Tag Archives: India

Uniquely Bengali

I am Bengali – I belong from a state in India which is well known for its confusing political state, its obssession with fish, intellectual addas, chopsingaramuri, its contribution to Indian Cinema, music, its extravagant Durga puja and so on. It is a beautiful state, but who doesn’t feel that way about their birth places?

But beyond all this, what is the underlying motif of being Bengali, of being part of a Bengali household? This will differ a little bit depending on which area you are from, but here’s how I see Bangaliayana as:

Being Bengali is waking up early in the morning, sometimes as early as 4-4.30 AM, freshening up and heading for a morning walk with a translucent polythene bag. The men may wear shorts and sports shoes, but the womenfolk tread on in their pumps and sarees and their petticoats and blouses, sweating profusely through them. The polythene bag acts as a storage of all the flowers that they will pick up on their walk, sometimes over a little chat with the neighbor whose trees they are picking the flowers from, sometimes secretly, making sure no one sees them in their flower-picking exercise. These little furtive activities sometimes make for the most pleasurable experiences for a Bengali soul.

Being Bengali means standing in the line in front of the dairy or the meat shop, bargaining for the best pieces of mutton: chest, leg pieces etc. Being Bengali means going to the market for the fresh vegetable produce and fish, before everyone else had picked it up.

Being Bengali means the occasional fast on a plethora of festivals, to appease the 33 lakh gods the Hindus pray to: Manasa pujo, Bipottarini pujo, Shitala pujo. Being Bengali means making luchi and payesh to break that fast, and distributing small portions of those as well as the auspicious threads to tie on the wrists among the neighbors.

Being Bengali means gossip for the womenfolk as they do their dishes and shout out from the windows to the neighbor – whose daughter was not going getting married yet in spite of looking for grooms for the past year, whose son failed in the exam because he fell into bad company, whose children don’t look after their parents after having comfortably settled in Germany, whose mother-in-law is too quarrelsome and makes life hell for the young wife. Being Bengali means womenfolk sitting on moras in winter, with the December sun lusciously teasing their backs with cozy warmth, as they knit mittens and sweaters for their grandchildren.

Being Bengali means conch shells blowing in the evening, along with the burning of incense sticks and ululating women. It means the mandatory arati of the tulsi plant, which is regarded as the sacred plant and is part of every Bengali household.

Being Bengali means prodding the children away from the television as dusk falls, to their study rooms, because the mothers and the grandmothers will now watch the serials that have been continuing over ages, and also because, everyone wants their children to be doctors and engineers and they have to beat Mr. Sen’s daughter in maths.

Being Bengali means the machher jhol ar bhaat ar akta ruti for dinner. It means leaving the dishes in the sink for the cleaning lady to grumble over the next morning. It means the tucking of the mosquito net under the mattress of every bed, irrespective of mosquitos being in the season or not.

These little snapshots in time, in my eyes, are uniquely Bengali. This is what I know my Bengali households as. I know, like every other community we have our faults and failings, but hey, every little fault makes us who we are: human. And do we excel at that!

Bound by Life – The Grand Release!

O my! It’s 20th June already. After all these weeks and all the hard work, my first book is finally releasing today!  For those of you who are visiting this blog for the first time, here’s some context: Bound by Life is a  collection of ten short stories based in India written by me, Arpita Pramanick. If you’re wondering who Arpita is, please check out my About page.

THROWDOWN

To honour the birth of my precious little book, I had decided to write stories every Saturday of this month. But since it’s the grand release today, I decided to make an exception. Today, I’d like to share with you the stories behind the stories in Bound by Life. By that I mean the stories of what/who inspired me to write each story of Bound by Life.

As a little girl, I had been indecently touched by a man at a local fair. I couldn’t have been more than twelve or thirteen at the time. That left a deep scar in my mind. I was so shocked at the time that I had not able to share the incident with anyone. For years, I tried to stay as far as I could from crowded places. I was scared of getting onto public buses. In general, I tried to stay as far as I could from men. When I started to write Bound by Life, that incident was one thing that I knew I had to share. I had kept it within myself for too long! Ultimately, that led me to write The Silent Victim, the very first story of the book.

Earlier this summer, a small circus had come to show in our neighbourhood. It was nothing fancy. In fact, the kind of props and lighting they had, I kinda thought the people at the circus were not making a lot of money. They had the usual tricks that they show in circuses: acts with knives and hats, trapeze. There was even an elephant. But the star of the humble show was a small, black goat. Now, I am not going to divulge how that little quadruped was special (you must read the book for that), but that inspired me to write The Last Show.

There are ten stories in Bound by Life, and each story has a story behind its origin. I’d have loved to share those here. But it’s not possible to do so without giving something away about the stories themselves (Spoiler Alert!). Hence, I want you all to read my book and find them out.

Bound by Life is my first book, and of course it is very special for me. I have already written about the things writing this book has taught me. Oh, in case you’re interested, I am still looking for bloggers to spread a word about this book on their blogs/websites. I have been giving away free Reviewer copies in exchange of an honest review since last week. Check this blog-post to receive a free reviewer copy.

Bound by Life is available in thirteen marketplaces through Amazon. I am sharing six of those here. It is priced at $3.00 (US dollars).  Please search the name of the book with the author’s name (that’s Arpita Pramanick for you) to see if it’s available in your local marketplace.

Bound by Life US       Bound by Life UK       Bound by Life India       Bound by Life France     Bound by Life Canada     Bound by Life Japan

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THANK YOU!

Five Lessons that My First Book Taught Me

Bound by Life, my first book, an anthology of short stories based in India, is nearly complete. I started it in March, and am publishing it through Kindle on June 20, 2015.  In these three months, I have learnt a lot about the writing process in general, and my own preferences in particular. In today’s blog post, I share those lessons with you.

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1) Deadlines are both bad and good: I started Bound by Life as if on a dare. I discovered Kindle Self-Publishing and thought this genie was daring me to write and publish a book as soon as I could.

At that point, I was in my final semester of engineering, and had a lot to do besides writing stories. I had never really considered this fact while starting the book, and selecting a deadline. As the days progressed, I started to panic. I had finished five of the ten stories I intend to publish in Bound by Life by 5th May. By the end of May, that number had only increased by one. I mean I had other stories in the pipeline too, but those were half-way or quarter-way through. And lesser time with the stories means lesser time with editing, which can often be a bad thing.

Then again, I had never been a disciplined writer. I have written since I was eight. But it was only recently that I found out that what I wrote were mostly poems, blog and diary entries when what I really wanted to write was some great fiction that would change people’s lives! If I didn’t use that deadline, I would perhaps still be writing what I usually wrote. Since that deadline, I have not only written stories for my book, but sent a few to magazines as well. One of my stories, I am Mala, was published in the May edition of eFiction magazine this year! Hurray!

2) Writing is important, but editing is much more important: Now, any author knows this: we can’t stress editing enough. Every time I went back to one of my stories, I found I could tweak some sentences to make them sound more interesting, or erase entire paragraphs that added nothing to the story. I wish I had more time with the editing process for Bound by Life. But I am doing the best that I can.

3) There are going to be creative ups and lows: While I was writing stories for Bound by Life, on certain days I was sure my stories were awesome and I was over the moon, smug and all that. On other days I was just panicking and thinking my books would never sell any copies.

Then, I realized all this was quite natural. To wave off these mixed feelings, I tried to be more involved in my real life. The fact that I had my final semester exams helped, because at that time I was distracted and too busy to think that my book was trash or too good. I spent more time around people, read books, and discussed those books. I wrote reviews for stories. Mostly, I wanted to come back to the stories with a fresh mind and a more positive outlook.

4) Each story is different, and has to be handled differently: if you have ever worked on an anthology, you’ll know the feeling. There were some stories I wrote in three hours while others stretched on for weeks – these were the ones which appeared interesting to me when I first thought of them, but then didn’t know how to get them down in words.

There was this one story which I had high hopes for. It had a character, an elderly lady, who I was interested in. But I wasn’t familiar with the state of mind of a woman of her background and age to pen it authentically (as a writer, I tend to draw inspiration from real life quite heavily). Finally, after sending the first draft to a couple of acquaintances (a process which made me see the flaws in the story all the more clearly, and I kept telling them that it was a first draft and they shouldn’t judge me by it), I realized I should put away this story until I felt mature enough to deal with its characters. There is a right time for everything, and for a writer (as with anyone in any other profession), it is very important to know your shortcomings, and accept them gracefully.

 5) Your first self-published book is perhaps really not going to be the best-seller you were hoping it to be: Hell, perhaps it will not even sell fifty copies. The publishing industry today has changed a great deal in favour of indie writers, especially thanks to Amazon. But writing your first book and making it a publishing success are two different things. And the process is especially difficult if you are a nobody like me, with a meagre Twitter/Facebook/blog following (not that I am saying that those are the only necessary criteria to sell your book).

When I first began writing this book, I had these dreams of selling so many copies and making lots of money. But in the last two months I have read lots of articles on publishing to know better. Finally, I accepted that I wasn’t going to make any money from Bound by Life, and that made life easy. Thanks to that acceptance, I have different marketing ideas now to pitch Bound by Life, but that is going to be another blog-post.

Until later, have a nice week and keep blogging!

Five magazines to submit fiction (and/or non-fiction) in India

The publishing industry in India is perhaps not so well-documented online as it is outside. Today, I bring you a list of five magazines (four online and one print) to submit your writings to. If you know any other Indian magazines that accept fiction, please let me know. I will update the list from time to time.

eFiction India:

eFiction India is a professionally produced independent magazine devoted to showcasing the work of writers with a connection to the Indian subcontinent. It features the best writing talent from around the world. Although the magazine content is focused on the Indian subcontinent, it is not India-specific. It is an online magazine, and is available for sale through Amazon and the magazine website. It publishes  fiction, poetry, interviews etc.

Stories are voted on by a peer committee of volunteer writers and readers, and after that the editors make the final selection.

If your work is selected by eFiction, they reserve one-month exclusivity rights for the piece, meaning that within this period that work should not appear anywhere else.

The submissions are generally made via Submittable where you can check the status of your submission at all times. Previously published writings are not accepted.

Check out the submission guidelines here.

Out of Print Magazine:

Out of Print is a free, monthly online magazine. Indira Chandrasekhar is the founding editor of the magazine. They publish only fiction.

Out of Print seeks original writing in English or translated into English that is strong, well-crafted and reflects the pace and transition of our times. Though, they give special continent to writing having connection to the Indian subcontinent, they are open to submissions from around the world. (Courtesy: Out of Print website)

Previously published work is not accepted. Simultaneous submissions, however, are accepted.

Check out the submission guidelines here.

The Little Magazine:

TLM is South Asia’s only professionally produced independent print magazine devoted to essays, fiction, poetry, art and criticism. It is also the only publication to offer full-length novellas and film and drama scripts, complete with camera and stage directions. The magazine was conceived as a dialogue — a platform which would carry important work in the world languages along with the best of contemporary writing in the South Asian languages. It is not India-specific and addresses a community which is more easily defined in terms of mindspace rather than in purely geographical terms. (Courtesy: TLM website)

Previously published writings are not accepted. Simultaneous submissions are allowed.

They accept writings up to 25,000 words.

Check out the submission guidelines here.

Muse India:

Started and run by a group of writers, Muse India is a literary e-journal with the primary objective of showcasing Indian writings in English and in English translation to a broad-based global readership. The journal publishes both creative and critical writing and offers a wide range of literary forms—poetry, short fiction, essays, conversations with writers, book reviews and the like. Bearing in mind the general readership on the internet, it will, however, avoid highly academic articles. Besides presenting the work of more established authors, Muse India will also promote talented new and young writers. Muse India is a peer reviewed journal for literary articles. (Courtesy: Muse India website)

It is a bi-monthy online publication. You must be a member of Muse India in order to submit writings there. Membership is easy and free. Click here to become a member.

Simultaneous submission is accepted. Only previously unpublished work is accepted.

Check out the submission guidelines here.

Indian Ruminations:

Indianruminations is a monthly online literary journal specially dedicated for Indian English literature. It is published in the second week of every month. Each issue features a collection of beautifully crafted poems, essays, interviews, reviews, short fiction, literary criticism, art etc. (Courtesy: Magazine website)

Only previously unpublished writings are published. Both online and regular mail submission are accepted.

Check out the submission guidelines here.