Friday, January 25, 2019

Book Review: The Sun Shines Down (Sankha Ghosh)

Book: The Sun Shines Down
Author: Sankha Ghosh
Publisher: Hawakal Publishers

Last month, I saw one of my facebook friends tagged with a book cover. On a closer look, I understood that it was a book written by Sankha Ghosh.

Sankha Ghosh was one of the early reviewers of my debut short story collection, Emotions Unplugged. I totally loved his honest opinion on my book. We were not in touch for a very long time. That's why when I saw him on Facebook, I sent him a friend request immediately. A set of communications, both on Facebook messenger and few phone calls followed later.

Early this month, he came with a request to share my opinion on his book. Like all other authors who reach out to me, I chose to reject his request. But then, somewhere I owed him for reviewing my book when I was a debutant. So finally, I agreed to share my honest opinion and the book took almost no time to reach me.

Author's Bio from the book: Sankha Ghosh is a banker by day and writer by night. Starting off as an environmental activist with an international foundation, he eventually got into the exciting industry of banking. An avid observer, an alternate thinker, and strictly opinionated, his writings have been published in several national and international blogs.

Before I go deeper into the story, let me be honest and say that I didn't like the cover or the title of the book. The cover doesn't tell much about the story. I would not have bought the book if I could have found it at an online portal or from a bookstore with this cover and title. The back blurb gives a rigorous idea of the plot. However, I found it a bit lengthy. Surprisingly, the page quality used in the book is good and the font size is perfect for our eyes, which is really appreciable but unexpected from a less known publisher like Hawakal.

The Sun Shines Down is a story about two individuals who belong to two very different social brackets. The first protagonist is Shreya Basu, a politician that India has hardly ever witnessed. With an impeccable beauty and excellent oratory skill, Shreya Basu’s shot to fame is no less than a fairy tale. But now she wishes to contest election with a powerful incumbent government at their own bastion.

The second protagonist is Faiz Ahmed. Obscured by thousands of unanswered questions, Faiz Ahmed is haunted by the ghosts of his past. And, to put them to rest, he wants one single thing - Vengeance.

To start the review, first I will talk about Sankha's narration. When dealing with two parallel stories of different persons, who fall in different social brackets, it’s really hard to maintain the distinct flavour for each of them, but he has done that with a lot of ease. Description of events and behaviour of characters left me in admiration for his amazing narration capabilities. When I read Faiz’s parts, I felt as I am seeing an innocent boy right in front of me. His thoughts, pain, everything is submerged in the story. While on the other side, description of Shreya, made me feel the intensity of her brilliance. It’s really rare in Indian Literary scenario to see such an impressive narration from a debutant.

On the language front, Ghosh again scores full marks. He has done a commendable job by maintaining the language simple yet captivating. Chapters are structured very well and are full of his minute observations that made characters more authentic and almost real. I never felt the story losing its engrossing characters. Every time I began with a new chapter, I felt more involved in the story and perfectly synched chapters made the book a wonderful read. Also, holding so many characters that come and leave the story after every few chapters with comfort is another skill that I loved in the author. The book was a fast-paced read with a number of twists and turns that make it ready for a good web series.

A major drawback with the book is its pricing. The book is priced at Rs 250 and is available for Rs 169 with a shipping cost of Rs 80. I believe this shall hinder the book success. Better pricing would have helped the book here.

To conclude my review, I must say, by far ‘The Sun Shines Down’ is one of the best books by any young Indian Author. It takes us towards the hope and a better life through the stories of loneliness and pain of common people like many of us. The book gives a great message to society and is capable of making anyone see the brighter side of life. The best thing about the book is that literally, anyone can read it because the story is not targeted at any specific age group and it’s clean enough that you can blindly suggest it to anyone. The book is simply flawless in almost every manner. If Sankha Ghosh is working on any new project, I’d be looking forward to it with certainly higher expectations.

You can get a copy of the book from https://amzn.to/2RDLnGv.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A true story of the day when Chetan Bhagat met Anvita Bajpai

Early this week, I saw several facebook posts stating about Chetan Bhagat's plagiarism issue. I came to know that a Bengaluru based author, Anvita Bajpai has accused Chetan Bhagat for plagiarising her story, Drawing Parallels in his recent book, One Indian Girl. These posts were then followed by several media coverages across the country. 

Generally, I prefer not to speak about any controversial issue. But then something was different this time. Firstly, I am friends with Anvita Bajpai at facebook since past 3-4 years. Secondly, I have seen her at the Bangalore Literature Festival where she claims to have given her book to Chetan Bhagat for review.

Let me rewind my life a few years back. It was mid of 2014 when I landed Bangalore looking for better job opportunities. Somewhere in early August that year, I met Vikram Sampath, founder of Bangalore Literature Festival at International Folk Festival at Jaya Mahal Palace, Bengaluru. He introduced me to Shinie Anthony, another founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival. I came to learn about the festival through them.

Almost after one and half month later, Bangalore Literature Festival was conducted. Since this was the first Literature Festival I was attending, I was quite excited. Chetan Bhagat was available on the very first day for the inaugration ceremony of the festival. I was quite new to the industry and thought getting rave reviews from popular authors would help my book. That was the reason I carried few of my books to the event.

I believe it was after 2:30 pm, when Chetan Bhagat was done with his session with Shinie Anthony, he walked towards the Author's Lounge. Several fans of him followed him. I believe this crowd had lot of new authors as well as aspiring ones. I was too a part of the crowd. We waited outside the Author's Lounge for Chetan Bhagat to come out, either to give our books, get his book/s signed or getting few pictures clicked with him.

I was sitting outside the Author's Lounge when I saw Anvita Bajpai near the drinking water area for the first time. Her face felt known to me. With social communities getting bigger and bigger, I understood she is one among the authors I've added in facebook. I scrolled down my friend list to find out who she was and landed over her profile after few minutes. Since I did not find any necessity, I did not buzz her. I waited there for Chetan Bhagat to come out.

In case, we all trust her, I would say, she must have given her book to Chetan Bhagat the same day. I too gave my book to Chetan. And, I believe, many others gave it too. But then, would Chetan Bhagat remember each one of us? Would he care to read all our books? I'm not sure what happens to books when it goes to someone like Chetan Bhagat.

By 26th April, late night, I saw a facebook post by Anvita Bajpai claiming in her own words that some of her friend shared links where glimpses of her book "Life, Odds & Ends" can be seen in hands of Chetan Bhagat during BLF 2014.

I tried to have a better look and was shocked seeing the image. And, that is also the reason why I'm writing a post about this whole issue. 

It was not Anvita's book which she claimed. It was the first edition of my debut short story collection, Emotions Unplugged over which the tea cup was placed. I'm sharing the image Anvita shared in the facebook post as well as the cover of the first edition of Emotions Unplugged below for your reference:

                       

(Click on the image to enlarge it.)


If you try to have a closer look of the image Anvita shared, you can see the top right corner of the book cover has some white space which was actually in my book cover. Moreover, you can also have a look of one of the bulbs below the white space.

Another thing that the picture doesn't say is - The red piece of cloth and the bag in the left corner in the image belongs to Shinie Anthony. I'm sure if inquired and requested (hoping she has a good memory), she can confirm that the book kept below the tea cup belongs to me and not Anvita Bajpai.

I'm not sure if Anvita got the high resolution image as she requested, but I'm afraid that her claim mentioning glimpses of her book, Life, Odds & Ends in hands of Chetan Bhagat during BLF 2014 based on the image she shared is totally wrong. Moreover, Chetan didn't carry any book in his hand all through the event.

I'm not saying that Anvita must have posted the image knowingly to prove her point that Chetan carried her book. It totally might be a mistake she did, but thought she is correct.

However, this also makes me think. - Can't it be the same case when she accused Chetan Bhagat? Can't it be just few mere incidences that she thought has been copied from her book? I'm not sure who among the two, I must trust.

But I want this whole issue to get closed soon because this surely is not a good sign for the industry which is already facing a lot of problems. If Anvita Bajpai is true, she must get the compensation she is demanding. Though I'm not in favour of stopping the sales of the title, One Indian Girl. However, if Chetan Bhagat is true, he must get back the honour that he has won all these years because of his hard work.

As I write this, I completely have faith on the judiciary system of the country and whatever decision they share in the months to come. I shall surely respect it.

I would have chosen to stay mum as I do in all other cases. After all, I belong to a society where we don't care to speak until we are the victim. But then, I had a thought. Today, it is Chetan Bhagat who is accused, it is Anvita Bajpai who seems to be the victim. But tomorrow, it can be me. Will I still be mum? 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Short Story: The Flood

A little wetness on my left cheek awoke me. I rubbed my eyes and tried to sit on my mattress. Damn! Not only my left cheek, but half of my body was wet. The pillow and bed sheet was no different.

'Am I hallucinating?' I asked myself. I touched my forehead to find it extremely cold. I tried to open my eyes with a lot of difficulty. My room was filled with water. Half of the things kept on the floor was submerged in it. While the other half kept floating over it. Worried, I looked at my mobile. I used to feel too lazy to wake up every morning and most of the days I switched off the alarm put on the mobile and slept again. To avoid the practice, I started keeping it at some height so that I have to stand and switch it off. Luckily the phone was still kept on the rack above. I stood on the mattress in a shocked state of mind.

'Shit! Did the Chennai flood come to Bangalore too?' Another question popped up in my head. 'No. It can't be true. I live on the second floor. The two floors have to submerge in the water to reach me.'

I tried to switch on the light with fail. There was no electricity. I placed my foot safely and walked towards the window. I could see the water drizzling outside my room. I rushed towards the other room to see the damage.

Loud knocks at the door called me back. Keeping my foot with utmost care, I walked towards the door. Meanwhile, the door bell rang and the knocks turned louder. Someone on the other end of the door was too impatient to hold on. 'It might be the neighbor,' I thought.

I opened the door. My landlord shouted at the top of his voice, "How many times would I have to tell you to close the kitchen's tap properly? The whole tank is empty."

That's what I have for today. A small try to give you a sigh of relief that it's all over! Please let me know your views/comments/suggestions or feedback. Tada! :)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Find the Sachin Tendulkar in you!

Let me tell you a story today. A story of Sachin Tendulkar!

I believe, most of us know him as one of the greatest cricketers of all time. But then, Cricket is a game and cricketers are just few players. Every player has good and bad days; times when they perform well and times when they couldn't. It wasn't good time for Sachin Tendulkar those days. Most of the times, he used to get out under a score of 10. Many of the people started criticizing his abilities. Few others commented that he should quit Indian Cricket team. Matches after matches happened but his performance could not improve. After he was out one day and was returning to pabell√≥n, a man questioned him from the crowd, "Why do you play Cricket if you can't?" 

He listened to the man's words but ignored him. Later BCCI President, Mr Jagmohan Dalmiya called him and inquired about his poor performance. Sachin answered Mr Dalmia's queries. Months passed by. Sachin practiced harder and achieved his form. He created several new records and made his mark in World Cricket that can never be removed.

Why am I telling you this story? Because I believe, we all are nothing more than players of our life. Sometimes, we perform good while at others, we fail to do so. People criticize/comment/question our abilities. But we choose to answer all/most of them. While most of the times their views hardly matter until he is Mr Dalmia in the story above. 

Thanks to a college friend for narrating me this story years ago. Maybe, I will remember this story all my life. Though this story is fictional and I don't know if something like this ever happened or not. But I believe, I have started making differences between the masses and Dalmias. I know whom to answer and whom not to. I don't want to answer everyone and waste my time which I would have otherwise used to do something constructive. Maybe, I've found Sachin Tendulkar in me. Have you?

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Short Story about a Short Story Collection (Part -II)

Thanks a lot to each and everyone for commenting, messaging and appreciating the first part of this post. Your words encourages, inspires and motivates me. And, I'll always be grateful to you for your kindness.

Those who haven't read the first part of this post can do so by visiting the link here: http://www.vishalanand.co.in/2014/10/a-short-story-about-short-story.html. Others can go ahead reading further.

Everything was organized for the launch ceremony. Tarun, Pari and all other contributors already reached much before the launch. The anthology in an attractive, shining cover was kept on a table. Pari picked one of them and turned a few pages in it. She read the acknowledgements there. The more she read, the more her heart cried. Few drops of tears trickled down her cheeks. Tarun didn’t even care to acknowledge her for all the hard work she did.

The launch started. Each of the contributors who were present there was given an opportunity to share his/her feelings. Pari did the same. However, she didn’t tell her pain to anyone. I spent a little time with Pari after the event. Later, I went back to my hostel.

Time passed by. The short story collection became a hit. As it happens with all other short story collections, the credit went to Tarun, the person whose mind was behind the anthology. Who was Pari?

Time passed more. Months were replaced by a year and more months added to that year later. I’ve been writing short stories one after another during this period. My debut short story collection released. I’ve been keeping a check on the book reviews time after time. Few days earlier, I was at flipkart.com and was searching for my book when I found out this.


Even before I could complete writing my first name, Flipkart was suggesting my name under the category, Books. A moment that I shared with Pari knocked my mind for few moments and I could not control the smile that appeared on my face.

I went to compose mail and wrote a mail to Pari attaching the above screenshot. Here’s the mail:

Hey,

How are you doing? Where are you these days? I remembered you just now. Want to know, how?

Remember I said you something while you were contributing your short story? I generally search for my book at flipkart, checking for latest reviews by customers. Today, while I was searching my book, I couldn't stop a smile that came on my face. Attaching a screenshot with this mail. You will understand too.

Stay in touch!

Cordially,
Vishal Anand

Her reply came to me the very next day. Here it is:

Hey Vishal,

Firstly, thank you for making this effort. A lot of people we know would probably just smile and remember. And then forget.

I think we'll remember that conversation of ours for reasons more than one! It was a necessary phase of our lives. And yes.. This is what matters at the end of it all. Truly!

A similar but a little disappointing experience happened with me. I've come to ABC Lit Fest. Yesterday was the third and final day of the event.  After meeting all these authors and poets and others from the fraternity, I realised how much things have moved ahead from where I'd left it all, about a year back.

Gladly, few of them still remembered and recognised me.. A lot of them said that I have changed a lot.. God knows.

But yes, one thing that I realised was that, the gift that has been a part of you, wanting to come out in one way or other, someday leaves you too.

Perhaps, I have lost my quota of words. To be strung into a book.. 

Also, I was so much better than so many of them Vishal.. But why couldn't I make it? I've loved my words passionately. And yet, at the end of this Lit Fest, I stand empty handed.

A realisation that has become utterly clear to me, for good or bad is that, sometimes in life, there is no going back. Only moving ahead.

Maybe someday that book shall become me. Only that day my soul shall be truly free.

Too philosophical was I?  :)

Anyway, how are things with you..? 

So, you've moved out haan? 

And hey, I am glad you remembered me Vishal.

Stay blessed. And believe that good will happen to you. Not because it will, but because the other way doesn't give you peace. Or hope.

Regards,
Pari

I wasn’t happy after seeing her reply. I wrote my last mail to her:

Dear Pari,

Are you okay? You surely have changed a lot. Your words are speaking for you. Let me know when you reach Delhi. Will make you a call.

Things are moving fast in the industry. I believe the delay we make, the more difficult it will become. Remember, how easy it was to get published by 2011? Everyone has a book by his name. But then, there is a concept that even the industry follows - Survival of the Fittest! The poor has to leave, and the one with strong determination will fight back again.

People have a tendency - Saluting the rising sun. Or, why would one care to give so much importance to me when I meant nothing to them few years ago? 

Words don't leave us. They are a part of us as long as we live. We just need a push. May be, someone who can hold our hand, encourage us to speak our hearts in form of a book. You're still better. You couldn't make it because you didn't try; didn't try enough to prove yourself to others. And, you're not empty handed. We keep on learning things by experience. Some teaches us what to do while others teaches us what not to do. Isn't it?

You don't have to go back. Move ahead. Show the world you're better than them. Work harder and prove yourself. With every passing year I believe, we become stronger and wiser. I believe, you will fight back with more willpower and determination than ever. Every year 84 k books release in India. Who knows them? I don't want you to write a book. Rather, I want you to create a masterpiece that will be remembered for years.

Were you really philosophical? If that's the case, am I too?

Things are still tough with me. I still have to struggle for so many things.

I will always remember you. No need to be glad. Try picking my call inspite of being glad. That will make me happier.

Even if good doesn't happen to me, I will force it to happen to me. Was doing and will continue doing it. Yes, it is.

Stay in touch!

Warm Regards,
Vishal Anand

I dialed her number the next day. We talked for almost an hour until I had no balance left on my phone. I tried to convince her to write. She said that she will give it a try. That was the last time we communicated. 

I would like to apologies as this is the only short story that I’m leaving incomplete. Why incomplete? I think, this story will finish when Pari will launch her debut book. I will try till I succeed. And, I think, I will be a happy man that day.

But then, I do think about others. About us. About people who have a dream to become authors! We look for a short cut and get trapped easily in the traps thrown by people who have better knowledge than us of the industry.

There are many Paris between us. A lot of them have left writing. Many of them though understand everything and cry about the wrongs done to them, still chose to be a part of these. They still contribute to anthologies with only few people knowing and appreciating them. There are also few Paris’ who will shout about an anthology if they are a contributor there. However, they will be more than happy if their names are beautifully printed on the cover as an editor.

Tarun has changed as well. Even young people with no experience in writing have taken anthologies as shortcut to success, unaware of how many Paris’ they make. After editors, now another term called 'compiler' is getting popular. Publishing houses too are taking it as a wonderful opportunity. They don’t need to pay to contributing authors after selling their books. Few of them choose to give certificates to contributors. While few others even choose to demand money from contributors for the sake of publishing. So called editors and publishing houses gain and we; the one with dreams in our eyes fail.

With the success of my debut short story collection, few people came to me asking me to become an editor of such anthology. But then, whenever they ask so, I ask few questions to myself. ‘Will I be able to give the credit to every contributor that they deserve? Will they gain anything out of such anthology? Won’t I be making more Paris?

I don’t have an answer to these questions. And that’s why I may never become an editor. But then, I do wonder, there are still too many short story competitions. There are too many aspiring authors. And then, there are too many Tarun’s among us. I know I won’t be able to stop them. But then, this is just a small initiative to make people aware about what happens behind a short story collection. If I’m able to stop even a person from becoming Pari with this post, I think this short story is successful.

I hope you liked this post as you liked my previous ones. Feel free to drop your comments, feedbacks and suggestions. You’re welcome for a discussion too if you don’t agree to me. Maybe, I will learn something from your point of view. Anyways, that’s all I have with me today. Hopefully, I will drop another post soon. Till then. Bbye!

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Short Story about a Short Story Collection

Now-a-days, we are seeing a lot of short story competitions for different anthologies. In fact, few people have come out with their poetry competitions too. I too have a short story; a short story about a short story collection. 

This story is true. However, the names of characters have been changed and minor liberties have been taken for a healthy purpose here  and would like to say that the story doesn't mean to harm anyone by any means, but comes with a thought that I believe in.

Those days were different. Short story collections weren’t in fashion then. Or, they were in their infancy. I was a blogger those days. I would write poems, short stories or any other thought that came in my mind. 

When you write for a blog, you want others to read and share their views. That was the time when I learned about Pari for the first time. She was a blogger too. She would write poems, short stories or anything on her blog. But there was always a difference in the way we wrote.  She was far better than I was. I would read her blogs and would be in awe. Maybe, that was the reason, whenever I would complete writing a blog post, I would share it with Pari and would wait for her views. She would read it, criticize or appreciate what I wrote. That was the foundation of a good friendship. 

A few months later, one of the bestselling authors of a romance novel, Tarun planned to organize a short story competition. His debut book was doing well. He had a good fan following. I met him few days back in one of the book launches. We spent some nice time and were happy to know each other. I was a struggling author back then. I don't remember how many publishers had rejected my manuscript till that date. The one who accepted it wanted a huge sum of money to publish my book. As a student I couldn't arrange the money to pay to the publishers. Like every other struggling author, I would ask published authors for suggestions and for any help if they could. Tarun knew I was struggling to get my book published. So, as soon as he organized the contest, he started approaching people like me who had a dream to become authors.

I clearly remember the day, he pinged me. He mentioned that he was expecting a story from my end. I had written few short stories by then. And I loved what all I had written. They were a part of my heart, my soul. I could not give any of them to anyone. They were like my children to me and I have been nurturing them like a mother. How could I give any of my children to anyone? I refused him. He didn't say me anything. 

The competition was in full swing. Many aspiring writers from all parts of the country dropped in their stories. A shortlist was prepared and a list of selected stories was made. I was surprised when I saw Pari's name on the list. She didn't mention me that she had submitted a story for the competition.

I dropped her message in her chat box, ‘When you’re free, do ping me.

Tell me, Sir, a reply came few minutes later.

We talked about few things going in each other’s life before I mentioned about the collection.

I wanted to talk about the short story collection, I told her.

Yes. Tell me, she replied in nanosecond.

I have done a little research. I think the contributors don’t get the credit they deserve when they participate in a short story collection, I said honestly.

I don’t understand.

I met an author few days back. He is writing since 90’s for different collections. In his last collection, even APJ Abdul Kalam submitted a poem.

Are you talking about Inklings?

Yes.

What’s the author name?

I told the author’s name. To my surprise, Pari hadn’t heard about him.

What’s the use when you don’t know the authors in your own collection, Pari?, I questioned her.

Inklings have too many authors, Vishal, she replied.

That’s why I ask you not to participate in such anthologies. I want you to write at places where people know who Pari is. When anyone types your first name in flipkart search, it should suggest your surname.

What a dialogue, dude!, she wrote in excitement.

Next, I read a few lines on her FaceBook wall credited back to me.

We chatted for a while and she said that she would give it a thought while writing next short story. It was time for her dinner. She left and I involved myself with some other work.

Everything happened as it was destined to. Editing of the short story collection began. Let me be honest with few facts that I’ve known in recent years. There may me multiple anthologies you must have read by now. Almost all of them come with a phrase on its cover ‘Edited by XYZ.’ But I do wonder how many of them are edited by the same person! Pari’s anthology was no different.

Tarun’s grasp on English wasn’t that good. And, Pari was far better in literature. Maybe, that was the reason why Tarun asked Pari to edit the book. Pari was very happy as she believed that it was her first step to achieve her dreams. She agreed to edit stories of all the contributors in the anthologies. Tarun didn’t have to even read all stories once. 

Days passed by. Weeks passed. Months passed. The promotion of the short story collection was going on in full swing. There is a good thing about any short story collection. Every person who contributes a story in the anthology promotes it. Each contributor thinks of the anthology as his/her own book. He/she will share posts, pre-order links, trailer or anything related to the anthology. Maybe, that’s why anthologies are promoted more than novels these days. Pari’s anthology was no different.

Most of the contributors asked their friends and relatives to pre-order the anthology. Most of them did. The anthology received good number of pre-orders. The day of the official launch for the anthology came closer. Pari was still left with too much editing. Tarun convinced her to do it faster. 

I think, there’s a wonderful thing about every girl. When they love a person or a thing, they do it with all their heart. They are fully devoted to it. Pari was no different. She loved her dream of becoming an author. So, she would even skip her dinners to edit the stories; she would bunk classes. There were sleepless nights involved. Finally, editing was done.

A launch was announced for the anthology at New Delhi. Most of the contributors, few of those who lived outside Delhi came for the launch. Contributors invited their friends and relatives. I was invited by Pari too for the launch. Though I had some urgent work the next day, but I visited the launch ceremony just for Pari.

What happened on the launch day? What happened after the anthology released? What about Pari? Do you have questions in your mind? Please go through the second part of the story here: http://www.vishalanand.co.in/2014/11/a-short-story-about-short-story.html

Friday, August 29, 2014

That thing called ‘Free Copies’!

Before I begin telling you what I exactly mean by this post of mine. Let me tell you a short story: story of a reader, a reviewer and an author.

It was month of February; year 2013. Delhi Book Fair was going on. Readers, reviewers, authors and all book lovers crowded Pragati Maidan. It was those days when Vijay, a book lover and reader decided to meet Himadri at Delhi Book Fair. Himadri was a well known book reviewer. Any author who would write a book was bound to send a copy of his/her book to Himadri. Vijay being a student could not spend much on books. He had good friendship with Himadri. So, he asked her to bring two books with her that day. Himadri did it as said by him. In book fair, Vijay met other authors. He asked one of those authors to sign the autograph for him. They didn’t have a paper other than those two books. Vijay opened the first page of the book and asked the authoress to sign on the first page. 

‘The book belongs to someone else and you’re making me sign it,’ she said smiling and signing the book for Vijay.

Vijay smiled and replied, ‘Who cares? It’s just another book that came for free.’

The very next day Vijay met the author of the same book in the book fair. The author was kind enough to drop Vijay to his place of residence. They both sat on Vijay’s room. Vijay picked out his book from the cupboard and asked him to sign it for him. The author turned the page and found out that he signed it for Himadri while he himself went to give the book to her. He turned the first page to find the book signed by the authoress on the first page. That was one of the embarrassing situations for Vijay. Though the author signed in the little space left below authoress’ signature, Vijay was left with a guilt; the guilt of disrespecting the book that the author wrote after hard work of many sleepless nights. 

Time passed and then Vijay himself became an author. Now, he understood what really a book means to an author and what actually a free copy is.

Before I begin telling you any further, let me tell you two things. First of all, Vijay is no one but me. Secondly, before I tell you anything about free copies, I would like to tell you a little about publishing industry and the process.

Publishing industry, as I have known it in recent years is much more complicated than what I had seen it from a reader’s eye few years ago. Readers see it as a money making industry; giving glory, fame and money to the authors. However, the actual scenario is just the opposite. I wondered it to follow a simple rule. Write a book, sent it to publishers, they will publish it and bang! You’re an author. But recently with the increasing number of manuscripts that are floating in the market, it is really difficult for any publisher to read each and every manuscript. Tell me! What would you do if you get as much as 50-60 mails per day. I believe you would too look for an escape. Moreover, try visiting a Landmark or Crossword near your place. You may notice the book section getting small and being replaced by eatables or toys. Publishers are making less money. So, to tackle this, there are hardly few publishers who publish books with traditional publishing. For other aspiring authors, there is a simple rule: pay and get published. Authors with no choice have to go for it. No matter, how he pays the publisher. Whether it be his dad’s hard earned money, borrowed up money from friends or a personal loan, he pays it to the publisher to fulfill his dream.

What next? The book goes in pre-order at different online portals. The author shares the pre-order links and bang! A chatbox opens up with a message – ‘Yaar! Mere ko ek copy sign karke bhej dena.’ Or, ‘Arey, aap to mere ghar k kitne pass rehte ho. Aapko to khud book sign karke deni chahiye.’ Few of those messages get those copies for free. But then, this has just started man. There will be another set of facebook friends whom you may have never met even want signed copies of your book. By signed copy, it doesn’t mean that they will cherish it. It means they want a free lunch.

Come back to author side again. You may wonder how many free copies he gets from the publisher. Hardly, five to ten or maximum twenty! Enough? No.. not really. Actually the number of people who want free copies are not less than 50 in any case. Now, suppose author wants say few more copies from his publisher, what will he do? He will surely take a price from the author. These books are sent to authors at a discounted rate that may vary from max 40 to 50% discounts. Suppose, there is a case for few seconds, let us assume that author gets something called ‘free copies’, what will he do? If I were an author in that place, I would like to take maximum copies from my publisher and sell it to distributors, retailers and other book sellers at a price that my publisher does and make hell lot of money to recover the investment I made or even gain more. But then, why can’t a publisher give it for free? No matter, one does not think but book printing and transporting it to distributors is a bigger part of the cost at which the books is sent to the distributors for distribution.

The author though has to buy few copies for him. Why? Every author wants his book to reach the masses; he sends it to bloggers, reviewers and newspapers. Once I asked Mr Anand Neelakantan, #1 bestselling author of Asura: Tale of the Vanguished whose book had numerous newspapers coverage for months. My question was simple - What is the ratio of the newspapers coverage to the books that has been sent to newspapers? I was amazed at his reply. The actual copies that have been sent to newspapers were around 200. However, the newspaper coverage was hardly 20-25. It brings the ratio to be 1/8th or 1/10th of the actual books sent to these newspapers. In most of the cases, author is bound to take this burden as newspaper is a strong media to reach the masses.

In my other conversation with Mr. K. Hari Kumar, the bestselling author of ‘When Strangers Meet’, I came to learn about a new story. Hari was to attend some family function that night when we were talking. I wondered family functions are good place for an author to speak about their work. But again to my surprise, Hari told me that every relative of his wants a free copy of his book and it’s useless to talk about his book to them.

Disheartened, I looked for a solution. I mean, the author who is already burdened with the heavy loan he took while getting his books printed, what should he do? And, the solution came in the form of a website named www.getsignedbooks.com, a venture by Dipen Ambalia, who is himself an author of three books till date. Getsignedbooks is a concept where an author can sell his personalized signed books at a price he/she wants. I got listed my book there and whenever there is a ping or comments saying, ‘Yaar! Mere ko ek personalized signed copy chahiye.’, I would smile; share my book link from the website and ask the person who demands it, ‘Please! Go ahead. ’ Only genuine people who needs authors personalized copy will buy it then, others will never demand it again, nor buy it.

However, not many authors have registered their books on the website. They are still troubled, working hard to sell their books. What should one do as a reader? Trouble him more by asking free copies? I believe, no. With this post, I just want to request every reader not to demand for free copies. No matter you don’t read your friend/author’s work, but at least don’t bother him by asking a free copy. Trust me, if you really deserve it, he/she will surely send it to you. 

That’s all I have with me for today. Hope I didn’t hurt my readers very much. Just a request! Think before you drop a message in author’s chatbox – ‘Can I have a signed copy of your book?’

Friday, November 1, 2013

Book Review : Beyond Birkie Fever (Walter Rhein)

Book:  Beyond Birkie Fever
Author:  Walter Rhein
Publisher:  Rhemalda Publishing

It's not every day you log into your mail and find a mail from a person living thousands of miles away from you. It was the last day of July when author, Walter Rhein sent me a mail for the first time. He came across this blog and few reviews here. He gave details about this book and asked me if I can review it.

Two things always stop me from reviewing books. First, when you start doing it regularly, you get a plenty of requests to do it. I neither have time, nor the zeal to read every other book that’s available in the market. Second, my reviews about a book are generally not good. Honest reviews have always brought troubles for me. Still out of curiosity, I visited amazon link of Walter's book, he shared to me in his mail. With the quoted price there, I was sure about one thing. 'I'm not going to review this book.' Moreover, I was not sure how much my review will help Walter. But, I knew I may be the only Indian, he must have asked to review his book. So, my reply would not only be mine, but will represent a nation. He will make a picture of India and its people from my reply. So, I replied him with my views few days later. He still asked me to review it; inquiring my address.

Almost a dozen of mails got exchanged after that before the book finally reached my address in the last week of September. Even before I could open the envelope with the book, the sender’s location brought a smile on my face. It's not every day you get an envelope with a US stamp on it. I opened the book a few days later.

Author's Bio from the book: Walter Rhein was born in northern Wisconsin. As he grew up, he developed a deep appreciation for cross-country skiing, the American Birkebeiner, and the Worldloppet circuit. His pursuit of international cross-country ski races sparked a powerful wanderlust that resulted in a ten year period spent living and working in South America. However, a true skier cannot resist the call of winter forever, and Rhein was recently relocated to Wisconsin, at least for the time being.

Beyond Birkie Fever is an adventurous journey of author, Walter Rhein in America's greatest cross-country ski race called American Birkebeiner. He shares with his readers how his journey as a skier changed since a kid of 7 years till date with details explaining his experiences beyond anything that one would ever hope to imagine! Let us dig out to find more about the book.

Every year, thousands of people journey from all over the globe to Hayward, Wisconsin, for a world-class celebration of life, winter and the competitive spirit. Prior to the race, local participants find themselves in the throes of a unique and natural euphoria. They thrill at the prospect of participating shoulder to shoulder with elite international competitors in a wild race through the great Northwoods wilderness. The book is a common person's Olympic ideal!

The cover page has an image of few skiers skiing with their full zeal, which surely goes with the book. Though I got this book shipped at my place, still if I would have noticed it at a bookstore, I would have picked up the book. However, there is some scope with the cover for improvement. The page quality is good. I have not read many paperback or hardbound books from foreign authors so can't comment about the standards followed in other countries.

When you start with the book, you find founder David Landgraf's account of the first Birkie. I would say it's a good idea to start a book like this. It's like giving a cricket lover, a book written on Cricket starting with the interview of Sachin Tendulkar. A straight six by the author on the first ball itself! Those who have been involved with ski races will surely appreciate it.

I found language used at the start of the book a little tough. Maybe, I felt so as being an Indian, I don't use words used by the author here in my daily talks. But, as you move with the flow, you find it to go smooth. Incidence one after another of the author's life keeps you moving with the flow of the book. Narration by the author is brilliant and would make you imagine yourself drown in the story. I belong to a country where there is not much snow. Still, I could imagine the plot very well. The part where author mentioned about his grandfather is really humorous. I didn't expect such a good end from the author after few setbacks with his health. Though, he fully convinced me with the end of the book.

At the end, I must say, it was a refreshing read for me as I have been continuously reading Indian plots. The author was tremendous in taking me to a different world. I would rate it a 4.25 on a scale of 5.

There are two drawbacks I found with this book. First, editing part could be taken better care of. Second, if the author wants to trap markets like India, he must reduce the price of the book. 

On a personal note, I would like to thank Walter Rhein for choosing me to read this book. His next book, 'The Reader of Acheron' is soon going to hit the market. I wish the author, all the best for his next book and other future endeavors.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Short Story : I like her

‘Yes, I like her!’ I said.
She did not reply for few minutes.
‘What is there in her that is not in me?’ she questioned with anger mixed in her voice.
‘She makes me smile whenever she stands in front of my eyes,’ I replied her honestly.
‘Hmm..’ Her eyes turned moist.
‘I think smile would not be the perfect word here. I really die laughing when she is standing in front of my eyes,’ I said making the situation worse.
‘Is she a Delhite?’ she asked further.
‘Umm.. Not really! She is actually a Punjabi.’
‘She must have fooled you by her talks.’
It was time for me to be silent.
‘Speak up!’ she shouted.
‘Yeah, it’s something of that sort you can say.’ I did not have a choice other than being true. I was really bowled by anything this girl spoke.
‘I know. All Punjabi girls are like this.’
‘Hmm..’ I nodded.
‘How long have you known her?’  her voice was turning sober every passing second.
‘I don’t know,’ I replied.
‘Days? Weeks? Months? Years? What?’ her voice rose this time.
‘Maybe, an year. Or, maybe more,’ I tried my best to remember when I saw her first time. But, I could not remember that moment.
‘Fine,’ she said wiping the tears which rolled down her eyes.
‘Are you OK?’ I asked her.
‘Yes, I am.’
‘All right,’ I replied, meekly.
‘Is she very beautiful?’ she asked.
‘Not really. But, she is my favorite. I love hearing to her.’
‘Fine! Best of luck with your future,’ she tried to smile this time.
‘Thank you,’ I smiled.
‘Take care. Bye!’
‘Bye!’
I turned to pick up the bottle kept to my right and gulped a few sips. I got busy with my daily work. After few hours, I logged myself on facebook.
‘Can I see her pic?’ my chat box popped with her message as soon as I turned online.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Book Review : Dented & Painted (Tirupathi Khemka)

Book:  Dented & Painted
Author:  Tirupathi Khemka
Publisher:  Notion Press

These days if you ask me to read a short story or a short story collection, I will be more interested in it than I could ever be. It is because of the short story collection I am working for these days. However, that is not the reason you will find me biased towards this short story collection. 

Somewhere in mid of May, Notion Press organized a contest and the winner was to receive a copy of “Dented & Painted”. To my hunger for free copies, I participated in the contest and like most other times, I won it. The copy of ‘Dented & Painted’ written by ‘Tirupathi Khemka’ reached my address in no time.

Businessman, industrialists, leader, visionary, innovator and philanthropist, Tirupathi Khemka, is known for his Midas touch. He added panache to everything he undertook; be it creating and managing multi-million dollar businesses, revolutionizing the power generation industry, pioneering the concept of airline charter in the country, breeding industrial relationships or generously supporting social causes. He has extensively travelled across the globe and has observed different societies, cultures and people as a profound enthusiast of human character.

Dented & Painted is a book that talks about 23 independent women who were oppressed, abused and used, and stories of women who avenged, repelled or survived in author's own word. Let us find out what it has to offer to its readers.

We live in tough times. Manhood established his world with his set of rules; womanhood strikes back, unfortunately playing by the same rules. Here is a collection of touching true stories of modern women and their lives in a contemporary society.

The cover page has an image of a woman, half wrapped in a saree. It is one of the covers that cannot be described in words. The cover page is capable of attracting you towards the book.  As you further turn the hard-bound cover, the page quality has been marvelous. It is one of the best page qualities that I have read in recent days which give a feel of its own. 

Language of all stories is crispy, engaging and touching and narration too has been good. There are a few typos that appear at the end of the book but that can be ignored. Just a few stories are normal wife-husband stories but they are very few and most of the stories are good which make you forget about them.  In recent months, we have found rape as an inhuman act but I believe the author has done its best in attracting us towards other issues faced by women. Few stories really showed how a man can go out of humanhood to play with a daughter/lover/wife's feelings. I am mentioning few of my personal favorites for your reference:

1. Prerna: Prerna story appalls me. It squeezes my heart and makes me think why should a child be pushed to the edge where the only option left is repulsion/withdrawal? And what should the society do to a man who pushes a child to the edge by molesting his/her body and soul? And what should be done to the man who does that to his own child?

2. Nikita: Nikita knows what she wants and she uses all her charms to get it. Fair? Unfair? Who’ll judge?

3. Chaaya: Why are woman suppressed? What Kind of a father would treat a little girl so brutally? What kind of a man treats his wife so inhumanly? What makes these men beat, rape and suppress woman in their lives? And how can a woman change this?

4. Tasha: Every decision has a price to pay, are you prepared to pay the price commanded for this choice? What will a child conceived in an orgy be like? For people who attend orgies, what age do they think would be good for their children to start attend orgies themselves? 

5. Mrinalini: The thing that keeps bothering me about this story is, why victimize faith?

6. Jhanvi: Why did she go back? She had the chance to get out of it. And why was she clinging on to Ritz? She knew he had got her into it?

At the end, I must say ‘Dented & Painted’ is a must read. I would rate it 4 on a scale of 5. The stories take you to every color of womanhood. You can feel the need to change your thinking that has been ruining the life of woman in many ways, may it be her father, her lover or her husband. The author has done a tremendous job in showing all the characteristics of woman. He leaves us with lot of questions in our mind. Do we really have the right to call us civilized with these questions? I really don't have an answer.

The only drawback I found with this book is it's price i.e. Rs 450/- Although, the book is hardbound but still I believe the author as well as publisher should have lowered the book price to make it reach the masses because many stories needs to reach to every mind.. every soul.

On a personal note, I’d like to wish Notion Press all the best for providing such a platform to many writers who are now heroes among their friends. And, I wish the author, Tirupathi Khemka best of luck for the book. I would love to read any future books by the author.