Sunday, December 21, 2014

Best Time Ever at the Utkal Literature Festival!

I was invited to Bhubhaneshwar for the Odisha Literature Festival organized by the New Indian Express, last year and promptly developed a soft spot for the beautiful city, designed by the German architect, Otto Konigsberger in 1946. Although not as exquisite as Pondicherry which never fails to make me feel a pang of regret that the French lost the Carnatic wars and failed to make the rest of the deep south as gorgeous as that gem of a union territory, Bhubhaneshwar has more than its fair share of charm going for it. Consequently I was thrilled when the opportunity to visit presented itself to me  via the Utkal Literature Festival. The second time around my attraction for the city of temples blossomed into full blown love.

As the tourism guides will tell you, Bhubhaneshwar completes the Swarna Tribhuja or "The Golden Triangle" of Puri (Jagannadh temple), Konark. I had already visited Puri and Konark last year. This time around I completed the triangle with a visit to the Lingaraj temple. There is no doubt about it... Kalinga architecture is absolutely incredible but it is just too bad that the walkways leading to all three destinations are choked up with all manner of refuse running the entire gamut of grossness from the filthy to the unspeakably ugly. Exactly when did Indians start embracing their inner pig with such gusto?

That major grouse aside, it was a blast exploring the city and pigging out on asli Odia street cuisine like gupchups, chicken pakodas, mutton chops, chenna poda and authentic rasogollas with fellow writers Alaka Sahani, Kavita Kane, Satyarth Nayak and Sujit Mahopatra.

The sessions were pretty interesting as well. It was a nice initiative to highlight Odia literature and writing. There were some intense moments between the Odia writers and Odias writing in English but they blew over  without anyone coming to blows over it. In my opinion, events like ULF are a great way to bridge the yawning gulf between Indians who write in English and those who are proficient in their respective regional languages. After all, writers irrespective of the langauage they prefer communicate through their stories and the good stories always transcend the words used to frame them. It is to be hoped that someday such festivals become the norm in Tamil Nadu as well where language remains a very sensitive issue.

Lastly, do check this out. It is an interview I did for the Telegraph. Really enjoyed it, although I do wish their photographer had not gone with the pic where my admittedly wonky expression has prompted a whole bunch of people to wonder aloud if I had crapped my pants! (For the record, I sorta made a face because I hate cameras and posing :( The painful part is that there were tons of other photos where I smiled sweetly for the intrusive lens or at least managed a more normal expression :) ) Oh well!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Kamadeva gets Hotter!

Kamadeva: The God of Desire was recently featured in Storizen magazine's 'Hot off the Press' section. Merci beaucoup to Mukesh Rijhwani, co - founder of Storizen for promoting Indian authors and their stories. Do take a look at it here.

"Author Anuja Chandramouli’s writing has blossomed a lot more since her last book Arjuna. The writing is so good and so different that you will wonder that is this really the second book by the author. In her first book also I liked the writing a lot but this time around it is even better and so much more different which brings a freshness to the entire story telling.
It appeared to me at certain places that the author is trying to test the limits, challenge our society and its deep-rooted beliefs in our gods and goddesses."
Abhinav Shrivastava had this and more to say about Kamadeva: The God of Desire which you can check out here.

"The best part of the book is that Anuja Chandramouli makes her characters very human. Yes, she is telling the story of the Gods, whom we hold with such reverance, yet she humanizes them in such a way that a reader can actually relate to the character and situations. The dialogue delivery in our everyday language adds to the allure of it. The book also discusses some topics that are very relevant in our society. It is very apparent that that the author has put in some quality research time while developing the plot and apllaud the author for that. The language and the narration compliments each other by maintaining a certain balance. The author has a very refined language and it is a pleasure to read her prose."
Popular blogger Debdatta Dasgupta Sahay's review of Kamadeva can be found here.

Friday, December 12, 2014

On Cutting the Crap and Dealing with India's Rape Crisis the Sensible Way!

Every time, a rape case hits the headlines which, unfortunately has become something of a norm in India today, like every self - respecting human being, I tend to froth at the mouth, nearly apoplectic with rage and wonder why castration has not been legally sanctioned as a suitable punishment for the debased creatures who prey on women. On December 16th, 2012, a horrific crime on a Delhi bus saw a brave young girl's life prematurely snuffed out and awakened the conscience of this nation. We shed tears of grief and rage when she passed and cried out for changes that needed to be implemented in a country that ought to be made safe for its daughters. Nearly two years later, very little progress has been made as evidenced by the dramatic fallout from the Uber rape case.

Women seem to be as vulnerable as ever to acid attacks, rape, molestation, and every other form of abuse. Recently, two sisters from Rohtak made waves when they fought back and found themselves cheered by just about everybody who saw the video recording of the same, which promptly went viral. This mother of two however, found little to cheer about, if the latest role society has smugly sanctioned for members of  the formerly gentler sex is that of a butt-kicking brawler. Am I supposed to raise my  little girls as though they were heading out  into a battlefield and teach them to embrace violence if they want to be safe? How can that be right?

Whereas earlier, citizens of India were criminally indifferent, now things have changed but certainly not for the better. An atmosphere of fear, mistrust and repressed anger has spread like a particularly contagious infection tainting our view of everyone and everything. The kindly milkman or the handy chauffeur are viewed through a prism of suspicion, and they, not surprisingly respond with baffled hurt which slowly becomes thinly veiled hostility. Nobody believes in India or Indians any more and the results are plainly there for everybody to see. The garbage choking the streets is nothing compared to the attitude we have adopted to our motherland which is why we spit and shit on it both literally and metaphorically.

It is awful that the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi who preached  non - violence and showed the world how to be the better man/woman even under great adversity has been forgotten except
 when an enterprising director makes a hit film series based on his doctrines. If women felt compelled to accessorize their outfits not with sexy bags or shoes but tasers, Swiss knives, pepper spray and pearl - handled guns finished off with an attitude of extreme wariness and aggression they may as well douse themselves with blood to attract every shark circling the vicinity. A trigger - happy girl or one who is ready to dole out the slaps to every ruffian out there must in all practicality be prepared to bite the bullet or get slapped in return. Because violence begets violence and that truism simply cannot be gainsaid. If a stray Dog were to chase a cyclist, some would recommend pelting it with stones but the Gandhian way is to chuck a few doggie biscuits its way, since that way nobody would get hurt. It is the better way since it follows logically, that there is no need for little girls to be raised as warriors by paranoid parents who want their daughters to learn to outfight the brawnier sex and beat the fellas at their own game when in reality, girls should be taught to play to their strengths which thankfully need not be about emulating martial artists.

The best way to build a world to our liking  is to start at home, and despite its hideous warts and all India is home. I refuse to believe that all men are dogs. There are good, kind and decent Indian men out there and we can't let a few bad apples define our nation or force us to arm ourselves and our young ones to feel safe in our own backyard.

In recent times, there has been a clarion call for men to change their attitudes towards women. But women need to modify their thinking as well. We need to hold our heads high and do our thing without ever giving in to fear. This is our land and nobody has the right to make us feel scared, lonely, or make victims out of us. And we need to believe that all Indians are our brothers and sisters and they'll come through for us. These are troubled times but if we stand united there is no reason why we cannot emerge from this period of strife into a better tomorrow.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Woman in Black by Susan Hills: Old Fashioned Horror at its Eerie Best

What is a book lover and a fan of the horror/ghost story genre supposed to do when the market is inundated with tedious tales about gorgeous vampires/werewolves with a penchant for manufacturing drama and making much ado about nothing? You strap yourself into a time machine and head for the past or pick up Susan Hill's "The Woman in Black", an old fashioned ghost story narrated by Arthur Kipps in a desperate bid to escape "from under the long shadow cast by the events of the past.", The narrator then proceeds to take the reader into the dread events that almost proved to be his undoing long years ago, when as a young solicitor who did not believe in ghosts he found himself in Eel Marsh House, to sort out the affairs of the recently deceased Mrs. Alice Drablow. Incidentally, the said creepy mansion is isolated from the town it is situated in, by a causeway that can only be traversed in low tide. 
Hill does full justice to the material at hand and wields her pen like a virtuoso to create a chilling atmosphere that is hauntingly beautiful but nevertheless fills even hardened horror aficionados with mounting dread that subsequently oscillates between pity (for the victim as well as persecutor) and terror.
The ghost's back story is skilfully woven and to use a somewhat perverse metaphor given the context in question it feels like digging into a particularly succulent drumstick chicken with plenty of meat and a juicy bone to gnaw upon. The road to the end is carefully constructor and even as the reader hurtles towards it with a sense of the inevitable it still packs a wallop.
"The Woman in Black" is definitely something to be prescribed for those who are heartily sick of vampires. 

Saturday, December 06, 2014

"The Replacement" by Brenna Yovanoff: Too much Teenage Angst and Too Little Terror

Brenna Yovanoff's "The Replacement" has a very eerie premise. It is about babies being stolen from their cribs and replacements getting left behind mostly to sicken and die. There is an underworld, a thriving metropolis populated by the dead and not - quite dead ruled over by the Morrigan, a creepy little Princess who treats the town of Gentry to hard rock performances which are supposedly beneficial to their mutual health if not the levels of noise pollution.  Finally, a revenant, which is a reanimated corpse turns up to effect a rescue. Yet, despite the promise offered by such macabre conceits, "The Replacement' is less about thrills and chills than it is about teenage angst in all its, underwhelming, pimpled, hormone ravaged glory.
The protagonist, Mackie Doyle is a replacement who managed to survive despite his debilitating allergies to iron, blood and consecrated ground, complicated exponentially by having a Pastor for his father. When he is not yearning for a normal life he is ogling the breasts or legs of the resident high - school hottie and cursing his luck that her pierced tongue prevents him from fully exploring the wonders of her oral cavity.
Even as Mackie's troubles spiral out of control and he seeks solace in the hawthorne water coughed up by denizens of the underworld who kindly offer him surcease from his allergies in exchange for him joining their band, a potential love interest's sister is kidnapped and her replacement is hastened to an early grave. This prompts Mackie to rise to the occasion by making out with the grieving sibling and discovering his inner hero in time to square off with a dirt witch who fancies herself a God and demands fear or blood sacrifice when she is not playing with live dolls as well as the Cutter, who is a sadist/masochist who enjoys ridding the loved ones of his victims of their digits in order to get them to toe his line.
If all this sounds like a cheesy B- grade horror movie, it is probably because that is exactly what it reads like sans the titillating sight of nubile nymphs baring their cleavage or the clever manipulation of light and sound that make you jump and spill your popcorn.

Saturday, November 29, 2014


You are not going to believe this but it is time to share a few more reviews with you, dear long suffering reader of mine! And if you feel a tad ill -used and cheated because of the somewhat misleading title which promised something unbelievably exciting but may not have exactly delivered don't blame me. Hyper - enthusiastic facebook users who insist on bombarding me with links that supposedly hold the key to a newly
discovered cornucopia brimming over with amazing adventure, poignant sentiment and cloying cuteness which I am apparently bound by the code of social networking to share (or else...) only to leave me stupefied by the sight of a cute baby having its bum washed and powdered by the daddy (gasp!)  are responsible for the inspiration behind that blinder of a header!

Anyways here are the reviews I mentioned. Some are kind and some less so but I love all my reviewers equally. If the above declaration brought out your inner sceptic, I welcome you to examine my nose it
remains the cute button it always was and has not shot out like Pinocchio's extremely revealing one :)

Without further ado (drum roll please!) I present the most recent reviews for Kamadeva: The God of Desire:

Uma Meenakshi on Flipkart: (She has given it 4 stars)
What I liked about the book is that characters are realistically portrayed in different shades of grey, which makes them easier to connect with. They’re also relevant to the present, even though they are mythological characters - Rati reborn as Maya had me nodding in agreement with her thought provoking feminist dialogues, the Rukmini-Maya mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship had me smiling and was something I could relate to, and the portrayal of Shambara the Asura was such that I ended up liking him more than Kama/Pradyumna. Beats me why Maya left him for Pradyumna!

Anuja has grown a lot as a writer. If Arjuna, her first book was a commendable effort, her modern day portrayal of Kamadeva is an excellent read that puts her right up there with the most promising of upcoming writers. 

You can read the rest of it here.
Balaji Sundarrajan on Goodreads (4 stars :) ):
i think the author has done a magnificent job in making this a gripping tale. anuja's command over the language helps her in maintaining the pace of the book and she manages to make even routine things sound extraordinarily interesting. the opening chapter involving the creation of kamadeva and the consequent events, is a masterpiece in my opinion. i also admired and enjoyed the chapter where the discussion about the battle of sexes & sharing of power, takes place between indra & rati. on the whole a bold & brilliant initiative. 

You can read the rest of the review here.

Blogger Itisha Niranjan Baxi of Bookish gives it 3 stars:

This book by Anuja Chandramouli (click here for a review of this author’sArjuna) is an interesting read, as it flows through time and events in the Hindu mythology with immense ease.
The book starts with the birth of Kamadeva by the sweat of Bhramha, induced by the overwhelming seduction he feels by an extraordinarily beautiful woman of his own creation – Rati. Rati is sensuous, fierce and of indomitable spirit, whereas Kama has a mellow demeanor, an incomparable charm and a calm and composed mind. A lot of other popular Devas make their appearance throughout the book, but the limelight never shifts from the protagonist duo.

For a novice in Hindu mythology, this book is a good read as it puts forth the story in a mellifluous manner.
You can read the rest here

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

FEMINA and I!!!!

It was quite exciting to see myself as one of the Faces of the Femina, October 13th issue, it must be admitted! They are carrying one of my short stories which has quite a long story behind it with a little author bio at the end. It has been quite the heart-warming experience with friends and relatives messaging congrats and liking it on Facebook etc.

As for the long story, my short story was originally entered in a national level short story writing competition. The top three would be given cash prizes and a few more stories deemed meritorious by the judges would be included in an anthology with the winners. There would be an event to release the book and you would get to bask in the unalloyed joy of being a published writer. I wanted the win, so bad, it made me positively reek of desperation which stinks far worse than particularly rank BO.

Unfortunately, my little minnow of a short story did not make the cut, and the loss was hard to bear especially since treacherous hope had ballooned out of all proportion to reason, after it was announced that the first round had been successfully cleared. As a consolation prize, I was told my story would be included in the anthology.

In the meantime, I had defiantly entered it in another competition which would see behemoths from a few more continents. Sometimes faith is even more foolish than hope and using the unassailable logic that my minnow had what it took to swim with the sharks, this struggling writer whose career had few things brag worthy and a whole lot, cringe worthy, made the choice to turn down the chance to have her story included in the anthology and opted instead to go for the win on an even bigger arena. Needless to say my minnow was swallowed up whole leaving me feel like a gambler who had lost way more than could be afforded.

As it turned out soul - crushing disappointment functioned as a great motivator having quashed my earlier dream of being the O Henry of my generation but not my tendency to gamble when it makes very little sense to do so. Deciding to go for broke, I started on my first novel and long story short,  now my official bio says that I am the author of Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior - Prince and Kamadeva: The God of Desire. (By the way, I am aware that it is hugely annoying to get into self - laudatory mode but at some point I'll get into self - bashing mode and then you will be hard - pressed to say which me is more annoying :) )

So much is owed to the humble little story that none of the judges liked as much as I did. Be that as it may, I am delighted to share my tale of marital discord with the readers of Femina, thanks to the discerning editors of this esteemed publication. (For the record, I did not threaten to kill myself if they refused to publish my beloved creation) Hope they love it more than those darned judges :) 

Monday, November 17, 2014

An Interview for New Asian Writing (Online Asian Literary Community) plus an Exciting Bonus!

Anuja Chandramouli is the author of Kamadeva: The God of Desire. Her first book Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava was named by Amazon India as one of the top 5 books in Indian writing for the year 2013. Contact her here.
NAW- Tell us about your book, Kamadeva. How did you get the idea for it? What is it about?
Kamadeva: The God of Desire is about one of the most enigmatic and misunderstood characters in Hindu mythology. I have lost track of the number of ribald jokes that people have taken to regaling me with, having been told that my second book is based on Kama. Many assume that I have done my take on the Kamasutra and wish to know if there are illustrations. Seriously though, my book seeks to take the reader on a ride that begins with Kama’s origins and follows the intimate contours of the tumultuous journeys he was destined to undertake – the tremendous bond of love he shared with his consort (Rati), his love affairs, the dangerous missions he performed for the Gods, his invaluable contributions to the amorous arts, the premature death that was his fate, his rebirth and what happens after.

You can read the rest right here.
And now for the best part, the icing on the cake, the fantabulous bonus you have been dreaming about etc. etc.. Find an excerpt of Kamadeva: The God of Desire right here.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

This reviewer has some lovely words for Kama and moi!

Flipkart has a 4, 8 rating for Kamadeva: The God of Desire. Blogger Purnendu Chatterjee gives it 4.5! How awesome is that!

This book tells the story of Kama and about all those incidents and characters which we have never heard of. The readers will fall in love with the witty and compelling narrating style. A perfect blend of history and imagination.

You can read the rest of the review right here

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Anuradha Goyal gives Kama a Wonderful Review!

Life is beautiful when the universe lets you know in its inimitably subtle manner that balance is the real God and the mystical rhythms that govern all in existence work tirelessly to even things out. This morning Kamadeva: The God of Desire received its first unabashed bashing on Goodreads. What was worse was that this particular critic added that he hardly ever gives negative reviews.I considered dissolving in tears but decided to be a man in the manner indicated by Rudyard Kipling - "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/ and treat those two imposters just the same", suck it up and take it on the chin. (If you are feeling perverse do check out the review right here.
Aside from stress eating and stuffing my face with biriyani and ice cream cake, I thought this particular author had behaved with suitable maturity. Almost as if the higher powers that be wished to reward my behaviour  for refraining from hunting down the critic and forcing him to love my book at gunpoint (Don't worry, I was planning to use my nephew's realistic toy gun), a Twitter search coughed up a wonderful review for Kamadeva: The God of Desire by Anuradha Goyal, author of The Mouse Charmers, blogger and travel writer. Now, I am all smiles and wondering if there is any ice cream cake left to celebrate the balance that has been returned to my world :) Yay!

Here are some of the finer points of her review: "Anuja has picked all the episodes in Puranas and Itinhaas where Kamadeva made an appearance and weaved it into a lovely story. 
I have read author’s earlier book Arjuna as well, and I think she has grown as a writer manifold. The language is smooth and it flows through the narrative – especially when there are long dialogues and never ending debates between various characters.
I enjoyed reading the book. If you like Indian mythology and the God of Desire tickles your curiosity – read it." 

You can read the entire review here.

Monday, October 20, 2014


Hey ppl! Do check out THE ONE THING YOU CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT contest and win a signed copy of Kamadeva: The God of Desire!
There must be something in your life without which you absolutely cannot live. What is it? Send us a photo of that special something you simply cannot do without with a brief description of why you feel that way in the comments section. CHeck out this link on Facebook and be sure to participate and share with your friends: THE ONE THING YOU CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT contest

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Blogger Sruti Nayani's interview avec moi!

Kamadeva - The God of Desire’ was an excellent read, partly due to the fact that I had not read enough of Kama and Rati. Anuja Chandrmouli seemed to come along and pick out my favourite comic books (as in ACK) and just make it her job to write them into a proper story.

There is nothing more I could ask for than this. So, you could read My Review of it and also read Anuja Chandramouli's take on the whys and hows of it...

Could you describe the journey of ‘Kamadeva - The God of Desire’? How did it begin? What kind of research was put into it?

This particular journey has been absolutely exhilarating to say the least! I was wrestling with a wicked bout of writer’s block after my first book, ‘Arjuna : Saga of a Pandava Warrior Prince’ and it was around that time, I succumbed to the charm and seductive lure of Kama. Before I knew it, a happy obsession with the enigmatic wielder of the Sugarcane bow and flower - tipped arrows took over my life.

Not that I am complaining. His is a fascinating story and it was a wonderful experience to gather together every precious nugget of information pertaining to him by scouring the familiar and happy hunting ground that is the wondrous world of Indian mythology.

It was even more fun to fill in the initially frustrating gaps in the narrative which no amount of research could plug with my imagination and educated guesses! So, in my book you will find that fact (if you can consider recorded myths as such!) and fiction blend harmoniously to create what one of my favourite writers – Kalki (of Ponniyin Selvan fame) referred to as faction!

You can read the rest of it here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Blogger Sruti Nayani's Review of Kamadeva: The God of Desire

Anuja Chandramouli’s latest offering is quite different from the previous ‘Arjuna - Saga of a Pandava Warrior Prince’. I did think Arjuna reminded me of the Amar Chitra Katha version of the  ‘Mahabharata’, but that is where ‘Kamadeva - The God of Desire' is different. I remember reading enough Kamadeva in ACK but I do not think it ever carried a version, such as this.
Kudos to Chandramouli for the way, in which she describes the story, with an all new taste of wit and laughter.
You can read the rest of the review here.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Book Review: The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee

Neel Mukherjee’s Man Booker shortlisted, The Lives of Others is a study in skeletons. Those bony frameworks that support the human organism grinning all the while, irritatingly smug about the knowledge they have accreted about the terrifying things that lurk beyond the grave from rotting flesh and squirming maggots to the solitary journey of the soul along an unlit passage. Mukherjee concerns himself particularly with those skeletons that have been banished to the deep recesses of the closet by the Ghoshes, as bourgeois a family as they come, where the sceptre of the painful secrets they harbour need not pose a threat to the living who would rather concern themselves with the fripperies and fopperies of a superficial existence. If that were not ambitious in itself, he also ferrets out the bony remnants of the corpses that a nation released from the iron grip of the British Empire has made it a habit to relegate to the hidden chamber of wilful ignorance by slavishly catering to the demands of the very rich at the expense of those who languish below the poverty line.
            Three generations of Ghoshes live together in a four – storey house in South Calcutta feeding off the short – lived prosperity that was made possible by the patriarch, Prafullanath who built his business empire on the foundation of great personal loss, its subsequent pain and a ruthless desire to get ahead at all costs even if it meant hoodwinking a grieving widow or riding roughshod over those weaker than him. Evil omens stalk the family that is already splintering from within as the Ghosh siblings, daughters – in – law and children endlessly slug it out, incessantly jockeying for a bigger share of the family assets and increased leverage in their airless corner of the world, causing the old man to remark morosely, “I feel I have just been a conducting pipe between the bad in the past and the bad in the future.”
            Even as his family remains locked in their infernal squabbling, neck-deep in the juices of base inequities such as incestuous bonds, substance abuse, the relentless pursuit of taboo pleasure, furtive practices of forbidden sexual peccadilloes, and casual cruelty, Supratik, a young college student with his head well and truly turned by misguided idealism supplemented by his obstinate impracticality leaves home hoping to change the world by redressing the wrongs meted out to the have-nots using brute force and bloody insurrection if need be.
            Mukherjee strips his colourful array of diverse characters to the bare bones affording his readers a voyeuristic glimpse into the intimate secrets contained therein triggering shock, amazement and often, shame. For, he extends the same unflinching treatment to a country that has gone mad with greed, divesting it off the layers of hypocrisy and pretentiousness which continue to cloak it, long after the fictional events this novel chronicles from the 1960s, even as the rift widens increasingly between those who are insulated by extreme wealth and the rest who are left out in the cold. None can remain untouched by guilt for having contributed in infinitesimal ways to the class divide that has made victims out of too many to count, trapped in the knowledge “that the world is as it is, and knocking your head against its hard shell is only going to break you, not dent the world.”
            The narrative forges ahead into the thorny terrain that Supratik has chosen to traverse, to the assorted variables that led to the rise of the Maoist Naxalite guerrillas, taking the time to meander into the heart of the turmoil that is always rocking this particular household throwing into sharp focus, their petty foibles that mirrors the rot in the society that birthed them. As Supratik and his family hurtle towards their fate, melodrama rears its head and saturates the proceedings with a curious mixture of horror and disbelief, striking a few discordant notes regarding the logic underlying some of the pre - climactic events that see the inexplicable return of the prodigal son who is a wanted man bringing predictable disaster in his wake. This aside the intense action culminates in an explosive finale that will leave a chill in the heart which will not be easily dispelled.

An edited version of this review appeared in the New Indian Express, which you can check out here. 

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

My Interview!

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
Even as a little girl, I used to have a certain knack for storytelling. My grandmother would make me tell the tale of Krishna and his defeat of the evil Kamsa to every single one of her guests and I would always get a big round of applause and a whole lot of oohs and aahs. Later at school, my friends and classmates would beg me for stories. It gave me a kick to put up a big fuss but eventually I’d give in and secretly I’d be very flattered when a big group gathered around for my little tales. Around that time, I won prizes for essay writing and the teachers used to read out samples of my writing to my classmates as well as the seniors and for the first time, I realized that this was something I could actually do well without screwing up too badly. 
That was the beginning and I guess, it was in the cards that my life would be devoted to writing and telling stories. 

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
After the release of my first book Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior Prince, I went through a bit of a dry spell, creatively speaking. Was working on a horror story hoping to become India’s answer to Stephen King, but my efforts came to naught and I was going bonkers. My publishers approached me at the time and we tossed around a few ideas for my next book. We shortlisted Parashurama and Kama and for some strange reason, I was really drawn to the latter. Perhaps, he struck me with one of his arrows... all I know is that I became quite obsessed with Kama. It has been an amazing experience getting closer to him and writing down his story. 

You can read the rest here.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Great review on Kamadeva: The God of Desire in the New Indian Express!

Kama is deva, a god, but he hardly gets his due anymore. Agni, Vayu, Indra are all invoked with mantras on some earthly business or the other, but Kama’s name is uttered furtively and then greeted with titters. He is one half of a modern byword for pornography: Kamasutra. It is just as the god, in Anuja Chandramouli’s Kamadeva: The God of Desire, tells his stepmother, the goddess Saraswati: “It is highly unlikely that in future people will build temples in my honour or compose beautiful songs for me. I will be lucky if I am remembered enough to be featured prominently in pornographic material; worse still is the distinct possibility that the god, Kama, will be lampooned as the divine pimp!”
Anuja does not go into the ‘why’ of Kama’s fall. That is known to be an outcome of long colonial rule, for Khajuraho and countless other temples across the country testify that Kama’s business was sacred enough to grace their walls till a few hundred years ago. Victorian prudery knocked this minor god off his pedestal, but ironically, the influence he lost in India is now strongly visible in the West.
What The God of Desire does, without trying too hard, is it strips all the accumulated innuendo and salacity that have wrapped Kama over the past couple of hundred years, and shows him in many shades of grey (no pun intended). He is sensitive, sensuous, beautiful, thoughtful and even righteous.
There’s never a dull page in this history of Kamadeva...You can read the rest here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Book Review: We are all Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Twists are a tricky business. They can make or break an artiste as Manoj Night Shyamlan will ruefully attest to. Fowler takes quite the risk with her shocler which is revealed 77 pages into her gripping tale, in the Man Booker shortlisted, We are all Completely Beside Ourselves. As far as these things go, hers is quite clever not to mention “irritatingly coy” and feels more than a little ludicrous. On the strength of it one tends to become a tad dismissive about the weighty themes the writer had hitherto been grappling with using a deceptively deft touch and surreptitiously clever writing that draws up dread – inducing visions of the smoking ruins of a family that once included loving parents and three siblings, two of whom are gone possibly never to return.
            Then a miracle occurs and ever so gently, Fowler weaves her intricate spell pulling the unsuspecting reader into the heart of her wondrous story, filling them with empathy and getting them invested emotionally with every one of her characters irrespective of whether they are human or not. Case in point is a marionette we get to know as Madame Defarge and whom Rosemary Cooke, the narrator/protagonist tries unsuccessfully to protect only to wind up losing her the way she has too many of her loved ones.

            Rosemary is reeling from a double blow - the loss of Fern, the twin sister who has been taken away from her and whose departure she might well have brought about in the extreme throes of sibling rivalry and Lowell, the runaway brother, she adores, now embarked on a self – destructive path of no return and who with the inexplicable cruelty of the very young may have held her responsible for the spectacular disintegration of their family. As always, Rosemary is inclined to agree with her beloved sibling and for the longest time she runs from her past as though it were a hound from hell out to get her, armouring herself in denial until the day she realizes that her very future is imperilled because of her inability to confront the ghosts from her unorthodox childhood that refuse to die.

In a bid to make amends and to absolve herself of the debilitating guilt that has long enslaved her, Rosemary begins a meandering journey through the dangerously slippery slope that is memory, piecing together pieces of her life that are too painful to be borne even as the phantasmagorical wisps of clues dredged up from her tormented psyche play hide and seek with her, concealing, misleading and tricking her outright into a false sense of security before pulling her down under and leaving her breathless with misery.
            Funny in parts but mostly heart – rending, Fowler draws attention to the ethical obligation that science and scientists owe species ranked lower on the food chain than the homo sapiens, in their often ruthless quest to alleviate the suffering of the latter be it from illness or their frustrated attempts to zero in on the perfect moisturizer or lipstick. Sterile labs that carry out their secret experiments have seldom taken on a more sinister cast. Needless to say the author is far more effective than animal rights activists with their penchant for featuring topless celebrities in order to induce people to curb cruelty towards our four – legged and feathered brethren. In fact, readers will undoubtedly experience an unexpected pang of guilt, the next time a filthy rodent crosses their path and be warned that a fun - filled trip to the zoo, especially the monkey enclosure is likely to bring on a fit of hysterics.

            Rosemary Cooke is a wonderful narrator with a disconcerting but delightful habit of engaging her audience directly - “My father made a crude joke... If the joke were witty, I’d include it, but it wasn’t. You’d think less of him and thinking less of him is my job not yours.” as she bares her soul with exhibitionist and gay abandon provoking laughter and tears in equal measure. With her intimate reveal of fractured relationships and scientific experiments gone hopelessly haywire, this moral comedy is a harrowing hoot and a half. 
An edited version of this originally appeared in the New Indian Express. You can read it here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Finding the Love in an Arranged Marriage

It is anathema to many that arranged marriages continue to prevail and even flourish in these increasingly progressive times. Somehow it comes across as anachronistic and unromantic at exactly the same time. Parents playing matchmaker and selecting a spouse for their son or daughter harkens back to an era which those living in this age would envision as  something out of a period film where people swath themselves in yards of unnecessary fabric most unfashionably and with the docility of doormats allow themselves to be married to someone they had never even met let alone spoken to and probably made love in the dark at the auspicious hour appointed by their elders as per the tenets of the draconian laws framed by those from an even more remote timeframe.
            The marriage websites that have mushroomed across the murky wetland of the internet provide a lot of fodder for derisive laughter on account of the fact that a vast majority of the users whose predominant criteria  regarding the hunt for their better half appears to be to find themselves someone who is either fairer than the moon or wealthier than an oil sheik which of course lends support to the argument that an arranged marriage is a superficial, cold and business like arrangement bereft of the tender emotions that are needed to make a marriage really sing.
            Naysayers would also scoff at the findings showing that the divorce rates are less among those who have opted for an arranged marriage compared to the many love marriages that crash and burn on account of waning passions, insisting that the statistics are misleading because the doormats and coldly calculative types in such marriages will carry on with the arrangement irrespective of whether they are happy or unhappy simply because they do not have the guts to walk out or because the reason they walked into this unsatisfactory partnership in the first place still holds.
            However, there is the possibility however farfetched and ludicrous it may sound in this day and age that the foundation on which this creaking dinosaur of an institution was built may not be entirely unsound. Aside from the fact that it remains standing despite repeated condemnation, recent studies have led to experts concluding that lasting affection is more likely to be found in arranged matches than marriage bonds forged in the heat of passion.
This is mostly because those in arranged marriages tend to work harder on nurturing what they feel for each other till it blossoms into love over a period of time. Having made a commitment after careful consideration of compatibility either of their own accord or owing to the efforts of their family members, these couples are more willing to wade together past the rocky patches till they reach the Elysian fields of nuptial bliss.
On the other hand, those who marry for love tend to be so caught up in the heat of their romance that they forget that flames no matter how fiercely they burn eventually dissipate leaving nothing but cold disappointment behind. Unable to recapture the addictive highs of the heady romance that marked their early days together, the couple feel there is no reason to hang on to a relationship where the glowing embers are dying past the hope of rekindling. Consequently, rigid conservatives are quick to pounce on this unsavoury little aspect of romantic love and have pronounced it the predominant cause of promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases, burgeoning divorce rates and the spike in sex – related crimes.
Those inclined to sit on the fence regarding this question which is almost as ancient as the venerable institution of marriage depending on the natural bent of their minds will say that a marriage is a marriage irrespective of the reasons involved and there is always romance when two souls are joined together in holy matrimony or alternatively, that marriage irrespective of the causative factors is availed off solely by those with dangerously low IQ levels.
Both viewpoints make sense. Who amongst us can listen to charming tales from elders in the family about the first time they met their spouse even if it was in a room full of stiff – backed relatives and not feel warm and fuzzy seeing the gentle glow on their features? Of course, barring serial killers and rabid members of the moral police squad none can remain untouched by lovers, lost to all but each other and refrain from rooting for a fairy tale finish to their romance.
That being said though, it is hard not to feel cynical about love and marriage, when the papers are full of horror stories about women being tortured and killed over dowry – related issues, honour killings that see lovers ruthlessly hunted down and butchered or entire communities burnt down because two youngsters dared to fall in love ignoring traditional dictates favouring same – caste unions, one wonders if love and marriage both ought not to be relegated to the trash heap and left there to fester and rot.

However since that is neither here nor there, we may sum up the issue by acknowledging that true love is rare and Kama’s arrows bearing the gift of love at their tip strike only a chosen few. It is foolhardy to chase after it hoping to be taken soaring across the heavens for a gentle landing on the summit of happiness when in reality such a quest is far more likely to see the reckless voyager plummet into the depths of tragedy. That does not mean the vast majority has to settle for a loveless existence, especially since there is always arranged marriage with its promise of the ecstasies contained within - love, sex, passion, desire, romance and companionship, all dealt out in limited doses of course as a reward to those who persevere, steadfast in their belief that love triumphs over all, even the limitations of an arbitrary God of Desire and outdated institutions. 

An edited version of this article is available at which you can access here. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Book Review: The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

World War II may just be the most unsightly stain on the dark and messy tapestry that is the history of this world, but it has since then sought to redeem itself by serving as a redoubtable muse and consistently yielding works of art that vary in quality, ranging from literature and movies of the highest grade to the occasional dud which can only be described as torture porn.
Given the voluminous tomes and the many films that most have already waded through, horrified and shocked senseless by the atrocities documented of a time when mankind seemed hell bent on plumbing the furthest depths of evil, it is safe to say that the majority have grown benumbed to the terrible tragedy of that awful war. Richard Flanagan comes along with his sixth novel and suddenly the horror is real all over again. The bone-jarring visceral imagery he conjures up of the immense suffering endured by too-many-to-count will be burnt into the brain forevermore where the memory of lost souls who died senselessly for no discernible cause will haunt the living in the futile hope that all will learn the lessons offered by a tragic and too easily forgotten past.
Flanagan’s epic is about Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor, who is not only doomed to suffer an unlucky romance but also finds himself in charge of a group of POWs who have been condemned to serve on the ‘Line’—the construction of the Thailand-Burma Death Railway dreamed up by a desperate Japanese Empire and given its impetus by the infallible logic of war. The 77-year-old Dr Evans is haunted in equal measure by his ‘cobbers’ who he “held, nursed, cajoled, begged, hoodwinked and organised into surviving” but who insisted on dying anyway and the memory of his overwrought love affair with his uncle’s young wife which nudges him along a tortuous path of private emptiness which he seeks to plug with a string of meaningless affairs and public honours that he grows to loathe.
You can read the rest here.

Saturday, August 09, 2014


The general assumption about Kamadeva, the God of Desire would be that given his extraordinary good looks and remarkable powers he would be an Eastern Lothario or Casonova with the well - deserved reputation for going through women like they were potato chips. Kama was far too sensitive to be a heart breaker though. The women in his life, barring one noteworthy exception were truly fortunate for he really was the perfect man, who was the best of lovers and friends.

Rati was the great love of his life and beloved consort.The two of them had what most people can only fantasize about or experience vicariously through the overwrought prose of romance novels. He did not bind her to his will and she did not try to keep him chained to her affection. They knew how to give each other space even if they were never in each other’s face. In short they were the perfect couple and while they had each other neither wanted for anything. In fact, though I find most so - called cute couples nauseating, I adore these two and they are my favourites by far. 

However, a strange combination of events led to his marrying the Princess Karnotpala who found a way to do the impossible and regain her lost youth in order to be worthy of him! Isn't that interesting ladies? For those out there who don't fancy plastic surgery, a brutal diet and workout regime, the twin evils of botox and liposuction, or spending their life's saving in overpriced salons who would give an arm and leg to know her secret, all I can say is you need to pre - order the book pronto. Although be warned, Karnotpala's journey to regain her looks was quite the ordeal, requiring oodles of hard work, patience, fortitude, discipline and even more hard work, hardly suited to those of us who want everything instantly if not sooner. 

Wondrous though the tale of Karnotpala and Kama, the factors that led to him coveting Purnakala, the wife of a curmudgeonly sage, were even more bizarre. It sparked off a tragedy of such epic proportions that even his wives were too sad to be mad at him for his philandering. 

There is more of course, but you'll have to wait for Kamadeva: The God of Desire out in stores this month. I can hardly wait. In the meantime, do check out the awesome new book trailer for Kama right here.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014


Ok get this... It all started with Ashwin Sanghi whom I admire something fierce. Not only is he super smart and talented but he is a wonderful human being with a big heart. How can you not adore someone who has this to say about your book?

I am digressing, so as his follower on twitter, I came to know about the kickass trailers he puts up on Youtube for all his books. Now for publishers, Sanghi is the holy grail because his genius for writing is matched by an equivalent brilliance in marketing. Compare this with yours truly. I am what you call a hopeless introvert of the wallflower variety. My biggest regret is that I am not half - chameleon with the superhuman ability to merge into my surroundings. In fact, one of the reasons this profession endeared itself to me, was the fact that it allows me to work in the privacy of my room with my oldest and most comfy pjs, without having to interact with the rest of the homo sapien species. 

However, as a writer, I want to be read. Desperately so. In fact you won't hear me complain about the screaming fans who mob me when I step out of the house to do something normal like scarf down a samosa mix or an ice cream, to get my autograph on their copy of Kama or Arjuna or both, when that daydream becomes a reality (Cross my heart!) But this need to be the rock star of the literary world seems to be at odds with the aforementioned introverted personality I wrote about. I become afflicted with a case of acute embarrassment when called upon to aggressively promote my book by inundating friends and followers on Twitter, FB and my blog with whom I barely interact otherwise, barring the times I raise my overused index finger to like their latest photos. Now Dhanush did not knock on doors begging people to listen to Kolaveri Di, but that did not stop the track from going viral right? That is exactly what I want for my Kama. Where is a fairy Godmother when you need her to come up with a spiffy promo campaign for your book?
These are the things, I keep harping about with the lovely folks who constitute my inner circle, till I suspect they want to gag me. Anyway, one among them who wishes to remain unnamed not only listened patiently while I bitched endlessly about how unreasonably expensive it is to put up a book trailer like Ashwin Sanghi but came up with this awesome book preview for my Kama which you can watch here and share with your friends to help my book shatter records! Enjoy!
As for my fairy Godmother and guardian angel (who might prefer knight in shining armour), a million thanks for the incredible labour of love. Steven Spielberg and James Cameron could not have done better :)