A recollection of experiences of the Blogchatter E-book carnival 2018

Exactly a year ago, I was concentrating on writing my second last post in the A2Z challenge when the reminder mail from Blogchatter arrived in my inbox about signing up for the Blogchatter e-book carnival. I wasn’t sure if I had the time or skills to convert my posts to a book. That is why I was one of the last ones to sign up for the e-book. Little did I know that it would turn out to be one of the best decisions in my writing career.

As the days progressed, I realized that the book based on the theme ‘A Dollop of Bengal’ from my A2Z challenge posts needed more information, detailed research and better structure that looked quite difficult in the limited time period. With just a few days left for submission, I realized that the only way out would be to bow out of the carnival. But Blogchatter turned out to be a perfect example of what a sense of belonging to the blogging fraternity can lead to. Just six days before the date of submission, I sat down motivated by my fellow bloggers, to write my first ever detective thriller ‘Deal of Death’ introducing Raya Ray.

Deal of Death_Sonia Chatterjee
Deal of Death_Sonia Chatterjee

Post submission, I executed all my marketing knowledge for the next few days to create an interesting trailer for the book launch and a video on the book reading. Through social media promotions, I had managed to create such a hype about my book that it led to 80 downloads hours before the book could be officially launched on 22nd May. Deal of Death went on to become the first book to run out of stock despite getting restocked twice within a week of launch. Encouraging reviews and positive feedback helped me establish my identity as a writer. Two months later, Blogchatter gave the authors an option to take the book to a different platform and most of my fellow authors went ahead and published it on Amazon.

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X for X’Mas Season 2018

As we race towards the finishing line of the A2Z challenge now, I thought of touching upon a different topic related to the admission frenzy. I have often spoken about my anxiety and stress related to the process in the initial days,  especially when Tuneer faced a problem of the language or before his first interview. While Sr. T seemed unfazed on the surface, I am quite sure that I had successfully managed to pass on a bundle of my worries to him. Tuneer was trying to balance his preschool life while riding on the roller coaster wave of admissions. Just before the winter break arrived, all three of us were physically and mentally exhausted beyond the limit (kind of what most of the A2Z participants feel now).

By the time the holidays started, the kid had already faced two interviews and one rejection. We were sure that the only thing that could lift our spirits up was a family holiday. In the X post of my last year’s A2Z challenge, I had written about the way all of Kolkata comes together to celebrate Christmas in a grand way. X’mas, as the city still prefers to call Christmas is about midnight mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral, eating cake from Nahoum’s, trying out street food delicacies on Park Street and visiting Bow Barracks on December 25th. We have done all of these for the past two years and it wasn’t meant to be any different this time as well. But a desperate need for a mini break landed us at my in-laws’ house in Berhampore this December end.

The much needed break after a strenuous phase of interviews
The much-needed break at Berhampore after a strenuous phase of interviews

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W for 5Ws and 1H

During one of our classes in B-school, I was introduced to the concept of 5Ws and 1H. While creating a blue draft of an entrepreneurial idea, we had to come up with a solution to the questions related to why, when, where, who, what and how. I was so fascinated by this streamlined process of questioning that any conversation related to the most inane of things had me asking queries in the format of 5W and 1H.

For instance, when the college canteen had managed to churn out yet another bland meal on yet another regular day, I walked up to the canteen manager and thought of bringing a direction to my pattern of questioning. So I asked,

“Who prepared this food?”

“Why is the canteen food always tasteless?”

“When was the last time that you served a meal that didn’t deserve to be trashed?”

“What will make you feel that it is essential to serve an edible meal?”

“Where do you see yourself next year, if the quality doesn’t improve and we refuse to let the management renew your contract?”

“How many more complaints do you need to take an action?”

The man was too stunned to even consider a reply. Before I could unleash another layer of 5W and 1H on him, my friends had dragged me away from the canteen. Needless to say, the canteen served an equally bland meal the next day. Just that the man at the counter went missing after spotting me entering the canteen.

This went on for a few more days before I found my next subject of interest in the form of SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis. Life eventually moved on from those classrooms to office boardrooms. The questions turned more relevant and job oriented.

It was only after Tuneer started talking that I was reminded of 5W and 1H once again. From blabbering gibberish to uttering first monosyllables and then broken sentences, the boy picked up communication very fast. Like I have mentioned in one of my previous posts, this verbose nature was reserved only for the house. For the world outside these four walls, he was a very shy and quiet child.

Where is the counter serving pooris?
Where is my plate of pooris?

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V for Viral

After a thought-provoking post yesterday, I thought of getting back to recollecting a few more hilariously unavoidable misadventures in the admission season. As we draw near to the finishing line in this challenge. I am often left baffled at the thought of the next topic in this series. Today I was wondering if there was anything more I could write about that has already not been mentioned in any of my earlier posts. I suddenly remembered those scary sleepless nights that became a part of my life for the first quarter of this year and brought my writing to a standstill.

The admission season, as mentioned in my first post started in September 2018 and was officially declared closed only in March 2019. The first three months of this season were all about standing in queues to pick up forms, submit them and then attend the interviews held in this duration at a couple of schools. I would say that we managed to sail through this period despite the turbulence the boy managed to create through his resistance towards the process initially. His preschool had declared winter break from December 25th until January 4th. 

In the second week of January, Tuneer returned from his preschool with a sore throat. Ever since he had started preschool, it had become a routine for the boy to fall sick at least twice every alternate month. If I ever brought up my concern of his poor immunity (I was of the opinion that his resistance towards diseases was getting lower because of falling sick so frequently), both the medico husband and the kid’s pediatrician enlightened me with their knowledge about the boy’s developing immune system. I had somehow managed to keep the boy fit and fine enough to glide through the months of November and December but all my efforts went in vain as he developed his first viral infection of this year in January.

A quarter of sickness (the teddy is also apparebtly sick)
A quarter of sickness this year (apparently, his teddy was also  sick)

From a sore throat, he went on to develop pharyngitis, cold and cough and high fever. This was his usual pattern of falling sick, step by step. Before I went back to calling the pediatrician seeking his appointment yet again, my heart skipped a beat as I thought of the interview scheduled the next week. The following week passed by in taking care of the sick child, giving in to all his demands as I struggled to feed him a single bite of food. We survived the week and went on to face the interview next week. 

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U for Unapologetically Human

I grew up in the eighties when life was much simpler. The options for entertainment had more to do with people communicating with each other in person than staying hooked on to their mobiles. All the nine houses on the street (para in Bengali) that we stayed at had neighbors who knew each other well, visited each other’s houses frequently and celebrated festivals together. My closest friend in the neighborhood came from a family where both her parents were working. Her father, Uncle K was also my father’s close friend and colleague. Despite the fact that they had full-time help to take care of her and her elder brother. I don’t remember an afternoon where she wasn’t having lunch or taking a nap at my place. 

I studied in a primary school for four months before my parents applied for admission to the only Convent school in my home town. Unlike Tuneer, I loved going to school. In the first primary school, a few of the teachers happened to be the wives of my father’s colleagues. Because of their occasional visits to our house and vice versa, I was already familiar with the aunties that school never felt any different after I saw them in the classrooms.

My life at the Convent school started amidst turbulence. On the night before the scheduled date of interaction, my paternal grandfather passed away. As per his last wish, his dead body was taken to his native village for cremation and my father had to go for the last rites. The rules of the admission process had clearly mentioned that both the parents had to attend the interaction session along with the kid. Ma had lost all hopes of getting permission for attending the interview alone with me. But Uncle K took it upon himself to go to the school and explain the situation to the authorities. My friend and I both had our separate interaction sessions after Uncle K convinced the authorities that I deserved a chance. For him, I could never be his daughter’s competitor but her best friend.

Life before teh era of photoshop - with my parents
Life before the era of photoshop – with my parents

Both of us studied in the same school but in different sections until she moved on to a different institution for high school. While we went ahead and made many more friends in school, I don’t remember any of us crying beyond the first day because we had each other. While there was competition in academics and extracurriculars, it was never reason enough to cut ties or devise strategies to beat so-called ‘friends turned into opponents’. My interaction with my core circle of friends went beyond the school boundary walls because their parents always made me feel welcome at home. A couple of months back, when I went to the birthday celebration of the daughter of one of my best friends from school, it never felt like we were meeting after two decades. 

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T for (Not A) Talkative Tuneer

For as long as I can remember, I have been a talkative child. Not that anything much has changed over the years. If one happens to spot me in a group, the one speaking with the most animated expressions would always be me. Whenever Ma went for a parents-teachers meeting, there would always be one ‘not so pleasant’ comment about my desire to speak to everyone in every class. The return trip back home would see an angry Ma demanding to know how is it that I always had something to talk about, even in places where silence was the norm. My mother-in-law had once told me how the Banerjee clan was amused by this new daughter-in-law after watching our wedding video. I was found to talk to everyone despite the photographer’s voice in the unedited version asking me to please act coy or at least keep quiet.

Truth be told, I can still speak about anything under the sky. And I must credit my equally vocal Dad for passing on his garrulous genes to me. With time, I had learned to use this trait as an advantage by mentioning communication as my strength on the resume or in the interviews. And the places where this became my USP were my marketing classes in B-school and then, my Banking job that involved speaking to every potential client before pitching him a product.

Sr. T was no different as a child. He was often found talking about cricket and football with his friends in class. With time and getting into a profession that demanded a lot of restraint in his nature, he has turned out to be a man of very few words. But his personality undergoes a complete transition the moment he finds himself in the company of his friends. Suddenly his voice is often found to drown every other sound. My mother-in-law credits the Banerjee clan’s genes for this nature. She says that my father-in-law, who is quite reserved in nature is found in a different avatar amidst his friends and with his grandson.

The general expression at home
The general expression at home

With such a legacy behind him, it was but natural that the boy was expected to be talkative. Tuneer didn’t disappoint and started speaking in broken sentences much earlier than his peers. The house had started buzzing with his gibberish. Just before he started preschool, we were quite confident about the kid turning out to be an outgoing preschooler. Like I said in my previous post, first the tears refused to stop and next, the next feedback came from his class teacher. He didn’t open his mouth for anything except eating those tasty snacks served by the school. While I was happy about having priorities right about food, the part about not communicating was worrisome.

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S for Settling Down

When I look back at my own childhood, I see a girl who always made her parents proud on the day of the final term results. Though my parents never pressurized me for studies (honestly, they never needed to!), my Professor father often spoke about how a good academic record acted as a catalyst in getting through reputed institutions and eventually helped in settling down professionally. I took his words to heart and went on scaling milestones until I did my first post-graduation from Delhi. The city taught me to live on my own since I knew my father couldn’t make those monthly trips anymore. 

Two years later when I shifted to Bangalore for my doctorate program from one of India’s topmost institutes, I had finally unleashed the nomad in me. It took me eight months only to realize that I neither had the attitude nor aptitude to do research. My supervisor almost lost his mind wondering how I could manage to be so bad at even basic research. But the best thing about such a devastating incident (for my supervisor, not me) was that I dived into the corporate world with a job in a Market Research firm (without an iota of understanding what MR really was).

I worked for two years before the bug of MBA bit me and I went back to academics again. This was when I had turned twenty-six and my father was due to retire in two years. Life at corporate world post-B-school was supposed to be about savings, investments and settling down. But I was busy quitting, changing jobs or moving cities while the husband was busy studying further and doing his M.D. We lived our lives convincing each other that ‘Darr ke age jeet hai’ (don’t even ask why!)

My father and father-in-law neither understand nor appreciate my whimsical nature. But my husband who probably believes in the importance of stability as much as these two defended every move of mine saying ‘creative people are never satisfied.’ After we moved back to Kolkata, our families had hoped that they would finally see us settling down. But luck has a strange way of playing spoilsport. Sr. T was posted far away from the Kolkata. And in 2017, I decided to go the solopreneur route to start this blog and take up writing as a profession with a two-year-old in tow. To cut the story short, we have successfully lost the plot to settle down.

Tuneer on spotting his preschool gate. Deciding if he should start shedding tears now.
Tuneer on spotting his preschool gate. Deciding if he should start shedding tears now.

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