It gives me a thrill to announce the launch of Anantya Tantrist‘s third adventure, The Rakta Queen, yet another rollercoaster dive into the supernatural underworld of Delhi.
Anantya Tantrist is all that stands between Delhi and the forces of darkness.
A Kaula tantrik is brutally murdered by his chandaali slave. The same night, a group of university students lose their minds and perform an orchestrated orgy in front of the Vidhan Sabha metro station. To get to the truth, Anantya Tantrist, unofficial consultant with the Central Bureau of Investigation, must navigate her way past muderous sorcerers, deadly chandaalis, an underground betting scam run by jinns, and a renegade aghori teacher.
There’s a djinn that lives next to the Feroz Shah Kotla cricket stadium in Delhi. His name is Laat Waale Baba (The Pillar Saint) and he’s older than the stadium and older than the British rule. Some whisper he’s even older than the city-fort which was built by Sultan Feroz Shah Tuglaq in 1356, after whom the stadium is named. Laat Waale and his assistants, thousands of other minor djinns, live in the skeletons of the once royal city. And they live royal lives. For they get a heap of letters and coins and prayers and fruits and sweets from worshippers every week.
Come Thursday, be it sweltering hot or bone-chilling cold, hundreds of worshippers gather around the Minar-e-Zarreen, a 13.1 meter high, polished sandstone pillar that stands in the middle of the ruins. The pillar, which is believed to be the pathway for the djinn and his minor army, is surrounded by a protecting grill put up by the Archeological Survey of India who maintain the Tuglaq ruins. The worshippers stretch their arms through the grill, futilely to try and touch the pillar, their hands full of letters, photocopies and hope. After the trial to touch, they kiss the grill and tie up these letters, full of prayers. They even bring photocopies and photographs so they can post multiple letters to multiple minor djinns in case one of them is not heard. All letters are full of prayers and pleadings, asking for a wish or hoping the senior djinn or one of the minor ones will help them in matters of the heart, or marriage, of wealth or of health. Some even bring their possessed relatives for exorcism in ruined caverns with bats hanging upside down in the dampness, witnessing the thrashings and shrieks.
A worshipper whispered to me that a hundred years ago, under the British rule, these ruins were haunted by ghosts and pretas and thugs and tantrics and dogs and bats and the Pillar djinn wasn’t a saint. He turned into one post Independence when partition changed the dynamics of the capital city. That’s when, people, maddened by grief of what humans could do to other humans, left with no hope and no other saints or gods, crawled to the ruins, clutching letters of hope. They turned to djinns when they saw the worse in human nature. For they hoped that djinns, who according to Islamic mythology live for centuries and are made of smokeless fire, might know something about life and dignity that humans forget. Continue reading “The djinn-saints of Delhi”
There may be no escape from air pollution in most metros but you could at least try to boost your immunity levels.
The link between air quality and health is direct and immediate. Last year, the World Health Organization declared Delhi to be the world’s most polluted city.
A study published in the Atmospheric Pollution Research journal in February 2014, which looked at the number of cases of cardiovascular mortality, respiratory mortality and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease cases in Delhi hospitals, found that from 1991-2010, the mortality rate attributed to air pollution had increased by 100% in the Capital. “Fifteen per cent of total deaths in the NCR (National Capital Region) are air pollution-related mortalities,” says Ajay Singh Nagpure of the University of Minnesota, US, the main author of this study, on email. “You need to check pollution levels in the area before doing any outdoor activity, including exercise.” Continue reading “How to fortify your lungs against air pollution”
‘You’re everywhere,’ cried a guy who came to three of my Meetups in Delhi over the same weekend. Yes, I was. Two weeks in Delhi and I wanted to meet, chat and listen in to what the crowd in the capital city was reading. What kind of book was it buying and what kind of writing was it pondering on. And I wanted to tell them about my book, my writing experiences and the crazies I’d learnt.
So I met four different book clubs, did a lecture at Jesus and Mary College and at National Institute of Fashion Technology and mostly met all ages of people and had a ball. Plus discovered that I’m sticking to running for fitness on my own. (Thanks Kay, for that!) But it was fun, to meet all kinds of people in Delhi. The kinds who read books, the kinds who write them, the ones who sell them or publish or market them and the ones who love to talk about books without really sitting cozily with one. Here are the kind of people I met in Delhi’s book clubs.
The curious kinds
They are the ones that come to meetings/gatherings to listen in. They’re usually open to ideas, exchanging information, helpful, impressionable and actually hear things you might be saying (reason you have to stop saying vague things you’ve been saying all your life). They want to know you, your book, as well as how you wrote it. They have a lot of questions and are open to ideas.
The gifting types
The whole reason they’re there at the meeting or gathering or panel or even your own book launch is to come up to you and give you their own work. A signed copy of their work or an excerpt. That’s it. They’re not there to listen or even to talk or to read, but to promote their own written work. Well, I appreciate gifts in any form, especially books!
The selfie hogs
Oh yeah, they’ve attacked the book clubs too. They won’t buy your book (probably don’t buy any books really), but would want to get a photo of themselves with you to post online and boast and who knows what else?
The excuse types
They feel slightly guilty at coming at a do without picking up the author’s book. (Perfectly okay, since you might not actually like the said book) But the excuse-breed, gives you reasons why they’re not picking up your book. Reasons like ‘I don’t have money today. I will order it online.’ or ‘It’s cheaper online. I’ll order it there.’ Or they’ll just smile, and sneak out without saying bye. Even though they had the most questions in the session.
They are the kings and queens of the world. They already know everything, even though they’re attending a writers’ session. They come loaded with preconceived notions about the writing, publishing and marketing process (having not gone through it). Their questions are usually hidden assumptions, pandering to a need to be proven right. ‘You put the ‘Mature readers’ cover to sell the book, right?’ ‘You have a connection in the industry right?’ ‘It must be easier to sell a book if you’re a girl/boy/drag queen/naked.’ Oh, and they never buy the book.
The ones who feel nothing is right in the industry of writing and publishing. No one buys books, no one publishes the right kind of books. No one is sensible out there. Someone should buy Indian author books, someone should publish amazing books, someone should. And no, they don’t buy the book either.
Oh, well. It’s Delhi after all. 🙂 Here are a few photos of the various thingummies I did.
Know of any other Delhi book-reading kinds? Type away below.
Super duper excitement happened while I was in Delhi. First of all, I saw spring come into the city after six years. It’s fabulous, by the way, that end of winters before they crash into the searing hot summers of the city. The city was blushing and blooming with colours all over, Fall tussling with Spring. And I can vouch for it, for was driving from one end of the city to the other, meeting people, signing books, talking about the art and craft of writing books (knowledgeably at that!).
RJ Ginnie who is the superstar host of the show Suno Na Dilli over at Radio City 91.1 has this to-die-for-voice. In real life, she’s chilled out, friendly and an efficient producer who rocks her studio without any assistant. This was the first time I’d entered a studio and I was so excited. It’s been a secret dream for me, to be an RJ since AGES. So secret that I didn’t even remember it, till I entered the space. We tested and then crashed onto a single take of the whole show. And here’s what happened. (Disclaimer: Keep volume low for the rather screechy voice. No choice there!)
Post the recording, Ginnie was fascinated by my rather non-authorly behaviour (jumping around, gleefully) when I asked her to click a few pictures of me. But they’re worth it, aren’t they? And she didn’t mind too much, else she wouldn’t have agreed to come to my book launch later in Delhi, where we had an energetic discussion on everything tantrism and Anantya Tantrist. Before the launch, she’d completed the book and loved it too! (Thanks girl, you rock!)
The second radio interview happened at Radio One, 94.3FM with RJ Chris. She’s a darling, soft spoken, genuine and we spoke at length about death. There has been a recent death in the family and we wondered together why we as kids are taught how to dress up, how to cope with homework but not something at nuts as death, which lingers all around us always. But the interview itself is not so dark. It’s about Makaibari tea, my favouritest in the world (I stole a little of it from my friend Kay, after my stash got over) and about why I’m so fascinated by tantrism. Check it out below.
Super duper excitement happened while I was in Delhi. First of all, I saw spring come alive in the city after six years. It’s fabulous, by the way, that end of winters before they crash into the searing hot summers. The city was blushing and blooming with colours all over, Fall tussling with Spring. And I can vouch for it, for was driving from one end of the city to the other, meeting people, making new friends, signing books, talking about the art and craft of writing books (knowledgeably at that!).
The end of my Delhi trip was with a formal launch of Cult of Chaos, which HarperCollins organised in association with Oxford Bookstore and QuizCraft Global. The idea was the same as the launch in Bangalore a month before: a quiz on everything paranormal and supernatural and then a discussion about Cult of Chaos. About 70 people turned up. The house was full, more were standing in the aisles, including me and it was a young bustling, energetic crowd, with a few kids. Manasi, an editor from HarperCollins introduced the book beautifully. Sidhartha, the handsome bloke from QuizCraft offered a rocking quiz to attendees. RJ Ginnie, who kindly accepted my request to do a discussion and ask me probing questions, made the talk about the book so much fun. Most of them who attended had a good time (and told me it wasn’t a boring book launch. Including a few peeps from HarperCollins). So see, heaven had been achieved.
Except it wasn’t just that. A lot of the people who turned up were from my school, college, post grad, ex-office pals and family. For me, more than a launch, it turned out to be a series of reunions with old friends, swapping notes, hugging, crying a bit. They were all there for me, proud, excited, supportive. Wow. Am touched, out of words, giddy and rather exhausted. So here’s all the madness. In photos and comments as usual.
Since I don’t really remember much of the event myself, here’s what two literature students who were there at the quiz and stayed till the end, thought about it. They interviewed me post the event and wrote for a really nice website called ReadersClubDelhi.Com. They were well prepared with a tight questionnaire, so check out the video below if you want to see me fumble and skirt difficult questions.
Oxford Bookstore CP and Harper Collins India in association with Quizcraft Global organized a quiz – Witches and Vamps : a quiz on paranormal crime on 28th March to celebrate the launch of the novel Cult of Chaos, a tantrik thriller by Shweta Taneja.
The event began at 3:20pm with an introduction by Mansi, editor at Harper Collins and was taken over by Siddharta Gopati, the quizmaster for the day. There were sixteen teams and three rounds – written, audio-visual and still image.
The questions were thrilling and the atmosphere electric. Written round included a few questions from Cult of Chaos among the other questions. Audio-visual round was an out of the world experience with short video clips of movies like The Conjuring and The Exorcism of Emily Rose being played to be identified by the teams.
The quiz ended at a thrilling note and left the participants awestruck and yearning for more.
Manjulika’s angel, The Reluctant Quizers and SFF were the round winners. Sawalon Se Darne Walewon the overall quiz. All of them were awarded the prizes by none other than Shweta Taneja.
After the distribution of prizes, the author was in conversation with Ginny about her book The Cult of Chaos. Here is a small excerpt from the conversation –
Ginny: As we know The Cult of Chaos is a fantasy, what was your research and preparation for the book?
Shweta: I did my best research and tried to keep the book as indigenous as possible. I read sixty books on tantrism, asked people about their experiences and folk stories. The blood of my book is Indian, unlike the western magic world fantasies.
After the conversation, the floor was open to questions and an interesting assortment of questions was thrown at the author to which Taneja answered with smiles and incredulity. More serious questions regarding her novel and protagonist were also asked.
A stunning quiz, interesting discussions and a few laughs and smiles, the evening came to an end. Check out an interview with the author.
Would you like the supernatural quiz in your city? Contact me!
There will be a quiz on everything paranormal and supernatural. There will be freebies like blade-shaped bookmarks and giveaways and book prizes and snacks and laughter during the event. I confidently promise it’s going to be a blast. As much as the book is. So just come over!
Oxford Bookstore and HarperCollins
WITCHES AND VAMPS
A QUIZ ON PARANORMAL CRIME
to celebrate Shweta Taneja’s
CULT OF CHAOS
an Anantya Tantrist mystery
Think you know your supernatural sleuths?
To celebrate the launch of Cult of Chaos, the first book in the Anantya Tantrist detective series, author Shweta Taneja takes you on a dark mission through detective thrillers, supernatural mysteries and investigators who dabble with devilish crime. So brush up on popular occult shows, comics and books and get ready to stun her with your psychic best. The duel is on!
For all ages.
DAY: 28th March
TIME: 3pm – 5pm
VENUE: Oxford bookstore, Connaught Place, Delhi
A quiz so scary, we had to have it in broad daylight
Many a times, when you write, you don’t really know why you’re writing this particular story and what it is that you want to say or experience through it. It’s instinctive, this desire to write a story. Which is why I was quite surprised to get to know something about me recently.
I’ve been talking to the media and the industry about the upcoming launch of Anantya Tantrist’s first book, Cult of Chaos. So when Tehelka‘s associate editor Sabin, wrote to me to make Anantya part of their cover story on women’s safety in Delhi, I said yes.
Little did I know what I would figure out from that interview. While answering questions, I realised how much I have lived in fear of being molested/raped/kidnapped while growing up in Delhi. I’ve carried this fear on my back, like a corpse, it has slowed me down, stressed me but also given me strength and aggression to live and survive. Which is why I wrote a character like Anantya Tantrist. She’s fearless, she’s aggressive and she can take on anything that comes her way. She chooses to live alone in Delhi and own its nights. In my head, she’s everything I couldn’t be, but would like to be, like Superman is to little boys (and a few big ones).
I wrote Anantya for myself and others like me, to give other women hope and determination. That survival instinct. That you can survive and live #fearless. Thanks Sabin, for helping me realise this.
Daring and foul-mouthed Anantya could be anywhere in India but the fact (or, the fiction) that she is roaming around the streets of New Delhi contextualises a conversation with her creator, Shweta Taneja, who grew up in the national capital, when we talk about the broader topic of violence against women.
In the wake of repeated incidents of rape and violence against women, how do you look at women’s safety issues in New Delhi?
I feel two things: a mad sense of anger and a helpless feeling of frustration. Anger because I can’t do anything about the senseless violence I see being perpetrated on women everywhere in the country and not just in New Delhi. On the streets, in offices, in bedrooms, in restaurants, in cars, on public and private transport and at homes — everywhere. Forget Delhi, women don’t feel safe anywhere in this country.
My frustration comes from the fact that every time an incident happens, a molestation or rape, usually of a woman, we try and build walls to protect ourselves or if we are men, protect our women. We ask the police to be more vigilant, to patrol, to install cctvs, to put fences, to add more guards, more grills, to track with gps, to have checks and policing in place so that women can feel safe. But the sad truth is that building walls will only make the outdoors wilder, segregating gender will only alienate each gender from the other and increase violence. No government, no men, no police, no institution can make it all go away. What can perhaps make a difference is that if you, me, all of us, in spite of the violence, go outdoors, at all times, at all places, fearlessly own the night. Be there, not in groups, not with men, but alone — until it becomes the norm. We need to own the spaces, only then can we be safe.
What is your experience of growing up in the city? Any lingering memories?
Much to the chagrin of my parents, growing up, I loved to be out on the roads of Delhi rather than stay at home. A love I share with Anantya. There’s a sense of freedom to be able to walk (not ride in closed spaces like cars), take a deep breath, smell the city. But I have always felt a sense of insecurity, a sense of alertness when I walk on the streets. I have grown aggressive because of collated bad experiences for years — creepy touches, bottom pinches, side leers, breast stares and squeezes. I have experienced it all because I refused to get off the road or the public spaces. I refused to huddle within groups. But yes, Delhi has converted me into a hedgehog. When I am walking, I don’t smile at a stranger, I am wary and vigilant. That’s a bit unfortunate.
Why do you write? And why Cult of Chaos?
I write because I itch to tell stories. When I am not writing, I am making up stories and orally telling them to my friends. I want to explore the idea of otherness, of strangeness, of non-humans, paranormals and supernaturals through these stories, which is why I am writing in the fantasy genre. I want to explore ‘us’ versus ‘them’ in all their manifestations.
I wrote Cult of Chaos because I was itching to write a work of detective fiction that mixes Indian folklore and supernatural creatures into a mystery. Anantya Tantrist happened because I was so bored of all the action taken up by male superheroes and superstars while women sat on the side, as pretty eye-candy. I wanted a story in which a woman gets her hands dirty, has all the adventures, kicks the villains and goes to a bar later to celebrate. And Cult of Chaos is all that and more!
Can you take us through the experience of writing this book? Anantya’s story has been an emotional journey for me. I was creating a female character who is fearless, independent, who just doesn’t give two hoots about what the society thinks, who isn’t dependent on a man. I had to change so many scenes constantly because they were written keeping in mind the ‘limitations’ a woman would have in our society. But Anantya doesn’t adhere to those limitations. I wanted to create a character who will step out of all the gender ideas we have as a society, which is why I rewrote and rewrote, overcoming my limitations as a writer and as a product of our society. And I am amazed at who she has turned out to be. I respect her, am in awe of her, and even have a crush on her.
I sit in my study all day and write while she is out on the streets, taking on powerful people, protecting the helpless, solving violent crimes, also having supernatural adventures of all kinds. She is exposed, while I live a protected life. She is all action while I am all thinking. But just the fact that I have been lucky enough to write her story has changed me too, given me wings. I want to be more like her. I want to own the streets too, fearlessly.
You put 220 students into a room and throw in a mystery to solve. Not just any mystery, a ghost mystery! What could possibly happen? Yup! Imagination running wild, so wild that it translates as sound and high-energy physical activity. Shweta Taneja is today’s storyteller, the one responsible for stirring up such busyness at Sardar Patel Vidyalaya. She who looks nothing like how I’d imagined a mystery-writer to be (and for this I blame Agatha Christie), she who is queen bee with tiny worker bees fixated on her every word.
The children are aged 9-11, bouncy, excited and very eager to be the next ghost detective. They are divided into groups of 12 each and have now to help Kartik (the main character in her book) solve the case of Mrs. Banerjee’s missing diamond necklace. 5 clues are handed out in successive intervals, each quickly digested. The bees then huddle together to discuss. Mystery solving is very serious business indeed!
Our little detectives did not disappoint. Several groups solved the puzzle, except we fell short of time and none could finish their illustrations. With the closing of the session was the opening of the floodgates, children rushing for an autograph from a real writer! Shweta seemed to be overwhelmed with all her little fans (which they were, by the time we were done!) hovering around her. I think she only just realized what a star she’d become
The school then gracefully thanked the writer (and I) with a card and a gift. Shweta ended with some words of encouragement and inspiration: a lot of curiosity and imagination is what she prescribed to the wide-eyed students.
Her book, ‘The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong’, is also a lesson in geography, as most children would need more than 5 clues to figure out where Kurseong is located. I bet the popularity of the hill station is going to shoot up ten-fold by the time the Bookaroo literature festival is done. Which reminds me, there were plenty of queries about the festival and I’m positive we will have a huge attendance from SPV. If that isn’t cause for celebration, what is?