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Will Janardan Maity Solve the Photographer’s Deadly Secret in ‘Aperture’?

What happens when a struggling photographer’s secret hobby turns into a dangerous game? In Bhaskar Chattopadhyay‘s latest book, Aperture a photographer becomes obsessed with spying on people in a shady hotel through a hidden window in his apartment. When he witnesses a murder, he turns to detective Janardan Maity for help, but there is more than they have bargained for!


Read this exclusive excerpt and join them on a thrilling investigation.

Aperture || Bhaskar Chattopadhyay


For several seconds, there was a heavy and distinctly uncomfortable silence in Maity’s sprawling drawing room. Maity’s expression was calm but serious. Sayantan Kundu had sunk back in his chair, clearly exhausted after letting the burden of his truth out. I, on the other hand, was wondering what was going on in Maity’s head presently. Was he excited at the prospect of having to deal with such a bizarre set of events? Or was he disgusted by the young photographer’s heinous acts? I figured it was a bit of both.


‘I suppose,’ Sayantan finally said, ‘you would want the specifics.’


‘You suppose correctly,’ came Maity’s response. Sayantan took a few seconds to find the words. Then he said: ‘It happened exactly a week ago. On Tuesday,  the nineteenth of June. It was a hot day, but a brief spell of rain in the afternoon had cooled things down a little. A young couple had checked into one of the rooms on the third floor—the same level as I live in my own building. Seemed like a honeymoon couple. The woman was pretty, but a— how shall I say—coarse sort of pretty. Long straight hair. Poorly-done henna on her palm. Glass bangles. Overdone makeup. The young chap was rugged and good-looking.



It seemed to me that they . . . they weren’t very well off. I mean why would they be in that hotel otherwise? But . . . they did seem to be in love. Deeply. They were having a good time and not just in a sexual way. They would talk for hours on end. Sometimes, I would get bored. But as you can imagine, Mr Maity, in this profession, we are not allowed to get bored. I waited for my chance. Sometimes, it seemed it would come. They would cuddle, kiss, get cosy. I’d get some good shots. But then they would break off. As if . . .as if something was stopping them, as if there was a barrier between them.’



Maity and I were listening with such rapt attention that I had not even noticed when Mahadev had come and taken the empty cups away.
‘They would seem . . . sad. But then it was the woman mostly who would cheer up, throw her arms around her husband and embrace him. They would go to bed. That was when I would get the . . . the real shots.’


‘From your room,’ Maity said. ‘Are you ever able to hear anything that happened in the rooms of that hotel? Any sound of any kind?’


‘No. After I got into this . . . business, I invested in a tinted glass, had it installed on the ventilator opening. I can see everything clearly from my side of the window. But no one would be able to see me from the other side. Plus, I chose the colour of the glass in such a way that it would camouflage my window. One disadvantage of doing all this, though, was that I would hear absolutely nothing, no sound from the other side.’


‘I see,’ nodded Maity. ‘Interesting, very interesting!’



‘Anyway, I got some really good shots of the couple. In . . . in the act, you know? Shots that would suffice for my purpose. The best shots are the ones that show the faces clearly. I’m sorry you are having to hear all these details, but . . .’


‘As despicable as your crimes are, Mr Kundu,’ Maity interrupted, ‘I’m afraid the details are important. That’s usually where the devil resides.’


‘I understand,’ Sayantan nodded. ‘Like I said, I got some good shots. But that night, while they were in the . . . you know . . . the height of their act, something else caught my attention through the lens. At first, it seemed quite funny to me. In fact, I remember having chuckled behind my camera. The room exactly below them was occupied by a middle-aged couple. Perhaps in their late forties or early fifties. They had checked in a day before, on the eighteenth. When the younger couple were having sex, I could see the middle-aged couple look up at the ceiling of their room. They could obviously hear the noises coming from the room above. And they were clearly not amused. The wife said something to the husband, the husband replied angrily. There was a brief quarrel between the two. It was amusing, to be honest . . . this . . . this contrast between what was going on in those two rooms. One on top of the other.’


‘What happened then?’



‘The quarrel stopped after some time. The woman went to bed, held a pillow over her ear. That didn’t seem to work, because she flung the pillow across the room, and it almost hit her husband. The husband yelled at her—she yelled back. That’s when the real quarrel started. It all came to blows. The wife seemed furious.’



‘And this young couple in the room above . . .’ Maity interjected with a suggestion of a question.


‘Yes,’ nodded Sayantan, ‘they had . . . finished by then. They were exhausted. The couple below were now in a bitter fight. The woman had started slapping her husband left, right and centre. She was screaming and sobbing. The husband was taking all the hits. But after a while, he punched his wife right across the face. Sent her flying across the room and on to the bed.’


‘He . . . he killed her?’ I asked, apprehensively.


Get your copy of Aperture by Bhaskar Chattopadhyay on Amazon or wherever books are sold.

Meet Simone Singh: The Girl with Broken Dreams!

Ever wondered what it’s like to chase down a killer in the blistering Delhi heat while wrestling with your own inner demons? Meet Simone Singh, the fearless CBI investigator from The Girl with Broken Dreams by Devashish Sardana.

As she battles the sweltering sun and mandatory therapy sessions, her journey unfolds in a gripping tale where justice and personal struggles collide.

Read this excerpt to know more, but be sure to grab an icy glass of water or a comforting pillow—you might just need it for the thrilling ride ahead.

The Girl with Broken Dreams
The Girl with Broken Dreams || Devashish Sardana



Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Simone Singh flicks away beads of sweat streaming down her bald, squishy scalp, watching the clock on the Jeep’s dashboard flip over to 10:10. She is now ten minutes late for her appointment with the therapist.


Simone had arrived five minutes before her scheduled appointment, but she has been sitting in the crumbling, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)-issued Jeep without air conditioning since. A dry, sultry breeze rushes in through the fully open window, smacking her sweat-speckled face. She detests the summers in Delhi. Even more, she detests the heat crawling up her back and the sweat seeping down her spine.


Simone is parked in front of a plush red-brick bungalow in Delhi’s posh Lutyens Zone. The bungalow stands well back from the pavement behind lush jamun trees. Probably explains the sweetness in the searing breeze.


Her hands grip the steering wheel, knuckles white. Simone is thinking, wondering if she wants to keep her job with the Indian Police Service (IPS). Her boss, Superintendent of Police (SP) Vijesh Jaiswal, had given her a simple choice after the ‘incident’ last month: meet the CBI-appointed therapist or get suspended. Simone would have happily gotten suspended—it wouldn’t be the first time anyway—rather than lie on a sofa and discuss her private affairs with a sham doctor, a stranger. But she knows it isn’t a choice. It is a direct order from a superior. And she isn’t one to break the chain of command. Orders ought to be followed. Period.


She pulls out her phone and flicks through her photos. Simone stops at a photo of her grandma, where she is beaming at the camera, waving a knife, about to blow out the candles on her eightieth birthday.


You see what I have to do because of you, Grams,’ she says aloud. ‘You had one job. One. To stay . . . alive.’ Her voice breaks.
Simone waits, hoping grandma would answer back, calling Simone ‘bachchu’ again in her sing-song voice. Sigh. If only photos could talk.


Let’s get this over with. Simone pockets the phone, puts on an N95 mask, tucks her police cap underneath her arm, and jumps out of the Jeep. She marches to the front gate of the bungalow.


A constable on sentry duty watches her approach, his gaze jammed on her shaved head. Her gleaming baldness has always invited glares. But she is used to the stares and the furtive glances. This is a choice. She had cut her locks two years ago when she had a run-in with the chief minister’s son in Bhopal and was wrongfully suspended. She has shaved her head ever since. Initially, as an act of defiance, now as a proud battle scar.


The constable sees the IPS insignia on her shoulder flash and salutes her immediately. ‘Good morning, madam ji!’


‘What’s the point of wearing a face mask that covers your mouth, but not your nose?’ Simone admonishes the constable, whose face mask has conveniently slipped to his chin. The pandemic might have fizzled out, but good hygiene shouldn’t. And neither should common sense.


The constable flashes a broad grin, his tobacco-stained teeth on full display. ‘Sorry, sorry.’ He hastily pulls up his mask, covering his hideous teeth. ‘How are you, madam ji?’


Simone recoils. She doesn’t have the patience for greetings or small talk. Simone has never understood why people do it. She comes to the point. ‘I have an appointment with Dr Dia Sengupta.’


‘Oh, minister sahab’s daughter?’ Simone narrows her eyes. Granted that the bungalow belongs to one of the cabinet ministers. But how does being the daughter of that minister define a grown, accomplished woman’s identity?


‘No, I’m not here to meet the minister’s daughter. I’m here to meet Dr Dia Sengupta, one of the leading therapists in Delhi,’ Simone corrects him.


The constable scrunches his forehead, confused. ‘Yes, madam ji. They are the same person. Same to same.’ She wants to thump the constable on the head because they are not the same.


But it’ll mean prolonging a conversation that she didn’t want in the first place. Abruptly, she turns away from the constable and strides to the unbolted front gate.


‘Wait, madam ji, you must sign the entry register,’ he calls after her.


Simone stops. Like it or not, she believes that rules must always be followed unless they contradict her values and ethics. She sighs. Turns around. The constable runs to her with an open register and a pen. She scribbles briskly and hands back the register.
The constable squints at what Simone has written. ‘Vijay Singh’s daughter?’ he reads aloud and looks up, confused. ‘Who is Vijay Singh? Your father?’




He chuckles. ‘Madam ji, you had to write your name, not your father’s name.’


Simone nods in agreement. ‘As you said, they are the same person. Same to same, right?’ Simone swivels on her feet and marches to the front gate without another word.



Get your copy of The Girl with Broken Dreams by Devashish Sardana wherever books are sold.

 From the Writer’s Desk ft. Rahul Pandita

by Avleen Kaur


To write books that have political blood and bones, in a country like ours, is a brave job that requires hard work. And here’s someone who’s trying to do it right by talking about important issues through deep rooted investigative journalism. We sat down with the incredible Rahul Pandita and discussed both his books, Our Moon Has Blood Clots and Hello, Bastar; the different processes that went behind writing a memoir and an investigative book, and what inspires him to write. 


What prompted you to write Hello, Bastar and what are you trying to say through it?


Hello, Bastar is a labour of many, many years of travel through central and eastern India, in what are widely known as left-wing, extremist-affected districts of India. Most of these travels happened at a time when the editors and intellectuals in Delhi and other bigger cities had very little idea about the movement and how large its future could be. Nobody anticipated how it would consume us in many ways in the following years until our former Prime Minister, Mr. Manmohan Singh called it the country’s biggest internal security threat.  

This book is basically about how a handful of young men and women believed in a certain idea of revolution and how they created the modern Naxal movement from the jungles of Bastar in the 1980s. Hello, Bastar is mostly meant for a non-academic reader, for someone who is a student of India and really wants to know what is happening in this part of the country.  


While your previous book, Our Moon Has Blood Clots was a memoir that rose out of personal and community experience, Hello, Bastar is more investigative in nature, made out of reportage and interviews. How different were both the processes? And was the latter more comfortable considering your journalistic background? 


I think Hello, Bastar was a relatively easier book to write because it was largely a part of what I do as a journalist. So, writing this did not feel as hard as the previous book which is part memoir-part reportage of the exodus and torture that happened to a minority community in the Kashmir Valley. That book was more difficult to write because of the personal history involved. And as my editor, Meru might recall that there were times when I had to wait through patches of darkness because of which the book became extremely difficult to write. But during those patches, Meru did handhold me quite a few times during the writing process for which I remain grateful to her.  


Both the books talk about conflicts. Is that something that particularly intrigues you?  


Well, I am a conflict writer. Early on in my career, when I came to Delhi, I made a pact with myself. I vowed that I will not report on things based out of New Delhi because most times when you care about an incident or event, you have a preconceived notion about it. And most times when you actually investigate on the ground level, you are surprised to realize that your preconceived notions about most things were absolutely false. So, the reportage part of Our Moon Has Blood Clots or the entirety of Hello, Bastar has been built out of investigative journeys made through the length and breadth of the country.  


Talking about preconceived notions, there must be a lot of things you would’ve learnt during Hello, Bastar. Was there one thing that particularly shocked you or was a wild revelation? 


Whenever I get a chance to interact with young people, I tell them, ‘I’ve learnt nothing in school or college. Whatever I have learnt of life, I have learnt from Bastar, really.’ I spent weeks and weeks embedded with the Maoist guerillas and Adivasis in the back of beyond and learnt years in days. So, every journey, every day has been replete with some learning. And many of those learnings have left me shocked, surprised and sometimes also thankful that I could travel to these parts and learn so much not only about these people but about life in general. 


And was it difficult reaching out to a community you don’t belong to? Were you apprehensive? Were they apprehensive in sharing their life and story with you?  


So again, I think this is a part of a larger problem which Indian journalism suffers from. Where journalists are just paradropped at some place because of a particular incident and they spend a couple of days there, piggybacking on the previous work of stringers or local resource persons and later on claim to understand everything about that area. In the past, I have typically called it ‘clean-bedsheet journalism’ where you leave for a small town in the morning and make sure that you come back to the small hotel by the evening. But that’s not how things work, at least in Bastar.  

You have to spend a lot of time in Bastar to understand its reality. When you’re travelling in the village during the day, you might come across an ordinary Adivasi at the roadside tea shop. Later, you find out that he is a Naxal Guerilla. But that is not something you will know if you just have tea there and proceed back to your station. Conflict zones are like snake pits, you don’t know who is who until you familiarize yourself to the place. 

Also, it takes a lot of time for people to open up about their story. There were times when we were embedded with Maoist groups of men and women, where young women especially would really shy away and not talk at all. But after spending some days with them and talking to them, telling them you mean well, that you’re there to know their story and make them comfortable – they open up. And that again, is unfortunately not possible when you’re there for a day or two.  

Once an author wrote that he spent a lot of time in Bastar but didn’t meet a single Naxal there. I remember joking about it and commenting that Naxals are not like Coca-Cola or Haldiram Bhujia. If you go inside villages, the penetration of Haldiram Bhujia is immense. But that’s not how Naxals are to be found. You have to spend a lot of time there before they let you in. 


Does the fear of backlash or controversy of writing about sensitive subjects govern your writing in some way? 


I think both my books with Penguin India prove the fact that I really don’t care about labels. In the past, I have been called a specialist of this and that and I refute those claims completely. I am just a student of India. Even my twitter bio says that. I came to journalism because I had jigyaasa, the intellectual curiosity about the things I saw around me and I wanted to explore their reality. So, my modus operandi is simple. If I’m intrigued about something and want to seek answers, I seek them for myself first before seeking them on behalf of anyone else. And that has pretty much guided my reporting from anywhere in India. So, I’m not really into what is fashionable to say and what isn’t. I say what I see and I try to write passionately about it.  


Do you have a particular target audience in mind when you write a book? Do you think Our Moon Has Blood Clots reached the right audience, considering the current political climate of the country? 


I think I am glad that Our Moon Has Blood Clots came out when our country’s politics was slightly simpler than this. My understanding of writing is very simple. I am a firm believer of the fact that your writing should be accessible to the last man down. So, there are many people who write to me saying that we have very scant understanding of English but they were able to read my book and I consider that my strength. I also think Indian journalists often miss out on the element of storytelling. So, when I write my books, I consider them an extension of my journalism. What I really want to do is to give the feel, colour and sound of the place and people I am talking about and that comes only when you have a basic understanding of storytelling. So I think these two parameters are personally very important to me.  


Politics shape every individual, especially a writer. And you, quite directly, write about overtly political issues. Considering that pen is mightier than the sword and books have the power to shape individuals, do you feel a heavy responsibility while writing?  


Yes, there’s a responsibility about what you’re writing.  

But again, like I said, you should not worry about labels. What you see, you see to the best of your ability. We’ve just come to this terrible and ugly situation where everything is reduced to the binary of left and right. Everyone has this pressing need to put everyone in a basket. I would not like to be in any basket. I hate this basket system. Personally, I give a lot of leeway to people. Most things around our universe are not black and white. They are shades of grey. There is a subtle nuance about everything. Who are we at the end of the day? We are the sum total of our experiences. Our politics is also shaped by what we have gone through as individuals. So, you should always keep that in mind before you accuse someone of being an urban Naxal or a closet Sanghi or any other such labels.  


Lastly, do you think there is a possibility of an endeavor where Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims could come together to share their respective points of view regarding the 1990s in the shape of a book or an art piece together?  


That’s an ideal situation. But for that to happen, the Kashmiri society from both sides has to meet somewhere. Unfortunately, we are not there right now. To begin with, the idea of reconciliation has to come from the majority in many ways. There has to be an acknowledgement about what happened in the 1990s. To the best of my knowledge, there is very little collective acknowledgement. In a private space, what a Kashmiri Pandit says to a Kashmiri Muslim doesn’t matter in the larger scheme of things. What you say collectively as a debate matters, which will then find expression in writing, art and theatre. I think some work here and there gets done. My friend, M.K. Raina is an eminent theatre personality and he tries to perform initiatives like these. There are plays in which both Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims have participated. And you will find a microcosm of this in things such as weddings sometimes. There’ll be a Kashmiri Pandit wedding and a Kashmiri Muslim singer will be performing there and everyone will be nostalgic about olden times. But these events are far and few and come from a personal space. But in terms of society at a larger level, these efforts are largely missing.  






If you’re intrigued to read Rahul Pandita’s works, you can get your copy of Our Moon Has Blood Clots and Hello, Bastar at your nearest bookstore or through Amazon.  




Perveen Mistry can’t rest until she sees justice done

November 1921. Edward VIII, Prince of Wales and future ruler of India, is arriving in Bombay to begin a fourmonth tour. The Indian subcontinent is chafing under British rule, and Bombay solicitor Perveen Mistry isn’t surprised when local unrest over the royal arrival spirals into riots. But she’s horrified by the death of Freny Cuttingmaster, an eighteen-year-old female Parsi student, who falls from a second-floor gallery just as the prince’s grand procession is passing by her college.

When Freny’s death appears suspicious, Perveen knows she can’t rest until she sees justice done. But Bombay is erupting: as armed British secret service march the streets, rioters attack anyone with perceived British connections and desperate shopkeepers destroy their own wares so they will not be targets of racial violence. Can Perveen help a suffering family when her own is in danger?

Here is an excerpt from Sujata Massey’s new book, The Bombay Prince that talks about Freny’s death.


The Bombay Prince: Perveen Mistry Investigates || Sujata Massey

“Miss Mistry, come down here,” Miss Daboo beseeched. Perveen knelt down and, feeling queasy, reached out to touch Freny’s wrist. It was still warm, yet the veins on the inside of her wrist seemed deflated. She could not detect a pulse. Perveen’s mother, Camellia, and sister-in-law, Gulnaz, were the kind of women brave enough to volunteer in hospitals. They might know another spot to look for a pulse. All Perveen could think of was the heartbeat.
Freny had fallen on her right side, so it was possible for Perveen to slide her hand under the khadi cloth and over the left side of Freny’s white cotton blouse.

“Don’t be obscene!” Miss Daboo muttered in Gujarati, and Perveen belatedly realized there were men watching her. Having felt no sign of life, she pulled back her hand.

“We must pray. God can work miracles.” Another Englishman had appeared. He looked to be in his fifties, with a long face made even paler by its contrast with his black robe. Right behind him was a breathless Principal Atherton.

The principal and the college chaplain had taken long enough to arrive at a scene of crucial emergency. But perhaps the police had occupied Principal Atherton’s time getting details about Dinesh Apte. And why weren’t they with him now?

The answer came: The college’s leadership didn’t know Freny was dead. Only she and Miss Daboo knew the truth. Or maybe— Lalita also did. Surely she would have tried to help her friend sit up. Surely

Mr. Atherton spoke between gasps. “I’ve just heard—about the accident—from the reverend.” Two more breaths. “Who is she?”

“Her name is Freny Cuttingmaster,” Alice said. “She’s a second-year student.”

“And what about you? Are you a nurse?” Mr. Atherton’s face was reddened, no doubt from agitation and heat.

“Sorry, I am not.” Perveen looked away from him and back at Freny. She thought of saying she was a lawyer, but it didn’t seem the right place.

“Miss Perveen Mistry, my old friend from Oxford, is here at my invitation,” Alice said quickly. “Miss Mistry, this is Mr. Ath- erton, our principal, and our chaplain, Reverend Sullivan.”

Principal Atherton pressed his lips together disapprovingly. “I am not—entertaining interviews for women faculty. This is an emergency—”

“I’m not a teacher; I’m a solicitor with a practice nearby.” Having honestly admitted her field, Perveen didn’t know how long the college administrator would allow her to linger.

“Miss Acharya, is it correct that you were first on the scene?” Atherton had turned his attention to the student, who was clutching Alice.

“Yes. I was a few yards ahead of the others,” Lalita said in a choked voice. “Miss Daboo was with me as well.”

Atherton’s eyebrows drew together. “And where was Miss Cuttingmaster during the procession?”

“Actually, we realized midway through the proceedings she wasn’t in the stands with us.” Lalita’s voice was hesitant, as if she didn’t want to admit she’d known all along the girl hadn’t showed up.

“Yes. She must have had her accident while we were turned watching the prince!” Miss Daboo said.

The excitement of the parade could have masked any cries, even though the college and its garden were just a few dozen yards behind the viewing stand.

“Maybe she fell down. I only hope . . .” Lalita’s voice trailed off.

“What is it you are hoping, my dear?” Reverend Sullivan prompted.

“I hope she’s going to wake up.” Lalita was clenching and unclenching her hands. “Why can’t the nurse come from the infirmary? Didn’t anyone call for her?”

“Leave the response to faculty,” said the reverend.

“I think someone should fetch the police.” As Perveen said it, she couldn’t believe the words had even come from her mouth. The police! The men who’d so recently challenged her were needed to secure the scene and take note of details.

“The police?” Mr. Atherton’s voice faltered. “But Miss Daboo says this is an accident.” He shook his head as he looked at the smooth path and neat green lawn. “I wonder what caused her to fall?”

“It could be that she jumped. This was going to be a day of protest for some.” Reverend Sullivan turned to grimace at the mass of students standing a respectful distance behind. “I know some of you are in the resistance club. If you were aware that she was planning self-destruction, you must tell us now.”

Did the chaplain understand Freny’s life was gone? Perveen looked at his stern, unmoving face until he glared at her.

One of the boys in a Gandhi cap raised a hand and spoke when the chaplain acknowledged him. “Reverend, nobody heard any such talk in the Student Union meetings.”

A blond man in his twenties, who had a shaken expression, put a hand on the shoulder of the student who’d spoken. “That is my impression as well. Arjun, thank you for coming forward.”

“I’ll go for the police,” a student voice said from within the crowd, and three boys took off through the gate.


What really happened? And what is going to happen next?

Get a copy of Sujata Massey’s The Bombay Prince to find out!

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