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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ye, dosti



This Tiru trip Pavan made a friend.



Hansraj, age eleven. I have known and loved him when he was a baby. In fact, I was so crazy after him that I asked his father, Peter, if I could adopt Hans.



'Manufacture your own!' he said.


So when my present met my past, it took just three trips for the two to seal the friendship.


What matched? Their energy levels, their naughty quotients, their laughing capacities, and the mountain's grandfatherly ambiance.

They even named each other. Hans is Honey and Tukru is Pavan Bhalu bhaiya.

'You two look so sweet together. I might just eat you alive.' I threatened them.

'We will still be friends.' said Bhalu, loyalty incarnate.

'Ai, can we stay in Tiru only?' he asked,

'Do you like Tiru for the mountain or because of Hans?' I asked him.

'Han. Honey. And Mountain.'


During a lazy afternoon, I was chilling out in the room at Sheshadri Ashram, and the two of them were chasing each other around the place. (Sheshadri Ashram is a few feet away from Ramana Ashram. Sheshadri was a weird saint who threw stones at his devotees and they were cured, so thay made an ashram for him. Sheshadri used to call Ramana his younger brother.)

Suddenly Hans came inside the room with some rice wrapped in a big round leaf.

'Prasad.' He said, giving me some, and ran out of the room as he saw Pavan through the window.

'That was yummy. Can I have some more? Hans! Pavan! Come here. Get me some more prasad. No, I want one full leaf full. I am hungry.'

After ten minutes all three of us were sitting on the floor of the room, each eating delicious rice from three different leaves. It had a rare subtle flavor, without the execive spices so common in Tamil Nadu.

'This is so good. Where did you get this from?' I asked them.

'This is the prasad the ashram gives everyday to the sadhus who sit outside. Its very tasty, so I always take it.' replied Hans.

Btw, Hans lives on the other side of the road from the ashram, on the first floor of one of the best restaurants in Tiru, run by his parents.


Both of them tried hard to convince me to stay longer in Tiru. As it is, leaving the mountain is never an easy job for anyone, not even the bus driver.

So I relented a day and that gave them a power over me, or so they thought. Separating two new friends, I was exhausted by the time we finally got into the bus, and my revengeful nature surfaced.

As the bus pulled out, I teased the poor bhalu,
'You want to stop the bus and go back to Hans?'
And, for the first time in his little life of seven years, I saw silent tears appear in his eyes.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Arunachala photographs












The above art works are copyrighted by Shivani, a Mountain bitten lady who once was a German. Now she lives and breathes the mountain.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Guilt

I am appalled at the inconsistency of my titles. Below the post on Bihar floods, which talks about thousands standing in queues to get their meal, is a Parantha post that goes on and on about how long the batter lasts.

I am not going to say, such is life, blah blah, and get away with it.

My fridge is full of vegetables, milk, fruits and yes, Parantha batter.

But is my heart big enough to share even half of it with the hungry and the desperate?

I have cupboards full of old clothes, toys, etc etc.

If any of you knows a collection center in Bangalore for Bihar relief, please let me know.

During the Gujarat riots, a lot of my film institute brethren had come together and put in their best to gather relief for the riot affected.

However, from the wisdom tree emails, I don't see anyone talking about Bihar.

Honestly, how is this tragedy different?

Bihar update : Not a sexy story to tell

Revati Laul, Special Correspondent, NDTV
Thursday, September,25 2008 (New Delhi)
We live in such voyeuristic times that it's often difficult to feel anything anymore. Blasts. Floods. Torture. Terror. Every news piece is a story of victims of some sort or the other and after a point it's all deafeningly similar. An endless stream of tears, loss, and above all of that, viewer and reporter fatigue.

So when I went into Bihar to report on the floods, I was carrying the enormous weight of that weariness with me. `Oh, you're going in three weeks later...huh...,' said a colleague or two. `Well, there are stories to do yaar, but it's no longer a headline. Not a sexy story.'

So it took a while for these layers to peel away and for the true horror of what I was in; actually dawn on me. Realisation came nearly two weeks into reporting in flood hit Bihar. Relief camp after camp. Tens of thousands of people queuing in long lines to get food. But it seemed like the Nitish Kumar government was doing the impossible. Moving a state machinery that had become defunct through decades of misuse and getting large relief camps into pretty decent shape.

Read the rest of the story here

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Parantha batter for sale!

Since my fantastik business idea got vetoed by my ungrateful hubby (he loves my paranthas), I am putting it up here, sacrificing my own interest for the common good.

How long does a peice of bread last? Three days? Four? And is it even accepted as a health food? Not by the naturalists, nor the yogis. Certainly not by Ramdev baba.

And this idli dosa mixture, how long can you keep it in the fridge? And you cant even use it when it is cold, it has to be thawed. Which means it cant be used early in the morning when you make the dabbaa.

So, for night birds like us who cant sleep without blogging, it makes sense to pre-prepare something that can go on a hot tawaa and be ready in five minutes.

Its called Methi or Palak ka Parantha batter. Needs no preservatives, accept the fridge.

Here's the recipie: 

Wash and chop Spinach or fenugreek (or both ) leaves into very small pieces.
Grate an onion and a few pods of garlic. (Optional)
Cut a couple of green chillies in very small pieces. (Optional)
Add one spoon of Ajwain.
One spoon of black til (seasame seeds).
One spoon salt.
One spoon oil. (Optional)

Knead the dough into this mixture, use the new seven grains Pillsbury atta if you are bored with mere wheat atta. Use less water than you would normally use, because the green leaves have their own water which makes the dough sticky later on.

Keep in an airtight container, in the fridge. Will last for five days, minimum.

And I suppose you know how to roll out the paranthas and heat them? If you want me to post how to make traditional (grandmother's) triangular paranthas, you must ask. I shall do a photo blog.

Oh, I forgot to add the number of calories : Lots.


A Papa blogger

All the parks near our house in Yelahanka have been dug up since weeks. This is proving very costly for me and the environment in my house.

The kids now play cricket on a terrace. And the great batsmen they are, every evening, balls come flying down and disappear in the shrubs.

'Ai can I have ten bucks for a new ball, please, please, please. We are in the middle of a match and I am batting, Ai.' 

If Papa is not around, I give him the money. But papa has been home the last few days, and my hands are tied.  

'You cannot have a new ball every single day. Go find your old balls.' he says, quite rightly.

So Pavan's imagination comes to his rescue.

'Ai, my freind is having a birthday party today.' 

'Thats nice. You should buy a present for him.'

'Can I take a ball?'

'Sure you can. Here is ten bucks.'

'Thank you Ai. Another freind is having a birthday party tomorow also.'

Papa looks up from his comp. 'Is your freind having a birthday party for the ball or is the ball for the birthday party?' he asks. Pavan is too confused to answer.

'Its ok, Prayas. Lying is also an art. Let him go.' I say.

'Let him go, but you go and check.' 

So I check and I realize that it is we parents who have lied so much to our parents that we cant imagine an innocence who wants to buy balls for a birthday party.

I would maybe like to say that fathers dont love their kids as much as us mommas, but then I found a poem that melted me to tears, written by myPapa.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lift your leg thirty degrees,

slowly and hold it there. One, two, three,  ouch, five, . . . 

The reason I joined this Yoga class is for its good pain. I have noticed that the rare mornings that I do Yoga at home, I always end up doing the 'nice and easy' postures, at snail speed. For example, I love doing 'makarasana', an alternative to 'shavasana', where you lie on your stomach, and snooze off, as your belly organs get a massage. 

And if I wake up after twenty minutes, I like to streach. Ooooh, that feels so good, I like to hold the streach for as long as possible. And the breathing? Breath awareness happens only during a pause, otherwise I have not the slightest clue to the direction of air within.

When Yoga starts becoming extremely slow motion, I know it is time to step out of the singular company. Like Amitabhs mom in Chini Kum,  my mother was doing the Gym jaa Gym jaa number on me since quite some time. My defense mechanism was the cycle I drove twice a week for ten minutes. But when my knees ached at night after the minisucle cycling, I knew I had to join the rat race.

'We have batch from 9:30 to 10:30, specially only for housewives.' said the Yoga lady on the phone.

'I am not a housewife, I work from home.' I replied.

'Then you cannot come. This time is only for housewives.'

'Then I am a housewife.' I said. Surving in South India means getting crushed in English.

The ayurvedic doctor who is our Yoga teacher is a beautiful dusky young woman in a plain white salwar kameeze, and a white dupatta. White being my favorite colour, I am tempted to buy a few meters of white cloth and get two sets stiched for myself as well. 

Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, she sings, instead of one, two, three, four.

Oxygen fills my lungs, in places that were in dark corners, and the pain recedes like a low tide wave.

As she chants the shlokas, a new thought enters my head. It is not hindi, nor english which is the base language in India. It is sanskrit. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

'When I read a book that touches me,

I also feel like meeting the writer. I feel like looking into his eyes. But then I realize that he has put his soul in the book. So why should I look into his eyes if I can see his heart. ' says Paulo Coelho.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cineme-Maa

After seeing Khoya Khoya Chand, we were returning home. Myself and the kid. A beautiful film, but  I was kind of feeling guilty that I showed him an adult movie, so I thought I better talk to him about it. 
Right. Where do I start?
'Which movie did we see, Pavan?' I asked him.
'Ghuma ghuma chand.' he answered. 

Here is the namesake song, again, an old favorite. I love the way Dev Anand walks, without moving his arms, like he is stupidly blissed out.



Sometimes I wonder what we have imbibed from Cinema, specially the black and white oldies, which we watched when we were kids. 

I remember seeing a long boring neverending film called Kora kagaz. And I remember seeing a delightful, wonderful film called Junglee. 

But a hazy memory is a film I do not remember the name of, which has probably done me in. 
Was it Nargis and Sunil Dutt? Nargis was a sadhavi , she walked from town to town, sitting in temples and singing bhajans. Sunil Dutt falls in love with her and she falters in her path.

I was something below five years when I saw this film. Somewhere after the interval, in the dark theatre, I made a loud comment. 'Ai, why dont these two hug? ' I guess I was too young to tolerate the tension.

Sadly, for me, they did not hug, and Nargis walked away in the last long shot, holding her Veena on one shoulder, her feet bare, her white saree blowing in the wind. While Sunil Dutt, teary eyed, helplessly looked on...

When I started writing this post, I was planning to pose the question: If anyone has seen this film, please tell me the name.

But there is something magical about writing. It has pulled out, by a thread, the name of this film: Jogan.

What to do. Mere cineme maa hai.

The good thing about TV,

is that it is not a computer. 

Monday, September 15, 2008

If you have a wicked sense of humour,

and you need some fresh ideas on how to manage your anger, here is a shameless post that made me fall off my chair.

I endorse this blogger too. She is a good woman with a great sense of humour.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

When bombs blast in city after city,

its obvous that there are a lot of angry citizens walking around. I am talking about the terrorists. I agree that they deserve to be punished, but isnt it more important to deal with the issue on a heart level? Shouldnt we look into their anguish? Why is no one trying to negotiate with their demands?
At least, start a conversation?

Here is an interesting article by Ram Punyani. He makes my question look naive. 





Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rajdhani Ki Mitti

Sounds like a senti title, doesnt it? Well, read on...

In retrospect, it seems almost ridiculous. 

I spent an awful hour trying to call my husband in Delhi, after the bomb blasts. His cell was not working, he was working in a basti with kids. And then I spent another tense half hour trying to convince him to stay put. He didnt listen. When he was going back home, I told Pavan to pray and the kid lit four agarbattis. Finally he reached home and called to say he is ok.

Prayas is in Delhi for a project that we called Rajdhani ki mitti. The plan, when we discussed it, was to collect soil from differnet parts of the city, use it to grow sarso, a plant which purifies and enriches the soil it is grown in. After the plant grows, the kids who are involved in this project, put back the soil at the same places where it was collected from. The intention? They will feel a sense of belonging for the city, an ownership.

Meanwhile, they make audio pod casts and learn how to blog thier efforts.

And, while this is going on, some other guys have a project too. They plant bombs in five different parts of the city. The intention? They will feel a sense of ownership, power through terror, for the city?

Friday, September 12, 2008

glimpses of freedom

When I first met Ramesh, my Guru, I was on top of the world. 

I was not seeking for a Guru, he happened to me. For days, months, I couldnt wipe the smile off my face.

Someone asked me, 

'What have you learnt? What have you learnt from him that is making you so happy?'

And I answered, without thinking,

'I have learnt, that nobody on earth or above, can ever make a fool out of me.'

'What makes you so sure?' he asked.

'Because, I have no doubt, that I already am a fool'.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Look at me, but don't look at me

One of my good friends (how I wish I could write her name, but she will kill me), was recently approached by Femina magazine. They wanted to do a four page story on her. And this lady, she refused. 
Why?
'I dont want my ego to increase.' she said. 
I found myself giving her maa-behen ki galis, those which I have stopped using since I became a mum. 

Ramesh has done a better, calmer job :
'No personal effort can possibly lead to Enlightenment', he says. 'On the contrary, what is nessessary is to rest helplessly in beingness, knowing we are nothing, to be in the nothing-mind state in which all conceptualising has subsided into passive witnessing. In this state whatever happens will not be our doing, but the pure Universal functioning to which we have releinquished all control.'

Now how to do this,  is the million dollar question. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Drowning hope

I don't have a TV. I hardly ever read the newspaper.

No one calls me from Bihar.

But somewhere inside, an awareness is streaming.

During all my waking hours.

I sneeze. The body aches. I look at the sky. It rains.

I sit on the net. I browse. I weep.

The only other time I got this depressed was during the Gujarat riots.

But I don't fight it.

It is ok to be sad, when so many homes have drowned in water.

All I can do is blogit

Koshi Floods

To help the residents of India and Nepal recover from the monsoon floods along the Koshi River and allow people around the world to keep up-to-date on the relief efforts, we’ve pulled together some mapping resources below. Additionally, you can read the latest news on recovery efforts on Google News.


View Larger Map

How you can help

We'd like to call attention to some of them so that you can get involved, offer support or learn more about the effects of the floods.

Kosi Maa, do not stray

Finally, I found a blogger who is blogging from the place itself. Thank you, Sudipto.

Its a blog by one of our friends Pushyamitra who is there in North-east Bihar region and writing his experience everyday.
Please visit http://biharbaadh.blogspot.com/ to have an account of true mayhem.



The disaster in North-eastern Bihar is not just a flood, but its a serious natural calamity of changing of path of a river. This calamity has caused 40 lakh people displaced and homeless for about two years, until the dam is repaired and river goes back to its old path. In such condition unless each District of whole country reaches out for helping aid the rehabilitation of displaced is not possible. There is no such campaign running to support or provide aids to the people as in previous natural calamities. Possibly because of declaration of Central Government of providing aid of Rs1000 Crore. Though, this package for 24 lakh displaced persons would be very insufficient, as this also includes the repair of dam and relief campaign. In such case, there is less than Rs.2,000/- per person would be available for relief and rehabilitation. This becomes our responsibility to help them and shows our humanity towards other human being.

HELP

If you want to help them, then you can collect the relief material and send to us or, you are welcome to affected area to distribute your relief material among flood victims. We assure you to help in all the possible ways at local level. Details of urgently needed relief Matterials as below :

Food Materials : Drinking water, Clorine tablets, Rice, Pulse, Salt, Spices, Haldi, Flour, Potato, Onion, Salt, Chura (Poha), Gud (Shakkar), Sugar, Tea, Mustard oil, Vegetable oil, Ghee, Dalda, infant baby's milk, powder, Dermicool Powder, Bottle and Nipple, Horlicks, Health Drink, chocolate, Soyabin burri, Besan burri, Sewai, Biscuit, Namkeen, Mixture, Chips, Pestry, Papad, Noodles, Sattu or Gram.

Medicines :Health checkup kits, Diarrhoea Medicine, Cough syrup, Medicine for fever, Medicine for Malneutrition, Cotton, Bandage, Skin Cream, Quadriderm cream, Savlon, Antiseptic Cream,First Aid Medicines etc.

Kitchen Matteial : Tava, pateela, Handi, Karahi, Balti, Mug, Belan-Chauki, Thali, Glass, Katori, Plastic Dubba (of 10,5 and 1 KG)

Cloths : Saari, Petikot & Nara, Blouse, Dhoti, Lungi, Gamchhi (Towel), Half & Full pant, T-Shirt, full Shirt, Salwar Suit, Dupatta.

Kids cloths: Napkin, Cotton Cloth (White & coloured) Cosmatics : Hair oil, Soap, Detergent cake and powder, Hair band and rubber, Mirror, Comb, Sindur, Bindi, Bangle, Baby's Powder, Oil and Soap, Baby's Napkin, Cotton Cloth, Toys for Baby. Other things : Mombatti (Wax), Matchbox, Torch, Battery, Mosquito Coils with Stand, Plastic Sheets, Rope, Plastic Bags, shoes, shoks, Slipper (Hawai Chappal), Designed tent for temparory latrin, Dari, Chadar, Pillow, bed, bed sheet, forlding coat, Toys for Kids, Umbrella, Lalten & Coal Stove (if possible). Hoping your positive response very soon.

Contacts :

Vinay Tarun (Sr. Sub-Editor, Hindustan, Bhagalpur) - 09234702353

Pushymitra (Sr. Sub-Editor, Hindustan, Bhagalpur)- 09430862739

Ajit Singh (Documentary Film Maker, Bhopal)- 09893122102

Raju Kumar (Bureau Chief, India Press Agency, Bhopal) - 09893252617

Sachin Shrivastava (Dainik Bhaskar, Bhopal)- 09977296039

Basu Mitra (State Resorce Center, Bhopal) - 09826617643

Sandip Naik (State Co-ordinator, The Hunger Project, Bhopal) - 09425919221

Indu Saraswat (Co-ordinator, Bachpan Project, NIWCYD, Bhopal) 09425030307

Ashendra Bhadauriya (Sr. Journalist, Bhopal) 09425782254

Email - biharbaadh@gmail.com

Sunday, September 7, 2008

O Goddess Kosi, please calm down

I wonder how it must feel to become homeless, to lose my furniture, my computer, my mobile phone, my kitchen stuff, my clothes? And all I have to blame is a moody river?

It is not enough to give money, there is so much stuff in all our homes that can find its way to those who would actually use it.

My sister told me that if we give a carton, or a box to the railway station, any railway station in India, they have it sent to Bihar. I am not sure if this is true, but since Lallu Prasad Yadav is the railway minister, it is quite possible.

For those of us who don't watch tv, here is a comprehensive video I found on You tube:

Saturday, September 6, 2008

How to help Bihar flood releif


My mother was frantic trying to figure out how to wire money for the bihar flood victims. So this post is dedicated to her, and to those who badly want to do something, who cant stand watching the horror show on T.V.


Mum's concerns were two fold : she wanted to make sure the money got into the right hands, and she wanted to send it asap, by wire transfer.

I called a close freind who is organising a collection of bare nessesities process in Ahmedabad, and she recomended calling Goonj. Being a big NGO, these people were too busy to give us details of wire transfer, etc.


So we called up friends and then friends of friends and found these people who are not an NGO, but are a motivated group of citizens going personally to Bihar with goods they have collected. They are Javed and Mona, res number 06122522081, and cell no., 09835486721. Another contact is Rajiv Ranjan on +919431442239.

Javed bhai is working from Patna itself. He is working with a group of people collecting dry food items. The women, housewives, are busy packing the food. Their children, after school are helping too. Their target is to pack 10,000 kg food, 2,000 kg clothes, including sanitary napkins, etc. The plan is to load the trucks on 7th night, from Patna to Araria to Raniganj. A well known social worker, Medha Patkar, is coming to meet them today.


Money can be transfered into the acount of Rajiv Ranjan, HDFC Bank, Patna, Account no 1861530001952. His email address is 27.rajiv@gmail.com.

I am copying Rajiv's email contents:

Hi freinds,

this is Rajiv talking to you for channelising relief materials for flood victims of north Bihar. I will not talk much about the calamity as you can gather informations through various sources. The major concern is proper relief materials at proper place.What is happening here that in the absence of proper infrastructure everything is going haywire.To fill this gap we the citizens of S.K. NAGAR,PATNA are trying to bridge the gap.in our own small way. Our one team of ten persons are camping at raniganj block H Qof Araria dist one of the worst hit places.We are giving all possible support from here. This way we have tried to establish an integrated forward backward linkage to do the things effectively.

Believe me this type of consolidated initiative by cititizens is considerd first and unique in its own way Ms Medha patkar had visited our place at raniganj and was full of praise. Hindustan -A hindi daily news paper having maximum circulation in Bihar in its patna edition of 5-9-08 on page no 4 has given a very good coverage of our effort. Now i request you all to be with us in this trying time.


Apart from these group, there are many more who are working on this.
http://biharfloods/ now lists more than 60 organisations in different parts of the world which are involved with helping in relief and rehabilitation operations for the floods in Bihar.

Contact them to offer your services, materials, funds, etc. Also see the Disaster Management section in http://socialcauses/ And this is a link to New York Times on Bihar flood.



The above pic shows railway tracks submerged in the waters of kosi river. I wonder how the map will look now, if we are to draw it afresh. The parallel lines of the river have gone crazy.

Friday, September 5, 2008

At midnight he comes to give darshan

who else but Meera can say this of the blue boyfriend?

. . . a new song

by M.S. Subhalakshmi

chakhar rakho ji . . .

and then dismiss the hierarchy by telling us about the sadhu who came for hari bhajan...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Affection

a romantic song

an old favorite number

on a cycle

first she is sitting in front

then in the flowers

then she sits behind him

on the cycle

together in all frames

pure affection

Ganapati bappa, welcome home.


Me thinks it is nothing but laziness that makes the 'religious' into 'spiritual.'

A few days back, it was Janmashtami (Krishna's birthday party). Pavan had asked me to get a baby Krishna, a small jhula (crib), etc to celebrate. I cant find the heart to refuse his religious aspirations, which , during childhood, I have really enjoyed.

That night, after the kid had slept, we went to a friends place and found a small, one month old pup there. Since the next day was a holiday, I convinced the host and the hubby to let me take home the pup for a day. I had to promise several times that we will return him next day.

We carried the small brown bundle home and I left him on Pavan's bed. As I expected, the boy was too thrilled and preoccupied the whole day to remember krishna.

I was wondering how to get out of celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi when I got a call form high command. 'Get a Ganesh idol home. Pavan will like it,' said mother dear. How could I refuse her?

Even more surprising, that Papa agreed. 'Its a family thing, lets do it.' He even came with us to buy the idol. With Papa around, we had to hunt for a non-painted, non- toxic Ganesha idol.
So Pavan got one more job, painting the dark brown God.

The next step is cleaning the temple. One computer monitor, one CPU, one black bag, two cameras and yippee! I find the umbrella too.

Pavan decks up the idol with leaves and flowers. But I cant find, for the puja thali, a major ingredient : sindoor powder. The absence of the primal beauty element tugs at my heart. We make do with lipstick and bindis.

After all the commotion is over, when the arti begins, the tears still roll, the voice cracks.

Saguna, Nirguna, Eka Govind re. ( With form, or formless, its the same)

Welcome home, Ganpati bappa.


Monday, September 1, 2008

An online interview with a writer

When I was writing the post on Sepia Leaves, a few questions surfaced that I quickly mailed to Amandeep. Here are his answers.

Sepia Leaves is a recently published novel written by Amandeep Sandhu. It portrays in first person, the trauma of a seven year old because of a dysfunctional family.

1. It says on your cover, Sepia leaves seeks reconciliation between love and guilt and explores whether storytelling itself can be an act of resolving the past and hoping about the future. Could you explain the latter part of the sentence?

What does one do when one realizes that one's life is screwed up?
One of the choices one has, when one's back is to the wall, is to speak up. When one speaks one can either complain about one's life or try to own one's story, try that it makes sense to others. When one tries to do that one's attention is diverted from the tragedy of the events to the joy of reconstructing them, communicating them, and finding meanings in them which might have otherwise escaped those who are involved in them.
Basically, gain perspective. That is why I think the telling of a story, and it is always a retelling, can provide one with tools to understand one's past.

2. You said to me on the phone that you were thinking of calling the book ,"Not to be Lose Shunted." Could you comment on the governments attitude where they decide that parents are 'unfit' to care for their children, and then forcing the family to live apart, institutionalizing the children.

No one asks a child if he or she wants to come into the world. Most children are born because either their parents want a child or grandparents want a toy to pass time, and we address the birth with terms like 'carrying on a legacy'. I think parents owe it to the child to nourish the child well, and bring him or her up as a citizen of the world.
Sometimes that does not happen so the state intervenes. It would be good if the state were human and if the state were to be able to do its primary job well. Its job being to run the state. But that is not the case. Most states are run poorly and have institutions, devoid of any human touch, to contain children who come from broken, irreparable homes. I think that is absolutely wrong, even horrific.
How can a faceless, inhuman, institution take care of a fragile, new, life? Ideally families should take care, else, if foster bodies exist then they should be adequately humanized and the child should be able to form a sense of trust while growing up.
For a child, in my opinion, an inhuman state or a faceless institution is much worse than a broken family.

3. Share a few reactions on the book?

Touch wood, every one who has read the book has liked it. I get at least one mail or message or phone call a day from some one in some corner of the world who tells me the book has made sense to him or her. The mails are from people I know and now are beginning to be from people I do not know but are now friends, after they have read the book.
The list of reactions is long but most of the readers have either been care givers to mentally ill patients or have found echoes of their struggle in Baba and Mando's lives. The unanimous opinion is that they are happy this kind of a book, they say that such a story is often experienced but not written, has been written and written well.
It is very touching. I am glad people have accepted my version of my story and mostly read it in single sittings (whatever that means).

4. How long did it take to write the novel? What inspired you to start writing your own story? Any writers kinks you cultivated? (you don't have to answer this one )

I started writing when my parents decided, after having kept me away from home most of my life, to come and stay with me in Bangalore. It was the year 2000. I realised that until I dropped my childhood baggage I would not be able to take care of them. I knew they were coming to be with me before they die. I wrote the book because I wanted to lay down my baggage and learn how to handle it. I had a draft ready by 2003 and then my father died. It was at his death that I got the structure of the book. I completed it in May 2005. It took a couple of years to come out in print.
Writer kinks?
- My birth date is Feb 4 so I try to make the dates on my drafts add up to 4 or to 2 or to 8. Even if I am working on the 15th of a month I name my draft 17.
- Until recently I could do my real writing only when I sat on my table in my home, facing a wall and from where I could look out of a window or door. I have to find such a location in my new home.

5. Tell us a little about your next effort.

I am completing the draft of a book called Roll of Honour. It is set in the 1980's in a military school in Punjab where Appu (again) is being readied to join the Army. That is when Operation Blue Star takes place and Appu wonders how can he join an Army which broke his temple. The book raises questions of identity and deals with perceptions, highlighting the dilemma: is Appu a Sikh or an Indian?

6. Any advice to writers? or, why is it important to publish, and not just write?

No advice. Who am I to tell any one anything?
But I can lay out my reasons to try and publish and not write and lock my drafts in the desk: I put Sepia Leaves out because I realised that with it I had reached a point where I could not improve it. I needed friends, I needed people more intelligent and sensitive than me to tell me how I could improve as a writer.
I think one ultimately always writes for oneself but if one can becomes one's own best critic one improves as a writer. To become one's own critic one needs to learn from others, from readers, one needs to be able to imagine a draft looking like a complete book. Readers, friends, all over the world can help me in my journeys but I wanted to give them something to assess me. Hence, I believe publishing is important. Also, this book is a tribute to my father and mother, I think I owe it to them to keep their memory alive, now that they have gone away.
After the book has been published, I know that Sepia Leaves could have been made even better. The idea is not to deliver a perfect work of art but to understand what it means to engage with the world.

7. Your favorite authors are..

I like many pieces by many writers but if I have to select a few then they are:

Ryszard Kapuscinski
Nikos Kazantzakis
John Steinbeck
Kenzaburo Oe
Amitav Ghosh