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.”

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.

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”

Favorite Indian Detectives – Niki Marwah by Swati Kaushal

Who –

Niki Marwah

Creator –

Swati Kaushal

Novels in the series –

Drop Dead

Lethal Spice

All that Glitters (short story – kindle edition)

About the Detective –

Niki Marwah, as the Superintendent of Police is in charge of maintaining the law and order of Shimla. At 5ft 6inches, this razor-sharp minded investigator loves her stilettos as much as she enjoys chasing down criminals. When she is not dodging marriage proposals from her mother , she finds herself meeting men set up by her best friend Kamini aka Kam who understands how intimidating a woman in uniform can turn out to be for future prospects. When a body is discovered at the Sonargram cable car base, SP Marwah along with her team consisting of Inspector Gupta from the crime branch, the veteran Inspector Pande and the new recruit ASP Shankar Sahay start investigating the death of the 37-year-old Rakesh Mehta aka Rak – President, and CEO of a publishing firm. As the highly competent cop and her team start delving into the details of the death, involved parties start getting exposed and the truth of the events turn out to be different from they are presumed to be. During the course of the investigation, she also runs into Captain Ram Mathur, a close friend of the murdered CEO and despite the development of a budding romance, a sudden discovery of past relationships lands him in the list of suspects. This action-packed thriller takes a reader through multiple twists and turns before revealing the identity of the killer.

Drop Dead by Swati Kaushal
Drop Dead by Swati Kaushal

Continue reading “Favorite Indian Detectives – Niki Marwah by Swati Kaushal”

Getting back to writing through My Friend Alexa – Season 4

Over the past few months, most of my updates have been limited to awards and recognition. While the blog was making a way to quite a few esteemed lists and my writing got me my first award of this year, I was grappling with recurrent health issues rendering me incapable of maintaining a regular writing schedule. Not the one to give up on my dreams, I have finally decided to face one of the lowest phases of my life heads on and get back to blogging and writing September 1st onwards. Blogchatter is back with the fourth season of My Friend Alexa and it will be my second year of participation in this campaign.

What it is about –

I will be writing 2 posts every week on my blog (a total of 8 posts in the month) in September while reading a lot of my fellow bloggers every day. The Alexa rank of my blog which is the highest in the last one and a half year is expected to come down due to consistency in writing and also because of being read by others (the lower the rank, the better for the blog).

My experience from the campaign –

Last year was my maiden attempt at My friend Alexa. This campaign came at a time when I was consistently blogging every month and had a decent Alexa rank to begin with. Through this campaign, I wrote 12 posts in September and discovered a bunch of new bloggers. It helped me sustain my writing momentum, improve the quantitative parameters associated with my blog while also giving me an exposure to some prolific writers. I understood the need to write short posts (compared to some really long ones that I was writing until then) and helped me gain a grip on writing flash fiction.

Theme reveal –

8 favorite Indian Detectives
8 favorite Indian Detectives

In the last few months that I couldn’t write much, I finally utilized the time to catch up on my reading list. During the process, I discovered some brilliant Indian detective thrillers, a genre I enjoy reading the most. So, this September I intend to write about eight of my favorite Indian detectives from literature. To know which detective is the first one to make it to this list, please visit my blog to read the post on September 3rd. I hope to give you a great reading experience on my blog this September.

Thank you for reading, If you like my writing, please consider subscribing to my blog by clicking on the follow button at the bottom right end of the page.

Winning the Shining Bloggers Award – 2019

July has been one of the toughest months for me this year. I was scheduled to start my MFA creative writing program and knew that the blog was going to see lesser posts than usual. As luck would have it, my health issues flared up badly by the end of June leaving me helpless and breathless. The last one was due to the severe nasal complications that I seemed to have developed recently. While it took a lot of determination to stay positive and stop myself from thinking about being productive, I need to mention that I also discovered some amazing authors and their books in the last three weeks. They kept me company as I tried to keep my hope alive about the effectiveness of medicines in helping me get back to a normal life.

Winning the Shining Blogger Award
Winning the Shining Bloggers Award 2019

And then something magical happened. On July 12th, I got a mail from Millennial Worx that my blog had made it to the top 20 shortlist of the Shining Bloggers Award and the final results of the top 10 winning Bloggers were scheduled for Sunday, July 21st. The most endearing aspect of this shortlist was that someone had nominated my blog for this award (anonymously) and I’m still trying to figure out who it was. But I feel immensely grateful that he/she considered me worth this nomination based on my work. On 21st July, the final list was and it gives me immense pleasure to inform you that soniasmusings.com won the award finishing at the third position. While I couldn’t be present in person to receive the trophy and certificate at Lucknow, the founders helped me connect to the audience through an audio visual live session.

Accolades and prestigious awards like this motivate me to write better and work harder. They serve as reminders of the reason I quit my corporate job to become a writer. Hence, I take this opportunity to thank all my readers, family members and friends who have been a constant source of support in my writing journey of 1 year 10 months. I am hoping to get back to creating some more beautiful pieces on this blog very soon.