Tagged: The Reengineers

The Reengineers: Review by Jasleen Kaur

A wonderful review of The Reengineers by Jasleen Kaur, originally posted on her book review blog https://thesubtlebraiding.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/book-review-reengineers-by-indu.html 

Chinmay is all set to free himself from the worldly affairs. He finds solace in the old library with his friends Anu and Sabi. Their life was monotonous until one day when they have to escape. The Seekers School is not in its full form after some people decide to change the shape of the administrative wing and the modus operandi. What happens when Chinmay and his friends are stuck at a place and its whereabouts are unknown to them? Will they remain in mental despair or will things change shape?

Title and Cover-
The title and cover were both were meaningful and far-sighted. I loved the colours, tones, and richness of the cover. It is definitely eye catchy and also it says a lot without any extravagant detailing done.

There were characters from two phases and I loved all of them. They were crazy, humorous, deep, dark, mysterious etc etc. I liked the balancing that was done in order to bring in front both negative and positive characters so that some phrases become clear and impactful.

From the major characters, I liked Chinmay and Siddhartha. The analogy maintained between them was superbly penned.

From the minor characters Sabi, Professor, Govind, Roshan, Nivedita etc were some of the characters which keep helping the major characters to move ahead. And I loved their movements, talks, and traits.

The first person narration was not bland at all. The story seemed more lifelike with that. I liked the change of speakers with the movement of the story. I felt that the number of chapters could have extended because a lot was said in just one go.

At first, I thought that “The Reengineers” is about the gloominess that some students would face or are facing in their lives. But Indu Murlidharan really surprised me as I proceeded ahead. I was not at all ready for a book like this and after completing it I was certain that my time is invested at a very worthy place. Such was the beauty of the book.

The book started at a normal pace and a larger space was given to the readers to know the three friends who are somehow travelling in the same boat which has traversed from different shores. A deeper analysis was done at one point and other to showcase the mindsets of Chinmay, Sabi, and Anu.

All three of them had an enormous amount of pain within themselves and it was well portrayed. I could connect with them and their depression without any efforts.

Twists and turns are the lifeline of any book and this particular book has loads of such surprises. The first turn that came in the book was enough to tell me that something big is on the way. I was perplexed just like Chinmay and others.

I loved the advancements thereafter. There were so many important aspects and teachings that were shown by different characters. The whole aura that was created of a secluded place offering numerous courses was ecstatic to experience. I liked the sarcastic imageries.

Further, there were some particular places where I was enjoying the richness of the book. The letters written by the Siddhartha were my favourite. They had so much to say in few words. Also, the different type of people which he explained was serene and meaningful. The conversation between Chinmay and the Professor was the cherry on the top. Who can think of such an ending? Kudos author.

Summing up- The novel started on a very different note and ended up in a totally different dimension. I was dumbstruck to know the ending and the proceedings that lead me to such spectacular ending which was just smooth, interesting and not at all hasty, allowing each and every difficult turn of events to be grasped with ease. The book came as a surprise package for me. A fantastic read.

• “It was so quiet that has a pin dared to drop in that room, the silence would have swallowed the sound.”

• “Depression is a cruel malady. It can paralyse your mind and leave you vulnerable and helpless, messing you up within although you may appear healthy to the world.”

• “The bigger your goal and the higher your targets, the greater will be the chance of things going wrong.”

• “You can change your fate any way you like. You only need to know that you can do it.”

• The different levels at which the book went to entertain the readers.

• Wide variety of characters of different hue and persona.

• Smooth flow.

• Deep analysis shown inside the story and its perfect blending with the moving picture.

Well, this book can be read by all those who are fed up of their lives and who are trying to find answers in self-help books. Also, fiction lovers can pick it for some different angles mixed up to form such complex yet easy going compound.

Source: https://thesubtlebraiding.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/book-review-reengineers-by-indu.html

If you like literary fiction, you will love The Reengineers:
Click here to buy

AtoZChallenge# on Favourite Authors: Lewis

“You can make anything by writing.”
Clive Staples Lewis

One of the many things that make Oxford magical is its association with writers. Though St.Giles’ street is now a familiar place, every time I pass in front of the Eagle and Child pub, I still find myself thinking of its legendary association with Lewis and Tolkien, and how the writers would meet there on Tuesdays to discuss their work.

“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”
C.S.Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

The most memorable scene in all the books of Narnia, to me, remains the journey to the world between worlds which is described in The Magician’s Nephew. More than one reviewer of The Reengineers has mentioned that the scene in which Chinmay and friends find their way into Conchpore reminds them of the wardrobe in The Chronicles of Narnia. There are any number of fantasy stories in which the characters find a portal to a different world. However the most subtle of these portals is perhaps the world between worlds. A cool, green place where one can almost hear the silence, a place covered with shady trees and full of magical pools, each of which takes one to a different world. It is the perfect metaphor for a library. The scene in The Reengineers was very subtly inspired by this idea, as Chinmay and friends open a door in Uncle RK’s library and find themselves in the old library of the Seeker’s School. When they return, it is from the new library and back to Uncle RK’s study. I had included a paragraph describing as much in Chapter two which was cut out in an early edit, as my editor felt that the transition between the fictional worlds came through clearly and did not need to be spelled out.

“In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”
C. S. Lewis

I still feel the same way whenever I enter a library and sit down in its silence. Be it the British Library, the Old Bodleian or the smaller libraries of my college, or my own little library at home, all of them are equally magical worlds between worlds. Where silence seeps through the mind and calms it down, preparing it for fresh new adventures within the pages. This idea is the greatest gift that I received from Lewis’s writing.

“We read to know we are not alone.”
C. S. Lewis

If you like literary fiction, you will love The Reengineers:
Click here to buy

On Madras Day

There are controversies on celebrating 22 Aug as Madras day, as it is associated with colonialism. But people who belong to the city are aware of its history, which goes far beyond the three hundred plus years that mark this anniversary. The day is just an occasion to reaffirm love for the city which so many of us, irrespective of where we happen to live, will always call home.

Here is a short excerpt from The Reengineers, which begins with a love letter to the city.

“Aside, which called itself ‘The Magazine of Madras’, is now as much a memory as the city’s old name. Yet, the vibes of my city remain unchanged. The vibes that you get from the old Leo coffee ad in which a woman serves filter coffee in a steel davara-tumbler to a man against the backdrop of a butter-Krishna Tanjore painting, suggesting a typical Madras home where kolams of rice flour bloomed in the courtyard at dawn and the warm morning air carried the strains of the Venkatesa Suprabhatam.
The feeling of home still pervades my city, despite the impersonal flyovers that now criss-cross above the old familiar roads, the acres of shining skyscrapers that buzz with the sounds of the software cities teeming within them, and the gleaming malls that may soon outnumber the tiny Ganesha shrines on each street, all of which make the Chennai of today such a different world from the Madras of 1991, where this story first begins, and then begins anew.”
The Reengineers, p.3-4

Excerpt with permission from HarperCollins Publishers India from The Reengineers by Indu Muralidharan

This is the old Leo coffee ad mentioned in the paragraph. I was a child when this ad used to be aired on television. But every time I watch it, it makes me timesick for the sweetness and simplicity of Madras of the nineties.

If you like literary fiction, you will love The Reengineers:
Click here to buy

On Independence Day

Happy Independence Day to all my fellow Indians. Someone told me recently that they thought the concept of patriotism was outdated in present times, when almost everyone is part of a global community in some way. I disagreed politely. I like the quiet pride that shines in my English, Irish, Canadian or Italian friends’ eyes as they talk about their respective countries, which mirrors my love for my own nation. For it is only when we feel secure in the love of our own family that we tend to accept and respect others more easily, and adapt better to society, whether it is the immediate society around us or the wider, global community. Everyone should have the freedom to love their own country, and to say that they do. Breathes there the man with soul so dead, etc. as a good Scot once wrote.

In The Reengineers, young Chinmay wonders about patriotism and what it meant to him, among other things. There is a scene in which he watches this song on television, which portrays the optimism that prevailed in the country in the decades that immediately followed independence.

Here is a short excerpt from The Reengineers in which Chinmay and friends discuss what patriotism meant to them, teenagers of the nineties.

Excerpt with permission from HarperCollins Publishers India from The Reengineers by Indu Muralidharan

Arun’s lecture on the last working day of class ten had revolved around his favourite topic: India.
‘How many of you respect the Indian national flag? The national anthem? How many of you actually stand up when it is sung?’
I raised my hand in a reflex action. Sabi did the same. Hearing furtive giggles, I turned around and found, to my horror, that in a class of forty students only the two of us had our hands up. Anu was frantically gesturing to me to drop my hand. I did so, puzzled and hurt.
Arun did not look surprised. He continued, ‘Now this question would have evoked a totally different reaction in classrooms in countries such as the UK or Japan. They have an intrinsic sense of national pride that is lacking in India. Not surprising, as it has only been forty-four years since we got independence.’

I looked down into my book, wishing I could hide within its pages. My love for my country had turned me into a bigger freak than I already was in the classroom.
What did it mean to love one’s country anyway? Much like the farmers who cheered enthusiastically for Mother India when Jawaharlal Nehru addressed them but were dumbstruck when he asked them who exactly they thought Mother India was, I had no answer. To me, patriotism was the joy I experienced while reading the poems of Subramaniya Bharati, Uncle RK and Rabindranath Tagore. It was my pride in singing the national anthem and saluting the tricolour unfurled in the school assembly on Monday mornings. It was the lump in my throat when I watched songs like ‘The fertile earth of my country that brings forth gold, diamonds and pearls’ and ‘I am a little soldier of the nation. Say with me, Jai Hind’ on TV. It was the anger and resentment I felt when my mother told me not to get too friendly with Anu as he was not a Brahmin or with Sabi as she was not ‘one of us’ but a north Indian.

Sabi’s question brought back the forgotten incident and with it, the embarrassment and hurt.
‘Remember Arun’s question about respecting our national flag? Why didn’t you raise your hand?’ I asked Anu.
‘I didn’t want to be the odd one out.’
‘Why did Arun say that we have no national pride? What about the ancient verses that laud the glorious Bharat Varsha? What about our freedom fighters from various corners of the country who fought for the nation as a whole? What about Bharati and Tagore?’ I asked.
Anu raised his hands in a non-committal gesture.
‘Do we really have freedom? I would like some, please,’ Sabi said.
She got up and walked to the far end of the library. Leaning against the door, she looked at us pensively.

Excerpt with permission from HarperCollins Publishers India from The Reengineers by Indu Muralidharan

If you like literary fiction, you will love The Reengineers:
Click here to buy

AtoZChallenge# on Favourite Authors: Eliot

“What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
Other echoes
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?”
Thomas Stearns Eliot, Four Quartets (Burnt Norton)

While writing The Reengineers, I had always thought of the above quote from Four Quarters as its epigraph, before settling for the quote from Dickens. The hero Chinmay’s adventure begins when he steps out from one library to another, and encounters a man who is likely to be his author. The much loved lines from Eliot were symbolic of the surreal adventure of Chinmay and his friends.

In the scene in Chapter Nine where Chinmay and friends sit listening to a conversation between Siddharth and Nivedita in which Siddharth refers to Amrita as ‘a phantom of delight‘ and when Nivedita tells him that ‘Amrita had her feet too firmly on the ground to be a phantom of any kind, and besides it was old fashioned to quote Wordsworth‘, the original scene extended to Siddharth replying that quoting Prufrock would suit Amrita better as she was a doctor, and reciting the poem afterwards. I removed both these references during the book’s final edit, but in the vision of the book in my mind, these lines from Eliot remain an integral part of the novel.

Here is the deleted paragraph:
“I listened enthralled as he went on to recite the rest of Alfred J Prufrock’s plaintive plaint, and choked when he came to the part where the mermaids wouldn’t sing to him. Many years later, whenever I came across Prufrock recited or quoted somewhere, it would all come back to me again, the hours that I had spent at the seeker’s school and Siddharth’s voice ringing through the warmth of that faraway afternoon.”

The protagonist Tom Richards in Muriel Spark’s novel ‘Reality and Dreams’ is conscious of the first line of Prufrock running through his consciousness throughout the novel, ‘Let us go then, you and I.’ While Prufrock is in a dream from where he states that he will remain ’till human voices wake, and drown him‘, Tom feels that he is in ‘no man’s land between dreams and reality’. Reality and Dreams is not one of Spark’s greatest works, what remained with me as a reader was the line from Eliot which threaded the novel’s narrative and premise together.

4Quartets_Studying Eliot is enthralling. As a modernist writer, as a philosopher poet, as an experimental playwright, there are so many layers into his work.

Our civilization comprehends great variety and complexity, and this variety and complexity, playing upon a refined sensibility, must produce various and complex results. The poet must become more and more comprehensive, more allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if necessary, language into his meaning.“, says Eliot in his review of Metaphysical Lyrics and Poems of the Seventeenth Century: Donne to Butler. Selected and edited, with an Essay, by Herbert J. C. Grierson (Oxford: Clarendon Press. London; Milford) in the Times Literary Supplement, October 1921.

“April is the cruellest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.”

For the past three years, I have found myself reading Four Quartets afresh in mid-April, on every Tamil New Year, it has almost become a tradition.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets (Little Gidding)

Eliot is a poet meant to be re-read again and again, whose words are as compelling on each re-reading as the first time they are read, his poems both echo, as well as present themselves as profound spiritual and philosophical texts, and convey universal wisdom even as they allude to other poets, like these lines which evoke ‘Among school children’ by Yeats:

“music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but
you are the music
While the music lasts.”
― T.S. Eliot, Collected Poems

There is one more reason to love Eliot, his delightful ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’.

Here is a link to him reading ‘The Ad-ressing of Cats’.

A poet who loves cats is one after my own heart.

To buy The Reengineers:

AtoZChallenge# on Favourite Authors: Dickens

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
Charles John Huffam Dickens, David Copperfield

David Copperfield was one of my favourite heroes as a child. He still is. The quintessential writer hero who narrates his life story. When I started writing The Reengineers, I had assumed that Chinmay would be closer to Holden Caulfield considering the similarities that they both share, such as a smothering family and existential angst fuelled by teenage depression. But when I finished writing the novel and read it objectively, I found myself unconsciously associating the grown up Chinmay who appears for a fleeting moment in the epilogue with David as he completes narrating his own story.

DavidCopperfieldThe Reengineers begins with fifteen year old Chinmay waiting in a library on a sweltering Summer morning, reflecting upon his plans to kill himself. It concludes (no spoilers here) with a grown up Chinmay in another time and place, looking out at his snow-covered garden from the warmth of his library, musing upon who really was the hero of his life. Looking back, I believe that there could not have been a greater inspiration, or a better epigraph for The Reengineers than the quote above from Dickens.

The first place that I visited in London was Charles Dickens’ museum at 48 Doughty St, where the author lived between 1837 and 1839 and wrote The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby and parts of Barnaby Rudge. The house was dark and cool, with parts of it having a curious lived-in feeling as though the occupants of the house had just stepped out. The dark silhouttes of the author pointing the visitors at the landings were rather spooky. It felt like trespassing as I followed the signs and the cheerful guides who urged me to step inside and take a look at Charles Dicken’s bedroom, somewhat like reading the private correspondence of the Brownings or the Hugheses.

“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.”
― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

The museum holds the unfinished painting “Dickens’ Dream” by Robert William Buss which shows the author at his desk, surrounded by characters of his novels.

“You are in every line I have ever read.”
― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

I stood for a long moment by his writing desk, paying a silent tribute to the author whose words are part of my earliest memories, and some of whose characters have been no less than my dearest friends.

“Happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it, but to delight in it when it comes.”
― Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby

To buy The Reengineers:

The Reengineers: A Review by Nimi Arora

A beautifully written review by Nimi Arora, which made me look at The Reengineers from a reader’s eyes. In these insightful lines which have captured the essence of my novel, I see that Chinmay now belongs to the world. Feeling delighted, blessed, humbled and grateful.

Link to the review on her website: http://www.nimiarora.com/2016/04/the-reengineers-indu-muralidharan-book-review.html

The Reengineers: A Review by Nimi Arora

Chinmay, Anu and Sabi are three friends who have no other friends. Except for books, that is.
The three friends are misfits in the society, even among their own family members.

“We are ugly ducklings of the same feather…”

Chinmay Narayan is the protaganist of The Reengineers.
On the first page itself, he tells that he had two goals – to top the class ten board exams, and to kill himself after the exams. In the very next sentence, he clarifies that by the next afternoon, his life and plans had changed.
A sensible, oversensitive boy with the insensible thought of suicide in him. He believes he doesn’t fit in.
As readers, we now have a notion of where this story would go, and probably end. It is the ‘how’ that keeps you hooked.

Despite the knowledge and reminders of the upcoming suicide, there is a relaxed, serene feel to the book.

The author plays with words to describe common emotions with an elan.
“…I waited, aching to find a sentence that would draw me in, that would free me from my mind for at least a while.”

The protagonist talks about Chennai. I have never been to Chennai, but even though I can’t relate to the reminiscences of the city per se, what radiates through the words is a warmth and pride for the city that surpasses time and changes. A feeling that is not limited to one city. It is the expression of ‘home’.
“The feeling of home still pervades my city, despite the impersonal the impersonal flyovers that now criss-cross above the old familiar roads, the acres of shining skyscrapers that buzz with the sounds of the software cities teeming within them, and the gleaming malls that may soon outnumber the tiny Ganesha shrines on each street…”

The three kids with their innocent, yet profound philosophical discussions are smarter than the rest, yet trying to fit in. Your heart breaks for them.

The protagonist is looking back at that time of life and has no qualms about writing about his own shortcomings. ‘I was too full of myself’ – one of the things he remembers.

It is a coming of age book. It starts at a time when Chinmay did what his parents desired. He did not know he could choose different. Not while living anyway. So he had decided to end his life.
When the book ends, the life and its’ choices have changed drastically.

The moment of epiphany when he realised that he is a ‘seeker’.

The language of The Reengineers is rather poetic, dreamlike quality at times. You feel your sense being enveloped by the emotions of the characters whose life is about to be reengineered.

“Fourteen is the age when time first starts to make its presence felt. Time took on such a variety of hues in those days that even my frozen mind sometimes reflected the colours of the world around me, and I could feel my thoughts fluttering in the humid, salty breeze.”

The feelings of teenage infatuation…

“O for those days when these tired metaphors were teenagers too, when it was still possible to recite ‘Daffodils’ and feel thrilled as you gazed at the golden laburnum in bloom. Recognising clichés is a sign of aging. Sweet as the past may be, it best remains pressed within the pages of memory, savoured for a moment or two on quiet Sunday afternoons.”

Suddenly the vibe changes. There is mystery, tension, and danger in the air.
The world they enter seems to be a parallel to the world they live in.

As Chinmay learns and discovers, a lot of life lessons are find a pace in The Reengineers.
“It is curious how the weak-minded among us are wired like that, the way we turn subdued and silent when confronting real bullies and yet stand up almost aggressively to those who are genuinely kind to us.”

For me, the one major epiphanic moment is when he realises that he’s not a misfit. He is a seeker.
So true for so many of us, who go through life dissatisfied, not realising that to want to search for more does not make them abnormal. Irrespective of what others say.

“Everything has a reason, though it cannot always be deduced for we cannot see the full picture of a life at any point in time.”

The story of The Reengineers doesn’t rush from one event to the other. It relishes the emotions.

We know from the beginning that Chinmay wants to commit suicide and that he won’t do so. The how keeps you hooked. And it is to the author’s credit that she doesn’t disappoint in the process.
The path the story takes is not predictable.

I have lent this book to my nephew now, who is studying… well, engineering. I am going to insist that the rest of the kids (who are still in school) in the family read The Reengineers too. Nothing can explain what I feel about this book better than this fact.
I feel that it is a relevant book for everyone – students, corporate employees, spiritual aspirants… actually anyone who is looking for a more contented, confident life.

Review by Nimi Arora here: http://www.nimiarora.com/2016/04/the-reengineers-indu-muralidharan-book-review.html

To buy The Reengineers:

My Guest Post on Overcoming Depression

A guest post I wrote on overcoming depression in the StayFoolish blog.

Link: https://stayfoolish2day.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/guest-blog-post-on-how-to-overcome-suicidal-behaviour-self-destruction-by-indu-muralidharan/

How to overcome suicidal behaviour & self-destruction?

This question is so deep that one could write a series of books to answer it, and still have much more left to say. Many people including artists, thinkers and scholars have suffered from this condition, and many have succumbed to it. Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, David Foster Wallace, Ned Vizzini are some names that come to mind – their books give us an idea of their struggle. Many have also survived the condition, and thrived afterwards in their personal and professional lives, a good example is J K Rowling; anyone who has been depressed can relate to the description of dementors – her metaphor for depression in the Harry Potter books.

Depression is not the same as sadness. To quote Barbara Kingsolver, “Sadness is more or less like a head cold- with patience, it passes. Depression is like cancer.” It is much more of a challenge to diagnose and manage, as depressed people may not show external symptoms of the disease.

A number of factors may trigger suicidal depression in an individual – it could happen in a short period as a response to a stressful or traumatic event, or build up as a result of spending many years in a debilitating environment. It could happen due to substance abuse or it could be the side effect of a medical condition such as hypothyroidism. Very often it is the high achievers in life, intelligent, creative and driven individuals who are affected by this condition. They may end up spending years without realising that something is wrong with their state of mind. Their professional expertise and inherent smartness might help them go about their everyday life and work, while they try to suppress the numbness within, unable to understand why they feel so.

In all cases, the first step to overcoming suicidal depression is to become aware of it, to understand that they have a condition that needs to be looked into, and which can be controlled. The next step would be to get help, to discuss the condition with close family and friends for support, and seek medical attention, preferably holistic natural treatments that get the mind, body and spirit back in balance.

Depression is a curious condition. Only the affected person can gauge what works for them, and what does not, and in spite of it being widely prevalent in present times, it is nearly impossible to make a generalisation.

But however bad it is, as someone who has been there, I would say that it is worth to keep going, for eventually you will get to the light at the end of the tunnel. First, let us look at basic strategies. Find out a reason, any reason, to hold on to life, when you are in the throes of deep depression and cannot see ahead. When I was depressed, besides the many books that sustained me, strangest things kept me holding on to life. At that time I was working in a place that I disliked intensely, I kept going on because I did not want to die in that godforsaken place. Then I had a rather unpleasant acquaintance in those days, a woman who loved and lived to gossip, who had not spared making jest of her best friend when he died. I imagined how she would react to the news of my death, how she would relish it like a juicy morsel over teatime conversation, eyes bright with malice, flashing her smug toothy smile. When I was really down and wanted out, the thought that I did not want to end up as a source of gossip to the likes of her, kept me alive. Later, I had fun immortalising her in the character of the mosquito woman in The Reengineers.

Once you become aware of the condition and are on the way to recovery, the most effective way out is to determine your major goals in life, whatever they are. Focusing on your goals, visualising them and working towards them is one of the most effective cures for depression, I say this again from personal experience.

Here is a short excerpt from ‘The Reengineers’ in this context, in which the author Siddharth advises his hero Chinmay on how to survive while depressed.

Excerpt with permission from HarperCollins Publishers India from The Reengineers by Indu Muralidharan

I found treasures in that library that sustained me through my dark days and, once, saved my life. The darkness had almost got me for good, one weekend. I drove to the library in a daze. Wandering uneasily between bookshelves, I pulled out a small book that caught my eye. Songs of the Bulbul by A. Chatterjee. It was a handsome book, dark blue and edged with shining gold. I had read rave reviews about it along with excerpts when I was a precocious ten-year-old in a Madras school. The book made me feel safe and warm as I held it, for it held the memories of a time when everything had been right in my world. When I now think of the moment I opened the book and turned to the first page, lo, my mind floods with light. For the next few days, the bulbul carried me on its wings, whispering to me though its songs that I was not alone in my sorrow.

There had been other books that affected me. I had shrunk back from the darkness that leapt out at me from the yellowing pages of The Driver’s Seat. Sylvia Plath’s poems terrified me so much that it was years after I was out of the bell jar before I dared to open it. Chatterjee, on the other hand, acknowledged the darkness and even made fun of it. It was apparent from his verse that he had been touched by depression. Yet, instead of allowing it to take over his life, he opened the windows and asked it to find its way out. Undaunted by depression, he sang odes to the simple pleasures of life: the breeze that carried with it the fragrance of the flowers of the night, a litter of fox cubs playing by a hill in the sunshine, a toast to the moon with a glass of red wine, a raga hummed under the breath, a prayer for Mozart, a passion for mangoes, the love shared with his lost lover for Rumi’s poetry. His gentle songs were irresistible concoctions of life, art, nature, love, laughter and a tinge of pain, verse which had the power of claiming the reader as its own. To read him was like having someone listen to you while walking by your side. For years I held on to A. Chatterjee’s poems as a lifeline. I even had a crush on him for a while.

But I digress. Here are a few quick tips to manage depression after office hours, when you do not have the succour of work to comfort your mind:

1) Read all that you can, including the online depression forums. Something that you read may just save your life.

2) Avoid hard-core philosophy. You might be tempted to seek answers in thick, dusty tomes that promise to elucidate the meaning of life. Some of them are thick enough to crack the mind.

3) Depression will stir you to burst into the poetry of suffering. Avoid trying to get it published unless your words are bright enough to shine through the darkness. There is enough pain in the world without you adding to it.

4) You may find yourself gravitating to amateur poetry groups full of people who are usually bursting with self-congratulation or angst. Avoid them, they will sap your energy.

5) Do not smoke, drink alcohol in excess or take drugs. Depression can tempt you to overindulge. The cigarettes almost killed me.

6) Exercise when you can, take long walks and consume chocolate in moderation.

7) Beware of ‘god men’ and ‘god women’. Even people who have not been depressed for a day in their lives get sucked into the seductive delusion of spirituality. If you must seek, seek by yourself, sitting in an armchair at your desk after office hours. For while Buddha saw the light, we do not know how many of his disciples did. If you must get guidance from a living guru, take it and move on. Gurus are no more than the teachers we had at school. You may find them when you need to learn, but you have to outgrow them in order to grow.

Here is a story about my tryst with a genuine guru during my last few months of depression.

Excerpt with permission from HarperCollins Publishers India from The Reengineers by Indu Muralidharan

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On Writing Romance, An Excerpt and A Song

In a recent interview for a blog tour, I was asked if there was were any love scenes in The Reengineers, and if any of my forthcoming books had romance in them.

The premise of The Reengineers is the realisation that one has the freedom to live on one’s own terms. This awareness of freedom, the feeling of being in control of your life, is the foremost need of any human being. Everything else, including love, comes only next to it. However, this being the coming of age story of a fifteen-year-old boy, there are references to love and romance. Here is a short excerpt.

Excerpt with permission from HarperCollins Publishers India from the book The Reengineers by Indu Muralidharan

Something strange and sweet was stirring in the air. Raji had drawn the window shades and the overhead lamps cast a muted golden glow around the room. On the screen, Joy Mukherjee was singing to Helen in the rain: ‘Raat nikhri huyi, zulf bhikri huyi …’

A song about a date with a girl who was as charming as a flowering tree in bloom, on a night so beautiful that it appeared to blush. About how he wished that the night would go on and on. Joy was shirtless, purely out of chivalry. Helen wore his shirt with a grace that made her unrecognizable as the vamp of so many sizzling dances. With wet hair hanging in curls about her face, she exuded the innocence of the girl-next-door who looked up trustingly at the handsome hero. There was no trace of lust on Joy’s face. He was the decent young man who sang tenderly to his girl that the night should never make way for the dawn. And then escorted her safely home afterwards. They hardly came within two feet of each other, but from the way they looked and smiled and sang to each other, first love flowed out of the TV and swirled about, bringing spring into Aunt Kalyani’s living room.

It continued to permeate the room even after the song was over and Joy had presumably dropped Helen home. But, this time, the sweetness arose from Kailash and Charu. Even without looking at them, one could sense how aware they were of each other’s presence even as they talked to other people. A rude voice in my head started chiding me, telling me I wasn’t old enough to think of such things. I ignored it and it shut up immediately.

How would it feel to be married, I wondered. What if I got married to—I stopped my thoughts there. I had many exams to pass before that. Besides, I wanted to sing a few songs to a girl first, a real girl with whom I would have a real relationship. At that moment, I became aware of the nature of my feelings for Sonia. It was her boldness that had fascinated me and now that I could stand up and speak for myself, the halo around her vanished. What remained was a mild attraction that I saw for what it was: a simple teenage crush.

I thought of the summer that lay ahead, of the farewell party for the seniors. We would present them with a giant card with tearful bears holding up a banner that said, ‘Missing you guys will be too hard to bear’. On that day, when the festive confetti flying around made little chinks in the invisible walls that separated the seniors from the juniors, I would talk to Sonia. I knew that nothing would come out of it, but I would still talk to her. I might tell her that throw ball matches would never be the same again. I might get her autograph. I might never contact her. I might forget her. I might remember her. I might meet her after many years. But I would talk to her on one of those long, summer afternoons before she left school.

The thought made me smile.

Excerpt with permission from HarperCollins Publishers India from the book The Reengineers by Indu Muralidharan

Here is a link to the song that is referred to in the excerpt.The comfort level between the lovers is endearing, especially as the film implies that the intimacy in their relationship is limited to holding hands and innocent dates like the ones shown in the song.  The gentleness of the interactions between them is not something one gets to see in the movies anymore.

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New Goodreads giveaway!

I thank the nearly thousand people who entered the previous give away.

Announcing a new giveaway, open till 30 Sep 15 on goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/152354-the-reengineers

“The darkness. The frost. We resort to metaphors to cover the ugliness of the word ‘depression’, for depression is one of the ugliest things in the world, and one of the scariest as well. Depression vanishes when we no longer fear it or are repelled by it, when we become aware of the moment and the possibilities it holds.”
From The Reengineers, Chapter 9

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