Category Archives: Human After All

Human After All Chap 6: She Can Do Magic

park bench

Chapter 5

6: She Can Do Magic


Khanak stopped smiling when she saw Shaan staring back at her as though he was studying a masterpiece in a gallery. She was unprepared for the directness of his gaze and seeing him in this state, alert and coherent for the first time, threw her completely off her moorings. She looked away to try and recoup. But when she turned back she found him gazing around the room with an utterly lost and bewildered look on his face. She glanced inquiringly at Nurse D’Souza who simply shrugged her shoulders. Khanak thought for a moment then smiled at her nurse and gave her a conspiratorial wink.

Nurse D’Souza promptly read Khanak’s mind. She said directing a pitiful look in Shantanu’s direction; “I think Mr. Khandelwal here needs brain surgery. His mentation has been fluctuating a lot. I’m afraid something’s direly wrong. Do you agree doctor?”

“No! I’m perfectly fine! I don’t need surgery of any kind!” Their patient declared loudly.

“So what was that you were doing just now Mr. Rajkumar? Pretending?”

Shaan flushed. He had been caught in the act again. He saw Dr. Agarwal looking at him, her beautiful eyes saying quite clearly; GOTCHA! I am smarter than you think!

You certainly are not as bholi bhaali as you look, he thought. There seems to be a wily brain floating around in that pretty skull of yours. Beauty and brains– a deadly combo. No wonder Dr. Deepak is crazy about you. Now why don’t I like that? Shaan pursed his lips sensing a pang of envy.

Meanwhile Khanak was back to being a bunch of nerves, her sensation of triumph short lived. She tried very hard to feel indifferent while examining Shaan but that was proving to be more difficult than she had anticipated.

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Human After All Chap 5: Fate Not Coincidence

hands touch

chapter 4

5: Fate Not Coincidence


“Shantanu. See who has come to see you.”

Chachuu! What happened to chachu Daddy?” Megha turned to her father.
Megha!” Shantanu exclaimed smiling.

“Nothing’s happened to chachu sweetheart, he’s just playing the game of doctor-patient and he is pretending to be the patient. Soon he will say ‘mein kahaan hoon (where am I) just like in the movies.”

“What? Is that true? Chachu say it. Say mein kahaan hoon!”

“Mein kahaan hoon?” Shantanu complied.

Megha burst into giggles; “Ohoh that is sooo funny! So you are not hurt Chachu?”

“No my baby, I’m just pretending just like you do sometimes, when you don’t want to go to school.”

“Oh yes! I say that my stomach hurts…like this;” she clutched her stomach and make a face, “Then Great Dadi ma lets me stay at home.”

“What? You do that? I thought Dadi ma was smarter than that. I will have to warn her;” Akshay said sternly.

Shantanu burst out laughing then winced.

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Human After All Chap 4: The Man in Her Dreams


Chapter 3

4: The Man in her Dreams


Khanak at long last pulled her Nano out of the hospital parking lot and started to gingerly inch towards home. The car had been a graduation gift from her parents. Her father who had always ridden his faithful old scooter to work had bought it for her. When she had hesitated to accept it, he had insisted with pride; “Doctor Khanak Agarwal needs a car of her own. These docs keep odd hours don’t they? Isliye it is important you have your own means of transport and that should be a car and nothing else. Case closed.” Fortunately, it was not expensive and her father could afford it, though he still continued to ride his scooter saying it was an old friend and a hard habit to break.

Though she was extremely tired after her long shift she couldn’t relax right away. She cursed the rush hour traffic. The only difference was that she was travelling in the opposite direction. She had asked her mother to give her a missed call every five minutes to prevent her from nodding off on the wheel. Dr. Deepak had offered to drop her home but she had refused. For if he knew where she lived, he would drop by anytime and try to impress her parents. That wouldn’t be too hard–a future cardiac surgeon who wanted to hook up with their daughter. She couldn’t have that. For she disliked the man from the bottom of her heart. He was rude, irksome and worst of all inhuman.

SCREEEEECH! Khanak hit the brakes just in time. A young woman on a scooter with a little boy behind her had squeezed into the tiny space in front of her. As she tried to calm her racing heart down, she noticed that the boy was no older than the little girl in the ER–Megha. What a precious relationship they shared; Megha and her uncle. Just like a father and daughter. She hoped they were all right. She recalled Megha had clung to her arm then fallen asleep crying for her chachu.

Her family had finally arrived and created quite a scene. A woman who’d turned out to be her mother had been at the forefront screaming at the top of her lungs and scared the little girl out of her wits. Khanak had told her firmly to calm down. Then had gently persuaded Megha to go to her. She had albeit with great reluctance.

When Khanak reached home she found her mother beside herself with worry.

Sunita Agarwal was the loving wife of Pramod Agarwal and adoring mother of Khanak and her younger sister Palak. As a housewife she made sure their lives ran like a well-oiled engine. Though at times when it didn’t her usual slogan was–its life after all! She was the one who had encouraged her daughters to follow their dreams. She had seen their dreams with them and worked tirelessly to make them come true. She was a hard taskmaster but Khanak loved her to death. Because she knew if it been for her mother, she may have never achieved what she had been able to so far.

So when her mother told her that she had perhaps chosen the wrong career Khanak retorted: “Mama please! Medicine is not just my career; it is a part of my life. Don’t you remember how you used to encourage me to study late into the night telling me that I better get used to it? Do you want me to give up so soon?”

Her mother nodded reluctantly, “Yes but…your health?”

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Human After All Chap 3: Chances Are…


Chapter 2

3: Chances Are…

Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!

Khanak sat up with a start. It took her several seconds to get her bearings. She had been having a rather pleasant dream. She was strolling along a river cuddled up to a very handsome man with a strangely familiar face. It seemed as if they were in a foreign land, someplace very romantic and he was whispering sweet nothings in her ear. He had been about to kiss her when the beeper had gone off. She glared at it as it lay on her bedside table.
Khanak was in the call room of the hospital. She had just joined the staff as an attending three months ago. Being a conscientious young physician, she had made it a point to spend her nights on duty on site. After graduating with top honors she had chosen to study further and had completed her Doctor of Medicine degree in General Medicine six months ago. Her mother had urged her to settle down and get married but Khanak had refused saying that her life had just started and she needed to establish herself in her career. “Besides mommy dearest,” she had told her. “What does your daughter lack? I am smart, young and not bad to look at I hope, except for my dark circles. But those can be easily hidden with makeup. And with my credentials, I can have anybody I want. So don’t you worry. Eligible boys will line up on their own!”

Her mother had laughed and indulgently shaken her head. She was very proud of her eldest child. But a mother’s heart could never stop worrying.

Khanak sighed and dialed the number on the pager; “This is Dr. Agarwal.”

“Dr. Agarwal, it’s Mr. Gupta in Room 3. He says he can’t sleep and would like a sleep aid!
But then he has the lights and the TV on.”

“Tell him to turn them both off. I’d rather try that before giving him something that might make him stop breathing, him being so incredibly obese. Try to make him understand. I know you can.”

“Yes Doc, I agree completely. I will talk to him.”

Khanak smiled. The nurses liked her and that was a good thing. Or else they would nag her all night with little things. Some PR always helps. She lay down again and tried to recall her dream when the pager went off again; “It appears I have to cancel my date with my Prince Charming!”

“Dr. Agarwal, can you please come up to the 4th floor? Mrs. Kocchar in Room 16 is having trouble breathing. She can barely speak; I’m really worried about her.”

“Is she having any chest pain? Did you do an ECG?”

“No Doctor, she is not having any chest pain. But I will get an EKG right away.”

“Okay, please also get a Chest X ray. I’ll be there in a few.” Khanak grabbed her coat and rushed to the 4th Floor that was devoted to the cardiac patients. She took a quick look at Mrs. Kochar’s chart and reviewed her EKG. Fortunately, it did not show any changes. But her blood pressure was up and her oxygen levels were low. She went into the room and saw a very anxious lady in her mid-sixties who was sitting up in bed and breathing hard. She was clutching at her oxygen mask and a man who appeared to be her husband was standing beside her looking equally anxious and worried. Khanak introduced herself and asked if she could examine Mrs. Kochar.

Mr. Kochar looked relieved while his wife could only nod. Khanak efficiently examined Mrs. Kochar while quietly asking her a few questions following which she reviewed her Xray. Then she said; “It’s nothing to worry about. There is buildup of some extra fluid in the lungs and that can be easily fixed with medication. Since Mrs. Kochar has just suffered a heart attack these things are a common occurrence. She has to be careful and watch her salt and fluid intake from now on.”

“So she doesn’t have pneumonia?” asked Mr. Kochar.

“No she doesn’t. She should start feeling better soon. I’m here all night and will come by to check on her before I leave.”

Khanak walked out of the room relieved that it had been a relatively easy problem. She glanced at her pager as it had gone off again.

“Mr. Bansal is dying. His family wants to speak with you. Can you come by?”

Khanak knew 80-year-old Mr. Bansal very well. He had been trying to die for the past few days after suffering a massive stroke that had affected most of his brain. His family had been in shock and had refused to come to terms with his bad prognosis. But after much discussion they had finally accepted that living like a vegetable on machines would have been unacceptable to him. It was best to let him die with dignity.

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Human After All Chap 2: Another Kind of Love

swan lake

Chap 1

2: Another Kind of Love


Shantanu rushed into the huge foyer and saw it quite empty except for his Dadi (grandma) who was trying to console a little girl dressed in pink.


Shantanu looked questioningly at Dadi who looked concerned.
Dadi was Sunil Khandelwaal’s (Shantanu’s father’s) mother. She had been widowed at a relatively young age and had brought up her only son on her own. She was a strong woman with an even stronger personality and no one took her lightly. Shantanu was her favorite grandson and it was obvious that he took after her.
“Shantanu, Megha has been ready and waiting for you here for the past three hours,” Dadi said. “And no matter how many times I reassured her you’d surely come she wouldn’t leave this spot! After all she’s just a child.”
“Yes Dadi. Rest assured it won’t happen again in the future,” Shantanu said before turning to his niece. “Sorry I was a little delayed but our date is still on.”
Megha smiled appearing none the worse for wear, “Chachu I repeated that stupid word at least a hundred times and it didn’t work. Why? Is it because I’m a bad girl?”
“Of course not!” Shantanu chided her playfully. “Sometimes magic can get old and rusty. Next time I promise it’ll work right away. No waiting and no tears.”
“Cross your heart and hope to die?” Megha asked in all seriousness.
“Yes or you will make my cry!” Shantanu laughed. “Shall we leave? We don’t want to miss the beginning.” He clasped Megha’s hand, waved to Dadi and turned to walk out.
“Megha! Shantanu! Where are you going? Hamein nahin bulaya (You didn’t invite me)?” rang out Khushboo bhabhi’s familiar sing song voice that rarely changed its tone and tended to irritate Shantanu a lot.
Khushboo was Shantanu’s beautiful and classy sister-in-law, his brother Akshay’s wife, who carried an air of self-importance about her. People didn’t matter to her. What did was their social status and bank balance and she had the habit of walking around with her nose in the air. So much that Shantanu often wondered if she would run into a wall. What had Akshay bro seen in her that others hadn’t?
“Mom I’m going on a date with Shantanu uncle and you are not invited!” Megha announced gripping Shantanu’s hand tight.
Khushboo looked pityingly at her brother-in-law, “Poor boy. What a sad plight. You just had to ask and I would have hooked you up with some grown-ups.”
“Thanks but no bhabhi. I could never live up to your standards. You would have been embarrassed. Besides, this little girl of yours has an IQ higher than any grown-up you have in mind.”

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Human After All Chap 1: He Knows What He Wants



1: He Knows What He Wants


A month later: ~

“Congratulations Sir! This project will be huge for our company. Could I have the good fortune of being assigned to it? Since you are busy handling multiple projects here, you need someone reliable on the other end. What do you think sir?”

Shantanu perused Gautam, his Project Manager with interest. His tenure with their company was just six months old and he was already looking greedy. His aggressiveness could be both good and bad. Shantanu offered him an enigmatic smile; “Thanks. I will consider it.”


Gautam walked out of the office with dejection written clearly on his face. He was greeted with a pitying look from Shantanu’s new secretary, Sheila. “Take my advice and hold on to your horses Gautam. Boss hates upstarts;” she giggled as he glared at her and went back to filing her nails.


Meanwhile Shantanu was on the phone with his brother…

“Yes Akshay bro! Kaho kaise yaad kiya? What’s up?”
“Congrats man!”
“Thanks. It’s no big deal,” Shantanu said as he gazed out at the Mumbai skyline.
“What do you mean by no big deal? It is for our company. I saw a smile on Dad’s face after a long time. So that two-month trip did pay off finally huh?”
“Yes bro. Bahut papad belne pade (I had to work really hard) but it was all worth it. I’m glad you and dad are happy.”“We are proud of you little bro no shaq! Welcome to the company!”
“Thanks bro, thank you very much.”
So this is Shantanu Khandelwal. Young, rich, ambitious, smart and ruthless when it came to doing business. He knew what he wanted and would not stop at anything to get it, as long as it did not involve breaking the law. He had inherited this trait from his father who had worked tirelessly all his life to build his empire. His advice to him had always been not to let emotions come in the way of progress and he agreed with him so far. Anyhow he had only just started. He wanted to make a name for himself apart from his dad and big brother—Shantanu Khandelwal, renowned architect, town planner etc. etc.
There was a knock on the door and his secretary walked in without asking for his permission. He wondered what had it been about her that had impressed old Mrs. Khatri so much to recommend her. Mrs. Khatri had left happily. She had retired after working faithfully for the company for over thirty years. But she had left him with this piece of work. Sheila had decent diction, was punctual, her turnaround time for letters and such was acceptable but she had an abysmal dress sense and of late was behaving a little too familiar with him. That was one of the reasons why he had trouble taking women seriously. They always seemed to have an ulterior motive. Just then an image of a pair of beautiful black eyes flashed in his mind. No not like that woman. She was something else.

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Human After All- Prologue

Hi readers and dear friends,

Hope you are all enjoying The New Year and have not broken your resolutions already. If you have that’s okay. There will be several more opportunities to make and keep them in the future.

I am presenting before you a story of mine that I wrote a while ago before my first novel. Some of you are familiar with it. It bears a special place in my heart because it helped me discover the writer inside me. Hope you like it 🙂



Human After All is a phrase I picked up from a favorite song of mine by Level 42. It struck me as being so basic yet poignant to the human condition that I had to make it the underlying theme of my story. So while reading and pondering about the goings on I’ll ask all of you to keep it in my mind, that we are all ‘Human After All’– liable to make mistakes, jump to conclusions, have misunderstandings and be generally crazy!

So here’s a brief intro of our protagonists:

Khanak Agarwal is a young, sincere, hardworking doctor who truly believes in the essential goodness of mankind.

Shantanu Khandelwal is a Harvard educated architect who is ambitious and leery of developing lasting relationships with women. That is until he stumbles into our heroine.


Why does it always have to happen this way? Why do I always have to be last in line for the loo? Why do they discriminate between economy and other classes? Do they think we have better bladder control?

“No ma’am you can’t come in here. This is business class.”

Khanak couldn’t control her urge any longer and began hopping from one leg to the other; “You don’t have to tell me that. I know very well this is business class and that is the why I’m here! Please can I use the rest room? Back there, it’s like a zoo!”
“No ma’am, I’m sorry but you have to wait. Those are the rules!”

“Who are you to tell me the rules? When nature calls you have to obey! If you don’t allow me in here, I may have an accident and you’d be responsible, not me!”

The German stewardess who looked clearly flustered decided to give in and let Khanak use the rest room. Anyhow it was empty. Khanak nodded her thanks and breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that her ruse had worked, or else… She didn’t want to think about it.


“Oh! We’ll be landing in forty minutes! I better finish these pooris. Though they are more like cardboard in consistency but we shouldn’t waste anything, should we son? When they charge us an arm and a leg for each seat!”

Shantanu nodded relieved he didn’t have to tolerate Mr. Gupta’s company for much longer. He had found the New York to Germany segment reasonably amusing with no one in the adjacent seat and a very beautiful blonde stewardess at his beck and call. The only sore point had been that his favorite magazine had decided to dedicate its latest issue to women! Women in business, politics and other professions. He hadn’t found a single article that concurred with his POV. That women are the weaker sex and good for only a couple of things. What had the world come to?

Then plump Mr. Gupta had joined him in Frankfurt and had been so delighted to sit next to a fellow Indian that he had chosen to enlighten him with his life story in not so few words. Despite Shantanu’s best efforts to show his disinterest, Mr. Gupta refused to be dissuaded until he fell asleep, But then his snoring akin to a steam engine passing through a tunnel, kept everyone awake.

Shantanu turned up the volume on his headphones wondering how someone could talk and eat at the same time. Beethoven’s 9th thundered in his ears. It was one of his favorite symphonies. As he began to lose himself in the final crescendo, he felt someone roughly jolt his shoulder. He opened his eyes irritably and saw Mr. Gupta clutching at his thick throat. He was choking!

Serve him right! was Shantanu’s first reaction yet when he saw the man’s eyes start to bulge he panicked and hit the call button. The beautiful blonde made her appearance almost immediately but when she saw Mr. Gupta she called for assistance. A big burly steward shook the poor man by the shoulder and asked him something unintelligible. Mr. Gupta didn’t respond because he was in extremis. He started clawing at his throat.

“He needs a doctor now!” Shantanu yelled as he watched his companion’s plump face turn a bluish hue and beads of sweat pour down his face.

“I am a doctor! Move out of the way!” A petite slim Indian girl announced with a very authoritative voice as she shouldered her way through. She had said the magic words. The burly German who dwarfed her willingly stood aside.

“Are you choking?” she asked Mr. Gupta. When he nodded, she made him stand up and positioned herself behind him. Shantanu didn’t know how she accomplished it but she encircled Mr Gupta’s huge chest with her arms and thrust repeatedly inward with her fist. On the third try a large piece of brown stuff flew out of his mouth and he started coughing loudly and color rapidly returned to his face.

Everyone smiled and breathed a collective sigh of relief as Mr. Gupta indicated he was fine. Then they all pumped the girl’s hands and thanked her profusely.

Dhanyawad beta, you saved my life. I don’t know how to show you my gratitude,” Mr. Gupta said.

“It’s alright sir. I was just doing my duty, that’s all. I’m happy I was around and I could be of help.”

That’s an understatement! What you did was a miracle!” Shantanu chipped in having been a silent witness so far.

She turned as if noticing him for the first time. She wasn’t much older than mid or late twenties and had the most beautiful jet black eyes. But now they were looking at him with scorn, “Mister, if you wish to call it a miracle, you can, But it’s all in a day’s work for doctors like me.”

Mr. Gupta butted in, “Beta! At least tell me your name and address, so I can send you a thankyou gift.”

“Dr. Khanak Agarwal, and sir, your thanks is a gift in itself.”

She walked away with her head held high and without giving Shantanu a second glance. Women didn’t do that when it came to Shantanu Khandelwal. He was intrigued.


PS: Please drop a comment.

Credit for the beautiful siggie goes to Anu.