They Paved The Path On Which I Tread
Healing Strings follows an ex-pat from India who is forced to take shelter after Tokyo is rocked by two major natural disasters. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
“Healing Strings” is a work of fiction with some autobiographical elements. I was living in Tokyo, when an earthquake of 9 Richter struck the Tohoku region in Japan on March 11, 2011, followed by a Tsunami at 14.46 JST. These two major disasters occurred at a time when I was diagnosed with “Takayasu Arteritis” – a fatal autoimmune disease. The Japanese doctors did an exceedingly good job of saving me. These major events after a few years triggered my imagination to write a novel. As this would be my first attempt at novel writing, I took admission in an online Novel Writing Course in the Faber Academy, UK. This novel my project in Faber Academy developed into the present stage with the guidance received from my Professors and Authors in Faber Academy, i.e Emily Barr and Mark Jervis. They paved the path on which I tread and expressed my imagination, experiences and dreams into words.
I must admit that what follows the earthquake in the novel is fiction, though I am a keen lover of the mandolin and music therapy is a major theme of this work. The location of the novel as well as description of Japanese culture in Tokyo and Kyoto as well that of Bekal in Kerala is what I have experienced first-hand and so is the medical treatment imparted to the protagonist for “Takayasu Arteritis” by the Japanese doctors.
Raj is an interesting character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
Raj is a character which developed through me as we both suffer from the same physical ailment. However, our lives may have taken different trajectories as Raj is a figment of my imagination. His value system which he has imbibed is what I cherish. He is a ‘family man’ with immense love and affection for his wife, son, and daughter. Though he is a marketing professional in a corporate firm in Tokyo, his roots and magnetic pull is towards his family in New Delhi in India.
Another trait of his character is his sense of humour and empathy which is reflected in his relationship with the staff of Trinity Advertising, his friend Bikram, and the nurses in the hospital.
A major theme of the novel is music, and this germinates from Raj’s love for the mandolin. Playing on the mandolin’s strings not only is a source of communication with Ayana but also helps in subsiding the aneurysms in his body. As Music Therapy worked in his case, he tries to replicate the same by opening an institute of Music Therapy in Bekal in Kerala. He wants to share with society, what has worked in his life.
The love he develops for his mandolin teacher and the respect he has for her husband and his own wife depicts his level of maturity in handling such a situation. An attempt has been made to portray him as a good human being, a fine friend, a virtuous life-partner, a platonic lover, and a concerned parent.
The reader on reading the novel may wish to imbibe some of his traits.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
There are various themes which run concurrently in “Healing Strings”. One of the major themes in this work is disaster at the personal level and national level and how it effects an individual, society, and the entire nation. To overcome a disaster, requires resilience and expertise and these aspects are delineated in the reactions of Raj, scientists, medical fraternity, as well as the local population of Japan.
The second theme which is predominant is love and that love can bloom even without verbal or written communication. Love has only a beginning…. and that love can rise above the physical. Music can bring the hearts together and convey more to the lovers than any language.
The third theme is Music Therapy, and this is depicted in the blooming feelings of Raj and Ayana as well the cure of Raj’s ailment. It is not surprising that in today’s world modern medical science has accepted the role of Music Therapy and many hospitals world over have a Music Therapy wing. The famous American novelist Jodi Lynn Picoult states, “Music therapy, to me, is music performance without the ego. It’s not about entertainment as much as about empathizing. If you can use music to slip past the pain and gather insight into the workings of someone else’s mind, you can begin to fix a problem.”
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am presently working on two books simultaneously. The first book is a compilation of short stories titled “Thirteen” which will depict various scenes of life which we overlook and consider as natural happenings, but they play a major role in the character’s life. I personally feel that every human being is a compilation of experiences, stories, and anecdotes. We just need to be keen observers and empathise with what another human being undergoes. This book should be ready for release in 2023.
The second book I am working on with a co-author is non-fiction and is tentatively titled “Tourism Marketing in India”. The focus of this book is on the post-pandemic era, the marketing strategies required to revive tourism in India and usage of social media tools to position the destination in the potential tourist’s psyche in various key markets across the globe. The world has undergone a sea change because of the onslaught of Covid 19 and almost all destinations need resuscitation and revival at the grassroot level. Hence, the strategies to promote a destination which will now emerge with the new travel trends are going to be different. I sincerely hope I can complete this work in 2022.
Author Links: Twitter | Facebook
“Healing Strings” 14:46 hrs, 11 March, 2011, Tokyo is hit by a massive earthquake. The city is still reeling with the aftershocks when an unprecedented Tsunami hits its shores. This wake of destruction is reflected in the life of Raj, an expat from India. 50-year-old Raj has been diagnosed with Takayasu Arteritis, an incurable disease in which the blood vessels develop blockages which can burst at any moment. Raj had nine such aneurysms all over his body. The Japanese Doctors are trying their best to prevent them from bursting. Much like scientists in Fukushima trying hard to prevent the nuclear reactors from exploding. Out for a random stroll, an antique Mandolin catches his eye. He ends up buying the instrument, hoping to learn how to play it. This item on his bucket list, takes him to the threshold of an elderly Japanese musician. She hesitantly takes him under her fold. She only speaks Japanese, of which Raj does not understand a word. Transcending language and cultural barriers, a rare friendship develops between the two. In a scenario of disease and disaster, does the will to survive and make new beginnings assert itself, amongst the Japanese and Raj………. Reviews ” A fascinating debut! Love blossoms in an ambience of disaster, Japanese culture and resilience, and ends in the beautiful environs of Bekal in Kerala. Creativity at its best! Truly captivating. – Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog, Government of India. ” Music heals – how true and how well this book brings it out. And provides succour to the protagonist, the lovers and the nation. A great read” – Ashwani Lohani CEO, GMR Services Business, Former CMD, Air India & ITDC, Former Chairman, Railway Board. “the story is truly heart-warming and enlightening, definitely an original tale that I have not had the pleasure of hearing anything similar before.” – Literary Titan
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Healing Strings by Manmohan Sadana is an extremely touching tale that follows Raj, an ex-pat from India, who is living away from his family in Tokyo. This is where we find him when a massive earthquake shakes the city, and he is forced to take shelter. But unfortunately, in the wake of one natural disaster comes another in the form of a tsunami, and those living in Japan must also deal with the threat coming from the nuclear reactors. Although, these are just the beginning of the issues that Raj must face, as he soon discovers he is very ill and in need of urgent medical attention.
There is constant mirroring of the two storylines, Japan trying to recover from natural disasters while in constant worry that a nuclear reactor will explode, and Raj’s personal battle with his disease and the concern that his blood vessels may burst at any moment. This is excellently portrayed as we follow Raj, who learns about what is happening everywhere else through news stories and from his friends.
This story is a potent reminder that while all of these things are happening in the larger picture, life still continues as individuals as well. From battling his illness to trying to learn a new skill of playing the mandolin, it is an excellent theme to have filtered through the main text. This book also shows readers how Music Therapy can be used to cure ailments, and that music is truly a powerful part of our lives.
There are so many varying cultural references throughout as well. The reader gets a glimpse into Raj’s culture through references to ‘Shiva-the Hindu God’ or his mantra taught him by his ‘spiritual adept.’ But they also get to see the Japanese culture witnessed by Raj. For example, when he first meets Ayana, the music teacher and Japan’s treasured musician, she is described as wearing a ‘silk kimono with sakura imprints.’ These visual representations of the culture allow the reader to honestly imagine what is happening.
There are a few places I thought metaphor and suggestion rather than telling would have given the story more depth. However, the story is truly heart-warming and enlightening, definitely an original tale that I have not had the pleasure of hearing anything similar before.
Pages: 162 | ISBN: 9356206465
Posted in Book Reviews, Five Stars
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Christianity and the Tribal Societies of North East India
Christianity and the Tribal Societies of North East India by Thomas Kochuthara provides readers with detailed and precise descriptions and narration of North East India’s Christianization. This treatise on anthropology and religion, takes readers through the different tribes’ lives and analyses their relationship with Christianity and the western or “evolved” world. In addition to that, positive aspects like the spread of education and negative aspects like the loss or contamination of tribal identity are analyzed and related to different generations and their point of view. The introduction to the different tribes then leads us through a reflection on the effects of this new religion on the north-eastern population.
Kochutara writes beautifully with long descriptions and his work shows the research and effort behind the pages. This aspect doesn’t usually come out in books, but as we’re talking about a treatise instead of a novel, it is a significant aspect that will show the author’s in-depth research.
As a reader keen on details, I appreciated the abundance of minutiae and the new information given in every paragraph can surely catch the reader’s attention. While I appreciated the details in the book I felt that there was quite a long lists of ancestors and tribes, and I think readers that are not familiar with Sanskrit will have a hard time reading them. In any case, through the course of the book the list of names leaves room for deeper reflections.
However, I appreciated the focus on the single tribes and the detailed narration that accompanied them, making the reader feel almost as part of the tribe itself and most importantly making everyone understand the importance of identity in a tribe.
The detail that makes this book interesting to younger generations is the importance given to current topics, such as gender equality and global warming. These themes represent a connection between the reader and the book, but most importantly between the reader and those tribes whose names might sound distant and unfamiliar.
Christianity and the Tribal Societies of North East India by Thomas Kochuthara provides readers with an in-depth and comprehensive piece of literature on both Indian tribes’ culture and Christianity in general. This is a highly enlightening book that I found to be engaging and informative.
Pages: 492 | ISBN: 9791220104500
Posted in Book Reviews, Four Stars
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One Woman, Two Lives
One Woman, Two lives, written by Ajay Nair, is a saga set in South India, describing the challenges women face as they fight the suppression forced upon them by the caste system. There are numerous characters in the novel, but it centers on one family: Kelu and Lakshami and their daughters Narayani and Bhavani. Although Kelu, father and husband is integral in the story, the novel focuses on the three women and their lives and their reactions to the challenges thrust upon them by the caste system. These three women are strikingly different in their approach and reactions to their situations. Lakshami, the mother, finds herself marrying a man of higher caste. Her character grows into this role, and her dialogue and actions change as her status does. Narayani, the eldest daughter accepts her position in life. Bhavani, the younger sister, is not as accepting of the situation. As she grows older, her attitude to the reality of the position of women is reflected in her conversations with her sister. Although tradition would suggest Bhavani show respect and subservience to her father, mother and elder sister respectively, she is often caught ‘speaking out of turn’. When tragedy strikes, Bhavani engages in her biggest fight yet, breaking quietly from the chains of suppression to seek justice.
One Women, Two Lives is set in Southern India. The setting is well described, and immediately draws the reader into the novel. Outfits for weddings are described in exquisite detail, as are the venues and decorations. The description of the setting, both in terms of the greater setting of Southern India and the individual households are vivid and realistic. Not only does the setting quickly draw the reader in, the descriptions give an authentic feel to this thought-provoking story that reinforces the struggles of the caste system and the women within.
One Woman, Two Lives, is an emotionally-charged saga with insightful commentary on family life. The novel questions the concepts of fate and destiny and highlights the caste system constraints many women were subjected to. The simple structure, authentic characters and vivid setting combine to make Ajay Nair’s novel an enthralling read.
Pages: 121 | ASIN: B08XTSYYN8
Posted in Book Reviews, Four Stars
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A Saga of the Valorous Wanchos
NINU tells the saga of the Wanchos of Arunachal Pradesh and helps readers learn about North East India. Why was this an important book for you to write?
I am an Army Officer and I was posted to Tirap in November 1982. The area was still backward in terms of infrastructure and almost all activity in the villages necessitated active Army assistance. The area was very close to the core areas of the militant Naga Insurgent Group, the Naga Socialist Council of Nagaland. This insurgent organization had been formed in December 1979 and was declared an independent Naga Group in February 1980. This they announced to the world by carrying out the raid on Indian Army’s Kunsa Post as mentioned in my book. The Civil Administration was also dependent on the Army for routine activity in the villages. We thus became very close to the villagers who looked up to us for all kinds of assistance. Despite their disadvantages and dependencies, I found them to be very proud and actually very fiercely independent. They dressed in just an ordinary loincloth and beads. Some of them wore a coat. The Village Chiefs wore a red coat over the loincloth but that did not deter them from sitting in front of us and talking to us man to man. On their request to travel by air, our Brigade Commander sent two of them on a round trip from Dibrugarh to Tezu and back in a regular Indian Airlines regular flight. They were not shy to travel in their traditional dress. Besides the tribes of Tirap we had to travel to other areas of Arunachal Pradesh too. The State has over 40 tribes co existing peacefully and working towards development. Most followed their animist or Buddhist religions. Christianity has made rapid gains recently. I developed a very healthy respect for them. I felt that the world should come to know of these wonderful people. With the beginning I have made I do hope more people will write about these wonderful people and visit their villages. Arunachal Pradesh has opened its doors to tourism in a big way and eagerly welcomes anyone who desires to enjoy their beautiful land. Of Course, today the infrastructure is very good.
What kind of research did you undertake to ensure the historical aspects of the book were accurate?
I began this book as a historical narrative in 1986. Over a period of time, I collected all the material required for the book. History books on Assam are available aplenty. There are books on the society and culture too. The Government Gazetteers on Arunachal Pradesh and its Districts are priceless. However, my work in the Army and in the Corporate Companies precluded me from devoting time to begin writing. It was only in 2015 that I got down to collating the material into a book form. I then realized that the bland historical format may not appeal to the common reader. So I decided to add a little bit of fiction into it. This is a first historical fiction on Northeast India. I believe that this has lightened the book enough to enable an easy read. As I wrote, I included a lot of details of the area which may not essentially about the tribes. For example the information of the origin of Badminton in Thanjavur in South India; or Bamboo Flowering once I 12 to 20 years resulting in widespread famines; or the construction of the famous Stilwell Road from Ledo in India to Kunming in China by Afro American Troop Labor and Indian Labor; or the Naga Insurgency; or the advent of Catholicism in Tirap. All information is accurate besides adding interest to the original story. I can proudly state that with my extensive research, my book is a veritable reference book useful not only to the general reader, but to the Government Administrators and Armed Forces Personnel serving in the Area but also to tourists and general public to understand the area. The book also has a number of stories that could appeal to filmmakers.
What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your book?
I wish that more people come to know about Arunachal Pradesh both in India and all over the world and to respect all cultures equally and learn from them.
Do you plan to write more books on this subject?
I plan to write military fiction based on my experience in the army. My next book, based in Kashmir is on the way, but it will be very different from this book. I do not plan to write on Northeast India now, but I do hope more of my friends from the army write about their experience in the area.
Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Instagram
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A Nest for Lalita
A Nest for Lalita, written by Ken Langer, centers around domestic violence in India, a sensitive subject definitely, but displayed expertly. In all honesty, this was a struggle at times to read, not due to poor writing or story, just the opposite. Langer writes these topics with an unrelenting force, displaying all of it in all its ugliness – to put it lightly.
It also revolves around corporate greed, infuriating politicians, a budding love in a country that, at times, seems to fight against everything the protagonists, Meena and Simon, fight for.
As a reader, I wholly believe that first impressions matter. If you are able to capture my attention in one chapter – or at times in a prologue – then that is a book worth reading. Fortunately, A Nest for Lalita is one of these books. I was intrigued, angry, furious, and devastated, all in a four-page prologue. Which also established the tone for the novel – though without the little ray of hope shining in the rest of the book.
This is where we meet Lalita, who is ultimately not a protagonist but a catalyst for other characters and this felt like a missed opportunity. The short prologue had me wanting more from her, however, Meena and Simon are great protagonists that were a blast to read.
The setting is also intricate and fascinating. Langer teaches and explores Indian culture and religion thoroughly, especially religion, and he accomplishes this through natural means. That is, through multiple characters, and Kesh embodies this greater than any other character. Part of Kesh’s motivations and flaws involves the deep and rich Hindu religion.
It may sound like Langer delivers an unforgiving story encapsulating multiple sensitive topics, and it does, but there are brief respites throughout, splashing the reader with a refreshing bucket of water, a short break where the reader can take a breath and hope for the protagonists and their goals.
I really enjoyed A Nest for Lalita, I was left unfulfilled with Lalita’s absence, in some senses, the novel changes slightly after the first quarter, and there seemed to be a greater focus on plot instead of story in the later parts of the book.
Overall, A Nest for Lalita is a powerful, although tough, read but it was absolutely worth it. Ken Langer has written a riveting political thriller that will keep you entertained throughout.
Pages: 324 | ASIN: B08HJPZTWB
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An Emotional Story
A Rift That Lies Between Us explores the deep connection two people share and the obstacles they face. What was the inspiration for the setup to this story?
As a Bangladeshi-American, I have personally witnessed and experienced intercultural intricacies, as illustrated in my novel. These experiences and observations served the inspiration for this story. In a world where we need more immigrant family stories, A Rift That Lies Between Us has a set of diverse characters and tells an emotional story that is not necessarily focused on the plight of the immigrant, but rather focuses on a first-generation American story.
Caiden and Farisa are intriguing and well developed characters. What were some driving ideals behind their character development?
I wanted to portray Caiden’s and Farisa’s vast differences through their personalities, hobbies, and backgrounds in this story. Farisa is artsy, indoorsy, and reserved, while Caiden is an engineering student, outdoorsy, gregarious, and adventurous. Despite their differences, my goal was to tie them together with the common theme of family and religion. Both Caiden and Farisa are tired of their families trying to control them. Caiden has already found some freedom, while Farisa attempts to break away during college and after her graduation.
This novel explores many family and cultural issues. What were some themes you wanted to focus on in this story?
This story puts the readers inside the conflicts found in cross-cultural romances, as Farisa and Caiden must choose between their tradition-minded families and new-found loves. In an era where divisions among races, cultures, and religions are highlighted more than ever, this story can illustrate how true love can bridge those gaps. It can also show how blind adherence to tradition can cost those adherents their relationships, their careers, and their happiness.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
No plans for a new book yet, but maybe there will be in the future.
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The Secret Angels
The Secret Angels (Darya Nandkarni’s Misadventures Book Two) by Smita Bhattacharya is a sensational mystery story set in the Bandra neighborhood of Mumbai. Over the past five years, three girls have disappeared from Chapel Road in the months of June and July. Although no bodies have been found, the locals believe it is the work of a serial killer that the media has dubbed the Angel Killer. After Darya moves to Chapel Road, she hears about the stories. Then women start disappearing from the villa where she and her friend Veda are staying. When Veda goes missing too, Darya is determined to find out what happened to her and the others. Will Darya end up being the next victim?
I enjoyed the mystery aspect of the book and I liked following the clues as more and more information was slowly revealed. The descriptions of the neighborhood and businesses and homes were detailed and helped me to create a clear picture of the setting. I wanted to know what would happen next and it kept me interested in reading the story. The ending was not at all what I had suspected. Several of my initial conclusions turned out to be incorrect, and I liked that I was not able to guess the truth early in the story. The lingering questions at the end of the book left me looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney? (Darya Nandkarni’s Misadventures Book Three).
While I did enjoy reading this novel, I felt that there was a lot of backstory and description of secondary characters at the start of the book that slowed the pace and made it hard for me to get into the story at the beginning. Darya, in the end, is an interesting character, but I felt that there were aspects of her character that were revealed part way through the book that felt as though they didn’t fit with the image of her that was created in the beginning.
The Secret Angels is still a riveting crime story that has a compelling mystery at its core that will easily draw in fans of noir crime novels.
Pages: 295 | ASIN : B07ZMR9MB4
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