Step on the moving ladder and hold the railing. Sally watched as people zoomed towards the escalator and then stood at ease till they reached the top. It looked simple. But, what if her feet did not find the firm step or if it moves when she is just putting her feet. Should she hold the railing first? Sally could never time it right. The image of her lying on the floor, her shopping strewn around and people staring was all she saw. She turned to leave when a staff told her, ‘Mam, you can use the lift.’
Noel is a counsellor, risking his career for volunteering in an orphanage.
Nidhi is an engineering student on the surface, but deep down a broken girl in search of some unanswered questions.
Appu is a sweet little orphan, unaware of the cruelties of the world.
Despite being miles apart their stories interweave in “Aashiyana”, the orphanage. Their little journey together changes their lives in ways they never imagined.
One recurring nightmare, one unexpected phone call, one stolen diary, many lies and secrets, and a calling from the past are just the highlights. And when they depart, they are not the same anymore.
They didn’t hurt each other, it was a game of destiny. Will they ever be able to rediscover themselves and more importantly, will their paths ever cross again?
Beyond Secrets is a novel with layers of suspense and different nuances of relationships. And one question that can’t have just one answer – How long does it take for a scar to heal?
Read an excerpt:
10. A Different World
The classroom was in chaos when I entered. It looked like a mini battlefield of little soldiers bombarding each other with paper balls and paper planes. Before I could get a grip on the situation blackness seemed to engulf the scene before me, revealing another scene, hazy, like a dusty video film taking me to a different world where no colours existed except shades of grey; a classroom with empty first rows, far off, images of children yelling and flying airplanes… A wave of sadness crept in, a feeling of hollowness. Amid this chaos? Wasn’t it strange? Were these the same children who had forced their way into my thoughts when I was in the park? Were these known faces? Before I could become a part of the unreal the clamour faded as a strict commanding voice pierced through the din.
“Yes ma’m,” I said.
The scene dissolved and I found Simin staring at me in disbelief. “What happened?” she asked with a puzzled expression.
My head was spinning.
“Nothing, I thought you called me.” I said.
“I called Pranil. But what happened to you? You stood with your eyes shut. You ok?”
Oh, so that was her voice. Then why did I hear another voice, something from a distant, hazy corner of my mind? Or was it solely my imagination? Or a moment when imagination collided with reality?
“Yeah, am absolutely fine.” I said, looking away, not meeting her eyes.
“Pranil, I need to talk to you. Please come to my cabin after your prayers are over.” Simin said.
“Yes, ma’m.” The voice came from the last bench, from a boy with dishevelled hair, dark brown eyes and a dark complexion.
The dizziness made me uneasy and I couldn’t contribute much to the class that day. I walked to Simin’s cabin after the session.
I was not sure how I would collect the information. I wasn’t even sure what information I wanted. As soon as Simin saw me she started discussing a few things she wanted me to do.
“Noel, will you be able to go to… she paused. “You look disturbed. Are you ok?”
“You can tell me if anything is bothering you.”
“The boy you wanted to meet in the morning.” Not sure what was stopping me from speaking out his name.
“Yes.” I paused. “Pranil.” I tried hard to keep my voice steady.
“What about him?”
“Can you tell me something about him?”
“Like what?” She disconnected her phone that had just started ringing.
“Like…like…how old is he? Since when has he been here? Why did his parents leave him? Anything.”
“Anything. Hmmm.” She thought for a while. “Pranil is about 10 years old, he has been here since the last four years. His father died and his mother, who was a house maid, wanted to re-marry. The man she wanted to marry was not ready to accept responsibility of a son, therefore she left him here. But why are you asking all this?” She again silenced her beeping phone.
“I think I know him. Or someone by that name… or… or…” I didn’t know how to explain something I was still struggling to understand. I didn’t want her to disconnect her phone for the third time for my silly questions so I left the room leaving her gaping at me.
Later in the day I met Pranil. He was painting something when I reached him.
“Hello Pranil, can I sit here?”
“What are you doing?” I asked him.
“I am drawing a house.” He showed me the few scribbled lines in his notebook.
“Wow! This is a very good drawing.”
He smiled shyly.
I expected some connection to my foggy feelings as I talked to him. But no snapshots, no voices, no images followed. As if he was not the Pranil who played in my mind, the Pranil in my mysterious imagination was someone else, someone close to me yet far away, someone known to me yet a stranger. Something in my own self was unknown to me, an enigma and it was a terribly uncomfortable feeling. I just wanted to drag out the stranger from me but every time I tried the stranger gripped me tighter as if slowly becoming an inseparable part of me like my blood and my veins.
Alka Dimri Saklani is the author of “45 Days in a Cancer Hospital” and “Beyond Secrets”. Her debut novel “45 Days in a Cancer Hospital” was longlisted for the prestigious Crossword Books award 2013. Her poems have been published in many magazines. She holds MBA degree in HR and worked with a leading MNC before turning to a full-time writer. Born and brought up in Vadodara, a city in Gujarat, her roots hail from “Dev Bhumi” Uttarakhand. Apart from writing, she loves music, reading, traveling, and spending time with her two naughty kids.
When did it all start, Shruti wondered? When did the handsome, sensitive, caring Neil become a narcissist flirt? Or maybe, he was always like that. Shruti had not noticed earlier as all his attentions and flirting were for her. But, she was not part of his admirers. She did not follow him around moonstruck. On the contrary, she was immune to his good looks.
Neil had taken it up as a challenge when his friends had teased him about attaining the unattainable Shruti, the smartest girl in class. He started the ‘chase’ to win over Shruti with a lot of caring, attention and flowers. Shruti was initially surprised and thought Neil will get over it. But he persisted till college ended. And by then Shruti was smitten. Continue reading →
These phone booths were much in demand in the pre-mobile phone era. In India, these were mostly at railway stations. At other places there were regular phones to make public phone calls. The advantage of this phone was, we could hear the person on the other side of the phone, but could speak to him only after dropping the coin. And with the Indian mentality of jugaad, it was abused in various ways to save the coin. Here’s my take for this week.