Once upon a time there was a girl who bumped into a very interesting guy in a bookstore at the billing counter. They got talking. But he was in a rush and they didn’t get a chance to exchange numbers. Worse, she couldn’t locate him online on any of the social networks. A friend decided to play Cupid and set her up on a blind date instead. To her own surprise, she agreed. She met the date at a café by the beach and surprise, surprise; it was the guy from the bookstore. Perhaps, a coincidence she thought. Nevertheless, she took that as a sign and it became evident that he did too, after a few conversations. “So we can make it work, if we decide to not disappear again, she said with a smile.
I’ve met you in the pages of the romance novel I intend to write to someday. I’ve met you in the numerous sunsets on the top of a mountain, with only me for company. But mostly I met you here.
I’ve tried being in touch with you but for reasons best known to you, you’ve chosen to remain distant. Yes, I have been told how demanding I am.
In sufficient time, I might have reached out for you with greater alacrity, even inching toward physical intimacy. The kind where you reach out mid-conversation to whip away a stray eyelash from the cheek and rest your fingers longer than necessary.
But I’m tiring of the wait, my questions and your silence.
Book: Cosmic Clues
Author: Manjiri Prabhu
Number of pages: 315
Price: Rs. 299
“India’s first astro-detective,” instantly caught my attention on Cosmic Clues’ cover. It had me intrigued enough to want to read it. And sure enough, Manjiri Prabhu weaves an interesting tale of a detective agency that combines astrological science with investigations. It is a simple idea, and a simple tale. And that’s where I was disappointed; an interesting premise but a predictable plot.
Sonia Samarth runs Stellar Investigations, where private investigations are guided by Hindu astrology. She is ably helped by Jatin, her ardent detective-cum-office assistant. She also relies on the support of Inspector Divekar, whom she fondly calls Jeevan Uncle, a dear friend of her father, to help strengthen her instincts and intuitions, thereby adding an air of professionalism and legitimacy to her operations.
Sonia is extremely clear on what she is offering and how she intends to help her clients. No false promises, no over-the-top commitments. Just an honest reading of horoscopes of all the parties concerned, in order to arrive at logical deductions and a series of possibilities, after which she lets the police take over. She moves on from one case to the other with ease, taking the care to avoid getting embroiled in her clients’ personal lives.
And that’s how the story flows. It’s largely a linear point as Sonia moves on from one case to another. It is a carefully constructed plot, with few twists and little intrigue. There are some interesting cases that come along Sonia’s way but they do little to salvage the writing or the predictability of the plot. I would have liked to know how Sonia is outside of work, her passions besides astrology, her likes and dislikes; et al. But Prabhu paints a very one-dimensional protagonist.
The only time I was able to glimpse Sonia’s emotions and insecurities was on page 114, “Dare she meddle with people’s lives on the basis of unsubstantiated suspicion? How could she be certain that her horoscopic revelations were not colored by Aarti’s* hysterics?” And then Sonia becomes as closed up as before. Ever the careful and efficient investigator.
The writing is amateurish and sloppy in bits, leaving the reader to connect some dots. The cover states that the book is soon to be a major motion picture. I think writing of this sort would be more suited for that medium. Much of the book is a pure narration of events. I look forward to the movie.
But I liked how Cosmic Clues steered clear of venerating astrology or placing it on a pedestal. The protagonist merely relies on the cues provided by astrology. At no point in time does she take the law in her hands.
Cosmic Clues is a light, racy and entertaining read. The kind you can read on your way back home from work. Or curl up with it one weekend afternoon with a bag of chips and play detective.
*Aarti is Sonia’s client.
Learn more about Cosmic Clues.
Kia stood by the doorway, eyes laden with impatience. “It should have been here by now,” she frowned. She swung on the door, played hopscotch on the tiles and darted to and fro, all while stealing glances at the road outside. After a frustrating ten-minute wait, she heard the peal of a bell. It was music to her ears. She rushed outside, forgetting to tell her mother goodbye. But her heart didn’t rest until she sighted the locomotive. And then the most gigantic smile swept across her face.
She walked around the engine, with butterflies in her tummy. It took her a few minutes to get acquainted with it. It was adorned with colorful ribbons, balloons and festoons as if it were decorated for a birthday celebration. There red, green, maroon, purple and violet. All her favorite colors.
She got into the engine with a bounce in her step. Gone were the timidity and the butterflies. All that remained was the ginormous smile. First, Kia plonked herself on the driver’s seat but decided the view wasn’t good enough. She made her pick of the passenger seats. Switched a few, until she got comfortable in one, right behind the driver’s seat, where she discovered was more breezy.
She clanged the bell, signaling the engine to move. And it did. Through grassy meadows with a cold stream and on slopes steep. Until Kia decided that she wanted to get off and explore a little. She clang the bell again and the train stopped. Kia got off the train, her little feet going “plat” “plat” on the steps.
She chanced upon a cozy, colorful house. Very similar to the one she lived in, with her mamma and pappa. Only smaller in size. Smaller than even her. It was begging her to come play with it. She hopped and skipped and jumped toward it. Walked around it a few times, as if to explore each corner. And then lifted its roof. She couldn’t believe her eyes. The house was same-to-same as her house. Her bed, her bean bag, even her Winnie the Pooh. She opened the tiny windows for some fresh air as her mamma would always do, every morning. And then Kia suddenly remembered, she didn’t tell her mamma that she coming here. Her mamma would be very worried for her, no? She always insisted on holding Kia’s hand everywhere. Else if mamma got lost, she would get start crying, no? Now where will mamma look for her?
Kia hurriedly returned to the engine and this time she sat on the driver’s seat, hoping that the train would move faster. She even closed her eyes shut, not wanting to see the countryside either. She continued fidgeting until she heard her mamma call out to her for milk and biscuits. She turned around, opened one eye and immediately smiled when she saw her favorite blankie. She now knew that she had reached home. Her real home.
Inspired by an episode of Malgudi Days, I saw a long time ago.