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?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

How to Write a Novel – Part 3

It Is All About (the) Character

The characters and their mannerisms and dialog together determine the flavor of the novel. I use to often sit back and reflect on the characteristics of the key players in my novel. I did short sketches of each person who would feature in my story. Yeah, I would very often draw the character as it existed in my mind and try to imagine what they would wear, what they would look like, what their dreams and aspirations were. I would also try and see who they would interact with and then look at the nature of their relationships while staring at the sketches. This is what I imagined Arunesh Nanda - the character in the novel who plays Dylan songs, to look like when I first introduced him in the story. This picture is from the sketchbook.

I wanted to build a protagonist and an anti-hero in the narration. So Abbey, was described as a directionless, fairly unambitious student of Delhi University who is insecure, is good in drawing and debates and all that. He is not very confident in himself and therefore wants to be a "somebody" by being seen with a pretty girl. Yet, he is unable to develop depth in a relationship.

So for a protagonist like Abbey, it was necessary to build a person who is exactly the polar opposite. That's what would make an interesting contrast in a novel. That's where Rascal Rusty came into the story. He had a solution to every problem and who had a precocious presence.

In plays and especially in the folk theater of Bengal (Jatras), there is a character - Vivek
विवेक , who is quite literally the conscience of the main characters. This character is also a sutradhar who does a major part of the narration. I liked that idea and built it into the story format. Between the hero and the anti-hero was the "conscience" or Vivek of the story. That was Father Hathaway or Haathi. So the letter that he wrote for Abbey reminds the reader that there is a larger purpose of education that we need to keep in mind.

Many fictional characters have traces of their origins in the real world. I too have met interesting people with fascinating life stories and quirky personalities that would make great reading. Yet to blend the person into a story, the character may retain only 10% of the individual.

So to summarize:
1. Drawing and sketching the character as a starting point helps me visualize the details and imagine the conversational style of the person.
2. The time one spends in building the characters style of speaking adds authenticity to the novel.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

How To Write a Novel - Part 2

Make Inspiration and Opportunity Coincide

The frequency of my writing this blog tells you of the biggest problem I faced while writing my novel. It is all about making inspiration and opportunity coincide.

People have different styles of writing. Some people make outlines of the novel first. The main characters are fleshed out along with key twists in the plot. I have tried many different approaches. I have tried the whole approach of spontaneous free flowing writing. I would just sit down and write a few sheets - yeah in that red colored notebook that I had mentioned. After writing for some 30 odd pages I decided to read the manuscript. Nothing made sense. I needed to edit it. I went back and forth and edited the pages by putting notations and punctuations. I used a different color pen to do the edits. Eventually it got too complicated. I abandoned the notebook. It was a bit unfair to the notebook that had actually made the whole novel happen. It is funny but for a while I carried a sense of guilt about using a laptop to write. Maybe some of that showed up while I wrote about Priya getting abandoned even though she was responsible for getting Abbey into MIJ in the first place.

Lessons learnt: Use a word processing software. It makes editing so much easier. A random emotion could be the springboard from which a character may take shape.

I faced another major problem. I painstakingly tried to transcribe everything and put it on my laptop. As soon as that happened I faced the dreaded thing called writer's block. I would just sit and stare at the screen and nothing would emerge. Some friend told me that Hemingway had advised writers to sit down at a fixed time and write something everyday. That kept the writers' block away. Great suggestion I thought. Then realized that if I could write something everyday, why would I be complaining of a block? Maybe great authors like Hemingway just had no clue of people like me.

That sterile phase continued for almost eleven months. During this time I had not made much progress beyond adding the odd chapter to the 30 pages I had typed out from my red notebook. In February 1998, I got transferred to a new role in Colgate and had to be based out of Kuala Lumpur.

The new job demanded one hell of lot of travel. All my plans of writing on the plane or in the evenings when I would be back to my hotel fell by the wayside. There would be a million little plot lines I would have thought of during the day. By the time I would be back to my hotel room, I would be so tired and sleepy that all I could do was to say like Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind, "I will think about it tomorrow."

Saturday, May 12, 2007

How To Write a Novel - Part 1

Today happens to be an anniversary of sorts. I noticed that more people especially from Business Schools tend to ask me to address the student groups on Creative Writing. It is a great opportunity to share ideas not just on writing but on some things that I have learnt are very important to be able to write.

I started writing this novel on 13 May 1997 in Mumbai. It began in a very strange way. I had just quit working for an ad agency MUDRA to join Colgate Palmolive in Mumbai, India. That was Jan 1997. I got a few farewell gifts from my colleagues in advertising and one of them was a red colored bound note book. "Write some poems or short stories in it. "

I had on a few occasions thought of writing some short stories. Most of these were incidents or anecdotes about college and my friends that I had written to friends. Some of my friends told me that a few were funny. So I tried to reconstruct them in my mind. But not one of them sounded convincing. A few months went by. It was on 13th May 1997 that I wrote the opening lines of my novel in that red colored note book. It went like this:

"I do not know why I landed in this corporate jungle. Why I chose to do Human Resources Development. Why I did not decide to stop playing a game which I neither understood nor had any desire to learn. In fact, I did not even start off being in Human Resources.
When I joined MIJ (Management Institute of Jamshedpur, Bihar) in the summer of 1982, the course I had enrolled for was actually called Industrial Relations and Social Welfare. At that time, there were only Welfare Officers. But that term really sucked. So some smart cookie who thought like Rascal Rusty, must have decided to “Tweak the formula, change the packaging and make a new commercial with a cute babe in a skimpier bikini,” as the Marketing guys did with all their soaps and toothpaste brands every year, and called it a relaunch."

The germ of the idea was there. I did not even know whether it would be another anecdote or a short story and certainly never thought I would take that forward and turn it into a novel. Notice the reference to soaps and toothpaste brands doing relaunch. That must have crept in based on what I might have seen around me as I interacted with my colleagues and friends in other FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) companies.

Having written the first para I sat back and tried to put together the plotline. I felt I should write a story that would be set in a college campus and then fine tuned it to be in a Business School setting that would give me two campus settings to develop my characters. In choosing to do a Business School campus I had the advantage of showing the transition of characters from being undergraduate college students to being in a B-School where one has to worry about getting jobs and the relationships start to get a tinge of seriousness. By writing that first para I had crossed the first major speedbreaker - what would I write about?

No plotline seemed unique enough. Would I write a love story? A murder mystery? I thought I would write something that would be fairly generic. Everyone seemed to have great memories of being in college. Yet when you look at Bollywood's depiction of college, it seemed to be such a far cry from what you and I would have experienced. So I wanted to write about an experience that would be real. Something that a college student in a small town university would be able to relate to as well as the experience of someone who went to a University in a metro setting. The story had to be a generic experience of growing up in India in the eighties. Instinctively that seemed to be real. I could write about that authentically. It was something I had experienced. A life that I had lived many times - vicariously through friends. There was something common to us all. Each unique life had common threads. The angst of not knowing what to do in life. Of trying to choose between college courses one had no clue about. The generic experience of falling in love in college. Of crushes. Of crazy friends. Over the years I had met college students especially during Youth Festivals and while travelling. From Bangalore to Allahabad, the experiences had a lowest common denominator that was common. that was the genesis of my story. It would be a story that would be a collage of moments that each reader could relate to.

So the first big lesson in how to write a novel:
Make a Beginning: Write about a moment or an event that you have soaked in. One need not have experienced everything to be able to write about it. It just needs to be something that is very close to your heart. If not, it is difficult to get under the skin of your characters.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Hindu's List of Bestsellers

Sometimes one stumbles across an old review or list while surfing. Here's what I saw from The Hindu newspaper. This is really 27th August 2005. So pretty much just after the launch of the book.


The Lunatic from Multan: Rajeev Jacob: Rs. 295

Set in the early nineteen eighties, this is the story of one man's battle against extreme odds.

Sadak Chhaap: Meher Pestonji: Rs. 250

Horrific and heart breaking, the book evokes the brutal existence of street children.

Mediocre But Arrogant: Abhijit Bhaduri: Rs. 195

A story that tells a tale of love and life in a business school.

Home and the World: Rabindranath Tagore: Rs. 200

Set against the backdrop of the partition of Bengal, this is a translation of Tagore's great novel .

Hacks and Headlines: A Novel: Rashme Sehgal: Rs. 295

Set in the late 1990's, the novel weaves several strands of different stories.


The Other Side of Belief: Interpreting U.G. Krishnamurti: Rs. 350

This book is a candid and refreshing chronicle of UG's life and evolution of his radical outlook and ideas.

Iraq War and the Future World Order: (Ed.) G. Gopa Kumar: Rs. 695

The essays in this volume address ground-realities of the war in Iraq and its global effect.

Kerala Economy: Trajectories Challenges and Implications: (Ed.) D. Rajasenan & Genrad de Groot: Rs. 485

An exhaustive analysis of the Kerala economy, consisting of articles by eminent economists.

Source: Modern Book Centre, DC Books

© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The List of Best Blogs from India

Which Indian blogger's writing on humor gets the most eyeballs? According the Numero Uno blogger Amit Agarwal of Digital Inspiration, it is Jammy and Greatbong and Rahul Razdan's. Incidentally Amit Agarwal is the first professional blogger in India and has done it since 2004. He has named his son Google. Amit blogs at Digital Inspiration on technology, software and internet. He also writes personal technology columns for The Hindustan Times, Financial Express and The Blog Herald.

The list tells us that Gautam Ghosh's blog is the tops when it comes to stuff on Human Resources. Who are the journalists who blog? There is Samit Basu Jai Arjun Singh and others.

In the list of writers, authors and critics who blog, check out Nandita da Cunha's blog. She is the author of the book The Magic of Maya. I love that cover design - who has done that? Can someone please enlighten me?
Somehow reminds me of my all time fave illustrator Mickey Patel's work. He did a lot of drawings for Target magazine and the last book that he illustrated for Penguin is The Story of a Panther.
Delighted to see that this blog also features there. Truly humbled and honored.

Friday, March 23, 2007

David Rasquinha's Review of Mediocre But Arrogant on

David Rasquinha is an avid reader and reviewer of books. Starting off with his first review dated 14 Dec 1999 when he wrote about A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin, since then has written 118 book reviews and 1463 votes who find his reviews useful.

About him - as disclosed on the Amazon profile:

"I am from India, temporarily based in the USA. A banker by profession, I am fond of classical music and reading, amateur astronomy. I suppose my grounding in hard nosed economics and banking made me gravitate to science fiction and fantasy. I love reading about different worlds and more importantly, different world-views, seeing how characters interact. To me the most fascinating part of sci-fi is not the bells and whistles of technology but rather the effects of this technological change on society and human psychology."

Here is his take on M-B-A. Full disclosure: David Rasquinha and I were batchmates at XLRI, Jamshedpur, India. Over to you David.

Mediocre But Arrogant
by Abhijit Bhaduri
Edition: Hardcover
Availability: Currently unavailable

A coming of age book - with a difference, February 14, 2007

I loved this book at first browse! Let me admit at the beginning that I am not a disinterested reader. As a contemporary of Abhijit at XLRI, the real-life MIJ, "Mediocre But Arrogant" transported me back to 1982-84. I knew Abhijit then and always admired (with more than a touch of envy) his range of interests and his terrific interpersonal skills - he always seemed so easy in his skin. So it is likely that I am biased in favour of this book. Abhijit proclaims at the outset that the story is not autobiographical and that his protagonist Abbey is not Abhijit.

Without disputing that, several of the characters in the book, including some composite characters, the settings, many of the incidents and events he describes are immediately recognisable to his classmates. For students of the XL Classes of 1982, 1983 and 1984, this book will bring back many nostalgic memories and some rueful smiles as well. Having said that, this book lays claim to a far wider audience for it is many ways a "coming of age" novel. Bear in mind that the time period of this novel is the early 1980s: a time when India still slumbered, the software boom was still years distant and nobody had heard of the term BRICs.

Abhijit brilliantly conveys the tensions weighing on a young man in that time. The allure of idealistic college discussions over tea or coffee, the quest for an educational degree that would open the portals of the employment market and most of all the pressures, subtle and crude alike, to "grow up, get a good job and settle down". Followed by the tension filled competition to get admission into a business / technology school and "get placed".

This will strike an immediate chord with any Indian (and I daresay, international) student. At the real-life MIJ, as Abhijit says himself, we were blessed with excellent and dedicated professors and an incredible cross-section of students from the length and breadth of India. We learned as much from our interactions with each other, as from our classroom sessions. Abhijit has done a wonderful job of picking key incidents, characters and events which he weaves together into a story that is heartwarming, inspiring and bittersweet all at the same time. The gift for language and communication he so well displayed then, has well served him in this novel as well. My only grouse, and it is a minor one, is that his use of flashbacks to illustrate his points can be occasionally jerky and unduly discontinuous. A coming of age book that is well worth a read, for those coming of age now, and for those who did so a while ago, alike! I hope to read a sequel sometime!