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I went to Mumbai as I was one of the 25 shortlisted persons for Bloomberg TV’s show ‘The Pitch’. The fact that I didn’t make it to the top ten meant that I did not have a return ticket planned and paid for. There was also the possibility of staying an extra day in Mumbai, the next day being a holiday for ‘Rakshabandhan’. It also meant a chance to meet up old friends, make some new ones, spend some time watching the waves lash on to the shore at Marine Drive,most importantly a break from the ‘adult’ world that I suddenly felt thrust into, after my post graduation, which sometimes felt a little stifling after all the freedom I got at MICA. Hence, I was looking forward to spending time in Mumbai. Mumbai, that supposedly safe and sound place. The city that never sleeps.
And while I was re-blogging a poem called ‘Free’ (oh, the irony!) on this website on Independence Day, a journalist was being gang raped in the city that never sleeps. The fact that she was a photo journalist assumes more importance than the person she is. Why? Because, most of the times, our professions define us, some thing without which we’d be quite lost. Your profession gives you independence and a lot of times, it becomes a quiet source from where to derive strength and confidence. But what if our identity gets lost some day? What to do, if it’s just not safe any longer? Do you sit at home, ‘protected’ ? Of course, that would be an equally foolish thing to do, considering the number of rapes that happen AT home.
This was supposed to be a straight forward review of the book ‘Lady, you’re not a man’ and a Q&A with the author, Apurva Purohit, CEO of Radiocity. However, after hearing the news about the recent gang rape in Mumbai, I guess this has turned out to be something more.
The book Lady, you’re not a man by Apurva Purohit is about how women face a lot of challenges both at home and at work. Prime among them, are concerns of the glass ceiling, stereotyping of women, safety of women in the workplace, handling both domestic and professional life at the same time, etc. Apurva Purohit regales you with witty stories which illustrate her reasoning. Her writing is smart, crisp and funny. She tells you how you can succeed even if there are some odds stacked behind you. It’s also how, as a woman, you need to realize that even men face stereotyping and certain things are unfair to men too.
The book is quite relevant to women like me who are working and especially to others who are both married AND working. If you take me for an example, I work in the FMCG Industry. It being only 4 months since I joined, I am at a Management Trainee position, at a stage where I am expected to learn the in and outs of the market, work in the same way that my sub ordinates would work, till I am deemed ‘ready’ to be given the responsibility of managing people. It’s not a proper ‘corporate’ job (the definition of ‘corporate’ being a job in an air conditioned office), according to my mother, much to her annoyance. It involves getting your hands dirty handling distributors, salesmen, store owners every day and not to forget, travelling to all sorts of neighborhoods in Delhi. But wait, I like my job. It’s challenging and I get to see lot of places that I would never normally visit. I am also learning things about marketing and consumer behavior which I never would in a class room. To tell you the truth, I get some kick out of trying to prove that I can do it too, in spite of being a female and hence, ‘the weaker sex’, although it’s a little unfortunate that there’s a need to prove this. (Blah 😛 )
After reading the book, I got in touch with Apurva Purohit by email and asked her some questions. Being a true professional, she got back to a lowly blogger (It’s not like this blog is the ‘Time’ magazine) like me, quite quickly.
The first question I posed was, “Somehow, at the workplace, I have felt the need to work harder than the men around, as if to prove that women can also be professional. Isn’t it unfair that stereotypes of women ‘not being serious about work’ and only interested in ‘talking on the phone’ exist and we need to doubly work to overcome them?”
“Yes, firstly stereotypes do exist and we all have to work hard to overcome them. So the hysterical female boss, the kitty party attending housewife, the over protective mom are images that we need to deal with. Having said that I think society stereotypes everyone , so even men have stereotypes operating against them. I think we just need to recognize that women haven’t been specifically singled out for this dubious honor!”, she answers.
But at the same time, I face a risk everyday (as do so many women), just because of the fact that I am a female and the next person on the street could be a potential rapist/molester (although I do still have more hope from men that not everybody is bad after all).
She continues, ‘I see a lot of women today enthusiastically picking up the gauntlet of entering male dominated industries. Working with the organization to neutralize external negative factors is one way to tackle this issue; so asking for pick-ups and drops to ensure safe travel, ensuring the organization is taking necessary precautions in selecting the right travel partners etc are some of the things women in these industries should certainly push for. I think today there are very few jobs that women cannot do because of physical limitations and those jobs in an innovation or knowledge based economy are becoming fewer in any case.”
She is right in what she says. Organizations need to step up the way they treat their female employees and the facilities they provide. And it is probably up to us to demand for them, although in certain cases, it feels stupid doing so. I am not sure whether any grocery shop owner, out of the 20 shops that I visit on a normal day, would take me seriously me if I were picked and dropped at each place. And very unfair to my male colleagues who do the same job and get the same pay. At the same time, I don’t want to be ‘protected’ all the time. Rather than me always worried about how I will reach home late at night, I want the men on the streets to be afraid of me and the police.
My mother has palpitations when she comes to know I am going to come home late. My father conveniently (and very diplomatically) disappears behind the newspaper when we have a fight, as to why I can’t sneak out from work and go shopping with her. She has come to terms with my job now but she is always worried. I don’t blame her but I wish I could allay her fears and wish for a safe place to live and roam around.
My next question is, “Sometimes, parents seem to be the biggest obstacles to a career when they prevent you from doing things which may not be ‘safe’ but are still important for you to do your job properly. How do girls deal with them?”
“I think we all need to co opt our family members into our careers so that they become equal partners in its success and failure . This can happen only if we discuss everything about our jobs with them and ask for help . I see many young girls today don’t want to tell their parents things in a false sense of protecting their privacy and the poor parents are unable to judge what is required to do a job properly . As parents they will worry about safety and such issues especially with girls. It is the women’s job to allay this fear”, says Apurva Purohit.
‘Lady, you’re not a man’ is an interesting and quite apt title for the book. The title feels like an extremely sarcastic male (or female) telling you that you can’t do shit because you’re not a man.
Apurva Purohit explains, “Through this title I am trying to say two things 1 ) I am telling the women that you don’t have to be male like to succeed and 2) I am equally telling society and people who have often taunted women that you can’t do this because You are not a Man, that we women can do equally well just the same.”
I ask her about the hardest part of writing this book. “I have been used to writing a blog which is actually an exercise in saying the maximum in very few words ( 300-400 words) so actually writing a full chapter around one message which required more verbosity without becoming boring was the biggest challenge”, she says.
She has managed that quite well. This book says what it wants to say without boring you. There are enough real life stories, in her witty voice, to make you identify with the woman. What I liked most was that she encourages women not to feel guilty about their life choices, whether you are working or not working, having a baby or choosing not to have one, going to the post office party cum networking event or staying home to look after the ‘home’. We are not superwomen and we don’t need to constantly feel bad about not being able to fulfill everybody’s expectations. At the same time, she asks women to behave like true professionals and not expect to be treated with extra ‘care’ something I agree with. How can we expect to be treated as equals if we demand special privileges (passed on as a result of our conditioning in a patriarchal culture) which are not really required?
I tell Apurva Purohit she’s come a long way. To lighten the Q&A, I ask her if there were to be a movie made on her, who would she cast as herself.
She appears to be humble as she says “I don’t think I have come a long way or anything. I got into leadership roles very early in life and as they say you become competent through practice and 10000 hours of doing something. Having run organizations or departments for the last twenty odd years has made me good at what I do ! I can’t think of a film being made on something like this but I like the strong Hollywood actresses like Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon and Sandra Bullock .. so possibly them…”
I ask her what she does in her spare time. “I am very much a homebody and I like spending as much time as I can at home with my family and some very few close friends. I enjoy reading a lot, specially crime fiction which is my passion, and love travelling. My holidays with my family are my one big luxury and I also have a weakness for heritage jewelry.”
This is where I stop talking about ‘Lady, you’re not a man’. Every time there’s a rape, I feel uncomfortable and disturbed. I can only hope that things will be better one day and we won’t have to feel scared most of the time, irrespective of whether we are doing our jobs or having fun roaming around in the streets. At the same time, a salute to all the women who want to make a change by fighting back, whether it is the 22 year old photojournalist or a friend who ‘accidentally’ gives a whack (I am hoping it was at a place where it hurts the most) with her umbrella to the man who passes by and calls her ‘mast’ (nice). Kudos to all the women who brave the streets every day. A change can only come when we go out into the streets instead of ‘safely’ sitting in our homes.
I am hopeful of a change. Till then, as my friend Hirak keeps telling me, ‘Chin up, be brave, be beautiful!’
(Beauty is often a reflection of what you are feeling inside yourself, not your face or your figure.)
Note: A copy of this book was provided for review by the author/Rupa publications.
Things may not be as great as we’d want them to be but yet, they are changing.
Politicians will always be politicians, touting themselves with their far fetched claims of bringing change and development. But at the same time, let us not try to justify the wrong done by the political class by believing that it’s alright to do something unethical if you can do something for the economic good of the majority. Let us also not forget the looting of the nation.
One has to be careful and judge for oneself whether the development is only for one class, who is already born with privilege, as a result of their religion, gender and economic status or it is inclusive and takes everybody along. And development does not mean just an increase in economic wealth and infrastructure but also an improvement in social conditions and living. Progress is progress only if it affects the marginalized classes.
But the change will not come because of one leader. Let us hope for an India where we are truly free.
Very kindly, Samantha answered some questions in an email interview to Books and a lot more.
“It’s such a huge relief. There was a point at which I was worried I wasn’t going to pass my degree — my mind was often on the book, not my studies — but fortunately I ended up getting the grade I wanted,”said Shannon, on being asked about how it feels to have graduated.
No doubt, she is relieved, having done with graduation and now, she has the release to look forward to. There are also enormous expectations. She had been touted as ‘the next J K Rowling’, even before her books have released.
On being asked about it, Samantha said, “The ‘next JK Rowling’ tag originally came from the similarity of the book deals: seven fantasy books with Bloomsbury. There’s really nothing more to it than that. I don’t think The Bone Season and Harry Potter are particularly similar — I’d much rather the book was viewed in its own right. Besides, why do we need a new JK? The original is wonderful as she is.”
What she says is true. Every book has a right to be viewed as a piece of unique writing. No doubt, The Bone Season promises to be unique and magical. I ask her how her writing was discovered by Bloomsbury.
“The Bone Season got some attention at the London Book Fair 2012; my agent took it there shortly after he took me on as a client. He also sent the manuscript to Alexandra Pringle, who is editor-in-chief at Bloomsbury. Alexandra doesn’t normally publish fantasy, with the exception of The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, so when she offered me the deal it was a huge surprise — I couldn’t quite take it in. It’s still overwhelming over a year late”, she replied.
Samantha continues, “It doesn’t really stick to one genre — I just wrote the story I wanted to write, regardless of what I call ‘genre etiquette’. I think boxing books into categories discourages experimentation in fiction.”
The Bone Season, is essentially a series about Paige Mahoney, who works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The year is 2059 and a security force, known as Scion, controls most of the major cities of the world.
The work Paige does is not ordinary. She breaks into the minds of others to look for information. She is what is known as a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and clairvoyants are outlawed in this world. But then she is kidnapped and arrested, and the prison is a separate city-Oxford, not on the map and an otherworldly race known as the Rephaim. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army and Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. If she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.
I am curious about the main character, Paige Mahoney. I ask her whether she’s a strong character and if she’s been modeled on somebody in real life.
“No, I didn’t — she’s completely imaginary. Paige came to me very suddenly; her voice just appeared in my head and flowed on the page. She is ‘strong’ in that she’s relatively independent, plucky and has a powerful sense of what she perceives as right and wrong, but she’s also very vulnerable — she has a lot to learn, both about others and about herself. Under all the bravado there’s a young woman who isn’t sure of her place in the world,” says Samantha.
I ask her about her favorite parts of the book.
“I have a few favorite parts, but the one I most liked imagining was when Paige enters a butterfly’s dreamscape. I also really love the dialogue between Warden and Paige. They’re polar opposites in many ways, but it’s one of my great pleasures to write the interaction between them. “
I wanted to know about her, what made her tick. “If I’m not writing I’m usually reading. I’m very book-orientated”, she says.
It’s not easy to be a published writer by the age of twenty-one. Many people harbor a dream of writing a book someday but never really sit down and write. Instead, they wait for that ‘perfect’ moment when a great plot line will strike and words will automatically flow. Some who do write, lose heart when publishers do not think the writing is worthy enough to be published.
Samantha advises, “Don’t be afraid to experiment, be open to constructive criticism, and most importantly, don’t give up at the first hurdle.”
Now that she is free from college and studying, Samantha has already started work on Book 2 of the series.
She informs, “I’m working on Book 2 in the series at the moment. I want to give my full attention to The Bone Season and its sequels for the foreseeable future, but I do have a couple of other ideas for novels up my sleeve — but I’m unlikely to write them until after this series is complete. “
It looks like we’ll have to wait a while for those other ideas from this talented writer. But thankfully, we have a whole new series from her to look forward to and devour!
If this interview with Samantha Shannon is not enough for you and you want to know more about her, you can follow her on Twitter (@say_shannon) or on her blog. Her Pinterest page is also quite interesting, with information about her characters in the book!
The Bone Season, releases on 20th August, 2013. Check out the trailer of the book below:
You can also pre-order the book using the links below:
If it were to be made into a movie, Compass Box Killer would be your masaledar (spicy, for lack of a better word) Bollywood film with somebody like Abhishek Bacchan playing Virkar and Priyanka Chopra as Raashi. Why ? Because it has all the ingredients of a box office hit. It has a story line with stereotypical characters. It is a whoddunit with some action, a smart talking main character, a good looking female and an unknown villain who is a serial killer. There is politics, love, sex, betrayal and some smart thinking on the part of the hero.
The book does has a predictable story line and I was left wondering what Virkar actually looks like as the only words used by Virkar by the author are that he has an unconventionally handsome face. The other things about his appearance are left to the reader’s imagination. There could have been more detailing done by the author.
This book for those not heavily interested in reading and are just looking for a way to pass time because it is the perfect book to read in a train or the metro. It is fast and does hold your attention. Read it if you are in the mood for a fast and light read as it is a good de-stresser after a hectic day.
Note: A copy of this book was provided for honest review by Rupa Publications.
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I was pretty excited to read this book, being a Harry Potter fan, although ‘Casual Vacancy’ didn’t really excite me. I couldn’t really control my excitement when I received The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J K Rowling, if you didn’t know!) for review by Hachette India, quite unexpectedly (I was told it may not be available in India till some time). What a pleasant surprise, it was, thanks to Hachette India!
The story starts with a poem called A Dirge by Christina Rossetti.
Why were you born when the snow was falling?
You should have come to the cuckoo’s calling,
Or when grapes are green in the cluster,
Or, at least, when lithe swallows muster
For their far off flying
From summer dying.
Why did you die when the lambs were cropping?
You should have died at the apples’ dropping,
When the grasshopper comes to trouble,
And the wheat-fields are sodden stubble,
And all winds go sighing
For sweet things dying.
A Dirge is a song about mourning or expressing grief. The poem is a lament about the randomness with which death strikes and people we love get taken away from us. It is a perfect start to a story which starts with the death of Lula Landry, a troubled super model who commits suicide by throwing herself off her balcony. The title The Cuckoo’s Calling comes from the poem above with ‘Cuckoo’ also being a nickname of the dead supermodel. Lula’s brother, John can’t get over her death and enlists the aid of Cormoran Strike, a detective who’s fallen to particularly distressing times, to prove that his sister was murdered and find who the killer is.
Cormoran Strike is a sexy fellow. Now, he’s not particularly buff or good looking. Neither is he a suave fellow. But he becomes attractive when you read about how methodical he is in his work and of course, quite intelligent. Cormoran is partnered by his secretary Robin (who has a stuffy fiancé), with a very platonic but interesting working relationship. Strike is troubled by his circumstances. He is broke, his relationship with a beautiful woman has ended and he’s living in his office. And this case is like a breath of fresh air, or more like an influx of money that he desperately needs.
The story is not rushed. It’s not a thriller or a novel filled with loads of action. Instead, it follows a languid pace, as it deftly maneuvers through Lula’s life, intermingled with stories about Cormoran’s background. We learn much about Lula, the people in her life, the different dimensions to her personality and the things she was both happy and distressed about. Rowling puts suspicion, alternately, on all the people in her life with clues to the killer, subtly dropped in the story and they are subtle enough to keep you guessing till the end of the story. Of course, that has been a characteristic style of J K Rowling, aptly demonstrated by her Harry Potter books.
Even if you didn’t know this book was written by J K Rowling, it becomes quite clear that the author is not a novice and knows what she is doing. I do not expect people who had read this book before it was revealed that Rowling wrote this story, would have guessed who the true author is. But then when you do know, it would suddenly strike you how you never realized that. There are quite a few parallels that you can draw between Cormoran Strike and Harry Potter. Both of them have troubled childhoods and the books start with both of them living in distressed circumstances. Both of them have a strong sense of justice. Each Harry Potter book is also essentially a story where you want to know who the villain is. However, the parallels end there.
I quite liked the book and after reading this, I am taking a (very) short break as I believe I will end up being so disappointed by any book that I read after this(I usually start reading the next book the moment I finish one, if I have the time). Yesterday, I sat in the Metro doing nothing except observing people as I didn’t feel like reading anything else at all.
Are these the symptoms of a book hangover? Are you also suffering from the same, or have you recently gone through a similar experience? Let me know, by leaving a comment!
And yeah, in case you didn’t know, The Cuckoo’s Calling, published by Hachette India, releases in India on 6th August, 2013 (Tentatively). Pre-order your copy now!
Note: A copy of this book was provided by Hachette India, for an honest review of the book.
July’s gone and August has already started! It’s that time of the month when you are no longer broke. It’s that time of the month when you get that long awaited SMS on your mobile. It’s that time of the month for which you slog the whole month. Finally, you don’t need to gaze wistfully at the glass front of your favorite book store, which you pass by everyday while going to work. And of course, since it’s pay day, it’s time to BUY MORE BOOKS !
And here comes BOOKS AND A LOT MORE to the rescue ! Check out this list of books releasing in August !
Phillipa Gregory is famous for historical fiction, especially ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ which also got adapted into a movie, starring Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. ‘The White Princess’, the latest novel by Gregory is part of ‘Cousin’s War’ series. Philippa Gregory has a reputation of breathing life into female historical figures who would otherwise never get any space in popular media.
J K Rowling, who needs no introduction, wrote this novel under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith to publish without hype or expectation, till the truth was inadvertently revealed, after which it topped the best seller lists. Having finished reading this book, I can say that this is a MUST READ (Full review here). I hope to read the next book in the series and wish it comes out soon. The book releases in India on 5th August, 2013 (Tentative).
Shanta Gokhale, a novelist and an art critic, narrated the conflict between tradition and contemporaneity in her marathi novel ‘Tya Varshi’ (In That Year) published in 2008. Crowfall is the English translation of the same work. Steeped in sensuous detail, ‘Crowfall’ takes in art and identity, music and communal madness, and the clash of the old and the new to etch a finely nuanced portrait of contemporary Mumbai.
The book is set in India, a few decades into the future, when all is not well. Mumbai does not exist on the map, Chinese have nuked large parts of the country, with Bengal being a protectorate of China, etc. The book is a funny satire on Indian Society and as per reports, it is “a superlative feat of the imagination that is unlike anything you have ever read before and will appeal to readers of literary fiction and avid fans of timeless, wildly satirical, comical masterworks such as Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut and Animal Farm by George Orwell.”
Mohamed’s debut Black Mamba Boy was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and many other awards back in 2010. Her latest is set against a backdrop of political upheaval in late 80’s Somalia and follows the stories of three different women, whose lives are thrown together as their country descends into a state of civil war.
This is Supriya Dravid’s first novel. A mother daughter bond formed in the afterlife, memories stored in Ziploc bags and the horrific struggle to piece together a past that’s been through the shredder, A Cool, Dark Place is all of these plus the unsettling realization that one’s life was ghost-written by two drunks.
There are also other books that are expected to create some noise in literary circles being released in August, which aren’t going to be released in India as of now. Only imported editions will be available online and probably in certain book stores. They are as follows:
The Glass Ocean’ is Lori Baker’s first novel although she has three short story collections to her credit. In the novel, 18-year-old orphan Carlotta Dell’Oro imagines the story of her parents and her own existence. The writing has a dreamlike and lyrical quality and is expected to delight connoisseurs of literary fiction.
Crain is a literary critic and journalist. ‘Necessary Errors’ is his debut novel. It is about the lives of 20 somethings living in Prague. In Harper’s Bazaar, Emily Cronin describes Necessary Errors as “a sparkling first novel by the literary critic Caleb Crain about youth, ambition, and self-invention in early-’90s Prague.”
3. The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara, Knopf Doubleday
In 1950, a young doctor called Norton Perina signs on with the anthropologist Paul Tallent for an expedition to the remote Micronesian island of Ivu’ivu in search of a rumored lost tribe. This book is an anthropological adventure story and a thriller, all rolled into one.
Aimee Bender is the author of the best selling book ‘The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake‘ and she returns with this collection of short stories. She has proven herself to be among the most imaginative, exciting, and intelligent writers of our times and is known for her surreal plots.