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Waiting to take the bait

One Hero. Many Monsters. Before I came to be known as the greatest sailor in the world, I was a young monster who fell in love. As all legendary love stories go, things were…well, not smooth sailing. And of course, there was the problem to the Armageddon.

 

Kevin Missal’s new book Sinbad promises thrill, fun and adventure. Here is an excerpt from the book.


PRESENT DAY

BASRA, PORT OF ARABIA

 

The corpse was laid there under the darkening sky.

And Sinbad watched it, in silence, from the bushes.

He could hear his own breathing, his blood pumping in his ears. It was late evening. His almond eyes were focused on the beach, hawk-eyed. Owls hooted. The waves rolled and the blurry skies darkened.

Any time now…

‘Let’s hope the blasted ghoul takes the bait,’ said Husayn, his blue eyes scanning the area. He flicked his frizzy, curly hair back and looked at his friend who crouched down beside him. ‘There’s a lot of money we’re gonna get out of this, tee-hee,’ he said, referring to the tavern owner who had hired Sinbad to end the horror of the Qutrub.

Sinbad turned his head and looked up, his onyx hair falling over his forehead. ‘For the hundredth time, it’s not a ghoul. It’s a subclass of jinnis.’

‘Apples and oranges, to be honest.’ Husayn shook his head in dismay. ‘How do you kill it?’

‘You can’t’ Sinbad signed. ‘You trap them and then send them back. Or keep them locked in a ring or something. And one of the easiest ways to do it is by knowing their true name.’

‘Well, whatever it is, you have no clue how tough it was to get that,’ said Husayn, pointing to the dark mound that they had been eyeing. ‘Let’s see: paid the gravedigger; dug up the ground with him; got drenched in mud; and then finally got it for our friend, the Qutrub, here because you said it would be the perfect bait.’

‘Well, at least you were helpful this time.’ Sinbad rolled his eyes and decided to look at the stars that remained still, distracting himself from the beach. It was only a few times in his life that he had caught them blinking.

‘I’m always helpful, all right?’ Husayn said, his voice growing louder in protest.

Sinbad darted his eyes back to the beach and the corpse. ‘No, please, do yell some more and let the whole world know what we are doing.’

‘Apologies!’ Husayn whispered. ‘And the world knows already. That thing has already killed twenty of our travellers. If more would become its victims, taverns might as well close down.

‘I know.’ Sinbad sighed.

‘You said it’s a jinni, though, right?’ Husayn asked. ‘But aren’t jinnis like wish-granting baboons?’

‘Nor all,’ Sinbad said and shook his head ever so slightly. ‘Only the Marids. While the thing we are waiting for right now is called a Qutrub. Strange creatures. They come from the jinni world of Barzakh. But what I don’t understand is, Qutrubs feed on the dead, and thus are seen around graveyards. Then why is it attacking the living?’ He narrowed his eyes in contemplation.

But before he could mull it over, Sinbad say the unlikely: A couple walking on the shore, a few yards away from their bait, oblivious to it and the gruesome presence that it would invite. They were busy chatting and laughing. Barefoot. The girl was wearing her veil and the man a sailor’s tunic.

‘Humans. Always butting in when they are not supposed to.’ Sinbad gritted his teeth.

‘Aren’t you a human yourself, my dear friend?’ Husayn cheekily asked.

‘Well…’ Sinbad said, ‘the Qutrub would attack them then. Fresh blood.’

‘Um, Sinbad?’ Husayn tapped on his shoulder.

‘What?’ he snapped as his eyes followed the couple’s steps, hoping they won’t notice the trap that had been set on the beach. But the smell would be a dead giveaway!

And they were close…getting closer…

‘Um, Sinbad? Would you please turn around?’ Husayn’s voice had turned into an almost high-pitched scream.

‘What?’ shrieked Sinbad, irritated, as he turned towards Husayn. And it was then that he saw it. A ghastly eight-foot-tall creature – skeletal, scarlet red, dressed in rags. Its elongated mouth and slits, in place of a nose, quivered. A long, black ponytail on its otherwise bald head was the only hair it had. Its ribs were visibly jutting out of its diaphragm. Even the spine was visible, protruding from the skinless skeleton. But the eyes – they were pitch-black as if the creature had no irises. It was so close to him, breathing hard. And it was then that their eyes met.

If that weren’t bad enough, then came a bone-chilling scream. From the side of the beach were the unknowing couple stood.

Great. They found the corpse.

A delicate balance – India’s tiger crisis

‘When the stars threw down their spears 

And water’d heaven with their tears: 

Did he smile his work to see?

Did he who made the Lamb make thee?’

 

In one of the most famous dedications to the animal kingdom, English poet William Blake registers his awe and stunned disbelief at the fact that a meek animal like the lamb was made by the same creative source that made the tiger, a ferocious predator that commands fear and respect, that rules the jungles, determining the fates of all the other animals. Somehow, over the years, we no longer appear to share his wonder at the animal. The tiger in India is once again on the brink of extinction. The usual suspects like destruction of forest cover and poaching are also at play, but a new threat faces the tiger now.

Traditional Chinese medicine uses the bones of tigers for production. The bones are believed to have medicinal properties that can heal a variety of disorders. Previously, materials for these medicines were obtained and sourced from the tiger population of southern China. But the South China tiger is almost extinct now, and the Indian tigers suddenly find themselves under the predatory gaze of these manufacturers. At least one wild tiger is killed every day only for its bones, and this is an estimate at its lower end. The bones of the animal have become the attraction of illegal markets which receive huge sums of money simply for this purpose. This also works as incentive to kill more tigers.

Front Cover of Ranthambore Adventure
Ranthambore Adventure || Deepak Dalal

India’s wildlife ecosystem is fragile, and the depleting numbers of tiger is not improving the situation. Being at the top of the food chain, tigers determine and maintain the wildlife and oxygen balance to a great degree. In a forest without tigers, deer and other grass eating animals proliferate without any check. Soon their grazing erodes the land cover because the grass is depleted. When this happens, all animals, regardless of what they eat, will die. This is why tigers are said to belong to an ‘indicator species’. Their number determines the health of a forest.

While the institution Wilderness Conservation India is working tirelessly in this field, a larger change is unlikely to happen anytime soon unless we realise the repercussions of destroying wildlife for our own gains. Even as consumers, we can help stall poaching by steering clear of animal products. The planet wasn’t built to sustain human beings alone, and it definitely will not survive a scenario where all wildlife is either dead or eroded beyond repair.

How to convert an idea into a venture; Become A Junior Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs are bringing education online, connecting families at the touch of a button and revolutionizing the shopping experience-in short, they’re changing the way we live.

Following the success of Become a Junior Inventor, Vrunda Bansode gives every kid a hands-on crash course in entrepreneurship in her new book, Become a Junior Entrepreneur. Here is a checklist on how you can convert an idea into a venture, from the book.


Think of all the things that you can build on to develop your business as an entrepreneur and note them down. Right now, do not think of constraints. Just think of all that you would like to do. Innovate. Invent. Dream big! Now comes the reality check. Let us think of what you can actually work towards and have a good chance of succeeding at. How does one figure that out? Try to answer these questions for each of the businesses you have listed:

  • Do I myself have the skill of making this product or delivering this service?

(Hint: If you want to start a baking business but do not know how to bake, the answer would be No. If you want to start a web design service and are good at using design softwares yourself, your answer is Yes.)

  • Do I know who might be the customers for my business and can I reach them easily?

(Hint: If you are developing a book-trading app and know that many of your friends will use the service, your answer is Yes. But let’s say you are considering starting a garden clean-up service and don’t have any houses with gardens around you, the answer is No.)

  • Do many people need this product or service?

(Hint: Everybody needs and buys toothbrushes regularly, so the market is large. But not everyone needs dental braces, so the market is much smaller.)

  • Roughly how much money is needed to start this business and will I be able to get it through my savings, allowances and borrowings from family and friends?
  • Can I start working towards this right away – at least within a few months?

For any idea that you end up with more No-s than Yes-es, mark it as a passion to be pursued later. Where your Yes-es are more than the No-s, get going! If you have a Yes for all five questions, that’s a great place to start. But if you had to scrap all of your ideas, don’t be hassled. Just start again or see if you can modify an idea you like even a little until you get all five Yes-es.

Another great way to start is to team up with your friends. You will have more helping hands and great ideas on board, and there’s nothing wrong with having a little bit of fun on the side. Many great start-ups started with a team of founders rather than a single founder.

If it is not just you, but you and a group of friends who want to start a business together, then do the above as a group exercise. The group together will then have the skill of ideation, knowledge, access to prospective customers and the ability to get the money or seed capital—as it is called in the business world—to start your new business.

From sifting through ideas to running a business, Become a Junior Entrepreneur accompanies the reader through every stage of turning a nascent dream into a commercially viable start-up.

 

“The trouble with discount websites is, you can’t see the people snatching bargains away from you.”- An excerpt from ‘Christmas Shopaholic’

Don’t panic. Don’t panic. I’ve got 5 minutes 52 seconds before my basket expires. That’s loads of time! All I have to do is quickly find one more item to bump up my total to £75 so I’ll get free delivery.

Come on, Becky. You can find something.

I’m scrolling down the BargainFamily site on my computer screen, feeling like a NASA operative keeping cool under unspeakable pressure. The onscreen timer is in my peripheral vision, ticking down steadily beneath a heading that reads, Your Basket Will Expire Soon!

But you can’t give in to timer- fear when you’re shopping on discount sites. You have to be strong. Like tungsten. Shopping has really changed for me over the years. Or maybe I’ve changed.

The days when I was a single girl, living in Fulham with Suze and going round the shops every day, seem ages ago now. Yes, I used to spend too much. I’ll freely admit it. I’ve made mistakes. Like Frank Sinatra, I did it my way.

(Except ‘my way’ involved stuffing Visa bills under the bed, which I bet Frank never did.)

But I’ve learned some important lessons, which have genuinely changed the way I go about things. Like, for example:

1. I don’t use carrier bags any more. They used to be my biggest joy in life. Oh my God, the feel of a new carrier bag . . . the rope handles . . . the rustle of tissue paper . . .(I still sometimes go and swoon over my old collection at the back of the wardrobe.)

But now I use a Bag for Life instead. Because of the planet and everything.

2. I’m totally into ethical shopping. It’s like a win–win!

You get cool stuff and you’re being virtuous.

3. I don’t even spend money any more. I save money.

So obviously that’s not exactly, actually, literally true. But the point is, I’m always looking for a good deal. I see it as my responsibility as a parent to procure all the items that my family needs at the most cost-effective prices possible. Which is why BargainFamily is the perfect place for me to shop.

It’s all reduced! Designer labels and everything! The only thing is, you have to be a fast shopper, or else your basket expires and you have to start again.

I’m on £62.97 already, so all I need is another item around 12 quid. Come on, quick, there must be something I need. I click on an orange cardigan, £13.99, RRP £45, but when I zoom in I see a horrible lacy border.

White shirt?

No, I bought a white shirt last week. (One hundred per cent linen, £29.99, RRP £99.99. I must remember to wear that, actually.)

I click on my basket to double-check on what I’ve already got, and a pop-up window bursts forth, announcing You’ve

Saved £284 Today, Becky!

I feel a flash of pride as I survey my items. I’ve saved a whole £284! I’ve got an adorable bunny rabbit dressing gown for Minnie and a fantastic DKNY jacket, down from £299 to £39.99 in clearance, and a huge rubber ring shaped like a flamingo, which we can use next time we go on holiday.

And OK, yes. I could theoretically check out now and pay £5.95 for delivery. But that’s not prudent. I’m not a former financial journalist for nothing, I know these things. It’s far more economically sound to find yourself something else that you need, and get the free delivery.

Come on, there must be something. Tights? Everyone needs tights. Oh, but I’m always bumping up orders with tights. I have so many black opaques, they’ll last me till I’m 105. And those tartan patterned ones I clicked on last week were a big mistake.

I click on ‘Homewares’ and scroll down the items quickly. Silver antelope sculpture, was £79.99, now £12.99? Hmm, not sure. Scented candle? Oh God. No. I can’t buy another one.

Our whole house is like one big scented candle. In fact, Luke said the other day, ‘Becky, is there any chance of buying a candle called “Fresh Air”?’

I’m just squinting at a bread bin shaped like Big Ben when a pop-up appears in front of my eyes – Your Time Is Running Out, Becky! – and my heart jumps in fright.

I wish they wouldn’t do that. I know my time is running out. ‘I know!’ I hear myself saying out loud. ‘Don’t stress me out!’

Just to reassure myself, I click back on my basket again and my heart stops. The flamingo ring is sold out!

Sold out!

Noooo! I was too slow! Argh. The trouble with discount websites is, you can’t see the people snatching bargains away from you. Now my heart really is thumping. I’m not losing my jacket, or Minnie’s dressing gown. I need to fill this basket and check out, pronto.

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