What people say when I tell them I’m an author

In workshops at schools, at literary events, festivals, interactions with writers, strangers and friends, I’ve met some really funny responses to the fact that I am a writer. The awkward conversation starts in a party or a hangout, when you chat to a stranger. Or when one is trying to get through immigration or getting a passport renewed. (shudders)

‘What do you do?’ someone asks jovially, a drink down. Heading for another. ‘I write,’ I answer with my winning smile.  Blank stare. ‘Books and articles and stuff,’ I try again. Blank stare. ‘I am an author,’ I venture. ‘An authorpreneur?’ I try again, my tongue doing Patanjali-trademarked yoga on the twisted word, desperate now, mentally kicking myself for paving in to the popular perception and respectability of the word ‘author’ rather than the more humdrum ‘writer’ which is how I see myself.

‘Oh,’ says the stranger.wpid-wp-1432640428580.jpg

What follows can be any of these responses and my response to it.


‘You know, I’ve always wanted to write a book.’

‘Great. Write it.’

‘I have an idea about a book.’

‘Great, write it.’

‘I wish I could write.’

‘Practice makes people perfect.’

‘Will you write a book for me? I have an idea.’

‘No. Ideas are like flies. They’re everywhere. Why don’t you go flush yours down the toilet? See where that leads you?’

 ‘Do you make any money?’


Oh, you mean like Chetan Bhagat?’

‘Yes. We both write fiction.’

‘Give me your book, I want to read it.’

‘I don’t carry my book, the same way you don’t carry a factory or the excel sheets you make at office all day long.’

‘Will I get a free copy?’

‘Sure. Can I drill your empty head and stuff it with empathy. Please?’

‘Oh. I need a signed copy.’

‘Great. Order a book, call me. I am always up for signing copies.’

‘Acha hai. You have to do something for time pass.’

‘I am rather fascinated to find the overflowing vat of idiocy behind that bushel of hair that grows so proudly on your head.’

‘Isn’t writing a hobby?’

‘It can be. I just do it all day long.’

‘Wow! So you will become famous like Chetan Bhagat and earn lots of money?’

‘Not really. Most of us don’t earn. It’s a silly profession. Work hard, get nothing. We have no idea why we do it. But we do. Kind of like being addicted to alcohol. Or cigarettes. Or coffee.’

‘Why don’t you make a movie out of it and earn lots of money?’

‘Did I say I was a director?’

‘I have this fascinating idea, which I think will make a really good movie.’ (From a hair stylist, cutting my hair)

‘Ok-ay. (politely, since I did want a nice haircut) Did I say I was a producer?’

‘You don’t look like one.’ (From a rather judgmental 11-year-old)

‘Oh. See my name on the tag of this literary festival? See the name on the book I’m holding? Can you even read?’

‘Oh, I am so jealous. You have an easy life. Sitting at home, making stories.’

‘Try it, will you? Please do. Practice by staring at a screen all day long, waiting to see if your brain will work and produce a publishable phrase.’

‘So how do you earn?’

‘I don’t earn from books. Period. I get my income, depending on mood, from selling peanuts on the road or stealing from overpaid MBAs, by hitting them with a running shoe.’

‘So you will get famous soon?’

‘One hopes, but no. Most authors don’t.’

‘Where can I buy it?’

‘Everywhere. Do you go to bookstores?’

‘Sorry, I don’t read.’

‘What a loss of a perfectly sound brain. Oh, wait…’

‘How was the response to your latest book?’ 

‘Umm. How many times have you had sex this week? This month? …year?’

‘Really? What’s the name of your book?’

‘Cult of Chaos.’


‘Let’s go get drunk. Please.’

(Hurries away to get a drink.)

Cross published in DailyO and YouthKiAwaaz.

Talking about Indian comics in London

I’ll be giving a talk on Indian comics at the Cartoon Museum in London later this week. This post is about how it happened. It’s a good story, do read it!

Early in May I attended a workshop on British comics, full of comic scholars in London, led by the marvellous Paul Williams from Exeter University. There I was, in bustling, sunshine-y London, closed off in a small room with twenty scholars, who had brought along old comics from the 40s, 50s, 60s, 80s – all decades really. We discussed on visual imagery in war comics, what British identity means, and many other important things. And I didn’t miss the outdoors, which says something about the comics, the activity and knowledge that these fabulous scholars presented there. But I digress. What happened in lunchtime is what led to the talk.



We munched on fried fish, aalo pakoras (you read it right), spring rolls and quinua salad in the pub while talking comics and then headed back to the Cartoon Museum, which is where this workshop was happening. It was a 10 minute walk. While walking back, I happened to accompany Anita O’Brien, the curator at Cartoon Museum and then of course it being comics, I started yapping about my love of comics and how there are so many talented artists doing fantastic things in India and how she should do something about it here in London. She told me she’d commissioned the World War I graphic novel with Campfire. I told her the artist, Lalit Sharma, was a good friend. We found out we knew more than a couple of other artists from the industry.

‘You should do something more on Indian comics here!’ I cried, my head buzzing with ideas.

‘Why don’t you do it?’ she asked, calmly.

‘Me? Do what?’

‘Talk about Indian comics,’ she said.

‘Oh,’ I said, rather eloquently.

And that’s how it happened. Before I knew it, I’d asked Jason Quinn to ask me the right questions in this talk, who was sweet enough to agree. We will talk about comics coming out from India, some of which we love, some which we don’t, swap tales, talk about my work and his and anything else we feel like really. We have the stage after all.

If you happen to be in London and would like to join in the joy ride, come over. It’s a free event and you’ll get to hear stories about comics. What can go wrong with that? All you need to do is register yourself by sending a tiny email to the Cartoon Museum at shop@cartoonmuseum.org to reserve a seat. It can be a sentence long, really. I don’t think they have a word limit to it.

Finally, the moral of the tale (for there’s always a moral): Always walk back from the pub and always yap about the things you love. 🙂

Hope to see you there!




The Skull Rosary in The Hindu (Tamil)

The Skull Rosary, a graphic retelling of Shiva’s darkest stories, whizzed past me in between the launch of The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong and completing Cult of Chaos. I couldn’t even tell my friends about it much, or think about how lovely the book turned out to be. I still quote it every now and then, because I experimented so much in that book and had such a great time creating it. (It also surprised me by winning a nomination for Best Writer in Comic Con India)

So it was great to be tagged to an article from King Viswa who writes for the Tamil edition of The Hindu. He compiled a list of top-ten graphic works in English and Tamil and claimed the graphic novel to be one of them. Over to him.


The Best of the best: 2014’s Top 10 Sequential – Digital Graphic Novels and Sequential Art


Dear ComiRades,

Last Year was a fantastic one. Was reading so many lovely books.

Continue reading “The Skull Rosary in The Hindu (Tamil)”

How the kind Appupen drew Anantya’s cover

CoC cover - final


This was just sent by Harper Collins team. It’s the cover of Anantya Tantrist’s first adventure in book format and I feel butterflies the size of dinosaurs in somewhere in the deep dark pits of my being. So I wanted to distract myself by telling you all a story. (For that’s what stories are for, no?) This one is the story of an incredible artist and his various kindnesses.

On a lazy Sunday a year ago, I headed to Leaping Windows (now unfortunately closed) with a twinkle in my eye. Two weeks before that, I had just finished reading one of the most amazing graphic novels in recent times, Moonward. I had stolen it from Jerry, who runs The Jam Hut in Hennur. My husband’s a drummer and I accompany him with a book sometimes. Much to my delight, that sunny day, I found a signed Moonward in Jerry’s little library. In it, I discovered the wise dragonfly I had first seen in the old Mojo’s pub off Residency Road.


Mojo’s was the pub I headed to in my first weekend in Bangalore. The only thing I remember of old Mojo’s with fondness (an otherwise seedy bar where you have to rub your eyes to see, get soggy popcorns and the loos always smelled of pee) were the frescoes done by Appupen aka George Mathen. His lovely frescoes, especially the artwork above, were the first thing that had made me feel part of the city I call my own now, Bangalore. ‘It’s the same artist,’ I exclaimed, touching the old, wise dragonfly guy.


Moonward turned out to be a similar journey of a creature in a fantasy world called Halahala, both marvellously witty and socially sharp. I hogged it in a day, delighted, thrilled and left with an unfinished feeling. So I went online looking for its creator and a copy for myself. After I hounded him over Facebook, George agreed to meet me to sign a copy of his works.

So the Sunday mentioned above happened. As I marvelled the frescoes George had  created at the little café in Indianagar, he  walked in, a kind fellow with a sparkle in his eye and a self-deprecating smile. He signed two copies of his Moonward  and Legends Of Halahala (one for me, one as a wedding gift for pals Thej and Anju) and then spend a whole hour with me, telling me tales of literary festivals, how he draws the spectacular graphic novels (by getting a bit high on mutton and other stuff) and how much he loves playing the drums (he was part of the popular Bangalore-based band Lounge Piranha). I heard his tales, full of wisdom and wit and laughed and giggled. A cup of coffee later, I realized it was more than an hour that we’d been chatting, that I had poured onto him ALL my hopes and fears  about publishing Anantya Tantrist‘s first book. Secretly, I so wanted him to draw her out but how does one ask such a favour from such a big artist? So I didn’t. I left instead because I had stranded a dear pregnant friend, forgotten all about her, while I was there, chatting with George. But being evil is worth it sometimes.

A few months happened and Harper Collins after a long haul said yes to publishing Anantya’s series. I was superbly happy. When my editor asked me who should do the cover, I knew, I knew I had to ask George then. So I did and crossed my fingers, because HC couldn’t pay that much to an artist like him!

But George, though he might say a vigourous no to being labeled with the the term, is super-kind. So he agreed to draw Anantya’s face, to recreate her as a goddess, as Kali. The result was completely different from what I had imagined and the brief I had doled out (and I am so thankful for that!). When I was writing Anantya Tantrist‘s book, I imagined her face and body and expressions in many, many ways. But it was never, ever like this. I was surprised, gutted, shocked when I saw Anantya drawn like this. And that’s the magic of George’s pen. His paintbrush slashed perceptions and prejudices and went to the very core, cutting Anantya to the bone. She would like that.

My heart is still beating, because I love it so much and can’t wait for reactions to Cult of Chaos, Anantya’s upcoming book in December. I am lucky to have found such kind people in the city I belong to now. Thanks, George, for your kindness to a stranger.

Connect with Appupen online on Facebook. George’s older art can be found on his personal Facebook page, here, here and even here. I highly recommend his latest graphic novel, Aspyrus  (Amazon // Flipkart) which is a fascinating exploration of silent comic.  

Teaching comics at Bookalore

Making comics is such a difficult task. I have always appreciated the dedication and the love of comics in artists that i meet every day online and offline. So it took me a while to say yes to the kind people at Bookalore when they suggested that I do a comics workshop in their July event for kids. I went back to the drawing board (my whiteboard in my study) and figured what to do with kids. How does one teach about making comics? As a writer that too? So I asked Bangalore-based, soft spoken artist Ojoswi Sur to join me in the workshop to give an artist’s perspective to kids.


It was all experimentation on our part. We loosely structured the workshop and decided to give the kids the basics of comic making (panels, balloons for dialogues, types) and gave them a chilling scene from The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong and see what they came up with. The results were surprising and so much fun! The kids huddled, discussed, wondered, had a nervous breakdown, scribbled, begged each other for erasers and mostly I hope had a grand time. Of course I had grossly underestimated the time they would need to make comics and given them a long scene (poor things), so none could complete the effort. But they did have a gala time and I requested them to complete the comics at home and email them to me. Hope some do.

Some pictures that my dear, dear Ashwani who always comes with me to workshops, took. Enjoy 🙂

If the pictures don’t open in your browser, see them on either of these links: Google+ or Facebook depending on your choice of network.

Comic fundas at Bookalore festival

Here it is #Bangalore. Have been roped in to give comic fundas to kids (9-13 yrs) in the upcoming Bookalore event by the amazingly sweet children books author Asha Nehemiah (whose sheer number of books can shame Jack and his tall beanstalks!). The workshop is all ready with a spine-tingling scene from The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong.  I will also talk about my experiences in creating comics, taking examples from Krishna Defender of Dharma and The Skull Rosary. Will be doing it with illustrator and artist, Ojoswi Sur (who was kind enough to say yes in such a tight schedule!)

Spread the word or come by if you have kids in the age groups of 9-13. Open to all.

1-Bookalore - July 2014 V2






The necessity to talk of things taboo

I recently went to Comic Con Mumbai to launch my graphic novel The Skull Rosary. The week before it was maddening; last minute edits, waiting, back and forth and the general nervousness before anything goes to press. The one thing that struck me, and struck me hard again and again was a sense of self-censorship that we as creators – me as a writer and Vivek Goel as an artist as well as the publisher of the book –  were applying to the book. We were all slightly scared, of putting out things that might offend. And in a book which was made to offend, we softened things that shouldn’t have been softened and loaded it with disclaimers. I bet we will still get some angry emails and posts and tweets. After all, self-righteousness is fashionable in the society.


Talking about transgression, or things that are taboo, that deviate from the norm is important today for us as creative people and for readers. Especially since we as a society are becoming so rigid, so unacceptable of other point of views recently. Upon just seeing The Skull Rosary’s summary, a journalist asked me if I wasn’t skeptical that this book and the way we portray Shiva and other deities will cause protests. Because protests by those who think their religion and moral stance is better than others’ is a done thing in our society and happening a little too often in our country. I answered yes, sure. Everytime some boundaries are breached, some people have a problem. You can’t help that. But as a storyteller I am willing to take the risk because stories have always been and will always be about questioning the status quo, to become a mirror to the society.

As a creative person, it’s not a choice for me to break boundaries. I write, I create because I want to break boundaries. I want to question the status quo, to force myself and the readers to look at our own filth, to touch it, gobble it, taste its grubbiness.  I feel it’s my duty to transgress in everything I create, to explore the darkness inside and outside of us. For if that doesn’t happen in stories, then how will change happen? How will we progress? Move onto something new? Become (if it’s possible) better?

The Skull Rosary for me was all about exploring taboo subjects. The idea behind all five of its stories, whether its dialogue or art was to break down boundaries, both of the story and of the graphic novel as a structure. Brahma’s fifth head explores the issue of incest and is written in verse form because rhythm touches the soul in a way language can never do. So you have poetry which was inspired by the Greek Furies in comic format. The blind demon is the story of Andhaka who is blind and consumes by the desire to see. What happens when you get consumed by a desire? When it eats you up whole? So much so that you can cross any boundary to get there? Prahlad’s dream even explores what happens when a god gets drunk with desire. Then there’s the Oedipal complex, where a son desires his mother. That’s in The Other Woman. In Goat Head, a king lets his daughter die because for him a status in society is more important. These stories explore our filth, our dirty secrets and our evil sides.

Shiva to me represents everything that’s taboo in our society. He teaches us to accept everything, even those in the fringes. He’s okay with murderers, thieves, sexual deviants, prostitutes. In other words he is the guy to go to if you are on the fringes of the society. And in a society that is shrinking in acceptance, more and more people are going to the fringes, to that which is considered unnatural, taboo or unacceptable. Hello, Section 377 anyone?

On another note, the novel I am writing currently is also feeling the pressure to be self-censored. In every sentence I write, the censor board in me tries to soften the crassness, the violence, the frustration, the expletives. Sometimes I bow to it, but mostly I try and ignore the moral police inside of me. As I keep hoping that we as a society will learn to do as well.

Revealed! The awesome cover of Skull Rosary



Finally I can talk about it 🙂 This is the main cover for my upcoming 100 page graphic novel The Skull Rosary done by acclaimed artists Lalit Kumar Sharma and Jagdish Kumar with colours by Holy Cow Entertainment’s own Yogesh R Pugaonkar. The cover is going to be launched as a poster in the upcoming Delhi Comic Con. As I have repeatedly said: I just can’t wait to see this book in my hands! 🙂

Krishna tweetathon

Krishna commands you to come out with all the weird questions about Krishna: Defender of Dharma and ask them on Twitter. I will be there as will be the talented artist of the graphic novel, Rajesh N (@rajeshcolors) and Campfire (@campfireindia) to talk about how we created this marvelous book. Join us at #krishnacampfire  tomorrow evening at 4.30pm.


Twitter POST copy

Me on Krishna

Made this video for Comic Con India where Krishna was announced. My first attempt at trying to make a video. Slightly embarrassed! Hope you can see the humour in it or well, you can always laugh at my horrid attempt of video making, can’t you? 🙂 Go on, see it!



Thanks to Uthara for working on this with me and pushing me to try a bit harder (am crazy lazy at retakes as she can tell you at length).