Friday, December 28, 2012

“Love Until The Sun Grows Cold” – my entry to the GetPublished contest

This is the story after the separation; it’s about a love that is immortal, eternal and evergreen. Not everyone is in a relationship, but each of us is always part of a love story- either our own, or someone else’s.

Heartbreaks can be terrible- not just for those who are involved, but also for those who love them. Adapted from a real life story (the names and location has been changed). On a ferry from Singapore to Bintan Island, Indonesia, Tara meets a man she knew as a little girl.

With their past crashing into the present, Uday and Tara try to come to terms with the consequences of losing someone they both loved, in the process discovering a new side to their own personalities and redefining their relationship with each other.   


“....he had thought of a hundred different things to say to her then, to hurt her as much as she had hurt him. But he knew what would bother her most- silence on his part. He never replied. After Seher left, Tara seemed to have become a different person. She looked like she carried some secret with her; something that she would guard jealously, like treasure, but which seemed to give her some sort of masochistic pleasure.”

This is my entry for the HarperCollins–IndiBlogger Get Published contest, which is run with inputs from Yashodhara Lal and HarperCollins India.

If you liked the excerpt, please do vote for me here (Click on the link and click on the heart button). Your votes mean a lot :)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Home Is Where The Heart Is

Good morning beautiful world! Winter in Delhi has been kind, and it's somehow possible for us to wake up early. There's something I've been thinking a lot about lately. A number of my friends live by themselves here, away from family. For some, it means more freedom and adventure, while for others it  means having to find their own way around. This story I wrote is dedicated to those who might make the most of their life, no matter where they may live- but at the end of the day, always miss home. After all, 

*Home is where the heart is.*   

A gust of wind blew across her face as Tanya hurried down the deserted street, her head down, a bag of groceries in her arms. The sky had darkened and it had started to drizzle. She managed to get home before she got soaked to the skin. She pushed open the back door, stepped inside the house and sighed deeply. Although she’d been anxious to return home, now that she was there, she felt lonelier than ever. Tanya looked miserably at the kitchen table, where lay one coffee mug, which seemed to remind her that it had been a long time since she’d had company. She shut the door and was about to put the groceries away when she realized that she’d stepped on something.

A scarlet envelope lay on the floor, addressed to her in familiar script. Her heart suddenly racing, she stared at it for several moments before picking it up, blinking away her tears. She didn’t rip it open. Instead, she walked into her bedroom, put the letter on her desk and went back into the kitchen. It was raining heavily by the time she sat across the window, her hands cupped around a mug of coffee for warmth. Eventually, Tanya opened the envelope and pulled out a pink sheet of paper with words written in shiny purple ink.

Dear Mum,

I know you must be very surprised on receiving this letter- but probably not as surprised as I was when I found myself writing it. We both know that I’m more of a cell phone person. But I recently realized that talking on the phone can sometimes be very unsatisfactory when you have so much to say, and it’s hard to put your thoughts into words. I’m sure you’re thinking of the exasperated look that I used to get on my face whenever I’d see you writing letters to Dad and waiting for him to post a letter in reply, all the way from New York. I do hope that you’ll be just as happy on receiving my letter. I think I’ve finally started appreciating the joy that letter writing gives you.

I’ve been missing you and Dad a lot, of late. But I guess I’d kind of gotten used to Dad’s absence, what with him being abroad most of the time. I love you both with all my heart, but going away to college in a different city has been hard on me, and the one I miss more than anyone else is you. Sure, I miss my friends and teachers, the neighbors and our relatives- but they’re not the ones I think about when I return to my apartment every evening after a tiring day at college. I miss home, Mum. I miss the way you took care of me. You raised me to be independent and responsible, and I am able to survive by myself in this unfamiliar place. The people here are nice, even if some are not. And I’ve found friends who mean a lot to me. But I miss the best friend I have- you.

I wish you’d be here to wake me up gently on cold winter mornings, to walk with me in the park as I’d tell you how my day went, to cook meals for me, and to see me turning into a mature adult- just the way you’d told me to be. I miss the times we spent together, but I know that- no matter how far you may live- you’re always going to love and protect me. I love you, Mum. Thanks for everything you do for me. For reminding me that there’s someone who will always accept me the way I am. For making me strong. And most importantly, for giving me numerous reasons to smile.


Without much ado, Tanya pulled out a sheet of paper from her drawer and began writing, as she continued to smile through her tears.

*Where your treasure lies, there lies your heart also.*

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Talk Talk : Interviewing Author Rishi Vohra

Good morning, beautiful people! It's not everyday that one gets to interview such a talented, accomplished and charming author- Mr. Vohra sure knows how to put the good in your morning! I recently read his debut novel 'Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai' and I am thrilled that I got an opportunity to interview him. 

Rishi Vohra recently relocated back to Mumbai after completing a Green MBA from San Francisco State University and a Masters Diploma in Environmental Law (World Wildlife Fund – New Delhi), prior to which he had a successful career in the Indian Entertainment Industry. He has worked as an Assistant Director with Filmmakers Sohail Khan and Shimit Amin, and independently directed music videos, television shows, live stage shows and film award events.  

His other academic qualifications include a B.S. degree in Finance with a minor in Multi-Ethnic Film/Theatre from Arizona State University and an Associate of Arts (AA) degree in Film from Scottsdale Community College. After featuring as a guest columnist for various newspapers in India, he currently writes for delWine and is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW). 

This is not a typical love story. What was the inspiration behind this unusual book? Which incidents that you narrated were taken from real life?

Arpita, all incidents and characters are fictional. I got the idea of Babloo’s character from an older friend of mine who had similar problems.  Once I created Babloo’s character, I was keen on giving him a story, exploring his struggle, pain, and triumphs, and walking with him on his solitary journey, the sole purpose of which was to find normalcy and an identity for himself in the fact-paced life of Mumbai.

The love story is just a part of the book though the book cover may convey otherwise. It is about a young man defined more by his mental disorders than the person he is. So everything he sets out to do proves more difficult for him than ‘normal’ people which, includes professing his love. 

The novel has a quite a few underlying themes if you read between the lines. What would you say is the most important message that the book sends to the reader?

This book isn’t intended to deliver a clear-cut message to the reader. It is just meant to be a fast-read, and another source of entertainment to people. But for those who read between the lines, the message is that one has to go through an immense amount of struggle and pain to find happiness.

What other title would you have picked for the book if not this one?

I don’t know – didn’t really think of another one. I was a guest on a radio show a few weeks back – Planet Radio City 91.1 FM – with VJs Salil and Archana.  Salil had read the book and in the beginning of the show, he accidentally kept referring to the book as ‘Love on the Tracks of Mumbai.’  Maybe that could be one! :)

Hahaha...that sounds interesting! What led to the creation of the ‘Rail Man’? 

Well Arpita, when I sat down to write, I hadn't created a concrete story at the onset. I led the story unfold with each page. I reached a point where Babloo’s frustrations and hopelessness needed an avenue to be vented. That’s when I brought Rail Man in. So I knew that there was going to be a character called Rail Man in the story, but wasn't sure when I would bring him in.

Also, Rail Man is symbolic of what every Indian aspires to be. We all are intrinsically unhappy with the problems and injustice happening around us, but are unable or unwilling to do anything about them.  There is a Rail Man, a hero, in all of us.  Maybe, I created Rail Man because like everyone else, I aspire to be such a person.

Vandana comes across as an independent and ambitious girl, but there are times when she decides to give in to her 'Fate'. Would you say it shows a weakness of character or is it implied that sometimes it is more wise to adapt to one's circumstances? 

It depends, Arpita, on the circumstances that a person is in or has grown up in. Vandana is born into a lower middle-class Railway family.  Her family has certain beliefs about the way a girl should be sheltered, how much she should study, with whom and when she would get married, among other things. Though Vandana has a progressive mindset owing to her Mumbai education and her external influences, at the end of the day she is bound to a certain tradition. There are many people in India like that. Some people don’t have choices while others get fed up of fighting, and resign themselves to their fate.

So to answer your question Arpita, it’s not a weakness of character but more of a conditioning of it. 

Which character would you call your favourite and who do you actually relate to?

I relate to Babloo. And I have received a lot of mail where readers have told me that they relate to him as well.  He is a very diverse character, and we all think like him but never show it because society has conditioned us into behaving in a certain way. But Babloo, because of his mental problems, has no filtration process and says and acts in accordance with what he feels. 

With regard to my favourite character, they all are.  I created each and every one of them and they lived in my mind for a long time. Even though I moved on to another book, I can’t shake these characters off just yet. Whenever I go to Bandra Station and see the actual locations used in the book, I feel that there’s a Babloo, Vandana, Sikander, Mandeep Singh, etc. somewhere around watching me. It’s kind of eerie.:)

It sure sounds like it! Mandeep was one of my most favorite characters. Was there an alternate ending to the story?

No there wasn’t, Arpita. JAICO had asked me to explore some alternate endings, which I did. But I wanted to keep the 'masala' touch to it. The publisher read the two alternate endings I had sent them and after internal discussions, decided to stick with my original. I had planned to keep an open-ended conclusion for a sequel. But I think this story is best in its present form with a complete ending.

Would you hesitate to write about sensitive issues that might lead to controversy?

Never!  That’s the fantastic part about writing a book.  You can say and show what you want. People have the option to read the blurb, and decide whether they would want to read the book. Sensitive issues should be explored and written about, but in a way that no one feels personally offended.

How do you manage to balance the time you give to writing, work and leisure?

I love writing to the point that it feels like a leisure activity.  If I had a choice to write or to go out with friends, I would rather write.  It has made me an introvert of sorts, but it also brings me joy.  So for me, it’s just work and leisure like anyone else.

Hey, I too would choose to sit home and write, rather than go out with friends! Well, most of the time anyway. :P How did publishers- and family- react to your decision to pursue writing? 

My family didn’t know I was writing the book, till it was completed. And they didn’t know that I was pushing it for publication till I signed with a publishing company.

Wow! That must have been some surprise! Which author would you say you really look up to?

S. Hussain Zaidi.  I have never met him.  I admire his work.

What are your top five favourite novels that you would recommend to all bookworms?

Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger, 

Dongri to Dubai : Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia by S. Hussain Zaidi, 

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, 

Sounds of Silence by Nan Umrigar, 

and My Way: The Way of the White Clouds by Osho.

Which is the one literary character you'd love to be like?

Ian Fleming’s James Bond!

I love that answer! :D Which anti-hero would you say you admire, and why?

None.  I admire only heroes! :)

Which story from a book would you like to live, as the protagonist or any other significant character?

Good question, Arpita.  There was a character called Sartaj Singh in Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games.  The character is very unique in that he is dynamic, fearless, and has many layers to him. I wish that Vikram brings him back in one of his forthcoming novels.

Thank you! Final question- what advice would you give to aspiring writers who go through ‘Writer’s Block’?

Sit down and write/type your thoughts - whatever is going on in your head.  It will free your mind and enable you to quickly and surely overcome writer’s block!  The only way to overcome writer’s block is by writing! :) 

Well said, Rishi! :)

So that was how my conversation went with the debonair author. Hope you enjoyed reading the post! Do check out his novel 'Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai'. Looking at how things are going in the Capital, this book stands out for its sensitivity to the plight of women, among other things. Have a wonderful and safe day, people! 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Facts about Bengalis You Didn't Know

Hello dear readers!!

Yes, I am not dead yet. I'm on my bi-yearly pre-exam hibernation. Will be back soon. Till then I shall leave you with a few pearls of wisdom. This post is inspired from the Some facts about Punjab and Being a Punjabi post series by Bikramjit sir on his blog. (Check out his blog to read all his Oh-So-Awesome LOLarious posts). So here I bring you some lesser known (or ill famed) facts about us Bengalis-

1) Every third person in the state has a name with the "Debo" prefix, irrespective of gender. Debopriya, Deboprotim, Debashish, Debojit, Debopriyo, Debnath - the list is never ending my dear ones.

2) Every child in the house has two names - one his proper and official name that we call the "good name" (first thing Bengali uncles/aunts ask you when you meet them for the first time - "Shona, your good name??" ) and his pet name which is usually something not even remotely close to his real name and serves the purpose of embarrassing the person in public. Most common of them being shona, mona, babu, pocha, buri et cetera et cetera.

3) No meal is complete without a sweet - rosogolla, mishti doi, shondesh , cham cham or any other variant is a compulsory for every meal.

4) Sourav Ganguly and Mamata Banerjee are the universal "dada" and "didi" respectively (literally translating to "brother" and "sister" resp.). And we don't give a damn to what India scores in the match...all we need to know is if Dada scored a century or not. And anybody who has wronged our Dada dear is our sworn enemy. Topping this enemy list is Greg Chappel closely followed by Shah Rukh Khan.
This is our Mamata Di !!

5) This one is a corollary of 4 - Every male you meet on the road is your "dada" and your maid is your "mashi" (literally translating to "maternal aunt")...irrespective of their age.

6) Evenings are not complete without "parar adda" (sorry dear people, there is no direct translation for this word. The closest would be rendezvous, but then it wouldn't carry the essence of the evening "addas") and "telebhaja" (fries and fritters). Oh I forget the "chaa" (tea).
This one is called vegetable chop.

7) Corollary of 6 - Every street has a "chaa er dokan" (tea stall) and a "mishtir dokan" (sweet stall) and of course a phuchka wala (Golgappa stall. Sorry, dear non-Indian reader, there is no English word for this extremely unhealthy but heavenly yummy street food).

8) No dish is Bengali enough unless cooked in high-cholesterol Mustard Oil. Yeah, it is not good enough unless the spicy zesty fervor of the dish makes your eyes shed a few tears of joy (literally!!). And no meal is complete without fish.

9) Every Bengali is a born artiste - painter, poet, chef, singer, musician, dancer, football player, swimmer - either or all of these!! And no, I am not kidding. (Sadly, yours only is the most unskilled Bengali that was ever born on this planet :-| ).

10) We do not buy clothes during sales or on our birthdays like most people on this planet. Our species buys 15-20 sets of clothes a month or two before the Durga Pujo :D

I shall leave you with 10 for this time. Might add a sequel to this one if I come out alive after the exams :P

Till then, bubbye.
Wish me luck!!

P.S.- This post is not meant to insult or demean Bengalis. Everything here is meant to be taken in good humor and with a pinch of salt.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Surprise Package!

Good morning, beautiful world! This is the review for a book that truly was a surprise package:  ‘Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai’.

About the Author:  Rishi Vohra 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.
Having been a guest columnist for various newspapers in India, he currently writes for delWine and is a Certified Specialist of Wine. This is his first novel. For more information, log on to

1st Published:  2012

Price:  Rs.175/-

(I was sent a signed copy of the book by the author.)

ISBN: 978-81-8495-305-3

Genre: Fiction


Autistic. Schizophrenic. Psychotic.

They use these words to describe Babloo- the doctors, his family, his teachers, everyone. Except 

Vandana. She treats him the way he wants the world to see him.

Mumbai...the city that defines his ultimate desires. Will it allow him the love and ‘normalcy’ he so craves?

Vandana...yearns for a soul mate to rescue her from the confines of the Railway Colony they all live in. Is she looking in the right place?

Rail Man...a fearless, real life hero who succeeds in doing all that Babloo secretly wishes he could Babloo his inspiration or is it the other way round?

A random twist of fate on Mumbai’s endless, serpent- like, jangling local train tracks ties all these characters together in a complex weave of love, heartbreak and courage.

Babloo draws the reader into his fascinating, heart rending journey through the twisted, choked lanes of Mumbai  into an open space where he can finally exhale, be born again.


Darkness started swallowing the sunset and the fashion parade began retreating from the buzz of Carter Road. By the time my watch struck nine, Carter Road was mostly populated by cars making their way home. The days of the sturdy Fiats and Ambassadors were over, replaced mostly by big flashy cars adapted to Indian roads by joint ventures with foreign companies. These expensive cars were driven by two categories of people. The first were the ones who wanted to flaunt their wealth. Their windows had no tint so that they could be seen and envied. The other category comprised of those oblivious to attention, who used their luxurious cars only as a means of transport. Their windows were always accompanied by a dark tint.

Arpita Speaks:

They say you should not judge a book by its cover. They are so right. If it hadn’t been for books like these, I would have assumed that this genre has nothing substantial to offer.

The author has mingled fact with fiction to produce a plot that is alternately sinister and pleasant. The protagonist’s mental condition has been portrayed well, and while this is what drives the action of the novel, there are various other issues brought to light- not subtly, but definitely with ease.

The plight of women is one of the most prominent themes in the storyline- which I hadn’t expected, when I went through the synopsis at the back of the novel. Babloo’s approach towards the issue is so matter of fact, that he never sounds preachy- in fact, he makes more sense than the ‘sane’ people in the story.

The most appealing aspect is the delicate balance between the exposure of social tribulations and the day to day challenges that every man, woman and child has to face. Just as ominous circumstances begin to overwhelm you, the author shifts the focus of the plot to a scene of domestic harmony, giving you a chance to recover from grave thoughts and enjoy comic relief.

This novel has something to offer to everyone- love triangles for the die-hard romantics, serious subject matter for those who like novels to be true to life, action for the reader who likes a little ‘masala’ and strong female characters for the feminist. The narrative has been structured in a manner that allows each of the central characters to bask in the limelight for some time.

Babloo gets the first person narrative, while Vandana (the ‘heroine’), their parents and even the ‘villain’ get an entire section to themselves from time to time, in the third person narrative. It helps one relate to the characters much more, and gives the reader a chance to understand the different points of view- it saves you from being blinded by the protagonist’s own judgment, whether right or wrong. There are a number of people in the novel whom I liked just as much as Babloo and Vandana, and I was myself surprised at the kind of characters who appealed to me most.

The most palpable motif in the storyline is the importance of the railways in the lives of the characters. At times, one feels a little put off by the intricate details of life by the rail tracks, but I assume it’s natural for the protagonist to ponder over it so much, considering his entire existence was initially dominated by the incidents that took place there.

There was one slight flaw which should have been taken care of: we understand that Vandana cares about Babloo like she would any of her friends; it’s exactly what makes her special- that she treats Babloo like a ‘normal’ guy. However, she hardly thinks about him when he’s not by her side, and we never get to know exactly why she is so fond of him even though she has a very small friend circle- I expected a more detailed analysis of her perspective towards a guy with this condition.   

Although some incidents are larger than life (like those including the ‘Rail Man’) the conclusion of the story is deeply satisfying- it’s neither melodramatic, nor unrealistic. A certain twist towards the end was interesting, and appreciable: not because it was exceptional, but because it was something of a paradox; what people would assume to be punishment, turns out to be a boon for the hero. ‘Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai’ is one of those rare popular Indian fiction novellas that have substance, and make you feel like reading the book was a time well spent.

Rating: 3/5

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dress Up with Shopper's Stop

The final three months of every year are filled with celebrations of all kinds. And if you happen to live in my city, festivities never stop. People here at Kolkata celebrate anything and everything....we just need a reason to be merry!! Be it Durga pujo or Diwali or Christmas, dressing up is a major part of all of it . Here are two looks I created for these occasions-

1) The Indian Ethnic- I selected this net saree and added the accessories around it. Had Durga pujo and Diwali in mind. Could also be good for a wedding ...if you are planning to attend one :)

French Connection Clutch / Ashika Net Embroidered Saree / Lemon Pepper - Ladies Footwear / Pretty Women Earring PW-ER-3760

2) Festive Chic - This one was created for the late night Christmas and New Year parties.

French Connection Dress/ Clutch handbag / Earrings / Watch / Maybelline Color Sensational Lip Color Copper Brown / Maybelline Lasting Drama Gel Liner Black

And here is a random quote from pinterest that I couldn't help sharing :D

All pictures are from and the collages are created from (used Polyvore for the first time today. So please excuse my bad editing skills).
Check out Shopper's Stop's website for more amazing collections of clothes and accessories.

This post is an entry for a contest at Indiblogger in association with Shopper's Stop .

This post was selected as one of the winning entries :)