Lavanya Sankaran, an Interview

I have a special pleasure and pride in doing this interview.  

Years ago, I was being considered for ghost-writing a series of children’s books for a client from the U.S. I didn’t expect to be selected because I was a newbie and unpublished. But when the selections came, I was the client’s top choice and the reason for it was my sample story. ‘The style quite reminded me of Lavanya Sankaran.’ 

This was in early 2006, and I hadn’t heard of Lavanya back then. But my project co-ordinator Shiv Nair told me, ‘actually that’s quite a compliment, you know, her writing is fabulous’, and went on to tell me about Lavanya and The Red Carpet. Online book sellers were not so popular at that time in my world, and I started looking out for The Red Carpet at every book shop I visited. I finally got hold of it, and fell in love with the writing, and realized what a compliment it was to be compared to her. It was also about the time that I started taking my fiction seriously, but that’s another story. 

I later came across Lavanya again at the Sangam House Residency, she is one of the sponsors there, and then again on Facebook, and kept a look out for her next book. And now here is ‘The Hope Factory’ and Lavanya again. This is the complete unabridged interview she very kindly gave me and an edited version of this appears in the Hindu Literary Review of June. 


Continue reading “Lavanya Sankaran, an Interview”

Techie to Publisher of Children’s Books, Meet Anushka Ravishankar of Duckbill

Anushka Ravishankar says she was called a techie rather inconsistently, and in phases, from 1983 to 1996, but learning a new programming language each time she came back. She has now reinvented herself, after motherhood, as a writer, and finally, a publisher, at Duckbill.
Anushka photoHer story could inspire you, if you look to use your talent to build a second career. Here is our chitchat. Continue reading “Techie to Publisher of Children’s Books, Meet Anushka Ravishankar of Duckbill”

The Reading Hour Odyssey: Interview with Vaishali Khandekar

Nine years with Infosys, Vaishali Khandekar then said good bye to software programs in 2004, and co-founded an English language literary print magazine Reading Hour, which now receives submissions from all over the world, from seasoned as well as aspiring writers, including techies. Vaishali talks about her publishing odyssey and how spouse Arun and she share a love for the word. Continue reading “The Reading Hour Odyssey: Interview with Vaishali Khandekar”

Word Hungry: Interview with Anu Garg of

He sends out a simple email every day, A.Word.A.Day, containing a word, its definition and etymology, and an example of its current contextual usage; this to more than a quarter million subscribers in about 170 countries. And he has been doing it since 1994.

The New York Times calls his mails “arguably the most welcomed, most enduring piece of daily mass e-mail in cyberspace.” The Wall Street Journal compares him to Tom Sawyer, who has managed to alter others’ views about fence painting, and points to the numbers who happily join painting his wall with words.

Add the fact that this is an immigrant whose first language is not English, a man who has had no “English connection” till high school. Anu Garg is a man with a mission. This Seattle-settled Master in Computer Science, hailing from Uttar Pradesh, went out west two decades ago like any other techie. But eventually the love of words took over and he left corporate life to work full-time on spreading the joy of words. was born of this love, with a mission to spread the magic of words and completes 19 years of service to the “wordaholics” this month. Continue reading “Word Hungry: Interview with Anu Garg of”

Interview with Anita Pratap, writer, journalist, media person

Anita PratapAnita Pratap! I guess people who followed current affairs closely in the eighties, nineties and early years of the millennium will find a thrill of recognition at this name.

Veteran journalist and writer Anita Pratap won acclaim for her reports from areas of conflict such as Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Kashmir. She won several and won awards after award for excellence in reporting, including the prestigious George Polk award for TV reporting for excellence in coverage on the Taliban takeover of Kabul. She worked for over two decades with international media houses such as the TIME magazine and CNN. Anita’s historic interview of the LTTE chief Prabhakaran in 1983, the first ever one he gave to the world, made news. Her interview of Bal Thackeray during the Mumbai riots of 1993 for the TIME was a revelatory piece that initiated serious discussion worldwide.

Her dynamic, perceptive and acerbic writing, especially when talking about politics has given her a cult status, in both print and electronic media. She is the author of book the Island Of Blood, a sensitive and clear documentation of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka and co-authored Unsung, an ode to ordinary Indians doing extraordinary things. She is now into film making after she left India to live abroad.

In an e-mail interview, Anita speaks about issues close to her heart. She was in Trivandrum to receive the Shreeratna Award 2013 from the Kerala Kalakendram. on the International Women’s Day. Continue reading “Interview with Anita Pratap, writer, journalist, media person”

Enid Blyton meets Bollywood: A review of Gypsy Escapades by William J Jackson

Remember Fatty and his team in the Five Find-Outers series? Or Snubby and Co? Or the Famous Five? Or the Adventure series with Jack, Philip, Dinah, Lucy-Ann and Kiki the Parrot? When I turned the pages of Gypsy Escapades by William J. Jackson I was pushed into memories of those childhood reads by Enid Blyton; this time in an adult mode, blended with a Bollywood style, and with an American heroine.

Continue reading “Enid Blyton meets Bollywood: A review of Gypsy Escapades by William J Jackson”

Portraits Across the Window: My first fiction publication this year

This is my first publication in 2013. Thankyou Desi Writer’s Lounge for the space.

Portraits across the Window

She watched the bogies chug out in slow rhythmic dance, each passing scene an accelerating cameo as the train gathered speed. A blotched sky in dull grey moved into view followed by an empty platform dotted with dusty merchandise on tired cartwheels. On the upper berths, her father-in-law’s snores competed with those of her husband. Her mother-in-law reclining on the other lower berth did not snore, but slept with her mouth open and the saree’s edge cautiously pulled over her greying hair even in sleep; her dark chequered hanky was spread over her eyes and covered most of her face.

She counted their bags once more from her prone posture on the lower berth. She could see the two tin suitcases into which various household articles and basic condiments had been packed for their new life ahead. Then there was one red duffle bag with some clothing and two cane baskets, the last containing food to last them through the journey. Two black duffle bags full with her trousseau were stuffed under her berth and she put her hand out to feel one of them, the other was tucked away too far for her reach. Left with nothing to do, she trained her eyes upon the platform again. Continue reading “Portraits Across the Window: My first fiction publication this year”

A Sepia Read: Between Clay and Dust by Musharraf Ali Farooqui

The blurb to Musharaf Ali Farooqui’s Between Clay and Dust prepared me for a twilight zone, set in an akhara and a kotha and peopled with the likes of a pahalwan and a courtesan with a glorious past. But nothing warned me about its perfect sepia tones guaranteed by the time frame, setting and the craft of storytelling used in the book.

It is mostly set in a world far removed from the world we know – perhaps something we know only from yesteryear movies. Yet, this world is not a story-book fantasy creation. It is a place which could exist in any of those unexplored alleys of a town in the Indian sub-continent, inhabited by many characters, in hues galore, frozen into a time warp. One only needs to close one’s eyes and let the mind float, to imagine the kotha and the akhara, and the immense wasted buildings looking to crumble down at a sigh. Maybe it is for this reason that we hold our breath and let the dream go on uninterrupted.

Read on at


Usha K RHer short story Sepia Tones won the Katha Award in 1995. She has published four novels hence, that’s in sixteen years, and many of them have been nominated for honours or have won awards. novel, The Monkey Man was on the short list of the prestigious DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2012. Another of her novels, ‘A Girl and a River’ was short listed for the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 2007 and later in the year it won the Vodafone Crossword Award. It was also shortlisted for the Golden Quill Award, run from Bangalore. She was at IOWA in 2011 to participate in their International Writing Program. This is my conversation with Usha.K.R, writer par excellence.

This interview was published in print in 2011 in the MediaVoiceMag.  I would put this one quote from her the best words I have heard from a writer in the recent times.

I think writers improve with age. They ‘find’ themselves, their voices become stronger, they take their readers more into confidence and find the assurance to become more experimental. But publishing today seems to be impatient with that, driven by the next new find: Usha K R Continue reading “WRITING IN SEPIA TONES: USHA K R”

Anuradha Roy, the Writer from Ranikhet

Anuradha Roy  with Suneetha Balakrishnan

Anuradha Roy’s first novel, An Atlas of Impossible Longing, received rave reviews, was translated into 14 languages, published in 16 countries, and listed for the Crossword Prize, the Shakti Bhatt Prize and the IMPAC Award in various years. The book was published in the U.S. in May 2012, and shared the Washington Post’s Best Books 2011 list with Murakami’s 1Q84.

The Folded Earth, Roy’s second book, meantime celebrates at this side of the globe. It was considered for the Hindu Literary Prize 2011 and was on the long lists in 2011 for the Man Asian Prize and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. Roy’s non-fiction, For ‘Cooking Women’, won the Picador-Outlook Non-fiction Prize 2004.

I had this conversation with this ‘Writer from Ranikhet’ who works at Permanent Black, an independent press and lives at Ranikhet with her husband Rukun Advani and their dog, Biscoot. This interview was published in print in early 2012 in the MediaVoiceMag. Continue reading “Anuradha Roy, the Writer from Ranikhet”