“In any art you’re allowed to steal anything if you can make it better.”

“How do you conceive your stories?”

That’s the question every writer faces at every juncture. The only answer I can think of is, a writer not only sees, but also feels, and his mind keeps toying with incidents, people, places and emotions. It is difficult to pinpoint how exactly a particular story crept into a writer’s mind.

I distinctly remember how ‘Music of Death’ came about, though. As a member of the WRIMO India group, I participated in an year-long prompt-based story writing exercise in the Wrimo group.

One of the prompts (it was given by Wrimo Sheetal Surve) was a photograph of a girl lying on the floor of a room. A gramophone lay in one corner and she held a cigarette in her hand. The ambience was definitely American but, being a desi at heart, I wanted to write something that belonged to the Indian milieu.

Just a couple of weeks before this prompt, I had seen an old classic, Pakeezah on the net. I was born in the late 60s and my childhood was a series of gully cricket, Bachchan movies, radio music and Doordarshan. Hindi movies ruled the masses and films ran for months and years, unlike the weekend-long innings of today’s movies.

The music of Pakeezah was mesmerizing and I was immediately drawn into the world of tawaifs, mujras, nawabs. Pakeezah was a tragedy and I suddenly began to see a tawaif (dancing-girl) who fell in love with a young nawab (an Indian prince). It was during the writing of this story that I realised I was a complete pantser. I didn’t plan a thing. I just created a world, let my characters step in, and let them be led by their hearts. A large part of the inspiration was the music of the film. I know this story has a niche audience because not many of the young generation have seen Pakeezah and I doubt how many will appreciate the events of that era. But if you’ve seen the movie, then I’m sure it’ll strike a chord somewhere deep inside.

Believe me, I didn’t preconceive the climax at all. It just struck me at the last moment that this is what Rukhsar apa will do to keep her tawaifs in tow.

The story exceeded the word limit and ultimately I didn’t submit it in the group. It stayed under wraps for around 6 months. I even sent it to fellow- Wrimos for their comments and they were gracious enough to give me some tips for improvement.

When ‘Vengeance’ was voted as the theme of the the WRIMO anthology, it suddenly occurred to me that my love story had an element of revenge. Luckily the selection committee liked the story and here it is now, part of the anthology.

Is it an original story? No. I took the ambience of the kothas of Lucknow, used the lyrical magic of the Pakeezah songs and the one thing that binds two souls together – love, and created this story. Some may accuse me of lifting the characters, but in any art, you are allowed to steal anything if you can make it better, so said my writing guru Ernest Hemingway.

PS – if you really want to enjoy the story, you would do well to at least listen to the songs of the movie.


Designed by Neil D’Silva

Vengeance –

A Sting in Every Tale 

A WRIMO INDIA anthology
Edited by
Sonia Rao 
Disclaimer : Every cent from this novel goes to Wrimo India to encourage all future aspiring writers. 
Designed by Sujata Patnaik
A reply to a perceived injustice can take many forms, one of which is vengeance. ‘An eye for an eye can only end up making the whole world blind,’ is what Mahatma Gandhi once said. And it seems to be coming quite true, if latest events world-wide are an indication.
Is there any hope or are we hurtling towards extinction?
The stories in this anthology explore some of these questions. But that is on the macro level. It might be easy to look at things objectively, in black and white, when it is other nations involved. Or even other people. We are able to be more forgiving of transgressions when they don’t involve us personally.
But how would one react if they found themselves in the maelstrom of situations that do fall somewhere in the grey area of life? With no definite black and white answers?
How would a jilted lover react in face of infidelity? Or how would a friend avenge the murder of her best friend? Or, is it fair to be punished for a crime that you were not brave enough to prevent?
These and many more questions connected to vengeance have been grappled with in this anthology.

Excerpt from ‘The Music of Death’
Shehnaz was brought to Rukhsar Apa‘s chamber. She stood with her eyes lowered as
Rukhsar Apa prepared a betel leaf in her own inimitable style.
“Shehnaz, you are enamoured of Aftab.”
There was a long pause.
“I don‘t blame you. He is young and handsome. If I were you I too would love him.”
Shehnaz‘s lips quivered. She hadn‘t dared to meet Rukhsar Apa‘s eyes.
“‘Love is ephemeral’, our religion says. Only love with Allah (Peace Be Upon Him) is real.
We are tawaifs, and are born to serve, not love. Your love for Aftab commands a price.”
Shehnaz listened, not knowing what exactly Rukhsar Apa was hinting at.
“Aftab may love you till he can compensate for your services. If he fails to do that, you
must let him go. Teach your heart to be heartless. In our profession, it serves no other purpose.”
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The editor of the Anthology, Sonia Rao (writer-editor-awardwinningblogger) is the NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison for All-India region. The stories which are part of the anthology are written by Wrimos homed in to Asia::India region. Most of them are also published writers of short fiction and novels.She blogs @ https://soniaraowrites.wordpress.com/ 
Find out more about Wrimo India @
Wrimo India on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/wrimosindia 

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