Saturday, April 27, 2019

SASSI BY RAJVEER SINGH PRAJAPATI: A Journey to be remembered with Closed Eyes

Sassi is a Hindi translation of the novel written by Rajveer Singh Prajapati titled Destined Lives - Journey till the Start published by Leadstart Publishing Private Ltd. in the year 2013. The Hindi translation titled Sassi published in the year 2016 by Redgrab Books followed the success of the English title.

After reading Sassi, the Hindi translation, it is difficult to say if it's a translation at all. One may wonder if Sassi, the Hindi novel is the source that was translated to English under the title Destined Lives - Journey till the start. The only criteria I adopt here to differentiate the source text and the target text or translated text is the chronology. Only after the publication of Destined Lives did they release Sassi. So if you find me addressing the Hindi title as a translation, the publication date is only to blame.   

In Sassi, the author uses nostalgia with skill. From the cover, which looks classy to the yellow cream-coloured pages of the book, to the literariness of the language, the book plays with the art of nostalgia. Sassi reminds us of the great writers of the Hindi realm like Premchand and Suryakanth Tripathi in the use of language and tonalities.

Rajveer Singh Prajapati 
This novel would invoke those forgotten memories of strong women who we know exists amidst us though unnamed. The titular character is a young woman named Sassi who journeys through the peaks and valleys of life and shines through all her pain as an admirable hero of the story of her life. She is just nine years old when the story begins. She is from Darjeeling. More than her family, it is Mohanty Babu who becomes the pool of solace for her at her young age. However, the story of her life changes when she is sent to live in a hostel. Mohanty Babu vanishes and never returns. Sassi promises herself that she will forget her past of lumbering pain. However, she couldn't help but sketch his face but in vain.

Sassi had lost her beloved one. The pain of loss captures Sassi. She is a slave to the memories of her past. How could she ever dream about overcoming the chains of painful memories? She had to consider these chains as her comforters when it was their time to rule over her mind and body. But before long, Sassi realizes that the chains that bind her are not there to protect her.

As part of a student exchange programme, Sassi goes to Sikkim. There she meets the charismatic young man named Veer. He is an army officer. His manly voice and demeanour attract Sassi. However, they were never meant to be together. With grief still in her heart, Sassi's life takes her to Delhi. In Delhi, Sassi finds herself lost to the multitudinous concerns of the city. Raj enters her life. There, in the city called the heart of India, Sassi realizes the true meaning of the many events in her life.   

The story of Sassi is narrated with a sad undertone. Melancholy marks every turn in her life. However, there is hope in the end. Rajveer Singh Prajapati's skill as a writer is evident in the way he structured the novel. He uses ample Urdu expressions in this Hindi classic. His passion and love for language are evident from every page you read in the book. Every sentence is lyrical and feels like a quote deep with the multilayered meaning of life. Sassi's journey is a memorable one, a journey that needs to be remembered with closed eyes.

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

RAIN DROPS AND CATERPILLARS by Anuradha Prasad: A Book on Millennial Indian Urban Neighbourhoods

Anuradha Prasad's collection of six short stories under the title Rain Drops and Caterpillars evokes some first-time moments and their significances. Her characters hail from different backgrounds. Consequently, these stories have unique perspectives to share. Each of them is different from one another.

If you go by the urge to locate rarity, a short story collection would certainly match the intention in the Indian literary scene. Short story collections are rare in a world ruled by novels. Rain Drops and Caterpillars inspires one to think of the weight of a short story in comparison to a novel. It feels like looking at the legendary scene of David and Goliath. The dwarf had a final victory over the giant. Rain Drops and Caterpillars includes stories about first love, love breaks, heartaches, dedication, and commitment to one's country, an inspiring story on parenting, moving on from an abusive relationship, and homosexuality. The stories are told in a language charged with emotions.

The stories in Rain Drops and Caterpillars are told in such a way that they appeal to one's emotional sensibility. The first response of any reader would be to have increased heart rates. The intellect would be triggered only secondly. Rain Drops and Caterpillars proves that to intellectualize an idea, the heart is the best route.

Anuradha Prasad is an artist, speaker, and author. She has worked with and published thousands of articles for top newspapers and magazines. She has a PhD in English literature from Mumbai University and was on the cover of Times' 'West Side Plus' and several notable publications. Her previous books are Two Winters and 365 Days and Coming Back Home, which exceeded 10,000 downloads on Kindle. The major themes she writes on are, internal transformation and self-discovery.

The first story in the collection, "Sublimity" reminds us of how important it is to be open-minded as parents. The challenges that Roushni faces in her life are not able to stop her. The moment her parents, Sakshi and Harshad came to know about the biggest challenge in their daughter's life, they are shattered. The prose of Anuradha Prasad etches a picture of pain in our mind. However, the two parents do not stop there. This is my favourite story in the collection, a powerful narrative with creativity, love, aspirations, and family at its centre.

The second story is titled "Acceptance". A gay couple strives to finds their space in a society that is blind towards sexualities that are not part of the norm. The story takes place in Mumbai. Two young men, with their relationships, taught like a bowstring struggle to express their identities. A tragedy takes one of them. The darkness of death would not keep life its prisoner for long. There is hope at the end of the tunnel. There is "acceptance." I am positive that you'll remember Sam long after closing this book. The subject matter of this story may seem highly political. Still, the author has given it a tender touch with her skill in bringing up human emotions at its best.

In "Courage," we meet Raghav and Soumya. They had been married for five years. Theirs is an abusive relationship. Often relationships are forged on habits. Individuals have a difficult time breaking habits. Soumya also finds a light at the end of the tunnel. Courage accompanies her to the end of that tunnel.

The fourth story "Compassion" is a heart-warming tale of affection among Narmada, Popsi, and Deep. Narmada and Deep are brother and sister. Popsi is their pet dog. One day, he goes missing.

In the fifth story, "Devotion" we meet Priya who wants to honour her husband's memories. Her husband was in the Indian army and was martyred while facing a terrorist attack.

"Deceit", the final story in the collection is also the most complex. In "Deceit", Nilesh realizes the true purpose of his life. He is in love with Sudha. His love is deep and blind. Inevitably, he suffers. What is intriguing about this narrative is the author's skills to bring out expressions of even the most subtle layers of the human psyche. For any budding writers, reading this story shall give perspectives about the craft of writing a romance. Although the story is short, the varying levels of fancy, ambition, desire, and infatuation are touched upon skilfully and in detail.

From Sakshi and Harshad along with their talented daughter Roushni in the first story, to Nilesh and Sudha in the end, every character in the story neatly touches upon something - an event, an experience, or a transformative force- for the first time in their lives. Consider Sam in the second story, for example. He has never had an inkling of the tragedy that would befall his lover Jess. Yet, he faces that phase, for the first time. Facing pain for the first time, all her characters show courage. From their courage, we derive hope, as readers. In Rain Drops and Caterpillars, Anuradha Prasad writes about people facing existential questions, from grownups to children. It is also noteworthy that all her stories are set in Indian urban background, post-millennium. Still, each story is about people from different strata of this millennial Indian urban society.     

Published by Ink State, an imprint of Leadstart Publishing, Rain Drops and Caterpillars is clothed in a colourful cover, which aligns harmoniously with the message of hope and survival shared in the book. Leadstart Publishing Pvt. Ltd. is the publishing company that gave author Anand Neelakantan his big break by publishing and marketing his books such as Asura and Ajaya. Rain Drops and Caterpillars has readable typesetting. The size of the book also helps to handle it in small storing spaces like your backpack or luggage. It's an easy read and you'll find yourself enjoying these stories while you are travelling by train or plane. 

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

WORLD BOOK DAY: Interview with Shilpi Moda Signodia, author of Innocent Wings

Author Shilpi Moda Signodia is a trained management professional who took up writing and parenting as her vocations. Her new book Innocent Wings is a tour de force uproots some aged redundancies regarding parenting in the Indian context. The unique contextual sensibility renders the book with phenomenal relevance. In the light of the recent child-abuse cases registered in Kerala, my home state, I'd say, every parent and individual with a family must read Innocent Wings and rethink the ways in which they treat their children.

            Now, friends, I get a bit greedy when it comes to books and related materials. So after perusing Innocent Wings and opening my eyes to these new possibilities in parenting and child-caring, I felt the urge to talk to the author to get some answers to questions that were welling up inside me.  The result is this short interview with the author Shilpi.

            Through this short interview, I expect to unveil the writing process of the author to my readers who also happen to be writers.  Also, this is a humble attempt to introduce an author to those regions and people who haven't read her before. I wish someone could translate Innocent Wings to Malayalam and other regional languages so that it can reach more people. However, I must admit that the language adopted by Shilpi in writing this book is easy to understand without special knowledge of English. The narration of Innocent WIngs is simple, honest, and direct. For more information on Innocent Wings, visit this link here.

 Happy World Book Day!

Anu Lal Interviews 
author Shilpi Moda Signodia

I am so honoured to have the opportunity to interview you, dear author Shilpi ji. I am very much moved by the torrent of underlying emotions in your book, Innocent Wings. Several questions welled up in my mind while reading your book. I have included the relevant ones here.

            Also as a reader, I have always been keen to look at how the writer thinks about the process of writing. So there are some questions that may seem general.

            Anu Lal: With Innocent Wings you have certainly made a mark in the Indian English          literary scene. You told a poignant story in realistic terms. The characters aren't fictional. Are they? Why did you choose to write about Dyslexia?

Author Shilpi: No, none of the characters is fictional. All are real. Why dyslexia, because we have a tendency to consider only those problems as a problem which are extremes. Like sexual harassment, too many talks on that. But, why we ignore the small small issues, from where it becomes havoc.

Dyslexia is not any disease, it is a situation which could arise with any child, genetic or not genetic. It could be situational too. The only thing that can be done ease the problem, is to talk about it, be aware and accept.  This is my own story, Rudra is no one but my son.

Anu Lal: In your acknowledgement section, you mention that the book is the result of a group effort. Indeed, there is no question about how fulfilling Innocent Wings is. What is your process of writing? a) When do you find time to write; how many words do you write every day? As a full-time mother, we completely understand that this is probably the most important of all questions anyone could ask. b) Do you work with a plot or plan in mind or are you a spontaneous writer? c) How many drafts do you write before publishing a book?

Author Shilpi: Too many questions in a question. I am just a pen lover. I don’t follow any format. Its just my fingers flow on my keyboard to narrate the music of my story. Actually, there is no process that I follow, I am just an amateur writer, there is lot more to learn.
a)      I write when my children are at school. That’s the best time. But, that also depends on the official workload, sometimes late night. It's like, a fitoor, cant be expressed, how.
b)      Plot is always there, but still its spontaneous. I flow with the flow.
c)      I just make one draft. And every time I read, changes are made. If I’ll the draft 100 times, then 100 times I will be changing it again and again. I was unable to move to chapter four because of this, then I decided not to read it until I finish.

Anu Lal: Who introduced you to the publishing industry? Do you have a godfather in the industry or friends who help you out?

Author Shilpi: No, I don’t have any Godfather or anyone who helped me. It's just I wrote my first book, Mr Google helped me in finding the list of publishers, and I selected Notion Press for my first book. Then once I stepped into this field, thanks to Social Media, I came across with other author and marketing people. And went deep into it.

Anu Lal: Could you please tell us about your experience with Kalamos Literary Services?

Author Shilpi: Kalamos Literary Services, headed by Mr. Anuj, who is a wonderful person. He will guide you and support you at every step. I really have enjoyed my author journey with this company. Truly adore this young entrepreneur, and if reads this, Thank you so much Anuj.

Anu Lal: After reading Innocent Wings, as a reader, I strongly recommend you to write a sequel to this book. Would you like to tell us in the future what happens to Rudra and others?

Author Shilpi: I don’t know how to work on the sequel of the book. It cannot be on Rudra as he is now completely out of this issue. He is doing great. But next if I would write, I would like to write about the adults who are dealing with this issue, and since it is so late that they have to spend their entire life with the problem. How things could be sorted out for dyslexic adults, what are the solutions available for them.

Anu Lal: As a writer myself, I feel that one of the most complicated phases in the process of publishing is fixing a blurb to the book. This is the same with choosing a sales copy (book description) for Amazon and other online retailers. What's your take on this? Who wrote the blurb and book description to your book?

            Author Shilpi:  The blurb, bios, synopsis, everything was done by me. It wasn’t very difficult, because I knew what this book is about.

That was wonderful! So many insights are squeezed into such a short space. Along with my readers, I thank you for taking the time from your precious schedule to answer these questions, dear author Shilpi. We are eagerly awaiting your next book.

          Dear readers, go grab copies of Shilpi Signodia's book using the links given below.

Friday, April 19, 2019

ENDURER: A RAPE STORY by Kapil Raj- A Search for Meaning while Enduring a Trauma

    In a place called Munirka, located in the South Delhi area, several men brutally raped a young girl. Among the assailants (visible, invisible, and symbolic), the court convicted four. Those four were directly involved in the case. The Indian visual media covered this incident with all its might. The print news media also supported the cause of the young girl. They called her Nirbhaya, the one without fear. The date of the incident was on 16 December 2012.

    A documentary titled India's Daughter came out in 2015. Leslee Udwin directed it. In 2018, another documentary, directed by Bidisha Adhikari, Kanchan Adhikari, and Payal Kaashyap released.

    Although the visual media and print news media keenly followed the incident and its aftermath, the realm of literature stayed mostly incapable of giving expression to the horror. Love stories, one after the other, filled bookshelves of readers across India.

    In 2018, Write India Publishers takes up a book proposal. Kapil Ray was the author of the book. Endurer: A Rape Story was the title of the book. The term "endurer" indicates a person who endures. In Shakespeare, one may find characters that appear in the title of the work itself, like Macbeth or Othello. In Kapil Raj, the endurer is Palak.

    Palak, Tanya, Arav, Sam, Jahan, Uday, Rohin and Ankita are part of the story. The narrator of the tale is Palak and therefore the horrors that envelop her body, mind, and spirit appear deeply engraved in the words we read.

    The boundary between right and wrong, the subjective veil between our deepest fears and the eternal saving dilutes for a moment. Palak finds herself helpless after watching a video that plays her hellish moment of mistake. She realizes that she was raped only after the incident was over and after her drug-induced sleep. She sees that it was Rohin, one of the friends of Uday.  

    I found the language of the book full of humour and wit, a rare quality in writers in Indian writing in English. Palak struggles with her hallucinations. Her reality is not defined by her own strength. Her journey is a search for the meaning of life. "If your life does not mean anything to you, give it to the ones who need it," Palak realizes.

    Kapil Raj is based in New Delhi, India. Endurer is his first novel. His writing shows elements of philosophy and an understanding of the human mind. Carpe diem is the ideology of the lives lead by Palak and friends. Post the turning point in the story, Palak goes through a multi-faceted understanding of the pain that she goes through. For Palak, suffering trauma is not just a one-dimensional event. She experiences the trauma on many levels and forces her to seek the true meaning of her life. This may also suggest a philosophy of the author that only those who are ready to open up and immerse themselves completely in life can survive it too.

    Endurer can be addressed as a survival story. It's also an existentialist investigation into the layers of meaning one has to unravel while enduring a traumatic incident. The cover of the book is well designed and any book collection should have a copy of this book just for the cover design. The material used for the cover is also unique in comparison. It's a matt finish, yet with a heavy coating of plastic.  

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

INNOCENT WINGS by Shilpi: A Book for Elementary, Secondary School Teachers, Parents, and All Others who Love Children

If you are a fan of Tare Zameen Par, you'll be surprised and shocked to see how much India needs to change even in the post-Tare-Zameen-Par era.

Innocent Wings is a poignant story about a mother's transformation and a five-year-old boy's bravery. The book is categorised as a work of fiction. The story of Rudra and of his mother is a narrative that borders fiction. However, the elements of reality that helps to root this story in the mind of the reader are heavy. This book can be read only with a heavy heart, especially if one has loved a child and held him/her impossibly close to heart.

Innocent Wings is subtitled as "Dyslexia, Childhood, Parenting". The themes that appear in the book are much deeper and multifaceted. The story begins with the starting of Rudra's school day. A normal day for Rudra is comprised of yelling from his mother at home, and teachers at school. He is quite happy though when his little brother is born to his mother. Yet we see clouds of anxiety envelop the mother's mind.

The mother, who is the narrator of the story, is an "invisible fighter" to borrow a phrase from author Kapil Raj. No one is capable of seeing her fight. Her agonies, wounds, and endurance are hidden from the world. She constantly fights for her little one, Rudra. Occasionally, though she is smoothened by the presence of her husband Harish.

The mother realized that Rudra has a learning disability. This was evidenced by his performance at school. She decides to take him to a child psychologist. She searches online and finds an address. She goes out to meet the child psychologist. However, the experience that followed this venture fills her with more pain. After another year, in Grade II, the counsellor at school discovers our Rudra. This was made possible by the intervention of the new class teacher.

From there, after a series of encounters with dedicated and honest professionals working in the field of child psychology and counselling, our little Rudra finds a new world of possibilities. Just like the narrator of the story, readers also have dampened eyes while going through each major shift in the life of Rudi, our little Rudra.

As a mother, the narrator realizes that she is not the only one with a son born with extraordinary gifts. As part of the journey of being a mother, a silent fighter, she understands her own lack of perception. She learns that her own prejudice prevented her from seeing Rudra as a person with high potential. There are moments in his growth when Rudra presents superhuman capacity as a learner, as on the occasion when he was asked to read a chapter. He is a poor reader and the mother knows it. But to her surprise Rudra readers the whole chapter without the slightest error. When she inquires him how he did this, Rudra answers her that he memorised the whole chapter. She could not believe her ears. This was Rudra's gift.

Innocent Wings is a book that does more than just telling a story with its full ark. Author Shilpi provides informative elements in each chapter of the book. We learn that Dyslexia is not just a specific disease or disorder. It may show up in different children in different forms of learning "problems". Their behaviour may appear as problems for a teacher who only things inside the box, who cannot keep an open mind. Indeed, Innocent Wings is a necessary read for teachers as well. Adding its academic value the author has provided six appendices at the end of the book. It includes topics ranging from an interview with the school counsellor Shivani to interview with parents of specially gifted children.

Other topics from the Appendix include: Methodology of Teaching, In Conversation with Educators Across India, Encounter with Radha, and The Views of Parents-those are not ready to accept. Gleaning information from the Appendices, one can clearly see that many characters that appear in the story are not fictional. The story is Rudra is not an imaginary one at all.

A comparative analysis is not possible with Innocent Wings. This is because not many books are written on the subject of Dyslexia that is accessible to the public. Here is a book that has a lucid, easy-to-grasp-narrative style, the tonality of a loving mother, reflecting all the innocence of the little pair of eyes that look at you while holding the book. Needless to say, Kalamos Literary Services, has done a wonderful job publishing this book. The book has a nearly perfect cover, which serves both the purpose of attracting the reader and thereby helping the reader not to miss this jewel of a book.

The MRP of the book is Rs 199. But you can get it at a huge discount from Amazon. Here.    

Shilpi Signodia is the author of Hangover, contributing author of Encrypted Letters, and a blogger. She is a trained management-professional. She shines her magic through her motherhood and now through her works of literature throughout the world. Through Innocent Wings, Shilpi has established herself as a leading voice in preserving the innocence of the true gifts of children in a world that is too harsh to judge them based on their shortcomings.

Innocent Wings is a book with a heart of kindness and empathy. I am going to recommend this book to all my teaching colleagues. I would like to recommend this book for both elementary school teacher as well as secondary school teachers. When a reading or writing disability or slowness to grasp is seen, as teachers, we are quick to judge it as the child's lack of capabilities. We forget that it may the sign of something remarkable in them. Tare Zameen Par, the Amir Khan movie released in 2007 changed the way educators treat their children in India. However, even now, in many of the best-known institutions, the reality is murkier. Children who do not show excellence in written examinations at the end of their terms are marked as disabled and good for nothing. It is this attitude that Innocent Wings challenges and attempts to change.

There are some very useful takeaways in this book, for example, it will tell you when and how to analyse the symptoms of dyslexia and other learning issues with your child. I don't want to spoil it here for you. Go through chapter -9 and you'll see it all clearly. 

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

PAULO COELHO: The Alchemist of Hearts

The following is a wonderful story. Please do read: 
For fans of Paulo Coelho, and by that I mean a wonderful group of great people who know what I mean immediately just by looking at the title of this piece, this incident might look like a scene from one of his novels. 

Recently, our dear Paulo posted a picture on his social media profiles. I noticed it because the picture contained several books being held by a young person and a collection of several books in a single shot always caters my attention. I commented on his Instagram profile asking dear Paulo if he was in New Delhi, India. The location status of his Instagram page said "New Delhi". My inquiry was a result of the assumption that Paulo was in New Delhi, India. I requested him that if he was in India, please visit Kerala also. Kerala is my place so it's justified for me being a little selfish here. 

Paulo has a way with his silence. He did not respond to my rather unimpressively rhetorical comment. By doing so, I think he saved the world from a major disaster. 

Somebody from Bengladesh, made a comment on the same post by Paulo. Our Paulo responded to the comment. You have already come across the comment and Paulo's response in the image above.

Solaiman from Bengladesh deserves this and much more. But so do we all. Our Paulo reading the words we have written is indeed such a divine event. But this is Solaiman's day, dear brothers and sisters, one in love with Paulo. 

Now, let me know in the comments section below what you think of this story. Don't you think this incident feels just like one of those heartwarming tales told by the Alchemist of Hearts, our dearest Paulo?

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