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Interview with Judy Balan

 

As I walked in to the bookstore for the launch of Judy Balan’s debut novel, Two Fates: The Story of my Divorce, I was greeted with a sweet smile and a hint of a rollicking time!
I managed to get Judy’s time and attention before the launch and indulged in a candid interview.
On enquiring about the ideation of the story, she was quick to respond, “I happened to be in a store   and noticed Drink, Play, F@ck, the parody of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. The author of the    parody had managed to sell film rights to his book and I thought, “Wow! You can simply rip off a  best seller and do wonders!” I was reading Chetan Bhagat’s “Two States: The Story of my Marriage”,  and I thought of doing a parody of the book.
I went home, and posted this incident on my blog and asked my readers if they thought it was a good idea. And most of them reverted with a “yes”. Would you believe it only took me about less than three months to wrap up the book!” smiled the author. Continuing her part of the story, she said, “And it was a wonderful experience. I was surprised as to how quickly I even found publishers willing to launch my book. It truly felt like a Cinderella moment…”

So do we see glimpses of her life in this book? “No no! This is definitely not the story of my divorce,” Judy responded quickly. “In fact the only thing common between me and the character of Deepika is the job (as a copywriter).”
“Oh and the aunties of course! The ones who keep coming up to me or my parents enquiring about my age, and they seem to be obsessing about my marriage and my divorce more than my folks. It’s hilarious (now) but it is so true!”
Digging a bit in to her professional background I enquired about her decision to be a “full time parent”.
“Well, even after those five and a half years in the advertising agency as a copywriter I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t satisfied doing what I was doing. I was scared to quit initially as I did not know what I would do next. Quitting was not an option but when my divorce came through I knew I had to dedicate time to my girl. The ups and downs of divorce were terrible. I took up freelance writing and of course started blogging ardently.”
So how was life at home? “Very different. It was mundane, yes. It took me about a bit to adopt the sedentary lifestyle. There was a drastic change in momentum. But it gave me time to spend with my daughter and write. It was the best thing that happened to me.”
Ask her if she would plunge in to a marriage (or love) again and she chirps, “Why not! I’m a die-hard romantic. A million times bitten and still not shy sort of a person. Divorce hasn’t made me cynical. I’m the incurable optimistic who still writes letter to “the one”. If life gives me a chance to fall in love, I’d dive!”
As the focus shifted to her writing and her blog, she confessed “Blog writing gives you almost instant gratification. Your readers revert real quick. Writing a book, a fiction, needs commitment. It is hard work.”
For those who don’t know, Judy also writes scripts for plays. Her shyness prevents her from being on stage, but off-stage she seems to be the “queen of the written word”. “I would love to have a column someday, though my blog sometimes serves more like a column,” smiled Judy. “But writing an epic adventure series (like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series) is one thing I look forward to. I know it’s a long long way yet, and for now I will focus on light fiction about relationships and break-ups.”
Humor and comedy is one key ingredient Judy feels that she cannot do without in the books she reads and pens. “If you’ve read Two States, you’d get all the jokes in my book”, confessed the author sheepishly.
“I do love romantic comedies. Nothing can quite beat Erich Segal’s Love Story and Nicholas Sparks and Jodi Picoult’s works. I also like reading books by Candace Bushnell and Marian Keyes and Elizabeth Gilbert.”
Getting to the juicy part of the conversation, we asked Judy to share an exclusive detail about her as a writer and she confessed, “My writing will always precede the love of my life. I think I devote more time to my writing than anything else.”
And Judy as a mother? She quickly said, “I’m forever obsessing over the fact that I’m not good enough. Trust me, all that art and craft and wonderful things parents do for their kids, I’m bad at all that.”


Over more smiles and jokes I enquired about her next book and she said, “It’s wonderful how I’ve already signed the deal for my next book. It is again a light fiction. But I can’t give out much on it. You’ll have to wait a bit!”
For sure we would look forward to her next book, since her first one has definitely got us hooked!
It’s true all good things definitely come in small packages. And this package is amongst the best!
I’m sure she captured more hearts and readers with her smile and her book that evening.

 

Grab a copy of her book before the stores run out of copies! You will definitely enjoy the read.

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Book Launch Of “Two Fates: The Story Of My Divorce”, By Judy Balan

Book Launch Of Two Fates: The Story Of My Divorce, By Judy Balan

 

As I walked in to Landmark for the book launch and reading session of Judy Balan’s debut novel - Two Fates: The Story Of My Divorce, I looked around to see if I could spot her. Amidst the crowd she easily passed off as a kid…alright a teenager! Yes, you read me right. A teenager. A young, chirpy one (and I’m tempted to add bubbly too) at that. Her smile, definitely infectious…and her book – oh! So lovable!!!

 

The session had an equally excited young moderator interacting with Judy. Answering the volley of questions with ease, Judy let us on some fun facts too. “This is more of a parody on Two States: The Story Of My Marriage, by Chetan Bhagat,” she confessed. 

 

“Yes, I’m divorced but this is not my story at all. The story of my divorce would turn out like one of Stephen King’s novels!” she laughed.

 

Taking digs at the typical character traits of some of the South Indian aunties she has come across in real life, Judy spoke about her experience of penning the novel and how things somewhat fell in place within a short frame. “It feels like a Cinderella moment, honestly.”

 

Judy read out about a page or two from her book. And I believe no one spaced out. In fact, I am sure, people who heard her read out the passage must’ve run to get themselves a copy of the book. The staccato writing style, I noticed, is one major factor that brings alive the fun that the auhtor intends to present to her readers.

After the interactive bit, she signed a few copies for the eager audience and of course smiled for the shutterbugs. 

  

Thankfully I had enough time to interview her, which you all will read soon. But for now, let me confess, I had a great time at the launch interacting with this fun spirited cherub. And her book is a must read for everyone!

 

P.S – there is no compulsion in wrapping up the book within two hours, really. Though many have done it.

(*Pic of Judy Balan by Siddhesh Kabe)

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Book Review of “Delayed Monsoon” by Chitralekha Paul

Delayed Monsoon

By Chitralekha Paul

You truly can never tell what’s going on in a woman’s heart or mind. At times, she’d be a wreck, and quite upbeat the very next. At times, she’d be emotionally too weak, and at times the strongest one you’d ever meet. At times, she won’t be able to put her thoughts in to words, and at times she’ll go on till eternity burst. At times, she’d need your shoulder, your touch and a smile she can trust, and at times she’ll walk away at the first mention of a hug. This is what I gathered out of Chitralekha’s debut novel, Delayed Monsoon that peeps in to the world of a lonely housewife who finds solace in the virtual world, and has reality nabbing her again.

The main protagonist, Abhilasha leads quite a lonely life. Her college-going daughter and her ever busy husband (Nikhil) have only a few moments to spare for her. She yearns for love, affection and a bit of attention. And she thus finds herself being drawn to the internet. She makes a few friends –spanning different age groups and professions. She learns to move on in life and not brood over things she has no control over, or can’t really do much about. She learns about the different types of relationships that really exist in today’s world- from the long term (ever-lasting) sorts to the fleeting and momentarily satisfactory ones. Her traditional thinking at times receives a set-back only to revive and understand the age we are living in.

The book also spans different generations. I felt like this book had some sensitive issues, handled with much maturity and wisdom. Her life from childhood to present, with certain convictions and ideologies, penned in utmost simplistic yet effective manner. It is more of an encapsulation of events in her life. From moving to different cities, to her experiences with people and life around her, to making friends over the internet to falling in love with Arvind, all the phases in her life are penned in detail. Feels like she undergoes a metamorphosis of sorts. She learns about the different choices an individual is usually faced with in life, and how each choice shapes his/her destiny. Soon her sensitive nature and emotional needs are understood and filled up by Arvind.

The end brings in a bit of a surprise element, as some would say. But I did feel it coming. The feelings of all characters depicted here are quite identifiable and relatable to. The story is something you’d feel you’ve read earlier or known somehow. There were places where the author seemed to be preaching about relationships. Something most of us today, wouldn’t really want to read/hear from someone else. Also, the sub-plots too got me a bit confused as to what the actual story is about. Abhilasha’s dreams, aspirations, confusions, desires and bonding did make up for a good read. And like someone rightly pointed out, it does not merely reflect a woman’s quest for love or attentions, but a quest for a direction to her life.

The writing is simple yet quite in-depth. But at places it lacked pace. Bits of it felt like reading a monologue or a personal blog. Though the insights are quite touchy and grave, the overall feel of the book died out because of its length.
Overall, a good one-time read. If you have lots of time.

(Review by Sanjana Kapoor)

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Book Review of The (In)eligible Bachelors by Ruchita Misra

The (In)eligible Bachelors

by Ruchita Misra

The Indian chick-lit seems to revolve nowhere beyond marriage. Ruchita Misra’s The (In)eligible Bachelors is one such offering.
Though enjoyable and pretty entertaining, it comes with its set of minor flaws.

Good things first:
There is no major plot. But I like the characters. All of them.

Kasturi with her freshness, and a loving heart; and her mom with her concerns about getting her daughter married to a highly qualified, rich bachelor of the same caste. Kasturi’s dad is the only one who seems to understand her (in the family I mean) but he too escapes to the villages for medical camps, just to get out of his wife’s incessant ranting about marriage and prospective grooms. Quite a fun read, the whole family picture.

Kasturi’s friends – Varun and Ananya –precious I say. The transformation of (almost) tomboyish Ananya to a lovey-dovey koochi-cooing damsel is quite funny.

The line of suitors – Pita ji (Amay), Dr. Purva Dikshit, Vipul Vikas, another one named Lehman, but heading the list is Kasturi’s love- Rajeev Mehrotra- her boss at work and (as she describes him) a Greek God!
I’m sure the title gives in a lot about the story. Kasturi is of course bullied by her mom (emotionally) in to meeting potential suitors and how she does meet them only to reject them all. Quite a few places, I felt, there was an exaggeration of scenes. I understand that Indian setting helps you formulate larger-than-life dramas but humble advice: let’s not go overboard with them.
The emotional drama she faces with family, sometimes with friends and then with Rajeev was a bit typical and expected. The climax did bring a smile.
The pace is quite fast and the language is fairly simple that makes you breeze through the book without much effort. It makes for a good one-time read no doubt. But it definitely lacks depth.
The freshness of her writing style has earned Ruchita quite a place in my head. There is wit, humor and definitely a few laughs. So, if you are looking for a smooth, easy and an absolute fun read- go ahead pick this one!

Wait…I almost forgot the flaws: (sorry someone has to do it)
The book cover isn’t as interesting. The back-cover is bright pink! I mean fuchsia!!! Had it been white with a bit of pink it would still be tolerable. No really.

The book reads like Kasturi’s journal with exact timeline. Now, why would you do that? I did not see the whole point in giving the time/date line. There are places where the author accounts even for the split second. How was Kasturi feeling what she felt and writing about it at the same time? Was she putting it all on some kind of a secret device that was noting the time and her emotions and the dialogues?? Oh and as far as I know, a journal essentially has monologues. Not dialogues.
It would’ve made more sense writing it all without the disturbing time and date lines. After a point I stopped reading those.
Oh and yes- a bit of grammatical errors: we write God (not god); it is “within” not “withen” and it is “anyway” not “anyways”.

Well these are really minor (like I mentioned earlier) but none the less, noticeable. Oh wait…one major flaw- its “Maggi” not Maggie!!!

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Book Review of “Growing Up In Pandupur” by Adithi and Chatura Rao

Growing Up In Pandupur

by Adithi and Chatura Rao

Though this book is essentially for kids, I’d recommend everyone to read it.

The issues addressed herein are so real and touching.

Growing up in Pandupur is a collection of 13 short stories for kids. Now, Pandupur is a fictitious township in South India. It is a figment of the authors’ imagination. And truly a brilliant imagination.

The book opens with the map of Pandupur, situated near the River Dhun.

The township has the essential necessities: a railway station, a bustling marketplace, couple of schools, some residential colonies (societies); parks, playgrounds, an orphanage; the river Dhun and of course the Dhun river dam project. So essentially engineers working on the dam project have made Pandupur their residence, with their families. And all stories connect most of the residents of that town.

The book opens with a beautiful song dedicated to the river Dhun. Creative and lyrical, the authors capture your heart already with the very first page.

Actually, the cover page of the book is so darn colorful that it catches the eye and fancy of all. The two days that I had the book on my work desk, all my colleagues walking around made sure they picked it up. It is that inviting! They all appreciated the illustration and loved whatever part they read randomly. (*Cheers Priya Kuriyan!)

Some of them have already requested me to lend them the book, while others have already bought it from Landmark. This actually shows how appealing the book is!

Coming back to the stories, all of them are beautifully penned.

The first story –“Polka-dotted Party” is about Raghav’s birthday party that he ends up celebrating at the orphanage. And why so? Well, that is for you to read and enjoy.

In “Goblins”, we see naughty Tejas reign his kingdom of fantasy world as Hobgob Supreme, enslaving other mortals. A very cute story about growing up and sibling love.

Moving on to “Changing Chintamani”, we see how little Chintamani’s life changes as he takes up football coaching during his summer vacations.

“The House Painted Blue” sees three musketeers Thangi Timmayya and her friends, the twins, Situ and Gitu, trying to solve a a funny mystery.

“Mallipoo, Free” shows how love bonds humans and animals.

“Nisha” is the story of a small girl who faces child abuse. The way the story is put actually makes it more relevant to today’s age, and how children can and should distinguish between a good touch and a bad touch.

“About Grandfathers and Trees” is a tender story about a grandfather’s demise.

“Sister Song” portrays sibling love. “For Preet” is a coming of age story, showing how girls mature faster and boys…remain boys! This one I absolutely loved!

“A Boat in the Rain” captures the heart of a young boy and the grief/anger he carries with him.

“Evenings in 201” connects Brigadier Ahmed and Rohan in quite an unexpected way.

“Warm-fuzzy” is an absolute poignant story about children and how they actually see each other.

The last story, “The River Came Home”, deals with development issues and how it affects some people, but the moral is that nothing remains forever. We have to accept the changes and draw strength from our past to move on to a better future.

Through Pandupurs’ children, Adithi and Chatura Rao weave a web of stories–life lessons in growing up: laughter and tears, insecurities, small unkindnesses and surprising friendships, stories that will resonate in the hearts and minds of children everywhere.

No fancy gizmo talk or fantasy world magic fluttering around. Everyday tales of growing up that appeals and resonates with children (and young adults) of all ages.

The setting is ideal and the imagery drawn in the readers mind is so real that you can visualize every story as you read it.

The book truly has it all – the beauty of Pandupur; the innocence of the children around; real issues that need attention; awareness towards certain topics that children refrain from talking about; topics that grown-ups do not discuss or tell kids about; all subjects woven to perfection!

The stories remain with you forever. Reading about Pandupur, I really wish to make a pit-stop at Pandavpur (a town near Mysore that inspired the authors) to capture the images in my heart.

The authors, Adithi and Chatura Rao craft such beautiful stories, bringing to life the ordinary experiences in such a marvelous way that opens your eyes and mind to a lot many things that go unnoticed. Especially for children. It teaches a lot about friendship, sibling love, growing up. The narrative is smooth and flawless.

This one is definitely a MUST HAVE/MUST READ book!

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Book Review of “Answered Prayers” by Danielle Steel

Answered Prayers

By Danielle Steel

 

A deep and touching tale of friendship, family and love.

After a scarred childhood, Faith Madison falls in to a bad married life. Her cold and unwelcoming husband, Alex, (an investment banker) cheats on her. She is a mother of two grown up girls who has given up everything to make a happy life for her family, only to feel left out all the time.

At the funeral of her step-father, she re-connects with a long lost friend Brad Patterson, who is now a lawyer.

Faith’s brother, Jack, and Brad were best friends. And when Jack died, Brad and Faith found solace in each other’s support. But as life moved on, they got busy with their personal lives and lost touch. But now, memories of childhood days come running through their hearts.

Faith decides to give herself a chance and take up a career she always wanted. She decides to go to law school. And her decision is severely opposed by her family, of course.

But as she firmly stands her ground, Faith ends up being more confident than ever and finding solace in her friendship with Brad, over emails and telephone calls.

Brad too is stuck in an empty marriage. And over time they fall in love. They gather courage eventually to walk out of their meaningless marriages to be together.

But yes, on a very personal note there were some points I could not relate to at all. Faith being a new-age woman; a very stylish and nearly perfect housewife and mother, comes across as a very under-confident lady; looking for approval all her life.

It seemed like Brad, being a busy lawyer, seemed to have all the time in the world to answer Faith’s emails and calls. Wait…that could be a sign of “being in love”. But c’mon – all the time!!!??

Maybe I have mixed feelings about this one.

High on emotional quotient and drama, it is a very insightful tale of relationships (esp. marriages and friendship) beautifully presented by Danielle Steel.

Not many get a second chance in life. What would you do if you got one? Would you be ready to take the plunge? Well…we never know till we come to it.

 

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Book Review of “Rise And Shine” By Anna Quindlen

Rise and Shine

By Anna Quindlen

 

So the story goes:

Bridget Fitzmaurice, the narrator of the story, works for a women’s shelter in the Bronx while her older sister, Meghan, co-host of the popular morning show Rise and Shine, is the most famous woman on television.

Meghan is married to Evan, a high-powered lawyer and they have a college going son – Leo.

Meghan’s life is hit by nasty tidal waves when her husband walks out on her and she ends up using certain forbidden words ‘on air’. Life changes. But not for the better.

Meghan leaves without a trace. And Bridget comes to the forefront.

Bridget is like the sharp, intelligent, unglamorous daughter while Megan is the airy popular kind. When Meghan disappears Bridget dons the coat of a detective and with Irving Lefkowitz’s help (a big, lumbering 67-year-old cop) she traces some clues from her childhood to find her sister.

At the heart of the story, it examines life and relationships and their importance.

I wouldn’t call this Anna’s best. I might not even recommend this.

And here’s why.
The story is interesting in bits and parts, more so towards the climax. Otherwise it is quite slow and dull.
Bridget Fitzmaurice’s character is interesting. Her job at the Bronx; her assistant, Tequila; Bridget balancing professional life, personal life, and romantic life made up for a good read. Rest of the characters were just about okay.

Had Anna Quindlen focused on the relationship of the sisters it could’ve been more interesting.
Meghan’s character could have been sketched a bit stronger.

The time frames mentioned herein aren’t very clear, making the narrative a bit confusing and losing the reader’s interest. And there’s too much focus on the socialite culture of New York. Overall it ain’t all that good.

 

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