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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


My first real job was with The Times of India, yes the Old Lady... as she is still called.

Those were heady days. After cracking the written test and the interview, four eager beavers imagined word weavers, all in their early 20s, entered the paper, wanting to do the expected - change the world.

We were opinionated, argumentative and we were always up for a healthy debate (the rest of the newsroom read it as picking fights) with our then editor Tushar Bhatt.

One would have thought after what we put him through - right from questions about why a story was being spiked to why a story could not be published to why a sub-editor could not write as much as a reporter, why was a Page 1 story tucked in an inside page - he would want to forget us all.

Yes, when one is 20 one does believe one is always right.

Which is why, this note I received from him took me totally by surprise.

"I came across a piece in your blog, which mentioned my name. I thank you sincerely for remembering me. It was so many years ago but it seems like yesterday. I vividly recall the young, earnest faces keen to change the world through their words. The world keeps changing but not exactly as we all visualized when we were young. From your prolific output, I conclude that your romance with words has deepened. A few fortunates among the pen pushers can manage to achieve so much."

A reminder why a blog still has its space and why I must continue to write here, even if it is during the crevices of the day, the night, the bewitching hours.

Happy Diwali all.

As you can tell, I am all lit up anyway....

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Thursday, October 15, 2009


At a panel discussion, the affable Kiwi author Lloyd Jones (of Mister Pip fame) shared this:
"After one of my book readings, a lady walked up to me and said: 'You are so normal'."

That's not half as bad as another reader's remark at a session I did with Vikram Seth at the Galle Literary Festival.
"I am so disappointed, you are such a small man," she said in front of a packed crowd.

Closer home, chitter chatter took a new twist when a lady walked up to me and said:
"You look a lot taller in your byline photo."
Not quite lost for words yet, I responded: "How is that possible, when all you see is my face cut in a size smaller than the lowest priced postage stamp?"
"Oh, I mean you look more statesque in your byline shot."
"I mean you look a lot better in your picture."



In the beginning, there were blogs....
If only....
Another space...

Several times over, I have been tempted to spell the death of this blog. It happened often enough. I felt, I owed it to the wonderful readers who had become friends over the years. But something made me stop.

Deep down, I knew someday, somewhere, there would be that story which would not fit the confines of the space a newspaper allows, a story that can only be told sans editing, a story which would bring me back to the blog.

So, here I am. Almost a year since I last blogged.

This time, it is to talk about a remarkable, beautiful and spirited woman. Her name is Ameena Hussein. She is well known in literary circles. Her debut novel The Moon In The Water was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Award and she has published two collections of short stories - Fifteen and Zillij.

I first met Ameena Hussein, a trained sociologist turned book editor, publisher and novelist at the inaugural Galle Literary Festival in 2007.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, she came across as the rare writer who believed in keeping her text short and sweet. Little did she know (and little did we) that the sentences were short for a reason (you will find out, if you read on).

Over the weeks, months and now years, we spoke, exchanged emails and met several times - in Sri Lanka and now in Singapore.

I learnt many things about her and her wonderful husband Sam, starting with:
1) Always invite them home for a meal because they won't let you pick up the tab - not even in your land.
2) She will almost always make you laugh. "If I am a manglik, you should be dying," she told Sam on one occasion.
3) That if any cancer campaign, ever needs a poster girl, they should look no further than Ameena.
4) That nothing can and will ever get her down
5) "I only have long stories left now and I better write them," she told me at our last meeting.

Between her writing, her treatments, she and Sam work on the story they started when they left their jobs in Geneva and headed back home.

"I always knew I would return to Sri Lanka. I was very clear about that," she once told me.

So here it is, Ameena's story in Ameena's words, unedited, just the way it should be:

How did you start writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

I never thought I would be a writer. When I was young, I think my parents would have liked me to be a lawyer or a doctor. You know the normal Asian aspirations. However, I married young and went off to Los Angeles with my husband and entered university there. While I was studying Sociology, I would gather so much material during my research projects that were so rich and interesting that could not be entered into my boring academic papers. Writing fiction seemed to be a natural consequence and became an outlet for all the stories I would hear.

What were your childhood years like?
Perhaps slightly weird. We belonged to a conservative Sri Lankan Muslim family with parents who thought slightly differently from the rest. So while my cousins were in shalwar kameez, we wore dresses. While my cousins learnt sewing and cooking, we went for music and speech and drama. In retrospect, I think my childhood was wonderful. We had plenty of cousins and aunts and uncles who lived all around us. We met daily and played and chatted and had very close family ties. We tried to balance our school friends with our cousins, but there were so many restrictions regarding school mates, unrealistic curfews etc, it was difficult to have close ties with non-family children. We didn't have television or computers in those days. We spent our days reading, imagining, playing and dreaming. How different from children of today.

How did you and Sam meet? And what made both of you decide you wanted to head back to Sri Lanka?
Sam was working in Geneva and he had come on a holiday to Sri Lanka and we first met at a dinner party. After my divorce, we kept in touch and eventually got married. I had always known I wanted to live in Sri Lanka. And Sam was not averse to the idea. But the deal was that after marriage I would go and live in Geneva for three years and then we would return to Sri Lanka. I kept my part of the deal, and he kept his. I feel very strongly about the land of my birth. There must be something in my blood that ties me to this country that doesnt allow me to stay away for too long.

How did the family respond to the news that you were giving up your cushy jobs in Geneva and returning to Sri Lanka?
Today, thinking back, I can't remember going through any opposition from the family in our return. My immediate family however, was concerned as to what we were going to do in Sri Lanka, because we were already telling people that we were going to come back and start a publishing house in Colombo and have a farm where we would grow trees in the rural areas of Sri Lanka. They thought that was a rather strange venture. Publishing houses were practically non-existent in Sri Lanka. And then there was the matter of growing trees. I do not come from a farming tradition, so it quite perplexed them. Today, I think they are amused, proud, and a little non-plussed that we haven't fallen flat on our faces.

What made you start a publishing house? Did you feel not enough was being done to promote Sri Lankan writing?
When I came back from Los Angeles mid way through my PhD at the University of Southern California, I was working at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies. This was headed by Radhika Coomaraswamy, now the undersecretary general for the UN on Children and Armed Conflict and Dr Neelan Tiruchelvam, who was assassinated by the LTTE. During my time here, I found that it was more than a research centre. It was a cultural centre, it was a literary centre, it was quite a wonderful place to be working in at that time. They offered to publish my first collection of stories Fifteen. I then realised that we didn't have any publishing houses in Sri Lanka to publish works in English. There were Sinhala publishing houses, I am not sure about Tamil publishing houses, but if there were any English writing publishing houses, I was certainly not aware of them. So at that time, the seed was germinating in my mind. I began thinking of a Sri Lankan publishing house that dealt with works written in English by Sri Lankan authors.
Most of us in Sri Lanka grow up reading Western authors and not enough authors from the region or other 'South' countries. When I was in America, I discovered books written by Indian authors, Egyptian authors, Kenyan, Japanese, Chinese, Russian - it was like another world for me. When I visited Sri Lanka I discovered that here too there was a burgeoning of writing in English. At that time, I don't know what the state was doing to promote Sri Lankan writing in English. Now I know they have the State Literary Prize which is held every year, but other than that, I can't see other events to promote Sri Lankan literature in English. I am not sure if even the local universities teach the younger authors. There seems to be an attitude that change is very difficult and no-one seems motivated enough to embark on a process of change.
In richer countries the state will support writers and artistes in many ways. Here, it is the survival at a most basic level. I wish somewhere, somehow a fairy godmother will appear to promote Sri Lankan writing in English.

What was the first year like? How many authors did you start off with? How many authors do you publish now?
2003, our first year was fun. We were launching the publishing house with my second collection of short stories Zillij. The whole year was spent on that one book. Today, that is unimaginable. On the back flap of my book we put in a little mission statement and after that manuscripts started coming in. So the next year, we published another book, and so it went on and today we have published a total of 19 books.

How do you manage to do your own writing and balance them with the full time demands of being a publisher?
This is a tough job, I find that I barely have any time for my own writing. During the day it is impossible, at night the last thing I want to do is open my computer. In addition, I am involved in so many other things that ask me to write up reports, or fund raising letters or edit articles that there seems to be very little room left for my creativity. However, I have started on my second novel though it is very slow going. I repeat, very slow going.

You have also been one of the pioneers of the Galle Literary Festival. Do you feel the festival has achieved what it set out to achieve?
The GLF as it is called, is one of those amazing successes that you find in the world. It started off when Geoffrey Dobbs, an Englishman, who has lived in Sri Lanka for many years has this marvellous idea to start one. He approached a few people, of whom I was one, and when we first started we were doing everything, designing the programme, engaging with bureaucracy, arranging transport etc etc. It was really hands on and totally exhausting and wonderfully rewarding. Now, we are so much more organised, we have a efficient and dedicated team to attend to all those things, and I see the festival going from strength to strength and actually am quite proud and pleased about where it is today. Not only have we showcased Sri Lankan writing in English, the festival does outreach programs throughout the year involving rural schools and encouraging the reading habit among children.

When did you learn that you have cancer? Each time I have met you, you have been incredibly strong. I'll never forget your party in Colombo, just as I was grappling with a suitably sad look for the evening. Do you find battling cancer has made you even more steely in your resolve to continue writing and finding more Sri Lankan voices?

I discovered I had cancer quite by accident. I had been having breathing problems for seven months, in fact during the first Galle Literary Festival, I wrote my welcome speech with short sentences so that I wouldn't be gasping for breath. Little did I know. Then in June 2007, I nearly collapsed and then I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Having had cancer actually made me very humble. Because I was shown such love and caring by a multitude of people. When you have a life threatening disease, it makes you appreciate and value each day. I am not exaggerating, not a day goes by when I don't think I am so grateful and happy to be alive. I hope cancer made me strong, but not just in my writing or work but as a decent human being.

How much of your life made it to your novel - The Moon In The Water?

The theme of the story is fiction. But the details of belonging to a Sri Lankan Muslim extended family came from my life, my cousins lives, my aunts, uncles, grandparents they are all in the book I suppose.

To reach Ameena & Sam, contact The Perera Hussein Publishing House

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Monday, December 22, 2008


Since its Man Booker win, Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger has sold over 285,000 copies in the UK alone. It has been sold to publishers for translation in over 26 countries.

I first read the book in May this year (and have been meaning to blog about it since then!), loved it and gave it a glowing review in the paper. When I visited India in June, I saw it had significant shelf space in the some of the hole in the wall bookstores you find next to the dhabas. It was a sign the book had arrived, well before the Booker judges ruled.

Aravind beat off competition from five other authors, including Amitav Ghosh, to win the prestigious literary prize this year. Judges felt the book won in the end because it "shocked and entertained in equal measure."

Michael Portillo, chairman of the judges said that through its protagonist Balram Halwai, "the novel undertakes the extraordinarily difficult task of gaining and holding the reader's sympathy for a thoroughgoing villain. The book gains from dealing with pressing social issues and significant global developments with astonishing humour."

I'd interviewed Aravind for another story after the big win. For those of you who missed it, here it is, in continuation of the spirit of sharing.

Q : Are you still surprised to see how well The White Tiger has travelled? Is the Booker recognition sinking in?
A :
Yes, I'm absolutely delighted. It's my first novel: I had no idea how it would be received. Every young writer dreams of being on the short-list of the Man Booker Prize; I'm overjoyed that the White Tiger made it there.

Q : What about critics' reactions about the other India - the no saffron, no ornamental prose, no silk saris etc?
A :
The book is set in the country I live in; and the problems that Balram Halwai, my protagonist, grapples are the problems that millions of Indians grapple with every day. Far too many Indian novels deal only with the middle-class. That class is real, but it covers only maybe one-third of this country. Below the middle-class starts another, greater India, of many hundreds of millions: men and women who are all but invisible in most Hindi films and English novels that come out of India. If this underclass is depicted, it is depicted incorrectly: the poor are sentimental, humourless, and obsessively religious weaklings who beg for the readers' pity. I've tried to capture a voice from the underclass that should delight, provoke, and disturb my readers.

Q : As a first time author was it hard to get your book published? Any painful rejections?
A :
Yes, I've been rejected many times. It's especially a problem when you live in India, with no real community of writers or critics around you - there is no support network when you face rejection. But failure forces you to confront the core issues: why do I write, and what do I want to write about if no one, absolutely no one, will ever read my writing?

Q : I still marvel at the fact that you managed to balance your journalism with your fiction. Did the two ever get in each other's way?
A :
I've always wanted to be a writer - there's never been any doubt in my mind as to which calling was more important. But you can't support yourself by churning out unpublished novels; and there is the danger that you get trapped in a room if you are just a writer. Journalism paid the bills, and gave me a chance to travel throughout India; it also forced me to overcome my innate shyness and talk to people. I always knew, however, that one day I would give up my job to write. I resigned from TIME magazine at the end of the 2005 to concentrate on my writing. Now I'm doing more journalism again.

Q : You've said Balram Halwai is a composite of various men. Who are some of these men? Did you entirely fictionalise the character?
Yes, Balram Halwai is a composite; many different men have been blended into this character and his voice. One example: some years ago, during my stay at a corporate guesthouse in Bangalore, I made friends with the cook, who was from Bihar. We got along famously. None of the other guests paid him any attention, but I found him delightful. He wanted me to buy him mutton (which was too expensive for him to get on his salary); in return, he told me stories about the rich men who had stayed at the guest-house, including one of India's most famous tycoons.
"The rest of the world thinks of that man as a saint," he said, "but I know the truth."
"What is the truth?" I asked him, as he was licking the mutton off his fingers.
"He makes his servants shampoo his dogs." He scowled in disgust. "What kind of human being forces another human being to clean his dogs?"
This became an episode in my novel; and the Bihari cook's tone of contempt towards the rich strengthened Balram Halwai's voice.

Q : What about Ashok? He has his moments, though the lesser ones seem to dominate.
A :
I've never thought of Ashok as an evil man; he has quite a bit of myself in him. He's liberal and essentially decent, as most of the middle-class is in India; but he is weak. He recognises the political system around him as corrupt and unjust, yet allows himself to be sucked into it: when his wife is involved with a fatal accident, for instance. Far too many of the liberal middle-class know that something has to change with the system, but they also know, secretly, that the corruption of the system will work in their favour if they get into trouble. This reduces their incentive to change how things work. Therein lies a great danger for India: because in the end, a bad system will bite everyone, the rich and the poor alike. And indeed, the middle-class in India, people like Mr Ashok, are as much the victims of the system as the under-class, even if they haven't yet realised it.

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Slumdog Millionaire is anything but an underdog film. Its made the critics sit up and take notice. But the film wouldn't have happened if not for Vikas Swarup's book Q&A.

Recounting an earlier interview done for my book show Off The Shelf. Yes, it was many Christmases ago.

Vikas Swarup, India's latest literary sensation earned a whooping six figure advance for his debut novel. Interestingly titled 'Q & A', the book has already been translated into fifteen languages.

And that's not all, a Hollywood movie based on the novel is already in the works. The book recounts the adventures of Ram Mohammad Thomas, who makes off with the jackpot on a quiz show called 'Who Wants to Be A Millionaire'.

A charming book, made even more fascinating by the name of its protaganist. Between travels to Pakistan and Afghanistan, diplomat and author Vikas Swarup takes the time for this exclusive chat with Deepika Shetty.

Q : Vikas, why the name Ram Mohammad Thomas?
A :
I wanted him to represent the richness and diversity of India, not just as a cliche.
And if you read the book, you'll see the name means a lot in the book. Ram Mohammad Thomas is not just a name.
He actually uses the three elements - the Hindu religion, the Christian religion and the Muslim religion when he interacts with various characters.
So for his Muslim friend Salim, he becomes Mohammad, for the Australian diplomat he becomes Thomas and for the Indian actress who is wary of keeping a Muslim servant he becomes Ram. So he does utilise his name to meet various circumstances.

Q : What was the inspiration for your plot?
A :
I had come across a news report some time back that slum children had begun using a mobile internet facility.
That is what set me thinking because normally you associate the internet with a certain level of sophistication.
You would expect people who are well educated, who read newspapers who would use the internet and here you had children from a slum who had never gone to school, had probably never read the newspapers, who were logging on to the worldwide web.
And that set me thinking that perhaps there is some innate ability in all us, that given the right opportunity can surface.
At the same time I wanted to tap into this global phenomena called 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire'. This is really the first televised globally syndicated quiz show.
So the idea was let's juxtapose the quiz show with a rather untypical contestant and that's why you had Q & A.

Q : You are a first time novelist, did you imagine the book would be this big?
A :
No, never. In fact when I wrote it, I wrote it primarily as an Indian book for an Indian audience. I had no idea it would be picked up publishers everywhere and would emerge as a global novel.

Q : Critics have called your book 'sweet, sorrowful and compelling'. In fact, your writing style has even been compared to the bestselling author Mark Haddon. That sounds like a dream come true for any author. How do you feel about all the positive reviews?
A :
I feel very, very gratified. I wrote this book primarily for myself. The book is about an Indian milieu, its set in India.
There is no attempt to exoticise places, it deals with the sordidness with India in a certain sense, the underbelly of urban India.
In fact, there is no attempt to pander to Western audiences, which is often a charge levelled against Indian authors who have an eye on the Western market.
So the fact that this has been accepted so willingly, and before the English publication, that is the best thing. Normally, a book becomes big in India and then its picked up by the rest of the world and then people say its all because of the hype.
And here I am an unknown author, I haven't been published in India, yet my book has been picked up by publishers from Brazil to Barcelona, that means something.
So I am very very gratified. I suppose the reason for that is that maybe at the core there is something universal about the book - its about the underdog winning and that's something that appeals to people in all cultures and communities.

Q : How long did it take to write it?
A : The actual writing took me only two months. I wrote this towards the end of my posting in London, when my wife and children preceded me to India and I was to go back to India after two months. That's when I decided to try my luck at writing and it just happened.

Q : Wow! What about the movie, were rights snapped up even before the book was out?
A : Absolutely! Film Four - they were very interested in the book. They felt the plot was compelling and that it would easily translate into celluloid. They snapped up the movie rights within a month of the acquisition of the book by Random House.

Q : Continuing our Q & A, are you already at work on your next novel?
A : (Laughs) No, I am at work in the office and I think I need a little bit of R&R (rest & recreation) before I start work on my next novel.

Q : You are a career diplomat in India, how did writing happen and how do you even find the time to write?
A : I suppose that is one of the big mysteries. I suppose all of us have some free time on our hands, diplomats do when they are posted abroad.
In India, of course its a nine to nine job and so there is no question of thinking anything beyond non-fiction. When we are posted overseas, we do have the time. It all depends on how you want to use it, some choose to spend it watching movies, reading books or with the family.
Since my family was away for two months, I decided to use my time thinking about a book and writing about it. I don't know if I'd be able to do this thing again in two month, maybe my wife has to go away again.

Q : What have been the influences on your writing, any writers you admire a lot?
A : Well, I've read a lot of writers over the years - everything from Albert Camus to James Hadley Chase. Subconsciously what you consider to be good writing does have an influence on you but in terms of writing style, I don't think you will see echoes of any particular writer or style.
I have written as only I can write. If I wanted to copy a writer, I don't think that's possible, you can only copy a plot. If you have a unique plot, like mine, then you have to write in a new style altogether.

Q : Did you have to deal with rejection in any form when it came to publishing 'Q & A?
A : No that's the surprising thing. I think I've been a very lucky writer. Basically I wrote four and a half chapters and sent it off to 10 agents.
I picked up the 11th agent off the internet, he liked the book and I had a deal. I am really one of those lucky authors who does not have a pile of rejection slips in my cupboard.

Q : Since you have no rejection slips, what would you say to aspiring writers?
A : Always chase your dreams. If you want to be a writer, then don't get disheartened by the first couple of rejection slips. As I have discovered it takes just one good agent to help you make your mark in the world. But the important thing is that your product must objectively be good.
There are writers I am sure, who think they have written the next Nobel Prize winning novel, but maybe the novel is not so good. So get objective advise. Consult your friends, your colleagues, consult those who read books and if they like your book then I don't think you should give up, you should keep on trying and I'm sure you will hit the jackpot someday.

Q : And before I let you, I just can't resist this question - will be see a Bollywood remake after the Hollywood version is out?
A : I certainly hope so.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008


26-year-old Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan.
Read all about India’s first big blog-to-book phenomenon on Tehelka.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Long overdue thanks to Zafar for this.
He talked books with me a long time ago and the interview appeared in India Se.
Read it all on his blog.

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The thousand mile journey begins with an idea.
An idea it is again. It is exciting, I think.
You'll be hearing lots more of it, in the days ahead.
As we liked to say in my past telly avataar - Stay Tuned.


Whoever says nothing literary happens here, should take a good look at this.
After hosting Shashi Tharoor and Shobhaa De, they've got Anita Desai.
Circle Aug 23, 6:30pm and make it a literary date to remember.

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There have been many times when I've felt like blogging is a dark hole. Information posted, posts updated, perhaps read, often unread.

Of late, there have also been many moments when I have wondered about the point of this blog. For those who have followed it and reminded me of the serious lack of updates, I plead guilty.

Over the years, I have appreciated your comments, your criticism and sometimes your appreciation.

But the time you know a blog post has worked, is when you get a mail like this. It came in response to a post done well over a year ago. Like the phone call that travelled to many places, so did this email. It made me cry, like these things always do. And it made me remember once again about my colleague, Chin Chye. Like his death, his first death anniversary went silently by. But I take heart knowing he is still remembered.

"Dear Ms Deepika Shetty

You don’t know me, but we both know someone dear to our hearts – he is Chua Chin Chye.

I just found out today that he has passed away. Shocking news for me! If I didn’t read it from your blog, I wouldn’t have known.

Naively, I had sent an email to Chin Chye to invite him to a press lunch for one of my clients. I got no reply, quite unlike the Chin Chye I know. Then I wanted to call him on my mobile and found out for some strange reasons his number has disappeared from my phone directory. Then I called Mediacorp, only to be told diplomatically by the telephone operator he no longer worked there.

We were both at The Straits Times and then at The New Paper - he taught me the finer points of being a good crime reporter.

What I remembered Chin Chye most was his wry sense of humour and especially his funny grin and the twitch of his eye-brow when he wanted to make a point.

I only have happy thoughts of him. I refuse to let the pain inside me well up, because that is not the way he would have wanted me to remember him by.

“We love you Chin Chye”."

Ronald Wong
Group Account & Regional Development Director
MILEAGE Communications Pte Ltd

In May 2007, this was the post:

I leave with a heavy heart. One of my colleagues Chua Chin Chye passed away. He sat opposite me. Each morning after our work was done, we'd relax, catch up on the news of the day or the way the property market was doing. Of late though, he was getting increasingly tired, sleeping a lot more and often missing his medication. He'd been battling diabetes and we'd all remind him to eat right and take his medicines on time. He'd brush it off saying, "aiyah! it's only a curry puff."

Who knew things would change so drastically.

After going in and out of hospital, he was warded for almost four weeks. We thought he was on the mend. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

I did a search to find a picture of him and came across this piece. It was penned when we were all asked to remember our most memorable moment on the show.

Ironically, here's what Chin Chye wrote:
"But torture can be mollified, after half a year, and even lead to a source of delight -- when you get first-hand accounts of what has just happened in the world...while others slumber. The most poignant moment, perhaps, was during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict... where after relentless attacks, that killed thousands of men, women and children.... the carnage led Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to cry out loud, "Are we children of a lesser God?"

Cause and effect. Producing the news is constant reminder that what goes around, comes around -- pretty fast, too. Each morning, scrolling through the news wires and videos, you see pictures and sounds, of the crises and chaos, big and small, that grip our world.

In any case, not everything gets on air. The happenings of the world, trials and triumphs, sometimes reduced to a few paragraphs on a morning bulletin. Or nothing, at all."

Revisiting this piece, I wonder, if he had a premonition?

It's hard to look at the chair he's left behind. The void can never be filled.

We can do nothing to bring him back, but we can treasure his memory. Email me at if you have a thought to share.

Post Script, 23 May, 2007: Thank you all for your emails. For taking that moment to pause and reflect. For reminding me once again how words often fail in times of grief. And for bringing your pen to paper....

"It was not easy to see Chin Chye wasting away, but he always kept up a brave front.
I will always remember him for his strong spirit.

If he's listening in now from way up there, he must be sighing in relief to finally be rid of our nagging to stop eating out; to get a caterer; to take up tai-chi... it was a long list. His seat may be empty, but he is still very much a part of us."

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Monday, June 30, 2008


A lil bit here, a lil bit there.

A new job, grappling with its systems, travelling.

Such be the excuses of staying away.

Promises of regularity, I wish I could make.

But the work week has only just begun after a lovely two weeks in India.

Try I will.

Till then I suggest, you read:
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Superstar India - From Incredible to Unstoppable by Shobhaa De
The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh


It had to be a book which would bring me back to the blogosphere.

The excuses, of which, there are many, aren't worth narrating, so let me get down to the book.

I saw it at my fav book store - Capital, Sec 17, Chandigarh, on the annual Bharat darshan, of course.

It was cheeky. A sari and sneakers.

I've got to admit, till then I hadn't heard the name Advaita Kala - my loss, of course. A fortnight sans connectivity meant waiting to find out all about this rocking author.

Decided to give Almost Single a shot the evening I bought it.

As it always happens with a good book was up all night. It turned out to be a riveting read. Added bonus - seriously funny too. When was the last time I'd laughed this much. It had to be Anurag Mathur's Inscrutable American and that was many, many years ago.

Keepng you rolling in laughter is the story of 29 year old Aisha Bhatia, her lack of vital stats, when half of India's masala mags (yes, indulging in that mindless gossip is a guilty pleasure) are obsessed with Kareena Kapoor, her two hours of yoga and her size zero, provided just the reading change I needed.

But Almost Single isn't just about witty one-liners, the plot is taut as is the narrative which makes reading a breeze. The book lives up to its cover. Ms Bhatia does appear in the sneaker-sari outfit - what a refreshing sight indeed.

The mismatched outfit unravels the story of her topsy-turvy life, her boss from hell, the bitches on swtiches, her search for love, guru and all, makes Almost Single a superb read.

One sitting is all it takes to get to the end of it and not one bit of it disappoints.

What makes the author and her book all the more real, is her blog. In this post, she takes readers through the publishing process. See the comments that follow. They do say it all.

The Washington Post calls it "India’s cheeky ‘Chick Lit’."

A worthy successor indeed to their Bridget Jones.

More on the book and the author here. Get your copy now.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Writing across media

As part of Wordstorm, the NT Writers' Festival, we are in a workshop with Deepika learning about writing across different media: print, tv & blogging. We are under the trees gazing out across the Arafura Sea with a cool breeze and a glass of wine. As you can tell we have learnt a lot about telling the truth when releasing a news story.