Report: Giant pandas at the Hugo Awards and other WorldCon updates

Last month, I was part of an invited delegation to Chengdu, China for the Worldcon. Played a dual role there. I was an author from India talking on panels about Indian science fiction. I also represented Locus Magazine (I work there, btw) covering the event, working on partnerships and selling t-shirts and pins at the stall.  

This is my second Worldcon and can I say, I’m hooked! This one was very different from the Dublin one that I attended. It was the first where a majority of the attendees didn’t speak English and the organisers provided translation devices and live translators to the audience. Here’s one example.

It was a glamorous event that made TV stars of all science fiction authors who attended (me included – I was interviewed multiple times by local news channels). There’s me with Meng, a local journalist from Go Chengdu channel who became a friend. I gave her a signed copy of Anantya Tantrist Mysteries.

As China had invited delegates from across the world, it felt truly global. It came with young, energetic attendees excited about everything science fiction.  A M A Z I N G! I’m working on a longer essay for the Locus magazine about how China’s worldcon might have shown the way to Worldcons are done. Leaving you all with some photos of authors, publishers and editors I met, hugged and saw giant pandas with – from around the world.

The glitzy Hugo Awards at WorldCon

Firstly, the glamourous Hugo Awards evening! Loved the stage, the performance of a talented Chinese fusion rock band and the enthusiastic audience. The local mayor of the city welcomed everyone. Quite liked the fact that politicians came on time, gave short speeches, were women, and moved on.

That’s me at the Hugo After Party. For some reason, only limited people were invited there and a lot of author friends couldn’t join us. The After Party also had a kungfu tea ceremony and dances. No photos though. Was too busy having fun.

Here am I with legendary Sheree Renee Thomas a writer/editor, and now I’m happy to say, a friend too. Below that is the sweet Neil Clarke, the editor-in-chief of Clarkesworld, who won the best magazine Hugo. That’s Vincent Docherty, a committee member of Glasgow Worldcon. He wore the tartan at the event to welcome everyone to Glasgow. It took him 40 minutes to get the dress up. (I asked.) Loved his attire.

The hectic mornings / afternoons and…

My mornings and afternoons were jam packed. Between travelling to locations as a tourist, to being at the WorldCon venue to woman the Locus stall, and meeting authors and delegations from across the world. It was wonderful, busy, mad. And evenings had some event or other. Again some photos as I want to write a detailed report after this. Starting with the absolute highlight of the event: its young, energetic fans. The WorldCon was kind of a mix between a ComicCon and the more literary (and older) WorldCon in the West. A trade show with literary panels on the side.

…the panda trips I squeezed in the middle

Chendgu is known for its giant pandas. Upon landing, I realised the organisers had already completed a panda tour. I couldn’t leave the city without seeing these lazy, amazing animals. So I found the tour operator, asked for other authors who wanted to see the giant panda and organised a new trip. Made a lot of friends thanks to my jugaad 🙂 And became ‘the author in yellow jacket with panda ears’. Here are some touristy photos of me. The second one with author/editor Mimi Mondal (who I finally met after years of chatting online) and an amazing artist from Italy.

Everywhere we went as tourists, we were followed by local paparazzi. I took a few photos of the hard workers who made us celebrities.

Chengdu was warm, friendly, and a lovely city. Such a surprise, considering I didn’t know much about it when I landed. I loved the people, their honesty, and their politeness. And I did go around on my own to test these things out. Also, tea! Did I mention tea ceremonies?

Guess the book above? Meanwhile, I’m signing off and am going to write that essay about Worldcons and how China has changed them forever. Wish me luck, peeps!

Announcing a wacky ecopunk for kids. And it’s hilarious!

Science fiction for kids

I’m terribly, awesomely excited to announce my new novel for kids! It’s a wacky ecopunk, sci-fi adventure and a book that’s so close to my heart. The idea of the book came as I made Lego garbage monsters with my nephew (then eight years old, now going 14. That’s how long books take to be made).

Two siblings take help from their mother’s cranky, wacky robot to fight against all freaks of the waste. It’s a whizzing, fizzing sci-fi climate adventure which will inspire kids (and adults) of all ages to become climate warriors, innovate and protect our environment. In stocks in your favourite indie store in 2-3 weeks.

At that time, it was just this amazingly cool dirt-fighting robot versus all those garbage monsters. But as I wrote it, the book also became a sibling story – of an older brother who wants to play by the rules and his younger sister who is a rebel. Even though they’re so different, Lila and Kabir remain together till the end. The book’s about fighting climate challenges together, as a family, a community, a people. I loved writing it and I hope it gives us hope and courage to face climate challenges head on.

Preorder now on Amazon and help this wacky sci-fi book become a bestseller. Or wait for your local indie bookseller to stock it and support them! Either way, do get it into the hands of a climate warrior.

What the ecopunk?

Wondering what’s ecopunk? It’s a new genre for a new generation of readers that combines environmentalism, science fiction and the punk culture. The stories written in the genre explore climate change, sustainability and human impact on the planet but emphasize on the resilience and determination of characters to create positive change and restore balance to the environment and save the planet. It’s optimistic climate fiction!

A wacky ecopunk sci-fi novel for kids

Pretty City is no longer pretty. Can Kungfu Aunty save it from the evil garbage monsters that rule it?

Trash Rajah, the dictator of Pretty City, has declared there should be piles of stinking garbage, unending pollution, foaming lakes and disgusting noxious creations everywhere. Trash Rajah and his garbage army need an endless supply of garbage to keep them alive—and the humans of Pretty City have to provide it.

But when their only playground is taken over by garbage monsters, Kabir and Lila decide enough is enough. With the help of their mother’s cranky creation, Kungfu Aunty, and armed with an array of cleaning weapons, they plan a rebellion against all freaks of the waste.

Will the siblings be able to save their playground and their city from the noxious armies of Trash Rajah? Find out in this whizzing, fizzing, exciting adventure story.

Order now on Amazon

Two stories, two translations: Kannada and Italian

Very happy to announce that my work has been translated to two different languages close to my heart. One is Kannada, spoken in the state I have been living in since the last decade (Karnataka, for readers who might not know) and the second is Italian, spoken in a shoe-shaped country obsessed like Indians with food.

Chuffed about my first translation to Kannada!

Bhaisaab’s Bespoke Brides Boutique is a hilarious short story where an Indian family goes to buy a custom-made, robotic bride. It was published in Kutuhali, a digital SF magazine by folks at Vigyan Prasar. Read in English on online magazine Antonym. For the Kannada version, go here.

Story translated for Italian anthology Kalicalypse

My award-winning short story The Daughter That Bleeds has been translated to Italian and will soon be published in an Italian-English anthology, Kalicalypse. Kalicalypse brings together recent stories of SF writers from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.

The Daughter That Bleeds the story of a man who goes to a market to sell his fertile daughter. I thought it was rather funny when I wrote it, but since then, I think it’s also hard hitting in ways I hadn’t imagined.

The spectacular cover of Kalicalypse.

A literary festival with students, book signing, pals and drumming

Last week, I was invited to the Alliance Literature Festival at the Alliance University. In any festival, it’s the conversation with people – readers, authors, attendees that remain with me.

At #ALF2022, I had a long-drawn conversation with fellow panellist and art historian Alka Pande, a softly spoken, reflective personality who told me how she started the India Habitat Centre’s art gallery. I have spent many an afternoon in that gallery and remember artwork that made me wonder and dream. So kudos and thanks, Alka, for all that hard work.

Comics and drums

I also hung out with exuberant graphic artist Pinaki De for the first time. A Kolkata maverick, the first thing he did was gave me a signed copy of his latest anthology #Longform which ensured that I’ll be a sworn loyalist to him. (Books are the best gifts folks!) Unfortunately, I had none for him. Pinaki and I were on a super-fun panel on comics with the witty George Mathen (popularly known by his pen name Appupen) where we discussed (how, gulp…) comics are an art form. It went well, considering half of the school kids left in the middle and the rest clapped after each sentence.

With Pinaki De and Appupen in one of the best panels I’ve been part of

If you don’t know by now, I’m a fangirl for Appupen’s work. Not only is he kind and witty – great, entertaining company – he’s also one of the best fantastical graphic artists in the country. I met him eight years ago after seeing marvellous frescoes in a Bangalore pub and chased him till he drew the covers for my Anantya Tantrist Mystery series. Those covers remain special for me still.

Backwards goes the buggy in literary festival

In the alleys of the festival and in a buggy, I hung out with two Mumbai-friends – ever supportive and prolific Kiran Manral and book debutant Anindita Ghose – both of whom are talented media women I’ve known online and about for years. The media buggy was completed with the formidable journalist Barkha Dutt who I shook hands with, quite formally I must say.

Kiran Manral,

Among the Bangalore literati crowd, quick hugs were given to many old friends with whom I didn’t take photos with. What’s the proof I hung out with them?

Festival Lesson: Make some friends.

About quitting a book and getting an award, all in the same week

This is a true story of how I almost quit writing my book and got a book award, all in the same week. Last month, I was on the verge of quitting the book I’ve been working on. I hyperventilated, panicked and thought about all the characters I would be leaving behind, the world that I’d be giving up on.

I’ll be honest. Since a few months, the book hasn’t been doing well. I had been struggling through a second draft, trying to get to know characters that refused to speak to me and scenes that I couldn’t put my heart into.

My book on science was a finalist in the AutHer Award 2022 in the children’s category

Instead of quitting, I decided to take a break.

Over the weekend, I met friends, went cycling to see the blooming spring, slept and had a wonderful time.

I also realised that it wasn’t the book that was bogging me down. It was my expectations from the work. I had been very ambitious with it – a new genre I’m working in. I had also bragged about this book to other people, so felt I was under pressure to deliver a certain kind of work.

The deeper I delved, the more I knew that I wasn’t in a bad relationship with the characters, but my expectations from them.

My ambitions, my desire to write a certain way, to even be a certain kind of a writer, held me back.

These were playing up constantly in my mind, increasing pressure and stress, and blocking natural creativity. I decided to quit the book, if I don’t stop being toxic to myself about it.

Surprisingly, the decision of quitting, if I can’t set my ambitions aside, set me free.

I was not panicked anymore. There was no one I wanted to deliver this book to. I knew I could quit anytime. Now, without expectations, I’m working on the book again.

Maybe it’ll never be finished or published, but for the first time, since a few months, I’m enjoying the characters, listening to them, going through their lives and scenes with a delight.

And a week later, I have two awards to prove to myself that I need to love what I write.

My book on Indian scientists, which I wrote without a plan and enjoyed thoroughly, has just won the Publishing Next Award 2021 and is a finalist in the AutHer Awards 2022.

The awards have given me confidence—much needed when you’re working in a silos—to continue to be true to my instincts. Write powerfully, emotionally and have fun in the art. Which is the message I would like to leave you all with today.

Even if you struggle, the upside might be just around the corner, so wait out the low periods, chuck out the voices in your head and write with your heart.

Have you faced an urge to quit the creative project you’re chiselling towards? Share your story with me, so we may support each other

(This blog is an excerpt from my monthly newsletter Dear Penpal, to support you in your creative journey with tips, opportunities, insights and inspirations. Subscribe or read the archives here. Or connect with me on InstagramTwitter or LinkedIn so we can grow our creative selves together.)

Science book won the Publishing Next Awards 2021

Eeeks! Last month it rained awards and I forgot to write about it here. My science book They Made What? They Found What? which shares stories of Indian inventions and discoveries, has won the Publishing Next Industry Awards 2021 for best book in children’s category. The eighth edition of the annual Awards were announced last month. The Awards were presented in 10 categories.

The same week that this book won an award, it was also a finalist in the Auther Awards 2022 (See the glamourous award night photographs here).

Children’s science book on Indian scientists won the Publishing Next Industry Awards 2021

About the book

In ‘They Made What?’, kids meet India’s brightest scientists and read all about their incredible, groundbreaking inventions in this first-of-its-kind book. Whereas, in ‘They Found What’, they are introduced to India’s brightest scientists and read about their incredible, groundbreaking discoveries. It’s a marvellous, fun to read, fact-filled science flipbook. Buy on Amazon.

About the award

Established in 2011, Publishing Next was conceived as a Goa-based conference where publishing professionals could come together and discuss threadbare the issues that they face at work, or in the industry they worked in. The Publishing Next Industry Awards were established in 2014, the only ones of their kind in India, were presented in 11 categories in 2020, and seek to reward innovation and leadership in the Indian book trade.

Finalist In AutHER Award 2022 For Children Lit

Very happy to announce that my book on Indian scientists, They Made What? They Found What? made it to the shortlist of AutHer Award 2022. It’s in the children literature category.

The award was announced at a glamorous evening in Taj Palace in Delhi. It was amazing to attend an event physically and meet and hug people whose work I had read and admired.

Put faces to names, say hello to old faces from my earlier life as a journalist in Delhi. I’m a writer who needs her own space, but I also love the energy and spark that meeting other people gives me. So here’s to physical events again!

I’d like to thank all the scientists who shared their stories with me and to all the fellow nominees at the #AutHerAwards function: Shabnam Minwalla (who won the award! congrats!), Paro Anand (such a hoot to be with!), Devika Rangachari, and Devika Cariappa (a fellow Bengalurean). Here’s a quirky video I made of the award night. Photos below. Have a laugh folks!

Shweta presents a quirkly video of the award night.

If you can’t see it, head to the Instagram post here and connect with me while there!

About the book

In ‘They Made What?’, kids meet India’s brightest scientists and read all about their incredible, groundbreaking inventions in this first-of-its-kind book. Whereas, in ‘They Found What’, they are introduced to India’s brightest scientists and read about their incredible, groundbreaking discoveries. It’s a marvellous, fun to read, fact-filled science flipbook. Buy on Amazon.

About the award

The AutHer Awards – a joint venture between JK Paper and The Times of India – is a celebration of women authors who have added value and creativity to the literary space. The jury considered books by women published in India between December 2020 and November 2021.

The chairs for the AutHer Awards jury consisted of poet, author, and lyricist Prasoon Joshi (Fiction), author, columnist, and former Indian diplomat Rajiv Dogra (Non-Fiction), translator Arunava Sinha (Debut), and author and poet Jerry Pinto (Children’s books).

Leaving you with some photos and media of the event (Scroll down)

AutHer Award 2021 was covered in all Times of India editions of Delhi and NCR

Coverage in the Times of India’s Delhi edition
Shweta Taneja and Jerry Pintoat the AutHer Awards 2022
All grins with author and judge Jerry Pinto (He was so entertaining on stage) at the AutHer Awards 2022
Grinning again with fellow nominee Paro Anand at the AutHer Awards 2022
Screen shot of the big screen at the event

You became my penpal thanks to two kids & what I learnt from them

Welcome! Dear Penpal is a fortnightly newsletter by me, Shweta Taneja, to support you in your creative journey with tips, opportunities, insights and inspirations. Subscribe or read the archives here.

Dear Penpal,

I have to tell you this story!

The name of my newsletter, ‘Dear Penpal’, came thanks to two inland letters that I wrote to two kids in two hospitals – one in India, one in Canada. I was lucky enough to write to them as I had just released a new book for kids and was asked to send them signed copies. I signed the books with a customary ‘Dear…’ and my squiggle signature.

I felt it lacked warmth, but most of all hope.

There was so much more I wanted to tell these two children. I wanted to tell them more about me, about life, about how being hopeful and happy is important to all of us. So, I fished through my office drawers, dived into a bag of things I have collected, to try and see what I could find.

And lo and behold, two inland letter cards popped out of my myriad magical collection. They were leftovers of a past workshop in a school where I had asked kids to write a letter to a ghost. (A fun workshop, dear penpal, is the best thing you can do to promote your book. For you remember it long after with a smile, even if two people bought your books.)

The two empty inland letters made me feel nostalgic. I remembered my teenage self in the 90s, when I would spend hours creating beautiful letters, personal, positive and sometimes pensive; long, handwritten letters that I would then post to my buddies. I had many and it kept me busy all through the summer.

Oh, the joy of writing letters to someone!

To tell them of all your secret fears, your little indiscretions, your aspirations and hopes. To daydream through the medium!

I wrote to these two pre-teen friends of mine, telling them about what penpals are.

I asked them – no begged them – to write back to me.

As soon as I posted the two books with the letters inside them, I wanted, selfishly desired, more of this pleasure. To find new penpals (that’s you, dear reader!), write about myself, about how hard my writing was, but how I kept at it, day in and day out.

And share the joy of completing something, or getting something published, of smelling a freshly minted book. Or to share small nothings. Little things that make life – well – worth living and truly wonderful.

Yes, I could probably do this on social media. But, you know it, don’t you?

It’s just not the same.

If you and me, would have met online on Instagram or Twitter, we would be in a hurry, two sort-of-friends waving a polite hello to each other, in the middle of the market as we’ve so many chores to complete, so many things to scroll through.

I’ll finish off my letter with a few links and one great news: Those two kids who I mentioned above? Both are going to write back to me.

Write back. On paper. Handwritten letters.

Every day, I’ve been going down to my letterbox and peeping into it, my heart filled with wonder, joy and excitement.

Sunday Sundry

  • History of inland letters in India: Read this charming essay about the history of inland letters in India by Ashok Kumar Bayanwala. A Gujarati gentleman who has researched on this and added his postal address at the end of the page, not his email.
  • Subscribe to Daak, a wonderful newsletter which sends you postcards in your inbox with bits and pieces of India’s history and culture. 
  • Find a penpal? Of course I Googled ‘Find a penpal’ and landed on Geek Girl Penpals which sorts pals by age (seems a bit ageist but I love the name of the site) and Global Pen Friends which sounds like a place I would like to begin finding a penpal to write to. Always wanted to write to someone in Chile. Hmm.
  • Space Operas rock! I’ve been reading more and more of space operas recently. Somehow between reading dystopia, completely missed it as a genre, except Star Wars. It’s so, well, filmy and I love it. For now, recommending the classic Culture series by Iain M. Banks.
  • If you can, please read this heart-wrenching, beautifully written account of getting covid-19 in a remote village in the Himalayas.

My Writing Joys

  • Triathlon on Mars, anyone? I’ve just signed a contract with a publisher for a new short SF story for kids! It’s about a triathlon on Mars. Oh yes. Loved writing the story. You’ll see it sometime next year.
  • A year in a new lockdown job. A year ago, in May 2020, I started a wonderful programme at Nature Conservation Foundation. Communicating about the joys of birds and nature to the public. It’s a perfect job for me – someone who loves birdwatching, people and thrives in finding new partners. It pays well, I have lovely colleagues and most of all, freedom to be creative. To do anything. Here’s to wonderful jobs one can find, serendipitously, due to the pandemic.
  • A laugh-out-tale about a robotic bride: An Indian family heads to a boutique in Delhi to look for a perfect robotic bride for their boy. Read my just released, hilarious science fiction story, for free on The Antonym magazine website.
How to make a penpal today and read a story on robotic brides

Dear Penpal, does sharing give you joy?

When you tell someone about your worries, does it become better for you? If you guide someone or give selfless advice about creating, does it make it feel better?

Be generous and keep chiselling!

P.S. If you like this newsletter and want to support it, you can:

1) Buy one of my books

2) Connect with me on Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn so we can grow our creative selves together.

3) Forward this newsletter to a friend with an invitation to subscribe right here:

You don’t need to be productive always to be creative

How you can deal with guilt when not being productive, how watching Korean dramas helps and a cool, free futuristic game you can play online.

Dear Penpal is a fortnightly newsletter by me, Shweta Taneja, to support you in your creative journey with tips, opportunities, insights and inspirations. Subscribe or read the archives here.

Dear Penpal,

How has your fortnight been? I’ve already become better.

When I wrote to you in April, I told you about the tough time I’ve been going through. Writing it brought me messages, emails and phone calls from a lot of you.

Most of these messages were like those unexpected gifts life gives you. I reconnected with a friend I hadn’t spoken to or thought of for years. A colleague who I had worked with a decade ago asked after me. I did a video call with an old friend, surprised that I hadn’t heard about the crazy upheaval her life had last year.

It was lovely to reconnect, to laugh and perhaps, grieve together.


Thanks to the pandemic, I’m regularly calling people I love, people I took for granted that they will remain in my life. My family, school mates, college mates, mates from different cities and professions that I’ve been lucky to travel through in life.

With Death creeping in to take from us, life has suddenly become valuable. I am thankful for the life I’ve led, for the conversations and the meals I’ve had with everyone, including you.

Countering nagging productivity prompts

All of April, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t think. My brain couldn’t process anything productive.

It was frustrating and I kept feeling guilty about it.

The other day, while scrolling one of the socials, I came across a well-meaning social post about Einstein who wrote part of his theories of relativity and motion under lockdown during Great Plague of London (the post was probably based on this article last year by The Washington Post).

The post suggested that you’re under lockdown, why not write your next novel? Why Netflix your time away? In other words, remember the guilt I mentioned?

I’ve put myself through pressure like this before.

Maybe you have too. Being the product of a data-based modern world that rewards productivity and efficiency, we all constantly feel guilty when we don’t produce things.

When I’m relaxing, or lazing or even daydreaming or reading – activities that I know help the brain create, think and get better ideas – there’s a nag in my brain that keeps countering these down times with productivity prompts. An author I know online wrote ten books a year! I should NOT take a break for I’ve produced only one. Another author has sold that many books. This one keeps doing events.

My society, peers and myself, perhaps even you, look at creativity as a productive machine that should produce more and more.

Put out new products in the market so we can get a good economic value for them (aka make them a bestseller). Isn’t that what success is for most of us?

Be over productive in creativity doesn’t always work

The truth is comparing productivity in creativity or forcing your brain through creative churns DOES NOT WORK.

We’re going through a tough time. Even if you are lucky to have health and money to sustain you, and a family that’s healthy too, you’re going through a seriously stressful time. Every day, you’re being exposed to media – relentlessly – on Whatsapp messages, on Twitter and Facebook and even in the news.

We’re scrolling through one tragedy after another, endlessly, without respite.

It’s okay to feel anxious and want to zone out.

It’s okay for you to give your brain some rest.

It’s okay to be selfish about this and NOT create things.

These letters to you are helping me, dear reader, find my creativity again. Find the creative activity that gives your brain rest, that sparks your creativity further. Don’t get bogged down by productivity expectations.

I bet Einstein never bothered to be productive at all times. And we don’t know about all the hard times he went through, all the daily failure and ridicule he faced in his scientific journey.

The story only has the rosy apple that fell from the tree.

Sundry Sunday

  • Play a futuristic, free game online: Play Survive the Century, a brand new, indie, free online game written by some fantastic science fiction writers out there including my friend Rajat Chaudhuri.
  • Surreal but dark read on Prague: I somehow tumbled into the surreal The Ultimate Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera which made me miss Prague. Save it for it’s beautiful, but don’t read it if you can’t do dark fiction right now.
  • Beautiful North-South Korea romance to watch: Talking of dark, I’ve become hooked to good, average and bad Korean shows on Netflix. (Thank you, Gunjan!) The old-fashioned, real love stories of hope are helping me navigate the dark times. Of course, beautiful boys always help. Highly recommend Crash Landing on You.

My Writing Joys

  • A laugh-out-tale about a robotic bride: An Indian family heads to a boutique in Delhi to look for a perfect robotic bride for their boy. Read my just released, hilarious science fiction story, for free on The Antonym magazine website.
  • A Live Session on National Technology Day: I did a Facebook Live Session on teaching science to kids with Professor Amit Agrawal from IIT-Bombay who is part of my flipbook on science They Made What? They Found What? It was an insightful panel hosted by Starmark Bookstores. See it here.
  • Hilarious Screen Time diktats: I’ve put Screen Time limits on all social and video apps on my phone. I was recently tossed out of my Instagram Live chat because time for Instagramming was up. Once at work, I was tossed out again. But I still use these limits. Still using them, as the blanking out of screens does kick me out of my scrolling daze.

Happy Flashback

I’m sitting in the dusty, but cuddly, indie bookstore Goobe Book Republic in Bangalore. This was a Sunday afternoon in early March. I signed a whole box full of my latest book to ship to people across the world. Finished it off with a three-way conversation over samosas and piping hot filter coffee with supportive spouse and Ravi, the owner of the bookstore.

Ahh, a perfect day.

A bookshop is my happy place

Is guilt a productivity motivator for you?

Do you feel guilty when not being productive? Do you compare yourself to other writers, other creative people, and constantly feel this need to be productive? To write more, to sell more, to be more? Does this push motivate you or bog you down?

I would love to hear how you do it, dear reader.

Signing off with a warm hug and positive energy towards you,


Release: New SF short on buying a robotic bride

Thrilled to announce the release of a weird new short science-fiction story written by me. Read Bhaisaab’s Bespoke Brides Boutique, a hilarious futuristic satire about a family going to a store to buy a custom-made robotic bride.

The story was inspired by a Delhi-based shop keeper and published in USA-based webzine, The Antonym.

An excerpt: How to select a robotic bride

“This is DesiBot Version 56.7, an advanced bot,” he looked at the father meaningfully, “of the one you have, sir.” The bride gleamed in a sari covered with silk sequins and dazzling glowpins. Mr Tripatti squinted.

“Pavitronic brain with a six-quad memory, knows all the religious texts by heart, is capable of making 5,000 plus ancient recipes and has a pleasing, accepting, adjustable personality.”

“What about her build?” asked Mr Tripatti.

“Same, sir, only updated. Titanium, rust-proof body, with thinner epidermis for humanskin-like touch.”

“What skin have you used for her breasts, womb and legs? Anything that my son touches needs to be desi,” interjected Mrs Tripatti.

“It’s pure like cow’s ghee only, madam,” Bhaisaab said, showing his teeth. He’d recently paid for an expensive set of teeth which copied the award-winning grin of Bollywood star Smiley Khan.

“Of course in this limited budget, you won’t be able to get a complete layer of desi epidermis-” His voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper, “-now if your family’s budget was to go up…”

Read the complete story, for free, here.

Liked what you read? Check out my other short stories, some of which you can read online. Or head to free reads on my website for excerpts from my works.