Books, Lit Fests, News, Movies, Art, Fashion and TV of course... "I must say that I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a book." - GROUCHO MARX

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Come January, 2007 and the 'where have you been' question will pop up again. To deflect the answer, I'll give you a sneak peek of what's going to happen then.

Sri Lanka is getting ready to host its first literary festival - The Galle Literary Festival and I've been invited. In fact, I've just received word from the Festival Director, the amazingly talented Libby Southwell that the picture you see on your left is going to be our abode in the second week of January. I'm not entirely sure if the property owners are ready to take on my son, who shot to notoreity with his Full Monty show at Ubud, but we sure are.

Given sights like these who can resist? That's only part of the reason that the Festival is already turning out to be such a huge draw.

In what can clearly be considered a literary coup, the festival has managed to attract this year's Man Booker Prize winner, Kiran Desai. And yours truly has been truly honoured to be given the opportunity to talk about her life and her impressive award-winning work.

Other big names include author and historian William Dalrymple who promises to take the audience on a dramatic journey as he unveils his enthusiasm for India’s last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar with his recently launched book 'The Last Mughal'. The book's been getting rave reviews across the world, including one from the usually unforgiving 'Economist'. It's in the recent issue, if you must go looking for it.

Apart from Kiran Desai, I am looking forward to listening to ex-BBC India man and author Mark Tully. I've read most of his work and have been touched by it, particularly by the book that came out post Operation Bluestar that he co-authored with Satish Jacob. Steering the discussion will be none other than former ABC South Asia Correspondent Christopher Kremmer.

2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist Suketu Mehta will be joining the incredible line up of authors that include Sir Arthur C Clarke, Romesh Gunesekera and Madhur Jaffrey, among a host of others.

The festival will also celebrate Sri Lankan literature and will remember the late Nihal De Silva.

They say, there is nothing like the company of friends. And I will have plenty of that. Cooking up a storm at various sessions will be the charming Janet de Neefe, taking a break from airplanes will be the affable Elmo Jayawardena, and not stealing his ideas from kids this time will be the unparalleled Nury Vittachi. All fabulous friends who make for great company when they are not putting festivals together or appearing at them. Since the festival makes room for lunch or coffee with your favourite authors, I'd strongly recommend you look out for them, just as you do for the rest.

The four day programme will be filled with writing workshops, panel discussions, topical debates, literary lunches & dinners, poetry readings, cooking classes, theatre workshops, a children’s programme and much much more.

If that's got your appetite whetted, click on to the festival website:

The Festival will be held in & around the historic city of Galle and its magnificent UN World Heritage Fort.

As the official line goes, "It’s time to bury yourself in books for what promises to be an exceptional event."

I don't know about you, but one look at the stunning venues has my head brimming with ideas beyond the festival. More on that as and when it happens.

Pictures on this post courtesy 'The LightHouse' and 'The Sun House'


Yes, I've been asked a lot of that in the past couple of days.

For those of you who have escaped the brunt of my phone calls, here's the story so far. The last month has been a crazy whirl between getting our new apartment fixed, solving contractual woes. Given that there was so little to be done, I am still stunned by the fact that the guys who were at it could get it so wrong.

Let me give you a simple example for starters. We needed the fans changed in the living room and in one of the bedrooms. We go to a shop, select the stuff we want. We rest easy that all will work with clockwork precision. Right? WRONG!

On Day Two, I stepped into the apartment which I had left in the hands of the not so able contractors to realise that I had wrong fans in both rooms. Speak of getting twice lucky!

To get things started, I get going with a call to the contractor, who conveniently passes me on to the fan lady, who conveniently keeps getting it wrong. After 45 minutes of deliberating (read shouting) I am hoarse and tell her that if she doesn't understand, then I need to get back to her shop. That has her alarm bells ringing. So a Mr Fix It heads to the apartment, only to realise that lights can't be fixed on one fan, which was supposed to be without them in the first place. We toggle through various fans for about a week, before things seems right. That's till I switch on the fan in the room and realise that if I stayed long enough, it would be enough to crush me. So its another round of calls to the contractor, which ran along these lines:

Me : "Do you know the fan in the bedroom is moving violently."
Contractor (henceforth to be called C) : "Oh, there's a little balancing problem."
Me : "A little balancing problem? Have you seen it?"
C : "No, but my guys told me about it."
Me : "Ahhh! so you knew about it all along."
C : "Yes."
Me : "And when exactly were you planning to tell me! After we moved into the house and it all fell flat on our head.
Me : "Ok, we've gone through all of this long enough, what are you going to do about it."
C : "My men are going to take a look at it."
Me : "Can you tell them to fix it, not take a look at it, I've just done and can tell you something is so not right about it."
C : Ok

So we follow up with a bunch of calls here and there, so the men come down, so they take a look, so they fix stuff or so they tell me. That's till I make a nightly visit only to discover that while the fan is working the lights attached to it aren't. What's even better is that the string that is supposed to control the lights doesn't even exist. Which in turn means that the only way to switch on and switch off the lights is to be perpetually mounted on a step ladder. So begins another round of calls.

Me : "When are you guys ever going to get it right. Now I have a fan, but lights that don't work. Better still, if I switch them on, chances of me being to switch them off are dim indeed."
C : " No problem, its a minor issue."

This may sound like a minor issue, but when you've spent 10 days toggling over a damn fan, its enough to make you ballistic. Or even put your hands and give up.

That's if you take the other disasters into consideration as well. In one room, one study table needed to be hacked. Instead, the break it all guys, knocked the table, the lovely book shelves and the adjoining cabinet in the process and I was to pay a 100 bucks for a problem that wasn't even mine. Then in another one of the rooms that needed a mild touch up, blue wall was painted with a box of white. Another wall that was to be painted a dramatic red, the strokes gave my three year old a run for his money. In fact, if I'd had Aneesha the paint and the brush, I'm darn sure she would have done a much better job.

In the end, I not only needed to get the house re-painted, but I had to find a proper painter who would be upto the job. Needless, to say, the re-painter got it right and the effect by the time the apartment went through the five coats of paint seemed perfectly alright, and it cost me half the amount I'd shelled out the first time round.

All's well that end's well, they say. Not quite in our case. Once we moved in, we discovered some stuff that had to be done, that called for another visit from our not so reliable contractor. Then when all was said and done, there were the furniture woes to contend with - but that's another post.

We are now firmly set in our new pad and are absolutely loving it. Each one of us have put in our bit (and I don't mean the contractors) and turned it into what a home should be - a lovely, warm place where we love to put our feet up when Dhruv is not rocking to Lage Raho Munnabhai.

Drop by to check it out. Right now, we are in the untiring show the apartment phase.
Yes, the pictures will be up soon as I've had a moment to go a clicking.

P.S.: In the process, I did discover some wonderful people. The first being the curtain lady, who understood every tiny stitch of my saree curtain vision. So if you are looking for the perfect window dressing, the lady to call is:
Margaret Koh at +65 9666 1543

And if you are looking for that perfect coat of paint on your walls, then look no further than this competent husband-wife team who can be reached at +65 9754 2029. The lady to speak to is the lovely Jenny.

Happy Renovating, if you happen to be writing down these numbers.

Monday, November 13, 2006


If the true measure of a show's success lies in turning the Esplanade Concert Hall into a dance floor, then the Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy show was a foot-thumping success.

Despite some official reviews once again throwing us into the category of the 'slow-to-warm' audience (has anyone told reviewers that this is the venue where one person has to stand up and the entire rows behind the first guy standing can't see a thing!) and we the audience are a gracious lot. We either sit together to let everyone enjoy the show, or we stand together to party through the night.

With the inimitable Shankar at the helm though its hard to stay glued to one's seats - unless of course, he happens to be belting out his love ballads.

This is my third brush with the performer extraordinaire. The first time was when the trio had performed at the IIFA Awards Ceremony. They had bagged the award they deserved for music direction for 'Kal Ho Na Ho' and were still gracious enough to do every single interview with all the stations who had their lights and cameras set up for the action.

As on stage, in person, they came across as immensely grounded. They were modest about their achievements, speaking more about the best that was yet to come, the number's that hadn't clicked and why some they imagined would be duds had turned out to be hotter than the rest. That ability to keep their feet firmly on the ground despite their global appeal is partly why they connect so well with audiences across all ages. My seven year old danced the night away and finished it all pining for a hot meal - we eventually settled for a cool Haagen Daz ice-cream instead, since that was all there was to offer at 11:30pm. Delighting her as well as the others across all ages were the hit numbers all the way from Dil Chahta Hai, KANK to Don.

And to think that the man who got us all standing almost ended up in the IT industry. In fact, in our studio interview, he mentioned that the minute he stepped into world of 'real jobs' he realised it wasn't for him. So IT's loss turned out to be rhytm's biggest gain. While his jingles, including Cadbury's 'Kuch Khaas Hai' (remember that!) made him a household voice, it was with the launch of his album 'Breathless' that Shankar truly arrived. The album held the number one slot on all major music charts in India for over 10 weeks. That's a feat that this talent trio were to repeat in years to come.

Experimenting with styles, the classically trained Shankar, blues-rock guitarist Ehsaan and the keyboard whizz Loy have created hit after hit right from Shool, Dillagi to Don. They rock like no one else and Saturday night was just another proof of that.


We all know the iconic Penguin. Some of us have grown up with it. Others have grown to love them. Still others love them for the vibrant charm they inject to the staid old bookshelves. These charming little Penguins have gone from fat to slim, have re-created the worlds that have passed us by and still maintained their literary charm.

That's partly why I'm seriously recommending this warehouse sale that is heading your way on Friday, the 17th.

Book mark the details. I wouldn't miss in the world, suggest you don't too. Though the trick to getting the best books under the roof is to be there bright and early with the strongest of shopping bags in tow, unless of course, your man Friday is in a mood to lend his steely shoulders.

So get whatever needs to be packed and hurry on down to:
The Singapore Expo, Hall 6-B
From: 10am-10pm
17th November-19th November

Happy reading once you recover from the shopping.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


This post isn't to confound the confusion. After all, I've lived through my share of identity crises. Remember what happened with Sandy Gandhi at Byron Bay. Here's a post to recollect the moments in case you've forgotten

Though of late, the identity crisis, has been with my best pal Tripta. Since half of you already know this - we share the same birthday, yes, we await your greetings on the 29th of November. Should you decide to give us gifts - books are welcome. We both like reading Indian writing in English. There is no prize for guessing who is younger. We both work in TV, albiet for channels that can be fairly typically described as being as different as chalk and cheese. One of us happens to be a purported writer of sorts, the other can effectively market channels to the world.

One of us has been described as that 'babe from TV', the one who brought that rocking Zee Nite to town. I should have graciously accepted that the other night, but the wine hadn't quite taken its toll and I gingerly told the lady spouting the gushing compliments that "I am actually the other Tripta - the one who writes the news."

I saw the smile crumble to ashes - Ouch! Yes, often even the best compliments dished out to the wrong person have that impact on people. Then the apologies "I am so sorry, I thought you were the Zee girl."
"You shouldn't be," I said, "Tripta will be here in just a while and you can repeat all these wonderful things to her again."

Compliments aside, more often than not, we receive each other's mails, invites, even some brickbats. At official functions, we end up clarifying our names and our channels and then are promptly referred to as 'the other one'. Not that we mind - oh well, at least I don't - but the confusion is making us seriously consider the need for placards specifying our names and respective channels.

Though an easier way would be showing you this shot. I - Deepika Shetty am on your right, the more famous face - Tripta Singh of Zee TV fame is on the left.

If you still haven't got that sorted out, remember the one with the braces is the TV Producer - Deepika, the 'babe' is Tripta. Hope that helps. Happy face recognition when you see us next. You can still get it wrong, you know. It's perfectly fine by me.


If you've already read these, two of seven excellent books by one of India's finest journalist - M.J. Akbar - then you need no introduction to the man.

If you haven't, you'd do well to watch our space on Wednesday, the 15th of November, to hear his thoughts on air at 8:45am (Singapore Time).

If you aren't into telly watching and want the action live, he'll be speaking on
'Words as Weapons in the Wars of the World' at Institute of South East Asian Studies (ISEAS) at 3pm. Admission is free, though prior registration is needed.

Am I recommending this lecture highly? Of course!

In fact, just like I did for Friedman, I shall be giving up my much needed dose of my twenty noon winks to hear the man himself.

After all, not only has he penned several worthy discourses on the issues of our times, written books (I haven't read them all, but those that I have figure high on my recommendation list), he has been widely credited with revolutionising Indian journalism. At the age of 28, a time when some of us are still discovering ourselves, M.J. Akbar was busy launching and establishing the weekly magazine 'Sunday' and the newspaper 'The Telegraph'.

Politics beckoned for a while, he made a brief detour with his election to the Indian Parliament in November 1989. Though he returned to his first passion, writing and editing, in 1993 - much to the joy of his readers. Does he live to regret his brush with politics just like Amitabh Bachchan does, I'm curious to find out about that? The lecture or the 10 minutes of air time might not give the answer but a post-discussion certaintly would.

But I digress. Tracking more of Akbar's distinguished life and times. In 1994, he launched 'The Asian Age' which has been dubbed India's first global newspaper -

What makes his writing even more appealing to net lovers is his blog presence -

As some folks pointed out, only a brave editor makes his email I/D so accessible - the rest would merely leave it at the writing.

And the writing is quite something. 'India: The Siege Within' was my first M.J. Akbar buy. It was funded courtesy a book prize that the college offered me for splitting my lungs at a fiery debating contest. Snuggling with that book, I got the lessons that my Political Science class on the Indian polity just couldn't offer. The writing was readable, the style charming, the story told as it deserves to be told. In two nights I learnt more about the real India, the secular democracy at work, its weakest links and its strengths. Perhaps, some of the quotes I liberally used in class, went to make me one of the late Pradeep Kumar's 'students of note.'

I re-visited the book last year during my annual visit to my grandmum's home, the time when all the trunk loads of books tucked in the corner of her store, get the ritual airing. I almost packed it in my overloaded bag and then put it right back, thinking 'I hardly have a chance of bumping into M.J. or getting this signed in Singapore'. As always... how wrong I was....

Now, if that's got you all excited about getting to a book store on time, let me tell you that the only book available here (at least at Kinokuniya and Borders) as I pen this is 'Blood Brothers'

If you want to risk Amazon, my last order that was a valiant attempt to get Madhur Jaffrey's 'Climbing the Mango Trees' and Christopher Kremmer's 'The Carpet Wars' didn't show up in time for the sessions that I did at the Ubud Writers Festival. So take your chances if you really want to. You've been warned.

P.S.: Got a lovely note from MJ - yes the man himself. It says some nice things and points to an errata - Just a minor change: I was 25 when I started 'Sunday'. Don't know what that does to your morale but it sure makes me feel like a serious under-achiever.

Friday, November 03, 2006

WILLIAM STYRON (1925-2006)

This week, its time to remember William Styron. His 1979 novel 'Sophie's Choice' the tragic story of a Polish Holocaust survivor's relationship in Brooklyn with a Virginia writer was made into an acclaimed film starring Meryl Streep. While the film won Streep an Oscar, it threw the novel into the spotlight. Some Holocaust survivors questioned the fact that a non-Jew gave the perspective a death camp survivor, while feminists were up in arms about a man writing telling a woman's story.

But Styron was no stranger to controversy. He's stirred enough of that with 'The Confessions of Nat Turner,' (1967) the story of a slave who led a bloody and disastrous slave insurrection before the Civil War. While the book went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, it was criticised for being tinged with racism.

Among his many fans is former President Bill Clinton, who had made these comments about Styron's writing while he was still in the White House:
"I can tell you that, as a young southerner, the impact of 'The Confessions of Nat Turner' on me was truely stunning and I can say that for a whole generation of us who never quite found the words to give expression to the many things we had imagined until we read the works of William Styron."

In a profound remembrance, Norman Mailer told the New York Times "No other American writer of my generation has had so omnipresent and exquisite a sense of the elegiac."
Styron died of pneumonia in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts aged 81.

Read more about his life here:


These days I'm in a very author like state of mind. You know how they say, they were always in this place, but living in imagined lands. Only mine happen to be a little real. When I'm not yanking myself off the bed at the unearthly 2am, or reversing my car into those damn parking poles or mounting kerbs in a desperate attempt to make scary S turns, I'm lugging stuff from one home to the next.

So you get the picture. Between work, moving house, there's also a hopelessly helpless bid to clear that driving code - yes, in our sunny shores, it is in fact seemingly harder to than the Da Vinci. I was the star of Ahmedabad's (in)hospitable roads for close to four years. In fact, the only serious injury to life and limb was when a donkey strayed into my path and knocked me and my scooter out of order. There was no method in the madness to the roads in Gujarat's commercial capital, but we all lived to tell a tale.

Getting back to the roads here - the minute I find myself behind the wheel, my hands go all clammy, my heart skips more than its requisite number of beats, I drive so slowly that my instructor feels it might be faster if he walked during my lessons. But in the process, I am learning a couple of lessons in being a 'defensive driver' - the only way to clear the test, some veterans tell me.

Some days I do well, others I have all the warning signs of a potential nervous wreck. Will I make the cut? Monday is the D-Day on the driving front. today is D-Day for moving home. Hopefully sanity, sleep and blogging will resume after that. Happy weekend all.