Sunday, June 6, 2021

Chaunsa is a mango, they say.

Dear Readers,

Hope you're all well and happy and healthy.

A short post today. Sharing an extract from my e-book to drum up more interest. Even though it's free to download, it still requires reading. 

So, here's a juicy piece to get you salivating for the book;)

Trust me, 4 minutes of your time is all it takes to savour the flavours of this chapter of my childhood memoir:


You can download the book here: And all the Seasons in between

Have a restful, beautiful Sunday.

Warmly,

Arti

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Sewing Symphonies with Threads of Love and Strength -- a book review for #blogchatterEbookCarnival

A collection of Poetry that attempts to connect the dots of life.


Title:
 Heartfelt Symphonies

Author: Chinmayee Gayatree Sahu

Format: PDF E-book

When a book cover matches the contents of the book as perfectly as this one, it makes me wonder what came first - the cover or the poetry? The cover art of 'Heartfelt Symphonies' is the perfect artful representation of the author, Chinmayee Sahu's poetry.  

'The poetry collection is a debut attempt by the author to showcase varied emotions that may capture the reader's attention to moments, memories, or musings in their own life." states the Author's Note at the beginning.

Arranged in four parts, namely, The Supreme Power, Nature, Fire and Life, the poetry flows from the divine to human love as effortlessly as the seeping pigments of the watercolours on the book's cover. Despite the distinctions, the flavours mingle together to create a melodious symphony.

The strength of Devi (Goddess representing the female form) and the fierceness of Shiva, the Adiyogi, set the stage as you step into Chinmayee's world. Her acknowledgments at the beginning of the book hint at the strength the author draws from her family. This first part confirms the source of her resolve and creativity: her belief in the Divine and her family.

As I moved from poem to poem, section to section, I had a sense that I was watching the poet threading her gentle needle of words through many pieces of fabric and patches of her life lived thus far and sewing them together into a tapestry that was HER--the divine and the human mixing in the knots and threads of hope and disappointment, hurt and betrayal, strength and doubt, sadness and joy. The thread, however, stays the same. It's love with a capital ell. And despite the heartache that is palpable in the longing in her lines of poetry, it's her resolve to carry on and to do so with grace and humility, in 'silence' more than in show, that shines through.

A romantic's heart that has felt the pain of human love and yet looks to the skies and the oceans to be one with the source is on show throughout this weaving. Its strength shimmers in its vulnerability. And that connects the reader to the poet for she has managed to write about ordinary, everyday emotions we have all felt at some point in our lives.

In her poem, 'Dried Petals', she says,

"the dried rose flower,
stands as a testimony,
of the promises that were,
made believing the dream,"

And then moves on to these lines a few pages later in 'Flying Puzzle':

"fragile, yet so soulful,
just like me,
isn’t the Dandelion, an intriguing puzzle?"

As I continued to read, one thing became clear. To the reader, the poet is not a puzzle. To me, as I base my idea of the author on this book, she's seeking the balance that seeker's seek--the one between living a life according to societal norms and expectations and looking towards a life of a lover, a sage, a hermit who wants nothing more than to become as light as a feather.

'Grow in Silence' brings the poet's vision into sharp focus for the reader when she says,

"To look deep within ourselves
Till we grow into our best selves
Away from the noise of comparison
To constantly strive & shine on life’s horizon!"

'My Red Lipstick' caught my attention. It's perhaps one of my favourites of this collection.

I'll refrain from sharing any more lines from the book for it's a much better experience to immerse in the book from start to finish. It's a total of 64 pages-- a good one to read over the weekend. And what's more? You can download it for FREE here : Heartfelt Symphonies

PS. This book is part of #BlogChatterEbook carnival in which my book, And all the Seasons in between  is also a part.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

He carried dirt under his fingernails

Many of you vising this blog may already know that I published my first e-book recently. Yay! The book's been getting a lot of love and some fabulous reviews. I'm chuffed to bits. I've been dancing and singing like the bulbuls all week. It's a happy time in a writer's life when her words find welcoming hearts.

Today, I'm here to share a poetry recital of a spoken word piece which is also the last chapter of the book. 

You can download the book for free here : And all the Seasons in between


I'd love to hear what you think of the poem and of the book. You can leave your comments here or on theblogchatter.com 

If you'd like to read a review before you make up your mind to download and read, here's one that'll convince you:-) Book Review

Have a wonderful Friday. Till we meet again. 

Monday, May 31, 2021

How to save a Story when lightning strikes the laptop it's stored in -- a book review for #BlogchatterEbookCarnival

A great guide to life and writing.
Title: The story of Story

Author: Ravish Mani

Format: PDF E-book

When I read Tomichan's review of this book, the fact that the author's original submission was lost because of a lightning strike, struck me. Coincidence? Fiction? I had to find out. So, I downloaded the book.

"Ravish Mani is a life adviser and story consultant." reads his Bio on Blogchatter. It goes on to say, "People in writing community say that he has an acumen for reading in between the lines."

After reading Ravish's bio, my resolve to carve out time to read the book strengthened even more on two accounts: Firstly, as a poet, I tend to stare at the spaces in between the lines as much as I stare at the words. So, perhaps here was a kindred sprit who did the same. And secondly, because this was the first time I had come face to face, page to page, with a bona fide story consultant. 

The five star reviews at the beginning of the book pushed me to grab my notebook and pen to  be ready to take notes. For those who know me, know about my wish to write that elusive story I've always imagined I'd write one day, the one that will make me famous! Yes, that one. This book may be the ticket for me, I thought and settled down like a student settles down in a classroom; alert and with a resolve.

But, the very next page stumped me.

I put my pen down. And read more closely. A large, kind heart and two giving arms sprawled out on my laptop screen like a vast field of mustard, sarson ke khet, inviting me to run through them, to frolic and pick anything I wish to pick because the author tells the reader that he believes 'in the Law of Giving, which says that the return is directly proportional to the giving when it is unconditional and straight from the heart.' 

He also mentions that this work of his is 'uncopyrighted.' Urban vegetable gardens  in inner cities come to mind. Imagine walking through an inner city street in New York or London and you spot a patch of green with a sign on it that says, 'take what you can.' You can't believe your eyes but you go ahead and pick a few beans, a couple of juicy tomatoes and put them in the cloth bag you have hanging on your shoulder and walk back home filled with positivity and a renewed belief in humanity. That's how you'll feel by the time you come to the end of this book.

"As I see, morality cannot be forced. It comes from within. For being moral, introspection is needed. No law can make you morally right. It can only instil fear of punishment in you. The day this fear vanishes, you will go beyond."

Yes, lightning did strike. It took out the author's laptop and other electrical appliances but left his phone and resolve intact. He started writing this particular book on his phone two days before submission deadline. The author asks the reader to forgive the book for any omissions and editorial glitches. When I read that I thought how courageous. 

"Ravish believes you don’t read a book, you read a mind."

To be able to put a book up for public scrutiny on such short notice when one's job entails editing, shows that this author is comfortable in his space. He's brave and not too hung up on perceptions. That is a sign of a secure writer.

I have a long way to go still.

"Good judgment is the result of experience, and experience is often the result of bad judgment. He continues to fail & learn until he learns to close the gap between his perceived reality & the actual reality."

As I continued to read, Raj and Simran emerged from the mustard fields, carrying a bunch of reasons of why people read. I smiled at the synchronicity of our thoughts. The mustard field analogy had been scribbled on my notebook much before I came to the DDLJ part. The reasons why people read listed in the book made me reflect upon why I write.

The analysis of story is done well. The story structure and all the elements that make a story worthy of a reader's time are explained with the right amount of detail so that if anyone wants to use this book as a starter guide or as a quick brush up on the art of story writing, it is available.

A few months ago, I had received a rather heart-breaking  review of a story I'd written.  The reviewer had mentioned that my story lacked an arc, a tension in the plot. My memoir based story was very dear to me. The review stung and I ended up shelving that story. When I came to the 'story template' section of this book, I decided to plot my 'discarded' story in a flow chart, using the author's  suggestions.

His tips on motives and needs like "the one that wants the desire to be fulfilled and the other that opposes the fulfilment of the desire." as well as technical aspects like character sketches, "True character of a person is revealed through his choices & actions at crucial moments. His daily activities may present a wrong image of the person. " made me look at my story through an analytical lens. It helped. I'm eager to put the tips into practice and give this story of mine a re-write. We shall see.

"The words 'history' & 'story' both are derived from the Latin word 'historia' which means 'to learn' or 'to inquire.' On looking further, it appears that they are derived from the Proto-Indo-European root 'weyd' whose meaning is 'to see.' The Sanskrit words 'Veda' & 'Vidya' share the same root."

The book will make you see the world in a kinder light. How many people are ready to share their ideas for free? And if, like me, you're new to plotting stories on arcs and need to add tension to your plot lines so that literary magazines or publishers will take notice of your work, read this book. It'll help.

The title of this post is a question: How do you save a story that you think you've lost? Well, you see it first and then, well, then you do what you must to show (and tell) it to the world because "Stories are recognizable patterns, and in those patterns we find meaning."

This book was a meaningful read indeed. I'll recommend it to anyone who's ever felt intrigued about stories to check it out.

The book is FREE to download here: The Story of Story

PS. This book is part of #BlogChatteEbook carnival in which my book, And all the Seasons in between is also a part.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Hope, Nostalgia and a Big Blue Sky -- a book review for #BlogchatterEbookCarnival

This is a brilliant read.

Title: She and other Poems

Author: Huma Masood

Format: PDF E-book

The eye-catching artwork of the cover attracted me to pick this book. It held promise and I'm glad to say it didn't disappoint. Like any good book or film, I was left with the lingering feeling of wanting a bit more, not ready for it to end. 

The dedication page is a poster worth sharing widely. 

This collection of poems is divided into 4 sections: She, Dilemma, Inspired and Random Thoughts. There are a total of 33 poems. Each section has been designed with its unique and aesthetically pleasing colour scheme.

"Colours have the power to

change our mind and mood"

The art on the pages preceding each section has been picked with such care that if I was holding a physical copy of this book, I would've stared at these pages for long periods of time before diving into the next section. 

Born out of the poet's self-isolation, the poems delve into challenges faced by one and all in these times of the pandemic and yet, a sense of rejuvenation, hope and belief in the transformative powers of human endurance keeps the reader company throughout.

"We are like little birds in different types of cages."

Despite the isolation which is palpable in some of the poems, the book looks to new beginnings like night looks to day; quite sure of the inevitability of light after dark.

One poem that stood out for its power to connect is Black &White Pictures: 'A poem inspired by the Turkish resistance movement by the women against the prevailing extreme domestic abuse.'

It shows just how effortlessly poetry can connect causes, responses and  humans despite isolation and distances. The skill of the poet lies in the fact that she manages to do all this in just a few lines.

 "Stereotyping often leads people to make unfair

decisions based on poor

reasoning and gossip"

Leads you to another gem: They Chatter. In five short lines, Huma instils confidence in every heart that was ever hurt either by their own family/friends/ lovers or by the unknown trolls of social media. Brilliant.

I'm sharing one of Huma's poems here to illustrate the power of her words. It's called The Scarpbook and it appears in the 'Dilemma' section of the book.

"The forgotten nook

And that old xanthic scrapbook

Smelling oh so good"

As you continue reading, Haikus paint colours of Autumn and blue skies open you up to the peace that dwells in Huma's poetry. The reader feels tranquil while she reads and re-reads the lines on her laptop screen.

Nostalgia and hope will keep you hooked till the very last page. I read this book in one go and then went back to read each section separately.

As a lover of the written word, I'm drawn to poetry and often try my hand at crafting poems myself.  I'm verbose by choice because I love words. They say opposites attract. So, when I come across poets and writers who's carefully chosen few words not only speak volumes, but do it so gently and effectively that their thoughts and passions linger beyond the full stop, beyond the page, I bow my head in awe, in reverence. Huma's poetry (every section and every page) had that effect on me.

"Words are like bees. Some make honey, others leave a sting.

-Unknown"

The poet draws our attention to the power of words. She leads by example. Use them wisely, her poetry suggests.

"The words we use are powerful. They

can motivate us or tear us down.

And once spoken they can't be

undone easily"

Nodding to fresh beginnings, buzzing with bees, hopeful and open like beautiful blue skies, this poetry collection doesn't ignore to pay attention to the brand new pair of high heels that are yearning to feel the gravel underneath. Their hankering for travel is captured in the poet's lines.

And yet, the reader feels as hopeful as clay on a potter's wheel, about to be moulded into any number of possibilities, and as full of promise as the seed that is about to sprout in spring because the poet believes that 'the pressure you face expands your horizons.' And she manages to convince the reader too, gently.

Don't think too much. Just download the book and enjoy your weekend. It's beautiful through and through.

It's only when I read 'about the author' section at the end of the book that I realised that 'Huma is registered with Canva as a contributor'. That's when the penny dropped. No wonder the book looks so beautiful, I thought and smiled. Lucky us. If and when this book reincarnates in a physical form, I'd like to hold it and place it lovingly on my shelf of poetry books, next to Tagore and Carol Ann Duffy.

In the meantime, I will read Huma's poetry and copy her modus operandi.

'I read, I indulge

I see the beautiful world

Curled up on my couch'

This book is a visual and literal treat. Not to be missed if you're keen to see clear blue skies of hope in these uncertain times.

The book is free to download now. You can get it here: She and other poems by Huma Masood

PS. This book is part of #BlogChatteEbook carnival in which my book, And all the Seasons in between is also a part.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Looking at Life -- a book review

If there's only one book, you're planning to read this month, I'd urge you to pick this one.
I came across Tomichan Matheikal's blog posts during the A-to-Z blogging challenge of April 2021 and from the word go, I was hooked. 

The very apt title of the book, Life, can mean so many things at a time when the world is going through a pandemic. Even before I dug my heels into the essays, this caught my eye: "A book has no life without readers. Life, that is what matters in the end whether it is a person or a book." 

I had read somewhere that a reader lives as many lives as the number of books he's read. The reader of this collection of essays certainly lives at least 24 lives vicariously through Tomichan's carefully chosen words and artfully crafted pieces.

As an introduction, the author states that "These essays are written for ordinary readers and not for scholars. The style is simple and lucid so that any lay reader will find it easy to read and understand though the topics are not commonplace."

Imagine sitting in your favourite coffee shop with a group of friendly philosophers, historian, book lovers and thinkers. Now imagine conversations meandering from one to the other with thoughtful insights, weaving politics, humanity, religion, art, literature and common sense with such ease that you are left feeling informed and intelligent by just being present while sipping your coffee.

That's how I felt while reading this book:  absorbing the ideas presented easily and yet keenly aware of the introspective quality of what I was reading.

I can fill this post with pertinent quotes by famous people picked by the author and planted throughout the book which encapsulate the essence of his essays perfectly from Oscar Wilde to Bernard Shaw but I'll let you, the reader, relish those when you read the book. I'll stick to quoting Tomichan's words here to give you a sense of his style.

On the background of broad strokes of world politics, the nation state and religion, the author paints a line or a paragraph of such vivid wisdom, that it grabs you and compels you to look at it as a life lesson, a personal eye-opener, a warning to be aware of the pitfalls of society, of vanity. "Self-delusion on your part and condescension on theirs." 

The underlying theme of all the essays is 'Life' of course, but looking at it from the point of view of Greek mythology and the Mahabharata, from Kuhn to Kafka, from the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta to the life of Jesus, from Gandhi to Zorba, examining the truth or many 'truths' under the lens of the present-day politics compels the reader to examine her own ideas and set notions about life.  

"Rebellion is saying No to certain realities and saying a louder Yes to better alternatives."

What's life without lessons: learnt, unlearnt, yet to be learnt, forgotten and some that should never be forgotten?  I'd say it's a life never lived. This volume called 'Life' is peppered with lessons  but not in a preachy way. The essays are introspective on both micro and macro levels.  The reader may want to give time to the lessons to percolate before moving on to the next page. I did when I read sentences like: "Popularity has a diabolic appeal. It enchants and blinds people." 

Reading the book is akin to philosophical osmosis.  The reader is submerged in the richness of thought garnered from such a vast canvas of reading, that at the end of each essay one feels one has reached some clarity of thought that one wasn't aware one possessed. And in some cases, questions emerge ready for debate: a wholesome, gusty debate about how we can undo the damage we have done thus far as a race.

"Hatred is one of the most potent and bewitching of all human emotions. People love to hate those who are different from them in some ways. Politicians know this truth and use it effectively to create marauding bandwagons."

Tomichan's essays are a mirror. Reflected in them, you see yourself, the society and the world, warts and all, and yet looking into this mirror is not an exercise in vanity or futility. On the contrary, the essays have that reflective quality where one stops at a sentence, a phrase and pauses to gain a deeper understanding of self and society. 

"We need to heal our own fragmentations. We need to sit by the shore of a calm sea and put certain pieces together, pieces of our own souls."

And just when you think you may need a break to absorb all that you've read thus far, there appears  "the tender coconut that comes when the Warangal sun is boiling your innards is a memorable delight."

Refreshed and eager, the reader moves to the next essay and then the next. The sequencing is perfect. So, if you are keen to read it all in one go, you can. Be prepared to stop and be impressed on the way, though.

"Every crusader, every militant bhakt, every jihadist, has a heart and a mind that died long ago clinging to pet truths like barnacles clinging to rocks." 

The reader may wonder how to even begin taking those barnacles off oneself, society, political structures and age-old belief systems.

I'd recommend by reading works such as this one.  It can certainly be the first step to open one's eyes to the beauty and fragility of  'Life' and make one cognisant of the fact that despite our differences and prejudices, this is the only reality we have. Rest is imaginations and stories. 

"Genuine seekers of truth refuse to be deluded by gods." and "Truth is nobody’s prerogative."

The book offers solutions. It's not a futile coffee-table discussion in one's drawing-room. No, Sir. It's a call to change, to take stock of the situation, to take responsibility, to stop looking back and reminisce about golden days but to wake up and do something about today. The book urges the reader to live life and live it as a fruitful, well-informed citizen of the world.

"But we need a shift from our self-centeredness to a cosmic outlook. Who will bring about that shift? 
You."  

"It is my fervent hope that this book will live and not merely exist." states the author and as you go through the essays, the reader is let into his belief that "Life is a passion to be experienced, not a riddle to be solved." despite the book's deep and thoughtful provocations.

After I finished reading the book, I was reminded of a dear blogger friend, Yamini's recent post about Satsang. In her words,  "'sat' means 'true' and 'sang(a)' means 'community'. Therefore, it is the sitting in true communion - implying intent of purpose in the gathering and the potential for expansion from it."

That's what this book is. It's a Satsang: an invitation to gather around wise men and women of history, examine their words and philosophies and in doing so open up our own potential to expand our horizons of learning, understanding and acceptance.  I'll end my review with the author's words: "Take care of what you do to people’s hearts. The rest doesn’t matter."

I sincerely hope you will read this book.

The book is free to download now. You can get it here:  Life


PS. This book is part of #BlogChatteEbook carnival in which my book, And all the Seasons in between is also a part.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

And all the Seasons in between #blogchatterEbookCarnival

Yesterday was a big day for me. I became an author, a book author, an e-book author. Yay!

The process was harder than I had imagined. Ever since high school, I've nursed this dream of becoming a published book author one day. It's so much easier to keep dreaming. As Trudy wrote in one of her A to Z blog posts this April, 'opportunity comes wearing overalls.' Yes, the reality of all success is hard work--pure and simple. 

In my mind, I had thought that with over eight years of blog posts to my credit, cobbling an e-book together would be quite easy if I just sat down and did it. Ha! 

Suffice to say, I had to climb a very sharp learning curve very quickly and keep at it. My family and lovely friends helped me and cheered me on. All that hard work was worth it. 
Drum roll please....Here it is--my first book :

And it's FREE. FREE. FREE to download here:  And all the Seasons in between


All you have to do is sign up with Blogchatter using your FB or Google account. It's straightforward and very quick.

Aditya Vikram, a talented poet friend who read the final draft of the book told me what he thought of the book. I've picked the best to share here:

"But there's so much more than just nostalgia. It's packed with a way of life. A closeness to nature that all of us wish we could have. Characterizing natural elements like animals and plants, and especially, conversing with them is a trait many writers have explored. I was glad to find it done very well in an Indian context in your work. There is a sense of innocence in the narrator of the book that makes it endearing and easy to read. "

Thank you Aditya:)

The book should take you an hour to read. The covers have been designed by my daughter, Arshia using Canva. She also added her own watercolours to the pages of the book. You'll love her art.

A big THANK YOU to the team at @Blogchatter for this platform. Their hard work made my transition from dreamer to doer possible.

After the excitement of the book launch, I went to bed on a high last night. This morning, another rejection (from a literary magazine) was waiting for me in my in box! I saw it. Felt a twinge of deep disappointment. But then decided to write this post and continue celebrating.

Life is an up an down game.

It's up to us how we play it. It's a choice we have and we should choose wisely. After all, this day, this moment is one of its kind. It will never, ever come back.

So choose to download my book this weekend. Read it. And please give me your honest feedback. Your comments will help me to whittle a better book next time. You can ask me questions about the book here or on Blogchatter.

Before I go, one last thing...the blurb. 
Stay safe and healthy.
Till we meet again.