January 2021 – a month full of reading!

I’m not much into book reading challenges because it takes away the joy of reading from me. I’m quite an old school when it comes to correlating books with happiness.

My breathing issues resurfaced in January, leaving me with very little energy or motivation to write. Instead of feeling miserable about the situation, I decided to spend those sleepless nights reading as I literally continued huffing and puffing. So, I ended up completing 14 books and leaving two midway in January. Right now I’m reading 4 books.

The first set of books read in January

Here are the details of books I read-

  1. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osborne (my best read of the month)
  2. The Guest List by Lucy Foley
  3. Best Served Cold by Bhaskar Chattopadhyay
  4. 5.Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
  5. 6.Gunning for the Godman by Ajay Lamba and Sanjeev Mathur
  6. The itsy bitsy spyder by Apeksha Rao
  7. How to be a writer by Ruskin Bond
  8. Dasavatara by Piyusha Vir
  9. A suitable boy by Vikram Seth
  10. Murder is Easy by Agatha Christie
  11. And there were none by Agatha Christie
  12. The TMYS December review by Koral Dasgupta & TMYS team.
  13. Chumki and the elephants by Lesley Denise Biswas
  14. Girls and the city by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar
The second set of books read in January

All books have been reviewed on Amazon and Goodreads (if updated).

The only paperbacks I read

Not mentioning the books I left midway, both of which are famous and critically acclaimed.

Currently reading –

  1. Each of us killers by Jenny Bhatt
  2. Along came a spyder by Apeksha Rao
  3. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.
  4. The artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

As we begin February, I hope that I can continue my reading pace while getting back to writing the second novel.

Happy new year 2021!

Happy new year, everyone!

I’m posting a wish 15 days late because I was unwell for more than ten days. The respiratory issues that engulfed my life in 2019 resurfaced after a year and aggravated during winters. It kept me away from reading, writing, blogging, or even working on my writing projects.

Unfortunately, the husband also returned from duty with a severe stomach infection. So, the situation at home looks a little grim right now. But I hope that we can overcome this state and return to a healthy life soon.

On the positive side, the country started the vaccination process today. It is the first step towards winning this battle against the Coronavirus. I’m waiting for the day when the ‘new normal’ gets replaced by our old lifestyle.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Before the breathing problem overtook my existence, I began the new year by reading some beautiful books. Since last year, my reading range has primarily covered literary fiction. So, after getting the MFA degree, I rushed back to the thriller genre. My first book was the delightful read ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ by Richard Osborn. I will put up a detailed review later, but I enjoyed every bit of this crime thriller.

I hope everyone had a great start in 2021, a year of hope and happiness. I intend to get back to frequent blogging this year; I’ll share my blogging plans for this year soon. Until then, take care and stay safe.

Bidding adieu to an eventful 2020 with hope for a happier 2021

At the beginning of 2020, my writing journey looked quite thrilling. I made it to the shortlist of Orange Flower Awards 2020 in a couple of categories and won multiple awards for my debut novella. I was invited as a speaker to the Women Writers’ Fest in Kolkata, and the MFA course gave me the right push to stay motivated. And then the pandemic brought the world to a standstill.

Women Writer’s Fest, Kolkata

I’ve often written about my journey as a doctor’s wife in a year that tested my patience and perseverance. It is through written words and my five-year-old son’s company that kept me going. Since the year is about to end in less than ten days, I wish to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to those who engulfed my life with support, love, and compassion. My family and my close circle of friends are nothing short of blessings in my life.

Literoma Nari Samman Award 2020

The MFA certificate arrived on 12th December. After two post-graduate degrees in science and management, the third degree in creative writing made me the happiest. I hope to continue creating through books for the rest of my life.

Deal of Death

On 21st December 2020, my debut detective thriller ‘Deal of Death’ completed a year of its launch on Amazon. To everyone who read, took out time to leave a review on Amazon and feedback on Goodreads, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. But if you are one of the rare ones yet to grab a copy, you can download the e-book here. (It is free on Kindle Unlimited, so don’t miss the chance.)

Merry Christmas from the kid

Yesterday, my son performed in the online Christmas celebration conducted by his school. He spoke about how the festival represents the joy of love and brotherhood/sisterhood. To see the kid transform from a shy toddler to a confident kindergarten student was a magical moment for me. It made me take a trip down memory lane, reminiscing the delightful Christmas celebrations in my convent school.

Orange Flower Awards 2021

Just before I wrap up this post, I am excited about my writings getting nominated yet again for the Orange Flower Awards 2021 in the categories of short fiction, humor, social impact, and women at work. I am keeping my fingers crossed for the next levels in the hat-trick year.

This is how we began 2020 – winning the best debut novel award

I will remember 2020 as a year that taught me resilience. As we enter 2021, I hope the world is finally free of Covid-19, and we get the opportunity to go back to the old ‘normal’ way of living. Here’s wishing you a merry Christmas and a happy new year in advance. I will see you again in 2021.

Stepping into the last week of the MFA in creative writing course

A year back, I posted my first assignment for the MFA course on this day. A couple of days ago, I submitted the last write-up required to meet the credit criteria to complete the one-year creative writing course. Next week, I will have an MFA added to my M.Sc. and MBA degrees. But this journey is much beyond earning a certificate.

When I discovered Writer’s Village University through one of my friends, I had started questioning the rationality of pursuing writing as a full-time profession. I had trashed two manuscripts written with the intent of publishing one of them as Raya Ray’s second case.

WVU taught me kindness and compassion. I discovered a supportive writing network in a virtual world. I unlearned to learn writing like an enthusiastic teenager. I finally understood the impact of constructive criticism.

My writing corner

The last ten months haven’t been easy for anyone since the pandemic bringing our lives to a standstill. For weeks, it was just me and my son trying to adjust to the fact that we can meet his doctor father only once a month. While I am immensely grateful to my father and my in-laws for their support during this phase, it is writing and written words that kept me afloat. The turbulence in my mind found a way out through typed words on my screen.

While I have chosen to continue my association with WVU, I have decided to get back to writing beyond my class assignments from this month onwards. The revived state of my writing desk is the first step towards a new beginning of my renewed writing journey.

Happy Diwali and a joyful children’s day

November isn’t a kind month in my life. Exactly nine years ago, Ma passed away on 12th November, and I am still trying to deal with the irreparable loss. Yet, life has to move on, and I drag myself to face the situation even on days I wish I could disappear.

Today is children’s day, a day that reminds me of the best childhood memories associated with my alma mater, Mary Immaculate School in Berhampore. Due to the pandemic, my son won’t be celebrating his special day with his friends at school. So we are trying to make it a fun-filled day for him at home.

Diwali celebration at home

It is a double delight since today is also Diwali, the festival of lights. It is on this day that we celebrate Kali Puja in Bengal. While the crisis demands us to act sensibly, we decided to have a small celebration with family this year. So, it will be a no-cracker and no-pandal-hopping kind of celebration for us.

As we light up our lives, I pray to Ma Kali that we also become sensitive to the less privileged ones around us and help them enjoy the festival of joy. I also hope that we continue nurturing the child in all of us to make the world a better place.

Happy children’s day

I wish you a happy Diwali and a joyful children’s day. Stay safe and stay protected.

My Friend Alexa Post 8 – Durga Puja in the time of COVID-19

In the last three posts, I wrote about my experience of celebrating Durga Puja in Mysore, Bangalore, Kolkata, and Berhampore. For the last post in this series, I wish to speak about the way life and the idea of celebrating a festival changed for us this year.

Life during the pandemic taught me perseverance and resilience. My son and I hadn’t taken a trip outside Kolkata since March. It was more out of compulsion than by choice that we decided to return to Berhampore after more than a year this October. Leaves were canceled at my husband’s workplace during the festival. Both my father and in-laws weren’t in a position to travel back to Kolkata at such short notice.

Tuneer offering his prayers at home

After the mandatory isolation period, the only distance that I traveled in Berhampore was from my in-law’s house to Baba’s home for a couple of days. I consciously decided not to step out of home for pushpanjali or pandal hopping. We offered our prayers at home. The bhog preparation for our para pandal happens on the ground floor of my home. Thus, we weren’t deprived of the delicious food options during the festival.

Baganpara Durga Puja

While I have a couple of pictures of Tuneer celebrating with my father and in-laws, I could only click a single picture of Ma Durga in the pandal near my home. I took the snap standing 10 meters away from the pandal while I was leaving for my in-law’s place. My husband clicked the other picture of their UCC Durga puja, which has entered its third year since inception.

UCC Durga Puja

We missed out on meeting friends, enjoying the endless adda sessions, visiting multiple pandals, and eating out at restaurants. But it was a conscious decision to stay indoors, not just for our safety but also for the ones who are most vulnerable to this deadly virus. I wish to remember 2020 as a year that showed us the importance of minimalism and sensible choices.

I hope you had a grand Durga Puja, celebrating in your way but without compromising on precautions. Here’s wishing you and your family a Shubo Bijoya Dashami/ Vijaya Dashami and Happy Dusshera. May we overcome the hurdles to go back to the old normal very soon.

“I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s My Friend Alexa 2020″ campaign.  This is the eighth and last post in the series; you can read all posts here.

My Alexa Post 7 – Durga Puja in Berhampore/Kolkata

For the past four years, I have spent every Durga Puja in Berhampore, a place where I grew up and also happens to be my husband’s home town. Last year, we decided to explore puja in Kolkata for a couple of days before heading to Berhampore on the sixth day of the puja.

In Berhampore, the puja near my house smells of childhood nostalgia. It was a delight to see my son soaking in the festivity and ambience, just like I would relish these four days in my childhood. My husband and his school friends started a new Durga Puja in 2018. The experience of watching grandeur unfold in front of my eyes, and showing my son the strength of sustainable friendship was mesmerizing.

This post will take you on a tour of my puja experience in 2018. Happy Maha Ashtami to you and your family.

“I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s My Friend Alexa 2020″ campaign.  This is my seventh blog post, and you can read the previous six articles here.

Durga Puja in Berhampore

My Friend Alexa Post 6 – Durga Puja in Bangalore

I moved to Bangalore in 2004 to join a research program at one of India’s top institutes. Despite living in areas like Yeshwantpur, Indiranagar, and Electronic City for more than five years, I rarely visited more than a couple of puja pandals during my tenure.

In 2014, my husband and I moved to Bangalore after spending half a decade in Mysore. I joined HDFC Bank as a senior manager while he joined the Critical Care Unit of a top hospital. Because our news jobs began in the middle of the year, I was still in probation, devoid of any option to apply for leave during Puja that year. So, both of us spent our evenings at the Koramangla Puja manuals near our apartment in 6th Block and also made occasional visits to the Ulsoor puja.

Bangalore, with a massive population of Bengalis, always felt like home, yet I missed Baba and our para pandal so much that next year I didn’t think twice before booking tickets to return home during pujas.

Happy Maha Saptami to you and your family.

“I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s My Friend Alexa 2020″ campaign.  This is my sixth blog post and you can read the previous five articles here.

Durga Puja in Bangalore

My Friend Alexa Post 5 : Durga Puja in Mysore

I wrote four rant posts as part of the My Friend Alexa campaign this month. Durga Puja begins today, and I have decided to stay indoor to stay safe amidst the pandemic. I thought it was a golden opportunity to take a trip down memory lane and revisit Durga Pujas spent in various cities during my student/professional life.

I lived in Mysore from 2009 till 2014. ICICI Bank gave me the first posting as Branch Manager in this beautiful laidback city. Mysore barely hosted a couple of Durga Pujas then. This picture was clicked in 2012, a year after I had lost Ma. It was my second puja after the wedding. I didn’t apply for leave to go home for puja that year; it was traumatic to celebrate when every small instance reminded me of my mother. We went out for dinner on the day of Saptami, and on our way back we saw the first Durga Puja of the city. Needless to say, it was difficult to control my emotions.

Durga Puja in Mysore

“I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s My Friend Alexa 2020″ campaign.  This is my fifth blog post and you can read the previous four articles here.

My friend Alexa: Rant post 4 -Learning should be fun

A recent ad on TV shows a kid developing an app after learning coding and a bunch of investors starts fighting at his doorstep for funding his venture. The ad drew a lot of flak on social media for its insensitive content. While the idea of learning coding at an early age might not be a bad idea, luring people into unnecessary competitiveness and showcasing unrealistic dreams are both unacceptable. This ad reminded me of the multiple instances when I would coax my parents to buy a jar of Horlicks/viva/complain because I felt that the products would lead to my growing intelligence.

But the utopian world created by the advertisement industry is for another day. While growing up, I believed that my father’s favourite lines were ‘learning is fun.’ I didn’t realize how much those words took away the pressure to perform, to be a topper, or crack every competitive exam. I excelled at academics because I had a family who celebrated every small achievement with love. In turn, studies became a source of happiness for me. When people ask how difficult it is to get back to academics in the late thirties, I say it is fun. Probably, my best years of life comprise memories of my academic life.

It is only after my son started school last year that I learnt to appreciate my parents’ outlook towards learning and knowledge. As a mother, I don’t think I have that level of confidence and calmness. I still get rebuked by Baba if I ever use a parameter to compare my son’s performance with anyone else. Over the last few months, online classes have brought out the darker side of competitiveness in many parents. Irrespective of the age of the kids, parents fight to create a favourable impression for the child. Every time, I feel like joining the race, I remind myself that the race has only begun.

The issue lies in the education system of our country, where marks are given precedence over knowledge or applied skills. The parameters for success begins at high scores, getting into any prestigious institute and then seeking conventional career choices. None of this should be a problem if the child is happy and acquires skills relevant to his choice of career. But the number of students committing suicides is growing at an alarming rate and most of them crumble under the unnecessary expectations of parents and society.

I could have continued with the doctorate program at India’s top institute and become unhappier every day. Instead, I chose to quit and enter the corporate world. I didn’t need to explain my decision because my happiness meant the world to my parents. After MBA, I became a banker more by chance than by choice. When life gave me an option to take a sabbatical post-delivery, I reconnected with my love for written words and decided to make writing my profession. It wasn’t an easy choice either, but it makes me happy, and the same joy spills over to my personal and professional life. Going by the parameters that judge success, I am not sure where I can fit in. But, if I revisit my learning curve, it has only followed an upward slope.

And I hope I can raise my son with the same thought of enjoying the process of knowledge acquisition and learning how to apply practical ideas to theories. The reforms in the education system might still be a long route, but dismantling the parameters that separate success and failure on an individual level might be the first step towards a happier future for children.

“I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s My Friend Alexa 2020″ campaign.  This blog post is the fourth and last rant post for this season.

Durga Puja begins tomorrow onwards, and quite a few of us have consciously chosen to stay safe by staying indoors. I intend to take a virtual trip down the memory lane over the next four posts and post pictures from the puja celebrations of the last few years.