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Swiss Chocolates

ISBN 978-81-906981-2-2

Pages 250

List price INR 149

 

 

A fascinating collection of thirteen tantalizing, tortuous, thrilling, terrific, tales; with terminal twists. Stories with varied themes, which take a close look at the big drama in a small man's life. From comic to erotic, from simple to complex, from social issues to science fiction, this inimitable collection of wonderful stories is a pleasure to read.

"Wow! An absolute page turner containing stories with terminal twists to leave you gasping. It is a pity that Penguin and Roopa missed out on this!"

Shyamlee Kumar Journalist

Swiss Chocolates

Reviewed by Haris Pearls
Special correspondent
Indian Book Review

On a boring, dull, gloomy Sunday noon my sleepy eyes happened to focus on a copy of “Swiss Chocolates” by Dr.L.Prakash. Swiss Chocolates took me through a fascinating, thrilling, adrenalin pumping and fearful roller coaster ride. The novel is a collection of ‘13’ short stories based on real incidents with a tinge of fiction. As you find chocolates of different shapes and flavors in a box of Swiss Chocolates, you also find a unique story for every individual in the novel.
It’s a thoroughly entertaining and exciting work of a beautiful mind whose power of imagination is dreams unlimited. Who would have imagined of introducing aliens to the Pandavas in the enchanted pool. The Pandavas and their ‘all for one’ wife Draupathi were tired after the long march in the dense forest. All of them were thirsty and each of the Pandavas went in search of water. A cunning monkey leads them to a pool of poisoned water. E56 – the Alien watched the Pandava brothers drink the poisoned water one by one and fall unconscious. E56 saves the Pandavas and in return is gifted the samples of Earth’s flora and fauna.
Another example of the author’s unique and creative imagination is The Patriot; every Indian and Pakistani experienced the painful reality of the Kargil war. But the author has brilliantly introduced fiction into a sensitive and emotional real incident or accident! A Pakistani soldier in his spy hole on a shivering, cold and snowy winter day bored to death decided to conquer the mountain ranges of Kargil. He reaches the Kargil peak and in moments of happiness, joy and over enthusiasm plants a Pakistani flag. The following morning the Indian defense minister happens to fly over the mountain ranges and spots the Pakistani flag proudly fluttering in the mountain peak. It set off a domino effect resulting in the Kargil war.
The author creates magic and cheap thrills with words and plays naughty games with them. The lines….

Buddy! I know you are desperate too. But
This is a fucking public park and I am not
into exhibitionism. Wait until six and we would
go to your friend’s place. No No don’t undo the hooks!

The lines must have touched your heart and enlighten your soul!

There is true soul searching poetic touch in the waiting. But why always elderly people in old age homes produce beautiful, poetic lines. Does the author assume in youth unworthy of poetic appreciation! A cute and emotional poem from The waiting

“Whoh waquet bhi dekhen hain
Tareeq ki ghadion mein
Lamhon ne khata ki thi
sadiyon ne sazza paaiye”

Translation for the uneducated

“We have seen those times
In the clocks of destiny
Where seconds have committed the sin
And centuries bear the punishment


The hot, steamy, adventurous sex animals can have fun with the Fourth lesson. Fourth lesson will take you on a flashback mode when you secretly experienced your sexual arousal reading a copy of Debonair or Fantasy sitting in the last row in the classroom.
The monk takes you on a spiritual journey. A female scientist from Sriharikota Rocket launching station (SAHAR) shares her encounter with UFOs in the Aliens. An elderly man waits for his love 60 years in an old age home in The Waiting. A depressed pharmacist decides to spread happiness and joy with others by sharing a box of Swiss Chocolates.
Two stories are based on real experiences in the heart of Chennai in form of The Auctioneer and Astrologer. The auctioneer tickles your funny bones; it’s humorous, intelligent and thoughtful. Astrologer takes you on a journey discovering the crowded and narrow by-lanes of Mylapore and finally hearing the word from the God’s assistant – your destiny!
The icing on the cake definitely goes to The Mentalist. The protagonist calls himself the mentalist who performs a meditation technique – ‘Parapsycologic metaphysical trance’ (what is that scientific-yogic garbage? Heard it before?!?). People flocked to him, paying five thousand to fifty thousand rupees for a single consultation. He met them in star hotels; he listened to them, heard their problems, read their minds and surprised them by his insight into their dark secrets. They left his room happy and satisfied minus a few thousand rupees.
It’s a tough task for a writer to connect to the readers through short stories but Dr.L.Prakash has achieved it ‘13’ times. Swiss Chocolates is truly of International standards and worthy of a billion readers across the world. It’s unfortunate that publishers like Rupa&Co; Harper Collins; who extensively published Indian authors missed this jackpot!

 

The first story for your reading pleasure. Please note that the matter is copyrighted. (C) Dr L.Prakash. Email at [email protected] for permission to copy excerpts.

 

The Patriot


One

In the north of Kashmir are the three mountain ranges shaped like a big inverted Y. The long limb is the Deosai Mountains, which comes southeast and then bifurcates into two limbs, the lower Zaskari Mountains, and the higher Laddakh range. The average terrain is between six to eight thousand meters high and at the point where the three limbs of the ‘Y’ meet is the Corbet pass. Kargil is about sixteen kilometers south, and Dras is another nineteen kilometers southwest. The north and west is now P.O.K or Pakistan occupied Kashmir, while south and east on this side of Zaskari Mountains fall on the Indian side. The height was terrible, the cold sub zero, and the terrain inhospitable. In normal times, except for two summer months, life here would be unlivable.
In deep winters, the temperatures reached minus thirty degrees, or even lower and thus even with adequate preparation, human survival was not easy. Six kilometers north of Dras at a height of 8042 meters was peak IN 342. Of course, the Pakistani soldiers called it “Nokwali Choti” or “Nokila Parvat”. South and east of this mountain was Indian Territory while North and west was P.O.K... After the last confrontation in seventies, both India and Pakistan had settled to an uneasy truce. The soldiers and a few officers occupied the freezing bunkers when the cold allowed. When it was too cold, they retreated to the foothills and in deep winters, they would come back to the base camp where the temperatures would not go below minus ten.
Actually, the cold started arriving in July with the chill northwesterly breeze, and by October, the temperatures would fall to low levels. Snowfall would start in early November and temperatures would continue to fall until mid or even late January. Thaw would set in February and the temperatures would rise a bit in early march. March to June was thus the only months that the uppermost bunkers were occupied. Ceasefire had been announced long long ago though an occasional cross border shelling would be heard. Both sides had settled into a routine, which was nothing but observation. Go higher in summers, come down when winters start, take refuge in base camps in deep winters. To the Pakistanis, “Nokila Parvat” was theirs, while the Indians harbored an equally unshakable delusion that peak IN342 belonged to them. This was the situation when our story starts.

Two

Syed Sherrif was a captain in the Pakistani army. He was twenty-eight, single, smart, dynamic, adventurous, and a proud officer of the Pakistani army in the engineering corps of the Pakistan’s thirty-first artillery. The engineering corps officers are technical officers and Syed was a qualified engineer. He did his basic engineering degree in Lahore and then went to Germany for study of electronics and computing engineering. While in Germany, he suddenly developed a new hobby, mountaineering. He concentrated more efforts on his hobby than on his academics and though he managed to barely scrape through his academic examinations, he managed to climb on all the climbable peaks and a few non-climbable ones too, in both Germany and neighboring Switzerland.
When he returned to Pakistan, though he was a qualified engineer, he was a better mountaineer, and his baggage contained a good stock of pinions, hooks, ropes, loupes, links and other mountain and rock climbing gear. Syed Sherrif came from a military family and both his father and grandfather had retired as generals. PMA-Pakistan military academy, and then a commission as a captain was automatic. His engineering degree ensured that he did not have to spend time as a second lieutenant or a lieutenant. He was initially posted in Islamabad general headquarters and spent the first year of his posting in the peace and tranquility of a city life. Then he was posted to P.O.K. on border duties and his posting was in the forty-second base camp, north of “Nokila Parvat”. On the ninety-third day of his posting, he was scanning the horizon when he broke out into a smile.

Three

Lieutenant Damle was extremely cold, but extremely happy. He was posted on the other side of the hill, what the Indians knew as Deosai mountain range peak IN342, and was sipping a lukewarm coffee from an enameled mug, as the slow fire on the floor unsuccessfully tried to warm him up. He and four men were the last left in the bunker, which was at the foothills of the mountain. The chill north winds had started and this was their last night. At sunrise tomorrow, they would be picked up by the Shaktiman and driven to the base camp at Dras. As his division would not have any work for the next four months, he had been sanctioned leave. He would be driven to Srinagar from where an army aeroplane would fly him to Pune.
Mumbai was just three hours away. Four, if the traffic was bad. May be he would take a train. Lieutenant Damle was really excited at the prospect of getting back to Mumbai, because he was going to be engaged! The betrothal ceremony was scheduled for the next Sunday in “Ballroom one” of Old Taj at Gateway of India, and Anil Damle looked forward to meeting Priyanka Bhonsle, his fiancé. He was extremely anxious because he had never met her earlier. The parents had arranged the match and he had seen a postcard sized color photo, of a tall fair slim and pretty girl in a pink saree. One look at the photograph and Lieutenant Anil Damle had fallen in love. It had all been fixed. He had eight weeks leave. This would give them enough time after the engagement to know each other. He would marry her on his next furlough.

Four

Priyanka Bhonsle – whose photo, Anil Damle was looking at for the hundredth time, while he sipped his cold coffee in a freezing bunker, was at that moment surrounded by three equally young and equally pretty girls. She was no longer dressed in the pink saree, they had forced her to adorn, for the bridal photo, but had a micro short shorts and mini mini tops leaving a substantial portion of her exceptionally fair and smooth skin bare. The dark drink in her glass, which looked like a cola, did contain Coca Cola but was well fortified with two large Bacardi’s. The three girls each had a different drink; a bloody Mary, a whiskey soda and a vodka cocktail in a long glass with an umbrella on it.
The venue was Bombay Gymkhana and the hen party was to discuss Priyanka’s forthcoming engagement. Priyanka was a rich daughter of a very rich man. Her father Babuji Rao Bhonsle was well known as the asafetida king. BRB asafetida was something without which no food could be cooked in the whole of Maharashtra and one fifth of the rest of India. Being the only daughter, Priyanka was spoilt rotten and when she came of marriageable age, surprised everyone, especially her parents by telling them that she would marry whomever they chose for her. A dozen color photos were instantly produced. These prospective grooms had undergone a thorough screening, their family background researched upon, their suitability assessed, and the horoscopes matched. For Priyanka, who was mentally not mature as her nineteen biological years, it was more like a game.
Choose a football hero from a pile of color photos – type of a game; and she spent a good hour with the various photos. There was no competition and Lieutenant Anil Damle won hands down. A uniform does something to one’s personality. A young lieutenant in his crisp uniform, stars, leather, gloss, cap, pistol holster and whistle rope looks really gorgeous. May be like Tom Cruise in “Top Gun”. Thus, the moment Priyanka Bhonsle saw the photos, her choice had been instant. Anil’s middle class parents were not only surprised but ecstatically happy too that they got such a bride. The photo was sent to the son who approved, a leave sanctioned and the engagement announced. While Anil Damle shivered and looked at Priyanka’s photo in the flames, Priyanka spoke playfully to her friends.

Five

Yaar! He tho looked so good that even looking at the photo gave me hots. I did not wasteofy any time. I told papa that it would be the army guy. This Damle, Anil fellow” Priyanka took another sip of the Bacardi-coke and slowly replaced the glass on the table. It was 2.00 pm and Bombay Gymkhana was filling up.
“These army chaps are taught to have stamina and determination!” said the whiskey soda.
“Stamina and determination on the honeymoon night! Poor Priyanka” Laughed cocktail with a tiny umbrella.
“If something makes you change your mind, please remember that I too am in the line. He is cho chweet that I don’t mind waiting for him till you grow tired of him and divorce him” said the bloody marry with a big smile.
Priyanka almost blushed. She then took another sip and said, “Yaar, I tho realized that the best way is to allow parents to arrange this shadi-waadi. If something goes wrong, we could always blame it on them. Absolutely no point in going into this love shove business and getting stuckkofied
“Hey hey, what is that white slip?” Asked the umbrella cocktail.
“On that!” said Priyanka “It is the CV and Bio-Data of my would-be mister! I hope he keepofies me happy. Sometimes I am worried thinking about marriage and future life”
The other three girls pounced on the sheet, unfolded it, and placed it on the table.
It was indeed a catalogue of achievements Public school, school topper, NDA exams, excellent scores, National Defense academy, commissioning as an officer and then posting in Kargil. In his hobbies and achievements, two points seemed to stimulate the girls. Mountain climbing and polo. The words climbing and riding were twisted by the girls to produce crude connotations and the Bloody Marry laughed out aloud as she said “Well Priyanka! When he gives you a back shot, I am sure that it would not be doggy style but be a polo rider style”
Priyanka was a little silent and then said
“I pray to god that my choice and decision is correct. Sometimes, I feel a little worried about deciding the course of my life, just by looking at a photograph.”

Six

He moved the focus ring a little and the brilliant optics of the Carl Ziess field military telescope got the peak of ‘Nokila Parvat’ into sharp focus. Syed Sheriff almost experienced a penile erection. Mountain peaks did this to him. The moment he saw a peak, especially an unconquered peak, he would get fascinated by it. It was almost like seeing a pretty girl, whom he wished to conquer. A virgin he wanted to seduce. Until he did it, he felt a strange uneasiness. He suppressed an involuntary shudder. He and eight men were presently posted on this side. This bunker was a little more comfortable and had a kerosene generator, which ran an electric heater. The coffee was hotter.
With the binoculars swinging on his neck as he walked to the bunker, he too was thinking about the north winds. It was high time that the rescue team came up to transport them to base camp. The last radio message had told him that the supply corps had some vehicle problem, but by tomorrow, he could expect the army sports utility vehicle to pick him up. However, when he went back to the bunker, had to face some disappointment, because he had a message to call back the base camp immediately. His premonitions wore confirmed. A landslide had blocked the path, which was being cleared on priority basis. The vehicle situation was also a little tight. The headquarters informed Syed, that he could expect the transport convoy only in three days.
Syed Sherrif was really bugged. He too had been granted a furlough and his tickets to Switzerland were ready. He was looking forward to his stint of mountain climbing, but the three-day delay was bugging him. Three full days of boredom, doing nothing while the chill winds blew outside, was not his idea of fun. He looked longingly to his mountaineering gear in a green canvas bag and gave out another sigh. And then suddenly his eyes broke out into a smile. He had three full days. He had all the mountaineering gear. And he and “Nokila Parvat” right outside. It was just a little over eight thousand meters. Not more than a day and a half of climb up and another half a day to climb down. Yes! He would use the three days profitably
The next morning he took Subedar Akhtar Mohammad with him and set out to Nokila Parvat. It was not an easy climb at all. The rock front on North West was almost vertical and he had to employ all his mountain climbing skills to climb it up meter by meter. About two hundred meters below the peak was a ledge like outcropping. Subedar Akhtar Mohammed was panting for oxygen and extremely tired. He wondered why this crazy captain Janab was climbing up this inhospitable terrain. Nokila in Urdu meant needle like. This mountain, especially its peak, was exactly like this. Syed Sherrif however climbed the last stretch alone. The peak was hardly ten feet wide by sixteen long. It was almost four pm when he reached the top. Standing in the position, he looked beyond and could see the ribbony black Kargil Srinagar highway snaking down.
He looked down and saw that the Indian bunkers were almost at the ground level. He peered down and though the distance was great, guessed that he saw some one. He gave a wide wave to his hand and then turned back. He was about to start climbing back when he remembered something. From the back of the bag, slung on his shoulder, he pulled out a cylindrical piece, which he started expanding as the telescopic pieces slotted into one another. It was a collapsible flagpole. He pulled the Velcro and extracted a silk flag. A green silk flag with a white crescent moon. Pakistan’s national flag. The same was strung on to the rod and the flag affixed to the peak. It caught a breeze and fluttered. Syed Sherrif smiled and started climbing down the white rope.

Seven

That night, the first flakes of snow made their appearance and the white flakes almost stuck to the fabric of the flag so that it assumed the position of a conical peak atop peak IN 342. When Lieutenant Damle left on the next day, he looked up to the peak and did not notice anything out of the ordinary. He bade a silent good bye to the peak and told it that he would be back in two months time. In exactly thirty-two hours, he was in Mumbai. His parents were extremely happy and pleased to see him. He was introduced to his fiancé one day before his betrothal. The engagement ceremony in Taj hotel was well attended and the two of them appeared a well-matched couple. At the engagement dinner, the two sat together and started knowing about each other. Knowing things that a color photo might not tell you.
While Lieutenant Anil Damle was extremely impressed by the minute, Priyanka’s reactions were more mixed. While he was smart, intelligent, and caring, the moment he spoke about the army or his country, Anil used to change suddenly. Much later, she would explain it to her friends “Something suddenly seems to happenofy to him, the moment he speakofies of the army of the country. His eyes start to blazofy with a strange pride when he says – Country first, Army next and then come my family and others.”
Always being used to first choices, Priyanka Bhonsle did not much relish being shiftofied to number three after the Country and Army. Then they had just got engaged and Priyanka told herself that she would change him after marriage.
The two months passed in a whirlwind and as time passed, Lieutenant Anil Damle became more adjusted to civilian life and spoke less about army. Priyanka too was reassured and convinced herself that she had made a right choice. She even told herself that after marriage, she would try to change him. What of changing him, she would make him resign his commission. Her father had a huge empire that needed a lot of looking after. Priyanka Bhonsle was a girl of intelligence and controlled her urge to speak about her plans until they were actually married. It was finally decided that Damle would return in four months for the wedding. They got as close to each other as possible, without actually crossing the line. Exactly six days before his leave ended, lieutenant Anil Damle got a phone call asking him to join immediately. An anxious, concerned, and teary Priyanka bade him farewell.

Eight

The reason for the phone call that had urgently summoned Anil Damle, canceling his leave was a small crisis in the base comp. The defense minister of the country visited the area. The snow had thawed and a helicopter had flown the politician to the appropriate areas. While the chopper over-flew the mountains, the defense minister spotted the mountain peak with the fluttering Pakistani flag and asked the Brigadier general whether it was our territory or the P.O.K... The brigadier general too was a little confused and said that he would need to check the data at the base camp. Once he got there, all hell broke loose because the flag was flying on peak IN342.
The defense minister was livid with rage and the Brigadier General really upset. The outstation officers were all pulled back. All leave was cancelled. Apprehensions were expressed by the minister while assurances were made by the Army. Promises were made and accepted. The formal meeting was conducted on the same day as lieutenant Anil Damle returned.
“I want our Indian flag on that peak. I don’t care at what cost. I don’t care how many lives I loose!” Thundered the brigadier general to the officers and men. It was not that the senior officer was a cat with nine lives, which he was willing to sacrifice, one by one. Actually, he would physically not be doing anything. He would not be moving his brigadier general’s butt from his soft cushioned chair. The lives he meant belonged to others!
Lieutenant Damle was the youngest officer and thus the least precious. In addition, he was a skilled mountaineer. He was thus volunteered to climb the peak, pluck out the enemy flag, and plant the tricolor. At least in Army you call it volunteering. It looks better that way. Subedar Gyan Singh was his assistant and the entire mountain gear was assembled for him. Early morning at 4.00 am, the climb started. No one was supposed to know about it and if everyone had kept quiet about it, nothing much would have happened. Anil Damle would have completed his treacherous climb, reached the top, replaced the flag, and finally got back the way he climbed up.
But the stupid defense minister did not keep quiet about it. He gave a television interview that Pakistan was illegally encroaching on Indian Territory and we would not allow the line of control to shift under any circumstance. It was such a cold and inhospitable area that human habitation was impossible. It appeared really foolish fighting for this land. But once the defense minister had spoken about it and internationalized it, our neighbors woke up too. Syed Sheriff’s flag planting suddenly assumed a great significance and he was given a few medals. The bunkers were fortified and the five thousand meter bunker was not too far away. A thermal sighter and a rocket launcher were carried up to this height. These precision rockets had a five thousand meter range while the peak was only three thousand meters above.
“Any one comes near the flag; blow them off. I don’t want you to cross the LOC or pick up fight with our neighbors, but any one comes near the flag and your blow them off”
The rockets were thus targeted and poor Lieutenant Anil Damle had absolutely no idea that he was climbing straight into the jaws of death. Even if he were, there would be no slackening in his pace because his was not to question or reason. His was to just do or die. The climb was treacherous because the southern side was more vertical and had fewer rock holds. Unlike Syed Sherrif who was a skilled and a professional mountain climber, lieutenant Anil Damle was but a tyro.
Nevertheless, the thing that kept him going against impossible odds was thoughts about his fiancée. The lovely Priyanka Bhonsle. He closed his eyes and saw her vivacious face. This mission he dedicated to her. On many occasions, he almost slipped and fell. A fall would have propelled him down to a deep ravine some six thousand meters. However, his determination won and by evening, he reached the top. With great efforts, he pulled out the bag. From the bag, he produced an Indian tricolor and was threading it into the pole when he felt the heat. The thermal sensitive rocket flew straight into him disintegrating him and the two flags. Miss Priyanka Bhonsle’s smiling image was the last Damle saw before he died.

Nine

 I tho almost escapofied by a hairs breath! Imagine, if I had married that Army fellow! I would have become a young widow”, Priyanka Bhonsle took a sip of her drink; yes Bacardi and coke, and continued
“He was cute enough, but not some one who could be depended upon! See how he went out and got killofied in such a stupid way!”
Her three girl friends were there with identical glasses-full, fluted plus umbrella, crystal with whiskey soda, and tall glass with bloody Mary. But this crowd now had an additional member. A young muscular immense bicep small faced Mumbai macho, a clone of every other current movie hero and current heartthrob.
He was drinking gin and tonic, a not too masculine a drink; but good for his muscles, according to his aerobics guru. He took a sip and said
“This Army sharmy business is actually retarded growth. These guys never grow up but stay chilled in a state frozen adolescence, wearing uniforms, waving guns, camping in deserts and snow, and getting themselves killed over a flag! For god’s sake, a fucking piece of cloth!”

Written in 2006

 

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