Book review: Salvation of a Saint By Keigo Higashino




Title : Salvation of a Saint
Author : Keigo Higashino
Genre : Mystery
Language :  English (translated from Japanese by Alexander O. Smith)
Publishers : Little, Brown Book Group
Publication year : 2013
ISBN : 978-0-3491-3934-0
Paperback Price : Rs. 350/-
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I would like to start by thanking Blogadda.com for the opportunity to read and review this book, particularly since it is a murder mystery, one of my favourite genres of fiction.

Having read sensational reviews for Keigo Higashino's earlier novel The Devotion of Suspect X, described by some as a work by which "Agatha Christie would be mightily impressed", I was looking forward with bated breath to devouring Salvation of a Saint.

Salvation of a Saint begins promisingly enough. A dinner get-together with undertones of tension and relationships on the bend does indeed create the setting for a juicy murder in the offing. The promise of murder is fulfilled in the next few pages with a man found poisoned to death by a cup of coffee he made for himself. And that is where the excitement ends.

What should ideally have been a crisp short story is stretched needlessly across over 350 pages. From the second chapter onwards, the story moves from being a who-dun-it to a how-dun-it, and we spend the rest of the story laboriously following a slow-moving police investigation into how the poison got into the coffee.

There are no interesting twists and no sprinkling of clues and suspects to keep us guessing. For no apparent reason, the main police officer in charge of the investigation, Kusanagi, falls for the chief suspect, the murdered man's wife. This plot-line further slows the pace of the story since all it does is make Kusanagi question his more clear-headed assistant's observations, which are repeated with persistent regularity. This disagreement leads to long-winded arguments between the two, and painful inner monologues that don't really lead anywhere.

The story moves in fits and starts only when physicist Yukawa, nicknamed Detective Galileo, nudges the investigation forward, mostly by rejecting the police's theories on how the coffee may have been poisoned. He ends up unravelling what would have been a devious plot had this been a 50-page story, but which leaves the reader unsatisfied and irritated after plodding through page after page of glacier-speed and repetitive investigation. The motive, too, seems contrived and doesn't justify the effort put into devising the murder.

That said, this is not a run-of-the-mill murder mystery. The story has its moments, particularly the reveal at the end of how the murder was committed. Also, I have not read many books set in Japan, and this one gives a glimpse of everyday life there without resorting to the pop-culture cliches that we are used to seeing in movies and animes. It is frustrating that an otherwise decent plot was ruined by the unnecessary length of the book.

Final Rating : 






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Diamonds are Forever

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 38; the thirty-eighth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is "The Woman on Platform Number 10"


"Do you mind if I sit here?". The voice was soft and sweet. I looked up to see an angelic face that matched the voice perfectly.

"Sure", I said, picking up my bag from the bench and moving towards the end, making space for her to sit.

"Thanks", she said and smiled. A smile that lit up the entire platform.

"Are you waiting for the 2 a.m. train, too?" I ventured, certain that her answer would be in the affirmative. It was one of those stations where not more than two trains stopped per day, that too at odd timings.

"I'm not sure, actually. It all depends", she replied with a faraway, contemplative look on her face. "Why is this platform number 10? As far as I can see, and I don't have to see very far, this is the only platform in this tiny station."

I smiled as I looked at the short, muddy platform. The station master's office was a tin-roofed hut. The lone green signal twinkled in the night. "Actually, there was no station in this area for a long time. Everyone in a fifty kilometre radius had to travel another fifty km east or west to the nearest station. About fifteen years ago, a local zamindar decided to sponsor the building of this station. His only condition was that the platform number be 10, as it was his lucky number. In fact, over the next few years, he also gave land for the local school and post office. That's why this place was renamed Ratanpur, after him. Sadly, he died some time back."

We sat in companionable silence for a while. I was almost about to doze off, when she spoke.

"Can I tell you a story? I feel like sharing this with someone right now, and you're the only one available to listen to me."

"Sure", I replied, intrigued.

***

About thirty years ago, there was a daring heist at one of the largest banks of our country. It was a well-planned, meticulous and audacious con job.

A man, known by his victims as Suraj Johar, posed as a rich, successful businessman with interests in India and abroad. Over the course of eight months, he opened several accounts and a safety-deposit box, visited the bank regularly, became friends with everyone from the manager to the tea-boy, charmed his way into everyone's hearts by bringing sweets and small gifts for them every once in a while, and earned their trust completely. In seven months, got himself upgraded to VIP customer status, with privileges including a pass-key to the main locker that held the high-value safety deposit boxes, one of which was allotted to him.

He continued visiting the bank every few days for the next month or so. On every visit, he would make a deposit in the high-value locker room. Since he had VIP status, he was left unsupervised while he made his deposits.

His visits stopped suddenly after that. The people at the bank were a bit puzzled, but not overly worried. They figured he had left on a business trip, or was otherwise busy. It was when a few of the other high-value customers reported that their safety-deposit boxes were empty, that panic finally set in.

It was discovered that Mr. Suraj Johar was making withdrawals of his own every time he came to "deposit" something in the locker. Over the course of his time spent with the bank's employees, he'd managed to obtain details about the more prosperous clients, especially those who had sizeable assets locked away in the safety-deposit boxes. He'd also managed to make copies of the master key that the bank had, in case a safety deposit box had to be opened in an emergency.

The final tally of cash, jewellery and cashable bonds that he'd stolen put the haul at close to Rs. 50 crores. It was the single largest robbery of it's kind at the time. Further, Johar's credentials were found to be fake. Blame was passed from desk to desk as to how he was allowed to open an account in the bank, let alone develop such close relationships with the employees. The super-thief disappeared into thin air.

The gems have not been traced yet. However, last year, one of the stolen bonds was marked as being cashed in. The long and torturous paper trail led me to this godforsaken place. As it turned out, he'd been cashing in the stolen bonds very discreetly for the past twenty years. Last year was probably the last of the bonds, and was flagged only because it was a day away from expiry. The bonds alone should have given him over 10 crores in cash, a large amount even by today's standards. But there are no records of his having spent the money.

I've been ferreting about in the heat and dust trying to find clues to this man's whereabouts. The villagers have been co-operative enough, but I've found nothing about him. His photographs from twenty years back don't resemble anyone living in these parts right now. No one recognizes him. And yet, the only trail I have found on him leads here.

***

"If you don't mind me asking, why are you looking for this man? You look very young to be mixed up in something like this." I looked at her slight form, her delicate features.

"I am a bounty-hunter. Not a very common profession in our country, I'm afraid, especially not for girls. But one must do what one can to fill this stomach. Do you live here?"

"No. I live in Mumbai now. But I spent many a summer here visiting my grandparents. They passed away last year. I've come here to pay my final respects to them."

"Oh. Sorry to hear about them. By the way, do you recognize this man, maybe from your childhood?" She offered me a well-thumbed photograph.

I looked at the face of a handsome man. His charm shone through the sepia-tinted photograph and the grime of ages. The eyes sparkled with a light born of mischief.

I shook my head. "Sorry. I can't say I've seen him around these parts."

She sighed. "Doesn't matter. I guess I'm taking the 2 a.m. train after all."

I smiled encouragingly at her. Of course, I could never tell the woman on platform number 10 that the man she was after was my grandfather, Ratan Lal.



The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. Introduced By: Panchali Ma'am, Participation Count: 03

Beauty and The Beast

This post has been written as part of the Exercise for Edition 6 of the Indifiction Workshop, an effort by a collective of Indian bloggers to encourage the writing of fictional short stories. The concept and rules of this edition were designed by Prasanna Rao. The original post can be read on the Indifiction Workshop blog here.

This edition required the participant to attempt a re-telling of the classic "Beauty and The Beast" in contemporary settings, with no major changes to the story and characters. The exercise focus was on beginning the story with a bang, an opening gambit called the conflict-establisher. Read more about it here.

***


The old man scrambled up the thorny slope of the hill, panic-stricken eyes searching behind him for his pursuers. I could hear them before I saw them, their blood-thirsty howls piercing the clear night. The moon lit the scene perfectly. The old man was scampering on all fours now, desperate to reach the walls surrounding my estate. He would find it difficult to escape any further. My walls were built to keep the world out.
The snarling wolves had reached the edge of the forest tree-line and were making their way up the hill. The man had no chance now. Unless…

“Alastair, open the gates. Let him in.”

“Yes, master.”

A minute later, the gates creaked open mechanically. The old man, by now rounding the wall towards the gate, ran blindly in. The gates creaked shut behind him. The wolves bayed on the hillside, their prey out of their reach. Their howls echoed into the night.

*** 

I woke up with a start and lay still with my eyes closed, trying to figure out why I was awake. My sisters’ snoring pierced through the walls, but that was nothing new. In fact, after all these years, the saw-like grating was a soothing lullaby. It was the sound of the dogs howling in the street outside.

I walked to the window. Like every other night for the past three months, I looked searchingly down the road for any signs of Papa returning. Ever since he’d rushed to the coast to see if his ships had survived an unseasonal storm, I’d been left to care for my two elder, and rather unpleasant, sisters.

I thought back to our last conversation.

“Beauty, what if my merchandise hasn’t survived the storm? We’ll go bankrupt.”

“As long as we have each other, and as soon as we can teach Stella and Bella the difference between one coin and ten, we’ll be far from poor.”

“Your sisters have asked for Dior gowns and Jimmy Choos. What do you want from Port Clair?”

“The last big party this town had was a hundred and eighteen years ago, when the King lost his way and thought he was at the Duke of Wembley’s. I just want you, preferably with a ship or two worth of Chinese electronics. And if it’s not too much trouble, a red rose from the gardens of the port city.”

As though floating on air, a magnificent limousine turned into our street. It rode stately down the road and pulled to an elegant stop at our door.  The chauffeur jumped nimbly out and opened the passenger door. A hand emerged, holding a rose.

I sighed. Some dreams felt so real. Maybe this was a sign that Papa would return in a few days. Or maybe this was a sign that the day-old meat casserole should not have been eaten. Either way, it was a pleasant dream and I was willing to let it continue.

A particularly loud snort from one of my sisters jolted me out of my reverie. The limo still stood at our door.  Someone was alighting from it.

“Papa”, I whispered incredulously.

*** 

Over the next few days, I discovered from Alastair’s discreet enquiries that the man was a merchant-businessman named Benicio. His ships had met with misfortune and he now stood on the brink of poverty.  While returning home from Port Clair, his car had broken down in the middle of the forest, and before he knew it, he was being chased by wolves.

Despite his ill fate, he seemed optimistic and determined to put his troubles behind him. He talked animatedly about his travels and his daughters. It was evident from his words that above all else, he loved his youngest daughter Beauty.

I observed him discreetly, always from the shadows. Benicio felt my brooding, malevolent presence in the castle, but the only thing he could get out of Alastair was that the master valued his privacy above all else, and was not to be disturbed.

I envied Benicio. For all the riches locked away in my vaults, I was desperately poor. My loneliness and despair ate into me every minute of every day. There seemed no end to the searing pain and heartrending grief that tormented me. Through Benicio’s tales, I imagined myself in a different world.

A week later, Benicio had recovered enough to head back home. On my command, Alastair insisted that Benicio accept gifts of clothes and jewellery from my collection.
I watched from my high tower window as Benicio, laden with parcels, glided towards the gates in my limousine. No one from outside had set foot in my house for over fifteen years, and I felt a twinge as I watched Benicio leave.

As I turned, I heard the car come to a stop. I took one look out the window, and blood pounded in my ears. Benicio had killed my most prized possession. Blind rage gripped me and I ran down the stairs and out into the grounds.

I swooped down on Benicio, locked my hands around his throat and shook him as he stood.

“You impertinent, ungrateful wretch. How dare you touch her? I could kill you right now for what you’ve done to my Ruby Red. It takes years for one to grow and this particular rose was my pride and joy”, I thundered as I rattled Benicio.

Alastair appeared beside me. He placed a cool hand on my shoulder, “Master”.

I let Benicio down. He fell to the ground, rubbing his neck, his eyes filled with fear and panic. He looked up at me, and let out a scream. “Beast”.

That one word rang in my ears like a curse. Even after all these years, hearing it from the lips of this man felt like ice-cold water thrown on my face. I turned on my heel and disappeared into the shadows of the castle, and the darkness of my heart.

“May I enter, p-p-please?”

“What do you want now?”

“A thousand apologies, sir. I am ashamed and appalled at my own behaviour. To think that I have repaid your generosity and hospitality with such ingratitude, and to have insulted you in such an unwarranted and harsh way makes me cringe in shame. I could not live with myself knowing that I have sinned against one as kind and giving as you.”

“I don’t care if you live or die. Be gone, Benicio, before I lose patience.”

“I have been selfish and self-indulgent, my lord. I lost myself in your wholesome hospitality, to the extent that I never even asked for my host’s name. Punish me, my lord, for I have wronged you.”

“You do know my name. You said it yourself. I am The Beast.”

“Please don’t torture me so, my lord. Ask of me what you will, my life itself if you so desire, and I shall give it to you. I am your servant, my lord.”

What I said next came from the deepest, darkest recesses of my pain-corrupted soul.  The words sounded strange and alien to me, and shocked me just as much as they shocked Benicio as I spoke. “Would you be willing to give me your most prized possession in return for mine? Would you give me Beauty?”

*** 

“Papa! You’ve smartened up a bit, haven’t you? I take it the ships survived the storm?”
In truth, Papa looked pale and haggard. His clothes, though expensive, hung on him and his face held all the colour and radiance of Stella’s soups.

He drank me in as though his eyes were parched for water. “Beauty” he said, and burst into tears.

The burnt tang of Bella’s biscuits was widely known to awaken the dead. Between sobs, sips of tea and energising nibbles of coal-like biscuits, Papa told me the story of The Beast. He did not tell me the reason for the name, no matter how much I asked him.

“When he asked for you, I could not refuse. I was bound by my word. Oh Beauty, what have I done?”

“You’ve done me proud, is what you’ve done. I couldn’t live with you knowing you’d gone berserk and destroyed half of some poor man’s hand-raised roses after having belched at his table for a week. Don’t you worry, Papa. I’ll stay with this Beast person for as long as he needs me. I deserve a break anyway, what with slaving after Stella and Bella, while you were away racing wolves and making merry.”

Papa and I sat in silence till the first golden rays of sunlight lit up the rose on the table. My sisters had, incredibly, slept through the night.  I peeped into their rooms one last time to gaze upon their drooling faces. Truth be told, I was looking forward to this adventure.

***

It had been two days since Benicio left, with a promise to send back Beauty. His home was a day’s ride away, and if he was a man of his word, as I believed him to be, she would be arriving today.

Nervous anticipation made me tense. I still could not fully believe what had transpired. Ever since that day, fifteen years ago, when I lost everything, I had shunned human contact. It took years for Alastair to gain my trust again. And now, I was about to open my home, my only refuge, to an unknown person, and that too, a girl.

As I heard the gates creaking open, I knew I did not have it in me to face her just yet. I closed the curtains and sat in the embrace of the shadows.

*** 

All along the way to The Beast’s castle, I pestered the chauffeur, Tim, to tell me something about his master. After chewing half his ear off, he finally admitted that he had never personally seen the man, but Alastair, who seemed to be the whole and soul of the castle, had assured the servants that the master did, indeed, exist.

This piqued my curiosity like nothing else. The Unseen Beast, living in seclusion, shrouded in mystery, surrounded by walls. And I liked nothing better than a challenge.
When the castle loomed into view at the top of a rocky hill, a thrill tingled up my body.
I was met at the entrance by a tall, thin man of aristocratic bearing and a stiff neck. I knew without having to be told that this was the legendary Alastair.

“Madam, it is our pleasure to have you here. I am Alastair. I trust the journey was comfortable?”

“Yes, thank you. And please call me Beauty. I’m not vain, it’s my name.”

Alastair bowed his head. “The Master sends his apologies. He won’t be joining you for dinner. But we have a sumptuous feast prepared in your honour.”

“Will you keep me company, Al?”

“I’ll do my best to keep you entertained, Madam.”

Dinner was a dreary affair. Alastair’s “entertainment” extended to burning his fingers slightly while lighting an extra set of candles to brighten up the proceedings. The castle seemed bereft of electric lights.

 A frightened looking maid led me to my room. She trembled like a leaf when I spoke to her, and answered solely in squeaks of varying pitches. As I lay back in my bed, my soft head resting against the down pillows, I felt I was being watched. The Beast was near.

*** 

I saw her for the first time that night. She was flawless. A rose-cream complexion that even the pale moonlight couldn’t wash away, her slim form draped gracefully on the sheets. As I started to close the hidden door behind the wall-panelling, she jumped out of the bed and jammed her foot in the door.

“Gotcha! I knew you were watching me, you perv. Why are you blending into the woodwork? Out into the open with you, chappie!”

I was stunned into inaction. No one had ever called me “chappie” before.

I emerged into the moonlight, my head bowed, my ears waiting for the inevitable scream and the sound of feet running away from me as fast as they could.

I was met with a thoughtful appraisal.

“Tall and well-built. That’s good. Strong features. A bit charred, but that adds character to your face. All in all, not a bad specimen of a man.”

Stunned, I looked up at her. Her face and voice held no mockery. Her clear eyes looked at my half-burnt, grotesque face with frank honesty.

“A man? I am barely human anymore. Look at this melted face, these red eyes, my claw-like hands. I am not even fit to be called an animal. I am The Beast.”

“Beast-schmeast.  Don’t give yourself too much credit.  All this hype and mystery and nothing to account for it. I don’t think you’ve seen yourself very well.  Take my advice and put some electric bulbs in this castle. Candlelight is fine for a romantic evening, but I don't want to risk going blind in low light.  It’s time for proper introductions now. I’m Beauty.”

“I’m… Richard”. I hadn’t used that name in over fifteen years.

“Rickie, I sense this is the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship. I will expect you at breakfast in the morning. If I have to eat one more meal with Al singeing his gloves, I don’t think I’ll have much appetite left.”

“Don’t tell me what to do. I am the master of this castle. And don’t call me Rickie.” Her flippancy irritated me.

“Riiiiiiiight. Off with  you now, Rickie. Nighty night.”

The door shut in my face.  I stared at it, fuming. Then, I stormed off to my tower.

*** 

I knew now why Papa hadn’t told me much about The Beast. Yes, he was hideous to look at. But his eyes were beautiful. They were large and black, and there was so much sadness in them that they touched my heart immediately. He’d probably been stared at, made fun of, teased and shunned for not looking “normal”. And there was a pain that radiated from him in waves. He needed a friend. And I sensed in him a kindred spirit.

The next morning, and every day after that, Richard and I had our meals together.  He fussed and threw tantrums in the beginning, terrorizing the servants. It didn’t cut any ice with me. I had enough baby-sitting experience to know how to deal with a spoilt child.
Slowly, but surely, I made progress. Every day, I discovered something new about him.

He was well-read and intelligent. He was kind and generous, and the servants, once they got over his appearance, adored him. He played the piano beautifully, and had a way with horses. He was surprisingly easy to talk to, and I found myself sharing my hopes and dreams with him.

We took walks in his beautiful gardens. I could see why he’d raged against Papa. To pick those roses was definitely a crime, they were so exquisite.

He did have a temper. A nasty one. The smallest thing could set it off. On one memorable occasion, he ripped a waistcoat in half right at the dining table because he spilt some eggs on it. Entertaining though it was, it caused my maid to squeak and faint. I had to revive her and give a talk to Richard about table manners. However, if Alastair was to be believed, Richard had never been in better spirits.

*** 

Beauty was just the name for her, inside and out.  One night, I told her about the day I lost everything. It was the day I got my license. All of sixteen years of age, I enthusiastically took my parents and baby sister out for a drive. It was a cold winter’s evening. I did not know there was sleet on the road. I lost control of the car and it spun off the road. We were trapped in the car, all doors were jammed. And we burned inside it.

It was my fault, my inexperience, my over-eagerness and I was the only one who came out of it alive.

Never once did Beauty pity me, blame me or shrink away from me. For the first time in my life, I gave of myself freely. My pain was leaving me like water flowing down my skin. My inner darkness was pierced by warm sunshine. I was in love with her, from the very core of my soul. I dared not tell her that, in case it drove her away.

One fateful day, we rode our horses into the forest together. Beauty wanted to see where the river became a waterfall.  The forest was usually bereft of human presence, but that day, we ran into a hunting party. Four men, rough-set and thuggish, and obviously drunk.

“Where’s the two of you off to, now? There’s a beaut, ain’t she, boys? What’s a piece like you doing with this ugly fella?”

I snarled at him. Beauty was calmer. “Why don’t you gentlemen have a nice day, and we’ll all be going our own ways.”

“Why don’t you make our day better and spend some time with us. We’re getting lonely out here in these woods.” And he pulled Beauty off her horse.

I turned into the Beast that I had been for years. Two of them went down before they knew it. I was grappling with the third, when the fourth man hit me from behind. The world swam before my eyes, a blinding pain drove me senseless. I heard Beauty scream.

*** 

I heard a noise nearby and screamed my lungs out. To my eternal relief, it was a pair of forest rangers, out on patrol. The situation was soon brought under control. The four men were apparently poachers  on the wanted list, and they were swifty cuffed.

I rushed to Richard. He was unconscious, and blood flowed down his temple. It was at that moment that I realised how much I loved him. I cradled his head in my lap and bawled like a baby.

“Richard, please, please wake up. I love you, so much.”

I think it was the flecks of snot falling on his face that made him wake up. He looked adorable, regal and handsome. More handsome than any man I had ever seen. I kissed him, a long, sweet kiss. It was the only time I ever saw him cry. 

 "Who would have ever thought. Beauty and The Beast."

The Cleaving

Written for Fireblossom's Friday Challenge on Imaginary Garden With Real Toads.

For this Fireblossom's Friday challenge, one had to write a poem about a crack, fissure, rupture, split, or breaking point.


I pressed you to the ground
You tried to get away
Immobile but spirited
As you rolled from side to side

I pinned you tighter
And made my first strike
To the base of your skull
A sharp crack rended the air

You moaned but yielded
And gave up your fight
Energy coursed through my nerves
In eager anticipation

My mouth watered at the prospect
Of consuming you from the inside out
To drink of your nectar
And sink my teeth into your tender flesh

I raised my hand again
And this time turbid water flowed
I struck again, frenzied now
And you finally broke

You clove open in perfect halves
Your white beauty exposed
The kids shrieked in delight, clapped their hands
And bit into sweet coconut!


Dire Straights

For years, I have been challenging shampoo companies and beauty-parlours to tame my unbelievably curly hair. I did not want straight hair, only hair that would let a comb run all the way through, instead of absorbing half its teeth and swallowing the spine. I have lost count of the number of combs and brushes that I've lost in the wilderness that is my hair.

The Bermuda Tangle - Doom of the Hairbrush

Once, when I went to get a long overdue haircut, the chap who was snipping my locks offered a free post-haircut blow-dry. I think the sight of my hair challenged his inner artist, and he resolved to summit his Everest by conquering my head. I agreed happily since I believed that anything coming my way, for which I did not have to pay, would make my day.

The Artist at work
After the initial tug-of-war between my hair and his hairbrush, I felt progress was being made. Feeling particularly lazy and lulled by the air-conditioner on a hot summer day, I fell asleep, perhaps unwisely, since a sharp object was in operation dangerously close to my ears.

I woke with a start when the hairdresser whipped off the cloth tied around my neck, almost strangling me in the process. When I finally managed to breathe again and looked up at the mirror, I almost choked again. I was the proud, if bewildered, owner of silky straight hair. Apparently, the blow-dry was responsible for the transformation that I hitherto believed was impossible.

After blow-dry

I tipped the chap generously (being still in shock) and made my way out, with a new spring in my step. It took all of five minutes and a gentle breeze to restore my hair to its former riotous glory, and my now-short hair clustered around my head in a tight Afro. It refused to submit to the confines of a hastily produced rubber-band, and a scarf bought on-the-spot served only to accentuate the puffiness of my hair-don't.


5 minutes after blow-dry

That was the first and last time I blow-dried my hair. In fact, I think that was the last time I went for a haircut,  since the frightening spectacle of a cloud of black cotton candy on my head scared the living daylights out of me and about a hundred other people who were witness to the spectacle as I ran down the road in search of an auto-rickshaw.

~~

I have had mixed results with hair-care products. Some have resulted in my hair becoming even frizzier than before, and others have made my hair limp and lifeless.

When Sunsilk offered to send a free sample of its Perfect Straight shampoo/conditioner, with the claim that my hair would dry straight, I applied to receive one, with doubts of success (of it being an effective straightener, that is. I did not doubt that the sample would arrive).

The recent deluge of hair-care product tryouts ensured that I was already busy getting rid of split-ends and trying out ramp-ready hairstyles on my curly hair while waiting for my Sunsilk sample to arrive.

I think I've tried all of these in the past few weeks

It was finally delivered two weeks ago. Since I decided to let my hair recover from the recent experiments, I didn't get the opportunity to try out the efficacy of the Sunsilk Perfect Straight shampoo until yesterday.

I started with an extreme case of curls that were nearly impossible to cure. To be honest, it did not turn my hair perfectly straight. My hair still curved down my back like snakes, but now it flowed like contented, well-fed, ponderous snakes instead of the frenzied, over-crazed wrigglers of the pre-Sunsilk era.

Even so, I was quite impressed with the result. It turned my hair from a mass of wiry, poufy cotton to eminently manageable, if slightly wavy, locks. I could see my hairbrush shedding tears of joy as it emerged unscathed through the length and depth of my freshly dried hair.

I also discovered to my surprise, that my hair was now nearly a foot longer than it was before I used the shampoo, due to the straightening. Looking Rapunzel-like all of a sudden even turned my husband into Prince Charming for the evening.

It has been a day, and my hair has retained its manners. I can rest happy in the knowledge that the next time I want my hair to turn well-behaved, or instantly longer, Sunsilk Perfect Straight will be my go-to product!

Since this shampoo/conditioner was tested on the toughest, most stubborn, curliest and frizziest hair possible with highly positive results, I am confident that on more pliant hair, it will work like a charm.

To summarize my findings -

Effective curl management and Instant hair lengthening

Final Verdict - Sunsilk Perfect Straight Shampoo is definitely for those in dire straights...err...straits.


This post has been written for Sunsilk Perfect Straight on Indiblogger.in

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A Ramp Walk To Remember
Beautiful Ends : 55-Fiction
The Softest Touch

A Ramp Walk to Remember

"Rita di, can't anything be done?" I wailed, close to tears. It was already a highly stressful day for me, what with the main event being just a few hours away. All my dreams and aspirations were tied to this one, single ramp walk. Unfortunately, my hair wasn't ready to be tied to anything.

My hair after a wash
"Madam ji, with hair like yours, there is very little to be done in such little time. If only you had started coming for regular treatment sessions six months ago, today things would have been different", said the hair-dresser with a frown on her face, chiding my lackadaisical attitude towards my unmanageable hair, at the same time mourning the loss of six-months' worth of income from a self-promoted hair treatment (which cost a fortune that would have set many a small country free of debt).

"My hair has always been curly, and I like it this way. It is one of the things that makes me, Me. I don't want to straighten it and become someone else. Especially not today." All eyes would be on me and I most certainly did not want to be mistaken for someone else. The rest of my life depended on today being a success.

"Okay,okay. No need to get so emotional. It's just hair. Let me see." said Rita, impatiently swatting away my identity-crisis. 

A few pumps of creamy hair product was worked into my unruly hair. Hair spray was liberally used to both control my hair and kill the mosquitos buzzing around my head

Praying for the best

What if I pin it all on one side into a side-sweep?" said Rita, swiftly twisting my hair in sections and securing them with bobby pins.

I looked at myself in the mirror. 

How I really looked
How I hoped I'd look

Startled by the effect, both Rita and I were stunned into silence for a few seconds.

"Maybe an Athena braid?" she suggested shakily,  ripping out the bobby pins from my hair as fast as she could, releasing my hair into all its inglorious messiness. We both heaved a sigh of relief when the side-sweep was dismantled.

Once again, Rita pumped out hair-gel with much vigour and sprayed with enthusiasm. My hair was parted into sections. Elaborate combing, intricate twisting and braiding, and a final flourish of hair-spray "shagun ke liye" (for good luck).

We once again examined the result, this time better prepared for what we might have to face.

Final Result
Rita's objective

Rita sat down, beaten and dis-spirited. I shed copious tears, covered my head in a towel and declared that to show my hair to the world would most likely be a human-rights violation.

I need to buy a bonnet!

That was when my mother entered the picture.

"Good Lord! Aren't you ready yet? We're set to leave in ten minutes. You haven't even worn your saree properly. And what's with the towel on your head? Rita, why are you sitting there, gaping at me like a dead fish?"

"Amma", I wept, "My hair is a disaster. Nothing works on me. I'm finished. I'll have to walk in front of all those people, with my hair looking like it was hit by a cyclone."

"Take some deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out. Now, stop flapping about like a distressed duck and sit down for a minute. Rita, try a twisted updo." Amma was brisk and efficient, and her energy infused new life into the hitherto deflated Rita.

With a determined look on her face, Rita prepared for the last siege. Hair products were pumped out one last time. The hairspray had killed more mosquitos today than an entire box of kachua coils.

My mother set my saree right. The last safety pin was locked into place.

Rita and I steeled ourselves for one final look at the mirror. It was make or break time.

How I ended up looking
What we were prepared for

I had finally found my look. 

Thirty minutes later, I walked down the aisle towards where the love of my life was standing, waiting for me to become his wife. As we stood together, he tucked a stray strand behind my ear, and whispered, "I love what you've done with your hair."

And this was the story of the most important ramp-walk of my life. 



~~~~

NOTE: The last two images above are my personal photos and are not to be used by anyone else. The remaining images are from Google and copyright to their respective owners.


Pick your favourite ramp ready hairstyle on the TRESemm√© India Youtube channel. Written for TRESemme Ramp-Ready Hair in collaboration with Indiblogger.in


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Botanical Musings : Haiku

The following phrases were given by De Jackson as part of the Botanical Wordlist Challenge on Imaginary Garden With Real Toads. 
  • sight-seeing in a daisy 
  • the silent roar of the vast 
  • stealing the sun 
  • the story of the grasses
  • a strong, bent contrivance 
  • flowers that will not wait for the snow
  • employ the wind
I decided to attempt my first set of Haiku (3-line verses) using the above phrases. I will forgo the syllabic restrictions to accommodate the phrases (as well as for convenience. I can't count syllables to save my life!).







Dew drop lenses
Sight-seeing in a daisy
Universes revealed











The silent roar of the vast
yellow field deafens;
Sunflowers stealing the sun
















To hear tell of
the story of the grasses
Employ the wind
















Bamboo dances in wind
A strong, bent contrivance;
Fluidly unbreakable













Impatient beauty
Flowers that will not wait
for the snow to melt









Reposted for Open Link Monday on Imaginary Garden With Real Toads
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