Friday, November 29, 2013

when you are waiting...

Hey! Are you all having fun? I am sure you are. With December around the corner and the weather just right for a quick lunch outside the office with friends while soaking in the winter sun, or an after - dinner coffee at your favourite coffee shop (or Starbucks - the new kid? in town); I am sure you all must be in good spirits.

Well, if you want to know how have I been faring, let me confide: not too well. No, no nothing wrong with me. All is well! And yet all is not well. I am playing the 'waiting' game. It is the toughest thing in the world to do. Isn't it? You see, I am waiting for the release of my third fiction and it is  not cool especially for a writer. A writer (or any artist), must first see his or her creation and ensure its well being before moving on to other things.
So how can I work on something new when I haven't delivered my third baby yet. On top of that I have such high plans for it. For the first time,  I have not left the promotions and marketing of the book to my publishers alone. I am neck deep involved in trying to give it as much visibility as possible. Several online and offline events have been planned in advance and we've already started working on it. We are also having a mini - grand (if I may use the term) book launch with an attractive theme somewhere in January. But believe me I am going bonkers: from trying to arrange for the sponsors for the launch to deciding about what should be the questions for the online contest I am juggling roles so fast that it is impossible to predict whether the balls will all land gracefully in my hands or fall off unceremoniously to the ground.

Now you may ask why am I doing it in the first place if it's giving me so much of trouble? why not leave it to the experts? The answer my friend is blowing in the wind...

The answer is that if I don't do one else will. It is my baby and I need to take care of it. Publishers take interest till a certain point but they cannot give it the kind of focused attention it requires. They have a business to run and many other authors to take care of. But the fact of the matter is that if a book isn't promoted well it does not get noticed. If it does not get noticed and sell   there's no point in writing books. So I must let the readers know about my work as best as possible. Of course, after the initial push I must leave it to them to decide whether what I create is good enough "to write or not." :-)

If you are curious let me share a few details about the book:

Genre: Fiction - Relationships
Title: "In pursuit of a lesser offence"
Publishers: Alchemy
Subject: Marriage and its changing face.
Explores the questions: Why do people marry? Are the reasons for marriage the right ones?  What is the relevance of the institution of marriage in modern times?
Earlier Published novels: In pursuit of infidelity, In pursuit of Ecstasy (both published by Rupa and co.)
Published Poetry collection: Poetry Out and Loud and a sequel to it - POAL - II
More details about my books:

Stay tuned for more such posts from me on my forthcoming novel...I may even share a few excerpts from the book soon...! But in the meanwhile, enjoy your sunny lunch or that coffee, post dinner!

Keep smiling. :-)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Post - your - favourite - pics Day

Today,  I am not going to write anything. Instead, let me post a few random pics I had clicked during my last visit to Singapore. (They tell their own stories).

At the Sri Lankan Airport. I was jet lagged. The Budhha statue had a soothing effect on my nerves.

Ah! So vibrant and youthful. Majulah they sing.

Vidu loved his breakfast and of course I hadn't prepared it. Doting dad's creative efforts.

Ideactio Office: Ab itne cool environment mein ideas toh aayenge hi! (Vidu's click)

Night view of the city centre from the Singapore Flyer

Love the Kopitiams and the wide choice of South Asian cuisine they offer.

Both, Maya (acting all grown up and girlie), and Vidu (all upset with the new Maya) thankfully had some common interests.  Minecraft can save childhood friendships.

That's me cooking in the kitchen. A rarest of rare sight. I must have been either really hungry or really happy. Cannot recollect. (Vidu's click).

That's all for today!

Keep smiling. :-)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Funny or Not

I was absent for a couple of days or probably longer . I don't really remember. But you don't mind or care! Do you? I would like to believe you do. A little, maybe. Or you may even be curious to know what all I might have been up to lately. Anyway, in either case, I benefit. You will visit my blog and read my ramblings and delight me specially when I notice the page-views graph is moving up. After all, I blog to amuse you and me, both. A little encouragement from you and I just might come up with something more meaningful.

Till such time -- in case you really do finish reading the above paragraph -- you may have to cheerfully bear with the rest of my babbling. No, I am seriously trying to think of a topic. Wait! T...H...I...N...K...I...N...G!

Peace? No. Cliched. Politics? no, no! Poetry? Not today. Then what?

Yes! I know. This should be interesting.

I am going to write on the topic my friend and I discussed yesterday while having a sumptuous dinner. He'd had a bad day and needed to vent. I needed to get out of the house. So, we decided to meet. The topic of our very engrossing discussion (which might have lasted only a few minutes) was, why do wives fight with their husbands.

Well, that was what he asked me. I had a good mind to ask him, why don't husbands pay attention to their wives when they are not fighting? But I was in a generous mood. Plus, he had asked me out to dinner. I just couldn't bring myself  to be rude to someone who was going to pay my dinner bill.So, I said something vague and let him vent his feelings.

Anyway, I didn't have to share my point of view which was obviously in conflict with his ideas about how should a wife behave or handle a stressed out or overworked hubby. (I mean it's your choice, man! You decide what you want from life and to what extent. And if it gives you stress, bear it. Don't blame your partner. You are responsible for your life. She, for hers). Anyway before I digress...let's continue...

His phone never stopped ringing throughout the evening. All the calls were from his boss, his boss's brother and again his boss and then again another senior guy from the company after which I lost count. The next day they had some important meeting, he explained apologetically in - between taking the calls (and sips of the excellent wine and the prawn and coriander dumplings we were hungrily digging into). To my exasperation and amusement he cursed all of them but took the calls and answered them patiently, making polite conversation and talking weather. Sample this: "How do you do ji? So sorry to hear that your grandma passed away." Seriously. Am not joking.

He is himself  one of the top shots of the company. He lives like a King and can fly anywhere he wishes to, with family. He has been given a SUV and another snazzy car plus several other perks from the company for his excellent performance (and position).  And yet his wife fights with him. Sad. But not strange. Before he dropped me home he said: "I know why my wife fights with me." He left it at that.

I merely smiled and wished him goodnight.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Anyone who Car (e)s?

Today I want to write about Cars.
Men may want to avoid reading this blog. Or, what the heck! Read and be entertained at my cost.
First things first, I am not ashamed to confess: I cannot tell the difference between different cars.

Okay, I do know the basics:

Maruti 800 (Every one knows how a Maruti 800 looks like).
Maruti Alto (Because it's cute).
Chevrolet Beat (This 'coz my brother owns one).
Hyundai Accent ( my over enthusiastic husband had bought one soon after it was launched but as luck would have it, he had to sell it within six months of purchasing it as we were relocating to Singapore).
Pajero (It is a girlfriend's dream car. I was curious to know what's so special about it, so...).
And finally the Hummer (this, to show off my knowledge to some of my girlfriends who simply looovvveee cars).
Oh, come to think of it, I can recognise a Scorpio, Rolls Royce and a Nano too.

I think that's a fine list.

But my friends don't think so. Neither do car lovers I interact with. They rattle off names and different car models as if they were simple alphabets. But to tell you frankly, it does not bother me. However, the reason I am writing this blog is because there's something  about all the various cars (especially the big ones) which disturbs me.

Now, I have really nothing against car makers or car lovers or even the handsome looking cars. I love traveling comfortably too.  But really, I don't understand why make so many types of  them? Okay, everyone wants to make money. Fine. Make cars. But then why do people have to be so addictive to them. And consequently become lazy. Why can't people just walk to the nearby market place or gym? Why does each and every member of the family need a car for himself/herself? And most of all why on earth do we judge people by the make of their cars?

The car was invented to better our lives and not to spoil our health, damage the environment and make men and women fall in love with machines (and all things material).

Er, well, I guess I got car - ried away. Enough for today!

Take Car... Er, care. :-)

Monday, October 7, 2013

On Sundays I fantasize

If you are expecting a long and stuffy post you have a reason not to! I am simply in no mood to impose myself on you today.  In fact, strange as it may sound I want to share my Sunday fantasies with you. 

You see every Sunday, without fail, I let myself be taken over by enchanting thoughts about things I would love to see happen for real. Yesterday, I indulged myself again. It's still fresh in my memory. Have I made you curious enough by now?  Anyway, without further ado let me tell you about my "Alice in wonderland" moments that I experienced yesterday-

The first thing I wished was to wake up each day in a cheerful English cottage by the sea to the sounds of English church bells. I decided to substitute the sea with a twenty - five meter rectangular swimming pool just outside my bedroom window. (As the practical - me insisted on it). 

That was followed by another equally nice idea: to be served, every morning by a lady wearing a white starched uniform, with freshly baked (not fried) chocolate donuts and steaming cups of tea on the bed. 

The last one was the most delightful of all. I imagined myself sitting prettily on my soft and cushiony bed, listening to my favourite songs, softly playing in the background, while I happily sipped my tea and took liberal bites of the chocolate donuts (of course, without worrying about the calories), and --this is the best part--: I was reading a front page article on ToI which glowingly spoke about my various books and how each one of them had broken all previous records of sales for adult fiction. I was rich. A very rich writer enjoying a tranquil morning.

Amen! I said dreamily and went on sipping my tea. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

What’s in a poem?

Recently, I participated in a Literary Festival. Among other things, I also moderated a poetry session during the festival. The panelists were acclaimed poets from different parts of the country. As a young poet myself I was excited and wanted to make the most of the session. I had several questions in my mind about the art and craft of poetry and felt the platform was apt to clear my doubts.

But to tell you frankly, I did not get the answers I was seeking. I also felt they were less flexible in their views and approach towards modern poetry.

In fact, I was quite disappointed by one of the remarks made during the discussion that if readers can understand a poem then it is an example of a bad poetry. Now, how strange is that? So, basically what the esteemed panelist was trying to suggest was that a good poetry must not be understood. But if one does not understand it, how can they enjoy it?  In my opinion, that may be one of the main problems with traditional poems: they are perfect in their craft but are not easily understood and thus have very few takers. Merely getting the basic elements like the rhyme and rhythm  of a poem right may not necessarily ensure that the easily distracted readers of today will be attracted to it. If it is not understood it will not find many takers. It may even be considered a waste of time by many.

When I came out with my first collection, (Poetry Out and Loud), and even before that, I was surprised (and happy) with the response I'd received for my poems which I had shared on a few online poetry groups. Initially, I was skeptical and had shied away from sharing them with others. But gradually I realized many people; especially youngsters could not only relate to them but enjoyed them. Almost all my poems are in free verse and most are written in a direct style. And as opposite to what the eminent panelist opined, my poems are easily understood. In fact, I was really not expecting my first poetry book to sell more than 300 copies. But it comfortably crossed that figure  within a few months. That was heartening.

I felt happy because my poems were whetting the appetite of those people who earlier did not like reading poetry at all. Maybe, one day these very readers will turn to poems by other great Indian and Western poets just because my “easily understood,” poems stimulated them enough to appreciate the beauty of other eloquent yet not so perfectly understood poems. 

But then, this is my blog and I have a free run here. Besides, those panelists are not here to give their counter viewpoints. You, my dear readers, will have to do with a one sided version and form your own opinions. I am happy as long as you don't stop reading my blogs and my poems.

I would like to end with a haiku which was read out by one of the panelists, Prof R. Raj Rao from his collection, the CANADA ALBUM, and which I had enjoyed (more importantly understood):

He asks: what is Love?
Love is a four – letter word.
Grapes are sour, he says.

Cheers! :-)

Poetry Out and Loud II (Infibeam link) -

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The long and Saree of it!

Disclaimer* - (I tried to keep this short but then talking Saree is a longish affair). 

I am supposed to write about something- anything,  today. No one tells me to do so! Nor do I listen to anyone unless I want to. But as I had mentioned in my last blog, I have taken it upon myself to scribble something every day (or at least once a week), and to try and keep it short. As a novelist, it's difficult but as a poet, I might pull it through, as far as the word count goes.  

Well, here it goes:

I don’t know how to wear a Saree!

I am telling you the truth and nothing but the truth. My mom is ashamed of me and so are all my other women relatives. ‘It’s so simple,’ they tell me. For them, maybe. Not for me.

Not that I don’t like wearing it. I do. I just can’t carry the drape well. I feel restricted; somewhat like a wretched prisoner. In fact, I love looking (ogling) at women who know how to carry it just right. Sarees do make a woman look beautiful. Despite all the above complimentary words in honour of the Indian traditional outfit, I  still prefer my jeans, skirts and trousers or dresses. 

When I got married, they gave me different kinds of expensive Sarees as gifts. My women friends went “ooohhh” and “aahhh” when I showed them my collection. But I, for the life of me, could not make out the exact difference between each type except that they were all different materials. When my son was born, both sides of the family gifted me a few more of them. Perhaps, they thought that with so many of  them in my possession now I would finally come around to wearing them. Instead, I packed most of the bright stuff and put them out of sight and mind. To tell you honestly, I don’t even know where they are lying at this moment. 

But there are a few occasions when I need to drape myself into one just to appear well - Indian. So I kept a handful of them outside, for emergencies. People tell me I look beautiful in them. I agree. There’s certain elegance to it. Besides, it looks dressy and nice especially during festivals. So once in a while, as i mentioned, I don it, er, of course, with loads of help from anyone willing to offer it. Infact, to my great annoyance many have even commented that I look like a “grown - up” woman when I wear it. It does not sound very complimentary to my ears. But that is how things are in our society.

At times, I feel women in India are judged on the basis of the clothes they wear -

A Saree clad woman – pure, capable, wise and having all the qualities of a good mother ( or mother - in law). The kind of woman an Indian man prefers as his wife.

A Woman wearing anything other than a Saree – fast,  incapable, juvenile and non serious. She should learn to wear one. Sooner or later it is expected of her. 

I am not sure about other communities but in a Hindu household, the above statements are no exaggeration. I was once openly (and somewhat sternly), advised by an elderly lady, a neighbour, to wear Sarees for all the pujas  or religious events that I attend.  I remember giving her an innocent and foolish smile until she turned her attention to another newly married woman who was not wearing the right kind of bangles, she,  as a married woman, was supposed to wear during religious functions. I looked at the hapless woman and winked. She smiled back.

We, the younger lots have learnt how to get by in this (old) new world… and say Saree, we don’t agree!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Keep it short!

Blogging has never really been my cup of tea. But I have challenged myself to start blogging again. And by blogging I mean write short entries/posts. I’ll tell you why it’s a challenge for me:

By nature I love to chat. And no small talk. I like to elaborate things; explain, relate, and wander in between before closing the loop. The moment you ask me to keep it short, my mind goes blank. How can one keep 'talks' short? It's not sweet. How can one halt the flow of a nice long conversation, even if it is to discuss something as trivial as the price of onions in the country? Besides, the sky rocketing prices of the veggies is no longer a small matter. It reflects the depressing state of our economy; it prompts one to get into discussion related (or not so related), issues like the wide range of corruption, ineffective bureaucracy and uncouth self - serving politicians of the country without feeling one has overstepped the line.  One thing, naturally leads to the other. And that is the charm of it all. Long is beautiful. Short is terse. Abrupt. As humans we are supposed to interact with each other till the time we feel warm, fulfilled, welcoming and fresh in each other’s company. Can that happen in short conversations? NOooo!  At least, I don’t think so.  I can go on but then the idea is to keep this post only a few sentences long. And so this is going to be an abrupt halt. 

P.S - Was that short enough? For me it certainly was. Very short

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Excerpts from a short story -

‘Would you care to listen?’ Her large expressive eyes pleaded with me. 

‘But I don’t have that much time,’ I responded impatiently ignoring her sad looks. 

‘Oh! Well then let’s get on with it.’ She looked away, her earnest gaze shifted slightly to look beyond me at the chipped dirty walls of her room. Then slowly, as if in a trance, she removed her clothes. 

I had never felt as selfish in my life as I did at that moment.

Afterwards, while I sat on her bed and smoked the last cigarette of the day, she made herself busy trying to tidy up up her run- down room. Not that she could do much about it. I noticed distractedly.

Located in one of the most notorious and neglected areas of the city, the one bedroom asbestos sheet house was somehow kept together, as if by sheer will- power.

‘How long have you lived here?’ I asked looking at her slim back.

‘Huh? Oh! Well…since I came to the city,’ she replied, folding her clothes kept in a bundle in a corner.

‘You don’t belong to Chandigarh?’ I don’t know what prompted me to converse with her. A part of me just wanted to leave.

‘No. I was brought here five years ago,’ she whispered.

‘Wow! That’s a long time.’ Mentally, I quickly tried guessing her current age. She looked about nineteen. And if so, she must have not been more than thirteen or fourteen.

‘Yes,’ she said, giving me one her enigmatic smiles that attracted me to her the first time.

‘Hmm. Do you still want to tell me your story?’

‘If you have the time to listen to it? Lilly told me you are a writer. Maybe you will like my story and write about it,’ she answered in a hopeful voice.

‘So how would that help you?’

‘It will. I will feel happy. Besides, it may help some other girl…you know…,’ she left the words hanging mid -way.

‘Hmm.’ I nodded not really wanting her to elaborate and not at all sure whether I should stay to listen to her story. Yet I was curious about her.

For one, she looked unlike the others I was used to. In fact she kept herself so simple that I had totally failed to notice her until she had herself hesitantly approached me. It was only then that I actually took note of her. And even though she was dressed simply in a white tee over a faded printed skirt and and wore no make - up she looked attractive. Very attractive. In fact, if I had seen her somewhere else I would have mistaken her for one of those uptown giggly college girls I crossed every day while on my way to work.

'So you will stay?' She asked, meeting me in the eye.

Her eagerly hopeful voice somehow stopped me from leaving.

'I have about a couple of hours before I have to report for work. I guess I can go directly to office from here. But don’t take too long. Okay?’ I inquired seriously.

'Really?? Oh…thank you so much!' Her eyes lit up. It pleased me to see her happy but instead of sharing her smile I maintained my aloof stance and replied,

'Hey! I said I will listen. Nothing more to it.'

'Yes. I know. That's enough,' she said giving me the same enigmatic smile I was growing used to.

A bird’s eye view of Rajeshwari Chauhan’s Scarlet Crescent

The first question that needs answering is, why a bird’s -eye view?

Well, the answer is quite simple; I read the book more as a reader and than a reviewer even though I was approached to review it. As many of you are already aware I seldom review books. As a writer myself I don’t think it’s in my place to critically analyze and evaluate a book. However, I do like to share my humble thoughts on the books that I read and like. 

Of course, I must also admit that due to my other preoccupations I have been unable to do so for the past several months now. Anyway, coming to the subject at hand, at times debut authors or other friends have approached me to do a book review and instead of refusing them I let them know my only condition: I will write a bird’s – eye view only. And that’s what I conveyed to Vijay also who's connected with me on FB and is a good friend of the author.

Now Vijay had a typical problem at hand; his best friend, Rajeshwari Chauhan wrote this book after much research and got it published in 2006. However, the book despite its very interesting and different take on the popular love story of Emperor Akbar and his Hindu queen Jodha bai, did not get the  visibility due to it. The author was understandably disheartened. Vijay being a good friend wanted to help (he had also read the book and saw its potential). Recently, he approached me with a request to read the book.

When I first heard about the theme and the experimental narration style I was intrigued. I asked Vijay to send the book to me and promised him that if I liked it I would not only write about it but also send the book for a formal review to a few other avid bloggers and reviewers. Vijay agreed and promptly sent me five copies of the book. I completed the book just a few days ago. Without further ado let me share my thoughts on the book as a reader …

To tell you frankly, when the book arrived I thought it would take me some time to finish reading it. There were a few reasons for that: firstly, the book cover gave the impression that it might be a serious read and may require careful attention to details. Secondly, while browsing through the first few pages and noticing the mixed language, (the language of the story alternates between English, Hindi, and Urdu), I thought it might be a tedious job and lastly the story is divided into short scenes, like a script of a movie or a play which again did not have a favorable first impression on me.

 But then as they say never judge a book by its cover.

Without exaggeration I think I got hooked to the story from almost the very beginning. There are  two stories running parallel swaying between two different time periods; ancient and modern age and deals with the subject of love, loss and longing beautifully. The characterization is vivid and powerful; if the female protagonist of the modern period, Mrinalini is portrayed as someone mischievous, attractive, good-hearted and adventurous, Jodha Bai’s character is successfully brought out as someone who is exquisitely beautiful, artistic, honest, mature, headstrong and sacrificing.  Also, even though it’s out and out a book for die - hard romantics, the elements of humour, wit and suspense makes it spicy and increases its appeal to readers who enjoy a good book. The research work of the author to get the facts right is visible. The author shares her perspective (based on facts), about the various historic battles fought by Akbar. She also reflects upon the plight of royal women who spent their entire lives in the harems and successfully contrasts it with that of present day women who are independent and much more vocal in expressing their thoughts and desires. 

However, a few things that distracted me in – between were the loose editing, author’s experiment with the mixed language and the style of narration. Rajeshwari Chauhan was well aware that the style and form of her book was much different than the regular novels and thus as a forethought disclosed a bit about it in the blurb – “I have made an effort to turn this book into a cinema screen. Hope you will visualize my narration and share the joy I felt while creating it.”

Overall, I think the book has an engaging story to tell in a most interesting way. If you ask me as a reader...I will say- it's a good read!