About the Book
Edited by bestselling author, Paritosh Uttam, this anthology offers snapshots of interesting characters in Urban India. The ten-year-old mathematics loving girl, haunted by memories of her dead mother. The man who buys expensive gifts for married women; an Indian kid who can name every American state in alphabetical order; a boy who knows more than he should about the extra–marital affairs of his parents; a baby with secrets of his own; the pesky Maami in the neighbourhood, with a cure for every ailment. The beefy sportsman with a peacock hairstyle; the seven-year-old who wants to get married; a retiree on his last day in a dead end job; the salesman who fails to meet his targets; the grouchy physics teacher with a love for literature; the chatty cab driver who was once a film maker; the philosophical mehndiwala on the sidewalk; a struggling artist in love with his fabled city; the retired pilot with life advice in the window seat and a lot more….
Racy, compelling and heart rendering stories of urban lives and characters by popular writers such as Paritosh Uttam, R. Chandrasekar, Malathi Jaikumar, Ahmed Faiyaz and a number of popular bloggers and debutant writers.
About the Editor
Paritosh Uttam, is a writer and a software engineer. He is the author of Dreams in Prussian Blue, and the editor of Urban Shots and Urban Shots – Bright Lights.
About the Authors
Ahmed Faiyaz grew up in Bangalore and now lives in Dubai.. He’s a book and film addict, and apart from reading books and watching cinema of all genres, he is a passionate writer. He is bestselling author of Love, life & all that jazz…, Another Chance and Scammed, and the editor of Urban Shots – Crossroads and Down the Road.
A writing, jungle and travel addict. Author of children's book, Tales from the Wild. Arefa is also the author of upcoming releases like, Steed of Jungle God and Iora and the Quest of Five.
Arvind, better known as Athul to his friends is a travelling market research consultant and an upcoming writer.
Gagan Narula is an aspiring Buddhist with a penchant for quirky stories. He works as a doctoral student of neuroscience and that passion translates into mind-boggling adventures of fiction.
Jhangir Kerawala lives in Pune and is the author of a number of children’s books. His first novel, JFK, a thriller set in Kolkata, is set to release in 2012.
John P. Matthew is a writer, poet, lyrist and an avid blogger. He is working in his novel, “Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard,” which is about a brilliant NRI who fails to fit into the Indian corporate ethos.
Kunal grew up in Raipur, resides in Hyderabad and has been blogging for over 6 years at kunal.wordpress.com. Kunal loves getting lost in a sea of words, be it writing or reading. A software professional, he enjoys travelling and photography, but believes his true calling lies in writing.
Malathi Jaikumar, a Chennai based freelance writer, was earlier chief sub-editor, Indian Express, Delhi; Deputy Head Press and Public Affairs, British High Commission, New Delhi and was awarded the MBE. After retirement, she worked briefly as Communications Consultant for UNDP doing Post Tsunami advocacy work.
Manisha Lakhe has been connected to the written word for ever. An award-winning advertising writer, she moved to journalism and settled down to writing about lifestyle and entertainment. A movie critic and a trained script doctor, she currently runs a website called www.filmorbit.com
Meena Bhatnagar, is a short story writer, a blogger with a humorous twist in her posts, a trainer and mother of two. Restaurant and hotel reviews, food and movie reviews are all other snippets of her life.
Mydhili R Varma is an aspiring novelist whose short story was ranked third in Pegasus Fiction Writing Contest. Aside from tripping over her feet, she is also prone to thinking in unbreakable thought bubbles. Too bad human joints aren’t as unbreakable.
Naman Saraiya believes in weirdness as a state of normalcy. He takes keen interest in writing – not only in his spare time, but by making some time for it, everyday. From prose to poetry (of late), rants to reviews and the likes – he does enjoy other things such as good food, better movies and the best music (read Lennon).
Namita Nair, 27, is a researcher, doctor and bibliophile. This anthology features her first published story.
Pradeep Durairaj, 27, is a software engineer and likes to dream up stories. Sometimes, when he isn't feeling particularly lazy, he decides to write them down.
R Chandrasekar is a writer and consultant based in Chennai. He is the author of The Goat, the Sofa and Mr Swami, a political farce. His second novel, a satire on management and management education, will be released this year.
Dr Rashmi Sahi is an educationist, writer and an editor-consultant of literary consultancy organisation, Siyahi. She is based in Hong Kong.
Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan, 30, is a blogger, foodie and an anaesthesiologist (not necessarily in that order) who believes in the healing power of love and laughter but practises medicine just to be on the safe side.
About 70 molecules out of hundred in Salil's body are water. He currently flows in Goa.
Saurbh Katyal, 29, is a manager in an MNC and author of "No Flying from Fate", a murder mystery published recently.
Shachi Kaul, is a storyteller and poet. Her story 'Retirement' won the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association's Short Story Competition in 2010.
Born in Kuwait, Sneh Thakur travelled her way from refugee camps during the Kuwait war to study in DehraDun, Delhi, Indore and finally an MBA at the Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Pune. She describes herself best in 6 words, “Pint Sized Rapunzel. On a Cloud.” She is the editor of Urban Shots – The Love Collection.
Excerpt from Urban Shots
FATHER OF MY SON
Over the years, I’d learned all the sounds my front door made when various people opened it. Its silent creaks after my late nights out; the mild thuds when my kid threw his school bag at it and ran back out to play; its prolonged squeak as my wife slowly entered, wondering what mayhem her favourite men had created while she was gone. After all these years here, I’d come to trust the door’s warning cries.
This was the door’s way of telling me to hide. I glanced again at the window, wondering whether I could survive a fall from the tenth floor of a multi-storey building. I thought I could, but I’d hate to think of what would happen to anyone on whom I landed. I hurriedly picked up the paper and pretended to read it. ”Oh. Lindsay’s getting engaged to her girlfriend, but she says she isn’t gay...nice.”
”Stand still.“ The familiar voice surrounded me. I fell in love with that voice a long time ago... I should have just asked for a voice recording instead of taking the whole package home. I pretended not to listen.
”This is all your fault, you know? You never scold him and let him do anything he wants and ... I told you to stand still!”
Okay. I wasn’t standing yet, so who was she talking to? I peeked through the pages... ah yes! They were both here--my wife and kid. From the looks of it, she’d picked him up from school. From the looks of it, he didn’t like that. From the looks of it, I would pay for it. I tried to get back to my newspaper, but Eagle-eye Mommy saw me peeking.
”Roshan, put that paper down. We have to talk.’
I hoped there was another Roshan in the room reading a paper. I peeked through my sheets again, looking for him. Nope. No one but us loving family members... snarling mommy and grumpy junior.
Oh well--time to face the music. I put the paper down.
”Hi honey, you’re home. How was my day, you ask? Oh, the usual. A couple of deliveries, an appendix, a quickie with the nurse, another appendix...”
There was silence. Mind you, this was not the silence of lovers beholding each other after a decade. It was more like the silence that precedes that Jaws tune that warns you the shark will bite in the next ten seconds.
I decided not to continue with my earlier line of conversation. She had learned karate as a teenager. Damn you, Dad-in-law.
”Roshan, I’m tired of being the bad guy. You never shout at him when he makes a mistake. You act as if it’s okay and spoil him. I always end up looking bad before him. Now, look at what he’s done. I’m not going to be the bad guy here. You’re going to fix this. Do you understand?”
”Sheila, why don’t you relax, dear? I can see you’re upset and whatever it is, I’ll handle it. Now why don’t you go take a nice hot shower...?”
“I’m not going anywhere. The moment I leave, you’ll go easy on this kid of yours. I’m staying, mister.”
I found it charming how he was always ”my kid” when he was in trouble. If he does well in school or babysits the neighbour’s child, he was ”her angel”. But if he scribbled ”SEX” on the wall, all of a sudden, my genes were to blame.
”Okay, fine. You can stay. But no, I mean absolutely no, interruptions. You get it?”
She harrumphed, which meant that I would have to deal with four interruptions at the very least. I counted that as a moral victory. Beggars and husbands can’t be choosers. I looked at her with my ”I wear the pants in the house” look. She glared back with her ”I’ll tear your pants to shreds and leave you in the garbage bag” look.
Ah, romance was in the air.
I made junior sit beside me. The love of my life hovered in front of us.
“Okay, son, did something happen in school today?” He shook his head.
”Did you get into trouble with someone in your class?“ Another shake of his head.
”Did you forget your homework again?“ No--I wondered if I should ask for a hint at this point of time. Luckily, junior volunteered:
”Dad, I’m getting married.”
”Cool--is she hot?”
“I mean WHAT? You’re getting married?” He nodded. Alright, I made him nod yes. Who’s the man? It only took four questions and a hint.
”Renjith, I don’t want to be a party pooper and all, but you know, you’re seven years old.“ He looked at me quizzically.
‘What’s age got to do with it?’ he asked me in an adorable childish voice. I was like butter in his hands already. I moved to hug him, but a pull at my receding hairline from fingers above reminded me what I was supposed to be doing.
”Son, I just think you’re a little young for marriage. Love too, for that matter. Besides, we didn’t even know you were in love. Tell me about this girl. What’s her name? How long have you known her?”
”She--her name is Teena. She’s in my class. We’ve been in love since last Tuesday. We’ve been sharing our lunch since yesterday.”
”Hmm--that is a big step in a relationship, I agree. But don’t you think you’re rushing this marriage thing?”
”Why, daddy? We both have the same pencil box, we both like Ben 10 and she’s got really good lunch, not like Mommy makes.“ I prayed the moment would pass unnoticed. That maybe Mommy was lost for a moment in the newspaper picture of John Abraham. I prayed for a lot of things that God sent to his spam mail directly.
”Oh, now my cooking is also not good enough for you. Your dad eats it daily and you don’t see him complaining!”
”Daddy eats anything,“ he said simply.
”Hey!” That damn fridge door always gave me away. I stared at my child. He stared back at me. We both knew he was right.
”Okay, kid. Getting married isn’t that easy. Where will you two stay after the wedding? And the honeymoon?“ A sharp pull at my hair reminded me that Sweetiepie was above and didn’t approve of the direction this conversation was taking.
”Daddy, Teena and I will stay in my room till we finish school and college. Then I’ll become an astronaut and build a house on the moon and we’ll live there with our kids. Don’t worry, Dad. There’ll be a big room for you and mom too.“ Awww... he would build a room for me too. This adorable little psycho I call my son loved me.
”And where will you go for your honeymoon?”
”We’re going to Disneyland.“ What better way to spend private time than with a mouse with no shirt and a duck with no pants? There was nothing creepy there at all.
”What will you do for food?“
”Her mom will send us tiffin for lunch and we’ll eat from the fridge for dinner.“ The kid had thought of everything.
”You know... your mom believes in horoscopes...”
”It’s okay, daddy. Ours fits.“
“What...? You checked your horoscopes?”
My wife intervened. “Show daddy the horoscopes.” I looked up at her. What was going on? Renjith rummaged through his Johnny Bravo schoolbag (which I selected.. man, that Johnny Bravo was a cool dude) and took out a piece of paper from his drawing book. He handed it to me.
I had to smile. Damn. This was my son. There was no doubt about it. There was no one else who could have thought this up. Definitely not a child by the damn milkman! I lowered my head so that my wife couldn’t catch my grin. I almost didn’t make it. But the phone rang and she left to answer it. I was saved by the bell. I glanced back at the picture.
He’d drawn a little crab holding a bull’s hand. I imagined my wife, after years of being with me, picking up its significance immediately. Our child was drawing sun signs. He was a Cancer, like his mom. I knew the answer but I still asked so I could hear him say it.
”What’s Teena’s sign?”
”She’s a Taurus, daddy. That’s the bull one. I’m the crab one. See, both fit nicely.”
”Ah! I see. Did you draw this?“ He looked at me and smiled in a manner that recognized that he had noted the hint of pride in my voice. It was a smile that said he knew I was on his side.
”Roshan!“ Milady again in falsetto broke the moment.
I turned around. She held the cordless in her hand. Her palm covered the speaker end.
”It’s Teena’s mom. Your son and she apparently decided to tell their parents at the same time. She’s pretty angry and she’s saying our son’s putting silly thoughts in her head.”
I held out my hand for the phone. My wife looked at me beseechingly. I signalled her to trust me and then took the phone.
”Hello, Ma’am. Yes Ma’am. I understand how shocking it must be to hear this from your child. Yes, I realise this is an innocent age and you don’t wish to corrupt your child with such thoughts. Yes Ma’am. Yes, I understand.“ I doubt if she even heard a word I said. She was a talker--no doubt about it. She was the type that wanted to establish herself by talking about her status and morality. This would go on forever unless I did something, I realised..
”Mrs Bharati...Bharati isn’t it? Well, I understand all that you have said, but I think I must make myself clear. What’s done is done. But there is one issue that’s yet to be discussed. You see, as the father of my son, I must inform you that I demand one crayon set every year till high school as dowry for your new son-in-law. And I mean Faber-Castell, lady--not that cheap local stuff. My son doesn’t settle for cheap stuff. After all, he’s a purebred Ezhava. That’s high class blood running in him. And yes, he’d like a new Pokemon toy too every month. Hello? Sheila, is this phone charged? I’m getting static. You think she hung up on me?”
I turned around to see Sheila smiling at me. I wish I could tell you it was the coy smile of a love struck Madhuri Dixit, but it was closer to the smile of that child from the Exorcist movie. I wondered if perhaps I should have leaped from the tenth storey when I had the chance. She said little when she smiled like that. I preferred it that way. God alone knew what language her inner demon spoke when she was possessed. Heaven knew I could not reply if she started to speak Hebrew. I could barely communicate when she spoke in her regional dialect. She raised her hand towards the phone. I gave it to her. She walked into the bedroom and shut the door.
She would be busy doing damage control with our new in-laws for the next hour. I would be “dealt with later”. I guessed I would have to sleep in the guest room tonight. I looked back at my son. He smiled back at me. With that smile, he could get away with murder. I asked the only thing that came to my mind at that moment.
”So what does Teena’s mom make for lunch?”
Eight hours later, the door to the guest room creaked open. I felt her move into the hollow space beside me. Those cuddly arms wrapped around me from behind. Her smell was like rain in an arid desert. I pretended to be asleep. I heard her breath beside my ear and then a whisper.
”I know you aren’t sleeping. I just want you to know you aren’t entirely forgiven yet. We’ll discuss your punishment in the morning. For now, go to sleep. And I swear to God, if you say one word about my being scared to sleep alone in the dark again, someone will lose two important anatomical parts in the morning.”
I yawned. “I hope it’s that stupid Mr Singh in apartment 304. Have you seen his dhoti? He looks as if he’s hiding a dozen of them in there.”
She tried hard—she really did. But it was tough not to laugh even at the dumbest jokes of someone you loved when you’re in love. After all, that’s the rule of love. That’s the joy of loving someone. They can make dumb into funny. They can make hell into roses, darkness into daylight.
In the end, she managed to stifle it down to several coughs. I turned around and hugged her back. She didn’t resist. Neither of us won the battle that day, because there never was a battle in the first place, just a never-ending skit of crazy time–a madness we call our family, which I would never give up for anything in the world. Not even for little Teena’s salami and mayonnaise sandwich.