Random Ramblings

#15 : Key takeaways – Workshop : Art & Craft of Writing

Story mirror

Poetry and Plays have never been my cup of tea. Books and essays were my thing and still continue to be. When Mr.Shashidar shared the invite, I found it prudent to lap up the chance to step out of my comfort zone.

The workshop was held at Apparao Galleries – a peaceful and beautiful place to conduct a creative workshop.  I reached the venue about 15 minutes early to find it quite empty. However, within the next 15 minutes that changed quickly and the room filled up. Ms.Nandhitha, Mr.Shashi and Mr.Devendra, welcomed all the participants personally before starting the session. It was rather refreshing to see a writer and a publisher mingling casually!

We dived right into business and the co-host gave us a brief introduction of what to expect. She also spoke of her experience of working with one of the speakers – Mr.Shashidar.

He kicked off the session by reciting a haiku which was closed to his heart titled “Suicide” and then went on to detail his experience in writing Haiku.

So here are the key takeaways from the first session – Ten Tips on Writing Haiku

  1. Haiku is a short form of poetry which conveys a clear picture of a particular moment with very few words.
  2. It has a structure of 3 lines, in the pattern of 5-7-5 syllables
  3. The best way to start writing Haiku would be to use pictures. Click and write on the go – A notepad, pen and a camera are your best friends.
  4. The essence of Haiku lies in the simplicity of words yet powerful meaning it conveys.

He also showed us examples of Haikus that he wrote and published in his blog.

Inspired by this session I decided to take up writing Haiku. The very next day when I started off, I realized one thing – It’s a lot of word play. My brain is wired to elaborate settings and emotions in a rather eloquent manner. Penning down something so short yet powerful is not easy. I googled about and found this app – HaikuJam to get into the groove of putting words to effective use and it has helped me a lot.

The second session was by Mr.Devendra Jaiswal – Publisher – Story Mirror. This publishing house has been launching authors left and right in a very short span of time. He elaborated about the current trends in the publishing scene and threw light on the process of submitting a novel.  This session was quite interactive as quite a number of participants of the workshop were aspiring writers/published writers.

The next session was something I personally looked forward to – Mr. Timeri N Murari’s session on writing plays. The first play I watched was “Chocolate Krishna” by acclaimed actor/playwright Crazy Mohan. That play was one laugh riot. The setting was minimal but the script was outright hilarious. Needless to say, the actors lived up to the script.

Mr.Murari emphasized for the need to focus on writing naturally instead of writing for the larger public – the #hastag generation. He elaborated his experience in shrinking a script of a full length movie into that of a play. He spoke on how advancement in technology is helping the theater business. One particular line of thought from his session, which stuck with me was the beauty of characterization and crisp dialogues in a play. It’s not possible to make the characters “think” live on stage. Of course, a narrator can be used for that, but it will simply end up putting the audience to sleep. Also, a playwright cannot afford to add in the backstory of the character to the play yet the actors need to know that backstory so that they can get into the characters head and soul.

It was a refreshing experience to hear about two forms of creativity I am not used to. I also got to meet and socialize with a varied group aspiring writers, published writers and fellow bloggers from the city.

Hats off to Story Mirror, Mr.Shashidar Sharma, Mr.Devendra Jaiswal, Mr.Timeri N Murari and Ms.Nandita Hariharan for putting up such a great show.

That’s us with the speakers 🙂
Random Ramblings

#14 : An open letter to arm-chair critics

Note : This is going to be a rather long post, almost rant styled. Don’t say you’ve not been warned.

Dear Arm-Chair Critic,

Hello there. I guess this letter is long due. I’ve finally found the guts and the right time to pen my thoughts. I suppose I got bored of the likes of you who criticize anything right from the low medal count of Indians in the Rio Olympics 2016 to my own personal misery – my infamous book ban.

I know. I can almost picture you rolling your eyes at the last part of that sentence which is no way comparable with the first part. Well, let me elaborate.

I know you have no clue about this ironic situation of mine. Even if you did, I suppose, you still choose to mock me for it. It’s your choice to mock, but it’s not mine to live with it.

I love reading books. I started out at the age of 7 by reading comics and then progressed to full length novels. I have no count of how many books I’ve read. My librarians, however would, to a certain extent. Yes. I belong to the class of people who borrow books instead of buying it. I still do actually. I earn enough to buy the number of books I read per month yet I still don’t. However, when I started out reading, we were in no financial position to buy expensive books. I’m not going to glorify the act of borrowing by calling it a service to develop the local reading community. I borrow because I cannot buy. I borrow because I am not allowed to buy. I have a ban on owning books – Harry Potter series is the only exemption. My grandfather gifted me 4 of them. Who put the ban in place? My dear mother did.

My grandfather was an accomplished writer and editor. He had 7 books to his credit and also served as a guest editor for The Saraswathi Mahal Library at Tanjore.  He had a library of close to 4000 books in languages including English, Tamil, Hindi, Urudu and Telugu in topics ranging from literature to astrological sciences. He was a prominent figure in the astrology and publishing scene. I inherited his genes and his passion for reading. We used to go on trips to various bookstores in the city almost everyday. I was his travel companion. I was his second pair of eyes when his vision started failing. There came a time when his eyes simply refused to see. Yet, his thirst for knowledge never waned. We still went on those trips. He struggled to read and used various special lenses. My grandmother and me, we used to read out to him and write whatever he dictated. His last unpublished work, which is well over 800 pages was handwritten by my grandmother. I handled his mails and wrote whatever he dictated for  his monthly share of articles for magazines for which he was a columnist.

One fine day, his BP shot up and he was paralyzed. His brain function altered itself. His speech slurred and his ability to recollect the past dimmed down. Ultimately he lost all memory of all the knowledge he had gained over the years by reading extensively. Death then decided to claim him after much struggle. We were left with a massive collection of books and no space to keep them as we had sold off his house. The new owner gave us enough time to ensure that the books were cleared off. Given that his place was in a low lying area, we had to frantically struggle to save the books when it rained. It was one dark period for our family. Finally, after about 4 months of struggle, we managed to clear off his library by donating the books to various friends and to the Madras University library.

Now that you know my story, let me summarize what resulted in the ban.

  1. Can you imagine the prospect of completely forgetting whatever you have learnt or read? – I’ve seen that happening right in front of my eyes. No, it wasn’t heartbreaking. It felt almost suicidal.  What happened to him might happen to any of us. This didn’t deter me from reading or learning. It taught me not be too attached to anything.
  2. 3000 plus books – Each and every book neatly covered and maintained well without dog-ears or broken spines. Some rare books were a part of the collection too. Imagine a bibliophile having to giving away that many books knowing that it might not be taken care like it was. I don’t wish to relieve that feeling by penning it down.

One fine, day long after my grandfather died, I visited Odyssey – One of our regular haunts when he was alive. Landmark had closed shop by then. My mum tagged along. We were there to buy a gift on our way to a party. I wanted to buy a book for myself. My mum silently touched my hand and nodded no with a sad smile. I was perplexed. It wasn’t like her to stop me from buying books for myself. After all, by that time, our financial crunch was sorted. It then struck me that she was simply afraid that I would turn out like my grandfather. She had made it clear that books no more were welcomed into her house. Immaterial of how much I earned, she made it clear shouldn’t buy a book for myself, even if I did buy, I was to give it away periodically.

It’s been three plus years since I started reviewing books. Every book I got as a review copy is either sitting in a library or is with my friend. I’ve purchased about 12 books since the ban from vouchers I won and I intend to give those away too. I also have a bunch of second hand books I got before the whole incident happened. Those have also found a new home.

I know you give me the stink eye when I attend book launches but slither off without buying the book.

Taunt me all you want when I muse over how I missed visiting a bookshop in a city I traveled to, as you know I won’t buy any book.

Be the big fat bully who would criticize me for not owning books with beautiful covers.

Be the so called friend who would sympathize when we talk, but snicker behind my back.

Be the idiot who would suggest I try buying digital books. It’s still a book you know and I don’t cheat.

I’m past feeling the prick. There was a time when I used to cry myself to sleep, unable to over the come that desperate feeling of not owing a beautiful book I enjoyed.

You and the likes of you are nothing but bullies who are eternally judgmental.

May God give you peace.

Yours Sincerely,

A Bibliophile.

Note : This letter was inspired by a post from a Facebook friend of mine – Ms.Jean Burke-Spraker. She was a part of a conversation with my other friend where I whined about how people judged me critically for owning secondhand copies of books I loved. The very day she posted a picture of a couple of second hand books she owned. Among bullies who flaunted their book collection and ridiculed me for not following suit, she is a rare gem who helped me feel better. I hardly know her as a person, but that simple act speaks volumes about her. Thank you Jean.

PS. If you read this and feel that I’m pointing out to you, well, that’s your feeling. I’ve not mentioned names have I?



#13 : UrbanClap : Review

UrbanClap ads seem to be having a prominent place on my Facebook and Instagram feed.

Given that I was feeling particularly lazy to drag myself to the beauty parlor for the monthly quota of picking and prodding, I decided to give UrbanClap a try. The INR 200 credit I had was also itching to be spent.Salon at home seemed welcoming! I went ahead and downloaded the app. I had googled about the services offered but when I actually opened the app, I was surprised completed. Heck. They had a ‘divorce lawyer’ service. I couldn’t help but laugh my head off!

Below is a screenshot of the services they offer.

So I went on to book a beauty service from the Salon at home option. Below are some screenshots of booking process. As you can see, they offer beauty services only for women at present. The process is quite simple and  regular salon services available. The pricing is more or less like your typical salon.

I was a bit doubtful if there would some additional charges for conveyance, however when I checked out, there was no such addition. I was asked to enter my address and pick my preferred time slot. After a couple of minutes, I was assigned a professional.  I was also sent a text with the professional’s contact details.


Review of the Professional 

The professional assigned to me, Ms.Uma arrived promptly on time – 9AM. She came carrying a huge bag like Santa. In it were neatly packed kits.She got right to work without chit-chatting. I had opted for two types of waxing and she explained in detail about the products used. Given that this type of wax I had opted for was new to me, I was apprehensive if it would cause some allergic reaction as my skin is quite sensitive. She assured me that no such thing would happen.When it comes to waxing,the beautician often struggles to judge the right temperature for the wax as the tolerance level of each person varies. I’ve had horrible experiences of being burnt with overheated wax.This person clearly knows her trade well and ensured not to overheat the wax. At the end of the service, she cleaned the area we were sitting as there was some spillage of wax and disposed all consumables properly. In short, she was thoroughly professional.

Review of the App/Service

The app itself is quite light and easy to navigate. It is quite stable and didn’t freeze or force-close.


  1. A wide range of  services are offered.  It’s easy to have everything in one place.
  2. If you are new to the city, UrbanClap will surely be of help.
  3. They don’t employ professionals, they only connect you with professionals – This means if you are a freelancer, this could be a good place to start for your business leads. However, I have no idea about the leads generated or charges to sign up.
  4. Fairly good communication system – prompt texts etc. I had no reason to  contact their customer service so I am not commenting on that.


  1.  The professional is assigned to you as far as beauty services and few other services are concerned. You don’t get to choose. Which means if the person assigned to you is rated low, you have no choice but to live with it. The professional I was assigned was rated quite well. She also knew her job well. So I had nothing to complain about – For other services like Bridal Makeup, Photography etc, once you key in your requirements, professionals contact you with their quotes, so you get to pick and choose.
  2. There is little or no visibility if the professional is trained.However, once the assignment is done, the professional’s profile is sent to you and it does contain details about years of experience and ratings. Thus, you have to no choice but to accept. I hope UrbanClap has a quality mechanism in place.
  3. Security is an issue – Given that you are pretty much letting in a stranger whose credibility you don’t really know. The regular plumber or mechanic or handyman would obviously be a known face in the area when compared to some random professional. I hope UrbanClap has a mechanism to handle security verification.
  4. There isn’t much transparency in billing. As in if I pay INR299 for a service I would like to know how much is actually going to the person and how much is going to UrbanClap.
  5. There isn’t any option to reschedule the services as far as I checked.

Overall, I’d rate the professional (Ms.Uma) 5/5 on while I’d refrain from rating the UrbanClap service as I’ve tried just one service. Rating based on just one time experience doesn’t seem to be fair.

 Note : This review is a part of the Chennai Bloggers Club campaign in association with UrbanClap. I received INR200 credit to try out the service in exchange for an honest review.