Monday, March 26, 2012

Swallow This – “The Asocial Network!”

*A word of Caution –

 People who start their day with face booking, spend half of their office time in posting, liking and commenting on social networks and end their evenings by using their status updates to write ‘Good night friends’ or other such predictable lines, hope you have a strong digestive system, ‘cause, Dheeraj Kumar, the Jamshedpur born IITian and debut author takes a bow and claps for himself as we gape open mouthed while he rips us apart with his musings on our behavior in the real and online world.

Here is a book that I tried my best to disagree with. However, in the end I could not help but nod my head, albeit slowly, secretly and silently. Based on his keen sense of observation of human frailties, the author explores, discusses and candidly expresses his thoughts on how online social networks especially Facebook, cleverly took advantage of our basic and inherent need to be appreciated, admired, thanked and portray a ‘larger than life’ image and  got all of us hook, line and sinker into brushing our teeth while checking our notifications for the number of ‘likes’ we received for our ‘just – 5- minutes- back’, posted clever one liner.

In the process, however, Zukerberg also joined the top 20 richest on Forbes 400.   But who cares about him. We care about us. Our image. Our popularity. Our number of friends…all in the virtual world. Err…in reality we could be…someone whose social network is limited to his wife and her side of the family.
Of course, there are areas in the book (to my delight), that can be hotly debated,   Please feel free to take advantage of the situation and give him your mouthful. Dheeraj, that is for being so nastily right in most of your observations/deductions.

Just to give you a fair idea let me give you some sample lines from the book. And mind you such provocative statements/questions are evenly sprinkled throughout the book -

"Perhaps we are all unsatisfied with the one real life we are all blessed with?"

“We are all deprived of an audience; we are unsatisfied with the normal course of events that fill our days.”

“Why do I need to know what moods my friends are in and what small wonders they are performing in their daily lives?”  -  “…’feeling awesome’, ‘taking off home’, ‘feeling bored,’ proud father of six babies’”   

“Why this urgency to come up with something new when your old post is still in the public place, although it may require some scrolling down. It is like trying to outsmart all your friends by coming up with something new”

“The human mind is not capable of maintaining friendship with more than 50 friends at a time. We are simply not designed to communicate with so many people all at once.”
I think I will spare us the pain. This is too much. I agree.

However, Google, Twitter, Orkut and others have not been spared too. But since FB is the biggest fish of them all, he has focused most of his energies in deep frying the people on it first.

On the brighter side though, Dheeraj has also discussed very important issues like future of the online and social networking world, its benefits, impacts and the mega transformation it would bring in our communities online and offline.   

 He has highlighted the above by discussing questions like -

Who would own it?

How will it impact our daily lives? (Buying vegetables online or automated messaging service that can be activated when the customer wants to send say an apology to his wife).

How Employer – employee relationship will undergo a huge change. Where the employees, would  actually render their services on an hourly basis and would also be in huge demand. (I quite like this idea, actually. We will finally learn to value each other’s time).

What would be its benefits and  usage in doing business in an open, friendly environment? 
And here is the best deduction of all…as per the author, in the 22nd century ‘the lure of gizmo gazettes would finally give way to the aesthetic desires of people.’ People will finally get bored of the virtual world and prefer connecting with each other face to face. Wow!. Am surely waiting for that to happen…simply 'cause I am not too comfortable around these new gadgets/ machines or even the web. It’s a small wonder that I was able to create my own blog without any help. Not that it looks great or anything. But at least, I did it on my own. So Dheeraj, thank you for this insightful and futuristic thoughts. Hope it comes true. And sooner the better.

 Towards the end he has left us wondering again with his simple question-
Is networking good or bad?’

No wait!  Before you answer that, read the book and then draw your conclusions.

As for me…I am still mighty confused. For me FB is a great tool to reach out to my readers, connect with other writers, publishers et al  yet I can't deny the fact that it is addictive. But one thing’s for sure, next time I will be cautious not to write updates like – ‘I had a bad day.’ ‘On cloud nine.’ You get the drift…!

But Dheeraj am still not going to stop writing my catchphrase - Keep smiling. J HA!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The essentials of writing a good book

Many aspiring writers keep asking me about the things they should keep in mind while writing a good story. In this blog I would like to share a few key points a good writer must focus on –

As a novelist I feel what keeps the reader glued to a story is how one sets the mood and the tone of the book. It is good to ensure that -

  1. the beginning of a story catches the attention
  2. the middle keeps the readers hooked to the story and turning pages
  3. the end leaves the readers thinking about the idea/story

In short, get them hooked to your story from the word go. Gradually reveal your cards and when you finally end it, always leave them wanting more.  

At times, language is a problem with debut writers who may otherwise have a fabulous story to tell. Don’t fret over it. If you have a powerful story and you write it with your heart, it will surely connect with the readers.

However, if your find that the language is hindering your creativity, try the below:  

Keep it short and simple.
Avoid being too descriptive or using long sentences.
Develop the characters well and let them do the job of ‘telling’ the story.
Keep it natural. Don’t try to be superfluous.
Take the help of a good editor who can help you with the language and structure.
Don’t be in a hurry to get your work published.
Most importantly, believe in yourself and never say never.

Happy writing! 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lessons in love - From a mother to her son!

Lessons in Love – A letter from a mother to her son

My darling Son,

You will receive this letter only after all the nonsense ceremonies are over. And everyone has left. Shiv read the first lines feeling utterly confused.

Why did mother leave a letter for him with dad when he had been by her side all along during her final days?

I can’t have others see my handsome son crying over a letter.  I told Ashwini not to hand it to you at the right time. So that was it. He thought, as he continued reading.

Also, I know this letter would help you cope better with the facts of life once I am no longer there. And don’t grieve too much over me. Ashwini needs you. As for me, I have no regrets. I am going peacefully and happily. My life was good. I have lived it to the fullest. And I am so proud to be your mom.

 But before I leave son, I have something to tell you…

 Shiv could no longer contain himself and broke down. He did not care. The one woman he loved most in his life was no longer with him. His dad had quietly handed over the letter to him after the cremation was over and the last of the crowd that had come to bid her a final farewell, had dispersed. He was alone in the hall. Their lovely house was exceptionally quiet. He missed her boisterous laughter.

Dad must have retired or must be silently grieving over her loss.  Simone must be with him. Shiv thought to himself and felt slightly comforted by the thought.

He had come to admire the quiet Simone. He had hardly got a chance to interact with her earlier. But her mother’s ill health had given him a chance to know her closely. Shiv found her to be helpful and the only practical person around during his mother’s last few days.   

She has indeed proved to be a good friend to dad. Shiv thought to himself.

His focused back on the letter.

…Next month, I would have been sixty one. It would have been nice to go out to my favourite restaurant, just the three of us and have a quiet dinner.  Anyway, that reminds me, you must take Shona there.  Like me she also enjoys her food, which is good. A woman must eat well. I feel. And I am glad she does. Just like me! Reading the last lines brought a flicker of a wintry smile to Shiv’s otherwise somber face.

I must have made you smile, Shiv continued reading, …hope you will forgive me for what I am going to reveal now.  He suddenly became alert. His mother rarely spoke in this manner.

Son, all your life I kept a secret from you. My only secret! You see despite the fact that your father and I respect and admire each other we were never exactly in love with each other. And I don’t know about Ashwini…but I really wanted to experience it once. Don’t get me wrong… I …we always deeply cared for each other. But a decision had to be taken. We could not just go around hanging around each other waiting…for nothing.  We knew we were not doing justice to the relationship. We were more good friends pretending to be a great couple. It was taking its toll on our friendship.

So although you were still young…we decided to separate. Now don’t jump! Read me out. We separated in name.

 Shiv, re- read the lines several times. He could not make any sense out of the words he had read.

What is she talking about?? He asked himself. They have been very much together. Dad does stay in Canada…but …, perplexed he continued, hoping to get some answers.

For the world we remained one. “The happily married couple.” But we made a pact, whoever fell in love first, would declare to the other and move out. And as luck would have it…Ashwini gave his bit of happy news first.

Around that time I was struggling with my own problems. My singing career was still to take off. Also, practically I was a single mother of a young child. Your father had by then shifted to Canada for his business. This news came as a big jolt. I was extremely depressed. For months together, I looked and behaved like a mad woman. It was hell!  I even neglected you, my son. And I can’t forgive myself for doing so.

But soon I realized that the real reason was not so much your father leaving me and finding his true love. In fact, deep inside I was happy for him. I wished him well. Though I was sad too…to let my friend go…you see he was the only one I was really close to. But I was sorry for myself because in my own life…I was failing where he had succeeded. The more I tried to seek love, the more it eluded me. Not that I did not have suitors. I was young and pretty. Full of life. And an independent woman.  Several men came into my life. They loved me in their own ways. But each time I felt disappointed. You know why was I disappointed?

By now Shiv was feeling a mixed set of emotions. He felt angry, hurt and cheated. I don’t know anything about my own parents! He thought. But unable to seek an explanation from anyone else, he continued reading.

I was looking for love but did not believe in it. I felt it was something transactional. You give. You get. And if you don’t give you cannot get. It came into my life in various forms. Some deeply loved me while there were a few who misused the term to their advantage and moved away or I left them. But in the process, I became more and more cynical. 

Then one day…a fine man came into my life. He was the opposite of someone I would even look once. But there he was.  I still remember that day. We met at a charity ball. He was talking loudly and making all the “high and mighty” ladies surrounding him, laugh at his silly jokes. I was a part of the group. Not that I was enjoying the loud bantering but I tried to keep face. Anyway, I don’t know how he got talking to me…soon I was laughing my heart out just like the other ladies in the room. And right from that day on, he became a constant in my life. Though you came to know of him much later.

Where was I? Shiv asked angrily roughly shaking the letter as if it was his mother.

Don’t blame me, Son for not disclosing this to you earlier! You were hardly home. You wanted to go to the boarding School just ‘coz your dearest friend was also going. Besides, even during your summer breaks you loved to go and stay with Dad more. Don’t sulk. Finish reading me. That’s my good boy.

Vikas, was my constant companion. I felt so overwhelmed by his love. Unconditional and total. I was so…so rude, short tempered and ill mannered…but he saw through my mask. Patiently, but surely he worked his charm over me…till I too fell in love with him completely. And today I am so glad to tell you that I finally found my true love, just like your dad did.  

Ashwini, was so happy for us. In fact we celebrated it. It was Ashwini’s idea!  Remember that holiday we took to Maldives? The salt and peppered man whom you met at Maldives, the one who taught you snorkeling; that was Vikas. I think that was the only time you met him. Wasn’t he fun?

Shiv immediately recollected the tall and handsome man who had made friends with him and had taught him so much about the sea. He had liked him then. But not now. Right now he felt like ….but instead of delving deeper into his topsy - turvy feelings for the man; he continued reading the letter.  

Now, don’t be jealous. You know I love you.  But he was different. He taught me so many things about life. I re - discovered the woman in me. And I felt complete. My times spent with Vikas were one of the most treasured moments of my life.

 Son, last year he passed away. I was devastated…and that was why you saw me the way you did when you came home, the last time. In fact, my first heart attack came the day he passed away…which everyone hid from you. I had asked them to. Shiv had suspected it always. Now he was sure and cursed himself for being so na├»ve. They could have taken her to Mumbai. She could have been with them even now. He didn’t know who to blame or get angry at. She was already gone.

You know…he continued with the letter, I think I want to join him. Though, I am still torn between him and you. But what the heck! You will only read this when I am no longer there. Shiv, I want you to know I love you. Always will. Forgive me for hiding this aspect of my life from you.
But Son I also want you to learn from my mistakes. Love cannot be sought. It finds you. And most of all love is enough. You don’t need to wish for anything more, if you have true love. It completes you. If you love Shona in that way…don’t let her go.
Okay enough of my lecture! Take good care of your dad and yourself.  I will be watching over you both from above.

Lovingly Yours,

Shiv kissed the letter gently, folded it before placing it on the dining table. Then he wiped off his tear stricken face with his already crumpled kerchief and went to his dad’s bedroom.

Pan Singh Tomar – He deserves a watch!

“Kya Saboot hai?”  Asked the rusty cop.

“Sir, look at the paper clippings, pictures and the medals. Look at them. They are all mine. I have won gold medals for my country,” responded the tall, well built yet gentle athlete with pride in his voice.

After a round of provocative questioning and quite unprovocative answering session, the once proud athlete left the police station angrily and shattered at the shameless and humiliating behavior meted out to him.

All he wanted was for the police to register his complaint and provide his family protection against his evil cousin brother. As an ex Army Subedaar , who was well trained in the art of warfare and self protection…he could have easily taken things in his own hands, after his son was brutally beaten up by the cousin and his men. 

But he did not, instead he showed faith in the system. The very system, however, let him down, hurt his dignity and caused harm to his family. Worse, the protectors also  conspired and plotted against an innocent man, a man of honour (a so called “national treasure” who was considered so precious that he was not sent to the war front during the 1965 war), just to serve their own selfish ends.

Finally, cornered from all sides, he turned into a dacoit. Though, he liked to call himself a Baghi - 'A rebel.' A right man turned wrong. Of course, he avenged himself. And after that went on to commit one wrong after the other. Each time justifying his stance. But what surprised me that I  had never heard his name. And am sure that like me, many would have remained oblivious to his story had it not come out in the form of a brilliantly made movie. 

The quite engrossing film based on the true story of Pan Singh Tomar, an Indian steeplechase runner, employed with the Indian Army who won 7 consecutive Gold medals in the Indian National games but later turned dacoit, raised several pertinent questions through the power packed performance of Irfan Khan and its interesting plot. (However, in my opinion, it was Irfan’s performance that gave the movie its wider appeal).

The first question it raised was about  the state of our sportspersons (of course, barring cricketers), in the country. It depicts clearly that  most of them suffer (many even leading a life of oblivion and penury), after they retire from active sports. (Though their situation now might be slightly better than earlier times).

The other aspect and an even more relevant fact that was very well brought out was how a good, law abiding man turned into a law breaker; just to claim what was rightfully his. He could have stayed a simple, honest man…had the police co operated. Or even had his own village people backed him up. But until he did not take matters in his own hands, nobody came forward to fight alongside him and his family against injustice.

 Somewhere, as a Society we are unjust and unfair. Power corrupts the powerful. So even while some of them have the power to bring about a positive change, they sit silently or turn a blind eye to a wrong being committed either to please few people or just because they think it’s not their job. In such a scenario, it is us, the common man who must stand united. And all we need to do is stand up and raise our voices. Smartly. Collectively. As we have seen in recent times. Collective dissent for a wrong rule/ judgment is powerful. It is in our hands to save ‘Pan Singh Tomar’s’ of this land from becoming rebels or law breakers. Only if we wish. Only if we want. We can create the' Will.' And as they say ‘where there is a will, there ‘sure’ is a way!’ 

For the movie, however...I would say - Go watch it once!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I walked the “Silent steps” and tried the “Cocktail”!

 Two men . Gopal Lahiri and Vikram Karve . Former is an admired poet. Latter;  a fabulous writer. I had the privilege of reading both of their works. Glad that I did. And here is what I picked up from their respective works.
Let me start with Gopal Lahiri’s ‘Silent steps’ – “Truth is in the Nature”

A book of poems that from the word ‘go’ takes you into a world where Nature dominates. Nature that soothes, loves, destroys, coaxes you to move on, believe in yourself, appreciate beauty and so on. The poet simply loves to liberally spray terms like “blue sky”, “glowing sun”, “rainy clouds” “barren trees” et al throughout.  Consequently, his readers are removed from the material world and transported to a place where they might find themselves alone enjoying and experiencing variety of emotions, of course amidst nature. In fact, many a time one finds herself willingly attempting chasing certain vague ideas in a poem that loves to tease and disappear behind a moving cloud as suddenly as it appeared. The readers, then have no alternative other than to keep moving on this sweet and sour journey and be awed by its mystic beauty till they reach the very end. During the pleasant journey they may like –

“To inhale the smell of spring
To walk anywhere everywhere”

Or to face -
“The challenge of life
Amidst glowing Sun.”

Or even feel -
“…the fragrance of your presence
As if the flowers blossoming all around”

With its powerful thoughts on different aspects of life, expressed through beautiful imagery and lyrical terms, I would recommend this book to all who after a hard day’s work want to feel soothed and refreshed.

Simultaneously, I read Vikram Karve’s ‘Cocktail’. His book of short stories clearly depicts my own belief- “Relationships have indefinite dimensions.”

The slick, lucid, engaging and extremely fascinating stories bring out the various aspects of the complex human mind and its resultant behavior. Close relationships play a major role in bringing out the true nature of Man and his thought process. The author’s uncanny ability to bring out the human reasoning and logic applied to fulfill his desire or self - justify an action is simply amazing. Even the myriad of emotions from lust, love, anger, pathos et al that guides an action or evokes a reaction has been easily portrayed in a ‘stay- glued’ manner. Stories like ‘Miscalculation’, ‘Every dog has his day,’ ‘Love trap’ raise pertinent questions on faith in a relationship.

The anguish of a married woman whose husband is obsessed with his female colleague to the extent that he even wants to buy the curtains of the house as per her liking rather than the wife’s wishes, has been beautifully crafted and depicted in the story SPDP. Similarly, Chilled beer left me feeling chilled. The extent to which a person especially a woman can fall just to kill the very person whom she must have loved once, in a well planned and cold blood manner was beyond comprehension.  Also, the twist in the tale (that I will leave you all to wonder…), kept me intrigued till the last pages.

The best part about the collection is that each of the 27 stories brings out a new facet of human relationship in a supremely engaging way.  As a fiction writer who loves to write on relationship issues, I am more than glad to have read “Cocktail.”

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Om Namoh Shivay!

Bhole Nath

The simple hearted sage,
oblivious to the world,
ash smeared all over,
snake of ego mastered,
powerful trident by his side,
Ganga flowing from his head,
passing wisdom to the next,
deep in meditation,
wearing the tiger skin,
on the Kailash peak,
Easily pleased.


Benovalent Devas,
Mighty Asuras,
in power conflict,
churned out ‘Somras’,
not minding ‘Amrit’s’
residue the killer poison.
Not willing to sacrifice
both helplessly sought,
the Shankar’s intervention,
Blue throated one
Savior of the world.

The divine dancer,
performs gently,
dancing to ‘Lasya’,
with his ardhangini Parvati,
the Goddess his Shakti
deeply expressing his love,
his stance filled with grace and beauty.
The supreme Lord of dance,
also dances in his Tandava form,
that destroys, to revive,
 the weary Universe with new life.


The Lord of the Gods,
Powerful yet humble,
Saviour and destroyer,
Oblivious to the world.
Greatest lover, graceful dancer,
bringing in harmony ,
The one flowing with wisdom,
who’s ornament is the snake,
to that Shiva I respectfully bow,
My Lord, guide and friend
Om Namoh Shivay!