Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Cherry Blossoms Part - 2

            He was really confused.  It was as if he had been put in the sea and asked to cross it and he didn't even know how to swim.  But he was damned if he didn't give it a very good try.  He decided to consult his lawyer the following day.  Raghav was a very experienced lawyer who had a flourishing law practice in the city.  He usually dealt with commercial matters of Krishna's company but he had already fought penal cases as well.  He passed the night with great difficulty.
            Next morning he got ready early.  When he came downstairs there was no one around.  So far, so good.  He didn't want to explain to everyone what was going on.  Of course, the day will come when he'll have to tell everyone but that day was not today.  He arrived at Raghav's office.  As expected, Raghav was already there.  Krishna didn't know how and where to start.  What if Raghav told about this visit to someone in his family or worse, to Arnav?  He couldn't take that risk. 
            As Raghav offered him a cup of tea, he continued to think things over.  At last, he gathered courage.
            "Raghav, today, I have come to discuss a very important matter with you."
            "I know."
            "You know?"
            "Of course, anyone could understand the importance of the matter by the fact that you deemed fit to descend to my office so early in the morning.  Usually, you simply call me up or send me an e-mail or if it was really so important then you'd have sent one of your employees.  But today you've come yourself.  On top of that you've been fiddling with that pen ever since you entered my office."
            "Oh."  Krishna looked down and saw that he was indeed fiddling with a pen.  He forced a smile but it refused to light his eyes.
            "What is the matter?  Is there something wrong with the contract that I drew for you the other day?"
            "No, it was perfect, as usual."
            "Well, it is a very important matter and I would like to know if you can keep a secret..."
            "You no longer have faith in me..."
            "No Raghav, it's not that.  Of course, I have faith in you but this is a very delicate matter and I want to be sure that no one will ever find out about it."
            "Well Krishna, you are my biggest clients and your family owns almost half the businesses in this city..."
            "Yes, but I don't want anyone, not even my family to know about this discussion."
            "OK, here's a confidentiality contract..." said Raghav handing him some papers, "but anyways, as an advocate I am already liable to be stuck-off from bar if I reveal any discussion with you.  But hopefully this will help you have more faith in me..."
            "It's not that Raghav.  It's just that the matter is very delicate," said Krishna going through the contract.  He seemed satisfied with the clauses, "Let's sign it."
            They signed the contract.  Krishna kept one copy of the contract in his bag and left promising to return in an hour or so.  He returned home.  He went to his room where he kept the envelope in his safe and went downstairs.  The whole family was gathered at the dining table.  He sat there with everyone quietly absorbed in his own world while everyone continued to chatter about mundane things.
            "Krishna, is everything all right?  You are very silent today," asked his mother.  She looked worried.  Krishna gave a weak smile and remained silent.  He didn't know what to say.  He loved Sneha too much to subject her to this humiliation.  He wanted to get Arnav punished but he didn't want everyone to know about what had happened.  He knew what may happen if everyone knew the truth.  Sneha had always been so nice with everyone and this wasn't her fault.  Now it was up to him to ensure that she was safe and away from harm.  He won't let anyone harm her.  He was the first to finish his breakfast.  He wasn't really hungry anyways.  But now what?  He had no choice but to wait for everyone to finish and he wanted to be away from it all.  At last, everyone finished breakfast and he could leave.
            He almost rushed out of the house.  Everyone looked at him in surprise.  What was he up to?  But a look at him and they knew that he wasn't going to tell them anything.  They remained silent and continued with their daily chores.  Krishna went immediately to Raghav's office.  Raghav was waiting for him.
            "Raghav, something terrible has happened."
            Raghav looked at Krishna with surprise.  Had he lost all his money?  He wasn't a gambler.  Had someone cheated him?  Had he been ruined?  Or had he done something illegal?  But Krishna wasn't someone who had ever considered doing something illegal.  He was a law-abiding citizen.  But the matter appeared to be serious and the way he was acting was almost as if he had committed some crime.  Raghav prayed fervently that may his suspicions be unfounded.  But he was worried.  Krishna's family was one of his best clients.  His reverie broke with Krishna's voice.
            "It's Sneha," he was saying, "We need your help and advice to do something about it."
            Evidently Raghav had missed an episode.  Now he understood that it was Sneha who had done something illegal.  Sneha... sweet Sneha, obviously she wasn't what she appeared to be.  Someone had once said if something seems too good to be true then it surely is.

Continued (3)...

Friday, 4 November 2011

Cherry blossoms (1)

            Another cherry blossom fell at her feet and she continued to stare at it... in silence... with tears flowing down her cheeks.  The world seemed to close in on her and she was just a prisoner, a prisoner of her own fears.  There was no one in whom she could confide.  She remained seated on her bench in the park.

            She hurried aside as she saw him enter the park.  As usual, he was smartly dressed or dressed to kill, as someone had once said; only it was the truth.  He was as handsome as she remembered.  It was as if nothing had changed though she was no longer the same person.  In fact, it would be better to say that she was but a ghost of her old self.

            It was the same time of the year when the fragrance of cherry blossoms filled the air and she longed to move out... how she would have loved to make him suffer for all that pain, solitude... but all she could do was stare at the man who had destroyed her life.

            She still remembered the young, chirpy girl that she used to be... all those years ago.  But it was so long ago...

            She returned to the present.  What use was it to cry over spilt milk?  It was all over and she couldn't change the past.

            She looked up at Arnav.  He was right there in front of her laughing and playing with a group of children.  She wanted to run but her feet seemed to be stuck to ground.  She wanted to shout, tell the children to be careful, to run away from the demon but words wouldn't come out of her mouth.  Tears welled in her eyes.

She remembered the conversation that she had had earlier with Krishna:
"Why am I so scared all the time?"
"Don't worry Sneha.  Everything will be all right."
"How do you know?"

            Looking at Arnav she could feel the anger rise in her... anger for destroying her life, ruining her and closing all doors to happiness.  Therapists had tried to cure her.  Everyone told her that forgiving Arnav would heal her.  But the memories of his dirty hands on her made her revolt against all those platitudes... because that was all that such words meant to her.  Only the wearer knows where the shoe bites.

            How could they even pretend to understand her pain?  They were not the ones who had undergone all that... she felt like throwing-up... of course, several years had passed since that time... time of innocence.

            She had been a pretty little child as fragile as these cherry blossoms.  A young flower whose fragrance perfumed her parents' house.  A chirpy child who'd lost its smile in a few days. And no one had understood why.  Her parents hadn't recognised those tell-tale signs.  And she'd felt so guilty and ashamed.  How could she tell them what she'd done?

            It was only after years of therapy that she'd realised that it wasn't her fault.  Now she knew what lay behind those forgotten memories.  Of course, some of it was still buried deep within her.  But she remembered enough to know the name of her foe.

            It was a pity that she'd not understood this earlier.  How long had she hidden behind these clouds?  And when she'd realised the reason behind her fears... it was too late.  She'd lost everything.

            Yes, that sweet child had grown up to a beautiful and shy young woman.  Then her parents had found Krishna, the perfect match.  He was nice and gentle.  She was extremely happy.

            They were young and life was waiting for them.  Their marriage united the two families as well as businesses.  Everyone was happy.  And then they left for Europe.  It was the beginning of spring and the air was filled with fragrance of cherry blossoms.  She was so happy.

            But it was then that darkness overshadowed their lives.  It entered without knocking.  None of the two was prepared for this.  It happened.  Just like that.  One night, she woke up suddenly.  She had had a nightmare.  She didn't remember much.  But she was too scared to return to sleep.  And Krishna had cradled her in his arms the whole night.  But it didn't stop.  It became a routine.  She'd hardly gone to sleep when she'd wake up, trembling, sweating.  Krishna didn't understand what was going on.  Neither did she.  It was then that they decided to visit a doctor who in turn advised them to go and see a psychologist.  She had refused.  Why should she go to see a psychologist?  She wasn't mad, was she?

            Krishna had started losing patience.  He just shared his name with God.  He wasn't one.

            Finally, they'd returned to India earlier than planned.  It was supposed to be the best time of her life and it had proved to be a nightmare.  Finally, after much persuasion she had agreed to visit a psychologist.  At least Krishna was back with her, supporting her.  Thank God!  She was no longer alone.  But it was getting more and more difficult... her nightmares continued.  She didn't get better.  She didn't understand anything.  Why was this happening?  The psychologist insisted that she had suffered some sort of trauma in past and that was what had resurfaced in her memory.  But she couldn't believe it.  She had never had any negative experience in life.  Though her life wasn't a bed of roses but the thorns weren't too sharp either.  Her world was full of small joys in which the big sorrows appeared like nothing.  She had had her share of pains but she was happy and satisfied.

            So what trauma was the psychologist talking about?

            She wondered but had no reply till one day it all came back in form of a nightmare.  She knew Arnav's familiar face.  How could it be true?  Was it just a fantasy?  Had she become so pervert?  She was disgusted with herself and felt ashamed of herself.  She felt so dirty.  She woke up and rushed to have a bath.  But the feeling wouldn't go.

            She remained in the bathroom for a long, long time till Krishna knocked.  He looked worried.  She immediately covered herself and came out sobbing.  Krishna didn't understand what was happening.  He simply hugged her tightly and remained silent.  After some time as her sobs subsided and she stopped shaking, he brought her to bed.  She looked at him with eyes full of tears.  He didn't know what was going on.  Women were so mysterious.  Only God knew what had happened to make her cry this time!  So he remained silent and held her in his arms.

            The night passed and the morning brought sunshine and the fragrance of cherry blossoms.  Sneha woke with a smile as if the previous night had never occurred.  It was only as she looked at the sunny garden, full of cherry blossoms that she remembered everything.  She broke into tears again.  Krishna entered.  Evidently, he'd not really slept and was worried to death.  He loved her.  The marriage had been arranged but Sneha had bewitched him in no time.  He knew that they were made for each other and heavens had been really kind to him that they'd arranged that match.  He couldn't bear to see her sad.  And it had been several weeks since he last saw her smile.

            He decided to take things in his hands.  Mysterious or not, he couldn't bear it any more.  He wanted to get to the bottom of the matter.  This time he had decided.  Enough was enough.  Every time he saw her cry, his heart broke in several pieces.  He couldn't take it anymore.  It had to end. 

            But he knew that she was close to breaking point.  She looked so fragile.  He entered carrying tea for both of them and forced a smile.  She, too, forced a smile.  She knew that he was trying to be kind in spite of himself.  She felt really bad about it.  They sipped the tea silently, lost in their own thoughts, thinking as to how to break this wall of silence.  Slowly, Krishna put his hand on hers, looked in her eyes and smiled.  Once again, she forced a smile.  She felt safe.  It had been a long, long time since she felt this way.  She somehow knew that he cared and that she could have faith in him, that he'd never let her down.  So this was how amidst sobs and pain she told him the whole story.  He couldn't believe it.  Arnav, of all the people!  How could he have done this?  It was just not possible.  But then he had also seen the hell that Sneha had been through since the past couple of months and knew that she wasn't lying.  But Arnav!

            Now it was his turn to face the truth.  And it was painful.  But he knew that any negligence on his part would have terrible consequences for Sneha.  He was no longer alone and couldn't escape the truth.  He felt like killing Arnav; but knew that it wouldn't be the right thing to do.  It was such a delicate matter.  With whom could they talk about it?  Was there someone who could help them find a solution?  Could he actually lodge a complaint against Arnav after all these years?

Monday, 31 October 2011

7 billionth Baby

O you, who have not yet been born and whom everyone awaits, who art thou?

Once upon a time, the world waited for Krishna, who'd end the atrocities of his maternal uncle Kansa and deliver the world bringing a reign of love and peace.  Then there were these three wise men who went in search of a little child who'd be the king of Jews and followed the star of Bethlehem.  And today, the whole world is waiting eagerly to welcome another child.  Google and Twitter have become the modern day versions of star of Bethlehem.  So what is so special about this child?  Is it a religious figure or a miracle?  What is the destiny of this child?

Click and search on Google and we have the information that it may be born in either India or Philippines.  According to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Philippines is the 12th most populous country in the world with 94.9 million people while India is the second with a population of 1,210,193,422.  1.35% of the world's population lives in Philippines while India is home to 17.36% of world's population.  The GDP of Philippines is 199,591 million US$ while that of India is 1,631,970 million US$.  In terms of Per Capita Income, Philippines ranks 125th with a PCI of 3920 International dollars and India is just a little behind at 129 with a PCI of 3408 International dollars.  According to Forbes India ranks 115 in the list of world's happiest countries whereas Philippines is at 94.  The Credit Rating of India and Philippines is BBB- and BB respectively.

In these circumstances what hope does this much welcomed 7 billionth baby have?  Will that child be happier or healthier than the rest of its compatriots?  Why are we so excited about it?  Have we done such an excellent job of taking care of those who are already on this planet? 

O the 7 billionth amongst us, I wish we could promise you the heavens and not just to you but to each and every human being who is here among us!  But unfortunately, we live in difficult times.  Economic crisis has made us even more vulnerable than we used to be.  So many people are homeless.  Banks have gone bankrupt.  Governments are corrupt.  It is going to be a cold winter... a very cold winter.  I hope you'll survive the hardships and become a symbol of successful survival rather than just a number.  You will be here soon.  And we always welcome all births.  We'll welcome you even if we don't have anything but a few drops of holy water from the Ganges and this even if you missed being the 7 billionth baby by a couple of numbers.  We, those who are already here today, welcome you with love and blessings and not just because you are a number but because you are a beautiful gift of a mother to the humanity and have come with the promise that despite of all difficulties, the humanity can and will survive.

Regardless of who you are, where you will be born, which will be your religion, remember, you'll be first and foremost a human being, a citizen of world because today the whole world is waiting for you as its seven billionth child.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Autumn: Time to share warmth and sunshine

As leaves change colour and drop paving my path with yellow, orange, rust and red coloured rainbow that challenges the flowers of spring, I remember the cherished spring that was on my doorsteps just a few months ago.  Autumn is as beautiful as any other season.  While some people go into depression, I can't help but marvel at the beauty that unfolds slowly in front of me.

The great painter that God, or nature or whatever you call it, is has once again managed to surpass itself and surprise us all.  When I see people running all over the place shouting and crying, I can't help but pity them because all that they are searching for is right there, in front of their eyes.  And on top of that it is free.

I feel too many people are ignoring it.  Therefore, I am going to share all that I see with my readers.  All the beauty that is in your reach... and you don't need to do anything to see it... simply open your eyes.  Still so many of us ignore it or can't see it through their glasses tinted with so many other negative feelings... I'll share some of it with you because it is there and you, my readers, deserve to enjoy it.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Accuweather – No more unpredictable weather

I have been planning to go on a vacation for some time now, but it is really difficult to plan one because of unpredictable weather. At times I carry loads of clothes just to be on the safe-side while at others I am not as equipped as I should be.

Take the example of something that happened just a few days ago. I had an appointment at my parlour. All of us know that Delhi is a big city where weather changes within 5 minutes as well as within a mile. As I walked outside in the sun, I thought of taking an umbrella but decided against it. After all it was burning hot and I was going by metro. I offered a silent prayer for rain and nice weather and continued on my way.

Looking back, how I wish I'd prayed for something else! Guess God was feeling particularly kind towards me that day. The moment I got out of the metro, I noticed that the floor appeared wet. I muttered something about careless people and continued on my way. Just as I was going to walk out of the station, I saw a crowd standing near the stairs. One look outside was enough to understand the reason. It was raining cats and dogs. I love rains per se. But I was not prepared. I waited for about 15 – 20 minutes hoping that it will stop. I was getting late so I decided to continue on my way. By the time I arrived for my appointment I was completely drenched. It was really embarrassing. How I wish I could predict the unpredictable Delhi weather?

And can you believe my luck? I found an application that can help me plan my day, weekend as well as vacation and help avoid such inconvenient situations.

It's called accuweather - an Intel application. Just choose any location in the world and you can see the weather forecast for 15 days and this for every hour. Simply check out the map of an area to find out what the weather is going to be like.

You can even see the lifestyle you'll have at a given place.

If you plan to go out either for just a few hours in the neighbourhood or for a week abroad, I suggest that you give it a try. At least you won't end up over or under prepared. Enjoy your trip and wish that the weather-gods will be kind with you... and stop worrying because even if they're not, it's not impossible to plan for it ;-)

This blog is an entry to the "My Favorite PC App" contest. Check out numerous apps for PC/Netbooks available at the Intel AppUp Center. If you are looking for an opportunity to build and monetize your applications, check out the Intel® Atom™ Developer Program.

If you like this post then please go and vote for it on indiblogger.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

NOOK – Don't look back Readaholics, it's time to take the plunge

Which is the best application for a bookaholic and readaholic? Of course, one that lets one read without going bankrupt, which is one of the biggest risks of being a readaholic. Though I manage to control my urge to buy books most of the time, I inevitably end up buying several while traveling. That's one of my biggest weaknesses (I think).

Recently I discovered an Intel application – Nook by Barnes and Noble – that made me really feel on top of the world. I can read as much as I want... including several classics at very low rates. And then there are so many free e-books that I can choose from.
I loved the fact that I could adjust the page and font size to avoid getting too tired. I only see the page I'm reading but a simple click helps open the left menu. I can bookmark, annotate, highlight text... do everything that I can do with a real book. And simply by selecting words I can actually highlight the selected text, add notes, and look up the word on dictionary.com (a monolingual on-line dictionary site) as well as on wikipedia.

Here is a comparative list of advantages and disadvantages of NOOK:



1000s of books at your

You can't feel the book in
your hands.

Free application and several
free and inexpensive books.

Strain on eyes.

These days solar chargers are
available for laptops and cell-phones; therefore, one can limit the impact
on environment and still recharge these tools.

One needs electricity to
operate/ charge notebook, laptop, and mobile phone.  What if there's a power

 Ecological: Paper-less so
helps save trees.

Though the application per
se is free and one can get lots of books for free or at a very low rate but
one has to make a one time investment on one or more tools such as PC,
laptop, notebook, IPhone, etc.

No need to re-read the whole
book if you forget where a sentence/ phrase is.  Simple search feature.

You have to give your credit
card number even if you download a free book.

One can change font,
font-size, display area, etc. and thus limit the strain on eyes.


Portability: How many books
can one carry if one is traveling?  With NOOK you can have as many as you


Your credit card isn't
charged for Free books and you get receipts by e-mail.


From a readaholic's point of view, the advantages largely outshine the disadvantages. So in short, I think that it is an excellent application or readaholics, bookworms, students, researchers as well as everyone else. Want to read a book on the move? No need to carry heavy suitcases. Now you can do so on your laptop as well as on your phone! What else can a readaholic ask for?

Guess, there's one more thing that a readaholic can ask for: more books for free... So here's the icing on the cake: the unique LendMe(TM) Technology helps one exchange books with friends and family.

I can talk about it for hours but am busy reading a new book today. So check it out for yourself and happy reading! :-)

If you like this post then please go and vote for it on indiblogger.

This blog is an entry to the "My Favorite PC App" contest. Check out numerous apps for PC/Netbooks available at the Intel AppUp Center. If you are looking for an opportunity to build and monetize your applications, check out the Intel® Atom™ Developer Program.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Interview of author Ashwin Sanghi

A very Happy and Prosperous New Year 2011 to the readers of Rainbow of Expressions. I'd like to start this new year under the sign of literature with an interview of Ashwin Sanghi, author of bestseller The Rozabal Line who has recently published another interesting novel - Chanakya’s Chant.

In your twitter profile you introduce yourself as "entrepreneur by day, novelist by night". How do you explain that?

I was born in Mumbai in a business family that has interests in manufacturing, real estate, retail and exports. Upon completing high school from Cathedral & John Connon School in 1985, I joined St. Xavier’s College where I pursued a BA in Economics. Parallel to my college years, I had already started working for the family business and by the time that I left for my MBA at Yale in 1991, I had over five years’ worth of work experience behind me. I returned in 1993 and immediately joined the group’s board and did not consider doing anything else besides managing the family’s business interests. It was only in 2004 that I began considering penning a novel by which time I had been involved in the business world for over 15 years. I had reached a point in my life where I felt that I needed an outlet for my creativity and that this necessarily needed to be outside the realm of business innovation. Today, six years later, I have two novels published and a third in the pipeline. Writing novels is no longer a hobby for me but a parallel career. But I’m well aware of the fact that I’m able to pursue my passion for writing because of the financial independence that my business gives me, hence the description “entrepreneur by day, novelist by night.”

Don't you find it difficult to combine the world of business with that of arts i.e. writing, given that both are so different? Was it a deliberate choice?

Not really. There are many traits from my business life that I have carried over into my writing life. For example, planning is an essential ingredient in writing thrillers or mysteries. As an entrepreneur I would prepare business plans whereas in my author’s avatar I prepare plot outlines. Increasingly, authors not only need to write but also need to be involved in the marketing of their own books and many of the selling skills that I picked up in my business career have been of use to me in my literary career. The process is not a one-way street though. The literary world and the publishing industry move at a rather leisurely pace and my exposure to this dimension of the industry have made me much more patient in my entrepreneurial life!

You are married and have a son; and writing, as you've rightly said somewhere, is a very lonely activity. How do you combine the two?

I have simply learnt to compartmentalize. Writing is an ideal outlet for someone who is introvert—someone like me. My family has learned to respect my privacy when I’m in my study working on a novel. Usually this happens either late in the night or early in the morning. For the rest of my time, I love being a husband and a father. In fact many of my best ideas come from discussing my stories with my wife. Even my seven year old son has definite opinions on cover designs.

How and when did you start writing? When did you first discover the writer in you?

I was always very fond of reading having been exposed from a very early age to the best of books by my mother and my maternal grandfather. If you read the first page of any of my novels you will see the line “I am fortunate to be the grandson of the late Shri Ram Prasad Gupta and grandnephew of his brother, the late Shri Ram Gopal Gupta. Their blessings move the fingers that hold my pen.” Both these men were avid readers and were also occasionally inspired to write Urdu and Persian poetry. Both of them encouraged me to read books that I would otherwise never have read. It was my grandfather who told me that simply being a successful businessman was of no use if one was unable to give time to a creative pursuit. His view was that business can feed your stomach, but what will feed your soul? When I went to Yale in 1991, I started writing a few articles for the university’s publications. Upon my return to India, I also started contributing a few business related articles to a select newspapers and magazines, but at this point of time I had no idea that I would ever write fiction.

It was my intense curiosity for the Jesus in India story that got me to write. My parents used to regularly take us for holidays to Kashmir during the seventies and during these visits, we would do all the touristy stuff—including visiting Rozabal. As a child, however, I did not fully understand the significance of the tomb. It was only in 1999 that the very notion that Jesus may have left behind a bloodline came to my attention when I read Holy Blood Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. A couple of years later, I read Holger Kersten's Jesus Lived in India and was fascinated with the idea that Jesus could have been inspired by Buddhism and that he may have drawn much of his spiritual learning from India. I began to wonder whether I could marry the two theories i.e. that he survived the crucifixion and traveled to India and that he left behind a bloodline. I spent the next two years reading each and every book that I could acquire on topics that I wanted to explore viz. the possibility of Jesus having spent his missing years as a youth studying in India, the theory that Jesus did not die on the cross and that he was whisked away to safety, and the notion that Jesus traveled to India to reunite with the lost tribes of Israel who had settled in Kashmir. In all, I read around forty books during this time besides scouring the Internet for any information that I could possibly find. Having amassed this wealth of information in my head, I began wondering why no one had brought this subject into the realm of popular fiction and soon realized that this was a book that I simply had to write.

You published your first novel The Rozabal Line under the pseudonym of Shawn Haigins. Why did you do so?

As stated earlier, I am not a writer by profession. I was born and brought up in a business environment. I started working when I was 16 and completed my MBA when I was 22. By the time that I completed writing The Rozabal Line in 2006 I had already been in business for over 20 years. The decision to use a pen name was nothing more than a desire to compartmentalize my life so that my entrepreneurial dimension would remain distinct and separate from my literary one. However, I had not thought about an appropriate pseudonym to use until I actually completed the novel. As you know, there’s an abundance of anagrams in my first novel and the idea struck me: why not use an anagram of my real name as a pseudonym? I had always been a fan of Jack Higgins, the master of thrillers who began his career with The Eagle Has Landed. I tried shaping my pseudonym in his likeness. What I did not realize at that time was that I had not written just any other book but a book that was trying to coalesce different religions by connecting the dots. A close friend sent my self-published book to a reputed journalist in Kashmir who loved the book but she commented that “writers and authors ought to use their real names and not take refuge behind some sort of a camouflage. For, then, where's the connectivity, where's the bonding?” By then Tata-Westland had already decided to publish The Rozabal Line as an Indian edition and their management team had concerns about the difficulties in promoting the book under a pen name. Hence, the Indian edition was directly published under my real name rather than my pseudonym. This meant that all my future novels, too, would be under my own name and not under my pen name.

We've heard that your second novel is a political thriller with a historical backdrop. Could you please tell us a bit more about it? How long did it take you to write this novel?

After The Rozabal Line had become a bestseller, I began thinking about my next book. An aunt threw the idea of Chanakya at me and I spent the next couple of weeks watching all 47 episodes of the TV series that had been produced by Dr Chandraprakash Dwivedi in the early nineties. As I watched the series, I began to realize that many of the political games being played in 340 BC were not too different from the political machinations of the present day. I asked myself: What would a modern-day Chanakya look like? What strategies would he adopt? I spent the next few months reading several books on Chanakya including his own treatise, the Arthashastra. I was convinced that it was possible to spin a historical tale that traced the strategy of Chanakya in ancient India and linked it to the present day. And that is precisely what the novel—Chanakya’s Chant—is about. I took around a year to write it, which included the research.

Some people are of the view that cover is the most important strategic tool to sell a book. Do you agree? Did you pay special attention to the cover design?

I remember reading somewhere that the images and words you place on the cover of your book are those that will either walk your book right up to the cash register or march it back to the shelves. The book’s cover is the final billboard, a point-of-sale advertisement, and the last piece of promotional material that hits potential purchasers on their way to pay. Therefore, I do agree with the view that it is an important strategic tool to sell. But even more important than the cover is word-of-mouth recommendation, and this only happens if your writing appeals to the reader. Your cover can get you initial sales but future momentum is driven by reader recommendations and no one recommends a book on the strength of its cover aesthetics!

Who is your target audience?

I don’t have a target audience. My view is that in order to be sure of hitting the target, it’s better to shoot first and subsequently draw circles around whatever one happens to hit! The Rozabal Line was written as a thriller that would appeal to men whereas I seem to have more women appreciating the book than men. The approach that I have taken is that it’s better to write from the heart and let the market dynamics sort itself out.

On your blog you've put an impressive video, which reminds one (at least a generation of Indians) of the serial Chanakya. Was it a deliberate choice?

Not really. The book trailer was influenced by two key decisions. The first decision was that the background score necessarily had to be a recitation of the Shakti mantra that appears in various places within the novel—hence the name of the title, Chanakya’s Chant. The second decision was that the visuals needed to represent all the elements of nature i.e. fire, water, air, and earth.

There's no doubt that Chanakya's name still evokes a feeling of respect among Indians and many of us still remember that series. How would you compare it with the series?

There is very little in common given the fact that the series was purely historical whereas my novel straddles two eras, the ancient period (covered by the series) and the modern day.

Do you think your novel will benefit from the Chanakya factor?

There are hundreds of books written about Chanakya, the Arthashastra, and Chanakya Neeti. If the Chanakya factor could help a book become a bestseller, all the books written so far on the subject should have become bestsellers. No, I do not think that readers will buy the novel for the Chanakya factor. They will buy it in the hope of reading a juicy historical mystery that ties into a modern day political drama.

From The Rozabal Line to Chanakya’s Chant, how have you evolved as a writer? Do you see any change in your writing process, style and thoughts? How has your writing style evolved down the line?

Writing a second novel is the easiest difficult thing that one ever does. It’s easy because you don’t have to prove yourself as a writer, assuming that your first book has done well. It’s difficult, because your audience has built up expectations from you. Often these expectations relate to the genre and subject. As a writer, I wish to leave myself completely free to explore any and every subject that piques my curiosity without having to wonder whether it will appeal to my readers. Partly, this is the reason why I said that I do not have a target audience. A target audience implies that one is putting limitations on one’s ability to be flexible in choice of subjects and styles. Having said that, however, I do believe that a second novel is much like having a second child. It’s much easier than the first. For one thing, you already have a good idea of the sort of edits that were required on your first work. This means that you try and foresee the pitfalls. By the time that you write your second novel, you also have lots of reader feedback regarding your first. This means that you can take corrective steps.

In earlier interviews you've referred to writing as your "jug of wine" (a sort of Madhushala, if I may say so). Do you think there'll be a day when you'll actually become a drunkard and leave the business-world to drown yourself in your "jug of wine"?

I’m currently 41 years old. I don’t see myself retiring from business till I’m 55. So the next fourteen years will continue to see me drowning myself in my jug of wine by night and sobering up for business in the morning, notwithstanding the hangover!

Ashwin, thank you for spending your precious time with the readers of this blog. May your hangover last for an eternity and keep intoxicating others as well!