Monday, August 12, 2013

Chit-chat with Rishi Vohra

Rishi Vohra, author of 'Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai' was kind enough to take out some time and answer a few questions.

Rishi Vohra

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. 

RG: How did book writing started for you?
RV: I had this character in my head and felt this pressing urge to give him a life on paper. One day, I just sat down and started writing and wrote every day, before and after work. Several months later, I had the first draft of my book in hand. At that time, I was writing for fun. The thought of trying to push it for publication came in much later.

RG: How did you get the idea for "Once Upon The Tracks of Mumbai"?
RV: I had only the character in mind and just a rough storyline. Random thoughts started hitting me while writing the book, and his story unfolded with each page.

RG: What were the challenges you faced while publishing your book?
RV: I was in California at the time of deciding to push this book for publication. I faced more challenges there than here, as literary agents abroad told me that the book "wasn't written with Western sensibilities." When I turned towards the Indian market, within a few months itself, several publishers expressed an interest to pick up the book for publication.
The book was just awarded an 'HONORABLE MENTION' in the General Fiction Category at the Hollywood Book Festival 2013, so now readers in those circles (in the U.S.) are beginning to take notice of the book.

RG: How was your reaction seeing your published work in your hands?
RV: It was like holding your newborn baby! I can't explain the feeling but I count that moment among the several moments of true happiness in my life.

RG: Any memorable moments you remember while writing this book?
RV: I was in Berkeley, California at the time. Besides UC Berkeley and its eateries, the place is known also for its thriving arts and culture scene. This made it an environment conducive to write all over the place - on the footpath, the UC Berkeley campus, coffee shops, the lawns etc. In the process, I met many artists (painters, musicians, poets, jugglers etc) and we always exchanged ideas about the kind of work we were doing. It was a learning process for me, which also encouraged me to keep at it. I learned that anything created by or done from heart will always bring you joy and that is what we should strive for rather than constantly looking for the approval of others.

RG: Are you currently working on your next?
RV: My next is ready. It's a fun ride set in Bollywood.

RG: Who is the first one to read your initial drafts?
RV: Close friends and family.

RG: When not writing, what do you usually do?
RV: I don't have a set routine, but I'm always doing something productive!

RG: How do you handle criticism?
RV: Positively. After all, criticism is always intended to steer someone in the right direction. I use it only for betterment and never take it personally.

RG: Any last words for the readers?
RV: I'll be back!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Review: Jacob Hills

It's just another evening at the Tiller's Club.

Capt. Rana, a Young Officer training at the War College, stands at the bar, deliberately avoiding his pregnant wife, Heena. Saryu, village belle-turned-modern babe, drink in hand, chats up another YO. Her husband, Maj. Vikram Singh, shoots angry glances at her. The flamboyant Lt. Col. Gary Randhawa and his wife Pam chat merrily with the senior officers - who'd guess that they lead on underground swinger couples' club?

In a corner stands Eva, the beautiful Anglo-Indian wife of Maj. George Chandy, who finds herself at the heart of a murder mystery. The murdered woman's body is covered with cigarette burns. A six-year-old girl's wrist is similarly marked. Another little girl shows signs of severe abuse.

This is Jacob Hills: and army station that houses the War College. A world of genteel conversation, smart men and graceful women. Set in the 1980's - in a country on the cusp of tradition and Westernized modernity - Jacob Hills is the story of what lies beneath the smooth veneer. It's a noxiousness the Chandys must confront if their love is to survive Jacob Hills.

About the author
Ismita Tandon Dhankher is 'A Lesser Known Poet'. Her poem, 'I am Beautiful', won a prize in the Yahoo-Dove Indibloggers contest. She's also the author of the romantic thriller Love on the rocks, released in 2011.
Ismita went to Sophia College, Ajmer, where she studied economics, history and sociology. After acquiring MBA and a brief stint in the foreign exchange division of Thomas Cook, Mumbai, she took up poetry and prose wholeheartedly.
She's currently working on The song of the Sufi Masroof, a book of photographs and poems. Ismita blogs at

The cover of the book has a 1980's look and gives an impression of a thriller/suspense type book. It is plain and simple. The synopsis doesn't really tells much about the book, but gives an introduction to the different characters.

The book is set in 1980's, in Jacob Hills, a military camp near Shimla. Being set in an Army surrounding, it gives a whole lot of detail about the ways and functioning of army, including the boss-subordinate relations, the officer's club and the officer's wives. It also shows the hard realities of women abuser, child marriage and child abortion. Only a lady author could have written the book in such a detail mentioning even the minutest detail, specially the part where officer's wives is included.

The character building is done perfectly, spending just the right amount of time describing the character. The reader is able to make an impression of the character. The narration is plain and simple, and plot is beautifully built.

One of the most interesting thing about this book is it's alternate person narrative style. Each chapter is written from the point of view from a different character which makes the book even more interesting. It helps in giving an account from the point of view of different characters, such as the abuser and the one being abused, the lover and the hater. This is the main USP of this book.

Although I did feel the ending was abrupt, and could have been better, or the author could have spent more time on it.

 On the whole, this is an short enjoyable read. Read it for it's alternating person narrative style, the army related surrounding and the character building.

Rating: 3.5/5

Book: Jacob Hills
Author: Ismita Tandon Dhankher
ISBN: 9789350296493
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Fiction/Suspense
Page: 263
Language: English