The book “A Dark and Shiny Place” by Pragati Deshmukh features the story of Maya who experiences strange happenings and inexplicable experiences while being trapped alone, in her home, through the lockdown.
As the story unfolds, the book highlights the bond between the protagonist and her sister Meera and contemplates the mysterious workings of the mind and the complexities of human experiences.
This is an intensely thrilling, and deeply emotional, experiential journey of a woman, who begins to lose track of reality. The lines of sanity blur as her mind is stretched between the paranormal and the psychological. Can Meera’s love save Maya from being lost forever? Will Maya find her way through the darkness or succumb to another fate?
Read an excerpt from the book below.
Maya and Samar were this perfect couple. I sometimes had a tough time choosing to be a sister to either of them. Ek se badh kar ek! But they were always a team and jointly disapproved of every guy I ever dated.
However, I had noticed a growing change in Maya in the past year or so. She was getting easily irritable and would snap at Samar or me for small things. This was very unusual of her and I did discuss it with Samar once. It was much more painful for him and since I lived miles away in another country, I had less of this to deal with. But both of us attributed it to her frustration at being jobless and maybe hormonal changes and let it go. We thought we would look at it closely soon.
There were sporadic conversations around having a child. She had grown an affinity to floral and yellow which I didn’t quite understand, but that was Maya. Samar didn’t mind having a child but he wasn’t the one to push Maya into something that she did or didn’t desire. Every time he spoke to her about having the child, she would refuse, stating she could not give birth. He went with her to her regular gynaecologist who said that biologically Maya was absolutely fine ne and she was of the right age to have a baby. But Maya felt that how much ever she may have wanted to bring home a baby girl, emotionally, she couldn’t have a child. Those were the first signs of something being different with her. My sister always had trouble dealing with anxiety, and was not very comfortable around people. But you would know that only if you were as close to her as I was. For the world, she was the most extroverted person. She was an introverted extrovert in the true sense of the term. Her nerves would be shaking inside, but on the outside she had this bright smile and gave such warm vibes to people around that they flocked closer to bask in her company.
Our parents were dealing with old age battles in their self-made nest. I left India, assured that Maya and Samar were just a few hours away from them. Being a single career woman in her late 30s is challenging, but I was proud of it and my family was even prouder.
We all have our share of pies and rotten eggs in life and we were going through the motions quite alright until that dreadful and shocking day when Samar left. Nobody saw it coming and I felt the ripples hit me all the way across the globe in New Zealand, as hard as they hit home.
Maya put up a really brave front for everyone, but I could see she was broken inside and every day she lost a piece of herself. I waited for my visa to come through hand my parents stayed with Maya for a few days, but with their age and health at that stage, they needed to return to their nest. They insisted on taking Maya along, but she had always been the strong leader of our family. She gave them the confidence and assured them that she was fine and needed to stay back and pack up. She would visit them once she was done. She needed her time. They had always been kind and understanding and they gave her what she wanted; her space and time. From miles away, I could sense this was a mistake. I tried to convince them to do otherwise, but I knew it was in vain. Nobody could change Maya’s mind once it’s made up. She wasn’t just bull-headed, she was a combination of the bull and the lion who couldn’t be messed with. And she stayed in that house where she and Samar had set up the promise of their lives.
That’s the thing with being a grown-up; everyone assumes you will be alright and cope, that time will heal all wounds, and you don’t need constant attention and care as children do. But the truth is that we become more complex as we grow up. Maya would never call out for help. It just wasn’t in her to do that, even though she would be the first to offer it to anyone she thought needed a listening ear. With all her virtues and complexities intertwined and buried deep within the recesses of her mind, I was getting deeply concerned about the fragility of her well being. She needed help but would not admit it and I, the only person who could get her that, was a continent away.
I often wonder if we are simply characters in a multi-layered story, written and directed by somebody up there. For now, it certainly felt like that. The timing of every event couldn’t suggest otherwise. It was like someone was dealing the cards for us and purposely wanting Maya to suffer while I waited for my visa to come through, I spoke to Maya every day, telling her to hold strong and that I would be there as soon as I could. In the mean time, a new virus had broken out in the world and was spreading at an alarming rate. Thereafter things happened so fast that it felt like an unending nightmare. My visa application was on hold, the country went into lockdown, and I was stuck while my sister was spiralling down a dark tunnel. At this time, I knew I had to be the older sister and take charge of Maya’s life, even if I had to do it remotely.
Initially Maya seemed to cope fine, but I got worried about her after that phone call. Until then, it was really just concern that she was alone during the lockdown in that house, surrounded by Samar’s memories. But that phone call wouldn’t let my intuition rest and I decided to make an appeal to the Indian Embassy for special permission to travel. They were kind and promised to keep me on the priority list. Now all I could do was wait. Why did that phone call alarm me? Well, to begin with, she took an unusually long time to answer the phone, followed by a long silence while I repeatedly called out her name. Instinctively, I knew she was on the line but something was not right. After what seemed like an eternity, when finally I heard her voice, there was one word only, a simple calm and low ‘YES’. My world came to a thundering halt. That was not Maya!
- November 11, 2022