canvas-of-dreams-200x300Sometimes in life you meet people who start living in your heart, but give you no place in theirs. And though you tell yourself that time will heal and seal all damage, this is simply a far cry from reality. You wake up every day and remember them, of a sunlit carefree smile, of a happy moment or a sad one, and those memories make them cling to you a little more.

Sometimes some people walk into your life as friends. They seem to understand you even before you’ve spoken, they seem to share your likes and dislikes, and often know you inside out even better than you do. And at the moment when you begin to wonder that you’ve found true love of the perfect kind, they look surprised, and tell you that they don’t love you really.

Sometimes you end up marrying the wrong person. The one who seemed perfect at first, turns out to be a monster, showing a side you never knew existed. They lie, ignore, cheat and play the kind of games you thought only the TV soaps were made of. And you have to live with that hate, fear and insecurity for the rest of your life, for the strangest of reasons.

But then sometimes, the person who remained in your heart gives you space in his. Or, that special one who said that he didn’t really care tells you that he couldn’t live without you. Or, the wrong kind of guy turns to become an angel again. Sometimes, you find perfect love, in the most imperfect of places.

The Canvas of Dreams is such a story, inspired by the Ryan(s), Siddarth(s) and Rehaan(s) of real life. It speaks of not only how tough life can get, but of how one toughens up to take on life. It talks of love lost, found and discovered. And of how people love you back, only when you begin to love yourself first.

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Do you like to read?

Very few like to read. This fact came hard-hitting to me, as I showed my magazine to the tenth person that day. I had been featured on the cover, and the magazine carried my story, and though everyone talked about how good I looked in the picture, only perhaps one person out of the ten I showed the book to, actually took the time to read what was written.
So, it was true. The art of reading was dying out, rather I must say, that in today’s times, the art of reading IS dying out. With alternatives like the television, Internet, you tube, whatnot, why would one read a book. Moreover, given the ocean of choice beckoning out there, I wondered more specifically on why one would read MY book. What was so special about my work? About me? And so I decided that if I wanted my voice to be heard, I had to reach out to that one person who would actually read.

Reach out to that 1%
If you are still reading this post, then I’m glad that I have served my purpose. I have actually reached out to that 1% who read, and read the kind of work I create. And this brings me to statistics. Every book, genre, style have a 1% readership that is truly interested. So there are specific readers for romance, waiting to devour more books; crime, horror et al. And for writers who want their voice and story heard, it is imperative to reach out to them.

Tap the dynamic media
Well, how many of you have read the great epic Mahabharata? My guess would be, very few. And how many of you sat glued with their families to television when the serials played? My guess would be 99%. It is important for us writers to understand the changing shift from the static medium of writing to that dynamic one of electronic. And it is equally important for us to reach out to a readership base through that. No, I’m not saying that you must go and write a script or direct a film (that’s another crowded market), but incorporating dynamic elements into your work or vice versa may actually help. Maybe you could create a promo video for the book? How about getting an interview?

Give your book a yellow shirt
Well literally and figuratively a good selling book is purchased not because it reads well, but because it attracts the reader in a certain way. For example, in a room full of people with blue shirts, a yellow shirt attracts the most visibility. And that is what your book needs too. With publishing becoming easier, many books get published everyday. Therefore, your book has to compete with new books and thousands of old books every month to get noticed. Your chances therefore of being purchased and read are very slim. However, giving your book a yellow shirt, meaning: doing something no one else has done, can actually make it sell.

Today publishing has become extremely easy, so much so that if all else fails, you can actually self publish your book! And though this may seem like a fascinating fact for a newbie writer, it can become the source of concern, once you’re published. You realise that while you’re in the league with writing greats, with your name on the e-reader sandwiched between Steig Larson and Robin Cook, you also have to put up with a long list of writers who’ve made painful errors in the blurb itself. And as a certain hopelessness that ‘No one likes to read’ starts to cloud your mind, remember the silver lining of that one person who does. He/she is out there, and it is only for you to reach out to them.

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Keeping the Classic Alive: IVL Sastry

5Indrakanti Venkata Lakshmana Sastry is a man of contradictions. Though short in height, he stands tall in the world of Carnatic classical music and though mild spoken, he is the firebrand personality who single-handedly took the Visakhapatnam culture of classical music forward, initiating thousands of people in the line of music.

‘When I first attended the Tyagaraja kirtanam sabha in Vizag, I was surprised to see that only 6 people had come. Saddened at the turnout, I vowed to myself to change those figures.’ He set up the Sangeeta Janakulam in 1979 which even today teaches music and its appreciation to people for free. ‘As a result, today Sangeeta Janakulam has 4 centers in Vizag and one each in Delhi, Manguru and Penugollu. Tyagaraja kirtanams are held at Kalabharati and the hall stays packed for the whole ten days.’
His initiation into the world of music was as natural as a bird to flight. Born to parents who were great vocalists themselves, they would constantly be part of music events. ‘We would be extremely regular at events like ekaham (24 hours of music recital without a break), saptaham (seven day-night music recitals) and sapta saptaham (50 days of music recitals without a break). It would give me great opportunity to meet wonderful singers. Alternatively, great singers would keep coming home.’ And so, at a very early age IVL Sastry began practicing music. After an education up to 10th Standard, he took up a job in the railways, but continued to take classes whenever he could. He soon founded the ‘Sangeetha Kalasamithi’ in 1974, as a musical organization that contributed to classical music.

On being asked where his first concert was, he replied Calcutta. And then he added in the same breath, ‘For me, teaching has always been closer to the heart than concerts. Even today, I try to teach music rather than give concerts. It gives me greater satisfaction.’ For a well endowed person with titles such as ‘Sangeeta Vachaspati’, ‘Sangeeta Praveena’, ‘Kulapathi’ and ‘Sangeetha Kala Tapaswi’ to decorate him, calling himself a teacher at heart only shows how humble he is.
While he learnt vocal music from his parents, it was sheer interest that took him to learning the mrudangam, kanjira and flute. ‘I learnt Mridangam from the renowned ‘Mridanga Kesari’ Sri Mullapudi Lakshmana Rao. It is easier to carry the flute around and with it music can easily travel with you wherever you go. So the flute and kanjira were more of a self effort. ’

83 years of age, IVL Sastry still continues on his crusade to make the world more musically aware. He enjoys the status of being the president of Samskara Bharati, an expert committee member at the Department of Culute of the Union Ministry of HRD, secretary of the Tyagaraja Aradhana Trust, cultural advisor to central schools in Vizag and the examiner for MA Music of Telugu University. But more than all these, and more importantly, he continues to be a promoter for learning.

The Sangeeta Janakulam holds classes at different levels for different people. Events are conducted too and people are encouraged to participate. His entire family too is dedicated to the cause. His son Kali Prasad is a flutist of repute, while his daughters Prof Saraswathi and Sharada Subramanyam work with the AU Music Dept and as radio top grade artists respectively. Taking it to the next generation, his grandchildren too are steeped in music with Lahari, being recognized as a child prodigy who could tell the names of ragas even at the tender age of two years.
More than being a culture, music is perhaps the way of life for IVL Sastry garu, where not a day goes without it. From 4am to 6am he practices music every day. After regular prayers, he takes classes for students from 10am to 12am. ‘A prominent section of people losing out on this culture is the youth. Our students too see good number of children and adults, however a significant percentage of youth are missing out.’
But maybe they are attracted to the other forms of music, we say. ‘To find the beauty of Carnatic classical music, you have to come seeking it. If only these youth would make it a point to attend few of these sessions would they be able to know what our music holds and the beauty in it.’

IVL Sastry also defines for us whether music is an art or a science. ‘It is a form of art or kala with scientific principles underlying it.’ Music is important for religion too. When mantras are recited with particular intonations, they help in generating vibrations that bring us peace, calm and enhance concentration. True, in times such as hours, it is the power of music that can generate vibrations to reduce negativity, release stress and restore peace.

Published in Yo! Vizag, November 2013

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tete a tete with the author of Sita’s Curse

Sita's Curse by Sreemoyi is a national bestseller. Here's the story I did for Yo!Vizag July 2014.

Sita’s Curse by Sreemoyi is a national bestseller. Here’s the story I did for Yo!Vizag July 2014.

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People who inspire: Rabindra Nath Tagore

‘Where the mind is without fear, and the head is held high’. It was but the great Rabindra Nath Tagore who led us into the heaven of freedom with his powerful words. Penned before India’s independence, this poem continues to be the dream towards which the country awakens. This, along with his many great works is proof that the pen wields much more power than the sword, for the words that emerge from its tip, can pierce the soul.
The great poet, writer, story teller and leader was born on May 7th, 1861; and after his so called mortal-term, has lived immortaly ever since. This year, the world would mark his 52nd birth anniversary. Meets would be held, passages of his work would be discussed and authors and people inspired by his word will come together. We too at BR, will remember him, not just for what he did in his lifetime, but for all that he left behind after his mortal demise.
They say, that the story of each leader has behind it an influential background. For Rabindranath Tagore, it was perhaps his birth into a distinguished Pirali Brahmin Bengali family that made all the difference. He was named Rabindranath Thakur, a name where Thakur would later be anglicized as Tagore. He despised formal education, and without a mother, and a father who toured often, he had his schooling mainly conducted at home. His father, Debendranath Tagore was the founder of the renowned Brahmo Samaj. With such parentage he was brought up and coached by his siblings, who taught him the languages of Bengali, English and Sanskrit. These siblings too later emerged as famed literary figures and philosophers, leaving their impressions in the world of literature. The works of Bengali poets such as Chandidas, Jaideva, Bidyapati greatly influenced Tagore early in life and so did various literary journals which were present in his house. Soon, at the tender age of eight, he too began writing.
He would also write under the pseudonym of Bhanusinger Padabali for a while, a fact that was realized much later. In fact, when literary greats stumbled on to Bhanusinger’s work, they thought they had unravelled another great writer, only to find out that it was Rabindranath himself. By 1890 he had started contributing to various renowned literary journals of his time, but wasn’t satisfied with just that. So, later on, in the year 1901 he founded the kind of school he admired, called Shantiniketan, a place where he started to impart a combination of the traditional ashram and Western education. It was a novel model and even today continues to be a great place for learning.
To many he came to be known as the Myriad Minded Man of India, such was the diversity and strength of his writing. In fact many say that he influenced the west with Indian thought as much as he influenced Indian literature with western thinking. His work won him much appreciation and in 1912 he went to Britain for the English translation of ‘Gitanjali’. This book published under the Yeats auspices won him the Nobel Prize for literature, making him the first non-European to be conferred with such an honor. He later used the funds to improve upon the school building. Two of the songs he wrote were chosen by two countries as their national anthems. They were Jana Gana Mana, chosen by India and Amar Shonar Bangla, by Bangladesh.

He left behind various great contributions to the treasure chest of stories, poetry and music. Poetry was his forte, and some of his renowned work in the area includes Manasi, Sonar Tari, Gitanjali, The Gardener, The Fugitive, and Fruit Gathering. His plays include Raja, Dakghar, Achalayatan and Muktadhara. He also wrote short stories, novellas and novels, which include names like Gora, Ghare-Baire and Yogayog. Other than these he also wrote musical dramas, dance dramas, essays, travelogues and two autobiographies. He was knighted in the year 1915, such was the immensity of his contribution, but Rabindranath Tagore repudiated that honor in 1919, after the Jallianwalabagh massacre that killed many Indians. He was a man who travelled extensively. In those times he had visited over 30 countries set on five continents.
Though he died in 1941 in the same house where he had been born, he left a lot behind. He left behind the image of a man with a flowing white beard that made him look saintly. He left behind words that can touch the right chords at heart even today. He left verses that are relevant even in the changing times of now. And he left behind powerful ideas that can change one’s outlook. Thanks to Rabindranath Tagore, these are the priceless treasures with which we live on.

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When the smartphone is smart, but the user isn’t!!

Smartphones are the in things. If you don’t have one, then you’re old-fashioned, fuddy-duddy, boring, perhaps jobless. But in the entire generation of 30 somethings and above, there’s a segment (I hope) that have these smartphones, but little idea on how to use them. Technology, you see, if not respected, backfires. And can do so in more ways than one. Here are a few.

You end up sending random messages to people at two in the morning. These messages often sound like codes to receivers and keep them up deciphering for the rest of the night. My friend received one from a good looking colleague that went mmmaaayyyddifflldooo. And believe it or not, she sat up the whole night hoping it meant, ‘Meet me for coffee’. Turns out it wasn’t a cryptic cipher after all, but she definitely got an excuse to call him up again. 😉

You disconnect calls that you desperately want to answer. You know you need to scroll to the green to answer the call, but somehow in your desperation/ excitement you end up at the red. The call is disconnected, and you need to call back. This action not only costs you an apology that goes ‘Sorry, it got disconnected, I don’t know why. Useless service provider.’, but also hiked cellphone bills.

You somehow end up sending replies to people that go like ‘I’m in a meeting, please call back later.’ Your wildest friend wonders if you’re running a temperature. The husband worries about why you’ve suddenly gone formal with him: Is it the silent treatment or something? Turns out this one has its advantages too, which go phhutt when you tell them what actually happened.

The autocorrect automatically controls your life. You end up sending double-meaning messages to senior officers, professors, fathers in law, serious-minded relatives…basically the wrong people. Miss becomes kiss, smooth becomes smooch and set…well don’t even get there!

The battery dies in a couple of hours and you realize that your Internet charges have spiked up, even though you have no idea how to use that facility. What you finally discover is that all the programs were somehow working in the background. After giving you a patronizing look, a ten year old finally tells you how to stop them from doing so.

You end up telling people that you have a smartphone, but really don’t like to use the Internet all the time, because you hate seeing an entire generation wasting their time doing so. While the reality is that you really have NO idea!

Disclaimer: Lest you start thinking this is about me, wanted to add that it isn’t. Its about a fictitious character. A cousin. A far away friend of mine. A cousin’s friend actually. And btw, is there anyway you can turn off that darned auto-correct? Leave a comment below if you know. Or I’ll head to the closest school and find a 10 year old.

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A holiday of their own

The page stares blankly at me, but I’ve decided today, ‘Ki kuch bhi ho jaye, I’m going to write something today’, and so, just as resolutely as the page stares at me I stare right back. My fingers are poised on the keyboard, and I go, ‘Did you know’ and I stop. Press backspace. Till the blinking cursor has reached home again. (Oh come on, my inner voice taunts me, what do you mean ‘Did you know?’ Of course, everyone knows. Everyone.)

And so I try again. This time I say, ‘The exams are able to start again’ and I sit back for I have no clue on what to write after that. I have been hit by the writer’s block, something bound to happen when you want to connect with the words after a gap of five months. Of course, at that time I had told myself that I was taking a writing holiday, a break away from the world of words, so that I could come back refreshed, not clichéd. But little did I know that once I was back from that holiday, the words would decide to take one such vacation of their own.

‘Oh please come back from your holiday’ I implore to those words that are hanging out there, perhaps jeering, sneering and laughing their heart out at me. They’ve grouped themselves in non-nonsensical combinations, of that I’m sure.

But today, I’m going to lure them, by hook, crook or sinker. I know that isn’t the phrase, but its a mistake I’m not planning to correct. For its the words that are lining up that way. And, I’m going to write them, so that they are lured back to tell the story I want them to say.

‘It’s not easy to be a mermaid’ I begin once again. And then my finger shifts again, back to the backspace. I sigh. ‘It’s not easy to be a writer’, I amend the sentence, because that’s the reality. ‘It’s not easy to be a writer, when your words are taking a holiday of their own.’


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