Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Advantage Love by Madhuri Banerjee : A frothy, light romance

Review by Nandini Muralidharan on February 20, 2014

Advantage Love

If you’re finding yourself having a Valentine week hangover, make way for some fun romance – the bookish kind!
If you’ve read “Losing my Virginity and Other Dumb Ideas” or “Mistakes like Love and Sex”, you’re already familiar with Madhuri Banerjee’s simple yet compelling style of writing. “Advantage Love” follows suit and doesn’t disappoint. It is a story that a lot of young women will relate to, a story of following one’s dreams while trying to figure out a relationship.

The Plot
Trisha Mathur is a smart, intelligent and eloquent young lady studying at JNU, New Delhi. Having been raised in Lucknow by two academics, studying in Delhi and living away from home is her first tryst with independence. Being an avid debater, she meets the suave, cool and well-read Vedant Kirloskar at a debating contest. In true filmi style, animosity (on her part) leads to sparks flying and she is floored by more than just his Greek god looks – his ability to spout poetry to woo her, the constant war of words when they debate about everything under the sun. Vedant is the son of a well-known politician in Maharashtra, and it is inevitable that he will step into the shoes of his father soon enough.
What follows is a roller-coaster ride as Trisha tries to balance her relationship with dreams of her own. When Vedant moves away to Mumbai, Trisha tries to pull herself together by immersing herself in the work she loves.
Trisha’s roommate and only close friend from JNU, Juhi plays an important role in helping Trisha get back on her feet after this low phase of her life.
At this point, enter tall, sporty and handsome Abhimanyu, a tennis player who sweeps Trisha off her feet. He knows exactly what makes her happy and their chemistry is great.
But when Vedant resurfaces in her life, Trisha’s world again goes topsy-turvy. Read “Advantage Love” to traverse Trisha’s journey with her.

The book has some strong characters, the protagonist being one of them. Trisha is a very independent woman who doesn’t want her life to be defined by who her partner is, but by her own achievements. That said, while following her dreams, she wants to also share her life with a partner who will accept her the way she is, and who will love her unconditionally. Vedant and Abhimanyu, despite their “star” statuses are very real men, and have the same dreams and insecurities that all men do have. Trisha’s relationship with Juhi is something that all of us identify with, and the presence of a BFF in our lives is something we’re all grateful for.

Oohs and Mehs – I liked that the story was fast paced and had elements that as women we can identify with. Madhuri Banerjee’s style of writing is easy and effective. But I would have loved a slightly more complex series of events, because half way through, things became too predictable.
Overall, a nice vacation read!

About the Author – Madhuri Banerjee is a versatile media professional. She runs her own production house, Gray Matter Solution, and has worked in various forms of the visual medium. She is a blogger for CNN IBN, a columnist for Asian Age and a screenplay writer for Bollywood films among other things. She has previously authored two books, “Losing my Virginity and Other Dumb Ideas” and “Mistakes like Love and Sex”, both of which have been bestsellers. She blogs at

Buy it here:

The Hindu: Advantage Love & Thoughts

“Love and relationships are important to everyone,” says Madhuri Banerjee. “How much you are willing to give, defines who you are,” says the former screenplay writer, columnist, blogger and author. “Relationships fascinate me and it always intrigues me how they impact everyone’s life.”
Her latest novel Advantage Love, a coming-of-age story of a young, small-town girl, Trisha, explores how love changes the shape of her world. “It is not autobiographical but there are some aspects of Trisha’s life that are similar to my own. I am from Lucknow. I came to Delhi to study and found it difficult to adjust to the new setting. My character came from there but otherwise she is a figment of my imagination, not anyone real.”
Entwined in this story are elements of politics and sports because, “I believe that the youth are the future of this country and I wanted to drive home the message that contrary to popular notion it is alright to have a career in politics and bring about a change in this country. Also, since I am an avid tennis fan I wanted to bring the tennis element into it.”
Describing the book Madhuri says: “It is neither chick lit nor a love triangle. It is just the story of Vedant, Trisha and Abhimanyu and how they try to find themselves.”
Her previous two novels based on the life of a 30-something Kaveri protagonist of Losing My Virginity and Other Dumb Ideas and Mistakes like Love and Sex, is very different from this one. however, she admits, “The Kaveri novels were for a much older audience. It is set in Mumbai and begins when she is around thirty. Since she is a lot older, her idea of life and relationships are far more mature and rigid than Trisha’s. Kaveri was also a lot more like me. I loved that character and lived with her for a long time. But I think part of an author’s evolution is to go beyond autobiography and do something different in every book.” Her next two novels are markedly different. One titled My Clingy Girlfriend is the story of a guy trying to get out of a suffocating relationship while the other called Scandalous housewives is a darkly humorous take on the lives of three housewives in three metros, “I’m trying to create a plethora of different characters,” she says.
Her writing isn’t just confined to books however. She is also offers relationship advice on Twitter, used to write a column called The Love Guru and has a hugely popular blog, “I have so many more words inside me and I just want to get it out and share my ideas with the world.”
On future plans, she laughs and says, “I really hope this novel does well so I can go and buy more shoes.”

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Game, Set, Advantage Love: A New Excerpt with Leander and tennis!

The week flew by. Trisha didn’t know how she managed to clock in so many hours at work when all she could do was think about Abhimanyu. They spoke to each other several times on the phone, and once Abhimanyu took his turn asking her his five questions. Meeting Abhimanyu seemed to have revitalized her. His presence in her life reminded her that we don’t really choose the people we love: Love chooses for us and brings us to them through coincidences.
Even to Juhi it was clear how Trisha’s mood had changed. Trisha seemed brighter and less lonely. She made sure to convey all these nuances to Trisha’s mother, who seemed quite pleased.
At work, Trisha displayed a quiet confidence that impressed her colleagues and superiors. One day, after making a thorough presentation to the board about malnutrition in India, her boss had told her, ‘Never seen you so driven and motivated, Trisha. Keep up the good work.’ Trisha was elated, feeling renewed vigour in life. She went back to her desk, took a marker, and wrote on the white board behind her computer, ‘If you feel like you've been “chosen” to be happy, then nothing can bring you down.’ She honestly believed in it.
Soon Saturday came, the day she was supposed to watch Abhimanyu play. He had told her it would be a friendly match with his friend and that she can come to the Vinay Marg sports complex any time in the morning between six and ten, but that earlier would be better so she can see him  `crush’ his friend.
Trisha took a quick shower, got dressed in a dark red velvet kurta and a white churidar, and threw on her beige coat. She accessorized with silver hoops and flat red kolhapuris. She grabbed her large white purse, stuffed it with a book, and left the apartment around seven o’ clock.
She reached the court in half an hour and was shocked to see who Abhimanyu’s ‘friend’ was: Leander Paes, the international tennis star! She looked for a seat as Abhimanyu waved at her. The umpire shouted, ‘Love- forty.’
Abhimanyu served to Leander and it was an Ace. The umpire shouted, ‘Fifteen-forty.’ Abhimanyu had been losing until Trisha came. He knew he couldn’t lose in front of her. He served again and Leander returned down the line but Abhimanyu was already at the base line ready to lobby it back. Leander hit it back and went running towards the net but it was already declared ‘Out’ by the umpire. ‘Thirty-forty’ the umpire shouted probably for Trisha to hear. She clapped. Trisha was grateful to her father for being a tennis addict and making her watch all the Grand Slams every year since she was ten. Whatever little she understood of the matches was thanks to that. So far, she had only read tabloid stories of tennis stars and suddenly she wondered if her budding romance with Abhimanyu would also hit the tabloids soon. Her parents might just wake up one morning to read about her affair in the papers!
Abhimanyu served again and Leander hit it into the net. ‘Deuce!’ The umpire said.
Abhimanyu had gotten back in the game. They were even. Trisha shouted, ‘Go Abhimanyu!’ Leander looked up at her and said across the net to Abhimanyu, ‘The stakes are higher now huh, Abhi?’
Abhimanyu smiled. He served. Leander deliberately put the ball in the net.
‘Don’t give it to me, man!’ Abhimanyu shouted, ‘Let me earn it.’
Leander smiled and nodded. The next two points were long rallies that were pure A-class tennis. Trisha was enthralled. She had never enjoyed a tennis game as much as she did just then. She felt as if she was at Wimbledon watching the final match between two extremely talented players.
Abhimanyu won the game. He rushed over to Trisha, jumping the seats and grabbing hold of her to plant a deep, sensual kiss on her lips that astounded her and made her heart race.
‘I want you there at all my matches,’ he whispered. ‘You’re my lucky charm!’
Trisha was delighted.
Leander called from his chair, ‘Are you going to introduce me to your lucky charm?’
Abhimanyu looked back at him and yelled. ‘This is Trisha. My girlfriend!’ ’
Trisha’s heart hammered. She had never heard that word spoken about her before. When she was with Vedant, he had always skirted around the word. They had a deep connection and said ‘sweetheart’ to each other but ‘girlfriend’ was never said; Vedant said it was juvenile.
Right now, at the tennis court, Trisha was touched to hear the word.  It meant that she was someone’s, a significant other. It felt nice to ‘belong’. She couldn’t explain it. Even though she had been one-half of a ‘couple’ before, it felt extremely special for Abhimanyu to declare it.
It was a tough match and both Abhimanyu and Leander were very pleased with themselves. They showered and changed as Trisha waited outside the locker rooms, reading her book. Although it was a chilly December morning, Trisha felt warm. She felt a cosmic connection with Abhimanyu that she never had with Vedant. Even though she had spent two years with Vedant, she could feel how she had changed since she left the university. She now understood the things she needed from a man was exactly what Abhimanyu was giving her: a deep sense of security and a strong sense of acknowledgement in his life. After Vedant, she never thought that she would be in a relationship so soon and be able to tell her Mom or Juhi that she had a boyfriend this early.
Abhimanyu came out and walked towards her. His blue denim jeans were tight, showing off his strong muscular thighs and slim hips. ‘You carried a book in case you got bored of watching me?’
‘No.’ She shut the book and kept it in her bag. ‘A book is like my keys or mobile phone. I never leave home without it.’ She said with a smile.
‘Look, about earlier,’ Abhimanyu said shyly. ‘I got caught up in the moment and was so glad to see you that I kissed you and called you my girlfriend. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.’
‘No, it’s fine.’ She paused. ‘So am I really your girlfriend?’
‘Of course,’ he whispered, wrapping his arms around her. ‘I would really like to see where this goes. Is that fine?’
‘Yes, Abhimanyu, me too.’ She closed her eyes and buried her face in his shoulder.
‘Well as I promised I shall take you to breakfast but do you want to wait for my friend who’s flown in from Mumbai just for me or do you think we should ditch him?’
Trisha laughed and replied, “‘Let’s wait for Leander.’
‘Oh you know Leander but you didn’t know me huh?’
Trisha took his arm and squeezed it. The smell of his fresh cologne, the muscles rippling under the crispness of his shirt, quickened her pulse, and she kissed his clean-shaven bronze cheek and said softly, ‘I know you now darling!’ She couldn’t believe that with just one meeting and a few conversations she could have such an instant connect with someone. Was it destiny? She had thought she would take forever to get over Vedant but here was someone who was loving and nice despite being a huge sports star and she felt completely drawn to him. Her heart felt what she was doing was right. Somehow, she felt whole again—as if the loneliness was ebbing away and a new hope was taking its place.
Trisha could feel her body becoming warm and her primal desire swelling up with just his arm lying gently around her waist. The compelling brown eyes, the firm jaw, the confident set of shoulders made him imminently desirable. He looked deep into her eyes wanting to fulfil every thought that ran through her brain.
“‘You look so pretty,’ he said softly. He trailed his fingers down her face, her slender neck, her smooth skin glowing with the golden undertones of the sun’s rays, to the back of her thick, dark hair. He removed the clip that was holding her hair in place. ‘You look even better with your hair open.’ He bent down to softly kiss her lips. He projected an energy and power that undoubtedly left her breathless and overwhelmed each time they met.
‘You’re not wearing a jacket,’ she murmured. ‘Aren’t you feeling cold?’
His warm breath left her cheeks and settled on her ears. ‘I’m quite hot right now.’ Neither of them was willing to let the other go. But just then, Leander came out, and they hastily pulled away.
The three of them considered where to go for breakfast and finally decided on the All American Diner at the Habitat Centre.
At the diner, Trisha was delighted to discover that despite his international stature, Leander Paes was funny, down to earth, and quite a normal person. He was courteous with the servers and posed for pictures graciously with anyone who asked. Trisha had never met a celebrity before and liked how it was to be sharing breakfast with not one but two of them. 
‘As soon as the autograph-seekers had left Leander turned to Trisha. ‘Abhi has never introduced me to any of his girlfriends before. You must be special.’
She blushed as her hair tumbled carelessly around her shoulder.  “‘Well I don’t know about that,’ she replied. She could see Abhimanyu who was smiling indulgently as she continued, ‘Maybe there were just too many of them for him to have introduced everyone to you.’
Leander teased, ‘Yeah…Maybe I should tell her some of your stories.’
‘Do we really need to get into these stories?’ Abhimanyu said.
Trisha nudged him. ‘Let him speak.’
Abhimanyu was desperately changing the topic. ‘I don’t think we’ve ordered enough. Should we order some drinks?’ He spotted a waiter. ‘Excuse me? Can we please have the milkshake menu?’
Trisha and Leander chuckled. She wondered, though, why Abhimanyu should feel so uncomfortable with Leander telling her about his previous relationships. Was there more than just one Sara in his life? Was Abhimanyu truly a ladies’ man? She was confused and suddenly her walls were up again.  
She didn’t want to be a spoilsport so made small talk with Leander. ‘What has brought you to Delhi?’
‘Abhi and I are doubling up for the Australian Open in January and then again for the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters in April. We need to practice together on clay. The professional courts at Siri Fort Complex were being renovated today so we had to play at Vinay Marg. It was just to get warmed up.’
Trisha’s eyes widened. ‘Wow, Australia. And Monaco! It must be beautiful there.’ Trisha vowed to read up on tennis so she wouldn’t come across as a complete ignoramus in the august presence of tennis stalwarts like Leander and her boyfriend. If Abhimanyu was going to show off his ‘girlfriend’ to more friends, she needed to brush up on her knowledge of the game.
‘It is,’ nodded Leander. ‘Monaco is one of the most gorgeous places I’ve seen in the world. I won the championship there in 2005.’
‘I didn’t know that,’ Trisha said. ‘Belated congratulations!’
‘Thanks. We’re hoping to win this year too. And Australia. Well that’ll always be special for both of us.’ He winked at Abhimanyu as if they shared some secret. Seeing the gesture made Trisha go more into her shell. She began imagining skeletons tumbling out of Abhimanyu’s closet. He was, after all, a huge tennis star and female adulation was something athletes were used to.
 As if on cue, some girls who were seated some distance away came up to them and shyly asked, ‘Abhimanyu and Leander can we have a photo with you?’
The two men got up while one of the girls asked a waiter to take a photo with her mobile phone. The girl stood next to Abhimanyu, who casually put his arm around the girl’s waist and tilted his head towards her as the group posed for the photo. Trisha felt jealous, wondering if dating a glamour sports star was the right thing for her to do. 
Soon the waiter brought over their breakfast. Abhimanyu and Leander immediately dug in as they discussed their game, while Trisha picked at her food, lost in thought. She tossed her hair back and tied it with a clip. Then she picked up her fork again. What happened next, she didn’t expect: Swiftly as if he was a magician, Abhimanyu put his hand behind Trisha’s back and removed her hair clip and kept it in his hand. He continued speaking to Leander while doing that, his movements smooth and rapid.
From the corner of her eye, she could see Abhimanyu smiling. She stifled a grin. There was a lull in the conversation and he turned to her, his eyes filled with a compelling, curious longing. His smile was disarming. Trisha’s doubts disappeared in an instant. She realized how foolish she had been to judge him so quickly. Just go with the flow!
The three of them finished their meal and engaged in friendly banter. After an hour, Leander said he was ‘going to make a move.’
Abhimanyu laughed. ‘Sorry for boring you.’
Leander waved his arm to dismiss him. ‘No problem. I remember when I was dating Rhea. It was exactly the same. I’ll leave you two alone. I’ll see you at Coach’s place later this afternoon. Trisha it was lovely to meet you.’ Trisha returned the compliment.
Leander grabbed the check before Trisha and Abhimanyu could, paid for the bill, and said goodbye.
‘He’s a nice guy,’ said Trisha.
‘Yes he is.’
Trisha took the hairclip from him and kept it in her bag.
‘Will you be travelling much through the year?’
‘Yes, baby.’ His eyes searched her face. ‘It’s going to be a lot of back and forth this year. Need to win a lot of championships for India.’ He paused. ‘I’m really reluctant to leave you, but it is my job.’
Trisha knew the distance would be tough on both of them, but she appreciated Abhimanyu’s honesty, right from the beginning. She realized that in matters of the heart, you had to stop playing games if you were really in love. And with Vedant, there never was an honest answer.  
Trisha felt a pang of sadness. They had just started dating and he would soon be leaving on long tours across the world. But this was to be expected of an international tennis player, she reminded herself. But what concerned Trisha was that she didn’t know when she would meet Abhimanyu again. All she knew that here was another man who was not going to be around her just when she had started getting close to him.
Buy it here:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Define your dreams: An Interview in Fuccha for Advantage Love

My interview in Fuccha - a college online magazine aimed for the youth and by the youth of India.
Advantage Love_Final Spread
You can get Advantage Love from Flipkart

In a candid interview with Niharika, Madhuri talks about her successful journey, reading trends in India, new book and more.
Niharika: Tell us something about yourself, how has writing books and blogs changed your life, how do you feel knowing that your books and columns have changed the life of the readers as well?
Madhuri: Writing has always been a part of my life but now it’s become a career, something that I never thought would happen as I set out to be a director in life. I’m most happy if my work can make someone feel good about themselves or if they take something from any of my books and incorporate it or identify with it. If it gives pleasure in any small way, I feel I’ve achieved something in life.

Niharika: What’s a day in the life of Madhuri Banerjee like?
Madhuri: I wake up and take my daughter to school from Monday to Friday, come back and write until lunchtime. Then watch some TV and pick up my child. Post that I spend time with her. An evening walk every day is a must and at night I write again.

Niharika: You write blogs, you are a columnist, you have written bestselling books, you write scripts and you are a love guru and most importantly you are a mother, how do you manage all this?
Madhuri: I prioritise my time. You can’t do everything well at all times. So you must manage which one you want to excel at, for that day. Therefore, I focus on just that and give myself a lot of leeway to not be perfect at everything.

Niharika: In a country like India, where words like ‘sex’ and ‘virgin’ are considered taboos, you have written books with such titles and you have covered such topics. You talk about feminism at a total different level. Comment.
Madhuri: I want to break the shackles of a conservative society where parents can’t speak to their children about these topics. If the youth are open with their parents on many such things, I feel there will be less misunderstanding and less miscommunication. Initially there may be fights but the dialogues will start. Virginity and Sex are not taboo. If understood correctly, they can be liberating.

Niharika: Life before and after first book got published?
Madhuri: Life before my first book got released was me trying to understand who I was and where I wanted to go in life. Life after Losing My Virginity And Other Dumb Ideas was like losing my virginity in the world of publishing, liberating! I finally found my calling and understood what I needed to do for the rest of my life. It took a long time though. I was in my 30s when it happened!

Niharika: When did you realise you were famous?
Madhuri: Am I?!

Niharika: How do you define generation gap? What does today’s youth lacks or what is that something that you think is there in the youth of India today that can bring about a change?
Madhuri: The youth today need a little more focus on their careers rather than their relationships. They are the ones that can change this country but if they just want to please their friends or wear the latest trends, they’re not making a difference in their lives. They need to read more and believe that they will be the Prime Minister one day. Set their path and go forth.

Niharika: What is your take on reading trends in India?
Madhuri: I wish people would read more. Authors and publishers have seen a down turn in the economy of late when it comes to books. People need to pick up their books more than their mobiles.

Niharika: Any words of wisdom for all our Fucchas?
Madhuri: Define your dream. Work towards it every day. Everything else can wait. Don’t let others influence your dream. Believe in yourself.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Book Review ‘Advantage Love’ by Madhuri Banerjee


Just ahead of Valentine’s Day, I received Advantage Love authored by Madhuri Banerjee. And it really helped set a nice, romantic mood for the most important day in the life of most couples (I presume). This book is a simple love triangle, sprinkled with advice and independence, free spirit and love itself.
Don’t be a woman that needs a man. Be a woman that a man needs.
ALThe book starts off with the simple homely Lucknow girl coming to Delhi with dreams in her eyes. Here, Trisha meets young, hot to-be politician Vedant Kirloskar. He’s the rich bad boy you can’t resist, even though you don’t see a future with him. Soon, Trisha realises that there no “riding off into the sunset” with Vedant, as they come from families that are worlds apart. After an 8 month, Twilight-esque hiatus, enter Abhimanyu, young Tennis player. Trisha and him fall in love, fast and hard, and Trisha realises he is perfect for her. But then, Vedant re-enters her life, and Trisha is left torn. Is a bird in the hand really worth two in the bush?
Supporting cast here is Juhi, Trisha’s best friend and Neha, Trisha’s mother. Both are easily the best characters in the book and Juhi is wise beyond her years. While Juhi has her own life and own problems, she seems to have grasped what it takes to make a relationship work. Neha, on the other hand seems to understand her daughter, better than Trisha thinks so. She unwittingly helps Trisha and teaches her important lessons about being free and spirited. At a certain point when Trisha has hit a dead end with Abhimanyu, Juhi speaks the exact words that resonate in my mind, “Why is this relationship only about you?” At this same point, Neha says, “There is no relationship that has not been taken for granted some point. The good ones rectify it immediately.”
Why should anyone have to live up to your standards? Have you even tried to live up to theirs?
The book, for the most part follows a similar love story pattern, a high, followed by a low, followed by another high and finally, confusion. But, its good writing and simplicity keeps it afloat. The book tackles many issues, subtly so, such as marriage, first love, virginity and so on. The book is devoid of any grammatical and spelling mistakes.
Of course, you don’t question how one ordinary girl can be lucky enough to meet the hottest politician AND the hottest Indian athlete in one lifetime. Also, Trisha’s character is often shown as too flawed and confused, for her own good. Her angst can often be infuriating. It reminds me of Bella Swan from Twilight, though infinitely better.
Overall, this book makes a good and light read, perfect a night-in or any travel!
Overall Rating: 7/10
Buy it here: 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The New-Age Art of Dating: iDiva special for Valentine's Day!

Madhuri Banerjee is a bestselling author, a blogger with CNN-IBN, a screenplay writer for Bollywood films, an Ad film director, a columnist with Asian Age and a mother. She has her own production house, Gray Matter Solution, that makes ad films and TV shows. She has also won a National Award for her documentary on women’s issues calledBetween Dualities. Her new book Advantage Love is a compelling and passionate contemporary Indian romance that explores the complexities of love, friendship and career in a woman’s life. Madhuri tweets with the handle @Madhuribanerjee and her personal blog is

The old clandestine meetings have given way to the new brazen flaunt-it-all relationships.
Dating in India is very different from dating in the West. In both cases, there is a 5-step process. The West is more; meet each other often, fall in love, live together, meet the parents, and then walk down the aisle. In India it is more like; parents meet, grown children feel shy, a week of wedding celebrations, finally fall in love, and then go out for dinner.
However, things have been changing recently and the new generations have been pioneers in bringing about the new rules of dating. Here's a crash course in the new-age art of dating:

1. How to meet: Now while in the west, there are many places where you can meet single people, in India if a man goes up to a woman in a bar, it is considered excessively 'forward'. That is why there are wedding sites. Under the guise of looking for the correct person, wedding sites give one the opportunity to meet several people while checking up on their profile and background. People also use Facebook, chat rooms, dot coms and friends of friends to hook up. Somehow, it is easier to type it out than talk in person for the new generation. And everyone loves it.

2. Where to meet: Everywhere. Earlier people were found in secluded corners of the park or in dingy little restaurants where they would not be caught. Nowadays couples not only hang out in restaurants, pubs, ice cream parlours and movie halls, they walk freely down public roads, hang out at each other’s houses and even have sleepovers at friends’ places. The old clandestine meetings give way to the new brazen, if you are in love, flaunt it in style.

3. What to do: Not many people have time anymore. With college, work, or parental pressure, couples find it difficult to pack in fun and meaningful activities when they meet. That is why all dates are now whirlwind affairs, a quick lunch, a movie, shopping for a few essentials, a quick stop over at a friend’s place that is out of town and back home for dinner and TV with parents. Sameness does not mean boring anymore. Because if it gets boring with one person, you move on to the next. You don’t need to change the pattern. You just need to change the person.

4. What to talk about: You know there are a few interests you have in common since you have seen his profile on that dot com site. Date conversations go from getting to know a person generally to getting to know him deeper. The general questions can be about the “favourite” things in the person’s life, their school and work experiences. The deeper ones would be about love, marriage, kids, parents, fears, desires, and habits. Stories make a man. The more the saga, the more interesting the man.

5. How to break up: It is not working out. You know and you really hope he will understand. Nevertheless, you do not want to hurt each other. Once you are sure about your decision you need to start maintaining your distance. Unreturned phone calls, random messages of “I’m busy” and “I’m looking for something else” might give the other person a hint. While people used to meet earlier to break up in person, changing your status to single on a popular website might have the same effect today, even though it is crueler. New age breaking up is all about texting saying it is over or blocking a person from your chat room. It might not be the best way to get closure, but it is the most effective for becoming thick skinned.

Image courtesy:©Thinkstock photos/ Getty images 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Advantage Love: An article in Midday paper

An article about my new novel Advantage Love in the Midday paper Mumbai Feb 11th 2014.

Special Discount for Valentine's Day: 

Valentine's Day Present Ideas: Chocolates, Roses and Advantage Love.

Valentine's Day is coming! Buy your present here!
Sweet & Romantic Story Just for You
Get to know the compelling and passionate contemporary Indian romance story of Trisha, who explores the complexities of love, friendship and career in a women’s life in this amazing book by Madhuri Banerjee available at ferns n petals. Get gift of a copy of ‘Advantage Love’ along with 100 grams heart shaped chocolates, 1 red round candle and a long stem artificial rose in a wooden tray.

FNP gifts are delivered by third party courier and which can be delivered within 3 to 4 working days. We are unable to make a commitment of exact delivery date.

Gift hamper of ‘Advantage Love’ by Madhuri Banerjee, 100 grams heart shaped chocolate, a red round candle and a long stem artificial red rose in a wooden tray.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Advantage Love: Running Away Only Brings You Back to Where You Started.

Destiny happens when you're least expecting it!

New Excerpt from Advantage Love:

When you wish too hard for things to happen, you end up greatly disappointed. But surrender to the Universe and it will give you pleasant surprises.
Trisha muttered a prayer and broke into a run. Oh God, please let me catch that train. She reached the gates of the Metro station and there was the last train, just leaving the platform. She looked at her watch: 11.10 p.m. She was a minute too late. She sat on a bench, panting, feeling defeated and thinking what to do next.
The station wore a deserted look, making her more anxious. She should never have taken such a late appointment here in Noida but work demanded that she travel for meetings and follow up with people. As a Communication for Development Specialist, after all, her job description said she ‘was responsible to lead the design, management, monitoring and evaluation of strategic communication for behaviour and community-led social change.’ She was very proud of that fact and she took her job seriously. And this meant she needed to coordinate with government officials, programme staff, and other Unicef partners most of the time. A partner had called her to his house to meet today. She had taken an extensive interview that lasted way longer than she expected. But she had been out to prove she was the best, and if she had to take public transport in late hours, so be it. After that cathartic chat with Juhi several weeks ago, Trisha had felt lighter and gone back to being her old self though she hadn’t met anyone new despite Juhi insisting that she go out on a date. She still wasn’t ready for that.
She rummaged through her handbag and found only fifty rupees. Clearly that wasn’t enough to get her home to Gurgaon. She admonished herself for this bad habit of carrying very little cash. A cab ride would cost her a bomb. Should she call Juhi for help? She was working the night desk at her paper and her office was in ITO. Should she call another friend? But she realized with a pang that she didn’t have too many friends she could call in the middle of the night. Where was the time to socialize anyway? Focus, Trisha, said a little voice inside her head. It’s late and you know how everyone says Noida is unsafe! What can you do? She tried to look around if there was an ATM anywhere so she could withdraw money before she caught a cab.
Just then she saw a striking man sitting on a bench a few feet away. He was dressed in wedding finery and looked like a model. He must be over six feet tall, had honey kissed skin, a lean body with a taut torso and biceps that protruded from his sherwani. His thick jet-black hair fell over his eyes and he was sitting forward with his elbows resting on his thighs. He looked up and straight at her with his piercing dark brown eyes. A gasp escaped her lips. He looked vaguely familiar but she was unable to place him. And he seemed quite out of place at a metro station. Trisha looked the other way and started walking towards the station master’s office. It was closed. Damn people who leave early, she thought. She came out of the station and couldn’t find a cab or an auto in the dark streets.  She suddenly realized that the man had followed her. She started getting nervous. She looked in her purse for some pepper spray but could only find kajal, some chewing gum, and a hairbrush. Seriously Trisha, her inner voice said, do you not think before you leave the house? It’s Noida, for God’s sake!
‘Are you looking for a cab?’ The man asked, walking towards her. He had a refined voice that spoke of a cultured upbringing. He checked his watch and she noticed it was an Omega.
‘What’s it to you?’ Trisha snapped.
The man smiled as he put his hands in his pockets, probably to give Trisha a signal that he wasn’t going to attack her. He kept a gentler tone coming closer. ‘Well there are a couple of cabs across the road. I doubt if the lazy buggers will go, though.’
‘What?!’ Trisha was aghast. ‘Why?’
She saw that he was clean-shaven and had a very easy-going demeanour. His accent said he could be South Indian but Trisha couldn’t be sure.
The man looked across the road at the cab drivers. ‘Because they’re all drinking. I think they’re having a party and don’t want to break it up. It could be unsafe if you insisted that one of them take you.’ His dark eyes flashed a gentle but firm warning.
Trisha held back a great sob and sat down on the nearest bench. The man stood a little distance away. His appreciative eye travelled from her sandals to her soft peach salwar kameez and the hint of the collar bone that stood out behind the white chiffon dupatta.
‘If you like, I can drop you to the next cab stand.’
Trisha panicked. She was ready to burst into tears though she tried not to show it before this stranger, who happened to be gorgeous, by the way. She didn’t know if she should get into a car with him or take her chances sitting at a station. And what would people say? Juhi would be furious. She rummaged through her purse and found her mobile phone. The man was still waiting outside his car to figure out if she would be ok. He was fumbling with his phone as well. She saw that her phone had died. Today was just not her day. She had no option but to ask him, even at the risk of appearing ridiculous.
‘Um... Excuse me... Can I borrow your phone? Mine has died.’
He suppressed a laugh while he gave her his phone. ‘It’s not safe to be out so late and have a dead phone. This is Noida!’ He had an indefinable feeling of rightness.
‘Yes I’m aware of that. Thank you.’ I’m not stupid. She called Juhi but she didn’t pick up. She then sent her a message, looking up while typing, ‘What’s your name?’ He answered politely, ‘Abhimanyu.’ She composed her SMS telling Juhi that it was Abhimanyu’s phone and she was taking a ride with him. After the message was delivered, she deleted it from the sent message box. If Abhimanyu knew what she was doing, he didn’t show it. The she gave the phone back to him.
‘Can I take you up on that offer please? Just drop me to the next cab available, the one without a drunk driver, preferably.’
‘You’re not scared of me anymore?’
‘I have pepper spray in case you try anything funny.’
‘You’re not supposed to tell people you have pepper spray, silly! It defeats the purpose!’ He laughed. ‘Okay, get in. I’ll drop you to a cab.’
The huskiness lingered in his tone and made Trisha instantly attracted to this stunning, confident stranger.
They got into his Honda City before Trisha asked, ‘So did you also miss the last train?’
‘Actually, yes. I was in such deep thought that I didn’t realize where the time went!’
‘Thinking about what?’
He grinned. ‘I was running away from my wedding.’
Her eyes widened.
‘I hate weddings,’ he continued. ‘Marriage. It just kills the romance, you know? Two people who really love each other and then bloody families get involved and they are no longer just two people. They’re several people who are supposed to love each other then. Kills it.’
‘But why were you taking the metro if you had a car?’
‘I see you’re quite logical! Well I hadn’t thought the entire thing through. I thought I would take the metro to the airport and then just zoom off from there.’ With his right hand he mimed an aeroplane taking flight.
‘Yeah, I’ve run away from my wedding once, too.’
‘No, you loser!’ she laughed. ‘Who runs away from their own wedding?’ She suddenly felt as if her dormant wits had awoken.
They both laughed heartily. ‘Why did you offer to drop me?’ Trisha asked.
‘It’s just the right thing to do. You don’t leave a woman alone anywhere. I have offered all sorts of strange women a lift in my car!’
It was Abhimanyu’s turn to laugh as he looked at Trisha’s shocked expression. He had pulled her leg. She laughed as well, feeling her defences beginning to subside.
‘Where do you stay?’ he asked.
‘Right, you mentioned that earlier. And you were trying to catch the last train? That’s pretty smart of you.’
Trisha didn’t mind the sarcasm at all, feeling at ease with this stranger. ‘People travel for work, you know. Or do you not travel at all?’
‘Oh, yeah, I travel. I travel a lot!’
They drove and continued chatting, and they both completely forgot about their arrangement for him to drop her off where she can hail a cab. He followed the road to Gurgaon and insisted that it was late and he needed to take her home for his own sense of certainty. This made her feel warm and fuzzy but she didn’t show it.
As the reflected light from the passing cars glimmered over his handsome face like beams of icy radiance, she stole glances at him, carefully noticing how he held his head high, how his profile was masculine, strong, and rigid. Trisha was shocked to find herself drawn to him in a way she had never been with anyone—not even Vedant. It was a warm camaraderie that she liked. With Vedant she had felt some kind of animosity on the debating stage, and it was only later in the infirmary when she realized he could be a fine chap and began feeling at ease with him.
It was a long drive from Noida to Gurgaon. Abhimanyu and Trisha talked about weddings, families, living in Noida versus living in Gurgaon, the places they’ve travelled to. So many things except work. There didn’t seem to be enough time and soon they reached Trisha’s house. As she prepared to get off the car she silently admonished herself for having revealed so much to a complete stranger. Am I so naive? Even though she knew she was intelligent, she sometimes felt like a fool in the ways of the world. Her father had often warned her against trusting others blindly but she believed in the innate goodness of humanity and never felt threatened by people. It would only be later, of course, when she would realize that she had been hurt.
‘So can I take you out for coffee sometime?’ Abhimanyu asked.
‘But didn’t you just buy me coffee?’ She joked.
‘Okay then!’ He rode along. ‘Tea maybe?’
‘I’m not sure but I might be busy this week.’ Trisha thought it best not to say yes. She was reminded of a warning from a friend in Lucknow: ‘Don’t be a loose girl. If men think you’re fast and easy, they’ll take advantage of you.’

Abhimanyu nodded. ‘Well, it was nice meeting you, Trisha. Take care.’ And he zoomed off.
When you've tackled your inner demons and let them go, they will not look back to find you. Because it doesn't happen in a second. It takes a lifetime. And Trisha hadn’t let go of her fears of a new relationship just yet. Abhimanyu was quite good-looking though, she thought as she entered the house. A shame she would never see him again.
She entered the apartment and found Juhi fast asleep. Great. So much for my scheme of being safe. If something had indeed gone wrong, Juhi would have not known until the next morning when she woke up! She prepared to go to bed, already thinking of the explanation she would give Juhi about her unexpected night.
But another unexpected surprise greeted her in the morning: Abhimanyu’s face in the newspaper.
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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

New Excerpt: Advantage Love: Seduction Always Begins With An Intelligent Conversation

Description: Advantage Love is about a girl Trisha, who's trying to make something of herself when love gets in the way. Twice! From JNU politics to finding a glamorous tennis player to fall in love with, strict parents to new bosses, Trisha's life seems relatable and desirable. It's about what to choose when you're confused. About exes and career choices. New relationships and old friends. And how life is moving so fast that we need to anchor ourselves and how this girl learns just how to do that. This book is a reflection of everything that youngsters go through today.  How young India wants to take a stand and yet find romance. How Love is the only Advantage we have in a world full of choices!

Buy it here:
Vedant and Trisha’s romance blossomed in the two years they were together at JNU. To her parents, she appeared to live in her little room on campus, but in reality she had moved in with Vedant and used his penthouse as her own. She also had his car and driver at her disposal. The two of them increasingly relied on one other. He needed her for his rallies, gathering votes and acknowledging him as a new politician. She loved his attention, the constant need in his life for her to fix everything. He felt helpless without her. She picked out even his clothes. She managed his routine, his life. He loved her for her independence, her passion and her logical head. She loved him idiotically, madly, and extremely passionately. She lost herself in him and was happy doing so. After all, she figured, this was true love—where one is able to give to the other unconditionally.
Neither of them had told their parents that they were dating each other. Vedant felt that it was too soon to tell and Trisha wasn’t sure how her parents would react so she kept the most important part of her life hidden from them.
Trisha had fallen in love with Vedant in spite of his very conservative family and background. Having been brought up as the only son of a powerful, highly ambitious, politician who had made it from rags to riches, Vedant had seen a stark reality. His mother was a simple middle-class Maharastrian housewife who knew little else aside from making amazing bondas and loyally supporting her husband’s career. His father had groomed Vedant from an early age to enter politics. He used to go for party meetings with his father instead of playing football with his friends. When the time came, Vedant was sent to New Delhi by his father to learn the inner workings of Delhi youth and politics. His father had told him to muster confidence and acquire street smarts before he came back to Mumbai and joined him as a political ally. Vedant’s father had thought through everything. He was keen to present his son as a graduate from JNU, an intelligent, educated politician who cared about the people and smart enough to usher in changes for a brighter future.
Vedant had come to the politically rife climate of JNU to do just that—learn the ropes at the grassroots level of students’ politics. His entire upbringing had prepared him for this phase in his life. He could never think of a life beyond politics. Or for that matter, ever saying no to his parents. How could he? They had given him everything and had made huge sacrifices for his happiness. There was no question of becoming anything else but a politician. If his parents had been aware of his flings with women, they had chosen to ignore it. His father was convinced that Vedant would not be stupid enough to throw away his promising future for a woman. So if  he told them now that he was in love with Trisha—a nobody with no political connections in their eyes—they would not only be mighty disappointed in him, worse, they could disown him. Vedant knew his father was capable of taking such a harsh step. Trisha was from a middle-class family and such affiliation wouldn’t help Vedant’s political career at all. The entire family had been having arranged marriages and most probably they had already set up a match for Vedant. If he went against them, Aamod Kirloskar would have a fit!
Though Trisha has led a sheltered life, her parents were, thankfully, liberal in their views. They didn’t have any preferences what career she chose as long as she spent enough time with them and focused on her academics. They had been proud of the way they had brought her up. Instead of indulging her every whim as an only child, they taught her to fight for what she wanted in this life with logic. They had always told her to apply her brains and exercise logic in her judgments. They had high hopes for her and knew she would make it, whichever career she chose. Somewhere, they wanted her to remain in Lucknow, but didn’t object when Trisha wanted to become independent and find her own destiny in Delhi.  They were extremely proud of her academic accomplishments and lauded her for her strong, independent way of thinking. Trisha felt deeply indebted to her parents for trusting her enough to give her the freedom to live life the way she wanted. She didn’t want to upset them now by revealing a liaison with a politician’s son. Even though they were liberal thinking academics, they knew a politician’s son spelt trouble.
Trisha loved children and she spent much time in orphanages and the School for the Blind. She gave her time and energy to undertaking projects for them. Sometimes she wished Vedant would understand this aspect of her but he never did. ‘You’re spreading yourself too thin, honey,’ he would say when she was all flustered about a new project. ‘How are you going to do an art charity at the blind school and write your thesis for Goyal’s class? You don’t have time. Give up your social work. You have to help me for the next rally as well.’  He had come to realize what an asset she was for him in his fledgling political career and didn’t want her to waste time in charitable activities. He was gearing up for the next big rally on campus and desperately needed her support. He was trying to take over the JNUSU president’s post from the All India Students Association Subhavna De. If he succeeds, he would prove his mettle to his father and he could be quickly anointed as the party’s youth leader.
But Trisha was adamant about her ability to balance academics and charity work—after all, her passion lay in joining the development sector some day!  In her heart she knew that organizing rallies for Vedant was the least of her priorities. She had successfully pulled off one rally when she was new at JNU, and the challenge had ended on that day itself. Even though she found his speeches and politics exciting, and had attended every one of them, she had finally figured over the course of two years spent at JNU, that politics wasn’t really her. She needed something more to feel complete. When she tried telling Vedant this, he had sulked and said, ‘But we’re so good together as a team.’ It led to a fight as she wanted him to desperately understand that she couldn’t only be doing rallies or writing speeches for him.
But Vedant has always been the consummate charmer. Even when he didn’t understand her point of view, he would always make her feel better after a fight by reciting Tennyson or singing Beatles. And Vedant’s version would always be better as far as Trisha was concerned. He had a soulful voice that connected with her own. When Trisha fought with Vedant, she would leave ‘I’m sorry’ notes in his room and in his books where he would find them. She would be the one who would buy him presents, surprising him with her little gestures. She didn’t have too much money but she would diligently save and go hunting for something that would cheer him up – a shirt from Sarojini Nagar with Elvis (his favourite rockstar) on it or Osho chappals sent from Pune that he loved wearing. She believed that small things went a long way in keeping relationships alive. She loved how he had come to depend on her not only for his speeches and rallies, but for even small things for his daily existence. Isn’t this what true love is about? she would think. She was ecstatic that she had finally found true love, the kind that made her breathless like the heroines in the novels that she had grown up reading. Trisha craved stability, family, love, togetherness. All of that, desperately. Most of all, she just wanted him. All the time. She wanted to be the person who brought his life together. She loved how he made her feel like a complete woman, beautiful, smart, motivated and grounded.
One evening when Vedant and Trisha were listening to Elvis in his penthouse, she started giggling. He looked up from his book and saw that she was staring out of the window and stifling a laugh.
‘What’s up?’ he asked.
She snuggled next to him. ‘I was just thinking how funny you would look if you had `Hound dog’ playing in the background while you were giving a speech in a white kurta pajama.’
 ‘You know I can’t listen to Elvis at home. I’m not allowed to.’
‘What? Why? But you love Elvis!’
Trisha was incredulous. It dawned on her that he had never shared intimate details of his home life, always giving her the larger brushstrokes of the family history that most people read about in the papers. He never mentioned childhood memories or his parents’ likes and dislikes. This was the first time he confided in something that gave her a whiff of how his family really was.
She pulled away from their snuggle and gave Vedant a look that told him to tell her more.
‘My mother is very conservative and listens only to bhajans,’ he said. ‘I have my own room and I can listen to my music on my ipod then again, she thinks it corrupts my brain. I don’t argue with her so I rarely listen to the music I like. Once I wanted to get a tattoo and she cried for two days blaming the music I listened to and herself for not bringing me up correctly! I just let the idea go. Why create unnecessary complications? And my father got angry for making my mom sick after that. So I didn’t think it was worth pissing my parents off.’
Trisha remained quiet. His family was so different from her own: How would I fit into it? Fear pricked her as she thought about it. But then Vedant hadn’t really popped the question either. Even after almost two years of being together, she was still waiting for a proposal. She knew she was only 24 years old but if they got engaged now, they could wait for a few years before finally getting married. This would give them both sufficient time to ease into their careers. She needed more of a commitment from him and Vedant always seemed as if he was unaware that she needed it. His indifference had started nagging at the back of her mind. She looked over at him as he lit up a Marlboro Light, his recently acquired habit that she absolutely detested.
He caught her expression and smiled apologetically. ‘This is the last one for today I promise. After graduation, I won’t be able to smoke without my family looking over my shoulder. My parents would just kill me if they found out.’ He flicked the ash into the ashtray.
Trisha found whatever he was disclosing about his parents today a little absurd. ‘Why?’ she asked. ‘You can live your life the way you want to. If you want to smoke, you should be able to. Even though it’s a disgusting habit! But still, it’s your choice. If you want to listen to music, wear particular clothes, or have a drink occasionally why can’t you do it without pretending?’
‘Because politicians don’t do that. It vilifies their image. And my parents don’t expect it out of me. Besides all this will change when I move to Mumbai. No more of the old Vedant. The new khadi-kurta, seedha-saadha Vedant will take over. The good boy who doesn’t smoke, drink or wear Armani.’ He chuckled softly.
‘But I love the real Vedant. When will he ever stand up for his rights before his family? And besides, today’s younger generation of politicians do wear the occasional Armani.’
Vedant didn’t have ready answers for her questions. He didn’t know any other life.
Trisha tried hard to hide her disappointment. She had wondered for the last two years if Vedant would ever figure out what he really wanted from life. Was he truly happy being groomed as a politician or did he want to embrace some other career? She had tried asking him this a couple of times only to receive ambiguous replies. She also wondered how he would stand up to his parents’ dictatorial regime once he was back in Mumbai.
‘Well, I have to go,’ Trisha said as she prepared to get up. ‘I need to start packing up whatever is in my campus apartment.’ She collected her purse but he held her hand.
‘Graduation will be in a week,’ he said. ‘I don’t know where we will be post that. Stay tonight please. You don’t need to start packing till later.’ He let go of her hand as she moved away from him. They stared at each other, letting the reality sink in. They would be going their separate ways in a week if neither of them took a step right now that will alter their lives. He had to propose to her and stand up for himself to his parents. He had to introduce her as the woman he wanted in his life. And she had to decide to be a part of his life in every way. Even if it meant giving up her dreams in Delhi and moving with him to Mumbai. But Trisha couldn’t take that step if he didn’t take it first. She was truly in love with Vedant. She was willing to make it work with his family if he just proposed.
She moved away to sit on her favourite place on the sofa. He stubbed out his cigarette and went to sit next to her. He flicked the remote of the music system on and a song from The Doors came on.
‘Did you know,’ he said as he slowly walked up to her while turning down the lights in the apartment with a remote control, ‘the 1960s California rock n' roll band ‘The Doors’ took their name from a William Blake quote.’ He stood within inches of her, not touching her but breathing softly and whispering, ‘They originally called themselves ‘‘The Doors of Perception’’ at the suggestion of lead singer Jim Morrison, who was studying film and literature at UCLA at the time.’
He started kissing her neck, softly, gently. His fingers lightly caressed her nipples through the shirt as he let her hair lie to one side over her breasts. She was transfixed by his words and his touch. ‘The band simplified their name to The Doors for marketing reasons, as it was easier to advertise, billboard, and remember.’
He started unbuttoning her blouse with his hands. ‘The full length quote that inspired Morrison with the band name is taken from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and is as follows.’
Vedant opened her blouse and cupped her large breasts in his hands, nestling his face in her cleavage, taking in her warm, lavender scent mixed with fresh soap. He gathered her waist and drew her close, wrapping his arms around her. He pulled her head back gently and kissed her deeply. It was warm and tantalizing as he moved down slowly to her breasts and blazed a trail of kisses from the curve of her neck to the roundness of her breasts while she surrendered to his passion. Open-mouthed, his kisses vividly betrayed his hard-driven desires which coursed like lightning through her body, exposing her own primal needs.
Trisha was breathless. ‘Vedant, I don’t really care anymore about The Doors. Take me to your bedroom door right now.’ His head rose slightly, and his tongue passed slowly along her parted lips, then penetrated to softly search and languidly possess every inch of her body. He pressed fevered kisses along the warm column of her throat, arching her backward over his arm, while his other hand stroked the roundness of her buttock and shapely thigh. She gasped in sweet agony. He felt the urgent need to know and touch every part of her, to claim her as his own, to let his lips wander at will over her soft flesh. She felt her defences weakening.
‘Are you ready to have some makeup sex?’
She breathed into his ears, ‘Oh yes. I so deeply want to make up.’
He made his way easily into the bedroom and shut the door behind him. He was sure she would always remember the night he told her about The Doors.

Reserved for One: A poem

We don't trust enough We don't pour out our hearts  Telling all our secrets, our fears and surrendering to each other. Comple...