Monthly Archives: May 2012

sagarika chakraborty, author ‘a calendar too crowded’

Sagarika Chakraborty, born in Kolkata, studied law at National Law University, Jodhpur and business management at Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.

Her projects and numerous articles on diverse subjects—corporate governance principles with special emphasis on emerging and transition economies, globalization, ethics, monetary economics, religion—have been published in Indian and international publications.  Apart from delving into serious research work, she has also written light fiction/poetry for various online and print media, and is an avid salsa enthusiast. ‘A Calendar Too Crowded’ is Sagarika’s first work of fiction. 

Your publications on Corporate Governance can be very easily attributed to your education in National Law University, Jodhpur and ISB. What inspired you to write your first work of fiction on a theme like woman-hood?

The same very publications which you are talking about! All my research work is heavily based on the lines of gender studies and the impact of various issues on women – in the social and corporate sector. When I looked back at my research work one fine morning it struck me that I probably wasn’t doing enough for my dream. I wanted to make a difference to the society in my own way and though I was raising eyebrows of the big names like UNESCO and World Bank but the bigger audience was being left out. Thus, I decided to use fiction – my grandmother always used to teach me the greatest of life’s stories through simple tales. Thus, this attempt to tell stories so that the issue stirs the soul of the reader and provokes questions.

Kolkata has a long history in the context of Indian Literature. Also Durga Puja, has symbolically represented the respect that women enjoy in our society. Has any of this influenced ‘ A Calendar Too Crowded’ in any way?

I share a very love hate relationship with Kolkata. The city has taught me various lessons but never really inspired me enough to settle down there. However, yes the culture, the thought process I have imbibed from my family and the various values I have come to adopt has influenced a few stories and the line of thinking behind them. However, broadly my book encompassesIndiaas a whole and not a particular region.

How much does days on a calendar mean to you? Birthdays, Anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Independence Day etc

I would be lying if I say that days on the calendar attributed to personal and social causes do not mean anything to me. However, I do not believe in celebrating them in vacuum – thus to me if I celebrate somebody on their b’day I will make sure they are as special throughout the year. If I tell my mother on Mother’s Day that she’s my idol, I want her to see that in my eyes throughout the year and beyond.

They say no story is entirely fictional. Have any of your stories been results of personal experiences or experiences people have shared with you in person?

Oh yes! And this has indeed created quite a stir in readers. While a few want to know what stories and their exact parts are based on my influences, there are others who do not believe in giving reality a fiction flavor. However, the truth is that each story in the book does sketch a face in my mind, I can relate them to someone I have known and whose story is similar – I want the readers to have the same effect too. No surprise that all my characters in the book are nameless!

Do you have any favorite authors – people who you think have influenced your style of writing?

Vikram Seth is my favorite author. I love his style of writing – the confluence of characters and the plot creation to detail. Along with him I am heavily influenced by Ruskin Bond and amongst Bengali writers I love Suchitra Bhattacharya and Nabanita Dev Sen. Hindi literature has been restricted to Premchand, Dinker and Subhadra Kumari Chauhan.

One can see a lot of Indian Literature these days. On one hand it has brought literature from the hallowed shelves of the libraries to the common man’s bedroom and on the other, as the purists complain, it has deteriorated the standard of Indian Literature. How do you perceive it? Is it necessarily a good or a bad thing?

Every coin has two sides and to win a toss you need to call the side you think is in your favor. Thus, I feel the publishing boom in the Indian scenario has both its pros and cons. While some may complain of the easy language, generic plots, there are also applauds about English books being even picked up in villages and more and more youngsters giving into the reading habit.

There are many aspiring writers trying to write their first book. Anything you would like to tell them from your experience of writing your first work of fiction?

Never fear rejection, in fact expect rejection at the very first go. I always say that if I have a daughter ever I will not protect her from her first heartbreak. Heart-breaks are important for any person to know what they are made up of and where they stand. Rejections too should make you aware of your short comings and then strengthen your belief to be better and make your dream come true.

You are a multi-talented person. A Law graduate, A Business Management Student from ISB and an Author – fiction and non-fiction. Do you have any other side of yours that we are yet to see?

Ha Ha! I am a Gemini – need I say more. There is a completely goofy side of me too, but luckily that is reserved for very few. If the torture group expands its scope, I fear my serious image will be lost! Ha ha! I am completely a different person in my close group of friends – now it is up to you to hunt them down and know that side of mine.

Are you working on any other book currently? If yes, would you pursue the same theme as in ‘A Calendar Too Crowded’ or would you be experimenting with a new theme?

I am a person who would research for half a year before sitting down to write stories or character sketches. I have just started researching on my second book, however there’s still time for it to hit the shelves. It is not going to be like ‘A Calendar Too Crowded’, but yes I will write about social causes and ills – for that is a writer’s promise I have made to myself.

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breaking news – I

The only time I have really felt bad about the fact that I do not understand finance much is when people ask me my opinion on the absurd-yet-necessary petrol price hikes. Obviously I am affected by them but I do not know if I should be perturbed by them. One because I still do not know the mileage of my bike, after having ridden it for around three years, and secondly because in spite of what a particularly loud news presenter wants you to believe, I still trust the Government’s intellect on this one. Let’s not forget, it is this Government (and its allies) that fired a Railway Minister for hiking the railway ticket price by 30 paise per KM for AC 1-tier passengers and hence establishing beyond doubt that they are indeed an aam-aadmi’s Government!

Speaking of allies, of late, I have been very interested in the actions of a particular female whose delusional accusations have been the talk of the town. She has been very prolific in identifying Maoists and very particular about not being answerable to them.  ‘Over-acting’ is what some of my friends call her antics to be. And mind you, I am not talking of actor-turned-politicians like Jayalalitha in here.

Talking of actors, two of them have been prominently in news and interestingly, not because their movies are competing at the box-office (or at the Filmfare awards!). Instead, they are in news because of two serials that have been running very successfully on TV over the last month. Both of these serials have exposed a lot of evils in the society – female feticide, child sexual exploitation, dowry system, match-fixing, molestations, use of abusive words in public places and unwarranted tweets from the former owner of one of the serials who still believes he is the best thing that has ever happened to Cricket after Sir Don Bradman. Both these serials have also achieved a lot in a very short time frame. Parliament has passed a bill to protect children from sexual abuse. Shah Rukh Khan has been banned from Wankhede for five years and Siddharth Mallya has once again proved his intelligence quotient on twitter. Kudos.

The Mallyas remind me of two things – Deepika Padukone and Kingfisher. Both of them are a delight but their interests change quickly and lay in diverse fields. Unfortunately a great beer and a seductive calendar cannot keep you ‘high’ for long. Air India pilots, on the other hand, have the right to complain. Kingfisher at least has a really attractive crew to fly with, if they ever do.

The word ‘attractive’, over the last few weeks, has been all about Yami Gautam for me. In fact, I believed I was seriously addicted to Facebook till I noticed the frequency with which she posts her pictures on her Facebook page (and the time it takes to get a thousand likes and half a thousand shares). But that should not have come as a surprise to me. Given that, these days, le me notices more supposed-to-be-funny shared pictures than le friend’s status updates on le my Facebook wall. Weird sperms!

Facebook, meanwhile, has gone for an IPO (Interesting Phase Over?) and Mark Zuckerburg just married his college sweetheart after the IPO (Interesting Phase Over, again?). Priscilla Chan seems to be the luckiest woman alive. She has a husband who is a billionaire and is also young. Now, how many can claim to have a husband who is both? Husbands are either young or are billionaires. Most are none.

I cannot tell you what husbands remind me of. There is a very good probability that my girl-friend would be reading this! But all the husbands in the world know it. After all, Satyameva Jayate!

stillbirth

“I need a drink. I cannot sleep otherwise.”

“You already had a couple. It’s not going to do any good to you if you keep blaming yourself.”

“Well strange isn’t it! It was no one’s fault and yet I derive a certain satisfaction by holding myself responsible than just letting it go. At least that way, I still feel connected.”

“That will do no good.”

“I miss him around. Don’t you?”

“He was never around. He was never alive.”

“He was. For a very short time. Inside me.”

He poured her a drink. The ice-cubes made the poison look better.

The silence that keeps echoing.

Book Review: the devotion of suspect x

  Book: The Devotion of Suspect X

  Author: Keigo Higashino

  Publisher: Little Brown

  Year of Release: 2011

Almost all murder mysteries open with the murder scene. Not many would tell you who the murderer is though, right in the beginning. ‘Where is the mystery then?’ you may ask. Well, that precisely is the beauty of ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’ by Keigo Higashino. As the story unravels, you find out more and more about a murder that appeared pretty banal when it happened. The author does not leave much to guess as to who the perpetrators of the crime are. However, the cat and mouse game that follows, as the detectives try and put the pieces of the puzzle together, makes for a very interesting read.

The story is basically a battle of wits between two college friends – a mathematician and a physicist – each trying to outsmart the other as detectives investigate a murder which prima facie appears as a simple case with the exception that the clues around the victim, many though they are, do not lead to anyone in particular. They explain the murder but reveal nothing about the murderer. As per the nature of their professions, the mathematician formulates the equation and sets the puzzle rolling. The physicist, on the other hand, observes the puzzle and uses his logic to draw an inference. Aptly put by what the mathematician tells the physicist during one of their conversations:

“It’s a famous one, the P=NP problem. Basically, it asks whether it’s more difficult to think of the solution to a problem yourself or to ascertain if someone else’s answer to the same problem is correct.”

I would leave it to the readers to find out who wins this battle of the wits and how.

The character of Ishigami, the mathematician, is very well sketched. His genius is well demonstrated and that makes him a formidable person when he draws up the plans. Yukawa, the physicist, on the other hand, is pretty loosely sketched. Except for the scenes when he tries to counter the mathematician’s arguments, he does not appear very impressive. The other characters just fill up the narration.

The book is written in easy English. I did take some time to get a hang of the Japanese names and the locations (Yes, the story is set in Japan) though. The story moves forward at a very comfortable speed except for the last three chapters which are pretty fast paced. The plot does not waver and remains focused. All the clues finally fall into place but quality deduction from the clues at hand, so essential for a good murder-mystery, is found lacking. The clues are logically connected but a stronger connection would have been better. Somehow, I fear, that this might leave the reader with a little empty feeling at the end of his reading.

Best Part of the Book: The plot does not digress a bit and it manages to maintain the intensity that every murder-mystery must.

Worst Part of the Book: Nothing in particular. Just do not compare it to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes!

Final Rating: 3.5/5

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