Sunday, September 28, 2008

How does it feel? 34 Bubblegums and Candies

A lot of people are asking me how it feels right now. Many ask if I am nervous. Some ask if I am excited. Some do not know what to say and refer to me as ‘Ms.Celebrity’ or ‘Ms.Author’ or something to that effect (Somehow it irks me though I know they mean it well) A few ask me in disbelief “YOU wrote a book?” (No, my children wrote it and I took all the credit) and some say “I am jealous of you.”

Many of course say very positive and wonderful things—the best I have heard so far being “I am proud of you.”, “I feel so happy to share your joy.” “I am delighted and wish you all the success you deserve.” And I know they mean it from the heart—so I accept their words gratefully.

Many many months back, when I had just begun writing, Satish and I went to a book store. I saw rows upon row of books by different authors arranged so well, graded into different categories, beckoning you to pick up one and devour it. Having my book there among all these erudite authors seemed a distant dream, a mere wishful thinking, a deep longing and a fantasy that I did not even dare visualise.

I whispered to Satish in small voice “Do you think one day my book will also be in these shelves?”

His reply, in a clear, unfaltering voice was “Of course it will. Where is the doubt?”

Then he added “See—today no one knows you when you walk in. Tomorrow they will all recognize you.”

I just smiled and brushed it aside as fond praise from a loving husband.

It has been an arduous journey since then consisting of slogging, sweating, toiling and burning the midnight oil, spending hours and hours writing, re writing, editing, contacting publishers and what-have-you and what-have-you-not!

The seemingly distant dream came true yesterday. We went to Crossword last evening and it was one of the proudest moments of my life. One part of me felt overjoyed, elated, and euphoric. Another part of me was filled with sadness that my dad could never be a part of this.

The store had a huge standee of my book launch. All over the store were posters of my book. The moment I entered, some people recognized me and some said “Oh—you are Preeti Shenoy? The book is great.”

Satish was so very proud. For about five minutes Satish and I could not speak, and we stood staring at the book shelves which prominently had my book displayed. I could not talk at all. I was a vortex of emotions—I did not know whether to laugh or to cry and I just stood there posing for the pictures which Satish wanted to click.

The children were so proud. All over the store wherever they saw my book they would call out “Mummy—see your book is here.” “Mummy—look here—your book!” They were excited and yes—they did buy a book of mine with their pocket money.(Scroll down and see previous post for full story)

When I came back home, I called up my mom (who lives in Kerala) and described to her in detail, the day’s happenings. She was so happy she cried. She also felt terribly sad that dad wasn’t there to share her joy. (One of the reasons why she wont be coming for my launches is that she just has not gone anywhere without my dad. She said she was very very proud of me and would pray for my success but she would not be able to bear coming to the launch. I understood completely.)

I gave my first media interview a few days back. It felt strange as usually I am the one interviewing people and here I was being interviewed. The article was published in DNA today. The book has got great reviews. Here is the article. (click to enlarge)

I have started getting invitations from Clubs and colleges to give talks about my book. That will happen sometime in the near future.

Yesterday, I was in conversation with the Editor of Times of India Pune plusses. He was very sweet, supportive and extremely encouraging.

“How do you manage everything—home, kids, fitness routine, writing, painting?’ he asked

“I stay up late.” I said .Then I added “I also have two wonderful children, a very supportive husband, and rock-solid friends.”

For me, more than the money (which to be honest is hardly anything) it is reaching out to people which matters. If this book has made you think, made you smile, made you live at least one day fully, then I’d think it has succeeded. This book was born out of deep grief and helplessness. This book is entirely for my dad.

More than the destination, it is the journey which has made it all worth it.


Note: 34 Bubblegums and Candies published by SRISHTI is now available at a book store near you if you happen to live in India.(In case it is not you can place an order and they will get it for you within 10 days). It costs Rs.100/-

If you happen to live abroad and want to order it online, you will have to place an order with any of the online sites (Eg:Rediff or and they will contact the publishers and get it for you.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

34 Bubblegums and Candies--a mama moment

The last few days have been a blur. They have been fading into each other like the tracks that a DJ mixes at a dance floor. You don’t know exactly where one ends and the other begins—it is one continuous stream. Non-stop.

To say that I have been busy will not even begin to describe it. To say that there are a million things that go into making a book is one hundred and ten percent true, I am discovering at a break neck speed. It feels like a massive asteroid has dropped down into my living room, throwing everything around it into chaos—The asteroid is slowly melting, but till it does, we have to navigate our way around it, and make sense of the situation.

THE BOOK has completely taken over my life—and these days everything at our home revolves around the two book launches and coordinating so many things regarding it.

Usually if any of you have left me a comment, I visit you back. But please bear with me, I have not been able to do that. It will be this way for some more days, I guess. Many of you have given me awards and I feel honoured—Thank you. Many of you have tagged me—but I haven’t been able to do those tags as the sheer task of catching up with the mails flooding my Inbox itself is mammoth, at the moment.

My children keep me sane. If it was not for them, I don’t think I could have coped with this much pressure.

Elizabeth Stone said "Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."

She was right. My two hearts, aged ten and seven moved me to tears last evening.

“Mama,” said my son , "We are saving up our pocket money to buy your book."

“That won’t be needed, I will surely give you a copy of my book.” I smiled. “Or I will give you the money so you can both buy a copy each.” I added

“ No, mama” said my daughter “You don’t understand. We want to go to Crossword and buy your book with our money.”

Their pocket money is just Rs.10/- a week. My book costs Rs.100/-. They had been saving for weeks now. They had forgone their usual treat which they buy themselves (The junk food like Chips, Ice creams and Chocolates) and had decided to spend it on my book. There was a lump in my throat when I realized how much it meant to them.

They then said that they would both be doing some important work to help me with my book launch. They had decided to make book markers to give away at the launch. They asked me if the book markers they make will be good enough and whether I would really give them away at the launch.

“Will it be nice, Mama? We will colour it really well.” They said.

I hugged them tight and told them that it would be more valuable than the printed book marks that the store gives out, because so much of their effort would go into it.

They started making them, and have made about 12 so far. Each one has been painstakingly decorated and colored. They both want each single piece to be ‘just right.’

The launch is on October 4th at Pune, and there are 16 days left now. My son calculated how many they would be able to make.

Then my son got a bit worried.

“Mama, I hope the people who come for your launch will not think that you made us do all this and that you are a cruel mother.” He said.

I was astonished at his incisive thinking.

“No, don’t worry.” I assured him “The people who know me will never think that. And we will not be giving the book markers to random strangers.”

Both then got engrossed in their new project of making book marks to give away at their mother’s book launch.

Long after I put them to bed, I went and had a look at what they had made. I could not prevent blinking away my tears when saw I them.

“Thanks for buying my Mom’s book.” It said. My son had printed out the words—cut them, pasted it, and then decorated it. My daughter had made a different design for each one.

To be honest, I treasured it so much that I felt like keeping them all—but it would be so unfair to the children, and they would probably conclude that it was not good enough to give away.

So I decided that they would be given only to those who really want them.

If you are coming for the book launch (Oct 4th at Pune and October 10th at Bangalore) and if you would like to have a book mark made by them, please tell me in my comment box and I’ll tell my children to personalize it with your name. (They would feel very important doing it) Also tell me in what name you want it.

The Asteroid continues to beckon and it has begun melting at a rapid pace. So I must go now, back to being tossed about.

This too shall pass and normalcy will return. See you soon!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

While waiting at the airport

Airports are a great place to observe a lot of things. I have just spent ten hours waiting in three airports—Bangalore International Airport , Pune airport and Nedumbassery International Airport Kochi. There are no direct flights from Pune to Kochi—and the various permutation and combination that involved the least fare and the least amount of waiting time between flights still left me with a good ten hours, to do whatever I pleased within the confines of the airport walls . And yes--I feel quite at home at Airports, much like Tom Hanks in ‘The terminal’. :-)

One of the jobs I have held is, as a ground crew in an airport in Mumbai with a well known airline, many years back. So I could very well relate to the ground crew in all the airports, the pressures they work under, the problems they face and above all, the way they have to be super polite to the passengers (Or guests if you happen to travel on kingfisher!) no matter even if they have had two depressing, maniacal, ready-to-drop-down-dead night shifts in a row and the pot bellied asshole guest/passenger’s gaze does not go above their chest level.

You see all kinds of people at an airport terminal. There are usually the well traveled yuppies. They know where the electric sockets at each airport are located—and as soon as they have their boarding card, they make a beeline to it. Out comes the laptop—in goes the plug and clackety clack go the fingers. They remain buried,modern ostriches, with the proverbial head in the sand, the sand here being replaced by a state of the art laptop, oblivious to the world, till the boarding announcement is made. Some unique specimens miss that too and the ground crew, has to hunt for them, scouring the length and breadth, the nooks and crannies of the airport and track them down. Once the boarding card is issued the flight cannot take off without you.

Then there is the nervous travelling- with-the- baby-first-time couple. The baby is swaddled in layers of blanket, sweater and a woollen cap covering the tiny head and ears completely. Each whimper brings on a fresh set of worries. The baby usually sleeps before boarding and screams through out the duration of the flight, non-stop. If its decibel levels could have generated energy like in Monsters Incorporated I think the energy generated would be enough to go around the moon twice and back.

There is usually also the Pretty young thing (PYT), travelling alone. The PYT can be identified by the number of DYMs (Desperate Young Males) all occupying seats around her ,pretending to be busy but noticing every little move she makes, out of the corner of their eye. They don’t miss a single thing. She is usually bored, uninterested or already has a boy-friend waiting.

There is also the old couple travelling together. I find most of them really sweet. It reinforces my faith in relationships, in love, in life. The husband will usually ask the wife is she is hungry, tell her to rest her feet up so they hurt less, will go and get a cup of coffee or tea for her and usually are very engrossed in each other.

Once I have encountered a drunk well dressed lady who was carrying two bottles of Jack Daniels in a transparent polythene bag, and everyone around her was trying to avoid making eye contact, while she was hunting for anyone who would listen to her talk. I felt sorry for her. Loneliness can be a terrifying thing.

The video I have posted above from the Movie Love actually is one of my favourite scenes in the movie. The lines are so meaningful.

Airports teach you many things about Human nature. All you have to do is look,not just see.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

34 Bubblegums and Candies. Behind the scene.

Sometimes when you want to convey something that is very important to you, you just don’t know where to begin. You start and the words tumble out like toys in an overstuffed box that has been emptied, and you sort out the pieces and take what you were looking for. That’s exactly how I feel right now.

My first book (yes, I am going to be a published author!) will be out soon. It is in press right now. The book will be available at all major bookstores in India, (all the Crosswords and the Landmarks) and also on the Internet on Rediff and most likely Amazon as well, by 25th of this month.

The book is based entirely on my blog posts. There are many posts which have been adapted, and many new ones as well. It has been a long journey of two years. I started the blog to overcome my absolute shock, deep grief and my broken heart, when I lost the person who meant the world to me.(Click here to read all about it.) I never thought that my writings would touch so many people and help them too, along the way. I started the blog to help myself—It grew. Beyond what I thought, envisaged or expected. Many people wrote to me, asking me to put it all in a book, and I began working on it.

“Never tell anyone that you're writing a book, going on a diet, exercising, taking a course, or quitting smoking. They'll encourage you to death.” Said Lynn Johnston. I agree with the quote.

Many months back, when I mentioned that I am writing a book to a few close friends one said "Look--as a blog what you have written is okay—not as a book."
Another one said "Poore Indian Publishing Industry ko tera hi intezar tha--ki tu likhegi aur ve publish karenge. Tu likh jo tujhe likhna hai."(As though the whole Indian publishing industry is waiting for you to write and they publish it. You write whatever you have to.”)

Imagine pouring a bucket of ice-cold water on a person who is fast asleep. That is exactly how I felt .To say that I felt discouraged is putting it mildly. Very mildly. But fortunately for me, hope came in the form of two other good friends, (to be specific Ajay Chauhan (That's his pic on the left) and Niall Young) and Satish Shenoy, my husband. They really believed in me and my writing. I held on to their words like a drowning person holds on to the last bit of wood floating. And I desperately wanted them to be right.

I completed my manuscript and then began the long process of finding a publisher, researching about the Indian publishing industry, writing to them, correspondence, phone calls—waiting, waiting and more waiting. I could not believe it, when I got a ‘Yes’ from two publishing houses—that too well known ones! I decided to go with Srishti publishers (who have brought out many well known titles like ‘Anything for you M’am, ‘Funda of Mixology’ etc.)

It was only after I signed the contract that I told my other friends. Most were thrilled. And some were—well, forget it. It’s not worth writing about.

Ajay did a LOT for me. I feel extremely fortunate to have him as a friend. He dug out information, he spoke to people who had been-there-done-that, made notes, called me a countless times in between his hectic and stressful work schedule, put me in touch with Amit Gauba, a graphic designer, and kept following up with me about the progress of the book. Amit and I worked together for the book cover; We sat up night after night, discussing concepts, looking at options and deciding what has to be there.(Whew—I never knew it could be so difficult.) He brilliantly executed what I had in mind. (And we came up with 26 different covers, before finally choosing this one.) I admired his patience and his efforts). Cherrisa, another of my closest friends gave me a lot of moral support and kind words. She was, I think, even more thrilled than I was, when I first told her the news.

Satish was so very supportive. He held the fort down (making dinner after he came back from work, reading to the kids, ironing their uniform, doing studies with them, sorting out their fights) while I huddled over my computer, writing, re-writing, editing, re-thinking, contacting people and doing a million other things that go into making of a book. I feel blessed to have him as my husband.

K.S. Narayanan (To us, he is just KS) who is a good friend to Satish as well as me, helped in reading, refining and also giving a ‘third person’s view’, as did Ajay and Cherrisa.

Rohit Srivastwa,(thats his pic on the right) another good friend, sat up for three consecutive nights along with me, till 1:30 a.m and put together my website. Apart from his regular job and his Clubhack activities, he is now also the Technical Director of CYG (Common wealth Youth Games) and is one really busy guy. The only time he could spare was after 9:00 p.m, when he finished his official work. He has so much of patience and explained to me many technical things. (I have no idea about web designing or registering domain names, hosting it or anything else) He also gave me useful links that helped to execute a few things I had in mind.

So finally it was done (With friends like these I couldn’t fail!) and —Here It is!!!

When you log on to the site, on the right side, you will see an option asking you to ‘Join the Circle’. Please do click on it, and it will take you to the ‘Bubblegums and Candies Circle.’ Signing up is just a 10 second process. Do put a picture in your profile as well. There are widgets and badges to grab, which you can put in the side bars of your blogs.(if you feel like helping me promote the book) There are other interesting like minded folks to meet, forums to have discussions on and also events that will be happening in your city.

The formal launch in Pune is on October 4th, Saturday, at Crossword, ICC trade towers. The author book-read meet at Bangalore is on October 10th, Friday at Crossword, Residency road. If you happen to be in either of these cities, do come—I would love to meet you. Do confirm attendance if you are coming. (At the Bubblegums and Candies circle page) Seats may be limited as the events are being held at the book store.

Ironically my dad isn’t here to share my joy. September 7th is his second death anniversary. (It still hurts deeply to even say it) I am going to Kerala to be with my mom. She needs me. I may not be able to visit your blogs or reply to your comments for a while.

In the acknowledgements section of the book, I have thanked my blog-readers and my online friends who cared enough to leave comments and read what I wrote, and connected with me. Your words meant a lot to me.

So much that I have written a book.

A heartfelt thanks.