Comrade Netai and the Chronology of His UG Days is a personal and emotional story of Naxalite movement in the 90’s. Why was this an important book for you to write?
There are multiple reasons behind writing this book. First point is obviously, I had this experience which I wanted to share with others. Second- To my knowledge perhaps this phase of Naxalite movement (Now Maoist) has not been captured by any novelist since whenever Indian literature refers Naxalite movement they refer seventies and moreover tries to represent in black and white; quite contrary to the reality. Third- I wanted to raise the question – how come that all socialist revolution ended up of being suppliers of cheap labour and eventually strengthening the philosophy which they supposed to overthrow. Can any changes be called revolution. I took ten years to complete this novel.
Netai is an interesting character that I enjoyed reading about. What was the inspiration for his character and development through the story?
Thank you. Inspiration was my experience. The dedicated marginal people (although may not be quite clear about the philosophy) and squalor and deprived life I witnessed.
This book gives a unique look at the considerations given to decisions, elections, and organization of a revolution. Were you able to provide any personal experiences to this story?
Yes, apart from this book I am having many experiences which I think need another book to share. However, I would like to share one of the most painful experiences i gathered and which still haunts me. There is small place name Manoharpur in Singbhum district (now in Jharkhand but then it was in Bihar. i am talking about 1990) adjoining to Orissa and known for mines of iron ore mostly dominated by a big house. From Manoharpur about 30 to 40 km away there was village named Tonto. There was no proper communication from Manoharpur to tonto. Only one bus plying in morning and evening. otherwise there was commercial lorries which carried people too. Apart from that there was only one goods train carrying iron ore.Otherwise those places were not accessible. I was surveying those ares on behalf of my organization and along with one of my colleagues we reached to that village-Tonto. The first hut we arrived found the door was ajar. I peeped through and found some people stood moaning surrounded a person lying on a sagged charpoy. One of them saw us and rushed to us with a gesture of help. We were not able to communicate as we did not know their language neither they. The figure of the person, lying on charpoy, sent shivers down my spine. The skeletal structure was lying spreading its arms across. A white thin cloth was wrapped around waist. The breast squeezed to such an extent as if stuck to bare protruding ribs and i took some time to realise it was- she. Her slimy eyeballs were moving slowly inside the socket. Her tongue was intermittently flicking out from her wizened mouth; as if trying to taste life. They took me as a medical practitioner and requested me to save her. No they were wrong i was not a medical practitioner however, usually, I would carry some basic medicine but I knew that would not work. Literally we escaped from the spot just providing them some medicines. That moment and that figure still haunts me.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next book is- A Joker and A Witch. When it will be available – only time can say.
In the nineties, he joined to a splinter group of Naxalite to be associated with the ongoing struggle for the emancipation of the working class and was rechristened as Netai.
However, in subsequent years, he was dismayed seeing the peer rivalry, manipulation to grab power in the organization. Walking with the arms squad, Netai realized that, to the party, the expansion of arms struggle was the sole yardstick of revolution.
Netai’s home turned into a permanent shelter of comrades and gradually thrown into disarray with aimless siblings, cataract ridden mother and a lonesome father, still a sole bread earner despite being retired from a government job.
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A Dot You Are takes readers on a trip through the protagonist’s journey to rediscover his relationship with his long-lost father (and himself). What parts of himself are the results of his father’s actions when Antoni was just a child? Which parts were created through his own life choices and experiences? Our protagonist comes back to a long-lost world that is in direct juxtaposition from the one he was educated in and eventually realizes that he may not have ended up quite as far from his roots as he once thought.
For anyone who enjoys poetic storytelling full of imagery and metaphor, A Dot You Are, written by Manjula Wediwardana and then translated into English by Dilini Eriyawala, should certainly quench their thirst. The author does well to bring the reader into each of the compelling scenes throughout the story, but leaves plenty of room for the imagination to take over.
Antoni (protagonist) is on a mission to find his estranged father but has limited knowledge of where and how to find him. The village that he must go to on his search does, in fact, turn up the man he is looking for, but he finds many other things as well. Antoni’s journey back to the fishing village awakens certain aspects of his personality which then creates more questions than he had before. Duality is ever-present throughout the story which is a fact that serves Antoni’s role in the story well. He is an outsider with a deep connection to the village. Where there is divinity, there is also the mundane. Where there is warmth, there is also a sense of indifference and hostility. The author captures the nature of the world quite precisely while at the same accentuating the drama that makes it interesting and fun.
The beauty, the hardships, the simplicity, and complex human interactions all make up the experience of the fishing village. The examples of scenery that are described are so vivid that one can get a clear sense of the place. Having visited many fishing villages throughout Sri Lanka, I can say that the reader will finish this book with a deep understanding of what life for a Sri Lankan fisherman is like, what the village looks like, and how the daily activities of everyone unfold.
The atmosphere of A Dot You Are is aided by the language used throughout the story. Not only is there a heavy focus on a poetic approach focused on extracting beauty from everyday situations, but there are also phrases and manners of speech that can only be found throughout India and Sri Lanka. It is not overdone, however, and the reader can easily get a feel for the colourful personalities that make up the story. All in all, it is a magnificent read that has a bit of everything.
Translated into English by Dilini Eriyawala
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An Indian Goes Around the World – II recounts your travels through Europe and shares the amazing experiences you had along the way. When you first set out on your journey were you expecting to encounter so many interesting people?
No. It was those “amazing experiences,” as you put it, which I had in the early stage, that made decide that I must travel to as many countries as I can before I kick the bucket.
You come from a teaching an journalism background. How has your professional background helped you write this book?
My thirst for learning is attributable to the two professions I straddled. Whatever writing skill I have is attributable to my background in journalism. English is not my mother tongue. So to survive in journalism in the English language, I had to put in extra efforts to learn the finer points in English. I realize that I will have to continue those efforts until my dying day.
You state in the book that traveling has opened your mind. Do you think that everyone should undertake such traveling?
Yes, it opens your mind to many things you were blissfully ignorant of until then. When you travel to a new place and interact with the people there, you learn to your surprise that many of the notions you had about both were false. So traveling is not anly a learning experience, bout also a correcting process, in life.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
It is a collection of some of the political and social commentaries I published on the online monthly I edit. It is expected to be out in about six months. Side by side, I am also working on my third book in the “An Indian Goes Around the World” series.
This is the second book by M.P. Prabhakaran on his world-trotting experience. The first one, Capitalism Comes to Maos Mausoleum, was published three years ago. This book is devoted exclusively to the 30-day tour he undertook through 10 countries of Europe in the summer of 2009.
If academic qualifications are a measure of ones learning experience, Prabhakaran says in the Preface to the fi rst book, he has a string of them, including a Ph.D. in Political Science from The New School for Social Research, New York. But, he hastens to add, what I learned from this prestigious American institution and, before that, from various academic institutions in India is no match for what I did from my travels around the world.
In describing what he felt at the end of the 2009 European tour, he goes a step further. The more I travel, he says, the more I discover my ignorance. He admits that his description is a
mangled version of poet Shelleys immortal words: The more we study, the more we discover our ignorance. But, he adds, he could not find a better way to express his enlightening experience.
The tour of 10 European countries, he says in the Preface to this book, opened his mind to various aspects of European cultures he had been quite ignorant of. Through the subsequent pages of the book, he shares with readers the knowledge he gained from conversations with people and from events and objects he got exposed to during that tour.
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Skeins follows a group of Indian woman as they travel through Europe learning something about life, each other, and themselves. What served as your inspiration for this uplifting novel?
Both my novels relate to a world well-known to me: urban educated India. I have been travelling a great deal for the past 14 years and I undertake at least one group tour overseas each year. Though the itinerary for the tour described in Skeins is similar to that of a group tour I undertook with Cosmos© in 2015, the similarity ends there as the tourists in the latter included men and women of varied nationalities. Also, when I had traveled to Ireland in 2016, my suitcase had not been transferred in time to the connecting flight by the airline staff at Munich airport during transit. These experiences sparked off my imagination, which led to the birth of Skeins.
There is a great collection of women from several generations in this group. Who was your favorite character to write for?
It’s like asking someone who is your favourite child. Each woman character is alive in my imagination with her own distinct personality, dreams and circumstances. They are all resilient as I don’t sympathize with whiners. I like women who get back on their feet after a hard tumble and find their own path in life without seeking sympathy or support. However, I particularly empathized with the characters Sandra D’Souza and Vidya Rao who are caught in a conundrum and need to make tough decisions.
I enjoyed how the characters each had their own story that contributed to the depth of their character. What were some themes you wanted to capture in this book?
Though the novel is a breezy read, it deals with serious societal issues related to women. I feel very strongly about the thwarting of women’s emotional, professional and intellectual independence and expression by a patriarchal society and a dominant partner who limit her role to that of a mother and a comfort provider. The novel also depicts the generic issues of social hierarchy, aspirational lifestyles, the violence within and without our homes, loneliness and dementia.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have a few ideas that I am exploring. When that creative spark is ignited, I know I will not take longer than two months to pen the story and edit it.
With a galaxy of identifiable characters from modern urban India depicted with light-hearted mirth in a travel environment, the novel explores serious issues, such as the quest for an independent identity and economic independence, the violence within and outside our homes, the loneliness of old age and the need for constructive channelization of youthful energy. Spanning events across a little more than a year, Skeins depicts how self-expression and a supportive environment trigger a cataclysmic effect and stimulate the women to realize their dreams.
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Skeins by Richa Gupta is the story of a large group of globe-trotting Indian women who take a trip to see the sights in Spain and Portugal. The women are similar in heritage, but vary widely in age and experience. Even though they are from the same general area, they also differ in culture and socio-economic status. As the women grow closer, they let each other into their personal lives. They confide in each other and share secrets, regrets, hopes, and dreams. However, it’s not one big happy slumber party. Some of the women find some serious trouble along their journey.
Overall, Skeins was a pretty easy read. The grammar and sentence structure is impeccable. I didn’t find any errors at all. If anything, there were only a few turns of phrase that only suggested that the author’s roots were different than my own. That’s not a bad thing.
If I have any complaint, it’s that the cast of characters was very large. I found it hard, at times, to keep the names of characters and their story lines straight. There seemed to be so much going on at once between all of the background stories.
I enjoyed the diversity of the characters. I especially enjoyed the diversity paired with the camaraderie that the women enjoyed. They came from all walks of life, different social classes, and different customs to form one big, instant family. They seemed to get along very well. They will make readers hope for these kinds of quickly formed but long lasting friendships.
Readers will also identify with the problems that the women face. They discuss the not-so-perfect aspects of their lives without giving the story too heavy of a feel. The story doesn’t bog down or get lost in their troubles. They simply state what’s going on in their lives, but characters don’t seem to dwell too much for the most part. For a story that deals with adultery, a crime ring, decades old grudges, etc., it is a decidedly uplifting tale. The women tackle their problems instead of becoming victims of circumstance.
I liked that Gupta showed the women as strong, powerful, and independent. None of them were “just a wife” or “just a mother.” None of them were leaning too hard on anyone but themselves. In a country where women aren’t generally in hierarchical positions, it was refreshing to see these women being so self-sufficient. Still, they walked the line between traditional arranged marriages and living their dreams, while sometimes doing both with one foot in each world. They seek out independence, their wildest dreams, and love all at once.
The book feels light-hearted in nature. I enjoyed that combination woven with real-life issues. I enjoyed the cultural journey following the women from India touring the Iberian Peninsula. The characters felt real. I’d love to see one of the characters step forward to star in a sequel.
Pages: 312 | ASIN: B07HP6ZPYM
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The Vegetarian Diet Guru is a guide that provides strategies to design diets for specific nutritional needs. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Diet plays a central role in determining the structural and functional basis of our living and is basic to our sustenance and productivity. Modern medicine has relegated the role of nutrition in our well being, and I wrote this book mainly to bring its importance to the fore and also provide individuals with the knowledge and means to be in charge of their dietary planning. Nature has provided us with a bounty of options to fulfill our nutritional needs but it is up to us to make the right choices for good health. I wanted to outline recipes that use natural, time-tested ingredients and combinations that utilize the latest scientific principles that enhance the value of food, while providing flavor, nutritional balance and variety.
In normal body homeostasis, all parameters fall within normal ranges and the body is on autopilot mode, with the various systems working in unison to provide robust energy, growth and vitality. However, in disease conditions, the body is off balance and requires additional monitoring, medications and diet therapy to function effectively. While the recipes in this book are based on vegetarian selections, they can substitute or supplement non-vegetarian diets as well, as the nutrients and their actions are very similar.
This book has more than 150 recipes. My favorite recipe was the Green Chilies Curry. What is your favorite recipe from the book?
My favorite dish from this book is Masala Okra Curry. Okra is a valuable vegetable in vegetarian diets due to its multiple benefits. Okra is high in fiber, being a rich source of soluble pectins and gums that lower cholesterol, insoluble fibers that aid digestion, and mucilage containing polysaccharides and glycoproteins that lower blood sugar. Other carbohydrates include low glycemic neutral sugars galactose and rhamnose. Okra seeds have 20-40% essential unsaturated fats, and also, rare in vegetables, high amounts of protein, made up of amino acids lysine and tryptophan which are usually lacking in cereal-based vegetarian diets. Okra is also rich in polyphenols and catechins, which provide exogenous anti-oxidant defense against lipid peroxidation and increase endogenous glutathione peroxidase for stabilizing intracellular redox status. This powerhouse of nutrition in this recipe is combined with tomatoes, onions and spices which add to its value. This curry can be a side dish to accompany rice, rotis or complement other menus.
What is a common misconception you find people have about dieting and how they can overcome it?
The common misconception about diet is “one size fits all”; however, people are very unique with respect to their dietary needs, tastes, cultural preferences and health status. Thus, menus have to be customized taking individual factors into consideration. Often, it is difficult to find the right solution for dietary problems and information sources can be confusing or misleading, sometimes even dangerous. In addition, there are plentiful natural, prepared and commercial foods to tempt our palate. In these cases, it may be best to follow safe or tested alternatives that are proven to be effective.
Another common aspect of diets is their content and how the combination of foods affects their assimilation. That is why knowledge of nutrient values helps to precisely target the recipes and menus towards meeting the requirements as closely as possible. Often, with diets and nutritional health, a holistic approach works best rather than an isolated, symptom-based approach. The dieter should aim at harmonizing various body systems in the most optimal way, gearing towards maintaining equilibrium and normal function. Diet should be the first line of action in preventing disease and always have a supportive role in curing and ameliorating abnormal conditions.
Some diets can give results for a short time, but may not be practical for the long term, but here the diet plays a timely role to correct deficiencies or excesses and normalize after which, one can switch to a maintenance diet. Also, some degree of experimentation or trial and error can be allowed with diets and individuals can tailor their diets according to how their body reacts to foods. In the final analysis, a good diet is one that makes you feel happy, energetic and healthy.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
In this book, I have explained basic principles of Nutrition and Diet Planning in health and some abnormal conditions. In my next book, I would like to provide further details, better understanding and additional resources for healthy diet planning. Dietary practices are very personal and it takes time for people to commit to change. Diet should be habit forming and in tune with our lifestyle and modifying them according to our needs is a lifelong process. I would like to provide convincing arguments for food choices, simplified menu planning and food preparation strategies, dietary guidelines for other specific conditions and equip people with knowledge, freedom and practices to plan and use their diets optimally for the health and well-being of their family. As we delve deeper into our knowledge about what, how and why our body works, we realize that we have to reclassify foods and nutrients further into sub-categories that work in a coordinated manner. Although all this information may not fit in a book, I would like to popularize these ideas and publish at appropriate times to reach a larger audience.
“The Vegetarian Diet Guru” is a nutrients-based menu planning guidebook that explains and provides strategies to design diets that meet nutritional specifications according to individual requirements. There are low-calorie recipes for weight loss; low-glycemic carbohydrates based recipes for blood sugar control in pre-diabetes and diabetes; rice, millets and oats-based recipes that can be used for individuals with wheat gluten hypersensitivity; high fiber vegan and vegetarian recipes for gastro-intestinal health; high protein dishes using lentil bean and dairy proteins to lower BMI (Body Mass Index) and increase muscle mass for vegetarians.
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Phoenix tells the story of Sonam and her trials and tribulations as she builds her life as a woman in India. What was your inspiration for this heart-felt novel?
I have been inspired by experience and observation. My family background has been similar, and I have closely observed the lives of urban well-educated women in India. Despite a progressive education and multifaceted skills, they are expected to conform to obsolete family norms and not allowed to make life choices. This is especially true for the year 1983, when the protagonist Sonam wants to extricate herself from an abusive marriage. Indian society then was full of paradoxes: on one hand was the evolution of a knowledge society and unprecedented technological advancement and on the other deeply entrenched dogmatic beliefs in gender stereotypes. Instead of sympathising with a woman who was a victim of circumstances, her family and friends blamed her for her misfortunes and ostracised her.
I felt that this novel confronted gender stereotypes in a bold way. What themes did you want to capture while writing this book?
I have always felt strongly about the unequal playing field provided to women, even in the educated elite class, and the perception that they are appendages to male family members, whether father, brother or husband. Why should women be accorded respect only if they have empathetic men to battle for them? This discrimination is especially difficult to combat since one is pushing against one’s parents and closest family members whom one loves and respects. Through this novel, I wanted to highlight the need to cherish and support daughters as individuals regardless of the presence and status of their life partners.
I felt that Sonam was a multilayered character that was judged by her failings rather than her success. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
While her parents despair of what will happen to Sonam after she leaves her husband and judge her by her failure in relationship, she demonstrates exceptional skills and shines in her workplace as an achiever. Her personality growth from 1983 to 2017 despite all odds illustrates the triumph of the spirit over ostracism, bigotry, negativity and injustice. She is rejuvenated from the ashes, just like the mythical bird, phoenix.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
My next book, tentatively titled ‘A Journey Within’ has a very different story though it also deals with women’s issues. The lives of 16 Indian women of varying age groups intersect when they go on an all-women’s trip to Spain and Portugal. As events unfold during and after the trip, each of them reaches a realization that changes her life forever.
Caught in an abusive marriage, Sonam Aggarwal finds no family support when she struggles to break free. However, with unwavering grit, she makes a place for herself in the world and rises like a phoenix from the ashes of her dead marriage to discover true companionship and professional success.
The evolution of a knowledge society in India that places a premium on human knowledge and skills regardless of gender finally bequeaths her a coveted place in the sun. The novel focuses on the core strength of a woman that asserts her value despite external trappings and women characters who go through their individual struggle with the inevitable challenges that threaten their existence.
Phoenix, a novel, traces the life of Sonam and her upper class family in South Delhi from 1983 to 2017. It highlights the curious paradoxes in Indian society: its global leadership in digitalization contrasted with antiquated prejudices and gender stereotypes.
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Phoenix, written by Arti Chugpai, tells the story of Sonam Aggarwal and her trials and tribulations as she builds her life as a woman in India. Sonam is a complex character with beautiful soul, intelligence and integrity. Her presence demands authority, and as the Director of Publishing for a branch in India, she has certainly earned respect and accolades. However, there is a part of her that is broken by a moment in her life that she explicitly calls “The Betrayal”. Her family and friends judge her by her relationship failings rather than her career successes, leaving Sonam feeling lost and alone. Will Sonam be able to rise above the stereotypes and convictions of her family and friends to find true happiness?
Phoenix is a novel based on love, life and conforming to gender stereotypes. It’s the year 1998, and there’s a budding romance growing between a middle-aged business tycoon by the name of Kunal Vats and the main leading lady, Sonam Aggarwals. Set in India, Phoenix explores Sonan Aggarwal’s life through her ever-changing family, relationships, career aspirations and friendships.
The story then flits between two different eras of Sonam Aggarwal’s life, one part telling her life as it is in 2017 and the other turning back the clock to the year 1998. It’s here we learn about her life and the changing family dynamics and reoccurring expectations that seem to haunt Sonam, no matter how old her or her family members are.
It was refreshing to read a novel based on someone who is aged between their 40’s-60’s. Most modern love stories center around young adults in their twenties and Phoenix was a gentle reminder that age is no barrier when it comes to pursuing love and happiness. I enjoyed the sense of realism as the characters experienced a love that did not always result in happy endings. Instead, Phoenix dove deep into a raw and personal kind of love, where abuse, betrayal and forgiveness are all prominent players in the relationship game.
Phoenix also explores the events of Sonam’s life so thoroughly that at times you feel as though you are almost reading a biography of a real person. The novel also went into depth to showcase some of India’s culture, including foods, family life and working conditions. Arti Chugpai’s style of writing is confident and expressive, using strong descriptive words and phrases to demonstrate their points within the plot line. Fitting, considering the main character Sonam is a publisher herself.
Phoenix also brings to light the society changes and gender differences in India, and how things change over a period of time. It shows the difference in expectations between men and women, especially when it comes to love and relationships. Women are considered to be successful if they maintain a healthy, happy family, with their career aspirations and achievements often shadowed by the relationship, falls they have had in their life.
I would recommend this for anyone looking for a novel about budding romance, rising above the gender stereotypes and Indian culture.
Pages: 232 | ISBN: 1543701043
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