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In the novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde wrote “The difference between journalism and literature is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read” It’s more than a century ago Oscar Wilde wrote this, but unfortunately this is still true for the fate of literature, still literature is read seldom. It takes decades to recognize an author before we really read and understand the creation of an author. Even after so much of the publicity, it takes several years to know and recognize an author’s “tour de force”. At Storizen, we try close this gap, we try to bring the literature to its deserving glory, try to bring literature to its destination, readers. It’s an art which also needs teaching, mentoring and patronage like all other art form to take the best out of the all. There are literary agents who perhaps dose this from behind the scene for many successful literary oeuvres today. We are thankful to Kaniska and Anees for giving us a chance to bring them to our readers. Literary Agent, Kaniska Gupta is behind many successful authors today, including Hindu Literary Prize winner author Anees Salim. This Agent-Author cover story Editor validates the Krishna-Arjuna story, written ages ago. Victor Basu Another revolutionary article in the issue is Ravi Subramanium’s article on feasibility of writing as a career in India. Ravi Sub Editors Mukesh Rijhwani shared his views in an in-depth analytical write up and the Sudipa Chakraborty economical spectrum of the Indian publishing industry. Two veterans of Indian publishing industry, Jaya Bhattacharji Sumantra Chaudhury Rose and Shweta Taneja, share their wisdom to enlighten Copy Editors the wannabes. Atul Randev In tête-à-tête with author section, featured Sreemoyee Saurabh Chawla Kundu, a very talented author of an Erotic literature novel Sita’s curse. The bestselling author of Losing My Virginity Photo Editor and other dumb Ideas, Madhuri Banerjee, shares her suc- Neloy Bandyopadhyay cess story in a candid interview. The other colors that makes up this issue is an article on Designer 2nd Delhi Lit Festival, a short story by Ismita Tandon and Amit Mitra regular features like book reviews, star reader, etc., Enjoy this issue and don’t forget to write back.
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2nd Delhi Literature Festival 2014 Atul Randev As a second wave of cold swept over New Delhi, something very special happened. The Second edition of Delhi Literature festival was held from 7th to 9th Feb at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts. The annual extravaganza saw luminaries from the world of words exchange ideas and the discussions ranged from the evolution of literary criticism, to the digital revolution in literature, amongst others. Writers Ira Trivedi, Rosalyn Dâ€™Mello, Sreemoyee Piu Kundu and Girija Kumar got together to talk about Erotica in Literature, while Kishalay Bhattacharya, Abhijit Sengupta, Lipika Bhushan and Veena Batra discussed about the changing facets of publishing in India. Samit Basu and Abhimanyu Sisodia talked about the increasing impact of Graphic novels, and writers of romance Neeta Iyer, Nikita Singh, Sib Bahri and Rajeev Soni shared their two pence on Love and relationships. Other prominent panelists included Ravi Chhabra, Pakistani Social Activist and writer Raza Naeem, Brazilian novelist Bernardo Carvalho, Kusum Ansal, Mohan Maharishi,
Mariam Karim Ahlawat, Jaidev Taneja, Diwan Singh Bajeli, K. Satchidanandan, Dr Bina Biswas, Ashok Chakradhar, Rana Safvi, Darpan Majumdar, Mamta Kiran, Dr Sonya Gupta, Prajna Desai, Rakhshanda Jalil, Kulpreet Yadav, Shalini Gupta and Prof Harish Narang. Barkha Dutt’s interview with Arvind Kejriwal in front of a packed house was the last event of day three. While the original agenda had been to talk about Kejriwal’s book Swaraj: Power to the people, the discussion soon boiled over into a full-fledged political debate between the two compelling orators. The crowd couldn’t have enough at the end as Barkha deftly closed the exchange and the festival with it.
Not a single media interview passes, without me being asked if I am planning to take up writing as a full time career. This morning I was asked the same question again. And my answer, as always, was an emphatic “NEVER. Till the time I can manage both, and till the time my organisation continues to support my dual career, I will not get into a position where I will have to choose one over the other.” The interviewer would not stop at that. “There have been authors who have quit their lucrative jobs and taken up writing, full time. Why not you?” In seven years (as an author), I have perfected the response to this. “Well, they might have an extremestorizen.com | February 2014 | 10
ly strong/personal rationale for that. For me writing is fun. The day I quit my job and take up writing full time, writing will become just anotherjob. A commercial necessity. That might just stifle the passion for writing that I have today. I just don’t want to kill the fun element in it. I am happy the way it is for me now – no dependence on writing for my living. That I make money out of it, is a big plus…. But only that… a big plus.” And this answer comes straight from my heart. Always. For I believe in every word of it. This brings me to a related question. That of affordability. Can Indian authors afford to pursue writing as a full time career?
A misconception that exists in the eyes of the general reading population is that authors make truckloads of money. Few days back I was at one of the IIM’s talking about books. I asked the students there what they thought about how much money authors made for every book they wrote. I got very diverse answers. One said 5 Lakhs. Another hand went up – 30% of MRP. Someone from the far corner of the room – 10 Lakhs. The session was a revelation to me. Made me realize how little people know about the trade. A profession which is seen as intellectually glamorous is often the most misunderstood when it comes to the commerce involved. To understand how much normal authors make, it is very important to understand the sources of income for any author. By and large, an author has the following seven heads of revenue: 1) Royalty & Advance 2) Translation rights 3) Overseas rights 4) Film rights 5) Merchandising opportunities 6) Speaking assignments 7) Newspaper columns Royalty and Advance : If one is not among the top 10 authors in the country, one has to count himself lucky if he gets a royalty percentage, which is in double digits. Debut authors get between 5-7.5% of MRP for a paper back.
This goes up depending on who the publisher is and how successful the authors previous books have been, not to mention his ability to negotiate deals with publishers. Debut authors, often are so happy that some publisher agreed to publish them, that they accept any royalty that the publisher throws at them. I know of an extremely successful author who has written six books and is still at 7.5% royalty (but the 7.5% was because that author was good at heart and didn’t negotiate). At 7.5%, an author gets Rs15 for every book sold (at an MRP of Rs 200). For a Rs 100 book, the Royalty is Rs 7.5 a book. Royalties above 12.5% are very rare, a few successful ones even manage to get upto 20% as Royalty. But those are the ones who sell upwards of 75000 copies per book. Very small community indeed. Royalty percentage for bulk of the authors is in the 7.5% – 10% band. Do the math. Hundreds of books come out every year. While the few successful ones go on to sell over a hundred thousand, the number of books which cross 20000 unit sales can be counted on ones fingertips. Books by Indian authors are considered very successful even if they cross the 20000 mark. And almost all these books are in the Rs 100300 price point. For a minute assume that there is an author, who becomes successful and his book manages to break storizen.com | February 2014 | 11
the 20000 sales barrier. Here’s the royalty that he will make at various price points. Royalty Grid at different MRP and different Royalty percentages Novice : 5% Royalty Average : 7.5% Pushy : 10% Lucky : 12.5%
it hits the author. If everything works out well for the author, the publisher does his job, the distribution kicks in and the book stores support him, and he
MRP :Rs 100 100000
MRP :Rs 140 140000
MRP :Rs 200 200000
MRP:Rs 250 250000
210000 (most likely band) 280000 350000
Important to point out a few things: ■ A book takes about a year to write and bring out. An author might have the ability to write it quickly, but a good publisher has a calendar. He would normally take 5-6 months from the time one submits his manuscript to bring out the book. So the amount in the table above is likely to be the royalty any author would make in a year. ■ All the royalties mentioned above are assuming that regular discounts are given to retailers. If there is a special promotion run wherein the publisher offers higher than normal discounts, a big chunk of the royalty also goes out. Lower royalty at high discount sales is built into the contract. ■ Most publishers pay royalties twice a year, post TDS (10%). Even if one get the highest royalty percentage, and prices the book high, the 625K might be down to 550K by the time storizen.com | February 2014 | 12
does succeed, one is staring at a number of Rs 6.25 lakhs for a book or in other words, 6.25 Lakh a year. If the MRP drops, the royalty correspondingly comes down. Wow, 6 lakhs for a book. Before you start celebrating, hold on. Over 1500 fiction books get published in India every year. I cant think of more than five books from newcomers and reasonably new authors which sold more than 20000 copies last year in India. So now drop the expected sales numbers for an author to 10000 units…. see what happens to the royalty. Your best case royalty goes down from 6.25 lakhs to roughly 3 lakhs. (for a Rs 100 MRP book, it is down to Rs 1.25 Lakhs). And mind you, 10000 copies is not a bad number either. Now tell me, will you celebrate? You can figure out for yourself what the odds are for a new author to make a reasonable amount as royalty. Well, that was the revenue side.
Lets look at the expenses one needs to incur as an author. The assumption here is that you are not an established author, but someone trying to become one. Once you are established, the expense dynamics are completely different as the publisher will invest money in you. No publisher invests marketing money on a new, unproven author. Once the book starts selling, most of them will come to the party. To be fair to the publisher, the money they make on new authors does not justify any kind of marketing spend. One might argue that it’s the classic case of a chicken and egg. Without marketing, books won’t sell and if books don’t sell, how will the publisher justify marketing spend. While this can be argued from both sides, as of now, the dice is loaded in the favour of the publisher. So if a new author wants to promote his books he has to spend from his pocket. The expense list is a long one. It will extend to the extent an author is willing to stretch his pocket. Lets see what are the key spends that one has to incur 1. Book launches and events : 20K (while you will not even realize this, if you add up everything that goes into this, the spend will exceed 20K) 2. Social media : If you hire professional help, which I suggest all budding authors should do, you will be down by about 20-25K per month, at the least.
3. Merchandising : Renting displays and window space at bookshops can set you back by over 50K for a few shops. An author I know rented space at a leading store for 300K and is reaping the benefits. 4. Travel : in case you travel to multiple cities to launch your book, it will cost significant amount of money. Publishers / Book stores pay for established authors, but not for new/unproven authors. 5. PR and Media : Depending on whom you hire for doing your PR, it can set you back by anything ranging from 40K – 100K a month. If the publisher does it, an author must count himself lucky. Its simple math isn’t it. Any author earns (best case) around 6.25 Lakhs, and spends almost all of that in making the book a success. Should one spend, one may ask. I would recommend it, and most authors do it too. It helps if the author ploughs back all the money he makes in the first few books, into promoting them.(you do that when you start a business – you plough back the first few years earnings back into the business… then why not when you embark on your writing career). If the book clicks, one will recover all that investment back with his subsequent books. IF the book doesn’t click, well at least an author would have had some fun promoting it. If you scroll up, I had added a few other heads under revenue. None of them count for much if the book is storizen.com | February 2014 | 13
not a mega book. Second in that list was money from Translation rights. Translation into regional language nets an author Rs 10-15K per language. And thatâ€™s all the money an author will see. If any book sells 10000 copies in English, its unlikely that an author will even get this much. As far as film rights are concerned, while it sounds glamorous and sexy to talk about, apart from Chetan Bhagat, Ruskin Bond how many popular books by Indian authors have been made into films? Big numbers get thrown around for film rights, by uninformed media. Most storizen.com | February 2014 | 14
of it is false.Unless the film gets into production, no author sees any money worth talking about.Optioning of film rights can happen, wherein you offer film rights to studios for a fixed period of time, and the rights revert back to the author in case the film does not go on floor in the agreed time. Almost all the Indian books which had been optioned in the last two years have now reverted to the authors. No money here too. Writing columns is a time consuming job. Newspapers in India normally think they are doing authors a favour by allowing them to pen columns. So if one is not an author
in the top 10 list of Indian authors, he can kiss that revenue goodbye too. One benefit of newspaper columns though is that it helps in building the brand of an author and hence might lead to increased sales. In the final analysis, contrary to what you may like to believe, Royalty and Advances still remain the biggest contributor to an authors revenue. Sadly in most cases, this amount is ridiculously low. So does that mean one must not become an author, if one is starting off now. Well, that is definitely not what I mean. By all means write. Give vent to your creative thoughts. Let your imagination take wings…But don’t do that for money.You will surely be disappointed if you do it for money. 95% of Indian authors can’t live off “only writing income”. Moreover there are easier and better ways to make the same amount of money that any author would make off his writing.
Given this, tell me. Would I ever advise any author to quit his job and take on writing… full time? I would only say that if one has that urge to quit his job and is desperately waiting for the day one would throw his resignation on his boss’s table and walk out, my advice to that author would be ..WAIT. You need your job to pay your bills. First start writing. Get a couple of bestsellers under your belt. Become a reasonably successful author. And only then think of any such misadventure. Till such time, get up in the morning, go to work, come back home, have dinner and get to your laptop. Type your story furiously till the key board cracks or your manuscript gets ready. And then take it to your publisher and respectfully hand it over to him. If you can negotiate hard for a couple of percentage points. do that. For that’s the best you can do in any case. n
Ravi Subramanian is India’s numero uno thriller writer, having written six bestselling books. An alumnus of IIMB, he is currently head of a leading financial institution. With two decade of work experience in Multi National banks, writing about banking comes quite naturally to Ravi. Each one of his books thus far has been set in the backdrop of a foreign bank.
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‘So you write on sex?’ Sreemoyee Piu Kundu
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‘So you write on sex?’ was the first question. ‘Wow! Porn types… or, umm, more respectable… as in chick lit… or… umm… romantic sex as in, Mills and Boons…’ The second one hurt more. Frankly. Scaring me somewhere. For what we have become… as readers, as people, as consumers… as connoisseurs…. as journalists… as junta… the way we view sex, sexuality, sexual intimacy, sexual politics and most importantly, a woman’s right to sexual expression and freedom. Especially since this wasn’t the first time I was posed with a question that I frankly had no answer to. Not that I didn’t try. Knowing fully well when I embarked on writing, Sita’s Curse, that after my debut novel released last February, Faraway Music that was pegged as soulful and sensuous, by critics and readers alike, a full blown erotica about a 30 plus married, middle class housewife in Mumbai, belonging to the Gujarati clan will not be without questions – and doubts… and the innate chauvinism that breathes in our heads. I was up for the challenge, considering the idea of Sita’s Curse originated as a deeply personal memoir – to a woman I saw daily while passing by, standing sullenly in a suffocating chawl balcony in the grimy bylanes of Byculla … a woman with the saddest limp brown eyes, the fullest breasts outlined in a damp, crumpled cotton blouse, a serpentine waist that made one stare, a thin silver waist band slithering across it, a cheap nylon sari tucked below her navel… In my head I called her Meera. The Meera of my imagination – the one who was trapped lifeless in a burgeoning city that choked her dreams somewhere, feeding a parrot kept in a dull wrought iron cage, or talking in hushed tones on a cell phone, her ruby lips slightly parted. Sometimes, when our glances intersected… I wondered if she was happy,
if her husband loved her the way she wanted him to, whether her physical beauty and sex appeal was ever understood and worshipped. Meera remained a mystery to me. Till the floods of July 26th, 2005, Mumbai’s worst human tragedy… a day like no other when the waters rose, drowning a lot. Even Meera. I was to never see her again… the clothesline ominously empty, the iron grids in the tiny window she clamped strangely null… the wind storizen.com | February 2014 | 18
still as if mourning the death of a lover. I never forgot Meera, in all the years I lived and worked in Mumbai, and moved cities, until I became a fulltime writer, perhaps considering myself only a medium in the retelling of a tale of a woman’s fearless search to find the fullest expression of her sexual destiny – the answer to a personal question that has haunted me as a writer… as a woman… can our desires ever be drowned? In the end? It’s this thought really that had me delve deep into our erotic roots – to search behind closed doors, to catch the whispers…the veiled suppression… in a nation that shamelessly sells itself as the land of Kamasutra and Khajurao… that whistles lewdly at a heroine’s heaving chest, does the Lungi dance with elan, that grew up on mythological texts like the Mahabharata, laced with nuances of sexual gratification between the doe-eyed queens of sterile kings and bearded, fierce Godmen… a country of prayer and piety, that worships female deities like Kali
and Durga… observing staunch fast during festivals like, Navratras, and Shivaratri… and yet, in a lone corner of its minds, we know, sex is a bloodied battle. One where you must chose which side you are on. The side that is not allowed to enter a temple when she’s in the midst of her monthly cycle, the side that is raped in the privacy of a cloistered bedroom or in a moving bus on a weekday evening, the side that must never speak its mind, in bed… that must procreate to experience divine love… that is bound by its own body… Or the side that sits w a t c h i n g , forcing you to conform. Telling you daily… teaching you that pleasure and sex are two different entities, so much so that you now associate sex as a dirty, forbidden and forlorn territory… a power game where the results have been declared, centuries before… by mighty Gods and kings wearing Crowns… by holy priests and agitated party workers… where a woman and a man share separate rights, in an act that was al-
ways meant to bridge the gaps… the ultimate surrender… more than bodies… deeper than tongues… smoother than skin… closer to our souls. Erotic writing in India is not new, and yet today we stand at a strange threshold, confusing erotica with chick-lit often, looking as most publishers are, for a desi version of the hugely popular international best-seller, 50 Shades of Grey, something that sells… becomes storizen.com | February 2014 | 19
a commercial hit… changing nothing. Not wanting to either. It’s probably also why, Kalidasa’s Shankuntalam remains a dust laden classic, as does Kamala Das’s scorching rhetoric…trail blazers who soaked in the physicality of sex between man and woman… in the dance of debauchery and desire… the kinds that Jaydeva’s Geeta Govinda eulogized… transforming love-making into a means to reach the highest bliss or Ananda… a nothingness… a numbness…a beautiful justice. Invoking the deliciousness of the classical Rasas, the Geeta Govinda perhaps stands as the most perfect literary expres-
sion of ecstatic love between Radha and Krishna… The same way Meera probably wanted to…wanting to fly… wanting to be naked… to salvage her soul. To be seen. The same way I want to. ‘What if there was really another world… beyond this one? Beyond all this? What if it’d been true? This bed – this body – this rain – this road – this longing – this light – this speed – this stench – this desire – this debauchery – this morning – last night – the afternoon before – the months in between – the year to which it all belonged… before….’ n
Sreemoyee Piu Kundu has made her literary debut with Faraway Music, published by Hachette. Sreemoyee has been featured in the Marie Claire as part of the magazine’s India Exciting anniversary series, alongside writers Debanjana Pal, Jerry Pinto, director Shoojit Sircar and achievers from other professions, such as advertising and music. storizen.com | February 2014 | 20
was a joke and I didn’t really take it seriously but jokes always have hidden truths. Right? So how many of you have seen a book, read book’s back cover, seen the author’s surname and made humongous assumptions about him/her? I bet a lot. No wonder actors change their names, how their names are spelled and their affili a -
started writing without any knowledge on how to write, how to edit, what and where to edit, how to send a proposal, where to send a proposal, who to connect to, who to approach for getting published, or how to market my books. I have learnt everything all thanks to countless blogs of helpful writers, and advice from writers, authors, editors, publishers that I have been lucky to have found. Of the advice I have received, some has been well meaning, some funny to downright hilarious, insightful, offensive or kind. Here is some of it: Change your surname: Yes. I got that. A publisher over a cup of coffee told me to change my name and surname and make myself sound Bengali or Anglo-Indian if I wanted to get published in India. Fine, it storizen.com | February 2014 | 22
t i o n s in Bollywood. And the fact that astrologers are doing so great. Write more to make money: When I asked a helpful author over email on how he was making money (yes, I can be quite upfront about these things on emails), he told me he wasn’t till the first five books of his got published. But slowly, as little money trickled from each of the book (and believe me, most of it will be littlebee trickles), he’s started to make some moolah. But not enough for designer clothes or big cars. Just enough for survival, a jhola, a glass of wine and not being dependent on anyone. So there. Accept this fact (no Bollywood doesn’t enter the picture) and move on. Continue to
write and write: Advice through a short sweet tweet when I asked KP Singh (Raisina Series) what he did to market his own book after it was published. I personally discovered him not through any reviews / media interviews / friends advice / literary fests, but at a bookstore. I picked up his book because I liked what I read on the back cover. Not because I had heard of h i m , thought he was cool, liked his name or his face (sorry, Singh!) If that’s how books get picked up, maybe you need to rethink on that marketing, fellow authors. Give back some advice: When I thanked, Zac O’Yeah, a well-renowned author for his kind email and advice on writing and publishing which I desperately needed, he gave me another to follow. He told me to continue the circle, to be supportive to authors or writers who approach me, tell them how they can get published, guide people, guide people to fulfill their creative ambitions. And this is one advice I intend to follow. I am not saying that I know a lot about the industry, but whatever I do, I would love to tell you all. I would love to connect you, tell you how to connect with publishers, what to write in proposals (though sorry, I can’t tell you on what to write about). Because we are in the same boat, you and I. Both of us want to bring alive a part of our dreams.
Readers can t e l l you when something’s wrong, but not what: This came from a blog of one of my ever fave writers, Neil Gaiman. Primary readers (and it’s essential that you get your book read by some) can tell you there’s something wrong in your book, but when you ask them what it is, most probably they will point out to the wrong thing. Don’t ask me why that is, it is. Neil says so. And I know it is so. You’re published, now sell: That was helpful advice from a publisher. The baffling Indian publishing industry is the only one where the publisher can happily shirk off from the majority of work involved in marketing the book. It’s like a pen-manufacturing company asking the designer of the pen to sell the pen in the market. I don’t know why it is as it is, but it doesn’t look like changing. An author friend told me it’s because publishers don’t have much money to market each book. You should be thankful that they are producing and distributing it. Yes, but they also tend to keep 90% from sales, storizen.com | February 2014 | 23
so they should market all the more, right? Have no clue why that logic doesn’t work in this industry (read the heading). According to me, the books are left in the hands of authors to market, who frankly totally suck at marketing. They have no clue what to do, which is why great titles are completely missed. Media coverage + lit-fests = your books will sell: This came from a PR friend and lots of other well-wishers I went to after the above advice, desperate to figure out how to market my book. And I did fall for it. Most of it though is bull (Yes, I believe it. Yes, I believe it. Yes, I…). Though this is the game that a lot of authors seem to play. Yes media coverage feels good for the ego, but very less readers actually pick up your book when they read about you in the newspapers. They pick it up because 1) friends recommend it, 2) they like the cover, like the backcover, like how a couple of inside pages read 3) have read your books before. As a debut author, readers don’t know you. It’s better to push your book slowly and patiently in specific groups rather than blast it onto media. And wait for the lit-fests to come to you after one of your books has become successful. For all these will happen AFTER your book gets a few readers. So focus on getting readers, one by one, one book by one book. Of course nothing is stopping you from playing the game, but remember if the game gave all winners, all books storizen.com | February 2014 | 24
would be bestsellers. Well, that’s my opinion on it now. But let’s see what 2014 brings in. Media coverage / sales for Book 1 means you ensure a contract for your next: Got this from another marketing expert. Nopes doesn’t work. A publisher will reject your next book (unless you are like super duper author), even if book one with them sold well and you frequent page 3 parties. Why? Because the editor might not like the book or it might be a completely different genre like mine was. Nothing to do with you as an author. My debut book, The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong, was accepted by Hachette India through an email submission, from the slush pile, without any agent/connection or media coverage. The editor told me this was the one book in 2012 that they picked from the slush pile. My second book was rejected by Hachette and many other publishers, even though I had made a sort of a name for myself in the industry. Reason? Because it didn’t fit their type of books and the genre was different. And now it’s found another publisher as well. The game goes like this. So there’s no surety on a contract for a book, not even when you make it HUGE. Better to go back to writing. You’re as good as your last: Neil Gaiman again. (Love that guy!) Even if you dish out the next bestseller, when you go back home horribly drunk and giddy and plan to write
your next big seller, you face the empty whiteness of your word document and the silence of no keys plonking, alone. No amount of success, praise, media coverage, people can help you write a better story next time, or give you a great story idea . So be thankful for all the ideas that are swimming in your head and meanwhile, keep writing. It’s a shitty line of work. Quit: This one was from an author who struggled for quite a few years, with great books out, but not enough sales.
This was also two years ago. Now he’s become a best seller and made it huge internationally. I don’t know if he remembers this advice, but I do. And I am going to ditch it. Not because I hope I will make it huge someday like him, but because I seriously can’t stand that Anantya Tantrist wriggling in my head and want to get rid of her by writing her series. (More about that, soon). That’s it for now, folksies. Will add more as and when I remember the advice. Happy 2014 ahead. n
Shweta Taneja is the author of The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong (Hachette India), Krishna - Defender of Dharma (Must read in CBSE Schools Reading List 2013 ) and The Skull Rosary (Nominated for Best Writer category in Comic Con Awards 2013). Currently she’s working on a thriller series about a female tantric detective based in Delhi. storizen.com | February 2014 | 25
Competition has crept into every field, be it education, economics or writing. It isnâ€™t enough to just ensure that you are perfect in your own work. It is equally essential to ensure the saleability of your work, to put it in a nutshell, can you promote your work? Writing in India has not received recognition the way it has in most other developed literary circles in the world due to a variety of factors, linguistic differences being the most important. So how does a young writer bursting with talent make it to the literary circles without goofing up? In every field the first impression is the last impression and especially so in the literary world. Whether you are writing fiction or non- fiction is
immaterial what counts is whether your target audience is ready to accept your work. These are questions that every writer/author must take into account before he takes on the seemingly arduous task of getting his book on the stands. Keeping all this in mind Butterfly and the Bee is the newest platform for young authors, writers and publishers to meet, greet and recreate the literary magic. The sole aim of such hubs is not only to get you readers for your book but to essentially create a loyal reader base. With an excellent panel of editors and tie-ups with some of the best publishing houses in India, very few personalized agencies promises to be the next big thing in the Indian literary circle. PERSONALISED AGENCY What is the point of the book however if it fails to reach the target audience for which it has been
designed? From the basic detail of having an appealing book cover, to having a blurb from famous writers is all a part of the game plan. This is where a personalised agency like BTB comes into the picture allowing you to enjoy the comfort of all these services at minimum costs. With almost no charge for the publishing, they ensure that your book will not only reach stands but also reach beyond the target audience. While for most literary agents the work stops at getting you a good publisher. If you have a personalised agency which works as a complete hub for you …they will go a step ahead to promote your book thus giving you a cutting edge over all those newbies around the country you are struggling with. For upcoming authors who have the Indian diaspora as their target audience and find it difficult to get a good publisher when they themselves are expats, here is good news for you! BTB caters to authors from across the globe at cost- effective rates so that you don’t find the pinch on your pocket. UNIQUE ACTIVITIES To effectively manage the promotion of your book personalised hubs or agencies for authors are constantly working on new ways to introduce your work to a plethora of readers in various parts of the world. News-
papers are passé, with the current e- literate generation you have to feed their brain with good blogs and even better takeaways. Make sure that the agency you choose ensures that your book is in demand vis-àvis attractive competitions and various other promotional activities that it hosts online. Furthermore, if you are also in the process of bringing out another masterpiece you can keep your readers abreast with the latest developments on your forthcoming book. Such modules are very much needed in today’s time. BOOK LAUNCHES / LIT FEST / SOCIAL MEDIA Once the book is published, the first book launch is your launch pad in the world of literature, so it becomes necessary to strategize on which is the best place your work can get suitably promoted in full public view. Make sure that the agency which you choose ensures to give you the best services at the best prices with the best locations to launch your dream into reality. You will also be able to have book launches in various parts of the country at minimum expense to your pocket something that no other marketing and promotion guru can help you with. Also, keep in in mind that the agency who is closely working with you also takes active part in various
literature festivals, be it Jaipur, Kolkata or the recently started Pune Literature festivals to have book reading sessions. This is a novel way to perk up the interest of those readers who otherwise have no interest in the genre you write. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are being explored and exploited freely and frequently. They are good and free commercial sources. Personilsed agencies have now introduced several activities for your creative juices to flow into and get exhibited to the world. n
Sumit Sehgal is an international wordsmith with an experience spanning 9 years with 29 e-books in tow. He has been a successful ghostwriter, project designer, campaign developer, theatre person and literary analyst. Currently he is the literary wizard of Butterfly & The Bee an erudite hub for Indiaâ€™s literati.
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Modern day tale o
of Krishna-Arjuna Mukesh Rijhwani Arjuna acquired his writing skills from the best places in the Industry. He burnt midnight oil to hone his talent and produced a gem, a full-fledged manuscript. Everyone, his family and friends admired his writing and told him he was a gifted writer. Convinced with his skills and coupled with morale boosting compliments from his peers, he submitted his manuscript to top 5 Indian publishers. While waiting for their responses, he visualized the sequel of his next book. He thought about, the lectures he would give in the colleges to wannabe authors, the clothes he would wear to his photo shoots, the Champagne he would serve during his book launch event, etc. The wait was a long one and the first rejection letter arrived. A week later the second rejection letter was delivered. Arjuna thought that the first grade publishers were arrogant ones and
they don’t promote fresh talent. He changed his strategy and sent out his manuscript to 10 tier-2 publishers and kept waiting. The result was the same. Nervously, he sent out his manuscript to every publisher in the country. This time his pile of rejection letters just traversed north. He couldn’t decipher what’s happening, the fools were getting their books published easily but his well written work wasn’t even appreciated by the so called ‘best minds’ in the business. One night, deep in his meditation, a thought occurred to him. He started looking for a “ParthaSarthi”, a guide, who knows about the publishing world and has the ability to take him forward. He started searching on the net for Literary Agents in the country and sent out his manuscript to all of them. Krishna, a literary agent, responded the same day. After discussions, Krishna agreed to be his
Autor Anees Salim ParthaSarthi , which gave him new lease of life. Within 15 days, Arjuna got the news that his work has been bought by a publisher, and the rest, as they say is history.
ther. His father worked in Western Asia and was away almost always. He grew up reading V.S. Naipaul, Graham Greene, George Orwell, William Faulkner and Somerset Maugham. His father was very parThis Krishna-Arjuna story is ticular about the books he bought. inspired by Kanishka Gupta So, there was no chance for him to read books by Sidney Sheldon and -Anees Salim story. Robin Cook, what his peers were Anees Salim, the Arjuna, grew up in reading and raving about. a small town in southern India. He was the youngest in the family and Early life the most difficult one of the lot. The reading bug bit him quite early in life As a school boy, all he wanted to as he had a good library at home, do is write. He felt suffocated within filled with books amassed by his fa- the four walls of his school and
I wrote one book after another to kill the pain of rejection. â€“ Anees
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If someone writes well, he will certainly find an agent and a publisher one day.” - Anees
hated it to the core. He often fared badly in his exams, he was never a bright student and always dreamt of running away. Which he did finally. Contracting his facials muscles, he recalled the incident, “I decided to end my studies when I was sixteen or so. The moment I had my first glimpse of the college, a huge white structure with lots of windows, I wanted to run away. And I eventually did. I ended my studies after promising myself to write a book, to make a living out of writing.” His parents were devastated. They had always thought he was a diligent student who had secret ambi-
tions to be a doctor or an engineer. Life as a school drop-out wasn’t easy. Since he was not academically qualified, the only jobs which were available to him were the menial ones. The advertising world was the only industry that used to accept drop-outs like him. He was elated to get a job in advertising because it involved the thing he was passionate about, writing. For the most part of his career, he stuck with one organization, one city. He refused to relocate for the fear of upsetting his writing schedules and destroying his comfort zones.
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Anees is notoriously private and aloof so I have to be very tender in my dealings and correspondence but we’re on the same page on most of the things. Nobody can influence him. – Kanishka, on working with Anees.
The first manuscript When asked about how he managed to devote his time to writing while working in a demanding job, advertising world entails, he opens up, “It used to be unimaginably tough. But now it’s easier. I have learned to manage my time. In spite of advertising being a hectic profession, I think it’s one of the best day jobs for a writer. Advertising teaches you to ask questions, probe deeper, read minds and break rules.” He started writing stories but couldn’t take it to completion. These stories were around revolutions, military coups, bloodshed and civil wars. He had a habit of discarding his manuscripts halfway through – a habit that’s common among the Creative Admen. The Vicks Mango Tree was the first readable manuscript he wrote. He stuck to this one, worked on it for years on end, and it went through several drafts before
he thought it was fit for submission. Even after he was convinced that the book was more than presentable, he sat on it for months for the fear of rejection. True to his premonition, it did. When he floated his manuscript to the publishers, it only fetched him rejection letters. At that time he was very young and in that phase of life when you are easily hurt. But to kill the pain of rejection, he decided to write another book and then another. He kept on writing until his first book deal was made.
The deal: Anees wrote Tales from a Vending Machine. It is a story about a young muslim girl, Hasina Mansoor. She plays multiple roles that of a devoted sister, blushing lover and ambitious young woman. Unfortunately, her job behind at the airport lounge’s tea vending machine does not seem to be getting her any closer to her
Kanishka respects my convictions and leaves me and my craft alone. I finish a book, mail it to him. He reads it and pitches it to publishers. We mostly interact by mail – Anees, on working with Kanishka storizen.com | February 2014 | 34
dreams. Looking at his pile of rejection letters, Anees wore his creative hat one day and decided to take a different approach for this manuscript. He sent a query letter to Kanishka (the literary agent) in the guise of the protagonist, Hasina Mansoor. Anees shared with a smile, “I think the plight of that young girl moved Kanishka. He wrote immediately back, asking for sample chapters. Then he wanted to read the entire book. A week later it was sold to HarperCollins”. He did reveal his identity while sending the sample chapters. Within no time, his other three books were picked up by different publishers. Harper Collins bought The Vicks Mango Tree. Amaryllis picked The Blind Lady’s Descendents and Picador took Vanity Bagh. Thanks to Kanishka Gupta, the ParthaSarthi.
The ParthaSarthi – Kanishka Gupta, a Literary Agent. Kanishka, unlike Anees, was not fond of reading while growing up. He was a geek and all he read was his curriculum books. While in his third year of Accountancy and Operations Research course, he was bitten by the writing bug. He was drawn towards this new found world of writing and completely lost interest in Accountancy and Operations Research and barely scraped through in the end. He opted for the three year BBA pass course instead
Bhagat, every second techie and MBA now wants to write. With so many wannabes and with soaring publishing scene, every publisher in the country receives about 300 manuscripts in a month. More than half of the manuscripts submitted are based on campus life. Lack of good literary agents puts a tremendous pressure on publishers to attend to these manuscripts. Hence most of the publishers are accepting direct submissions or commissioning on their own. If this trend continues to The Agency: happen Lit Agents won’t be able to Unlike mature western publishing wield enough influence in publishmarkets, there is a dearth of literary ing as opposed to the west where lit agents in India. Thanks to Chetan agents are kingmakers. of the four year honours course since the honours course included a six month long internship. Likeall wannabes he was convinced that he could win the Booker Prize with his writing skills. He worked for a Jaipur based agency and later as a literary assistant to Namita Gokhale. With her work, Namita has contributed immensely to promote Indian Publishing. She also has 6 books in her kitty.
A key player in the Indian publishing industry – Times of India on Kanishka
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Kanishka Gupta has been my literary agent since 2009. Back then K had just started Writer’s side and was taking on new authors, building his clientele. He was always been very professional, calling a spade a spade. If he doesn’t think your book will work in the market, he’ll tell you so. I’ve always found him to be honest and sincere in his dealings. – Ismita Tandon We asked about his initial days as a literary agent, Kanishka shared, “Anees Salim was my first author. In hindsight, I think the best thing I did was to wait for the right author and I waited one year for Anees. Because a new agent has to establish certain credibility with publishers and a few unsuitable submissions at the start of your career can really harm your longevity. When I signed on Anees, I didn’t know too many publishers. So I sent Tales from a Vending Machine out to Vaishali Mathur of Penguin and reached out to Saugata Mukherjee on Facebook. Saugata told me he would be open to submissions from me provided they are of high quality. I was quite confident about my product. In the end both offered but we went ahead with Saugata who was the commissioning editor at Harper that time.”
industry. In the last five years, his company, Writer’s Side, has represented 150 authors and sold over 250 books to major and reputed publishers in the country. With such an accomplishment, we went deeper into the life of an agent. We asked about his working day, he shared, “My day is very flexible and unpredictable. I work out of my bedroom although I have a spacious office at home. A usual day would entail looking at a few submissions, negotiating contracts, sounding out publishers about my new authors and getting a sense of what they’re planning to acquire, and coordinating edits.” He looks at all the submissions personally. He does the initial filtering and passes it on to the editorial team. During 2008-2010, there were many Chetan Bhagat wannabes. Now there are Amish Tripathi wannabes. A day in the life of a literary He recommends to stay away from writing unless the author feels very agent strongly about an issue and has sufRecently, Times of India called him ficient knowledge or credentials to a key player in the Indian publishing do justice to it. storizen.com | February 2014 | 37
Kanishka warns, “It’s not financially viable to be a full time author and it’s dangerous to quit your job to write full time. I would advise wannabe authors to take a sabbatical from work in order to finish their work rather than expect writing to cover their cost of living. The financial viability
The author in the agent
Curious about the financial viability of being a literary agent as a career opportuniy, we asked him his views. He said, “It’s not viable. Look at it this way. Even a good book in India won’t get you an advance of more than 1-1.5 lakhs. As an agent you are entitled to 15% of this. Now this 15% also comes to you in tranches: at the time of signing and publication if the work is complete and signing, acceptance and publication if the work is accepted on the basis of a proposal or a proposal and a few chapters. So you’re looking at a princely sum of Rs 20,000 trickling in over a period of 2 years. It’s impossible.” Besides being a Literary Agent, he also runs an editorial consultancy to pay up his bills. His editorial consultancy shaped manuscript of Ravinder Singh’s smash hit I Too Had a Love Story which has sold over a million copies till date.
Incidentally, he’s also the author of the novel History of Hate. He shared, “History of Hate was basically a short story idea expanded into a novel. I wanted to explore the world through the eyes of two completely dysnfuctional characters. The book wasn’t well edited and perhaps too dark and episodic for the Indian audiences. It didn’t help that most of the authors rejected by me, posted nasty reviews on flipkart, on the very first day it was put up for sale”. He too had his share of rejections. After a long wait, Rupa agreed to publish his novel. Considering his position as a literary agent and the reviews on flipkart, he has decided to stop writing books at the moment. Although his novel, History of Hate, was long-listed for the Man Asian Prize, 2009.
The Prize In 2013, Anees’s book, Vanity Bagh was shortlisted for the The Hindu Literary Prize in the category - Fiction. The competition was fierce and
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Literary agent Kanishka Gupta with Autor Tulika Mehrotra the other books that were shortlisted in the same category were Manu Joseph’s The Illicit Happiness of Other People, Sonora Jha’s Foreign, Manjulal Bajaj’s Another Man’s Wife and Other Stories, Amandeep Sandhu’s Roll of Honour. It was a big moment for both Anees and Kanishka. Sadly, both of them were not present at the venue and watched the live streaming glued in
front of the screen. When the renowned novelist, Jim Crace opened the envelope to declare the winner, the live streaming got stuck. Both men got up from their seats and tried to get a glimpse of the streaming by hitting buttons on their computer, nothing worked. Finally, they turned to Social Media.
Kanishka was invaluable in the contract negotiation phase. He certainly offered great input on story editing and general feedback but I leaned on him heavily when it came down to finalizing details of the book deal itself. He is a great friend! – Tulika Mehrotra storizen.com | February 2014 | 39
As Kanishika recollects, “I went on Facebook via my blackberry and saw a congratulatory post on Anees’ wall by someone present at the ceremony. I was delighted.” And Anees in his own words, “The Hindu Prize is something I will never stop relishing.” For this modern day Krishna Arjuna, we wish their respective careers scale new heights. Good luck Kanishka Gupta and Anees Salim. We like to end this story with a quote from the Bhagavad Gita
“No one who does good work will ever come to a bad end, either here or in the world to come.” ~ Bhagavad Gita, 6:40
Anees’s books The Vicks Mango Tree Tales From A Vending Machine The Blind Lady’s Descendents Vanity Bagh
Famous Authors represented by Kanishka Ismita Tandon Tulika Mehrotra Paritosh Uttam Ruchira Gupta
Mukesh Rijhwani is a techie by heart and storyteller by soul. He is the co-founder of Storizen. He loves the scent of a book (new or old) and dreams of becoming a librarian.
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Pic: Kalyan Varma
Tell us something about your exciting career ? Well I have worn many hats in my career. Been a mechanical engineer, a security expert, a naturalist and now a wildlife photographer and a filmmaker. I have really loved doing each one of those and at the end of the day, one must really do what they love. And in these careers, promotions etc do not matter at all. Its being able to go out there and do amazing work.
Is there any Book which have inspired you to take up a career in wildlife film-making? When I was interested in wildlife, the books and films by David Attenborough really inspired me. His Life series ( life of birds, mammals and plants) were so amazing that when I was reading them, I wanted to someday be part of it and spend all my time in the jungle. By the time I saw his films, nothing in the world mattered more than being there in the forests and documents the amazing wildlife. His films were one of the reasons why I quit my IT job and decided to dive into wildlife full-time. What kind of books do you read ? / Which books or author have left a mark on you ? I used to read a lot of fiction before. But in the last few years, most of my reading has been non-fiction. Lately, history and politics interest me a lot and hence been reading a lot of that. Guhaâ€™s book have left a lasting impression on me. For a lot of work that I do (filming conservation issues), it was very important to know the historical context of a lot of india and many his books really helped me understand these issues much better. Who are your favorite Indian/ International authors ? Amitav Ghosh and Arundhati roy How do plan for your storytelling in your pictures / films ? Everyone has a story to tell and itâ€™s not always obvious what that story is without deep reporting and an open mind. Thats why I spend a lot of time doing research and talking to people. Specially with conservation issues, there are always many views and as a storyteller, I try to include as many of them as possible. Large social issues are best communicated when told via a person and though his or her life journey. In a lot of ways, the same can be done with wildlife and animals too. Any plans for penning down a wildlife book ? Surely in the coming years. I have been thinking about a general india coffee table book. Although there are tons of Africa wildlife book, there is no single book in India. Besides that, I want to do some hard reportage type
stories and publish them in a book form with both photos and text. Which one is your favourite/ most memorable Wildlife Assignment till date ? That is like asking a mother to choose one of her children. Each of the places that I have been to, I have come back with unique experiences and new learnings. Some of my best times have been in Gujarat and in the western ghats. Many of these have been with I was staying with the local communities and you learn a whole deal about wildlife though their eyes. Any suggestions for wannabe wildlife filmmakers? I would say just go out and shoot. Thanks to advent of video in DSLR cameras, everyone now has the tools to go out and make films. They key is to tell a great story and there are so many stories that need to be told in and around India. Even today, only the large mammals are covered and so much of the wildlife that we can learn from is sitting in our own back yard. This is where I suggest people should start and then explore more. I would also suggest that instead of trying to go after big channels, its best to make your own films and put it up on youtube. This will have a larger reach and producers will eventually find you if your work is great. n
Pic: Kalyan Varma
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Jaya Bhattacharji Rose
International Publishing Consultant
thriving. It is also a space where English is not only the lingua franca, but also the operational, functional, legal language and of social mobility. So it is a language where texts will be required across the board. unlike My engagement with the publishing in china, where English is spoken by industry keeps me thoroughly occu- a minority, all though subtle changpied. it could range from doing re- es are now noticeable. search, reading,writing and working What are your thoughts on ePubwith authors. lishing? From your experience, can you comment on the quality of books Digital publishing is only another form of publishing. It will and has getting published? made a difference to the publishThis is too broad sweeping a ques- ing ecosystem by making services tion since quality of books vary from like distribution to customers easier, genre, imprint, and publisher. if you streamlined workflows, disseminatare referring specifically to a partic- ed information rapidly and sometimes in real time to other publishing ular genre or more. professionals etc. I doubt very much We see the huge influx of foreign it will â€œovertakeâ€? paper but it may publishers in India. What do you become the format accessed by a majority of readers, given the rate at think is the reason? which paper prices are increasing. They perceive India as a big En- E-publishing has increased the opglish-language market where both tions for seasoned authors by alprint and digital forms of books are lowing them to make their backlists You have played multiple roles in Indian Publishing industry, as an international publishing consultant, editor, columnist, and critic. What keeps you busy these days?
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available, offering their books to customers across the world instead of in a localised region. For debut authors it has allowed more information, publicity and visibility to them and their books. It has also empowered many authors in circumventing the gatekeepers at publishing houses and/or editors to publish their books on their own. Hence self-publishing is becoming an increasingly popular mode of publishing. Unlike west, we don’t see many literary agents in India. Your thoughts? We do have a handful of literary agents. The space will mature soon enough. There are indications that new literary agents will emerge from within South Asia/India. Plus more and more literary agencies are looking for manuscripts from within this region. I am sure the time is not too far when you will find more representatives in India. You’ve worked in leading publishing houses before. Publishers are trusting more on the IIMs and IITs graduates. Comments? I do not think I would generalise in such terms. Publishers who rely more on authors from IIMs and IITs are looking specifically at the campus novel/commercial fiction genre. This may have some splendid sales but is still only a small portion of the storizen.com | February 2014 | 50
business done by the industry. Since you’re one of the highest regarded book reviewers, what do you think is the role of book-reviewers in the Indian Publishing industry? Book reviewing is a very important part of the publishing world. An experienced critic is honest, straightforward and well-informed. Their critique of a book is done with care. It is not necessarily a remark made off-the-cuff. Their opinion carries weight since they are at the crossroad of understanding the publishing space, aware of the author’s ouevre and are able to place the book in a context, and at the same time tuned to the reader’s sensibilities. Can you also tell us the role of social media in book marketing? Social media is “flattening” the world to some extent. It certainly has changed the publishing game from the prerogative of B2B to B2C. Yet no one can hide in any social media platform. You have to be completely honest. After a while, overdone hyperbole, praise and promotion of an author by a book publicist can backfire if the book does not stand up to the hype generated. Word will be out soon enough. Remember, at the end of the day, it is being accessed, operated, and managed by humans sitting at the other end of the
electronic device upon which the and write when you feel like writing. social media platform is being ac- Be disciplined about it. Then read, cessed. edit, edit and be ruthless with yourself. Then only consider publishing Any words of wisdom for wan- it. n nabe authors? Read, read, read. Write, write. Practice writing everyday. Or at least soak yourself into a creative sleep
Jaya Bhattacharji Rose is an independent international publishing consultant. Her column, â€œPubSpeakâ€?, appears in BusinessWorld online. Her publications have appeared in Bookbrunch, Frontline, The Book Review, DNA, Outlook, The Hindu, Hindustan Times, LOGOS, BusinessWorld, Brunch and The Muse. Her blog is: http://www.jayabhattacharjirose.com/jaya/ (In 17 months it has had 2.5 million visitors.) storizen.com | February 2014 | 51
Author - Advantage Love
Tell us a bit about yourself? I started writing a book when my child was 3 months old and am now on the release of my 4th book Advantage Love when she’s turned 5 years old. I’ve changed my career track from being a director to becoming a full time author. It pays very little but it’s the one thing I want to do forever. I’m also a blogger, columnist and books hoarder. I have 3 book shelves and I don’t believe in downloading on Kindle!
What are the reactions of the readers? Losing My Virginity And Other Dumb Ideas sold over 40,000 copies and is still a best seller today. Readers said they identified with Kaveri and Arjun. There is at least one in three women who have had an affair with a married man. This book is for those who may or may not have gone down that path! How difficult was writing a sequel of LMOVDI?
When were you bitten by writing bug? Mistakes Like Love And Sex is a slightly more intellectual take on I was bitten by the writing bug when love and relationships. It’s for the I was 9 years old. My 4th grade more philosophical people who love teacher made me write book reports a great story and want to take some of one page and he would pay me personal advice from the book. Are 25 cents (I was in USA then) Soon I you going through a heart break? Is loved writing and getting that mon- your career troubling you? Do you ey to buy ice cream. Great feeling to want to escape into a world that you be independent at 9! know nothing of? Mistakes is that book for you. ‘Losing my virginity and other It was a sequel but it can be a stand dumb ideas’, isn’t it a bold title? alone book. That means you don’t Tell us what your thoughts were need to read Losing My Virginity And and what were the other options Other Dumb Ideas to love Mistakes you were considering? Like Love And Sex. There was no other option for the title. I loved it. I wanted to write something no one has ever written before. I like testing the society and challenging myself. It sold 40,000 copies. storizen.com | February 2014 | 54
How did Karishma Kapoor got in touch with you? Penguin wanted me to write a non-fiction book and I wanted to do something different as an author. So they fixed me up with Karishma and
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and we worked on “My Yummy meets a National Level tennis player Abhimanyu who sweeps her off her Mummy” book together. feet. This book is a reflection of evWhy did you switch gears to write erything that the youth goes through today and the choices we make to a teenage romance? become who we are. It’s not a teenage romance! Advantage Love is a romance novel, set in What parts of fiction you find it Delhi amongst the youth politics of difficult to write? Comedy or RoJNU and love triangles that confuse mance? the youth of today. It’s for people My next book is called My Clingy between the ages of 15 to 35. Advantage Love is a romance nov- Girlfriend. It’s a complete comedy. A el about a girl Trisha who’s trying writer never finds anything difficult. to make something of herself when He takes the challenge to write in love gets in the way. It’s about what any format he can. I’m a commercial to choose when you’re confused. fiction author. Rom coms are my life! About exes and career choices. Parents’ pressure and new relation- Any words of wisdom for wanships. And how life is moving so fast nabes? that we need to anchor ourselves. Trisha becomes independent, Read a lot of books before you write. strong, centered and determined Understand punctuation, structure yet remains beautiful, caring, and and content. Write because it’s your generous. She meets Vedant who is passion. Not because it will pay you a politician in the making and gets well. Go for it! n into a whirlwind romance. She also
Madhuri is. Bestselling Author. International Blogger. Love Guru Columnist. Devoted Mother. Passionate about food, beaches, books, philosophy and photography. Currently learning instagram and the behaviour pattern of men for her next book. storizen.com | February 2014 | 56
Harsh Agarwal is only 22 and has already released
his third book. Apart from being an author, Harsh is also a full time Engineering student at NIT Silchar. His writing and studying is interspersed with marketing for his third book, creative writing workshops and mentoring- all in a day’s work. If this was not enough, Harsh is also an editor and has been a panellist at literature festivals and gatherings. His first book ‘Life in a nutshell’ was published when he was 19. His second book ‘An Excursion of Insight’ was released by Lifi Publications in the beginning of 2103 and by October last year, his third book – Nazaqat was released. Nazaqat is the story of a young girl who chooses to be a high profile prostitute. The book is published by Half Baked Beans, a newbie in the publishing industry; the book is getting some rave reviews.
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Author - Life in a Nutshell
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At 22, most of us are still figuring It has been a wonderful experience out what to do in life, you already working with them. have your third book. Why the How did you choose the theme for damn hurry? your latest book Nazaqat ? And Being in an engineering college and why it is by a pseudo name and that too in Silchar, I had a lot of free not real name? time. Silchar is a very remote place and going to town from college is As far as themes and ideas are conas good as travelling back in time cerned, I don’t think we choose (not in a good way). Since, I am all them. They choose us, and then it’s the time stung by the habit of do- upon us how we treat them. The ing something productive, I kept on ideas come when you least expect writing when I had nothing else to them. I got this idea in train while I do. If I had something else to pass was going for my first book launch my time, I wouldn’t have written in Kota. Till then I had already startthree books. Even before my first ed working on my second book. So I book was published, I had complet- just jotted down the entire theme on ed the first draft of my second book. the back of my train ticket and startHowever, my pace decreased after ed working on it after six months or I started Asylum – a mentoring pro- so. I am not taken seriously because gram for wannabe writers. of my age. Many times when I have You are three books old but you gone to deliver the workshop, the chose a new publisher for your organizers think that I am one of the latest book instead of going to participants. a tried and tested one. Wasn’t it The topic of prostitution is very sensitive. I decided to use a pseudo risky? name for the book so that readers Life is all about taking risks. When don’t judge and draw conclusions you approach a new publishing about the entire book because of house, your book is likely to get my age and it’s working pretty well. more attention and space because It’s sad that seniority is judged in the success of the company de- context of age rather than quality of pends directly on the success of work and experience. your book. However at the same time, it was not a blind decision. I From Engineering to Professional opted for Half Baked Beans after I writing - why the shift? Is Chetan had done an anthology and a cre- Bhagat your role model? ative writing workshop with them. storizen.com | February 2014 | 60
I have been writing since school days. Currently, Writing and Engineering are running in parallel. There was a time when I wanted to be a successful engineer. I stayed in Kota, the Mecca for IIT aspirants, for two years to prepare for IIT JEE but fortunately or unfortunately missed the bus by ten marks. I didn’t get the coveted IIT but got NIT Silchar. The uncreative atmosphere at the college disillusioned me so much that I lost interest in Engineering and went back to my old passion of writing. Chetan Bhagat is not my role model. He is an Engineer who became a writer but I am a writer who became an Engineer and now getting back to where I belong. You are an engineer who has now decided to take writing full time. Writing is not a highly paying profession. Don’t you think it is risky to change the field at the beginning of your career? Even if I am not certain in which direction I want to venture in writing domain, I am very sure that I don’t want to become an Engineer. There are many people who are not happy in the professions that they are in but they still continue to be in it. They will keep waiting for that day when they will follow their hearts, I didn’t want to be one amongst them. Today, if I have an opportunity to do something different and not end up as a man who is whining about his mo-
notonous life 24X7, why shouldn’t I do it? I believe happiness lies in our own hands. Was it easy to convince your parents to allow you to follow your passion? My parents were aware of my writing interests but like all parents they wanted me to play safe and invest more time in engineering, get a regular job with a hefty package and then follow my passion if I was still interested in it. But when my work got recognition and I was featured in newspapers, my family appreciated it and started supporting me. The parental support has reinforced my belief that I am on the right track. How do you balance studying and writing? It took me almost two years to publish my second book including research, planning, writing and publishing. Balancing the two was not tough. Honestly, being in Silchar proved to be a blessing in disguise. Had I been in a metropolitan, I would have definitely wasted all my time in hanging out in malls and roaming around. But here in a remote place, I had nothing much to do. So even while dedicating a lot of time in writing, I could easily manage classes and studying. And interestingly, I am scoring extremely well in all semesters which surprise me and quite storizen.com | February 2014 | 61
I will be editing and mentoring more books. These days, the success of a What is this mentoring in writing book depends a lot on your marketall about? Can this be taken as a ing strategies. profession? What would you suggest to those For the new writers, getting a good wannabe authors who are plantheme to write on is the biggest ning to write a book? challenge. In this mentorship program, I give my ideas to wannabe I have met a lot of novice authors writers and hand hold them to de- who just want a tag of being pubvelop it though I also welcome their lished and in desperation they end own ideas. Mentorship is a very new up writing very ordinary stories. In concept and I have done only a cou- the current scenario, it’s not easy ple of such projects. At this stage, I to create your niche. You have to am not sure if it can be taken up as stand out and present out of the a profession. But these days, I am box stories. One needs to feel relooking forward to all new possibil- sponsible towards readers. Wait for ities. ‘Dear Life, surprise me’ is the a good idea, do through research and write with patience. Sooner or new punch line of my life. later, you will get what you deserve. Also, make friends online, share Are you writing your next book? experiences, ask for help, connect I have a few plots in mind but I want with people, be a part of events and to reserve this year for marketing of mark your presence. Being an introNazaqat. It deserves more time and vert or egoist won’t help you in findeffort and hence there is no point in ing publishers and marketing n being hasty for next book. Till then, a lot of people around.
Interview Contributed by : Sujata Rajpal Sujata Rajpal works as a Corporate Communications Manager of an IT MNC. She has been freelance writing for journals for around fifteen years and has been contributing for The Times of India, Femina, Deccan Herald, Star of Mysore, etc. Her debut novel is waiting to see the light of the day.
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Pakistani social scientist and writer storizen.com | February 2014 | 64
Atul Randev How and when did you begin writing? Well, the compulsion was that there is a lot of injustice in the world. I don’t have any illusions about myself or my role, I’m a member of my society and as a privileged person who has been educated in the best possible manner I believe I owe it to the people. The intention is to inform not entertain, to analyze and ask difficult questions. Writing came to me as a means to express myself about those unspoken injustices. Literature does not bring revolution unless it is linked to a movement, unless it is linked to the people and the land, but people don’t talk of revolution anymore because it’s going out of fashion. The ultimate objective is to alter the obscurantist mindset. Religion is not a problem, but extremism is, and in my country we have a small section of extremists that have held the whole society hostage. What I and my peers (at Communist Mazdoror Kisaan Party) are trying to achieve is to prepare the younger generation for an intellectual revolution which could then pave the way for a political revolution.
I have been a reader of classic literature since sixth or seventh standard. I began reading Shakespeare’s plays, and then moved on to Tolstoy, Victor Hugo, Alexander Dumas and lapped them all up. My tryst with Urdu literature started in the nineties during my graduation where I had it as an elective subject. I read Saadat Hasan Manto’s stories; I loved the work of Ghulam Abbas, Sahir Ludhianvi, Majaz-the poet of revolution, Krishna Chandra, and Tariq Ali, to name a few. We don’t have writers like these any more that is why we keep going back to these writers and their works. How do you set your writing schedules? I’m disorganized as far as my writing is concerned. At any point of time I have many plans for articles but only 20% of them come down on paper. I don’t have much of a writing ethic; I try to meld literature, politics and history in my articles which is a creative process, sometimes I can complete a piece in one sitting while at other times it can take weeks to reach a logical conclusion. Tell us about your works in progress?
In ‘The contradictions of bourgeois Shed some light on your literary democracy in Pakistan’ I’m trying to talk about why Pakistan is caught influences. storizen.com | February 2014 | 65
in a perpetual cycle of democracy, dictatorship and elections and back again. The argument is that in Pakistan, unlike India, the middle class is very weak, and unless we can repeal that, it’ll be difficult to break out of this cycle. I’m also translating ‘Saadat Hasan Manto’s Letters to Uncle Sam and other post colonial essays’ from the Urdu. The general perception about Manto is that he was a great writer of sex and of partition. But it is through his essays that he reveals his political acumen. In the 1950s he predicted with astonishing accuracy, how religious fundamentalism would come to shape this region, how our dealings with United States would end up shaping the sub-continent, and how the opportunism of our political leaders would go on to haunt us for years to come. The purpose of these translations is to bring these to the general public. You’ve lived in and written extensively about Egypt and Yemen, how did that come about? 9/11 happened a few days before I started my Masters Program at Leeds and it was a very formative period for me. People used to say to me that there is something genetically wrong with the Arab people; and the desire to challenge the media stereotypes about the Arab countries propelled me forward. I found that Arabs are not exceptionstorizen.com | February 2014 | 66
al people; they desire democracy, liberty, equality, and human rights like people from any other country in the world. People get their information from compromised sources; the mainstream media says that since Osama bin laden was born in Yemen- the country has to be a terrorist state. I realized after a point of time that someone had to challenge these perceptions. I can’t resist from asking this, who are your favourite Indian writers? I like to read Arundhati Roy’s work. Aijaz Ahmad is a renowned Marxist critique and I follow his work very religiously. Mahashweta Devi, a progressive writer, is another one of my favourites. Another clichéd question coming up, how does it feel to be in India? To be honest, I am a very recent traveller to India. I feel I’m very lucky to be here and be a part of two great lit events, the Lucknow Literature festival and the Delhi Literature Festival. I have collected a lot appreciation and love from people and it honestly feels as if I’ve lost my way back to Lahore n
Author - Maples: Rejuvenating Cocktail
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My PATH TO...
It was all about a mystery. Having writing since high school for newsletters and later at university for more newsletters and yearbook, the writing evaporated in thin air becoming a just a dream. Years passed by, every word expressed in my poems became solicitude to my comfort zone. It felt like I had been putting coins into the piggy bank and the ceramic container was ready to explode. Every penny was ready to be spent for a wonderful adventure. My writing journey to getting self-published was like every word formed a string of words storizen.com | February 2014 | 69
depicting a string of pearls ready to be shared and be embraced with its value. I had created a website where I shared various academic writing pieces, poetry, and short stories. Publishing articles, route to publishing, requirements of submission, the do’s and don’ts of publishing, importance of social media, and various essential sources that were the route to publication was given valuable attention. My articles and poems were published online and later in local magazines. Later, the passion for writing and submission criteria was diminishing the perseverance to publishing. The polite storizen.com | February 2014 | 70
mails of rejection didn’t stop the writing bug in me. How can a writer stop the word-web developing in the mind then invading the soul? I was in a tug of war between the continuous flow of ideas, themes, and writing pieces ready to share with people out there. A quote by Milton Berle, ‘If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door,’ became my opportunity to build a door welcoming me to the self-publishing world. Various self-publishing companies were contacted in several countries and after seven months my first manuscript (Maples: The Rejuvenating Cocktail) written about three years ago was accepted by a publishing house in India. This story was fiction based and the genre was romance and drama. To reach to this path, it took about two years. During the printing process, I was contacted by a local self-publishing company in Bangkok and within two-and-half weeks a new short story on a group of high school students was written. This story focused on four aspirant teenagers struggling with their exams and yearning to take a break. To my surprise, the second manuscript (The Wisher’s Well) was published first. Getting published in this medium is not easy either. Even though, the self-publishing company is professional and the publishing consultant guides me throughout the process, I did and do face delays and many times the feedback time, or updates
test my patience. Sometimes, I wonder if I did the right thing. Then, I remember I slammed the door down and entered the self-publishing path. Companies also have requirements, not any script would be published, content evaluation, editing, and approval is being conducted. After a constructed process a novel is ready to be published – a story is ready to be told and the interactions are made through launches and writing conferences. It was the self-publishing path that brought me to where I am today as I share with you. The publication of the two stories changed my perception. The wit and acceptance of the new age of the writing world has surely enhanced itself, whilst I had been hesitating to take that step to a contemporary approach. Recently, my new novel (The Classroom: Ashley and Her Mystical Tale) has been published in Singapore. This story is about two worlds – life and death. Mystical characters (John Mosaic and Barney Peacock) and the protagonist, Ashley works their way out to solve the chaos caused by six spirits. This is the first time I have written a thriller combined with drama, adventure, romance and humor. Illustrations have been created by my students, sister, and friend to bring out a different concept in the book with the illustration from different age groups. I have been sharing and answering questions about publishing with the youth at a school. I
am still working on promotions and this book would soon be launched at a literary festival. I wanted to experience with a different publishing company that could bring new insights and which has better management skills. It is so important to know what’s happening with my story and how it is going to be published because it becomes part of my life. Even though time flies in the field of academics, as a Lecturer, teaching does occupy quality time, but constant updates about book illustration, promotion, pricing, press release or even printing is mandatory. The liberation to have consistent contact with the publishing consultant is great as he/she would contact, provide updates, recommendations, and support has been acknowledged by the publishing company in Singapore. I don’t feel like a stranger during the process of publishing my own book and all the authors’ part of the company matters as personal calls are being made to discuss the book process and suggestions are being given to reach the right readers and/ or reach the mass audience. Every publishing house has its own expertise and would see what matters to them and with that I have seen at times, emails, or advice asked can be ignored. There is nothing to worry, it’s important not to let go and be patient. At the end, I cannot abandon my book because of delayed emails or ignored messages. storizen.com | February 2014 | 71
There is always a way and gradually the publishing consultant gets back to me. I learn and as an author, eventually I know who to work with next or continue with the same publishing house. My path to self-publishing has gotten me to connect with various writers and academic practitioners globally. When attending literary events and book launches, the publication of another author or poet sometimes comes from self-publishing. It is a good investment and one only can learn and prosper from it. The collective ideas of teamwork are brought into notice and a birth of story reaches the
readers. I have been able to reach out and help people with writing and guiding about publishing. It’s not only a dream, but a wish came true by creating a door. Give a go on this! n
A Lecturer by profession, Bhavna Khemlani is a founding member of the Bangkok Women’s Writing Group and the Asia Pacific Writers and Translators Association. Her work has been published in various sources. She is a passionate author of short stories, poems, articles, and novels, including The Wisher’s Well, and Maples: Rejuvenating Cocktail.
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Author - The Degenerate tales of Decadent minds
My PATH TO...
How to avoid writing a story and finally completing it: “There are people. There are stories. The people think they shape the stories, but the reverse is often closer to the truth.” – Alan Moore I’ve always believed in the power of words, they can change the course of a war, melt the toughest of hearts and wrap the dullest of moments into an eruption of inspiration. At the risk of sounding pompous and/or boisterous, I would like to state on record that I knew from a very early age that one day I was going to write a book. It was something that was set in stone in the quarries of my mind since the time I wrote my first short story in 5th grade. For the next decade, all the stories I wrote were fragmented and often just three or four page treatments, and ended up collecting dust at the back of my drawer. You never forget your first crush, I would never forget the moment when the idea of Moments the novella came to me. Life took me to Pune, where one night after a few gulps of the magic liquid and a deep pseudo philosophical talk with one of my friends, who is a firm believer that a girl and a boy can never be just friends, led to a bet about writing a story where a girl and a boy ARE friends.
I wrote seven chapters over next year before life again diverted me towards studies, this time in USA. One year later in August, on a flight to Indianapolis I came across the seven chapters again and that yearning to complete the book came back. I always work best with a partner, and I had only one person in mind Atul Randev- a junior from college with
a mad writing hand and an appetite for good stories. I had been coaxing him to start writing professionally for around a year by then, so as soon as my plane landed I left him a cryptic message that I had a project for us. The idea was to collaborate over a book and e-publish it over Amazon KDP. He loved the idea and one week later came back with a deadline of three weeks to complete the book. I was stumped because I had written less than thirty percent of the story and in a sheer display of unplanned impetus, I told him I will get it done. My daily schedule took a whole new tone; I woke up, went to my internship, came back to the hotel a long 12 hours later and started churning out chapters after chapters. I gave the final version of the story to Atul two hours before the self-assigned deadline and sometime later got a quick message – “Congratulations on our first book”. Rarely in my life have five words sounded so beautiful. After drawing the first blood, we both are now ready for more. The only thing I can say to another fellow author is to “Suck it up, Live it up, and Write it up” n
Vidur Moudgil is a dreamer by mind ,an artist by heart, a runner by his right leg and a lazy runner by his left leg. He has a knack of picking up a new hobby every few months and when he is not reading, running, sketching, writing, driving or grappling with a new hobby, he likes making ordinary day special for the people he loves. storizen.com | February 2014 | 76
There’s something terribly innocent about youth, for even in the garish magenta she looks beautiful. Her lips too are painted magenta, and eyes are heavy with kohl and desire. The little minx is out to seduce. She raises her face and he kisses her on the lips, possessively. He pulls down the heavily embroidered pink phulkari duppatta that covers her bleached brown hair. She teases him by pulling away from his embrace and jangles her wrists, packed with red and white bangles all the way up to her elbows. The eyes of the bride swirl with laughter, as she dances around the dingy room daring him to come and get her. The silver anklet around her ankles fills the air with the sweet music of anticipation, masking the stink of cowdung that’s coming from the stable. Strangely, the cows have stopped mooing. The groom runs around the charpai to catch her. He strips to the waist. The shiny silk pajama glimmers in
the dark. She stares at his body that is all muscle and bones. There are ugly scars on the pale skin of his chest and stomach. But the scars don’t scare her; she’s known him since he was old enough to crawl. In the dim light of the bulb they look little more than children playing a childish game. With each passing moment, he’s getting tired of the game. He finally catches her from behind; she makes no attempt to wriggle out of his grip. She too has waited long for her lover to make an honest woman out of her. Tonight is their first night as man and wife and she wishes it would last forever. It’s wishful thinking on her part, because at sunrise he would be gone, back to his men, to his guns. She rubs her chin to his bearded cheeks and he yanks her hair and looks deep into her eyes. They remain like that for
a while, before he put her over his sinewy thighs. Lowering the zipper of her satin kurti, running his hand down the small of her back he whispers, “I love you.” She blushes remembering a honeymoon scene she had seen with him in a movie. It was daring of him to take her to the picture hall in broad day light. It was impossible to recognize him without his turban. They had walked right past the police like any other normal couple. Under the turban, his hair was cut short. It’s against their religion but it had to be done. There’s a reward of a lakh on his head, dead or alive and for that amount his own relatives would rat him out. He slides the kurti off one smooth creamy shoulder and kisses the bare skin. Just then there’s a muffled sound on the outside, as if someone has stepped on cowdung and is retreating hastily only to end up stepping on dry twigs. She opens her mouth to speak but he quickly puts a finger to her lips. He gestures for her to hide behind the door and tiptoes to the window from where the sound came. He listens for a couple of minutes. The air has gone still, silent, too silent. He knows what this silence means. He
looks at her from across the room. She knows too. Her eyes well up. It’s too soon for them to part. He picks a steel glass from the table and aims at the bulb on the wall. The room is plunged in darkness. He’s quietly walking towards her, when the first bullet hits him in the thigh. Blood gushes from the spot, colouring the shiny silk pajama. She rushes to his side. The sound of hurried footsteps builds up outside. “Rajjo, get out of here, go now.” “No, I won’t leave you!” “Rajjo, if they find you here, they’ll do things to you … to make me talk, please, you have to get out now. I would rather die than let them touch you.” He grimaces in pain. She understands what he means. As she kisses his forehead, she hears a man barking orders to kick open the door. It’s an angry voice, seething with resentment. “We know you are inside. You are surrounded from all sides. Come out and surrender or I am going to shoot your brains out. And then play suhaag raat with your bride.” The nearest army base had received last minute intel by a local informer that the infamous terrorist Okha Singh had gotten married in the town’s Gurudwara and was now hiding in the house of a distant cousin to bed his new bride. “Surrender now or soon crows will be feasting on your flesh,
Okha Singh.” A tearful Rajjo looks at her injured lover, pleading with him to surrender. Okha raises his voice so he can be heard through the door. “I am injured. I have no weapon. I surrender.” He squeezes Rajjo’s hand and said, “The Army guys won’t kill me. They are not like the police. I am safe. But they can’t find you’re here. Men are men; you can’t trust them with a woman. Go now, I’ll send for you in a few days.” With a last look at her lover’s pale face, she crawls through the safety door and gets out on the other side. Minutes later, as she’s hurrying through a dark bylane, she hears a door crash and the sound of bullets being fired one after the other. They have emptied the magazine in her lover’s chest. Not one man in
the village wakes up, not one light is switched on to find out who’s died or what’s going on. They all know too well, the real story behind these encounters. The villagers remain huddled in their bed, scared for their children and themselves. Back in the room, five men in combat dress surrounded the young terrorist. The voice that was so full of anger moments ago, is cheerfulnow. He kicks the dead body and says to his subordinate, “Report to our local liaison that the bastard, Okha Sigh, was shot dead in an encounter by Major Dalbir of Charlie Company, as he was trying to escape.” Maj. Dalbir looks around the room, expecting to find the girl whose voice he heard through the door. There’s no sign of her, except a cheap strappy sandal with a heart shaped fluff made of red rexine. n
IsmitaTandon Dhankher is ‘A Lesser Known Poet’. Her poem, ‘The Beasts Run Wild’, is currently up on MSN, as part of an ongoing exclusive feature “Her Courage” in tribute to Indian women. Her second mystery novel Jacob Hills is just released by HarperCollins India.
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Naina rested her aching back on the mattress. It was the night time already, all the members of the family retiring to their rooms. Naina was the youngest of them all, so being vehement about her dreams was something which couldn't be ruled out. The day marked as a celebration for her as she had won the debate competition held in her college. Winning was something which she needed to survive in her law career especially in debates. She was so engrossed in preparation that morning which led her foot to slip on the staircase, the result of which was reflected in her aching back the same night. Next morning, the bright day welcomed Naina. The sun showering its honeyed golden rays on her face. Her room was located on the eastern side of the bungalow. Her sleep was already distracted by the voices that came from outside. It appeared as if a throng of people had appeared out of nowhere on the streets outside. As the time went by, the voices grew louder, making her restless. Soon she realized that the voices were coming from her own home as she heard a shrill cry of a woman. It
was her mother. Naina forced open her puffy eyes, threw away the chocolate color laden quilt aside. She wore her black Adidas slippers and darted out of the room. Bending over the railing, she saw her family members gathered in the living room downstairs. Her eyes struck in horror when she reached downstairs. An atrocious crime had been committed already. Her father, Justice Sudhir Kapoor was lying in the pool of gore. Uday Rathod was the officer with an eye of an eagle. At an age of thirty eight, his forty two inches chest still tried hard to rip off the shirt he wore. His case solving skill was unparalleled. There were other officers who were of his age as well, but with protruding bellies, they stooped in order to support their heavy frames. The most attractive feature of his personality was his imperial mustache which accentuated the handsomeness of his broad face. Rotating his shoulders in the front direction, he approached Malti, victimâ€™s beloved wife and Nainaâ€™s step mother. â€œMrs. Kapoor, I am so sorry about what happened but you have to
cooperate us in order to find the actual culprit.” Malti was in a state of shock already. She nodded in agitation. Naina riveted her eyes on her firmly. She never liked her. She took the place of my mother, now she has also killed my father! In her deep thoughts she had already registered somewhere that the actual culprit was Malti only. Only thing she waited for was the autopsy report which was due one week. Naina was approached by Uday. She saw him walking steadily towards her. “Do you know anything about the previous night?” He asked a numb Naina. She wanted to shout, yell out Malti’s name but the coldness spread in her, taking her senses in its control. A vivid picture flashed in front of her.
She was playing with her father and her mother. She was of very tender age when she lost her mother. A feud had erupted leading her to commit suicide. After a mere period of about a month after her mother's death, her father had married Malti. From that day onwards, Naina always hated Malti. The same incident appeared in front of her eyes, her father was also no more. She was left with no one to whom she could call her own. A week had been passed. The Kapoors waited for Uday to visit their bungalow after collecting the autopsy reports from the forensic laboratory. The puffiness under Naina's eyes had already increased because of numerous sleepless nights. At about eleven in the morning, the door bell rang. Nikita came almost flying down to hear the name of the culprit. The house maid opened the main door. Uday strode in the living room. With his eyes looking downwards he started to speak. "I am sorry Mrs. Kapoor. There has been a mistake at our end." He paused. Before he could proceed further, Naina intervened. "What's in the report? Can I see it?" She pointed at the folder held firmly by Uday in his right arm's support. "These....these are not the autopsy reports." Uday said gruffly. Naina was getting curious.
“The autopsy couldn’t be persormed, I am sorry!” Uday continued. “What do you mean the autopsy couldn’t be performed?” This time voce came from her Naina’s uncle, Sudhir’s brother. Uday cleared his throat. The next thing which was sputtered out from Uday's mouth took everybody's breath away. "The
autopsy couldn't be performed because there is no body to perform autopsy on! The corpse is missing." This time Uday said in one breath. "NO!" The entire room was filled with the loud deafening shrills of Naina's cries. To be continued....
In his words - “I had a passion for writing since my childhood days but was very much waiting for the right time and right platform. The day I started my blog was the time and the correct platform which helped me a lot to evolve my writing skills. I love reading and writing suspense/thrillers alongwith some poetry that reflects my inner self and my surroundings.”
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was more than excited to get hold of it. Does it work? Let’s check it out. The blurb goes like this: Atulya Mahajan’s debut novel Amreekandesi: Masters Of America is a story of two Indian boys with the same dream of making a career in America. With a touch of satire, the story relates how these Indian students meet in the US while they are searching for their fabled American Dream. The protagonists of this novel are Akhil Arora and Jaspreet Singh, who are fated to become Atulya Mahajan had sent across this friends in this foreign land. book to me more than 6 months back. There were a couple of times I These two characters come from began to read it but due to my busy different states in India – one is from schedules at work, I couldn’t move Delhi and the other is from Punjab. forward. But finally, the day came Akhil Arora is portrayed as a young and the book was read and done engineer studying in Delhi craves with in the space of just a couple of freedom from his overbearing family and wants to prove to them that he hours. is capable of managing his own life. “Amreekandesi: Masters of Amer- Jaspreet Singh comes from a small ica” is Atulya Mahajan’s first ever town in Punjab and calls himself Jasnovel. But he is surely not a nov- si. He wishes to live the American ice on the literary scene. He has re- dream, akin to the movie American galed millions in India and across Pie. Jassi and Akhil meet in Florithe world through his satirical com- da and become roommates. While ments, jokes and blog posts on so- studying in the States, they take up cial media since quite a while. So jobs for survival. They become close when I got to know about his book, I friends and share their storizen.com | February 2014 | 86
hopes and dreams with each other. Both of them are on extreme opposites as far as their perspectives are concerned. Akhil, is an ardent patriot and he wishes to return to India after spending a few years abroad. On the other hand, Jassi does not want to carry on with his Indian identity as it makes him feel embarrassed and uncomfortable. So, he has a plan to look for an American girl and settle down in America. While Akhil falls in love with Nandita, a girl he met on the flight; Jassiâ€™s dream of living an American life is shattered at every step. In Amreekandesi: Masters Of America the author has included his witty insights and humorous anecdotes. While chronicling the classic experience of an immigrant, the author highlights the identity crises and survival in a foreign place. He highlights how people change when they live in a foreign land. The story is set in those times when every parent used to dream of sending his / her child to the USA. It was regarded as the land of dreams; the land where everything was perfect; the land where all the dirt, pollution and excesses like these from India were absent. The story rolls in flashback and we are introduced to two very different characters.
each and every girl he sees. If one wants to get away from his nagging parents and excel in life, the other wants to excel in sleeping with at least a good number of women and enjoying life to the fullest. Sentimental parents, a sweet little love story, life in a new land, defending your country against foreigners; the story brings forth all this and more. Atulya has paced the story quite effectively with an equal dose of satire and serious drama whenever the need arises. Readers these days are normally exposed to IIT kind of love stories. But this one is quite different from them in terms of the setting and the style and therefore, it works big time. The fact that Atulya has studied in Florida State University and knows the surroundings at the back of his hand, it has surely helped him to pen the characters and the concept beautifully.
From where I see, there is no downside to this book at all. The only thing I could point out is the fact that since Atulya has always dabbled a lot in satire, some of his audience may have expected a lot more satire in the book than there already is. But then as a writer, itâ€™s been a pleasure seeing him give equal importance to dramatic as well as satirical sequences. It quite clearly shows the If one is a simple, studious and well skill and the effort he has taken to mannered guy, the other is a guy pen down the book. whose main aim in life is to woo storizen.com | February 2014 | 87
Whether it is the determined Akhil, the ‘trying-to-be-a-dude’ Jaspreet, the cute Nandita or the ‘so-calledstud’ Priyank, all the characters in the book are quite life like. The way Atulya has created each of them, you would surely imagine any of
your friends in their shoes. Go for this one if you are game for light hearted entertainers! You won’t be disappointed!! n
Aseem Rastogi is a passionate blogger, published author and an avid lover of books. He has opinions on anything & everything under the sun which he keeps penning on his blog. storizen.com | February 2014 | 88
Vasrao The Streradian Trail by M.N.Krish, makes for an engrossing read ! From the contents of the book ,it appears to be the first novel penned by the author & that is what is indeed admirable.The author who is from IIT has written for business magazines earlier. The cover is yellow which goes to yellow brown & towards the top it is brown.Currency symbols are scattered in no particular order on the yellow brown cover.A reddish brown geometric symbol made up of many squares is also featured on the cover.It is just like a bird in flight, with wings spread out.The title of the book is stated on the cover followed by an infinity symbol.It says that that this is book 0 of the infinity cycle ! Follows that, the writer hopes storizen.com | February 2014 | 90
to write infinite books ! This story is about professor Joshua who is visiting India & as he plans to return to US ,his home ,he is held back for his safety.He starts investigating & is soon embroiled in a mystery ! His classmate Lakshman, is his confidant in this mission which has already taken away the life of one of his students.Initially,the duo face no dangers & as the plot progresses,their lives are in danger. This is also the story of Divya who is knowledge personified & nothing misses her keen sense of Mathematics. Her friend Veenu helps her with crucial inputs in demystifying the riddle.Do they succeed ? What happens to Joshua & his friend ? Do they remain alive as they dig deeper & deeper ? What is at stake which puts their life in danger ? This book is also a tribute to Ramanujan ,the world famous Indian mathematician. I loved the read,as it is laced with humour.The author uses the tryst with destiny speech of our erstwhile Prime Minister Nehru in a very different context & it makes us guffaw loudly.Another instance is of the monkey menace in the laboratory which makes the reader smile a lot. The practice of bestowing honorary doctorates to all & sundry is featured in the book.
And it makes a mockery of the people who are scholars This is indeed, a sad state of affairs. Instead,doctorates are generously granted to businessmen,politicians,etal who have no relationship,whatsoever with learning. The book lists the cultural practices of the brahmins in Chennai with their idiosyncrasies like Sri Ramajayam,their faith in Gods ,their places of pilgrimage,vegetarianism, filter coffee etal. This makes it very delightful .The author seems to be in favour of vegetarianism though he tries hard not to preach it. Though Mathematics is the subject tackled here,the author keeps it light & hence the book does not get boring or dull. The description of degree coffee of Kumbhakonam,where Ramanujan’s house is makes it very
compelling to visit Kumbhakonam just for tasting the degree coffee ! The author laments that a museum dedicated to Ramanujan is hardly known to many, even in Chennai & is all due to the efforts of a school teacher. The language is simple & the book is divided into small chapters The result is, that I was egged on to finish the chapters as they were small.It is devoid of technicalities of Mathematics & hence interesting.It makes me take pride in the work of Ramanujan. I would recommend this book to one & all as it is humourous & has mystery & lots of drama.It informs us that the Ramanujan’s theories are being discussed & debated even today so many years after his death ! In India ,we seem to have forgotten him n
Vasrao is a law graduate from Government Law College,Mumbai.She’s a fellow in General Insurance. She’s a homemaker at present, having worked for nearly 16 years in General Insurance in the Public Sector. She’s a voracious reader and maintains a wonderful book review blog. storizen.com | February 2014 | 91
Vasrao The Prophecy of Trivine is a coordinated effort by three engineers who studied in the same college.This is a surprise as it requires thinking & visualising similarly & even agreeing to the visualisation & ideas of others.This is a book divided into Prologue,20 chapters followed by Epilogue.All these are contained in 259 pages.The book came with two book marks.The book marks had the same print as is there on the cover of the book. The book cover,shows half a face which is silvery white with piercing blue eyes.It is a very chiseled face & a feminine one.The eye is blue. The background seems to be bluish black.On the back cover is a circle which could be the globe or the sky. It shows passing clouds & a hyena storizen.com | February 2014 | 92
silhouette of a hyena which seems to be wailing as the mouth is open, with canines protruding from its mouth..Two more trees,both dried up, with no leaves,form part of the background. This is a tale of a techie,on the run, who takes shelter in the jungle.This is also the story of a pharmacist,who is studying plants & herbs in the jungle.This is also the saga of a person,who is a great artist.This story delves into the jungle & the happenings there.The jungle is paranormal or is it mutating ? Or maybe it is all just normal ? What are the aims of the techie,the scientist & the artist ? Will they join hands together for making the world a better place ? Or would they pull each other down, as that is basic human nature ?Are humans ever ready to argue,pick up a fight and the like ? Can they ever aid & help each other ? There is someone who is keeping a watch & maybe even prompting .Who is that ? Is that real or paranormal or is it God ?Where is the world headed ? The book is written visually .....especially the description of the forest is so vivid that one would love to explore such a jungle as described in the book.Not that it is without its inherent dangers.Still ,the beauty
of the jungle makes one feel adventurous to try it out.Telepathy & other terms like contact,teleporting make it very engrossing ! Current events are woven into the tapestry of the novel & this makes it contemporary. The language is easy & fluid.The story moves at an even pace.A little bit of humour would have been the icing on the cake ! Is paranormal same as Divine ? Not many will concur.Moreover is destruction the only option for God ?
Almighty is capable of repairing & resurrection , isn’t it ? That is what makes God so many notches above human kind. The saga does get preachy at times. Some ideas like evolution of life as per the novel may be unacceptable to some.This is a good attempt to weave science fiction & magic. Trust, that very soon, cures for life threatening disease / s would be revealed.....as in the novel ! n
Vasrao is a law graduate from Government Law College,Mumbai.She’s a fellow in General Insurance. She’s a homemaker at present, having worked for nearly 16 years in General Insurance in the Public Sector. She’s a voracious reader and maintains a wonderful book review blog.
I don’t know Jyotsna Bhatia I don’t know if you ever miss me But I do, every time I breathe I don’t know if you ever think of me But I do, every moment I am awake and even in my sleep I don’t know if my pictures are still with you or you have kept them at bay But I hold yours every single day I don’t know if my gifts still you see But I do, all the days of every week I don’t know if without me, your life is ever a labyrinth But mine becomes one, every single month I don’t know if you would still call me someone dear But I would, this and every upcoming year I don’t know if you still love me But I do with every ounce of life inside me I don’t know if you would ever be back But I shall wait for you till infinity !! 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.”
The perfect gift Sweety Pateliya I take the shine from the moon mellow, And give it to your eyes as dreams, Steal some black from the dark night And line your eyes beautifully with it, Ocean lends its hidden treasure And pearls adorn your neck Sky sheds some of its blue And I make a silken dress. I take these all and keep it in, the box of my years of experience, And gift it on your birthday to, get you ready for the world outside.
A Nagpur based serial blogger, Sweety is an aspiring author.
arvind kejriwal, anees salim, kanishka gupta, kalyan varma, sumit sehgal, shweta taneja, ravi subramanian, sreemoyee piu kundu, ismita tando...