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Interview with Parimal Kalikar

After having read “A Godly Blunder“, I couldn’t resist shooting a few questions to the debutant author- Parimal Kalikar. Here’s it all !

 

From Hotel Management to a Master’s in Human Resource Management; from earning the first buck as a bell boy to selling credit cards- let’s hear about it all from the beginning in your own words.
I joined Hotel Management with a dream of a suave lifestyle and good money but that dream was shattered with my first training at a five star resort in Goa. I ended up pulling luggage for wealthy guests (Yes you call them guests and not clients in the hotel management lingo). Lost my interest in the line as I did not want to spend years becoming a manager and that’s why I pursued a career in business management. I bagged a job even before I got out of college and I was happy. My hunger for growth and money brought me to Mumbai and I danced. I danced to the tunes of the fast local train schedule, to the tunes of my pushing boss and to the very demanding tunes of the elite clientele. The money was good but I was not happy so I decided to do something that will for a change make me happy.

 

 

What got you attracted towards writing? What prompted you to debut with a full length novel?
I left my job and started planning my own business but with the limited capital it was not easy. In the meanwhile I started writing a story that will talk about the way we approach our problems. Slowly and steadily it started taking shape and when the story was about 15000 words strong I could see the potential and I started putting a serious effort and within the next 2 months I was done with my first novel.

 

 

You know, the most difficult thing is to make people smile, let alone laugh. But your book delivers entertainment to the tee. How did you come up with the idea, the plot and the title?
The problem with us Indians is we get used to the problem very easily. If there is a pothole in the streets we very easily learn avoiding it rather than getting it fixed. We would rather lead unhappy lives and avoid confrontations that may lead to a solution. I don’t subscribe to this cowardly way of living. I started writing about the way a strong headed man from a developed country would approach similar problems and the idea itself seemed entertaining to me. For the plot I took problems from everyday life, some of them even faced by my family. The title was suggested to me by the publisher and I liked it.

 

 

When people write / publish for the first time, it is usually about incidents that they’ve experienced or have been related to closely. How easy / difficult was writing this humorous fictional tale? (I’m sure you did not have to experience “life-up-there” or a close encounter with God to write this.)
Imagining things and day dreaming is something I am very good at so the idea of creating a life up there was not that difficult. Creating a contemporary god was difficult and with a science fiction theme in     my mind I somehow convinced myself of the idea of a young, well dressed god. Conversations with god were the most difficult and with several attempts and guidance from my dear friend Abhishek I could bring out the aura of calmness in his conversations.

 

 

What was the first reaction from friends and family when you smiled and told them you were going to write a novel?
I did not tell anyone except my family that I was writing until I signed the contract with the publisher. Even my family was under the impression that I am writing to spend my free time and when the book was accepted for publishing, everyone was shocked.

 

 

An unforgettable experience that you’d like to share that happened before/during/after the writing process?
When I told everyone that a major publishing house has accepted my book for publishing the first question almost all of my relatives asked, ‘Is it in Marathi?’ As I had most of my education in Marathi medium no one expected me to write in English and it was a happy surprise for all of them.

 

How easy/difficult was it to get yourself published? A budding author like you, we’d like to know your opinion on the overall scenario of the publishing industry.
It was not easy to find a publisher for a novel without a love story or without a love angle what so ever. I was used to the standard reply, ‘Sorry we are unable to accept your work as it does not suit our publishing profile…’ and I had lost hopes when Rupa and co. gave me a chance. I think the overall opinion about Indian authors is changing and the place is getting better and better.

 

 

Name some of your favorite all time authors/ books
I love the works of Jim Corbett and Kenneth Anderson. I love Sherlock Holmes and Satyajit Ray’s Feluda. A couple of my favorite books include Hussain Zaidi’s Black Friday and Geoffrey Archer’s Not a Penny More Not a Penny Less.

 

 

Have you explored social media platforms to market your book? What’s your take on the growing popularity of social media networking sites?
Yes I have used social media to market my book and I must admit it is the most effective way of getting news around. I think social media websites have become an important part of everyone’s life as they give us a chance to connect with friends quickly and new people easily.

 

 

What next are you working on? And how soon do I get to read it??
I am working on a history based modern thriller and I hope I will finish it in a couple of months so it will be out by the year end I hope.

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Interview With Sudha Menon

 

From a business journalist to an author, Sudha Menon’s journey hasn’t been an easy one. Her debut non-fictional, Leading Ladies, inspired her all the way to show the different facet of the lives of women who have indeed made a difference to society by sheer determination and focus.

The book covers the stories of: Amrita Patel, Anu Aga, Kalpana Morparia, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Lila Poonawalla, Mallika Sarabhai, Mallika Srinivasan, Meher Pudumjee, Naina Lal Kidwai, Priya Paul, P T Usha, Shaheen Mistri, Shikha Sharma, Shubha Mudgal, and Vinita Bali.
Sudha Menon reveals to her readers the real women behind the names by focusing not only on their stories of their rise to fame, but also accounting stories of their vulnerable moments, their uncertainties, their failures and their resolve to carry on, undaunted and perhaps more determined.
Read on to know more about Sudha Menon and her forthcoming novels.

 

You’ve had a rich career as a business journalist for more than 20 years. Would you like to share the ups and downs of being a journalist?

I think there have been more ups than downs in my career. It was in this period that I transformed myself from a painfully shy, almost reclusive young girl to a woman who is confident of holding her own in any company. I think by its very nature journalism requires, indeed, pushes you to open up even while you encourage your subjects or interviewees to reveal things to you that they would not dream of telling anyone else…
I think journalism also gave me the opportunity to meet people from so many diverse fields and in some ways each of these people left their impression on me in a way that added to my own personality. Be it a meeting with Kapil Dev and Amitabh Bachchan , Infosys’ Mr. Narayana Murthy, badminton ace Prakash Padukone or much earlier in my life, the world’s first heart transplant surgeon De. Christiaan Barnard, or a meeting with Dr. Abdul Kalam our former President , or SEWA’s Elabhatt who brought economic and social liberation to over one million poor women, all of them left their indelible mark on the person I have shaped up to be.

The downs of the journey would be the age-old issue women have: time for their own families, sometimes the guilt of not doing stuff for your only child, not taking time off to stand and stare if you will, not being able to spend time with your ageing parents , siblings….. But in the end, it has been a memorable, soul-fulfilling journey and I would not change it for anything in the world.

Also, the downside would be that the profession gives you a real close look at how human beings, the most intelligent species on earth, can also be selfish, arrogant, infinitely cruel and insensitive to other human beings and also to the planet on which they live. I covered the horrific Mumbai bomb blasts following the fall of the Babri Masjid and in my mid-twenties, that was a horrible wake-up call to my dreamer’s soul.

Do you think there is a difference in the way the current age journalists/reporters work?

Absolutely. When I was on the field, covering the beat that was the only way journalism could be practiced. You had to be out on the field every day, meeting people, hearing their stories, verifying everything you heard. I think my generation had a socialist inclination, we were sensitive, sometimes even partial to stories of trade unions, women, the underdogs trying to get justice. Today it is all about fashion, films, society soirees, the bold and the beautiful. Our biggest celebrities today are not social activists, reformers or change makers but film stars, Page 3 denizens and reality show stars.
And yes, journalists are increasingly under pressure, especially the electronic media, to produce breaking news and that to a large extent has spawned journalism that is not always very objective. Call it pressures of competition but the truth is that things can be much better.

 

 

What was the turning point in your career? What inspired you to write a book – a non-fiction inspirational read at that?
The turning point in my life would be my decision to walk away from a career that I painfully and passionately built up. Something that happened at my work place conflicted with my idea of what was right. My sense of doing the right thing conflicted with something that my seniors thought and for me the only choice was to walk away from a situation which was not ethical. That one decision changed my life. Suddenly, I was free to do my own thing, the master of my own time and the road ahead was crystal clear: I was free to write the book that had been rattling around in my head for a long time.

The non-fiction, inspirational book was a no-brainer. For over two decades I had been following the lives and journeys of so many sterling people who were doing so much meaningful work for themselves and for the community. Some of these were women and a woman I wanted to know their best-practices, what are the philosophies, the believes that gave them the extra edge in such a competitive man’s world, the X-factor that made them winners in a country where women are still trying hard to just be able to finish their education and try and have a decent career for themselves.

The book had to be inspirational because as a young mother struggling with home, a demanding career and the need to look after her only child, I had often looked around for inspiration to allow me to stick to my chosen path. I think each one of us can do with some inspiration in life.

 

How did you choose the genre and title of your book – Leading Ladies? 
The name leading ladies seemed just right to me. The women in my book are stars in their own right, even if they might not be the kind of leading ladies in films. But by virtue of their work, they are the leading lights of their organizations. I was playing with words when I called the book Leading Ladies- These women actually lead other women to follow their lead and chase after their dreams, isn’t it?

 

 

 

What is the book essentially about? How would you describe the role of women in our society?
Leading Ladies is an inspirational book that follows the journeys of some of India’s most-admired women achievers who have made a difference to society with their stellar work and other pursuits that touch our lives, in more ways than one.  My book  brings alive their unique stories with personal anecdotes that will serve as a beacon for many of us.

While a lot has been written about how these women have achieved success, Leading Ladies highlights the guiding principles of their lives, the personal and professional beliefs that drive them, the life and management practices that have always stood them in good stead, and the non-negotiables that have guided them on their path to success.

What makes the woman professional/ entrepreneur/achiever/leader tick? What is it that drives them? What are the rules by which they play the game? Is there a level playing field for women? Do women need a level playing field? Is there something males can learn from their female colleagues? Are women leaders also from Venus along with the rest of their clan or do they belong to Mars too? My book seeks to answers to these questions.

(L-R: Karen Anand, Anu Aga, Sudha Menon, Meher Pudumjee and Shaheen Mistri, at the Pune launch of Leading Ladies)

 

 

How did you short-list these women? What was the kind of research and process you had to undergo to gather information on the women and assimilate the book?
Being a business journalist has its merits in that I was always expected to know the trend-setters in the business world. And a journalist has to try and be above things as they develop. We are generalists too so the sheer amount of reading newspapers gives us in-depth, current knowledge about people. I spoke to the women themselves and the people who have been associated with them extensively. The short listing actually did not happen. My initial list itself was some 100 women and I had to actually stop with the first 17 women confirmed their participation in the book, because people don’t have the patience to read more than 400 pages at a go. So, there is volume 2 for sure and more later.

 

The lives of these personalities (mentioned in the book) have been documented in various publications earlier too. What is it about your book that makes it different or worthy of being picked up?
The fact that they spoke to me unedited. Somehow, I struck a connection with each of these ladies in such a way that they let their guard down and shared things from their lives, thoughts, dreams, their inner fears, stuff that they would otherwise never , ever think of putting in the public domain. These anecdotes transformed them from being perfect beings with unattainable, achievable women in books and magazines to women like you and me, who have their share of problems and fears and weaknesses. There is something infinitely charming about that and people are interested in learning from such stories.

 


Of the 15 women you’ve mentioned in your book,
o    Who has inspired you the most? 
P.T. Usha and Lila Poonawalla. They came from backgrounds where the odds were stacked heavily against them. Usha ran without shoes till she was about 16 because there was no money to buy shoes in a family where the father had a tiny village store to run. Lila’s initial life was spent in a refugee camp and from abject poverty she rose to become the first woman CEO of a multinational company in India. SEWA’s founder Ela Bhatt. Being in the same room as her is like being in the presence of an energy field that instantly charges everyone up. For a 70plus woman to do so much for a sisterhood of women and also work simultaneously for global change, is awe-inspiring.
o    Who has impressed you the most?
Naina Lal Kidwai, Kalpana Morparia, Shaheen Mistri of Teach for India, Shikha Sharma… In fact, all the women in my book are my stars. They work hard for themselves and for the community around them. Each of us can learn something from them.

 


What makes you tick?

My work is my biggest energizer. That and the fact that I have a family which adores me, admires and supports my work and gives me unconditional approval for my endeavors. My 20-year old is the guiding light of my life. Each day, when I set out to do something, I say to myself that I have to make her proud of me, I have to be her role model.

 

 

Leading Ladies – volume 2 is on its way but it’s being penned in a different format I gather – will it appear in interview form then?
Each of my work will be based on interviews because there is nothing like making a person talk unedited, to get a great story.

 
The fiction that you are working on at the moment – a few words about that please
It is the story of Karthu, a young girl growing up in coastal Kerala, in the period of the gulf boom. That era brought great wealth to the state but also corrupted the society in shocking ways. Karthu falls victim to an older man’s lust and the story follows her from being a victim to an unwed mother in a disapproving society and her eventual coming of age. An excerpt of the novel was published recently in Indian Voices, an anthology of emerging Indian writing from around the world. Honestly, I have not touched my fiction work for a year now because real life stories inspire me so much more than fictional characters.

 
Non-fiction and fiction –both of your works are woman-centric, is it just inspiration or that’s the realm you would like to focus on for now? 
Women fascinate me. They have such complex lives, there are so many layers to their personalities, they have to deal with life at so many layers and play so many roles. Their lives are so challenging and each day is a new chapter of that struggle. I want to focus on the stuff that makes women the fascinating creatures that they are and so, my writing is preoccupied with their stories.

 

 

Tell us about a few of your all time favorite authors and books. 
A J.Cronin’s The Citadel, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago, Emile Zola’s The Dram Shop,P.G. Wodehouse’s amazing books. Gone with the Wind and The Thornbirds were books that I grew up reading maybe dozens of times. I get moved my powerful characterization, intense people, settings that make you yearn to be part of that story…and by passion, be it for someone or for something.

 
Your advice to budding writers…
Read a lot. Read stuff that you like so you learn from them and read stuff that you don’t like so that you learn to avoid that style. Live a life that is rich with people and experience because in the end, powerful writing is about the powerful experiences that we ourselves go through. Armchair writing is infinitely less interesting than the writing about a person who has lived life rough, on the edge, lived dangerously and lived life as if each day is his/her last day on earth!

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Of loneliness, love and everything in between- Interview With Chitralekha Paul

Reviewers claim that Chitralekha Paul’s writings are similar to Jhumpa Lahiri and Anita Desai’s treatment and writing style. The dilemmas, issues and small pleasures of the protagonist of Delayed Monsoon, Abhilasha, has given critics and reviewers enough reason to applaud this lawyer-cum-writer’s debut venture. The way in which Abhilasha and Arvind fall in love, the anticipation of meeting her beloved for the first time (she fell in love with Arvind online) and the nervousness she faces of him being a person different from the Arvind she has known is written beautifully.

I got talking with Chitralekha Paul, about how she chose this story as her debut novel, about how similar is Chitralekha to Abhilasha and that one instance that helped her realize that people other than family would be interested in reading her novel.


From a lawyer to a writer – what inspired you to take up writing?

The lawyer in me is a professional person but there is also another me who is sensitive and creative. My thought process is never at rest. But being an introvert to the core, I could never share my feelings with anyone. So, I guess that is the reason I took up writing to express myself.

How was life with an Air-Force officer initially? Was there any kind of fear/apprehension about the professional hazards? Did that in anyway bring out the writer in you?
Initially there was lot of excitement. Getting married to an Air Force pilot was a big deal for a girl who was used to a calm and uneventful life far away from any kind of glamour or glory.  I was overwhelmed by the charisma of my husband’s profession. No doubt the profession was risky but somehow I never got apprehensive, except when his flying time coincided with thunderstorm or when he went into hills. Many people have asked me this question “ Don’t you get scared when your husband flies.?” And my answer was “ How can I afford to be scared when I have married a person for whom flying is his life?”


There is quite a bit of loneliness reflected in Abhilasha’s character. How did you think of the entire ideation and plot? How much of Chitralekha reflects in ‘Abhilasha’?

The story deals with the loneliness of Abhilasha at various stages of her life.  If we broadly divide the stages as before marriage and after marriage, then before marriage loneliness is something which is typical  with Abhilasha  but after marriage aloneness is quite a common feature.  My interaction with many married ladies of my time, who could not pursue their career, compelled me to ponder how void they felt from inside when apparently they seemed to be happy. Competent and educated girls who could have easily carved a niche for themselves had not thought twice before sacrificing their ambition at the altar of the family. Because that appeared to be the most spontaneous and natural choice at that point of time. But there comes a stage when family responsibilities are fulfilled, everyone’s interest has been taken care of, but what happens to them? Alas! At the end of it all, a painful realisation dawns on them that perhaps they have messed up their lives, as all their sacrifices earned them nothing more than an inferior status of being termed as a housewife, the most underrated, difficult and taken for granted profession( if it can be called a profession).  I have come into the legal profession at a much later stage, before which I was one among them. So I chose to write for me and for many more not so accomplished ladies who could have touched the sky only if they got a chance to realise their potential.

All the characters have a distinct feel and flavor. How easy or difficult was it etching them – the male protagonists as well as the female protagonists?
Human characters fascinate me a lot. We all are distinct persons with various shades. No one is outright good or bad. That’s why whenever I come into contact with any person I try to be non-judgmental so that all his traits, good or bad get painted in the canvas of my mind.  And since I am the one who loves to observe rather than being observed and listen rather than being listened, I find it easy to feel the distinct flavour of each character.

Is there any incident that you’d like to share with the readers that has left an impression in your memory, during the writing process?
Initially when I started writing I was not very sure if people will be interested in the story of Abhilasha who was just an ordinary housewife. My daughter’s remarks that the story makes an interesting read, failed to convince me as I took it to be an attempt by a loving daughter to encourage her mother. Then one day my husband happened to peep on the Microsoft word file which I forgot to close. “It’s amazing!! I have been with you for so many years but I never knew that your grip over English is better than me. With an easy flowing language, you have an interesting story to tell and many ladies would love to read your book,” for the first time in my life I was praised by my worst critique.  And I was on cloud nine.

Would you like to name some of your favorite books/authors?
I find this question a bit difficult to answer. There are quite a few authors  whose writing I enjoy. But that doesn’t mean that I would like all their writings.. May be I have enjoyed a particular book of a certain writer but some other books  written by the same author has disappointed me. But still if you want me to answer the question,  first I will name two famous  Bengali novelists and they are Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay and Sharat Chandra Chatterjee. Apart from them there are many others like R.K Narayan, Paul Coelho, Alex Haley, Jeffrey Archer, M M Kaye, Khaled Hosseini,  Indu Sudaresan and so on. Among the books Pather Panchali, Malgudi Days, Roots, The Far Pavilions, Autobiography of a Yogi and AThousand Splendid Suns are my all time favourite.

What other genres of writing do you wish to explore further?
Umm…I have not thought about this  as yet.

How has life changed after being known as a writer/author?
Well….. life is the same for me, there is absolutely no change.


What next do we see you writing?

May be another fiction which will have nothing to do with my personal experience.

Pearls of wisdom for budding writers…
Be honest with your feelings and don’t let the mind interfere with your heart in the initial stage of writing. Just go with the flow and let the story take a shape. Afterwards you will have enough opportunity to use your mind, be it changing the story line or working on the language.

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Interview with Ismita Tandon Dhanker

A “lesser known poet”, a brilliant author, and an extremely charming young girl – Ismita Tandon Dhanker made waves with her debut novel- Love On The Rocks earlier this year.

BookChums got talking with Ismita and here’s all that we found out.

We saw your blog and it has some real good poetry. So let’s begin with the clichéd one first – when and how did you start writing poetry?
Poetry happened to me at the age of twenty-six when I went sailing for the very first time. A stroll on the deck one evening gazing at the blue sky slowly turning crimson and the wind stroking my face, the thoughts kept flowing until they began to rhyme beautifully. Communing with nature was the turning point in my life.


Your first published book is a romantic-thriller and not a collection of your poems. Why?

People don’t read poetry. Where is the time in this mad rush to pack meaning in their fast paced lives?  And even if they do they don’t buy a poetry book and publishers have a tough time selling it in the market. But it’s my dream to have a poetry book that would sell like hot cakes. The dream has already begun to pay off since I won 50, 000 for my poem ‘I am Beautiful’. Life is much like poetry…beautiful, free flowing, cryptic.

Love on the Rocks had quite a heady mix of characters. What was the thought process while developing the characters? What kind of research did you have to do for the characteristics and the overall plot?
The characters are an amalgamation of all the wonderful people I have sailed with in the last few years. Sailors are quirky, a lot different from the average man you meet back home. Long voyages at sea in the company of colourful sailors, gross jokes, anecdotes, bizarre incidents, the loneliness it all turned out to be one helluva adventure. That’s all the research that I needed to put together a thriller.

If the book gets picked up for a movie- who do you think will fit the role of Sancha, Capt. Popeye, Aaron, Harsh, and Baldy?

If we are dreaming, we might as well dream big:
Sancha – Amy Adams
Capt. Popeye – Antonio Banderas
Aaron – Christian Bale
Harsh Castillo – Oliver Martinez
Baldy – I think Christopher Nolan can handle rest of the casting

The title, genre and setting of the book is unconventional and not been explored by many new age writers. What prompted you to work along the lines of suspense/thriller/murder…and not take the conventional route of a chick-lit or simple love story?
Everyone has a story to tell and the first book almost always comes from the authors immediate surroundings, experiences. I have always been inclined towards murder mysteries and it seemed like such a thrill to keep the readers guessing. And love is so twisted in this day and age that any story can hardly be termed as a ‘simple love story’. Hence the thriller angle.

What are the challenges you faced while writing the book –maybe in terms of its progress or the characters or maybe with the publishers?
Challenges were plenty. To carry the story forward from different POV’s, exploring their personal crisis while moving on with original plot required that changes be made to the draft very often.
Even after the final draft was ready, my troubles were far from over the difficult task of finding a publisher loomed large. A year long struggle, countless rejection mails and nail biting moments were an integral part of the books arduous journey. And I had to kept reminding myself every now and then ‘Its a good book and I’ll make it’.

Is there an incident that you’d like to share with our readers and budding authors that you encountered while writing the book?
The original manuscript was a grand, elaborate peep into the lives and work of sailors on a ship. Their hardship, the hectic work hours all that had to be pruned to make the plot tighter as editors from various literary agencies believed that the general public would not be interested in reading about the mundane. I differ on that point and today most readers come back to me and say ‘they loved the novel, the plot but a little more description of the life at sea would have made it so much more interesting’.
Persistence is what worked in my favour. It’s a tough call to roam around with a manuscript that doesn’t gel with the standard idea of Indian fiction, the story being narrated by different points of view. And then to be told that Indian writers can’t write good thrillers. Well, I just did!

Given a chance, would you think of giving this story an alternate ending?
Nope but I would prefer to stick to the original/working title of my book which is ‘Almost Lucid’.
How do you think your writing (fiction and poetry) has matured with time?
Clarity of thought and simplicity of expression are now the hallmark of my writing. Practise makes perfect!
Name the authors and poets who have inspired you.

Jeffery Archer, Sydney Sheldon, Kabir, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Frost.
Tell us something unique about:
Ismita the poet…is restless.
Ismita the author…is an author by default.
Ismita the girl…spends her evenings in the company of Trees.
Tell us:
The one quote that inspires you all the time
To practise any art no matter how well or badly is a way to make your soul grow.

The one character of LOTR that is closer to you than the rest
Manna and his journal entries.

The one dream/aim you still strive to achieve
To be known as a Poetess.

The one poet (and/or author) you desire to meet
Deepak Chopra.
What can we next expect from your desk?
I am half way through another thriller titled, ‘Drink and Die‘, weaved around DND, a rehabilitation centre for alcoholics in a town called Monele near Ooty. The story highlights a social malady, Alcohol addiction, an issue I have always wanted to address.
The plot is a heady cocktail of the different favours of life lust, power, money, incest and vanity. The protagonist of the story is Johnny Will, a man with a high IQ, who runs a rehab and is ostensibly helping the rich and not so sober get over their little alcohol addiction. He has no qualms about blackmailing his wealthy patients too. A crook selling a cure.

What other books/authors of recent time would you recommend our readers?
Deepak Chopra, Robin Sharma, Kabir.

If you had a book club, what would you name it? And what would you be reading in there?
‘The Poetry Night Club’ and would be reading poetry of course!

Well, there’s a lot more to this charismatic young author and we for one, eagerly await her next book.

To know more about Ismita check out her profile page, only on BookChums!

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Interview With Adithi And Chatura Rao

The launch of Growing Up In Pandupur in Mumbai gave us a chance to interact with two very versatile and creative authors – Adithi and Chatura Rao.

Growing Up In Pandupur is a marvelous collection of 13 short stories for children. And parents alike.

The writing is mature and stable, but at no place does it feel commanding or overbearing. So kids will have no difficulty breezing through the stories.

Talking to the author-sisters would really make you feel as if you are talking to a friend…a mature, responsible and a really caring friend, who will always guide you through difficult times.

Yes, the book in a way brings to light certain topics/issues that kids face but are unable to communicate with their folks. The book comes as a friend and a guide to not just children, but parents too.
Well, the sisters are good at hearing you out as well. No wonder kids and parents wouldn’t leave a chance to strike a conversation with them, at the launch. Their observation and insight to finer things, usually overlooked by most, is admirable.
I got a chance to interview the sisters and here’s a bit of the conversation:

How did you chance upon the title of the book?
There is actually a small town by the name of Pandavpur between Bangalore and Mysore. We passed through it many a times and it is quite scenic. While we were penning out the stories, we modified the name to Pandupur.

How did you think of writing a short story collection for kids?
Between us sisters we have three kids. And we discuss every issue our children are facing or undergoing. There are a lot more challenges you face as a parent. There are times when kids cannot really express what they feel, and this (writing stories of different themes that revolve around kids) was a way of connecting with them.
We already had a few stories around the theme of growing up, and we added a few more to complete the book.

Broadly, what would you say are the diverse topics the stories touch upon?
From sibling love-rivalry, to the loss of a family member, to child sexual abuse, to growing up –most of the stories cater to topics any child can relate to. For that matter, any parent can relate to.

Amongst the stories in this book, which ones are your favorites?
Grandfathers and Trees
Sister’s Song
The River Came Home
The House Painted Blue

Could you name a few of your favorite books?
Chatura: I like fantasy-science fiction work by Ursula K. le Guin, novels by Toni Morrison and John Steinbeck.
In children’s fiction, The Bridge To Terabithia, the Earthsea novels by Ursula K. le GuinJ.R.R Tolkien’s ‘Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’Ruskin Bond and R K Narayan, and Winnie the Pooh, and Huckleberry Finn.
Adithi: I like the work of Harper Lee (To Kill A Mocking Bird). Her ability to get into the psyche of a child is commendable. I also like R.K. Narayan’s  Malgudi Days and The Christmas Miracle by Jonathan Toomey.


What were your growing up days like?
Charuta: We had a typical middle-class childhood. Grew up in south India, moving between Chennai and Bangalore. Played a lot with large groups of kids. Cycled, went for music classes, stole mangoes, befriended stray dogs and adopted their puppies, ran a book library from a friend’s garage, spied on crabby old neighbours, got together and put up plays and dances at Christmas in our grandfather’s garden…
Adithi: Pretty much as Chatu described it! Bangalore was my Pandupur, complete with the magician grandpa and a grandmother who was never too tired to read, cook, feed, sing, play, talk or listen when it came to me…

Would you share an incident (from childhood) that has stayed with you till date?
Chatura: I used to be petrified of having my nails snipped by my grandfather. He was an ex-armyman and believed in crew cuts! So I’d hide around the house, sneak around quietly, until inevitable he’d shout for me, and then i’d go to him like a lamb to slaughter! I remember the undersides of beds and tables a lot because i was often playing behind/ under them with my dolls, and also hiding from people. One time my sister got an injection and while she yelled, i hid behind the bed and cried too :-)
Adithi: “About Grandfathers and Trees” pretty much tells of my most poignant childhood memory.


What next do we see from you – individually and / or together?

Chatura: I’m working on a collection of stories for adults in the style of magic realism. Nothing being co-written with Adithi right now.
Adithi: Together we haven’t planned anything yet, although we’d love to do a “Pandupur Too”! Individually I’m sure Chatu will come out with a book. As for me, it has to be a film or I’ll burst!


If there was one advice you could give parents today, what would it be?

Chatura: Listen to the kids.
Adithi: That if it’s happening with your kid it is probably happening with lots of others as well, so it can’t be that bad. Let it pass with a sense of humour, things do have a way of working themselves out. This is advice for myself as well as for parents out there… I too forget, more often than not.
Psst: For people who still haven’t picked up a copy of Growing Up In Pandupur, “fie fie!”
Get it here!

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Interview with Kunal Dhabalia

A renowned blogger and a lover of…words, Kunal Dhabalia is a software  professional who enjoys traveling and capturing images for life.

Here’s a quick interview with him.

Where do you draw inspiration from? Any author/book that has had the most  impact on your or your writing?

My inspiration for writing can be anybody. Most of my stories have been the result of  traffic jams. When ever I’m stuck in crawling traffic, my thoughts would veer to what  could be the story of the guy driving the bike next to me. Sometimes I think of the  start, at times I think of how the story should end, and from there the complete story  develops.
Share your experience of writing “Love All” and getting featured in Urban Shots.

Getting featured in ‘Urban Shots‘ was a scintillating experience. I had been a short  story writer for some time, and although I was getting good feedback from the  readers I did not have a good reach. That is where Ahmed stepped in and asked  me to write a short story for ‘Urban Shots’. Writing “Love All” and “Driving down the Memory Lane” was an interesting experience. I wrote the stories in 3-4 days but the editing took at least double the time. And it is very difficult to edit your own writing. Multiple re-readings and editing sessions later I finally felt that the stories were finished product.
If you had to choose one short story from Urban Shots, which one would it be and why?
‘Stick Figures’ by Vrinda Baliga. It has been told from a kid’s perspective and even then it is a very powerful read which is something quite hard to achieve. Vrinda has captured the emotions flawlessly.



Is there something else from your desk that you’d like all your readers to read?

Another anthology of short stories based on school & college life by Grey Oak Publications is already out – ‘Down the Road’. I’ve contributed a short-story in it – ‘The Accidental Author’. Apart from this I’ve been working on few more short stories for further publications. And all other random writings happen on my blog.


Many bloggers nowadays end up sequencing their blogs and getting them published. Or maybe make a full fledged story out of their experiences to get them published. What is your take on this shifting scenario where bloggers are taking their work offline to reach more people?

It is good in a sense – you reach a much wider audience. Although there is a chance, that a few of them would not enjoy the writing at all. The biggest advantage with a blog is that one has a very targeted audience. The blogger has already built a reputation, has a style of writing, the readers expect something of him/her – all of these things go for a toss as soon as the blogger reaches the offline audience. But if the writing is good enough, these things do not matter. What matters is that the writer has made an impression, and expanded his horizons.


Your idea of a vacation would include…?

Some place where I am completely cut off from the world :) No internet connection, no cell-phone towers – no external factors to distract me from spending a good time with my family.

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Interview with Vijayendra Haryal and Anandan Pillai

Social Media Revolution is taking the globe under its stride. A lot has been explored and a lot still needs to be uncovered. In this scenario, “Social Media Simplified” is a great attempt by Vijayendra Haryal and Anandan Pillai that points out key aspects of social media strategies, along with case studies based on Indian brands highlighting their success.

I got talking with the two authors to unearth the story behind the book.
Tell us a bit about yourself.

Vijayendra: Vijayendra Haryal is working as a Global Executive Manager with an IT company. He is a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Kharagpur (Class of 2004) and did his MBA from IIM Ahmedabad in 2008. His alternative interests are social media, social enterprise.

Anandan: A PhD student pursuing his doctoral program in the social media domain from Management Development Institute, Gurgaon. He has been in the academic research field for about 5 years. His research interests include social media strategy, brand communities on social media, content strategy on social media, social media RoI etc. He has published about 18 case studies and 3 research papers before co-authoring this book.

Social Media in India is still not as developed as in other countries. What got you interested in social media?

Vijayendra: For quite some time, a thought was triggered at the very basic level- what makes ventures/businesses succeed? One of the key factors for being successful is that a product or a service,  should be timed perfectly, such that the changing behavioral pattern/ attitude of the target audience, B2B or B2C, aligns with the product offering or has high propensity to adapt in reasonably short time. Social Media has captured this to perfection by addressing the Attention Deficit Disorder, increasing individuality etc. of recent times. Though I have been interested in Social Media since college days, it really caught my fancy when I got reconnected to the co-founder of http://www.volstreet.com – a non- profit portal for NGOs /CSRs  via orkut.  Also, I’ve met / worked with quite a few people who I got introduced/ reconnected via social media on interesting projects. Even this book took shape when I got reconnected to Anandan via “People You May Know” at Facebook.

Anandan: Well, be it any technology product / service, Indian users have a lag time in comparison to users in developed countries, which has been inevitable for some business reasons. However, if you notice in the past year or two the lag time has been decreasing substantially, for instance products like iPad are being launched in India almost at the same time as they are introduced in developed countries (which was not the case earlier for many products). So, Indian users have adopted social media comparatively late than their counterparts in developed countries, the growth rate has been substantial and hence we thought to contribute by sharing, with  the social media users, our understanding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Would you like to share the incident that got you two together, to venture into writing a book on social media?
Vijayendra & Anandan: We both met each other first in 2007 at IIM-Ahmedabad, but lost touch in course of life and we hardly exchanged emails. All of a sudden in 2009, we met through Facebook and when we both realized our common interests, I (Vijayendra) pitched the idea of the book to Anandan, which he gradually accepted and thus began the journey of the book.

What according to you is the USP of your book?
Vijayendra & Anandan: Distinct category of readers (on the bases of their background, awareness, etc.) will derive different values from the book. Right from listing down Do’s and Don’t’s on FB and Twitter for individual users as well as organizations, we have also discussed Social Media Strategy and ROI. We believe that facets of social media unknown to you would be unraveled as you read the book and this experience will provide you with more confidence.

We’ve got very good feedback on the case studies of 30 Indian brands, which is the key USP of the book. There are a lot of social media books available in the market, but almost they are all written by authors in developed countries and hence the examples/cases they have covered are all from their geographical locations. The case studies we’ve covered are of brands operating in India and the Indian readers should be able to relate to those situations more effectively.

We also have a continuing discussion at the facebook page and twitter handle of the book thus engaging readers beyond the book.
What do you think hamper the growth of social media in India? Does your book suggest ways of overcoming them?
Vijayendra & Anandan: The Internet penetration in India is still less than 10%. This will surely increase with the recent 3 G roll out, but it will still be long way to go. Technology should be seamlessly available for users to get on these innovative technological platforms. The ways to overcome technological challenges is beyond the scope of the book, and hence hasn’t been covered in the book.
The second main reason is awareness of the opportunities for professionals as well as businesses that have evolved due to Social Media. Personal branding has also taken a whole new dimension and ways in which we work have changed. The earnest attempt of the book is to build a holistic perspective on Social Media.
Any experiences during writing the book that you’d like to share? How easy or difficult was the research process?
Vijayendra & Anandan: We both stayed at two ends of the country – Anandan at Gurgaon and Vijayendra at Chennai. So, we could never meet each other and our busy timelines didn’t allow us to interact on mobile too. Hence, the entire research, authoring process was done with the help of Google Documents. Both of us kept adding our thoughts to it and either of us could check them at our convenience and further build on. The technology enabled us to gather our thoughts, in spite of our geographical restrictions. Whenever, either of us got a thought or an idea, we either posted it in Google doc, or dropped a mail or even SMSed. The essence is not ‘losing the thought’ and capturing ‘the moment’. In our case, we ‘asynchronously’ captured ideas. Of course, being well-read and observant in the domain helped.
Any social media strategies that you used to promote your book?
Vijayendra & Anandan: The inspiration was to make the whole process from getting to know about the book, making a purchase decision and feedback ‘interactive’ and ‘transparent’.  We had to cater to the “140 character” generation, which needs ‘something exciting’ all the time.  We had our challenges as the whole country was chanting CRICKET and SACHIN in unison when the book got released. Interestingly people were updating their status messages and tweeting much more than ever before. We buzzed people in our network about the book, created an ‘online event’ launch for our Facebook Page and Twitter handle, launched a ‘ Sneak Peek’  series with very positive feedback . Then for the next thirty days, we did a “Sneak Peek” on the 30 brands that we‘d covered. Now we share different viewpoints/ recent happenings in the Social Media arena.
Technology (and media for that matter) is always first abused, then misused and finally used. What is your take on social media platforms available nowadays to people, especially the youth?
Vijayendra & Anandan: People often fail to appreciate the benefits of a technological advancement in initial stages. The youth in India is very tech savvy and they use these social media platforms extensively. They have evolved from Orkut era to the present era of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn. Apart from the fun of networking and entertainment, we think youth should also try to leverage the utilitarian benefits from these platforms. Every social media platform has a unique feature, which could be milked by the users with respect to their own field of interest and use it judiciously for their benefit.
You book definitely has a niche readership. Was it easy to find a publisher to get to print your manuscript? Any hardships faced during the whole process?
Vijayendra & Anandan: The ideal audience is anyone who wants to be more aware of social media, learn about opportunities in this field and use it to effectively to further his/her profession or business. We think that the academic community – Business Schools especially, marketing professionals, social media enthusiasts should find this interesting. So this makes it a considerable mass depending on propensity of adaptation.
Honestly, we did not have to make extensive pitches to the publishers and the response we received was positive instantaneously. I think the publishing community at large was able to understand the potential of the book and our backgrounds also further added credence.
We see your inclination towards social media. Did you not consider coming out with an e-book only? Is the e-book on its way?
Vijayendra & Anandan: E-publishing is definitely promising but we need to be doubly sure about piracy. As we gather more confidence on E-publishing and distribution, we would surely explore this option.
Any aversions faced from critics that you did not expect? What has been the overall response towards the book?
Vijayendra & Anandan: We are appreciative of all who provided feedback, comments, etc. for taking their time out to share their insights with us. We have started noting down and building on some of the inputs that we got and would like to incorporate these in “Social Media Simplified- 2.0” or an advanced version of the book. We had to and still sometimes bear with some ‘less informed’ critics too, where we do give clarifications, but that’s part of the process! So far, this has been a pretty healthy process must say.
Name the books that have had the most impact on you.

  • Engage by Brian Solis
  • The New Community Rules:  Marketing on the Social Web by Tamar Weinberg
  • Groundswell by Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff


What do we see next from you?

Vijayendra & Anandan: Since this is by far the first most comprehensive book on Social Media in the Indian context and also taking into account the fact that the Social Media space is evolving very fast, we would like to come out with an advanced version of this book. A lot is going to depend on how this book is received by the audience.

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