Tuesday, February 24, 2009
mechanic : Lets see.
scooter : Drrrrr!!!Drrrrr!!!
mechanic: But its starting!
me: No, it's starting now because its hot. I am telling you the battery is down. Please change the batteries.
mechanic: No need to change the battery, madam. The battery is re-generative. All you need is to drive it regularly.
me: Please, sir. Listen to me. The battery is down, it needs to change. I don't like to kick it, my knee pains. Please change the battery.
mechanic: You drive it regularly, the battery will get charged automatically.
me: But I drive it regularly.
mechanic: No you don't. You walk around barefoot all over town.
Is life a grasshopper's journey, asks this reporter from the Indian Express, as he writes a report on the launch.
When I read the name of Manjushree Abhinav’s debut novel, ‘A Grasshopper’s Pilgrimage’, I was struck by the similarity the title gave to my life; probably to many of our lives. The book which is semi-autobiographical, talks about the life of Gopika.
Read further, here.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Gopika is unapologetic about not being bound by conventions and comfortable with her physicality. She listens to and understands her body, and a woman’s body is not about sexual gratification, it is many more experiences.
The most wonderful part about the book is the bond that Gopika shares with her grandmother. Of all the women in her life – her sister, mother, friends – her grandmother is the one who is possibly her soul mate. They share a warm camaraderie, indulging in leg-pulling, but also sharing some soul-searching moments. Sample this. When Gopika confides in her grandmother that she’s looking for a husband, grandma retorts:
‘That ain’t no secret. You have been looking for a guy since you were sixteen.’
Imagine a grandma who also shares sexual confidences with her granddaughter. A bit crazy perhaps, a bit irreverent, but also funny and warm. Like the tone of the book. Gopika invites the reader to join her in her journey and gradually casts a spell on you as you journey along.
Read the complete book review of A Grasshopper's Pilgrimage here, written by Irene Dhar Malik.
Irene is a film Editor (Sorry Bhai), novelist, online writer, and film reviewer. She mostly writes for a website called 4IndianWomen.
Irene and I go back a long time. We were classmates in the Film Institute. She once 'rescued' me from spending hours in the toilet.
place: Ftii girls hostel, 1st floor toilet.
date: holi, 1990
'Irene, help me out of here.' I yelled.
I was not locked in. I simply couldn't find the door, or the latch.
'Calm down, Manju. Are you standing or sitting?' She was so smart, even then.
'Am Standing. Straight.' I replied, glad to hear the authority in her voice.
Turn right.' she said. I obeyed.
'What do you see?' she asked.
'A white wall. It's beautiful.'
'Good. Turn right again. What do you see?'
'The toilet flush. It ain't so beautiful as the white wall.'
'Good. Now turn right again.'
'White wall. It's so beautiful.'
'A yellow door!'
'Great. You can see the latch? Open it.'
'Irene! You are so beautiful! '
'And you are such an idiot.' she said, but let me hug her.
I don't have to tell you, but some of you might be uninitiated. It was my first bhang experience.
I did not know I lived in a cage
An enigma, a surprise
Making me think every page...
To love someone like one's baby
Does not require a womb
Sing, drink and throw your books in the river
Mansoor would say from his tomb...
Even a glimpse can transform you
In a way no conversation can
Consciousness speaks, I understood
The world doesn't work the way I plan...
Maybe what I perceived
was an amateurish conclusion
A catharsis of kind
Vague thoughts circling the mind...
I do not know much, but know enough to say
It would enlighten me
Teach me something new
When I read this book again some other day....
Archana is one of the first people to have read my book, A Grasshopper's Pilgrimage, when it was a manuscript. This poem was her response.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
mum: The local newspaper man is coming to talk to me.
me: Why? You didn't pay the newspaper bill or what?
mum: No. To interview me. I am a mother of two published writers.
me: Cool. Enjoy. Happy Birthday.
mum: But what should I say?
me : just answer his questions mum.
mum : No. Prepare me. tell me what he will ask.
me: well, ok. he will ask you how to make authors out of your daughters.
mum: then what shall i say?
me: ummm...tell him how you encouraged us to read books, how you never disturbed us when we were into Gone with the Wind, how we stayed up discussing movies, how we sang songs on the scooter...
me: and, that you gave us the freedom to chose our professions. you had immense faith in us.
mum: yes. and?
me: and you supported us financially through our starving artists phases.
mum: need I mention that?
me: absolutely, you must. think of all the other starving artists' parents who will read the paper. there are lots.
mum: ok. and?
me: And the most important: you are my fan. That you loved my book, from before it was born. How I used to send you chapters by email.
mum: yes. I do love your book. Ok, bye, he is here.
me: Wait, you can give an excerpt from my novel. on page..( I go get the grasshopper).. page 65, when Gopika remembers her mother after seeing a lot of milk at the Amul Milk Factory and writes her that senti letter.
This is to remind you that you are my first original dairy of warm, fresh, pasteurized, sweetened, unlimited free milk. Maybe someday I will thank you , but may that day never come. I have never seen so much milk in my life.
I am at the Amul Milk Cooperative, making my first independent documentary film.
I can see that everything is Maya, but you are Mum.
mum: ok, what else?
me : mmm... he might ask you how come both your daughters wrote novels. Tell him, how you encouraged a healthy sense of competition between us.
mum: I did no such thing. You were always jealous of her.
me : look, I am a launch old. I know what I am talking about. Can you tell him that I wrote this novel out of jealousy? I can, but can you?
me: Then be politically correct.
mum: but even if I encouraged you both, blah blah, you couldn't have written and gotten published unless you both had the talent.
me: yes, and more than that, we have the blessings of the Muse.
Friday, February 20, 2009
From left to right : the dark chasma is the film director, Myskin, the good looking fellow is actor Naren, the slim beauty is actress Rohini, and I am the lady in white. I almost same-pinched the actor Naren when I saw him arrive in white. All four of us are holding my baby, the one I made without Shiva.
The other baby was around, he distributed the press kits to the journalists. Later he badly wanted to go to the beach in Chennai. The film directer bought him off with a big toy, a power ranger, with a mystic force! Pavan followed him around after that and asked him his favorite question: How were we all started on this earth?
Rohini did the best reading. She took a long pause, longer than I did when I wrote the bit. But there is something in the way an actor can give life to a take, for it held my attention.
Here is a video of the launch. The cameraman must have been as stupid as Gopika, for he allowed a white paper to cover a handsome face. All he needed to do was to become six inches taller. My bit comes at the end.
After it was all over, the writer in me awoke and re-wrote the interview.
Q. 1. What is your book about?
A. As the name suggests, this book is a grasshopper's Pilgrimage. What appears as a grasshopper hopping about is actually a pilgrim who is resisting the inner call.
Q. 2. What made you write the book?
A. Longing for the Mountain made me write the book.
A. Ok, I don't know what made me write the book. But I can tell you how it happened.
Q. 4. Tell me.
A. My hubby was organized the Ahmadabad chapter of the international event, Writerthalon. A Writerthalon is a writing race. Writers all over the world connect to their nets and start writing together on a Friday morning. They continue throughout the weekend, with a few breaks for sleeping, and stop on Sunday evening. We are all supposed to complete a novel.
The first five hundred words of A Grasshopper's Pilgrimage were written in those three days. And something even more valuable happened to me. I learnt to sit on my butt. Writing was always a passion. Discipline came a little late.
(More mock interview to follow in the next post. Goodnight.)
Ok, I am going to comment just for the heck of it. Actually, its an extremely sincere response to the book.
Here is a paragraph that got my goats up.
Gopika accepts that she is a screw in the huge machinery of God and the Cosmos. And that gives her an immense sense of freedom from the worries of day-to-day life. Gopika is no enlightened soul, but her deep craving to be enlightened makes all other problems seem petty and fade away.
Dukhti rag per haath rakhna jaroori tha? You make Gopika out to be some kind of moron, Banno.
She’s beautiful, spunky, irreverent, and affectionate. She is generous, warm and cranky. She can run away or run back to fulfill her quest. In that, she is completely selfish.
Selfish? Why selfish? How selfish? If a persona is professionally one-pointed, focused, and passionate, do we ever call him selfish? Well, errr, I do sometimes call my hubby that, so...
Manjushree Abhinav is able to bring God out in the open. She is able to talk about her spiritual journey without embarrassment or secretiveness. Her writing is clear and open, her laughter can be heard between the words, unfettered by what anyone might think of her. Her affection for her characters, those who understand Gopika, those who don’t, those who help her and those who don’t, reflects her warmth. Because the book has the unpredictability of fact, it’s a page turner, not something that one expects from what the ‘blurb’ calls spiritual fiction.
And yet, her very strong belief in what she’s talking about makes reading her book like a session of meditation.
This is nice, thank you, Banno.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Saturday, February 14, 2009
My novel, A Grasshopper's Pilgrimage, is about to have its official, certified, publicized entry into the world of books, its gonna get baptized, its gonna get launched!!!
The film actor Narian, film director Myskin and film actor Rohini will launch the book.
So Chennai book lovers, star gazers, please do grace this occasion. The date is 19th February, the time is 5 pm. At the Crossword Book Shop, T Nagar, Chennai. Do tell your friends to drop in.
Hubby has made a facebook page for the event. It is here. If you go there like, quick, you might find only one fan: Hubby. :)
Who wants fans anyway? I want readers!
P.S. In response to a comment that says that she hopes my next book launch will be in Bangalore, I would like to announce that I am planning multi-city launches of my book, in cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, Ahemedabad, Nagpur, Delhi, Tiruvannamalai,... in fact I am open to going wherever I am invited.
Hubby thinks its high time I write a para about what my novel is about.
As the title suggests, my book is about a Grasshopper on the go. Who is a grasshopper? A grasshopper is anyone who hops, in directions unpredictable. And hopping happens when there is a music in the head, very low gravity, and lose elastic strings that tie you down.
If this is too literary, I shall try to make it simple.
My Grasshopper is a young woman who seems to be fickle minded but is in fact a pilgrim by calling. She is a misfit in the worldly life and her restlessness make for journeys and conversations with diverse characters. She allows her heart to rule her head, and comes to her own when she finds birds of the same feather.
'I want a white nightie.' I answer.
'White as in, plain white, or printed, or cotton or satin or ..'
'Forget it.' I pout.
'No, why forget it? I am just asking, no.'
'You are confusing me.'
'That's because I am confused no. If I get something you don't like, it wont get worn..
'That's why I said forget it.'
'Then we will go together and buy it, OK?'
Birthday comes and goes. White nightie doesn't.
Mother comes for a visit.
Hubby buys me a white saree with black border for the Chennai book launch (from a shop next door).
Mother buys me another white saree with a green border(from the same shop).
When Mom is sleeping in the afternoons, daughter goes and hugs her, basking in her sleep induced relaxation. Mother snores away, oblivious to the envious nazar of someone who wonders at the secret of blissfull sleep.
Mother leaves by the early morning train. She has packed her clothes last night only. After she is gone, daughter goes to the terrace to pick up the dried clothes. And fluttering in the morning sun, is her mother's white nightie, cotton, with small purple dots, full of the promise of a mothers hug.
Thank you, Aai, for the white nightie. It holds all of you. And more.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
says the second review of my book, A Grasshopper's Pilgrimage, in the Sunday edition of Hindustan Times.
This is how to go there. First click here, then go to books, its the fourth para to the bottom right of page.
This is the first review from a totally unknown, unpataoed quarter. For a review, its kind of small, but its getting out there.
The book is getting launched in Chennai next week, so Chennai bloggers, journalists, please read the post where you can get the grasshopper for free.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Read it here.
Thank you, Smita. Hope to meet you soon.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
From six years old to eight, Pavdu has grown quite a bit.
Two years ago, we had gone to the bookshop in a Mumbai mall, where we saw a fresh copy of 'Trust me', authored by my sister, who Pavan calls Latu maushi. He probably had no idea that many such copies existed in different bookshops, for when a customer wanted to buy the book, little Pavdu got very upset. He took the book out of the lady's hands and wouldn't give it to anyone.
'But Latu maushis's photo is on the book.' he asserted.
'True. And if you could read, my name is also on it.' Latu maushi told him, trying to hide how pleased she was that he was so possessive of her book.
Somehow we managed to get him out of the shop and let the customer buy the book.
And now, he is not just wise, he has become smart.
Every morning, when he goes to school, he puts one copy of my book, 'A Grasshooper's Pilgrimage' in his school bag and sells them to his teachers!
And he can read where his name is written in the book!
That he doesn't bring back any money doesn't bother me. That is the next step, hole hole ho jayega.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
He is talking loudly to his laptop, looking deep into it. 'Hello, can you hear me? Yes. I can see you. I can hear you too. You can hear me but cant see me? Switch on your camera. Now you can see me? Great. How are you doing?'
I am overcome by jealousy.
'Go pinch him.' I tell the kid.
Pavdu goes behind him and gets in the screen space, pulls his tongue, then pinches Papa's big big belly. Papa yelps at the other fellow. The next moment Papa is running after son, and Mama goes and takes Papa's place.
Mama: Hi there.
Skype man (Good looking fellow): Hello Maam.
Maam: Hi. Sorry about that. Just a routine evening at home.
Skype man: No problem. I have heard a lot about you from your husband.
Me: Really? What?
Skype Man: He speaks very fondly of you.
Me: Oh yeah?
(I am getting a bit uncomfortable. I don't look too good in the little box. He is looking good but I cant see his eyes.)
Skype Man: He told me you wrote a novel.
Me: Yes, I did.
Skype Man: Whats it about?
Me: Its a spiritual journey of a woman.
Skype Man: Indian woman or Foreign?
Me : Oh, she is Indian. Very much Indian. Hey, you know something? This is the first time I am talking to someone on Skype.
Skype Man: Really? It's first time for me too. Your hubby just sent me the link.
Me: Oh. Haat milao. Shake hands.
(I don't know where the camera lens is, where I should touch my hands. But I see his hands waving in front of his face. I feel very silly.)
Skype Man: So we were skype virgins till now. Ha ha ha.
Me: (astounded) This is too naughty a conversation for me. Bye!
Skype Man: Hey, you are going? Wait. Sor...
As part of my book promotion drive, I have decided to ship a free copy of my recently published novel, A Grasshopper's Pilgrimage to all bloggers who promise to write a review of the same on their blog. This offer is open to journalists, review writers, etc, anyone who has a reach of over a hundred readers.
You are free to write whatever you feel like. Just make it longer than two words. One complete sentence of eight words is the minimum requirement. Accompanied by the photo of the cover (which you can copy paste from the above link). A link to my link will be great as it has all the online sites where the book can be bought.
This original review has to be published within one month of getting the book.
Send in your address, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to mention your blog / website / publication.
I am copying here a write-up of the book.
A GRASSHOPPER’S PILGRIMAGE
Praise for A Grasshopper’s Pilgrimage :
‘Beautiful, evocative and light; it floats into your consciousness and takes you along into an inward journey.’ - Gulzar.
‘The point is not whether Indian readers are ready for ‘fiction – spiritual’, if I may call it. The point is the caterpillar who has become a butterfly will make sure a grasshopper’s pilgrimage is worth every step.’ – Anurag Kashyap (Filmmaker and Scriptwriter)
‘While some writers write with effort, some books write themselves out through the writer. In them writers become mediums. This debut novel shows you might want to watch out for Manjushree, she is one such prominent medium.’ –Amandeep Sandhu, Author of Sepia Leaves.
Gopika: single, pretty, and a spiritual seeker. While working for a television channel in the city of lights, Mumbai, she hears an inner call. Like a grasshopper, she flits from guru to guru, from a hippie boyfriend, from making films to making chapattis, from Kolkata to a temple town in
A Grasshopper’s Pilgrimage spirals in directions unpredictable as it follows its free-spirited and soul searching protagonist. This tale is host to a delightful motley bunch of characters: Sufi babas, smoking hippies, freedom fighters, and foreigners without visas. It is a love-story of a woman’s inner journey as she circles the feet of her beloved mountain.
Manjushree has established her own repertoire in the art of grasshopping. Her first calling was writing. Then the magic of the silver screen enticed her into itself, and she enrolled in the Film Institute. But she couldn't bear the transition from cinema to video, and escaped to the mountains to study alternative healing. Her exciting career as a healer was cut short when she fell in love with a patient and married him. Her husband is an artist and he inspires her to write. After making some documentary films and teaching, she went back to her first love and wrote this novel. Now, she is an addicted blogger at www.baktoo.blogspot.com.
Manjushree lives with her husband, Prayas, and child, Pavan, in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Tiruvannamalai…
Price: Rs 150, pages: 174
Published by: Rupa and Co, ISBN 978-81-291-1449-5