Does Radha Thomas really have Men on her Mind?

On 8 September 2013, I went to attend the book discussion of ‘Men on my mind’ by Radha Thomas at Urban Solace, Ulsoor. This was my second visit to this charming cafe that clearly lives up to its name. I’d been here earlier for the book discussion of “Days of Gold and Sepia’ and had the opportunity to interact with the author Yasmeen Premji then.

This time, I was even more excited ‘coz the genre ‘chick lit’ (that ‘Men on my mind’ falls into) is really close to my heart. As I firmly believe, the next best thing to sitting with a really close girlfriend and having a chat is reading a good chick lit novel. They fulfil the same need that lies at the heart and soul of every girl—the need for a BFF.

And reading ‘Men on my mind’ was a fun ride ‘coz every line made me want to laugh out loud and nod knowingly at the author even before I’d met her. The tone is wickedly funny and the book is light, breezy, hilarious, and fun.

Radha Thomas has led a rich life replete with unique experiences and has savoured a slice of different cultures across the globe. While she admits that some of the characters in her book may have been loosely based on the different men she’s come across during her travels, she is quick to add that none of these men seem to have realized that fact. She clarifies that the book is based on fantasy and the use of memories and incidents to tell a tale.

When asked “Do you believe that women always have men on their mind”? , she wisely answered:
“Well, that depends on your age. At some times in life, men matter more than at other times. When you are a little girl, they matter all the time.”

The idea for this book germinated when she was writing a column called ‘Between the sexes’ for The Bangalore Monthly to indulge in a bit of good-natured male bashing. Once she had written 10-20 pieces, she spoke to someone in Rupa publications and was told that rather than string together a series of columns, she would do well to write a book from scratch. Talking about the writing process, Radha says once she started writing, it all just flowed out.

Something you might not know—Radha planned to include a chapter on penis sizes in the book, but did not do it since she received feedback from the editor that it might be considered insensitive.

She had also planned to call the book ‘What women are really thinking of when they have sex’ before settling on ‘Men on my mind’.

‘Men on my mind’ is the first part of a trilogy commissioned by Rupa publications and Book 2 is on its way! Talking about Book 2(which is yet to be named) Radha says “I like it better ‘coz it just flew out of me. I took just a few months to write it. I sometimes had to grab slices of time between dinner and bedtime to write.”…. “I think the book’s funnier. The protagonist is more mature. At the age of 30-35, she is more real.”

Who are your favorite chick lit authors?
I’ve never really read chick lit and wasn’t aware it was a genre until my book was classified so. I think men should read this book. It’s not just for ‘chicks’!

Who are your favourite authors/literary influences?
I went through that teenage phase of reading Ayn Rand and Dostoevsky. I really like murder mysteries . Leon Uris is a great airplane read. William Safire and P.J. O’Rourke are great writers who play with words.

Meeting Radha was like a welcome breath of fresh air, and reading her book leaves you with the same feeling!

The Making of an Editor

The importance of good grammar has been underscored time and again by linguaphiles. How can you improve yours? What does it take to be a skilful editor?

A good command of the language is something you acquire quite naturally if you’ve been an avid reader. Constant exposure to the language, speaking it at home and with your friends, watching programs on television, listening to music, and watching movies—all definitely help you hone your skills in the language. But there’s more to it than that. You need to master the rules of grammar, starting from the parts of speech to rules of punctuation as outlined by style guides, such as The Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications or The Chicago Manual of Style, for instance.

When you combine the ability to spot ‘something odd’ about a sentence with your knowledge of grammar, what you have is a workable solution to help you fix the sentence.  Editing, in my opinion, can be as precise as a science, with very clear rules about what’s right and what’s not. But the beauty of language lies in its artistic appeal—the cadence of a well-written sentence can be lyrical. And this is not necessarily limited to novels, short stories, plays, or fiction.

A beautifully constructed sentence is a joy to read, even if it appears in business documentation or marketing collateral. In fact, a well-written brochure could persuade the reader into buying your product or solution, leading to better business outcomes for your company. What would definitely mar the impact of your brochure would be if it were riddled with grammatical errors, laced with faulty punctuation, and held together by only a string of facts.

A love for the language provides that spark, which when stoked, bursts into a consuming passion to write, edit, or otherwise ‘create’. If you are nodding enthusiastically as you read this, you know the (almost physical) pain you experience when you read a sentence that goes ‘He hung himself to death’ or ‘I have a news for you’.  Makes you want to hang yourself! 🙂

Employee engagement: How to reach out to your employees

In today’s competitive business scenario, organizations have learned that to stay ahead, they need to keep their employees motivated.  One of the ways in which they do this is through employee engagement initiatives. Engaged employees are productive, involved, and committed to the organization. They are not likely to be constantly on the lookout for better opportunities. When employees feel their contributions are valued, that their goals are aligned with the organization’s goals, and their needs in terms of pay, nature of work, and work atmosphere are met, they could become ambassadors for your company. And you can’t quite put a price on that.

The key to employee engagement lies in effective communication. Organizations that unlock the potential of their workforce are the ones that will ride the changes brought about by an uncertain economy.

Here are a few vehicles that organizations can use to engage with employees:

Newsletters: From wishing employees on their birthday to inviting them to take part in contests, from showcasing team achievements to recognizing meritorious employees, newsletters can be used for just about anything. Use them to talk about projects done in different teams and highlight successes. In very large organizations, this can give teams an insight into the kind of work done by other teams. Cross-team collaboration can be facilitated and best practices shared through this forum.


Blogs: Employees can be encouraged to share articles and stories or write about their participation in workshops or other fun activities organized by the company. Those who like expressing themselves through the written word can find an outlet for their creativity through this medium. It’s also an important knowledge-sharing platform where information pertaining to projects can be captured.


Social Media: Let’s face it. There’s no escaping social media, and from what reports indicate, no one really seems to want to. Facebook, Twitter, Yammer, and LinkedIn can be leveraged within organizations to start and build conversations. They are effective tools for idea generation and collaboration.


Podcasts/ YouTube: Short podcast videos of talks given by senior management could be an effective way to communicate organizational goals and the roadmap for the future. Employees could be encouraged to create educational podcasts or ‘fun’ podcasts to showcase their talent and creativity. Or they could go one step further and put up their videos on YouTube.


SlideShare: Presentations are the order of the day in every organization. A good practice would be to share this knowledge with all employees through a tool, such as Slideshare. Those presenting on various topics would be able to reach a wider audience if their presentation were to be captured and shared through SlideShare.


Electronic Direct Mailers (eDMs): eDMs reach the employees’ inbox and can be made attractive with graphics and images. Links can be embedded in them and employees can be urged to click on the links to take them to an external website or blog through a call to action. eDMs can be used to communicate management decisions or news from the top.


With the right mix of news, views, and interactivity through a wide variety of channels or vehicles, you could hit the right chord with your employees. Invest in your employees and your Return on Investment (ROI) would be loyalty and commitment, which would translate to better business outcomes.

Getting into the ‘writerly’ groove with Yasmeen Premji

Did something  new today. Went for a book club meet at Urban Solace@ Ulsoor Lake, Bangalore. My first ever book club meet.

It was a book reading session with a Q& A at the end, giving people an opportunity to interact with the writer.  ‘Days of Gold and Sepia’ by Yasmeen Premji was the book. I’m not a huge fan of Indian writing other than perhaps Indian chick litt, so left to myself, I might not have bought this book. I viewed this as an opportunity to experience a book club atmosphere and interact with like-minded people, learn something, and get into a ‘writerly’ groove. And I think I did the right thing. I bought the book from Landmark yesterday and wanted to get Yasmeen’s autograph. Of course, in the intervening one night, I couldn’t read the book. So I did the next best thing: Googled her:)

So when she stood next to me this morning, I recognized her. Currently, with no cable TV and living in my own cocoon, Google is my lifeline.

What interested me about her background was that she had studied psychology and was a writer. So I asked her when I got the opportunity whether her background in psychology helped her develop the characters in her novel, or whether it was her own personality that she drew inspiration from. She said most people take up psychology thinking it will help solve life’s problems, but only life can help in doing so, not the study of psychology, per se.

Another question I put forward was whether the fact that she had taken 20 years to write the novel altered things as far as character development was concerned since one grows so much in 20 years. She laughed it off saying she probably hasn’t grown that much. Since her book is more historical fiction than a memoir or a novel that draws heavily from her own life experiences, I guess this question wasn’t that relevant.

There was a lot of other discussion around editing and the characters in her book, which I won’t get into here since there are some things you’d just like to savor as your own memories of an event and wouldn’t want to publish on the worldwide web.

When I went to get her autograph, I requested her to write any message for me that she felt would be appropriate for me. She asked me whether I wanted to be/was a writer…I said ‘I’m not sure’….to which pat came the reply “Then you are”. I do hope these words are prophetic:)

On the whole, I enjoyed my first session and consider it a step in the right direction toward leading a ‘writerly’ life.

And I think it’s incidental that she is the wife of Azim Premji – Indian business tycoon and philanthropist, Chairman of Wipro Limited, and the third wealthiest Indian – because I believe every woman has her own identity.

In that sense, Yasmeen Premji is clearly an inspiration.

2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications (MSTP)

MSTP is a valuable resource for technical writers and editors. You can download it from this site:

It is listed there as MSTP.CHM

When you download it to your computer, it will be a zipped file.

When you unzip it and try to use it, if you see ‘Page not displayed’ or ‘Navigation to the web page was cancelled’, here’s what you do:

1. Right click the file and select ‘Properties’
2. Click Unblock

…And you have your handy reference manual.

Handy English Language Presentations

If you are a copy editor or English language expert who has been asked to give a presentation on English grammar, here’s a useful link for you. This link contains several English grammar presentations that you can use to “teach” your colleagues. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Homophones – What are they? A quick test to see where you stand.

According to Wikipedia, “A homophone is a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning. The words may be spelled the same, such as rose (flower) and rose (past tense of “rise”), or differently, such as carat, caret, and carrot, or to, two, and too. Homophones that are spelled the same are also both homographs and homonyms.”

Here’s a test. See how you fare.

Note: The person who has devised this test has called it homonyms, but according to the Wikipedia definition, these are homophones.

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