Book 1: Page 40

I closed my eyes and went back to sleep. It was probably several hours later that I woke up. We were going back to Dehradoon. The misadventure had killed our enthusiasm. Sahib was driving. Keshav was sitting next to him and Akshay had fallen asleep by my side.

I tried in vain to get up from my quiescent position on the back seat. My effort ended up interrupting Akshay’s dream.

Akshay: Is it still paining?

Kalsh: Nah… in fact I am enjoying it now.

Akshay: Very funny. Now see, this is important. Take this ointment and apply it on the wounds. (He gave me a tube.)

Kalsh: Great (I snatched it from his hand). Now tell me everything that happened since I fainted.

Akshay: Rest for now. It’s not time yet. You have been through a lot.

Keshav: Tell him about the covenant. (He jumped out of his seat.)

Kalsh: About the what? I didn’t know we had a covenant in place, especially when Sahib stepped on me. (I got up.)

Akshay: Hey calm down you two. It’s not that simple.

Kalsh: Then tell me how complicated it is? I am all ears.

Akshay: Should we? (He asked Sahib and Keshav)

Sahib: We have to tell him eventually. Better sooner than later.

Keshav: Everything suits me as long as I am not the one narrating.

Akshay: Alright then, gentlemen brace yourselves.

Book 1: Page 35

Even if I would have taken the driving wheel my hands wouldn’t have moved. I could have never pressed the accelerator or guided the car out of the forest. So it was safer and wiser for me to take a spot on the rear seat. At that moment of bravery I was not to be seen or heard. I just wished that all of them would make it in time. Keshav started the engine and my hopes were at an all time high. I could see that god was on our side.


It was Sahib not to my surprise. He was crying. He chose to scream. Very few would have done something else in his shoes. I hopped to the bunk of the car. My hands reached for Sahib’s shoulders. I was going to try and pull him into the jeep. He wasn’t listening to my cries.

Come on Sahib! Give a push. This is it. Go for it. I am here. I won’t let you go.

I expected him to jump into the open back of our jeep. He could easily have done it, for he was the tallest among us all. I wanted him to make it, he had to make it.

Book 1: Page 27, Para 2

My heart wanted to write about the immense beauty of the greens, but my hands were trembling with anxiety at the sight of the equally daunting woods. The jeep was covered from the top, but open in the back. We were comfortable with our luggage under the seat. A smile was noticeable on Sahib’s face. He was signalling something to Keshav, with the his squinting eyes. I had never seen him give such a smile since the fifth grade. I was clueless as to what would be coming my way. I turned towards Akshay who appeared very restless. It appeared as if he was framing sentences, probably to disclose something to me. Presumably he would soon make the announcement.

Into the Jungle
Into the Jungle

Book 1: Page 26

Sahib: What did you think Kalsh? Wouldn’t I drive my own gypsy?

Kalsh: I… don’t… (I wasn’t allowed to complete)

Keshav: Wait till I give you a real stunner. We aren’t going to Missouri either.

Kalsh: Then? (I felt like a fool)

Keshav: Guys should I tell him? (He waited for the approval of the remaining four eye balls)

Sahib: Oh definitely. Who knows he might want to back out?

Kalsh: “BACK OUT!!” excuse me gentlemen. You are talking to the one and only “Kalsh Abhilash Sharma”. I am the single most daring “Man” in our school, actually in all the schools of Dehradoon. No matter what you say or do to intimidate me, I will be the first one to say yes and the last one to retreat.

Akshay: See Kalsh I will tell you. (And he moved closer to me.)

Kalsh: Come on. Give it your best shot.

Akshay: This is going to be a real off road thing, which means at the next diversion we are going to take a hidden road that will take us deep inside the forest!!! (He paused to see my expressions change)

Sahib: Don’t make a big deal out of it. I have got us booked in a deluxe tent just thirteen kilometres off the main Dehradoon-Missouri highway.

BOOK1: Page 19, Para 1

The date was 23rd December, 2003. It was time for my first full dress rehearsal. Only the most important people from both the schools had been invited. A hitherto unfamiliar set of emotions took hold off me and an excitement which only a girl could experience after trying on a new costume overwhelmed me.

I reached the auditorium at 12 noon, although the rehearsal was scheduled for late evening. The girls and I utilized the extra time by practicing our lines over and over again. However we skipped the dance routines post lunch. Lady Penguin advised us not to over exert in the dry runs lest our final performance be drained of vigour.


I moved up to her with a cheerful smile.

I: Good afternoon madam. I am Kalsh Abhilash (I handed over to her the reference letter that Robot had given me).

Lady Penguin Patch-up: (she took out her reading glasses) so you’re the boy chosen by Mr. Prajapati (he was our principle)

I: Well, I got this letter yesterday and decided to show up at your service. Hope this strengthens the bond between our two schools (I still don’t understand why was I trying to impress her that day?)

Lady Penguin Patch-up: Well one thing is for sure. I am not disappointed. If my old eyes aren’t mistaken then you are the same boy who scored the winning goal the other day.

I: Yes madam. You are so very right. So what’s next?

Lady Penguin Patch-up: (After a minute’s silence) don’t be restless. This is no football. Ballet is graceful and organized. First of all you must give an audition.

I: Madam, it appears you don’t get it. I have come to participate in this annual day of yours. I am not a struggling ballet dancer. And it is my obligation to be here and not my interest. So would you kindly give me my lines and dance steps?

Lady Penguin Patch-up: Seems you are hard of hearing or (removing her spectacles delicately) plainly haughty.
(She looked at her wrist watch and then straight into my eyes) Listen up close, its lunchtime. Meet me after an hour. We will start off the post lunch session with you.

Big Fat Chindian Wedding

“There you are Ram. We were looking for you everywhere”, Tina Aunty continued, “please help your uncle with these suitcases. Our room is on the second floor you know.”

“Of course, aunty”, I said with a smile gleaming at the unexpected attention I was getting at my best friend’s wedding.

“Thank you. The way you have shouldered all the preparations today I am sure God will gift you a splendid bride.” Tina aunty took time to bless me.

Mrs. Meena was a very close family friend. She had a daughter who graduated along with me and as usual was eavesdropping on us. She took the liberty to suggest, “Ram the girl who marries you will be very lucky. Why don’t you find someone in this wedding itself?” I replied with a grin, “Sure aunty. I will be on the lookout.”

Both of them were happy to know that i was looking forward to settle down in holy matrimony. Their happiness reflected on my face as well and I guess my mother was going to add something when suddenly my phone chimed.


It is Xia, the love of my life. We have known each other for past three years and she is the one person I truly care about apart from my family. And I believe it is imperative here that I mention her nationality. She is a Chinese citizen. Yes, the same country that has been at loggerheads with my motherland over some territorial issue or another. The last one year was particularly testing as the two countries used economic strategies to outgrow the other and we jostled over commitment issues. The final verdict came after two weeks of email embargo between the two of us imposed by a jealous boyfriend (me). We had consolidated the fact (over these two weeks of cold war) that without the shadow of a doubt it was impossible for us to live apart. In fact the next thing on our checklist was a holy union and probably a solemn agreement for the next seven incarnations sanctioned by a Pundit.

“Ram my boy,” a roaring voice from behind me caught the attention of the entire room, “now that you have completed your MBA, I see hordes of suitable girls queuing up for a slice of that 7 digit pay packet.” He winked with a slanted smile to reassure me that he was just pulling my leg.

I smiled back and my father reminded me to congratulate him on receiving the highly prestigious military honour last month for rescuing three Indian corporals who had been captured by the enemy. The remaining patrol unit had been beheaded by the enemy soldiers.

Uncle Rajesh interrupted us, “I tell you. We need more men like Brigadier Saab in our army. I am sure the Chinese would not even dare to take us on.” I nod in approval but at the same time slip a smiley to my Chinese bride. Just when I thought nobody would interrupt my romantic chat (which had slowly shifted to a corner of the main dining hall) my phone ran out of battery. The only vacant socket in the room was next to the bar table. I left it there under the supervision of my chatty teen sister.

It couldn’t have been more than fifteen minutes when the brigadier cornered me. He was accompanied by my parents. Even my best friend was standing somewhere behind them. Two policemen in plain clothes held me by the arms and dragged me out. I was yelling for help, still trying to understand what was happening. Nobody looked me in the eyes. They just watched as I was thrown out of the house. I heard a lot of commotion but could only make out one word. “Chinese spy”.

 Written by Vinay Dora       Photographs by Arpan ganguli             Edited by ‘bhilash

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