Banyans a Powerhouse of Oxygen

Banyans are the world’s biggest trees in terms of the area they cover. The biggest one alive today is in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. It covers 1.9 hectares (4.7 acres) and can shelter 20,000 people. Banyans are ecological linchpins. They produce vast crops of figs that sustain many species of birds, fruit bats, primates and other creatures, which in turn disperse the seeds of hundreds of other plant species. Apart from numerous medicinal benefits, they also have been people saviors from cyclones for years. Trees are a treasure house of oxygen generators and help in reducing pollution. But the constant felling of trees in the name of development is harming the environment and no kind of planting and transplanting can replace the loss of these huge full grown trees in reducing pollution. Think twice before axing trees, read this heartwarming story of how a young girl was instrumental in stopping a tree from being axed in my book “When You Can Why Not”.

https://www.amazon.in/When-You-Can-Why-Not…/dp/B08HDPVRVP

What’s all the Hype around Anthologies

Being a writer I can understand when new writers are anxious to see and call themselves a published author, whether it’s a blog, a poem, an article or being part of an anthology. Maybe it’s the eagerness of writers to calling themselves as published authors that has seen a slew of ‘Call for Anthologies’. While early on even I was caught up in the eagerness to being called an author, but now after my experiences I tread carefully.

Writing is a creative tool which has the power to inspire, enlighten and entertain readers, a writer sits for long hours and writes for the passion and love towards writing, at the same time it is extremely time consuming and stressful to be a writer. For others it may seem that a writer’s job is easy and that they make a lot of money, but it is the other way around and writers make very measly amounts in spite of all the hard work they put in. So as a writer it’s our duty to see that our writings are valued and given the right amount of respect they deserve, I realized this the hard way.

So you all might be wondering what all this is about? So this is about the call for anthologies which I earlier mentioned, and this is what every writer’s timelines are flooded with. One word of caution though, to all the writers who experience a thrill on seeing such posts. Before entering into any anthology, please make sure you read all the guidelines and ensure that the writers have the copyright to their writings.

There are different types of anthologies which I further want to explain about.

Don’t Even Go Near Them

The first type of anthology seekers who I want to caution writers about staying away as far as possible from, are those asking for a fee to submit their short stories, poems (even if it’s only three line Haiku’s) and any fiction stories. And after paying the fee also, it’s not a guarantee that your writing will be published, these platforms select a few maybe fifty or hundred from the hundreds of entries received. We have to pay while registering and you’ll only know at a later point of time if your entry is selected or not. So we end up paying, in return for nothing, so please stay away from such platforms who are fleecing us of our money and give out cash prizes only for the first three places, eBooks and E-certificates for those selected to be published. There is no transparency about the book sales or anything for that matter, (I had learnt from experience after facing such a situation from a popular publisher who is well known for publishing anthologies) STAY AWAY from such publishers.

Go Ahead If you’re desperate to Publish

The second type of publishers are those who charge money for publishing our writings but confirm a place for our story in the anthology. They usually provide all the published authors with a certificate and the soft copy of the eBook and depending on the fee some may even give the writers a hard copy.

Publishers to Consider Read More

My Tryst with Self Publishing

I had self-published my debut book of poetry on KDP, but many of my friends said that they didn’t have a kindle and asked if there was a print version of the book, but I didn’t have any. So now after I finished writing my second book which is a collection of short stories, this time I wanted to make sure to have both a print and eBook version of my book available on Amazon and Flipkart. So began my search for the perfect self-publishing platform to satisfy my requirements.

I started exploring all the self-publishing platforms, many suggested Notion Press and Pothi. So I started doing my research, and this is what I found.

Pothi Print on Demand (POD)

This is not a self-publishing platform but a print on demand service, wherein we can upload the manuscript, cover and publish an eBook and a print version of our book. I want to talk more on the print version of the book as there are many eBook publishers. So on Pothi we can print one copy of our book or any number, there is no limit to the number of copies we want, and the service is free and the book will be available on the Pothi store. We can share the link to our social media sites or to our friends, once ordered the book will be delivered accordingly, I received the book in ten days owing to the delays due to the COVID situation.

But what I wanted was that the print version of my book should be available for sale on Amazon and Flipkart. For this there is an option called extended distribution on Pothi, which allows us to sell the paperbacks on these partner platforms.

Pothi offers three packages

The Standard package costs Rs.1500/- and once we pay and approve our book for extended distribution, it will take a week to ten days for us to receive the links for sale on these platforms. I opted for this package, but please ensure that you order a print copy of the book from Pothi store and check if everything is according to your requirement and then only approve for extended distribution. I made the mistake of approving before receiving my print copy and I didn’t like the book size, the cover finish, the page colour and the sentence spacing, so I had to pay Rs.1500/- again and had to stop my earlier order of the books. The second time I selected a matte finish cover, with a book size of 5”x7”, a line spacing of 1.15 and selected the natural shade which means cream colour paper (the plain paper which I had selected the first time looked like I had put together a book out of Xerox copies).

If you do everything right and check your print copy properly your book will be available to order on Amazon and Flipkart for just Rs.1500/- which is a win-win situation. There is a renewal fee of Rs.1000/- for every year (which is currently waived), so if we want our print books to be available on the other two platforms after a year also, we have to pay Rs.1000/- and renew it (which is not a big deal I guess).

The second is the Premium — 200 package wherein, in additional to the Rs.1500/- for setup we have to the pay in advance the discounted author fee for 200 books and the yearly renewal fee is the same as above.

The third is the Premium — 600 package wherein, in additional to the Rs.1500/- for setup we have to the pay in advance the discounted author fee for 600 books and the yearly renewal fee is the same as above.

I published my eBook on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and used Pothi only to get the print version of my book out in India, and the print version is automatically linked to the electronic version of our book on Amazon, so I am pretty happy with this setup. And I also made the paperback available for sale on Amazon KDP, so that the print version is available for sale in US and other markets other than India (we can order it in India too but it has to be shipped from US which turns out to be much costlier). Read More

When You Can Why Not?

When You Can Why Not?‘ is a collection of seventeen short stories, which talk about how many of us are ignorant about the various existing Indian Laws and Acts which are there to protect us from anyone flouting these rules. These stories are a fictional take on our daily life and each story tells us about our legal rights and the recourse we have towards domestic violence, child marriages, child labour, acid attacks, workplace harassment, maternity leave benefits, cutting trees, usage of high beams in city limits, library rights, LPG Insurance, LGBT rights, live-in relationships, polluting lakes, National Green Tribunal rules, Open Prisons and filing a complaint from home.

Each chapter is a fictionalised story on the above topics and what the law states with related to such offences. It really saddens me to see people flouting rules and not caring about following rules thus risking many people’s lives and adding to fatalities, I can personally relate to a couple of incidents in this book.

Women who are stuck in an abusive relationship or face harassment at work are generally ignorant about their legal rights, this book highlights such stories and give answers to many such problems faced by women, children and the LGBT community. Being a nature and environment lover also made me address environment related issues in a couple of stories in the book.

Canteen

It was a hot summer afternoon in Barmer, the heat was intense with wind blowing sand into his face, the howling air gives an eerie feeling, but Manas was accustomed to the extreme weather conditions. Manas was the Patrol Officer for the Border Security Force guarding the border between India and Pakistan in Barmer, Rajasthan, he had been in the same post for the past five years and loved his job of protecting his country.
Armed with his rifle he was walking along the border with the wired fence till the point were the hilly area started. His eyes suddenly pick up a movement near some shrubs, he stops walking and tries focusing but he finds nothing, he continues walking and than again he hears slow moans coming from behind some sparse vegetation on the hill.
He’s on alert now, aiming his rifle he crouches down and slowly walks upto the source of noise only to find a half conscious man lying on the ground.
After making sure that the man was not armed Manas touches his forehead and sees that he’s burning up and appears to be in a delirium, after taking a closer look at the man’s clothes, he is sure that the man was from Pakistan and had lost his way and had crossed the border without realizing it.
Manas quickly opens his canteen and helps the man drink some water and slowly wipes the man’s face with a wet cloth and helps him stand up. He slowly escorts the man and helps him cross over to his motherland, overlooking the consequences he may have to face later, his only thought being that the man was innocent.

Black

It was like a dark gloomy cloud spreading
itself all over the sky, the mood of elders
rubbing off on the young ones too, kids making themselves inconspicuous to go with the elders actions not wanting to cause any trouble and see black

Terrified at the sight, the black of his belt
bringing out the red from my skin, pushing me
into an endless swirling black tunnel, fighting my way through the black and white mazes only to be pushed back again and again into that endless path to nowhere

The air was thick and dark like a pall of gloom
when someone passes away, the black mood
of his bearing testimony to the visible black and blue marks left on my body, the black of his eyes minus the irises indication of an upcoming storm

I couldn’t differentiate between sunny, rainy and hot days, all I saw were the same overcast shadowy black days, becoming numb and growing a thick skin devoid of any feelings or pain, walking around in a haze going about my work like a robot, wondering if I deserved this

The outcome of spending day and night with him under a roof for the longest time of my life, this period of black days caused by a small virus brought out the violent devil in him, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE was the name given to it, many men, many women, but the victim always a woman, Will the tables ever turn?

Bubble

I mused on the past forty days of Lockdown, when all of us were locked-in, we didn’t get into fights, nor were kids at loggerheads, we all bonded as a family when each of us lent a hand in doing the household chores, played, ate and watched movies together.

On the other hand migrant workers, laborers, drivers, tailors and hawkers and many more who depended on daily wages were left high and dry, waiting for aid, making the best of what little resources they had, some painfully trudging all the way home to be with loved ones.

The Frontline workers like doctors, nurses, hospital and sanitation staff, pharmacists and the whole Police department worked tirelessly to help the ill, restrict the movement of people in order to bring down the Corona cases and all the time exposing themselves to the deadly virus.

While the techies worked from home attending calls, and zoom meetings became the need of the hour for online kids classes, meetings, chatting, book discussions, storytelling, exercising, cooking and everything else, people learnt to adapt and accommodate to limited resources.

And then there are the good Samaritans, who with their relentless efforts, are providing food, groceries, masks and other essentials, irrespective of the risks they’re exposed to, they continue the noble deed of feeding many mouths and helping the needy.

Amidst all this and the extending Lockdown, the economic bubble is about to burst with works coming to a standstill, looming layoffs, stock market crashing, GDP seeing a huge dip, growing unemployment, tourism taking a hit and even the education sector taking a beating.

I am amazed and at a loss of words that a small virus could cause such a huge impact and burst this big and mighty bubble called economy, which shook the whole world with a single touch.

Water Conservation

The hot sun was merciless, but the daily walk to the common drinking water pump in the village was mandatory for daily drinking and household needs. For 12 year old Rohit it was a common sight to see his father daily carry two cans of water for their family of four.

But today was different, his father had hurt himself in the fields and yet here he was limping his way home with the cans of water. The only thought in little Rohit’s mind was to ease his father’s pain and have their own drinking water in their backyard.

He instantly remembers the science lesson about Rainwater Harvesting, he runs excitedly to his friends place who’s brother had a smart phone. He and his friend check out a YouTube video on Rainwater Harvesting (RWH) and he’s ecstatic at the step by step and easy explanation of the video.

Rohit requests his friends brother Raghu to help him build a RWH system in their backyard. Seeing Rohit’s excitement, Raghu helps him build a RWH system and taking Rohit’s mother into confidence they get all the required plumbing done.
After six months Rohit is overjoyed at seeing the first trickle of water coming into the pipe and excitedly shows it to his father and informs everyone at his school about how the science lesson and the Internet helped him in bringing water into his home and make their lives easier.

Moonlight

It was a picture perfect town with rolling hills, endless green meadows dotted with cosy homes and ancient stone buildings. It was the day of the much awaited annual Moon festival which was held on a full moon day and everyone was dressed in their best, and it was a perfect time for youngsters to have some fun dancing, checking out the many games and food stalls.
Soft music played and a few couples were gliding to the tune, there was a sudden commotion followed by a hushed silence as everyone stopped dancing and all eyes were riveted to the couple wrapped around each other in a tight hug, their lithe upper bodies raising against each other, their graceful moves transfixed the people watching them, but they only had eyes for each other. The moon too couldn’t resist watching and had come out in full glory to witness the beauty of the spectacular scene unfolding in that quaint liitle town.
After what seemed like eons the couple slithered away silently into the wilderness, leaving everyone agape.

Widows of Vrindavan

The streets were filled with a sea of white saree clad women, dancing to the bhajans of Lord Krishna and smearing gulal on each other, this was the only bright spot in their otherwise colorless lives.

Widows who were abandoned by their families at Vrindavan living in oblivion and poverty, singing and working as maids for a living, and even seeking alms if nothing works out in their favor.

Women who have been widowed at an early age who supported their siblings till they had the strength to work, only to be castaway to fend for themselves when they were no longer in their prime.

Drawing strength from each other, these women have found a home away from home taking comfort and feeling secure and creating strong bonds with many more women like them.

Denied of dignity and rights, these women live in their own world taking refuge in Vrindavan making it their home, seeing any interaction with the outer world as a ray of hope in their small colorless white world, living to attain Nirvana.