My Xmas gift

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Custom Header Image for my blog

 

Got a wonderful Christmas gift today. A custom header photo for my blog designed by Anant. Thanks so much Anant! I am loving it 😀

Santa’s still in the giving mood. Anyone interested?

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Interview – Rishi Vohra

Rishi Vohra

Rishi Vohra

Rishi Vohra is the author of ‘Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai’. He recently relocated back to Mumbai after completing a Green MBA from San Francisco State University and a Masters Diploma in Environmental Law, prior to which he had a successful career in the Indian Entertainment Industry. After featuring as a guest columnist for various newspapers in India, he currently writes for delWine and is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW).  ‘Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai’ is his first novel.

First of all, thank you for the interview.

Autism and schizophrenia aren’t popular themes among Indian authors. Esp. not the ones who write for the masses. How did you come up with the idea of Babloo, an autistic hero for your story and what was the inspiration behind your story? 

The idea of Babloo’s character germinated from the conversation with a friend of mine.  He is much older and has the similar mental disorders as Babloo’s character.  He is very intelligent and used to follow newspaper headlines, and report the same to me.  One day, he was irked by a headline about a particular railway crime and said that he wished he could do something about it.  That got me thinking – what if he could do something about it?  How would he do it?
This friend of mine is in India.  A year later, I moved to the U.S. for graduate business school.  When I sat down to write, this conversation with him came to mind.  I created the character of Babloo and wanted to give him a life on paper.  At the time, all I had was Babloo.  The story unfolded with each page.
Sapna, I wouldn’t call Babloo an autistic hero.  He is a hero who happens to have autism.  The difference is that he is prompted by his disorders rather than a sense of reasoning.  This helps him create an alternate reality for himself.
Even though Babloo is just a character in the book, for me he became a real person.  So to answer your question, my inspiration was to give Babloo a life and help him find normalcy in his world which had ostracized him all along.
Did you face any challenges while writing the novel? 
The biggest challenge was getting into Babloo’s head.  Because of his disorders, he lacked a sense of reasoning typical of normal adults.  Though I had researched about his disorders, it didn’t seem enough to understand him or his thought process.
At the time, I was just about to start my MBA program at San Francisco State University (SFSU).  SFSU has a renowned Psychology department.  I met with one of the faculty and spoke to him at length, trying to get an understanding of these disorders.  Please understand that at this point, I had no idea that I was going to write a novel to be later pushed for publication.  It was just a story I wanted to get on paper, and was actually looking to write it as a screenplay.  Anyway, this faculty member put me in touch with people with such disorders, on the condition that I would talk to them normally, and not try to learn about their disorders from them.  So, over a duration of time, I spent time with these people who soon became friends.  Our interactions helped me shape up Babloo’s character.
That is a commendable effort. Your friend must be proud of you. Now that you have mentioned you didn’t have an idea of publishing your work. What prompted you to publish the story and what were the challenges publishing as a first time author? 
Once I wrote the book, I kept it on the shelf and dived into the MBA program.  I was also working full-time, so didn’t really have time to think about the book.  However, I did give it to my wife and some other friends to read and they loved if for the story and “easy style of writing.”  They were the ones who encouraged me to push it for publication.  So I started writing to literary agents in the U.S., and received only rejection letters.  I asked the last agent for her feedback and as to why no one wanted to pick up my work.  She told me that the book didn’t cater to Western sensibilities and so it would be difficult to find takers in the Western market.  Coincidently, she was aware of the rising mass fiction market in India and advised me to push it for publication in India.  So, I rewrote the entire book and started writing to publishers in India.
As a first-time Author, my main challenge was publicity.  I realized that an author has to do a large amount of marketing and publicity on his/her own, which makes it challenging for someone without the financial resources.  People should hear about a book before they see it in a bookstore, otherwise they are hardly likely to pick it up.  A similar comparison, Sapna, would be when you go to a multiplex to watch a film.  If you have no particular film in mind, you are more likely to watch a film, the promos of which you have already seen and liked.  Even if you see a film hoarding at the theatre with big stars, but which you have heard and know nothing about, you are less likely to choose that film over ones that have repeatedly caught your attention.
Our country is diverse, and getting the attention of a Pan India audience is a huge effort and can prove very expensive.  For authors who enter the market with backup financial resources, they are able to get a good publicist on board and push press to the doorsteps of their audiences in both cities and the inner areas.  For other authors, first-time or otherwise, they have to hope that word-of-mouth gets their book to readers.
In my case, I was fortunate enough to get press so far without a publicist.  But I still feel that the book hasn’t completely reached it’s audience and hope that the positive reviews that the book has garnered so far, goes further through word-of-mouth.  On another note, Mr. Prahlad Kakar and Mr. Kabir Bedi were kind enough to read the book and lend their comments to the front and back cover of the book respectively.  They both are celebrities adored by mass audiences, and their endorsements add further credibility to that of the positive print and online press so far.

Which authors or books have influenced your writing the most? And what genre do you like reading the best?

Well Sapna, I have been reading various authors right since school so it would be tough for me to pinpoint as to which authors or books have influenced me the most. My writing is more influenced by films as I have worked in the Hindi Film Industry for many years. But, two of my favourite Indian Authors are S. Hussain Zaidi and Vikram Chandra. In their books, they have given Mumbai a unique voice and captured the true essence of the city and its people.

I like reading mostly fiction. I do read non-fiction but only when it’s based on crime, an inspiring person, or a unique philosophy.

Are you working on any other book currently or do you plan to bring out another book anytime soon? And what genre would that be?

I have finished my second book, but haven’t placed it for publication yet. Now that ‘Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai’ has received an encouraging response, I’m going to go further in the process with my second book. It’s set in the Hindi Film Industry, and is laced with all the humour and drama of a fun, fast-paced read.

Anything you’d like to say to aspiring authors.

Keep writing! Getting published is very difficult, but not impossible. And it requires a huge effort from the writer’s side. You may get rejection letters, but if you have a good book, you will definitely find a publisher. You just have to keep trying.

In India, nonfiction sells more than fiction. So if you’re writing nonfiction, you need to be somewhat of an expert on the subject (proven through your credentials) and you shouldn’t have a problem in finding a publisher.

There are a lot of fiction writers out there. And just because you’re a good writer, doesn’t necessarily make you a good story-teller. So write a fiction, only when you have a story to tell. That will make it much easier and make you more appealing as a writer. Of course, don’t hide your book as the next ‘masterpiece’ and let it collect dust on the shelf! Share it with close ones who you can trust with honest feedback. These are the people who are going to buy your book so their opinions matter! The criticism might hurt in the beginning, but it will steer you in the right direction!

Thanks Rishi. All the Best for your future ventures!

Blog of the Year 2012 and Reality Blog Award

Wow! Two awards in a single day. Must be my best blog day. First the Blog of the year 2012 and then reality award

Blog of the Year Award 2012

Blog of the Year Award 2012

Thank you Randomuzings. I feel deeply honored that you think my blog is worthy of this award.

I am greatly touched. Thanks again 🙂

Here are the rules to accept this award:

1 Select the blog(s) you think deserve the ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award
2 Write a blog post and tell us about the blog(s) you have chosen – there’s no minimum or maximum number of blogs required – and ‘present’ them with their award.
3 Please include a link back to this page ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award – and include these ‘rules’ in your post (please don’t alter the rules or the badges!)
4 Let the blog(s) you have chosen know that you have given them this award and share the ‘rules’ with them
5 You can now also join our Facebook page – click the link here ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award and then you can share your blog with an even wider audience
6 As a winner of the award – please add a link back to the blog that presented you with the award – and then proudly display the award on your blog and sidebar … and start collecting stars…

ok, let’s start…

Blog of the Year Award 2012

Here are my nominations for the Blog of the year 2012 award:

http://ifoundx.wordpress.com/

http://vinca11.wordpress.com/

http://klens.wordpress.com/

http://vinicooksveg.wordpress.com/

http://mashedmusings.wordpress.com/

http://goss-coaching.com/

http://whatlifesays.wordpress.com/

http://travelspirit333.com/

Collect the star and grab some more before it ends!

Reality Blog Award

reality-blog-award

reality-blog-award

Thanks Vina for the lovely award. I am truly grateful.

Below are the rules for the REALITY blog award:

1. Answer the 5 questions

2. Nominate 8 other bloggers

Questions:

1. If you could change one thing, what would you change?

A. If I could, I would change and reverse the environmental damage we humans have done to the Earth.

2. If you could repeat an age, what would it be?

A. I would be 21. Just out of college and you have all the confidence in the world and you think  you can take the world in your stride.

3. What one thing really scares you?

A. Creepy , crawly creatures

4. What is one dream you have not completed, and do you think you’ll be able to complete it?

A. A World tour and yes I think I can. Being a little optimistic here 🙂

5. If you could be someone else for one day, who would it be?

A. Hmmm I would like to be Neil Armstrong the day he landed on the moon.  I’d literally be “over the moon” 😀

Nominations:

http://xperiencematters.wordpress.com/

http://randomuzings.wordpress.com/

http://thecosmoiyengar.wordpress.com/

http://dreamtheimmpossible.wordpress.com/

http://clickdpic.wordpress.com/

http://bhavanapenned.wordpress.com/

http://musenmotivation.wordpress.com/

http://mannbikram.wordpress.com/

Happy Blogging! 🙂

The Bankster – Book Review

The Bankster

The Bankster by Ravi Subramanian

The Bankster is a thriller written by Ravi Subramanian. I hadn’t read any of his earlier works so I started with a blank slate.

If I have to write a one-word review for the book that would be “Brilliant!”. I just loved reading the book and what’s more interesting is that immediately after I put down the book I was on the net researching the facts. The story just stayed on for a while even after I had finished reading the book. At times the scenes sounded very Bollywoodish but which Indian doesn’t love Bollywood drama.

Though the title sounds like a piece of fiction on the banking industry, it involves much more than that. The author narrates three stories in the book.

1. First about a CIA agent involved in a weapons deal in exchange for blood diamonds in Angola.
2. A man from Kerala, who wants to seek justice for people in his region, as per the promise made to his dying son years ago.
3. An International retail bank in Mumbai, some of whose employees are found dead mysteriously.

Then he finally strings the three stories together to connect the dots and create a masterpiece of a story. What I found interesting is the International angle to the story. Stringing all the incidents together as a part of a global conspiracy involving the likes of the CIA, crime syndicate, resource-rich, war-stricken nations and the major World Powers. It is nice to see an Indian author weave a story involving the Cold war, the Chernobyl disaster, the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the proxy wars in Africa.

Like they say in Hindi “Haathi ke daant khane ke alag, dikhane ke alag”, the face put up by nations and their actions are quite different from their behind-the-screens behaviour. The power politics played by the big nations and the covert operations of the likes of CIA isn’t a new topic and quite a few Hollywood movies have successfully used this to make hit movies. The use of arms trade to further foreign policy objectives is quite obvious in the middle-east and Africa but does it happen even in India? Or may be it happens in a slightly different form here. God only knows or may be some closer to God would also know. The fact the author talks about some very recent happenings in our country makes you wonder which part of the book is fiction and which is a fact.

The book spans across finance, World-politics, corporate-politics, romance, crime and mystery. The author has dealt with some very current and relevant topics like money laundering, foreign-funded NGOs mis-using the funds and very cleverly stayed clear of the religious angle of it.

Only the plot is predictable at times and I would have liked it if the author elaborated more on the promise made by the old man to his son. Since the author is claiming ‘the promise’ to be the main motive behind all the old man’s actions. The pace is quite decent and the book is a great read. Especially if you are into banking, thrillers or politics. Pick it up from the nearest book store as soon as you can 🙂

Book: The Bankster
Author: Ravi Subramanian
Pages: 364 pages
Cost: Rs.250 (Mine was free from Blog adda and author signed too 😀 )
Publisher: Rupa Publications (2012)

Final verdict:
9/10

The Wall Street Journal has rightly called Ravi Subramanian ‘The John Grisham of Banking’. Next, I will pick up other books of his that I haven’t read.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com . Participate now to get free books!

The Krishna Key – Book Review

The Krishna Key

The Krishna Key – Ashwin Sanghi

When I hear Ashwin Sanghi, I get reminded of Chanakya’s Chant and the masterpiece it was. Knowing  history thoroughly well and drawing parallels requires great deal of research and amazing creativity. If you think that is difficult try being a conspiracy theorist. Digging into history and mythology, drawing parallels, using existing places, artifacts and research data and making a story around it is indeed a commendable job. Kudos to Ashwin Sanghi for that.

The story is a first person narrative by Krishna and the author has maintained the same style of writing as before. alternating between the distant past and a present day parallel. The book is a great read for those who would like to know more about Mahabharata and Krishna’s life history. Very enlightening in terms of research related to Indus Valley Civilization and the third(invisible river) of the rivers from the Triveni Sangam, “The Saraswati”. The facts are provided in such a way that leaves you wondering if the work indeed is a work of fiction. The pace of the book is pretty decent.

That was for the good part. The not so nice part is the book holds your attention in the beginning but fails as it progresses further. Much like a great movie before interval but starts failing just after it. I was disappointed with the ending. Not because of it’s spiritual ending (the author is free to write an ending that pleases him) but because there was no clarity about what happens to Taarak Vakil, the supposed tenth avatar of Krishna or the Kalki. Also, I felt the author is trying to string too many conspiracy theories into one book when he also brought the Taj conspiracy into picture. When I started reading I was happy that India has found it’s very own “Dan Brown” but at times he sounds a tad too Dan Brownish. The striking similarity between this work and a Dan Brown work is a little disappointing for me personally. Also, Confusing Radhika for Priya in some pages, isn’t great editorial work. I found three such instances in pages 301, 389 and 456 where Radhika is mentioned as Priya. Especially the first one, I was reading fully engrossed and the line said “Priya had then been lowered to the base of the mountain” and I was caught off-guard. It took me a moment and re-reading a few lines again to realise it is a mistake. Nonetheless, it had already done the damage by interrupting the flow.

Overall, though the book is a great read and does give you a lot of ‘aha’ moments and I would definitely recommend the book. Though packed with history doesn’t make you feel overwhelmed. Especially if you are an aficionado for history or conspiracy theories, you must read this.

Book: The Krishna Key
Author: Ashwin Sanghi
Pages: 464 pages
Cost: Rs.250 (Flipkart offers it at Rs.175 with discount)
Publisher: Westland (2012)

Final Verdict. 8/10

P.S: On a somewhat related note, I would someday like to see a program on history channel, a theory based on this book. That would be an indication that India has truly arrived on the political scene.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

One and one are sometimes eleven

I was tagged by Bikram to answer the eleven questions and tag people in turn. Hence this post. 🙂

The Rules first:
1. You must post the rules.
2. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
3. Tag eleven people and link to them on your post.
4. Let them know you’ve tagged them!

Here are my Bikram’s questions

1. What is it that you love to do, most, and would rather spend your time doing it?
I love reading and watching good movies. Give me chance and I will spend an entire lifetime reading books and watching movies.

2.What do you think others think of you?
Hmmm. I am not sure but two things that people invariably say about me: intelligent and silent.

3.Where do you see yourself end the next 10 years?
John Lennon said “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”. 🙂

4. What is one quality of yours you admire the most?
I think optimism. I am an incorrigible optimist. Though I do get cynical at times but it doesn’t take long to recover from those cynical bouts.

5. Have you played a trick on someone that went bad, What is it?
Way back in school, one evening at my friend’s place, I was planning to scare a friend of mine in which I succeeded but as a side effect her Mom also got really scared. If I wasn’t in her good books I guess she would have thrown me out of her house 😳

6.Who would you say made you who you are today (other than your parents, if that is what you would answer ).
I believe we are a sum of all of our combined experiences in life. I’d say a lot of people have a contribution to who I am today but yes a major share does go to my Parents. 🙂

I was lucky to have some wonderful teachers, friends and some amazing bunch of people around me during my growing years. I so miss them. Staying away from home and not being in touch with many of these people makes me sad.

7. What gives you joy?
Hmmm… listening to that wonderful song that makes you lose yourself, Paani puri, travel to a place that I have never been before, a surprise gift, a surprise phone call, sitting on the sea-shore and listening to the waves hit the shore and all those little things that make you realise life is beautiful.

8.Who is your favourite hero and Why?
Shahrukh Khan. I like his larger than life image on-screen and his quick-wittedness off-screen. Also, the fact that he is a family man. 🙂

9.Why do you blog?
It started as an experiment, a place to rant, continued as a time pass. I kept going for the love of writing and sharing my thoughts. When I was demotivated the fact that my blog is read and people commented and kept coming back made me come back too. Once I discovered the real power of blogging and made some wonderful friends through it, I fell in love with it and haven’t looked back since then.

10.Do you believe in love stories , if yes why?
YES. They are one of the things that make life beautiful 🙂

11.Tell us an incident that you remember always.
The first time I made a friend who stayed on as my best friend and we remained so for many years to come. It was our second day at school(kindergarten) and in the tiffin break while I was trying to open my tiffin box it fell down. This girl from the same class came forward, put half of her tiffin in the lid of her tiffin box and offered it to me. I smiled and took it. I don’t even remember if we exchanged names but that marked the beginning of wonderful journey and the happy times we shared later.

Here are my questions:

1. Given a chance, which is the one movie character you would like to play?

2. If you were an animal who do you think you’d be and why? (Humans are animals too but you can’t use that as an answer)

3. A genie appears in front of you and grants you three wishes what would you ask for? (You can’t ask for more wishes for a wish)

4. If your life were a song, what would the title be?

5. Which one would you rather have beauty, brains or strength?

6. Do you think it is the man who should be paying on a date?

7. Do you believe in ‘Love at first sight’?

8. Name one movie you really hated.

9. Name one house-hold chore you really hate

10. What is your most treasured possession?

11. One thing about yourself that many people don’t know

Now the tagging part. Trying to find eleven people who haven’t been tagged 😯

Bhavana
Pallavi
Tangyorangesour
Saumya
Harshad
Felix
Mayur
Patty
Michael
Sherry

And the list is not exhaustive. Anyone can pick the tag. Do pick the tag if you liked the questions.  😀

Phew! this was tougher than what I thought 🙂