Home, greenery, nostalgia, and a child

A child and his curious love for nature

I grew up in Berhampore, the only place I call home. The rest are only residences. I spent countless afternoons reading books as Ma spoke fondly of more new plants in her garden. Neither Baba shared her enthusiasm, nor I inherited her love of plants, flowers, and nature. Her garden misses her warmth, care, and love as much as we feel its absence in our daily lives.

Last afternoon, I came home from my in-laws’ house in the same town. The kid couldn’t wait to spend the weekend with his grandfather, who he calls Dadan. Today, something unusual happened. The kid spent this morning gazing and querying about trees and flowers. He refused to move away, mesmerized by the greenery. A decade after her demise, she has her successor in her six-year-old nature-loving grandson. If only I could turn back time and make them meet, the boy and his Dimma would’ve made a perfect team.

Battling sickness and celebrating moments in September’21

I’ve been unreachable and unresponsive for quite a while now. What started as a ligament tear in the knee 1.5 months ago was diagnosed as a probable case of early osteoarthritis some weeks back. Unfortunately, the blood tests, X-Ray, and MRI reports led to a more complicated scenario. While I’m trying to stay brave through this turbulent phase, pretending to find humor in living with pain as a constant companion, it’s both scary and depressing. I’ve stayed away from social media for a while now while fighting this personal battle.

Swollen fingers led to a no-writing phase for almost a month. It’s both frustrating and depressing. Yet, for once, I didn’t fret over the lost time and opportunities. Instead, I focused on reading some delightful books and treading on the path to recovery. It’s a long and slow process, but I’m not letting it affect my resolve to return to normalcy soon.

Birthday celebration of the kid

Amidst such a gloomy ambiance, we decided to celebrate my son’s sixth birthday with our families at my husband’s ancestral home yesterday. He was basking in the love of his grandparents on his special day. The look on his face was priceless. It’s so difficult to believe that the kid is growing up so fast. Wasn’t it just yesterday that he was born?

Surprise gifts from us

On 13th September, my blog completed four years. It’s been an incredible journey so far, and I only hope it gets better from here. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who chose to be a part of my journey.

October is the month of Durga Puja, and I can’t wait to restart my writing journey. But enjoying the festival with my family tops my priority list this year. Until we meet again, take care and stay safe.

My first guest post is live on Blogchatter

The acceptance of a first pitch is quite special. Blogchatter selected my pitch on four life-altering books that I feel every creator/artist/writer must read to nurture their creative streak. I wrote this post straight from the heart while recovering from a ligament tear in my left knee. The past three weeks were difficult as I struggled at every small step (literally and metaphorically). I’m grateful for the company of books by Anne Lamott, Elizabeth Gilbert, Natalie Goldberg, and Julia Cameron. I hope creators/writers find value in these words.

I’m sharing a snippet from the post and the original link.

Four life-altering books

2020 was my year of ‘unlearning.’ As I wrapped up an MFA-creative writing course by the end of the year, I understood how unlearning facilitates making space for new learnings. Books by Lisa Cron taught me how to write a compelling story, Robert McKee honed my dialog writing skills, and Charles Baxter enlightened me on the ‘show, don’t tell’ aspect of storytelling as I aced one topic after the other. Hola! I got my certificate and was ready to introduce my honed craft to the world.

Or so I thought! No one told me that the craft of writing or any form or creativity crumbled if the creator wasn’t aware of the necessary skills for survival. During this period, I discovered four books that taught me ways to nurture my creativity and conquer my fears and insecurities as a writer.

The full article can be read here.

What’s up in July 2021?

Hello, readers!

June was a great month, and I spent some memorable time with my family as we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. However, like everything that must come to an end, those good times gave way to a difficult phase. First, my in-laws left, and then the husband resumed his work. It was essential the kid, me, and Baba agreed to stay back because the kid looked devastated. Before we could adjust to the change, I fell sick and caught a stomach infection.

The anniversary cake

Work had to take a back seat as I tried to ensure that the kid didn’t miss his online classes while gathering enough energy to battle my sickness. After a fortnight, things improved, and I began this month with a paid assignment after a long time. I focused so much on the second Raya Ray novel that I stopped taking up any other project for months together. I wrote a couple of short stories (I haven’t written one since the MFA course finished) and submitted them to a couple of international magazines. Let’s which what’s in store for me – acceptance or rejection. I also have an exciting idea for my next book; I hope to initiate the process before month-end.

The anniversary surprise

While it feels great to share the professional updates, I’ve always written snippets of my personal life on the blog. After a long time, the husband was in town on 1st July – Doctor’s day. While I celebrate the man on every possible occasion, circumstances have made such opportunities selective and family-friendly. I took him out for coffee, and conversations flew to applaud the doctor and his colleagues relentlessly working as Covid warriors for the past 1.5 years.

Celebrating the doctor husband

The third wave is already knocking at the door. Places have opened up, and people are flocking in huge numbers by breaking covid protocols. The second wave has up a reality check of a crumbling healthcare system. Let’s not worsen the situation further. Please mask up, get the vaccine doses, and maintain social distancing. Until we meet again, stay safe and take care.

Book review of ‘Along came a Spyder ‘ by Apeksha Rao

I spent three hours on a Sunday evening, invested in Samira Joshi’s journey of becoming a Spyder, only to realize that I didn’t want the book to end so fast. What a thrilling book my friend Apeksha has written! In January, I read the first book in the Spyder series, called Itsy Bitsy Spyder, and loved it. It took me four months to start reading this novel since I was writing my second detective thriller. ‘Along came a Spyder ‘ was the perfect book to restart my reading journey.

Along came a Spyder

About the author –

 A homeopath turned doctor, Apeksha Rao is a well-known name in the writing world for her literary skills and gripping writings.

Plot –

‘Along came a Spyder ‘ is the story of teenager Samira Joshi, daughters of undercover RAW agents Alka and Ranjit Joshi. She lives with her paternal grandmother as her parents run around to keep our country safe. The book traces her journey as she escapes the conventional path of becoming a doctor and follows the exciting yet challenging route of becoming a spy. She accidentally lands into the den of Spyders, the unofficial training headquarters run by Col. Baldev Singh and his wife, Kakki. Though Baldev is hesitant about letting Samira join the gang, she convinces the boss about her will and skills to stay on. Samira’s mother has taken the u-turn to prohibit her daughter from becoming a spy for reasons divulged later in the book. However, Samira is hell-bent on proving her mother wrong. After a couple of mind-blowing adventures, we discover her disturbing past, which becomes an obstacle in her shouldering responsibilities of her team’s safety. But our protagonist is not the one to give up so easily. She faces her demons’ heads on and proves why she fits in the world of spies with impossible missions.

What worked for me –

  • It’s a well-researched book that holds the reader at the tenterhooks till the end.
  • This fast-paced and gripping thriller takes subtle jibes at gender stereotypes. For instance, Samira’s grandmother’s contrasting reactions to her son being an undercover agent against her daughter-in-law’s association with the same profession.
  • Samira’s character is well-etched out with nuisances and issues of her own.
  • A hard-hitting climax that portrays how despite their contribution to the country, the agents are often left to justify their actions and decisions.
  • The technical details of how the spies work in busting their enemy’s network were intriguing.
  • The author creates an array of interesting supporting characters like Debbie and Milli. I feel Debbie deserves a spin-off with her own story.
  • Apeksha’s writing is so vivid and detailed that I could visualize the story as I kept reading. Even before the book was released, it made it to the coveted list of writings for visual adaptation. I can’t wait to see the unfolding of events on the screen.
The signed copy

What I wish to see in the future –

The book covers a trajectory of multiple small cases that Samira gets involved in though there’s the main story of her parents’ case running simultaneously. Though Samira has proved her mettle by playing an active part in each of these cases, I would love to read a full-fledged thriller of Samira facing a dangerous antagonist by herself.

Rating and overall feedback –

I would rate this book four out of five (4 stars).

It was entertaining, gripping, and thrilling. I can’t wait to read more of Samira Joshi’s experiences in the future as she follows her parents’ steps to venture into the world of deadly adventures.

Thank you, Blogchatter, for the review copy and Apeksha for the signed copy with a heartwarming message.

The book can be purchased here.

A special birthday celebration this year!

The year was 2011. I turned thirty on 29th May and was about to get married in three weeks. I had taken a week off in April for the engagement (ashirwaad, as we call in Bengali), and had applied for 2 weeks’ leave in June for the wedding. So, the birthday celebration was restricted to office colleagues and a couple of friends in Mysore. When I spoke to Ma that afternoon, she insisted that I buy a new set of clothes for my birthday. I laughed it off, saying that I was already getting an ensemble of clothes for my wedding. That was the end of the conversation, or so I thought.

On the day my husband and I left our hometown to begin a new chapter as husband and wife, Ma handed me a new salwar kameez set. During the peak rush of wedding preparations, Ma and Baba hadn’t forgotten my birthday gift. Little did I know that it was going to be my last birthday gift from her. In five months, her love and gifts became a memory for my survival.

A special birthday celebration this year

In the last decade, I’ve restricted my birthday gifts to usually books, journals, pens, cakes, or items related to my writing journey. I never accepted a dress for my birthday. But this year, I made an exception. When Baba asked me to purchase something of my choice, I asked him to buy me a new dress. It took me a decade to get over the fact that Ma would never coax me to get a new dress for my birthday again. Besides, 1.5 years of the pandemic taught me that it is essential to savor every moment with those who mean the world and hold on to them as tightly as possible.

The gifts from the child

Amidst all the gifts, the kid gave me the most thoughtful one. While drafting the second novel, I wrote the plot, updates, and scenes in a journal simultaneously. By the time I sent the story to my literary agent, I reached the last page of the journal. While I got a few amazing notebooks/diaries as gifts, the child made his father search for an identical journal and pilot pen sets so that I feel happy and write a story for him next.

Notebook lover

Tender moments and thoughtful gestures like these make me believe that we still have hope left in the world.

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.