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Where the Sun Never Sets: About a day in the lockdown

Many things in life come unexpected, as did the COVID-19 pandemic. The highs of life suddenly turn into lows and everyday events seem to become hard to deal with. During such phases, the present time slows down and one goes back to thinking about their past. As clichéd as it may sound, one eventually finds the light at the end of the tunnel.

During a similar time, Stuti Changle’s protagonist in Where the Sun Never Sets, comes to terms with her past that she has been running away from. Read an excerpt from the book to get a glimpse of Changle’s protagonist’s thoughts penned down in her diary.

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Where the Sun Never Sets
Where the Sun Never Sets || Stuti Changle

Today felt just like every day is going to feel in my lockdown life.

Once upon a time, it rained for hours, just like it rained today, heavily, unendingly, unstoppably. Rain might wash the physical world, but with it, washed-out memories resurface. Rains deepen the colours of your surroundings as if you’ve unknowingly switched to 4K HD mode. It also deepens the colours in your mind, unlocking the deepest of desires.

Rain is powerful indeed. And what does rain remind you of? The rain reminded me of the onion fritters Mom would deep fry until they were golden and crisp. The mere thought lit up my face, filling my mouth with water. I closed my eyes for a moment, imagining the crisp fritters between my teeth, chewing them with a crunch. Nishit, my ex-boyfriend, would often give me company. He would also tell me that peacocks teach you to dance your sorrows away in the rain.

The rain also reminded me of masala chai, the kind my landlady prepares in Gurgaon, with ginger, lemongrass and basil leaves added in generous amounts. She is the kind of bitch who calls you up to catch up and when you do so, she gives you a list of things you need to get repaired at your own expense.

She keeps reminding me that I am an orphan and it’s her responsibility to bully me to make me stronger. She believes that my parents would have done the same. She also feels that my elder sister is a bitch to have abandoned me. When I am engaged in bitter conversations with her, masala tea is my guru who preaches finding goodness in everything.

I requested Shyamala Aunty to prepare masala tea and fritters in the morning. I gave her very specific instructions. These days of lockdown have to be the perfect time for me to finish the movie script.

But where to start? Why can’t you talk, my diary?

I entered my attic-style bedroom to start writing the script. I had asked Shyamala Aunty to set up my desk in front of the huge window that overlooks the beautiful Mussoorie hills. It’s going to be a long lockdown after all.

I watched some YouTube videos by Tibetan Zen masters. They say that one must prepare well before a new project. Some changes are necessary while some are not as important. But the room where you engage in creative work has to be organized.

Considering the lockdown situation, all I can say is that it is one of the most unpredictable times. Of course, things will change sooner or later. They must. That’s the hope, and we hang on to it.

But I don’t know how much peace organizing my room will bring me when the world is in chaos.

‘Relax. Focus. Concentrate. Yes. Harder,’ I told myself. ‘Write a few words at a time. Bricks build

castles. And castles stand for ages and inspire people for many years to come,’ I murmured.

I sat at my desk wondering if all the days were going to be the same here. You watch the sunrise. The sunset. Sunrise. Sunset. Yet you feel you’re stationary. ‘The sunrise. The sunset,’ I murmured as I had still not written a single word. I put my pen aside.

‘Time never really moves here. That’s the beauty of time in small towns,’ Shyamala Aunty said, breaking my reverie. I hadn’t realized she had entered the room. She sneaks in whenever she likes, and I have hated it since my teenage years.

She continued to mop the floor with a magic mop, even as its engineering was beyond her comprehension. It reminded me of my arguments with Dad, who often said, ‘It is important for everyone to understand mathematics to be able to lead a good life.’

I would always tell him, ‘It is not important to understand an airplane’s engineering to be able to travel in it. You could be a layman and still live a happy life.’

**

To know what happens next, get a copy of Where the Sun Never Sets from your nearest bookstores or online.

On the Open Road—About reality and dreams

In Stuti Changle’s On the Open Road, you’ll find Myra, Kabir and Sandy standing on the cusp of making life-changing decisions. The road to their dreams may not be easy, but their spirits remain high.

Here’s an extract to give you a glimpse of Kabir’s life and his desire to make a name for himself and achieve his dreams.

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On the Open Road
On the Open Road || Stuti Changle

The moment my flight lands, I think of Sandy and how I want to meet him. I pick up my Steve Jobs book and a black leather handbag in haste. I comfortably make my way through the aisle. That’s the advantage of travelling business class. Unlike the economy passengers, you don’t have to wait for the queue to move before you can deboard the plane. I am back in India, exhausted and burnt out from another business trip.

‘Nice shoes, sir,’ the stewardess compliments me as I reach the exit. Her name card reads Susan. She has been acting strange throughout the flight.

 

‘Thanks.’

 

She hands me a folded recycled tissue paper. I don’t know what to do with that.

 

‘Is something sticking to my face?’ I quip like a fifth grader.

 

She laughs out loud.

 

A little embarrassed, I walk off. I unfold the tissue paper and read it closely. A mobile number is written on it in pink ink. I flip through the pages of the book and place it randomly between them. I am not part of the mile high club yet. But I can’t keep Sandy waiting any longer! God has been merciful to me in some ways. My body is the biggest gift to me. I can turn heads and make things happen with a meek smile.

 

Just like in a flight, there are three types of people in the world.

 

The aisle-seat passengers are too content to try anything new. The middle-seat passengers are in a constant struggle with the self as they want to break free, but something holds them back. The window-seat passengers take risks and follow their hearts as all that keeps them moving is the view of the infinite.

 

I certainly belong to the middle-seat category.

 

My life is seemingly perfect but I want to know what imperfections feel like. What it feels like to give your everything to something and appreciate its outcome one day. I am proud of my lineage, but I always think about what life would be like if I built something on my own.

 

Life goes on in an endless loop. If it is a weekend, you’ve got to booze. If it is a weekday, you’ve got to watch downloaded TV shows from Pirate Bay. Even if there are thousands on your checklist, there are still a hundred more on the wish list. The hangover of the TV shows stays longer than that of the booze though. For a week you’re Harvey, the next Walter, then Tyrion. When you’re stressed out, you try to act cool like Chandler.

 

But I wish to be like Sandy. He is the one in the window seat. He dropped out of engineering college and developed a series of unconventional apps. He works on his dream, day and night, like a ninja with coding superpowers.

 

He tells me you might not have a penny in your pocket, you might sleep on a hungry stomach, your uncle might not support you, the world surely won’t, but don’t let the spark in you die. When you look into the mirror, you should know that you’re born to reach for the stars.

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Read On the Open Road to find out if Myra, Kabir and Sandy succumb to the obstacles or achiev their dreams.

All the unmoored heart seeks is love

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.

In You Only Live Once, 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 as they undertake a journey to find the truth behind the disappearance of Elisha.

Here’s an excerpt from the book that throws light on the quandaries in Alara’s heart and her longing for love.

 

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Irena, my stepmother, is a new-age fashion influencer and helped me set up my YouTube channel. She isn’t really talented, but she married a wealthy guy, and fancy social media accounts are part of the assets you create if you have a lot of money. After all, rich people can afford to buy new clothes for every post they make.

Having said that, she is a nice person at heart. I don’t really hold anything against her.

I’m not close to anyone at home. Not really. I’m close to my guitar. It’s because it always meets my expectations. People? They often fail to do so. Unfulfilled expectations lead to unfulfilled relationships.

‘Hey! Alara,’ says my step-aunt Betty as I enter La Epicurean.

‘You’ve grown up to be a beautiful woman,’ she continues.

‘Thank you,’ I respond. I don’t talk a lot when it comes to Irena’s siblings. They’re five women, full of gossip and unnecessary banter. Also, here in Czech, women outnumber men, so they’re on a constant lookout for a foreigner to settle down with. Betty is the youngest one and I heard her own siblings discuss her relationship with a guy from New York who is half her age. He is the one who gave her the name Betty too. Living the American Dream has fascinated the world since the 1960s.

‘Which song are you performing tonight?’ she asks.

‘Time,’ I say, wondering if she would even understand the depth of the concept. Time it is, the one thing that has never been on my side. Time is what ruined my game early on. Time is what I challenge as I hope to find my mom, or perhaps, an answer.

‘You have not published a new song in months. What keeps you busy these days?’ she inquires. ‘You don’t even have a day job,’ she adds.

front cover of You Only Live Once
You Only Live Once || Stuti Changle

 

Yes, this is where I draw the line. Relatives can get so unbearable at times. I am facing a writer’s block, I write my own songs after all. What would she know of it? She is the kind who would seek Irena’s help to write even an email.

‘Soon,’ I smile wide. Curt. Short. Sweet. She deserves to know that much.

It’s been quite some time since I last published a song on YouTube. I wish to release my first album. But I have run out of ideas, literally. I know deep within my heart that leaving this place would help me ideate and write songs. Here, I am consumed with much more than writing and performing at cafes. I have to attend customary functions like today. My dad is respected in the community, and that’s the thing about rich people. They never get bored of partying and socializing. Me? I told you, right? I struggle with a sense of belonging.

I long to be myself sans all the responsibilities and sensibilities I find myself compelled to fit into. I long to meet you, mom. Let me tell you, your mother would perhaps be the most overlooked person by you, trust me. You might not even appreciate the food that she cooks with all the love. But there are people like me who don’t even know what food cooked with love tastes like.

 

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