Crowdsourced maps of real places in your favourite books

I’m a literature geek who loves to visit places that I’ve read about in fiction, especially detective fiction.  While in Switzerland, me and my husband (who’s equally crazy about this stuff) made a special excursion up a hill to see the Reichenbach Falls where Sherlock Holmes tussled with Moriarty and fell off the falls. While posing against the  Sherlock dummy placed there for tourists, we thought it should have been Dudhsagar falls if Doyle never wanted his detective hero to come back (for Reichenbach are just not tall enough).

Which is why when I came across Placing Literature where you can map the real places your favourite author writes about, it made me go glee. The website creates maps of literary scenes that take place in real locations. If you’re in a city, you can check on the website and see which all spots were written about in which all books. Each spot also comes with the description of the scene and what happened in the plot there. Since it’s a crowdsourced map, you can make a map on their site by logging in with your Google account. Isn’t it fantastic?
Explore yourselves while I plan out my travel around spots talked about in Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes or places to visit in New York City.


5 life hacks for aspiring writers

Want to start on that first book? Aspire to get published? Here are a few tips for aspiring writers that I shared with Writersmelon.

Why do you want to write?

If you want to be a writer, the first thing that you need, which is I think a very individualistic thing, is the desire to write, the passion to create something new, to express a story, a character in a new way. I write because  characters crop up in my head and bang inside, demanding to be let out. I write because it’s addictive and I have no other choice. It’s the highest I’ve ever felt, and also the lowest. It’s hard, but I’m not going to leave it anytime soon.

Once you’ve keyed on this desire, it will drive you through the long, long process of gathering the skills and actually writing the whole thing. Ideas are easy to come by, getting the skill of writing is also not too difficult, but it’s this desire that makes all the difference. This motivation that comes from inside you, will discipline you, make sure you don’t give up halfway and will not let you rest till you complete the creative work. In that sense, it’s an intrinsic value.

A stranger browsing the book. Isn't that nice!
A stranger browsing the book. Isn’t that nice!

Finish that first draft

Don’t let your rational mind take over till you complete the first draft. Write with your instinct, write whatever you see the characters doing, just write without thinking too much. The only thing you can do is be true to your characters. Don’t let your opinion on life and your language leak through into the story, for the readers will know and they’ll not like it. After you have completed the first draft, edit, polish and edit again. Once you think it’s ready to be sent to a publisher, wait for a week. Edit again and send to the publisher. Don’t think of it as a hobby. Think of writing as your work. You have to do it everyday, even if you don’t feel like getting up from the bed. Write everyday, even if you are sad or not in the mood or don’t have time for it or can’t think of a single line to write. Write a portion everyday.

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Bad habits you need to avoid at work

Picture this: In your 20s, you skip breakfast to reach office early. Once the meeting is over, you have coffee and two-three biscuits. You work till late evening. A decade later, you struggle to work, for your shoulder and neck are stiff from slouching in front of the computer for too long; you are overweight, constantly tired, depressed and stressed.

Working in a closed office can damage your health in more ways than you can imagine. Here are some work habits you should get rid of at the earliest.

Walk, stand and stretch

On an average, most of us spend 8-10 hours a day in office. This adds up to 50-60 hours every week. And most of these hours are spent sitting. According to a study published last year in the International Journal Of Epidemiology, the lack of movement, whether sitting or standing, is cause for concern. According to a report, “Is Your Job Making You Fat?”, published in 2010 in the journal Preventive Medicine,office workers have become less active over the last three decades—this partly explains the rise in obesity levels.

Navneet Kaur, senior consultant, internal medicine, at the Apollo Spectra Hospitals in New Delhi, says, “Even simple steps like walking up to a colleague to discuss an issue instead of writing an email or calling on the phone can help.”

In fact, a study published in June in Preventing Chronic Disease, another journal, says that changing even one seated meeting per week at work into a walking meeting can increase the work-related physical activity levels of white-collar workers by 10 minutes. “Sitting increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease even if you exercise later in the day,” says S.K. Gupta, senior consultant cardiologist at the Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals in the Capital. “Heart disease happens when the blood flow is blocked and cholesterol builds up in the arteries, and sitting does both effectively,” he says, adding that it’s essential to stand for 8 minutes and stretch for 2 minutes for every half-hour of sitting.

Remind yourself constantly to get up for a drink, stand in meetings, sit on something uncomfortable and wobbly like an exercise ball or backless stool and be constantly on the move, says Dr Gupta. And always take the stairs.

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Seven quick and nutritious breakfast fixes

Looking for a recipe of a perfect breakfast? Most traditional Indian meals, like poha, upma and idli, are high in starch and calories, which is great if you need a shot of energy— but what you also need is a healthy dose of protein to keep you going for the day. Choose what Madhuri Ruia, founder of Integym, Mumbai, and a Mint columnist calls “first-class proteins”. “Egg white, paneer, chicken or fish ensures balance in blood sugar and insulin levels,” she says. And when it comes to carbohydrates, adds Ruia, “opt for grains like oats, muesli, nachni (finger millet), bajra rotior multigrain roti, which give you energy but keep you feeling full for longer”.

The body needs essential nutrients like calcium, iron and vitamin B, as well as protein and fibre in the morning, says Shikha Sharma, founder and managing director of Nutri-Health, a Delhi-based wellness clinic. She says an ideal breakfast should be split into three parts: “One-third should be carbohydrates, another third should be filled with proteins and the remaining portion should be fruits and vegetables.”

It is also good to add variety to your plate. “It’s like exercise. If you keep doing the same set of exercises again and again, your body stops responding,” says Mumbai-based sports nutritionist Deepshikha Agarwal. A variation will ensure you don’t get bored—and that you consume different types of vitamins and minerals.

Agarwal suggests choosing between idli-sambhar with fruit, milk with cornflakes, vegetable poha, pancake with a milkshake, or a vegetable omelette with a bran muffin and orange juice.


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Your smartphone is a memory machine

Here are some apps to help you remember everything—from billion-dollar ideas to baby-diaper changes

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 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!




Poem: In tolerant India

Yes, I’m a racist.
I look at you and see
The percentage of melanin
In your skin
The angle your eyes slant
The colour of the iris
The length of your hair
It’s texture
It’s shape
It’s smell
The way it shines
Or not.

Yes, I’m a casteist.
I look at your surname and your name
Your tilak and your birth fame
The clothes you wear
The accent you talk
The scrawls on your certificate
What’s on your plate
The smells
The shape
Of the food you just ate
Or didn’t.

racism, caste in India

Yes, I’m tolerant
I tolerate you
Smile at you
Accept you
Hiding disgust
That rises inside.
You’re my responsibility
Part of my culture
My country
My people to empower
And I will
I promise I will
Even though the percentage
And the texture and shape
Remind me of rape.

Is it my fault?
Your hands are so dark
And dirty
They’ve touched the filth
My ancestors did

Your birth certificate
It’s barely there
Torn and soiled
Like a drain.

You speak weird
Unpolished and poor
Your dark skin
Reminds me of
Monsters and their kin

Is it my fault?

I’m trying hard
To power you up
To empower you
But the skin
It’s so dark
So dark.

Can I help but judge?

Is it my fault
If your skin is so dull?
Can I help but judge you?

Livestream your view

Want your followers and friends to see what you are seeing? Here are some apps for livestreaming.

Allergen-proof your home

From keeping your surroundings clean, to turning off the air conditioners—some ways to rid your home of pesky allergens.

If you’re suffering from an allergy, the cause could well be hidden within the four walls of your home or office.

Homes that are closer to traffic-heavy areas or near an industrial belt in a humid environment, don’t have good ventilation, or use extensive air conditioning, can be allergen-prone, says Salil Bendre, head of department, pulmonary medicine at Mumbai’s Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital. “We tend to think of air pollution as something outside when, in truth, the air inside homes, offices, and other buildings can be more polluted than the air outside,” says Tarun Sahni, senior consultant, internal medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi.

It’s the everyday things that cause allergies—lead, a component of everyday dust, mites that feed on discarded human skin, volatile chemicals from fragrances, even a wet bathroom. House dust, says Dr Bendre, is an airborne mixture that has fine particles of soil, plant material, particles of human and animal skin and hair, fabric fibres, mould spores, dust mites, the fragments and waste of dead insects, food particles and debris, all potential allergens. Even plants and flowers can cause rashes. All these can lead to common allergy symptoms, like coughing, sneezing, red and itchy eyes, and a runny nose.

“If you’ve been sneezing continuously, the best way to find out if it’s your home causing the allergy is to see if you get your symptoms at night. Every time you come across the suspected substance, you will get allergic symptoms,” says New Delhi-based A.B. Singh, associate editor of the Indian Journal Of Allergy, Asthma And Immunology. “If you’re sure something at home is triggering it, the next step in diagnosis is to take the tests available at allergy centres which use in-vivo or in-vitro methods,” he adds.

Allergy skin tests can confirm the triggers for specific allergic symptoms. “These tests can confirm sensitivities to dust mites, animal dander, mould, or volatile organic compounds such as fragrances, which are frequently found in homes,” says Stanley Fineman, who is on the board of directors of the US-based World Allergy Organization.

Once you know what’s causing the problem, you need to ensure that you limit your exposure to allergens. In most cases, this is enough. “In extreme cases, timely immune-modulator treatment (to regulate the immune system) will help, but don’t go to doctors or alternative medicine practitioners who claim to cure it as there are no complete cures to allergic reactions,” warns Singh.

If you want to try and clear your home of possible allergens, this is what experts suggest.

Clean the linen

For almost 70% of asthmatics, dust mites are the cause of indoor allergies, says Dr Bendre. Dust mites are little, microscopic arthropods, about 0.4mm in length, that thrive on flakes of human skin, and live and lay eggs in our beds, pillows, cushion covers and fabric sofas.

 “Air conditioning in northern India and humidity in the coastal cities contributes to their growth,” says Singh. The allergens lead to frequent sneezing, cough, throat irritation, watery eyes, headaches and, in some cases, even difficulty in breathing.

To discourage these pests, air the house, especially the bedroom, frequently. “Encase pillows and mattresses and box springs with dust-mite-proof covers, wash sheets, pillowcases and blankets at least once a week in water heated to at least 54 degrees Celsius,” says Dr Bendre. He suggests replacing wool or feathered bedding with washable materials made of cotton or synthetic fabrics to discourage dust mites.

Mop the floor

House dust can lead to sneezing, difficulty in breathing, cough, throat irritation and headache. Mopping the house with a damp cloth or using the vacuum cleaner regularly discourages this. “Dust can be clogged under the carpets, or on the curtains, pillows or in the mattresses. Anyone who is allergic to dust must see to it that everything is cleaned from time to time,” says Shikha Sharma, founder of health management centre Nutri-Health Systems Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi.

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Have a partition story? Go here.

My paternal grandparents were settled in Lahore in a haveli when partition happened. They packed their bags, saw horrific things that humans did as they moved to Delhi. My grandfather was a clerk under the British Government in Lahore. In post-independent India, they had no government jobs to spare, so he sold buns on a cycle. Slowly, he build up a new life in Delhi, turned to business. The incident changed and continues to shape how I and my generation evolves.Screenshot_20151221-141742 Continue reading “Have a partition story? Go here.”