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The Sinners: Extract #1

  Aarti was with Vikram in her one-bedroom flat. It had been raining for quite some time - the dirt washed away, street lights reflected on the wet roads. There were distant rumbles in the evening sky, sounding almost ominous. Very few cars sped down the empty road below. The room was half-lit by a single lamp on the study desk.   It was just the two of them inside the flat. They had returned a while back after dining at the Marriott in Juhu.   “I’ve been missing you for days, Vikram! I don’t remember when we met last,” Aarti’s voice rose a couple of notches, the resentment in her tone pronounced. “And when we met today after weeks, we ended up fighting.”   There were beads of sweat on Aarti’s temples and above her lips. She was visibly tense. There was a bad taste in her mouth, not the kind you carry home after a dinner at the Marriott. Vikram tried to pull her closer but Aarti freed herself and walked away towards the desk. She looked away, trying to hide the tears that were th

Meet the sinners

  The Sinners presents an eclectic mix of interesting characters.   Central to the story is Vikram Oberoi , the head of India Operations of NexGen, which manufactures smart devices and has stood up to competition from global players. He is handsome and charismatic, a ruthless go-getter, and notorious for his dalliances outside his marriage with Manvi Oberoi . Vikram gets into a relationship with Sonal Verma, a new intern in NexGen, much to the chagrin of his secretary Aarti Bansal , with whom he had a very public affair.   The suave Ashwin Saxena, Vikram’s subordinate in NexGen, was his classmate in Management school, who also used to be Manvi’s boyfriend. We also meet a mystery woman laying out honey-traps for vulnerable men in positions of authority or in the possession of confidential company information like Rakesh Behl, who heads Product Engineering, and Agastya, who works in the Networks and Systems Division of the company.   NexGen was set up by Devesh Nair , who, after w

An ode to the Mother - An excerpt from 'The Death Wish'

  "Abani saw his mother working round the clock to make both the ends meet. She stitched dresses and made candles; when she found time from cooking in a working women’s hostel, travelling by train to Kolkata and back to their one-roomed rented house, every day of the year. There was never enough to eat at home, electricity was unheard of, the roof leaked in the monsoons and the creaking windows failed to keep the chill at bay during winters. Everything that had been worth anything in the household had already been sold. Abani was determined to make the most of the few opportunities his mother could afford for him. He never missed school, he coaxed his teachers into helping him with his studies, and he studied so hard that he never repeated a  class. Despite the circumstances, his mother never forgot to make his favourite paayesh on his birthday with milk, rice, and jaggery. That was, perhaps, the only happy memory of his childhood other than the movie nights. The nights everyone i

What the body wants - An excerpt from 'Masks'

  "She knew she was not in the escort service for the money. She had tried to figure out, again and again, what was she in it for? She had failed to find an answer every time. As she sipped her coffee, she tried one more time. Was it her way of getting back at the man who had been ignoring her emotions and her desires for years? Or, was it her way of assuring herself that, close to thirty-six, she still had it in her to turn a man into an animal blinded by lust, ready to tear her apart? She needed that assurance even after the hours she spent at the gym, and in spite of the compliments that she regularly received from friends on her immaculately maintained shape. Or, was it her search? Her search for warmth, her search for words of love which these men faked in moments of ecstasy, her search for his smell that had not filled her senses for years now. The smell that she keeps looking for in their after-shave colognes, their deodorants, in their breath, or in their bare sweat-slicke

The Ideal Life - An excerpt from 'Romance Shorts'

  "He would love to live in a sleepy town in the hills teaching in a school. He dreamt of living in a small wooden house with a lawn in the front. He dreamt of idle evenings, watching the sun go down behind distant peaks laced with clouds, with the woman of his dreams in his arms, sharing his shawl. And I would love to start my own small coffee shop there. We imagined him teaching in the school at the hill-top. He would walk wearily down that hill to my coffee shop when classes got over every evening. I would keep his favourite cookies and black coffee ready and we would spend hours talking. We did not realize when the school of his dreams and the cafĂ© of my dreams had, as if by some magic, found the same valley."

Decoding Marriage - An excerpt from 'An Autumn Turmoil'

  Most of us have a glorified idea about love. I think it comes from the staple diet of Bollywood movies we are all brought up on. Couples strolling on the beach, watching the sunset together, whispering promises of eternity into each other’s ear, and making love on satin sheets in wooden cottages overlooking the Swiss Alps. But life does not play out like this. The movies do not show the truth, what happens backstage. The love fades. The promises lose meaning. And the lovemaking goes from being a passion to a duty, something a married couple ‘is supposed to do at bed time.’ Before long, you reach that stage, where you can count the number of times you do it every month on your fingers, with a couple of fingers to spare. And you surrender to the monotony. The husband and the wife start living separate lives under the same roof – all in the name of security, comfort, marital bliss and sometimes, the fear of what ‘everyone would say’. Abhishek and I are fast approaching that stage in our

The Battle for the TV Remote - An excerpt from 'The Cookery Show and a Love Story'

  "The show had been going on for years, gaining in popularity with every passing week. The masterchef Rajeev Roy was, of course, the star attraction. He was a celebrity in his own right. His healthy yet delicious recipes had re-defined the culinary habits of the country over the last decade. He was being increasingly seen in television commercials, in reality shows, in promotional events, making guest appearances in big-budget Bollywood movies and in music videos shaking his two left feet with svelte models. He had indeed made his way into the heart of an entire population through its gut. The producers of the show, of course, had no idea about the domestic discord that the program created in the Basu household every Friday at 9 pm. That was the time when Rudraprasad Basu, my Grandpa, had to give up his otherwise unquestioned ownership of the television remote control in favour of Grandma who, armed with her notepad and pen would take her seat in front of the television set, like

Decoding Detective Agni Mitra

  While conceiving the character of ACP Agni Mitra, I was very clear that he would be anything but a larger-than-life, infallible law enforcement machinery. I wanted a detective who would go about his job as a homicide investigator with a smart, analytical mind solving the trickiest of cases, but at the end of the day would be like anyone of us.   And Agni Mitra ended up being just that.   The first Agni Mitra thriller ‘In the Shadows of Death’ introduces him as a homicide investigator with sharp “intuition, his deep understanding of the human mind and his style of getting into the psyche of a suspect rather than deliberating on material evidence.”   His style of interrogation is also unique in that, Agni does not believe in using brute force. It is all about getting into the psyche of his suspect and bringing out hidden secrets to the surface by asking leading questions, observing the body language of the suspect, and making provocative comments, as we see in numerous examples

The Break-Up - An excerpt from 'In the Shadows of Death'

  It was a while since Medha had left and Agni’s life had been slipping into a mundane routine. There was, however, one almost compulsive behaviour for which Agni hated himself. His eyes kept looking for Medha wherever he went. A five-foot-something woman with straight hair – he had no idea there were so many of them in the city! He would see one next to his car on a busy road, driving a car herself, or in the back seat with a male companion. He would often walk briskly to catch up with one walking a few steps ahead of him with someone. He would find someone in front of him on the escalator in a shopping mall. Every time he felt an inexplicable sense of relief on discovering the woman was not Medha , and then, he would look around for her, once again. He had never found himself in a similar state of mind. He both wanted and did not want to run into her. There were days when he remembered her affairs and her decision to walk out of the marriage and he felt extreme rage

Till death do us part - An excerpt from "In the Shadows of Death"

  That was the bed where Medha and Agni had spent nights shouting at each other and fighting like alley cats. And that was the bed where they had made love night after night. Towards the end of their marriage, their lovemaking had been reduced to a domestic routine that they would indulge in a few times every month, just because a healthy married couple was supposed to, and to satisfy  a physical need just as someone sits on the pot every morning to empty one’s bowels or munches on a sandwich in the afternoon. But there was a time when making love to Medha was a passionate experience, where they could sense the union of their souls and not just of two bodies, and they would often end up teary-eyed. He missed that – he missed that sorely. Agni tried to calculate how many times they had made love. There was no way to figure out. Did she keep track? She would often surprise Agni by effortlessly quoting from memory the number of days that had passed since the last time they had made love.