SONAL BAWA BAKSHI
EXTRACT FROM THE BOOK & INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR
"It’s 9 pm on a cold winter evening.
We are three weeks away from Christmas and the entire city of Vancouver is decked out in festive lights. It is -5 F and the snow is coming in thick and fast, refusing to stop. It’s been snowing for the past 48 hours and the whole city is covered in a blanket of snow.
I shove my hands deeper into the pockets of my jacket as I hide in the darkness behind a wall.
I look like a gangster, dressed in baggy khakis, a hoodie, a baseball cap and a heavy jacket.
I notice the swanky new Tesla pulling into the office building.
The Monster is here.
A big, grey haired man with a salt and pepper beard gets out and walks into the building. He struts about like he owns the building.
Well, he does own it...
Shiv Patel, real estate tycoon, stalwart of the industry, winner of many awards and citations. Seeing him walk in fills me with an anger I can barely control. And yet, I must stay calm and think. What should I do? Should I go ahead with the plan? Or should I wait for a better day? I pull the hoodie in over my head, almost covering my eyes.
I look around me to see if there is anything else I should be worried about. No, nothing!
The world looks exactly like it’s meant to – unconcerned and too obsessed with itself to bother about anyone else. Everyone talks a lot, but does nothing about the things that really matter.
It’s almost as if everything is done only for social media - for yet another pretty Instagram post.
Christmas will come soon. And after that, another year will begin. And life will go on in an endless repetition. Monsters will do whatever they want and innocents will struggle to cope with their devastation. No one will care. As long as the victims keep quiet, no one will pay attention. No, not this time. Not me. I won’t be silenced. I will fight back. I will have my revenge. Even if it costs me my life. And I will win. Because no one else is willing to give up as much of themselves as me. So here goes.
I rotate my shoulders to get some blood flowing. Take a few deep breaths, grit my teeth and bend my head as I walk towards
Variety Real Estate’s office building.
I walk through the heavy, big glass doors into a huge marble lobby with a tall celling and massive granite pillars. Huge planters with ferns and other tall plants adorn the open marble lobby. A couple of orange and red arm chairs and couches do a decent job of adding color to the otherwise white and grey space. I try to hang around waiting for someone to get into the elevator so that I can tailgate.
“Hey, are you waiting for someone?”
A guard approaches me with a suspicious look on his face, one hand on the baton hanging by his hip and the other on the talkie resting on his shoulder. I’ve already anticipated this. I turn away from the surveillance camera that I’ve noticed while walking in, pull off the hoodie revealing long curly blonde hair and give him the sweetest smile any girl could’ve given to get her way.
“I…. It’s cold out there...so I thought I’d sit here for a while, just to warm myself. I’ll leave if you want me to.”
He comes closer; the suspicious look gives way to a warm smile.
“You’re welcome to sit here. If you want, there is a cafeteria on the 10th floor where you can get warm coffee or hot chocolate.” He clicks his tongue and winks as he leaves me alone.
As soon as he’s out of sight, the hoodie comes back over my head and the gangster is back. I shove my hands in my pockets and casually walk towards the elevator as I join the janitor riding to the 23rd floor.
The elevator doors open on to what is a huge reception area with tiled floors, large slanting windows, colorful couches and vibrant art work adorning the dove grey walls. It is very quiet with dimmed lights and empty corridors as the staff have left for the day. I use that to my advantage as I hide in the shadows from a security guard patrolling the office. There is only one light in a large corner office that catches my eye and as I’m about to go there, my phone buzzes.
I curse under my breath and hurriedly pull it out. The screen flashes: CAROL.
I try to ignore it, but like a stubborn child it persists forcing me to take the call. “WHAT?” I whisper impatiently.
“Nal, are you in?”
“Yes!” I whisper, almost scolding her!
“Whatever you do, don’t get caught.”
“Like I don’t know!” I reply sarcastically and end the call.
I hurriedly put the phone away and like a cheetah on a hunt, I am back to the business at hand.
I make a quiet but swift entry into Shiv Patel’s huge corner office.
The office is dimly lit by a floor lamp standing in one corner of the room and a lone laptop sitting on a huge work desk
that is cluttered with paper.
I cautiously walk around the table and sit on the floor… looking around, taking it all in.
Monsters and predators get to own million-dollar office buildings and swanky corner offices,
while the people they prey on have to make do with the crumbs that society throws at them, often out of pity or guilt.
No one seems to be around. I don’t know where Shiv Patel went.
Which means, he could be here any moment. I better hurry.
I open the laptop on the table and bring it to life, then plug my tiny almost invisible thumb drive into it. The software loads on its own, and a small window appears - “Copying files!”
Now the most difficult part begins.
I hold my breath as I watch the files being transferred slowly into my thumb drive: 1%... 10%... 30%...
With every passing minute, my heart pounds faster and louder. I cross my fingers and say a silent prayer.
If there is a God, he’ll get me through this.
Just then the booming voice of Shiv Patel gets closer…
“I don’t care, I want the deal closed. Give them what they want and GET IT DONE!”
I cringe as I see the shadow of the tall well-built man walking towards the corner office while talking on the phone.
He looks like a 250-pound hulk who could easily strangle me to death if he wanted to. Loud, curt with a deep scratchy voice and
a dismissive air about him - an alpha male with a dominant demeanor that makes me really nervous. My heart is pounding faster now.
I shut the laptop, squat down and hide under the table, holding my breath.
I hear him come into the cabin and stand close to where I’m hiding.
“Please, please.” I pray silently as I crawl away towards the side of table to avoid getting noticed.
My heart is pounding louder against my chest and I press down on it, in an attempt to calm down.
“You understand that this is an important deal. I don’t fucking care about your problems. Get this approved now or you’re out of Variety.”
I dare a peak now from behind the table and see him pick up a bunch of files and walk out of the room again.
In an instant, I’m back up at the laptop. I open it up again.
The copying seems to have been frozen first at 65%, then at 80%...
“Hurry up, please.” I whisper as if talking to someone beside me. Sweat trickles down my forehead and between my breasts,
making me want to wipe it away.
I hunch over the laptop, wishing I could do something to make it work faster.
“I have spoken to the mortgage broker about the ratios and he’s told me that the numbers are in line.
I’ll send you the details of the deal soon.”
I hurriedly duck down again as I see Shiv coming back into the cabin, a couple of files under his arm.
Oh God! I’ve forgotten to shut the laptop!
He stops at the door and scans the room; almost as if he’s seen me.
I freeze and stop breathing."
INTERVIEW WITH SONAL BAWA BAKSHI
Q: Tell us about the book - about the plot, story and the characters.
A: This book is about the strength of a young woman who faces all kinds of abuse at the hands of her guardians.
It is also the story of an unconditional bond between two friends and how the strength of friendship overcomes all obstacles.
It has everything in it from revenge to romance, friendships, despair and triumph.
Nalini is what every girl wants and doesn't want to be. While her strength is admirable and an inspiration to many young girls, the abuse she went through is what no one would want to experience.
I created Nalini’s character because deep down every girl is full of determination, confidence and self love
- we just need to help bring that out.
I hope that young girls are able to relate to Nalini in a positive way so that they too can fight their demons with confidence and determination.
My characters are a combination of both reality and my imagination. I try to add the traits of a real person into the one from my imagination.
For example, the character of Carol is inspired by a close friend of mine who's always stood by me and supported me in everything I did. I took her helpful nature and combined it with my imagination of her being an IT wiz to give the readers a glimpse of unconditional bond between Nalini and Carol.
Q: How did you come up with the basic idea of this book? Did you think of the idea or character or plot first?
A: Books have been a huge part of my growing up, which gave me the inspiration to write more and improve each time I penned down a prose or a poem. Books also enabled me to imagine and put it in words, giving life to virtual imagination characters.
This was a random student assignment for my creative writing course and no, I did not think ahead in time about any of the characters as they kept taking their shape and place as the story progressed.
In fact, it wasn't until the 2 draft that I knew what kind of Character I wanted for my story. The initial plot was completely different from what the current storyline is and the idea was just a figment of my imagination.
Q. How do you approach writing?
Are you a Plotter or a Pantser (create a plot as you write)?
Did you write a first draft and show it around to others? Get their feedback?
What role does an editor play in the publishing of the book?
A: I consider myself to be a Pantser as I don't plan my writing in advance. Writing for me is a way to express myself, my thoughts and my views about issues or topics that I feel strongly about.
It was a short student assignment in which I had to add a lot of emotions and also give a twist to the original plot. I did show it to my sisters who encouraged me to expand on the idea and work towards making it a fiction novel.
My editor, Vincent Varghese, has been a mentor to me. All along, he's not only helped me develop the manuscript into a gripping book but has also encouraged me to not give up and work towards realizing my dream of seeing my name in print.
Vincent gave me a free hand when it came to writing and encouraged me to express myself freely. Any changes that were required, were run by me for approval before implementation.
It was a great experience working with him.
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