Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Chit-chat with Rituraj Verma

I got a chance to ask a few questions to Rituraj Verma, author of 'Love, Peace and Happiness: What more can you want?'. I am really grateful for his time and patience. 

Rituraj Verma

Rituraj Verma started his career as a mechanical engineer having cleared the IIT JEE as a fluke. He pushed his luck further and by another fluke, managed to get into Tulane University, New Orleans, for this MBA. Naturally, he switched tracks to FMCG, sales, retail, real estate, and then finally, consulting. He met his wife, Smriti, at the Indian Railways Staff College in Baroda and has always claimed that she was the lucky one, which of course, is often debated in the family.

His true calling, however, seems to be writing, and this book is an act of subconscious expression, amalgamating real life stories with fantasy in a liberating manner.

In his adventurous moments at home, he enjoys being referee to his son and daughter  Sometimes, he manages to sound tuneful when he is playing the electric guitar, though some neighbors disagree. When he is not playing the guitar, he is usually playing with his own hair on this head.

RG: At what point of time in your life did you first thought of publishing your book? What was your inspiration?
RV: That's an interesting question. A colleague of mine had just published his first book and he asked me what I had written in my college days. And the story came back to me, almost as I had written it 23 years ago. That's when I decided that I would do a book of connected short stories.

My inspiration for this book has been the angst behind the lives of people in urban settings. Stories surround us. I just wrote some of them down.

RG: What challenges did you faced while publishing your first book?
RV: There were many challenges - one of course was finding a publisher. The second was getting the book proof read and corrected in time. A third was finding a good publicist.

RG: What was your reaction when you finally had your first published work in your own hands?
RV: It was a feeling you get at the end of completing a long distance run. You know you are finished, but you could have done better.

RG: Love, Peace and Happiness, is completely different in the sense that it isn't a novel, neither a collection of short stories, it's somewhere in between that. How did you came up with that?
RV: I wanted to come up with something that was half blog half book, and could interact with readers in a meaningful way. So I decided to write this book in a completely different style. I think that the future holds promise for this genre - called Adaptive Fiction as e-readers take over. The experience of reading will take on a different complexion in the future as the devices that people read books on will remain connected to the net.

RG: What was the idea behind giving your readers the liberty to end the stories on their own will?
RV: As I wrote this book, I gave the stories to several friends who somehow seemed to interpret each story differently. Then I realized that there were many layers to each story, and I thought that each reader should be allowed to introspect and decide on how the stories should end. So I put up alternate ending on a website and gave them the option of contributing their own endings too.

RG: Any memorable moments you remember while working on this book?
RV: The fifth story in the book is a particularly poignant story, one which draws inspiration from a close friend's life. When I sent the story to my editor, she read it and sent me a message - "This is my story - How come you have written it?" I was pretty touched by her comments and I felt that I had done justice to the struggle of young women in India.

RG: Are you currently working on your next?
RV: Yes, I am. Actually I have started work on my next three books. The first is in the same genre as LPH, the second is a myth fantasy set on the day that the Manu Smriti is being written.

RG: Who is the first one to read your initial drafts?
RV: The first reader is my wife, the second my daughter and the others are close friends.

RG: When not writing books, what do you usually do?
RV: I read a lot, I like watching movies, and of course I work too.

RG: What kind of books do you usually read?
RV: I read a lot of American authors. These days I have started to read mythological fiction as the next book is a myth fantasy.

RG: Who is your favorite Indian author?
RV: I like the world created by Amish the most.

RG: How do you handle criticism?
RV: I had a tendency to over react, till I learned that it's best to soak it in and improve one self.

RG: What is your alternate occupation like?
RV: I am a real estate consultant. 

RG: One thing you would wish to change to make this world a better place to live?
RV: Literacy for all. I think that is our biggest challenge as a nation. As an author, I think more people reading will change this country.

RG: Any final words to the readers?
RV: Don't give up reading. Read something, anything on a daily basis. And don't spend too much time watching TV or surfing the net.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Review: Once Upon The Tracks Of Mumbai

"Autistic. Schizopherenic. Psychotic..."
'They' use these words to describe Babloo - the doctors, his family, his teachers... everyone... except Vandana. She treats him the way he wants the world to see him. 
Mumbai... the city that defines his ultimate desires. Will it allow him the love and 'normalcy' he so craves?
Vandana... yearns for a soul mate to rescue her from the confines of the Railway Colony they all live in. Is she looking in the right place?
Rail Man... a fearless, real-life hero who succeeds in doing all that Babloo secretly wishes to do... is Babloo his inspiration or.. is it the other way around?
A random twist of fate on Mumbai's endless, serpent-like, jangling local train tracks ties all these characters together in a complex weave of love, heartbreak and courage. 
Babloo draws the reader into his fascinating, heart-rending journey through the twisted, choked lanes of Mumbai, into an open space where he can finally exhale, be born again.

About the author
Rishi Vohra recently relocated back to Mumbai after completing a Green MBA from San Francisco State University and a Masters Diploma in Environmental Law, prior to which he has had a successful career in the Indian entertainment industry.
Having been a guest columnist for various newspapers in India, he currently writes for delWine and is a Certified Specialist of Wine. This is his first novel. 

They say never judge a book by it's cover. And it's said precisely for this book. On the first look, it might look like a rosy Indian Bollywood-ish love story, but trust me, it's not!

The story is about Babloo, who is suffering from autism, but the world around him fails to understand him. Everyone considers him good for nothing and is always compared with his younger sibling, who has a job; except one. Enter Vandana, somehow she finds the un-usual way of Babloo amusing and funny. 
And then there is Sikander, who is a total neighborhood playboy, who somehow uses Babloo to get to Vandana. 
Babloo wishes to do something big and different, and refuses to take the job of an office boy that his father had arranged for him. He wants to help others selflessly and become a hero. Will he be able to come out of the web of his life to achieve what he really wants? The book is about his journey. 
All of this is set into an city unexpected - Mumbai. And in a neighbourhood which values the opinion of the society to the brim. With twist and turns all through the plot and some harsh realities of the society, the setup is sure to keep you hooked till you reach the end. 

The way he book is written surely surprises me, it's not a typical Indian novel. The narration is smooth all through the book, and is sure to keep your hooked. There are elements of surprise, pinch of humor, realities of how the society works, and a man who wants to be good, so that he can be with his love of life. This book won't disappoint you, and is worth every penny spent. You are sure to have a good time reading it. 

Rating: 3/5

Book: Once Upon The Tracks of Mumbai
Author: Rishi Vohra
ISBN: 97881849553053
Publisher: Jaico Books
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 266
Language: English
The author can be reached at his official website.