Event: A graphic reading party in Bangalore

A reading party, a rather modern phenomenon of people coming together and being introduced to a genre or to read together, silently, sitting in a pub or a cafe, is a wonderful idea. Which is why when Gathr approached me for this event, I was quite excited. It’s happening this Thursday in Bangalore. I will be doing a talk on my love of comics, showing people the books I have, read other people’s collection of graphic novels and mostly celebrate the Indian comics genre. I hope there are more reading parties like this, that people sign up for and more and more people pick up Indian-made comics. Come over, peeps, if comics are your kind of a thing.
Details

The fifth edition of our odd juxtaposition of reading and party finds us focusing on modern Indian graphic novels, a genre that is really finding its feet. We’ve curated a set of some of the most interesting new works available for your reading pleasure. Continue reading “Event: A graphic reading party in Bangalore”

The Matsya Curse is out for pre-order. Yay!

It’s called The Matsya Curse. And it’s here.

Am superbly thrilled to share the cover of my latest book with you all. Anantya Tantrist is back. And so is this adventure, which is crazier than the last one.  The cover’s been done by the wonderful, wonderful George Mathen. (Read about how I convinced him to do it here). And well, it’s out, it’s coming and I’m going gaga and have lost the art of writing a bit. On preorder now.

Tantrik detective Anantya Tantrist is back, smart-ass comments, dark mantras and all

In Banaras, Bhairava, a black tantrik, sets out to win control of life through mass murder, aided by an army of pretas. In Delhi, a tribal supernatural melts to death in a five-star hotel on the same night that an ancient demonologist is murdered. All this while, the government and the Central Association of Tantriks choose to look the other way and gods, demi-gods, immortals and rakshasas all join Bhairava’s army.

All that stands between the murdering bosses and the hapless masses is unofficial detective Anantya Tantrist, armed with a boneblade, a tote of mandalas and a cocky attitude. Just as she begins to see a pattern between a goddess selling art, a miracle-producing minister, an undead mob attacking a rock concert and her immortal friend throwing a tantrum, Anantya faces her most personal hell: her ex-boyfriend Neel has come back from the dead and is trying to kill her. He’s not the only one, of course. A powerful rakshasi wants her head, a pair of demi-gods wants her blood and the trolls are trying to squash her to pulp.

She cannot even sleep off the exhaustion, because each time she drops off, Bhairava invades her mind, trying to consume it. Join Anantya as she faces her most formidable enemy yet in the ultimate battle for her mind and her city.

“A remarkable tale,” says Anand Neelakanthan, author of Asura and Bahubali.  Please to pre-order and read.

Event: This Sunday, come over to Blossoms Book House

Of all the ones I’ve been to, Blossoms Book House is especially close to my heart. Maybe because it was in their vast collection on tantrism that I first came across the climax of my first book of Anantya Tantrist series – Cult of Chaos. I’ve spent hours in the bylanes of its fantasy and science fiction sections. Oh and don’t even get me started about the corner that houses the comics. The ideas I’ve found there, have fuelled a lot of my other books, including Anantya’s upcoming adventure, The Matsya Curse.

How important are bookstores for authors when it comes to inspiration and research? Did I really find ghosts and supernatural monsters in Blossoms Book House? I’ve been roped in by the lovely people at The Humming Tree and Book and Brews to do a session about my love for bookstores as part of The Book Shop Crawl on Sunday. I will tell you why, even though I voraciously read on my Kindle, bookstores remain important for me.  This Sunday. 2.30pm.

Even though the event is sold out, I’m allowing readers and those curious to sneak in to hear the stories. So come, peeps!

Event details

Should you write a romance bestseller?

Have you been tempted to write a romance bestseller lately? The other day, I was chatting to an author about how speculative fiction is such a hard-sell in India. (It’s the usual conversation between science fiction writers. There’s a handful of passionate us, and a handful of equally passionate readers. The others, don’t really care if it’s not mythology.) Immediately, I get a WMA (well-meaning advice):

“Write romance. It sells like hot cakes in winters.”

Umm. Frankly, all Indian writers, be it of any genre or creed, have thought about romance once in a while. After all, it’s the most selling genre in our country. I did seriously consider it for a second. I did!

And then I remembered, that the last romance I read and appreciated was between the Oankali, alien genetic engineers who  touches DNA in humans to have sex and a woman named Lilith. Author Octavia Butler‘s Lilith Brood gave me as many goosebumps as decades ago Sharukh Khan’s ‘palat’ in the movie Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge had done. And  I don’t read much romance myself, unless it has alien spit or monster claws involved. So I turned my eyes away from the temptation of writing that romance bestseller we all think we can write and decided to plod along on the current science fiction mess I’m in the middle of.

Should you write a romance bestseller?

Which is why when I came across this witty sketch by author Sarah Maclean over Twitter, I had to share it on my site. Sarah is a period romance writer based in New York. The flowchart tells you how to decide on whether you should write a romance novel or not. As I read it, I was ‘out’ in the first step itself. If you’re considering writing romance like me, due to a WMA given by another or by yourself, do read and go through this flowchart. You’ll figure out the truth, I promise!


Have you ever considered changing your genre and writing something else that is selling well nowadays, like mythology or romance? Do tell me the truth!

Natural ways to get rid of springtime allergy

The flowers are blooming, the grass is lush and green. The allergy season is here and some of us will start sniffling and coughing. “Spring brings with it flowers, fragrances and allergen pollen,” says Shikha Sharma, founder and managing director of Nutri-Health, a wellness clinic in New Delhi. When you come in contact with allergens, be it dust, smoke, pollen, pets dander, insect sting or even a strong smell, your immune system responds hyperactively, making you cough, sneeze or wheeze.

It’s the allergy season

“The irritating dry cough is difficult to control as it is a result of airway hyper-reactivity to allergens,” says Zafar Ahmad Iqbal, consultant, pulmonology, sleep and critical care, at the Fortis Hospital in Mohali. Throat allergies can lead to muscular chest pain, throat pain, wheezing and, in some cases, breathlessness and difficulty in swallowing. The best-case scenario is to pinpoint and avoid the allergen that triggers your cough, but this may not always be possible. “If it becomes severe or lasts for more than two weeks, it might not be allergic in nature,” says Dr Iqbal. “It could be bronchial asthma and you might need a doctor.” If you keep getting a sore throat, however, you should start gargling in the mornings with warm salt water to protect yourself in this season, suggests Sharma. “Gargling pulls out fluids from inflamed tissues in the throat, loosens thick mucous, and removes allergens, bacteria and virus from the throat,” says Sharma. As the mucous thins and the bacteria clears up, your throat will feel better. So before you ravage your body with another anti-allergen pill, try these natural ways to get rid of those constant wheezes.


Shy away from all things floral

Continue reading “Natural ways to get rid of springtime allergy”

How a hair oil brand inspired an Indian science fiction tale in 1896

While reading about early examples of Indian science fiction, I came across a wonderful scholarly tale of how Jagadish Chandra Bose, a physicist and science fiction writer in India in late 19th century, wrote a bilingual science-fiction inspired by a hair oil brand. The article, written by scholars Anil Menon and Vandana Singh, who also write speculative fiction (here and here), has names of  various other writers who wrote science fiction in late 19th and early 20th centuries. Using it on my website with due permission from Anil and with a lot of glee.

 


We have chosen two stories—one by Jagadish Chandra Bose (1858-1937), the other by Naiyer Masud (1936—)—not as representatives of Indian speculative fiction but as interesting instances of the genre. Bose’s story is indicative of a special period in the subcontinent’s history and we finally had an excellent translation to work with. We chose Masud’s story because it is a wonderful story.

Of course when the range includes seventeen-odd languages over some hundred and fifty years of scribbling (two thousand plus, if mythic fiction is included), these two choices are more or less equivalent to two hands raised in surrender. We were tempted by the first south-Asian short story in English, Kylas Chunder Dutt’s “A Journal of 48 Hours In The Year 1945” (1835), Shoshee Chunder Dutt’s “Republic of Orissa: Annals From The Pages Of The Twentieth Century” (1845), V. K. Nayanar’s “Dwaraka” (1892), Sarath Kumar Ghosh’s Prince of Destiny (1909), Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain’s much-reprinted “Sultana’s Dream” (1905), Rajshekar Bose’s Ulat Puran (1925), the satirical Hindi SF of Harishankar Parsai, the Tamil pulp SF of ‘Sujatha’ Rangarajan, Premendra Mitra’s whimsical Bangla tales, and the eerily postmodern folktales recorded in A. K. Ramanujan’s anthologies. We could just as easily have picked Manoj Das’s “Sharma and the Wonderful Lump” (1973), Bibas Sen’s “Zero-Sum Game” (1994), Manek Mistry’s “Stories of the Alien Invasion” (2007), or one of Kuzhali Manickavel’s short stories. We had to sidestep one of the most talked-about works this year, Shovon Chowdhury’s alternate history The Competent Authority (2013). Ultimately, we chose Bose and Masud.

Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose—the “Acharya” means teacher—pioneered research in electromagnetic waves and biophysics, and invented and built instruments of astonishing precision and delicacy to measure plant development. He probably would have been a brilliant polymath in any age, but the colonial time in which he lived and his courageous response to its constraints made him once-in-a-generation scientist. In 1896, Bose wrote a bilingual science-fiction story, “Nirrudeshar Kahini” (The Story of the Missing). The main narrative is in Bangla, but the embedded scientific material is in English. The story is about a man who calms a storm at sea by pouring a bottle of hair oil on the troubled waters.

Hair oil? Continue reading “How a hair oil brand inspired an Indian science fiction tale in 1896”

Report a bribe or file an RTI – All through your phone

If you wish to be involved with the process of your government, as any citizen should, you do not necessarily need to wait for the UMANG app. There are already many apps that allow you to ask questions, offer suggestions and get involved in government initiatives. Till the government comes out with UMANG, we suggest a few other apps you can try.

Participate in policymaking

Are you very vocal about government policies? If yes, head to MyGov (free on Google Play, Mygov.in), an online portal of the Union government where different departments seek suggestions and advice. Over the last year, the site saw discussion on ideas such as simultaneous elections and open data use licence and invited suggestions on a draft policy note on value capture finance. It also allows you to take part in logo-making and design competitions. If you want the Prime Minister to talk about an issue on his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ show, you can give your ideas on this site. So just log in and air your ideas.

Since its launch, the app has seen more than 500,000 downloads, though it is a bit slow to load and hasn’t been updated since 2015. The website offers the best experience.

File an RTI

Continue reading “Report a bribe or file an RTI – All through your phone”

Looking at speculative fiction beyond mythology

Is speculative fiction beyond mythology possible in the literature coming out from our country? Till now, most of the speculative fiction that has come out of the country (even mine) has been heavily inspired or uses characters from our rich Hindu mythology. I take the topic head on in this talk at the LitFestX. This video is from 2015, so a little dated and since I’ve spoken there, there has been a lot of amazing books that have come out in the genre, but I’m adding it now because frankly, at that time, I lost track of things and never added this in my blog. See if you’re interested in hearing my thoughts on the topic. Have thoughts, disagree? Add to the comments below.

Must-have sports apps for sports lovers

Whether it’s finding a sports partner or places to play, your phone has it covered with smart sports apps. During college, Gururaj Upadhya was a badminton champion. But once he started working, he left sports behind. “After 10 years of work, I wanted to pursue badminton again,” says the 37-year-old chartered accountant from Bengaluru. Expensive club memberships would have been a waste, given that he was travelling a lot. This is when he came across Playo, an app that connects people who play sports. He not only found sports mates but also badminton courts he could book at an hourly rate. Upadhya now plays four times a week, hosts badminton matches and runs a 70-people badminton group within the app.

If, like Upadhya, you want to follow your passion for sports, here are some apps that can help you find a place and/or a partner.

Spyn

Continue reading “Must-have sports apps for sports lovers”

Slavery in India and how it compares to the world

While browsing the layers that is the internet, I came across Global Slavery Index and found the facts that they’d written about India after research quite intriguing. There are lots of little nuggets there to mull over and think about various ways we ignore, encourage and are okay with slavery in our country. I had hoped this is not true, that it’s fiction, or something that can come under my Tall Tales section, but unfortunately, that is not to be. An excerpt from the report.


How many people are in modern slavery in India?

India is undergoing a remarkable ‘triple transition’, in which economic growth is both driving and is being affected by rapid social and political change. Economic growth has rapidly transformed the country over the past 20 years, including the creation of a burgeoning middle-class. In 1993, some 45 percent of the population were living in poverty; by 2011 that had been reduced to 21 percent.  In addition to economic growth, ambitious programmes of legal and social reform are being undertaken right across the board, from regulation of labour relations to systems of social insurance for the most vulnerable.

Even with such remarkable change, given India has a population of more than 1.3 billion people, there are still at least 270 million people living on less than US$1.90 per day. While laws, systems and attitudes regarding key ‘fault lines’ such as the caste system, gender and feudalism are rapidly changing, social change of this depth and scale necessarily takes time. In this context, it is perhaps unsurprising that existing research suggests that all forms of modern slavery continue to exist in India, including intergenerational bonded labour, forced child labour, commercial sexual exploitation, forced begging, forced recruitment into nonstate armed groups and forced marriage. (bold is mine)

…The survey data suggest that there are more than 18 million people or 1.4 percent of the total population, who are living in conditions of modern slavery in India. Industries implicated in the survey data include domestic work, the construction and sex industries, agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, manual labour, and forced begging.

Bonded labour

While bonded labour has been outlawed for decades, survey data and pre-existing research confirms that this practice still persists. Narratives available from 2016 survey respondents identify that some respondents perceived their situation to be one of bonded labour, some of which is inter-generational:

“Sir, it is the sin of my father that I have to repay the debts unless I shall have to beg. I have a threat against my family. I am prone to physical violence everyday.” (Survey respondent, 2016)

“This is an old disease in the village that if you are not able to pay off your debts you will have to work as a bonded labor in the field of a powerful person. My husband was employed far from the village so that he can not run away.” (Survey respondent, 2016)

In other cases, it appeared that bonded labour reflected debt lending practices and continuation of a feudal mindset:

“There are many people in the village who were working with me as a bonded labor. I was physically and sexually assaulted when I was working in the field. I had also threat on my life and on my family. I was also threatened that I had to leave the village.” (Survey respondent, 2016)

“It’s very common in this village that we have to work for repay the amount, our family borrowed. I was one of them. My motto was just repay the amount as soon as I could. They threatened to evict us from our homeland, shown their anger if I denied to perform any task. Sometimes the consequence extended to my family and they used physical torture in several time.” (Survey respondent, 2016).

Bonded labour is not only illegal, research confirms that it has serious negative health impacts for those affected, who typically work in unsanitary and dangerous working conditions with no access to health care.

Domestic service

Examples of forced labour of domestic workers were described by survey respondents. While not all domestic workers are abused, domestic workers are a particularly vulnerable group as work takes place in private homes and largely out of the reach of regulation. Official figures in India suggest that there are more than 4.2 million men, women and children working as cooks, cleaners, drivers, gardeners and caregivers across the country. These estimates are from 2004 and experts suggest that there may be many more workers unaccounted for in these statistics…. It is reported that girls as young as ten continue to be hired in private homes.Domestic workers can be subject to threats of and actual physical violence and in, some cases, sexual abuse.

“You are well aware that if a young lady works as a domestic servant she is always a soft target of being easily molested. So with me. I have not paid a single amount and in the name of debt I was made a victim of the sexual violence.” (Survey respondent, 2016)

Forced begging

Street begging by adults and children is a prominent feature of many Indian cities. Though many beggars do so out of economic desperation, survey data confirms that criminals also force people to beg:

“Though I am begging I am not paid a single amount. I have to deposit all to them. I am deprived of food and good sleep. I am not paid my wages only working as a bonded labor.” (Survey respondent, 2016)

“I was forced to do begging and still begging with the others…I cant say anything to you because I am in constant fear. I am threatened by my employer not to open my mouth to anybody otherwise I will be punished severely.” (Survey respondent, 2016)

Commercial sexual exploitation

Existing research and the 2016 survey data confirm the existence of forced prostitution. As one survey respondent said:

“My wife is kept in the locked room and sexually harassed and being forced to work as a prostitute. She is physically punished whenever she refuse to have sex. My family is under death threat. We are also threatened of legal action against us.” (Survey respondent, 2016)

Another reported:

“I was forced to work in the flesh trade… Can you imagine that I kept in a locked room for the whole day when I refused to work under pressure? It is because they had always threatened me and my family for physical violence and tortured.” (Survey respondent, 2016).

Existing National Crime Records Bureau data indicate there were almost 5,500 cases across India under existing human trafficking laws in 2014. As the law does not differentiate between human trafficking and sex work, and there are no formal guidelines on who is identified in rescue and raid situations, it is impossible to know if every one of these cases involved force or children, or whether some were simply cases of economic survival.


This is just a little bit of the report. Read it here completely. Think, ponder, try and change.