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Thank you. Yes, you!

Following the successful debut of a literary offspring , Adrift, in May 2010, I could think of no better way to beat the inevitable post-natal blues but to conceive again. Thus, Cutting Loose, with an incredibly brief gestation period of ten days, was introduced to a chosen few in its undeveloped, under-nourished form in October last year.  It has, since, metamorphosed into a full-bodied entity, found its spotlight, and made its presence felt in cyberspace.

To all of you who are reading this right now, and are impatiently waiting for me to arrive at my point, I would like to say:  thank you! Thank you for dropping by, thank you for browsing, and thank you for writing in. It would have been, and will be, an entirely meaningless exercise without your participation.

On a personal level, it has been a rather eventful ride thus far. I have, in the year gone by, travelled some, eaten much, read a bit and shared a lot. I have lived out at least one dream on my bucket list; attempted to shred at least one myth;  experienced innovative culinary ideas; picked up many a literary gauntlet; reacquainted culturally with a place I call home; and walked down a few memory lanes.

In my mission to provide vicarious pleasures, I have been assisted, in no small measure, by online angels and chronologically younger but (unsurprisingly!) technologically superior minds than mine own. Through their constant inputs, I have striven to continuously improve the look and feel of Cutting Loose. Followers have increased tremendously; never mind the subscriber counter that appears to be stuck. However, if you feel the desire to change that figure, go here. Or don’t.

To those of you who are still reading, I would also like to say this: thank you for your resolute patience! Till next time then; stay healthy, stay happy. Cheers! 🙂

First-time Author

It is a little over a year since I was awash with the euphoria of having been signed up by a publisher for my first book, Adrift. A first-time author is a tough tag to achieve (don’t let anyone fool you into believing otherwise), given how market-driven the unwieldy publishing industry is. And given my choice of genre, travel, even less promising. It has been a lot of hard work, before and after.

Still, it has been fun. Or, so it seems in retrospect. I’m not sure I was amused when some publishers, at the outset, suggested I add ‘spice’ to an otherwise readable manuscript (their words). It was constantly compared with a runaway bestseller (Eat, Pray and Love) minus the carnal adventures. One publisher thought it well within his professional ambit to question: how come you were on the European continent for six months and nobody made a pass at you? If memory serves me well, I think I suggested he wait for my memoirs!

It did not take me long to realize that I was taking many a wrong turn. Six months of constant, albeit polite rejections later, yet unwilling to sex up my manuscript, not for prudish reasons but because the narrative did not merit it, I began my search for publishers with offbeat catalogues. Another couple of months of diligent peddling later, I heard back from one of them. Then, commenced the painstaking process of editing, suggesting, approving, designing and imaging.  Finally, in May of 2010, I was ready to launch.

One more revelation followed thereafter. The publisher’s role in introducing you as an author is limited to ensuring distribution to vendors, and to publications that may or may not review your work. As a reviewer myself, I knew how back-to-back columns of books propped up ceilings in most offices, before finding their way into oblivion. And so began another uphill task, that of marketing my hard work. Something all first-time authors should factor into their post-launch activities. Stagger them, as you will be funding most of them yourself. Yes, another splintered myth.

The last year has been an endless, albeit fulfilling round of calls and meetings with the fourth estate, magazine editors, book promotion agencies, book clubs, bloggers, Rotarians and television channels. And just when I thought I had covered all ground, I chanced upon another novel idea: a book video. Currently in talks with a media production house (watch their feature Neither Milk Nor Yoghurt on NDTV 24X7 this Sat at 3pm and Sun at 1pm), I will soon have one of my own to share with you all…

NOTE: Whoever said writing was tough has another think coming. Looking back, it was the easiest thing I did in fashioning my literary avatar!

PS: Shared an edited version of this post with Chillibreeze.

Cafe Kaffee Kuchh

Here was an activity that may not require fancy dress nor immunity against masala-rich multi-cuisine, I told myself, when an SMS invited me to attend the Second Garage Film Festival at the Cafe Kaffee Kuchh. After a bout of big fat Punjabi weddings and festive parties, it was a well-appointed decision. Mini thought so, too.

The scene at Lajpat Rai Bhavan in Sector 15 on Sunday evening was one of unpretentious casualness, creativity and bonhomie. Volunteers bustled around preparing and serving beverages to shouts of do chai, saat coffee and sandwich! How they identified the voices in the dark is a marvel. The crowd  swelled even as professional and amateur film-makers went about testing equipment, readying to screen their films. Following which they would engage with the audience and each other for feedback. The themes of the short films were varied; some shoddily presented, some brilliant; some amateur and some technologically superior. Yet they all smacked of activism, the hallmark of youthful earnestness.

The sudden coolness of the evening had us heading straight to the counter for our cuppas during the ‘interval’. Sukhmani, coordinator and minder of cafe that evening filled us in on recent activities while regretting the frequent breakdown in infrastructure (read electric kettle). For the uninitiated, each Sunday a non-profit activity is hosted by this community cafe run entirely by volunteers. For the past couple of years this has served as an alternative space for creative buzz: poetry reading, storytelling, jam sessions, art shows and a delightfully named fair for kids, jhamela.

Sometime during the evening Sukhmani explained the concept of a gift economy inspired by her visit to the SEWA Cafe at Ahmedabad. At the end of each session empty envelopes are passed around for contributions for the next event. It is not mandatory but since someone’s generosity has already paid for you previously, you give happily. There are no prices listed and it is entirely up to your wallet. Mini and I rated the time spent with the volunteers and participants of Cafe Kaffee Kuchh as one of the happiest in the recent past. We couldn’t have found a better place to “explore the sublime art of hanging out”.

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