Sunday, November 27, 2016

On Writing: Avantika Debnath

Today on ‘On Writing’, we have the promising new author Avantika Debnath.

 Avantika is a corporate professional who gets drunk on good reads. And after having devoured Khaled Hosseini, Erich Segal, Jhumpa Lahiri and Paulo Coelho, she has finally figured out that writing is the only thing she would find solace in. She also has a crazy end to her personality with zero tolerance towards social hypocrisy and the open denial of the truth that prevails all around. A regular contributor in the Chick Soup for the Soul series, blogging for some of the most popular websites, and experimenting with various forms of writing, she has finally worked out her first book, The Bridal Pyre - Nainam Dahati Pawakah. She speaks her mind through everything she writes and doesn't pen a word down if she doesn't mean it. So, only if you can face reality, read her book. 

Welcome to ‘On Writing’ Avantika Debnath.

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How did writing begin for you? Was becoming an author always your dream or was it a particular event or incident that gave birth to the author in you?

I honestly don’t know, rather don’t remember. My mom has pieces of papers with my scribbles and it’s from when I was 4 or 5. I had written rhymes on my first Barbie doll, a favorite dress, the first rose that bloomed in our garden in Shillong. So, I genuinely don’t know how I took up writing, I guess it happened the other way round. Writing took me up.

How important are the names of the characters in your books to you? Do you spend agonizing hours deciding on their names?

Names of my characters are crucial, in fact, they are as significant as the plot itself. I don’t mind spending hours or even days brooding over their names. It is not about how pleasant they sound or how unique these names are, it is about how the names resonate with the characters they embody.

 What is your writing process like? Do you write every day? Is there a favorite place to write?

My writing process is that there is no writing routine or schedule. I am very impulsive when it comes to writing. I might be in the middle of my dinner and a thought could strike my mind. Till the time I do not pen it down, or rather type it down, I do not find solace. I cannot think for hours and write deliberately. Words need to flow through my mind. That is how it works for me. But I love to write or even read for that matter on a cozy couch by my window.

What is special about ‘Bridal Pyre’? How long did it take to complete writing it?

The Bridal Pyre is a journey from illusion to reality, and a journey every woman, especially the Indian ones had to embark upon at some point in their lives. I have come across many women and was moved by the unjustness of their regular lives, the contradiction between what they were brought up to believe and what reality turned out to be, mostly as far as marriage is concerned. How in a society like ours, matrimony is considered paramount, the one aspect of life in favor of which women are encouraged and forced to give up everything and still fall flat on their faces, bewildered me. The promises of love that more than often prove themselves fake broke my heart, the relentless battles of an average woman confined within the four walls of her house, paternal or matrimonial startled me, and to condemn that, to bring that to light, I penned The Bridal Pyre: Nainam Dahati Pawakah. It took me about two years to complete it.

Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

The protagonist Meera is my favorite character. She is neither perfect nor flawed. She has virtues and faults just like you and I. And that makes her relatable to the core. Every reader would be able to identify with her or will be reminded of at least one woman in their circle of friends and family by the story of Meera. Also, in the ups and downs of Meera’s life, you will somewhere find a struggle you have put up with, maybe not the extremes that she had to deal with, but some episode of her life will bring back one in yours.

 Do share a snippet/ Quote from your book.

“Strange is the direction of the thought process that guides such people. If the bride supports the family with her hard-earned money, the inflated ego of the husband gets hurt. But, no one will know when the father of the bride transfers money from his account to his son-in-law's account. No one will know when the mother of the bride brings her jewelry in a lunch box and hands them over to the mother of the groom to sell them or use them to her heart's desire. No one will know.”

This one, because though Meera says these words, you and I at any given moment can count at least 10 women around us who feel exactly the same way, whether or not they choose to accept it aloud.


 Is there a certain type of scene that is harder for you to write than others? Did you face such an issue while writing ‘Bridal Pyre’?

There are a couple of them. But the most difficult scene that I wrote was Meera’s miscarriage in The Bridal Pyre – Nainam Dahati Pawah. More, so because the amount of emotional turmoil this character goes through along with the physical pain. This was my first work as a novelist, I am not sure if I could do justice to the situation. But I was writing this scene, and I had to stop for a while, cry, get myself a cup of coffee, and go back to completing the scene.

What is your method of writing? Are you a plotter?

Honestly, I do not believe in methods when it comes to any form art. Methods, I as they appear to me, limit your creativity. But that’s just my opinion, other might find it easy to work in a method. Plots present themselves to me when I am doing something really important and unrelated to writing, I take them down in a notepad, later work on them in details.

Which do you prefer as a reader? EBook or Paperback?

I prefer a Paperback any day. I am so old school. I had a Kindle and I lost it somewhere, I was not even bothered because I don’t even remember using it.

What are the three tips you have for readers who are aspiring writers?

1) Be Original
2) Don’t get disheartened by refusal
3) Don’t believe them when they say you are not good enough, they just don’t get your art.


Thank you, Avantika! Wishing you the very best for your book.


Book Blurb: 

 "Girls need to adjust a little after marriage." Said her mother. And she obeyed her mother's words. She gave up on her dreams... her hopes... her happiness... her self-respect... her father's dignity... her mother's honor... and herself. But she couldn't give up on her child. The child whom she never saw, named, or held close to her heart...The child whom she couldn't give birth to. She obeyed her mother's words but then.... Her own motherhood was taken away from her. She blew the conch shell and declared a war. She stood against all, the husband, the society, the law of the land and the leaders of the people. The local goons....politicians ...corrupt police officers and lawyers...irresponsible judges...the opportunist media...the futile judicial system...wasted legal system...no one could stop her. She feared none. She could not be broken or be burnt....And they said even the holy Ganga would refuse to immerse her... She was no more a body with a soul. She was a soul with a body. And the soul doesn't get torn, doesn't get drowned, and doesn't get burnt. She sat on her pyre and set it ablaze....The Bridal Pyre....but, Nainam Dahati Pawakah


 Click the following links for purchase and reviews:






Saturday, November 26, 2016

Clarissa

Image Credit – Timur Saglambilek



They weren’t meant to be. Fate had tried to drill that into their heads multiple times. Their hearts never listened. They had attempted many times to be together. But, destiny had always played with them.

Now at 55, he doubted whether it was too late. She was 50, single like him. Her presence and smile still evoked the same contentment inside him.

It was time. He walked over to her, went down on one knee and held her arms while the other diners watched.

“Marry me, Clarissa. I can’t live without you anymore .”

She nodded as her eyes had misted.

Word Count: 100

This post is a part of #FridayFotoFiction being hosted by Tina and Mayuri

Tina Basu

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Friendship, Blogging, Aliens and Hrithik

Image Courtesy: www.tinabasu.com



November is always a time for new beginnings. Being my birthday month and that of my baby, I always look forward to some quiet family time and travel. November is also the month of vigorous writing, being the month of Nanowrimo. Last year I had registered for it, but couldn’t write as we were mostly traveling. This time I decided to give it a miss for a multitude of reasons.

This #ThankfulThursday I wish to thank Tina for literally dragging me back to blogging. I had put Blogging on a back burner in the last few months as fiction writing had taken priority. I didn’t get much time to blog. If I did, they were just random outpourings from a tired mind.

I believe that people come into our lives for a reason. They might arrive with a lesson or for a season.I had met Tina during the Game of Blogs by Blogadda in 2014. We belonged to team ‘By Lines’ which went on to win the competition. This inspiring lady surprised us daily by being completely involved in the discussions, editing, posts and also the huge amount of research that we did. After all, we were writing Sci-Fi fiction. All this while working at a hectic day job at an MNC. Because we clicked as a team, four from the team came together and created the best-selling anthology ‘A Little Chorus of Love.’ Our chat group on Facebook still remains the place where I unravel my bundle of doubts, troubles and also finds inspiration and ideas. 

 Now she is a busy mom and yet she finds time to maintain two blogs, be a hands-on mommy, cook awesome dishes and yes, she is active on social media as well. She also stood by me during one of the darkest phases in my writing career. I am forever grateful for that.

Being Scorpios, and having birthdays adjacent to each other, we are almost twin souls.We share many common interests. We LOVE Hrithik Roshan and would kill for him. Any Hrithik hater will face our wrath. 😈 We can discuss him for hours and moon over him for days. And yes, we have seen UFOs in namma Bengaluru. Believe it or not! Perhaps our aliens (the very ones who helped us throughout the Game of Blogs with various twists and turns) had decided to visit us and thank us for spreading their message.

I know I will post at least two posts weekly because of her. And I also know I have a friend who will never fail to inspire me, someone who is just a click away. Touch Wood!

Thanks are also due to Amrita and Mayuri for the Thursday and Friday prompts respectively. My blog will be eternally grateful to you three.  

This post is written for #ThankfulThursdays being hosted by Tina Basu and Amrita Misra



Tina Basu

Friday, November 18, 2016

Tamanna: Friday Foto Fiction

Image Credit – Fotolia 


The path ahead blurs as my eyes well with tears. I press down the accelerator and will the car to move faster.

I grab my phone as it vibrates with another message. It is from Tamanna’s father.  He has reached her apartment together with the paramedics. She is now stable. I send up a token of gratitude to the heavens and breathe.

I don’t want her to go through another such hypoglycemic attack alone. I am terrified of losing her. I don’t care what my parents think; I am going to move in with her. I love her, damn it!


Word Count: 100

This post is written for #FridayFotoFiction being hosted by Tina Basu and Sirimiri.




Tina Basu

Thursday, November 17, 2016

We are Starstuff: Thankful Thursday


Image Source: Pinterest

Sometimes in my dreams I fall from a height, spinning across galaxies, passing through tunnels of light, experiencing inexplicable joy. Is this caused by a memory that has been embedded in my genes? Did human beings arrive on earth from a distant place? Are we made of stardust? Is there anyone like us out there in the cosmos?

Such questions often trouble me. While in school, cosmology was one section in science in which I always scored full marks. Even today, I devour any article/video that talks about the universe.

Image Source: www.tinabasu.com

Today is Thursday and it also happens to be my birthday. This #ThankfulThursday, the event that I am thankful for is my birth on earth, this tiny blue dot, as a human being. We are the only species gifted with the capability to think. One who can imagine different worlds and that too I am born in an era which has seen enormous scientific advances!

With every significant leap that science takes, humanity hopes to solve the biggest of mysteries. Where do we come from? Where do we go? We are nowhere near the answer yet.

But isn’t it enough to be grateful for this life, this moment, this birth? When we feel one with the cosmos, all the petty fights, the ego clashes; everything become immaterial. Even the earth we reside is an insignificant tiny blue dot when we consider the entire cosmos.
Let me quote from Carl Sagan, the eminent American cosmologist and astrophysicist here:

“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos

Isn’t this profound? If we can think this way, there wouldn’t be any conflicts in our world.  Being born on this beautiful planet as an intelligent being is in itself a miracle. Shouldn’t we be thankful for it?

This next quote explains how similar we are even though we belong to different races, continents, and nationalities.

 “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos

Do pick up the book Cosmos by Carl Sagan where Sagan reveals the jewel-like blue world inhabited by us. 

This post is written for #ThankfulThursdays being hosted by Tina Basu and Amrita Misra



Tina Basu

Monday, November 14, 2016

Victory: 100 Word Fiction


Writing stories is my passion. It gives me a high just diving into a parallel world where I can create new characters and make them sing and dance to my tunes. I have tried all forms of fiction writing till now. Short stories, flash fictions, five-sentence-fiction, novella, novel. But I think I haven’t challenged myself to write a story in 100 words. That is what I am attempting to do today.

Did you know that the most famous and shortest story ever written was supposedly created by Ernest Hemingway? He had bet that he could tell an entire story in just six words. He had written it on a napkin and won the wager (ten dollars) he’d made with other writer friends. Check it out here:






Image Source
Quoting from the authors of the book ‘Elements of Style’ which is a must have for any writer.

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer makes all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subject only in outline, but that every word tell.”
---William Strunk and EB White

Another one of my favorite quote about writing is the creator of the masterpiece ‘The Prince’:

“Perfection is not when there is no more to add, but no more to take away.”
--- Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Now let me take you to my submission for this week’s #FridayFotoFiction being hosted by Tina Basu and Sirimiri.

Victory
Image Source: Tinabasu.com


My jogging- app says I have completed my monthly challenge. I am elated for another reason as I walk towards the familiar dilapidated building.
A dead woman, a sobbing toddler trying to wake her up and a man shouting expletives. Scenes from a nightmare that haunts me every single day.
The soul of my birth mother wanders here, adrift in grief. A breeze caresses my cheeks.
“I have made him pay. Rest in peace, ma,” I whisper.
 I throw the newspaper which carries news of my victory into the house.
“Man found guilty of wife’s murder twenty years ago.”

Word count: 99


Tina Basu

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Grateful Tech Savvy Woman

Source: www. tinabasu.com


Have you ever wondered what would happen if one of our dead ancestors (preferably from a few centuries ago) resurrected and arrived to live among us? Our world would amaze them and if not guided around, they might end up in a mental asylum. The gadgets would scare them. The vehicles would drive them crazy. Shouldn’t we be grateful that we live in this century where everything is just a few clicks away?

We live a privileged life today. The very fact that you are reading this post is proof that technology has given you the freedom and a platform to express your thoughts and beliefs. We have a voice in this world because of technology. A post on social media can touch many lives. A blog post, a tweet ,a newspaper article, a podcast, a YouTube Video, whatever way we wish to express our thoughts, we can. It is all free.

A few decades ago, women didn’t have a voice. Many still don’t. I have the technological know-how to create a voice bubble of my own which can be accessed and interpreted by anyone, anytime. I can talk to a loved one residing in any part of this world. I can watch them live via Skype. I can exchange news daily with my family and friends via Whatsapp. I can learn new things via the internet absolutely free because a few individuals have graciously shared their knowledge online.

Our grandparents didn’t enjoy this privilege nor did our parents. I am addicted to technology and I try to update myself with the latest technology. Being tech savvy always has its advantages. I feel safer and enjoy more freedom online. So that is one habit that I am grateful about. 

Tell me what is that one habit that you cherish and is grateful about?

I plan to write #ThankfulThursday posts on every Thursday starting today.
I am linking this with Twinklingtina of TinaBasu.com, who is hosting this  Linky party along with Amrita Misra.


Tina Basu

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Trump, a lunch and some eeeww romance

The Lunch


Two major events occurred in the last 24 hours. Two crucial twists in the tale.Trump triumphed in America. 500 and 1000 Rupees notes were demonetized in India. Social media just went berserk with people posting for and against both happenings.

I went offline, bored hearing the same news over and over again. As it was a day off for my son, we too had triumphs and laughs.  You can see the results of one of the games here.

The game :)


Then we went out for lunch to a near vegetarian restaurant. The food was yummy (Rice, Aloo paratha, Okra masala and Dum aloo) and we ate to our heart’s content. While we went to wash our hands, we passed a table where a preschooler was gorging on a strawberry ice-cream.

“Mother, we didn’t eat dessert. Don’t you know that dessert should always follow lunch?” A asked.

“I don’t like dessert,” I said. I had just a 500 rupees note, two hundred rupees notes and a few 10 Rs notes in my purse. If due to my bad luck my debit card didn’t connect, I might have to do some ‘chakki peasing’ in the hotel kitchen. But did he need to think about all that?

So, he declared,” I love desserts.”

My pulse quickened as I gave my card to the cashier. I sighed in relief when the machine printed my receipt.

‘Okay. Now you can,” I said. He walked to the ice-cream counter and picked the same strawberry flavor. Greed is contagious, isn’t it?

While I waited for my son to finish his ice-cream, a young college-going couple, caught my attention. Maybe it was because 500 rupees were banned and most of the ATMs were out of service, that they ordered an ice-cream cone and a milkshake. They settled on the chairs next to ours. I watched with amusement as the boy licked the ice-cream greedily. He gave it then to the girl who licked it gratefully. Eeeeww.

Next, the boy drank the milkshake and with a smug smile gave it to the girl. She drank it as though it was ‘sakshath amruth’.

When I looked next, the girl was almost sitting on the boy’s lap and the boy was licking at the ice-cream now. I dragged my son and walked out of the restaurant  before their romance blossomed further.

Yes, I regret walking out now. I am not sure when I will get to see another such ‘eeew’ romance again.

Sigh!



Monday, November 7, 2016

A Momentous Decision

Image Courtesy: Heritage Snapper and Imageafter.com


The decision had been impulsive and momentous. I had plunked my career unceremoniously on the back burner for the sake of a tiny little angel who had entered our life.

The serene waters that meet my eyes now are asking me to relax. So does the smile of my naughty toddler. Hadn’t I worked enough to last a life time? Eighteen hour work days, 6 days a week. Ten long years. Hours poring over spreadsheets with design data of complex construction elements. The love and respect I still get from from former colleagues and clients, and a decent bank balance are the major takeaways from a career that had eaten into the best hours of my life.

Luckily there are no major regrets. As I am penning down these thoughts here, the copy of my debut novel, freshly out of press sits snugly on my table. Like they say, when a door closes, another opens.

I had rekindled my passion for writing soon after quitting my day job. Tapping away at the keyboard while my son slept, while he watched his cartoons, I had managed to complete my first manuscript.

The Civil Engineer in me had stepped aside to let the writer take the rein of my life.

Linking this to #FridayFotoFiction and Indispire

Head to Affimity to Meet People Who Share your Interest!


I am a full-time writer and like all writers, my social life happens mostly online. I connect with friends, read about the latest news and hone my writing skills reading posts by master storytellers online. I am hence a member of most of the popular social networks, be it Facebook, Twitter or Google plus.

Recently I discovered an interesting social networking platform, Affimity.com, which enables me to meet and follow people with whom I share a common interest. The word ‘Affimity’ is coined from the words Affinity which means passion and Amity which means friendship.

Image Source

 The website consists of interest-specific social channels where you can share content about ideas you are passionate about. I found the entire concept interesting. Here you get information feed from the people whom you follow, tailor-suited to match your mood. No more alluring food pictures when you are aiming to follow the path of fitness and diet. No more vacation pictures when you are looking for ways to handle your naughty toddler. Yet nothing is far. When you are ready, a different channel which is just a click away caters to your very mood. Wellness, Yoga, Parenting, Fashion, Beauty, Cure, Book club etc are some of the channels that I am interested in.

I have created a post about mindfulness there which I am very passionate about. You can find it here in the ‘Wellness’ channel.
Screenshot of my Profile page



I spent hours browsing through the different channels. The best thing I admired is the positivity and selfless sharing I found in most of the posts. It is interesting how people belonging to different regions in the world can be uniquely passionate about the same thing. Another feature that I liked is the fun message that pops up while the page or channel loads. I remember the message that popped up while I was waiting for the book club channel to load. “When was the last time you blinked? Do it now!” And I complied. That is one bad habit I have while I sit in front of the computer to write. I forget to blink.

I found a few of my other blogger buddies there and have started following them as well. It is interesting how technology makes life worth living by introducing such innovative platforms. I should confess that I have fallen in love with this new social media platform. It is so simple and user-friendly.Every time I visit, I am discovering more and more interesting channels and people to follow. More ideas, more tips, and more information, just in the correct dose. In this age of mindless social media, this is one social platform that is completely mindful of your every need.


Do check out this amazing platform. I am sure you will love it.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Lunch and a Storm in the Teacup

Image Source


Sona: Rearranging the tables was the best thing they did. Writers who write together should eat together.

Me: It is so crowded already. The poor minions look a harassed lot.

Tiya: Yes, people can be quite a nuisance when the pang of hunger strikes.

Me: I just wish they bring the food fast. My stomach has started complaining.

Tiya: You know about this tradition called Karvachauth? Women have to fast without drinking even a drop of water all day. When I got married, my husband did not want me to undergo the torture. Haven’t done it even once.

Sona: That is amazing. People can be quite intolerant when it comes to religion and rituals. I remember my aunt used to take these monthly fasts. When I was a kid I was also asked to fast. I nearly passed out the one time I tried. I cannot forego food. There is a limit to my tolerance.

Me: That reminds me of my brother. He fasted once to give company to my mother. He actually fainted before the sun set. We all tease him like hell whenever someone mentions fasting. Mother says that a rabbit should not attempt to do what an elephant is an expert at.

Sona: Oh my God, see that. A rabbit indeed is attempting something like that here. How can that waiter carry three trays at once? And see that boy talking on the phone is walking straight at him. Ugh!

Tiya: What a mess! I hope they don’t fire him. It was the mistake of the boy.

Me: He was carrying too many plates. They should employ more staff.

Sona: The manager seems to be a kind fellow. See how he is apologizing on behalf of his staff to the boy. And see how arrogant that boy is. Shamelessly shouting at the poor waiter.

Tiya: I am going to tell him exactly what I think. I cannot tolerate this.

Sona: Sit down, let us not make it messier. The manager is sorting it out.

Me: Let us eat. See our food has come. Karma is a bitch. I am sure the minions will mix a drop of washing liquid in his food the next time he comes here.

Sona: Yes, they have marked him. That boy can never feel safe here anymore. Never underestimate the power of a common minion.


 Author's note: This was an attempt at narrating a story only through dialogue,  without any dialogue tags or scene descriptions, a style popularized by Roddy Doyle

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