Thursday, October 20, 2016

Finding the Zest Again

For an outsider, Aditya Chauhan lived a privileged life, flawless from any angle. He was, after all, the CEO of a multi-billion dollar business empire, a proud father to two teenagers, a loving husband and traveled across the globe frequently. A bright smile always lit up his face. Yet, life felt strange at times.  The more money he earned, the more forlorn he was beginning to feel. The zest was missing because Aditya longed for his old life terribly. If he could barter all his riches in exchange for his carefree college days, he would have done that happily.

During those days, he and his team of five nature lovers spent all their time exploring nature. They had been avid trekkers. They had made it a mission to go on at least four trekking trips every year. They saved all year along, to book group trips that would take them to different parts of the country.
 He wished those days were back. He wanted to spend some time away from the grinding schedule of his work. Away from all responsibilities and sleep under the night sky, conquer more peaks and watch the splendor of nature perched high on magnificent cliff tops.

All five of them were now neck deep in business and jobs. Yet every year, they met at some five-star resort with family and bonded over food and news.

Then an idea struck. Why hadn’t this idea occurred to any of them before? Their next meet was scheduled for the end of next month. He messaged his idea to all five of his friends and the response was immediate. A resounding ‘Yes, go ahead’ from all five of them. His wife and two teenagers were thrilled when they heard about the plan.

 He searched online the various trekking operators and found a link to and checked the trekking trips available for beginners. It was time to make their entire families crazy about trekking. He logged in his contact details at the Everest base camp trek page.  Within a few hours, quotes from verified trekking operators arrived in his inbox. The five friends exchanged emails deciding on the details. The entire planning went on without any hassles.

 At the end of next month, the five friends , as they sat around a raging campfire, breathing in the clean mountain air, singing songs from their youth under a starlit sky, made a covenant that they would do this as often as possible. After all, you lived only once.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Journey

Our Class at the Attic

The journey to Anita's attic today had started an hour earlier than usual as I had to drop my son at his school, thanks to the compensatory working days imposed after the many hartals caused by the Cauvery issue. The morning had been hectic. Packing his lunch, tiffin and then facing a hundred tantrums he had thrown at us. Add to it the many excuses he had put forward to explain why he couldn't go to school today.

Once he enters the school gate, he waves at me and walks towards his class happily. Would anyone believe that this is the same boy who had shouted just an hour ago that he hates school? But seriously, who wants to leave the warmth of a cozy bed on a cool Saturday morning. 

The driver switch on the radio and latest Kannada songs starts playing. I spend some time trying to understand the lyrics without much success. 

My main hobby while traveling these days is to try and read at least a few boards in Kannada. My first attempt itself fail. I read ‘Nurabhi’ instead of Surabhi. I make a mental note for the hundredth time that letter na in Kannada doesn’t have a dot. But it just doesn’t register. The only progress I have made, I think, is that after months of struggle the letters doesn’t seem like jalebis anymore.

I take out the book I had to return to the British Council library, a collection of unseen archives from the life of Princess Diana, and become totally engrossed in reading it. The recurring thought while I leaf through the beautiful photos is how much sadness the photos hide about the woman who was fighting bulimia, an unfaithful husband and the rigid laws that governed the life of a princess in the British Royal family. 

I keep back the book after a while and check where we have reached. The ISKCON Goshala is on my left. I have heard that protecting cows is one of the most important activities being done there. They give protection to cows rescued from the slaughterhouse and provide all medical facility. Kind of a five star facility for the cows?

The houses on the next street mostly have asbestos roofs which are in a dilapidated condition but the kids are playing around unaware of the chaos or poverty around. Women walk around in nighties but have flowers decorating their hairs. 

I pass a charity trust that bears my name, then a school and I know I am nearing the attic. The Lulu supermarket appears after a while and I keep back the book in my bag.

 I have reached half an hour early. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

On Writing: Tarang Sinha

Today on ‘On Writing’, we have Tarang Sinha who is a freelance writer and editor and author of ‘We Will Meet Again…’She is an avid reader and an active Blogger. Her works have been published in magazines like Good Housekeeping India, Child India, Woman’s Era and Alive, and a bestselling anthology “Uff Ye Emotions 2”. A science graduate, she holds a Diploma in Creative Writing in English from IGNOU.

Welcome to ‘On Writing’ Tarang Sinha.

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?

First of all, thank you so much for featuring me on your blog.
Unlike many writers, I started writing very late. I wanted to become everything except a writer. It just happened. Sprouted and burgeoned (still growing).
When my first story got published in Women’s Era, I thought, ‘Okay, I can write! It’s time to take it seriously.’
 Then, I created my blog, and it helped me to keep writing and improve.

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

They are very important for me, even minor characters! Different (Not difficult) names are cool. I even search baby names on websites sometimes.

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

I try to write every day, but there’s no hard and fast rule. I think it’s okay to take a break. When I don’t write, I read. Social media is a great motivator. Even if you write a quotation or a small opinion piece on Social Media, it’s okay!
The place doesn’t matter to me. I just need silence and some uninterrupted time to shape up those whirling thoughts and ideas. Sometimes, my over-occupied mind disturbs me, and then I scribble my thoughts in my diary/notebook.

What is special about ‘We will meet again’? How long did it take to complete writing it?

We Will Meet Again is a mature love story. It’s about strong characters, relatable situations. It’s about growing in a relationship. It carries various shades of emotions without being mushy, and flavours of humour and repartee. I have tried to keep my voice reader-friendly.
It’s a long journey. Actually, We Will Meet Again was a short story I was writing many years back. But, I thought that the idea was too broad for a short story. So, I left that story unfinished. While I wrote many stories, this broad idea won’t leave me. It kept whirling in my mind, and then I thought maybe I can shape it up as a novel. It was a bizarre feeling as I never thought I could write a novel.
It took almost 8 months to finish my messy first draft. But, I did not like what I wrote, so I let it rest for some time. Then began vigorous editing, re-writing, major changes…

Who is your favorite character in the book and why?
Oh, this is a tough question! Every character (even the minor ones) has some role to play in my book. If I must answer this question, then it would be my male protagonist, Abhigyan. I don’t know why, but I enjoyed portraying his character. A character that may seem perfect, but his life is certainly not perfect.

Do share a snippet/ Quote from your book.

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

I think, for me, it’d be difficult to write sex scenes. But, I did not face any such difficulties while writing my book as there are no such scenes in my book. Not because I find it difficult. Because my story did not demand it, and I don’t believe in forcing sex scene just for the heck of it.

What is your method of writing? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I don’t know. Maybe both. I need to plot the basic structure of my story. I can’t just start writing without knowing what I am going to write about. But, a book is not just about basic plot structure. It needs sub-plots. Several situations, dialogues, and reactions of characters to move forward. Sometimes, I cannot help going with the situations where characters react in a certain way, the way they want.

Which do you prefer as a reader? EBook or Paperback?
Paperback, any day! I have tried some e-books, but for me, it’s paperback only.

What are the three tips you have for readers who are aspiring writers?
Listing some points that have worked for me:
         1) Read. You cannot be a good writer if you are not a good reader. Sometimes,         reading certain books can be a learning experience.
        2) The prime job of a writer is to write. So write. Write anything. A book review or a small opinion piece. Don’t just procrastinate. A dream needs actions to get fulfilled.
        3) Be a good listener and observer.

Thank you, Tarang! It was wonderful to have you over. I wish the very best for your book.
Now it is your turn, go grab the book!

Pustak Mandi @ a fab discount: 
Also available @ Amazon: We Will Meet Again...

 Paridhi Mathur, dusky, beautiful, and (determined to be) single, is doing everything to keep her academic records high and her love life nil, but lady luck keeps frowning at her. When she meets Abhigyan Ambastha, rich - devastatingly handsome, intense and sometimes curt, her resolve wavers. Despite regular warnings from her ever-suspicious heart, she inexplicably gets attracted towards him. But she would not let him trespass her soul. Why? Is she scared of mendacious face of love her past has inflicted on her? Can Paridhi really trust Abhigyan? Will a blissful breeze of love ever kiss her heart? A heart-warming saga of dreams and desires, We Will Meet Again promises to make you smile and cry at the same time. Hold on to your hearts before embarking on this roller coaster ride of emotions!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Book Review: Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar

Cuckold is a historical tome that bewitches and teleports the reader into sixteenth century Mewar, a powerful Rajput kingdom in the present day state of Rajasthan. It paints the life of Maharaj Kumar, the then heir apparent of Mewar, married and in love with his wife, the Saint Meera. 

Maharaj Kumar, the narrator of the story, is the quintessential cuckold. Both his wives have lovers. One is the flautist, the omnipresent God and the other, his step-brother.

Kiran Nagarkar has done a brilliant job portraying the life of a person about whom history tells us very little. After all. history is written by the victors, and Maharaj Kumar was a failure everywhere. Even though he wins many wars, all the glory is taken away by others. His father, under the influence of his favorite wife Queen Karmavati, favors Vikramaditya, her son, to become the heir apparent of Mewar whereas it is Maharaj Kumar who deserves the throne by virtue of age, efficiency, and intelligence. Vikramaditya is spoilt, heartless and idiotic while Maharaj Kumar is portrayed as benevolent, hardworking and intelligent. He is loving, brave, more sinned against than sinning. Nagarkar portrays him as a very interesting person through the various incidents narrated in the book.

Before I read the book I used to be in awe of Saint Meera. I loved to hear her bhajans and was amazed by her love towards the flautist, the blue one or Lord Krishna. After reading Cuckold, I have begun to think differently. I don’t understand her at all. She seemed like someone who was simply too selfish, more like a spoilt child. Blinded by her devotion to Krishna, she fails to notice the affections of her husband who loves her immensely. Yet she is jealous and devious when he becomes close to any other person. She treats him like a plaything and enjoys torturing him in myriad ways. He is frustrated by her indifference and dyes his body blue with indigo and goes to her room playing the flute in an attempt to seduce her multiple times. She plays along, calls him my blue one and acts like a lover with him. I couldn’t believe that she doesn’t realize it is Maharaj Kumar and not the flautist. I was disgusted with her.

The political narrative was not to my liking though the descriptions are interesting. The reason being I was more interested in what was going to happen to Maharaj Kumar rather than to Mewar. The musings of Maharaj Kumar about Mewar, his family, nature, religion are written well.

Some of the quotes that I loved:

“Where do songs go when you cease to hear them? Where does the turbulence of the air disappear after thousands of birds flap their wings homeward at eventide? Where are the cries of the Rajput women who spatter their red palm prints on the wall and leap into the flames of johar? Where is my childhood, my catapult, my broken slate, my first parrot, my youth and first sin and all those that followed, where is my old age and the first time I saw the woman from Merta? Ask Gambhiree. She knows it all.

“We were that rarest of couples. Even after years of marriage we were madly in love. I with her and she with somebody else.”

““Let nobody fool you, most couples are conjoined on earth. The mismatches, now they are a different story. They are made in heaven.” 

“Grammar, he felt, was a sign of competence, not of excellence.” 

 Recommended to all who love historical fiction.