Book review – That year I found me by Dr. Ruchi Chopra Nasa

As part of the Blogchatter E-book carnival, 55 authors (including me) launched their books on May 22nd, 2018 on the Blogchatter platform. As a fellow author, it gets difficult to assess or critically analyze books by the other amazing writers on this platform. However, I personally believe in the power of constructive feedback. It has helped me improve my craft and thus I am going to adhere to the same intention of helping another author scale up his/her work, if possible.

The details of the second book that I have chosen to review (or rather analyze) is as follows –

Book – That year I found me

Author – Dr. Ruchi Chopra Nasa

Publication – Blogchatter

Pages – 126

Price – Free

Genre – Fiction

Plot –

Neha and Akash, sweethearts from medical school get married and soon become the parents of a baby boy Pihu. They have a near-perfect marriage. A chance discovery of a hidden message sets Neha on a path of figuring out the bitter truth about Akash’s extramarital affair with Sophie. While Akash had already accepted his mistake and moved away from the affair much before Neha discovered it, facing her biggest fear of losing the man she loves, leaves Neha hollow and depressed. Whether Neha decides to part ways or forgive Akash is unraveled during the course of the book.

Analysis –

At the onset, let me acknowledge the fact that I don’t read many books in romance genre anymore. This book was written as blog posts during the Blogchatter-A2Z challenge in April and I had found the theme quite interesting. The entire book is written in the form of letters (it might make the reader recollect the writing style of author Nikita Singh in her book ‘Letters to my Ex’). There are just four characters in the story Neha, Akash, Pihu and Sophie, so it is easy for the reader to keep a track of the happenings easily. The plot is quite simple but layered with bundle of emotions.

Continue reading “Book review – That year I found me by Dr. Ruchi Chopra Nasa”

Book review – Tales with a Twist by Varadharajan Ramesh

As part of the Blogchatter E-book carnival, 55 authors (including me) launched their books on May 22nd, 2018 on the Blogchatter platform. As a fellow author, it gets a little difficult to assess or critically analyze books by the other amazing writers on this platform. However, I personally believe in the power of constructive feedback. It has helped me improve my craft and thus I am going to adhere to the same intention of helping another author scale up his work, if applicable.

The details of the first book that I have chosen to review (or rather analyze) is as follows –

Book – Tales with a Twist

Author – Varadharajan Ramesh

Publication – Blogchatter

Pages – 228

Price – Free

Genre – Fiction

Plot –

Tales with a Twist is a collection of 23 short stories and one long story described through multiple episodes. Each story belong to a different genre of fiction but what unites them is the unexpected climax in each case. While the reader finds an unusual scoop of humor in the story ‘Finished’, pain and helplessness in the story of Park Joo-Won and Park Ji -Woo in ‘Innocence’ fast paced science fiction in “The troubles of time travel’ and hope and love in ‘Mariposa’ , the best combination of emotions is found in ‘The Malolan Chronicles’. Each story has a unique plot, setting, characters and ending.

Analysis –

Continue reading “Book review – Tales with a Twist by Varadharajan Ramesh”

Weekly Photo Challenge – All time favorite

This is the last week of the Weekly Photo Challenge and there couldn’t have been a better signing off than through the theme of an all time favorite photo. On the personal front, last two months had been extremely hectic with the A2Z challenge in April and the launch of my first e-book ‘Deal of Death’ in May. However the topic for WPC was enough to evoke the feeling of homecoming in  me. Here’s a personal favorite capture of the city I call home now – Kolkata, India.

I wasn’t born here. In fact I barely stayed here for three years during the course of my graduation before hopping onto other places for higher studies and professional commitments. Except an apartment, nothing in the city felt close to my heart until my son was born here in 2015. Over the last few years, I have learnt to embrace the city as my own as my preschooler goes around creating memories in it. While Kolkata is usually represented in the pictures through its old world charm, here’s a snap taken from the terrace of our high-rise building capturing its new essence of life.

Kolkata, India – May 2018

And she bloomed at the red horizon of life

Om Sarva Mangala Mangalye Shive Sarvartha Sadhike
Sharanye Tryambake Gauri Narayani Namostu Te

Srishti Sthiti Vinashanam, Shaktibhute, Sanatani
Gunashraye, Gunamaye, Narayani, Namostu Te

Sharanagata Dinarta Paritrana Parayane
Sarvasyartihare Devi! Narayani! Namostu Te

Close to fifty pairs of hands folded in unison seeking the blessings of Ma Durga standing on the floor of the man-made puja mandap of the Chowdhury household.

Maha Ashtami was the most important day of Durga Puja for the Chowdhurys . Just like every other year, Uma and Pushpak had the program for these five days of Durga Puja planned well in advance. This affluent and aristocratic family in Murshidabad was known for the conducting the puja for seventy-four long years. This year relatives from different corners of the world were expected to make a visit to partake in the grandeur of diamond jubilee celebrations.  Uma had been supervising the arrangements and decor of all the fourteen rooms in the house for the past one month. Close to sixty people were expected and ten rooms were already occupied by this day.

This year had an extra significance in the family as it marked as the first puja of their newly wed daughter-in-law Srishti. Three months ago, their Chartered Accountant son Ronit was married to Srishti who worked as a Sociology Professor in the city University. Despite staying out of the country for one and half decades, the childhood family friends had decided to return back to their roots to settle down. Uma never got along very well with her radical thinking daughter-in-law. Uma believed in traditions and rituals while Srishti chose the path to question them. Their relation had been on a downhill slope last month when the philanthropic Srishti decided to sell some of her wedding jewelry  gifts to fund the school building for underprivileged girls. Despite her well-meaning intention, the conservative Uma could never forgive her.

Uma had firmly conveyed to Ronit that Srishti needed to abide by the family customs for the five days of Durga Puja. Any deviation would unnecessarily set the wagging tongues of relatives talking. Ronit had assured her of taking care of the proceedings during this period. After Vijaya Dashami that marked the end of puja, Srishti could go back to her way of living and thinking post departure of the relatives. In return Uma had decided not to get involved in their decisions unless it affected her or the family. Last two days had gone unexpectedly well. Srishti had not only taken care of all the guests but also chose to keep her outlandish ideas supporting feminism and criticizing patriarchy in check. With half day of Ashtami over, Uma only prayed that the remaining two days were equally uneventful.

After savoring the delicious bhog (prasad) of khichdi, khyaat (mixed veg), payesh (rice kheer) and rosogolla(a variety of sweet) in the afternoon, Uma went to her room to take an hours rest before starting the preparation for Sandhi puja* to be held around midnight this year. Srishti was expected to sit for the puja this evening since it marked her significance as the chosen one to bear the future heir to this family. Close to thirty years back, her mother in law Sarojbala had prepared the newly wed Uma for this role. Uma’s husband Pushpak hardly took ant interest in family functions and gatherings. Ever since he had retired, the majority of his day was spent in the sitting room playing chess with his childhood friend Paran Ghosh, She had hoped for a friend in her future daughter-in-law but Ronit’s marriage had only aggravated her existing loneliness.

Uma had come out of the room dressed in a white tasar silk sari with vermilion red borders. Her jewelry adorned frame looked elegant. Spotting her son and daughter-in-law in deep conversation on the sofa, she felt annoyed. Srishti had still not dressed up for the puja due to begin in about an hour.

“Ma, we have been waiting for you. Srishti wanted to talk to you about a complicated issue” Ronit sounded a little uneasy.

Deep within, Uma was getting mentally prepared for another confrontation. She had half expected Srishti to create a ruckus at the end moment.

“Aunty, I have just started my period. I don’t know how to handle the situation right now.” Mother in-laws were never referred to as aunty, but Ma in her family but the U.S. returned Srishti had made it clear on the first day of meeting her that she and her husband would always be aunty and uncle to her. She couldn’t imagine calling anyone else Ma – Baba other than her own parents. However much it hurt, Uma had decided not to force her against her will.

“Srishti, in that case you can’t attend the puja.”

“But Ma, how will you manage? Everyone is expecting Srishti to start the puja. If you sit instead of her, it will raise a lot of unwarranted questions now. If you tell the truth, it will only mean putting Srishti in the spotlight for reasons beyond her control. If you don’t, the obvious assumption will be an over bearing mother-in-law taking away the limelight from her daughter-in-law. I don’t want either of you to go through this.” Ronit had sounded disturbed.

“I fail to understand why you even need to be a part of this female oriented conversation. Your darling wife could have spoken to me in private instead. I would have still advised her to refrain from attending the puja. I am going to justify her absence on a sudden migraine attack since most of them are aware of Srishti suffering from it. As far as being labelled as a manipulative mother-in-law is concerned,  couldn’t care any less. Now if you two are done with such trivialities, I would want to leave and start arranging for the puja.”

“But aunty, I know this day is very important for you. In fact I was hoping to make you proud.” her voice choked with emotions as Uma was surprised by this sudden outburst.

Uma rushed towards the puja mandap. Almost everyone was curious about Srishti’s sudden disappearance. Uma politely informed everyone about the migraine attack rendering it impossible for Srishti to get out of the bed. However the incessant whispering about the assumed bitter relation between her and Srishti didn’t fail to reach Uma’s ears.

The arrangements were completed in time. Uma decided to pay a visit to the restroom upstairs before sitting for the puja. It was going to be one long night. She was surprised to see the door of her son’s room half-open. At a glance, she could figure out the tall frame of her son sleeping on the left corner of the bed just like most of the other male members in her family while the women slogged it out. Srishti sat at one corner of the bed holding her white muslin silk saree with red and orange border. Uma had gifted her this saree to be worn on the auspicious occasion of puja tonight. Srishti was weeping silently. Uma’s heart skipped a beat as she felt familiarity with the same scenario many years back.

The past –

Jaya Jaya Devi

Chara Chara Share

Kucho Jogo Shobhito

Mukta Hare

Beena Ranjita

Pustaka Haste

Bhagwati Bharati

Devi Namastute

 

The loudspeakers from the neighboring puja pandals had been playing the Saraswati puja hymns since morning. Little Ronit had just turned two and half years old and was the center of attraction today. He was to be introduced to the art of reading, writing and alphabets through the ritual of hathekhori. Uma had been running around in her crease free, new white silk saree with golden red border getting all the puja items in place before the priest arrived. The ritual demanded that Ronit sat on her lap during the puja. The mother was the one responsible for helping him transition into this new phase of learning. As she stood up to light the lamp, she felt the unexpected flow of blood just like it came every month at the beginning of her menstruation cycle. Today wasn’t even her due date. Uma rushed upstairs. Her mother-in-law Sarojbala had been observing her keenly. She went behind her silently. As Uma hurried to take out the sanitary napkin from the almirah, all hell broke loose.

That Saraswati puja was etched in the memory of every single person in the Chowdhury household. The entire household had been witness to Uma getting abused and shamed for something as normal as her monthly cycle. Sarojbala ensured that every single item that Uma had touched in her house temple was replaced by a fresh one immediately.  She was not ready to take any chance with her deity. Every visitor was made aware of her inability to be a responsible daughter-in-law that day. Little Ronit was snatched away from Uma’s embrace to be plonked on the floor during the ritual. The chanting of mantras was submerged by the crying of a toddler craving for the security of his mother’s lap and love.

Uma had been too scared to even question the ritual or stand her ground that day. Till the time her mother-in-law was alive, she had carried out her duties with diligence. But she had promised to be a better mother-in-law for her future daughter-in-law. But Srishti was so difficult to handle. She had never let Uma bridge the gap in their relationship. but looking at her tearful silhouette now, Uma felt a tug in her heart.

She walked inside silently. “Why are you still awake?”

Srishti was taken aback at the sudden entry of Uma,”I was just about to go to bed.” her eyes were a shade of red from continuous sobbing.

“Do you want to go downstairs Srishti?” Uma asked her gently.

“How can I go near the mandap? I am impure as you say.”

“Do you believe that you are impure? I  have heard you tell so many maids in the house that monthly period is nothing beyond a physiological change in the body. You keep encouraging them to lead a normal life even during those four to five days.  So why are you lying low now? Doesn’t normalizing period instead of making it a social taboo hold good for you? I feel you should preach only what you can practice.” Uma didn’t know from where she mustered the courage to put forth such a strong opinion.

“Of course I don’t belive in such prejudices. Beyond these five days, I wouldn’t even given it a second thought. But, today it would only embarrass you further in front of the family. I know they keep taunting you for my addressing you as aunty instead of Ma. I would rather not add to your woes.” Srishti sounded tired.

“But why would they need to know? It is just a normal body function. Just as there is no need to hide, is there any need to declare it as well? There’s no rule in the vedas that states that a woman can’t be involved  in rituals during her monthly cycle. I am sure you know it better than me. Come on Srishti, if you feel that there’s nothing wrong in being a part of the puja today, why are you letting the society decide your course of action?” Uma meant every single word that she spoke. Probably it was her way of trying to reclaim her own life through empowering Srishti. “Get ready fast. We will go down right away.”

Sristhi stood in awe of  the bold and courageous opinion of her mother-in-law. Suddenly their past differences seemed too insignificant. She got up to drape the saree as Uma went to freshen up.

Dressed in identical sarees, Srishti walked down the stairs with Uma. A bunch of overtly curious relatives couldn’t stop themselves from asking about her sudden reappearance.

Srishti held Uma’s arm firmly – ” I guess Durga Ma has chosen me to perform the puja. That’s why she probably sent Ma upstairs to check on my health. I have slept for two hours after taking the medicine and I feel much better now. When I heard Ma’ s voice, I knew that it was time for me to partake in the puja.”

Uma have a shiver run down her spine on hearing the word Ma from Srishti’s lips. But she couldn’t just be sure yet.

“Oh, we weren’t aware that your mother is here tonight. Where is she?” one of the relatives queried Srishti.

“Not my mother, I am talking about my other Ma – the one who became my mother not just by virtue of my marriage to her son but by her love and support for me.” Srishti walked ahead with her hand refusing to let go of Uma’s arm.

As Uma picked up the conch shell to blow, Srishti sat down in front of Ma Durga.

Uma silently prayed, “Durga Ma, I am sure as a woman you would understand. Forgive me for keeping this a secret from those who would never understand menstruation doesn’t make a woman impure. “

The dhakis (traditional drummers) had arrives to start the playing of drums. It was indeed time for the rituals to begin.

*Sandhi Puja – It is done at the exact time Mahashtami ends and Mahanavami begins, with rituals performed for the last 24 minutes of Mahashtami and for the first 24 minutes of Mahanavami. The legend behind Sandhi Puja comes from when Durga was engaged in a fierce battle with Mahishasura and was attacked by the demons Chanda and Munda. Goddess Chamunda emerged from the third eye of Durga and killed Chanda and Munda at the cusp of Ashtami and Navami. 

Link to download my first e-book ‘Deal of Death’ for free (limited period only)

In my last post, I wrote about my journey of writing my first novella ‘Deal of Death.’ The e-book was finally published on May 22nd by Blogchatter. As a debutante, I had been trying to get my friends and acquaintances interested in this detective thriller through the cover release, trailer release and intermittent posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. However, nothing could prepare me for the overwhelming response that l have been received for this book so far.

Even before the book was officially launched by Blogchatter on Twitter, there had been close to 80 downloads.

Deal of Death - 80 download
80 downloads before official launch

Within the next three hours, I had to request the team to restock my book as 182 of the initial stock of 200 had already been downloaded. The stock was increased to 350 soon after.

Deal of Death - 182 download
Day 1 at 182 downloads

With my announcement about the launch on various social media platforms, even the second day garnered huge response. I closed the day at 300 plus downloads with a request to restock again.

Deal of Death - 307 download
300 plus downloads by second day end

As I enter the fourth day after release today, it is a heartening sight to see 420 downloads.

Deal of Death - 420 download
Present statistics

The e-book is available for free download only for a limited period, so get your copy NOW. Presenting the blurb and the link to download the book –

Blurb –

Munshiganj is a quaint town with a rich historical background. It’s biggest attraction has been a temple and mosque co-existing within the same premises along with the tomb of Nawab Rehamat Khan. Recently though, the peace of this little town has been affected by the paranormal – the temple bell rings by itself daily at midnight.

Raya Ray, an ex-marketing honcho had been dealing with loss when a chance to help her Banker husband, Krishanu, marked her debut as a private investigator. Detective Raya Ray lands in Munshiganj in response to a call for help from Sharmila – the sister of her house- help Sutapa. Sharmila suspects foul play when the doctors at the town hospital tell her she delivered a stillborn child and detective Ray steps in to assist.

Raya steps into a field of landmines after the body of Dr. Sonam Misra from the same hospital is discovered on the deck of a steamer and she chances upon a secret safeguarded for ages inside the temple. With the help of local rickshaw-puller Habul, Raya starts unraveling the mystery, unaware of the danger lurking over her as a pair of blue eyes trail her every move.

As she puts the pieces together, detective Ray realizes that nothing and no one are what they appear to be.

Link to download the book –

https://www.theblogchatter.com/download/deal-of-death-by-sonia-chatterjee/

I would love to hear your thoughts about this book, so feel free to leave your comments here.

Trailer and journey of my first E-Book ‘Deal of Death’

It’s been quite a while that I shared my thoughts on the blog. While April was filled with daily activities owing to the A2Z challenge, May started with a reflection post related to my experience of the challenge. And then the much awaited Blogchatter Ebook carnival was launched. I started working on my blog posts related to ‘A dollop of Bengal’ to make them befit a book. After channeling my efforts on it for almost a week, the outcome of my labor looked incomplete. Bengal has such multiple aspects that the range that my book managed to capture could at best be described as a personal selection. I decided to continue working on it for the next couple of months before bringing it out as a book. And thus I chose to bow out of the carnival.

The deadline for the carnival was initially announced as 13th May. As I saw fellow bloggers confirming their submission 11th onwards, there was a sense of restlessness and unhappiness in me. When I chose to make writing my full-time profession, I had promised never to compromise in my commitment towards the new job. So, 11th evening onwards, I started writing a fiction novella in the genre of Detective thrillers.

Like the saying goes, fortune favors the brave. The last date for submission was extended to 17th May and in six days, my first e-book ‘Deal of Death’ was completed.

As I await the launch of the e-book in less than 24hrs, here’s a trailer giving an idea about the story. The first book for a new author is always very special, but in my case the crazy story of determination behind it makes it a little extra special.

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on the video and cover design related to the e-book, so please feel free to leave your comments here.

Reflections & Gratitude – Summing up Blogchatter A2Z Challenge 2018

When I signed up for the BlogchatterA2Z challenge in April 2018, little did I know what I was getting into. As a new entrant to the world of blogging and a first timer in this challenge, posting every single day (except Sundays) looked daunting. Not knowing what to expect, I came without any preconceived notion and pre-planned posts. Luckily I had a theme in place titled “A dollop of Bengal”. However every single word associated with the alphabet pertaining to the theme was figured out only the night before the post was due. The post was written only after my toddler slept in the afternoon. Co-incidentally I had a lot of pictures clicked while exploring places in Bengal, specially Kolkata and Murshidabad last December till February. Editing them was another Herculean task that I needed to complete before hitting the publish button.

The first week was all about balancing act with my toddler starting preschool since 4th April. The initial few days of helping him settle down along with daily posting was extremely tough to handle. The second week was comparatively easy and I managed to read a lot of posts from fellow bloggers too. The third week turned out to be the most difficult one with a sick toddler, AWOL cook and pending posts that needed to be published. By the time I entered the fourth week, the challenge had so exhausted me mentally and physically that at some point I almost thought of giving up. Yet I managed to cross the finishing line.

I don’t think this would have been possible without the following few people –

  1. My family – My father, father in law and mother in law for letting me write in peace while taking up additional responsibilities of handling the toddler and household chores. My husband for his continued support and encouragement ensuring that I finish this challenge. My toddler for not breaking the laptop or running away with my notebooks when I pleaded with him to co-operate.
  2. Blogchatter team – Your enthusiasm and motivation is what got us going
  3. Fellow group bloggers – Blogchatter sorted us out into groups. I was privileged to have been part of one where members ensured they read each other, provided constructive feedback and lifted each others spirits when things didn’t seem to work out. I have said this before and I will say it again – Varad, Sayan, Ruchi, Jai – I am glad I found friends like you through this challenge. Tina, Roma – you are the kindest mentors I have come across. Saba, Snehalata, Shweta, Rohan, Sayanti, Shipra, Sudha, Shilpa – I am so glad to have connected with you.
  4. Fellow bloggers – Through social media and daily linkies, I interacted with many talented bloggers. Balaka, Priya, Akshata, Meha, Lavanya, Mayuri, Deepa, Dr. Roshan, Arjun, Kanika, Pratikshya, Ashwini, Seema, Pooja, Dr. Amit, Neha, Medha and Namratha – it has been a delight to read each one of you and an honour to read your comments on my posts
  5. Kalyan Karmakar (Finely Chopped) – His was one of the first blogs that got me interested in food blogging. Ever since I started blogging, I have sought his advice whenever in doubt. Ever ready to help, it was a pleasure to read his comments on few of my posts. His encouragement definitely inspired me to write better.

As I end this challenge and start working on my e-book next, I only have immense gratitude and a sense of belonging as my take-away from this contest. Having lived away from Bengal for sixteen long years, it was indeed challenging to return to Kolkata in 2016 and start afresh. I wasn’t even sure how much I could relate to the city anymore. It is while working on my theme that I realized how Bengal /Kolkata/Berhampore is still such an integral part of my identity and existence.

I am definitely looking forward to the second edition of this challenge next year. But next time, I definitely plan to be a little more prepared in advance so that I can  spend much more time in interactions and hopping onto others’ posts.

Heartfelt thanks to all of you for being a part of my journey.