Book Review : Love potion no. 10 : A Jana Bibi Adventure by Betsy Woodman

I was introduced to Jana Bibi last year when Random House India sent her first book ‘Jana Bibi’s excellent fortunes’ to me for a review. (Click here to read the review). I found Jana bibi to be an adorable creature.

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The second book in the series, Jana Bibi returns with the same penchant for a life away from the mundane. And nothing mundane can actually happen in Hamara nagar, with a creepy fellow wanting to get his hands on Mr. Ganguly. At the same, love seems to be blooming behind the scenes for Jana Laird and some of her friends.

I am not sure what genre Jana Bibi falls in. Is it for children or adults? It’s amazingly light, simple at heart, but sometimes, has a very mature tone. Overall, it leaves a positive feeling in your stomach and is never a bore. However, I fear that Betsy Woodman may just get a little repetitive in the series, with almost the same plot line in every book (where there is something that threatens Jana and how she deals with it).

About the book: Love Potion no. 10 – A Jana Bibi Adventure | Betsy Woodman | Random House India | Fiction | 320 pages

Note: A copy of this book was provided to me for review by Random House India.

Book Review: The Guardian Angels by Rohit Gore

I finished reading The Guardian Angels by Rohit Gore last month, I do not quite know what I feel about this book, even after one week of having finished it. It’s like I can’t make up my mind about this one. However I shall try to put it all on paper (or cyber space).

The Guardian Angels by Rohit Gore is a story about Radha and Adi, who stumble on to each other during their childhood and share a special bond. The bond remains and strengthens, whatever be the circumstances as they advance in age.

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The book seems at first to be a typical Bollywood story of a rich boy and a middle class girl. However, you have to give time to the story to let it develop. Even if you think it’s your typical story, it does keep you interested enough to continue reading. It makes for some good Metro reading but at the same time, the story and the characters are too ‘ideal’, the characters are too perfect, and don’t seem to have many flaws, making the story seem almost surreal. Not to forget the very cheesy yet profoundly tragic ending. But I have to say one thing, it feels that the author has pored everything inside to write this story. It is not a half-hearted attempt and certainly not something that you can shrug off as your regular Indian writer fare. Read if you are a sucker for romances that remain unfulfilled in theory but yet make you feel as if there could be nothing more complete than this love.

About the book: The Guardian Angels | Rohit Gore | Grapevine India | Fiction |  328 Pages

Note: A copy of this book was provided for review by Mr. Rohit Gore.

Top news this week – Game of Thrones, Harry Potter and The Bone Season Series

It was quite a week for fantasy lovers this week as we saw news from popular fantasy authors and publishers about  upcoming books!

George R R Martin released an excerpt from his upcoming book ‘The Winds of Winter’, the next book in The Song of Ice and Fire Series, of which Game of Thrones was the first book. You can read the excerpt here, on his blog. Random House also has an iphone/ipad app, which serves as a guide to Game of Thrones and contains the excerpt.

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In other news, Bloomsbury is releasing new editions of all the books in the Harry Potter series. These editions have brand new artwork, by award winning artist Jonny Duddle. The release is set for September 1st, 2014. Rush to join the countdown here!

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Image Source: Bloomsbury Twitter Page

To read an interview with Jonny Duddle regarding illustrating for the Harry Potter series, click here.

Also, Bloomsbury released the cover of ‘The Mime Order’, the next book in The Bone Season series by Samantha Shannon. The Bone Season marked Shannon’s entry into the world of literature last year and it soon rode up the New York Times Best seller List. The Mime Order will release this year, tentatively in October, 2014. You can also read my review of The Bone Season and an interview with Samantha Shannon before its release.

Here’s the cover of ‘The Mime Order’ !

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Image Source: Bloomsbury Twitter Page

Are you excited about these books and waiting anxiously for their release ? Do leave a comment!

Book Review: Unnatural Creatures by Neil Gaiman

In this book, Neil Gaiman has selected some of his favorite stories featuring monsters and beasts. Most of these beats exist only in myth or folk lore and some, only in our minds. These stories have been selected by best selling author Neil Gaiman, with stories by noted authors in the collection like E Nesbit and Saki.

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The stories have been carefully chosen. The stories are subtly political, commenting on the present times. I felt as if each ‘monster’ in the story was a metaphor for different emotions in our lives. Sometimes they destroy us, sometimes they liberate us. Each reader would interpret the stories in their own particular way and that is what makes this book enjoyable. My favorite stories were The smile on her face by Nalo Hopkinson and Come Lady Death by Peter S Beagle.

If you are a fan of the short story genre, you shouldn’t miss this book. Also, proceedings go towards the non profit literacy organization called 826DC.

About the book: Unnatural Creatures – Stories chosen by Neil Gaiman | Bloomsbury Publishing | Fiction | 462 Pages. 

Note: This book was provided for review by the kind people at Bloomsbury Publishing.

Bye Bye 2013, Welcome 2014 !

First of all, Happy New Year !

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There’s something impossibly optimistic and happy about a new year coming your way. It fills you with hope and faith that things are going to be so much more better in the new year ! Not to forget, the pleasant surprises which may possibly hit you on the face in 2014. 😀

But before giving a proper welcome to 2014, it’s important to give a good farewell to 2013.

2013 started with a bang, with a job in hand, this time last January. Next followed the craziest last term at MICA and then convocation. Many things happened this year, most of which I am grateful for, even if I may crib about some things on those occasions when everything seems to start weighing down on you. I had some interesting experiences thanks to a sales job which is making me tougher day by day, made new friends, became more open to new possibilities and ended up spending the new year partying with completely unknown people, at a friend’s place (which is a first for me, considering my intrinsic shy nature). And I am happy I did that, it feels like growing up (And I don’t mean growing up in age).

2013 has also been an interesting year for this blog. It was started in the summer of 2012, largely because of a boring internship and nothing much to do. However, second year at MICA consumed me which led to a big lull and it wasn’t until the last term in MICA that I started being serious about this space of mine. 2013 was an active year with me updating quite regularly, with reviews of many new books (thanks to all the lovely publishers who keep sending me books and expecting nothing in return, except an honest review), interviews of interesting new authors in the literary scene and ‘literary’ spaces in the city.

Here are some stats:

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I always imagined that most of the readers would be from India, since I do not publicize this space too much, except sharing it on facebook. However, I was glad to find that there are people from all over the world, who checked out this blog in 2013.

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Also, here’s a roundup  of 2013:

Books I enjoyed the most:

My Favourite Review: The Competent Authority by Shovon Chowdhury

Most viewed Author Interview: Supriya Dravid (A cool dark place, Random House India)

Most Viewed Book Review: Hitched – The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage by Nandini Krishnan (Looks like today’s woman is really worried about marriage 😛 )

Most Popular Giveaway: Blood Red Sari by Ashok Banker and The Hit by Frederick Forsyth (I am not surprised!)

Most viewed non-bookish post: Free – A Poem for Independence Day

The Most active commenter was Abhiroop Banerjee who also did a great guest post called Tragic Pitfalls of Bibliomania.

This year also saw me making plans for taking this website to a whole new level. With priorities and aspirations clashing with each other, I haven’t really been able to set the balls rolling for the same. However, this will always remain a dream.

I have to thank you all for all the love shown to this blog and do hope that you shall continue reading this blog. On a personal front, I have been a little lazy these past two months and lost out on the momentum. There are reviews promised which haven’t been done yet and I can see a big pile of books waiting on the table. I also finished reading only 4 books out of my bucket list and I have learnt that although, most of the books I got from publishers have been good reads, I lost out on reading those which I had wanted to read from a long time. Next year has to be all about balance, but at the same time not losing out on adding new stuff to this space and information about all the new books coming out.

So here’s to a great 2014 ! May 2014 bring good things and good books into our lives ! 🙂

Book Review: Asura Tale of the Vanquished by Anand Neelakantan

I miss MICA. Yes, I do. It’s not like it was Utopia (In some ways, though, it probably was, compared to real life). People living together in a campus means that there are bound to be the usual jealousies, back stabbings and the constant need to hide your insecurities by pretending to be someone you are not. It’s like an entire zoo of human emotions, in perfect biological balance. Just like society all over.

However, there are lots of things that I thank MICA for. Apart from the friends that I made (the ones of course who stayed till the end) and the great time I had, there are some things that you take away from MICA for which you’d always be in debt. One of them is the conditioning that an institution like MICA provides. The wide range of events happening on campus has something to offer to everyone (if you were intelligent enough to take advantage).

I first heard Anand Neelakantan speak at Reverie, the annual Literature festival hosted by the Literary Committee of MICA in early 2013. He shared the stage with Mallika Sarabhai, for a talk on ‘Mythology through the lens of art forms : Dance & Literature’, which revolved largely around the portrayal of women and the demonization of everything non-brahmin in our religious texts. Here’s a video of the same.

That is how I came to know about Anand Neelakantan’s book ‘Asura : The Tale of the Vanquished’. It was only later that I got a review copy and read the book, co incidentally finishing the book around Dusshera, this year. I was going to write about it on Dusshera, the day being perfect for writing a review of a book on Ravana. But one thing led to another and things in my life (or rather in my mind) became a little chaotic which led to inactivity on this website. But let’s not get into that. By the time  I write this review, Anand Neelakantan’s second book ‘Ajaya’ has already released (Check out the book on Flipkart | Amazon| GoodReads). But then, better late than never!

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Book Cover (Image Source: GoodReads)

Asura Tale of the Vanquished is a story of the Ramayana from Ravana’s perspective. As part of readings for a class on ‘Imagining India’ at MICA, I read this essay by A K Ramanujan, titled ‘Three Hundred Ramayanas’ (Yes, it’s the same essay which was scuttled out of the DU syllabus).  No doubt, Anand Neelkantan draws influences from all the different folk versions that exist, of the Ramayana.

The book is written from the point of view of Ravana, alternating in between with a narrative from the perspective of Bhadra, a fictional character who is an untouchable. Bhadra stands for the marginalized common man, filled with all the classic positive and negative qualities embodied by man.

Anand Neelkantan writes an interesting story, in the sense that it portrays Rama as essentially a weak person full of failings, in his bid to be a God while Ravana, even when he is  defeated in the end, somehow emerges as the better person. You end up identifying more with Ravana with all his negative human passions than Rama, an unfair god who society forces you to emulate. Essentially, it brings to light how ‘Sanskritised’ everything is in our religious literature, and how we look for justifications, when we encounter problemmatic episodes (most of them which deal with the caste system and the portrayal of women) in them.

When it comes to the language and writing in general, it is decent enough and certainly not to be regarded as anything more than that. But you should treat Asura as an alternate narrative to that existing in the space of popular literature on mythology and read it for precisely the same reason.

About the book: Asura: The Tale of the Vanquished | Anand Neelakantan | Leadstart Publishing | Fiction | 504 pages | Rs. 250.

Note: A copy of this book was provided by the kind people at Leadstart Publishing, for review.

Book Nook #2: 3L Library in Defence Colony Market, New Delhi

It’s been a pitiful state of affairs these past few weeks. I have been sad and discontented because of things not really going well on any front, especially work. I am still discontented but I am learning to take it better. I guess the pressure will always remain as long as this sales stint lasts. One just needs to not be too harsh on oneself especially when things aren’t in one’s control.

There are so many things that one sees and ponders about in the course of a day. A sales stint means that I travel across the breadth of the city of Delhi every single day of the week (except Sunday, thank god).  Auto wallahs have become both, my dearest friends and enemies.

A sales job, particularly in FMCG, can be grueling and extremely demotivating. You will get shouted upon by your boss, a purchase manager in a top hotel, the distributor or a random shop keeper during the course of the day. You may be lucky enough to not get kicked out by a disgruntled shop keeper. In all this, one needs to find a reason to smile everyday and motivate oneself before the start of each day.

A sales job will also quickly make you understand that having got a MBA degree from a good B school, does not entitle you with special privileges or benefits. Nothing comes easy in life. Probably, this is why they say that if you can do sales, you can do anything in life.

But there are also some advantages to being in sales. You get to see many places; places you never even knew existed. Having been assigned South Delhi as my territory, I have seen it all – the big intimidating bungalows in Panchsheel Enclave, the hip and happening Hauz Khaus Market, Nehru Place and its population of upwardly mobile white collared work force, the narrow lanes of Kilokari Village, the dusty roads of Jaitpur and the always choked street of Chattarpur Mandir. You get the experience the vibrations on the ground, the nation’s heart beat, especially before important political happenings in the country. I could feel the anger among people just before the Delhi Elections. You also come to know about different perspectives, a break from your own closeted thinking, being used to a specific view point as a product of your environment and upbringing.

And then, sometimes, you come across tiny gems, hidden away in places where you would least expect it. And so, here comes the second post in the Book Nook series.

This time, I feature the 3L Library in Defence Colony Market. I found it quite by accident when I was at the market for a sales call.

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3L Library, 49, Defence Colony Market, New Delhi

It is located just behind Moets and is a place from where you can buy or rent second hand books. For renting, you need to get membership which is very easy, all you need to do is register your name and details and pay a deposit. There is a fixed amount of books that you can rent on each visit. You can also buy books instead of borrowing books. It also rents out movies and DVDs.

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The place has a big collection of books, especially Mills and Boons. I just stood and stared at the familiar purple colour (the Mills and Boons branding) that I saw in 4-5 shelves.

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Apart from that, there are many popular authors available. You will find a lot of mass paperbacks. However, there are also some classics here and there.

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So, did you know about this place? Or have you tried out their services? Do you like reading about such places? Do leave a comment with your experiences.

You can also contribute to the Book Nook series by writing in to booksandalotmore@gmail.com with the subject ‘Book Nook’ about your favorite reading spaces anywhere in the world (or in outer space, if you’ve been there 😛 )

Book Review: The Kill List by Frederick Forsyth

The Kill List by Frederick Forsyth has been a much awaited book, especially for fans of the thriller genre. The only other book by Forsyth that I have read is The Fist Of God and I found it to be quite interesting. Reading it was like stepping into another world altogether, a covert world which is unfamiliar for common citizens of this world.

While The Fist of God was a story set in the Persian Gulf War, The Kill List features the war against terrorism. There exists the Kill List, a very secret list of the top terrorists to be captured and assassinated by American Government Agencies, at all costs. The story sees ‘The Preacher’ being added to this list and follows the chase by American agencies to find his identity and capture him. Now, the ‘Preacher’ is a terrorist who brainwashes Muslim men around the world, to assassinate ‘non believers’. A series of killings by different Muslim men bring this dreaded terrorist to the attention of high level agencies and US Marine Kit Carson is entrusted with the responsibility of eliminating him.

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Coming to my thoughts on the book, I felt that the story was appropriately fast and would satisfy most readers of this genre. However, this is not the best of Forsyth’s writing. The Fist of God was so much more interesting and had so many twists and turns. This book on the other hand, just seemed predictable. It’s the usual thriller, not really too much different in tone and style. Good to read ? Yes. But, spectacular ? Definitely not.

About the book: The Kill List | Frederick Forsyth | Random House India | Fiction | 352 Pages | Rs. 399.

Note: A copy of the book was provided by the publishers, Random House India, to me.

The Thursday Morning Breakfast and Murder Club by Liz Stauffer – An Excerpt

The Thursday Morning Breakfast (And Murder) Club by Liz Stauffer is a debut mystery novel, published by Sartoris Literary Group. It is murder mystery which follows Lilly Mae and other ‘breakfast club’ ladies, who help the police in tracking down a killer.

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 Book Cover

Here’s a short excerpt:

“Clare’s dead!”

When she spoke the words, her voice was so low it was barely above a whisper. The sturdy woman with short, curly red hair dropped the handset back into its cradle and began to pace, the phone still ringing on the other end of the line.

Lillie Mae Harris stopped at the front window, taking no notice of the white buds that were just opening on the two Bradford pear trees in her front yard, or the spring flowers peeping through the freshly hoed soil in the close- by flower bed. Her thoughts were of Clare.

She had the best view in Mount Penn from this window. On a winter’s morning she could see for some thirty miles out over the valley with the big blue sky as the backdrop. The night view was even more amazing, offering a shower of dancing lights in the distance competing only with the brightest stars.

It was now early spring and the vista had already begun to shrink even though the trees were just beginning to bud. Once the trees were filled out with big green leaves the view would pull in even more until fall when the colors exploded and the view once again took one’s breath away. But today the scenery did nothing to still Lillie Mae’s pounding heart or quell her shaking hands. She couldn’t stop worrying about Clare. Rushing back to the phone, she scooped it up, and punched in a familiar number.

“Hello.” Alice Portman answered in her sweet Southern drawl, after just one ring. Her Jack Russell terrier, Alfred, barked in the background.

“Clare’s not answering her phone this morning,” Lillie Mae said. “I’m so worried about her, Alice. I’m not sure what to do.”

“Settle down, Lillie Mae,” Alice said, shushing Alfred. “Why are you more concerned today?”

“You were at the water meeting last night,” Lillie Mae said. “You saw how Roger was acting. Yelling and screaming like an idiot. When he’s gotten that riled up in the past, Clare’s been his punching bag.”

“Well, yes,” Alice agreed, deliberately slowing the pace of the conversation. “But, Roger was just being Roger last night, dear. Just showing off. I didn’t see anything unusual in his behavior. Certainly nothing to make you so worried this morning.”

“He was acting worse than usual,” Lillie Mae insisted, still pacing the living room floor. “And I’m sure he drank himself crazy when the meeting was finally over. That’s the real reason I’m worried, Alice. You know how he is when he drinks. What he does to Clare.”

“Roger playacts, you know, when it suits him, Lillie Mae,” Alice said, her voice still soft and cool. “He knows he’s going to make a lot of money hooking people up to the public water in a few short months, but he wants to come across as the good guy to his neighbors, not the money grubbing fool that he is. He’ll use every wile that he has to seduce the community. If the project fails, which it won’t this time, he looks like he’s the man who stopped it. If it passes, he wins big time.”

“You’re probably right, Alice,” Lillie Mae said, calming a bit. “I know Roger is shrewd. If he wasn’t always out there trying to make a deal, he wouldn’t be Roger, I guess.”

“So, stop overreacting, Lillie Mae. What’s brought all this on anyway?”

“I’ve been calling Clare’s house all morning and nobody answers the phone,” Lillie Mae said. “It’s stupid, I know, but I picture Clare lying on her kitchen floor, needing my help. Dead, even.”

A sigh escaped Alice’s lips. “You’re way over dramatizing this morning, Lillie Mae,” she said. “Roger’s not even home. He drove by me in that stupid yellow Hummer of his while Alfred and I were out on our early morning walk.”

“That’s good to hear,” Lillie Mae said. “Stop imagining the worst, Lillie Mae. Clare’s probably out, too. It’s such a warm spring day. Doesn’t she usually go grocery shopping on Wednesday mornings?”

“Maybe,” Lillie Mae conceded. “Or she could be in her garden, I guess.”

“She’ll call you back when she gets to it,” Alice said, a hint of impatience in her voice.

“I doubt if she does.” Lillie Mae’s voice broke. “She rarely calls me anymore. We’ve been such good friends for so many years and I miss her, Alice. I wish I knew what I did wrong.”

“Clare’s changing, Lillie Mae. She’s getting stronger. Give the girl some space.”

“I’ve noticed a change, too,” Lillie Mae said, “since Billy went off to university. She does have more confidence, I’ll give you that.”

“Have you written your article on the water meeting for the Antioch Gazette, yet?” Alice asked. “I thought it was due today.”

“Not yet,” Lillie Mae confessed. “I’ve been too worried about Clare.”

“Maybe being busy will take your mind off things that are not really any of your business,” Alice said.

“I guess you’re right,” Lillie Mae said. “Clare’s a big girl and can take care of herself.”

“I know that well,” Lillie Mae said, then suddenly turned serious again when her thoughts returned to Clare. “I’m walking down to Clare’s to check things out before I start on the article. I need to make certain she’s all right, or I won’t be able to concentrate on my work. Do you want to come along?”

“No, you go on, if it’ll make you feel better,” Alice said. “You can fill me in on the details at dinner this evening.”

About Liz Stauffer: Website | Twitter | GoodReads

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!

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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.’

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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.