Friday, 27 March 2015

Follow your passion

I often look at successful actors, directors, writers, poets really anyone in a creative profession and envy them. When I read their life-histories what comes through is that they had no option but to follow their heart. They never had a choice, did not need to consider a choice. Not all of them had money, or came from privileged backgrounds.

But what many have in common is knowing what they wanted to do pretty early in life. And they followed their intuition. Yes they wanted to be successful and be famous and make a lot of money. But that wasn't the driving need. Foremost in their mind was the need to be fulfilled. To simply do what made them happy.  Its taken me most of my adult life, but I finally get it.

Just follow your passion.

It really is as simple as that.

But for many of us it wasn't. There were too many other people who told us we couldn't. And we were impressionable enough to believe it. I wasn't one of those who was able to look beyond the immediate chatter of my peers and parents. I believed them when they told me I had to conform. So I never tried my hand at the one thing that would make me happy.

But now I know better.

And I also know the myth— that if you do follow your passion, you will end up poor —is just that. A myth.

I am far poorer if I don't try. If I don't follow my heart then what is there to life. And no I may not be successful (by the standards of the world) but for me all there is ... is to keep coming back to the red thread in my life.

That, which fires me up, makes me feel more alive than ever before.

That, which makes me in sync with the world around me.

When I feel like this I know its the truth.

And I will keep chasing it, and keep coming back to it.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

What about me?

From the day we are born we compare ourselves to our neighbours, friends, cousins, siblings.

She is taller than me, fairer than me, has longer hair than me, gets better grades than me, her boyfriend is better looking than mine; she was awarded a scholarship to study at an Ivy League university unlike me, had kids before me and now has more money than me.

In all this what’s lost is the me.

What do I want to do?

Where do I want to be?

What drives me?

What makes me … Me

What am I passionate about?

What is it that consumes me, so when I step into its circle, it makes me happy.

Is there that one thing I can do today … So if I were to die tomorrow, I would die happy.

Easy to ask.

Difficult to answer

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Pi day

Today is Pi day.

The 14th day of the 3rd month of the year 2015


How cool is that?

And this year, at 9:26:53 we'll even have a Pi Second matches up to the first ten digits of Pi.

Just for that infinitesimal point in time, I will be filled with Pi.

One with Pi.

I am Pi.

And I feel the possibilities.

The finite within the infinite.

I will be at the juncture of time and space.

The meeting of the real with the virtual

At the centre of the universe.

It's the origin of what is to come, when I turn my back to what has past.

And I feel alive

Which of course I am - I just don't often acknowledge it.

(Thanks +Seth Godin & +Joseph Stromberg for pushing me into my pi-self)

Saturday, 7 March 2015

It's not about India's Daughter - It's about India's Sons

Events so far—

India's Daughter is a documentary commissioned by BBC Storyville, meant to air on International Women’s Day

It traces the brutal gang rape and murder of 23-year-old medical student Jyoti Singh on a moving bus in Delhi in 2012, and the unprecedented protests and riots, which this event ignited throughout India.

The Indian government obtained a court order banning the screening.

Taking no chances, the BBC brought it forward to air in the UK.

The Indian government have since, successfully ordered the removal of a number of versions of the video from YouTube.

I knew it was going to be a disturbing watch, but nothing prepared me for the terror I felt at the re-enactment of the crime. I already knew the horrific details of what was to come, yet was unable to tear my eyes away. All the while inside I was screaming with fear for Jyoti, begging her not to get on the bus, to run, run, run as far away as she could. I watched helpless as she did and the tragedy unfolded, again.

Then, one of the convicted rapists came on screen. He shared the details without wavering. “A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.” He declared, before adding, “A decent girl won't roam around at 9 o'clock at night ... Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes.”

I know it's not just him who believes this. I have heard this sentiment expressed in many different ways growing up in Bombay.

It's why my mother stayed up at night unable to sleep until she had assured herself that I had reached home safely, after a long day at work. It's why I was admonished for wearing tight jeans. Why it was drilled into me that it was dangerous to stay out after dark, and definitely after 9 pm. Precisely because there are people like him out there.

The rapist speaks about the youngest of them ramming an iron rod into Jyoti, and pulling out her innards, as if it was an everyday incident. There is no hint of having done anything wrong. "If she had kept quiet" he says, if she had not screamed, had given them what they wanted, they would have only raped and gone their own way.

It brought to mind the number of times when travelling by bus or train in my home city of Bombay I have been felt up by men; been commented on lewdly or just been stared at hungrily as if they'd like to ... rape me. It's difficult even admitting how scared I was then. And yet, everyday I went to work, despite the nightmare commute, despite what lay outside the safety of my home, because I knew I had to first overcome that fear to make something of myself.

I knew I couldn't stand up to them. I knew if I confronted my tormentors it would only have made it worse. For me. And so I kept my head down, put up with it, got on with life. While all the time inside, I was yelling at them to keep their hands to themselves, to keep their gaze averted, fuming with fury at what gave them the right to do what they did?

It's unreal that a crime like this can take place today - in the new millennium, in the capital city of a country that's in the race to become a global economic superpower. It's even more inexplicable that this man can air his distorted views to camera without fear. It's because he believes he is right, because is secure in the knowledge that there are millions of them who agree with him.

When did this happen? That there are so many in my home country who think basic human values don’t apply in everyday life and certainly not to women.

Watching India's Daughter, I realised with even more clarity there are many different India's. There is the relatively safer India I grew up in and then there is the other everyday, dystopian one that lay beyond my doorstep, beyond the air-conditioned circle that my extended family live in. 

The film may have set out to examine the values and mind-sets of the rapists. It revealed the complete lack of.
This is the face that will haunt me from India's Daughter - Jyoti's grieving mother
Has my birth country become such a merciless society where most men don't acknowledge the existence of women, or if they do its only as an object to be bullied, groped, raped, beaten, tortured and killed?

I refuse to believe the faces of those men are the face of all Indian men. I am married to one, and know many others, and I know they can be kind, gentle, patient, creative, artistic, caring.

Yet, when I hear the policeman in charge of the investigation guarantee that Delhi is a very safe city “even for women" I know he is one of them.

When the government is more worried that the documentary might taint the country’s image abroad and take away tourism dollars, than about it depicting a horrific truth, I know there are many of them in power.

When the first defense lawyer tries to show how much of a humanist he is by comparing women, to flowers and diamonds, and other things that can be plucked and owned and thrown, I know even education doesn't change their mind-set.

And when the other lawyer says confidently that if his daughter had pre-marital sex, he would burn her, I know he is only voicing the thoughts of millions of them.

I always suspected most men in my home country were like him but now, hearing him speak, I know they are.

Perhaps what one of them declared is true, "We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no space for a woman.” And no, he wasn’t joking.

Or perhaps it's time India took a good hard look at her sons and figured out how so many of them turned out so wrong.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

I don't want to share, but I can't not

No, I dont want to see that your child has just been born
That this is your first family selfie —the only one before you untie the knot
I dont want to see pictures of your honeymoon
And that diamond ring which will be enshrined in your tomb.
That first kiss you stole from her, the first crush
A glance, that feeling
Let that stay with you—
For you, and, only you, for when you are heartbroken and aground
And when you die,
I dont want your face popping up on my timeline
So, I see you are more missed in death than in life
 For, when your life unravels in front of mine
Dipping in and out in real-time
It’s confusing and then…

When we meet
We dont really have anything to speak
For I know everything about you,
Even what your family mishaps look like.
And while I too fall prey to it too many a time
I want to try and hold onto my sacred space, from now on
And not share.

Yet, I can't not...


Saturday, 24 January 2015

Debdatta Sahay aka DDS - Record holder for most Book Reviews, Limca Book of Records

Debdatta or DDS as I think of  her read my first novel The Destiny of Shaitan and gave it an amazing review. To an author trying to find her voice she was the proverbial lifeline I clutched at to navigate my way through the shark-infested-waters of fast-ebbing writerly self-confidence. I survived.

And went on to write The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer, in no small part thanks to incredible reviewers like DDS who saw the tapestry I was weaving. I was fortunate to meet DDS not long ago. 

In a world where adults bemoan the lack of reading in the new generation, DDS stands out like a shooting star. She is passionate about reading. 

So passionate, she quit her job—you heard me right— to ... R.E.A.D.

Yep - she is a dream come true for authors like me. She actually reads ... and reviews. And she reads 'em fast. Last year she read 260 books. Whew!! It came as no surprise to me to find she now holds the Limca Book of Records for most book reviews in India :D

DDS reminds me of why it's so important to follow your passion. She is living proof that if you simply do what you love to do... well the rest will come. So simple, yet so difficult.

Check out her interview here in my Inspirational Avatar series—

DDS - holds the Limca Book of Records for Most Book Reviews

A. How do you feel when you read?
I don't think it is a feeling I can describe. It is my passion. I live the lives of the characters I read about. Its often invigorating, refreshing and sometimes sad. But the overall experience of going through so many lives is inexplicable. You have to live it to feel it.

B. Why the goal of reading x no of books in certain days?
Reading Challenges always motivate me to read more and that is afterall, all I ever wanted to do. 

C. What stories are you partial to?
I love any story, irrespective of its genre, that has a good plot and solid characters. But Satyajit Ray, Agatha Christie and Enid Blyton are the ones that really got me into reading and so mystery/thrillers will always be my go-to genre. And even after 23 years of reading, I often relax with my collection of "Feluda", "Poirot" and "Famous Five".

D. Is reading on the decline in the world? ( and in India)
That seems to be the popular opinion what with the different gadgets that lure today's kids. But the fact is that people are reading more - whether its thanks to J.K.Rowling or Chetan Bhagat (did I just take those two names in the same sentence?!!), kids and adults are reading more. Plus, the e-readers have opened up a whole new reading generation. I know people who never read before are now picking up the juicy romcoms for entertainment. Harry Potter on the other hand opened up the world of fantasy to a lot of people like me who previously thought that magic was for kids.

E. What is the role of commercial fiction in a reader's journey?
Commercial Fiction is probably the most popular genre. It is what gets people into reading and keeps them continuing. At least 55-60% of what I read can be categorised under commercial fiction. So, I would say it plays a pretty important role and mostly shapes up a reader's reading habit.

F. The role of eBooks vs printed books in a reader's journey?
eBooks are convenient - one can carry as many books while traveling, of course it saves space and is cheaper... But for a true bookworm print books will be the go to. The smell, feel of the printed words on a page and the feel of holding a print copy is irreplaceable.

G. How do you discover new books?
I have a few go to blogs that I check out often for their reviews. Besides, there's always Goodreads. I also browse, read blurbs and chapters off random books at a bookstore.

H. What made you finally move from working a job to reading full time. The incident which tipped you over.You have to understand that when people of my age were busy studying for better grades and dreaming of high flying careers, I dreamt of a time when I could just read for days and don't have to do anything else. So when my job pressure was so much that it took me 10 days to read one book, I simply quit my job. It was that easy for me thanks to a VERY supportive husband.

H. The one thing you want to do: have done before you die? 
 I want to visit and travel all over Italy... Every nook and corner.

Debdatta Dasgupta Sahay  has been blogging about books and authors at since Feb 10, 2012 and as of June 30, 2014, she had posted 387 reviews. The first book she reviewed was The Postcard Killers by James Patterson. She has conducted 70 author interviews too

Friday, 9 January 2015

My choice is that I don't have to choose

I admire Madonna. From the time she burst on the pop-music scene, she has constantly reinvented herself every decade, always teaming up with the current artist on trend. 

I am not Madonna.

But thanks to technology I too am able to constantly reinvent myself in this lifetime.

So it means I don't have to choose just one role anymore. I can simultaneously be an author, a blogger and a marketer.

I was a writer first, then became a marketer, thanks to opportunities in media and also because the roles held which allowed me to travel to many different countries in the world. The most memorable of these is the city of Belgrade. A story I heard there was that  when NATO bombed the city in 1999, the schools, colleges, offices were shut down, for security reasons.

But rather than stay scared at home, the Serbs decided that what the heck! We are going to die some day, and if it's today so be it. The general consensus was that they'd rather die while partying on the town than cowering at home. And, so while bombs dropped outside they were at the pub celebrating.

Fact or fiction I don't know, but this particular nugget has stayed with me. Probably because I wish I could be as 'ballsy' as the Serbs. You know... Just live in the moment, make the most of it, rather than continuously plan out for the future as is what we are programmed to do.

So, the reason I share this story, is that all through the time I journeyed through these highly demanding marketing roles, I realise now I was actually searching for human interest stories.

I looked for it in the background of my peers, in the motivations of the CEOs I met—often trying to understand what makes them do what they did—in the more interesting real life-story narrated by the security-guard at the last office I worked at. It was this trying to understand what people are all about, which propelled me on. Perhaps in their experiences, I was looking for a key to understanding myself better.

All that time, I had been building scenarios & characters in my head. So when I finally put some real intention behind the words, stringing them together, I found I had opened something even I didn’t really understand. Not fully.

I am learning with each book I write, with each character I create.

Being a marketer is very valuable, because even as I write my novels the marketer in me is figuring out how to position it and trying to understand how what I am writing will stand out in the cluttered world we live in. I think it even helps me in sharpening my protagonists point-of-view. Because after all that's what a brand is about: it has certain values, a certain DNA, an unique take on the world. That's the perception people buy into. And so for myself as an author brand and for each of my book/character-brands, I am subconsciously building the messaging, of how to convey what I am writing to the world; even as I am writing.

Not too shabby then.

I used to be very defensive that I had been a marketer first and an author later. For it felt like in doing so I had been untrue to the artist in me. But I know now, that all through that time, I always have been a writer. That is the red-thread running through my life. Of, being someone who needs to express herself.  Yet, that need for self-expression has been of varying strengths at different stages in my life.

Earlier, in life the need for independence and travel overrode everything else. 

Now, the need to self-express is most critical. 

So, while I will always be both an author and a marketer, I can instinctively play the role asked of me, depending on the situation I am faced with.

My choice is that I don't have to choose.

This post is a part of #UseYourAnd activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette Venus

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Time is a fickle mistress

Many years after passing out of university, I find myself back on campus. This time my classmate & investment banker par-excellence, Sanjay Bajaj, interviews me on the birth of Ruby Iyer, my writing process, how to find the work-write balance and why Ruby is so angry? Thank you NMIMS alumni cell and my alma mater, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in Bombay for hosting the event.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

How 26/11 changed this life of @RubyIyer

The 26/11 terrorist attack on Bombay 
and how it changed this life of @RubyIyer

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Ruby Iyer Diaires - 26/11 entry


The call comes a few hours past twilight. After the sun has descended into the depths of the Arabian Sea, its golden rays setting the curve of the Gateway of India on fire.

Sarita has taken Sanjay to the Taj Mahal hotel, for a kiddies’ birthday party. My little bro is just eight, but already he has a more active social life than me. Its 9.30 pm and they are not home yet. Apparently he is already inculcating the habit of staying out late at night.

Ma is all settled in for the evening, sunk in the cushions of her favourite settee: the Chesterfield Leather Sofa imported from the UK. She’s already got her third G&T of the evening in hand. Fully happy she is just now.

Dad is in the study, the closed door indicating a do-not-disturb-I-am-working-mode.

I wander the corridor: wearing a path in the space between my room, the living room and the kitchen. 

A restless ghost. 

I suppose I should do my homework… Who cares about algebra anyway?

I could complete the art assignment… Yeesh!

Then there is that essay to write… UGH!

I look to where I can see Ma’s toes, the nails painted a bright coral. Against the dull brown of the sofa, it resembles a pale, slimy, fish with a pouty, pink mouth.

From the dining table, I pick a bunch of grapes from the fruit bowl. Sarita has placed them there on strict instructions from Ma… Its not like she wants me to eat fruit, to stay healthy or anything like that. Oh! No. It’s just that, a cluster of grapes in a wooden bowl, next to shiny, red apples look really good on display. Just like in Good Housekeeping.

I pop a grape into my mouth, breaking the skin so the juice spurts out. It’s sweet and trite at the same time. Taking aim, I pelt one in the direction of Ma’s foot… And miss.

I raise another to my eyes, aligning it in line with her toe. I let it go and am rewarded with a flinch of her foot, nothing more. I need something bigger, a rock perhaps? 

There’s no guarantee she will notice me even then.

Instead, I walk into the living room and picking up the remote control, point it in the direction of the TV, switching it on.

The harsh music of a breaking-news program cuts through the calm, followed by a small shriek. "Really Ruby, do you have to scare me like that?" Ma reaches to take the remote from my hands, then stops transfixed.

The screen shows the red blush of the grand dome of the Taj Mahal Hotel. There are gun shots somewhere off screen and in response greyish blue smoke rises in the distance from one of the upper windows of the note. 

The images are shaky as if the hands of the person holding the camera are trembling. But there is no mistaking the news scroll: 

Breaking News. Series of explosions in the city. Terrorist attack suspected

The news reporter continues: "I am reporting live from the Taj Mahal hotel, where shots have been reported. In at least another two areas of the city shootings are going on. We believe that gunmen went into the Oberoi hotel and the Taj Mahal hotel and opened fire. I can’t confirm any of this at the moment, but at least four people are reported dead…"

A fist slams into my stomach and the hairs on my forearms stand on end as if I have been blasted by an arctic burst of air-conditioned air. At twelve I am old enough to recognise it for it is. Disaster! How strange to see a turning point in my life, play out in front of me. I feel like I am in a dream. 

Then, a sound makes me turn. The glass has fallen from Ma’s hands onto the settee, staining it with colourless liquid. The lemon twist bounces on the sofa before falling to the white carpet   below. 

I flinch awaiting a flurry of angry words at making her spill her drink. She doesn’t move. Doesn’t even notice the leather shrivel under the onslaught of the spilt drink. 

She is really, upset… And it’s not at me.

Something makes me walk over. 

I really should leave the room now.

I don’t want to feel anything for her.

Why does her pain seem like my own?

Slipping onto the seat next to her, I put my arms around her. Ma hesitates. I sense the turmoil in her; something is shattering inside, squirming to be let loose. Fear!

Her hand creeps around my waist and she pulls me to her… Close enough for the orange-cinnamon of her perfume to waft through me.

We watch wordless at the people running away from the hotel. Shots are fired… Sparks of red in the distance. 

Neither of us has voiced the unspoken. Sanjay! He is there. If we don’t say it aloud, it can’t be true right?

A phone rings in the distance, jerking us from the trance the flickering images have flung over us. A door slams and Dad runs into the room. He stops when he sees us cowering in a corner of the sofa. I look up and see the lines on his forehead. His eyes are terrified. He comes to a stop near the door, hovering there, not sure what to do. 

I hold out a hand, a plea in my eyes. Help us! He too hesitates. A look I can’t interpret scuttles over his face: Confusion? Anxiety? Distress…? It is gone before I can put a finger to it. Brow still furrowed, he walks towards us, sitting down next to me. 

"My baby, my poor baby. God save my little boy…" I have never heard Ma pray as she does that day, or ever evoke the powers above. 

After today, she never will again.

Dad embraces both of us: a large, warm hug. The smell of wood smoke-citrus and something else nutty flows over me.

I watch the tragedy unfold on screen.

Enfolded for the first time in living memory between my parents, I am happy.

Read the complete story in The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer  Amazon US  |  Amazon UK|  Amazon India.  Add Ruby on  Goodreads