10 classics with less than 200 pages

Some readers get put off by tomes. Some people have lost the habit of reading books and are looking to get back to it. For the benefit of these readers, I’ve compiled a list of 10 books having less than 200 pages each. Happy reading.

  1. The picture of Dorian Gray- Oscar Wilde – 165 pages

This is Oscar Wilde’s only novel. Wilde combines elements of the Gothic horror novel and decadent French fiction. It is a portrayal of the effects of evil and debauchery on a young man in late 19th-century England. The premise of the book is that as Dorian Gray lives a life of crime and decadence, his body retains its youth while his portrait reflects his debauchery

2. The wind in the willows-Kenneth Grahame- 172 pages

Four friends – the mole, the rat, the badger and the toad – go on a series of adventures. They explore the mysteries of life in the Wild Wood. They end up in a car crash, in jail, and a battle with weasels. A tale of wanderlust, this book will appeal to several generations

3. The painter of signs – R.K. Narayan- 183 pages

The painter of signs is the story of Raman, who paints signboards in Malgudi, R.K. Narayan’s fictional town. Daisy is an attractive young woman who engages Raman to paint signs advocating two-child families. This bittersweet tale of love in India reveals as much about the country as it does about its lead pair

4. The thirty-nine steps – John Buchan – 133 pages

This is the first and arguably the best of John Buchan’s Richard Hannay thrillers. Scudder, who is being chased by deadly traitors, seeks refuge at Hannay’s residence. He is soon found dead with a dagger driven through his heart. Accused of his murder, Hannay flees his home and takes on the culprits after being cleared by law

5. Bonjour Tristesse- Francoise Sagan – 113 pages

Cecile leads a hedonistic life with her father and his young mistress. When she is on holiday in the south of France, she takes a lover. However, when her father decides to remarry, a tragedy takes place

A picture of the 10 classics mentioned in the blog post

6. The prince and the pauper – Mark Twain – 190 pages

Two boys – one an urchin from London and another, a prince from a palace unwittingly trade identities. The urchin finds a life of riches while the prince is reduced to a life of rags

7. A streetcar named desire – Tennessee Williams – 142 pages

It is one of the most renowned plays of our time, winning a Pulitzer prize. Blanche Du Bois, a southern beauty meets a tragic end brought on by her insensitive brother-in-law, Stanley Kowlaski. The movie of the same name starred Marlon Brando as Kowlaski and Vivien Leigh as Blanche

8. Of mice and men – John Steinbeck- 121 pages

This novella is about two drifters – George and simple-minded Lennie. They start working on a ranch and George must keep his friend out of trouble. It is a powerful tale of friendship.

9. A room of one’s own – Virginia Woolf- 117 pages

This essay by Virginia Woolf was first published in 1929. The author develops the idea of what would have happened to Shakespeare’s sister, arguing for the value of independence for any creative writer.

10. The outsider – Albert Camus- 111 pages

Mersault is a non-conformist. When his mother dies, he refuses to show any emotion. He commits a random act of violence and again lacks remorse, which compounds his guilt in the eyes of the law and society. This portrayal of a man confronting the absurdity of human life is an existentialist classic.

The Teachings of Bhagavad Gita by Richa Tilokani

With the pandemic raging worldwide, everyone is returning to their roots to find solace and seek comfort. Richa Tilokani’s ‘The teachings of Bhagavad Gita’  – Timeless wisdom for the modern age- comes at the right time to offer wisdom to those who seek it. I thank Richa for the review copy. This 226-page book, which promises to contain the essence of the Bhagavad Gita, should invite readers who are daunted by the perceived complexity of the original text.

Richa in the preface says “I was taught the Bhagavat Gita – which is a part of the epic Mahabharata written by the sage Vyasa- by my grandfather Pandit Vishnukant Shastri who was a revered scholar and a true devotee of Lord Rama.”

Distilling the essence of 700 verses, which are considered to contain Brahm Gyan or supreme knowledge, is no mean feat and Richa has attempted to simplify the text and adapt it to modern times.

Book Cover

Richa has laid out the book in 18 chapters, starting with an introduction or Vishad Yoga, moving on to an introductory summary of the Gita or Sankhya Yoga, and then covering the art of work or Karma Yoga, the transcendental knowledge or gyan karma sansaya yoga and other aspects until the eighteenth chapter, The art of renunciation or Moksha Sanyasa Yoga.

“The Bhagavad Gita says that Arjuna is full of sorrow, at a time when he should have been fighting the war. He represents the common man who is full of unhappiness, dilemmas and worries at most times. Arjuna faces many difficult questions on the battlefield and these are similar to the problems people face on the battlefield called life,” says Richa.

The book has nuggets like “With knowledge and devotion, one can become free from the illusions of the world.”

The real cause of sorrow according to Lord Krishna is ignorance, and only true wisdom can give one freedom from it. I recommend this book to the spiritually inclined, who want to glean knowledge, gain wisdom and rise above their sorrows.

To read Richa’s interview about her writing journey, favourite books and more,  check out my earlier post. You can buy The Teachings of the Bhagavad Gita on Amazon.

My Reading and Writing Pursuits Last Week

I bought a Kindle copy each of Chinese Whiskers and Jakarta Tails by Pallavi Aiyar recently. I’d picked up both books since I love cats. However, after reading about 50% of Chinese Whiskers, I’m berating myself for my impulsive buys. I will make it a point to finish Chinese Whiskers, but I’m not enjoying it much. I find it boring and I feel that children may enjoy it better since it is from the perspective of the cats. I think it is important to read reviews of a book before you buy it, so that the chances of disappointment are fewer. To top it, I found ‘losing’ misspelt in the book( at 38% of the book), and since that is a pet peeve of mine, I’m doubly disappointed. The illustrations, however, are cute.

Today, I received a copy of ‘The Karachi Deception’ by author Shatrujeet Nath. I’d won this book in a Facebook giveaway conducted by the author a couple of weeks back. I look forward to reading it.

This year, I’d started with my morning pages from ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron, but I soon abandoned them ‘coz I didn’t want to feel that I HAD to do them. I wanted my time to be mine to use as I saw fit or to squander. I’m on Page 112 of the workbook and I’ve not been doing it week after week as recommended. It is supposed to be a continuous 12-week programme to artistic recovery.

I was given an opportunity to come on a Facebook Live session by Blogchatter and share screen space with author Samit Basu when I’d won a contest he’d conducted on Facebook. I’ve read his ‘The adventures of Stoob’ long back and also read some of the editions of his newsletter ‘Duck of Dystopia.’ My question to him had been ‘Could you recommend a book on writing that you found useful.’ He recommended ‘On writing’ by Stephen King, which I’ve already read twice and reviewed here.

I recently took up a 5-day writing challenge conducted by The Writers’ College on Facebook and completed it.

Here’s a poem I wrote for Spoken Word Poetry as a part of the 5-day writing challenge.


The road ahead may seem tough

But don’t give up

You were put on this planet

To realize the meaning of your life

Don’t give up

Before you achieve

What you set out to do

If challenges are thrown your way

Overcome them

Work through them

Fight them

But don’t give in to disillusionment,




Use every ounce of strength

In your mind, body and soul

To go forward;

Play the role you were meant to…

Put in the effort

And you will be rewarded

Even if you don’t reach your goal

You will be one step closer to it

Wear your dream like a cloak around your shoulders

Breathe it, imbibe it

Until it seeps through every pore

And pushes you forward

Aim for success

You cannot pour from an empty cup

Only when you are satisfied inside

Can you help people nearby..

So start with yourself

Do it one step at a time

Left foot, right foot

Put one foot in front of the other

And don’t give up

No matter how hard it may seem

No matter how weighed down by troubles you are

Push ahead

And the light will stream in from afar

You can do it!

Go on, do it now!

Do let me know if you enjoyed the poem. Also, what have you been reading and writing lately? Do share links from your blog or articles you have written in the comments section. I look forward to reading them.

A Beautiful Mind

I became a member of the Creative Soul Club by Blogchatter recently, and they had posted which movie to watch for the meet. It was ‘A Beautiful Mind’ – a movie about John Nash, a mathematician who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994. John Nash had paranoid schizophrenia. The movie is based on a book of the same name by Sylvia Nasar.

John Nash was very sensitive and had people problems. The friendship between him and his roommate was special. Only later is something crucial revealed about this friendship.

There is a scene in the movie when John Nash and his friends are at a bar and looking to hit on women. That triggers Nash to challenge economist Adam Smith’s theory, which was that the best results come from every person in the group doing what’s best for himself/herself. John Nash says the best results come from every person in the group doing what’s best for himself/herself AND the group, thereby making a breakthrough in governing dynamics.

He was always the “weird” one but a genius, and his work meant everything to him. His relationship with his wife was wonderful in the beginning, which is why she fell in love with him, but later on when he started having his delusions, her role as a caregiver was often frustrating for her. She was a source of strength and support for him. After he was medicated to treat his schizophrenia, he felt dull and found it challenging to work as brilliantly as he had earlier.

He asks his wife “What do people do”? She tells him that there are activities available and to just add meaning to his life. “Try leaving the house. Talk to people. Try taking out the garbage,” she says. When he tells her that he was talking to a man who was collecting the garbage at night, his wife thinks he is having another delusion even though he was speaking the truth.

Sometimes, he skips his medication because he feels it make his brain dull. But this leads to near-disastrous results. He tries hard to fight his delusions and uses the rational part of his brain to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not. His psychiatrist tells him “Without treatment, John, the fantasies may take over entirely.”

The scene where his wife says “ You want to know what’s real?” – “This is real,” pointing to her heart and his, was moving. She also tells him “I need to believe that something extraordinary is  possible.“ He goes back to work after approaching a former rival for work. The process is hard because Nash creates scenes when he sees his delusions. But he learns to ignore them and slowly but surely, his work is recognized by the Nobel committee. A representative from the committee approaches him and Nash uses humor to admit that he, indeed, has paranoid schizophrenia.

This movie depicts what it is like for a person with paranoid schizophrenia, but apparently in the book on which this was based, Nash does not have visual hallucinations. They introduced the visual aspect to make it suitable and more impactful for the screen.

Russel Crowe and Jennifer Connelly play the couple and they have turned in a brilliant performance. The movie was nominated for several awards and has won Oscars.

I recommend this movie to caregivers of people with mental health issues who will be able to relate to the important role they play in inspiring and motivating their relatives with mental illness.

What I’ve been reading and listening to

I recently listened to the audiobook of ‘The Artist’s Journey’ by Steven Pressfield on audible. I recommend it to all writers and creators of art. Here, the author gives his own example and says that the artist’s journey begins after the Hero’s Journey ( Ref. Joseph Campbell and Christopher Vogler). The author discusses the qualities of an artist, the subject, medium of expression, point of view, style, voice etc., with examples from popular culture and the movies.

The author also introduces concepts such as Yetzer Hara, resistance, and the soul. He recommends books such as The soul’s code by James Hillman and The Creative Habit – Learn it and use it for life by Twyla Tharp.

I’ve also been savouring the essays of 114 writers from across the globe about being a writer in ‘I, the Writer’ – a Sweetycat Press Publication. Although I bought the book, it is also available for free on Kindle Unlimited. I’ve picked up The Creativity Book – a year’s worth of inspiration and guidance by Eric Maisel, which I had started reading at the beginning of the year and then shelved. I’ve also dug up an old book from my bookshelf – Unleash your creativity – Secrets of creative genius by Rob Bevan and Tim Wright to keep my creative juices flowing.

Before I sign off, I’d like to share my poem ‘The Artist Within Me’, which was published recently in WE MAG and We Qip Magazines. You may read it here.

Hope you like it. Do share this post on your social media if you enjoyed reading it or found it useful. See you. Stay safe!

Book Review of ‘Coping with Suffering’

The author Tomichan Matheikal has been a teacher all his life and has authored several books. In this book, he talks about how different religions approach suffering, without trying to thrust any one particular religion over the other. He discusses how “Buddhism is very like Christianity in its views on suffering.” I particularly enjoyed the portions of his book where he talks about philosophy and philosophers, making a complex subject accessible for the lay reader. He has discussed Schopenhauer, Viktor Frankl, existentialism and the role of God in dealing with suffering, outlining “The footprints in the sand” story. The author says “We need not seek out suffering” and quotes the Serenity Prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The author stresses the need to ask “How” questions rather than “Why questions” i.e instead of “Why did I fall” or “Why did this happen to me”, one must ask “how questions” like “How do I get out of this mess?.” He then discusses the role of literature in showing us the inevitability of suffering and says ” Literature makes suffering meaningful, which, in turn, makes like bearable if not beautiful.” That reminded me of Kurt Vonnegut’s famous quote “Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

The author discusses characters from literature such as Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and concludes that “the ultimate answer lies in the heart, according to Dostoevsky. He then discusses Camus’s views on intellectual honesty. He says the world has moved ahead from Camus, too, and we now live in a “post-truth world.” He introduces the concept of the banality of evil as showcased in Milan Kundera’s work.

In his conclusion, the author points out the difference between being religious and being spiritual. He says “Suffering can never vanish from our life. We learn to cope with it. We learn to see it from a different perspective. It is the perspective of the heart. It is the with the heart we can see certain essential truths clearly.” “The answers to quite a lot of our problems lie in our own hearts. And we keep seeking them in a lot of other places…” I found this book soothing.

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The Magic of Writing

What is it about writing that gets some people thinking it is an esoteric art that originates from a magical place, while others feel that anyone who can read can be a writer? I belong to the school of thought that the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes.

Good writing can be taught, and I have conducted training sessions on English grammar during my stints with several corporates, but I do believe one must have some basic pre-requisites to be able to grasp what is being said. Nothing can take the place of reading. Some writers may not be entirely on top of the nuts and bolts of English grammar. Still, due to their extensive reading, they have developed an ear for the right word, imbibed the art of crafting a good sentence and developed the ability to tell the difference between good writing and mediocre or below-average writing. Others never read but sign up for content writing courses, and, unsurprisingly, have a tough time stringing two sentences together in flawless English.

Another thing that is oft overlooked is that a good writer has to be a good thinker. Everything that he or she commits to the page must flow well. A series of sentences must flow into a paragraph, and a paragraph must convey a thought. A string of such paragraphs with varied sentences must convey the meaning that the writer intended. One must have the ability to translate ideas onto the page by using precise words. That’s the power of an array of words. I believe that a love for the language is non-negotiable. Above all, consider the audience: the reader. Business communication would entail a different vocabulary and emphasis distinct from that of a novelist.

 I know so many people who think that “anybody” can get into content writing. The difference between such writers and those who are serious about their craft is as stark as night and day. And then others say they don’t get the “time to read.” For a true bibliophile, reading is like breathing. You don’t “try to make the time for it”. It is like survival. You somehow find a way to do it. True bibliophiles make the time to read, and not because they “have to” but because they “want to.” And that makes all the difference.

This post first appeared on my LinkedIn

My Book Review of ‘Anxiety: Overcome it and Live Without Fear’ by Sonali Gupta

I’d bought the kindle version of ‘Anxiety’ by Sonali Gupta earlier this year and posted a brief review across social media. I truly felt it was a book that was timed well. 2020 is a year like no other what with the pandemic upending our lives. And anxiety levels are on the rise.

I opted for the paperback of this book when Blogchatter offered me a choice of books to review for their Book Review Program. I wanted to re-read the physical copy of this book.

Sonali Gupta, the author, is a Mumbai-based clinical psychologist with sixteen years of experience in the field of mental health. She writes a weekly column for Mumbai Mirror titled ‘Terms of Engagement’. She currently runs a private practice in Khar and South Bombay.

Jerry Pinto has penned a beautiful foreword to the book. He says there is a lot to be anxious about, so one is not alone in feeling anxious. He says in today’s world of social media, we curate our world and decide what’s instafriendly just as much as the other person does. What’s on our feed may be giving anxiety to the person viewing it in the same way that someone else’s feed gives us anxiety.

“This book will help you make a good servant out of an emotion that was built into us so that we might survive. For when it takes over, say in the middle of the night, when it’s often at its worst, you can ask yourself in a stern voice: “What have you got to be anxious about.”

He goes on to say “I believe that if you use this book, rather than just reading it, if you make it your own, it will help resolve some of the questions you’ve been asking yourself, the most disturbing of which often is ‘Is this normal or am I going nuts.’

Sonali, in her introduction, says, ‘I have begun to realise that while we all are so different as people, at the core, we are similar and possibly connected to one another through our shared vulnerabilities. Maybe we are all together in this collective anxiety.’ She adds, ‘The idea of writing this book is for people to have an emotional toolkit that can help them take care of themselves.’ She adds, ‘I suggest that as you read this book, keep a diary and pen next to you so that you can do the activities mentioned in the book and use them to introspect and become aware of your patterns.’

The book is divided into three parts and 20 chapters. The first part is ‘ Understanding Anxiety.’  In the first chapter, ‘Age of Anxiety,’ the author explains anxiety, details how it manifests itself and talks about triggers.

She lists some common triggers of anxiety:

  • Getting engaged/planning a wedding/marriage
  • Death in the family
  • Ending a relationship or a divorce
  • Hospitalisation
  • Moving/Renovating a house
  • Changing a job or a promotion
  • Moving cities or countries
  • Planning a holiday
  • Birthdays
  • Retirement
  • Paperwork and finances

She also dispels some common myths around anxiety.

Myth 1: Some people never experience anxiety.

Myth 2: Anxiety is a negative emotion, and we need to rid ourselves of it.

Myth 3: Happy events don’t lead to anxiety.

Myth 4: Development milestones are a fact of life. We don’t need to reach out to qualified mental health professionals even if we feel overwhelmed by them.

In the second chapter, ‘What’s Normal Anxiety and What’s Not,’ the author gives us a checklist to help us determine the level of anxiety we face. She essentially says that it is best to understand anxiety in the context of a spectrum. She also says some people are highly sensitive and touches upon the work of American psychotherapist Dr Elaine Aaron, whose book ‘The Highly Sensitive Person’ was first published in 1996. The author also differentiates between anxiety, fear, depression and stress.

In the third chapter, ‘High-functioning Anxiety,’ the author talks about clients who are doing very well, but if you scratch beneath the surface, you hear stories of psychosomatic illnesses and anxiety. The author also touches upon ‘Productivity Guilt’ and ‘Imposter Syndrome’.

In her fourth chapter, ‘Anxiety and the Brain,’ the author talks about a movie called ‘Inside Out’ from Pixar Animation Studios. I’d watched this movie a couple of years back. She discusses the fight-flight-freeze response and explains how anxiety affects the brain. She also describes how anxiety medication works. She gives us a checklist to see if we would be at risk for anxiety.

In Chapter five, ‘Thinking Anxious Thoughts,’ she explains cognitive or mental manifestations of anxiety. She also touches upon rumination and overthinking. She then explains six common cognitive distortions like catastrophising, minimisation, over generalisation, all-or-nothing thinking, jumping to conclusions, and labelling and mislabelling. She draws upon the work of Dr Aaron T Beck and his book ‘Feeling good: The new mood therapy.’ Dr Burns pioneered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT.

In Chapter six, ‘Investigating irrational beliefs’, the author touches upon the work of Dr Martin Seligman, the American psychologist who is considered the father of the Positive Psychology movement. She quotes from his book ‘Learned Optimism: How to Change your Mind and your Life.’

Part Two of the book is called ‘When Anxiety Strikes’. Chapter seven, ‘Am I Having a Panic Attack’ describes what a panic attack is, how it may manifest, how to overcome it and deal with it.

Chapter eight or ‘Work, Work, Work’ is about workplace anxiety and how to cope with it. The author quotes from Brene Brown’s book ‘Daring greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead.’ Sonali Gupta writes about coping with anxiety at work.

Chapter nine is about ‘Taking a Mental health Sabbatical’. She talks about how to plan a mental health sabbatical when one experiences a burnout.

Chapter 10 ‘Too Wired and Too Tired’ talks about social media and setting digital boundaries. In Chapter 11, she talks about how social media is fuelling our anxiety. It is much-needed in today’s world when the boundaries between personal and professional lives keep blurring, and everyone is online 24/7.

In Chapter 12, she talks more about productivity guilt and ‘perfectionism, procrastination and anxiety’ She also explains imposter syndrome and errand paralysis. 

In Chapter 13, she talks about ‘Anxiety in Love.’ She talks about behaviour like ‘ghosting’, ‘orbiting’, ‘stashing’ and ‘breadcrumbing’ that result in anxiety for the parties involved.

In Chapter 14, ‘Connected Yet Disconnected,’ the author explains how in some cases, anxiety leads to loneliness and in others, loneliness leads to anxiety. She also talks about binge behaviour and offers a test to readers to check their binge behaviour.

In Chapter 15, ‘Social Anxiety is Real’, the author touches upon clinical psychologist Dr Ellen Hendriksen’s ‘How to be yourself: Quiet your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety.’ She explains the difference between social anxiety, introversion and shyness. She talks about the factors that increase the risk of social anxiety and explains social anxiety disorder and how to get help for it.

Part three of her book (Chapters 16 to 20) is about Managing Anxiety. Chapter 16 touches upon soothing rituals and how to use the five senses as a grounding ritual. She talks about behaviours that aggravate anxiety.

 In Chapter 17 or Pause Rituals, the author talks about the power of pause, journaling, reading, exercise, focused breathing and mindful meditation.

In Chapter 18, ‘How Therapy for Anxiety Works,’ she discusses anxiety from a therapist’s lens. She also talks about neuroplasticity, why it’s important, cognitive restructuring and cognitive techniques.

In Chapter 19, ‘Befriending your inner critic’, the author talks about tools to help us build self-compassion in our life. She quotes from Stanford-based psychologist Carol Dweck’s ‘Mindset: The new psychology of success.’

In her final chapter, Sonali Gupta writes about how to help others with their anxiety. This book is an important read, especially in the wake of the pandemic and all of us leading digital lives. It is set in an Indian context and serves as a go-to manual for anxious Indians, especially Gen Z and millennials.

On Writing

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been in love with the written word. That dates back to fourth grade because my memory seems to have blocked out life before that. Starting with ‘The Secret of the Burnt Cottage’ by Enid Blyton only to demolish library after library in the neighbourhood and devour all their books hungrily, I was, to put it mildly, a voracious reader.

As Stephen King famously said ‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that’.

I had, in my childhood, picked up some basic tools for my English essays. My teachers in Chennai, India, were delighted that my compositions were imaginative and conveyed concepts such as solar eclipses during which the sky went dark only to convince the ‘locals’ of the ‘tribe’ that the protagonist of my essay had supernatural powers (an idea inspired by Tintin), horses with wings and other mythical creatures.

From class nine onward, for a long time, however, I forsake reading for pleasure. I still don’t know how I let it happen. That took a heavy toll on my writing and should I say, identity. But for some sporadic reading, I didn’t read like I breathed. Which was what happened earlier. So life slowly began to ebb away from me, until I was a shell of my former self. In my quest to be a freelance feature writer, my writing lost all soul.

Now, 40, I have rediscovered the joys of reading. And writing. And editing. I feel like Voldemort who is getting stronger and stronger after drinking the unicorn’s blood, except that I’m on the good side. I would definitely choose Gryffindor if a sorting hat were to be placed over my head.

Four years ago, I was in Bangalore, India, at a café where a book event was being conducted. Yasmeen Premji, author of ‘Days of Gold and Sepia’, and wife of billionaire industrialist Azim Premji, was discussing her book. I’d been invited to the event and landed up with a copy of the book to get her autograph.

When I went up to her desk, she asked me whether I was a writer. I said I wasn’t sure. She was quick to say “Then, you most certainly are.”

I guess writing to me is like cycling. Once you learn to cycle, you don’t forget it. You get back on the bike and it gives you a sense of freedom as you propel the bike forward by pedaling. Similarly, writing about topics of my choice is cathartic. It sets free my spirit and strengthens my sense of self. I identify as a writer and editor. A published author has told me that I make a better editor than a writer, but the need to express myself never goes away. Call it my way of putting myself out there, my small way of trying to make a mark in this huge cosmos before we all become dust and return to the earth, the drive remains. The desire to get better at it remains. What I will make of myself remains to be seen. I may just continue to remain a small speck in this cosmos. But that’s okay too 🙂

My ‘Metamorphosis’ with Andaleeb Wajid

I had first met Andaleeb Wajid at a workshop for writers at Urban Solace – Café for the Soul, a wonderful haunt I used to frequent in Bangalore way back in March 2014. The workshop was called Metamorphosis and it was an opportunity for aspiring writers, the many wannabes among us to showcase our writing skills to her and the panel of published writers with her.

I’d gone because I’d co-written three chapters of a chick litt novel with a friend. Although I’m supposed to be the writer here, my friend had done all the sassy, witty bits and I’d done the sappy, ‘straight-from-the-heart’ (read: boring) ones. Once I reached the venue, I noticed a motley crew among which a former colleague of mine from The World Bank, Chennai, who was a good writer; a young Turk who was right then with India Syndicate, a company I had worked with earlier; Christina Daniels, author, who was hosting most of these events at Urban Solace and who had let me know of it; and Perry Menzies, gracious host and owner of Urban Solace and many others.

Several of them read out their manuscripts and I decided right there and then that mine was too frivolous to be read. So I didn’t read it. I had had the first three chapters ready! So much for self-confidence.

Cut to March 2017.

I finally downloaded Andaleeb’s book, ‘Blinkers Off’ on Kindle Unlimited.

It was about a young girl Noor, who is intelligent and self-conscious about her weight, who is making a documentary film about weddings in her film class, and who has to deal with a snooty bitchy bimbette, in what seems to be a love triangle. It’s all very innocent love, though, and seen through the eyes of a conservative Muslim girl. I loved it. The author is so sure of who she is.

After reading this book, I was motivated to write in my diary and wrote 26 pages, which are not for public consumption, since they are painfully honest and it wouldn’t be wise to reveal such vulnerabilities to this evil world. But what I’m trying to say is that the book inspired me to write.

Insight : I think, as a writer, one needs to be sure of oneself and only then one will have a voice. That has been my problem. I’ve been rather mixed –up so my voice has not been steady.

I don’t know if that was one of the things you intended to convey through your book, but I got that out of ‘Blinkers Off.

Thanks, Andaleeb, for the inspiration!

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