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.

10 JUDGEMENTS THAT CHANGED INDIA – ZIA MODY

Image result for 10 judgements that changed india

The Indian judicial landscape is a veritable kaleidoscope of the profound and the petty. An accumulated debris of pronounced verdicts spanning more than 7 post-independence decades hides within its messy confines, precocious pearls as well as a phalanx of perfidies. While there have been decisions that have influenced the very societal progression in a positive aspect, there also exist renderings whose very regressive nature put paid to the genuine aspirations and hopes of a multitude. Some judgments find a place in the pantheon of immortality for their prolixity alone, yet there are others carving out an indelible niche courtesy their brimming substance. Hence listing a “Top 10” ranking from this sprawl of maze and mess is something that takes more than just courage to attempt. Yet this is exactly what Ms. Zia Mody, one of India’s most renowned corporate attorneys and the co-founder of AZB & Partners does. Ms. Mody executes this attempt with neither rigidity nor laxity, but with a sense of purposiveness and alacrity akin to that displayed by various judges themselves during the course of discharging their business.

In her book, titled, “10 JUDGEMENTS THAT CHANGED INDIA” Ms. Mody navigates her readers through 10 mercurial judgments that have transformed the legal façade of the world’s largest democracy. Excoriating in their sweep, ebullient in their wake and effervescent in their narrative, these ten extraordinary judgments constitute a bouquet of ten unique flowers, each with its own fragrance, colour, size and shape. Yet in their distinctness lies their unity. Spanning a diverse range of issues, each of the ten cases have had the same cumulative impact in so far as that all of them capture the imagination of the broader public, drawing them in an inclusive manner to a platform that encourages debate, discussion and deliberation. Capturing the sense of imagination of the Indian citizen, these cases bestow upon her a knowledge of rights and obligations, thereby investing in her a perception of belongingness.

Ms. Mody sets us on our path by opening her book in a resounding manner with the epochal Kesavananda Bharati v State of Kerala case. This path-breaking judgment that expounded on the “Basic Structure” of the Constitution was a painstakingly exquisite exercise in elaboration. “Thirteen judges of the Supreme Court sat en banc for almost five months to consider questions that stood to define constitutionalism and the exercise of democratic power in India. This judgment was so lengthy in its construct that it has been designated the ‘longest appellate decision’ of the last century. Spread over an unimaginable length of approximately 800 pages and comprising of 420,000 words, the decision had eleven out of the thirteen judges issuing their separate opinions. A convergence, as to what broadly constituted the intractable, indispensable, and inviolable structure of the Constitution was however reached and it is now a given that the tenets of supremacy of the Constitution, separation of powers between the legislature, executive and the judiciary, sovereignty of India and its democratic polity, dignity of the individual and the mandate to build a welfare state and an egalitarian society all represent the basic Constitutional Doctrine;

The Olga Tellis case disseminates with great resonance the fundamental essence of the very right to life and personal liberty. The Honourable Supreme Court took on the fetid plight of pavement dwellers leading an abject existence of utter squalor, and who were threatened to be evaluated under the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act. The Supreme Court coming down heavily on the high handedness of the Bombay (now Mumbai) State Administration declared that every human being enjoyed the fundamental right to live in circumstances, that at a minimum signified a modicum of dignity. This decision had ripple effects that transcended India and has the distinction of being quoted liberally in manifold judicial precedents, especially in the region of South East Asia.

There are also cases that expose the inadequacies and seemingly inexplicable positions adopted by the Apex Court that goes against the very grain of reason. A classic case in point being the infamous Union Carbide Corporation case.  In December 1984, the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, leaked over forty tons of the highly poisonous gas methyl isocyanate thereby leaving nearly 3000 people dead and 50,000 people permanently disabled. What’s more, 15,000 people died subsequently from exposure to the poisonous gas. In 1989 the Supreme Court approved a settlement of the civil claims against Union Carbide for a paltry sum of $470 million. On 2 August 2010, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed a petition with the Supreme Court demanding a more stringent punishment for the accused.  This petition sought to reinstate charges of culpable homicide against the accused; a September 1996 order had reduced the charges from culpable homicide to criminal negligence.  In May 2011, the Supreme Court rejected this petition and declined to re-open the case to reinstate the harsher charges.

However, the most harrowing case in the book and one that rends the very soul is that involving a sprightly nurse named Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug. Poignant in its plea, philosophical in its context and perverted in the facts leading to the very genesis of the protagonist’s plight, this case dealt with the controversial yet topical sphere of legalizing euthanasia.  Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code was subject to a granular and microscopic review by the highest Court and after intense scrutiny, passive euthanasia as against active euthanasia was deemed to be legal subject to the satisfaction of a set of stringent conditions.

The book also dwells on other vital cases such as the Shah Bano case wherein the Supreme Court caught itself in a bind attempting to wax eloquent over an issue that not only stood at the cusp of two laws but also coalesced them. In a noble endeavor to reconcile the provisions of personal law with Sections 125 and 127 of the Civil Procedure Code, the Supreme Court unwittingly inflamed a range of communal passions whose reverberations echo even today.

Ms. Mody also highlights the Herculean efforts put in by the Supreme Court to prevent and prosecute sexual harassment of women at the workplace. The far reaching propositions forming the cornerstone of the Vishaka judgment rule the roost even today in the absence of formally promulgated legislative statutes.

Ms. Mody does an admirable job in imparting the core and crux of each judicial decision. At the nub of every single judgment lies principles of far reaching implications, which unfortunately in the original judgements are obfuscated by length and obscured by some scintillating although avoidable prolixity. Ms. Mody however does not attempt to couch her narrative in ‘legalese’, opting instead to employ a crisp and matter-of-fact narrative. She however supplements her simplicity with copious footnotes that reference all materials and bibliographies that are relevant to the topic on hand.

Since the writing of this book, India has been rocked by quite a number of earth shattering verdicts that have been revered and reviled with equal vigour. The Aadhaar judgment and the right to data privacy, the Nirbhaya case and the decriminalization of homosexuality by way of annulment of Section 377 in the Indian Penal Code, amongst others occupy a key pedestal in the annals of Indian judiciary. Sincerely hoping that Ms. Mody would include these in what would be a much awaited sequel to her stirring book.

The Excavator & Ash

“Oi be careful you dickhead!  We don’t want a disaster on our bloody hands “ yelled Krish in ferocious voice that did not bother masking its fury.  “I have seen more inflammable stuff than this, the most dangerous of all being love”  retorted Venky in a barely audible murmur scratching his head with fingers caked with mud and grime.

The harsh glare of the floodlights illuminated the entire spectrum where the construction activities were in progress. An entire hill top was leveled in no time as a phalanx of  Komatsu Dozers, Liebherr Mining Excavators, Walking Draglines and Tunnel Boring Machines whirred, drilled, flattened, bore and hacked away at the land, paying unquestioned obeisance to the orders of capitalism.

Venky, a reluctant product of one of the most renowned Engineering institutes was assigned to this project by the rapacious mining company that recruited him after 7 enervating rounds of exhausting interviews.  Carting mud splattered barrels of kerosene under the supervision of the hawk-eyed Project Executioner Krish was part of his “get-your-hands-down-and-dirty” mandates.

Venky’s reprieve came at the end of every exacting day’s toil. The vibrating hum of his mobile at exactly the mid night hour meant a call from Ash. His Ash.

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

 

 

RIP HEGEMONY

(Image Credit: J Hardy Carroll)

The stifling hot air was accompanied a stillness which sucked out any hopes of even a slender breeze. There was nary a mild movement that would make the Stars & Stripes to at least flutter.  “In sync with the times” reflected Obarck Barama from his office.  “When neighbours are walled out, allies isolated courtesy bizarre trade and transaction policies, the environment rampantly exploited with scant regard for the future inheritors of Mother Earth, democracy was bound to suffer.” Barama was now in a pensive state. “Benign hegemony would not merely stutter but perish in a vacuum of stillness.” He concluded.

(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