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Sudha Murty Shows Us What’s Inside Nalini’s lunchbox!

In the heartwarming world of Common yet Uncommon by Sudha Murty, we encounter the extraordinary story of Nalini Kulkarni, affectionately known as ‘Lunchbox Nalini.’ Meet the lady whose love for food and friendship created extraordinary connections through her cherished lunchbox. Get ready for a heartwarming journey where the ordinary becomes extraordinary!


Common yet Uncommon
Common Yet Uncommon | Sudha Murty


I am Nalini Kulkarni. As a child, elders called me Nali – a typical shortening of the name in North Karnataka, where Anand becomes Andya. And Mandakini becomes Mandi. No wonder Nalini to Nali was so easy. 


Until now, I have peeped in at everyone’s life and written about their characters. Now let me talk about myself–the best way to joke is not on someone else’s expense but on your own.  


As I go about observing everyone’s habits and characteristics, I don’t get time to cook. That doesn’t mean I don’t like to eat. I am very fond of eating. If someone calls me for lunch, I not only attend but also carry my lunch box to carry some food back for my dinner. Whenever I go to any function, all my relatives, without greeting me, say, ‘Nalini, fill up  your lunchbox first. Then you will be at peace and we can talk at  leisure.’ That’s why I am known as Lunchbox Nalini. 


A few days ago, my cousin, Venkat, had his child’s naming ceremony. Venkat’s wife Veena formally invited me, saying, ‘We will be very happy if you come for the naming ceremony. If you don’t have time for lunch, at least visit us for  half an hour.’ 


I laughed and said, ‘Don’t you remember what they call me? I always come for the meal more than the event. I’ll be honest with you. If you tell me to come for the event without a lunch, then I’m sure that only three people will be there for the naming ceremony – you, your husband, and your little bundle of joy.’ 


Everyone laughed at my comment. Bundle Bindu, who was sitting there commented about hospitality about different regions. 


“I know.. Some people’s hospitality is bare minimum unlike north Karnatka. Because, historically…’ 


I told Bindu, stop it.  


He ignored me and continued. 


“Recently I had been to someone’s house. He said, “Wait a minute. I wWill have tea and come..I said I will also come and join you for tea.” 


“Bindu, you are shameless”, I said. 


But by and large, when you invite people, you should do it whole heartedly. The person should feel welcomed. 


I turned to Venkat and said, ‘I will come for the function in the morning as I have recently joined as a college lecturer. I will leave my lunchbox there and pick it up on the way back after my classes are over. I won’t be able to make it for lunch but I can eat it at home, at least.’ 


‘There can be no one like you,’ said Jayant. 


I take my lunchbox along with me to a function if I know the family hosting the event very well. I have many varieties of lunch boxes—unbreakable, Tupperware, hot cases, transparent ones. Because they are useful for various dishes—and depending on the circumstance, I change the boxes. For gravies. Tupperware is better. For roti and poli, hot case is better. For pickles, unbreakable is better and transparent because it is easier to identify what is inside. 


I am very fond of lunchboxes. In fact, I am an expert. My refrigerator is filled with different kinds of boxes with food given to me from different homes. I can recognize different boxes from different places even when am asleep. Mulla’s wife Peerambi’s box is yellow in color, though it is green inside. Virurupaksha’s Gowda’s wife Basavaa’s dabba is made of german steel. It is round and is currently sitting in my fridge with some brinjal. Bhagirati’s plastic green box has yellow laddoos inside. Jayant’s transparent box has golgappas.  


The other day, I was eating dinner. I told my daughter, ‘There is a gulab jamoon from Janaki’s home. Though her tongue is bitter, her gulab jamuns are excellent.’ 


My daughter was confused. ‘How do I know which is her box of gulab jamun? There are so many lunch boxes in the refrigerator.’ 


‘Oh, bring the one with the dome-like structure,’ I responded easily. ‘I didn’t have a box with me that day, so she had given in hers.’ 


While having the gulab jamun, , I remembered the dry vegetable. ‘Will you open the fridge and get the plastic box with flat red cover? That is from Ganga’s home. Some marriage proposal had come and the boy had visited Ganga’s home so she had specially made a vegetable for the boy that she also sent to me.’ 


The other day, Bundle Bindu came with a huge box. His wife saraswati was out of station. I opened it and to my surprise, there was a steamed sweet dish inside. It is complicated to make, though grandmother was particularly good at it. I asked, ‘Bindu, when Saraswati is not there, how could you cook this special dish?’ 


Bindu laughed and said, ‘Who said that I have made this? There is a famous saying – When two people are fighting, it is the third one that enjoys.’ 


‘What do you mean?’ 


Bindu said, ‘Suman has sent rice kheer and her mother-in-law has sent bottle guard kheer. They felt that you are the best judge to decide who is the better cook because you are known for tasting dishes They called me separately and gave me these two boxes. You eat and enjoy. Both want you to take their side.’ 


‘Bindu, in that case, I will taste neither of them’ I said immediately. 


‘Nali, please be diplomatic. You can say both are very good, but separately. Then you will have an advantage,’ said Jayant who always thinks of profit and loss. 


‘No, Jayant. I don’t want to do that. Profit and loss are okay in business but not in human interaction. All these people are dear to me. Whenever they make something special, they send some to my home even if I don’t visit their house. I carry my lunchbox only to places where I have liberty and affection If I really want to eat, there are many restaurants in this townFor me, a lunch box is not a mere lunchbox. It is a bridge between two people. I go to their home, or they send me some food. I go to return the box.  Thus, we share feelings and give company to each other. In case any of us are in difficulty, we reduce our tensions. The lunchboxes are nothing but a sign of affection, and it is through them that I have been able to meet people and form a close bond with them over the years. It has been my educational journey into the nature of humanity. 


 I don’t want to get into the competition between a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law or create more distance between them. If somebody wants to start a fight, I don’t want to be a party to that.’ 


Bindu laughed and said, ‘And I know how you love food too! 


I smiled back. 


 ‘O Nali, you are a typical north Karnataka girl’ said Bindu. 


‘What do you mean by that?’ I was surprised by his comment. 


‘Straightforward, transparent, loving, sharing, impractical, talkative, – that is the essence that the land blesses us with.’ 



Intrigued to know more about Nali and her lunchbox?
Get your copy of Common Yet Uncommon by Sudha Murty wherever books are sold.

Adani crash predictions turns true – 91 Predictions by Greenstone Lobo

Did you know that the scientific astrologer Greenstone Lobo had already predicted the Adani crash in his book 91 Predictions?

According to the Hindenburg Reports, on Wednesday 25th January 2023, Adani Group of Companies crashed, their stocks slipping by 20% in early trade. By Friday the chances of them bouncing back also seemed meager, as it wiped out almost 3.18 trillion in investor wealth. It was also due to their involvement “in a brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud by the conglomerate” as per the reports.

However, it wasn’t a crack or shock for the followers and readers of Greenstone Lobo. Here’s an excerpt of the prediction he made for the slippage of the companies’ stocks.


91 Predictions
91 Predictions || Greenstone Lobo

Prediction #38

Will Gautam Adani Be Able to Keep Flying High?

Gautam Adani’s resume looks impressive. He started as a humble commodity trader in 1988 and went on to build a huge conglomerate. While the entire world was reeling under the impact of Covid-19, in 2020, he added a jaw-dropping $35 billion86 to his riches. He is now the second richest Indian and closing in on Mukesh Ambani. Would his growth story continue? Yes, but with huge roadblocks.

The company was incorporated in the year 1993 and came with a public issue in 1994. Pluto and Neptune were in the strongest positions in these two years and the company’s tremendous growth and status can be attributed to that. Looking further, some milestones aren’t encouraging astrologically. In August 2006, the company was renamed Adani Enterprises Limited from Adani Exports. Pluto just got into nascent debilitation and Neptune was deeply debilitated during this time. While the massive placement of Planet-X and Uranus can push the company into good positions, the biggest planets Pluto and Neptune in weak positions probably indicate a weak foundation.

Adani Power was started in 1996, a good year according to astrology. Other projects, like IT and data centre, which started post 2019 will not have much trouble as they were started when Pluto was in strong positions. The troubles will originate from businesses started during 2010-2017. When you dig deep and go into the dates when the various subsidiary companies of the group were established, there seems to be a long, challenging road ahead. The biggest money spinners for the group—Adani Ports & SEZ, Adani Green Energy, Adani Transmission, Adani Infrastructure— were established during 2010-2017 when Pluto got deeper and deeper into debilitation.

So, can Gautam Adani go on to be the richest man in India? Yes, it is possible. He has almost nine planets in dignity in his horoscope, and he can do that. Albeit that could just be temporary. Despite the presence of strong planets in his horoscope, there are two important yet weak planets in his chart—Uranus in fall and Pluto is almost in the Grey Lizard avatar. His growth story can be pretty impressive till 2025, when Pluto would push him further. But during 2025-29 when Pluto will get into the Grey Lizard zone and Uranus would get debilitated, Adani will get into some serious troubles with his businesses.

It is difficult to predict the kind of challenges Adani group would face at this point of time but just like the huge roadblock for their coal project in Australia since 201087 they will get into more and more troubles. Gautam’s businesses will face various obstacles and his financial empire would just get saddled with many troubles, legal wrangles and financial muddles.

Interestingly, Gautam’s son Karan Adani who manages the Adani Ports too is a Grey Lizard with Pluto in deep debilitation. This just confirms the fact that the huge conglomerate of Adani has huge challenges ahead which is contradictory to the promises the group shows in 2021.


Read more about Pluto’s impact on the fate of the world and predictions in 91 Predictions. Get a one-minute summary of this book below:

The Sleep Mindset – An excerpt from Ritual

Do you lack motivation on Monday? Are Monday morning blues making you dizzy? While at your work desk, all you can think about is the warm cocoon of your bed, but the moment the moon is at its apex you cannot sleep. Are you also one of the many people who cannot sleep at night and feel sleepy during the day? Being an author, columnist, and podcaster who has written on beauty and wellness for more than two decades, Vasudha Rai brings a solution to your sleeping problems and others to renew your mind, body and spirit through, Ritual: Daily Practices for Wellness, Beauty & Bliss. Here’s an excerpt from her book for a healthy sleep mindset.


Ritual: Daily Practices for Wellness, Beauty & Bliss
Ritual: Daily Practices for Wellness, Beauty & Bliss || Vasudha Rai

When we sleep well, we perform better the next day, our interpersonal relationships are better, we’re inspired to work out, eat healthy and make the right choices. On the contrary, when we don’t get enough sleep, we’re not inspired to do anything at all. The first step of sleep hygiene then is to put away your phone which will only happen when you are determined. Try replacing your smartphone or tablet with a book (especially one that is mildly academic/ slow paced). It may not be as stimulating as social media, but that is the whole point.

If you’re an overthinker, it may be a good idea to write down a list of things to do the next day, lest you forget. In Ayurveda, this is especially recommended for the ambitious pitta type. Vata types do well with a warm oil foot massage that works to ground their flight, anxious energy. Kapha types usually don’t have a problem falling asleep – for them the problem is oversleeping). But whether it’s journaling, meditation, massage, sound healing, the idea is to wind down and destress. The mind cannot run at a breakneck speed and then be expected to calm down and then help you fall asleep.

Someone like me who gets stimulated easily prefers to either read a non-fiction/ knowledge book or indulge in a sound bath before bed. Personally, I find that sometimes even reading on my phone is okay as long as I’m looking up information about beauty, health and wellness. For me these are comforting areas of interest. For you it could be language, astronomy or art history. If I get involved in an engaging conversation I stay awake longer. So even if I’m on my phone, I avoid social media because I don’t want to be faced with excitement, fear, revulsion, admiration, or any other stimulating information right before bed.

The big worry is if we will be able to sleep at all. Often the inability to fall asleep is what keeps us up all night. I remember reading an article about sleep management a while back on a particular night that I spent tossing and turning. It was almost 4am and I couldn’t bear the thought of listening to the birdsong in the morning after a night I had laid awake. So I picked up my phone and looked up ‘What can you do when you can’t sleep all night’. Among the various tips the author had given one line stood out so beautifully that I remember it to this day. A somnologist said something on the lines of ‘ultimately you will go to sleep at some point, it may not come soon enough but it will come for sure’. I felt comforted by that and have worried a little bit lesser since then.

The paradox is that when we try to stay up is when we fall asleep the soonest. So my trick when I’m wakeful in the middle of the night is to do something, instead of just tossing around in bed. I keep a heavy academic book, with difficult concepts in my bedside drawer. It could also be an old, classic novel. Something heavy and verbose always makes me feel drowsy. But that’s just me, we are all different and have different needs. Think about it like this – we feel the sleepiest when we’re trying to stay awake. So instead of tossing and turning waiting for it to come, engage yourself in something boring. You could step out of the room for a few minutes, lie down and listen to a guided meditation, journal your thoughts. If you wake up in the middle of the night and aren’t able to go to sleep, try one of these, or anything else that does not involve a screen.


Get your copy of Ritual from your nearest bookstore or Amazon.

The Booker Prize 2022 Winner The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida

The book was first published in India in 2020 as Chats With The Dead

Penguin Random House India is proud to announce that critically acclaimed Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka’s The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, which was first published by Penguin India as Chats With The Dead, has won this year’s Booker Prize for Fiction. This is the first Booker Prize for Shehan. This was also the first time that books originating from an Indian publisher had been nominated for the Booker Prize two years in a row. In 2021, Anuk Arudpragasam’s A Passage North was in the running for the Booker Prize. Tomb of Sand, written by Geetanjali Shree, translated by Daisy Rockwell, and published by Penguin in India, was also the winner of the International Booker Prize 2022.

A classic whodunit with a brilliant twist, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida searingly exposes the plight of a country caught in the aftermath of civil war. Embroiled in red tape, memories of war, and ethical dilemmas, this unforgettable story captures readers right from the very first page up to its startling denouement, constantly upending its premise with its staggering humanity.

Manasi Subramaniam, Associate Publisher and Head of Rights at Penguin Random House India and the editor of the book, said, ‘The Seven Moons of Maali Almedia by Shehan Karunatilaka is a masterful work of modern philosophy that insists on being uproariously funny through all its deft acrobatics through the living and the dead. I am delighted that this brilliant book has won the Booker Prize 2022.’

Meru Gokhale, Publisher, Penguin Press, Penguin Random House India, says, I am absolutely delighted at the honour and recognition being given to Shehan Karunatilaka’s work. It’s wonderful to see writers from South Asia receive long-overdue international recognition in this extraordinary year for Penguin Press, through both the Booker International Prize for Tomb of Sand and the Booker Prize for The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida.

The Booker Prize 2022’s jury is chaired by Neil MacGregor, cultural historian, writer and broadcaster along with a five-person panel- Critics Shahidha Bari and M. John Harrison, historian Helen Castor and novelist and poet Alain Mabanckou.

About the author:

Shehan Karunatilaka is a Sri Lankan writer whose first book Chinaman won the Commonwealth Book Prize, the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, and the Gratiaen Prize, and was shortlisted for the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize.

The day the mangoes turned sweet

Sudha Murty’s latest release is a fun celebration of the national fruit, the juicy and scrumptious mango!

The following excerpt is the first chapter of How The Mango Got Its Magic. Get your copy now from bookstores or head to Amazon to order!

How the Mango Got its Magic||Sudha Murty


Chapter One

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful mango grove on the outskirts of a village. Dinkar was the owner of the grove and Shyam was his hardworking son.

Back in those days, mangoes were ornamental fruits with beautiful colours and shapes, but they were not very tasty—they were more sour than sweet.

One day, it began to rain heavily and there was a knock on the door of Dinkar’s house.

When Dinkar opened the door, he saw an old man standing at his doorstep. The old man said, ‘Hello. I got caught in the rain. Will you let me in? I will leave once it stops raining.’

Dinkar generously welcomed him in. ‘It looks like the rain will not stop today, but it may cease tomorrow. Please come in. You can take shelter here.’

The old man entered the house. Shyam made him a hot meal and gave him some water to drink. The old man gulped the water down and devoured the food quickly, within minutes.

After a loud burp of satisfaction, he smiled at Shyam and Dinkar and said, ‘That was a wholesome meal.’

He took out a mango from his bag and gave it to Dinkar. ‘This is for both of you,’ he said. ‘Please cut it and eat it immediately.’

Dinkar looked at the mango. It looked like it was one of the very sour ones. He did not want to insult his guest, so he cut the mango and bit into it. His eyes popped in wonder and he turned to his son, ‘Shyam, all the mangoes I have eaten in my life have been sour—like the taste of lemon. Though we have a mango grove, we never eat the mangoes that grow here. But this mango is fantastic and unusually sweet. It’s absolutely delicious! Go on, try it.’

Shyam took his first bite and nodded his head vigorously in agreement. This mango was indeed sweet and tasty. Shyam had never even heard of sweet mangoes!

‘Plant this mango seed. The tree will grow quickly and produce more mangoes like the one you ate just now,’ the old man smiled and said.

The next morning it stopped raining. The old man thanked Dinkar and Shyam for their timely hospitality and left.

A question with no answer?

A unique picture book about science and the wild world, Little Jagadish and The Great Experiment encourages little ones to nurture curiosity. Based on the life and mind of real-life scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose, the following excerpt shows the educational combination of outdoor learning and books.

Little Jagadish and The Great Experiment||Anjali Joshi & Debasmita Dasgupta


One day at school,
while watering the plants,
he hummed a tune and did a little dance.

All of a sudden,
with a small pop,
an idea appeared
and he came to a stop.

‘I wonder if, like us,
plants can hear, too.’

His teacher listened
and her bright eyes grew.

‘Well, no one knows,’
Miss Pooja said.
Jagadish was stunned.
He scratched his head.

With that,
Miss Pooja’s
grew more.
She saw that
Jagadish had
opened a door.

‘In this world,
mysteries abound.
Books are not
where all answers
are found.’

‘Start with a question,
like you’ve already done.
Then, make a guess.
This is where it gets fun!

Do some experiments
and find some clues.
Make observations, see if your guess is true.’


Get your copy of Little Jagadish and The Great Experiment from your nearest bookstore or Amazon.

A rocky start to Ruskin Bond’s writing journey

You must have read several stories by Ruskin Bond, but have you read a story about how he began his literary journey in London?

Ruskin Bond’s latest release, Listen to Your Heart, captures memorable experiences from young Ruskin’s life and is an inspiration for aspiring young writers, a meditation on embracing fears, and seizing every opportunity. Read this excerpt from the book to get a glimpse.


Listen to Your Heart: The London Adventure
Listen to Your Heart: The London Adventure || Ruskin Bond

The first draft of my journal had been doing the rounds of a few London publishers, and coming back with polite comments and regrets. The post was usually delivered around lunchtime, and whenever there was a thud on the floor of the front door, my cousins would look up from their meal with a knowing grin, as if to say, ‘Poor Ruskin, nobody wants his masterpiece.’

But along with the third or fourth flop of the returned manuscript came a letter from the editor at André Deutsch Ltd, a new publisher who was making a name and a reputation with some offbeat publications. The editor who wrote to me was called Diana Athill, and she wrote a very sympathetic letter, saying how much she liked the book and promising to reconsider it if I would consider turning it into a work of fiction, a full-fledged novel.

As a writer, I have always been ready to learn and to please those who encourage good writing, and I wrote back saying I would do as suggested.

There was no one with whom I could share this good news—my uncle and cousins would have considered it just another polite rejection. So I went out for one of my lonely walks along the seafront, and confided my hopes and dreams in the waves as they came crashing against the sea wall. That island only came to life for me when it was blowing a gale. I loved leaning against the wind, feeling the rain stinging my face, and listening to the roar of the angry sea as the tide came in.

As I walked alone down that rain-lashed pier, I knew I was going to be a writer—a good one— and that no one could stop me. The wind and the rain were allies; they were a part of me, and they would be a part of my work. But it was to be a few months before I could launch out on my own, and during that time, I worked on the novel, pleased my employers and got on with my relatives as best as I could. My aunt never bothered me; in fact, she rather liked having me around. The youngest of my cousins was a friendly little chap; the other two rather resented me. Whenever I had the opportunity, I went to the cinema, and one of the films released at the time was Jean Renoir’s The River, based on the novel by Rumer Godden. This beautiful film made me so homesick that I went to see it several times, wallowing in the atmosphere of an India, a lot like the India l had known. The ‘river’, and its eternal flow became a part of my story too, especially the part where Kishen and Rusty cross the Ganga on the way back to their homes. And back in India, a young filmmaker called Satyajit Ray saw The River and realised that a film could also be a poem, and went about making his own cinematic poetry.

With some help from my employers, I had acquired a baby portable typewriter, priced at £19, and I was going along quite merrily, working on the novel and keeping up my journal.  But then disaster struck.


Inquisitive to know what happens next?

Get a copy of Ruskin Bond’s Listen to Your Heart from your nearest bookstore or online.

Help! Avi is in danger (or is he?)

Children are imaginative and curious, which is what makes them so different from adults who almost always lead a mundane life. But what happens when a child’s brain is over-imaginative and borderline paranoid? Meet Avi, the protagonist of Help! My Aai Wants to Eat Me, who is convinced that is Aai is keen on gobbling him up, after watching a documentary that fills his mind with wild ideas. Read an excerpt from the book to find out what happened, below! 

“All in all, not Avi’s favourite day. 

Until it was time for environmental science a.k.a. EVS—a subject Avi LOVED.  

Avi’s favourite subject, EVS

He loved it as much as figs love wasps (so much so that they let the wasp pollinate the fruit and die inside them—‘till death do us part’, just like in the movies that Baba and the Maushis watched and loved). 

He loved it more than birdwatchers loved the forest owlet, which had been believed to be extinct for 113 years until it was rediscovered right here in Maharashtra—the same state that Avi lived in! 

Avi loved it more than . . . well, it was his favourite subject. Unlike HJ who loved maths and art and always got 24 out of 25 marks in them. And today was EVS Film Day! Which meant they all got to watch a wildlife film instead of studying. Avi settled down next to HJ, his knees aching from having stood for thirty-four minutes outside the classroom. ‘Arre, how will I play cricket today?’ 

‘Yeah?’ asked HJ. ‘That bad?’ ‘Shhh . . .’ Kshama hissed like a snake and glared at the two boys. ‘Do you want to spend another class outside?’ 

Avi bit back a retort—Kshama was the class monitor and could easily report him and then he would have to miss EVS Film Day. He had already seen films about climate change, about a tigress called Machli, and one about ghost crabs! 

Miss Mankad

Miss Mankad, who taught EVS, walked into class. Every time Avi looked at his favourite teacher, he was reminded of a meerkat—an upright spine, broad head and large, bright eyes. Except, unlike meerkats, she was six feet and one inch tall. Clearly, she did a great job of teaching, given that Avi knew more facts about the natural world than his herd of classmates put together. 

Miss Mankad shut off all the lights and Avi and Kshama closed all the curtains, turning the room into a dark den, perfect for watching a film. Even more perfect, it was about bears! Avi watched open-mouthed as jamun-like bear cubs wrestled on the screen, a mama sloth bear battled with a tiger (and won) while defending her cubs, and then . . . 




Even worse than the day Avi was having. Another mama bear ate up her second-born cub. 

A terrified Avi

At first, Avi thought she was licking the bear cub. But no. She just gobbled the cub up. Slurp. The baby was gone. Back into her tummy. Where he had lived for so long. Avi’s eyes widened. He gripped his pencil box tightly. What just happened? Did she . . . Really? No, that could NOT have happened. He squinted in the dark to see his classmates’ expressions. He couldn’t make out much, but did Kshama also look horrified? Or was that just her usual expression?” 

Curious about what happens next?  

Get your copy of Help! My Aai Wants to Eat Me to find out! 


Illustration credits: Priya Kurian



Would you like to meet some fantastic beasts from ‘Mythonama’?

Mythonama || Mudita Chauhan-Mubayi, Adittya Nath Mubayi


Winged horses, tusked fish, shape-shifting snakes . . . Bovines that provide endlessly, raptors that devour senselessly. Some so colossal they block the sun, others so infinitesimal they defy vision. No myth is complete without its fabulous creatures, divine or demonic.

While exploring India’s many mythologies, Mudita and Adittya’s Mythonama introduces us to an array of animals, somewhat familiar in appearance yet incredible in ability.


Here are some excerpts from the book.




Krishna displays the fabulous Navagunjara (‘nine beings’) avatar to Arjuna, in an episode from the fifteenth century Sarala Mahabharata, composed in Odia by Sarala Dasa.

This cannot be an earthly creature, thought Arjuna, instinctively reaching for his bow. What stood before him was unseen, unheard of. A rooster’s head on a peacock’s neck; a bull’s hump on a lion’s torso; legs of a deer, tiger, elephant; a serpent’s tail; and a human hand holding a lotus—nine beings in one fantabulous form . . . Could it be divine? It is believed to be Krishna manifesting spectacularly to either reward Arjuna for completing his penance on Manibhadra Hill or, an eco-sensitive interpretation, to prevent him from razing Khandavaprastha to the ground. Realizing that a creature may not exist in human imagination but surely in god’s creation, Arjuna bows to the infinite wisdom of the universe.



BURAQ was the noble white steed of lightning speed, who effortlessly carried the Prophet ﷺ from Mecca to Jerusalem to heaven. A creature of lore, she appears in various artworks with a woman’s head, radiant mane, gem-laden crown, eagle’s wings, peacock’s tail and bejewelled throat. Some believe that the Prophet ﷺ climbed to heaven on a glittering ladder, having fastened Buraq to a wall. Today, we know it as the Buraq Wall or Wailing Wall.



MARDYKHOR (manticore) was a man-eating monster with a scarlet lion-like body, a human face with blue-grey eyes, triple rows of razor-sharp teeth, a scorpion’s tail with spikes it shot (and promptly regrew) and impenetrable hide. It hid in tall grasses, lured men (even three at a time) with its flute- or trumpet-like crooning, paralysed them with toxic stings and devoured them whole, bones, clothes and all. It moved faster than anything and could kill anything except elephants. Creepy!



RE’EM was a Biblical unicorn, or perhaps an aurochs or rhinoceros because—horn. It was strong, swift, agile, untameable and possibly untrustworthy because—pride. One touch of its horn could detox and sweeten any water. Jews believe it dwarfed mountains and dammed the Jordan with its, erm, dung. It couldn’t fit in Noah’s Ark, so it was tied by its horn, allowing it to swim along and poke its mouth in to breathe and feed.



SIMURGH was a benevolent bird deity with a canine head, lion’s claws, often a human face, peacock plumage, healing feathers and copper wings so strong it could carry a whale. It lived atop Saena, the Tree of All Seeds. When it took flight, the branches shuddered and sent millions of seeds across the world, creating life. It lived for 1700 years—witnessing the world’s destruction thrice and gaining endless wisdom—before diving, Phoenix-like, into flames.



Read in detail by getting your copy of Mythonama from a bookstore near you or by ordering online.

A curious excerpt from curious tales of the desert

Deserts hold so many stories inside of them and the Gahilote sisters (Prarthana and Shaguna) decided to bring folk tales from the dunes of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Multan and Sindh to you in the form of this beautiful book, Curious Tales from the Desert. 

Here is an exclusive excerpt, a thrilling story from the book for you to read and enjoy!


Four Friends and a Thief


A little after Lala Gulab Bagri shut his shop in the main market, Badru came running after him. ‘Lalaji, Lalaji, please stop,’ said Badru between quick laboured breaths.

Surprised to see his assistant chasing him, Lalaji stopped. Badru was panting as he had run after Lalaji from the far end of the market. Tonight was the first time in years that Badru had asked Lalaji permission to leave the  shop  before  it  was  shut  for  the  day.  Usually,  Lalaji  left  for  home  late  in  the  evening  while  Badru  stayed  on to wind up the day’s affairs. Today, Badru had to meet a relative passing by, an old uncle who had finally retired as a soldier from the army and was going back to his native place to spend his old years resting.

‘What are you doing here?’ a bewildered Lalaji asked.

‘I have the most devastating news. I  had to share it with you, so I came running,’ blurted Badru.

‘Is  your  uncle  all  right?’  inquired  Lalaji,  fearing the old  man  may  have  had  an  episode  given  the  long  travel from the city to the village.

‘Oh, yes. He’s fine. It’s something about us that I had to share with you,’ pressed Badru.

Looking at Badru’s ashen face, Lalaji could tell that Badru’s cause for worry was Lalaji’s safety and fortunes. Badru had started working with Lalaji in the prime of his youth and  had been dedicated and loyal to him since. The morning he came to him seeking work  was  a quarter of a century ago. The market in Lalaji’s village, Amli Ka Khera, a little more than three hours away from Chittorgarh, was then just a cluster of huts. It neither had permanent structures nor enough customers to attend to. Lalaji’s ancestors were traditional  thewa  jewellery  makers.  Over  the  years,  their  exquisite  designs  of  thewa  jewellery  involving  merging intricately worked sheet gold on molten glass had  found  a  large  clientele  not  just  in  Amli  Ka  Khera  but even beyond Chittorgarh district and Rajasthan. As Lalaji’s  business  grew,  so  did  his  coffers.  Besides  his  jewellery business, Lalaji’s wealth came from ancestral landholdings and moneylending, which he did at high interest rates.

‘They have arrived. I just heard a group of travellers discuss their arrival with the daroga sahib,’ Badru said.

‘Whose arrival?’ asked Lalaji, a tad irritated.

Badru  lowered  his  voice,  almost  whispering  now,  ‘Arre,  theyare  here.  Our  biggest  worry.  Don’t  you remember?’ Badru insisted.

By  now,  Lalaji  had  lost  his  cool.  With  a  long  day  at  work behind him, he was in no mood for guessing games. He raised his walking stick to hit Badru and thundered,

‘You play games with me and I will hit you. Tell me clearly who you are talking about.’

Badru closed his eyes and screamed, ‘The thieves, the thieves!’

‘Thieves?   The   same   thieves,’   Lala   Gulab   Bagri   squealed as Badru nodded frantically.

Suddenly,  Lalaji  understood  why  Badru  had  come  running  to  him.  Badru  knew  what  no  one  else  in  the  village did. Lalaji had wound up important deals during the course of the week and had collected a large sum of money and gold. He was supposed to leave for Chittorgarh the next day and would be keeping all of his collection at home in the night. Despite his riches, Lalaji had always kept a low profile with no guards or full-time assistants working  for  him  at  home.  His  modest  dwelling  housed  him and his wife, Fullara, while his two sons, Neth Ram and Dhuni Ram, lived in Chittorgarh managing the retail shops there.

For the last few days, villagers in Amli Ka Khera had had  restless  nights  over  the  news  of  a  group  of  thieves  operating  in  nearby  areas.  The  thieves  were  known  to  be  extremely  skilled,  shrewd  and  showed  no  mercy  or  fear  when  robbing.  Tales  of  the  robberies  they  had  carried  out  in  wealthy  homes  in  adjoining  villages  had  filled their hearts with trepidation and several well-to-do businessmen  had  petitioned  the  local  police  to  increase  the  security  drills  in  their  area.  Everyone  knew  it  was  only a matter of time before the robbers would come to their village and target their homes.

Today,  Badru  had  heard  the  local  daroga  talk  to  travellers about how they had received reports about one of the robbers being seen at a tea shop on the outskirts of the village in the wee hours. The travellers suspected the thieves would target Amli Ka Khera that night and were checking with the daroga if it was safe to stay the night in  the  village.  Badru  had  overheard  the  conversation  and found it urgent enough to share it with his employer right then.

Lalaji listened to Badru and signalled for him to keep quiet. He didn’t want Badru to reveal anything about his latest financial acquisitions. Badru got the hint and so, he asked Lalaji, ‘Would you want me to stay with you at the house tonight?’

‘Of  course,  and  get  everyone  suspicious  about  the  goings-on in the house. Right?’ Lalaji said sarcastically.

He told Badru to go home and not talk to anyone about the  thieves.  He  wanted  Badru  to  behave  normally  to  avoid drawing any undue attention to him or his house. At home, every evening by sundown, Fullara would keep  a  bucket  of  warm  water  ready  for  Lalaji’s  bath.  Once  Lalaji  walked  into  the  central  courtyard  of  the  house,  she  would  brew  tea,  add  a  generous  amount  of  milk and sugar to it and set it out with some snacks and hookah in the veranda. The  husband  and  wife  would  then  sit  together  and  tell each other the details of their day. Lalaji liked telling Fullara about all the customers he had met at the shop. She  had  the  uncanny  sense  to  sieve  the  good  from  the  bad  and  Lalaji  had  often  benefited  from  her  inputs,  especially when it came to borrowers of money. Fullara had not been formally educated but knew enough about business  from  experience.  It  was  wisdom  borne  out  of  this experience that Lalaji counted on.As  night  drew  close,  Lalaji  told  Fullara  about  the  possibility  of  thieves  being  in  the  village.  Fullara  was  alarmed, considering Lalaji had handed her a big bag of money  and  gold  ornaments  when  he  got  back  from  the  shop. She had hidden the bag in the attic in the kitchen with other containers filled with grains, but wasn’t sure if it was a good enough hiding place.

‘What will we do if the robbers come here?’ she asked Lalaji.

‘Don’t  bring  bad  omens  home.  Don’t  talk  about  a  robbery at our place,’ Lalaji responded in anger.

Fullara  bit  her  tongue  and  started  cleaning  up  the  kitchen, the last job she did before sleeping. While Fullara worked  inside,  Lalaji  would  step  out  to  go  to  the  paan shop across his house. This was a daily ritual. Lalaji did not sleep without eating a juicy paan, which also worked as  an  excuse  to  meet  his  old  friends  and  neighbours  of  several  years,  Eesa,  Khameesa,  Kaazi  and  Mullah.  At  the paan shop, Lalaji’s friends would talk about various things. Together, they discussed politics, business, family problems  and  more  importantly,  the  goings-on  in  Amli  Ka Khera. Tonight was an important night. Lalaji wanted to  speak  to  his  friends  about  the  heightened  fear  of  the  robbers,  who  were  now  possibly  closer  than  before.  To  his surprise, his friends had heard the same and wanted to hash over what they would do in case of an emergency.

The  promises  from  the  police  department  were  yet  to  be  fulfilled,  and  many  like  Lalaji  and  his  friends  were  gathering groups to defend themselves in case the robbers struck them. ‘So it’s a deal. If anyone of us is in trouble, the others will rush to help him. Stay alert,’ said Eesa. ‘Call out loud so that you can be heard,’ added Khameesa.

‘And keep your sticks and rods ready at hand so that you  can  grab  them  as  you  run  out  to  help,’  Kaazi  was  prompt to assert.

Lalaji had told his friends that he was due to travel to Chittorgarh the next morning and would only return after two days. He was tense that his wife would be in danger in case the robbers broke into his house in his absence.Mullah  sensed  his  panic  and  reassured  him,  ‘Don’t  worry, Lala. We will all sleep lightly. If bhabhi saagrees, one  of  us  could  also  sleep  as  a  guard  in  the  courtyard  outside your house when you are away. We won’t let any harm come her way.’Comforted  by  the  promises  of  his  friends,  Lalaji  got  back home to find Fullara packing his bag for his journey.When  Lalaji  and  Fullara  retired  for  the  day,  he  started updating Fullara on his conversation with Eesa, Khameesa, Kaazi and Mullah.

‘I had a long chat with them. It has been agreed that when I leave for Chittorgarh tomorrow, one of them will sleep outside in the courtyard to protect you.’

‘Oh, who knows if that would be needed. I am good enough to defend myself,’ Fullara protested.

‘But  what  if  the  robbers  are  armed  and  large  in  number? What will you do?’ urged Lalaji.

‘God  will  protect  me.  I’ll  think  of  something,  don’t  worry. You sleep well and travel safely tomorrow morning without a worry.’

A  few  hours  after  the  husband  and  wife  had  fallen  asleep, a deep pounding woke Fullara up. For a minute, she  thought  she  was  imagining  things.  She  lay  still  and  quiet  in  her  bed,  listening  hard.  There  was  a  distinct  thump.  Fullara  held  her  breath  and  looked  at  Lalaji  from  the  corner  of  her  eyes.  Lalaji  lay  right  next  to  her  deep  in  sleep.  Fullara  wanted  to  nudge  him  awake,  but  was  afraid  he  might  be  startled  and  make  a  noise  while  waking  up.  Fullara  couldn’t  exactly  place  the  origin  of  the  sound,  but  thought  it  was  close.  She  had  to  quickly  think  of  ways  of  stirring  Lalaji  and  even  alerting  their  friends in the neighbourhood. Fullara trained her ears and was certain that someone was raining blows on the wall of the adjoining room.

Suddenly,  Fullara  started  talking  aloud.  ‘Oh,  Lalaji.  How am I supposed to do this? How do I keep all these children engaged?’ she said. ‘This is not fair. Here I am all  by  myself  and  so  many  children  to  look  after.  You  have to help me,’ she added, this time raising her voice a little.

Adding soon after, ‘Lalaji, if you don’t agree to assist me, I am telling you I will go out and dump these children outside  the  house.’  By  now,  Fullara’s  voice  was  loud  enough to be heard beyond the courtyard and outside. The  sound  of  the  loud  blows  stopped  as  though  someone  was  trying  to  listen  in.  Fullara  heard  a  scuffle  outside  as  Lalaji  began  to  turn  and  get  up.  He  looked  puzzled  and  kept  staring  at  Fullara.  She  pressed  her  finger to her lips and asked him to keep quiet. Outside, she could hear whispers. Like two men were talking to each other. Fullara couldn’t tell one voice from another, but she heard someone say, ‘Looks like someone inside the house is awake.’ Fullara could tell her loud conversation with herself had  alerted  the  robbers  outside.  She  felt  encouraged  to  carry on.

Maybe they’ll run away, she thought. Looking at Lalaji,  she  pointed  towards  the  outside  wall  and  asked him to listen. Slowly,  the  pounding  on  the  wall  began  again.  This  time, Lalaji could hear it too. He was wide awake. Fullara started  waving  her  hands  frantically.  Telling  Lalaji  to  play-act with her. At first, Lalaji was confused, but when Fullara started talking, he understood.‘Tell me, will you help me? Look at these four babies creating a ruckus. See, see how Eesa just jumped on the bed, and Khameesa dropped the flower vase,’ Fullara said louder  this  time.  Almost  like  she  wanted  the  robbers  to  hear. And they did. The blows on the wall stopped again. Those  outside  were  listening  in.  The  minute  Fullara  talked about Eesa jumping on the bed, someone outside remarked, ‘Seems like she’s dreaming. I know they don’t have small children in the house.’

‘What if they do and you don’t know?’ asked another voice.

‘I have checked. There are no children in the house. Besides,  this  woman  is  talking  about  children  doing  things  right  now.  Did  you  even  hear  a  sound  of  that?’  pronounced another.

Convinced   with   that   argument,   one   man   with   a  deep  voice  said,  ‘Let’s  carry  on  breaking  the  wall.  There’s just very little to go. I am already inside. Once we are done with these last few bricks, all of you will be inside.’ Fullara  and  Lalaji  froze  when  they  heard  that.  One  robber  was  inside  already  while  the  others  were  just  a  few bricks away! Lalaji started to get up from the bed to go to the room where the robbers were, but Fullara held his  hand.  The  robbers  were  known  to  be  merciless  and  Fullara did not want Lalaji to confront them on his own. Lalaji  stepped  back  and  let  out  in  exasperation,  ‘What  are  you  saying,  Fullara?  What  do  you  want  me  to  do?’  Lalaji  could  tell  Fullara  was  feeling  just  as  helpless  as  he  was  at  the  moment.  While  their  friends  living  close  by  had  been  alerted  in  the  evening,  the  danger  was  too  close at hand to risk shouting out to them to help. What if the robber inside the house had a weapon and attacked them? What if the remaining bricks were easy to remove and all the thieves broke into the house all at once if they heard the couple screaming for help.Even  as  Lalaji  thought  hard  about  what  should  be  done,  Fullara  continued  talking.  She  said,  ‘Lalaji,  you  listen  to  me.  You  look  at  our  four  grandchildren  here,  they  are  a  handful.  I  can’t  deal  with  Eesa,  Khameesa,  Kaazi and Mullah on my own. So, I am going to device a  hide-and-seek  game  for  them  where  the  children  will  play the police while you will play the thief.’

Lalaji wasn’t amused. He thought Fullara was actually out  of  her  mind  to  be  thinking  of  games  and  imaginary  grandchildren  right  now  but  didn’t  bother  to  shake  her  out  of  it.  The  thieves  too  didn’t  think  much  of  Fullara’s  banter and went about breaking what was left of the wall.With  every  new  thump,  Lala  Gulab  Bagri’s  heart  sank a little more. ‘So when you hide and the children go looking for you, I will be helping them by looking for you in the house. And when I will find you, I will be bellowing Eesa, Khameesa, Kaazi, Mullah . . . here is the thief.’ Lalaji promptly understood what Fullara was trying to do. She was trying to alert his friends about the intrusion in their house. As if on cue, he asked her, ‘What will you say to the children, Fullara? Say that again, louder.’

Encouraged,   Fullara   howled,   ‘Eesa,   Khameesa,   Kaazi, Mullah . . . Chor, chor, chor!’

‘Say it again, Fullara,’ yelled Lalaji.

This time, Fullara bellowed with all the power in her lungs, ‘Eesa, Khameesa, Kaazi, Mullah . . . Chor! Eesa, Khameesa,  Kaazi,  Mullah  .  .  .  Chor!  Eesa,  Khameesa,  Kaazi, Mullah . . . Chor! Chor! Chor!’

Fullara was so loud this last time that her voice carried through  the  courtyard  to  the  homes  of  her  neighbours.  Startled,  they  jumped  out  of  their  beds,  racing  towards  Lalaji’s  house.  The  thieves  heard  Fullara  too  and  were  now  in  a  dilemma.  Should  they  run  or  hide  inside  the  house?  The  last  of  the  bricks  had  finally  fallen.  Just  as  the thieves were approaching Lalaji’s bedroom, his friends rushed into the house with sticks and rods. On their way to  the  house,  the  four  friends  had  raised  an  alarm  loud  enough for the rest of the neighbours to come out of their homes and surround Lalaji’s house.Once  inside,  the  four  friends  marched  into  Lalaji’s  bedroom  only  to  see  Lalaji  dashing  into  the  adjoining  room  where  the  thieves  stood.  Eesa,  Khameesa,  Kaazi  and Mullah bolted after Lalaji and found four well-built men  standing  by  the  broken  wall.  They  lunged  at  them  and brought the four thieves down with a thud. Fullara raced in with a bundle of ropes as the men overpowered the thieves with all their strength. Hearing   the   commotion   inside,   some   neighbours   climbed   into   the   house   where   the   wall   had   been   brought down by the thieves. The thieves had now been outnumbered  and  didn’t  move  an  inch,  fearing  for  their  lives. Together, the men secured the hands and legs of the thieves with the rope they had been given.

Throughout  the  night,  Lalaji  and  his  friends  sat  in  the  courtyard  watching  over  the  thieves  who  had  been  locked  in  Lalaji’s  store.  The  thieves  were  to  be  handed  over to the daroga in the morning. The men couldn’t stop gushing  about  Fullara’s  presence  of  mind  and  how  she  had  managed  to  save  the  situation.  Lalaji  felt  extremely  proud  of  Fullara.  He  had  always  depended  on  her  for  advice,   much   to   the   annoyance   of   his  conservative   relatives,  but  tonight  he  felt  validated  for  respecting  Fullara’s intelligence.The  next  morning,  the  thieves  were  brought  before  the  daroga,  who  was  stunned  to  hear  how  Fullara  had  got  the  thieves  nabbed  without  risking  her  husband’s  and her own life. He was all praise for Fullara’s courage. While taking charge of the thieves that he and his team had been on the lookout for, he made sure he applauded Fullara in front of the villagers.

The way back home was nothing short of a celebratory procession.  Eesa,  Khameesa,  Kaazi  and  Mullah  had  brought  garlands  for  Fullara  and  Lalaji.  They  danced through  the  village  bylanes  all  the  way  from  the  police  chowki  to  Lalaji’s  house  in  jubilation.  Years  later,  when  Lalaji’s  four  friends  and  Fullara  had  greyed,  tales  of  Fullara’s wit and aptitude were told to the village children. A night of endurance in the face of a crisis had turned her into a local hero and legend.


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