Story Club #11: A Twist in the Tale

It’s story time folks and this month I have chosen to feature the master storyteller, William Sydney Porter (1862 – 1910) or O. Henry. Apart from being an acclaimed short story writer, he was also a gifted musician with impressive drawing skills.

O. Henry had a checkered career that involved pharmacy, drafting, journalism, and banking. While at the bank, he was accused of embezzlement and though his father-in-law offered to bail him out, he preferred to flee. He had to come back when his wife fell terminally ill. His father-in-law posted bail that allowed him to be by his wife side until her death. He was then imprisoned for five years. But he was lucky enough to be spared the jail cell for he was allowed to practice pharmacy and given a room in the hospital.

O. Henry’s collection of short stories was one of the very first books that I bought with my own money (and hence all the more precious!). The heartbreaking and poignant The Gift of the Magi and The Last Leaf, stand out vividly in my memory from eons ago. In O. Henry stories, I particularly enjoy the unexpected twist endings which fascinate and impress like no other. Perhaps that’s part of the reason I feel compelled to include twist endings in my stories. But lately as I re-read his stories, I am bowled over by his witticism and clever wordplay, which I can never hope to match.

For this story club, I spent a pleasurable couple of hours reading his stories – the ones I hadn’t read before. One of them, The Romance of a Busy Broker immediately touched a chord and I fell in love with the short and sweet story.

Do read it before scrolling down as there are spoilers ahead.

As the title suggests this is about a busy broker Maxwell. Even after I finished reading the story, I can still vividly see Maxwell’s office as clearly as if I had emerged from a movie screening. And the humorous turn of phase,  brings a smile whenever I think of it. Take for instance this line:

Maxwell dashed at his desk as though he were intending to leap over it, and then plunged into the great heap of letters and telegrams waiting there for him.

and another

“He did,” answered Pitcher. “He told me to get another one. I notified the agency yesterday afternoon to send over a few samples this morning. It’s 9.45 o’clock, and not a single picture hat or piece of pineapple chewing gum has showed up yet.”

I read the latter section twice, quite sure that there was a typo somewhere! The crisp and exacting words painted images that refuse to go away long after one had moved away from the story.

And this day was Harvey Maxwell’s busy day. The ticker began to reel out jerkily its fitful coils of tape, the desk telephone had a chronic attack of buzzing. Men began to throng into the office and call at him over the railing, jovially, sharply, viciously, excitedly. Messenger boys ran in and out with messages and telegrams. The clerks in the office jumped about like sailors during a storm. Even Pitcher’s face relaxed into something resembling animation.

While I would like to draw your attention to his liberal use of words ending with ly (against current exhortations to avoid them like the plague 😉 – jovially, sharply, viciously, excitedly not even the most critical critic can accuse him of using clichés:

She was beautiful in a way that was decidedly unstenographic.

I also love the fact that unstenographic is not a word but should clearly be in the dictionary 😀

But I saved the best piece for the last:

In the midst of this growing and important stress the broker became suddenly aware of a high-rolled fringe of golden hair under a nodding canopy of velvet and ostrich tips, an imitation sealskin sacque and a string of beads as large as hickory nuts, ending near the floor with a silver heart. There was a self-possessed young lady connected with these accessories; and Pitcher was there to construe her.

 This one just blew me away and I still can’t stop giggling. I have only one reservation. It also evokes dejection, envy and despair  – I cannot even dream of coming anywhere near sort of exposition.

But before things get really bad, I just read it once again 😀

Moving on, in the story, if you remember, there is mention of lilac odor. Now I am not familiar with the odor and since Google is as yet unable to let me experience it, I subconsciously replaced it with the scent of mogras or jasmine flowers. The combination of the office scene and the fragrance was a potent one.

Before I had finished reading the story, a story in the Indian setting played out.

I attempted to pen it but it took quite a while to actually draft it and grew longer (4000 words approx.) than I wanted it to be. Besides, it looked so much better in my head. But since I put in so much effort I thought I would go ahead and post it.

If you can read it without feeling bored, I will consider it worth the zillion redrafts. If you like, you can read it here. And if you do read it, do let me know if you managed to finish it, what you liked and what you didn’t.

Thanks so much for visiting.

A quick recap of the Story Club:Rules are simple (and breakable) :

  1. Advance announcement of name of short story, one that is freely available on the net.
  2. Story maybe a folktale or in the local language. But an English translation should be freely available on the net. Or participant could post the translated version along with his or her review.
  3. Bloggers should post on their blog.
  4. The basic idea is to gain from each others rich heritage of literature and be able to understand a little bit more than before and of course have fun!

Anyone interested in hosting the next month’s Story Club? Please feel free to email me at

If you don’t want to host a story club, but if you have a favorite short story, do share it – thanks!


Story club # 10: Two Tales

I am sure nobody noticed but I missed last month’s Story Club. And in my defense, there is so much to do and so little time! Anyway to make up, this month, instead of one story, I am attempting to tackle two short stories. Both are penned by the same author WW Jacobs, a British author who is mostly known for his macabre and haunting story The Monkey’s Paw although he mostly wrote humor stories.

If you haven’t read The Monkey’s Paw, please do read it before reading further. I don’t think there are any spoilers ahead but the read is not likely to make much sense unless you are familiar with the story.

The Monkey’s Paw has been a personal favorite for as long as I remember. And not only that, it left a permanent impact on me. That the monkey’s paw is from India and cursed/blessed by an Indian fakir somehow made the story all the more real for me. Whenever I read the story I go back to the drawing room of my first home where I lived as a child, and can almost hear the knock on the door, see the man standing at the door, the horrified silence…

The message ‘Be careful of what you ask for you may get it’ has remained with me ever since then and has sort of become my guiding principle for life as well.

I am quite paranoid and wary about not wishing. Indian mythological stories too have strengthened the belief that nothing good really comes out of wishes being granted. That in fact things could turn out to be worse than ever before. That it was better to make peace with what one had than hanker for things beyond us.

Like the famous Hindi poet, Sri Harivansh Rai Bachchan told his son Amitabh Bachchan, India’s  megastar – Man ka ho to achcha aur na ho toh achcha

Translated, this reads as – If it happens as you wish it is good, but if it doesn’t, then it is even better.

Strange and quite incomprehensible isnt it? But what it means is that if things don’t happen according to your wish, then it is occurring as per the wishes of a higher force who is looking out for you and preventing you from treading paths that are bound to spell disaster for you. Only you don’t know it yet.

Anyway to come back to the story, I realized, that my memory of the story was sketchy and didn’t quite remember about the other two wishes. Perhaps I was too preoccupied by the outcome of the first wish to really comprehend what followed.

But now as I read it again, the end is what nags me. What if he had not made the third and the final wish? Who was it at the door? Would Herbert have returned? How far can things be reversed? Or was it all meant to be? Was fate playing a cruel game of her own? Having some fun at the expense of gullible disbelieving mortals? I wonder and wonder and wish that the father hadn’t wished the third wish.

Oops I forgot…

I don’t wish do I?

After that heavy piece here is a humorous piece from WW Jacob – The Golden Venture. It is a lighthearted fun read which reiterates that nothing good comes out of bad. A comfortable and fun story. I hope you read this one too and share your reactions as well. As for me, for the second story, that is all I am going to say because while reading it I was led astray. I found the characters and story so engaging that I was inspired to pen a short story.

I am posting that story The Inheritance separately – click to read it.

As always I would love to know your reactions, opinions, suggestions and even better, if you feel like it, post a review of the stories or pen an inspired version of your own. Drop a link in the comment box and I will be along for a read.

A quick recap of the Story Club:Rules are simple (and breakable) :

  1. Advance announcement of name of short story, one that is freely available on the net.
  2. Story maybe a folktale or in the local language. But an English translation should be freely available on the net. Or participant could post the translated version along with his or her review.
  3. Bloggers should post on their blog.
  4. The basic idea is to gain from each others rich heritage of literature and be able to understand a little bit more than before and of course have fun!

Anyone interested in hosting the next month’s Story Club? Please feel free to may email me at

If you don’t want to host a story club, but if you have a favorite short story, do share it – thanks!

The Inheritance

“Ann, why didn’t you tell me about the inheritance?” Polly asked.

Ann started. “How do you know?” she asked warily. “Did you read the letter?”

“No I didn’t. You know I don’t much care for reading and writing. Tidger told me. He read the letter by mistake.”


“Ann, now that you are an heiress, you better keep your wits about you,” Polly cautioned her elder widowed sister.

“What do you mean?” Ann was bewildered.

“Ah Ann, ever the fool. Didn’t you notice the doddering fools Wigget and Miller praising you to the skies?”

Ann pinked. “Oh I thought they were being sweet.”

“You’ve been here for the past 6 months and all of a sudden they became sweet? It’s the inheritance, mark my words.”

“Oh Polly,” Ann wrung her hands, “You are the clever one. Tell me what should I do? I don’t like either of them but nobody else will marry me at this age.”

“Humph!” snorted Polly, “I wouldn’t be surprised if my own Tidger wouldn’t marry you himself.”

“Polly!” Ann gasped scandalized, “Do you know what you are saying?”

“Of course I know.” Polly said. “I know my Tidger. He has a weakness for money. Besides, he’s worried about the mortgage on the…”

“But that doesn’t mean…”

“It doesn’t mean, but it could, is all I am saying. And now that the children have flown the nest, we don’t have much in common.”

“Oh Polly aren’t you happy in your marriage?”

“Now don’t be a romantic fool Ann.” Polly briskly set about cleaning up her tiny makeshift kitchen. “Does anyone get married for happiness’ sake?”

“Then why get married?”

“Women get married to have children and stability. Men get married to get an unpaid servant and nurse for life.” Polly attacked the dishes with vigor.


“Tell me Ann, were you happy in your marriage?”

“It was alright.” Ann crossed herself. “May his soul rest in peace.”

“Do you miss him?”

Ann was silent. “Not really.” She said at last. “But I do wish we had a house of our own. That I was independent…”

“Well with your inheritance you could easily set up house by yourself.”

“But that would be so lonely. What would I do alone?”

“I…I could join you.”

“That would be lovely Polly! Will Tidger agree?”

“He doesn’t need to.”


“I am baking his favorite cake today.” Polly held up a bottle. “With a special flavor.”


Polly shrugged. “He’s outlived his usefulness. He’s more of a bother and a pain to be with. I thought I would send him to a happier place.”

“What on earth is the matter with you Polly?”

“You are a fine one to talk Ann,” Polly rounded on her, “Making sheep eyes at my husband.”

“How dare you Polly!”

“Oh I dare alright. Do you think I am blind? You always had a soft spot my Tidger didn’t you? And now the money is making him lean towards you.”

“You are crazy Polly.”

“No I am not. He’s always been a sleep talker. And these days all he says are Ann and mutter about ways to bump me off.” She held up the bottle. “I had bought this poison for you. But since the money I thought it better to get rid of him. After all you are my sister.”

“Polly please…”

“Don’t worry Ann, you and I will get along well together. Won’t we?”

Ann paled. She wrung her hands but wilted under Polly’s unblinking glare. She nodded.

“Good.” Polly sounded strange and her eyes glittered dangerously.

“You are looking funny Polly. Your blood pressure seems to have shot up. You need to rest. Let me make dinner…”

“No! I am baking the cake.”

“Okay after you bake the cake,” Ann said soothingly, “you go and rest. Let me take care of the dinner, while I think how best to handle this. And you know I love cooking.”

Polly expertly sifted the floor, broke the eggs, crushed the sugar, emptied the bottle and slid the cake batter into the oven.

“Done!” Polly dusted her hands and slipped off her apron. “I am going. You think all you like, but remember that cake is for my Tidger.” She sniffled. “He was a good man. Until you and your money came along.” With a sob she left the kitchen.

Ann heaved a heavy sigh. But there was dinner to be made. She worked swiftly around the kitchen and didn’t pause until she had set the table to her satisfaction.

“Polly,” she walked up to her room, “It’s all set Polly. And I have decided to accept Miller’s invitation for dinner. That way I will be out of the way and you can claim that Tidger had a heart attack.”

“Good thinking.” Polly approved of the plan. Besides, she couldn’t wait to see Tidger’s face as Ann left for a date right under his nose. Oh how she would rub it in.

He would die of a heart attack, she chortled to herself.

Bump her off would he? She would show him – who would bump off whom.

Ann and Miller were enjoying a quiet dinner when the concierge came and interrupted them. He spoke in a low whisper to Miller.

“Ann, my dear,” Miller laid his hand on hers, “We have to go.”

Ann stared at him and paled. “What’s the matter?”

“Come let’s go.” He was gentle with her as he led her out of the restaurant.

The scene at home was one of utter chaos. The dinner Ann had labored over, lay spattered all over the floor. Alongside it, Polly lay senseless while Tidger was weeping softly in one corner.

“What happened?” It was the doctor.

Tidger wiped his face and attempted to gather himself. “I…I don’t know doctor. We were having dinner. She had finished eating and I was almost done. She got up to get the cake and appeared to get dizzy. She gave a gasp and grabbed the tablecloth before keeling over. She…” he choked, “she hasn’t moved since then.”

“ You ate the same thing?” The Inspector peered at the dishes. “What was in this empty bowl?” He sniffed suspiciously at it.

“Soup. I finished it.”

“What soup?

Tidger shrugged. “Don’t know but it was real tasty.”

“The bowl looks clean, as if it has been been washed.” He pinned Tidger with his eyes, who flushed and blustered, “Look here Inspector…”

“It was clear soup Inspector,” Ann controlled her sobs, “I…I helped her make it.”

“She was fine before that?” The doctor interrupted.

“Yes. She was perfectly fine. She cooked dinner. She even made my favorite cake.” Tidger paused. “She did complain of uneasiness once or twice.”

“Hmm, looks like she had a heart attack.” The doctor stood up. “She did have high blood pressure and diabetes.”

“My poor Polly. What will happen to me now?”

Ann was too busy crying in Miller’s arms to console Tidger.

She didn’t even speak to him at Polly’s funeral. She moved out of his house the same day.

It was only months later, after the doctor had declared Polly’s death to be due to natural causes and police had given Tidger a clean chit that Ann met Tidger at a common friend’s house.

“How are you?” She looked at him critically. “You’ve lost weight.”

He gave a tired smile. “I am not much of a cook. And,” he coughed, “I haven’t been sleeping too well either.”

“Come over for dinner tomorrow. Miller, you come too. Around 7.30 pm?”

They nodded.

Tidger was early.

“How’s the paperwork for the inheritance progressing?” Ann asked as she cut him a piece of his favorite cake.

He bit into it and closed his eyes in bliss. “Almost done.” He mumbled indistinctly through a full mouth. “Shouldn’t take more than a month now.”

“Good. Poor Polly must be turning in her grave to know that she was the one who got the inheritance not me.”

Tidger grinned. “Aren’t I smart?”

“Only in showing me the letter first. You shouldn’t have washed the soup bowl.”

“I thought there could be traces of the poison.”

“They wouldn’t have been able to detect it.” Ann was confident.

“I am sorry.” He deferred to her greater wisdom. “What next?”

The doorbell rang.

Ann rewarded him with a kiss. “Now it’s time for you to woo me. Make it nice and slow.”

She went to let Miller in.

Just enough delay to raise suspicion but not confirm it.

As always, patience was the key to success.


A/N This story is inspired by WW Jacobs short story A Golden Venture and linked to Story Club # 10

So what do you think? Plausible? Any loopholes? Doubts? Loose ends? Go on say it, I am sure you found something!

Story Club # 9: Flash Back

Hello friends! As you perhaps may be knowing I have taken it upon myself to host (preferably co-host) a Story Club each month where we can pick up a short story and discuss it or simply enjoy it. March just whooshed by just as spring did. The sun is out all guns blazing and to make matters worse – no Story Club 😉

But don’t worry here we are with this month’s offering – with a little twist. No advance notice (there didn’t seem to be any takers as it is) plus we have a couple of really short but fun stories. I say ‘we’ because this time I managed to rope in a partner – Rekha. Multi-talented, she is a writer, artist, paints shoots and can leave you in splits. 😀 She suggested the idea of Akbar-Birbal stories and I for one, can’t get enough of their (or at least Birbal’s) antics.

Akbar, as you may know, was the Mughal ruler of India between 1560 -1605 AD. Akbar was illiterate – unhampered and unencumbered by education he was a visionary and tried to integrate and unite with the Hindu community. He patronized and promoted artists and men of exceptional talent in his court regardless of their religious affiliations – they are popularly known as the nine gems of Akbar’s court.

One of these nine gems was Birbal, the son of a poor Brahman of Trivikrampur. Though Birbal was initially inducted for his administrative skill, his wit and wisdom won Akbar’s heart and he became a close confidante and advisor of Akbar. There are countless stories of Birbal’s wit and he didn’t even spare the Emperor.

I have always found Akbar-Birbal stories entertaining and jumped at the idea of revisiting them and hopefully unearthing an unread story or two. And sure enough I found a couple which I hadn’t read before much to my delight (and secret chagrin – how could I have missed these stories!)

Anyhow before you vanish to Rekha’s blog here’s a couple of short stories.

Birbal’s Justice

Once a man sold his well to a farmer. But when the farmer went to draw the water from that well, the man blocked his path. He said, “As per the sale deed, the well is yours, not the water. So you have no right to draw water from the well.”

The farmer was naturally outraged and took the matter to Emperor Akbar.

Akbar promptly handed the case to Birbal.

Birbal called the man who sold the well to the farmer and asked him to justify his actions.

The man replied rather self-righteously, “But I sold the well to the farmer, not the water. He has no right on the water of the well.”

Birbal nodded and smiled. “I agree!” He turned to the farmer who was wringing his hands and asked, “By the way what is the rent of the well?”

“Rent?” they chorused.

“Yes. Rent for the well. Since the well is the farmer’s, you have to either pay rent to keep your water or take out your water from the well and keep it elsewhere.”

Outwitted, the man had no choice but to give in.

Didn’t this story have overtones of The Merchant of Venice? I wonder who inspired whom or perhaps they had their own ideas. Here’s another tiny one – this can be of help to us too 😉

Birbal escapes

One day a man accosted Birbal on the street and unburdened his myriad woes and ills.

“I’ve walked twenty miles to see you,” he ended his tragic story, “and everywhere people kept saying you were the most generous man in the country.”

It was not difficult for Birbal to guess that the man was going to ask him for money.

“Are you going back the same way?” Birbal asked.

“Yes,” said the man.

“Will you do me a favor?”

“Sure!” said the man. “What do you want me to do?”

“Please deny the rumor of my generosity.” Birbal walked away.
As I re-visited these stories, I couldn’t help but think these were probably the earliest version of flash fiction stories. I thought I had just chanced upon flash fiction when actually I have been reading them all my life! How interesting is that? A huge thank you to Rekha for being such a sport and coming through at such a short notice.

I hope you enjoyed these little stories. If you have any favorite Birbal story do share it! Let’s move to Rekha’s blog where she has created a lovely post complete with pictures – looks just like my comic book of yesteryears! And even better, she promises to post more such stories in the coming days.

But before you leave just a quick recap of the Story Club:

Rules are simple (and breakable) :

  1. Advance announcement of name of short story, one that is freely available on the net.
  1. Story maybe a folktale or in the local language. But an English translation should be freely available on the net. Or participant could post the translated version along with his or her review.
  1. Bloggers should post on their blog.
  1. The basic idea is to gain from each others rich heritage of literature and be able to understand a little bit more than before and of course have fun! 

    Anyone interested in hosting the next month’s Story Club? Please feel free to may email me at

    Look forward to reading from you – have a great day.

Story Club #8 : Fathers & Daughters

Hello folks! How’s 2017 treating you so far? Already 2 down and 10 to go – winter is giving way to spring and red blossoms are popping up from every nook and corner…

Oops! There I go rambling when it is Story Club time. But I have reason – it’s the author poet storyteller musician artist philosopher Rabindranath Tagore’s influence! As I mentioned in an earlier post, I hope to re-visit one of his numerous masterpieces in short fiction The Kabuliwala. Just contemplating about his works can inspire the most unimaginative of minds.

Before moving on to the story, just a few words about the man himself. Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) or Gurudev as he was (and is) addressed, is also sometimes referred as the ‘Bard of the Bengal’. He became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. In 1915 King George V knighted him but he renounced it in 1919 in protest of Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

Although a supporter of Gandhi, Tagore stayed out of politics. In fact, he was opposed to nationalism and militarism. He believed in spiritual values and exhorted the creation of a new world culture founded in multi-culturalism, diversity and tolerance. In 1921, Tagore established Viswabharati University at Santiniketan with the money from the Nobel Prize and royalty from his books. He gave all his money from Nobel Prize and royalty money from his books to this University.

Home-schooled, he began writing from about 8 years of age. He first published a book under a pseudonym when he was about 16 years of age. Born in a wealthy family, Tagore was sent to London to study law. But he returned to India after about 2 years without acquiring a degree. He began writing in Bengali and I have grown up hearing that one lifetime is not enough to read all that he wrote during his life. Tagore was a prolific composer, with 2,230 songs to his credit. His compositions are the national anthem of two countries – India and Bangladesh. I believe his work also inspired Sri Lanka’s national anthem.

No Bengali movie is complete without at least one of Tagore’s songs. He seems to have written a poem, composed a song for every season, every situation, and every emotion. Tagore also wrote novels, essays, short stories, travelogues, and dramas. His travelogues, essays, and lectures have been compiled into several volumes.

I have not read many of his works in Bengali but like I said his songs are everywhere. I have read Gitanjali (literally – Song Offerings), the book for which he awarded the Nobel Prize, which deals with divine love.

Here’s one of them:

Where the mind is without fear
and the head is held high,
where knowledge is free.
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls.
Where words come out from the depth of truth,
where tireless striving stretches its arms toward perfection.
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost it’s way
into the dreary desert sand of dead habit.
Where the mind is led forward by Thee
into ever widening thought and action.
In to that heaven of freedom, my Father,
Let my country awake!

Perhaps this could well serve as a world anthem!

At sixty, Tagore took up drawing and painting and many successful exhibitions of his works have been held all over the world. His manuscripts were a work of art – the scribbles, cross outs and word layouts formed interesting and artistic patterns. However, he himself was not very pleased with his own work. In 1900s, he wrote to Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose (another world famous Bengali polymath), “You will be surprised to hear that I am sitting with a sketchbook drawing. Needless to say, the pictures are not intended for any salon in Paris, they cause me not the least suspicion that the national gallery of any country will suddenly decide to raise taxes to acquire them. But, just as a mother lavishes most affection on her ugliest son, so I feel secretly drawn to the very skill that comes to me least easily.”

Here are some of his other quotes:

You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.

The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.

If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars.

Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.

Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it.

Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf.

Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.

My all time favorite prayer:

Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,
but to be fearless in facing them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but
for the heart to conquer it.

And one more

If I can’t make it through one door, I’ll go through another door – or I’ll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present.

When I conceived the idea for a Story Club and I seemed to be floundering alone (as I still am 😉 it was his song that came to my rescue – it still continues to inspire me to plod on, regardless. If you have time to spare, do listen to it – lyrics are given in English.

Of Tagore’s prose, his short stories are particularly highly regarded and widely read. What I like best about his short stories is that they speak of the average person, his little joys and tragedies. This is also true about this month’s story, which I hope you have read – if not do read and jump right in – link is given above.

Kabuliwala is a story about a man from Kabul (hence the name of the story – the one from Kabul) who comes to India to make a living selling exotic dry fruits. The innocent bond between a strange man and a little girl, their lighthearted banter is what draws us to the story. It charms us, ensnares us and just as we have formed an attachment to the pair comes the crux of the story – a master storyteller at work.

If you have read the story, I quite sure you would not have remain untouched by heartwarming and yet heartbreaking way Tagore unveiled a father’s love for his daughter. I particularly appreciated the empathy one father feels for another – if only we were more attuned to the sufferings and emotions of our fellow travelers on this difficult journey of life.

Like Mini, the little girl of the story, I have sort of grown up with the story. I have read English and Hindi translations of the story as part of school curriculum, onscreen versions – in Bengali and Hindi. And never has it failed to bring a lump to my throat. But each time I have seen it with different eyes and taken away a little something new. Perhaps that is a sign of my growing up or perhaps it is the greatness of a master storyteller who skillfully unfolds the layers one by one.

Kabuliwala could be just a simple story of a Bengali family, their way of life, prejudices, customs and traditions, as I thought it was when I was in my early teens.

Or it could open ones eyes to the story behind peoples lives, shake us out of our obsession with the self and see the person in front of us as more than just a service provider, an employee, a professional and ‘see’ him first as a human. It nudges us to be kinder, warmer, more supportive and appreciative of the others journey to get through the battle of life.

And yet when I re-read it just a few days ago, I felt the utter helplessness of a man, ill-prepared to be a father – one who feels all the emotions but is totally out of sync with reality. He is so completely engaged in the battle for providing for his family that the other realities and eventualities escape him. He seems to be stuck in a time warp, an alternate reality – where everything stops until he has done what he set out to do. It’s sort of like cooking lunch for a family with utter disregard for lunchtime.

The story makes me more kindly disposed towards my spouse as well. I see him with new eyes – poor chap is quite quite clueless 😀

I end with this message from Gurudev:

Go not to the temple to put flowers upon the feet of God, first fill your own house with the fragrance of love.

Go not to the temple to light candles before the altar of God, first remove the darkness of sin from your heart.

Go not to the temple to bow down your head in prayer first learn to bow in humility before your fellow men.

Go not to the temple to pray on bended knees, first bend down to lift someone who is down trodden.

Go not to the temple to ask for forgiveness for your sins, first forgive from your heart those who have sinned against you.

Thanks for reading. If anyone wishes to join the Story Club (including this one) most welcome. Just post a review and link back to this post. Or you could host the next month’s Story Club.

Rules are simple:

  1. Advance announcement of name of short story, one that is freely available on the net.
  1. Story maybe a folktale or in the local language. But an English translation should be freely available on the net. Or participant could post the translated version along with his or her review.
  1. Bloggers should post on their blog while non-bloggers may email me –
  1. The basic idea is to gain from each others rich heritage of literature and be able to understand a little bit more than before.
  1. And of course have fun!

Look forward to reading from you – have a great day.

Story Club #7: Perchance to Dream

Welcome to another round of the Story Club. As announced earlier, story for this month is “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man” by Fyodor Dostoevsky. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s not too late. Read it here and join the discussion.

Sandeep, who had suggested the story and was supposed to host it is unable to join us due to unforeseen circumstances. I will try to do my best to make up for his much felt absence but I must confess I feel quite out of my depth with Dostoevsky. Hopefully some of you will chime in and complete the picture.

First a few words about the much acclaimed Russian novelist, journalist and short story writer Fyodor Dostovevsky (1821- 1881). Although a military engineer by profession he resigned in 1844 so that he could focus on writing. He published his first novel Poor Folk soon after in 1846. This was followed by The Double.

Dostoevsky was a member of the Petrashevsky Circle who were socialist radical thinkers opposing tsarist autocracy and Russian serfdom. He and other members of this group were arrested and sentenced to death in 1849. Apparently they had all been taken to the square and were waiting to be shot when a messenger arrived with a reprieve. The death sentence was commuted to incarceration and he spent four years in Siberia and four years as a soldier in Semipalatinsk. His later works were influenced by his experiences in Siberia.

Although Dostoevsky was impoverished most of his life due to familial debts (worsened by his habit of gambling) he was lucky enough to be recognized as one of the greatest writers of his country during his lifetime.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Power is given only to those who dare to lower themselves and pick it up. Only one thing matters, one thing; to be able to dare!

But how could you live and have no story to tell?

To go wrong in one’s own way is better then to go right in someone else’s.

The cleverest of all, in my opinion, is the man who calls himself a fool at least once a month.

The best definition of man is: a being that goes on two legs and is ungrateful.

Man is a mystery: if you spend your entire life trying to puzzle it out, then do not say that you have wasted your time. I occupy myself with this mystery, because I want to be a man.

The best way to keep a prisoner from escaping is to make sure he never knows he is in prison.

Everybody wants to change the world but nobody thinks about changing himself.

Man is sometimes extraordinarily, passionately in love with suffering.

I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.

Awesome quotes aren’t they? Any favorites?

The Dream of a Ridiculous Man published in 1877 is a fascinating read. Written in the first person, the story is about a (ridiculous) man who has lost the will to live and is determined to take his own life. Yet a dream changes everything.

Presuming, that you have read this (longer than our usual) short story, I will touch upon just a couple of points that I found of particular interest.

The narrator who is disillusioned with the world cannot find the meaning or the point of his life. With an intention to end his meaningless existence, he buys a revolver yet he cannot gather the will or the gumption to take the final irrevocable step. Then, one day, he decides that tonight was the night.

Hurrying home to undertake the final step, he is accosted by a little girl, demanding, pleading for help but he spurns her. His life is going to end in a couple of hours – what did it matter? Yet he cannot quite shrug of the burden of guilt that nags him. He sits contemplating his actions “I stamped and shouted at the unhappy child as though to say–not only I feel no pity, but even if I behave inhumanly and contemptibly, I am free to, for in another two hours everything will be extinguished.”

For instance, a strange reflection suddenly occurred to me, that if I had lived before on the moon or on Mars and there had committed the most disgraceful and dishonourable action and had there been put to such shame and ignominy as one can only conceive and realise in dreams, in nightmares, and if, finding myself afterwards on earth, I were able to retain the memory of what I had done on the other planet and at the same time knew that I should never, under any circumstances, return there, then looking from the earth to the moon–should I care or not? Should I feel shame for that action or not?”

The above paragraph caught my attention for another reason – it is such a long sentence. Today, writers are exhorted to write short sentences – a sign of our (impatient) times? Or just that not everyone is Dostoevsky and long involved sentences are bound to confuse the reader? But then again, this a translated work – I wonder how it was written in the original.

Coming back to the story – the narrator is so overwhelmed by the questions that arise in his mind that he puts of dying (once again) so that he could find answers to his questions.

Decision taken, he seems to be relieved of guilt as he promptly falls asleep sitting in the armchair, something he has never done before. Perhaps out of sheer relief of having evaded death?

As the narrator falls asleep, he has a vivid detailed dream – and I just loved his description of a dream:

Dreams, as we all know, are very queer things: some parts are presented with appalling vividness, with details worked up with the elaborate finish of jewellery, while others one gallops through, as it were, without noticing them at all, as, for instance, through space and time. Dreams seem to be spurred on not by reason but by desire, not by the head but by the heart, and yet what complicated tricks my reason has played sometimes in dreams, what utterly incomprehensible things happen to it! My brother died five years ago, for instance. I sometimes dream of him; he takes part in my affairs, we are very much interested, and yet all through my dream I quite know and remember that my brother is dead and buried. How is it that I am not surprised that, though he is dead, he is here beside me and working with me? Why is it that my reason fully accepts it?”

Again some very long sentences but nevertheless compelling, don’t you think?

The dream itself is believed to refer to the original sin and the narrator a ridiculous man who has deteriorated to madness. It is believed that Dostoevsky had temporal epilepsy and had several hallucinatory dreams which forms the basis of his story.

But I somehow couldn’t quite accept that this is his ‘madness’ speaking. While reading the story, right from the start I couldn’t help but find parallels with the story of Lord Buddha – not the bit about wanting to end his life of course. But his mental state of the utter meaninglessness of life, seeing no point of it all, introspection via his dream, a churning of his mind of all the knowledge and information he has within his subconscious mind followed by enlightment and clarity of thought culminating in a deep love for his fellow companions and an overwhelming desire to save them and show them the path to eternal bliss.

What do you think? No, I wasn’t talking about the long sentence! Jokes apart, I do feel as if I haven’t managed to do justice to this Story Club. But I still have hope. Perhaps, one of you could chime in!

Thanks for reading. If anyone wishes to join the Story Club (including this one) most welcome. Just post a review and link back to this post. Or you could host the next month’s Story Club.

Rules are simple:

  1. Advance announcement of name of short story, one that is freely available on the net.
  1. Story maybe a folktale or in the local language. But an English translation should be freely available on the net. Or participant could post the translated version along with his or her review.
  1. Bloggers should post on their blog while non-bloggers may email me –
  1. The basic idea is to gain from each others rich heritage of literature and be able to understand a little bit more than before.
  1. And of course have fun!

Story Club #6: Knowing the Unknown

Oh shoot! It’s Story Club time and I clean forgot all about it. So much has been happening lately, travel, wedding, trying to capture scissors and ladders, studying art whew! No wonder it slipped my mind. Oh well, better late than never right?

So here’s Story Club number 6, the last one for this year. And in honor of that, I am tweaking the rules – since it’s already late, I am skipping the pre-announcement of the story. Besides, nobody seems to be reading them in advance in any case 😦

And instead of a short story, I am picking up a book this time.

Hey hey!! Pipe down will ya? I can’t hear myself type. Just read me out 😉 The thing is I am way behind in my reading target for this year, so I thought why not kill two birds with one post? Tick off a book (or two) from my list and get in the Story Club as well – great idea isn’t it? 🙂

What about you – you ask.

Well how about reading the review and then you make an informed decision whether or not you would like to read this book? Come on admit it, that’s what you usually do don’t you? Anyway, since this is a book and I know it is short notice, I won’t give away any spoilers.

Okay, all set?

On the same page?

Let’s go.

The book I have chosen for last Story Club of 2016 is Everything a Man Knows About a Woman by Alan Francis (1930) who is a comedian and writer from Scotland.Not much is known about Francis as an author but this book has an average rating of 4.3 on 5 on Goodreads and 49 reviews. He first published this book in 1987 in consultation with Cindy Cashman.

I read the book in one sitting. In fact I don’t think I wasted any time drawing any breath either. It was gripping right from Page 1. The book was particularly fascinating from a woman’s perspective. It was a real eye-opener and made me understand men better than before. I have to confess that exposure to this book has given me significant insight into the male psyche and softened my harsh attitude towards them. I am a softer and mellower person particularly towards my significant other. I thought of gifting this book to him. But then I thought no point, he already knows all this (he may not admit it of course), better to gift to my girlfriends. They are bound to benefit richly from this fresh and rich insight and vision into the minds of the men who matter. I can almost guarantee you won’t regret reading this book.

Amazon is offering a 25th Anniversary Edition (1995) as well and the E-book costs just over 3 $ while the paperback edition is just under 4 $

But tell you what – If you are interested, I would be happy to ‘give’ you a copy of the book for free this Christmas season – ahem ahem I have inside information 😉

So, if you are hesitant to purchase this slim book of 128 blank pages of what men know about women, do let me know 😀

On the other hand, if you are willing to spend a little bit more in this holiday season (and expand your reading list for the year 2016), you could try What Every Man Thinks About Apart from Sex by Sheridan Simove published more recently in 2012. This is a thicker volume, about 200 blank pages.

In an apparent bid to decode the female psyche Dr. Melissa J Marshall jumped on to the bandwagon and published What Every Woman Thinks About (June 2016).

However, I personally found this book rather misleading and self-contradictory. I mean the author must have thought about what women think? And only after thinking about the topic did she come up with book of blank pages – did she not? And hey come on – does she or every other woman not think incessantly and ad nauseam about shopping, diamonds, how to steal their girl-friends’ boyfriends, murder their mother-in-laws etc etc?

You might call me biased but in my defense, I would have lauded the book if it had been titled What Every Woman Knows About Man. Now that would have been an epic tale.

Inspired by these priceless books, I am tempted to publish, “What Every Woman Should Know About Men.”

A hardbound book with a dark handsome beautiful cover design but no – the pages wouldn’t be blank. I have some plagiarized (suitably edited) material (from somewhere on the internet):

Men have 2 interests: hunger and hanky-panky, and they can’t tell them apart. If you see a gleam in his eyes, make him a sandwich.”

Look forward to reading your reviews (and contributions to the above book) while I add 3 books to my list of books I read this year. Apparently I can add a few more before the year is over 😀

As a peace offering, here is a short film (20 min) in Marathi with English subtitles – it gives a glimpse of Indian culture, traditions and psyche. Even I was unaware of this particular ritual. I would go so far as to say this is one of the best short films I have seen in a long time. Seriously. No hanky-panky. Off to have a sandwich.

By the way, just in case something isn’t quite clear in the short film, please do read the comment section of the video or even better we could discuss it here 🙂

If anyone wishes to join the Story Club (including this one) most welcome. Just post a review and link back to this post. Or you could host the next month’s Story Club?

You can read the other Story Club posts and rules here. Or leave me a comment below or mail me at

Please free to discuss, comment, suggest and protest 😉

Story Club #5: Train Travels

Welcome to another round of the Story Club. As announced earlier, Geetashree is hosting this month’s story. Her choice of story is “The Night Train at Deoli” by Ruskin Bond. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s not too late. Read it here and join the discussion.

I am very excited about this month’s story club for two reasons. Firstly, it is a story penned by an Indian author, Ruskin Bond. For sometime now, I have been on the look out for a suitable Indian story for the Story Club and have been dithering over a couple but couldn’t quite make up my mind. So when Geeta suggested it, I jumped at it. However, finding a free link was tricky and Geeta was kind enough to change the story.

Just a few words about the author – Ruskin Bond who turned 82 this year, is of British descent and is known as the Indian William Wordsworth. Ruskin Bond showed a flair and passion for writing at a very early age and wrote his first short story at 16 years. After his schooling in India, he went to London where he wrote his first novel – Room on the Roof, which won him the prestigious John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. He also wrote a sequel to it – Vagrants in the Valley. Subsequently, yielding to the call of the Himalayas he returned to India and shuttled between Delhi and Dehradun – crafting a writing career spanning over 40 years during which he has penned hundreds of short stories and over two dozen books for children, including ghost stories. He has been awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award, Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards some of the highest civilian awards of the country. His stories and books have been made into popular award winning movies in India.

The other reason for my interest is that the story (like many of Ruskin Bond’s stories) is based in and around Dehradun – my hometown. But I must confess, this factor ends up being more of a distraction for I am so busy trying to identify familiar places and locales that I often miss the essence of the story – weird right?

Well perhaps, but true.

And it happened with this one too – The night train at Deoli.

Deoli – was there really such a place? Or was this a fictitious place? I wondered and mused as I frantically scrabbled through the memories of the myriad train journeys I have made between Delhi and Dehradun. Nope – no sign of any Deoli, and certainly not before the train rushes headlong into the jungles – that’s Raiwala junction (where it stops for two minutes).

Oh well perhaps it is a fictitious place. Or perhaps it’s been abandoned since then. But then I couldn’t be sure could I? Oh darn it! I wish I could take that train journey right now…

Anyway, did you read the story? An evocative story that tugs at the heartstrings, isn’t it? I could easily identify with it and the small town train stations are exactly like Ruskin Bond described – in fact it reminded me sharply of the train station shown in the Hindi movie Jab We Met.

In the story, the line that touched me most was when the girl says, “I don’t have to go anywhere.” It somehow seemed to represent the state of women in general. They wait and hope, hiding, nurturing and hoarding dreams, tsunamis, and volcanoes within themselves while going about their daily chores. Other people pass by, perhaps with a backward glance, curious and wondering, yet hesitant to reach out. The ‘incomplete’ story and the suspense regarding the fate of the girl who caught the fancy of a young boy is bound to leave the reader with a sense of restlessness and a feeling of something not quite right, sort of a haunting. Ever since I read the story, tiny train stations from my childhood ‘flash upon that inward eye.’ 🙂

Here are a few of my favorite quotes of Ruskin Bond:

Of course, some people want literature to be difficult and there are writers who like to make their readers toil and sweat. They hope to be taken more seriously that way. I have always tried to achieve a prose that is easy and conversational. And those who think this is simple should try it for themselves.

I never break my journey at Deoli but i pass through as often as I can.

Book readers are special people, and they will always turn to books as the ultimate pleasure. Those who do not read are the unfortunate ones. There’s nothing wrong with them; but they are missing out on one of life’s compensations and rewards. A great book is a friend that never lets you down. You can return to it again and again and the joy first derived from it will still be there.

“Hinduism comes closest to being a nature religion. Rivers, rocks, trees, plants, animals, and birds all play their part, both in mythology and everyday worship.”

Normally writers do not talk much,because they are saving their conversations for the readers of their book – those invisible listeners with whom we wish to strike a sympathetic chord.

I particularly liked this nugget:

Summing up his last essay in The Lamp Is Lit, Ruskin writes: ‘And there are many brave and good Indian writers, who work in their own language — be it Bengali or Oriya or Telugu or Marathi or fifteen to twenty others — and plough their lonely furrow without benefit of agent or media blitz or Booker prize. Some of them may despair. But even so, they work on in despair. Their rewards may be small, their readers few, but it is enough to keep them from turning off the light. For they know that the pen, in honest and gifted hands, is mightier than the grave.’ Ruskin then goes on to write: ‘And these are my parting words to you, dear Reader: May you have the wisdom to be simple, and the humour to be happy.’

That’s enough from me for the story and over to Geetashree’s blog for her fabulous analysis and reviews on the story of the month – Night Train at Deoli.



Thanks for reading. If anyone wishes to join the Story Club (including this one) most welcome. Just post a review and link back to this post. Or you could host the next month’s Story Club

You can read the other Story Club posts (and rules) here. Please free to discuss, comment and suggest.


Story Club #4: Games People Play

Welcome to the fourth round of the Story Club. As announced earlier, Ramya is hosting this month’s story. Her choice of story is “In a Grove” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s not too late. Read it here and join the discussion.

This week’s story is a treat to read and on a topic that has always fascinated me. How interpretation of scenarios/events differ according to mindsets and perceptions. Take for instance, the flash fiction challenges based on a photo prompt. Yet, amazingly, the stories that come up are as diverse as can be.

This is exactly what this story discusses – how different people perceive and narrate a scene leaving the reader thoroughly confused as to what exactly had happened. What I found most intriguing about this story is can the ghost’s version be relied upon? Is that the ‘real’ truth? Or is the medium including his or her own perception of the ghost’s narration? What do you think?

In a Grove is an out and out whodunit without the denouement. And it goes without saying that the author has done a great job – he has entertained and left a permanent impression by virtue of his style of telling a tale.

Interestingly, Akutagawa had a highly publicized dispute with Jun’ichirō Tanizaki over the importance of structure versus lyricism in story. Akutagawa argued that structure, how the story was told, was more important than the content or plot of the story, whereas Tanizaki argued the opposite. Six months ago, I would have vehemently supported Tanizaki but now I am not so sure. Although I am not willing to completely give up on the supremacy of the plot in a story but I do get what Akutagawa was rooting for. Whom do you support?

Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1 March 1892 – 24 July 1927) is considered to be the Father of Japanese short stories. Akutagawa’s mother passed away soon after his birth due to mental illness and his maternal uncle brought him up. Akutagawa was very concerned about inheriting his mother’s illness. His apprehensions, hallucinations and subsequent nervousness drove him to suicide at 35 years of age. During a very short span, Akutagawa wrote over 150 short stories. He also wrote haiku under the penname Gaki, but not many seem to have been translated to English.

Rashomon was Akutagawa’s first short story. Interestingly, the famous Japanese filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa’s acclaimed film Rashomon is based on the plot of In a Grove rather than that the short story, Rashomon, from where he takes only a few scenes and of course the name of his movie.

Credit goes to both Akutagawa and Akira Kurosawa for highlighting the concept of mutually contradictory accounts of a single event which is a common occurrence in real life, such as journalism and law. This concept is now popularly called “The Rashōmon Effect.”. Several movies also explore this concept – Gone Girl (Hollywood) and Talvar (Bollywood) come instantly to the mind. As do Agatha Christie murder mysteries. But I have to admit I couldn’t quite connect the Rashomon Effect to Star Trek – anyone kind enough to explain?

That’s enough from me for this Story Club and over to Ramya’s blog for her analysis and views on the story of the month – In a Grove.

Thanks for reading. If anyone wishes to join the Story Club (including this one) most welcome. Just post a review and link back to this post. Or you could host the next month’s Story Club 🙂

Rules are simple:

  1. Advance announcement of name of short story, one that is freely available on the net.
  1. Story maybe a folktale or in the local language. But an English translation should be freely available on the net. Or participant could post the translated version along with his or her review.
  1. Bloggers should post on their blog while non-bloggers may email me –
  1. The basic idea is to gain from each others rich heritage of literature and be able to understand a little bit more than before.
  1. And of course have fun!

You can read the other Story Club posts here. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at