Book Review: Private India

I recently read Private India. The latest by Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson. Got the book as part of the book review program by

Private India. James Patterson and Ashwin Sanghi.
Before I launch in a full-blown review, let me get some numbers out of the way. I mean the ratings. 

Readability: 3.5 on 5
Suspense: 2 on 5 (I could guess the killer moment the character was first introduced)
Storyline / Plot: 4 on 5
Overall: 3.5 on 5

One line verdict: A good one-time read. However the story, the characters, the plots won't really stay with you after you've read the book.

Full Review
Before the review, lets try to make a recipe for a bestseller in the crime / thriller category.

  • Step 1. Take one potion underdog hero who is battling with his personal demons and alcohol (or drug) addiction. 
  • Step 2. Throw in a bunch of loyalists who would stand by the hero through the thick or thin. 
  • Step 3. Add atleast two people who think that the hero is a bag full of shit and is better cornered into a remand home or something. 
  • Step 4. Finally, create a villain who has a personal vendetta against someone really really famous. Step 5. And then let the villain plan, plot, execute, run from the hero, to eventually get caught by the hero, only to turn tables in the climax, before tables turn one more time to give the hero the upper edge.
  • Step 6. Of course, once the dish is ready, as per the taste, sprinkle some steamy scenes, sidekicks (for the hero, the heroine and the villain) and personal histories of all characters.

Private India follows this recipe down to a T. Except the steamy love scenes. Wonder why did they leave it out.

Anyhow, coming to the story, the lovely city of Mumbai is rocked by a series of murders. Each victim is a famous personality with a vague connection to the Bollywood. On each crime site, a series of clues is left alongside each victim and its upto our righteous, know-it-all Private Detective to solve the mystery of the clues. And prevent the serial killer from going on a spree. And ofcourse catch the killer.

There are a couple of side plots as well. Purely to distract us, the readers, from the main story. And to give the book a larger theme per se. But I'd say, the side plot is so weak that they could've totally left it out.

So, while the unknown assailant is merrily killing people, the hero is trying to catch up with the killer and the side-plot is trying to confuse us, lessons in history happen and we suddenly reach the end of the story! That ways, the story flows smooth. Very smooth. I wish I could write like that.

Coming to the good bits.

  • Each chapter is less than 1000 words. Some are even less than 500. So it makes for a very very easy read.
  • The story has been penned really nicely. Its very readable. Clearly the book has been written for people who probably are new readers.
  • One of those fast, pacy reads where story doesn't drag at all. The kinds that you can read in one sitting if you are on a beach or on a holiday. 

And the not-so-good bits
Despite both of them being very very popular authors, this is the first James Patterson or Ashwin Sanghi that I am reading. And honestly, I expected better. From whatever I have heard, Ashwin Sanghi's strength is digging up history (or mythology etc) and coming up with interesting takes and twists on those. At least my friends have made me believe so. Private India is nothing like that.

And James Patterson is like the grand-daddy of writing (and thrillers) and each his book is expected to be a page-turner and unputdownable. As a struggling author, its one of my dreams to be able to write as well as him. This one, however, is not really up there.

May be its a case of over-promise and under-delivery?

In the end
Like I said, its a good one-time read. Perfect for a holiday or a vacation. Reading Private India is like watching one of those mindless action flicks where you sit through the film and you enjoy the violence, without applying your brain. And when the movie over, even though you don't recall what or why, but you know that you had a good time watching it.

P.S.: This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

P.P.S.: This is the first time I am doing a post as a part of some review program. I would tag all subsequent review posts as #aff. And no, I don't make any money from these reviews / posts. 

P.P.P.S.: My book is coming out in Oct. If you like reading and you would want to review my book, please leave your details in this form.

In praise of writing

The last few days have been really busy.

Amongst other things, I have been playing a fervent ping-pong match with team at Grapevine India. They have sent me the edited and proofread version of tnks and I was supposed to give an approval on it. I did not like a few things that they removed. And they did not like a few things that I really want in the final version. Both of us (Grapevine and I) are guilty of clinging onto things and thus we are squabbling over it. And squabbling over things is a very very time consuming and exhausting.

Thankfully, we've reached a truce and agreed on the final draft. And it means two things.

A, we are on track to meet the October release deadline for the book. Yay!

B, I can now start working on the next plot. In fact, today I wrote a few lines for the next one. And I loved working on it. Loved it like crazy. Words magically appeared on my screen and the time seemed to be moving fast. I realized that I love creating new things. That chase of new new thing has remained with me even after all these years!

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why I live. To see time fly by. To see words popping in my head.

When I write, I forget everything that is wrong with my life. I instead become the God and I, for a change, can control things. I can mould characters and their behaviors. I can change the course of incidents and situations and everything else as per my whims. I can give birth, take a life, nurture something, torture someone and be indifferent without any guilt. No, I am not a egomaniacal narcissist. As yet.

Just that I am the happiest when I am writing. And nothing else comes close. May be, except spending time with sgMS!

Original, edited version posted here.


When I was young, I used to love this band, Euphoria. At MDI, I even got an opportunity to host them at our cultural fest (and like a starry-eyed kid, I was mesmerized with them and loved while they were performing for us. Of course I took pictures with the band.)

Fast forward to 2014. While browsing random videos on youtube, I stumbled onto this song, Tum. It looked like a modern version of a song that I loved when I was young. Thinking that I may have out-grown the love for a love song, full of mush, I initially wanted to skip it but then something in me asked me to give it a chance and listen to it.

And I was blown by it.

Funny this is that the new avatar is almost like the old one. The lyrics are essentially the same. The music is what it was back then (except a new instrument). And the energy is as much as you expect from a Euphoria song.

And yet for some reason, this time, the song sounded more beautiful. It came across as lot more meaningful. it brought back all the good times that I've spent with sgMS.

To end this, Tum has to be one of the most beautiful songs. Ever.

P.S.: This is the first time I am writing a post with the help of Hemingway app. Do let me know if you like this post any better from the other ones that I've written.

The tales of a grumpy old man

One of the things that keeps me up at night is that I am growing old. By the day, by the hour and by the minute. And with old age, I am getting grumpy, fat, unhealthy, lethargic, stubborn, headstrong and other things. And I dont like any of that. And I dont know what is the escape. I cant stop the aging process and I cant stop the side-effects. Its like being on a conveyor belt that is moving towards a destination that I cant control!

Update. On tall claim. And on life.

Since I made that tall claim that day, I have tried to post something everyday. Except the last four.

Because I was traveling and was in Goa where access to Internet is quite a pain. And for a change I did have the time and the ideas to write but I just could not.

Now that I am back, I am going to restart writing. On this blog and otherwise. After all, writing is like a muscle. More I flex it, stronger it gets.

So I went to Goa. To different people, Goa means different things. To me, it means a trip to the casino and a drive through long winding roads through the green cover of trees et al. Over time, casinos have become more expensive and cocky. Roads have become crowded. And if not for these two, Goa is like yet another place that I have no emotional connect with. In short, I think I am done with Goa for the time being.

And I am done with poker as well. I have been losing consistently for almost two months now. Like they say, form is temporary and class is permanent, I think I poker is not for me. Yet to decide on it. Lets see what I do with it.

The initial excitement over The Nidhi Kapoor Story is over. The book is out in October but I am already onto the next plot. I am in that phase where I have some 5 - 6 plots brewing in my head and I ought to pick one and move with it. I have given myself till the end of August to shortlist a plot and then another three months (till the end of November) to get the first draft out. Like it was for #tnks, I hope that the first draft of next one would be about 100K words. Translates into about a 1100 words each day. Pretty manageable.

Naukri still remains elusive. Been interviewing and meeting people. But nothing is materializing. Guess I am not as good as I think I am. I am running on fumes now. If things dont fall in place by end of Sep, I think I may be back home. For good. I dont want to leave Mumbai but then I dont know if I can continue to stay here. Again, update on this as and when things get clearer.

What else? What else could be troubling a middle aged man with no naukri and no love prospects? Quite a few things actually. But then, nothing else seems to be coming to my mind right now. May be in the next few posts?

P.S.: The Independence Day came and went and for a change I did not experience any strong emotions about it. Same for Rakshabandhan and Janamashtmi. Is this because I am growing up? Or is it because there are far more important things that are on my mind? Or may be I am unwell (mentally)? Or I need a break? Any armchair psychologists?

The Shoe Story

Today was a big day. In fact I am lucky that first thing I did in the morning was to watch Steve Jobs' version of Think Different Commercial. Everytime I hear it I am filled with so much optimism that I believe I can achieve anything I want to. I think motivation, right in the morning helps set the pace for the day. I dont really believe in self-help books and tips but this is something that I'd try doing tommorow as well. And if tomorrow goes as well as today went, I would make it a routine. Lets see.

Anyhow, so today, I had a big meeting with a big big guy. The meeting went ok. Phew! I may have some interesting news to announce in a few days. But then, that's not the point actually. The point is, since it was a big meeting, I was advised to dress properly. And that meant I was politely asked to wear shoes and a formal shirt.

Now, I have a big big problem with that.

For starters, I dont want someone to evaluate me by what I am wearing. I know that the world works in a certain way and all the older and experienced people want to see prospective employees and vendors in a certain dress code. I know that its hygiene for those people. I know they are used to working in a certain style. But I am sorry, I am not part of that crop. And I have issues when someone judges me on the basis of what I wear!

Second, I really genuinely cant think when I am wearing shoes. No serious. I cant. I have tried and I have failed. Everytime I wear shoes, the pores get blocked and I cant think at all. Whoever said that gray matter resides in the brain must've been kidding. At least in my case, its down there. In the toes.

And third, I am trying to experiment with my look. Which means I have all sorts of weird colors and cuts and none of them may not be appropriate for such serious occasions. So I had an option of wearing a bright yellow shirt or a deep pink one or a black one with a funny cut. No points for guessing the one I finally wore for the meeting.

Anyhow, I just reached home (its 11:45 PM) and I've now been wearing shoes since noon or so. And its almost 12 hours. Straight. Without a break. I am going to take off my shoes and let me feet breathe. You must try it for yourself. Go to work, office for one day without shoes and you'd thank me for the rest of your life.

Go try. Serious.

And thankfully, tomorrow I dont have to wear shoes. But yes, I would start the day with some motivational video for sure.

One year and a crore

These days I talk a lot about life. Probably because I am at that juncture where I need to figure out the next step. And its going to be a very important step because the next few years are going to be very important.

I have realized that I am not passionate about any one idea and thus I dont think I can start something. I have also realized that I love my freedom so much that I dont want to work for someone else. And I know that I need money. And I am at a stage when I have to have to settle down if I want to die a happy man. So many decisions and so many constraints!

All of it, all these things that I have talked about above look doable and yet are difficult. They look within grasp and yet they are out of reach. And last night I realized that I need a tailwind gain of a crore and a year. That's all it would take to get my life back on track (read [1] below). One crore and one year.

And that's what I really really need right now.

I can't think of a way to make that much money in a year unless I rob a bank or start cooking meth or sell a kidney or commit a fraud or something. There is no legit way to make money. At least I dont think there is. If there is, please point me to it. Really.

Apart from this, I think all is well. I have discovered something that I think I like doing. And I can totally see myself doing it for the rest of my life (writing). Just that I dont know if I am good enough to make a commercial success out of it. I know the woman that I want to marry and settle down with. Just that she cant tolerate even standing next to me. I know the kinda life I want to lead. Just that its kinda long shot as of now. And so on and so forth.

Oh, and my current mood is sad. And I need sad music. The kinds where the hero walks alone through a happy crowd on a well-lit road at night and a saxophone is playing somewhere in the background (read [2] below).

That's it!


[1] When I say back on track, I mean that I would be back on par with my cohorts, my classmates, an average guy my age etc.

[2] This kinda music.

The predicament(s) of a writer

I am a struggling writer. My first book is out in Oct (if all goes well). While I am proud about the fact that I am going to be a published writer, there are a 1000 questions swirling in my head. Answers are not easy. And hence the predicament. Before I launch into it, here is a disclaimer.

Writing is something that did not happen to me naturally. I had to work hard on it. Took me 10 odd years of consistent rambling on this blog to be able to realize that I could write a book.

In fact this blog helped me realize that I loved writing.

Now, coming to questions, the first question that I get asked is, "Why do I write?"

And my answer is...
I write because I love writing. Its like my fix, its my poison. Its my kick. It makes me happy. There is nothing else that I have been able to discover that allows to get me in the zone, in the flow.  
Same zone, same flow that athletes get into when they are performing at their peak. Same zone where yogis get in when they are meditating. Same zone where coders are when they spend nights after nights working on lines and lines of code. 

Next question that inevitably is, "Who do you write for?"

My answer:
Ofcourse I write for myself. Apart from a secret blog that I write for sgMS, for her to read, everything I write is for me.  
Not for readers. Not for friends. Not for family, not for strangers, not for anyone else. It's for me. 
It has to give me that happiness. It has to please me. Everything is about me when I write. 
And no, I am not a narcissist. As yet.   

The final question that makes the predicament apparent, "If you write for yourself, why do you want to publish it? Why make it public? Why not keep it hidden in a secret dairy? Why even write a blog?"

I struggle, cringe and sweat. But then more often than not, my answer is:
Because I like the idea that what I write has the ability to go beyond the borders. What I write can spread. What I write can help me meet more people. It can open doors. It can broaden my horizons. Having someone else read what I have written gives me an opportunity to improve my craft. It allows me to get feedback. It's the reality check. 

And then I get that inevitable look of confusion, distrust, mockery from people. Even from good friends. And I dont know what to tell them. Now you see? The predicament. I wonder how do other writers answer these questions. I wonder what about other artists? I can hazard a guess that any art has to be commercially viable for it to take off in the long run and hence the publishing etc. But then who am I to mix art and commerce.


P.S.: If you are interested in writers talking about writing, do see I ask Indian writers 5 questions about writing and publish these on this blog. No, so far I havent published my answers. I think I'll wait till Oct for that. Why? Because The Nidhi Kapoor Story comes out then!

Lovers at Large

Move over AA. There's a new thing in town. Lovers at Large. The idea, the concept is similar to AA but has a wider score.

Just like in AA (where people who have issues with Alcohol gather and talk about things) Lovers at Large (or LL) is a group of jilted lovers who can't seem to get over the separation. And the separation is wrecking havoc in their personal and work lives.

The scope is larger because unlike alcoholics who know the issues that they are facing, the Lovers at Large don't know that they are suffering from longing and separation. And because of this ignorance they continue to suffer.

Needless to say, I, the founding member of LL, have my reasons for creating this support group.

Its just one reason actually. sgMS. The thing is, I cant get over sgMS. And I know she cares and yet she chooses to ignore me (to participate in all assorted, tiny, insignificant social gatherings that she could totally avoid but she does not). I know she's not seeing anyone but has a room full of tall, dark, handsome, rich, funny and successful guys who continue to accost her. And I know I don't stand a chance if she were to compare me to them. What makes my suffering worse is that she has been telling, and consistently forever, that I am not the one for her and yet I continue to hang onto that little thing called hope, waiting for her to come back. Which I think I now know is not happening.

How do I know? There are signs all over the place. If I were a writer, I would say, "I can see dead and mangled bodies of my dreams and hopes scattered all over the place. Each dream killed with as much indifference as one would swat a fly on the wall" and so on and so forth. But I am not. At least not that kinds. But I can see things have changed. And the change looks irreversible.

Today, in fact was the last nail in the coffin. I just got tipped over the edge. I know I would continue to love her. I know I would continue to pine for her. And I would crave for her attention. But starting today, I shall stop making any effort what so ever from my side.

Wait. This is not about her. Its about LL.

So LL is a support group of people who would come together and talk about their issues. Even if one of us can find solution, find peace, find solace in the group, I think I would have achieved the purpose.

So, if you are a lover at large, you know who to talk to. My doors and mailboxes and ears are always open!

Tall claim of the day

I just read about this Sci-Fi author called John Scalzi. Apparently, he has written EVERY day on his blog. Since 1998. Wow! I mean I dont even know how many years is that. And how many posts would that translate into. And how many great, good, bad, stupid ideas would that mean!

And here I am, proud about the fact that I maintain this blog since 2004. I mean I dont even know what was I upto in 1998. And most of the blog is like rants of a man who is still a 15-year old school girl in his head (aka Drama Queen).

Anyhow, coming back, the tall claim of the day is: Starting today, I shall write on this blog everyday. Everyday. Till the day I die. I mean till the day before I die because I dont think I would have time to update the blog when I die.

And why would I do that? 

Few reasons.

A. I owe a lot of good things in my life to this blog and there is no reason gooder things may not happen to me in future, because of this very blog.

B. I love the concept of serendipity. Let me take a longish route to explain this. You see, one may argue that if I were to write everyday, why cant I write on a notepad and keep it in a lock and key. I can't because when things are locked behind a lock and a key (or hidden in a walled garden), those things, those ideas cant have sex with each other. And thus the lucky chance (serendipity) of gooder, better, grander things coming out of this copulation wont exist. And that would be a shame.

C. Most importantly, this gives me a reason to live. I think I have exhausted most of other reasons to live (read #sgMS). I know I ought to survive and provide for my family and all that. But that, that is not the reason why we live. Is it? That's responsibility. That's like being on the lowest ladder of Maslow's chart. I want to be on the top-most ladder. The one where I am self-actualizing. Whatever that means.

There are issues as well. 

For example...

A. There would be days (most days) when I wont have anything interesting to say. My posts wont be lucid enough. And who would gives a damn about what an ill-informed, bald, unemployed, old man living in India has to say about things. But then, I have to do this. For no one else but me.

B. Who would read what I write? After all no other human being could be interested in Poker, Writing, Travel, Culture, Marketing, Blogging, Biking, Music, Films, Social Experiments, Money, Investing and a million other things that I typically write about on my blog!

C. Where is the time to write everyday? What if I am travelling? What if I am tired? What if I am not in the mood?

There are more. But then, I dont need to list those down. I know I am going to do this. And no rational reason would stop me from doing so.

So, in the end, I come back to the tall claim of the day: I repeat, starting today, I shall write on this blog everyday.

Coming Soon. In Oct 2014.

Coming Soon
Coming Soon!!
Just heard from my publisher (Grapevine) that we are looking at releasing the book in October of this year. What does this mean? It means...

A. I have about two months to get a marketing plan in place.

B. I still have time to get the cover image done the way I want it done. I can now pester friends and strangers alike to help me with the cover. Actually I already did it. Just posted a question on Quora.

C. I have two months to kill. I had thought that I'd start the next one right after the launch. But since the launch is two months away, I can waste time. If I have to publish one book a year, every month counts. And I definitely cant waste two.

D. It give me more jitterbugs in my stomach about how would it do and how would I face audience and critics and all that. I am fearful that people may not like what they read. If that happens, then what? Etc etc.

But all said and done, I can't wait for October. Why? Because #tnks would be out in October! In the meanwhile, if you want, you can help me with tnks!

Originally posted here.

On longing. And separation. And roller coasters.

The last few days weeks months years have been like a roller coaster ride. Actually more than roller coaster, they've been like a ride on the sine curve. No no, a roller coaster. In a sine curve, you can predict the crests and the troughs. And they happen often, with regular frequency. In a roller coaster, you cant predict. You dont know long would the crest last and you never know when would the next crest come.

Thats how my life has been for past few years. Periods of extreme happiness (typically marked by togetherness - crests) and periods of extreme sadness (typically marked by separation - troughs) dotted by things in between (typically marked by longing - the slopes).

With time, these crests are getting smaller, troughs are getting larger and slopes are getting infinitely big. And this ladies and gentlemen is what I would talk about tonight. Its going to be a sob story. So please indulge.

So thing is, I am an adult. I am old by ALL benchmarks. Its been years since someone has called me a young man. And no one would ever call me that ever again. Ever. Ok? Ever. And with each passing day, the amount of time I have left on Mother Earth is reducing. The amount of time that I could spend with that special someone is reducing by the minute. Every minute I spend away from her, I am wasting that.

Because that's all there is to life. There is no deeper, no higher meaning. We are happy accidents that happened when some chemicals played with others and randomly decided to mate. Or amalgamate. Or whatever. Bottom line, I am old.

And despite being old, I refuse to grow up. I refuse to understand why is it necessary for me get rooted to a place. I like moving around. I love the freedom I have. I am proud that I do not have a predictable schedule. And so on and so forth.

To age, the never-settle-down attitude, add one more thing. The on and off relationship that I have with sgMS.

Remember I spoke about roller coasters in the beginning of this post? The relationship is like the roller-coaster. I enjoy it in general but I think I've had enough of it now. I want to be on a highway. With her ofcourse. Thing is, although everytime I go up, I bloat in the anticipation. Everytime I fall down, I am left moaning in agony and everytime I am on the slope, I glow in anticipation. But I think I've had enough of excitement. Everytime I roll down a peak, I almost fall off. It takes serious effort to cling on. And I try to. But I dont know how long would I be able to do so!

The last 12 months

Its been a year since I quit working full-time.

And its been a fast road down hill since then. Actually no. The year's been really interesting and while I have had a lot of lows, I did have some ups. I thought may be I would make a list. So, in bullet points, in the last 12 months, I...
  1. finished working on my first book, The Nidhi Kapoor Story ( and FB page). To be honest I could've done this by March if I was disciplined but then this is the first one and I promise that the next one would be fast. The book should be out by end of August if not sooner. 
  2. traveled to 10 or so countries. Out of these trips, two were with friends (roadtrip across US and backpacking in EU), few were to play poker at casinos (Macau, SL) and rest were work (I still freelance for my ex-employer). There is still 5 months and I hope I get to travel more. Universe, are you listening?
  3. fell in love all over again. With who else but #sgMS. Yeah, again. 
  4. met a few super duper amazing kind people who have helped me without any ulterior motive or hopes of personal gains. If not for these people, I would've found is extremely hard to even pay my bills.  
  5. learnt and forgot Yoga. I did that to lose weight and it did work. But I lack the discipline to work on it regularly. I think its just too boring. If it were a little more interesting, I would've totally done it. Its wonderful and I could see change in just two months. Wish I had the patience.
  6. started jogging. I suffer from a condition that prohibits me from running. But what the hell. I will. And I am doing it. I dont enjoy it to be honest but its like a bitter pill that I need to swallow to be able to do well with other things. 
  7. spent everything that I had saved since I started earning. As I write this, my bank balance is so low that I am officially below the poverty line. I am using my credit card to pay my rent. In fact, I got this reminder one fine morning that I have all of Rs. 0.50 to my name. On a side note, do you want to hire me?
  8. took on and survived the April A2Z challenge. You must try this if you like writing.
  9. learnt that I am not as great as I think I am. This primarily happened because no one has shown any willingness to hire me. I can claim that I am being choosy and all that but still. 
  10. realized that world is not a fair place and is full of opportunists, small and insecure people. Do read # 4 again please.
  11. shut down the business that I had started with a few friends. 
  12. ignored this blog (comparatively) 
  13. reduced the amount of time I spend on things like FB and twitter. Initially, I missed the excitement of people wanting to talk to you because you were so active on the Internet. But now, I think I like that I spend more time offline. 
Thats all. 13 things. 

And I think this periodic review is a good idea. I just ought to take it seriously. I tried monthly reports for a while but it was too tedious and it wasn't fun. So I abandoned it. However, while working on this, I had to go back in time to see the pictures of the trips I've been on, the the kind of things I posted on my blogs, the kind of emails I exchanged with friends, family and it was fun. May be an yearly thing makes sense!

But before that, in the next 12 months, I ought to write yet another book, find a naukri that allows me to save some money, buy a car and hopefully, get together with sgMS. 

P.S.: Need to work on a deck, tentatively titled, In last 12 months, that would have be like a pictorial presentation of things that I did in the last 12 months. In terms of a sneak peak, here is a screenshot. 

Notification from my bank about a mini-fortune that I've saved with them!

The Nidhi Kapoor Story

Did you like this post? May be you want to read my first book - The Nidhi Kapoor Story.

Check it out on Amazon or Flipkart?