The Story Behind the Story: Against All Odds

The brief in the beginning was that there should be a social message in the Indian context. To that end, the theme in this one is a class difference. While caste is a social evil people talk about with scorn, the class divide is equally prevalent in all corners of the globe. So here’s this story about what happens when two people from different strata of society meet and finds the sparks flying between them.

In the normal course, these should never have had their paths cross, but after the initial coincidences, they continue to. The chemistry is strong, Abhimanyu, the man about town, who has it all, thinks Sanjana is a fortune-hunter. Continuous meetings make him see the gentle soul she is and he falls in love with her even without realizing how the change has come about in him.

The setting of this story is one of contrasts, his palatial home and lavish lifestyle and her modest one. He rubs shoulders with the elite whereas she roams the mountains for relaxation. The difference in attitude comes through from the contrasting behavior and demeanor of the two sets of parents as well, all rooted in their own value systems and the lifestyles of their respective milieu.

In this one, there are fewer Hindi words as the more moneyed you are in this country the more anglicized you become. The friends move in similar circles so the background is often luxury hotels which are the playground of this class.

The friendships are strong in this one, too, perhaps begging for their own story. The mother-in-law from hell is a cliché, simply because she is reality. However much mothers know their sons, they can be totally off when it comes to their sons’ love interests. The interference can have disastrous consequences. In a romance novella you know love will prevail and in reality you hope it does.

Sanjana’s phenomenal success is really a slap in the face of Abhi’s mother’s and a proud achievement for her own parents. What is interesting is that they are so totally unaffected by it that they cannot understand why she needs to make changes in the house when she comes visiting.

Small town life and its slower pace of life along with the gentleness of the hill folk are true of places outside the big metros. Hospitality is losing its warmth with the breakneck pace of life in the cities, but remains central in small town India. Atithi devo bhava is what every child is taught, the difference is that in the heart of India it is actually a reality.

These were the considerations that went into writing the story and creating the setting for the characters. Since love is universal, these after all are the differences; the emotions remain the same anywhere.


The One-Year Indireads Crash Course in Writing, Publishing and Reading

generic-roadIndireads turns one today. This statement doesn’t seem very momentous, or earth shattering, but for me it is both. June 12th, 2013, a year ago today, we launched the Indireads website, bringing over 18 months’ worth of hard work to fruition and publishing 30 books simultaneously (that has got to be a record for a brand new publisher). I hadn’t slept in months, my house was a mess and my husband was on cooking duty—but euphoria held me up and kept me going.

And then, reality set in. Book publishing is a tough business. Writers can be difficult and demanding, editing is never-ending, the world of e-books and social media is evolving by the minute and loyal readers seem to be in danger of extinction. And although there have been more times than I can count when I have asked myself ‘why am I doing this’, I did not stop. Could not stop is more like it. And the thing that kept me going and going and is simple—the sheer joy of seeing (not holding) the finished product. Someone’s story, translated into words and dialogue, edited, tightened and polished to become a book that we can all be proud of. A feeling of achievement that is unmatched.

One Year Later…

An entire year filled with high highs and low lows, accompanied by an extremely steep learning curve. Learning everything about the business, from contracts to marketing and from social media to sales. While there is too much to pack into one neat blog, I do want to share the top three things I have learned about writing, publishing and reading.

  1. Indireads came about because I felt strongly that the times were changing and that people, especially women, wanted a chance to express themselves and tell their stories—their kahaanis—for themselves and to the world. Everyone asks me how I went about finding writers and whether it was difficult. Finding writers has never been difficult for us, right from the beginning. Blogging and social media have opened the floodgates of self-expression and have swept away inhibitions. People want to tell the stories they have carried inside them and are not afraid to share them with the world. In this new world of connectivity and sharing, our stories are important, timely and deserve to be heard. And we are proud to play our part in helping people achieve their dream of becoming a writer.
  2. This plethora of people wanting to tell their stories also means an explosion of books coming out, with vanity and self-publishing, hitherto unheard of, playing an increasing role. Gone are the days of a handful of established publishers dominating the landscape. New, innovative publishing companies are coming up, offering writers new avenues. These new publishers are needed in order to serve the demand from the writer’s ranks, creating original and inventive content. Others, however, are mere facades that front the business of self-publishing and demand payment from the author, adding no value in terms of editing or vetting. It is easy to get lost in this deluge of books and it is often disheartening to be lumped together with all sorts of unscrupulous publishing firms. But throughout I have held firm to one tenet—that hard work and attention to detail will win out in the end. Time and again, readers and reviewers have come back and praised the quality of our books, the writing and meticulous editing. Quality shines through, good writing trumps bad writing every day of the week and readers will come back for more, if they like what they got the first time.
  3. And finally we come to readers—the one person all the writers and publishing houses are searching for. Where are they and what do they want? In this time-strapped world of live updates and hyper-social-connectivity, do people even have the time to read? And how do they go looking for what they want to read next. I know that readers are out there—as addicted to books as other may be to Twitter and YouTube. Looking for a good book and a satisfying read. They are, at the same time, more exacting and less critical—they will research and read reviews before buying one book, and purchase another simply because someone else has. But the bottom line is that they exist, they buy books, they read and they will come back for more. And the more they read, the more they can differentiate and the more they will hone into what they like and what resonates with them. Which, in the end, will be writing that they can resonate with, written by writers from amongst themselves. This is what I know and I believe.

And so that, summed up, is my learning over this year as a new publisher on the block. Many people have told me that while South Asian literary fiction can compete with the best in the world, popular fiction, the space that Indireads occupies, is unoriginal and unexciting for the discerning reader. I know that the times are changing. Popular fiction writers from this region can and will compete with the Sidney Sheldons, the Danielle Steeles and the John Grishams of the west. We—South Asian writers, publishers and readers—are all growing, learning and competing. What will emerge from this apparent chaos are strong writers, worthy publishers and readers who will demand homegrown, quality fiction.

And that is what our aim is, one year along at Indireads. Join us on the journey.

Short Stories

Mice and Rabbits

An excerpt from A Newlywed’s Adventures in Married Land


“It was much pleasanter at home,’ thought poor Alice, when one wasn’t always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered about by mice and rabbits. I almost wish I hadn’t gone down that rabbit-hole.”

As the days and months passed by without a job in sight, Mythili started wondering what she had become. In the course of six months she had transformed from a journalist passionately espousing the rights of the downtrodden to someone who went to women’s parties to gossip about her maid. Her life was careening all over the place making as much sense as a writing desk to a raven.

Her relationship with Siddharth was like a patient diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. On weekends, the world would right its course and just be about the both of them. Siddharth cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Walking into to the tiny bathroom to see a tub full of bubbles and scented candles everywhere. Sitting on bar stools, holding hands and watching the world go by; getting high on wine and laughing at the un-funniest things. Being with Siddharth made Manila wonderland, the right kind. Both of them would neatly throw a rug over their arguments and frustrations and live the life they had dreamt of when they were a long-distance couple yearning to be together.

But come Monday night and Mythili’s world would turn topsy-turvy again. The disgruntlement and frustrations would jostle their way out from under the rug, threatening to spill out even before the work week started. The cracks would start to show as Mythili checked her mail and found no responses from head-hunters. And as Siddharth left for the office, the fun-loving, bright and happy Mythili would leave too. In her place a bitter, judgmental bitch would walk in to toil and trouble and boil and bubble resentment through the week.

It was like she was a werewolf whose full moon was hidden under a swathe of clouds on weekends. On weekdays, she would catch herself changing and try and stop, but not really succeed. It was maddening. It was frustrating. This moody Mythili would obsess about how much she had changed. She missed who she used to be—hanging out with her friends, the random outings, dancing to Bollywood hits and calling her sister at three in the morning.

She was not the only person noticing the pendulum-like swaying.

“You’ve changed,” half her friends declared on chat. “You’re like so married now! Maids, vegetables! This is not the Mythili we know!”

“What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you change your name to Mythili Siddharth? What is this newfangled notion of not changing your surname? Are you still pretending to be single? Embrace the married-ness of your life,” the other half of her friends declared.

Had she changed? Was she one-half of a stereotypically married couple? Or the other half of a stereotypically ‘don’t-want-to-be-seen-as married’ couple? Or was she borderline schizophrenic?

As soon as Siddharth left for work at night, the walls closed in on Mythili. Nothing distracted her from how lost she felt. There was nothing familiar to turn to. The glossy television shows lost their luster. Her job hunt continued with a lot more rejection than she had ever expected and no concrete progress. She switched her chat status back to ‘invisible’ and spent hours clicking through pictures of friends and family on Facebook.

“Was I better off at home?” she wondered tearfully. Then she pinched herself for forgetting how miserable she had been during the long-distance relationship phase of her life. The red welt triumphantly stared at her, happy at having reminded her why she was there. She smiled. She was tired of people telling her she was this or that. She was tired of not knowing whether she was this or that. It was high time she got on with the serious business of finding herself and getting to know the city. Two birds with one metaphorical stone if you will. And on the lines of the well-known cliché of getting lost to find yourself, Mythili decided to explore the city on her own.


Rejection: Encouragement in Disguise

Dear Shweta Ganesh Kumar:

Thank you for sending “XXX.” Your work received careful consideration here.

We’ve decided this manuscript isn’t right for us, but we wish you luck placing it elsewhere.

Kind regards,

The Editors

Yes, yes, I can see all of you aspiring writers out there nodding your heads at the painful twinge of familiarity that letter caused. But, guess what?

You are not alone.

Those are pretty much the words I read everyday when I checked my email circa 2010 when I started to send out my first submissions. Every day, I would screw up my courage, cross my fingers and toes and pray to everything I believe in for a break, one break, please let today be the day, and click open my inbox.

And there they would be, the mails from people who just did not have space for my writing, even though I would find out, from careful perusal of their sites, that they had ample space for the floozies and ghost writers of the world. I would judge away as hot tears added a touch of salt to my bucket of chocolate ice cream. Some spirited wailing later, I would sit down again. It would be time to send out my manuscript to someone else.

By the summer of 2011 when my first book was released, I had 22 rejection letters carefully filed away in a folder called ‘Motivation’.

For, despite the stinging pain they caused that is what they really are. Words that cut you to the bone and force to you to look at your work or research whom you send it out to or even reword your submission letter. Words that strengthen your resolve to get published. Think of it as a rite of initiation, even the best of the best have to pass, to call themselves published writers.

Don’t believe me? Well, then what about Stephen King? He says:

“By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”

Of course, some of us can have actual laundry baskets filled with these blessings in disguise, but that’s a different story.

So, do you have a rejection story that changed you for the better?

Feedback Fridays


Constructive criticism is welcomed by all. However, any comments that are overly derogatory in nature will be removed. Please keep in mind that the author, while anonymous, will be reading your feedback. Submissions posted here are not edited and/or proof-read by Indireads.

If you are an author hoping for some feedback on the first 800 words of your unpublished manuscript, you can submit your work here.

Genre: Paranormal, Romance


“He was brought in yesterday,” the policeman explained. “Beach Patrol weren’t sure what to do with him – not sure of his mental state – and he didn’t actually commit any crime.”

Chloe walked with him down the long corridor. ”Inspector Bennett said he was found naked on the beach in the middle of the night, is that right?” she enquired.

“Yeah,” the policeman, Vuyo, shook his head. “No ID, no shoes, clothes, nothing. And his fingerprints, so far, have come up clean.”

They had reached the single cell at the end of the corridor and Chloe focused her mind on the task ahead. The man was sitting on the cold concrete floor, leaning back against the grimy wall. He looked up as Chloe and Vuyo approached.

“We’ve brought someone to see you,” Vuyo’s voice sounded harsh, which surprised Chloe, as she knew him to be a kind man. “This lady is a counsellor, sent here to help you, so make sure you behave yourself.”

Chloe’s senses sharpened. The light in the cell was dim, but not dim enough to hide the harsh planes of the man’s face. She stared into his pale blue eyes and felt her professional mask slip – not just because of their strange and unusual colour, but because they were the coldest eyes she’d ever seen – and she’d seen plenty. She dragged her gaze away from him as Vuyo unlocked the gate.

“You want me to come inside with you?” he asked softly.

Chloe hesitated for a second; then shook her head. Speaking to suspects in front of the police was a waste of time. “No thanks Vuyo, I’ll be fine,” she said with more confidence than she felt.

The gate banged closed behind her and Vuyo turned his back on them, folding his arms and leaning back against the bars.

The cell was small and very basic. A single metal framed bed, covered with a scratchy brown blanket, was set against one wall, a stainless-steel toilet in the corner and a small barred window, which Chloe knew faced the barren courtyard of the police station. She shivered, this was not a pleasant place to be, and in spite of the warm African sun outside, she knew it would be cold in this miserable cell at night.

Chloe sat down on the edge of the bed and tried not to stare at the man sitting on the floor opposite her. He was wearing an off-white, cotton shirt and faded, baggy jeans, which someone must have dug out of the lost property box. His shirt was unbuttoned and though his knees were bent in front of him, she couldn’t help but notice the lean, hard muscles of his chest and stomach. Despite the ill-fitting clothes; with his smooth olive skin, thick dark hair and the harsh beauty of his face, he reminded Chloe of a male model straight out of a glossy magazine. His relaxed posture only added to the illusion, but as he stared back at her, through hooded, hard eyes, Chloe knew instinctively that the laid-back pose was just that – a pose.

“My name is Chloe Webster and I’m a counsellor here at Sea Point police station,” she managed to keep her voice steady as his strange, pale eyes moved over her – not missing a thing – from her fair hair scraped back in a pony tail to her over-sized shirt and combat pants. She always wore loose clothes when she visited the station, in fact she always wore baggy clothes full stop. The Chloe who once wore feminine short skirts and tight fitting jeans, seemed like a different person from a different lifetime.

Chloe forced her mind back to the present. “Can you tell me your name?”

He continued to stare at her, until she thought he was not going to answer at all, and then, finally, he spoke. “You can call me Zack.”

His voice was low with a gravelly edge to it that sent shivers down Chloe’s spine. “And your surname – Zack?”

There was another long silence, his eyes slid away from her, staring up at the barred window. ‘It doesn’t matter.”

Chloe let out a long, slow breath. Hoping that he couldn’t notice how tense and aware of him she actually was. But then his piercing eyes focused on her again and she knew in her bones that he noticed everything.

“Ok.” She shrugged. “Do you remember how you came to be found on the beach – without any clothes or possessions?’

“Not exactly,” he leaned his head back against the grubby wall, still watching her. “But that’s to be expected.”

She was trying to place his accent and for a moment didn’t register his cryptic reply. The accent was unusual, definitely not South African, perhaps American like herself?


The Journey is Mightier than the Destination

The first question of the English language paper in school was always a composition. Out of five topics, we had to write any one piece of 350-500 words. While the rest of the class would start scribbling the moment they got the paper, I spent at least twenty minutes of the allotted two hours thinking. I marvelled at how others could write a creative piece without prior thought! Middle school upwards I started scoring the best grades in my favourite subject and was consistently delighted about it. I secretly scorned those who ‘mugged up’ essays in a bid to score high. So deep was my satiety at doing well in English that I seemed to not notice that I was terrible at Math. Once, my composition ‘A House on Fire’ was read out in class and folks hailed it as the next big thing. The same day, the Maths paper revealed that I’d failed to score the minimum forty. I pondered upon what I ought to feel more—elation at the highest or dejection at the red line in the report card. That was Class VII. The thinker was graduating to a philosopher.

I used to take Math tuitions with a neighbour who also taught English to students. He gave me an assignment to write an account on ‘An Uninvited Guest’ once, although English was not what I went to him for. When I took it to him the next day, Bijon Kaku asked me if my mother had written it for me. He was amazed that someone who was so poor with numbers could have a way with words. That convoluted compliment remains one of my best ones so far.

Later, as a university student, I wrote a letter to my professor complaining about my room-mate who had no concern for her health, ate khichdi day after day, distressing me with her Spartan life and spent days poring over books. This girl, Subhalakshmi, was a diligent academic and would attend classes which she had not opted for. For the bindaas in me, this was not acceptable, especially because the professor urged me to ‘look at her, learn something from Subha’ all the time! The letter I sent to him through Subha—who had no inkling about the content of the envelope—as she went to his house after class for extra notes. He read the letter, declared it a mock epic and showed it to all who went to study under him. ‘Fame’ felt euphoric, especially as it came from someone with exacting standards.

In retrospect, all these stray incidents may have portended toward a glorious writing career! Except, I was so content teaching English and writing the odd article for the school journal that I never gave any serious thought to a literary pursuit. Didn’t reclusive people who lived in the mountains or by the sea go on to become famous writers? Surely not a small-town girl with two thick, oily plaits who rode to school on a cycle and thought life was all about Jagdish’ chanachoor, reading Mills and Boon hidden in the Geography book and scraping through the Physics exam! Just that, whenever life happened—and it always did—I found myself wondering how it would read in a book or look in a film were somebody to capture it.

Significant incidents I did capture in a diary, but the task of keeping it in a secret place was so bothersome that the practice discontinued, with the silent hope that someday when I became a writer, I’d write about things from my journal. The ‘someday’ took many years to manifest. And I thank God for making it later rather than never. There are so many people who sleep-walk through life without ever knowing where their heart lies that I live in eternal gratitude for my blessing and the awareness of it.

Love’s Labor came at a time when I was travelling for my husband’s posting and had quit my corporate training job. We were in London, had visited places, tried the local cuisine, seen museums and musicals and had had our fill of the sun and the snow. Gradually, when I’d exhausted my quota of euphoria of being in the land of literary giants, I took to blogging. I wrote about whatever I observed or anything I cooked, about the places we explored and suggested our friends do. The blog was well-received and people wrote in to say they enjoyed it or they missed it when I didn’t post anything. That gave me the shove to write furiously and I did it till I was in London. Blogging put me into the discipline of writing. When Indireads approached me, I knew I could sit for hours and type. The groundwork had been laid under the invisible supervision of The Greats.

There were shockers in store for me, though. After my second round of feedback from Indireads, I gave up all notions about my supposed greatness and felt like a student who is pulled up for every line she writes. The manuscript came back with so many red lines that I had to strain to see the original text. I shelved the book and told myself that blogging was all that I could possibly do, not a full length book. And then, after over a month of a dry spell, I got a call from the publisher urging me to ‘forget all feedback and write what you originally wanted to’! I was too stupefied to remark that by then I’d forgotten that too. This divine intervention made me resolute, though, that if I write just one book in my life, this had to be it. The story had been festering inside me for over a decade and I wanted the catharsis as much as I needed to see myself as a published author.

That’s how Andy Paula, the author, was born. I made my debut with a name my friends had christened me with and the added ‘Paula’ just gave it the right zing. When they ask me why Paula, I ask them why not. Being a published author has brought about changes. There are changes in my dimension for example. Writing is a fattening job and I had to shift to a floor arrangement when the chair shrunk without warning. It belongs to the cat now; I cannot fit into it even if I want to. What hasn’t changed is that when I go for a walk, people still don’t recognise me.

With the dynamic and the static is the realization that there are few other highs than seeing one’s name in print. The book reviews, the interviews, the blog posts—all so heady, so intoxicating. And ten years from now when eBooks are the norm rather than the exception, I’d like to look back and think we’ve been the pioneers. I live for those times.


Excerpt – Love’s Labor

Love's Labor“Life lost its color after Sathya left for Hyderabad. A month felt like years. Pia would call him every day after coming back from school.

“I saw some exotic birds today,” she chirped excitedly after a school trip.

“Did you see some bees as well?” Sathya’s deep-throated laughter made Piali weak-kneed.

“Don’t be vulgar,” Pia said in mock exasperation. “Any good looking females in the office?”

“Loads.” Sathya would pause, giving Pia just enough time to feel the pang of envy. “None as gorgeous as you, honey.” She would breathe easy again.

“What do you do after work?”

“It’s painfully peaceful after work hours. I wish you were here.”

Pia never knew what to say to that. She was waiting for her father to relent.

“What did your ol’ man say about me? Is he showing some sense?”

“Sathya, please.”

“Sathya, please?” he sounded astonished. “You don’t show them enough that you love me, so they think they can pressurize you out of it.” The tone was accusatory.

“That’s not true.” Pia was vehement.

“Break a glass or two. Throw tantrums. Make them realize that you’re in love. You don’t do that girl. You’re waiting for them to give in; they’re waiting for you to give up. This is an endless game.” Sathya sounded frustrated. “Now say something, will you?”

“Something,” said Pia, trying to lighten the situation.

Sathya was in no mood for banter. She could hear him breathe over the miles and visualized the faraway look in his eyes, the detached stance when he was irked.

“Sathya, I’m trying. It takes time, you know. Baba has been like this all his life. Now to have his daughter rebel is not easy on him. Look at it that way.”

“We don’t have our whole life to bring him around, Pia.” His tone was somber. “I want to have our child soon.”

“You haven’t proposed to me yet.” Pia tried hard to make him smile.

“Ya, you’re right. I actually haven’t. Because from the time I’ve met you, I knew you wanted to marry me,” he said with his maddening confidence.

“You’re so conceited. Has anybody told you this?” Sometimes she missed Sathya her friend more than Sathya her lover. “I’m coming next month with two tickets. You keep your bags ready. You’re coming with me to Hyderabad.”

Piali could hear her own heart beat. Elope? She was trying to fathom the aftermath. What would happen to Ma, Baba? What would the teachers say if she did something like this? And her students? God, this was too scary even to think of.

“Sathya, I cannot come away just like that. There’s too much at stake.”

“Like what, Piali Roy?”

“I mean, what will people say?”

“Okay, make up your mind if people matter more than your own heart’s desire. I will wait.”


Excerpt from Love’s Labor by Andy Paula


The Power of a Like

When my editor reminded me that I still had not sent her a blog entry, I was tempted to write about what one needs to do in order to become a better author. Yes, it is slightly presumptuous to assume that winning my first publishing contract entitles me to write such an article. I am, after all, a beginner.

But then I thought about an incident that occurred back in 2009. This was a time when Orkut was briefly popular, mind you, and being an 11th grader, I spent most of my time online, increasing the number of ‘scraps’ in my scrapbook while trying to get more people to write testimonials for me. I was an aspiring author, and like most clueless wannabes, I decided to post a serialized novel on my blog. The idea was to create a riveting story told over several chapters, all ending with a cliffhanger. In my mind I was the next Charles Dickens.

The first three or four chapters were out, and the response was lukewarm, to put it politely. But just when I was about to give up on the story, a classmate of mine, Meghna Mehta, posted a scrap. She said, “The novel sounds promising. Looking forward to read more.” (I am, of course, paraphrasing).

That single scrap breathed life into my story. Knowing that there was someone out there who liked what I’d written provided enough fuel for me to churn out a few more chapters. Sadly I didn’t complete the novel, since I’m a skilled procrastinator, but the ideas kept growing in my mind.

I honestly believe that had it not been for that scrap, I wouldn’t have had the interest to expand my novel.

It’s funny how right now we live in a world where feedback is easier than ever before, and yet so scarce at times. You can share, like, tweet, comment and backlink a piece of writing. And yet so many of us remain silent when it comes to letting the author know our opinion. True, sometimes the piece may not deserve to be praised; sometimes there’s nothing much to comment on. But ask yourself how many times you’ve scrolled down an article, smiled, and promptly closed the window without acknowledging it’s merit.

Now this may sound like a subtle rant of someone who’s mourning the fact that he doesn’t get enough likes or comments about his writing, but it’s not. This article is about the immense power that you and I have as readers. We have the power to water a person’s creativity, to let it grow by feeding it bits of appreciation. We have the ability to mold art, to make it better and more beautiful.

But every time we remain silent, we do the opposite. We let art die. We let creativity wither. We let self-doubt, despair and indifference win.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m guilty of remaining silent as well. But every once in a while I remember just how much a single comment helped me grow as a writer. Today I hope that by reading this, you realize just how much impact your actions can have as well. After all, what we all really want are better books, movies, songs and paintings, isn’t it?

It’s both humbling and wonderful to know that we have the power to make that happen – one like and comment at a time.

Feedback Fridays

The Journey

Constructive criticism is welcomed by all. However, any comments that are overly derogatory in nature will be removed. Please keep in mind that the author, while anonymous, will be reading your feedback. Submissions posted here are not edited and/or proof-read by Indireads.

If you are an author hoping for some feedback on the first 800 words of your unpublished manuscript, you can submit your work here.

Genre: Thriller


Twenty seven year old Megha Naik settled on her seat in the State Transport bus for Mahabaleshwar at the bus depot near Pune Railway station. She checked the time – 8.30 pm. She was going for her grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. It had been a hectic day for this qualified architect. She was fast asleep in a couple of minutes.

A while later she woke up, startled with sound of a man pleading for mercy. Megha turned and looked behind. Five-six women had surrounded a young man at the rear of the bus. He was well dressed, like a corporate professional. He was gagged and his face was badly bruised. Megha was scared but stood up and decided to make her way towards the rear of the bus, when she felt a cold dagger on her neck.

“Sit down”, Megha was ordered. That coercion made the blade cut through her skin. Megha took a deep breath and let her logical thinking take over. She observed the woman who was calling the shots. Megha noticed her attire – a mix of some tribal style mingled with weird north Indian Ghagra. Also, she could not understand the exact words from her high pitched conversation with others but she understood the gist.

She turned to look at them, when one of the women slashed that man hard on his face with a blade.

“No”, Megha cried in horror.

“Give me the money”, that woman demanded of him. That man spat on her and refused to give in.

“Why are you doing this?” Megha asked of that leader.

Thwack! She got slapped on her face. According to that leader, Megha had the profanity to speak up against the gang leader.

“Shut up and stay out of this. I have accounts to settle with this bloody bugger.”

“Well, nobody almost hijacks a bus and tortures innocent people just like that.” Megha said mustering courage, standing up.

“Innocent? Hah.. you are such a fool, you bitch”, the woman leading the pack barked at her and pushed her violently on the seat. Neha hit her head on the window rim. She grimaced with pain. Soon, she was tied to the seat.

One of them, who was pretty and smart seemed to have something sinister up her sleeve. She had not spoken all this while. She twirled her long braided hair and came up to Megha. The others called her Sunehri. The leader who looked in her late 40’s was called “Akka”.

Sunehri took a pistol from underneath her top, tucked into her ghagra and pointed it at Megha. . She closed her eyes. When she opened them, the women had got that man to sit beside her and pistol was pointed at him. Megha looked at him, horrified. He was half dead and was blabbering incoherently.

“Stop this, what wrong have we done to you?” Megha shouted.

“Shut up and do what we say. Kill that man”, Sunheri said with a steely coldness in her voice.

Megha clenched her teeth and fist and tried to break free. She was even able to free one hand from the rope but stayed put.

Sunehri gave Megha a peck on the cheek. Megha winced with disgust. On an impulse, she raised her hand which was free and punched Sunehri. Sunehri was startled for a moment but regained her composure. Akka was enraged now. She had had enough. She snatched the gun from Sunehri and inserted the gun into Megha’s mouth. She was going to pull the trigger when Sunehri stopped her.

“Akka, don’t do this. You would be caught unnecessarily. Rather, make this whore kill this asshole.” It was pitch dark outside. Akka became thoughtful. She beckoned one of her gang members to get her a paan.

“Good idea, Sunehri”, she said, chewing on to her pan. Sunehri freed Megha and handed her the pistol. Megha furiously retaliated, as she pushed and clawed away at Sunehri.

“Enough”! Akka’s voice boomed. With an eerie silence all around, her high pitched, slightly hoarse voice sounded ghastly.

“Listen girl, you better kill him or I will kill you!” Akka bellowed.

Megha shuddered. She pointed the gun at that man. Something, however, snapped.
She shot Akka instead and then before the others could recover, she shot Sunheri. She made that man get up by nudging him with the nozzle of the gun.

“Nobody moves”, Megha pointed the gun at the others.

She pushed the man and stepped out of the bus and started running, on a narrow pathway. She could see some village lights nearby. Suddenly this man started laughing.

“You are stupid to have saved me. I deserved to die.” He smiled. Colour had drained out of Megha’s face. She looked at him, dumbfounded, pistol almost dropping off her hand.


From Idea to Story by Devaki Khanna

Readers often wonder how authors get ideas for stories. You can get ideas for stories from your environment. If you are an observant person, the habits, behavior and motivations of your social circle could give rise to ideas for several stories. If you’re the imaginative sort, an image—of someone driving on a road late at night, or of children finding wolf pups in the snow—could be the basis for a story.

How can you tell if your idea can become a story? Begin by asking questions. For instance—who are the children who find the wolf pups in the snow? Where do they find these pups? What do they decide to do? Why do they decide to do what they do?

Can your story be written as a novel?

That depends on how you develop it. You could choose to focus on just one incident, and write a short story. Or you could show how the plot you create leads to your characters’ development. For instance, the children who find the wolf pups in the snow could decide to drown them—this makes a rather grim story about childish cruelty. Or they can decide to raise the pups, which leads to all sorts of developments.

You have an idea for a story, based on the concept of the Good Samaritan, which you want to write as a romance. A person who is left for dead on the road is assisted by a passerby which eventually leads to a relationship. You begin by thinking of appropriate characters. Your heroine is a young woman, driving home late at night, coming across an unconscious, wounded man lying in the middle of the road, with no identification or money.

You can develop scenes—the almost empty, dimly lit road; the speeding car with its blazing headlights that brakes suddenly as the driver spots the body lying in the middle of the road; the driver getting out and revealing herself as a woman…

How do you develop characters? Characters develop in response to conflict. For instance, the woman driving the car. Is she coming home late from work or from a party? Is she a doctor or a nurse or just a passer-by? Does she have a mobile, which she can use to call an ambulance? Will she go with the wounded man to the hospital? How will her family respond if she comes home late, and tells them the story of the wounded man? Will they let her visit him in hospital? The answers to these questions, and the reasons why she behaves as she does, will lead to her development as a character.

Suppose you decide that you don’t want this woman to be the heroine of your story; she disappears after calling the ambulance and handing over the wounded, unconscious man to the paramedics. You want the wounded man to suffer from amnesia so that he can be helped by a sympathetic nurse or psychiatrist at the hospital. You could then choose to start your story in the emergency room when the man is brought in, or begin the story when the man regains consciousness in the ICU but has lost his memory. Your story could be told from the point of view of the nurse who’s assigned to care for him, or the psychiatrist who undertakes to help him recover his memory. You will then concentrate on the relationship between the nurse/psychiatrist and the patient, focusing on how she helps him recover his memory.

How do you build the storyline, after you have developed the idea so far? Try to think through what might happen in the real world if such a situation took place. Perhaps the hospital would have the man’s photograph put on news channels—print and television—within the city, and then nationwide, to discover his identity. The police might also get into the act, by taking fingerprints. What would they discover if they did so? Is the amnesiac just a pedestrian who was unfortunately knocked down while returning home from work? Or is he in possession of dangerous information, dangerous enough for him to nearly lose his life and endanger anyone else (including the girl in the car and the psychiatrist) helping him?

It’s up to you where you choose to take your story. However, you have to build up to the conclusion carefully and cleverly, using all that you have told us about your characters and their circumstances so far. Perhaps the wounded man’s parents have already been to the police and registered him as a missing person—in which case, they’ll arrive at the hospital within a day or so after he regains consciousness. He’ll still require psychiatric care, because he can’t really recall everything that happened before the accident took place. Or, the woman who rescued him is attacked in a drive-by shooting—and someone tries to kill him while he’s still in hospital. This means that his psychiatrist has to race against time to save him, while she helps him to remember why he landed up in hospital. Since we’re talking about writing romance novels here, it will lead to the development of a relationship between the wounded stranger and the psychiatrist assigned to his case, in both instances.

So, the basic rules for getting ideas for stories:

  1. Keep your eyes, ears and mind open—ideas for stories can arise from observation or imagery.
  2. When you get an idea, put it in context, using questions. Use the words who, what, where, why and how to get your answers.
  3. It is up to you to develop an idea into a short story or a novel. You have to decide how to express the idea suitably.
  4. The two major characters—hero and heroine—have to be put into situations of stress or conflict, so that we can appreciate their true worth.
  5. Select the major protagonists of your stories—you need to focus almost exclusively on them, giving us glimpses into their motivations and actions by telling the story from their point of view.
  6. Develop the story keeping in mind what might happen if your characters actually existed in the real world.
  7. Build up to the conclusion carefully, basing it on what you have revealed about your characters so far.