Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dussehra brings nerdy news...

Over 18 months ago, I went to Portugal for a writing residency. The residency was in the southwestern part of the country. The afternoon that I reached, the director drove a bunch of us to see eucalyptus forests. Most of the eucalyptus trees were being replaced with oak trees. That very trip sparked the idea for my upcoming chapbook of poems, Beyond the Scent of Sorrow.

Exactly a week from today, Beyond the Scent of Sorrow will be launched in New York as part of Freedom Week NYC. I am told that poets and photographers can beautifully express what victims cannot or do not have the chance to convey. Along with my book, renowned photographer Kay Chermush’s images of trafficking will be on display. I am very excited, proud, and humbled to be a part of this humane event.

Though the launch is a week away, Beyond the Scent of Sorrow is available for advance purchase online in the United States and India.

To buy in the US, click here:

To buy in India, click here:

About this chapbook

Beyond the Scent of Sorrow delves into the challenges faced by women on a global level. The eucalyptus trees in southwest Portugal are used as an archetype to symbolically elicit the challenges women face in today’s world. Boldly, the poems, which are lyrical, literal, short, and succinct, profess the unkind capabilities of mankind.

Advance praise for Beyond the Scent of Sorrow

“Sweta's poetic voice flows like water smoothing and shaping stones. With great skill she uncovers, sometimes tenderly and other times more forcefully, the shroud of fog surrounding the feminine archetype. With metaphorical comparisons to the strength of the olive tree, in particular, she has created and nurtured a garden, a wordscape, in which trust and healing can flourish.”

—Nick Purdon, author of The Road-shaped Heart

“Sweta Srivastava Vikram holds her work close. Fold it one way, a poem of loss appears. Fold it yet again for a poem of longing. Her work is as structurally sound as the elements. It soars with anticipation. In Beyond the Scent of Sorrow the author reveals lovely and powerful poems that will long linger.”

—Doug Mathewson, Editor Blink-Ink

Here is the invite to the formal event:

I would love to see you on Thursday, October 13

The Ceeflat

988 Manhattan Avenue, between Huron and India Streets

Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY

Time: 7:00-9:00 p.m.

$10 at the door

It promises to be a fun evening of poetry and photography! And more importantly, your presence can help make a change! Let’s fight human trafficking, together!

More until next time,


Copyright © 10.06.2011

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.” ~ Mark Twain

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I write to a dead man

In the past few years, I have lost quite a few of my aunts and uncles—on both my mom and dad’s side of the family. None of these people were old. Early sixties. Having seen death visit my family so closely and frequently, the person inside of me feels guarded; the philosopher, emotional around words.

When I was in India in the month of August, my mausa (Mom’s sister’s husband) fell sick. So much so that he was in the ICU, and his children from California and India visited him. First people didn’t have the faith but then mausa showed progress and promised to be around. He started to do better. I visited him in the hospital in New Delhi. We spoke for a couple of minutes. But 48 hours later, on the day I left for NYC, he passed away. Death and destiny do not knock before entering, do they?

I didn’t find out about my mausa’s demise until after I reached New York. My husband, who had come to the airport to pick me up, shared the news. I called up my parents but couldn’t wrap my brains around what had happened. Numb. Shocked. Scared. Heartbroken. I couldn’t cry or eat properly or fight off the uneasiness.

My mausi (Mom’s sister) passed away two years ago. I have mentioned her influence over my writerly-life in my blogs and interviews. My mausa would appreciate my work too. He would print out my blog posts and discuss them with my parents over whisky and wine. He told them how proud he was of me. Every time I saw my mausa, he would bring up my blogs and quote lines from them.

I saved every email my mausa sent me—especially his response to anything I ever wrote about his wife (my mausi) in. In one of his notes, he said, “My dear Sweta, I owe to you to keep alive Memories of Meena. An excellent attempt to heal the wound. Thank you, only you could achieve this belief.”

Death of a dear one makes us selfish. Last week as I sent out links to my blog post (Updates on “Perfectly Untraditional”) and pictures from the Indian book tour, I marked my mausa a copy on the email. I didn’t even think or didn’t want to think, I am not sure, that he wouldn’t be able to read them. Or that I wouldn’t get a reply… from him.

For me, that was the day I felt my loss…the magnitude of it, anyway. I felt a vacuum, broke down, and said to my husband, “I have no mausi-mausa left. Their house, my childhood memories with them, and the precious relationship will be part of anecdotes at family gatherings. A closed chapter.”

My family is very close—we don’t care about how we are related to one another. Second cousins, third cousins. I am not saying we are perfect—but we are temperamental fools with big hearts who will do anything for the people we love.

I mentioned in last week’s post the support the whole bunch showed for my book launch in New Delhi and readings in other cities. I can’t even begin to tell you how much moral, emotional, and physical support everybody extends when sickness or death happens in the family. It’s almost unreal.

But when you are vulnerable and emotionally unsettled, the mind explores thoughts you normally wouldn’t turn to. I said to my husband, “Sometimes I envy parents and children who are in symbiotic relationships—parents give birth and bring up their kids—because of that, once the same children are older, they do what is morally appropriate and socially expected. Basically, the sense of duty keeps the relationship afloat. But there is no affection or emotion—just pragmatism. At least such people can deal with loss, pain, and heartbreaks a lot easily.”

My husband said, “You don’t mean that. You are saying this only because you are upset.” He was right. Later on when I calmed down and thought about what I had said, I cringed. I would be nothing without my family and friends.

Honestly, I pity detached families. What can be more unfortunate than feeling only a sense of responsibility towards your parents or ownership towards your children? That’s what charity and work are for, not family. No desire to spend weeks together, chew each other’s brains, participate in each other’s lives or even pick up the phone and chat/fight? What’s sadder than a parent-child relationship with no emotional connection? I know I would die if I were cursed with one. Relationships make us who we are.

There is a reason pretty much the entire city showed up at my mausa’s cremation. He was a good man, revered by most. It’s the emotional bond that has created this blog post. And it’s the relationship we shared because of which I will continue writing to him. I am not ready to give up yet. And one day, when his mailbox is full, the emails will begin to bounce back. And I am not sure if even that day I will stop. Sometimes the dead are a lot more precious than those alive.

More until next time,


Copyright © 09.22.2011

“People love others not for who they are but for how they make them feel.” Irwin Federman.

Monday, September 12, 2011

What a month away in India taught me

Yes, I am back from my almost four-week long trip to India. Many of you have emailed and asked me to share my experiences and pictures from the book launch and other events. I apologize for the delay. A few days after I returned from India, we headed to Minneapolis to attend my husband’s cousin’s wedding. Any excuse to meet with the family, catch up on chitchat, and dance like a rock star, is very high on my list.J

Anyway, the formal launch of “Perfectly Untraditional” was in New Delhi on August 5. Zig Ziglar said, “People who have good relationships at home are more effective in the marketplace.” On the day of the launch, family and friends showed up from all over the world. I am cognizant that we live in times where every second is important. But on August 5, many people put their lives on hold to celebrate my small achievement. My heart has carved out a special place for all of them.

I had always dreamed of sharing this momentous day with my dear ones. And I feel blessed that most of who mattered graced the occasion with their presence. And the ones who mattered but couldn’t make it in person, you know who you are, showed more than enough love and support throughout my journey in their own way. And I am fortunate to have you in my life.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote, “Some days are meant to be counted, others are meant to be weighed.” How true! The room that evening was filled beyond capacity. Words, smiles, blessings, hugs, pictures, and autographs flooded the evening. An image I would like to carry to my grave. My parents sat in front, with their faces beaming. My mom said, “I am a celebrity’s mother.” My father sat in trance as he showed me his two thumbs up while my brother made sure everyone was seated comfortably. My dearest friend Jaya, who flew down from Kolkata for the launch, said, “Bhaiya is so hospitable—as if it is your wedding.” My husband, the man behind the camera, made sure each breath was captured forever. My uncle (Phupha) said, “Beta, it’s so nice to see how supportive Anudit is of your dream.” My aunts, uncles, and cousins extended their stalwart support. An uncle-in-law brought coworkers and stayed on to get his copy autographed despite his sick mother at home. My friends, old and new, embraced me for my madness. They brought their friends and sat with a “Sweta-flag” at the venue. My husband and very dear friend Pooja organized a cake to commemorate the occasion. The audience greeted a debut novelist, humbly yours, with such warm applause. It was a magical night where everyone present just added to my big day. When my brother asked me if the launch was everything I had imagined it to be, I said, “And much more, Bhaiya.”

Following the main event in New Delhi, I went away on a multi-city tour. There were readings, talks, event judging, meetings, interviews, and research work in Bangalore, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata, Patna, Rajgir, Nalanda, Varanasi, and Delhi again. I was invited to give two talks at one of India’s leading and most prestigious universities: BHU. And I was requested to judge a debate in New Delhi at the high school where Shahrukh Khan studied. Yeah, I am definitely on cloud nine. Some of the review, interviews, and write-ups are available. If you’d like, you can read them here: OR


Many cities meant newer experiences, meeting up with new and old friends, and catching up with family. Writers in different cities welcomed me warmly as they released my book. The list is endless as is my gratitude. Numerous other folks made time for my journey. Some called, some sent emails, some asked about the launch while others gave hugs and showered blessings. And few others showed up, in different cities, with big smiles or sent cakes and flowers. There are so many ways to be involved in someone’s happiness—my own book launch has taught me that. But more importantly, the voyage paved the path for both my emotional and mental evolution.

I feel like a different person after this trip. All the emotional turmoil and agony that I was dealing with right before I left has turned into vapor. I am so much at peace with myself. I can appreciate why philosophers and writers go looking for answers in India. It’s not a publicity stunt to sell tourism to foreigners. I might have found that pearl of wisdom and solace of mind that most others look for.

A friend of mine, who is a therapist, commented that I am au fait with the human psyche and see people a lot lucidly and deeply than most others. Well, I wish I could say I am gifted. But the truth is my profession trains me to grasp my world a certain way. As writers, we peel away superficial layers in every human being we meet and are able to see the “real self.” Combine that trait with a month long stay in India, and you have X-ray eyes + mind:-)

I wrote a book about relationships. And this past four weeks have taught me that we are nothing without them. The good ones bring us a sense of fulfillment and the bad ones lead us to appreciate the good relationships in our lives.

What is also true is the adage: “What you sow is what you reap.” People respond with love and support if you nurture your relationships. No one can be taken for granted. And in today’s world, every relationship, irrespective of age and gender, has to be treated with respect. That is if you want any iota of respect or affection in return. It is equally important to weed out or at least maintain distance with cold, mean, and nasty people. Sometimes, we forget that we have to set our own boundaries to avoid getting hurt.

I recently read a quote on my cousin’s Facebook profile while I was negotiating my feelings for certain people. An old man once said, “There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and the people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don't. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.”

Perhaps, that’s what’s happened to me. I feel healed after this India trip. I have come back with a clear understanding of who I am and what I mean to whom. No confusion or dissonance any longer. It’s such a magical feeling knowing where you stand in people’s lives—good or bad. And it’s even more humbling to know where you stand in your very own eyes.

More until next time,


Copyright © 09.12.2011

"How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours."~ Wayne Dyer

Friday, July 29, 2011

Embarking on a journey

I know, I know. I have been MIA for a while. My schedule has been nutty. Pardon me if I haven’t responded to your notes or messages. Or haven’t initiated communication.

So, aside from the day-to-day commitments, what’s kept me buried is the upcoming launch of my novel: Perfectly Untraditional. The formal event is in New Delhi on Friday, August 5 at 5:30 p.m. at the Attic. A week from today.

So…How big a day is it, you wonder? Think marriage, birth of your first-born. Well, for a writer, the launch of his or her first novel is that big. You nurture your book with love, sweat, and blood. Sleepless nights. Uncertain and anxious days. Innumerable hours without knowing the outcome of your efforts.

I didn’t have a mentor or a sugar daddy or any connections. All I knew was that failure wasn’t an option in the dream that I had seen. And if I had to pull 36 hours, somehow, out of 24 in a day, I would do it.

My aunt-in-law in Minneapolis said to me the other day, “I had never thought a child from our house would become a writer. I always imagined writing to be such a distant world. You have shown us that world and done us proud!” I know, makes you want to hug her too, right? :-)

August 5 is the day I have waited for since whenever I could mark the calendar or understand daydreaming. Or aspire for wishes. I even planned what color outfit I would wear as and when my book came out. I bought a pair of Manolo Blahnik after the novel went into production. That was a treat I had promised myself ten years ago. Ya, ya, don’t judge me. There are a few stereotypical girly-girl traits in me.:-)

When my uncle-in-law in Wisconsin asked what prompted me to explore publishing in India when I have been published successfully in the US, I said, “This is the only way our families and friends back in India can be a part of my literary life and our joys. And share in the enjoyment.”

It’s not just my husband who is flying down to India, with me, for the big day. My parents canceled a major event, in their hometown, just so they could be present in flesh and blood to shower their blessings. My brother is coming down from Singapore, representing his family. Friends in the US have asked their parents to be at the launch and show their support.

One of my best friends is coming to Delhi, just for a day, from Kolkata. She could have easily chosen to show up just for the Kolkata reading. But she understands what August 5 means to me. Other friends are taking time off from work, canceling their business trips, helping me create buzz, inviting their friends, dragging their coworkers, sending sweet notes etc. etc. Relatives have been emailing their hugs and blessings. And many of them have promised to be there.

A few of my buddies in India, New York, and Singapore have bought multiple copies of Perfectly Untraditional as gifts for their friends. Some of the peeps in India and the UK have been visiting bookstores every weekend to see how and where my books are available. A few have pulled me out from my dark moments, cried with me, laughed with me, and shared a glass of wine as I whined. I feel blessed to have them in my life.

I use the term “being present” loosely. I don't expect people to stop their life just because August 5 is a momentous day for me. Many folks can’t make it to the main event for one reason or another. I understand. I know they will be present in spirit. That matters to me, a lot. You know, sometimes, despite being physically absent, some people can be present in more ways than possible. A thoughtful note, a phone call, a sounding board, an avid interest, blind support, an acknowledgement or just any of such small gestures tell me I am lucky to have many wonderful lovelies in my life.

Aside from my ecstatic, exhausted mind, the past few months have been a good learning tool for Human behavior 101. When the time comes, people tell you where you stand. While innumerable folks have been going out of their way in indescribable number of ways, few corners where I expected to find nurture and involvement, turned out sterile. Subject for a new novel, perhaps?

My father, many years ago, gave me a solid piece of advice--those days when I was young and naive.:-) He’d said, “Focus your energy on people who are there for you versus brooding over people who aren’t.” He made such a valid suggestion. In channeling our energy towards those who fail us, we tend to ignore the ones who continue to be there. We take them for granted. I wholeheartedly embrace my Dad’s philosophy.

Fortunately, writing is healing, so I don’t hold a grudge. But I have become wiser. I can see who wears my name on their sleeves. Someone said to me, “If you burn once, it was a mistake. If you allow yourself to get burnt twice, then it’s your fault.” Well said!

I will keep you all posted on the next stops on my Indian Literary Journey. I am doing a big reading in NYC tonight ( My friends from out of town and local peeps will be in the audience—so excited. Hope to see some of you there! And I might just bring out my Manolos.:-)

More until next time,


Copyright © 07.29.2011

“There are two types of people - those who come into a room and say, "Well, here I am!" and those who come in and say, "Ah, there you are."” Frederick L. Collins

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Are adults messed up?

My friend’s five-year-old spotted a lady in a burqa the other day and said, “Mom, that is such a cool Ninja outfit!” My friend, who is an awesome mother, was relieved to find out that the woman hadn’t heard her little one’s comments.

I was amazed when I heard the story. The kid’s observation wasn’t tainted by time, politics, or society. He made sense of the garb, from his individual perspective, and came up with an astute remark. He held no prejudice. Every single person I have shared this story with has laughed aloud and said, “Wow, smart kid. I can see why he would say that.”

In December of 2010, when I visited Singapore to do a reading and spend time with the family, my younger niece, Sana, upon seeing my slightly off-shoulder blouse said to me, “I can see your shoulders. Cover yourself up.” I know, brat! But a darling one too!:-) I told several of my friends in NYC about Sana’s wardrobe-modesty when it came to my clothes. I laughed every time she commented, but would I have responded the same way if an adult had made those passing remarks?

If adults can see why a child would draw comparison between a burqa and a Ninja outfit, why can’t they believe that a grown up could mean no harm if they said something similar? If adults can enjoy Sana’s enforced doctrine and call it "super-cute," why can’t they deal with the same criticism from their mother or mother-in-law?

Is it because the older we get the more convoluted our thoughts become? We over think everything. We expect prejudice. The obsession with making our individual point of view clear while sipping from the cup of political correctness, or not, becomes our focus. And those who are straightforward are often sent to hell.

It seems the adult brain has no empathy for simplicity. Not when it comes from anyone who is not a child. We work with the assumption that people have hidden agendas.

When I was doing research for my first fiction novel, “Perfectly Untraditional,” I needed information on a certain sect of the society. Gosh, even someone like me, who deals with mostly shades of white and black, faltered around words. I wasn't sure how to approach them without offending anybody. I wondered if I was patronizing people or hurting their sentiments. I toyed around with questions, never wanting to assume or misrepresent anyone. I wanted my information to be authentic. So, I did tons of research for months.

When I explained my predicament to a dear friend, a part of that sect of the society I had done my research on, he said, “If the intention is good, it comes across in the query. If people get upset with your questions, even when you mean well, then it’s their problem.”

I pondered over what my friend had said. I agree that adulthood comes with responsibility—saying things that don’t hurt others. But what about curiosity? What if our intent is not malicious? What if we are mere knowledge seekers? What if we are wells that want to be replenished?

More until next time,


Copyright © 06.21.2011

“Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.” Dr. Seuss

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Living on borrowed time

Sorry, I have been absconding for over a month now. My husband and I were on a literary, artsy tour in Europe followed by a wonderful trip to Wisconsin. Both the visits were incredibly special in their own way. While Europe was a revelation on an emotional level and a treat to the exhausted mind, Wisconsin was brilliant for meeting our deadlines, spending quality time with the family, and engaging in stimulating conversations.

As we visited cemeteries, cafes, and galleries in London, Paris, and Prague where famous writers and artists spent their personal and professional lives, it dawned on to me that majority of them didn’t live past forty-five. Caught in the clutches of either alcohol or suicide or a disease, their expedition came to an untimely halt.

I haven’t been able to shake off that feeling. To die before fifty is a bit premature, no? What drove these creative folks to end their lives or drink themselves to death? How miserable can misery get?

As a writer, I know writing takes me to a lot of dark places. The questions I ask and the answers I seek, very often, shake people out of their comfort zones. I am no exception; most of my writer and artist friends feel the same way. Our profession ensures we are in touch with our inner selves. But a heightened sense of awareness introduces us to tastes and shades that aren’t always appeasing. The dissatisfaction, which a common man might categorize as a fleeting thought and shrug off, doesn’t go unnoticed by us. Society trains humans to follow protocol. And mankind is sufficiently selfish to not raise an eyebrow unless an issue affects them personally. But the creative types are generally idealists, not realists, which makes the world a difficult place for them.

Funny, speaking of death, ever since we have returned, every friend that I have met or spoken with has admitted to one thing: Time is running out. Okay, I paraphrased what they confessed. And I am definitely sharing things out of context. But I do not exaggerate when I say that every single one of them realized that half of their life was over. Healthy, sane life, anyways.

Most of my friends are either in their early to mid-thirties or have just turned a new leaf in their life: Turned thirty. All of a sudden, influenced and concerned by our parents’ or relatives’ frail health, we recognize that in thirty plus years, we’ll be like them. Same age, similar issues, similar challenges, similar attitudes. Our thirty years on this planet passed by in the blink of an eye. And now we have thirty to maximum forty hearty years to really do what we want.

The first three decades of our lives were spent being who others wanted us to be. Be it education, career, or marriage, most of us were dream-fulfillers. That’s why twenties were so awkward, because you played roles and morphed into entities you didn’t always recognize. A mere puppet in the hands of society, dancing to various tunes. Pettiness, angst, competitiveness, insecurities, and uncertainties—well, you get the drift—easily found a home in hearts and minds. There were signs of unhappiness with who we really were. But at that age, one lacked the courage and maturity to recognize incongruousness. The desire to be approved and liked by everyone was so high; people went to insane extents to make themselves wretched.

Somehow, God knows what chemical synthesis happens in our cerebrum closer to thirties, a voice begins to nudge. This voice brings a sense of comfort. It works as a soothing balm, carving out individual personalities. We make peace with who we are. All of a sudden, it feels okay to say out aloud, “I matter.” And the biggest reality sinks in: People have to find their own happiness. You aren’t responsible for it.

A very good friend of mine recently relocated to Paris. I am beyond thrilled for her, but a few others said to me, Ah, she could move because she is single.” Hell, no! Give the woman some credit! She is a smart girl who has worked hard and paid her dues. She deserves the best and that's why she went after her calling!

I pity miserable, small-hearted people with only their sole point of view. No amount of designer brands, fancy outings, and exotic vacations can fill holes in them left behind by complexes and unhealthy competitiveness. When they act like jerks and bully, it's because they are immensely dissatisfied with their own existence. They think they can scare people into listening to them. The minute someone does better than him or her, they take it as a sign of personal failure. Instead of admiring or aspiring to be like the dreamers, such folks open the doors to jealousy and make it their agenda to criticize.

I asked my friend what prompted her move to Paris, which by the way is everyone’s dream—in my world, at least. She wrote back saying, “I think at our age you just realize that you’re on borrowed time and you have to make all there is out of life. And for now it's Paris!”

What a deep thought! Following your bliss is important. If you aren’t happy, you can’t impart happiness. I raise a toast to my friend for answering her calling. I wish her only the best. Knowing that I too am living on borrowed time, I have decided to follow my bliss. To quote someone I love and admire a lot, “Aside from your conscience, you don’t need a certificate to justify your actions to anyone.”

More until next time,


Copyright © 06.09.2011

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Maria Robinson

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Introducing "Perfectly Untraditional": My first, fiction novel

Some prayers go unanswered. Some carve a path and make wishes come true.

Indescribable amount of hard work, frustrations, tears, fears, smiles, heartaches, and perseverance went into turning my dream into reality.

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you: Perfectly Untraditional (Niyogi Books)—my first fiction novel.

I am ecstatic, delirious, and extremely humbled. I wouldn’t be holding a copy of the book in my hands had it not been for the support, encouragement, and love of many folks. A big thanks to all those people—you know who you are.

The book is available in select bookstores in India and London at this time. That said, in a few weeks, it will be seen across all of India. And if the love continues, other places too.

You can order a copy online: Flipkart (Folks in India) & Booksvista (People outside of India).

Here's the synopsis:

"New York City-based writer, Shaili Kapoor, is shocked to find out about her mother, Meena Kapoor’s death. Meena had drowned her- self in Pashan Lake in Shaili’s hometown Pune, in India. When she was younger, Shaili and her mother would often spend time at the lake, without the knowledge of her father, Suresh Kapoor and younger sister, Tanisha.

Shaili is devastated; apart from her childhood friend Supriya, her mother was the only connection she had with India or her past over the past fifteen years. Even as a young adult, Shaili had estranged relations with her old-fashioned, alcoholic father, but when he found out about Shaili’s divorce and about the new love in her life, he was livid. Both he and Tanisha ostracized her. But Shaili was always astonished at how accepting her mother was of her decision.

Between the time Shaili finds out about her mother’s death and reaches India for the last rites, she discovers a deep secret about the mother she worshipped and the father she grew up to loathe. Nothing is as it seems. Shaili knows the time has come for her to make peace with her father.

Will Shaili find peace in knowing the mystique behind every occurence associated with Pashan Lake and the reason for her mother’s suicide? More importantly, will Shaili and her father ever accept each other’s personal choices? Perfectly Untraditional unravels unconventional and untold tales of families, friendships, love, loyalty, relationships, and tradition."

Advance praise for Perfectly Untraditional

A powerful, riveting, perfectly unique exploration of the tangle of relationships that is the modern Indian family.”

-Swati Kaushal, bestselling author of Piece of Cake and A Girl Like Me

For your convenience, here are the links, again:

Purchase in India, go to:

Purchase outside of India, go to :

Grab a copy. Spread the word. Show some love.

More until next time,


Copyright © 05.04.2011

"You cannot open a book without learning something." ~ Confucius

Friday, April 29, 2011

Their graves will not be unknown

We were in Maryland this past weekend, celebrating my aunt-in-law’s surprise 60th birthday. As always, it was amazing meeting all the cousins and partaking in regular family fun: food, chitchat, cackle, and stories.

We all got talking. The family in the room knew that I was a writer. But they didn’t know about my deadlines or forthcoming books. I, personally, don’t fancy discussing my projects until they are ready. Of course there are a handful of people who are privy to the rodent crawling inside my brain. But that’s the extent of it. What’s to say? Everyone has a job. Almost. Everyone keeps busy during the day. One can hope. Why should my profession be given a special treatment? Why should I receive the limelight when every job is equally important?

Anyhoo, I told the lovelies in the room about my upcoming fiction novel, “Perfectly Untraditional.” I couldn’t have asked for a better audience. They were so attentive, encouraging, and supportive. Be it the aunts and uncle or cousins my age, everyone was beyond generous with their words. No double standards. No passive-aggressiveness. I was one of them—their child or cousin—not a daughter-in-law. I felt blessed. Believe me, that’s not an experience most South Asian women are always privy to. Are you surprised I cherished every minute of our stay in MD? Or why I love visiting them?

Speaking of novel, my husband manages to sneak in the author copy of it everywhere he goes. It’s really funny. He took it to his office. He’s taken it to our friends’ houses. Apparently, he packed it, hid it, and carried it to Maryland too. He, not so subtly, suggests that I show the author copy to my peers and friends. No kidding! I don’t because I see some benefits in humility. But we’ll keep that “success-goes-to-people’s-head” discussion for another time. J

I’ll confess: Deep down somewhere my upcoming novel makes me miss a few people. Relatives who passed away prematurely. People who would have been as happy as my parents and husband upon seeing my novel. People who influenced my life.

  • My Dada (paternal grandfather) - My Dada, a sweetheart, was an idealist who judged the deed, not the doer. He was a big believer in the truth and doing the right thing. My father is the same way, and I seemed to have inherited those impractical qualities too.:-) But I am ever so grateful for those genes. It makes for a tough but content life. My Dada died of throat cancer, but he urged me to never forfeit my voice. He never once mentioned medicine or law when he spoke with me. That’s almost unheard of for a South Asian grandparent (or parent for that matter). I was five when he passed away. But it seems he had me figured out before anyone else.

  • Baba (My husband’s paternal grandfather) - The first time I visited my husband’s ancestral home, Baba made me sit right next to him at the dining table. I was a daughter to him. He wasn’t concerned about my culinary abilities or crotchet collection. He asked me to sit-in when he was talking to his clients (He was a lawyer). Did he think I would get stories in my head from that interaction? I don’t know. But what I do know is that I have a picture of him on my writing desk. And that he would have been so proud to see my book.
  • My mausi (My mother’s older sister) - My mausi and I were extremely different individuals. The other week my cousins from California were over—mausi’s son and his family. We were all out to dinner at a fancy Mediterranean place, having a fantabulous time. Towards the end of the meal, as we glanced at the dessert menu, I saw it. Stared at it. Smiled at it. It had rice pudding as one of the options. On a regular day, I can eat rice pudding by the gallon. I don’t (because of the dumb calories and all), but if I could, I would. That evening too I had a glint in my eyes but didn’t order it. Instead, I told everyone a story.

My parents relocated to North Africa in the 80s. The first time we visited India on vacation, we spent a big chunk of our vacation at my mausi’s place. On one of the evenings, we all went out to a 5-star hotel for dinner. Upon seeing the menu, my mausi’s older daughter happily declared that she wanted to eat malai kofta with pulao for dinner. I was too young to own a spine or mind, so I asked for the same dish my older cousin had ordered. My mausi turned to us and said in an annoyed tone, “Try something new when you go to a restaurant. What is the point in ordering a dish which gets cooked at home?” That was it. I quietly ordered, “Chicken ala king.” Man, I loved it. I cook it at home. It is one of my husband’s favorite entrees cooked at home by me!

After that day I have never been able to order myself anything ordinary at a fancy restaurant. I learnt my lesson: Never follow the mob. Create my own identity. Strive for extraordinary.

My mausi expressed interest in my writing process and writerly life more than I could have ever imagined. My last conversation with her was about my book.

  • Saroj bua (My father’s older sister) - Saroj bua, whom I never met (She died before I was born), was a writer herself. A pure hearted poet, if I may brag. On my recent trip to India, my father gave me her journal. It will be the most treasured diary I will ever own! I translated her works (It’s now published in a Chicago-based publication. Click here if you’d like to read) from Hindi to English. As far as I am concerned, her journal of poetry gave me a sneak peak at what occupied her mind. Poetry was her therapy. Poetry was her escape route from reality. Words gave her the choices that life didn’t offer. I felt attached to her. I empathized with her. A connection. A revelation. I often choose to write poetry because it's healing. It's calming. It gives me the strength to deal with actuality.

Ironically, it’s not that I was super-close to anyone of the above-mentioned people in particular. For a woman growing up across three continents, boarding school, and hostel life, there is only so much time I had with them individually; however, I feel their absence. I guess it is the quality of time spent versus quantity. They each taught me a valuable lesson.

Actually, my unconventional attachment to my deceased relatives doesn’t surprise me at all. Maybe I am romanticizing the dead. Or maybe these were the people who very early on interpreted my dreams in their own, unique way. They encouraged me, the writer, to be myself. Be it through their journals or actions, they supported the perfectly untraditional me.

Here is a toast to them. I bow my head down in humble silence and thank them for their love. I promise, every time I look at my upcoming novel, I will mentally salute them. I know they are smiling at me. And perhaps, muttering, "You did it, girl!":-)

More until next time,


Copyright © 04.29.2011

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” ~ George S. Patton

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gay or straight, doesn’t matter. It’s the Y chromosome!

It’s my husband’s birthday today. A friend suggested that I write a post about him—my husband. Initially I found the idea odd only because I rarely plan my posts. The ideas come to me. I have to be consumed with a topic to blog about it. But as I sat down with my laptop earlier today, I had an epiphany. After all, Mr. Frost said, “Writing is discovery.”

My husband, a man of way above–average intelligence, has an embarrassingly forgetful memory when it comes to doing anything around the house. Okay, “embarrassing” is not the right word. But I have people from the older generation reading my blog posts too, so I figured I’d refrain from using anything non PG-13 to nickname his “laziness.”:-)

Just the other day, for the millionth time, it slipped his mind to bring the heavy-duty grocery—items that any sane woman shouldn’t carry. A few weeks ago, he forgot to tell me about a package his aunt had sent. Thanks for the embarrassment, dear. More often than not, I need to remind him to call his own family. Yes, the list goes on. But since it’s his birthday, let’s cut him some slack.:-)

Not too long ago in the past, I got mad and asked him how he could forget, again and again. He gave me that patented “I don’t know. I just don’t know.” I believed him. Ah, the foolish me. I neglected to see that his head was tilted at an angle, which I assumed exuded sincere apology. (That’s how Shahrukh Khan apologizes in Hindi movies). Apparently not. There was golf on the television, and the man was trying to get a sneak peak. He wanted me to shut up. He knew the “Deer-caught-in-the-headlights-act” would work on me. And it did!

When a friend of mine tried asking her husband about his forgetfulness, he pretended to watch television. It was his, “Honey, I-need-some-space, time.” When she insisted on having a discussion, he tried convincing my friend that they should talk later since he was watching TV. He started flipping through channels. Rapidly. Abruptly. Without breathing. Like she was a sniper from the enemy side, and he was trying to survive. His fingertips worked faster than his thoughts when he finally said, “Babe, there is something important that I have to watch.” She said, “What?” None of the games were on. She was well aware. She waited for him. But her husband was determined. He found a crappy channel showing……. POKER and settled with it.

My friend thought that she could totally call his bluff. Like, totally. C’mon, seriously. Who watches poker? For how long? And that too on television? That’s sick!

She waited, he watched. She waited some more, he watched more. And that was the day poker became a part of his sports viewing ritual.

It didn’t end there; during a commercial break, he pointed to a random model’s washboard abs and said, “Babe, you should do what she does. Doesn’t look all that difficult.” I am not sure why he is still alive!

Another friend of ours said that he wanted to get an iPad because in his neighborhood all the dads are expected to show up to kiddie birthdays. Oh, those poor men, “wasting” their sacred Sunday on their child. And those wives. Sloths, who don’t consult their hubbies sports-schedule before planning a celebration that comes only once a year. How could they imagine organizing an event that was convenient for all, just inconvenient for the men folk?

I hope you can smell the sarcasm and visualize me rolling my eyes.

Tired from negotiating channel flipping and living with monologues, my girlfriends and I believed that gay guys would make perfect husbands. They compliment, comment, care, commend, and never hit on women. They are friends, fashionistas, fervent, feisty. Every “Sheila ki jawaani” is safe in their hands. No Munni will ever become badnaam in their company. They are everything that your straight man won’t do or won’t be.

I wish I could stick to my postulation. Prove I am right. Alas.

Sometime back, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of wonderful weeks with a gay couple. I knew them both pre and post their wedding. All was going great until the marriage happened. The Y-chromosome kicked in, big time.

The husband in their relationship FORGOT what he wasn’t supposed to. He made the same mistakes, like straight guys. Maybe he didn’t squabble over Sunday afternoon football, but he did forget to bring the grocery. And then wine. Then it got worse; he didn’t remember to compliment his partner or appreciate dinner.

As I watched the two men turn into stereotypical, married mutts, I realized: Orientation doesn’t matter. Straight or gay isn’t the point; men transform when they become husbands. Perhaps, they assume, the legal paper somehow tells them it’s okay to be irresponsible. After all, they make great boyfriends, but the minute the “H-word” (Husband) comes in, mental deterioration seeps in. And there is no turning back.

I guess, on this birthday, my husband gets a free pass. I am taking him out to dinner at one of the most talked about restaurants in town. So excited to try it! And I won’t be offended if he decides to discuss sports and/or work or glances at his BlackBerry to check scores. I won’t hold his “straightness” as a reason for his inattentiveness. Not today! You got saved, birthday boy! :-)

More until next time,


Copyright © 04.21.2011

“In a husband there is only a man; in a married woman there is a man, a father, and mother, and a woman.” ~ Honore de Balzac