Thursday, 30 December 2010

2011




Happy New Year to any one following this blog. Like the greeting shows I hope all my writer friends fill their books with new projects and get their novels, short stories and poems published in 2011 and everyone enjoys peace, health and happiness always. As I have stated before I am not making any resolutions at all but just taking stock as we all do and hoping to be a bit more disciplined this year. FB and Twitter have been fantastic for friendships and lit information but has also been a very addictive distraction. So in January I hope to open my new book of the year and fill its pages with something worthwhile. A small plea to friends if you are following this blog please acknowledge when you can either in comments or click following. So many of you tell me 'I read that in your blog' but I never knew that you are a follower. The other plea is this. As a new writer I would be grateful for your reviews of my book on Amazon. I had so many emails to me personally on how much you liked 'Twice Born' but a few lines on Amazon, if you use it, would make a tremendous difference to a new writer.
A new beginning in 2011 is full of promise to look forward. I hope reading about Isabel Allende's literary routine kick starts in me, a new disciplined way of approaching my writing life. She starts a new novel every year! From Wikipedia:

"Allende also holds to a very methodical literary routine. She writes using a computer, working Monday through Saturday, 9:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. "I always start on January 8," Allende stated; "a tradition she began in 1981 with a letter she wrote to her dying grandfather that would become the groundwork for her first novel, The House of the Spirits." Allende is also quoted as saying:

In January 8, 1981, I was living in Venezuela and I received a phone call that my beloved grandfather was dying. I began a letter for him that later became my first novel, The House of the Spirits. It was such a lucky book from the very beginning, that I kept that lucky date to start.

Happy reading and writing to all my blog followers and the all the best for 2011.

Friday, 3 December 2010

World in Books Series- India












Fantastic evening at the Milngavie Bookshop with Prose Punch and Pakora. Well punch is from India as most people are aware, the five spices(The word panch means five) added to the wine gave a special flavour to the evening. Twenty people came along wrapped up against the chill and enjoyed listening to a short extract from my new novel 'Bombay Baby' and a couple of poems on Diwali. Even the Lord Provost of East Dunbartonshire, managed to attend the event.
To the strains of Ravi Shankar they watched how to tie a sari, marvelling at the six yards worn so elegantly by the women in India, though the mannequin was a bit tricky to keep up straight and we all had a laugh as it fell once and was rescued by a gentleman sitting beside it. Some had their hands painted with henna and liked the fact that the herb tattoo would wash away in a couple of weeks and not taint the skin permanently. The evening ended with everyone tucking into a delicious meal provided by Cafe Review's Gillian. Such events add a bit of culture and fun to book readings and authors who have participated like the change from a formal book reading to a different format that has elements of music, food and other aspects and it attracts more people. Anyway a freezing evening was warmed up wonderfully by the bookshop that serves the local community with unique new events.

A Spanish/tapas evening is next on the cards at the shop. Hola!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Milngavie Library








On a snowy afternoon at the library where the fountain outside, still sprinkled in the fading sunshine I listened to the fascinating story of Elenor Kasrils. She was a remakable woman born in Kilmarnock,'the best Scottish export' as the Hon Consul Brian Filling described her and most certainly an 'Unlikely Secret Agent'. An affectionate tribute to his wife, Ronnie Kasrils has written this wonderful tale set in the short period between 1960 to 1963, just after the 'Sharpville' uprising that is indelible in all our minds. Her courage was second to none. Most of us have heard of Ruth First, Joe Slovo and other brave South Africans who participated in the struggle against Apartheid but unaware of the silent few who gave so much to the liberation of the majority. Their work together in the Natal province and mainly in Durban achieved massive success against the Apartheid Government as they ducked and dived from the Special Branch and took part in clandestine actions, even involving bombing some government offices and disrupting electricity pylons but never taking any lives.It was a privilege to hear of their life together and to meet the writer a former Minister in the South African government till 2004. The book is a slim paper back but I am sure a sequel would follow.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A book Launch











Invited to the book launch of Ronnie Kasrils 'Unlikely Secret Agent' at my local library. If the snow has not stopped the buses I'll be there. The review of the book makes for fascinating reading. It is set in 1963 South Africa, in Durban and tells the story of Elenor Ronnie's wife and her role as a secret agent for the ANC. To quote from the blurb of the book 'This remarkable story of a young woman's courage and daring at a time of increasing repression in apartheid South Africa is told here for the first time with great verve and elan by Eleanor's husband, Ronnie Kasrils, who eventually became South Africa's Minister of Intelligence Services in 2004. He is the author of a bestselling autobiography, Armed and Dangerous.'

Monday, 29 November 2010

Reading & Charity














Apart from dipping into Szmyborska's poetry I decided to start on the first book for my course on 'World Literature: The Nobel Prize.' One of the set books for the course is Naipaul's 'Enigma of Arrival.' I've read a few of his books but not this one. The opening pages are descriptions of a tiny piece of Wiltshire written with a sharp eye and lucid prose. A bit melancholic so far, hope it gets better as I progress through the book. I am also enjoying reading the little book on 'Coffee with Michaelangelo' and learning so much that I did not know about him, his poetry for a start!

In my mail today I had one of these charity organisations asking for a Chritsmas donation. I salute them all for their sterling work but implore them to spend less on the freebies they are sending me to get my attention. It has grown from pens, stationery, wrapping paper, personalised cards to a CD of Christmas songs! I'd rather they spend that money on the cause.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Snow and more snow










Snow and more snow, pretty as a postcard from inside a warm house. I see a car wind its way out (maybe for church) and marvel at the stark beauty of mother nature. Would I like to drive in it? Maybe not. Today I can indulge in more of Szymborska or start on Naipaul's 'Enigma of Arrival'. The perfect day to curl up with a book.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Sun and Snow











Sun and snow what a wonderful combination! In Szymborska's poem 'Miracle Fair' she draws our attention to
'Commonplace miracle:
that so many commonplace miracles happen.
...
A miracle, for what else could you call it:
today the sun rose at three-fourteen
and will set at eight-o-one.'

Her words entrall me simple and perfectly put together to warm my heart.

Friday, 26 November 2010

November
















November is almost over and I have been so remiss with my blog. So the new resolution even before the New Year ones begin is to write at least a weekly one. Now that is in black and white I must keep it up. Even a brief weekly update would be a good start.
Well, the exciting news is the Diwali event at my local Milngavie Bookshop.A full meal and more than just a book reading to give people a flavour of a Diwali evening is the general idea. The owner is going out of the way to make her 'World in Books' series a real eye-opener to the local community. She has already hosted a Scottish one in January, an Irish book day, an American one in July, a French one if I remember right and now the Indian one on Dec 2nd.I will be posting some pics of the event.
With my daughter's help I also started the Glasgow Lit Corner Blog and it is time consuming but wonderful to see so many are on board. It is so useful to know the events taking place just for the written word and in Glasgow. It would have been too onerous a task to cover other parts of Scotland. If you have an upcoming event in Glasgow do add it to the blog.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Festivals Galore


'All that we are is the result of what we have thought.' Buddha

A profound and true statement. When I read words that leap out of the page I know that the author has thought carefully about arranging the words in such a way that it affects me.


The book festivals of the Spring /Summer are enjoyable. A lot of activities like meeting writers and hearing them read their work is wonderful. I look at the plethora of Festivals now and wonder what draws people in such big numbers to these events.Is it just excellent marketing or is it a new kind of awareness? Does seeing the author in the flesh fulfill a deep need about how and why the author has penned his /her words? Favorite questions usually are how and when do you write? Very rarely asked of other creative people, there is a kind of fascination in the process of writing.
For some reason I had forgotten to publish these strange eclectic thoughts during summer time, don't know why!

Autumn/Winter is the time to get cozy, hibernate and coorie into the duvet. What happens though is people start to celebrate all kinds of festivals to keep the spirits up during the long dark nights. I love this season, bright lights,Navrathri the nine nights of feasting and socialising, Halloween followed by Diwali the festival of lights and then Christmas of course.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Lit Glasgow


So much happening in Glasgow that it glows with literary events almost every day. We are so lucky to have access to such a rich variety of events.

Reading the Leaves, Friday 1st October, Tchai Ovna, Glasgow. 8pm

MHAFF Oct 2nd 1-9 pm and OCT 3rd 1- 3 pm at the CCA, including Bernard Maclaverty. Many more films and plays eg: 'Four Plays' Readings 'Life.'

Strathkelvin Writers' Group meets every Tuesday at 7.30pm in the hall of St James the Less Episcopal Church, Hilton Road, Bishopbriggs.

'40 Plays for the price of one' at Oran Mor in the 'A Play, A pie and A pint' season at 1 pm, Monday 4th oct. : http://playpiepint.com/?p=2155

National Poetry Day 7th October has events all over the city. The Federation of Writer's (Scotland) has a top event at GOMA don't miss it.Check out their website www.writersfederation.org.uk/

Weegie Wednesday 0ct 13th Universal Bar 7.30 pm. Too good to miss.

I often find that there is so much going on that maybe we all need reminders. So here's my proposal. I'll update every fortnight the events that I am aware of in Glasgow. If you know of any others do FB me or email me and I can add them to my fortnighly list.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Autumn



September is almost away and I have neglected my blog. Too busy with life and struggling a bit with an eye problem that has restricted my reading and writing.If it is a chronic condition like it seems to be,then I need to refocus and get on with it and structure my activities accordingly. Great authors like Sue Townsend still continue to write like the Adrian Mole Series even with such a great disability as failing vision. At least my vision is fine so I should stop moaning and get on with life.
Exciting news is of course that I won some National Book tokens and I veer between wanting to buy the latest Booker prize authors or classics that I meant to read. I am still dithering about what books to buy. The next class I 'll be attending is on World Literature- The Nobel Prize Winners so I will be buying copies of the reading list first. These following authors have been suggested. Le Clesio, Doris Lessing, V.S. Naipaul( 'The man who loves to wound civilisation' a quote I always remember of him) and poet Szymborska.The course starts in January so plenty of time to read and re-read the great works.Sometimes an easy read is the perfect choice for me, so I delved into Dan Brown's 'Lost Symbol' and enjoyed it.
Milngavie Festival was held this month. It was a really enjoyable week of bookish and arty events in my local town. I met a lot of new and some famous writers. I recommend a single 'book day' in every village and town. The local schools were involved and the pleasure it gave the young ones was quite clear. For the last 4 years Edinburgh as Unesco's A City of Literature runs special projects on reading and gives away books to school children. A wonderful idea that I wish every country could afford to do.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Happy Madras Day



Celebrating its 371th Birthday my birth city of Madras/Chennai has lined up a host of activities. School children and adults have made August 22nd 2010 a day to remember with exhibitions, Design a T-shirt contest,( photo attached) parades music and noisy parties galore. Why am I three thousands of miles away rejoicing? Well, Madras is my birth city and fond nostalgic memories of my school days and university life come flodding back but there is another link. It was arrival of the two Scottish young men Andrew Cogan and Francis Day agents of the John Company who came to get cheap calico cloth that laid the foundation of the East India Company and the start of the Empire. We in 'Chennapatanam' were the kind hosts who welcomed the foreigners to our land. The sound of the waves crashing on Madras Beach, the sweat, the heat and dust of my city, the crazy traffic, the tasty hot food and the fabulous silk sarees of Nalli's all vie for my attention in my mind's eye. Thoughts crowd the mind of my family, both happy and sad incidents and traditions long forgotten that was part of my twenty years of growing up in the sub-tropical city and made me what I am today. Good Shepherd's High School, Stella Maris College and Madras University that shaped my educational life and helped in my teaching career in Glasgow and the resilience to adapt to a new country all those years ago. I am truly lucky to have two cities that I can call my home, Madras and Glasgow.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Blatant Self Advertising

Dear friends and family,

My book, Twice Born, was published today as a multi-format ebook at Smashwords. As many of you know, the book was launched at Borders last year.The novel is set in Glasgow and Madras and has the universal themes of love and betrayal. I hope you'll take time to check it out at Smashwords, where you can sample the first 20% of the book for free.

Here's the link to my Smashwords author profile: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/leelasoma
Here's the link to my book page, where you can sample or purchase the book: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/19648


Thank you for your support!

Sincerely,
leela

Monday, 17 May 2010

Commencement/ Graduation




We had a wonderful insight into American University life as my daughter graduated with summa cum laude this May. The Commencement/ Graduation ceremony ( yes, the two countries are divided by a common language) was fabulous. The American razzamatazz was obvious from the first thing we glimpsed as we entered the the huge Alumni Hall. As the pic shows the message of Congratulations to the students was made entirely of cupcakes in the university colours and given to all of us at the end of the ceremony. Inside we were given hot coffee,doughnuts and a super warm welcome. On that cold morning with snow flurries it was just what we needed. The show was staged with huge screens at two ends of the dais. The speeches were good. Senator Schumer
(the one in whose office my daughter is doing an internship) recounted his personal journey from a Law graduate to a politican and inspired them all with funny and relevant words. A consummate politician, he got his Democratic messages through and despite the present state of the economy he goaded them to aim high and 'Go For It'. Later,there was a beach ball floating around, a few high jinks but everything was taken in good spirits and the ceremony ended with each student's names announced loudly, some gave a gentle wave to their parents in the audience, some did a crazy hip hop to our delectation. The fruit punch, choc-chip cookies, brownies and more sweets helped to end the morning on a sugary note. Proudly we hugged our double graduate daughter and moved onto a party to celebrate the great day.In the two generations of our tiny family of three we have undertaken degrees in India, the UK and USA, with a smattering of certificates in French and German, not forgetting the two other Indian languages my husband is able to handle apart from our mother tongue Tamil.
We enjoyed the experience and the spirit of 'we can' seen all over the city of Buffalo, despite the downturn in the economy. My one regret? President Obama arrived in Buffalo the day we were leaving for the airport,so we missed seeing him in person. I would have queued and waited for a chance to see him but that was not to be.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Olfactory Delights





The baby gurgled and holding her close to me the gentle ‘Baby Johnson Lotion’ smell evoked a broody and emotional tug in my heart. Holding my baby daughter years ago and sniffing her baby smell is something that I’d never forget. Driving back home other olfactory delights came streaming into the consciousness. Entering the bathroom after my dad had showered using Mysore Sandal soap was pure joy. The smell of freshness was so physical that I could almost touch it. I remember using the soap myself and trying to get some lather from the soap was never easy, but the perfume compensated. I used to come out of the shower exuding a lovely scent that always gave me a luxurious feeling. Other memories vied for attention. Cuticura talc a liberal sprinkling before rushing off to school, spreading white plumes that landed on the clean tiles. That was a source of pleasure. The soft petals of fresh jasmine or champak in my hair or the smell of crushed flowers when I woke up in the morning, the pillowcase strewn with browning flowers is ingrained in my dna. Memories are not made up of only scenes or people. They can be composed of strong smells, pleasant and unpleasant that makes our lives rich and returns when we least expect. A visit to a friend and seeing a small baby brought on a flood of memories. A lovely surprise.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Red Roses




The Shiv Sena in Mumbai is doing my head in. Their right wing nonsense is destroying our diverse and tolerant society. So here is a small to riposte to their opposition to Valentine's day, in couplet form.

Red Roses

'What Valentine's Day? No,No,No! We don't have such a thing
In India we're still in Victorian times, with Bollywood bling

No lovin in public, no holding hands, no kiss on the screen
Red roses and champagne is for you, we dance round the green.'

Yet, one billion people and counting, something must work
In all that glow of a sunny clime Kamasutra sure does lurk.



Smell the roses and have a Happy Valentine's day.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Burns, Fast food, Lit Fest







Fast food is taking over the old favourite cafes in my birth city of Chennai. I googled the menu in McDonalds. I was curious to see the words in Tamil. They are offering veggie options like Paneer Wraps along with non-veggie ones like the Maharajah Mc Chicken. Can't imagine a Maharajah Chicken McNugget though! LOL. KFC not to be outdone has also opened nearly fifty outlets in India though I did hear anecdotally that a pregnant lady was advised not to eat their chicken as it might be 'dangerous' for someone in her condition!

Jaipur Lit Fest grows stronger. Couple of photos showing the colourful Fest with a fantastic line up of authors. Despite fog delaying some authors arriving on time, it appears to have been a resounding success. I loved the report on the English language and the arguments that the Queens English was replaced by President's English or the Call Centre speak. Mark Tully commented that all children should be taught their mother-tongue till sixth standard.

The most interesting feature of this year's fest is the focus on Dalit Literature. P.Sivakami a Chennai writer and political activist has said and I paraphrase 'upper caste Hindus have only a caste conscience and not a public or a human conscience.' At least the first step has been taken in redressing this issue at last. Affirmative action in all aspects of Dalit's lives is slowly being taken in India.It is also heartening to see that the fest has not been hijacked by the Bollywood or the politician brigade looking for publicity. The Fest continues till Jan 25th when the world celebrates our own Burn's supper with haggis and a wee dram for our National Bard.SLAINTE.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Childhood tales




A dream about a woman selling anklets brought a tale told to me as a child to mind. Cilapathigagram,one of the five ancient and great pieces of Tamil literature had the story of Kannagi famed for her chastity and seeker of justice.Written in 1stCentury AD/CE it was recounted to me when I was a tiny girl.The passion and drama of the story line appealed to me then. I reread the translated work. The striking fact hit me now.In the 1stCentury AD/CE a woman had the audacity to take on a king and demand justice. Check out the fascinating story by googling.

"Tamil creative genius to the world's cultural treasure and should be familiar to the whole world and admired and beloved by all in the same way as the poems of Homer, the dramas of Shakespeare, the pictures of Rembrandt, the cathedrals of France and the sculptures of Greece..... the epical poem Cilappathikaram, which by its 'baroque splendour', and by the charm and magic of its lyrical parts belongs to the epic masterpieces of the world....." (Tamil Contribution to World Civilisation - Czech Professor Dr. Kamil Zvelebil in Tamil Culture - Vol. V, No. 4. October, 1956)"


The statue of Kannagi on Marina Beach in Madras has a fascinating story too.The last Chief Minister hastily removed the statue at night as she was taken to court for corruption on an incredible scale and did not want the idea of justice being demanded by a woman in 1stC A.D to remind people of their right to demand a fair government. It has been reinstated by the present CM.

Tales told to you as a child always remains in the subconscious and resurfaces when you least expect it. I wonder how many young children are exposed to the sheer joy of listening to tales from parents, grandparents or family friends? With little time between school, ipods, TV, computer games and the ubiquitous mobile phone they have scant time to while away an afternoon relishing old stories from the older generation.

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