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The Cover Story: Author of ‘A Year of Wednesdays’, Sonia Bahl, on what went into the beautiful, minimalist cover

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Author Sonia Bahl has always spoken about her cherished collaboration with the editor of both her novels: Pooja Dadwal, Deputy Managing Editor—Fingerprint! Publishing. We asked both of them to take us behind the scenes and unravel some of the workings of how A Year of Wednesdays came into being.

This is what Pooja Dadwal had to say.

Someone impossibly wise once said that knowing that now is all there is, and living every now for the rest of all your nows, is all there is to it. And if you do this now right, the rest will follow suit.

The story of A Year of Wednesdays began on one such now. But not between the characters. Not yet. The first now happened hundreds of Wednesdays ago, between the writer and her editor.

The editor who had collaborated with the writer on her first book. The writer who had never thought of writing a second one. And yet she did. The first book introduced the two, the second solidified their collaboration. But there was that in-between—there always is, isn’t it?— in which the editor, one fine February afternoon, finally coaxed the writer to send her anything, even a paragraph, of what she was writing next. No, not one of her screenplays, she said. (The author writes for the screen too. Or mostly for that.)

Pooja Dadwal (Editor)

The writer wasn’t, not on paper anyway—but aren’t we all writing stories in our minds and hearts always. And so the writer humored her—with an opening line sent in the space of a few minutes. Which the editor gulped down in a moment and asked for second helpings. Legend has it that the writer humored her editor again. And again. And again.

Lines, paragraphs, chapters, shared initially over WhatsApp, soon gave way to mail. The length increased, the story continued, but both never mentioned publishing. Not that it was a foregone conclusion—it wasn’t. Even though both now belonged to the same universe of books, publishing the story as a novel had never formed part of their conversation.

The story which had started as a message in February came to its conclusion in November. Only, it couldn’t. For that’s the other glorious thing about being in the now. After living in every now you manage to gather so many of them that they shine brighter than a thousand suns. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Specially so in the case of A Year of Wednesdays. It is the most superlative testament of the writer’s genius. And her heart. 

Sonia Bahl (Author)

And so the editor, who understood the literary weight of what lay in her hands, asked the writer if she’d consider bringing this out as a book. The writer, Sonia Bahl, agreed, eventually. And so started the formal literary journey of Seat 7A and Seat 7B, two strangers who meet on a flight from New Delhi to New York and end up talking through most of it. Actually all of fifteen hours and thirty minutes of it. Touchdown, and they go their separate ways . . . only, something stays. Something that refuses to leave. There are some knots which cannot be untied. Some bonds which cannot be explained away. All you can do is honour these. A Year of Wednesdays explores this very rarefied bond between people.

Heart aching and achingly familiar, the story gently manages to fuse itself not only into your thoughts but also into the very spaces between your thoughts. And in the bargain leaves you with an incredible wealth of emotions. Of being human. Of being alive. Indelible marks on ephemeral us. 🙂

A Year of Wednesdays: Behind the Cover

We asked author Sonia Bahl how the stunningly simple and Zen-like cover came into being.

“If the process of writing is a dream, the book cover represents the awakening.”

  • Jhumpa Lahiri, The Clothing of Books

The cover for A Year of Wednesdays was a protracted, meandering, getting-lost-more-than-found journey. Here I must acknowledge the design team at Fingerprint! Publishing for working with me to find my way home. We started at point A, skipped point B, forked into dramatic detours, screeched into dark alleys, changed direction, and finally reached a destination we had definitely not anticipated when the journey began.

The book held so many themes. A moment in time when two unlikely people, from polar opposite worlds and world-views, are hermetically sealed in a common world for fifteen hours. A long haul flight. A forced  interaction due to a bizarre, near-absurd reason. It’s an amalgam of crackling moments of stiletto-sharp bantering and a brazenly honest sharing of what matters and why. Mostly, an uncanny, inexplicable connect that is entirely borderless. Age, time, place, religion, childhood, financial status, marital status, likes and dislikes don’t matter when you are sealed together for fifteen hours, never to meet again. The big one, which you don’t realize until it is much too late: the person will stay with you forever . . . maybe even change you incontrovertibly. Unconsciously paying homage to the Japanese notion of ichi-go ichi-e. Every encounter comes just once in a lifetime. No one encounter can ever come back. But it could last forever.

The cover art’s journey was almost as multi-diverse in thought as the journey of the two protagonists. It began with images of the sky. We worked relentlessly to communicate why it means much more than just the literal meaning of a plane in the sky. No matter which way we visualized it, it lacked in the richness, the fullness of the story. There were obvious, sometimes unimaginative, attempts to play with seats on a plane. Or a plane window juxtaposed with an unexpected view. Everything ended up being uni-dimensional, showing exactly what we were saying. Unable to create the perfect equation where one plus one will add up to the ah-ha of three. Seat 7B’s favourite number. Still, it felt imperative to acknowledge the sky. How could we not? There was such an undeniable role played by stars in their lives (without revealing too much). So we kept clocking up miles, kept moving down the star-studded flight path. The arresting beauty of a night sky, a stylised star map, a view of the changing skies across a long haul flight . . . all visually staggering. Some covers looked clichéd, others looked like they were textbook pictures for celestial lovers. We acknowledged it was time to opt for a dramatically different change in direction to get out of the loop we’d gotten stuck in.

Where was our true north? It’s A Year of Wednesdays. What can organically and emblematically embody the moving of time: one whole year? A year can contain multitudes. The passage of time, transformation, the cyclical nature of life, the ups and downs, the routine, the unexpected curve balls in the routines, birthdays, celebrations, important dates, daily minutiae, love, loss, redemption. And the inevitability of things. 

Nature. It says it every day, every month, every year. Naturally, eloquently, immutably. An artist’s impression of a leaf changing through the year became the understated, poignant symbol of all that we wanted to say. A subtle grey background, gave us the minimalist, Japanese aesthetic. A quiet nod to ichi-go ichi-e. The gold signature by the author, a suggestion from the editor, was used instead of typical font, to make the intimate story even more intimate.

We had landed. Home. To use Jhumpa Lahiri’s words, again: “The right cover is like a beautiful coat, elegant and warm, wrapping my words as they travel through the world, on their way to keep an appointment with my readers.”

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Books & Authors

Top 10 books that you should read this September.

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Image Courtesy : Christin Hume | Unsplash

Well, hello there readers with a sweet cider like essence of expectations to find a perfect read for your current week’s upcoming list of ‘to be read’ books but to find a book which could totally match up to your expectations and to your amazing wishlist, you obviously need a set of choices to pick from and here’s a list of great books released amidst this pandemic and still convinced the top list of Bestselling books to allow them take a spot in the list.

Onboard are the several writers on this planet but not all come up with the ability to showcase an out of the box content but now this one’s a spot where you’ll find the books which deserves to be in the spotlight.

1. Hindu Refugee Camp, Lahore – Sachin Garg

The partition of India just keeps on happening

History records that the partition of India happened on 15th August, 1947. But for people like Havaldaar Ghulam Ali Limb-Fitter, it’s an event stretched on for years and years.

The year is 1958. The only thing Ghulam Ali wants is to come back to his motherland, his hometown of Lucknow, where his beloved Zahira and his life, wait for him. Instead, he finds himself in a Hindu Refugee Camp in Lahore, injured, starving, where everyone believes he is a jasoos.

Ghulam has tried everything in his power to come back to India. But having served in Pakistani Army against his will, India would not accept him. Trapped across the border with no hope in sight, he begins writing letters to ministers, bureaucrats, journalists, whoever he can. And also, to the love of his life, Zahira Raza, who is his only motivation to continue living.

Zahira Raza had always dreamt of dancing to her heart’s content. But her desire is obstructed by something, to which only Ghulam Ali holds the key. As she waits for him, living with her Naani and her sister, she battles with the challenges of being a working Muslim woman in the Lucknow of the 1950s.

Written as an exchange of letters, ‘Hindu Refugee Camp, Lahore’ is the true story of Havaldaar Ghulam Ali Limb-Fitter, as relevant today as it was when it happened.

Available on Amazon

2. Brahma Rakshas : The Monster Within Sandiip N Paatil

Sarja is a 11years old, sad, and angry boy. At 11, he looks big and strong for his age. His kind mother, Geeta is a rural Indian archetype: the overworked, stressed-out, barely-keeping-it-together single mother. His father is in prison for multiple robbery cases. The villagers are cold and overbearing, and his schooldays are made hellish by bullies. If this wasn’t enough, he has nightmares and uncanny callings from an age-old monstrous peepal tree that stands ominously on his way to school. The legend is that a monster called Brahma Rakshas, living under this tree, for years unknown to people, lures kids with the black devil fruits and then makes them wrestle until one dies.

And, one stormy night, the legend comes true when Sarja meets the Brahma Rakshas.

Set in a fictional village of Deogiri, a small haven of human civilization, away from the din of city life, thiss story is a coming-of-age story of a young boy who goes on an adventure ride filled with riddles and monster wrestling.

Available on Amazon

3. You’ll Always Be My Favorite “What If” – Tshree

The story revolves around the protagonists Amisha and Avyansh. The story starts with Amisha joins an office where Avyansh works. They met each other 15 years ago through an arranged marriage program. Amisha fell in love with him. Both of them love each other but Avyansh didn’t want to marry. Now Amisha is married to Nikhil.

What happens next when they meet after 15 years?
Read the book to know more about the story.

The cover of the book is eye catchy and aptly designed. The title of the book couldn’t have been more apt. I The plot of the story is interesting, different and emotional. It is a perfect blend of love, heartbreak, emotions traditions, responsibilities and professional life. The author has narrated this love story in a detailed manner. She has also described about the corporate world amazingly.

Language used is simple and lucid. Charcaters are well developed and described by the author. Hats off to the author for writing about reality of Indian marriages. I can’t believe that it is author’s debut novel because it’s so perfectly written.

Available on Amazon

4. The Palace Maid – Col Jagadish Kakati

The story revolves around Prince Sundar of the Ahom dynasty in Assam in North-East India during the medieval period. Sundar, the crown prince, is seriously searching for the complete liberation of his soul and thereby shuns the company of women. The Queen Mother forces him to get married against his will to Princess Kanchanmoti, who is in love with Ananga, Sundar’s friend. Expectedly, the marriage ends in disaster.
Enter Shewali, an innocent maidservant. Shewali is devoted to the service of the prince, and she loves to serve. She becomes a victim of jealousy and deceit of the palace staff. The Queen Mother holds Shewali responsible for Sundar’s actions and wreaks vengeance. One day, Sundar calls for Shewali, and she fails to turn up. Where is Shewali?
Now the story moves to the serene, natural surroundings of the Naga Hills where Ananga, in exile, is dwelling in a cave. Sundar arrives there in disguise with a group of Chaodangs. What is his intention?
Written in simple language, the story highlights the pure love of a simple maidservant who becomes a victim of palace intrigues. How her ultimate sacrifice leaves a deep impression on the crown prince’s heart is bound to keep the readers engrossed.

Available on Amazon

5. Where is Najeeb? – Prabuddh Banerjee

For the attention of travellers: here are attached two photos of Jean-Baptiste Talleu, French cycling from France to Asia. He’s 26 years old, 1.80 m tall; he has long curly brown-dark hair, always tied. He’s thin and usually wears beige, brown, blue, or black clothes, never multicoloured. If you see him, please tell him to give us some news, and if you have any helpful information, please write us an e-mail.

• “If I have to take police protection in my own country from my people, then there is something wrong with me; I’m fighting within the framework of the Indian Constitution, and it is not against anyone, but for everyone”.
• It seems he foresaw his death. “For he sketched a man decapitating another man with an axe” that is how his body was found in Aarey (A suburb of Mumbai) sometime later. His murder had all the signs of human sacrifice, but the question is, who killed him? And why?

Available on Amazon

6. Against the flow – Vivek

Viren Jacobs, a college graduate, resorts to hacking for a means of living. When called upon to join the big league to make big money, he hardly has any reason to say no.

Wamika Das decides to live in India after her parents’ death. In her quest to solve her villagers’ problems, she gets off on the wrong foot with some of the most powerful people in the state.

Little did the two know that their paths weren’t meant to cross, but to confluence.

Available on Amazon

7. Blahman and theTerrifying Terror of Jesica – Srijan Kabra

This fiction comic book is a 3rd instalment of amazing adventures of two best friends Aven and Steven, accompanied by our superhero Blahman. All of these tales are inter-connected as well as super independent, that could be read individually or in a sequence. Like before, this time as well, our Superhero ‘Blahman’ is giving us a rollercoaster ride of thrill, adventure, fun and with small little cute brains of kids who wants to save the world. The noble take continues to give us thrill and keeps us glued till the end.

“Blahman and the terrifying terror of Jesica” is a saga which took place right after the 2nd adventure of ‘Zombies Apocalypse’ where we saw that Aven and Steven did defeat the giant zombie and saved the world, however, while doing so, Jesica traps both of them in a translucent box filled with monsters, and now, these two best friends have to find a way out!

Was Jesica planning something more? Will they ever get out? How will they deal with the monsters? What is the way to get out? Let’s find answers in the book, have fun…enjoy the ride!

Available on Amazon

8. Flames from the Souls Sourav Chatterjee

‘Flames from the soul’ is a poetry collection of different emotions which connects the readers thoughts directly like the title of the book. These poems speak directly to the readers about the varied emotions that traversed the souls of the writers and captures the flames of spark from different souls.

Available on Amazon

9. Do not believe in God till you experience Him – Mukul Kumar

A series of mysterious coincidences lead a child from a remote village in India, who would not have any future otherwise, make leaps of progress. His curiosity led him to attend some conferences given by a Brazilian missionary representing a cult in Spain headed by a Spiritual leader from Mexico. There was an instant attraction. The boy cuts his family connections, overlooks his career aspirations and lands up in the monastery in the Cataluña region of Spain to be a missionary. The spiritual head of the cult directs
all the followers to abandon their worldly connections and prepare for the doomsday and creation of a new human race. The followers built safe houses and prepared fervently in line with the instructions of the spiritual head. The doomsday prediction does not materialize and what follows is chaos and disorientation. The protagonist survives to tell his story.”

Available on Amazon

10. Journey of Perseverance – Priyambada Mishra

If you want to be known, you have to speak up first. In the journey of Perseverance’ the author drives us through the meaning of passion, emotion, addiction and culture – all in one to teach us how, if we stay addicted to our cause, we can actually achieve it. When individuals are culturally adept, they naturally tend to adapt to any given environment. The right or wrong of a situation can only be assessed by a person who is deep-rooted in culture and comes from a legacy that already puts others first before themselves. Your world view, the way you think, speak and what you believe are all dependent on the inheritance of culture.

Available on Amazon

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Books & Authors

Framed for a murder in the past? Has now achieved the tag of being an author of 30+ buzzing books

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How do you start with a task all over again after you reach the end of the task and it’s destroyed for some unknown reasons. Life makes one witness enormous kinds of phases both in terms good and bad. This one’s about a person who can be referred to as the kind of person, who’s been through in and out section of the life’s stomach and has understood every aspect of life now.

Anuj Tikku, a renowned writer and actor in the bollywood industry, has been through different stages in life and he’s the same person who was once seen in the movie Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi back then in 2008.

Anuj has been both the versatile form of human and a talented kind of professional worker who has released over 30+ books by now and all of them, have delivered their required motive.
He has recently came up with a book “Assassinating Modi”. The premise is both scandalous and rather bold. It takes a significant amount of courage to write about something like this. The author has combined political drama with action and adventure. The books enfolds mystery and conspiracy, creating intrigue in the mind of a reader.

Being an actor who was an alleged murder convict of his own father has come so ahead in life, becoming an author of 30+ published books, a renowned blogger and so renowned. He was a prime of suspect of his father’s murder and his life took a huge turn away from bollywood and put his mind to travelling in order to attain peace of mind and that’s the story of his blog TikkusTravelton. If one reads his blogs, he/ she will find out how beautifully he has written about his travel experiences, from his spiritual experiences at Kumb to the very calming Kailash Yatra. He has channelled the things he likes to do, his hobbies into his profession, his main revenue earning means.

After being detained in a false crime of his dad’s murder in April 2012, life’s been more than just a challenging game to Mr. Anuj as it took a while longer than expected for the real killer to be identified which did cost Anuj a fortune of loss in his goodwill and peace of mind but once a fighter is always a fighter and that’s how his journey of being unstoppable started.
Apart from his new books, he has dared to jot down his own life’s saddening and mysterious tales in form of books which are namely; Yes Sir, I killed my dad: A son’s grief, then there’s Unholy tales from Banaras which somehow created a buzz in the reader’s community. His book Yeh! Hai India was displayed on several blogs as a milestone read and such work of success was still somehow unnoticed by people. There’s also a reality based work of research from the author under the title “Chal Nangi Hoja”, where the author has performed a skilled and marvelous work of research on how a porn app is developed beneath the nose of the nation’s judicial system by a known personality and the work witnessed in the book is beyond explainable terms.

*His book, Nineteen* : A Pandemic’s Tale, has the Covid-19 pandemic in the background and is the story of the people of Mumbai and across and India are struggling in the pandemic with many lives at stakes. And he also talks about the importance to keep aside our differences and stand up together as one unit, keeping in mind the saying “We are in this together”.
In one of his interviews, Anuj mentioned his next new release, 27 Days In Taliban, shedding light on the Taliban issue that has put the whole world in shock. He uses motivation and inspiration to write, which makes him a distinguished author and a great personality.

There’s one thing common in his writings that he writes in a swift flow and makes use of simple expressions which can vividly understood by an average reader. His English is not too complex and his books lay focus on the narration rather than the language. In his journey as an author he has written on topics in a wide spectrum – real events, his travel diaries, memoirs, soft erotica and much more. He has an enlightening effect on people and bring to the fore, things that are talked about a lot but people don’t know them in bits and crucks.

 

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Books & Authors

Fiction flourishes in contradiction: Pak author Mira Sethi

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In a country where assertive self-expression can be frowned upon, how to be yourself? Maybe through sneaky networks of solidarity, by improvising identities as one navigates life…

While many of the characters in author Mira Sethi’s debut story collection ‘Are you Enjoying?’ (Bloomsbury India) are professional performers, even those who are not, can be skilled chameleons.

“To live in a society with strong views about what constitutes ‘virtue’ and ‘vice’, means, as a citizen, having to alter and contort one’s authentic self in order to survive. Roshan, the queer chai-boy on the set of ‘Breezy Blessings’ says to Mehak, the actress: ‘About drama, you know nothing.’ She may be the actress, but as a queer person navigating middle-class Pakistani society, he understands everything about drama, and how to communicate effectively via code, innuendo, signal,” Mira Sethi tells IANS.

As the characters in the stories strive for personal freedom, the author asserts that they are in fact trying to throw off the straitjacket imposed by society — how does one negotiate personal freedom in a traditional society?

“I wanted to show both the resilience of my characters, but also the vulnerability of people caught between the pull of the past, and the lure of modernity. Family – the imperatives of fathers and mothers – is a major theme in the book; there was a desire to portray how the burdensome pressures of family (the past) interact with (modern) aspirations of young, urban people,” she says.

Taking around six years to write the book, ‘Breezy Blessings’ was the first story she wrote.

“I would email myself snippets, thoughts and observations. It was only after I wrote the first draft of ‘Breezy Blessings’ (in my gmail inbox!) that I opened a Word document, and began taking myself seriously as a writer,” the writer-actor says with a smile.

Stressing that she draws from the sights and sounds encountered in life – the power dynamics on the set of a show, the ways in which Urdu and English are mixed and her lived experience as an observer and participant in Pakistani life, Sethi works best in the mornings, before she has interacted with anyone, the space when her mind is blank slate.

“I sometimes won’t shower until 5 or 6 pm until I’ve had four good hours of writing. Flow-state writing is hard to achieve, but I find I’m able to do it if I start first thing in the morning. Of course, then getting up to make breakfast is an interruption.”

Talk to her about the brilliant fiction in English from Pakistani origin writers in the past two decades, and she feels that fiction flourishes in contradiction.

Adding that Pakistan is a society in transition, and there is a lot of tension to be harnessed in the space between the laws of the state, not to mention the ways in which they interact with individual desire and autonomy, the author adds, “Young people get their news – and their aspirations – from social media and television. Their desires are secular, but the frameworks into which these people are born are traditionalist.”

Ask her about the experience of growing up in a progressive family in a religious country, and Sethi, daughter of well-known journalists Najam Sethi and Jugnu Mohsin, who has also been seen in Pakistani serials including ‘Silvatein’ and ‘Mohabat Subh Ka Sitara Hai’, says, “Identity politics play out in unusual ways in a country like Pakistan, where labels like ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ can mean different things depending on their context. I’m happy my book has been able to navigate the dignity of people who often don’t fit in.”

But has she felt the ‘burden’ of being born to famous parents? “Not when it comes to writing fiction,” she smiles.

For someone who feels that she would be a poorer writer if it weren’t for acting, there is another book brewing, “I believe so, but I’ll find out when there are words, stumbles and fumbles on the page.”

source: The Statesman

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