Decoding Amit Sharma, the man behind False Ceilings.

When you are part of the blogosphere, you discover a person through their blog. You end up associating them with emotions their words conjure. When I finally met Amit after years of following his blog, I had a stupid grin pasted on my face. Don’t blame me, blame him for writing a hilarious account of how a Gurgaonite enjoys monsoon amidst puddles and waterfalls while river-rafting in his car.

For those who do not know Amit, behind the easy humour lies a sensitive man with a dogged determination to bring his passion to fruition. In his case his first novel ‘False Ceilings’ that he wrote during his years in Manchester. If you are familiar with the functioning of the publishing world, you will be aware that the agony, heartburn, sleepless nights begins after you have submitted your manuscript. That’s when all the hard-work begins and only the fittest can survive the ‘agnipariksha’. I have yet to ask Amit if at any time he felt like Sita wanting the earth to open up and swallow him alive.

Good thing is, I have asked a few our friends to ask Amit a few cringe-worthy questions. I believe this exercise will help him trim down his list of Facebook friends.

Purba Ray: Once your book was out, you would have obviously asked blogger friends to review it. What were the weirdest reactions you got when you asked them?

Amit Sharma: To be honest, most of my Facebook and blogging friends were genuinely happy but there was an eccentric, unpredictable category. There was one guy who asked for a blurb so that he could decide whether he was interested or not. No congratulations, no hey-how-are-you? Just a cold reply. I sent him the blurb anyway. As expected, he refused as he didn’t fancy the genre. Then there were some who behaved as if I have asked them to kill the Queen of England. I was so amused by the airs and the noses pointed to the sky that I wanted to capture the moment somehow.

Besides my FB friends, I also approached a few bloggers unknown to me and book review websites. A majority of them never replied back, even after three follow-up mails. Piece of advice – If you are sending out your book to a reviewer you don’t know personally, read his previous reviews. A person who is physically incapable of moving his mouse pointer beyond a three star rating for any book on Goodreads (including the classics) will land your book in you-know-where. And some reviewers write such tacky reviews (and even have the audacity to ask for money) that you would be better off without them.

Kanchana Banerjee: Amit, you’ve dedicated your book to your demons. That’s quite a strange dedication, especially for the first book. Can you explain this? What are those demons and did writing the book exorcise them?

Amit Sharma: There is one character in the book that is based on my life experiences (clichéd, I know). But there is a point in the book where our paths fork out. He goes towards becoming someone that I always dreaded that I might turn into. And I go towards the real me who walked out of the abyss and refused the misery. It wasn’t easy to write him or any of the six main characters as the story is 60% true. Their relationship, their poison is true. I fought those demons to complete every page. And when I wrote the last page, it was like nailing a coffin shut. I always thought that I would never find enough courage to pull everything out of me. So, when I exorcised those demons, I laughed heartily and dedicated the book to them.

Why I Don’t Get ‘let us inside the Shani temple’ Kind of Activism

Also published on Huffington Post India
Pic Courtesy -

The last few years I have come across an evolving brand of feminism - women who are so proud to be a feminist that they’ll flaunt it like their newly acquired Birkin. Mostly hashtag feminists, they’ll mount the high horse of morality and slay anyone who disagrees with them. And then there is this other set that treats it like leprosy and cannot stop telling anyone who’s willing to listen - I am not a feminist, yaa. Please, please, don’t stop loving me! Here, let me post yet another cleavage shot to prove my point.

Little wonder I feel like a borderline feminist. I don’t relate to either of them. I felt acutely embarrassed when I didn’t get women outraging about women who keep a Karvachauth fast to be able to remain a Mrs for the rest of their life. Had it been to protest against its blatant commercialisation, I would have happily joined in. I mean this is the time when salons, jewellery and sari stores do roaring business and women get to strut their stuff in embellishments bright enough to light up Times Square, right? But calling it a patriarchal conspiracy to keep women hungry and at the mercy of their husbands is a little too much to digest. If she can starve for an upcoming wedding, or to fit into her new skinnies, why not for a man and also get to make him feel guilty as hell!

If we expect men to respect the life choices we make, why can’t we respect another woman’s choice to starve for her husband’s long life! Remember, all good men are either married or gay and one of them happens to be your spouse.

Women are from the Kitchen, Men are from I-can’t

Also Published on Huffington Post India

I love watching cooking shows on TV. For every Nigella who clogs a thousand arteries as she adds a mammoth cube of butter to the bubbling sauce, there’s a Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, Vikas Khanna, Heston Blumenthal vying for our tastebud’s attention. In the world of star chefs with cult following, there are more men than women shining bright in the galaxy. Yet, in real life, men who cook (other than fixing Maggi) are as rare a sight as Modi in India. Imagine being invited over for dinner by your friends and you see the husband slogging away at the kitchen while the wife regales you with stories! In all probability your eyes will pop out in surprise, much like a champagne cork.

Of course there do exist men who love to cook for themselves and their family, but they are more an exception than the norm. I am lucky to be married to the exception. When I tell my friends he’s a fabulous cook and I get to have breakfast in bed on weekends, I get the ‘you must be kidding’ look from them. Interestingly, you’ll hardly hear any man say, he’s lucky to have a mom/sis/wife who cooks. It’s because cooking is still considered a woman’s job. In the age of equality where a woman is as busy as her partner, she may not have to see the inside of her kitchen too often thanks to her cook. But keeping the house clean and the family well-fed even if she’s fed up of it, is still her responsibility. Little wonder it’s the woman and not the man who gets into ‘deep depression’ if her hired helps ditches her for greener pastures.

Behind every successful woman is her hardworking bai.

Frankly I don’t blame men who can’t differentiate cumin powder from coriander and don’t know where the spoons are kept in the kitchen. I blame the women in their lives who insist on treating them like babies incapable of taking care of themselves. Why else would a wife who leaves for a month long vacation at her parents slog for weeks to cook and freeze meals for her dear husband? Why else would a man who’s on a work tour, buy new shirts instead of bothering to wash the used ones? Because all these years he’s gotten away with it!

Women have a perfectly logical excuse for this ineptness. His presence in the kitchen is more a headache than a help. If he cooks, he leaves the kitchen in a mess! A lot of women’s idea of bagging the ‘best wife of the millennium’ trophy is to make their husbands ‘the most inept man’ of the century. And they apply the same logic to their own kids as well. If I make my Twinkle cook a meal, I’ll become a terrible Mom. 

How to Martyr Yourself to Fashion

Pic courtesy -

Once you start writing for pleasure, you get into the awful habit of observing people around you. You note down their peculiarities, eavesdrop into their conversations and get a glimpse of their exciting lives of truant maids and unfaithful husbands. An addictive pastime but sometimes you end up displeasing others with your not so flattering observations. It’s the same reason why some of us love reading advice columns (mostly concerning sex) in magazines and dailies where shy adults confide their love for masturbation using a banana skin. Or a gentleman complains about his wife who makes him wear lingerie and bangles and ties his hair into a pony, every time they make love. No, I absolutely did not make these up.

What I am going to write about has nothing to do with people’s bizarre sexual fetishes. It is about the Indian woman’s love for dressing not according to her shape, but just her state of mind. Go to any mall or multiplex and you’ll see a parade of jiggly bottoms and generous tyres spilling out of dresses two sizes too small. I’m always in a fix how to react. While a part of me says a silent yay for women who dress for themselves and not others, the other part of me wonders if they have a mirror at home.

I understand what a liberating feeling it is to slip into an apparel that makes you feel fashionable and sexy, the rest of the world be damned. But knowing what’s in fashion may not necessarily look good on you, is also a great liberator. Just like tights. Someone wise once said, drunks, children and tights never lie. In fact, they betray your secrets and indulgences in the most embarrassing manner. Just because Cheenu looked drop-dead gorgeous in that halter neck red bandage dress and got 450 likes on Facebook, doesn’t mean it will transform you into her glamorous avatar. What she didn’t tell you is, she only eats seeds and leaves and when she’s feeling adventurous, adds a pinch of sugar to her tea. And if your friends insist you look fabulous in that leopard print jumpsuit that makes you feel asthmatic, they are lying. While I understand girlfriends are meant to make you feel good about yourself and call you gorgeous even if you’re anything but that, an occasional dose of honesty is needed. It forces you to move your complacent ass out of your comfort zone.

Learning and Unlearning to be a Mom

Also published on Huffington Post India

It was just a few months back when I was tossing and turning, unable to sleep on my makeshift bed inside a darkened cabin, the sky an inky blue outside. I was feeling angry at myself. It had been two days since I had been crying non-stop. This wallowing-in-misery-woman was so unlike me. There’s no escaping misery. But it doesn’t take me too long to bounce back to my normal cheerful self – but not this time. 

For weeks I had been telling myself, I’ll be able to cope better this time. But as we got into our cab, ready to fly in a few hours to a country thousands of miles away from our daughter, my dam of resolve broke. The first time was when she had just started her 1st semester in one of the most difficult to get into colleges in Delhi. My husband and I flew off to Australia where he was to take over a new position in his company. Remember the baffling pain you felt as your pelvic bones contracted and expanded to expel your little bundle of flesh? As our plane took off, I felt the same pain but this time it was in my heart.

As a mother there are certain things you must learn. You have to let go of your child even if it breaks your heart. The sooner you do it, the better it is for her. Like the time she came back home crying, complaining about the bully in her school bus who’d trouble her needlessly. As much as you’d want to hunt that boy and beat him to pulp, you’d steel yourself before looking at her and saying – you have to learn to fight your own battles, my love! This is certainly not the last time when someone will try to make you feel weak, feel like shit, but despite the feeling of helplessness, you have to get up and fight.

When at times she’d feel wronged and blame others for her trouble, you had to be harsh and say maybe the problem lay with her and not with others. You cannot cluck protectively around her forever. There comes a time when you have to tell her, not everyone will love you and that’s perfectly okay! That it’s okay not to score top grades but not okay to not have tried your best. Every effort however herculean will not fetch results.

The first time she wanted to go for a late evening party with her friends, you had to put your fears aside and say yes and then overcome the urge to text her constantly to find out if she’s okay. I have kept awake all night, waiting for her to text and say, she’s reached her hostel safely. When I finally did call her, close to dawn, sick with worry, I didn’t know whether to feel angry or relieved when I found out she’d forgotten she was meant to text me! The awareness that she may not care as much as you care for her is heartbreaking. But you learn to live with it.

WIll Delhi Let The Odd Even Formula Succeed?

Delhi is about to turn into Oddistan – let’s even out the differences, shall we?

Pic courtesy - Hindustan Times

The Delhi government has been spearheading a campaign to turn Delhi into a spiritual haven by sending its denizens closer to God – one smog-full breath at a time. The enviable feat was achieved by the administration doing nothing, absolutely nothing – something that would have taken considerable effort because the National Green Tribunal has been shouting itself hoarse about Delhi’s steadily deteriorating air quality. For many, it must have been an uplifting moment when the WHO revealed that breathing in Delhi was akin to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, without having to pay a single paisa. We’ve heard of friends with benefits. But how many cities can claim to be a city with such smoky benefits!

Smoking kills a few but breathing in Delhi will kill all. Hahahaha.

Not anymore. Or so the Aam Admi government would like us to think after they adopt an odd-even policy for motor vehicles. We hear it has been tried in cities like Beijing and Mexico City, with iffy results. But I guess we are good with iffy. Cars with odd and even numbers will be allowed to run on alternate days. This will take 1 million cars off the road. You and I know that privately owned cars pollute the least because we scurry like alarmed kids every three months to get our pollution checks done. So, trucks, buses and other heavy vehicles, just like our elected representatives, will continue belching smoke and keep up their efforts at turning Delhi into a smoker’s only cubicle, like you see at the airports.

It will be interesting to find out how a city that drops its kids to bus stops barely a km away from home and drives to the neighbourhood market rather than walk, will cope with this trauma. Carpooling will prompt avid WhatsAppers to form groups according to number plates where they’ll be forced to have real conversation rather than simply sharing recycled forwards. Men and women seeking dates and mates will not only have to look for their soulmate but their nameplate-mate as well. Couples can breakup over conflicting number-plates instead of having to rely on the boring ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ excuse.

I can already envision a polarized society with the Even wing accusing the Odd wing of festering an atmosphere of intolerance and returning awards to register their protest.

Anyway, half of us, on a given day, will enthusiastically take to buses and the metro, right? Given our already bursting at seams public transport, what are the odds that people will reach their workplaces in one piece? Imagine having the ‘adjust kar lo beta’ aunty sit on your lap as she knits while the constantly chattering college kids stand on your two feet!

Revered Sir,

I beg to state, I shall not be able to attend office. My patience expired in the Metro and I stabbed four idiots who were standing on my foot from Rajiv Chowk to Badarpur, with a fork. I’ll be spending the rest of my life in Tihar. The food here is free. If you eat it, you will realize why it is free.

Arrestingly yours,


The Loneliness of the Connected?

I’m not a phone person. Don’t get me wrong. I’m mostly surgically attached to my phone giving fodder to the husband for his countless number of jokes entirely at my expense. I use it to tweet and check updates and delete WhatsApp forwards. I am incapable of having long conversations on the phone. I have to remind myself again and again to fix a time slot to make that call.  Before I can say ‘eesh’ I realize it has slipped my mind yet again and it’s dial another day.

For someone so vocal, I often run out of things to say in just two minutes. And for someone’s who’s a gainfully unemployed ‘web columnist’, I am always short of time.

Strangely I am not alone in my fear of the dial function of the phone. I often see people share similar sentiments on social media. It’s a space where we have conversations with ourselves and hope that someone will eavesdrop. A community where people wear their lack of social skills like a badge of honour but have no qualms in pouring their hearts out to complete strangers.  Couples declare undying love for each other in public and quarrel in private. Parents get to tell the world how talented, bright their offspring is. Everyone is trying to convince each other how blessed they are.

When I was growing up, my Mother’s idea of pep-talk was telling me how talented, bright, obedient Mrs X Mrs Y and Mrs Z’s children were and I was doing nothing about it. In fact, the more your parents loved you, the more you got reprimanded by them. I still get scolded by my Mom for not calling her enough, for not bothering to keep in touch with Uncles and Aunties I once so loved.

I can’t because I feel emotionally distant from my Uncles Aunts and cousins, who were once such an important part of my growing-up years. All my happy memories are huddled in the summer breaks I spent with my cousins, with no television, no Internet to distract us.  I would cry (sometimes in front of the mirror to feel doubly miserable) every time we had to go back home. 

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