Sunday, December 29, 2019

The support a depressed person needs

After the recent suicide of a celebrity, posts about mental health awareness have instantly sprung up all over social media. Friends say - "Why didn't the person reach out to us for help" while others offer themselves for support to people/friends going through depression.

So why do people under extreme depression not reach out for help? Here are some hard facts:-
- When things are not going well for you, you are completely on your own. When you are down and out or are not "doing well", people don't even take your calls. Everyone has experienced this; some still are.
- No one wants to get out of their comfort zone and help, either because they themselves have got it easy or, have had to work hard to achieve what they have. 'Help' is a long-term responsibility which no one wants to take. 'Deal with your own problems' has always been the motto.
- Everyone is offering free advice but that's not what a depressed person needs. He/she knows the problem (job, money etc) and needs a solution, not free advice.
- Real advice/direction can only be provided by a trained practitioner. They don't come cheap and if the depressed person is having financial trouble, seeking out professional help is not an option. Even if there are helplines, one will come to a point where one has to dig into one's pockets.
- A depressed person cannot help but think and talk negatively. And people want to stay away from toxic people. So such people are avoided.
- A person who is undergoing depression may reach out to friends and talk about their problems. And these friends may listen but in all probability will spin it around as gossip. It has happened before with the same people so why would a depressed person think that this would be any exception?
- When people know that a person is down, he/she is ostracized. No one wants to be around what they consider a 'negative' person. In fact, people want to only be around 'successful' people.
- People put up posts calling people 'friends like family.' But the fact of the matter is that friends are not family. Many a times, friends are competitors and are secretly happy to see you going down. Friendships are conditional, family is not. Family will almost always help. If you have a really supportive family, you are truly blessed.
- A friend who has been set up by his/her family, will show support but rarely act on it. They have never needed the help of friends and never will. They will do and say whatever is needed to keep the friendship going if it benefits them. But when it comes to offering real and meaningful support, they will disappear. Of course, there are exceptions. Bottom line - choose your 'real' friends carefully.
- Of course, there are friends who care and will help. But these friends are those rare gems who keep calling and checking on you, regardless. Not the ones who you have to reach out to.
- Putting up posts and saying that you are accessible doesn't mean that the person will reach out to you. If you were so concerned and such a helpful and caring person, the depressed person would have come to you for help before reaching a point where he/she had to contemplate suicide.


- Stay in touch with your close friends or the people you care about. Even if it's a call once a week. Face-to-face even better. One-on-one for a quick coffee is best. Meeting in a group or partying with people is not really spending time. When you take time out for a person alone, he/she will know that they can reach out to you when they have problems. That's if you really are serious about helping. It is a commitment, a long-term responsibility, which if not seen till the end could put the person in further depression.
- Putting up a post telling people that you are available to help neither increases your brand value nor instills confidence in people who need help. Why would they get in touch with someone they hardly know or are not close to? Instead, identify the people in your own life you really care about and would put ahead of yourself to help. Meet them so they know that you are there. And if you are going to use their personal problems as fuel for gossip, don't even bother. You're only making it worse.
- Once again, stay in touch with the people you care about so that they know they can reach out to you for support. Who knows - tomorrow you may need their support. And WhatsApp messages don't count because it's playing it safe. It's like getting involved without actually getting involved.
- If you don't care, don't act like you do. What's the point? If you care, then act.

So to all those putting up posts, talking about mental health and offering themselves for support, please understand that depression is a serious issue that can lead to death. Maybe some of these posts are genuine and well-intentioned, but to most people these posts come across as cashing in on the 'flavor of the month.' Instead, stay in touch with the people you care about so they know that you are there. Don't wait for them to reach out; put your egos aside and reach out to them. But call yourself a friend only if you are prepared to help in whatever way you can. Help and support are responsibilities, not favors for which you should expect something in return. And if you cannot take such responsibilities, you have no business offering 'support', you have no business calling yourself a 'friend.'

Be a 'real' friend or don't be a friend at all.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

'I AM M-M-MUMBAI' - Not just about stammering!

To stammer (as defined by is to speak with involuntary breaks and pauses, or with spasmodic repetitions of syllables or sounds.

Any textbook definition, from any source, can only define stammering based on what is apparent to the eyes and the ears. But none of these definitions mention the serious effort it takes for a stammerer to talk, let alone the negative feelings the stammerer goes through while speaking, some of which are - embarrassment, humiliation, low self-esteem, seclusion, suppression of feelings, and the list goes on.

People tend to empathize with 'disabled' people when they are able to see the disability and how different their normal functioning is from others. And so a person who is physically handicapped or 'special' earns sympathy, compassion, patience and understanding. But such is not the case with a stammerer whose irregular speech patterns (surprisingly, stammering is not considered a disability) is looked upon with humour, further reinforced by stuttering characters in Bollywood films, placed there solely for comedy relief.

A person who stammers has no control over his/her speech. He/she may find himself/herself getting stuck at certain problem syllables, sometimes words get elongated and don't instantly come out which makes their speech patterns appear as 'funny.' But if you think it's funny for the person who stammers, here are some hard facts:-
  • It's humiliating for a stammerer when someone completes his/her word or sentence.
  • Stammerers use synonms instead of the words which could cause them to stammer.
  • It's tough for a stammerer to find a job Some stammerers opt for careers that require minimal verbal communication.
  • It takes immense bravery for a stammerer to maintain eye contact through a stammered word.
  • More than 70 million people worldwide stammer. That's one in every 100.
Speaking for a stammerer is a battle, because he/she knows that the person listening would judge him/her. Why? Because we live in a world that thrives on communication and unfortunately people tend to overlook WHAT the person is saying and instead, focus on HOW he/she is saying it. The result - a stammerer finds himself/herself in a shell, choosing not to express himself/herself which results in he/she being unable to utilise his/her true potential. End result? The stammerer takes on an introverted nature, and leads a life somewhat mired in low self-esteem.

While growing up, a stammerer is told to "talk slowly" or "be confident" when they should in fact be listened to patiently and be encouraged to seek out speech therapy. Mind you, speech therapy does not cure stammering but helps one to control it. Just like there is no known cause of stammering (it is said to be genetic or caused by trauma), there is no known cure. A stammerer does not stammer out of nervousness; a stammerer doesn't have control over his/her speech patterns. In fact, sometimes a stammerer doesn't even realize that he/she is stammering. 

I am M-M-Mumbai follows the journey of a protagonist (who stammers) through the city of dreams. Here's the trailer to give you a further insight into the book:-

The title of the book, I am M-M-Mumbai, has a stutter in it, which was deliberate. Another established publisher wanted to change the title to a marketable one which for me, was a deal breaker. I wanted people to stammer the title out when they spoke about the book to give them an understanding of what it feels like to stammer, which is only made evident from the reaction of the person listening. On one side, this reaction could be a smile, a smirk, a cringing of the eyebrows in irritation or even looking away in impatience. On the other side, some people are patient and maintain eye contact, rather than allowing their gaze to drop down to the stammerer's lips - which would be correct reaction as it's the way we react to a person speaking fluently. Stammerers want to be treated normally! 

But even though the protagonist of the book (Rudra) stammers, this book is not just about stammering! We all have a dream but attached to that dream is a fear, an obstacle, that prevents us from attaining it. So apart from stammering and what a stammerer goes through, the book is also about the following:-
  • Goodness : Despite Rudra's pessimistic view of his world and future, he is always kind and gracious to the people he comes in contact with. Despite the negativity around him, he retains his inherent goodness. And good things always happen to good people because nobody forgets a person's kindness and goodness of heart.
  • Being non-judgmental : Human beings are flawed and the characters in I am M-M-Mumbai are no exception. Take Priya Kohli for example; a starlet who despite two films has made no real headway in the Hindi Film Industry. The film that she is working on (on which Rudra is an assistant director), is her last-ditch effort to make an impression on the film trade and audiences. Like many actresses with no 'godfather' in the industry, it is no secret that her being cast in this film is no stroke of luck and has little to do with her talent. Yet, Rudra doesn't judge her. For him, she is one of the 'good' people because like the few others in his life, she doesn't look at his lips while he speaks.
  • Lessons : A decision made by one person can hurt someone else. That's what happens when Richa allows practicality and security to govern her life decision and ends up dumping Rudra. Yet, he doesn't hate her or speak ill of her. He comes to understand that she chose what seemed right for her and that her brief presence in his life was for a reason. He understands that there is something to learn from every person and every situation.
  • The heart of the film industry : The film industry has been maligned over the years given the dirt that sporadically rises to the surface and is splashed all over the media. However, this book stays away from all those negative and glamorous aspects and instead, features it as a place where dreams are made (or broken), based solely on one's right decisions (or wrong ones).
  • Effort : There is no substitute for hard work and that is highlighted in the book. Once a person steps out of his/her comfort zone and puts everything in his/her soul into that one goal, he/she will get there, one way or another, sooner or later. 
  • Pain : There are situations that bring us pain. And we get so consumed by that negative feeling that we wallow in it and lose touch with that inner strength that every human being possesses. Every person has the strength to surpass pain; all one needs is will and a goal.
  • Family values : Rudra's father is angry at him but doesn't hate him; he just wants his son to be sensible and stand on his own feet. True family will always love you unconditionally and differences can either strengthen bonds or break them. 
  • Success : "The intoxication of alcohol is nothing compared to the intoxication of success." Rudra never forgets the kindness that people had showed him in his bad days as his success humbles him further. That is the effect that success should have on people, not the opposite.
  • Karma : When you do good, good happens to you and the same goes for bad actions and intentions. When will people understand that?
  • Mumbai : There is something truly magical about this city! And there's a reason why one hears many rags-to-riches stories from here. Mumbai is an essential character in the book. Here's an EXCERPT that further highlights that - 'This was a city where everything moved fast. In fact, it was its own nation with diversity in not only communities, cultures, and religion, but also in terms of mindsets. Those who strived to achieve, always would. And those who chose to be complacent and complain would stay where they were. Mumbai was always watching.'
The underlying message is that every person has an obstacle to his/dream. For Rudra that hurdle is his stammering. BUT:-

The book is available in bookstores,
online & kindle -
& on the 'Readify' app -

For more information on this book or my previous books, please visit my website -

So, I am M-M-Mumbai is not just about stammering. In fact, it takes the reader on a unique and fascinating journey through the city of dreams. 

Every person has known a stammerer. 
But not every person has understood one.
I am M-M-Mumbai takes you into the mind of one!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Vinod Khanna - Never Born, Never Died, Visited the Earth between 1946 - 2017.

I had known throughout my childhood that Vinod Khanna and my family were related. (Either my father and him were first cousins or Vinod Khanna and I were second cousins.) From what I caught from the snippets of conversation between my father and his younger brother, Brij Mohan Vohra, the families were close in Peshawar and arrived in Bombay around the same time during Partition, maybe even traveled together. In Bombay, they went to the same school, St. Xaviers, and Brij Chachaji and he were roughly the same age. Apparently, the families were close even in Bombay and visited each other's houses throughout the years the kids were in school.

My father moved to the U.S. early on and lost touch with that extended side of his family. Throughout, Vinod Khanna and Brij Chachaji remained in touch and were as good as best friends. In fact, Brij Chachaji who was an IAS officer and posted in Dalhousie at the time, helped Vinod Khanna immensely during the filming of his home production, 'Himalayaputra.' A major portion of the film was shot in the scenic hill station and Brij Chachaji even put up the entire unit in his bungalow, helping Vinod Khanna to significantly cut down on production costs.

In 1990, my father received a call from Vinod Khanna from out of the blue, inviting him for a close gathering at home (his sangeet) and wedding. I was present when my father took the call and from the conversation, I saw how excited they both were to hear each other's voices after donkey's years.

I was excited to meet Vinod Khanna, not only because he and my father somewhat grew up together but also because I was curious to see the man behind the star. Despite his openness during his interviews, this was one film star perpetually shrouded in mystery.

I went along with my father, younger sister, Brij Chachaji and his wife Kamal Chachiji (actor Karan Dewan's daughter) for the sangeet. The door to Vinod Khanna's Malabar Hill flat was opened by his brother Pramod Khanna, who in my mind looked almost identical to him. In fact, I remember someone in the family mentioning how "both the brothers were as good-looking as each other." Pramod Khanna welcomed us in and I entered a living room filled with my father's extended family who I had never met before. There was Vinod Khanna's sisters with their families, along with his other cousins. It was a close gathering of twenty people in all. Vinod Khanna hadn't arrived yet and while I took a seat at the dining table, my father sat chatting with his relatives.

A while later, Vinod Khanna walked in profusely apologizing for coming in late. There was a sudden change of atmosphere and it was not for the entry of a movie star, but for the arrival of the groom to be married the next day. Everyone was excited as was he, and before he settled in, he caught sight of my father. He gave my father the warmest smile and embraced him for what seemed like an entire minute. Then he was introduced to me. He shook my hand and looked at me intently for a few seconds. I guess meeting a close one's child for the first time makes you realize how much time you lost out with that person.

The sangeet commenced (it was basically all the family members singing to a dholak - the true Punjabi way) and the celebration continued till late at night. During that time, Vinod Khanna spoke to me several times and ensured that I was comfortable. In fact, when he saw me standing alone he introduced me to his nephew, model Gautam Kapur, and made sure I had company throughout. I remember Vinod Khanna insisting that I try a bowl of homemade paaya soup, a dish that he seemed to be immensely fond of.

He took to my younger sister and kept her by his side throughout that evening. He expressed several times how he "always wanted a daughter." In fact, he kept us till the very end so that he could spend more time with my sister. He was indeed a very loving person and my sister was thoroughly charmed by him.

The next day, we went to his wedding at Woodland Society in South Mumbai, the residence of the bride. A simple ceremony was organized on the lawns of the building with close family and friends in attendance. I remember meeting Sunil Dutt, Shammi Kapoor and a few other producers and directors. I was there for a short time so other film personalities may have arrived later on.

Even though he was the man of the hour, he paid special attention to all his guests. In fact, I remember him waving out to me a couple of times. Throughout the evening, he was was all smiles, seemingly truly in love and happy to get married.
In true Punjabi style, the pheras were to take place late at night so we couldn't hang on. But he took a few extra minutes to talk to my sister and once again mentioned how he "always wanted a daughter."

Later on, I was a part of the film industry but during my time there, he was probably the only star from his generation I never crossed paths with. My father did bump into him a couple of times after that and Brij Chachaji and he remained the best of friends, but those two days were the only two times I met Vinod Khanna and somehow I'm able to recall those two meetings very vividly. For some reason, I can't say the same about my interactions with other stars. Such was the charismatic appeal of Vinod Khanna.

Around eight years later, I went into deep depression due to some family problems. I needed answers and in my quest, happened to read up on Vinod Khanna's journey with Osho and his insights from the same. Trusting his journey, I started visiting the Osho Commune to meditate, sometimes staying there for days on end. I met some of the key members there and they fondly recalled memories with Vinod Khanna and the wonderful person he was.

Osho's tombstone says:-
Only Visited this
Planet Earth Between
I say the same for Vinod Khanna. Such was his spirit. 

Even though Vinod Khanna and I were related, I can't bring myself to refer to him as Uncle. For me, he will always be Vinod Khanna. The Star. Immortal.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Runaround!

Have you ever been given the runaround? If you're living in India, then I'm guessing you have! It could be for a drivers license, paying a bill at a Government office, or even procuring a school leaving certificate.

I used to think that runarounds were confined to Government offices, hospitals, or educational institutions. I was so wrong. My tryst with the seemingly endless runaround circle happened when I tried to get my rightfully entitled customer service from a Multinational that had long established its presence in the homes of Indian consumers. I'm going to refrain from taking names here, as I would like to believe that my experience was a standalone one.

The product in question was a hair trimmer. Yes, I know that in Mumbai men haircutting saloons are a dime and dozen but my hair is of the stubborn type that doesn't respond to any sort of styling. So once in awhile, a quick running of the trimmer through my hair does the job.

One day, my few month old trimmer suddenly died on me (luckily not in the midst of a hair mowing). It was well under the warranty period so I knew that the company would take care of it.

I called the Company customer service line in Hyderabad or Bangalore - I can't recall. I expected to be apologized to for my inconvenience and assured that the needful would be done immediately. But instead, the Customer Service Representative (CSR) asked me irrelevant questions, as if he was interrogating a criminal - "What were you doing with it when it stopped working?", "Did you try to shave your face with it?", "Did you drop it?", "Are you sure?" and so on. Soon a 'case' was opened and I was given a case number.

The CSR asked me where I lived. When I related the details to him, he provided me with their Mumbai Service Center Number.
"Don't worry, Sir," he said, his voice taking on a reassuring tone. "Just give them a call. And they will come and pick it up from you and fix it."
"But shouldn't your company be replacing the product?" I asked. This was the norm with the same company in the US.
"No, Sir. We will fix it. It'll be as good as new."
"I don't want it fixed," I protested. "I bought it new, and it turned out faulty. Your company should not be selling products with defects. It's your duty to..."
The line went dead.

One thing that I learned from dealing with people working in customer service is that you need to be nicer to them than are to you. They get hassled by all kinds of people all day, and if you turn out to be one of "those," they will simply hang up and let someone else deal with you when you call back.

So I tried calling the Mumbai Service Center Number. All the numbers were not in service. I was shocked. How could I be given a wrong number? So I called Customer Service again and explained the situation.
"I'm sorry Sir. These are the only numbers I have on file."
"How does that help me?" I asked, agitated. "If you don't give me the right number, who will?"
"I'm sorry Sir," the lady said politely. "These are the only numbers were have. I could escalate your claim."
"This is not an insurance claim. Just a simple problem. What is the process of escalating a claim?"
"It would be put on priority. And then transferred to the regional office, who will get in touch with the Service Center and have them call you."
"But how will your Regional office get in touch with them if the numbers are not working?" I asked challengingly.
Silence. She was trapped.
"That's true, Sir," she finally spoke.
"Can you give me the address?"
She obliged me. I jotted the address down and thanked her. She apologized for her inability to solve my problem, but promised to "escalate my claim."

So armed with the defective product, original bill and frustration, I set out towards the Mumbai service centre. An hour and a hundred bucks on the meter later, I reached the area but had to let the rickshaw go as the gully was wide enough only for a two wheeler to enter.

In Mumbai, the best way to find a place is to ask for directions. I made several enquiries and was directed into a chawl colony. I was directed twice again till I found myself outside a chawl of which the door was shut. Several angry voices emanated from inside. They were muffled but it seemed like a domestic argument. Nevertheless, I knocked on the door.

A woman answered and I asked if I had reached the right location. She banged the door on my face. I was stunned in shock. Was that a yes or a no? A few seconds later, an elderly man answered and beckoned me in.

As I stepped inside I noticed that the chawl had been partitioned into a home and workspace area. The workspace area, that we were standing in, had shelves of electronics stacked haphazardly.  I explained my problem to the man and showed him my bill etc.  He made no attempt to look at it and instead inspected the trimmer. His hands went in a blur as he fidgeted with it. Within a few minutes, it was working!

I enquired about paperwork. He merely smiled and handed my trimmer back to me saying, "as good as new."

And that was it. True story!

Where there's goodness in people, there's hope for the country.

Today I went to watch Bajrangi Bhaijaan.  The movie was delightful, despite my five-year-old daughter whispering the events (right before they appeared on screen) into my ear as she was watching the film for the second time.

When we were driving back home after the film, I felt in my pocket and was shocked to find that my wallet wasn't there.  I pulled the car to the kerb and searched frantically all over the car.  My wallet not only housed my bank debit cards, but also my drivers license and pan card.  Alarmed, I rushed back to the cinema hall.   

After haphazardly parking in the compound, I pulled my daughter up the staircase and retraced our steps.  I rushed back into the cinema hall, where the next show of the movie had already begun.  I told the usher of my predicament who wasted no time in training his flashlight on my seat and around the area.  All eyes were glued to the Salman Khan blockbuster, yet people (who got wind of my ordeal) joined in my search.  As expected, the wallet was nowhere to be found.  I presumed that someone had picked it up.

Once I reached home, I got a call.  It was the theatre usher, Sanju.  He informed me that after we left, he checked all the rows and happened to find my wallet a few rows down.  I must have accidentally dropped it while walking down the aisle.

I rushed back to the cinema hall, raced up the three stories and found Sanju.  He handed me the wallet.  Everything in it was intact.  There was a little over Rs. 2000 in the wallet and it was all there.  Sanju appeared to be from an impoverished background.  He could have easily taken the cash and told me that's how he had found it (that's how lost wallets are usually returned).  Yes, he had opened my wallet, but only to look for a visiting or ID card which would have my contact details.  I was so touched that I took all the cash out and forced it into his pocket.

The cash wasn't a small amount.  But honesty must be rewarded in the most gratifying way possible.  That would only encourage a person to stay honest.  My tip/reward was probably twenty times more than what anyone would have normally given.  So I believe that my amount makes up for the next twenty times Sanju does the same thing for any other lost items.

This incident reinstates my faith in people.  Where there's goodness in people, there's hope for the country.  If we all could do the right thing for others whenever the opportunity presents itself, our country could never go wrong.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Does a book benefit when launched by a film star?

Does a book benefit when launched by a film star?  The answer is Yes.  Here's why:-

1) So that people attend.
Sad but true, people make an effort when stars are present.  You may post an event on Facebook and get innumerous confirmations.  But on the actual day, only few of those attend.  However, when a star is present not only do the confirmed ones attend but there are many walk-ins as well.

2) So that the press picks it up.
The press follow stars.  So if you have a star at your event, you will surely find press there as well.  The press has options for events to attend every day, so your star has to be the bigger one else the press will go to the 'other' event where there are bigger stars present. 

So, does your book actually benefit with the presence of a film star at the launch?  

A year or so back, I attended a book launch at Landmark Bookstores at Infiniti Mall in Andheri (W).  I lived in the vicinity at the time so happened to wander in towards the end of the event.  The event saw the presence of a movie star.  The venue was filled to capacity.  All in all, it seemed like a successful event and that the journey of the book seemed to have started on the right note.

However, once the star left (before the book signing by the author) more than half the people disappeared just like that.  The line queued up to the get the book signed by the author had barely fifteen people.  When I glanced at the side table where the books were stacked, it looked barely touched.  The book-signing was over in less than fifteen minutes after which the event immediately packed up.  Out of curiosity, I followed the book's journey and unfortunately, despite the grand launch and subsequent press, the book did not take off.  So basically, most of the people in attendance were there to see the star.  In addition, the book was a serious fiction and not a mass/popular fiction.

Having a film star at a book launch event has its pros and cons:-

PROS: With a film star present at a book launch, people attend as do the press (as I mentioned before).  People instantly become aware of the book (if the press features pictures of the star holding the book) and it definitely arouses curiosity.

CONS: While the press may pick it up, they may not feature the star holding the book.  At most, they may mention that so and so star was seen at a book launch event, without even mentioning the name of the book unless you're a journalist/author yourself or the book is authored by a reputed name or if you have enlisted the services of a reputed PR agency who can push the publication to position your book appropriately.  But, even if the press does feature the star with the book, it may not really help unless the star personally endorses your book the way they endorse products (which they get paid for).  So they would need to talk about your book in the press and social media platforms.  They need to say that they are using your product.  Will they do that?  The answer is mostly, NO.  

You need to have a close association with the star for them to do you that favour.  I learned that companies pay stars to endorse their products on Twitter and Facebook, so why would they do yours for free?  The answer - if they know you really really well and so they personally want to help you.  

Another CON is related to the connection between the star and the subject matter of your book.  If you're writing a mass fiction, it would help to have a star endorse your book.  Otherwise, if you have written a literary fiction or something more 'meaningful,' it could go against you.  There are serious readers out there who have drawn a fine line between Bollywood and books.  And if a star (who they know isn't a serious reader or doesn't have an 'intelligent' image) attends your launch, they may not take your book seriously.  Mind you, this is not based on presumptions but on feedback from 'serious' readers.

There are roughly 50 fiction books (conveyed to me by Late R.H. Sharma - Ex Editor-in-Chief at Jaico) that release EVERY WEEK.  This figure is from a few years back, so the number may have gone up or down.  The book will have a shelf life of 3-6 months, maybe longer if the book is successful.  Most of these 50 books don't make it to the bookshelves of reputed stores though all books (including self-published ones) are available online.  So there's a lot of competition to garner attention for your book.  So what is the right thing to do?

A book launch definitely helps.  But the right celebrity is important.  One should invite a celebrity/known figure based on the subject matter of the book.  For example, (ideally speaking) if it's a book on crime I would like to see a known person attached to the Police Force at the launch.  Would  the book get press?  It might but definitely not as much as a Bollywood star.  But it would get the right readers.  Now, when I mean press I'm referring to write-ups and pictures of the book launch.  Book reviews are separate which are handled by the publishing company.  Now, there's a tradeoff - immediate press or targeting the right readers?  Which is more important?  For immediate sales, it's obviously press.  

In the West, when it comes to a book, it's the author and only the author who is the star.  But in our country, nothing seems to be above Bollywood, which is sad but true.  Bollywood has taken over the advertising world as well.  Around 70% of ads feature film stars, which in turn pushes sales of the product.  But does this translate into the reading world as well?  The answer - as I said before, only if the star is shown using your product.  And the flip side to that is, many of the star fans may not be readers themselves.

I think it was the big authors who started inviting stars to their events.  And that has set the trend for book launch events.

Publishing is a serious business.  When books don't sell, it's a loss for the publisher as the books gather dust in the warehouse.  From the publishers' point of view, a star is essential as it could ensure the sales of at least the first print run and kick in word-of-mouth publicity immediately.  But without a star, your book may sail through if you do your bit to promote the book in print and on other platforms.  But if you're book is really good, it will sell regardless!

All in all, if you can get a Bollywood Star to attend your book launch event, you're golden and your book will draw attention all over India immediately!  But make sure that the cons don't work against your book.  

HiFi in Bollywood - It's important for film aspirants to have a backup plan

Bollywood is a hot topic and there are many books out there that try to cash in on the same. And they always start with the typical dream, and end with the protagonist achieving that dream with struggles in-between. They always end with somewhat of a fairy tale ending. But the film industry is actually far from that.

Having worked in the film industry for many years, I decided to reflect on my own journey while trying to keep it entertaining at the same time. In actuality, the struggle is immense and most of the time people don't have a backup plan which is very imperative when one deviates from the 'safe' route. I have seen many people getting thoroughly disappointed, becoming cynical and even misusing their positions to demoralise others. The film industry is mostly full of people who are stuck in the jobs that were never on their list, just because they didn't plan sensibly. 

I subtly tried to highlight the backup plan part and I hope that you catch it. During my career, this is something that Salman Khan had actually told me - it's very important to give yourself a timeline and have something to fall back on before you enter the industry. This is something I kept with me while writing my book. .

Despite the opening up of career avenues, most parents insist on their children taking the safe route (I don't blame them for that) as it is important to hit milestones at the right age. We realise why only when we grow older. So parents are not wrong. However, kids do absorb a lot from the media and environment which exposes them to a lot more of possibilities that their parents may not be aware of. I feel that it's important to somehow realise that you're talented at and passionate about something before treading on the untoward path towards it. But more than that, it's important to give oneself a timeline and know when to call it a day. In my eyes, that doesn't make one a quitter. But a true winner.

Vanita (one of the man characters in the book) chooses the medical profession also because of the money part.  And there's nothing wrong in being honest about what you want and why you want it. She is a level-headed girl and probably defines the woman of today - practical, intelligent, but yet thinks with her heart. I feel that it is very important for a woman to be financially independent, which is why I took care not to portray Vanita as one of those pining and heartbroken women, who is totally dependent on a man for her journey. She is a woman of substance who though doesn't appear much in the book, is actually the driving force of this story. I believe that women are superior to men in every way. And the reason, why our 'progressive' nation lacks in many ways is because men either don't realise or acknowledge this fact as they do in the west. The progress of our nation lies in gender equality.

On a different note, my first book - Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai - has a strong-willed, independent female character who is suppressed in every way because of the traditional society she lives in. I do hope that women all over, find their own way to break from the meaningless shackles of society and find their own place in the world. And I strongly believe that only education can do that. Education is in a sense, freedom.

I have attempted to write the book in an entertaining way so that it is lapped up by more readers. But more than that, I wanted Rayhan's journey to be inspiring and hope that it inspires you as well to follow your dreams.  It's never too late.

It is very helpful for an author to know how readers take to his/her book, so please do write in. HiFi in Bollywood doesn't follow the conventional commercial fiction format but I'm sure you will enjoy it!  At the end of the day, it's all about entertainment!