Birthday, anniversary, & vaccination

On 29th May, I celebrated my birthday with the three men in my life – my father, husband, and son. After a decade, I asked my father to buy me a new dress on my special day instead of my usual requests for books and journals. When Ma was around, she refused to listen to my resistance; birthdays always meant a new dress. After she passed away, I never found any joy in the ritual of a birthday dress as a gift. Eventually, Baba let it go.

The first birthday cake

But this year, I decided to celebrate for two reasons – I had finished writing my second novel, and I finally had the three special people in my life under one roof on the day. From cutting cakes to ordering food, we indulged in small moments of happiness. But we also shared these little joys with those who keep us going through their support – our cook, house-help, driver, security guard, and a few more helping hands. I’m going to cherish these memories for a very long time.

The second birthday cake

On the professional front, I completed numerous rounds of editing the book and sent the initial documents to my literary agent. We are working on the marketing plan and publisher details. But, I finally decided to take a break from the second novel (BTW, it has a new title; stay tuned for the announcement). The next item on the priority list was to get my first dose of vaccination. Getting a slot on the Cowin app seemed tougher than cracking UPSC exams.

Fortunately, my residential area organized a paid vaccination drive for the 18-44 age group in collaboration with Apollo hospitals. Thanks to an alert and aware husband, we managed to get a slot for me for 3rd June. From document verification to getting jabbed, it took me less than twenty minutes to complete the process. Except for the pain in my left arm that subsided after nearly two days, I didn’t have any side effects.

Vaccinated

June is a month as precious as May since we will complete a decade of our married life on the 20th of this month. While it’s been more than twenty-two years of knowing each other as friends, best friends, and a couple before making it official, the past one-and-a-half years have taught us both to cherish every opportunity of hope and togetherness.

While I’ll resume the work related to the launch of the second novel very soon, I also intend to start writing for magazines, digital platforms, and other mediums going forward.

New adventures in writing

I hope you have taken the vaccine and got your friends and family vaccinated as well. Please help out your support staff who might find it difficult to use technology for booking a slot. And keep the mask on; we can’t afford to lose this battle.

Latest review of ‘Deal of Death’ and announcement of my second novel on Bookshot’s YouTube channel

Hello everyone,

Hope you are doing well and staying safe. This is a quick post to let everyone know that Maya Bhat from Bookshot YouTube channel was kind enough to reread ‘Deal of Death’ and do a video review on her channel. Maya is one of the early readers of the book. Listen to her speak about the reason she recommends my debut detective thriller and why she’s is excited for the soon-to-release second novel in Detective Raya Ray series.

Introducing Raya Ray : The Private Detective | Deal of death by Sonia Chatterjee [Indian Booktuber] – YouTube

Deal of Death review on Bookshot’s YouTube channel

In case you are yet to read the first book, you can grab the e-book here –

Deal of Death: Introducing Raya Ray eBook: Chatterjee, Sonia: Amazon.in: Kindle Store

You can also subscribe to Maya’s YouTube channel Bookshot channel for more such amazing book reviews.

Stay tuned for the updates related to the second book launch.

Update on my second novel in my birthday month May

After three months of writing and editing my second Detective Raya Ray novel, I was finally ready to take the next step. So, on Tuesday afternoon, I initiated the process of mailing a document set related to the book to my literary agent. While there are many steps before the final version is published both in paperback and e-book format, I’m glad that I could give Raya a challenging case to crack. Coincidentally, it is also my birthday month.

The second Raya Ray novel (tentative title)

Since March’21, the doctor husband is back to his erratic schedule. I’m left with no choice but to raise the kid single-handedly once again. Shuttling between anxiety and helplessness, writing this book was my survival strategy. It also helped that I had my strongest support system in my brave five-and-a-half-year-old, who has barely met his father six times in sixty days. His interest in my project is beyond inspiring.

But I must also confess that the kid is a tough taskmaster. No reporting authority in my erstwhile corporate career has ever sought a status update of my work at a frequency of every half-an-hour, like this child. Phew! I’m quite glad that he has decided to shift his focus to Enid Blyton’s Mr. Noddy for the time being.

Mr. Noddy saves the day

It is a tough time to live in. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard close friends lose their loved ones. I wasn’t even sure if I should put up an update on the book, especially when we are struggling to survive. But, art is a great survival strategy as well. It takes away our grief, worries, and hopelessness momentarily and gives us reason to dream of a better world. With a ray of hope in my heart that this too shall pass, I go back to balancing my role as a mother and a writer. Someday, I wish to write a book on what it means to be the wife of a frontline warrior.

Stay safe, stay home (if possible), take care, and wear a mask. We need to break the chain. Stay tuned for more updates related to Raya’s latest case.

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.

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 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.