Thursday, November 26, 2015

Cover Reveal - Encounters by Sumana Khan

Encounters 
by 
Sumana Khan 
Blurb 
Someone Is Always Waiting 

Watch It 


EXCERPT FROM THE NOVELETTE “THE STORYTELLER” IN ENCOUNTERS COLLECTION

I stare at the cement bench covered in pigeon shit and spot the dim outline of the granite slab embedded in the backrest. Years ago, when the bench was new, the granite slab was a shiny black mirror inscribed with the words ‘Dedicated to the courageous people of Thirukadal’. Four cyclones and many pigeons later, the words have disappeared. The place is so choked with weeds that the bench appears to rest on the thorny plants. Behind me, beyond a muddy track, the Bay of Bengal hisses and sighs in a treacherous language.

I look up at the sky, as if to decode the time. My watch says it is half past seven in the morning, but the sky, clotted with grey clouds, remains secretive. It could be evening as far as the heavens are concerned. A depressing form of rain is assured; the kind that only occurs in this eastern coast of South India—skies that sob continuously for forty-eight hours, increasing humidity, mosquitoes and the stench of choked drains, damp walls and wet clothes. I wonder if the sky had been just as morose on the morning of 26 December, 2004.

I tie a handkerchief around my face, covering my nose and mouth, and hack away at the weeds. Swarms of mosquitoes and flies rise in a static buzz and hover over my head like a satanic dark halo. It takes me an hour to clear a small area around the bench. The sky starts its weeping just as I scrub the bench with a coconut husk and Vim detergent powder.    

After half an hour, the granite slab gleams into existence once again. I’ve got my memorial ritual paraphernalia in a Food World plastic bag. I bring out a strand of jasmine that I loop around the granite slab, its fragrance weak in the rain. I crouch under my umbrella that won’t open fully and light a couple of incense sticks. I’ve forgotten to bring the incense holder, so I stick the smouldering incense into a banana that was to be my breakfast. I place it on the bench in front of the granite slab and hold the umbrella over it. I close my eyes in an attempt to pray. All I can think of is the angry allergic rash that’s spreading on my legs and hands thanks to the weeds and that the incense smells like a cheap aftershave.

I give up and sit on the bench, still holding the umbrella over the incense. The rain stings my skin like the rash. The hard, wet seat numbs my thighs instantly and a dull arthritic pain blooms in my knees and lower back. I squirm, shifting my weight from one butt cheek to the other. I wait, just as I’ve waited in vain for the last seven years, for the storyteller to show up. The incense is all ash now. I may as well eat the banana and tell you the story of how I met this mysterious man.    

About The Author 

Sumana Khan was born and raised in Bangalore and currently lives in the UK. She is a blogger and a student. Her debut novel was The Revenge of Kaivalya. 

Author website: http://www.sumanakhan.com

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Encounters - Someone's Always Waiting by Sumana Khan

Encounters - Someone's Always Waiting

by Sumana Khan

Giveaway ends December 11, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Life's Challenges



          Few days back, while casually chatting about my daughter’s growing age and its related issues, her physiotherapist told me about a patient she recently visited. They were old patient of hers, and they had called her to have a look at their child’s dislocated hip and to advice on further course of treatment.




          That casual chat really set me thinking about the various challenges we parents face while bringing up a differently abled child. Primarily we start with treatments for the condition which is diagnosed like ADHD, Autism, Cerebral Palsy etc. But as the child grows, his/her body changes giving rise to secondary issues which sometimes goes unnoticed till damage is done & surgery (in some cases) is the only remedy to correct it or to prevent further damage.

          For example sitting in wrong posture can lead to Scoliosis, hip dislocation might be due to wrong posture or muscle tone tightness, calcium or Vitamin D3 deficiency leads to osteoporosis and lower back pain.

          As most of the kids are non-verbal, we tend to miss the signals of issues they might be facing like vision or dental issues.

          For example it is necessary to get regular eyes checked of our children. So we were recommended to a well-known and famous paediatric ophthalmologist in a well-known hospital. But it used to take up 1 whole day as it was located in town and travelling used to be tiring for all 3 of us, as daughter was growing up and it used to get tedious.

          So finally and luckily we found a paediatric ophthalmologist near our place of residence and we thought of giving it a try. 1st day when we visited him he was little bit shocked after checking her eyesight. So he called us next day after putting the eye drops so that the pupil of eye is clearly dilated. Next day when we went after the readings were taken we were again told to come next day. We were bit worried (as we dreaded something might be wrong).

          What he told next was a total shocker for me and my husband. We couldn’t believe what he told. He told my daughter doesn’t have any eyesight problem… She doesn’t need specs…

          We had been to the other doctor just 6 months back and she had told her number is increased and every time we went she used to say the same thing and change Prerna’s glasses and advice constant use. This was going on since past 6-7 years. Prerna never liked to wear glasses so she used to constantly remove it and we used to scold her to keep the glasses on.

          To be sure we went to another paediatric ophthalmologist, who was also of same opinion that my daughter doesn’t need specs. We were surprised, shocked how come a girl having a specs number 2.75 be reduced to 0.5 in 6 months. 2 doctors can't be wrong…. Unless it's an miracle...

          Since Prerna can't speak we trusted the renowned doctor on her readings and advices. I had felt so bad, as I used to constantly make her wear specs, and scold her if she removed it. And initially when we came to know that she has to wear specs all blamed me because of me she got it too.

          Everyone who came to know about this incident was left in shock. But we learnt a lesson. It’s always better to take a second opinion when it comes to any medical issue, no matter how experienced or well-known that 1st doctor is.


          Bringing up a differently abled child is a challenge itself. But it hurts when people try to make use of such situations & misled parents and guardians. In schools and centers wherein we trust them with our  child, pay hefty amounts so as they take proper care of our children, are also the places wherein mainly they are not taken proper care or neglected. More about those experiences in coming blogs.





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Monday, November 23, 2015

Spotlight - A Thousand Unspoken Words by Paulami Duttagupta



A Thousand Unspoken Words 
By 
Paulami Duttagupta 
Publisher: Readomania 

Blurb 
A hero, a person who displays great courage for the greater good, can also fall. But what happens to a fallen hero? A Thousand Unspoken Words is the unique journey of a hero who falls. 

The champion of the underdogs, the writer who uses the nom de plume Musafir is famous in Kolkata. His incisive criticism of the injustices around him earn him many enemies but he holds his ideals above all else. Scathing attacks at his books and a night of hide and seek from political goons leads Musafir unto a path he never liked, faraway from his ideals. He runs away and chooses the comforts of money over the travails of following one’s ideals. The hero falls. 
But Tilottama, passionate fan’s hopes don’t. When he comes back after many years, emotions, love and lust take charge and an affair brews. Will she bring back her hero? Will he rise again? Or will the thousand untold words, the many stories of the ideal writer be lost forever?

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Excerpt

Wahan kaun hai tera, Musafir jaayega kaha’, the retro radio show played the SD Burman classic. Tilottama looked at her radio once and tears blurred her vision.

‘O Sachin karta this song reminds me of him.’

Tilotamma quickly wiped her eyes and turned the radio off. The day had been taxing enough. She needed to unwind, get Musafir out of her mind. How crazy could some people get? He had just written a fictional piece. How could fiction humiliate a government in power with an absolute majority? Wasn’t this a democracy? How could the supporters of a faith or political party get all insecure and burn his books?

The object of Tilottama’s despair, Musafir, was a writer supposedly based out of Kolkata. He wrote books at irregular intervals, and hid behind the veil of anonymity. His pieces were mostly social commentaries and satires on the state of Bengal. They were all fictional but had come under severe criticism in the past few months. Little paperbacks in funny covers, his books were available in old, rambling, bookstores across the city. Some were also available with the book vendors on the footpaths of the city.

When the news of the pulping of Musafir’s books had reached her a couple of days ago, Tilottama hadn’t thought things would go beyond a protest or two. The people of the city wouldn’t let go of things without a sign of protest. They got agitated at trivial things like who was included in a cricket team, and burned effigies and tyres in protest. They took out processions for Vietnam and Gaza. They could protest against him; but there would also be scores who would come out for her Musafir. They did when Firaz was hounded for his paintings of Goddesses.

‘And when they come out in large numbers, these goons will realize what it feels like standing before a civil society. They just can’t stifle Musafir’, she had confidently told her friends. What she did not realize was Musafir wasn’t exactly popular with the masses. His works were mostly literary and catered to niche readers. Her admiration for him had made her assume he was more popular than he really was.
Things had happened much faster than expected and spiralled out of control. Musafir’s printing press was vandalized and set on fire. Even as she and other Musafir fans watched, his books were dumped into that raging fire; words and hopes lost. The hundred odd fans tried to put up a bravefight, sang songs of freedom and stood with placards. But nothing worked. A couple of local channels had tried to stand by them in solidarity. The protest ended as a camera was smashed by the hoodlums on the road. People started fleeing fearing more violence.

‘They would kill us if they could’, Tilottama angrily spat out. ‘We were just so outnumbered. These were organized cadres. Yes, they were. Their bosses just can’t pretend to be innocent.’

A handful of policemen stood by pretending as if nothing was happening. The printing press was in one of the dingier parts of North Kolkata. It mainly did odd jobs like printing leaflets and bills, a few little magazines etc. and would print Musafir’s books on the sly. That is where he gave shape to his voice. The place was reportedly registered in the name of a man long dead, and people were left guessing who Musafir was. Some said the owner was a refugee who was avenging years of discontent. Some said his son was murdered by members of the ruling party. Some said he was just a frustrated man using the medium to lend himself a voice. To some other the entire idea was amusing and fascinating.

Tilottama grimaced and wiped her face clean. She was cutting a very sorry picture indeed, covered in grime andtears. All she could think of was her Musafir. She fought back her tears wondering what could have happened to her hero. For the past couple of years a strong wind of incumbency was blowing and Musafir’s voice had become stronger. Everything came under Musafir’s attack; from Dhaniajhapi to the burning of monks, the ban on English in government run schools, the apathy in the use of computers and much more. However, recently he had become vocal against all forms of religious appeasement and challenged the special religious laws. He had also set the stage against land acquisition bills, mismanaged industrialization plans and pre-election harangues. Musafir wrote as many books as possible bringing the discrepancies to light. And that is what brought about his downfall.

Tilottama sat on her bed and hugged her knees to her chest and went over the events of the day. She bit back the memory of the man who had asked her to let go of her placard, but that face would just not fade. 

‘What had he called himself,’ she wondered, ‘Ayushmaan . . .no Riddhimaan.’

He was a photographer! How dispassionate could he be?He had watched the carnage, merrily taken snaps and asked her to throw away her placard. If even the press did not come out in support of Musafir, then who would? Weren’t both of them fighting to make the pen immortal? Why was the media silent now; because Musafir didn’t have international backing, or corporate sponsors? She was upset that Poltu had shamelessly praised the man. Riddhimaan and the likes of him would give importance to writers only if they had a South Block or Writers’ Building backing.

‘I wish this government goes down. They will go down. I promise you Musafir they will,’ she told herself.
The loud banging of her window pane broke her reverie. The rains had lashed Kolkata with all their fury that evening. 

‘Even Mother Nature is angry. Drown the city, drown all of us. Since we have nowhere to go and hide our shame,’ Tilottama said aloud.

She continued to rant as she shut the window. She had hurt her finger in the process. Then she walked into her bedroom looking for the first aid box. As she cleaned the cut, the antiseptic made her skin burn and her thoughts drifted to Musafir. There was no way to divert her mind. Maybe reading Musafir would help, or maybe writing. Musafir always said he wrote to look for answers. Maybe she could do that too. But nothing gave her peace; maybe she was obsessed with the writer. The gag on Musafir was beginning to become a personal loss to her.

About Paulami Duttagupta 
Paulami DuttaGupta is a novelist and screen writer. She shuttles between Kolkata and Shillong. She has worked as a radio artist, copy writer, journalist and a television analyst at various stages of her life, having been associated with AIR Shillong, The Times of India—Guwahati Shillong Plus, ETV Bangla, The Shillong Times, Akash Bangla and Sony Aath.As an author, her short stories have appeared in various anthologies and literary magazines. A Thousand Unspoken Words is her fourth book. Paulami also writes on politics, social issues and cinema. Her articles have appeared in Swarajya, The Forthright and NElive. 
Paulami is associated with cinema and her first film, Ri-Homeland of Uncertainty received the National Award for the Best Khasi Film. Her second film Onaatah—Of the Earth is at post production stage and will release in 2016. She is currently working on her third screenplay. A short film tentatively titled ‘Patjhar’ is also in the pipeline.
Paulami is a complete foodie and is almost obsessed with watching one film every day. She also loves reading—political and social commentaries are her favourite genre. Literature classics and books on cricket are also a part of her library, apart from a huge collection of romances. Jane Austen’s fictional character Mr. Darcy is her lifelong companion. She is an ardent fan of Rahul Dravid and has been following all news about him for almost twenty years now.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Spotlight - Karmic Kids by Kiran Manral


Karmic Kids 
The Story of Parenting Nobody Told You !
by 
Kiran Manral 

Synopsis 

Move aside Tiger Mom and forget Helicopter Parenting, Karmickids is the view from the other side of the fence – of laid back parenting, of giving in to food jags, of making unstructured play time mandatory and of not bursting a blood vessel when your child’s grades are not something you might want to discuss in public.

A roller coaster ride of love, laughter, and a few tears, Manral takes you through the beautiful chaos of the early years of parenthood. Written in a gently humorous style, this home grown, hit-the-ground-running account of the chaos of day-to-day parenting is peppered with anecdotes, reminiscences, a little practical advice and is a non-preachy, hilarious take on raising a spirited child while retaining one’s good spirits through it all.

Grab your Copy 

What others say about Kiran Manral 

“I enjoy reading Kiran’s books. The genre of easy reading and happy reading with inevitable style, she keeps you hooked on the book from the first page to the last.”-- Tisca Chopra, actor

“This quick paced, fun new book had me enthralled.”--Tara Sharma Saluja, Actress and Co-producer and host of The Tara Sharma Show
“Kiran's writing style is witty, humorous and makes you think. She has a penchant for making even the most mundane, interesting because of the razor sharp observations, served with a dollop of dead-pan humour.” --Preeti Shenoy, bestselling author

“Kiran's writing is that rarity in today's world - the ability to be really good without taking itself too seriously. This is writing that is effortless in its humour and also its fluidity. It asks not for heavy literary criticism but for a certain laid-back enjoyment.” --Parul Sharma, bestselling author

"Kiran's stories are fun, engaging and always fresh - and her droll style, of course, inimitable!"-- Yashodhara Lal, bestselling author
“Kiran's writing is delightful, her wit inimitable and her sense of romance untarnished by cynicism that is so typical of our times.”— Shunali Khullar Shroff,  bestselling author

“Kiran Manral's sparkling sense of humour leaps off the page, every page. Her blog posts, books and columns have given me great joy over the years. She has a distinct original voice that brought a breath of fresh air in the world of Indian Writing in English.” – Devapriya Roy, Bestselling author  


About the Author 

Kiran Manral worked as a journalist with The Asian Age and The Times of India before she quit full time work to be a full time mommy. One of the leading bloggers in India, her blogs were listed in Labnol's list of India's top blogs, and her parenting blog, Karmickids, was ranked among the top five parenting blogs in India by Blogadda. She was also a Tehelka blogger columnist on gender issues.

She was listed among the 10 non-celebrity 'social media stars' on twitter by the TOI and IBN Live named her as among the 30 most interesting Indian women to follow on twitter and among the top 10 Indian moms to follow on twitter in 2013. Fashion 101.in named her as amongst the most stylish authors in India. Womensweb.in listed her as one of the 20 women authors from India to be followed on twitter.

Post the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai, she founded India Helps, a volunteer network to help disaster victims post 26/11 and has worked on long term rehabilitation of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack victims and 13/7 Mumbai bomb blast victims, amongst others. She was part of core founding team behind Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month (www.csaawarenessmonth.com) and Violence Against Women Awareness Month (www.vawawareness.wordpress.com), two very well received social media awareness initiatives.

Her debut novel, The Reluctant Detective, was published by Westland and her second novel Once Upon A Crush, was published by Leadstart a couple of years later. Her third book All Aboard! was published by Penguin Random House in August 2015. Karmic Kids is her fourth book and first nonfiction book. She has one more book due for release in 2015.

She is on the planning board of the Kumaon Literary Festival, an advisor on the Board of Literature Studio, Delhi, an Author Mentor at sheroes.in and a columnist at iDiva.com. She was awarded the Women Achievers award by Young Environmentalists Group in 2013.


She currently blogs at www.kiranmanral.wordpress.com and is on twitter @kiranmanral.