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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Book Review : 'Voting at Fosterganj' by Ruskin Bond

Reading a Ruskin Bond book can firstly have you smiling. It just has to be there for a person to have a funny twitch around the lips. Anyway, it was with this feeling that I began ‘Voting at Fosterganj’. I felt like a part of the crowd, which was on the cover of the book, a crowd, which had gathered to vote. 

The book is a good one, but it gives us an all too familiar feel, which unfortunately I have been feeling with most of his books, nowadays. But, a fan that I am, I had begun to read it. Starting off with ‘The Old Lama’, this book gives us all a feeling of homesickness that ideally we should not have, considering that we are at home. 

We see the old lama, walking on to Tibet in the constant journey that he undertakes every other day. We then have a long day, with Suraj as he goes through the travails of a young boy, who is awaiting the results of his examinations, and then joined by Uncle Bertie and then of course, we have the effervescent grandpa, who leads Ruskin, as a boy onto a train with of course, a monkey, mistakenly thought of as a cat or a dog. After that, we are joined by a snake and a parrot and of course, Aunt Ruby, whose stories always regale us.

We are joined in by old Mehmood and Ali and their tale of kites, and then,
Ruskin Bond
the voting begins at Fosterganj. Then at night, we are joined for a walk in Landour, when we have foxes and flying squirrels, owls to keep us company, as the magic oil had Foster in his old cricketing flannel, come into the bank. Of course, no book of Ruskin Bond’s runs without a zigzag walk of Uncle Ken’s and of course, always a brief trip to England and Ruskin’s love for books, and music shine through, of course, Folks...

You can Buy the Book, right here.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Author Interview : Deepak Dalal, author of ‘Talon the Falcon' and 'A Flamingo in my Garden’

Deepak Dalal
Read up, Interview with Deepak Dalal’s Author of ‘Talon the Falcon’ and ‘A Flamingo in my Garden’, which make for superb reads. Both stories are easy to understand, for all kids and adults, alike.

And the illustrations by Lavanya Naidu are really good, and one can see the effort, of the entire book coming together, Folks...

How did ‘Talon the Falcon’ and ‘A Flamingo in my Garden’ happen? Could you describe the journey? 

All wildlife fascinates me – be it birds or animals. I’ve always wanted to write stories about them. Particularly in the case of birds, there is so much going on in their lives.

At any given time – be it morning or night, and in any season – birds are migrating across our planet. Their lives are full of adventure. The ‘Feather Tales’ stories hope to convey that adventure to young readers.

How did the stories, especially Shikar’s and Talon’s and Longtail’s and Sunglow’s come about?

The Talon story is all about the tyranny of a cage. Birds have wings. The skies belong to them. They can travel to any part of the planet. When we humans cage birds, it is a horrible and cruel act. We rob birds of their wings, their most precious gift. The Talon story provides a different perspective to a cage – from a bird’s point of view. The idea is for children to experience and become conscious of the appalling fate a caged bird suffers.

The flamingo story was inspired by the flamingos that visit Mumbai. It is quite amazing how flamingos have made a busy metropolis like Mumbai their home.

How did you manage to put in songs in the basic structure of your story, in the first book?

Birds love singing. But not all their songs are happy songs. They even have sad songs. And the saddest of all is the song that they sing when they are caged.

How did you come up with the core ideas and develop them?

It is a lot of hard work. You have a goal in mind and you work your way towards it. There are ups and downs along the path and several U-turns and complete re-thinks along the way. But if you keep at it, the ideas eventually come.

What according to you is different about your books?

I would guess that these are the first books that have birds as the main characters. 

Birds are tuned to the natural cycles of nature and readers draw closer to nature through these books. Also, the stories are backed by superb 4-colour illustrations.

How would you relate the lives of characters to the lives today? Any similarities?

All lifestyles of the characters are based on the lives of children today.

What was the most challenging part about writing these books?

The beginning of any story is always the most challenging part.

What book is coming from your desk, next? When do you see it released?

A third bird story (part of the ‘Feather Tales’ series) should be out next. Also, I am working on a story on dolphins.

Which book are you currently reading?

Who are your favourite authors?

What else do you do on a daily basis?

I read, cycle, trek, travel and look after my investments.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Author Interview : Utkarsh Patel, author of ‘Satyavati'

Utkarsh Patel
Read up, the Interview with Utkarsh Patel, author of 'Satyavati'. The book was was a brilliant telling of a very important part of the Mahabharata, sometimes forgotten. It held its own, throughout the story. In this Interview, he tells us how Satyavati's characterisation came about, what the kind of research was put into this book, what the challenges were that went into its writing and what book is coming from him next, Folks...

Could you describe the journey of ‘Satyavati’? How did it begin? What kind of research was put into it?

This subject came up during a discussion with my publisher, who wanted something different as a story idea. Characters like Amba, Kunti, Draupadi, etc. have been written time and again. 

As part of my earlier research, I had realised that there was much more to certain characters, than what popular depictions have shown. Satyavati was one of them. 

There was more to her personality than just a helpless widow for a major part of her life.

Why did you choose Satyavati, exactly?

In mythology, women are either a damsel-in-distress or temptresses and seductresses. They were either the chaste Sati-Savitri or a vamp or benign mothers and wives.

A woman can be a combination of both good and evil, just as any other character. Every individual comprises of varying shades of grey and Satyavati epitomised this aspect of womanhood. She was someone who had hatred and love in her heart. She errs but she still rises above the rest. Hers was a story waiting to be told, and I hope I have been able to do so!

Could you describe the journey? How does it feel, now that you are plugging the holes in the Mahabharata?

Mahabharata is an enigma for me. It never ceases to surprise me or show me something new, every time I take it up, which is quite often. As a child, I was told, that Mahabharata should never be read inside the house, but there is so much in it which every household needs to know and learn from.

Typically, Mahabharata is a story about heroes, their struggles, sacrifices and victory. But we often forget that these heroes owed a lot to a number of women both directly as well as indirectly. Some were heroes because of them, some thanks to them. I want to tell the stories of these women, who have made some contribution to the epic and the society, but have been lost in time, in the male-melee!

‘Shakuntala’ and now, ‘Satyavati’, your books came out along with a number of mythological novels. What according to you is different about them?

Well, I can’t quite compare mine with the others as that is what the readers will have to do, however, I can mention what I do when I write. First, I try to stick to the original story as much as I can. This is not to say, that there aren’t deviations, but the original thread is the same.

Second, I try to interpret the fantastic elements. I try to demystify some of the mythical aspects to make the story more meaningful.

Third, I often cite references, which enables a reader to verify and also provide a reading list for further reading. Finally, my genre is mytho-fiction and not history!

How would you relate the lives of Satyavati to the lives today? Any similarities?

One of the main reasons of retelling these stories is that there are often too many similarities of such characters and instances with modern times. What Satyavati had to go through, is often what many women have to go through, submit themselves to the power of certain men.

We see people taking advantages of their powerful positions and violate women and are often forced to keep quiet. In certain segments of the societies, women are married off to men old enough to be their fathers. How much has the society changed? Except for a small percentage and in cities, do women really have the choice to choose?

How would you relate the book and its characters, besides Satyavati’s, to the lives today?

Just as I mentioned above, many of the characters can be identified. People like Sage Parashar and King Shantanu exist in our society even today.

While we might not find too many of Bhishma, but many of the characters in the novel are identifiable.

Which is your favourite character besides Satyavati? Why?

Well, can’t think of anybody from “Satyavati” (as in the novel), but from the epic Mahabharata of course, I have many.

Shakuntala is definitely my favourite which, of course made me write my first novel (Shakuntala – The Woman Wronged) followed by Satyavati of course. Amongst others, I like the character of Vidur and Shakuni!

What was the most challenging part about writing this book?

I think the most challenging part of writing this book, was to separate me from the character. Sometimes, I tend to get too carried away with the character and the ills heaped on her, that I tend to become her mouthpiece.

When you are retelling stories from epics, it is important to maintain a level of integrity with the epic, without missing on the nuances which have been lost in time.

What are the most fulfilling parts, now that you have managed to
write this book?

I am happy with the way it has turned out. I am happy that I have managed to maintain a balance in the personalities while making them human and believable.

I am also glad that I have managed to give a voice to the character, whose voice, as it would have been, was lost for a long time. Critics have liked it and so have the readers.

A reader wrote to me, ‘this is exactly how I would have felt and acted, if I was in her place!’ – Such comments make my day!

What book is coming from you, next? 

I have just finished a manuscript which is awaiting publication sometime end of this year.

It is the retelling of a Tamil epic from the Sangam literature, called ‘Shilapadikarm’, a hugely popular epic down South, but hardly known in the other parts of the country. I am also working on some smaller novellas, like ‘Satyavati’.

You can Read the Review, right here  and can Buy the Book, right here, for which you need to download the Readify App https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=in.readify

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Author Interview : Sapna Jha, author of ‘The First Trillionaire’

Sapna Jha

Read up, Interview with Sapna Jha, author of 'The First Trillionaire'. In this part of her Interview, she describes her journey of writing the book, what she thought was different about it, which character she feels most close to, how Facebook, Bihar and faith come to play a role in her book, what she thought was the most challenging part of the book, who her favourite author is and why, Folks...

How did ‘The First Trillionaire’ happen? Could you describe the journey?

It was a long journey to completion; a hobby at first. I started writing my first book in 2008, I wrote 180 pages and showed it to publishers and none of them were interested in publishing. Then in 2010, I stopped writing. On 7th September 2015, when my husband got transfer to Bhubaneshwar in Odisha, then I again started with a new concept and new book.
I didn’t really think I would ever publish this book ‘The First Trillionaire’, when I started imagining but I had the blessings of goddess. I explained the entire motivation of writing this book in the foreword of this book. I am also publishing my earlier written book, very soon.

In fact, a prominent publisher had a ‘wow’ feel for that book.

How did the main characters, Shail and Olivia come about? How much of you, was in there?

I am neither in Shail nor in Olivia, however I was fascinated with banking career and I was friendly with many young recruits of the government bank.
They were coming from diverse backgrounds and many of them had very basic education, but still competing with the passouts from the best of professional colleges. They shared lot of their anecdotes and stories of their training college. 

These stories settled in my mind. Moreover, my husband also shared with me many stories of training college, where he went for corporate grooming for many months after my marriage.

What according to you is different about your book?

This book, I’d like to call it an assorted entertainment kit, or a riveting puzzle.

As you go page by page, you are gathering snippets, which to the end gives the answer to all your queries.

Also, you would really miss the kernel boredom because the book is packed with thrillers and mixed circumstances, which would keep your curiosity bolted till the end.

Which particular character did you feel most close to? Why?

I am not close to any of the characters. I have created characters through sheer imagination.

What was the most challenging part about writing ‘The First Trillionaire’?

The first trillionaire is a story in the truest sense. Many times, maintaining coherence was very difficult for me. There were lot of inconsistencies in the story. I wrote the book in excel sheets by creating character first, then I expanded the story. 

Story was so inconsistent, that many times, it was very difficult for me to understand, how it would move forward. I consulted lot of people for help but finally, I had to work on my own. 

But one big help came from a senior editor with big publishing house who read the book and separated various concepts of particularly chapter 13 and chapter 15. She also advised me to name my chapters.

How did Facebook, Bihar and even faith come to play a role in your book?

I have lots of friends on Facebook and it motivates me; it has linked family, friends and neighbours together. I hail from Bihar and know the socioeconomic fabric there. Ideas related to Facebook and Bihar came easily to me and made writing of this book quite easy. Whole concept of the book is about blessings and faith.

Could you tell the readers about your experiences and how it was related to what you wrote?

I am a housewife, who lived among bankers. After marriage, my husband and his friends discussed banking more than their household issues. ‘The First Trillionaire’ is a story of a Banker.

Any advice to writers that would like to be published today? How tough is it to be published?

Writing a book is a ‘blessing’, but getting it published is the game of endurance. There is a lot of hard work that needs to be accounted for before getting any book published.

The first and foremost requirement is to find a publisher, if you made an unerring choice, half your worries are taken care of. Also, never approach the future of your book with any preconceived notion; rather simply trust your abilities and be optimistic.

What is the next book that you have planned?

We are writing ‘The Integrators’. It is a story of the share market, corporate poaching of employee and logistic companies. Moreover, it describes about a planet naming zero, where mathematics and astrology are more important than literature and art.
Which book are you currently reading?

I read 'Power' by Rhonda Byrne on daily basis. I might have read this book a hundred times. Even if I read this book now, it gives me fresh energy.
Rhonda Bryne

Who are your favourite authors and why?

I am fan of Rhonda Byrne. This life is a lease given to me by her. Many times I felt low, but her book gave me an uplift. I love 'Power', most among all her books.

What else do you do on a daily basis? 

Ever since I’m caught in the ‘lake of words’, everything else was secondary for me. But I never miss anything in my life. Words help me keep a positive attitude, so all my secondary priorities never feel any drop.

While my mind exercises with words, yoga helps my body keep up with the pace; also, I like jogging and badminton.The family is a feeling for me, so my daily life always has some ‘quality time’ to fortify relations.

You can  Read the Review, too and Buy the Book, here as well.