Sunday, December 30, 2012

How a Twenty Three Year Old Brought a Nation Together

“Hang the Rapists” and “We are sorry Damini”, read posters held up by people at Jantar Mantar this morning. I went to the protest at Jantar Mantar today after church service, not knowing what to expect, but knowing that at twenty three you’re too young to die-for no fault of your own.

Looking at the posters and listening to slogans being chanted by protestors, I felt an enormous surge of sadness for a girl who had no desire to make headlines, to become a symbol of our shame, to become a candle flickering against the monstrosity and injustice and lack of system of our society, but who just wanted to watch a film and go home and maybe tell her friends what she though of it. She was one of us, wasn’t she; a girl who loved to watch Bigg Boss every night at nine and who relished her mothers simple cooking and whose face would light up each time she’d open a present which contained something she was probably saving money to buy.

She died painfully in Singapore, but in her death a nation came together and it was comforting to see that people in this country still have a heart.

In her death, we have hopefully learned some lessons. We have learned that it is possible to shake people out of their cynicism, that if enough people come together and raise their voices it is hard for the government to ignore us, that it is not “Eve Teasing” but sexual harassment, that a short skirt is not an invitation to rape and that men need to stop looking at women as objects.

Her death has also left us with questions. What about those other thousands of women who have been raped and who have been harassed by the police and society? What about cases of rape that go unreported because of the fear of humiliation? What about marital rape? What about Dalit and Tribal women raped by men from the Para- military forces? What about a stronger punishment for rape? What about a faster trial?

I don’t have answers, but I do know that there comes a time when a nation cannot afford armchair activists anymore and that time has now come for India. Tweeting and blogging about this won’t be enough; you need to walk out of your house and onto the streets so that we know you’re more than just a Twitter handle, you’re someone who knows that what happened to Her, could just as much have happened to you or to women you know.

I know it was early for a Sunday morning and maybe more people came to Jantar Mantar later in the day, but I couldn't help but shake my head at the irony of it all. When India won the Cricket World Cup in 2011, most of Delhi collected at India Gate, dancing atop cars, hooting and cheering for India. But when a girl, who was one of us, was brutalized, raped and left to die on the road and who eventually did die painfully of the inhumanity inflicted on her, it’s sad that it's taking us time to “think” if we want to be a part of the voice she didn't get to raise. I didn't know her either, but I felt like I lost someone I knew yesterday.

Image Credit: The husband and his iPhone 4S.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

What's That Thing About Girls and Shoes?

Me (stepping into shoe store): I'll see you in a bit.
Him (panicking): You're going to buy shoes! 
Me: Umm..yeah..
Him (visibly confused): But you only just bought a pair two days back!
Me (losing patience): Yeah..? 
Him (exasperated): Do you know how many pairs of shoes you already have? 
Me (with an incredibly offended look on my face): That's a question you must NEVER ask a lady! *walks into shoe store*

Image Credit: The husband and his iPhone 4S 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Brewing Revolution

On Friday night while the husband and I were driving back home, I told him how badly this country needs a revolution, a collective uproar by all of us to remind the government that we've pretty much lost faith in them and the lest a woman deserves is to walk down the road confidently without the fear of assault. That was also the night we saw heavy police presence sprinkled all over the city, stopping cars and ripping black films off from car windows- a small part of me felt happy! The Saturday morning protests at Raisina Hill made my heart swell with pride and I hope Delhi never loses this strong spirit of solidarity, which no amount of lathi charge, tear gas or water canons can threaten!

I wonder if the government has ever bothered to get online and see just how unpopular it is.

Photo Credit: The Sunday Times, December 23rd 2012. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My City of Shame

I am a Delhi girl. I am also a girl who regularly uses public transport, sometimes all by myself after dark. The many times I have taken an auto alone late in the evening, I take a long, hard look at the auto wallah, trying to figure out if he "could be a rapist". Maybe I'm naive, but then this is Delhi, where rape is a familiar word. 

On Sunday night a twenty three year old girl who was travelling on a bus along with a male friend was gang raped by six men in South Delhi (Delhi's "supposedly posh" area), who first brutally assaulted her friend and then proceeded to rape her for forty five minutes while the driver drove the bus around the city- even past police check points.The couple were then thrown out of the bus stripped and wounded. The girl, a young medical student now lies in hospital, hooked onto a ventilator with critical injuries, battling for her life. Four of the accused have been arrested, two are still at large.

Rape happens all the time in India. Statistics say that every twenty minutes a woman is raped in this country. Women from weaker sections of society like Dalits and Tribals are the easiest targets, knowing that their gender and caste are their greatest weakness, but then this barbaric crime knows no limits. It is nauseating how the word "Rape" has become synonymous with Delhi. What's even more sickening is how common these cases have become and how the government thinks the solution to reducing rape lies with the women, not with the men who are committing the crime. Telling women not to wear this or to not go there at that time is not the solution, telling men not to rape is.

I could respond to this incident like just another voice in the crowd and go on and on and on about what happened and what could have been done and what should have been done, but I choose to respond to this horrific crime as a woman; as a woman who leaves home everyday and travels the streets of Delhi for work and leisure. 

As I type this, newspapers, blogs,Twitter and Facebook are spilling over about reports of the rape and it makes me wonder about all that I was taught when I was growing up as a young girl in this city; the fact that my body is my right and nobody has the right to touch me without my permission. Was all that just an idealistic bubble that I was raised in? Is it that easy to violate a woman's modesty today? I choose not to believe that. 

 A few men who I've spoken to about such incidents say that all girls should learn self defence, there's nothing wrong with that, but in most cases when a woman is assaulted, it's by a group of men, not just one man. I don't see how self defence would really help there. The only thing I can think of in such circumstances is to shout, yell and scream, try and attract as much as attention as possible. The reason why men are encouraged to assault a woman is that they think they can get away with it without any consequences of it, if they know they'll be seen and reported, the chances of them going ahead with an assault are rare. Someone says carry pepper spray, again if a woman is being assaulted what are the chances that she'll be able to open her bag, or even reach into her pocket to retrieve the pepper spray. Not really practical. Yet, I firmly believe that security is not just for them who have drivers and live in highly secured residential complexes, but even for them who use public transport at all times of the day and night, irrespective of where they live in the city. 

What I think the government should be doing instead of telling women to wear salwar kameez and stay at home and roll chapatis for their husbands, is to make sure stronger measures are put in place to avoid incidents like these in the future.

To begin with put in place a harsher punishment for rapists, how about chemical castration? For a change, let the rapist and not the victim live with the stigma. Train cops to be more sensitive towards rape victims, most rape cases go unreported for the very reason that victims fear humiliation by the police. Fast track the judicial process so as not to repeatedly embarrass the victim; the Dhaula Kuan rape case is two years old and is still in court. Apart from having a stronger patrolling system in place, especially around deserted areas I think the government should make provisions to give vendors licenses to open up little stalls around lonely stretches in the city and not just paan and cigarette stalls, but also fruit and vegetable stalls, ensuring apart from just men, women customers frequent the area too, turning a lonely strip of road into a vibrant little market. Vendors like these around deserted bus stops and metro stations will ensure more lights after dark making sure that a single woman travelling alone will not be walking down a lonely and dark street; reducing chances of assault. 

 It's disgusting to think that Delhi, the capital of the world's largest democracy is home to men who behave worse than animals and I think we need to stop and think how we as a society have gone wrong in raising our sons. It has been over three decades since law reforms for rape are being put in place and it my take another three decades and I may not stop staring suspiciously at an auto wallah trying to figure out if he looks like he could do me any harm, but I hope our daughters never have to. 

What do you think?

Image credit - Valeri Pizhanski via Flickr

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Tail of an Unsuitably Named Dog

It wouldn't be exaggeration for me to say that I love dogs, love with a capital L, which I've made quite evident! In fact it wouldn't also be wrong for me to say that I love most animals (except cats, there's something about them that creeps me out) and I have a feeling that genetics has something to do with this. 

Like most Anglo Indians back in the days of the Raj, my paternal grandfather worked with the Indian Railways and was posted to a place called Bandikui, which was an old cantonment town in Rajasthan, very popular during the British rule for being a zonal railway hub. Bandikui was also where my father was born. I’ve never been there, but have heard that the town still bears strong signs of colonization; including a grand British era church and many abandoned buildings symbolic of British rule. As a young boy my father was drawn to animals and I believe the large house the railways had given them was teeming with a noisy brood of children who’d make a football team appear like a group of well behaved school girls (I’m assuming my grandparents were devout Catholics, because my father was a part of sixteen siblings) and animals. Apart from the numerous dogs and cats who populated the house, the family also had a large peacock who lived on the terrace and made it his business to swoop down on and terrify strangers who came knocking at their door! I don’t remember my grandparents having a guard dog and now I know why. I was also told of how my father once found a little fawn in the forest close to their house and how it followed him home and how he took care of it till it was old enough to go back to the forest.

Now coming back to the dog after which this story is named. My mother and her large family (they were nine children in all) lived in Saharanpur, a lesser known of city in Uttar Pradesh famous for its wood carving industry, along with a large troop of animals. The family had around fifteen mongrels, whose tails my maternal grandfather would obsessively chop off, for reasons no one knew why. This large pack of dogs included a black mongrel, rather inappropriately or aptly (depends on how you look at it), named Nigger. I guess it must’ve been one of mother’s siblings who though “Oh look a black dog, let’s call him Nigger”. To say that Nigger loved my grandfather would be an understatement; the dog followed him like a shadow. Running down the road behind him every morning Nigger would see Grandfather off to work, in the evenings when Grandfather came home, Nigger would yelp in joy and throw himself at him, wagging his little stump of a tail in a mad frenzy! Unlike the other dogs, my grandfather and Nigger shared a special bond and wherever Grandfather was you could be certain to find Nigger, sniffing the ground around his feet and looking up at Grandfather with adoration filled eyes. Grandfather and Nigger were always seen together, just like best friends.

Then one day Grandfather died. Nigger puzzled and upset followed the funeral procession down to the graveyard wondering what had happened. After the funeral everyone left, everyone except Nigger; he was waiting for grandfather. Nigger never went home after that day, he sat for weeks outside the graveyard, anxiously sniffing the ground and whining mournfully, hoping that Grandfather would walk out and the two friends would go back home together, just like old times. Mother and her siblings tried taking Nigger back home, but he was adamant, he didn't budge from his spot. After weeks of restlessly waiting and pining for Grandfather and without any food or water Nigger died sitting and waiting outside the graveyard for Grandfather.

This is something that never fails to sadden yet fascinate me each time I think of it and that’s the reason I decided to write it down as a small tribute to a dog who literally loved his master to death.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Barnabas, Bombay’s First Private Detective: Book Review

Barnabas, Bombay’s First Private Detective is cleverly written detective fiction by Sangeeta Nambiar. Being a lover of history, one of my major draws to this book was the fact that it was set in colonial Indian, when Gandhi’s Nationalist movement against the British was at its peak and when Mumbai was still Bombay; a setting that serves more than just a backdrop and lends the story a lot of character.

The book is the story of Barnabas Mehta, the son of a cook who has been raised under the guardianship of his father’s employer, Francis Curtis a British man. The story leads us to Wodehouse Road, where a British woman, Rose Stanton has gone missing and whose husband, not wanting to get the police involved hires Barnabas to solve the case. The book goes on to reveal the fact that Rose has been brutally murdered and Barnabas finds himself in the middle of a challenging mystery. The rest of the book introduces the reader to many interesting and well defined characters and has clues strewn across, waiting to be picked up and deciphered.

The way Barnabas handles the case with his wit and intellect is refreshing and it’s wonderful to come across a crime thriller where the author lets you think for yourself, instead of spoon feeding you. The plot moves on effortlessly and this is a book you can’t put down once you’re in the thick of the action, taking many deft twists and turns to come to an intelligent ending.

I love how skillfully Nambiar has fleshed out the character of Barnabas and I hope she decides to follow up this book with more of Barnabas’s adventures. Recommended!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Breaking up is never easy I know, but I Have to Go

It was almost the end of 2010 in Edmonton (Canada) and as the colour of the leaves on trees changed from a cheerful green to a rich copper and then a deep bronze, I handed in my two weeks notice at my workplace and then packed my bags and put away things I could not put in my suitcase in large plastic bags and gave them away at the local second hand shop and what I could not give away, I put in black garbage bags and threw away. All the while being clawed incessantly by an intimidating feeling of hollowness, followed by a sense of fear so deep and so unrelenting it knotted itself into a little lump in my throat, making my eyes brim over unexpectedly; whether I was on the bus to work, or while I was staring into the distance from my kitchen window as I washed the dishes.

And as the first few flakes of early snow fell carpeting the city in a sheet of white, I was ready to leave, to go home and say good bye to a city that I had just begun to call home.

It wasn’t easy really, to just pack up and go, turn my back on a city that had taken me into her arms, roughed me up a good deal and made a woman out of me. A city that taught me what it was to walk for fifteen minutes in the biting cold, while the falling snow stung my eyes; and my nose red and frozen from the cold kept running. A city that taught me that it was wiser to shop at Costco than at Sobey’s and that all non-biodegradable garbage went in large blue bags, not the black ones. Or the fact that if I didn’t do laundry on my day off, no one else would and the laundry bag in the corner would begin to overflow. I also learned that drinking French Vanilla at Tim Hortons would make my lips sticky and I chose to drink a large Double Double instead. Edmonton also taught me that the unkempt and unshaven homeless man outside the neighbourhood convenience store, who always carried his cat with him in his bag and who always waved at me cheerfully revealing crooked and yellow teeth, was harmless and had quite a witty sense of humour. The city gave me friends who may not have spoken the best English and whose accent I had trouble understanding, but we laughed at each others jokes nonetheless!   

And so I learned that I had to look to my right and not left while I crossed the road, and that innocent looking dark patch on the street in winter was black ice, slipping on which could be really nasty and that snow shovelling in the winter could be back breaking business and more than anything else Edmonton taught me that “home” was only an illusion and home would be anywhere I choose to hang my hat!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

So, I Got Myself a Kindle!

I got my self a Kindle, finally! It’s a brilliant device and being old school and a lover of all things paper I was in two minds for the longest time until it dawned upon me that I have over 500 paper books and space for no more and considering the Kindle lets me save up to 1400 books (I know!) I knew it was time I got myself one. The Kindle was a bit of a late birthday present from all the cash I’d got and was saving up in my little kitty and as it turns out it’s one of the best things I have bought myself in the longest time. It’s also really sleek and compact and I can slip it into a tiny little hand bag and take it with me almost everywhere I go, which is just perfect and has given me company so many times.

Also considering how many books I lug around when I travel (I carry at least three books with me whenever I travel- I’m too paranoid that I’d have nothing to read if I finish what I have, considering I’m a fast reader), the Kindle also saves me that trouble. I’ve also noticed that since I’ve got myself the Kindle I’m reading much more than I was earlier, from a book a week I’ve gone up to three books a week, I’ll agree they’re not very long books- but still, I’m reading a LOT more, which is great. I also got myself a pretty purple Kindle case, which makes carrying it around much more convenient and keeps my Kindle safe. I’m sorry if this comes across as a very “I’m so obsessed with my Kindle” post, ummm because it kinda is!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Hundred Hues of Green:Goa in the Monsoon

Day three in Goa and we find ourselves sitting in a roadside shack of a local tea stall in a quiet corner across Baga River, where we stop for a quick breakfast of fresh and warm vada pao’s and tiny plastic cups of milky and sweet chai. Being the middle of the monsoons it suddenly comes down to rain and soon a couple of more people scurry into the tea stall, for shelter, a hot cup of tea and conversation. People on their Activa’s zoom past us, covered in navy blue rain coats shaking off droplets of rain water, while I bite into my still warm vada pao, savouring the perfect crustiness of the bread, along with the mildly spiced vada in the middle. The owner of the tea stall breaks pieces of pao and scatters them on a patch of ground outside his shack, a cue for a noisy gang of crows to swoop down and peck vigorously at the ground while fighting each other off the crumbs. I sip at my syrupy and sticky cup of tea and wish all Monday mornings were to be this way!

Goa in the monsoon is when Goa takes a vacation from the crazy tourist season and when the locals take an opportunity to relax in their shorts, taking lengthy siestas and sitting in their verandah’s, surrounded by tangles of leaves, grass, weeds and flowers and watching the occasional tourist zoom past them on their bikes. Goa is beautiful all through the year, but there’s something about the monsoons that brings out a wonderful earthiness in her, making you want to stand and stare in awe. Tall and graceful coconut palms rising up from crimson soil, swaying to the breeze and delicately showering you with raindrops as you walk past, grey skies rolling with monsoon clouds, a moody ocean crashing surf upon the shore and throwing up spirals of spray as angry waves hurl themselves vigorously against jagged and mossy rocks and strong gusts of wind weaving through your hair as they whistle past your ears.

The monsoon season or the “off season” as it’s called, also means that Goa is cheaper, ensuring not a lot of time is spent haggling for a good deal. We stayed at Reliance House, a guest house in Calangute which provides entire apartments for rent with a bedroom, a large and airy living room which opens up to a spacious balcony, kitchen and two washrooms, which is just perfect if you’re a large group of friends (the living room had extra mattresses and pillows stacked up against the wall ensuring sleeping arrangements for a group), or even a couple. The guest house also has a kitchen from where you can order your meals (lunch and dinner need to be requested for in advance).

Reliance House is tucked away in a quiet corner, a short walk from Calangute Beach and a five minute scooty ride away from the tourist-y Baga Beach and is managed by the always eager to help Girish Kalgutkar (and his team of young boys who he laughing refers to as “Baccha Log”), always spotted in his under shirt and a pair of shorts, he runs a small departmental store in the guest house, where he stocks soft drinks, bottled water, soap, biscuits and other knick knacks. Each time I would look at Girish running down the stairs towards us with a big umbrella held high over his head and a bigger smile on his face, to come and open the gate for us it would make me smile, because for some reason he had vaguely begun to remind me of the slightly eccentric yet very likeable Babu Rao Apte from Hera Pheri!

A Nano hired, we drove to our hearts content down narrow roads, the tires of our tiny car crunching red earth as we went along- roads flanked by an abundant cover of green, which sometimes curved into nowhere or at times surprisingly led to a tucked away little patch of beach. We drove along narrow streets lined by white washed churches stretching up towards dark hovering monsoon clouds and green fields that had turned into small lakes because of the monsoon. It took a while for my eyes to get used to the fact that the horizon wasn’t interrupted by gloomy, grey concrete, or the zigzag of tangled black wires running over head.

Monsoons in Goa are a riot of colour- from the rich shade of burgundy of the soil to the hundred hues of green foliage entangled with each other, dotted with tiny beads of rain water to grey skies and a dark, moody ocean tossing giant waves against the shore.

Usually dismissed by tourists as too sticky or too wet with nothing much to see or do, monsoons in Goa are a perfect excuse for doing nothing at all- a setting for just the right kind of vacation. Be prepared to spend time indoors given the rains and while you’re in what better to do than read, eat, nap, day dream and read some more with time drifting by at a leisurely pace; just being relaxed and content with life in the moment, or susegad, as laid back Goans would say. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wings of Silence: Book Review

When I began reading Wings of Silence by debut author Shriram Iyer I didn’t expect to be glued to it so intensely that I would finish reading it in four days (I’d sneakily read a few lines whenever I’d get a chance- on the commute to work, during a five minute coffee break, or the during the last ten minutes of the lunch break).

Iyer’s gripping debut novel begins with war veteran Akshay Sethi, a former Air Force officer who is captured and imprisoned by the Pakistani army during war and how he escapes and crosses the border after being shot in the leg- a feat for which he is awarded the Veer Chakra by the Government of India, after which the family relocates to America (a former Air Force officer moving to America was a tad hard to believe).  Akshay Sethi is a man who believes in duty and discipline and can’t stand failure of any kind. What comes as a rude shock for him is when his older son Raj is born deaf. Something Akshay Sethi refuses to accept and instead invests all his time and ambition into his younger son Saurav , who is a teenage prodigy and gifted in academics as well as sports. While Saurav succeeds in academics and achieves fame as a promising young tennis star, Raj is sinking into a quagmire of depression, to the point of becoming suicidal. This is when Saurav decides to give up his own successful tennis career and help Raj realize his wildest dream- to win a gold medal in the marathon at the 1980 Moscow Olympics!

Wings of Silence is a heartfelt tale of family and relationships and the bonding of Raj and Saurav is in itself a moment of victory. The narrative is fluid and keeps you glued as you see the plot play out before you. A promising debut, Wings of Silence portrays family bonding in a time overshadowed by war, hostility and challenging times, along with the grit and determination of the Sethi brothers. Recommended! 

(This is a book review requested by the publisher)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Clockwork Man: Book Review

The great thing about reviewing books is that you get sent a lot of books-for free! But then there are also times when you get sent a book you think you wouldn't enjoy. This is exactly what happened with me when I received a copy of The Clockwork Man by William Jablonsky for review. The book falls into the science fiction genre, a genre I've never really been a fan of and hence my initial apprehension. But a few pages into the book and I realized I couldn't have been more wrong by judging a book solely on the genre it falls into (I'm gradually learning not to take categories books are slotted into seriously).

The Clockwork Man by William Jablonsky is essentially the story of Ernst, a man made entirely out of clockwork, by master clockmaker Gruber in Germany in the late 19th century. Ernst lives and serves Gruber and his two young children and even though he’s made out of clockwork, Ernst is more than just an ordinary automaton and is educated by Gruber to be a gentle and caring soul. Considered a marvel of the 19th century, Ernst soon earns himself a host of admirers, many of them being heads of state and foreign dignitaries. The book is in the form of journal entries by Ernst and we soon learn that Ernst has developed a deep love for Gruber’s beautiful young daughter Giselle, and just as their relationship beings to get intimate a tragic incident takes place and the family is torn apart. Ernst is now abandoned and because he knows no other life, he winds himself down in a kind of suicide. A hundred years later, Ernst wakes up in a strange land, with the world and life he has known long lost. Ernst soon finds himself in the company of a slightly eccentric, yet well meaning homeless man Greeley, with whom he spends time living and hiding on the streets of an unfamiliar city, still haunted by the century old tragedy that refuses to let him go.

The Clockwork Man is a layered and gripping tale of love, loyalty and human emotions and even thought it centres on a clockwork man, it is essentially a human story. The narrative is deep and leads you on consistently, drawing you in so powerfully that you will forget you’re reading fiction and will begin to believe that Ernst really exists, wishing he really exists.

My involvement with Ernst and his tale was so intense that I felt an immense sense of sadness when I turned over the last page and would like to applaud Jablonsky for his effortless way with words and this exemplary portrayal of human relationships that will stay with me for a long time.

(This is a book review requested by the publisher)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Kitnay Aadmi Thay? Completely Useless Bollywood Trivia by Diptakirti Chaudhuri: Book Review

Growing up in India, one invariably grows up under the shadow of Bollywood and it’s not uncommon to see crazy movie fans line up outside theatres to watch the “first day, first show” (thought now you can conveniently book your tickets on the internet), memorizing dialogues, and challenging friends with who knows more about Hindi films and their actors. Despite Bollywood (a word now added to the Oxford Dictionary) being such a driving force in this country, surprisingly I’m not much of a movie watcher. Yes, I watched all the Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna super hits on TV while growing up, but even today ask me to go watch a film at a hall and eight times out of ten you can be sure, I’ll make an unpleasant face.

So when I was asked to review Diptakirti’s book on Bollywood trivia, I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy it. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that once I started, it was hard to stop. In his book, Diptakirti has meticulously come up with 50 lists and 500 entries of interesting trivia, which can only be the work of an avid movie watcher and a true fan- in short, a Bollywood fans wildest dream come true!

Kitnay Aadmi Thay? spans Bollywood right from the 1950’s to now and gives you juicy nuggets of information that makes you go “really!” What I most loved about the book is Diptakirti’s writing style, which is hilarious and ensured that I laughed (out loud) my way thought it. The book touches topics like the Ten best movies to have not been made, Films within films, The (much stereotyped) portrayal of mothers, fathers, siblings and friends in Bollywood, and my favourite, Brand placements in Bollywood- where Diptakirti has mentioned hilarious moments from well known films-making me burst out laughing, thanks to which I got curious looks from colleagues at work, while sneakily reading the book in office.

I would highly recommend you read Kitnay Aadmi Thay?- Crazy Bollywood fan or not, given Diptakirti’s infectious love for cinema and the detailed and passionate research that has gone in, bringing to you a gem of a book on all things Bollywood.

Westland Books organized a meeting with Diptakirti at Zura, a lovely bistro and bakery in Gurgaon where we got a chance to interact with the author over lunch, where we learned about his love for Hindi cinema and how he had watched Sholay in bits and pieces over the span of a few days as a little boy. Lunch was a leisurely, sit down affair at Zura, and apart from providing us excellent food, had a wonderful relaxing ambience which was just perfect for such a gathering.

(This is a book review requested by the publisher)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Broken News: Book Review

Broken News is broadcast journalist Amrita Tripathi’s debut novel and tells the story of M (whose name as we find out in the end is Meera), an overworked and paranoid journalist with a news channel who is on the verge of losing control of her life and facing a nervous breakdown. Broken News is essentially the story of a young professional whose life has been taken over completely by her job and whose problems have begun to get bigger than she can handle.  The book follows M’s journey in the news world, generously sprinkled with the predictable; cigarette and coffee breaks, profanity, bitchy and competitive colleagues, being overworked and the death of a close friend.

The book starts with being a monologue of sorts by M and I was seriously missing more characters and most importantly, dialogue. A few characters come along as the story progresses, but nothing deep really. It’s difficult for me to give you a quick beginning, middle and end of this book because to be honest, it was hard for me to find one while reading it. Broken News barely skims over the surface of M and the other minor characters in the book and really does nothing deep in terms of plot and character and the reason I found this a tad disappointing was because as an insider, Tripathi could have easily added more depth and flavour to this book.

The one point in this book on which I would like to congratulate Amrita is on having brought up the issue of mental illness and stress in the Indian context, considering how most such problems are conveniently brushed under the carpet and what a taboo it is in India to visit a counselor!

All in all Broken News isn’t exactly an earth shattering book, but if you’re looking for a light and not very complicated read, then pick up a copy.

Westland Books gave us a lovely opportunity to interact with Amrita Tripathi over coffee and delicious finger foods at the very lively Fresc Co at Ambience Mall in Vasant Kunj. It was wonderful to talk to Amrita about the book, her experiences in the news industry and what she's working on next.

(This is a book review requested by the publisher)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Taj Conspiracy:Book Review

Pictured Above: Manreet Sodhi Someshwar, author of the Taj Conspiracy at a bloggers meet up, organized by Westland Books at The Punjab Grill
The Taj Conspiracy, by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar is essentially a thriller which centers on India’s most defining monument- the Taj Mahal. The protagonist Mehrunisa Khosa, who is of mixed race, half Indian and half Persian, is a Mughal scholar who identifies strongly with the Taj Mahal, as she looks at it as a reflection of her  own mixed heritage.  The book begins with Mehrunisa stumbling upon the dead body of the Taj supervisor, Arun Toor (Da Vinci Code anyone?). Mehrunisa eventually finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation and later notices that the calligraphy on Queen Mumtaz’s cenotaph has been changed to signify a Hindu origin to the Taj; the doings of a Hindu right-wing extremist group, who are adamant on proving that the Taj is originally a Shiv temple.

I was hooked!

Manreet has put in years of research to come up with accurate facts of the Taj Mahal, putting together a fast paced thriller which packs history, politics, bureaucracy, scandal and urban legends, in the right amount which makes sure you keep turning the pages in anticipation.

The narrative is gripping and there are enough twists and turns to make you gasp, along with the well sketched characters of Mehrunisa and cops SSP Raghav and R.P Singh who work ceaselessly to find out the conspirator behind this evil plan to destroy India’s most famous monument.

The end of the book, I’ll admit, was a tad disappointing and a bit too dramatic for my liking and it didn’t really do justice to the suspense that had been built up all along. Apart from that, I’d still recommend you read it, given Someshwar’s accurate research and the way she has effortlessly blended elements like fiction, history and politics into this unputdowanable thriller which keeps you glued.

(This is a book review requested by the publisher)

Monday, June 25, 2012

You Never Know When You’ll Get Lucky! Book Review

With a plethora of urban romances, structured around the lives, careers and relationships of young women (I choose not to use the term “chick lit” since I’m not terribly fond of it and feel that it undermines the character of a book, narrowing the perception of a reader) , written by young and educated, career women,  filling up book shelves swiftly these days, here’s another one in the form of Priya Narendra’s, You Never Know When You’ll get Lucky! Narendra has worked in advertising and according to her many of the hilarious incidents in the book have come from her stint in the industry. The book follows the hilarious life of Kajal, a young, independent and bold copy writer who works in advertising agency in Delhi and always ends up finding herself in clumsy and embarrassing situations. Kajal firmly believes that one should marry for love and furiously fends off her mother’s many unsuccessful attempts at trying to hook her up with prospective grooms.

 The book begins with Kajal trying to evade her mother and annoying childhood companion turned pursuer Bunty, at a wedding, where she ends up hiding under a table and bumping into Dhir, a handsome and suave investment banker from Bombay. Though there is an instant spark between the both of them, Kajal puts everything behind her since Dhir lives in Bombay and she can’t see how they can ever be together. Kajal finds herself in another short lived relationship and eventually dumps the guy at a family dinner where she realizes that he is a mamma’s boy and can’t up for her. This is when Kajal decides to get serious about her career and finds herself in the middle of an important ad campaign. Kajal ends up going to Bombay for a shoot related to this campaign and ends up meeting Dhir again, but this time the attraction is stronger and the pair of them realizes that there’s something deeper to what they feel for each other- the challenge remaining a long distance relationship which can often cause misunderstandings, as it does with Kajal and Dhir. The rest of the book follows how Kajal pulls off the ad campaign she was heading successfully and how Dhir and she finally work their relationship out.

The book is funny and engaging and Narendra has done justice in fleshing out the characters of Kajal, Dhir and other minor characters who add to the fun of the plot and the short chapters add to the pace and momentum of the book. But, frankly there’s nothing that sets this book apart from others in its genre and the predictability of some parts of the book are a tad disappointing as well. If you must, this book is best read on a long commute to work or during a slow day in the office.

(This is a book review requested by the publisher)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cooking Up a Storm and Some Steak!

Last Saturday I attended a wonderful cooking workshop organized by the supremely talented chefs Shamsul Wahid and Hanisha Singh at The Smoke House Grill and the lovely folks at Brown Paper Bag Delhi. The reason I was so kicked about this and squeezed myself in at the very last minute was that I've never been terribly fond of cooking (unless it's toast and eggs or Maggi) and so I thought this would be a great way to challenge myself and see what could possible go wrong. For if you know me, then you'll know that I'm pretty much a disaster in the kitchen (unless I'm baking of course, something I totally love and am told I'm good at too!)

For a reasonable sum of Rs.1500 we were provided individual work stations and all the ingredients neatly laid out, complete with the largest knife I have ever worked with and which I'll confess almost scared me away a tiny bit! But when Chef Shamsul started, it was magic show, his hands just effortlessly sliced, chopped, seared, fried, marinated and baked and I was left staring at his nimble fingers in awe. Apart from that, Chef Shamsul also gave us a number of handy tips which I have filed away neatly in my mind and hope to refer to when I start cooking more often.

So, here's what we made- chicken breast stuffed with sausages and cheese, wrapped in bacon, a juicy, medium rare, three peppercorn steak, served with roast potatoes, gravy, green beans, mashed potatoes and a crunchy salad on the side. And the best part, we got to eat all that we had cooked and it was absolutely divine, leaving me with a small sense of pride and a big smile on my face :) 

So what do you know, I can cook- yes, little old me! 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Of Flaming Gulmohar’s, Sticky Sweet Mangoes, a Lot of Heat, a Little Bit of Rain and the Reason for My Disappearance

It’s been far too long and a lot has NOT happened and I have been lazy. And so, today I decide to blow the dust off my blog and tell you all about it.

May in Delhi has been brutal and the only things capable of making me smile, (other than air conditioning of course) and especially when I’m in the office on an oppressively hot day, is the sight of a Gulmohar tree laden with scarlet blooms or that of a tiffin box (obviously not mine) filled to the brim with cool and sweet and juicy mangoes, cut up in perfect bite size little cubes! 
Being stung by the heat there was nothing to do all of May and there were moments when I would look mournfully at my blank calendar and want to burst out crying. There were days where, while sitting locked away in my cool and dark air conditioned room, I longed for a couple of days in the hills. Away from this suffocating heat, where I could sit with my hair falling down my shoulders without the back of my neck getting damp with sweat and enjoy a steaming, hot cup of chai, spiced with cinnamon and cardamom while I read Ruskin Bond, surrounded by silence and mighty green Deodars and look up to see cool, blue hills in the distance.

And then after weeks and weeks (or so it seemed) of slowly being cooked alive by the wretched heat, one afternoon, fat, grey clouds gathered in the sky and it rained! Not a lot, but enough for me to do a happy little dance while I felt the rain on my face and arms and saw fat droplets splatter and crash against the windshield – the bright, red brake lights of the car in front of us illuminating the drops, making them look like sparkling pieces of rubies scattered across the glass!

Continuing with the cheerfulness, yesterday I attended a wonderful bloggers meet up lunch hosted by Westland Books at the Punjab Grill, where we met to discuss author Manreet Sodhi Someshwar’s latest thriller, The Taj Conspiracy, set against the backdrop of the Taj Mahal. Manreet is a lovely person and an excellent conversationalist and it was absolutely wonderful to get an opportunity to hear her talk about the book, the research involved and some interesting trivia on the Taj that came as a surprise! 

By the look of it, this is turning out to be a rather wonderful weekend and today evening I shall be heading to Landmark Bookstore in Vasant Kunj to hear the legendary and very prolific and delightful Ruskin Bond speak! I’ve heard him speak on a couple of occasions and was extremely charmed by his sharp wit and easy humour, a lot of which you find in his writing!

And so, hoping that the rest of the summer is slightly more kind to us, I shall go back to turning on the AC, dimming the lights and returning to a basket full of books that I have ordered from Flipkart, that lie waiting to be read.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Review: Urban Shots The Love Collection Edited by Sneh Thakur

I’ll begin this book review with a confession that I don’t read love stories and I’m tremendously skeptical of the love story genre on the whole. Reason being that most of the few love stories I’ve read have been immensely cheesy and predictable and have more often than not, left me feeling nauseous and disappointed. Hence, I was pleasantly surprised when I began reading Urban Shots The Love Collection, edited by Sneh Thakur, since it was such a wonderful celebration of love in all it’s different hues and not just soppy, cheesy love but love ranging right from a youngster’s first crush, to heartbreak, to marriage and even translated regional literature.

What I enjoyed about this book was the fact that it followed the lives and emotions of ordinary people in urban India’s sprawling metropolises- people like you and me who you’d probably rub shoulders with on the bus to work, people who’ve experienced the dizziness of that first kiss, the impatient wait at the college cafĂ©, late night text messages and hushed phone calls to the pain of heartbreak and rejection and everything else that involves that crazy little emotion called love.

With 31 stories contributed by 27 authors, Urban Shots The Love Collection is an interesting collection of love stories that traverse's the magnitude of love and will make you smile as you read on since there’s a lot you’ll be able to relate to- not because you’ve been in similar situations but because love is such a universal emotion and beautifully cuts across all barriers of location, culture, language and even gender!

There were a few stories in this collection that didn’t go down quite well with me, but that being said, most of the stories in this promising collection have stayed with me much after I’ve put the book down. One of the first few stories in the anthology was Rishta by Ahmed Faiyaz, which is the story of a young school teacher who’s trying to decide who would make a better life partner, a simple boy she’s known for a while or an older, unknown man in Dubai. Narendranath Mitra’s story Girlfriend, translated from the Bangla by Arunava Sinha, tells the story of a happily married man’s quiet rendezvous with his much younger girlfriend every evening after work, Ira Trivedi’s In Love With A Stranger talks about a bride’s conflicting emotions on her wedding day, Strangers, again by Ahmed Faiyaz is the story of a young guy who falls in love with his young and attractive neighbour only to find out that she had committed suicide a few months ago. 

Gayatri Hingorani’s The Girl Who Was Too Loud is the story of a young couple who have a “loud” problem; where as A Simple Question by Naman Sariya tells the story of a writer who wants an answer to a simple question from his estranged girlfriend of many years. Lipi Mehta’s Twisted on the other hand tells us how love crosses all barriers, including even those of gender, while A Good Day by Richa. S. Chatterjee is the tale of a young married couple whose feelings for each other are rekindled after a rather devastating experience. Closure by Rashmi Gupta talks about how a young woman finally gets over and gets closure about her past failed relationship. Reality Bytes by Anitha Murthy is a virtual love story between a young girl and a mysterious stranger, Ayeesha Khanna’s A Girl Can Dream is the beautiful and innocent tale of childhood love, while Love is Blind by Vibha Batra is a story of how opposites attract while Invisible Touch by Jairaj Padmanabhan is the story how a young girl who falls in love with an intriguing boy she’s never met.

Urban Shots The Love Collection is a refreshing collection that makes for an enjoyable read, primarily because of an assortment of authors and the varied writers voices they lend the book. Pick up a copy if you’re looking for a light, yet enjoyable read- it won’t disappoint. 

(This is a book review requested by the publisher)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Book Review “Urban Shots Bright Lights” Edited By Paritosh Uttam

Urban Shots Bright Lights, a collection of 29 urban tales by 21 writers is a refreshing collection of short stories edited by Paritosh Uttam, author of Dreams in Prussian Blue and editor of the first Urban Shots collection. This colourful anthology contains stories contributed to by various authors and captures the numerous hues of life in modern urban India, alive with a cacophony of sounds, kaleidoscopic colours, dizzying heights, blinding lights and a fast paced life. What I particularly enjoyed about this collection is how most of the stories touch upon interesting, quirky and at times eccentric characters one comes across in an urban environment.  Urban Shots Bright Lights contains stories contributed by established authors such as, Paritosh Uttam, Ahmed Faiyaz, R. Chandrasekar and Malathi Jaikumar, as well as many first time authors and bloggers. The lovely thing about this book is how most of these tales are about people in urban India, who have stories that surprise or inspire or just leave you with a smile on your face.

Urban Shots Bright Lights brings to you some heart warming, pensive and humorous stories of ordinary folks with some extraordinary lives and experiences; such as the ten year old mathematics loving young girl plagued with memories of her dead mother in Arvind Chandrasekar’s story “Amul”, Ahmed Faiyaz’s heartfelt story “Across the Seas” talks of a mother’s longing for her son who lives abroad, “Alabama to Wyoming” by Paritosh Uttam is the story of a young boy who knows the names of all American states in alphabetic order, while “Good Morning Nikhil” by Ahmed Faiyaz is the tale of a little baby who secretly meets his dead grandparents, “Maami Menance” by Pradeep. D. Raj is a humorous account of an annoying neighbour who drops by uninvited; R. Chandrasekar’s “The Peacock Cut” is the story of a popular international basketball player sporting a unique peacock haircut, Roshan Radhakrishna’s story “Father Of My Son” is an amusing account of a father confronting his seven year old son who wishes to get married to his classmate.

Other stories I enjoyed were, “Jo Dikhta Hai Woh Bikta Hai” by Sneh Thakur which is a delightful tale of how a young management trainee sneakily meets his sales targets, while “The Pig In The Poke” by Mydhili Varma is a an entertaining story of a young school boy’s detailed correspondence with a Nigerian scammer, “Hot Masala” by Jhangir Kerawala is the story of an unemployed man craving that extra spice in his life, while Arefa Tehsin’s story “Hot Pants” is the  adventure of a hot pants clad young girl making her way back home late at night on a local train, while being followed by a stranger.

The wonderful thing about Urban Shots Bright Lights is the interesting array of tales it contains, which gives the reader a colourful account of lives and people in urban India and the experiences and challenges that are part of their lives. Brimming with an engaging array of brilliant tales, this book is a treasure trove for the short story lover and for anyone who enjoys reading about life in India’s vivid, vibrant and dazzling cities.

(This is a book review requested by the publisher)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Memories Coloured Red, Blue and White

 The Majestic Boeing 747 (Image Credit: briYYZ @ Flickr)

(Note: This post was originally a note on my Facebook profile)

I came across British Airways' latest commercial for the 2012 London Olympics on You Tube today and it brought back a flood of countless memories of days when I worked never ending night shifts with British Airways (BA) at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. Having been an international traveller from an early age I've always loved airports long before I began working at one. I love airports not only for the buzz and excitement of them, but also for how they never sleep, how alive they are at all times and of their promise of freedom and travel and journeys to far away places- places that you've only probably heard of, or seen as a tiny little dot on a map. But most of all I love how an airport unleashes you're imagination in a million ways, giving you the ability to dream and imagine and conjure up images of lands and people far away who may not look like us, but yet are so much like us. 

As my first job it gave me great joy helping clueless passengers wandering around the airport, giving them directions with a smile on my face- no matter how sleep deprived I was, scanning bags, handing out boarding passes, getting my hands and clothes dirty overlooking bags being loaded into baggage containers-making sure each bag that went on that flight was accounted for, almost being frozen on the tarmac on cold winter nights making sure the baggage hold closed on time, handling flight delays and fog diversions, along with cranky and irritated passengers who had already lost their bags or were about to miss a connecting flight out of London, haggling with difficult and lecherous Immigration and Customs officials to get a piece of paper signed or stamped, and finally the joy of having "All on board" so we could finally close that aircraft door, get an on time departure and go get ourselves that much needed cup of coffee.

But despite all the hard work and broken backs the fact that I helped that flight land safely in London and the joy of knowing that I helped (even though in a tiny way) to get some one home, or send someone off happily on a long awaited vacation, or to that all important meeting or to their best friends wedding was unmatched and gave me a high nothing else could have. A heartfelt smile or a generous thank you and handshake (or even a hug in some cases) from a passenger was all it took to make all those long, tiring nights worth it- just knowing that you made someone's journey a little less stressful if nothing else by going out of you way for five minutes, or by just listening to what they had to say, was enough to make me feel proud of what I did for a living and being the face of an airline that people loved and trusted (not all the time, but then you can't keep everyone happy can you!)

 For all the folks from BA who I've tagged (or forgotten to tag), all I want to say is thank you for your wonderful company on flights BA 142 and BA 256 from Delhi to London :) 

I've also tried to add the link of the You Tube video I mentioned in the beginning of this post. Take a look-it's cute! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Book Review: Scammed- Confessions of a Confused Accountant by Anonymous

Scammed- Confessions of a Confused Accountant written by an author who wishes to remain anonymous is an insightful story that gives readers a glimpse into the dark underbelly of the Indian corporate world, which often linked with corrupt politicians and power hungry individual’s results in an ugly and lethal combination indeed. 

The book traces the story of Hitesh Shah, a young accountant who is stuck in a dead end job with a pushy boss who makes him feel incompetent and dissuaded. Hitesh’s moment of glory arrives when an impressed client offers him the role of the CEO of a company. Taken in by this lucrative proposal and the possible change of his fortune, Hitesh gladly accepts this new role. Though then, little does he realize the murky waters he’s about to enter given the scandalous history and political connections of the people involved in running this business.

Hitesh Shah is now the CEO of Super Cabs- a private company whose finances and fortunes he turns around. Super Cabs soon gains steady popularity and Hitesh is being interviews by TV channels and is in the news for the success and popularity of Super Cabs and becoming a youth icon and an inspiring young entrepreneur-Hitesh also begins dating a struggling yet attractive model Sushma, on whom he showers a lot of attention and expensive gifts. The owners of Super Cabs expect accelerated success and Hitesh gives into some questioning decisions made by the top management. Hitesh’s life appears perfect, when suddenly the labour union of Super Cabs stirs up trouble, giving rise to rumours of fraud- eventually opening a can of worms. Caught in the middle of this ugly controversy which soon turns political, Hitesh finds himself on the run.

This is when Hitesh’s middle class virtues of simplicity, ambition and appreciation of friendship and noble gestures comes to his rescue and help keep him sane through this rough phase. The ending of the book is interesting and keeps up the suspense considering that Hitesh is not completely innocent, since he overlooked many warning flags and questionable decisions made by the owners of Super Cabs. Eventually, it’s interesting to see how Hitesh gets out of this sticky situation.

What appealed to me about the book was its fast paced, gripping narrative. Though the author has spent time fleshing out the characters he wastes no time and keeps the plot moving at a gripping pace- which is what a book of this nature requires. Its uncomplicated prose and familiar corporate urban setting contributes to an engaging and light read, making for an excellent travel companion on a train or plane. 

(This is a book review requested by the publisher)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Do You Know How Beautiful a Winter's Day Can Be?

The sun gleams down the mountains,
Warm, liquid gold cascading along- bringing promises of comfort and cheer- moments savoured.

Silver clouds sail by so low, I want to reach out and touch them,
Radiant and aglow, bursting with sunlight- they teasingly graze the tops of hills as they lazily float across the sky.

I stand still, admiring with awe and baited breath,
So not to shatter this pristine stillness- feeling the the sun on my face and the breeze entwined in my hair.

Do you know how beautiful a winter's day can be? 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Lit Fest That Rushdie Did Not Attend- Jaipur Lit Fest 2012

Talk from Day 2 - 'Writers in Exile'
This is a long overdue post, I know and so tonight I just had to pull this post out of the draft folder that it's been sitting in for the past two weeks.The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of the Jaipur Lit Fest this year was how crowded it was! Readers, authors, celebrities and curious onlookers ambled through the Diggi Palace making it look and feel just like a "Mela", while adding to the crowd (and confusion).There was even a lost child announcement made on day three-yes that's how crowded it was! There were swarms of people just everywhere I went and thanks to Mr. Rushdie there was triple layer security and you couldn't get in unless you had a pass with a little bar code on it which contained "all your information" (creepy!). Thought the high society, dolled up, "book club aunties" on the hunt for authors who they could persuade to visit their clubs gave the festival a slight air of pretentiousness, yet nonetheless it was a wonderful experience and pushing through those crowds to get into talks was well worth it .

The beautiful sun washed Diggi Palace Hotel was the perfect venue and surprisingly managed to contain the thousands who attended. On Saturday, the second day of the festival it is believed that 17000 people attended and getting out of a talk venue was as challenging as getting into one and on Sunday they had to stop people for entering for a couple of hours! Luckily, there were days when I managed to get a seat in venues where there were a string of three talks that I was interested in attending and on some days I just sat outside in the sun near one of the speakers, sipping tea and eavesdropping on talks.

The one thing I thoroughly enjoyed was taking photographs with my brand new, beautiful Canon 1000D . It made my visit to the festival and Jaipur well worth it and I was that annoying little shutterbug who went click, click, click, onto anything that caught my fancy!

The above photograph was taken during a talk on Writers in Exile, in the most civilized (and by that I mean least crowded) venue the Baithak- which had the best seating in the festival thanks to the comfy Mudas and Gaddas. The talk had the fabulous Hanan Al Shaykh, Kamin Muhammadi and Fatima Bhutto talking about how living in exile effected them as people and writers.

My verdict of the Jaipur Lit Fest 2012- Crowded and controversial, yet completely worth it!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Off To the Jaipur Literature Festival I Go

I'm off to the much talked about Jaipur Literature Festival this Friday and I'm really looking forward to it, since I had a fabulous time at the festival last year. This year there'll be speakers like Salman Rushdie (the man's caused quite a stir with the Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband), Amish Tripathi, Amy Chua, Fatima Bhuttu, Gulzar, Javed Akhtar, Prasson Joshi, Kunal Basu, Mark Tully, Oprah Winfrey and many more. I'll be missing day one of the festival but hope to enjoy the rest of the four days. The festival, which is more like a large carnival, is colourful, lively and is also known as the Kumbh Mela of the literary world, thanks to the crowds it draws.

The venue of the festival is the beautiful heritage hotel Diggi Palace and more than anything else I'm looking forward to taking a break and just sitting in the sun with a kullar of chai and eavesdrop if I can't get into any of the talks (the crowds are massive,you need to be there to know what I mean) and take plenty of photographs with my newly acquired DSLR camera (yay!)

The photograph you see above was taken at the festival last year in the Mughal Tent, it was the purple that caught my attention and I loved how they had decorated all the venues. 

A short post for now, stick around here for more on the festival (including photographs) when I'm back! 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Urban Tales from India- Told By Both, New and Seasoned Voices

The three brand new Urban Shots collections- Urban Shots Bright Lights, Urban Shots Crossroads and the Urban Shots Love Collection are wonderful anthology's of urban tales set in India. These collections have also given a platform to fresh, new writing voices from India, who come together with accomplished writers like Ahmed Faiyaz, Ira Trivedi, Paritosh Uttam, Rohini Kejriwal and Sneh Thakur, among a host of others who are making their debut as authors (including myself).These carefully put together stories trace the kaleidoscopic lives of amusing and entertaining characters in urban India, intriguing and amusing us with their tales as the pages keep turning. We hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as we've loved writing them and look forward to your thoughts and reviews soon.

The books launch in Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore on the 19th, 20th and 21st of January 2012, followed by launches in Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad in February, including the launch of the Urban Shots Love Collection.

So go on, pick up a copy each and let us know what you think!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Urban Shots Crossroads- My Debut as an Author!

A couple of months after my return from Canada I attended the Jaipur Literary Festival in January 2011. The atmosphere at the festival was electric and alive with literature, books, readers, writers, celebrities, wannabe celebrities and people who had a love for the written word (or wanted to be seen!). I was positively in awe of writers whom I had hear speak and with whom I got an opportunity to have a brief chat. It was after attending the festival that my (otherwise dormant) desire of writing seriously and being a "writer" really kicked in with renewed vigour .I have been writing for quite a while now, since I was in college; and not many people know that I had actually written my first full length novel at the age of twelve.But it was now that I felt the need to tell those stories to others- to be published and share those stories with a wider audience. Writing has been the only thing that ever made sense to me, the only way in which I can effortlessly express myself and that said I truly wanted to do something that I enjoyed from the bottom of my heart, something I felt passionate about and could put my heart and soul into. All this probably sounds cliche and fluffy, but one of the biggest reasons I wish to be a writer is because I have stories to tell! It's really as simple as that.

I got this opportunity a couple of months later in the form of a short story competition by publishing house Grey Oak Westland. I submitted two stories I had written and one of them got shot listed and has made its way into this wonderful collection of urban tales, called Urban Shots Crossroads.The stories in this collection, contributed by various authors, follow the lives of interesting people you'd come across in urban India, like the guy next door who you'd probably rub shoulders with on the bus to work.The book will be out on stands in mid to late January- launching in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai, and I eagerly look forward to its launch and thoughts of readers once its out there.

The book is also available for pre order here. Stick around for more information on the book and more.