A Matter of Style | Short Story Winner for August 2017 Muse of the Month | Women’s Web

A Matter of Style - Ashima Jain (Muse of the Month - August 2017)

The August 2017 writing prompt for the Women’s Web Muse of the Month Writing Contest is from the Indian film – Angry Indian Goddesses:

Indian women are policed and shamed for their choices, whether it is the kind of clothes they wear, or other things they do – woe betide the woman who smokes! And this is not just in their homes in middle class societies – it is everywhere, even in case of supposedly ’empowered women’. What women want is freedom from this and be able to make their choices without being judged.

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Inspired by this cue, I ended up writing a short story titled A Matter of Style that addresses a different view of the judgement on the clothes we wear. Interestingly, it has been selected as one of the top stories for this month’s contest.

To read the complete story, click here.

As always, I look forward to your feedback/comments. 🙂

Picture courtesy: womensweb.in
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Revelations of an Imperfect Life by Sankhya Samhita | Book Review

One of my favourite quotes I learnt growing up, is that Home isn’t a place; it’s a feeling. It is the people who you live with, amidst those four walls of your house, who provide a sense of belonging.

What, then, is one supposed to do, when the feeling of home is no longer there, and the people whom you regarded close, seem far, far away?

One utterly ordinary day, thirty-three-year-old Tanaya realizes that she is stuck in a perfunctory marriage, nursing a resentment at having to live life like a rolling stone and in an impulsive moment, decides to leave her indifferent husband and uninspiring apartment to go back to where it all began: the sleepy town of Tezpur, Assam.

Back home, in the company of family, friends and unavoidable wagging tongues, Tanaya is forced to face her indecision and confusion, even as she tries to find answers to the unsettling questions running in her mind. Dealing with the aftermath of a decade-long heartbreak, coming to terms with new revelations, when she reaches the fork on the road, will Tanaya be able to make the right choice?

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Revelations of an Imperfect life is a book that evokes memories of idyllic life, of growing up in simpler times, of roots, and of being home. The story is one you would want to read over and over again, for it imparts the feeling of being snuggled inside a warm blanket on a cold, rainy day.

The author starts off with a delectable description of maasor tenga (the signature Assamese dish), and just as your mouth starts to water from the flavour of the tangy gravy, she decides to jolt you from your reverie with the hard-hitting monotony of a life that is far from what one would desire.

Her protagonist travels to a time and place in her past, as a way to move forward, and along her journey she is reminded of the things that she misses today – Little gestures that would go a long way in bringing joy to her life.

Samhita’s characters are delightful, whether it is Dueta, Ma, Aita (one of my favourites), or Nobou Mami from across the fence, Nila (the sister who, for all you know, could be your kindred spirit) and even Nibir (whom one only hears on the phone for most of the book).

She writes them all with such perfection, despite each of their flaws, that after a point you can feel them being a part of your life. They hold on to you and gently pull you in, tugging you along into every memory and conversation.

The plot builds around recollections of growing up as a young girl within and around the walls of her family home, which then connect with the present-day events like a natural flow of the river current.

Her prose reads like a song – every note mellifluous with picturesque descriptions. Her expressions captivate you with the gorgeous play of words she weaves.

She brings Assam to life through the food, the clothes, the festivals, the seasons, and the wonderful people, right before your eyes.

The buildup to the climax and the end leave you amazed at Samhita’s talent and finesse which is akin to that of a seasoned writer. It seems impossible to believe that this is indeed her debut novel.

Tanaya’s account, as described here, may all be about the revelations of an imperfect life. However, as the author remarked at the end of her book launch: No life is imperfect. Your life is your own perfect, as long as you find what makes you happy.

That is really the essence of the book –  to know where and how to find what makes you happy. And for that simple reason, amongst the many others I described above, this book will be endeared by all those who read it.

Title: Revelations of an Imperfect Life
Author: Sankhya Samhita
Publisher: Readomania
ISBN: 978-93-858544-2-2
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction/General
Pages: 270
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Born in a small sleepy town in Tezpur, Assam, rebelling against the name her Dad had given her in the hope of turning her into a mathematician, Sankhya Samhita fell in love with words from the moment she realised that syllables make up a word, words make sentences and sentences are basically magic. Despite a short-term affair with Physics and Computer Applications, she refused to give up on words and started her blog seven years ago. She was a part of the editorial team of the online magazine Fried Eye for five years and responsible for the feature articles and music reviews, a role she relished. She even dabbled in teaching the English language to adults in far-flung Vietnam and Malaysia after her marriage, until she settled down for the more challenging role of a stay-at-home-Mom to her daughter.
She currently lives in Singapore with her husband, her daughter and more books than she can ever hope to finish reading.
To connect with her, find her on Twitter and Facebook, or follow her blog https://ssamhita.wordpress.com/ for more of her delightful writings.

UPDATE 8th Aug 2017: This review is now also published on womensweb.in

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The Tree with A Thousand Apples by Sanchit Gupta | Book Review

Noted Historian and Travel Writer, Jan, Morris said of Kashmir: Kashmir has always been more than a mere place. It has the quality of an experience, or a state of mind, or perhaps an ideal.

It is no wonder then, that the author, Sanchit Gupta, dedicates this book ‘To the people of Kashmir—
those who live there,
those who used to live there,
and those who will continue to live there…’

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Inspired by true events, the story follows the lives of Deewan Bhat, Safeena Malik and Bilal Ahanagar, three innocent children growing up together in the Kashmir Valley. Amidst cups of spicy kahwa, and cricket matches paused by a broken antenna, they live in and around the protective shade of the tree with a thousand apples, whose roots and branches spread in peaceful coexistence. Until the night of January 20th, 1990, when insurgency destroys the tranquility within this beautiful valley.

Deewan is forced to flee his home, leaving only with a memory of the tree that still bears a thousand apples. Safeena’s mother becomes collateral damage, and Bilal finds himself in a life of poverty bound by fear. Overnight, paradise becomes a battleground and friendships struggle with fate as they are forced to choose sides against their will.

Twenty years later, when the three friends meet again at the cross roads, an exiled pandit longs for his home, an innocent civilian fights for justice, and a ruthless rebel aches for redemption.

At a time when all sense of right and wrong is lost, will these three friends choose to become criminals, or saints?

To find out more about this book, read my detailed review as published at Writersmelon.com.

Title: The Tree with A Thousand Apples
Author: Sanchit Gupta
Publisher: Niyogi Books
ISBN: 978-93-85285-51-6
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 284
Source: Writersmelon.com
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Born and brought up in the hills of Himachal Pradesh, Sanchit Gupta began his career as a part-time copywriter with an advertising agency in Mumbai. He went on to co-found his own theatre group, worked as a freelance film screenwriter and as executive producer – fiction for a leading television network. His short stories have been published in several esteemed publications and literary journals and have won acclaim in leading literary festivals and online forums. One of his film scripts (fiction) has been long-listed in a globally reputed screenwriters’ lab. He has worked with All India Radio as a talk show host and regularly features in poetry recitals at Prithvi Café, Mumbai. This is his debut novel.
Apart from being a writer, he is a brand management professional with a wide range of brand building and communication development experience across FMCG, automobile and media industries. His works explore his fascination for global cultures, societal structures, vagaries of the world and the human mind.
He welcomes interaction on Twitter @sanchit421. Find out more about the author and his work at http://www.sanchitgupta.in.

Note – I received this review copy from Writersmelon.com in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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Confessions on an Island by Ayan Pal | Book Review

I once read somewhere that holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Anger generates negativity. It does not have the capacity to be positive. And this anger is what leads to Confessions on an Island, both literally and figuratively.

An abducted woman trapped on an island is given a chance to escape, provided she tells stories emerging from the stories her intriguing abductor tells her. Clueless about why she is being forced to participate in this game of Russian Matryoshka Dolls, the woman, a bestselling author, decides to play along. And therein begins a thrilling tale, narrated in part by an island while also seen through the eyes of the abductee. The tale of a man and woman consumed by the power of their imagination and truth, even as the stakes are gradually raised. Soon the only way out is in – into the past, heart and mind. The island is ready to confess. Are you ready for the truth?

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I was lured by the title of the novel. Confessions on an Island has a unique format to it. The story is revealed through different characters: The island which is a silent spectator to the events unfolding before its eyes, the woman who finds herself trapped on an uninhabited island in the middle of nowhere, and the stories themselves as narrated by the abductor and abductee in a twisted game of Matryoshka. Every chapter moves in sequence between its three protagonists.

In the course of these stories, the author lays out myriad human emotions which are inexplicable in the normal course of events. His characters display shades varying between greys and black as he reveals a dark psychological game of thrill and torture leading to an unexpected climax.

In my reading of the book, while I found the concept intriguing, the plot did not resonate with me as I expected it to. I was unable to connect the events as they moved from one story to the next. The character sketches appeared to have lost their way in the goal of creating dark players of this torturous game. Editing was another area which I felt was not as clean and crisp as it could have been.

However, knowing that the author has planned two more books, I gather this will intrigue readers of this genre and pique their curiosity enough to find out what happens next.

Title: Confessions on an Island
Author: Ayan Pal
Publisher: Readomania
ISBN: 978-93-858541-3-2
Edition/Year: 2016
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 192
Source: Author’s Copy
Rating: 3 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Ayan Pal is a Kolkata-based IT professional and author who has received several accolades in his career so far. These include the honour of his book being a record holder in the Limca Book of Records, the title of ‘Distinguished Toastmaster’ from Toastmasters International for demonstrating outstanding communication and leadership skills, and a ‘Brandon Hall Award’, considered as the ‘Academy Awards’ by Learning, Talent and Business Executives worldwide.
He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from VTU, Karnataka and has completed a course in Education Technology from SDSU, California.
As an author, he is known for his acclaimed short stories in the Amazon bestsellers ‘Chronicles of Urban Nomads’, ’21 Tales to Tell’, and ‘When They Spoke’. He has also contributed to India’s first composite novel, ‘Crossed and Knotted’, ‘Upper Cut’, ‘Her Story’, ‘Rudraksha’, ‘Arranged To Love’, ‘Tonight’s The Night’ and ‘Long Story Short’. He is a columnist of lifestyle magazine ThnkMkt and blogger at Open Road Review.
Passionate about public speaking, Ayan also loves reading, creative writing, watching and reviewing films, listening to music, and binge watching his favourite TV shows. ‘Confessions on an Island’ is his debut novel.
To connect with him, find him on Twitter @ImAyanPal and Facebook @AuthorAyanPal.

Note – I received this review copy from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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Cantilevered Tales by Jayant Kripalani | Book Review

This is not a Builder v. Helpless Citizen epic. In fact that is the least important part of the book. This is about a group of inept people who you want to reach out and protect but you discover are more than capable of taking care of not just themselves, but of you too.

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In the voice of his protagonist, the author decides to answer what was meant to be a rhetorical question, by launching into the history of the Howrah Bridge – the third-longest cantilever bridge at the time of its construction, thereby alarming his mostly quiet co-passenger and colleague of ten years.

From there, he delves into the back story of said colleague, winding his way around to the various other people who form the narrative of the book. Like his slow journey through the bridge traffic, he takes his time to unfold their stories and build them up as the eccentric characters they are meant to be.

He paints each scene with bright shades of tongue-in-cheek humour, paired with the most colourful Bengali phrases that dazzle his prose. I am not familiar with the Bengali language, thus the glossary at the end of the book was most helpful in deriving a full reading experience. It wouldn’t be the story it is, without the originality of the language, which proves its own inherent role.

The pages turn themselves at a foot-tapping pace as the reader gets wound up in the hilarious turn of events created by the seemingly ordinary Chingdi Kaka, Banshi Mama, Ashutosh Babu, The CM, and many more entertaining people.

I also couldn’t help but notice that the book is edited extremely well, absolutely flawless, something that I have rarely seen from Indian publishers. I only recommend that the glossary be more extensive to include other Bengali terms and phrases which are currently missing explanation. It would make a world of difference for readers who do not understand Bengali.

Cantilevered tales is a story about the quirks of ordinary citizens and their response to situations around them, which in turn makes them the people they become. All laid out with generous servings of wit and humour.

What Author Kripalani has created here is a literary masterpiece, as evident from his writing style that spotlights the sociopolitical theme he has chosen. Right from the pond caretaker, to the members of the Bird Witchers (you read that right) Association or the outrageously comic Oleek Babu, every person you come across is endearing.

Cantilevered Tales is clearly my choice for must-read novel of the year and goes right up to the top of my list of favourite books.

Title: Cantilevered Tales
Author: Jayant Kripalani
Publisher: Readomania

ISBN: 978-93-858542-7-9
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 250
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Jayant Kripalani is an Indian film, television and stage actor, writer and director. Known for his performances in television series such as Khandaan, Mr. Ya Mrs. and Ji Mantriji, he graduated from Jadavpur University with a degree in English Literature. He has played character roles in movies like Heat and Dust, Rockford, Jaane Tu. . . Ya Jaane Na, 3 Idiots and, most recently, Hawaizaade and The Hunger.
He had directed and produced a number of films and is actively involved with theatre. He wrote the screenplay for Shyam Benegal’s film Well Done Abba.
He is the author of the heart-warming and nostalgic New Market Tales, set in the historic New Market area of Kolkata in the 1960s and 1970s. His recent foray into writing performance poetry has brought him acclaim in poetic circles around the country.
When he is not in Calcutta, he is either fishing in Himachal, pfaffing in Bombay or being a beach bum in Goa.
To connect with him, find him on Twitter @JayantKripalani.

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The Accidental Artist | Winner | Memories from Books Contest

Just like the surprise showers that brought some respite from the scorching May sun, I received some delightful news last evening.

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The Accidental Artist – A short story (flash fiction) I wrote for Readomania’s Memories from Books contest – was adjudged the Second Prize winner.

The cue for this contest was to write a fictional story, inspired from real life incidents, about your dearest memory with a book.

The Accidental Artist weaves a fictional story around my earliest memories with my favourite book. To this day, I vividly remember sitting by my mother’s side as she read it out to me.

To find out more about this book and be a part of my experience, follow the link to read this story – The Accidental Artist.

Don’t hesitate to share your own stories around your favourite books so we can relive some wonderful memories together 🙂

Image courtesy: Google Images.

Unns: The Captivation by Sapan Saxena | Book Review

Much has been said and written about love, the most profound of emotions known to God’s creations. I believe French Novelist and Memoirist, George Sand, wrote it best – “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved”.  

While love may provide an all-encompassing feeling, its quest and fulfillment cannot be experienced in this one emotion alone, but in stages. The mystical philosophy of Sufism describes seven stages of love – beginning from Hub (Attraction), moving onwards to Unns (Infatuation), Mohabbat (Love), Aqeedat (Respect), Ibaadat (Worship), Junoon (Obsession), to Maut (Death).

Some may know of these stages, fewer may have lived through them. With his new book, Unns: The Captivation, Author Sapan Saxena takes the reader on a journey through these seven stages of love.

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Atharva Rathod and Meher Qasim meet as adolescents and are drawn to each other, only to be separated by circumstances shortly thereafter. Many years later, when they meet again, Atharva is on a covert mission. Caught in the battle between circumstances and destiny, willingly or unwillingly, Atharva and Meher transcend the seven stages of love.

Unns is a quintessential tale of love and romance, set against a backdrop of international espionage.

To find out more about this book, read my detailed review as published at Writersmelon.com.

Author: Sapan Saxena
Publisher: Inspire India Publishers
Edition/Year: 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Romance Thriller
Pages: 244

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Sapan Saxena is a software engineer by profession and an author by choice. Born in the city of Nawabs, Lucknow, he earned his Engineering degree from MNNIT Allahabad. Sapan started writing when he was coding for a complex algorithm and found that a fictional story would at least make some sense.
Currently based in Nashua, New Hampshire, he is the author of Finders, Keepers. Unns-The Captivation is his second attempt at writing fiction.
To connect with him, visit him at facebook.com/authorsapansaxena or follow him on Twitter @sapansaxena.

Note – I received this review copy from Writersmelon.com in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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A Day in Early Spring |Telegram Magazine | February 2017

Here is a magazine that has gained quite a following among writers since its launch in July last year. A literary magazine, Telegram aims to rekindle the flames of quality Indian fiction. They are a monthly journal of short stories, essays, book reviews, poems and much more. As the literary magazine culture disappears from the country’s newsstands, coffee houses and bookstores, it leaves a gaping hole for the discerning reader. Telegram hopes to cause a ripple in the direction of good stories, fiction and essays.

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Out with their eighth issue this month, the magazine includes a short story I wrote for their February theme: Shades of Love.

Even though global warming and climate change have impacted our weather cycles, the month of February can’t help but evoke a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Add to that, Valentine’s Day bombards everyone’s timelines and love dominate our feeds, from which there is no escape.

A Day in Early Spring celebrates just one such love story where the fragrance of soon-to-arrive spring, coupled with the blissfulness of love, is enough to wrap you in its enigma.

The magazine issue is now live on Magzter.com, the world’s largest and fastest growing cross platform global digital magazine newsstand.

Click here, to read it online or download to your Android/iPad/iPhone device, and revel in its ode to love.

Image Courtesy – Telegram Magazine

A Step Out of the Box | Winner for February 2017 Muse of the Month on Women’s Web

As those of you following my writing are aware, Women’s Web runs a monthly contest on its website, based on a writing prompt.

In 2016, these writing prompts were either a direct quote from the featured author of the month, or a quote from one of their published works.

In 2017, Women’s Web introduced a new Muse of the Month series, one with a contemporary twist. Instead of selecting a quote or phrase from a book, the cue is a feminist GIF/video clip from a movie – either Bollywood or Hollywood.

For February 2017, the writing cue was a scene from the film Piku, where Piku confirms that if her friend wants to marry her, her 90 year old father comes along with her.

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My entry for this month, based on the above cue, is titled ‘A Step Out of the Box’. It discusses the dilemma a married woman faces, in providing care for her ageing father who is living alone, away from his children. The story touches upon a concept that is still alien, but calls for attention in today’s times to bring a progressive change in our society.

To read the complete story, click on the Facebook post below.

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Following Rules – Short Story on Readomania

Here is another short story, which was written in the genre of humour/satire, sometime last year. It received a very special mention for the quality of writing and has now been published on the Readomania website.

Following Rules is a humourous take on how we, as a society, tend to complain about issues which, in fact, may have been created by us.

Pratichi considers herself to be a responsible driver who stays within the confines of road and traffic rules. She is also a bit a feminist, and believes women drivers are unnecessarily given a bad name.

So how does she manage when she is running terribly late on one of the most important days of her life? Can she stick to the rules while all the rule breakers zip past her? Or will she succumb to the pressures of traffic.

Find out more by reading the full story at Readomania.com.

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If you have any such crazy traffic experiences to share; they could be yours or someone else’s; tell me, so we can all have a hearty laugh together. 🙂

Image courtesy: Google Images.