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A slip and a fall in search of the grey ghost of the Himalayas

In Deepak Dalal’s new book, The Snow Leopard Adventure, Vikram and Aditya are back in magnificent Ladakh. Having finally freed their young friend Tsering from the hands of dangerous men, they’ve set themselves up for an even greater challenge: to track down the grey ghost of the Himalayas, the snow leopard.

But things don’t always go according to the plan during their trek. Here is an excerpt from the book that highlights one of the more challenging events of the trek.

Front Cover The Snow Leopard Adventure
The Snow Leopard Adventure||Deepak Dalal

I didn’t see exactly what happened because I was looking down at the gravel-strewn track as I ran. I heard a scream, and when I looked up, I saw a pair of hands grabbing desperately at the edge of the outcrop. I wasn’t far behind Caroline and scarcely a few seconds must have elapsed between her falling and my flinging myself to the ground and locking my fingers around her wrists. I had barely grasped them when her scrabbling fingers slipped, and her entire weight was transferred on to me. I was dragged forward and my chest hit the rock at the edge of the cliff with a thud.

We were both stuck, Caroline dangling from my hands and I pressed against the cliff edge, pinned down by her weight. Caroline is three inches taller than my 5 feet 7 inches and also heavier than me (sixty-five kilos to my sixty, she told me later). I could feel myself being pulled towards the edge. Disaster appeared to be a certainty, but Tsering intervened, saving us by clinging to my thighs and adding his weight to mine.

Now, on reflection, I don’t think any of us would have died if we had gone over. The cliff we clung to was not a large one. The fall was only a few metres. But the area at the base of the cliff was not flat, it sloped downwards at an alarming angle. Our injuries could have been serious. We would have broken several bones, but we would have survived.

My breath came in rapid gulps and sweat must have flowed from my every pore. Yet, even though I was terrified, a part of my mind admired the vista that spread before me. I could see the river valley below and the mountain slopes opposite. I spotted flecks of colour in the distance—our camp mates. I wondered if they could see us.

I am ashamed to admit that I lost control of myself up there. My hands shook and my chest hurt terribly. My heart kicked and pummelled my chest, and my senses swam about me. I kept assuring myself that there was no reason to panic and that nobody would go over.

I had no idea then that I was speaking my thoughts aloud (Caroline and Tsering informed me later). I told myself that we only had to wait it out. Somebody would come . . . Tina and Kathy would return and untangle us.

Luckily, a heaven-sent determination infused Caroline as she dangled in the sparse Ladakh air. While I was rambling, she spotted fissures and cracks on the rock face she was suspended against. She willed her legs to grope beneath her and she found secure anchors in the stony crevices. Her fingers and palms gripped rock at the cliff edge. With me still holding on to her wrists, she pulled herself up a few inches.

I heard her breathing. She was gasping and panting far louder than I was. Soon her face was level with mine and our eyes met. Hers glittered with cold determination. There was a vacant expression in mine, she told me later. She was probably right, because she had to shout several times before I paid attention to what she was saying. She wanted me to release her wrists, which I did mechanically. Now sure of herself, Caroline dragged herself up and without further incident she flopped beside me. We lay inert on the rock, Tsering looking down on us.

After a long time we continued our walk to the crest. The rest of the morning was a blur. None of us were in any state to look for bharal or search for leopards. Kathy, Tina and Yuan turned up, exhausted, after an hour. They had found more sign of the leopard they were following but had not been able to locate it. We turned back for camp shortly thereafter. Caroline had extracted a promise from

Tsering and me not to speak about the morning’s drama to anybody. She smiled gratefully when it became clear that we were not going to say a word, and she turned distinctly friendly when we maintained our silence at camp too.

Aditya was aghast when he learnt that I had not pursued the leopard with the others. ‘How could you let such an opportunity go?’ he wanted to know. ‘You were so close to the leopard!’

Does Aditya eventually see the Snow Leopard? Grab your copy for Snow Leopard Adventure to find out!

Get to know your author – A factual glimpse into Bilal Siddiqi

Bilal Siddiqi, a shining star among the young authors has authored four novels. His fifth – The Phoenix – is an exciting new release, hot off the press and will transport you into a world of secret missions, uncertain loyalties and retribution.

Siddiqi is a fan of the world of espionage and thrillers. His novel The Bard of Blood has been adapted into a Netflix series.

 

Upon the release of his new book, we bring you some fascinating facts about the dazzling author who has brought us one nail-biter after another.

 

1. His first novel was called The Bard of Blood, which he wrote he was 19 years old. It was published when he was 20.

 

2. It wasn’t only James Bond, Robert Ludlum and Fredrick Forsyth that drew him to the genre of the spy thriller. His interest in studying the patterns of religious conflict and the roots of extremism drove him to write The Bard of Blood

 

3. He is an avid reader, and loves fiction.

 

4. Not only did Bollywood actor Emraan Hashmi star in the Netflix adaptation of The Bard of Blood but he also co-authored The Kiss of Life with Siddiqi (bet you didn’t know this one!)

 

5. Siddiqi enjoyed reading Shakespeare in college.

 

6. The first and only advance copy that Penguin India gave Siddiqi was presented to him by Shah Rukh Khan.

 

7. Siddiqi is not bound by genre. He likes to write in different styles. The Bard of Blood was a spy thriller, The Kiss of Life a biography, The Stardust Affair a romantic thriller, and The Pheonix is a fast-paced thriller.

 

8. He considers author Hussain Zaidi his mentor. He started working with Zaidi after Zaidi had asked for 10 volunteers to help him with research for his novel Mumbai Avengers in 2014. Siddiqi was shortlisted.

 

Siddiqi says he started writing his novel but getting published was not his goal. He was writing for himself, so that years later, he would have something to look back upon as a piece of himself from the past. Well, he did get published. And the rest is history.

 

[The Phoenix is out now.  Get your copy today!]

And We Came Outside and Saw the Stars Again: a powerful antidote

A  rich, eye-opening  anthology, And We Came Outside and Saw the Stars Again , dozens of esteemed writers, poets, artists and translators from more than thirty countries offer a profound, kaleidoscopic portrait of lives transformed by the coronavirus pandemic.

As COVID-19 has become the defining global experience of our time, writers transcend borders and genres to offer a powerful antidote to the fearful confines of isolation: a window onto corners of the world beyond our own.

 

UNPRECEDENTED was the ubiquitous term first used to describe the COVID-19 pandemic that swept the world in 2020, as if the event were unlike any other. The truth is that it has been rather routine in its procedure, part of the eternal cycles of nature. Even in the Bible, similar disasters—earthquakes, deluges, famines, plagues of insects, pestilence of livestock, boils, thunderstorms of hail and fire—are recurrent visitors in the theater of human affairs. Which doesn’t mean, of course, that newcalamities such as this one aren’t extraordinary.

It isn’t surprising that the official approach to the pandemic was initially forensic, with an insistence on numbers: how many deaths and infections per day in a given hospital of a given city in a given country, how long a possible vaccine could take to bring us all out of purgatory, and so on, as if suffering could be quantified, ignoring that each and every person lost was unique and irreplaceable. The Talmud says that death is a kind of sleep and that one person’s sleep is unknowable to others. Although the misfortune arrived at a time when the essential tenets of globalism were being questioned—tariffs imposed, borders closed,immigrants seen with suspicion—the pandemic was planetary, hitting wherever people did what people do. It preyed with distinct fury on the poor and vulnerable, as natural catastrophes always do, especially in countries ruled by tyrants responding with disdain and hubris. Inevitably, the lockdown also forced a new method to everything everywhere. The sound of the kitchen clock suddenly felt new, the warmth of a handshake, the taste of fresh soup. As an antidote to numbers, it was once again left to writers to notice those changes, to chronicle them by interweaving words. That’s what literature does well: it champions nuance while resisting the easy tricks of generalization. This international anthology includes over fifty of those writers representing thirty-five countries and arriving in about a dozen languages. Cumulatively, their accounts are proof of the degree to which COVID-19 brought about the collapse of a hierarchy of principles we had all embraced until then. Call it the end of an era Shenaz Patel, from Mauritius, for instance, realizes that “suddenly, like an octopus disturbed in its sleep, everything kept hidden under the placid surface latched onto us with its many arms and spit its ink into our faces.” She adds: “We are faced with a true ‘civil war’ of speech, echoing through radios and social media, between those who respect the lockdown and those who don’t; those who understand and the ‘cocovids,’ the empty heads who go out anyway; between the ‘true patriots’ and the selfish few who knowingly put others in danger.”

Talent Wins: The New Playbook for Putting People First – An Excerpt

Turning conventional views on their heads, talent and leadership experts Ram Charan, Dominic Barton and Dennis Carey provide leaders with a new and different playbook for acquiring, managing and deploying talent–for today’s agile, digital, analytical, technologically driven strategic environment and for creating the HR function that business needs. Filled with examples of forward-thinking companies that have adopted radical new approaches to talent (such as ADP, Amgen, BlackRock, Blackstone, Haier, ING, Marsh, Tata Communications, Telenor and Volvo), as well as the juggernauts and the start-ups of Silicon Valley, this book shows leaders how to bring the rigor that they apply to financial capital to their human capital–elevating HR to the same level as finance in their organizations.
Here’s an excerpt from the book.
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The top of the company also must align behind something else: the story you’re going to tell investors. If you’re leading a talent-driven organization but talking strategy-first to Wall Street, there’s a disconnect between your company’s public and private personae. That’s not good for investors, your company, or your workforce.
Telling investors about talent seems like a risky tactical change. Why would a company in, say, the semiconductor industry want to position itself in a way that seems more suited to a movie studio announcing its latest slate of star-driven features?
There are several answers to this question. For starters, shifting to a story built around talent is a sign of the times. Some companies already include slides about their key talent in their quarterly presentations. Financial analysts know the impact people like Jony Ive, Astro Teller, Sheryl Sandberg, and Andy Rubin can have on a company’s valuation. The phenomenon is hardly limited to tech: the performance or career peregrinations of Wall Street stars, fashion leaders, and even manufacturing pros can affect share prices as well.
But your company’s talent narrative isn’t just a story of stars. In fact, in times of great turbulence it can be a sign of stability. GE has made its deep talent-development efforts part of its narrative for years. GE stock has had its challenges, of course. But the company’s education efforts at its Crotonville, New York, facility and its history of always having great talent at the ready give investors confidence in GE’s management pipeline. Google’s track record of giving great leeway to its talented employees is equally well known. At one point, employees were even encouraged to spend 20 percent of their time working on their own pet projects. Investors have applauded CEO Larry Page’s effort to rein in some of the company’s more outlandish experiments, but they wouldn’t want to see the company reduce its commitment to innovation. Analysts have come to expect the unexpected from companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple, and are apt to forgive the occasional failure, because the companies’ talent-first models have produced one unexpected innovation after another. At these companies, there’s a well established narrative history of the power of talent.


 
 

The Unseeing Idol of Light by K.R. Meera; Excerpt

K.R. Meera is a multi-award-winning writer and journalist. She has published short stories, novels and essays, and has won some of the most prestigious literary prizes. The Unseeing Idol of Light, K.R. Meera’s latest book is a haunting tale that explores love and loss, blindness and sight, obsession and suffering-and the poignant interconnections between them.
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
Deepti had gone missing one day before the TV centre in Thiruvananthapuram was commissioned. On their last day together, Prakash and Deepti had mostly talked about TV.
‘Considering the state of affairs here, we’ll probably get to watch TV by the time our son goes to college! Though I sometimes wonder whether we will ever really be so lucky.’ Deepti laughed, the rich timbre of her voice reminiscent of a finger knocking softly against a bronze pitcher.
That laughter and her question had resounded so often in Prakash’s ears that he had refused to purchase a TV in his home for a very long time. TV, to Prakash, was inexplicably associated with misfortune. In the shock of losing Deepti, the nerves controlling his vision had separated, making him blind. As it turned out, he never really had the luck to watch TV, just as Deepti had predicted.
Much later, when cable TV came into vogue, Prakash had two unexpected visitors at the town’s government college, where he was employed as the chief librarian. A young woman and a man had dropped in, carrying a camera and a microphone.
‘We would like to interview you since you are a blind librarian.’ The young woman brusquely extended the microphone towards him.
‘Where did you get such pretty lips, my girl?’ Prakash’s brazen query stunned the woman.
‘Ah, you are not blind, are you?’
‘Aren’t we all blind in some way or the other?’
Opening Chekov’s Collected Stories and turning to page 132, Prakash started reading out from ‘The Husband’, the book held close to his nose.
‘It makes me sick to look at her!’ he muttered. ‘Going on for forty and nothing to boast of at any time, she must powder her face and lace herself up!’
The young woman peeked into the book and, seeing that he was perfectly correct, beat a hasty retreat. However, after they had left, Prakash regretted sending them away. Deepti might have seen the TV programme in some corner of the world, recognized him and returned to spread light again in his life. Immersed in this thought, he became extremely frustrated.
Even after so many years he had not been able to reconcile himself to Deepti’s departure. He had been completely prepared to be a father, and eager to play with his little son, when Deepti disappeared. In his mind’s eye, he repeatedly saw how, on that evening, seated in the kitchen, Deepti and he had enjoyed platefuls of ada with their tea.
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Eleven Ways to Love: An Excerpt

Love stories coach us to believe that love is selective, somehow, that it can be boxed in and easily defined. Eleven Ways to Love: Essays, is a collection of eleven remarkable essays that widen the frame of reference: transgender romance; body image issues; race relations; disability; polyamory; class differences; queer love; long distance; caste; loneliness; the single life; the bad boy syndrome . . . and so much more.

Here is the foreword of the book written by well-known poet Gulzar.
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Is love selective? No. There is no ideal love, and there is certainly no ideal lover. In this wonderful collection of essays on love, I welcome you to dip into eleven kinds of love: eleven individuals who have had their lives transformed by this very thing.

Here then are eleven ways to love from eleven unusual lovers. I’d like to leave you with a parting thought . . . and a poem of my own.

I have seen the wafting aroma of those eloquent eyes
Do not touch it with your hands and stamp it with a relationship
It’s just a sensation, caress it with your soul
Let love be love, do not label it.
Love is not words, love is not sounds
Love is just a silence that speaks, that hears
Love is unstoppable, love is inextinguishable
Love is a droplet of light shimmering through the ages
Something like a smile is in bloom somewhere in those eyes
Something like sunshine lingers around those eyelids
The lips don’t say a word, but numerous unspoken stories
Hover around their quivering edges
I have seen the wafting aroma of those eloquent eyes . . .
Translated by Sunjoy Shekhar
First published in 100 Lyrics by Gulzar (Penguin India, 2012)

Gulzar

Undercover Princess by Connie Glynn – An Excerpt

Connie Glynn has always loved writing and wrote her first story when she was 6 with her mum at a typewriter acting as the scribe. It was at university that Connie started her hugely successful YouTube channel Noodlerella (named after her favourite food and favourite Disney princess). Her book, Undercover Princess is about a fairy tale obsessed Lottie Pumpkin who starting at the infamous Rosewood Hall, where she was not expecting to share a room with the Crown Princess of Maradova, Ellie Wolf.  Lottie is thrust into the real world of royalty – a world filled with secrets, intrigue and betrayal.
Let’s read an excerpt from the book:
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Princess  Eleanor Prudence  Wolfson, sole heir  of King Alexander Wolfson  and next in line for the throne  of Maradova, did not live in one of  these spaces, nor was she one of these people, but she was in desperate need of both.

‘I am going to this school!’ Eleanor slammed the brochure on the table with a loud thwack, causing the cups of breakfast tea to wobble on top of their saucers.

Alexander Wolfson didn’t even look up from his newspaper to reply.

‘No,’ he said blankly.

‘I  am next  in line for  the Maravish throne.  I think the teeny-tiny  decision of which school  I attend is something I am capable of managing myself.’

Alexander looked up at his wife, Queen Matilde, who was sitting across the table from him.

She  shrugged.  ‘She does have  a point, Alex,’ she  said amiably, delicately dropping a lump of sugar into her teacup and stirring it slowly while stifling a smile.

This was not the parental solidarity King Alexander had been hoping for.

‘See?’ said Eleanor. ‘Even Mum agrees with me.’

Alexander  remained firmly  fixated on his newspaper, feigning  an image of complete composure. He took  a sip of tea.

‘ Edwina –’ he gestured to their  maid – ‘would you kindly take the empty plates to the kitchen, please?’

‘Of  course,  Your Majesty.’  Edwina expertly stacked  the crumb-covered trays and exited the dining hall with a skilled smoothness,  her feet barely making a sound on the oak flooring. The large double doors closed behind her, creaking softly as she eased them shut.

Once Alexander was sure she was a reasonable  distance down the hall, and safely away from any domestic outbursts, he looked back down at his newspaper and said, ‘My answer is no.’

Eleanor let out an exasperated  screech and stamped her foot. ‘You  could at least look at the brochure!’ she  snapped, snatching the newspaper from her father’s fingertips.

Alexander was forced to look up at his daughter.
Eleanor  had always  been a challenging  child. She was anything but a typical princess; she would take fiery political arguments and sneaking out to loud, rowdy concerts over mild polite conversation  any day, and more than anything she despised elaborate formal functions – or at least she assumed she did, having refused to ever attend one. But she was smart, she was confident and she was  passionate – and for Alexander that was all far more important than any of the traditional values expected of her. Although occasionally he did wish she’d watch her language around her grandparents.

As much as he wanted Eleanor to be happy and live a life free of the commitments of royalty, the fact remained that she would be queen one day and would eventually need to accept that responsibility. He was determined to find a way to make his  daughter realize she could enjoy her royal obligations; something he’d had to learn himself when he was younger.
——–
‘What  on earth  are you wearing?’  Ollie’s sarcastic tone drifted  into Lottie’s bedroom. He stood  leaning against the door frame, his  arms crossed as he watched Lottie pack  up the last items in her room.

‘Ollie!’ Lottie’s hand rushed to her chest in shock  at the sudden appearance of her best friend. ‘How did you get up here? And how many times do I have to tell you to knock?’ Lottie  was huffing slightly from trying to squish down her suitcases. Ollie was fourteen, the same age as Lottie, yet even though he  was taller than her he’d retained his baby face, which reminded her of soft-serve ice cream on the beach and other happy memories.

‘I had to sneak past the wicked witch. Did you know her skin’s turned green finally?’ Ollie said with a devilish smile.

Lottie giggled, but she couldn’t ignore his comment. She looked  down at her outfit, brushing down her dress self- consciously. ‘And what exactly is wrong with my outfit?’ she said indignantly.

Ollie laughed, grinning at her with his signature cheeky smile. Clumps of dog hair dotted his jeans, a permanent feature that he never seemed to care about.

‘Isn’t it a little too fancy for the first day of school?’

‘Too fancy?!’ Lottie couldn’t believe he’d suggest something so ridiculous. ‘Nothing is too fancy for Rosewood Hall. I need to fit in. I can’t have my clothes making me an outcast on the first day.’

Lottie began picking at a  non-existent spot on the collar of her  dress. ‘Most of the students probably have their clothes tailor-made out of gold or something.’

Ollie casually strolled into the room, taking a seat  on Lottie’s bed. He pursed his lips as he glanced around the  bedroom. Usually so alive with Lottie’s special brand of handmade quirkiness,  it was now stripped bare, everything she owned crammed into two pink suitcases.

‘Well,’  Ollie began, reaching into his pocket, ‘if you can take a moment off from worrying about  what other people think of you . . .’ He pulled out a crumpled envelope and a worn-out Polaroid  that Lottie recognized from his bedroom wall. ‘These are for you.’

Lottie reached out for them, but Ollie whipped his hand back.

‘You can’t open the letter until you’re on the train.’

Lottie  nodded with  an exasperated  smile and he slowly  placed both gifts in her hand. It was a photograph she’d seen thousands of times: the two of them at the beach, their noses covered in ice cream and beaming grins on both their greedy faces.  Even though the colours had begun to fade to sepia, you could still see the tiara on Lottie’s head and the horns on Ollie’s. As children, the two had demanded to wear these fancy-dress items every day and  everywhere. Ollie had declared he was the fairy Puck from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream after they’d watched an open-air performance at the beach one evening. He’d been completely infatuated with all the mischief the character got away with and  assumed he too could get away with being naughty so long as he was wearing his horns. Lottie’s tiara, on the other hand, had a less happy – go – lucky origin. Her thumb lingered over the accessory in the photo, a little pang striking her heart as she remembered the day she’d received it.

‘I’ll  give you  some time to  say goodbye,’ he  said, before effortlessly picking up both her suitcases and carrying them down the stairs to the car. When he was gone she thoughtfully placed  Ollie’s gifts with the rest of her most important belongings, which she’d laid out on the now-bare bed so as not to forget them. She put each item into her handbag: first the weathered Polaroid and letter from Ollie, followed by her favourite sketchbook, her most loyal stuffed companion, Mr Truffles,  a framed photo of her mother, Marguerite, in her graduation gown, and, finally – looking very out of place among the other objects – a crescent- moon tiara, her most valued possession. It had taken Lottie all of sixty minutes to pack her entire life into two pink suitcases, one denim backpack and a small over- shoulder  handbag with a sturdy white strap. She looked over the now- empty room.

I did it, Mum, she thought. I got into Rosewood just like I promised.
Copyright © Connie Glynn, 2017

Fifty Shades Darker, An Excerpt

Determined to win Anastasia back, he tries to suppress his darkest desires and his need for complete control, and to love Ana on her own terms. Read E L James book, Fifty Shades Darker to dive deeper and darker on their love story,

Here’s an excerpt.

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Get a grip, Grey.
I damp down my fear and make a plea. “You look like you’ve lost at least five pounds, possibly more since then. Please eat, Anastasia.” I’m helpless. What else can I say?
She sits still, lost in her own thoughts, staring straight ahead, and I have time to study her profile. She’s as elfin and sweet and as beautiful as I remember. I want to reach out and stroke her cheek. Feel how soft her skin is…check that she’s real. I turn my body toward her, itching to touch her.
“How are you?” I ask, because I want to hear her voice.
“If I told you I was fine, I’d be lying.”
Damn. I’m right. She’s been suffering—and it’s all my fault. But her words give me a modicum of hope. Perhaps she’s missed me. Maybe? Encouraged, I cling to that thought. “Me, too. I miss you.” I reach for her hand because I can’t live another minute without touching her. Her hand feels small and ice-cold engulfed in the warmth of mine.
“Christian. I—” She stops, her voice cracking, but she doesn’t pull her hand from mine.
“Ana, please. We need to talk.”
“Christian. I…please. I’ve cried so much,” she whispers, and her words, and the sight of her fighting back tears, pierce what’s left of my heart.
“Oh, baby, no.” I tug her hand and before she can protest I lift her into my lap, circling her with my arms.
Oh, the feel of her.
“I’ve missed you so much, Anastasia.” She’s too light, too fragile, and I want to shout in frustration, but instead I bury my nose in her hair, overwhelmed by her intoxicating scent. It’s reminiscent of happier times: An orchard in the fall. Laughter at home. Bright eyes, full of humor and mischief…and desire. My sweet, sweet Ana.
Mine.
At first, she’s stiff with resistance, but after a beat she relaxes against me, her head resting on my shoulder. Emboldened, I take a risk and, closing my eyes, I kiss her hair. She doesn’t struggle out of my hold, and it’s a relief. I’ve yearned for this woman. But I must be careful. I don’t want her to bolt again. I hold her, enjoying the feel of her in my arms and this simple moment of tranquility.
But it’s a brief interlude—Taylor reaches the Seattle downtown helipad in record time.
“Come.” With reluctance, I lift her off my lap. “We’re here.”
Perplexed eyes search mine.
“Helipad—on the top of this building.” How did she think we were getting to Portland? It would take at least three hours to drive. Taylor opens her door and I climb out on my side.
“I should give you back your handkerchief,” she says to Taylor with a coy smile.
“Keep it, Miss Steele, with my best wishes.”
What the hell is going on between them?


Will You Still Love Me, An Excerpt

Ravinder Singh is the bestselling author of I Too Had a Love Story, Can Love Happen Twice?,  Like It Happened Yesterday, Your Dreams Are Mine Now and This Love That Feels Right . His new book, Will You Still Love Me is deeply moving, disturbingly close to reality, and love at its worst and its best.

Here’s an excerpt.
_______________________

Rajveer sat down on his seat and looked at her with newfound feelings. The spectacle of a sleeping beauty kindled a variety of emotions in his heart. Now that he could look at her without feeling self-conscious, Rajveer realized how attractive a woman Lavanya was! His eyes rested on the glowing skin of her face and her neck before they slid down to her waist, to the skin visible between the blouse and the long skirt she wore. He watched the rhythmic rise and fall of her chest as she slept. The tiny sleeves of her blouse clung to her elegantly shaped arms.

Rajveer took in the details of her beauty—her jet-black silky hair that lay softly on her shoulders, her not so long fingers that ended in shapely nails. She possessed a well-toned body many women only craved for. Lavanya wasn’t tall, yet her average frame possessed more than enough charm to be considered quite striking.
Then suddenly she turned her head in her sleep. It made Rajveer immediately retract his gaze. He thanked god that she hadn’t abruptly opened her eyes and caught him staring at her. He then looked around self-consciously to check if anybody else had noticed him doing so. He was safe, he realized.
To distract himself, Rajveer pulled out the Hello 6E from the seat pocket in front of him and began flipping through it. He occasionally checked on Lavanya too, who remained deep in sleep.
More than half an hour passed this way. By then, Rajveer had also pulled out his laptop from his luggage and had begun working on it. Just then he heard the captain’s voice letting passengers know that he had initiated the descent of the plane. This woke up Lavanya from her sleep.
‘Slept well?’ Rajveer asked. There was a sense of familiarity as he spoke and a certain softness.
She rubbed her palms over her face and then looked at him, ‘Yes. I feel so fresh now!’ She smiled.

Then reacting to the announcement that the use of lavatories was not allowed as they had begun descent, Lavanya quickly unbuckled her seat belt. She wanted to use the loo as soon as possible.
Caught by surprise,  Rajveer had to quickly close his laptop, place the in-flight magazine on the middle seat, close the tray table, and then unbuckle himself, all in a rush. Lavanya didn’t have much time. She tried to manoeuvre through the narrow space between Rajveer’s legs and the seat in front. In the process, Rajveer’s knees rubbed against her skirt. Her touch and proximity felt like a jolt of electricity to him. Briefly he found himself staring straight at her bare, slender waist. Gosh! How much he wanted to feel that dewy skin on the tips of his fingers. He got a whiff of her perfume and he inadvertently took in a deep breath.
‘Sorry,’ Lavanya apologized for the discomfort to Rajveer. You are welcome, he said in his mind.

 

Pakistan’s Nuclear Bomb by Hassan Abbas – An Excerpt

In this inside view of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, Hassan Abbas profiles the politicians and scientists involved in the development of the country’s nuclear bomb, and the role of China and Saudi Arabia in supporting its nuclear infrastructure. Drawing on extensive interviews, the book also examines Pakistani nuclear physicist A.Q. Khan’s involvement in nuclear proliferation in Iran, Libya and North Korea.  
Let’s read an excerpt from the book.
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When A.Q. Khan finally joined the PAEC in January 1976, a small uranium-enrichment programme code named Project 706 (also known as the Directorate of Industrial Liaison) had been in place under the management of Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood since October 1974. Munir Khan was directly supervising the nascent project, but there is almost a consensus among experts that it was going nowhere before A. Q. Khan.119 A. Q. Khan was asked to report to Mahmood as director of research and development, but was unhappy about that, given his vastly superior qualifications. Bhutto had already approved the construction of a centrifuge research and development laboratory under an unassuming title: the Aviation Development Workshop (ADW).120 It was a good cover, as this was located in the old barracks at Chaklala Airport, between Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
 
Within a matter of months A. Q. Khan ran into trouble with Munir Khan and others involved in the project. One view is that personality clashes and a desire for more control over the project brought the two Khans and others into conflict. What is often ignored here is the fact that A. Q. Khan was used to working in environments where efficiency and discipline were valued very highly. He had risen in his professional career because of his hard work and professionalism. The PAEC was quite different, as he quickly found out. It was more individual driven, and A. Q. Khan found it difficult to adjust. Disappointed with the lack of support from Munir Khan, A. Q. Khan told the prime minister that he needed financial and administrative independence to be able to deliver. He bitterly argued that he ‘could have contributed at least ten times more’ if he had been allowed to operate the way he wanted to.121 Bhutto appeared receptive to A. Q. Khan’s demands, as he was well acquainted with bureaucratic culture in Pakistan. He could see that jealousies were at play. To remove the administrative hurdles and bickering that had developed between the two Khans, he decided to give A. Q. Khan independent control of the centrifuge project. He did so by administratively separating the centrifuge project from the PAEC; the new institution was named the Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL). It was inaugurated on 31 July 1976, under A. Q. Khan’s direct command. The ERL project remained a well-kept secret and, other than the prime minister, only Ghulam Ishaq Khan knew the specifics of A. Q. Khan’s operation. As is evident from A. Q. Khan’s recent writings (as a columnist for The News since 2015), he had complete freedom to hire and make appointments in the organization—and he was able to attract the best scientific minds in the country