January 2007


Best-selling author Sidney Sheldon passed away yesterday.

At some point, a few years ago, I was an avid Sidney Sheldon fan. I read quite a few of his books – one after the other … so much that I don’t remember all their names & their stories. They all seem to have got mixed up in the clutter of my head.

Some of his novels that I remember are – Master of The Game, If Tomorrow Comes, The Sands of Time

One common point in all his books – the protagonist was always a strong female character, who could do anything to succeed & survive in this wild, cruel world.
So much that, I thought Sidney Sheldon was a lady, until I saw his photo staring from the back of the 4th Sidney Sheldon that I was reading !

Later, I was amazed to know that Sheldon was the writer who created the old TV series “I Dream of Jeannie” (which, a few years ago, used to be shown dubbed in Hindi on some Indian satelite channel).

‘SS’ also seems to have won an Oscar award for his script-writing. After all, he sold his first script to Hollywood when he was only 17 years old. Wow ! I am amazed. 
Another point that I found amusing was that he started writing novels after he was on the other side of being 50 years old.

My humble salute to Sidney Sheldon !  … and to all the nice memories that he gave me during my school days !!

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The moment Kartik saw her walk through the restaurant doors, his heart skipped a beat. Inside his head, a dozen romantic A.R.Rehman songs started playing – all together, all at once.
Just as he had seen & heard in so many blockbuster movies, he ‘felt’ that he was falling in love.

Her name was Geeta. And about half an hour later, Geeta and Kartik were sitting at a quite, corner table in the restaurant and talking about a dozen different things, over coffee and pizza. They found that they had a lot of common interests & likes … and also that they had quite opposite opinions on a lot other things. They even found common friends – like how both of them were very close to Shankar Uncle from Maidenhead.

Kartik had come down to London, all the way from Glasgow, for an important meeting. Geeta lived & worked here, in London. And now, Kartik had fallen in love with her. He had made up his mind that this was the girl with whom he wanted to spend the rest of his life.

After more than an hour passed in pleasant conversation, they both got up to leave – to go their own respective ways. They did have each others phone numbers and mail-ids. Even though this was the first time he had met her, Kartik lost no time in expressing his feelings to Geeta. She said that she could not decide immediately and that she needed a little time to think.

The next morning, Geeta called up her parents in Bangalore …

“Amma, the meeting went off well yesterday. Its a ‘Yes’ from my end”

 ”Wooow, thats wonderful, Geethu. Shankar Uncle had called about an hour ago. He said that Kartik’s parents have also conveyed his ‘Yes’. Congratulations, my sweet little angel. I am soooo happy for you”

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The last post in a trilogy that I put down, inspired by a news-item — about an incident which happened in Mumbai on New Years Eve – December 2006.

Now that you are here, you may also want to read the earlier two posts –
The GOI Incident – I  : Payback“, “The GOI Incident – II : Hunted Down

Notice :  Everything written here is just an output of my imagination. It bears no resemblance to any person living or dead. The names I have used are random names that occured to me.

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— 14th Feb, 2014 – 5:45 PM – A palatial House in Mumbai —

Morpheus thumbed through the secret file of news-printouts and other little notes he had scribbled. Each page had been dated, and was in chronological order. He started with the “Dec, 2006 – Mumbai” page. This page had a news from the “Daily News & Analysis” newspaper.

This was followed by more printouts & notes. He only kept reading the titles on top of the pages –
May,  2011 – Bangalore – Cypher
July, 2012 – Mumbai – Abie
Jan,  2013 – New York – Andes

He paused at the “Jan, 2014 – Toronto – Jonzy” page. There was a printout from a Toronto city website, dated 23rd Jan 2014 —
“An Indian businessman, Mr. Jonzy  fell from the balcony of a rooftop Italian restaurant in Toronto. There were conflicting eye-witness reports about the accident. One lady said she had seen the guy having a few drinks and tottering around. She thought all that alcohol inside him caused him to lose his balance and topple over. But there was a waiter who said he thought he saw a man going too near to Mr. Jonzy and that man may have pushed Mr. Jonzy. The alleged ‘pusher’ made his exit in between all the commotion.
Mr. Jonzy had a few broken bones, but he was reported to be on the way to recovering soon and getting out of hospital in a couple of weeks.”

Morpheus added a new page to his ‘Payback-2006’ file. He was amused by the fact that in this case he did not have to do anything extra. The past incidents had created such an effect ! 

The page added was a news from a U.K newspaper website. It was about an Indian business consultant who had met with a fatal accident last week, on the M4 near Slough. No particular reason was known for the accident except that the driver possibly lost control and crashed to his death.

Morpheus knew what he had done on some occasions in the past was outside legal boundaries. But he did not care. He had immense wealth & power … & contacts all over the world. And he was just using some of that to make some people pay for the harm they had done. It was his own anonymous way of giving back to the society, to his city, to the people who love that city. Trinity was the 4th person he had ‘given back’ something !
He did not want any lives to be lost, but this particular case had gone out of his control.

Morpheus read the last few lines of the news article … Colleagues of Mr. Smyth, at the finance firm he was working for, told this newspaper-reporter that Smyth had started behaving a bit crazy since the last 10 days – it was as if some thing had shocked him out of his senses.  Just minutes before his accident,  Smyth is supposed to have told his friend on the phone  “The past catches up … it always catches up with you. No matter how far you try to run, your sins will come back and get you

Feb, 2014 – London – Smyth‘ – Morpheus wrote on top of the page, closed the file and added it to the others in his personal safe.

— 14th Feb, 2014 – 7:15 PM – Apartment in Singapore —

Trinity had joined Neo in Singapore in May. They had now settled down to life in what they had made their new home. They had wanted to leave Mumbai behind forever,  since that ‘black night’.

Through the past few months, they had received a few mails from the same anonymous id “payback2006-at-gwayindia.com”. The last had come 2 days ago, with a U.K news article.
This mail had this line at the end “Alls well that ends well. Signing out for now

Neo & Trinity wanted to leave the whole incident and its memories behind, and carry on with life. On seeing this mail, they thought “Nobody, not even close family & friends, knew about the fact that we both were the victims of that day. And, until now, no one had been able to find the people behind it. But it was nice to know that there is someone out there. Someone who knows … and who had set out to punish the guilty.”

Now putting all that behind them, they were on their way to a nice, romantic dinner at one of the big hotels in Marina Square. After all, this was their first Valentines Day together in Singapore, their new home !

The only sounds that I can hear are the birds chirping away in perfect chorus from the trees and the faint sound of the waves crashing on the beach at the bottom of the hill.
I am relaxing in the lazy hammock, straddled between two palms in the manicured & lush green lawn.
The book I was reading lies on my chest. The sweet aroma of the filter coffee, wafting from the mug placed on the nearby rock, fills my senses.

My house sits on the top of a hill, looking over the most beautiful and peaceful beach. A beach with crystal clear water reflecting the blueness of the sky in all its glory, on this pleasant & sunny day.
There is no cellphone network or internet connection in this corner of the world, so I will not be disturbed by urgent phone calls or will not be required to check any urgent mails.

The leaves on the trees rustle in the light breeze coming from the sea. The peace & calm of the place is sweet music to my ears.
Finally, after all the years of hard work, after all those long nights & working weekends, I have rightfully earned this slice of paradise.
And I am relishing its sweet taste … its aroma.

(more…)

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: You could also read : “The GOI Incident – I : Payback” :

Notice : Everything here is a figment of my imagination and bears no resemblance to any person living or dead. The names I have used are random names that came to my mind.
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— 3rd Jan, 2013 – 7:30 AM – Hospital in New York City —

He kept hearing weird noises. His head hurt like hell. He wanted to open his eyes – he wanted to shout for some water to soothe his parched mouth. But, he could not open his eyes nor was he able to speak. He seemed to be lost in this never-ending nightmare. Once or twice, he could hear people speak … somewhere very near to him.

“Has he shown any signs yet ?”
“No, Doctor. He has been in the same unconscious state since he was brought here 2 days ago. But, since yesterday evening, one keeps seeing a lot of R.E.M – as if he is on a marathon dreaming session”

Andes was struggling to open his eyes, and to tell the people around that he could hear them speak. But, the nerves inside him seemed to have got so jumbled that he could do nothing.

— 31st Dec, 2012 – 6:45 PM – New York City —

This was it … since a long long time, Andes had wanted to celebrate New Years Eve at Times Square. And here he was, just a few minutes from Times Square, sitting and enjoying fine food at a famous Indian restaurant near 5th Avenue. In about an hour or so, his fiancee would join him, and they will together ring in the new year — with millions of other people, in Times Square. And what a way to start 2013 – the year in which he was going to marry his love of 4 years. The year in which he had been promised to be moved up to the next rung in the corporate ladder. He couldn’t wait for it all to be kick-started.

Few minutes later, he had stepped out. He was still wondering what to do for the next hour, when he felt a sharp sting in his leg – almost like a mosquito bite. In less than a minute, the tall buildings started spinning around him. And then the sidewalk came up to kiss him on his left cheek, with a painful thud.

After what seemed to be a long time, he came back into a state of semi-consciousness. Somebody, some masked guy, was asking him about the Gateway of India. Nothing was totally clear, but he could make out a few words — ‘New Year’, ‘Mumbai’, ‘2006’.

And he remembered – that night a few years ago they had all gone from the office straight to the Gateway of India. And how it had finally turned into something which they all wanted to forget. His thoughts were suddenly interuppted by the pain of beating & kicking. ‘The Mask’ had now started beating  & kicking him continuously – and with all his energy. And there seemed to be another guy helping the masked-fella. What a way to ‘kick-start’ everything ! Andes soon lost consciousness again.

— 6th Jan, 2013 – 9:00 PM – Apartment in Bangalore —

As he kept the phone down, Cypher could not still get himself out of the shock of what he had just heard.

In May 2011, Cypher had been the victim of a supposedly freak assault. Coming home after a late night at the office, he had been attacked by 2 masked guys on a bike. They had broken a few of his bones and left him writhing in pain, on the street just outside his apartment-complex. And before riding off into the dark, they had mentioned something about being at the Gateway of India in 2006.

Since the whole ‘black’ incident of the Gateway of India was not known to people other than close family & friends, Cypher had always stuck to his statement that the attack on him was most likely a case of mistaken identity by some gangsters.
Cypher was bed-ridden with a few plasters for a month. But, after that, he was back at his desk, fighting tight project deadlines and tighter budgets.

Then, one night in July last year, Abie had been gruesomely attacked outside a multiplex in Andheri, Mumbai. The doctors could not save Abie’s right arm from the elbow, they had to put a steel-rod in his left leg and he had to be under bed-rest for 4 months. The ‘attacker’ had again mentioned the Gateway of India to Abie, which Abie had revealed only to Cypher.

At that time, Cypher & Abie had become certain of one thing … someone out there was watching them & their friends. But they could not go out and tell the police about this. Because it would mean spilling the beans about what happened at the ‘Gateway’ in the December of 2006.

Nobody, except for some close family & friends, knew … and most of those family & friends had since stopped speaking to them. No one else knew about the incident, or about the 5 guys involved.

And, now there was someone out there. Someone who knew … and was after them.

These 2 had begun to worry about Smyth, Andes & Jonzy. The 5 of them had been the main perpetrators of the ‘incident’, even though later things had gotten out of control and lot more guys had joined.
But then, rest of the three were well settled in their respective lives in different parts of the world. Nobody could possibly reach them in London, New York or Toronto.

Not true anymore …. because Andes had just been hunted down … hunted down in New York !

Cricinfo.com is coming out with a series about the all-time Top 20 All-rounders in the game of Cricket. And there are 2 Indians in that list – Kapil Dev (of course, everyone expects him to be in that list) & Ravi Shastri !

Initially, it did come as a surprise – Ravi Shastri, among the all time 20 all-rounders (???)
After all, at one time, Ravi Shastri was ‘booed’ by the crowd so much for his slow batting. In fact I think once he was booed at the stadium, after he had already retired from the game and was only present in his role of a commentator !

But then, one has to agree, he has given a lot to Indian cricket, as a player – as an all-rounder.  He is at the centre of one of my earliest memories of a grand victory for the Indian cricket team, from my school days —

That day, long long ago, everyone of us at home had woken up at an unearthly hour to watch the live telecast of “World Championship” final, from the grand MCG, in Australia. And even today, I feel that nobody covers a cricket match as good as the “Channel 9” guys from Down Under – on many ocassions, they have made me sit & watch even when India was not playing !

I remember how, after India won the final, Ravi Shastri was awarded the “Champion of Champions” and an AUDI car. Thanks to my poor knowledge of cars and car-manufacturers then, that was the first time I had even heard of a car called “Audi”.
I vividly recall all the Indian players bundling into the shiny new car, and some players even climbing on the outside –  for a victory lap of the stadium.

In those days, unlike now, it was not very common for the Man-of-the-Match or a Player-of-the-Series to get a Car or a Bike as a prize. It was all the more exciting to watch an Indian get an AUDI — at a time when the only cars you saw on Indian roads were Premier-Padminis & a few Ambassadors.

I recollect vaguely that Sadanand Vishwanath was the Indian wicket-keeper on that tour, and that the present day commentator Laxman Sivaramakrishnan was a permanent member of the Indian team then. 

Wow, those wonderful memories ! I need to call & ask for a sports channel, one which will telecast live cricket matches — the World Cup is just round the corner.

P.S : Need I add here that Ravi Shastri was another great Mumbai-kar !! 🙂

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This one is for you, Punds. Its also my tribute to the wonderful memories of ‘kattas’ that many of us have, and a salute to the wonderful city of Mumbai.

This post is inspired by the Sugandhi-Katta photo on Punds blog.

Punds, hope you won’t mind my interviewing Sugandhi-katta without taking your permission.
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—– A CHAT WITH SUGANDHI KATTA —–

She has always been there for all her friends. She has seen it all – Friendship & Rivalry, Affairs & Fights, Cricket-playing teenagers & Cycle-riding kids. She has seen people through their growing-up years – from school to college to their first jobs, and then she has seen the next generation grow up. At times, she has been hounded by paparazzi. Most of the times, she has been hated by parents. She has been ‘blogged’ about.

And, today in a chat with “Walkers & Talkers”, she says that she still has a lot more to see.

Walker Gupte (WG) : Hello and welcome to Walkers & Talkers. I am Walker Gupte and my guest today is Sugandhi Katta — who recently won the “Most Popular Katta of Mumbai” award at the ‘Public-Ka-Choice Awards’.
Sugandhi-ji, welcome to the show. And Congratulations on getting the award.
Sugandhi Katta (SK) : Thank you. And thank you for having me on the show.

WG : First, how does it feel to have an online presence ?
SK : One of my long time friends, Punds, was the first person to put a post about me on the internet, sometime last year. I felt proud that day, when some of the others sitting here mentioned that I was the first ever katta to be on the internet.

WG : You live in the hustle-bustle of Borivali. Tell us your thoughts about this suburb and the people here.
SK : Borivali is a wonderful & happening place. Given the fact that I am a katta, I have not travelled to other places. But my friends have travelled to places all over the world, from Australia to Netherlands to America. And I have heard them say that there is no place like home and that they always look forward to coming to Borivali again. So, I feel I am lucky to have been here, and to have known such nice people

WG : You have seen so many things. You would have so many memories. Could you share one or two unforgettable memories with us
SK : The most unforgettable incident that I will always remember is Roshan declaring his true feelings to Aditi. It happened right here. Very rarely did girls come over to sit with me. But then, that day, since no one else was around, Roshan & Aditi were sitting here talking about silly things, when suddenly Roshan popped the question. And Aditi said ‘Yes’. To think of it,  that was 12 years ago. Now, I hear they have moved to another flat a few minutes from here. But even now, on some days, Roshan & Aditi come for an evening walk together, in this ground.

WG : You mentioned Punds. Any other people you would like to mention here.
SK : Punds & I have known each other since a long time. He & some of his friends spent time with me even last month, when he was here on vacation for a few days.
Oh yes, I almost forgot. Bittu, as he was known to all of us, played and honed his cricket skills in this very ground. He used to jog & exercise regularly, and to take breaks in between, he would come and sit with me, in the shade of this very tree. Well, Bittu is known as Vinodh Kamath to those cricket fans who have followed the 10+ Test matches and 40+ ODIs that he played for India. Vinodh used to visit me very regularly, from his school days right upto when he went to play Club Cricket in South Africa

WG : Thats about the time we have for today. Thank you, Sugandhi-ji, for sharing a few moments of your life with us. Before I go, is there anything that you would like to tell our viewers ?
SK : Just want to say this to all the viewers – Everywhere, in every corner of the world, there is a Katta like me, in one form or the other. We ‘kattas’ will always be there to support you, to listen to you. And we will always be with you – we will cry with you during the sad times, we will laugh with you during the nice times, we will share your sweat … and your sweets. For those of you who live nearby, I will always be here, watching out for you.

And, last but not the least, thank you very much to Punds, for putting out my story on his blog and for being the voice of all Kattas in this world.

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