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Nov 22, 2014

Moral Stories- gifts for a lifetime!

I am an avid reader.  Now a published author. And I attribute all that I am today to the stories my parents read to me as a child and the great morals and values I imbibed from them. It was in my parent's laps that I learnt about how the world really is outside my secure home. And about how I can overcome the hurdles that it may place before me.

I still have in my collection the very first book gifted to me by my father- 'The Aesop's Fables'. I must have been a first grader when I began learning to read aloud. The best part of the story, for me, came at the very end- The moral of the story. It was like a sweet confectionery that came as a reward after having done a good deed. It gave a sense of purpose to all the story telling.

As I grew up I found paradise in the local library between piles of books full of wonderful stories. I brought a couple home everyday and devoured them. At school we were given rapid readers and English soon became my favorite subject at school because it was all about reading great stories with lessons and morals at the end. What fun!

There were scores of stories that gave me knowledge and happiness through wise words but there were some special stories that stayed with me all through life. partly because they were my earliest memories of a good story reading experience and partly because they taught me to use the greatest faculty in my body, my thinking mind. They were simple stories that conveyed such powerful thoughts that I salute the one who wrote it in the very beginning.

I am now 32 years old and confess that I still love to listen to some of the stories that have been my long time favorite, ever since childhood. I have two sons now aged 5 years and 2.5 years. They are children who belong to the 'E-age'. Though I have consciously initiated them to reading traditional books, I cannot deny them the biggest boon of the century they were born in- the internet. They love stories too, just like their mother and they listen to them very attentively. My elder son has won many prizes at school in the story-telling competitions. And like me, he loves to reach the very end of the story when he can boldly declare the moral derived from the story he narrated. I have seen great pleasure on his face as he got to give out the moral.

While scouring through many stories online, selecting a suitable one to teach him and prepare him for those competitions I first searched for the ones that were my childhood favourites. And it is absolute joy now to have found the very same stories in a highly creative new avatar, presented by GULSHAN KUMAR's KIDS HUT. The stories have been illustrated so very beautifully and narrated in a smooth voice by TULSI KUMAR. The diction of the narrator is also so very clear that each word is easily comprehensible.

I learnt some very good lessons very early on in life thanks to the wonderful stories that came my way through books. I am happy that my children have also found a way to such great lessons by way of these colourful videos online. Now internet time at YouTube can be a learning experience too.

Here are the videos to two of my all time favorite stories that made a big difference to my life.

'The Thirsty Crow'

The harsh reality of life is that even at an early age, one does come across hurdles which parents may find trivial but for children its very difficult to overcome. The Thirsty Crow was one such story that instilled confidence within me that nothing is impossible to achieve if I used my brains and thought up a way out of a tricky situation. If a small bird like the crow whose brain was definitely way smaller than mine, could be so clever, then I mighty well could be equally clever too. This thought laid the foundation to my strife at school for excelling in my studies. I actually learnt to see each extra point scored in my papers as contributing to the higher scores in my exams, eventually helping me to reach the coveted top rank that I thirsted for!

Pushing the limits became a habit. Making the best out of available resources, a way of life!

 'The Three Little Pigs And The Big Bad Wolf'

Like in the story, I also remember being bullied when I was as small as a Lower KG student. Once a big bad girl locked me up in the bathroom and ran away, leaving me screaming my guts out for help. I was terrified of her. One day my mother read out the story of the Three Little Pigs to me. "The weaker you are, the more you will be preyed upon." She said. The moral of the story said that the third pig could save himself only because he had used his wisdom, to protect himself from the enemy. I wanted to be the third pig too. 

I built a fortress around me by forewarning my class teacher about the bully threatening to empty her water-bottle on my head. Next when she ran after me with the bottle in the recess, I took refuge behind the teacher's table, instead of my own. I had preempted her actions and planned how I would react if things should go the way they were going. My big bad bully had already overturned the bottle intending to empty it on my head but I quickly slid under the teacher's table before the waterfall could hit me. All the water thus went all over the teacher's desk instead, trickling into her drawer and all over the wooden stage atop which the table stood. Out of fright my big bad bully dropped the emptied bottle right there and ran back to her seat before our class teacher returned. However as luck would have it, the bottle was boldly labelled with her name on it. And you can very well imagine what must have followed when my teacher found out about the whole episode. It was a super fun end to  the story of the big bad bully in my life, needless to say that she was expelled from the convent quite promptly.

These two stories are only two of the many wonderful stories, I found at http://www.youtube.com/kidshut. Its an absolute treasure trove, I say!

 I strongly believe that the stories that you tell your young ones can go a long way in their lives. The stories with extremely wise morals imbibe the first few basic values that give your child's character a strong foundation. If the internet is an attractive medium, make it a useful one too by guiding your child to the correct links. YouTube can in fact turn out to be a boon, if you subscribe to the right collection of stories and rhymes. In fact, I have always strongly recommended that every parent dedicate at least one hour of each day to give your child company while watching such educational animated and beautifully illustrated stories. And see your child flourish into an intelligent and informed kid who can decipher between the right and the wrong.

No matter how old I get I will never forget some pivotal experiences from my childhood days. I may even tell them to my grand children, like my grandmother told me. Such is the impact of stories that teach us some profound lessons in life. Let these be stories of hope and joy, that will instill good thoughts and values. 

Thankyou BlogAdda for leading me and my children to KidsHut by T-Series.-for bringing back those wonderful memories to me and for introducing my children to the world of classic stories that will surely give them a Super Fun life ahead! 

This post is a part of Kids Hutactivity at BlogAdda.com

Oct 20, 2014

God is a Gamer: Book review

Author: Ravi Subramanian
Publisher: Penguin Books India
My Rating: ****
About the Author:
'Banker by day, writer by night' as per Forbes, Ravi Subramanian is India’s numero uno thriller writer, having written six bestselling books. An alumnus of Indian Institute of Management (Bangalore), he is currently head of a leading financial institution. A career banker and financial services professional, Ravi has worked with various multinational banks (Citibank, ANZ Grindlays Bank and HSBC) for over eighteen years. As a result of his extensive background in foreign banks, writing about banking comes quite naturally to Ravi. Each one of his books thus far have been set in the backdrop of a foreign bank.

To tell you about myself, I'm an artist at heart and numbers were never my cup of tea. Me and the finance world are like Poles apart. So its needless to say that I wasn't interested in anything or anybody from the banking world. I will therefore frankly confess that even though I'd seen Ravi Subramanian's previous books on the shelves, I'd steered clear off them because of the sheer reason that his stories were based on banking. 

However the mention of BITCOINS - supposedly a software-based online payment system that potentially threatens to replace plastic money, had me intrigued. I'd read before that the concept of Bitcoins had been created by Satoshi Nakamoto whose true identity remains unknown and is a subject of great speculation. It is also not known whether the name "Satoshi Nakamoto" is real name or a pseudonym. Whether this name represents one person or a group of people is also not confirmed. This puzzling background had me wondering what the book may offer as it was touted as the world's first Bitcoin thriller. And thus finally I decided that I wanted to read this book by Ravi Subramanian.

Extremely thankful to BlogAdda for promptly sending this book across. You are truly my book genie!

The blurb on the back reads 'What happens when you cross Gamer, Banker, Politician and Terrorist with virtual money?' And it really gets you wondering how is that even possible? Once you start turning the pages, the reader is definitely going to be hooked for good. You are welcomed into this thrilling world with a prologue that gives a peek into how the plastic money world operates. For a person like me who knows absolutely nothing about the finance world, this book absolutely spares you the rod. There's no jargon thrown at you but in fact this book will definitely educate you on many concepts in a simplified English. 

The thrilling story begins in 2011 where Senator Gillian Tan from Washington DC, an old pal of the President of the United States of America is assassinated using a cycle bomb. Each new chapter is just 2-3 pages long making this book of 310 pages a quick read and giving the story a fast pace in progression. The story moves from Washington DC to the beaches of Rio de Janeiro and Goa. And this remains the style throughout the book where the story shuttles between cities and states in India and USA, from Mumbai to New York. However I did not understand why Chapter 2 had to be based on Prime Minister of India's office at New Delhi? It never found any mention later in the book. 

New names kept getting introduced right up till Chapter 82 in the book. So the book proves to be absolutely 'un-put-down-able'. Not only because of the interesting and well-developed plot of the thriller but also because you may lose track of who is who, if you take a break. I had to spin back a few pages to give myself a revision since I'd taken a break from reading the book to finish my daily routines and chores. In my opinion this happened especially because the story-telling involved so many characters but did not dedicate the necessary  amount of words to describing each character in physicality and mannerisms. I feel adequately detailed character sketches are most essential since it helps the reader build a mental picture of each person involved in the plot and does not land up drawing a blank at the mention of a name some pages down the line. This element was sorely missed!

Initially, I did not see why so many characters were involved in the story telling but when the author began to tie-in and connect the seemingly disjointed people, I was impressed. The plot thickened and began to get a little darker too, keeping me at the edge of my seat and wanting to know how Agent Adrian Scott and Tony from the FBI were to get to the root of all the evil?

Being an avid blogger, Facebook and social media junky all the ideas discussed in this book  had definitely popped before my eyes time and again. WikiLeaks and Phishing cases, ATM heists and cyber crime, drugs and politics, online gaming portals and their downloadable mobile apps are all terms that one is not alien too anymore if you have spent sufficient time online, browsing posts at FB and elsewhere. However linking up all these myriad concepts to build a seamlessly thrilling story of murder and mystery is unfathomable. Hats off to Ravi Subramanian for hatching an unbelievably awesome plot and convincingly weaving it all together, piece by piece. The amount of effort and meticulous research gone into writing this novel, clearly shows.   

Its however very surprising how the author has gone ahead and mentioned such gigantic brand names while portraying them in bad light- Visa and Mastercard, Dell Computers exploding like bombs in different continents. Tanya is gifted a Tanishq ring by Varun, they celebrate Malvika's birthday party at Four Seasons in Mumbai, Tanya carries a Hermes Birkin handbag. Why does it sound more like advertising rather than detailing to build a background to the story? 

Though this book can easily be labelled as an excellent read and a complete entertainer, I did find a few loose ends that could have been given more attention to. The epilogue brings a swift closure on each aspect of the story, giving a glimpse of what each character is going through after Adrian and Dan have cracked the mystery wide open. However, why did I get a strong feeling that the author was in a rush to close the mystery? Also I waited till the very last page for the word God to figure somewhere. How was HE involved in all this? And why has GOD been framed as a gamer in the title of the book, I fail to understand! 

I expected a Penguin book to be much more tightly skimmed for typo' errors. I spotted a couple of grammatical  errors in the first half of the book too but only began to take note in the latter half. 1)  Pg. 236 - 'Three of his neighbours, who has seen the ghastly attack, went along with him and signed off as witnesses.'
2) Pg. 261- 'This in a disaster.'
3) Pg. 286- 'Can you please explain Ms. Tanya Sehgal, how that bottle came to be ('in' missing) your bag?' 
4) Pg. 304- 'They had started seeing each ('other' missing) after the party.

 Chapter 99 finally reveals how the crime was plotted and who the actual Mastermind was. The biggest twist lies at the climax and the enumeration is magnificent. The last few paragraphs sums it all up by showing how despite all the murky business, its the emerging world of Bitcoins that is poised to take over the finance world, making millionaires out of commonplace people if you are intelligent enough to cope with it.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Oct 15, 2014

Jeep And Bourbon - Chapters 1 to 27 for BlogAdda's GameOfBlogs #CelebrateBlogging


Chapter 1: Whose idea was it anyway?
By Avinash Gupta

Chapter 2: Touch-Me-Not 
By Vibhuti Bhandarkar

Chapter 3: The Ignominy of Defeat
By Rahul Prabhakar

Chapter 4: The Pleasure of Pain
By Pankaj Sharma

Chapter 5: The Road Not Taken
By Harsh Singh

Chapter 6: The Silent Confessions 
By Veturi Sarma

Chapter 7: The Unwinding of Events
By Sarath Babu

Chapter 8: Two Lives
By Babitha A. Costa

Chapter 9: Life’s Mysteries
By Romita Dey

Chapter 10: The Peace Before the Storm
By Pankaj Sharma

Chapter 11: A Humble Sojourn
By Narasimha Sharma Veturi

Chapter 12: Desire Ain’t A Mere Coincidence
By Rahul Prabhakar

Chapter 13: The Plot
By Harsh Singh

Chapter 14: Small Pleasure
By Babitha A. Costa

Chapter 15: Beware of Strangers!
By Vibhuti Bhandarkar

Chapter 16: J for Jealousy
By Romita Dey

Chapter 17: The Loss of Innocence
By Narasimha Sharma Veturi

Chapter 18: Knock, Knock, Whose There?
By Vibhuti Bhandarkar

Chapter 19: Midnight Mysteries
By Sarath Babu

Chapter 20: My hunches are always right!
 By Vibhuti Bhandarkar

Chapter 21: Closing In
By Narasimha Sharma Veturi

Chapter 22: Three is some bad company...
By Vibhuti Bhandarkar

Chapter 23: In Confusion
By Babitha A. Costa

Chapter 24: Forgiveness Doesn't Mean Forgetting
By Rahul Prabhakar

Chapter 25: Surfing through troubled times
By Harsh Singh

Chapter 26: Crime and Punishment
By Narasimha Sharma Veturi

Chapter 27: The Term is Licentiousness
By Rahul Prabhakar

Oct 13, 2014

The Scribe Tribe Goes to the Game of Blogs at BlogAdda # CelebrateBlogging!

 10 little Bloggies listed at the Adda,
 Dollie never fell in line,
So then there were 9.

9 little Bloggies blogging at our Adda,
Pankaj quit, a very sensitive team-mate,
And then sadly they were only 8

8 little Bloggies writing for Adda,
Avinash wouldn't write and didn't quit even,
And so battling it out were only seven

7 little Bloggies The Scribe Tribe of Adda,
Sarath's with his tweeple and we are in a fix,
thus off and on, we remain only six.

6 little Bloggies telling stories at Adda,
Romita says her comp's under the knife,
So writers, we remain only five.

5 brave Bloggies blogging for Adda,
Harry's been robbed when on a tour
We shouldered it all, only four.

The poem may be a ball of truth gathering some ire and some pity as it rolls but the remaining 4 pillars of The Scribe Tribe are extremely positive people. We gave the 'Game Of Blogs' our all and tried to make a successful journey out of it.
Not one moment did we let our writing get affected by people walking out on us.

It was a roller coaster ride, right from the beginning. Mid-Week 1 itself we had realised that we would need more number of quality fiction writers so we made an attempt to replace our absconding 10th member with a new blogger. BA promptly responded to our request and sent us a new member. 
Now I feel like a Lady Sherlock when I recall having Googled the new guy's name to find more about him. I had ventured out to Google his profile because despite Rahul-our POC having written to the replacing player numerous times, he hadn't responded either. So Lo & Behold! What do we find out? A fugitive, an international criminal involved in several fraud marriage cases had been included in our team. I could imagine all my team mates faces draining colour as I shared my discovery with them. BlogAdda was informed and that was that! We chucked him, we blocked him and did some more online scouting to keep him from following us. Hope we have him off our backs for good!
So yeah! The Scribe Tribe's journey has been quite eventful. 

THE SCRIBE TEAM and what we are made up of....

Day #1 When the team members list arrived, I'd taken the initiative to write to my teammates introducing myself and got cracking at the ice to bring everybody together. As the saying goes, 'first impressions are the last impressions', it rings true.

In the first instance itself, RAHUL PRABHAKAR's self-introductory mail told me, his name sounds like that of a commando and he surely will do well as our Captain. Soon after all the members had been rounded, we had unanimously elected him as our Point of Contact as instructed by BlogAdda and we were good to go!

Need I say, Rahul did justice to his first impression by being there always for the team from Day #1 till date. 
He saw to it that he'd given his weekly contribution of a story before leaving for the holiday at Goa with his family that had been pre-planned which happened by the end of week #2 of the GameOfBlogs. This guy's sense of responsibility kept him online and Via FB chat and Whatsapp he saw to it that we updated him and also helped us co-ordinate things as usual.Its a known fact that the Goan Suseghat lifestyle affects us all once you have touched the land but this guy was relentless with his participation in Week #3, especially because we were aiming for the Wild Card entry. Between all the challenges he also had a terrible conjunctivitis to battle and yet The Scribe Tribe's Captain Rahul Prabhakar played the editor's role too, all throughout, absolutely well without a single complaint. The cleanup job after all our euphoric typing is the toughest I believe! 
He has also set-up and runs The Scribe Tribe's FB page where we have a 100 LIKEs already! :)

When I signed up for the #GameOfBlogs I'd made a mental note that I, VIBHUTI BHANDARKAR, will stay committed to my team, come what may!
I'd like to say I have made major contribution to The Scribe Tribe's performance at the Game of Blogs. These have been 3 weeks that I took up, not only as a challenge for my writing skills but also as a self-development exercise. 
Pulling the different moody writers together, helping them with the storyline, co-ordinating to line them up, staying calm and collected when everything seemed to be  falling off the ledge, strategising, phew! The list could definitely go on. I learnt a lot along the way, about myself and about my writing plus points and drawbacks too. I now know that I can make a great team player and also quite a fine leader. I have immense patience and understanding for the myriad types of people that we may come across in life. At the risk of sounding like I'm busy blowing my own trumpet, I'd say my best contribution to this team would be the 'Scribe Tribe' logo besides all the chapters I am proud to have written for the story series that gave great twists to the tale and a creative ground for my teammates to follow up on.

Pictures speak a Thousand words! So true! Meet VETURI SARMA the brooding, thinker of our team who gave our team its name. We were The Scribe Tribe within minutes of forming a Google Group. Hip,Hip, Hooray!!! Something told me, that he was the one who'd play a key role and yes, he did! This man of few words is just the opposite when it comes to writing. He tells tall tales and how! Trust him to take one prompt and make a huge chapter out of it. :) A nocturnal being when it comes to writing, this man has been a gem all through the 3 weeks, balancing his office shifts and contributing well-drafted stories at the drop of a hat, I have special respect for this teammate.
This one was the true pillar of support without whom, Rahul and my spirits to make this team effort a success would have definitely been doused. 

And here's the lady who gave me company. BABITHA COSTA, as sweet as the fantastic dishes at her blog. She's not a creative writer but not once did she ever let us down. A quick briefing was enough for her to cook up a short and sweet piece of confectionery and our story series was off to be served, piping hot! A self-motivated contributor to the team, The Scribe Tribe is proud to have had you along Babi. She made sure that all the links were in place and active, keeping a keen eye-out for small typos and errors that may have given us a slip before Rahul's proof-reading. 

There's immense amount of virtual love going around between the 4 of us here. I am so proud to have worked shoulder to shoulder with you all on our story series. We made something out of absolutely nothing, quite literally!
BIG BEAR HUGS my Scribes!

The Pancham of our troupe, (not that he sings or composes) since he is the fifth member who stood strong, win or no win, up for the Wild Card Entry round too. It wouldn't be a big surprise if I meet this HARSH SINGH, in person at one of the airport terminals. he practically lives there he says..;) Quite the traveller, this young banking professional got looted off his bag of valuables at Mathura. Shuttling between the Police office and hotel, between cities and his own office, he almost forgot about his Scribe Tribe! Or probably he just couldn't manage writing. I apologise Harry, I had to drag you back by the ear in the Wild Card Entry week again, we needed you!

SARATH BABU our animal lover friend, found some abandoned baby squirrels and adopted them. His videos and pictures that he's shared with me during the first 2 weeks, gave me an insight into how one can actually feel unconditional love in bringing up little babies, not only human but also pet animals like these cute little nibblers. One of the squirrels escaped from Sarath's home and soon after he found it dead in his own garden behind the bushes. And ever since the grief-stricken Sarath has not written for us. We missed your writing for the Wild Card round. 
Sarath is a Tweeteratti. Quite a celeb out there, running contests and having a gigiantic number of followers. Thankful and proud to have your support out there Sarath!

Sigh! Thus went the past 3 weeks in the blink of an eye but these days left us with a treasure trove of experiences. Lessons learnt, lifelong friends found in Rahul, Veturi, Baitha and Sarath. I am so proud to have met you all and formed a team with you'll. If given a chance to turn the hands of time I wouldn't change a thing about us. 

The Scribe Tribe could do without a certain member 'A' who kept mum Week 2 onward, not quitting and not even contributing; sitting on the fence and blissfully watching us struggle. His snide remarks were also one reason for the loss of a good contributing member from our team who felt hurt and quit. There was one more writer whom time and again I had to pull up and beg and plead for whatever little contribution she has made in the first 2 weeks.  Sadly focus and commitment was dreadfully missing and I confess I' wish I'd requested a replacement for them. I wonder what made them sign up for the competition in the first place?

Thankyou BlogAdda for this amazing experience at the #GameOfBlogs.

Never knew #CelebrateBlogging had so much more to it than only writing. It wasn't just about writing and story telling, it wasn't just about working towards our dreams and ambitions of getting published, it was more, much more than we could ever imagine!

Oct 5, 2014

Jeep & Bourbon Chapter 22 #CelebrateBlogging

Read the previous chapter HERE 

Chapter 22: Three is some bad company...

Yet another day had gone by, of doing nothing, absolutely nothing.

Jennifer was bored to her wits end, the restless soul that she was. Mumbai offered so many exciting opportunities to explore. There were parties they could have attended and premieres they could have been at. She only had to tell her Paparazzi friends in Mumbai that she would be arriving with the Super Model Aryan Ahuja and they would have got her as many passes as she would like.

"Oh! What fun it would have been." Jennifer was daydreaming of being in Aryan's glamorous company.

Her face soured as she remembered how Cyrus seemed to have completely forgotten all about his promise. The previous evening, after a brief and quite cold introduction, Jennifer had been left by the two guys at the Dutta home. Aryan and Cyrus had just simply turned on their heels and walked out. Jennifer hadn’t been invited over to Aryan's apartment at all, by either of them.

"How rude!" Jennifer felt insulted by this behavior and retired to her room. She had begun to feel a rage rising within her, embittered, almost feeling like she'd been jilted.

The two guys seemed to have disappeared into their own bubble. There had been no sign of them after that sudden and abrupt exit. Shekhar had also seemed clueless about their whereabouts and seemed equally disinterested in keeping track of them.

"He must have other things to worry about" Jennifer sighed.

 '..but where was the camaraderie Cyrus claimed to have had with Shekhar? What had happened to that great urge to reconnect with Shekhar which had been the main reason for Cyrus to accompany her to Mumbai?'

The setting sun had sent an orange glow washing the cool floor of her room, as the thin curtains blew in the light evening breeze. Jennifer rose from her bedside perch, to stand in the window. The sight of the round peppermint-like sun sinking lower, behind the clouds, dipping to the ground made her feel more despondent. She rested her head against the wooden window frame in resignation. The tilt of her head now granted her a view of the small garden in the apartment compound.

Jennifer spotted Roohi on the swings. Alone but she dint look lonely. Clutching her 'Chennai Express' Barbie, as she called it, Roohi seemed to be humming some song because her lips were moving. Jennifer bent a little further, over the window-sill to get a clearer view of the chubby little girl. She gave a short gasp at what she saw.

Roohi hadn’t been humming. She was actually talking. To the tall and lanky Aryan Ahuja who stood looming over the girl, with his back towards their apartment building.

'So finally I get a glimpse of the hunk, again!' Before Jennifer could even begin to smile, a dark thought crept into her mind, as she realised Aryan was beckoning to the girl. Roohi had jumped off the swing and allowed him to lift her into his arms.

Jennifer could hear high pitched voices from the living room. It was Tara's shrill shrieking and Shekhar's low-throat retorts. Tara and Shekhar clearly weren't watching over Roohi. It however seemed impossible that they would ask Aryan Ahuja to go fetch her.

Tara had clearly written both Cyrus Daruwala and Aryan Ahuja as strangers with doubtable characters.

"How much do we know about them, actually Jen?" Tara had protested.

Jennifer felt the floor of her stomach sink. Tara's hunches seemed to be frighteningly correct, at this moment.

'What was Aryan Ahuja up to? Where was he taking Roohi?' Jennifer's head had begun to whirr with a million ugly possibilities.

"There certainly seems to be something fishy happening here." Without wasting a single more moment, Jennifer picked up her DSLR and shot out of her room like a blitzing arrow, past the mindlessly arguing couple. Tara and Shekhar were engrossed in their long-drawn tiff, busy throwing sharp words at each other. They failed to see Jennifer cruise past them.

Jennifer stopped in her shoes, shocked to see that the door to Aryan Ahuja's neighboring flat had been pad-locked!

'That meant Cyrus Daruwala, wasn’t inside. Where was he?' Jennifer saw even more reasons to worry. She rushed down the stairs, taking two steps at a time. She had not time to waste waiting for the elevator. Anything could happen meanwhile.

"If they've locked the flat they definitely aren’t headed home. Are Cyrus and Aryan together? Where are they taking Roohi?" Jennifer started crying loudly as she tore down the stairs at break-neck speed.
Jennifer finally reached the ground floor and stopped to catch some breath. Just then there was a sudden blackout. Something told her that she should prep her camera ready to flash. That was the only way she could catch the culprits red-handed. Her sixth sense, like Tara's, had already written the two men off.

She rushed to the back gate, adjacent to the children's play area, weaving between the cars and bikes in the parking lot. She moved stealthily, quietly, towards the gate in the moonlit evening. It wasn't pitch dark. She could see a vehicle parked across the road, in the lonely by-lane outside. Squinting in the dark, peering at the car, Jennifer could see there were figures, shadily busy, inside it. The old, almost dilapidated Wagon R seemed to be trembling with activity.

Jennifer ducked and waddled over to the other side, approaching the car from its rear end. She could hear muffled voices from inside as she reached the left rear tail end. Bravely Jennifer rose, with pre-meditated and defined movements. The skilled photographer had flashed, rapidly, running around the car front over to the other side, with her camera aimed at the people inside the car.

"Sorry guys! This party is over." Jennifer shouted at the Wagon's occupants, menacingly going for one last and final shot.

The flash shone on a third figure in the driver's seat. Jennifer realised that there was a tall and robust guy, a third companion in this plan assisting Cyrus and Aryan. She was clearly out-numbered by them, if they decided to make their move. She hastily retreated and raced for the apartment gates again, yelling for help. As she rushed in and ducked between a couple of cars in the parking lot, Jennifer was surprised that Aryan and his aides hadn’t driven off with the girl, yet. She stayed hidden there. And soon she heard a lot of feet running towards the gates from where they'd probably heard her call for help. The Security guards were whistling and leading the gang..

 And soon she heard Tara's voice over the crowd's surprised gasps, "It's Roohi!" The mother's exasperated crying rose over the loud discussions that ensued between the people.

Jennifer rose from her hideout and rushed towards the gates again and saw Shekhar rush in with Roohi's limp figure in his arms. Neighbours were soon crowding around the trio as Shekhar had put Roohi down on the table in the lobby and Tara was desperately trying to wake her up. She was splashing water on the little girl's face and rubbing her hands vigorously while the neighbours continued to liberally shower them with unsolicited advice. Nobody had bothered to wonder who must have alerted them with her cries for help? Nobody had ventured beyond to investigate or chase the assailants.

"Whose car was it by the way? Anybody has any idea? Does it belong to someone from our apartment complex?" Tara was heard asking as Jennifer began pushing through the crowd to reach Tara, Shekhar and Roohi.

"No Madame, I've definitely not seen it around here before." The security guard seemed reliable in his observations.    

Jennifer thrust the camera under Shekhar's nose, with its playback mode switched on. She'd caught many snaps of Cyrus staring into the camera, dazed by the flashes, like a deer in  the headlight. Aryan had been caught, huddled over Roohi, pressing a kerchief to her mouth as she struggled to free herself. Roohi's clawing had caused him to wince into the camera. Jennifer had caught the third face in the photographs too.

Jennifer saw Shekhar's eyes grow wider and his mouth fall open in a mixed reaction of utter shock and dismay. Jennifer had herself been very shaken to see the results of her own spying. For her, that third face had been the most disturbing discovery of the evening.

 Roohi had begun to stir and murmur. Tara pulled the camera towards herself. The last frame with the third assailant's face was still staring up at them. And it was Tara's turn to faint at the sight of what had fallen before her eyes.

"…but why?" She asked feebly, before beginning to collapse into Jennifer's arms, her face draining all colour.   

Read the next Chapter 23: Confusion by Babitha D'costa.

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