Burning Bridges – Chapter One


Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Jason Fernandes rung the slightly rusty bell on his bike before turning right into the old brick building. The old guard, smoking a cigarette to drive away the early morning chill, stood up, startled, as the 25-year old whooshed by on his bike.

“One of these days I’m going to stick out my cane when you waltz in like that on your rattle-y old bike and you’re going to get a good ol’ smacking in the head.”

“You can’t!” Jason shouted back. “They’ll fire you!” he said, beaming a smile as he took another right, heading to the parking lots.

“Smartass. Pfft.”

The brick building housed the newspaper agency that Jason Fernandes worked for. It may have looked old and dreary from the outside, but the building was very well-furnished, spacious and airy on the inside. It was very old, though. Close to 150 years old, some said. Built when the English still had an iron fist over India, it stood there, evidence to having sustained the test of time. That’s how a lot of South Mumbai is; historic, memorial. You step out of Churchgate Railway Station, have a walk around and look at how different this part of the city is from the rest and you get a vibe of just how majestic it is. A Mumbaikar knows this vibe.

Jason wasn’t even six months into the job, but people liked him. He was enthusiastic, curious, smart, good with words, and tried hard at the job. Came in early, stayed a little long most evenings, and looked for new stories with vigour. Barely six months in, so he was still low down on the pecking order and hadn’t really worked on a lot of big stories but he had been sniffing close to the action. He’d made friends on the news circuit, friends that were fairly well-connected themselves. Influential, reliable. Well, most of them. There were at least three dudes who were compulsive stoners. And, he figured his boss was beginning to develop a liking for him. That’s always a huge plus.

The air-conditioners hadn’t been turned on when he got into the big office full of cubicles, and surrounded by glass offices of the superiors, all smelling a lot of coffee and paper. Among all the identical cubicles was one that didn’t quite conform. It had a little white handmade sticker stuck on the wall that stood in the aisle. ‘J. Fernandes’ proclaimed the sticker. Jason was quite certain there weren’t any other J. Fernandeses in the same room. The sticker would have more written on it, but Jason didn’t quite have a title. Yet. He walked over to his distinctive corner in the office, placed his bag under the desk, switched on the computer and went to help himself to a cup of coffee until the machine came to life. Put quite simply, the coffee tasted like catpiss, not that any sane man’s ever tasted catpiss, but Jason tolerated it. Frankly, the caffeine and the metaphorical early-morning-kick-in-the-balls is all he needed.

The cursor was dragged to the little red, yellow and green circle in the bottom left corner of the screen. Google Chrome opened up. It suggested ‘gmail.com’ as soon as Jason had typed in ‘g’ in the search/address bar. He typed in his account details and was scanning his inbox by 8 A.M. Scam, scam, scam, newsletter, scam, family photos, and then finally something useful on a morning such as this. An email from Wayne Polk, titled ‘Important. Or Maybe Not.

Polk was a newsman himself, much like Jason, but five years older and much more senior at the foreign news agency he worked at. The two had met at a conference – cum – seminar a few months back and Jason’s boss had introduced the two. They shared a sort of weird love for the job they did. “Youthful curiosity. Wait till you see some blood, some of the corruption going around, that’ll all die down. Trust me,” Jason’s boss said. Either way, Wayne and Jason got to know each other and stayed in touch, trading knowledge, with Wayne almost always learning as much as he taught Jason himself. Occasionally Polk dropped a nugget here or a tidbit there of some story he’d picked up somewhere.

Jason opened up the email.

“Yo, Fernandes.

Got back to Manchester from Beijing a day back. Got to be the press for the China – Pakistan deal that went down. It was pretty textbook. Boring, tbh. 

Sidenote: Do not got to China. The pollution is crazy as fuck. When I say crazy, I mean crazy. I mean, yeah, sure it ain’t everywhere but most of the big cities, well, they’re screwed.

So, yeah, the Pakistani PM arrived, Chinese showed him around and stuff. The usual stuff. Went in the room to get down to business the next day. Sat there for 4 and a half hours straight. When the PM left, it seemed more like he was storming out, because it took the Chinese a minute to follow. That was all that was unusual. Of course, we press are obliged to make a big deal of it, but the PM and all really made it seem like it was all rosy. They did get back in the room and as it seems, came to terms.

Ask me, though, I heard whispers about some real shady shit going down in those talks. And it should draw your attention. I don’t know anything for sure but there’s been rumours something went down, and wasn’t exactly revealed. My best bet would be to say it is somehow related to the tensions between China, Pakistan and you guys. Nice little three-way you got going there. Tense shit. Keep your ears up, something about this is got to trickle out on your end as well. 

Be in touch.

W. Polk.”

Jason was immediately intrigued. He realised he hadn’t had a sip of coffee while going through that email. He took a deep sip, felt the heavenly feeling of the warm liquid at the back of his throat, and proceeded to Google all he could about the China Pakistan deal.


The two bikes swerved this way and that, trying to weave their way through the horde of cars between them and the toll booths and subsequent entry to the huge, white bridge in front of them. Its slight arch to the left, and its tall and elegant pylons accentuated its already flamboyant figure in front of the majestic city of Bombay.

Both bikes were occupied by two members each, both wearing black jackets and blue trousers with black helmets. Their jackets concealed the handgun tucked underneath. The passengers on both bikes had big black duffel bags slung over their shoulders, which housed all sorts of equipment required for the effort underway.

As they got closer to the toll booths, two more bikes joined them from a narrow entrance to the highway, on their left. They were all similarly dressed and each rode the bike as recklessly as the next.

Then suddenly, all four split up and each went to one of the four functioning toll booths and patiently waited in line. People in cars around them cast curious glances at them, but they looked straight ahead. None of the toll booth attendants knew anything about them and it was essential that it stayed that way. Each rider co-ordinated their approach to the toll booth with that of the others’. It was apparent that they all intended to reach the toll booths simultaneously. If one was left behind, the others dropped behind by a vehicle or two to make up for it.

It was close to 9 in the morning and traffic was starting to roll in. As the bikes approached the booths in their queue, the four passengers moved their duffel bags to their front, and opened up the zip in such a way that it was convenient to get out whatever was inside, while concealing it from onlookers until it was outside. They were very casual with the whole movement.

At 8:49 AM, all four bikes rolled into the four toll booths and the attendant held out and open palm in which they were supposed to place the toll money. The riders turned off their bikes.

In a swift motion, the drivers of the bikes pulled out the guns out of their holsters and four distinct gunshots were heard and four toll booth attendants held out their hands to motorists for the last time. Commotion ensued. Some cars tried going around the toll booths and escaped onto the bridge but did not know of the existence of three similar riders in the middle of the bridge and four more at the other end. Others tried reversing out of the toll lanes and what resulted was a frenzy of hitting the reverse gear, and lots of screeching tires.

Three policemen stood by the toll booths, leaning on their armoured cars. As soon as they heard gunshots, they all threw the doors open and scampered inside. The roof hatch was thrown open and one police officer immediately positioned himself to use the submachine gun if necessary. One police officer slowly drove the giant vehicle towards the booths while the third one contacted other patrolmen.

“Shots fired at BWSL toll booths! Shots fired! Assistance requested!”

Whew, this was the first chapter to the story I’ve been working on for many a month. It took me this long because there’ve been a lot of roadblocks. My preliminary exams came up, then my Boards and then I’d been away on holiday for a couple of weeks, but now its finally here.

I’d published a prologue of sorts to this, which you can check out by clicking here.

I’ve thought quite ahead on this story, unlike the Traitor series on my blog which I started and then it sort of just faded away because I didn’t really plan ahead on it and made stuff up as I went along. This is different. So, there are going to be more chapters. At least another four chapters. Yeah, a total of five chapters sounds good enough.

I hope you guys liked what you read, because I had a lot of fun writing it, and I’m sure its going to be a lot of fun writing this story. Let me know what you think down in the comments!

I’ll see you next time.

Manchester United – 2015/16 Season Preview

https%3A%2F%2F40.media.tumblr.com%2F8f711bfbd4256466fc51a0e45aef7b87%2Ftumblr_nqgeljWcJJ1s925xlo2_1280 Pre-season is over, new players have come in, old ones have left, and the League is back in business with Manchester United, just like last year, playing the first match of the season, this time against Tottenham Hotspur at the Theatre of Dreams, Old Trafford. So let’s have a long, hard look at Manchester United, and assess how good they truly are in this season preview. The last time Manchester United met Tottenham Hotspur, United ran out 3-0 winners, with all three goals coming in the first half itself, owing to some shambolic defending from the Spurs. Michael Carrick set up the first goal for Marouane Fellaini to score, Fellaini set up the second goal for Carrick to score, and for the third, Wayne Rooney pounced on a defensive error and ran through the middle of the park to slot one past a helpless Hugo Lloris. That victory set in motion two more hugely morale-boosting victories against Liverpool away and Manchester City in the derby after which United ended the season in 4th place, a bare necessity after ‘that season’. A few months on, many players have left the club and many have come in. Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Matteo Darmian and Sergio Romero are the biggest names to have come in, and it looks like United are not quite done in the transfer window just yet with just a little less than a month to go till it shuts for the summer. Moving on to that assessment I talked about earlier.

Transfers (In)

Let’s start by looking at the players who have come in and lets see how good they are, how good they can be and what can we expect of them this season.

Memphis Depay

3324698B56AB4D389D706D67C6182784United announced the signing of Memphis Depay much before the transfer window had opened, and understandably so. There were a lot of clubs vying for Depay’s signature because of the immense talent that he has. Depay is a very versatile Dutch player who can play as a left winger, central attacking midfielder and even a striker. I reckon he has the skillset to play on the right wing as well but since he hasn’t played there much before, it would be wise to keep him where he’s best. Memphis, as he likes to be called (even his jersey says Memphis and not Depay), had a prolific campaign with his former club PSV Eindhoven last season where he scored 28 goals in 40 appearances. This is even more astounding when you learn that Depay was only 20 then. So immense is his talent, that he has been compared to the likes of Arjen Robben and Cristiano Ronaldo. In his unveiling as a Manchester United player, he said he sees himself as a striker. That is one position United definitely need some backup for Wayne Rooney. Having said that, I believe Wayne Rooney can go on to have a great season as a goalscorer this time around. In Javier Hernandez we have a fairly good backup, who, with the right push can be good for us when called upon. In James Wilson we have a potentially world-class talent and he needs game time and confidence with him and he can be a great striker too. Memphis Depay would definitely be a better goalscorer if placed up front, but at PSV he was used as an inverted left winger of sorts who cut in through the left wing, onto his right foot on which he is strong, and scored goals, and that is what he can be used as at United as well. Louis van Gaal tried that for a bit with Angel Di Maria last season but it didn’t work because Di Maria didn’t have the strength to cut in to the middle and dance past the tough English defenders, but Memphis is strong enough for it. Coming onto expectations, I think we can expect Memphis to settle into life at United well, and I can see him getting quite a few goals and assists for us even though its only his first season here.

Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger
SEATTLE, WA - JULY 17:  Bastian Schweinsteiger of Manchester United during the International Champions Cup 2015 match between Club America and Manchester United  at CenturyLink Field on July 17, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA – JULY 17: Bastian Schweinsteiger of Manchester United during the International Champions Cup 2015 match between Club America and Manchester United at CenturyLink Field on July 17, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)

IMG-20150718-WA0011United desperately needed a balanced defensive midfielder like Carrick, somebody who is reliable defensively and can create chances on the attack. Carrick’s age is showing now and he is increasingly growing injury-prone. Whenever Carrick was out last season, United didn’t do very well. With Carrick in the playing XI, United had a 72% win ratio and without him it was down to 35%. I bet that 35% percent would have been even lower had David De Gea not been there. The point is that an attacking side like United usually use only one primarily defensive minded defensive midfielder like Carrick and the other two in the 4-3-3 midfield were box to box midfielders. This facilitates a better defense to attack transition, but the problem was that other than Carrick we didn’t have anybody who was natural in that role. Yes, we had Daley Blind, but he showed that he wasn’t up to the challenge, and even if he was, he was pushed to the left defensive position due to the perpetual absence of Luke Shaw due to injury, and kudos to Blind because he actually did very well as left back. To solve our problem, Louis van Gaal brought in not one but two defensive midfielders in the form of highly rated Frenchman Morgan Schneiderlin and world class German Bastian Schweinsteiger. I was honestly applauding this piece of business because after a long time, United actually have a formidable midfield. I think we can expect great things from Morgan Schneiderlin for sure. Bastian Schweinsteiger is going to have a tough time settling in I feel, not just because he is on the wrong side of 30 but also because fitness has been a concern for him over the last three years or so, but overall, I feel these two transfers are absolutely world class because of the kind of ability we have captured considering the fee we have paid for the same.

Matteo Darmian and Sergio Romero
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 05:  (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Sergio Romero of Manchester United in action during a first team training session at Aon Training Complex on August 5, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by John Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – AUGUST 05: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Sergio Romero of Manchester United in action during a first team training session at Aon Training Complex (Photo by John Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images)
Matteo Darmian
Matteo Darmian

Who is Matteo Darmian? That was what everybody was asking when United had announced his transfer from Italian club Torino. Darmian is a very talented young right full back who largely passed under the radar for some reason, even though he has played for the national team. I totally appreciate this transfer because Antonio Valencia isn’t a permanent choice for right back although I am sad to see Rafael leave as a result. He was a fierce warrior, maybe sometimes too fierce, but I kinda liked him. Darmian showed in the friendlies that is an able right back. He has pace to burn and isn’t completely hapless going forward as well, a little like Rafael in that regard. I think he comes in to the starting XI directly and will stay there barring some really big errors. Sergio Romero was a bit of an odd one I feel. His form has been up and down and his ability doesn’t stand out to me either. Don’t get me wrong, he is definitely a good second choice option (if you exclude Victor Valdes) but we definitely need more between the sticks especially if David De Gea is leaving before the transfer window comes to a close. Romero may be a bit like Victor Valdes was at the end of last season, but if our defence is not as shaky as it was then, hopefully he won’t be called upon as much.

Potential Formations

Louis van Gaal was presumably wedded to the 3-4-3 he used for Netherlands in the World Cup prior to last season because that’s what he used initially last season with United as well, only to learn very fast that it didn’t work in England. He experimented with a lot of formation thereafter but finally settled for a 4-3-3 of sorts which seemed to be bringing the results. With David De Gea perpetually between the sticks, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones as the two central defenders and Valencia and Blind as full backs, Herrera was picked as the attacking midfielder, Michael Carrick as the defensive minded one and Marouane Fellaini’s afro could be seen running around from the top of defence to the attack as he was given a fairly free role and he made a difference almost everywhere, thanks to his physicality. Young occupied the left winger role and Mata cut in regularly from the right wing in what was described as a false right winger role by the manager, one that suited Mata well, since he didn’t have a lot of physicality or pace for the wider role and his creativity supplemented the attack well. If we assume that LVG will go with a 4-3-3 this season, and there have been very few indications toward it since he played with a 4-2-3-1 in the friendlies, but if we assume that he will go ahead with a 4-3-3 then this is what we can expect: 1If, however, Van Gaal decides to persist with the 4-2-3-1 that he used in the pre-season friendlies, and the evidence says he might be inclined to do so since today’s confirmed lineup to face the season opener versus Tottenham Hotspur says United may use this formation, then this is something like what we may see: 2

Season Expectations

https%3A%2F%2F40.media.tumblr.com%2F50c7f9b26b197f89f8300cf6b28f995a%2Ftumblr_nqgeljWcJJ1s925xlo6_1280 I think this is a huge, huge season for Manchester United. Arguable one of the biggest of my generation and we are all looking forward to it. The buildup has been excellent, the players that have come in have brought some top-class quality and everybody looks raring to go. I expect Manchester United to do much better than they did last season, overall. I think they’re going to be more injury-free, squad depth is better this time around, the players, well most of them at least, are quite familiar with what the manager wants and his much talked about philosophy and the squad has a much, much better balance to it. Getting to the gist of the matter, I expect United to finish at least 2nd in the league, win at least one cup out of the Capital One Cup and the FA Cup and reach at least the Quarter Finals of the UEFA Champions League and hopefully a friendly draw could grant us a journey to the semis.

We all have our fingers crossed for this season and at the same time there’s some immense excitement and expectation for the same. Join me and everybody else today in the opening of the 24th Premier League season as all eyes are on Old Trafford for the draw against Spurs as we get ready to watch a cracker of a season!