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

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


It's often been alleged that critics don't read enough. Or that they mis-read almost everything about the book, including its title.

Hisham Matar's 'In The Country of Men' has emerged as one of the hottest books of the year.

Though a review in The Statesman had this to say:
"Who would publish a book about the troubles of a Libyan child when, in the eyes of the western media, the whole country is reduced to the delusions of Gaddafi."

Nothing beats this one from Times Online though, which of all things got the title wrong:,,23109-2268797,00.html
A child's-eye view of terror
Review by Celia Brayfield
"It is no surprise to learn that before its publication, 'In The Company of Men' has been hailed internationally as one of the most brilliant literary debuts of recent years."

PS: I'm half way through the book, watch this space for the full review.


It's happened in the past. CNN has cut LIVE to US President George W Bush while he was rehearsing his speech. They had a X over Vice-President Dick Cheney's face.

This time round it was an anchor's girl talk that dominated live coverage of President Bush's speech from New Orleans. Apparently anchor Kyra Phillips was having a conversation with another woman in the restroom, unaware of the fact that her microphone was on and was picking up all the exciting bits of her chat.

The audio of Phillips' conversation could be heard overriding Mr Bush's remarks approximately ten minutes into the President's speech.

While she had great things to say about her husband:
Phillips: "Yeah, I'm very lucky in that regard with my husband. My husband is handsome and he is genuinely a loving, you know, no ego-you know what I'm saying. Just a really passionate, compassionate great, great human being. And they exist. They do exist. They're hard to find. Yup. But they are out there."

All may not be calm on the domestic front for Phillips after this comment:
Phillips: "..Brothers have to be, you know, protective. Except for mine. I've got to be protective of him...Yeah. He's married, three kids, but his wife is just a control freak."

She went on till someone told her:
"Your mic is on. Turn it off. It's been on the air."

Amazing how no one in the sound room or the studio spotted it, mysteries of the unexplained perhaps...

As a Producer of a real time show, I know this is one moment I wouldn't want to live for.

Read more here:

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


I don't remember much of my Nanaji (maternal grandfather), though his memory is kept alive through his portrait, his sword of honour, his medals and his photographs with Indira Gandhi. All of these adorn my Naniji's (grandmother) house in Chandigarh.

There is also a book 'Bravest of the Brave' that captures his war exploits and they are truly worth writing about.

On my annual vacation, I spent a lot of time looking at the serene portrait, wondering how this calm looking man was the one leading his troops to war, to victory. Some of his heroics were written about in the book on India's war heroes and each time after looking at his photographs and portrait, I would flip the pages of this book to re-live some of the moments that re-wrote so many things in the time of war.

My Nanaji, Brigadier Sampuran Singh, some of his friends in arms tell me was destined for greater things, but a cruel twist of fate cut short his life. I was less than two years old when he died of heart complications, to me he remains a picture perfect memory who did all these brave things:

During the Indo-Pak conflict of 1965, then Lt Col Sampuran Singh was commander of the 19 Punjab battalion. To advance to the Haji Pir Pass it was essential for our troops to capture a tactical feature held by two Pakistani companies. Two attempts to capture it had failed.

On 28th August, a battalion of Punjab Regiment, which had been ordered to capture the feature, was pinned down by heavy enemy fire. At this crucial moment Lt Col Sampuran Singh, who was commanding the battalion, personally led his men in an attack on the objective with courage and determination. In total disregard of his personal safety, he advanced with his men against intense enemy fire and captured Bedori.

In this operation, Lt Col Sampuran Singh displayed courage and leadership of a high order. This earned him the Vir Chakra (VrC).

After the capture of Haji Pir Pass, it became necessary to secure the road to Kahuta. When, due to heavy enemy opposition, the task became very difficult, Lt Col Sampuran Singh was detailed to secure a strategic ridge which linked up that position with the forward position of an infantry brigade. He immediately pushed forward with his men, charged the enemy and captured the ridge, thus establishing the link. Disregarding his own safety, he moved forward and in three successive attacks pushed the enemy back.

Throughout, Lt Col Sampuran Singh displayed exemplary courage and leadership of a high order for which he was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC).


It's strange what the internet can throw up, which is pretty much everything. This morning on my usual trawl through cyberspace, I came across something I wrote so many years ago.

Since this is so close to my heart, I'm going to re-create this piece. Thanks Bhupinder for keeping the memory alive.

T.K. Ramasamy (1940-27th Feb 2002)
Born in Tamil Nadu and having grown up in Nagpur, TKR worked with Hitvad (Nagpur), Patriot (Delhi), New Wave (Delhi) and for the last 20 years of his life with The Tribune (Chandigarh), for the last 2 years in his capacity as the Editorial Advisor to the Tribune.

He was responsible for the high quality of the editorial and the Book Review pages, especially to the latter where he encouraged a number of young writers to contribute. All his life TKR remained a committed journalist with left wing leanings.

This Soul Will Live On
4th March 2002 by Deepika Shetty

The news reached me when I was at my Dad's house in Dehra Dun. Somehow, I knew when I met him on the evening of February the 25th, it would be for the last time. But little did I know that the end would be so near.

Mr Ramasamy, as I called him, responded to my annual call, with the usual warmth: "Deepika, the doors to my house are open for you, come any time." My husband and I reached in the evening and there he was, busy at work, editing a copy, which after nearly 20 minutes of chatting with us, he told the office, would reach them in "two minutes".

Work for him always came first and I knew instinctively it was time for us to leave. He told me to visit him again the next day, "no more copies to edit tomorrow," he said, but we were to leave town, to complete our holiday which like the rest of our days is one that wraps itself up in a flurry.

As my aunt told me he'd passed away, I cursed myself for not having gone back again. As tears overwhelmed me, memories of our relationship that began way back in 1990 came rushing back.

It all started with a book review I did. Mr Ramasamy read it, liked it, published it and did something few people of his stature would ever care to do. He made an effort to contact me. In the first meeting, he told me my writing had potential. Of course, there were several points that needed to brushed up.

That's when the first lesson that's bound to last a lifetime was delivered. "To be a good writer you have to have the courage to write, getting rid of fear is the first step towards becoming a writer," he told me. He then took the time to assess what was my first attempt at real writing to show me where fear had had the better of me.

Then there were two others reviews that I did and on the third one it all came undone. Perhaps it was a case of writers block or quite simply the lazy way of reviewing. I picked up a book on advertising, did a hurried review and sent it to him. The next thing I knew he'd called to see me. This time it was an angry Mr Ramasamy.

"Why did you write this?" he asked me. Deep down of course, it was for the money that for a struggling Masters student, is oh so precious. And that's something he knew.

He took my review, ripped it apart - literally, looked me straight in the eye and left me with my second major lesson: "Never, ever write for the sake of writing alone. Writing has a larger purpose to serve," he told me "and that's to educate and inform."

He wasn't in the mood for polite conversation, but he was still gracious enough to offer me a cup of chai.

I left his cabin, with a tinge of regret of having failed as a writer, which he reminded me is something that would be a reality if I didn't take my writing seriously.

Since that day, it was a slight element of fear that I met him at The Tribune office. Then professional commitments took over, a Ford Foundation Fellowship was quickly followed by a job at The Times of India. Each time was on holiday, I would make it a point to visit him. We would discuss my work, the stories that excited me as opposed to the ones that failed to enthral. Over the years our friendship evolved and one of the high points of my trips to Chandigarh, in addition to meeting up with my family, would be meeting Mr Ramasamy.

Even when I wasn't reviewing books due to my professional commitments, Mr Ramasamy made the time to meet me each time I was in town.

Before moving on to my publishing job in Singapore, we met again and he asked to start reviewing books again. I told him I had to do justice to the reviews I attempted and if I did a review maybe once in two months would that be fine with him? He agreed and at times it took me a lot more than two months to complete a review. But each time I attempted something, I did it with the utmost seriousness.

At our annual darshans, he would tell me which of reviews had made an impact and which ones hadn't. This feedback proved invaluable in my growth as a writer.

On February the 25th, for the first time, he told me how my reviews had moved to a much deeper level, how my analysis was getting more succinct. And he highlighted the fact that I was now able to make connections between different bodies of work, which can "only happen when one reads a lot. Don't stop," he urged me.

We talked about the reach of the book section in The Tribune, which was significant. And then it was about his health, which he insisted was perfectly fine. "Main billkul thik hoon", he maintained as we took our leave.

Today, I make a living as a broadcast journalist, a job in which writing is my bread and butter. Each day I contend with issues relating to South Asia, which is now my area of specialisation. I do book reviews that do not essentially pertain to this field, but review works that in an increasingly competitive and busy world deserve our attention. And as I look back at my fledgling career, I realise that it just wouldn't have been, if Mr Ramasamy hadn't held my hand way back in 1990.

To my mentor, my guide, my friend, your spirit is bound to live on in the work you have truly inspired.


When roles are reversed and the irrepressible CNN anchor Richard Quest gets interviewed, here's what you get:

Q : Richard, as an investor I can't wait. I ask you the question. At this point in time, is India looking attractive? Should I put my money in it? What would you tell us?
RICHARD QUEST: Well, frankly, what I tell you is what I always tell people who ask me this question. If I knew where to put my money, do you really think I will be sitting here doing this job? I will actually be sitting on one of my yacht somewhere in the Caribbean, enjoying the good life.

Q : Now, Richard Quest - what's the secret behind your tremendous energy reserves?
RICHARD QUEST: The problem is people think business is boring. Let me tell you something. They don't think it's boring when they go out and buy something on the credit card, that's business. They don't think it's boring when they get a pay rise and ask for more money, that's business. We have to keep in mind, business coverage is nothing other than everyday economic activity. It is not bond yield. It's the price of oil when your winter gas bill comes in. It's the price of gold that affects inflation and how much you can buy.
That's business!
I want to put it in that perspective and it looks sexy.

Here's another swell piece from The Guardian
How to be ... Richard Quest
Interview by Rob Harris
July 11, 2005
The Guardian

When I started in television, notices inviting staff to celebrate someone's 20th anniversary in their job startled me. I never thought I'd be in that position, but after 15 years with the BBC and now five at CNN, I am. Although looking back makes it seem how little one has done. My father wanted me to have a get-out-of-jail-free card: taking a law degree. I was not adverse to the idea of being a lawyer, but I liked criminal law where there was no money.

Regardless, I got stuck into university and hospital radio, before applying for the BBC news trainee scheme. The odds were stacked against me, coming from a comprehensive school, but contacts secured me an interview. Later I found out I wasn't the first choice, but the beneficiary of horsetrading between the panel of interviewees.

My big break came working on Radio 4's Financial World Tonight, despite having limited financial knowledge. People say business is boring, but after water, food and sex, how you spend your money is the most important thing you will do. Business journalism isn't rocket science; you just have to read a few books. I had a trick though: if I turned up at an interview not knowing how the company performed, I always started by asking: "So chairman, how will you explain these results to your shareholders?" It has served me well over many years.

My profile was boosted by a stroke of luck. During the 1987 Wall Street crash, the economics correspondent, who was supposed to do a piece for the midnight news, had gone missing - "tired and emotional". I filled in and it led to me landing the Wall Street posting - a job I created for myself. The best jobs are those you invent yourselves - you stand more chance of being successful. Ian Hargreaves, the director of news, admitted I was not the best candidate, but said I was the only one who could bully himself on air.

At 27, I was the BBC's youngest foreign correspondent. I still think that one day I'll be found out. How the hell did I get the job, given that my BBC contemporaries were Fergal Keane and John Simpson, who could write with flair? My pieces tend to have something different from theirs, surviving on noise and fury. I can take any network down market with a few noises. During my 11 years as North America business correspondent, I added new elements like presenting. But I questioned what I had left to do at the BBC. I was a safe pair of hands, but I never got to cover the big stories, like wars.

I loathe change, but the CNN advert in MediaGuardian jumped at me. The hardest thing was that by the time I left the BBC I had gained a certain degree of seniority and could throw my weight around. Suddenly at CNN, I didn't know who to even call and thus felt totally impotent in the first year. CNN knew what they were buying and sometimes I go over the top and the bosses have to rein me back. I wore some Royal Opera House costumes for a piece, but my boss hated it; I was ill in bed and hoped death would arrive. But I put my hands up.

I'm still anchoring financial programmes, like Business International, but I'm now involved in the big news stories, like the Pope's death. And the breadth and reach of CNN is staggering. In the past few weeks, I've been filming in Jordan, Nigeria, South Africa and India. In Lagos, I was shocked that ordinary people like market traders recognised me.

The object of my new show, Quest, is to broaden the appeal of CNN and get viewers to stay with us longer by lightening up. The big complaint is that we are repetitious. Factual entertainment is a different vehicle and my bosses in Atlanta keep pushing us to go further and further. The first programme on comedy was about how to tell jokes.

The next one was about greatness and we got Bill Clinton, the Dali Lama, and Gandhi's great-grandson to contribute. I had my brain analysed and compared to Einstein's - I'm delighted to say it's entirely normal but sad to say it's entirely normal. I have to be careful with Quest, I want to do interesting and fun things, but in the next slot I might be reading serious news. If Quest succeeds, it will take up more of my time. At the same time, it is exciting to know that in an emergency I can go back to that. Oh, and I know it's ridiculous, but one day I would like to be CNN's White House correspondent, although there's no chance a US network would employ a foreigner. I dream of signing off: "Richard Quest, CNN, travelling with the president."

Education: Law LLB Hons (Leeds University); called to the bar (1985)
Jobs: BBC news trainee (1986-7); reporter, BBC financial unit (1988-9); BBC North America business correspondent and BBC World presenter (1989-2001)
Presenter, CNN (2001-)

Career high: I was one of only seven broadcast journalists on the last Concorde flight and I stole anything I could on board.
Career low: Watching the Berlin Wall come down while I was in New York. If I hadn't taken up the Wall Street posting, I would have been covering it.

Friday, August 25, 2006


The race for the Booker is on....
So far, Sarah Waters, Peter Carey and David Mitchell are the bookmakers hottest picks.

With the short list due out on 14th September, the fun has only just begun. I'm rooting for Mitchell's 'Black Swan Green' over Carey's 'Theft: A Love Story'. Look out for my samurai suit, if Mitchell is not on the shortlist at least.

Though there is also Claire Messud's 'The Emperor's Children'. The story revolves around three friends who meet at University with starry eyed visions of changing the world. Aged 30, they find themselves struggling in their writing and journalism careers. The year is 2001 and by the time September comes around, they find themselves in situations they could never have predicted.

It's just the kind of book, you wish would never leave your shelf. It's not going to live mine for sometime at least.

Vying for attention next, is the enormously tempting 'In The Country of Men' by Hisham Matar. Have also got a copy of Kiran Desai's 'The Inheritance of Loss'. Somewhere in between I just have to fit in Marisha Pessl's 'Special Topics in Calamity Physics' which has been flying off the shelf with just the traditional word of mouth.

The weekend's finally here and as you can see I'm fully 'Booked'.


"Men are not reading anymore. If literature survives, it will be because of women."

So said Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, known for several books including 'The Feast of the Goat' - a fictionalized account of the real-life reign of oppressive, ruthless Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo, who was assassinated in 1961.


Friday Musings...
- When two egotists meet, it's an I for an I.

- A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean your mother.

- A hangover is the wrath of grapes.

- A successful diet is the triumph of mind over platter.

- I used to work in a blanket factory, but it folded.

- Shotgun wedding: A case of wife or death.


Do cows have accents?

Well, a group of dairy farmers in Ireland certainly believe so. At the 'World's Most Beautiful Cow Competition' in County Cavan, one claimed they have 'regional accents'.

But how come no one who has lived near them hasn't exactly noticed. Pat comes the answer: "Because we are so used to them, we don't notice, but they have it."

However, a phonetics expert these claims are a "lot of bull." Professor John Wells, adds it could be plausible, but only if generations of cows lived "on some island somewhere."

So even as I post this, someone, somewhere is telling somebody there's a lot of MOOO-ING going on. Or was it MUU-ING? MULL over it, you have the weekend for it.


If you've been waiting for that moment to replace your trusty Scrabble, this is it.

Mattel announced my favourite board game is going pink. Scrabble which has been around since 1948 is making this change for the first time in its history and it's all for a fantastic cause.

The money generated will be used for research into breast cancer.

Letter tiles, racks, boards and boxes will be tinged pink, with 1.50 pounds or roughly 2.83 US dollars from each 15 pound sale going to the Breakthrough
Breast Cancer charity from mid-September.

So buy a Scrabble, even if it isn't entirely to increase or show-off your word power.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Thanks all for flooding my inbox with queries about the new literary star on my blog - the unparalleled Sandy Gandhi.

I'll attempt to answer them all:

- Yes, she is for real... and I thought that picture was proof.
- No, I really, really didn't write the piece posted below.
Heck, if I had that talent I'd have given Jug Suraiya a run for his money many moons ago.
- Does she write in cyberspace?
Since we've been speaking on each others behalf, I am certain she sure will.
- Does she have a book?
Last I heard (which was this morning) she had trekked to the LightHouse for inspiration.
- Where does she perform?
At Byron Bay of course, which, for the Australians is a hop, skip and jump away from Brisbane. You might want to think again if a three hour drive after a long haul flight sounds way too much. Alternately, you could host her talent, by emailing her @
- Is she related to the Gandhis?
She was last spotted at the Byron Bay Writers Festival with a copy of 'Inhaling the Mahatma' - who knows.

As further proof that her writing rocks, here are some excerpts from the motherload of articles that Sandy gave me to make up for the lack of humour on my book shelf:

"These days, my body is really is beautiful because at the age of 48, I find my eyesight is failing. All wrinkles have magically disappeared and between you and I, I'm looking pretty hot.... Luckily for us here in Australia, it's a well known fact that beauty's in the eye of the BEER HOLDER!" (From: Body Beautiful)

"I was at the meat section of the supermarket the other day when I overheard a couple of American backpackers discussing what a 'special' sticker on certain cuts of meat might have meant. I enlightened them as one should. I explained that all meat trays that had 'special' marked on them were cuts from animals from farms in our shire that some of us had known personally. They were touched to have been privy to such special inside information, especially from a genuinely special shire resident like myself, and thought that it was a really neat concept, special really!
(From: You're So Special)

"At my first Byron Bay Writers Festival, I assumed the title of Sandy Gandhi, the bi-literal Indian. I took the opportunity to re-title a few books by contemporary India writers to make them more Australian friendly. Like Vikram Seth's 'A Rootable Boy'. I always say if he's not rootable, he's not suitable! And of course, Arundhati Roy's 'A God of Small Thingummies'." (From: Stand Up For Your Writes)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I haven't had my extra strong dose of caffeine and I'm already awake. There has to be a really good reason for it. It happens to be something my most Easterly Australian connection sent me a couple of minutes ago. Stand-up comic, columnist and the laugh a minute Sandy Gandhi had mentioned this to me in passing at Bryon Bay, though nothing beats the spirit of this piece. It appears in Australia's Northern Star on Thursday, though I thought a sneak preview in another part of the world wouldn't hurt. Enjoy....

The Look Alike Club by Sandy Gandhi
Enlighten Up No. 23 (24 August 2006.)

Being a local performer, I should have been recognised by the locals at the opening night ceremony of the Byron Bay Writers Festival, but being recognised by the ‘out of towners’, and ‘international literatti’ was flattering indeed.

A certain literary agent for Asian writers was looking forward to her sessions with me and wanted me to meet the 2 participating male Asian writers, Sri Lankan, Nury Vittachi and Bangladeshi, Adib Khan – these were my ‘brothers’ after all.

This adulating recognition continued for the next three days, V.I. P. treatment at it’s finest. I was ushered through waiting crowds, no need to check my credentials, I was an Indian literary wonder.

Everyone was so attentive and helpful with unending caring questions. How are you today, enjoying Byron Bay? Your kids are gorgeous, so well mannered and friendly, how old are they? Is there anything we can get you? Loved your session yesterday, Asian literature is my favourite. Isn’t your husband marvellous? He’s so good with the children.

For 4 days, I was Deepika Shetty, a beautiful, talented, Indian journalist & television producer from Singapore.

As long as the festival invites one Indian woman every year, I shouldn’t ever have to buy a ticket. I was not a participant this year. I have no children, well-behaved or otherwise. I’ve had a few husbands but none of them were mine!


I am so in the mood for Bollywood these days. Part of the reason is Aneesha's exams which inevitably have me stressed - yet again. So when we took the playground break this weekend, I finally decided to treat myself to the long overdue Krrish.

Given that it had been so roundly panned, I'd been dreading this day. You know sinking to the realms of watching Krrish that is. In fact, I was expecting it to be so bad, that I was actually surprised by its slick production.

For one, it was surreal seeing so many of Singapore's best offerings portrayed in such a unique light. Thugs at Changi Airport - now that's about as imaginable as a red carpet welcome for all at Mumbai airport. Then those eve teasers on motorbikes surfacing somewhere in Suntec City, the zoo being turned into ideal ground for a PTC. The best of course was saved for our finest performance studio - The Esplanade. Who knew what evil powers it could unleash till Naseerudin Shah showed us all.

Notwithstanding those surreal sights, the jumping on and off trees, climbing mountains, it turned out to be 3 hours of total time pass. I found myself laughing at Rekha's manicured finger nails, even in the prime of her life, as the movie would have us believe. I enjoyed watching how she painstakingly poured those heaped spoons of 'Tide' while Hrithik convinced the young ones to drink 'Bournvita'. Don't know if anyone is counting, though I reckon sales of 'Tide' and 'Bournvita' have surpassed those of Superman's bodysuit globally.

Beyond that I can just about visualise that leap of faith from Lau Pa Sat's Clock Tower. I am certain the India arrivals are still being monitored and if it hasn't already Krrish will definitely do for Singapore what Salaam Namaste did for Melbourne. Now, that's what I call the true power of Bollywood. Never mind the plot!

Monday, August 21, 2006


Can't believe it's time for Ubud again!

It all seems like yesterday once more. Don't know if Janet, Karen and Finley would share that sentiment. I've seen them work throughout the year to string it all together. Sponsors coming in, sponsors walking out, writers agreeing to make an appearance, writers settling for other lucrative festivals.... whoever said it was easy putting a festival together!

Despite all the ups and downs, that Janet has promised to spill together with other festival directors - Jill Eddington from Byron Bay and Nury Vittachi from Hong Kong over a bubbly - a stunning line-up is ready and rolling for Ubud.

The action kicks off on the 29th of September with another great opening. Then all things literary take over. And what a line-up it is!

The stars are there - Anita Desai, Madhur Jaffrey, Shauna Singh Baldwin, William Dalrymple and Ziauddin Sardar among a host of others.

Team Ubud is promising a magic carpet ride of exotic destinations and literary journeys. Expect nothing less.

There are heady days ahead. All the way till October the 3rd.

I've got some exciting panels lined up and in addition to all the other talks and sessions, I am absolutely looking forward to some unforgettable days of engagement with Madhur Jaffrey, Anita Desai, Christopher Kremmer, Eric Campbell, Kunal Basu and Elmo Jayawardena.

Then there is the session on blogs and blogging, where I am pitted with Malaysia's star bloggers - Dina Zaman and Sharon Bakar.

Well, I'm already thinking October and what else could I be thinking about? UBUD.

If you happen to be in the same boat, click here, to go beyond mere thinking:


With none other than the master story-teller himself.

You know him as the author of ‘Monkfish Moon’, ‘Reef’, ‘The Sandglass’ & ‘Heaven’s Edge’.

Now, Romesh Gunesekera is back with ‘The Match’ – a sparkling tale book-ended with the story of the biggest love of our collective South Asian lives - cricket.

Hear all about it and a whole lot more from the spinner of the written form.

Meet Romesh Gunesekera
On : Monday, 28th August
At : the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore
From: 8pm-9:30pm

Tickets are just $10 and are on sale at the Asian Civilisations Museum.

Call 65-6332 3284 or email

I wouldn’t miss it in the world, hope you don’t too.

Still mulling about it, read more about it here:

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Here's what you get....

"The terrorists tried to repeat the disaster of the Al-Aima bridge but were prevented by the alterness of our security forces, in cooperation with our
citizens," said Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in a statement to media.

He praised the army and police for keeping the death toll down and said this was a sign of their "growing capability".

The comments came soon after gunmen ambushed Shiite pilgrims marching through Baghdad. They were heading to the mausoleum of Imam Musa Kadhim, whose death 12 centuries ago is marked by major Shiite pilgrimage every year.

Fact is 20 people were killed, 200 others injured in this incident.

But for Mr Maliki that number paled in comparison to the 1,000 lives that were lost on the deadliest day in post-war Iraq on this day, a year ago.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Reviewers say a lot of things, usually it falls into the realm of the bizarre.
Here's some critical poetry Karan Johar's Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, now better known as KANK has inspired.

"And really, that's what makes them both relatable and endearing on screen."

"His racy dialogue makes you turn beetroot red with embarrassment, but you're also fighting hard to suppress your giggles."

"If cinema is entertainment, then Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna succeeds, and how!"

From The Times of India, eeerm, not entirely sure that's what Johar intendend:
"Amitabh and Abhishek once again create magic when they are together, even as the big daddy of Bollywood creates one of the most flamboyant playboys on the desi screen. Catch his throwaway lines and you'd realise Hugh Heffner's got competition."

India FM enlightens us in entirety:
"Frankly, a film like KABHI ALVIDA NAA KEHNA is akin to a big gamble. The subject matter has to be treated cautiously and delicately, or else it can boomerang badly. It might even hurt the sensibilities if entrusted in wrong hands."

These are The Indian Express' contributions, which now officially looks like its in need of a good Sub-Ed, brace yourself for the English:
"The story has everything you expect in a Karan Johar's movie - humongous canvas, enchanting Shah Rukh, foot-tapping music, soothing visuals, passionate moments and ofcourse hilarious stints."

"The songs are excellent, both in terms of music and visualisation and one number which would get you into the party mode is Rock 'n roll, with the father and son shaking it together!"

You were warned folks, happy weekend, see you Monday.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Interesting spin to Chennai born Indra Nooyi's appointment as PepsiCo's CEO.

This one, from The Financial Times, in particular had me in splits - 'Pepsi Promotion of Saree-Wearing Executive No Publicity Stunt'. Do a google search and you will find more Nooyi shots in a power suit. I haven't met her, but I am sure whatever attire she chooses never comes in the way of her work.

Wonder what the creative scribes will have to say should Shashi Tharoor make it to the UN Secretary General post. I can already visualise this - 'Appointment of Kurta-Wearing Author Not Done to Appease India.'

Share your thoughts. Email me at


Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gunter Grass peeled the layers and the storms of protest have just about begun.

His critics, who are bound to grow by the day say his confession about his involvement in a Waffen-SS unit at the end of World War II has come way too late. The Waffen-SS was the combat arm of Hitler's fanatical paramilitary elite - the SS. It campaigned alongside regular army units and compiled a record of fierce fighting and notorious brutality against enemy civilians and prisoners of war.

The 78-year-old author, who has long been seen as the moral conscience of Germany, revealed his SS service in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine.

The interview was done ahead of the September 1st release of his autobiography, 'Peeling the Onion'.

Many are pointing that in light of this admission, Grass' criticism of Germany's inability to come to terms with its Nazi past sounds an 'absurdity'.

While the author says he made the disclosure because it had "weighed on" him all these years, what I found deeply disturbing was his revelation that under the influence of Nazi indoctrination at the time he did not view the Waffen-SS as something repulsive, rather as an elite service branch.

Fact as they say, is truly stranger than fiction.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Interesting findings from a new survey by the Pew Internet Project as reported in Newsweek:

* Most of the 12 million American bloggers write for themselves, and their avid readers happen to be their Moms and Dads.
* 84% say blogging is a hobby. And the top 100 bloggers - are almost all journalists or professional writers.

So, doesn't look like the pajama brigade's rise will spell the end of journalists or journalism as we've known it - at least not yet.


Just how would you feel when you hit 60?

I still have several more years to go, but if I was up and about and had the ability to travel around, I have a feeling I'd be loving it.

Sounds hard to believe but former US President Bill Clinton actually hates it. Here's what he said when he was greeted with a 'Happy Birthday' song at a world AIDS Conference in Toronto.

"In just a few days, I will be 60 years old. I hate it, but it's true."

Here's why:
"For most of my working life, I was the youngest person doing what I was doing. Then one day I woke up and I was the oldest person in every room."

For the record, Clinton was a youthful 46 when he was first elected president in 1992.

Though he wasn't the youngest man to be elected to the White House.

John F Kennedy, was 43 when he took office, while Theodore Roosevelt was 42 years old when he took office in 1901.


Time to catch up on your reading, dudes and dames....
the 2006 Man Booker Long list is out.

Some usual suspects - Nadine Gordimer, Kate Grenville and Howard Jacobson.

Some names that simply had to be there - Sarah Waters, Peter Carey and David Mitchell.

Some welcome surprises as well - Kiran Desai, Naeem Murr and Hisham Matar.

The full list of 19 titles unfolds like thus:
Peter Carey's 'Theft: A Love Story' (Faber)
Kiran Desai's 'The Inheritance of Loss' (Hamish Hamilton)
Robert Edric's 'Gathering the Water' (Doubleday)
Nadine Gordimer's 'Get a Life' (Bloomsbury)
Kate Grenville's 'The Secret River' (Canongate)
M J Hyland's 'Carry Me Down' (Canongate)
Howard Jacobson's 'Kalooki Nights' (Jonathan Cape)
James Lasdun's 'Seven Lies' (Jonathan Cape)
Mary Lawson's 'The Other Side of the Bridge' (Chatto & Windus)
Jon McGregor's 'So Many Ways to Begin' (Bloomsbury)
Hisham Matar's 'In the Country of Men' (Viking)
Claire Messud's 'The Emperor's Children' (Picador)
David Mitchell's 'Black Swan Green' (Sceptre)
Naeem Murr's 'The Perfect Man' (William Heinemann)
Andrew O'Hagan's 'Be Near Me' (Faber)
James Robertson's 'The Testament of Gideon Mack' (Hamish Hamilton)
Edward St Aubyn's 'Mother's Milk' (Picador)
Barry Unsworth's 'The Ruby in her Navel' (Hamish Hamilton)
Sarah Waters' 'The Night Watch' (Virago)

The shortlist will be announced on 14th September and the winner on 10th October. Still plenty of time to book your bets - hopefully after having read the text.

Would be great to see which publisher got makes it to the finish this year round.

Monday, August 14, 2006


The clouds hovering above us made positively ominous sounds. The wind howled through the Southern Cross University marquee. As I walked in, I wondered if it would even be half full. If I were the audience, I'd rather sip my cup of chai tucked under my comforter, preferably with some heating.

Nothing, not even the weather kept the crowds away. That sure was a sign. Of the true book lovers in them. It was a heartening start. I wondered if our sounds were even travelling to the other half of the marquee, the part where the rain drops seeped through - they sure were.

The panel was on 'People and Places: India and Bangladesh'. The panelists none other than the award winning Adib Khan and Christopher Kremmer. Both stellar writers in their own right.

One trawls through fiction, taking you on 'Spiral Roads', creating characters that will haunt you long after you put the book down. Remember the dwarf in a New Delhi slum. Adib is that rare mix of wit and intelligence and the audience was charmed with all his black, white and cricketing tales that took us all on an unforgettable journey from Bangladesh to Australia.

Christopher Kremmer was a TV journo in his last avataar. He is also better known as the best-selling author of 'The Bamboo Palace', 'The Carpet Wars' and his recent 'Inhaling The Mahatma' - which too is destined for the best selling charts. No two ways about that.

Among other flattering things it's been called “an affectionate, insider's portrait of a dazzling, maddening but always fascinating country” and that happens to be India.

In fact, so many of these so called outsider-insider accounts of India are trapped with bringing out the worst of India and presenting what can only be called gangland entertainment. Alternately you get the taxi driver accounts of New Delhi. You know how the author steps into a cab early in the morning, then heads to one place after the other and by the evening you have a chapter in verse - one which happens to be such a drawl that you instantly skip most pages to get to the end of it all.

Kremmer's account is none of those. He has been lived through some of the most traumatic and dramtatic times that have marked the last 10 years in India. His account is narrated with extreme sensitivity. When Bombay burns you feel the pain, not the hate. The characters in the book are so human you can almost sense them next to you.

My favourites are Hari Lal, who made an intensely personal journey with Kremmer at a time when he needed the time to pause and reflect. As a contrarian to Hari Lal, is his man Friday, Sanjay Singh. His 'can do' spirit epitomises the spirit of the new, resurgent and tremendously confident India.

Truly I couldn't have asked for a better 'Homecoming' than being able to spar with these two greats. The fact that it happened at Byron Bay, in an audience that was largely Australian, clearly speaks volumes about the state of our world. One which can be a place where cultures and connections don't have to be on a collision course. The written word has shown the way, can the rest follow?


The Bryon Bay Writers Festival may have had its share of frosty days, but that didn't stop the 'Reflection' - all day and all night long.

With Nury Vittachi and Sabine Amoore-Pinon, it was a delightful romp through humour and what got lost and found in translation.

On the Asian Writing panel, it was a heady mix. Partly because Nury was back with his regaling 'Pathak tales'. Richard and Ketut Yuliarsa provided interesting accounts of what's happening with Indonesian Literature. If these two writers have their way and they increasingly look like they are - the future for the Indonesian voice is positively bright.

I, for one, remain insanely optimistic about the Asian voice. The fact that you can go into any Indian bookstore and pick the books written by your kind of Indian author says a lot. A lot of Indians are reading what they want to read - take Chetan Bhagat's startling marketing success for one. And the Asian tale has its charms. Ok it was penned by an Australian, but 'Shantaram' so far has sold more than 6,000 copies in the Singapore and Malaysian markets alone. For a wrist breaker and in a market where the perpetual complaint is that "people just aren't reading enough" - that's a stupendous feat.

The Asian in the global literary voice is here to stay - a billion people and more just wouldn't have it any other way....

Friday, August 11, 2006


There were so many people who made this place special. I simply had to utter something and the fantastic Festival Director Jill Eddington would have it organised. It was amazing how she had everything under perfect control despite being on her feet pretty much all day and all night long.

There were many other folks who had been just email addresses for the longest time.

You know how it is, someone writes to you, you write back, then you meet and its a complete revelation. Just about everyone I met in Byron packed energy - loads of it. The publicist Jeni Caffins told me about her three hour commute to be a part of this fabulous writers festival. Here we speak of distance and anything longer than 30 minutes is already way too long! Here was Jeni - her car all packed, taking each drive in her stride.

Speaking of strides - the ones who really warmed my heart were the volunteers. They were everywhere, including the car park, braving the snapping cold wind and the rain, making sure you got the place to park. It was amazing how they managed to that without that trademark coffee cup getting the blood flowing through their hands, that sure did a lot of talking.

Then there were friends old and new. Janet de Neefe, looking far more relaxed than she ever would during the Ubud Writers Festival, Nury Vittachi chasing after your funny bone, the spectacular Dewi Lestari flexing her vocal chords, Richard Oh surprising us all with his racy tale. The amazing Irina Dunn who showed up at some of my sessions.

Then there was the audience, who would thank me after each session when the writer had done all the talking! There were others who would walk to me while I was criss crossing through the marquees, my camera and the bags in tow "I just wanted to tell you how nice it was to hear you. What is your called?" Could I have asked for more? SIGH about the book.... or lack thereof.

Though nothing quite beat the experience of exploring the places closest to my heart. It all happened on a rather cold afternoon with Christopher Kremmer and Adib Khan. Kremmer's book 'Inhaling the Mahatma' is a tribute to India, it is the people in the book who made it brim with life. My favourite was Hari Lal - partly because he hails from Dehra Dun, partly because he was at peace with his own self. Both Chris and Adib were insightful and they packed the session with style, substance and wit. Getting the right mix of all three as festival veterans will tell you is rare. What made this session even more memorable was the audience who sat through it even as the marquee howled under the pressure of that unrelenting rain. Bala and the kids did too - what would we be without our families?

The most easterly Indian Sandy Gandhi got the Q & A going and we ended up being pals as well. The biggest surprise was to come in the days after the festival when Sandy landed up at our door, with tons of gifts in tow, telling us to get ready for a ride of her 'hinterland'.

So it was that we discovered the most Easterly point of Australia with Australia's most easterly Indian. The lighthouse which sits on a steep peak packs enough winds to blow someone Sandy's size off her feet. After escaping the whiplash, we almost saw Dhruv flying off in search of his plastic ball. While this may look like any other lighthouse, this one is a really functional lighthouse. If you looked far enough you could get what could pass as reflections of the humpback whale. There were surfers, gliders and all manners of adventurers taking in the sea in all its forms. If this was a post-card, this was would be called that picture perfect moment. Sandy's presence made it more so.


There was lots of sand, sea but almost no sun. After having packed, then unpacked some of my winter woolies, I was doomed to spend some of my days packed to the brim in three T-shirts, two sweaters, another jacket, which almost appeared to be bursting at its arm sleeves with all those clothes packed under it. Here we were in Bryon Bay, where some folks say "it never gets that cold." We lived to survive a couple of windy days and nights to discover the real beauty of Byron Bay.

It's on the eastern most tip of Australia in the northern New South Wales coastal region, where the lush hinterland meets the stunning Pacific Ocean.

Bound by famous Cape Byron, it has just about everything for the beach lover, though it isn't quite your average small town. Yes, that vintage rail track survives sans the trains, the train station still stands proud. There is only one traffic light in all of Bryon Bay. You drive left, you can drive right once you are past Ewingsdale exit and you will spot your only light on the way to the lighthouse.

The only signals are ones dictated by a show of the hand. Everyone in Byron Bay believes in giving you way, you don't have to pretend the kids are not yours - even when you enter the finest restaurants, folks smile, ask how you are doing, what your day's been like. I was truly stumped in my tracks through out the week. It's not for nothing that they call this 'Australia's premiere lifestyle retreat.' Beyond the place, it's the people who truly make it an indulgence for the senses.