Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Our Lady of Alice Bhatti: A Review

I have been on sort of a reading spree. In the past one month alone I have managed to finish reading the Grey series, The Time Keeper, A Thousand Splendid Suns, After the Darkness, as well as a Mary Higgins Clark suspense thriller All Through The Night (Though I neither found it suspenseful nor thrilling.)

I had started Our Lady Of Alice Bhatti (OLoAB) before all of these. I read about ten pages and thought it to
be one of those books that I would not be able to read or even skim. After putting it down for a month I picked it up to lend it to someone who wants to read it and I thought I might as well take out my bookmark. As I was taking out the bookmark I read the page it was placed on and for a strange reason I was hooked to the book. This re-affirms my faith in the fact that it is neither too late nor too early, everything happens in its own right time- a point that echoes in Mitch Albom's The Time Keeper (I loved the book and found what creative writing is about, but that is another post).

So back at OLoAB. I had heard about Mohammed Hanif. When a friend was pestered for a gift this birthday she asked me to name two books I was dying to read so I got her to send me both, A Case of Exploding Mangoes as well as OLoAB. History and Satire were the reasons I was interested in Mr Hanif. I liked A Case of Exploding Mangoes, his first book that was even listed for Man Booker, but not to the extent that i had hoped that I would like it. And so I had come to keeping the decision of reading OLoAB pending.

Anyway, now that I have read it, here is what I think.

It is a class apart. This book is everything that great reviewers at great places say it is a ''deft evil little novel of comic genius" and much more. It is brilliantly written and one can see how the author has evolved since his first one. The story is irreverent. The heroine Sister Alice Bhatti is irreverent. The tale is consuming once you have managed to sink in your teeth which happens after good 20 pages when you get a good idea of what this is all about. The others- Noor, Teddy, Inspector Malangi- are all well-etched out with the rhymes and reasons spelt out for the reader. These reasons are the circumstances that have led to the way the charcacter behaves. These are also very apt commentaries on the state of affairs.

Sample this, near the end of the novel the Inspector is shot, the writer describing his end writes: As he bleeds to a quick death, Inspector Malangi has the same thing on his mind as that on the lips of all the impatient drivers stuck behind the car" when will our nation learn some road manners?

There is another lot of characters like Zainab, Dr Periera who though do not contribute to the story in any constructive way but there stories are told so well that you feel that you know them intimately.

The conditions describe of the Sacred hospital where the story largely unfolds or the French Colony could very well be somewhere in India. Maybe that is the reason that a familiar echo emerges out of the writings of authors from across the border.

The satire is very much dripping out of every page in the novel.  I could imagine the author reading what he wrote during the edits and then look in the distance with a smug smile on his face.

Yes you must read Our Lady of Alice Bhatti and then maybe also give A Case of Exploding Mangoes a shot.

This might also be a very interesting read for those who have read the book or intend to read it.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

A journey in self publishing

There are those like me who sit and think of starting a writing project. Then there are those who go ahead with the plot, write and get that sweet sweet word on to their CVs- PUBLISHED.

Arti Arlene Martyris belongs to this second category. She not only has two published books under her belt but one of these has been self published. Here is more from her on being published.

Hi Arti! take us to the beginning of the beginnings.

Hi! I belong to Goa. Writing was a hobby until my first story, 'Trauma' was published in an anthology by Writing Knights Press, Ohio, USA, in 2012. Then a poem, 'Am I No More Human?' was published by Indian Ink, a bimonthly magazine based in Kerala, India. Now my first romance novella 'Facebook Pyar' has been published by Indireads Incorporated and Rabia of Chakia is my first self-published romantic adventure novella.

What is the storyline of Rabia of Chakia?

Like I mentioned earlier  Rabia of Chakia is a romantic adventure novella. It heads back to India in 1987 A.D. The story takes place in Chakia, a village in the state of Bihar where a fifteen year old girl Rabia deals with a number of obstacles on her pursuit of true love. A huge blunder leads her to getting abducted by her father's biggest enemy, Rana Singh; a fugitive, a murderer and an aspiring terrorist. What is in Rabia's destiny? Death, misery or an unexpected change of path with the prince of her dreams?

How did the idea of self-publishing enter your mind? Rejections? Fear of rejections?

Neither. A friend of mine put it in my ears and out of curiosity I went about googling and asking people about it. At that time Rabia of Chakia was only a synopsis in my laptop.

How hard or easy was it to self publish your novel?

It was a piece of cake. The tools and step by step guidance on the website was really helpful.
Would you recommend it to budding authors?

Definitely, but yes one has to be prepared to do without assistance in self-publishing, the very reason why 'Self' is used here and actively take part in promotion and marketing of their books.

Any tips that you  would like to share with those interested in taking up self publishing?

Yes, I'd like to make it clear that self-publishing is easy but selling what you've self-published is
a bit of a difficult task specially when you're not a known author and it's your first book, but losing hope and giving up are not friends. And because you don't want to get a negative response on your first book you must revise revise and revise your work before bringing it to your audience. All the best.

Wow! That was interesting and informative. Thank you Arti for taking out time and sharing your experiences here. All the very best for your books and all your future endeavours.

You are most welcome. I am giving away free copies of the book till June 15, so readers can write to me at They can also download the book worldwide through different portals at different prices. The following are the links to the book. [] [ ].

I've recently made it available in India through[ with the first ten pages to preview before purchase. 

Monday, June 03, 2013

A list for Netra

Questions, Fears and Many Answers

After all the fairy tale drama that is ensuing in our life and honestly some of it before  (we- me and the daughter are very melodramatic people) there have been questions and often random statements by Netra that make me wonder how she must have concluded this one or that one. Like when she said very matter-of-factly Love to bhoot hota hai (Love is a ghost) or when the husband and I are arguing heatedly, she will coolly walk up to us and depending on her current favourite, threaten the other one, Main thunder ko bolun ki aapko le jaaye? (Should I tell thundering clouds to take you away for making such ruckus).

She plays with the bottles- her nanhe bachhe- for hours together and can come back with an episode that happened to her in the previous school and ask for an explanation about being bullied or left out of a game in the neighbourhood. These are the ones that I particularly find hard to answer. Human behaviour is difficult to explain, no? But then maybe she can use some advice from  Mark Twain from the book Advice to Little Girls on various other important matters like a pesky mother and her list of chores.

Then there are questions about the universe. Hum kiss cheez se bane hote hain? (What are we made of?) Humko khaanaa kyun khaanaa padta hai? (Why do we have to eat?) I can deal with them, I have studied science. 

Hum apne ghar pe horsie rakh sakte hain? (Can we keep a horse in the house?) Mujhe ek zindaa kutta chahiye, chottaa sa. (I want a dog, alive and small in size.) Animals are not my forte so I leave this to the husband.

Out of many things that Mon Cheri stumbles upon during the course of day varies. When the question will be popped, no one can predict. I try my level best to answer everything and not get worked up by the fury of her questioning when she gets really charged up about the subject but there are times and demands that irk me. I dont want to instill in her any fear about questioning or life. About life and its fears in the offing I read to her this poem by Maya Angelou who says she wrote it “for all children who whistle in the dark and who refuse to admit that they’re frightened out of their wits”:

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me

Shadows on the wall
Noises down the hall
Life doesn’t frighten me at all

Bad dogs barking loud
Big ghosts in a cloud
Life doesn’t frighten me at all

Mean old Mother Goose
Lions on the loose
They don’t frighten me at all

Dragons breathing flame
On my counterpane
That doesn’t frighten me at all.

I go boo
Make them shoo
I make fun
Way they run
I won’t cry
So they fly
I just smile
They go wild

Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

Tough guys fight
All alone at night
Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

Panthers in the park
Strangers in the dark
No, they don’t frighten me at all.

That new classroom where
Boys all pull my hair
(Kissy little girls
With their hair in curls)
They don’t frighten me at all.

Don’t show me frogs and snakes
And listen for my scream,
If I’m afraid at all
It’s only in my dreams.

I’ve got a magic charm
That I keep up my sleeve
I can walk the ocean floor
And never have to breathe.

Life doesn’t frighten me at all
Not at all
Not at all.

Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

I don't think she understand much of it right now but I think this will be our 'If' - THE parental advice- for the nearby times to come.

And to answer her questions or to pacify me when the next time she says Love to bhoot hai, I must remember to peek inside a book called Big Questions from Little People.