Making it to the Orange Flower Awards 2020 by Women’s Web

January has been a kind month until now. My book has been getting some great responses and I have also been picking up a couple of awards for it. MFA coursework has started taking up every minute of my day. With the beginning of the mandatory courses this week, it has become extremely difficult to read anything beyond the reference materials and write very little beyond chasing the assignment deadlines.

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Orange Flower Festival 2020 – pic courtsey: Women’s Web

In the first blog post of January, I had mentioned Orange Flower Awards by Women’s Web. Last year, I had made it to their shortlist for humor and travel writing. This year, the award ceremony gets bigger with celebrity film-makers, actors, entrepreneurs, authors and a host of achievers across the industries making their presence felt on the day of the event. Amidst of thousand of entries in various categories of blogging, social media, and video blogs, it is nothing short of a privilege to announce that my writing got me nominated in SEVEN categories (Yes, you read that right!). Parent Blogging, Humor writing, Writing with a social impact, Writing on Women at Work, Travelgram, Photogram and Best use of Twitter for social impact was where I found myself listed.

Nominationed in 7 categories
Nominated in 7 categories

Continue reading “Making it to the Orange Flower Awards 2020 by Women’s Web”

There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in

The ambulance rushed through the empty lanes to keep signaling the emergency its occupants were facing. Sanjay kept comforting his unconscious mother, while his wife, Gauri continued crying incessantly. The old lady had tumbled down the stairs and slipped into unconsciousness. The lady accompanying them was the hotel manager Pema who kept wondering about the ill-fate of this family on vacation.

The Government hospital functioned despite the minimum set-up and restricted facilities. The nearest private hospital involved at least four hours’ journey through the hilly terrain and the family couldn’t afford to lose any more time.

As the ambulance entered the Government hospital, most of the hospital staff looked annoyed at being woken up at such an unearthly hour. The Resident Medical Officer (RMO), realizing the gravity of the situation called his senior who assured him of arriving soon.

Pema tried comforting a visibly emotional Gauri. “It’s been a while that we had taken a vacation together. My father-in-law passed away two years back. The family had been distraught. It was only recently that my mother-in-law, Renu Bakshi had started getting back to normal. If only we knew what fate had in store for us!” Gauri lamented.

The doctors struggled to bring Renu to a stable condition. A cardiac arrest in the wee hours of the morning made their efforts futile. After obtaining the requisite permission, Gauri and Sanjay left with Renu’s corpse for the last rites.

A week later, Pema received a call from Gauri to thank her and request her presence at the condolence meeting at their residence, three days later.

When Pema reached the address mentioned in the message, she saw a gathering. Gauri attended to the guests while Sanjay performed the rituals. After the usual pleasantries and prayer offering, Gauri got Pema seated. As Pema fiddled with her mobile in the second last row, she overheard a conversation between two ladies in the last row.

“Gauri is an amazing daughter-in-law. Renu had subjected her to such inhuman torture. If I was in her place, I would be celebrating Renu’s death today”, one of the voices said.

“Renu and her husband kept pestering Gauri’s father for more dowry while behaving atrociously with her. Her father died out of stress. They didn’t even let Gauri attend his funeral. Two years back when Gauri conceived, I thought things will get better for her. But look at her bad luck, she had a miscarriage”, another voice spoke.

“It was never a miscarriage. Renu had bribed one of the hospital nurses for the prenatal sex determination. The moment Renu knew it was a girl; she forced Gauri to abort it. Sanjay kept hitting her till she agreed. And then the abuse continued in all forms – verbal, emotional and physical. Last year, it stopped for a while when Mr. Bakshi died due to accidental electrocution. That incident should have put an end to their cruel behavior. But Renu continued punishing Gauri for not bearing the family a son.” The first voice said.

Pema looked at Gauri with new-found empathy. She hoped that Gauri and Sanjay discover happiness in the future. Pema smiled as she saw Gauri stealing glances at Sanjay. But she could never hear the words that Gauri whispered while looking at her husband, “Sanjay Bakshi, you are next.”

The experience of reading ‘You Beneath Your Skin’ by Damyanti Biswas

Disclaimer – This post is about my experience of reading the book ‘You Beneath Your Skin’. It is not to be confused with a book review that is more analytical and exhaustive in approach.

How often do you read a book that has such a deep impact on your soul that you fumble for words to speak about it? Keigo Higashino’s books have had that effect on me almost every time. And a recent addition to the list is debut author Damyanti Biswas’ crime thriller ‘You beneath your skin’. I finished reading this book more than a month ago but I had to let the emotions sink in before I could speak about it with clarity.

Set in Delhi, this is the story of Dr. Anjali Morgan, an Indian American psychiatrist and a single mother raising an autistic teenaged son Nikhil. She had come to India to escape her strained relationship with her mother after her married life fell apart. Police commissioner Jatin Bhatt, a much-married man with a teenage son is having an extra-marital affair with Dr. Anjali. In between balancing their personal and professional lives, both witness an upsurge in rape and murder of women belonging to the lower strata in the city. While trying to help Jatin in solving the crime, Anjali lands in a life-threatening situation. By the time the truth unravels, relationships and equations have undergone a transition beyond repair.

You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas
You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas

At 390 pages, this book is not the kind that can be finished at one go. The primary reason is that it is written in such a hard-hitting way that you cannot stay indifferent to the pain and trauma of the characters. It shakes the reader up, makes her question about the kind of society we live in where danger lurks in every turn of a woman’s life and gets her into a feeling of hopelessness and anger. Sometimes, it feels so real that it doesn’t even read like fiction. Damyanti started writing this book after the horrendous Nirbhaya incident in 2012 and I am writing this review after the horrific rape and murder of Dr. Priyanka Reddy a fortnight ago. If anything, the situation has only gone from bad to worse and this book is a harsh reminder of the same.

This book peels off layers of crimes that connect the lowest strata of the society with the most privileged class of elites. From abduction, minor sex racquet, prostitution, drug abuse, acid attacks, rape, and gruesome murder, this book manages to cover a wide spectrum of crimes effortlessly. The author has shown expertise and finesse in ensuring that none of the sub-plots feel exaggerated or forced. The reader experiences a similar spectrum of emotions in the form of sympathy, hopelessness, frustration, remorse, and anger though I must mention the slight ray of hope that appears at the end of the book.

It is quite difficult to believe that this is the work of a debut author. Her command over the plot, language, development of characters, and flow of the story is commendable. It is quite evident that extensive research has led to creating this book. A lot of incidents are also inspired by the real-life circumstances that people around her have been subjected to. She has absorbed their pain and channeled it into creating a story that lays bare the skeletons of an inhuman society. And here is one author who is not ready to stop at just writing about the barbaric acts. The sale proceeds of this book will be transferred to two charitable institutions ‘Project Why’ and ‘Stop Acid Attacks’ that she has been attached to and that’s her way to bring a positive change in society.

eShe Flash Fiction runner-up

Of late, I have been unusually hesitant to post anything that could be remotely related to writing achievements. Not that there have been many but I seem to have fallen into the vicious cycle of ‘writing less to achieve less’. I finally started my online MFA in a creative writing course last month and I was expected to submit my first assignment on Monday. On Sunday evening, I spoke to my MFA advisor from India (there are two and the main advisor is based out of the States). She had been my biggest motivation for taking up this course.

When I shared my inhibitions about the article not really making it to the set benchmark, she changed my perspective by inclining it towards ‘write more to achieve more’. This achievement could be in the form of a genuine comment of appreciation, a certificate, a trophy, a prize or even a small target fulfillment. She said every bit, however insignificant it might look to me, still matters for it gives the courage to carry on.

eShe Flastion Fiction runner-up
eShe Flastion Fiction runner-up

So, here’s one of my latest achievements as we reach the last leg of 2019 – I emerged as a runner-up in a Flash Fiction contest held by eShe in September. I wouldn’t even have known the results (announced on Oct 10) hadn’t they mailed me a final reminder to send them my address last week. Here’s the link to the entries that made it to the winning list. This competition was judged by some eminent writers in the field of literature and that is why this small feat feels special. If you have read my book ‘Deal of Death’, you would probably fathom my recent writing struggles through the name of my protagonist here.

Thank you eShe for the certificate and prize.

I pledge to protect you, my dear son, and a WHO prequalified vaccine helps me keep my promise

22nd September 2015 was when I entered into the new phase of motherhood. As I held the tiny bundle of joy in my arms after a difficult C-section, everything else felt inconsequential. In a while, the pediatrician came for his round of duty and this was when he spoke about the importance of vaccination for newborn babies. My husband, also a doctor by profession, listened carefully as the pediatrician explained the vaccination chart to us. But I was crestfallen since I couldn’t even bear the thought of my newborn being pricked by a needle.

The next couple of weeks were all about getting adjusted to this new schedule of life. My focus area had shifted to understanding the importance of WHO-recommended exclusive breastfeeding for six months and surviving the state of being perennially sleep-deprived. I was lucky to be surrounded by an understanding and supportive family to help me cope up with this sudden change that was not just physical but psychological as well.

Amidst such a chaotic routine, reality dawned on me as my infant turned six weeks. The first vaccination was due and the nervous mother in me overtook the rational individual that I was normally known to be. It was at my husband’s insistence that we decided to visit the pediatrician. As I spoke my heart out, the empathetic and knowledgeable doctor emphasized the importance of vaccination in the life of a newborn baby.

He discussed with us in length about how vaccines functioned in protecting babies against life-threatening diseases like Hepatitis B, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Polio, etc. The pediatrician was patient enough to dig deeper into my worries about having to inflict pain on my boy with multiple Injections. It was at this point that he mentioned the concept of combination vaccines which greatly reduce the number of shots that a baby requires. He spoke about how the acellular aspect of this vaccine is what makes it a less painful option while the vaccines before it led to a lot of discomfort and pain in babies.

Continue reading “I pledge to protect you, my dear son, and a WHO prequalified vaccine helps me keep my promise”

November numbness – when grief knocks at the door

Eight years ago, life was almost picture prefect. I was heading one of India’s leading Pvt Sector Bank branches in Mysore, Tanmoy and I had been married for 5 months after knowing each other for 12 yrs and he had shifted to Mysore by taking a sabbatical from his medical profession to pursue MD.

That year, I had visited Berhampore to celebrate Durga Pujo after ages. Two days at my parents house and two days at my marital home was how we had workedout the schedule and pujo couldn’t have a better arrangement. Ma looked quite fragile but that was justified since she was recovering from weakness due to a low hemoglobin count. A change of place was the need of the hour. So we decided to surprise my parents by booking their tickets to Mysore for Dec’11.

The day we left Berhampore in October, she had been crying nonstop. But she was prone to getting sentimental every time I went back to college or work after a vacation. Little did I know that  her tear stained face trying to act brave for the sake of her daughter was the last time that I would see her. On the night of 11th Nov 2011, she was admitted to a private hospital in Berhampore with complains of pain in the abdomen. She was kept in the ICU as Baba and my marital family ran around trying to figure out what might have happened.

Ma
Ma

Sitting thousands of kilometers away, Tanmoy, who probably was the only one who understood the gravity of the situation, kept coordinating with the doctors while I was trying to get a car to take us to Bangalore airport the next morning and book the earliest flight to Kolkata. That night, we understood the meaning of ‘fear’ of losing a near one.

Continue reading “November numbness – when grief knocks at the door”

The experience of reading Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt. Ltd by Richa S. Mukherjee

Months ago, I had decided to stop writing detailed book reviews because it took away the happiness of reading. The critic in me could take a backseat while my bibliophilic entity could savor the world of written words. That is why it is essential, to begin with, a disclaimer first – this post is not a book review in the strictest sense but more on the lines of sharing my experience of reading Richa S. Mukherjee’s latest release ‘Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt. Ltd’.

Anyone who has ever lived in a small town would know how every small town holds a flavor unique to its people, traditions, and culture. That is why I would want to first mention the strongest aspect of this book which is the setting of its plot in the town of Kanpur. The author manages to take the reader on a ride through the lanes of Kanpur into Awadh Nivas, the residence of the Tripathi clan. Every character, scenario, festival, and even their food choices feel amazingly real and relatable. Kudos to the author for her sharp observation skills in creating this fictitious world by drawing inspiration from the real world.

Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt. Ltd. in my possession
Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt. Ltd. in my possession

Enter Prachaand Tripathi aka Prachi and his partner in the real and professional life, Vidya Tripathi aka Viddu. Together, they run Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt. Ltd, a Detective agency that survives on mundane cases but aspires to be much more. Often they find themselves spending more on keeping friends and acquaintances entertained (unwillingly, though) than earning through prospective clients.

The Tripathi’s (other than the detective couple) consisting of Ammaji Rampyari, mother Rachna, father Dinbandhu, uncle Dinanath and brother Bhushan (the Kanpuriya Justin Bieber) are a hilarious bunch. As their daily life unfolds through the pages of the story, I often found myself laughing my heart out. If there is one quotient that the book excels in, it is humor. Richa’s sense of humor keeps the plot from never becoming too grim.

Continue reading “The experience of reading Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt. Ltd by Richa S. Mukherjee”