Tuesday, 15 November 2016


Author Focus 
"Mock, Stalk & Quarrel"

Satire is a kind of poetry in which human vices are reprehended. Or so John Dryden said. What I like best about satire and sarcasm is that they tell the truth, which is why anything even remotely connected to satire piques my interest. 

Mock, Stalk & Quarrel, a collection of satirical tales, identifies powerful voices that can wage an ideological war against issues that matter. Twenty-nine voices, indulgent, tolerant, amusing and witty, were chosen to create this collection. 

This is the book I am talking about:


You might not want to miss the launch of this exciting anthology. So, those in Delhi on 25 November, you might want to drop in to the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, New Delhi for the launch.


For those not being able to attend, do not despair! We are organizing a Kolkata launch on 26 November, 2016.  

Tête-à-tête with Amrita Mukherjee

Dostoyevsky said, “Sarcasm: the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.” 
Let's hear it from one of the authors of the book- Amrita Mukherjee.

Something about our Author-in-Focus:

Amrita Mukherjee has worked in publications like The Times of India, The Hindustan Times and The Asian Age in India and she has been the Features Editor with ITP publishing Group, Dubai’s largest magazine publishing house. An advocate of alternative journalism, she is currently a freelance journalist writing for international publications and websites and also blogs at www.amritaspeaks.com. Amrita’s debut novel Exit Interview earned the tag “unputdownable” from reviewers and readers alike. 

     1.     Please tell us something about yourself. 

I am a non-conformist, hyper extrovert and positive person. I take a keen interest in other people’s stories and my friends often joke that you never know when you find yourself in Amrita’s fiction.

     2.     When and how did you start writing?

It was a strange juncture in my life. I had lost my brother to cancer, my son was born 20 days later and I had quit my well-paying job after a few months. To grapple with my emotional turmoil I started writing my first book Exit Interview. And my late brother always said I would write one day. It was a way of honouring his memory probably but I hadn’t thought so much then.

     3.     Any challenges that you faced while writing?

My son was 10-months-old when I started writing. So the story had to flow between diaper changes, bathing and feeding time. I was gone the moment I heard him cry when I came back I had lost the plot. I had to start all over again.

     4.     What do you think about the future of writing/publishing industry in India?

Chetan Bhagat often gets the brickbats because many people claim he’s been selling mediocrity but I feel he was the one who allowed Indian authors to dream and opened up the market for Indian writing. Now publishers are willing to take up manuscripts by Indian authors and with new publishing houses coming up the possibilities are increasing. I particularly think Readomania being a comparatively new publishing house is bringing out phenomenally good books and these are the kind of books which you would want to keep in your bookcase and read again and again.

     5.     What do you think is the need for satire in today’s time?

The times we live in we need satire to keep our sanity. We live in such insecure times that we really don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow and hit us like a bolt-from-the blue. Did any of us think that one fine day at 8pm our Rs 500 notes would become defunct? I guess that’s when you need satire to look at a serious situation with a tinge of humour and survive through the process.

     6.     What do you think are the easiest and the hardest thing about writing short stories?

If you have the story figured out you can actually finish it in two days but you haven’t then God help you. You might keep struggling with it for months and still not get it.

     7.     Any writing rules/rituals?

I try to create a structure in my notebook or in my mind before I start writing. I also keep notes sometimes of incidents, happenings, research that I would want to include in my future stories.

      8.     Tell us something about your story in MSQ. How did it come about?

I was working with Dipankar Mukherjee, the owner of Readomania for my next book. He told me this competition Mocktales is on and asked me to send a story. I had never written on a theme so I wasn’t sure how I would fare. But an incident had happened in Kolkata around a woman in shorts when this idea came to my mind. My story is named The Dress Code.

      9.     Tell us about your previous work.

By God’s grace my debut novel Exit Interview published by Rupa Publications in June 2015 was well received and critics and readers said it is “unputdownable”.  It was on the Starmark Bestsellers List for months and did well in Dubai as well, where I lived as an expat. The book is based on the life of a woman journalist who moves through the ups and downs in her life as she travels from Kolkata to Dubai to Egypt.
      10. What is your current project or your next release?

My next release is a collection of short stories published by Readomania.

      11. Trivia:
     Favourite food: Crabs
·        Fave books and authors: Keeps changing but Chander Pahar and Hungry Tide are my all-time faves. I love Ruskin Bond, O’Henry and Jeffrey Archer.
·        What makes you happy? A hug from my son.
·        What gets you angry? Disrespect.
·        Your best piece of work till now…I guess yet to come.
     12.  How do we connect with you?

Blog/Website: www.amritaspeaks.com
Twitter: @amritamuk

     13.  Any message for the readers?

It is wonderful people still read despite such busy and stressful lives that we all live in. And I would want to thank my readers for all their appreciation for my blogs and my first book that enthused me to keep writing. 

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Beat On...

Scene : Morning.

Action : Get up.

Decide whether to rush to class sans breakfast or get late after having some breakfast. Because let’s face it, you are never going to have the best of both worlds. At least not I. Not in this life.

Once you miss breakfast, all sorts of cravings start sprouting within you. Although half your mind is on your rumbling empty tummy, it is still better to attend the class and procure some attendance, especially when it’s a strict prof you are dealing with.

Come the first break and you start piling on junk, starting with maggi, and moving on to eclairs, patties, hotdogs, mouth-watering samosas and what not. By lunchtime, you are full of stuff that hasn’t sated you and yet, you are hungry.

So, my first chhote kadam towards health was…yes, having breakfast.

Although it was a Herculean decision to part with sleep, a little tweaking, a little extra prep at night (setting my bag, clothes and doing all those things I used to dutifully do while in school), a little will power (which is strangely difficult to summon at such times) allowed me to somehow create a semblance of jentacular balance.

The second effort was not an effort for me at all. I don’t particularly like elevators, being a big fan of open spaces. So, choosing stairs over elevators came naturally to me.     

The biggest challenge though was eating better. If there is something I can’t compromise on, it’s delectable mouth-watering junk food.

I discovered a little workaround. And it’s on the very lines of the above paragraph.

Eat at the mess. Even if the gravy seems full of water. Even if the chappati looks shapeless. Even if pizzas equate to heaven. 
Have the mess food. Choose health more often. Reduce a lot of eating out. I know it’s easier said than done. I haven’t been able to manage it either. I am not proud to admit that. But trying does count, right?

There is something though that I did manage. It was to have meals on time. You see, skipping is a sin. 

Skip rope, not your meals.  

Now we come to the king of hearts. 
:drum roll: 
The Happiness Quotient. How much is yours?

You know people have ample stuff to say about happiness. They talk about it, discuss it and search for it everywhere. But happiness is not a shirt button that has rolled under the bed. This is something I remember reading a long time ago.

Happiness is really being okay with everything. Those tales of it being a state of being are actually true. You know the oil drops theory, right? Take care of the drops of oil while touring the mansion. To make it clear, just chill. Whatever happens, all is well. It will always be. Or at least that’s my mantra.

And if you wish to make your heart go on and on, just like that famous Titanic song, then you must must must find your own ways to revamp your lifestyle. 

If I can find these teeny tiny ways, you, my genius friend, can surely come up with better ideas and ways of being active, healthy and happy.

Dear heart, keep beating on...

~I am joining the Saffolalife #ChhoteKadam initiative in association with BlogAdda and follow these small steps for a healthy heart.~

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Travel Tales

Some would say that I have gone crazy over autorickshaws while some might go so far as to purport that I want to do a Ph.D. in the subject. But I feel that sometimes plain and unhindered observation gives you a profundity of knowledge and insight that even a degree would only theoretically claim to do. Add to the fact that there are such a multitude of vehicles flitting about on the roads ( even on the pavements as a matter of fact ) that I couldn't help but enumerate and curate the kind of autorickshaws that most arrested my attention. Here goes my list :

The Bride

The Bride is not a regular sight and I consider myself fortunate to have taken a ride in this chariot of an auto. Well bedecked with sparkly lights such as those lit on Diwali, its ceiling and walls are bedizened with white and fluorescent bulbs in intricate patterns, some of which arabesque and some depicting birds. This auto is best ridden at night when one can see it in its full splendor. I actually requested the driver for pictures and managed to click a few for my albums.

Source: www.folomojo.com

The Posterboy

This is the most common auto that nearly everyone, except those who have never stepped into an auto, ( do such people even exist?! ) must have seen or ridden in. This auto has its walls covered with posters of actors, most of them belonging to Bollywood beauties. I guess they are meant to be eye candy for the driver if not the passengers.

Source: thehindu.com

The Rapper

Source: www.indianeagle.wordpress.com
One day, my brother and I were running late for an appointment and started quarreling with each other. As if on cue, an auto appeared and without another thought, we hailed it and got in immediately, determined to reach our destination the soonest possible. Just as the man revved up the engine, music began blaring from the speakers. That’s not the wondrous part. Every driver listens to music; that is a given. But the astonishing aspect of this one was the ambience. It was not just the speakers that were effective (although the music was booming as if in a recording studio) but the choice of music itself that most took me aback. I had expected regional songs or old Bollywood numbers (of the time of one's grandparents') or at best, recent Bollywood songs, but never did I expect him to play the latest US top 50! My brother and I looked at each other, our mouths hanging open in surprise. All through the ride, we sat enraptured, singing the raps of Eminem and Snoop Dogg in our heads.

The Reader

This may not come as a shock, for many people are spotted steeped into the pages of the daily papers but what was bewildering was that the driver was reading an English daily and that too none other than the Hindu! My respect for him instantly skyrocketed. 

Source: www.westheimphoto.com
But then, considering the amazing stories of a rickshawwallah's daughter cracking CA or an autowallah's son being enrolled in the civil services, this should not come as that huge a surprise.

The Superman

It was one of those days when I had taken a seat in a shared auto and had prepared myself to sleep. Hardly had I slept a wink when a jerk jolted me awake. The auto I was in was whizzing past cars, trucks and bikes. My eyes opened up a little wider. All the vehicles were mired in heavy unyielding traffic and could only take tiny steps forward but our Superman was weaving through the narrow passages between automobiles, making ways where none existed. He went right and left, and right and left, zigzagging and swerving with ease while we rocked on our seats, holding on to the handles for dear life. At one point, I actually pleaded him to go slow, citing the cliched phrase-’better late than never’. But the man was on a roll. 

Source: www.indiamarks.com

He gave me a funny look as if the word 'slow' didn't exist in his dictionary and continued with his stunts (probably inspired by action flicks). I think there was a certain moment when I was led to wonder if I was part of a fast-paced action movie while praying fervently to the gods to help me reach safely, even if an hour late. As if he had read my mind, the superdriver made a dashing halt, almost with elan, nearly throwing me out of the auto, kind of signalling that it was time for me to get out. I paid the money and quickly crossed the road. I didn't want to be in Mad Max's way.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Dance Trails

Tap your right foot. Now your left. Right again. Left. Right. Left. Left. Left.
But I seemed to have only left feet. My first dance class was a lesson in coming out of my shell. My dance teacher was an unbelievably patient woman. But she had no idea how unbelievably shy I was. She started with the simplest steps. Easy footwork. Easier than march past, I would wager. And yet, every step seemed heavier than the last. A week went by and a month. I had started staying back after the regular dance class to wait for mom who would pick me up. Meanwhile, my dance teacher would tell me stories. Mythological tales, stories related to the dances we performed, and any other stories she may have told her kids when they were my age. That was the part I loved the most. I would later develop a mad obsession for stories and books. But right then, I liked to listen to her and think and imagine. Soon, she had started telling me a story related to every dance. You see, every dance we performed had some significance. They were mostly Krishna Radha tales or Meera Bai songs or old fables and the like. Once I had been inducted into the story, the song seemed to come naturally to me. Suddenly I was not so conscious of myself anymore. Much to my surprise, I discovered that I had lost sense of my body and knew not and cared not how I looked while I moved. I moved the way the song beckoned. My dear dance teacher had finally made a little dancer of me.

So, when she went away to settle in another city, I was sorely heartbroken. I knew then that no other teacher could ever teach me the way she did. No one would tell me stories or painstakingly position my arms to get the postures just right. I was on my own now.
But I didn’t want to give up on it just yet. While in secondary school, I joined another class. While making my way through the swampy waters of class X and XII, I left dance again. Then I got myself enrolled in engineering. And almost immediately after, got back to dance. After my regular college classes, I would attend the dance class for an hour and a half and then head home. The arrangement drained me of energy but enthused me with a mad passion. I achieved Visharad in Kathak dance form as I finished my graduation in computer engineering. Pretty coordinated that.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
Although my introversion persists oxymoronically with my freewheeling dance fantasies, I have discovered a latent desire for classical dance in me. Something about the elegance of Indian classical dances enthralls me. I have never really gotten over my dance teacher’s stories or her graceful moves. The desire to emulate her and perform as gracefully and beautifully has remained and persisted.

Yes, that's me.
The architecture of ancient buildings and the murals and paintings on old monuments make me wonder about the movements of the yesteryears. I am literally gravitated to the past. I feel the need to discover the most ancient dance forms of India. I wish to capture them as precisely and fully as I can. I want to visit the various gharaanas of Kathak, the temples of Bhartanatyam and the multifarious places in India where the classical dance forms originated. I wish to see the various forms in action. I want to bring to life the most antediluvian Indian dances possible and collate them in my blog.
In profile

“Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you're perfectly free.”
― Rumi

Dance represents a zeitgeist, a revolution. Representing the spirit of the times, it takes one to an entirely different era where every movement mirrors an ideology of the society. Dance is expression and innovation combined. It is the largest and the most accurate mirror of one’s culture. Dance is love and life in action.  


As Voltaire said, “Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”

I am blogging about my dreams and passions for the Club Mahindra#DreamTrails activity at BlogAdda. You can get a Club Mahindra Membership to own your holidays!

Monday, 25 July 2016

How to keep the Sleep Virus at bay

10 ways to avoid the Snooze drug


  • Coffee. Tea. Yes, some of those well tried-and-tested stuff before classes. They work like a charm.
  • Eat. Yes, eat. Keep some biscuits and snacks handy and stuff them into your mouth the moment you feel your control slipping.
  • Drink. Water. Like every five minutes.
  • Talk. Chat. Keep blabbering. It’s rare to find people falling asleep while in the midst of a conversation.
  • I saw a fellow friend wet her handkerchief with water and dab her eyes with it. Have never tried it but seems like a good idea.
  • One way to find out if you are drunk, sorry, sleepy is to write. Work your pen on paper. If you find yourself inventing vocabulary, making strange connections or anthills and going past well-defined lines, you know your zombie mode is on.
  • Use your five sense organs as far and as much as possible. Touch, smell, taste, see and hear. Any of the faculties stops responding, you know it’s the sleep drug at work.
  • Sit on a blunt nail. It might scratch your ass off but you are less likely to sleep your way to oblivion.
  • Pinch, punch, hit. Do whatever to distract yourself. Remember the sleep mistress is sly and easily inviting. She is sexier than you and has the upper hand. But you got to keep yourself from succumbing to her evil clutches, right? So be the Sati Savitri of Indian mythology and bring your Satyawaan back.
  • Take a pen and stick the pointy end into your palm. Just take care not to create a hitting rhythm that might lull you off to further sleep.


Some victims and their complaints/comments:

“The visions merge so seamlessly from one form to another that it becomes impossible to distinguish between sleeping and waking hours. Until obviously someone clicks an embarrassing picture of your tongue lolling out of your mouth and your head thrown back in some weird posture of slack.”

“Sleep is a bitch. Whether you sleep for six hours or one, eight hours or none, nothing can ever stop you from dozing off in classes. I wonder why people bother with sleeping pills. They should just enroll for some course and attend classes again.”

Look out for other 'sleep special' posts ahead!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

ITR Bloopers

~ (One of the winners of the #TaxPledge Activity at BlogAdda)

So, I had this really crappy knack of skipping mails I didn’t like. Those that seemed unfamiliar, strange or out of the world were instantly sent to the trashcan with a single click. The habit persisted. Well, till the day Kanu called me for ITR.

Source: www.taxshax.com

Kanu and I had studied from the same college. Since we had started working, we barely got time to talk to each other. We were not exactly bosom friends, but we were on good talking terms. However, with the hectic schedule, different projects, separate teams and diverse managers to report to, our first year of work life was a tough rope to tread. We met up occasionally on lunches and went for brief walks but the free spirit in us had been clamped to some extent.

“Do we have to mail it as well after filing it?”
Kanu asked, calling me on my office number.

I was sorely tempted to ignore her question and tell her I had no idea. But then something stopped me. I didn’t want to sound like a complete daft. After all, what is it that Kanu knows and I don’t?

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“IT returns…form 16…income tax…what else!”

The words buzzed about in my head for a while. A frisson of panic started creeping up. Why hadn’t I known this before?
Before I could say another word, she continued, “See the mails sent on 27th of last month. And the ones before that, where they ask you to file your income tax returns.”

Oops. Where were those mails? Gosh! I hadn’t sent them all to the bin, had I?
I couldn’t have been more stupid!

“But they came under a heading that seemed pretty much like those health care mails sent by the company!”  I protested feebly.

“Either ways, you should always check the content before deleting anything.”

Her voice was reprimanding but her words were too true to be refuted.
Somehow the arduous task of going through the mails seemed gargantuan to me. Nonetheless, now it had to be done and now I had no mails to read since I had deleted them already.

“Just send me the mail, will you?”
“Right away. Fill it today. It’s the last date.”
“And what if we don’t?”
“They ask you for it during your visa application process. It is also required in loans and the like…It’s important, bro.”

That must have been the final nail. I was suddenly in a flutter. The returns were supposed to be filed by EOD. Throwing caution to the winds, I abandoned what I was doing at that point and went into overdrive. I quickly sifted through my ‘trash folder’.

My form 16 stared back at me.

“Really simple. Just fill in the details now.” The guy in the next cubicle advised me.

Well, I am not the best form filler on earth. In fact, I am quite the lazy type. And the congestion on the site made it worse.

“What do I do? The site takes ages to load!”
“Well, you shouldn’t have waited till the last day.” My colleague shrugged and went away.

I had started sweating now. The site stayed stubborn, unloadable.

And then, I found it. H&R Block. Cropped up in a hasty Google search. It said you could simply upload your form 16 and get the whole thing done and over with.
I swallowed in relief.

I had managed things at the last moment, thanks to H&R Block. My ITR blooper just fell short of becoming a full-blown one. That day, I pledged to file ITR on time. And well, H&R is always 'handy and ready' to help!

 I’m taking the #TaxPledge to file IT returns with the easy Income Tax efiling option from H&R Block at BlogAdda.

Friday, 3 June 2016

The White Kerchief

Manu could not help but see her. Nandita's face was turned towards the class window, sunlight lighting up her brown hair giving it a golden sheen. He thought she looked beautiful. Since the day he had seen her at the debate, he had fallen for her hook, line and sinker. Soon, however, he realized she was already taken. As most girls are. A boulder-like something had descended to the place where his heart seemed to be.

He took his favorite second last bench in class and dumped his bag on the seat. There was about half an hour till the first class of the day. Manu flicked through the timetable. Math. Phew! Since he had landed in standard 9, he had barely seen any other subject save Math in the first period. Well, so be it…life was only going to get harder…

A muffled sob caught his attention. He looked towards Nandita, who had hurriedly got up, her face red as a beetroot and stumbled towards the door. Dismayed, he realized that she was crying.

“Hey…what-” Manu reached her before he could stop himself.

Nandita looked at him as if he had just read her personal diary. By the looks of it, he had. Her face was a diary of sorts.

“What happened? You all right?” Manu had never had truck with girls before, much less sobbing teenagers. And the stricken look on her red face (if it could get any redder) made him feel awfully sheepish.

Source: www.listverse.com

“Here, take this.” He said, not knowing what else to say and offered her his handkerchief.
In the very next moment, he regretted it. Not because she refused or ran away- Manu later wished she had-but because he realized an instant too late that it was his white handkerchief, which was no longer white, but had motley patches of yellow, red and blue.

He hoped fervently that she would not see it while wiping her eyes, but that was wishful thinking. He wondered if he should take it back. But that would be bad manners, right? Defeated, he just stood there, hoping for the earth to swallow him as her tears splotched his already stained hanky.

“You have a funny hanky, you know,” she said in a thick just-cried voice. “So insanely large-” Yes, men’s hankies were always large. Hadn’t she ever seen her boyfriend’s hanky? By the by, where was her boyfriend? “-and so patched!”

Manu shifted uneasily, wondering what to say. But then, she giggled. He looked up uncertainly.

“Why is it so spotted and with such varied colors? Did you spill paint all over it?” She giggled all over again. Although it relieved him to hear her back to her usual self, but he was at his wits’ end.

“Umm…actually you see…umm…I washed it with all those colored clothes and umm…some of them might have thrown away their color. One of my white shirts got spoiled as well.” He blabbered apologetically.

Instead of laughing as he had expected her to, Nandita stared at Manu for some length of time, making him uncomfortable.

“I like colored kerchiefs, you know,” she said suddenly and giggled.


Ten years later at a get-together:

“Nanditaaa!” Maria squealed and gestured to her husband. “Rakesh come! Meet Nandita and Manu! Remember I told you about their story?”

Rakesh scratched his head for a moment. “The…err…”

“The white hanky story! I told you last night!”
“Oh yeah! I remember! Manu, pleased to meet you! Nandita can’t stop raving about you and how cute you guys are!”
“Pleasure is all mine!” Manu said with a smile.

He still couldn’t believe how on that fateful day when Nandita’s ex-boyfriend had left her broken and in need of a friend, he had found her. And soon, they had matured into lovers and all for what? The white kerchief, no less! He still thanked his father for teaching him since the day he entered adolescence,

A real man shares the load. 

And lad, you must learn to do your own chores. Household work is a collective responsibility. And remember, no work is exclusively men’s or women’s work."

The work had come to him easy enough. He had always seen his father doing the laundry, while mother hung up the clothes. Nandita though had found it new and surprising since her family had well-defined gender roles. Soon, the two kids fell for each other. And their love story came to be known among their friends as ‘The Story of the White Kerchief.’   



I am taking part in the #ShareTheLoad Challenge with Ariel and Akshara at BlogAdda.~