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Hi,
How have you been doing? Apologies for being lax in writing to you. I know, I know, I missed a couple of months. A very dear friend came down to spend some days with me and then there were weddings to attend. I really enjoy attending weddings not only because they mean a holiday from that dreary, dismal, soul-crushing chore called cooking, but also because weddings provide an opportunity to catch up with old friends and extended family. The rains have kept their appointment and I can hear the drops pounding on the porch roof as I write this, providing an impromptu percussion concert.

Several years ago, the end of the workday found my colleague R and me, sloshing in the gooey red mud towards the parking area, saris hitched up to the knees, umbrellas held down close to our heads, workbags bunched up under our arms, as it rained cats and dogs. On reaching the parking area, we were met by a Martian in a space suit. It took us a second to realise it was our van driver in a raincoat.

“This way, this way,” he bellowed above the thundering raindrops, waving his arms frantically towards a ramshackle jeep. He couldn’t see our disbelieving stares through the curtain of rain. Fifteen in a jeep?   

“The Bloodthirsty Yakshi Strikes” howled a plastic banner draped over the side of the jeep, dripping lurid green blood.

“Do you think it’s a jibe at us?” I asked R who was gawking at the banner.
“You are the one with vampire teeth!” said R, her eyes widening in mock horror.
My glare was dampened by the rain-curtain between us.  

“Get in, get in, quick!” the Martian shouted, picking up the smallest traveller and unceremoniously dumping him in the front seat where there were already three others beside the jeep driver; before squeezing himself in and shutting the half door.

Behind them we were a jumble of clutching hands, lopsided grins, muddy feet, dripping saris, runaway pallus, squashed workbags, backpacks that weighed a ton, umbrellas that threatened to unfurl, plastered hair and ominously growling stomachs.

R tried to adjust her elegant pearl necklace but couldn’t get her hands unstuck from what was a crisp new cotton sari that morning. I flashed my vampire grin.

“Ready?” shouted the jeep driver reminding me of circus motorcycle riders before a Globe of Death stunt.
“Ready-ready,” answered the Martian and off we went flying past the huge iron gates, the yakshi banner flapping madly as we careened dangerously onto the river-road. The windshield was a white sheet. Through the gaps in the tattered canvas I could see the wheel spawning giant arcs of water.

The Martian turned around and grinned at me apologetically. “Had to hire this vehicle,” he explained, clutching the back of his seat desperately with his wet hands as he sat on one tenth of a single bum. “Our van broke down.”

I nodded on behalf of R and myself. R couldn’t move her head which was stuck between the back of the jeep driver’s seat and her long, folded, yucky yellow umbrella with the lion head handle.

Plop! A drop of ice cold water landed right in the centre of my head. My entire body was immediately on high alert for the next cold drop. Plop. Plop. I thought of Chinese water torture and totalitarian prisons lit with blinding white light.

After several years of growling gears, screeching brakes and heart-in-the-mouth swerves, we stopped.
“Shankar! Get down, quick! What are you waiting for?” screamed the Martian as the yakshi banner lifted in a gust of wind drenching us silly.
“I can’t get down,” shouted Shankar, his voice panicky.
“Why?”
“I can’t find my hand!”        
Book Talk
Book cover - The First World War Adventures of Nariman Karkaria

I reviewed The First World War Adventures of Nariman Karkaria (Harper Collins India, 2022) for Desi Books Review. Please click the link to read my review if you haven't already. It is a unique book that is part travelogue and part war memoir. Nariman Karkaria, a Parsi from Navsari in Gujarat sets off to see the world at the ripe old age of sixteen! After a while, he reaches England and joins the British Army (not the British Indian Army) and fights in the First World War seeing action on three fronts. Amazingly, he survives to tell his tale. The book is translated by the historian and scholar Murali Ranganathan. 
  
Book cover - Dancing in the Family

Dancing in the Family (Speaking Tiger, 2019) by Sukanya Rahman is a gem of a book I came across while researching a character. It is a book about three generations of dancers - grandmother, mother and daughter. The book is a delightful read not just because it speaks of the extraordinary lives of the extraordinary women but also because it is a tale well told as The Hindu opines in the blurb. 

Do give these books a try. 
Enjoyed reading that? Do forward it to friends and also share on social media using the links below. 

Until next time, then. 

Best, 
Veena
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