New novel (First draft completed) 8.29.2016

As mentioned, I am working on a new novel, titled “Unravel.”

A synopsis: 

 

Subhash and Naima are middle-class, suburban, white-collar professionals living in central New Jersey, who will do anything to maintain the life they’ve built. They are also young parents to their 6 year old daughter, Tulsi. Both want the best for her, but as they face off against obstacles, they begin to realize that choices must be made and consequences accepted.

 

The final chapters are the following:

Chapter 13 Click here to read.

Chapter 14 Click here to read.

Chapter 15 Click here to read.

Chapter 16 Click here to read.

Chapter 17 Click here to read.

I didn’t include excerpts this time because I think you as the reader will gain more by not knowing what’s to be expected.

Also, as I make clear in each chapter, these are very rough drafts. Unlike other chapters, Chapter 13-17 were left unedited due to life getting in the way and not finding the time or energy just yet.

Either way, the first draft of my novel is completed and I thank everyone for the encouragement and support!

PREVIOUS CHAPTERS

CHAPTER 1

Excerpt:

Naima held on. But once they stepped through, Tulsi squirmed free and ran.

Naima chased, as Subhash followed.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 2

Excerpt:

As the only black reporter, Naima usually relied on what she described to Subhash when they started dating, as her “Spidey sense.” Back then, it was cute, and even something to be proud of, an ability to be conscious of what was around her at almost all times, a skill perfect for her job. But after spending nearly seven years in the same newsroom, and trying her best to get to know everyone who’d come through, even the interns, she realized that her valued “Spidey sense” was tingling more and more often. Everyone was a possible enemy she concluded after a co-worker (who left to be an editor for The New York Times after only a year at the Tribune) complained about Naima’s “demeanor” to the others last summer, claiming that Naima was too “abrasive.” Naima learned her lesson to not let her guard down just yet. It was tiring of course. And on some mornings, she felt like staying in bed and closing her eyes, imagining she was someplace else, somewhere she could laugh as loud as she wanted, or even cry in public. At times like that, she’d tell herself that one day, it would all be worth it. One day, all this would be returned in full.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 3

Excerpt:

“I don’t know what to do,” Rhona said, gasping for breath. “They just came saying they needed to talk to me, and I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know who they were. I told you I wanted to be anonymous. I don’t want to be a part of this anymore.”

“Just stay calm, I’m on my way,” Naima said.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 4

Excerpt:

People fled, tripping and falling across the lawn.

For a moment, Subhash had the urge to jump into the crowd. He took a step forward. Tulsi wrapped her arms around his leg like it was a tree.

Subhash scooped her up into his arms and hustled to the opposite end, disappearing behind the art museum. He moved as fast as he could without losing his grip on Tulsi, as her arms were around his neck.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 5

Excerpt:

Blood trickled over his eyes.

He let the drops land on his shoes and carpet.

“Daddy, are you sick? Did you fall down?”

Soon, Naima arrived and dabbed the wounds, and they went upstairs. He laid in bed as she took off his shirt and wrapped his hands and feet with bandages.

Tulsi crept up the steps as well.

“What’s wrong with Daddy?”

“Nothing, honey. Daddy is just tired.”

“He looks hurt.”

“Just go back and watch your show.”

Naima applied pressure to Subhash’s side and Subhash grimaced.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 6

Excerpt:

 

After an assignment interviewing owners of a Italian/Thai fusion restaurant, which was opened in the neighborhood closest to the Holland Tunnel where most of the newer residents lived, the ones who wore sunglasses on cloudy days as well as khakis and sandals, Naima stopped at a C-Town in Journal Square. She was on her way to the office, but feeling thirsty, hungry and her contacts were irritating her eyes. The C-Town was next to a row of apartment buildings and convenience stores, and the aisles were filled with Caribbean and Indian spices. Naima grabbed a Snapple from the freezer and was ready to pop it open on the spot. However, she stepped aside, allowing a family and their shopping cart to get through, and caught a glimpse of a face in the corner of her eye. She quickly hid behind a column of Reese’s Puffs cereal and Ramen noodles.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 7

Excerpt:

Naima rushed down the stairs, her coat flying like a cape. She jumped off the last steps and grabbed the door knob.

“What are you doing?” Subhash said.

“I’m late,” she replied, gasping for breath.

Subhash was at the top landing.

“It’s still out there,” he said.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 8

Excerpt:

 

Suddenly, thunder rumbled, and a bright flash blinded. He collapsed. Struggling to breathe, he dug his nails into the asphalt, unable to break through. The sky was gray, clouds gliding like fumes.

Soon, the sound of tires screaming echoed. And the smell of freshly cut grass disappeared.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 9

Excerpt:

Naima snapped pictures and turned on the car. Suddenly, there was screaming and Tulsi bolted awake.

“What’s going on? Where’s Rhona?”

“Keep your head down.”

Naima picked up speed, finding the nearest entrance to the turnpike. Tulsi turned around, and Naima boomed, “Keep your head down!”

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 10

Excerpt:

“He smelled like garlic,” Grace said as she grabbed a bag of weed from a drawer and stuffed it into her bra.

After she left, Subhash tickled Naima, until they both were under the sheets, while music and voices from the other rooms reverberated.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 11

Excerpt:

Subhash rushed into the hallway, and Naima found him splashing water on his face in the kitchen sink.

“I can’t believe that fucker!”

“Lower your voice…”

“You all remember what that monster did to us right? How he made high-school a living hell!”

Naima took a step forward and Subhash’s breathing slowly returned to normal.

“Let’s finish the meeting.”

“I can’t.”

“Please. This is not helping.”

Subhash turned around and opened the back door that led into the parking lot. Naima paused before returning to the conference room to write notes.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 12

Excerpt:

Subhash glowered as he went to the wall. Naima was a few feet away and wasn’t allowed any closer.

“Show me I.D.” the officer said and Subhash handed it to him.

Subhash waited.

The officer asked where Subhash was going.

Click here to read more.

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New novel (updated) 7.30.2016

As mentioned, I am working on a new novel, titled “Unravel.”

A synopsis: 

 

Subhash and Naima are middle-class, suburban, white-collar professionals living in central New Jersey, who will do anything to maintain the life they’ve built. They are also young parents to their 6 year old daughter, Tulsi. Both want the best for her, but as they face off against obstacles, they begin to realize that choices must be made and consequences accepted.

 

Chapters 10, 11, and 12 are the latest that I’ve added and are all from Section II. The first nine chapters are Section I. Section III, which I’ll be working on soon, is the final part.

CHAPTER 10

Excerpt:

“He smelled like garlic,” Grace said as she grabbed a bag of weed from a drawer and stuffed it into her bra.

After she left, Subhash tickled Naima, until they both were under the sheets, while music and voices from the other rooms reverberated.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 11

Excerpt:

Subhash rushed into the hallway, and Naima found him splashing water on his face in the kitchen sink.

“I can’t believe that fucker!”

“Lower your voice…”

“You all remember what that monster did to us right? How he made high-school a living hell!”

Naima took a step forward and Subhash’s breathing slowly returned to normal.

“Let’s finish the meeting.”

“I can’t.”

“Please. This is not helping.”

Subhash turned around and opened the back door that led into the parking lot. Naima paused before returning to the conference room to write notes.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 12

Excerpt:

Subhash glowered as he went to the wall. Naima was a few feet away and wasn’t allowed any closer.

“Show me I.D.” the officer said and Subhash handed it to him.

Subhash waited.

The officer asked where Subhash was going.

Click here to read more.

 

PREVIOUS CHAPTERS

 

CHAPTER 1

Excerpt:

Naima held on. But once they stepped through, Tulsi squirmed free and ran.

Naima chased, as Subhash followed.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 2

Excerpt:

As the only black reporter, Naima usually relied on what she described to Subhash when they started dating, as her “Spidey sense.” Back then, it was cute, and even something to be proud of, an ability to be conscious of what was around her at almost all times, a skill perfect for her job. But after spending nearly seven years in the same newsroom, and trying her best to get to know everyone who’d come through, even the interns, she realized that her valued “Spidey sense” was tingling more and more often. Everyone was a possible enemy she concluded after a co-worker (who left to be an editor for The New York Times after only a year at the Tribune) complained about Naima’s “demeanor” to the others last summer, claiming that Naima was too “abrasive.” Naima learned her lesson to not let her guard down just yet. It was tiring of course. And on some mornings, she felt like staying in bed and closing her eyes, imagining she was someplace else, somewhere she could laugh as loud as she wanted, or even cry in public. At times like that, she’d tell herself that one day, it would all be worth it. One day, all this would be returned in full.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 3

Excerpt:

“I don’t know what to do,” Rhona said, gasping for breath. “They just came saying they needed to talk to me, and I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know who they were. I told you I wanted to be anonymous. I don’t want to be a part of this anymore.”

“Just stay calm, I’m on my way,” Naima said.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 4

Excerpt:

People fled, tripping and falling across the lawn.

For a moment, Subhash had the urge to jump into the crowd. He took a step forward. Tulsi wrapped her arms around his leg like it was a tree.

Subhash scooped her up into his arms and hustled to the opposite end, disappearing behind the art museum. He moved as fast as he could without losing his grip on Tulsi, as her arms were around his neck.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 5

Excerpt:

Blood trickled over his eyes.

He let the drops land on his shoes and carpet.

“Daddy, are you sick? Did you fall down?”

Soon, Naima arrived and dabbed the wounds, and they went upstairs. He laid in bed as she took off his shirt and wrapped his hands and feet with bandages.

Tulsi crept up the steps as well.

“What’s wrong with Daddy?”

“Nothing, honey. Daddy is just tired.”

“He looks hurt.”

“Just go back and watch your show.”

Naima applied pressure to Subhash’s side and Subhash grimaced.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 6

Excerpt:

 

After an assignment interviewing owners of a Italian/Thai fusion restaurant, which was opened in the neighborhood closest to the Holland Tunnel where most of the newer residents lived, the ones who wore sunglasses on cloudy days as well as khakis and sandals, Naima stopped at a C-Town in Journal Square. She was on her way to the office, but feeling thirsty, hungry and her contacts were irritating her eyes. The C-Town was next to a row of apartment buildings and convenience stores, and the aisles were filled with Caribbean and Indian spices. Naima grabbed a Snapple from the freezer and was ready to pop it open on the spot. However, she stepped aside, allowing a family and their shopping cart to get through, and caught a glimpse of a face in the corner of her eye. She quickly hid behind a column of Reese’s Puffs cereal and Ramen noodles.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 7

Excerpt:

Naima rushed down the stairs, her coat flying like a cape. She jumped off the last steps and grabbed the door knob.

“What are you doing?” Subhash said.

“I’m late,” she replied, gasping for breath.

Subhash was at the top landing.

“It’s still out there,” he said.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 8

Excerpt:

 

Suddenly, thunder rumbled, and a bright flash blinded. He collapsed. Struggling to breathe, he dug his nails into the asphalt, unable to break through. The sky was gray, clouds gliding like fumes.

Soon, the sound of tires screaming echoed. And the smell of freshly cut grass disappeared.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 9

Excerpt:

Naima snapped pictures and turned on the car. Suddenly, there was screaming and Tulsi bolted awake.

“What’s going on? Where’s Rhona?”

“Keep your head down.”

Naima picked up speed, finding the nearest entrance to the turnpike. Tulsi turned around, and Naima boomed, “Keep your head down!”

Click here to read more.

“Respiration”

A favorite song has the power to make you whole

For years, I would listen to “Respiration” by Mos Def, Talib, and Common,

allowing their voices to be mine for the moment,

to fill up my room and heart with god’s perspective,

swagger and deep comprehension of the elements surrounding,

So when I played it for a girl I felt emotions I hadn’t felt for before,

as we sat in my car at the top of the parking deck, overlooking the city of New Brunswick,

lights glowing like ember and gold,

I was accepting a new reality

I was learning to believe in meanings other than my own.

. . .

We stopped seeing each other by the end of summer

We tried to be friends, but it didn’t work, cause A) of our shared experiences and what they signified and B) we were selfish.

I coped by writing more, running more, and focusing on me again.

I’d also relax by listening to songs that connected to me in a particular way, even dopey songs by bands like The Cure.

But, when I was rolling through the neighborhood, past those who appeared distant, I would play “Respiration” and immediately have to pull over, and park.

Vulnerability overwhelmed me

Me picturing her still beside me

Me thinking back to those times we shared

. . .

I did try doing what I could to return my song to what it was

I listened to it non-stop one afternoon, but I ended up feeling like in a deep hole looking up into a black sky

I even searched online about how music affects the mind

and kept showing it to others I’d soon meet and try to replace her with

Again and again, the results were the same

Like I was losing

Like I was feeling sick, and begging for a cure

. . .

I decided to stop listening entirely, and find another song instead

And for a few weeks, I was able to occupy the space with some things else

As you can probably guess, that period didn’t last too long,

as I missed my friends,

as I missed her.

Knowledge is Power series: The Ecstatic by Mos Def

Mos Def the ecstatic image
(Image from Google)

In light of recent events concerning Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) being arrested and then calling it quits, I decided to focus for this week on what I consider his best work yet: The Ecstatic.

I’ve been a hippity-hop (as the kids would call it) fan since leaving Queens, ironically. To be honest, I was surrounded by the music when living in the borough but never paid much attention to it since at home, my parents usually played classical Bengali songs or Whitney Houston (The Bodyguard soundtrack was on repeat until it just sounded like background noise to me). Regardless, hip-hop was a part of my world and at the same time, it wasn’t. When I moved to New Jersey, I began to associated the genre with whiteness since all around me I literally saw white kids using the N-word when repeating the lyrics and Asian-Americans wearing band-aids under their eyes to be like Nelly. It was a sad time to say the least.

Fortunately, I got into what was good music by Nas and others. That will be for another blog post though. Fast-forward to 2009 when The Ecstatic dropped. I was about done with college, just one more semester to go. I was spending my time off riding around with friends, making fun of people we saw on the sidewalk cause we’re classy, and pretending we had interesting lives. Finally, I remembered to grab Mos Def’s latest work. I was still buying CDs back then, but I hadn’t kept attention on any artists for sometime since I was so consumed by classes and being a dick. But when I did get The Ecstatic and popped it in the CD player in my car, I was still. Frozen.

From the beginning track “Supermagic” which starts off with a speech by Malcolm X on the potential for revolution, to the end “Casa Bey” in which Mos Def is just spitting to show you why he’s one of the best, I. Wouldn’t. Move.

The Ecstatic stayed in my CD player for the rest of the year. And whenever a friend would hop in, I’d definitely play it for them, and every time, they’d fall silent too, just trying to keep up with the brilliance.

The reason why I love this album is because unlike Mos Def’s previous solo albums, the production was layered and able to enjoy on its own even. Honestly, a major issue I find with “socially-conscious” rap is that while the lyrics are usually, in-depth and important to hear, the music behind it is typically boring and sounds like what your Dad would listen to, a.k.a. jazzy beats that repeat, or just a simple boom-bap that sounds like it was culled from the 80s. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy that type of music as opposed to Wacka Flocka and others, but sometimes, I’ll be listening to something by Talib Kweli and think, “Wow…this sounds so boring…” and try not to fall asleep.

Actually, I want to add here: I am a fan of Black Star, the group formed by Talbi Kweli and Mos Def. Their one album that they did together is a classic, no doubt. But, the reason why I think Mos Def is way better than Talib even though Talib might be a better lyricist, is because Mos Def understands good song-writing too. And it was evident in The Ecstatic.

Mos Def combined his skills with great production, AND an appreciation for the listener. SO while someone else like Talb might go crazy and start lecturing you on the Nigerian oil crisis in one song, stuffing the bars with references you will never understand unless you literally was in Lagos, Mos Def does his best to paint a picture and provide you an accessible way to like the material.

Mos Def, on The Ecstatic, basically taught me how to be a better writer.

I understood the balancing act one must always be aware of, between description and flow.

A perfect example of this would be the following lines from the song on the album, “Life in Marvelous Times”:

“Bright moments, bright moments always come back vivid
The fifth grade was epic city-wide test pressure
The pre-crack era
Mr. Schumer, what a prick
Attitude match his wardrobe, uglier than sin
This is Bed-Stuy eighty-two
Ninth floor, three tiny rooms, one view
Bucktown, Roosevelt House
Their green grass is green; our green grass is brown
Shots rang, my phone wasn’t touch tone
Were heavy beef in the street, E.T. had to flee
Great heavens, good grief
Hungry bellies, bright gold on their teeth”

Do you see how Mos Def manages to show you an entire neighborhood as if opening the palm of his hand, and you’re peering down at this orb of light? Do you see how he gives you a taste of what it was like living in that specific area in Brooklyn at that specific time, without going overboard with it? Again, it’s usually very little he offers up in terms of verbosity. The line “their green grass is green; our green grass is brown” is enough for someone to get an idea of the area that Mos Def is trying to convey and the themes of disparity and still surviving.

Of course, a lot of the material is political and socially aware. Yet, Mos Def’s genius lies in his ability to also touch on love, romance, heartbreak, while discussing big-world issues. Usually, songs that stay political are simple that. And songs about love are just songs about love, as if the two worlds are separate. What Mos Def does is include both in a song, which is how people live their lives anyway. Heck, even when I’m being “political” I’m still motivated by love. There is no political moment versus moment of friendship. Our lives are interwoven, as he describes in “Roses”:

“Power and grace
Yellow for friendship, red for love
Black for the universal stars above
Pink buds that I bought her on Valentine
She said it was forever then she changed her mind
I said a little prayer then I cleared my eyes
Cause I feel the draw on my heartstrings, drawing the line…”

There’s a lot more I can say about this, but I’ll just tell you that this album changed my life. Truly. And if you give it a chance, it might do the same for you.

I’m leaving a link here so you can order it for yourself, although I’d encourage you to find a local record store instead. I’m guessing that’s what Yasiin Bey (a.k.a. Mos Def) and his major influence would want you to do:

“You’re living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution
A time where there’s got to be a change. People in power have misused it
And now there has to be a change and a better world has to be built
And the only way is going to be built is with extreme methods
And I for one will join with anyone, don’t care what color you are
As long as you want change this miserable condition that exists on this earth
Thank you.”