A Handbook for my Lover

A Handbook for my Lover by Rosalyn D’Mello chronicles the unorthodox relationship between the writer and her lover who is a renowned photographer, 30 years her senior. What initially began as correspondence between the two lovers, with D’Mello attempting to detail her sexual past to her current lover, the project soon grew into a full-fledged book, drawing the reader into an intimate world.

I had numerous reasons for wanting to read this book. One, I knew the author. We had been in college together, a decade ago. I remembered her as having oodles of spunk and confidence. She had always wanted to get published. And I was curious to see what she had made of her life. Two, I was sufficiently piqued by the few excerpts that I had read on the various online publications. I was aware that she shad been working on a book, for a while now. That it was erotica was also common knowledge. That it was about a personal relationship sealed it for me. Three, as an aspiring writer myself, I’m keen on exploring the memoir as a writing genre. I hoped that while baring herself to the world, D’Mello would inspire me.

I was intrigued by the unconventional nature of the relationship. And I’ll admit that reading A Handbook for my Lover was to also satiate the voyeur in me.

A Handbook for my Lover is brave, courageous writing. D’Mello reveals so many of her insecurities and vulnerabilities. About getting attached, about being taken for granted, about being subjected to a gaze, etc. She explains how she consciously chooses the present over the compulsions dictated by her biological clock. And she shares her qualms on the uncertainty of their relationship. It’s almost like a treatise on modern, contemporary love.

So much has already been written about love. And more will be written. But A Handbook for my Lover breaks the mould that readers have to expect of a book on that subject. It relies heavily on the personal. And sometimes, more than what readers would have liked to know. But D’Mello wrote it only for one individual in mind. The lover was the intended recipient of this book. And it brought to mind, words of advice shared by a mentor early in my career, “Write for one specific person in mind. Keep that person in your head for every word that you put down on paper, and ask yourself, ‘Would X enjoy reading this?’” That has been my litmus test for my personal writing. I wonder it was D’Mello’s too. Or was it more a freewheeling draft initially?

The book follows a non-linear narrative, jumping back and forth into capsules of time. And while some chapters are simply narrated in fine prose, others are more directly addressed to the lover. And there’s little D’Mello leaves to the imagination: disagreements, lovers’ tiffs, the limited nature of their relationship, her sexual urges, et al. The voyeur in me was sufficiently satiated. So much, that I had to often keep the book aside, and breathe. Just breathe, for it was easy to get overwhelmed.

A Handbook for my Lover answered one concern that I had with writing memoirs. How much of yourself do you put there? How much of your life do you reveal? Do you reveal more than you hide? What are the repercussions of such oversharing on your personal ties, with the immediate family and so on. D’Mello finds her answers in Kamala Das, “Do I want to be a well-loved member of the family? Or do I want to be a good writer? You can’t be both at the same time.” Today, I draw strength from this quote.

I loved D’Mello’s conscious use of repetition as a writing device. In words, sentences and even entire paragraphs. Sometimes, even in differing contexts. And she often employs food as a metaphor to convey emotions and heighten the intensity of feelings. Alcohol sometimes sets the mood. And she makes all of these elements jump out of the pages of the book, with her extremely vivid and evocative descriptions.

The themes she tackles are universal to most relationships. And it just happens to be set in Delhi, which is where most of their relationship transpires. I loved the matter of factness with which D’Mello lays the facts on the table. How they met, their reasons for coming together and why they continue being together. Guilt is one emotion that she steers clear of, for she is too busy revelling in the moment to try and rationalise it in her head. And it is this feature that i think makes this labour of love unique. It’s not confined to a specific place in geography, or a defined time in history. It’s contemporary, and unabashedly narcissistic. Perhaps, an instance of art imitating life.

And this is why A Handbook for my Lover made me a little uncomfortable. There came a point when the voyeur in me was a bit creeped out. Did I really need to know so many intimate details about their relationship? Could I refrain from gossiping about it? Did D’Mello have to be so brutally frank? How dare someone use her relationship as material for her book?

Today, as a reader, I’d be curious to know how the relationship pans out in the future. But it’s D’Mello’s personal life. So where does one draw the line, now that she’s let me into her life?

It would also be interesting to read D’Mello’s next book, for I wonder if she feels the weight of all that she’s bared into the book. I wonder if she already feels slotted as a writer for the modern, urbane audience, or just an over enthusiastic diarist, who got too free with the pen. Or if she feels like she is the voice of an increasingly popular demography of single women in urban India?

With A Handbook for my Lover, D’Mello does make a powerful case for that voice!

Six Degrees – Game of Blogs

Title: Six Degrees – Game of Blogs
Author: Co-authored by 3 teams of bloggers across India
Pages: 422
Price: Rs. 349

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Six Degrees – Game of Blogs is a collaborative effort of 30 Indian blogger storytellers, from various walks of life, who weave three fascinating tales.

Conceptualized and facilitated by BlogAdda, Six Degrees is indeed a labour of love. The bloggers, split across ten teams, were provided with five characters, their descriptions and periodic twists in the plot. Each team wrote out a blog post a day to spin an intricate tale, post by post.

A celebrated jury, comprising some of India’s best-loved writers, judged the stories: Ashwin Sanghi, Natasha Badhwar, Ravi Subramanian, Meghna Pant, Raksha Bharadia and Kiran Manral.

Three teams emerged victorious, and we get Six Degrees – Game of Blogs. It was extremely interesting to find out how each team handled the given characters and the subsequent plot twists.

I might also have been a recipient of an email by BlogAdda announcing this initiative. And I probably gave it a miss. But I’m glad that so many bloggers participated!

In each of the three tales, among others, we encounter the Dattas: Tara, Shekhar and Roohi, a close-knit nuclear family, residing in Mumbai. Tara is a successful media professional; Shekhar Dutta, a freelance writer; and Roohi, their nine-year-old girl. Other characters include Cyrus, a law student, Jennifer, a photographer and an acquaintance; and Akshay Ahuja, the next-door neighbor.

The Awakening: Team By Lines

In The Awakening, Cyrus and Jennifer’s arrival marks the beginning of a series of incidents, sometimes spooky, that promise to throw their cozy lives off gear.

Team By Lines takes readers on an intriguing journey delving deep into the realms of science fiction, mythology and ecology. While I paid little attention to the real-life feasibility of the facts mentioned, I found the plot quite engaging and refreshing.

Entangled Lives: Team Potliwale Baba

In Entangled Lives, a murder in the Dutta household throws their lives into chaos and confusion. There is much anxiety, insecurity and turmoil within the pages, as each of the characters are continually interrogated and investigated.

Team Potliwale Baba offers a delightful picture of a Bombay cop in Sadashiv Jawalkar, called Java by most of his colleagues. That for me was the highlight of this story. The plot has its twists and turns, but Java is the backbone, almost as if he was the protagonist and not the Dutta family. 

Missing – A Journey Within: Team Tete-a-Ten

I found Missing – A Journey Within the weakest of the three tales. Roohi goes missing after school one day and the Duttas launch a full-fledged hunt to locate her. It is a contemporary read, with social media and blogging aiding the plot. But it is riddled with just too many subplots.

With the name Roohi, there is also an attempt to juxtapose the journey of the soul. But it appears just too contrived and forced.

And Team Tete-a-Ten’s draft was a little too raw I felt.

Six Degrees – Game of Blogs in its totality is an admirable effort. However, the writing was too amateurish, in need of some honing and polishing. While the bloggers let their words flow, I missed an editor’s red pen. There was much telling and little showing with the words used. Else each of the stories would have been much stronger reads.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

6 Degrees is India’s first book published through collaborative blogging, written completely by bloggers for the Game of Blogs activity at BlogAdda. Know more about Game of Blogs here. You can buy 6 Degrees: Game of Blogs if you liked the review.🙂

Book Review: News Now – Being A TV Journalist

Title: News Now: Being A TV Journalist
Author: Sudesna Ghosh
Pages: 171
Price: Rs. 299

Growing up in the late 1990s, in a newly liberalized India, whenever they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d promptly respond, “A TV journalist.” Star News had just begun to engage the Indian audience and prime time was a word yet to enter our lexicon. My cousins would often tease me, “Have you met Ravina Raj Kohli and Barkha Dutt as yet?” For folks who are too young to recognize that first name, Ravina Raj Kohli is one of the pioneers of Indian television news. And Barkha Dutt was just creating a niche for herself.

Over the years, my idealism gave way to pragmatism, and soon I was reevaluating my career choices. I stumbled upon a chance marketing opportunity and shut the doors on my journalistic dream. But then I hadn’t read News Now: Being A TV Journalist by Sudesna Ghosh.

News Now offers a bird’s eye view of a news studio, from the writer’s to the editor’s desk. You get a peek into the lives of reporters, camerapersons and anchors. And Ghosh shares tips on conducting interviews smartly, reporting from conflict zones and managing a high-stress job with aplomb.

The ‘Contents’ page is a handy guide to help readers grasp the intricacies of each role. I particularly liked two sections at the end of each chapter: A Typical Workday and Quick Recap. Both reinforce the larger picture intended for that particular role.

The language is simple and engaging, and steers away from being preachy or didactic. Ghosh chooses her words carefully to explain the various roles and activities in the newsroom. She intersperses the theoretical bits with crisp anecdotes and real-life experiences of TV news veterans like Suhasini Haidar, Shireen Bhan, Bhupendra Chaubey, etc.

You also get to meet your TV idols in the last few pages of the book, where prominent news personalities share insights, words of advice and their experiences. While some of this information might already be there in the public domain, it is refreshing to read about their first big assignments and landmark stories first-hand. That for me was the highlight of News Now. And it drives home one point: Every individual in the news business started out small, and they’ve worked their way up, often in the face of adversity, setbacks and sometimes, danger. Some of the personal accounts also touch upon the benefits of a journalism degree vis-à-vis field experiences.

Apart from offering a glimpse into the heady world of news, News Now also serves as an excellent career guide for aspiring journalism students with information on the various routes into the newsroom. You will find sample CVs, a list of websites you can refer to and some tips to ease your first few days in the industry. There’s also a glossary of terms to help you get familiar with the newsroom lingo.

I was a little disappointed with the editing in a few instances, but there’s nothing that a good proofread can’t fix in the subsequent editions.

It is a timely and important read for individuals seeking a career in television news. I just wish this book had been written earlier!

News Now: Being A TV Journalist by Sudesna Ghosh releases 6 July 2016. Pre-order it on Amazon now.

Read What Would I Tell Her @ 13, Sudesna’s first book.

Celebrating curiosity

Close to a decade ago, I began leading heritage walks in Mumbai, and each walk was a revelation to me. It was not just about how much I learnt about my city but also about the people I interacted with. While I rattled off multiple facts about the buildings be it architectural, historical or social, what remained in most people’s memories was the feeling that each of these buildings evoked. A decade later, the facts are no longer important. I remember the stories behind those heritage structures, the interesting bits that find little space in our history texts. For example, how architects in London shipped over their designs to India, for local engineers to execute, with little else to guide them.

I remember being in awe of century-old structures, for what they signify, for what they’ve weathered and sometimes, simply for how they came to be a part of the larger social fabric of the times. And while traveling across India via the train or road, I have often marvelled at some of the houses adjoining the railways tracks/road. I have crafted imaginary stories in my head about the numerous characters inhabiting these houses and sometimes wondered what they’d have endured to construct these houses. Early in the morning, one can usually spot a pretty rangoli. And during important festivals such as Diwali, homes are colourfully decked up with lamps or lights. It’s a soothing sight of camaraderie, and one that warms the heart.

It brings to mind this line, from a popular web series by Yashraj Films, “We do not stay alone… in an apartment, we live in a community.” And unlike the cities, where people lead largely individual, anonymous and isolated lives, the towns and villages in India have communities co-existing over generations. And it is in this community that more often than not, that we end up seeking help, on the basis of experience, expertise and exposure.

And, therefore, in India, we treat certain people with absolute regard and respect, doctors, engineers and teachers, for example. In many parts of the country, people consider advice dispensed by the doctor as something handed down by God. However, we must also understand that little or half-baked knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Just like we trust some people, we also heavily rely on certain brands and products, which have become definite household names, and today, brands permeate every facet of our lives, be it rotikapda or makaan. At every stage of our lives, we choose to stick with established brands that can simplify our lives and perhaps, enhance it. This is especially true when one is searching for answers for some of life’s bigger questions.

The epitome of one’s success is being able to invest in one’s own house. At that point, one is plagued with multiple questions and is constantly wary of whom to trust and rely on, be it a person or a brand. And sometimes it offers great solace when you know whom exactly to direct all your queries to.

Just like we have helplines for farmers to assist them with weather updates, TATA Tiscon deploys an expert at most of its dealerships to help individual homebuilders understand the complexities of building a house. And if you’re unable to visit a dealer outlet, you can connect with them online, via the website, the mobile site or the Facebook App. They also conduct regular home-building camps.

Steel rebars form the backbone of any structure; therefore, they need to be picked with care. And people are reluctant to invest in better grades of steel, owing to inadequate access to the right information and the appropriate guidance. And these experts, clad in red and white T-shirts, promise to simplify your life. They can help fine-tune the existing blueprints of a property, identify the exact quantity of the building materials required and resolve any home-building misconceptions or queries.

On a recent trip to Calcutta, we saw two different retail formats, catering to different sets of customers. The first was a traditional setup that adopted a more functional approach to guide individual homebuilders and contractors with their construction and rebar questions and concerns, in a tent outside the shop, emphasizing ease of access.

The second setup lends a more experiential approach to the entire purchase process, with an emphasis on comfort and aesthetics, in an urbane setting. One can walk in with a draft of the design and these experts will help you with the layout of your dream home, on a computer screen, once you share the dimensions of the plot.

There are no set or defined answers. And each query is evaluated independently for each space is unique.

Sometimes, a home is a physical space we call our own. Sometimes, it’s an emotion we long for. Either way, it’s what keeps us whole!

The retail formats are no doubt different. But the service is identical for the team is split across the stores on a rotational basis. TATA Tiscon understands that building a home is an emotional journey, and that offering the right kind of support goes a long way in making the journey simple, smooth and stable.

This post is a part of the #BuildingBlogsOfJoy activity of TATA TISCON in association with BlogAdda.com.