Special Mention Entry from “Draw Them Up” Contest: Just Retired by Amar Agarwala

Brigadier Bidhan Chandra Deb, had retired from the Indian Army after forty years of distinguished service to the nation.  He was a veteran, who witnessed both wars the country had fought: with China in 1962 and then with Pakistan in 1971.

At sixty six, he was fitter than a man half his age. Aware of his short height, he was ramrod straight and walked as if he was marching in slow motion. Looking at him the unmistakable signs of pride and arrogance was evident to the discerning eye. He had a head of salt and pepper hair, his huge moustache was dyed jet black.  It gave his face a mocking appearance, which was more funny than serious.  I met him when I gone to receive him at the airport, as a part of the entourage which was to welcome him to the city.  He had been newly appointed the Chief Executive Officer of a proposed Multi-Speciality Hospital by our group of companies.  On being introduced to the entourage members, he shook hands with a firm grip and scant interest, a demeanour suggesting little interest in civilians or in civilian life.

The car he was travelling in was lost in the maze of evening traffic and our car reached the Head Office well before his.  Upon arrival, he jumped out and barked at us, “Don’t you know the rules of a convoy?” The senior accountant who was driving our vehicle stood transfixed at the words, which he found hard to follow, for the voice was high-pitched, dry and rasping. He was also a chain-smoker and often spoke with a cigarette between his lips which made his vocal onslaughts upon the civilians quite unintelligible.  Much later we realized that he had an uncertain temper and often spoke in sarcastic taunts.  He no longer wore a uniform but in his mind Brigadier B.C.Deb was yet serving the armed forces.

He was put in sole charge of the proposed super-speciality hospital, considering his immaculate curriculum.  His appointment was followed by three others: one a pretty young lady as his personal secretary.  A junior assistant, who was an MBA Graduate and a peon to run his errands.  Within a fortnight all had resigned from services.  According to  grapevine; he was difficult task master and his discipline was army like: no excuses and no nonsense.  Within the first three months, two of his next set of subordinates had also resigned.  The third could not be traced. His iron fist in boxing gloves did not make sense to his subordinates, who deserted his barracks with an alacrity that was both alarming and worrying for the management.

When the Manager-Personnel was summoned to his room, he was asked by the Brigadier, “Why does it take so long to replace three people? Don’t you maintain a database of suitable candidates? Let us get on with some real action on the personnel front.  I believe you deal with Personnel or is it just your personal matters?”

“But sir, suitable and efficient personnel are hard to find these days,” the head of personnel had murmured respectfully.

“If you can’t find them, then produce them!” barked the army man twirling his moustache with a mean dismissive look in his eyes.

The manager personnel had left the room flabbergasted wondering how to produce three men.  He was nearing retirement and widowed. His wife who had recently passed away, was childless.

Once he had admonished a young receptionist who was newly appointed, “Can’t you wear decent clothes? This is a model medical centre not a centre for modelling. Besides that you are as flat as a sheet of sun mica.  What do you have to flaunt?  So stop making a spectacle of yourself and this reputed organisation.” She left the office crying and never re-joined.  The peons shivered when called to his chamber.  He found flaws with most of them.  In six months, he had changed half-a-dozen drivers.  According to him, they had little driving sense and poor discipline, more suited to drive bullock carts. He could not tolerate indiscipline and no one knew what he meant by it.  He expected his drivers to be curt and open the door when he stepped out of the vehicle and close it when he sat down.  They always had to be ready with an ashtray so he could tap ash and stub out his cigarette or else he would tap it into the driver’s pocket or worse throw the butt at their faces.  Lighting his cigarette moment he put one to his lips was a must for all his drivers.  If they did not, he would bark at them, “Bloody Fool do you need to be told when you have to answer the call of nature… you just rush.” They would wonder, if his lighting up meant a call of nature.  Once he kicked the security guard at the gates for he had forgotten to salute him.  The security agency sought an explanation, to which he had replied, “We need proper men – not baboons in uniform who do not respect their superiors. The security agency was unobtrusively changed thereafter.

Most were fed up with the Brigadier and needless to say the hospital team was not functioning well under his leadership.  Few were bold enough to put in complaints to the top management. On being politely told about it, he had commented, “Foolish behaviour and indiscipline needs correction or it is better to eliminate it.” He was unaffected with the spate of resignations or the growing resentment against him, simply dismissing it as – ‘bad civilian rubbish’.

Finally, two unsavoury incidents did him in. Once he had locked up a supplier in his bathroom for supplying sub-standard materials.  Upon enquiry by the management, he replied brazenly, “I had my licensed revolver but did not want to waste a bullet on that rotten scoundrel.  He should be glad that I did not make him drink from the pot.” On the other occasion, a senior male nurse was assigned to carry the Brigadier’s briefcase to his vehicle, which accidentally slipped out of his hands and fell on to the staircase, prised open, and piles of documents and papers were strewed all over.  Among them was a copy of Playboy Magazine which embarrassed many.  The Brigadier was furious, and had thundered, “You bloody fool!….  You clumsy wimp!  You have been assigned to carry something important and not your wife buttocks that you can afford to let slip?”

The management’s effort to improve his untoward behaviour met with little success.  Various staff meetings broached the topic but the army man would brush it aside, “I abhor unnecessary and foolish talks.  Let us give meetings a break for they are the only reason why mankind has not been able to achieve its true potential.  Let us get on with some real action on the work front.”

Progress to the proposed Hospital was tardy and teamwork – tragic.  Work front resembled a forsaken war zone and the action was missing…everything seemed frozen.  Even the Brigadier’s thundering cannons refused to thaw the ice of inactivity.

Finally, the management hauled him up during one of the project meetings attended by a host of doctors and senior professionals.  A few harsh comments for the Brigadier by the Managing Director who was a maverick from IIT, shook his ego.  He walked out of the meeting but not before stating: “I may have retired from service but not from self-respect.  Gentlemen, my resignation will reach your table within the next twenty four hours, I wish you luck with the venture but am afraid that I can no longer be a part of this flop show.”

I had happened to usher him out of the board room, when he had commented, “Young man, you know a man without self respect and dignity is like a soldier who has a gun but no bullets in a battlefield.  He is simply useless. The best exit for a true soldier is to die on the last day of battle, by the last light and by the last bullet. Then he let out a laugh which sounded like a machine-gun fire and marched off in slow motion.  That was the first and last time I heard him laugh. I never saw him again.  Some months later I heard he had joined another hospital as its Chief Operating Officer. A year to that day, I happened to meet one of his old drivers and was told that the Brigadier was diagnosed with cancer of the lungs.  He fought back to health, soldier that he was and doggedly lived for a couple of years but finally succumbed to the disease.  They say – a cigarette has smoke at one end and a fool at the other.  No one dare said that Brigadier Bidhan Chandra Deb, was a fool.  Just that he was befooled by pieces of paper and tobacco.  What bullets could not do – they did! Retired him –  not just from service ……but life!

Also check out “I, Me, Myself” by Shamila Janakiraman

We are back with a writing contest!

Character Sketch Contest: Draw Them UpA picture is worth a thousand words, but a few words can change its story. So, here is a challenge for all you wordsmiths out there. Draw up a person you know well with your words for the world to “see”. Tell us whatever you think should be known about them. How they looked, how they behaved, how they thought, what they felt, and anything else. You can choose to describe them, or narrate a story about them, or use any other form of writing to present them to the world. Make the representation vivid, relatable and interesting. There are no rules except that the entry should be in English, should be about a real person you know and should have no more than 1500 words.

Cash Prize of Rs. 4000/- for the winning entry.

A Stalker’s Diary: Winning Entry from My Lover’s Diary Contest

By Dr. Bindu Menon

7th February 2013

Today was mostly uneventful. I went to work as usual.It was getting cold.I had to put on a jacket to get cosy as I walked along Brigade Road. I saw her briefly at the burger joint with a few friends,then she vanished from sight. I then took a bus back home. I must send her a message I don’t like her walking around with so many boys. They may be just friends but I can’t tolerate the idea of someone sitting close to her, watching her as she smiles that slow smile beginning from the corner of her lips and going all the way to her eyes. I cant bear it that she should turn those lovely eyes and that beautiful smile on any person but me. I might be insanely jealous but then I love her so much. She is mine and only mine.

I remembered the day I first met her. I had gone to pay my insurance bill. She looked at me and smiled as she sat at the counter and took the money. I still remember her low melodious voice as she told me that I had paid an extra 50 rupees. As she gave the money back to me, I knew that something had changed in me that moment on. Her glance had melted the marrow in my bones. It is almost a year now. Strangely enough, it was February 14th, Valentine’s Day when I had met the love of my life

8th Feb 2013

I was very upset today. I saw her with her friends at the bus stop .They all stopped talking and were glaring at me. She too was looking angrily at me. It upset me and I decided to walk away. I heard one of them say-‘ What a psycho!’.Then, as I turned back they were all laughing and making fun of me. I was not upset because the others did it. I was upset that she too joined them in ridiculing me. Maybe she is ashamed of me. After all, who am I? Just a lowly clerk in a Government office. She is weak and frivolous, yet I love her and forgive her. All she gives me is sorrow. I sent her an SMS to express how deeply pained I was. As usual there was no reply. Then I got very angry. I sent her one message after another. I scolded, I pleaded, I cajoled and threatened. I tried to evoke some response from her. Who did she think she was? How dare she treat me like this? I have no thought but her in my head now. There is not a single moment that I don’t think of her. How can she not respond to such a deep true love like mine? If she did not agree to be mine, I no longer wanted to live. These were the sentiments expressed in my messages. There was no response. I am going to bed now. It is almost 2 in the morning and I am exhausted and emotionally drained. I had sent the last message at 1.20 a.m.

9th Feb 2013

Dont feel like writing anything today. What is the use? I did not go to office today. For the first time in the last 1 year, I did not go to her office either. I did not ‘hang around like a rowdy’ and ‘disturb her’ as she had once angrily told me. Will she miss me today? Sometimes I hate myself. Have I no self respect? I sent her the usual messages expressing my angst at her ignoring me. There was no reply. I then threatened her saying that I would kill myself if she did not agree to meet and talk to me.

10th Feb 2013

When the day began today, I had no idea that I would be experiencing ecstasy and agony all in the same 24 hours. I got up late as it was a sunday. I felt too groggy to get out of bed. As is my practise, the first thing I did was to check for messages on my mobile. I had not lost hope that one day she would acknowledge my love and the pain I was going through for her. I was rewarded. There was a message from her! It was just a line-‘Meet me at Spice cafe near Sridhar Cinema at 11 a.m’, it read. I could not believe my eyes. My heart was performing gymnastics as I read and re-read the message. Finally my love and persistence had won! I checked the clock. It was 9.30 in the morning. I jumped up out of bed, all my fatigue all gone. I was on top of the world. I reached the cafe at 10.30 and ordered a coffee for myself as I waited. Time had never seemed to crawl as much as it had in that half hour. She came with two tough looking guys. My spirits sank. It seemed most inauspicious. I knew it meant trouble. The men sat next to me almost crowding me in an attempt to intimidate as she sat opposite me and said ‘I have been tolerating your nonsense for the last 1 year and I am here to tell you that I am not going to take it any longer. First you kept making those phone calls to my office. Then when I blocked them you continue to harass me with messages all through the night. You follow me around everywhere and hang around my office. What do you hope to achieve? You think any girl will care for you if keep up this harassment. Maybe you need to see a psychiatrist. It is only out of pity that I had kept quiet so far. Now It is getting to be a bit too much, I warn you, if you continue this harassment, I am going to the police.” her voice rising in indignation. Meanwhile, one of her goons caught me by the lapel of my jacket and growled, “You heard the lady. If you continue to do this, we will handle you first before the police do. So, keep off, you hear?”

‘Psycho!’ they spat as the three of them walked out. All this had taken just 10 minutes. I sat there stunned as my world collapsed around me.

14th Feb 2013

I really don’t know what had happened over the last few days. I think the neighbours took me to the hospital. All I do remember is that I had taken a whole lot of pills to drown out the clamour in my head. I am seeing a psychiatrist today, but I think I am actually ok now. She was undeserving. I had made a mistake in loving her. I am not going to destroy myself over such an ingratiate. The student nurse, the one with the curly hair was fussing over me. ‘How do you feel now?’ she asked me with an angelic smile. ‘I am ok.’ I said. As I remembered my humiliation, there was a fresh stab of pain in my heart and my tears flowed. Sally, that was her name, took my hand and asked me to tell her everything. As I unburdened myself to her, I felt a great sense of relief. I think she really likes me. I must remember to take her phone number

Silent Promises: Winning Entry from My Lover’s Diary Contest

By Sreedevi K

Feb 4 : Finally booked return tickets for S and the baby. She pointed out last night that it has been over 12 months since she went home with the baby. I guess that kind of explains why we seem to have nothing in common these days, not even the weather. Its still cold here in Delhi, but she insists that the baby can take it, that all they need is a heater and me. We’ll see.

Feb 5 : Just remembered that Valentine’s day is looming up. Actually, the reminder she set on my phone just went off. Sigh.

Feb 6 : Of late I catch myself tuning her out more often. S complains (increasingly more to herself) about how she misses me and her own home, while I watch ESPN on mute. Honestly, I really don’t know what more I can say or do. It’s been over a year of “YesImissyoutoobaby”s and the awkward silences that follows those words. Maybe she’s right, maybe time and space have come between us, “breathing damply down my neck every time I call you” as she puts it rather dramatically. I don’t like it any more than she does, but I get the feeling that she expects ME to do something about this. Ah well…

Feb 7 : Another day another reminder, this time to wish my grandmother on her birthday. But for some reason Ammumma’s line remained busy for about an hour. I put it off long enough to forget about it.

S called up later at night, sounding rather thoughtful and strangely contrite. She said that she had had a very strange conversation with my Ammumma.

“I’m not sure what I said, but she got the idea that I am very unhappy at the way things are between us now. We spoke for a while but she wasn’t really listening to anything I was saying. She went quiet after a while, and as I was about to hang up she said:

“Have I ever told you that I was married off at seventeen? Arjun’s Achachan was all of twenty three at the time. We were far too young to know what we were doing or what to expect from each other, but I suppose it was understood that we would learn and grow together. I went from a palatial colonial bungalow in Madurai to a rambling, poverty stricken tharavadu in Calicut. Well I can tell you this…my girlhood dreams of wedded bliss had never featured three generations of cantankerous in-laws and a painfully shy, tongue-tied husband!

That was an age when the daughter in law was not expected to raise her eyes off the ground, or speak to anybody unless spoken to. In any case, nobody had any reason or chance to talk to me after my mother in law gave me my chores for the day… I would draw water, cook, do the laundry, go to the market, clean the house and do whatever else needed to be done. All the while missing my family and wondering about a husband who was a complete stranger to me.

Did you know that we did not have a room to ourselves for the longest time? He would sleep with his brothers in the veranda while I slept with the rest of the women.  It didn’t occur to anybody to give us a room, and I don’t suppose he knew how to ask. I would look for opportunities to catch a glimpse of him…sometimes walking with a towel and soap to the pond, or sipping a tumbler of buttermilk on the veranda. I would imagine that he hung around the well rather longer than necessary while brushing his teeth, and wonder whether he was waiting for me to step out the backdoor to meet him. I never did go, though.

And then one day we realized that things had gone from bad to worse.

Achachan was the sole bread winner of a family of seventeen. He was a Microbiology Research Officer, and his salary of Rs 450 proved woefully inadequate to feed and provide for all of us. I came up with innovative ways of making meals out of nothing. A single glass of curd could be turned into excellent spiced buttermilk if I had a bunch of curry leaves, ginger and a bucket of cold water straight from the well. I cooked rice with the husk of areca nuts so that a ladle full could satiate anybody. I learnt to pass off banana peels (generously handed over the wall from the chips store next door) as tasty vegetables of dubious origins. And I watched my husband grow from a pimply young boy to a quietly confident young man. My mother in law used to grumble that I was no longer the pretty girl her son had married: I was a sullen, dark, unkempt woman whose bones stuck out disgracefully. Well…I didn’t know whether to still wish for my husband’s attention or be thankful I didn’t have it!

And then one evening he came home drenched with the October rain. It was about 7 in the evening and the rest of the family had gathered near the flickering hurricane lamp in the veranda. Peeking from the kitchen, I saw my mother in law shriek and scold her son for getting soaked to the bone… god knew we couldn’t afford to have anybody fall ill. I rushed outside with a tattered towel and a glass of hot rice water. And stopped short.

He was grinning at me out of the half darkness. Then he took the towel and glass from me and pressed a dripping parcel into my hand, loosely done up in banana leaves.  “This is for you, Shantha,” he said, and rushed off indoors while I gaped at the muzham of jasmine flowers that tumbled out of my parcel.

There was a stunned silence as the heavy fragrance of the tiny flowers soaked the darkness. And then his grandmother started screaming from her corner about extravagance, and strumpets and selfishness.

I didn’t hear any of it, I was lost in tucking the flowers into my hair. The fragrance enveloped me, and I realized it was the shield that I had longed for all along. I bounced to the kitchen on the balls of my feet, smiling through the tears that were pooling in my eyes.

We soon got our room,” Ammumma chuckled.

Both of us were laughing, but I was shaken by the story I’d just heard. I mean…your Achachan looks like such a dour, gruff tough cookie! And there he was making such a statement in front of his family. Did he know how precious this moment was for your Ammumma?

Three years of living in the same house and not even talking to each other! And here I am thinking I no longer know my husband after spending a few months away from him.”

We spoke a while longer before the baby screamed for attention. And I stared into the darkness outside my window, feeling my Achachan’s nervousness and excitement of all those years ago.

Maybe I really could do something here.

Maybe I could begin by getting her a string of jasmine flowers on a starry night.


Ammumma : Grandmother

Achachan : Grandfather

Tharavadu : Traditional Nair house

Muzham : Conventional unit used to measure flower garlands. One muzham is the length from your finger tips to your elbow.

My Lover’s Diary Contest: Results

happinessDrum rolls please… Yes! We are ready with the results. And the winners are

  • Sreedevi K for her entry “Silent Promises”
  • Bindu Menon for “A Stalker’s Diary”

Our judge says About “Silent Promises”: Closest to the prescribed format. Good storytelling, simple, lucid writing. The joint family backdrop will strike a chord with many. About “A Stalker’s Diary”: Edgy, very different twist to the concept.

Congratulations to the winners! We’ll contact you shortly about the prize money.

A special mention is also due for Revathi S Kumaran’s “Inadequate Identities” because of the story-telling. Not strictly a diary, but a fabulous short story.

Thanks a lot everyone for participating. And a very special thanks to Chandrima for taking up the tough task of judging the contest. By the way, if you have not checked out her novel “A Song for I” yet, do it right away. Beautifully produced book with an intriguing story of music uniting and separating two generations. To be posted soon

  1. Organizer’s observation about the entries.
  2. Winning and special-mention entries.

Image “Unexpected Wedding” courtesy http://www.flickr.com/photos/josemanuelerre/6072897438/

Announcing Tech Publishing Festival – July 2012

ImageWhat is Tech Publishing Festival – July 2012

Tech Publishing Festival – July 2012 is a special offer (available through July 2012) from Pothi.com to the authors of technical books. All through July, Pothi.com will provide free design and distribution services to tech authors. You only have to take care of preparing the final content of the book. We will format the book and design a cover for you. You will also get our online distribution service for free for one year. Through this service, the books get listed on Flipkart, Indiaplaza and other online retailers’ websites.

Submit Your Manuscript

How much money does it save the authors?

Pothi.com is a self-publishing platform. To publish through us, normally authors have to prepare their books in print-ready format themselves, or take paid services from us. Assuming a 200-pages book, the savings include

  • Rs. 3000 for formatting
  • Rs. 2500 for cover design
  • Rs. 1500 for extended online distribution

Total Savings: Rs. 6000

What kinds of manuscripts are eligible?

Manuscripts related to Computer (Science), Information Technology, Software Products and Internet are welcome. They can be of different types including, but not restricted to

  • Textbooks/Reference Books on
    • Programming Languages
    • Programming Tools and Technologies
    • Specific topics in computer science like databases, networks etc.
  • Interview/Exam preparation and Q&A
  • Software Engineering and Management
  • Manuals/Guides of
    • Open source software
    • Enterprise Products
  • Guides for beginners
  • Other topics in tech domain

What is the deadline for submission?

Manuscripts should be submitted by July 30, 2012. If you have just started writing the book and need some more time to finish it, submit a partial manuscript with at least 2-3 chapters by this deadline. The complete manuscript must be submitted by August 31, 2012 to be eligible for the offer. Please note that partial manuscript should have actual chapters and not just a plan/introduction/preface.

How to submit?

Through this form. Manuscripts will not be accepted through e-mails or CDs. You will receive a submission id on successful submission. Please keep it handy for further communication.

If you submit partial manuscript, you will receive the instructions for submission of full manuscript separately. Do not resubmit the form for full manuscript.

What about pricing the book and royalties?

Price and author earnings or royalties will work as per the usual Pothi.com practices. Please check the following relevant sections in our FAQs.

Why write a technical book?

A technical book usually conjures the picture of a 1000 page tome covering a particular technology in great detail. It is natural to think that writing those books requires super human effort and you, as a mere mortal, are not capable of that. However nothing can be farther from truth.

By leveraging the print-on-demand and online distribution, it is now possible to publish books free from the usual limits on audience size and book size. It is perfectly viable to write a short book about the niche expertise you hold. Writing such a book can help you significantly enhance your credibility as an expert and open doors to new opportunities.

Why self-publishing is a good fit for technical authors?

Self-publishing based on a print-on-demand model is a great fit for the authors of technical books. In today’s fast moving technology landscape, technical books have a short life span. So the time to market and the flexibility of quickly revising content becomes very important. With print-on-demand, you can reach the market in matter of weeks and the updates can be done in days.

Additionally, Online communities provide the perfect avenues to reach out to your potential audience with little cost and great effectiveness. They are also likely to be comfortable buying the books online thus reducing the need to be present in physical book stores.

Terms & Conditions for Tech Publishing Festival – July 2012

  • Pothi.com will not be responsible for editing the manuscript. The author must submit the final manuscript.
  • All decisions regarding formatting and cover design will be at Pothi.com’s sole discretion.
  • Author will be identified as the publisher of the manuscript.
  • Only one manuscript per author is allowed in the offer.
  • Manuscript should be your original work. We may announce any violations of copyright on our blog. Any legal liabilities related to copyrights will be author’s.
  • Pothi.com will have exclusive rights to publish, print and distribute the manuscript in India and a non-exclusive right to publish, print and distribute in the rest of the world for one year since the date of listing on Pothi.com.
    • Normal Pothi.com terms are non-exclusive. So, if you want to avail non-exclusivity that, do not submit the manuscript for this offer. You can always publish it through our normal offering.
    • After one year, the exclusivity will expire. Sales and distribution will continue unless delisting request is received by us.
    • Pothi.com reserves the right to discontinue listing the book at its own discretion. If this happens in the exclusivity period, Pothi.com will rescind the exclusivity and the author is free to publish the manuscript through other channels. If the listing has been discontinued due to copyright violations or any other illegal conduct on the part of the author, the author will be liable to pay for the services rendered under this offer at the following rate
      • Formatting: Rs. 15 per page in the final print ready manuscript
      • Cover Design: Rs. 2500
      • Extended Online Distribution: Rs. 1500
  • Submission does not guarantee acceptance in the offer. Pothi.com has rights to refuse a manuscript for the offer without giving reasons. The manuscript might still be eligible for normal self-publishing offering from Pothi.com.
  • Except when covered by the above, all other terms and conditions on Pothi.com will apply.


Write to info@pothi.com with “Tech Publishing Festival – July 2012” included in the subject line.