Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Questionairrie with Mariam Karim Ahlawat

So this month's featuring author ' Mariam Karim-Ahlawat



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Can you tell us a little about yourself? Your profession and your hobbies!! 
I’m a scholar of French language and literature and have taught for decades...from JNU to Kashmir University to St Josephs college of arts and sciences Bangalore. I gave up a permanent university job to be with my husband who was in the army and posted to a different place every two years. I have two hobbies..watching the world go by.. Watching birds and animals and trees the changing seasons the sun and the moon and stars and clouds..The rain and the leaves blow in the hot summer wind...is that a hobby? I listen to music from jazz to pop to ghazals, the last being my cultural heritage. And I like learning anything new that can give me insights into the world of human beings...I try to learn a bit of any language of the places I visit.. There are so many disciplines I find difficult, like economics for example. I read on the internet what I find interesting, like neuroscience, alternative healing. I wonder if there are any solutions to human greed and human suffering?   I’ve been doing creative writing workshops for at least two decades.
But I think of myself in the words of poet Akbar Allahabadi :
..duniya mein hoon duniya ka talabgaar nahin hoon, bazaar se guzra hoon kharidaar nahin hoon

Questionairrie with Mariam Karim Ahlawat


1.       How did you first get involved in with writing, are you an imaginative person?

On both sides of my family, there were great storytellers..in Urdu mostly. They were quite brilliant; stories were rapped or sung out too, in rhyme. Children were kept enthralled by someone or the other. My father was a brilliant storyteller in Urdu or English. He used to do all the sound effects as well..he had lived in the jungles a lot and brought us tales of all the animals with their calls, the chital or the tiger or the panther or the eagle....we couldn’t imagine a life without stories. So I fell quite naturally into the role of a storyteller myself and used to entertain my younger sister and cousins and friends with imaginative tales acted out to boot.  When my English became good enough I began to write poems. But I only published my first story at the age of 17. However, I was soon involved in academics and wrote only for myself because words fascinated me. After I got married, became a mother, and gave up my profession as a university prof for all practical purposes I decided to take up writing seriously. My first book was a collection of folk and fairy tales, published by Harper Collins in 1994. Then I started writing a read-aloud page for the magazine Parenting, with my own illustrations. I did that for nearly 12 years! Women novelists weren’t that popular in English or taken that seriously until Arundhati Roy won the Booker. At the time I had started writing my first novel but I was very uncertain whether it was the kind of thing anyone would read because it was so different in style from mainstream writing in English. I kept writing it secretly because it was visceral and compulsive. It was only in 2000 when a colleague at a software development company I was doing instructional design for said he had once worked with Penguin India. I requested him to show a few pages to an editor he knew. Penguin signed me on immediately. I was overjoyed but the rest was extremely challenging as it was very difficult to explain why I wrote what I wrote to the editors. They were unhappy, I was unhappy. When the book My Little Boat was published even they were surprised it was reviewed for months together afterwards..for a whole year in fact. It was nominated for the IMPAC International Literary Prize by the India International Centre Library.

2.       What do you find most challenging about your writing?

That’s easy. I want to maintain the standard I have set and this needs time, thought, delving into a deep reverie. I can’t find the time for all that so I’m writing very little

3.       What do you do when you are not writing?

Reading, learning, looking after my family, doing workshops, worrying, dreaming.

4.       Where do you see yourself in the next 6 months, and 5 years down the road?

Wonder If I’ll be able to complete the two novels I am working on before I lose track of the stories. One is a children’s novel and one for an adult readership

5.       How do you keep coming up with material/content for your story?

My children’s work is mostly about animals, the natural environment and endangered animals. My children’s Novel Thr House of a Hundred Stories is about the animals we kept as children. I still look upon each creature as an individual. I tell the cockroaches that enter my house,..please go away, or I’ll have to kill you. (I’ve never warned a mosquito yet, to tell the truth! )
My plays are polemical. They have themes like class distinctions, hypocrisy, discrimination..poverty, etc.
I think of the characters first then weave the story around them. Then I take from life, what seems important to me to communicate with someone. The language too is very important..my prose is lyrical and cinematic. Each sentence I feel ought to be beautiful. It doesn’t always happen of course.

6.       Any specific tips you have for new writers who want to make it big in the world of published books?

I can’t say I’ve made it big ..I guess I’m not qualified to answer this...but I tell all the participants in my writing workshops..be true. And true to yourself. Know yourself first.
Practical advice? Find a good agent who will promote your work, pitch it to the right people. Who believes in your work. It’s a dog eat dog world out there even in publishing.

7.       What’s the best thing a writer can give to his readers? 3

A part of himself or herself in writing to carry around forever like a talisman, to look at whenever times are difficult or they need inspiration.

8.       A lot of people are interested in writing for money earning potential. What are some tips for people interesting in making money from writing? What are some realistic expectations in regards to what can be made?

Oh dear, another question I’m not qualified to answer. I guess you have to know the pulse of the public you are writing for. If you want to make money, write what they want to read. If you are a niche writer or want to create a new community of discourse you may not have public success. Write bestsellers anything that sells, but please don’t write badly!

9.       What motivates you most in life?

I think communicating with human beings and animals too. Finding out the secrets of this wonderful earth, the amazing things it has to offer and sharing the wonderment. Saving it from the onslaught of human beings!

10.   The majority of the readers tend to take sides due to religion and such other considerations?

For me religion, nationality, race, sex, etc are incidental. Simply chance.  The search for eternal truths and finding your own path, your own revelations, understanding, that’s the important part.
I recently contributed a story to an anthology of Muslim women writers to be published by OUP. When asked why should there be such an anthology I realized it was important as the story I wrote couldn’t have been written by anyone else.  It was set culturally and historically more than in any religion. It’s called Riding Rakhsh ( rakhsh means horse in Persian)
My experience with my first book was that the male editor said the woman protagonist “thinks too much” she is “insane” She’s not like a Muslim woman. Ignorant people want to see Muslim women in stereotypical roles like Tehmina Durrani’s protagonist. Beaten up. Betrayed. TalaqTalaqTalaq!  Sigh. That sells too.

11.   What is the story behind the name of your book?

I love answering this question. My Little Boat. Mere Jeevan ki Nayya. In India, the image of a small boat is that of your own life which has everything in it. From the personal to the political. The Nauka, the Taarini, which takes you across the River of Life. Remember Kabir Das?
Kahe Kabira baarambaari
Mohey bhavsaagar Taari Moraari
The Sikhs say,’Naanak Naam Jahaaz hai’...the name of Guru Nanak takes you across safely.
Then there’s a folk tale in the book in which a princess takes a little boat to escape from an unacceptable situation!
There are some other symbolic meanings which I’m not listing here; you have to read the book!

My second novel, The Street of Mists is named after a street in Montmartre in Paris, where the book is set, in the artists’ quarter. In French, it is  “L’Allee des Brouillards” There are many tales of writers and artists  around this street.

12.   What are your views on increasing plagiarism?

The question touches a raw nerve for me.  If people see publishing simply as a way of making money and getting fame then there are bound to cheat. In the film and music industry, it happens on a regular basis. Plagiarists ought to be brought to book. Publicly made to apologize.
My Little Boat was ripped off by a woman author who became famous after her first book was published where she stole liberally, brazenly from my work. Her father-in-law owns a very old bookshop our family has known for generations and where I myself had requested copies of my novel be kept as my cousins live in that town. She must have found it there...the first hundred pages of her book are copied so clearly from my novel...passages ideas, concepts, characters, settings, all cleverly altered and shamelessly plagiarized. To the extent that she even copied a factual error about fruit, I had made in my novel!!  An intellectual property law firm was willing to take up my case... then I said to myself, suppose this plagiarist, so famous and rich now, is exposed, and suffers a mental breakdown? Would I be vindicated, happy? I don’t think I would.  The case too will go on long and bitter. My beautiful book will become forever associated with the (in my opinion), mediocre book this person has written. Because she’s been an editor herself, is a publisher’s wife...I don’t know why she needed to do such a thing. I messaged her husband on his website with some obviously copied passages. He didn’t respond even once. So he probably is in the know too. They made a lot of money off the book. The IP Lawyers identified her writing as “Altered Copying”.
Plagiarists ought to be taken to court. Once precedence is set they will be more careful. But in this country where people steal lives and babies, what’s a book?






Friday, 26 June 2020

Questionairrie with Mukul Kumar

So, this month's featured Author is ' Mukul Kumar'

Can you tell us a little about yourself? Your profession and your hobbies!!

 I am a bureaucrat by profession and a writer by passion. I belong to the 1997 batch of the Civil Services. An Indian Railway Traffic Service officer, I am at present working in New Delhi. I have studied Humanities at Delhi University. I have been honoured with the National award for outstanding service to the Indian Railways. My written works include the poetry anthology ‘The Irrepressible Echoes’ and two novels, ‘As Boys Become Men’ and ‘Seduction by Truth’. ‘Catharsis’,  is my second poetry anthology is about to be published. Besides writing my hobbies include reading, travelling, listening to music, driving etc.


Questionnaire with Mukul Kumar

1. How did you first get involved in with writing, are you an imaginative person?

I can recall scribbling verses even as a schoolboy; it has always been there in me; I believe writing like any other art form is intrinsic to man, it comes naturally.  But yes, I took to serious writing since 2012 when I came out with my poetry collection. I see myself as a purely imaginative person; writing is kind of creating a parallel world, maybe a parallel universe as well, and that is possible only by imagination; Einstein rightly says imagination encircles the world, while knowledge is limited in its reach.

2. What do you find most challenging about your writing?

Being a poet as well as a novelist, I would like to differentiate between poetry and fiction in terms of challenge. Writing fiction obviously demands much more efforts and time than poetry which is like a spontaneous overflow settling on paper quite smoothly. For me, the challenge in writing fiction has been still tougher by way of trying to find a middle path between profession and passion.

3. What do you do when you are not writing?

Reading and trying to figure out what is inside me waiting to be written. Not writing for long drives me restless; it is like living with some mind-space always occupied with writing.

4. Where do you see yourself in the next 6 months, and 5 years down the road?

Future is anyways uncertain, and this Corona experience has gone only to testify this wisdom. But yes, aim wise I want each passing day to improve my craft of writing and amplify my presence as a writer in the world of letters. I am genuinely happy that post my bureaucratic career, I have something so meaningful and exciting to fill in the vacuum.

5. How do you keep coming up with material/content for your story?

Here I am reminded of Mark Twain who said that he never wrote a book that did not get written by itself. I feel that amply answers the question. A writer has to wait for the story to catch him.  But yes, the first novel of a writer I feel tends to be quite autobiographical content-wise. My first novel ‘As Boys Become Men’ is a coming of age novel that carries quite much of the boy I was, more with regard to experiences than events that are majorly fictional.

 
6. Any specific tips you have for new writers who want to make it big in the world of published books?

I will begin with a caveat- the world of letters has always been challenging, more so now when many are trying to write, and in consequence, this world is getting flooded with what I call instant literature. Publishing is really an uphill task. My tips - Do not write unless you feel compelled, write from your heart, have patience with regards to publishing, and read a lot to test and improve your craft. For me, originality of style is one of the crucial driving forces.

7. What is the best thing a writer can give to his readers?

 Truth, beauty, and wisdom; I feel a good book unconsciously teaches the readers life and living. Books are the instant balm for your pain and sufferings, and source of pleasure as well.

8. A lot of people are interested in writing for money earning potential. What are some tips for people interesting in making money from writing? What are some realistic expectations regarding what can be made?

Let us accept the fact that reading has taken a beating in these times when writing has surged in surfeit, with new forms like the blog and social media expressions having fattened the volume. Even in the late 19th century, Oscar Wilde could not help saying that books were written by the public and read by none.  So, making money out of writing is not easily possible, especially in case of fictions. I am coming to experience that nonfictions are selling far better, and one must look at the other ways like articles etc. to make some money if one can. But yes, having said that I do not want to miss saying that if you have luck anything is possible; ‘click’ is the keyword here.

9. What motivates you most in life?

 Self-discovery is the prime motivator for me; keeping my ears close to my heart is kind of listening to the sweetest possible music. Like writing, I want to discover many other things in me. I want my life to remain unfinished till I die, like a book which Oscar Wilde says can never be finished and can only be abandoned.

10. The majority of the readers tend to take sides due to religion and such other considerations?

I find this question quite close to my heart as a writer my best tool to handle religion is the reason. Rationality kind of purifies religion, exalting it to ‘faith’ that furnishes hope and sanity, and Dharma which is nothing, but morality based upon the sense of righteousness and humanism; religion must serve man and not the vice versa.

11. What is the story behind the name of your book?

‘Seduction By Truth’ I feel is an interesting  blend of fiction and non-fiction; story-wise it explores the theme of marriage and desire with the storyline being based upon extramarital relationships, but  I have conceived and crafted the plot in such a manner that I could finely weave religion, mythology and history into it. That takes me back to your previous question; this book amply illustrates my approach to mythology and religion.

12. What are your views on increasing plagiarism?

As far as I know, plagiarism has been as old a phenomenon as writing itself. But the good thing is that while plagiarism is on the rise, we are having the effective technological tools to check it. That instantly reduces the concern pretty much.


 

Friday, 29 May 2020

Cafe which is known for Beer only- Beer Cafe @Connaught Place


The place has got spacious and nice comfortable seating. The ambience is good Staff is well mannered and educated. As the names suggest this place can offer you a good selection of beers here.
 For starters we had Crunchy Dahi rolls for starters, It was crisp on the outside and tangy on the inside because of the hung curd. A good starter and enough to fill you up . in vegetarian starters they have some limited options. For the main course, we had The Dal Makhani which was served with Naan. These dishes were just average in taste hence nothing much to write about but I found the prices of food, not worth the  value for money  In all nice the place to have some good beer with snacks, but would not recommend it for lunch or dinner. Food: 2/5Service:3/5Ambinace:3/5Value for money:3/5











Friday, 22 May 2020

Nobody Knows....


Nobody knows how empty I am,The smile that I wear.The real one is left behind in the pastBecause It left me there long ago ...


Nobody knows how I am crying,My tears cannot be seen either.For you, I am laughing or maybe not,Foolish to wish protector will know ...


Nobody knows Why I am painful.I am strong enough, all they suppose,It will not kill me, that they sayThough I wonder if they are wrong...


Nobody knows How I miss you.I set you free, from all boundsSill I feel like, I have bounded myself within,Trapped in my own mystery of miseries...

Nobody knows why I need you.I can do it on my own, they deemAlthough they do not know I am cryingWhen I am and will be all alone...Deep



Thursday, 14 May 2020

Cafe which is Fictitious- Farzi Cafe @Connaught Place

I visited this place a few days back for an afternoon with friends. It has a warm and cosy atmosphere and comfortable seating. The waiters were very well versed with the menu. They were quite knowledgeable about the dishes which indeed is especially important, and it was impressive as well. This place is all about twisting and reconstructing the regular known dishes and presenting them in a unique new way without hampering the authentic texture and flavour. We had Vada Pav Farzified, Bombay Bhel version 2.0, Mac n Cheese pakora bites as starters. All of them were very good especially the presentation of all the dishes was amazing. It was hot, crispy and tangy. A great delight to eyes and appetite as well.

In the mains, we had Daal with Garlic naan. The Naans was just average but the Daal was creamy and delicious. In dessert, I had a chocolate dirt pile served with chocolate sauce. It was great. Everything was good but the administration really must look in towards the cooling system of the place as it is a big hit in ambience especially in summers.

Food:4/5
Service:4.5/5
Ambience:3/5
Value for money:4/5















Monday, 11 May 2020

Pakodras from Khandaani Pakordewala

I was introduced to this place decades ago and it still attracts a lot of pakora lovers .A very small place, now they have also started serving lassi, khandvi and other kinds of stuff too but still widely famous for the various varieties of yummy pakoras it serves. Here they serve Palak, methi, Pyaz pakora and the cauliflower and paneer pakoras.

Taste and service all were good. But what put me off was the rancid oil they continue to use while frying in the big kadhai and the pakoras could do with more flavour and seasoning. So overall it's just average stuff but the prices don't seem justified even if they don't burn a hole in your pocket.

Food: 4/5
Ambience:2/5
Service:3/5
Value for money:3/5









Sunday, 3 May 2020

Questionnaire with Abbyshek Chandra

So this month's featured author is 'Abbyshek Chandra'


Can you tell us a little about yourself? Your profession and your hobbies!!

I am an author, a serial entrepreneur and an educationist. I hold a B.Tech. from IIT Roorkee and an MBA from ISB Hyderabad. Before starting my entrepreneurial journey with Eduwiser, I worked as a Management Consultant in Dubai. Featured in India Today as the education sector’s “One-man army”, I have founded four educational ventures and authored seven bestselling educational textbooks in Mathematics, Physics and Biology that are recommended by CBSE schools across the country. 
Love You Forever is my debut novel. Forbidden Love is my second.

The questionnaire with Abbyshek Chandra



1.       How did you first get involved in with writing, are you an imaginative person?

I had written a couple of blogs during my MBA and my girlfriend (now wife) had read them and asked me to write a novel someday because she thought my words had some kind of the magic that got the readers involved and connected. So, I wrote the novels when I had the time.

For the educational textbooks, I am an educationist at heart and I know I express and explain well. It was only obvious to write such books.

Imaginative? Yes, very imaginative. I still remember day-dreaming in my Nursery about perverts troubling my class-teacher and me saving her from them.  

2.       What do you find most challenging about your writing?

Getting into the shoes of the characters and then coming out of it.

3.       What do you do when you are not writing?

Busy with my office work, family, fans, cooking or watching movies on Netflix/Amazon Prime/Hotstar.

4.       Where do you see yourself in the next 6 months, and 5 years down the road?

As an author, I want to be ready with the first draft of my next novel in the next 6 months. 5 years down the road, want to be known as the People’s Author with 2 more novels and as many educational textbooks to my name.

As an educationist, I want to have improved the lives of at least 20,000 students in the next 6 months and over a million students in the next 5 years.

As a serial entrepreneur, I would want to realize awesome ROIs for the companies I have in the next 6 months. 5 years down the road, I will probably free myself from all the companies I have set up.

5.       How do you keep coming up with material/content for your story?

My imagination in conjunction with my experiences and understanding of human behaviour.

6.       Any specific tips you have for new writers who want to make it big in the world of published books?

Be practical and patient

7.       What’s the best thing a writer can give to his readers?

I guess, ATTENTION apart from engaging books. I try to!

8.       A lot of people are interested in writing for the money earning potential. What are some tips for people interesting in making money from writing? What are some realistic expectations in regards to what can be made?

Don’t get into writing with the aim of earning money. Just focus on good work and money will start flowing in with time.

Coming to the expectations of money, if your book is genuinely good, you will typically make enough money to buy some clothes and shoes in the first year. Mark my words, you won’t get enough to run your house. The money will gradually increase with time, so the initial time is very, very difficult. Be prepared for it.

9.       What motivates you most in life?

The inner Abby. If you have read my novel – “Love You Forever” that is based on my life, you know who the inner Abby is and how he motivates me. People have been falling for him!
                                                                                           
10.   What is the story behind the name of your book?

The core the concept behind the novel is true love and for me, true love lasts forever. One might get angry with the other in a relationship but if the love is genuine, it lasts forever. In the novel, no matter what happens in his life, the protagonist always lives by the phrase - love you forever, hence the title.

11.   What are your views on increasing plagiarism?

Unless there are strict laws in place, people will not shy away from doing it. Taking away someone’s years of hard work is not done and it should be the responsibility of every individual to not commit such a crime. Please don’t do it or support any of your friends in doing it. Report such cases!   

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Best Pocket Friendly Food Joint- Sumeet Chat Bhandar @Madhapur. HYD



A good place to have a quick bite of your favourite chat, samosa, pav bhaji, Vada pav among a huge list of other items. Icecreams, lassi, parathas - an extensive menu on the table. Though the place does not have a classy ambience as it is just a basic small place. This place is at the main road and they have decent north Indian food Items. If you want to have good budget food, this place is the answer. Some things to try are Pani puri, chaat, lachha paratha with aloo tamatar subzi, Also, if you happen to visit during brunch timings you can try their speciality Matar puri with subzi. You can also get fresh juices over here.  An owner is a cheerful person and the staff looks slightly rough but is well behaved. If you are fond of Chat then do try Samosa Chat it best in Hyderabad. Masala cheese pav bhaji is worth trying. The ambience is not that good but what matters to me is the food, which I can assure that it will be always good. Grilled Sandwich, Milkshakes, Fruit Icecream, Chats are some of the specialities from this place. All items are very much affordable. The place is slightly clumsy, but who cares for a quick bite ;) when hungry.


Food: 4/5
Service:3/5
Ambience: 2/5
Value for money: 4.5/5