Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Book giveaway of an awesome horror novel 'The Other Side'

3D cover.Scan it and it comes alive. Awesome cover

'The Other Side.....Dare to visit alone' is a very good book of horror genre. Written by Faraaz Kazi and Vivek Banerjee, it is an anthology of 13 spine-chilling short stories. You can read my review of the book here.

Meanwhile, the great news is that a 'Giveaway' for the book is on cards (Ah, who doesn't love free books, yum), presented by the awesome twosome- Sarika and Janhvi of 'The Readaddicts'.


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The winner of the 2013 National Debut Youth Fiction Award and also the recipient of the

YCOF National Excellence award in Creative Writing apart from being the first Indian

author to win the coveted ‘Best Debut (Romance)’ title at the international Goodreads choice

awards, Faraaz Kazi has been tagged as the 'Nicholas Sparks of India’ by many and is rated

amongst the top male romance writers in the country.

A certified soft-skills trainer and a three-time post grad, Kazi is the Founder and CEO of

DigiImprint Solutions, India's first exclusive promotional agency for authors and artists that

recently forayed into handling corporate brands. He also consults for a few public relations

firms and publishing houses. Felicitated by numerous institutes, bodies and organizations

alike, Kazi is a well-known name in the social media and literary fraternity. He is fondly

referred to as 'The Young Marketer' and operates a revolutionary blog with the same name

and writes for major media houses.

Kazi is a fellow member of the esteemed 'Film Writers Association of India.' Truly Madly

Deeply, his debut mainstream romance novel is the only Indian book to have seven category

nominations in the Goodreads annual readers' choice awards and is also the only Indian book

in the 'Top 100 YA Global Fiction' list. Kazi is a voracious reader and counts singing as his

second love.











A pediatrician by profession, Vivek Banerjee is an author by accident.He lives in Saharanpur

with his parents, obstetrician wife and two children. The pressures of his profession leave

him with little leisure but he still finds time for his varied interests. An avid traveller, he

has covered the length and breadth of the country in real life and the rest of the world in

his imagination. A voracious reader, music lover, self-confessed geek and an amateur

ornithologist, he would rather walk the road less travelled, given the time and opportunity.

A Bengali by birth, he has grown up in various towns of North India and studied in many

different schools and colleges. He started writing on Rediff blogs where he is known as Ben

and went on to write his debut novel THE LONG ROAD.

He has also been published by Westland in 'Chicken Soup for Indian Doctors Soul',

Grapevine India in 'Shades of Love' and APK Publishers in 'Shades of Black'.

He won an all India short story competition for his story 'The hunter'which was published

in 'Kaleidoscope' by Parlance publishers.

An anthology of stories about the paranormal, 'The Other Side', co-authored with Faraaz Kazi

is a recent offering.

He is also a part of 'Carnival' by





Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Other Side Review: Dare to read alone?

Book: The Other Side…..Dare to visit alone?
Authors: Faraaz Kazi and Vivek Banerjee
Publisher: Mahaveer Publishers
Genre: Fiction/Horror
Price: Rs 150 (excluding discounts)
Pages: 320
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Review: ‘The Other Side….Dare to visit alone’ is an anthology of 13 short stories belonging to the horror genre. Penned by Faraaz Kazi and Vivek Banerjee, this is an extremely engaging book presented in a delightful style and with stories which will not disappoint you.
To begin with, it has one of the most interesting preludes you will ever come across. To find out more, better pick up the book.
Moving on, here is a crisp review of each of the 13 stories. These are borrowed from the little notes I scribbled as I finished them one by one:

Story 1: That Fateful Night
Arresting narration, brilliant use of language, but the end, despite being absorbing, is predictable. ‘That fateful night’ is the story of a doctor and his fateful visit to a fateful old couple on a fateful night in a fatefully dilapidated ‘haveli’ under fateful circumstances and with some inexplicably fateful consequences to it.

Story 2: The Long Weekend
‘The long weekend’ tells the story of Sachin, Shikha and a vacation they took immediately after a séance attended by Shikha at her neighborhood.
The first half of the story is intensely gripping, what with the game of planchette offering some genuine ‘goosebump’ moments. The intensity wanes a bit in the second half, though the story-telling is absorbing throughout the 20-odd pages down to its surprising, though a tad dissonant, ending.

Story 3: The Man who did not fear
‘The man who did not fear’ started with a lot of promise but fizzled out soon. The story is not gripping and the lethargic pace makes it a laborious read. Writing seems so amateurish at places that one may be tempted to think that this story has been written by someone other than the author of the previous two tales.
The setting and the plot are unoriginal, but the major disappointment is the unconvincing and, often, enforced behavior of the main protagonist Nirbhay who spends a night in an abandoned mansion after a wager with his friends.

Story 4: Strangers in the Night
Good, gripping, romantic, erotic, titillating and scary. The anti-climax is interesting but a shrewd reader will see it coming.

Story 5: The muse comes calling
Fresh and ingenious plot. How would you feel if you are a writer and your characters come alive one day to do to you what you did to them?

Story 6: The Lady in the Pub
An okay-ish story with a trite plot and decent narration. The twist in the end is a winner though.

Story 7: A mother’s love
Though the plot seems heavily inspired from the usual horror TV shows, the story is, nevertheless, very arresting and keeps you turning the pages till the end suddenly arrives and interrupts your reveries.

Story 8: Red Bangles
Told from the perspective of a psycho lover, ‘Red Bangles’ is romance, fear and sex in their most unadulterated and maniacal form. Ever heard of a man making love with a corpse? Plus, an Edgar Allan Poe-esque narration adds to the spook and mystery.

Story 9: The Mark of the Beast
Quite a nice little story with a fresh plot. The story revolves around a couple Sanath and Shalini who discover about the curse of an abominable beast during their honeymoon.

Story 10: The Mystery Lake
Why does Ravi keep dreaming of a mysterious lake? What does he find when he reaches that place? To find out, read this plot-centric story which could have garnered a 3.5 or even a 4 had it ended on a better note.

Story 11: Possession
‘Possession’ seems right out of one of those horror soaps they keep showing on TV. A haunted house, a new family moves in, the children can talk with the ghost, possession, exorcism and so on.
Yet, despite the lack of freshness, the story is extremely gripping. I would have given it a 3 but with the little brilliance in the climax, the author won me over to his side…to ‘the other side’

Story 12: Unfulfilled desires
It is a mystery-cum-horror story where a doctor is visited by paranormal presence. The spirit of a dead woman seeks help from Dr. Rajiv Gupta who suddenly finds himself amidst an unsolved suicide mystery.
The story builds up nicely but ends rather on an ordinary note.

Story 13: Dream Girl
Freaky, disturbing, one of the best psycho-horror stories I have ever read. A perverted man chops off body parts of the women he fancies and creates his own marvel woman. Easily the darkest story of the book!

Epilogue: The short horror story set at Bhangarh Fort sums up the epilogue and brings the book to an apt conclusion.

Final words: Overall, ‘The Other Side…Dare to visit alone’ is a good book and makes for a satisfying read for horror lovers. While some stories disappoint, the majority are spooky and freakish.
And as you read this review, I can see somebody standing behind your back, breathing down your neck, reading alongside you…..Dare to turn around?   *evil laughter*

PS- I am grateful to my Readaddicts friends (I hope I can call them that) Sarika and Janhvi for sending this book over to my place for an honest review. 

The Homing Pigeons Review: 4 reasons why you should read this book

Book: The Homing Pigeons
Author: Sid Bahri
Publisher: Srishti Publishers
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Price: Rs 150 (excluding discounts)
Pages: 318
Rating: 4 out of 5

Review: ‘The Homing Pigeons’ by Sid Bahri is a surprisingly good book. To come straight to the point, here are the 4 reasons why you must pick this book:

Reason 1- Storyline
The storyline of ‘The Homing Pigeons’ is fresh and unique. This is the greatest achievement by the author. Without sidelining romance, he has been able to weave a story which revolves around a jobless, penniless Aditya who finds himself turning into a gigolo for earning his bread and butter (all hail recession for that)!

Reason 2- Narration
The narration is very powerful and is a testimonial of the author’s command over storytelling. He easily shuffles between the past and present of both its protagonists Aditya and Radhika. Though this style of narration must have been very challenging for the author, it never becomes confusing for the reader. So, dear author, that’s a job well done!

Reason 3- Hilarity
The book is really hilarious though that was perhaps never the intent of the author. Simply said, it is hilarious without trying to be hilarious. The plot is satirical as well as a grave one where a hapless young man’s jobless state has been exploited in many colors. The reader will sympathize with the character, but also laugh at his dilemmas. Most of the times, he is in a catch-22 situation. He accepts offers because they are too tempting to refuse, yet he doesn’t wish to be offered those offers in the first place.

Reason 4- Bold without being profane
There is a lot of sex in the story, but this is one instance where you cannot accuse the author of trying to titillate his audience. The subject is bold, the sex is purposeful and despite the abundance of sex, there is no hint of vulgarity. There is an underlying message in the sex, one which won’t be hard to miss out even if you are a blind reader.

~Ritesh Agarwal

Thursday, December 19, 2013

How a tablet helps me write stories and babysit toddlers

Computers and tablets have got a number of special uses which need to be exploited. At times, one may be simply bemused by the kind of benefits these devices have to offer. For instance, while most people use tablets for the sake of fun and to use internet, I have found an exclusive use for it, something which has helped me a lot over the course of the past 10 months. I find that the notepad of a tablet provides a person an ideal space to jot down blog posts, poetries, book reviews or short stories even at a time when you are feeling lethargic and do not wish to sit down before a laptop or a desktop. With my tablet, I can slump over to my bed, squeeze in a couple of pillows under my head (and over my legs) and scribble down thoughts which are buzzing in my mind. When it comes to fiction writing, I have the habit of writing them only when I am feeling ‘full of words’. There are phases when my mind can think, introspect or weave imaginations with such clarity that you feel as if words are just jostling inside your brain and looking for outlets to burst about. That is when a tablet can help you to let out those prisoners. Just free them out of your mind and spill them over to your tablet which can be conveniently held in your palm.

I wrote portions of The Black Cat on my tablet

Being light in weight and miniscule in size, a tablet is a gadget whose convenience and comfort cannot be matched by the larger and bulkier desktops and laptops. I do not have anything against these bigger machines. But when we are talking of writing/working during physically inactive times, you can discover that a tablet allows you to perform your activity without asking you to sit up.

Another advantage that a tablet has is that it can be used as a way to connect with toddlers. Most toddlers are pretty shy and unsocial. They may not open up before you if you are not a part of their immediate family or in case they haven’t seen you around much. But handing them a tablet and titillating them with a game or two can be an intelligent way to win them over to your side.
So, when my elder brother Govind Bhaiya paid us a visit during Diwali along with his 3-year old son Harsh, I used this trick to get into the good books of my nephew. Harsh became so engrossed with the games that he didn’t want to let go of them and would ask me to restart it every time he lost all his lives. I was happy to accede to his pleas since the tablet was helping me to break the ice with him.

Govind Bhaiya, Harsh and the tablet

And then when my favorite nephew Cheeky (a 5-year old impish toddler) comes over during his vacations, I babysit him with the help of my old Tinkle books and my tablet. I firmly believe that digital and archaic forms of entertainment should enjoy a healthy mix. So, the combination of Tinkle and Tablet makes for a perfect cocktail.

 I also make it a point that Cheeky is not allowed to fidget with the gadget for more than an hour during each sitting. It is important that you do not let a child become a slave of technology. Taking him out to the nearby children’s park every evening is a ritual which I religiously follow, come rain or snow.  

At Jurassic Park with Cheeky

Other than these, a tablet can perform any major function which you expect of a computer. From checking my emails when I take my first yawn to running through my Facebook notifications when I am sipping my morning coffee, I have been able to stay connected with the world a lot more easily after I brought home a tablet.

[This post is my honest feedback about tablets and has been submitted for an IndiBlogger contest organized by LenovoYoga Tablet.]

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My carbon copy: The girl I met by sheer accident last night

You stay in Kankurgachi, I too stay in Kankurgachi. You are into English literature, I am also into English literature. You have learnt under the tutelage of Khokhon Sir; I too have learnt under the tutelage of Khokhon Sir. You love dogs, I too love dogs. Yet you cannot own one since your mother won’t permit you to, I too can’t own one since my mother won’t permit me to. But you intend to bring home a dog one day in the future, near or far; I too intend to bring home a dog one day in the future, near or far. For the time being, you survive on fondling and petting street dogs and any lovable dog that comes your way; for the time being, I too survive on fondling and petting street dogs and any lovable dog that comes my way. You had a pet parrot once which flew away on its own; I too had a pet parrot once which flew away on its own. You are bad with directions and always ask your way in and out of a place; I too am bad with directions and always ask my way in and out of a place. You teach students at your place, I also teach students at my place. You love Agatha Christie, I too love Agatha Christie.

Yet, you are someone whom I met by sheer accident last night (17th December 2013). We had no connection whatsoever and were not destined to meet. We should not have met at all. Or maybe we were actually destined to meet. Or else, why would you be my carbon copy and I yours?  

~Ritesh Agarwal

Thursday, December 12, 2013

If you are a woman, learn to say NO

Source: Google Image

Women in our country are unfortunately still considered a commodity by the chauvinistic male class and the biggest example of this chauvinism surfaces during match-making. Ironically, today’s youth has the temerity to call itself a trend-setter, a pioneer and a social reformer. The men attend, in thousands, all those candle-march processions and protests which have become frequent of late. But when it comes to marriage, they still like to call all the shots and be the dominating partner. Frankly, there is no harm in trying to dominate when it comes to making the final decisions or calling for some urgent changes in the couple’s lifestyle. But most men pose as if they are the divine commanders of their wives who must always act subservient before them.

Cases of dowry are still pretty common even in the so-called urban India. Unfortunately, the girl’s parents too should be censured for the act since instead of protesting, they often support the system and are only too happy to part with gifts and cash with a cheesy smile.

Why do men enforce their decisions over their wives once the marital vows are taken? If a woman wishes to continue with her career, why does she have to sacrifice it just because her husband is keener on her staying at home and cooking him good food every day? Why does she have to unhook her buttons and gratify him sexually if he so demands, even if she does not want to do it every night of her own free will?

But she submits, she turns docile and she becomes the very woman her husband wants her to become. So, who is at the greatest fault here?

No, it is not the husband, no matter how bestial he may be! No, it is not the girl’s parents, no matter how low they may stoop in their desperation to marry off their daughter!

It is the girl herself who allows her parents to marry her off to somebody who accepts dowry with both hands, who allows her husband to decide her future for her, who allows her body to get martially raped by her ever-hungry sleeping partner.

The only way a change can be brought about is to turn steely and resolute. If you are a woman, you need to learn to say NO. It may be hard on you at first; it may even disturb the family harmony and may also turn your husband against you. But this is the only way forward, the only way to eliminate chauvinism from the Indian society.

Source: Google images

[This post has been written for the ‘Stay Free & Healthy Day’ contest in association with Blogadda]

~Ritesh Agarwal
Ph- 900740-5254

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Longest book I have ever read

My feedback in Telegraph dated 11.12.13

Being the kind of book-lover I am, I have read some really thick books (thick enough to give the likes of Sonakshi Sinha a run for her...umm..never mind). From Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to Gone with the Wind, I believe that there's nothing better in life than a good, fat book.

Technically, the longest book that I have read is 'War and Peace' that also happens to be my favourite all-time novel. I also take intense pride in having read this Tolstoy classic whose 1200 words-plus volume is a bit too daunting for most people to sit through. But I did it and in less than a month. That was in the year 2005 (if I am not wrong).

So guys, which is the longest book that you have ever read? Tell me in the comment section.

Long-ingly yours,
Ritesh Agarwal   :P
Calcutta, India

Friday, December 6, 2013

Photography: Marine Drive, Mumbai

Marine Drive, a tourist attraction in Mumbai

Marine Drive has a multi-faceted personality. It is a hub for friends, lovers, families, kids, vendors and balloon sellers. I took this pic during my recent trip to Mumbai

~Ritesh Agarwal

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Rocky, the dog on the 3rd floor

Image source: Google

Life has the habit of throwing your past at you in the most unexpected ways. So, today I pen this tribute in the memories of Rocky, only hours after dreaming about him all of a sudden.

Rocky was the pet dog who had his home in the 4th floor of my building. He was a white dog (speech or whatever they call it, I am not very good in differentiating the breeds). I grew up with him and even though he wasn't my dog, I would often bump into him and pat him. At times, I would even visit his house upstairs to play with him. And yes, I also tried to ride him. Hehe. But he would wriggle ahead and I could never quite mount him technically.

Actually, he was a she. Technically, a bitch, a female dog. But I grew up referring to him as a he and that image has stuck. Besides, he was named Rocky by Pappu Bhaiya who had brought him from a local market way back in the 90s. I was quite small that time, but I vividly remember the first time I met Rocky. Pappu Bhaiya brought him to my house. Wrapped in a red cloth, he was a tiny ball of white furs with two bulb-like eyes curiously observing the world around him.

I cherish the few memories I have of him. I remember how he would stick his tongue out every time I blew air into his eyes. That was our way of expressing love for each other.

Rocky died some 8-10 years back. I wasn't in regular touch with him during his final years but when I heard of his demise, I felt a deep sense of emptiness in my life.

Life moved on and my memories of him got buried beneath a pile of other more recent memories (involving my college, dates, crushes and diseases). And last night, out of nowhere, he just visited me in my dreams, accepting my pats and air-kisses for a few evanescent moments before melting out of sight and going back to where he came from.

And when I woke up, I felt numb and experienced gloom and was left shaken. And all those deeply buried memories of him resurfaced in my mind for seconds before plunging deep again, sucking me in along with them, into a past where a happy tiny school boy was prancing around a fluffy white dog, blowing air into his curious bulb-like eyes.

PS- The above image has been taken from Google. Sadly, I don't have any pic of Rocky since we didn't have flashy camera phones in that era. But he pretty much looked like this.

Monday, December 2, 2013

What's in a name

The name of a person is more important to me than it is to the rest of the world. But one shouldn't judge people by their names, because names can be dangerously misleading.
For instance, my friend Swetha is called Swetha though she is very un-Swethaish. A Swetha is supposed to be quiet, serious and sober. But she is like a carefree, jumping rabbit.

Another friend is named Asha, though she has no traits of an Asha. Then there is Swati who is intriguing and not at all like the uncomplicated girl a Swati is expected to be.
May be, their parents named them wrongly. Or may be, they were named correctly, but they grew up to become something else, something they were not supposed to become, and quite incongruous to the way they were named.

But then reality, unlike fiction, does not always make sense. My college friend Sayan is aptly named, since he is outspoken, bold, popular and, at times, even impertinent and cocky, the way Sayans must be. My sister Chitra is super-intelligent and efficient and has lived up to her name magnificently. My brother Mohit too has carried the cross of being a Mohit in an exceptionally true manner- being ambitious and diligent that he is. My bhabhi Sonam too is graceful, sober, smart and silently intelligent the way her name entitles her to be.

Finally, I must congratulate my parents, or whoever named me, for naming me exactly the way I was named. A Ritesh symbolises goodness, cuteness, moderate intelligence, modesty and hidden greatness. On that count,   I have blossomed out into an appropriate Ritesh, though some of my namesakes have been too mediocre and unexceptional, thereby eroding the reputation of my name. The onus rests on me to continue to remain the torchbearer of a true Ritesh in its chaste and unsullied form, and with all the goodness intact, despite some inherent flaws which I humbly accept that I possess in the right amount.

PS- I am not being arrogant or pompous. It's just that  I feel that I have been named rightly.

Can Love Happen Twice Review: Weak plot, brilliant narration

Image Source:

Book: Can Love Happen Twice
Author: Ravinder Singh
Publisher: Penguin metro reads
Genre: Romance
Price: Rs 125
Number of pages: 216

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Review: 'Can love happen twice' is not as bad a book as it was made out to be. Sure, it is nowhere close to 'I too had a love story', the debut work of the author. But from the point of readability, it is very much an absorbing stuff.

There is no uniqueness in the story or knotty convolutions in the plot. It is mush after all. But it is the simplistic and realistic narration which Ravinder Singh is known for, that turns this ordinary romance into a loveable, hooking and even arresting stuff.

You won't remember this book for too long, but while you are reading it, you will enjoy it. It is the sequel to 'I too had a love story' but it is fictional and, unlike its prequel, is not based on Ravinder's real life.

After a crushing heartbreak (spoiler ahead) following the tragic death of Khushi, the author immerses himself in work and travels abroad for an official project. There he bumps into Simar and slowly gets drawn towards her. Love blossoms and they both decide to settle down. However, yet again, fate throws surprises at him as he goes through another heartbreak.

A beautiful cover pic, a sincere narration and a tsunami of emotions make this book a cheesy bedtime read.

If you loved Ravinder in 'I too had a love story', you will love him yet again in this piece. Indeed, love can happen twice.

PS- You may not like this book if mush and romance are not your preferred genres.

~Ritesh Agarwal

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