Monthly Archives: October 2013

Some ‘bites’ from Manish Gupta, author of English Bites

English was always my favorite subject in school. Whenever the text books would be bought for the new school year, I would pick up the English textbook and finish reading it in two hours. And the rest of the year would pass, along with examinations, without me ever studying a word of it. I was always so in love with the subject that I never studied for an English Exam and still managed to get good scores, much to the envy of some of my friends who aced through all the Math and Science papers but struggled with English.

My copy of Word Power Made Easy  gathers dust somewhere. I bought it in college, the book having been recommended as practice material for my preparation for the Common Admission Test (CAT). I never used it much but I remember a friend who borrowed and sincerely worked on it every day. Now, I have never really ‘learnt’ the English language. Mostly due to my love for reading books, I know when a sentence just doesn’t ‘sound’ right. And I managed to get a 99 percentile in  the English Section in CAT and getting through a good B-school (if you can call MICA one). But I still can’t distinguish between a Present Perfect and Past Participle.

I have always found most of the books on Sentence Correction and English improvement quite boring. Being made to ‘learn’ something is always tedious. However, English Bites: My Full Proof Learning Formula, authored by Manish Gupta and published by Penguin India last year, seems to be different from the other books in the genre.

Till recently, Manish Gupta used to work as a Managing Director and Head of Sales for Treasury  & Trade Solutions division of a major multinational bank in India. After the release of his book, English Bites, he has now decided to take a plunge in the field of education, training, consulting, and executive coaching and will shortly start working with an organization that works for the underprivileged children at the school level.

For the readers of this website, here is a chat I had with Manish Gupta!

Manish_Author

Manish Gupta, author of English Bites: My Full Proof Learning Formula

I ask him, ‘Have you always loved the English language?’

He replies, “To answer this question, we need to get a little bit into my background. I grew up in Rohtak, a small and sleepy town in Haryana in the 1970s and 80s. The only English I spoke was in school and that too to respond to questions of my teachers in the class. I looked down at English as an alien tongue merely suited to the narrow field of academia and with no particular use once someone got into the real economy.

As a result, I was horrible in all aspects of communication. My active vocabulary was extremely limited, pronunciations & spellings were terrible (as I refused to accept English as a non-phonetic language that it largely is), sentence construction was poor, and my fluency was severely compromised.”

I am curious what made him write this book then and he says, “It started with the thought of improving my English in Class XI after facing acute embarrassment in front of my third and final crush (and her family) when I could not speak even one correct sentence of English with a foreigner we met during a family vacation (and she did).

This thought took a serious turn once I landed-up at Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh and came face-to-face with far more fluent and erudite specimens from convent schools from metros and towns much bigger than my hometown. I also noticed how I used to get tongue-tied while attempting to make a small conversation in English with or even in front of the convent educated colleagues and that hurt…really badly.

This thought was further strengthened when I realized to my horror that English had long outgrown the narrow confines of academia and become extremely relevant and in fact an absolute necessity in the real economy. So much so, that I would need to face group discussions and interviews where my proficiency in this language will be put to the real test to get into one of the best engineering jobs offered on campus.

Having lived all my school life in disdain for this alien tongue, the grossly neglected subject of English made me realize its importance, its vastness, its complexity, and my far less than self proclaimed ‘photographic memory’ all at once. I needed something quick and in large doses to beat the convent educated types in their own game and seal the best job offered in the campus in my name and after gaining some industry experience, successfully compete with them once again for admission into a top-tier MBA program.

Hence, I set aside the word lists, my failed attempts at mugging, and started creating interesting stories and anecdotes to make indelible imprints of this foreign language in my mind. This was the genesis of the book. It took a lot of research and creativity, but it was a matter of survivability. It was the only thing that could have rescued me from definite depression and elevated me to think and speak like an erudite gentleman.”

I ask him to tell us more about his book.

“English Bites is the story of my life. It begins when I am in high school and much of the damage to my understanding and grip over the English language has already been done. It ends when, even after spending 20 years as a devoted student of the English language, and having achieved my goals of getting into engineering, securing one of the best jobs engineering has to offer, getting into a top-tier MBA program, a medico wife, kids attending convent school, and a reasonably senior position in a multinational bank, I am stumped by new discoveries every other day. So much so that I find some unfamiliar English words in the nursery rhymes of my kids. My extended student life as far as English language is concerned continues and it’s an exciting journey. Come, join the fun.’

English Bites_Front and Back Cover

Book Cover and Back

The reviews of the book say good things about the book. The book is a crazy mix of facts, fiction, and real-life. It is full of amusing incidents, anecdotes, jokes, and a lot of interesting trivia.

I gather the book must not have been easy to write. I ask him and he says, ‘You may find it hard to believe but this manuscript was in the making for over 20 years and this has influenced a lot of content in the book. It started as an idea in my second year of engineering way back in 1989-1990 when two of my closest friends and I resolved to publish a book each before we turned 21. I thought I had written a masterpiece by the time our final placements ended (spoiling my grades in the process) and was still a few months shy of turning 21. My other friends, who were writing on ‘quizzing’ and ‘poetry’, had pulled out of this pledge while they were still in their teens.

My manuscript then hibernated for 20 years as I got busy with my first job at Tata Motors, an MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur, my banking career at a major multinational bank, and family life. Fortunately, the handwritten version (‘manuscript’ in the real sense of the word) had survived well on loose sheets of paper, which I promptly transferred on my PC and started editing and expanding it at the same time. By the time I finished in 4 years (working on weekends), I had landed up re-writing the entire book.

When it came to publishing, I realized that there has been an explosion of books in the Indian market in the past 3-4 years. Thus, a freshly minted author had little or no chance to get his manuscript a fair evaluation with the top publication house, unless the manuscript was, in their assessment, a masterpiece and/or immensely suitable as a script of a block-buster movie. I did send it to a few publication houses directly and their lack of responses despite passionate follow-ups told me it didn’t fit either of these two categories.

Fearing I will exhaust all the top names though this route, I sought the expert intervention of a literary agent. He critically assessed the quality and marketability of the manuscript before submitting it to the select set of publishers that are interested in publishing this genre of books. It took less than 4 months after submission of the manuscript to the literary agent for me to sign a publishing contract with Penguin Books India.

Thereafter, life became hectic as I had to incorporate the extremely valid suggestions of my commissioning editor Shahnaz Siganporia, who made me connect my disparate chapters on different subjects into a single story that started from page 1 and ended at page 334. Then the copy editors Mudita Mubayi-Chauhan and Paromita Mohanchandra took over and made me relearn the rules of grammar and punctuation.  Finally, after 9 months of hard labor, the book came to life.

I ask him to tell me of interesting anecdotes of things that happened while writing this book.

“The book is peppered with some of my real life experiences which were either hilarious or embarrassing or both. However, let me share with you something that I had a lot fun creating. I was battling with the word ‘bedraggled’ and knew that it had the structure and the tonal quality that demanded a good mnemonic. Not only did I succeed in making one but it took in its fold some other difficult words (highlighted in the text). The final plot compelled the reader to sharpen his or her knowledge of these words before getting to bedraggle – The meanings of the highlighted words were given as footnotes for the reader’s convenience. Here it goes:

“While sharing a cozy corner with her current heartthrob, Sarah suddenly held John’s hand and looking up, announced: ‘The firmament is azure, let’s go to the shore.’ At first, he was not sure what she was suggesting. And just as they reached the destination, the firmament began to roar, and they were caught in a downpour. While running to find some shelter, she suddenly stopped him and looking into his eyes, said, ‘Let’s get bedraggled.’

Poor John was unable to decide if it really was a flirtatious overture (courtesy the ‘bed’ in bedraggled) or if she meant something else. By a mischance, he decided to go with his initial hunch, and the stinging slap he received, ensured that for the rest of his life he would remember that to get bedraggled is to get drenched in water.”

eng bites

From the book ‘English Bites’

I ask him next about his future plans.

“I guess when you write a book, you give it your all. My stock of ideas is now empty but it doesn’t mean that I will not write another book. Book sales and readers’ feedback and appreciation are extremely strong motivators in rapidly refilling one’s reservoir and giving new ideas and different perspectives to make more meaningful and interesting books. However, I would like to stick to writing in a similar genre (laugh as you learn) I feel strongly about and need to put in my bit to make sure that that language does not become a handicap for anyone to realize their ambitions and dreams! 

In my personal life, I now live by the principle of learning one new skill every year (pity, I understood and adopted this only a few years ago) and have dabbled in adventure sports (like skiing, paragliding, bungee jumping) and getting off the beaten track while travelling. I plan to hone my moderate skills in singing, gardening, and cooking next. I also like to delve into human psychology and waiting for the day when someone will actually pay me for my wise counsel.”

That’s all from Manish Gupta, author of ‘English Bites’!

You can check out reviews on Goodreads | Flipkart | Amazon India for more information about the book.

October releases – Ten books to look out for

The weather is changing, slowly and gradually as October starts. It’s time for Navratra, Durga Puja and Dussehra and  of course, the wedding season to start.  And it’s also time for the monthly post informing you about books releasing this month! October seems to be an exciting month for Literature as we have releases from best selling authors like Elizabeth Gilbert, John Grisham, Stephen King, Helen Fielding and some interesting debuts from new comers too.

1. THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS by Elizabeth Gilbert, Bloomsbury Publishing

soat India

The Signature of all Things is the story of inquisitive, independent and intelligent Alma Whittaker. The book is fantastic. Fiction and philosophy and science- all rolled into one. Quite different from Eat, Love, Pray and this is a very promising work. You can also check out my review of the book here.

More about the book: Excerpt | Book Trailer | Reviews on Goodreads

Buy the book from: Flipkart | Amazon

2. DOCTOR SLEEP by Stephen King, Hodder & Stoughton

Doctor_Sleep

Image Source

Doctor Sleep is the sequel to Stephen King’s 1977 novel, The Shining. The Shining is the same horror story that inspired the movie starring Jack Nicholson. Doctor Sleep follows the story of Dan Terrance (boy protagonist of The Shining) who is now middle aged and works in a nursing home, providing comfort to the dying with the help of his mental abilities. There’s also a cat who can foresee the future and Abra Stone, a twelve year old girl, who shows remarkable psychic ability.

A short 11 minute mp3 excerpt from the first chapter is available here and which can be downloaded (Source: Official Stephen King Website). You can also watch Stephen King read out from the book in this youtube video.

Also, do not forget to check out this scary book trailer below:

Pre order the book from Flipkart | Amazon

3. MAD ABOUT THE BOY by Helen Fielding, Random House

1297477974374_ORIGINAL

Image Source

Among all October releases, I’d been quite excited about this book since some time. Until of course I learnt that Mark Darcy is dead in the book (*sniff*) and Bridget Jones is a widow. However I do want to read about Bridget Jones again whose bumbling manners made a fan out of every person who read Bridget Jone’s Diary.

It seems the release may be slightly delayed as early issues of Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy were mistakenly printed with a 40-page extract from actor Sir David Jason’s memoirs, which hit bookstores on the same day.

Now, here’s a video of Helen Fielding reading out from the book!

Pre order the book from Flipkart | Amazon

4. SYCAMORE ROW by John Grisham, Hachette India

Sycamore Row

Image Source

Sycamore Row is the sequel to Grisham’s A Time to Kill, which was a hugely popular novel, made into a film later on, starring Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock and Samuel Jackson. Sycamore Row sees Jack Brigance coming back into action, making the book a power packed legal thriller.

More about the book: Excerpt | Interview with John Grisham

Pre order the book from Flipkart | Amazon

5. BLEEDING EDGE by Thomas Pynchon, Random House

17208457

Image Source

Pynchon’s latest book is a detective story, with the September 11 attacks and transformation due to the internet being the two major themes. Noted for his dense and complex novels, as per reviews, Pynchon has let the paranoia flow in this book too. The book is loaded with cultural references and verbal sass.

More about the book: Excerpt | GoodReads

Order the book from Flipkart | Amazon

6. VICIOUS CIRCLES by Wilbur Smith, Pan Macmillan

14794309_201309240715

Image Source

October seems to be the month for sequels. Wilbur Smith is back with Vicious Circle, the sequel to his novel Those in Peril. 

You can also listen to an excerpt from the book, narrated by John Lee here.

Order the book from Flipkart | Amazon

7. THE SHADOW OF THE CRESCENT MOON by Fatima Bhutto, Penguin India

The-Shadow-of-the-Crescent-Moon

Image Source

Fatima Bhutto is the granddaughter of former Pak PM Zufikar Ali Bhutto, niece of Benazir Bhutto and daughter of Murtaza Bhutto. She is a writer and journalist, being very active in Pakistan’s socio-political arena although not associated with any political party. Her most famous work is a memoir, called Songs of Blood and Sword and The Shadow of the Crescent Moon is her first foray into Literary Fiction. It’s a story about love and life and how war makes a person forget the present and choose hope over love.

Pre order the book from Flipkart | Amazon

8. SITA: AN ILLUSTRATED RETELLING OF THE RAMAYANA by Devdutt Pattanaik, Penguin India

300x300_ac2652b437afa23fb32e4b3328433b3e

Image Source

Mythology seems to be trending among Indian authors, especially after books by Anand Neelakantan, Ashok Banker and Amish Tripathi becamebest sellers. However, Devdutt Pattnaik has probably been one of the first successful authors in the mythology genre. Not having read any of his other books and tired of the same brahminical renderings of the Ramayana, I hope this one shall be different, especially because it seems to be from the view point of Sita.

Do check out the book trailer below!

Pre order the book from Flipkart | Amazon

9. THE GIRL FROM NONGRIM HILLS by Ankush Saikia, Penguin India

Girl_from_Nongrim_Hills8

Image Source

The Girl from Nongrim Hills is a thriller set in the city of Shillong. Ankush Saikia is the author of two other books, Jet City Woman and Spotting Veron and Other Stories. 

Order the book from Flipkart | Amazon

10. HOW NOT TO MAKE MONEY by Raj Kundra, Random House India

How-Not-to-Make-Money-By-Raj-Kundra

Image Source

Fiction by celebrities often tends to be disappointing. However I hope this will not turn out to be one too. As you probably know, Raj Kundra is the same one who’s Shilpa Shetty’s husband, owns Rajasthan Royal along with other businesses and has been in the news some time back in the betting scandal. The story is a thriller, involving three friends in London, two of whom are smugglers while the third is a lawyer. The story is based on the Missing Trader Fraud that led to big losses for the governments of UK and Europe in the 2000s.

Order the book from Flipkart | Amazon

Giveaway of Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

UPDATE : The Giveaway is now over. Results will be announced by 14th October, 2013.

It’ssssssss Giveaway time !!

I love these moments, when I announce a giveaway. I feel incredibly important, as if I am doing something for the betterment of the literary community. 😛

Anyway, with this I announce a giveaway of Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger. A much awaited book from Lauren Weisberger (of Devil Wears Prada fame), I will be giving away the review copy I got from the publishers. And yeah, you can check out my review of the book here.

080413-revenge-wears-prada-fxAtX7-lgn1

So, what do you need to do to win this giveaway of Revenge wears Prada ?

It is so simple, all you need do is subscribe to this blog by clicking here. The same email address will be used for contacting you in case you win. 

Also, please share the love by tweeting about this (don’t forget to tag me – @sshhaaiillii) or like the post below on facebook:

Need less to say, you increase your chances of winning when you tweet about this giveaway, or share/like the post on facebook.

Also, the giveaway is open to residents of India only and ends on 12th October, 2013 (Midnight, IST)