January 5, 2018

Event: Books over Chai - A Thank You Note

I have been meaning to write this blog post for the longest time. In fact, I wanted to write the blog post right after the very first successful Books, Monsoon and Chai meet. The rain had played a spoilsport and made a lot of people miss that event. But it had been my favourite. Don’t ask me why. Because I wouldn’t be able to tell you or give you an answer that is satisfactory enough!

This was Pradipta’s idea. She had lived in Delhi for two years and she wanted to create an event that involved books. Back in 2016, she and another friend had conducted the first ever book event. Back then, it wasn’t called Books over Chai.

When she moved back to Kolkata in early 2017 she shared that she would like to take up hosting the event again. And because I was working in a job that involved me deeply in the world of books and literature, I agreed to help her. I cannot tell you exactly when the helping turned into collaborating with her fulltime on the project. Because even though Books over Chai is her brainchild, I feel just as responsible for it and just as proud of the events we have successfully conducted so far.

I am the poster child of an introvert – with books and cats and notebooks for company. This event, I have personally felt, is a place where people are allowed to be themselves without any apologies. I have found people who I know to be introverts become okay with speaking and voicing their opinions. While they have sought the comfort of hiding behind their books, I love how Books over Chai gives them just enough encouragement to raise their heads a little and tell you what they think – of both books and this world.

In all the meets that have happened till date, I have found myself very systematically sticking to my Young Adult novels. Though I barely meet people who share the same enthusiasm for this particular genre. At the same time, I constantly meet people who read books of different genres, and I learn about books and characters I would have perhaps never come cross!

So if you happen to be in Kolkata, please do come to the next meet. I cannot guarantee that you’ll absolutely love it. But I can promise you good conversations about books, authors, stories and characters over cups of piping hot chai!

Initially this meet was held at The Chaiwala. We moved the location to Purple Cat Studios at Dipanwita Apartments from December. We sincerely hope that this location remains constant over the many, many more sessions to come.

Pradipta and I are both humbled and proud of how far we have come with Books over Chai. Do help us take this beautiful journey forward! Ping either of us if you happen to have any queries regarding this. And follow our Facebook Page - Book Lovers and Readers - for more updates!

December 29, 2017

Poem: Crumble

It always begins with a hello,
And not being able to turn down the temptation to reply.
It always begins with conversations,
The sweet nothings when time seems to standstill.
Until reality seeps in.

Every good morning gets replaced with
‘I am running late for work’,
And every goodnight seems like a forced duty.
And in between the stray text messages
The calls that used to last hours
Turning into fleeting nanoseconds,
We realize this is the beginning of the end.

Only we wish this wasn’t happening again.
And again, and again, and again.

Because I’m tired of the pretty little lies,
I’m tried of letting people in.
For people keep leaving, with only the
Trails of dust and destruction
As the stamps to remember them by.

The only marks human beings leave on each other
Are scars. And sometimes, sometimes they run too deep.
You can try your hardest but once you’re hurt,
You really don’t want to let anyone in.

For it always starts the same way.
Every “why can’t you understand?”
“Why do you need to be such a child?”
“Can you stop being so freaking needy?”
“I have five minutes. We can talk now.”
“What do you mean you’re busy? Why can’t
You pause what you’re doing?”
“I have to get up early to get to work!”

I could list all the excuses I’ve ever heard,
And I am afraid I’d run out of space.
But this how the crumble begins.
You just have to sit and wonder if the high
Is really ever worth the pain?

I’m so tired. I’m so tired.
Of history repeating itself.
And yet – I don’t know really know
How to give up hope,
How to give up on people,
Because I still see the best in people
Because that’s what my best friend taught me.

Because when our friendships were in trouble,
They didn’t give up. They didn’t give up on me.
We fight. We scream. We break.
But we come back together again, stronger than ever.

However they taught me one really important thing too.
It’s good to fight for someone who loves you.
It’s futile to fight for someone to love you.
And as I look back and try to make sense of the world,
Removing the rose tinted glasses,
I finally understand the difference.

It always begins the same way.

It always ends the same way too. 

December 20, 2017

Musings: Learn to Love Again

The first thought that crosses my mind as I look at the title of this blog post is – why? Why am I even writing this? But as I calm down and let the words flow through the tips of my fingers, I realize that this has always been how I function. Whenever my world stops making sense I run into the safe embrace of writing. Because this is the only place where I feel sheltered, the only place where I am invincible. No matter how badly this world might break me I am convinced that I can put myself back again, one word at a time.

The second thought that comes into my mind as I gulp down the last bit of tea is that this is my favourite time of the year. It always has been ever since I was a child. My mother always told me to write letters to Santa Claus because he would be there on Christmas, exactly when the clock struck midnight, carrying the presents I had requested. But apparently with every passing year I began to ask for things that Santa Claus couldn’t really bring me. Of course like every other kid in the world, I learned that Santa Claus was just our parents masquerading around, letting us believe in a little bit of magic until we learned how truly bleak this world is.

When we were kids, my siblings and I would decorate the Christmas tree, would eagerly put out the socks and wait for morning to break. When we realized it was just our parents giving us presents – we started giving them presents too all under the guise of Santa Claus. It was fun while it lasted. We are too old for the Santa Claus charade to go on, but we still go on with it.

You know I am beginning to realize that learning to love again is a lot like believing in Santa Claus. You can be sure that sometime you’re going to get your heart broken, and sometimes there will be some ugly fights but that doesn’t mean you’re going to shut your heart away from all of it. When we get hurt our first instinct is to swear that this will never happen again. I am not an exception. Despite the fact I encourage my friends to fall in love, I assure them that I will catch them if they fall and writing them letters about how they need to realize they deserve love, I sometimes forget that I need to hear those words as well.

It’s not like I don’t. I have friends constantly encouraging me to break out of my shell, to try new things. Friends who tell me, over and over that you shouldn’t judge everything in your life based on that one bad incident that has shaken you to the core. While I do find it difficult to learn to love again, I don’t think it’s impossible. Because in spite of all our differences, love is the one thing that will still bring us together.

Love works in mysterious ways. It sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Maybe initially you’re annoyed by the presence. And you fight your feelings, and you rant and rave, and you yell about how this is not how you thought your life was going to turn out to be. Yet at the same time you cannot ignore the determined little voice that whispers to you, Come on. You can learn to love again…

September 12, 2017

Musings: Of Monologues and Fidget Spinners

I am watching the fidget spinner spin on the tip of my fingers. It is supposed to help me. It’s supposed to calm my mind down. It’s supposed to help me focus. The speed slows down until it comes to a dead stop.

I exhale.

I cannot let my mind wander again. I spin it again. Hoping with the whirring, my mind too can be muted.

Why is it so difficult to make people understand? Why has it been so fucking difficult to make people understand...?

Stop. I move it again. It spins again, merrily. Oblivious to the fact as long as it spins, it keeps my mind from wandering into dark places.

I am not broken. People go through things. People become the sum of their beliefs. People also leave.
That has been the constant in life. People leaving, but sometimes they also stay. And we are blessed. We consider ourselves lucky when they stay.  We –

Damn it. How many times would I need to keep spinning this thing on the tip of my fingers, between my forefinger and thumb, how many times would I have to spin this to keep my life from spinning out of control?

What was I saying? Oh yes. People leave. But sometimes they stay. I crib about people leaving but maybe it’s time I need to take a step back. I need to see the whole picture.

Does it matter that people have left? Yes. Because every time they did, they left this gaping hole of the size of themselves in my heart. But I learned to heal myself with time. I learned to understand that not everything in life is meant to last.

And you can always tell yourself that you’re one heart break closer to finding the love of your life.

It stopped spinning again. Wait, while I set it in motion again, will you?

I have been thinking and over thinking, letting snide comments from snarky people get under my skin. Who do you think you are in anyway? And what gives you the right to talk to me like you do? Did I hit my head hard against the wall? How could I have let someone like you into my life in the first place?

Shit! Shit! My thoughts are spilling out again. I am unable to form coherent sentences. The fidget spinner – watching its rhythm helps me form complete sentences. It helps me gather my thoughts. Because we all know I get tongue tied when the spotlight is on me. I am never able to make sense of what I am saying when I am forced to say it out loud. We all know I think so much better on paper.

There. That’s better. It’s spinning happily again, and I feel brave enough to face every what’s your point? Every well it doesn’t matter. Every I don’t care. Too bad. Because it matters to me. I care. And I do have a point. You’re just too much of an asshole to see it.

What is it with people these days? They don’t even seem to have decent enough excuses to be the kind of asshats we encounter every single day! Heartbreak really has become the national anthem. We have more exes than we have successful relationships. I really didn’t want to add to the count. I just wanted what I dreamt about since I read the first story which said that good always wins in the end. And wicked falls, and the Princess eventually finds the Prince and they do get to live happily... But...

Hang on. I need to spin this again. I cannot remember what I started out to say until I see it spinning in my hands. That’s better. So much better!

I have been called many things in my life. But I don’t think anything has broken me quite as much as the last few months of my life. What I always knew and what I am telling myself now is this – you always have a choice. You can always choose to walk away from someone who isn’t good enough for you. Who makes you feel you’re not good enough for them. You’re fucking perfect. You don’t need another person to make you believe that. Screw them.

Finally, the fidget spinner has come to a halt. I stare at it for a minute. This helps me. It helps me so much. But I remember a time when I didn’t need to use it. When I was happy and confident, and still had the world at my finger tips. It wasn’t the fidget spinner at all.

And I am fighting everyday to get back to the woman I lost trying to love a man who clearly wasn’t the one for me. I let the fidget spinner fall to the ground. Maybe today I will not be able to resist the urge to pick it up and start playing with it again. But I am pretty sure that day isn’t far either when I wouldn’t need it anymore.

August 7, 2017

Musings: Musings On Music

Do you ever listen to a song and remember exactly what life was like when you first heard it?
-          Anonymous
“You don’t have good taste when it comes to music,” he says.

“I don’t have a good taste when it comes to anything,” I reply, looking pointedly at him.

But I wonder now why do we judge each other over the choice of their music. My playlist is weird. I have the trashiest of songs on it, and the most soulful ones. And there are songs that I don’t want to listen to because it hurts a little too much. There are songs I want to listen to – because it takes away the pain for some time. Some songs I keep listening to on loop because it reminds me of the times gone by. Incidents that have now become merely memories, that stays right below the surface of my consciousness.

My childhood is collection of every Beatles song, ABBA songs, Simon and Garfunkel, John Denver and whatever other cassettes were lying around the house that was played in our old tape recorder punctuated with nursery rhymes and stray Dutch songs that my father would hum as I drifted off to an uneasy slumber at night. Songs from the 90s that my sister would play in the tape recorder as she sat at the table and went through her Maths homework, and I would look at her in awe. I would wonder how one balanced the music with the complexities of Maths! She must be some kind of a genius. Because I would never be able to listen to music while I did Maths growing up – I would need my full concentration. Maybe even more!

She was gifted a walkman a few years later. So my source of music was cut off. All I had was the radio and the music they would play. I couldn’t discover new music on my own because our television time was limited and I preferred watching cartoons to anything else in any case. My source of music became my school’s Assembly where I swear they taught us songs in almost every language known to man.

It was when I discovered YouTube that I once again started listening to music again. I started off with the songs that I already knew. Then branched off into songs that I found on my own – and I slowly began to understand that the peppier and happier my playlist grew, the sadder I grew inside. I couldn’t listen to really emotional music without dissolving into tears. So the best thing was to just fool myself into believing that I was happier than I thought possible.

There are songs now that I cannot listen to without thinking about something or another. I know I can never listen to Simon and Garfunkel ever again without remembering that one night in an alien city, sitting next a friend and feeling lonelier than I ever had in over a decade. I know I can never listen to Mon Re from Lootera, without the image of a beautiful women in gold and periwinkle blue, sitting atop a high chair, swinging her legs and completely lost in the music. I know I can never hum Annie’s Song without remembering that was the song I had planned on once singing to the guy I’d decide to spend the rest of my life with. But those plans fell short of course.

I know the words of the song my sister made me listen to and promised me that I’d dedicate it to whoever I finally end up with. I know which songs to play loudly when I understand that my mother has been missing my sister, which songs in particular reminder her of the girl who used to live with us and burst into song every now and then. And how she kept trying to make me sing along with her and how stubbornly I refused. I don’t sing. I don’t dance. I write. That is who I am.

Speaking of dancing – every Pujo I am reminded painfully that not only I don’t dance, I cannot dance. Until I am in the company of my friends, then we end up dancing with reckless abandon. It’s hard to avoid the intoxicating energy during Pujos, and especially when it’s your best friends. And I remember all our slumber parties and singing songs that we love. Both seriously and in jest, because even though we will forget a lot of things, we won’t forget the night outs and the night ins. And the songs that we shared with one another, songs that eventually found their way into my playlist. 

I hear Adam Young talk about his dad being his superhero and I get super jealous. Because I cannot connect with this feeling, I want someone to write about their mother being their superhero! I would connect with that better. I can hear Echosmith talk about the Cool Kids and I realize I was the same all through school – wondering why and how others found it so easy to blend in!

I have always loved listening to words more than I have liked listening to beat, the music and everything else. I like the lyrics maybe because I can connect to the words more. But sometimes a stray song here and there gets branded in my memory forever. And I know I can never hear it again without recalling every single detail of that time.

I will find songs that sing of hope, that make you want to believe in something. I don’t exactly know what. I will keep playing those annoying peppy tracks on loop because it helps me realize where I am today. I will find songs that others cannot connect with because honestly? It doesn’t matter. People always leave. The only thing I will be left with is a heart full of love and a playlist that makes no sense to anyone! It breaks my heart a little now, when I remember half the songs that I shared with other people. They’re not special anymore.  Maybe I shared the song with the wrong people?

And suddenly I remember that night when I was unable to sleep and on a wild Google search, I ended up finding a beautiful song by The Band Perry called If I Die Young and I realize something...it’s funny when you’re dead how people start listening...

July 5, 2017

Musings: Thank You Note

It is so easy to forget those who helped you achieve your dreams when the spotlight is shining brightly on you. It is quite possible to get blinded by the bright lights. Because you want to believe that everything that you’re holding so closely to your heart was achieved because of your hard work. Yes, you did work really hard to get where you are now. However, you have to acknowledge the fact you did have a lot of help along the way.

I remember when I was in the eighth standard we were discussing being arrogant in class. Or something about climbing up the ladder I don’t remember which. But I remember feeling irritated with the teacher for choosing me as an example. What she said is still burned into my memory.
“Now, suppose when Aniesha becomes a very famous author and she’s asked how did she realize her dream and who helped her, and she says ‘Oh, I did everything by myself. I didn’t get help from anyone.’ That would be her looking down at everyone who helped her climb up the ladder and what she’d be displaying is arrogance.”

I remember being a little shocked and saying, “Well, I wouldn’t do that.”

She did say it was merely an example, but to me it doubled up as a lesson. I don’t think I’m an ungrateful person and I’ve always been thankful for all the good things that I’ve received in life. My childhood wasn’t one laced with happy and pretty memories and I didn’t have the luxury of being handed the moon every time I cried.

I am in no way a famous author. (Well, not yet anyway. But I’m sure I’ll get there someday.) But I realized that even the words that I wrote would never have been printed had it not been for a number of people in my life. Therefore, on this extremely rainy Tuesday, I want to thank those who stuck by my side starting with my family.

My sister asked me what I wanted to do when I grow up, I said ‘writer’ and she said ‘okay, do you have a plan?’ My mother encouraged me to follow my dreams. But it wasn’t until Chiquita, my friend in college, forced me to start approaching publishing houses that I even thought of getting seriously published. I always had this ridiculous fantasy that I’d work in some job till I was older and only then would I get published. But thankfully young writers are being read these days, so when General Press expressed their interest in publishing The Secret Proposal, I was over the moon.

My friends were amazing supporters of my work and obviously purchased my book, without me asking them too. They snapped pictures of their purchases and sent it my way. Things went a little downhill once the rush and exhilaration of the first book had died down. I knew little or nothing of social media or promotions back then, and as a result I couldn’t really reach out to the readers. So in 2013, what I did was start blogging. And very soon I realized that blogging was pretty addictive, and it was because I got into blogging that I met a world ofwonderful people.

But the real reason why I wanted to write this particular post is to thank the people who asked me not to give up on my dreams just because I faced a few roadblocks. (For one thing, no one wanted to publish When Our Worlds Collide which ironically is the novel that has been holding a steady place at the Amazon Bestsellers list till date...) I am grateful to General Press for believing me a second time round. But again, none of it would’ve been possible had it not been for those amazing friends rallying around me, telling me not to give up on my dreams.

When the spotlight is shining brightly on you, be sure to remember that this journey that you undertook, it was never yours alone. There were friends who believed in you, the nemesis that tried to bring you down. As an author I can tell you that I am thankful to my beta readers, to the early bird reviewers calling me out on the mistakes I made, telling me I needed to work harder. Chief among them was the editor, who both patiently and exasperatedly pointed out my mistakes. For When Our Worlds Collide, that was Leo Da, for All Signs Lead Back to You  (my fourth book published by my friend and the CEO of BEE Books, Esha) that was Samarpita Di.

I do agree that writing is a rather lonely and tiring business. When the story first comes out of you, when you pen down the first draft, that’s the only time it belongs solely to you. But once you let it go the book the end product becomes the result of the collaboration of many, many people. Don’t forget them. Don’t forget your editors, your proofreaders, your family, your friends, you publishers (both who rejected you and believed in you). Don’t forget your friends, especially the ones who were forced to read the horrible first drafts (thanks, Debi di, Sudeshna, Mohit, and Nivedita for just that), and never forget the people who told you to follow your dreams no matter the price. (Epic thank you to my mother and my sister and to Pippo)

Good things are happening in my life at the moment. It’s pretty scary for me to think that there might come a time when I’d become as arrogant as to claim that everything I have right now, is thanks to myself. Therefore, I am writing this Thank You Note, so that years down the line it serves as a reminder to me this one lesson that was ingrained inside of me from a very young age no matter how high you fly, no matter how many ladders of success you find, no matter how much the spotlight shines on you, don’t get blinded by it. Be starry eyed enough to remember where you came from, remember who you are and always, always remain grateful to those who helped you realize your dreams.

June 30, 2017

The Writing Desk: Writer's Block

Stephen King was once asked how does he write to which he replied, “Oh, usually one word at a time.” It’s a funny answer but if you really think about it then writers for the most part are divided into two categories:

i.                    Those who believe in writer’s block
ii.                 Those who dismiss it.

For my part, I have both believed and not believed in writer’s block for a number of reasons.
There’s a rather funny definition of writer’s block wherein one believes it occurs when your imaginary friends refuse to talk to you. Because let’s face it all our ideas and stories seem to come from this mysterious Source. Maybe this Source is the imaginary friends that we joke about. You could be sitting at your work desk and be hit by an idea suddenly. Or you could be in a crowded metro trying your best to keep yourself from falling on the next person when suddenly a brand new idea dawns on you. It is unbearable if you are unable to get to your phone and type out a hasty note. Because the biggest lie we tell ourselves is the fact that we don’t need to write something down, for we will remember it. Believe me – we will not.

I have been a victim of writer’s block quite a number of times. There were days that I haven’t felt inspired to get out of the safe comforts of my bed to sit at the laptop and hammer out a new story. There were days when I couldn’t even bring myself to name the characters who would be appearing in my stories. Because when you fall into a writing slump, it’s rather difficult to get out of it. For a question that nags you at the back of your mind is – but who is going to read my story anyway? Whose life depends on the fiction that I come up with?

The answer to which is: YOU. You chose to write. You chose writing. You owe it to yourself to tell the world the stories that are raging inside of your head. So even when you don’t feel like writing a word, you are going to force yourself to get up and write one word after another until you form a sentence.

When writers start out their careers, when they are writing for pleasure, it becomes all too easy to say ‘oh I can’t write without inspiration’ or ‘Oh, I need such and such circumstances to happen in order to write.’ Let me tell you a secret. The Universe isn’t going to align itself perfectly for you to write the story that will change the lives of thousands of people who read it. You are going to learn how to write under any circumstances. You’re going to teach yourself to adapt. Why, you ask? Because you are a writer, and primarily, writing is your job!

For me, I have had both commissioned and non-commissioned projects and had to work with deadlines. Imagine if I had just woken up one day and said, “I am not inspired enough to write.” And I would have never seen a part of my earning!

It is good to romanticise writing by saying you have to do this and that in order to write. But at the end of the day, for me personally, writing is a job and in order to make sure you get your job done, what you need is discipline. Therefore the first thing you need to do is set aside a time everyday (doesn’t matter whether it’s the weekend or weekdays or a National holiday), you’re going to make sure you sit at your desk and write. Even if it is ten words! Believe me, in seven days, it will become second nature to you.

This is one of the reasons why I love NaNoWriMo so much. If you wrote 1,667 words every day for a month, you’d have 50,000 words at the end of it.  And which is fine because you can actually have a novel that just needs a lot of editing and sprucing. Let’s face it, you can edit this first draft. But you cannot edit a blank word document.

So in the end, I firmly stand by the belief that there’s no such thing as writer’s block. It’s just you not wanting to break out of the safe comforts of not having to write. Or simply not making the time to write, and so if the novel that you were supposed to complete by March hasn’t been written yet – it’s probably your fault. Once you realize that, just make a writing schedule and stick to it. Or list out the things you need to write each day. This has been working out pretty well for me so far. Let’s see how soon you are able to see When Our Worlds Meet Again in the market.