Chai Pe Bulaiya : author Leela Soma

This post has been in the offing for more than a month and got delayed due to travel , health issues and bad internet connectivity. Today’s guest is a chocoholic( dark chocolate with Hazel nuts being her favourite indulgence).She’s won many writing awards and lives in Glasgow. Want to know more about her? Read on…    
Lets meet author Leela Soma  in Chai Pe Bulaiya today.
    
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Also include some pet peeves, crazy/fun stuff about yourself . 
Born in Madras( yep it will always be Madras not Chennai to me) India. Came over to Glasgow, Scotland in 1969 and never left it. I feel a right Indo-Scot now having lived here longer than my birth city. I was a Principal teacher in a secondary school teaching political studies ( called Modern Studies in Scotland) to 11- 18 year olds. Now retired and happy I am able to indulge in writing which I loved but never had time for. I’m a chocoholic, dark chocolate with hazelnuts is my favorite forever indulgence. I claim to go to the gym but have typical middle age spread unlike our Bollywood Sri Devis!!  
Tell us about your book/books  
Book shops in Scotland had never any books by Indian – Scots and I felt strongly that I must contribute to the literary scene here. Our stories are as valid as the Jewish, Polish, Italian Scots so I set about writing what was dear to me. Twice Born came out in 2008 followed by Bombay Baby in 2011. Twice Born is about a young Indian girl arriving in Glasgow and the book features  culture clashes and has a bit of a twist in it. Bombay Baby was about a Scottish couple getting an Indian baby. It was a photograph in the Times 
Buy Twice Born here 
What inspired you to become a novelist? 
Novel writing is hard work. I’d been to a writing course on Saturday mornings when I was working full time. I joined a local writing group Strathkelvin Writer’s group and in the very first year I won the new writer’s trophy for my first 10,00 words of Twice Born. The judge Robin Lloyd- Jones said ‘many writers start a novel but never finish it.  Make sure you finish the novel.’ That was the best advice I was given. I was also inspired by so many young authors in India and of Indian origin in USA who were publishing their stories. Perhaps Monica Ali in London winning the Man Booker Prize with Brick Lane made me realise that people here are interested in the lives of other cultures.  
Buy Bombay Baby here
Watch the trailer here 
Is any character from your books based on anyone in your real life? 
They do say write what you know. The first novel certainly had elements of characters and incidents that happened to me or to my friends in Glasgow.  
Buy Boxed In here 
Who are some of your favorite authors? 
So many. R.K Narayan, Jhumpa Lahiri, Amitav Ghosh, James Kelman, V.S Naipaul.  
What are the best and the worst parts about being an author? 
The high is when you get a sentence or plotline that is perfect or near perfect.  Great feedback from readers is so encouraging to a new writer. I had a lady who bought the book in Belgium and she took the trouble to email me her joy at reading the book.  The worst is the discipline of getting down to at least 4 hours of work every day, even when the writing is not going right. That ‘glueing the bum on the seat’ as they say is way too important. 
Tell us about your writing / editing process. When do you normally write? Any lucky charms that you believe make you write better? 😉  
I usually go to the gym for a swim or an Aqua class, then have lunch. I sit at the computer from 1 to as long as it takes. Sometimes I skip the gym and work at the novel all day with breaks. Poetry is more early morning scribbles almost like in a dream-like state and I have a notebook on my bedside table and the poems just flow from somewhere deep within you. Novels are about making sure you have a structure and following it. Though characters can take over. In Twice Born the character Aunty BB did take over and I had to cut out a major chunk of her story. Maybe there is a wee book in there somewhere! 
How do you unwind after a rigorous writing session?  
Family life is important and I make sure I don’t  write in the evenings. That time is for family, going out, socializing , going to friends book launches or to the various lit group events that are so rich in Glasgow. 
How did you feel when you received the author’s copy to your first book?  
Excited and filled with wonder that it has actually come to fruition, all that bashing away at the typewriter for hours on end.  
What pointers would you like to give to aspiring authors? How easy or difficult was getting published for you? 
Publishing world is going through enormous changes. I would say believe in your writing , do it with a passion, and keep at it.  
What’s on the menu next?  
That’s a difficult one to answer. Lots of things going on. The Pot Hole Press published a collection of short stories ‘Boxed In’ in 2013, I have finished a family memoir , only for my family, not for general public consumption, a book of poems is in the offing, some more short stories are in the bag. I was a finalist in a crime festival pitching for a new crime novel so that needs to be worked on. So all I can say is watch this space. 
Excerpts from the book / reader review excerpts http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/books/book-review-bombay-baby-1-2071469 
FB: Leela Soma 
Twitter handle: Glasgowlee
  
Leela, thank you for dropping by and hsring your works with us. Good luck for all you future projects!  

Stories Of Hope by Kirthi Jayakumar

Stories of HopeStories of Hope by Kirthi Jayakumar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a brilliant bunch of stories! I have become a huge fan of this young  author whose writing is just plain unadulterated ‘awesomeness’. Kirthi’s language flows beautifully, serenading us into the exquisitely  worlds she paints for us with every single story.I don’t normally read short stories, but I was excited to read this book when Kirthi asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing it. The prose is lush, poignant and  breathtakingly beautiful. I loved the range of stories Kirthi has presented in this collection. The stories paint myriad shades of human emotions, often sad and gut-wrenching, yet always compelling.

My favourite was the story Flowers from Andromanque which was spooky and fun at the same time. My second favourite was The Watchmaker , which is a heart-wrenching story of a beautiful relationship between a boy and a watch-maker. Kirthi goes futuristic with her story ‘Remorse’, which was also an interesting premise. Many stories have been narrated in the first person , which makes reading them all the more compelling. But more than the language ,I think what comes across clearly is Kirthi’s  understanding of human emotions and her compassion towards people in less-fortunate circumstances. Most stories end with their protagonists finding new ways to tackle their demons. Most accept their predicament , some don’t , but almost all the protagonists move on in one way or the other.

Overall an awesome book that will leave you yearning for more. Full length novel, please:)  

View all my reviews

Bootie and the Beast by Falguni Kothari

Bootie and the BeastBootie and the Beast by Falguni Kothari
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rating : 3.5 stars

I don’t read much of romance , which is why I was wondering if I’d do justice to Falguni’s book , but I needn’t have worried. I enjoyed reading the Bootie and the Beast. Diya Mathur is fun , zesty , full of herself (in a good way)and a supermodel; Krish Menon is smouldering hot , high-flying CFO  who is  extremely focussed and non-fussy .So what happens when you throw these two people who have a history of crackling chemistry between them together? Sparks are bound to fly and mean things are meant to be said 🙂 More importantly , magic is bound to be created!

I am not going to get into the plot because you can easily get that out of the synopsis. I liked Krish’s characterisation a lot. His quiet intensity was the perfect foil for a slightly over-the-top Diya. But don’t peg Diya as a shrieky heroine just yet. She also loves to cook and has a few other talents up her sleeve. I loved how Kris’s ideology is rooted in tradition ,even after having lived abroad for so long. Diya , though initially came across as a spoilt-brat , made me like her with her spunky retorts and surprisingly ‘simple-girl’ ideas.    

Falguni’s writing is fun and cheeky. However , what she excels in are the intimate scenes between the duo. The pages sizzle because of the chemistry she has created between Kris and Diya. I also loved the casual banter between the two. The book has all the ingredients of an M&B. I totally loved the ending- it was super fun!

Overall, a nice read you can curl up with when you are having a ‘blah’ day 🙂  

Thanks Falguni for sending this book my way 🙂          

View all my reviews

The Cosmic Clues by Manjiri Prabhu

The Cosmic CluesThe Cosmic Clues by Manjiri Prabhu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rating : 3.5

This book was a lovely cosy read and had many mini-mysteries strung together. The premise is extremely interesting : that horoscopes and Vedic astrology could be used to solve mysteries. I also liked the execution to a large extent. Manjiri’s language has a quaint ,old-worldly feel to it. It’s been written well , and paints a lovely picture of Pune, the city in which the book is set in. The mysteries themselves were pretty intriguing, and while I could a guess a few of them , most were fresh and  clever. I liked the fact that Sonia relied on basic gathering of facts and logic as a primary means of solving the mysteries and only relied on astrology to complement her observations in most cases.

Somehow I found Sonia too  uptight and really didn’t connect with her. I just found her characterisation too odd ( like the way she dances to get into the ‘mood’ of investigating a crime). This book would have been a 4 star  for me if I had found Sonia slightly more likeable. I liked how the author has woven description of festivals in the narrative. It did seem like the book was being targeted at a Non-Indian reader by the words that have been used and the way some Indian stuff have been described. The mystery about the Owl was totally rushed and made me feel a little cheated. I frankly skipped through the parts where Sonia talks about the placement of planets on the horoscopes when she explains the cases.

But , there are so many things that I liked in the book. The book reminded me a lot of Agatha Christie’s writing. Mma Ramotswe popped into my mind several times while reading the book. Will I pick-up the next book in the series? Definitely! If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, this book isn’t for you.If you are looking for a nice cosy read , look no further!  

View all my reviews

Chai Pe Bulaiya : Meet Poet Vandana Yadav

It’s amazing getting to know new writers and read their writing processes. Today’s guest is a  poet who has written a book of poems for little ones 🙂  Intriguing , right? Contemplating publishing through Amazon’s publishing option? Our guest throws some light on that.

Let’s meet poet Vandana Yadav, who has penned Jungle Hike!  in today’s Chai Pe Bulaiya..

Jungle Hike! is a book of rhymes and poems, written for children, possibly below 12. The poems are supplemented with tiny cartoons or sketches to facilitate understanding in the child.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Also include some pet peeves, crazy/fun stuff about yourself.
In 1991, at a small Air force station in Haryana, Ihappened to breathe my first and from then on, as we moved from one station to another, I grew not only in years, but also in number of friends, knowledge and life’s learnings. I guess I have been observant since forever and one of my English teachers (Mr. K. Sachindran) inspired me to maintain a daily journal through which I started dabbling into initial phases of writing and poetry. As timeflew, I started having these rare gusts of thoughts which flew unceasingly in my head and I started writing all of them down. From maintaining diaries for quotes, vocab, G.K. and poetry, I also wrote about my personal life and all of this together shaped me this way. The heavenly TOI (read Times of India) has been another love of my life! Writing is a catharsis for me when I’m low, an award for me when I achieve something and an affair for life! The day I stop thinking about writing more, might be the end of chapter for my life.
Tell us about your book/books
Jungle Hike! is a book of rhymes, mainly meant for children below 12 or rather 10. It’s my first book and since first attempts are bound to have mistakes, I didn’t choose my better ones to launch. Jungle Hike is a short collection of poems which can easily be transformed into jingles and sung to your little one while you cuddle him/her to bed. It sometimes feels funny to have come up with a book meant for children when I still don’t have mine 😛
Who are some of your favorite authors?

John Grisham, KhaledHosseini, Khushwant Singh and recently I read a book by Deborah Rodriguez (A coffee shop in Kabul); she is one helluvaperson! I like realistic authors, the ones who never fear and speak their mind and don’t just cater to the youth with their silly stories of college romance.Amrinder Bajaj is another author I can vouch for!

What are the best and the worst parts about being an author?

Best- you live many lives and parts J
Worst- you sometimes get misjudged for what you write Lalso there are sometimes, lonely pangs of aloofness!

Tell us about your writing / editing process. When do you normally write? Any lucky charms that you believe make you write better? 😉 

 No lucky charms, only lucky seconds! Those lucky seconds when I tremendously urge to pen down what my mind is struggling to figure out or contain. You’ll be surprised but I have written poems even while sitting in exam halls! I’m pretty impulsive 😉 when I have that rush; I just need to write I all down.
The collection of poems Jungle Hike serves, were written when I was small and when I hadstarted taking tiny steps into this awesome world of poetry. Editing these poems now was not tough, I just had to think like a child, a small child free of all worldly sins; one who is carefree and gay and I was more than happy to oblige. Once done, I put it up for review and got thumbs up to publish (thanks to Amazon). At this juncture I want to say that people think self-publishing is easy but it’s not, it does involve reviewing and planning but it is an excellent platform for aspiring authors/poets.

How do you unwind after a rigorous writing session?

I never get stressed in the first place! Since I have not tried a full-fledged novel till now (though I have a story and theme) I haven’t yet forayed into that lane. Poems never stress you, they have a flow; theycome, theygo and when theygo, theyleavebehind a beautiful piece of literature.

 How did you feel when you received the author’s copy to your first book?

Amazing! No words can project what I had in mind when I first saw the book– my own book! The moment you see your name put up on various sites and get reviewed for what you love most; you grow and you prosper, not necessarily monetarily, but it’s a growth of self, the sense of having achieved something higher than the material gains of life. It instills confidence in you. I’m sure you understand that feeling J

What pointers would you like to give to aspiring authors? How easy or difficult was getting published for you?

Hmm, well frankly my book is a result of self-publishing avenue provided by Amazonand hence I found it very friendly and convenient to get on-board but the difficult part is pricing! While Amazon has extensive marketing and distributing channels (amazing ones!), it still needs to figure out how it’d cater to its consumers in India. My Indian friends are finding the book costly as it is equivalent to the U.S. MRP. So you see, I’m entangled and trying to figure out the middle way right now! :/

 What’s on the menu next?

I am ready with three more titles (all of poetry though) but each of them has a different flavor. While one is a compilation of poems I wrote during various phases of my life and involve a straight reflection of my thoughts, other is a compilation of random ones, with no particular theme in common but each of them is a fresh, adorable piece. JThe third one is in Hindi and very relatable, I’m sure! I have something for lovers too. 

Thank you so much for dropping by. Wishing you loads of luck for your future endeavours 🙂 


Links to purchase Jungle Hike!



Connect with Vandana 

  

Bookshelf’d part IV and meet Renita D’silva at work

I have always been fascinated by the places where writers toil and sweat a novel out. Initially when I started out reviewing books, I had no clue how difficult writing a novel was. I just assumed that when a writer sat at her desk and started writing , words  flowed seamlessly onto the page. Little did I realise then that every word that is there on a book has a reason for being there and the writer often polishes, and re-polishes her draft till it shines 🙂  

Author at Work Part I 

Let’s go find out where Renita D’Silva author of Monsoon Memories and The Forgotten Daughters writes her masterpieces (new segment on the blog called  Author at Work). And of course, we are going to ogle her book shelves  and listen to her bookish musings 🙂 I must say she has a bunch of books that I have caught my fancy.. ***Sighs!*** 🙂 Over to you, Renita..  

Buy Monsoon Memories here 

Renita at her work-place 🙂
This is a picture of me at my ‘office’ which is just a corner of the sofa with my trusted Dell. I am lucky in that I can write anywhere and in any amount of noise, so the kids will be playing, my husband will be watching television and I will be writing, lost in a fictional world with my characters dictating their story and me their conduit. 

Some interesting titles here!

The old bookshelf we had in our room broke from the sheer weight of the books I had accumulated and refused to get rid of despite my poor husband’s pleadings, just before your request. The new bookshelf was arriving this weekend. It’s come and fixed and I have arranged my books- well, what few I managed to keep after hubby convinced me to give most away and move the rest which I couldn’t bear to part with to the loft- on the new bookshelf and now I can sleep properly again. ( The bookshelf is at the foot of my bed and I go to bed and wake up looking at my beloved books. When I did not have a bookcase, I missed this sorely.) I do borrow quite a few from the library as I read voraciously and cannot afford to buy all of them to feed my habit. One day perhaps. 

I once visited a house where an entire wall was given over to books. This is my dream: To live in a house with a room where every wall is a bookshelf. 



The picture titled ‘Writers and Artists’ has the Writers and Artists Handbook that I bought when I completed the first draft of Monsoon Memories. From it, I obtained information on how to write a query letter, how to send off a manuscript and also the list of agents and publishers to which I sent off my manuscript. Nestling between the Writers and Artists Handbook and Patrick Gale’s ‘Notes on an Exhibition’ are the anthologies and magazines where my short stories are published. 





 Nestling between ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Everyman’s Dictionary of Quotations and Proverbs’ are my books, Monsoon Memories and The Forgotten Daughter.

Pickwick Papers.. yay! 


Kate Atkinson and Alice Munro along with some interesting books

My collection of the Mslexia magazines for women writers that I subscribed to snuggle next to ‘How to Breathe Underwater’. It was through Mslexia that I found my wonderful publisher Bookouture- they had put an ad in the magazine asking for submissions.

Peekaboo.. The Forgotten Daughter 🙂 
You had fun looking at Renita’s shelves ? Mail me at writetobedazzled@gmail.com if you want me to feature your book shelves too. You don’t fancy books but collect something else? No hassles , write in and I’ll feature you.  
Connect with Renita 

Bookshelf’d Part III: Peek into Falguni’s library

Falguni Kothari is the author of two books, It’s Your Move, Wordfreak and the recently released Bootie and the Beast. No more words.. Just pictures will do the talking 🙂  
Buy Booty and the Beast here

Connect with Falguni 


Stay tuned for the Next Bookshel’d post 🙂 If you want your book shelves to be featured write me a mail at writetobedazzled@gmail.com 
 

Chai Pe Bulaiya (Part II) : Meet Renita D’Silva, author of Monsoon Memories

1.       





     
      Let’s meet the lovely and warm  Renita D’ Silva , best-selling the author of Monsoon Memories and The Forgotten Daughters in Chai pe Bulaiya segment today.



     Tell us a little bit about yourself. Also include some pet peeves, crazy/fun stuff about yourself …
I grew up in the picturesque village of Kallianpur near the coastal town of Mangalore. I studied Electrical and Electronics Engineering but worked in IT, quitting software altogether when my kids came along. I now live in the UK, in a little town just outside London. I love my family, reading, writing and cooking, in that order. If given the chance, I would live in a library or a bookstore. I once spent the night in a railway station when I missed curfew for my hostel, and that experience has made its way into one of my books. My daughter says that I laugh at things that are not even remotely funny. I love public transport and I especially love it if trains/buses/planes are delayed because that means more reading time.
2.       Tell us about your book/books
I have written two books so far. ‘Monsoon Memories’ was published in the UK and the rest of the world with the exception of India in June 2013 and it was published in India by Harlequin in Feb 2014. ‘The Forgotten Daughter’ was published in the UK and the rest of the world with the exception of India in Feb 2014 and was a bestseller in the Women’s Literary Fiction Chart on Amazon UK and made it to the Kindle Top 100 in the UK and Canada. 
I am intrigued by families and the secrets we keep from those we love the most in the mistaken belief that we are protecting them.  Secrets and how keeping/unearthing them affect the dynamics between families feature heavily in both of my books.


 ‘Monsoon Memories’ is about journeys. The journey to forgiveness and acceptance.The journey of discovery, the unearthing of a secret that has been slumbering for more than a decade.Shirin lives a dry life in London and misses home desperately but cannot visit because of something that happened in her past.  Then there is Reena, an inquisitive eleven year old girl who finds an old photograph depicting her father, her aunt and a stranger and embarks on a quest to uncover who the stranger is, inadvertently setting into motion a chain of events that will affect her life in surprising ways. It is a coming of age story for Reena, and a coming to terms tale for Shirin.


Monsoon Memories in India:
Monsoon Memories in the UK:
Monsoon Memories in the US:

‘The Forgotten Daughter’ is about the quest for identity and delves deeper into the fraught minefield that is the relationship between mothers and daughters. It is the story of three disparate women, Nisha – who finds out via a letter left with her parents’ will that she was adopted, Devi – who is fighting against the constraints imposed on girls growing up in a small village in India, and Shilpa – a woman who grows up in poverty.



In ‘The Forgotten Daughter’ too, the three characters are embarking on journeys – Nisha in a literal sense, to find her roots and in the process, to find herself. Devi is on a journey of reconciliation with her estranged mother. For Shilpa, it is a journey towards acceptance of the choices she made in her life – often with devastating consequences.


The Forgotten Daughter in the UK:
The Forgotten Daughter in the US:
 3.       What inspired you to become a novelist?
I have always wanted to write. I love stories, and when I am not reading them, I am creating them in my head. Life, however, had other plans for me for a while. Hence, I worked as a software engineer for a bit, giving up when my kids came along. When my daughter started nursery, and with my son already in school, I was free for a few hours to indulge my passion: writing.  I enrolled in an Adult Education Creative Writing Course and started writing stories that I actually shared with other people instead of just inventing them in the privacy of my head. I discovered that my stories were liked, a few of them got published in magazines and anthologies and won competitions and that gave me the encouragement to start writing my novel.


4.       Is any character from your books based on anyone in your real life?
Not anyone in particular, no. I think like all authors, I am riveted by people, by what makes them tick. I love witnessing snatched moments in people’s lives. I like eavesdropping on bursts of conversations and conjuring the rest.I am a people-watcher; I collect nuances and conversations and create stories around them. I suppose what I am trying to say is that my characters are an amalgamation of the people I watch. I borrow characteristics from various different people and people them in my characters.
5.      Who are some of your favorite authors?
Oh there are so many. The list is constantly growing and changing. Harper Lee, Arundhati Roy, Margaret Atwood, Hilary Mantel, Khaled Hosseini,Maggie O’Farrell, ChimamandaNgosiAdichie, Markus Zusak to name but a few.

6.What are the best and the worst parts about being an author?
The best part of being an author is receiving feedback from readers all over the world, hearing how my stories have affected them. I love that part of the process.The worst part is the self-doubt. I am constantly having to battle the inner voice in my head that keeps telling me that what I have written is rubbish. Usually this voice nags till I have reached around a third of the work in progress,by which time my characters have grown enough so as to take over, to shush the negative voice and dominate my head with their desire to express their views, tell their story.
This is another one of the highlights of being an author, when the characters that I have devised grow so much that they want to tell the story their way. They do not let me sleep, they give me no peace until I have told their story in the way they want it told. Usually this goes completely against what I had devised for them, but it is the right thing for those particular characters and that particular tale.
7. Tell us about your writing / editing process. When do you normally write? Any lucky charms that you believe make you write better? 😉
I do not have any lucky charms as such.J I juggle two children and three part-time jobs so I write when I can, squeezing writing into snatches of borrowed time here and there. Having said that, I get a window of roughly an hour and a half each morning between dropping my daughter off to school and going to work and I try and write then, warding off the distractions of social networking sites and the internet for the most part. However, I am thinking about my story all day while going about my other chores, so when I do sit down to write, the words flow easily as if they have been waiting for this moment, to be fed onto the page.
My first draft is usually stream of consciousness writing. I write without checking or rereading, not caring about spelling, grammar, punctuation etc. I just focus on putting the words on the page, the story that is nagging to be told onto paper. On subsequent drafts, I read, reread, edit. I work on the characters, their development. I fine tune the story.

8. How do you unwind after a rigorous writing session?
I read. I cook. I catch up on housework and spend time with the kids.

9. How did you feel when you received the author’s copy to your first book?
It was a truly amazing feeling, the fruition of all the years of effort, like how a child feels on Christmas morning, I suppose, when what she has wished for fervently all year comes true. I have written about it here, a paragraph right at the end of this post:

10. What pointers would you like to give to aspiring authors? How easy or difficult was getting published for you?
I had instant success with my short stories and I thought getting my novel published would be just as easy. The mistake I made, in retrospect, was to send my manuscript off too soon, before it was the best it could be. I got quite a lot of feedback: ‘Plot is weak’; ‘Cannot identify with the main characters’; ‘Structure doesn’t work’; ‘Story needs tightening’ and so on. I took all the feedback on board and sent it off again. This time, the feedback was unanimous, ‘We like your story but cannot take it on because of the recession, the current deplorable state of the market.’ In the end, I did succeed, but there were so many hurdles along the way that I almost gave up countless times.
Based on my experience, here is what I would say to aspiring authors:
a)      Believe in yourself and your writing.
b)      Do not send your manuscript out before it is the best it can be.
c)       Try not to let rejection get you down. Easier said than done, I know. But remember, everybody gets rejected. J.K.Rowling was rejected 12 times before her manuscript was accepted by a small publishing house and Harry Potter was unleashed on the world.
d)      Don’t give up. The published writer is one who has picked himself up after each rejection and tried again. With the advent of the e-book and Indie publishing, there has never been a better time to be an author. Remember you only need one person to say yes and he or she is waiting just around the corner.
11. What’s on the menu next?
I am currently working on the first draft of Book 3. Watch this spaceJ
Thank you so very much for hosting me on your wonderful blog, Bhargavi. It’s been a real pleasure.

Thank you so much for your lovely answers, Renita. Looking forward to The Forgotten Daughter’s launch in India. You’ve got yourself a huge fan 🙂  

Here’s a sneak peak into Renita’s Monsoon Memories..
Madhu was washing clothes on the little granite stone by the well, in the shade of the tamarind and banana trees. The heavy thud of clothes hitting stone guided Reena there.
Deepak had tried countless times to get Madhu to use the new washing machine he had installed in the bathroom. But Madhu was having none of it: ‘I wash the clothes, rinse them and then scrub them again. Will that square little box do that? I am not using any fancy machines when my hands will do.’ Since then, the washing machine had sat forlorn in the bathroom gathering dust and chicken droppings where the hens perched on it when being chased by Gypsy, the gleaming white exterior fading slowly to dull grey.
Reena sat on the cement rim surround of the well and watched Madhu. Her sari was tied up, the pallu tucked tightly into her waist. Her worn apron was wet and hair escaped the confines of her bun and collected in greying tendrils around her face. Every once in a while she used her arm to push it away, leaving wet soapy smudges on her face. She had finished scrubbing the clothes and was wringing the water out of them by rolling them into a tight cylinder and then bashing them very hard against the stone. The bar of Rin soap that she had used lay on the stone beside her, bleeding dark blue water onto the streaky granite surface. Gypsy, who followed Madhu wherever she went, lay curled beside her feet. She looked lost to the world, except for the deep growl that escaped her every once in a while and the little twitch her nose gave when a fly landed on it. Do dogs dream?Reena wondered.
Every so often the spicy, scented breeze stirred the tamarind and banana trees, releasing a little flood of raindrops that had adhered to the leaves. The garden in the front courtyard which Madhu diligently tended was in full bloom, and Reena breathed in the sweet honey aroma of the hibiscus and jasmine flowers mixed in with the earthy smell of rain-washed mud. Bees buzzed, butterflies flitted and a fat frog stirred in the grass next to the well. Reena sighed, for just a moment loath to disrupt the peace and stir up old secrets. The moment didn’t last long, however.
‘Madhu,’ she said, ‘I’ve got something to show you.’
Madhu jumped, startled. Gypsy barked. ‘Gypsy, shush. Rinu, you gave me a fright. How long have you been sitting there?’
‘Not long. I like sitting here, watching you. It’s peaceful.’
‘What’s that?’ Madhu rubbed soapy hands down the sides of her apron and extended wet fingers to receive the photograph Reena was holding out to her. Reena watched as she squinted at the picture, as her smile stilled and her face lost colour.
‘Where did you find this?’ Madhu asked.
‘Oh, you know…’ said Reena vaguely, deliberately nonchalant, even though her heart was pounding.
Up until now, though she had wanted to find out more about her lookalike, wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery, a part of her had thought that it was all in her head. The adults would pooh-pooh her wild theories as just that. There would be a perfectly simple and straightforward explanation. 
 Although she’d hoped to have stumbled on something, now, as she looked at the myriad emotions flitting across Madhu’s lined face, as her breath came out in long sighs, as the smile fled her face to be replaced by grief, Reena wished she had never found the photograph. She wished it had remained hidden in that old woodlice-ridden album. For the first time, she considered the fact that the girl might be dead. But that didn’t make much sense either. Why hide her photographs? Why forget her? In Reena’s experience, the dead were revered and remembered all the time, even more than the living, she sometimes thought. There was a seven-day mass after the funeral, a thirty-day mass, a yearly mass, framed photographs adorned with garlands taking pride of place next to the altar…
Again she found herself asking the same questions. Why the secrecy, the conspiracy of silence?
Madhu used the pallu of her sari to wipe away the tears streaming down her face.
Reena was horrified. She had never seen Madhu cry. She didn’t know what to do. Guilt, sharp and painful bound her to her perch on the rim of the well. Try as she might, she couldn’t seem to move to comfort Madhu.
The frog hopped away in wet sticky plonks, drawing arches in the air. Gypsy stirred and ambled up to Madhu, licking away the salty tears which kept on coming.
‘Shoo, Gypsy,’ Madhu murmured, patting the dog’s flank. ‘I saved it in a safe place, but couldn’t remember where I had put it. I looked everywhere, but in the end had to accept it was lost. And now…’
So the photograph had been Madhu’s.
Madhu ran her fingers gently over the girl’s face, her hair.
And Reena understood why the picture was worn.
‘She had lovely hair, thick and long. I used to plait it for her in two long braids, and tie it up behind her ears. She always made sure I used matching ribbons.’ Madhu smiled. ‘She sat so still while I oiled it and combed it, no matter how knotty it was, no matter how much it hurt. And I talked to her the whole time. She was my favourite, you know. It was a secret—hers and mine.’ Madhu’s voice broke.
Reena waited until Madhu had composed herself somewhat.
She hated herself for doing so but she had to ask. ‘Did she die?’
Madhu blanched. Years of living in a Catholic household had rubbed off on her and she made the sign of the cross, her puffy, red-rimmed eyes sprouting fresh tears. She spoke so softly that Reena had to strain to hear. ‘No. Thank God, thank Jesus, no.’
Oooh.. that was delicious! I am hankering for more.

Connect with Renita..
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Twitter: @RenitaDSilva

The Madras Mangler by Usha Narayanan

The Madras ManglerThe Madras Mangler by Usha Narayanan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading this book which has five pretty girls, all with different problems and hang-ups  who study at a college in Chennai. Add a mean serial killer who kills girls and dumps them into the coovum river , a few gundas and college rowdies , a bumbling police officer  and a delicious criminologist, and you have the recipe to counter boredom. The Madras Mangler is all the more closer to my heart as it is set in a city has been home to me for so many years. I  liked the references to the local places in the book.The best parts of the book, according to me were the parts in which Vir and his hi-fi team tries to make sense of the profile of the killer.The gadgets and the technology mentioned by Vir and team is exhilarating , and one realises that a lot of research has gone into writing the book. I loved how the author has sneaked in references to pop-culture in the narrative.The writing is young:  the swear words the girls use, the music they listen to , the books they read – all captured very well.When one reads the book, one cannot guess the fact that the author is not in her early twenties 🙂 All these things that worked for me.

Even though there is enough banter between the girls, I thought a lot of portions where the girls were involved were rushed. Before I could think about one girl’s problem, the next girl hurls herself (and us) into another soup.I would have liked a slightly slower pace that would have made me invest in every girl individually, to care about them later(why? I am not telling you why.. you have to read the book for that!). The five girls blurred into one single entity for me , after a point.I felt that there was too much of tell, than show. But considering the fact that there were so many characters to cover and a word-count to adhere to,I can understand the author’s reasons for rushing through certain parts.

The only reason the book was not a 4, but a 3 for me was because I found the narrative a little choppy . Out of the 3, I’ll give 1 star only for Vir 🙂

Usha mam, sequel please. Vir is too good a hero to be wasted on a single book!

Overall , a nice book to settle in with on a Sunday afternoon. Its got all the elements young people would want in a book.

View all my reviews

Stay tuned to the next author post in a few days 🙂

Chai pe bulaiya (part 1) : Meet Falguni Kothari, author of Bootie and the Beast

Introducing a new segment on the blog called Chai pe Bulaiya.. featuring writers and authors , their books , their writing processes, their pet-peeves and much more…  
  
Today’s rendezvous is with Author Falguni Kothari , who has penned two books, It’s Your Move, Wordfreak and the recently released Bootie and the Beast. Intriguing titles, right? Let’s get  to know the lady more..
1.       Tell us a little bit about yourself. Also include some pet peeves, crazy/fun stuff about yourself.
Hello! I am a woman and I write books. Fun, flirty romance novels that will leave you with a happy buzz at the end of the read. I have dabbled in urban fantasy and have a series in mind with one manuscript ready and waiting to be considered. So, yeah, I write books. J
Pet peeves: kitty parties with non-compatible guest-lists who won’t shut up and idiots who don’t fan SRK. That brings us to my craziness…I am a die-hard fan-girl. I get seriously star-struck by some actors/writers/certain famous personalities. I have been known to go completely cuckoo over Shah RukhKhan, Gerard Butler, Diana Gabaldon, Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch. What can I say? I love stories and the people who bring them to life.
2.       Tell us about your book/books



My new romance, BOOTIE AND THE BEAST is a Harlequin Mills and Boon release and as you can guess with its title, it’s a nod to the traditional fairytale. The heroine, nicknamed Beauty, is not a village Belle in my story but rather a super famous supermodel and is in super trouble. She is ordered by her father to hide in shame in the hero and longtime family friend’s lair, for a week or two until the gossip about her dies down. The hero, Krish “the Beast” Menon, has been denying his feelings for Diya for a long time and is forced to confront them, living in close proximity as they are. It’s a story about family, expectations, denial and how the past can affect your present and the present your future if you don’t have the guts to face it.

Watch trailer of Bootie and the Beast..

   

Buy Bootie and the Beast here

She’s having a giveaway that ends in a few days.. Go sign up soon! 



Both Diya and Krish debuted in my debut romance, IT’S YOUR MOVE, WORDFREAK!, as secondary characters. They made such an impression that even before I finished writing Wordfreak I knew I would tell Diya and Krish’s story too.
3.       What inspired you to become a novelist?
I am a voracious reader. So, when a few years ago—at a time in my life when I had more and more time to myself with my children both while not fully grown, but independent enough that I did not need to run after them—my mother kind of pushed me to get off my un-ambitious butt and do something, I decided to take some online classes in literature. What I ended up taking was a short course on writing a romance novel. It was amazing and fun and so fulfilling that I continued writing until I had a full-length manuscript in my hands. I don’t think I ever intended to become an author. I just did. It’s as if I tripped over a soccer ball and fell down the writer’s rabbit hole.
4.       Is any character from your books based on anyone in your real life?
Not really. Though I might bring in some experiences or ideas from real-life situations in the novel.
5.       Who are some of your favorite authors?
I have many, many authors to thank for the wonderful worlds they’ve shown me: Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Diana Gabaldon, J.D Robb/ Nora Roberts, Sherrilyn Kenyon, J. R Ward, George R R Martin, Megan Hart, InduSunderesan, ChitraDivakaruni, DevduttPattanaik. I love many more but these are ones who have touched my heart the most.
6.       What are the best and the worst parts about being an author?
The best: that I can stay in bed and work in my pajamas for life.
Worst: my eyes straining and burning and sleepless nights when the plot or character refuses to leave my head and find its own lodgings far, far away.
7.       Tell us about your writing / editing process. When do you normally write? Any lucky charms that you believe make you write better? 😉  
Try as I might, I can’t write a chapter without editing it after. It slows down my writing speed, I know, but I can’t seem to break myself of the habit. I have to have a pretty smooth chapter before I can go on to the next. Research and editing I usually do during the day. But my creative writing happens early in the morning. I’ll wake anytime after midnight, because the damn plot or character will not allow me to sleep, and write till dawn.No charms. I write on my bed the best with my dog sleeping by my side J
8.       How do you unwind after a rigorous writing session?
Sleep. Go out with family and friends and have an actual conversation. Get my hair done. Get my nails done.
9.       How did you feel when you received the author’s copy to your first book?
I squeed! It was better than holding my children for the first time as there was no physical pain involved in the delivery.
     What pointers would you like to give to aspiring authors? How easy or difficult was getting published for you?
Sit down. Write. Write. Write. Even if its rubbish for a while. You can edit rubbish. You cannot edit a blank page. (It’s advice I got from another author and it’s so true.)It was easier than most for me to get published for my two romances. I think my fantasy will be the one that will test my patience and endurance. But I am determined to get that story told, one way or another.
1    What’s on the menu next?
I have just started writing a story about three soul mates. First time that I’m using first person POV, so it’s a new challenge. It’s a love story too, but I’m not sure if it will have a happy ending. We’ll see what the characters want from their lives J

Thank you so much for dropping by for tea, Falguni. Wishing you loads of luck for your new book and looking forward to reading it. Looking forward to your book shelf pics too 🙂  

Here’s an excerpt from Bootie and the Beast

Bootie Mathur: Fairytale or Flirty-tale?
           
The digitally manipulated picture beneath the headline was hideous. The pose and the burlap were the only two things true to the original Pomp Adore cover. In this pic, her hair looked unwashed and unkempt, her eyes wild and scary. Her blood-red lips were peeled apart in a facsimile of vampire fangs about to rip into the bow-tied, fungus-ridden bootie in her hand. Her abdomen was no longer defined, as she was extremely pregnant in the picture. The rose tattoo had been colored black and vicious-looking thorns grew out of the stalk, digging maliciously into the green-veined skin of her distended stomach.
 DiyaMathur swallowed the panic threatening to choke her ever since she’d lost her mind and completely demolished her already notorious reputation to save a dude in distress. That she wasn’t a knight-in-shining-armor and that Hasaan was more than capable of saving his own skin was of no consequence. Her quixotic goodwill had reared up, mixed in with a teensy bit of guilt—after all, she was partly to blame for the fiasco—and thrown itself in front of the mega merger about to put a dampner on Hasaan’s carefree life. But even knowing she’d done the right thing didn’t stop Diya’s stomach from churning like the giant cement mixer she spotted on a construction site by the road. She prayed she wouldn’t really have to use the stupid vomit bags the Beast had planted as a joke.
            Fairytales will ruin you, Dadimahad said in a dour tone supplemented by a dire shake of her head, when Diya was only six and had refused to wear anything but her glittery-blue Sleeping Beauty costume forever or until Prince Charming arrived bearing new clothes. Diya hadn’t believed her cantankerous old grandmother then and she wouldn’t believe it now, even with the public disapproval of her fake pregnancy looming over her head. Fairytales were her lucky charms, her survival mantras. They could never harm her. In fact, they helped put life in perspective.
            Example: the Sleeping Beauty phase, which she’d pretty much passed in a haze of denial waiting for Prince Charming—aka the Beast—to grow up. It had ended the night of her twenty-first birthday when she’d realized the magnitude of her self-delusion. Soon after the figurative eye-opener, she’d announced to the world of her ambition to be a fashion model. Actually, she’d only announced it to her best friend, Alisha Menon—sorry, Chawla, now that Lee-sha was married to Mr. Hunk Charming, Aryan Chawla. Anyway, Diya had whispered her plans in Lee-sha’s ears only because she’d been mortally afraid of what her dentist parents—Kamal and LubnaMathur—and gynecologist sister—PriyaShroffnéeMathur—would say about another vocation switch—her one hundred and eighth one. Soon-to-be-advocate Lee-sha hadn’t laughed at the proclamation nor acknowledged it. She’d simply hung up the phone.
            Not at all put off by her BFF’s rudeness, Diya traipsed forth in her new plans and more or less parked her size-two bottom at Mumbai’s Lips Inc modeling agency until they took notice of her. It hadn’t taken them long to notice. Really.What was there not to notice about five-feet-nine-inches of sleek limbs, flawless skin and picture-perfect features? Diya knew what she looked like and knew there wasn’t a man, woman, child or animal in the world who overlooked her. (Not even the Beast, though he did try, poor knave.) Anyway, Rocky Currimbhoy, co-founder of Lips Inc, had rocket-launched her career in a matter of weeks, much like how Cinderella’s fairy godmother had swirled a magic wand about and transformed the dowdy cinder-sweeper into the belle of the ballroom. Not that there’d been any dowdiness to begin with in Diya, just a bit of naiveté she’d scrubbed off since.
            Fast-forward eight years and Beauty Mathur honest-to-goodness loved to strike a pose. Any pose. Even the ones that made one’s muscles scream in protest or blood rush to the brain causing a migraine. Her super busy model’s life suited her, incredibly perfectly, unlike some of the other vocations she’d tried—and (sigh) failed at—in her many years of being an adult. Beauty was her thing. Fashion was her passion. And she was damn good at it. If she weren’t, HasaanJabbir would never want her for Scheherazade.
            For years, she’d been a Rapunzel trapped in the tower of professional ignominy, surrounded by an impossible wall of overachievers—case in point, the Beast on her left. But unlike the incarcerated, longhaired princess, Diya had quit waiting for a princely rescue. She’d scaled the wall herself, waved her tresses about and changed the course of her life.
            It had been either that or enforced domestic blah with one of the men her family had paraded in front of her like a clichéd bachelorette reality show.
            An arranged marriage was a fate worse than death. A fate soon to be realized for poor Hasaan, Diya thought. For her too, if her “situation” didn’t get sorted out soon and to her family’s satisfaction. Her father had called last night, yelling his head off at her gullibility. When she’d tried to explain her knightly reasons, instead of being pacified and calling her a heroine, he’d started his matrimonial threatening and blackmailing again. And this time, her mother and sister had chimed in like some horrible squeaky chorus. The sparkly fairytale was rapidly losing its glamour—not for her, for them.
            Almighty gods in heaven! Are any of you listening? Help me out of this, please!
            “Stop browsing through rubbish, Diya. You’ll give yourself an ulcer,” said Krish, without looking at her as he maneuvered the SUV through a light patch of traffic.
            With a last pout at her nightmare version, Diya shut the tablet, closed its pink leather cover and slid the device back into her rose-pink handbag.
            The Beast was behaving himself. It was both a shock and a relief to her. Apart from the two mildly sarcastic sentences he’d barked out in front of Hasaan, the derogatory nickname and comment about morning sickness, he’d been quiet, maybe a bit broody. But that was Krish. He was a brooder. He brooded on a daily basis with no provocation what-so-ever.
            He dropped his hand to the gearshift when they stalled at a signal, loosely capping the stick. His hand was broad, dark and capable-looking, the back of it lightly dusted with hair. A sexy little vein pushed up from his middle knuckle and ran all the way up his arm, bare beneath his pushed-up sleeves. Diya dragged her eyes away from the flexed bicep to his face.
            “Talk to me.” His grim, laser-beam gaze made her tingle even through his shades.
            The sunglasses would be prescription. They were aviator-style with thin metal frames and sat well on his broad-boned face. She could make out the general shape of his eyes behind the dark glass. Krish had the Menon eyes, large and brown and soulful. His eyebrows slashed, thick and straight above the metal frames and as Diya stared at him, they rose high in question. She regularly nagged him to get Lasik done or at least wear contacts. He ignored the advice just like he ignored every other fashion tip she gave him—totally his loss in her humble opinion.
            The traffic began to move and Krish turned his attention to the road with a low growl of irritation, giving Diya further opportunity to study his profile. He was a tall man. And was dark—his skin well hydrated and blemish-free. He had a really sexy jawline and a noble-sized nose. Even so, no one in the fashion world would call Krish good-looking. They would vote him as average or having a face infused with character—a really polite way of saying he was nothing much to look at. But did that stop the shivers of undiluted attraction rippling through her whenever he looked at her? NO!
            Thank heavens the Beast had no clue he affected her this way. Thank heavens he lived thousands of miles away or her retarded shivering would’ve surely given her away. Thank heavens no one in either of their families suspected she hadn’t at all got over the crush she’d had on him since forever. If they found out, they would pity her. If Krish found out, he would pity her and it would make things even more awkward than it sometimes was between them. Worse, he’d think it was his duty to see her happily settled in a relationship and like he’d done once before at her father’s behest, either propose to her himself or introduce her to his wonderful and eligible friends.
            It might come to that anyway, what with the marriage madness afflicting her father. Daddy behaved as if turning thirty—which she would in August—without a husband and toddler to tend was a crime fit for the Record Book of Disgraced Mathurs.It wasn’t her fault she was unlucky in the love and wedded bliss departments. Unlike her parents, her sister and her BFF, some people like Hasaan and herself…
            “Diya?” Krish prodded again, gently squeezing her hand this time.
            She sighed. She had to confess some time, didn’t she?
            “It all started with the stupid bootie,” she began and quickly laid out the whole silly story in sequence.
Connect with Falguni 

Stay tuned to the next author profile in a few days!