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Saturday, 26 September 2015

Diabolical - Book Review

I was totally floored on reading the first half of Supriya Parulekar’s Diabolical. I vouched that it was the best novel I had read after the Da Vinci Code. The first half is edgy with raw characters. An actress with a step sister who loves  her more than her life. A step mother who has got a layered personality. In its first half Diabolical breaks away all the stereotypes and comes up with a strong story with a fast paced narration. I was reveted to my seat as I read it. I had never read anything like this. I felt I wouldn’t be unsurprised if a bigger publisher takes it up or it is made into a movie.

Unfortunately it does not hold the promise in the second half. After the first half, more particularly after Sonya’s death it falls flat and takes up the same old route. We have the beau of the actress who is charged for abetting her suicide. We have a cop with a past and a mystic who leads to the clue which comes as a breakthrough in the investigation. The paranormal angle steals away all the raw, edginess of the first half. To say it in one line, Diabolical dies with Sonya’s death.

The writing is sharp as razor. No time is wasted in describing unnecessary details. The characters are well etched and the dynamics of their relations comes up with interesting, dramatic scenes. Supriya is magnificent writer for sure.

This is a self-published book. Yet the quality of paper and print is simply superb. These days I find spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in books published by big names as well. Compared to those this book is better edited.

There are some flaws as well. Do we have Spring in India? On page 114 nephew’s wedding is written as nephews wedding. Also the line on page 121, “He was a cop who did not base his opinions on allegations but took a thoughtful and logical approach and then arrive at a conclusion.” I believe it should have been ... then arrived at a conclusion.

In spite of the shaky and disappointing second half Supriya has impressed me. I will count her amongst my favourite authors. I look forward to read her other titles as well. Doesn’t it sum up all?

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Your love will resonate

In the journey called life it is the co-travellers, the people around us who make it interesting. They bring the joy into our lives. But there is a flip side of their company too. It is they who make our lives miserable at times. We are misunderstood, we are blamed for no fault of ours. This is what hurts the most. The other person holding you responsible for something which you haven’t done at all.

I am sure all of you must have encountered such incidents in your lives. I don’t know how you respond to it. I would get disturbed with such incidents. I would feel very bad.  I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on my work in hand. That person and his comments would remain with me all the time, pinching me and pricking me. I don’t know why but even when there was no fault of mine, I would feel terribly guilty for hurting that person.

I wanted the air to be cleared as early as possible. I would like to speak to the person and clear the misunderstanding. But by this time the other person already had formed an opinion about me and closed the gates of communication.

That was when my Guru gave me the #SachchiAdvice. “Just release them from your thoughts.” He told me.

Is it that easy?” I asked.

Nothing is difficult my child. Have you tried it?”

No” I said.

That day onwards in my daily meditations I would bring the face of that person before my closed eyes and tell him or her “I have released you. You are free and I am free. Its a wonderful feeling. The matter is over, at least from my side.I wish you receive all the blessings of life”

I shared with my Guru that I was following his advice.

Good,” He said and gave me the most wonderful advice. “Remember if someone is disliking you, hating you, angry with you, it doesn’t mean that he or she doesn’t love you. It simply means that they have reserved their love for you for some time in future or probably a different lifetime. But you don’t block the stream of love emanating from your heart. Let it flow freely through all the living beings and the entire universe. Your love will resonate.

“I am participating in the #SachchiAdvice Contest by MaxLife in Association with BlogAdda.” 

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Maa's advice Sachchi Advice

 That day I was very stressed. My head was throbbing. I didn't know what to do. My exams were just a week away. I had topped not only in my college but in the entire university in the first year of my course. I enjoyed all the adulation, which I had never experienced till then. My topping in the first year had opened the doors of many extra-curricular and co-curricular activities as well.

The cherry, chocolate sauce and every thing that was good on the cake, was that I excelled in these extra-curricular and co-curricular activities as well. Here too I created records. I won inter-university prizes. Everywhere all – the students, teachers and even outsiders talked only about me. What more an eighteen years old could have asked for?

The whole year passed in receiving all those prizes. Now my second year examination was staring at me point blank with its big mouth gaping. I had done everything in that year – yes everything apart from studies. Unfortunately none of my extra or co-curricular activities were going to help me when it came to examination. I wondered how good it would have been if the exams were in the form of extra-curricular or for that matter even co-curricular activities. After all exams were all about cramming and bookish knowledge. While the extra and co-curricular activities trained us for the real world outside – whether professional or personal.

But all this mental consolation was not going to help me out when I hadn't studied at all. In my first year I had topped the university with record breaking marks. Now the pressure was mounting up on me. Leave getting that score, I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to even scrap through the examinations.

"Take a drop" Told a friend of mine with whom I had shared my plight.
"What do you mean?" I asked me.
"Don't appear for the examination this year. Study well and appear next year." I was very happy with the solution which he had offered. All my nerves were relaxed in a moment.

That day when I returned home I told my mother about my decision. She was calm. She did not speak a word until the day of the examination arrived. I was merrily singing a song as I was determined that I was not going to write the exams.

Go and appear for your exams.” She told me.
I will appear next year.” I replied carelessly.
No. Go and appear right now.” She said with a firm voice.
But I have not studied.”
Doesn’t matter go and write whatever you know.”
I will f.... fail.” The word fail took too long to drop from my mouth.
You wont. I trust your abilities.”

Her trust added to the pressure which I was carrying for the examination. We discussed. She never raised her voice. But she didn’t budge from coaxing me to write the exams. Having no option left I trudged to the exam hall. I had not studied. Still I scribbled answers to the questions. I wrote all the papers. Finally the ordeal was over.

After two months it was the time for declaration of  the results. The monster of fear of failure resurfaced. I was unable to sleep for the whole night. I was contemplating as to what should I do in case I failed. I zeroed on a few jobs which I would take up if I failed.

The results were declared. To my great surprise, I had passed with fifty-five percent marks. Now that was not the score you could expect from an erst-while university topper. But for me the fact that I hadn’t failed was enough. The next year, which was final year of my college, I studied since the beginning and struck a balance between my studies and extra and co-curricular activities. No wonders I again topped in the university.

I thank my mother for giving me #SachchiAdvice. I thank God for not listening to that well-wisher adviser who had asked me to take a drop. Had I listened to him, I would have wasted a valuable year of my student life. 
“I am participating in the #SachchiAdvice Contest by MaxLife in Association with BlogAdda.”

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Tracking Purnima - Book Review

An old small time singer actress is long forgotten, until the protagonist Aditi, who is a journalist, decides to write a feature on her. Aditi starts getting threats not to follow the story. This leaves her more determined to delve deep into the whereabouts of the yesteryear actress Purnima. A young boy, who shares his name with Aditi’s deceased brother, hangs himself. Aditi is covering that story too. Plus there is a gruesome murder of a calligrapher. Whether all these incidents are interconnected? Where is Purnima? Who is threatening Aditi and why? To get answers to all these questions you must read Tracking Purnima by Usha Kathir.

What I liked about Tracking Purnima is its plot and setting. The book shelves are inundated with commercial novels, which like bollywood films, make us believe that the Indian society resides only in Mumbai and Delhi and has a big fat Punjabi wedding. Tracking Purnima is set in Bangalore. The protagonist Aditi is a Tamilian and hails from Chennai. The names of the characters, the places where they stay, the food they eat, everything is authentic. This is refreshing. Which was the last book you read or movie you saw where the second lead was named Shankar or Reshmi (not Rashmi)?

Secondly this book is not a cheap clone of Dan Brown’s books. Tracking Purnima with all its flaws is a brand new story. Unfortunately these are the only good things which I can speak about the book. The way in which Aditi finds out that the woman pretending to be Purnima is an impersonator is utterly ridiculous. Same stands true for Reshmi pretending to be working for a company which converts old mansions into luxury hotels. The thread of Deepak’s suicide starts in the beginning, gets lost in the middle and resurfaces at the end. How can a calligrapher teach a person to forge another’s signature? The writing at some places particularly in the opening paragraph of Chapter 3 is confusing. Again why Ravi and Suresh are given a clean chit remains a big question. Their innocence and Chinnapa’s act of murdering is not explicitly mentioned.

Yet Tracking Purnima is refreshing read for sure. I congratulate the author Usha Kathir for coming up with an original plot and a unique setting.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Eco-friendly Ganesha

I made this Eco-friendly Ganesha.
My ‪#‎ecofriendlyganesha‬ Hope everyone becomes wise like me

This Ganesh Festival say no to

1. Colourful statues made up of POP and toxic colours

2. Crackers and Loudspeakers

3. Plastic

4. Polluting water bodies with religious garbage.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

To all the dear men in my life

To all the dear men in my life,

Eyebrows raised? Why? Do men in my life mean only my partners in bed? Of course not. I am a woman born in this country. Since my birth, right from the doctor who brought me out of my mother's womb safely, to the bus driver who takes me to my place of work daily, I have come across many many men in all these years. Most of them treated me good and some of them, umm…. well to say it in polite words, not so good. 
Whenever I am late from my work my father or brother comes to receive me at the bus stop. They have assigned to themselves the role of being my protector. Isn’t that what our culture has taught them too? Every year I tie the rakhi on his wrist so that he will protect me.

There are some gentlemen who vacate their seats in the crowded bus to offer me the  place to sit. I say to them that I am fine standing. But they compel me to take the seat. Reluctantly I plonk upon it. Dear men, I want to tell you I just don’t want the seat to sit. I am as strong as you to travel standing in a bus. 

My only expectation is that while I am standing please do not deliberately jab me by your elbows. Don’t try to find a reason to touch me or please me. I am a woman and I am gifted with the sixth sense to differentiate between the deliberate touch and the accidental one. 

Just give me my own space to stand whether in bus or in my life. Don’t offer me clutches to shape my persona in the mold which you have selected for me. Just give me a little space to grow, to blossom on my own. Don’t try to be a tree guard protecting me from getting uprooted. Don’t worry. I am strong enough. I will sway with the wind and yet stand tall. Its fine if you don’t appreciate my beauty. I am no longer only thing of beauty which will give you joy forever. 

Moreover I am not a thing at all. I am a human being with capacities equal to you. Yes, my dear men, you heard it right. I am equally powerful. Some of you chauvinist may ask whether I can work out in gyms like you and lift  the heavy weights. Yes, I can do that and even win a medal for the country. I can guard the borders and work as a permanent commissioned officer in the army. So instead of estimating my capabilities, better work on yourself.

I am not begging for a chance from you. I am not encroaching on your jobs. I know many of you feel insulted when you have a woman as your boss. You don’t want to take commands from a woman. But I never feel like that. I am just doing my job. I never look at you from the gender perspective. So get out of the complex that I am competing with you.

I just want to be myself. I want to test the waters by myself. I want to stand tall without any comparisons with anyone. I just want to blossom. There is a Japanese Haiku which says I asked the tree about God and it blossomed. The blossoming of the tree itself is manifestation of the God. So I just want to blossom. He (I am fine if God is He so longer as he doesn’t consider me to be His inferior) has bestowed me with few good qualities, which I want to work on. I want to pursue those as my career. I just want to be myself without you instructing me what is good for me or trying to protect me. So no special or equal treatment for me. If you want to give me something just acknowledge my independent existence.

Your beloved
An Indian woman. 

“I’m blogging for the India Today Woman Summit 2015 #WomenPower activity at BlogAdda.” 

A Gathering of Friends - book review

If you ask me what is Ruskin Bond, my reply would be Ruskin Bond is a lonely inquisitive boy sitting on the lap of the hills wanting to be loved, waiting to be accepted. There are many collections of Ruskin Bond’s writings available in the market. But what makes A Gathering of Friends special is that the author himself has chosen the stories in this collection. There are twenty-one pieces of his writings in this book. They are chronologically arranged. So the earliest of his writings come first in the book and the latest writings come at the end.

His literary expertise are well known. So reading A Gathering of Friends fills you with the joy of reading some of the best works in Indian English. It describes the nature, the people and their life in the hills. It describes the lives of Englishmen and women who made the Indian mountains their homes. 
Love is a sad song is Ruskin’s own sad love story. Time stops at Shamli is its sequel where he meets his beloved once again. But this time she is wife of someone else. Angry River is an adventurous tale of a girl caught in the storm and the rain. It has a mystery element to it. Who is the boy with the flute who rescues the girl caught in the flood? Is he the Lord Krishna? The blue umbrella brings to the fore the basic human tendencies in every human, whether living in the hills or the metro-cities on the plains. It also underlines the fact that at the end of the day love conquers all. Panther’s moon depicts the life of a young boy who has to walk through the forest to go to school. A panther is shot by a shikari in its leg. As a result it can no longer hunt the fast paced deer and is forced to prey on humans and their cattle. Sussanna’s Seven Husbands is an intriguing tale of a woman whose husbands die mysteriously. The prospect of flowers, The woman on platform 8, Most beautiful and Cherry tree are full of goodness in humans and hope. Grandfather fights an ostrich is a funny tale. The eyes have it and Gracie are predictable and remind you of O Henry’s style of writing. Remember this day speaks of the last outing of a son with his father.

This book is a book of joy and loneliness. It is a book of hope and life lived amidst the impending death. It is a book which shows the changing nature of the nature and lives lived in uncertainty of both nature and life. It is a book of love and longing. It is a book which you will read again and again to get drenched in those Himalayan villages and smell the air of hope and despair present there.

The only flaw in the book is that at one place in the Angry River the word Sita is misspelt. But Bond’s writing and the canvas which he creates makes us to pardon this unpardonable mistake.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Sonia Rao - Author interview

  1. Hearty congratulations for the rave reviews which initial chapters of the Magician are receiving. How does it feel?

    Thank you for the kind words, Mahesh. Yes, the response to the initial chapters has been overwhelmingly positive. This definitely thrills me. And also encourages me because I now know my readers are eager to read the forthcoming chapters. The feedback and insights I have been receiving have been so valuable, I feel such a sense of gratitude. On another note, every Friday evening feels like my exams just got over. (Note: The succeeding chapter of the novel is sent out every Friday).

  2. Please tell us how did the concept of the Magician come to you? Do you believe or read tarot?

    The Magician is what is called a Major Arcana card in a traditional Tarot deck. It generally refers to the creativity and energy within a person to transform their life. The persons whose birth card is The Magician have the power to manifest their desires. They are inspired to apply skill and initiative to accomplish all their goals.
    I’ve been interested in Tarot and other methods of divination for quite some time now, not so much for predictive purposes as much as to understand myself (yeah, some might call me self-absorbed) 

    In fiction, even though the storyworlds may differ, the development of the character(s) is constant and an important part of the narrative. The character arc often shows them overcoming an irredeemable situation using their talents/skills with immense courage, to emerge triumphant. Just like The Magician.

    This concept had been swirling in my mind since quite some time and when it was ready I wrote down the story. 
  3. Your novel is being circulated one chapter a week that too by email to its subscribers. What is the thought behind using this method ?

    I consider this to be an experiment, of sorts, Mahesh. I wish I could say it was a well-planned out strategy or something, but it really was an impulsive decision. I’d been pondering the current state of publishing-affairs. Also, I’d become a bit less reticent about putting out my writing in front of my readers. I think both these factors coalesced into that one impulsive decision, but with a caveat. No posting it on Facebook or on my blog.

    It would only be by subscription through email because I reasoned that those who subscribed would be the real readers, the interested ones. And I’m really glad I did this. 
  4. Do you think printed books are going to disappear soon and it is all going to be about e-books?

    I consider an e-reader to be a ‘device of ease.’ Once it becomes the default device (which books are at this point in time) then perhaps we’d only read e-books. I’d say the statistics currently stand at 50-50. But every single day I’m grateful for the internet and the e-readers for enabling me to access e-books, especially those related to the craft of writing.

  5. Please tell us something about your childhood.

    Whenever I think of my childhood I remember this quote by Chris Patten: Those of us who had a perfectly happy childhood should be able to sue for deprivation of literary royalties.

    That said, I remember my voracious appetite for reading. Even at meal times. If I didn’t have a book to read (which was rare), I’d be reading the newspaper and, in desperate cases, the labels on the bottles and jars of pickles and jams. Come to think of it, it was almost like feeding your soul at the same time as your body. But I was equally interested in sporting activities so when I was not reading I could be found playing football or seven tiles or even kho-kho with the girls and boys of the housing society we lived in.

  6. What kind of books do you read? Who are your favourite authors?

    When I look back at what I used to read, I can see phases. Once upon a time I was a fiction-freak. This was followed by the non-fiction phase: books on personal development, marketing, business management, spirituality, the works. Now, it is a mix of both. 
    It’s quite difficult to say who my favourite author is. I love to read any book by Michael Lutin. He’s an astrologer. But in fiction, I adore Salman Rushdie and Hilary Mantel, for the style of their writing. Well, this really is a very tough question.

  7. How much time do you devote for writing? Give us some tips as to how working professionals should take out time for writing?

    I try to do the Morning pages (as recommended by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way) and if I’ve been lazy or neglectful, say for more than three days at a stretch, I get excruciating headaches. 

    As for formal writing, I prefer to do that immediately after the morning pages. Two hours. The best way to approach the discipline of writing, in my view, is to do it unemotionally. Fix up a time and at the dot of that minute, sit down (or stand up, it that’s the way you’re oriented) and write. Use whatever time you get; during lunch hour, during your transit times. Ideally, you’d be doing an hour or two of writing, early in the morning or then late at night. 

     The timings again depend on whether you’re an early worm or a night bird. When I say unemotionally, I am pointing at any inner critic and self-doubt issues that might arise when it is time to sit down and write. Ergo, all emotions are best kept for the narrative rather than for the process.

  8. What would be your advice to budding writers?

    Read a lot! Write a lot! Rinse! Repeat! And once you’ve written a lot, study the craft of writing to make it even better. In fact, I’m also offering a NaNo Note a week, along with the chapter, as a guide for those who want to write a novel during NaNoWriMo.

  9. Have you tried finding a traditional publisher? How was your experience of finding a publisher?

    No, not yet. The publishing industry “lives in interesting times” currently. Perhaps when my next book is ready I’ll have some fascinating experiences to recount.

  10. These are the days of aggressive book marketing. Books have to be promoted. Your take on this?

    Marketing guru, Al Ries’ quote from Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind says it much better than I could: “In our overcommunicated society, the paradox is that nothing is more important than communication.” 
  11. Tell us about your future projects.

    On the personal front, a couple of novels and a book of short fiction are on the anvil. The professional agenda includes The Wrimo Anthology which is getting ready and should be published soon. I’m also editing a friend-client’s first novel.

  12. Your interview cannot be complete without asking about wrimo. Please tell us how did you become liaison for wrimo India and share with our readers your experience of holding that post for all these years?

    I became the NaNoWriMo ML for Asia:India region in 2011. In 2009 and ‘10 I was thrilled and excited to win the NaNoWriMo by writing the 50K words of my novel. But since 2011, nothing has given me greater pleasure than to motivate other writers to fulfill their authorial aspirations. This is a voluntary service and the sense of satisfaction is incomparable. 

    I’ve created a community of wrimos on Facebook. In November we meet in the NaNo forums but in other months, this group is the adda of the wrimos. Here, wrimos encourage each other to write more as well as hone their craft. I organize online workshops in the different elements of novel writing and marketing which are conducted by experts. Published authors join us for chats about their authorial journeys. The awareness and interest in writing and through that, NaNoWriMo, and vice -versa, has grown rapidly in the last few years. It is one of the best times to be a writer in India.