Friday, 29 November 2019

Over indemnity of Fire losses

India’s general insurance business is under a double squeeze of meager premium incomes and mega fire claims outgoes. How it got trapped in such an unenviable position is symbolic of poetic justice.

In the rudimentary stages, indemnity was but the whim of the haughty loss assessor, as his fancy would suggest, that the overawed insurers and the insured alike had to accept like a claim prasad. Though later on, the system had acquired some semblance of balance, yet the irony of inequity, more or less, remained the guiding factor for settling the claims of the small frays that were treated like serfs in the general insurance corridors. More often than not, owing to the insurers’ apathy, the claim processing was tortuous, accompanied by arbitrariness, occasioned by their ignorance or suspicion, and / or both. The hapless insured was hoodwinked to sign on the dotted line of the discharge voucher, or else. Some claim processing officials even went to the extent of maintaining dairies of their misdeeds, of coercive claim reductions, to boast about the savings thus accrued to the company. Just the same, at the same time, it was a red carpet, all the way, for the valued clients, more so when it came to their large losses.

Strangely in those days, the insurers’ penchant for celebrating large losses was indeed appalling in that the normally staid offices tended to get agog with excitement to set the stage with alacrity for hara-kiri. The search for an adept surveyor with a proven record of handling huge claims used to begin in the right earnest, for co-option to aid and abet in the instant case as well. Soon, with fervor to accommodate the claimant’s demands, shared fervently by the ‘blessed’ surveyor, the claim used to get tended on the settlement course with god speed. One may say, ‘whom gods want to destroy they make mad’ but the general insurers’ genius envisioned an underlying wisdom in this apparent madness of obsessive proportions; it was the article of unwavering underwriting faith that publicity of generosity would open up new premium vistas to usher in growth and improve the bottom-line.

However, in due course, this fond hope, based on a false premise, lay shattered as it had to confront the insatiable human greed that it fostered. Sadly thus, this insurance altruism, pitted against the human truism, had in effect pushed the insurers into the clutches of self-serving clientele, out to extract undue returns on the premium paid. If anything, the advent of the consumer forums and more so the opening up of the insurance business for the private sector, in the wake of the Malhotra Committee’s report, made it worse for the public sector general insurers. So as to stall the feared exodus of its harassed clientele to the private shores, the only strategy that could be thought of by these uninformed white-collars was client appeasement. Thus, in a great maneuver of a grand U-turn, client satisfaction, above all else, became the buzzword in the public sector general insurance corridors. Client satisfaction could have been, as well, achieved through timely claim settlement, capping indemnity with a sop or two to propitiate the greedy, if need be,  but then as balancing things had never been the public sector virtue, inevitably, the profound philosophy, in practice, came to be interpreted as a license to appease, to fashion client satisfaction. And that was that. 

Once the hounded turned into the hunter and the harasser became the harassed, the naivety of the knee-jerk reaction for self preservation blew up in the public sector faces. With the “I’ve preferred a claim, so you better cough up” stance, the clientele began to coerce the flummoxed insurers on the specious ground “Never mind the fine print about the liability or lack of it”. What if the claim is even made up? The clients have upped the ante and the insurers had no alternative but to give in, but in the end, perhaps, poetic justice catches up regardless.

But nothing tilted the balance of attrition like managerial expediency to circumvent the constraints of, what may be called, the archaic ‘car-phone’ rule by which only the personnel manning the business line of operations, but not those maintaining the administrative edifice, were entitled to these modern day necessities, attached though with status and prestige in the then developing Indian society. So as to let the teeming new breed of directly recruited administrative officers, who have come of age in the set up, to lay their hands on the car steering and the telephone receiver at home, they were made branch and division heads, so to say, without any screening or training.

However, given that marketing is a different cup of tea; even as most of the new marketing novices turned out to be misfits, yet the managements tasked them to expand the premium base under their control. Given that the public sector has always been averse to the profit centre concept of administration for the fear of being exposed to its managerial inadequacies, these ‘new heads’ in the branches and the divisions found it expedient to  acquiesce as a policy of retention of the client base, making it a case of digging one’s own grave! Thus the only growth these could show was in the form of largesse to the claimants resulting in ever increasing underwriting losses, which coupled with the disproportionate operating expenses, made these enterprises look at the barrel. And that does not make a good business copy, even for the public sector companies! But, yet the delusions remain in the managerial chambers, it would seem so.

It is into this crooked scenario, the private insurers had ventured into, as it turned out, to make it murkier. One hoped that the private players would reach out to the uninsured multitudes of small traders, householders, and such to bring them under the underwriting umbrellas for mutual benefit. But sadly, they chose the easy way out, of poaching the existing clients from the public sector insurance folds through means that were often not above the board. What was worse, in their eagerness to seem apart from the lethargic public sector, when it came to claims settlement, they took to the fast track of claim settlements, oblivious of the high moral hazard of the Indian business ethos and the fact that fire claims are too complex for ready comprehension. If ever they undertake an indemnity audit, they would come across many a hillock and varied mountains of over indemnity, underscored by ‘haste is waste’ adage.

Now the moot point is, are the general insurance underwriters prepared to have a second look, for their own good. For every claimant spoilt with doses of over indemnity, millions of clients are likely to suffer if the bubble bursts. This underlying duty for the larger good should override the narrow desire to please the overbearing, for achieving sectarian ends. It’s fine to treat the customer as god but should the devil itself choose to don god’s garb, expedience lies in exorcising it. Let it be deliberated before the point of no return is reached as the Frankenstein monster devours its masters. As and when the ugly saga comes to an end, on its ruins may be laid the level playing fields of general insurance - for the insurers and insured’s alike.

And that brings to the fore the role of the surveyors and loss assessors in this sordid episode. For the surveyor, it is one thing to handle a large loss, any loss for that matter, and another to hand out largesse. However, as the public sector eyes, long enamored as they are with large losses, failing to discern this vital difference, historically promoted the charlatan surveyors and cold shouldered the professional loss assessors. If anything, the degeneration in the recent past virtually ensured that surveyors donned the role of go betweens, further marginalizing the professional minded amongst them. The question that naturally arises is, how to bring the general insurance sector to the even keel of indemnity by weeding out the over indemnifying surveyors and ushering in a band of equity loss assessors. But there’s a hitch in that the remuneration to the surveyors is directly proportional to the loss assessed by them and though that tends to abet over indemnity, the insurers have turned a blind eye to this debilitating aspect.

Whatever, only true professionals can bring parity to indemnity, but how to spot them in the milieu? Here are some basics to the insurers in first person.

One cannot go by their smooth talk or hard sell, for sure. Knowing their approach and attitude should help, to start with, before character and competence come to be judged. Rudiments of human psychology could provide pointers to the insurers on the way of professional selection. If the chap on the other side of the table sounds ingratiating with you, it may satisfy your ego, but what about your interests? It’s okay with public sector officialdom allowing itself to be played up to, but surely private company managers have a stake in the way things shape up under their command. How those who are prepared to humor you, for an assignment or two, fare with the claimants, with inducements on hand, out to grind their axes on the wheel of over indemnity? It’s anybody’s guess. Isn’t it?

But the professional self-worth operates on a different plane. It seldom crosses the threshold of nice talk. A professional could be the right bet as he is the one, more unlikely, to play ball with the claimant to your detriment. Be wary if the surveyor eulogizes the claimant while briefing you or writes his biography in his survey reports. For sure, he could have allowed himself to be overawed by the claimant and thus would have lost his ability to judge issues objectively. On the other hand, a professional, tries to focus on the job on hand, and has no interest in the personalities associated with it. Thus, his judgment is more likely to be sourced in equanimity.

Beware of the fellow who tends to brief you about the claim in great detail beforehand. You may feel that you are being kept in the claim loop but in effect you are being influenced, willy-nilly, to see things the way he wants you to see them. You had already lost your ability to judge even before the case comes up for your scrutiny. Remember the adage - we learn best by doing, next by reading and worst by listening.

Bu the professional provides you with the best option you have, since you are not expected to carry out the survey yourself, anyway; he gives the picture in writing, for you to read and comprehend it for yourself. That is, if you are prepared to read. In the public sector portals, barring exceptions, it is listening that prevails at the decision making levels, and the survey reports are treated as mere post scripts of the claims! Laziness to go into details costs, even more than, eye for detail that anyway is much scarce. But it is the other way round with the surveyors in the existing order.

It is the paradox of the survey profession that efficiency doesn’t pay that is owing to the linkage of remuneration to the indemnity. The more diligent a surveyor in rationalizing the insured’s claim, the lesser he earns as remuneration for his diligence. Contrarily, owing either to naivety or motive, if the surveyor fails to call he claimant’s bluff, he gets paid all the more for the lack skills or more. It’s another matter that the insurers end up paying through their noses for the unwarranted ways of the surveyors. Thus, for the easy go lucky surveyor, the starting point of the survey is the claim amount projected by the insured, and for the sake of form, it is to be downsized as is imperative in the insurers’ eyes. The charlatans of surveyors, to that end, enter into a half-hearted bargain with highly motivated claimants, out for a kill. If the claimant were unrelenting to yield some ground, the surveyor would go on his knees even, to extract concessions, to accord credibility to his assessment. The merciful gesture of the claimant is then sealed in a “consent letter” to be flaunted by the surveyor as a “certificate of achievement” in the corridors of the gullible underwriters. The insurers, for their part, feel beholden to the surveyor for the “love letter” that bodes well for an easy working day. The spirit of reciprocity ensures that the surveyor gets hailed for having handled the claim well, to be assigned more claims to let him hand out more losses for a hassle free handling for themselves.

However, for the professional surveyor, who doesn’t put the cart before the horse, it is a hard grind all the way. Thus, for professionalism to thrive in the survey filed, the surveyors ought to be paid for the rendered services, on the scale of intricacy and contribution, and not for the largesse bestowed upon the claimants. What distresses even more is that the underwriters keep no track record of the surveyors in exposing the claims of fraudulent nature. Needless to say, fraud, whenever attempted, should be exposed and the claim repudiated regardless of everything. After all, does not fraud negate the very concept of utmost good faith of a contract of insurance? Yes, it does, but suspecting a fraud is different from effectively closing in on that to shut it out is a different ball game.

However, the prevailing norm is for the surveyor to air apprehensions in the insurance corridors that is whenever a claim is beyond his comprehension. The insurers for their part, what with their suspicious having been raised, run for the cover and an investigator would be put in place. Once the detective is in, the surveyor relaxes, and the insurers feel relieved, having passed on the buck. When the investigator finally hands out a clean chit or comes up with no evidence, everyone falls in line, though with their suspicions intact, to reward the fraud. Occasionally, a claim is repudiated on a gut feeling or based on insufficient evidence only to come a cropper in the courts of law.

In the superficial work culture nurtured by lethargy and semi intellect, it doesn’t occur to any that the means to expose frauds are packaged in the insurance policy itself, and that the process to pin the sin is part of a survey. In case of the Fire Policy, for example, conditions No 6 and 8 together provide the necessary leverage to effectively close in on a fraud claim provided the surveyor has the will and the wherewithal for that. Nevertheless, as a rule of thumb, fraud should be writ large on the claim in many a case.

It should be realized that the instinct and the acumen required to repudiate a claim, either in full or part, far outweigh the effort and skills that go into the loss assessment. But the general insurers remain unconcerned about it when it comes to remunerating the surveyors for such repudiations, making it a thankless job for the latter. What is worse, the surveyor is perceived as the one who had spoiled the party and branded as such to be bypassed for further assignments.

Since it has been proved that claim equity is beyond the means of man, only the Fire gods, Agni and Hephaestus, can save the Indian general insurance from over indemnity by not giving cause for loss at all, if not, very scarcely.  

Sunday, 10 November 2019

A Womanizer’s ‘View’ of Woman

'Almost every woman in her youth is beddable,' he thought, lighting his India King. 'While some may be repeatable, rarely are they keepable. But, each of them is obtainable, though with some of them it may take some time and effort even. All said and done, the quick-fire affair affords man ego satisfaction as well as ready gratification. Besides, won't that make it easy for man to bring the curtains down, when it suits him? It's as well; women tend to hang on to the illicit stage that much longer.'

'But should the dame resist long enough,' he continued with his soliloquy, 'for the adventurer that would be a different ball game altogether. Her reluctance to give in would only increase her appeal to him by the day, deepening his desire for her by the night. Won't that make it difficult for him to give up, resulting in unwelcome frustration? What's worse, it could result in reverse seduction, tying the philanderer in the nuptial knots. And for the married man, courting singles could be a hindrance, for they harp on his divorcing the wife as a prerequisite for liaison.'

'But, oh, with their ripen wares, married women are ready-made for affairs, aren't they?' he continued to delve into the proclivities of women. 'The sentiment of fidelity is the only hurdle that they should be helped to cross, and then the rest of the illicit race could be run in their raunchy beds. But then, won't some women turn out to be hard nuts to crack when it comes to the final favor! Luckily for the guys, they are far and few between. Doesn't it seem so? However, the harder the struggle to win women over, the sweeter would be the pleasure in having them, wouldn't it be? What else draws a man to a woman than his desire to access her persona specifics? And won't woman bare her veiled assets for her fancied man to dabble with her private accounts? But after a few jaunts of his to her favored joint, what would be left in her for her lover to explore, and for her to show him more? And thereafter, how could she cater to his innate need for variety and what else she could conjure up to sustain his enticement? Oh, the poor thing, seeing his interest in her wane in time, won't she turn more so eager to keep him in good humor? Of course, the more she gives her man; even more she satiates him, doesn't she? And it's only time before she finds her paramour bypass her favors for lesser flavors. That's the woman's bother, anyway, why should men bother?'

'Nature made me a ladies' man and fortune gave me the means to lure them,' he pursued his course in applied sex. 'Oh, how the Cupid fellow thought it fit to endow women with an ear for flattery as if to help his own ilk worm their way into their arms. Won't a push with praise and prod with a gift bring the babes to bare their boobs? And aren't women blessed with a weakness for successful men? How money bestows status upon men and brings power over women! Won't that enable the well-heeled to pick up their fancied women, that too at the drop of a hat! Well, haven't I tasted the amorous flavors of countless randies in assorted ways? It's as though every lass is ready for a lay, of course, on the sly, and with the right tactics, isn't snaring women as easy as luring the greedy. But one needs to use the right tools to handle those fleshy wares in their horny beds and thereafter, won't it be a case of quick fixing them in wanton liaisons?'

'But access makes all the difference between the conquest and failure, doesn't it?' he felt as he thought about his insatiate passions. 'If not for the lack of that, wouldn't I've laid every woman I'd ever fancied? Given half a chance, won't women explore their passions in their paramours' private parts? But it's her man who turns out to be the hurdle in the path of her fulfillment. One needs only to show a passing interest in the wife, and the husband can be expected to do the rest to put paid to it. Not content with shrouding his wife, he cold-shoulders the trespasser as if to nip his passion in the bud. It's as though men are prone to policing their wives than husbanding them! And, as if to celebrate the poetic justice to their predicament, won't women turn gleeful whenever they cuckold their caretakers? '

'It's as if all the pleasures of life are packed in female frames for the favored to savor them!' he continued. 'But women's god-damn coyness makes it difficult for men to probe their minds. Why, it could be either a shield for their modesty or a shroud of their coquetry. But then, how can any man get to know what it is beforehand? Whatever, one would have the last laugh only in woman's conquest, that is all. But unless man is on guard, he might as well trip on the path of attraction, and even fall in love! And that would be an unwelcome development, wouldn't it be? By the way, would sex become any more pleasurable if penetrated with love? What a doubt, as if love would take that any deeper. Hah, hah! Why, it's the lust that vests the thrusts with power, and any woman would know that for sure.

An excerpt from the author's Benign Flame: Saga of love  

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Prasad’s Seductive Craft

"Oh, Roopa, my hope,

I'm aware that my move would agitate you. But how am I to portray the thousand deaths I died wanting to avoid distressing you.

All these days, I've chosen to suffer silently without making you privy to my predicament. Then, it dawned on me that I owe it to you to let you know that a poor soul is bathing in the warmth of love that is inspired by you. That apart, do I have any right to deny my love its legitimate expression? How does that matter even if it's unrequited?

On that fateful evening, when I'd first seen you, I felt as if the flood of love that spurted out of my heart would drown me to death. Unable to hold on my own, I ventured to seek your hand for support. Thus, as I was nearing you, I'd seen Sathyam coming to you with those ice-cream cones. Oh, how my heart froze, fearing that you're married. But then, when I realized that you're my friend's wife, I rejoiced at his fortune, and chose to bury my love for you in the depths of my heart. Since I am not supposed to love you as woman and as I couldn't live without loving you, I forced myself to adore you as a sister instead.

But it didn't take me long to realize that the brotherly affection is too limited to reflect the manly love I feel for you. Possessed as I am by carnal passion for you, my suffocation in the fraternal garb has been demeaning my soul ever since. Why, don't I know that you too haven't failed to notice the pain I experienced in those ungainly brotherly shoes? Now that you're privy to my predicament, my only hope is that you would be sensitive to my sentiment. Well, am I not nursing the love you've given birth to? Aren't you aware I love you as a woman and adore you as a person?

I believe that my sense of dignity demands of me to disclose my love to you. And what do I seek in return from you for my devotion to your person? I only beg for your indulgence in letting me love you till my last breath. Since it's in your knowing now, how I see my love acquiring a new meaning. If only you let me love you, I'll feel rewarded no end for that. Were you to pity my wretched soul, I would feel vindicated as well? Either way, now I am at your mercy, and I know your nobility wouldn't belittle my love and betray my secret. But were you to give away my sentiment to any to make a mockery of it, my blood would be on your hands. And cursing your insensitivity, my restless soul would suffer eternally in heaven living like in hell.

Dying for your understanding,
Ever yours in devotion, I remain,

Yours aspiringly,
Prasad the hopeful."

An excerpt from the author's Benign Flame: Saga of love

Monday, 4 November 2019

Sneha’s Poignant Letter of Love and Remorse

My soulmate:

Whoever thought of such a fall for us from the dizzy heights you took us to! Why, even my worst fears failed to push me to such a precipice. I'm sure neither yours would have. After all, you were sure that by the time the dust settled down, we would have ridden the storm. And my blind faith in your abilities failed me to see what was coming. Well, it appears that fate is averse to taking your dictation, at least in this case. Instead, it chose the well-meaning Dr. Prakash Gupta as the messenger to deliver the script it had fashioned to end our trauma.

How could I've known that I was the cyclonic eye of the stormy life of our son! It appears that he was privy to my double life ever since he could understand what it was. I know that it would shock and shame you no less. What a payback for the freedom you granted me! Pardon me if you can. Maybe, its better that you fail to forgive me for that lessens my burden a little.

How I wronged Suresh the apple of our eyes! What a hurt to know his mother is a slut! How cruel of me to let him bear the cross of my debauchery! As for me, it's just unpalatable even to think he had seen it all. Now, having known that I was his voyeuristic target all the while, I cannot imagine facing him ever again. It seems it was my amorality that induced the misogamist mindset in him. And we have the word of the well-meaning expert for that.

Maybe unwittingly, but inexorably, I had set our son on a ruinous course. That puts me in the dock, doesn't it? Let me plead guilty in your court that I buggered our son's life. God forbid, if the apple of our eye were to die on the gallows, I would go insane. And I dare not see him even if he's set free. What sense does it make for me to hang around here any longer?

What a congenial couple we had been! But, how stealthily had fate tampered with our wedlock! Don't I know the pain you felt in having to forsake my womanly honor? But to what avail did I give in to my latter-day temptations? Why did I take undue advantage of your goodness to abuse my life that would have hurt you so much?

Now, more than ever, I can visualize what a pain it was for you seeing me turning into a bitch as it were. Oh, if only it had dawned on me then! Yet, it's not with the intent to hurt you that I say this, but how would it have been had you put your foot down on my waywardness? But then, you are a gentleman, and I didn't prove to be your worthy ladyship. And still, thanks to your large heart, I was cozy as your wife.

How the scandal changed all that! I am aware that the altered realities of our life would ensure that it could never be the same again for me and you as well. In a way, hasn't our relationship become untenable, if not tenuous? Maybe, that is what life is all about. That things have turned sour now, it's not fair to say that I regret my life, having led it consciously, rightly or wrongly. But if I were to do that, it might have some sympathetic accretion on the sentimental front, which I don't want in my account anyway.

Well, I don't intend to transfer my burden onto your conscience, as my hypocrisy would make you suffer even more in guilt. It's you who strengthened my character and now I know its value as never before. Moreover, I have no taste to live like a curio for the rest of my life. You know, we always lived life the practical way and I want to end mine that way.

I've come to believe that you may be better off without me. As I have lost my shine, and I know it's my own fault, it's but proper that I don't let my shadow cast on your life. Besides, haven't I become a jewel-less crown on your troubled head? With the aura of the jewel gone, what for thou bear its weight, my dear? No, I won't let you suffer for I love you more than I thought I ever did. With the dead-weight of me gone, I am sure it would make a little easier for you. I know I owe that to you.

Believe me; it's not out of any pique that I want to end my life. What have I against you, my darling, that I should psyche you into guilt? If anything, I had wronged you though I loved you. Now, it is my genuine desire to make it as easy as I can that is prompting me to call it quits. If you ever feel guilty on my account, then my end would not have served the intended purpose.

But, it's sad that I've to end it all with a troubled soul. I know that in a weird way, I was responsible for the misery of those, whom our son had violated, not to speak of poor Shanti who paid with her life as my unintended dupe. I wish I had helped Suresh grow up to make a difference to his self as well as to the society around him. But how I came to ignore him? While I showed the woman in me to many, yet I failed to let him see the mother in me. Why, it was all owing to my preoccupation with my physicality as woman.

I'm going to die with the hope what my life failed to do for him, my death would. It's so sad, that my lifestyle led him astray by inducing misgivings about me as woman. It's my last and the only wish that you make him understand me as woman. Maybe then, he might understand the mother in me as well. Know that I would be dying knowing that you can.

Hopefully, that might bring equanimity to his troubled soul, and were that to happen even my soul would rest in peace well above. Reminiscing about the joy of your love and care, I am going to have my last prayer for you as well as our son's fruitful future.

In all our future lives, I hope to be your wife to give you what all I failed to in this one. I am ending this life with the conviction that you wish to have me in the coming lives as well. Let me tell you with all honesty that I see my exit merely as a practical way out for the three of us.

Forgive me for deserting you, midway.
Yours eternally,

Having finished the letter, she tiptoed into their bedroom and towards their framed wedding photograph on the dressing table. As she sat on the stool, she couldn't take her eyes off the picture. In time, dropping the letter in her lap, she took the frame into her hands. But, soon finding the light too dim to hold the picture, she took the frame closer to her. At that, as the memories of their honeymoon came in torrents, her eyes turned into waterfalls. When she realized that the farewell letter in her lap was getting wet, she placed it on the table along with the photograph. If not for her wish to let her man know her mind at the parting, perhaps, she would have wept herself to death and thus allowed her missive to smudge in the pool of her tears.

Wiping her tears, she stood near Gautam as he slept in exhaustion. As she looked at him lovingly, she was seized with remorse. But as her love for him came to the fore, she experienced a rare fondness for him. Sensing that her new found love for him would tempt her to develop a weakness for life all again, she went back into the ante-room wondering how a man could change woman for good or bad.
When she began popping up the pills, she wondered how each of them would be taking her that much closer to death. At that, as the ironical analogy of her lovers weaning her away from her man dawned on her, she wondered why she was unable to recall even one of them at the time of her departure. Sensing that she had a revelation of her life she rushed to Gautam to wake him up, but on second thoughts, she took her missive and penned the postscript thus:

As I am half way through, I realize that in the last hours of my existence I don't recall any of those whom I let into my life. More than ever I am convinced now that even as I let many touch me, I etched none of them in my memory insensibly filled entirely by your loving persona. Oh, this late realization that I might have loved you and you only, heart and soul, makes it so easy for me to die. And I hope that it would make your future life less bitter after all. Goodbye, my love.

Feeling light, she went back into the ante-room and picked up the bottle all again. But, as she was about to empty the bottle, she thought about the emptiness beyond life, and felt frightened. Unable to come to grips with her fears, she struggled to reach for her man. At last, she managed to lay beside Gautam with that empty bottle as though he would fill it with fortitude. As she realized that at the core of it, her life was as empty as the bottle in her hand, she tried to speculate what her life would have been like, had she married someone who wouldn't have thought of crossing the Rubicon when it came to it. But, as if not to hurt her sensibilities at that point of no return, her faculties failed her. In time, her body too began losing its vitality to hold her restless soul any longer.

An excerpt from the author's Jewel-less Crown: Saga of Life

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Radha's Love 'n Loss


I am ashamed that I let you down. Oh, how I betrayed your trust and belittled my love! Seized by revenge, I was not my own woman then, but now burdened with guilt, how can I show my face to you? I know how hard it could be for you, and so I do not want to bother you anymore, but if you could forgive me that would help me to await the noose with fortitude.

What with the fake-note case bringing Pravar and Shakeel into the spotlight, I came to you to test the waters of avenge. But even as I was shifting my goalpost of life in the arena of our ardor, my fate played foul with my love as Ranjit too came into the setting. It was as if fate had chosen to place in my hand, an axe to grind on the anvil of revenge, forged by the poison of abuse. How sad that I had allowed my bitterness towards him to eclipse my life that I was recasting in the mould of your love.

Shamefully I pried upon Mithya's cupboards, in which I chanced upon her personal jottings and her long lost daughter's photograph. Later, when I showed it to Natya, she identified it as hers and I felt like I was her own mother. Thereafter, I was more determined than ever to see Pravar's end, if only to end her misery. Mine, as well as the fate of those who abused me, seemed to have been sealed when I discovered the poison that Mithya acquired, you know for what. Why my urge for revenge got the better of my love for you I would never know.

Believe me; I wanted to come out clean with you after I was done with them, in the hope that you would own me as you had owned Mithya, in spite of everything. Probably you would have, for you have a peculiar weakness for feminine criminality, if not the murders had pushed Kavya into your fold. But after that ménage a trios with Pravar and Natya, how odd it would have been for Kavya as your woman to have Natya as her daughter. Maybe, to save Kavya's life from that oddity, fate had ended Natya's tragic life. Why is my life any less ironical than Kavya's — as Ranjit jilted me for her, I lost my Dhruva to her. Is there a parallel by way of fact or fiction?

Perhaps, you and she deserve each other better, and I want to see you tie the knot (for that won't you earn a day's parole for me) as I pray for your married bliss. I seek your forgiveness, not as barter, but to end my agonizing life in peace.

Yours not to be,

An excerpt from the author's Prey on the Prow - A Crime Novel

Vasu's Wooing Words to His Old Flame

'Nithya Near,

You've every right to know why I crave for you more than ever before. And I owe you an explanation for wanting you in spite of your indifference.

My darling, you're the triumph as well as the tragedy of my life. You know about the joys you have had bestowed upon me, but you're not aware of the deprivations I have brought upon myself. I never wanted to lose you, but neither would I blame you for having left me. It was life itself that played the spoilsport. How it failed us both to misread our priorities!

I don't know how happy you are. And I wish you are in real bliss. But know I've been living in misery ever since you walked out on me. You may think I'm feigning unhappiness, being in the seventh heaven with a superb wife. I don't blame you if you feel so, for after all, that's what I thought life would be for me with Prema. If not for that hope, I would've never lost you at all, my sense of insecurity notwithstanding.

To be fair to her, Prema is a faithful wife. Fidelity is fine for a pativrata, but man needs something more substantial than that for married bliss. And who can appreciate that better than you, being an amorous woman yourself? As luck would've it, Prema is languid in bed, and goes through the motions as if in obligation. Can't you appreciate my predicament, what with my passion nursed in our tempestuous union? Pinning my thoughts on your sensuous memories, I've been pining for you ever since. I'd come back immediately after my marriage to beg for your forgiveness and to take you with me. But then, I had to leave in distress having learned that you were married by then.

Condemned by fate and burdened by life, I was just pulling on till we met so fortuitously all again. Now, I feel I'm better off, relatively, that is, for I've a goal to reach and hope to nourish. I know it's unfair on my part to bother you now but don't I owe something to me as well? Don't I have a right to be happy?

What can I do when my happiness depends entirely upon your consideration? So, in spite of my resolve not to disturb you, I've approached you but sadly, though rightly, you'd reproached me. You may know either I can lift my soul in your loving lap or let my frame slide into the embrace of distress. But I also know you would be averse to give yourself to me. And that's the paradox of my life! Oh, is it a crime to want to live? I beg for a chance to win you back with my passion and devotion. If not, at least admit me into your society so that life becomes a little easy for me. That way our association might mitigate the bitterness of your past as well. Let's be friends and leave the rest to the feelings of our hearts. I hope you won't dismiss this as an absurd proposal.

I love you with all my heart and soul, and if it makes any difference to you, I consider myself blessed still.

Ever yours,
Vasu Dear'

An excerpt from Crossing the Mirage - Passing through youth
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Roopa's Take on Fate 'n Tick of Life

'Why is life hard on some while being soft on others?' Roopa contemplated after Sandhya had left. 'The sastras would have us believe that it's all owing to karma, while the philosophers stress that life is conditioned by a combination of circumstances. It could be true either way, but how does that help me anyway. For all that, does life play favorites? But that's unlikely, for after all, why should life be partial to some when all bear its own patent. Yet, some like me get condemned, all the time, don't they? But why is that so?'

'It's as though life has an obligation for itself as a whole and not to the beings that make up that whole,' she tried to probe into the proclivities of life as though to solve the puzzle of her state. 'It would appear as if life feels a monotonous regimen would bore people to death, bringing the creation to an unintended end. Therefore, for the larger good of itself, life could have found it expedient to take recourse to individual inequities to keep the general interest in it alive for all. Wonder how life prepares the black list for the fate to act upon! As all are dear to it, were it possible that blindfolded, it would go in for random selection with a sinking heart! Once fate takes over the earmarked, won't weddings come in handy for it to impart misery in many wrong permutations and provide bliss in a few right combinations! Then is there nothing left for me to do than to regret my fate, all my life?'

As though her pain infected nature itself, it opened the skies to shed its tears, and closing the windows to avoid the spatter, she felt melancholic, 'So that's how I've got the rough end of the married stick then. But why not grab the silken glove of liaison that is dangling before me now? Won't that meet life's need for variety as well? As it had imposed a husband of its choice on me, now let me choose the lover after my heart.'

When it stopped raining as though on cue, opening the windows, Roopa felt nature too desired her turbulence to end in Raja Rao's arms.

'Would it be fair to Sathyam?' she tried to analyze as she was consumed by self-doubts all over again. 'But then, what could be done when fidelity forces a loveless life on me? What's this infidelity all about? Isn't it man's idea to negate woman's amour. While male-female attraction is the cornerstone of creation, man seeks to blindfold woman with marital fidelity. Leaving that aside, what does a wife ought to give her man? Of course, she should keep an amiable home for him to recreate and procreate. As for love, woman needs it as much as man, doesn't she? Is love something of a recipe that a woman could prepare at her husband's bidding?

'How can I help when he doesn't inspire love in my heart,' she wailed at her plight. 'After all, was it not said that love is but a part of man's life while it is a woman's whole existence? Oh, it's every bit true! Sathyam is merry in marriage, enjoying all that goes with it, while I'm miserable, despairing for love. I can't be happy without Raja, that's clear by now, isn't it? After all, I owe something to my life, don't I? What's the contradiction, if while leading my love life with Raja, I look after Sathyam's marital needs as well? It seems to be the only sensible way to go about life than feel deprived all my life.'

Having resolved to have Raja Rao for her lover, she was at peace with herself, 'Of course, it would be unfair for woman to let the paramour father her child. Why, perhaps it's the only thing unethical about adultery, isn't it? A woman ought to take care that things don't be mixed up at that end. I would need Raja for my fulfillment and Sathyam can have his child if he could.' Having resolved on a liaison with her lover, Roopa slumbered in expectation.

Excerpted from the author's Benign Flame: Saga of Love
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