Friday, March 28, 2014


Sameer was a naughty boy. He couldn't keep still for even a second of his waking moments. He was elder to me by an year and a half. We were not too close, half the things I knew about him came through my parents whenever they spoke about him, which was not very often.
He could play all kinds of games - cricket, football, carrom, cards. He would play hard, he would cheat, he would do anything to win. But this was limited to the game being played. Once the game was over, he was a jovial, likeable person.

In another sense, he was not extraordinary, there were many boys like him. His mother got the usual share of complaints from others - your son beat my son, your son broke my kitchen window, your son bullies everybody etc etc.

I had the opposite reputation - I was a bookworm, I preferred reading to doing anything else. As was natural for my age then, I read and enjoyed Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island and Enid Blyton's adventure series. Somehow while reading those books I always thought of Sameer. He was closest to Tom Sawyer, by my comparison.

As far as I know, Sameer never held a grudge against anyone. He was always there for the entire neighbourhood, even for those who used to complain. If you had unexpected visitors and there was not enough sugar to make tea, you just had to open a window and yell, "Sameer, can you get me some sugar from the shop?" Most times, the packet would reach you even before your yell faded away. If anybody's cycle chain would dislocate, he just called for Sameer and Sameer would put it back in place in minutes. If you had to replace a bulb which was out of your reach, and you told your husband about it, he would say, 'Stop bothering me. Call Sameer.'

Time flew, and he graduated and got a job. He must have been very sincere, because when he got the job, he stuck to it. Our rare meetings became even rarer once he started working. He must have been good at his job, because his employers entrusted him with greater responsibilities.

He fell in love with someone and after initial opposition from her parents, he got married to her. It was a normal wedding ceremony, and I remember attending it. I was happy for him. A year passed and another and another. I heard there was some problem as they could not have a child.

Though he often invited me with my wife and children to his home, we could meet only three four times in a year. He used to play with my daughters and enjoyed their company. We spoke of our childhood and how we missed it. My wife and I always felt that Sameer and his wife were unlucky not to have any children of their own and maybe that is the reason why they made themselves happy by mingling with others' children.

Then came the good news: his wife conceived and they had a baby girl. I remember he and his wife were a little tense because the pregnancy was too late and they were worried about the health of the baby. But all that was eclipsed when the baby arrived hale and hearty. We were one of the first people to reach the hospital, and I can never forget the joy on Sameer's face when he held their baby in his arms.

There was rejoicing; there was a fun-filled naming ceremony and Sameer was very excited. The little girl grew by leaps and bounds and when she was three and a half, as is the educational system in India, Sia began to go to nursery school on her little feet. Sameer bought a car for his darling daughter so she wouldn't have to walk her way to school.

Sometime during that month, Sameer came home complaining of a severe headache. Believing that it must be because of his hectic schedule, he took rest for a couple of days and resumed work because he was a responsible person.

In the next three days his headache kept growing and on the last day his colleagues had to call an ambulance and send him to hospital.

He was diagnosed with tumour of the brain. 

Today morning he died.

I wonder what happened to Tom Sawyer when he grew up. Not this, I hope.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Malhotra Bride

The Malhotra Bride by Sundari Venkatraman

The Blurb

Sunita Rishi has just turned twenty, having completed her graduation. She wants to fly free as a bird, explore career options and travel the world. Does she have a choice when Mama & Papa insist on arranging her marriage? Born in a rich business family steeped in tradition, Sunita has a tough job on her hands. Can she stop the tide? 

Tall, dark and handsome, Akshay Malhotra is the catch of the decade. The only son of Billionaire Raj Malhotra, he’s in a strange fix. His father’s keen that Akshay meets Sunita with marriage in mind. He’s too close to his parents to say ‘no’ for the preliminary meeting. And then he comes face-to-face with Sunita…. 

Will Sunita be falling from the frying pan into the fire when she agrees to become The Malhotra Bride?

Buy @

The Malhotra Bride by Sundari Venkatraman (Romance-Drama)

Meet the author

The Author's Thoughts

Even as a kid, she absolutely loved the 'lived happily ever after' syndrome as Sundari grew up reading all the fairy tales she could lay her hands on, Phantom comics, Mandrake comics and the like. It was always about good triumphing over evil and a happy end. Soon, into her teens, she switched her attention from fairy tales to Mills & Boon. While she loved reading both of these, she kept visualising what would have happened if there were similar situations happening in India; to a local hero and heroine.

Her imagination took flight and she always lived in a rosy cocoon of romance over the years. Then came the writing - a true bolt out of the blue! She could never string two sentences together. While her spoken English had always been excellent - thanks to her Grandpa - she could not write to save her life. She was bad at writing essays in both school and college. Later, when it was time to teach her kids, she could manage everything from Science to Mathematics and History & Geography.

When it came to writing compositions, her kids found her of no help at all. All this changed suddenly one fine day in the year 2000. She had just quit her job at a school's office and did not know what to do with her life. She was saturated with simply reading books. That's when she got home one evening after her walk and took some sheets of paper and began writing. It was like watching a movie that was running in her head - all those years of visualising Indian heroes and heroines needed an outlet and had to be put into words. That's how her first novel, The Malhotra Bride, took shape.

While she felt discouraged when publishing did not happen, it was her husband who kept encouraging her not to give up. There was no looking back after that. While publishing took a long time happening, Sundari continued to write novels and then short stories. Her luck turned when Indireads approached her to write for them and Double Jeopardy was born.

Then came the self-publishing on Amazon. The 2nd edition of THE MALHOTRA BRIDE has been successfully published on Amazon and is available as an ebook since February 2014. The book has been very well received by the reading public.

You can stalk her @


Psychologist Zick Rubin proposed that romantic love is made up of three elements: attachment, caring and intimacy. Attachment is the need to receive care, approval and physical contact with the other person. Caring involves valuing the other person's needs and happiness as much as your own. Intimacy refers to the sharing of thoughts, desires and feelings with the other person.

I wonder if Sundari Venkataraman was inspired by this theory when she wrote her first novel The Malhotra Bride. Because Sunita, the protagonist, goes through exactly the same stages before she finally comes to terms with her own heart and accepts that she is truly in love with Akshay Malhotra

Sunita is young, intelligent, educated, wears jeans and is an avid horse-rider. Being the daughter of the conservative Rishi family, the first three were taken for granted but it was the rebellious streak in her that her family had to agree to let her wear jeans and learn riding.

So true to her character, when her family arranges her marriage with Akshay Malhotra, scion of a famous business family with matching status and all, she protests and subjects her mother to a severe emotional blackmail. But this is one point on which her mother refuses to relent. She has to become the bride of the Malhotra family, or else...

On the other side, Akshay Malhotra is US educated, a young budding businessman who has begun to make heads turn in his social and business circles. He too dislikes the idea of an arranged marriage, but on realising that his parents had more or less locked (mataji-pitaji ye rishta lock kiya jaaye?) Sunita as the bride-to-be, he decides to meet her personally and find out if they can really spend their life together.

In the first meeting itself, Sunita and Akshay like each other. But Sunita doesn't know that Akshay is the one her parents have chosen for her. The sequence where Akshay comes to her house for the first time is hilarious - I read it three four times and enjoyed it every time.

Akshay has a hard time getting Sunita to agree to an engagement and lures her with a promise that makes you doubt if he really means it. Sunita accepts his offer for an engagement provided he sticks to his promise. 

The conflict arises when Sunita really falls in love with Akshay who she begins to look up to as an ideal life-partner while Akshay feels she is doing it because of their mutual agreement which is nothing less than a business deal. 

Just when the two have overcome their differences and become unseparable, Sundari brings on a twist in the tale which threatens to disrupt their future together.

The genre of romance novels has one certainty: the protagonist has to find her life-mate so it's a real challenge for the writer to keep the reader's curiosity charged up.

Sundari achieves this feat not only through interesting plot points but most importantly, through her characterisation which makes you read through to the end. The Malhotra Bride is not only about Sunita and Akshay, it is as much about Sunita's mother, father, sister and grandfather as it is about Akshay's parents. Everyone has a role to play. They contribute to the conflict in the story through their own unique characters. 

This novella is not only about an isolated couple grappling with their personal agenda but it represents the entire Indian family system. While on the topic, she subtly conveys an important message: it is time the elders of Indian society sit up and take notice of the aspirations of youngsters. While she clearly upholds the value of Indian society, she also indirectly signals to the youngsters that choosing a life partner is much more serious than just good looks and societal status.

She voices a veiled criticism of the traditional ladki dekhna ceremony which is the worst part of arranged marriages, with girls being expected to be decked up and paraded before strangers. What's more, instead of being preachy, she just lets her characters do the talking. 

I confess to being biased on Sundari's choice of the city - Mumbai. I'm a diehard Mumbaikar and could easily relate to places like Andheri, McDonald's at Bandra, the Hare Rama Hare Krishna Temple and Tangerine Cafe - places where my wife and I frequented before as well as after marriage. On the flipside, it would have added to the credibility of the novel had there been a scene on the race course as otherwise the reference to Sunita having learnt riding stays only in the description.

Incidentally this is Sundari's second novella to be published, the first being Double Jeopardy, though TMB was the first to be written.

TMB is a simple story written in a simple style but as you delve into it, you'll find that it has a lot of depth.