Govinda by Krishna Udayasankar

12 01 2013

The Aryavarta Chronicles Book 1
Krishna Udayasankar
(Review by Karthik Keramalu)

This is Krishna Udayasankar’s Mahabharata. It is one of the mythological tales that has resurged since the runaway success of Amish’s The Immortals of Meluha. In Krishna’s Govinda, the epic Mahabharata takes a new turn. Krishna categorically appeared in the latter part of Mahabharata (largely known for guiding the Pandavas in Kurukshetra War). In Govinda, Krishna wears a new avatar, he is the central figure in The Aryavarta Chronicles.

Today’s Indian Politics is schematic in Krishna’s writing. Or there is just too much resemblance between the two. The tongue of the novel is too political, it is more of grabbing power than rendering solemness. Over the years, Mahabharata has found numerous versions and innumerable back stories that often confuse a sane mind as to which is fiction and which really is Vyasa’s version. Govinda heavily borrows from different versions of Mahabharata, making it a new version altogether. Panchali, the prolific figure of Mahabharata has her eyes on Govinda from the beginning but Govinda neither responds nor holds back his emotions. And she is married to Dharma alone unlike the popular belief that states she was married to the Pandavas. Arjuna did win Draupadi by shooting at the eye of a fish but Dharma marries her as he feels he’s the eldest and he has the right to marry her. Many kings are used as pawns in the book, some are fried prawns in the end.

Mahabharata is not a story of righteousness, it is rather a story of what wins. No character ever can be hailed moral as somewhere a thread unties and his true colours come out dancing. In Govinda, some revere Govinda and some despise him. Be it Duryodhana or Dharma, they fought for a piece they wanted and nobody has ever fought for peace. Krishna Udayasankar’s retelling does the same. Govinda is not godly, nor is he portrayed as a saviour who protects his followers. He’s a character in the book like any other, that’s what makes him a real character.

The colloquialism in the book gives away the writer’s head. ‘Yabha’, an expression is purely Krishna Udayasankar’s, it is a word actually used by Tamilians that is equivalent to English’s ‘Aah’ or a sigh. When a story goes from one ear to another, the story takes a new form, a new hero and a new perspective. Similarly, Govinda has new boundaries, newer goals and newer characteristic traits. Swords and bows and arrows predominantly occupy a large part of the novel as well as a chunk is dedicated to a section of hierarchy (rulers who think they are the best until they are defeated). In books like these the writer can experiment but not to the extent of deviating from a version we are all aware of. Hence Krishna adheres to the older version, readily adding her lingo wherever necessary. The book is a first in the trilogy and it remains to be seen how well the second and third come out given the craze the first book has already created.

Amandeep Sandhu Interview

9 01 2013

Amandeep Sandhu Interview

Karthik Keramalu

For Roll of Honour Review –

Does religion propel violence?
Not by itself, but the ego of the practitioner does. When one follows a path and believes his/her path is the best and everybody else should follow it, sometimes s/he uses force to spread his/her message. Of course, I use ‘sometimes’ ironically for most of human kinds’ wars have erupted from religious causes.

Do residential schools lay out a long path between parents and children?
Long path? If by that you mean if residential schools increase the distance between children and parents then the answer is: not necessarily so but yes. When a child is in a residential school the parents and children do miss the daily interaction and sometimes are unable to express their difficulties to each other. This often leads to great distances between them but it is also a process of growing up for a child. Adolescence is a difficult period anyway, there are many ruptures and residential schools only partly contribute to the confusions. Distances also come in in small, tightly knit families.

Schizophrenia, sodomy – such experiences and personal encounters often bring back bad memories. Through your stories how do you wade the grey pond?
Yes, I chose to wade the pond. I chose to bring language to express difficult realities. I feel it necessary that we confront those realities and try and make sense out of them and live with greater understanding and less fear.

Operation Blue Star will remain a black hole in the modern history of India. How did you gather information on the Operation?
I was in Punjab in 1984 so I was aware of how the people felt. I heard the news of Bhindranwale’s death on BBC radio. Later I sourced the recording of Bhindranwale speeches from the Damdami Taksal, read Mark Tully and Satish Jacob’s book Amritsar: Mrs Gandhi’s Last Battle, Lt Gen Brar’s book and accounts by many survivors to get the facts in place.

You say “Operation Blue Star is an act of sodomy.” How true is that? And how has it affected or crippled our nation since then?
That is a literary expression. A literary expression will show us a way of looking at events and that is what this expression does. The Operation managed to alienate a significant population of the country. I think it is after this Operation and the anti-Sikh riots a few months later the Sikh sentiment was that the community’s social contract with the country started eroding. People started actively looking for ways to go abroad, to not belong to India any more.

What’s your opinion on Indira Gandhi?
She was a lonely daughter of an illustrious father who wanted to better him in her life. She was iron-willed, a strong presence in world politics but also drunk on her own ego and surrounded by a few very obliging followers. She over estimated her power and ended up making some grave mistakes, not only in Punjab but also on how she came to look upon the nation as a fiefdom (post Emergency) and not a society she was meant to serve. Her life is a tragedy in the largest sense.

Surely, Emergency is termed as one of India’s ‘blackest hours’. How do you see that?
India has had many dark hours since the Emergency. Nellie was a dark hour, Blue Star was another, then the riots, Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination  the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, Rajiv’s assassination  Babri Masjid, Bombay blasts, Godhra, Kandhamahal, not to forget Kashmir, IPKF, Gorkhaland, Manipur, Assam, the list is too long. We now live in the  dark ages, such that nothing seems dark anymore, zeros keep getting added to figures of corruption, we know politicians are sold out, women and minorities are unsafe, around 40 percent of the country is not with the nation: Maoist areas, Telangana, and so on … Emergency seemed bad because it also curbed the affluent classes. Now there are more affluent classes but if you look at the nation as a whole, we are doing much worse because we are less hopeful about tomorrow.



Indians have the liberty and freedom to live and work anywhere they want. But why is there a division? Maharashtra is for Maharashtrians, North East Indians are driven away. This sort of small mindedness has to be changed.
Conflicts of insider/outsider arise when resources are threatened. These conflicts will arise in each part of the country unless we learn to manage our resources. I am not sure we have the liberty of living and working everywhere in the country. We have inner line permits in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, parts of Kashmir. That basically means the state reserves the right to deny permission to travel, limit visit times. We have rules forbidding outsiders, to a region, from buying land in certain states. The change will be when we as a nation accord equal status to all citizens and practise ways in which each of us feels proud to be part of this country, we stop looking upon each other through the lens of mistrust and each of us feels our regional, linguistic, and religious identity is safe.

In your book, Baba says to Appu “First deserve, then desire. You are entitled to a struggle, not the benefits.” Could you explain this statement? It’s apt for human existence and survival and success, of course.
Well, it is the Bhagvad Gita, isn’t it? Often, many of us feel we want this or that, we want it because we are so and so’s child, we belong here or there, or whatever. This is a statement against our notions of entitlement. Each of us needs to recognize that rights and duties go hand in hand. We have a choice only to our duties, the benefits are not in our hands.

While your first novel, Sepia Leaves dealt with Schizophrenia; your second novel Roll of Honour deals with searching for an identity. That’s how well I can put it. What do you say?
You are right. In life, there are a few basic questions we all need to ask ourselves. The first book asks the question: where am I coming from? The second explores: who am I?

Shakespeare’s King Lear is mentioned in Roll of Honour. Do you see this novel as a tragedy?
Yes, it is. Even if one were to write an account of those days in black humour, the story would be a tragedy. Terrorism and bullying are tragic.

How do you zero in on the title? Unusual titles like Sepia Leaves and Roll of Honour.
With the first book I took a long time deciding the title, it sought to evoke the idea of an old album of photographs but the cover page did not suit the book. With the second one I knew it would be called after the huge boards at school where the illustrious students had their names written. It sought to evoke the idea of a list of names of those who had faced life and not just joined a profession.



What makes you write? Stories or people?
Experience of living.

How different is Amandeep Sandhu the person from the writer?
People say I am more genial with a healthy sense of humour.

“Violence can never stop violence” how far can this succeed?
It is, but that does not mean we should abjure it completely. Violence is a tool which must be used with judgement and restraint. In the face of gross injustice, after all recourse has failed, it is legitimate to use violence but use it against the sin not the sinner.

Next Change: Same Case

1 12 2012

Next Change: Same Case


Karthik Keramalu

Honour killings, a matter of shame for the flickering posture of India. The lack of honour in it spits dousing anger, if only the nation could stop these heinous crimes. The oft asked question ‘Where is honour in killing?’ is a black band blinding the laws of the nation. At times when same sex marriages are being legalised honour killings defecate in the flowers of love. How can these people be protected? The recent killing of Mohammad Hakim pronounces the arrival of indocile ruling. The Opposition, BSP accuses SP of failing to act quickly in such cases. The point Mayawati forgets to see is that during her regime (between 2007 and 2010) Uttar Pradesh saw around 50 cases of honour killings. The chairs change but situations do not. If the supremo Mayawati couldn’t bring this down how could a novice like Akhilesh Yadav do it? He’s still learning the art of running a state. Scams or crimes are a regular like the capitalisation of the alphabet after a sentence. Mayawati led government is not short of scams or for that matter SP too has been mired in controversies in the past. The UP rice scam and the National Rural Health Mission scam go on to show that Ministers of all parties are the same when it comes to money. They lick the currency notes and of course, walk away with their backs doing the talking. In a nation like India where there are more political parties than universities, more castes than hospitals, more scams than Rs. 100 crore bollywood churners, little is public’s memory. Today’s scams are tomorrow’s history. But like virginity the money lost cannot be reclaimed.

Mayawati spends Rs.685 crores on building and beautifying Rashtriya Dalit Prerna Sthal and Green Garden and in the same year World Bank gives a credit of US $152 million to Uttar Pradesh for improving the health facilities in the state. Didn’t we have that money? Scams run into lakh crores. Mayawati, could have spent that money on health facilities. We have more money in our pockets than our minds could count the zeroes but unearthing is a problem. Congress questions Mayawati’s statues and she veils herself saying it was Kanshi Ram’s will to have his statue next to hers, not before calling Congress anti-Dalit.

Freedom of speech raped, witnesses disappear, fascists are worshipped, and a bomb goes off somewhere: we beat up the Muslims here. For a nation, this is not progress, in fact it is the opposite. It is crushing the contents of democracy and secularism. The Right to Equality prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. When there’s such a fundamental right how does the question of SC/ST promotion quota bill crop up? Somebody needs to explain this. In the most outrageous pun of it Shiv Sena calls for a bandh as two cops are suspended for arresting two women over their facebook posts. Bandhs and riots are no more taboo subjects, they are triggered over a cup of coffee. We basically fail to understand that we are a part of the corruption too. We are no more the sipping audiences but the shooting targets.

A Free Man

21 11 2012

A Free Man


Aman Sethi

(Review by Karthik Keramalu)

“My recorder seems to have died of its own accord.” And so it begins Aman Sethi’s fastidious short epic A Free Man.

Made from the purest whim of bringing a mazdoor’s (worker) realm to a broader section, this non-fiction work is apparently a ringing bell to the towners. A Free Man reaches beyond imagination; it offers what a PhD can’t. The dedication the writer gives his subjects – the theme and the man both included are mind-boggling. His penchant for the little details in Ashraf’s life is immensely applaudable. He lives and drinks and breathes a mazdoor’s life.

The beleaguering dreams in Sadar Bazaar start with chai and end with the local whiskey. Ashraf, the central figure in A Free Man narrates his life and the untrodden sight of the places he has lived in. His desires are wafer thin. He needs money for shitting, eating and drinking. And to satiate his sexual want. The wordy jabs Ashraf offers are strong messages to the dunking palette in a developing economy like ours. The narrative dispels many clouded abbreviations of a villager.

People in the book are innocent common workers who fail to see the transparency. Munna, a worker like Ashraf runs away from a Government hospital thinking that he would have to pay for the plaster cast. An old man makes Eighty Thousand Rupees when his brother gives him a share of their shop, but he glibly drinks it away in less than eighty days. Satish, a TB patient is thankful to the writer’s sister for paying him a visit. He hadn’t been bathed since he was admitted to the hospital about a month ago. The displacement of 8,00,000 slum dwellers is a mere ‘hmm’ by the authorities. The process is described as a necessary and painful part of urban renewal. Lalloo’s handcart is lost in a game of cards to some man. He sells his utensils in exchange for several bottles of alcohol. These are real stories, stories that do not dwindle but are bundled by the writer in this excellent reportage.

The ordinariness these people bring to the book serve the orderly mind with a possibility of rendering knowledge of the slum dwellers’ psyches. The city that unites these men also divides them. For the impeccableness, Ashraf possesses, he says “If you leave a mazdoor and return a mazdoor, then what have you achieved?” Yet his soul wanders cities and never misses an opportunity to gulp down country liquor and be a runaway.

In this speckless, spineless work Aman Sethi delivers a package that needs to be opened to be enjoyed, revered and treasured and may be help our drooling economy by eradicating poverty (which has been kind of an eclipse topic). Ashraf bhai and Aman bhai seem to form an umbilical cord cut only towards the end. But there’s always hope and phone to reunite them.

(Aman Sethi)

Aerogrammes And Other Stories

16 10 2012

Aerogrammes And Other Stories


Tania James

(Review by Karthik Keramalu)

Lion and Panther in London: The plot is of two brothers struggling to find wrestlers in London. And when they do find the right opponents, harsh tongues do the wagging. Honesty is degraded and deflated. Imam and Gama’s innocence is juiced by Mr. Benjamin.

What to Do with Henry:  Lyrics swallowing the unusual friendship between Neneh and Henry. Animals surrender to your love than to your cane. Pearl, a white woman adopts the chimp. He likes to be with blondes. Unfortunately, things take a wrong turn and Henry lands up in a zoo. The bereft chimp, Henry, goes berserk on her ‘sister’ Neneh after failing to recognise her, many years later.

The unfamiliarity breathes through the pores of the warm family in The Gulf. The stupor views playing between the mother and the father of the daughter are benevolent. The daughter’s inquisitiveness in wanting to listen to her father play the violin is a smooth rendition by Tania James.

The Scriptological Review: A Last Letter from the Editor:  Vijay’s undaunting flair for seeping into the heads of people is rimless and enchanting. The strokes and slants present in the writing reveals the person’s cavity. It is a hazy form imprinted by the protagonist Vijay in this letter.

Lament souls peering into the rudderless space is Aerogrammes. Mr. Panicker and May segregate the lost and found in bliss and nobody tries to sabotage the thin flicker of hope dangling obtrusively. Insanity cannot be defended by the sane; it can be regarded as a wheelchair of unreal and anarchic strength. Tania James envelopes the characters and wades them through a picture-less frame.

The bended and filtered glances that only an old man and a woman with a daughter can exchange is charming. The frayed lantern the young and old carry with poise is hard to miss. The little girl in the story flaps between being a young adult and a kid. Ethnic Ken demystifies the notion of an elderly swagging in a house that can’t be your home.

The broken bridge that can never be repaired but still can be used is what Light and Luminous is about. Minal Auntie’s light is hidden in her chest, far beyond recognition. She mirrors her thoughts and wails but shows no discomfort. In Light and Luminous, Minal Auntie falls prey to her own words. She is that woman who loses and regains confidence.

A brother is a good friend. He won’t let you down even when there is too much haggling dripping in an issue. In Escape Key, Amit and Neel, the brothers go back and forth and like fork and noodles remain good friends.

Girl Marries Ghost: A surreal and silent dream lingering all day. It is pure magic that vanishes and abandons the reader in the end. Gina and Hank’s companionship is misty and follows no routine.

A fine example of Tania James’ prose would be from The Gulf where the kid says “I was the dented suitcase he had left behind, the one with no wheels.” In this collection Tania James ensures the reader has his / her beak bent to the water through the narrow opening.


16 10 2012



Namita Devidayal

(Review by Karthik Keramalu)

Namita Devidayal’s Aftertaste is a scrumptious and opaque illusion of a family tangled in the sweets business. The novel is not centred on one character. The story reflects a clan’s histrionics. It is this ‘sweet displeasure’ burnt in ghee and served for 300 pages.

The novel absorbs the attitudes of different generations and provides a platter of stained relationships. Aftertaste is deftly succinct with the characters neither overshadowing nor subduing. It’s a chart of a family growing, glowing, showing and finally blowing. The author is ravenous for depicting the Marwari family’s dominance in business dealings. Their misconception that the property has to go to son’s son and other grand children are to be just loved is a gene passed on from the unenlightened times.

Kulbhushan Todarmal is bankrupt. His mind’s a burst balloon with no ideas filling up. His wife Bimmo comes up with a classic idea. It is this meat that the readers grab at. Bimmo di Barfi is all set to become one of the best sweet shops in Bombay. The Todarmals’ rise in popularity and bank accounts and the subsequent blood brothers foolishly behaving for the upper hand is heart drenching. The morose, sympathetic lining upholds the narration.

Mummyji’s battling for her life. Her once little children are battling for her property that is to be divided between the siblings. And the jewels being the bone of contention is a seat reserved for none. Namita Devidayal has awakened the sentiments and emotions running in a joint family. Siblings are pitted against each other for what they do and for what they miss to do. Rajan, Suman, Saroj and Sunny want their mother to breathe her last in spite of wanting her by their side.

Blood is thicker than water but you need water too to survive. Rajni, the maid, is a metaphor for the maids who blindly salute their owners. She is the real gem in the novel. A prolonged family feud ends in a tight hug and the novel ceases with a sweet tooth.

How About A Sin Tonight?

12 10 2012

How About A Sin Tonight?


Novoneel Chakraborty

(Review by Karthik Keramalu)

The myriad of characters floating in the novel persistently meet, greet and embrace shame. Novoneel Chakraborty’s novel is a jigsaw puzzle, pieces all strewn, only to emerge in the latter part of the book.

The book opens with a scene to be shot. Actually, it’s a scene that requires the actors to shed their inhibitions and clothes. Then goes decades back to pronounce the arrival of the legend Shahraan Ali Bakshi. Shahraan’s story is of every man’s; who has achieved stardom through work and luck and goodness charm of his love interest Mehfil. Mehfil, a prostitute inspires Shahraan to excel ‘himself’ in bollywood. And he does so with Mehfil’s memories as she dies of cancer.

Extras in the novel prepare themselves as side dishes. Reva Gupta, Neev Dixit, Nishani and Kaash. Relationships are used tissues. Hearts melted with hot iron. And lastly revenge that fails to succeed – that’s ‘How About A Sin Tonight?’

The extras have a connection with Shahraan Ali Bahski. He’s the highway and the rest of the characters intersect and interject hatred, kinship and sullen moths of diversion.

A producer agrees to cast Nishani in a television serial after consulting with god about infidelity. A blowjob is a diwali cracker where as sex is an atomic bomb. He toys with the diwali cracker and Nishani is the next big diva on the little screen. Nishani’s mind is driven to oiling Shahraan’s pole of success. She barely finished her mission when the weapon she was to deal with wounded her. Reva and Kash, Reva and Neev, Kash and Nishani – they are dust particles residing on Shahraan’s status.

‘How About A Sin Tonight?’ offers sinless insights into the world of stardom.

Circle of Three

11 10 2012

Circle of Three


Rohit Gore

(Review by Karthik Keramalu)

Rohit Gore’s Circle of Three defines the relationship between a human and another human. Aryan Khosla, Ria Marathe and Rana Rathod – they form the circle. How their lives fall into the same category and how each inspires the other is the story.

Mr. Gore’s novel is for every person who has lost hope in finding hope. The book lifts the unnatural situation and turns it into a simpler one where all three become known from the unknown atmosphere.

Aryan Khosla is not an orphan yet he doesn’t find his parents when he returns from school. Ria Marathe plans her suicide so well that it coincides with her birthday and Rana Rathod, the once famous author lives a terrible life. The characters meet and exchange their worries and inherit solace. Mr. Gore deals with a subject that is often taken for granted, that is, human tendency to growl and make things worse. Forgiving is one end of the rope and when a person pulls it, he’s the ultimate champ. The characters forgive and become their happy selves again. The burden is buried and they move on with the memories of their loved ones.

There’s divinity in every human – only man can provide solutions to a man’s problems. Age has nothing to do with knowledge. A bullied thirteen year old Aryan Khosla settles the unsettled mind of Rana Rathod who is almost five times his age.

Ria Marathe, a writer finds soul in forgiving the woman who had an affair with her husband who died in a car crash with her only son.

Life is all about how you decorate the table of contents in your mind. And Mr. Gore has decorated the table in a way everybody can understand.

Let Her Rest Now – Review

14 09 2012

Let Her Rest Now


Vijay Nair

Why does a thriller excite a reader?
Man is a digger – for information. Curiosity has been his forte since the beginning. That curious nature of man is solely responsible for the world we have today. For the lives we think we are enjoying today.

Let Her Rest Now – a thriller revolving around a mysterious murder. One victim joins another not in the same town or the state. How the knot unfolds is the theory Let Her Rest Now offers. Vijay Nair’s thriller poses many questions. The novel doesn’t answer them instead they are passed as everyday affairs. A simple question that rises in the midst – does friendship involve sex… It is not a question that stumps from the ground. It is merely a glowing star in a windy night. The novel deals with themes relating to greed, misery, friendship, sexual identity.

People who emerge from broken families are usually stronger. They believe in themselves rather than waiting for a sword to dissipate their problems. In the book, the protagonists are from broken families, it is not a bond that they cherish. Their inhibitions, their aspirations, their support system (being ‘one another’), the distance that is laid over the years – yet their path is a familiar one. All these emotions – fear, lust or the coated love and fury form the crux of the novel.

Vijay Nair’s attempt in sprinkling grey shades to all the characters falls on the surface of the water and sinks. In the end there’s no good, there’s no bad, there’s no ugly. This is how a human is supposed to be.

“A man is helped by ‘other’ and is made to drown by another’” – the novel surely justifies this quote.

Email Interview with author Meghna Pant

15 08 2012

How do you see yourself? From being an interviewer to an interviewee? You have interviewed Sir Richard Branson (Chairman of Virgin Group) in the past. What has the transformation from holding a mike to being held one done to you?

I don’t think it’s really changed anything for me. I like to think that it’s actually a blessing to be on both sides of the mike, since I know what a journalist wants and what an interviewee can give.

A Bloomberg-UTV correspondent to an author whose book goes into reprint within a month of its publication. What does ‘One and a half Wife’ hold for the readers?

Most readers, who’ve been writing in from around India, say that they couldn’t put the book down. They say it’s a page-turner and that the writing, the characters are engaging. Most have said that the theme is of contemporary relevance, which allows them to identify with the narrative. That said, I think that each reader will relate to the story in a different way, depending on their disposition, upbringing and environment, and I do not want to take away from their experience by pre-determining how they should feel about a particular character or issue.

Amara, Biji, Baba, Prashant and a hive of characters. Are there personal references to these characters you have created?

I identify with each character in ‘One & A Half Wife’; from Amara’s emotional struggle, to Prashant’s misplaced love, to the unfolding of Riya’s gentleness, to Baba’s quiet strength, and Shikha’s courage. Each character probably has a little slice of me, or a bit of people I’ve met along the way, but no character is entirely based on a single person.

I have to confess that I had the best time writing Biji’s character. For me she is a caricature on a stereotypical Indian mother, and you fall in love with her despite her borderline wickedness. Biji came so alive, that often times while writing I could feel her bullying me into giving her the best and funniest lines in the novel.

You have lived in various countries and cities like Mumbai, Singapore, Zurich and New York. Weather conditions are sometimes harsh in some of the cities you have lived in. Your perfect weather condition to collect your thoughts and pen them. What would that be?

Like a true desi, I love the rain. My perfect setting would be to write when it’s raining outside. A cup of adrak chai would of course complete the picture.

How do you see marriage?

Marriage is institutionalized love. And it’s interesting you ask that question, because each person has a different experience from their marriage. Amara, for instance, bemoans that her own mother didn’t warn her how tough marriage would be; “That each moment was a minefield waiting to blowup; that a single wrong could negate all rights? Why had she only told Amara to be married at a prescribed age, have babies by a certain time and behave herself, whatever that meant now?”

And then you see Amara getting the honest outlook on marriage from her mother-in-law, of all people, who says, ‘I have learnt that a good marriage is healing for the soul, something to relish. But a bad marriage is a long sentence, suffering, a thing to be endured. I guess the only good thing about a bad marriage is that it’s perishable like human life.’

Divorce was frowned upon some 20 – 30 years ago. Now, it’s just another thing. A passing cloud.

I’m not sure if I entirely agree with the statement that divorce is a passing cloud. Sure, in big cities it doesn’t carry the taboo that it once did, but I believe that in the smaller cities and towns, it’s still a big deal. Ask a divorced person.

And that’s exactly what Amara goes through when she returns to Shimla and finds that underneath the veneer of modernity, there is still a stronghold of traditionalism.

I read somewhere that divorce is the single most stressful time in a person’s life and if you read Amara’s story you will see what really happens to a woman whose marriage fails. As she tells her best friend, “Stacy, I’d rather be married and unhappy, than divorced and happy.”

One and a half wife has been longlisted for the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award, selected as a top ten finalist in WordHustler’s Literary Storm Novel Contest, and made it to the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. What do these awards mean to you?

It’s a very humbling and joyful experience to be given these awards. As a debut author, I was extremely nervous about how One & A Half Wife would be received because people have the option to hate it, or worse still, ignore it. Fortunately, the reviews so far have been good, and the novel has gone into reprint within a month of its release. People have been writing in from all over India telling me how much they loved it, and that is really the biggest reward.

How was meeting one of your idols or should I say the man behind the ideals of some of the greatest novels India could produce? How has Salman Rushdie helped you in the construction of a novel?

I have met Sir Rusdhie on two occasions. The first time was at a restaurant in New York where he was laid-back and enjoying the attention from our group of very excited girls. The second time was at his book reading of The Enchantress of Florence. He is a genius beyond imitation in my eyes, and I admire the way in which he promotes upcoming ethnic-Indian writers. It would be a dream come true, if he notices my work and likes it.

How do you juggle your two identities? Journalist by day and a writer by night.

I’m always working and since I can’t give up either my full-time job or my fiction writing for the foreseeable future, I guess I’ll continue being a workaholic.

What made you fall into the well of writing? Or who pushed you?

I think each one of us is a storyteller from childhood. After all, the first thing we do on learning how to speak is to ask our parents to tell us stories. We grow up regaling friends with small stories from our life. We go to work with a “suit-and-boot” story, listed by way of our resume, and try to impress colleagues with stories of our achievement. On a personal note, I was an avid reader growing up, and wrote my first short story at nineteen. But I became serious about fiction writing only around 5 years back, and now can’t imagine living a life where there’s no story to tell.

Your brother is also an author and a stand up comedian, Sorabh Pant. He has recently written a novel ‘The Wednesday Soul’. It’s a house of authors. Is there any kind of pressure to outdo the sibling?

No, I think we love each other too much to compete with each other, and we both write different genres and have completely different day-time jobs, so there’s not really any need to outdo the other. In fact, Sorabh has given me great guidance and support since he was published before I was. He also keeps trying to make me understand Twitter, which – to his utter exasperation – I can’t seem to grasp. He’s such a passionate, sincere and focussed person, something I’ve not seen in any one else, so even though he’s my younger brother, there’s no one I look up to more.

Celebrities like Rashmi Uday Singh, Neil Bhoopalam, Sammir Dattani and Abhishek Bachchan have launched your book in different cities or have been a part of your book readings.

It’s very kind of them to take out the time to promote new talent.

How did Westland adopt your book?

I emailed them my manuscript according to their submission guidelines. The next thing I knew, Prita Maitra, my editor at Westland, replied in two hours to say that she was really enjoying reading my work. In two days she said she loved it enough to sign me on. Such kind of confidence in a new author was really inspiring and honestly, a big relief.

What was the best thing you have heard about your book?

Lots of positive things. One of the readers said that she found the aftermath of Amara’s divorce very solution driven and could apply it to her own divorce. The most common reaction has been: “I couldn’t put it down and skipped sleep/the Euro Cup/work/ my bus stop/ the IPL to finish reading it.”

A novel can be read anywhere and at anytime. While reading a novel, the place where the reader reads it and the mood he / she is in has a bearing on the impact it creates. Your novel can be a dark humour for some, for some it might be a book of sorrow, for some it might be the outcome of an arranged marriage. And for a person like me it is a fine powder of all these mixtures. As a writer what do you think of the novel? And as a reader – meaning if you hadn’t written it, it’s a work by somebody else how would you view the novel? Would it still be the same?

Definitely. I write what I’d like to read.

Have you ever experienced writer’s block?

No, fortunately not. In fact, my head is constantly swimming with ideas and plots and characters, and I simply don’t have the time to put it all down to paper.

Your book goes into reprint within a month of its publication. To what extent can marketing help sell a novel?

I don’t think marketing had anything to do with the reprint, since I had no marketing budget and don’t even live in India to be able to do much. I came down in the first month of the release to do some book readings in Mumbai and Pune, but apart from that I think the novel is doing well on its own merit.

If the rights of your book are sold to be made into a movie, who do you think will do justice to the movie? The cast and the crew?

I think Vidya Balan would make a great Amara, while Kiron Kher or the mother from Bend It Like Beckham, would do Biji justice. The rest I have no idea. But Mira Nair would really identify with this book, since she’s studied in Shimla, lived in New York, and immigrated to the US in her teens like Amara does; along with other startlingly similar experiences.

What does success mean to you?

Feeling like you’ve given something everything you have.

And Failure?

A great way to learn and start over.

Your upcoming work?

My collection of short stories is ready for publication. I am also in the early stages of writing my second full-length novel based in – and between – India and China. It’s a dark comedy that portrays a family’s greed, lust and power, in the wake of geopolitical tension.

Formula for being what you want to be? A piece for the readers?

Look within you. The answer always lies there.