Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Lamentations of a sombre sky by Manan Kapoor: a review

“The Lamentations of a sombre sky” is a novel by debut author Manan Kapoor. Doesn’t seem like it, isn’t it? For such a heavy duty title, the cover strikes you so hard that you have to have another look at it to know what it is all about. The colour combinations, the effects, and the background image- everything suits the title and the theme of the book. I would like to say this to the cover designer that it is, off late, one of the most striking yet simple covers I have encountered. Or will it sound that I am hallucinating or exaggerating if I say that the cover feels even more beautiful at night? As I type this down, it is night over here and my laptop is playing the track “Gar Firdaus ruhey zameen Ast, Haminastu... Haminastu” from the recently released film “Fitoor” which roughly translates to “If there is a heaven on Earth, It’s here... It’s here”. I couldn’t have had a better mind frame for writing about this book. I would not waste much time. Here is what the blurb of the book says.

According to the blurb- Kashmir 1991 In between the insurgency and the exodus, Inayat finds solace in the company of Gul, a Kashmiri Pundit, and Aaqib. She blooms under the eyes of her father, Maqbool- an alcoholic poet, and her mother- Wahida, who is fraught with sanguinity. They spend their days listening to The Doors in Gul’s backyard and attending Shakes-Peer’s English lessons at the school. However, as they leave behind their childhood, they realize that the future holds things for them that they have never imagined. Inayat comes face to face with loss as bereavement engulfs Kashmir. The echoing of the machine guns, the wails of her loved ones and the silence that she is bequeathed with is all that is left. The Lamentations of a Sombre Sky is the story of a skirmish with life and the perseverance in the dark times.

When I started reading the book, I was confused on what to expect. I did not know. Did I expect Black? Or was it White? Or probably, Grey? But I have to give it to the book that it is much more than what the colour palette could ever justify. The book took a moment to fit in to the mind set I was in when I started this book but when it did fit in, it was unputdownable. I don’t remember having a moment where the book was kept aside and I was doing something else. You can trust me on this, no matter what idea of the book you get from the blurb of the book; you need to read the book to know what I am talking about or else you would think that I am blabbering without any kind of reason. Almost most of the ideas that you might have of the story or the characters from the blurb would be broken once you get inside the book. At least it did with me.

I should talk about the characters first. To begin with, I do not have any favourite characters because the whole book gripped me. All the characters, though there were not many were given equal and enough attention throughout the book. For me, there was no character which wasn’t given the limelight that they deserved or were given the limelight they didn’t deserve. The way the author has described the characters and the clarity the author had on his characters, it was such a pleasant sight to see. It has been a long time since a debut author stunned me so much.

Coming to the story, the story is truly the lamentations of a sombre sky. The way the story progresses and the way the author takes the story forward makes it so wonderful that there was this one time in the story (which, mind you, I do not usually do) where I had to pause and read the author’s bio to see what the author does. It has been a pleasure reading what Manan Kapoor has to write and to say. I have to say that even being a debut author, his flow of writing is commendable. I also have to give it to most new authors these days that it feels awesome to see them attempting genres that don’t fit quintessentially in the chick lit genre. This piece of fiction by Manan Kapoor is very touching and it stays with you for a long time. It makes you smile and it makes you cry. It makes you at peace and you still feel the turmoil- all at the same time.

If I speak of the cons of the book then I have to force myself to think about it. Shall I be true? I wanted more of Aaqib and Inayat moments and of course more of Aaqib, Inayat and Gul moments. Keeping that aside, I did not want the book to end but when the book ended, I remember hugging the book and re-reading a poem from the book over and over again. Having said that, I’ll confess (with my due apologies to the author) that I had clicked a picture of that particular poem and had sent it to 2/3 of my friends who I knew would appreciate and they loved it. All that said and done, for me, this book is 4.75 out of 5 and to sum it all up, here are two lines of my favourite poem from the book-

“A pinch of white- ecstasy, bliss and delight.

And the dash of black, devouring every light...”

Sunday, 5 June 2016

"As an individual, each book has helped me to be a better person!" says Sudeep Nagarkar in a quick chat in between running from city to city for his book tour!

One of the most approachable yet busy author of today's time, it is not everyday that I get to follow up an interview with such a person. There has been a lot of changes from back in 2014 to 2016! It is a pleasure seeing him rise the best selling charts year after year and that is why, the opportunity for a chat in between tough book tours back to back for his latest release- She Swiped Right into my Heart, was something that I could not let go. His books are being read time and again by the fans and it needs no introduction that I am talking about none other than, Sudeep Nagarkar. From a very honest and heartfelt facebook chat interview back in 2014, here is another informal chat with the author himself....

Vanya's Notebook-- It is awesome to have an opportunity to interact with you once again. As it is as much awesome to see you reach great heights from the first time we had talked. How has it been all these years? Tell us about your journey from the debut book Few things left unsaid till your 7th book She Swiped Right into my heart?
Sudeep Nagarkar-- Being a full time writer in India is never easy and I won’t say that journey was a cake walk but was fruitful for sure. Right decisions at right time helped and the unconditional love from readers across the nation was ofcourse the pillar. The struggle during initial days were different and if I have to compile it in few words then it was all about getting visibility in the bookstores. Now, after 7 books and all topping bestseller charts, that is no more an issue as you know. However, what boosts me and keeps me grounded is the struggle to deliver something new each time. And I think I have done reasonably well.
Vanya's Notebook--. You have been known as an author who has always been very consistent in his writing endeavours. Very similar style of writing, romance etc. Maybe the characters and the story are different but at one point of time, do you not think that you should change your genre? Or probably the readers would want to read more quirky stuff from you rather than just romance?
Sudeep-- If that’s what you think then probably you have not read the latest book ‘She swiped right into my heart’ which is not an out and out romantic book. It deals with sensitive issues of today's modern society and delivers a strong message about co-existence of all humans including LGBT Community. There is still lot of hatred and negligence for them and they have the right to choose their own path and live life the way they want and that is what book portrays.
Vanya's Notebook-- To trace the journey of your publications, the title of your books also has a journey. As if they are a character and not just the title. You started with a few things left unsaid, followed by that’s the way we met. Finally it started with a friend request but then you said sorry you’re not my type. You went back to conveying your love by saying you’re the password to my life, then you are trending in my dreams and now, she swiped right into my heart. What can the audience expect next? Marriage is on the cards for you in your real life. Would that be so in your next book too?
Sudeep-- Ha ha. Too early to say but yes, you can surely expect my story! Its really interesting as we have nothing in common. Not even the city we live in! So keeping fingers crossed and I hope I am able to convince her for a book on our story.
Vanya's Notebook-- In the last interview you had mentioned that you are shy to read your own books and scared if the book would sell or not, is it still the same or has something changed in these years? To compliment you here, you look a lot more confident and very ‘at home’ than what you were a few years back.
Sudeep-- Its still the same!! Thanks for the compliment though. However, now its not about how many copies my books are selling. Its about the message that I want to convey. Even if a few readers write down to me saying that they are going to implement the message I portrayed, then I feel my work is done!
Vanya's Notebook-- You have taken up writing books full time. How tough was that decision to make? Especially having your MBA done and then in the society we live in, you have even faced opposition from your parents, if I am not wrong. From that, to the fact that now you are engaged to the love of your life is quite a big step. How has it been?
Sudeep-- Rather, I would like to say my parents were the only one who supported my decision. Yes, personally it was tough as I was at that point of my career where one wrong decision would have left a big impact. But I decided to follow my passion of writing. Touchwood, till date things are going well and I am sure with the love of readers, it would only grow in the future. But for all the aspiring writers out there who want to pursue their career in writing, I would like to say that don’t think about getting a bestseller tag or criticism. Just follow your heart and be a little patient while submitting your work to the publishers. Don’t let others exploit you and your hard work.
Vanya's Notebook-- In the last interview you were asked that if compared to the contemporaries that you have, where you would place them around you. You answered that you would rather that they are around you and you click a nice photograph. Taking cue from there, did that photograph happen? And yet again, if not, why do you think it did not happen?
Sudeep-- This question really doesn’t make sense here as we all writers are good friends today and meet often.
Vanya's Notebook-- 3 years prior to this date when I had interacted with you for the first time, you were a very different person. Today, you might have similarities with the one you were back then but you have majorly changed as a person. My question is, what would you of the present, like to say to the person who was 3 years back? And to the person who will be 3 years from now on. And touchwood, I hope, we can do another follow up interview 3 years from date and see how much has changed.
Sudeep-- You can ask any of my readers, and they will tell you one thing! I still reply personally and treat everyone as a family. So I don’t think I have changed as a person. But as an individual, each book has helped me to be a better person! I have no regrets of what I was in the past, the mistakes I committed and will never regret in the future too. As each one of them has only helped me to be strong emotionally. And why only 3 years, we can interact even when you have at least a dozen kids. (laughs)
Vanya's Notebook-- Having said that, I would also like to mention that there are many young and talented people in this industry who do not get the limelight that they deserve or the society probably pulls them down somehow. What do you have to say to that and to those people who give up their dreams? Obviously, also to those who end up living their dreams against all odds just like you?
Sudeep-- No one can pull down anyone if they are dedicated towards their dreams. External forces don’t matter when you are passionate enough and honest towards your work. As I said in one of the previous questions, one has to be patient to find a right person or a publication house who would recognize their talent and do justice to their manuscript.
Vanya's Notebook-- Talking about the title of your latest book, She Swiped right into my heart. You are a very social media friendly person. You reply to all the texts sent to you, you interact with the readers and you have been touching the hearts of them through only the title. Was the phrase “swiped right” actually taken from the whole hype about the dating application Tinder or the other social media applications where “Swipe right” means to like? Having said that, please tell us a bit about your book too.
Sudeep-- Ha ha, yes the source and the terminology originated from the app. However, its not a book based on Tinder. Rather book focuses many social issues. It talks about a girl who is not fancy looking and who gets bullied often and her fight for existence. It speaks about giving equal right for LGBT segment as I have observed that society is yet to absorb their co-existence with honor and respect. Also I wanted to give support and urge Lesbians, gays, Bi to come in open and be proud of who they are and enjoy their beautiful life.
Vanya's Notebook-- Finally, wishing you loads of luck for your upcoming book, many more to come and yes, for your life ahead. As usual, it has been very enriching to talk to you. I hope I didn’t bore you much with the questions. Thank you for taking out time for this. To wrap it all up, I would like to request you to say a few lines for the readers and for Vanya’s Notebook.
Sudeep-- I always tell the readers, there will be hurdles in your life, but keep fighting with them and you will achieve success. This new book is written with loads of love and essence for female, the 49% of our country and the Queer aka LGBT community with a strong message for the modern society. Gift it, spread the message and make this world equal for all.

As always, it is a delight talking to Sudeep Nagarkar and here's wishing him all the best for this book and much more to come.