Tag Archives: Urban Shots

Book Review of ‘Shades of Sin: Behind the Mask’ by APK Publishers

‘Shades of Sin: Behind the Mask’
By APK Publishers

Shades of Sin

Shades of Sin

Call it my love for short stories but I simply loved this book

An anthology of 25 stories by six authors connected by a single thread: the dark side of human nature in all its hues.

Vices in us, we know, exist and breed. What fans them further and do we tame them (if at all)?

The diverse settings, relatable experiences, and the very humane nature of each story intrigued me. Every single minute of my “me time” was dedicated to the book.

The book is divided in to three portions: Light Grey, Dark Grey and Black. The stories in each section portray/reveal related darkness – not depression. Most of the stories are sure to linger in your mind even after you put the book down. They evoke emotions that we deny ever exist in us.

I appreciate the selection of the stories. I like the way each author has consciously contributed to each section, bringing out the apt “darkness”. It’s not easy to pen out such feelings strongly that stir the reader with each sentence. It reflects maturity – the work of seasoned authors.

The narrative skills of Vivek Banerjee, Upneet Grover, Saksham Agarwal, Aanandita Chawla, Vrinda Baliga, and Shreelatha Chakravarty are praise worthy, offering a different perspective, a refreshing take, a unique outlook towards the different shades of the dark forces within us all.

For anyone who loves short stories, I definitely recommend this book. Pick It Up! No second thoughts!!

This is one book I will keep going back to- just like the Urban Shots series.

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Interview with Dr. Vivek Banerjee

Dr. Vivek Banerjee, the author of ‘The Long Road’ is a self-confessed “full time pediatrician (by choice) and part time author (by chance)”. Also known by his pen name Ben, for his blogs earlier, Vivek shares snippets of his writing career with us. Read on.

Could you share with us your earliest memories of writing? What got you blogging and finally writing a fictional tale?
The earliest memories in writing are contributing to my school magazine and later editing it. Blogging started as an experiment and then became an addiction. Rediff iLand (the earlier and hugely successful avatar of now moribund Rediff Blogs) provided the proverbial fuel to the fire. The Long Road started as a serial story called Doctors on Rediff iLand. It was hugely popular and my fellow bloggers got more and more involved as the story progressed. Eventually, the idea of presenting it as a full-fledged novel came to me and I decided to take the plunge.

What kinds of books grab your attention?
I love fiction. From adventure to science fiction; thrillers to classics and novels to short stories, I love them all.

How was the experience of writing a novel, given the fact that your profession barely leaves you time for other activities? What inspired you to come out with a full length novel?
Agreed! There is hardly any leisure. This novel and all my writing is generally done deep in the night. Many a time, I have to attend calls at odd hours and find it difficult to sleep after returning.  The only option left is to pick up the laptop and start typing.


Any character from the novel that reflects or resonates with the real you?

No, I don’t think so. I do wish that I could be like Prof. Patil from the book.

The language used is quite simple and coming from a highly specialized industry, one tends to use the jargon of the field. How easy or difficult was it writing a book based around your profession?
It was very simple to write a book based on my profession and many parts of the book are inspired from real life happenings. I did make a conscious effort to avoid medical jargon or get too technical. I hope that I have succeeded in this aspect.


Would you like to share a memorable incident that happened during the writing process? Or an instance that clicked the writer in you (while at work), wherein you felt that the incident would make for an interesting mention in the book?
Considering the fact that I joined Medical College in 1983, I had a rich reserve of memories and experiences to draw from while writing the novel. But one repetitive incident that causes me a lot of anguish and finds a mention in the book is our inability to prevent very sick children from dying despite best efforts.

An ebook or a hardcover– your pick? and Why?
I guess I am traditional in this matter. I am a huge fan of printed books. If you visit my home, you’ll find a lot of books everywhere. E-books are not for me.

Name some your all time favorite reads.
To kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is an all time favorite.
I am partial to almost all the books by Isaac Asimov, Wilbur Smith and Jack Higgins and have read them multiple times.

A Quote that inspires you – in personal life / professional life.
This too, shall pass…


A book/author in the recent past that has captured your interest?
Anish Sarkar’s Benaami and the Urban Shots series.

Any other genre that you’d like to explore now? What next do we see from your desk?
I am writing short stories. In fact, there are two projects in the pipeline. One is a collection of stories about the paranormal in collaboration with Faraaz Kazi. An anthology of stories about the darker side of human nature is the other project. Upneet Grover, Saksham Agarwal, Amit Kumar Gupta, Anandita Chawla and I team up for this one.

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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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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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Interview With Rikin Khamar

Not many know about the man whose first book has garnered rave reviews and is topping the bestseller charts steadily. We are talking about a bright new author Rikin Khamar and his first book
The Lotus Queen.

There’s more about this bright author who grew up in London; enjoyed his vacations in India; professionally is a business strategy advisor; a passionate photographer and artist; and a poet by choice.

The Lotus Queen, is the story of the beautiful and spirited Queen Padmini. Based on actual historical events and figures, the novel is a tribute to one of India’s greatest heroines. Set in the backdrop of 14th century Rajasthan, the narrative weaves together a tale of love, friendship, and inner courage.


Tell us something about your growing up years in London – campus life in London and the vacations in India. Was it during your early days that your tryst with writing began? And how did the shift to Dubai happen?

Wow – this question covers my whole life! I guess the short answer is that my life growing up and even now is filled with the people that I love and books that have become as close to me as some of my friends. My early days were filled with memories of being either very British or very Indian activities or surroundings. I guess being in Dubai allows me to have the best of both!
As for writing, I didn’t really set out to be a writer. I have always been an avid reader, and thought unless you can write as well as the greats, you should really bother. Ultimately, however, as with many authors I imagine, my writing has just powered its way through the surface – spurred on by the Legend of Queen Padmini, and my need to create something, something on paper. How good it is, and how it is received only time (and my readers and publishers) will tell!

We read somewhere that you are a senior business strategy advisor for a global real estate and finance company. How do you balance time off to write, given the fact that strategy advisors barely can spare time for family sometimes?
The honest answer is that I can’t. People can choose to be the best in a certain part of their lives, but that usually means trading it off with another part. I imagine great writers often have to sacrifice some part of their personal lives to do what they do best. As for me, I cannot make that sacrifice so fully. I am content to be good at many different areas than great in just one. I have a family, and I have a job that takes up twelve hours of my day, and so writing usually comes last. I would love for that to change in the future but I guess for now it remains a passion that unfortunately occupies very little of my time,

What triggered the passion for photography and painting? How and when did ‘Invisible Horizons’ commence?

I have always loved art – since I could hold a pencil or a brush. For me, I have always been fond of sketching Animals and Nature. I still have sketches of trees since I was four and portfolio of sketches of African animals made during my teenage years. As I grew older, somehow art or love for nature seemed to creep into my life – I found myself working next door to the National Gallery in London, taking my wife on our honeymoon to Cuba, or my holidays in Nepal or Africa.
Since I have no training as painter or an artist, I turned to photography. Invisible Horizons project is just a collection of my favourite pictures that I wanted to see showcased. It is a private project that perhaps is there just to forcing me to search for beauty in the world around me.

How and when did you start penning poetry? When do we get to read Voices Of Silence?

How did I start? I am not entirely sure. It just came out of me one day, when I was at an extremely difficult point in my life. Somehow the poetry provided a release for my sorrow. Since then I have begun, extremely fitfully, to write poems whenever I feel the urge to. Sometimes I write three poems in one go – other times years have passed between poems. ‘Voices of Silence’ is an apt title for this collection – the voices of the silence inside of me. I wrote my first poem roughly when I was eighteen.

As for when do you get to read it…as soon as a publisher agrees to publish it! But given my newcomer status, and the limited appetite for poetry, I don’t imagine that will be anytime soon. I am looking for an outlet for my work, for now there are some examples up on my website.


How did you venture into short story writing? 
House in Ali Bagh, that featured in ‘Urban Shots’ is set in Delhi and is about an old house that is about to be pulled down. But the night before a construction worker experiences something extraordinary. How did the ideation of this story come about?
To answer with a metaphor, I honestly no idea where the where meal came from, but do recognise the ingredients. My wife is from Delhi, so the environment and the house itself comes from my various experiences exploring that sprawling paradoxical city. The seeing the supernatural or super-sensorial is one that I have always desired or wished for, and is a theme of one of my favourite authors L Adams Beck. Largely forgotten, she wrote some unique stories about seeing the ‘real’ world behind the veil of our everyday perception. One particular book, the Ninth Vibration, has probably been the strongest influence on me as a writer. Looking back on it, I think the urge is almost universal – don’t we all want to have an experience with the other world? Isn’t that the object of meditation? Of fantasy itself?

However, where and how the story itself came about I am not sure. My dear friend, and fellow author (and now publisher) persuaded me to submit the story to his evaluation team at Grey Oak. That’s how it came to be in Urban Shots.




Talking about Demon Diaries – are those random doodling ventures or are they true thoughts about the sham our real world offers?

Hehe, a bit of both. Demon diaries is my experiment with myself; stripping away my everyday mundane, emotionally-charged thoughts to reveal an undercurrent of my thinking. It sounds very lofty, but I guess it’s something that’s for me allows me to tap into something deep inside myself. Most of it is therefore a good serving of doodles with some side servings of meaningful insight.


Talking about The Lotus Queen –how did the ideation of the story come about? What prompted you to pick a historical figure (Queen Padmini)? What kind of research did this require? How much time did you take to wrap up the book?
The idea of the story first came about during a family holiday in Rajasthan. We were driving to Udaipur, when we took a detour and visited the fort Chittor. It is not an understatement to say, the fort blew my mind. Or perhaps more accurately got me dreaming. Where the rest of my family saw ruins, I saw gleaming palaces, and tragic queens. Finally a year later, I decided to put pen to paper and the result is The Lotus Queen.

Research for the book was conducted through my visits to Chittor, and through books and the internet. Given obscurity of the era, I had to be informed not just about the events, but about the people: what they wore, what was used in warfare, what was the layout of the fort at the time, etc…,. This was crucial to forming my own version of the story in my head. To answer the last question, I wrote very, very quickly; finishing the heart of the book in less than two months. However, for different reasons, the book then stayed on my shelf for almost seven years. Finally, last year I revisited, and rewrote, the book in about four months.

Apart from indulging in the creative world, what do you like doing the most?
Spending time with my daughter and wife – my ‘real’ world! I usually love lounging at the beach near my house, sitting at a shisha bar with my friends, or watching a movie at home.

What next do we see from your desk? A novel? A short story? A different genre?
I am right now trying to finish the planning around the second in the ‘Chittor’ series – which will cover the events of the second siege during the 16th Century. Given my pace, I hope to have a first cut done over the next year. I would love to keep working on some short stories in the meantime – but sometimes I feel it’s harder to write a short story – it has to be extremely well written and to the point, and that something which requires a lot of inspiration, and of course, practice.

In the future I would love to experience with the mystery and horror genres – I am a big fan of books like Dracula and stories with a twist from authors such as Poe, Dahl, Du Maurier and Saki. A collection of spooky tales perhaps?
Would you like share one thing about:

–          Rikin the author that not many people know?
I am worried about my sacrificing my time away from my family and work to write. Isn’t it selfish, isolationist pursuit after all? At the same time, it’s something that I love and makes me happy…go figure!
–          Rikin the person that not many people know? 
Two of my principal mottos are ‘Try everything at least once’ and ‘Don’t be afraid to go the extra mile in any task that you do…’


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In Conversation With Ahmed Faiyaz

Ahmed Faiyaz, Managing Director, Grey Oak Publishers and a prolific writer with a deep insight to relationships, as they exist today in the urban cities, shares his thoughts and views with BookChums.

Beginning with the mundane/clichéd question: When, where and how did the writing bug bite?
I’m not sure actually, to be honest. I guess being a voracious reader (as I am) is what pushed me towards writing in the first place. Back when I was 10 years old, I wrote an English composition for a unit test, a story where three friends and I ran away from home, roamed around the city and got back home at the end of the day as we were tired, had no money left, and thus had nothing to eat. My teacher who also happened to be our class teacher called me to the staff room and questioned me a lot about this little story. She believed it to be true though it was completely fictional. As a child I also made my younger brother dig up my grandparent’s garden telling him stories of little people who lived in a world beneath the garden. It was this little world I had created through stories and he believed me for a long time.

Your first book was “Love Life and all that jazz”. Would  you like to share your experience of writing that one? What brought about the ideation? How long did it  take to pen it?
I think it was a learning process for me as a writer. It is something  I believed in and enjoyed thoroughly. The story built up in my  head when I was living in Mumbai post my MBA and going through  the quarter life crisis – confused about relationships, career and  pretty much a lot of other things. The first draft took me a couple  of months to write, but by the time I got to the final draft it was a  year. The hardest part is editing your work and removing what  didn’t fit in. I had written over a 100,000 words and was edited  down to about 84,000 words.

Coming to your second book- “Another Chance” – the  story is predominantly about a female (Ruheen) and her  relationship with the men in her life. How difficult or  easy was it to think from a female’s perspective?
You’re right, Another Chance revolves around a female  protagonist and a lot of the story is written from her point of view.  I guess as a writer I am influenced by what I see around me, what I  read and of course cinema. I had to isolate myself and get into the  skin of the character, to think and react from her perspective.  Even some of the scenes where Aditya is in a pensive mood and is  dealing with heartbreak were difficult, but here I had some  experiences that I could relate to. Then again there’s a bit of  creativity we hope to tap on and wish that it works. It was difficult  to write some of those scenes in Another Chance. I was actually  apprehensive about some scenes I had written about Ruheen. I  had a couple of close friends, women of her age and income  background and another writer friend read these, and honestly  they completely loved these scenes and felt it was an accurate depiction of her state of mind.

People usually find it easier to pen their experiences. Was there an incident that inspired or provoked you to write “Another Chance”? How much time did it take to complete it?
Another Chance again was a story that built up over the years. The idea first came to me when I was sitting and sipping a cup of coffee in Amsterdam. I saw someone who looked strikingly similar to someone from my past, and I imagined what I would do then if it really was her. So I guess I let my imagination run wild and the story kind of evolved. Aditya’s love and pining for Ruheen is quite similar Pip’s love for Estella in Great Expectations and something like Jay’s love for Daisy in The Great Gatsby. I’m a big fan of the classics and I guess subconsciously that influences my writing, though I like to keep it contemporary and real.
It took me three months to write the first draft and six months to edit and fine tune.

We see both the books majorly focused on “relationships” and they definitely are “coming of age” as we say. Was this a conscious move (to write about relationships)? What is it about relationships that you, as an author, are trying to tell people?
I believe Love, life & all that jazz… was a slice of life coming of age story about these four youngsters and the people around them. It is about career, friendship and living your dreams for these characters and it is more than just about relationships. There are many fun filled moments in this book.
Another Chance is the morning after novel, it is my ode to love and life’s choices. Another Chance has more detail, it is fast paced and there is depth in characterization; it is more poetic and soulful and needed a well developed narrative style. Though different in their treatment, I believe both of them are quite visual and relatable in different ways.

How did you go about choosing Bruna Abdullah as the face of Ruheen?
I was sitting and sipping chai in the balcony of our hotel in Mussoorie. My wife and I were on holiday, a well deserved break after sending Another Chance out to my editor. Sunny Sara, a very good friend called and we got chatting about the book. I told him the story and explained how I wanted to get the cover right this time. I wasn’t too happy with the cover we did for Love, life & all that jazz’s 1st edition. He suggested that we get Bruna on the cover after hearing a short narration on Ruheen’s character. All thanks to him, she was onboard in July 2010 even before Grey Oak formally came into existence. It was nice working with Bruna; she’s a nice person and is someone I’m fond of. I had first met her at a friend’s wedding years ago when Sunny introduced me to her. I had no clue then that I would write a book and she would be on the cover. But the idea and the execution was Sunny’s idea and Nitin Patel’s too, the photographer.
In this age, we notice that professional and personal lives are messed up. What is it about our generation or work culture today that irks you the most?
I think what concerns me the most is many among us lack conviction in what we do and the lives we lead. We are submissive to material wants, pleasures and what society expects of us. The need to make an impression is only growing in our society. Look around you, celebrities who repeat a dress or a shirt are ridiculed and made fun of. Look at the number of magazines that talk about yachts, watches, first class travel and luxury cars. People are selling illusions and people are lapping it up. The guy or girl, working 14 hours a day in a job he/she hates but still does just to afford a certain lifestyle, is at the end of the day spending 2-3 hours on the road in a city like Bangalore or Mumbai. They splurge at an expensive lounge on weekends or end up paying a ridiculous amount to watch the latest movie. This is what most lives have become and it isn’t good. It affects everything – your health, relationships, equations with friends and family, and your state of mind. I’m glad I became a writer, today I’m close to a lot of people who aren’t a part of the rat race and who are doing what they believe in 100%.

Do we see a movie version of Another Chance in the making?
Inshallah! You know there’s so much interest, I’ve been contacted by quite a few people. I feel it is more easily adaptable to the big screen. I’m working on the screenplay now.

If you had to choose a celebrity to play the parts of Ruheen, Aditya and Varun – who all would you pick?
I would pick more than one person for each. For Ruheen I would say Bruna is a good option as she brings Ruheen to life on the cover. Chitrangda Singh, if this is a mainstream film. But Nauheed and Kainaz are equally compelling choices. They are strikingly beautiful women, they are wonderful human beings and more importantly two actors I’m fond of as they are dear friends. Ruheen has a very endearing character, she’s hopeful, she’s a fighter. She never gives up on life, she only emerges stronger. I see that whole positive spirit in Nauheed and Kainaz’s personality, it’s almost infectious and rubs off on people around them.
I think Aditya would be best played by Purab Kohli or Rahul Khanna, actors with a lot of range in their abilities and that knack to pull off the brooding underdog act.
Varun could be played by a lot of actors of our day and age. Maybe Sanjay Suri or Jimmy Shergill, both underrated actors who deserve to seen more on the screen. Neil Nitin Mukesh also has finesse and sophistication to pull this off. Unconventional choices but that’s how it’s always been for me.

Any aversions from critics (yet) that you did not expect?
With Another Chance it is too early to tell, no reviews have happened by the critics as yet. I guess one has to grin and deal with whatever the outcome is. All I can say is that it takes a lot to put yourself out there, a book is completely a writer’s baby, quite unlike a film where so many people are involved. So when people say they like my work it makes me grin like a fool all day and when they don’t, it isn’t a happy feeling. But as writers we’ve already put ourselves out there, and at the end of the day it’s a personal reaction. Its opinion and it differs from one to another.
With Love, life & all that jazz… I mostly got positive feedback and it made me extremely happy. The aversion of a few is well taken and in some cases is well deserved, they had a point and it only helps me introspect and grow as a writer which I did with Another Chance.

Certain books/authors usually leave an everlasting print in our memory. What book/author has had the most influence on you and your writing? What is your favorite genre when it comes to reading/writing?
I’ve been influenced by so many writers and so many books. Charles Dickens, F Scott Fitzgerald, Oscar Wilde, Hemingway, Hanif Khureshi, Haruki Murakami, Nick Hornby, James Frey and back home there is RK Narayan, Amitav Ghosh and Omair Ahmad. These authors are outstanding storytellers and extremely honest and passionate about their craft.
I read all kinds of books, from Fantasy Fiction for young adults to Inspirational stories and travelogues. I like reading about people and places that are far removed from the world that I’ve grown up in. I read very little Indian fiction and most of this is of the literary variety. Among the mass – market fiction variety I’ve only read my writer friends’ books in the past one year.

What next do we see from the desk of Ahmed Faiyaz?
There are two novels and a novella planned for the next couple of years. Also, a few short stories for anthologies planned by Grey Oak. A collection of my short stories is also on the horizon.

Could you also shed some light on Grey Oak Publishers and your role in the organization?
Grey Oak is a recently set up trade publisher, focused on Indian writing. Grey Oak’s primary focus is to publish mass-market paperback Indian fiction aimed at a general audience under the flagship – ‘Grey Oak’ imprint. Besides this, Grey Oak also aim to publish a limited list of titles under the ‘Silverfish’ imprint, targeted at young adults (12-17 age group) and a limited list of contemporary writing on travel, self-help, inspirational stories and biographies under the ‘Chiron’ imprint.
I wear the marketing hat in Grey Oak. My focus is on marketing, building and fostering trade relationships. My focus is to build a brand for Grey Oak as a reputed, quality publisher in India.

What is it that you like doing the most, apart from writing?
I love to travel. I’m happiest slacking off somewhere in the mountains or on a beach. I’m a movie buff and enjoy watching all kinds of films, a lot world cinema.

A few facts about “Ahmed Faiyaz -the person” and “Ahmed Faiyaz -the author” that you’d like to share with our readers.
The person loves to read, he’s very introverted and is truly known by a few among his friends and family. He hopes to do what he truly believes in and wants to give time and support causes he truly believes in. I want to retire at 40 and just write and do non – profit work focused on education and the environment.
The author hopes to grow and write stories on a broader canvas and about subjects he truly believes in. He loves to hear from his readers and obsessively replies to every email in 24 hours. His wife hates this habit and has secretly tried to destroy his BlackBerry. She was a strong supporter of banning BlackBerry services.

Contemporary authors in today’s time who you think are doing a good job?
There are so many of them. Some of them are of my generation and are dear friends – Omair Ahmad, Mridula Koshy, Amitabha Bagchi, Paritosh Uttam and Rikin Khamar. I think Karan has successful at going mainstream. Then there are Deepak Dalal, R Chandrasekar and Sujit Saraf as well who are doing very well as writers.

Your advice to budding writers would be?
Write what you truly believe in and focus on editing as this is the most important part of writing – it’s taking out what you’ve written and re-writing which takes a while to get used to. Also understand who the audience is and write from their perspective.

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Book Review of “Urban Shots”

Urban Shots

[28 (not 29) urban tales by 13 writers]

What a lovely anthology!

Urban Shots comprises 29 short stories by 13 writers (edited by Paritosh Uttam, who has also contributed 10 stories to the collection).

The stories revolve around relationships, in urban cities (metros), as they exist today. Relationships not just amongst youngsters but relationships shared by married couples, an old father and his son (and daughter-in-law), friends, colleagues, and people overall.

The stories talk about friendship, love, infidelity, hope, liberation, serendipity, angst, longing and a hoard of feelings that we sometimes don’t take time to notice. The best part is that you can read this book as per your convenience and not worry about dropping it mid-way to attend to other things.

So if you are travelling or waiting at the bus stop or sipping coffee alone – this book guarantees to be your best companion.

Paritosh’s stories are very crisp and brilliantly woven. They describe a certain instance or a day of a person’s life in a way that makes you visualize his/her (almost) entire life in a jiffy. I absolutely loved his writing.

Ahmed Fiyaz has contributed three stories and all of them are a breezy read. The simple day-to-day tone and language used by Ahmed make the instances very familiar and relatable.

Kainaz Motivala’s first published work of fiction – “Hope comes in small packages” is a very cute little story about a mother’s loss (of a child) and how she finds “hope”. Kainaz also is the face of Urban Shots.

Malathi Jaikumar’s story – “Liberation” – revolves around the life of an uneducated rural woman (from South India) married to a man who later moves to the city; she bears two children and faces the wrath of her drunk husband every weekend –and finally one fine day she finds her way out of the assault.

Her second offering, “Just average”, is about an otherwise average woman who shows extraordinary courage in a certain situation.

Bishwanath Gosh’s “Morning Showers” is a crisp tale about infidelity. Simple and well written. His second story “Women in Love” shows an almost precise picture of how women in love behave.

Abha Iyengar’s “Slow Rain” talks about a woman’s feelings of love and longing that have almost disappeared from her married life and her friendship with another man.
Prateek Gupta’s “Apple Pies and a Grey Sweater” revolves around love and friendship just like Kunal Dhabalia’s “Love All” but his “Driving Down the Memory Lane” treads the fine line of infidelity.

Sahil Khan’s “The Untouched Guitar” is extremely refreshing. Though what feels like a regular story told by a youngster recalling life through college years – the last line is what brought a smile to my face. And if I may add – it’s Kick A** !!!

Vrinda Baliga’s “Stick Figures” is a very touching tale and so is “Dialects of Silence” that peeps into the life of an Indian woman.

Rikin Khamar’s “The House in Alibagh” is a bit mystical and different from the rest.

Naman Saraiya’s “Trial and Error” makes up for a quick yet engaging read.

This collection of part-fiction-part-real stories makes up for a great start by Grey Oak Publishers. The new young-age writers have shown a knack of keen observation of human tendencies and behavior in today’s fast-paced life, especially in the metros. We no longer think twice before indulging in extra marital affairs or living in the fast lane where loving someone a moment ago and dumping them the next doesn’t really bother us. Instant gratification is what rules our behavior and preferences nowadays. Emotional attachments barely exist.

Reading this book made me wonder about the sea-change in perception we have undergone in the recent years. Aren’t we somewhere down the line losing the real essence of words like – love, sacrifice, marriage…?

We are not the ones to judge a certain thing as “right” or “wrong”. What appeals to us in a certain moment is what we indulge in. No time for deeper thoughts – or the consequences that follow.

Maybe this is the way of life for most of us. No wonder thirteen writers have penned similar feelings in their work (!!!)

Overall, a great attempt and a good read. I highly recommend this one.

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