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An Exclusive Glimpse into the Life of ‘Gobind’

Embark on a journey with Gobind by Harinder Sikka, a story filled with love, loyalty, and tough choices. Born in poverty, Gobind rises through the ranks of the Indian Navy, but his success is shadowed by unfulfilled promises and unresolved love. When faced with a new challenge and a tempting encounter in Russia, Gobind must choose between duty and desire.

 

Read this exclusive excerpt to get a glimpse into the early life of Gobind and taste the thrill of a love story, a saga of passion, and human endurance all wrapped in one!

 

Gobind
Gobind || Harinder Sikka

***

As the sun emerged from the distant horizon, the fields too began changing colour. The rapidly strengthening sun rays turned brighter with every passing minute, turning the dark and dense looking crops into a lush green landscape. Tiny golden-yellow flowers on top of the crops looked as if each plant had been knighted with a golden crown by mother nature. All kinds of birds emerged from their deep slumber and filled the atmosphere with a burst of chirpy sounds.
The entire village was soon bathed in different hues. Not to be left behind, the animals too began walking around their territories, marking, urinating on every pole, tree and bush. The farmers too began making a beeline on the snake-like thin track to their respective fields. Their farming tools hung from their shoulders like weapons saddled on the shoulders of soldiers enroute to the battlefield. Nature in its full glory was like a beacon of peace, love and tranquility all round.

 

Gargling and spitting the water out, Ranjit Singh accepted from his wife an old piece of cloth that was once a garment, re-stitched to serve as a face napkin. While handing it back to Amrita, he looked at her inquiringly, ‘Where’s Gobind?’

 

‘Oh, he has already left for the fields. Says he will come back in three hours and go to school afterwards,’ she replied.

 

The cloth napkin slipped out of Ranjit’s hand and fell on the wet floor between them.

 

‘Which fields?’ he asked, his face filled with shock and surprise.

 

‘To work in Bihari Lal’s field. Before leaving home, he told me that he wished to earn while he studied. I couldn’t stop him. He just left without discussing it further.’

 

Ranjit was speechless. His young, school-going teenage son had taken a decision to work part-time, without even consulting his father.

 

‘I don’t know what to make of all this. Working part time isn’t wrong. In fact, I am happy for this will inculcate discipline in him. But all of a sudden? I will ask Bihari ji what’s he up to.’

 

Amrita bent down to pick the cloth from the floor. Then, flapping it in the air repeatedly, she tried to remove the excess water it had absorbed from the wet floor and flung it on the clothesline to dry. She turned towards her husband and looked straight into his eyes. ‘Maybe we should leave him alone. Let him discover himself. He didn’t sleep well. He even sat up on the cot in the middle of night to say his prayers. He was unsettled last night after your stern talk. But he looked different this morning and very charged up when I met him, before he left quickly. There’s this visible change in him that I have never seen before. I am happy and worried.’

 

‘Prayer? Gobind? And how do you know he has changed?’ Ranjit’s face was now filled with confusion.

 

‘Because I am his mother.’

 

Ranjit’s eyes followed Amrita as she went inside the room. Then, wiping his hands on the cloth napkin that Amrita had just hung, he turned his attention outside. He lifted himself up on his toes and looked in the direction of the large haveli with vast green fields where his son was supposed to be working. His eyes scanned the horizon but couldn’t see Gobind. Turning back, he walked inside to find Amrita standing at the entrance, watching her husband.

 

‘Please stop worrying. You’ll get late for work. Get ready; I will get your breakfast. Your tiffin is also ready. Please don’t forget to take it along.’

 

Amrita’s affection-filled instructions relaxed Ranjit to some extent. Stepping into the room, he sat down on the floor while Amrita served him breakfast. It was the same food that he had eaten last night. He ate in silence. But his mind was racing in many directions while Amrita rotated the hand-held fan on its swivel. Before leaving home for work, he stood before the lord’s picture hung on the wall, joined his palms and murmured so softly that even his own ears couldn’t hear his own words.

 

‘With your permission, dear lord, I wish to go to work. It’s a new day, an amazing one at that. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Only you, dear Guru Gobind, can help my son, Gobind.’

 

***

Get your copy of Gobind by Harinder Sikka wherever books are sold.

Fool Me Twice: A Birthday Surprise Like No Other but Was it Worth the Risk?

Ever wondered what happens when teenage romance collides with life’s unexpected curveballs? In Fool Me Twice by Nona Uppal, the answer unfolds amidst the bustling streets of New Delhi. Brace yourself for a whirlwind of emotions as we delve into Sana’s journey of love, loss, and the resilience that follows.

Read this exclusive excerpt to know more!

Fool Me Twice
Fool Me Twice || Nona Uppal

***

‘Ashish, can you cut it out, please? You’re going to get us arrested.’ Bani had been game for Ashish’s plan in theory, which meant she, half-drunk on a pint of beer, had nodded furiously when he had explained it. Now that they were mid-execution, it seemed at least slightly criminal.

‘I’m too young and pretty to go to jail.’ Ashish turned around to glare at Bani.

‘I’ve got this,’ he hissed back.

‘Bhaiya, in sabka kitna (How much for these)?’ Ashish asked the man handling the roadside bird shop, pointing to all the birds on display. ‘And the ones at the
back too.’

The shop, called ‘Flying Dreemz’—a five-minute walk from our school, Horizon High International, in Hauz Khas—adorned the streets with the pastel hues of pink, blue and green cages that could only do so much to hide the sad faces of the birds trapped in them. The shopkeeper was understandably suspicious. Was he being recorded for a prank on TV?

 

‘Sab? Fifty ke fifty? Pakka?’ he confirmed. The deal was one of those too-good-to-be-true kinds.

‘Haan, pakka. All birds, no discount. Kitna?’

Ashish had no way to determine if the price the shopkeeper quoted was a steal or a loot. When his father had handed him the stack of notes, he’d been ultra-generous. ‘Make sure you get her something nice,’ he had said, patting Ashish on the back.

Handing the shopkeeper the money warily, Ashish wondered if this was going to be a disaster.

‘Badiya sir,’ the shopkeeper said, comically bobbing his head as he retrieved the notes from Ashish.

Having successfully completed the transaction, Ashish looked at Bani with his ‘Are you game?’ eyes.

‘This could either be epic or an epic blunder,’ she blurted out, her hands fixed on her phone camera, with Ashish positioned in the centre of the shaky frame.
‘Lekar kaise jaayenge aap inhe (How will you take these)?’ The guy asked Ashish, eyeing his i10. ‘Truckwruck ka kuch arrangement?’
But carrying the birds home was not what Ashish had in mind.

One by one, he unlocked the cages that weren’t really locked in the first place. Having been born and bred in captivity, it took a few seconds for the birds to
realize what an open cage meant. Only when one of them dared to flap its wings and fly into the blue sky did the others realize they could do it too.

 

‘Yeh kya kar rahe hain aap?’ the shopkeeper shrieked, finally looking up from counting his earnings.

‘Saala paagal!’ he scrambled to lock the leftover cages, yelling profanities at Ashish and Bani, but it was too late. The last bird had already flown away.

 

Ashish hadn’t gone mad, though. Far from it. Every day for the past two years, Ashish, Bani and I had walked out of our school’s main gate soon after the final school bell for a quick ice cream before heading back home. Our trusted Kwality Walls cart was usually parked right next to this bird shop, the ownership of which had been passed down to many different men over the years. Despite looking forward to my Cola bar all day, my skin burning from the sweltering heat, one look at the birds would make me lose all my appetite. I admit that it was mostly silly. But I couldn’t drown it out. All those pretty birds locked away in pastel-coloured cages, waiting for someone to set them free. Instead, they were bought by rich people and carried in cars to jazz up their maximalist homes.

 

It was one of those things I thought no one was noticing, a two-second glitch on my face that the most attentive of eyes could miss. Here’s where I got it wrong—Ashish was always looking. So, for my eighteenth birthday, when his consistent pleading for me to tell him what he could gift me failed, he rejigged his strategy. What could he do that would mean more than buying me a pair of shoes I would ditch for my Bata chappals or a bag to fill with stuff I would much rather carry in my hands?

 

After capturing the rainbow colours in the sky as the birds flew away, Bani panned the camera towards Ashish’s face. ‘Look here,’ Bani signalled.
Ashish faced the camera. ‘I don’t know if this is stupid,’ he said. ‘Umm, it probably is. But, fuck it. It fits because I’m stupidly in love with you. Happy birthday, Sana.’

 

Bani turned the camera around to record herself.
‘If you think it’s stupid, it was all his idea,’ she said, laughing. ‘But I love you too, munchkin.’

 

The end was a lot choppier than the rest—the camera being stuffed, while still on, in Bani’s bag, as they escaped in Ashish’s i10 that drove like it was always in second gear. I saw the video and heard the entire story a week later, on the night of my birthday, as Ashish and Bani sat next to me and played it on Bani’s laptop. Scrunching up the fabric of my loose t-shirt to wipe the fat tears trickling down my cheeks, I broke out laughing as the end scenes rolled. This kind of luck and love, I realized, might just be illegal to possess.

 

***

Curios to know what happened next?
Get your copy of Fool Me Twice by Nona Uppal wherever books are sold.

How Do the Young and Single Find Love in Bengaluru?

Welcome to Bengaluru, where the excitement of tech meets the search for love. Authors Malini Goyal and Prashant Prakash spotlight the experiences of young entrepreneurs, as they navigate the city’s startup culture and dating platforms. Gear up to unravel the complexities of modern dating in Bengaluru and find out whether this city, known for delivering everything on tap, can also deliver the elusive emotion of love.

Let the unboxing begin!

 

Unboxing Bengaluru
Unboxing Bengaluru || Malini Goyal, Prashanth Prakash

***

From coffee to condoms, this city of young techies can deliver everything on tap.

Well, everything except perhaps love.

I spoke to multiple male founders who are young and single to understand their point of view. On one Sunday in October, I spent a leisurely evening catching up with a well-to-do founder—let’s call him S. Ashwin—in his early 30s. He is an NIT engineer with an Oxbridge MBA. Founded in 2014, his startup had scaled up decently with 300-odd employees. For a long time, his monthly salary was a measly Rs. 60,000. ‘Initially, many women thought since I was a founder, I would be loaded. What they didn’t understand is that all my wealth was on paper,’ he says. Soon, he figured out how to signal correctly for his Tinder dates. He would arrive in his run-down scooter on first dates. Instantly, his conversion rate from first to second date dipped. But then the second to third date conversion rose sharply. ‘The elimination strategy worked,’ Ashwin says.

 

Whether they are men or women, for founders in general, the initial few years are always hard. They could be working seven days a week, twelve hours a day, with zero vacation time, little money and a rollercoaster life that is constantly on the edge. Consumed by their startup and the all-round pressure, there is little bandwidth for anything else. Such distractions or preoccupations during intimate conversations can be very off-putting. Lack of time for social engagements can be a deal-breaker. Raghav Chakravarthy, thirty-three, cofounder of Walnut Knowledge Solutions, experienced this first-hand. ‘Being an entrepreneur, I was so busy building my startup that I often found myself zoned out during conversations. There wasn’t enough time to build a relationship,’ he says. In 2022, as the startup stabilized, he finally took the plunge and got married.

 

 

However, there is a consensus among both men and women that dating platforms have made casual hook-ups very easy but finding love or companionship and building a long-term relationship very difficult. Start with the available pool on the platforms, with its gender and demographic skew. With a strong bias towards younger singles in their twenties, older singles have a tough time finding matches on these platforms.

 

Beyond this, men and women face different sets of issues. Women like Gowda and others worry about fake profiles, men lying about their relationship status and about falling prey to fraud. Men have very different problems. Many complain about not finding enough matches on dating apps. ‘On dating platforms, conventional attributes like tall, fair men with beards, good cars get many more matches than people like me,’ says pet parent Siddharth Ram. Ram has been using these dating apps for a few years now. He says the ratio on these platforms could be as bad as ten boys to one girl.

 

His experience on matrimony platforms like BharatMatrimony.com and Shaadi.com has been much better, but they pose another set of problems. ‘Here, I got fifty to sixty matches. It was a great morale booster. But it had another problem. It was the girl’s  parents who were the arbiters. So my condition was that I will not talk to parents. The thing with parents is that they just fuck up the entire dating experience. They don’t understand what figuring out is,’ he says. Also, these sites offer filters like horoscope, caste, gotra that often do not resonate with the younger lot. There are others, like IITian Shrrinesh Bala—who is now building his startup Mello—who are looking beyond dating apps. ‘I wasn’t very lucky on dating platforms. So I was surprised by the many interesting profiles I got through matrimony sites like IITIIMShaadi.com,’ he says.

 

What are these young men and women seeking on these dating platforms and in their relationships? Have things changed at all? It’s a question I ask many young people in the city. Sex and casual hook-ups are obvious. And it isn’t just men seeking it. ‘There is equal desire on both sides. Women are quite comfortable with it,’ says Ram.

 

For those looking for longer-term relationships, there are many filters, old and new. Like the decision to have kids. It is no longer a given. ‘Many more women today don’t want to have kids and are upfront about it,’ says Ashwin. Similarly, the topic of marriage or cohabitation does come up occasionally. For some, a shared love for pets is important and can be a deal-breaker. ‘In general, I notice that what they want isn’t very clear but what they don’t want is absolutely clear,’ he adds.

***

Get your copy of Unboxing Bengaluru by Malini Goyal and Prashanth Prakash wherever books are sold.

Swipe Right on Love with these Romance Books

Get ready to swoon, chuckle, and ponder with these heartwarming tales of love and romance. From chance encounters in paradise to relationships that make you go, “Hmm,” these stories will tickle your heart and leave you hungry for more.

 

World's Best Girlfriend
World’s Best Girlfriend || Durjoy Datta

Daksh and Aanchal meet under improbable circumstances in the most unlikely of places-a posh resort in the Andamans. While Aanchal is fighting hard to escape the shackles of a lower middle-class existence, Daksh is aimless and unsure of what his future holds. Strangely, they are drawn to each other.

Four years later, when they meet again, Daksh’s world has crumbled around him. The burden of caring for his sick father and six-year-old sister has left him with little time for anything else. Yet, despite their diverging paths, Daksh and Aanchal find themselves reconnecting in unexpected ways. Their mutual attraction deepens.

Till now, fate has been pushing them together, but what will happen when they decide to take matters into their own hands? Will life be as they’ve imagined, or will destiny take even that away from them?

 

The Girl Who Kept Falling in Love
The Girl Who Kept Falling in Love || Rheea Mukherjee

When Kaya meets and falls deeply in love with a fellow activist from the very religious community the country is actively trying to erase, her twin purposes are miraculously aligned in an intoxicating combination that she becomes immediately fearful of losing. In the midst of spirited protests and rising violence, Kaya bears witness to vast human suffering while experiencing profound joy. It is time to make a choice. Kaya knows if she chooses love this time, she will betray everything she has claimed to believe in. If she is willing to do that, can Kaya truly be loved by the person she most desires?

Told through the lens of urban myths, accounts of past lovers, bared confessions and half-truths that make up Kaya’s world, The Girl Who Kept Falling in Love dives deep into the futilities of being attached to global aspiration and fighting institutionalized hate while chasing a universal need for love and acceptance.

 

A touch of eternity
A Touch of Eternity || Durjoy Datta

 

Born on the same day and at the same time, Druvan and Anvesha know they are soulmates in every sense of the word. Their parents, however, refuse to accept their ‘togetherness’ at first and try to tear them apart. Druvan and Anvesha hold on to each other against all odds.
In the same timeline, the world is on the brink of a major scientific breakthrough that could make reincarnation possible.
This is an opportunity for the two to prove their love and to tell the world that it is love that can make the impossible, possible.
Druvan and Anvesha participate in the experiment as if their life depends on it, because it does. Will the dream of a man to control love and life come true? And when the time comes, can one stay true to their soulmate?

 

If It's Not Forever It's Not Love
If It’s Not Forever It’s Not Love || Durjoy Datta, Nikita Singh

To the everlasting power of love . . . When Deb, an author and publisher, survives the bomb blasts at Chandni Chowk, he knows his life is nothing short of a miracle. And though he escapes with minor injuries, he is haunted by the images and voices that he heard on that unfortunate day. Even as he recovers, his feet take him to where the blasts took place. From the burnt remains he discovers a diary. It seems to belong to a dead man who was deeply in love with a girl. As he reads the heartbreaking narrative, he knows that this story must never be left incomplete. Thus begins Deb’s journey with his girlfriend, Avantika, and his best friend, Shrey, to hand over the diary to the man’s beloved. Highly engrossing and powerfully told, If It’s Not Forever . . . tells an unforgettable tale of love and life.

 

Till the Last Breath
Till the Last Breath || Durjoy Datta

When death is that close, will your heart skip a beat? Two patients are admitted to room no. 509. One is a brilliant nineteen-year-old medical student, suffering from an incurable, fatal disease. She counts every extra breath as a blessing. The other is a twenty-five-year-old drug addict whose organs are slowly giving up. He can’t wait to get rid of his body. To him, the sooner the better. Two reputed doctors, fighting their own demons from the past, are trying everything to keep these two patients alive, even putting their medical licences at risk. These last days in the hospital change the two patients, their doctors and all the other people around them in ways they had never imagined. Till the Last Breath is a deeply sensitive story that reminds us what it means to be alive.

 

Wish I Could Tell You
Wish I Could Tell You || Durjoy Datta

A disillusioned and heartbroken Anusha finds herself in the small world of WeDonate.com. Struggling to cope with her feelings and the job of raising money for charity, she reluctantly searches for a worthwhile cause to support.
For Ananth, who has been on the opposite side, no life is less worthy, no cause too small to support.
Behind them are teams for whom going to extraordinary lengths to save lives is more than a full-time occupation. In front of them is the virtual world of social media-watching, interacting, judging, making choices, and sometimes, saving lives.
From the virtual to the real, their lives and that of their families, entangle in a way that moving together is the only solution. They can’t escape each other.
In this world of complicated relationships, should love be such a difficult ride?

 

Your Dreams are Mine Now
Your Dreams are Mine Now || Ravinder Singh

‘It can’t be love . . .’ he thinks and immediately his heart protests
They are complete opposites! She’s a small-town girl who takes admission in Delhi University (DU). An idealist, studies are her first priority.He’s a Delhi guy, seriously into youth politics in DU. He fights to make his way. Student union elections are his first priority.
But then opposites attract as well!
A scandal on campus brings them together, they begin to walk the same path and somewhere along,
fall in love . . . But their fight against evil comes at a heavy price, which becomes the ultimate test of their lives. Against the backdrop of dominant campus politics, Your Dreams Are Mine Now is an innocent love story that will tug at your heartstrings.

 

It was Always You
It was Always You ||

 

Karan and Shruti are a happily married couple. Until Karan’s ex resurfaces into his life one day. Soon Karan finds himself getting nostalgic over matters of the heart and thinking fondly of his first romance. Will he put his steady and seemingly perfect marriage at stake for his ex-girlfriend?
Meanwhile his best friend Aditya finds his own relationship with his wife Jasmine going through an emotional turmoil. Will both friends work towards keeping their marriage afloat, or make a decision they would later regret?

You only live once
You only live once || Stuti Changle

What if you ran away from your life today?

Twenty years later, three people are looking for you.

One is dying to meet you again.

The other wishes you had never met them.

The third wishes they could have met you at least once.

You are one person. Aren’t you? But you are not the same person to each of them.

Find the answers about your own life in this story about searching for love and discovering yourself. Join a broken but rising YouTube star Alara, a struggling but hopeful stand-up comedian Aarav, and a zany but zen beach shack owner Ricky. Together, take the journey to seek the truth behind the famous singer Elisha’s disappearance somewhere by the deep sea in Goa.

Will you be able to find Elisha? Or will you end up finding yourself?

Clash of the opposites

Avni believes true love is a myth. Unlike her gregarious Punjabi parents, she prefers to live in her own little world and wants nothing more than to be left alone with her books for company. When she comes across her new neighbour Sidharth, she is irked by his behaviour. A fun and outgoing Gujju boy, Sidharth is everything Avni detests. As fate would have it, he is instantly drawn to her on their first meeting. But Avni wants nothing to do with the boy who seems to be ruining her chances of securing the top position in college. A series of miscommunications makes Avni believe the worst of Sidharth, further ruining his hopes of ever having a chance at love.

Can’t Quarantine Our Love is an epic love story of two neighbours with a twist of fate that puts everything they know to a heartbreaking test. Here’s an excerpt from the book!

**

Sometimes life throws things at you that are way beyond your control. Sidharth chose to stay silent and not react to Avni’s slap. He knew he was equally at fault. But he had to face the heat from the head of the department who had asked him to bring his parents to college the next day or else he would get suspended.

When he reached home, he barely interacted with anyone and went straight to his room and locked himself in. He wanted to spend some time just by himself and his thoughts. He felt anxious thinking Avni would never talk to him again and that it was perhaps over before it could even begin. Adding to his anxiety was the fact that he had to tell his mother about what had happened. He didn’t know how to bring it up and called Bani for advice.

‘My mom will kick me out of the house if she finds out what happened,’ Sidharth said.

Bani tried to calm him down with an idea. ‘Dude, do not tell your mom anything. I know someone who can come to college as your fake dad. He had acted as my fake dad in the twelfth standard when my parents were hauled up for my low attendance. No one will come to know, trust me. We can pay him with bottles of his favourite alcohol.’

‘That’s asking for more trouble. If I get caught, I’ll get screwed,’ Sidharth replied. He wasn’t too enthused about the idea. ‘I shouldn’t have got drunk. It’s all your fault. You pushed me to keep drinking. And I lost control.’

‘Yes, and I also pushed you to dance with Avni without her permission, right?’ Bani replied.

‘Anyway, I think I have no choice.’

Sidharth hung up and stepped outside his bedroom. His grandfather was watching a reporter screaming on the top of his lungs on a prime time news show, unaware that Sidharth had some breaking news of his own.

‘Mom, I need to talk to you.’

‘I am busy right now, can’t you see?’ his mom said as she kneaded the dough for dinner.

But Sidharth pleaded with her and she finally stepped out of the kitchen, washing her hands in the basin on her way out. Nana knew something was up, and switched off the TV. As she stepped closer, his mother finally saw the bruises on his face. She panicked and rushed towards him.

front cover of Can't Quarantine Our Love
Can’t Quarantine Our Love || Sudeep Nagarkar

 

‘What happened? Is everything okay?’ she asked worriedly.

Nana walked towards him to inspect the bruises more closely. ‘Did something happen in college?’

Sidharth didn’t know what to tell them. He looked down, unable to make eye contact. He knew what would follow but somehow he gathered courage and spoke up.

‘Mom, the thing is that today in college . . . we had a freshers’ party and . . .’

‘Come straight to the point. Did you pick up a fight with someone?’

How should I tell her? If I tell her about Avni, she’ll take an avatar of Kali Ma. I better stick to the fight. ‘Actually, I got into a fight with some seniors, and the professors saw it. They’ve called you to college tomorrow to meet the HOD.’

I want to tell her the entire episode. Why am I focusing on just the fight that happened after the party? If she comes to know about Avni tomorrow, she’ll be even angrier. No . . . I can’t tell her. I’ll think of a more plausible explanation tonight.

His mom was devastated. He was half expecting her to slap him blue in the face, but she just stood in her place looking zapped. Sidharth could see tears in her eyes. He looked at Nana, who was his usual cool self.

‘Mom, I am sorry.’ He thought of telling her the whole story but just couldn’t find the courage to do so.

His mother finally spoke up. ‘Didn’t I tell you that you have responsibilities? Do you know the amount of effort we are making so that you can get the best education? And how are you repaying us for it? It’s hardly been a few days since college started, and look at you! These years will decide the course of your life.’

Damn, why are all parents as dramatic as a Sooraj Bharjatiya movie?

**

 

Will love find a way?

Right from childhood, Sahil and Ayra have been very different from each other. While Sahil is careless, carefree, ‘new money’ and ‘the brat’, Ayra is sensitive, reserved, shy and not easy to talk to. And that is probably what attracts Sahil to her. Their story progresses slowly and delicately, and things gradually take on a love-tinged hue.

Find an excerpt below that gives a glimpse into how Sahil and Ayra’s relationship blooms.

**

The earthy smell of damp soil filled the void between us. Semi-drenched, we took shelter in the nearest shop and I gave her the scarlet silk scarf that I had bought from the store earlier that evening—my first ever present to her. ‘Happy birthday!’ I wished her again as she placed the scarf around her neck. It complimented her skin and she looked lovely. Yes, I did curse myself for not being able to give her the pair of earrings, which were waiting for us at the restaurant but this was no way less. Like us, many other people pushed themselves under a tiny shelter and so she had to come closer to me. We spoke in whispers and marvelled at the rain. as the rain clouds started to disperse, people moved away and so did she. after around half an hour later, the rain finally stopped. It was time for us to part ways as I had to go to attend college the next day in another city and she had to get back home in time because that evening she was to be home alone. I offered to arrange a ride for her to go back home but she preferred to take an uber instead after she dropped me at the airport.

‘I hope I didn’t hurt you,’ she revisited the topic one last time as we were about to say goodbye to each other at the airport. There were so many people around going in and out of the place. I didn’t want to go in; I wanted to talk to her all night that night but I knew that we both had to go. It was getting dark already and a sudden worry around her safety crept into my head.

‘No!’ I said shaking my head. I was amazed that she felt the way she did because if someone had to be sorry it had to be me. Meeting her that day and then going away made me realize that I did not want to go back. all this was so new to me—the meeting and the parting all happening at such short notice. I wanted to know her more and ask her everything that she had to tell me. I knew that it was all so sudden and also kind of rushed. But you cannot control your feelings—I felt embarrassed by my feelings despite being aware that they were as genuine as they can be. She had touched my heart with her genuineness and I smiled at her to tell her that it was all good—nothing that she ever said could have hurt me.

To You, With Love || Shravya Bhinder

She gave me a warm smile in return and moved her tongue over her lips while she framed her thoughts into a sentence. In a grave, low voice—the kind that one uses with kids to make them understand very important matters of life—she told me, ‘Sometimes I feel that intelligent people are so full of doubts nowadays while fools are full of themselves and overly confident. If intelligent people do not follow their dreams and only fools do, the world will be a circus for the next generation. Think about it.’ With these words, she gently kissed my right cheek making me the happiest man at the airport at that time and murmured a soft goodbye. She walked away not looking back at me even once as I stood there almost melting under the cold breeze.

She was broken but pure magic. Her understanding of things made life so much simpler. Her presence was what I had been looking for in my life and by then I knew that as well.

When I reached home that night, I decided to work on my book as soon as I was done with the assignment from college. I will have to accept that I did struggle a lot trying to brush aside the memories of the gentle goodbye kiss, which took me by surprise. It was all happening very quickly and I wondered if I was living in some parallel universe. She was too good to be true and we had known each other for only a few weeks, yet it felt as if we had known one another for decades, and if you look at it, we really did. Her entry in my life made something click, like when a key clicks inside a lock and you know that you have found the right one.

**

A beautiful story about how true love triumphs over all odds that life throws its way, To You, With Love is sure to tug at your heartstrings.

The Boy Who Loved — An Exclusive Excerpt

1 January 1999
Hey Raghu Ganguly (that’s me),
I am finally putting pen to paper. The scrunch of the sheets against the fanged nib, the slow absorption of the ink, seeing these unusually curved letters, is definitely satisfying; I’m not sure if writing journal entries to myself like a schizophrenic is the answer I’m looking for. But I have got to try. My head’s dizzy from riding on the sinusoidal wave that has been my life for the last two years. On most days I look for ways to die—the highest building around my house, the sharpest knife in the kitchen, the nearest railway station, a chemist shop that would unquestioningly sell twenty or more sleeping pills to a sixteen-year-old, a packet of rat poison—and on some days I just want to be scolded by Maa–Baba for not acing the mathematics exam, tell Dada how I will beat his IIT score by a mile, or be laughed at for forgetting to take the change from the bania’s shop.
I’m Raghu and I have been lying to myself and everyone around me for precisely two years now. Two years since my best friend of four years died, one whose friendship I thought would outlive the two of us, engraved forever in the space– time continuum. But, as I have realized, nothing lasts forever. Now lying to others is fine, everyone does that and it’s healthy and advisable—how else are you going to survive the suffering in this cruel, cruel world? But lying to yourself? That shit’s hard, that will change you, and that’s why I made the resolution to start writing a journal on the first of this month, what with the start of a new year and all, the last of this century.
I must admit I have been dilly-dallying for a while now and not without reason. It’s hard to hide things in this house with Maa’s sensitive nose never failing to sniff out anything Dada, Baba or I have tried to keep from her. If I were one of those kids who live in palatial houses with staircases and driveways I would have plenty of places to hide this journal, but since I am not, it will have to rest in the loft behind the broken toaster, the defunct Singer sewing machine and the empty suitcases.
So Raghu, let’s not lie to ourselves any longer, shall we? Let’s say the truth, the cold, hard truth and nothing else, and see if that helps us to survive the darkness. If this doesn’t work and I lose, checking out of this life is not hard. It’s just a seven-storey drop from the roof top, a quick slice of the wrist, a slip on the railway track, a playful ingestion of pills or the accidental consumption of rat poison away. But let’s try and focus on the good.
Durga. Durga.
12 January 1999
Today was my first day at the new school, just two months before the start of the tenth-standard board exams. Why Maa– Baba chose to change my school in what’s said to be one of the most crucial year in anyone’s academic life is amusing to say the least—my friendlessness. 
‘If you don’t make friends now, then when will you?’ Maa said. They thought the lack of friends in my life was my school’s problem and had nothing to do with the fact that my friend had been mysteriously found dead, his body floating in the still waters of the school swimming pool. He was last seen with  me. At least that’s what my classmates believe and say. Only I know the truth.
When Dada woke me up this morning, hair parted and sculpted to perfection with Brylcreem, teeth sparkling, talcum splotches on his neck, he was grinning from ear to ear. Unlike me he doesn’t have to pretend to be happy. Isn’t smiling too much a sign of madness? He had shown the first symptoms when he picked a private-sector software job over a government position in a Public Sector. Undertaking which would have guaranteed a lifetime of unaccountability. Dada may be an IITian but he’s not the smarter one of us. 
‘Are you excited about the new school, Raghu? New uniform, new people, new everything? Of course you’re excited! I never quite liked your old school. You will make new friends here,’ said Dada with a sense of happiness I didn’t feel. ‘Sure. If they don’t smell the stench of death on me.’ ‘Oh, stop it. It’s been what? Over two years? You know how upset Maa–Baba get,’ said Dada. ‘Trust me, you will love your new school! And don’t talk about Sami at the breakfast table.’ ‘I was joking, Dada. Of course I am excited!’ I said, mimicking his happiness.
Dada falls for these lies easily because he wants to believe them. Like I believed Maa–Baba when they once told me, ‘We really liked Sami. He’s a nice boy.’ Sami, the dead boy, was never liked by Maa–Baba. For Baba it was enough that his parents had chosen to give the boy a Muslim name. Maa had more valid concerns like his poor academic performance, him getting caught with cigarettes in his bag, and Sami’s brother being a school dropout. Despite all the love they showered on me in the first few months after Sami’s death, I thought I saw what could only be described as relief that Sami, the bad influence, was no longer around. Now they use his name to their advantage. ‘Sami would want you to make new friends,’ they would say. I let Maa feed me in the morning. It started a few days after Sami’s death and has stuck ever since.
Maa’s love for me on any given day is easily discernible from the size of the morsels she shoves into my mouth. Today the rice balls and mashed potatoes were humungous. She watched me chew like I was living art. And I ate because I believe the easiest way to fool anyone into not looking inside and finding that throbbing mass of sadness is to ingest food. A person who eats well is not truly sad. While we ate, Baba lamented the pathetic fielding placement of the Indian team and India’s questionable foreign policy simultaneously.
‘These bloody Musalmans, these filthy Pakistanis! They shoot our soldiers…
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