Saturday, 5 January 2013

Aria Suri: An Interview (This is 100% fictional, guys!)

As she lands at the airport in Beijing, Aria Suri looks nothing if not tired. The seventeen-year-old, fondly nicknamed 'Big eyes' by fellow adventurer Krishna Kanan, is slowly becoming thee poster girl for both love and bravery, jet setting all over the world in search of her missing brother Kartik. Hr latest stop is Beijing, China and it is only to be seen what fate holds for her in these Oriental lands.

"Life's become a new ball game altogether", she says, picking up her own baggage and stacking them on a trolley. "It's like there's no day, no night. All there is, is this constant pursuit, this mission of finding my brother. Day and night's just a matter of where the sun is in the sky and that's just something we're not bothered about anymore."

As if to illustrate her point, Ismene Alastor, who's accompanying Aria in her dangerous yet utterly fascinating adventure yawns and mumbles illegible words. Their journey is not physically exhausting to say the least. Aria's journey began in Mumbai, India, when she discovered her brother might still b alive and set out to find him with Nova Cesnik and Riyan Majumder (Riyan's father went missing seven years ago). From there, the trio traveled to Bangladesh by train and foot (yes, that's right!) and were joined by Americans Ismene Alastor and Krishna Kanan. Th group then set out for Beijing, all in a matter of less than three days. "Forget all the theories about my brother's disappearance", jokes Aria, "Right now my biggest fight is against jetlag and sleepiness".

But this is no joke. aria understands that her mission is risky to say the least. "I know what's at stake. I knew it when I left home and I know it now. And I know what this is putting my parents through and that's exactly why I'm not going back home unless I can take Kartik back home with me". Tough words for a seventeen year old girl, but Aria insists, "Age is just a funny thing for me. I totally missed out on the giggle-giggle-yak-yak of being a teenaged girl.  My life just wasn't like that".

Ask her about the group dynamics and she says, "Riyaan's the guy everybody loves, Ismene's thee sweet girl, Krishna can be really annoying sometimes and Nova's like our shepherd". We hint that w'r actually more concerned about the trust issues her group might have, but Aria has no comment about the matter.

As Aria and her group emerge out into Beijing, we are left wondering what comes next in Aria's life. We wish w could hope for a 'happily ever after', but in Aria's case, we can never be too sure. 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Unexplained Disappearances- First 15 Pages


I am not even out of bed and I already know this is going to be the worst day of the year..

For one, its the first day of college. That means meeting new people. That meant being polite and smiling. I’ve never taken to those activities.

Second, its August 28th. Its been a year since my brother went missing.

Third, its my goddamned birthday.

I lie in bed and stare at the ceiling, boggled by how one day can mean so much. I wish I could go back to sleep and let the day slide. I can’t. Eventually, my dad will come to my room and wake me up, and I don’t want that. Ever since my brother…. Well, he’s been a little paranoid for the past year and if he sees me sleeping past seven- that never happens- he’ll start with his usual questionnaire. Are you okay? Do you feel sick? Sould I get a thermometer? I appreciate his concern, but the whole routine is getting a bit repetitive now.

I let out a final sigh and jump out of bed. My feet land right in the middle of the books I left on the floor last night. I love reading and writing, but that can take a toll on the state of tidiness of my room. Everywhere I looked, there was some book or the other, or maybe a notebook with my story ideas scribbled on them. The wall is painted yellow and is bare except for a chart showing the periodic table and a flow chart on communication systems. I know what people think when they look at my room- NERD.

Its almost seven. My first class is at ten. The campus is several miles away from my house and if I want to make it in time, I must hurry. I quickly shower and dress. I emerge out of my room and see thhat thhe door to m parents’ room is ajar. I peep in. My mother is sleeping half-open mouthed. Earlier, she used to be the first one to wake up every morning. She’d pack m lunch and then head to the City College Library where shhe was head librarian. Things have changed now. These days, she doesn’t wake up before noon. She’s on antidepressants and tranquilizers and she misses my brother more than anybody.

I hear water running in the common bathroom. My dad. He must be taking a shower. He had promised to take me on the first day, but I know he’s going to take me everyday for at least a semester. I quickly head for the kitchhen but stop mid-way in the corridor.

My brother’s room.

So neat. So tidy. Drawers firmly shut. Closet looking new. Table-lamp switched off. It all looks so unlike what it used to look like when he was around. If there is one thing we shared, it was messiness. A sharp pain pierces through my gut as m gaze falls on a picture of him stuck on the wall just above hhis table. I marvel at his chiseled face, the unusual, classical appearance. We don’t look alike, but we are still related and I can feel his absence as I stand here.

Ignoring the pain, I march to the kitchen and fix myself a jam sandwich. This has been my breakfast for the last year. Sometimes its also my lunch and dinner. My mother doesn’t cook everyday anymore. On days when she’s feeling down, bread and jam become my staple diet. I swallow hard, fighting the monotony of the sweet, fruity taste.

“Ready?” my father says.

I turn, a piece of bread hanging out of my mouth. “Yeah. Let me just get my bag”.

My father eyes the clock hanging high above the kitchen counter. “We’re late already”.

But I have already picked up my bag and am almost out the door. I kind of fast. I do everything fast. My father joins me. He looks a bit like me, with big, dark eyes and a substantial nose. His wrinkles are prominent now. He’s aged since Kartik went missing. At the last moment, he checks his wallet and I put on my shoes. Then we head out together.

We don’t talk on out way to the station. We don’t even talk once we’re on the train. Mumbai trains are always crowded. Its early but the train is filled with humans struggling to maintain balance in the rhythmic sway of the train. Only the lucky get to sit. All conversations are dulled by the monotonous chugging of the engine.  The odor of sweat from every body mixes together and nullifies itself such that it seems part of the train. It hurts me to watch my frail father sandwiched between two large men, his hands gripping the handlebars overhead and his spectacles lopsided on his nose. I wish he’d let me go out alone. I wish he wouldn’t take all this trouble.

My college is a short walk from CST, the station we stop at. I deliberately walk slow so my father would keep up with me. I know the way, but I let him say, “This way” at every turn.

When we’re at the gate, my father begins. “Do you have everything?” my father asks.

“Books, notebooks, water bottle, lunch box, ID…” I rummage through my bag, making sure I had everything I could possibly need.

“Cell phone?” my father says with a maniacal urgency.

“I have that in here”, I say, running my hand over my jeans pocket.

“Do you have an umbrella?”

“Why do I need that for?”

“Look at how sunny it is! You’ll need an umbrella to walk around campus”.

I’m not going to parade around campus with an umbrella in my hand, I think. But all I say is, “I’ll remember to bring one tomorrow”.

That appears to satisfy him. He wishes me good luck and gives me a hug I couldn’t bring myself to return. All gestures of affection have ceased from my side since about a year ago. After Kartik’s disappearance, my family has gone down so steep a downward spiral that I now feel rather distant from it. Its just that my parents seem like leftover versions of themselves now, and I can barely recognize them.

I turn, but my father keeps a hand on my shoulder. “Listen”.

“Huh?” I notice his face has changed. He’s biting his lip and looking down. He opens his mouth to say something. “Hap-”

My chest tightens. Here it comes. The obligatory ‘Happy Birthday’. I almost want to snort and say, “Like that’s what this day marks”. But I keep my mouth shut and brace myself, ready to take the pain of being wished on the date my brother went missing.

He doesn’t go through with it. His face relaxes and he says, “Nothing. Never mind. You be on your way now”.

I nod. The day would always be the anniversary of Kartik’s disappearance. It would never be my birthday again.

As I walk away from the gates, I keep stealing backward glances at my dad. He doen’t move an inch until I was safely inside the building. Who’s looking out for whom? I think but quickly shove the thought away.

I pick up a map from the office before I head off for class. Still, the hallways confuse me. My first class is for electronics, but I can’t find the room.

“Are you lost?” somebody asks.

I look up from the map in my hand. Standing before me is a boy I find myself instantly attracted to in a rather silly, teenaged-girl way. He isn’t particularly beautiful. Its just that he is rather….striking. His shaggy dark hair partly cover his forehead and brush his right eye. His eyebrows are thick and well-defined. He was so tall that I, who stood a good 5’6”, only came up to his broad shoulder.

“I’m not lost”, I answered defensively. “I just…I just…” I gave up. “I just can’t find my class”.

“What class do you have up first?”

“Electronics”, I replied. “It’s supposed to be right here on the third floor.”

“I’ll take you there”, he offered.

“No, it’s okay. I wouldn’t want you to go out of your way.” I am being polite, but I have developed a tendency to be overly suspicious of people. Whenever somebody acts overly helpful, I try my best to evade that person. What if somebody kidnaps me or something, like that witch from Hansel and Gretel who lures kids with a house of candy and then eats them up.

“Hey, look. I’m just trying to be helpful”, he says, putting up his arms in mock surrender.

That almost makes me smile. I have to admit, getting attention from him is kind of flattering. “Umm, okay”.

He seems to have a fairly good idea of where all the rooms were. I follow him, but still kept stealing occasional glances at my map. The tall pillars and high ceilings in the corridors remind me I am not in high school anymore. This is a bigger world. The classes will be different, the people will be new. I silently congratulate myself for getting into MNIT, which is the best engineering college in my state.

He leads me to my class and then says, “It’s my first class too”.

“What’s your course?”

“B.Tech in Electronics and Communication”.

That basically means I can look forward to four years of sharing most of my classes with him.

“I have my friends sitting right over there”, he says, pointing at the back of the class where some kids are already seated. “We’re all from the same school. It’s okay if you want to join us”.

The class is like a movie theatre, with every row of benches placed higher than the one before. Even in the last row, I’ll be able to hear the lecture. But I am more of a front-bencher by nature. “No thank you. I’ll take the front row”.


I nod.

“Can I atleast know your name?”

“Aria. Aria Suri”.

“I’m Riyan”. He hold out his hand and I shake it. His grip is comfortingly firm. He rubs his chin and then says, “You know, you look kind of familiar. Have we met before?”

What a cliché, I think. I have a feeling that this boy has taken a sudden, inexplicable interest in me and the cautious part of me warns me to stay away from him. “No, I’m hundred per cent sure we’ve never met before”.

“Hmmm. Well, I guess I’ll see you after class”.

I give him a non-committal shrug and head off to find myself a seat. Students pile in and Riyan effortlessly blend in with his group. For the next ten minutes, I use my peripheral vision to take quick looks at his group. 

It was the group that appeared most engaged in conversation. The cool group, I thought. Thhe one I’ll never fit in.

The teacher enters. It is a man in his thirties. I can never call him handsome. He is tall, lanky and dressed in a white shirt and black trousers. Is hhair looks as if its plastered to hhis hair. Had his moustache been just a bit more square, it would have looked like Hitler’s.

“Oh my God, he’s so tacky”, I hear a girl say in a nasal voice, sneering at thhe teachher.

I don’t care what the teacher looks like. As long as he can teach.

He starts with basic concepts of doping, transistors and other things I already knw about. I still take notes, secretly wondering when we’d begin with the real stuff. He isn’t a bad teacher, I had to admit.

When my class ends, I realize I need to go to the bathroom. Without being noticed, I slide past my classmates and out the door.

Absently, I start walking toward the corner that has a door with ‘LADIES’ marked on it. There are light murmurs in the corridors coming from the classrooms, but still, there is one sound that stands out.

I sense light footsteps behind me, their rhythm matching mine. My intuition tells me someone is walking right behind me, not trying to overtake me. My leisurely pace doesn’t make him or her impatient. It is as if….I am being followed.

I turn around without thinking. But there is nobody there. I curse myself for letting my imagination fly. I quicken my pace and as soon as I put my hand on the doorknob, I hear someone behind me. This time I am sure. And I get scared. My mind doesn’t let me react; it just causes me to freeze.

The next thing I know is my head has been shoved into the door, hitting it with a loud bang which sends a shock down my spine. I reflexively shut my eyes. A strong set of hands pull my hair and then push me forward. I catch a glimpse of something sparkly, maybe a watchh something hanging off my attacker’s wrist. I land on the floor, my right arm breaking my fall. The pain makes me scream and struggle on the floor. 

I get disoriented; I can’t raise myself back up. I just lie there, shocked, hurt, frightened.

Someone pushed me. Someone, who can’t possibly know me, tried to hurt me.


“I told you. I was going to the bathroom and I fell”, I say for the millionth time.

“Did anybody push you?” my mother asks. She’s been asking the same question in different words for the past thirty minutes.

“No. Why would…”

“Did you feel someone behind you?”

I feel like this is the Spanish Inquisition, sans the intense physical torture.

My father just scrutinizes. His face is frozen in an expression of negative thought. His heavy eyebrows are so close together, they form a thick line. His glasses hide the look in his eyes.

The right part of my forehead is badly bruised and my arm has required a lot of pain cream. I reach for the tube beside my bed and squeeze out some more cream.

“Are you sure?” my mother, wagging her thin finger in front of my face.


“Okay”, she says, backing off but not fully convinced. She is quiet for a few seconds, as if giving me one last chance to tell the truth. People say I look like her when I am in a bad mood. I note her passive frown, a thin line of her mouth that makes it impossible to tell what she is thinking. “Drink some water and go to bed. Don’t go tomorrow”.

“Don’t go? I can’t stop going to college because I fell”.

“If your hand troubles you, you’ll have nobody to help. Stay home. Take some rest and go again on Monday”, she says firmly. I don’t have the will or energy to fight. She switches off the light. Together, they leave the room and half shut the door behind them. I stay sitting up. Lying down hurts my arm too much. The doctor has said the pain would go by tomorrow. It seems doubtful.

I wish I were living in a hostel where paranoid parents can’t dictate when and where you could or couldn’t go.

“And Aria?” my mother says, suddenly appearing at the doorframe.

“What?” My annoyance is poorly disguised.

“Don’t stay up too late and don’t try to get up too early tomorrow morning. Did you set the alarm on your phone?”

“No”. I quickly tucked my phone under my pillow. She didn’t notice in the dark.

“Call me if you need anything”, she says and leaves again, this time closing the door completely. It becomes pitch dark. My eyes takes a minute to adjust.

The biggest thing is that I was being dishonest with myself. My mother is right. Someone has pushed me. I am damn sure of that. But I can’t tell anyone as it would drive my parents crazy. My mother used to be the kind of woman who didn’t fuss when one of her children fell down or got hit by a cricket ball. But it is a different story now. For a year, she has been one of the most paranoid women I knew. She has taken me to school every day and brought me home. She watches from upstairs when I go for a walk around the building. It came as a huge surprise when she didn’t insist on coming with me on my first day of college. She probably just thinks I’ll disappear too. One day, I just won’t show up, just leave and never come back. Then she’ll have two rooms to preserve like shrines.

But its not just that. I have a very bad feeling about the incident. Perhaps something like ‘feminine’ intuition really does exist and its telling me that someone tried attack me. On serious purpose. Someone wants to hurt me.

Or maybe I am just playing with these ideas. Maybe, like my mother, I fear for myself too. I don’t want anything bad to happen to me. Its true that my brother’s disappearance has made me extra cautious. I believe if I am harmed, this family, everything it stands for, our names, everything will just crumble and become insignificant.

My elbow throbs as I lower myself to my pillow. I hope nothing like this will happen again. With that hope, I finally force myself to sleep.
College is better than home.

After mostly sleeping and nursing my arm over the weekend, I decide to go to college on Monday. Out of the two hells I spend most of my time in, college is the more bearable one because nobody knows me here. Nobody’s overly worried about me to the extent of it being paranoia. Nobody treats me as a special case.

Nobody except Riyan.

I decide to have my lunch under a tree in the canteen just to have some peace. I open a book called ‘Shiver’ and begin reading.  I like the cool shade of the branches above and the quietude, but Riyan finds me there and takes a seat on the grass. “Hi, again”.

“Hi”. My response is unenthusiastic to say the least.

“So…” he says when I didn’t make an effort to start a conversation. “Where do you live?”

“Vashi”, I answered. “It’s about an hour away by train.” I think his question is cliched, but its harmless and easy to answer.

“Really? Must be tiring to commute everyday”.

“It  is, but I’ll get used to it”.

What follows was fifteen minutes of small talk. I can feel the other girls around the canteen eyeing me. Having lunch with the pretty boy is the perfect recipe to start rumors.

Riyan bends forward and picks up my book. “So you like to read?”

“A lot”, I say, taking the book back and placing it on my lap. I open it to the page I was at, eager to return to the story.

“Favorite book?”

“Hard to pick, actually. I have a favorite story, though”. I feel myself opening up to him and instinctively hold my tongue.

“Which one?”

I sigh. There’s no escaping this conversation. “Hansel and Gretel.”

His eyebrows rise in confusion. “Why?” he says, as if its impossible for anyone to love Hansel and Gretel.

“My brother used to tell me that story. I don’t know. Its just something about the girl saving the boy from the evil witch and the two of them destroying the witch together. Its jjust better than all the prince-meets-princess, they-fall-in-love nonsense”.

“Your brother”, he repeats. My throat dries up. Of all the words I just spoke, he picked this one out- brother. “Older, right?”

I look down and nod.

He doesn’t say anything for a minute or two, but I can feel his eyes on me. His gaze is not admiring, its searching for something. Finally he says, “You know, I still think I’ve seen you before.”

I have had enough. I’ve never met anybody called Riyan in my life. So how could he ever have seen me before. I rise to my feet and say, “I have to get back top class.” My book falls down from my lap and I mutter a curse under my breath.

“Class isn’t till fifteen minutes from now?” he points out. He picks up my book and hands it to me. His forehead is creased and he’s eyeing me in confusion.

“Yeah, but I have to go to the library and…” I am already walking away from him and he doesn’t say anything when I turn on my heels and scuttle towards the building.

A week and a half  has passed with Riyan grabbing every chance to talk to me. Whenever his friends try to call him over to their table during lunch, he says he is busy. He’s been walking me to class, has started sitting away from his friends and closer to me, asks me questions on the simplest of concepts and even takes my notes. Its as if we have developed a one-sided friendship of some sort. I, being generally a nice person, never ignore him.

Today, he takes a place right next to me. I turn to him and say, “Won’t your friends miss you?”

“No, it’s okay”, he says with a smile.

“Look”, I say in the nicest tone possible. “I’m sure you’re a nice person, but if you keep giving me this…attention, people will talk.”

“What are they going to talk about?” he asks innocently.

I sigh. “I just think that-” I want to tell him I wasn’t a very social person. That I have lost my ability to make friends since my brother went missing. That I am so used to being quiet and reserved now, it feels odd to indulge in simple, youthful friendships. But before I can say anything, he cuts me off and says, “I figured out why you looked so familiar to me”.

He rummages through his backpack and took out a small pile of equal sized sheets. They’re slightly yellow and neatly stacked in a folder. He takes out a sheet and places it on my table with the blank side facing upwards. The moment he turns over the first page, my hand reflexively flies to snatch it off the table. The words on the page are words I have memorized, but they still unsettle me.

by special NM City correspondent
14th April, 20xx

On Monday, Kartik Suri, a twenty-three-year old medical student at KCM Hospital was reported missing by his family. In what can be called one of the most puzzling disappearance in the past year, Kartik left for his daily classes at 7:00 a.m. Witnesses have confirmed that he was seen boarding his usual train from Vashi station at 7:30 a.m. However, CCTV camera footage suggests he never got off at his designated stop. The police have ruled out the possibility of a mishap as cameras are installed at regular intervals of his route and none of them show any footage of an accident.

When Kartik didn’t return home on Monday evening like he was expected to, his father Raghav Suri first called all of Kartik’s friends and acquaintances, and when that yielded no positive results, he didn’t wait before launching a report with the Missing Persons Bureau of the Mumbai Police Department.

“You don’t just get on a train and not get off of it”, said Raghav Suri. He refused any comment on the ‘accident’ theory and just said, “I’m completely certain my son is alive. I can feel it”. Kartik’s mother, Naina Suri, was unavailable for comment as she was hospitalized late Monday night following a bout of vomiting, disorientation and fainting. Doctors say her condition was caused by the news of her son not returning home.

Kartik’s family also includes his sixteen-year-old sister, Aria Suri. At present, Aria is with taking care of her mother. She says the hospital staff has been very helpful and she hopes to see her brother soon.
Evreyday, hundreds of people go missing in the city of Mumbai. A large percentage of them are reported as being patients of psychiatric conditions and drug addictions. Family abductions are also common. There are some who run away to escape domestic violence, assault and so on. In case of kidnappings, a ransom call is expected within forty-eight hours. The police are finding it difficult to classify Kartik’s case in any of the abovementioned categories which makes this case so complicated.

As I continue to look down, doing my best to control the tears that are welling up in my eyes, I feel a sharp bite in my stomach. A promising surgeon goes missing and all he gets this is all he gets- one article in a weekly publication that made most of its money by reporting disturbing serial killings and gross molestations and Bollywood gossip, a grainy picture on a poster pasted at stations and bus stops, periodic flashings of the same grainy photo on Doordarshan channel which nobody really watched anymore. That’s it.

“That’s you, isn’t it?” says Riyan, tapping at a file photo of our family that had appeared along with the article.

“So you just saw my face in the papers and remembered my face for a year?” I suspiciously question. I slide a few inches across the bench, distancing myself from him.

“It’s not that simple”, he says, mistaking the cutting edge in my voice for interest. “My own dad went missing seven years ago. Look at the next paper in the profile”.

I pick up the page and read the headline- ‘BUSINESSMAN MYSTERIOUSLY DISAPPEARS’. I quickly go over the article. Apparently, Riyan’s father, Ibrahim Majumdar, who was part owner of a small but fairly successful company called RK Tyres, had boarded on a plane from London and never gotten off. The eerie similarity to Kartik’s disappearance is hard to miss.

“If only my dad knew how hard my mother works to get by without him, he’d come back”, says Riyan with childish certainty. His voice is level, almost too level. “He was an excellent father. He’d never leave us, regardless of what my relatives keep saying”.

I have some questions in my mind, but I can’t quite put them to words. Riyan has pulled out a drawer full of repressed emotions, and now I feel incapable of getting through a day of classes. I look up. Is the fan really whirring that fast or is it just my head spinning? Bile rise up in my throat. Without saying anything to Riyan, I cover my mouth with my hand, hastily pick up my things and run out of class and into the bathroom. Once I am done vomiting in the sink, I sink to the floor, as depressed as I had been on 29th April last year.
I had looked forward to moving on to a new phase of life where Kartik’s absence wouldn’t constantly haunt me, but Riyan has destroyed all my hopes.

Somewhere in the early hours of dawn, I have the same dream again.

I am in a forest. Its dark,but I can’t be sure because of the thick canopy of trees overhead. Veins hug the barks and the plants on the ground rise up to my calves. The night is still There is a ghostly silence occasionally punctuated by the hoot of an owl or the gurgle of a distant spring.

Initially, I am alone. I feel as if I’m gliding, not walking at all, but still there is the rustle of my footsteps on the dead fallen leaves scattered on the muddy ground. I revel in the solitude. But then I see my parents. They’re circling the tallest tree in the vicinity, one which has a bark as thick as a small house. They are searching for something, yelling, their faces were worried. I stop, unable to walk forward. Then, some inexplicable force draws me backwards. The more I try to fight it, the more I kept walking backwards. But my parents don’t look at me. They just keep going in round circles, shouting….someones’s name, maybe?

Finally, I bring myself to a stop with a jerk.

“Kartik!” That’s my mother’s voice. They’re looking for him, I think. They can’t find him.

I look down, there is a something small and brownish resting lightly on  a broad leaf. A bread crumb.

The crumb means something because I turn on my heels. And there he is. Kartik. He looks just like he did when he went missing- more handsome than I an beautiful, fair-skinned with smooth hair and rimless glasses. Before I can utter a word, he puts his hand on my mouth in a way that frightened me. His hold is tight and I can’t move my face. He then puts his finger on his lips and smiles maliciously. When he let go of me, I turn around to find my parents. They were still circling the tree, looking for Kartik.

“He’s here!” I say to them, but they can’t hear me. And when I face Kartik again, he has vanished.

My eyes fly open.

Its still early. The sky outside my window is a lovely grayish blue. I take three mouthfuls of light, cool air and jump off the bed, ready to start the day. But the moment my feet touch the floor, my mind gets cluttered by the same thoughts that have bothered me throughout yesterday.

It takes about thirty minutes of pacing to get my thoughts straight.

I think about how Riyan talked about his father. They must have had a really strong relationship. I certainly detected a hint of unshakable faith in his voice when he said that his father would never leave him. In short, he still loves his father.
With me and Kartik, its a bit different.

I played a lot with Kartik as a child. He even used to be been rather proud of me because I was an exceptionally cute kid with chubby cheeks and three ponytails rising like fountains from my head. He taught me the alphabet, got me books to read and even dropped me to my nursery class in the school we both went to. But once I turned ten, we pretty much went our separate ways. He had a select group of friends he spent a good deal of time with. He became some kind of super-intelligent freak and the whole family was sure that he was on his way to becoming the country’s greatest surgeon. He got himself into a rather prestigious medical college. My parents went from being his parents to his fans. At some point, we just lost each other, and I became sort of the back-up kid.

And then I started discovering how he wasn’t as perfect as he seemed…

I shake the dark thought out of my head. The truth is that no matter what my personal opinion of Kartik is, I still love him because, well, hes my brother. We have a shared childhood, the same blood. He is a big part of my life. Nothing will ever change that.

Besides, I can see what his absence did to my parents. They  are broken, and it hurts me to watch them desperately seek closure every single day.

Ughh… I hate Riyan. I hate him for making me think these thoughts. I hate him for paying special attention to me only because his dad had gone missing like my brother. I stare at my bathroom’s mirror and wondered if I had actually let myself believe for a second that Riyan was taking genuine interest in me. I shrug away the thought. I am an average-looking girl. My hair is thick and wavy, but my braid hardly ever lets that show. My eyes are big and framed by long eyelashes, but the dark circles I have earned by staying up late studying in the last six months of school are hard for anybody to miss. My height, weight, skin color- its all pretty average. Nothing to make a good-looking guy help me on my first day of college.

I splash water on my face and take time to get ready for college. I remember to pack an umbrella and a pair of sunglasses, even though I am pretty sure I won’t need them. At seven, my dad knocks on my door and the two of us set out to repeat our morning routine on the train.

Today will be the day I’ll finally tell Riyan to stay away from me. God! Will I have to do it inside the class? 
That would be horrible.

Thankfully, it doesn’t have to go that far.

He meets up with me in the hallway right before my our chemistry class. He looks worried. The minute he is within earshot, he says, “Are you okay? You looked kind of sick when you ran off yesterday”.

“Yes, I’m fine. Can I just talk to you for a second?”

He shrugs. I lightly hold him by his arm and take him to the edge of the hallway. “Look”, I start. “I’m certain you and your family have had to deal with a tough seven years. I understand because my life hasn’t been so great either. But if you think that our pain is going to be some binding force for the two of us, I’m sorry.” I realize how harsh I sound, let out a deep breath and continue in the softest tone imaginable. “I’m doing my best to be the best kid my parents could have, and a big part of that involves doing my best to just not think of my brother all the time. So please, I can’t have you taking interest in me just because your dad and my brother have something in common”.

A look of genuine hurt registers on his face, but he quickly hides it with a stony mask. He doesn’t say anything before disappearing into the classroom. I stay still for a while, telling myself that what I have done was unfortunately very necessary. I am already dealing with so much; dealing with a boy’s hurt feelings on my conscience will be no big deal.
Its been a week since I last talked to Riyan.

I am walking down the stairs, going to the computer room. I am running a bit late. As I turn to walk down the next flight of stairs, I see someone in a green T-shirt writhing on the landing. On careful inspection, I discover its Riyan. He’s on the floor, struggling to get up. His hand clutches his left side and he’s trying to get hold of the railing. Its weird to see someone who looks strong and tall in such a sorry state.

“What happened?” I ask before I can stop myself.

He looks up. When he sees me, he relaxes a little, as if I am a safe person to deal with. “Somebody pushed me. Somebody held me by my neck, pushed me against the wall hit me really hard and then rammed my heads into the railings.”

“Someone did that to you? What are you, like, 6’3” or something?”

He nods in comprehension. “I know. That’s why I don’t have any broken bones and my nose is still intact”.

“Who did this?”

“I didn’t see.” With a lot of effort, he stands up. He still has his hand on his ribs. He is out of breath. He looked right at me, “And that’s how you hurt yourself, didn’t you? Somebody attacked you”.

I freeze. I had forgotten about that day. I had written it off as an unexplained incident which was probably being magnified by my imagination. I hadn’t really seen the attacker, there was no reason to conclude that there was one.

“You….” I have no answer to his question. But the fact was that he knows something that I didn’t know, something he probably needs me to know, something I ought to know.

But now is not the time. I have way too many questions in my mind to seek answers right away. Without saying anything, I walk away, secretly hoping the last three weeks had just been a bad dream.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

I Finished My Book!

Just in time before college, I finished my book. It happened last night literally at the stroke of midnight. I typed the last word and finished the first draft of 'Unexplained Disappearances'.

Nobody's first draft is perfect, including mine, and I now have to start working on the polishing part. My novel's word count stands at 97000 words and I'm really wondering if I can do some shortening. What I need now is a few more critiques from experienced writers.

Tomorrow, I'm leaving for college and won't have access to my computer for a while. That means that writing is off for a few days. I'm so glad I finished my manuscript before leaving.

I'll keep you posted on more, because this journey is far from over. Congratulate me on reaching the first milestone!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

How Important is Wardrobe?

I just recently started wearing dresses. Turns out I look really good in them, quite unlike what I look like in jeans. I spent most of my high school years wearing my oldest possible T-shirts with shorts at home (looking like a complete wreck) and bright tops with slacks outside. My school uniform- blue shirt, grey skirt, striped blue tie- took care of a big part of my wardrobe needs and I didn't need to think much about clothes for at least eight hours of the day, six days a week. Never mind that my school uniform made me look kind of, well, heavy. I've worn make-up only once in my life, on my school farewell party, because I knew there would be a lot of pictures. Besides that, I steer away from cosmetics, even things like simple eyeliner and pink lip-gloss.

No matter what I wear or don't wear, it doesn't change who I am inside. What do clothes have to do with anything? Of course, I'd love to look good all the time, but I don't let the clothes define me or anything. In fact I find the idea quite preposterous.

I have given a lot of thought to what Aria should wear, but I never came up with anything definitive. Her wardrobe isn't who she is. She wears different things on different occasions. Unlike all the other 'simple' heroines out there, she doesn't mind ditching her worn jeans and putting on a nice skirt. She's okay with being prettied up and getting a whole new closet full of things if that's what the situation demands. But I kept the no make-up rule on her, too. Just playing a little bit of myself into a fictional character who is actually quite different from me (I think).

Nova mostly dresses in black. She looks great no matter what she wears, but she chooses to keep her appearance 'kind of sleek' (as Aria puts it). I just thought black would highlight her already striking appearance and that's why I gave her the look.

I haven't written much about what Ismene wears, which is ironic because she is the design student in the group. At point in the story, she helps Aria design a knew closet for herself (you won't know why this happens unless you read the full story) and it becomes clear that she really can transform appearances with clothing designs. But still, she never seems to use the skill on herself.

When it came to the boys, I kept it simple. T-shirts and jeans, that's it. What else do guys wear anyways? And whatever they do wear, do we always really pay attention?

But how important is wardrobe in terms of defining a character. I understand if you're writing a period piece or a dystopian fantasy in which clothes need to be described just so a 21st century reader can picture a scene. But what if your story takes place right here, right now? Tell me what you think.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The Steep Curve of Romance

I'm extremely bad at writing romance for two reasons.

First, my dad is a writer and everything I write has to go through him once. Every time he reads about love or crushes or even descriptions of attractive guys, he seems to get kind of awkward. I think he believes all my work is inspired by true events, and he, like any father, is afraid to think I might be falling for some tall, dark, handsome school boy. I want to tell him that's not the case, but we are a close but conservative father-daughter duo. We don't talk about boys. Whenever I try to work in some romance into my stories, I can't help but imagine my dad breathing down my neck, looking over my shoulder as I decsribe fluttering in stomachs and skipping of heartbeats and warm, fuzzy feelings.

Second, I've never been in love. You can't blame me, I'm just eighteen. The closest I ever came to love was this really sweet guy I knew in high school. The last I heard of him was when our final results came out and I found out he had done extremely well. I think he's planning to do go to engineering college or dental school. But the problem about taking inspiration from this sweet little crush is that I was the studious girl. Given how busy I usually stayed with school work, extra-curriculars, writing and painting, I devoted perhaps a grand total of two hours to thinking about thins guy. Basically, my personal experiences with romance is so limited, I have to rely on sappy romantic comedies for inspiration.

For 'Unexplained Disappearances', I do have a romantic plotline. It's buried under layers of suspense, drama and gunshots, but it's there.  Needless to say, I'm struggling with the writing. I get squirmy every time I launch into a romantic scene. I'm planning a great conclusion for this romance towards the end of the novel, and that should excuse any flaws in the preceding chapters. No, seriously, the conclusion is going to be great!!

So tell me- how do you deal with writing romance. Do you shy away like an inexperienced teenager (egro, like me)? Or do you have enough memories o draw ideas from/ Plus, who is your favorite literary couple? My vote goes to Carmen and Win from the third intallment of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series? The have a tiny subplot and Win doesn't even show up in the following book, but their story was so cute and funny, I go back to the novel every few months just to read their scenes.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Just An Update

I found my crtique parnter! Angela McCal from YALITCHAT swapped manuscripts with me. So far she's been very helpful to me, even though I don't know if she'd say the same about me. I'm making some changes to my initial chapters, adding more action and dialogue. I'll keep looking for more people to critique my writing because I know how important it is to take others' opinions.

I'm also finishing up my novel. I just wrote the penultimate chapter and it makes me sad to write the ending. Also, I am apprehensive of how my ending might go down with readers! I can assure you its going to come as a shock, but do readers really like shock? Or do they like the comfort of having an ending they'd predicted?

Keep checking out this blog for more updates...

Friday, 1 June 2012

Conspiracy Theories and the World's Most Mysterious Disappearances

Do you know anything about conspiracy theorists? They are people who always like incidents to conspiracies. Take for example the great number of people who think UFOs control us. Or the people who are obsessed with finding the 'real truth' behind Princess Di's death. Or those who think everything is a part of an international cover-up. It's hard to say if any of them are right, because conspiracy theorists have a tendencies to be unhealthily obsessed with their theories, which causes others to dismiss their notions as mere madness.

My protagonist, Aria Suri, refuses to believe any conspiracy theory behind her brother's disappearance. Her father adopts the notion that his son must have joined a super-secret cult, but Aria decides to not believe him. Of course, what she eventually finds out could put any conspiracy theorist to shame because it's a secret so well-kept, nobody could possibly think it up.

A few days ago, I myself got pretty interested in the theories surrounding unexplained disappearances in history. I found a great site with a list of the world's ten most mysterious disappearances. Here are the top 10:

10. Louis Le Prince


Regarded by many as the true father of movies, Louis Le Prince was a French inventor who developed the first motion picture camera and projection system. In 1888, he used his invention to film Roundhay Garden Scene, a nearly 2-second long clip that is considered the world’s first motion picture. In September of 1890, Le Prince boarded a train bound for Paris, where he was to meet with his family for a trip to the United States to demonstrate his camera. But when the train arrived in Paris, Le Prince, along with his luggage and camera equipment, was nowhere to be found. The inventor was rumored to be nearly broke and deeply depressed, and theories abound that he engineered his own suicide. But it has also been proposed that Le Prince, known for his secrecy and paranoia regarding his work, was in fact murdered by parties seeking to steal the secrets to his invention. The most frequently cited suspect is none other than famed inventor Thomas Edison, now popularly regarded as the inventor of the movie camera, whose company would file a remarkably similar motion picture patent in the years following Le Prince’s disappearance.

9. Flight 19

One of the most bizarre disappearances in aviation history is that of Navy Flight 19, a group of five torpedo bombers that vanished during a training mission near Florida in late 1945. No debris or wreckage from the flight was ever found, and another plane carrying 13 airmen was lost when it exploded while searching for the missing squadron. The Navy conducted an inquiry into the incident, eventually publishing a 500-page report that suggested the pilots may have become disoriented and mistakenly headed out to sea, where they ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean. But a general lack of evidence led to the disappearance eventually being listed as “cause unknown,” with one member of the inquiry stating the planes must have “flown off to Mars.” A much stranger theory posited by a number of magazine articles suggested that supernatural elements were responsible for the disappearance, citing bizarre radio transmissions where the pilots report: “We are entering white water, nothing seems right. We don’t know where we are, the water is green, no white.” Although no concrete evidence was ever produced to back up these claims, Flight 19 and its disappearance became one of the key incidents that helped to form the legend of the now-famous Bermuda Triangle.

8. Ambrose Bierce


A famed American writer and social critic, Ambrose Bierce is best known for The Devil’s Dictionary, as well as for numerous short stories about ghosts and the American Civil War. He gained fame as a writer for The San Francisco Examiner, where his cynical opinions and relentless sarcasm earned him the nickname “Bitter Bierce.” In 1913, the 71-year-old Bierce, a Civil War veteran, decided to go on a tour of battlefields in the South. He eventually crossed over into Mexico, and spent some time as an observer with Pancho Villa’s army during the Mexican Revolution, before vanishing somewhere near Chihuahua, Mexico in late 1913 or early 1914. Many have speculated that he was murdered, his body hidden by Pancho Villa’s men, who were afraid that Bierce would reveal secrets to the enemy. Still, others have maintained that Bierce’s disappearance was a calculated suicide. For his part, Bierce remained characteristically sardonic to the very end. An oft-quoted passage in one of his final letters reads: “Good-bye — if you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a Gringo in Mexico—ah, that is euthanasia!”

7. Percy Fawcett


An adventurer and a supposed inspiration for the Indiana Jones character, Percy Fawcett was a British archeologist who gained fame in the early 1900s for a series of map-making expeditions to the jungles of South America. In 1925, Fawcett, along with his son Jack, returned to Brazil as part of an ambitious expedition to discover a supposed lost city located deep in the jungle. On May 25, 1925, Fawcett sent a wire message to his wife letting her know that he, Jack, and a young man named Raleigh Rimmell were venturing into uncharted territory in search of the mythical city, which he had dubbed “Z.” It was the last anyone would hear from the group. The most probable explanation for the disappearance is that local Indian tribes, who were known for their hostility, killed the men, but no proof of foul play was ever uncovered. Other theories claim that Fawcett had survived and was suffering from amnesia, and a legend even spread that he was living as the chief of a tribe of cannibalistic Indians. Despite instructions left by Fawcett prior to the expedition, a number of disastrous search parties have been launched over the years, resulting in the deaths of at least 100 people.

6. D.B. Cooper

One of the most brazen criminals in American history, Dan “D.B.” Cooper was the alias of an unknown man who hijacked a Boeing 727 commercial airliner in 1971. After the plane landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the man demanded and received four parachutes and 200,000 in unmarked bills, at which point he released the passengers and ordered the plane and its four crew members to take off again and head for Reno, Nevada. Shortly after takeoff, Cooper lowered the aft stairs and parachuted from the plane. Though he is suspected to have landed somewhere near Vancouver, Washington, he was never seen again, and no body or remains of a parachute was ever discovered. What followed was one of the largest manhunts in American history, and although there have been over 1000 suspects in the case, Cooper’s true identity and whereabouts remain a mystery.

5. The Mary Celeste

The prototypical “ghost ship,” the Mary Celeste was a merchant vessel that was discovered in 1872 abandoned and adrift in the Atlantic Ocean. All of the ship’s 7 crewmembers, along with Captain Benjamin Briggs and his wife and daughter, were nowhere to be found. The ship’s life raft was gone, but the Mary Celeste appeared to be perfectly seaworthy, and even stranger, a number of necessary survival items had been left behind. The ship’s cargo and a number of valuables were also untouched, seemingly ruling out the possibility of piracy. So what could have happened? A number of theories have been proposed, ranging from mutiny to alien abduction, but the most likely scenario is that a freak storm or earthquake caused the ship to take on a small amount of water, leading to a panic and an unnecessary evacuation. Adrift in a single life raft, the survivors are suspected to have perished at sea.

4. Joseph Force Crater


Although he is relatively unknown today, Joseph Force Crater’s disappearance in 1930 became a national obsession, to the point that the phrase “pulling a Crater” became synonymous with vanishing. A well-known judge in New York City, Crater inexplicably disappeared on the night of August 6, 1930. A number of bizarre details surround the case, most notably Crater’s relationship with an Atlantic City showgirl named Sally Lou Ritz, who would herself disappear soon after the Judge. An investigation found that Crater’s safe deposit box had been emptied, along with thousands of dollars from his bank account, but no concrete proof that Crater engineered his own disappearance has ever been uncovered.

3. The Lost Colony


Perhaps the most mysterious case of mass disappearance is the so-called “lost colony” of Roanoke Island. In 1587 a group of 114 people settled the island in an attempt to establish a permanent colony in the New World, but a bitterly harsh growing season and fear of the local Indian tribes led the group to send their leader, John White, back to England for assistance. Upon returning in 1590, he found that the settlement had been dismantled and all 114 colonists, along with Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the colonies, had vanished. The only sign they left behind was the word “Croatan,” the name of a nearby island, carved into a tree. Some claim the colonists were murdered and their settlement razed by Indians, while others blame starvation or raids by Spanish marauders. But the most popular theory continues to be that the colonists were assimilated into a local Indian tribe. Reports from later settlers that some tribes they encountered knew some English have helped to substantiate these claims, and a project is now underway to try to prove the theory using DNA evidence.

2. Amelia Earhart


Perhaps the most famous missing person on this list, Amelia Earhart was a groundbreaking pilot who set numerous records in aviation in the 1920s. In 1937, along with navigator Fred Noonan, she set out for what was to be her crowning achievement: a flight around the world. Near the end of her 29,000-mile journey, Earhart encountered unfavorable weather conditions in the south Pacific, and was unable to find the small island where she was to refuel. Sometime around July 2, all contact with her plane was lost, and Earhart and Noonan would not be seen again. The search that followed was the largest in naval history to that point, covering over 250,000 miles of ocean, but no wreckage from Earhart’s Lockheed Electra was ever found. The most logical explanation is that the plane ran out of gas and ditched in the ocean, but another popular theory states that Earhart and Noonan crashed on an uninhabited island where they eventually died. Still another theory says that the duo crashed on a Japanese-controlled island, where they were captured and eventually executed.

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1. Jimmy Hoffa


Despite years of speculation and countless investigations, Jimmy Hoffa’s vanishing remains the mother of all missing person stories. A powerful labor organizer, Hoffa was President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters for many years, and was known for his mob connections. He was due to meet two of his mafia contacts on July 30, 1975 at a restaurant in Michigan, but disappeared before the meeting could ever take place. Because of Hoffa’s business dealings and his proven associations with crime families, investigators have little doubt that he was murdered, but the big mystery concerns what became of his body. A number of grisly possibilities were considered, among them that Hoffa’s body was mixed into concrete that was used to build the New York Giants football stadium, that he was buried beneath a swimming pool in Michigan, and that he was crushed in a car compactor, but all of these theories have proven to be unsubstantiated. Hoffa was declared dead in 1982, but his case continues to be open, and every few years a new lead emerges about the possible location of his remains.

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