Saturday, May 17, 2008

This Blog has Moved to

HI I finally saved enough money to buy my own piece of real estate - on the web. It took a while. Royalty payments are slow to take off. So it has taken me a few years to mop up the coins that paid for my new website

Moving is a pain. Spring cleaning is a pain. Following a routine is a pain. Among the many painful things in the world, they don't even stack up to the pain of virtual moving. I am having to mop up pieces of my writing from various parts of cyber space and collect them in to one spot. But then that's part of the deal. The website is still getting its final touches and if you want to see more stuff there, just let me know what is it you are missing and I will try to serve it there. You can mail me at

The party venue has been changed but the party continues. See you at

Abhijit Bhaduri

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Of Balladeers and Dreamers

Music does these strange things. It cuts across boundaries. While words tend to have walls around them when you mix music and turn words into lyrics, they suddenly get wings. They reach out and tug at heart strings. The MTV office at Time in New York is a favorite destination for musicians to strut their stuff hoping some talent scout from the office would listen and give them their big break. i am not aware of anyone actually getting their break like that. But heck, New York is the city where dreams are bought and sold everyday. I have stood by mesmerized by the sound of a bunch of musicians from Andes playing their folk tunes on pan pipes accompanied by an electric guitar powered by a makeshift car battery and a set of drums. I have seen an African American drummer play the drums on a set of plastic paint barrels. I remember missing my train to watch a group of teenagers from Harlem show the world what break dancing was all about. And of course who can forget the Naked Cowboy stand in the middle of Time Square in his underwear and have a bunch of screaming hysterical teenagers line up to photograph themselves with him.
Last evening I went to see Sushmit Bose perform. He calls himself an urban folk musician. Sometimes I see him being referred to as an urban folk balladeer. It is difficult to imagine this person once sported shoulder length hair and wrote protest songs. Well he still writes songs and I guess he still protests against a range of issues. He briefly mentioned Tibet and then also sang a song protesting against the inhuman treatment given to stray dogs in Kerala. He sings about urbanization and the loss of soul etc. His songs are set to simple chords and will inevitably remind listeners of the sounds of Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger. The only tragedy was that when he finally sang Blowing In The Wind, he mixed up the lyrics. This is where his guitarist and banjo player Deepak Castelino stepped up to the mike and sang along with the crowd.
Sushmit was accompanied by Deepak Castelino - one of the finest guitarists I have heard. Many years back when Deepak was still in college, I watched him on TV singing Me and Bobby McGhee. His flawless strumming and deep baritone voice has only matured over the years. Deepak worked for fifteen years in the corporate sector and left it in disgust to pursue music. He composes and teaches music to children. I loved his composition called Corporation (which he calls कर परेशान meaning Make Miserable)। May his tribe increase. Maybe someday I will get a chance to learn from Deepak not just how to play the guitar but how to chase my dreams.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Sleepless in Seattle

I am a nervous traveller. Before I travel, I would ideally like to be at peace. Here is what I want it to be like. I should be able pack my suitcase comfortably, arrange my shirts in a certain sequence, add my shaving kit on the side - the stuff for meetings all laid out in sequence... Then I ought to sit back listen to some music and flip through my tickets - everything is in order, I tell myself as I leave home.

Reality is cruel. Reality is different. I have just rushed back home from office. The neighbor's dog is bringing down the house with his howl. I think he is sick - not the dog, I meant the owner. The dog is probably trying to send us a distress signal. I have no time time for all that. I rummage through my clothes and throw a few of them into the suitcase. They crumple up even before I have worn them. I lock the suitcase in a jiffy and open it back again. Rush to pack in my shaving kit. The last time I had left behind the toothpaste tube. The keys of my suitcase!! I had almost left them behind. But no, I have a sharp memory and I just caught myself in the nick of time from making yet another fatal error. The taxi is honking and competing with the neighbors' dog. I rush out of the house and then run back -the ticket. I collapse in a heap in the cab. The airport is a mess. There are people jumping queues, students listening to iPods and shaking their heads in approval and the cops eyeing all with suspicion.

"Who packed your bags, Mr Bhaduri?", she asks me.

"Since no one helps me at home, I have to do it myself." I answer.

"Have you accepted any gifts or packages from anyone to carry with you on this trip?' She quizzes me.

"Heck, I don't even get presents on my birthday. Who would buy me a gift simply for travelling on work? The answer therefore is a no.".

After a string of people have quizzed me, I get my boarding pass. I settle down into the seat. Aw heck! It is the middle seat again. I attract screaming kids on a plane like a vacuum cleaner attracts dust. Sure enough, this trip is no exception. I have a mother holding a wailing infant on one side and a glum faced senior citizen on the other. The flight takes off to the howling of the baby. Look I like babies especially when they don't cry or need a diaper change. This one missed my affection on both counts. I try not to puke as the lady changes diapers and constantly tries to talk in what she thinks is a tone that is building the kid's self image. The gentleman on my left is sleeping with his mouth open as if in wonder (what IS he dreaming about?) and he is snoring loudly. The snore sounds like a squeaky wheelbarrow being dragged back and forth on a cobbled street. I try to read. There is nothing decent around to read either - except for the in-flight magazine which is usually a by the juveniles and for the juveniles affair. I might as well use the washroom. I am on the horns of a dilemma. Who should I wake up to go to the washroom? The snorer? Or the infant who has just fallen asleep and has a steady stream of drool flowing as proof? I like proof except that it is going to start flowing towards me. I keep a few tissues handy. The snorer has changed pitch. It now sounds very close to the aircraft's engine. I vote in favor of the snorer. I try to jump over the old man and get to the aisle and miss. OUCH!! The man's loud protest wakes up everyone. I am the culprit. I pay the price for it. The baby starts howling again and wakes up the whole planeload of irritated passengers. I rush to the loo and wait there for a good five minutes before I return back to my seat. The world is at peace. Snorer is in dreamland. The baby is quiet and the mother is sleeping. I need to get back to my middle seat without disturbing the equilibrium of the earth. I have learnt my lesson the last time. I avoid hassling the grumpy old man. I try to get into my seat and land up waking the baby instead. "OH GOD!! CAN YOU LEAVE THE BABY ALONE??", someone shouts at me. I apologize to the world at large as I hide in my seat under the smelly blanket and pray for the baby to stop howling. It is going to be a long night.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sarod Less Travelled

India is a rare country with two equally well developed traditions of Classical Music - Hindustani (from Northern India) and Carnatic (from South India). This post is about Hindustani Classical music.
You have vocalists and instrumentalists to choose from in each category. The classical set of instruments that played solo were traditionally Sitar, Sarod, Bansuri (bamboo flute), Shehnai accompanied by the drone of a Tanpura to keep scale and Sarangi and to the beats of a Tabla. Over the years other instruments have been brought in to add variety. The Sarangi has moved up centrestage from being just a sidekick. Some instruments like Esraj (more popular in the Eastern States of India especially West Bengal) have faded away even though in some traditions (Vishnupur) or gharanas it played a prominent role. "Over the years many western musical instruments like violin, harmonium, mandolin, archtop guitar and electric guitar have come to be accepted in Indian classical music." Brij Bhushan Kabra and later Vishwa Mohan Bhatt popularized the Guitar as an instrument that can play Hindustani Classical. Just as Shiv Kumar Sharma has brought the Santoor (meaning a hundred stringed lute) to the mainstream of classical music.
Indian Classical Music has been developed over several generations with knowledge and skills being passed down from father to son (most of the instrumentalists are males in Hindustani Classical Music - is that the same in Carnatic Classical too?) or from teacher to disciple known as the guru-shishya tradition in India. The guru or the maestro would have the title of Ustaad (in case the teacher was Muslim) or Pandit (for the Hindu).
My parents were both Hindustani Classical music addicts. My mother played Ragas on the Acoustic Hawaiian Lap Guitar (known simply as the Hawaiian Steel Guitar in India). My father never played an instrument or sang but made sure he taught himself ragas by reading, meeting musicians and attending concerts whenever possible. The concerts, the vinyl LP records and the ubiquitious radio with the All India Radio Sangeet Sammelan or the classical music hour at night were a part of my universe. Just as I was beginning to get excited about The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Cliff Richard, Pat Boone and all, thanks to the efforts of SPICMACAY (an acronym for Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Culture Among Youth) my love for Indian Classical music co-existed with my love for every other sound that I got familiar with over the years. SPICMACAY used to organize Lecture Demonstrations (LecDems for short) to bring the best of the best Indian Classical Music maestros to explain the basics elements of the classical musical vocabulary and grammar and made it "cool" to listen to. The very first one I attended had Ustad Amjad Ali Khan xplaining the basics of Raga Yaman by playing raga based popular Bollywood hits on the sarod. Accompanied by the long haired Ustad Zakir Hussain on the tabla (who taught a semester at Princeton University in 2006) , they mesmerized the college crowd. Last fortnight I bumped into Ustad Amjad Ali Khan at Mumbai's swank new airport terminal. Here is a photo capturing that moment.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Love Letters

Gurgaon has over the last few years begun to be known for many things - malls, Call Centers and BPOs and lack of infrastructure. Going to see a play, art exhibition or a music concert meant that one had to go to the cultural hub of Delhi. That could mean anything from an hours drive or more depending on the time of day when you hit the road. But that was then. We now have Epicentre (Apparel House, Sector 44, Gurgaon) - a complex that boasts of a lovely auditorium (it possibly has 300+ seats??), an art gallery, an amphitheatre, a restaurant, conference & banquet rooms and a 45000 sq ft exhibition hall. If you want to be on their mailing list, just write to
This month for instance had the Puppet Theatre putting up Almost Twelfth Night. Smita Bharati put up two plays there - As The Sun Sets and 45-35-55. Feisal Alkazi's A Matter of Life and Death.
Yesterday I went to the Epicentre to Rahul Da Cunha's version of ‘Love Letters’ . The Pulitzer award winning play written by AR Gurney, describes the romantic and poignant relationship between childhood friends Melissa Gardner (Shernaz Patel) and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III (Rajit Kapur) over fifty years. The story unfolds through the letters the two characters have written to one another. The play was first performed in 1988. Shernaz Patel is just so amazing in the way she brings the impetuous Melissa. Rajit Kapur is a versatile actor for but last evening's performance seemed just a tad short of expectations.
Inspired by Love Letters, Feroz Khan has directed Tumhari Amrita तुम्हारी अमृता adapted by Javed Siddqui and had Farooque Shaikh who plays the politician Syed Zulfiquar Haider and Shabana Azmi playing the painter Amrita Nigam. In 1996 I saw them perform at Darpan Academy in Ahmedabad. It was was perhaps in one of the most powerful performances I have seen in theatre. By the time the play ends, there was no dry eye in the audience and Shabana Azmi was so deeply entrenched in the character that she just sobbed long after the play was over.
There is also the sequel Aapki Soniya (आपकी सोनिया), directed by Salim Arif, starts from where Tumhari Amrita ends. It has been years since painter Amrita Nigam, whose relationship with politician Syed Zulfiquar Haider had spawned a series of letters and Tumhari Amrita, has died. If you have seen it, let me what you thought of it.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

World Book Fair, New Delhi 2-10 February 2008

This year should see a spate of Indian books. From graphic novels to cookbooks. From Science Fiction to Short Stories, the publishers are ready to pull out their trump cards. With a growing confidence in everything Indian, the Indian reader is also ready to give Indian writers a chance to share stories that are desi and in a language that feels real. There is no need to add a glossary of Indian words or phrases used like they did before. I agree that it is an insult to the reader's intelligence if you do that.
"Even as Chetan Bhagat’s book (Rupa), Abhijit Bhaduri’s Married But Available and Karan Bajaj’s Keep Off The Grass (HarperCollins) are being touted as bestsellers in the making, other books are vying for the top spot. Penguin India has biggies like Sea Of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh, Bombay Tiger by Kamala Markandaya and Lost Flamingoes Of Bombay by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi lined up. Penguin imports, Age Of Shiva by Manil Suri, Something To Tell You by Hanif Kureishi, and The Wasted Vigil by Nadeem Aslam are also all set to rock readers. Picador lists... blockbusters in 2008 as The Palace Of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, An Atlas Of Impossible Longing by Anuradha Roy and Escape by Manjula Padmanabhan."
The World Book Fair started off yesterday at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi. This one promises to be even bigger and better than the one they did in 2006 which was spread over 38,000 sq metres of display with around 1300 publishers . In 1972, with 200 participants to visit the modest display at Windsor Place, New Delhi the World Book Fair made a beginning. Expect to see celebrity authors cutting deals with publishers or literary agents trying to woo the next big literary phenomenon. I am going to see if any one of the books mentioned above are available at the WBF.
I will be around at the HarperCollins stall possibly over the weekend. HarperCollins titles will be at Stall nos. 677-692, Hall no. 2. from 10 am (don't expect to see me there!!) to 8 pm (more likely to see me).

Sunday, January 20, 2008

India Finally Achieves Perth Control

This is my 100th blog entry. My hundredth run in the world of blogging.
So it is about a topic I have never written about - cricket. I may not know anything about cricket or ... for that matter I know nothing about sports. I suspect I was born without a sporting gene. Yet while I was using the remote control of the TV to flick aside channel after channel like an expert batsman, I could not but help take a peek into the world of cricket.

If you, like a billion Indians (make that billion minus 1) watch cricket more than you watch your own receding hairline, then you are probably celebrating. Australia was sixteen going on seventeen test victories in a row. Indian cricketers played spoilsport and broke the magic spell. Now Aussies will need to start working on that record creating spree all over again. The last time Aussies were halted was at Eden Gardens in 2001. Then it was Steve who had to say Waugh Bhai Waugh to the winning Indian team!!

Umpiring decision related controversies ruined the spirit of the Sydney test. Well there were umpiring gaffes in Perth too - but this time in favor of India. The odds are that bad and good decisions even out in life.
More photos at Indiatimes

Sunday, December 30, 2007

This One is for the Birds

1938 - A shooting party headed by the then Viceroy of India shot a maximum of 4,273 birds on 12th November.

1965 - The last leopard was shot with a gun

1967 - Keoladeo Ghana declared a reserved forest

1981 - Keoladeo upgraded to the status of a National Park

Situated 176 Kms away from Delhi, KEOLADEO GHANA NATIONAL PARK has about 400 species of birds. If you have never seen the ever dwindling species of birds called the Siberian Crane, then you must know that this is one of the two places in the world where this bird can be seen. the other one is in Iran.

Purshottam has been plying his rickshaw since he was 21 years old. His father was a guide at the Bharatpur bird sanctuary as well. Affectionately called Purshotti by everyone around, he keeps pointing out the various species of birds as we go. He knows their names in Bengali as well he tells me. "I have learnt the names of at least 30 birds in German and French languages. After all it is the tourists I have to depend on." He amazes me with his knowledge of birds and his ability to spot them. He loves chatting and keeps me engrossed with trivia and bird facts. I try to ask him about the brightly colored Kingfisher that is flitting around the marshy patch to my right. Purshotti silences me midway. He gets off from his rickshaw and looks up at what seems like a Palm Tree. I follow my teacher. He shows me a brown owl sitting snugly and blinking at the early rays of the morning Sun. Purshotti has tiptoed to the next tree and is gesticulating wildly to me to show me another owl. "They always move in pairs."

I rub my hands together to keep myself warm. The quaint little tea-shop in the sanctuary is brewing some tea. The clientele is building up. That includes a curious Neelgai who is keen to join us for breakfast. The visitors to the park have been feeding this Neelgai human food for so long that this particular animal no longer enjoys grass like the rest of them. Purshotti clicks his head in disapproval at the visitors trying to feed the animal some sandwiches.

When will we ever learn??

Bharatpur is hop step and jump from the Taj Mahal and the beautiful city of Fatehpur Sikri. The next time you are in the vicinty stop by to look at an amazing collection of birds and a few animals. If you meet Purshotti, say Hi to him.

Friday, December 28, 2007

2008 - The Year of the Bookworm?

The Chinese calendar has dubbed 2008 as the Year of the Rat - actually it is the Chinese Brown Earth (Soil) Rat Year. So one would imagine that Mickey Mouse (known as Topolino in Italy) would thrive. Rat trap sales will decline. I was just about going down that path when someone decided to give the lowly bookworm its pride of place in the zodiac.

The Hindustan Times of 21st December 2007 did a story on the next year being the Year of the Bookworm. Girija Duggal predicts the rise of graphic novels and fiction being the dominant flavor of the next year.

The article talks about the retail boom driving the expansion of chains like Landmark and Crosswords across cities in India that in turn is making it easy for booklovers to buy books. Fictions seems to have been the big success story this year. What with Advaita Kala's Almost Single (7,000 copies sold and counting) being the success of the year.

To quote Girija Duggal, "So, in 2008, get ready for Keep off the Grass by Karan Bajaj, Married But Available by Abhijit Bhaduri, You Are Here by popular blogger Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan and The Other Half of Me by Swati Kaushal.
Indian fiction has been growing in popularity. When I go into the bookstores, I see increasing amount of shelf space being given to the desi writers. Publishers are bringing out more of fiction. Graphic novels are inching their way into the bookshelves at home. We have got publishing houses who are willing to promote unknown authors, authors who are willing to find their own voice. What is missing is the matchmaker to put writers in touch with the publishers. So the market is ripe for literary agents. That is the missing link. A literary fest is often the space that does just that. It gets the reader, the author, the publisher and agent into one forum. And possibly the translators. There is a rich market of readers waiting out there.

I recently met Mita Kapur, a literary consultant and literary agent who is based out of Jaipur and runs Siyahi. She has been running the literary fest at Jaipur for the past three years. The conference, Translating Bharat: Language, Globalization and the Right to be Read (20th - 22nd January, 2008) is an effort by Siyahi to provide an interactive space for creating synergies to help writers, translators and publishers to understand core issues and work towards creating bonds which will help them benefit from each other's experiences and understanding.

I loved being there in Mumbai for the Kitabfest in Feb '07. Let me see if I can make it to Jaipur for the lit fest having just got back after a fab vacation in Jaipur, Bharatpur and Fatehpur Sikri. More of that soon.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hai Koi MICA Lal?

Once upon a time I used to live in Ahmedabad. And I used to work for the ad agency called Mudra Communications. Those were heady days for advertising agencies. The founder of Mudra AG Krishnamurthy (AGK) ran the place. The Ahmedabad office of Mudra used to be decorated from the floor to ceiling with photos from the various shoots of Vimal. Remember the "Only Vimal" campaign starring the oh-so-gorgeous Mehr Jessia? Deepak Parashar, Deepak Malhotra, Bikram Saluja and Himanshu Malik were the male models who were the brand ambassadors of Vimal suitings.

The creative duo Freddy Birdy and Naved Akhtar were the stars at Mudra those days. Their campaign for Nestle Polo "Mint with a hole" was the rage. I still have prints of their public service campaign "All You Have to Spend On the Elderly is Your Time" at home.

Mudra had set up the Mudra Institute of Communications Ahmedabad, known as MICA among students. MICA was one of the first schools of communication and advertising in India. Tucked away in the village of Shela near Ahmedabad, the campus was still being built as the first batch of people from MICA graduated. I have not been to MICA since then but from what I hear MICA is not only doing well but thriving.

It was great to know that it is not just students but Professors who read the book Mediocre But Arrogant and liked it. Here is a mail from Deval Kartik - a Professor at MICA. Deval Kartik ( is an Adjunct Professor at MICA. I had to be cautious while spelling that word. It is not "Ad Junked Professor", stupid. Here is her mail to me:

"Hey Abhijit

Thanks for writing such a 'straight from the heart' book. Really enjoyed reading it. And now waiting for the sequel.

I loved the book at two levels. One, it is set in the time I can identify with. I graduated to be 'Mediocre But Arrogant' in 1990. Not too far away for your period, though from a completely different part of the country. Yet, there are several characters one can identify with clearly...some profs and some batch mates!

And now, I am on the other side of the game and can almost sense my students calling me...well...I hope not Kaamini!!! Hehehehe.. But more than that I can really see where all assignments come from, why someone is ever so bright for a 6pm PPT and lot more.

The best I could do was gift the book to MICA library and just tell a few of them about it!

The good word spreads ever so quickly!

Cheers and keep writing!

Deval Kartik

Sunday, November 18, 2007

AR Rahman - Yeh Dil Maange More

What would you need to do if you wanted to listen to AR Rahman, Hariharan, Chitra, Kailash Kher and Rapper Blaze in Delhi. You had to go to the mega concert that was held last evening in Delhi. I was there rubbing shoulders withthe 25,000 fans who ranged from six year olds to their grandparents - children below five years old were not allowed in. I don't know why since the adults around were making enough racket anyway.

The show raises the basic question as to why one should go to see a live concert when you could listen to the same tracks in the quiet confines of your home on the stereo. Why jostle through crowds and listen to the same stuff. Just so that you see the show live. So the shows need to be lively to make it worth the fans time and money. It is rather difficult to have quality acoustics in an open air stadium to match what you can hear in your own living room's music system.

I used to always have this question when I used to see Lata Mangeshkar perform on stage. She is a great singer but a terrible entertainer. AR Rahman came across as an immensely talented composer who has yet to make the transition to being a huge entertainer. He is an artiste who just focuses on creating great music and leaves the flash and glitz to others. I love the way he has transformed the face of Bollywood music by bringing in new sounds and singers with each venture.

When the concert started with Rahman singing the operatic overture from the film Guru
"Jage hain der tak hamein kuchh der soney do
Thodi si raat aur hai subah to hone do.
Adhe adhure khwab jo pure na ho sake
Ek bar phir se neend mein woh khwab boney do".

Translated that would mean
"I have been up till late, let me sleep till the morning
Let me start dream again and complete those incomplete plans"

As Rahman's voice joined Chitra's in singing this overture, I got goosebumps at the thought of hearing the maestro sing. Rahman's music draws inspiration from world music. While this song draws on Italian Opera, when you hear another composition Maiyya Maiyya from the same film, the influence of Turkish music seep through like the unmistakable notes of rich Turkish Coffee.

For me the highlight was to see the legendary Sivamani perform. Anandan Sivamani (born 1959) - the percussionist was wearing his trademark bandana. He created magic with the solo performance where he drummed without missing a beat even as he twirled his drumsticks and threw them in the air as the double bass drum thumped away. He has in the past, used even the humble wok used to make biriyani, to create music!! He has a musical group called Shraddha where he makes music with Hariharan, Shankar Mahadevan, and Mandolin Srinivas. According his official website

"Siva was adept with his drumsticks even at the tender age of 7 and went on to give his first stage performance at the age of 12. "

He led a troupe of twenty dhols to give us a glimpse of a track from the yet unreleased Bollywood film Jodha Akbar.

Allah Rakha Rahman was born AS Dilip Kumar on 6th January 1967 and has played keyboards for Ilaiyaraja. He has a degree in Western Classical Music from the Trinity College of Music at Oxford University. Last evening he played his hits from Hindi, Tamil and even English compositions. We got glimpses of Rahman playing the synthesizer and even a grand piano. The only thing that jarred was the sound system that was truly awful. The system did not do justice to the master of music. We go to see a concert to be entertained and not to hear what we already have heard through a CD. Stage performances are about entertainment. That's an opportunity for the fans to see the artiste as a larger than life figure. It is all about playing to the gallery. Rahman lets his music do the talking and the only time he stepped up to admonish someone trying to surreptitiously record the show, he showed his human face. The entertainer to watch out for is Naresh Iyer who sang "I am a Rebel" and showed that he will leave a mark even while sharing the stage with Rahman.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Promo No Mo

For the last couple of years (well, it almost seems like forever) I have been subjected to this endless stream of promos of two films - Om Shanti Om and Saawariya. The beautiful people were all over the television channels. Heck... who paid for the promo budgets of these films? Bill Gates and Mukesh Ambani ? Two rich dudes promoting two film promos. Me thinks that is very likely.

It all began few years back by a grand announcement. We were told that this year on Friday 9th November 2007, two new stars are going to be born. It is not as if we are running two humans short on this planet. Yet we have to all make place for Sonam and Ranbir Kapoor. After all they are both pedigreed stars the media told us. He is Rishi Kapoor's son - no mention of Neetu Singh. Ranbir Kapoor looks to be more of the Neetu Singh clan than Raj Kapoor. Cut to the music. We have all been hearing the title song a million times a day so much that even I can sing the first fifteen seconds of that song "Saawariyah ah ah ahh... Saawariya ah aa a Saawariya". My neighbor's precocious twelve year old showed me how I had to do some shadow boxing while I sang this song. "Ranbir is cute... I think... my sister likes him, but Shah Rukh has more fans. All my sisters friends and their moms loves Shah Rukh. So more people will see OSO." Here is a budding critic's summary of market research.

I admit I am not much into creepy crawlies. Every now and then while I surf the channels I will come across a promo of Saawariya that ends with creepy crawlies emerging out of the artwork. Some channels have these creepy crawlies hanging discreetly behind the channel logo. IS OSO better than S'a? Is Deepika cuter than Sonam?? Is SRK's six pack for real or is it courtesy Photoshop? The nation is truly grappling with serious issues like these.

OK these promos have been successful in building awareness but guys gimme a break. I can't watch the news channel without running into some blatant infomercial. All news bulletins end with the two film's revenues being discussed in the same breath as the nation's GDP. Promo - no mo.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

You Made Us Proud

On the flight from Frankfurt to Amsterdam's Schipol airport, I am seated next to Mr B Muthuraman, the Managing Director of Tata Steel. It is a company he has worked with since 1966 after completing his B Tech from IIT-Madras. I lean across the aisle and introduce myself then tell him that the deal involving Corus Steel's takeover by Tata Steel has made every Indian proud. The diminutive Muthu smiles in acknowledgment before disappearing into the crowded Schipol airport. He has ambitious plans for Tata Steel. He was recently quoted in Business Week magazine as saying that he is "aiming to be a 20 million-ton company by 2010 and 35 million-ton company by 2015." Tata Steel currently makes 7 tons of steel a year, and this includes Singapore's NatSteel and its China plant. By [2015], they'll be among the top five steel companies in the world in size. Good luck to people like Muthu who make us walk with a swagger. Schipol Airport has a casino, a museum (the Rijksmuseum) that gave me a glimpse of Van Gogh's sketches of the lion. The airport has its own mortuary - so that you can fly through Schipol dead or alive and has of late been in the news for being a place where couples are getting getting married. No question of missing the flight to the honeymoon destination - just get the pilot as the best man at the wedding.

In Amsterdam you are more likely to be run over by speeding cyclists than with a one of those fancy bikes. Public transport is a plenty but if you are not a gawking tourist you want to have at least one bicycle of your own. The canals garland the city like a giant windshield wiper swishing from side to side. It is hip to have your own houseboat in the canal though the stench sometimes is truly overpowering. On weekends - IF the weather is good, you can see loads of cyclists doing a leisurely trip along the canal with a loaf of bread, some cheese and a bottle of wine stuck prominently in a basket tagged in front of the bike.

The Dutch are fairly liberal people when it comes to things adult. The cafes serve cannabis in small quantities for all those who have the appetite for it. The tourists are equally stunned to see the openness with which the red light district rubs shoulders with the rest of the commercial district. The Anne Frank Museum attracts visitors in large numbers as do the painters - Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Bol.

What did I like most about this city? Hmmm... I loved the cobbled streets and the lush green parks - my favorite was the Vondel Park. You see families coming there jogging, on bikes, pets in tow and children dutifully following their parents. The leaves were just falling off in preparation for the winter months. What did I not like about Amsterdam? The weather. It was cold and damp for the better part of the week. The Sun made a guest appearance like a Bollywood star in an art movie - brief but impactful and left us wanting more.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

HarperCollins to Print MARRIED BUT AVAILABLE

It is official. I am going with HarperCollins. The publishing giant HarperCollins, one of the largest English-language publishers in the world, is a subsidiary of News Corporation (NYSE: NWS, NWS.A; ASX: NWS, NWSLV). Headquartered in New York, HarperCollins has publishing groups around the world. In India they have been in business since 2002 as a joint venture with the India Today group.

I had to make a choice. After weeks of nail biting suspense, I voted in favour of HarperCollins to publish my novel MARRIED BUT AVAILABLE. After all they paid me the half a million dollar advance. Ok... now it is time for truth. Heck no it was nothing like that. In this cruel world it is the publishers who decide whther to take on your manuscript or not. So I am really excited that I am going with the biggest name one could have.

I will be working with Karthika their Publisher and Chief Editor. Quite a star in her own right in the publishing world, she has been responsible for launching many an author and novel. I am really excited about working with her. The editor plays a major role in what the novel finally looks and sounds like. So if you like what the book is all about, it was all because of me. Whatever you don't like is because of Karthika.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Royalty and Other Fictional Characters

Who on earth thought of this cruel term called royalty? There is nothing royal about it. It is bloody unfair to term the few coins we authors make (when someone buys our book) as royalty. It just creates false impressions. Just makes it hard to be an author.

Does anyone here know JK Rowling? She is the one who added being a wizard as a career choice for many an unsuspecting kid. She has done something similar for other Muggles too. She has inspired many people to take up writing as a profession. So what are her own credentials? Impressive. Her personal wealth of £545 million, gets her to rank as thirteenth richest woman in Britain. In 2006, Forbes named Rowling the second-richest female entertainer in the world.

One of these newspapers that I was reading told me that not very long ago, her lifestyle was like mine. In those days neither of us was a billionaire. I still kept my part of the promise. She went ahead and became rich. Authors are never rich. So what's the secret?

Whenever I tell someone that I have written a book, they always look at me and turn green. What do you do with all that royalty, they ask. I have to keep up the pretense. It is all about the image of being a billionaire author (I mean, JK Rowling is one). I guess I can't blame these guys. If people know that you get paid in the form of "ROYALTY", it is logical that your readers expect you to have a lifestyle of the rich and famous. It is too much pressure.

My friends need to know this. I get royalty when someone BUYS my book. Yet each of those fellows will come up and ask me for a free copy. What is this about insisting on a free copy of my book? My boss wants one, my colleague wants one. I go to a party and the host introduces me as an author and then all the bloody guests want a free copy. So if you want to know how my book made it to the bestseller lists, I bought most of them to gift to my friends, relatives and colleagues. I have to sneak in to my neighborhood book store and buy a few copies at a time so that when someone asks for a copy - oh yeah... another one of those misers who will not support a struggling author - I have to gift him or her one of those copies.

My colleagues are cruel. Last week when everyone was being given out their annual increment letters, some jealous guy went and told my boss that I did not need the pay rise. My boss too just shook hands with me and said pretty sheepishly, "You are a rich author. You get paid in royalty. I know this salary is just your pocket money Abbey. So... no... I won't embarrass myself by giving you a raise." It is hard being an author.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Letter from Kaushik Roy - the Director of Apna Asmaan

Hey Abhijit, great reading your bit about Apna Asmaan in your blog. Wanted to post this there but realised that this to long. May be you have a way of doing it.

The sad truth is that after having got 80% to 100% over the weekend the film is almost out starting next Friday. Almost because it will continue in some obscure morning and afternoon shows. Why? Because people who love different kind of films actually don't get off their butt to see the films that they want through the week. They then say "Oh no... it's gone? How sad... We will watch it on DVD ... chalo DVD dekh lenge (चलो डीवीडी देख लेंगे)"Now here's the catch... DVDs are not like books - at least not yet. You can't market a DVD till it has hit the theatres and has qualified to be called cinema. So we are the biggest enemies of good cinema because we are not like the die hard fans of commercial cinema. Those guys queue up to create what is called an OPENING WEEKEND. But we have have our cocktails and dinners to do over the weekend... and may be a bit of Golf? But then what the hell...there are DVDs right?

So all those who wanted to see India's next Omar Shariff - Abhijit Bhaduri in Apna Asmaan, have a choice: they can prove it that you love different / non Bollywoody films and go to see Apna Asmaan in large numbers for those early morning shows. Or be the cocktail circuit supporter and pick up a DVD. If not me, Saregama will make money!

Abhijit, you have been a great support. There's a 1.20pm (thank God not am) show at Gurgaon PVR. Why don't you do a little viral across your HR community in Gurgaon to get them to see AA during lunch? It's just a 2 hr outing that will make everybody feel nicer when they get back to work. Good HR policy - believe me!

Cheers -

PS: Nabomita sends me this great link on Kaushik's art collection. Click Here

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Apna Asmaan - Now In Theatres Near You

Sometime back I have blogged here about my acting in a movie. The movie has now got released under the name Apna Asmaan अपना आसमान। Yesterday was the premier of the film at PVR Saket, New Delhi. The film also has Rajat Kapoor (remember the pedophile character in Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding) and Anupam Kher in some interesting scenes.

This is a film is directed by my ex-colleague from Mudra Communication, Kaushik Roy. Kaushik belongs to a family of film makers (he is the nephew of the legendary Bimal Roy - of Madhumati fame. (The director of Do Bigha Zameen, Madhumati, Devdas etc) That by the way is a photo of Kaushik trying to throttle me on the sets. Irrfan and Shobna (My God, she has pretty eyes) have played the lead roles. In one of the scenes, Irrfan is taunting his young colleague that he is "an M-B-A ... Mediocre But Arrogant, as in the novel".

Times of India says, "This one is a must for all parents who push their kids too hard."
Check out this photo from the shoot. Never published before on any site.

More about this film on other posts. Will try and get an interview with Kaushik for the blog. So watch the space for more.The story of Apna Asmaan was inspired by Kaushik's younger son Orko, who is mildly autistic and has just recently completed his first exhibition of paintings. Orko is a fabulous artist and you will see many of his paintings in the film. In fact the film opens with a shot of Orko drawing animals. He loves to draw buffalos.

Left to right: Kaushik Roy, Harsh Kulkarni, Abhijit Bhaduri, Irrfan (green kurta), Mini (who is the chief camera person Barun-da's daughter) and Abhishek.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hindi Translation of Mediocre But Arrogant

I have often been asked if there is a Hindi Translation of Mediocre But Arrogant around the corner. I am looking for someone who can translate the story into Hindi or other Indian languages. Google has this cool feature of transliteration. A little painful at times, but certainly workable. Here is my attempt at translating the first two paras of the book. Tell me what you think of it.

नही मैं इस जंगल में कब , क्यों और कैसे टपका। क्यों मैने मा सं वि (मानवीय संसाधन विकास), यानी कि, Human Resources Development पढने की बात सोच। जिस खेल के नियम कानून और कायदे सब मेरी समझ के बाहर थे , क्यों उसे खेलना शुरू किया... एक ऐसा खेल जिसे सीखने कि ना ही मेरी ख्वाइश थी और ना हीऔकात यार, मेरी तो शुरुआत ही इन सब से बहुत दूर हुई थी।

बात सन् १९८२ की हैतब मैं
पहली बार जमशेदपुर आया, बिहार के मैनेजमेंट इन्स्टिटुट ऑफ़ जमशेदपुर में भर्तीहोनेऔर तो और तब तो ह्यूमन रिसोर्स नाम की कोई चीज़ ही नही थी । उन दिनों ह्यूमन रेसौर्सेस को Industrial Relations यानी की औद्योगिक संबंध जैसे घटिया नाम से पुकारते थेऔद्योगिक संबंध !!! लगता है कोई यौनसंबंध की बात कर रहा हैकुछ लोग इसी कोर्स को सोशल वेलफेयर के नाम से पुकारते थेनाम का सही होनाबहुत ज़रूरी हैआधा इम्प्रेशन खराब नाम से ही हो जाता हैनौकरी मिलती थी उन दिनों तो वेलफेयर अफसरकीमुझे हमेशा लगता है की वेलफेयर अफसर से हम लोगों को समाज में इज़्ज़त दिलाना रास्कल रुस्टी जैसेकिसी दिमागी इन्सान का ही काम हो सकता हैउस बन्दे ने कहा होगा, "फार्मूला को ज़रा सा बदल दो, डिब्बा बदलदो और विज्ञापन में किसी छोटी सी बिकीनी पहनी हुई कुड़ी को दिखा दोअरे मार्केटिंग देपर्त्मेंत के लोग हर सालसाबुन और टूथ पेस्ट के साथ यही तो करते हैंतो हमारा पेर्सोंनेल मैनेजमेंट और औद्योगिक समबन्ध जैसे बाबाआदम के ज़माने का नाम भी बदल कर ह्यूमन रेसौर्सेस हो गयाऔर एम् आई जे से पढने वाले छात्र HR में माहिर कहलाने लगे

दो साल तक एम् आई जे में घिसने के बाद एक दिन मुझे भी कॉरपोरेट सेक्टर में छोड़ दिया गया। वक़्त के साथ साथ मैं भी एक दिन देश के एक नामी कंपनी का HR हेड बन गया। मुझ पर एम् ई जे का ठप्पा जो लगा था। और अगर मैनेजमेंट की भाषा में बोलूँ तो यह कहिये की मेरे पास एम् ई जे का ब्रांड था।

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The RDB Generation Celebrates 60 Years of Independent India

Today is 15th August 2007. Since morning my phone has been beeping. Each time someone sends me an sms I am given a gentle electronic nudge. The first sms tells me "31 states (well, actually we have 28 states and 7 Union Territories), 1618 languages (there are 22 officially recognized languages when we last counted), 6400 castes (that could well be unless someone points me to a reliable source. Not to mention Varna वर्ण and Jati जाती distinctions), 6 major religions (Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain - hey what about Parsis, Jews, B'ahais and may others I don't know of), 6 ethnic groups (Dravidian... Aryan? Is that what you are referring to?), 29 major festivals (well there is a site that lists 90 of them in alphabetical order) and 1 country. Proud to be an Indian. Happy Independence Day."

The newspapers are flashing statistics that tell us that per capita income has risen from Rs 255 in 1947 to being Rs29,382 (in 2007), Population has risen from being 300 million in 1947 to being 1.16 billion in 2007, Per capita power consumption has increased from 15.5 kwh in '47 to being 606kwh in '07 according to the Times of India. I can believe the last bit. Someone in my apartment complex has 38 light bulbs in the living room that turn up the temperature a notch above the 42 degrees celsius - approximately 107 Farenheit, in case you went into a tizzy trying to do that conversion. Not counting the electricity the ugly lava lamp is consuming that proves to be a humongous distraction while my host excuses himself to switch on the airconditioner for his two dogs that are panting to cope with the heat and humidity of Gurgaon.

That's pretty impressive. I am told that it is no longer a "Developing" country but a "transforming" one. That's like peeking while I am trying to change into a new pair of pants in the shop. You have to wait. So while you keep yourself busy and distracted with all the news clips of fat people worrying about obesity and debating fiercely whether the South Beach Diet helps you lose weight faster than the Atkins plan, there are scores of kids who remain malnourished.

Okay, we are a land of contradictions (see cell phone toting sadhu pic) and we are now a major power to reckon with. We have the power of Bollywood with us - the single largest source that can unite the country to speak one language better than what any political party has ever achieved. It has made Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan popular in the non Hindi speaking belt and takes the credit for getting Kamal Hassan and Rajnikanth to the Hindi speaking audience. Rahman along with Bharat Bala made it cool to be patriotic when they sang माँ तुझे सलाम Ma Tujhe Salaam. Bollywood appeals to us all. With a range of directors and actors who can talk to the youth and the Yahoo (Young At Heart, Old Otherwise) in the same breath, we need to leverage this medium to get the people involved and to take ownership of the changes that they wish to see in the country. Bollywood needs to make it cool for everyone to make a difference to the country.

It is the ability of the powers that be to ignite the youth power that will help us build momentum. Tech savvy, impatient and ready to support the cause that appeals to them, the Rang De Basanti or RDB generation is ready to play their part in escorting the country to the centre stage of the world. They took to the streets and brought the Jessica Lall murder case to be reopened after the courts had declared it to be closed and settled - leaving the guilty to go scot free. The RDB Gen has the power and their time is now. They now need to take the other RDB Generation (for whom RDB stands for RD Burman) and take India through the next decades so that we all live to see the Incredible India of our dreams.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Brilliant Idea for Software Developers

If you ever wrote a Job Description for an author or an aspiring writer, one criteria should be spelt out in bold letters - the ability to handle rejection slips. It is a death blow to one's ego. Handling that without seeking professional help in carrying out psychological repairs is not easy.

When I was sending out my manuscript to various publishers, I had initially taken a cautious approach. I would mail my stuff with a polite covering note and add a silent prayer while licking the stamp. You can't fault me for praying. I would send off the manuscript with the same fondness with which a parent sees off their child to college. Nobody expects them to dropout.

Then came the next bit - waiting for the mailman to bring in the response. I would bunk work just so that I could be there in person to receive the million dollar advance that the publisher might be sending me. Heck that's not how the real world works. I would get a prompt response back from the publisher. Yeah how long does it take to say "NO" - which part of the "NO" are you having difficulty comprehending, my friend would ask in a helpful manner.

Priya mentioned that these days the editors send electronic rejection slips. That's taking the art of insulting to new heights. Can't you take a couple of minutes to write a few lines to the person whose dreams you are stubbing out.

The only way of coping with this impersonal rejection slip system is to seek tech support. Maybe someone will figure out a technology that lets all aspiring authors to send one copy of the manuscript to every publisher in the world simultaneously and then stay pasted on the screen until he/ she goes through the darn story syllable by syllable. Thereafter, there would be an annoying pop up that asks the publisher, "Have you sent the million bucks yet?"

The accompanying piece of software the authors will need to install will allow all rejection slips to be filtered out so that it is only the acceptance letters that flow through to the in-box. Any takers?

This blog entry was inspired by the comment Priya left on my blog. She talked about the auto-rejection slips sent by publishing houses.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

How to Get Your Novel Published?

And You Thought Writing the Novel Was the Hard Part?

You have the novel ready. And you are now ready to count the steady flow of royalty. You have practised the odd moment of living it up like a rich person. So why is the publisher not grabbing your manuscript.

Heck - that's the reality check. Your publisher needs to feel that your manuscript is going to be the next Harry Potter or whatever last made a few good millions - for the publisher. Yes... you read that right. The publisher is really trying to gauge the readership of your novel. So in a very simplistic manner, they are not really trying to figure out if your plotline was intriguing or not. They need to know how many people are likely to BUY your novel.

How do you find a publisher?

Option 1: Get yourself invited to a dinner party where publishers are hanging out. Then try and strike up a conversation with one of 'em. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Option 2: Go to a literary festival or a writers' workshop. Helps to get you in the queue to pick up a few visiting cards of publishers and employees of publishing houses. Try and listen in to the panel discussions. That always helps. Listen to other writers and editors and publishers.

Option 3: Find yourself an agent. In US they have a book called the Writers Market. You can buy it off or a bookstore. That lists basically, which publisher is publishing the genre of novels that yours fits in. They list names of agents who will represent you to the publishers. Here is an interview with Eric Simonoff - the agent who represented Jhumpa Lahiri. Some of the agents want a "Reading Fee" - a hefty sum of money to read your manuscript with no obligations. Heck, it is a tough world.

Option 4: Keep sending the manuscript to the publishers directly. Most websites have addresses where you can mail the manuscript. Some want electronic version, some want the hardcopy, some want a pink bulldog to go with it. Whatever they want and in whatever format they want it - you increase the probability of someone reading it if you follow instructions.

And I don't know if I should say this to you, but... well... be prepared for the famous "Rejection Slip". I was told by an engineer that the number of rejection slips will always be one less than the number of manuscripts you have mailed, since one of them will be the acceptance slip. In mathematical terms the rejection slips will be n-1 if n is the number of manuscripts mailed. Well - he was wrong. I got more rejection slips than manuscripts mailed (one publisher sent me two of those pre-printed ones).

See sample Rejection Slip below


Your writing has a refreshing style and the plotline was really gripping and fabulous.

However... - this where it gets creative -

a) we have just stopped publishing this genre/ category of novels/ poems

b) we are understaffed and will not be able to pay attention to the manuscript for the next five years/ sixty months - whichever is later!

c) you have just missed the submission deadline for the next five years.

Yours sincerely (if THAT is sinecerely, I wonder what is not)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Meeting the Dalai Lama

Om Mani Padme Hum

Nestled in the Dhauladhar Mountain is McLeodganj one of the most sought after destinations in Himachal Pradesh. The place known as Little Lhasa has a curious mixture of people. What starts off looking like a typical hill station until you begin to spot the Tibetan monks of all ages scurrying through the streets. Sometimes sipping tea and sometimes just walking down the narrow lanes.

The Church of St John : In the Wilderness was built in 1852. It is a Neo-Gothic stone church is on the way to the main market square of Mcleodganj. There is a small graveyard by the church. The gravestones are neglected. The flowers that grow wild are all that the graves get these days. The odd traveler comes from some remote pocket of the globe in search of the grave stone of an ancestor or in search of one's roots.

People seem to go to Mcleodganj when they seek a high. The number of people seeking spiritual heights seemed to be larger than the those seeking salvation through grass. The shops that sell beads and scarves are the largest in number. These are designed to cater to tourists. So bargain away if you are looking to buy the cool junk jewellery and beads, Tibetan Prayer Wheels, Little charms and even Tibetan medicine. Here is the shopkeeper who sold me a CD of Buddhist Chants. I protested and told him that the CD cover clearly says 'Lounge Music from the Buddha Bar'. The guy shrugged his shoulders and asked if I would prefer music for meditation instead.

"Where is the Temple of the Dalai Lama?" I ask some monks going by. They do not speak English or Hindi. But they understand the magic words "Dalai Lama". They refer to it as Tsuglagkhang (The Temple of the Dalai Lama). The entrance to the temple looks surprisingly desolate. It is lunch time. I can smell food as I walk up the flight of stairs.

I am mentally not prepared for the sight that greets me. There are literally hundreds of monks in the maroonish-red clothing that I will always associate with McLeodganj. They all sit patiently in groups. How can I meet the Dalai Lama I ask everyone that I meet? "You have to be very lucky.", says one monk.

I try and spin the series of prayer wheels in the courtyard. The large brass cylinders. Someone points me to an office building. "Take an appointment. Maybe His Holiness meet you Monday.", says the person at the counter. Come at 12 noon on Monday I am told.

Every Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of the Compassionate form of the Bodhisattva or Buddha. The present Dalai Lama is the 14th Dalai Lama. Born to a peasant family on 6th July 1935, Lhamo Dhondrub as he was called at birth was recognized as the reincarnation at age two. He has been in India since 1959 when he fled Tibet. The Dalai Lama has many names. After becoming Dalai Lama, he was renamed Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso - Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the Faith, Ocean of Wisdom. Tibetans normally refer to His Holiness as Yeshe Norbu, the Wishfulfilling Gem or simply Kundun - The Presence.

I spent the whole night charging the batteries of my camera so that I could take pictures of His Holiness. As I walked into the heavily guarded palace and passed through a series of frisking stations and metal detectors that would have done an airport proud, I was asked to hand over my camera. I was reassured that His Holiness had a photographer who would be happy to take a picture if HE asked him to.

Finally the big moment happened. The Nobel Peace prize winner came up to shake hands. I knew no one would believe me if I said that I stood right next to him and that the Dalai Lama put a white silk scarf around my neck and wrote out a small prayer for me. So I have put the proof here for you to see.

If anyone can read and tell me what the prayer is all about I would be much obliged.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Write Time for a Vacation

Memories of Sojha

The evening before I left apple country Thanedhar, I made a quick stop at the sole church at Thanedhar ie the St Mary's Church. The church was built in 1872. Loved the stained glass work in the church. That always looks really quaint.

If the Beas River was a treat to watch on the way to Thanedhar, the Sutlej was even The road girdles along the banks of the river. It gave me a feeling of holding hands with the river as she walked me home. I drove on to reach the sleepy village of Sojha and passed through miles and miles of fields of Blue Iris. Did you know that the Blue Iris is like the cousin of Gladioli twice removed. So if you see references to the Gladioli flower in my second novel Married But Available, you know which part of my vacation inspired it !!

The Retreat
where I stayed at Sojha smells of fresh cedar wood. We met Preetam Reddy and his wife Pallavi who were volunteering their time at Sojha. Preetam and Pallavi are both programmers. Preetam most recently worked for iGate in Japan and was in Infosys for a while after doing Civil Engineering (Rascal Rusty's favorite oxymoron) from IIT-Madras. They are bother avid trekkers and were disappointed at not being able to convince me to join the gang. All I did was to join them for a walk to the Sojha village where I met Johnny.

Johnny is the village mascot. He is a 15 year old dog who rules the area. Last year he was attacked by a Snow Leopard and survived. You can still see the scars on Johnny's body. Johnny escorts the visitors around the village. He did that for me and walked back to laze around and play with the village kids. The Teerthan River flows close to Sojha. In the evenings, the Preetam would organize a bonfire to be lit. There was fresh trout served in the evenings for guests. That's one rendezvous Johnny will never miss. He would join us for his share of grilled trout and then go back to ensure that the village is safe from the attacks of the snow leopard.

The evenings in Sojha are just magical. It would . What a welcome change it was from the sweltering heat of Gurgaon in June. I would just lie under the warm quilt and pray that someone would make yet another cup of hot coffee for me to make the plotline move faster. Here is the sight of the rain soaked Sojha that greeted me when I woke up. It was going to be a lazy day. Just the kind when you can sip chai and tap away at the keyboard. Just the perfect day to write out the romantic portions of the novel.

A couple of days at Sojha and this gypsy was ready to move on to the next destination - McLeodganj - the home of the Dalai Lama.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Write Time for a Vacation

It is tough to hold a day job and finish writing a sequel. So I decided on impulse to just go somewhere inspiring and speed up my sequel (tentatively called Married But Available)

The places were all spread out over the state of Himachal Pradesh in the northern parts of India.

I started with थानेदार Thanedhar - the place where Mr Stokes planted Himachal's first apple। It was Shatabdi Express from Delhi to Chandigarh and then drove from there. The route was breathtakingly beautiful. I loved the sight of the Sutlej River (see photo) as it cleared the mountains away to continue its journey. Samuel Stokes (1882-1946) came to India (specifically Simla) on a trip from Philadelphia and settled down in Kotgarh which is a stone's - maybe a Stokes throw away - for those of you who like cheap puns.

I drove from Simla शिमला to Thanedhar (1830m). And the place lives upto its reputation. I was very excited initially and photographed the first few sightings of green apples (actually the variety is called Red Delicious) but soon realized that there were millions of those trees. Himachal must be the "Fruit Bowl of India". Right through the journey I saw apples, pears and the occasional cherry orchards. The place I stayed in was bang in the middle of an apple orchard. If I had known that I would saved myself the trouble of clicking every apple tree that saw along the way.

A vacation really recharges the soul and this place was just the right place. I am not the trekking kind. I know I will offend those of you who go to a place like Thanedhar and get up at the crack of dawn (whats that?) and wear your sneakers and put on your backpacks. To you I say, thats just the right thing to do... but no thank you I won't join you. I will just sit on the balcony and sip the nth cup of tea (from the Kangra Valley) and stare at the beautiful sight ahead. Please note the apple trees in the foreground and the mountain ranges in various shades of blue fading away into the horizon.

I just parked myself on the balcony of my room and stared at the valley and pecked away on my laptop. It was such a liberating feeling to not be bothered by phones and emails and to just stay with the characters of my novel... getting to know them better!

And now for a collage of the beautiful flowers of Thanedhar including the Blue Iris.
And if you thought this was pretty... then wait for the next post about Sojha, or is it Shoja?