Creative Writing Prompt | Flash Fiction | Short Story | Set the Scene | Writing |

By Neel Anil Panicker

Inspector Sharma parked his police car behind a side street abutting Karol Bagh Metro Station and walked the next fifty yards leading into the congested bylanes, careful to keep his head down and appear as nondescript as he could.

‘Mingle, be one with your surroundings’, was the salient piece of advice meted out to him by his seniors when he had just begun taking his first tentative steps into the dizzying though highly risky world of professional sleuthing.

Ten minutes later, Sharma found himself at the end of a narrow side street, and staring upwards at a nondescript double storied British–era building. With its plaster peeling off its moth infested outer walls and a huge windowless frontage that was smeared in black soot, the building stood out like a sore thumb even in this most drab of surroundings__a kilometre long circular stench-filled stretch that looked as if it were cold shouldered by the winds of modernity that were blowing all across wannabe bustling Delhi city.

A minute later he had climbed the rickety wooden stairs and walked down the darkened hallway to the left.

Reaching its dead end, he found himself face to face with a wrought iron door above which hung a copper board on which was etched in calligraphic gold the words “Royal Capital Library”.

Sharma drew in a deep breath and wiping the dirt off the seven inch sole of thick leather boots, he pulled the latch and stepped in.

The moment he did so and inspected the new environs he drew in a sharp breath, and for once stood there, completely in awe of what he was looking at.

There they stood; like armies of soldiers, swords in hand, dressed in battle gear, standing proud and tall in the bright red splattered battlefield, all ready and itching for battle; their glossy visages screaming out vengeance and ultimate victory over the formidable enemy.


Only, these were no Alexander’s band of worthy world conquerors but were mere books.

Books of all shapes and sizes and colours and vintage; books that lay in wait, awaiting the dainty hands and nimble fingers of the intellectual warriors who slided from one end to the other of the vast rectangular hall.

Chacko took a 360 degree slow turn as his eyes soaked in every single detail all over the seven rows of neatly lined up books. He noticed that their spines faced outward, that each book was colour coded with dots, that the fiction section was arranged in an alphabetic order, the there were two types of shelves__ the lower ones stacked the children’s section and had soft floor cushions while the others were slightly higher and were choc a block with adult reading material and all around the corners spaces lay a teak wood circular tables around which sat, their heads immersed in thick leather bound tomes, men and women of a certain age, their butts glued to comfy leather arm chairs.

All around muffled stillness and a wizened old silvery haired man, so utterly immobile that one could have been mistaken him for an Egyptian mummy, sat behind a small corner desk marked Librarian, and completed the picture of a place that looked like a much needed oasis of intellectual wealth in a city and world that seemed to have forgotten that there existed a world beyond movies and video games and mindless kitsch.

Here, thought Inspector Sharma, lay all that a person needed for his well being__the best of succour for the mind.

Inadvertently, he let out a sigh. How long had it been since he had stepped into such a library, any library for that matter__one, two, five, ten? Ten long years? As the harsh reality dawned on him, he realised that caught up as he were with chasing criminals and putting to pasture the dregs and deadbeats of the world had left him with no time to

connect with the world of books, with a passion that had consumed his life as a teenager, that had even led to he committing his first ‘crime’.


The thought of crime brought him cruelly back to terra firma. Realising he had a job to do, he looked to his right, found what he was looking for, and walked up the end of the hallway, careful not to make any noise that would disturb the congregation of readers who sat, their heads buried in books, all around him.

“Excuse me, I am looking for Dante’s Inferno”. The man behind the desk looked up at him and nonchalantly replied, ”Ninth column, third row, seventeenth from right”.

Slightly nonplussed but still gladdened by the quick precise response, Inspector Sharma wound his way back.

In no time he had extricated what he was looking for and retreating to a quiet corner, hurriedly opened Page 79. There, lying, as if in wait for him was a half torn white slip of paper with the words, “Tonight, 11: 20; Chattarpur Farm House”.

Inspector Sharma let out a low whistle. Babloo Mental__It was time’s up for Delhi’s most wanted gangster.

#neelanilpanicker #fiction #novella #inspectorsharmacrimeseries  #844words

Time To Write: Set The Scene 9 [Creative Writing Prompt]






By Neel Anil Panicker 

Her’s a quick quiz. Which one month of the year is it when the blood pressure levels of parents with school going kids in India touch the roof?

You guessed that correctly. It’s March but of course. March is that one interminably long month when it is examination time all over India for students, especially for those  who are appearing for their all important 10th and 12 Board papers.

Yes, the Ides of March strikes big time this third calendar month whether one’s kid is appearing, has appeared, or will be appearing for their ‘life making’ examinations.

So, is this period tension time, or fun time? Well, a bit of both, or maybe midway between the two?

It all depends on what demographic category you belong to__ a male parent, a female parent, a male or female parent with one child, a male or female parent with twins, both of whom  appearing for the exams, or a male or female parent with two or three children, at least one of whom has already appeared, one is to appear this year, and the other the next year.

So here’s the drama unfolds on D-day.

DAY ONE, 8 AM:  I and my better half am standing outside the school gates with kiddie dear and all I see around me are hordes of parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and of course school children in their monochromatic uniforms, the ubiquitous bags strapped to their shoulders, albeit relatively less light.

Like mice the children are being herded inside the school compound while outside the parents, in groups of threes and fours huddle around, the women to one corner, the men to  the other___all talking in low voices, a few even gone silent, each one of them taken in by the solemnity of the occasion.

8:30am : The students troop out of the main hall and are led to the school bus that awaits them, ready to transport them to their examination centre, which incidentally is a good seven kilometres away.

“Thank God for this service. Otherwise how would the children have gone everyday to such as far off centre”, says a parent to be immediately retorted by another, “Till last year it was easy as the students had to just to walk across to Bal Bharati, referring to the school that’s a hop, skip, and jump away.

8:45am : Anxious crease lines appear on more than a few mothers’ faces as the bus slowly edges its way out of the school gates. A flurry of quick bye byes are exchanged from half open windows as I hear more than  gasp from the crowd of guardians.

“Where’s Rajat. Is he in the bus. I can’t see him”, half cries out a woman.

“He’s inside. Where else can he be. I saw my son go in. They are best friends, you no. Don’t worry, ” assures another.

We watch as the bus hits the road and takes a bend.

“It’s going from the Ghazipur side. That place stinks worse than a pig. Why can’t the driver take the regular route via Mother Dairy?”, shrieks out another parent even as she grandly declares that she is going to the centre.

That was it; an impromptu decision is made and everyone hops onto to one or the others’ cars, bikes, or whatever means of transportation.

9:15 am: We are standing outside the massive gates of Plato Public School, the CBSE allotted centre for the students of Salwan Public School.  We are al happy again, having united with the children. The kids are now huddled to a corner, exchanging last minute notes, while their parents stand guard, respectfully standing a few feet away, discussing amongst themselves, trying in vain to ease out their worries.

9: 45 am:  The subject teacher elbows her way past the choc-o- bloc crowd and reaches upto to her wards for some last advice.

“Stay calm. Do all the questions in  a sequence. Be mindful of time, too”, she speaks out, her voice an epitome of calmness.

10 am: The gates open and one by one the students troop in but not before they are kissed, hugged and served ample dozes of “best wishes” by the anxious parents.

10:30 am The exams commence while outside the parents await. A few women have retreated to a corner and started chanting, their voices breaking out in silent prayers, their eyes half closed, the fingers of their hands joined together as if reciting indecipherable Sanskrit shlokas.

Others too hang around and having nothing better to do discuss the importance of the Board exams.

“Remember, even today, wherever one goes, they ask you for your School Certificate as proof of  your date of birth.  It is that important. Others nod in acquiescence.

11: 30 am: The throng of parents and kith And kin has thinned. Most of them have gone but promises of coming back in an hour.

“ It’s a three hour exam. It’s better to go now and an hour or so. Now there destiny is on God’s hands,” one parents almost wails out, a tad philosophically.

All of us concur and leave for the time being with promises to meet shortly.

For us, the battle has just begun; the war is not yet over.





Image result for NEWSPAPERS
By Neel Anil Panciker

A recent nationwide survey conducted among 25,000 students between the ages of 12 and 20 threw up certain revelatory statistics.

A staggering 82 percent of them were unable to answer all the 20 questions that were put to them. Only three percent of the interviewed received a centum; answered all the two score questions correctly. Worse, 48 per cent of the children failed to answer even one question correctly.

And pray, what were these questions like? Well, as simple as ‘Who is the President of India? What is our National Anthem? What is the full form of UIDAI?

A pithy aside to all this is that over 77 per cent of the interviewed had at least three social media accounts and logged on to one or the other of them for at least two hours every single day.

One would like to believe that the knowledge level of these tech savvy children, exposed as they were to such a dizzying array of mind boggling media platforms would be very high.

Alas! that is sadly not the case.

Which brings me to my contention, which is that despite living in this fast paced technologically advanced age when every single thing that we want and need is available at the click of a mouse, our children are intellectually stagnating and not growing. Their understanding and knowledge levels are at best rudimentary, superficial. They have become the unwitting victims of a huge business enterprise  that believes in serving low quality, half baked, at times absolutely untrue news and information__all served in the garb of ‘insta’ hot news, breaking news et al.

‘Breaking news’, I fear, is just that__broken.

Instead, what we need is wholesome, holistic, well researched information that is unbiased and doesn’t slip through our doorways as advertorials and self serving

Promotional material.

And who best to fulfill this other than the tried and tested, our centuries old daily intellectually cuppa__ the newspaper. It is the not the paper that is of relevance here but the news that comes embedded in it.

News, in a newspaper, doesn’t just break unlike in Twitter, Facebook and all other ubiquitous newsfeeds platforms that are dime a dozen in the worldwide internet space. The ‘news’ in the paper, is real, actual, and meaningful and is broken down into its identifiable parts, its every single component, analysed threadbare, the ramifications thoroughly researched and made intelligible sense of.

And to top it all, simply have a look at the kaleidoscopic array of options that are available in the hands of a discerning readers.

Open any reputable national newspaper and you will find there is everything of something for every single one of us cutting across age, gender, social, ideological  and intellectual spectrums __all systematically arranged and segregated into neat symmetrical columns that are easy on the eye as well as easily identifiable.

Block headed into standalone pages such as CITY, NATION, INTERNATIONAL, OPEN ED, BUSINESS, LEISURE, SPORTS et al_, none, not even the most hardcore online news junkie can undermine the quintessential supremacy of newspapers over all other Johnny come lately ‘news’ sources that pop out of tablets , mobile phones and laptops__ all high sensationalism but rock bottom when it comes to content doing nothing but merely feeding into our inner depravities and innate voyeurisms rather than satisfying our intellectual curiosities.

On the other hand a good newspaper functions as a mid-path, quite removed from the puerility of ‘insta’ news and a mere arms stretch away from the great books that lie awaiting us in bookshelves to be picked up and read in depth.

To all those naysayers who aver that newspapers are an endangered species soon to be as dead as the dodo, to them I say that’s time they woke up and smelled the coffee__ with the feel of crispy newspaper pages in their hands.

For, such is the paradoxical nature of life that the more the internet grows and serves us ‘breaking news’ the more we will gravitate towards newspapers because unlike the former the latter doesn’t take recourse to short cuts merely to capture more and more eyeballs at the cost of ‘news’ that questions, probes, analyses in complete depth, not just for the moment but for the days and weeks that follow.

©neelanilpanicker2018 #newspapers



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By Neel Anil Panicker

Ali struck out the back of his palm and squatted a mosquito that had settled on his bare legs.

The standard issue prison uniforms were too short for his six foot tall frame. The half length cotton trousers barely reached below his knees. This coupled with a half sleeved collarless shirt made his body a healthy hunting ground for a swarm of blood sucking mosquitoes who lorded over the hapless prison inmates and attacked with a sadistic delight only seen in hardened criminals. It was ironical to see mere flies practicing their deadly skills on hardened prisoners who in the outside world were capable of putting the fear of the devil in the minds of fellow human beings.

Al, the master criminal was slowly getting to learn that the nuts and bolts of prison life were quite different from the world that he came from.

A slight vibration tingled his bones under the trouser pockets.

Ali looked around at his prison mate. He was lost to sleep.

He looked past his cell gate into the long corridor that loomed ahead. It was pitch dark. Not a soul in sight. He strained his ears against the iron bars. Not a single sound either.

It was two hours past midnight. Still a few hours before the change of shift.

The inmates, the guards…everyone was in sleep mode.

Stealthily, he retreated to his corner space and crouching against the wall, retrieved the phone from his inner pocket and then pressed the green button.

The phone came alive in an instant.

“How are you, Ali Bhai?” It was Moosa’s, the man with the whisky scarred voice.

Only Moosa addressed him as Ali Bhai. For all others he was simply Al.

Moosa’s was the first and only voice he had heard from among the gang members ever since his incarceration.

‘You know me, Moosa Bhai. I am an action guy. Can’t sit alone for long.

This jail thing is so boring.’

“Have patience, bhai. It’s just a matter of time.”

A matter of time, bullshit. Today is my  fifteenth night in this God forsaken place. The maximum I have ever been in prison.

As if reading his thoughts Moosa answered, “I know, dear. Usually we are out by a week.”

‘Moosa, I’m losing it. I feel trapped here.’

“Ali Bhai, I feel for you. I wish you were outside; that we were together, zipping off to the countryside__chatting, binging on movies, gorging on aloo paranthas, gulping whisky…VAT 69, you know …

The thought of what he was missing made downed Al’s moods further.

‘I wish the same, Moosa Bhai. I wish I were outside. I wish I were with Liza.’

The phone went silent for a second.

All Al could hear was the uneven, slow snoring sound of his fellow inmate.

“Are you alone there, Ali? Is there anyone around?”

‘I am alone. You can speak. What’s the matter, bhai?’

“I’m hearing something. There are rumours…whispers actually.”

Al pressed his ears to the phone.

‘About what? About who?’

“About You. About you  and Liza.”

‘What exactly did you hear?’

“Can’t really say. Just a hunch.”

‘Just what’s it, Moosa? Spit it out.’

“Just a conversation. Over the phone. Yesterday…while entering the den…”

The den? Ali knew he was referring to Afzal Bhai, their boss’ private room, the one inside which his boss confabulated with only his very trusted men.

‘The den? What did you hear, bhai?’

“Boss had called me about the Dwarka case. He was just ending a phone call. I just heard a few bits…just snatches of it…his last words caught my ear…They were “you don’t spite the hand that serves you” and then… “ I will teach the bastard a lesson he will never forget”.

Sheer cold wave ran through Ali’s spine. He felt a stab of pain in his chest as slow beads of perspiration began to form on his temples.

‘Did he mention a name? Was he referring to anyone?’

“No. He just slammed the phone down when he heard my footsteps.”

‘What do you think? Is it about Liza and me? Does he know about us? Is that what he was referring to?’

“I don’t know. I can find out if you want. But in the meantime, Ali, my bro, be careful. Be very careful.

Al wiped his sweaty hands across his face and said,

‘I will. I will for sure. Thanks, Moosa bhai.’

“Got to go now. Shall call you after I dig some more info, bye.”

As Al slid the phone back into his trousers, he looked upto to see his prison mate

smiling down at him.

It was a slow, hesitant curve of the lips, and in the dead of the night,

it was enough to spur Al’s already racing heartbeats.

#neelanilpanicker2017 #parteightofdangerouslove #dangerouslove#fiction#cat’soutofthebag#795












Sunday Scrawl #1




By Neel Anil Panicker

As a child I loved walking the paths untrodden.

I remember the big, rectangular park adjacent to where we lived. It was grasssy, had more than a couple of swings, a long disused see saw and a big, spherical sand pit that was variously used__for long jumps and high jumps, free style wrestling, to build sand castles, and even as a place to pee come an exigency.

Well, this was the park that was peopled by all the children of our locality.

It was the place where all the children congregated after school hours; headed went to after their mothers, elder siblings, or maids, as may be the case, had stuffed their mouths with enough proteins and carbohydrates to help them last through the day, which as was more often the case, extended itself to long, langurous evenings, especially so during summer solstice.

Did I say all the children? Well almost all, but dfinitely not me.

I may have been barely ten or so but had known even back then the pleasures of exlporing unknown frontiers.

Off I would go ambling around and shuffling feet past the ever bustling bylanes of Patel Chowk, lazing around its myriad shops, gaping wide eyes at big monster petrol guzzling vehicles and at the even bigger billboards that advertised their worthiness, their oomphness, their desirability quotients.

My feet would drag around at narrow gulleys, around hole in the wall shops, my nostrils flaring up and my mouth salivating as I peeped into large steel tumblers in which swam like small baby elephants huge palm sized balls of sweet meat.

Gulab jamuns they were called, those spherical gastroniomic delights; their heavenly taste lasting for long; well after dusk had fallen and I was safely tucked in bed, the lights all out in our two roomed house where I lived with my parents.

It was during one such off beat trip around that I stumbled I bit too far from civilian surroundings and entered the forest and discovered the secret pathway.

I remember the day very well. It was a Saturday evening and my parents were at work. Left to myself and having got a bit bored of circumambulating the regular haunts, I had walked a little beyond, a a few fifty meters or so away from where I lived.

It was a slightly deserted place in that it led to a wooded area, one that was secluded by iron wires. A sign affixed to one of the poles that held them read, ”Forest area, entry restricted”.

The words caught my fancy. I had never seen a forest earlier and hence my curiosity upped.

What what really pushed me to action were the words “entry restricted”.

I read that as an inviolate order, a strict rule of law, a non negotiable command that brooked no

interference and therefore I decided to interfere.

Without thinking I slipped my four foot slender self through a gap between the wires and the ground.

At first looked it looked like no different from the small bush that stood adjacent to where our school was. I could see small light green shrubs protruding out from wet earth.

I looked ahead and saw some rocky outcrops.

I decided to explore further.  I stepped forward gingerly, careful not to fall and mindful of the uneven pebbles all around the grassy landscape.

By now I was past the rocks and the trees around me gradually thinned to reveal something that looked to me, far that I was, as some sort of a giant black pit.

Hacking my way through the overgrowth, I narrowed my eyes to get a better view.

Was it a black boulder or something else?

I turned around and near emptiness stared back at me.

All of a sudden a shard of light escaped through the branches and lit the area.

I looked once more at the spot and saw what it was: two small railway tracks that disappeared into a dark as hell tunnel above which stood a moss covered bridge.

A tunnel in the middle of a forest area? A fusillade of whos and whats and whys assailed my inquisite young mind as I stood there, transfixed, rooted to the ground, as if immobilised by an unknown enemy.

God knows for long I stood there but soon after, fully intrigued that I was,

I tiptoed towards it.

It was then that I heard them; the voices__they were human and, not very pleasant.

©neelanilpanicker #fiction #sundayscrawl#1  #episode#01

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