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EDITORIAL December, month of festivity; Christmas, fairs, book fairs, circuses and New Year looming at the corner to lure! Sitting under the sun, in the balcony or terrace, on a weekend afternoon finishing a suspense thriller or a romantic chronicle, is a well cherished luxury. Times have changed so do the habit of reading… now we often prefer a digital reading on the tablet, kindle or smart phone, but still the thrill of reading has not reduced, even a speck. This edition of Storizen is yet another treat for you! We have featured Yoshodhara Lal Sharma, the ace story teller of our generation. She has created a niche for her with Editor the autobiographical narratives. Yashodhara opens her Victor Basu rather personal world to Storizen in a very candid tete-atete. Sub Editors Mukesh Rijhwani We have covered the most awaited book of the year, Manreet Sodhi Someshwar’s “The Hunt for Kohinoor” Sudipa Chakraborty in our book event section. Also, there’s a review of the Sumantra Chaudhury same book by our ace blogger – Vishal Kale. Copy Editors We have invited India’s top book reviewers to tell us about Asmita Sarkar their “Top 5 favorite Indian fictions of 2013”. Saurabh Chawla So, if you’re looking for quick recommendations, do Photo Editor check out what they have to say. We also have all other regular sections such as short stories, poems, writing Neloy Bandyopadhyay tips, and nonetheless your very own reader’s corner. Designer Please do share your thoughts by writing to us, as alAmit Mitra ways. From entire team of Storizen, we wish you a very happy new year! Happy reading!

TEAM | December 2013 | 3 | December 2013 | 4 | December 2013 | 5

Saurabh Chawla The Hunt for Kohinoor by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar Delhi book launch event On 17th December 2013, the second book of the Mehrunisa Trilogy by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar was launched in Delhi. The event took place at the Full circle Bookstore and café. The event was very well organized by the Westland Publishers team. After the phenomenal success of the first book of the trilogy, ‘The Taj Conspiracy’, the second book ‘The hunt for the Kohinoor was the most awaited book of the year. It is India’s first thriller trilogy featuring a female protagonist, Mehrunisa Khosa. When asked on the inspiration behind the book, author Manreet Sodhi Someshwar said, “When you grow up in a border town, history is in your veins; and so I have tried to incorporate my first hand experience as a citizen in a war prone region into this book. Also in the ongoing gender debate in India, the book’s female protagonist-Mehrunisa provides a strong positive role model for young women. With the roaring success of The Taj Conspiracy, I hope for an equally enthralling response to its adrenaline filled sequel.” | December 2013 | 6

Gurgaon, December 13, 2013: Former Miss India, noted Artist, Painter & Writer Ms Anjanna Kuthiala today released “The Downturn’, a first ever fiction based in the real estate sector in India. The Downturn has been penned by noted Journalist & Author, Varun Soni. The book was unveiled at gLiterArti (Gurgaon Art and Literature) Festival held at Cyber Hub here amidst an eclectic gathering comprising Celebrities, Leaders of Real Estate, Travel, Entertainment & Professionals. Launching the book, Former Miss India, Anjanna Kuthiala said “This book is a good lesson for the uninitiated to understand the workings of the Indian Real Estate Industry and how global economy affects the industry. I am happy to be associated with is release”. The Downturn is the journey of a media professional, Promit Bora, who enters the real estate sector owing to the lure of lucre. However, as luck would have it, as soon as he takes up the assignment, the world economy goes into a spin and he is caught in the economic downturn. “I have based this book on my own experiences in the Industry as a Journalist and what I have seen transpiring here,” said Author / Journalist, Varun Soni while thanking Ms Kuthiala for releasing the book. Based on real life experiences, ‘The Downturn’ is also author Varun Soni’s first fiction. He has earlier brought out two Coffee Table Books titled ‘Living in India’ and ‘Luxury Resorts and Spas of India’. | December 2013 | 10

While literary fiction is mainly character-driven, a mainstream novel typically hinges on the plot. The sometimes bizarre twists and turns, the clever mix of bleak and joyful moments, the interaction between the various characters, an intriguing beginning, and a satisfying end are the essential elements of a memorable novel. However, although plot and story are closely related, they are two distinctly different elements of fiction. According to E. M. Forster (Aspects of the Novel - 1927) “a story is a series of events recorded in their chronological order” whereas “a plot is a series of events deliberately arranged so as to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance.” To that end, many Hollywood/Bol-

lywood movies are masterpieces of remarkable plotting. From the old classic cinema to today’s colourful song-and-dance tales, it is the plot that makes the difference between a ho-hum movie and a box-office-hit. M. Night Shyamalan’s Sixth Sense comes to mind as an example of ingenious plotting, which offers an unexpected twist at the tail end of the story. So how does one go about finding the right blueprint for one’s book? In my opinion, here are the main ingredients of a first-rate plot.

Hook and Goal There are perhaps no more than thirty basic storylines in the world. What makes each book unique is the author’s ability to intertwine them and narrate the tale in a fresh voice. The first step is a hook or opening. Reel in the readers right from the outset by introducing action and/or

intrigue, then keep them turning the pages. Give your protagonist a goal towards which she will travel. Every human being wants something or at least dreams of an ideal life. Choose that goal and make it the prime catalyst for the protagonist’s actions. Naturally no heroes are perfect. They need some flaws to make them realistic, so readers can relate to them, cheer for them, and follow their journeys till the very end.

Motivation and Action Once the goal is set, one has to show what motivates one’s protagonist to act in a certain manner. Do cultural boundaries, family circumstances, physical environment, or emotional hang-ups affect her? Use any combination of the above and add several intriguing layers to your plot. What your protagonist wants can be commonplace or unconventional. She may simply want a caring husband and children, or she may aspire to be an Air Force pilot. You can be bold and choose something entirely outrageous for your heroine’s motive too. Whatever her heart desires will ultimately define her actions and words, therefore the motive should be in keeping with your protagonist’s personality. A reticent and shy heroine may not be motivated to climb Mount Everest or become an actress. Likewise a brash

and daring heroine is not going to be a shrinking violet in her actions or words. Remember even villains need to have a motive to round out a good story, so it is important to include that into the plot as well. Take for example some of the Batman movies, where the Joker, the Penguin, and the Catwoman, have their own agendas, thus providing superb entertainment.

Conflict and Climax There is no story without conflict. This is perhaps the most significant part of plotting because it averts the dreaded “sagging middle.” Subplots and secondary characters play a major role in creating conflict. If everything went smoothly for everyone the story would be entirely boring, and you will lose your readers’ attention. Conflict can come from internal as well as external sources. Examples of internal conflict are attacks of conscience and/or guilt, anger, fear, paranoia, personal values. External conflict can come from contradictory family members, enemies, inclement weather, war, communal violence, and innumerable other sources. Challenges, battles, and obstacles, all of them getting progressively worse,

work remarkably well in crafting a fabulous plot. Your main character also needs to have a “black moment,” that critical point in the story where everything she holds dear is in peril. Her enemy is gaining ground and she has no hope of winning the battle. And yet, we as writers must somehow introduce that tiny glimmer of optimism and single act of valour that will save the day. This can actually be one of the most enjoyable parts of plotting a story. Raising the stakes is also a necessary part of creating high-tension conflict and drama. For example, if your hero is trying to rescue his son from an evil kidnapper, why not portray his wife pregnant with their second child and going into labour at precisely that crucial time? Or raise the stakes even higher by adding a violent rainstorm with total loss of power. How about a multi-vehicle accident that blocks all traffic in town and the hospital is unreachable? The hero must face a life-anddeath situation to keep your readers on edge. Keep in mind that imminent death and destruction force ordinary characters into doing extraordinary things. A good example of this is Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, where the unassuming hero valiantly saves his best friend’s son by kidnapping him from the home of a powerful and evil Afghani mobster. Then there is personal growth. | December 2013 | 14

The heroine needs to learn and grow emotionally as she navigates through her trials and tribulations, and finally emerges stronger in the end. Her journey must be an adventurous trek to keep the reader involved at all times.

Resolution and Conclusion

Every story needs a satisfying conclusion. Despite some novels that end with a cliff-hanger (mainly to fuel interest in sequels), there usually is some wrap-up of the problem facing the protagonist. Readers need to see a resolution to the dilemma the author has expertly created via a wonderful plot. This does not necessarily mean a “happily-ever-after” conclusion, but a reasonably satisfactory outcome to the issue at hand. Some of my own books do not have a happy ending, but I always leave room for optimism, and hope for the future. Why? Because not all of life’s problems are solved easily. Nonetheless hope springs eternal and human beings are amazingly resilient creatures. My latest novel, The Unexpected Son (Fingerprint Publishing), ends on this cheerful note, and it has earned some great reviews. In my humble opinion, a good ending should leave readers wanting just a little bit more, and pleasantly pondering the hero’s future. n

Shobhan Bantwal is the author of six novels and co-author of two anthologies. Her books combine contemporary women’s issues with romantic elements. Her articles have appeared in The Writer, Romantic Times, India Abroad, Little India, New Woman, and India Currents. Her short fiction has won honours/awards in contests sponsored by Writer’s Digest, New York Stories, and New Woman magazines. Her debut book, THE DOWRY BRIDE, won the 2008 Golden Leaf Award. THE UNEXPECTED SON won the 2012 National Indie Excellence Award. Shobhan lives in Arizona, USA. | December 2013 | 15

Writing Stories, 101


Atul Randev A Quick Recap: In the November Issue we talked about some issues, that I faced when I began work on my first book, and my methods to get past them. Here is a quick recap before we move on: • Plot your way out of trouble: Spend some time ironing out the major plot points before setting up your writing schedules. • Don’t over-think things. If you wait for all the plot points to be neatly tied up before you start writing, you may never get to the writing part. • Persist: There are going to be days when you wouldn’t want to write, a day’s break in your schedule can quickly turn into a week, set your timelines and stick to them. • Give your dreams a chance.

Watching one episode of Grey’s Anatomy couldn’t hurt, could it? There is always a reason to put off writing, a new movie would come out, friends would be getting together, work (that pays the bills) would become more demanding, or someone would send you the link to a really funny video, and it would be impossible to live without sharing it in on your FB page. This was a period of great soul searching for me, because I wound up doing almost all of these. I was more distracted after 4 weeks of writing then I was at the beginning (when the enthusiasm at starting something new propelled me forward). There are ways to get past it though:-Try and work on different plot points after a while. Writing a story need not be an absolute, one way street, where you move forward from page 1 to page 250. Write down that important climax scene, or the love scene, or take a moment to put to paper that moment of revelation where it all falls together for the protagonist. Jumping ahead and branching out shows you possibilities in your plot that you may have missed earlier, AND it keeps things interesting. A novel is many sub-plots put and held together by cause and circumstances that you tie them up with; just make sure you tie them up seamlessly when everything is said and done. | December 2013 | 16

Writing Tips I’ll have all the cakes in the world when my diet ends – matters of motivation A lull in energy is a given after a while. Especially, if you have a decent job going by the side, and your life wouldn’t get much worse if you do not come through on the book. Not everyone can work with the promise of a dream to motivate themselves, I know I couldn’t. Maintain a word count and make sure you add to it regularly. Don’t beat down too much upon yourself if you feel that you are not moving fast enough; rather use it constructively to push yourself a little more every day. I saw that the more regularly I wrote, the easier it became for me to get back to my story, I wrote about 12,000 words in the 4th week, and it increased to 18 K in week 5, the quality improved and there were fewer errors to correct in reviews.

You are here for a reason: You This piece of advice is just slightly altered from the last month’s edition but it carries a world of difference. Give yourself a chance. This is what it’s all about really, give it your best shot, enjoy yourself, and don’t over analyze over things that don’t matter right now (Such as finding a Publisher, or how long would it take to finish the third draft, or how much your mother is going to pester you if you don’t get married before you turn 30). Always remember, you can’t publish a book you don’t finish (unless you are J.R.R Tolkien) and with every word you write - you are getting better at what you are doing. That’s it for now folks. Lookout for more in the next edition of Storizen. You can reach out to me on Facebook (hit the link down below) or my blog if you want to share your own writing conundrums and the ideas that solved them for you. Cheerio until then, see ja next month!!

Atul Randev is an IT professional living and working in Gurgaon. He is the Co-author of The Degenerate tales of Decadent minds, a book of short stories. Also an avid traveller, he is currently working on his first novel. | December 2013 | 17

‘Sorting out’ Yashodhara’s W A tête-à-tête with Yashodhara Lal, just before the release of her second book in January

Sudipa Chakraborty


mountain of madness, being busy like a bee and having many irons in the fire. But, is it exciting? “Hell, yeah! And, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says. “The joy ride is just about to begin with a whiff of fresh enthusiasm and I am so looking forward to it.” Amidst limitless excitement, some tiny-bits of last-minute-rush and expectations galore, we take a few moments out of her fast-pacing joy ride, waiting to begin, soon, very soon indeed! ‘Author, Mother, Marketeer, not always in that order’, as she often writes in her blog, Yahodhara Lal is sitting pretty right on the very edge of a fresh, brand new fiction, Sorting Out Sid, waiting to release in a fresh brand new year! Any last minute jitters, Yashodhara? “Frankly, I’ve been just so busy with getting everything ready while also managing several other things that I haven’t even had time to get the jitters,” she says. We try to don her hat, although briefly, and get a sneak peek into her chaotic yet exciting worldand, yes, being a part-time Marketing consultant and a full-time mother of three, she already has a lot on her plate. And, then, to top up it up with avid blogging and writing, where is the time to have jitters anyway?

Wonderful World

Cover Story

Yashodhara Lal Sharma

Author - Sorting out Sid, Just Married, Please Excuse

In her very own words, Yashodhara vividly draws up a picture of her bustling and sparkling life in her blog: Welcome to Y’s World Starring: Vijay: The Harried, Married Man Y: The Queen of the Castle Peanut: The Princess, always trying to dethrone me Pickle & Papad: Double the trouble, double the fun ...and other assorted characters we bump into, along the way... Yashodhara is married for 10 years now and lives in Gurgaon with her husband Vijay and the three small children they call Peanut, Pickle and Papad. | December 2013 | 20

Her debut best-selling novel, Just Married, Please Excuse was a ‘story of self-discovery, a fresh and honest take on marriage and parenthood, and all the chaos that comes with it’. Yashodhara calls it ‘unabashedly autobiographical with only a teeny bit of exaggeration towards the end’. Not just the story, even the names of the characters in her book are straight out of her very own life! With its ‘ah-so-real’ moments from her newly married life blended with disarming honesty, the book became an absolute favourite of readers, both young and old. We wonder if her second outing as an author is autobiographical too. Yashodhara clarifies, Sorting Out Sid is “a witty,

humorous story about a guy named Siddharth who has everything going for him on the surface – but in reality, there’s a lot of trouble brewing.” The back-cover of Sorting Out Sid may very well nudge a reader’s curiosity. It reads, “Meet Sid, a master at the art of denial, in this hilarious, insightful tale of modern-day living and relationships.” In Sorting Out Sid, Sid has got it all, the great career (on the verge of becoming the VP at 36!), the marriage, good friends and the work. But in reality, there’s a lot of trouble; his marriage is falling apart, his friends constantly try to control him – and the fact that he’s selling toilet cleaners, is not the most glamorous thing in the world. | December 2013 | 21

And, then, there is the single mother Neha who comes in his life…As the tagline goes, “Who said it would be easy Sorting Out Sid?” This could be the story of a whole new generation- young, vivacious, successful and yet unhappy, shuttling between their disjointed families and flashy superficial professional lives. After the success of her debut novel, Yashodhara was contemplating to write a sequel to Just Married, Please Excuse. She also had a draft of it ready, as well as a work-inprogress title, ‘Still Married, Thank You.’ But, again, there was this story brewing inside her head for a while, and a quick discussion with her editor convinced her to pen down an out-and-out fiction, and voila, here comes Sorting Out Sid! Writing has always been special for Yash, an integral part of her life. She has been a passionate blogger for many years now. And, while she dabbled in blogging, she has also been a seasoned corporate professional. With a prestigious MBA degree from IIM-Bangalore in her kitty, Yashodhara has had a decade-long successful spell at some of the topnotch corporates in India. “In my last stint, I was doubling up as a Marketing Head and a Business Head,” she says. It was during her maternity leave after she delivered her twin boys in the year 2010 that she finally took to writing, a long-cherished dream that she nurtured for years, and, that’s when the draft of | December 2013 | 22

Just Married, Please Excuse was written. Life is a connoisseur in imparting some of the best lessons; quite often, it paves way for intriguing circumstances to divulge some very simple truths about human existence. It was one of those rare special moments of clarity when Yashodhara heard her inner voice. “I had always wanted to write, but rarely got beyond a chapter or two. I had a complicated pregnancy and I guess, I figured it then that life is too short to keep putting off your dreams – so I just went for it,” she rightly points out. It was pretty much her own tales of marriage and parenthood that she has poured out in

I had always wanted to write, but rarely got beyond a chapter or two. I had a complicated pregnancy and I guess, I figured it then that life is too short to keep putting off your dreams – so I just went for it.

her first book, Just Married, Please Excuse. Beneath the layers, there was always a writer in Yashodhara. “I think I always had the writer in me because I always loved books,” she says. She remembers writing for the school and college magazines in the past and enjoying every bit of her role in the editorial boards of those magazine too. She is blessed with the gift of building castles in the air, castles of stories, some short, some-nottoo-short. She looked around and felt, she has a story to tell. That’s when she began blogging in the year 2006. “It helped me to express myself and it was therapeutic as well,” she says. So, what does writing mean to you, we ask. “It means so many things to me. It is creativity, it is art, and it is unique. And there’s miles to go before I sleep, because like any craft or skill, it must be honed. Why even try to define it?” But again, Yashodhara prefers the name ‘part-time author’ for her. Apart from consulting projects and teaching marketing at a management institute for working professionals, she is a full-time mother and a Zumba teacher too. Her platter is full. “I have a feeling I wouldn’t enjoy being a full-time writer, either. A

couple of hours a day on it is good, though. So I’m a part-time writer, but hopefully one who’s going to be continuously writing or at least plotting!” That’s pretty well said Yash. And, what about marketing, any plans to get back to the buzzing corporate world? “I do sometimes miss the whole corporate gig, though. Maybe when the kids go to school, I might end up going back. I still consider Marketing my main career, but have now moved to part-time roles or consulting assignments on a project basis.” she responds. After the release of her first book, Yashodhara went back to work. But, after ‘several months of trying to juggle everything’, she figured that she wasn’t able to do justice to any of it. Hence, she decided to pursue writing for the time being and focus more on raising her kids. It is said that ‘Yashodhara Lal’s USP is in taking the ordinary and making it hilarious’, that her book scores hands down in the humour quotient. She often transforms the ordinary to hilarious and, then, somewhat extraordinary to create a perfect concoction of humour and truth. “Observations from real life provide a lot of fodder for interesting stories,” she says, quite disarmingly. | December 2013 | 23

. Yash believes that it is the lens with which we choose to view things that makes the whole difference. In Just Married, Please Excuse, she has picked up some traumatic moments and events from her life and chose to laugh at them. “My writing is humorous but people have also said that they find the stories relatable, and even insightful. I don’t know how that one happens, I’m not trying to be particularly insightful but

sometimes the stories tend to take on a life of their own,” Yashodhora affirms. It is the years of practice in making a small community of other mommy bloggers laugh at her stories about her family on her blog at that has enabled her to bring in the element of humour in her book. As a child, Yash enjoyed reading the Enid Blytons, Hardy Boys and so on. Her favorite books were about the twins – the St. Clare’s and the Sweet Valley Series. ‘And life rewarded me with twins of my own, so the fascination will continue lifelong,’ she laughs. As a teenager, she enjoyed the world of Wodehouse, Gerald Durrell and James Herriot. “I think that caused me to adopt humour in my own writing. The world of good that reading did me cannot be overemphasized. It made all the difference, in so many ways,” she says. Yash’s all-time favorite in recent years is Chitra Bannerjee Devakaruni’s Palace of Illusions and she always recommends that, especially to women. A successful career, a lovely family and a never-ending doze of humour. Life is full for Yashodhara, we believe. So, we wonder if she has any

As a child, Yash enjoyed reading the Enid Blytons, Hardy Boys and so on. Her favorite books were about the twins – the St. Clare’s and the Sweet Valley Series. | December 2013 | 24

unfulfilled dreams or aspirations that she still looks out for… And, hence, we rather ask her, if you look at your life from a distance, are you happy about the way it has turned out? In her usual casual self, Yash responds, “I am extremely blessed because I have a large and loving family. I am happy with the way life is turning out, but it’s a process. I’ve made some choices about giving up the corporate race for the time being – yet I haven’t figured out my exact plans. So as of now, I have no idea about where I am going to be by the time I’m forty. But the fact that it’s not killing me not to know that right now must mean that I’m making progress.” Being a mother of three, with so much going on in her professional life as well, Yashodhara has handled the perils of procrastination pretty well. “Ultimately, it’s just about being focused. It’s hard to start, there tends to be a lot of procrastination, but once you get going, there’s a certain rhythm and flow that eventually sees you through to the finish line,” she says. Confident and upright, Yahsodhara is just a few weeks away from yet another momentous achievement in her life, the

release of her second book, Sorting Out Sid. Staring at the horizon, the amber sky and the fleece of clouds, Yash takes a moment to look back at her life as a mother, author, marketer and teacher and thoughtfully discerns, “Oh God. Every bit of it has been difficult, and then surprisingly easy at certain key moments. It’s all been gut-wrenching and heart-breaking and then ridiculously joyous at times. Each role has taught me something different -

Ultimately, it’s just about being focused. It’s hard to start, there tends to be a lot of procrastination, but once you get going, there’s a certain rhythm and flow that eventually sees you through to the finish line. | December 2013 | 25

Nothing makes a person more productive than the last minute

and will continue to do so in the future as well.” These are the last few days before the release of Sorting Out Sid and we understand the anxiousness and anticipation that fills in, the scores of chores that swamp her days and the last-minute-rush and expected hush that keeps her on the move all day. And, then, as they say, “Nothing makes a person more pro-

ductive than the last minute”, we let Yashodhara dive deep into the pulse of everything. After all, we are all looking forward to the joyride. While we imagine Sid’s world in Sorting Out Sid to be bewildering and somewhat disorderly, we know that the read will be nothing short of absolute delight! Our best wishes, Yashodhara! n

Photography Courtesy: Marta Martinez

Sudipa Chakraborty is the Features Editor with Storizen. She is a passionate writer and an ardent reader with her share of experience injournalism and corporate communications. | December 2013 | 26


Vasudev Murthy

Author - Sherlock Holmes in Japan

Sumantra Chaudhury A Management Consultant, a visiting professor, a violinist and an author. How do you manage these diverse roles? You can always find time to do whatever you enjoy. It’s not one versus the other. I’m sure you do plenty of things too. What’s the big deal? You have four books till date. How was the feeling when you published your first book? Wonderful, obviously. Though oddly, what was published wasn’t my first book. I had written another one centered around the theme of animal rights, which wasn’t accepted by anyone. But What the Raags told me, a novel based on classical music was, based on only three chapters I had written at that point.

Yes, publishing the first book is always a struggle. The need for a unique plot, the struggle to convince a publisher, the frustration of delays - its magnified in the case of the first book. The second on Proposal Writing was quite different, obviously. The third is a book of short stories called The Time Merchants

Your book “Sherlock Holmes in Japan’ has created quite a rage. Can you tell us what the book is all about? It deals with the period called The Great Hiatus, during which Sherlock Holmes supposedly “vanished”. Arthur Conan Doyle had Sherlock fall off Reichebach Falls in a story called The Final Problem. The public was quite annoyed and insisted on his return. So he was resurrected a few years later. The intervening period is when this story is based. In this, Sherlock spends time solving a complex case in Japan and does a fair bit of traveling including through India where he learns Indian Classical Music and becomes a vegetarian. I have a particular fondness for Japan, knowing the language a bit and having worked for a Japanese company when I started my career. Also to add a Brazilian company has acquired the rights for SH in J for that country and is releasing a Portuguese translation in a few weeks!

Why Sherlock Holmes? A character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. How did you take the risk of writing a book on this character? But why not? What started as a friendly venture to try to imitate the style of AC Doyle actually became a book. Was it a risk? I don’t think so. You can’t be scared. Critics are bound to come charging out of the woodworks, perpetually disturbed about this or that, forever constipated. That’s too bad. Its a funny book I think, and I had plenty of fun writing it. I am not consumed with my writing and I find humour much more interesting to write.

Speaking about your likes, you are passionate about Indian Classical Music. Can you tell us some about this? I play the Indian Classical violin. I learnt the Carnatic style and then the Hindustani. I play for myself and do not pretend to be a brilliant violinist, though I was very fortunate to learn from the late Pandit V G Jog. And of course, I have written about it too. One book was published and there is another one that I am discussing with publishers. And by the way, Holmes was a violinist too! An eerie coincidence? haha!

during the writing of conversations. Thats where the energy of a story is and that is what holds a reader’s attention.

What about your family? What do they feel about your writing? My wife is quite supportive. She validates ideas, identifies inconsistencies and makes great suggestions. I think my kids have no clear idea what I write about. Maybe they will read my books later in life.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your books? What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? I am disorganized and not a role model for anyone. I write in fits and bursts. But when I do, I churn out a lot at a stretch. I don’t have a preferred time, though of course, I don’t like being disturbed while I’m writing.

Writing is relatively easier than editing; I am not referring to the story. Any writer who refuses to revisit his writing several times and to put himself in the hands on a competent editor is asking for trouble. Errors seep in at all points - language, grammar, structuring and we are too close to our writing and perhaps too arrogant to acknowledge that we can make foolish mistakes.

What would you say is your So is your next book also gointeresting writing quirk? ing to be on Sherlock Homes? Humour. I like introducing bizarre ideas and creating unexpected twists that make you pause and hopefully smile. Humour comes best

No. There are multiple projects in the areas of Management, music and satire. But I have no specific plans for another Sherlock Holmes | December 2013 | 31

book though I have many plots ready puri in Mumbai was found absurd. Oddly enough, London-based Sherin my head. lockians were most liberal about a You have also written non-fic- completely different take on a muchtion like ‘Be the Gas Pedal, loved character.

Not the Break’ and “Social Media and the CIO”. How easy Any memorable moments in or hard is it to switch between your journey towards becoming an author till date? fiction and non-fiction? Yes. Writing in the guise of someone else is always interesting. I have written as a Japanese (Akira Yamashita), a retired Saudi English teacher (Sami Al-Mutlaq) and as an African-American woman (Mindy Johnson). Its a challenge but an interesting one, to write as someone you are not. One Are you planning to become a must have a support group, by the full-time author now? way, to mature slowly as a writer. You are referring to my management articles. My non-fiction book Effective Proposal Writing from Sage was a decent success, I believe. There is no problem in switching between all the things one likes to do.

No. I am not that insane.

So, why writing? Why the desire to be an author?

What is the most interesting feedback/criticism that you No esoteric answer there. I just like have received till date? writing. I have had many experiences and traveled quite a bit. Perhaps Stuffy Sherlockians have been un- I felt the need to share. That is why easy about my depiction of Watson there is no ‘genre’ that I write in conas slightly dull. Sherlock having bhel sistently. I just have fun. n

Vasudev Murthy exists. Sometimes in Goa and other times in Bangalore. He teaches, has several dogs, plays the violin, has a management consulting business. He has traveled a lot and is generally fit. | December 2013 | 32 | December 2013 | 33


Vikrant Shukla

Author - Call Centre – An Inside Story

Tell us something about the genre of the books that you have written. My debut novel was “Call Centre – An Inside Story”, which was a fiction representing the life of four friends working in a Call Centre. This book also dealt with a complicated and tabooed issue of our society, sex and after effects of illicit relationships. The title of my second novel was “The Wrong Chase”. It was a crime thriller fiction which revolved around the fact that assumptions and presumptions are not always correct. Yet to be published novel is “Life – A Sucking Trap” which is again a fiction novel. The storyline of this novel revolves around the trap of multi-level marketing and it will be an eye opener for a lot of people who are willing to get quick money. This novel is with one of the best editors and will be published soon. I have signed a contract for my fourth novel with a relatively new publisher and the title of that novel is “Billycan Hill – Ring of Beelzebub”. It is an urban fantasy thriller and it is all about the mighty ring of the satanic king. It is going to be a scary ride for the readers.

How did you get the ideas for your books? You don’t seem to be following a particular genre. Yes, I can’t write about just one genre, I want to keep my writing journey free flowing, not stereotyping myself. My debut novel was inspired by my own experiences working with the Call Centre industry for close to nine years. I wanted the people to experience the real life inside the big buildings of glass.

The second book was just a work of pure fiction. I was also stuck at certain points while I was trying to make the suspense strong. As I mentioned already, my third book is about the network marketing trap, it might help some people to stay away from the alluring business proposals. My fourth book is all about black magic and the inspiration was taken from a real life black magic practitioner.

Who were you referring to as the Best Editor? My third book is to be published by Penguin and the best editor is none other than VaishaliMathur. She helped me realize and correct the most important things and helped remove unnecessary content from challenge for me. the book, which could have prevented the flow of the story. Due to her When do you write? How ofvaluable suggestions, the storyline ten do you write? is much better now. I write whenever I feel inspired to Tell us what do you do for liv- write. I tried making a schedule to sit and write as per the time table ing? but I failed every time. I soon realI work for a Multi-National Compa- ized that you need to be in a mood ny, where I manage the Quality De- to write. It is an art, you need to have the ideas flowing in your mind. partment.

How do you manage work-life However, weekends are my favourite days to write, when I am away balance? from my professional pressures.

It is not difficult for me as I stay alone. I am not a party animal either, Do you believe in Writer’s so finding time to write never was a block? What are your thoughts | December 2013 | 36

Yes, I believe in writer’s block. I also have a mental block that I cannot write a love story. I tried but failed! My mind just refuses to participate when it comes to writing a love story. For me, I think, there is no way a writer can overcome his mental block, if someone is not good at something, he should not even try. I believe, a writer should write, what he feels like writing.

What is the best feedback you’ve received from a reader?

Did you take any creative writing course?

I still remember, after my first book was launched, I started getting fan mails and one of them said, “I never respected my son as he is working in a call centre however after reading your book, I realized that a disciplined and structured approach is followed in the call centreindustry. I respect my son now.” – I was overwhelmed and I still feel proud of the fact that I was able to change someone’s prejudice.

No, I just started writing and I don’t think a course is really required to be an author. If someone is willing to become a professional editor or is looking to get a job in some publication house, then it is required to Are you working on some have a professional degree/diploma. manuscript currently? I am currently working on two manTell us about your favorite au- uscripts, one of them is in English and the other one is in Hindi. For the thors and books? first time I am writing a novel in HinI love to read J.K.Rowling and Dan di language. The one in English is tiBrown. All of their books are my fa- tled as “God’s Courtroom – Meeting Celestial Krishna”, as the name sugvourites. gests, it is all about Krishna howev on overcoming it? | December 2013 | 37

er it is not a typical spiritual book. It Words of wisdom for our wanis about a person’s arguments with nabe authors? Krishna. The one in Hindi is a ‘Horror Story’. I have been through the phase of rejections. It can be a nightmare Oh Wow! You are writing a for anyone who is writing his first book in Hindi. Please tell us manuscript with a lot of emotions attached to it. If the manuscript is more about it. rejected, don’t be demotivated, it is The book is dedicated to my moth- just that an evaluator didn’t like your er. Unfortunately, she is not able to proposal. Keep having faith in God, understand English and she once keep on improving the manuscript said that she would like to read my and keep on submitting your manbooks. It touched me, I thought and uscript with different publishers. thought over it again. I decided to There are a lot of options for authors make her dream come true. Going now a days. If any big publishing forward, I will keep on writing in Hin- house is not willing to take a chance with you, self-publishing is also an di as well as in English. option now a days. n

Any plans to cross over and become a full time writer? Not now. I have a long way to go but for sure in the future, maybe someday.

Vikrant is an MBA in Human Resource and Financial Management. He started his writing journey with Call Centre – An Inside Story, Which was a bestseller and carried him in the most influential contemporary writers. He continued his journey and amazed his readers with a thriller novel, The Wrong Chase. His third book, Life – A Sucking Trap, is soon to be published by Penguin Books. His fourth novel, The Billycan Hill, which is an urban fiction, will soon be published. He is a music lover and loves to sing and compose in his leisure time. | December 2013 | 38

Riitik Ba

Author - Unsatisfied Sat




PATH TO GET PUBLISHED Even in my dreams, I never thought that I would pen down my own love story someday and to top that, I would be so fearless to show it to the whole world. Trust me! It does need lot of guts to unfold your private emotions in front of the world. It always stays under the radar of criticisms and having it close to your heart, these criticisms runs the risk of breaking you again as well. However, I think if I had not written my thoughts, experience and feelings about the love story which I had, I would not have re-covered out from that phase, where I was left out in 2007... Which I thought was gone long back... which I was ‘pretending’ to have forgotten... To be frank and precise, it just took me 18 days to write 24 chapters. But, these 18 days brought me closer to the realization that the world, which I was trying to run away from, was living just inside me. Well, everything happens for a reason, I suppose and this too had its own reason. The reason was to inspire you all. You, who like Riitik Babbar,

are striving to deal with the complexities of love, thinking that they are having the best moments of life or thinking that they are facing a living hell. In any of these case, we often forget the real essence of love. I wrote to remind you that only. Coming back to the publishing, let me tell you, It Was Not At All An Easy Task. My journey started off when one day, while talking to my best friend regarding some creative work, the idea of writing clicked me. She casually asked me to check, if I could write a few chapters. I started going back to those lanes of memories of good, bad and painful times. Eventually, this title “Unsatisfied Satisfaactionns” popped up, as being in today when I looked back to analyze things, I could summarize them in these two words only. After writing the story, the biggest hurdle comes for editing, especially for new authors who don’t even understand how to make their works at least readable. People should not take it as the author’s personal diary, after all. For me, despite having it based on true events, it took me 2 months to make it presentable as per the ‘publishers’ standard. Who never struggles in the initial period of starting anything new in life? Those would be very few “with golden spoon born people”, who gets success without struggling or doing nothing rather. I had to go through the same situations and hardships for getting my thoughts published | December 2013 | 42

and most importantly, to get them published with the team I could trust. After editing, I started reaching out to all the possible reputed giants in the publishing world. Few even acknowledged and accepted the synopsis, but somehow, I just could not cling to them for this project due to some or the other reasons. Finding publisher is the most difficult task for new authors, especially when you don’t have any contact or person guiding you in this literary world. I did not have any godfather and had to make my way myself only. It’s often easy for people to say “I am there” but you actually get to know the reality of these words in the bad times or in the times of need, when you require them to be on their words. After holding the working experience of 7.5 years, I was very much familiar with this fact, but never thought that I would realize the importance of this very soon. But, as they say “time is the consumer and we are its food”, same happened in my case. It made me more patient and eventually, I learnt that chasing your dreams is not easy especially when you don’t have patience. However, by god’s grace, fortunately I found Author’s Empire India, the fastest growing publishing firm under the CEO, Kunal Marathe. He and his team undertook my dream as their own and started working on it with their utmost devotion. After finding the best person to start on my dream project, the next

mighty. I have always been a happy go lucky kind of a person with bit of temper losing un-unique quality. But for this, I am really keeping the value of time, efforts and co-operation with the team to allow them to get the “perfect” gift of my life. The book is still in pre-orders and highly expected to be launched around 25th December. It would be my best Christmas gift this year for sure. I am confident that it would attract the readers of all ages because I have tried portraying the true emotions and immense feelings which I lived. As an author it is hard to leave expectations about your work but here I am not expecting to reach stars, just hoping to reach your hearts filled with the love for my work. n important and crucial thing, which is still going on for me is to have more patience till I would be actually able to hold my “new baby” in my hands and feel the blessings of that al-

Riitik Babbar, an author by chance of Unsatisfied Satisfaactionns, hails from Delhi and works in a KPO. After pursuing a course in Travel and Tourism, he never thought that he would end up being an author of his own love story, which twisted his life in a way that he got compelled to share it with the masses. | December 2013 | 43

Atulya Mah

Author - Amreekandesi – Mast


ters of America


PATH TO GET PUBLISHED After living in the US for a few years, I realised that the reality of living in a new country is quite different from the rosy picture portrayed in movies and media. Life as an immigrant is a mixed bag and comes with its share of highs and lows. Personally, for me it was a very enriching experience and I learnt a lot through my years in America. There were too many stories that I just had to share. I started writing Amreekandesi – Masters of America in December 2010 and then the project got stalled for a year. I picked it up again in early 2012 and completed the first draft in the next six odd months. The book is the story of two young boys who travel to America for their Masters. What follows is a rollercoaster ride for Akhil and Jassi, each of them dramatically opposite in terms of their perceptions and expectations from the country.

Along the way, there are roadtrips, romances, garlic naans, beer, heartburn, lessons to be learnt, and finally they complete their Masters of America. They say writing a book is the easy part; getting it published is what really turns people into suicidal lunatics. Especially if you’re a first-timer. I too went through my share of frustration and heartburn. I spent some time researching the Internet to understand the process and things to be wary of, and compiled a list of my ‘targets’. With a prayer on my lips I submitted to the first publisher on the list who were kind enough to respond within three weeks. Unfortunately it was a rejection. No reasons given. I was heartbroken and | December 2013 | 46

just couldn’t understand why they would not want to publish such a masterpiece – in my eyes the funniest, most insightful book ever written by mankind. For me the world had stopped to exist and I wanted to burn the manuscript and retire to the Himalayas to escape this meaningless life. A couple of questions that bothered me were – should I find an agent instead of directly going to publishers, and whether it is okay to submit to multiple publishers simultaneously. I had been submitting to one publisher at a time, and that doesn’t seem very efficient if each one was going to take a few months to respond, or rather, to not respond. I did try some agents, but they all either said no or didn’t say anything. Finding an agent

is no easier than finding a publisher. Maybe the next season of Roadies could have contestants search for a publisher for their books. That should make for a nerve-wracking challenge that makes people use all their skills of persuasion, begging,

patience, and how not to kill yourself when faced with a mountain of frustration. Good sense finally prevailed. I sent out my next submission, to another big publishing house. Their submission page said that you should wait for four months to hear back, and if you don’t, just consider it a polite refusal. Polite? Hahaha. The note was ominous and the first refusal had unnerved me, but I went ahead. The next few months life went by in slow motion as I rushed to the phone on every new mail notification, hoping it was from them. It never was. No response. I eventually sent them a nudge through a writer friend of mine, who is an author for them. Lo and behold, I got a response within a week. They liked my submission, and asked me to send the full manuscript. Yippee! I felt like the hero from a Bollywood movie after the girl says yes after months of stalking, err, pursuit. n

Atulya Mahajan is the author of Amreekandesi - Masters of America, a witty look at the adventures of two young Indian students searching for their version of the American Dream. Atulya has previously written humour columns for ToI Crest, runs a popular satire blog at and tweets as @amreekandesi. | December 2013 | 47

Parthajeet Sarma

Author NeverDumb People? Author -- Never SmartSay Phones,

My Path To


Besides a lot of cricket, I found a friend in writing as a child, in the Doordarshan days of the eighties. Today I am settled in a 1 acre development with multistoried apartment blocks in Mumbai with 500 families that do not know each other. I grew up in a 600 acres university campus in Guwahati, with lesser number of families, where everyone knew everyone else. So in the absence of mobile phones, internet and Katrina Kaif, we met and spoke to each other. At other times, it was about reading and writing. There were only three cars in the campus, and an unrecognized car in the campus would be termed a security concern. Nothing much happened besides Chitrahaar and the Sunday movie on Doordarshan. So you dreamed; of faraway lands. I channelized that to writing as I began to write for the school magazine and later even had a regular column in the children section of a newspaper.

My father, who was a professor, was creatively inclined and he would not only write plays but enact them as well. So, when I look back now, the bug had bitten unknowingly, early in life. The break: Then came the big break….from writing! For nearly two decades I hardly wrote anything besides exams and emails. I studied Architecture; and then came work life and the associated trappings of it, as the focus changed to getting ‘settled’ in life. In a ‘hectic’ settled life, one looks for avenues to relax and somewhere down the line I realized that writing works as a relaxant for me. So two years back, I decided to get back to writing, and like other things at work, I approached writing with a mission….a mission to get published again. Juggling time with day job: The idea of a non-fiction came easy to me as by now I had these thoughts in my mind that I had to get out to the world. I mostly wrote before the sun rose; at this hour I could work without getting disturbed and distracted. The challenge was to make the boring easy and fun. I even managed to find some time to attend a crash course on writing, and brush up my skills. This entire process of selecting a topic, deciding on some sort of a story line and then writing and re-writing it went on for a year, as I saw the morning sun’s colour change with the season. Finding a Publisher: I didn’t show | December 2013 | 50

my manuscript to many people; I showed it to my near and dear ones, and they all said it was good. Later I realized that this group is likely to give the most unrealistic opinion on your manuscript, mostly because feedback is based on the premise that they do not want to hurt you. Convinced that I had a good manuscript in my hands, I began to send it out to a few publishers. Then I would wait, like a child waiting for the ice-cream man with his bell. As a child would run out on hearing the ice-cream man’s bell, I would open an email from a publisher with eagerness, looking for the contract copy. Did I get disappointed! Perseverance paid off and finally I had a deal in my hands with Good Times

Books. Rewriting the book: The initial euphoria of a contract in hand disappeared soon as the editors recommended major changes. I rewrote several times and reorganized the chapters. At times it was frustrating, but I managed to pull along. When I look back, I sense it was the passion for writing and the thrill of seeing you name on a book which kept me going. I had good editors and am indebted to them for giving the shape of a book to my essays. I learned a lot about readers’ perspectives at this stage, which lasted for about four months. The last part of this period was spent on the creatives around the covers and some images on the inside pages.

It is all worth it: I spent a lot of time on my book, all at the cost of business opportunities on my day job. Assuming one has a good product, for a first time writer it is rather difficult to make any money, unless one spends time and money on promoting the book. For me it was never about making money. Even though I graduated as an Architect and am in a creative industry, the kind of creative satisfaction I felt from seeing the book on stores is incomparable with any project I have ever done. That sense of bliss makes me feel that it was worth all the trouble. Will I write again? Yes, for sure, again and again. n

Parthajeet Sarma is an Indian entrepreneur and writer. An Architecture graduate, he is the Managing Director in a development management firm. He is also the winner of The Economic Times ‘Power of Ideas’ 2012 for the project ‘Ideal Choice Homes’. | December 2013 | 51




Nabanita Dhar

To say that I love books is an understatement. The euphoric feel of books, a whiff of its pages while engrossed in the yarn it holds, is a feeling beyond compare. Out of the countless books I read in 2013, there were some sagas, new and old, which enthralled me. While I wept through some, a handful made me smile too. While I was intrigued by some, a few gave me Goosebumps as well. From Romance to Horror, Comedy to Thriller; I read them all this year. Indian and foreign authors, my bookshelf has found new companions in all forms. But this article is about our very own Indian authors. It’s heartening to see them daring to write something apart from the mundane college romance. And here are 5 such books which I think are among the very best in 2013. 5. Beaten by Bhagath! By S.V Divvaakar 4. The Missing Connection by Ketaki Patwardhan Nirkhi 3. Jacob Hills by Ismita Tandon Dhankher 2. Sirens Spell Danger by C. Suresh, Radha Sawana and Karthik L 1. The Tower Of Silence by Gyan Prakash What are you waiting for? Read these if you haven’t yet!

“Nabanita in her own words ‘I love to write. It is a passion; a compulsion; something that gives me an avenue to express myself. I write when I am happy; when I am sad or when an issue touches my heart. I find inspiration to write in every aspect of life. | December 2013 | 52




Reshmy Pillai

Unlike the earlier years, year 2013 has been just Indian reads for me. Though the average score of the books released in the year may stand at below average, there were some gems, which fortunately also made it to my reading table. My best 5 reads of the year would be: 1. Roll of Honour by Amandeep Sandhu: A honest, unabridged, impartial account of what a young mind could have gone through at such turbulent times as the Sikh riots of 1984. 2. Vanity Bagh by Anees Salim: It is a journey into the history and histrionics of a Muslim neighbourhood through the eyes of one of its young inhabitants. The book without doubt is one hell of a ride. Anees Salim in his second outing as a novelist gives the reader a near visual peek into a world that is as familiar as it is unique. 3. The Caretaker by A.X. Ahmad: Through the story of captain Ranjit Singh, Ahmad showcases one man, at two places – thousands of miles apart, in two situations – set years apart, yet connected like those thin threads of cheese that refuse to break, stretch as much as you may. 4. Compass Box Killer by Piyush Jha: Every bit a thriller with pace, suspense, a gory past and an uncertain future. Right ingredients. Right mix. Palate as well as hunger appetising. If you know what I mean. 5. The Karachi Deception by Shatrujeet Nath: RAW. ISI. An international Mafia with a death warrant for an international criminal, culminating into an espionage thriller featuring India and Pakistan! This one is a heady mix. Hope in 2014 new genres are uncovered, new angles are twisted and reading gets even more exciting. An Indi-Lit Fan’s wish. Fingers crossed. Reshmy Pillai is a book critic and founder of http:// - a website that focuses exclusively on books with an Indian connection. | December 2013 | 53




Yatin Gupta

2013 began on a fantastic note in terms of reading and it stayed like that till the end. It began with attending Jaipur Literature Festival where I got to know about a lot of authors and their works. It will be extremely tough for me to pick top 5 books from some 150+ books that I have read in this year but here is the list 1.The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri – Shortlisted for Man Booker prize 2013, need I say more? I read this book thrice. A poignant story and I am definitely going to read it again in future. 2.The Other Side of the table by Madhumita Mukherjee - A very different book. A complete page turner and poignant in its own way. The Other Side Of The Table is a must read for every book lover. 3.Bankerupt by Ravi Subramanian – Approx 350 pages, 4-5 cups of coffee, 8 hours and a sleepless night. Bankerupt for me is definitely the best thriller that I had read in 2013. 4.A Cool Dark Place - Supriya Dravid - A fantastic debut. Its a story of a girl whose life is enveloped by darkness. 5.I Kissed A Frog - Rupa Gulab - Chicklit genre and in your face kind of humour. Short stories that will tickling you till you laugh out loud. Listing these 5 books was extremely tough. I would like to mention a few more before I sign off with this. In The Body Of The World by Eve Ensler, I am Life by Sharddha Soni, , Sex & The Citadel by Shereen-el-feki, Best Kept Secret by Jeffrey Archer, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, Far From The Tree by Andrew Solomon are some other books from a long list of books that I loved reading in 2013.

Yatin Gupta had always loved reading but recently he realised how much he is passionate about it. A marketing person by profession, he reads 3-4 books in a week. | December 2013 | 54 | December 2013 | 55

THE CHARACTERS Mehrunissa Khosa - Art Historian, Intelligent, Resourceful, with a troubled past RP Singh - Sr CP, Police, straight but tough, with a deep and silent passion for Mehru Raghav - Quintessential straight tough cop Mystery Guy - Find out who in the novel. Cant say more! Babur Khan - Also a mystery. American Muslim, Ex-US Army, but a terrorist. Methinks we might meet him again... Jag Mishra - RAW boss. And a raw boss, if you can get a dual application of terms | December 2013 | 56

For me, this was the most awaited book of this year. And to cut a long story short, it was worth it. And in more ways than one. A book which, to me, conclusively establishes Mrs Manreet’s credentials in the .fiction world. A book which is a let-down in one way, but a huge, huge positive in another. A let down since you expected another chase through clues and hints - a-la Dan Brown; but a huge positive since you are treated to a book that is completely different in style and approach to the earlier work. A let down since you expected a tense and bitter sweet love story between Mehru and RPS, but a huge positive since you are in its place treated to a story that builds pace slowly and gains momentum, carrying you alongwith itself, with no obvious flaws in the basic plot of the story, save one minor point, which, though not a flaw, seems a bit farfetched. But that I can overlook; as it adds to the overall story, and carries it forward. And, this is fiction! THE PLOT This is the book which establishes the characterisation of Mehrunissa Khosa, started in the first book in much more firm tones. She is more

deeply etched and defined. It is a book about Mehrunissa Khosa start to finish, and no one else. It is about how she gets entangled in a major terror plot, and is practically forced to help in the investigation, with grave risk to her own life and liberty, in a headlong 96-hour race that will determine the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands - as well as the lives of her loved ones. It is a book of an innocent citizen getting caught in the biggest international hot-spot - India/Pakistan, and how she is brutally used to further national interest. It is also about how she finally manages to see both the national interest and her own, and win. THE ANALYSIS The characterisation, is in keeping with the boundaries established in the first book., and has in fact given us a deeper understanding of the central character of the series, who emerges much more clearly defined. All other characters are subjugated in terms of characterisation, which is in keeping with the objective of the series - which is about Mehrunissa Khosa. Of course, the author will need to ensure that RP Singh is also adequately fleshed out later in the series, as the main support character. The book builds up slowly, first establishing the plot and the background. The story starts almost in a

apologetic mode, in a hesitant fashion - but engaging as well, as our heroine gets caught in the elaborate trap. The story matches the expected reaction - slow and hesitant. You cant expect a historian to become a spy at the flick of a switch, unlike so many other novels I have read. The change is slow, hesitant and stumbling. Then, just as a normal person would adjust to the new realities, so too the story as well picks up pace, as Mehrunissa goes about her assigned tasks. The first half of the book lays the plot and the background of the entire scenario with characterisation of the supporting characters. This is not wasted, as it has been well done - not too much detail, not too little; just enough detail to enable you to understand each character and his or her motives. Each characters reasons for behaving as they did has been clearly spelled out, which actually gives a deep understanding of the scenario, enhancing your reading pleasure. Point is that this is not your standard thriller or a headlong race. It is in fact an engaging book, reasonably fast-paced, and enthralling, a book in which you can actually see both sides of the coin, a book which is an engaging story while being a thriller. The scenes literally play out in front of your eyes, so vivid is the description and so rich is the language used - rich, but simple. This is what the combination of deep characterisa | December 2013 | 57

tion and effective narrative has attained, something I have only seen once before- in Jill McGivering’s The Last Kestrel - http://reflectionsvvk. This book is another in this category. And the most powerful point is that the 2 books of Mehrunissa are totally different in

every feature - unlike other series, where the books’ layout is largely similar. This is a mute testimony to the quality of writing. All in all, well worth a read; a truly good book... n

An MBA in Marketing, Vishal is an avid reader and blogger, with a deep passion for Indian Fiction and Non-Fiction, Economics, History, Social Issues and Politics. | December 2013 | 58

Scented Soumya Prasad

“Please take it, Megha. I paid a fortune to Indian customs to get this.” Rehan pleaded. I rolled my eyes over and looked away. The lingerie on the floor along with the empty liquor shots bottle, brought back the memory of the wild night. My head ached from last night’s tequila shots and I could still feel its punishing taste on my tongue. I stepped to the bathroom, got into the hot tub and closed my eyes to relax, but was interrupted by footsteps. “Megha? Are you listening to me?” Rehan stood stark naked, next to the tub, holding a box in his hand. I first got irritated, but the sight made me smile. He was gorgeous, standing tall at six feet two and a slim built. His muscles clenched as he crossed his arms. His hair was all disheveled from last night’s activity. Times with him were magical and I longed for his touch again. “Megha, say something please.” He kneels down. “I can’t take it honey. It’s too much for a gift. You should have given me a CD of my favorite songs instead.” I splashed water on my face. | December 2013 | 60

“It’s a limited edition perfume, Megha. I had to pull a lot of strings to get this for you, you know?” He sulked. “What do I tell my husband? He will kill me if he knows,” I said. “Please. It would mean a lot to me,” He said with a pleading face. His cute puppy face drove me nuts. I leaned forward and kiss him. We were almost ready to rock again, but then I realised it was time. “Okay, I shall take it, happy?” I noticed his face light up as I took the bottle from his hand. “Now, that’s like my girl.” He smiled. I read out loud, the inscription on the bottle, “Michael Kors, Limited Edition. Just one of this kind. Wow! How much did you pay for this?” “You’re worth it! Now take it with you. Hide it if need be. Alright?” “Hmm.. Now get in and let me give you a gift,” I winked and place the bottle on the floor. An hour later, I was driving back home. My husband, Vikram Mathre, was Director of Sales & Marketing in a multinational company. Even though, we just got married 2 years back, he hardly found any time for

me. But he loved me, I knew. He travelled every week and always came back with cart loads of gifts for me. I had accompanied him in his travels initially, but then I got sick and bored of waiting alone in the hotel rooms and watching Television. I loved him yes, but I was missing out on a lot of things when he was away. I did not have anyone to talk to expect for the help at home. I felt lonely. I discussed this with Vikram and he asked me to join him for his travels. That was not something I wanted. He had left to China last week and was coming home today. I wanted to get home before he did. I made it on time and hid the perfume the closet. As I closed the door, the curious cat in me, made me smell the perfume. It had a unusual but intoxicating and sensuous smell of Jasmine. I loved it. Rehan was right, it was all worth it. I quickly, hid the perfume again and got ready to welcome Vikram. I wore Vikram’s favorite black saree and order orchids for the drawing room vase. I asked the cook to make his favorite dishes for lunch and waited for him by the side window. In five minutes, I heard his car honk and saw him as he stepped out of it, as the driver rushed to get his bags. My husband was a dashing man who oozed of power. He made deals in minutes and earned a salary that was more than the profits he made. I had a luxurious life and I loved it. I rushed to greet him. “Darling! I missed you,” Vikram lift-

Short Story ed me in the air as I hugged him. “Me too. I’m so glad you are back,” I said genuinely. “Just wait to see what I got for you this time,” He said with a huge smile. During lunch he told me about the deal he clenched. I didn’t understand but I just nodded along. How I wished he talked about music, movies and books like Rehan did. Rehan always held me to him with his conversation and made me feel nice about myself. With Rehan, I was this enthusiastic college girl. While Vikram, I was, a stinking-rich-boredhousewife. The contrast was clear. “Lunch was delicious. Thanks dear. I’m going to take a nap.” Vikram gave me a peck and left. I asked the maid to clear the dishes and got back to my favorite spot. The side window. Vikram was the good human in every way, but I never felt the connection with him. I was a gracious hostess when he held meetings and parties at home, but I never really understood as to what he does. He did tell me about his conquests, but never once asked if I understood what they meant. He just spoke, without expecting a word from me. He took me to all his fancy events and showed me off to the world. At times I felt that this all was a pretense, but I did not dare ask him about it. He seemed happy with me and I too was happy too, in a way. It was at one of these events | December 2013 | 61

that I had met Rehan. He worked with GNB, the competitor of Vikram’s company. The first time we met, we had argued about the best wine at the event and had spent the rest of the evening talking about movies and John Grisham. Vikram was too busy with his meetings to notice. That’s how it had all started. After a while, I walked into the bedroom and noticed his bags strewn around. I opened one bag and found half a dozen perfume bottles for women. So this was the gift he was talking about. I looked at him sleeping sound on the bed and got an idea. I quickly got the Kors perfume from the closet and add it to the set of perfumes in the bag. Vikram will just think that he had bought them all. That way, there will be nothing to hide from him. I sat on the bed and looked at Vikram. I looked closely and found a few wrinkles on his face. I smiled and thought about all the hard work he did. I was suddenly consumed by guilt as I thought about what I do when he was away. I bent down to kiss him, he opened his eyes. “Missed me that much?” He asked sleepily. I nodded and I snuggle next to him. We made love gently, it was my fourth in the last 24 hours. Post the session, he soon drifted off to sleep. I lay awake and thought, what am I doing with my life? It did not seem right anymore. I had to talk to Rehan and end things. | December 2013 | 62

During tea, Vikram handed me a box with an accomplished look on his face. I opened the box to find a diamond necklace in it. The shine of stones were in perfect contrast with the setting sun. “I saw a lot of things, but I had to get the best for my wife,” he smiled. “Thank you, it’s beautiful.” I say as he fastens its hook around my neck. “You’re more beautiful,” He got up to make me wear it. His phone buzzed. As he spoke, I was busy admiring the art work on the piece of jewellery. “Sorry honey. Emergency meeting, I need to get to office now.” He gulped down his tea and rushed to get dressed. After he left, I decided meet Rehan and end things. While getting dressed, I decide to return the perfume. I wanted nothing from him anymore. I look around for Vikram’s bag but did not find it. Did he carry it with him by mistake? Damn, now I had to wait for tomorrow to return it. Vikram came back by ten pm, in a foul mood. I did not see the bag with him. I was worried. He had told me that he wanted to be alone. I went down to check the car but I did not find the bag there either. Has Vikram got the hint about my fling? But how could he? As there were always number of perfumes in the bag and I knew that it was his assistant, who shopped for him. So he wouldn’t be aware of what she had picked. In fear, I spent the night on the couch.

When I woke up in the morning, there was silence. I walked up to the bedroom but did not find Vikram there. I called him, but he does not answer his phone. “Maithri..” I called out to the maid and she came rushing. “Where is Vikram?” I asked rudely. “Sir left early to office, madam,” She repied. I hit the panic button. I quickly took a bath, got dressed, grabbed the car keys and rushed to Vikram’s office. I needed to explain it to him before he does something drastic. I decided to accept to apologize. He loved me and I knew for sure that he would not leave me. I reached the office soon and entered his cabin. His receptionist recognised me and called him on intercom. “Hello madam. Vikram sir is in a meeting with the VP. He asked you

to wait,” She says politely. With a thumping heart I waited outside. A pile of magazines lie next to me, but I was not in a mood to pick one up. After what it seemed like eternity, even though it was just 5 minutes, I saw the door to his cabin open, and Vikram walked out with the VP. Naina, the one of the most powerful business woman, single, dynamic and a VP. Vikram had a puzzled look on his face. Naina instantly recognised me and said, “Megha, what a surprise!” Naina hugged me and I got the smell of her perfume. I said, “the perfume ...”, before I could finish Naina cut me off. “It’s the limited edition by Michael Kors. Apparently they made only one of this kind,” she came close to my ears and whispered, “And my secret lover gifted me”. n

In her own words, Soumya says, Am an engineer by profession and work as telecom test specialist with IBM, Bangalore. I’m very passionate about writing and have been blogging for about five years now with fiction and poetry being my successful areas of interest. I believe that love rules the world and that very emotion can trigger beautiful words and weave stories. | December 2013 | 63

Hello Kolkata, once again! Shaily Bhargava

The subtle early morning breeze of November, a slightly serene, foggy and chilly in its zest loops me in the fancy of ongoing winter season. My lone taxi heads to the Delhi Airport at five thirty in the morning on the unadorned silent streets illuminated with neon bulbs as I continue to glance at the closed shops and sleeping rickshaw pullers. By the time, the taxi enters the airport; the soft sun rays have started to subsume the darkness, lighting up the world around. I pull the suitcase lousily making my way for the check-in counter to catch the flight for Kolkata. There is a sudden zephyr of bittersweet memories zipping me in a strange nostalgia as I am about to enter Kolkata after some two decades. I sit in the boarding lounge, lost in the ocean of emotions with the thoughts tangling around the contour of my last visit, when a lady in her mid sixties politely titters in her Bengali English accent “Is somebody sitting here?” I pick up my handbag and signal her to sit down.

“Good morning” she says bringing me back from the past. Before I can respond, she eagerly talks “I am going to my city after six months. Just miss my town- Kolkata.” I smile maintaining the intense poignant face of mine, though her jabbering bothers me. I have my own inhibitions and apprehensions about her city. Five minutes breeze away and she endlessly praises and prattles about Kolkata. When her talking doesn’t stop, I whoosh lifting my eyes to snarl at her “I don’t like your city, I am freaky lost and tensed as I go there again.” Silence... After few minutes, she softly places her hand over mine and I feel bad for my words and action. She has a calm face with wide profound lines on her forehead sketching her experience of life and events more than mine. She offers me coffee and I murmur in my mind that she will not leave me to have some lone time that was much needed before I catch the flight. “I have a story attached with your

city, not a happy one” I mumble gently taking my hand back from hers flinching in my jacket pocket. She does not insist to hear but now I feel the need to share. I take a sip of coffee and start“I was 6 or 7 years old then, a spontaneous cheerful girl who did not know much about the city’s delicacies or famous Victoria Memorial but just that her aunt lived in Kolkata. It was the first time when I learnt that I had a heart problem for which I was brought to the city’s finest Heart Institute for treatment. Staying in the hospital for two long months was more painful than the needles and drips. I faintly remember the scene of the room I had lived in; pretty neat and comfortable. There was another girl like me in that room. We became friends by waving at each other, smiling candidly and sharing the coconut juice that was mandatory for every patient. I heard the nurses talk that I would go before her. However, after a week, the girl wheeled out with her parents while I continued lying on the bed fixing my eyes on the glass window. The window was all I had for two months that literally showed me Kolkata- it’s people, traffic, little trees and a line of flower bed along the concrete wall separating the hospital from the main road. That window secretly facilitated meetings between me and my brother in no-visiting hours. I remember never having pulled the curtains down on that window. Ev-

Short Story eryday brought a different crop of experienced and renowned doctors to talk closely in groups analyzing me and my charts that were tucked next to my bed and then even pass a pity smile (at least, I took it as a pitiful smile). I slowly became cranky, stubborn and silent. Well, I wanted to go, go back from where I came. Of course, I had my parents to caress me all through my tough time. After all this, in the name of treatment, I went through a lot and that too in vain. I reached a stage, where the negligence of a nurse caused fibrosis after wrong injection which resulted in numbness loosing sensation in my left leg. When I entered the hospital I was self capable, smiling hand in hand with my parents but walked out in crutches. Doctors had nothing good to tell but just a sorry and an assurance that the leg problem will go away with time. I was drained of my cute smiles, laughter riots, courage and spontaneity for anything and everything. Nonetheless, to be honest, I pledged never to visit again innocently telling my parents- I have had enough of Kolkata.” “Hmm, so what makes you travel back?” asks the lady folding her boarding pass inside her handbag. Her question is so obvious, something I too wondered all the way from my home to airport in that taxi. However, I know the answer and it is

delightful but still I am locked in the time lapse of that one visit. I gasp, retiring in few cold breaths and finish the coffee in one go. “Destiny made some other plans and bumped my brother to his lady love- a beautiful, soft hearted bong from Kolkata. Two days later, they are getting married in Kolkata.” The lady affectionately smiles, adjusting her thick black frame spectacle that have slightly slipped down on her nose. I tear a packet of bourbon biscuits and offer her. She gladly picks up one. “I love this biscuit and specially the sprinkled sugar” I whisper sheepishly and then pull out a biscuit that has no sugar. She notices the change in my facial expression. “It happens sometimes, the packet you so cheerfully tore has this biscuit with no sugar. Now what will you do? Throw the packet and buy a new one or will you go ahead hoping this was a miss but the next biscuit may have sugar on it. Your thoughts are so vivid, perplexed and tangled around your last experience of the hospital’s three feet by four feet glass window that remote-

ly showcased Kolkata to your seven year old mind. Today, you are young and intelligent. I believe you should not get stuck in the corridors of old times and keep your mind open for new images and memories,” the lady charmingly smirks punching her smart yet modest piece of advice after spending some twenty five minutes on that airport chair with me. In the flight, I reopen the packet to check the biscuits and to my surprise, she is right. Leaving that one biscuit, the rest of the pack has finely sprinkled sugar crystals over biscuits sandwiching chocolate cream inside. My father often brings up a popular quote - “what’s gone is gone and what’s done is done’ and today I can relate and agree with him. The plane touches down on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport and a small tender smile stretches on my face. The slate of my heart is blank now as I vouch confidently allowing the contemporary Kolkata to greet me one more time, erasing the bitterness, rolling me crisply in the sweetness, cheering a big hello to Kolkata once again! n

Shaily, in her own words,’An ardent reader, aspiring author and photographer by passion and a Technical Equity Analyst by profession. I often feel lost in the waves of thoughts and sneak out for a walk in my cocooned dreamland to pen down my curled up emotions to create myriad shades of human nature in a work of fiction.’ | December 2013 | 66

The Grey Curtain Sneha Sundaram The dull, grey, Frayed edge of the curtain Creeps downward. With every passing wind And sometimes on its own, It tries to inch, A nanometer at a time, To the ground. Swaying softly, Crying coarse tears of nihilism, In every swing it takes. The curtain knows it must rest And that’s where the ground is, But it swings back and forth still; Knowing it cannot fight The light it blocked once. At its pith, No longer the handsome, Silver tinged adornment Of that once happy home. No, it’s now a torn, Ragged, ashen shadow Of its glorious past. Grey of the old man, Who once bought it, Reflected in its visage. | December 2013 | 68

So it swings slowly in the wind, Inching toward the ground; Where it knows it must rest, So it can someday, Resurrect. The house is run down too; No one lives here now. The laughter long gone. The children escaped the war, Thank God. But the curtain was left behind; Trying to shield What was later plundered. And it frayed with age; The sparse, shallow Grey of the old man, Who once bought it, Reflected in its visage. So it swings slowly in the wind, Inching toward the ground; Where it knows it must rest, So it can someday, Resurrect.

Sneha is a dancer, traveller, entrepreneur, poet and author in waiting. She recently left corporate life in Texas to pursue her passion for writing. Sneha is currently in Bombay, working on a non-fiction book project that she hopes to publish sometime next year. | December 2013 | 69

Safe at Home Anuradha Malhotra

Men gloating at Her slender shape, Eyes leering with lust. She a bite, they only Ravenous ruffians; making her dismayed of Her fate. The street she crosses everyday Is a slithering snake that Swallows its victims and renders them Dead. But unlike the creature, The road is more brutal, more Dire, more barbaric, For the reptile Doesn’t plunder pride. Doesn’t extort out Intestines, while the game is still mobile. The lane is all raked with Uncouth, swinish men, Pining for a sadistic act. They lie in wait for her to walk the way And they thrill from Doing obscene overtures. She eats her heart out., More perils are lying in her

Wait. Bus she is in, Is packed like sardines. Brains reeked with Putrid thoughts, dying to Rub from behind or Fondle her front. A hand brushes against Her waist. Her verbal resists go Null and she sighs. Getting down even worse, for Before her feet feel land, Her bust is crushed. She weeps over pillow, awake through Night. Stepping out is a boo-boo that she does daily. Sneaking from holes are the werewolves Bent on boring dicks and bobbing for panted, hurtful sighs. She has a mission: To stay Unscathed, day after day. Wonders she, If it is better to stay inside!

Anuradha reviews classics, romantic comedies, mystery and thriller, in short books of all genres. She latches on to books which has tinge of romance. | December 2013 | 70

When moon cry Sweta Kesari

I was unknown, I was unaware. Unaware of the world’s ruthless glare. Life was radiant with brilliance of morn. In evening’s lap life radiantly shone. Every night was followed by morn a new, Blessing me with zeal and hope a new. But now everything has lost their charm, No longer around me enthusiasm swarm. Morn now has denied to follow my night, My every moments are deprived of their bright. I am now scared by slightest of stir, By arrival of all , by departure of all. Should I cry, bow or stand and fight, Protest openly or surrender silently to plight. Is there anyone to feel my grief, Heal my wounds and console me

to sleep. O’ Lord Why do you ignorant feign? Why didn’t you saved me from terror’s rain? Prayed You, believed in You for every joy, Why did You let them trample me as lifeless toy? Why didn’t You remembered this daughter of thine? How are You tolerating me plunged into horror’s mine? Was I born to witness this horrific day? Or Your mind was debased for this clay. Why You did this injustice to me? Brought death near but now death denies me. Unable to die , unable to flower. I am unable to cry even in closed bower.

Shweta kesari is a 2nd year engineering student.She is an avid reader and loves to spend time with books.She found immense pleasure in writing after reading so many books.For her,the best way to share her feelings and emotions is to pen down whatever strikes her heart.She has keen interest in music and stories. | December 2013 | 71

Jealous?? Yes I am. Jyotsna Bhatia Jealous?? Yes I am. Not just because ‘She’ shares you with me But various other facets of you that once belonged only to me Jealous?? Yes, I am. Coz she can see you all through the day When you walk-in looking bright in the morning Till you leave tired right at the end of the day Jealous?? Yes, I am. Coz she sees you flustered in humid May Wet in the July rain And warm within your jackets in cold December days Jealous?? Yes, I am. Coz she can come over for friendly chat Or talk to you about her problems with this and that Jealous?? Yes, I am. Coz she sees you working animatedly on your screen Observing sweat beads on your forehead while you seem lost in thoughts so deep Jealous?? Yes, I am. Coz she can see you when worry takes over And lend her shoulder for you to lean over Jealous?? Yes, I am. Coz she smells ‘your’ smell The heady mixture that in my mind still dwells Jealous?? Yes, I am. Coz she can see the smile on your face And hear the peals of your laughter as the joy in your heart emanates | December 2013 | 72

Jealous?? Yes, I am. Coz she can listen to your anecdotes every now and then And shares your time again and again Jealous?? Yes, I am. For millions of things you wouldn’t have thought For those umpteen silly reasons for which we have fought You think jealousy is the darker shade of me But that’s what for me ‘belongingness’ means Worry, when I stop being jealous Coz that’s the day when nothing’s gonna matter anymore to me..

Jyotsna, in her own words, Sarkari babu by profession. Writer by passion. Married to numbers but madly in love with words. Avid Reader. Perpetual dreamer. Perennial optimist. Feelings within me evoke verses and I paint them in the form of poems on my blog. Learning to take baby steps to write fiction. I harbor the dream of being a published author someday. | December 2013 | 73

I love to write poems Shalini Kanaka I love to write poems Which relaxes my mind from worries The feeling of love on my friends Made me to write poems Poems make me lose my track, Into the world of feeling And I start following the words I write as my foot steps Every word of poem, Appears to me as shining stars in my world. Every line of my poem, Appears to me as comets in my world. Every stanza of my poem, Appears to me as meteorites in my world. Every poem of my poems, Makes me imagine as if I am in the world of poems. All there appearances make me fulfill my dream As my dream is to become an ‘ASTRONAUT’ !!! Shalini is a 21 year old Bangalorean. Loves writing poetry, and she wants to become an author. | December 2013 | 74

Sandeep Bhemishetty Engineerin Student, Hyderabad

Novoneel Chakraborthy

Asim Chowdhury IT Professional, Edinburgh

Chita Bahniman by Falguni When I crave for mental exaltation i read His book because the way he depicts or portray any event I feel his writing is the only resort for me. Writer Falguni is the person in my opinion is rare few who can captivate the attention of his reader in such a way that no one can not leave his book in half way.My all time best book by Falguni is Chita Banhimann | December 2013 | 76

Novoneel Chakraborthy is my favorite Indian author. No other writer has influenced me so much than him. His book ‘That kiss in the rain’ possessed me forever and always has a place in my book shelf. The very beginning of the book says that ’Love is the weather of life’ which I felt so true. The way the writer narrated the story through three characters is defying. And he depicted the story in such a way that one does not stop reading the book till the end and he takes the readers by surprise at the end. I also love reading Chetan Bhagat, for he mostly represents an average middle class through his stories. And it is his stories that inspired many youngsters to take up writing as a career. n

Reema Sahay Blogger & Freelance Writer, Pune

Indu Sundaresan: Indu Sundaresan is the name that pops into my mind when I think of the most impressive author in Indian fiction. Her ‘the Twentieth Wife’ and ‘the Feast of Roses’ [which are part of her Taj trilogy, set in Mughal era] opened a new world of historical fiction for me. I was never fond of history but her writing drew me into the fascinating world of Mughal period. Her writing creates a vivid picture of the time she writes about – the people in general, and women in particular, their lifestyle, their culture, their world – and it is easy to visualize the world that she creates through her words. I keep recommending her books to everyone. n

December 2013 issue  

Yashodhara Lal Sharma, Manreet Sodhi Someshwar, Vasudev Murthy, Vikrant Shukla, Atulya Mahajan, Parthajeet Sarma, Riitik Babbar, Varun Soni,...

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