If you love love or hate love

For those who tried but could not buy my novella ‘Meantime Girl’ on Amazon for technical reasons, I have made it available on Smashwords for 99 cents. You can read 20% for free. Do check out.

Enjoy.

Here’s the link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/category/870

or try

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/610682

cover copy full

 

On birds and bees

Winter is here and so are the “seasonal” birds, who, they say, come flying all the way from Siberia (really?, this far!) to enjoy the pleasant weather in Bahrain. Here it’s cold mornings in December and first half of January, mostly.

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Photos by Mandeep Singh

From the first week of December this year, flight of birds were seen hovering over the shimmering bay. I can watch them across the glass window pane, outside my office. So many of them, in small or large groups. At times they sit put on the shallow sea bed even at dawn or dusk! Wonder if they are waiting for the sunrise or taking in the spectacular sunset, rested on the warm sand!

Suddenly they take wing and that moment is awesome, breathtaking. They fly close to the water surface, to the right, or left, sometimes right and left. It’s not an aimless flight. They sweep over the sea, peering into the water, following the school of fish, diving in to fetch a few for lunch. Image

What a life! Casual and spontaneous.

Bees have an interesting life too, sweet actually.What a deliciously purposeful life! Image

Not complaining; as of today, I have an ideal life too, as I reach midway of writing my second book. I am not working on a deadline; I work according to my mood, I enjoy the slow pace.

So am I a bird, or a bee? A bit of both I guess, but more of a bird. 🙂

Judge’s commentry for my book, Writer’s Digest

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Entry Title: The Plunge

Author: Sindhu S.

Category: Genre Fiction

Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.

Structure and Organization: 5

Grammar: 4

Production Quality and Cover Design: 5

Plot : 4

Character Development : 4

Judges Commentary*:

I found this an intriguing book that introduced me to a culture I don’t know at all. So interesting to learn more about modern India and especially the modern Indian woman! I felt so much familiarity with Anjali, because she had some of the conflicts that face so many women. But she was unique too– more than just a representative modern woman. She had her own particular reasons for needing love and also needing her freedom.

A few aspects that impressed me particularly:

The women’s friendships. They really rang true, and you showed how there can be conflicts and differences but still loyalty.

Siddharth could have come across just as a cad, but when you explained his thoughts and feelings, he became more sympathetic. The ending was quite poignant and sad.

I also want to compliment you on the cover. The cover is so well done– quite contemporary in style, and eye-catching. What a great thought to have her “upside down” above the title! That really illustrates “The Plunge” and amplifies what you meant by that, the dizzying “fall” in love. The cover model is lovely and “looks” like Anjali. Very nicely done. I think it will attract readers.

Just one suggestion. In the beginning especially I found some of the sentences confusing because for the pronouns. It’s really hard when you have two women in a scene to use “she” as that could apply to either woman. So I wasn’t sure if “she” in a given line would refer to Anjali or Swapna. I know it’s clumsy, but sometimes the only way to do this clearly is to use the names instead of “she”.

Good work on the story and the design– crisp and contemporary!”

– Judge, Writer’s Digest 21st Annual Self-Published Book Awards

Story behind the story, and some more

Some empathised with her, completely understood her choices, even the emotionally-drivens. Others found her foolish pursuit of love unbelievably appalling. That’s Anjali, whose love story makes my novel, ‘The Plunge’.Image

That baffled me, for I never anticipated such conflicting views from regular book lovers and professional reviewers alike.

Anjali, the protagonist of my story, is close to my heart, a character crafted out of real women, friends I have known closely and grown up with. Anjali is not exactly what one of my critics called, ‘incredibly foolish’ or ‘immature’, not the person. She is naïve in a certain subject, namely love. But lovers behave foolishly in real life too, without them being foolish, don’t they? That’s where my critics went wrong, failed to differentiate between the individual and the behaviour. One need not be stupid to behave stupidly in certain aspects of life, like matters of heart.

Siddharth, was convincing enough for everyone; strange! Did it mean men were indeed on earth for the sole purpose of procreating, when they were not fooling around with women’s emotions, pitifully hormone-driven? I don’t accept that idea. Men and women have equal rights to self-worth. But I did not write this story to promote that thought. I wrote to clear my mind of clutter, the self-talk accumulated over years that threatened to crystallise into toxic imprints; that I would have had to carry along and suffer through rebirths. I feel free now, liberated.

I hope to see a movie-adaptation of my novel someday, preferably in the Hollywood. The screenplay, location, historical mentions and characters could be effortlessly modified to fit the frames. I would want the story to remain unaltered.

Who should play the female lead? Ann Hathaway, of course (in the Les Miserables look), with Al Pacino as her lover (I know it sounds like a crazy pairing, but am convinced they would work up a striking chemistry) would do justice to my story. ImageImage

I am sure with a talented script writer like Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) and a bold woman director like Meera Nair (Kama Sutra), Anjali’s story would touch hearts, immensely.

I initially called my novel ‘The Scandal’, then changed it to ‘Sleepwalk’, then to ‘Stains of the Last Monsoon’, and kept changing many times in two years, finally settling for the simple ‘The Plunge’. Anjali’s involvement with Siddharth was a plunge into unknown depths of the ocean of life, therefore.

When my cover designer, Jennifer, came up with this face-down cover image, I liked it instantly, for it embodied Anjali in many ways. Never mind bookstores complaining that customers turned the book face-up (inadvertently inverting the title) each time they passed by the shelf that stacked ‘The Plunge’.

A journalist even published a story about my novel with the cover image flipped down. When I pointed out the error the next day, he blurted out, “Never thought a woman could be of any use when hung upside down!” I could not help laughing, ignoring the chauvinist undertone.

Girls of Riyadh – Review

Girls of Riyadh

By Rajaa Alsanea

Penguin Books

 ImageDubbed as a novel that takes on an imperious society, ‘Girls of Riyadh’ by Saudi writer Rajaa Alsanea is certainly a trendsetter, even if not swell enough “to shake up an entrenched society”, as was initially projected.

The book is an attempt to expose to the world the shacked lives of young women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In that sense it is bold. The novel was promptly banned in the Kingdom when the Arabic version was first published seven years ago by the Beirut publisher Dar Al Saqi.

‘Girls of Riyadh’ is a controversial novel, but to call it Saudi Arabian ‘Sex and the City’ would be misleading.

Rajaa wrote the book ‘Banat Al Riyadh’ in Arabic way back in 2005, and it became a sensation almost instantly in the Arab world.

The novelist narrates the story of four lovelorn girls from the velvet class society looking for and finding love. Along the way, the author also talks about issues such as absence of chivalrous suitors, casually revealing the freedom that exists within families and disconnecting the stereotype image about the country.

Young writer Rajaa grew up in Riyadh, and was educated in Chicago. Two years later, the novel was published in English, translated by her with Marilyn Booth. Within the region, however, everyone seems to know about the “hidden lives” of women in the upper crust of Saudi society, but shocked that it could be publicized as a novel.

The book opens quite promisingly. An anonymous girl writes the first e-mail in a series: “To all of you out there who are over the age of eighteen, and in some countries that’ll mean twenty-one, though among us Saudis it means over six for guys …”

The story is unfolded as “scandalous” emails send to subscribers to a Yahoo group as ‘Memoirs Disclosed’ from a rebellious Saudi girl who goes by the identity ‘seerehwenfadha7et’.

The girls in the novel, Gamrah, Michelle, Sadeem and Lamees, whose trysts with men starts off in Riyadh and make headway during their travels outside the country, when they shed their abayas (traditional garbs). The story details their emotional mutinies, big and small, but generally focuses on their disappointments with the men they love.

Yet, along the way, the story loses steam and the last few chapters of the fifty-chapter book (each chapter, an e-mail) become tedious.

The letters begin on February 13, 2004 to February 18, 2005, over a year. Each chapter carries a brief introduction (which is interesting at times and boring other times) before a significant incident from one of the girls’ life is shared. Since the girls are thick friends, their stories overlap. The introduction also carries some poem or holy verse, mostly hints to the tone of the chapter that follows.

The most striking difference in the life of Saudi women is the law that makes it compulsory for women, including non-Arabs to wear abaya in public. Another cultural prohibition is for unrelated men and women to move around together in public. These are tough laws for those new to the Kingdom; but the rest are universal problems women face in some degree anywhere in the world.

In her author’s note Rajaa writes:

“I did not think the Western world would actually be interested. It seemed to me, and to many other Saudis, that the Western world still perceives us either romantically, as the land of Arabian Nights and the land where bearded shaikhs sit in their tents surrounded by their beautiful harem women, or politically, as the land where women are dressed in black from head to toe and where every house has its own oil well in the backyard!”

She adds, “Being the proud Saudi I am, I felt it is my duty to reveal another side of Saudi life to the Western world. The task was not easy, however.”

She says she hopes through the book to make the outside world understand that Saudi Arabia is a very conservative and male-dominated Islamic society. But the women there dream and have determination. More importantly, they fall deeply in and out of love just like women elsewhere in the world.”

Overall, the story is interesting, till about the most part of the book.

 

 

Excerpts

 ‘The divorce document was not particularly gruesome-looking, but its contents were indeed pretty horrifying. When her brother handed it to her, Gamrah read the lines of script and collapsed onto the nearest chair, screaming, “Yummah! yummah mama, he divorced me! Yumma, Rashid divorced me. It’s all over, he divorced me!” Her mother took Gamrah into her arms, weeping and cursing the wrongdoer…’

 

‘Sadeem packed away her wound along with her clothes and carried it all from the Dust Capital of the World to the Fog Capital of the world. London was not new to her. In fact, spending the last month of summer there had become a familiar yearly ritual.’

 

Chasing the Snow

Long before I accidentally became a writer, when I was only a fiction-obsessed young woman in her 20s, I was infatuated by the settings in novels.

Reading was my only passion, other than day dreaming. I loved getting into the story, identifying myself with the protagonist and living that life. That made our connection “real”.

I went hungry on purpose, walked miles in the sun, sweat streaming down my neck in the hot and humid Indian summer at the risk of being thought “crazy” by friends. That was the Thomas Hardy phase, whose female leads were forever sad, lonely, lost and eternally suffered when their physical and emotional worlds clashed and collapsed at the whims of fate or men they loved.

When I was into the Franz Kafka and Gabriel Garzia Marquez phase, I had an altogether out of the world existence; making folks at home suspect I had indeed lost it.

When I was into Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I imagined myself to be suffering from revengeful natural and unnatural forces, both people and situations. I became difficult to loved ones, and my employers; lost jobs in quick succession, but found new ones as easily.

I know it’s insane; but how else can one enjoy a story to the ‘y’?author

It was only natural for the writer me, while I was scripting my novel (The Plunge), to go beyond reason to get it perfect.

But some things were beyond my imagination, like when I decided to have Shimla as the setting for the latter half of my novel. I travelled to the hills several times, the mission involved four days in travel alone (to and fro) each time, dragging my family along to Shimla, for it was not safe even then (eight years ago) for a woman to make such expeditions alone in India.

My final round to Shimla was in the hope of catching the so far evasive snowfall. At that point, my son, then about 13 years old, whined, “Oh mamma, no…, not again!” He was by now bored stiff by those endless journeys to the Queen of Hills. Once I promised him this would be the last trip, he agreed reluctantly.

We reached the hills in mid-January. As the taxi driver was storing our luggage in the car trunk, I asked him what chance we had to witness a snowfall. “No chance,” he said, which hit me like an absent-minded hailstorm. Firstly, the winter was mild that year, and secondly, the weather at that moment didn’t show a hint of snowiness, he backed up his opinion with logic. I felt dejected. Did that mean this visit too was a total waste, snow-wise? I wanted my story to end in the snowfall. How do I write my concluding chapter? Real fix.shim

Just then, when we were about to slide into the car to reach our hotel, the clouds hurriedly rearranged on the sky. In a magical suddenness, it became overcast, the air chilly and a sharp drizzle broke onto us. This followed a short sleet and as I stood in awe, snowflakes magically floated down on us. I caught them on my open palms, grinning endlessly at my son, who stood beside me stunned. This followed a steady snowfall, as if the Almighty had torn open a bean bag, spilling the pearly pith on me. It was an awesome moment and an overwhelming experience. The next few minutes were among the best in my life. I saw God that instant and a sign to complete my story; I had the divine consent.Shimla_snowfall

To all non-believers and radicals, I know for sure the Divine is a force beyond our intellect, controls our destinies, influences decisions and nudges us along life. I know this from my encounters with the Almighty, which I am at the moment compiling into a small autobiographical 100-odd-pages book, to be published by the end of 2013.

To those chronic sceptics, kindly explain the design of the leopard skin or the peacock feather, or your first crush. If you are thinking of quoting from Charles Darwin or Sigmund Freud, demystify the shifty nature of mind.

Or, simply wait for your moment of insight; if you aren’t lucky during your lifetime, you surely will be on your deathbed.

Original article:

http://indiehousebooks.com/chasing-the-snow-by-sindhu-s-write/