Monday, June 13, 2011

Interview with Parul Sharma

It is a pleasure to be sharing with all the readers, an e-interview with Parul Sharma - the much acclaimed and appreciated author of 'Bringing Up Vasu' (reviewed here) and 'By the Water Cooler' (reviewed here).

Do you think you were destined to be an author or did the writing happen by chance for you?

Well, I have always loved writing but the way things were going, it seemed unlikely that I would ever make a profession out of writing. I did the usual thing - studied Economic (not Literature) in college, got a diploma in communications, worked for brands - before I finally decided to reach out for that elusive book. It was a risk, a huge one in fact but it paid off.

When did you realize, you have enough content to start on a big project like 'Bringing up'? What all preparations went into writing your first book?

I did not have content to begin with. The content appeared as I sat and wrote. I am not a very structured person and that reflects in my writing. I don't have ready chapter themes or even characters before starting out. They come about once I commit myself to sitting at my desk everyday and putting in the hard work.

Which piece of writing turned out to be more fulfilling for you - 'Bringing up Vasu' or 'By the Water Cooler' and why? Are you satisfied with the end products?

I think I am a very long way from being fulfilled by any of them. Honestly, I can't bear to read them without cringing. That's just the way it is. Hopefully this means that I will attempt to improve on them in further books.

What is your dream project? What other things are you working on right now?

I'd like to write a funny travel book. I have a feeling I'd enjoy that. I am working on a novel right now and editing another script too.

How has been your experience so far in the literary world? Any highs or lows being a part of this space, that you would like to share here?

Oh I don't know how much a part I am of the literary world. I don't know many authors or people who work in the industry. It's liberating to be your own boss and do the one thing that you are good at but it's a lonely sort of place to be in.

There have been a lot of budding authors on the Indian literary firmament. Who among them are your favourites? What significant changes do you see in Indian literary scene?

Yes, you are right in that but I haven't been doing too much reading other than my old favourites. I plan to rectify that at the earliest.

I think there is something of a genre-creation happening in the Indian literary scene and publishers are open to books that don't fall into traditional genres.

Both your books are contemporary fiction, do you want to continue in this space itself or would you like to diversify in different genres as well? Which would be your preferred one if you think of doing so?

I am open to writing everything - mysteries, travel, non-fiction.

Who among these - the one protagonist in 'Bringing up Vasu' and two in 'By the water cooler', defines you closely as a person ?

None and both, I would say. There is a bit of me in each and every character that I have written about but they are not all me.

Would you like to share any potential pitfalls of this world with the aspiring authors ? Any suggestions?

Oh but I don't think I have reached a place where I can offer advice to others. I'd say, read 'On Writing' by Stephen King. He says it all.

Book Review : By The Water Cooler

Title : By The Water Cooler

Author : Parul Sharma

Publisher : Westland

ISBN : 978-93-80658-37-7

Mini and Tanya are good friends who - studied together, left their previous jobs in an ad agency and are about to commence a new phase of their career in a fashion house - JR Enterprises. They begin their first day in the new place with stars in their eyes and hopes to have a promising career. But within the first day, the reality comes crashing down to them and their dream turns into nothing less than a far fetched one. The HR manager who hired them gets fired on their induction day and CEO is a conceited, egoistic person who hunts for the opportunities to make his employees know how dimwitted they are and how they are nothing but big recruitment errors. To top it all Mini's boss Shipra takes keen pleasure in trying every possible way to wreck Mini's career.

Mini is more ambitious but grounded of the two while Tanya is a little queer and is more focused on her upcoming marriage with her boyfriend Prithvi. Mini is made the incharge of a critical project which is literally pushing a non swimmer into the deepwater without any protection, to survive or drown. Tanya on the other hand is literally removed to the basement next to the kitchen of the office and is deliberately kept away from any kind of work whatsoever. But both of them take these extreme shockers in their stride, Mini with grit and determination learns the hard fact 'corporate bitches are made, not born' and implements it to her benefit while Tanya uses her 'no-work' time to plan a perfect and a well organized wedding for herself.

The readers are on to a roller coaster ride with Mini and Tanya and their funny incidents.

The other characters like the office secretary who is a detective in her own rights, an oily personal assistance, a lovable old photographer, the attitude-throwing model - create a colourful ensemble and make the whole story an entertaining reading experience.

Parul Sharma has offered everything from office gossip to office politics, from friendship to back stabbing, office romance to treachery, management basics to self defined principles - typical 'all masala' corporate culture and how the water cooler aides in propagating the rumors and gossips. What I liked about Parul Sharma's writing is that she takes time to define and describe each character which feels like a slow progress initially but then the same characters are so beautifully etched in the minds of the readers that the scenes from the text can easily be visualized as if happening in front of the eyes. The narrative gradually builds and towards the end it reaches the peak which is the perfect time to peak, in my humble opinion.

As the right balanced proportion of all ingredients - is the key to having a delicious meal, so is the perfect mix of wit, humour, sarcasm and satire to have an enthralling and amusing page turner and 'By the Water Cooler' successfully manages to offer this lovely potpourri.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

pencil sketch...

an imitation of a sketch from here

Monday, June 6, 2011

Interview with Devdutt Pattanaik

An author, illustrator, orator and a mythologist - all rolled in one. Yes, this is Devdutt Pattanaik for you. His books - 'Jaya', 'The Pregnant King', 'Myth=Mithya' and many more are much acclaimed in the literary world. He has also penned down some wonderful children's books, a great way to introduce mythology in contemporary context. He has more than 20 titles to his credit including the children's books.

After having read his book 'Jaya' (reviewed here), I so wanted to know about the author's views on varied topics hence availed the opportunity of conducting an e-interview with him. Its my pleasure to be sharing his views with you all.

You are an esteemed author, an orator, a brilliant illustrator and well read mythologist. How would you like to be known as?

Mythology is the core; the rest are expressions of that mythology. And no, I am not a well-read mythologist. That assumes that what I am writing is merely regurgitating what others have written before, and there is nothing original. I feel I am finally expressing what mythology, especially but not just Indian mythology, is all about. Too long have we been fettered by mediocrity imposed by European and Amercian academicians and scholars who have never taken Indian wisdom into account.

How do you manage your time between these different vocations and which interests you the most? Do you ever feel that one of these gets lagged behind because more time and energy being spent on one of the other things?

Not really. I just go with the flow and do what takes my fancy.

Which is your favourite piece of writing among the ones that you have penned so far or do you feel the best is yet to come?

The one I am writing currently. There is no best. There is just bettering…

When did you start feeling that you do have something unique to offer in the literary world and should start writing?

After I passed out of medicine, somewhere around the age of 25. I never realized that what I took for granted and understood very easily was not very common.

What are research work has gone behind the written work that we see in your books? How long has been this journey? What has been your learning curve and where do you see yourself ten years from now?

No research. This is just natural for me. I keep learning as I write/draw/speak on the subject.

What is more fun and fulfilling - writing books for children or for adult readers? How do you make a balance between the two styles of writings? What comes naturally and easier to you?

Both are the same actually. The idea is the same. The method and vehicle changes with the audience.

Why and how did you pick mythology as your main area of interest?

Mythology picked me. I know nothing else. I am student of medicine and science and yet I understood this subject very effortlessly.

There are many versions of Mahabharata offering different perspectives and unique points of view, what do you think 'Jaya' offers which no other interpretation does?

It looks at the whole story with fresh eyes and not based on assumptions that are often based on Western linear templates.

How did 'The Pregnant King' happen?

I wanted to try my hand at fiction and the story just fell into place. I had finished two non-fiction books, one on women (Five Faces of the Divine Feminine by Inner Traditions) and one on queer tales (Man who was a woman, Haworth Publications) and I realized there were so many tales that people did not know and I wanted to create an age that people never could really visualize.

What do you see as the next step - as an author, an illustrator and a mythologist?

Nothing…just doing what I have always been doing….

Thanks Mr. Pattanaik!

Please check his site for more information.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Book Review : Moin And The Monster

Title : Moin And The Monster
Author : Anushka Ravishankar
Publisher : Puffin

Following one of the monster rules - Rule 17 : 'A Monster can be sent to the human world', an invisible monster enters Moin's life.
One night, in the dim darkness of his room, Moin heard something shuffling and sniffling under his bed.
'Who's that?' he squeaked.
'A bonster,' said a shrieky kind of voice.
Moin flashed his torchlight all over the room.
'Abonster, where are you?' he asked in a wobbly wisper.
'A monster, not abonster.'
'A m-m-monster? Where are you?' asked Moin.
'Udder the bed, obviously. Widd a very dusty old suitcase add a pair of blue socks which are horrible add sbelly. That's why I'b holding by dose.'
The monster is invisible but he threatens Moin to draw him as per his instructions to make him visible. But monster finds Moin a challenged artist and Moin thinks the monster does not know how to describe himself. And the end result is a pink colour monster (since Moin ran out of purple crayon and found pink colour closest to purple), with autorickshaw horns, bamboo (drumstick) legs, broom like feet (skis in Moin's terms) - all of this giving him an appearance of rather funny than fearsome and a monster is supposed to be fearsome not funny.
Shocked to see his legs, the monster grumbles - 'These are not bamboos, they're drumsticks. If I don't watch where I'm going, some cook will pluck them off and make a sambhar of them,'

But this is not all. The monster rule 54 says : 'A monster has to stay forever with the human who has given it a body', which means Moin and the monster are now stuck together. The trouble begins for Moin as he has to hide the monster from everybody including his parents. Monster's extreme liking for bananas gets Moin into trouble and monster's craving to sing in (not so) melodious voice makes Moin's parents believe that Moin is very keen on learning music and hence music classes begin for him.

One fine day, Monster decides to accompany Moin to school which leads to some very chaotic and hilarious situations in the school. The head girl considers the Monster as an illustration of an imaginary alien and chooses to stick him on the notice board along with the write up on the UFOs. Even the principal Mr. KuttiKrishnan finds himself in some medical emergency - nothing short of madness, calls the doctor and informs him that he has been seeing pink things and hearing things.
This is not all, the fun goes on till the very last page.

Anushka Ravishankar has successfully created the magic once again with 'Moin and the Monster', which will surely make children laugh heartily on almost every page. And lovely illustrations by Anitha Balachandran work wonderfully in tandem with the text. Clueless Moin while drawing the monster and the pink monster are really endearing to make the readers fall in love with them.

The nonsensical verses that the monster loves to sing reminded me of Dr. Seuss's style.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Book Review : 1) In Grandma's Attic 2) More Stories from Grandma's Attic

Title : 1) In Grandma's Attic (ISBN : 978-0-7814-0379-5)

2) More Stories From Grandma's Attic (ISBN : 978-0-7814-0380-1)

Author : Arleta Richardson

Publisher : B & B Media Group

'True Stories of Yesteryear with Timeless Lessons for Today'. Grandma's Attic Series is a treasure of stories brought to us by Arleta Richardson in a new avatar. She recalls the stories that her grandmother shared with her from the childhood spent on a nineteenth-century farm, in the company of her parents, two brothers and one very dear friend - Sarah Jane. These short stories transport us to that time by bringing out the history, family life, unflinching faith in the supreme power, values and life lessons that have withstood the tests of times. This series can truly be categorized as 'fun-filled' and 'character-building' series.

The late Arleta Richardson, once discovered a chest of secrets hidden away in her grandma's attic and every single article inside that chest brought out the old memories and a delightful story for her. Every patch on a quilt, every single button in the button box, a simple slate, the hoop of a hoopskirt, a slate and many such things make the grandma reminisce about her childhood days and provide a lovely trip into the past in the form of an enchanting story. Grandma is such a wonderful story-teller that while narrating the story about the particular article, it seems as if Arleta is under a spell and so will be the readers while reading these age old stories.

Grandma Mabel shares everything with Arleta, her adventures, misadventures and stories of mischief. A wonderful way to reiterate the fact that innocence of childhood and the fun of growing up remain the same across all times.

Besides giving a sneak peak in the lifestyles of those times, these stories work wonderfully in teaching some indispensable life lessons and moral values which are applicable to everybody at all times - lessons on honesty, truthfulness, pride, vanity, deceit and many more. Arleta recalls all these stories and most of all the loving and magical touch of her grandmother which brought the past again to life in front of her eyes as if she is a part of those times herself.

The stories in the second book 'More Stories from Grandma's Attic' are equally fun to read as the ones in the first book, but they are more Christian-world centric and focus on teaching more. This time around, Arleta and her grandmother are actually staying at grandma's old farm house where Uncle Roy lives now. Every story evokes many emotions be it the one when pig wears doll's clothes or when Pa accidentally locks Mama in the cellar.

Readers will experience a myriad of human emotions through these endearing small capsules of fun and learning. These are basically Christian stories with a mention of verse from Bible or a little prayer here and there.

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