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The Lawyer and the Lizard by Vivaan Shah

All of us have had awkward and uncanny encounters that almost always amount to nothing or make up for lukewarm, ‘only to be told at a party’ stories. Here’s something out of the ordinary, penned down by Vivaan Shah, the author of Living Hell and Midnight Freeway, that is definitely a treat for mystery lovers!


I flipped my phone around to five missed calls from the office once I got off the Sea Link. A high-alert police check-post was set up on the Worli sea-face, which I thought irregular given their general preference of time and place. Whether they were wrapping up for the night or starting the day I couldn’t rightly tell. Two armored cars stood tilted diagonally to the barricade, a squad of four RTO cops and two khaki-uniformed 2-star officers inspecting every vehicle that passed by, peering into the passenger seats and checking every number plate.

A navy blue police van, with its caged backdoor open, stood parked behind a hauled up-tempo and a scooterist without a helmet humoring one of the junior constables. From ahead, I saw this creature walk out of a bright red Honda city—thin, furtive, practically bent double with the way he was arching his shoulders. He sashayed right past the police ‘Dabba’ towards the barricade, his arms dangling from the pectoral girdle like strings of wire attached to an electricity pole—his head leftwards and right as he expanded his chest before the senior-most constable, clicking open his jeep door with one hand, and gently holding it out with the other.

He whistled out to a passing havaldar, one of those squeaky mawaali catcalls you’d hear out on Band Stand or in the Complex. He caught my eye not because he was particularly distinctive looking, but because he was the only one who stood a chance of distracting the officers while I crossed the check-post.

As I attempted delicately to steer on past the zig-zagging yellow barriers, one of the cops caught hold of my open window and stalled me before I could get the gear back into third. He had a sling-on sten gun hanging from his right shoulder, and a slight slouch defeating an otherwise pretty stiff posture. He looked first at my number plate and then at my fingers spread out over the wheel.

‘License and identification please!’ he asked, from behind a pair of the darkest aviators on the force. I keenly obliged, handing him the necessary particulars.

‘So…Pranav…?’ he asked, reading from my license. ‘What do you do?’

‘Lawyer.’ I said.

Tallying the information on my PAN card with my license, he leaned forward on the half-open window and lowered his aviators to initiate eye contact. I looked away as his elbows squeaked on the polish.

‘Come here.’ he wagged one of his index fingers at me.

‘What happened?’

‘Come here! What’s that smell?’

‘What smell?’

‘You been uhh….doing a bit of eh-eh?’ he clenched his fingers into a fist and stuck his thumb out to demonstrate the neck of a bottle. ‘Huh?’ he inquired, shaking his fist to elaborate on his half-hearted pantomime.

‘Ohh no-no! No! I don’t drink sir!’ I promised him.

He semi-circled the bonnet and got into the front seat displacing my briefcase to the back.

‘Excuse me, sir!’ I coughed.

He mumbled something out in Marathi on his walkie-talkie and placed his sub-machine gun under the seat by his feet.

‘You know what the penalty for drinking and driving is?’ he asked, turning towards me.

‘As a matter of fact, I do.’

‘Five to ten years!’ he spat.

‘For drinking? Since when?’ I laughed.

‘Yup! Those are regulations!’

Just then, a vague tapping at his window dulled his enthusiasm. It was the same creature from before beckoning assistance. The cop slouched in his seat on noticing him, raising up his collar to cover his face.

‘Get in the back!’ He swung his thumb around demandingly at him.

‘Who is this guy?’ I asked as the wastrel reached for the door just behind the cop.

‘No one. He’s a lizard.’

‘A what?’

I slowly started the car, it seemed I was taking them both for a little spin.

‘Pranav Paleja!’ I tipped a half-hearted salute at him from the rearview mirror. ‘Pleased to meet you.’

He nodded, looked aside and then out the window, neglecting to give me his name.

‘That’s Nadeem.’ The cop took the trouble to introduce us.

The guy in the backseat still didn’t acknowledge the name was his.

‘Take a U-turn.’ the cop instructed me. I did so at the approaching roundabout, without as much as flinching from the order.

‘Okay, let’s make this quick, how much we got?’

‘I’m sorry sir?’

‘How much cash you got?’

‘Well, actually sir…’ I said. ‘Absolutely nothing! At present, I’m broke! I spent all my money on the petrol!’

‘Hmmm…petrol huh?’ he murmured, putting on the A.C and rotating its knob till he was satisfied.

‘Sir…..’ I mumbled. ‘I’m sorry but I don’t usually use that!

‘Aaaaahhh!’ he exhaled, enjoying the soft fragrant breeze of the A.C.


‘Let’s go for a ride!’ he barked, turning the A.C all the way up.

We skimmed past a redlight without him as much as noticing.

‘Take a left.’ he asked me to pull into a one-way.

‘It’s a no-entry.’

‘Doesn’t matter.’

The tyres squealed when I turned left and nearly grazed a stationery vehicle at the curve whose driver was mercifully missing. Two ATMs stood facing each other in the empty lane, one an Axis Bank Branch and the other an outlet of HDFC.

‘What about you Chipkali?’ he asked the guy seated at the back.

The guy just nodded his head. ‘I told you, I’m out!’

Turns out I had to pay his fine too, he had not a rupee to his name, not even the most rudimentary debit card of any sort. He promised he’d pay me back, but I had nothing more than his phone number to go on. I’d had only two pegs from the night before that were probably still swimming about in my system, but this Nadeem Chipkali had been on an all-night bender, emerging periodically out of every late-night dive this side of the Sea Link. We had to roam around Worli with the cop for around half an hour before we could collectively get him to settle on five thousand between us plus breakfast.

Once we paid him off, he took a ride with a passing patrol bike outside City Bakery, and that was the last we ever saw of him. Nadeem and I  just stared at each other from the rear view mirror.

I pushed the front seat back to broaden leg space for him, but he didn’t budge from the backseat, half-expecting me perhaps to play driver to his esteemed rear-end. As I let go of the lever, something pointy and metallic cooled my hand from below the seat—a jagged touch of something entirely alien to my possessions—then came the ruffled cloth of a strap, and soon the rusty perforations constellated over a barrel.

Just as Nadeem finally creaked open the passenger seat door, which I in this revelation had disregarded to reach for, the muzzle of the stun gun stared me back in the face from below the folds of the floor mat.

We both looked at each other, our mouths agape, and our eyes bulging wide. I immediately reversed back to the signal and spun the steering wheel around furiously to cut across the three or four cars that swept by. From afar on Worli sea-face I could faintly perceive, some of the junior constables beginning to pick up the traffic cones and wheel out the metallic Mumbai Police barriers toward the pavement.

Scarcely had we made it to the second red light when, from a clearing in the traffic, we caught the remains of the barricade being speedily disbanded. By the time we were crossing the same spot we had been pulled over at, there wasn’t a cop in sight. We were stuck with the policeman’s submachine gun, which he had irretrievably forgotten, and had no means by which to return it, without of course being thought of as perhaps dangerously insane.

Written by Vivaan Shah

Midnight Freeway Cover
Midnight Freeway by Vivaan Shah
Living Hell Cover
Living Hell by Vivaan Shah

How infidelity unravels

Sometimes when you’re desperate to leave the past behind, the past is eager to catch up!

Anuradha leaves Gurgaon when Dhruv chooses his family over her. She thinks that chapter of her life has ended, and starts afresh in Mumbai. But strangely, it seems her past is trying to catch up. Dhruv suddenly comes back into her life. Even as they try to figure out their relationship, horrible things start happening to people they know. Together, Anuradha and Dhruv need to find out who it is that cannot bear to see them together. Who is carrying out these shocking crimes? Are they really soulmates cursed to stay apart, or is there some karmic debt they have to repay?


Read on for a look at the psychological aftermath  of an extra-marital affair


Only The Good Die Young | Akash Verma

Mumbai has unnerved me every single time I’ve set foot here in the last few months. It wasn’t like this before. It used to be like any other city. Just that I frequented it more as my advertising agency, C&M, is headquartered here. But now, since you have been here for about a year, coming to this city has never been the same. Work still brings me here—a couple of times a month at least—for a sales review or a client meeting. But every time I am here, I feel like running to you first, clasping you to my chest and not letting you go. Yes, that’s what I still feel, Anuradha, after pushing you so far away from my life. The first few months after you left were tough—to come to work each day with you not being in office; to live without you in Gurgaon; not hearing your voice; and not feeling your touch. Despite having Shalini and the kids back in my life, there was this one large gash in my heart. However hard I tried, it refused to heal. It stayed there, untended and bleeding. My head feels heavy with the weight of a sack inside it.. ‘“Don’t do it!” didn’t we warn you?’ the pebbles inside the sack which rests in my head scream in unison. ‘You can’t love two people at the same time.’ ‘I didn’t do it knowingly. It wasn’t in my control,’ I protest. ‘Oh, come on! Liar, liar, pants on fire!’ squeals one. ‘You had a rock-solid marriage, a lovely family. Didn’t you know what you were getting into?’ ‘I know. All my fault. I thought I could handle it. I loved them both, you know. I just couldn’t stop.’ One of the pebbles has a throaty voice. It’s smaller than the rest. ‘Look where this “love” has led you to. No one’s happy. Neither Shalini, nor you and I guess not even Anuradha.’ ‘Well, who knows?’ I say. ‘Maybe she has found someone. Why “maybe”? I am sure she has someone in her life by now. She is young, beautiful, successful . . . she can easily be happy. Don’t you think so?’ The pebble glances at me, scrutinizing me. ‘Yes . . . maybe. Will you be happy if she has found someone?’ I clear my throat, ‘Why not? Yes.’ ‘Sure?’ I nod. ‘Yes. I will be happy as long as she is.’ ‘Do you want to meet her?’ the pebbles chorus. ‘No. It’s over, isn’t it? Why would I want that?’ ‘Ah, come on,’ one of them says. ‘It’s what you want the most. To meet her. Isn’t it?’ I fumble for an appropriate answer. Unsuccessful. I go quiet, then. The plane has landed. I get out of the airport and spot the driver holding a placard with my name on it. I purse my lips and force a smile; a familiar weakness sweeps over me. He signals to me to wait and hurries off to get the car when I nod. I glance at the passengers leaving the airport, people gathered around the arrival gate, greeting incoming passengers: relatives and friends. I wish you too were here, waiting for me, Anuradha . . .Such feelings seem even more unreal after the way our relationship ended. But then how is one supposed to conceal one’s true feelings from oneself? How can I hide that I love you? Even after you lied to me. Even after I promised my wife, Shalini, that our affair happened in the heat of the moment and was well over. How can my feelings for you ever cease to exist? Maybe I really am the asshole that the people I love think me to be. Shalini and you. Maybe I don’t deserve love from either of you. My relationship with my wife will never go back to what it was. I have done enough to scar it and I don’t know if those scars will ever fully disappear. ‘We have struck a compromise for our children, Dhruv,’ was what Shalini told me at the dinner table one day when the kids were asleep. ‘It can never be the same again,’ she had said. Shalini is a headstrong, self-made woman who sticks to her word in her personal life as much as she does when treating her patients.

Novoneel Chakraborty’s new thriller is an intricate game of smoke and mirrors

‘She was a blur when I first saw her.’

No matter how deeply we believe we know someone, there is always something that eludes us. Yahvi eluded Garv, and she’s nowhere to be found. Get a taste of Novoneel Charkaborty’s latest thriller Cross Your Heart, Take My Name with this excerpt:


‘Let’s play a game.’
‘Game? Whoa, all right.’
‘Yeah, a game. A game of any sort always makes the moment interesting.’
‘Second that. So . . . ’
‘So, the game is that we don’t give out any details about ourselves. The other person has to guess intelligently from whatever he or she can deduce.’

Impressive, I thought and said, ‘Bring it on.’
‘I’ll start. Then we can alternate.’
‘Got it.’
‘The fact that you haven’t brought your phone out in the last ten minutes or so tells me you aren’t into social media. You are the type who uses it when you need it,’ she said.

Wow! Is the game more interesting or the woman? I wondered and said, ‘Bang on. I really don’t like to . . . ’

‘We don’t have to give any justification or explanations. Just say true or false. Your chance.’

I took a few seconds before responding. I didn’t want to sound dumb with my observation.

‘Since you brought along an old Samsonite, I believe you don’t travel much. Else you would . . . ’

‘True!’ She didn’t let me complete my sentence. But a childlike happiness filled me when she confirmed my guess.

‘My turn,’ she said and added, ‘You aren’t a reader.’

‘Why do you say that?’

‘Someone who gets a flimsy magazine to pass time before a delayed flight is more about pictures than words.’

‘Kind of true.’ I was looking straight at her and yet wasn’t able to decipher much from her expression. That was a problem with me. I couldn’t understand what a person was thinking from his or her face. I knew a lot of people who could. And it was a helpful skill as it let you get ahead in conversations like these.

‘Kind of?’ She sounded bemused.

‘All right, I don’t read much. In fact, I didn’t buy the magazine for the pictures either.’

‘Ah, you were seeking some kind of company.’
‘Maybe. Weren’t you?’
‘That’s the game. What makes you think I was?’
I knew I had to think on my feet. And I did.
‘Why else would you sit here with a stranger and play a game? You also want to pass time like me. I had my magazine. You have me.’ The remark was a bit flirtatious, and I didn’t know if it was too direct or made her uncomfortable.

‘A magazine can be flipped through at will. Not a human being.’

The change in the tone of her voice took me by surprise. If she was a book, even though I was not much of a reader, this was when I would conclude that ‘she’ was unputdownable.

…‘Time to leave,’ she said and excused herself to join the queue. The way she went off, without a care, told me she was good at severing connections. In today’s times, I thought, that was one helluva skill to have. The ability to detach oneself just like that. I too stood up and walked towards the gate.


Front cover Cross Your Heart
Cross Your Heart, Take My Name||Novoneel Chakraborty

… Garv was feeling lonely. The way you felt when you had someone in your mind but not beside you. And then there were questions to make the loneliness worse. What had she meant  by that message? They did meet. They had tea together. She kissed him as well. He couldn’t  possibly have imagined all these things. She told him loud and clear that their plan to disappear had to wait for some time. And he understood. Like he always did, without questioning her.  This was not a Mills & Boon romance. Both of them were married to different people.

The note Garv had written and placed under the vase of fresh lilies was for his wife, Nihira. He’d taken an entire day to think what he could write to justify his act. What could a husband say to a wife before leaving her abruptly for no fault of hers? He simply didn’t have the courage to tell her the truth. That was wrong, he knew. And he’d convinced himself that a note would make up for it. After dwelling on it for a long time, he thought the best thing, instead of a long emotional message, would be to write three simple words: I am sorry. To tell Nihira that he still loved her, he kept the note under the vase with lilies, her favourite. Few words; old- fashioned symbolism—the end of a relationship.

Nihira was supposed to fly back from Bengaluru today. And what did he have for her? A note stating that he was sorry. The more Garv thought about it now, the more ridiculous he felt. How had he come to this decision? Was he simply being impulsive? As he tore up the note and threw it in the dustbin, Garv realized he had something more important to find out: Where on earth was Yahvi? He had been messaging her since last night; he had tried her number twice in an interval of three hours but there had been no response. The first time it rang but the second time the number was switched off. Had the battery drained out or had she intentionally switched it off? Garv wondered but concluded she must be up against some problem. And beyond a phone call or a WhatsApp message, there was no way he could reach her. Yet this was the person with whom he had decided to ‘disappear’ for the rest of his life and create an alternate reality.

… Garv drove to the Pune airport to pick up Nihira. This was the longest they’d gone without meeting. and the first sight of her made him feel guilty.

… Right then, Nihira’s phone rang and she excused herself to answer it. Garv could make out it was a work call. He drove to their apartment in silence.

As they neared their gated apartment block, they saw a crowd gathered at the entrance. Garv honked his way in. He wasn’t interested in knowing what the bedlam was about, but Nihira immediately jumped out once the car stopped and walked to the main gate. Perhaps it was this insatiable curiosity that made her want to get involved in people’s stories. and that is why she was doing so well at the NGO.

Garv was unlocking the main door of their flat when Nihira came up, her eyes clouded over.

‘A woman died in the afternoon. Didn’t you get to know when you left the building to come to the airport?’ Nihira asked.

‘No, I came straight from office.’
‘I see.’
‘Some Yahvi Kothari,’ Nihira said. Garv froze for a second before recovering quickly and turning the key one last time. The news left him numb.


The excerpt is not enough, we know. Cross Your Heart, Take My Name will keep you racing through the pages.






Get to know your author – A factual glimpse into Bilal Siddiqi

Bilal Siddiqi, a shining star among the young authors has authored four novels. His fifth – The Phoenix – is an exciting new release, hot off the press and will transport you into a world of secret missions, uncertain loyalties and retribution.

Siddiqi is a fan of the world of espionage and thrillers. His novel The Bard of Blood has been adapted into a Netflix series.


Upon the release of his new book, we bring you some fascinating facts about the dazzling author who has brought us one nail-biter after another.


1. His first novel was called The Bard of Blood, which he wrote he was 19 years old. It was published when he was 20.


2. It wasn’t only James Bond, Robert Ludlum and Fredrick Forsyth that drew him to the genre of the spy thriller. His interest in studying the patterns of religious conflict and the roots of extremism drove him to write The Bard of Blood


3. He is an avid reader, and loves fiction.


4. Not only did Bollywood actor Emraan Hashmi star in the Netflix adaptation of The Bard of Blood but he also co-authored The Kiss of Life with Siddiqi (bet you didn’t know this one!)


5. Siddiqi enjoyed reading Shakespeare in college.


6. The first and only advance copy that Penguin India gave Siddiqi was presented to him by Shah Rukh Khan.


7. Siddiqi is not bound by genre. He likes to write in different styles. The Bard of Blood was a spy thriller, The Kiss of Life a biography, The Stardust Affair a romantic thriller, and The Pheonix is a fast-paced thriller.


8. He considers author Hussain Zaidi his mentor. He started working with Zaidi after Zaidi had asked for 10 volunteers to help him with research for his novel Mumbai Avengers in 2014. Siddiqi was shortlisted.


Siddiqi says he started writing his novel but getting published was not his goal. He was writing for himself, so that years later, he would have something to look back upon as a piece of himself from the past. Well, he did get published. And the rest is history.


[The Phoenix is out now.  Get your copy today!]

On the Run: 10 Interesting Things about Pablo Escobar from ‘Mrs. Escobar’

The story of Pablo Escobar, one of the wealthiest, most powerful and violent criminals of all time, has fascinated the world. Yet the one person closest to him has never spoken out – until now. Maria Victoria Henao met Pablo when she was 13, eloped with him at 15, and despite his numerous infidelities and violence, stayed by his side for the following 16 years until his death. At the same time, she urged him to make peace with his enemies and managed to negotiate her and her children’s freedom after Pablo’s demise.

Moulded by Pablo Escobar to be his obedient wife and a loving mother to his children, Victoria Eugenia Henao is often seen as a continuation of her husband’s evil. In Mrs. Escobar, she leads us into her world and reveals the real man behind the notorious drug lord’s legend.

Born to Dona Hermilda Gaviria, a school teacher, and Abel, a farmer, Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was the youngest of seven children. In contrast to his humble beginnings, Pablo Escobar’s aspirations became evident early in life when in 1974, he was arrested for driving a stolen Renault 4.


Pablo’s involvement in trafficking narcotics first came to light when he was arrested in 1976 for possession of 26 kilos of coca-paste.


The decade after 1978 marked Escobar’s meteoric economic rise. The young man once arrested for driving a stolen car now had the financial power to venture into the world of automobile racing. Pablo Escobar participated in the Renault Cup series of 1979 and 1980.


Pablo Escobar’s estate Hacienda Napoles, was named in honour of American gangster Al Capone, whose parents had been from Naples. Pablo admired Capone and was often seen reading books or articles about him.


The most fascinating part of Pablo Escobar’s estate was the zoo which was a testimony of his love for the beauty of exotic animals. Pablo spent US $ 2 million in cash to buy giraffes, kangaroos and elephants ,among other animals, for the zoo in Napoles which he opened for families to visit without any fee so they could enjoy the spectacle of nature in the heart of Colombia.


Escobar gained popularity with his social programmes designed to improve lives of the poverty stricken in impoverished areas of Medellin, Envigado and other towns of Aburra valley. He encouraged sports by building dozens of football fields, led tree planting drives and mingled with people as one of their own.


In April 1983, a national media outlet labelled a delighted Pablo ‘An Antioquian Robin Hood’ for his work such as his project Medellin without Slums- which offered homes to families living in impoverished areas.


During his short-lived political career which began in 1982, Pablo Escobar, as a representative with parliamentary immunity, waged a war against the extradition of Colombian citizens to the United States.


His political aspirations were squashed in October 1983, when the House of Representatives, by majority vote, lifted Pablo Escobar’s parliamentary immunity on suspicions of his involvement in drug trafficking and other crimes.


The unrelenting hunt for Pablo Escobar, the once indomitable head of the Medellin Cartel, came to an end on 2 December 1993 when he was killed on the roof of his hiding place in Medellin.

In stark contrast to his formidable image as a drug lord, Mrs. Escobar creates a portrait of a man who shares moments of raw emotion with his loved ones even as he fights to bolster his crumbling empire of crime.

When a Battle with Destiny Turns Deadly-An Excerpt from ‘Roses Are Blood Red’

           ‘I’ll gift you a love story that every girl desires, but few get to live.’

Ensnared in the gossamer web of a dreamlike romance, Aarisha is blinded by a passion she can feel in her soul. She is head over heels in love with a man who seems too good to be true. But there are questions about her past that her beating heart cannot silence. Will she ever find the answers?

     ‘I’ll fight. I promise I’ll fight all the beasts that come our way’

Vanav is a man in love. His very life breath is a testament to his resolve to be one with Aarisha.  For this, he can move mountains. For her, he can make the impossible possible. She has promised she would fight all the beasts that come their way. But in this battle with destiny, what if the lover becomes the beast?

Here is an excerpt from this riveting saga of love-


The Thakur family was ushered outside along with the rest of the ladkiwale (the bride’s side), to await the stately procession of the groom’s family and friends. Vanav remained behind alone, watching the pomp and splendour as the groom and his family marched in. After much ado, both Aarisha and Shubh were made to sit on decorated chairs on a small stage as it was time for them to exchange the ceremonial garlands.

Vanav found himself a quiet place in one of the common restrooms and crouched. He could hear loud crackers and gun shots, and people making merry, but he knew that he couldn’t bear to witness the ceremony anymore. Hours later, his trance was broken by someone pushing open the door. He was surprised to see Aarisha.

‘Ranisa,’ he immediately stood up.

‘Thakur sahab, what on earth are you doing here?’

‘Nothing. I just . . .’

‘I have to use the loo.’

‘Oh, sorry. I’ll leave.’

As Vanav was about to step out, she stopped him. He turned around. She leaned over, her fragrance filling his senses, and whispered, ‘I know, Thakur sahab. I’ve always known. I always will. But know this, Thakur sahab, within this knowing of yours and mine, our story must live and die.’

Vanav, looked down at the floor, fighting back tears as each of her words resonated like a death knell in his heart.

‘I had to agree to this marriage now that my whole family has seen how appalling my choice of a husband was. Shubh is their choice, my father’s choice. As I agreed to the wedding, he is also my choice from now on. Shubh may not love me, not yet at least, but he has rights over me. Love doesn’t bestow any rights, Thakur sahab, but a relationship does; and a socially accepted relationship even more so. By choosing Daksh I fell so far down in everyone’s esteem, especially my father’s, that I can’t afford to refuse his choice. I’m sure that I too will eventually fall in love with Shubh over time . . . at least, I’ll try to. And if not, I’ll pretend, for marriage is a duty-bound exercise—and a woman is a slave to duty. Especially a married woman. You’re too young right now, Thakur sahab, to understand much of what I’m saying. But one day you’ll understand and then you’ll understand why sometimes loving someone with all your heart and soul is simply not enough to be with that person forever. It’s sad. It’s depressing. It’s soulsearing. But it’s the truth. I’m sure you’ll get over me.’

Vanav raised a woe-begone, tear-stained face, ‘Won’t we ever meet again, Ranisa?’

‘We didn’t know we would meet to begin with. It was destined. So, let the possibility of our meeting again be decided by destiny itself.’

‘Aarisha! Aarisha!’ she heard her friends calling out to her. ‘Be quick! Everyone is waiting!’

Vanav turned away slowly and left.


Will Vanav put together the pieces of his shattered heart to find love again?

Author of the hugely successful Forever series, Novoneel Chakraborty creates a spellbinding story of love, longing and loss in Roses Are Blood Red.

To find out whether destiny triumphs over a dangerous obsession, read Roses Are Blood Red!


‘Step Out of the Car!’: Excerpt from Talking to Strangers

Talking to Strangers is a veritable psychological and intellectual adventure, told through a mix of history and anecdotes, where author Malcolm Gladwell asks pertinent questions about how we make sense of interact with people we don’t know.

Here’s a peek into one of the stories from the book.

“Step out of the car!”

Bland: I’m in my car, why do I have to put out my cigarette?

Encinia: Well, you can step on out now.

Bland:  I don’t have to step out of my car.

Encinia: Step out of the car.

Bland: Why am I…

Encinia: Step out of the car!

Bland: No, you don’t have the right. No, you don’t have the right.

Encinia: Step out of the car.

Bland: You do not have the right. You do not have the right to do this.

Encinia: I do have the right, now step out or I will remove you.

Bland: I refuse to talk to you other than to identify myself. [crosstalk] I am getting removed for a failure to signal?

Encinia: Step out or I will remove you. I’m giving you a lawful order. Get out of the car now or I’m going to remove you.

Bland: And I’m calling my lawyer.

Bland and Encinia continue on for an uncomfortably long time. Emotions escalate.

Encinia: I’m going to yank you out of here. [Reaches inside car.]

Bland: OK, you’re going to yank me out of my car? OK, all right..

Encinia: [calling in backup] 2547.

Bland: Let’s do this.

Encinia: Yeah, we’re going to. [Grabs for Bland]

Bland: Don’t touch me!

Encinia: Get out of the car!

Bland: Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me! I’m not under arrest – you don’t have the right to take me out of the car.

Encinia: You are under arrest!

Bland: I’m under arrest? For what? For what? For what?

Encinia: [To dispatch] 2547 County FM 1098. [inaudible] Send me another unit. [To Bland] Get out of the car! Get out of the car now!

Bland: Why am I being apprehended? You’re trying to give me a ticket for failure…

Encinia: I said get out of the car!

Bland: Why am I being apprehended? You just opened my –

Encinia: I’m giving you a lawful order. I’m going to drag you out of here.

Bland: So you are threatening to drag me out of my own car?

Encinia: Get out of the car!

Bland: And then you’re going to [crosstalk] me?

Encinia: I will light you up! Get out! Now! [Draws stun gun and points it at Bland.]

Bland: Wow. Wow. [Bland exits car.]

Encinia: Get out. Now. Get out of the car!

Bland: For a failure to signal? You’re doing all of this for a failure to signal?

Bland was arrested and jailed. Three days later, she committed suicide in her cell.

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know is a sinister but enlightening narrative of the mind and fundamental questions about the dark side of human nature.

Even True Love Has a Dangerous Side- The Prologue from Novoneel Chakraborty’s New Book

‘I’ll gift you a love story that every girl desires, but few get to live.’

He’d told me once. And boy, did he stick to his words! Vanav Thakur is the perfect boyfriend that any girl can have. Sometimes, I wonder if I really deserve him.

I’m Aarisha Shergill and my life is about to get ripped apart because I should have known some things should be left alone.

Bestselling author Novoneel Chakraborty is back with Roses Are Blood Red. Read the prologue from the book below:


It was an important day for her. Very important. He was coming down to meet her after . . . in fact, she had been counting: three months, fifteen days, eleven hours and—as she left her house—exactly nine minutes. She had told her parents that she would stay with her bestie from college— Pragya—that night. Pragya, obviously, had no idea about her subterfuge.

He had selected the venue for their clandestine meet. It was only two blocks from her house to the small tea shop that would have closed for the day by then.

Despite the several layers she had on, Aarisha’s teeth chattered as she cycled towards the tea shop. The shiver was partially due to the unseasonal cold wave that had gripped the Himalayan town; she trembled more in anticipation of the impending rendezvous. Should I launch into his arms as soon as we meet? Or should I stand back and simply admire him for a bit? With an avalanche of thoughts crashing through her mind, she finally reached the location for their tryst. She stopped nineteen-to-the-dozen. Only the rarest find their harmony in silence. They were rare, she knew.

She cupped his jaw in her long-fingered hands and caressed his three-day-old stubble with her thumbs. He stretched out an arm to flick the switch on the car stereo. Ariana Grande’s husky voice softly permeated the interior of the car with one of her favourite tracks: ‘God is a Woman’. Aarisha leaned in, but before their lips could touch, he gripped her waist and stopped her descent.

‘Not so quick, Ranisa,’ he whispered.

She loved it when he called her by that name. ‘Ranisa’ meant queen—his queen.

If there was one thing she absolutely loved and couldn’t quite define, it was his enormous respect for her. It was so deep-seated that she often wondered whether she deserved to be placed on such a high pedestal.

‘You always say this,’ she whispered petulantly. ‘Don’t you want to kiss me?’

He stared at her beauty, her dark hair cascading like a cloud around her shoulders. Her eyes didn’t reflect pain, they carried a complaint.

‘D’you honestly believe that I don’t want to kiss you?’ he asked.

‘Then why don’t you?’ she sulked. ‘Also,’ she dismounted from him and scrambled back into her seat, ‘I hate it when you leave me and go away.’ He sensed the flood of tears about to burst through the dam at any moment.

‘Why?’ he asked softly.‘I feel insecure about you, about us,’ Aarisha choked.

An ironical smile touched his face. ‘You know this thing we call love, it’s like a dense forest. As you enter, you hear the growl of several wild beasts. At times, you may even encounter them. Insecurity is the most ferocious beast in this jungle. Whether to fall victim to it or vanquish it to continue one’s quest to unearth the greatest treasure ever, which is also hidden in this very forest, is the lover’s call. I’ve taken mine. What’s your call, Ranisa?’

She stared at him, amazed at the total conviction in his eyes. How could someone’s eyes always reflect such confidence? It was the kind of assurance one developed after scrutinizing life so closely that its tricks became only too predictable. She leaned over and kissed his closed eyelids.

‘I’ll fight. I promise I’ll fight all the beasts that come our way,’ she whispered.

There was a faint smile on his face as he said, ‘Don’t worry about the distance between us.’ He raised her downcast face and kissed her forehead, ‘The body is only what is. The soul is what is, what was and what will be. The scope of all the urges stemming from the body is a mere molecule compared to the intense longing that arises from the soul. And for the soul, distance is an alien concept. Distance only restricts the body.’

‘But the body is also important in its own way, isn’t it?’

‘As much as a house of bricks and mortar, because it houses the vulnerable and the fragile within. But we all know that the shelter is temporary and, as all temporary things, too transient to worry about.’

‘What’s permanent then?’ Aarisha asked.

He placed his right hand flat against her left hand, palm to palm, their fingertips splayed until they found the gaps through which the fingers slipped, and the hands clasped each other.

‘This,’ he said, tightening the clasp, ‘this is permanent.’

I wish I could tell you the number of wars I’ve fought to make this permanent, he thought.

‘D’you know, there are times in your absence when I get the feeling that I hardly know you at all. Is that good?’ she asked, resting her head on his shoulder.

‘You’ll know. You’ll know very soon. It’s just a matter of one more year.’

‘One more year?’ she asked, frowning.

‘Yes. In one more year I’ll gift you a love story that every girl desires, but few, if any, get to live,’ he whispered.

‘What do you mean?’ she drew back to look at his face. There was no response. She raised her head—and suddenly she felt a tug on her hair.

‘Ouch!’ she yelled. Before she realized what was happening, she felt a punch on her face that broke her nose and lacerated her lips. The second punch that buried itself in her gut almost made her throw up. Aarisha fell unconscious, her face a bloodied mess. Three more punches followed: one to her jaw, another landed in her ribs and the third, in the stomach again. He shoved her away from him with force. The side of her head slammed against the window. He yanked down her jeans, slipped them off her legs and tossed them out of the window. He tugged her panties down to her knees and from his pocket he extracted a vial of semen. He smeared

some of the semen on her panties, on her dress and emptied the rest on her bare abdomen. He made sure nobody would ever track down whose semen it was. For a doctor, it wasn’t even a task. He dressed her back in a hasty manner.

As soon as he was done, he used his cell phone to call the local police station. Emotionlessly, he relayed the information, ‘A girl has been raped and abandoned on the road.’ He gave them the approximate location before hanging up. He glanced at Aarisha’s unconscious battered face and muttered, ‘The first thing you should know about me is: I…Don’t…Let…Go…’

He turned on the ignition, opened the passenger side door and pushed the girl’s insensate body out. He put the car into gear, gunned the engine and sped away into the night. After half an hour of driving, he stopped. He alighted from the car and stood at the edge of the abyss, gazing into the darkness. He dialled the police again. They informed him that the girl had been rescued and countered with their own questions about his identity. In reply, he flung the phone into the abyss as far as it would go. He looked up at the night sky— at the constellations of stars—they had mocked him enough. They thought she would never be his. And now, he would win her from everything—and everyone.

He extended both his middle fingers skywards and bellowed a bloodcurdling war-cry against destiny.

Vanav Thakur was no ordinary man. He was soul-deep in love with a girl. And he was a man with a plan.

Curious to know what happens next?  Mysteriously thrilling in its essence, Novoneel Chakraborty’s Roses Are Blood Red is a haunting story of a passionate and eternal love.


Chilling Lines from your New Favourite Thriller ‘The Whisper Man’

Still devastated after the loss of his wife, Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake move to the sleepy village of Featherbank, looking for a fresh start. But Featherbank has a dark past. Fifteen years ago a twisted serial killer abducted and murdered five boys. Until he was finally caught, the killer was known as ‘The Whisper Man’.

Here are a few quotes from The Whisper Man that will make your hair stand on end:

“The man’s heart, beating more quickly now, ached at the thought of that. He stepped silently out from the bushes behind the boy, and then whispered his name.”


“He couldn’t know for sure – not through reason. But his instinct was telling him that Neil Spencer wasn’t going to be found here. That maybe he wasn’t going to be found at all.”


“There was nobody there, of course, but he seemed so intent on the empty space that it was easy to imagine a presence in the air.”


“There was also a more general sensation – a tickling at the back of the skull. At first glance, the house had unnerved me.”


“The name alone conjured up such horror for him that it always felt like it should never be spoken out loud – as though it was some kind of curse that would summon a monster behind you.”


“A noise from above me, the sound of a single footstep. I looked up. It was Jake’s room directly overhead, but I’d left him in the front room playing…”


“And beside him, he’d drawn another person in his bedroom. A little girl, her black hair splayed almost angrily out to one side. Her dress was coloured in with patches of blue, leaving the rest white. Little scrapes of red on one of her knees. A corkscrew smile on her face.”

The chilling must-read thriller of summer 2019, Whisper Man is now available!

Why You Should Be Reading The King of Kings rather than Endlessly Discussing Game of Thrones

One of the great classics of Gujarati literature, the Patan trilogy by K. M. Munshi, is finally accessible to English readers owing to Rita and Abhijit Kothari’s brilliant translation.

K.M. Munshi is one of Gujarat’s most well-known literary writers and his historical novels have contributed profoundly to the sense of past that Gujarat lives with. His magnificent conclusion to his beloved Trilogy, Rajadhiraj or The King of Kings is a panoramic epic filled with adventure and intrigue, and a timeless classic with a nuanced insight into human nature and the complex links between statecraft and violence.

A mysterious emissary arrives in the port city of Bhrigukachchh. He has been sent by King Jaysinhdev of Patan with a secret message for Kaak, the valiant chieftain of the city. The king seeks to urgently enlist Kaak’s help in conquering the kingdom of Junagadh. However, Kaak has also received crucial summons from two others: Leeladevi, the firebrand princess whose marriage to Jaysinhdev Kaak himself facilitated; and Ranakdevi, the queen of Junagadh.

Caught in a web of conflicting loyalties, Kaak must navigate a treacherous terrain of political machinations where the slightest misstep could lead to grave consequences-where even he will not emerge unscathed.

Seven reasons why you should be reading The King of Kings


  1. For a glimpse of the rich, varied history of 12th century India that you probably completely skipped in school

The King of Kings takes the reader through a highly layered and complex web of Gujarat in the Chalukya era. As a result of his historical research, Munshi came to the conclusion that Gurjaradesha was a region that dates back to very ancient times. It could be said to have come into its own around 550 CE; its fall began from the conquest of Qutub-ud-din Aibak, and Alauddin Khilji’s raid in the fourteenth century spelt its end. Gurjaradesha was a rather large portion of northern India centred around modern-day Mount Abu and Bhinmal.


  1. For a saga as fascinating and complex Game of Thrones set in 12th century India.

Even though the trilogy is based around the rise of Siddharaj Jaysinh,, we are hooked on to the interplay of machinations and intrigues around him. From the sagacious kingmaker Munjal Mehta, to the intelligent and calculating Chief Queen of Patan—Leeladevi, everyone has their own agendas and will do anything to achieve them. After all, power, lust, and glory are universal and timeless motives.


  1. For its powerful portrayal and multifaceted portrayal of women.

Women are very, very present in The King of Kings, not just as idealized trophies but as decision makers every bit as calculating and as potent as the men. From the paragon of all virtues-the beautiful, brilliant pativrata—Manjari, to the equally stunning, shrewd and incisively cold warrior princess of Laat turned chief queen of Patan, Leelavati, to the austere ascetic Ranakdevi, and the intelligent dowager Minalba. Even the ordinary women who pop up –from the unabashedly sensual Premkunvar to the frivolous teenager Samrath, dispay the same attention to actually creating vibrant, realistic women.

‘No, you don’t,’ the princess struck back like an experienced warrior. ‘Tomorrow, I will wear my grandfather’s crown and go at the head of my army against yours for our last battle. I will die, but I will be immortalized. Tales of my valour will spread far and wide and I will be deified like a goddess.’ There was no tremor in her voice or glint in her eyes. There was only an indifferent calmness.


  1. For the astonishingly wide breadth of its romantic and sexual relationships which range from strikingly modern to classical love stories

There is the classical romance and idealized connubial bliss of Kaak and Manjari , the political alliance of Leeladevi and Siddhraj—Leeladevi wants to attract her husband deeply but is far to brilliant and incisive to play the calculating wife to soothe his ego. Meanwhile Jaysinhdev is obsessed with a woman who rejected him years ago who is now the ascetically devoted wife of his arch-rival.


  1. For a truly realistic look at the idea of the kingdom, beyond the confines of the court to those of its satellite villages.


The King of Kings explores tensions between the centrist and regional contestations of power, and the relationship between state formation and violence. One sees in this novel the contrasting views that Patan and its margins have towards each other. For instance, when Amrabhat arrives in Bhrigukachchh, he notices that the houses of Bhrigukachchh are small and its streets narrow. The temples are old and unimpressive, not like those of Patan or Modhera.

Was it possible that the unvanquished bhatraj of Laat and durgpal of Bhrigukachchh, dearest friend of Tribhuvanpal maharaj and the enemy of a person as influential as his father, lived in a place like this? He smiled derisively: Where the palatial mansions of his father in Patan, Khambhat and Karnavati, and where this humble hut!


  1. For the brilliant subversion of the idea of the ‘heroic ruler’ and the reminder that great kingdoms are often the result of brilliant secondary figures behind the scene.

The collective energies of the wise prime minister Munjal Mehta, the warrior and chieftain, Kaak and the poised Queen Mother, Minaldevi are mobilized in accomplishing the suzerainty of the ‘great king’ Jaysinhdev , and the novel ultimately celebrates his victories. However we are on many occasions shown Jaysinhdev in a poor light, both as a person and as a statesman. If perfect states are to be achieved with full knowledge of the imperfections of those who represent it, can they remain perfect? Or rather, is the idea of the state more powerful than the one who governs it?



  1. For its delightfully rich and detailed prose interspersed with delicate flashes of humour.

This is no dry reconstruction of historical events, Munshi brings the 12th century landscape and society of Gurjaradesh to life vividly, handling the foibles and weaknesses of both the court and small towns with a deft hand.


Amrabhat was restless. He had imagined himself to be

immersed in revelry and pleasures in Bhrigukachchh. Instead,

as soon as he set foot here, he lost his servant, bore insults and,

to top it all, an unknown woman stole his heart. Such a series of

calamities at this tender age!

K.M. Munshi’s magnificent conclusion to his beloved Trilogy, The King of Kings is a panoramic epic filled with adventure and intrigue, and a timeless classic with a nuanced insight into human nature and the complex links between statecraft and violence.

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