Smoking – Dev Anand to Aamir Khan

Smoking – from Dev Anand to Aamir Khan / Mohan Deep*

When I see the girls, many in their teens, lighting cigarettes; not to talk of Meow Meow and other drugs, I remember the days I started smoking.
It was in Mumbai’s western suburbs Kandivali of early sixties. Being a sort of a rebel, I began early. I think the decision had already been made for me when I saw the first film of my life ‘Taxi Driver’ at six. The film started with a taxi driver sharing a match with Dev Anand. It was much later that I learned that sharing the same match stick between three was considered a jinx, could lead to a fight.
The film had Sheila Ramani who was my father’s cousin and played a bar dancer singing, “Ae meri zindagi, aaj raat jhoom le, aasmaan ko choom le / Kis ko pata hai kal aaye ke na aaye, ae meri zindagi”.
In fact, Dev Anand created an entire generation of smokers with his song in ‘Hum Dono’ – “Mai zindagi ka sath nibhata chala gaya / Har fikr ko dhune me udata chala gaya.
This was a period of stress for Indian youth. Jawaharlal Nehru’s policies had failed. His call for more engineers had been heeded by the people but his government failed to provide the promised opportunities for jobs that resulted in massive unemployment.
There would be long queues in the employment exchanges. One would bribe the clerks to get a call for interview, travel and stand in long queues only to be rejected at the end of the day.
Satyajit Ray showed this situation in one of his films where the unemployed Bengalis stand in the queues, the stark sun burning on their heads and making the struggle much more difficult. Like happened recently with the people in bank queues, young candidates would faint in the queues with occasional deaths. Hindi films of this period often reflected this reality with the boards of ‘No Vacancy’ outside the offices.
Smoking may have helped the worry to momentarily go away in smoke but this was never a solution.
We knew it and Dev Anand knew it. In fact, years later, I asked him about glamourising smoking only to be told that he used cigarette as a prop! Dev Anand wasn’t addicted to smoking.
But Ashok Kumar certainly was.
He saw the cigarette burning in my hand when I went to his Union Park bungalow to interview him and immediately asked eyes twinkling mischievously, “Cigarette hai na? Chalo, pichhware chalte hain.”
He had suffered from some heart issue and had been advised not to smoke. His wife Shobha Devi wouldn’t have liked it. Behind the bungalow, over the clouds of smoke, he gave me one of his most candid interviews.
Smoking certainly is an equaliser. If a desperate for nicotine Ashok Kumar grabbed my cigarette pack, Haji Mastan did it with a police constable. He had been arrested in a midnight swoop on his Juhu apartment, where he lived with his second wife, a look alike of Madhubala, Sona. Locked up, he finished the half complete cigarette packet of State Express. Unused to a life sans nicotine, even for an hour, he tapped the shoulder of the constable guarding his cell and asked him for cigarettes. The cop had only beedis. Mastaan, the don known for smuggling on the biggest scale, lit a beedi after decades.
“Mujhe mera bachpan yaad aa gaya!” Mastan told me. Yusuf Patel, sitting across us told me, “This is why I tell you not to smoke. Ye aisi aadat hai ke Haji Mastan ko bhi haath phailana pada.” Yusuf Patel never smoked and was a teetotaller.
I nodded. I knew enough.
Jawaharlal Nehru was a chain smoker. He tried quitting but always failed. He settled for cutting his cigarettes in two parts with a pair of scissors. He would smoke one half but within minutes reach for the other. Even yoga didn’t help. Nehru was an intense person who couldn’t do without his half hourly dose of nicotine. He found himself short-tempered without cigarette between his fingers. And he was at his charming best with Edwina Mountbatten sharing the flame with her.
Not only Nehru, even General Charles De Gaulle, the head of the State of France found it so difficult to quit cigars that he announced his resolution – not to smoke – in front of the entire army. He thought that such public announcement would strengthen his resolve. It didn’t. The army saw him lighting his cigar again, on the very next day.
It was as difficult for Shammi Kapoor who used to smoke 40-60 cigarettes a day. He could quit only when internet came to India! “Mouse replaced the cigarette,” he told me. Kapoor started spending long hours in front of the monitor. However, his nephew Rishi Kapoor didn’t need the mouse. When he decided to quit smoking – I too quit at the same time but about that latter – he made his whiskey pegs longer! He would sleep for long hours. A few days without nicotine, but with alcohol, were enough for him to get rid of the deadly habit.
When I asked him about his worsening dependence on alcohol he said irritatedly, “Cigarette chhod deeya na! Ab kya drink bhi chhod doon?” Rishi Kapoor is like a stubborn brat even at his age.
It was during the same period that I decided to quit. A little episode from the life of Gautam Buddha came to my mind. Buddha wrote about his ‘weakness’ for apples and how he overcame it. He removed all the apples from his room but retained one. He placed the apple on a high pedestal, visible from everywhere. He would do his daily chores and meditation everyday, occasionally watching his favourite fruit.
Slowly, the apple started rotting and decaying. He saw it happening everyday. In a few days the apple turned totally rotten and inedible. He realised that the apple didn’t mean as much to him now. Soon, he could do without it.
I did a similar thing with a little twist. I kept the half used cigarette packet on my bookshelf, visible from all corners.
I knew that 48 hours of abstinence was necessary for the nicotine to exit from the blood. The withdrawal symptoms reduce after this period. So, in reality, one has to cope with the withdrawal system for just 48 hours.
I spent time sleeping or sucking toffees and occasionally looking at the packet. Forty eight hours later I realised that I had parted from lady nicotine. It was cold turkey.
This was in 1990.
I never took a drag after that. Not a puff.
And must say that some friends were very encouraging. Shatrughan Sinha, for instance. He was shooting when I dropped in. He had already heard that I had quit. As soon as he saw me approaching him, he extinguished his cigarette and told everyone to do the same. He didn’t want to tempt me!
The latter generation of film stars too has loved smoking as much. Shah Rukh Khan is a chain smoker. Aamir Khan too is a heavy smoker. But while SRK hasn’t made any resolve to quit, Aamir quits after his films release, and returns to nicotine during the tense days of marketing the film.
Saif Khan got a health scare a few years back and was admitted in Leelavati Hospital. The doctors – I think it was cardio-surgeon Hemant Kumar – advised him to quit. His mother Sharmila Tagore further urged him to live a nicotine free life. He has almost quit. His first wife Amrita Singh too was an addict. She lit a cigarette when I interviewed her and continued with more cigarettes. She requested me not to mention it in the interview as her mother Rukhsana Sultana would ‘kill her’. I ignored her request and, just for some fun, mentioned it in the article. Amrita continues to be angry with me.
The list of those who smoke is rather long. Anil Kapoor takes a puff, doesn’t inhale and extinguishes the fag in a minute. Amitabh Bachchan used to be a heavy smoker but after his brush with death on the sets of ‘Coolie’ followed by other ailments, he stopped smoking.
I am not easily shocked but got a shock when, seeing that my cigarettes were over, I picked up the packet of an actress.
“Mohan, smoke at your risk!” said the girl. The cigarettes were laced with hash. I won’t name her.
*****
* Mohan Deep, a former journalist, pioneered the genre of star biographies in India with his trilogy of Madhubala, Meena Kumari and Rekha, still considered benchmarks. He started with fiction and continues to write it. His latest novel is ‘Color Me Rich’ and an anthology of his short stories, written over the last five decades, is in the pipeline.

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Russia = China? Raj Kapoor’s Awara remake.

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Mohan’s Musings

Russia = China?
Will Raj Thackeray object to a remake of Awara if India had a border skirmish with China?

India has inked a deal with China for the remake of Raj Kapoor’s ‘Awara’. Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) and China Shanghai International Arts Festival (CSIAF) have signed a memorandum.
In an ironic travesty of truth, a claim is being made that Raj Kapoor and his ‘Awara Hoon’ was hummed by the Chinese and the showman was loved by the Chinese.
Raj Kapoor was popular in Russia. He even visited the country where he was welcomed like a state guest and hordes of people did sing ‘Awara Hoon’ along with him. (Was it K A Abbas connection?)

*****

Forwards and memes plead with you to boycott Chinese products. China has come in the way of India’s bid to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). NSG is an elite group which controls transfer of nuclear technology in the world.
China also has used Veto power to come in the way of India’s efforts to get the high chair (read: Veto power) in UN.
This country has also has blocked Brahmaputra tributary, virtually squeezing India out of the water supply.
It’s support for Pakistan is already well known. We can say that China is a potential enemy.
Yet, Chinese goods are freely sold in India and because of the prices, give a tough competition to Indian manufacturers. Even our government trade with China.

A hypothetical question.
The deal is that the remake will be released by 2017-2018. What if there be a war between the two countries, or between India and Pakistan where China supports Pak? Will the politicians like Raj Thackeray allow the film to be telecast?
Why don’t they object now?

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A Hollywood Indie shot in India gets Manhattan Film Festival Award

Casting Director Vidya Iyengar flanked by Production Head Srivinay salian on her right and director Michael Keller on her left.
Casting Director Vidya Iyengar flanked by Production Head Srivinay salian on her right and director Michael Keller on her left.

Red Gold got the award for the best thriller – at Manhattan Film Festival – and I found one of my FB friends Vidya Iyengar thrilled. She turned out to be the casting director for this Hollywood film that was shot in India, in fact Dharavi; the largest slum in Asia.

Read Vidya Iyengar’s first person account.
Excerpts:

..And the award for the best thriller in international film category goes to RED GOLD … I heard this from one of my cast and I could visualize Michael Keller the director holding the coveted trophy with a lot of people.
I wanted to scream and hug my husband who has stood by me and held the fort at home when I was away managing a circus like scenario of casting and production. But I didn’t.
I went to my balcony, stretched out and went through slides of my life as it was for nearly a decade being in this caravan. I smiled and smiled as the word ACHIEVED echoes in my mind again and again. I am from an Iyengar family where a cinema means to plan a week in advance book the tickets, deliberate whether stall and balcony and dress to kill and watch the movie in a nearby movie hall which means taking no cab. This journey has been at my terms and on my calling in this challenging creative world of cinema.
The morning of November 2012 found me reading a Facebook post about an international film to be shot in Mumbai. A Hollywood Director was looking for someone to assist in production as a Casting Director. After meeting Srivinay, the Production Head and the Director Michael Keller I was lucky enough to be there to go along for that ride.
The synergy worked. We went around the lanes and by Lanes of Dharavi (Mumbai) because of the subject matter to familiarize with the script and the way of life and to relate with the characters of the casts.
Casting for Red Gold was a real challenge, as this was the slum based Indian story made to be in English. More than 200 artists came for Audition. Choosing the cast was a tough task.
The film was shot in a Vasai village, 90 km from Mumbai. Due to severe budgetary restrictions; I almost worked for free but got paid when the movie won the Manhattan award.
Last but not the least, I would like to thank Srivinay Salian , Michael Keller and my entire cast including Shivam Sharma, Richa Meena, Mayur Bansal, Major.Bikramjeet Kunwarpal, Sundeep Hemnaoni, Akul Raje, rest of the team members and my family and friends to be part and allowed me to enjoy the award. I am confident and believe my team winning this recognition has opened the doors for all of us in their respective art work to walk through and make their caravan a colourful journey.
It’s also given me the opportunity to realize my potential as a human being and make positive changes.

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Anurag Basu, Ranbir Kapoor and Kishore Kumar

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Somehow I believe Anurag Basu is born for greater things than Barfi, not that Barfi was any lesser. I have seen Life…in a Metro, Gangster and Murder, each, more than once. I saw Barfi in the plane while returning from USA and noticed how Anurag has got the best out of Ranbir Kapoor.
I am looking forward to his movie on the life of Kishore Kumar which will have Ranbir playing the role of the mad-genius Bengali. I think he is the only actor who can play KK with his quick changes of expression, a great sense of humor and a little crazy-fast way of talking.
It is easy for me to visualize Ranbir talking to the plants, like KK used to do or to play a tabla on the bald head of a producer asking for dates without settling the old dues or better still, waiting in his car outside the famous bungalow of Amitabh Bachchan for exactly three minutes, getting sore, return and vow never to lend his voice to the megastar.
Or to see Ranbir bashing up the girl who would play Madhubala, as KK used to do or to woo Yogita Bali, marry her and then divorce because the girl was extravagant or how he married Leena Chandavarkar the widow of Sidharth Bandodkar and many other incidents.
A tidbit: Anurag was to direct my biography of Meena Kumari – Simply Scandalous. It didn’t happen because the producers who were in the process of signing him found that he had hiked his rate after his ‘Murder’ became a hit!
It would have been nice to see a Manisha Koirala humming the lines Meena Kumari wrote:
Ek markaz kii talaash ek bhatakti Khushboo/ Kabhii manz kabhii tamhiid-e-safar hotii hai.
Or to have a Kangana Runout talking to her collection of rocks and referring to each rock with a name!

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The Selective World of ‘The World Before Her’

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Nargis Dutt once accused Satyajit Ray of selling Indian poverty to the West. And every Bengali, his nephew and neighbor got up in protest. How could a film actress question the motives of the great Ray?
Thousands of Indians have, since, done what Nargis suspected Ray of doing – damning the image of India.
Canada based Nishi Pahuja is one of them and The World Before Her is one such documentary.
I am glad that showing what is not a regular film has become possible and three cheers to Anurag Kashyap for picking it up, supporting it and presenting it. He even risked annoying The Times of India which runs the beauty pageant in India. This shows a healthy trend in Indian film market.
But the film is something else again.
You have camera getting into the Durga Vahini and probing the mindset of the right wing fanatics. You find yourself embarrassed to belong to the same religious group. But not surprised. Hindus in India, like the Muslims, the Christians, Sikhs, Parsis and others are a blend of different segments and thoughts.
Talking to two and half Hindus belonging to Durga Vahini, trapping the Hindu father into saying embarrassing things (“She is my daughter. I have absolute right over her life.” “I took up a hot rod and burnt her foot as she had lied. Beti dikhaao vo nishaan.” “She will have to get married. How can she not marry?”) and daughter (“He has a right to beat me. He produced me! They kill the girl at the time of birth in a traditional family but I am grateful that I was allowed to live.” “Mahatma Gandhi‘s non-violence emasculated Hindus.”) is selective reporting on the sly.
Inserted statements like ‘Some believe that Hindu terrorism is more dangerous than Islamic terrorism.’ along with news-clippings of two terrorist activities of Durga Vahini, mention of stray instances of moral policing (not by Durga Vahini but by another rather unimportant Hindu right wing group Ram Sena), shots of riots in Gujarat and mixing them with unconfirmed figures of the killings of daughters and girl children is clearly biased. Biased because of the choice. Nisha Pahuja doesn’t take the mindset of Muslims in India, doesn’t take her camera to Madrasas or the camps of Islamic terrorists. She goes for the soft target – Hindu right wing.
This traditional Hindu mindset is juxtaposed with the girls participating in beauty pageants. The desperate struggle of girls to make it big, to be selected ‘Miss India’, the training, cosmetic surgery, forcing the insecure girls to get botox injections and dermal fillers, use of creams and chemicals to make them fairer and again an effort to show how India treats the girl child form the content of this Paschim against the Purab of Durga Vahini.
My quarrel is with her approach.
If the theme is to place modern Indian woman against the Indian woman of another, older era the women in Durga Vahini could have been excluded. They don’t fit the bill. The mothers of the candidates as the contrast between the two might have been a better choice.
If the idea was to examine the mindset of the orthodox Hindus – this minority of semi-educated Hindu fanatics – should have been contrasted with the mindset of the orthodox Muslims in India.
The only connect between the two world is that Durga Vahini was against India hosting the pageants and forced ABCL to cancel it and incur a loss of over 20 crore.
In fact, it was not Durga Vahini but Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha’s (KRRS) that was responsible for the violent protests against the pageants managed by ABCL.
It is easy to ask leading questions with a bogus empathy to open the ignorant members of the vahini and then delete them is making a documentary with an agenda.
Nisha has an eye for catching the right moment, right expressions and making every frame say much more than in an average documentary. I see a great documentary filmmaker in her if she be bold, ventures into unexplored territories without fear. Camera is your ticket to the world the others aren’t allowed to see. Use it, honestly and bravely.

*****

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On Mithun Chakraborty and Vanishing Ideologies

Mithun Chakraborty

We have seen all shades of #Marxism, from mild socialism that was hijacked by Congress to the agenda of Naxalites, and all are the result of power struggle. Mithun Chakraborty was a Naxalite hunted by Bengal Police when he returned to family fold and came to Bombay to become an actor.
Now he is a millionaire-actor and has filed the nomination for Rajya Sabha as a Trinamool candidate. I know for a fact that he would have been as happy to be in Rajya Sabha nominated by Jyoti Basu.
The people and the parties with ideologies vanished long back, finished on the altar of opportunism. There was no ideology, only self-interest when Indira Gandhi split Congress. And there only was ego when Sharad Pawar quit Congress. Else, he wouldn’t have had any truck with Sonia Gandhi.
BJP, I believe has come to power in spite of the agenda of Hindutva. It was the plank of Development that worked for a lot of people.
I would even say that splitting the states too is because of politicians’ greed for money and power. No state has been better governed because it is small.
In a way, I don’t see parties as fanatical; not even #ShivSena. It is the person who may be a fanatic and he may still be in a secular party. SanjayNirupam seemed a radical Sainik till he joined Congress. It was like leaving an editorial job from a party mouthpiece to join a mainstream newspaper. In fact, now the journalists change their points of view even in the same organization.
Leaders and politicians who find themselves trapped in dynasty-ruled Congress and who have burnt their bridges with other parties have only one option left now.
A new political party!
It can make a beginning in Bombay.
Milind Deora, Priya Dutt, Gurudas Kamat and Sanjay Nirupam – are you listening? Even those not happy with radically communal agenda in the right wing parties can join them.

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Manoj Kumar, Modi and my ‘Tantrik Woman’

Manoj
I am again in touch with Manoj Kumar. Spoke to him. He is excited about Narendra Modi becoming the Prime Minister of India. And happy.
Manoj Kumar is an apolitical person who loved Bhagat Singh and Lal Bahadur Shastri. Now, he admires Modi.
Maybe the time has come for someone to stage my controversial play – set in emergency period – 
Nehru and the Tantrik Woman. BJP’s K R Malkani was intrigued and fascinated with the theme and Manoj Kumar even wrote a song for my play! 
I had always admired Manoj Kumar and loved his films. But I didn’t realize that he would  casually ‘write’ the theme song in an half an hour chat on phone. 
Here is the song: 

Aate aate ghari wo aayee
Churidaar se churi takrayee
Tan se tan yun takraya
Bharak uthi ek jwala

Prem ka baadal aisa barsa,
Beh gayee man ki jwala
Phir sadhvi bani kaamni
Yun chale ke ho gajgamini
Kuch aise kadam uthe the,
Un rahon pe chale the
Jo rahen thi anjaani
Wo thi kitni deewani

Khudaai hai mumkin aaj ki raat
Ke chiraag jal chuka hai andhere mein /
Janam ho raha hai us maseehe ka
Jo apni tawnaai se waakif hai. 

*****

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BJP, don’t turn filmmakers into bhaands!

DilwaleDulhaniaLeJayenge

On the surface, the idea of having a wing exclusively for developing and promoting films ‘themed on Indian tradition’, as announced by Mithlesh Kumar Tripathi, the convener of the art and culture cell of the BJP seems harmless. But, as a writer, I’m wary of any interference / influence on cinema or for that matter, any other mode of expression.
BJP is not the only party that wants to propagate Indian values in its cinema. Congress and Marxists have used the cinema in pursuit of similar goals with their private agenda. Jawaharlal Nehru encouraged Raj Kapoor to propagate his brand of socialism that glorified Soviet Russia. Lal Bahadur Shastri asked Manoj Kumar to turn his slogan (Jai Jawan Jai Kissan) into a movie and Upkaar was born. Nehru was also instrumental in getting Haqeeqat a propaganda film made by Chetan Anand; a film that puffed up India’s defeat at the hands of China in an avoidable war.
Mrs Indira Gandhi got Manoj Kumar to start work on Naya Bharat to justify and glorify the draconian emergency. Kumar got Javed Akhtar to write the script. Fortunately for Manoj and Javed, the emergency was lifted much before the film could be made.
Keep your hands off the content of the films!
Encouraging any form of art with grants and awards, incentives and facilities is encouraging the culture of bhaands.
The big filmmakers who make films like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge, who are making pots of money, don’t need these grants and awards. The smaller ones would find themselves compromising, towing a particular line to woo the awards.
If you, as a government want the Indian filmmaker to compete with his counterparts in other countries – provide an infrastructure. Free him from the clutches of the distributors who control the theaters, and therefore the filmmakers. A good film by a small maker can’t reach the audience as the multiplexes control the screens. They have their own interests to look for. It is easier to make a pile from simultaneous release on 3000 screens even from a third class film with a couple of stars. All they need is the right marketing and publicity; content be damned.
These distributors and exhibitors have created another culture of bhaands; the filmmakers who just cater to the lowest common denominator making films like Grand Masti.
A government run chain of small theaters, each with a capacity of 300-500, spread all over the country would give a chance to the small, independent filmmaker – a chance to make good cinema, a chance to compete at the world level.
Whatever these filmmakers – other creative people – make is going to be a part of Indian culture.
Knowing how the over-enthusiastic and often culturally uneducated wannabes hijack ideas, it is important to analyze the idea of ‘Indian tradition’ and ‘Indian culture’. If the idea is to have a conservative presentation of women or a military boot on depiction of erotic scenes, the BJP and its art and cultural cell will have to do a rethink. I’m also writing with reference to the U turn of the Central Board of Film Certification in the recent times. It is slowly returning to the dark days of stone age.


The Censorship has never been a Hindu idea!

Hindu is a free thinking, all accommodating religion. There is no place for censorship in Hindu religion.

Continue reading “BJP, don’t turn filmmakers into bhaands!”

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(Not so) Pretty Lies of Bollywood

aamir khan in dhoom3 2
Even as the film stars do their nautanki – like Salman Khan gets just 10 percent of his income and that he signed his first cheque 5 months ago (as credible as his claim of being a ‘virgin’ at 48) – and we just smile at the half truths and pretty lies that is an inevitable part of Bollywood, a rather sinister aspect of Bollywood lies goes unnoticed.
Everything about Bollywood is as fake as a six hundred rupee note featuring Madhubala in front. But this here is the story of intentional lies, fraud, tax evasion and perhaps violation of FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act).
First the shocker and then my story.
The shocker: With visible pride YR films announced last week that their Aamir Khan-starrer Dhoom3 created Bollywood history with gross box office collections that touched a never heard figure of Rs 500 crore worldwide, a first for any Indian film.
But YR films have paid only Rs 5.5 crore as advance tax! And when the dust settles down they would pay, may be, another 5 crore, employing what is described as ‘Bollywood accounting’.
It is the same with the entertainment tax.
It has been a boom time for Bollywood with the growth of multiplexes. 3 Idiots collected Rs 227.13 crore
Krrish3 made 300 Rs crore though an over enthusiastic Rakesh Roshan claimed the collections to be Rs 500 crore!
Shah Rukh Khan claimed that his ‘Chennai Express’ had broken the record of !3 Idiots’.
Continue reading “(Not so) Pretty Lies of Bollywood”

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Sam’s Story – A chapter from “The Five Foolish Virgins”

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My novel “The Five Foolish Virgins” has been selling like proverbial hotcakes. Here is an extract from “The Five Foolish Virgins” available – one of the chapters – Sam’s Story.

You want to buy a copy…click here:
Buy Mohan Deep’s “The Five Foolish Virgins” (Flipkart).

Buy the Kindle version by clicking Mohan Deep’s “The Five Foolish Virgins”

You can also buy the hard copy from Amazon.in by clicking Mohan Deep’s “The Five Foolish Virgins”.

You want to read a chapter? Read it:

Sam’s Story

By the time I reached Bandra, it was eight in the evening. The old, decrepit building of Bhabha Hospital on the opposite side looked a little better in the darkness: darkness hides all the flaws. Continue reading “Sam’s Story – A chapter from “The Five Foolish Virgins””

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