This blog used to be views on various things. But in all these years, I find it going a whole new direction.
Something which I have loved all the time. It's BOOKS!! So, presenting a whole new saga, of books and a little about them, whatever I can find, write, visualise and imagine...
The author, Saumya
Misra is an editing professional and soon, launching a magazine on the
environment. The reason, I felt had a little something to do with her being
inspired to write a ‘social thriller’. As one reads the novel, ‘A Life Less
Lived’, one notices a lot of social environments blended together to form this
This book, ‘A Life Less Lived’ is
just that. You, as a reader can decide for yourself, as you look into the city
bred Aparna’s life and the rural life with Panna’s and as you travel through the
plots and the sub-plots. You can read the Review, right here and Buy the Book right here.
How did ‘A
Life Less Lived’ happen?
It was a natural
progression from writing short stories. I was a
senior editorial person with the ‘The Times of India’, Lucknow and our duty hours
were very different from the normal 9 to 5 job.
When I returned home well
past mid-night, I found myself sleepless till dawn. You
can say this insomniac state was to a large extent responsible for this novel.
I had the balmy quietness of the night to aid my creative thoughts.
How did you
come up with the core idea and develop it?
To be honest, the core
idea came to me on its own. I have been writing short stories and poems since childhood
and thinking up story ideas was not very difficult for me. As for developing it, I borrowed a little from the life
of my great grandfather and merged it with the modern.
started writing, the story unfolded itself in my mind, the plots and subplots
emerged accordingly, as well. You may find it difficult to believe it, but I did
not make a rough draft on paper. I wrote directly.
Everything was in my mind: the names, the situations, the turn of events…
How would you
relate the book and its characters to the lives today?
This book has a
timeless quality about it. Even today, you may come
across persons who have been dealt a nasty blow by fate. If you just stopped
and asked, maybe they would also have a past like Panna's.
don’t we find over possessive parents and rebellious youth in this day and age?
That part of the story is anyway, contemporary.
Who is your
favourite character in your book and why?
My favourite character
is Aparna, a kind, gentle yet strangely mature girl who never thinks twice
about helping others. She is a dependable friend and a confidant.
to speak her mind without a thought to the consequences and has a way with
people. She is selfless and a cut above the rest. What is more, she is
sensitive towards animals too. In the novel, as you can see, she has no issues
of her own in life but she is busy fighting others’ battles for them.
character do you feel most close to and why?
It goes without saying, I feel closest to Aparna
because I also feel trust and empathy are the virtues most needed in today’s
world. I also know the difference between right and
wrong and am not afraid to speak my mind.
What is the most fulfilling part of writing a book?
my book is like a part of myself. It is the best way of self-expression. I know
there were many odds against me and I managed to overcome them. This
novel, according to me, has turned out better than I thought.
But the greatest part
is that I was able to fulfil my grandfather’s dream and my school principal
Sister Consuelo’s prophesy that I would become a writer, one day.
How did you
manage to blend events from the past and the present, to help build this story?
Like I said, my brain
built everything for me, very systematically like a computer. I did not
consciously plan out the events. Once, I started writing, past and present
blended naturally. This book is a very spontaneous attempt. You can even call
it, a divine intervention of sorts.
you to write a social thriller?
I think everyone is
writing either rom-com, political thrillers, women-centric novels or
mythological novels. Social thrillers are the least
attempted. Writers think that they might not be appreciated.
unless you write one and give the readers a chance to decide for themselves,
how can you write off this particular genre? One can actually connect with
social thrillers. This is a lost art and I wish to revive it.
Who was it
that told you that you could become the author, you are today?
Who told Mr Amitabh
Bachchan he could become a superstar? His self conviction! It was the same with
me. I wanted to become a novelist, so I became one. But here, I must also tell
you my grandfather always said I would become a writer.
My school teachers and my principal also believed I should develop a flair for
writing and composing, so their conviction also sowed the early seed.
editors also encouraged me to write. With so many people’s aspirations resting
on me, how could I but not become the author that I am today?
Any advice to
writers that would like to be published today? How tough is it to be published?
Personally, I do not
feel I am in a position to advice anyone right now, as this is just my debut
novel. Yet, I would say one thing : if you believe you can write, then write. Getting published by established publishers is tough and
takes time, but one must keep faith and patience. If one’s work is good, it
will be published.
I am not referring to
self-publishing here. That way, anyone can get published but it is not worth
it. More than getting published, it is tougher to get well-marketed. Here, most
authors face problems these days. Those with money purchase publicity, those
with a good book might remain anonymous.
I am presently reading ‘EastWind : West Wind’ by Pearl S. Buck. The book provides a glimpse into the Chinese
way of life. It is the story of a traditional Chinese girl married to a Chinese
doctor, educated abroad. How this girl opens up to freedom and point of views of
the Western world is the story.
What do you
do on a daily basis?
I am an editing
professional and am soon launching a magazine on environment.
I cannot start this review, without mentioning the cover
story. Gorgeously, rich yet subtle is the book’s cover, which turned out to be
the author, Mirza Waheed’s great grandfather’s, a papier-mache artist’s work.
His painting, ‘Book of Gold’ and this book, ‘The Book of Gold Leaves’ seem
Coming down to the book, ‘The Book of Gold Leaves’
which has been set in the 90s, where it traces the lives of two star crossed
lovers, Faiz and Roohi. Faiz works as a
papier-mache artist, thereby supporting a large Sunni family. Roohi is a pretty young Shia girl, who has just turned
twenty and being a graduate, is busy avoiding all marriage talk.
The novel, kind of reminded me of the film,
‘Haider’. Though not story wise, it became easier for me to imagine Shahid Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor in place of the main protagonists as they and their famlies too, are
torn by war in Kashmir.
Coming back the main story, we see Faiz talking
through and through about his unfinished work of art and dreaming of finishing
it. Roohi, who remains a constant dreamer herself, though hers takes on another
route. She holds on to dreams of romance, and a man, who would sweep her away. It
is not fate that they meet, but her headstrong ways, which compel them to meet
in the end.
That is one story, but there is the other story, of
a local high school, which has been taken over by the Indian army. Enter the
school principal, Shanta Koul, and her loss of her love. She fights on and steadfastly
holds on to her school, in spite of the army, on its grounds. She keeps arguing with Major Sumit Kumar, who
understands but feels pressurised between his duty and his genuine need to get
away, from it all.
As Srinagar has to deal with the militants flowing
in and out of the city, and says goodbye to its inhabitants, who do not feel
safe, we see all their stories unfold. Faiz sees his nanny killed in from
of his very eyes. Shocked by the whole process, and probably not understanding
his grief and confusion, he ends up, joining hands with militants. But there
too, Roohi and her memories do not leave him, as you can read in his letters.
Roohi, who will do anything to be with him, writes to him, compelling him to return
to her. Faiz finds that though he would be hailed as a hero in some parts of
Srinagar, but he remains wanted by the army.
You also cannot miss the subplots of Roohi’s and
Faiz’s families and the marriage between the Shia and Sunni households. And the
militants and the army’s hand in all of this.
One can read the confusion, which is a constant reminder
in this novel. It remains firstly, a movie like love story, stuck between a war
and politics. There is of course, the beauty of Kashmir, which the author feels
for it, as he unwraps the words on to the pages. You can understand his sadness
too. However, he probably weakened over the love story but it remains a wonderful
story in parts.
The story in itself is one which questions, but
leaves you in the lurch. And please do not miss the details about the collapsing
houses and buildings and yet the romance of Srinagar, which only an artist of
books could describe, as Mirza Waheed does.
Sarita Varma's book, 'Girl from Fatehpur' was a good book. I thought there were times when it reminded me of life, a simpler life, with all its accentuations. Little towns, empty roads, families, friendships and romances. Each one of these reminds could remind one of the past, and perhaps touch us, in its own way.
In this Interview, Sarita Varma explains to us how she came about with the idea and how she used'believable situations and characters' to achieve what she needed to. So, let's read on...
How did ‘Girl from Fatehpur’ happen? Could you
describe the journey?
It was a journey fraught with misgivings! Like most
budding writers, I too, dreamt about one day becoming an author but was
convinced that nobody would want to read anything I had written.
If it hadn’t been for the necessary push I got from
family and friends and the very warm encouragement I received from my
publisher, Naheed Hassan, I doubt whether ‘Girl from Fatehpur’ would have been
anything more than a dream!
How did the story, especially Sanjana and Rajan’s
The migration of people especially from the small
towns of India to big metros has always fascinated me. The acquired surface
gloss usually covers strong values… cultural baggage, if you will.
Naturally, there are exceptions to this but I feel
Sanjana continues to be essentially a small town girl despite her high flying
job in Mumbai. Even Rajan, the NRI, though overtly changed also finally falls
back on tradition.
Did you have a lot of personal experiences to go
with the book? What exactly was it that inspired you to write this book?
I think our personal experiences do influence a lot
of our writing but in an indirect manner. I have not consciously tried to write
about real people or actual situations but certain mannerisms or style of
talking of some acquaintances may have seeped in. Inevitable!
I wanted to write a light-hearted entertaining story
about believable situations and characters.
What according to you is different about your book?
I hope the
authenticity of the characters and events impresses the readers. I have tried
to be realistic in my descriptions about the background of the story whether in
Mumbai, Kanpur or Fatehpur.
the 'Kumbh Mela' in Allahabad was a special delight as I have fond memories of
being an awed spectator of the Mela in my childhood.
How would you
relate the lives of characters to the lives today? Any similarities?
the changes in the lives of characters would be essentially superficial and
mainly due to changes in technology. The novella is set roughly in today’s
What was the most challenging part about writing
The need to create tension and drama between the
principal characters was a big challenge.
Who was it
that told you that you could become the author, you are today?
My friend Anjana Appachana, herself an established author was always convinced that I too could
write. I owe a lot to her unfailing belief in my writing capabilities.
They are all outstanding
writers with impeccable command over the language. I love the sense of humour
in Heyer, Wodehouse, Durrell and Herriot, the historical atmosphere of Heyer
and Peters and the sheer creativity of Asimov.
What else do
you do on a daily basis?
I have been involved
with the Multiple Sclerosis Society of India for nearly two decades in various
capacities. As a busy homemaker, I’m always on the job!
What advice do you have for
the young writers of today?
about what you feel passionately about.
re-check your work repeatedly, like a blade being honed and sharpened.