Jun 30, 2010

#5 Love Life's Longing!

LuiFei had taken Wu under her wing, gladly. So along with 9 other girls in about the same age group as hers, Wu began her training. The first morning after Wu had been taken in LuiFei introduced YinHe as Wu's own consort and companion during her stay at the harem. Wu was initially taken aback by YinHe's broad structure.
Wu soon realised that along with the hoards of the trainee concubines and veterans there were an equal number of Eunuchs living in the Emperor's harem. In the war that had ensued between the Mongols and The Emperor's army during the Mutiny, the adult offenders were brutally butchered but the young Mongol boys were only castrated and brought home as prisoners of war. As many as 70, 000 sexless mongol boys had been taken in. Thousands of these Mongol boys who had lost their penis and testicles before puberty were sent to the Emperor's harem.  These eunuchs maintained strict vigilance over the imperial ladies acting as the harem watch dogs. The irony was such that these eunuchs were viciously loyal to the very same Emperor Lao Zhung who was responsible for the loss of their vital organs.

Only these sexless  beings could act as personal servants to the harem's ladies and besides the Emperor, were the only others to be allowed into 'The Great Within' . Thus it was ensured that the imperial concubines only bore the emperor's children!

YinHe was one such lesser being. His name was Xyung Chan when he was a broad shouldered, tanned Mongol male soldier of 14 with deep set eyes. YinHe appeared far elder for his age. Wu and YinHe got along very well. Since they were of the same age and new to the harem's ways, Wu found a confidante in YinHe. Co-incidentally YinHe had been castrated at Kunming. Thus YinHe had also made a new beginning from the same village where Wu hailed from. Wu and YinHe were soon bound together in a sharing of their sorrows.

With each passing year Wu and YinHe became thick pals. YinHe protected his little girlfriend from the politics of the harem. He saw that LuiFei's training was well imbibed. He secretly groomed Wu in the army discipline he was brought up with. YinHe was quick to chide Wu for even a single slip-up. While LuiFei was teaching Wu the feminine charms that lured the men, softening her beauty and rearing her like the daintiest of flowers in the garden, YinHe taught Wu to stregthen herself from within.
"A strong mind in a healthy body was the key to success!", YinHe had said and Wu had kept these words close to her heart.

When the moon shone bright over the silver lined silhouette of the palace walls and when the Emperor had not come visiting, YinHe and Wu whispered to each other late into the night. It was almost a decade into the ritual of those long drawn conversations between Wu and YinHe, held secretly in the confines of Wu's personal chamber, by the window, in the silence of the night.
Wu wasn't a teenager any more but the  Imperial concubine,Wu Zhung and YinHe had grown into a  seasoned and trusted servant to the harem. Since he was almost always at Wu Zhung's side, it hadn't gone unnoticed that there was a stark difference in Wu Zhung's way of speaking of the Emperor. YinHe was in on the change that was slowly taking over Wu Zhung. YinHe's keen eyes had caught her avoiding the Emperor's advances more than once.

So when he found Wu Zhung at her desk, pen in hand, poised over a piece of poetry he snatched it up and read it...
Love life’s longing

Hearts aflutter, minds restless,

Souls mated in strife; Strife in mated souls

Restless minds, aflutter hearts

Longing life’s love!

YinHe had only a few words of advise for her, "One teapot is usually accompanied by four cups. But have you ever seen one cup with four teapots?"
Wu Zhung very well knew what YinHe had meant. 
Men need multiple women but women are expected to stay committed to just one man.

#4 The Concubine!

Wu Zhung turned at the sound of feet scampering around the garden hedge. She seemed to have been out too long and the maids had discovered her absence. Her Black Sik lined Lotus Shoes in hand, the maid had now spotted her. She hurried towards her with a bowed head and placed the shoes at her feet, urging her to step into them. Meanwhile her personal favourite YinHe, a little elderly and very matronly servant stood sulking, about how she could catch a cold walking barefoot on the lawn like that.
She bore with her complaints for she could feel the well-concealed concern and love in her scolding.
Everybody who had seen Wu Zhung from close quarters knew that hidden behind those sultry looks there was still a child longing for attention and love.
As she reluctantly let them lead her within, Wu Zhung couldn't resist thinking back about that day when she had just arrived here. The peasant's daughter Wu had arrived with hope in her eyes to be the source of relief to her ailing mother back in Kunming. Wu, the petite teenager had brought along with her only a basket of flowers, loads of candidness  and warmth. Her zest for life was what seemed to have drawn Emperor Lao Zhung to her.

This nubile young thing so plump with wholesome beauty was more real than any of the dainty painted dolls that walked in the corridors of his palace as his concubines. Emperor had just looked once, deep into Wu's eyes in that flickering second when Wu had mustered all the courage to look up at Lao Zhung. Wu had been taken in by the scent of his presence, the aura that seemed to emanate from his very being. Wu had been enamoured.
With no further ado, The Emperor had commanded his 10th mistress LuiFei to personally train Wu in the manners of the court, dancing, singing and any other artistic leaning she would display.
And thus Wu was initiated into the court of the Emperor Lao Zhung.
When LuiFei took her hand ever so gently and lovingly she had instantly felt a sense of belonging. Squeezing her hand tight, Wu had followed her and set off on no ordinary journey. Wu didnt know that then onwards it was to be a constant struggle for power, praises and succes. She was just one more amongst the 3000 other court ladies.
Wu's confirmation to a life of luxury and pride had come only after she had proved her artistic versatility, feminine charm and sexual prowess. After rigorous training for a year and a half, Wu at the age of 15 was imperially conferred the title as The Emperor Lao Zhung's 211th Concubine. There was clearly no parallel to the number of concubines the Emperor had to his disposal.

As Wu Zhung took one measured step, with the maids, from the peony garden to her personal chamber, she remembered how the title had only raised the bar for her. She now had to prove herself the best of all mistress'. That's how her passion for success ruled her. Instead of resting on those laurels, Wu had set about doing what she was wired  to do, rise above the rest!


This is Chapter 4 of 'The Great Without' Story series. If you have missed out and wish to can catch up you can read from Chapter #1 ...Looking forward to reviews of the series..:D

Note for the readers:
LUI is a romanized non-Mandarin variant of the Chinese surname Lei meaning 'Thunder'
FEI means concubine.
LuiFei is our fictitious Emperor's concubine here but in ancient China names of the concubines were actually  thus concocted.

Jun 28, 2010

# 3- What Women Want...

Wu Zhung pulled herself out of her reverie and back onto her feet. She was so absorbed in her trip into the past that she never realised that she had slumped down to the ground between the dewy flowers. She had lain there for quite some time. Her hair was all tousled now, the hem of her dress slightly stained a darker crimson with mud, but she didnt care. She had to get a grip on her emotions. They were running wild!

What was it that her heart yearned for?
What did she want?
Wu Zhung wondered. She was the Emperor's favourite concubine. She had servants at her beck and call. The best of the silk and the rarest of gems in her treasury. The world's finest Ivory was used in making her comb and even her feet knew only the brightest and prettiest Silk coated Lotus Shoes. She bathed in the most heavenly aromas and rested her head on very soft and plush Futon.
These luxuries were not known to her when she was just another peassant's daughter.
Then, she had never dreamed of half the things in her posession now.
Then, she had never known such delicacies that now arrived at her table in tempting quantities.
"Then why the tears Wu ?" she asked herself.

"What is that you want, woman?" She demanded her heart to answer.
And it spoke again.
It whispered between the innumerable petals in the peonies.
It sprang at her like a weaver bird from between the bushes.
The answer stood before her crystal clear like the morning.

"What Women Want is Love!"
The tender caress of love not the wild embrace of lust.
" The finest of fabrics will not bring a smile to my face but a loving compliment from him would.
A little attention, a caring word, the concern in his voice to know how I fare. That is what my heart longs for.
What do I care for a hundred sumptuous dishes when there is not he, my companion to dine with me?"

Strains of music from within travelled to her ears but Wu remained, unmoved.
It was a lilting, romantic tune. One that she would have begun dancing to if she was still the kid from Kunming. Alas! She wasn't Wu anymore.
Wu was loved. Indeed her parents were poor but they loved her with all their feeble hearts.
Wu was adored as the prettiest girl on the Kunming farmlands.
But Wu Zhung was posessed.
As the most seductive and luscious, full lipped beauty. Wu Zhung was not just another Imperial consort in the Emperor's harem but a respected Fei, a concubine.
" And so I will remain?"

She wasn't a silly little nubile teenager any more. She was a woman of twenty three with beauty in abundance. She felt a fire rise in the pit of her belly. The thought had made yet another tear drop settle on her thick eyelashes.

She was aware that she was falling out of love for the Emperor.The Emperor had indeed bestowed on her the very best but less enamoured by him now, Wu Zhung's heart was devoid of feeelings for him when he touched her. Had he noticed that too?

Concubines were not required to do much. They were just some spoilt, young women flitting about the palace, looking beautiful, bouncing with oomph and entertaining their beloved Emperor! Wu Zhung knew she didnt want to be only that any more.
Wu Zhung had more than that on her mind!
This woman knew what she wanted.
Or rather who she wanted....

Love life’s longing

Hearts aflutter, minds restless,

Souls mated in strife;

Strife in mated souls

Restless minds, aflutter hearts

Longing life’s love!



To be continued....

This post also participates in BlogAdda's What Women Want Contest.
If Wu Zhung belonged to this century, im sure she'd want this from Pringoo.com...
She'd relate to this painting of an 'Abstract Beauty' im sure!

Note for readers:
Fei is concubine in Mandarin Pinyin / Chinese.

WTF- Whom They Feared....

Team This post has been published by me as a team member of The Blue Ink Society for the SUPER 4 round of Bloggers Premier League (BPL) – The first ever unique, elite team blogging of blog world. To catch the BPL action and also be part of future editions and other contests, visit and register at Cafe GingerChai

Cover Story at The Blue Ink Society's E-mag WTF!- Where Time Flies..

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Jun 25, 2010

#2 The gift from Kunming

karenswhimsy.com
The Mongol tyranny had reached its pinnacle. After decades of peace however they had grown used to taking the peasants for granted and had rested their swords. The once vicious and aggressive Mongol warriors were lying dormant.

Taking advantage of this laid back attitude Lao Zhung strategized his next attack on the Mongolian Overlords. He had fought many a battles on the Pearl River Delta against the Mongols but never returned victorious. This time he had it all crystal clear in his mind. Lao Zhung’s men mingled with the peasants in the different provinces of the Delta and gained their confidence. They ribbed the local peasants who were tired of the Mongol tyranny. Soon meetings were being conducted in the dark of the night to plan their moves. Within no time, the peasants had risen in revolt. Lao Zhung seized this opportunity and backed the rebels against the Mongol overlords with his army.

With his keen foresight and sharp mind Lao Zhung emerged as their leader, rallying his soldiers and farmers to the cause of establishing his own Empire. Over the following decade the revolt spread all over. There was not a nook or cranny safe enough for a Mongol. The Mongolian warlords seemed to have made foes wherever they went and were clearly outnumbered by the army raised by Lao Zhung. Also their in-fights had weakened their own bearing. Thus the Mongols were forced to retreat and Lao Zhung established his own Empire, proclaiming himself the Emperor.

It was during one of these months of celebration after the great victory that little Wu had arrived at the Emperor’s palace leaving her old mother alone, back at home in Kunming, to the south of the Cloud Mountains. Wu had just reached puberty and her beauty was in full blossom. Anyone who laid eyes on her could only think of a pink Peony in full bloom. Her eyes like soft petals had many dreams ensconced in them.

Her luscious lips quivered in excitement as she arrived before the towering structure of the Royal palace. A basket of Peonies in hand, she awaited her turn to be presented before Lao Zhung who now reigned as Emperor at the ripe age of 25. IIIrd son of the autocratic Emperor Lao Di, Lao Zhung had now gained fame as the Son of The Dragons. He was ruling his Empire with the same fire in his belly and infinite valour. Wu trembled in her plain cotton dress at the idea of being appraised by such a formidable man. Little did she know that in the near future she would no longer remain an ordinary woman!

Wu could not help but feel so belittled before the palatial grandeur for she hailed from an impoverished farmer’s family. She would have given anything to know what lay in store for her. Little did this lissome teenager know that she could rest all her worries for she was to be the Emperor’s favorite concubine soon!

To be continued....
This is a small beginning to a big story. Please do read Part #1 of the STory series 'The Great Without'.


Jun 24, 2010

#1 The Bed of Peonies

The peonies were looking exceptionally beautiful this morning. She stood bare foot on the neatly trimmed lawns, her dainty feet sinking slightly in the soft earth. A single pearl hairpin kept her long and lustrous black locks in place. Her silken crimson robe also had Poenies profusely and intricately embroidered on it with the finest golden threads. She made such a dramatic sight, looking like the queen of the flowers herself.

On this Chinese New Year’s day kings and envoys from the length and breadth of Asia would assemble to pay homage to their Emperor Lao Zhung. Inside, it was hustling with activity. Preparation for the grand welcome ceremony for so many guests was afoot. Sound of laughter and excited chatter between the ladies trickled to Wu Zhung’s ears. Outside, she stood wearing a look of disdain on her face. Her eyes lacked the gleam and her drooping shoulders said something was amiss.

Wu Zhung was a vision of exquisite beauty. But her steps were slow and measured. From between her thick eye lashes that contoured her tightly shut eyes slipped a tear drop. Rolling down her smooth fair cheek it fell to the shrubs and was lost between the dew drops in no time. As she bent to smell the flowers, she appeared to be searching for that lost tear drop. Wu Zhung felt the flowers didn’t smell as lovely as before.

She stood forlorn between the bed of peonies, humbled by destiny!

To be continued......

This is a small beginning to a big story. Part #1 of the STory series 'The Great Without'.

Jun 19, 2010

Shutter Island

If you are a movie buff and long for movies with fantastic storylines then Shutter Island is your bite. This is one movie that keeps you glued, thinking and on the edge all throughout. This is certainly not a movie for those who believe that movies should be watched purely for relaxation and entertainment.


Martin Scorsese has done it again! I was floored by his crime genre movie The Departed and he has left me speechless with Shutter Island. Leonardo Di Caprio and he have worked wonders again. The script is flawless and can’t be reviewed unless the movie is discussed at length.

Set in the post World War II era, in 1954 U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo Di Caprio) and his comrade Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are investigating the escape of a patient from the federal maximum security hospital/ prison for the criminally insane called Ashcliffe Hospital. Rachel Solando seems to have just “evaporated through the walls” of her secure cell. This patient is a young woman who drowned all three of her children in the lake adjacent to her home and is in denial of the crime. She in fact believed that her children weren’t dead but were at school. Teddy and Chuck begin enquiring with the asylum inmates, nurses and attendants. As the movie progresses Leo is convinced that there is more than meets the eye. Head Psychiatrist Dr. John Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and the other doctors are hiding facts and seemingly involved in punishable, criminal and cold experiments on the patients brains. “Psychotropic drugs” and “Transorbital Lobotomy” are the scares!

Thunder, lightning, heavy downpours, stormy weather, cold & gray Gothic buildings, the sea lashing against the light-house that supposedly houses the tabooed operation theatre are a fantastic build-up to the mystery. The audience travels with Teddy through Labyrinthine Wards, migraine attacks and his dream-like flashbacks, nightmares and hallucinations. At this point I’m reminded of Roman Polanski movies that sent a chill down your spine. And Shutter Island is a perfect Psycho- Thriller in the same league.

Has Dr. Cawley smelled that Teddy was in on the guarded secrets about the illegal experiments being undertaken on patients at the light house? Teddy Daniels is himself wounded by memories of the Nazi death camp when he was the U.S. army Marshall which was later followed by the accidental death of his wife in a fire mishap. He has not been able to shake off the memories and often suffers migraine attacks. Is Dr. Cawley using this fact and playing with his mind too at Ashcliffe? “Who is patient No. 67?" is asked on a chit obtained from Rachel Solando’s room when the administration says there are only 66 patients in house? Ben Kingsley’s menacing smile is a killer, convincing us that he is most definitely the villain.

Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s pulp thriller novel is truly brainy and more than just food for thought. I was on the edge till the end. But the question again arises whether the movie has done enough justice to the book? I can only comment on that after reading it.

Shutter Island has a fiercely twisted and complex end with a script tightly woven around character-driven emotions and behavioral patterns. It keeps you guessing whether Teddy is a patient himself at Ashcliffe or is indeed a detective being driven mad. As far as the movie is concerned, it successfully deceives the audience till the very end even with the final closing line that’s even more ambiguous.
This story has made such a lingering impression on my mind. I recommend you'll give it a watch ASAP.
Shutter Island is one movie that is definitely not a onetime watch.
DO NOT Miss this one!!!

Jun 17, 2010

55 Fiction #6



She had found the best escape from her pain, isolation, helplessness &  shame.

She would KILL the voice that tormented her from within!

Her baby wailed for milk but she had to help herself first.

Her heart beat faster and faster as she swallowed it.

…..And it was sheer ECSTACY!

Jun 16, 2010

A miniature painting

MEERABAI
What you see here is a watercolour painting on mount board in its actual size, about 3" width X 5" length
So you can imagine how tiny it is. Quite tedious job it is, to work on the detailing in a miniature painting.
She appears on the cover of Sandalwood Agarbattis. Thats why have used only pastel shades!
Completed this assignment within a day, somewhere in 2002, at college. This is one of my fav artworks, for you'll to review brought out of the archives.  

Jun 15, 2010

Simply Naisaiku


You were back biting?
Friend of Foe!
Et tu Brute
Friend of Foe!
You were back biting?
Et tu Brute

Have tried the strict 3-5-3 syllable count Naisaiku this time.
:D

This fun form of  poetry celebrates its 60th week of The Naisaiku Challenge

A Wedding Idea

When my pen rests, my pencil is at work. This a cartoon from the archives. Am considering a change in profession. How about turning a wedding planner? :P

Jun 14, 2010

De' fine Eductaion

Team This post has been published by me as a team member of The Blue Ink Society for the SUPER 5 round of Bloggers Premier League (BPL) – The first ever unique, elite team blogging of blog world. To catch the BPL action and also be part of future editions and other contests, visit and register at Cafe GingerChai






18 year old Champa had arrived to work as a Nanny for me when I was a 10 year old. A Gujrati high school drop-out, she had confessed time and again that she found it extremely difficult to survive in Mumbai where life was getting increasingly influenced by the English language, with each passing day.
I soon realized that my proactive mother had dutifully taken up her cause without further dilly-dally. She could play Nanny the rest of the time but that one hour every evening, she’d take up my homework and also sit Champa down for her lessons.
Many lessons in numbers, alphabets and building of words later, progress was still very slow but my mother in all perseverance had gone on to teaching her singular and plurals.

“One root, two roots. Ok? But sometimes One tooth and many teeth.”, my mother taught. And she repeated.

“One foot, two feet. Got it?”

“Got it!” she said.

“Now you’ve learnt enough let me test you. One boot, then two…..?”

“Beet!”, pat came the reply.

Even if those patient lessons in English continued and Champa was able to speak fluently some day, I still couldn’t imagine how she’d ever be able to understand why ‘A Slim Chance’ and a ‘Fat Chance’ are the same. Or that a Guinea Pig is neither a Guinea nor a pig!
Why is it that whether you sit down or sit up, the results are the same?
How come Writers write but Fingers don't fing? And Grocers don't groce and Hammers don't ham?
Unless one grew up with such eccentricities, how could an adult be educated enough to KNOW this confusing language?

When Amitabh Bachchan rolled out that dialogue in Namak Hallal on T.V.,  Champa who was shelling peas sitting on the floor near me, started rolling over and laughing her head off. She couldn’t have concurred more with him at that particular point when he said, “ …because English is a very phunny language!”

It suddenly brought back that other scene from the Hindi movie Chupke Chupke to my mind when yet again, the actor Om Prakash tried to educate his driver and was bombarded with some very unique Questions, “ Agar T-O To (pronounced as Tu) hai, D-O Do (pronounced as Du) hai to G-O Go(pronounced as Gu) kyun nahi?” I also remembered the wife’s hand pulling the pallo over her nose at such a repulsive thought.
I thanked my stars that I was not Champa’s teacher and thus wasn’t at risk of being at the receiving end of such atrocious questions.

Champa had been taught telephone manners too and showed a little confidence in speaking a couple of sentences in English, now and then.

I overheard her once answering a phone call on our landline, “No, Madam is busy. Sorry! May I give her the MASSAGE?”

At yet another occasion she asked at the stationery shop, “Give me 10 A-4 size SHIT please.”

We used to poke fun at the Gujrati accent at school, which I thought was unfair but now that it was falling on my ears in reality, I couldn’t help smiling.

Champa would come and dutifully inform my mother, “Madam, guests in the HOLE! I will bring SNAKES?”
Champa was pretty loud and clear when she spoke English and teaching her pronunciations was an entirely different ball game!



 ****


One Sunday I heard my mother comment aloud, “Who says education in India happens only at schools?” Champa, wherever you go keep your eyes and ears open and you will have learnt the language in no time!”

I only realized my mother’s folly a little later when I walked to the bazaar with my mother and Champa in tow. I spotted some very interesting boards.
One read `Froot Stal’ and another boasted of ‘Froot chooce’. Though she kept pointing out and I corrected the spellings for Champa, my mother walked along with a sorry face.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I spotted another sign, ‘Do not stick posters here. Stickers will be prosecuted.’ And to think Champa had trouble expressing herself in English. These literates really needed to go back to school too.

Yesterday I received an E- Mail with photographs of signs with abominable spelling mistakes. And they immediately reminded me of that incident and Champa’s Adult Education sessions.





****



It was my summer vacations and I clearly remember my mother and Champa had managed to move onto more difficult lessons in her education. My mother was now teaching her a lot of Maths.

“How much did you spend on the groceries today?” my mother asked Champa on her return from the market.

“Madam, I spent Rs.103 and 50 paise.” She replied.

“Why didn't you round it off to Rs.100 and 5? That ways it would have been convenient for you to calculate how much you are to get back. Rounding off figures makes it easier to remember too.” instructed my mother.

A couple of days later, we were planning a weekend outing, so my mother called upon Champa, “Go to Dadar Station and get me 2 tickets for tomorrow’s journey to Pune.”

“Okay Madam.” Said Champa and left for the station with the money.
When she’d come back, my mother asked, “What time does the train leave tomorrow?”

Champa replied promptly “10 a.m.”

The next day we reached the station, dot on time but the train to Pune hadn't arrived. We thought it must have been late. So my mother approached a T.C. with our tickets.

 
“No madam,” he replied “The train has left on time at 9:45. a.m.”

My mother slapped her hand to her forehead when she realized what Champa must have done. She had simply rounded off the train timing to make it easier to remember!

The apt words that sum up my experience with Adult Education:
Strange as it seems, no amount of learning can cure stupidity, and higher education positively fortifies it.- Stephen Vizinczey


Hats off to the Operation FLAW (Functional Literacy for Adult Women), though it sounded defective by its abbreviated name it did turn out to be a roaring success, eventually.

Meet the team :
The Image in This Post is a Teamwork by THE BLUE INK SOCIETY

Jun 8, 2010

Palindrome Naisaiku #3

Phot courtesy http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/


Pitter patter pitter

Big and beautiful

Down pour raindrops

Pitter Patter Pitter

Raindrops pour down

Beautiful and big

Pitter patter pitter


Its the 69th week of the Naisaiku Challenge!

Jun 6, 2010

The Blogger's Block!

 Another day, another time,

 Began I, a verse to rhyme

Could only think of lines a few,

 Dare I say I was very blue?


 Every time I’d picked my pen,

 Fairly well I’d written then,

 Generous praises came to me.

 Had I then this ominous day to see?


 In utter despair I was lost,

 Jilted lover, heart in frost.

 Knelt at the altar,

 Lamenting in prayer,

 Make my pen mine again

 Nothing could be the same till then.


 One and only love of mine,

 Pen of poetry divine.

 Quill of mighty praises earned

 Respite only when you’ve returned.


 So I waited for words to come

 Till they flowed and I could hum.

 Until then what could I do?

 Vehemently pleaded forgiveness to

 Words of rhyme and reasons right

 X me not, for I promise to write,

 Zealously , from the heart , when the mind’s blocked!

 
 
Learn more about  ABC poems here

Revisiting Naisaiku

http://workoutmommy.com/

Jitterbugs

Going to school

The first time

Jitterbugs

The first time

Going to school

Jitterbugs

This is a 3 line Naisaiku with the title in the centre. Had fun writing it 'coz I read somewhere NaiSaiKu is a just for fun form of poetry. Not to be taken seriously by my veteran  fellow bloggers.

Jun 5, 2010

HIDDEN



This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 11; the eleventh edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.



                                                           [I]


Short in stature, balding egg-shaped head, cherub faced with a stiff, thin upward-curled moustache made his Frenchman’s persona stand conspicuously out in the English crowd. Hercules Poiret in his early 50s’, flicked an imaginary speck of dirt off the sleeve of his dandy suit as he stepped down onto the tarmac at London Airport.

Back in Paris a body of a young English man had been found at a secluded spot under the bridge on the bank of the river Seine. Shot in the head, the man lay in a pool of blood with the door of his Sedan thrown open and him spilling out of the car like a sand bag.

Hercules Poiret was investigating the case and had scrutinized the crime scene, in his trademark orderly manner. However he had recently hit upon a new theory of bringing about a radical change in his methods. He thought that a detective should solve the case by enquiring into the victim’s nature or by analyzing the murderer’s psychology.

This new belief had died a pre-mature death when the first vital clue to the murderer was found.

The cell phone clenched tight in the dead man’s right fist had the ‘Drafts’ window open. Besides two other messages that were typed out but not sent, was one last message that read “He'll mesh crooks- The Muru.”
“Looks like the victim is referring to the one who can help us nab the crooks…” observed Doyle “….but ‘The Muru’ is his name?”
Instead of a pat on the back for his quick observation he was only glowered at by Poiret. Robert Doyle’s shallow intelligence and inquisitive nature wasn’t appreciated and Poiret wished his good comrade stopped crossing the line during investigation.

It was indeed a cryptic clue and Poiret knew just the person to hack it!

Looking up at the London sky Poiret now sighed, sensing the heat wave and observing that the temperature was well above 30°C. As he made his way through the milling crowd of Londoners, his patent leather shoes crackled at every step. As he walked away from the runway he hoped that his little grey cells hadn’t been affected by age and there was enough in them, still, to solve this case at hand.

Close at his heels now, Doyle repeated his question to Poiret. He hated it when important details of the plan were hidden from him.
“….but what are we doing in London? Shouldn’t we be heading for America instead?”

                                               [II]

Hercules Poiret had contacted Professor Dan Langdon immediately. The Professor of Religious Iconology and Symbology at Harvard University, Dan Langdon had risen to international fame by playing the prime aide in solving many cases in the recent past. Poiret duly copied the message in the ‘Draft’ from the victim’s cell to his own phone and forwarded the SMS to him. Within moments Dan Langdon had replied via another SMS.

“In the times of Moses, the meaning of ‘Themuru’ meant anagrams; words with hidden meanings. So ‘He'll mesh crooks’ is an anagram to be read as Shemrock Holles. He’s your man!”
Poiret was thoroughly impressed at the speed with which Langdon had replied. Now that the clue had been decoded, Poiret wondered why such a simple answer hadn’t come to his mind.

“One of the most ingenious and gifted artists alive!” concluded Poiret regarding Prof. Langdon with awe. He was happy that the first hidden meaning in the message had been revealed and a tad bit uncomfortable about having to come face to face with the legendary Shemrock Holles, his rival of all times. Yet he was the one who had also idolized Shemrock Holles.

Looked like destiny wished they let go off all inhibitions and work on this case together! 

                                                        [III]

Shemrock Holles was a brilliant London-based consulting detective, internationally acclaimed for his extreme intellectual prowess, enormous scope of observation and astute logical reasoning! Even the most twisted of cases, abandoned as hopeless by the police had been resolved by Shemrock through his honed forensic science skills.

As Hercules Poiret & Doyle arrived at Shemrock’s III floor apartment in the Vth Avenue off Baker Square, they found a jaunt butler waiting on them, in a typical old world manner. The entire ambience within had clearly an air of bachelorhood to it, calm and sordid! No aroma of baked cookies filling the nostrils, instead there was a damp and musty odor of hard bound books & gum, thick in the air. The duo found the tall Shemrock Holles almost buried between piles of books and chronicles on the floor of the study.

The Bohemian soul had grown old and now sported a silver head. Though almost a septuagenarian, he was up on his feet within no time, waving his guests towards a pair of high backed, antique styled, swivel chairs. He perched himself on the table and requested the butler to replenish the guests with Coffee and biscuits.

After the initial pleasantries, Shemrock addressed Poiret “Without much ado I’d like to get to the purpose of your visit Monsieur.”

“I am most eager too Mr. Holles!” replied Poiret.

“It was most surprising that the victim should refer my name to you because he had never met me in person….” The portly, Tweed suited Shemrock puffed out his chest in an appearance of a sudden surge of self pride.“…..only until I scrutinized all the photographs of the crime scene!”

With this he turned his laptop to face the two gentlemen. One by one the photographs were being displayed on the screen.
"This victim is a rich British tradesman. Besides this obvious fact I also deduced from the photographs that he was involved in manual labour and had been to America more than once.”

Taken aback by the surety in his tone of voice, Doyle comments, “How in the name of God can you be so sure?”

They both failed to notice Poiret’s face twist into a grimace and brows frowning as he peered at the pictures.
It’s elementary dear Mr. Doyle.”, exclaimed Shemrock.

“The crisp beige pants and stylishly unbuttoned, black silk shirt, Versace blazer and neck- tie speak a lot about his financial well-being. The car must have been hired considering he was a guest in France. Observe the right hand clenching the phone. It is quite bigger than the left and the muscles are well-developed as if he’s worked hard with that arm. He’s wearing a $ shaped gold tie-pin. That tells me it’s a memorabilia from America. Also how can we miss that magnificent tattoo on his chest? Observe that the tattoo of the soaring eagle has red wings with the pattern of the Star-Spangled Banner on it. This re-establishes my deduction.”

“That last observation has hit a bull’s eye because the victim’s wallet did have some fresh currency from the USA along with his personal ID. We also acquired a laptop from his back seat that has all kinds of design software loaded on it. That tells us, he was a graphic designer. And he had indeed visited Paris and USA on a tourist VISA according to the passport obtained from his laptop bag.” said Poiret his green eyes gleaming with excitement. “…but where does all this lead to?”

“Now this British tradesman had led you’ll to me through an anagram for the sheer reason that the day before he was murdered he had already sent an envelope to me through courier.”, said Shemrock, reaching into the drawer of his large Oakwood Table.

He handed the envelope over to Poiret who eagerly drew out the contents and placed them on the desk. Along with an Apple USB 6GB Pen Drive was a crisp, ivory white letterhead. A graphic symbol of the sculptor’s chisel and hammer faintly watermarked on the body caught their eyes. Drawn on the reverse was an octagon in a bold red, sketch pen outline. In the centre of the octagon written with a black ball point pen in long, slanting, cursive hand were these words,

"The Moon starers, They see
She’s built to stay free.
Of machines apt to help,
A seller shall yelp!”

"Now you see why I believe that the British man who was killed was the same sculptor who sent me this packet, my man?” concluded Shemrock.
“Probably he intended to meet you as soon as he’d returned to London but that never happened. The Pen drive must have some vital information or important documents, the safety of which he ensured by mailing the Pen Drive to you, Mr. Holles.” observed Poiret aloud.

“I completely concur with you Monsieur Poiret that pen drive is unquestionably the motive of the killing and the purpose of these chain anagrams. You can access it. Here..” with this Shemrock pushed his laptop towards Poiret.

They connected the USB drive and browsed the files saved on it. Besides a few images and tattoo designs they didn’t find anything of such importance that one could kill to get access to.
“There must be more to this than meets the eye. We have to find out what the hidden meaning of this quartet is? Why would a man want to safeguard a pen drive and then get killed for it? Why do I get this feeling that this case is of national importance?” said Poiret, looking up from the laptop.
After thanking the retired sleuth Shemrock Holles, for his time and patience and for sharing most vital information on the case, Poiret rose from his seat and concluded the meeting.
After they bid adieu at the door, Poiret informed Doyle, “I probably do need to meet Prof. Dan Langdon in person!”
                                                            
                                                      [IV]

After following the example of Shemrock Holles in his investigations: footprints, fingerprints and cigar ash, for almost all of his career, Hercules Poiret was greatly enamored by this relatively new faculty of science that surfaced as a clue at most current crime scenes.

His dream of watching Prof. Langdon solve a case, in person, was about to come true.
They met Prof. Langdon at the Harvard University in Massachussets. The professor sat appraising the sheet of paper with pursed lips. “The Red Octagon most definitely means STOP in Symbology.” he’d stated within minutes, like before.

Not as aged as his name sounded, the professor was definitely much younger than himself, Poiret observed. Lean and lanky Prof. Langdon had curly, wispy hair with a high forehead but definitely not a receding hairline. The most endearing aspect about Prof. Langdon’s personality was his quick smile that strongly reminded of the Hollywood actor Tom Hanks.

“This is not too difficult to crack Monsieur.” Prof. Langdon’s voice jerked Poiret out of his reverie.

“This man who scripted these lines was definitely not an expert on the subject but had a little above average intelligence and enough exposure to the cases I’ve solved in the past. Inspired by that, I must agree, he has made a fairly good attempt at the usage of anagrams in order to communicate his message and yet smartly keep the exact purport hidden from all.”

Prof. Langdon proceeded to enumerate, “Observe, The Moon starers can be reorganized to read as ‘The Astronomers’. And what do They see with? The Telescope!”

“ Aahaa!” exclaimed Doyle and Poiret in unison.

Now Prof. Langdon had started thinking aloud and Poiret felt it best not to interrupt his train of thoughts with their exclamations. Doyle and he waited with bated breath, listening to Prof. Langdon’s soliloquy. Prof. Langdon was now concentrating on the next line, “….but wait! I see another hidden meaning in these lines. Reshuffle She’s built to stay free. And what do we have here? Voila! ‘The Statue of Liberty’.” Prof. Langdon exclaimed in a tad bit higher pitch in frenzied excitement.

“ ….If we also read They see as an anagram then it translates as ‘The Eyes’. Hmmm…”

Clapping his hands together, Prof. Langdon stood up and exclaimed “We all know the eyes are the WINDOWS to our soul!” Looking now at Poiret and then at Doyle, professor shouted, “Don’t you see it? Didn’t you understand what these lines are communicating?”

Sheepishly Poiret attempted to draw a meaning. Not so confidently, he spoke, “If I link all the three lines up as per your inference…. ‘We should STOP and see with telescopes from the windows of the Statue of Liberty.’ Is that what you mean? Or better still, ‘We should STOP what we see with telescopes from the windows of the Statue of Liberty.’
“Yes, that’s exactly the hidden meaning in these lines here!” said the professor with a grin.

"You mean we’ll know the reason of the British sculptor’s murder once we reach the Statue of Liberty? And we’ll need a telescope for that. Then that would also mean that we are to search for clues in the skies. That doesn’t make any sense. What is the purpose of the pen drive then in this case?” Poiret exclaimed in utter disbelief.

“Wait Monsieur, you are jumping to conclusions. Shouldn’t we try decoding the remaining lines and then deduce the hidden purport in entirety?

Hercules Poiret couldn’t agree more at this point. His grey cells did seem to be getting a bit redundant by the way he was losing patience and focus. He had a sinking feeling within, since he didn’t have much to contribute, again at this point.

“Now let’s see, Of machines apt to help. Should I try and rearrange these letters now? That should be ‘The Apple Macintosh’. Aah! That was easy.”

Poiret had nothing to say to this so he continued to sit resignedly while Prof. Langdon continued, “And if we read this meaning along with the next line, A seller shall yelp…”

“That means the dead man has indicated that a salesperson at an Apple- Mac outlet may bark at us, if we approach him!” Hercules Poiret had suddenly cut in and was taken aback at his own unabashed tone while making the observation, aloud. He suddenly also felt rejuvenated at the feeling that his little grey cells hadn’t given up on him after all!

“Congratulations!” boomed Prof. Dan Langdon, “You are catching up fast Monsieur Poiret! You are bang on right!”

“We shall take your leave now professor.” said Poiret rising from his seat. “We still have much to do. I’m extremely thankful for your flawless guidance and do let me return this favour in the near future. Over dinner?”

“It has been completely my pleasure, Monsieur. Most definitely we will meet again, to make friendly conversation. Over dinner it is!”
                                                               
                                                        [V]

Travelling about 250 kms, they put up at The French Quarters Guest Apartments. Once they had settled in their suite, Doyle could not contain himself anymore “ …but I still don’t see the link between watching out from the window and that yelling salesman?”

“You shall know more only after doing what we have been indicated to do.”, answered Poiret in an all-knowing tone.
Doyle wondered why, only when in the company of Hercules Poiret he felt like a lesser being, especially when he was smirked at.

The next day at around 8.30 P.M., with special permissions and a couple of NYPD officials, Poiret stood peering through a telescope up in the crown of the Statue of Liberty. He spotted the Apple-Mac showroom and let Officer Fopp take a look too. Officer Fopp appeared very animated and began issuing a string of instructions to his team. 3 patrol cars had already surrounded the Apple-Mac showroom building and Officer Fopp ordered them to move out of their vehicles, into the building and arrest all those involved in the business on the topmost floor.

“Our men had an inkling about such hidden operations but weren’t successful in locating their hide-out. Now we’ve caught them red-handed. I owe you one, Monsieur Poiret!” boomed Officer Fopp.

“With this I announce The Pursuit of the Hidden Meanings over!” said Poiret laughing out loud in exhilaration.

Doyle stood there stupefied. After a moment of dumbfounded silence, “I beg your pardon! May I have an explanation to what just took place?”

“Most certainly my man! You deserve to know.” replied Poiret and proceeded to update poor Doyle.

“Yesterday while you were snoring the roof down, I went back to the Pen Drive. I simply did what came to me. I accessed the pen drive from my laptop, enabled the ‘Show Hidden Files & Folders’ option and Lo & Behold! There were a plethora of new images before me, which weren’t visible when we’d checked in Prof. Langdon’s presence. Print files and high resolution images of U.S. Dollar Bills, French Francs, and European Pounds fell before my eyes. That’s when I immediately understood that the dead British sculptor was leading us to a Forfeit Currency Racket. Probably which he was himself involved in and had quit. He must have known that he would be surely killed by their chief some day!”

Doyle’s mouth was agape hearing Poiret explain.

“Now, if you look through the telescope you shall see the site of the clandestine operations, there hidden behind those huge Oaks. They have about 3 minting machines in the attic of the Apple-Mac building. How can anybody forget to keep such activities hidden behind curtains? Here, see it and believe!”











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Jun 4, 2010

The Asian Koel

Had spotted the beautiful black male Asian Koel quite many days ago and you can know more about the cuckoo in the post I'd done then titled 'Two in the Bush'

Yesterday after th epre-monsoon showers I was standing on the terrace and my little 1 year old spots this bird hidden between the branches. It also appeared as if it was shivering in the cold winds..
We blew her lots of flying kissys ..:) but only God can do something to keep her warm...:(

Observe the beautiful pattern on her body, the spots are complemented by the striped tail.

The Female Asian Koel  (Eudynamys scolopacea)