Sunday, 13 December 2015

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year








Wishing all my readers a HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON.



Have a wonderful break with your loved ones and come back refreshed to enjoy the brand NEW YEAR in 2016.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

November

I know I have been off the whole of October. A wonderful month began with meeting friends for over 45 years, reminiscing our first meetings as young teachers in the same school. There were so many lit events again this month but I was able to attend only a few. On the plus side I did resume my writing of Novel 3, the crime fic genre still challenging me a bit but I am glad to get back writing again in earnest. A novel is always challenging in discipline and stamina, hope to keep it going.

 Douglas Thompson's book launch was at the CCA on 27 October. What a prolific writer and one who writes with a passion! Books that delve deeply into existential questions, an interesting genre and he illustrates some of the work. I was glad I made it to his event.

I am sorry that I missed the Scottish Pen event in the Mitchell Room on the 2 nd of November. They work so hard to get voices that are silenced in prisons heard by the rest of the world.

November is usually a very sad month for me. This is the month when I lost both my parents and even after years of their demise it still hurts. Nothing can ever replace their loss. So despite the festivities of Diwali and the excitement of Christmas to come, my optimism dips a bit. This year however I feel quite positive.

I was invited to the opening of  GWL 's newly refurbished library. A wonderful surprise was that Nicola Sturgeon the First Minister was the chief guest, a tightly kept secret. What was even better was that she came out as a genuine person, at ease with all. She is a woman I admire and was thrilled to get a selfie with her, in fact she taught me how to take the selfie correctly on my iPad! Her speech, extempore, of course, was inspiring, a proper feminist speech covering all the important aspects of how much more we women have to achieve to get equality in all walks of life. It will be an afternoon for me to remember. GWL itself is a wonderfully warm place with founders Adele Patrick and Dr. Sue John who have worked tirelessly with all the volunteers and support staff to get this wonderful library its rightful place in our society.










Lots more happening this month with Diwali next week and so many interesting events to look forward to. On 19th Nov  I hope to attend the PEN Naomi Mitchison lecture with Val McDermid and Professor Louise Welsh is on at the University of Glasgow. On the same day is my friend Sam's 50th birthday lunch.

Hope you all have a super November and Christmas when it comes.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Scottish Pen

What? Two blogs in two consecutive days?

Well, I had to share this.

Driving along to attend the Scottish Pen AGM, my first as a new member, I was listening to the wireless.  While watching the road and driving carefully, I learn this amazing fact from BBC Radio 3. Maybe my ignorance, but did you know that that sequence of numbers is in all of nature, a pattern to every structure? That even the  number of petals in a flower invariably is in Fibonacci numbers sequence. 'Fibonacci the 13th C Italian mathematician, his 1202 book Liber Abaci introduced the sequence to Western European mathematics,'( Wiki) but even more surprising was this fact. It was not mathematicians who discovered the sequence of numbers but  it was musicians in India. They discovered that these numbers count the different combination of rhythms that one can make. So they solved the problem of how many rhythms one can make with long and short beats. Flowers, nature, maths, Mozart and the Masons, the Pentagram, the Golden Ratio, I got so much more from this wonderful programme. Here is a link to the programme:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06b8c23

Here's a Fibonacci flower pattern:
I drove over to the Mitchell Library, a beautiful building so accessible to all and with such helpful staff. I got the two books on the Man Booker long list and then made my way to the Glasgow Room where the AGM was held. The room transported me mediately to my grandpa's and my dad's study filled with bookshelves heaving with old leather bound books. It evoked memories. The smell of turning the pages of old, precious books, yellowed with time and carefully maintained in India by chasing away the the tiny critters that used to devour the pages if one was not careful.

It was good to see some familiar faces, Anne Clarke, Moira Mc Partlin, Sue Reid Sexton, Fiona Rintoul, Jean Rafferty( I had met her only on Tuesday!). But the highlight for me was to meet Robin Lloyd-Jones, the first adjudicator of my work whose words 'Everyone can start a novel, make sure you complete it' spurred me on to become a writer. Winning that trophy at Strathkelvin Writer's Group, that Robin gave me, was the first step that encouraged me to believe in myself. His words today made it even better when this great writer said, 'I see your progress and it warms my heart.' Made me feel so humble.

As for the writing fraternity in Scotland? They are all so warm, welcoming and so inclusive. I feel blessed to be in a country that not only fights for freedom of expression, but makes even the most hesitant, new writer feel worthy. The work of the Scottish Pen is admirable and the volunteers so passionate about freedom of expression, that they work tirelessly to achieve this goal all over the world. I feel so honoured to be accepted as one of the new members of this illustrious organisation.

After all the AGM work, chaired ably by Drew Campbell, we were witness to Moira McPartlin's hard work as we listened to readings from the International Women's Group, Maryhill.


The final item was a fascinating talk on Translation by Allan Cameron of Vagabond Voices.

All in all a Saturday that was enjoyable, informative and inspiring.


Friday, 25 September 2015

September/October

I've had a busy and good time the whole of August and September. Apart from the ones that I have mentioned in the last update, I attended a few more author events and a book launch at the Project Cafe. Glasgow is brimming with Literary events that one has the luxury of picking and choosing the ones that you wish to attend.

My birthday went off in a quiet fashion just as I wanted, a year older, so need to work harder to get projects completed. We saw the film '45 Years' both Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay were superb but the story was rather bleak.

I was thrilled to win a book token at the new Waterstone's Byres Road on its opening night draw. It is a lovely new store and I hope it is busy and sells all the books that people want to read. I bought three books with my gift card and enjoyed reading two of them.

 The shop has a wonderful cafe and it will be a success as it is close to the University and right in the heart of the West End. As you can see in the photo, local writers are feted and it will be used to launch a lot of local writers and be supportive of their work.

I was invited to write a wee short story for a charity about WW1 and WW11. I thought that it was a great opportunity to highlight the tremendous sacrifice by the Indian army, which lost nearly 70, 000 sepoys/soldiers in the Great War. I was surprised that even learned friends of mine, writers too, were unaware of the scale of the participation and loss of lives in the Indian Army. I am yet to hear when the anthology will be published. Soon I hope.

I visited my local Lillie Art Gallery with a fellow writer friend for a local exhibition mid September and we followed it up with a nice coffee and chat. One learns so much more about what is happening around the writing fraternity during these informal chats.

The Bloody Scotland Weekend reminded me how I have lagged behind in my writing the next novel. I must get settled into writing it in the disciplined way as I did with novel 1 and 2. Maybe the fact that it is a different genre makes me a bit hesitant. I need to get the first draft down and not get distracted by writing short stories and poems.

The Scottish Writer's Centre had a wonderful event with Sally Evans and it was a pleasure to hear her prolific work,  the way she organises the Callander Week and publishing the Poetry Scotland magazine. Here is a link to the blog by Scott .C.Morrison on that evening.  :

On 22nd September there was the Inaugural Lecture on Creative Writing by Professor Louise Welsh. It was such an informative and memorable evening. Meeting some of the writers and connecting with people is so good as writing is a lonely profession.

The Scottish Pen AGM is on 26th at the beautiful Mitchell Library.



October sees a host of Book and Art Festivals. East Dumbartonshire is having its own Book and Arts Festival( 10th - 23 rd October) mainly in the libraries, with authors like Chris Brookmyre, Jess Smith and Nicola Morgan at various events. I look forward to attending a few, though I must say almost every friend asks for the old Milngavie Book Festival which was superbly run by Susan Frize from the Bookshop and ably assisted by a host of volunteers including the hard working project manager Alison Hughes.  Here is a link to her work as a translator: www.alisonhughes-translations.co.uk

Well, October is the start of the Indian festival season that culminates in Diwali in November, so it will be a busy month dispelling the dark nights that will soon be upon us. Halloween and Guy Fawkes will also brighten up the days. Enjoy them all. 


Sunday, 19 July 2015

July in Glasgow

I had a traumatic trip back home. Got back from the long tiring flight and discovered that I had left my iPad on the plane. Dashed back with patient hubby, who was rather supportive and calm, while I panicked. Luckily for me, a kind cleaner or air hostess on United Airlines, had left the iPad with the manager at the airport.

The weather has been pretty awful and I have seen enough rain for my lifetime in the last few days. It has been warm and muggy but not pleasant at all when the sun is out for an hour and then the rain comes on. Most of my friends who have not yet had a holiday are pretty depressed with the lack of sunshine.

On the positive front I have had a few invites to keep me busy and working in August. I am looking forward to all of them.

1. On August 4th I am hosting the SWC event 'Diverse Voices'  at the CCA. A lovely line up of writers and poets as you can see from the poster.













2. On 14 August, I am chuffed to participate in the 'Butterfly Rammy' event organised by The Commonweal, at the Edinburgh Fringe.








3.Mixing The Colours, Fringe Festival Sundays with Appletree Writers
Readings from the Mixing The Colours Anthology providing a remarkable insight into women's experiences of sectarianism that have been traditionally overlooked. A short discussion session will follow the readings. 
Venue: The Waiting Room, The Whole Works, Jacksons Close209 High Street, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Date: Sunday 23rd August
Time: 2:00 pm - 2:45 pm
Booking: http://bit.ly/1LMV7R1

4. End of August I am in Falkirk at this 'Invert' event. So lots to keep me busy in the month of August. Now that I have updated all of you, I am going to enjoy a nice long walk and see if that vague sunshine lasts for a few more hours. Happy Sunday!

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Authors Electric

I am rather thrilled to get a guest blog post on this great website,  'Do Authors Dream of Electric Books?' As their blurb says, 'We are 29 indie authors, all armed with e-readers, publishing ebooks and print-on-demand paperbacks. This is where we get together to gossip, laugh, share tips and talk writing.
It is an informative, helpful and cheerful website that helps authors who have ebooks and published works. It is a community of writer's who tell it like it is. I like that aspect of it. No pulling the punches, so here is my contribution today on the state of play of Asians in the Lit scene. The publishing industry and the litterati often write about the lack of diverse voices and point their finger in the direction of the publishing industry. But I think it is a two way matter, both sides need to work at it to get the work of diverse writers on the map.  

website: http://authorselectric.blogspot.com/2015/06/where-are-asian-novelists-and-poets-by.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=facebook

If you think my words are controversial, please feel free to comment. I know just last week, my publisher organised a New Writers Festival for authors of colour. It looked like a great success. We need more of it,  at the same time not let it become 'ghettoised' or marginalised.  I am often a lone voice up in Scotland, a token black/brown writer, but it is important to get our stories out. 

I am hosting a Diverse Voices Event at the SWC in August. We need to get more of this type of events and encourage people of colour to participate.

http://www.glasgowwestend.co.uk/diverse-communities-with-leela-soma-cca-tue-4-august-2015



I'll be returning home to Glasgow soon.  I loved the stay here in USA. It will become my third home, as my daughter lives here now. How enriched I feel with these experiences of living in the three continents of Asia, Europe and America? I am blessed. 


Saturday, 20 June 2015

Midsummer?


I love everything about USA. It is a country that is a wonderful place for a holiday, such a huge land mass that bounteous mother nature has endowed with amazing riches. The people are friendly and kind. The only thing that really irks me is the public ownership of guns and the havoc it wreaks on its people. Worse still that some people still hide behind the Second Amendment 'to bear arms' as though it is sacred and cannot be changed. It is an amendment, for God's sake! I wonder  how many of the people in NRA, the celebrities and the politicians who support this crazy gun ownership status have lost their loved ones in such tragic circumstances like the Charleston Massacre or Sandy Hook, Columbine or the other innumerable gun tragedies that are reported in the papers everyday. There are many, many countries in the world that get by and protect their families and loved ones without the gun! Get real, move into the civilised 21 st Century, get rid of all guns in private hands, not just the assault rifles, all of them! The Charleston massacre was with a hand gun!

Let the law enforcement people deal with serious threats to people and property. Have an immediate amnesty and get the guns away from every one who owns one. It is time for action and not just words and  prayers. Like flowers left at every  such tragedy, the words are said and no action is taken and the will to resolve fades away like those bright blooms that were laid on the graves of innocent lives. The lesson that one learned from the tragedy was also the dignity and forbearance shown by the families who lost their loved ones. Their resounding message was one of forgiveness.   



Words flowed out of my heart and I wrote a poem on this. You can access it on Pat's West End Diary, a wonderful website that opens our eyes to all that is happening in the West End of Glasgow and has a great showcase of local writer's work, music and art.

 Here is the poem's link: http://www.glasgowwestend.co.uk/the-american-dream-poem-by-leela-soma/





On a happier note, 21 st June is International Yoga Day. 200 million people all over the world will participate in  ancient India's gift to the modern world. I will certainly strike a few Yoga poses and do a few surya namskras or sun salutations. It is good for the body and soul. My birth country has never invaded another country,  Hinduism has never forcibly converted any one and I am proud that its ancient wisdom and philosophy is getting recognition again in the West and all over the world.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Art Festival- photo blog

Last few weeks in Buffalo NY. The warm weather has started the season of festivals. I was at the Allentown Art Festival last Saturday. A wonderfully hot day, too hot to be honest and the street was teeming with people. A great way to have a family day out. There were 400 artists from various parts of USA exhibiting their work. http://allentownartfestival.com/guide/festival-directory/




 The festival started in 1950, in a modest way as most festivals do and now has mushroomed into a huge affair. http://allentownartfestival.com/about/festival-history/ There are some scholarship awards for the artists. I am still waiting to see the winners.

Some of the exhibits we saw. 

A variety of styles, landscapes and portraits.
I am not an artist at all but I can appreciate the creative work of these wonderful artists. The colours, the hard work and the imagination to put their ideas on the canvas is so much like writing. I admire them. All in all the arts, the crafts we saw were very good and the food stalls made it even more
enjoyable!  A great day out.


Monday, 8 June 2015

Reading Binge

I have got into my binge reading mode. I do this occasionally when  I'm on holiday. One book follows another and I can't get enough, especially if the books are good.

It started with books from my daughter's book shelf, not the heavy history or philosophy ones she likes, but fiction. Even there we have different tastes. She loves books like Lord of the Rings and Phillipa Gregory. I am an eclectic reader, and tend to go for world literature with a very heavy Indian bias. So finding a couple of Jo Nesbo novels on her book shelf, airport buys, was refreshing and I read them both. Police and The Son, both really well plotted, blood curdling crime books.

Then as you may be aware I went to the AAUW book sale, here in Buffalo. See my blogs on http://www.glasgowwestend.co.uk/the-american-association-of-university-women-book-sale-buffalo-new-york/  website. I found some great books and was tempted to buy even though I'll be flying back to Glasgow and not have room to carry them home.

I wanted a change from reading a crime book. I started with Chitra.B. Divakaruni's One Amazing Thing. A beautifully written novel on how nine people cope with being stranded in a collapsing building, the Indian visa office in USA,  during an earthquake. I liked the fact that it had diverse characters and each had their own stories and secrets to reveal to all.

My next choice was Island's End, a  YA book written by my cousin. I am not biased when I say that every school library should have a copy of this book and children should read this. Padma's debut novel 'Climbing The Stairs' had already won several prizes and she had established herself as a good writer. This book is unique. The novel Island's End is set in the Andaman Islands of India. Some tribal people who have never had contact with the mainland or with modern civilization live in these remote islands. Padma is an oceanographer and had spent time on the island and come into contact with the natives. As the book blurb says:  "She was inspired to write this after meeting with the natives who had overcome a natural disaster and preserved their unique way of life despite several threats to their survival." The story is about a young girl Uido who becomes the spiritual leader of the tribe. The story weaves around strangers arriving at the island and threatens their old way of life. Will Uido manage to help preserve their old ways and fend off the strangers?



 Padma's meticulous research in their way of life and basing some of the events on true facts makes it a fascinating study of lives that have been untouched by modern civilization. It was the language that really made me love this novel. Padma seems to be driven by a spiritual hand. The writing flows like the waves in the sea that surrounds the island. I was reminded of our grandfather, Padma's and mine who started writing Law Journals from a very young age that led him to become a Senior Advocate in the Supreme Court in India. He  wrote and published  Law Journals.They are still one of the leading  law journals in India. She's gifted like him and it shows in all her work. Pick it up if you can and read it.

I also finished reading Akil Sharma's 'Family Life'. A memoir turned novel that took him nine years to write. It is written from the point of view of a young boy-of a newly arrived Indian family in USA-whose older brother becomes brain damaged after diving into a swimming pool and hitting his head. The three minutes of lying in the bottom of the pool, after hitting his head, changes all their lives. Heart rending but beautifully written.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Byward Market Ottawa- a photo blog

Byward Market in downtown Ottawa is worth a visit. Huge stalls that sells some amazing things. Fruits, flowers, and things you'd see in any open markets around the world. But I did find the atmosphere amazing. Here's why:


 A Japanese woman singing her arias!








 A strange vehicle, well a rickshaw but how nicely done up!











I loved the Beaver Tails. I had them at the Ice Festival in February 1999! I loved the taste ever since.




This wee cat was really something else. Happy to be on its owners back. Quite fierce looking, close up. The owner said it was a Bengal Cat! I'm not a cat person, so no idea if that is right! 


As a Glaswegian, how can one not have a wee taste of free wine. Middle of the day, did you say? Well I'm on holiday so anything goes! A wee libation is allowed!







As for this pic, a lovely young lass was doing an Irish jig at the street corner! Now how nice is that?








All in all Byward Market was a treat to all the senses. So if you are in Ottawa, don't miss it!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Scotland in Canada?

Ottawa, I have visited you 5 times. 1983, 1991, 1999, 2009,and 2015. I love that you remain the staid old lady, not much change, unlike Toronto, the NYC of Canada! The skyscrapers that have taken over Toronto city, changed its skyline and the traffic is horrendous. Yet the green places abound, the Lake Shore drive is a pleasure. But back to my favorite city in Canada, Ottawa. I have seen it in the depths of winter when the Rideau River is frozen over and people are skating on it. The Ice Festival near the Parliament buildings is  a spectacular sight, unforgettable! In summer, the city envelops one with its warmth, the sun shine makes up for the dreich winter months of snow and ice. Spring, yes I have been twice in May and again, Ottawa never disappoints. The Tulip Festival and Writer's Festival are held during spring. I did attend the Writer's Festival in 2009. A small but well organised Festival that brings in local talent and famous Canadian writers too. 


The Tulip Festival in May 2009, was superb but the tulips were in bud when I went there early, this year I was able to see them at their best, blooming marvellous! "The Canadian Tulip Festival is a celebration founded on international friendship with the 1945 presentation of 100,000 tulip bulbs from Princess Juliana of the Netherlands to Ottawa, Canada’s capital, given in appreciation of the safe haven that members of Holland’s exiled royal family received during World War II in Ottawa and in recognition of the role which Canadian troops played in the liberation of the Netherlands."

 How wonderful to celebrate that gesture every year, so one never forgets!
There was a carnival atmosphere, whole families out for the day and enjoying the bright sunshine.

But what excites me about Canada is the familiar yet different aspect of the country. Coming from Glasgow, Scotland, I am reminded by every street name, town name of the origins of this country. Wiki:  "Scottish Canadians are people of Scottish descent or heritage living in Canada. As the third-largest ethnic group in Canada and among the first to settle in Canada, Scottish people have made a large impact on Canadian culture since colonial times." 


No, I'm not forgetting the First Nation People's too and some cities do have the names still. My very short poem pays homage to them. 

Ancient Land

The land of the bison, moose and bear in pristine beauty
Thundering rivers, azure lakes lapping and rippling on shores,
Maple trees spreading sweetness and splendoured shade
Bounteous nature sacred to the First Nation Peoples
This ancient land whispers its secrets to man, every season.

But Glasgow, Renfrew, Aberdeen, Perth, Dundee, Houston, almost all the towns and cities of Scotland have a connection here. Names that are so familiar that one feels at home. Then you look at the achievements of this great country and marvel at the Scots of yore who made it happen and feel a sense of pride.

The other wonderful aspect of my trip to North America is to witness how the very successful Indians of my own heritage have contributed to this country. Canadian immigration rules were changed to allow more skilled people to arrive since 1967. The skilled arrived in droves and have settled and contributed to this country. Toronto is said to be the most diverse city in the world and live harmoniously. Just as the Scots arrived centuries ago, the Indians are doing the same, building a secure and prosperous future. 
Finally a wonderful website that helps me as a writer to know Canada better, 100 Canadian novels : 

Of course none of this could have happened without my sweet lil sister who lives in Ottawa and makes my trips there a real treat! This time she took me up to Val Morin, in the Laurentian Mountains to see an Indian Temple and a Yoga Ashram. It was perfect bliss, a spot so beautiful that one feels drawn to nature. I am truly blessed. Thank you dear sister.




Monday, 11 May 2015

Daily Word Count






I saw a useful article in a tweet about ' The Daily Word Counts of  39 Famous Authors'. It ranged from a modest 500 by Ian McEwan and Graham Green to a mind boggling 10,000 words by a Michael Crichton! Most writers had given a 'doable' 600- 3000 words. To cultivate that habit of writing daily is admirable and effective. It is a discipline. Very often it is easier to say that I don't feel like it, I have writer's block, but to be a writer I think it is important to develop this habit. How do I fare?

I wish I could say I do it without fail, but it is not as easy as it sounds. I do write but may not be the novel, could be a poem, or jotting down ideas. Writing a novel is what gets you into that habit. Leaving a plot line  hanging is a great way to make you get back to the computer. On a good day I could write a 1000 words or more, often it is more like 400- 600. Again when travelling or at weekends I do little and I don't feel guilty. To me family and other aspects of life are equally important. So sometimes I can go for a long time without writing what I want to write. This article certainly made me sit up and get inspired to make a habit of writing everyday again.

How about you?

The link to the article: http://writerswrite.co.za/the-daily-word-counts-of-39-famous-authors-1

Friday, 8 May 2015

Writing on holiday!


Well, as someone said, writers are never really on holiday! Thoughts, ideas, story themes keep appearing and there is so much you want to put down on paper. This week I met some lovely local writers in the local B&N bookstore. They were having a meeting on Novel Development. Author Barbara Early who has published a series 'The Bridal Bouquet Shop  Mysteries' under the pseudonym Beverly Allen was giving a talk on crafting techniques for new writers. She was joined by Lynn Wallace-Lee the coordinator of a website Basics2Bylines. Org, an excellent source for new writers. Katie Murdoch, the other writer has submitted a Ms for a new mystery novel and hopes to hear from the publisher by May 11 th! Ken Swiatek was the other writer in the group, I got to know. They were critiquing each other's work after the break, but I could not stay for that part of the meeting. They were a very warm and welcoming group and I'm sure I'll keep in touch with them.  It is so good to meet with fellow writers anywhere in the world. Their interest in the Scottish Lit scene is always thought provoking.



In the next few days  I was taken to a rather arty part of Buffalo city, Elmwood by a friend. Another creative person, who is  into producing films and writing scripts, it was a good outing and a meeting of minds.

The General Election in UK results kept me up late last night. Exciting new times for Scotland. Here's to the future!




Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Multi- cultural Buffalo NY



The warm weather in Buffalo has been a lovely treat after the cold and wet of Glasgow. What a difference a bit of sunshine makes to lift the spirits up! It must be so much more for the locals after that awful snow-dumped winter of 2014! But this city and its people are resilient, as soon as the sun is out the city wakes up to the summer chimes. The Canalside is all spruced up and ready for the summer tourists and locals festivals.


 I am getting into a rhythm of reading, writing and enjoying family time. I started with 'The Girl on the Train' by Paula Hawkins, a  real page turner. I was transported to scenes off a train window, like the London commuter in the book. It was perfect holiday reading. Simple but well structured novel, worth a read.


The news media are all about the police brutality and  racism all over the country. Here in Buffalo I find that the races are living in harmony. I was so impressed with Amherst where I stay, that I did a bit of research into the different races living in the city. As always history is fascinating. I may spend all my time learning something new about this place. The ancestries are interesting : "The top 5 largest ancestries include German (13.6%), Irish (12.2%), Italian (11.7%), Polish (11.7%), and English (4.0%). Buffalo has very sizable populations of Irish, Italian, Polish, German, Jewish, Greek, Arab, African-American, Indian, Macedonian, and Puerto Rican descent. Major ethnic neighborhoods still exist but they changed significantly."( Wiki) The University attracts a huge number of international students. This has made Amherst, in particular, a wonderful melting pot.  My poem reflects that. 

 Melting Pot
 
The colours of the mosaic glimmer in the sun
Blue pieces against the bright reds and oranges,
A tiled beauty that catches the eye, to look again
The platter enhances the tasty food on offer
A table laden with ethnic bites, a tempting fare.
 
Smiles from the crowd, a melting pot of races
Or is it still a salad bowl, together and apart?
The German, Irish, Polish, Italian and English
Mix with alacrity with African American, Arab
Indian, Chinese, a veritable United Nations
 
Ancestry, history, fused together with work and toil
New beginnings for the incoming young and old
 Forming a new city, forging interests, diversity at its best,
 While retaining their roots, culture, language and heritage
 A commingling, heading towards a harmonious future.
 

I hope you enjoy reading the poem. There is constant awareness of the lack of diverse voices in mainstream literature, hope small contributions, like this poem,  however modest, will be the first few steps in redressing the balance. 

Of course my own work, the two novels and set of short stories is always available from Amazon. I had a great review recently by a committee member of Weegie Wednesdays, Layla Blackwell for my second novel Bombay Baby. Here's a link.  Please read it here: http://phoenixandthethistle.co.uk/?page_id=221





Thursday, 30 April 2015

Friendship and writing

Sitting waiting at the airport for a plane to take off is the last place you expect to make a new friend. But that's exactly what happened. A nice couple waiting at the same gate smiled in a friendly way and we got talking, the women first, of course! Within a few minutes we knew there was a special bond. Talking about the holidays we were looking forward to and then finding so many things in common in that short space of time was an eye opener for me. Often the fellow travellers are ships that pass in the night, literally. We were not even heading to the same place, just waiting for our respective flights to take off.  We exchanged emails and said our goodbyes.

FB kept our friendship alive. Like every relationship in life, it is a question of give and take, mutual respect and finding that commonality. This trip to Buffalo, I messaged her and she arrived the very next day, driving over 40 miles just to meet up, have a coffee. Finding friends and retaining them is important to me. When you meet creative people who go that extra mile, it makes life so much better. Cheers to my friend.

The Indian diaspora are very friendly and hospitable in Buffalo. As a small group here , just over a thousand families, there is so much co operation and help within the community that is extended to all. For me that is another great link in this city. My dual heritage helps in forging great connections in all parts of the world.

Buffalo NY is familiar to me now. This is my fifth trip. I came to see my daughter at the University in 2009, then both my husband and I came again in 2010 for her graduation. Followed in 2013 by her wedding here, then again 2014 for an extended stay of five weeks when we also visited our close friends in the West Coast.

During my last visit I decided to taste the literary scene in Buffalo. There is so much going on. My visit to Just Buffalo Lit Centre's writing group chaired by Professor G.E Ross was wonderfully useful. The writing here is so not much different to the one in Glasgow, language differences apart, the themes that I saw were interesting mix of diverse voices and topics that were essentially dealing with universal themes. I would like to open up my own ideas to this new experience of crossing over the pond and looking at it from an Indo- Scot point of view. The first was the poem about Glasgow and Buffalo but lots more themes are forming in my mind and I wish I could write something that is worthy when I am here. I was hoping to find more of a Scottish connection here but Buffalo has very little of that.I'll keep looking!

I am lucky that I am near a beautiful Barnes and Noble Bookstore in Amherst. Lots of books to browse and a perfect cafe to sit and write if I so wish, as I  watch the world go by.  I am blessed indeed.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Buffalo and Glasgow - a poem

When I was in Buffalo NY last year I could not fail to see the similarity between the two great cities. Old industries dying and leaving the second cities dying and crumbling. This poem flowed out as easy as pie. Hope you all like it too.


                 Two cities
The two could be twinned, history so familiar
Niagara River, and Erie Canal made this city
As grain silos rose up in the sky, men worked hard
To get the grain ashore, milled and built steel.
The city of light, the Niagara Falls harnessed
To serve mankind, in all its glory and awe
The people of all colours sweated their labours
To make this proud city, aglow, resplendent.
Today, bleak in recession hit-West
Buffalo tries harder, the University is
A blessing, the young indebted for a future
Wait for the day, for the sun to rise again.
Glasgow, a proud second city, industries of coal
Steel and ships, the Queen’s ships built on River Clyde
Men and women of steel who gave of their lives
Working hard, skills of a lifetime cherished.
But the recession-hit world looks askance
As the unemployed youth grows and despairs that
The shipyards no longer strikes iron, jobs dwindle
The two cities twinned in hope, for a brighter tomorrow.

T

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Girl on a Plane, WBN and British Indian Awards 2015



A happy update on that missing passport! As I was getting out of the shower, yesterday, I heard a faint knock on the door. By the time I was decent and opened the door, no one was out there. I rushed over to the window and saw a huge UPS van and a young guy was just getting the driver's seat. I hollered over, 'hey did you have something for me?' He said, 'yep, left it at the door.' It was the passport. I nearly missed it there in my excitement! Am I glad and relieved?? I really can't put that feeling into words.



Back in Glasgow, I should have been reading tonight at the William Patrick Library for World Book Night. I had it all prepared, even the slides to go with the presentation. The library had ordered copies of my books, too. I hate to let people down. Once I commit to something I keep to it, unless I am really ill. Luckily that has not happened so far, touch wood! Unfortunately I had to fly in to NY for family reasons and I am missing the WBN event. I do hope it goes well.I see young poet Kate Tough and Alison Morton the Reader in Residence, are doing the honours and the Kirkintilloch Choir are singing too. Music, free books, book readings, what more does one need for a fine evening?
That bedroom looks just so tempting!


British Indian Awards is another glamorous, high profile event at Chateau Impeny Hotel, this Friday the 25th. I was thrilled to hear that I am one of the finalist in the Arts and Culture Awareness category. I'll miss that wonderful event too. It would have been great to wear a silk sari and network with the great and good, British Indians from all walks of life who have served UK giving of their best. The venue looks amazing, a spa hotel set in Droitwich, an area I have never been to, near Birmingham. Well,  maybe I'll get there one day.

Here I am in Buffalo, once a second city of New York State, its crumbling grandeur, a reflection of its glory days. This City of Light  has so much in common with Glasgow that a poem came easily to pen. Here it is for you.

Two cities


The two could be twinned, history so familiar
Niagara River, and Erie Canal made this city
As grain silos rose up in the sky, men worked hard
To get the grain ashore, milled and built steel.
The city of light, the Niagara Falls harnessed
To serve mankind, in all its glory and awe
The people of all colours sweated their labours
To make this proud city, aglow, resplendent.
Today, bleak in recession hit-West
Buffalo tries harder, the University is
A blessing, the young indebted for a future
Wait for the day, for the sun to rise again.
Glasgow, a proud second city, industries of coal
Steel and ships, the Queen’s ships built on River Clyde
Men and women of steel who gave of their lives
Working hard, skills of a lifetime cherished.
But the recession-hit world looks askance
As the unemployed youth grows and despairs that
The shipyards no longer strikes iron, jobs dwindle, and
The two cities twinned in hope, for a brighter tomorrow.


Enjoy your spring. It is snowing here in Buffalo! 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Girl on a Plane



Wednesday 15th April, a day after the Tamil New Year, I woke up bright and happy!  Well, not really full of the cold and flu to travel to Buffalo NY dreading the flight and the full 12 hours ‘on the road’, including the 2 hour layover at Newark. Flight was fine; in fact a better one to Newark than the jam packed one to JFK last year. Wider seats, no one next to me, I could cough away to my comfort and style! I could spread my newspaper, books etc and the girl at the window seat was friendly enough and we shared the middle seat to suit us both. The film was not uploading, vaguely wanted to see Reese Witherspoon in ‘The Wild’ but felt sleepy most of the time.

Arrived at Newark on time. Fabulous sunshine yay! This was good! Then I came to the Immigration queue! Well, Newark Liberty International, to have three, yes three immigration agents for a queue that seemed to be around 500 was not smart! Waited patiently, as security guys hollered at people looking at their cell phones. NO CELL PHONES. Sheepish grins and cell phones back in pockets, bags etc. A couple of ladies beside me were getting jittery like me. Connecting flight to catch. They had 3 hour layover, me just short of two. Meanwhile each person was photographed, fingers, thumbs in both hands screened and questions about their reasons to visit USA. Nearly gave up on making the flight to Buffalo when a kindly security woman saw sense and diverted a few of us nearly tearing up to the  three immigration  agents who were processing the US CITIZENS and Permanent Residents only and were sat twiddling their thumbs. We rushed over and luckily for us another huge passenger load arrived to join the other 300 odd waiting in the first queue. Got myself processed, 20 minutes to the next flight, terminal miles away, needed to take a train 4 minutes between each one! Ran across to the domestic terminal, made it, I thought!

At the security gate I was asked for my boarding pass and the passport. Boarding pass, yes, but couldn't find my passport anywhere. Mad search through all bags, no luck! Guy seeing me cry gets sympathetic and lets me in. Shoes off, get TSA checked boarded plane, worried sick about the passport. Arrive at Buffalo, daughter is looking at a babbling mum who is not quite all there, with flu/cold, eyes streaming in more ways than one and blabbering about lost passport. Waiting at the baggage carousel, to find that suitcase has not made it from Newark but assured by United that the bag will be on the next flight and will be delivered home.

What is the update on the lost passport? Like the book the Girl on the Train, you will have to wait and see. I have called every phone number that I can lay my hands on. Finally, I got through to a very kind gentleman on the Customs and Immigration desk at Newark. He had my passport and has promised to mail it to me. That was last Thursday, 17th April. As of today 22 April and no sign yet of the missing passport.


Hope you enjoyed the ‘journey’ with me.

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