Zoe M lives and works in Mumbai. She fell in love with the written word at the age of sixteen. Her affair has only matured over the years as she read stories that captivated her. Now, she uses the magic of words to help her spin her own stories. Her love of reading was born when she read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.
Call Me Saaya is Zoe M’s debut novel. It is a romantic tour de force that weaves in and out of metros and a forgotten, quaint village in Rajasthan, revealing stories as it goes. The novel reflects the author’s love for the unexpected and is as engaging as she is. Below you can read an excerpt from Call Me Saaya. Courtesy: Keemiya Creatives.
Excerpt from Call Me Saaya by Zoe M
Stepping off the train, he stretched his arms over his head and leaned forward to touch his toes. He held the pose, his nose brushing his knees. Then he gave his waist a few side stretches. His body felt as if it had been through a wringer. Muscles he didn’t know existed throbbed dully. Determined to be cheerful now that he was out of the train, he was eager to gather some of the experiences he had imagined. One of them was to savour a cup of platform tea, a fragrant, and scalding hot, super sweet cup of kadak chai that is the hallmark of all railway platforms across India.
Delighted with the thought, he spotted a local chaiwala. The tea vendor squatted on one side of the platform, waiting for the next train. His lungi was wrapped around his legs. Yearning for his first cup of kadak chai, Shamsher loped towards him excitedly but stopped when the man pulled his hand out of his lungi. Knowing where his hand had been, Shamsher decided to avoid his special cup of chai. His euphoria tumbled with a thud. He walked out of the station pulling his trolley-case behind him, his rucksack on his back. He took a shared autorickshaw to the bus stop. Once there, he pulled his confirmed ticket out of his pocket and waved it around for all to see as he joined the group waiting to board the bus.
“Hey! I have a confirmed seat,” he yelled in the melee. Nobody paid any attention to him. Some just laughed and patted him on his shoulder as if humouring a child, leaving him nettled. With a slightly above average height and a gold-tan complexion, Shamsher was a charmer. His curly hair fell over his broad forehead. A shapely, aquiline nose didn’t take away anything from his gentle face. His sharp black eyes, strong jawline and a captivating smile that could set hearts on fire, made him a welcome sight for sore eyes. He was used to getting things done his way. However, his charm simply refused to work in the current surroundings!
The crowd was unruly and big. The bus was nowhere in sight. He checked the time on his phone. He still had forty five minutes to kill before the bus arrived. There was no point standing there. He slipped away from the group, his stomach growling with hunger. Shamsher decided to take a little stroll into the market and see if he could find something decent to eat. He was desperate for a cup of tea. As he turned into a by-lane, he came upon a small roadside eatery. The owner brought out the blackboard that announced the simple menu- Nathuram’s special muska bums, crispy hot jalebis and spicy kachoris.
Shamsher reached into his bag and pulled out his camera, chuckling to himself at the bums. He clicked a photo of the rudimentary menu for his Facebook and Instagram. He asked the proprietor Nathuram if he could take a picture of him standing by the board. Immediately the thin man twirled his thick proud moustache, grabbed his turban and adjusted it on his head. His white teeth sparkled against his wheat-ish complexion. He stood ramrod straight and gave a big grin, posing for the photo. Once the photos had been clicked and examined, he happily invited Shamsher into the eatery.
“Come, sir! Please do try my maska-bums and special chai!”
Without embarrassing Nathuram, Shamsher rubbed the “M” with the back of his palm and corrected it with an N with the remains of the chalk powder. Nathuram smiled and bowed his head in respect. He called out to his son, “Munna jhaldi kar bacche! Hukum ko bus pakadani hai!” (Munna hurry up child! Sir has to catch a bus!).
Shamsher sat on a small stool with a table next to it. Meanwhile, Nathuram began preparing fresh jalebis himself while a helper fried dal-kachoris. The aroma of kachoris and jalebis being fried was making him light and dizzy. Salivating heavily, he couldn’t wait to attack his plate. Munna brought him the chai and the maska buns. Shamsher smiled, pleased. He took a sip of the kadak milky chai, picked up his maska bun, dipped it into his chai and took a satisfying bite. Hmmmm… he purred in contentment. A tingling sensation ran down his spine. A French croissant and strong espresso wouldn’t have felt the same nor given him the satisfaction that the simple buttered bun and a cup of tea had given him. Nathuram offered him some crispy jalebis and dal-kachoris wrapped up in a piece of newspaper. Nathuram had eased away some of the irritability and ire of Shamsher’s train journey. His soul-satisfying food had made Shamsher’s morning happy and cheerful. He gave him a generous tip and left, feeling like a new man.
As he started walking towards the bus stop he saw the bus approach. Masti Travels was the name emblazoned in garish letters all over the bus. With difficulty, he managed to squeeze his way through the crowd but could not climb the last step into the bus. His rucksack seemed to be snagged somewhere. When he turned around to see where, he stared in horror at the man behind him, carrying a lamb and leading a goat secured by a rope tied around its neck. It was the goat holding Shamsher up. He was happily chewing the straps of his bag. Peeved, he pulled hard to release his bag from the goat’s mouth. The goat let go suddenly, causing him to cannon straight into the bus, hitting someone’s belly with his head. A few more jarring bangs later he found himself sprawled face down, someone’s dusty mojris a few centimetres from his nose. Nobody noticed him fall nor did anyone help. People were busy grabbing seats, luggage, progeny and livestock together. One of the passengers very happily stepped on his butt to climb onto his seat, ignoring his cry for help. After a few hits and bangs, he stood up glaring angrily at everyone.