Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Musings from someone who sees stories everywhere.

Friday, December 31, 2010

happy new year

HAPPY 2011
We of the vermin underworld wave antennae, click pincers, flutter our wings and wave our tails to wish you all a fabulous 2011. We the heroes of Riddle of the Seventh Stone are waiting for you in every online bookstore (and regular ones too) Meet us, love us, take us home and introduce your friends to us. But please, say no to harmful chemical pesticides

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

the brave new world of books in 2011

What will the world of books and reading be like in the year to come? Crystal ball gazing with authors and publishers threw up a wealth of perspectives. The toughest part was to guide the experts with the right prompts and then assimilate the many wise and witty things they had to say on a subject close to their hearts. And then, I had to steel my own heart and organize and reduce everything into a concentrated and coherent (hopefully) whole. More fluffy fast reads and novels on the cell phone hijacking the publishingindustry? Here's our take published in Bangalore Mirror:

2011 will bring “at least a few new novels that will electrify, provoke, move, and entertain,” predicts Anosh Irani (Dahanu Road). Shreekumar Varma (Maria’s Room) foresees more “artistic— but not necessarily `literary’ people entering the world of books.” Anita Roy of Zubaan Books is “looking forward to the next in Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies trilogy. We’ll see more high-quality, non-fiction such as Samanth Subramanian’s Following Fish, Ramchandra Guha’s Makers of Modern India and Mahmood Farooqui’s book Besieged on Delhi in 1857.”

Shreekumar Varma notes that “nonfiction rules now. Short stories, poetry and plays have to beg their way in; a worldwide trend not restricted to India.” Gita Aravamudan (Unbound: Indian Women @ Work) feels “the longevity, importance and popularity of a book depends not on the genre but on the quality of the work itself.”

Manjul Bajaj (Come, Before Evening Falls) welcomes the new spate of quality English translations of regional fiction with “mainstream publishing houses such as Penguin and Random House India throwing their hat into the ring.”

Read the full story in Bangalore Mirror

Sunday, December 26, 2010

a cock-eyed look at the year gone by

With apologies to Dickens, 2010 was the best of times and the worst of times.

Scamsters ruled the roost, and their misdeeds grew more boldly outrageous, delighting crooks and disheartening the common Indian citizen. With TV, radio and cable channels a dime-a-dozen screaming for attention, the best way to grab wayward eyeballs (lacking grey matter to back them up?) was to highlight the heights of unscrupulousness. The Adarsh idealists, the conmen allegedly out to make fast mega crores from the CWG, every crook and their nearest and dearest grabbed centrestage until some media darlings stole the show by getting themselves entangled in dubious tapes. Days before the opening of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, the nation’s prestige tottered with the collapse of a vital footbridge. Accommodation for athletes from 71 countries was reportedly not ready, and UK inspectors turned up their noses saying the facilities were “unfit for human habitation”. The preparations for India's largest ever sporting event raised doubts of mismanagement of crores of rupees for years.

Cheering the hearts of every patriotic Indian, 2010 proved that the fine art and science of hera-pheri isn’t restricted to our countrymen. The world over, basic human nature oozed through superficial veneers of principles and honesty, and people everywhere cheated and lied just like us. In the world of sports, Tiger Woods’ alleged extra-marital shenanigans, cricket match fixing, use of banned performance-enhancing drugs and other unsporting concerns overshadowed the ideals of fair play and sportsmanship. The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks kicked up a ruckus by releasing a whopping avalanche of secret documents with details of incidents of corruption, friendly fire, civilian casualties and deaths relating to the war in Afghanistan. Among the biggest leaks in US military history, its aftershocks rocked even the White House.

Read my complete essay published in Sunday Herald

Monday, December 13, 2010

valuable compendium of Indian thought

I recently read Ramachandra Guha's Makers of Modern India. This book is especially helpful for many of us who are keen to know more about our great thinkers and leaders: their ideas and thoughts and writings. The rushed pace of modern life leaves few of us with enough time to delve through huge volumes of thought provoking writings of our great leaders and nation builders. Prof. Ramachandra Guha has selected and compiled excerpts along with lucid and learned introductory notes to help today's readers gain insights into this rich heritage.
My full review of the book appears in Sunday Herald.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Dahanu Road, by Anosh Irani; book review

Anosh Irani takes his readers on a soul-searching journey though the expansive story of three generations of the Irani clan and their relations with the oppressed Warli tribals, who were the original owners of the flourishing orchards in Dahanu on the outskirts of Bombay. Anna’s tea shack personifies the ethos of Dahanu, a place where “languages bashed into each other, on some days a train wreck, on other days a tasty mix bouncing into temple bells, sinking into yellow laddoos and other sweetmeats, the Jains trying not to let any of the languages defile them, the Marwaris welcoming the defiling and murder of words, the sulphur dioxide from the thermal power plant coating the languages, giving them an acidic smell.” The Zoroastrian Iranis with “the power of centuries” behind them have fled from oppression from the Arabs in Iran to come to India and rise once again as doctors, lawyers, artists, businessmen and the landlords of Dahanu.

This is one lovely read I enjoyed, the best among many good reads in recent times. Read my published review in Deccan Herald

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sponsor run to prevent child sexual abuse

Here's a message from Payal Dhar,author of the brilliant Shadow in Eternity Trilogy and a personal pal. Please support her noble cause.

I did the Great Delhi Run of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon on 21 November 2010 to raise funds for the RAHI Foundation, an NGO that works towards ending child sexual abuse in India. Contributions are still welcome, so please continue your support and join my campaign against child sexual abuse.

Sponsors so far:
i.Swapna Kishore and Rajesh Naik
ii.Niklas Ã…kerlund
iii.Anita Roy
iv.Nandita Dhar
v.Monideepa Sahu
About RAHI’s work
Did you know that more than 53% of children in India are sexually abused? Sadly, most of these children never speak of their trauma and suffer in silence due to the denial of such abuse in our country. Without understanding and help, it is practically impossible for a child to survive sexual abuse without being deeply scarred for life. This support is exactly what RAHI provides, along with other critical services promoting awareness and prevention of child abuse. RAHI’s activities are in the areas of Training, Education, Counselling, Research and Communication. You can visit their website to know more.

How will your contribution help?
i.Provide counseling to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.
ii.Train parents and teachers on how to protect children from sexual abuse.
iii.Educate 15,000+ young people on incest/child sexual abuse prevention through RAHI’s College Peer Education Programme.
How to contribute
There are many ways you can donate.

i.It would be best if you could send me a cheque (contact me via the comments form for address, if needed). The cheque must be in favour of Concern India Foundation and payable at Delhi. Please include your full name, address with PIN code, phone no. and e-mail ID.
ii.Online: Click here to donate online, and REMEMBER fill in the following details:
Runner category:I PLEDGER
Name of the person you are supporting:PAYAL DHAR
iii.Cash: We’ll find a way of getting it to me.
Concern India is the official charity partner for this event. Funds raised by NGOs will be routed through them for purposes of transparency and accountability. Names of donors will be listed on their website. They will provide you with an 80G Tax Exemption Certificate that will allow you a 50% tax exemption on your donation (only for Indian donors). This won’t be possible for bank transfers and PayPal payments, though.

Please support my cause. Donate generously and help protect children from sexual abuse. I will gladly accept whatever amount you can give.

~Payal Dhar

Irom Sarmila, Fragrance of Peace

Irom Sarmila, a political and civil rights activist, journalist and poet, has been on a hunger strike since 4 November 2000 demanding the withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (henceforth AFSPA), a draconian law that allows the security forces unrestricted and unaccounted powers in areas that are declared “disturbed”. Under the AFSPA, the army is “allowed” to arrest, search and even shoot to kill based on mere suspicion that it is necessary to do so to “maintain public order”.

The Act was first applied to the north-eastern states of Assam and Manipur in 1958, and subsequently amended in 1972 to extend to all the seven states in north-east India — Assam, Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland. The enforcement of the AFSPA has resulted in innumerable incidents of enforced “disappearances”, arbitrary detention, torture, rape and looting by security personnel. (Read more about the AFSPA at the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre.)

The Manipuri people have protested, demonstrated and petitioned against the AFSPA, with the support of civil society groups, political parties and human rights group, both Indian and international. Sarmila’s unique battle for peace has become a powerful symbol for all those engaged in fighting for peace in the region. She began her protest ten years ago after 10 civilians were gunned down in Malom by the army. Taken into custody and released every twelve months by the state for attempting suicide, she is being force fed to keep her alive.

Zubaan has published a collection of Irom Sarmila’s poems called Fragrance of Peace, which has been translated into English from Meiteilon (Manipuri). A compilation of twelve poems, the volume “provides a moving account of the underbelly of one woman’s lone struggle for peace” (from the blurb). The book was to be released in Imphal during the 10th anniversary of her hunger fast for the repeal of the AFSPA, but permission to do so was denied.

You can support Sarmila’s campaign by buying copies of her book since all proceeds from its sales will go towards it.

Buy Fragrance of Peace
Price: Rs. 125 (+Rs. 25 for postage).

Do pass on the message.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The dead camel and other stories of love

I recently read and enjoyed a fresh and lovely collecion of short stories by Parvati Sharma.Parvati Sharma draws us with deft strokes into the everyday lives and loves of urban Indian characters.

Her approach is engaging, humorous and humane, as she lifts their quilts to reveal intimate secrets or point at romantic canoodlings in the kitchen in the opposite flat with a conspiratorial wink. As a group of young partygoers in the story, The Dead Camel, put forth in small talk, “Fiction is what real life isn’t… it stabs at the truth of the human condition…”

Love crops up in various forms and unexpected places, binding this collection of short stories. Love may fade, but memories of past loves crop up and help to make sense of the present.

Re: Elections 2004 the narrator Meera discusses with her landlord ‘Uncle’ and ‘Aunty’ the differences and parallels between the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 and the more recent violence in Godhra, memories of which continue to haunt Indians. Meanwhile, Meera remembers with longing a former girlfriend, a Muslim, long after their relationship has died. Read my complete review published in Deccan Herald

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Riddle reviews and press

The amazing adventures of Rishabh the rat and Shashee the spider are making news far and wide. Here are some links:

The Hindu : "A delightful and entertaining peep into the parallel universe of pests, the novel features the old city like you’ve never seen it." Read the complete interview/review in The Hindu

The Hindu says: "Riddle of the Seventh Stone keeps you hooked. You laugh as the kids foil Ajji's attempts to get rid of the pests. You sympathise with Rishab's struggles with geometry. Monideepa Sahu's portrayal of the kids and their interactions rings true and her language flows easily... Pick this one up for a great read." Read the full review here in The Hindu

Ranjana Kaul says in The Book Review: "Riddle of the Seventh Stone is an engaging book with unlikely protagonists drawn from the world of vermin and insects, a world which humans generally tend to ignore or treat with disgust and repulsion. The book straddles these two antithetical yet interdependent worlds with ease ... It is the author's ability to bring each character to life and make him or her an individual which sets this book apart." Read the full review in The Book Review

Reviewed at Saffrontree by Harini Gopalaswamy Srinivasan, talented author of Gind (Puffin) and The Smile of Vanuvati (Tulika)

Ace fantasy author Payal Dhar reviews Riddle in

interview/review in Unboxed Writers

Riddle selected as Telegraph paperback pickings

Author Ramendra Kumar in

Mummy knows best review

review in Deccan Herald

Riddle in Bangalore Mirror

The Hindu, Hyderabad Printpick

Singapore based author and journalist Zafar Anjum on Riddle

Hansda SS reviews Riddle

review in Bookrack

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Rainbow Feast

I just received a lovely new surprise. My short story, Flowers and Paper Boats, in among the 25 stories selected out of over 150 entries from all over Asia for A Rainbow Feast: New Asian Stories.
This collection is selected and edited by Prof Mohammad A. Quayum of International Islamic University Malaysia and authorof 20 books.
This book is a collection of 25 original short stories by writers from Australia, Bangladesh, Guyana, India, japan, Laos, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, UAE, the UK, USA and Vietnam.
PUBLISHER: Marshall Cavendish Editions, Singapore

The Internet is an amazing world. I'm now exchanging warm messages with Prof Quayum, and find myself in the company of writer friends Damyanti Ghosh (Singapore) and Abha Iyengar (New Delhi, India). The net has brought us all together from different corners of the world, facilitated a meeting of minds. So what if we can't meet physically.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Riddle bangalore launch

Dear readers ,

Please do make it next saturday at 5 pm to reliance timeout, cunningham road for the launch of my new fantasy adventure novel for children.
please pass on the message to any young friends who may be interested.

about the book
Riddle of the Seventh Stone.

publisher:Zubaan books


Rishabh the rat and Shashee the spider are quite happy with the way they are: rummaging around in Venkat Thata’s wonderful, musty, dusty, rare herb shop in the heart of Bangalore. Until, that is, they stumble upon a magical powder and find themselves transformed into human children.

It’s not easy being a kid! There’s school and homework and wearing clothes and – yuk! – having to use soap… but even worse, their home is under threat from an evil moneylender known as the Shark.

Can Rishabh solve the cryptic clues that lead to King Kempe Gowda’s fabulous treasure before the Shark can get to it? Will the vermin survive Ajji’s herbal pesticide attack? Will Shashee be able to spin her way out of this tangled web of intrigue?

With the help off other children, friendly cockroaches, cheeky mosquitoes and a very Big Bandicoot, they set out of prove that no problem is too big even for the smallest of creatures.


“These are exciting times for children, with fiction such as Monideepa Sahu’s Riddle of the Seventh Stone — a unique take on ordinary events and creatures that we take so much for granted, things that get extraordinary in her gifted hands.” —Shreekumar Varma

“The author’s light and airy prose makes this book a delight to read for children and adults alike. She has a fine ear for dialogue and… conversations flow freely and fast….
A cracking good adventure tale.” —Shrabonti Bagchi, DNA

“A delightful tale…The fun and the excitement are enhanced by the spirited participation of an army of children, “friendly cockroaches”, “cheeky mosquitoes”, a Big Bandicoot and a troop of rodents…The illustrations by Pooja Pottenkulam complement Sahu’s limpid prose.” --The Telegraph

details of the book and the launch/reading.

Date: Oct 9th,Saturday

Time: 5 PM

Place: Reliance Timeout, Cunningham Road, Bangalore

Thanks and regards,


check out Zubaan Books

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

how I got a novel published

Yes, Riddle of the Seventh Stone is a complete novel, 170 odd pages long. And writing it wasn't child's play at all. and yes, a novel for young readers was as tough to write and polish as any fiction I've written for adults. It takes as much imagination and hard work. Only the focus is different.

Dark, mysterious forces are at work in the alternate universe of Indian writing in English for youngadults. These subversive forces drew me into uncharted territory when I flouted the diktats of sanity to work on a fantasy-adventure novel for youngsters. My approach was impractical from the start.Read my detailed account published in

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


My son and I made some of our own sketches for Riddle, which are shared here. These do NOT appear in the book, but were drawn by us for pure fun.

Illustrator Pooja Pottenkulam has lent life to the final product with her own lively illustrations. She's taken great care and read the book thoroughly. At times, I felt that she had captured with her drawings exactly what I had in mind while writing the story. Read the book and see for yourself.

Meanwhile here are some of our own amateur sketches for time pass :-)Never seen before, and never to be seen again. Don't you wish you were there?

Riddle's journey

From my side, I get the impression that it is difficult to get a first book published in any genre in India. Literary fiction, poetry, chidlrens fiction, non fiction, all have their challenges. I recently interacted with a national award winning film critic, Mr. M.K. Raghavendra, who has had four books on films published by OUP and Harper Collins, and he too said that his first book took many years to get published. He began writing it in 2000, and the book saw publication in 2008.

In my own case, I began this novel (yes, its a full length novel, 174 pages long) in 2002. Any long work of fiction or non fiction takes years to write, revise and polish.I swapped critiques of entrie novels with other writers. That itself was a lot of work, but it did give me fesh insights and ideas for improvement.

In Feb 2008, I entered this manuscript anonymously in the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival Open Book Pitch, where it 'won' the nod of approval from Zubaan Books.

From then on, there were a series of revisions, exchange of ideas between me and Ms. Anita Roy, the Commissioning Editor of Young Zubaan on phone and e-mails. She patiently did much hand-holding and gave priceless advice to give the book that much needed final polish.

The contract was awarded in 2008 end.

The book is now published in August 2010.

From this point, I'm told that the book will take a month or more to reach bookstores all over the country. On line bookstores may of course be stocking up much sooner.I've heard that distribution and sales is another huge hurdle that many first timers face.

My baby is now leaving my hands and setting out into the big world. If it strikes a chord in the hearts of young readers (and oh yes, their parents and the young at heart) it will be my greatest reward.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

riddle of the seventh stone

My own first book is published and is on its way to bookstores throughout the country. This is the final lap of a long and difficult journey. Writing a novel, rewriting and polishing it to make it the best it can be, is in itself an arduous project.

Kashmir, a beautiful valley in turmoil

I recently read and enjoyed Kashmir Blues, a novel by Urmilla Deshpande.
Kashmir Blues takes in its expansive narrative sweep the characters’ lives from southern California to the seedy streets of Mumbai, to the charmed circles of India’s rich and powerful, and to Kashmir, strife-torn vale of guns and flowers. Insurgency, socio-political unrest, smuggling, drugs, espionage and conflict cast their shadows. Yet this is a story told with deep compassion. Even the most potentially evil characters can startle by revealing positive human and humane facets. As the author says, “I don’t think either sapphires in my book or diamonds in West Africa are the basis of strife. Nor is religious fundamentalism. It is the inequitable distribution of resources, structural poverty, that sends people into conflict and civil war. Institutionalised injustice.”

Read the complete review cum author interview in

Sunday Herald

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

surfing through time

This morning while net-surfing, I chanced upon a personal essay which was published in 2006. Its about SMS lingo, which was an issue with many then, and continues to be. So in four years, have we become more cryptic-monosyllabic communicators in SMS code? Has language in its traditional form degenerated due to the prevalence of SMS?

I think not. We continue to speak and write the way we always have. New words and usages are finding their way into acceptability as a natural process. Andno, we are not letting sms-isms spill into other forms of communications overmuch. thought the other day, I heard a character in a TV serial say he wanted something done ASAP (used as a single word). Thats just one acronym, and acronyms such as jeep have crept into language long before sms was invented.

here's my essay on sms inDeccan Herald

Monday, June 14, 2010

Are we what we wear?

Do clothes define us and make us what we are? Of course not! Why then, do we spend so much time, newsprint and airtime obsessing over clothes and fashions? Read my views published in Bangalore Mirrorhed in

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Book review

I recently read and enjoyed Eating Women, Telling tales by Bulbul Sharma, Zubaan books.
My published review is up in Deccan Herald

Saturday, May 29, 2010

violence as a spectator sport

Graphic portrayal of violence in the media is desensitizing people the world over and leading to increased crime and mayhem, say specialists. Are we just sitting ducks at the receiving end of it all, waiting for doomsday? My view in Bangalore Mirror

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

healing herbs

On a recent visit to Aikya Mandala, a green oasis nestled on the outskirts of Bangalore, I learnt a lot about our herbal healthcare traditions and organic farming. We city dwellers tend to think of rural folk as poor and helpless, but there is much to learn from them. Their folk wisdom and remedies form a rich healing tradition. Read my publsihed account in Infochange News and Features

Monday, May 24, 2010

my way or the highway

With traffic growing at an alarming rate, there's hardly a place where one can safely walk without being brushed by a car or two-wheeler. Trees are being cut, and roads widened, but while space for more roads is limited, the growth of traffic seems to be unlimited. Are the 'authorities' solely to blame?

Read my take in Bangalore Mirror

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Killing the Water

I recently interacted with Bangladesh born author Mahmud Rahman after reading his recently published collection of short stories, KILLING THE WATER (penguin). He had so many fascinating things to say, it was a tough job to pare it all down to a bare bones 800 word newspaper column. "Use the axe if you have to," he advised me, no matter how it pained my writerly heart.The published interview appears in Deccan Herald.

In a section that got edited out in the published interview, the author shares personal experiences which moulded him as a storyteller;

"I wrote all along, ever since my schooldays. But I took up narrative prose only in the mid 90s. There’s a story behind that turn. On a cold winter day in 1993, I boarded a bus to Detroit and a woman seemed to resent me taking the seat next to her. But once we began to talk, we continued for hours. A black woman from the American South, she insisted on seeking out parallels in our lives. I immediately wrote up that compelling encounter as a story. Exhilarated by the process, I took up writing workshops. At that point I exchanged emails with a new friend from a completely different background, sharing stories from our lives in an attempt to understand one another. She insisted that I paint scenes with words, to make my world come alive.
I began enjoying the ability to create fiction and play with new possibilities. Interactions with wonderful teachers and peers during my MFA from Mills College in California broadened my vistas."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

robots to the rescue

A recent news item set me thinking. The wonders of human ingenuity know no bounds. The miracles of the future which visionaries once imagined, are taking place right here and now.

A Bangalore based techie has invented robots to cook, clean and splash water on his head if he oversleeps. Best of all, he has sourced the parts from the by-lanes of S P Road to make his invention accessible to the rich and the not-so-well-heeled alike. Thanks to him, we can all dream of owning personal robots that do our boring chores, leaving us free to enjoy ourselves. Robots taking care of our daily needs will be a blessing, as they will shield us from much of our inter-personal relationship hassles.
In today’s mega cities, it’s people, people everywhere, but few who meaningfully talk or care. We jostle against hordes of people wherever we happen to be. And these fleeting encounters are more often unpleasant than not. The foul-mouthed jerk who spews venomous road rage, cussed folks who push and shove in queues, leering lechers and ‘eve teasers’, silver-tongued cheats; such charming people and their ilk are forever throwing themselves in our faces. Read more of my tongue in cheek take in Bangalore Mirror

Monday, April 19, 2010

Meeting author Shreekumar Varma

I recently had the pleasure of interacting with Shreekumar Varma. My account appears in BTW magazine. Given below is the full, unedited version.
Shreekumar Varma’s novels include Lament of Mohini and Devil’s Garden, and he is the author of the plays Platform, Midnight Hotel and the award-winning Dark Lord and Bow of Rama. His latest novel, Maria’s Room (Harper Collins), was long listed for the inaugural Man Asian Literary Prize. That's not all. He has written charming books for younger readers, too.

1. How would you want to be known? How did being descended from the great Raja Ravi Varma affect your personal growth as a literary artist?

I'd want to be known as a good writer, a story-teller. Descending from greatness puts you on a platform. If you don't perform, you're left with the shadow of achievement, not achievement itself. But there's an aura of art in the family that I believe has reached me as well. Many of my relatives paint. I write.

2. When and how did you start writing?

I started writing very early. My first short story was published while I was in high school. But my first book for children, Pazhassi Raja: The Royal Rebel, was published in 1997. My book was about Pazhassi Raja, who was probably the very first freedom fighter. Even at that time, Lament of Mohini (Penguin) was in the process of being written.

3. How did you deal with adverse criticism and struggle in your initial years as a writer?

Actually, the first review was the worst. After that, it was smooth sailing, and I've had people saying good things about Lament of Mohini through the years. Baseless criticism tends to floor you. Till you realize that the calibre of the critic comes through in his review, and shows up the worth of the opinions expressed. You either accept or discard them.

4. Where do you find inspiration?

I tend to subconsciously store details, of people, places, lives, colour, smell. When a good idea for a story shows up, I use some of these details. Sometimes a good idea may hibernate for years. There also many in-house stories in my family! I'm lucky in that I use many forms. So it could become a short story, play, maybe melt into poetry, or form the basis of a novel.

5. Your best and worst experiences as a writer?

The act of writing is, of course, the best experience. It's the moment of creation. Next comes the moment when you're sitting in an auditorium, watching your play being staged. If it's done well, you're in heaven, and the audience response takes you higher. The worst experiences have to do with shoddy critics and secondary level colleagues such as editor, director or cast, who may treat your work without respect or understanding. Fortunately, that hasn't happened to me as yet.

6. How did the ideas for Maria’s Room come to you?

During the launch of Mohini, we stopped for a few days in Goa. There was a storm. There were two silent couples in our car. There was a different Goa out there. And the idea was born, upstaging another book I was trying to write at that time. I usually find that some of the things I write actually happen!

Monday, April 12, 2010

kafkaesque dilemma

I've lived in the same place and voted regularly since 1995. But in 2008 I became entangled in a Kafkaesque situation when the names of my family members and me mysteriously vanished from the voters' list. Upon receiving numerous similar complaints from the residents of Bangalore, the authorities took up the process of updating and revision. We stood in long queues, first to have wrong/garbled entries deleted, then to enter our names afresh correctly into the computerised system, and then again to have our photos taken for identity cards. Yet despite several rounds of corrections, many errors continue to exist, giving rise to much speculation among my fellow citizens. Read my tongue-in-cheek take here in Bangalore Mirror

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

an unfashionable cheer for idealism

Things are going from bad to worse, and carping about it seems to be today's mantra. We make the right noises and then give up and watch from the sidelines, making the unacceptable acceptable by our passive tolerance. What we just might need is a whiff of not-so-fashionable idealism. Read my take in bangalore mirror

Sunday, March 28, 2010

pictures telling thousands of stories

I learnt so much about a city I've never lived in while working on this, that I want to share.

The piece is based on a meeting with Kolkata based photographer Saibal Das,and viewing his striking images of his city. The photo shows the Tagore family mansion (Thakurbari) in Kolkata, a focal point of the Bengal Renaissance. New art, literature and social reform movements took roots here. Today, the mansion houses a museum and the Rabindra Bharati University.

Kolkata is home to such diversity of people from different backgrounds, all celebrating their native festivals. There's old world charm and glory set against a huge ad of a popular MNC produced cola. People arriving with dreams, seeking, failing, and trying to rise again. Practical but mundane necessities humorously juxtaposed against fading glory, pipal trees growing in a surge of new life from the crumbling walls of dilapidated edifices; the ace lensman captures all this and more.

Isn't this what we too, strive to do as writers? Read the full published article here

Sunday, March 21, 2010

the Sindhi experience of Partition

Unbordered Memories; Sindhi stories of Partition translated by Rita Kothari

Rita Kothari has selected and translated into English narratives by first-generation Sindhi writers from both sides of the border exploring the Sindhi experience of Partition and the creation of Pakistan.

Unlike those displaced by the Partition of Punjab and Bengal, the Sindhi Hindus did not have a place to call their own when they arrived in India, since Sindh was retained entirely by Pakistan.

In Mohan Kalpana’s story, ‘In Exile’, an Indian Sahib explains the precarious condition of a refugee from Sindh. “Right now, you are neither in India nor Pakistan. You are a refugee. A refugee! You do not have a home either here or there.” Confused and pained Joharmal in Narayan Bharti’s ‘The Claim’ expresses poignantly the Sindhi experience of losing forever not just farmlands or a house, but an entire ethos, lost friends and neighbours, streets, rivers of a homeland which belongs to every Sindhi.
Apart from the recurring Partition fiction trope of a difficult and sorrowful journey of millions of people leaving their homeland, these stories also explore how those who stayed behind in the new Pakistan had to come to terms with a suddenly unrecognisable nation. According to Acharya Kripalani, Sindhis of all faiths were “powerfully influenced by Sufi and Vedantic thoughts. This made for tolerance.”
The threat to Sindhi Hindus after the formation of Pakistan became strong after Muslim immigrants driven out from the rest of India entered Sindh. These stories explore how hatred was spread amongst a peaceful and prosperous community. Khanu the barber in Sheikh Ayaz’s ‘The Neighbour’ “began to wonder how he would be able to slit the throats of those he had spent hours with, eating and drinking and making merry in their company.” Vishnu Bhatia in ‘The Uprooted’ portrays the spread of communal hatred and the seemingly foolish yet touching refusal of an old refugee to accept this. “How long could anyone have lasted shrouded in fear? People who had never thought of themselves as Hindus or Muslims now knew that Hindus were infidels, and Muslims, scoundrels. So much for brotherhood! Hindus have no right to live on this land. A political decision managed to do what pandits and moulvis could not. Hatred had spread like poison and an entire community was uprooted from its land and thrown into the waters of the Arabian Sea.”

Today, Kothari points out, the Sindhi community has spread out all over the world, successfully establishing themselves in business and various professions. Yet even those living in India cannot visit Sindh or even afford to talk about it, since Sindh now lies in what the rest of India considers a hostile foreign country. Sindh is now an idea without physical dimensions, a place which Sindhis cannot even visit in reality or memory. This perhaps explains why Sindhis have maintained silence about their past and rarely shared their wounds and stories.

As a sociological and historical document, this collection is invaluable. Capturing the finer nuances of Indian languages in English translations is always a huge challenge. While the translation is capable, these stories do by and large read like writing by a single author, and not by the several writers whose styles and viewpoints comprise this collection. (review published in Deccan Herald)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Review: Come, Before Evening Falls

Come, Before Evening Falls by Manjul Bajaj
Hachette India , 238 pages
Price: Rs.295

Manjul Bajaj’s debut novel is a strong, passionate story well told. The author offers insights into the culture, history and psyche of the Jat people of northern India’s heartland. Set in a Jat hamlet near Delhi in 1909, this is a tale of proud, upright men and women who will die to uphold the honor of family, community and country. The subtle feminist approach works well with full blooded women juxtaposed against well fleshed out and likeable male characters. The novel begins as a smoldering love story, with the threat of deadly social taboos simmering in the backdrop. The author interweaves social practices which sadly continue even today in pockets of rural India, such as the terrible practice of honor killings.
Read my complete review in Kitaab

review: Monkey Man

I recently read and enjoyed Monkey Man by K.R. Usha.
Monkey Man by K. R. Usha
Penguin (India), 259 pages
Price: RS.299

K. R. Usha’s latest novel takes a fresh, deeply sensitive and insightful look at life in Bangalore, India’s fastest growing city. Shortlisted for the for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and winner of the Vodaphone Crossword prize for her previous novel, A GIRL AND A RIVER, this consummate storyteller takes readers into the heart of a city zooming beyond the technological stratosphere while teetering on the brink of chaos.
Read my complete review in Kitaab

Saturday, March 06, 2010

scaring kids to death

With exam season looming ahead, a single day saw two young students from our city buckling under pressure and ending their own lives (BM, Feb 27). Shocked and sorrowful, we demanded that this malaise stop right now. As the day advanced, business resumed as usual after appropriate expressions of sadness. It’s easy to blame a faceless and ambiguous SYSTEM and sit back and expect an equally vague AUTHORITY to set things right. But are we as detached from the system as we would like to believe? Don’t we, and “people like us”, also contribute to make this very ‘system’ what it is? Let’s take a closer look at the problem and consider how best to make a difference by means within our own reach. Read my full argument here, in Bangalore Mirror

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Where have the flowers gone?

Valentine's Day came and went with a grand show of 'love.' But why do we need to set aside one single day to make a public display of loving? Could it possibly be because we need to reassure ourselves that people are not mean, greedy, jealous and selfish at heart? Love is too vast to be confined to a single day of pomp and show. It has innumerable contours and patterns. Let’s celebrate every day as Valentine’s Day and spread a little love and human feeling whenever and wherever we can. Read my views here

Thursday, February 11, 2010

beauty beyond botox

What is it with people who obsess over superficials while overlooking all else? What makes a person truly beautiful? A recent cover story in Bangalore Mirror probed the growing craze for artificially enhanced 'beauty.' Kids as young as 12 or 13 are asking for cosmetic surgery and invasive procedures without having a clue as to what it entails. Read my take here