Trust Me, I'm a Storyteller

February 7, 2010

Delights of Delhi

I had a few adventures while in Goa and in Delhi. On republic day, back in Delhi, I avoided the crowds at the Republic Day parade and went to the Lodhi Gardens with Susanne Gervay and Bill Franklin. Families were having picnics  with lots of children sitting on colourful saris and men were playing cricket games. The women and girls wore Saris, Skirts, Salwar Kameez and Kurtas in gorgeous fabrics, many brightly coloured, embroidered, sequinned, jewelled and/or sparkling with glitter, their Sunday best. It was very serene as we wandered around the gardens, lakes, tombs and ruins. We strolled down Lodhi Rd to find the Khan markets and found a great little café and some beaut shops.

Lake at Lodhi Gardens Republic Day 2010

Shops inside the walled city of the Red Fort, Delhi


I went to a new, highly polished Mall with Meenakshi to look at the shops, some of the well known brands here and some very Indian brands such as ‘Tantra’.

Meenakshi and I went to the Cinema in the Mall complex and saw The 3 Idiots in Hindi. It is a comedy-tragedy-drama. I managed to follow most of it in Hindi because of the excellent acting and portrayal of the story; and Meenakshi explained the bits I didn’t fully understand. I laughed and I cried. The three young actors who play the 3 idiots are fantastic. The 3 Idiots is now showing at Hoyts in Sydney with English subtitles, if you have a chance to see this film it is well worth it. I also watched Slumdog Millionaire in Hindi – I had no-one to explain it this time and I hadn’t seen it before but I followed most of it pretty well.


Susanne Gervay, Sujata Sankranti, Meenakshi Bharat, me and others at the University of Delhi Jan 2010

I went again to Delhi University with Meenakshi, Sujata, Susanne and also to the British Council which were both a great pleasure. I met Tanya Agarwal, Anu Bhardwaj,  Jyoti Singh Visvanath, Sayoni Basu and Anita.

Susanne Gervay with Anita

Fear Factor editors and authors, me, Sujata Sankranti, Jaspreet Singh, Meenakshi Bharat and Susanne Gervay

Sharon with Sayoni Basu who has worked in publishing in OUP and Penguin and is currently publishing director in Scholastic India.


We had delicious dinners hosted by Meenakshi and Sujata. Meenakshi organised another day of readings with local authors (different ones from last year). I met Jaspreet Singh from Canada. Jaspreet has a story “Elephants” in Fear Factor.  His latest book is Chef.

I managed to see inside the impressive Red Fort in Delhi this time; as well as the Swaminarayan Akshardham temple in New Delhi that was so busy when I went last year with Sujata and Barbara that we left. The Swaminarayan Akshardham temple is just magnificent. Unfortunately they don’t allow photos to be taken inside the temple walls but it is truly awesome both inside the temple and exhibition room and outside in the lotus garden looking at the incredible carved elephants and other animals and figures. 149 full size carved elephants surround the outside of the temple. Aphorisms and proverbs on little signs are dotted among the elephants.

I couldn’t resist another close look at the Bahai Lotus Temple and went with Susanne, Bill and Ajeet. We went inside the temple and also the visitor’s centre to learn more about it.

Bahai lotus temple delhi india


Dr Ajeet and Bill Franklin at the Raj Ghat in Delhi

I  went again to Old Delhi to take in and photograph some of the streetscape in that busy ancient part of town where locals have traded for centuries and the streets are so narrow that cars can’t enter.

Streetscape in Agra

Streetscape in Agra 2010


Around almost every corner in Old Delhi and New Delhi there is some architectural or natural wonder, whether dwelling, temple, minaret, fort, mausoleum, hotel, garden, Hauz Khas, bridge, lake, stream or a glimpse of the incomparable Yamuna River.  Traffic seems chaotic and peak hour almost insane with the long delays but somehow most of the time it works.

Hauz Khas or Royal Water Tank


More recently, the metro (400 kms) is being constructed to help move the growing population around the city and help ease the volume of traffic. The stadium and Commonwealth Games village are being built. Delhi airport is now streamlined, efficient and looking very smart.

I enjoyed all the sumptuous food, incredible surroundings and excellent company while in Delhi — and there certainly was plenty of each.

The Three Idiots is on in Sydney at Hoyts.

It’s a ‘must see’. I went to see this movie with Meenakshi in Delhi. The dialogue was all in Hindi but even without subtitles it was the best movie I’ve seen in ages.

Trailer at:

Today’s Writing Tip

Think of a time when something gave you courage, taught you ‘mind over matter’. Write about this experience.

February 5, 2010

Days of Goa and Goan nights.

So many excellent presentations with two or three parallel sessions made it difficult to choose which to attend sometimes at the IASA 2010 conference.

Susanne Gervay chairing session with presenter Thamilarasi P

Susanne chairing session with presenter Jyoti Nandan

I chaired two sessions, the first included Susanne Gervay speaking about ‘Youth Literature: A Global Strategy for Social Justice’; Pam Macintyre’s digital storytelling presentation ‘Advance Australia (Un)Fair? Australian Identity in Award Winning Fiction for Young People’; Reema Sarwal discussing ‘A Cinderella for 21st Century Australia: Reading Tamaika’s Meta-Fictional Journey from The Princess of Shadows to the Queen of Quentaris’. Another presenter was slotted in at short notice and unfortunately had to give a shorter presentation, Purushottama Bilimoria narrated a visual presentation about ‘Desi Performative Arts in Australia: from Lightfoot to Creative Australian-Indian Dance Movements’, with reference to Anna Pavlova and others.

Sharon with Sarany Mukherjee Uni of Calcutta who presented a paper at the conference.

During the second session, Alice Healy presented “History is an Advanced Literary Art’, with reference to Kate Grenville, Inga Clendinnen, Kim Scott and Hazel Brown ; V. Lakshmanan referred to Bryce Courtnay’s The Power of One to discuss racism; Saranya Mukherjee spoke about Lucid Life: Slippery Truth using a re-vision of Malouf’s The Great WorldThe Conversation at Curlow Creek; Virender Pal presented his paper ‘Psychic Disintegration of Ivy: A study of Alexis Wright’s Plains of Paradise’. and

Sharon presents her paper and digital storytelling "Near Pavilions"

My own digital story-telling presentation ‘Near Pavilions’ was chaired by Makarand Paranjape, author of Sacred Australia published here by Cloud of Magellan (Melbourne) and in the National Library of Australia.

Sujata, Susanne, me and Meenakshi in the Garden at the International Centre Goa where we launched "Fear Factor Terror Incognito".

Following that afternoon session we had an al-fresco launch in the Centre gardens of a collection of stories from India and Australia Of Sadhus and Spinners edited by Santosh Sareen, Bruce Bennett, Susan Cowan and Asha Kanwar, which was launched by Richard Nile and the Indo-Aus anthology Fear Factor Terror Incognito. Sujata Sankranti and Susanne Gervay spoke about and read from Fear Factor Terror Incognito. The event was attended by editors, authors, conference delegates, Professors Sareen and Gopal; Australian professors and Dr Lachlan Strahan, Deputy High Commissioner for the Australian High Commission.

Goa Launch of Fear Factor Terror Incognito - Professor Sareen holding up a copy

Susanne Gervay reading from her story 'Days of Thailand' at the launch of Fear Factor Terror Incognito

A lot of copies of Fear Factor Terror Incognito were sold and we signed a great many of them, as well as having our photos taken. Many thanks to all who bought copies and I hope you find it as thought-provoking and as good a read as we do.

Over the five days of the conference we were looked after very well by the organisers and volunteers.

Susanne with Mridusmita Baruah and me.

The organisers provided enormous amounts of Indian and European dishes, as well as tea, coffee and snacks ensuring that we were all well fed. The International Goa Centre accommodation is bright, spacious and comfortable; internet connection is available, though it has to be shared, and the surrounding gardens are well-kept and beautiful. The local sights are well worth exploring. We were treated to a boat ride and cultural programme on the ‘Santa Monica’ which departed from below the Mandovi Bridge in Panjim. We also did our own exploring around Goa and its lovely beaches.

Dressed for the evening in Goa

Beach on Arabian Sea at Goa

The conference concluded with a valedictory address by Alan Mayne and speakers Stephen Muecke, Richard Nile, Satendra Nandan and R Narayan. My thanks to the AIC for a travel grant and CAL for cultural development grant to enable me to attend.

I have become a life member of IASA and am appreciative of the work that they do. The conference was an unforgettable experience. I have taken a lot from it back with me to Australia. Including the anthology which I am enjoying reading and the lovely IASA commerative clock and Certificate.

And so on to Delhi, where our book Fear Factor Terror Incognito is already in most good Indian bookshops, including those in shiny malls and local haunts such as the Khan Markets.

Delhi book shop and Jyoti with a copy of Fear Factor Terror Incognito

Writing Tip for Today
Write about a place that has inspired your wildest dreams. Recently, for me, it has been a visit to Goa and the Arabian Sea. Just the words ‘Arabian Sea’ conjure up Tales of Arabian Nights and memories of reading this book with an introduction by Sir Richard Burton which brought these tales to me many years ago. What do the words ‘Arabian Sea’ conjure up for you? Is there a place equally as magical for you? Transport yourself there on a magic carpet and write a fabulous story.

February 3, 2010

Indian Association for the Study of Australia (IASA) Goa 2010 Conference

Beach at Goa on the Arabian Sea

Beach at Goa on the Arabian Sea January 2010

International Centre Goa, venue for the IASA Goa 2010 Conference and our accommodation during the conference.

The lush green countryside in Goa with its ubiquitous and essential palm trees, the golden sandy beaches on the Arabian Sea, the busy town of Donna Paula, a river cruise, nights lit up by fairy lights, lots of singing and dancing formed the backdrop for the IASA conference.

The warm and delightful Aruna from University of Adelaide in Goa.

The best part of the conference was meeting so many people from all states of India and Australia. I enjoyed such stimulating conversations about every topic imaginable; exchanged information and ideas; and became better acquainted with other participants in India and Australia, which was without a doubt the highlight of the five-day conference for me.

Makarand Paranjape, who chaired and presented at the conference. He is author of "Sacred Australia" which is in the National Library of Australia. Publisher : Clouds of Magellan

Reema Sarwal co-editor of Reading Down Under: Australian Literary Studies Reader. Edited by Amit Sarwal and Reema Sarwal

I was extremely impressed by the diversity of the topics in the
presentations that connect India and Australia, as well as by the depth of
of Australia and Australian literature both past and contemporary by those  who presented the best papers.

At the Inaugural Session held at the University of Goa, Professor Santosh K Sareen, President of IASA gave a welcome address, this was followed by an introduction to the conference by Professor Darvesh Gopal, General-Secretary of IASA. Dr Lachlan Strahan, the Australian Deputy High Commissioner for India addressed the audience on behalf of the Australian High Commission about these connections as well as the differences and challenges facing both India and Australia. AIC Board Member, Professor of English at the University of Queensland, author and editor of a number of books on life narrative, Australian literature and Australian Studies, Professor Gillian Whitlock, addr essed the audience on behalf of the Australia India Council (AIC) and told us of developments, plans and goals for the future. We all lamented the news that Professor Bruce Bennett was not able to attend and wish him well.

Dr Nina Caldeira gave a vote of thanks and we then moved on to the Conference Dinner at ‘A Lua’ Lawns, Meces-Goa. Before leaving for the dinner I caught up with Santosh and Darvesh, as well as Heather Neate and Asha Das from the AIC.

With Professor Darvesh Gopal, Secretary-General of IASA and Susanne Gervay, Australian author

Professor Santosh K Sareen, President of IASA

At ‘A Lua’ I surprised myself by dancing under the stars and fairy lights. The very professional person singing turned out to be the talented Dr Yanthan, one of the conference delegates who presented a paper. More very talented and professional performers were among the researchers from the North East of India, Renembo, Mridusmita and Irene. I am not talented at either singing or dancing and was reluctant to display my ineptitude but the company was very persuasive and I ended up having the time of my life, dancing to the fantastic music by the band and the impromptu performers. I discovered that young Indian men can really rock, especially those from the Punjab. I’m told that ‘Punjabi Rocks!’; though those from the North East and Delhi moved just as well to music ranging from Kenny Rodgers to Elvis to Bollywood. Even some of the more courageous professors joined in the dancing. There was no doubt that everyone on the dance floor was having the ‘time of their lives’.

Dr Zuchamo Yanthan, Mridusmita Baruah, me, Susanne and Renembo Odyno

And that was only the first day – more later about my two weeks with authors, editors, academics, friends and colleagues in India—the writing, reading, walks, talks, music, dancing, cinema, sight-seeing, dining, socialising, presenting, discussions and book launches.


Writing Tip for Today.

Write the music you hear, whether it is in your mind, broadcast on the radio, playing on a CD, music from a film, or even singing. Music can alter one’s mood. Try writing to different styles of music, vary the tempo and beat. It is not writing about the music but the sound – what you hear, where it takes you, how it makes you feel. Write to music regularly and try reaching for the metaphysical.

January 31, 2010

Delhi and Goa

It hasn’t been easy to update this blog while travelling around India.

However,  Susanne Gervay has been clever enough to update her blog while in India, so for the latest go to

More later…

November 13, 2009

FRIDAY 13 & News about Books & Writing

Friday 13th

So much has happened lately that there has been little time for recording it. The Picador India book Fear Factor Terror Incognito is out and on its way to me, which is exciting news and I can hardly wait to see it.

The Picador Australia edition is progressing and will be released in March.

This week I’ll give a Poster Presentation about Fear Factor Terror Incognito at University of Technology Sydney to discuss the Indo-Aus anthology. Sincere thanks to Rod Morrison at Picador Australia for his enthusiasm for publishing an Australian edition of this exciting and unique volume of stories. Thanks also to Louise Bourke. Jane and Jeannine at Picador Australia have been wonderful with helping me with the UTS Poster Presentation on Tuesday; and Corey has created the poster for it. It is enormously encouraging to receive this kind of support. I’m also grateful to Shruti Debi our publisher at Picador India for delivery of copies of the anthology for the presentation.

Shruti is a consummate professional, meticulous yet enthusiastic about the publishing ventures she takes on. She is a joy to work with. She is to be commended for her faith in us in taking a risk to publish this anthology as well as for her dedication in producing a prestigious and quality edition of Fear Factor Terror Incognito.

me with Shruti Debi and Meenakshi Bharat at Picador India office in Delhi, India.

Me with Shruti and Meenakshi at Picador India office in Delhi, India.

Sincere thanks to co-editor Meenakshi Bharat for suggesting this project and for sticking with me to see it through to our ultimate aim of a 50/50 collaborative volume of Indo-Aus stories published in India and Australia.

My thanks also to my dear friend Sujata who introduced me to Meenakshi when she asked me to contribute to Meenakshi’s book Desert in Bloom – Contemporary Indian Women’s Fiction in English. Sujata and I have been friends and colleagues for over ten years now.

In March, 2010, Meenakshi Bharat and author Sujata Sankranti will visit Sydney, where they will speak and read from Fear Factor Terror Incognito at several venues; including the UTS  TransForming Culture Research Centre, The NSW Writers Centre and the Sydney launch of the anthology.

The contributing authors who were, of course, central to and essential for the anthology deserve congratulations and sincere thanks, too. I am glad to say that their contractual copies of the book are on their way.

Meanwhile plans are going ahead for me and some of our authors to attend the IASA Goa 2010 Conference. I acknowledge and sincerely appreciate the support of Professor Sareen, Professor Gopal, the Australia-India Council Travel Grant to attend the conference and the Creative Industries’ Career Fund of Copyright Australia limited Cultural Fund Award. These organisations have made the visit to Goa possible. Congratulations to all the authors and academics who have been accepted for the Conference.

last week I stayed at The Hughenden with my sister and enjoyed the warm and superb hospitality of Susanne Gervay. We had the best time and I wholeheartedly recommend The Hughenden Boutique Hotel. My sister and I were pampered with delicious meals and the softest beds—my mattress felt like feather down; I had the best night’s sleep and it was difficult to leave it in the morning. The scrumptious Hughenden breakfast was well worth getting up for though.

Susanne has a photo of the three of us at The Hughenden on her blog

Susanne, Bernie and I also went to the Books: Bridges and Beyond, Room to Read Literary Event, with special guest Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief. The event was held in the Tea Room at the Queen Victoria Building and was so well attended, there was quite a crush.

Room to Read is a global not-for-profit foundation that brings books and builds libraries for children in developing countries in Asia and Africa. It is well worth supporting.

The Sydney writers’ group Company of Writers is publishing their fourth anthology of stories, titled Secret Cows in early December. The group first started in 1990 under the direction of Stephanie Dowrick and continues to meet regularly each month. It also continues to evolve with a mix of members who formed the original group and others who have since joined.

Congratulations to Jeremy Fisher on his new academic appointment as Senior Lecturer in Writing at the University of New England in Armidale, NSW. He has now resigned from the Australian Society of Authors and will be greatly missed. Jeremy spent his time as Executive Director tirelessly assisting authors, promoting authors’ rights and championing causes such as Parallel Importation of Books, among many others. His story “The Liberation Centre” published in Fear Factor Terror Incognito is memorable, haunting and timeless. Wishing you all the best, Jeremy.

Today’s Writing Tip:
It’s Friday 13th, are you the suspicious type? A Friday 13th falling a week after Hallowe’en? Surely, it must be a night for writing a gothic novel or at least a creepy story. Think of Mary Shelley creating Dr Frankenstein and his monster…think of The Yellow Wallpaper By Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Create your own Friday 13th mystery.

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