soniaraowrites

about writing and other such passionate matters

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT : Get a chapter of ‘THE MAGICIAN’ in your inbox, every week.

My dear friends have been most encouraging about me putting out my writing for my readers and so giving in to their gentle (and sometimes, not so gentle) prodding (and my narcissism), I’ve decided to tread the off-beat path.

I am making my novel ‘THE MAGICIAN‘ available to those who want to read it, via e-mail. This is a story of coming-of-age-in-love of three dynamic women.

The MO is such:

Email me at soniaraowrites@gmail.com to sign up to receive one chapter of the novel every Friday beginning from 24th July, 2015. Weekends are gonna be fun, no?

I will not be posting any of those chapters on FB or my blog or even on Amazon, simultaneously.

AND A BONUS TOO:

Along with the chapter you will also get an article on the art and craft of ‘Writing a novel’, which would work as an advance preparation for NaNoWriMo.

AND, dear Readers, I PROMISE to make the writing interesting (and no writer can afford to break this promise).

So, hey, hop over to soniaraowrites@gmail.com and let’s get started.

Read an excerpt of ‘THE MAGICIAN’ below:

The 6” high Laughing Buddha dressed in shiny pink and green folds covered in gold glitter stood on the round glass-topped table at one end of the living room. Its bald head served as the base for the lighted incense stick which emitted a mild strawberry flavored fragrance. The swirls of pink smoke emanating from it made the dimly lit room even hazier.

Multi-colored crystals, golden-colored feng-shui coins, pouches of multi-coloured, scented pot-pourrie and coloured stones were strewn on the table, around the statue of the Laughing Buddha. On one side was a small pentagon-shaped raised platform, covered with a red satin cloth with large flowers embroidered on it with black sequins.

On this lay a stack of Tarot Cards. The first card on the top had ‘Rider-Waite’ beautifully monogrammed in a cursive hand. The purple and aubergine and gold background in varying shades gave an otherworldly look to the cards and added to the eclectic surroundings. Buddhist chants filled the room with their harmonious melody.

Next to the table was a deeply cushioned armchair. Looking comfortably ensconced in it was a slightly plump lady. To say that she was dressed gaudily would be an understatement. Every aspect of her being was loud. From her eyes, thickly-lined with black kohl, to her auburn –colored permed hair held in place with a bandana that had multi-coloured, African motifs printed all over it, every element screamed for attention. Competing with the showy attire was a neckpiece of large water-melon tourmaline beads that rested on her ample bosom and the thick glass bangles in all colors of the rainbow that adorned her wrists.Her busy get-up was in sharp contrast to her posture. Eyes shut, head relaxed on her shoulders, her hands loosely placed on each knee, she sat cross-legged on the chair.

“ You are my love, my true love..”. The words of the latest Bollywood blockbuster shattered the peace of the room with its hi-decibel pitch.

She gave a start and her dark eyes sprang open. “I must remember to put the phone on silent before I meditate” she muttered as she jabbed the speakerphone button.

“Namaste, Shantha speaking.” Her voice was groggy as she recovered her composure.

“Shantha, where are you? And where is my set? You know I have to wear it tonight!” The voice at the other end was agitated.

“Hi Sasha, Happy Anniversary, my love.” She wished her friend as she recognized the voice at the other end.

There was a snort of derisive laughter at the other end, “I got your message at midnight. Saw it this morning.Thanks.”

Shantha continued, “I spoke to Amit this morning, his karigar brought the set late last night. Amit said he will bring it to your house by 10 o’clock.”

“Very well. And what time will you reach the venue?”

“ By 8pm. Before the guests arrive.”

“Don’t be late,” said Sasha, ending the call.

Sasha had not sounded as happy and excited as she should have. Sasha was her dearest friend and anything that worried Sasha worried her.

Out of habit, Shantha picked up the stack of Tarot Cards and shuffled them. She sought answers for all her worries and doubts in the Tarot. She used it as often for her own life questions as she did for her clients.

She shut her eyes and continued to shuffle. After 30 seconds she opened her eyes and selected one card from the deck and placed the remaining back on the table.
Her heart contracted into an icy grip and a deep frown developed on her brow as she looked at the card she had in her hand.

Death. A Major Arcana card. A black skeleton carrying a black standard emblazoned with a white flower sat astride a white horse.

It did not bode very well for the evening’s party as that was the situation for which she had drawn the card. She was no stranger to the rumblings of discontent in Sasha’s marriage and her worry was now further compounded by the appearance of this card.

She looked at the card again: Death! Termination, Mortality, Exposure, Inevitability. Sharp endings.

Shantha sure wasn’t looking forward to tonight’s party.

THE FOOD OF THE HEART IS LOVE – A GUEST POST

When Rubina Ramesh, a very dear friend and founder of The Book Club, suggested I do a guest post for TBC, I was quite hesitant. Understandably so, no? After all, writing about one’s addictions is as “naked” as one can get in one’s writings. But if you know Rubina then you also know her persuasion is a lovingly-camouflaged order. And you don’t say no to the one who is your inspiration and also a champion of your writing. So hey, here goes, my rendition of a Facebook Addiction:

THE FOOD OF THE HEART IS LOVE

Many years ago, I was a voracious eater of non-vegetarian food, but all that food made me sick. I gave it up.

I loved eating rice and could polish off two-three platefuls at a time. It made me very lethargic and lazy. I gave it up.

A box of mithai, received during weddings and festivals,became my territory. After others had a piece each there was an unspoken agreement that the rest would be eaten by me. And that too, within the next couple of hours. This was beginning to tell upon my girth and so this too I gave up.

Whenever a discussion took place about losing weight or giving up smoking/drinking, I had the ultimate solution to it, which I offered sanctimoniously: Just stop doing it.I had the answer to all addictions and felt very pleased with myself.

But such pompousness on the part of us human beings only invites the Universe to laugh at us, especially when we…Read the rest here.

(The idea of guest posts on Addictions came about when the book Marijuana Diaries:Stories on Addiction came out. It is an anthology of short fiction by 17 new and established writers and it explores addictions and its many manifestations. You can grab a copy here).

Chain-snatching: A manifestation of violence against women

Streets Turn Unsafe

Maltitai checked herself in the mirror. The gold of the long laxmihaar and that of the choker made of coins shone as brilliantly today as they did on the day she received them from her mother in law, thirty years ago. Her mangalsutra with its black beads linked to textured balls of gold held pride of place in the golden trio, it being the symbol of marriage. The green sari with its golden border accentuated her complexion and added to the elegance the stray white hairs in her head gave her. She felt she looked suitably impressive as the groom’s aunt.

Picking up her 9mo grand-daughter, she called out to her daughter-in-law to hurry up or they would get late for the marriage ceremony. It was a semi-busy lane and the ladies were familiar with the area, having lived there for many years.

Maltitai waited at one end as her daughter-in-law made her way to the other end of the lane where the cabs generally queued up.

And then all at once she saw a bike come close to her. At the same time she felt a harsh tug at her throat followed by burning pain. She felt herself being dragged forward but she held on to her grand-daughter. Only when the duo on the bike had roared away did she realize that her gold chains had been snatched away.

By the time her daughter-in-law reached there with the cab, the painful, bloody lacerations at Maltitai’s throat required them to rush to the hospital rather than to the wedding. It was evening when they were able to go to the police station to lodge the complaint.

They are keeping their fingers crossed for recovering the stolen jewellery.

Yet Another Incident

In another incident that took place one late afternoon, in a quiet suburban lane, Yvonne D’Cunha was deep in thought, as she walked towards the market. She too was taken unawares when the gold chain was snatched from her throat leaving behind a burning laceration and a shell-shocked, traumatized woman. Here, too, the perpetrators were two young men on a bike.

Violence Against Women

In a safety audit I participated in two months ago, one of the findings was that elder women often face violence on the streets in the form of their chains and necklaces being stolen. Chain- snatching is on the rise and needs to be controlled to prevent any further impingement on women’s safety in public spaces.

The MO of Chain-Snatchers

A conversation with a senior Inspector of Police revealed the modus operandi of bike-riding chain-snatchers. They cruise deserted and semi-deserted roads for potential victims. When they have identified one, they traverse the road to and fro, once, to set their path of escape and then they strike. So, one must remain alert on quiet roads and try to vary one’s timings and paths to avoid setting an easily observed pattern that could alert such criminals.

In Case Of Chain-Snatching

  • If you are witness to a chain-snatching, you must alert the Police Control
    Room (or dial 100, you can remain anonymous) immediately and inform
    them of the episode and give as many details as possible about the crime
    and the location so that the perpetrators can be nabbed.
  • Police patrolling can be requested for those areas that are particularly prone
    to such incidents.
  • Nowadays many societies have opted for CCTvs in their lanes and this has
    served as a huge deterrent.

Role Of The Police

Besides the awareness of the citizens, the role played by the police is a huge factor in preventing any crime. The police needs to take cognizance of the crime and pursue the culprits till they are booked and the loot retrieved from them. Once the criminals realize the serious intents of the police, hopefully there would be a serious drop in the rate of such crimes against women.

What happened the very first time I donated blood

I am a huge believer in the effectiveness of a one-on-one interaction. In the Second Year of Degree College I stood for the Class Representative elections. I remember I made a personal appeal to each and every student of S.Y.BSc to vote for me. As a result each and every student turned up on election day to vote and I won by a margin so huge which the college had never ever seen before.

The very first event organized by the newly elected Students Council was a Blood Donation Drive. My MO intact, 8am onwards, on the day of the event, I approached each and every student of S.Y.BSc yet again to convince them to donate blood. Most of them did. At the fag end of the event at 12:30pm, it was my turn to give blood. I lay down on the table and stretched out my right hand. The doctor encircled  my upper arm tightly with the fabric strip of the blood pressure machine, searched for the vein, found it, inserted the needle to draw out the blood that would be collected in a bag. The blood was collected and just as the doctor took out the needle from my arm, my eye fell on the full bag of blood and suddenly the world was a merry go round. My thought, just before I fainted, was that the doctor was quite good-looking.

It was a pretty embarrassed-me that regained consciousness which I assume was a couple of minutes later. I’m sure no slippers or onions were used in the process. After a sweet coffee and a couple of biscuits I was fine. And my parents wanted me to be a doctor. Who knew!

We had a great collection and the drive was a huge success. All those who donated blood that day got a little card which mentioned their blood group and it entitled them to receive free blood for a period of one year from that date.

Many years later I got another opportunity to donate blood but they refused to take it because in the past few months I had suffered three bouts of malaria. Totally my loss.

P.S.: BloodConnect is a group of motivated individuals working towards a single goal – “To solve the problem of blood shortage in India”. When you donate blood, you can save a life. Please donate and encourage others to do too.

This post is in response to a friend who tagged me as part of the #IBloodConnected_DidYou Initiative of BloodConnect.

SENSITIZING THE YOUNGER GENERATION TO GENDER EQUALITY

As a way to understand the dynamics between male and female students in a co-ed school, I asked my 9yo nephew a few questions about it. According to him, his teachers tended to side with the girls in case of any dispute between the boys and the girls (which shouldn’t have risen up in the first place) even when the girls were clearly at fault. This seemed to create a lot of resentment in the boys against the girls, even as they continued to be friends with them.

Two years later, at his birthday party, boys and girls sat in separate groups even while playing games and eating and the only time they came together was while playing housie. The boys were loud and boisterous and even though the girls were not boisterous they were neither meek nor timid.

The resentment of two years ago seemed to have created a rift deep enough to make the girls form separate groups but not deep enough to not be invited to a boy’s birthday party at all.

Two questions rose up in my mind:

  • What is the role teachers play in perpetuating or breaking stereotypes
  • If mindsets develop in early childhood what must parents do to ensure the children assimilate gender-equality rather than develop the default patriarchal mindset.

When I was designated #VoiceoftheWeek by Sayfty on Twitter, I used the opportunity to find answers to these questions in my many conversations on that platform.

WHAT I LEARNED:

  • Parents nowadays are more sensitive about gender typecasting and are supportive of their children’s choice in toys, colour of clothes, books they read. Eg: dolls for boys to play with or trains for girls. Boys choosing to wear pink because they love that colour (pink supposedly being considered a colour worn only by girls).
  • Teachers can create gender equality by encouraging boys and girls to sit /study/play together as classmates rather than as boys and girls and at the same time being fair in their dealings with the students, irrespective of their gender.
  • Many students face a lot of peer pressure to confirm to society-supported gender roles especially in the case of colour of clothes and types of toys. Giving in to their personal choice which if it is against the accepted norms can attract ragging and unnecessary harassment from those who have not been sensitized to gender equality.

ROLE OF THE FAMILY

This brings us back to the point that the family plays an important role too in creating a mindset that encourages boys and girls to be considered as individuals with equal rights.

Parents then have to be very careful to examine their own behaviours and speech to ensure that they themselves are not perpetuating existing backward norms.

Is it not possible that while driving to the Toys Mall to buy that train set because your daughter wants one (or because you want to buy it for her as your contribution towards girl empowerment) the car driver in front of you is driving erratically and you mutter under your breath, “must be a woman putting on makeup”? Okay, that might be a bit over the top but such attitudes are so ingrained that we sometimes overlook them just because they are so rampant.

Or perhaps, your wife is doing all the cooking and cleaning while you are at work the whole day and then when you are back at home, you park yourself in front of the television for a “well-deserved rest after a hard day.” You cook a cordon bleu meal once a week and there is a lot of excitement and your wife tells her friends with great pride that you are a great cook. But you never ever help with everyday cooking because that is “your wife’s department.” Or worse, both of you work but cooking food is completely your wife’s responsibility. So even if your daughter is not buying that toy kitchen set, doesn’t your son get the message that the woman is in charge of the kitchen?

With girls and boys getting the same high levels of education, it is inevitable that the only things that will sustain a relationship are respect and trust between the partners. And this can be done only when the sensitization begins in childhood.

Happily, lots of young parents are much aware of the situation and making efforts to sensitize their young ones.

What steps are you taking to ensure your children are aware of gender equality?

Do share your practices so others can also adopt them and this in turn can only benefit society in the long run.

The 3 things a travel writer must remember

(What is this about: Travel Writing Workshop conducted by veteran writer Dilip D’Souza as part of the Writing Workshops held in Asiatic Society’s Central Library by Avid Learning for the Kala Ghoda Art Festival 2015)

If you thought travel-writing meant just writing about your travels then you would be as mistaken as the hundred other participants that gathered one Sunday morning in the Durbar Hall of Mumbai’s Central Library to attend the Travel Writing Workshop by award-winning writer, Dilip D’Souza.

If this is a contrarian view then you would also find it unusual that D’Souza wore a bolo tie (a string tie with a moon and stars design, worn by the cowboys of Texas) because he hates ties but mainly because he wanted to hide a stain on his shirt.

And if you are a writer, you would be quite impressed with D’Souza’s empathetic nature as he set the ground rule that ever piece of writing read in that session was to be greeted by an enthusiastic ‘wow’.

So, what is travel writing?

How would you tell differently what hundreds and thousands have already told about the places you are visiting?

1) Travel writing is about ‘telling stories’

Aim of telling your story should be to get your readers to start thinking and exploring what your writing means to them. How would your reader walk or would he talk if he knew about your experiences? Let your reader make their own connections.
At this point, we had to turn to the person next to us and tell them our travel story (which made me realize I need a lot of practice in oral story telling).

2)Travel writing is about ‘sweating the details’

Observe details because these are the things that make your story unforgettable. We were asked to look around the room and observe the details we might not have noticed earlier. A question about the builder of the place got a lot of affirmative replies but my mind had remained glued to the majestic stairs at the front of the Library.

Some examples from various texts:  “We rushed to the man who sat in the office drinking a warm Coke, feet on his desk, and he told us that the pool was dirty so they had decided to drain it.” This sentence gives us a good look into the lackadaisical attitude of the man in the office. Another poignant example of a silent detail which speaks the words: In a house which has lost its young son to the war, the light switch in his room is taped over so that the light cannot be ever switched off.

3)Travel writing is about “doing the hardest thing in your life and that is making your story personal.”

Here a question was asked to Dilip D’souza (perhaps by me only): How much of the story needs to be fact and how much fiction? To which the reply was: Be true to yourself and only then can you be true to the reader.

Throughout the session travel writing excerpts of different authors were read out by D’Souza and a lot of learning took place as we analyzed the words and their meaning in that particular context. I was thrilled too that my deductions proved correct when I pointed out pieces which I believed were written by him.

At the end of the session, we had to write down our verbally told stories after making it more personal.

****

What I wrote in the workshop:

For someone who could get lost inside even a tiny, cramped office typical of Mumbai and need directions to the exit, it was foolhardy to venture alone towards the Metro Station after a memorable meet-up with friends.

But adventure beckoned and the road thronged with Sunday revelers added to the thrill of walking alone on a beautiful Delhi road. Till I realized that I was lost. A wrong turn, perhaps? Not a problem, I thought, taking out my phone to call the friend whom I was staying with, to ask for directions.

My Blackberry was dead. Completely discharged. It had been acting like a diva ever since I landed in Delhi. Dropped calls. Texts that could not be replied to because Madam BB decided to get ‘hanged’ at that particular moment and rendering futile all efforts at re-booting. I shook the phone, willing it to start. Nada. Suddenly, the revelers began to look loutish and the road looked like the path to hell. Where the hell was the Metro Station? It did not seem such a great idea to ask the people around for directions. In front of me loomed a large maidan which I was sure I had never seen before in my three or four trips to this side of Connaught Place. I did not remember my friend’s phone number.

I wanted to cry.

Mumbai’s First Safety Sprawl – Auditing the streets with Safecity and Badal Ja!

FEELING SAFE! OR NOT?

It was 8:30pm. The train had stopped at Kalyan station. Inside, 28yo Sujata sat as did an elderly couple. It being the evening of Holi the train was unusually empty but just before the train could move away from the station, three men boarded the compartment in which Sujata and the couple sat.

The weird way in which they looked at Sujata terrified her. Images of gang-rapes and murders she had seen on TV filled her with dread. Perhaps the fear showed on her face, because the elderly couple told her not to worry. They stayed with her till the train finally halted at Dadar and then accompanied her till Andheri Station.

At Andheri Station Sujata felt completely safe and any person, male or female, who dared to harass her now would not come out of it in one piece. She and her brother had even beaten up a 40yo ragpicker when she chanced upon him sexually abusing a five year old girl. She makes it a point, she told us, to train her 9 and 11yo daughters to take care of themselves in this city which she perceives to be ‘safe’.

This then was the paradox of women’s safety revealed in an audit conducted during the Mumbai Safety Sprawl held on Saturday, 14th of March, 2015.

Conceptualised by Elsamarie D’Silva, co-founder of Safecity (an online platform created to map areas of sexual abuse) as part of their ‘Pin the Creep’ initiative and implemented in co-ordination with Caitlin and Nilima of  Badal Ja! (a group working proactively to bring about a transformation in gender justice) this sprawl threw up some surprising facts and perceptions.

LET’S SPRAWL

BREAKING THE ICE

BREAKING THE ICEI

It was a motley group of about twenty: students, professionals, graphic designers, social activists. From Bhayander, Marol and some staying near Nana Nani Park in Andheri, which is where we all gathered to play icebreaker games which involved answering questions such as: Do you agree a woman should beat up the person who has groped her in a public place? Do you agree a woman too has a right to pee in public when no public toilet is available? Depending on the reply, one joined the Totally Agree, Neutral or the Totally Disagree group. From the questions you can imagine that a lot of vociferous discussions took place.

ALL SET TO SPRAWL

ALL SET TO SPRAWL

From there we broke out in groups of two, to go over to pre-designated streets in Versova, Seven Bunglows and Four Bunglows to conduct the safety audit. This involved checking out the conditions of that particular road and the civic amenities such as streetlights (existence and condition) and safe walking spaces. Also, three persons of apparently different demography had to be interviewed for their perceptions and actual experiences related to safety issues.

FINDINGS

  • Safety has different meanings and perceptions for different people. Older women had the fear of their chains being snatched while younger women were often subjected to groping and sexual exhibitionism.
  • The presence of working streetlights was a major factor in enhancing the safety factor of a street. During the audit it was discovered that 14 streetlights on one of the roads was out of order. Calls were made by the volunteers to the BMC and RELIANCE. The pole numbers (printed at eyelevel on each pole) were given to the company. For the poles that didn’t have a number, the location was given. BMC said relevant action would be taken in 5 days.
    LATEST UPDATE: Reliance fixed the streetlights in 24 hours.
  • Sexual harassment often took the form of men masturbating in public. In one such case, the man who witnessed this incident said he felt mentally harassed while the girl accompanying him observed she felt sexually harassed. Different responses to the same heinous act.
  • It was also noticed that most citizens do not raise their voice against injustices and harassments. Many housing societies had a frontage with a well-made pavement but just beyond the pavements, dilapidated cars were parked by the neighbouring garage owners and this posed a huge safety risk, forcing people to walk on the roads in the face of traffic.
  • In another case of public apathy towards women’s safety, a couple of men daily stood in front of a housing society, twice a day from 10-11am and 5-7pm, fondling themselves and indulging in sexual exhibitionism. Shockingly, NO-ONE raised a voice against them. Inspired by this audit, the volunteers, realizing that they can make a difference have complained to the police and the BMC to get rid of this menace.
  • 1091 is the national helpline for WOMEN. Any woman in distress can call this number for an immediate response. 1098 is the National helpline for child safety. The BMC Number is 1916 and all relevant complaints can be lodged here. Save all these numbers in your phone.
  • It is the duty of each and every citizen to hold the existing systems accountable and this sprawl is an activity to test if the systems are fully functional. Every individual in the city might feel safe but when the surface is scratched, stories of sexual harassment, terror and abuse spill out.
  • STREETLIGHTS THAT DON'T WORK

    STREETLIGHTS THAT DON’T WORK

  • CARS THAT POSE A SAFETY RISK

    CARS THAT POSE A SAFETY RISK

    COLLATING THE FINDINGS

    COLLATING THE FINDINGS

    If you are keen to organise a Safety Sprawl in your locality, please get in touch with Safecity. 

(All pics courtesy Elsa D’Silva and Safecity).

THE 3 THINGS I RE- LEARNED AT A COLLABORATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP

The advertisement flyer said “We will use stolen quotes and stupid games to create our writing. This is not about being precious; it’s not even about being good – it’s about finding ways to begin writing, to stop being scared of it and look at it as a collaborative practice.”

I HAD to participate in this workshop so I registered immediately.

The next step was to pay the fees to confirm my participation. And then disaster struck. Saskia from Thespo called to say that the workshop had been filled. There were only 10 seats because Rachael Clerke who was conducting the workshop (at Prithvi House) wanted to keep the group intimate to facilitate easier writing and sharing. Alas, my procrastination in paying the fees (I vacillated between online payment and paying by cash, which would mean travelling to the Thespo office) had cost me a seat at this workshop.

I was devastated and requested and re-requested to be allowed to attend. Many emails were exchanged which mainly consisted of me asking to be added to the group and Saskia trying to interest me in another workshop. But I had now become like that adamant child who refuses any other brand of chocolate except the one he’s set his mind on.
Finally, Rachael read the email communication and decided my keenness was genuine and I merited a seat and yayyy, I was at the workshop (on 16th December, 2014).

Therefore, LESSON NO.1 – Persistence pays.

At the workshop

At the workshop

It was an eclectic group of theatre/performance artists, literature students and even an advocate. The ambience was cozy, the warm wooden floors offset quite well by the black walls and the bright white circles shining down from the spotlights on the ceiling. We began with my most fave activity. Writing the Morning Pages. And so, even though I’d already done them once in the morning, I joined in with enthusiasm. And it was at the end of the writing that I had a couple of epiphanies: 1) I did prefer a particular ambience to do my writing in and 2) I re-discovered my love for teaching.

And so, LESSON NO.2 – Varying one’s place of writing once in a while can yield delightful results.

Rachael, Saskia and my fellow workshoppers

Rachael, Saskia and my fellow workshoppers

We played word games. Then we selected interesting words such as blues, stirrup, puck, sea-biscuit (my most fave) and used them to write story excerpts. We formed groups of four each. On one sheet of paper (per group), each one of us wrote a piece but the twist was that the previous writing was hidden so one just wrote whatever one wanted to, continuing from the bridge words: and then…; meanwhile..; but…. While writing a couple of pieces, I realized that my writing was following a particularly staid path. So, keeping the original intent of not being precious or even good with the words I jumped in with a playful attitude and really had a lot of fun. And when the pieces were read together as a whole, they made for quite interesting reading.

The next assignment was even more interesting. A new piece of writing had to be developed from a given excerpt. Some had to make a list from that while others had to make a poem and or even a letter. Finally, one had to edit another’s piece to make it different from the original while still retaining its essence. The environment was supportive enough for all of us to read out what we had written. At the end of the workshop we had written about a 100 pieces in all.

Finally, LESSON No.3 – Writing in collaboration with other writers can give a much higher and more interesting output.

Merchandise at the Thespo Tamasha

Merchandise at the Thespo Tamasha

 

Thespo at Prithvi

Thespo at Prithvi

So, what are the writing lessons you’ve re-learned lately?

“THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THESE CLOTHES, AUNTY”

I might have been living under a rock since the past month because it was late last night when I heard for the first time about the #1000 Voices Speak for Compassion #1000Speak blogging initiative which aims to flood the blogosphere with the goodness which still exists in this world.

Today was a hectic day from the work perspective but deep within my mind the thoughts about compassion kept on churning and the words of a young girl kept on reverberating: Thank you so so much, Aunty. These clothes are perfect for wearing to college.

It all began two years ago, after the ALM (Advanced Locality Management which consists of residents who are active in making their locality green and clean) conducted a Pre-owned Clothes Collection Campaign for a national NGO called Goonj. We, as part of the ALM, collected almost a dozen huge gunny bags of clothes (including blankets and bedsheets, besides garments). Seeing the tremendous response, the ALM members decided to organise one such collection every year and distribute the clothes amongst the underprivileged members living in the slums in our locality.

Strict instructions were issued that the clothes had to be washed and ironed before they were handed in. As one volunteer mentioned: Think that you are giving away the clothes to your brothers and sisters. All the donors followed the diktat and we had a fairly large collection of clothes: for tiny tots, for men, women and young girls though the choice and variety in young women’s clothing was unusually large.

After helping out in the collection of garments I had gone away home and then come back later, in the evening, to help in the winding-up.

A slightly elderly woman was intent on collecting as many men’s shirts and pants she could stuff into a pillowcase. It was very obvious she planned to sell the clothes to the “bhaandi-wala” who, depending on her choice would give her either money or steel vessels in exchange for the clothes. The other volunteers were insisting she take just what she needed while she kept on countering that she needed all those clothes.

Even as this heated but funny banter carried on, two young girls came towards us and with a grateful smile said: Thank you so so much, Aunty. These clothes are perfect for wearing to college.

And that is what made the whole exercise so worthwhile.

It is often said, Clothes maketh a man. Without going into a deeper significance of this saying, it would be still correct to say that an appropriately-dressed person is more often than not, a confident person. And this is especially true in the case of the young adolescent crowd that joins college and has to transition from the uniform to trendy clothes.

That these girls could find clothes that they would feel comfortable to wear to college was a blessing not just for them but also for their parents who  being unable to afford good clothes for their daughters would be tempted to stop them from going to college. These clothes would save money which could be ploughed back into the college tuition fees/books/conveyance fund.

Compassion….made a loving difference.

SPOTLIGHT: God Is A Gamer by Ravi Subramanian

Someone once said that readers love to read stories that involve the workplace. The truth of this arguable statement has been proved by Ravi Subramanian from his very first book, “If God was a Banker”. People devoured his stories which were set in banks and revealed the hitherto unknown and unrevealed aspects of the inner workings of the different facets of banking services.

With every book, Ravi Subramanian has pushed the boundaries of financial fiction and with his bold narrative taken us into the world of foreign banks and high finance. Intrigue and mystery, lust and deceit make for a thrilling read in all of Ravi’s books in which many of the ‘Gods’ of banking suffer a downfall.

In fact, his characters are boldly etched and depicted, especially the woman characters. During a tête-à-tête  with him at a blogger meet when I expressed my angst at the way a certain female character was depicted his succinct reply was that many women in the field of banking did behave that way. (Fact over fiction?).

In the current scenario where the virtual world seems to hold a stronger sway than the real, Ravi Subramanian’s latest book, “God is a Gamer” is ‘the world’s first bitcoin thriller’.

Yes, this latest offering from Ravi Subramanian promises to be yet another page-turner.

God is a Gamer 
by 
Ravi Subramanian 


The Blurb


Aditya runs a gaming company that is struggling to break even. A banker slips off a highrise building, plunging to her death. The finance minister has made some promises that he is finding hard to keep. The LTTE has unleashed terror in America that sends the FBI on a wild goose chase, bringing them to Mumbai.


Enter Varun, parttime drug dealer and fulltime genius. He turns around the gaming company before disaster strikes. Meanwhile, the investigators plunge headlong into the shady world of bitcoins and the Dark Net, websites that only exist for illegal transactions—drugs, sex and money. God Is a Gamer culminates in a stunning climax where money means nothing, assassination is taught by the ancient Greeks, and nothing is as it seems.

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Meet the Author



   Described as the ‘John Grisham of banking’, by the Wall Street Journal, Ravi Subramanian, an alumnus of IIM Bangalore, is the author of five bestselling commercial novels—If God Was A Banker (2007), Devil In Pinstripes (2009), The Incredible Banker (2011), The Bankster (2012) and Bankerupt (2013)—based on financial crime. His latest book God Is A Gamer was released on September 12, 2014.
   Having been a banker himself, he has a unique insight into the industry he writes about and a flair for spinning intricate plots that keep readers on the edge of their seats. 
   His debut novel, If God Was A Banker, won the 2008 Golden Quill Readers’ Choice Award and, more recently, The Incredible Banker won the 2011 Economist-Crossword Book Award in the ‘Popular’ category. He won the Crossword book award for The Bankster in 2012.
   Ravi lives in Mumbai with his Biotechnologist turned banker wife, Dharini and his fourteen-year-old daughter Anusha.

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