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

My Photo

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

Monday, August 27, 2007


20th May 2004:
The glitz and glamour of Bollywood is in Singapore for a three day extravaganza featuring the icons of the Indian film industry. The event kicks off with Mani Ratnam's premiere of 'Yuva.' Its a multi-starrer, it's a World Premiere, the crush of fans is there even at 3:30 in the afternoon - the set up time given to us. The premiere is supposed to begin at 6:30pm, the stars only start arriving close to 7pm. You can spot families, girls dressed in their Friday best, Aunties in their rustling silk sarees, waiting for all the biggies to arrive and they all do. Starting with the Big B, Abhishek Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan, Preity Zinta, Rani Mukerji, Ajay Devgan, Kajol, Kareena Kapoor. Long after they have all stepped into Lido, there's still no sign of the crowd heading home. At 8:30pm, I decide to walk through the crowd, mike in hand, with the who are you waiting for question. Shah Rukh, Shah Rukh, they yell. Try telling the disbelievers, he hasn't arrived in town, you get stunned disbelief, then the look - how can you be so sure? By the time, we pack up, the moon is out in its glory, the stars are shining, yet the crowd is unrelenting. It's the King Khan or nothing.

22nd May 2004:
The action has shifted from Lido to the Singapore Indoor Stadium. The crowd is even larger. For the most part, they stay behind the barricades, cheering one arrival after the other. Then the world seems to come to a stop. You hear a collective gasp, followed by the cries, Shah Rukh, Shah Rukh. Soon the barricades look like they are going to give way. Extra security guards rush in. You know the King of Bollywood has arrived. Before him, so many of the other stars have simply walked past their fans, no handshakes, its the practised Hi's and Bye's and the 'I Love Yous.' He pauses, he shakes hands, he accepts gifts from his fans lining up on the right side. Then he turns around and gives the media their sound bytes. A superstar like no other.

1st April 2007:
Location : Genting, Malaysia.
Event: Zee Cine Awards

I've got my camera in hand, yet the organisers are kind enough to give me back stage access. No interviews, they remind me. And who do we have here? None other than the King Khan himself being put through his Don and KANK moves. It's high energy work, easy to tell by the sweat soaked shirts. If you think superstars have it easy, think again. Shah Rukh is put through the paces, it's tough work but everyone knows one step is all it takes to prevent a choreographed piece failing to achieve perfection. In the evening, the action will be live, there will be no chance for another take, they've got to make sure everything is in sync. It looks like it is. When the choreographer deems it perfect, King Khan taps everyone on the shoulders, has a quick exchange, then takes a break on the stage itself before getting off. Here's there till a little past 2pm, the red carpet action begins at 6:30pm. Lots of stars are here, no big ones yet. A couple of them who had been rehearsing till late didn't even get out of the venue appropriately titled - 'the Arena of the Stars.' Others who did have used the restricted entrance earmaked for them. So the red-carpet watchers are left to welcome the smaller stars till Salman Khan arrives. There are a few cries of joy, which turns into something loud and clear. It's 2004 once more. Fans are breaking security cordons, one little boy's family has helped him jump over the fence, the security perimeter is tightening. Yet, Shah Rukh is unfazed. He does his handshakes -there are fewer this time round. He's being rustled in, the show is being beamed live.

It is the story of one such fan that kicks off Anupama Chopra's brilliant book - King of Bollywood that tracks the life and career of Shah Rukh Khan together with the Seductive charm of Indian Cinema. It is September 3rd, 2004, "Elvis level hysteria" it is, the Temptation Tour is at the Gwinnett Center in Atlanta, where one man's life is about to be changed forever. He had dreamt of it, and when it comes to SRK, dreams do come true.

Wherever he goes, the evening is often best remembered for the biggest brand in Indian entertainment. Even when the audience is glued to their seats, you can count on him to get them swaying to a new beat.

He may have the world at his feet now, "But Shah Rukh's life is more than just a dramatic show-biz success story. He is a Muslim superstar in a Hindu-majority country and his life reflects the fundamental paradoxes of a post-liberalization nation attempting to thrive in a globalized world. His story provides a ringside view into the forces shaping Indian culture today," the author points out.

And it is some of those paradoxes that she sets out to trace. Shah Rukh's personal life is interspersed with all the changes taking place in Indian cinema through the years. With the access she has had to the star and through the many interviews she conducts as part of her research, Anupama takes you to the heart of the story. The heart break of partition followed by a bigger rejection in 'No Man's Land', his father's struggles and how his strong-willed mother put up a brave front all the time.

There is Shah Rukh's childhood, captured together with the poetry that flowed, ebbed, then disappeared after his father's death.

"Shah Rukh believed his father was a superhero who would defeat the disease."

The impact this had on his family simply couldn't be undone:

"For days, Shehnaz (Shah Rukh's sister) did not shed a tear. Instead she retreated into a depression from which she would never fully emerge."

Shah Rukh wasn't even 15 then and his struggles were just about to begin. He dabbled in theatre, auditioned for Pradip Kishen and Arundhati Roy's film 'In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones,' in which he only got a minor role - a slight he never forgot. Years later, when Arundhati won the Booker Prize and Shah Rukh was invited for a celebratory event, he declined. His career took off in a big way with television, with the series Fauji and just when things were falling into place career wise, he suffered another huge personal loss. This time it was the death of his mother.

Two weeks after his mother's death, he left Delhi to make movies. He took on roles other stars were saying no to, he challenged himself, he let his energy speak for itself and the audience loved every bit of it.

Shah Rukh's star was on the rise, though things started falling apart when he set up his company. Just as she tracks all the ups, the authors gets to the flip sides as well - his temper in the early days, the collapse of his company and through it all you see his pillar of strength, his wife - Gauri Khan.

In a lesser hand, this book could have easily fallen into the realm of another star-struck reflection, but Anupama Chopra, ranked as one of India's finest film critics, takes a fine lens to present the many facets of Bollywood's undisputed King. The key being the reflection of his vulnerability and his ability to keep his private space private. Beyond the subject, which is a huge draw anyway, anyone who wants to understand why Indian cinema is rapidly looking like the block busters it churns out year after year would do well do start with this book.

Did you know that in the early days Shah Rukh tamed his unruly mane with a homemade mixture of Camlin glue and water. Not that I'm recommending it, but the next time you run out of gel you know what to do.

When co-star Juhi Chawla first saw SRK on the sets of Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman, she noticed his scrawny frame, his untidy hair and the same night called Viveck (Vaswani) to scream: "Eek, this is the next Aamir Khan?"

SRK Speak:
He is the unrivalled master of the soundbyte and there are several in the book, but this one did it for me:
"I have never done a film with the market in mind. Cinema is a mishran (mixture) of Lakshmi (the Goddess of Wealth) and Saraswati (the Goddess of Knowledge). I've always gone for Saraswati and Lakshmi has followed. I may be stubborn and an idiot, but it works for me. I know this is a business but I always dole out art."

Publisher: Warner Books
Year: 2007
Pages: 250 (including references and index)
Category: Popular Culture

Labels: , ,


Writing they say, is its own reward.

What about re-writing?

Jeffery Deaver takes eight months to write an outline for each of his novels and puts his work through 50 re-writes, before he lets go.

With 25 million copies of his 23 books sold so far, he can't be wrong.

More on his writing process, his character building and his latest book 'The Sleeping Doll' here.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


'There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.'
W. Somerset Maugham

"Like most writers I was turned down more often than I care to remember, or cared to admit to my agent. Now, when it's too late for her to dump me, I might as well admit it. A few things would have helped had I known them earlier. This is a small attempt to make your life a little easier, if you're an unpublished author.

First - finish the book. Most people who start books never finish them. Don't be one of those. Do it, for God's sake. You have nothing to fear - it won't kill you. It won't even bite you. This is your dream - this is your chance."

It isn't often that you hear authors talk like that or even write with such honesty. Some are smug about the first agent/first publisher/movie rights they bagged. Others will mention it in passing, then subtly move on to the other stuff. Rarely, do they want to delve on the touchy issue of rejection slips.

That's just one of the many reasons why the award-winning Canadian author Louise Penny seems so endearing. She has so much to share about Getting Published, starting with what you just read.

She gives a nod to writing contests, while nudging you to get on with it.

I only get to meet her in September and I know there won't be a still moment as we take a walk down Three Pines.

Labels: ,


Oh yes, the debate is never going to go away. I admit as much. Though one can take heart that this is a paradox facing virtually every literary community. This morning Ashwini Desai points me to this superb point raised by Kamila Shamsie in a piece in The Guardian:

"Of course, one of the features of this list is that it includes writers based in Pakistan, writers who grew up in Pakistan but now live elsewhere, and writers who left Pakistan during their childhood. Within Pakistan there remains much bickering about who exactly should qualify as a Pakistani writer. Do you need to live in Pakistan, have lived in Pakistan, be the child of Pakistanis?"

I love how Shamsie provides the answers to the vexing questions:
"My take on all this is simple: if someone is willing to claim Pakistan for themselves and for the development of their creativity then it seems ridiculous to deny them - and the nation - that right."

There's the obvious sub-continental divide that gets a mention too:
"But while India's writers were attracting the attention of readers and marketing departments, and being an Indian novelist became a viable way of earning a living, Pakistan continued to think gloomily that, in novels as in tourism, the world was far more interested in India. One Pakistani writer might slip through the cracks here and there, but received wisdom had it that our 'Midnight's Children moment' would never come."

I've only read Shamsie, Mohsin Hamid, Nadeem Aslam, Hanif Kureishi and Bapsi Sidhwa, I'm no expert, but each of their writing has left me thinking. I've loved the way they've taken me to some places that have now become a figment of my grand-mother's imagination. I often wish I'd listened to her more carefully, when she spoke about her time in Pakistan, which is why I treat the news of more young people wanting to embrace the realms of Pakistani fiction with optimism. And with the Booker looming, who knows what else will change.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, August 20, 2007


As parents we find many things amiss. Too much Enid Blyton, too much Thomas the Tank Engine, too much Bob the Builder. If you've grown up in India, there's the rich Amar Chitra Katha fare, the journey into the classics. But what of contemporary heroes, stories. What of South-East Asian stories? What of the quality of these books?

We've all grappled with it at some point and left it at that. One mother, a high flying lawyer confronted it, debated and then set about changing it. It all started with her daughter Sasha. After the birth of her daughter, she decided to stay at home and chart an entirely new career. She gave up her high flying career as a Barrister-at-Law opting for a full time career in writing.

True, publishing and writing aren't exactly irresistible, so what was the trigger for the dynamic Shamini Flint?

"I had been determined all along not to give up work, but when my maternity leave was up, it was clear to me that my glib plans to get a caregiver was not an option. Despite very much enjoying the challenges of legal practice, it was impossible to reconcile the demands of the job that involved long hours and a lot of stress with having a baby at home!"

I stayed at home for a bit after Dhruv was born and I can vouch for all those stressed out moms who always mirror the fact that a mother's work is never done. Which is why what Shamini has achieved is more than creditable.

For the past four years, she has been tucking her children into bed to get down to writing. Time management, she tells me is crucial as is self-motivation of course.

She set up a business from home by staring Sunbear Publishing "to fill a niche in the Southeast Asian book market."

And journey so far has been anything but easy. It is one thing to get your books out there, quite another to find publishers who'll be equally excited.

That hasn't dampened Shamini's spirits though. After visiting the sights in Singapore, she has taken Sasha to Bali, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and beyond. And Sasha's adventures aren't about to slow down any time soon.

She's also done her bit for the environment and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) by delving into the world of Pandas and Turtles.

As I always do when it comes to children's books, I put some of these to the test and Dhruv found it hard to put it down. The trip to Bali, refreshed some of his own little adventures, including surviving the monkeys on Monkey Forest Road in Ubud. The illustrations were superb and if they captured his imagination and held him bound for longer than 5 minutes, it was proof it worked. As we talk of another trip to Ubud, Sasha is clearly on his mind and that is a wonderful thing.

I'm enormously hopeful about the potential of these stories, which I hope you'll take the time to read as well.

Children's Series:

Sasha Visits the Botanic Gardens
Sasha Visits the Zoo
Sasha Goes Shopping
Sasha Visits Sentosa Island
Sasha Visits the Bird Park
Sasha Visits Hong Kong
Sasha Visits Bali
Sasha Visits Bangkok
Sasha Visits Singapore
Sasha Visits Kuala Lumpur

Jungle Blues Panda Packs Her Bags
Turtle takes a Trip

Partners in Crime - A Singapore Murder Mystery
How to Win a Nobel Prize: A Stay-at-Home Mums Guide

Read more about Sunbear here and meet the illustrator of the Sasha series, Alpana Ahuja here.

Labels: , , ,


The day the list was out, some literary trackers groaned "haven't heard of half of these writers on the Booker Long list." More voices screamed "literary heavy weights felled." Sure, the list was shorter, yes some names were ignored, yet some great ones were recognised. I was delighted to see Mohsin Hamid and Tan Twan Eng on that list. Just when you think the congratulatory messages should be pouring in, the insider-outsider debate is back.

Raman of Silverfish Books wrote about it, Sharon posted a worthy rejoinder and the comments are an indication that the debate is here to stay.

At the risk of detracting from this post, I'll add that this isn't something that's unique to Malaysian writing, take a look at Indian writing and you can count the outsiders who have made it big globally. Authors who have moved outside and decided to write about their home reality will always tell you about the pining for home, the sound of rain, the heat, the dust, the sights, smells, sounds - all of which turn into a heightened sense of reality when you are away from home.

As Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen rightly put it, there's nothing wrong in multiple identities.

Given that one can feel for more than one thing at the same time, my take is that as long as it spurs great writing, it doesn't matter if you are an outsider writing from the inside or an insider writing from the outside.

With that, let me get back to what I set to do in my post of the day. It was to write about Tan Twan Eng, some of his thoughts that have spurred his writing, what it took to get published and what made him give up his law career. Excerpts from a conversation with the reluctant lawyer.

Was writing always on his radar?
I found the light and decided to devote myself full-time to writing. Writing was always on my radar, I’ve written a lot of stuff in my youth but nothing serious. Being a lawyer gave me the avenue to write as well.

What got him started on ‘The Gift of Rain’:
I was living in South Africa and I had time to write. I’d always wanted to write the history of Penang because
a)I was born there
b)and I love the place, the history, the city streets, the atmosphere of the older streets and I’ve always wanted to capture that. So much of it is disappearing because the old buildings are being torn down, new apartment blocks are being built, I wanted to capture that old world charm. In a way, its a testament, a memorial to something that is fast disappearing.

Being in South Africa, not Penang, while penning the book:
I think (being in Penang) wouldn’t have helped. I felt the emotions were stronger while I was away. The sort of longing for something which is familiar when you are sitting out there. Outside its almost a desert landscape and there you are longing for a tropical rainstorm. In Penang, it’s almost like part of your being. You are in the landscape, life has a pattern, going to the beach, walking, eating. It’s the absence that drove the book – absence in a good way.

What it’s taken to stay true to fact?
I’ve tried to be as accurate as I can. It helped that I’ve always been interested in the subject. The facts have always been there in my head, since the time I was a little boy. The process of getting it all right required verifying, re-confirming, re-checking.

Did his background as a lawyer help in this?
Yes, of course. My British agent also warned me that British readers, particularly those who are interested in history are very unforgiving when it comes to inaccuracies. The phrase that was used was “they would fall on me like a ton of bricks if there were any inaccuracies.”

Tweaking it for a broader audience:
I did have to explain some issues, the background. Some people would say it’s over-exoticising our Asian culture but I think that is necessary because if I were to just have a single line then it wouldn’t make sense to a lot of people. Though local readers would say he is going on and on, so I had to sort of play a balancing role all the way through. I reject the point that the adjustment is only for Westerners, those who are not familiar could be from other Asian countries as well – from Japan, from Indonesia. But, I’ll say that catering to everyone is a difficult balancing act.

Flashback, dreams and characters:
Yes, there is a part in the book that came to me in a dream, maybe it was my homesickness. But the characters didn’t come to me in a dream, they were created with much thought, to include as many viewpoints as possible. I’ve tried not to be insulting or dismissive in the portrayal of the different characters and the views they represent. If anything, I’ve tried to be fair and balanced in my writing.

Authors he looks upto:
I read widely, so it’s a long list, though the one’s who have influenced me the most are Kazuo Ishiguro and Salman Rushdie.

Process of writing the book:
It took me about 8 months to write the book, another 4 months for re-writing. The book's become longer through the re-writing process. People don’t know how much re-writing authors have to go through to get the book out. Agents will look at, editors will look at it, they'll make suggestions or ask for changed. Then we discuss it, then there is the whole process of re-writing and sometimes all of this may just get repeated.

Is a movie in the works?
My agents have pitched it, I think it’s a very cinematic book. I do understand if a movie is to be made, it would have would have to change a lot, the book is very introspective.

Getting to a publisher:
I sent it out to 5 agents and I got an agent fairly easily. The difficult part was getting a publisher. They’d all say while it’s a good read, they didn’t know how to market it.

Certainly hope someone, somewhere happens to be feasting on their words. Also read one of Twan's first interviews with Dovegreyreader and don't leave without seeing all the support Sharon's extended to a truly deserving author. Love the Starbucks and the exclamation marks!!!!

If you want to meet the author, it isn't too late to get yourself booked for the Ubud Writers Festival, that's happening in September.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, August 17, 2007


India has turned 60. We are celebrating it, as we rightly should with the rest of the Indian community in Singapore at the Shangri-La at an event hosted by the Indian High Commissioner. There are friends to be met, news to be heard, conversations to be completed. As we are heading out, I bump into someone I've been wanting to meet for days. She tells me about the arrival of an Indian medical delegation led by Dr Trehan. This is interesting stuff, never a dull day when it comes to the Indian community making its presence felt in virtually every field. My mind is working quick time on the possibility of a studio interview, can we, can't we?

There's no time for answers right now. Bala who is always game for a chat has slinked away. I look around and he seems to have disappeared. I say a hasty goodbye, promise to catch up on the medical stuff and run on to find Bala. His face looks a little flushed. I ask him what happened and he says he's feeling this pain in his heart. What? This is not right, its past 9pm, our family doctor would have brought his shutters down, we have to get to a hospital. It's a dash for Raffles Hospital, where the doctor sees us quick time. He goes through a flurry of questions, administers the blood test, an ECG. Everything seems fine, he tells us, but its best we see the Heart Specialist the next day. With that begins an uneasy night. I can't get myself to sleep. These are stories one only reads of. This thing about silent killers that sneak in and shatter your life and it seemed to have been so close to ours.

The next morning we are knocking on the specialist's door at the Heart Centre. It's a sea of grey. "We shouldn't be here," we let out in unison.

"Is it your first time here?" the receptionist asks.
"Yes, and hopefully our last too," I respond.

This is not where one should be when 40 is still some time away, when the kids are just 4 and 8, when life truly seems to have begun, when the world is full of possibilities.

We are talking about all of that, till the doctor calls. He puts at ease immediately by starting with questions about the diet. Expectedly, there are lots of great stories about tons of good food. The good doctor reminds Bala that he is half his size, he gets real exercise yet there is some food he would never touch. Unfortunately, half of it is on Bala's list.

Then there are questions about exercise. There's a bit of it, courtesy Wii. Then the blood pressure check, "which surprisingly is very good," the doc declares with another smile. It's followed by the heart check. Everything is fine so far, "let's give you the tread mill test."

I sit outside flipping a magazine, knowing this isn't going to be tough. A couple of minutes later, the nurse is out, telling the doctor, "have to stop subject can't complete it, think he's about to faint."

Now, if you are into figuring out the state of your heart, bear in mind 12 minutes on the treadmill could tell a lot. If you can survive 12 minutes of brisk walking and running, chances are the state of your heart is alright. A glimmer of hope there, it's time to head to the gym and ease all these unsettling health anxieties.

With that we are back in the doc's room. Where did it hurt, he asks again. It was the heart. As we isolate the part, the doctor breaks into a smile. "Now, that's good news."

"Always remember, the heart doesn't hurt, its the muscles around it."

Phew, I could have died of joy that instant. It could have possibly been just a bad case of gastroenteritis tightening everything.

For now, the fear has passed, the worst is seemingly over, but the doc has some advice:

"We call this the middle age spread. None of this would be happening, if you were a couple of kilos lighter, you must exercise."

I, who have been, stressing that very point for years couldn't agree more.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Penguin's Loi Zhi Wei is back from her first visit to India. While she's shying away from narrating her saree experience, she's filling me in with the literary news. For that, as always, I'm grateful.

So here it is.

Khaled Hosseini's 'The Kite Runner' has been voted Reading Group Book of the Year for the second year running!

The Penguin Orange Broadband Reader's Group Prize 2007 is voted for by reading groups across Britain and 'The Kite Runner' makes it to the record books by winning the award two years in a row.

More power to the readers who are making the call - that's the way it should be.

What's even better, is Hosseini's wonderful response:
"It is a tremendous honor to me that The Kite Runner has again been awarded the Penguin Orange Broadband Readers' Group Prize. I am so very proud and moved that four years after its publication, The Kite Runner continues to resonate with reading groups. So many distinguished novels are written every year, so many books to celebrate, which makes this prize that much more meaningful to me. I want express my appreciation to reading groups for embracing this novel and for being so instrumental in generating the word of mouth that has been this book's lifeblood. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Tashakor!"

Arzu Tahsin, the book's editor spells out more reasons why the book continues to travel:
"Fantastic story-telling is alive and well and the Penguin Orange Broadband Readers' Group Prize prize proves the amazing power of word-of-mouth. The Kite Runner is one of those books you would whole-heartedly recommend and give to friends and the enduring memory of the story means that you will keep on recommending it."

No surprise that in addition to its phenomenal success, the book continues to sell over 4,000 copies a week.

This year it beat 'We Need to Talk About Kevin', 'Saturday', 'Small Island', 'Suite Francaise' and 'The Time Traveller's Wife'.

Will it get third time lucky? I wouldn't be surprised.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Today in Iraq:
- Four suicide truck bombings leave 175 dead, over 200 injured near Mosul
- A military helicopter crashes near Fallujah, killing 5 American soldiers
- Gunmen kidnap the deputy oil minister Abdel Jabar al-Wagaa along with 5 other people
- All these incidents come on day two of a new US operation targeting Shiite extremist networks and insurgents affiliated to Al-Qaeda
- Just hours before these attacks, the US Army's former commander in Iraq, General George Casey said the US troop surge in Iraq was having the "intended military effect"
- On the political front, steps to save Iraq's crumbling government continue as leaders of various factions hold a flurry of meetings ahead of crisis talks called by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki

Were things doomed from the start? Could it have been any different? Is it too late for a policy re-think? Or have you read so much of the continuing violence that it's become a statistic?

If you are looking for insights into these and a host of other unanswered questions, you could ask for no better starting point than Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in The Emerald City. A stunning book that takes you inside Baghdad's Green Zone.

Chandrasekaran's tryst with Iraq's destiny began with his first trip to the country in September 2002. Reporting for The Washington Post, he lived in Baghdad from November 2002 till the start of the American-led invasion in March 2003. He lived through all the important times. The invasion, April 10th, 2003, the day Saddam Hussein's statue fell in front of the Palestine Hotel, the arrival of the troops and saw hope turn into doom.

But this is not his story. He detaches the 'I' from the story, instead he interviews hundreds of people to bring you the real story of Iraq. A bitter tale of mismanagement that could possibly have been avoided. He doesn't sit in judgment, yet his spot on analysis provides answers to practically every lingering question on Iraq.

It could have been a bungling story of follies and tears, yet there is none of that. Armed with wit, passion, detail and a superb narration, he goes on to tell you stories like these:

The Green Zone also provided its own good time. The CPA had a "morale officer" who organized salsa dancing classes, yoga classes, and movie screenings in the palace theater. There was a gym with the same treadmills and exercise machines you'd find in any high-end health club in America.

What about the food? No problems on that front too:

When he needed to buy something, he went to the PX, the military-run convenience store next to the palace. There he could pick up Fritos, Cheetos, Dr Pepper, protein powder, Operation Iraqi Freedom T-shirts, and pop music discs.

Then there are is the heart-wrenching story of the Iraqi translator who puts his life on the line only to be treated like the insignificant outsider each time he enters what should have been his space. The ladies who are no longer beautiful, the minute they are out of Iraqi air space, the contractor who is paid millions of dollars to guard a closed airport when he has no prior experience, the number cruncher who prepares the fancy bar charts telling the story of Iraq without ever getting out to see what really happens.

And the story of why a television station never takes off. When requests are made for basics like camera batteries, a teleprompter arrives and its not even intended for the newscasters. It's for Paul Bremer to deliver his weekly address to the Iraqi people.

Some of the best answers to why it never worked are evident here:
Six months after the war, the State Department conducted a study of Iraqi television-viewing habits. Sixty-three percent of Iraqis with access to a satellite dish said they got their news from al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya. Twelve percent watched the Iraqi Media Network (IMN). The IMN, Don North (a veteran television producer who had taken on the task of setting it up) concluded by then, "had become an irrelevant mouthpiece for Coalition Provisional Authority propaganda, managed news and mediocre programs." In Washington, President Bush talked about "engaging in a battle of ideas in the Arab world." But in Baghdad, North said, "we have already lost the first round."

With that, you are left with no choice but to stay up all night wanting for this to be over. Chandrasekaran's brilliant book was out in March 2007, it has deservedly had its run of the awards. As he tells us, there's a lot left to be done. The news today is proof.

If there's only book on Iraq, you intend reading, let it be this one. If you have time for more, add on Lynn O'Donnell's High Tea in Mosul and Rageh Omaar's Revolution Day to your list - that's if mine works for you.

PS: He's given you The Bourne Ultimatum. Now, watch Paul Greengrass bring this book to life. Matt Damon is expected to star in it. Don't know about you, but I just can't wait to watch this one go from script to screen.

Labels: ,


Loved it then, love it now....
The maestro scales new heights with another album.

As a reminder of India's struggle for freedom, A R Rahman has brought together several maestros to sing in his latest album. From the desert sands, he takes us to the 21-thousand foot Siachen glacier to show us Indian troops in all their glory.

A rendition of Jana, Gana, Mana, India's national anthem, is the title track and Rahman says its aimed at re-igniting fading impressions of India's struggle for independence.

Soon as you are done watching this, start searching for yet another note of musical genius.


It's fascinating India. It's where you head to without the best laid plans, often without bookings even. Sometimes, you really don't need them, if you're in the mood for exploring something different. Having watched video clips of the slamming of gates, the furious eye exchanges, lifting of feet high in the air, Amritsar became part of a semi-charted plan two years ago. To think Dad had been here for two and a half years and we'd never made it to the Wagah border to catch the action at dusk.

The sunset at the border crossing between India and Pakistan near the city of Amritsar is one of the most amazing sights. Though before you can watch the sun lose control of its rays, a bigger drama awaits you. It's almost like a theatre of war as soldiers from both sides march to the line dividing their countries in a ritual that has endured as long as the shared history of the two hostile neighbours.

They stride in, glowering at their counterparts across the border, mimicking threats. To a casual observer it seems like a brusque, bizarre march. For us, it's a show of support for the nation. As songs turn on full blast on both sides, the crowd provides the chorus. They come from all parts of India to view this from the Indian side and from all parts of Pakistan on the other side of the fence.

It's an enthusiastic show of hands when the flag is offered to the lucky one in the crowd. After the run, the flags are lowered, carried away, the gates slammed shut, only to be reopened the next morning.

If anything only glances are exchanged as each proud soldier protects his part of the soil. It's a moment of pride, it's something, the men who lead the ritual want to do as long as they can.

They are an inspiration to the hundreds who come to watch them everyday.

There's no time for exchanges friendly or otherwise. Yet, on the 15th of August they set their differences aside to share a box of sweets. Watching the pictures is stirring. A true celebration at 60. A day when the past is forgotten as the sun shines on another day.

As I script to the pictures, there's that familiar tug in the heart to see the neighbour's reconcile, to sense their collective pride of seeing their nation's grow. You can feel it, even from the ringside.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007



Need we say more?


Long overdue post, posted at the risk of repeating some stuff you've heard before...

It sold 11.3 million copies in 24 hours in the US, UK and Germany alone. That's not all, the book made it to Afghan capital Kabul, sold out in Bangladeshi capital - Dhaka, in Sri Lankan capital Colombo and flew off the book shelves in India. We haven't even got to the pirated bits yet. Should any of the statistics and facts about the seventh and final Harry Potter book - 'The Deathly Hallows' surprise you?

You bet. For a very long time, we've heard of books being sold in the hundreds, thousands, ok a couple of thousands, but millions has been unheard of. Also take a step back in time. Remember circa 1997? Wasn't there talk about the death of the book? The rise of computers, how we'll be reading books online, publishing as we know it will be redefined?

What a difference 10 years can make. Far from dying, it wasn't one or two million. In all, 325 million copies of the first six books in the series have sold worldwide. That's not all, they were translated into 64 languages, reaching out to practically every market in the world. Yes, I know the cynics would argue, how many of the millions were actually read? Even if half of them did, in my book that would be more than a perfect start.

Beyond the sales and the actual reading, its also been argued that after the initial frenzy, the calculated hype the Harry Potter novels may be forgotten. Some critics have gone a step further saying J K Rowling's prose is unlikely to sustain her reputation. I balk as I disagree. I like her style, I like the spirit of adventure and the age old battle between good versus evil. And as it's often been pointed out in the past, there's no predictable link between prose style and longevity. What matters far more in terms of staying power of a book is the creation of a world and characters that captivate readers, and that linger in the collective imagination of readers long after they have flipped the last page. Given that Harry Potter series has all of this, the Boy Wizard is certain to be with us for many, many years.

But what of the book you ask? It was expectedly a mix of emotions. Great to see the way the story panned out, fear because you never know what's going to happen next and sorrow because this was it, this was closure. It's almost like saying a final farewell to a dear friend. And to avoid the risk of giving too much away, let me say that the seventh and final book exceeds expectations. There is Rowling's spectacular narrative, bound together though the sheer magic of her pen. Like before, what makes it truly special is her ability to create so much out of human emotions.

For some the fuss may be silly, the hype over-the-top, Potter may be not just a book but a brand. For whatever its worth, I think on the whole, the debate has been great. It has stretched people's imaginations like never before. It has reminded us that reading books has been and will remain fun. Potter has taken us away from our cell phones, our X-Boxes, our computers, at least for a bit. For that and a whole lot more, I, like millions of others shall be forever indebted to Rowling's literary tour de force.

1) Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone - 1997 - PAGES 223
2) Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets - 1998- PAGES 251
3) Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban - 1999 - PAGES 317
4) Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire - 2000 - PAGES 636
5) Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix - 2003 - PAGES 766
6) Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince - 2005 - PAGES 632
7) Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows - 21st July 2007 - PAGES 607

What makes it even more special is what Rowling has had to say about his phenomenal success:
"I am an extraordinarily lucky person, doing what I love best in the world."
"It was wonderful enough just to be published. The greatest reward is the enthusiasm of the readers."

Labels: , ,

Monday, August 13, 2007


It's a world I can't imagine. For me, it's all about punching some keys, deleting, editing, cap locking - the works. I'm not a geek, yet I like my technology, the ease despite the tons I end up lugging each time I travel. Long hand takes me an eternity, don't think I'd get too far if handed an empty sheet.

Yet, here she is, 13 books out and counting. Scribbling away furiously, pen in hand. Sure makes me want to die for another De:

".....The truth is, I only trust that which bears my distinct signature. I love the physical process of holding a pen in my hand and attacking blank foolscap sheets. I like to watch as words form on the page.

There is a special thrill in that act alone. I like the mistakes to remain visible, not disappear at the light touch of the Delete key, as if they never happened.

I like revisiting old manuscripts from time to time, touching the chunky pads filled with sentences written at a manic pace. The scratches and doodles in the margins tell their own stories.

There are hastily scribbled telephone numbers (whose? why?), and little memos to myself (“dhobi’s day: ask the bugger why he tore the new bedsheets”). Would this happen were I to switch? How impersonal the tech world appears in comparison."

What does it take for the prolific Shobhaa De to keep the world at her fingertips? Find out here.

Labels: ,


Dig deep....

Cruuunch again....
Slurrrp again....
Top it with a noisy burp....
Hello, Hello....

Yes, yes, kiss coming up.....
Close, very close....

You know that connection....
It happened in Goa....
He's going....

I tell ya when ya flip the page that's what happens next....

Yak, yak, yakkity yak....

Oh well.....
welcome to the movies, where scenes like these are all too common, the Simpson warning notwithstanding. Can you really blame the DVDs?

Agreed part of the joy of being at the movies lies in crunching the corn, spinning the yarn, revealing some endings, but must we choose to unlock our jaws with such ease?

It won't be that annoying if it were one of the ha, ha, hee, hee kinda movies. Here we are at the sneak preview of the Bourne Ultimatum and the guy behind us is armed with his copy of the Ludlum saga. The extent of showing off, the copy in hand, the desperate flipping of pages proof he doesn't quite know his book yet.

He tells his pals what happens in this part, then the next. I'm reminded of reviews that give the ending away, that tear hair over the text, sub-text and everything else in between.

You reach a point when you want to scream shhh quiet. Quiet it is, when our neighbour reaches that threshold of pain - of knowing the story before its even begun - and tells the guys behind us to discuss it later. To add mirch to the masala, he reminds them that the novel is only loosely based on the Ludlum novel.

It works, the shhh quietens down the noisy three-some as it does a couple of noisy munchers.

Then we settle down to enjoy what we really should - The Bourne Ultimatum.

Matt Damon is back as assassin Jason Bourne.

He's intelligent, he's smart, he addresses our worst fears and shows us his brains at work in the raging battle of the bullets. It could easily have been a bang, bang movie shot in various locales - some exotic, others not quite. It effortlessly lifts itself above all of that leaping into the realms of an intelligent thriller.

Having contributed a wee bit, to the Ultimatum's ringing revenues of US $33.6 million in the second weekend, I can safely say the ones who made for its record-breaking opening weren't wrong. For the record, that was a swell US$69.3 million.

I loved it and I'm sure you will too - the corn, chips n slurpees notwithstanding.

PS: And to see how Desh, the hitman is transformed in a Dash, look no further than TIME.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, August 10, 2007


Pages: 300
Year: 2007
Published By: Fig Tree, an imprint of Penguin Books

How silly can these girls get? What about their families, can they not see it hitting them in the face? Will that email chatter stop for a bit? What are they going to do next?

Alright, the cover may be gorgeous but the narrative doesn't sing immediately. Instead, it's the little details that resonate and it is those details that draw you into the lives of Gamrah, Lamees, Michelle and Sadeem - the 'Girls of Riyadh' originally Banat al-Riyadh in Arabic.

The book was hotly debated, banned, then made it big in the black market. If you are expecting lots of sex in the city, that's not what it is. There is love, largely doomed and explained through an in your face narrative. The wildest things happen when the girls are organise a bridal shower or when Sadeem imagines the signing of her wedding contract is as good as a marriage and ends up being rejected by her persistent suitor for apparently being forthright. Michelle's life is torn apart when she develops more than a little attraction for her cousin and Gamrah's life seems doomed the day singlehood ends.

As each of their stories unfold, you piece together the bits you have barely heard about Saudi society. As it was first written in Arabic and for an audience that already knows its ground, the novel is shorn of embellishments, Rajaa Alsanea tells the story as it should be. Full credit to her for keeping us guessing, flipping the pages and hoping for the very best for the girls.

I enjoyed it thoroughly, even though when I started I imagined it would be another one of those take on your plane ride kinda book.

Speaking of literary prophecies, here's one right in the book:

The series of enticing offers continue, as do all sorts of propositions, and I cannot distinguish the sincere from the scam. One Saudi producer sent me a proposal to transform my e-mails into a Ramadan TV series of thirty episodes? Why not? If we were already talking about publishing it as a novel, why not film it for TV? I concur with our own Abdullah Al-Ghadhami (established Saudi critic), that the literature of the written word is bourgeois, while the image is democratic. I prefer the series to the novel, because I want stories of my friends to reach everyone. This would certainly be a beginning.

I couldn't agree more.

Labels: ,


First Shalini Akhil told me about. Then my sis in law. Everything else is passe. Facebook is it, they said. Tired it, sure is amazingly cool. Took me very little time to get my pictures organised. Take a look here, here and here.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


The lovely Yasmine Gooneratne. Her novel The Sweet and Simple Kind has been nominated for the 2008 Dublin International IMPAC Literary Award.

And in double joy for her publishers, Ameena Hussein's novel The Moon in the Water has been long-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize.

Twenty-three candidates made the cut from 243 entries for the inaugural prize, exceeding the organisers expectations. What doesn't surprise me though is 11 Indian authors feature on the long list. Here's to more interesting times ahead.

Labels: , ,


Being on this list means something.

You've arrived, you've been noticed, this could well be your year of flying, speaking, being feted, toasted and being whisked away from your desk for a year of lectures, talks, lit fests, seminars - you get the picture. It's the literary red carpet roll.

It would have most people jumping for joy, announcing it to the world, popping the bubbly because making it to the long list is cause for celebration.

Which is possibly why, Tan Twan Eng shocks me with his modesty. In a one line mail that arrived early this morning, all he tells me is : "Just to share with you - I'm on the Booker Prize Longlist for 2007." I'm over the moon. I was introduced to him by Sharon Bakar. After several email exchanges, the interview almost didn't happen as he waited to hear from me and I from him. And then when the dates were sorted out, he organised his own trip, his accommodation and did a couple of interviews. We spent time talking about his writing process, how he couldn't share too much of his writing while he was working on it, his debut, his characters and what took him to South Africa. He'd dealt with rejection with his manuscript, yet he'd taken it in his stride and he hoped his book would resonate with readers. Having made this cut is proof enough that it has and I am delighted for him.

Just as I am to see Mohsin Hamid on the list as well.

The Guardian tells us about all the big names that have been cast aside in what Waterstone's dubbed 'a giant-felling list.'

All I'll say is, it offers hope to fresh new voices in the literary sphere. Congratulations all....

The long list is:
- Tan Twan Eng 'The Gift Of Rain'
- Mohsin Hamid 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist'
- Nikita Lalwani 'Gifted'
- Indra Sinha 'Animal's People'
- Nicola Barker 'Darkmans'
- Edward Docx 'Self Help'
- Anne Enright 'The Gathering'
- Peter Ho Davies 'The Welsh Girl'
- Lloyd Jones 'Mister Pip'
- Ian McEwan 'On Chesil Beach'
- Catherine O'Flynn 'What Was Lost'
- Michael Redhill 'Consolation'
- AN Wilson 'Winnie & Wolf'

The short list will be announced on September 6th and the winner on October 16th.

Labels: , ,


Thanks to Amarjit, some gems from the book Disorder in the Court. These are things people actually said in court:

ATTORNEY: Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until the next morning?
WITNESS: Did you actually pass the bar exam?

ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?
WITNESS: By death.
ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?
WITNESS: Now whose death do you suppose terminated it?

ATTORNEY: Can you describe the individual?
WITNESS: He was about medium height and had a beard.
ATTORNEY: Was this a male or a female?

ATTORNEY: Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?
WITNESS: All my autopsies are performed on dead people. Would you like to rephrase that?


Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Professor Sen's talk has had me thinking for days. He made some incisive comments about the issue of identity, about why and how we feel for some places not others. It is a given that multiple identities exist.

I can only speak for myself in this case. Despite having left India 10 years, the sights, sounds, smells immediately evoke the feeling of home. In Mulund, Mumbai, its the aroma of the flowers, the cheek to jowl bhaji wallas, the saree shop. In Ahmedabad, the mere thought of the old city, the colours of the fabrics, the dusty drive into Vastrapur, the pot holed one to Vejalpur, makes me crave for a cup of IIM chai. In Dehra Dun, from Turner Road to Rajpur Road to the Ghosi Galli - it's like a sunshine walk. In Chandigarh, the quiet of Sector 36, the immediate connect of the 22 market to the posh stuff at Sector 17. I'm equally at home it each of these places. All of them are defined by their special moments, events that somehow mark my identity.

I'm feel equally at home at Orchard Road, at Serangoon, at Bukit Timah and in my former estates - Bukit Batok and Jurong. Even within a single city, there are various dimensions to my identity. Some days all I want is Chicken Rice, Char Kway Teow or Dim Sum. Most other days, its jeera paratha with homemade daal. On rare occasions, its a French treat.

As I flit between places, I long for home. Though I'm often torn by the question - where is home now? You've been away so long does India really mean home to you? Yes, because there is family there, I've grown up there. The same holds true for Singapore. There is family here, we've all grown up together with our children giving us major lessons in life. So it is that we have emerged like those little Russian dolls, that Professor Sen spoke about. Different yet sort of same simultaneously.

Could that be why we gravitate to the shopping at Mustafa, the food at Go India or the Bollywood beats at Rupee Room, even though at Clarke Quay your choice could be anything?


Forget rubbing shoulders, it isn't often that you even get to hear a Nobel Laureate. And when that Laureate happens to be Amartya Sen, you are more than ready to drop everything to listen in. He's spent a lifetime fighting poverty with analysis rather than activism. He has highlighted the many contradictions of our systems. He's talked at length about poverty, about famine and highlighted how thousands could starve even when a country is producing enough food.

His Nobel Prize is proof enough of his razor sharp brain, which is on display when he stops his reading of 'The Argumentative Indian.' It's not that I have anything against reading but there's a certain type that does it better than the rest. And Professor Sen is a more engaging mind when the floor is opened up for argument. The crowd perks up, those who'd been flipping pages of the book till then stop fidgeting and are all set for question time. The hands go up though there's only time to squeeze in three. That's because he's spent close to 30 minutes reading. Organisers, take note, Q and A matters.

It's evident in this case. In those three answers, Professor Sen covers India-China relations, India's history, issues of identity, where he feels he belongs, the importance of dialogue in a democracy. As he moves effortlessly from religion to culture to education to the history of the Indian ancient texts, he unravels so many worlds for the spell-bound audience. Almost everyone wants more yet as it often does, time runs out. In those moments, however fleeting, his versatility and expertise has touched the students, the professionals, the academics, the accountants and even the hardened scribes in attendance.

I'd been forewarned about his engagements and was hoping to make do with the shots of his talk. But a glass of red wine dashed my best laid plans. When I told him about it, he was apologetic and promised to give me a few moments of his time before he rushed off for his next engagement. I was expecting him to forget all about it, after all lesser mortals do. He didn't. Before rushing off for his dinner meeting, he gave me exactly five minutes of his time and it was all that mattered as he spoke on identity and what makes one feel at home in one part of the world and not the other:
Britishness is a very important thing for the British to have, just as I'm very keen on Indians to have Indianness. I've lived in Britain, I vote in Britain as a citizen of the Commonwealth. I also live and work in America but I don't get that feeling of belonging in America, even though Uncle Sam took 400,000 Dollars of my Nobel money because I'm a taxpayer. I don't have a sense of Americanness, because I don't vote. But I don't think there is anything peculiar about accepting the concept of multiple identities because if we accept our identities are plural, we can be like those little Russian dolls, all packed up one into another, being different and same simultaneously.

On how critical the tradition of argument is for a democracy and for democratic systems to work:
I think it is very central because to express different points of view, to discuss them, analyse them and argue about them, in the absence of all of these you can't even vote intelligently. The centrality of argument is recognised in each culture though the Indian culture, in particular has been very lucky in empathising that for a very long time. In some respects it's a much broader level of argument that we see today. In some other respects, its not that broad a level of argument. I think the nature of dialogue changes with the times and I'm not at all surprised about that.

On the media and the key role it can play in sustaining certain issues:
I think the media can bring attention to issues which would otherwise not have got the kind of attention they deserve. I think the media is very important. Now, what is the optimum number of newspapers or news channels, that I don't know. One has to think of the ability of media to do its work in a hard fact finding way. They need to present truths to the world in a rigorous manner and engage the world in an interesting way.

Labels: , ,


When you spend so much time training your eye on the lens, you often forget about yourself. When you head back that's when it hits you that you've got pictures of the dog, cat, sun, moon, stars and practically nothing to remember your fine moments by. That's when festival directors like the turbo charged Jeni Caffin dig deep to pull out shots like these. The shots are courtesy Rosie Lee, who I'm pretty certain spent a lot more time behind the camera than I did.

On the opening night with Nury Vittachi, Irina Dunn and Elizabeth Fallon:

With Lynda Dean:

Keep an eye on her. The enormously talented Jane Camens is soon to announce details of the Asia-Pacific New Writing Partnership. She's had me all ears and abuzz with excitement:

Making sense of the media circus with Elizabeth Best, James Phelan and Nury Vittachi. Actor and Author Barbara Ewing was there as well, just happens to be missing in this shot.

I'm put in a plastic chair to ensure I'm not just a piece of furniture in the discussion on the art of chairing a panel.

Does this spell the end?

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, August 05, 2007


King Khan is back....
Your wait ends 9th August


Do not Disturb.....


Trailer of 'Gandhi, My Father' - a debut that makes you sit up and take notice.

Friday, August 03, 2007


When in Byron Bay, don't go looking for travelling like a Master....
Instead it's.....
Go ahead take your pick.....

Labels: ,


You saw it all in a different light....
Need proof of prettiness all round?

Labels: ,


Each time I pack my bags, head to an unknown bed, I tend to lower my expectations.

You can never get your own bed, your type of cushions or whatever else defines 'mine' when you are away. Logic determines you shouldn't even expect it.

Given the packed skeds all round, the room was the last thing on our minds. We knew it was called 'Solace', it was on Lawson Street in Byron Bay. Would it live upto its name, we wondered as we drove from the festival site to what we imagined would be our humble abode. And garbage bins didn't give it away.

So we trudged up the steps, heavy bags in tow. We stuck the key in the door, we imagined it would be alright. We turned the keys, then we lost our step and our breath along the way.

It was more than beautiful. 'Solace' it truly was. Done just right, with the pictures framing pristine walls, this was a place to call home.

It was right smack in town, offering a walk to our favourite restaurant 'Fishheads', to the beach, to the shopping stretch, to the sandwich bars. Wish we had time to make a little more of it.

Moments like these will be far and few between. Janet and I are destined to meet at Ubud next, where she'll be leading her fine literary festival. You'll never see her pause, come September.

Labels: , ,


You could call it that. The 11th year. 10,000 attendances. Three days of fun in the sun. 132 authors. 80 sessions. There was so much to choose from that you ended up wishing you weren't that stretched for time.

I flitted in and out of various sessions. And some of them have been ringing an even beat.

The media mattered right from the start. David Marr's opening speech was sparkling and thought provoking at the same time. It set the tone for what was to follow. Witty exchanges with serious undertones. Almost every session on the media saw audiences spilling out of the marquees.

When they weren't doing the talking, the children were. The stage was their domain and they embraced it with pride. They spoke of their ideas, what goes into the writing of their book, what it takes to get a publisher, how not to be turned off by rejection. If you shut your eyes and listened in, the thoughts could well have been those of a seasoned pro.

Actor and author Barbara Ewing was mesmeric. In a sentence, she drew you in and told you not to ever steer away from the written word.

Nury Vittachi filled up the early morning marquees with his not so quiet sense of humour. He drew them in and kept them there and for that I'm eternally grateful, since he was on both the panels that I chaired.

Russell Eldridge and Mick O'Regan ensured I wasn't relegated to a piece of furniture. They are among the finest moderators, if you failed to hear them this time, make sure you mark their sessions.

Mungo MacMacullam for stirring things as he always does.

To begin the official thank yous.....
Chris Hanley and Jeni Caffin for having me back.
Muriel for the best smile at the festival and ensuring all went according to plan.
To John, the wonderful bus guy who gave me an unscripted tour of Brisbane.

And the biggest of them all....
To all of you who made it to the sessions and ensured they rocked.

And to those wonderful folks who urged me to keep sending recommendations because "hearing Asian voices is refreshing." I'm sure David Lesar would like it otherwise.


Thursday, August 02, 2007


For those who read the blog and packed in the woollies, my apologies. Trust me, it wasn't like this at all last year. We froze, we smacked locked jaws, we walked with endless cups of coffee waiting for some splendour in the grass. Nothing worked. This year, when we came all prepared, the sun chose to shine. I'm so not complaining though.

When you thought they couldn't get any younger, this lil one swept her feet above the ground.

A tisket, a tasket, a book full of baskets....
Now, turn those words around.....

The messages were on the boards....

And this panel was special for many reasons.

It was about an issue close to my heart. It packed the six of us, including the fine moderator Fiona Martin. At one point, it seemed like we'd off the stage, like we'd never get to the end of it, that time would run out (it did!), like all good things this too would end. There were so many perspectives, just as any discussion on blogging should well be. Marieke Hardy, Antony Loewenstein, Kate Crawford and Shalini Akhil made everyone in the audience realise how much more there is to learn in the blogosphere. Beyond that, there was a whole lot more.

You've heard the stories,Antony gave them a face. He recently finished a tour of some of the world's danger zones and spoke of bloggers who keep on despite the obvious dangers in places like Iran, Iraq, Egypt. There's another book in the works and I know this one can't wait.

I'd heard Kate Crawford a day before we met on this panel and loved the way she took on Mungo MacCallum, reminded us there was nothing wrong with Oprah and by the end of it all had us seriously Twittering away.

Marieke Hardy was the most colourful of us all. A hat tip for all her stories, of surviving being stalked online and persisting with one of the many things she balances in her packed young life. Her blog has resulted in a column, so never ever go into those bits of self-doubt. As I've often said before, if you do it with heart, if you put in your soul, if your writing sings, the music will accompany the lyrics.

Meeting Shalini Akhil is always great. She always livens up any panel. She holds her ground and boy can she debate. What I also like is how she shares much good stuff on her blog .

As for yours truly, the blog is the story.

Labels: ,


Why have there been no posts?
How was the festival?
Are you alright?
Is everything ok?

I wish I had all the answers. I really do. At the festival itself, there was no time to breathe and ponder. I was either getting on or off panels or rushing to get the shots to complete the story that will be filed soon. The weather was perfect. So much for lugging winter wear, jackets, gloves n all!

Did a longish stretch getting into Byron Bay and an even longer one getting back. Thought sleep wouldn't beat me on the air plane but it did.

I, who has, never known jet lag felt the ground slipping below me feet. Knew the feeling of being neither here nor there. My eyes hurt each time I attempted to peer at the screen. After one full night's of sleep, it's great to feel human again, to look and to update. Lots happened over the sun-filled days, the posts are about to head your way.