Red Christmas 🎄

I’m enthralled to announce that my work of fiction Somewhere Near Bethlehem is about to be published in a Christmas anthology. The book is titled Red Christmas, and is slated to be released on 15th December.

It’s an anthology of 10 stories and a poem. All centred around Christmas. Each story is dark, disturbing and challenges conventions. Besides me, eight other writers from four continents have contributed to Red Christmas.

The stories:

Our Second Christmas by Rob Cooke 🇺🇸: a fifty something divorced American writer met a younger South African woman writer online. They began an online relationship, became best friends. Feelings blossomed. Until a Thanksgiving gift changed his life forever.

Dashing Through the Snow by Gloria Ogo 🇳🇬: A kidnap. A suicide. Unending guilt as Meg is forced to take responsibility for the disappearance of her sister. A burden carried for over 20 years. When Meg returns to the very spot where Anne had disappeared, her search takes a deadly turn. Will she survive long enough to find the sister she seek?

Two Turtle Doves by Richard Wall 🇬🇧: my first guitar saved my life. And I wish now that I’d never set eyes on it. A tale of a demonic guitar.

Somewhere Near Bethlehem by Yours Truely 🇮🇳: Melchior, Balthasar and Gaspar, three wise scholars, travel from Persia towards Bethlehem – to meet a holy child. A mysterious woman joins the travelers along the way. Gaspar dreams. An impending tragedy. He is convinced one of them will perish. Will the group succeed in meeting the holy child?

Horror on the Housetops by D A Schneider 🇺🇸: A fierce blizzard rages to the south,
a storm to end all storms. Yet, Kris Kringle presses on. Nothing will impede the delivery of gifts to all the good little boys and girls around the world. Not even the horde of possessed clowns stowed away in his sack. Will Kris get away from the homicidal dolls? Or could this be the end of Christmas as we know it?

Santa’s Gift by Allegra Khan 🇺🇸: A dark basement. A disgruntled child. A familiar man in red, tied to a chair. Can Santa reason with the child before the boy’s rage consumes them both? A Christmas tale both dark and light. About anger, sorrow and forgiveness.

Naughty Children List by Esosa Kolawole 🇳🇬: When the magic of Christmas passes on to a powerful sorceress, she must save all the naughty kids from Maseri, an evil sorcerer. But first, she must keep her son away from him.

Every Christmas by Aaron Campbell 🇺🇸: Every Christmas, I hold your memory close, refusing to let go. You keep me at peace as I fight self doubt and apologize every Christmas. I dance to the sound of your humming. I think of it often. I miss you dearly. And that may be my problem.

Roof Top by Susan Opata 🇳🇬: Christmas was never the same for Sarah since the day they wheeled him away. A new neighbour moves in, and soon Sarah finds out what they both have in common. Including a message from her father.

Red River Christmas – a poem by Rob Cooke 🇺🇸


Here are the links:

US kindle edition: Red Christmas

US paperback edition: Red Christmas

UK kindle edition: Red Christmas

UK paperback edition: Red Christmas

India paperback edition: Red Christmas

India kindle edition: Red Christmas

Our Facebook page: Red Christmas


The First Bald Step and How it Fizzled Out

On 30th June 2016, Gurpreet Sandhu became the first Indian to play at the UEFA Europa League qualifying round when he started for Stabæk F.C. against Connah’s Quay. This article, however, is not about him. This is rather about the first Indian to have played abroad.
Yes, an Indian had played for Celtic. The same club where legends like Paul Elliott, Henrik Larsson, Paul Lambert and the current Liverpool and Holland centre back Virgil Van Dijk played. I am talking about Mohammed Salim. He was the only footballer ever to have played barefooted for the Scotland club.
Born in 1904, Salim started his career at the Bowbazar club in 1926. He joined the Mohamedan Sporting B team by the end of that year, and moved to Sporting Union next year. He spent 4 years at Sporting Union. It was ages before football became a profession, and Salim worked as a chemist for a living. He joined the East Bengal club in 1932, and spent a year there before joining the Aryans next year. After 2 seasons at Aryans, Mohamedan Sporting picked him up in 1934. That kicked off an explosive stint that saw Mohamedan Sporting pick up their first Calcutta League.
In 1936, a hastily prepared Indian XI played against the Chinese Olympic team in Calcutta. The Chinese coach and officials were so impressed by Salim, Rahim and Abbas from the Indian side that they proposed a second such match next year. Before this match was organised, however, Salim seemingly vanished from the face of the earth. It later emerged that one of his relatives, who was settled in Glasgow, urged him to accompany them to Scotland and try at Celtic.
At Celtic Park, Salim went barefeet for trial. The officials were so impressed that they let him start the next match against Hamilton Accies. He was the first Indian not only to play at Europe, but also to score at that match which Celtic won 5–1. He even scored at the next match that Celtic won 7–1. These two games were enough for the Celtic people to anoint him “Twinkle Toes”.
Following this, however, he became homesick and, despite what was arguably the most generous offer in British professional football those days (an 1800 pounds contract) and another offer at Bundesliga, he came back to India and joined Mohamedan Sporting in 1936.
Celtic F.C., however, never forgot him. When he fell sick in 1980, his helpless son wrote a letter to the club seeking help. They obliged by sending him a 100 pounds bank draft. However heartwarming that gesture might have been, it was fruitless, as Salim died in 1980.



A Brief History of my Disintegrated Childhood

Ronaldo comes with a “Christiano” tag these days.


Paolo Maldini runs a fashion brand now. Romario and Bebeto score goals in history books. Lance Armstrong is screwed, so are Michael Schumacher and Tiger Woods – by different means and magnitudes.

This was my idea of James Bond:


They say he’ll look like this in the near future:


Heath Ledger is dead, and so is the red colour from this picture:


Kevin from Home Alone seems to be hellbent on resembling Stephen Hawking sans motor neuron disease:


Talking of Stephen Hawking, he left the world today without so much of a noise.

Silent Night: Santa’s Peril

Rudolph had to be lifted to the hospital’s emergency on Saturday. The other reindeer played truant. A helpless Santa Claus had to arrange for a bike to Delhi this year.

Not that he’s in his best health right now. He had severe bouts of cough, indigestion and mild nausea in the last couple of days, and has been mostly grounded for no fault of his.

Here’s the reason:


PM10 (particulate matter between 2.5 and 10 microns in diameter) are accumulated from crop burning (I mentioned it first as it’s the major reason here), vehicles and building construction. Some recent studies have related this silent killer to the deaths of some elderly people with existing lung diseases. What’s most baffling is the fact that the authority seems to be on vacation right now.

Something Other Than Books

It was the late nineties. My teenage sister, a magnificient dancer, had been picked up to train students at a reputed dance school in south Calcutta. She used to train them thrice a week. So, once in three weeks, she would be back at our home at the extreme end of north Calcutta well after eleven at night.

Hopping to present day. My sister-in-law (wife’s best friend, to be more precise) teaches an evening school after work. Every weeknight, the last metro drops her at around a quarter to eleven and she walks another half an hour to finally reach home.

What happened in between? On 5th February 2011, a lady, while riding in car with four men she had met a few hours earlier, was brutally raped by one of them. Her attempt to lodge a complaint was initially laughed at by some policemen, and her cause was seriously looked at only when the media took it up. Later, the chief minister of West Bengal slandered the victim in public, tagging it a “sajano ghotona” –  a staged incident. The state was jolted. Whether its two pm in the afternoon or two hours past midnight, a woman has the right to say no, to be not threatened and to be not treated like trash. This and a few other related incidents planted a question in the people’s heart. Was the government deliberately making it a hoodlums’ heaven? Were women not safe anymore? As my wife (whom I had met in 2014) says, they would go about their usual life and change practically nothing. However, they walked with a fear instilled by the media reports. The truth is that all but one involved in the Park Street gang-rape case were nabbed within a week of the complaint being lodged. The main accused, who managed to shun the police’s eyes for close to six years, was arrested in September 2016.

Here are a few obvious questions (and answers) about the incident:

Was it really a “sajano ghotona”? …no

Was the CM’s statement in bad taste? …yes

Did her statement demoralise an entire state? …yes

Were the criminals caught? …yes

And now a not so obvious question:

Would a police complaint have seen the light of day had it been any of the BIMARU states ruled by Rupa Ganguly’s party? …a firm no.

Now coming to another perverse statement made yesterday, by the fabulous actress:

Was her statement in bad taste? …yes

Was she under influence while making the statement? …can’t tell

In what planet is the statement justified? …certainly not in this one.