And here, as promised, are some passages from the book. This is from Chapter 2, "Looking Forward". After a game of cards with his friends, Arzee is on his way to work:
And here is one more passage, about a minor character, Ranade:
Arzee passed the grey building which was his home – he could hear the television all the way up from the second floor, because Mother listened to all her soaps loud – and then the empty school, its blue gate being locked by the watchman. Instead of going on straight, he turned now into a passage between two buildings, so narrow it was almost invisible. It was a kind of wasteland where everyone threw rubbish which no one then cleared. A broken toilet seat was lying here, and a red plastic chair with three legs. The ground was covered with a squelchy slop of plastic bags, vegetable peelings, and eggshells. Long grasses had sprouted up near the walls, carrying bits and pieces of garbage within their limbs like diseased flowers. Little frogs the same colour as the muck were hopping from one spot to another with springy leaps, and becoming invisible once again as soon as they landed. Arzee’s shoes sank into the wet earth, and when he looked back to see if anyone had seen him enter, he could only see his footprints following him all the way in.
He arrived now at a low stone wall, on the other side of which thin whispering sounds could be heard. He hitched up his trousers, hoisted himself up onto the wall using the crevices in it as footholds, and arrived at the top. He stood up, and looked down into the silky waters.
Yes, there was a nasty stench here, but also a lovely still and calm. No one bothered to come out here, and all the pleasures of the place were just for him. As if to mark his arrival, a milky sun had come out over his head, and his reflection in the sewer was backlit, as if there was a halo around him. He studied himself closely, and saw what he already knew: that his forehead was high, his hair wavy and thick, his lips full and pink, his black eyes somewhat crabby and disconsolate. He was good-looking, there was no doubt about that. But what of it? Looks weren’t just about shapes and textures, but also about sizes. Even in his reflection there was something irredeemably odd and stunted about him, like a thought that had come out all wrong in the speaking. The acrid whiff of the sewer was so strong that it felt as if his nostrils were burning. But even so, fish or other forms of life – algae, perhaps, or microbes – seemed to inhabit it, making the surface bubble in little spasms. There was a kind of peace to be had in watching the water go by. Arzee thought of that lost one, that past one, whose current had fallen away from his, and how she’d missed this day in his life. She’d gone, but he’d carried on, and learnt to be strong, and now he was all right, only he thought of her sometimes. He spat into the water, as if expelling the thought.
How strange! It seemed to Arzee that somebody was calling out his name: "Arzee!" “AR-zee!” "AR-ZEE!" In fact, what with all the echoes of this bounded retreat, it seemed as if the voice was coming out at him from the inky deeps beneath. Arzee looked around, disoriented. Perhaps it was a trick of his brain: his brain did sometimes play games with him.
But somebody was calling out his name! And Arzee recognised that voice – he'd been trying to avoid the person whose voice it was!
If ever there was an instance of someone so in love with this world that even death could not tear him away from the established routine and unfinished business of living, then it was Ranade the stockbroker, who used to live – still lived – on the floor just below Shinde. Two years ago Ranade, a bachelor, had been hit by a stroke and passed away. But not for long, for it seemed he'd passed right back in. Within a week of what was thought to be his final, irreversible departure he was seen back on his first-floor corridor – and not even furtively in the black of night, but nonchalantly, in the clear light of day. His hand was at his lips and he kept drawing and exhaling as if smoking a cigarette, as he often would when taking a break from work when he was alive. One person, not knowing who he was talking to, had even held a conversation with him for ten minutes, and had come away with advice to hold on to Larsen & Toubro and sell India Cements. Ranade's belongings had all been disposed of, but at night Shinde heard the familiar sounds of a tapping at a keyboard from down below, and the scraping of a spoon as Ranade ate his lonely dinner. As the room was clearly haunted, no one was willing to rent it any more. And so Ranade stayed right where he was, and it was as if he'd never gone. Out of curiosity, Shinde had left a pack of cigarettes at Ranade's door one night, and the next morning it was gone! Ghosts weren't as airy and insubstantial as was commonly thought, but clearly had a need for the goods of this world. Perhaps there were many others like Ranade in the city. Once it was established there was one like him, there was no reason why there couldn't be more, all playing the part of life even as they answered the roll-call of the world after. What a curious thing was life – and death too.That's too much already! The rest you'll see in May.
And an excerpt from my story "Dnyaneshwar Kulkarni Changes His Name", which came out two and a half years ago, is here.