at school and in the locality, there was a bit of pain, which always remained. As I grew up and I understood the complex dynamics of an extended broken family trying to pick up its pieces, I realized that this is how things are meant to be.

Finally in 1998, I had a chance to start life afresh with my father and mother. Moving from a bustling metropolis to a small town in Tamil Nadu brought several challenges. Realizing that here too I will be an outsider after being an ‘outsider’ in Calcutta, I continued to grapple with life. Within a few months I understood why my father had remained away from us. His addiction to alcohol ruined my mother’s life as well as mine. Quite early in life, I realized that I had to support my mother in any way possible to make this chance at a ‘family’ work. When others of my age used to enjoy the evenings after school and holidays, I would sell murukku and thattai (rice-flour based snacks). We got some orders to supply regular meals to a family and this helped us a lot. They were an elderly couple near our rented house and I would supply food in a tiffin carrier to them. There used to be ugly arguments at home and I tried my best to zone out all the ‘noise’ and focus on my studies. I have never been an exceptional student, just above-average. Engineering and medicine were ruled out for two reasons, lack of money and my lacklustre scores in Maths and Science.

Somehow got into college, got a taste of the big city, participated in competitions of oratory, writing, quizzing, and drama won lots of prizes and handed over the cash rewards to Amma. Biggest joy was when I got placed on campus, that one day, when I received the offer-letter was my happiest. As I entered corporate life and salary started coming in regularly, helped realize small dreams of my Amma. Starting with a refrigerator, a washing machine, a microwave oven, small things that made her life easier. As father’s dependence on alcohol increased, I tried admitting him to rehab to help him overcome his addiction, but of no avail, he ran away from there. One fine day, after a long argument, he just walked out of our rented house. It has been more than ten years now. My mother is also dead now. I don’t have any bit of affection or love for my father. Just bitterness and anger. I am alone. Sitting in the comfort of another rented house. As the world celebrates fathers and fatherhood, I wonder where did I go wrong, what was my crime to have not experienced the paternal affection that every child deserves. I do not have answers. There are times when I have nightmares where I see funeral pyres burning and I wonder who is it that is on the final journey? Wherever you are – I hope you have found the happiness that you wanted. Happy Father’s Day to you.

Book Review of ‘The Hauntup’ by Deepti Srivatsan and an Interview with the Author

Dear Readers — Please welcome debutante author Deepti Srivatsan, the author of the psychological thriller “The Hauntup”. Before we go to my review of the book, here’s a brief tete-a-tete where she answers some of my questions.

What prompted you to write ‘The Hauntup’?

Since childhood I have always been weaving stories in my head. Even if I did pen them down, these were never shared with anyone else. A few years back, the concept of ‘food walks’ and ‘heritage walks’ was growing increasingly popular and I found myself wondering how it would be if someone organized a walk around the city’s haunted locations in the dead of the night. This sparked the idea of ‘The Hauntup’ and I decided that this time I shall write a story for everyone.

Did the plot change as you wrote the story or did you have a pre-defined outline?

When I started to write I had no idea where my story was headed. I didn’t even know who the killer was for a long time and I just let the story develop on its own. The sub-plots kept changing multiple times. In hindsight I wish I had been a little more organized.

Any suggestions for first-time authors?

Read extensively and attentively. And write a little everyday. Writing a novel is a slow and frustrating process and there are days you start to question your craft. Have faith in yourself.

Do share the names of some of your favourite books and authors.

Growing up, my favourite authors were Sidney Sheldon, Agatha Christie and Steve Martini. Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’, Yuval Noah Harari’s ‘Sapiens’ and all books by Elif Shafak are among my all time favourites.

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I received a copy of the book from Deepti in exchange for an honest review. It took some time for the book to reach me because of the pandemic, thankfully, I finally received the courier containing the book. Published by NotionPress, the book has an interesting cover.
TheHauntup
I started reading the book and was hooked to it right from the beginning. The story starts with a young couple having an argument and in the next few pages the woman is dead, pushed to her death from her bungalow overlooking the sea. The story then moves forward by several years and we are introduced to a bunch of youngsters in their twenties who are all living in Chennai and working in diverse professions. They are all connected by a common message on Twitter and they are invited to a “Hauntup.” The story gathers pace as the characters are introduced and they undergo a surreal or eerie experience during the first “hauntup.” We do not know who is organizing the hauntup and all the individuals are shaken after their experience.
As the story unravels, we are introduced to more characters. There is a leading movie star and a director. An assistant director Mitra is part of the group of youngsters invited to the hauntup. There is a young architect who is working for a leading construction firm. We slowly meet these characters and realize that there is a common thread connecting them. A road accident that happened many years ago, a journalist who tried to dig further details who died, a young girl working in a shop who was killed. How are all these incidents tied to our group of thrill-seekers? You will have to read this book to find out the answers.
Deepti does a commendable job in her first book. It is not easy to write a psychological thriller and with multiple characters involved it could be easy to lose focus. Despite several characters in the story, she does full justice to the story, and serves a brilliant tale of crime, revenge, and redemption. I really enjoyed reading the book and lovers of crime/thrillers would surely love to read the book. Do give it a shot and support a new independent author.

Meshu’s Quest for a Bride

The last few years took a severe toll on Meshu’s body and mind. All attempts to find a bride ended in failure. Then Meshu lost his mother and his life changed overnight. Forced into solitude he descended into a state of perpetual fatigue. Now a year after his mother’s demise and after completing the rituals every month culminating the annual rites, he decided to start afresh.

Step -1 – His brother added him to a dating group on Facebook. Half the time he is lost at looking at the posts put up by a few members with unfailing regularity and a legion of their followers commenting on the posts. He has grown old and he is definitely from a different generation, not understanding how likes and comments and heart icons turn into meaningful relationships. But his friend says, “I found my soulmate here, you are not trying hard enough.” Meshu wonders if he will ever garner the courage to even send a friend request to an unknown lady based on what they put up on social media groups. He is too old for this dating game.

Step-2 – This year on his birthday when he visited Marundeeshwarar Temple in memory of his mother, he spotted an event happening in a kalyana mandapam. On enquiry, he found out that it is a meet-up of grooms and brides families organized by a matrimony portal. Promptly, he registers and then starts the waiting game. He receives some profiles and to his bitter dismay finds that all the profiles of the brides are at least 12 to 15 years younger than him. Swallowing a bitter pill and drinking one strong filter coffee from the nearby shop he walks out wondering, what lies next.

Step-3 – The Corona crisis is at its peak and during the midst of this lockdown he receives a fresh set of profiles registered in April. He shortlists relevant profiles by age, gothram, and star and starts making phone-calls.

Conversation – 1

“Hello sir, naan Chennai laerndhu Mahesh pesaraen.”

“Yes, tell me how can I help you?”

“Sir, your daughter Nandhini registerd with ID 5423.”

“What is your age?” “Sir 38.”

“There’s some confusion the admin staff misprinted my daughter’s date of birth – she is just 24 years old. Better luck in your search. Bye”

Conversation – 2

“Hello sir, good evening, Mahesh calling from Chennai”

“Yes, what do you want?”

“Sir, you are Miss Charanya’s father registered on matrimony portal with ID -5761”

“Oh, no, not again, there’s some confusion, it is a wrong number. I don’t have any daughter named Charanya. I am sure the real Charanya would be married by now.”

This is how my story goes. Dear readers if you are aware of any relevant bride for me please get in touch with me and share the details. Thank you.

 

In Search of a Barber

My last haircut was sometime in mid-February. From a very young age, or ever since I can remember, I have had an army haircut and once in a month I will visit a barber-shop or saloon and get a haircut. The key problem that I face is that sweat starts accumulating above the ears and it causes a lot of discomfort while sleeping.

Now thanks to the lockdown enforced by the government all saloons have been shut and for more than a fortnight, I have been facing a lot of discomfort. One day, I walked a stretch of about three kilometres on two sides of a main road to check if any saloon was open only to find them all closed.

Finally, yesterday, I found a saloon open and had a haircut and am now relieved. It feels as if a massive burden has been removed.

Fans of Malayalam cinema will love this:

Freedom – A Short Story Set in the Pandemic

Kamaraj Nagar – A locality in Avadi – April 14, 2020

Murugan looked at his wife and two children. It was the Tamil New Year. The corona lockdown had forced him to shut his small barber shop. There had been no income for about a month now. From all his savings, he was down to the last Rs 500 he had. He cursed himself for having hastily installed the air conditioner in his saloon based on the feedback of his customers. The AC had taken out Rs 30,000 and within a month of it being installed the government had enforced its god-forsaken lockdown. Valli his wife had managed to make a simple yet delicious meal. There was payasam and vadai with rice, sambar, and vegetable curry. The two children – twins – Haripriya and Harpit were ten years old. Excellent at studies and extra-curricular activities, their small flat in the housing board colony was adorned with certificates and trophies that the twins had won at school. The situation was problematic for most occupants of the run-down flats in the colony. He could not borrow money from anyone either. The people lending money during this crisis would extract their Shylockian pound of flesh from him. He wondered how he would overcome this crisis.

Gumudipoondi a town adjoining the Andhra border – May 1, 2020

Biswajit was walking along with a group of 15 other construction workers. They were tired of the false promises being made. They had not received wages nor had work resumed. Their contractor had tried his best to support them, but he too was caught in his problems and facing a monetary crisis. Originally from Midnapore in West Bengal, Biswajit had come to Chennai, three years ago. He loved this city and its long beach. He had worked in a small restaurant as a cleaner and then found a better-paying job as a construction-worker.  This city gave him dignity instead of life as a low-caste indentured labourer in his native village. The Communists had destroyed the fabric of his beloved state. Despite changes under Mamata didi’s Trinamool – a life of comfort was still a distant dream. The group had started walking from their tenements near Royapuram two days ago. They did not know how they were going to reach their destination or when they would reach it either. They trudged along because they knew their dream had ended here. They tried to use the side-roads instead of the main highway to avoid the police. En-route some volunteers from NGOs and good-natured folks had provided them with water and food-packets. How long would this journey run? Would they make it in one piece to their native lands?

Kodambakkam – a posh apartment complex – May 10, 2020

Rhea was having a heated exchange with her husband Dev. “What do you mean – kitchen is only for women? You better come here and help me wash the dishes.” Dev chose to ignore her and this only infuriated Rhea further. Something snapped that moment in Rhea’s mind. Five years of a marriage that was filled with arguments and disagreements. They had been neighbours since their childhood and their parents had conducted the marriage wishing the best for both of them. Somehow the joviality of friendship did not translate into a successful marriage and it had been a constant struggle for both of them after the initial honeymoon period ended. As Dev continued to flip the channels on the television, Rhea walked in to the living room and stood between Dev and the TV set and said – “OK, Dev, we need to talk, now!”

Kamaraj Nagar – May 15, 2020

The police-officers had cordoned the flat where Murugan lived with his family. All four members of the family had died. Murugan hung from the ceiling fan. His wife and children lay in the bed with their mouths frothing with a foul-smelling liquid. Murugan had poisoned them and then hung himself. His letter that was kept on the alcove with the photos of several gods was clear. He no longer had any money. He could not open his barber shop, he could not pay rent, and the money that he had borrowed with great difficulty was also over. Neither could he help himself or his family-members. This was the only way out.

Midnapore – May 22, 2020

The Amphan cyclone hit with a ferocious impact destroying everything in its way. Poor Biswajit who had reached home after an NGO had helped arrange transport for them in Andhra Pradesh discovered the wrath of nature a few days after reaching his village. The winds and the rains had lashed and blown away the tin and asbestos sheets that worked as roofs. He was thankful that he was alive. His aged mother and widowed sister were safe. They salvaged some of their belongings and walked to the local government school, where a relief camp had been set up. A promise of a hot meal of khichuri and some vegetables prompted them to walk to the school where some more villagers had assembled. They were down, but they believed they could rebuild their lives.

Kodambakkam – May 23, 2020

“Amma, enough is enough. I have thought through this clearly. I am not going to endure any of Dev’s nonsense. Five years of my life I have given to him, and my role is that of a dignified maidservant. That’s all, and a trophy-wife for parties.  I am seeking a divorce from him. I need to live my own life.”  Rhea’s mother looked at her and nodded her head. “Appa and I are sorry for having foisted this marriage upon you. Let’s plan a new beginning for you.” Mother and daughter hugged each other as tears flowed down their eyes.