Book Review: It Must’ve Been Something He Wrote

Title: It Must’ve Been Something He Wrote
Author: Nikita Deshpande
Pages: 265
Price: Rs. 350

It Must’ve Been Something He Wrote by Nikita Deshpande is a fun, contemporary read. Book snob Amruta – Ruta – is a marketing executive at Parker-Hailey’s Publishing, in Delhi. She is young, finding her way in a new city and almost an idealist. A tough boss, shoestring marketing budgets and high expectations keep her on her toes.

And if that wasn’t enough, she also has to survive being a publicist for Jishnu Guha, whom she just cannot tolerate. Guha is the best-selling author of seven cheesy romance novels. And let’s just say that she isn’t a fan!

Deshpande chooses her words well. The language is conversational and descriptive. She evens throws in a few colloquial phrases without being too jarring. However, the characterization left me wanting. All the characters seem to speak in the same voice, and there’s little differentiation or variation. I wish they had been etched out a little more. I also felt that the quality of writing was inconsistent. Some bits were beautifully written. Some others read like a last-minute revised draft.

While the book is set in Delhi, there was nothing specific pinning it down to the city, except perhaps the backdrop of the publishing industry. But it is an urban story. It is also a very contemporary read. And social media and the Internet play an important role in how the plot evolves. I simply loved how Deshpande resolves a conflict, making good use of the Internet. And that she does it so casually is delightful.

The book also offers a peek into the dynamics of modern-day publishing and marketing. I interned at Crossword, a decade ago, and it was interesting to note the many changes.

I enjoyed reading It Must’ve Been Something He Wrote. And I read it fairly quickly. There’s something warm and friendly about Deshpande’s writing. And it reveals itself very strongly in her Acknowledgements. It’s long, but it’s heartfelt. And it tells the reader just how important this book is to Deshpande.





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


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.