Thursday, January 30, 2014

Jhumpa Lahiri: A peek into her personality

Jhumpa Lahiri at Kolkata Literary Meet, 2014

I am not sure how or where to begin. Jhumpa Lahiri, having written books like The Namesake and Unaccustomed Earth, may carry the reputation of a heavyweight author and of a celebrity who would have a certain degree of pompous air around her. But when I recently came across her, what struck me most was her reticence.  She talks less and only when it is required. She smiles lesser and only when she really wants to.

It's amazing how she can maintain a straight face even when a really good joke is being floated around. Some of my friends suggested that probably she is arrogant and does not reciprocate the warm greetings of her fans with equal warmth. However, I couldn't disagree more.

Jhumpa mam came across as a woman who is a fiercely private person. She doesn't make any effort to guard herself from public life. It comes quite naturally to her. It is also easy to see that she is not the kind who can socialise easily. She cannot open up in a way she opens up through her writings. In a way, her characters too reflect her persona in several ways. Many of her characters are emotional beings but they are emotional within their own private den. They seldom show their flood of feelings and often keep it suppressed for years until the dam bursts finally and the emotions are unleashed.

On meeting Jhumpa, one cannot figure out what is going inside her mind. Even when I spoke a couple of sentences to her before being ushered out, she just looked at me with her seemingly green eyes and offered no word, except for a thin smile which didn't betray her thoughts.

An outsider will find it hard, even impossible, to break through her shell and peep into her thoughts. She is a woman of few words, as they say, which is ironic in the most ironic way possible, since it is her words which have earned her a Pulitzer trophy and a Man Booker prize nomination.

When I come to think of it, I feel it is perhaps the way it should be with great writers. All their words reside inside their hearts and not on their faces. You've got to earn them. You've got to earn the right of passage into their hearts. There's no other way really.

An Interview with Preeti Singh, author of Flirting with Fate

Preeti Singh- Author of 'Flirting with Fate'

Author Preeti Singh's debut novel 'Flirting with Fate' (you can read my review here) came across as boldly impressive for unfolding some intricate layers of the  human mind. The book and a few months of warm friendship later, here I drum up an interview with the prized lady. This also marks the first edition of the blog's new section called 'Just a few words'.

Q 1. How did you come up with the story idea?

Answer:  Penning down a crime novel was never on the cards as I am a diehard romantic but a chance meeting with a stranger in a train triggered off the idea. As I mentioned in the Preface of my book, he gave birth to the concept of ‘Flirting With Fate’ and I gave shape to a gripping thriller.

Q2. Where and when do you like to write?

Answer: Ooops ! Tricky question! Well, I prefer to snuggle up on my bed, lie down lazily and scribble my best. And the mess on the bed, along with Amber Singh (Fluffy) sprawled with me, adds shape to my creativity coz then I just see my words, rest all is blurred. The second place I prefer to go when I desire a change is my little office I made with mother’s old sarees and little creative embroidery I made, adorning the walls. It’s my den where I prefer to lock myself up once in a while and cut off from all household responsibilities…just my lappy, my ideas, my characters and me.

Q3. What is your least favorite part of the writing process?

Answer: Writing is easy as the thoughts just spill from the heart onto paper, but the editing process is most painstaking. There is always a tug of war between the grammar suggested by MS word and what I wish to write in my own conversational style! And the truth remains till the manuscript is finally not under the printing machine, one keeps editing here and there.

Q4. What technology do you use for writing?

Answer: Hehe…not my brains in the least, just my heart. Jokes apart, I prefer writing on my laptop as I have given up improving my lousy handwriting.

Q5. Are the names of the characters in your novels important for you?

Answer: Flirting With Fate was my debut novel and the names I had chosen were kind of orthodox as the book was based in the eighties. But my forthcoming novel’s characters are real people from various cities of India, with their real names. In my day to day life they helped me when my moods were low, helped me laugh and tide over issues, so they earned their place in my book with their original names. Like me, they too are equally excited for this book to release and my lips are sealed who the special few are…you gotta stay tuned in!! Oh yes, they are very important to me….I would call them my little book family, eternally bonded and interwoven by words.

Q6. How much of your novel is inspired from real life?
Answer: No matter who the author is, some teeny weeny part of one’s life does seep into every novel he/she writes. So it happened in my case as well. The ones who know me, easily identified some characters’ aspects as a part of me, while the rest they agreed was purely imaginative and fictional.

Q7. Which is one author/blogger whom you really respect/envy?

Answer:  Lols…Ritesh, am gonna butcher you in my next novel!! Well…I stopped reading books long ago but one book which is always by my bedside and I pick it up each time I lose direction is ‘The Power Of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle, a theme which spells what I also say…all we have is NOW, coz kal ho na ho
 The only Indian author who I really respect as a human being and an awesome writer is Bhavya Kaushik, the author of the bestselling novel ‘ The Other Side Of The Bed’: the only book I have read from beginning till the last word, honestly speaking.
I am in awe of all bloggers as it’s certainly not easy to read a book and review it with complete justification, ensuring not to criticize the author as well as give a balanced review to the readers. This is a field I am terrified to venture into as judging someone’s talent needs guts, which I lack! The one blogger who does this job with apt justice is Abhilash Ruhela who is honest in his reviews and his relation with any author does not deter his reviews often read by bollywood stars as well.
That apart, Ritesh, I am truly humbled to be the first one to be interviewed on your blog so my affection, hugs and blessings come in your quota. Sealed, full and final !

Q8. On a personal level, which is your favorite dish?

Answer: Slurp Slurp !! Now am hungry ! Well u asked a Punjabi so the answer is inevitable…simply rajma chaawal J But anything cooked with ingredients of hygiene and loads of love, stays on me forever ( pun intended ! )

A bit more about her

Preeti Singh is a professional writer based at Panchkula, Chandigarh. She is qualified with an MA(Eng), PGJMC ( Journalism and Mass comm.) and a B.Ed degree along with being an army wife and a school teacher for 14 years.
After working as a Chief Editor with Amity University, Noida for some time, she ruffled up her forte’ of writing for Indian magazines like Woman's Era, Homemaker and Femina and featured articles in leading newspapers, as well.
Being a full-time mother to her teenage daughter, she has accomplished herself through her website
Writing being her inherent passion, she believes in expressing her life's experiences through words. Believing in living for now, she lives her life to the fullest, with a motto that, we reap what we sow, which is the central theme of her exciting, debut thriller, “FLIRTING WITH FATE”
When she is not writing, she is listening to music, embroidering, camping with friends or cuddling her dog, who is an important, inquisitive, humorous and interesting character in the book!!

The Fan-connect:
She can be connected on her her facebook profile at
Or on Twitter at .
Also,  join her on her fan page at as soon as possible as Preeti Singh believes…LIVE NOW…LOVE NOW…coz kal ho na ho !!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A letter to Jhumpa Lahiri

A letter to Jhumpa Lahiri

Dear Jhumpa mam,
I was in a fix as to how I should address you. Addressing you as Jhumpa Lahiri would have been disrespectful while calling you Miss Jhumpa or Miss Lahiri would be too impersonal for my liking. So I thought of settling for Jhumpa mam, not only because I find it adequately respectful and satisfyingly intimate, but also because whenever I talk to you in my mind, I always call you Jhumpa mam. I don't know why I like calling you by this name. Perhaps, it makes me feel closer to you in a way we never will be. Or maybe, this is how I like to address all the women teachers in my life.
This is a good time to disclose that I have found a teacher in you and you a student in me. In your writings, I chose to seek shelter one day and have ever since been learning under your tutelage. The way you manipulate words to extort emotions out of them, you never realized that you breathed life in them. In turn, they mothered a writer in me and breathed life into it.
From you Jhumpa mam, I have learnt how to explore human relationships. My story 'A mama's boy' and 'The lady who loved tea too much' are as much yours as they are mine. It's only fitting that you have a copy of them and see if your student has done a passable job or not.
I may not get another opportunity to meet you. But I leave you with this letter and a couple of my stories in the hope that you remember me through my words, just the way I shall live my life through yours.

If possible, please write to me. Will wait in hope.

Lots of love
Ritesh Agarwal

Calcutta, India

*I gave this letter to author Jhumpa Lahiri when I met her that evening on 23rd January, 2014*

Sunday, January 19, 2014

How to overcome writer’s block?

Source: Google Images

Hi friends. I am not going to rattle off the general suggestions which are traditionally floated everywhere (you can find them if you Google). I am just going to offer a few personal tips which work for me, though they may or may not work for you (to each his own).

So, if you are a writer, you would often go through the dreaded phase of writer’s block. Generally, it is said that the best way to tackle this phase is to simply sleep over it. Just go to sleep or take a short break (may be, plan a holiday or a brain-cation) and your refreshed mind will be able to dish out new ideas the next time you sit down to write.

But I have personally observed that a very effective way to combat this writer’s block is to read a heavy book (preferably a well-written classic) for a length of 2-3 hours continuously. When you are exposed to such bombastic words, sentences and writing for such a long time, your brain automatically gets a warm-up which can be a great precursor for a satisfying writing session. The classic will open up the pores of your brain and help it to think better. Quite often, you get so full of words and ideas that the writer’s block melts as easily as it had appeared.

Another great way to figure out ways to solve a writing dilemma or to stitch up loose narratives is to mull over it when you are sitting in the bathroom. At the risk of sounding crude, I would say that the best plots come to me when I am in the bathroom- whether taking a bath or whether…umm….doing potty (excuse me).

So, the next time you are unable to find the way ahead, try to find inspiration in the lavatory.


~Ritesh Agarwal

PS- Check out some new Harry Potter books on the sidebar!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

On writing and editing: Daily word count and how editing can be avoided

Some people set up a strict goal of penning down a certain number of words daily. 1000, 2000 or even more!

Personally, I don't torture my brain with such goals....I also don't necessarily write daily....I can write and write best when I'm feeling completely full of words. At the same time, I am personally against the idea of hurrying down 10k words and then snipping it back to 2.5k.

Words have lives. They can move you, evoke a smile and make you do things you never wanted to do. So, editing is synonymous to cold-blooded murder, since you're killing/snipping words.

Of course, one can edit in order to insert better flow. But isn't it better that when you sit down and write for the first time, you do it so cautiously, so slowly, so guardedly that you write it perfectly, so that it doesn't necessitate any major editing?

Ritesh Agarwal

Saturday, January 11, 2014

5-line love story: Rita and Rochester

When Rita came into my life, I had no inkling that she would snatch my love from me. I loved Rochester more than she could ever fathom and more than she ever would. Could she really appreciate the depth of my attachment for him, I am sure Rita would have never taken him out of my life. I remember how I underwent a strong pang of fright and jealousy when I first saw her eyeing his picture in my bedroom. And then Rita borrowed that book never to return it and my first and last love got lost and buried in the yellowed pages of Jane Eyre.

[Written for BlogAdda's WOW. The theme for WOW this time is that your post must contain the word 'love' and you have just five sentences to finish your story. Go on, this time be creative and come up with an impressive post!]

Agatha Christie and her sweet little childhood

I was just going through the wonderful posts of A Homemaker’s Utopia and loved her take on some of the classic authors like Tagore and Tolstoy. It is always great to read about old-age authors from the point of view of someone who has utmost admiration and knowledge for classics. So, in that regard, I’d say this post is directly influenced and inspired from the A Homemaker’s Utopia’s blog.

Currently, I am reading the autobiography of Agatha Christie. Mind it, it is an autobiography and not a biography. Though a biography can be as good, but at the end of the day, it is just a well-researched compilation of known facts about the person. An autobiography, on the other hand, is a direct window into the mind of the person and can be a treat for his fans and followers.

This book is deliciously thick and with tiny prints, just the way most classics are. Of the 600-odd pages, I have barely scraped through the first 100 at the moment. But I am already richer.

I feel Agatha must have gone through heavy bouts of nostalgia while penning this down. She wrote it during her final years and the first print of the book released after her death. So, in her mind, she retraced her steps from the ending point of her life to the starting point as she began narrating her journey right from her toddlerhood.

She had a pretty normal childhood. Her parents, she recounts, were a happy couple and stayed so throughout, till the unfortunate, and untimely, demise of her father when Agatha was around 11. He had succumbed to an illness and his wife (i.e. Agatha’s mother) was completely shattered.
Agatha had an elder sister called Madge and a brother called Monty. But they lived in their old world (due to the age gap) and Agatha spent the major part of her formative years under the wings of her nanny.
Agatha was quite a curious child and took to reading very early in her life. Her parents objected to the idea that children should be allowed to read before the age of 8 or 9. But incidentally, Agatha’s nanny told her parents one day- ‘Your daughter can read’. Agatha was just 5 at that time. Of course, her parents were upset with that development. After that, Agatha developed the habit of reading regularly and enjoyed it tremendously. You can say that even before turning 10, she was what we say ‘a voracious reader’.

There was an incident when Agatha stumbled onto a tabooed book in their library upstairs. It was an adult French book which children were not supposed to read. Her dad was furious when he caught her reading that. But Agatha merely shrugged, not knowing why he was so angry. She was, in any way, not able to take in any word written in that book.

~Ritesh Agarwal

My 4 New Year Resolutions

Source: Google images

I intend to read a few classics (Lady Chatterley's lover, Catch21, Mein Kemph and others) that have been sitting neglected on my shelf for quite a few days.

I also resolve to backup my data in a pen drive though deep down I know it is a very shaky resolution and the one least likely to stand an entire year.

Last year (2013), I got published. And even though it helped me tick one off my bucket-list, it was just an anthology with my contribution being a forgettable story of one page. This year, I pledge to get my own book finished, though I will have to make sure that I do not let any sort of leniency or complacency creep into my system.

And the most important of all, I have resolved to restart eating tomatoes at night.

Promisingly yours,
Ritesh Agarwal

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My top 5 books and top 6 authors

Books read (yearwise breakdown):

2005: 50 books
2006: 25 books
2007: 34 books
2008: 26 books
2009: 13 books
2010: 12 books
2011: 7 books
2012: 33 books
2013: 26 books

Personal favourites (in chronological order):

Papillon, A perfect stranger, The Diary of a Young Girl, The Da Vinci Code, Only Love, Tales of Imagination, Man-eaters of Kumaon, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, The Longest Pleasure, Anna Karenina, Death on the Nile, War and Peace, The Murder of Roger Acroyd, Curtain, Harry Potter, Albert Einstein- a short biography, Frankenstein, Gone with the Wind, Jane Eyre, Sons and Lovers, Five Point Someone, Stranger: Stories by Satyajit Ray,  Mixed Blessings, I too had a love story, A Walk to remember, The Hungry Tide, My Rainbow, Love in the time of Cholera, Unaccustomed Earth.

Top 5 (in no ranking order): 

War and Peace, Harry Potter, Love in the time of Cholera, Unaccustomed Earth, A walk to remember.

Top 6 favourite authors (in no ranking order):

Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe, Jhumpa Lahiri, Danielle Steel, Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle

~Ritesh Agarwal

10 Common Myths about Travelling Abroad

Image source: Google images

Most people suffer from certain travel-related delusions and either steer clear of holidaying abroad or do so only after repeated nagging from family or friends or after their phoren-returned colleague has made them turn green with envy. These delusions or myths are what we will shatter today. You can thank us by getting us expensive souvenirs from your phoren holiday: 

1. Travelling abroad is expensive: The most prevalent notion is that only those people who have oodles of money holiday in foreign locales. Not anymore. Maybe at one point, foreign trips did come at a pocket-pinching price but now you have cheap international holiday packages offering prices that even your driver could afford. 

 2. Travelling abroad poses risks:It will hardly matter whether you are planning your honeymoon in Goa or in Pattaya. Yet, some people 

(Kindly latch on to this link-express to read my full post)

 10 Common Myths about Travelling Abroad | WeAreHolidays

Written by Ritesh Agarwal
Edited by Nishi Jain

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Writing is easy, writing is hard

To a writer, writing is not necessarily a walk in the park. The so-called writer’s block manifests itself during times when the brain shows its adamant side and refuses to let go of any of those dozens of good words it houses.

But then there are times when writing seems to be the easiest task in the world. The brain suddenly seems so full of words and it generously dispenses with them, abandoning its recalcitrant behavior and lending you the very word you were looking for. During these happy times, millions of words and dozens of plots seem to chase each other inside the brain. On certain occasions, the brain releases thoughts at such a furious pace that you have to type at a reckless speed so as to keep pace with your thoughts and for fear that your thoughts may outrun you and you may lose them all.
But like a dewdrop, these moments are transient too, and soon enough, writing turns hard again.

~Ritesh Agarwal

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dhoom 3 effect: Why Aamir is no God?

Source: Google images

When I am in a theatre and Aamir is on screen, I get goosebumps. One of my legs trembles.

Today, I was in a theatre. I got goosebumps. Both my legs trembled.

Kareena Kapoor had once said that “Aamir is God”.

I can see why she said that. But I would like to tell her that please do not compare Aamir with God. I mean he is really great, awesome and amazing. But he is just not Aamir.

~Ritesh Agarwal

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