Sunday, October 6, 2013

COLOR

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 42; the forty-second edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is "COLOR"
Picture taken from Google images

Aryan watched the rain pour outside through the tiny window above his bed. He wished the pitter patter outside could drown the voices of his parents shouting, but they were too loud. Moreover, their fights were already etched on his mind now; silence of no intensity could erase them away.

“Why have you shut him inside his room? At least open the goddamned door!” his father was saying.

“So that he could sneak back into that shitty place again?” his mother shouted back.

“He is a kid of 9 for God’s sake! You are scaring the hell out of him!”

“If fear is going to put an end to his attempts to go there, so be it. It is all for his good.” His mother’s voice was deathly cold.

Aryan jumped as a loud bang rattled through the house; his father seemed to have hit the table in frustration.

“He is lonely Anjali. We hardly stay at home the entire day. My parents are very much capable of handling him. And it’s not as if he goes there every day. It’s just once in a month. I thought you were OK with that?” he tried to reason with her.

“I was initially! But have you noticed the change in his behavior when he comes back from there? Dadu this, Dadi that. Those old people are distancing our only son from us Rajeev, don’t you see that?” Anjali said.
“And the questions he is full of?” she continued, “Why Sita was kidnapped by Raavan? Yeesh! Is that what is going to come in his exams? Buddha, buddhi are not responsible for him finishing his homework are they?”

“Anjali! How dare you talk about my parents like that!”

“Yes. Go on. Yell at me. Where was your loyalty towards your parents when you sent them away from our house Mr. Shravan Kumar?” Anjali taunted him.

“It was because you wanted that! You said that we wanted a more private life!”

“Then why are you letting your parents invade our privacy now Rajeev?”

“It’s just for one day Anjali. You know he misses them too much…”

Aryan shut his ears with all the might his small hands could muster and closed his eyes. He choked back a sob, big boys didn’t cry.But he missed his grandparents so much; it felt as if his eyes would burst with the unshed tears.

He looked outside to see that the rain had intensified. With a pang, he realized that Dadu would be standing near the bridge, waiting for him to come. Dadi would be smiling at the porch, delicious smells wafting from her weather beaten hands and a hundred endearments in her wrinkled, warm eyes. He ached to go back to the ramshackle house they lived in. True the old wooden gate was moldy and the garden overgrown but no skilled gardener in their own prim lawn could match the beauty of his grandmother’s roses.

He looked around to take in the ‘modern’ design of his bedroom. Colorful posters of his favorite cartoons, wall murals, play station, laptop, a makeshift basketball play space with a plastic hoop and his big bicycle all spoke of a grandeur he had never wished or wanted.

He loved the peeling paint of his grandparent’s cottage more than the fashionable peach and lavender of his mother’s design, he loved the old, dusty frames of what seemed like a million Hindu Gods and Goddesses more than the expensive paintings the walls of his house boasted of, he loved the warm smell of his Dadi’s kitchen more than the artificial fragrance of the room fresheners in his house.

Yes, he loved every part of the small house at the sight of which his mother wrinkled her nose but more than that, he loved the two old and extraordinarily warm people associated with it.

As far as Aryan could remember, it was the soft cotton of his Dadi’s saris that had nestled him than his mother’s silks and furs as a baby. And it was his Dadu’s incredibly interesting stories that had lulled him to sleep than his parent’s lullabies. As two very busy people, his parents hardly ever were in the house but he never complained, he was more than happy to stay with his grandparents.

But then, one fine morning, they were made to leave. Aryan couldn’t understand what happened but he cried and cried so much that his parents agreed to send him every weekend. Weekends therefore, became his favorite days. As he grew older, his mother who was against their bonding from the very start convinced his father to curtail his visit to once a month. What do children with no grandparents or grandparents far away do, was her argument.

Aryan met this decision with a huge tantrum but to no avail. But the fact that he could at least cherish a single day in the month was his only consolation. Things were working fine until his mother finally put her step down and banned his visits altogether. He was shocked when the designated weekend came and he wasn’t taken to the much awaited trip. This continued for two months till Aryan decided that it was time to take matters into his own hands. He sneaked away from the house when the maid was busy with the TV. He knew the path perfectly and he could even tell the time form his Sponge Bob Square Pants watch. But as fate would have it, a neighbor caught him walking alone in the middle of the road and marched him to his parents.

Result- shut in his room with voices inside and outside his head alike.

He rolled to his side and extracted a small glass ball from beneath his pillow. He twirled it in his hands, watching it catch little details of his room and reflect them back. He remembered the day he came into its possession as clearly as if it happened just hours back and not a year ago.

He had gone to the beach with his grandfather that day. It had just stopped raining and the sunlight sparkled gaily on the dancing waves. A rainbow popped out of nowhere then, like the magic his Dadu had often told him about. Having never seen one before, Aryan had raced the colorful band as far as his small legs could carry him and sunk down at the place he thought it originated. He had grabbed fistfuls of sand and shouted excitedly “I caught it Dadu, I caught it!”

But moments later, when he had opened his hands gingerly, only the grayish black sand slipped through his fingers- no colorful bands of the rainbow.

He was beyond consolation then, even his Dadi’s soothing words that it can’t be caught, it was a part of the nature failed to pacify him- his tiny heart was broken at the revelation that day.

It was then, in that moment of terrible anguish that his Dadu came like his personal savior angel and presented the small glass ball on outstretched hands.

The plain ball had come alive with colors as the sunlight fell on it, the white light getting trapped buy the million facets inside to produce brilliant, brilliant hues. He carried it with him everywhere since, the magic ball, his own personal rainbow.

He soon forgot all the expensive balls his parents got him; there was a whole world of beauty in it for him that his prents could never see. He refused to part with it even when he went for a bath; it was only when it fell and showcased its fragility that he satisfied himself by putting it under his pillow and taking it out occassionally. And every time he went to his granparent's place, he took it along with him. He would sit with his Dadu and stare at it for hours in silence, using it as a magnifying glass, watching the slow procession of ants as they gathered food, observing the curious way catterpillars moved and every time it caught the sunlight and splitted the seven colours, his own face would split with a huge smile.

He loved watching his Dadi through the ball too. He would trace it over her soft skin while she napped, feel the awe as her red bindi became magnificently big in it and then laugh and skitter away as she woke up with a start and pretended to catch him.

He traced the ball with one hand on his bedspread when he was suddenly aware of the silence in the house.
Aryan gingerly removed his other hand that still clutched his ear and allowed it to receive the news from outside. The shouting match seemed to have stopped. There was a hushed silence instead. Aryan, instead of feeling happy, felt a wave of foreboding wash him. His childish instinct told him that something was wrong. Before he could ponder further, the door opened and his father came in.

“Get ready Aryan, we are going to Dadu’s place” he said in a surprisingly gentle voice. Aryan’s heart leaped at that. He instantly combed his hair and checked himself in the mirror; Dadu always demanded perfection in his attire. He pulled his socks and shoes at a speed that would have surprised his mother and tugged his father’s arm “Ready Papa”.

Maybe he should have wondered over the strange look his father gave him as he ruffled his hair sadly, but all he could think disgruntled was that his hair was ruined. Maybe he should have wondered over his mother accompanying them on the trip, it was so unlike her to do so, but all he could think of was the mantra in his happy head “I am doing to Dadu’s place. Dadi will give me kheer again. I am going to Dadu’s place. Dadi will…”

His mantra came to an abrupt stop as the car splattered mud and came to a stop in front of a small cottage. What surprised Aryan was the number of people gathered outside. He didn’t even know so many people lived in the neighborhood. 
Birthday, was his instant thought, maybe it is Dadi’s birthday and they are giving a party! He called his mother to confirm his theory but the look on her face stopped him from saying anything.

They got down from the car, his mother insisting that they take the umbrella, but for once his father stepped out of the bulbous shadow the black fabric seemed to cast and went forward in the rain. The hushed conversation of the neighbors seemed to pause as they approached; Aryan winced as his father’s angry, pained voice echoed through the night.

“The rites have already been performed?” his mother piped in incredulously.

Murmurs of affirmation and something that sounded like ‘Yes, in the morning. She passed away last night…’ sounded out.

Aryan gaped confused from one face to another; unable to understand why they wouldn’t go inside. Nervously, he started tugging his father’s arm.

“Why didn’t you tell us? And you’re saying he left? LEFT? Just like that?” his voice cracked.

“He told us not to… tell you. But we thought we should inform you at least after he left…” a lady said.

A panic started building inside Aryan’s chest then. What was happening? Who were these people? What were ‘rites’ and who had left? He tugged his father’s arm in frenzy, fear clouding his senses just like the dark clouds clouded the evening light.

Finally realizing that he would not get any answers from the horde of people standing there, Aryan ran. Heedless to his mother shouting behind him, Aryan ran. He fumbled with the wooden gate, ran on the gravel path till he reached the blessed abode of the small, ramshackle cottage. 

He waited for a shriveled figure wreathed in a soft, warm sari press him to her chest. He waited for a tall, strong figure to peer down on him behind his glasses and greet him with a “Are you here Aryan? Open your shoes outside and hurry in.” He waited to see the soft lights of the house illuminate two wrinkled faces that lit up at the sight of him but there were no lights that day. The house was just another trick of the dark.

Aryan took a few steps till he stood at the door. What met his eyes shocked him beyond measure.

The door was locked.

The big old fashioned lock that he had played with all his life was bolted shut on the door. He remembered how his Dadi used to joke that they never had to lock their house; the thieves would never find anything valuable in it. It seemed like a betrayal to him now, that lock on the door, betrayal to his faith that his grandparent’s door would never be closed for him.

It was then that he finally realized, they were not coming back. His personal angels were not coming back, they were gone forever. He looked at the glass ball in his hand; there was no rainbow smiling with all its colors that day- as the rain streaked down the smooth surface, Aryan could just make out his own tear streaked face in it. 

He threw it with all his strength and walked away. 

And as the ball rolled and took its final breath on a black rock, the colors crumbled to dust for once and for all…
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The Cosmic Clues- A Book Review



About the Book:

Name of the book: The Cosmic Clues
Author: Manjiri Prabhu
Publisher: Jaico Publishing House
Price: INR 299
ISBN: 978-81-8495-479-1

About the author: 

Author of 5 books, Manjiri Prabhu is a children's TV producer and a short filmmaker for over 20 years. She has worked as a freelance film critic for several distinguished newspapers reviewing more than a hundred English, Hindi and Marathi films. 

Manjiri's other major concern is Animal Welfare; she strives for the protection of stray dogs and cats in the society. 

About the cover and back cover:

The cover with a delightful combination of blue and black as the prominent shade is a rocker. The animated cartoon of a woman with a cat surrounded by small zodiac figures delivers a very apt feel to the book.
The back cover with a short preview  of the book is intriguing. The combination of private investigation with Hindu astrology that the book promises would make you feel like flipping the pages immediately.

Gist:

The Cosmic Clues maps the adventures of The Stellar Investigation which is a detective agency that combines astrological science with investigations. Sonia Samarth, masters in criminal psychology and a through scholar of the Vedic astrology sets up the agency despite drawing many sceptical views from family and friends. What was even more infuriating was the misunderstanding her ad in the paper seemed to have created- people assumed her to be an astrologer than an investigator. 

But as the cases start pouring in, Sonia along with her faithful young assistant Jatin gear up their efforts to track what seem to be multitude of criminal minds. 

It is a collection of 9 cases that come across Sonia that she handles with skill and intuition, finally wading off all the criticism she was met with initially.

My views on the story:

Astrological science with investigation- the very theme of the book is interesting and intriguing. Being a hardcore Poirot and Holmes fan who are the ultimate epitome of logical deduction, I couldn't help being curious about this new mode of investigation. 

Since I knew absolutely nothing about astrology except for the names and number of zodiac signs, I was a little apprehensive about how the book might turn out to be.

It proved to be a pleasant surprise. With the right amount of suspense, witticism and humor, The Cosmic Clues is a fun read. The writing style is really good- the narration, dialogues flow seamlessly with each story.

The characters are well built with clarity-at the end of the story you are left with a distinct impression of each one of them (even of the cat Nidhi). The plots range from decent to excellent with my favourite stories being 'In the Shadow of  the Stars' and 'The Proposal'.

The chemistry between Sonia and Mohnish is one of the high points of the story but what I loved the most was the possible connection with the mysterious genius of an international criminal, The Owl. I absolutely loved the last story; it tickled me so much, I couldn't help laughing aloud. 

I felt that some conversations between Jatin and Sonia were a bit drawn and unnecessary. Also, the continuous personality quirks lauded on Sonia gave the impression of forcible spotlight being drawn on her many virtues. 

The Astrological jargons associated with each story were necessary but being totally ignorant of anything related to it, I found them a bit tedious. I felt that this needed to be incorporated more tactfully so that it becomes comprehensible to all section of readers.

Apart from that, The Cosmic Clues is a good read. It is a book you can count on to cheer you up immensely. Overall, I would rate this book an 8/10. Mystery lovers, you have a book to look out for!

As for myself, I really cant wait to get my hands on The Astral Alibi. Yes, there is more to Sonia Samarth's story!