A Night for Chili Sauce

(Image Credit: Roger Bultot)

Call it morbid coincidence or term it a contrivance of fate. But the setting could not have been more prosaic yet so profound. When the old security guard half staggered-half ambled towards the square, the damage was already done. The two shots that pierced the stillness of the night had found their mark with deadly precision. The blood oozing from the entry wound in his chest mixed with the glob of chili sauce that had dripped off the paper plate from which he was enjoying his snack. His wife began screaming hysterically. Even the Sculpture couldn’t bear to watch!

(Word Count: 99)

This story was written as part of the FRIDAY FICTIONEERS challenge, more about which may be found HERE

For more stories based on the above prompt, click HERE 

Gun Island – Amitav Ghosh

Gun Island

An antiquarian book dealer in Brooklyn, a Bengali folklore of a Merchant trying to escape the wrath of a Snake Goddess named Manasa Devi, an articulate and erudite Italian scholar trying to come to grips with a personal tragedy and a determined environmental activist steadfast in her resoluteness to save marine life from the dangerous effluents spewing out a refinery, all irrupt in a breathless, frenetic and rapturous manner in Amitav Ghosh’s latest thriller “Gun Island.”

Shades of “The Great Derangement” – Mr. Ghosh’s previous work of non-fiction dealing with the catastrophic consequences of Climate Change and its denial – unmistakably permeate the pages of Gun Island. Dinanath, a rare book dealer makes Brooklyn his home. Calling himself “Deen” a name that rolls off Yankee tongues with consummate ease, Dinanath balances his professional success with emotional hurdles by toggling between trading in stocks and talking to a therapist.

Deen’s life however takes a remarkable turn when on a visit back to Kolkata, he gets acquainted with the legend of “Bandooki Saudagar” (“Gun Merchant”). The Gun Merchant, after having fallen foul of the Goddess of Snakes, Manasa Devi circumambulates the world in a dire attempt to escape not just the vengeance of the Goddess but also her phalanx of reptilian horrors. This legend passed down through centuries piques the curiosity of Deen and he decides to be an intrepid explorer trying to get to the very bottom of the folklore. This endeavor takes him to the mangrove swamps of Sunderbans, transports him to the blazing forest fires of Los Angeles before culminating in a frenzied crescendo on the high seas leading to the shores of Venice.

A delectable mix of characters both assist and accost Deen as he plunges headlong into a journey interspersed with coincidences, imbued in myths and inundated by chances. Cinta, a well renowned, sophisticated and erudite Italian Professor, Piya, an energetic and ebullient Marine biologist who dearly loves dolphins and whales, and who in turn is loved by Deen, Rafi and Tipu two young Bengali youths who are both lovers and dream chasers are a few prominent examples.

Visitations from the dead, premonitions of the living and bizarre behaviours of animals all contrive to produce an unalloyed chaos into whose very eye Deen gets sucked into. But at the very epicenter of Deen’s experiences and enervations lie Mr. Ghosh’s pet topic of Climate Change. Exhibiting a usual aplomb that is reserved for dealing with this seminal issue, Mr. Ghosh lays out before us the devastating consequences of rising tides, riotous cyclones and rampaging refugee crises. A degradation in the environment has the dangerous potential to birth fissures that transcend the mere ecology to cover social, cultural and political aspects of our existence. Internecine conflicts, xenophobia, intransigent politics and insouciant policies can all be a direct offshoot of an untrammeled trample of Nature.

Mr. Ghosh’s book goes beyond empty rhetoric and enthusiastic pabulum. Instead it serves as a medium for expounding on one issue, which arguably is one that has spawned a vertical divide for and against it. On either side of the yawning chasm stand self-proclaimed and universally acknowledged experts, academicians of stirring repute and suspect credentials, activists of various hues and cries, and specialized bodies that are both revered and reviled. When an emotional Piya sheds unabashed tears upon seeing a bunch of Irrawady dolphins incredulously beaching themselves, she in her moment of lament rends asunder the veil of complacency and callousness that fails to acknowledge and admit that a failure to protect our climate is a failure to preserve our culture.

“Gun Island” has its fair share of outlandish coincidences, garish escapades and predictable encounters with the supernatural. But every masterly crafted surprise, shock and serendipity is nothing but a vehicle that transports the engrossed reader towards an inescapable eschatology. An eschatology that transcends religion, race, caste, creed and colour to encompass within its confines an urgent need to undertake an introspection to ultimately resolve an existential crisis.

In an interview published in Arts & Culture, Ghosh told his interviewer: “Well, I don’t actually think you can write a novel to an agenda; writing is more complicated than that – if the story doesn’t come alive in your mind then it doesn’t live. You can’t write a novel with a didactic intent because it will have the opposite effect. What I would say is that Gun Island has all my passions, interests and obsessions within its pages. Virtually everything I’ve written has been about people moving, migrating, carried away from one place to another. I’ve always written about natural environments and engagements with animals going right back to the elephants in The Glass Palace. And yet it’s very different to anything I’ve done before.”

However, “Gun Island” is more didactic (encouragingly) than dystopian. It is also a compelling clarion call for humanity to get its act right sooner rather than later before the baby also gets thrown out along with the bathwater.

To the Victor, Not all the Spoils

(Photo by Blair Fraser on Unsplash)

The site of the wreckage had attained a degree of holiness that few shrines could boast of or compete with. And so it should rightfully be. The mangled, twisted and convoluted remains of the Republic P-47D Thunderbolt represented more than a mere relic of the past. It had disintegrated in the air but not before engaging in a deadly dog fight with a Junkers 87 JU Stuka. Both the German and the American pilots had bailed out and ripped away at the chords that were part of their respective parachutes. But that was the last the world ever saw of either of the combatants. The Stuka with fire and smoke trailing its tail had plunged into the ocean just a few miles from the site where the Thunderbolt rested.

Year after year, thousands of people flocked to the spot to pay homage to the supreme sacrifice of a band of undaunted and unrelated brothers whose unparalleled courage and commitment gave a new lease of life to hope and harmony.  The bouquet of flowers strewn haphazardly and the spontaneous tears were homage for neither Eisenhower, or Stalin or Churchill but for the thousands of unnamed young lions who placed humanity over horrors.

(Word Count: 200)

Written as part of Sunday Photo Fiction. Write a story of around 200 words based on the photo prompt given (above). Hosted by Donna McNicol . For more details visit HERE

To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, click HERE


The Road 2 The Future – Glimps East Forward

Image result for The Road 2 The Future - Glimps East Forward

An extremely ambivalent book that attempts to explain the Hubris of the Middle East that led to its relinquishing early civilization advantages to the West. The pioneers of Cuneiform system of writing and the populace that birth the cradle of civilization is now a detritus of civil war and internecine strife. What might have been the reasons for the relinquishment of power from the East to the West?

This issue of Geographical disparity has been tackled at length by various luminaries such as Robert Solow and Jared Diamond. In fact one of the gold standards in this sphere has been “Why Nations Fail” by Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson. “The Road 2 The Future” is an extremely concise work that raises some relevant and pertinent questions but leaves the research totally in the hands of the readers. 

Also the interchangeable phrases “Middle Eastern Countries” and “Muslim Countries” create more confusion than lend clarity.  While the broad symmetries underlying the socio-economic strata of the two geographies might be the same, the nuances and intricacies underpinning the workings of them are vastly different.

“The Road 2 The Future” – An interesting albeit an incomplete read.



Climate Change? LIGHTS OUT ASH!

(Image Credit: Dale Rogerson)

All it takes is for one fundamental epiphany to transform the mundane into the magical.  Ash was know for such bursts of metamorphic thinking.  One such act lit up what otherwise would have reduced a topical debate to a draconian debate. “We have plugged into the Ozone for breathing, into the bowels of Mother Earth for fuel and into the Sun for our very sustenance. Once Nature decides to ‘unplug’ we infinitesimal mortals from all energy sources, there is NO room for recharge.” 

Using something as basic as three electronic charging heads, Ash trumped jargon, threats and impassioned pleas combined!

(Word Count: 100)

This story was written as part of the FRIDAY FICTIONEERS challenge, more about which may be found HERE

For more stories based on the above prompt, click HERE 

The Ash Discovery

(Image Credit: Crispina Kemp)

Simple paths can trigger complex memories. Memories that are a kaleidoscope of myriad shapes – straight, winding, crooked, curved, steep and wide.  As the sun blazed overhead, Venky set out on his customary walk along the narrow pathway wedged between a grassy mound.  “Isn’t this such a beautiful sight?” Ash had enthusiastically quizzed him with arms spread wide apart taking within their embrace the whole green vista. A smile lit up his features as he recollected her words.

An inveterate daughter of Nature, Ash had this tenacious ability to discover unexplored geographies. The first time she came across this isolated stretch, she was besides herself with joy.  “I am James Crawford of the Angel Falls” she had proclaimed emphatically.  Venky had no clue about the Falls but he knew he was in the company of a precious angel.

The angel had now left him to traverse her find all by himself.

(Word Count: 150)

Written as part of the Crimson’s Creative Challenge #35 More details regarding this challenge may be found HERE.