Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sticks and Stones!

Coming down to Kerala on a break is always such a pleasure! It is where you have grown up, after all, and spent many years, interspersed with joyful and not-so-joyful moments. The climate is the same, the roads are as dingy, there are myriad flats in place of individual houses, and all’s well in God’s Heaven.
The only thing that remains unchanged, and will always do, is the attitude of the people here. We Malayalis have a style of our own, which grants us the leeway to be extra familiar, and one step forward would take us to the brink of rudeness. And from the brink to a topple-over is the easiest step forward ever. It doesn’t even need a shove, however much the other party is provoked!
I walk into a friend’s home, and after the customary hugs, the first statement is, “You've put on weight, you know!”  This after regular walks, a strict diet and numerous packs of Sugar Free sloshing around in your system! I smile weakly, and nod, hoping that there’s an end to the matter. But open lips do not zip themselves up so easily! “Your arms have grown muscles, you know!” The friend’s mother has to add her pennyworth. “I remember you when you were in college! Such a slip of a girl zipping about on your moped! Such a pretty sight!” There would be a pregnant pause where I would heave a sigh of relief and try and change the topic to the pretty flowers in the garden, the polished tiles on the floor or the darned weather outside! But obviously my weight is a more entertaining topic, and the tirade goes on. “Your cheeks have grown!”
How do I remind them that I was born with apple cheeks, and that cheeks do not magically appear and disappear, but like Tennyson’s Brook, go on forever? “Uhhh… have you ever seen me minus my cheeks?” I venture hesitantly, and the reply comes in like a boomerang. “No, but they have grown rounder!” And the parting shot, a back handed compliment, if ever there was one. “But the weight suits you, you know? You look like a mother now!” A statement which will slowly turn into, “You look like a grandmother now!” if my daughter deigns to turn me into one, that is!
I stroll on the road with my sister, Bhanu, who is not even size zero. At sixty plus, she weighs 35 kilos! By sheer dint of comparison, I would look like a truck beside her. But it does not help to be told so. As the stroll continues, I see two familiar faces looming in the horizon and I tell Bhanu, “Watch out! The salvos are on their way!” And not once am I disappointed.
The elder lady adjusts her glasses, and looks me up and down. “Put on weight, have we?” Not that she ever means herself, even if it were true. “Really?” I croak, and strive to ask about her children, not actually recalling if she has any. But the second lady, younger and robust, puts a meaty arm on my shoulder and says, “Don’t you exercise? Or go for a walk?” A rather vague question, coming from one who is easily the size of a barn! The retorts stay on the tip of my tongue, maybe because of my upbringing, but I wish desperately at such moments that I were not so well bred!
I go home and ruminate moodily. Friends back in Chennai and their mothers and friends’ mothers do not ever call me overweight? Do people in Kerala eat special diets that make them a trifle more acerbic! And then, Eureka, it strikes me like a flash of lightning! I assume that people who have seen me as a child and a teenager still see me in that avatar. And when oft, on their couch they lie “in vacant or in pensive mood”, I flash upon their “inward eye”.  The image remains the same, and it probably jars them to see me change with the years. However, it would be rather unrealistic to imagine me as what I was when I was eighteen, especially after a delivery, a hysterectomy, a daughter’s wedding and half a century of good living!  I mean, it would be humanly impossible, unless you were Peter Pan! Or Rekha!
So I brace up, with a pretended nonchalance, and let the comments roll off me. I look at the mirror and see in myself what the others do not – a human face that tends to smile more than frown, an attitude that prods me on to feel that I am the best, and above all, a sense of humour that has come down in my genes and allows me to laugh most things off! Then I sit down at my laptop and hunt for an apt quote on the subject, till I come across one that “shines like a good deed in a naughty world”.
"It's an uncommonly dangerous thing to be left without any padding against the shafts of disease." So said George Eliot in Middlemarch, very conveniently, as it seems.
My mood lightens, "And then my heart with pleasure fills/ And dances with the daffodils."

17th December 2014

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Uber Safety - Under Fire!

Yet another young woman is raped, and all the hype is back again! A Uber cab driver beat up and raped a 27 year old woman after she dozed off in his cab. He threatened to assault her with an iron rod, if she tried to scream, bringing back gruesome memories of the Delhi gang rape case. After which, he slunk away like the coward he is. Later, he told his wife that they would have to leave their home in Mathura.
This is a man who has two daughters and a stepson, supposedly a family man, but in reality, a monster who has raped earlier as well. Shiv Kumar Yadav is a repeat offender, who was arrested in 2011 for seven months in connection with a rape case. He was acquitted due to lack of evidence, which is what happens in more cases than not. Does lack of evidence mean that the man is innocent, or that the woman is the one to be blamed? Seven months in jail for a crime that should have ensured he was locked away forever?
What is this country we live in? Where laws are so toothless that they fail to protect the innocent? If only this man had been convicted in 2011, he would not have been around to rape again. If only, the court had taken into consideration the fact that a person accused of rape could actually be a rapist, despite lack of evidence, an innocent woman’s life would not have been ruined! If only the laws of the land were stronger against heinous criminals, monsters would think twice before taking the law into their own hands! If only… the saddest words ever in the English language.
In Kerala, some years ago, the train rapist who was left off leniently because he was disabled, ended up repeating his crime, as he threw a woman off a train and raped her.
The Delhi rape case killed not just the brave victim, but the hopes of millions of women in the country. Rapes have continued, unabated, even as the laws have been amended.  However, in the absence of strong deterrent action against the perpetrator, these laws are toothless, and often, he is awarded a light punishment that makes him feel that he can get away with murder, and often does. No wonder we tend to agree with Dickens’ Mr.Bumble, who said famously, “The law is an ass - an idiot.”
Why can’t we stand up as a strong society and condone the atrocities that are taking place? Why can’t the laws be strengthened in a way that the perpetrators are punished and not the victims? Is non violence being carried to such an extent that criminals are let loose to perform their monstrous acts over and over again? A man who rapes should be punished so strongly, and made an example of, in society, that he will never dare to look at a woman in such a light again.
Unfortunately, a rapist is brought out, handcuffed, but with his face covered, so that no one knows who he is. Why this leniency towards a man who has murdered all decency? On the other hand, he should be led out openly, his face splashed over the media, so that people know who he is, and protect themselves from him. Why should any mercy be shown to a man who has proved that he has not an iota of mercy within him?
If the argument forwarded is that his family should be spared the ignominy, that is sheer bunkum! What about the family he has wronged, the family he has torn apart in one fell swoop? What right does he, or any human being have, to touch even a hair on his victim’s head? Would he condone it if someone else did the same to his loved ones?
What is this country we live in, where we do not feel safe, where menacing strangers dog our footsteps, whether in trains, buses, apartments or within our own homes? Why is it we watch helplessly when loved ones are trampled on, even as the police, the authorities and the law, take their own sweet time to pass judgments? And once the judgments are passed, why do they leave us with a feeling of dissatisfaction, a feeling that not enough has been done, a feeling that our whole world is going to cave in on us? For the criminal gets back onto the streets in no time, and then, he seeks revenge, not because he is wronged, but because the person he has wronged has dared to fight back! Where is the sense in all this, how do we protect our own?
The ironic part is that Shiv Kumar Yadav confessed to his crime, saying, “Galti ho gayi, kya karoon ab?” (I committed a mistake. What do I do now?” There is no trace of remorse, only a feeling of discomfort because he has been caught. One gets the feeling that if he is let off again, he will not hesitate to go back and commit the same crime all over again, because if he is let off, he goes out with the feeling that the crime he committed was not a grave one!
Is that the impression that we should be left with? That rape is not an offence serious enough to be taken seriously? Is it because women are considered as the weaker sex? Then it is time that women also take up arms for their own rights. Schools should impart self defence classes right from the primary classes. Girls should be able to defend themselves strongly, and come out from the medieval mindset that proclaims them the weaker sex. Pepper spray, safety pins, and chilli powder will work better, if allied with the confidence that they can take care of themselves.
However, above all, we should stop being a passive society that looks on in silence when atrocities are being committed. Often, when a woman is being molested, there are whole crowds of people, men and women, who look on in total passivity. Where are all the good Samaritans? Too busy looking away because they do not want to get involved! What they tend to forget is that tomorrow, they could be in the same helpless state, watching their loved ones being molested, as a whole society looks on with apathy.
As James Clemens put it in Hinterland, “But often life asks much of you, and you either honor life by answering with all your heart, or you cower your way into the grave.”
Could we honor life by answering with all our hearts?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Miracle of Love

The waves crashed on the rocks, a sound that Sudesh loved, as he sat feeling the freshness of the spray on his face. Voices echoed around him, and he could feel the vibration as people jogged along the beach, and his sightless eyes turned towards the movement. He had been coming to this spot for many months now, ever since he had shifted to Mumbai, after his mother had passed away.

The sound of the sea evoked a vision that he could only feel, not see. He could smell the delicious puris that Ram Prasad was frying, very near to where he sat. Every day the cheerful proprietor would look for a moment when there were few customers, and hand over a plate of piping hot puris and delicious potato curry to the gentle blind man who sat there, so young and so uncomplaining!
Sudesh heard the tinkling of anklets near him. “Who is it?” he asked curiously. “May I sit here?” asked a soft voice, and he had a sudden mental vision of a lovely young girl, delicate and lively.
“Do sit down!” he invited, “That is if you have nothing else to do!” He heard the thud as she sat down beside him, and sensed the smile in her voice. “I am a regular customer of Ram Prasad’s, and a great fan of his puris. He told me about you the last time I was here!”

They were interrupted by Ram Prasad who brought two plates of hot puris, and they sat in silence, munching away contentedly, not wanting to break the silence.
"You haven’t told me your name!” Sudesh asked suddenly. “Kavita!” she replied, and the ice was broken. They began to talk about all kinds of subjects, and Sudesh tried to conjure up her face. Was she short or tall, fair or dark? He sensed that she had long hair and sparkling black eyes, judging by the easy way she laughed. Her heart shaped face would have an expression of mischief, and there would be a round red bindi in the centre of her forehead. He wished he could have a glimpse of her. What did she feel when she looked at him? Pity? He hoped not because he hated being pitied.
The hours flew by as though they had wings. They had already drunk two cups of masala chai and the breeze had grown stronger, as the sun prepared to set in the horizon. Ram Prasad was closing up shop and it was time for Sudesh to go home as well. “Goodnight, Sudesh ji!” Kavita’s voice tinkled in his ear.
“Will I see you again?” he asked, rather ironically, and she laughed as she replied, “Why not! You couldn’t keep me away from Ram Prasad’s puris!”  Sudesh heard her go with a strange pang in his heart. He had never felt this way before.For a change he kept sitting, immersed in his own thoughts. He felt a warm glow at the thought of his new friend. But how could he, a blind man, harbour such thoughts about any girl? He tried to imagine Kavita’s face again. Maybe she was like a poem herself, judging by her name! He imagined her large lustrous eyes smiling at him, giving him hope.
Suddenly his shoulders slumped. How could he expect a beautiful young girl to marry a blind man like himself? When Ram Prasad came by to guide him back home, he found him sitting listlessly, a picture of dejection.
“Sudesh Babu, I thought meeting Kavita would have cheered you up! Instead you are sitting like a monument of despair!” Sudesh got up with difficulty, and groped around for his cane. “Ram Prasad, don’t introduce me to any more girls!” he groaned. “I liked Kavita, even though I have no hope that she will ever reciprocate!”

Ram Prasad whooped in joy. “Congratulations, Sudesh Babu! She is a lovely girl!” He went on happily. “I have been trying to bring you two together for some time now!” as Sudesh heard him out in disbelief, he said, “She is a beautiful person. When she was young, she was involved in an accident in which she lost her eye sight! Never once has she complained or thought of it as a disability!”
Sudesh listened, lost for words. He was elated because now he could ask Kavita to marry him. He was strangely happy that he himself was blind because he could always imagine her large lustrous eyes looking at him with hope and love!
By Deepti Menon
Jan 26, 2012


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sisters In Arms

Photo credit - Nevit Dilmen

I shuddered as the waves crashed on relentlessly, and the white foam licked my feet. My sister sat by me, as we had sat in the past as children, gazing in fascination at the sea, which had always held a strange awe for us. When Dad retired after receiving his Golden Handshake, his first impulse had been to buy a cottage by the sea, which was Mom’s biggest dream as well. All through our childhood, our vacations had always been spent at the seaside, and Dad’s decision came at the right time.
The first time we saw the cottage we were overwhelmed. Mom wept in joy as we looked out at the blue expanse outside our window, and heard the crash of the waves which grew louder in the quiet of the night. The very next evening, they broke the news to us. Mom had this little tumour growing insidiously within her, and I remember running down to the beach to weep copious salty tears filled with regret. Regret that I had not had Mom to myself, regret that a stranger had come in to share her with me...
It was when I was four that Maria came into our home. “Anna, this is your sister, Maria!” smiled Mom. After I was born, the doctor had said that Mom could not have any more children. “We felt that we should not be selfish and that you needed a companion to play with!” added Dad.
I hated Maria on sight. Not only was she prettier than me, but she also knew how to use her charms and beguile everyone around her - my parents whom I had to now share with her, my friends who had been mine only, even  strangers on the street who would pinch her cheeks and smile at her, even as I stood by in sullen silence.
I found myself taking refuge in silence, which seemed to be my only ally. We would sit by the seaside, Maria and I, and while I would be lost in my thoughts, she would be plotting her next move... on how to humiliate me in public, or to get me into trouble!  She had a face that was as innocent as an angel’s, and under that a heart as black as night! She became my tormentor, an assassin who smiled as she smote!
When Mom passed away, she wanted her ashes to be scattered in the sea. “So that I will always be with my girls!” she had smiled weakly. Every time we looked at the waves, it was as if Mom was there, waving to us, smiling her beautiful smile.
Dad suddenly aged overnight. He missed Mom desperately, and we missed him the way he used to be. It was as though he was pining for her and we knew deep within that he would not survive very long without her.
One evening he called the two of us to his room, his voice breaking as he spoke of our future. The lawyer had come that morning with Dad’s will, and it was this that he wanted to discuss with us. “My dearest girls, I have always wanted you to be close, like real sisters, hoping that you would be there for each other even after Mom and I died!” His voice turned wispy, as though his thoughts were taking a burden on his emotions, and suddenly I knew what he was trying to say. He and Mom had always known that Maria and I hated each other, despite all their efforts. She was the interloper, I said to myself fiercely. She should have tried harder...
Dad was still talking. “I have made out my will. I do hope that it will keep you together.” Big chance, I scoffed inwardly, and found Maria looking at me with a curious gleam in her eyes.
Dad went without a struggle, almost glad that he would soon be with Mom. As his friends came and held our hands, condoling with us, tears overwhelmed me. “Now you have only each other!” a stray comment hit me like a thunderbolt. I had never felt so alone in my life ever!
The lawyer cleared his throat and began to read Dad’s last will and testament. I was shocked at the investments he had left behind. I never realized how much he had been putting away all these years for me - for us! Had Maria not been around, I would have been very comfortable all my life. The next few words broke into my thoughts... “I divide my wealth and property between my two daughters, on the condition that they live together under one roof for the rest of their lives as sisters.  On the event of the death of either, the money will be transferred to the other.”
My world collapsed about me. I had been looking forward to severing the umbilical cord, if you could call it that, between Maria and me, but now Dad had decreed that we were to turn into Siamese twins. I couldn’t imagine the dreary years ahead, years where I would be carrying a burden I didn’t want to.
Maria too seemed shell shocked, but she turned on her fake charm and smiled sweetly at the lawyer, who melted under her charm, as I looked on grumpily.  Another scalp to her collection!
That night I tossed and turned, as sleep eluded me. I thought of the many years Maria had been a thorn in my side, of the times when she had made a scapegoat of me and got me into trouble. Her sickly sweetness towards Mom had made her a favourite even though Mom never openly showed it. Wherever we went, she would be the star, as her beauty and vivacity made me look even duller and quieter than I was. Even my friends gravitated towards her, even though they remained loyal to me. I sought refuge in long silences, but my blood boiled unceasingly.
And now I was expected to endure her till the end of my life – or hers! That is when the germ of an idea sprouted in my mind. I drew myself up with a start. Was I thinking of murder? The idea took firm root and refused to let go, worrying me like a dog nibbling at a bone!
My mind worked overtime, and suddenly, there it was, the perfect plot! And the setting was equally perfect. I would get rid of Maria by the sea, the one place where we had spent so many hours together. Getting her to the cottage would be simple. Dad’s ashes too needed to be scattered in the blue waters, where they would mingle with Mom’s. We would walk along the beach, barefoot, and it would take nothing more than a handkerchief soaked in chloroform, and a strong resolve, which I definitely had.
The plan was all too simple. The next evening we were at the cottage, where we pointedly ignored each other, but the tension was palpable. We had nothing to say after all these years. It was late evening when we decided to take Dad’s ashes and go to the beach.  Maria went on ahead, and I pretended to loiter at home, but actually I needed to make my preparations, and I wanted to get to the beach only by twilight, the hour when everything gets blurred and shadowy shapes abound.
I quickly soaked my handkerchief with chloroform, and then looked around for my gloves. As the sun set in the distance, I rummaged around in my suitcase frantically, but there was no sign of them. Finally I decided that I would have to do the deed with my bare hands, and wipe off my fingerprints as well as I could. I sprinted down to the beach, where Maria stood, gazing at the russet sky, ears cocked as though listening to the waves talk. There was a strange stillness about her and even as I hated her, I could not help but admire how beautiful she looked.
As I moved closer to her, she turned around and held the little urn out to me. “Let’s do it together!” I said, breathless after the run, and together we tilted the ashes, watching them merge with the waves, even as the sun went down in the horizon. It was now or never. I felt in my pocket for the handkerchief, when Maria pointed behind me and screamed, “Look out!” I turned around in shock, and in the next instant, felt a handkerchief against my nose. As I began to black out, I noticed the gloves on her hands.

Published in

Thursday, July 31, 2014


Black, they say is beautiful! I say so too! If one were to juggle all the colours in the rainbow and shake them up together, one would get a perfect black. Not surprising that it is a colour that holds its own everywhere. Five black things which I would love to own? Here goes:
1. I would love to give my daughter a beautiful little black dress that would make her look like a million bucks! (Which she already does, by the way!)
2. I would really wish that I could gift my husband a pair of the smartest black shoes that exist, one that would make him walk tall and make him happy!

3. How about a really snazzy pair of trousers that are as black as night, and fall well as well? This time, for me!
4. A sleek black smart phone can never fail to thrill the cockles of the heart!
5. A chic black shirt for my husband who loves wearing black!
And I repeat, black is the culmination of all things beautiful.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Unspoken Dreams by Alisha Guenzel

There are some books that clutch at your heart strings, and ‘Unspoken Dreams’ by Alisha Guenzel is one of them. Samantha, the main protagonist, comes across as a bright and independent woman, who lives life on her own terms, whether it is making her own decisions in life, or standing up against adversity, in a world where she is forced to live alone with her autistic son, Jaime.
Close friends who have been inseparable from the time they were children, Samantha Sharp and Jonathan Carson have grown to love each other with the intensity that comes from knowing each other inside out. However, when Samantha finds herself pregnant, a strange nervousness assails her, as she waits to break the news to Jonathan.
The blow falls as Jonathan refuses to be part of the pregnancy, saying that he is not ready to be a father, and needs to concentrate on his career instead. He tells her bluntly, “Our dream was good, but there are better dreams out there, Samantha.”
The next phase of Samantha’s life begins, as she takes up a job at New York, where her new boss, Chuck Young, editor and chief of the New York Times, helps her to find an apartment and to settle into her new assignment. Samantha wants the baby and she has only one choice left, “to make her life and the baby’s life as good as possible”. She is soon promoted as Head of the Journalism Department, and her life revolves around baby Jaime and her job.
However, as the years go by, Jaime-Bear, as she calls him, with sparkling blue eyes like his father, reveals singular traits that prove that he is autistic. He has his own strengths, as well as his little moments when he retreats deep into himself. At these moments, only Samantha can calm him down with her special touch. He does not like hugs, unless they are his momma’s hugs. He needs reassuring touches to make him feel secure and does not like too many people around him.

At this juncture, Samantha’s younger sister, Amy, who is pregnant, calls her, asking her to come and be with her till the birth of her daughter. After some thought, she agrees to go back home, so that Jaime can meet his aunt, uncle and his grandparents. It is with trepidation that she prepares her son for the journey, dreading the idea of exposing “her eight-year-old- autistic secret” to her parents. How Jaime reacts to her family forms a heartwarming part of the book.
Jonathan, meanwhile, is busy living life for his dream. He has finally become the owner of his own restaurant, Midnight Moments, and is all set to launch it, when he meets Amy, who is married to Rick, his friend, and promised to throw a baby shower for her.
How does Jonathan react when he meets his old flame, Samantha, again after so many years? Does Samantha want him back into her life and Jaime’s? Will Jaime, who is possessive about his momma, accept Jonathan as his father? Can Samantha ever trust the man who betrayed her once?
Old memories and regrets are interspersed with a sense of hope and anticipation, as this touching story unfolds with many special moments that bring the relationship between Samantha and her Jaime-bear into focus… if there are difficult moments, there are also many that are spun with precious threads. Alisha Guenzel writes with an ease and clarity about autism, in a way which makes her readers fall in love with Jaime, and offers useful pointers on how to deal with an autistic child.
‘Unspoken Dreams’ is a must read if you enjoy romance, emotion and a poignant storyline that leaves you with a sense of well being.

Posters created by Alisha Guenzel

Review by Deepti Menon

Sreemoyee Piu Kundu - Mistress of Spice

“Erotica is divinely mystical.”

As Sreemoyee turns her limpid eyes on you, all decked up in a gorgeous green silk sari and a smile which lights up her face, it is as though a child-woman stands before you! She might be in her thirties, but there is a quality of innocence that flickers in her eyes and which one does not quite expect, especially after her ‘Sita’s Curse – the Language of Desire’ (Hachette) has earned her the soubriquet of the ‘Queen of Erotica’. Deepti Menon decides to decode the mystery that is Sreemoyee.
Did you always want to be a writer?
Growing up as an only child, I had to liven up my solitary childhood by manufacturing my own excitement. I was good at writing in school, having won numerous essay contests. I began writing poetry, which I still do. I always had the knack of observing people, and I would put things I couldn’t say to them in my writing. Thus, my sojourn with writing began, and it was a natural progression, as one thing led to another.
Who was your greatest influence when you were growing up?
I have been brought up in a culturally evolved Bengali household where everyone sings and dances! My grandmother did all this, and wrote poetry as well. She was one of the strongest influences on me, as this was my first exposure to writing, and to poetry specifically.
How does it feel to be called ‘the Queen of Erotica’?
I take it as a great responsibility. India has always had this treasure house of classical erotic literature which unfortunately has been brushed under the carpet over the decades. Today, 50 Shades of Grey seems to be the only exposure that people have to modern day erotica. I hope my book will be able to live up to the reputation of the ancient texts.
Wasn’t ‘Sita’s Curse’ initially meant to be a short story?
Yes, this was meant to be a short story that was part of an anthology on erotic literature. When I wrote the prologue, I realized that there was something bigger and more meaningful within my mind, an intense story that needed to be explored. Meera had to mean something more. So I did much research, delving into classical books on erotica, and when I finally wrote ‘Sita’s Curse’, it was akin to a spiritual awakening.
How difficult was it for you to write a book on erotica in the prevailing atmosphere of conservatism, which is so ironic, considering that India is the country where the Kamasutra originated. Was your book able to lead your readers to the spiritual level that lay alongside the physical one?
‘Sita’s Curse’ is imbued with the philosophy of eroticism.  I believe that your soul can only be complete, if you are free with your body. The book goes much beyond the union of man and woman. All I tell my readers is not to go by hearsay and innuendo, but to take the trouble to read the book, and get hooked on to its story line. It is, no doubt, a physically provocative book, but I don’t see anything wrong with that. Today, sexuality is being bandied as a bad word that people want to keep under wraps.
As far as the difficulty in writing the book went, my earlier book ‘Faraway Music’ also revealed a very sensual style of writing, even though it fell under the genre of literary fiction. While writing ‘Sita’s Curse’, my language had to be descriptive and evocative, and it is not easy to sustain the pace, given that it is laden with sexual explicitness.
Is there a Meera within every woman? You have used the metaphor of water throughout the book – the Mumbai sea, the river, the rains and the floods of 2005. What is the significance of water in your book?
In classical erotica, nature has always played a vital role in deciphering the emotions of the characters. The flood, for instance, related to the flood and the onrush of feelings within Meera’s heart, when certain painful truths are unveiled. There is a Meera within every woman, but not many women have the courage to let her break loose and reveal herself.

                                Sreemoyee signing books at Starmark, Express Avenue, Chennai

Maharaj, one of the male characters in your book, seems to have been lifted from real life. What about the other men in Meera’s life?
Maharaj is a strong character who has many women fantasizing about him. He is a God man who is believable, as so much of exploitation goes on in our country in the name of religion. There are so many instances of social openness in the Mahabharata – Kunti’s sons born of gods, rishis and munis, the role that Veda Vyasa plays to carry on the lineage, and the like. We were never repressed in the past, but today we have regressed as a society, having turned conservative, almost puritanical.
Mohan and Yosuf are the means and never the end to Meera’s emancipation. Each man comes into her life to teach her something, and she uses her body to break free of all boundaries and to grow from strength to strength.
Moving on to other things, how do you relax? What are your hobbies? Where do your ideas spring from?
I don’t relax! (Smiling) I am forever writing, editing and promoting my books! However, I do love to travel… I am a compulsive traveler. It need not be an exotic destination, for even a trip to the nearest beach would suffice.
 Where do my ideas spring from? That is a difficult question to answer. I never know from where the germ of an idea comes; maybe when I watch people, and they tell me their stories!
Do tell your readers about the books that are in the pipeline. What does the future hold for you?
Apart from ‘Sita’s Curse’, which comes under erotic literature, I have two other books that are in the pipeline. ‘Cut’ deals with the life of a Maharashtrian thespian, and the darkness of theatre from an artiste’s perspective, while “You’ve got the Wrong Girl” is a genre titled ‘lad lit’ as opposed to ‘chick lit’.
My next novel is titled ‘Rahula’. It is a political tragedy, and hence, people ask me if it is based on Rahul Gandhi. Actually it is based on Rahul, the son of Gautam Buddha. It is, at present, a work in progress, and in it, I plan to delve into the concept of homosexuality by meeting and talking to gay couples as a part of my research.
And a question that your readers would love to ask you... is there a Yosuf in your life?
No, there is no Yosuf, not even a weak Mohan, in my life. Maybe I am too creative and independent. I love being single, and I feel that it will be difficult to find a man who understands that I need to work 19 hours in a day. That is what scares me in a relationship. Will he be able to understand my work? Will he realize that I need solitude to write? Of course, I am not saying that such a man might never appear on my horizon. Hope lies eternal! (Smiling)
And that is Sreemoyee for you – erudite, frank and fiercely unapologetic about her chosen genre of writing. Her sincerity and belief in her writing shimmer through her lines, stopping readers in their tracks, as they flock around her asking open questions on sexuality and eroticism. And that sense of self-belief, maybe, is her strongest quality.

Monday, June 23, 2014

When I See Your Face by Devika Fernando

Graphic by Alisha Guenzel

Review: Deepti Menon

There are some books which evoke a sense of nostalgia, passion and love, of raindrops and balmy breezes, of light predicaments and romantic trysts! ‘When I See Your Face’ is one of those. It is the story of Cathy, who resolves to start life over, “without a husband who didn’t love her and whom she had grown to fear and avoid, if not hate.” Mark is the scheming charmer who treats her like a possession, and thinks it is his right to abuse her, whenever he is drunk.
She falls in love with the picturesque little village that gives her sanctuary, as also with the intrepid Mrs. Grindle, who is like a ray of sunshine, wanting to mother and feed the young girl who has suffered so much.
When she meets a stranger, Michael, who is the spitting image of her husband, Mark, her heart skips a beat in panic. The story twists and turns in most interesting ways, keeping the reader wondering as Cathy tries to come to terms with new relationships, which make her feel happy and secure. She concentrates on her own talents, so that she can make a living, all the while overwhelmed by feelings she has never felt before. One evocative line talks of how “hope was starting to grow inside her, a timid, light green shoot reaching a slim arm out of the soil and into the sunlight”.
What happens when Mark and Michael come face to face?  What are the conflicts that have marred Michael’s past, and threaten to undermine his present as well? Has Cathy made an error in judgment all over again? Numerous questions tickle the mind of the readers, as events meander by.
Devika has a real flair for choosing the right words and phrases to embellish the romance in her story. Never ever is there a moment when the reader feels disappointed in her style, for it remains consistently beautiful and easy to read. There is an innocence in the narrative that tugs at one’s heartstrings, and an old world charm that is missing in most modern books. It is also a story of progression, as Cathy grows stronger as a person, losing her vulnerability and low self esteem, as she finds herself able to live an independent and fulfilling life.
The cover of the book exemplifies the serenity and the deep love within the hearts of the characters. If you love romance, do read ‘When I see your Face’! If you enjoy a twist in your tale, stretch your hand out and pick this book up! And finally, if you want to read something that makes you feel warm and happy inside, this is definitely the book for you!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Deviant Flames - Elancharan Gunasekaran

Tibet has always inspired writers and poets with its beauty and inaccessibility, the land among the peaks, the land of spirituality and peace.  ‘Deviant Flames’ by Elancharan Gunasekaran, published by Author’s Ink India Publication, is a paean to this mystic land, whose people have died many deaths over the centuries under a despotic rule. ‘Deviant Flames’ takes inspiration from the hidden and elusive world of a land that yearns to be free, and sings of the daily wars in life faced by the Tibetans in powerfully moving verses that encapsulate the wonder that is Tibet.
This offering of verses lauds the fight of the natives who immolate themselves, rather than resort to violence to spill the blood of the innocent. They believe that their lives of privation will forge a path to everlasting peace, and a better world after they die. They offer a supreme invitation to the Saviour to come and punish the wrong doers – “so casually they defile our lands” evoking “anguish on faces” of those who are “chased from serenity of home”.
The writer speaks of a choice to the people of the land, a choice between selfish personal gains and that of the path towards independence, even as he invokes them to “worship the land/ you step on” for Nature is not theirs to claim or corrupt. The elements, Fire, Earth, Water and Wind all prophesy the birth and the deeds of the Saviour who will die a thousand times to serve humanity, to alleviate the wrath and the agony of the Tibetans who are ready to rekindle the fire of freedom within their hearts.
“No religion is strange/Nor does it teach one, /To do wrong”. Much of the destruction in the world arises when “in the name of gods, zealots fight”.  The author talks about the lord of the sky who soars in the blue sky, “urging brave souls to fly/ against all odds”. Redemption awaits all, and the good are rewarded while the evil are awarded venom on “the wheels of karmic balance”. However, the moot point remains that when the last sages pass away, who will then keep Nature in check?
The writer also describes the curse of capitalism, the elevation of human standards and the repetition of the glory of civilization, combined with “the meaningless chatter of words”, questioning the need for advancement. “Primitive as we were once/we had peace”. He abjures the alien ruler, “the mad man who sits upon the mountain throne, serving his own greed” to stop his cruelty to his subjects.
There is another man, a ruler in his own right, who strives to end the suffering of his people, through selfless service to them. He hopes to lead them to freedom, to turn the tide of cursed industrialization that has filled “the air with poisonous fumes”. If only they could go back to where their ancestors once crawled in search of peace, away from the hunting wolves!
The man creates tattooed scripture on his skin, mixing blood with ink, even as he screams to his followers, pleading with them not to let the invaders take the fire from their souls. Even when he is captured, he holds his head high, refusing to be overcome, refusing to yield, refusing to die.
It is finally Love, “the brightest flame of all” that conquers, Love that burns away the darkness and creates a whole new world of freedom and hope.
 The lyrical quality of the work is its strength, and the headings on every page give the readers a hint of what lies within. The poetry and the turmoil within the land act as a foil to each other, and take the story forward, to narrate the saga of a beautiful non-violent land to the world.

Reviewer: Deepti Menon

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Rape of the System!

Image from Pixabay

What is the biggest issue in front of the new government today? If the modern Pandora’s Box is opened, there would be myriad ills flying out in all directions, but the biggest and the most troublesome one of all would be that of outrages against women in our country. The latest shockers from Badaun and Etawah have, once again, proved that, in certain states, women are not even seen as second class citizens. If a woman goes missing, it is not considered significant, for she does not even constitute a ripple in the cesspool of male supremacy.

Two young sisters, aged 14 and 15, disappeared in Badaun, and when their family approached the police station to lodge a complaint, they were not taken seriously. Later the bodies of the girls were found hanging on a tree. They had been gang-raped by four men, and as if that were not bad enough, hanged with impunity. The rapists have been arrested, along with a police constable who refused the family aid. It is to be seen what action will be taken against them, for there are more acquitted rapists, than not, who go out and commit 
the crime over and over again, because they have been lucky the first time around!

As usual, it is a case of the stable door being locked after the horse has escaped! The whole country came alive after the heinous Delhi gang rape case, and did not rest till the death sentence had been awarded to the culprits. However, what comes out of this incident is that when severe punishment, even a death sentence, is awarded to one solitary case, and thousands of offenders get away, scot free, it is hardly a deterrent worth worrying about.

So rapes continue, unabated, as men prowl about in groups, pounce on women from the weaker sections of society, and molest them, confident that they will not be punished. Most have huge caches of wealth, family members who look upon their crimes as mere escapades, (judging by what an ex CM said, when he pronounced that boys will be boys!), and enough influence to get out of sticky situations.

On many occasions the cops are also on the pay roll of these power mongers, and do everything in their power to hush up affairs. There have also been cases when cops have turned into rapists, as in the recent case where two policemen have been booked after two years for having raped a minor.

In another case in Etawah, the family members of a rape accused mercilessly beat up the mother of the rape victim to prevent her from opening her mouth. The result was that the woman has lost her power of speech and lies in the ICU, another victim of savage brutality. No arrests have been made, and the policemen and the big wigs in the state government mouth the usual platitudes about the case being looked into. Unfortunately, the case is looked into from the angle of the perpetrators, who are more powerful, and the poor victims are further victimized and brow beaten into silence.

It was the Mahatma himself who said, “OF ALL the evils for which man has made himself responsible, none is so degrading, so shocking or so brutal as his abuse of the better half of humanity to me, the female sex, not the weaker sex.” Sad it is that in a country that gave birth to peaceful religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, and in the past, held women in great reverence, such atrocities are happening.

And that brings me back to where I started! What is the biggest issue before the new government?  It is definitely the safety, well being and the security of women, and, hopefully, an advent into an era when women can live out their lives without being subject to harassment, eve teasing, molestation, acid attacks, rape and murder. As the chilling quote by C.J. Roberts in a piece aptly named ‘Captive in the Dark’ goes, “People often believed they were safer in the light, thinking that monsters only came out at night.” A belief that has been well and truly turned on its head!

The Red Elephant Foundation

Monday, May 12, 2014

Deepti Menon - Author, Blogger and Journalist

Thank you, Devika Fernando, for nominating my website for the Liebster Blog Award! This looks like fun, and I love it when authors / bloggers support each other.

The Rules
1.  Link back and thank the blogger who nominated you in your post.
2.  List 11 facts about yourself.
3.  Answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated you.
4.  Pick 5 - 10 new bloggers (must have less than 300 followers) to nominate and ask them 11 new questions. Do not re-nominate the blogger that nominated you.
5.  Go to each new blogger’s site and inform them of their nomination.

To learn more about the Liebster Award, check out this 
post by Devika Fernando.


11 random facts about myself
1.  I wrote my first poem at the age of ten, because I wanted to impress my Mom.
2. I often sit, stand, walk and work, listening to music.
3.  I love my beautiful Elephant God, Lord Ganesha, who makes sure I am safe, always.
4.  I wear a nose stud, only because my daughter made me pierce my nose, and I love it.
5.  I enjoy watching horror and suspense movies.
6.  I love dogs, and know for a certainty that they make the best pets.
7.  I would buy all the books in the world, if I had the space to room them all.
8. I call myself a bathroom singer.
9. My world revolves around my husband and my daughter, and now my son in law (love).
10. Family members and close friends are very important to me.
11. I have a wonderful support system, as far as my family is concerned.

Questions asked by Devika, which I am repeating here because they are so good!

1.  Name three secrets that you never told anyone.
1)  I wanted to get a lottery so that I could buy gifts for myself, and for all those I loved, when I I was a child.
2)  I have always dreamed of being a best-selling author.
3)  I have wished I could eat everything I love without the calories piling up

2. If you won the lottery, what would be the first thing you would do?  
I would travel around the world with my husband, spend a long vacation with our daughter and my son-in-love. I would buy gifts for my family members, which otherwise I would never be able to afford. I would rent a house at Stratford-on-Avon and soak in the atmosphere, by watching all the Bard's plays

3. Looking over the last ten years, what is one goal you have achieved and one that you have not achieved?  
Achieved: Turned into a journalist and writer. Not achieved: a trip to Europe.

4. What are your plans for retirement? And will you travel, if so where and why? 
I will continue writing for it is in my blood. Words have their own rhythm within my mind, and I hope I can continue to juggle them the way I do, forever. Writing is like breathing to me!

5. Favourite drink on a Friday night?
I don’t drink alcohol. If I had to choose something, it would be litchi juice, or a fresh lime mint cooler.

6. What do you think the secret is to a good marriage or relationship with a significant other is?  
I think a husband and wife have to be friends first. There should be trust, understanding, love, and above all, a great sense of humour, that keeps the relationship alive and kicking!

7. Name three words that describe your personality.  
Straightforward, creative and funky (as my nieces say!)

8. Home-cooked meal or take-out? 
I love eating out, especially when it comes to Chinese or Italian food. However, I do love the food my husband, my very own Master Chef, rustles up.

9. When was the last time you blogged and what was the topic? 
  Yesterday, on my blog page. Do check out my Mother’s Day Post titled ‘My Two Mothers’.

10. What do you think the key is to happiness? 
I think that being happy and fulfilled is the key to happiness. Life becomes worth living when
you try to make a bouquet with those flowers within reach. I also believe that you must do everything you do with dedication, and in the hope you are striving for perfection. Above all,  be happy and love what you do!

11. Who is your favourite poet and why? 
There are many poets whom I adore – the Romantics, Tagore, Robert Frost, Ramanujam, Longfellow, John Donne, Milton are a few.  I love Maya Angelou for the images she evokes, and the beauty of her language. Especially in a poem like ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’.

Questions asked by Deepti
I think the questions asked by Devika are perfect, so I will stick with them (see above "Questions asked by Devika"). If you don’t feel like answering one or some of these 11 questions, do come up with your own ones.

My Liebster Nominations

3. Ashay Abbhi

4. Usha Narayanan

5. Roopa Raveendran Menon –


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