Lucky Everyday: A Novelby Bapsy Jain
An inspiring novel about a women named Lucky who is anything but . . .
Forced to flee Bombay when her wealthy and charming husband divorces her and squashes her career, Lucky Boyce feels defeated and desperate for respite. Fortunately, old friends welcome her to New York where life begins with promise. Determined and trying to make a difference, she/b>… See more details below
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An inspiring novel about a women named Lucky who is anything but . . .
Forced to flee Bombay when her wealthy and charming husband divorces her and squashes her career, Lucky Boyce feels defeated and desperate for respite. Fortunately, old friends welcome her to New York where life begins with promise. Determined and trying to make a difference, she volunteers to teach yoga to prison inmates. But with her confidence in question and love starting to surface, a series of bizarre events leave Lucky searching once again for answers. Is her journey through life destined to be marred by duplicity and betrayal? Or does she simply need to overcome her fears and look within for the strength to break free? A stunning novel about one woman's struggle toward enlightenment, Lucky Everyday blends the principles of yoga with a thoroughly modern take on the quest for a fulfilled life.
Lucky Boyce flees to New York from Bombay after the breakup of her disastrous marriage to a glamorous but controlling husband in Indian author Jain's overstuffed novel. Lucky's lost her status, her self-confidence and her business; struggling to find a purpose in all this through yoga and meditation, she volunteers to teach yoga at the local prison. She soon runs into an old flame, now married but still in love with her, and an opportunity to turn a former business rival into an ally. As she moves toward enlightenment, Lucky's thwarted by ever more bizarre roadblocks: she is mugged, framed for murder, robbed, gets pregnant, ad infinitum, all interspersed with descriptions of visions and prophetic dreams, putting her somewhere between Job and Bridget Jones. Though Lucky herself is a fully imagined, flawed but endearing character, the constant reliance on luck to shape the plot combined with a disappointing ending make this a mediocre read at best. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This debut novel (originally published in India as The Blind Pilgrim) sneaks up on readers and pulls them in. We first meet Lucky Boyce when she is being driven into a prison, where she volunteers to teach yoga to male inmates. Her life had been turned upside down by divorce and the loss of her job, but Lucky is determined to survive. Forced to leave Bombay, she finds herself living with friends of her parents in New York and wanting to move on. Initially, Lucky volunteers at the prison in order to escape her own pain. But she finds the inmates teaching her about life as much, if not more, as she teaches them. Is it a coincidence that odd things start to happen as Lucky becomes more confident? Odd things like murder and people disappearing? Readers will identify with Lucky as she looks within herself for strength. VERDICT How lucky to review a book that is so refreshing and thought-provoking! This novel took ten years to write, and readers will appreciate Jain's sticking with it. Highly recommended for those who enjoy first novels and contemporary Indian fiction.Marika Zemke, Commerce Twp. Community Lib., MI
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- Age Range:
- 18 Years
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Table of Contents
AN INTRODUCTION TO Lucky Everyday
A CONVERSATION WITH BAPSY JAIN
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
A chartered accountant, Bapsy Jain is an entrepreneur and educator who divides her time between Singapore, Dubai, and Bombay.
Jain has stood on her head many times in the course of the ten years it has taken to complete this novel. She is married with two sons.
Published by the Penguin Group Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published as The Blind Pilgrim by Penguin Books India 2008 This edition published in the United States of America by Penguin Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 2009
Copyright © Bapsy Jain, 2008
All rights reserved
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN PUBLICATION DATA
Jain, Bapsy. [Blind pilgrim]
Lucky everyday : a novel / Bapsy Jain.
Originally published: India : Penguin Books, The Blind Pilgrim, 2008.
eISBN : 978-1-101-02482-9
1. Women—Fiction. 2. East Indians—United States—Fiction. 3. Life change events—Fiction. 4. Self-realization—Fiction. 5. New York (N.Y.)—Fiction. I. Title. PR9499.4.J34B’.92—dc21 2008043225
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To Sammy and Gaurav May you strive to be lucky every day!
Special love to my late parents, Dina and Manek Medhora, and my in-laws, Neera and Shashi Chand Jain, who have always been parents to me. To my soul mate, Nitish, and to all my relatives and friends who have supported and encouraged me through this incredible journey.
To my publisher, Penguin, many grateful thanks. To the team at Penguin, Mike Bryan, Kathryn Court, and Branda Maholtz, much appreciation and sincere thanks.
THE CADILLAC ROLLED TO A STOP IN FRONT OF A FORMIDABLE wrought-iron gate. A white sign inscribed with large black letters and posted eye-level to the driver read:
NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS ONLY TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED
What kind of fool would trespass onto prison grounds, Lucky wondered. Aren’t people usually trying to break out? She counted five guards at the gate: three reading newspapers and drinking coffee inside a small glass-and-concrete cubicle, one standing on the road with a clipboard, and another a little off to the left cradling a shotgun in his arms. It was October and though it was midmorning there was a chill in the air; the guards outside wore green overcoats. The guard with the shotgun had a woolen cap with flaps pulled over his ears; his breath hung in the fog hovering around him. It was that kind of morning—hazy, gray; a few tentacles of lingering fog stretched along the ground, refusing to burn off.
Alec rolled down the window and a guard peered in from the driver’s side to inspect the car. He jotted down the license plate number and the names of the two occupants. Lucky smiled at the guard, then at the oversized surveillance camera perched on the pole beside the road. After inspecting Alec’s driver’s license, his Department of Corrections security card, and Lucky’s passport, the guard waved the Cadillac through the gate. Lucky winced at the high-pitched grating of iron on iron as the gate swung open.
Between the gate and the prison walls was a bare gravel field nearly a quarter of a mile wide and perfectly level. Nothing grew there, not even a weed. No cover, Lucky reasoned. She looked up at the towers spaced evenly along the prison wall and spotted the silhouette of a guard with a rifle. There was a sign on the road directing employees to proceed straight on; visitors, deliveries, and “others” to the right. Lucky wondered who “others” would be. Us, I suppose. Alec followed the road as it turned and circled the prison all the way around. He parked in front of a small, detached, “portable” office building between the parking lot and the walls.
Lucky looked into the rearview mirror one last time and brushed the bangs out of her eyes. People said she “radiated confidence,” though she was no longer sure what that meant. In her late twenties now, she was tall, her body still supple and youthful. Her jeans fit tight and her light blue blouse accented her olive complexion. Her black hair was pulled back and held at the nape by an enameled barrette. On her wrist was a slim gold watch, the only ornament she allowed herself to wear. Odd for a woman who was once in the jewelry business, she thought wryly.
As Alec stepped out of the car, he took out a pair of narrow, rectangular wire-rimmed glasses from his coat pocket and fumbled with them before finally putting them on. He was tall and thin and, at sixty, still possessed a sprinter’s physique.
“Are those new?” Lucky asked.
“Picked them up yesterday,” Alec replied, banging the door shut. “Bifocals. Time flies, you know.”
“You look like you’re going to meet the queen.”
“I’ve got a meeting this afternoon. Peer reviews. Got to look professional, whatever that means.”
Inside, they were greeted by two guards—an African American woman and a Caucasian man. The man rose deferentially and regarded Lucky with a hopeful look. Lucky eyed him with a cool stare. The woman, lounging in a chair with her feet on the desk, was reading O, The Oprah Magazine. She barely looked up.
The guards wore identical uniforms: smoky blue shirts and trousers, with a navy blue stripe down the sides of the pants and matching epaulettes on their shoulders. The woman put down her magazine and stood up slowly, as if disturbed from some important work. She was taller than her male companion, nearly six feet, and muscular. She pointed to a set of footprints painted in red on the floor, indicating that Alec and Lucky should stand on them. When they did, the guards frisked them carefully. They took Lucky’s barrette, watch and handbag, and Alec’s keys and wallet. “Pick ’em up on your way out,” said the female guard.
Lucky shook her hair loose. “You look better that way anyhow, honey,” the male guard murmured. He took a Polaroid photo of Lucky and a set of fingerprints, and strode off saying he would be back in a minute. He returned ten minutes later with the photo and prints laminated on a heavy plastic card clipped to a string. Lucky hung it around her neck. Then he handed her a small orange plastic cylinder with a large black button set at one end.
“What’s this?” Lucky asked, fingering the button.
“Ah-ha,” the woman said, swatting Lucky’s hand. “This here’s your panic button. If something goes wrong inside, you press that. But not unless you need it, baby. That thing shrieks like crazy. And if you sound it, all hell breaks loose. Total lockdown. Clip it on your belt and take it with you, but remember it’s only for an emergency.”
Lucky followed Alec out through a side door. They crossed a gravel drive to the prison, shouted their names into an intercom and waited while a guard—whom they couldn’t see—called for the gate to be opened. They repeated the procedure a second time at the inner gate, before entering the prison proper. Inside was a vast field of asphalt surrounded by featureless concrete buildings constructed in rows, like tombstones—identical, three storyies tall, with narrow slits for windows and roofs overhung with concertina wire. Elevated walkways enclosed in chain link connected the buildings. Lucky noticed more guards with rifles, prowling the catwalks and silently watching. Her eyes fell on a small work detail consisting of three prisoners overseen by two guards. They had a bucket of paint among them and a brush each and were lackadaisically covering graffiti scrawled on the walls. They were about to paint over an admonition: “Abandon dope all ye who enter here.” Further down the wall Lucky read another inscription: “Life is a prison.” She shivered.
They followed a lane that skirted a blacktopped recreation yard raucous with inmates playing basketball, walking or standing around in small groups, smoking, talking, taunting each other. The prisoners wore identical “uniforms”: blue jeans and faded blue denim shirts. Their names were stenciled in large black letters on their backs and in small letters on white patches sewn over their shirt pockets. The yard was divided into four fenced areas. Like pens, Lucky noted. She also noticed that one area was predominantly for Caucasian prisoners, one for the African Americans, one for the Hispanic, and one mixed.
“It’s about control,” Alec said, nodding in the direction of the prisoners. He had been watching her take in the surroundings. “There are five thousand prisoners here, never more than two hundred guards on a shift. They have to be able to lock down if there’s trouble. Divide and conquer. It’s the only way to keep order.”
To Lucky it seemed that the architect who designed the prison had dreamed it up in a state of acute depression. Every inch of the interior, with its metal bars and concrete barriers, demanded compliance, forcing the inmates to move along right angles and in straight lines. The long corridors had rows of hivelike cells on both sides and locked doors at the two ends. At best it was spartanly functional, at worst it was torture through sensory deprivation. She looked at Alec. “It’s sad,” she said. “Like sheep to the slaughter.”
“It’s devoid of any trace of humanity,” Alec agreed. “The system says they don’t deserve it.”
“And you think you can change that?” Lucky asked.
Alec shrugged. “It’ll take time. I’ve been here for a year and a half. But I figure one life redeemed makes the effort worthwhile. I’ll get permission for you to come in and teach, if you think you’re up to it.”
“Teach what? Accounting? The last time I checked, felony convictions weren’t considered assets on résumés.”
Alec laughed. “I was thinking about yoga.”
“Sure, why not?”
“I’m hardly an expert.”
“Of course you’re an expert; you’ve been at it since you were a toddler. Your dad said it became second nature to you. Besides, you’re Indian. They’ll assume you were brought up in an ashram.”
“Who here would want to learn yoga?”
“People outside do yoga, why not people in here? Might be the best way to rehabilitate them, let them know they can fit in. Besides,” he added, a mischievous glint lighting up his eyes, “this is an all-male institution. You won’t have any trouble getting men to show up for a class.”
Lucky rolled her eyes. Alec stopped and put his hands on her shoulders, turning her around to face him. His face was serious now. “It doesn’t matter what the subject is. Inmates need to learn how to live. We try to build a bridge and then hope they cross it. The only way is to earn their respect and trust. Once they accept you, you can make a difference. I believe we have the power to change lives. And I’ll tell you something else: the best way to escape our own misery is to help someone else with theirs. Think it over.”
“Right,” Lucky said.
One of the things Lucky most admired about Alec was his unshakeable optimism. She had heard the same sincerity in his voice the morning he had received her at JFK International Airport. It was one in the morning and Alec had waited for two hours in the lounge because the flight from Bombay had been delayed.
“You should have gone home. I could have called.”
“Would your dad have gone home?”
“Just like India,” Lucky said, feeling guilty. “There’s always something.”
Alec laughed. “I think India was just sorry to see you go.” They collected her bags and carried them to the car. “Are you hungry?” he asked.
They had driven to an all-night diner and Alec watched sleepily as Lucky packed away a double helping of lasagna. “Welcome back,” he said. “You’re going to be okay.”
Over the next few weeks those words became a mantra for Lucky. BOK. BOK. She’d repeated them to herself as she lay in bed waiting for sleep to come.
At the end of the walkway they cleared yet another security check. “Welcome to D Block,” Alec said. “My playground.” Lucky followed him down a long corridor past a loud, bleach-saturated industrial-sized laundry and a cluster of cluttered offices. As they passed the last office, a man called out, “Alec!”
Alec stopped and smiled. “Good morning, Larry. Larry, Lucky Boyce; Lucky, Larry Capps. Larry’s the warden here.”
Larry came out of the office and laughed. “Chief cook and bottle washer is more like it, so pay no attention if Alec tries to butter me up.” Larry took Lucky’s hand and shook it vigorously.
Lucky liked him instantly. He was of average height with a slim build, dressed in an impeccable light-blue silk suit; his hair was silvery gray and trimmed short, his face clean-shaven. His most striking feature was his eyes. They were kind and gentle; a sharp contrast to the harsh prison interior. He looked absolutely unsuitable for his job. Can a man so gentle really handle this place, Lucky wondered
“I’m trying to recruit Lucky as a volunteer,” Alec said.
“We can use all the help we get,” Larry replied. He looked Lucky over. “Thank you for coming. Don’t worry about being a pretty girl among these naughty boys—we have quite a few female volunteers. There’ll be a guard close by at all times and you’ve got your panic button, right? Stop by my office anytime you want to chat. I like to know what’s going on, you know; all the things my officers won’t tell me.” He handed Lucky a card. “Call if you need me,” he said.
Alec led Lucky into the cafeteria and pointed out the classrooms, three of them in a row on the far wall. “Not bad for a prison,” he said. “Better than what you’d find in most public schools. They’ve got blackboards and desks, a file cabinet for your records.”
“I don’t think I’ll need desks to teach yoga, Alec.”
“No, probably not. I’m just saying it is a real classroom. If there’s anything you need, ask, and I’ll do what I can.”
Lucky looked around. “Is there a women’s washroom around?”
“Hmm,” Alec said. “Hadn’t thought of that. But there must be one somewhere; they have female guards and volunteers, right? I bet it’s in the office,” Alec gestured down the corridor. “I’ll be in D-43,” he said, nodding toward the classrooms and turning to leave.
A moment later a buzzer sounded, and there was a harsh clang as the electric bolts threw in the doors. In a moment, the halls echoed as the prisoners made their midmorning station changes. A number of them entered the cafeteria, calling and whistling as they filed past Lucky and into the classrooms. How predictable, she thought. Just like schoolyard bullies.
Lucky stood to one side, watching and waiting, until the buzzer sounded again and the doors sealed with a metallic clang. Three inmates remained behind. They carried mops and buckets, and two of them began to swab the floor carelessly. The third rested his mop against the wall, plopped down on a bench in the far corner, and lit a cigarette.
Lucky inquired at the office, found the bathroom, and then returned to the cafeteria. She was crossing the room when one of the prisoners moved behind her. The shorter one was already blocking the classroom door, leaning on his mop. But it was the third inmate, the one in the corner, who caught Lucky’s gaze. A huge hulk of a man, tattooed and bald-headed, he sat in smoldering silence. Once they locked eyes, Lucky could not pull away. Anger seemed to rise off him like heat waves. He looked as if he would explode.
The shorter inmate edged closer to her. “Come on in, babe,” he said. “We’ll give you a good time.”
“Hey, not bad,” the taller one added. He drummed his fingers nervously on the mop handle.
Lucky looked around the room. If there was a guard in the area, he was nowhere to be seen. The bald man blew a cloud of blue smoke, his face expressionless. Lucky looked around reading the names on their shirts, her lips moving silently. The short one was Rooster, the tall one behind her was Rob, and the bald-headed one, Steve.
“Praying? What’s the matter? Scared?” Rooster asked. “Come closer.”
Lucky took a deep breath and, almost involuntarily, stepped forward. Her hand slipped to her belt, groping for the panic button. Then she thought about something Shanti—her friend back in India—used to say: “Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. Nothing was there. Face your fears; otherwise they will chase you around.”
Steve lit one cigarette from the other and flicked the butt on the floor. Rooster made an obscene gesture with the mop handle.
“What do you want?” Lucky asked.
Rooster leered at her. “To f—your brains out,” he said. “Really? That’s it?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “You don’t want us to tell you, do you? Not a nice lady like you.”
“Sure,” Lucky said. “Tell me.”
Rooster and Rob made eye contact. They looked puzzled.
“All right then, let me tell you,” Lucky replied, pinning Rooster with her eyes. “You throw me down on the table and tear off my blouse. You push up my bra and you take my tits in your hands and squeeze. While you’re holding me down, he”—she nodded toward Rob—“pulls my jeans off and then my panties. I might kick, I might scream, but you’re hoping that I’m too frightened. And, if I do, so what? You’re stronger than me, right? And so you take turns, one after the other. It isn’t very good, but that’s not what it’s about, is it? You want me to fight, you want me to cry, because the fighting and crying is better for you than sex. What else? Humiliation? Degradation? Then what?” Lucky’s voice was detached, flat. “You think it’s over? You think it ends there? No such luck. You’re still in prison, maybe looking at another twenty years. Nothing has changed, has it? You’re wallowing in the same shit; lonely, frightened, sick, and this whole sorry episode is one more voice echoing in your conscience you’re trying not to listen to. Then you wonder why you can’t sleep at night. And, you know what? I’ll survive. I know that. I’ll survive because I have the strength. I’ll survive because I’m stronger than you are. You don’t scare me. But I bet I scare the hell out of you.”
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Meet the Author
In addition to writing, Bapsy Jain is an entrepreneur and educator. She divides her time between Singapore, Dubai, and Bombay. She is married with two sons.
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