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2014 marks the start of second calendar year of Storizen Magazine; journey that we started in May 2013. During this journey, we also understood our responsibility towards creating a space for English literature in India and glorifying the same. Thanks to you dear reader, our readership has grown leaps and bounds since then. We expect the same co-operation from you in the future. In the cover story of this issue, we have featured Meghna Pant; the young, the brightest and the most promising star of Indo-English fiction. Meghna has created quite a buzz in the contemporary English fiction space with her lucid depiction of complex yet comprehensive nuances Editor of human relationships. Do read the cover story, as we Victor Basu trace her journey from a dynamic child to becoming the rising star of Indian literature. Sub Editors In tête-à-tête with author section, we’ve featured, BolMukesh Rijhwani lywood actress-turned-author Suchitra Krishnamoorthi Sudipa Chakraborty as she talks about her latest book ‘Drama Queen’. Also, Sumantra Chaudhury covered in this issue, is one of champion writers of our age, Manreet Sodhi Someshwar. She shares her journey Copy Editors from an expat wife to becoming an authoritative voice of Asmita Sarkar Taj Mahal. Saurabh Chawla We have a special coverage of Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival; studded with many eminent personalities of Photo Editor varied creative fields; Aamir Khan, Amjad Ali Khan, Sir Neloy Bandyopadhyay Mark Tulli, Farookh Dandhi, Governor of West Bengal KR Designer Narayanan and many more. Amit Mitra To mark the Valentine’s Day, we’ve shared poems of Love written by some of our talented readers. Hope you enjoy reading this issue. Do keep writing to us.

TEAM | January 2014 | 3

Book Events

Anand Neelakantan - Ajaya - Epic of the Kaurava clan Ajaya - epic of the Kaurava clan, book I- Roll of the dice was launched on 28.12.2013 at 04.00 PM, Landmark Bookstores Ltd, Somajiguda, Hyderabad by the Superstar couple, Nagarjuna and Amala. The event was attended by many readers, fans of the actors and more than 50 media houses. Speaking in the launch function, Actor Nagarjuna said he was always enamored by the so called villains of the mythology and such attempts by authors like Anand Neelakantan as a welcome move. He praised the author for the clarity in thoughts and for logical imagination and said that soon the author would come up with a good script for a film. Speaking in the occasion, Amala talked about the amazing writing prowess of the author Anand Neelakantan and how hooked she got with the narration of Ajaya and how the well known events have been given a fresh twist just by changing the perspective Swarup Nanda, CEO of the Leadstart publication (P) ltd, the firm that published last year’s blockbuster (as per CNN IBN and Nielsen report) Asura as well as the newly launched Ajaya spoke about how the commissioning editor was excited by the theme of Anand’s book and they had gone on to sign the two book deal with the author Speaking during the function, Anand Neelakantan, said that his writing is inspired by the rich tradition and culture of his home town, Thripunithura, near Cochin and how from his childhood he had dreamed about telling the stories of Ravana and Duryodhana. Though Ravana had fascinated him more and he had written Asura first, a chance visit to a temple in Kerala which has Duryodhana as its deity planted the seed of Ajaya in Anand’s mind. Ajaya like Asura, is a product of the most powerful of all thoughtsWhat if? What if the other side has a story to tell, what if the other side has a same story to tell differently? | January 2014 | 6 | January 2014 | 7

‘Tears of Jhelum’ by Anita Krishan, was launched at India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road on 16th of January 2014 by Padma Shri Mr. Anupam Kher, an award winning actor, former chairman of the Censor Board of India and National School of Drama. The hall was abuzz with excitement with people from all walks of life waiting to listen to the renowned speakers. The crowd was overwhelmed when the much-awaited chief guest, Mr. Anupam Kher along with Anita& other panellists launched the book. Anita took Anupam Kher down the memory lane when they were both in the same college. Anupam Kher also cracked few jokes with the audience and how his own uncle had to leave the region because of the threats to Kashmiri Pundits. | January 2014 | 10 | January 2014 | 11

Book Events

Suchitra Krishnamoorthi - Drama Queen Bollywood actress, Singer and author Suchitra Krishnamoorthi launched her second book Drama Queen. This book is a memoir.Suchitra made her writing debut with a novel called The Summer of Cool. The book was launched in a star studded event. The event was attended by Amish Tripathi, Nagesh Kukunoor, Kiran Juneja, Vikram Bhatt, Satish Kaushik, Ramesh Sippy, Suchitra Krishnamoorthy, Ken Ghosh, Nisha Jamwal, Queenie Dhody and many more Bollywood celebrities.

1 Thou shalt write for personal satisfaction. Thou shalt not expect to buy yachts writing books. Or even more than a few kilo onions. Who does thee think thy are? Jhumpa Lahiri? 2 Thy publisher is thy god. Thou shalt sing songs praising them every day. Thou shalt do it when thee wakes up. Thou shalt sing a prayer when thee eats lunch. Thou shalt pray for their good health when thee goes to the bathroom. 3 Thou shalt not covet another writer’s success. Thou art not the first writer to think that thy book, and thy book alone, deserves the Booker prize. Sure. Uday Chopra deserves a Lifetime achievement Oscar too, but is he complaining? 4 Thou shalt never go to a mall and not go to the bookstore, where thou shalt ask for thy book and then thou shalt NOT place copies at prominent locations where the world can see them. 5 Thou shalt not expect thy publisher to sell THY book. They published it already. Be thankful, thee lazy writer. Go find a rickshaw and a mike and tell the world about it thyself.

6 Thou shalt not use sex to sell thy book. Oh hell, who art thou kidding? Fill it up with smut. Thy readers can’t have enough of heaving bosoms and fornicating teenagers. 7 Thou shalt not beg people to write reviews of thy book on Flipkart, Goodreads, etc. Thou shalt prepare to go to hell if thee writes fake reviews thyself. 8 Thou shalt not rant against book reviewers, howsoever illogical their reviews might appear. Thou shalt be humble and grateful and thank them for wasting their time on thy book. 9 Thou shalt do an MBA and increase thy chances of becoming a best-seller writer. MBA. Master of Book Accolades. 10 If thee finds a reader who reads thy book, likes it, selflessly shares it on Facebook and Twitter and writes five-star reviews on their blog and everywhere else, thou shalt just marry them. Thou shalt not worry about gender, caste or skin texture. Such people shalt come by once in a lifetime. n

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

Writing Stories, 101


Atul Randev I talk to my characters, is this a sign of madness!!?? “So you’ve to climb up to the top of the hill and then jump off the edge.” I said to the character. “You know, that seems like an incredibly stupid thing to do.” The character replied, “I don’t think I’m going to do that.” “But you’ve got to, I’m hinging a big life lesson on the scene, that is

the way I planned It.” “Yeah, here’s what I think of your plan.” **Rude gesture**, “I’m going down to have a beer. Try and fit your life lesson into that.” As the story took structure and body, this began to happen more and more often- the protagonists began to shape the story. There are two things that you can do here, stay stubborn and stick to your existing ideas, or you can delve into the possibilities. I’d resolve this | January 2014 | 18

Writing Tips by making a decision tree. Such as, the one below, this helps in exploring events and in tightening the plot, plus it’s fun. Endings are scary – but sometimes you just have to rip the band-aid off “You learn when you finish things.” says Neil Gaiman. Bringing a minor or major plot thread to closure may be difficult. The idea over here is to get on with it. Check your plot, grab a cup of coffee, wrench your hair around a little bit, and type it out. Don’t review it the moment you finish, or you’ll never be able to pull away. When you go over it again after a week you may like it more, else substance can always be added in further revisions. My story makes no sense. 90,000 words, AND, it makes no sense. None, nada, zilch. These are the words I said to myself while going over the first draft of my book for the first time. I was in a tizzy, 6 months of drudging week after week and all I had to show for it was ill-formed prose, and a story that could never pick up pace. Maybe it was just bad writing on my part and you’d never face this problem, but a little Googling showed me that this is a very common sentiment. There is even a name for this – fearofirstodrafto phobia – alright, I totally made that up, but the point stays. I’ll tell you what Gaiman says on first drafts – They don’t matter. Whatever is wrong can be fixed. If you have finished your first versiondistance yourself for a while. It could be a couple of days, or as little as 2 hours. Analyzing your work critically can often be a harrowing process; there will be disappointments peppered with flashes of brilliance, staying away from your story gives you time to get into an objective frame of mind- delve in again with the attitude to improve. People tell me there are earlier versions of ‘The Great Gatsby’ out there – that are absolutely terrible, and yet it is one classic that refuses to go out of vogue even today. That is it for now fellas, or as Robert Jordan would put it – “It is an end, but it is not the end.” See you soon hopefully, until then, write away. n Atul Randev is an IT professional living and working in Gurgaon. He is the Co-author of The Degenerate tales of Decadent minds, a book of short stories. Also an avid traveller, he is currently working on his first novel. | January 2014 | 19 | January 2014 | 20 | January 2014 | 21

Mukesh Rijhwani An alumnus of St. Xaviers Mumbai, Meghna completed her MBA in finance from a reputed international university. Along with her impressive academic background she also has the sweet looks of an actress. She wrote her first book, a short story collection, ‘Third Eye’. Any guesses how many publishers were ready to publish this book? She discloses, “In 2005, my first book (a collection of short stories Third Eye) was rejected by every single publisher.” Yes, the Indian Publishing Houses are very difficult to penetrate, much like getting into the IITs. Like most budding authors, she would have given it up, but no she held on. She tells us, “It took more than half a decade of disciplined

writing and immense hard work before I saw my name in a bookstore.” Now the second question, how much time do you think it would have taken the publishers to respond to her second book? Any guesses? Once her novel ‘One & A Half Wife’ was ready, it was picked up within two hours of sending it. Now that’s what we call perseverance! Her second book was released by Westland. ‘One & A Half Wife’ is a story of Amara Malhotra and her so-called American Dream gone wrong. She’s smart, intellectual, spirited and is strong-headed. She leads a life that every girl dreams of and then she marries a Harvard-educated mil lionaire.

But as the saying goes, life doesn’t spare anyone. An event occurs and her fairytale marriage ends. Amara returns to Shimla and what happens next is a series of events that shake her to the core. She didn’t know whom to believe and trust. She had to resolve the old issues and tackle the new ones on the way. This book was much acclaimed critically and commercially as well. Jeet Thayil has described her writing as ‘deft, merciless, expertly-tuned’, Ashwin Sanghi as ‘provocative and inspirational’, and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni as ‘surprising and | January 2014 | 24

ing’. One And A Half Wife has won the national Muse India Young Writer Award and was shortlisted for other awards, including the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. The story of Amara and her personality is not autobiographical and are quite different from Meghna’s. Meghna chose this character so that she could put herself in an unfamiliar environment and encapsulate someone quite unlike her. However in the process of forming her story she tapped deep into her personal experiences. This was required during the creation of the three central themes of One & A Half Wife, which are immigration, the call of home and marriage, set in two countries the US and India. We asked Meghna about her college life. She shared, “It was a time of flux for me because just before joining St. Xavier’s College I’d set my heart on becoming a doctor, and despite getting a 91 per cent, lost out a Mumbai medical seat because of reservation. Suddenly from

Don’t romanticize writing. Keep in mind that it could be a long harassing time and be prepared forthat.

a Science background I was thrust into the Arts field, and from having friends who only wanted to be engineers and doctors, I was meeting people who wanted to be actors, scientists, economists, psychologists, ad directors, bankers and what not. It opened up a lot for my way of thinking, and juxtaposed with the strict college rules like high attendance (a rarity in Bombay colleges then), not wearing sleeveless clothes, or cutting birthday cake in the foyer, it was a time of learning beyond the classroom.” After completing her MBA in Finance from Singapore, she started her journalist career, as a TV anchor, with Times Now. She holds a high regard for Arnab Goswami. She then moved to NDTV Profit, Mumbai. From there she moved to New York where Bloomberg was setting up a new network. At BloombergUTV, she reported on NYSE. As part of her job, she interviewed, President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sir Richard Branson, Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani and Shah Rukh Khan. To know what laid the path for this astounding success as a writer, we traced her beginnings. She enthusiastically responded, “My parents worked in the IRS and recently retired as Chief Commissioners of In-

come Tax. Highly educated, both of them were gold medalists in their respective universities. They came from humble beginnings and through sheer grit, hard work and focus were able to provide us a comfortable home. Despite their own middle-class conventional upbringing, they gave my brother and me a lot of freedom and independence to become whoever we wanted to be. My mother loves painting and my father sings beautifully, so I’ve always seen them pursuing intellect alongside creativity, and this has therefore become a way of life for me. My father is an original comedian, as in he has a joke for every occasion, every person, and every situation. Due to this there was a lot of laughter in the house and my earliest life lessons were in not taking people or circumstances too seriously, which – especially later – gave me a lot of strength in trying times. My mother has been my backbone and the reason why I am where I am. She is a strong, extremely intelligent and practical person, and a lot of my bravado and drive towards life is inspired from this.” Meghna grew up reading Enid Blyton, Sidney Sheldon, Jeffery Archer, Somerset Maugham, Ruskin Bond, Shakespeare and RK Narayan, the typical fare that Indian children | January 2014 | 25

growing up in the 80s-90s were given to read. She fondly recalls, “Gone With The Wind was the first book I stayed up till six in the morning reading, and till today I don’t think there is a book as perfect as that or a character as finely etched out as Scarlett O’Hara. Margaret’s largesse is inimitable.” We switched topic to her writing again. In 2005, when every single publisher rejected her first book, she became more disciplined and worked extremely hard to see her name on a published book. She recalls, “I became so consumed by my writing that I could no longer sit through a movie or a TV show, as I’d feel guilty about wasting time. My social life dwindled to ten per cent of what it used to be, and I’m lucky that my deepest friendships were formed before I started writing so I still have a strong support system. If I go to a party, I’m often so busy observing people and making mental notes that I forget to enjoy. My bottom is on its own trajectory and my shoulders are often in frozen in pain. I once had my laptop tip over and cut my upper lip (I’m a horizontal writer), and I didn’t get up till my T-shirt was bloody because I was in the middle of writing a crucial

scene. That is mania, love, passion, and obsession. That is writing.” She requests wannabe authors to stay away from writing, if their goal is to get famous, win awards or make millions. Writing, as she describes, is a soul-wrenching, all-consuming process that demands you to put the rest of your life on hold. Most writers, just ship the stories, soon after the first draft. However Meghna, perfects her story over months till it reaches its full potential and a story that will reveal a new truth or a new world to its reader. Her second book, ‘Happy Birthday and other stories’ got published within 14 months of her first book. It is a collection of 13 short stories with the common theme as human relationships and its triumphs and tribulations. The book is well received by the blogosphere and making waves on GoodReads, Flipkart and many online media portals. Like all authors, she also feels for her characters. She shares, “Every time I reach the last line of The Gola Master, a little clanking starts in my head and I find myself thinking: No! No! Don’t do that! I cry on reading Hoopsters when Payal has that moment alone in the room with her dead mother, or when Mr Kumar

Write only if you are very passionate about. Don’t write for glamour or fame or think of making millions. None of that happen just like that. | January 2014 | 26

from Lemon and Chili goes back to his ancestral home in the village. I want to reach into the pages and hug Choti from The Gecko on the Wall or laugh when Meenu, the prostitute, tries, unsuccessfully, to seduce her client Pramod in Dented and Painted Women.” Incidentally, she is the sister of a very famous standup comedian Sorabh Pant. She recalls, “My brother was a shy and introverted boy. As a kid,

he also had the tendency of getting beaten up a lot and because of that, in trying to protect him, I got into a few fights with boys as well as girls (especially once I learnt Karate). He hated studying, while I was a nerd when it came to studies, so I’d often stay up nights doing his homework while he was snoring away. Despite my protective streak, I used to bully him, until he became taller than me and since then we’ve been like best friends. There was this one day when Bombay was slashed by howling winds and thunder and rain. While the rest of the world hid in their nooks and corners, Sorabh and me decided to go out in the rain and we ran right up to the farthest corner of land that we could find (at Priyadarshani Park). Over there, at what seemed like the edge of the earth for us, we looked at lightning striking the sea, angry welts in the sky, we heard the resounding rage of thunder, and we did a little dance and we shouted, ‘We are the kings of this world.’ I shudder now, thinking of our bravado and foolishness, but this memory has stuck to me as a reminder of all that we thought we could be,

Write a story in a way that your favorite author would. When you are writing, imagine what your favorite author would say, how would they pen it down. Every sentence and every phrase, look at it from their point of view. | January 2014 | 28

Keep on writing and maintain discipline. Write every day if you can.

of what we wanted to be and where we’ve come since then. Unlike the kids of today, we didn’t even know what stand-up comedy was growing up, so making people laugh is a genetic predisposition that Sorabh has clearly inherited from our father. To me Sorabh also embodies the essence of life: if you stay true to that which lies within you, then you cannot go wrong.” She attributes her writing to Ayn Rand and shares that she looks for Howard Roark in every man she meets. In the past one year, she’s been invited to speak on almost all literary festivals around the country. She has already shared stage with some

of the established and famous Indi an and International authors. While writing her first two books, she was working full time as a business journalist in New York, Mumbai and Dubai. She found the stress of straddling two parallel careers overwhelming. So, since last July, this happily unmarried lady is on a sabbatical leave for a year to write her next novel, ‘Sons of God’. Even though she’s in her early thirties, she’s achieved accolades in all spheres of life through her grit, determination, brilliance and perseverance. We wish this bright young star of Indian Literature, a million more accolades. n

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. | January 2014 | 29 | January 2014 | 30 | January 2014 | 31

Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival (AKLF) instituted in 2010, by the Apeejay Surrendra Group and its heritage 94-year-old Oxford Bookstore on Park Street, culminated in its fifth edition in Kolkata. The literary forum that began from 8th -13th January 2014 witnessed the literati’s of the city and beyond engage in celebration of words and ideas. This year too AKLF took pride in showcasing city heritage & cultural sites like Victoria Memorial, St. John’s Anglican Church and Tollygunge Club which offered a wonderful ambience for literary activities preserving the spirit of intimate encounters between booklovers & authors. Amongst other themes, AKLF 2014 paid a special tribute to India’s first education minister, writer and scholar Maulana Abul Kalam Azad on his 125th birth anniversary, with the opening by his great grand nephew, iconic Aamir Khan. Some of the prominent personalities in attendance were Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, British author and playwright Farrukh Dhondy, former BBC journalist and author Sir Mark Tully, writer Amit Chaudhuri, danseuse Tulsi Badrinath, artist Salima Hashmi, fashion designers Bina Ramani and Kallol Dutta, along with authors like Anita Nair, Rana Dasgupta, Upamanyu Chatterjee, Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, Mani Shankar Mukherjee, Omair Ahmad and Prajwal Parajuly amongst several others. The festival this year also saw increased participation from authors and personalities from different parts of the world, with participants from Europe – France, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland and the UK alongside a special session with a block of commonwealth writers. | January 2014 | 32

Who are some of your favourite authors - Indian or International? I love reading works of Jiddu Krishnamurti, Khaled Hosseini and Plum Sykes. Which book or books have influenced you the most? What are you currently reading or last read? The book that influenced me the most is the Bible. It speaks to you in different ways no matter how many times you read it :) right now I am reading Khaled Hosseini’s And The Mountains Echoed. I love his books. There is so much sadness combined with hope in them, it really touches me. Which of your movies do feel is the most literary – had the best story and dialogue? The best story and dialogues would be Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. I would love to act in a more literary film. Like a novel turn movie or a more historic film. Do you have plans to write your autobiography? Or if you had to pick one author to be your biographer, who would that be? I always wanted to write an autobiography, but I never know where to start. My life has been so eventful that it would probably need two or three volumes to tell it all! Apart from Chetan Bhagat, which Indian writer’s works would make good Bollywood? I think there are many talented writers in India and I would love to see more movies with interesting new stories. Which Indian book would you like to see adapted into a Bollywood film? And which character would you like to play? Indian mythology and history is so amazing that I would love to see more movies based on old epic stories. I would like to play a Mugal princess. n | January 2014 | 39


Manreet Sodhi Someshwar Author - The Hunt for Kohinoor | January 2014 | 40

Sumantra Chaudhury | January 2014 | 41

Tell us about your journey from your first book, ‘Earning the Laundry Stripes’, to your latest one, ‘The Hunt for Kohinoor’. Writing snuck upon me in the guise of a tai tai, a Chinese colloquial term for a woman of leisure. Perched atop a Singapore highrise, I was to take a sabbatical from the life of a corporate road warrior and indulge in some ‘me’ time. And do what expat wives did when their spouses relocated overseas: languorous coffee mornings, salon sessions with girlfriends, retail therapy - the options were beguiling. I was on my way to realizing this barmy prospect in sunny Singapore when the plains of Punjab collided with me. Rather, its fields. That grew mustard and wheat and rice and, for a period in the eighties, militants. Which made my little town on the Indo-Pak border a militant hotbed. And images started to swim up, of a time that I had left behind, or so I thought ... Strapping burly Sardars wrapped in lois - a wool blanket that doubles up as a shawl in the Punjabi countryside - huddled in the lawn of our home, waiting for my father to start work. Or a late-night ringing of the doorbell, my father hurriedly summoned, then disappearing to return at dawn, his face drawn with what even my childish self could fathom was more than just fatigue. Newspapers with redacted text. Black tea | January 2014 | 42

served with leftover malai because the milkman’s delivery was interrupted, again, by curfew. Frequent abrupt school closures. Despite which my vocabulary grew: TADA, separatists, communal ... I tried to resist. After all, I was jobless - by choice, unburdened by motherhood - daughter yet to arrive, in a shiny first world city - ready to explore!, but the neat white Ikea table in my newly-set-up study drew me in repeatedly. There I’d sit after my husband left for office, with my second cup of tea, and memories that rose unbidden, like the fragrance of raat ki rani, the night blooming jasmine in the garden of our home in Ferozepur. All right, I determined, I would offload those memories onto my PC and be done with them. I was naive. One memory led to another, then another, a labyrinth opening up for me to wade in. That period of my life came back to me with the kind of hi-fidelity reproduction enthusiasts wax about. It was the eighties, Khalistan movement was at its peak, Punjab Pulce - as the police is routinely, and with some deprecation, called - was hunting down Sikh militants and notching up its tally of arrests, and men like my father - criminal lawyer by profession, Sikh by faith, Punjabi by nature/upbringing/birth? - got accustomed to being roused by bewildered parents whose sons had been whisked away from homes in the night.

Those strapping Sardars, whose forefathers had changed the course of mighty rivers to transform a scrubland into the fertile Punjab of today, who had fought the marauding hordes of Nadir Shah and Abdali, whose toil fed an entire nation, were left hapless in the face of this new adversity: Encounter deaths. To make sense of those memories I started asking questions. My research into the Khalistan movement took me back into time and it was the national library, not any salon, that became my haunt. The writing of what became my second published book, The Long Walk Home, took me seven years. Meanwhile, I wrote my first, Earning the Laundry Stripes, a tongue-in-cheek look at a woman executive in an allmale corporate world.

You passed out from IIMC and left your lucrative career and opt out for writing. Why let go of a career that million fellow countrymen dream of? I didn’t choose writing, it chose me, as I detail in the question above. Tell us about your rendezvous with Great Gulzar Saab. As the first fictional examination of the turbulent 20th century history of Punjab, The Long Walk Home was a tough sell. It is what publishing calls a ‘literary epic’. But I found the right home for it with Harper Collins under the brilliant stewardship of VK Karthika. She decided to send the book to Gulzar saab for a blurb. For me the very idea was outside the | January 2014 | 43

realm of possibility and I put it out of mind. Until one morning when my editor called and said that Gulzar wanted to speak with me! Not only had he read my manuscript, he had liked it enough to want to dedicate one of his shayrs to the book. That shayr appears on the back cover of The Long Walk Home, in Urdu in Gulzar saab’s hand, and in Roman transliteration as well. Needless to say, I was humbled and honoured. Upon release the book went on to win praise from Khushwant Singh who, in his review said, “Manreet is a gifted writer of great promise. I have a gut feeling we have a new star rising on Punjab’s literary horizon”. Say not the struggle naught availeth! | January 2014 | 44

What was the inspiration behind writing ‘The Taj Conspiracy’? To answer this question, I will have to tell you a story. It was a crisp winter morning in ‘08 when I last visited the Taj Mahal. As our guide urged us through the Jilaukhana, forecourt, I caught a fleeting glimpse of the white mausoleum perfectly framed in the arched entrance gateway. Before we could savour the moment, we’d stumbled through the gate into the lush gardens. The green of the chahar bagh contrasted with the red sandstone platform upon which stood the famed white mausoleum with its flanking buildings. Everything sang harmony

except our guide. Intent upon hustling us on, he ignored the perfect symmetry of the gardens, dismissed the central pool - almost as famous as the celebrities who pose from across it, gave a wide berth to the garden wall pavilions with their intriguing verandahs accentuated with coupled columns and arches ... No, for him, the Taj Mahal was only the white marble building at the north end, which, in turn, was some periodic table, materials and numericals interwoven, in which ‘marble’ and ‘sandstone’ popped with unsurprising periodicity. Admittedly, I was nonplussed. I am a writer, I like stories - they tell the truth, about the world, about ourselves, and since inception, homo sapiens have deployed stories to learn and remember by. x pheet by y pheet... marble... pheet pheet... sandstone... Why then was this guide bent upon dishing us an obscure periodic table? When I objected to the lack of a narrative, he nodded sanguinely and proceeded to a garnish of urban legends. I gaped. Earlier that year, we had toured the Vatican museums with a guide who had brought alive the magic of Renaissance - Michelangelo’s marble Pieta had since found a home in my heart. Here was the world’s most beautiful marble monument that should be pulsing with life stories, yet its narrative was buried under bloodless piling of numerical detail

and credulous myths when the true story of the monument was far bigger? Did he know that the marble mausoleum at the north end of the complex descended in terraced steps towards the Yamuna as part of a riverfront terrace which was a Shahjahani innovation? That the emperor approached the Taj on a boat over the river as against the approach by tourists today - which is why we never sight the terrace rooms. How, while designing the Taj as Mumtaz’s home in paradise, Shah Jahan put all elements to work, even sound. The central domed chamber within the mausoleum has such perfect acoustics that it is renowned for one of the longest echoes of any building in the world. That an Englishman’s love has illuminated the imperial Mughal tomb for over a century. The bronze lamp that hangs over the cenotaphs was especially gifted by Lord Curzon who, dismayed by the smoky lanterns the guides used to show him around, resolved to present the Taj with worthy lighting. That the Taj Mahal, Islamic in conception yet imbued with Hindu elements, is a syncretic creation truly symbolic of our culture. When we departed, I turned once to look at the Taj. This time, unhindered by the guide, I savoured it framed within the arched Darwaza-i-Rauza, the mist swirling around its marble dome. Somehow, the Taj looked | January 2014 | 45 | January 2014 | 46

forlorn, as if it needed someone to tell its story... The guide had come highly recommended; apparently his clientele included foreign corporate clients. Imagine what havoc the less recommended guides must yield? I resolved that day to write a novel around the Taj Mahal, one that would rescue it from ignorant guides and benighted rumours and show it for what it really is - as the colour white contains all colours within it, this monument of white comprises multiple, diverse threads of a pluralistic India. Thus was The Taj Conspiracy born. With your research behind writing ‘The Taj Conspiracy’, you’re regarded as one of the noted Taj Scholars. How does that feel? That is some compliment and I’ll acknowledge it with gratitude. It feels wonderful, of course, but it is also a reflection on how little we Indians really know about the multi-layered history of Taj Mahal. Historical fiction is a teeny-weeny niche in Indian publishing, and wikipedia-dump is often passed off as fundamental research. Which is a shame considering the five millennia of history we are sitting upon. What was the best compliment you received from an ordinary reader?

Readers write to me saying they visited the Taj again, and this time took a copy of The Taj Conspiracy with them and came away with a whole new appreciation of the iconic monument. That fills me with joy. If my book can go some way towards building a greater awareness and regard for the marble monument which is truly symbolic of India, my work is worth the while. Your latest book, ‘The Hunt for Kohinoor’, is published recently. Tell us more about it. The Hunt for Kohinoor is Book 2 of the Mehrunisa trilogy (The Taj Conspiracy being Book 1). A spine-chilling ninety-six hour hunt through the world’s most dangerous terrain where history collides with gunfire - will Mehrunisa get out of this one alive? One morning on her way to work, Mehrunisa gets a call that will change her life forever. The truth about her missing father is at her fingertips but it will take her on the most desperate chase of her lifetime. A chase that will pit her against hardened Jihadis plotting the deadliest terror attack on India, that will test her mettle against history ’s deep secrets, that will teach her that the price of love can mean bloodied hands ... The Hunt for Kohinoor hurtles from from icy Kashmir to snow-clad Hindukush, from the sinister | January 2014 | 47

corridors of a military hospital to the warrens of Peshawar, even as the clock counts down to the impending catastrophe. First readers of the book said it was cinematic. So we decided to have some fun with the book and created the world’s first motion poster for a thriller. This was received so enthusiastically that we decided to give sneak peeks into the main characters through short videos. You can view these on my Youtube channel The book is now in the market. A 10-page excerpt can be read here Enthusiastic readers are calling it ‘action-packed, intelligent, topical’ and ‘must read’! Anubhav Sinha, producer of the upcoming Gulab Gang, launched it in Mumbai and said he could see The Hunt for Kohinoor as a film with Priyanks Chopra playing Mehrunisa. As they say, whattay lark!

ney through India-Pakistan-Persia-Afghanistan, and the powerful hold it exerts on the imagination of people in the subcontinent, especially, and the world at large. Unlike other Indian authors, you don’t give away any free copies of your books. Reason? Not true. We are generous with contests where author-signed copies can be won. Currently, we have a giveaway running on Goodreads. However, I do believe that books are not dole to be handed out as charity. If a reader is intrigued then he/ she will pick up the book for what will be a worthwhile experience and time well spent. Also, contrary to perceptions, writers do not survive on air - they need meagre royalties to pay major bills. What are you working on?

Book 3 in the Mehrunisa Trilogy, The Peacock Throne Prophecy, is work Have you seen the Kohinoor? If in progress. yes, what was your feeling? Any words of wisdom for wanYes, in the British museum, where nabe authors? it sits atop red velvet as part of the Royal Collection. Shorn of its mag- Writing, to use an old-fashioned nificent Mughal setting as the crown term, is a calling. Which means, jewel in the Peacock Throne, it looks the vocation demands its pound of like any other big rock. flesh. Otherwise, there are easier To me, what is significant about the ways to earn a livelihood. n Kohinoor are the legions of stories associated with it, its turbulent | January 2014 | 48

Manreet Sodhi Someshwar is an award-winning writer and the author of four novels: Earning the Laundry Stripes, The Long Walk Home, The Taj Conspiracy, and most recently, The Hunt for Kohinoor. She trained as an engineer, graduated from IIM Calcutta, sold soaps, ads and advice for a living until she sought refuge in the written word. | January 2014 | 49


Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan

Author - You are here, Cold feet, Confessions of a Listmaniac, The Life and Times of Layla the Ordinary | January 2014 | 50 | January 2014 | 51

Your journey from a blogger to an ist writing about life and love online became news, people were asking author. Tell us more about it. each other who I was, and long story I’ve always been a diary keeper, short, an editor called me and asked pretty much ever since my mother if I had anything I’d like to publish. gave me my first notebook: covered Like a book. (Which also I had been in red Chinese silk, when I was six. writing since my early days.) The earlier diaries were private and not for anyone else to see, but when Tell us about the best and the I went away to boarding school, my worst comments that you’ve refriend and I used to swap my diary ceived on your blog. back and forth, with her writing little comments in the margins. That Somewhere around 2004 to 2007, diary didn’t feel quite so personal, I had quite a dedicated communibecause I named it “Amour,” as in, ty on my blog. People would leave I’d be starting each entry with “Dear comments for me, yes, but also Amour,” and I gave myself the pen talking to each other. This is when name “Mavis” (I don’t know why ei- the best and the worst comments ther), so they were signed, “Love, happened regularly. The best would be the ones where I made new Mavis.” When blogs came into the scene friends, I suppose? I have friends back in 2003, I had a job with a news- around the world, who I’ve actualpaper, which required that I stay in ly visited, and we’re actually close, at work and have the pages laid out thanks to the blog. The worst, were, by the designer. This was all very of course, the little battalion of interboring, so I spent a lot of time on the net trolls, you know the ones who internet, which is when I discovered hate to see someone happy or sucblogs, and decided I’d start one too. cessful or even hate that other peoIt was meant to be anonymous, but ple are reading you in the first place. one of my colleagues found it, and Not that I was either happy or succirculated the link (which is too bad, cessful at this point, but still. I think because I had just that day written the hate comments that hurt me the about them all. Kids, don’t write most were from other women bringabout work on your blog.) I changed ing me down, very well written, arthe URL and continued, with much ticulate comments on how much I more stringent privacy checks (ev- sucked. I’d be all like, “But I’m one eryone got a pseudonym, the link of you!” and they’d say, “Nope, you was not immediately obvious, and I still suck.” never wrote about work again). Be- How did the “You are here” hapfore long, the news of a Delhi journal- pened? | January 2014 | 52

I love telling the You Are Here origin story! Okay, so, when I was in my late teens in college, I realized that there weren’t any books being written about people like us, people like the people I knew. Removed from the exotic nature of villages and mango pickle and family feuds and what not, that’s the kind of stuff that was being published from India. All terribly sad stories about families that were nothing like mine. So I began my first attempt at writing then, and I found I couldn’t shake the story, so I abandoned it and restarted it, over and over, until I sat down with my editor at Penguin and pitched it, this story of our lives, and then in two weeks, managed to bang out what would be the beginning of You Are Here. I took some time off work to start it, but most of it was written at night, after work, in my bedroom. If you want to write, you’re going to write, I always think. None of this nonsense about the right place and the right time, and wrapping yourself up in cotton wool. Writing should come anywhere: from a Rajdhani train compartment, when you’re the only one awake and working with your knees up to your chin in the tiny berth, or in the middle of a loud family holiday, or all alone in a coffee shop. Don’t be precious about it. I had some support, but mostly I didn’t tell anyone very much, because I wanted to see if I could do it first. After it came out, my friends and family were all super awesome | January 2014 | 54

(if a little surprised) about this Writing Career that suddenly emerged. I’m lucky that my parents are both writers, and so didn’t balk at my chosen profession. They’re resigned to the fact that I’ll never be rich, but they want me to be happy, and I am. It’s nice to know what you want to do when you’re young, so you can spend the rest of your time actively making it happen. Was it easy to get published? For me, it was surprisingly easy thanks to the blog. But the blog itself was a bit of a labour of love, so there’s that, if you count it. It took almost two years from the time I signed my contract to the time the book came out. In the meanwhile, I had a new job, a new city, and a whole new life, and into the midst of all this, came tumbling this book I had written at 24, and I was so removed from it, and yet so close to it, all at the same time. I assumed that it would have a small print run, maybe be in the stores for a little while, and then maybe enjoy a small but devoted readership (I think all writers dream about their ideal readers. I was no less.) But in the weeks before it came out, a big international paper carried a story about me and the blog, and suddenly, there was this huge media interest, and I actually went around the country with You Are Here. It was amazing. It’s still amazing.

How many copies of “You are here” are sold? Also, any movie-adaptation offers? Let’s see: it’s in its seventh print run now? And assuming all the print runs are the same as the first—15,000? I think that could be a good approximation? I still get a (small) royalty cheque every quarter! There was one chance to turn it into a film. A friend of mine, Kunal Nayyar, (Raj in The Big Bang Theory) wanted to try his hand at turning it into a film, and he even bought the option rights, but it didn’t wind up working out. Ah well. Still for sale if someone wants it. I think Cold Feet, my latest, would make a fantastic film, even if I do say so myself. You’ve shifted gears to write a YA book - “The life and times of Layla The Ordinary”. Tell us more about it. The Life & Times of Layla The Ordinary is a book I’ve always wanted to write. It’s young adult, growing up, I worshipped at the altar of Judy Blume, and I always, always wanted to write for teenagers. It’s had a bit of a circuitous life—it began as a project for Scholastic, when it was called Confessions of a Listmaniac, but I took it back from them and gave it to Penguin’s YA imprint, Inked, last year. It’s about Layla, who wants very much to be popular, “extraordinary,” and the

journey she takes to get there, and how once she’s there, she realizes maybe it’s not for her. I wrote it in diary form, and used a lot of my own teenage journals for Layla’s thoughts and behavior. I was so happy I had kept those notebooks all these years! It was a very fun book to write, and I enjoyed it so much, I’m thinking of doing a few more. And Meenakshi to Minna. Are you seeing a numerologist or an astrologer? Hah. No. My editor at Penguin thought it might be a good idea to distinguish between Adult-AuthorMe (Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan) | January 2014 | 55

to something so that my readers didn’t wind up confused. Minna is my nickname, what pretty much everyone calls me, and it sounded more accessible than the (let’s be honest), more intimidating Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan. Have you hired a PR? I’ve been debating the idea lately, but no, not yet. All the stuff I do for my own publicity is completely self run (and so all over the place.) I run my own Facebook page, I do some of my own events with help from Penguin (or vice versa), and I still blog. It’s been enough so far, but I am actively considering it. Your blog is one of the most widely read blogs in India. How do you keep it engaging? Any tips for bloggers?

I began by just writing about me, and my life, but I tried to remember that it wasn’t just me reading it. So tips: be aware of your audience, don’t be self-indulgent, and have the USP of what you want your blog to be known for upfront and out there, at least in your own head, so you’re not all over the place. Oh, ALSO, good web design is essential. You don’t have to spend a fortune either, just ask a friend to tweak an existing template (my boyfriend did mine for me.) Any words of wisdom for wannabe authors? Three words in fact: Read. Write. Hope. n

Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan is the author of You Are Here, The Life & Times of Layla The Ordinary & Cold Feet. She lives between New Delhi and Mumbai. Currently, she is Lifestyle Correspondent at ARTINFO India. | January 2014 | 56 | January 2014 | 57


Suchitra Krishnamoorthi Author - Drama Queen | January 2014 | 58 | January 2014 | 59

Why write a book, ‘Drama Queen’? Who were the first few people to You could have released a music read the book? What were their album, acted in a movie, endorsed reactions? a brand, etc.,. My girl friend & my sister. They were Of course I could have done any- rolling on the floor laughing while thing, anybody can. So why not reading the first few chapters. Infact write a book? my aunt read it and was laughing for I have been asked this question at hours after, recalling incidents from every stage of my career regardless the book on the dining table. She of what i am doing, whether music kept on laughing over the next few movies painting or anything else. I days. It was greatly encouraging. find it sweet & amusing. I am an artist who goes where the mood and Which chapter in the book is very moment takes me. There is no other dear to your heart? reason or logic behind it The one where I have a nervous Who inspired you to write? When breakdown in front of my daughter. did you get an idea? No matter how often I read, it still makes me cry. Drama Queen is my third novel. The first two, The Summer of Cool & The Ram Gopal Varma incident, tell us Good News Reporter were in the what you revealed in the book? Young Adult fiction genre released by Penguin. I have been writing songs Read the book - its all revealed there and poetry since my teens. My 1st attempt at drama was a play called Are you writing your next one? candlelight in 2003 - I am hoping to revive it soon for the Indian stage. Ideating ruminating & yes writing Did you follow any writing sched- Any words of wisdom for wanule? How long did it took to com- nabe authors? plete the book? Wisdom bores me. I dislike serious I don’t follow a schedule or disci- stuff. n pline. I succumb to moods & emotions & let things take over. I would say Drama Queen is a book that wrote itself really. | January 2014 | 60

Suchitra Krishnamoorthi is an Indian actress, writer, painter and singer. Suchitra’s debut novel, The Summer of Cool, was released by Penguin India in January 2009 and met with huge success. It is her first in four called the Swapnalok Society series. Based on the ethos of growing up in a typical co-operative housing society in Mumbai, this genre and these stories have struck a chord with young urban Indians. The second book in the series, The Good News Reporter, was well received. ‘Drama Queen’, a first person memoir by Suchitra released in November 2013 has been receiving rave reviews. The first print of the book sold out within a week from its release date. | January 2014 | 61


PATH TO “GET PUBLISHED” Nowadays, the law of attraction is being invoked by a lot of people for everything they passionately desire. The theory goes that you put out your purest intention into the world and then the universe will conspire to make it happen. My dream of getting published didn’t quite work out that way. I put out the intention loud and clear but the universe seemed to have earplugs on at that point. My first book still remains unpublished. After a major effort of writing and rewriting those first 90,000 words, I sent it out to at least 30 literary agents in different parts of the world. And got rejected by most. The rest just ignored my mail altogether. Ditto publishers. The book was about love in the times of the Babri Masjid demolition and its aftermath of communal polarization. It was close to me because I had personally become involved with a Muslim girl and got married to her during those years. Obviously, | January 2014 | 62

Arjun Shekhar Author - End of Story | January 2014 | 63

I was too close to the subject. In every rejection, I tried to read between the lines of their single line denial of what they didn’t like about my work. I landed up rewriting and resequencing every single word over the two year period of my wait to get published. Still, no bites. Then, finally a friend who I had given the manuscript to read said he knew of a friend in Chennai who was looking to start a publishing house. Would I be interested in connecting up with her? At that time I was so down and out I that was ready to photocopy my manuscript and give it out to friends for free. Self publishing hadn’t become fashionable then. It was called vanity publishing | January 2014 | 64

and only the desperate were said to go in for it. Unlike now when it’s become quite the norm to dish out large sums of money to get self published despite there being a glut of Indian writers being taken up by publishing houses. The latter also mystifies me because what would have gone into the trash bin is being sent to the printing press by publishing houses. I would argue that standards have fallen hugely since the mid 90’s when I was trying my hand at publishing for the first time. My belief is that what I wrote then would pass quite decently the lackadaisical scrutiny that publishing houses are doing now at the time of accepting manuscripts. Or maybe it’s just sour grapes at seeing so many young people getting into print quite easily while I struggled big time. Coming back to the story of my first story - A Twist of Faith - the wannabe publisher from Chennai, a friend’s friend, accepted my manuscript as her first foray into the industry. I had no choice. Literally. I can’t describe my feelings as joyful because it wasn’t a big deal to be getting published like this but certainly there was a lot of relief. At least, I was going to print. But there were further twists yet to come. I worked with a competent part time editor hired by the publisher and really enjoyed the process of someone with a literary background giving such close attention to every word

I had written. We worked hard, the editor and I, burning the candle at both ends to finish the final draft within six months, no mean feat considering I had two other full time jobs at the time. Finally, the manuscript went to print and I waited like a proud father for the delivery date. We decided to launch the book on December 6th, the anniversary of the Babri demolition. I tom-tommed the news from the rooftops and let the world know how it had conspired to make my dream come true. Alas, a week before the launch, I got a phone call from my publisher. The news was terrible. She was pulling the manuscript because she had shown it to someone senior in the industry who had pointed out that two of my characters were too close to LK Advani and Narendra Modi (my book presaged the internal battle for control between a young turk and the old guard in a Hindu nationalist party). She told my publisher

that there would be protests outside her house and her children might be under threat. My publisher was clear that she wasn’t getting into such controversy in her very first venture. All my remonstrations fell on deaf ears. I argued first that hardly anyone would ever read the book and even if they did their sentiments wouldn’t be so fragile, and finally if, by some remote chance, the book fell in the hands of a thin skinned fundamentalist and he took umbrage, then my door would be the first he would knock on. But to no avail. The publisher had made up her mind. Thus, ended the story of my first story. The universe had conspired to choke my baby before it was born. Of course, as you know, my publishing story didn’t end there and perhaps that’s one of the reasons that I have called my latest book “End of Story?”n

Arjun Shekhar is an Indian entrepreneur and writer. An XLRI alumni, he is the founder of the Vyaktitva. He is also the writer of the books, A Flawed God and End of Story? | January 2014 | 65

Uday Gupt

Author - Final Cut

My Path To

“GET PUBLISHED” Google up ‘My Path to Get Published’, and you’ll get 153 million results. Variants on the theme are as fecund: an astonishing number produce links in the nine figures. Published writers and wannabes are at best a miniscule fraction of those added-up numbers, and therefore only a teeny bit of that cyber-babble is them at their angst-venting. An astonishing amount of the rest is from just one flourishing industry: the Lemme-Help-You-Get-Published businesses. And its avatars: Lets-edit-ur-stuff-for-publication; Lets-talk-about-how-toget-published; Howl-here-with-other-unpublished-authors. And so forth. The Lemme-Help biz flourishes because writers are without question one of the most insecure, self-obsessed, complication-loving, navel-gazing species to walk this earth. Read this vapourizing, for example, just begging to be Lemme-Help-ed, from a quite-successful author: For how long should I write? And what about? Should I start from the beginning of the story?

Write linearly? Write scenes that jump to mind first? If I’m having a bad day, should I leave and go for a walk? Or chain myself to the desk, weeping, until I produce something? What do writers actually do when they say they write full time? Is it nine to five? How many words constitute a productive day? Should I start smoking? Do I sit there and look out the window, and does that ‘count’? Abstruse, bothered, distressed, convoluted, edgy…go on right down the alphabet. And that’s before this gent had written a tenth of his book. Trust me, no business needs to be that complicated because any business can be simplified. My other business, Banking, routinely uses mindbendingly complex financial algorithms. But we manage to so simplify these b/millions-moving models for the end user that they’re duh-simple to use. Or trust Viru Sehwag, scientifically analyzing his world-dominating business, his batting: “See ball ? Hit ball”. Or Walmart, conquering the discount-mart world: “Save money. Live better.” Or Infosys: “Win in the flat world”. And trust me, the perception that creative-arts = complicated – that the arts are perforce conjoined and hostage to moody geniuses and their cheesy nakhras – is a load of total BS. The arts are a businesses like any other, where P&L champs, quality and reliability invariably nose ahead in the end. Trust me again, | January 2014 | 68

if a wannabe wants to, h/she can simplify life here more than perhaps anywhere else. Trust me because I’ve had two different and separate creative arts careers. I discovered the possibilities of Kiss (keep it simple, stupid) earlier in my singing career (curtailed by a brain surgery when about to take off). And I’ve now rediscovered this when writing, in three simple steps to PtoP. Here they are, a mix of what I did, and advice gratis. (PtoP–‘Path to Publishing’- simplify, see!?) Read. Think writing. Practice writing. Then do all three again. I wrote my first short story when I was nine (thirteen murders over its three pages – I’d just learnt about a baker’s dozen). A similar story, ‘Hodson’s Gold’, developed, extended and burnished- polished, (with the deaths reduced to a measly one) was the first one in my first book, Final Cut, published thirty-nine years later. Its tempting to claim that I was wrestling with my high-strung/ fickle/ sensitive writerly temperament and inner demons in the interim. Nothing of the kind: I was concentrating on singing not writing for most of this time. (Just think of the killer blurb that might have been: ‘This book… forty years in the writing…’) But throughout these years I read obsessively, thought incessantly, and yes, ‘practiced’ constantly. Nearly every hour of every day

I’d turn a phrase, snigger at a catchword, create and savour flights of words, and dream through my own stories – all in my head. As I’ve said in an interview, I still do most of my writing in my cranium. I live in Dubai and work in Abu Dhabi, 140 kilometres away. At the end of the 3 ½ hour round trip, I often have 400 plus thought-through words in my head, waiting to be vomited into a computer. Apply Bottom to Chair Once the Read-Think-Practice thing’s done, and its time to actually start writing, there’s no other substitute. Chair bash. No pain no gain. No shortcuts to success. Ev-

ery hackneyed cliché. I truly applied the bottom, not ‘applied’, as the window-gazing gent above obviously did sometimes. Bankers have an advantage: our business targets and deadlines are beyond holy since missed ones can equal mega losses. You just land up in office, and produce top quality analysis, commentary and stuff again and again, constantly, consistently and repeatedly. There’s no scope for the touchy-feely: Tsunami just swept away friends-n-family? You alive? Meeting the deadline then? Its wonderful how great and timely writing gets produced when scrunched into the straitjacket of such training. The bottom automatically stays Fevicoled to chair until the day’s target - 500 or 1000 words - is done, and done well. Become a Crocodile Once its written, done and dusted, you need a genus and species change. To become as patient as a crocodile awaiting prey, motionless in a river for hours. It’s needed: there’ll be endless rounds of sending manuscripts to publishers, waiting, following up, waiting, fielding dumb queries, waiting, sending more manuscripts, waiting, waiting, until the magic ‘Yes we’ll publish you, but not yet. You’ll have to wait.’ To become as thick skinned as a crocodile, to deal with the mon | January 2014 | 69

soon-flood of rejects, many from dickheads whov’e transparently not even read your masterpiece. I got one for my collection of short stories that started (reproduced verbatim) “Dear Madam, Thanks you for your aotobigraphy…”. (Shhh…I didn’t actually need to moult into full-blast crocodile phase. Quite early on I was accepted by my publishers, Leadstart, who, chapeaus off, are always looking

for fresh voices. But what’s a PtoP without cribbing about what others say is the frustratingest part of the Path ?). So even if tedious, its simple really - or can be grossly simplified. If you want to join the club, get up, go, and just apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. n

Uday Gupt grew up attending institutions that have produced some of the best Indian writing talent- St. Columba’s School, St. Stephen’s College and the Delhi School of Economics in Delhi- before going on to IIM, Ahmedabad. Unfortunately he then veered off into Banking, before returning to his first love - spinning tales - in 2013, with his first and critically acclaimed collection of short stories, ‘Final Cut’. | January 2014 | 70

Siddhesh Kabe

Author - The one who stood against Shiva and other stories

An man walks into bar and says, “Hello I am a writer,” the girl for which the statement was intended to looks around and says, “Anything I have read before?” he blushed at the remark, “No, not really published yet.” The girl looks at the man top to bottom and gets back to her drinking without saying another world. Even though this never happened with me, I always dreaded this day was coming sooner or later. When I started writing stories, did | January 2014 | 72

I ever thing I will get them published? No. I do not think many writers start with a goal of publishing. My writing journey started six years ago when I wrote my first story. I shared it with my four friends, two of them stopped talking to me. One of them mentioned it was the worst story he read in his life, final one comment I got was that I am a clever story teller but I have a lot to learn. Six years down the line, I am still learning and writing. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I miss my mark but all the times, I do what I want to do... tell a story. How I started to write the book is an interesting story in itself. Three years ago an idea popped into my head, what if God is living among us? What if the God does not know that he is actually God? The concept fascinated me but the problem was, I never was a religious person and did not know what others believe as God. Hence I decided to study existing and past religions



to figure out what God is for over a year. That journey took me into the depths of mythology, I researched over a lot into many religions and read many different variants of the religious text. One side effect of this research was (and to my wife’s annoyance) I started preaching through a lot of mythological stories out of random for every situation. One fine Sunday morning when I was trying to make a point telling my wife, Deepika Kabe, the story of Krishna and the final message to humans, she annoyingly said, “Why don’t you write a book on it.” Thats how I started penning down the first story story. The funny part is, my original novel (titled Ragnarok: The fate of Gods) for which I did the research was cast aside and the story fascinated me. It was fun to rewrite the stories about legends, about he-

roes and about Gods that have inspired millions. To be honest, I have written many short stories for my blog and also Storizen magazine. But when it came to write a short story for a book, I realized the voldemort of all writers, EDITING. How does one go about editing own book? Every Time I looked at the book, I could not believe my english was so bad. Helping me fight this monster was my friend Nimisha Shirodkar, who joined hands in editing the book. One of the biggest struggle when you start writing a story is getting to finish it. In a short story medium, the biggest challenge is to complete your story in a shorter span of time but still keep it relevant. But going through the pain of editing and endless nights of writing does not even compare the joy of watching a | January 2014 | 73

is a singular moment when all the powerful characters gather together to discuss Krishna and plan the battle. The book, ‘One who stood against Shiva and other stories’ released on Amazon Kindle as well as Print edition from Amazon on 31st December. If you are from outside India you can order print edition from Nook or Amazon. Kindle apps are available for all smartphones and there is a cloud reader for free. Another edition of the book designed specially for readers in India will be available on all the online bookshops by the end of January. All said and done, an author walks into a bar and a girl asks, “Anything I have read before?” he can com plete book in your hand. My favorite story ‘Him’ about a very now proudly answer, “I am sure you important moment in Mahabharata have.” n is also included in the book. That

Siddhesh is creative enterpreneur, witty blogger and passionate story teller. He’s got an awesome website. Go visit. | January 2014 | 74

Shubham Choudhary “Are you ready?” Steve shouted… “You take more time than girls!” He taunted waiting for Victor inside his messy flat as usual. “C’mon Stevie! We’re late by 5 minutes. It’s not the end of the world! Relax…” Victor said in his casual carefree tone. Almost laughing at Steve’s concern. “Do you really think Jessica will mind me getting late after doing it herself every freaking time?” Victor continued… “I am just a little worried of how things will go!” “Really? The super confident, Mr. I-don’t-care-about-the-world Victor Ericson… You’re saying you’re worried about something?” “Easy smart ass… I am just worried about her… how she will react to my surprise. I don’t want to ruin her birthday!” “So you’re worried if she’ll say a yes or no… right?” Steve asked again. “Maybe… can we talk about this later?” Victor almost nettled. “Let’s just leave and we can decide

what to do in the way. And believe me, everything will be fine.” Steve smiled and moved out of the house, pulling Victor with him. “So… What is the plan?” Steve asked. It was Jessica’s birthday. Jessica, the love of Victor’s life. She was Steve’s friend from High School, she met Victor in Steve’s birthday party. And Mr. Magnificent Victor didn’t take a second in asking her out. There was something about him that made her say a yes. Since that day they never had a problem. With a friend like Steve, things were just too good to be true. They were together for almost nine years and with every passing year Victor was falling deeper in love with her. “Well… the plan is simple!” a grin covered Victor’s face. “What?” “We kill the batman!” he laughed. “Dude! Be serious! And FYI, that was the worst joker mimicry of all

times!” Steve shouted. “Then stop asking lame questions!! What has to be the plan? We wish her, we party, we dance and then you stop becoming a third wheel and leave the two of us alone in a romantic dinner which you have arranged so I can give her the birthday present and propose her to marry me!” Victor said in a breath. “Wow! So now I can ask, are you sure she’s going to say a yes?” “I hope she does. That’s where the girls win over the freaking world, don’t they?” Victor said… “For all I know, you two are a perfect match. She will say a yes for sure... Just think about it, what would have happened had I not thrown that party!?” Steve reassured Victor. “I wouldn’t have met her in the first place. So yeah, all in all a good life.” Victor laughed again. He loved teasing people. Specially the two most important people in his life, Jessica and Steve. It was all arranged. A romantic dinner, a mix tape of her favorite songs in the place she loved the most. Her favorite lilies, both in red and white as she liked. The place was just right for the occasion, with a romantic ambience, dim lights and a slow music in the background. Her best friend and love… A strong bond of so many years… How could she possibly say a no tonight! “Well… we’ve waited for two hours! She is nowhere to be seen! Even her

phone is off!” Victor said… a little worried. “It just proves that she is as lazy as you. Congrats, you found your match.” It was Steve’s turn to laugh. “C’mon man, I am worried. Did you try calling her? Try again please.” “Alright! Relax…” Steve said as he dialed her number again. He returned after a few minutes. “Bad news bro! She can’t make it. Her aunt is real sick and she had to go to her place. Sorry!” Steve said as his smile turned into a frown. “Oh crap!” “I know you’re worried about her aunt. We can’t even go see her, she lives too far from here.” “Dude! I am sad that all these arrangements went in vain. I was going to propose to her today!” Victor said, looking at Steve, perplexed. “Yeah… and a lot of money wasted too…” Steve added. “No that’s on you. I didn’t spend a penny.” Victor laughed. “Anyway, let’s go. No network here in my phone anyway, I’ll call her when we get home.” As they were on their way back, Steve stopped the car. “You stay, I’ll come back in a minute.” “Sure.” Victor said as Steve went out to soon be out of his sight. “Hey. I hope you know how much he loves you and needs you. I wish I could change things, but I can’t. I miss you.” Steve said in a very low voice. His face was doleful…

he tried to control but that one tear still managed to escape his eye. He stepped ahead and put the lilies near the stone… the stone which said. Jessica Clark (1988 – 2011). Two years back, on this very day, Victor had planned to propose Jessica as her birthday gift. Steve had made all the arrangements when he got the news that Jessica met with an accident on her way to the restaurant and died on the spot. Composed as ever, Steve managed to bear the news but it was too much for Victor. For him it was a trauma that has held him since that day. His life continued to almost be the same, except for the fact that

he could never bring himself to face the truth that Jessica was no more. For him, every year was the same as that year. Life for him, was just a repetitive event. “Man you took time! Got a secret girlfriend there?” Victor mocked as Steve made his way back in the car. “No. But I wish what you say becomes true soon.” Steve laughed, hiding everything else beneath that smile… as they rode back towards home. Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies. Aristotle. n

Shubham Choudhary is an Electronics and Communication engineer from MNIT Jaipur, currently working as a software consultant for Oracle in Pune. Writing being his passion, he has written a book “My EX Fell In Love” and is currently writing his second one. He has been blogging on the much popular, Crap REloaded for over two years and regularly updates his website. | January 2014 | 78

Sidharth Balachandran David squirmed at the disheveled, aged man across the counter, who was now close enough for him to smell the strong scent of rum that wafted of off his body. The pensioner looked like he hadn’t showered in days, much less brushed his teeth in decades. His teeth were a deep shade of yellow, coated with tar stains, probably from years of tobacco addiction. His hair was long and unkempt, almost fully grey, with a few odd brown streaks in there. He also looked like he hadn’t had a shave in weeks, and his bushy beard was coated with left overs of whatever he had probably had for breakfast – pieces of bacon, by the looks of it. The only somewhat distinguishing part of the old man was a pair of gold-rimmed half-moon spectacles, through which his bright, boyish | January 2014 | 80

blue eyes peered out. As the store manager for one of the largest beauty and cosmetic retailers in Britain, David Smith, was accustomed to dealing with difficult customers. The only people he hated dealing with, were the less fortunate who occasionally visited the store in the hope of getting a free sample of a promotional product that they were giving away. Even then, David was extremely careful as to whom he let into the store. After all, his store was the biggest and most popular one of the chain, and located on one of London’s premier shopping avenues. Further more, their normal clientele were the who’s who of Hollywood and other high-society kinds, who surely would not take “the homeless and beggars milling about” the store lightly.

With a deep sigh, David cleared his throat. Roberto, his in-store security officer usually did a splendid job of keeping these kinds at bay. But he was running a bit late today, due to the customary delays on the London Underground. And it was just five minutes past 10, when this raggedly old man had walked in. Keeping with the norm, David was behind the counter ensuring that there was enough money in the till to begin trade for the day. “ I’m afraid, I’m going to have to ask you to leave” commenced David, sticking to his well-practiced speech for getting rid of unwanted clientele. The old man stared at him for what felt like the best part of five minutes. And then he spoke. “Is that how you treat customers these days, son?” enquired the old man. David was taken aback by the polished accent that accompanied the statement and the accurate enunciation of each word. Suddenly David wasn’t so sure how to respond anymore. Though this old man’s appearance was unsightly and downright messy, his deep baritone and proper articulation was a shocker. “Sir….I…mmm….I…” mumbled David, unable to conceal his surprise. The old man smiled. “I understand your …well…concern. I know I don’t look the part of your usual clientele. Unfortunately I don’t clean up well. Which is why I’m here first thing in the morning, before your business picks up. I’m here to talk about this”,

he said dropping a leaflet that David was familiar with. A couple of weeks ago, the parent chain had organized a “What do you want to smell like?” promotion, where customers could walk into any of their specialty outlets and experiment with a variety of essences and scents till they got what they liked. The objective was pretty straightforward. Once the customers had co-created the scent, they were obliged to purchase the same. However as part of the sign up process, the potential client would have to put down a non-refundable £500 deposit. Despite the high initial costs, the promotion had been a huge success, but the thought of some of those really questionable scents, still made David nauseate. Nevertheless it was hugely profitable for the company, and for David’s store in particular. The purchase costs of these co-created perfumes were really high and the investment in terms of resources was quite minimum. To make matters more interesting, the company had even put out a challenge that they could re-create any scent. If they couldn’t, they’d not only refund the £500, but would also offer a year’s supply of cosmetic and beauty care products from a reputed brand. The leaflet that the old man had shoved in front of David was one of the few hundreds that they had personally snail mailed to the who’s | January 2014 | 81

who of society. He picked up the leaflet and looked at the name on the affixed label – John Gardiner. Somewhere in David’s head, the name rang a bell, but he wasn’t quite sure where he’d come across it. He excused himself from the old man, and went to a nearby computer set up with Internet access. He brought up the Google home page, and typed in John Gardiner into the search box. And then he smiled. The picture that accompanied the Wikipedia entry for John Gardiner was an identical copy of the person who was standing across the counter from him. He read a bit more of the article, and discovered that John Gardiner was a hugely successful author who had written over 20 best sellers over the forty decades he had been writing. It also added that recently, Mr. Gardiner had been undergoing treatment for clinical depression as well as some psychiatric treatment. Apparently he’d been having visions of a world where everything was electronic and there were no more physical books. It even said that Mr. Gardiner had supposedly buried a time capsule somewhere in his garden with collector’s editions of various famous paperbacks, so that future generations could understand how it was to touch, feel and read a real physical book. David smiled again. Looked like Mr. Gardiner was going cuckoo. Nevertheless the Wikipedia entry said he was wealthy, which meant a sale for | January 2014 | 82

David. That’s all that mattered. So he was going to indulge Mr. Gardiner, for the sake of a good sale. David walked back to the counter and said “Of course, Mr. Gardiner. What can I do for you?” “I’d like to have a go at this” replied old man John pointing at the leaflet. “Here’s your cheque for £500”. Mouthing a thank you, David grinned as he picked up the cheque from Mr. Gardiner’s frail hands. He slowly walked Mr. Gardiner over to their makeshift “Essence Lab” where the perfuming process was being tested. After going through some basics of perfumery and how they were created, David turned around and looked at Mr. Gardiner. “So Mr. Gardiner, did you have an idea about what kind of scent you wanted your perfume to have? Maybe lavender, rose, musk wood. …something a bit more fruity, like orange, or lemons….?”. John Gardiner looked at David, and then burst out with a wide grin. “I was thinking you’d never ask.” he said. He slowly slid his hand into the tattered trench coat that he was wearing. For a minute David panicked. What if this crazy old man was pulling out a weapon? As the old man withdrew his hand from the coat, David noticed that he was clutching some books. From the looks of it, they were really old, and very much in the same shape as their owner raggedy and tattered with yellowing pages. Mr. Gardiner clutched the books

really tightly and thrust them in David’s face. “Smell them!” he ordered, his previously blue eyes, now greyish blue with steely determination. David took a whiff. It smelled musty, with an odd faint hint of vanilla. He took another whiff, a deeper one this time around. This time he smelled something completely different; he could smell “petrichor”, (the scent when fresh rain mixed with dry earth or dust) and dry wood. Looking confused, David asked “What is that smell? I’m not able to identify it

precisely.” Mr. Gardiner looked at David with a really blissful smile and said “That my son, is the best smell in the world; the smell that I fear our future generations may not be able to even sample; the smell that has inspired and motivated me to write for over 40 long decades – that, my son, is the wonderful smell of old books, and I intend to capture and stock it for our generations to come.” n

Academically an engineer and a product manager by profession, Sid believes that his true calling lies in writing. Having recently relocated back to India after a 7 year stint in London, he dabbles in photography and writes short stories, social satire and about his parenting escapades involving his two year old son. | January 2014 | 83

Ajaya - Epic of the Kaurava clan By Anand Neelakantan Reviewd by Namrata

Introduction THE MAHABHARATA ENDURES AS THE GREAT EPIC OF INDIA. But while Jaya is the story of the Pandavas, told from the perspective of the victors of Kurukshetra; Ajaya is the narrative of the ‘unconquerable’ Kauravas, who were decimated to the last man. *** At the heart of India’s most powerful empire, a revolution is brewing. Bhishma, the noble patriarch of Hastinapura, is struggling to maintain the unity of his empire. On the throne sits Dhritarashtra, the blind King, and his foreign-born Queen – Gandhari. In the shadow of the throne stands Kunti, the Dowager-Queen, burning with ambition

to see her firstborn become the ruler, acknowledged by all. And in the wings: * Parashurama, the enigmatic Guru of the powerful Southern Confederate, bides his time to take over and impose his will from mountains to ocean. * Ekalavya, a young Nishada, yearns to break free of caste restrictions and become a warrior. * Karna, son of a humble charioteer, travels to the South to study under the foremost Guru of the day and become the greatest archer in the land. * Balarama, the charismatic leader of the Yadavas, dreams of building the perfect city by the sea and seeing his people prosperous and proud once more. * Takshaka, guerilla leader of the Nagas, foments a revolution by the downtrodden as he lies in wait in the jungles of India, where survival is the only dharma. * Jara, the beggar, and his blind dog Dharma, walk the dusty streets of India, witness to people and events far greater than they, as the Pandavas and the Kauravas confront their searing destinies. | January 2014 | 85

Amidst the chaos, Prince Suyodhana, heir of Hastinapura, stands tall, determined to claim his birthright and act according to his conscience. He is the maker of his own destiny – or so he believes. While in the corridors of the Hastinapura palace, a foreign Prince plots to destroy India. And the dice falls…See the video HERE to know more about the book Me thinks

This being the first one in the Epic of the Kaurava clan series it kind of sets a tone for what can be expected from the others that are going to follow and yes it is truly a masterpiece that is if you choose to ignore the minor glitches here and there in terms of detailing of scenes and narrative. There are a few issues which the author has left to the reader’s imagination in terms of description. And I also felt that some scenes deserved a little bit of more detailing and narrative. But then having said that I also feel that perhaps it is this which makes a reader look forward to the next part as I have a strong hitch that these scenes will get their due there. For having known his writing style Anand Neelkantan is an author who does a lot of research behind his stories and it reflects in his detailed narratives.

I have always admired Anand Neelkantan’s style of writing since the time I read Asura I became a huge fan. The problem with us Indians is that we are so besotted with the version of mythology presented to us since childhood that we hardly want to believe something else beyond that exists and the author just does that and that too with a perfection that is impeccable. This is the reason why his first book actually attracted mixed reviews with people feeling it is belittling Lord Rama and Coming back to Ajaya, the characpraising Ravana’s virtues. ters are very nicely drawn and detailed giving the reader an instant What we fail to understand is that connect with them within the first we all have different perspectives to few pages itself. It surely has a gripvarious topics and what the author ping narrative and that is the uniquehas claimed is just that. After the ness of the author. He sets the tone huge ( and I dare say controversial) in the first few pages itself grabbing success of Asura, Anand Neelkan- a reader’s attention by stating what tan was THE author to be looked out can is in store in the coming pages. I for. He had set very high expecta- like his play of words and use of figtions from his next book and need- ures of speech at few places which less to say he does not disappoint accelerates the whole reading you in Ajaya too. | January 2014 | 86

experience to a different level altogether. No wonder I enjoyed reading this one specially for the detailing the author has managed to do making some of the characters come alive and those scenes playing before your eyes.

est mythological parable we have been hearing since ages. Strongly recommended for one and all – specially for its uniqueness! Foodie Verdict

This book is like Panchamruta - the I am looking forward to the next book most pious prasads, tasty and deliundoubtedly as I am very keen to cious! n read his version of one of the great-

An investment banker by profession and a child woman, a dreamer, a dancer, a bibliophile, a poetess, a writer, a painter, a singer, a go-getter, a doer and an achiever by passion is how Namrata can be described. She is a prolific blogger and ardent reviewer since past 3 years under the name Privy Trifles. Her short stories have been published in various anthologies titled 25 Strokes of Kindness and Time’s Lost Atlas before. | January 2014 | 87

tographer, MLit in Creative Writing. She currently lives in UK. She blogs at Synopsis :

Whenever I read a book written by a blogger, this phrase keeps resonating – bloggers are not writers. Lately, this has been proved wrong by so many bloggers who have successfully ‘arrived’ with their debut novel. There was a time when I shunned Indian Authors. Now, I look forward to read them. Author Introduction : Sumana is a fellow blogger. That is how I first came to know her. She is also from Bangalore, we both share a passion for long distance running; I did my graduation in Psychology and she is now pursuing MSc in Psychology. This is where the similarity ends. Apart from this she is a wonderful artist, a very good | January 2014 | 88

Deep within the womb-like forests of the Western Ghats, an entity manifests itself at the malevolent moment when the ocean rises to devour hundreds of thousands. Kencha, an unwitting witness to Its birth, is soon found dead – his body branded with a strange message written in HaLegannada, an ancient version of modern Kannada. Even as Dhruv Kaveriappa, Chief Conservator of Forests – Hassan division investigates Kencha’s death, he senses an unseen danger in the forests of Kukke, Bisleand Sakleshpura. Animals drop dead; plants wither away and just as he feared, the forest claims its first victim. Shivaranjini, on vacation in Sakleshpura, suffers a devastating tonic-clonic seizure moments after she returns from a visit to the forest. Soon, she begins to exhibit a bizarre personality disorder. Perhaps there is an outbreak of an unknown rabies-like disease? Or, as ridiculous as it seems, could it be a case of tantric witchcraft?

The truth unfolds in a dizzying mael- Here, the circumstances are so crestrom of events – a truth far too ter- ated that the characters are conrifying to comprehend. nected to each other by destiny, each one playing a specific role to The synopsis itself sets the mood bring a meaningful conclusion to the for the story. Right from the begin- story. ning, there is an anticipation, a curi- The use of colloquial language, the osity that what is going to happen. use of Kannada terminologies and The pace of the story is maintained the non-translation of them to Enthroughout and it moves forward glish for the benefit of the readers, without any glitch. Every character makes this a bona fide story. has been given due importance in There were times when I was holdterms of description. At first it seems ing my breath, when I was clenchlike two parallel stories with different ing my teeth, when my throat went plots. Yet, when the plot is revealed dry with fear. The imagery is so vivmid-way, a conclusion can be drawn id. Oh! the food that is mentioned but, we cannot connect the dots as within the narration made me hunto how these two stories merge and gry. The most amazing thing is you the characters within these stories can ‘sense’ the smell that forms the get inter-connected. crux of the character. Even though There is a saying – “An invisible (red) the ‘evil’ can be felt throughout the thread connects those who are des- story, the divinity gets a subtle yet tined to meet, regardless of time, an emphatic mention. After all… place or circumstances. The thread the good triumphs over the evil…almay stretch or tangle but will never ways. n break.”

Janaki Nagaraj is an emerging writer who loves brevity and so she likes to pen poems. She is a homemaker and a mother of two teenagers. She has been listed among the top 10 by the Indiblogger in the Poetry category. | January 2014 | 89

Story 1: That Fateful Night Arresting narration, brilliant use of language, but the end, despite being absorbing, is predictable. ‘That fateful night’ is the story of a doctor and his fateful visit to a fateful old couple on a fateful night in a fatefully dilapidated ‘haveli’ under fateful circumstances and with some inexplicably fateful consequences to it. Story 2: The Long Weekend The Other Side….Dare to visit alone’ is an anthology of 13 short stories belonging to the horror genre. Penned by Faraaz Kazi and Vivek Banerjee, this is an extremely engaging book presented in a delightful style and with stories which will not disappoint you. To begin with, it has one of the most interesting preludes you will ever come across. To find out more, better pick up the book.

‘The long weekend’ tells the story of Sachin, Shikha and a vacation they took immediately after a séance attended by Shikha at her neighborhood. The first half of the story is intensely gripping, what with the game of planchette offering some genuine ‘goosebump’ moments. The intensity wanes a bit in the second half, though the story-telling is absorbing throughout the 20-odd pages down to its surprising, though a tad dissonant, ending.

Moving on, here is a crisp review of each of the 13 stories. These are borrowed from the little notes I Story 3: The Man who did not fear scribbled as I finished them one by one: ‘The man who did not fear’ started with a lot of promise but fizzled out | January 2014 | 90

soon. The story is not gripping and the lethargic pace makes it a laborious read. Writing seems so amateurish at places that one may be tempted to think that this story has been written by someone other than the author of the previous two tales.

shows, the story is, nevertheless, very arresting and keeps you turning the pages till the end suddenly arrives and interrupts your reveries. Story 8: Red Bangles

The setting and the plot are unoriginal, but the major disappointment is the unconvincing and, often, enforced behavior of the main protagonist Nirbhay who spends a night in an abandoned mansion after a wager with his friends.

Told from the perspective of a psycho lover, ‘Red Bangles’ is romance, fear and sex in their most unadulterated and maniacal form. Ever heard of a man making love with a corpse? Plus, an Edgar Allan Poe-esque narration adds to the spook and mystery.

Story 4: Strangers in the Night

Story 9: The Mark of the Beast

Good, gripping, romantic, erotic, titillating and scary. The anti-climax is interesting but a shrewd reader will see it coming.

Quite a nice little story with a fresh plot. The story revolves around a couple Sanath and Shalini who discover about the curse of an abominable beast during their honeymoon.

Story 5: The muse comes calling Story 10: The Mystery Lake Fresh and ingenious plot. How would you feel if you are a writer and your Why does Ravi keep dreaming of characters come alive one day to do a mysterious lake? What does he to you what you did to them? find when he reaches that place? To find out, read this plot-centric story Story 6: The Lady in the Pub which could have garnered a 3.5 or even a 4 had it ended on a better An okay-ish story with a trite plot note. and decent narration. The twist in the end is a winner though. Story 11: Possession Story 7: A mother’s love

‘Possession’ seems right out of one of those horror soaps they keep Though the plot seems heavily in- showing on TV. A haunted house, a spired from the usual horror TV new family moves in, the children | January 2014 | 91

can talk with the ghost, possession, body parts of the women he fancies exorcism and so on. and creates his own marvel woman. Easily the darkest story of the book! Yet, despite the lack of freshness, the story is extremely gripping. Epilogue: I would have given it a 3 but with the little brilliance in the climax, the The short horror story set at Bhanauthor won me over to his side…to garh Fort sums up the epilogue and ‘the other side’ brings the book to an apt conclusion. Story 12: Unfulfilled desires Final words: It is a mystery-cum-horror story where a doctor is visited by paranor- Overall, ‘The Other Side…Dare mal presence. The spirit of a dead to visit alone’ is a good book and woman seeks help from Dr. Rajiv makes for a satisfying read for horGupta who suddenly finds himself ror lovers. While some stories disamidst an unsolved suicide mystery. appoint, the majority are spooky and freakish. The story builds up nicely but ends rather on an ordinary note. And as you read this review, I can see somebody standing behind your Story 13: Dream Girl back, breathing down your neck, reading alongside you…..Dare to Freaky, disturbing, one of the best turn around? *evil laughter* n psycho-horror stories I have ever read. A perverted man chops off

Ritesh Agarwal is a freelance writer, a zealous blogger, a book reviewer and a voracious reader. He literally reveres Edgar Allan Poe, the master of gothic horror, who also happens to be his 2nd favorite author of all time. His short horror & love stories can be read on his blog. | January 2014 | 92

WE DIVED NOT INTO THE SEA Janaki Nagaraj The cool winds kissed and Skipped on the pelagic sea Felt that ripples in your touch Wish I was a nereid! Raging hormones Infiltrated my seanses Like an estuary we met, His hold reassuring We dived. The torrent surprised and The current swept us Surging whirlpool of emotions We were submerged The onslaught of waves Sucked the living daylights of us I was Bevaras, Wild and untamed Burning ecstasy Suffused with warmth We lay beached‌entwined.

Janaki Nagaraj is an emerging writer who loves brevity and so she likes to pen poems. She is a homemaker and a mother of two teenagers. She has been listed among the top 10 by the Indiblogger in the Poetry category. | January 2014 | 94

A Salvific Hue Sagher Manchanda Your religion chains emotions mine locks up pity in trunks. Let’s break the shackles to start anew, Love indeed, is a salvific hue. Bondage you know what, is not limitation but a divine notion. IT IS, when we caress the others worship with affection held as medium of tolerance. Oh my companion! Look beyond ties, and beyond the horizons of this established grudge. We breathe in the same air, in the same mud we’ll merge. An attachment beyond time is attained by few; Love indeed, is a salvific hue. Differences, this world has been creating amongst opposite lovers, shaking their fate. They divide belief by dividing ‘God’, wish they learn, God himself is unity’s own patron. May goodness bless them bright as sun and positive winds clear their skies auburn. Such is my small wish like a droplet of dew, Love indeed, is a salvific hue. A day I foresee to live, a day of good’s domination. A moment I foresee to witness, love’s coronation. Above every hindrance, may it’s auspicion brew, love a salvific hue.

Sagher Manchanda is a promising fiction writer and has an impressive hand at writing poetry. Currently he lives in pune and goes by pen-name ‘Sagher’. | January 2014 | 95

The Brahmin boy and the Dom Girl Nivedita At two ends of our planetary system: Caste mark on his forehead—red and bright; drowned in religion, lived a Brahmin boy; Leftovers still stuck on her forehead; drowned in thoughts of her own, lived a Dom girl. One day, they accidentally met, like an asteroid and a comet, born in the same solar system but moving in their own orbits, whose collision shatters its being. But, Could the hierarchical class divide, subtract? Would the dusty earth and pristine sky unite? How could the fiery fire dissolve in pure water? How could a chaste vegetarian Brahmin’s son get married to a meat-eating Dom’s daughter? The man was not ready to let his woman go! Could he abandon the love that would daily grow? No! No! No! No! Never! Quickly, he bit meat and drank the Dom’s water; declared, he truly loved the Dom’s daughter. Perplexed! The Doms took their daughter away Astounded! The Brahmins washed his mouth where lay scriptures of his culture and tradition. His mother wailed aloud till her throat went dry Baffled, he was! Born out of making love, Wasn’t he? . Abandoned but strong the Brahmin boy left his home to live with the Dom girl; under the thundering red sky of vengeance and anger, in the company of the billion stars, they finally united. Listening to heart’s verses, mountain Gods silenced the curses.

Nivedita is a story teller, poet, book reviewer and a blogger. She has an awesome website. | January 2014 | 96

“The Proposal”- A wedding poem! Afsan Shaik The initial shyness vanished when he smiled broad. I shuddered thinking “what to speak next?? Oh LORD”! I silently conveyed thanks to someone who interrupted. Whatever I spoke sounded silly and disrupted! Minutes passed and I found my-self relaxed. I was naturally in to conversation, no one coaxed. I found myself chatting, questioning and then elaborately replying. Aura seemed joyful and without any reason I was smiling! I didn’t know if it was a new bond in making. I wasn’t even sure if I was real or if I was faking. Only thing I was sure was there was some vibe, Pleasance occupied and there wasn’t any kind of jibe! He hinted a question with his eyes and I said YES. Instantly I dreamt about me in the wedding dress. There was no sparkle in sky and there were no stars falling down. There were only smiles as there was no time to frown! It’s special just he and me. I feel like a queen wearing tiara and he the king with a crown!!

My laptop is my pensive which gives a chance to store all my thoughts. I always weave my thoughts to generate radiance and make my world and sometimes others’ world brighter and with my words I try to make my load lighter. Thoughts when become frizzy, I always pen them down! They are thoughtful, sensitive, hazy, easy and at times crazy. I mostly write poems, general articles based on current affairs, movie reviews and anything under the sky which makes me think. | January 2014 | 97

Sneha Sundaram Entrepreneur, Writer, Mumbai

Our trees still grow in Dehra By: Ruskin Bond

Vasudha Rao Homemaker, Mumbai

Vikram Seth Vikram Seth is my favorite author.I am reading “Two Lives “ , a memoir of his great Uncle & his German wife.It is a moving tribute to ordinary lives, so much so that Vikram Seth’s writing makes it extraordinary ! It made me empathetic.Towards the end of the book ,I was unable toread more than a few pages at one go, as my eyes would well up with tears. There is no preaching . Vikram Seth opines,” What is perfect ? In a world with so much suffering ,isolation & indifference, it is cause for gratitude if something is sufficiently good .” I agree.n | January 2014 | 98

“Our trees still grow in Dehra” Ruskin Bond’s soul warming book of short stories is equal parts funny and nostalgic; with a semi-autobiographical sepia toned view of his journey from Java to the hills of the Himalayas. As in his previous works, Mr. Bond’s deep love for the hills, its mystical fairy creatures, people and way of life, leaves one with a friendly feeling of familiarity and a faint sense of displacement. As your soul moves with Binya and Rusty, your heart melts, seeking reassurance for an India that is changing, faster than the hills and trees can grasp. n

Smita Shetty Business Support Manager/ Author, Preston, Lancashire

A Suitable Boy: By: Vikram Seth If you are looking for the world’s slowest reader, look no further. You’ve just found her. Grudgingly, I admit it takes me a while to finish a book from the time I pick it up. So when I was given Vikram Seth’s ‘A Suitable Boy’ (the size of a London Bus) by a friend, I had momentarily scoffed and thought I’ll never finish this, at least not in this lifetime. Surprisingly this book kept me ‘suitably’ engaged with its potpourri of well etched and relatable characters. Set in post-independence and post-partition India, the book centres around four families. Setting the tone, the book kick starts with a wedding where some of the central characters quietly make their appearance. As you melt away into the pages, you begin to marvel at Seth’s faultless research and his ability to superbly craft this fictional epic as he effortlessly flits from politics to social issues Indians faced at the time. ‘A Suitable Boy’ is undoubtedly the best contemporary Indian classic I’ve read. Although I’d quietly congratulated myself having read the book in record time, I was saddened when I’d finished it. I am hoping Seth’s sequel to this beautiful riveting book, ‘A Suitable Girl’, doesn’t keep us waiting for too long.n | January 2014 | 99 | January 2014 | 100


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