Category Archives: Chit-Chat

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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miniature marvel

This interview was published in The Viewspaper

Mr. Iqbal Ahmed, the Guinness World Record holder for the smallest working steam engine and the recipient of the India Innovation Pioneers Challenge Award for 2006-07 is a big name in the miniature world. As you enter his house, you see tiny models of various machines adorning his shelves. They have a world of their own, a charm that can be visualised but can hardly be put to words.

His “smallest working stationary steam engine standing at 6.8 mm (0.267 inches) high, and 16.24 mm (0.639 inch) long and weighing 1.72 gm (0.06 oz) with a flywheel measuring just 6.8 mm (0.267 inch) across” is an engineering marvel by itself.

Here’s an excerpt from that memorable talk we had with him:

V.P – Good afternoon, sir
Mr. Ahmed – Good afternoon.

V.P – In a world of the bigger and the biggest, why insist on miniature?
Mr. Ahmed – When I look at big machines I always wonder if they can be replicated at a smaller scale…..it’s this ego of seeing big things at miniature levels that keeps me going. From eight inches to four to two to one to thumbnail size, a perfectly designed model must always work. Ultimately it’s in the work that you put in – big or small hardly makes a difference.

V.P – Is there any practical use of miniature models as such?
Mr. Ahmed – Miniature models are less expensive and friendlier for experimentation. Innovation has to start at a small scale for it to be feasible. Apart from that, it brings a huge personal satisfaction to see self made small replicas of huge machines.

V.P – Is there any particular reason for you being so interested in the miniature world?
Mr. Ahmed – It’s been a childhood passion with me. I used to see the links and joins of steam engines and marvel at their functionalities without realising how they actually work. I had a dream of making one myself. Finally, after twenty five years of work I saw my dream being realised. The steam engine that I made worked on its first run. That it entered the Guinness World Records is another story though (smiles)

V.P – How much of general awareness do you think exists of this miniature but beautiful world?
Mr. Ahmed – Sadly not many are aware! Most people get excited after seeing my models; even enquire about them. However, only a few remember them. The concept of miniature engineering dies down the moment the exhibition is over. The process of miniature engineering requires huge patience, perseverance and interest because the results are not instantly obvious. This acts as a turn off for many people.

V.P – Which has been your favourite model or one that has given you a lot of satisfaction?
Mr. Ahmed – The four-stroke engine has been the most satisfying one. I had no blueprints, no specifications and no designs. The engine was self made from whatever ideas I had by observing large four stroke engines and it worked perfectly fine on the first run.

V.P – Any specific future plans or ideas that you are nurturing as of now?
Mr. Ahmed – I have lots to do. My models have participated in a wide range of international competitions winning accolades and there’s more to come in the near future. I am working on a Crankler’s engine right now. It’s a bit difficult but it’s shaping up well.

V.P – What are the qualities that you would like to see in present day engineers?
Mr. Ahmed – There is a huge difference between practice and theory. An interest in practical solution of a problem is a must for any engineer and this must be encouraged at all levels of education. An engineer’s education must not be limited to text books and let’s not forget necessity is the mother of invention and hence unless you create necessity you won’t be able to do anything innovative.

The Viewspaper Team wishes you all the best in your future projects and thanks you for the wonderful talk, sir.

This interview was conducted as a part of my internship with The Viewspaper