Sunday, September 9, 2012

Interview: Rituraj Verma, Author of Love, Peace & Happiness

I recently read the book, Love, Peace & Happiness, and its review on my blog: became the most read entry on my blog, in just two days. He is quite tech savvy and understands how to market a book in the right manner. You can check the facebook page about the book at: 

So, here's the interview with the author Rituraj Verma, who's enthusiasm for writing a book has inspired me a lot, and maybe one day, I will write a book of my own. You can check his website: to know more about him and the book.

I just asked him the questions which came to my mind related to the experience of undertaking a writing endeavor. So, here's the inspiring interview of author Rituraj Verma:

NB: Where do you get your writing ideas?

RV: I take inspiration from the everyday struggles of middle class and upper middle class educated Indians. People like us. Most of the characters in the book exist in real life too, and that is why one has been able to bring out the finer points in their personalities. NB: Do you ever experience writer’s block?

RV: Whenever I do, I think of the real life person the story is inspired by, or talk to that person, and that is enough inspiration to remove any writer's block. Also I play the guitar, so at times, the block is easily removed because guitar playing is like a meditative state. 

Only seldom do I encounter that impossible block, the one that dries up all words. At those times, I discuss my problem with my wife and she usually has a way out of the block. 

NB: Is it difficult to be consistent while writing, as in how you ensure the discipline for it for yourself?

RV: Well I try not to do too much at a time. I limit my writing to 500 words a day, I also  keep notes of what I consider "insightful human observations" and I try to bring those delicate observations into the story in some manner. 

For the last story in the book, I decided I would take some time off work and concentrate on writing that last bit. The last story had to be something the readers would arrive at, and in that moment, they would start a process of realization of the nature of contentedness - a final culmination of the concept of alternate endings. 

Then of course, I tend to redraft the story at least three to four times, and remove any passages that drag, any verbosity or cliches. 

NB: Do you work with an outline, theme or framework in mind or just write?

RV: The framework of the book is the most important thing. I plan that ahead of the first word I write. Then each story actually comes to me, and I just put it on my computer screen as it comes out. 

Most of the writing was automatic, but in some places, I have gone back and changed a few things, written additional lines, and yet I felt that a second opinion was needed. So I asked Stuti Sharma to read it and bring in the balance in the work, removing any jaggedness to the writing. 

NB: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you and inspired you to become a writer?

RV: Its a long list- Hemingway, Chekov, Tolstoy, Franzen, Premchand, Bharti, Saratchandra, etc. - but the reason I wrote the book was because my friend egged me on to write a book. So I took it up and started. 

NB:What inspired you to write? 

RV: I guess it was an emotional catharsis of sorts when I picked up the pen again after twenty three years. So it became a sort of self actualization that I was getting deeper and deeper into- there never was any sense in carrying it too far and becoming completely spiritual- but I did have moments when I questioned if I was writing a book that was bereft of human kindness. 

NB: Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

RV: Several - mostly rejections even by literary agents, who refused to take the book up since it was considered dark and melancholic, and of course, rejections by publishing houses, who never got back to me. But I would get friends and family to read the book and they always said that it was fantastic, and that kept my hopes up. 

NB:If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of the book that you would change?

 RV: The one criticism I hear most often is there is too much emphasis on the physical part of relationships, and that should have been watered down. I think maybe that part, even though very essential, could have been worded differently.

NB: Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

RV: Its about 50:50 - some things have happened, but ended differently, and in the stories, the endings are happier than reality. I have tried to liberate the characters in the endings, but many readers disagree with the endings and hence the alternate endings. 

RV: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

NB: The first story is my favorite, its a journey that always stayed in my mind, even twenty three years after I visited the Valley of Flowers. The story is one that stays in most readers mind too, and many weeks later, they remember just this rather interesting journey into the souls of their happiness. 

NB:How did you come up with the title?

RV: Initially it was a working title, and the characters it seemed would struggle with love peace or happiness in the first three stories and that of choosing between the three in the rest and so it just stuck around and I talked to my publisher if he had a better idea and he said, not really, the title was mine to keep. 

NB: Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?

RV: I think the middle aged man in the last story, Rasheeda the clairvoyant woman and Anamika the codependent woman are all fascinating characters with strong choices and maybe they will show up in other tales too. 

NB: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

RV: One person said that he was sorry that he had nothing positive to say about the book and that he could just not get himself to finishing the book, that and some literary types who say that the writing is very average is what I call tough criticism. 

The best lines far outweigh the bad ones thankfully, and many many readers have been touched by it. 

NB: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

RV: Two main words - Perseverance, and Differentiation, or in one sentence - carve your own niche. 

NB: Authors are Dime by Dozen, do you fear the obscurity?

RV: Yes, I do, its scary, but hopefully, it wont be so horrible that I will feel disheartened into not writing any more. But commercial success comes at a cost, and I have to believe strongly in myself so that I can make others believe in it too. 

NB:Which is your favorite movie and why ?

RV: Memento and Inception are my clear favorites - and you can see influences in the book. Both are mind benders and so is the book.

NB: Which Indian author is your favorite author and why?

RV: Oh I read them all, but I like Premchand the most, and somewhere I wish I could write like him. So simple and yet so powerful. 

NB:Which foreign author is your favorite author and why?

RV: I like Hemingway, Chekov, Tolstoy, Franzen, Bellow and the list can keep going on, but I like two aspects in writing the most - one is the ability to keep the plot interesting, and the other is the ability to not put words into the character's mouths. 

NB: Do you consider yourself an intellectual and why ?

RV: I consider myself intelligent, but my no means an intellectual, although that could be called an aspiration. 

NB: Would you like to write a book about current struggles facing India & how India can rise above them?

RV: I am afraid the answer is no, I would not, because I am not one for politics, social work or the ilk of the do good folks, although I enjoy their company. I dont think profit is a dirty word, and I like making my money and enjoying it too. 

Thanks for the interview. And best of luck to you for your book ! :)

Art in Brazil !

Ghalib's Couplets !

मत पूछ के क्या हाल है मेरा तेरे पीछे, तू देख के क्या रंग है तेरा मेरे आगे

रही ना ताक़त-ए-गुफ़्तार और हो भी
तो किस उम्मीद पे कहिए कि आरज़ू क्या है?

नफरत का गुमन गुज़रे है मैं रश्क से गुज़रा, क्यों कर कहूँ लो नाम न उसका मेरे आगे

हर एक बात पे कहते हो तुम कि तू क्या है?
तुम ही कहो कि ये अंदाज़-ए-ग़ुफ़्तगू क्या है?

Mirza Ghalib

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Love, Peace & Happiness - Review

This book explores the theme of the relationships in this modern age through short stories. If we compare the relationships of the older times and the ones formed in this modern age, the one glaring thing which comes across is that relationships have become too practical or too difficult to manage. 

This book tries to bring out those difficulties being faced, the complexities of this real world, the chaos in which we live, the uncertainty, the aimlessness and the lack of direction being faced by young people today.

Maybe, we know how to pursue our careers, but we don't know how to work on our relationships. I think it happens, because of the lack of experience we have, and the kind of dichotomy of the world in which we live.

We are stuck between the generation which had happy arranged marriages, and our next generation which will be more of a society which encourages and accepts free love.

One of the problems, is not finding someone good enough for yourself, as it comes across in the first story itself: "A high, like Heaven". When the guy Ashish tells Sneha "You are just very very average", it sort of resonated, as we keep on trying to find the perfect right match, the soul mate, the person who should be a clone of our inner self at an intellectual level. It's so important to be able to talk to and to be able to understand your companion. This story brings out how a lack of understanding between two persons leads to a loss of the relationship.

The real life is the one which we live, which is a constant struggle to achieve "Love, Peace and Happiness". It's a pursuit to achieve what we consider "The Perfect Life". 

Like the Beatles said, "Love is all you need". And I sure believe that at times, it's true, that we all do, what we do to find love. Our emotions are the true reasons for our actions, which we then try to rationalize through logic.

And the real life has no straight forward rules, no perfect story line to follow, and the melancholic nature of the stories bring them out. The stories work at various levels and I will definitely read them again to understand the underlying messages and themes. 

Is our life a series of coincidences and a result of some of our actions, our choices and the paths we took ? Or is it something ordained by fate? I think, we like to believe in the fateful crossing of the stars which have brought the people in our lives, with whom we are sharing this journey. Author tries to bring out this discussion for us near the end of the book, when the book turns even more introspective and philosophical.

We want our lives to be stories, the stories which can be told like fairy tales. The stories which start with "Once upon a time" and the ones which end with "And they lived happily ever after". The book here brings out more realistic stories, which play out the drama of the real life. Thus, as you can see, this book has made me think, and it's all I want from the book I read !

And the characters in this book aspire to understand the life, and the meaning of life. And everyone in the book as usual aspires to achieve " Happiness, A high like Heaven '. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sims Social City is in Beta !

Sim Social City in beta is looking like a poor cousin of cityville in its beta version, with graphics not leaving an impact at all !

The functionality and way to operate is also very similar and it doesn't give any additional value or anything on the novelty front !

Being a regular player of Sims Social, the expectations were much higher ! Let's hope EA will get its act together and roll out something better by updating it with some innovative ideas !

I like cityville perfectly well, its only problem is that it asks for too many parts to complete the bulidings. One good idea can be more interaction with the inhabitants of the city ! 

And there should be ways to make citizens happier ! :)

Infact, EA just needs to derive inspiration from its sims social and provide interactions with the inhabitants in the city ! :) 

Infact players should be allowed to choose inhabitants which should be placed in neighbouring homes, like create a city section which is artistic and place artist inhabitants in that place ! 

Then   you can create a tech city section and create one silicon valley with tech colleges and tech companies in the area ! Nerd looking inhabitants should roam that area ! :)

Then the city sections can be enhanced by adding tech parks or adding art musuems to the artistic sections of the city ! And the player who manages to create multiple good sections of the city should get higher points !

And the game needs to be more competitive, with a world rank, country rank, city rank & friends rank ! A person who is playing the game should feel that the game is winnable !

Monday, June 11, 2012

Standout Characters on TV & Madagascar !

Sheldon Cooper: Big Bang Theory
"Stewie" Griffin: The Family Guy
King Julien: Madagascar

Standout characters have some distinctive traits which make them standout and become hot favorites ! Some of them are intentional and some I believe, turn out to be so good, that they stand out. And then these stand-out characters garner more screen time, better story around them & a lot of attention. 

Madagascar 3 is a riot of colors ! with colorful wigs and colorful circus tricks ! All in 3-D.

And it's funny as usual with everyone contributing to it especially penguins & lemur "king julien".

some of the funny moments in madagascar 3:

1) penguins wasting "private"'s college education fund to buy a circus.

2) King Julien going down the building & maurice lemur's face lighting up.

3)  Da-da-dadada-da-da-circus, da-da-dadada-da-da-afro-circus, afro-circus, afro, polka dot, polka dot, polka dot afro!

4) Alex: Me, I voted me. Because I'm the leader.

5) "Skipper: You pillow fight like a bunch of little girls! (Gets smacked with a pillow, busting it and sending feathers flying) Chimichanga! These pillows are filled with baby birds!" -

6) Alex (as Marty's driving the van, badly): What are you doing?! Zebras can't drive, only penguins and people can drive!"

7) And many more !

And the song which plays when Alex & Gia perfect their trapeze act for the first time is beautiful too.

"Love always comes as a surprise "

Another nice song in Rio:

Say you, Say me, say it together !

And the dance song from Madagascar:

I like to move it move it, which gets translated in hindi dubbed version as " Hil Hil ke naacho naacho ! :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Online Shopping, Marketing & App Ideas

Perhaps all of us have fallen for it !

I think online shopping is great if we want to explore more opportunities, compare various vendors, get the best price and see lot of variety without getting up from our couches. All in the comfort of our own home.

The only disadvantage is not able to try it on own to check the size & fit, so it works better if we are aware of the right sizes for the options like clothes & shoes. We also miss out on the ambience, learning trends by observing crowds, having a coffee or burger while shopping at our favorite shopping mall.

So maybe online retail should start suggesting what others bought to complete the ensemble or even send home a free coffee or burger ! :) 

So I prefer to buy earrings online & now I even have a collection of silver earrings which I bought online.

I have observed that I get routed to the online shopping sites by the beautiful stunning displays they put through sponsor ads on facebook. So, maybe that makes me a shopper who gets enticed to buy in the online retail world by the window displays.

Earlier I used to have a preference for a specific online retail site which used to send colorful banners for beautiful stuff in my email inbox daily. When they replaced it by discount offers, they sort of lost me as a customer. In this online retail world, it has also been observed that some sites first raise the prices more than the list price and then show an artificial discount.

A Point to Note for online marketers: "Beautiful Stuff Ads work better than the discount offers". Maybe they should combine them both together. Pinterest is a great social collaboration website which focuses on enabling people to share beautiful pics of interesting stuff online.

Then there's another ongoing marketing mode where they offer discount coupons, I think that this idea works too where the buyer ends up believing that they have landed up a more genuine discount, as the discount coupons work uni-formally across all purchases.

Online shopping works great for books too, as demonstrated by amazon so well. Another upcoming idea  practiced for long by online marketing is the ability to predict your references on the basis of your old purchases, thus making the experience pleasant for the buyer as well as for the seller.

I would really love the idea of an online app who knows all my preferences & makes suggestions for my e-book reading, tech news reading automatically. Think of a juke-box which automatically prepares a playlist for you. In future, a juke-box which picks up on your mood based on the selections which you make and then automatically populate the play-list with those type of songs. So, if today I am in a mood for soulful 

I would love to write that app and sell it, or as I act lazy, I would prefer someone else to innovate, develop it already and shower it on us for free. Maybe the upcoming world of predictive analytics will take us there very soon.

It's expected that very soon traffic apps will appear who will study weather and divert traffic accordingly & send warnings to the people. I heard of an app which sees your location online, shares your location with a taxi agency & buzzes a taxi to you in no time.

Maybe 10 years ago, there were no cellphones, we weren't using GPS. As, they say, the opportunities to innovate and keep on improving human life are endless & all the hottest technologies available now will keep on getting utilized to serve us better.

And all our new ideas, which are now getting churned real fast, because of mobile phones, mobile OS, ease of starting a start-up are accelerating this idea - to - application machine. And believe it or not, we humans do end up doing all these things for the "Common Good". 

As for the parting note, a Digressing observation below:

As the guys in "Roxbury Guys" movie say while bobbing their heads in unison:

"What is love ?" :

The answer can come from a quote from the movie Wedding Crashers: 

"True Love is a Soul's recognition of its counterpart in Another."

And I like Rachel McAdams so much that I am right now watching "Wedding Crashers" movie on TV just to watch her. For a better movie of hers, watch "Notebook" or "Mean Girls" or "Time Traveler's wife" or even "Morning Glory".

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Human Design at Evolution Company !

Context: Long ago, If humans were designed as androids - as genetically coded robots with gene sequencing working just like an underlying source code by aliens.

Scenario: A group of designers brain-storming about human-design in company conference room

Top Manager Says: "This is Evolution Company, this millennium's most innovative company and still our designs are not perfect ! "

Senior Designer interjects: "See, I told you, Adding more brain cells is always a good idea ! Although we still haven't been able to resolve the minor physiological bug occurring as appendix. And nobody is minding losing tail as well, because human test-bots aren't climbing that many trees ! "

Innovative Upcoming Troublemaker (I challenge everything) Designer: "The Human Testing team keeps on raising facial hair as a bug, which we keep on deferring for the next version. And then there's a secret list of bugs as well, which might make humans act insane and irrational at times." 

Senior Designer: "Oh, that's a secret feature, Life needs chaos, randomness, change and creativity. So, we have let the idea of independent thought appear which makes humans unique and makes them think in an innovative and imaginative manner."

Senior Tester: "Yeah, The latest batch of human-bots have designed a flying thing out of large leaves and the older set has fashioned a round object out of stone which they are calling wheel."

Top Manager: "And humans somehow want to have a faith, a belief in something supernatural or higher conscience inspite of being programmed as scientifically rational minds- can anybody explain that ?

Does it serve any purpose or do you want to put in a trapdoor to let them know about us ? Are we science or a myth ? Do we exist ?"