Tag Archives: Down The Road

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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CONTEST!!!

Down the Road is the latest anthology from Grey Oak Publishers, a book with 28 short stories about those unforgettable, warm, thrilling, and at times embarrassing memories of life in school and college campuses.

Helter Skelter is running a contest for the same.

here’s the link:

http://helterskelter.in/contests/downtheroad/

Give it a try. You could win a copy of Down The Road!

🙂

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The Long And Short Of It

Walk into a book store and you are sure to find a heap of novels lined up meticulously. But how many are anthologies compared to the full length novels? Hardly a few!

I really can’t say what I like reading more – short stories or a full length novel. Though both have equal, if not less, rewards, they suffer their downfalls too.


My love for short stories began (and somewhat ended) during the school days, where in our “Gul Mohar Reader” had simple short stories that, at least I, used to end up reading even before school started for the particular term.  Stories by O.HenryRoald DahlErnest HemingwayGraham Greene, R. K. NarayanMark TwainLeo Tolstoy,Issac AsimovRuskin Bond, and so many other authors always interested me.
 But that affair lasted a short while. Once out of school, it got somewhat difficult to  track a good collection of short stories. Well, I must confess, I really did not try as hard, due to increasing academic pressures. But whenever I could, I would ask around for anthologies rather than novels.
It’s just that short stories are much easier to interpret, digest, and ponder upon. And the beauty lies in the fact that they could be read easily in one sitting. The restless soul that I am, I tend to get a little impatient reading a really long novel. I jump to a lot of conclusions before reaching the climax. Which in a way is good if the novel is exciting. But it just breaks my heart to see shoddy endings that leave me disappointed.

Also, short stories can be read (and re-read) anytime – while traveling to work, (sometimes at work), while enjoying a relaxed afternoon at home in a comfortable bean-bag, or any week night when sweet slumber deserts you.
Another thing about short stories is that you can pick up any story that you wish to read, without having to worry about the sequence. (Oh, but my OCD to follow a sequence is something I can’t help.)

There is a certain connectivity that is established in the very first paragrah usually, (if it is a well written short story) that takes you through the entire life of the character within those few pages. It’s just that the conectivity has to be established. If it clicks, you know you’re going to like it.

Let me not be completely biased. We cannot rule out the fact that in some anthologies not all stories capture your heart. Some do leave you disappointed. But the pain is bearable, as against spending time and getting involved with a lengthy novel only to be disappointed towards the climax. The effort is futile.

Coming to the writing styles, I must say, both are equally hard.
A well defined beginning, a progressive plot and a convincing climax make up for a well structured story. Be it a short one or a mighty novel.

Where a novel gives you the freedom to elaborate and dive in to the depths of a scene and describe even the sharpness of a harmless pin, a short story needs to deliver the same feeling in a few crisp sentences (or words). Come to think of it, short story writing is more of a challenge. It has the constraints of time and space and words and characters. In those few pages, you have to engage the reader so much that (s)he understands the plot, relates and connects with the characters, and doesn’t lose interest till the last word. That’s when a short story is truly acknowledged.
A novel gives the writer the levy of spinning a beautiful and lavish yarn that the reader is comfortable reading for a few pages before proceeding to the next scene.

Loosely structured sentences, clumsy dialogues, weak descriptions not only repulse the reader but also the publisher. Which brings me to one of the very important points – finding a publisher.
No doubt you can self-publish your work. But it would not gain as much visibility in the market. Social networking sites might help you to a certain extent. But that’s all. Promotions on a few blogging sites, sharing it with friends, family and acquaintances and maybe a few random stumblers is all you’d be able to gather. If you do look at the commercial aspect, finding a good publisher would become one of the priorities.

No doubt, India still has a long way to go when it comes to publishing a short story collection or an anthology. For some reason, publishers prefer full length novels over short stories.
It is only recently that new publishers like Grey Oaks Publications are coming out with continuous series of anthologies, giving budding writers a fair chance. Bigger and renowned players likePenguin, Rupa, Cedar, etc. have opened up more with bigger brands organizing short story competitions that publish deserving stories. Recent offerings that I’ve really appreciated include Urban ShotsDown The RoadSome Of The Whole, etc.

Reading the works of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, and other seasoned authors raise your expectations, no doubt, with the kind of presentation, plot and ideation they offered. Their style is what set them apart. And looking for such gratification today, I confess, is a bit difficult. It is a task. A tough one. Budding authors most give it an honest try, and we readers must appreciate the efforts.

Now, talking about full length novels, they aren’t all that easy either. Definitely more time consuming and involving. The plot needs to be reasonable enough to keep the reader hooked till the last page. A couple of main characters with a few minor characters; a main plot with sub-plots around it; ample amount of research; immense effort and patience; all sum up the process of a decent full length novel writing.
Also, length and quality are not synonyms. Quite a few times, an author, in the zeal to increase the word count ends up sacrificing the structure and quality of the plot.

Though getting a publisher is comparatively easy; and signing off as an author of a novel is more appealing than a short story writer, it is the quality that makes a novel a best seller.

Given a choice, I’d pick up a collection of short stories over a novel. To read as well as to write.

What about you- a short story collection or a full length novel?

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Book Review of “Down The Road” by Grey Oak Publishers

Down The Road

Edited by Ahmed Faiyaz and Rohini Kejriwal

Urban Shots set the ball rolling for Grey Oak Publishers I feel – in the shot story segment – especially in and for the Indian society.

Urban Shots was a major success and rightly so. And Down The Road is a good follow up.

Focusing on the main theme of campus fiction, the book has 28 short stories, contributed by 16 authors, edited by Ahmed Faiyaz and Rohini Kejriwal. All 28 short stories revolve around growing up years in schools, colleges, universities and also forays into adulthood.

Ahmed Faiyaz has contributed 9 stories, Rohini wrote 2, just like Ira Trivedi, Sneh Thakur, Paritosh Uttam and Malathi Jaikumar. The rest 10 authors have one story each. And they span the entire canvas of growing up years –from being in school, getting suspended for making trouble, harassing the teacher/professor, falling in love, falling in love with the teacher/professor, arranging illegal parties in hostel rooms, bunking college, getting ragged, falling in love, getting your heart broken, procuring a good placement, hanging out with friends, politics in college life, friendship, growing up, saying good-bye…oh the moments are unique and countless!

It’s a wonder how all the stories bring back a certain part of life we’ve lived carelessly. Looking back, those moments seem more loved than present life- thanks to Down The Road.

Quite a few contributing authors are first timers while most have shared and basked in the glory of Urban Shots.

Yes this one indeed is an exciting and eclectic collection of short stories that brings out all those memories – unforgettable, warm, thrilling, and at times embarrassing – of life in school and college campuses. High on emotions and sensitivity, all the authors have portrayed different styles, ideas and narration techniques.

My personal favorites include:

*The Music Room by Ira Trivedi – the emotions portrayed touch your heart.

*Welcome to St. Gibbs by Ahmed Faiyaz – a very relatable story, for most guys I’m sure!

*That’s It? by Sahil Khan – the thing about his stories is that they might not be as unique overall – but the endings – boy! Does he nail it or what! It’s usually the last para or the last line of his story that makes it shine. And leaves behind a smile.

*Call me biased but I do like Paritosh Uttam’s stories. Sororicide and Between Friends both of them are well crafted.

*An Accidental Start by Kunal Dhabalia has a wonderful concept and it instills the idea of reading and writing in us.

*Just A Moment by Nikhil Rajagopalan is very realistic.

*Remember Me? by Ahmed Faiyaz again is a good one.

*Bellow Yellow by Chinmayi Bali is very touching.

Then of course are the articles and essays that paint features of campus life in our lives.

Wait…am I almost jotting down all of them?!

Sorry. Can’t help it – they all are fantastic and readable.

This definitely goes up in my bookshelf along with Urban Shots – which can be read over and over again without losing any bit of their luster.

So for kids in schools / colleges and even us – workaholics who sometimes are unable to spare a moment from our busy lives to reminisce the ‘good old days’, Down The Road urges you to take a while off and bring back memories to cherish forever.

Enjoy it and treasure it.

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Book Launch -Down The Road by Grey Oak Publications

The road blocks (literally!), due to Ambedkar Jayanti celebrations did not deter book enthusiasts from attending the book launch of Grey Oak Publishers’ new offering – Down The Road. An electic anthology of 28 campus tales by 16 authors brings back unforgettable memories of life in the campus. We all have had our share of school and college incidents that bring out emotions and feelings attached to the carefree life we truly miss now. And reviving those memories for the audience at Landmark, were the people who made the book a success.
On the panel were – Ahmed Faiyaz, Sahil Khan, Paritosh Uttam, Rohini Kejriwal, Naman Saraiyawith me moderating the discussion. After a crisp introduction of the authors and the editors what followed was a lively dialogue with the famous five (as they would be known by now).

The evening opened with a conversation with Ahmed Faiyaz – a renowned author with two popular bestsellers to his credit – Love, Life and All That Jazz and Another Chance; and of course memorable short stories contributed to Urban Shots.

On being asked about the selection of the title, Ahmed spoke about how an online poll was conducted with a few options competing for the title position and how the most voted title was finally chosen.

“Short stories are easier to write as well as read. When we were compiling stories for Urban Shots we had a few stories set in the campus life. So we thought of compiling just such stories that brings back memories of campus life,” smiled Ahmed on being asked about the ideation of compiling short stories.

Paritosh Uttam, Pune based software engineer and the prolific author of Dreams in Prussian Blue as well as the editor of Urban Shots (and of course one of the authors of the anthology), spoke about his two short stories featuring in Down The Road. “One of them is entirely fictional and the other one is written from personal experience, but I won’t tell you which one that is,” blushed the soft spoken author.

Sharing her experience of co-editing the collection was Rohini Kerjriwal, a 19…ooppss 20 year old PYT. “Grey Oaks has been kind to give me an opportunity to co-edit the stories. It really has been a wonderful journey.”
Naman Saraiya gathered most accolades from the audience, which of course comprised more girls. Need we get into details – nahh! We’ll let Naman’s “love” stories do the talking. His story, he said, is based on a friend’s encounters. Well captured and brilliantly put.

And of course, Sahil Khan – a lifestyle activist, a hard-core foodie (don’t be fooled by his skinny appearance and innocent looks), and one of the Young Turks of Pune, shared his experience of writing his short story “That’s It?”

Reminiscing about their campus life, the panelists shared a few experiences of their “good old days” and gathered a few laughs, trying to take a dig at each other.

(L-R) Paritosh Uttam, Sahil Khan, Ahmed Faiyaz
(*Pic by Aniket Dasgupta)

Down The Road is sure to connect with each reader- be it an adult or a youngster. The entire collection brings out feelings and incidents that readers must’ve experienced at some point in their life,” affirmed Rohini and Ahmed as they spoke about the USP of the book.
Wondering about what’s next in line from the desk of these brilliant writers -this is what we found out.

Ahmed has his hands full -scripting “Another Chance” (for hopefully a movie tie-up) and working on another novel; not to forget, the next Urban Shots anthology – a “Love” collection.
Paritosh too is working on his novel which possibly would be out this year. He is also contributing to Urban Shots Love Collection.
Rohini, Naman and Sahil would definitely continue working together for TossedSalad.com as well as for Urban Shots further anthologies. We sure hope Sahil keeps his commitment to delivering a full fledged novel soon.

The evening ended with a quick book-signing session by all present on the panel and the crowd hung around for quite a while, talking to the authors.

All said and done, Down The Road is sure to strike a memorable chord in your heart. All you have to do is -read it!

Though all the short stories in here are brilliant, my preference would be:

Down The Road – By Ahmed Faiyaz

Rishi & Me – By Ira Trivedi

Sororicide – By Paritosh Uttam

One Bump Does No Harm – By Naman Saraiya

That’s It – By Sahil Khan

The Cafe With No Name – By Sneh Thakur

The Worm That Turned – By Malathi Jaikumar

Growing Up – By Rohini Kejriwal

But most importantly – go pick up Down The Road and revive your campus days memories. This one is sure to “rock”!

Oh and do not miss my essay on Page 209 – Fiction on Campus. This marks my debut as a contributing writer.

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Author Interview – Sneh Thakur

From Kuwait to India via refugee camps; from being a Brand Manager and winning awards to now writing short stories by the beach and photographing the mountains, Sneh Thakur has lived quite an exciting life.

I got talking and digging for more about this beautiful, chirpy and multi-talented lady.

In a nut shell, tell us about Sneh Thakur.

I would best describe myself in 6 words as: Pint Sized Rapunzel. On a Cloud.

I’m 29 years old, born to a Rajput father and a Malyali mom – so dinner conversations were never dull! With 6 years of a career in FMCG under the belt in various leading FMCG companies in roles ranging from Sales, Business Intelligence, Innovation and Brand Management, I’ve travelled and explored India in a ‘real’ way which is one of the reasons why I love my job. My life-long loves have been of music that moves- U2, the lyrical quality of Jim Morrison and reading – A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry being my all time favorite.
Is it true that you made your way to India travelling across refugee camps? Looking back, is there an experience you’d like to share with us?

I was born in Kuwait and spent the first decade of my life there. When the Kuwait war broke out, the NRI community had to leave the country under difficult circumstances. It was at that point that my parents, who had every luxury in the world, had to bring me (then 11 years old) and my younger sister back to India. The journey involved travelling from Kuwait to Jordan on a long bus journey and camping as refugees in the deserts of Amman, Jordan till we got to safety and were flown into India. I believe in seeing the brighter side of life and remember an incident – it was midnight and the light from an innovatively created lamp (cottons wicks dipped in the remaining sardine oil from canned foods) lit the tent we were in and my sister and I spotted for the first time in our lives a Scorpion in the sand and almost picked it up. Thank god mom was close by! We all have a good laugh about “Deepti (my sister) and Sneh’s adventures in the desert” now.
We also read about you selling candy on the streets of Howrah. Could you elaborate that account?

My first assignment in the corporate world was as a Management Trainee for a major FMCG Confectionery company. I was based in Kolkata and as a trainee was expected to go through the learning ropes in Sales (due to which I am a better professional today). The first step involved starting from the scratch and seeing how “field sales” was done – so we could in time become better managers and leaders. This involved going to the market with boxes of candy and making sales calls – almost 55 to 60 shops a day. It was an amazing, tough experience but I must say that the shopkeepers in Howrah were very kind and generous and a smile was often enough to convince them!
Would you like to share, with your readers, your tryst with writing?

My tryst with writing started as a teenager when I’d keep a journal and play out with great drama my life, my friends and my angst at times! But in recent years I found myself turning to it very naturally as a form of self expression in blogging, notes, short stories, flash fiction and poems. In the corporate world you draft out oodles of memos and presentations every week, and I guess all the quick typing practice had to find a more creative outlet!
Tell us about your stories in “Down The Road”. What brought about the ideation?

I have written 2 stories in “Down the Road”. The first one is called “The Café with No Name” and is set in a Parsi café in Mumbai. When Ahmed Faiyaz of Grey Oak offered the opportunity for me to contribute, he mentioned that the tales had to have a campus connect. “The Café with no Name” is an off beat campus story revolving around the protagonist Dinshaw, a Parsi Café owner and the unlikely friendship that develops between him and a student who visits the café. As a student at SIBM, Pune I often used to travel in Pune and Mumbai for unique culinary experiences. This story is inspired by many a gastronomic delight!

The 2nd story “Fresher” is set in Indore and is about a spunky girl from Delhi who lands up there and her experiences in settling in to her new life from school to college, a different city, being a fresher and dealing with the challenges presented in a brave, resilient way. For me, this was an important story to tell as I know of many young kids from cities who end up going to smaller towns very different from their cocooned city life and getting bogged down by ‘seniors’ and ‘introduction sessions’. For me the ideation on this was to inspire young college goers to be who they are and not worry about the rest.
An exciting weekend for you would comprise…?

Since this is an fantasy question, I’m gonna have fun with it, so let me pick my favourites from all the cities I have lived, worked in:

A play with Naseeruddin Shah  at Prithvi Theatre, Lunch at one of Bandra’s world class restaurants; Endless conversations with friends; the rain in Delhi, the smell of the scented earth after and an evening walk at Lodhi Gardens, and perhaps a boat ride and barbeque in Muscat, Oman!
Read her stories in Down The Road and see the talent of this real Pint Sized Rapunzel. On a Cloud.

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