Posted in Life and After, Love

The Long Walk

It is a long walk down the aisle. My father holds my hand reassuringly while my mom sobs in the pew. He stands with the pastor looking perfect as ever but I can’t bring myself to smile.

Is it too late to cancel?

Is it wrong to wish for something other than perfection?

I pass by her and, for a second, her entire face lightens up but, then, the lights go out again. Her red-rimmed eyes mirror mine.

Is it too late to cancel?

Posted in Love, Nature

Heartache

I picked up the flower that had fallen from her hair. It still held her fragrance.

Ever since she moved here, I followed her around, hoping she would look at me and never look away. Often, I would walk behind her, right past her, in front of her…

But she seemed to look right through me.

Then, this guy came and held her from behind. She squealed in terror. Naturally, I attacked him. But instead of supporting her saviour, she hit me with a stick and called me a ‘stupid bird’! Worse still, she kissed him!

I’ll never love again!


Photo by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash

Posted in Random Thoughts

Little Treasures

One of my favourite writers, Pete Johnson from Beetley, recently wrote about his tin box and the memories within it.

It reminded me of my own. My treasured tin box holds:

  • Old coins from my late grandmother (1 paisa worth around 10,000th part of a pound, 3 paisa and 5 paisa) that went out of circulation before I was born and have no materay value;
  • A couple of leaves that were birthday gifts by friends with “Happy Birthday, Shaily” and “We Miss You!” written on them in red paint, gifted by two of my friends who were in a village with no access to birthday cards at the time;
  • Beads of a broken bracelet from my oldest friend;
  • The dollar my brother gave me when he returned from Texas;
  • The 1″ X 1″ Philips music player that my parents gave me as a reward for excelling in my MBA first semester (doesnot work anymore, but…);
  • My pen drive that holds my MBA research project (doesnot work anymore, but…);
  • A pair of beloved, well-used and, now, broken earrings that one of my best friends gifted me on my birthday, right before he got down on one knee to tell me that he loves me;
  • A single earring (well used and now deviod of its partner) sent by mail by the same person two years later on our first Valentine’s day apart; and
  • Five capsules, each one stuffed with a miniscule handwritten notes, saying “I love you” from you-know-who on the same day.

Some treasures I am unable to fit inside a tin box.

  • A couple of birthday post cards from Manpreet, my bestie, that have handmade paintings with 100+ “I LOVE YOU” hidden inside the design
  • My copy of Three Men in a Boat that I read too often to bother hide it inside a tin box, only to pull it out the next day
  • The invitation card of my marriage to you-know-who
  • Our daughter’s countless pictures

All of these treasures, except the coins, were acquired after I became an adult. What, do you think, does that say about me?

Do you have any treasure boxes of your own?

Posted in Life and After

Bermuda Triminiaios Periodiko (Bermuda Quarterly)

Summer Solstice edition

Month: Junius, Year: 593618 Anno Poseidon

Page 2

Is this the Beginning of the End?

In our last edition, we had revealed the heinous government policy of shooting flying fishes for target practice in a blatant infringement of Right to Life. The public uproar that ensued forced the government to change its policies, enforcing the use of mechanised manaquinns for practice instead. In this issue, yet again, we are raising concerns against mindless shooting by government officials for a completely different reason.

The concern stems from a recent report by Dr Hammerhead, a famous Ecologist claiming that the quality of water around the Atlantis Triangle has deteriorated greatly in the past couple of centuries. It now contains dangerous levels of Iron, Aluminum and Asbestos. Earlier last year, his team was contacted by the head of Coral Tribes Council (CTC) about the discolouration of their ancestral sites across Atlantis. Upon furthur research, it was found that that ancient Coral colonies that form the top spires of Atlantis Castle since the beginning of times are the most affected. A detailed study clarified the reason being the concerning levels of Asbestos, Iron and Aluminium in water.

The report has come right after last month’s environmental report on the changing ecology of Atlantis Triangle, claiming a twenty-fold rise in microbial infestation in the area in the past couple of centuries and swelling number of poaching and illegal hunting activities by rogue Sharks, raising the risk of biological imbalance.

While these reports may seem disconnected, they are linked closely together to mindless shooting and the Atlantis Ship-wreak yards.

Some of you might be aware that Atlantis Triangle has three large Ship-wreak yards, each situated on its three corners. They were created to dispose off the human ships shot down by King Poseidon to ‘safeguard his territory from illegal infiltration’. Now, these yards have grown large enough to look like iron islands peeking out of the sea because of the numerous ships and flying planes collected over the centuries. The spaces between ships provide ideal hiding spaces for poaching Sharks. Their woodwork and the stuff-humans-wear they carried has rotted for years causing microbial infestation in the surrounding areas leading to breathing problems and various skin and gills infections. The Iron, Asbestos and Aluminium from these ships are now part of Altlantis water causing the said Coral discolouration.

The research team has suspicions that the same could also be the cause of tail-scales decay in the senior citizens, the expanding numbers of eye-problems in Cyclops population and early aging signs in otherwise immortal sea-nymphs. According to Dr Hammerhead, it would require a detailed study of entire population of Atlantis to understand the exact effects and funding worth several million sea-oysters.

When we contacted King Poseidon for his comment, his first reply was that of causal dismissal. In his own words, “I have read the reports and am arranging some strong waves to be sent to wash away the minerals from the area.”

When we asked if he finally plans to stop shooting ships and flying planes, he said, “I will continue to do what it takes to keep my territory safe. I can’t secure all oceans due to the amount of vigilance required but I will not let those pests infect my capital.” He also commented on human intelligence, saying, “They just don’t stay out. Even after losing so many ships and planes, they haven’t learnt enough to mark out our territory as hostile and give it a wide berth. Instead, they send ships that can deep-dive to search for their lost ships. Such Assfish!”

When we commented that humans can’t see the city hidden below water and have no way of marking the territory on waves, the King blamed us for supporting the ‘enemy’ and threatened to use his trident on us. While leaving, one of the guards escorting us threatened to turn us into fried fish if we did not cooperate.

Meanwhile, CTC has called out King Poseidon’s bluff saying that he is just missing old times when wars with Zeus came often; that he is itching to use his trident on someone or something. They are protesting against the mindless shooting and resulting ecological problems by building colonies in the middle of palace gates, blocking the main pathway.

We urge you to support them in their cause by joining the mass protest at the Whale Bone park this Dies Solis being arranged by the FishMatters organisation. Let us pledge our support to our fellow citizens and save our environment and cultural landmarks from desecration.

Posted in Life and After, Love

Why

Something was off.

I could feel it from the moment you walked in our room

on our honeymoon–

something amiss in your face, your eyes, your smile–

something vital.

I spent the night awake, wondering what it was

and why it mattered.

Every time I thought of you,

I felt it.

Every time you were around me,

I couldn’t find it.

I wondered what was amiss,

and why it mattered enough to give me sleepless nights.

Years later, I found it

in the eyes of another man.

It was Love.

Posted in My life, Random Thoughts

Social Distancing

Lately, I went off the social grid for a couple of weeks due to the new mobile I had bought.

I am scared of new technology and keep each of my phone until it almost dies. The last one was with me for 4 years and was a birthday gift from my husband. After four years of constant nagging from my over-indulgent husband, I agreed to let it go. It was still in a good shape. The only item I ever had to replace was the charging cord. The adapter was still good as new. I wouldn’t have given it up but the carrot my husband had hung in front of me was the much-superior camera quality. So, finally I took the bait.

Now, I have the new phone, but am scared to touch any button for the fear of triggering… something… Not sure what that something is but the fear of the unknown evil far outweighs the excitement of discovering something new. Hence, I haven’t downloaded the Whatsapp and WordPress applications.

Initially, it was weird to have nothing to do. I thought it was the end of the world. How would I exist without Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram…how would I connect with my friends and family? How would I live without checking WordPress comments every free minute I had…

Well, I survived.

Here I am–a new person who has more time in her hands than ever. I have painted, watched movies, created storage boxes for toys, mended clothes, resized old dresses, taken active interest in daughter’s home education…anything to kill time! I even need less sleep, I get up erlier than usual and don’t feel loopy all day.

And I made real phone calls to people–not just texting on Whatsapp but actually dialing the number, waiting for them to pick up while listening to the caller’s tune and talking to real people who mean something in my life! And I visited relatives who live in the same city–real people in flesh.

I know! Weird…

Posted in Life and After

The Sacrifice

The sun hangs at the horizon leaving a trail of blood in the sky. The hot summer evening is thick with anticipation as the Sadhu casts a circle of protection in front of the Peepal tree. Unintelligible murmurs of incantations fill the silence as the old couple quietly watches the proceeding with apprehension. The goat they had raised as their own child is tied to the tree, bleating, pleading for its life. It is inconsolable, as though it already knows the impending doom.

The old woman sniffs and the man suppresses a groan. They have no choice. Their youngest daughter is now 20 and past the age of marriage. They have tried finding a groom but she’s a Manglalik. According to her star chart, anyone who marries her would die an early death. Of course, they don’t believe in any of it but other people do. They are desperate and ready to marry her off to anyone, even a widower with children, so that she would have someone to take care of her once they died. But no luck so far. Their sons, her brothers, had assured them that they would take care of her but it is hard to trust.

A couple of days back, this Sadhu appeared at their doorstep, asking for alms. At first, they were afraid to look at him–dressed in a black loin cloth, with ashes from shamshan (cemetry) on his forehead and a necklace of human bones. As soon as he saw their daughter, he had proposed a solution–a ceremonial marriage of their daughter with the Peepal tree and the sacrifice of a black goat to ward off the bad luck. Their daughter had cried for hours, declining to let her favourite goat die but it is the only black goat they have.

The Sadhu has chosen the old Peepal tree in the forest for the ceremony. As he started drawing the red circle, they had requested him to consider another Peepal tree with a better reputation but failed to convince him. In the day light, it looks harmless enough but the receding light leaves shivers down their spine. The stories of the evil spirits ring in their ears as they look at their daughter sitting in front of the yajna fire inside the circle. Prepared as a bride in a set of red blouse and Banarasi sari, and all her gold jwellery, she looks a picture of loveliness. Yet, there is no joy on her face, only resignation to the inevitable. Her palms still held wet henna that her mother had hastily applied last minute and never got the time to dry.

As the sun threatens to drown over the horizon, they step towards the circle of protection. But the Sadhu waves them out. “The circle protects only one person apart from me. Your daughter is part of ceremony, so she must stay. The rest of you must return to the village right away before night falls and spirits awake.”

The girls eyes widen with fear, “Amma, don’t leave me alone!”

“Of course, we won’t, dear. Baba ji, you never said that we have to leave…”

“And what will you do here? Protect her from the evil spirits?” Suddenly, comprehension dawns over his face, “Oh! You don’t trust me around her…the man who spent the past 25 years rejecting all his body needs–sleep, food, clothing…everything…in pursuit of God’s way…You dare blame me of wanting to befoul your daughter.” There was an edge of menace in his voice that brings them down on their knees.

“Please, Baba ji, don’t be angry. You must understand the predicament of parents of an unmarried daughter. If we leave her behind, tongues willl wag.”

“In that case, you can take her back. But the ceremony has already started. If she leaves midway, I cannot guarantee her safety. The spirits of the Peepal will haunt her forever…” The Sadhu lowers his voice lightly to hide the rising temper, “If you stay outside circle, the spirits will possess you. If you step inside, I will not have enough power to protect any of you and it will endanger your daughter as well.”

The last beams of sunlight fall on the bride’s face streaked with tears. She seems petrified with fear. Thay can’t stay and she can’t leave the circle. The Sadhu commands with all the force he can summon, “I am not here to waste my time. If you want me to help her, you leave now. Else, you can take her and damn her to a life with demons. I don’t care either way…”

The silence that ensues enrages him further. He gets up to leave but they hang to his feet, begging, “Please forgive us, Baba ji. We are leaving. We will return in a couple of hours…”

“Do not return before dawn until the spirits are asleep again or I do not guarantee your safety.”

They hang their heads and leave immediately, promising to return for the crying girl with the first light.

The night is spent pacing around the house waiting for the day to break. When the anticipation overshadows fear, they return with their sons long before the birds wake. The forest is still dark and the yajna’s fire is visible from a distance, cackling with power. The Peepal tree is a monster with open jaws daring them to come closer. A limp, thin, ravaged girl with torn red clothes hangs from a low branch, her Banarasi sari tied around her neck. The Sadhu lies outside the circle of protection with the ceremonial knife stuck in his throat.

The goat bleats in mourning.

Soon after, the village talks in hushed voices about the spirits of Peepal tree who have now acquired a taste for young female flesh. As for the torn red cloth in the fist of the dead Sadhu and henna on the hilt of knife–such things better be left unspoken…

Posted in Random Thoughts

New Phone Fiasco

Hi All,

I’m getting a new phone tomorrow and will not be able to connect with you until I have figured out the WordPress app on it.

There will also be other things to deal with, like apps and security details for office, and moving pictures (2000 of them) and videos. And I’ll have to deal with my daughter’s excitement who will ensure to get one thousands pics clicked by the phone and with the phone. And then, she’ll demand to figure out You Tube first…because that’s next to breathing…

I hope to get sorted by this weekend. So, if I don’t reply your comments, you know why. 😁

Posted in Random Thoughts

To Slay A Dragon

A tale worth telling…

Tiny Tales

No sword or arrow or poison could slay the dragon. It came like a storm from the north, rushing on the wind and raining fire. The land turned to ash under its breath, and when the village had emptied, the dragon dug out a nest with razor claws and draped its scaly coils over the charred remains.

A field of crude tents now spread along the edge of the nearest city, and from that city, perched between the forest and sea, men waged war with the dragon.

The sun was spreading a dark shadow at the forest’s feet when soldiers and archers came through the trees, bloodied and blackened, hauling carts of the dead behind them. Ahna stood among the tents, a hand resting on her swelling stomach, watching them come.

Roderick, a tall man with a sword and an army and a hall of stone, led them. He stopped…

View original post 587 more words

Posted in My life

Tattoos and Difficult Clients

Mehendi is a lost art…

Okay, not entirely lost, but it is certainly changed quite a lot. Mehendi tattoos are a pain (only) in the ass because of sitting ducks for hours. You can’t even twiddle thumbs. The traditional subjects for the designs include flowers, peacocks, plants and marriage. But the new generation has changed that.

I made my 4-year old daughter’s Mehendi tattoos a couple of days back on the occasion of Eid. Any guess on the subject?

Right hand (my fault): Before, After and Between

What better way to give your child a Maths lesson that sticks, literally? The numbers are mostly illegible, thanks to my superior(?) skills with Mehendi cones, but well, it served the purpose. In case you are worried, it will wash off within a couple of weeks. 🤣

Left Hand: Kung Fu Panda and Furious Five

It all started with a random doll and a beaver that my daughter took fancy on. But beavers live near rivers that have fishes and octopus, and they need trees to gnaw. And then, gnawed trees could fall on little dolls. (Please don’t ask me to label the characters. It is too embarrassing. 😁)

So, Po, the Panda Dragon Warrior, had to come for rescue along with the Furious Five–Monkey, Viper, Mantis and Tigress. I know, there are only four here because Crane decided to stay back to take care of the old Master Shifu (Pssss, I forgot both of them but don’t tell my daughter that.).

Overall, my client was satisfied and declared her Mehendi better than mine, which was, I guess, the best praise I could expect.

What do you think?

Posted in My life

Fourth Day

Four days back when I started my Eid break, I was over the moon for the 9-day break. And in the daze of happiness, I made a hasty promise to my daughter. I said I’ll spend the entire holiday playing with her.

Trust me, I had no idea of what I was getting into when I uttered those words. I had assumed, I will attend a few tea parties with her dolls and, maybe, draw a few animals. But now, I am dealing with the horror of Disney Princess and Animal Planet full blast.

I have binge-watched Grimm’s Fairytales and animal-drawing. Later, as my daughter slept, I willingly watched Masha and the Bear alone to wash out the taste from my brain!

Every day, I am the teacher teaching a class-full of stuffed animals good manners, maths and zoology. Every night, I am the Evil Step-mom taking the stuffed monkey and bear to the ball. I am the Fairy Godmother and also the Prince. I am also the Royal Messenger who puts shoes on Cinderella. I am afraid she will ask me for Snowwhite. I am unsure how to be 7 dwarves at the same time.

Every inch of my daughter’s artbook is now covered with different scenes from Fairytales.

Cinderella walks out in the yard wearing her tiara and best dress while a female dwarf stalks her.

Snowwhite in her tiara deals with lions, beavers, oversized ants and, guess what? sharks in the little rivulet outside her place. All in a day’s work.

The jungle overflows with animals and their babies while a jungle princess (Pocahontas?) in her tiara oversees their comings and goings.

A fairy with specs (Yes, those are wings, and you thought you knew what fairies looked like!) teaches a shorter fairy how to look after whales…

Now, no one can say that fairytale heroines had it easy…

I am so over it. I’m already counting days for this holiday to get over.

Posted in Life and After, Love, Twisted Tales

Down to Cinders

The Merchant

I’ve never been so wrong footed in my life.

Last Saturday, at the party, I was sure the duchess was flirting with me to secure her third husband. Her first marriage had left her a rich widow and the second made her a widowed duchess. Now, with no sons, it seemed natural to look for a third husband to take care of all the accumulated estate…someone like me with tremendous wealth but no title. I had spent the golden years of my life building myself from a nobody to a prosperous businessman and the next few enjoying the success and money. I had been with numerous women but none of them really left an impression, except their lip colour on my shirts and their hands down my money pouch. At 41, I’m running out of choices. It’s high time for me to find a wife too, so I lead her on. I knew I’d never love her but she had class.

But as she invited me home for lunch, she moved the topic to her daughters who, according to her, were both the finest specimens of the fairer sex–beautiful, charming, intelligent, well-read and well-versed in arts. She mentioned looking for grooms for them and ‘hoped I would find them agreeable’.

Something did not add up. If they were even half as good as their mother, they would have a long line of suitors of their age. Why would she want them to marry me who is double their age? For my money?

Curious, I accepted the invitation.

Today, as my carriage drives into their estate, I see a long-running crack in the magnificent garden statue; unkept flower beds; a water fountain that has long dried out; and the wooden floor under the porch creaks…the beginning of the end.

So, money it is…

I knock and a rather pretty girl in her best house-help uniform answers the door. Ella, as she introduces herself, bids me to enter. Her eyes downcast, she informs me, “The Duchess and her daughters are out for an ‘urgent chore’. She has requested you to wait for them. They’ll be back later this afternoon.”

It doesn’t make sense, unless they have found someone richer. Or may be, the announcement of the King’s ball to find a bride for the Crown Prince has averted their gaze to greener pastures.

I should just leave. But Ella is clearly apologetic. Her eyes are pleading me to understand that she isn’t responsible for all this. She is embarrassed at her employers’ indiscretion. I had been there too many times. In my early jobs, when I was a nobody, my employers put me upfront to deal with angry customers. If I leave now, she would think of me as arrogant. For some unfathomable reason, I don’t want her to think I’m arrogant. So, I step inside to wait for the hostess who wouldn’t return for a couple of hours.

The Maid

It’s all too weird. My stepmother has kept me up all night to finish my endless chores before he’s due. She ordered me to get presentable to wait upon this guest while they all dealt with this ‘urgent chore’, whatever it is. Why even one of them couldn’t stay back is totally beyond me.

Why are they avoiding him? Doesn’t he have enough money to their liking? His two-horse-drawn carriage is certainly worth four times our own. He looks regal, right from his formal suit, diamond cufflinks to his silk tie. His brown wavy hair has a slight sprinkling of greys.

Maybe, they think he’s too old to consider…Well, they are wrong. He’s quite handsome and fit, unlike their noble suitors whose age you could guess from the size of their girth. When he introduced himself, his smile made me gasp. He smells like the Arabian perfume that father used to love.

Right now, I feel for him. Once I gave him mother’s message, he looks downright embarrassed for being so easily dismissed. He was clearly expecting to meet my step-sisters. May be, it is better he doesn’t. Marrying them would lead to lifelong shame-facing. I serve him tea and try to be good company.

We talk about books that my sisters have placed strategically in the drawing-room to be able to brag in front of the suitors that they have read them. I tell him of my favourite place in the world, my father’s library. He’s curious, so I take him on a tour. He looks around the library in awe, touching book spines like they were made of flower petals. His fingers are hardened with old marks of callouses. I wonder if he’s had a past like mine. We talk about more books. He laughs. It’s a nice, open laughter without pretence; one that I can get used to. I offer him my favourite book to pass the time while waiting.

Back in the drawing room, he points at the piano, curious who plays it. Too lost in his voice and too busy trying to not stare at him, I blurt out the truth, “It was mine before father passed away…” I clasp my mouth at the admission.

“Yours? Are you the daughter of the late Duke?”

I nod quietly, glancing at my clothes–clean but far below the status of my family, knowing how far-fetched the story seems. Will he mention it to mother? She will burn me at the stake…or in the oven…

But his eyes hold no judgement, only understanding, “So, after your father died, she took over the estate and turned you into housemaid?”

I nod again.

“Is there anything I could do to remedy your situation? I could request an audience with the king. He is just. He would ensure you are provided your share in the property.”

My eyes well up at the unexpected sympathy, “Thank you for the offer. I, too, could have applied to the king. But I’d rather stay home and sweep the floor than drag my family through dirt.”

The Merchant

Ever since I saw her, it has been difficult to look elsewhere. My eyes had been drawn to her face. But now, I see her in a different light.

Is she for real? She cares for a family that reduced her to a maid. Her little hands in the lap are full of calluses from the daily hard labour. I can see the blue marks peaking out of her shirt sleeve where she had been hit with a cane over and over. And she doesn’t want to change that for her family’s honour?

I cross the distance between us to where she stands. She looks so vulnerable as she looks at me with surprised gaze. I take her hands in mine, as gently as I can, “You know, Ella, I always thought that women like you had ceased to exist.”

Her hands fit in mind perfectly and her face is a picture of subdued beauty that comes from forgiveness and love. Suddenly, I know I will not be able to forget this face or walk out of this place leaving her behind. It is clear what I have to do.

“I came here seeking a bride. I think I’ve found one–if, of course, you’ll have me. Will you?”

She’s surprised and hesitant, “I’m afraid, it won’t be appropriate, considering I am just a maid. I won’t have my father’s name or property to bring along.”

“I don’t care about the title and I have enough money to last several lifetimes. All I care about is whether you like me? Would you like to spend your life with a man like me who doesn’t have a family title, but who fell in love with you the moment he saw you?”

She blushed a deep red and nodded sheepishly, “I think, I did too.”

The Duchess

“Of course, you have my blessings, my dears. I’ll arrange the two of you to get married this Sunday. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be much of a fanfare because the time is short…”

I don’t think they cared for the size of celebration any way.

When we had returned, Ella was in his arms, as I had expected. She’s captivating even when covered in cinders from the oven. Being dressed decently and left alone for two hours was more than enough to bring a marriage proposal. As for Ella, she couldn’t wait to be shot of us. She would have married a horse, had it proposed her, just to get away from us.

So, now that all has gone according to my plan, she will be married a week before the Royal Ball. Thank goodness for that too! Of course, we will need to hire household help, so it wil be a little inconvenient, but with her out of the way, my beautiful daughters are sure to win the Prince’s heart.

Posted in Random Thoughts

The Forest Bed: The Making

After an year full of pain (and I am not even talking about the pendemic or my back injury…), our first book, the Forest Bed, was finally released worldwide in June.

Manpreet and I are still so excited, which is weird considering that we have been working on it for an year now.

Those who have followed my blog in the past one year probably know that I had been creating a short story collection for quite some time now. I had believed that since the stories already written, self-publishing them would be a breeze. As you would have already guessed, I was wrong. It was an year filled with dismayed discoveries one after another. Here is the journey and lessons learnt.

Selecting stories: Choosing the probable candidates for the book was a pain. As a mother to 400 (now 500) stories, it was impossible for me to choose the best. So, I chose around a hundred and threw them in Manpreet’s way, knowing that as my best friend, she is duty-bound to help me and she’s too loyal to back out later. She chose forty stories that she loved the best. Then she told me the loopholes and words that didnot make sense to common readers. I went through the stories again and tried to give them more character and less confusion.

Providing a flow: I read in a very informative blog that a short story compilation is successful only when one story flows into another. There should be an underlying theme and a natural flow. I created an excel sheet to find a theme based on underlying emotions, starting and finishing emotions, keywords, age of characters, the timeline/chronology…nothing made sense. So I pitted the stories against each other, reading and re-reading, moving them around in the excel sheet until they started to flow.

Creating illustrations: All this while, I was working on the side with Manpreet to create illustrations for each story. Manpreet is a freelance painter with a gift of open-mindedness, which is rather rare. Most painter try to create and stick to a certain style. Manpreet, on the other hand, experiments with various mediums, just to see where it takes her. Hence, she was my natural choice. There one glitch in the whole plan–she lives 500 miles from my home and we had no way of putting our heads together except Whatsapp…

She began with hand-drawn illustrations and, then, experimented through various means to enhance the experience. Finally, she discovered a way to digitalise handmade illustrations through applications already available on the phone. It was surprising what one can achieve with a little imagination and strong resolve to learn. As an example, the painting on the cover page was created solely on her phone–No colours, no pencil. Just stickers and effects!

We spent several months on getting the correct illustrations for the stories. It was a process of discovery and understanding how to visualise a story without giving away the content. We laughed and cried while sitting 500 miles apart, joined together through the very inadequate means of phone that allows us to hear and see, but not hold hands. It was an emotional journey, reconnecting with my best friend of twenty years on a daily basis, just like we did during our Bachelors degree.

Creating a template: When I began with creating the template for the book, I looked up my old books to see the basic courtsies required from a writer. And to think, I had never even looked at the Copyright statement and Acknowledgements pages of any book ever before. For a week, I researched how to copyright my book, only to find out it wasn’t even required since books are automatically copyrighted upon publication. It isn’t like I’ve invented a car that uses sea-salt as fuel…hey, that one has a potential for a story…

Anyway, when it came to Dedications page, I started to mention each person I wanted to thank, but I couldn’t fit them all in one page…it was a moment of realisation how lucky I am to have countless people to be thankful for…family, extended family, friends from schools, colleges, jobs, neighbours, roommates, family-by-marriage…and the many people I’ve met through them. They have all moulded me into…well, me!

And then, there were people who hurt me…who taught me that life was not all pretty and gave me the challenge of fighting back with grace. How could I fit all these people in one page?

The About Author page mystified me. What could I ever write about my mundane life that would be of interest to readers? I could, of course, blabber till eternity pointlessly but the short stories concept did not allow Author description to be pointless. It had to be short and succinct with humour to keep people engaged since it was going to be the last page of the book.

Header and Footer: I thought I knew MS Word, until I had to set up the Header and Footer. Pagination had me down on my knees praying for divine intervention, which came, eventually, through Google.

Editing: It was a herculean job and I was doing it one story at a time. Editing your own work is like searching for grey hair out of platinum-blond. You believe all’s well when actually it’s not. You read a story for the 15th time, only to realise that you had missed typing an article, conjunction or preposition while your perspective had been filling in the gaps for you all the while.

Proofreading: When it came to proofreading, I realised I could not be relied upon anymore. I needed someone who was a pro at finding loopholes. That’s when, I begged my father, an Indian taxation writer, for help. He did it overnight and, for the first time, praised my stories, which, I think, is all that I had been aiming at for all these years since I started this blog. He also helped me cut out a couple of stories that were killing the flow. In the end, I was left with 30 good stories.

Finding publishing platform: Once all was done and dusted, I thought, “Well! Now publishing a print and ebook would be a breeze…” But then, I tried finding a platform that would create an ebook out of a massive 100 MB word document…and failed…over and over. When I finally found one that would accept my file, the result was horrible. The text was all over the place. The chapters began and ended at their free will and images floated around like helium-filled baloons. There was no guarantee where the text would appear in the next page and I was losing my heart…and brain…in the process.

Finally Amazon Kindle became my hero. It accepted my superheavy manuscript and converted it into a sleek book, both ebook and printable version. It also helped me understand the problems and gave probable solutions. Most of them worked. It also created an eye-catching cover using Manpreet’s illustration.

Distribution: Finally, after I was done whooping around for the victory, I learnt that Amazon doesnot distribute prints in India, my homeland. I realised that my parents would never see my book (that is, if they want to see it again after reading the manuscript). So, I began a fresh search for a local distributer. Most of them cost more money than my three-months’ salary. While I can afford it, it is certainly not the kind of flight I would sit in wondering all the while whether it would crash.

Then, while going through site reviews, I came across Pothi.com that publishes and distributes in India free. It works on a zero-inventory, print-on-demand basis. For a minor fee of Rs.1500 (around 20 US dollars), they provide expanded distribution through Amazon India and Flipkart. So, now I am publishing our book through Pothi, Amazon.com, Amazon.uk and Amazon Kindle.

I hope that would suffice. I am thoroughly exhausted and wish that I could simply lie down and leave the headache to others.

But now, I have a marketing campaign to deal with. Manpreet is dealing with Instagram while I am with Facebook and WordPress. I don’t understand Twitter at all, so I will leave that to fate and you. So, help me dear reader to spread the message and get my dream across that bridge where earth meets the sky.

In case you are wondering where the book is, click this link for details.