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.
“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.“
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.
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.
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.
In the last couple of years, I have earned the displeasure of a bunch of relatives for not staying in touch. Some have even labelled me a snob for not picking up calls to catch up on life. Eight years of corporate life, filled with multiple con-calls throughout the day, customer queries, and work-related conversations had the phone glued to my ears. When my son was born in 2015, I made a conscious decision to stay disconnected.
Within a couple of years, I had successfully managed to rub them on the wrong side with my assumed ‘snobbish’ attitude. Instead of getting worked up about the unfairness of the deal, I took it in my stride and decided to stop giving explanations. If people didn’t understand the difficulties of raising a new-born with the husband on an outstation medical duty, they didn’t deserve my time.
In 2017, when I began writing and eventually decided to make it a full-time profession, there were quite a handful of ‘well-wishers’ who wanted me to go back to a real job. According to them, penning down thoughts was a hobby that I could pursue while continuing with a corporate job. They gave examples of their ‘super mother’ friends and acquaintances who had managed motherhood, high-profile’ jobs, and hobbies with elan.
Initially, I took a lot of pain to enlighten my near ones that I wasn’t pursuing a hobby; I was turning a passion into profession. Did they understand? Hell, NO! Some thought it was a stupid idea, some spoke about how my son was soon going to grow independent and make me regret my choice, and some didn’t even think twice before labelling me an escapist. Thus began my first step into a new profession.
Last year, I decided to get a professional degree to add value to my career. The snide remarks related to going back to academics in my late-thirties only made my resolve stronger. I kept a screenshot of the payment I made for the course. It came handy to combat those who thought my husband was paying for my third post-graduation. While writing isn’t a great paymaster, it isn’t impossible to earn the amount needed to fund my studies. Unfortunately, many in my immediate circle still have trouble understanding it.
Even today, I don’t pick up calls unless they are from my immediate family, very close friends, my son’s school or an unavoidable urgency. I prefer to revert over messages as per my convenient time, ensuring that I respond to each one. Writing isn’t a job that can have anyone working with my mind switched off. My mind is active even as I go about my daily chores. So, when I sit down to write, I shut out the world and plunge into creating a magical world. Like Stephen King advises in his book ‘On Writing’,“Write with the door closed.”
Creative endeavours require as much hard work and support as any other profession; the return on investment is much slower and lesser. But that didn’t deter me from diving into this new world after taking a 180-degree turn from my previous profession. And I am not the only one fighting a battle for creating a new identity as an author. The least that a ‘well-wisher’ can do is acknowledge that writing is a real job.
“I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s My Friend Alexa 2020″ campaign. Stay tuned to read my fourth rant post in this series.
It feels like yesterday when I decided to quit my banking job and mustered the courage to follow my heart. On 13th September 2017, I let my intentions known to the world through the launch of my blog soniasmusings.com. From 2017 until now, it’s been a roller-coaster ride of blogging, writing articles on esteemed platforms, authoring a book, and eventually choosing to do my third masters program, an MFA in creative writing. It wasn’t easy to venture out in an unknown territory, yet it was more difficult to convey that writing wasn’t a passion anymore; it was going to be my third and full-time profession. If I have to pick a turning point in my life, I would always choose this phase of pursuing my dreams.
#soniasmusingsturnsthree Three years of blogging and writing. Thank you, for the support!
Writer, author, lyricist, activist, poet, and stand-up comedian Varun Grover is a well-known name in the field of the visual medium. He has won the National award for the best lyrics in 2015-16 for his song ‘Moh moh ke dhaage’ from the movie ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’ starring Ayushmann Khurrana and Bhumi Pednekar. This intellectual activist is known for his strong opinion on the current political and socio-economic scenario in the country. His work includes movies like Masaan and Gangs of Wasserpur, Udta Punjab, Newton and web series like Sacred Games among many others. His poem ‘Hum Kaagaz Nahi Dikhayenge’ against the imposition of NRC went viral to become such a rage that it was considered as the unofficial anthem for solidarity in the fight against oppression. A few months ago, he was also in the news for uploading pictures wearing nail paints while smashing gender stereotyping.
Grover is known for his political satires. Be it on the ban that the movie Padmavaat faced or the stifling environment overshadowing the nation, this razor-sharp humorist doesn’t mince his words while taking a dig at such an unfortunate turn of events. ‘Aisi Taisi Democracy‘, the part comedy and part musical show that he performs with Rahul Ram (Indian Ocean) and Sanjay Rajoura touch upon uncomfortable topics in the present scenario.
Through the veil of humor, Grover highlights those issues that are either covered-up or not supposed to be spoken about for being highly sensitive. This powerful and empowered artist promotes awareness by coating the truth with a dose of humor. There are very few performers who have the potential to create such thought-provoking quality content applying the genre of comedy.
This is the twenty-second post in the Blogchatter A2Z challenge based on the theme ‘Laugh in the time of Corona.’ I will see you on Monday when I disclose the featured stand-up comedian in my post for W.
You can read the previous posts in the series here. I strongly recommend everyone to watch this video to understand how jokes can also make you uncomfortable and hit your conscience while laughing out loud.
Disclaimer – This bibliophile blogger is also an author and I made my debut with the Detective thriller ‘Deal of Death’ last year. While writing the favorite Indian Detective series, it was quite difficult to choose seven Detectives amidst many that I had read. But the intention was to keep it personal and so I blogged about only those who I had grown to love. This series saw some great responses from authors like Manreet Sodhi Someshwar, Bhaskar Chattopadhyay, and Swati Kaushal. Not to forget, even Anita Nair had liked my tweet about her Detective. But the 8th Detective is a character created from my brain and heart. So how could I not let it be a part of my favorites list! Despite the risk of making this post sound like a bit of self-promotion, I felt that there couldn’t be a better way to make some announcements with respect to the lady sleuth who created quite a furor with her entry.
Novels in the series –
Deal of Death
About the Detective –
Raya Ray, an ex-marketing honcho had been dealing with loss when a chance to help her Banker husband, Krishanu Banerjee, marked her debut as a Private Investigator in Kolkata. Raya had been handling mundane cases until she lands in Munshiganj in response to a call for assistance from the sister of her house-help.
Raya, who is well-aware of her need to get fit to keep up to her professional needs rarely has any second thoughts while ordering pastries and sweets. She is sharp and analytical while cracking mysteries. During the course of the case, she is often found to seek closure of her wounds through the happenings in her clients’ life. In the world of investigation dominated by men around her, Raya is here to smash gender stereotypes chasing chases criminals and solving cases.
Raya’s journey –
I wrote ‘Deal of Death’ as part of the Blogchatter E-book carnival in 2018. It was one of the first books to reach the download limit of 600 on the Blogchatter platform and it continued being in the ‘out of stock’ status until recently. The book opened to rave reviews and the recent review on the blog Vartika’s diary goes to prove how much this novella is popular even today. The Goodreads rating of the book has been at a consistent 4.59 for more than a year now.
It gives me immense pleasure to announce that soniasmusings.com has been selected as one of top 40 Indian lifestyle blogs by the esteemed portal Feedspot (specifically at no. 30). Finding my blog amidst renowned names like Verve and Filmfare magazine has only made me realize how special this recognition will always be.
The blog is a little less active than usual this month because I’m gearing up for my MFA study program starting next week. But I promise to work out the schedule as soon as I figure out the requirements of the course and my other writing commitments. Thank you for your support.
You can click here for more information related to this list.
For the last five days, I have had conflicting emotions. On one hand, I was relieved that the crazy month of April was over and I didn’t have to work at odd hours to schedule my posts. On the other hand, I missed reading and interacting with fellow bloggers who have now become a part of my extended virtual family. To spare myself the state of confusion, all that I have sincerely done since 2nd May is to catch up on my sleep. Today morning, when I saw the link for a reflection post, I jumped in to share my experience of an eventful A2Z challenge this year.
After my first successful Blogchatter A2Z challenge last year, I had written about my experience through a post filled with learnings, gratitude, and nostalgia. Last year, I had no plans in place. I was undecided on the theme until it was time to reveal it. Not a single post was based on predecided topics or written in advance (I didn’t even know that there was an option called schedule). This year I had decided to be a bit more organized in my approach since I had been waiting for the A2Z challenge for months together. I wanted to have a theme ready, wished to sort out the topics of the posts and even considered writing a few of them in advance. But old habits die hard. The plan to plan my posts stayed only in a state of planning as I dashed towards my usual last-minute execution mode.
When I started thinking about a theme two nights before the day of the theme-reveal post, I considered all the possible categories that I write about. Unfortunately, nothing seemed interesting. It was Sr. T’s idea that I write about the most relevant situation in my life at that moment which was all about Tuneer’s school admissions. I didn’t want to make the articles sound boring or coated with advice. In fact, I am the kind of flawed mother who would perfectly fit into that category of clueless parents seeing advice from the experts. So I thought of turning my harrowing experiences into humorous ones. All that I was worried about was how to stretch a topic so narrow into creating twenty-six posts. Yet whenever I sat down to write my post of the day, the fun element in reminiscing those memories helped the words flow effortlessly into a draft.
Hello travelers, hope you are enjoying the ride on #XploreBharat express that has covered eight destinations until now with the most recent trip to Kashmir by Saba yesterday. Today it reaches a part of the country famous for its natural beauty and unique customs – Meghalaya in the mesmerizing North East.
The backstory –
In 2002, my first post-graduation took me to Delhi. My address for the two years that I lived in the city was the North Eastern Students Hostel/House for Women. It was here that I was introduced to the variety and richness in our culture. The North East stands out from the rest of the country for being a matriarchal society where the man leaves his premarital home to stay with his wife and her family and also takes up her surname. It took me more than one and a half decade to start exploring this part of the country but I am glad that it began with a family trip to Shillong in Meghalaya in Oct 2017.
In Sept 2017, two things happened – I started this blog and my son turned two. While junior T has been traveling with us since he was one and a half months old, it had mainly been to sea beaches and places of historic significance. So, my husband and I decided to make Shillong as the first hill station destination for him. Needless to say, the excitement of an unexplored destination was equally appealing to both of us.
The journey –
Shillong has a fully functional airport though Air India is the only flight operator that connects Shillong to a handful of cities. Though there was a direct flight from Kolkata airport to Shillong, we felt that the best way to travel was to take a flight to Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati first and then cover the rest of the distance by car. It takes three to three and a half hours from Guwahati to reach Shillong by road. Most of the resorts usually arrange for a pickup and drop facility on request though cabs are also available on hire. The journey is quite comfortable because of the four-lane roads which never get too steep. Also, the entire stretch is filled with a gorgeous view. There are a couple of eateries on the way for a quick meal like Jiva restaurant.
The stay –
While there were multiple options available within the Shillong city namely Hotel Polo Towers, The Habitat, Tripura Castle among others, we decided to stay in the boutique resort Ri Kynjai(clickhere for detailed review) in Umiam district, a little away from the main city of Shillong. The location of the resort is its biggest asset. It is just opposite Lake Umiam also known as Barapani which is one of the main tourist attractions in the state. Overlooking the Umiam lake and mountains, the resort had all the modern amenities without compromising on the feel of royalty and tranquility.
Places to visit –
The places for sightseeing includes
Umiam Lake– It is also known as Barapani and offers boating facilities to visitors.
Don Bosco Museum – The Museum houses and documents the various indigenous cultures, arts and crafts of North East India.
Elephant Falls – It is also known ‘The Three Step Waterfalls’ because it consists of three falls in succession.
Shillong Peak – It offers a panoramic view of the city.
Shillong golf course – It is one of the largest golf courses in Asia.
Butterfly Museum – It is a delight to take a tour of this museum
Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians also referred to as Shillong Church – The Cathedral is the principal place of worship of the over 300,000 Catholics of the Shillong Archdiocese which covers RI Bhoi and East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya.
Lady Hydari Park – This place offers a spectacular view of flowers, birds, and animals. A portion is allocated to the Zoo that houses animals like bear, deer among many others. Fishes in the ponds, variety of birds and a colorful and well-maintained garden with flowers in full bloom is a sight to behold.
Local market –
No visit to Shillong can be complete without a visit to the local market known as Police Bazar. Shillong is famous for its bamboo handicrafts, cheap electronic goods, and woolen clothes. This market provides ample option for each though I would like to advise that almost all the prices are negotiable and thus bargaining is a virtue to shop here. The market also has a huge sweet shop Delhi Mistaan Bhandar that caters to the taste buds of people from every corner of the country (their jalebis are definitely a must-try). There’s also a movie theatre Gold cinemas at the end of the street.
Local cuisine –
While Sao Aiom, the in-house restaurant of Ri Kynjai provided us with the option of a Khasi cuisine along with Indian and Chinese varieties, we ended up having Bengali cuisine like Prawn Malai Curry instead. In fact, there are multiple restaurants in and around Police Bazar that serve different varieties of dishes, especially Chinese and Tibetian. One place that is a must visit is Cafe Shillong overlooking the buzzing Don Bosco Square with a beautiful ambiance and serves the best Irish cafe along with a host of continental dishes (I loved the steak here). Another place that serves good pork dishes and momos is Cafe Shillong Heritage inside the Tripura castle.
The road trip from Shillong to Cherrapunji takes approximately two to two and a half hours but for someone like me who gets enthralled by the beauty of nature quite easily, I ended up asking the car to stop at frequent intervals for capturing some gorgeous sights. This is the kind of experience that stays with one forever because the emotions felt while walking amidst the clouds is something that goes beyond words. The entire stretch of the journey is picturesque with the Sun playing hide and seek. Cherrapunji has multiple waterfalls worth, notable among them being the Nohsngithiang Falls, also known as the Seven Sisters waterfalls. The double-decker living root bridgeis the next most sought after tourist attraction. Cherrapunji also a few accommodation options like Hotel Polo Orchid along with a bunch of home stays.
Two more places around Shillong that deserve special mention are Asia’s cleanest village Mawlyngong and the crystal clear Dawki river.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Shillong is between October to April. Ideally, the weather is most pleasant during October-November and in the month of Feb – March. We traveled during October 2017.
Recommended Itinerary –
A trip to Meghalaya can best be scheduled keeping two days for Shillong, one day for Cherrapunji, one day at Mawlyngong and the last day, rather a night for camping near the Dawki river.
Shillong gets quite crowded, especially during the peak tourist season and the roads are filled with traffic, causing an unnecessary delay in movement. Hence it is advisable to start the trips a little early so that the crowded roads can be avoided before vehicles start crawling at the pace of a snail.
My two cents
Shillong will always be memorable on a personal level for being the first hill station journey of my toddler. However, the emotions run a little deeper since it is the simplicity of the Khasi people and the serenity of the place that has ensured a permanent place for Shillong in my heart.
Hope this destination leaves you with a smile on the face and a desire to plan a trip to this city very soon. Tomorrow the express will leave for its next destination as Sanjota take control to direct it towards Hampi. Until then, have a safe journey and don’t forget to read, comment and share this post.
“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”
I was five years old when I went on my first trip to Darjeeling with my parents. Higher studies and corporate stints made me a resident of cities like Delhi, Bangalore, and Mysore. This was also the period when I traveled with my gang of girls to places like Chennai, Pondicherry, and Ooty and groups of friends to Pune, Khandala, Lonavala, Panchgani, Mahabaleshwar, Ahmedabad, Agra, and Goa. Once I discovered that I was essentially a nomad at heart, my solo trips took me to Hyderabad, Mumbai, Mangalore, Coorg, Madikeri, and Chickmagalur.
When T and I got married in 2011, it was a delight to discover that we shared the same enthusiasm for travel. Munnar was the first place that we visited as a married couple.Unfortunately, I lost my mother in the same year and life came to a stand-still. In 2012, an impromptu road trip from Trivandrum to Varkala and Kanyakumari helped me get a grip on my life again. Together we managed to visit Thekkady, Periyar, Alleppey, Athirapally, Cochin, Wayanad, Goa, Coimbatore, and Kodaikanal.If writing helped me cope up with my mother’s loss, traveling gave me the reason to live.
Three years back after my son was born, the trips became more planned and less on an impulse. From Goa and Mumbai in Central India, Mandarmani, Tajpur, Shankarpur, and Digha in the East, Delhi and Noida in the North to Guwahati, Shillong, and Cherrapunji in the North East, the three of us have explored both the tranquility of nature, humdrum of the city, sea and mountains alike.