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Sep 30, 2015

Freedom: The Outburst of Emotions!

The Independence Day of 2015 gave me more than one reason to celebrate!
On 15th August 2015 after a good gap of 24 months my work was published once again. This time my story was picked up for an E-mag named UNBOUND- compiled and edited by Neil D'Silva (author of Maya's New Husband fame) and Varun Vithaldas Prabhu (serial Authorpreneur).
Happy to also share that the logo/symbol design of UNBOUND was designed by me. :D 

Here's the Smashwords link for the first issue of  the UnBound E-Magazine where you can read numerous other fantastic short stories and poetry written on the theme- FREEDOM.


Rati arched her left eyebrow and brought both her palms up, gracefully bending her slender fingers, demonstrating the Sanjukta Hasta Mudra that was being taught. The light tapping on the tabla travelled to their ears from the adjacent hall, as the player delicately practiced the accompaniment for a khyal, then a thumri.

"Kathaakahe so Katthak!",the teacher continued. "We are storytellers. Every inch of your body, from your head to your toes, even your eyes, should emote in perfect synchronization."She instructed with a mouthful of betel nut and paan, taking intermittent breaks from the rhythmic chewing. She relaxed on the four-poster bed while their newest danseuse, a wispy brown girl stood on the Persian rug, listening attentively.

Rati went back to combing her lustrous length of wavy black hair, ten strokes at the minimum for each bunch of strands. Once done, she showed off her perfected pirouette, the gatherings of her embellished knee-length tunic swirling out and twirling back to hug her shapely legs.Then she struck a dynamic pose before the floor-length mirror, her hands raised taut above her head and studied the curves of her own body. The altha on her upturned palms was a richer red, especially that evening. Rati's cheeks blushed as she remembered his baritone voice calling her,"Jaise Ajanta ki murat koi!",in his heavily English accent.

The thought of being loved by a hopeless romantic sent a delicious quiver all over her. He had unabashedly lavished her with praises in a burgeoning mehfil —a hall packed with a motley crowd of local zamindars, British officers, and a stray poet or two as her audience. Rati peeredinto the mirror and retouched the dark kohl, enhancing the accent of the lines at the corner of her eyes which exaggerated its doe-like shape. Through the mirror, Rati noticed her teacher throwing an admiring glance towards her.

"Now, that's what you call ShringarRas!", she heard her exclaim, drawing the student's attention towards the preening Rati.
"Each of the nine emotions bring meaning to your performance. Understand them, feel them, and claim your freedom of expression through your naach. Be it the KrodhRas or the AdbhutRas, the BhayanakRas or the VatsalyaRas...", the teacher had visibly trailed off to a distant place in her thoughts, exactly after mentioning the emotion of mother's love.


Rudra stood stolid, on the topmost step along the waterfront, staring into oblivion, unperturbed by the drizzling rain. Dhoti clad, legs apart and rooted to the ground, hands akimbo, he could have easily been mistaken for a warrior right out of Hindu mythology. Like every year in August, the Ganga had swollen to its maximum height and showed no signs of calming down. The winds billowed and the waters raged, threatening to engulf the ghat.

Rudra was stirred by the floodwaters licking his feet and he acknowledged it as a gesture from the animated holy waters.
"I know, Ma! You can feel the rising fury in my soul, Rudra huffed under his breath.
"I'm told, I had been discarded at birth but you miraculously saved this orphan and let me live.So here I am. I will not let this life be wasted." He swore. "I know not who my parents are but I know I owe this to my motherland.I pledge my soul, in your freedom I will live!"With invigorated steps, the 20-something strapping lad headed for the Lahurabir police station, near the North-West end of Banares.

Nai Sarak was a narrow street but the busiest in the city, dotted with frail hawkers, passersby and the regular loafers. By nightfall, the city would have roughly 500 guards stationed at thenumerous gates of the different urban wards but it was only early evening, so all was mundane and casual. The only formal feature was the excellently proportioned, one-story high structure of the police station.A wide plain strip ran horizontally along the length of the building,effectively separating the base from its upper floor. Right in the middle of the first floor was a generously proportioned balcony supported by a fluted Doric six-column porch. The wall directly underneath the balcony had an unusual arched doorway which was the ground-floor entrance of the Lahurabir police station.

Rudra positioned himself across the street, exactly opposite the arch. He made himself less conspicuous by standing in the lee of the zamindar's haveli which was infamous as the harem of seductive nautch girls. A peeping tom lurking in the harem's vicinity wasn't an unusual sight, so getting caught wasn't a worry.
"How convenient!"Rudra fumed, imagining the lust-driven officers of the British Raj crossing over from the police station, making a beeline for the harem in the after-hours.
After the briefly distracting thought, he wiped the rain-water out of his eyes and returned his focus on the facade of the police station. Rudra gritted his teeth and fisted his palms, while he waited like a crouching tiger poised to prey.
"How dare they compel my brethren to go to war? Their slaves are we?"
Rudra's blood began to boil at the very thought, once again.
At half-past five with clockwork punctuality, the British officer would step out every evening onto the balcony. Rudra waited, his heart pounding while his ears turned a fiery red.
"God, please be with me!"he prayed, trying to steady his hand which was trembling with indignation. He tightened his hold on the square-butt, hard rubber grip andtacitly brought out the Smith & Wesson revolver from its perch at his waist. As his target came into the line of sight, Rudra pointed its barrel out.


Vismay Lal hollered in his sandpaper voice, "Aao, khao, sukhpao!",unaware that hisuncle had chosen the most appropriate words to anchor in the sales. The young costermonger was doing as instructed,happily sitting cross-legged on the groundwith five cane baskets of fresh produce from their farms. There was very little of it left in them now, so Vismay could relax a bit, twiddling with a small potato or jingling his bag of coins, now and then. He was busy staring at the procession of a palanquin, with his mouth agape, when one of his regular visitor's sprawling potbelly filled the frame, obstructing his view.

"Arre, silly boy!Why do you continue sitting here in the rains with the blanket on your head?"boomed the friendly havildar.
"Ram-Ram,Chachaji!"greeted Vismay, picking out the biggest, ripe yellow banana and handing it out,"Never mind the light drizzle; it will stop soon. It's a dream come true to get paid for just sitting around," he grinned while eyeing the gaudily dressed village belles who had stepped out of the zamindar's haveli, across the street. Vismay watched them intently as they walked past, his eyes growing larger and rounder than the ber fruit he was selling.
"You seem to have a better eye on the people than I do!"teased the policeman and chomped the banana down, all at the same time.
"No, no! Nothing like that, Vismay stuttered.
"You have full freedom to feast your eyes.You won't be charged for that!"jeered the policeman. "You'd better get going now. Enough for today!"he ordered, discarding the banana peel in one of Vismay's empty baskets.
"And remember, I am not your Chachaji!"he added blithely, turned his back, and set off down the road, rapping the ground twice with his long staff as he went.
"Achcha!",Vismay shouted out his agreement. 

He gathered his baskets, piling them one on top of the other, covered them with his frayed blanket, and hoisted them up on his head. Raising himself to his feet, he had just started walking cautiously when a tonga arrived outside the Lahurabir police station and two English women stepped down, one after the other, onto the paved curb, a couple of feet away from him. Awestruck by the sight of the buxom white ladies dressed in the most beautiful colored satins he'd ever seen, Vismay stood transfixed at the spot.
"Aaha, Memsahib!"he made no qualms about exclaiming aloud.

The pretty frilly umbrellas held up in their white gloved hands, swished past him, leaving behind a trail of floral perfume in the air. The wonderment did not leave his senses, even as he circumvented the stationary tonga and crossed the street.

As he was wont to do, Vismay slowed his pace down and went as close to the haveli as possible, in the hope of getting a fleeting glimpse of the beautiful dancers inside. He had turned around the bend of the curving footpath when he sensed the presence of a figure in the lee of the dark- stoned exterior wall. Curiosity getting the better of him, Vismay stopped to find out who it was. The unexpected sight of a gun being cocked shocked Vismay out of his wits and he reeled backwards in utter panic.


Lord Ogelsby Freeman roared like a lion emerging out of his lair, when he stepped out onto the balcony.His regular agenda had been disturbed, as his elevated view of the locality was marred by a tonga parked right outside the gate, in the street. The sight of his daughter and wife approaching the police station premises had driven him wild.

"Didn't I tell you girls never to visit me here, however urgent your need might be?"he growled at the two fair ladies."Please leave a message with the gatekeeper and return now. I shall join you as soon as I'm done here." Lord Ogelsby had hardly finished shouting, when the women disappointedly performed an about-turn and scurried off like scared mice, back to the tonga, without a single word.

Lord Ogelsby's face was livid. A three-inch long scar which sliced his left eyebrow and ran down his cheek,past the corner of his eye made him look more like a convict than an officer of the British Raj. His bluish-green eyes flashed with a peculiar yellowish glint, like that of a fiercefeline. Every time he opened his mouth to speak, the upper lip shrouded in a butter-hewed mustache rose like a curtain, exposing his jutting canines which reminded one of brandished daggers. It was as if God had designed Ogelsby with the intention of frightening everybody. His tongue was sharper than a saw, his mind viler than a serpent but his eyesight had been failing him lately.
"Go! Fetch me my monocles," Lord Ogelsby ordered the sepoy who was waiting on him.
"Hurry, you fool!" he snapped again, sputtering some of the water he'd sipped from the glass held out to him on a platter.

As the tonga cleared off, Lord Ogelsby leaned a bit further out from the sill to see the horses trot away. To resume his usual survey of the area from his lookout point, he straightened up and just then realized there was a bit of a flurry, right across the street. In the bad light, he had a blurred view but he could see that a peasant had collapsed in the street and his baskets of vegetables and fruits were strewn on the curb. Obviously scared of something the peasant was trying to scamper to his feet.

A man had stepped out of the shadows of the zamindar's haveli with a resolute stance, head turned up he was staring straight back at him.


Devaki Bai had resignedly sunk back, throwing her head on the pillow, her upturned right forearm gracefully resting on the crest of her temple. To the naive new student, her teacher was apparently demonstrating a dramatic dance pose, so she patiently continued standing there. Devaki Bai shooed her away with a limp left hand.

"How am I to expound the Navras in Katthak when the single most important emotion eludes me?" she lamented. An old memory had come sneaking around once again and raked up a forgotten emotion in Devaki Bai's heart. Tears dropped out of the corner of her eyes, quietly. There was unexplainable,excruciating pain when the biggest tragedy of her life, caught up with her!

Visions from her childhood flashed before her eyes — a DevaDasi performing in a temple, her shrill narrative of the mythological tragic tale of Vasudeva and Devaki — imprisoned by the evil Kamsa and forced to sacrifice their children. Even the eighth child, the newborn baby Krishna, had been immediately separated from the mother. Devaki Bai remembered how she had begun to hate her given name ever since that evening. She imagined her name was a curse! Therefore, as an adolescent danseuse, she readily took to the nickname given by her regular patrons—ChulbuleeBai —in the hope of shedding the curse of her original nomenclature but that was not to be!

The very mention of the VatsalyaRas while teaching her student had roused her maternal instincts. Devaki Bai felt a gnawing at the core of her heart.
"Crying again, Bai Ma? Why do you do this to yourself?"Rati enquired, sitting down beside her on the edge of the bed. Devaki Bai reluctantly rose from her reclining position and took a swig from the glass of cool water, poured out for her.
"You are the only one who calls me 'Ma' and gives more meaning to my life, Rati," Devaki Bai confessed through her ebbing tears. "I haven't shared my story with many but I think you deserve to know because you have loved melike my own daughter would have."
"Tell me everything. You can trust me!" Rati  took Devaki Bai's trembling hands in her own."What has been bothering you?"Rati asked, looking her in the eyes.
"I am guilty. It is not a rumor but the truth!"DevakiBai stuttered, emotions rife in her voice.

She rose from the bed and left Rati's side, hurriedly walking the length of the room, to stand by the window that granted a view of the Nai Sarak Street below.

"Like most danseuse, in my heydays I was blessed with abundant beauty and a silly heart full of love."Rati was all ears to each word uttered."There was no dearth of attention from men but little did I know the ways of the world! One particular admirer laid a trap and, unsuspecting, I walked right in and fell for him, so hard that I was soon with his baby," Devaki Bai's face crumpled in remorse but she continued in a voice, husky and low.
"I secretly gave birth to a beautiful boy and it was I who orphaned him too. I cold-bloodedly abandoned him in the wee hours of that fateful day,on the banks of the holy Ganga. It's been more than twenty years since, can you believe that?"Devaki Bai shut her eyes and pursed her lips."Rati, now I know it was a grave mistakeand I'm repenting but is there anything I can do about it?"Devaki Bai's voice trembled, distinctly pained by the memory. She buried her face in her own palms and began sobbing profusely.

Rati was at a loss for words. She only stood there with her arms wrapped around Devaki Bai in a warm embrace, unable to find a voice to console the grieving mother.
"If it is death that will give me freedom from my misery, so be it!"Devaki Bai howled and precariously leaned against the window sill, as if she was contemplating jumping out the window.
"Nonsense!"Rati pulled her back and tried to shush her."Why should you bear this burden on your conscience alone? The father was equally responsible for the baby," Rati protested.
"Over the past few months, every day at half past five in the evening, we have been seeing each other but continue to act like strangers. Every day, the father of my son stands there, right before my eyes; while over here, I wonder and worry, how and where our child must be. Such is my wretched life!" DevakiBai complained.

Just then, Rati noticed a sudden glimmer of hope in her teacher's eyes as they steadied,like they'd found what they were looking for. She intuitively followed Devaki Bai's gaze and there was a catch in Rati's breath when she saw that DevakiBai was staring fixedly at thefigure that had emerged at the balcony of the Lahurabir police station, across the street.


His finger had triggered the shot involuntarily, but the bullet went whizzing through the air, right on target. The sudden loud, sharp crack of the gunfire rent the humdrum noises on the Nai Sarak Street. The surface of the bullet was blazing hot with friction but at the core it must have been as cold as a piece of metal, for it went shooting ahead free from any guilt of its intent. Within a blink, the bullet had mercilessly pierced through coarse cloth and lodged itself in Lord Ogelsby Freeman's heart.

While they were startled by the sound of the gunfire right beneath their window, Devaki Bai and Rati screamed in unison as they saw the famously dreadful Lord Freeman,powerlessly doubling up and falling like a cloth doll over the balustrade of the balcony, down to the ground.

Rudra had not expected a vegetable vendor to come around and create a scene like that but destiny had made up its mind as much as he had. Uncaring about the result, the armed Smith & Wesson had emotionlessly fired and miraculously hit the target. Rudra's heart thumped crazily when he realized that his mission was successful. He took off from the scene of the crime and as his feet carried him away, he was suffused with an overwhelming feeling of happiness and sense of liberation.

There had been a great flutter of wings at the disturbing sound and the birds that were calmly perched along the roof terraces took flight, in fright. For the numerous hapless souls on the street down below, wrapped in their own emotional upheaval and weighed down by the British Raj, the sight of the freely flying wings was an omen of sorts!

Sep 28, 2015

Made In India by BIDDU- Book Review

Book Title: Made In India BIDDU (Adventures of a Lifetime)
Publisher: Read Out Loud  
My Rating: *****

About the Author: An Indian by birth, BIDDU is a globally renowned Pop singer who shot to fame with the stupendous success of 'KungFu Fighting'. Which was followed by the cult classic 'Aap Jaisa Koi' for the Hindi film 'Qurbani'. And the rest is history! 

"Have you heard of BIDDU?" someone asked, and my reaction was, "What kind of question is THAT?" I was genuinely bewildered because born in the 80's I grew up listening, crooning and dancing like crazy to Biddu's Pop hits. I am a genuine fan and I cannot imagine any music lover of my age, not remembering BIDDU! So when I came across his autobiography, my interest was immediately peaked. 

For a man of such immense talent and an artiste who's sold over thirty-eight million records worldwide, his autobiography shows how humble he still is at the core. Probably what keeps him grounded is the years of struggle and hardships that went into the strife to reach his dreams.

Biddu was born in India, and brought up in Bangalore. Having lost his father early in life he ventured out into the world on his own, almost penniless and built it all up from scratch. Though his initial years may have been really tough, the tone of voice that Biddu maintains while narrating episodes from his childhood and teenage, leaves the reader in splits. There is a tongue-in- cheek humor in the way he chooses his words and uses phrases with great comic timing.

It was absolutely amazing to get a peek into the early years of Biddu's life and I felt mighty privileged actually to have been given this book to read. Biddu started his career playing in a motley group of four boys who formed a pop band which he'd named 'The Trojans'- whose influences lay in the classic repertoire of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Their escapades in Calcutta surely make for an interesting read. Biddu narrates how he eventually landed in Bombay, and started doing two shows a day, five days a week at a hotel and also used to perform at concerts on weekends.
 Shakespeare said, 'Enough, no more, 'tis not so sweet as it was before'
To this Biddu adds his own two cents, 'Tis best to go while you'l be missed, don;t hang around lest they get miffed.'
What a lesson, I say! Words of the wise, indeed.

So Biddu set his heart on his original dream and set off on a journey. Though not a smooth journey, how he sailed his way quite literally,to London through Basra, meeting the bad 'Band-aids' on the way is an amusing episode too. Once on 'solid British soil' as he put it, Biddu did everything for survival; from selling carbon paper to random companies, going from door to door peddling paintings ,and working as a chef in a hamburger restaurant called Yankee Doodle.

Being a die-hard romantic myself, I was happy to read how he met and married his British lady love. I also loved that Biddu throws in some interesting trivia like how he named his music production company 'Subiddu' and how Frank Sinatra paraphrased the name in the reprise of one of his famous numbers by belting out 'doo be doo biddu'. 

All through out I was eagerly waiting to read how he struck gold with the "Kung fu Fighting?" track. It is an absolute treat to read about how the song was recorded in those days,signing Carl Douglas, adding the 'oh ho ho ho', and the chopping 'huh' and 'hah' vocals. This is one of his earliest tracks that brought him recognition by emerging as a hit all over the world. Biddu went on to write and produce hits for Tina Charles and soul legend Jimmy James. 

So all in all, Biddu's life story is full of interesting tales of how he scaled musical heights. The journey is as fantastic a roller-coaster ride as I'd imagined it would be.

While everybody know Biddu for his Indian Pop music album 'Made In India' I personally think , his cult classics "Aap Jaisa Koi" and "Laila O Laila" for the film Qurbani are superlative. 

In quick succession came the pop album, 'Disco Deewane', with Nazia Hassan, which became an instant hit, emerging as the largest selling pop album in Asian history,and was the first Indian album to hit the charts in fourteen countries. This album came out in April 1981 and I was born in December 1981. Assuming my music-lover mother had enjoyed listening to the music tracks from the album while she carried me, I think I have an explanation why my heart went 'Boom Boom' every time the tracks from this particular music album played; so much that I used to play the cassette on loop, on my walk-man when I was older.

April seems to be a lucky month for Biddu for it was again in the April of 1995 that Made in India, sung by the singer Alisha Chinai in her velvety voice, was released. It hit the charts and almost immediately became the three-million-selling album. I was in my teens at that  time, and I remember my mother used to scour a lot of film magazines,reading all about it. I remember sharing the trivia with my friends and enjoying dancing to the music together, with a glint in our eyes. Such were those days, simple and sweet! So you can imagine how thrilled I must have been reading all about the inside story in detail, that raked up poignant nostalgia.

I think, even the cover of the autobiography has been aptly designed by Rishad Patel, featuring Biddu in his quintessential rock-star avatar, and his long tresses blowing in the wind. 

So glad this one's MADE IN INDIA!

Sep 5, 2015

Pune International Literary Festival #PILF2015

Yesterday the 4th of September was the first day of #PILF2015 and it was my debut visit and experience of a Literary festival. I wish to document some learning that I came away with, after listening to some imminent and widely read authors who spoke at the podium.  
Today, the 5th of September is celebrated as Teacher's Day and I hope this post will be an apt ode to authors who I believe, are teachers in their own right.

After the Inauguration of the festival at the hands of Hon. Mr. Shatrughan Sinha, Om Books presented his biography 'Yours Truly, Shatrughan Sinha'. It was a rather interesting tête-à-tête between renowned film journalist Bharathi Pradhan and the illustrious actor. Shri Shatrughan Sinha made a candid recount of how people from different cultural backgrounds in India coined their own funny version of his name calling him everything from Shatrudhan Sinha to Shotrughno Sinha et al. It was a laugh-out-loud time alright! I'd expected a very serious hour ahead, discussing his life and times in Bollywood and politics but it turned out to be exactly the opposite. The man sure knows how to entertain! So humble and open about everything, he has spewed all the incidents and experiences of his life in his biography with utmost honesty he said. He spoke with absolutely no airs about him. Guess these are the traits that largely define why a certain person is so popularly adored. 
Time just flew by with me wishing we could hear some more from him. 
What stays with me is his ideology that come what may, you must stay original, never mimic someone, however much you may idolise another.

"If you can't be the best,

Try and be different from the rest!"
-Shatrughan Sinha

 'Jaico Books' session on 'The Secret of a Best-Seller' began promptly at 3.25 as scheduled and the literary fever finally had me in its grip. I went with the metaphorical empty glass and came away with a cup brimming with some very inspiring thoughts, that thrilled the writer in me to the hilt. 
#CrackingTheCode was just the apt title suggested by Sonal Raut from the crowd of attendees. 

The program was conducted so beautifully by Shatrujeet Nath- the author of ' The Guardians of the Halahala' and 'The Karachi Deception' fame who put forth the exact same questions that were riddling my mind. The panel of speakers comprised of Radhakrishnan Pillai (of the Chanakya series fame), Swami  Shubha Vilas (of the Ramayana series fame), Mehrab Irani (author Mad Money Journey) and Anamika Mishra (author of VoiceMates)

I was hanging on to every word that these successful book entrepreneurs were spouting. And they did not disappoint me at all. Their vast knowledge and expertise on their respective subjects is absolutely amazing. And despite being writing giants, they appeared so very down-to-earth and were absolutely frank with their answers.

I will try and enumerate as many 'pearls of wisdom' as I can remember.

Quite obviously because the subject of the evening was meant to enlighten us on how to write a bestseller, there were many aspiring authors and writers in the crowd. Author Radhakrishnan Pillai who began his journey to success with the 'Corporate Chanakya' had some very good tips for his audience. 
"Focus on one book, " he said and "Break away from the mould." Trying to parallely work on multiple book projects is not his style. He researched his topic thoroughly, chalked out a structure for his book and wrote it. Focused on making it a success and the fantastic response from his readers had him working on his next book. "Write one, see it to success and then go onto the next." That's the rule he works with. And the writer has to refresh his mind, forget about the success of his previous book and write the next like its his very first. 

If you were to ask me, the most impressive speaker of the evening was Swami Shubha Vilas for he was like an ocean of knowledge. Calm and composed in his seat and yet his underlying personality was that of a teacher, longing to bring about an awakening of sorts between his readers and listeners. Indeed a spiritual seeker and a truly motivational speaker.
He said some wonderful things that indeed brought about a paradigm shift in me. 
Swami Shubha Vilas rightly pointed out that every reader says 'What's in it for me?' when he/she picks up a book to read. If the writer can weave in some life lessons packaged in a gripping narrative, then you have cracked the code to writing a bestseller.

So every written book, whatever the subject may be, must primarily offer the Three Es- 
  1. Entertainment
  2. Enlightenment
  3. Enlivenment

On being asked how he came upon choosing to write on the Ramayana, retelling it for the modern audiences? Swami Shubha Vilas said it was his grandmother's bedtime stories that were at the heart of generating his interest in the epic. His book Ramayana- Rise of the Sun Prince portrays Rama in new light, describing his attributes such that the present generation can imbibe the virtues.
What can one learn from Lord Rama?
If you've got talent, use it correctly. 
  • Talent brings you to the bridge of success.
  • Good attitude helps you cross the bridge of success. Without the correct attitude towards life, without humility you will not be able to go too far. 
  • Character helps you preserve the success. Last but not the least, there lies the key to sustaining the upwards graph.
Another important aspect of writing a bestselling book was perfectly underlined by the finance guru Mehrab Irani. He stated that 'people connect' is most important above everything else. He rightly pointed out how his book '10 Commandments of Financial Freedom' did well but when he packaged some financial investment lessons in a fictional tale and presented it to his readers with 'Mad Money Journey', it was only then did he make waves as a more recognised author. When the readers were able to feel one with the financial ups and downs woven into the story, the book was an instant hit.

It all boiled down to the same thought again. 'What do you offer your reader?"
And Swami Shubha Vilas had some more pearls of wisdom for us.
Our 4 aims should be to 
- Live
-Leave a legacy.

All that we write should be worthy of being read and remembered.
When a writer writes, the focus and intent in writing the book should not be about oneself- 
very much like every shloka in the scriptures that start with a 'Namaha' which only means, 'Not about me!'. Everything we write should be with the reader in mind, should be more about the story that your heart is bursting to tell. And definitely not about how much you will be able to benefit from writing it. How far the book is going to go? That is not for us to predetermine. 

A bestseller is not that which sells the most but that which is read the most, remembered and cherished. 

When the forum was opened to three questions from the attendees, someone asked about something that possibly bothers each and every writer, how do you fight the fear of not making a bestseller out of your book?
Though all panelists threw fantastic light on the solution to this problem what made a connect with me was Swamiji's tongue-in-cheek reply. At this fag end of the program, we were all very keyed into his sense of humour. 

He said he wanted to teach us just two ways of being unhappy. 
1. Try to make everybody happy
2. try to make everybody happy with you!

At the very root of the fear of failure lies the need to make everybody happy because we end up judging our own success over other's response to our work, leading to a mental block.   

Signing the interaction off was this one true line -
The more you think and analayse and contemplate when working on your manuscript, the more you will go into doubt. Once the blue plan to your book is in place just type away. Let the writer in you take over and unleash your inner voice. 
Like Swamiji rightly called it - 'Paralysis by analysis'
End it!
Let your pen go. That is one fantastic lesson that I have carved into my heart. I have spent too much of time in self doubt and hence haven't been able to get that last chapter out. A big thankyou to all the authors who spoke their heart yesterday and re-instilled the faith and confidence to just 'WRITE'.

All through the few hours spent at the #PILF2015, I was lucky to be in the company of veteran blogger Vikram Karve. His anecdotes from his life as a naval officer. Each tale has dollops of humour and a life lesson in it too. What a thoroughly captivating personality and an infectious sense of humour he has. 

You can imagine I was smiling cheek to cheek till I walked out of the gates of YaShaDa. 
Now looking forward to reading all those books by the intelligentsia I came across yesterday. Even those recommended by some new and old writer friends who enjoy and celebrate literature with the same passion as I do.   

All in all an absolutely great learning experience on just the first day of #PILF2015
A big #ThankyouTeacher to all!

Aug 21, 2015

Warrior: Book Review

Book Title: Warrior
Author: Olivier Lafont
Publisher: Penguin Books
My Rating: ****
About the Author: Olivier Lafont is a French writer and actor of mixed origins who's presently based in Mumbai with his wife- Gina. He is also a successful screenplay writer who wrote the script for the award winning movie ‘Hari Om’ and regularly contributes editorial pieces to the men’s magazine- Man’s World. Olivier also acts in theater and English plays. He gives voice over in multiple languages. 

There were three books already piled on my side table, calling me towards when this chunk of a hunk arrived by courier. What made me pick this book up and prefer to read it over the rest was undoubtedly the mention of 'Warrior' being shortlisted for the Tibor Jones South Asia Prize 2013. That told me I could expect some quality storytelling in the book. Besides that the delicious cover illustration done by Aashim Raj made it irresistible too. Then the third reason that this book shot to my priority list was the trivia that I learnt about the author's background. I clearly remembered that character from '3 idiots' who was obsessed with price tags. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that Kareena's on-screen fiance was also a thinking man besides being a handsome personality. Olivier Lafont and Penguin had successfully given me many compelling reasons to read 'Warrior'.

The story begins with the exchanges between a seemingly hapless watchmender on Marine Drive and a lunatic who is a regular feature in the area. "O papillary paroxysm! O salivary symphony!" the lunatic cries after tasting the sweets he'd snatched off the watchmender's counter. And before the fifth page I knew, this book was going to be a treat written in British English.

Within moments the city comes under the onslaught of a merciless blizzard and Saam, the watchmender is forced to shut shop. As Saam pedals his bicycle past BabulNath temple, he over hears "The lingam of Shiva  opened its eye!" Saam pedals through the snowstorm to Shivaji Park, then old Mahim (These are the areas I'd spent all of my childhood at) The author makes me nostalgic with his words, and I am enchanted by his keen eye for observation. His vivid descriptions build the scenes before the reader's eyes, clearly and meticulously. 

The Peerless are a motley group of immortal demigods locked out of the heavens under the power of a covenant. "The End of Days is upon us!" Prophecies a self-proclaimed Master, claiming to be the originator of the havoc who also informs The Peerless that Shiva has begun the unravelling. It thus becomes inevitable that this dark force named 'The Enemy' who threatened obliteration be stopped. Progressively we read on and learn that Saam- the watchmender is no ordinary mortal but Shiva's only earthly demigod child, and it thus falls directly upon him to stop his indomitable father from letting the world reach its end. The story within the story of how Saam was born out of the love between the danseuse Padmini and Lord Shiva himself, has been skilfully crafted and is pivotal to the whole tale of the 'warrior'. 

Bred to war, Saam sets off on a mission to first track down The Enemy and thus put a stop to the destruction of the world. On this mission Saam is forced to join hands with Ara- his half-brother whom he can never fully trust. Now Ara is one character who I really liked and believe the author has developed as beautifully as Saam. I was absolutely amazed at the brilliant twist in the tale that appeared nearing the end of the book. Isn't it just wonderful when a story is highly unpredictable? The reader stays hooked till the very end.

Saam is a demi-god who's sucked into the vortex of an epic mission to save the world where his path is littered with death, danger and betrayal. Being an immortal, Saam has lived over centuries and the author has superbly woven history into the fabric of the tale. Saam and his many dalliances pepper the book with love stories, which are told in flashback.However it is Maya- his present mortal companion who finally manages to steal Saam's heart and keep it for herself, for good!

Saam's journey into the Serpent kingdom, the discovery of the Kaal Veda puts them on the quest of the 'Pure Glass'. Saam and his six companions riding the enchanted horses travel the multiverse, in the Ship of Worlds are all epic adventures. How Einstein and his theories, the Geeta, the Kaurava-Pandava war have been flawlessly used as reference points to give a plausible foundation to a fiction story, left me in awe of the authors creativity and imagination. 

The interaction between Saam and his father at the end of the book is a master stroke by the author. This enthralling novel requires a level of intelligence to understand and appreciate the beauty in the multiple layers of the story. There are subtle hints towards our real world politics, and religious divides too. Even though I wasn't able to devote time to read this book at length, every new chapter presented a new angle, a new thread of thought to mull on. As I finished reading the very last page of this book, I realised how much this author has observed and realised that women can gorge on chocolates even at the end of the most harrowing experience of their lives.

This is one book I am sure I will revisit again, later some time. And until then I will  flaunt it on the top shelf of my home library.This book is a superb amalgamation of Mythological fiction and Sci-Fi, reconfirming the belief that those books that one cannot classify under one particular genre turn out to be the best reads. All in all a fantastic book indeed, proudly added to my private collection of books I've read and reviewed! 

Aug 17, 2015

Among The Stars: Book Review

Book Title: Among the Stars
Author: Dhasa Sathyan
Publisher: Notion Press
My Rating: ***
About the Author: Dhasa Sathyan is the pen name of a Chennai based Engineer called Yamunai Thuraivan. He has also written many songs in his mother tongue for several short films. He debuts as an author with this collection of short stories.

The preface to the collection of short stories carries the following words that spoke much about how much the writer knows his reader's mind. 
Go ahead
Do not walk – Stroll
Do not watch – Gaze
Do not travel – Wander
Do not read – Explore
- Dhasa Sathyan

He welcomes his readers to explore his penning rather than just read through. That's just what I decided to do and enjoyed!

The short stories in this collection are so varied in genre that they are most rightly described by the author himself as being 'as random as a jar of pebbles collected by a kid'. They are also as enthralling too. Among The Stars repeatedly reminded me of how much I enjoyed my mother's story telling when I was a child much like the protagonist of the book- Arjun. The short stories are all tales being narrated by his loving father as they lie under a starry night, on the terrace of their house. Only difference between me and Arjun is that I sat with my mother on our ground floor house doorstep, but I clearly remember this thought running through my head too. 

"I stayed silent,staring up at the cloudless night, stars twinkling like a million diamonds and rubies that the Gods were trying to lure us with, taunting, mocking us."

I could completely relate to the whole idea of a child enjoying the storytelling by his parent.

In my opinion the author couldn't have devised a more intelligent idea of connecting these absolutely random short stories together but by stringing them up as tales told by Arjun's father to his son. 

“Yes. They are stories in the sky. Some shine bright. Some shine so subtle that you don’t know
that they exist, unless you peer at them long enough. Stories, long or short, bright or dark, hold
their own magic. Some stars form constellations, strung together beautifully like the Orion and some
are random yet beautiful on their own, just like stories….”

Ranging from Contemporary to Horror, Romance, Short-Stories, Psychosis, Sci-Fi you name it and the author has explored the genre. Though it does seem implausible that under a beautiful starlit sky,a father would want to spook his own son by telling him tales of normal people turning into zombies that go 'Yeaaarrrrgh', but who knows? My own mother used to share with me some true stories of paranormal life- experiences, more than many times. And those remain the best memories of time spent in her company. 

Recently at writer's and reader's forums there have been debates on the declining quality of Indian literature blaming Indie authors for using pedestrian English. Though I detest the trend too, I have always believed there are exceptions to every case. Dhasa Sathyan definitely shows promise in his choice of good words and his eye for detailing. 

Though Notion Press may not have done a good job with the editing, what with many typographical errors creeping into the stories at numerous spots, the book cover is a scoring point. The cool colour scheme and the silhouettes set against a starry night sky is just perfect for a book of stories meant for young adults.

What would you give to know your future? What happens when poison becomes your only elixir? Does happily ever after exist for real? Does love transcend time and death? What would it take to make you kill your closest? 

The short stories may not exactly answer these questions but have gone about exploring some great philosophical thoughts. The storyteller often gives his protagonist's name as 'Sanjay' saving the reader the pain of trying to remember names as we surf from one story into another. In one particular story there's an intriguing fork, I won't call it a twist for reasons you will find out when you read. There's a story within the story as Sanjay starts to tell a 'GHOST" story to a stranger he meets along a lonely road when his bicycle breaks down. 

I am not such a great fan of the usage of the First Person voice especially while storytelling. In my opinion the stories would have made a greater impact if they were written form the protagonist's POV or even an omnipresent narrator's voice would have done just fine. 

The book concludes with quite a long short story titled 'The Second Genesis' which is told in VI parts. And the author's writing style jumps a notch higher. There's a stark difference in the use of language and sentence structures, showcasing a tad bit more maturity in the writing. 

The Epilogue is also a nicely written piece where we discover Arjun has taken up and continued the loving tradition of storytelling which his dad had started. With his arms around his own little son Adithya, they are peering at the night sky. 

“Among the stars they lie,
Our loved ones, they never die
Spread your arms and fly,
Far, far away into the starlit sky.” 

What a way to draw the curtains on the book, passing on the faith that our elders look down upon us from the stars!

Criticise this book if you must but as an author and a storyteller myself,  I like books that are simple and sweet at the crux and are written to instill hope, are designed to help us nurture bonds through our story-telling! 

You may Follow the author on Twitter: @Dhasa_Sathyan
You can connect through Facebook with the author Dhasa Sathyan
You can pick up a copy of Among The Stars HERE

This review has been written at the express request of the author but I have tried to be very honest and remain unbiased in my opinions for the sake of our discerning readers.  

Aug 14, 2015

Book 23 Of Tornado Giveaway

I'd no idea I have befriended some very good authors out there. So proud to call you my friend Rachna Gupta. GIving your book the well-deserved spotlight Wish you all the luck always!

Author: Rachna Gupta

Read some reviews:

1. Kritika Narula
2. Anand
3. Tamanna Naik

The Story:

"Every beating heart will confess that once, at least once in their lifetime they were in love."

The collection of poems in this book talks about an emotion so strong that it has the potential to create and destroy! Love in all its capacity has that aura around it; it needs to be felt and when it resides in your soul you find it giving rise to feelings never experienced before. There is passion and tenderness when being together, estrangement and pain when two souls are apart and then there is joy and relief when bound together again. The 37 poems in this book talk about this amazing feeling as seen through my eyes and felt in my heart!

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About The Author 

Rachna Gupta 

If poetry to you means a quest of meditative solace in the realms of nature's beauty then, inscriptions by Rachna Gupta is your gateway to a mystic appreciation of emotions and individuality.

Being brought up in the picturesque city of Siliguri - a little haven cozily tucked at the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas; seeking inspiration from nature came spontaneously to Rachna. Blessed with a childhood that's reminiscent of untouched rural bliss, she would often sit under a mango tree writing in her diary with the wind rustling her hair and whispering sweet nothings in her ears. It is no surprise that her writings depict intense reverence to the power of nature; a divine unifying spirit that runs through everything she pens on paper.

An avid reader and traveler; Rachna breathes a nomad's soul which loves meeting people, understanding new cultures and absorbing the vibrancy in aesthetics that various geographies have to offer. She is also fond of music and cooking. Rachna has spent the last few years writing a variety of articles for Buzzle.com and InfoJug.com. Her poems and short stories can be found on Writing.com and her page on Facebook. Since 2013 her work has begun inviting recognition on well-regarded websites like, Fablery and Wordweavers.com. She has published two of her poems in the December 2013 issue of 'Taj Mahal Review'.

In a novel initiative beginning July 2014, Rachna brought to life her dream of sharing book reviews and personal rendezvous with authors to her readers through her blog. The blog so far has reviews of books written by acclaimed authors such as Paulo Coelho, Khalid Hosseini and Gulzar to name a few. It also invites Guest posts by other authors to add to the novelty of its offerings.

Rachna’s penchant also lies in teaching English language to primary children and draws inspiration in them by inculcating values of literature in budding years. Despite everything that keeps her busy throughout the day, she religiously makes notes about little things that capture her attention. At the end of day when the rest of the world sleeps, these notes are transformed into poems and stories for the world to read!

A doting mother to her son, Rachna now lives in Pune with her husband and son.

Stalk her @

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