I finished writing this novel sixteen months ago. Sent it to the India’s leading literary agent and signed a contract three months later.
It’s all set now. My new novel will be launched at ‘The Arts House’, Singapore on 18th July as a part of ‘Asia Pacific Writers’ literary festival called ‘Bridging Cultures’. I am also on two panels with other writers, agents and editors. The first one is called, ‘The Art of Forgetting’ and the second, ‘Changes to the Literary Landscape and New Publishing Opportunities’.
‘Catching the Departed’ is the first in a series of thrillers that features Andy Karan, a 29 year old Ex-Army officer, who works as an investigative journalist. It was shortlisted by Hachette India and DNA newspaper in a competition called the ‘Hunt for the Next Bestseller’ in Feb 14. Here’s how it opens.
An Excerpt from ‘Catching the Departed’, a novel by Kulpreet Yadav
It was a cold night at Tilakpur, a hamlet outside Rewari, seventy kilometres from New Delhi. Dogs barked at low clouds that the wind carried over. At nine, the entire village was asleep. It was quiet, like a school in the dark.
The village wasn’t big. Fifty odd houses huddled together in a disorganized cluster. Lanterns flickered in a few, left to die when the oil ran out. There was no power. Narrow lanes bisected the houses and the smell of supper still lingered in some.
A scooter drove in from the city. It was the only road that connected the hamlet to civilization –to Rewari. This was where the villagers went to sell their crops, buy wedding dresses, or sweets. Or when sick. This was where quacks emptied their pockets. Or paunchy middlemen paid them peanuts for their season long hardships.
The scooter came to a jerking halt near one of the houses. The man who dismounted couldn’t pull it up on its stand. He didn’t try the second time and staggered to a door nearby. The scooter slid down behind him, as if in a slow motion before collapsing sideways with a mild thud that resounded through the still silence of the village.
The man knocked at the door, heavily at first and then impatiently. Ten seconds. He began to abuse and started banging the door. He was angry. Four dogs gathered behind him, not barking, cautious, their tails rolling and opening.
The panels in the wooden door parted after a minute. The girl who opened it fell back. The man was too heavy. He couldn’t stand anymore. She shouted for her mother. Feet came running. The door remained open, moonlight falling through it. The dogs watched them quietly from outside, the movement of their tails halted.
The mother was the first to scream. Her daughter couldn’t, though her eyes widened. The man’s back was soaked in blood. The mother screamed again. It was a scream of helplessness, sound that carried through the lanes. There was no echo.
She screamed for a whole minute while the daughter stayed petrified, her eyes filled with terror. As if her horror was unyielding.
Slowly, the two women turned him over. Now they were quiet, within hearing distance of each other’s breath. It was an effort as the man was tall and heavy — a six feet man who weighed ninety kilos.
He was alive, his face caked with sweat. He coughed and blood spluttered out of his mouth. The woman began to cry. By now her lungs had perhaps recovered from the scream. Then she slapped him as anger took her. How could he return home, drunk and dying?
The girl brought water from the kitchen across the courtyard. They tried to lift his head, bringing the steel glass close to his trembling lips. He looked at them one last time, that long and caring look, that look which no pain can kill but for a few seconds. Then he slumped in their hands. The head suddenly got heavier and fell from their grip with a clunk on the cemented floor.
The dogs walked away, their heads up as if they were witnessing the dead man’s soul rise in the sky. And so did the two men who were hiding, keeping in the shadows, watching the scene anxiously. They had identical bubble-strip sweat on their foreheads. One of them was holding a knife in his hand, blood dripping from its crooked tip.
Two houses away a door opened and a lantern floated out. Soon more doors opened and more lanterns appeared. All the lights converged near the dead man’s house and assembled in the courtyard. Minutes later a bike started and roared in the direction from where the scooter had come. The men with the knife were gone.