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Hunt for the missing writer

JK Rowling did it. Lewis Carroll, George Orwell, Stan Lee have done it. Closer home, Gulzar, Pran, and Premchand have been doing it too. In the first of a two-part contest, Kanika Sharma invites six popular authors across genres of fiction to pen under a pseudonym. To get you, dear reader, to guess who’s who, and win a prize. Your time starts...now!

The Slippers
By Amrita Doshi
In the time when he lived out in the forest she went up to see him, on whim, during a storm, in secret, leaving as suddenly, forgetting her slippers. Years later, he examined them: black, delicate, a fairy’s sigh of a thing. The tread in them, he thought, had been in his direction. That afternoon they had wandered through the jungle, with champagne flutes (an extravagance, she had thought, a kind of posturing, really).

Book

Quickly, though, she had fallen under a spell of old trees through which wild winds bayed; teardrops of rain met his glass, or her lip. Sheltering this private world in each other’s eyes they felt secure that, years from now, if one were to forget these otherworldly particulars — the iguana shape of a rock; a swell of monsoon fern — the other would salvage and repair, even embellish things they had seen together. Memory, carried on a palanquin of two minds, became a story recalled in the aspic of love.

I have your slipper with me, Cinderella, he wrote to her.

One day I shall come back for them, she promised. Her tread had been toward him; it was like a compass, pointing in the direction of things as they were.

Clue: I love the name Amrita, the name of my favourite Indian painter of yore, Amrita Sher-Gil

The Girl Who Ate Books
By HB Kalam
I sat on the cool pink mosaic tiles, and hugged the book closer. If the words sounded that good, I thought, how would they taste? Tentatively, I licked the page. I would discover later, through a process of trial and error, that Bengali books seldom tasted good, that paperbacks were dry and crumbly, and that exercise books were watery and disappointing. But the words shone and silver and moon had a tiny acrid bite to them. Like a practised thief, I turned to another page in the book and tasted the text there, just to see. Close up, the paper smelled a little like cookies, or like the waxed paper frill around loaves of plain cake. I let my teeth slide over the edges, stopping when Romen, the family cook, came in and rummaged through the cutlery in the sideboard.

When he left, I bent my head towards the book and with my teeth, tore off a corner of the page. It went down well, though it didn’t taste of much, except unsweetened porridge. Boldly, I tried a little more, pleased at the thought of eating what I had just read. Then I looked at the page more closely and panicked: instead of the tiny corner I thought I had torn off, there was a gap, a large tear, a perceptibly ragged edge. Silverfish darted through the older books like illegal sub-tenants, but even at that age, I knew I couldn’t pass this off as a silverfish hole. The page was palpably gnawed.

Clue: I used to be Hurree Babu at Kitabkhana, one of my old blogs

Spore
By YE Venbother
My app is ready. I was going to call it Spore, but that’s taken. It doesn’t really matter. What it does is pretty simple. It rewrites my work on your phone as you read it, making it exactly what you want to read. And then it makes you buy copies of all my other books. And share links with everyone you know.

The upgrade to the app will be the bit where it deletes the details of your memories of the book we sort of wrote together, you and I, just so you don’t post reviews that show other readers how different the books you all read were. Not that everyone reads reviews anyway, do they? If they did I wouldn’t have needed to do this at all.

The air in my bedroom has turned grey/white/green. Itself stirs slowly, soft folds of ski/fruit/stem fluttering slowly in the AC’s relentless whine. I tear off a chunk of the nearest fruit. So delicious, but then Itself wants to taste like whatever I want to eat. Symbiosis is so cool.

And then the next upgrade, hopefully, will make you write whatever I want you to. Expect to write a lot of cheques. Freeloaders. Of course, I will need electric inputs from your brain that all your biometrics-taking accessories don’t have as yet. I don’t care how many steps you took. Or where you are. I care about what you want.

So I’m going to have to install little attachments in your brains. It won’t hurt at all. Itself is very gentle. A lifetime of bestsellerhood awaits. Of course, this pre-built sales mechanism and the gentle embrace of Itself itself might make me a bit lazy, so if the world survives this, future generations might think I wrote utter tripe. Time to release the fungus.

Clue: Yes, there are so many Indian SF writers. You’ll never ever guess who this is.

Here's what you win!

You can win one copy of these autographed titles:
>> The Last Song of Dusk by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi, Random House India
>> The Adventures of Stoob: Testing Times by Samit Basu, Rupa Publications
>> The Hundred Names of Darkness by Nilanjana Roy, Aleph
>> Those Pricey Thakur Girls by Anuja Chauhan, HarperCollins
>> Why Paploo was Perplexed by Devashish Makhija, Tulika
>> Bankerupt by Ravi Banker, Penguin India

Author

How to enter and win?
1. From today to next Saturday, i.e. August 16, the guide will publish the works of six Indian eminent writers — Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi (Mumbai Fiction), Anuja Chauhan (Chick Lit), Samit Basu (Science Fiction), Devashish Makhija (Children’s Fiction), Nilanjana Roy (Literary Fiction) and Ravi Subramanian (Popular Fiction) who will be writing under pen names.

2. Based on the writing style and inherent clues in the passage, guess the author, and mail us on guessthewriter@mid-day.com with the title, the pen name, and the actual writer, according to you of that piece by August 20.

3. The first person to guess the right answer for each genre of fiction will win an autographed copy of the writer’s work (see: Here’s what you win).

4. Participants in this contest can win a maximum of two prizes.

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