Wednesday, December 30, 2015

5 Wacky Ways to Lose Weight

1.     Be envious – Seeing someone thin motivates us to become like them. And everyone is partying, travelling and putting up photos on social media. You will find someone thinner than you. Save that photo – print it and put it up. She is real. She has lost it. You need to be thinner than her! Do not put up a photo of a celeb who is thin. Ultimately your brain will say she gets paid to be thin so what’s the point and you’ll reach towards that cake! Check out your friend’s pic. Be motivated from that.  
2.     Stalk someone – You hit the gym and you’re bored already. Same weights. Same faces. Monotony. So while you’re there you probably faff around with some people showing off your wit, and drink plenty of water. What you need to do is find a person who comes regularly and compete with him. If he’s doing x number of sit-ups, you do more. If he’s using x number of weights, you do the same. It might be stalking but seriously watch how you will train harder. Also, do run fast if he ever catches you stalking at him.
3.     Kid Mania – Children have tremendous energy and you’re exhausted doing chores around them. Take the kids to a park and tell them to run while you catch them. Race with the children. Play soccer. Do jumping jacks. Skip rope. With younger kids, put them in a stroller and walk around in a park. Just remember, if you don’t have children you should ask permission from other parents if you want to play with their kids. Otherwise just going and asking a child to play is creepy!
4.     Jiggle It Up – Some days you can swim. Other days you can go to the gym. Some days you can dance at home. Everything burns calories as long as you’re not drinking and dancing. Or eating and swimming. Please take permission to dance in other people’s houses. If you’re landing up at someone’s fine sit down dinner party they might not appreciate you putting on your iPod and jumping around.  
5.     Death to Dieting – Everyone talks about a good diet. Don’t eat high calorie food, do not indulge in fats, restrict carbs, and don’t mix proteins. The list goes on. It’s bloody annoying. When you ask Google “Ways to Lose Weight,” there are about 39,900,000 results. My advice is to eat one small thing you like every day. Two bites of it. That’s it. So today, have two bites of that pizza, tomorrow have two bites of that cake and day after have two bites of that mithai. But remember, you’re not jaws! Take a bite and enjoy it. Not stuff your mouth and look like an ogre.

All the best to keeping that weight off during the holiday season! Look sexy. Feel confident. Be happy! 

Also on my CNN-IBN blog.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Idiots of India

“Tis the season for touring India. And with it you’ll find several people who truly represent our rich and diverse culture – the Idiots of India. Here are a few:

1.     The Staring Idiots – Pretty girls beware. There will be men and women who will stare at you and they won’t do it slyly from the corner of their eye. It will be a full blown, jaw open, wide eyed stare as if they’re seeing a wonder of the world for the first time. It will make you feel uncomfortable at first but you can react two ways – ignore them and move away, or stare back and wave them away with your hand.

2.     The Driving Idiots – Driving in India has nothing to do with how well you can drive or even if you have a drivers’ license. It’s all about how big your car is or how big your ego is. Even a tempo driver can come from the wrong side of the road and try to overtake three trucks and a fleet of cars because he believes he can do it! Small bikes will cut in to the other side of the road because they know they can squeeze in anywhere and get away. It will cause traffic jams but the idiots don’t care, they’ve got away!

3.     The Buffet Idiots – A gaggle of people have come to a hotel together and they believe they own it. They’ve spent money on the cheapest rooms and they want the best service and a right to the buffet first! Forget the queue or lines. Forget speaking in softer voices because it might disturb others and it’s the polite way to be in public places. The idiots demand attention and the buffet now!

4.     The Flying Idiots – These idiots will push and shove to get into the line to board a plane even though in India the seats are assigned and the flight attendant is starting boarding from the back five rows! They’ll speak loudly in the plane mostly about themselves and demand the airhostesses give them free things. They’ll also get up as soon as the plane lands to get their overhead luggage even though the plane is still cruising. They’ll push you to get into a bus and shove you to get to the baggage claim first. And the idiots will probably actually be the last to leave the airport!

5.     The Official Idiot – Ever noticed how there are several people at large department stores to help you pick out things you don’t need in your life? And when you’ve decided to finally buy something and end up at the cashier there’s only one window open for billing and that person seems to be a trainee who doesn’t know how to bill anything. And when after two hours of waiting in line to pay for one shirt, your turn comes and the register conks off and the manager needs to be called? Yup, you’re the official idiot for even getting into that sale, for thinking you should travel, for even driving a car during this season!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year my fellow idiots J  

Also written for CNN-IBN blog - Chastity Belt.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Bollywood-isation of Lit Fests: Coming soon to your city!

Once upon a time a Lit Fest was about writers and authors who met and discussed words that inspired and writings that roused thought. It was about discussions and debates between writers who were published and those that wanted to be. It was about chats and conferences that were enchanting and made you feel you were in the presence of something great.

There was a magic all around that flooded your very being and made you understand that the daily rut of life was not all there was. There was a Lit Fest -  a meeting of brilliant minds.

I remember I stood in line at the Jaipur Lit Fest many years ago to get an autograph from an author who had moved me with his novel when I was an adolescent. His words had transformed me to the person I wanted to be. And I wanted to be an author too.

Today, the Lit Fests seem to be about celebs and page 3 individuals who speak well and may have written one novel and a column or two. Literature has truly been extinguished in the name of drawing crowds.

Today everything is about a number. How many copies did the book sell? How much money did you spend on the PR? How many people came for the Lit Fest? How much coverage did the fest get? How many sponsors did they have? No one truly asks  - how many books were sold?!

If everyone is going to a Lit Fest to watch a TV celeb, a Bollywood actress or a filmmaker, who are the people who are buying books to read?

Where has the Literature gone?

Why is the craze today so much about glamour rather than substance? It’s wonderful that so many new celebs are writing. The writing process should never die. And creativity should always be encouraged from everyone. 

But Lit Fests should be about real authors who write for passion, not money, for inspiring, not publicity, for breaking the norms, for encouraging debate, and for challenging themselves as writers, not so they can do something different with their lives!

Most authors are a shy bunch of people, preferring to stay in their small worlds writing furiously because the art of creating something brings them tremendous peace and hopefully moves people to think, feel and reflect. But today every author wants to be “commercially successful” rather than poignantly remembered.

Lit Fests have become about money, businesses, glamour and products – of authors and their books.

I would love to attend a Lit Fest that had lesser known commercially successful Indian authors mingling with well-known Japanese ones. Have a clash of discussion on societies, traditions, and the process of writing, ideas, inspiration and struggle. Instead we’ve become a nation that wants to watch only glamorous people entertaining us.

Please do attend Lit Fests but not just to see a Bollywood star, but to pick up a book you never thought you would read, to recognise the power of regional writers, to ask for tips on writing from someone you have never read and listen to a panel that may not interest you and above all to be around people who believe in the power of words, not numbers! 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert: A Review

Big Magic Review
I remember when I read Eat Pray Love. It changed my life. As it did for many others. The book that made Elizabeth Gilbert famous sold over 13 million copies worldwide. And like most others I wondered how as a writer she would triumph that. 

In Big Magic she teaches us how sometimes it’s okay not to triumph anything but to pursue on in the light of creativity. In any field this would give you great solace to know that sometimes your biggest success may never be repeated. But that doesn’t mean you stop creating. Big Magic is a non fiction book written to help you develop your creative ideas to the best of your abilities.

Gilbert has pearls of wisdom for all those who want to do something creative but were never able to take that first step. From overcoming your fear in beginning a task to being relaxed enough to be open to ideas that she so vehemently believes are galloping towards us but we are too lazy to recognise or capture, to working with a stubbornness even when people want to `stick you into boxes.’

Big Magic is the coming together of ideas and intention, of overcoming fear and enveloping enchantment, of persevering and trusting yourself, the Universe and finding perspective, of not being daunted by people and finishing a creative product you started.

As Gilbert writes, creative living can be anything from ice skating to writing, to painting to doing something that you’ve always wanted to do but never thought you could because it didn’t make sense. She speaks of how creativity should never be equated with money or success. And that it requires great sacrifice while keeping a safety net of a bank balance in mind.

Big Magic is the kind of book that helps you start when you don’t know how and what to say to people when they think you’re crazy for starting it. As a nonfiction self-help book, Big Magic pushes people to wonder more and quit less.

But I wonder if Elizabeth had not had the success of Eat Pray Love (a title used on the cover of this book to probably make it sell more copies) would she write on trusting the faith of creativity. There are too many struggling, creative people in the world who do capture ideas, and never give up and yet haven’t found the success that she did. 

It is easy to say not to strive for it once you have it. Would she have written this book before Eat Pray Love sold thirteen million copies?

And then I wonder if this book would be picked up by people who have already chosen non- creative fields and are happy in their worlds. It’s a fantastic read for an author like me who has Writer’s Block occasionally. 

But then I realise that this book is not just for the already creative, it’s Gilbert’s way of making everyone creative. And that’s the triumph and success of this book. 

As she says, “We all need an activity that is beyond the mundane and that takes us out of our established and limiting roles in society. By absorbing our attention for a short and magical spell, it can relieve us temporarily from the dreadful burden of being who we are.”

Buy it here and give it a read if you're looking to be inspired and move out of your dead zones! 

Friday, August 21, 2015

After The Crash by Michel Bussi : A Book Review

Inside the airplane before a crash, a journal with a suicide note and a newspaper that holds the key to an 18 yearlong mystery starts the incredibly fast paced thriller After The Crash by Michel Bussi who has been a French writer for almost a decade and won countless awards for his novels and publications.

After The Crash is the story of two families, a young man and a private detective trying to find the true identity of a sole survivor of a plane crash, a young baby girl who on turning eighteen makes a drastic decision and runs away.

The story is intelligently layered and moves back and forth from the time of a plane crash in 1980 to its current day in 1998 with an update on the time and the date in the beginning of each chapter, giving an urgency to finding the truth before it’s too late.

Lyse-Rose or Emilie is the sole survivor of a plane crash in 1980 and two families claim that the girl belongs to them. A private detective is hired to find out the truth of her identity before her eighteenth birthday and he leaves behind a journal that could reveal it all. But before he can discover the truth, he is murdered and the girl disappears. And thus begins a hunt for the truth by her sibling Marc who she leaves the journal with.

As more murders take place, scandals get revealed and more secrets get hidden.

Michel Bussi has all the ingredients of an exciting thriller in his novel. From interesting characters that show different shades, murders that go back and forth in time, lust between the most unusual pairings, intrigue on if it’s actually the truth and a fast pace that keeps the readers hooked till the last page, After The Crash is an un-put-down-able book.

It is obvious that it is an intelligent thriller that doesn’t require too much grey matter to bog you down. There are references to Haiku, dragonflies, music and art, facts from History and a true to the era account of the time. The dialogues between the characters are thought out and move with the swiftness required from a thriller.

It reminds me of the old Grisham when the suspense remained till the very end. You can’t guess what will happen at any stage and when the last page is turned, you can’t wait for the movie to be released!

Would definitely recommend getting your hands on this book if you like thrillers!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Scandalous Housewives in audio format!

For all those who love stories being narrated and never have the time to sit and read a book, here's the audio version of my explosive book Scandalous Housewives. Sit back and visualize the steam! And get a copy to read if you think it's good.  Always helps me write more!

The Story:

What happens when what lies between the sheets becomes the linen that is washed in public?

Sapphire Towers: just another residential high-rise in Mumbai where the humdrum routine of daily life carries on with clockwork precision. But, beneath the tranquil surface lurks a web of deceit and lies spun by a group of lonely housewives.

Gita, frustrated mother of two young daughters, longs to escape the monotony of marriage—and spice up her sex life in the most wicked fashion. 

Sarita, conservative Gujarati housewife and mother, is addicted to kinky sex and pays a dear price for it. 

Stylish working mother, Aarti, nurses an appalling secret that could end her marriage. 

And sultry ex-model Natasha, who seems to have it all, is hopelessly in love with a much younger man—the son of one of her friends.

Even as these women scramble to conceal their darkest secrets, an anonymous email is sent out to all the residents of Sapphire Towers, and has horrific consequences.

Racy and unputdownable, Scandalous Housewives: Mumbai is the first book in the sizzling new series by bestselling author Madhuri Banerjee, which  tell the stories of the unsung housewives of urban India who will go to any lengths to fulfill their deepest, darkest desires. 

Read it here:

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Father's Motto

“The more you give, the more you’ll get back.”
That was my Dad’s motto in life. My mother would give him only a daily allowance since he spent everything in his wallet every day on as mom called it on “nothing.”
One day my father picked me up from school and we were walking back home when I wanted to have an ice cream. So he went to a nearby store and bought ten ice creams, spending all his money. He gave me one cone and then he distributed the rest among all the street children who were playing close by. They were so thrilled to have a cold, chocolate cone in the blazing heat. I understood immediately how lucky I was to always get what I wanted. And I realised that Dad had no money left in his wallet, exactly as Mom had predicted. But there was this glow around him because he was grinning ear to ear watching all the children eat!
These days, every few months, I do spring cleaning of my house. My child & I go donate clothes, toys books to street children. I then open my wallet, and spend all my money on ice cream for them.  And I invariably grin.
You’re right Dad, what an amazing motto, the more I give, the more happiness I get! 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Chef Ranveer Brar on My Clingy Girlfriend

Chef Ranveer Brar said "Madhuri you've a written an awesome book ... read in one go ..
Just tweeted about it :)"

His Tweet was, "Spent a whole day #MyClingyGirlfriend awesomely written by a fellow lucknowite @madhuribanerjee." 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Kindle Mag talks about My Clingy Girlfriend and other best selling novels

Madhuri Banerjee was irked at being labelled a chick-lit author, until she realised that it was what sold. Devjani Bodepudi tries to get her to spill the beans on how to make it big.

There is no real recipe for success, no magic formula which will guarantee that a book will sell millions and millions of copies and turn its author into a household name. We’ve been told this countless times and yet, there are a few writers out there in our literary cosmos who seem to have stumbled upon the fabled fairy dust, which made their books float up into the hallowed ether of a bestsellers list.
I had the very real honour of interviewing one such writer a few days ago. Madhuri Banerjee writes books we all want to read. I mean they’re funny, insightful and most importantly full of useful titbits about that elusive thing called love.
My Clingy Girlfriend, her latest bestseller, is a very clever take on love and relationships from a man’s POV. The word which immediately popped into my little head, upon realising that the protagonist was Obrokanti and not Oindrila, was ‘genius’.

Banerjee had managed to crawl inside a man’s head, rummage around and pick out the most essential bits that all us girls need to know to give us a realistic picture of how a man thinks. For your information, 50 percent of men, according to Banerjee, are riddled with a certain amount of self-doubt, uncontrollable lust and ultimately are completely clueless in the ways of love. As her opening line confirms: “I can honestly say that I, Obrokanti Banerjee, know jack shit about love. Nothing. Nada. Zip.” And yet he has managed to bag himself a beautiful girlfriend, whose only flaw, it seems, is that she’s a little clingy. I mean, stereotypically clingy for full comic effect. Incidentally, Banerjee also told me during her interview that Radha, our hero’s girlfriend is a representation of 50 percent of women. These percentages were then jacked up to a rough 80 percent to suggest that in the world of her newest commercial success, four out of five men and women behave and think exactly like this. It was indeed a riotous read.
I really was in awe of such insight and use of statistics!
Banerjee had managed to crawl inside a man’s head, rummage around and pick out the most essential bits that all us girls need to know to give us a realistic picture of how a man thinks.
I managed to reign in my excitement just long enough to ask her about the very important issue of designing the cover. After all, so many books we see on our shelves today, which belong to the commercial fiction genre are clad in covers which give the reader a very good idea of the contents.
I can happily confirm that Banerjee had a lot of input on her cover. She actually wanted it to look that way! Did her creativity know no bounds, I asked myself.
I contemplated the other books we see on our shelves, the so-called classics and I wonder why they chose the artsy-fartsy route instead of the explicit, in your face, tell-it-like-it-is cover. Perhaps they would sell better if they chose a lipstick smudge superimposed onto a silhouette of an intense looking couple walking in the lamplight under an umbrella.
I then got onto the task of asking Banerjee about the content of her books. Did she feel pressured by her publishers to steer clear of subjects such as abortion? “No,” she replied. They accepted every idea she gave them as long as she didn’t want to do literary fiction. Literary fiction didn’t do well in this market. I mean it’s true. Who wants to read anything of any quality? Sorry, substance? I mean difficult? I mean…never mind!
Gone are the days (or maybe they never existed) where people would read books which commented on society, which reported on the injustices of our time, which highlighted the beauty of the everyday. We simply don’t want books like that anymore. Or is that we don’t want women to write these books anymore? I ask this because the Man Booker Prize had only two women on their shortlist last year. Or is it *gasp* that women will never be good enough to win a literary award, unless of course it’s an award specifically designed for women, such as the controversial Bailey’s Prize for fiction?
One particular chair of judges, Lola Young, commented that the British fiction by women that they were asked to appraise fell into two categories, either “insular and parochial” or “domestic in a piddling kind of way.” What would she make, I wondered, of the Indian scene and Madhuri Banerjee and some of our other worthy writers?
I shook away the idea as soon as it entered my head. We don’t need women writing good books—I mean literary books of any substance. We women need Banerjee’s particular blend of writing to warm our cockles and satisfy our fantasies.
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, for example, essentially belonged to the chick lit genre, it could be argued. I’ll skirt over the social commentary that Austen often engages in her books, I’ll side-step her clever use of satire and sarcasm when dealing with her characters, because that’s hardly important. What is important was the sexual tension between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett.
I wanted to ask Banerjee about the ‘Chick Lit’ label, to get inside the head of such a wonderful writer who possessed said label would be invaluable. She told me—and I would have to agree—that every woman loves a bit of ‘chick lit’. Romance is great, be it Pretty Woman or Notting Hill. Although she was irked at first at being labelled a chick-lit author, she realised that it was what sold. And she did indeed sell.
And when I thought about it, I was forced to ask, “what really is chick lit?” Isn’t it books, written for women, about women and about women-centric issues? Women make up at least 50 percent of the population, so for there to be a genre dedicated to the things that affect us the most, such as falling in love with a tennis player, or our husbands turning out to be impotent (themes explored by Banerjee), then we should celebrate that. She’s embraced the label now, at a time when we need it most. And she’s selling well, because she’s awesome at it.
What we deem as classic now, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, for example, essentially belonged to the chick lit genre, it could be argued; with her long-frocked protagonists paving the way for Bridget Jones and the likes of Chetan Bhagat’s glorious cast of social caricatures. I’ll skirt over the social commentary that Austen often engages in her books, I’ll side-step her clever use of satire and sarcasm when dealing with her characters, because that’s hardly important. What is important was the sexual tension between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett.
We certainly don’t want literature written by women which will allow us to glimpse into family and dilemma and history and social politics. We should leave that to the men.
Moving on, I wanted to explore the idea of feminism and what it was. Commercial fiction seems to lend itself perfectly to be a platform for women to express themselves and talk about their very important needs. In Banerjee’s book Scandalous Housewives, very real, aching issues are explored. Things that women should be talking about and taking control over. Things like wanting kinky sex or having an affair with one’s brother-in-law and saying, “enough is enough…my husband treats me like furniture and I won’t take it anymore!” or the woman who decides her life is about herself and not the men in her life, it’s all really very empowering! And women, especially in this country, are battling these issues every single day. I’ve conveniently forgotten the women who are forced into labouring in the sun for the building of our roads, without proper safety equipment, I’m not going anywhere near female foeticide and I won’t even get started on caste. The real, very important issues are the ones highlighted in Banerjee’s books and books like hers. And we love them!
We love to be immersed in the lives of women and men just like us, or exaggerated versions of us, with dilemmas like crazy clingy girlfriends who only exist everywhere. We certainly don’t want literature written by women which will allow us to glimpse into family and dilemma and history and social politics. We should leave that to the men.
Chick lit, especially Banerjee’s particular brand (because she’s a feminist remember?), challenges patriarchy, according to her. Maybe she’s being satirical by penning a portrait of the most patriarchal fictional figure I have ever come across, in Obrokanti Banerjee, and then making us feel sorry for him because his girlfriend and all subsequent female characters in the story are manipulative, bossy, constantly in need of reassurance and are obsessive about their man. Obrokanti is quite right in being turned on by the suggestion of virginity. Long flowing locks and doe eyes are high on the list for judging quality and worth. Breasts are compared from one woman to the next and of course, we are led to believe this specimen of Bengali manhood is just struggling to get by in a world filled to the brim with crazy women who want to bed him and possess him in every possible way.
Iasked Banerjee again what the secret ingredients were for a bestseller. I was more direct this time; it was infuriating that I did not know yet. Her reply was a tinkling laugh. “I wish I knew,” she said. She gave me the example of one book, Mistakes like Love and Sex, which was all set to become a bestseller, “but since it was about a woman and trying to find her sexuality, and it came out during the whole Nirbhaya incident in Delhi. And everybody, the entire country was talking about rape and here was my book talking about a woman trying to find her sexuality. [She] just clashed with the time it was released, you know what I mean. So if that book was released today I think it would do really well.”
In Banerjee’s book Scandalous Housewives, very real, aching issues are explored. Things that women should be talking about and taking control over. Things like wanting kinky sex or having an affair with one’s brother-in-law, or the woman who decides her life is about herself and not the men in her life, it’s all really very empowering!

OK, so now I knew what not to do. If I wanted a bestseller, I had to make sure that it was released when there were no inconvenient controversies happening, like the Delhi gang rape of 2012, and then I would be halfway there.
But really, there was no secret formula that she could give me. What I gleaned from our little chat is that chasing success, like chasing love, was futile. What mattered was that you did what you did, because you were passionate about it. “[It] is just a changing time that would make your book a bestseller and it has nothing to do with you and your potential…[It’s important to] keep going, to keep on working and hope that [you produce] bestsellers…”
The final words of wisdom Banerjee had for me, were related to a storyline I presented to her, for a movie I would like to make some day, when I have grown enough as a writer, I suppose. It holds enough truth about life to last, well, a lifetime. It was a dialogue she suggested for my female protagonist’s man-hating, potentially bisexual best friend, to be played (hopefully) by Kalki. “Don’t be stupid! Love doesn’t have any pacts,” Kalki says to Deepika when Deepika doesn’t notice Saif’s devotion to her. And perhaps you cannot make a pact with success, either, if writing chick lit is what you love.
“Love. Doesn’t. Have. Any. Pacts.”

Saturday, May 2, 2015

5 Tips on How to Pick Up Books

A part of one of my bookshelves
I remember every summer my grandfather used to take me to a library and I would sit there the whole day reading books. There was no TV, ipad or mobile devices to keep me busy. Thankfully I was a voracious reader. It's helped me all along my life. I'm a true book lover and I love shopping online and at book stores. I have three bookshelves at home filled with books.
So here are 5 tips to buy books and read more this summer!

1. Mix Genres - Every book store and online mart has books by genres. Fiction, Nonfiction, Self-help, Travel, etc. It’s easy to go to a books store or online and go through the genre you really like. But what’s even more interesting is to pick up a genre you’ve never read. If you’re a hard core romance person, why not try a self-help book? If you only like reading thrillers, why not glance at a travel book? Don’t limit yourself to what you like. There’s a whole world of books out there that you should be reading to expand your knowledge and understanding of the world and develop your personality!

2. Mix Fat and Thin – Some people like only reading thin books so they can get through a lot of books soon and say “Oh I’ve read fifty books.” But the purpose of reading a book is to do many things – entertain you, or educate you, or make you think, or suck you into a world that you’ve never imagined and enlighten you. What it’s not supposed to do is make you brag about how quickly you read it. So for every three thin books you read, find one that is at least 400 or more pages and read that!

3. Covers & Colours – Sometimes we like the cover of a book and we pick it up. Most often it’s the mood we’re in that draws us to the colours of the book. Say you want to read something new but don’t know what you feel like buying. Close your eyes and imagine a colour. Let the colour embrace you. Then if you’re in a book store, go and find 5 books with that colour on the cover. Or online type the colour and see how many books you find with the colour as a title. You’ll see that you’ll find a story that you may want to read!

4. Blurb and Bestsellers – Often we pick up a book for the genre, the cover and/or because it’s a bestseller but we don’t read the blurb. The blurb is the most important part of the book. It actually takes longer for an author to write the perfect blurb than write out characters for their novel! It’s the brief synopsis that goes on the back cover of the book. It tells you what the book is about, the characters, the era when it is happening and maybe a twist. I urge people of all ages to always read the blurb before buying the book. Let it appeal to you. Let the story sink in. Do you want to know more about it? Then only buy it. Never buy just because it’s a bestseller and everyone is reading it. You might actually hate it later and kick yourself for wasting money instead of buying another less popular book with a better blurb!

5. The First Chapter & Classics– Every good fiction author takes plenty of time to write his first chapter. This is the hook for the reader to get into the book. I would recommend that you always read a sample of the book which is generally the first chapter before you buy a book. Often we are expecting the same thing since we are prone to like only one genre. I would recommend that everyone tries something new at least once in three months. Pick up an author you’ve never read, a genre you’ve never tried or a classic book like Charles Dickens or Thomas Hardy or Naipaul or Forester that it very different. Open up your reading to vast experiences and you’ll be rich with stories for the rest of your life.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Navbharat Times

I'm so grateful for everything I have each day. Every day. So thankful to be alive.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Buddhism, Mandalas & House of Cards

I was watching Season 3 of House of Cards when I saw Buddhist monks in episode 7 making a mandala.
According to the Berzin Archives and Wikipedia, "A Mandala is Sanskrit for circle. It is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the Universe. Mandalas often exhibit radial balance. 

The sand mandalas are unique to Tibetan Buddhism and are supposed to give purification and healing. A great spiritual leader chooses the mandala to be created. Then Monks create a drawing from memory and begin to fill it in with colourful sand. Grains of sand are carefully placed along the drawing with funnels, tubes, and scrapers over a few days, weeks or months. As the monks do this, they recite sacred chants to the divine spirits to meditative music. According to Buddhist scripture, sand mandalas transmit positive energy to the environment and the to the people who view them. Once it’s completed, the mandala is blessed and the sand is swept away, first broken in half with grey sand and then slowly from outward to in, sweeping the sand into a mesh of grey particles and then it is disposed of in water in what’s called a “Dissolution Ceremony.”
At its base, the ritual of constructing and dismantling a mandala represents the transitory nature of life, the way things can be at once present and then removed and just because it’s been removed, doesn’t mean it wasn’t once there."
So first I wanted to marvel at the writers of House of Cards of thinking to bring it in. A power couple who have had terrible strife till now renew their vows in this episode. The mandala seems to have healed them. It also shows the passage of time since a month passes by and the monks come and go. It shows how Frank is so busy with his work that he is unable to see the beauty in it. And Claire goes so close that she almost ruins the mandala, as she does with all her decisions in season 3. It also shows how both of them are struggling to leave a legacy and how right under their nose Buddhism is teaching them that nothing is permanent. Life, our legacies and our desires are all temporary. It was a beautiful way of showing a dichotomy of a power couple against a spiritual message.
The sand mandala made me realise something about myself as well.
All these years I’ve been struggling to leave a legacy for my daughter. Maybe even for my generations to come. I have been working hard to etch things in bestselling paperbacks that has fed my ego and burst my bubble many a time.
I wanted to say I’m truly successful at what I’ve tried to do. I’ve achieved what I set out to be. I have miles to go because the legacy is not done yet. So much more work to be done. So much more writing before I die.
And in that moment when the mandala was done, I could feel that the Monks would be proud. What an achievement. Back breaking work over a month to put tiny grains of sand to make the most incredible and beautiful piece of art ever. And within a single stroke of breath the Dissolution Ceremony began and the piece of work, was all gone.
And I looked at all my six books. Why the hell was I so proud of them? What legacy was I even thinking about? It was important that I did the work. But one should never hold on to the pride of doing it. A Mandala represents wholeness, a cosmic diagram reminding us of our relation to infinity, extending beyond and within our bodies and minds.
When Monks can stand and chant while they see their hard work of a beautiful creation turning to ash, I needed to realise that I was just a small part of this Universe. I must extend myself beyond my creations, a legacy and my ego, to go beyond my body and mind to be one with infinity.
The Dissolution Ceremony of the Mandala shows nothing is permanent. Nothing is ever lasting. Nothing is going to remain forever. Not even this moment.
That piece of work was made to heal you at that time. It gave you a sense of purpose, reason, love, belonging, identity. And we must realise and understand after a single moment of breath, it is all gone. It was important at that time. But you cannot hold on to it forever. The accolades, the dissent, the brick bats, the anger, the praise, the love, the hate for what you created, what you believed was wonderful and what you thought was permanent is nothing but a moment that was given to you to realise and then extend beyond.
The meaning of a mandala is that which encircles a centre. What is our centre? Our ego? Our spiritual being? Our love? Maybe it is our “nothingness.” We came from nothing and we will become nothing. There is no such thing as a legacy. That’s just history.
Does that mean we stop working? Not at all. Because we need to do the things that we’ve been chosen to do. That book I’m working on. That presentation you just finished. That child you just fed. That art that you just completed. They were all necessary. As long as you know that it’s not what defines you.It's what Lord Krishna says in the Gita about Nishkarm Yoga. "Doing your work without expectations."
So I realised long after I finished watching the show that we can do our best every day and then let it be. I know we’ve heard it one million times. But in this we must not let our ego come in. And we must know how to let the beautiful thing we made, worked on and created be free. If it stops meaning anything, if we stop asking for “what we deserve” and stop wondering “why we’re not getting” things or pained by “what is happening to us” then we have truly understood the meaning of the mandala, of the essence of life and of who we really are.
That was my spiritual awakening. Let me know about yours. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Chef Vikas Khanna Loving My Clingy Girlfriend

International Acclaimed Masterchef Vikas Khanna tweets this about my new novel
My Clingy Girlfriend
What an awesome fun book by @Madhuribanerjee. Loving it

My day is made! 
Get your copy here:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

5 Ways to NOT Be a Clingy Girlfriend

Stop Constant Questions – Where are you? When are you coming home? When are we meeting? What are you thinking? What are you planning for our anniversary? When should we meet? Why aren’t we getting married? The constant questions will make your boyfriend run from you faster than a zebra from a lion. Maybe he doesn’t have all the answers. Maybe he needs some space. Give him time to call and chase you a bit. Keep the mystery alive.

Stop Going For His Boys Nights – He has a life beyond you. He has friends he likes to drink with. This is his support system! Stop landing up for his Boys Night Outs to spend time with him. Soon all his friends will hate you and ostracise him. And ultimately he’ll resent you. Give him that one night a week or month off to just enjoy himself and get sloshed, without you giving him grief the next day. He’ll love you more.

Stop Asking About Marriage – Everyone wants to know where the relationship is going as soon as the third date is over. Some men don’t want to get married. It’s not that they’re commitment phobic, it’s just that they enjoy their space and freedom as much as they love you. Think about an alternate life with him if he’s not ready for marriage. Redefine your relationship. And if you truly want to get married and your “biological clock is ticking” set a deadline and move on if he’s still not ready, instead of pushing him into it and regretting it later.

Stop Comparing – Your best friend is getting married, another is going on a Europe tour with her boyfriend and another has been introduced to his parents. Instead of whining, demanding and comparing your relationship to others, realise what you have. Does he love you? Does he listen to you when you talk about your dreams? Does he give you space and support you? Does he look after you when you’re upset? Those are good things in a relationship. Treasure them and cherish him. Don’t demand him doing it all the time. Sometimes he doesn’t have the bandwidth to support, listen or love you. Doesn’t mean he can’t later. Give him time.

Stop Being Suspicious – He liked a girl’s photo on Facebook. He must be cheating on me! He is having a coffee with his old school friend. He’s probably cheating on me! He has a girl on his team at work?! He is definitely cheating on me! Stop getting suspicious. If you’re cool and easy about the girls in his life, he’ll appreciate it. But the more you lock him down about every female he’s spoken to, he’ll hate you. It’s ok to be possessive and a little jealous. Let him know how much you lust after him and hate it when anyone else does so too. By giving him space to make a choice, he’ll never want to leave you.    

For more laughs buy My Clingy Girlfriend here:

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Statesman on My Clingy Girlfriend

I'm a commercial fiction author. That means I'll probably never win the Man Booker Prize or a Nobel for a life changing book. But it also means that I'll write about things that everyone can relate to in simple, funny, emotional ways that no other author is able to do. That's my USP. And at the end of the day all I can hope for is that you'll buy my books and love them, without or without them being classics :) 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Absolute India interview and review of My Clingy Girlfriend

Why Do Women Keep Silent?

The other day I was at the airport when I noticed an obnoxious older man with a pretty, young woman. I use the term obnoxious because he was cursing the woman for no reason, calling her stupid, idiotic and utterly childish. 

My flight got delayed and I was having a coffee while the couple who were apparently on the same flight, were sitting behind me having a drink. While the man got drunk, he became more obnoxious. The woman tried to have a conversation with him in low tones and all I could hear was, “I can’t believe you can be so dumb.” And “I really can’t understand why you’re so stupid. I mean seriously you have no brains or what?” The woman didn't say anything and looked away most of the time, fiddling with her hair and sipping her drink while I was seething with rage. “Why are you keeping quiet woman?” I wanted to yell out but stopped myself as boarding was announced.

A few days later I went to a party where a husband verbally abused his wife in front of all of us. He said things like “Don’t eat that or you’ll get fat again!” And very often, “Oh she has no sense of style. I buy all her clothes.” And even things like “She was nothing till I married her. Now look how high class she pretends to be.” The wife just smiled and drank green tea because her husband hadn't allowed her to have a glass of wine. 

Why did she keep quiet? And again all I said to him was, “I think she’s amazing. With or without you.” But I figured he didn't care and she wasn't bothered.

Why do women keep silent in abusive relationships? Do they feel that because a man doesn't hit them, that there is no abuse? Is it because as a species we've been taught to be subservient? “Be adjusting. Be accommodating. Don’t pick fights. A man is everything in your life. He will give you status and security. Forgive him his faults. All men are like that only.”

The women in question were pretty, strong, and educated. So why do so many intelligent women keep silent at this abuse?

Because we were taught to do so.

Because somewhere we doubt our own capabilities. We are insecure of our potential. We've been told, taught and have imbibed that it’s a man’s world and we won’t be able to succeed without the help of a man. A drunken partner is better than no partner at all. Being single is worse than being in a dead marriage. Be a good woman and look after your partner – feed him, clean his house, look after his needs, keep him happy. If you keep quiet, the abuse goes away.

But let me tell you. It doesn't. 
The abuse never goes away. 

It comes in small lethal doses over time eroding your confidence and belief. And women suffer in silence, living in misery, self-doubt, depression and in delusion thinking their lives are good enough.

But the most important reason why women keep silent is because they’re LAZY. Yes. They don’t want to upset the “system” of having to explain to their families why they broke up, having to deal with friends looking at them as if it was their fault it didn’t work out and having to work hard at earning a living because the man at some level gives them money to do whatever they need. 
“Arrey I can buy whatever I want and he travels often. That’s good enough for me. At least he’s not slapping me.”

Stopping the abuse starts from YOU. Stop being CLINGY, LETHARGIC, LANGUID, SLUGGISH, INDOLENT.

This is what it means to be empowered. To do something for yourself. That’s YOUR CHOICE.

Stand up for yourself and tell him to “Shut up!” Tell him to take his own plate to the kitchen. Tell him what you want him to do for you instead of the other way around. 

Be strong. Be brave. Be bold. Be brilliant. 

And be powerful enough to leave the man to live your life the way you were chosen to do if he continues to abuse you. 

You are not the weaker sex. Stop behaving so. Have the courage to not be silent.
Speak up!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Crossword Bestseller List!

Only one week after the launch and My Clingy Girlfriend is already on the Crossword Bestseller List!

It's available in every book store and Amazon and Flipkart too.

What 25 Yrs of Pretty Woman Taught Me

1990. The year of Good Fellas, Godfather III, Home Alone and Pretty Woman. All great films but only one left an indelible mark on me. The one where the rich man rescues the poor woman from the streets and they fall in love and live happily ever after. Pretty Woman.

Somehow it got ingrained into me for a long time that relationships were as simple as that. And a whole generation grew up waiting for a rich, handsome man to come along and sweep them off their feet while they did nothing but look pretty. I wanted the fairy tale too.

My first boyfriend was a big industrialist’s son. Loaded. Semi good looking. Funny. I thought I had it all. I went to a prestigious lady college in Delhi and thought I would graduate and live happily ever after with this industrialist. After all Edward and Vivian did the same. I believed I was Julia Roberts. I took loaded son shopping and behaved weird most days trying to mould him and teach him to be grounded. He took me shopping like Edward had with Vivian on Rodeo Drive. I wore beautiful dresses and he even got me a magnificent necklace which wasn’t diamonds but quite beautiful. I was living Vivian’s life. This was it. I was Pretty Woman. The kind he’d like to meet.

Till it crashed. And he dumped me.

So I grew up. 25 years later these are the things I learned from Pretty Woman:

Baby I’m Going to Treat You So Nice You’re Never Gonna Wanna Let me Go – Relationships disintegrate over time because we stop being nice to each other. We stop listening to our partners, stop caring how they’re feeling, stop looking after their emotional, physical needs. If you want a relationship to last 25 years, you’re gonna wanna treat each other nicely every day.

It’s just that, uh, very few people surprise me. Yeah well you’re lucky. Most of em shock the hell outta me. – If you saw something different in each other over time, keep the mystery alive. Whether it’s taking a surprise vacation or trying something new in bed, surprise and shock each other in a good way to keep the romance rocking.

I never treated you like a prostitute. You just did. - Never Stop Working! Earn your own money. Wild women do…and they don’t regret it! It’s a high to get that pay check. No matter what profession, strive to do better, to do different things and be your own successful person so that no one at any point can put you down, not even your partner.

Do you have anything in this shop as beautiful as she is? You’re Not Julia! God she’s perfect with the perfect hair, smile and oh smoking hot body. And we’re not her. And we’re still fine. And beautiful and sexy. Be proud. Be humble. Be forgiving to yourself. And know you’re not Julia. You’re better.

You’re Late. You’re Stunning. You’re Forgiven – Let it go. Some fights aren’t meant to last. Men will need space. They will be late. They will forget dates. They’re forgiven. Women may not know how to cook. They may hate children. They blow up too much money. They’re forgiven. Fight over things that are important and let the other small issues go.

What happens after he rescues her? She rescues him right back. – A man cannot do everything for you. As a woman you’re supposed to rescue him too. You need to do it daily for years. You need to help a man become the person he has dreamed of being, not what you think he should be. Always motivate and support him. And make sure he does the same for you.

I want the fairy tale – Doesn’t everyone really still want the Pretty Woman fairy tale romance? In 25 years, relationships have become extremely complicated. Not everyone will end up like Vivian and Edward do on that fire escape. Their happily ever after isn’t yours. A great relationship might actually be exactly what you have. And for all the single people, be the king of wishful thinking and find your own fairy tale. 

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...