Monday, April 14, 2014

Fearless Women - 23rd April, 2014

THE SHIFT EXPRESS brings you FEARLESS WOMEN in which Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik speaks on the roles of spirited women in Indian mythology, Sampat Pal Devi describes how she fought against gender inequality with her powerful women band, THE GULABI GANG while Shubha Mudgal tells us how she made a place for herelf in the male dominated world of Hindustani Classical Music. It also showcases Nishtha Jain, a film-maker, and Radhika Vaz who breaks all boundaries with her humour.

Date: Wednesday 23rd April, 2014
Time: 10.30am to 1.30pm
Venue: Alliance Francaise de Delhi Auditorium, Lodi Estate, New Delhi
Fee: Rs. 2800
Contact: Titiksha Goel
Tel: +919911636572


Be there to watch eminent panelists discuss, 'AFFAIRS of INFIDELITY' in which a lawyer, a psychologist and film-maker debate INFIDELITY, an issue often left unaddressed.

Book Review : Beyond School

Title : Beyond School
Author : Chitra Anand
Publisher : Leadstart Corp
ISBN : 978-93-83562-40-4

The author, Chitra Anand is a postgraduate in Physics and holds an Education Degree. Beyond School is her first novel inspired by her journey as an educator.

'Beyond School' story revolves around a grade twelve student Shail at an Indian School in Muscat. As countdown has begun for his board examinations, his parents Sushil and Urmila are at their wits ends. They cannot find any way to convince their son to study for the board exams while Shail leisurely goes about doing his other activities, which include - sleeping with abandon, dreaming about football or his girlfriend, watching re-runs of football matches on TV, texting on mobile phone for hours and much more. In short, a typical day in his life does not have any scope to accommodate study time. However, what Sushil and Urmila are unaware of is Shail's decision to not appear for the exams at all this year.

As the story progresses and as the examination days are approaching nearer, the pressure is soaring high for Shail to escape from his parents' focus and for his parents to make Shail study. Glady, the mentor in the school is approached for Shail's situation. She has a way of showing the students the side of the picture that they seem to be unaware of. She is a great counselor without being preachy. Her way of dealing with such situations is to get the student understand why and how a particular fixation of mind and heart starts driving the decisions and when that fixation is satisfied, how the pressure fizzles out. 'Tell people that they can have what they want and soon their fight for the want loses intensity.' She gives a new dimension to Shail's thinking so that he does not stay stuck with 'What is wrong if I don’t write the exams this year?'

 A few more sub-stories are intertwined along with Shail's narrative, including that of - Glady's uncomfortable past, Sushil and Urmila's struggle to get united and Roha as another student requiring Glady's counseling.

Chitra Anand highlights many areas that have gained immense significance in the lives of individuals who are at the cusp of adulthood. The unrestrained  access to information, gadgetry invasion, unabashed approach towards sexual issues and much more are subtly weaved into the fabric of the narrative. This gives an honest reflection of the society in which today's youth is functioning. Though an amateur author, Chitra has done justice to the idea that she wanted to convey through her writing. However, there are a few places where editing could have been more tight. Some of the incidents are unnecessary or too elaborate which could easily be done away with. 
A recommended read for young adults and their parents. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Book Review : Little Cloud's Quest

Title : Little Cloud's Quest
Author : Stephen Aitken and Sylvia Sikundar
Illustrator : Joyita Banerjee
Publisher : Katha
ISBN : 978-93-82454-13-7

One fine morning a little cloud is born. She looks around but doesn't find any companion or a playmate. Seeing her sad, the wind offers to give her a ride to up above in the vast sky. Some thin wispy clouds are floating there but they do not include the little cloud in their group because she looks different. While she tries to be like wispy clouds, Cirrus clouds pass her by and mock her for her slowness. A big cluster of fluffy clouds do not pay any attention to the little cloud either. They remain engaged in the hide and seek game that they are playing. Then the little cloud meets Cumulus clouds who reject her for her smallness.

The little cloud is really sad and cannot take her loneliness any longer. She starts shedding tears. What magic!!! The drops coming down from the cloud are greeted with mirth and happiness by the desert children who want the little cloud to stay with them for a while. Little cloud is delighted as she is wanted and cherished by these little children who are enjoying every drop of water that is falling from her. Soon her sad tears are replaced by joyful showers. The little cloud plays and  plays with them to her heart's content because she has found her friends now. She does not want to miss the magical gift that she has received and given to her new friends.

Katha books are committed to opening innumerable beautiful vistas for young children through the world of books. 'Little Cloud's Quest' is another step towards that objective. The authors have beautifully weaved an adventure around the clouds and the world high up in the sky in the book. As the little cloud riding on the wings of the wind floats over distant lands, she gets to meet different kinds of clouds and understands their specific characteristics. Children will get to enjoy the fun ride with the little cloud in her quest for friends to play with. As the story progresses, many interesting cloud facts are also introduced in a fun manner. This works as a perfect example for 'play and learn'.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Interview : Anandaa

A wonderful book - A Cupful of Aha! and equally wonderful author description of himself. I must post the exact message from author here. 

"About the Author

The author is possibly the only double PhD(one in Applied Psychology, the other in Comparative Tribal Music) who has spent multiple stints in several rehabilitation centres for problems ranging from drug abuse, mental breakdown, and schizophrenia. 

He then spent 8 years roaming the remote regions of the Himalayas - living with goatherds and monks, and often going several months with not a work spoken.

At ease with Prime Ministers and commoners alike; he has the unique ability to predict key events of your future just by looking at a photograph of your little finger.

P.S. : None of the above is true. The author is just the average John (or Jani or Janaradhan). does not matter.

The message is important; not the messenger."

How did the idea of 'A cupful of Aha!' occur to you?

Quite honestly – right out of the blue! J
I just started putting pen to paper (actually, fingers to keyboard) and the story literally wrote itself. I didn’t have the plot thought out – I just started with the base premise and went with the flow. After a point, the words wouldn’t come and I’d stop for the night. And then enjoy the suspense as I had no clue what was coming next. But the conversation between the two main characters did feel very real as I wrote.
So – divinely inspired or temporary schizophrenia – I’m not sure. But I loved the process and the end product!

What was the objective of putting the wisdom of life in words?

Thank you – very flattering words – ‘wisdom of life’! But seriously, I was just sharing some insights and a quirky perspective. I’m in no way qualified to expound on such matters; but as I’ve said in the book - ignore the messenger, the message is still very relevant for you.

How much of what you have written did you actually experience?

Some of it, yes – and some of it I deeply yearn to instill more in my everyday life. I’m extremely grateful to the many Masters who have graced my life and pulled me along – kicking and screaming sometimes – on the path of self-discovery.

Which one thing do you want the readers of 'A cupful..' to take with them?

I’ve had very different takes on the book from people who have read it so far – from ‘simply enjoyable’ to ‘deeply philosophical’. And some of my friends have been puzzled by certain twists in the tale (again, different ones). So I think the book is more like a mirror – it seems to reflect what you need to see.
But if the book elicits a few smiles, and leaves you with a few questions – I think my job’s done.

What do you plan to write next? Is there any dream writing project that you have in mind?

I do have a couple of ideas I’m mulling over. And of course, my dream is that the next book also writes itself!

Which authors do you like reading the most - Indian and Foreign authors? Can you please name some of the books that have motivated and inspired you the most?

This is a difficult one. Because I just love to read (and re-read), and I read everything from fiction to philosophy to comics, and usually read 3-4 books in parallel. I close my eyes and at least 15 names come to mind – so I think I’ll skip this one!

How has been your journey of being an author?

A refreshingly different break from the corporate world I spend so much time in! If you thought writing a book is the hard part, wait till you figure out the process of getting it to print! And here I’d like to a say a Big Thank You to the team. More than the professionalism and great quality, what impressed me most was how helped convert the entire experience of getting my book to print into sheer joy - it felt like a gang of good (and talented) friends were jamming to create some awesome music together!

What suggestions would you want to offer to budding writers?

Just one – stop waiting for advice! Listen to your heart and just start writing!

Click here to buy the book.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Book Review : Culling Mynahs and Crows

Title : Culling Mynahs and Crows
Author : RK Biswas
Publisher :Lifi Publications
ISBN : 978-93-82536-19-2

The author’s note just in the beginning of the book mentions that Culling Mynahs and Crows is set at a time when the city of Kolkata was known as Calcutta, which is why I have used the earlier name for the city.

Read the complete review at Spark - the online literary magazine.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Interview : Sarita Varma

Sarita Varma is not new to literary field. She has contributed short stories for the Chicken Soup series and has written many articles for magazines and websites. She is actively associated with the Multiple Sclerosis Society of India. Writing transports her to a different, magical world of make believe. 

When did you start writing and how has been your journey as an author so far?

I have been writing forever! As  a schoolgirl, I and my friend, author Anjana Appachana, would write stories to entertain each other when we had exhausted what the libraries had to offer. In the past two decades, I have written for NGO publications like PLAN INDIA & MSSI, online websites and contributed stories for a couple of Chicken Soup books.  As you can see the journey has been varied and  unplanned and I have taken life pretty much as it has come. My active association with the Pune chapter of MSSI ( Multiple sclerosis society of India),  and looking after my family has kept me busy. When I was approached by Indirom, now Indireads to write a romantic novella meant  for e publication I jumped at the offer and that's how 'Girl From Fatehpur' was born!

What was the inspiration behind your novella - Girl from Fatehpur? Why novella and why not a full length novel?

As an army child, I have lived in small towns  and my own family is from Allahabad. The transition as an adult to the metros of Kolkata and Mumbai inspired the novella. I think it is interesting the way girls from small towns change and adapt to a faster paced life yet retain the values of their upbringing. That's not to say that some don't go overboard!  My heroine is a little old fashioned !
The length of the novella was decided by the publisher because it was in e format. I myself would be happy with a longer format.

Are you satisfied with the final version of 'Girl from Fatehpur'? Do you think you could have improved it more?

As my first serious writing of substantial length, the book is very special to me although I don't think any writer is ever satisfied with the final product!  There is always room for improvement! However, you also have to heed the advice of your editors and publishers and manage deadlines. I know I could have  developed the situations/conflict better in a slightly longer format and hopefully in my next effort I will.

What is next after this? What is your dream piece of writing?

I have always been fascinated by the historical genre and my next piece of writing deals with our pre independence days.

Which genre of books do you enjoy reading the most? Who are  your favourite authors - Indian and foreign?

I enjoy historical romances  with a light hearted touch, especially the books by Georgette Heyer and also the  detective writings of Ellis Peters and Ruth Rendell. Ruskin Bond, Anjana Appachana and Anuja Chauhan are the  Indian writers I admire most. I think the sheer familiarity of the local atmosphere in writings by Indian authors makes all the difference to readers and, may I add, the quality of writing too is as good as any in the English speaking world. 

How difficult/easy it is for an amateur writer to get published these days? What all roadblocks one is required to surmount in order to see the final published product?

While it has always been difficult for writers to find sympathetic publishers, the opportunities now offered on a vast, international level by electronic media have been truly mind boggling! The e format idea is slowly catching on and Indireads is a path-breaker in popularising  South Asian literature.  Any good publisher will meticulously edit your writing and even suggest changes. It helps to have an open mind to suggestions and  constructive criticism...after all, you do want your book to reach a wide audience and editors can provide the much needed objective view of your writing. It is a good idea to submit drafts and meet necessary deadlines. Later on, it is best to cooperate with the publisher to promote your book.

What do you have to say about Indian literary scene? What all changes are taking place in this field?

The Indian literary scene is dynamic and interestingly poised.  There is a huge potential market of English readers in India  and slowly the writing is reaching out to varied groups of readers in the sub-continent and outside. Literary festivals, book readings, the easy availability of books not just in book stores but also through online stores  all help generate interest and hopefully sales.

What are the areas where Indian writings lag behind their foreign counterparts?

Indian writers don't lag behind in quality of writing but perhaps they do so in marketing them. The  common view  is that the subject matter/ cultural atmosphere/story line of Indian writing  may be too India-centric or exotic to be internationally appealing...although my own personal view is that a good book always has universal appeal. I believe this will change as the world gets more connected through electronic media and travel.

What suggestions would you offer to the budding authors?

Simple advice for budding authors is  they should be true to themselves and should  know their  subject matter well to create the right atmosphere. Stick to simple story lines till they have gained experience. There are many book clubs/associations where it is possible to promote  books and networking helps but the best is  still to find a good committed publisher. While it is now easier  to self publish books through online websites, it is not easy to market the book. 

You don a lot of hats during a single day, which of the activities that you engage in is the most satisfying for you?

Of the many roles I play during the day , the most satisfying is that of mother! Not that I can do much of that now with both my children grown up and living ' saat samundar paar'. There is another hat I like to wear when I can ....and that is chilling out with my good friends. In their company I am once again a happy go lucky teenager:)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Book Review : Girl From Fatehpur

Title : Girl From Fatehpur
Author : Sarita Varma
Publisher : Indireads

When I was asked to review a romantic novella, I was not much interested in reading yet another book of this genre. Although 'Pride and Prejudice' still happens to be one of my all time favourites but then it is 'Pride and Prejudice', a different class where everything from characters, situations to feelings are dealt with utmost care and aestheticism. Unfortunately the new age romance novels are not considered complete without some dose of those 'scenes' in them. I have a big grouse that innocent and decent romantic stories are hard to find. But 'Girl From Fatehpur' was like a whiff of fresh air which contains all elements to bring a pleasant smile on a reader's face.

I always maintain that a story can aim to make an impression on readers if it offers something new either in terms of plot or in the execution of the same. If neither of these get satisfied then readers feel cheated. Sarita Varma's story excels in the execution category. It is a simple story of a small town girl Sanjana, who is now working in Mumbai. She happens to be the point of adoration of one of her seniors Krish who proposes her for marriage. But something in Krish does not make Sanjana feel the way she wants to. Before committing herself to a relationship with Krish, she wants to give herself some time to think it through. A family wedding comes as a perfect escape to distance herself from expectant eyes of Krish for sometime.

There she happens to meet Rajan - a childhood friend and a neighbour. As a young teenager she had nurtured some tender feelings for Rajan but Rajan was at the threshold of giving wings to his life in the promising land of US. Back in Fatehpur, during the marriage preparations there are ample situations in which they are thrown together and this gives them the chance to know each other better. But do they really know each other better now? Does Rajan muster the courage to overcome his fear of commitment which he had inadvertently developed seeing failed marriage of his parents? Would Krish be able to woo Sanjana in the wedding itself? The marriage commotion, various preparations, the kumbh mela, all add beautiful colours to the narrative.

Sanjana is portrayed as a pretty, loving and simple girl with her head rightly placed on her shoulders. Rajan is a doting friend to Sanjana and is clearly in an unfamiliar situation when he confronts his own feelings. A commitment wary person, Rajan finds himself at loss of words when he is pitted against Krish. 

The impeccable and lucid language and taut editing - deserve special mention. Language is perfectly balanced, neither unnecessarily flowery nor low on adorning the proceedings appropriately. The characters are neatly created and developed. A feel good story that would leave readers with happy and pleasant feelings. Perfect for short, fun light-read. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Book Review : Simple Sewing

Title : Simple Sewing
Author : Katie Lewis
Publisher : Cedar Fort
ISBN : 978-1-4621-1288-3

'Simple Sewing' offers 30 fast and easy sewing projects for beginners. It actually delivers what it promises - the projects are interesting, instructions are simple to follow, pictures are attractive that inspire one to try all the projects listed in the book.

Kate Lewis has a wonderful knack of breaking the big assignment into smaller, simpler and doable tasks and if one just keeps following the instructions as they are explained in the book, it is highly unlikely  that one would go wrong. By the time one accomplishes making even 3-5 projects one would have gained enough confidence to experiment a few things on one's own.

The projects are categorized under six sections - Accessories (bows, tote bags, sunglasses case, headband), Home (placemats, fabric basket, microwave heat pack, pillow pincushion, travel pillow and pillowcase), Celebrations (Scrap Flag Garland, Tooth Fairy Pillow, Pom-pom garland, Stocking), Baby( Reversible Bib, Burp Cloths, Swaddling Blanket, Sleep Mask, Door Bumper), School Days (Lunch Snack, Lunch Napkin, Pencil pouch, Journal Cover, Pocket Hand Warmers) and Toys (Soft Play Camera, Chalk Mat and Eraser, Memory Game, Bean Bags, Baby Doll Pillow and Blanket). Author deserves special appreciation for so thoughtfully selecting the items which are of great utility in the house.

Every project begins with - list of required material to make the item, a useful tip for how to get that required material, followed by precise step by step instructions that need to be followed in order to accomplish the task. But before plunging into sewing process, Katie has used initial 10-12 pages in explaining the sewing supplies, various kinds of fabrics, different stitches and terms and techniques that are used throughout the book. It is highly recommended that readers should first go through these pages thoroughly in order to avoid going back and forth once into the projects.

This book is a great tool for beginners, for those who are taking sewing classes, for children who are interested in learning the art of sewing and even for experienced seamstresses for some more interesting ideas. A perfect gift item for baby showers, house warming or other special occasions. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Interview : Parul Sharma

Parul Sharma is a well-known, witty author of three books - 'Bringing Up Vasu', 'By The Water Cooler' and her latest 'Tuki's Grand Salon Chase'. It is an honour to interview her on Literary Sojourn again after the successful release of her third book. (First interview can be read here.)

'Tuki's Grand Salon Chase' is your third book. How has been the journey as an author so far?

It's been great though obviously there are challenges that one encounters. My voice is evolving, and that fills me with self-doubt, wondering if I am following the right path (not that I have any control on it, to be honest). That is why it is extremely encouraging to hear reviews commenting on my growth as a writer. That is what I am in this for, to be as good a writer as I possibly can be. 

How do you decide on the plot of your books and what is the typical timeline that your books follow?

No one can really point out where the seed of a story first falls but I think in my case, it starts with people. People who are interesting and unusual and then their own story ceases to be and I give them the story I want to. Tuki's Grand Salon Chase took a few months to write and then a year and a bit for the edits, proof-reading, design and so on.  

Out of the three books that you have penned, which is the one that gave you the maximum satisfaction and why?

I honestly cannot answer that. Tuki involved the maximum effort though.  

Who was the inspiration behind the protagonist Tulika in Tuki's Grand Salon Chase?

A girl who cut my hair in an upmarket Bandra salon. A girl with so much naive ambition. All the girls who have ever cut my hair, really.
In your last interview on Literary Sojourn, you expressed your desire to write one funny travel book. Has there been any progress on that front?

None, unfortunately, except in my head where I am on the second draft already.  

What is next in pipeline after 'Tuki'?

I have an idea sort of building up but I haven't yet started working on it.  

Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

Greyer, fitter, much better travelled, much better read, kids all grown up, waking up every morning and sitting at a desk to write, many more books with my name on the shelf.  

Who are your favourite authors - Indian and foreign? Which genre of books do you enjoy reading the most?

Gaura Pant Shivani and PG Wodehouse. That doesn't change.  

What are your suggestions to the budding authors?

That doesn't change either. Focus on becoming the best writer you possibly can be, publishing will follow.  

How do you see the literary scene changing in India over the last decade and which areas still need more work?

There are just so many more books. Not all of them are of great quality. Some of them show such disdain for language and even grammar. I am hoping the market will evolve and really good first-time authors will emerge with new stories to tell, whose voices will be strong and engaging and we will all want to listen to the tales these people want to tell. 
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