Interview: Conan Karchang Doley Writes About Love and Dreams in Delhi

We caught up with Conan Karchang Doley , the author of I Don’t Think Straight.

Conan Karchang Doley: AuthorConan Karchang Doley was born on November 14, 1992. He completed his graduation and post graduation from Delhi University. He lives in Majuli Island, Assam, where he was born. He spends his time reading, writing, and taking and bringing his seven-year-old younger brother to and from school.

Pothi.com: Tell us about what inspired you to write the book I Don’t Think Straight. You could tell us if you were inspired by campus life or if any book/movie set your pen rolling.

Conan Karchang Doley : The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger inspired me to write I Don’t Think Straight. I read it when I was sixteen and the experience was mind-blowing. I instantly wanted to write a book like that. The character Omo is somewhat like Holden Caulfield—I was very happy that I could include a chapter where Omo visits her favorite teacher in her apartment, just like Holden Caulfield does in The Catcher in the Rye. I love Holden Caulfield and I think I can understand him, just like the millions of individuals who have read The Catcher in the Rye—and as an adult I am still sad, in a way, that he never looked forward to growing up—and that’s one of the reasons I love him so much—so I changed that in I Don’t Think Straight. Towards the end of Omo’s narrative, she is not afraid to grow up. Her final words are: “I have no clue where my life is headed, what lies ahead is a vast unknown. All I know is that there is going to be some love and compassion in it.”

Pothi.com: Do you plan the story in advance or do you plot it out beforehand?

Conan Karchang Doley: So far I haven’t plotted it out beforehand. There is a theme, an idea to begin with, and then the rest happens as it happens. I Don’t Think Straight is my second novel so I consider myself pretty new to writing novels. I am not good at it, in my opinion.

Pothi.com: How much has the city Delhi influenced your story? Are there any passages in the book that talk about life in Delhi?

Conan Karchang Doley: Delhi has influenced the book a lot. One of the titles I had considered for I Don’t Think Straight was ‘A Pilgrim in the City’ and another was ‘Love and Loathing in New Delhi’. (I thank you for asking this question, it’s like a load has been released from my shoulders.) Yes, there are passages that talk about life in Delhi; one reader beautifully put it in her Amazon review, “The book isn’t just about the journey of two people, it’s a heartwarming read that will take you on the roads of Delhi, the metro and the protagonist’s world.”

Pothi.com: Tell us a little more about Omo and Domo. 

Conan Karchang Doley: Omo and Domo are the two protagonists of I Don’t Think Straight. They are similar in that they are both attracted to people of the same sex. And different in that Omo comes out of her loneliness and frustrations at the end of her narrative, while Domo is pretty much stuck in a rut till the very end. His final words are: “I thought that I was happy but I had a keen sense that I was stuck in a rut.” This self-knowledge that “he is stuck in a rut” although hints that there is something taking place inside him. We all know the old adage ‘Know Thyself’ and Domo suddenly arrives there at the end of the novel.

Pothi.com: Your favorite books.

Conan Karchang Doley: I love everything written by—someone, who probaby does not want to be named. (I think he does not want to gain any kind of authority or become famous in any way so I would rather not name him. But his books are my favorite.) Apart from his books, there are the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa, Pow! by Mo Yan and recently I chanced upon a novel, In Custody by Anita Desai, at a friend’s place—some writings can make you breathe like a dragon, Mo Yan for example and Anita Desai’s writing can make you fall in love, be in love, become love itself.

Pothi.com: Your favorite beverage.

Conan Karchang Doley: Tea and Coffee both.

Pothi.com: What has your experience with Pothi.com been like?

Conan Karchang Doley: I came to Pothi.com because their website said, ‘Writing is Hard. Publishing Should be Easy.’ Something about it attracted me when I saw it the first time. Then I read about their service. I agreed with what they were doing and I especially loved that they were not providing any ISBN but were telling us how to obtain an ISBN for free. And flashforward to one year later: I self-published a novel with Pothi.com.

Self-publishing I Don’t Think Straight with Pothi.com was not so easy for me- the process was not a smooth ride for me, I was trying to get things done quickly and got too anxious when the process got stuck. But every problem was sorted out step-by-step by the Pothi.com Team, which I found very satisfying. I am happy about the way things worked out and I am currently self-publishing my new book with Pothi.com again. The Cover Designing is being done as I speak.

Pothi.com: Your advice to aspiring writers when it comes to writing, publishing and marketing the book. 

Conan Karchang Doley: If you know that you have something important to discuss then discuss it through your writing. It could be anything.

If you have self-published a book and want it to sell a lot then you have got to market the book, because no one is doing the marketing for you. But if you are happy with five readers enjoying your book then don’t bother about marketing, and begin writing your next book because those five readers of yours are waiting for your next book.

Pothi.com: Your next project?

Conan Karchang Doley: My next project, (not the one whose cover is currently being designed—it is almost ready) is about an island where people know how to disappear. I began writing it as a homage to the The Invisible Man and the Harry Potter books.

Pothi.com: Thank you so much for talking to us, Conan 🙂 We wish you lots of luck for your future writing journey!

Reading the Epic in the Month of Rain and Ramayana

Ramayana Masam or the Month of Ramayana is an important month especially in the southern state Kerala, India. It is observed in the month of ‘Karkidakam’, which refers to the monsoon season between July to August. During this time, the Ramayana epic, which tells the story of Ram and Sita and the travails they face, is read in Hindu households; no other auspicious events take place at this time, only treatments and prayer.

Ramayana at the Pothi.com Store

This is the right time to speak about some Ramayana editions that have been self-published at the Pothi.com Store:

Ajai Kumar Chhawchharia has written several versions of the Ramayan including The Kaagbhusund Ramayan or The Aadi Ramayan, Barvai Ramayan of Goswami Tulsidas, Saint Surdas Ram Charitawali and Geetawali Ramayan of Goswami Tulsidas.

You can see pencil sketches of the Ramayana in a book by Hiru Ray.

Adhyayma Ramayanam by Ezutthachan is a Malayalam poem where a parrot recites the Ramayan to Parvati at Shiva’s bidding. Dr. Sukumar’s book Ramayana in 30 Days is an English translation of this Kilipattu or bird song, thereby making it accessible to non-Malayalam readers as well.

Krishnakumar T K simplifies the Ramayana in seven editions of the work Ramayana Simplified.

Geeta Kasturi is a scholar and author who compares the poetic renditions of the Ramayana. Check out Triveni Sangam.

 

Listen to Young Voices on International Youth Day

International Youth Day is celebrated annually on 12 August to bring youth issues and young voices to the mainstream. The General Assembly endorsed the recommendation that 12 August be declared International Youth Day.

The 2021 theme for the day is Transforming food systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health. As the population grows, there are more and more challenges that younger people must face. The planet needs to be restored to its natural equilibrium and biodiversity must flourish if we want to have food systems that benefit all of mankind.

On that note, Pothi.com would like to celebrate the voices of some of our young writers at the Pothi.com Store:

Footprints on the Moon

Footprints on the Moon is the second Young Author Program Anthology. The Young Author Program (YAP) is a writing workshop designed to give young writers the tools they need to write their own fiction. In this anthology, young writers explore diverse subjects including vampires, wizards, pets, friendship, career choices, magic and dreams.

A Window to Young Minds 

A Window to Young Minds is the first of the yearly anthologies, Short Stories by Young Writers. The twenty-three wonderful stories in this book are handpicked from 2017 contest entries. The talent of these young writers shines in their command of storytelling and their unique take on genre—from a pirate love story to the Hindenburg disaster on May 6, 1937, in New Jersey.

Young Voices

YOUNG VOICES features fifteen pieces of fiction from fifteen student writers from around the world. Whether discussing social issues, pondering everyday truths, or examining human relationships, the authors in Young Voices are doing us all a great service. We need them and their artistic peers to keep observing humanity around them and let their words and images move us forward, indeed, to truly guarantee us all a better tomorrow.

Listen to Young Adults

Not by a young adult but pertaining to communicating with them. The myths of adulthood and understanding teenagers in the new age have been busted.

Which book for or by young writers have you enjoyed recently?

Red or Blue? Pick a Pencil on Coloring Book Day

Coloring Books, a History

The first coloring books were painting books for children. The first popular coloring book in history was the Little Folks Painting Book. It was a publisher called the McLoughlin Brothers who popularized coloring books among children. The nineteenth century opened up printing and changed the approach to education. All this influenced the rise of the coloring book as an affordable educational tool for children.

A book called Antique Automobiles (1970) was the first adult coloring book.

Coloring Books in the Twenty-first Century

Come 2015 and Johanna Basford revolutionized the coloring book industry, selling 21 million copies of her coloring books (Worlds of Wonder and Enchanted Forest among others)! Watch her talk about her inky evangelism and going analog.

A blogger called Jenny Fenlason even started a coloring book club!

Coloring books at the Pothi.com Store:

Know the Emperor of Hindi Novels: Munshi Premchand

Munshi Premchand was born on this day in 1880. He is the first writer who made realistic Hindi fiction so accessible to readers. Some of his famous works include Gaban, Seva Sadan and Godaan.

Twelve Facts About One of the Greatest Authors India has Produced

  1. His real name was Dhanpat Rai Srivastava.
  2. His first pen name was Nawab Rai; Premchand came later.
  3. He is called Upanyas Samrat– Emperor of Novels.
  4. One of the characters who makes a repeated appearance in his novels is that of the stepmother.
  5. His first novel has disappeared.
  6. He married too young. The marriage soured quickly and he married a child widow later on. This was revolutionary at the time.
  7. Premchand initially wrote in Urdu- he began writing in Hindi later on in his career.
  8. Premchand was an enthusiastic reader of classics in other languages, and translated several of these works in Hindi.
  9. In 1923, he established a printing press and publishing house in Benares called Saraswati Press but he was unable to run the press owing to financial issues.
  10. Premchand did a cameo as the leader of laborers in the film Mazdoor that he wrote the script for- the film never hit the screens as some influential businessmen were against it.
  11. He wrote largely about social injustices, choosing themes like dowry, widow remarriage, corruption and the freedom struggle.
  12. In 1977, Satyajit Ray made a film based on Premchand’s short story Shatranj ke Khiladi, which won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi. Watch the movie here.

Which Premchand story do you love?

Beatrix Potter- The Writer-Illustrator of the Natural World

Helen Beatrix Potter was born on this day in 1866. We all remember her for her remarkable children’s books featuring animals such as Peter Rabbit, Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle but she was also a natural scientist, mycologist, prize-winning breeder of Herdwick sheep, farmer and conservationist. Her family had inherited the wealth that came from the Lancashire cotton mills, the infamous industry that crippled India’s textile economy. The Potters preferred to ignore their past and live a life of upper-middle-class comfort.

Beatrix Potter and her brother Bertram led a life where art and imagination held sway. They were deeply connected with animals and owned several rabbits, squirrels, bats, birds and insects. Potter’s early sketches paved the way for her future as illustrator with no rival. From a young age, she journaled and was privately tutored in astronomy, botany, entomology, etc.

She had a scientific bent of mind and her detailed drawings of fungi reveal her keen interest in pursuing her scientific passion but it was not to be.

Her keen interest in fairytales and fantasy and her wide reading enabled her to start her career as author-illustrator. She was fiercely independent and was enterprising enough to design Christmas cards and sell them.

She also wrote detailed letters filled with the germ of her future stories. One such letter to a sick child featured the famous bunnies Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail and Peter – this letter was self-published as The Tale of Peter Rabbit. After multiple rejections by publishers, her book was later acquired by Frederick Warne & Company.

She even patented the Peter Rabbit doll and introduced the idea of character-based merchandise such as wallpaper, games and toys. She authored 30 books and her books continue to sell throughout the world in different languages and were adapted in songs, films and even ballet.

Later in her life, her interests were aligned with the conservation of the Lake District where she lived with her husband.

9 Chess Novels on International Chess Day

July 20 is International Chess Day the day that the International Chess Federation (FIDE) was founded way back in 1924. Here are some chess-inspired fiction and non-fiction novels for this occasion.

Buy The Queen's Gambit: Now a Major Netflix Drama Book Online at Low Prices in India | The Queen's Gambit: Now a Major Netflix Drama Reviews & Ratings - Amazon.inThe Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis 

We know the Netflix show but have you read the book by Walter Tevis?  The story delves into the  angst, psychological trauma and introspection of a chess champion.  Tevis was known for his pool hall movies but after a bout of alcoholism that lasted for two decades, he turned to chess and from that obsession came The Queen’s Gambit.

 

Buy Chess Story (New York Review Books Classics) Book Online at Low Prices in India | Chess Story (New York Review Books Classics) Reviews & Ratings - Amazon.inChess Story by Stefan Zweig

Chess lovers on an ocean liner, a chess champion and a chess player recovering from a nervous breakdown. The book is a translation of The Royal Game by Austrian author Zweig who died by suicide after sending the book to his publishers.

 

 

Buy Birth of the Chess Queen: A History Book Online at Low Prices in India | Birth of the Chess Queen: A History Reviews & Ratings - Amazon.inBirth of the Chess Queen: A History by Marilyn Yalom 

A non-fiction book that tells the story of how the Queen came to be. Five centuries ago, the Queen didn’t even exist in this game and this piece grew out of the medieval rise of the female sovereign. Marilyn Yalom, a pioneering scholar in gender studies and a leading cultural historian, has also researched and written about how marriage morphed from religious duty into what it has become today and the perceptions of the female breast in human society.

Buy The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster Book Online at Low Prices in India | The Queen of Katwe: AQueen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster by Tim Crothers 

The inspiring story of a nine-year-old from the Kampala slums in Uganda who with a mentor’s help masters chess. Within a short time, she travels to Siberia to compete in the Chess Olympiad, the world’s most prestigious team-chess event. The screen adaptation by Mira Nair is a must-watch. Tim Crothers is the former senior writer at Sports Illustrated.

Buy All the Wrong Moves: A Memoir About Chess, Love, and Ruining Everything Book Online at Low Prices in India | All the Wrong Moves: A Memoir About Chess, Love, and RuiningAll the Wrong Moves: A Memoir About Chess, Love, and Ruining Everything by Sasha Chapin

A chess memoir that starts in the bylanes of Katmandu. Chess is a world game and the author Sasha Chapin follows his tribe across the globe in search of pure love of the game. Listen to what he thinks about uninhibited creativity here.

 

Buy Grandmaster: A Novel Book Online at Low Prices in India | Grandmaster: A Novel Reviews & Ratings - Amazon.inThe Grandmaster by David Klass 

A father-son relationship with chess at its core. The protagonist Daniel Pratzer doesn’t know that his father was a chess prodigy who vowed to never play the game again. Thirty years later, he needs to break this promise. David Klass is a Hollywood screenwriter and author of several YA novels.

 

Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time: Amazon.in: Edmonds, David, Eidinow, John: BooksBobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time by David Edmonds 

Cold War intrigue at its peak and two chess players- Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer meet in a high-voltage chess match.  The author is a philosopher and a radio feature maker at the BBC World Service.

 

 

The Sin Eater (The Nell West and Michael Flint Series Book 2) by [Sarah Rayne]The Sin Eater by Sarah Rayne

A malevolent chess set makes for a riveting suspense thriller: “thirty-two carved figures believed to possess a dark power, but shut away in the forgotten library of a tumbledown Irish castle for many decades.” Sarah Rayne is the author of psychological thrillers and haunted house books.

 

Buy The Defense Book Online at Low Prices in India | The Defense Reviews & Ratings - Amazon.inThe Defense by Vladimir Nabokov

When chess enters the mind,  a player hears ‘combinations like melodies’. Nabokov’s third novel, The Defense, like all his books delves deep into the protagonist’s mind and obsessions. Nabokov himself had an obsession with creating his own chess problems.

 

 

Have you read any novels or essays featuring chess? Do share in the comments.

The Book That Vindicated The Rights of Women

On this day, the Seneca Falls Convention, which launched the woman suffrage movement in the United States, was held in 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York.

The road to enfranchisement of women has been long. By the early twentieth century, women had won the right to vote in New Zealand, Australia, Finland, and Norway. WWI sped up the process. Full suffrage for women was introduced in India only by 1949.

The road to woman suffrage began with a book called A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) by Mary Wollstonecraft, an enlightened philosopher of the eighteenth century.

Her ideals were shaped in the home- she was born into wealth but her father squandered it and this eroded his character. Her brother’s needs and education were always taken care of and this troubled Mary as she had a keen mind, designed for intellectual pursuit. This is perhaps why the idea of fraternity that was the battle cry of the French Revolution appealed so much to her.

She believed that equality bred virtue and education was the foundation of self-reliance. She was heavily influenced by Lockean ideals and Unitarianism.  She transformed from a dissatisfied governess to a writer who clashed pens with Edmund Burke, a thinker who disapproved of the French Revolution. Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Men in response to Burke and A Vindication of the Rights of Women followed.

This treatise deals primarily with the need for women’s education not just in domesticity but in rational thought. Since a woman like a man would face hardships, she could not live her life as the weaker sex, dependent on conduct manuals. Nowhere in the treatise did she mention suffrage although her ideas became the bedrock of feminist movements later on.

 

8 Cookbooks for Chefs and Hungry Readers Alike

Today being Personal Chef’s Day, we browsed through a couple of books that chefs would benefit greatly from. Some of the books on the list are from the Pothi.com Store too- we have a great many titles under the cooking category at the store.

When we interviewed Bridget White-Kumar, author of several cookbooks, we asked her about some pointers while writing a cookbook.

“Writing a recipe book isn’t easy,” she said. “A lot of hard work goes into it since one has to get the recipe right after many, many trials and errors. Once a recipe is written, it will be the guide to be followed by many. Only when one has mastered the dish, can a foolproof recipe be written.”

Cookbooks to Nibble on:

Mastering the Pakodas: The Snack for all Seasons by Sangeeta Khanna

Come monsoon and there is the desire to indulge in pakodas and adrak (ginger) chai. The author of Mastering the Pakodas is a botanist and microbiologist and a hardcore home-made food believer.

 

An Indian Sense of Salad by Tara Deshpande Tennebaum

Many of us see salads as a purely Western concept but the local produce in India offers a green mine when it comes to potential salad ingredients. Tennebaum deconstructs the Indian vegetable and adds a splash of additional nutrition to the Indian meal.

The Dal Cookbook by [Krishna Dutta]The Dal Cookbook by Krishna Dutta

Dal is the staple diet of most Indians. Krishna Dutta examines the different dishes where lentils can be used including khichari, dosas, vadas, pappadam.

 

 

660 curries by Raghavan Iyer660 Curries by [Raghavan Iyer]

This book is an exhaustive compendium of cooking styles from across India. Feast on curries, appetizers, traditional cuisines, biryanis, breads, blends, you name it.

 

Madhur Jaffrey's Curry Nation by [Madhur Jaffrey]Quick & Easy Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey 

70 easy-to-prepare recipes by India’s favorite cook Madhur Jaffrey. Her recipes are great for newbies too. Watch Madhur Jaffrey talk about Indian cuisine and the history of Indian cooking here.

 

Cookbooks at the Pothi.com store

Indian Grandmas' Secret RecipesIndian Grandmas’ Secret Recipes

25 vegetarian recipes by 16 cooks in the age range of 70-95. The recipes span different parts of India.

 

 

Amader Barir Khawa Dawa: Bengali Recipes From My Mother's KitchenAmader Barir Khawa Dawa: Bengali Recipes From My Mother’s Kitchen by Ratna Mukherjee

The author collects a 100 of her mother’s incredible recipes of traditional Bengali dishes- day-to-day fare and festive occasions.

 

ANGLO-INDIAN DELICACIESAnglo-Indian Delicacies by Bridget White-Kumar

An easy and unpretentious guide to delectable Anglo-Indian Cuisine. The author has won the ‘Best Culinary History Book’ awarded by Gourmand International Spain, World Cookbook awards, 2012.

 

Which cookbooks have you indulged in? Do mention in the comments.

Wole Soyinka- Doyen of Drama Who Dons Many Roles

Wole Soyinka “who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence” won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986. He was the first Nigerian, the first African to win this distinction. His life is a lesson to journalists and writers across the world. Wole Soyinka has never been afraid to speak his mind and he speaks not with the grating cynicism that we find on social media these days- all his speech is tempered with reason. You can watch him speak here.

While he has written extensively combining European and Yoruba tradition- plays, poetry, novels, short stories, essays, memoirs and screenplays, he is also an activist and has spent a large part of his life fighting corruption, racism and injustice. While he has won various prizes for his writing and has taught at many prestigious universities, he has also been incarcerated for his firm stand. His propensity for satire flourished in the arts but was not appreciated across the political spectrum in his home country.

Death and the King's Horseman (Student Editions)Myth, Literature and the African World (Canto)Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on EarthCollected Plays: Volume 1: A Dance of the Forests; The Swamp Dwellers; The Strong Breed; The Road; The Bacchae of Euripide...The Lion and the Jewel (Three Crowns Books)

Soyinka has produced nearly 30 plays and this is what stands out the most in his legacy. He combines traditional pantomimes, ritualistic practices and dance with the idea of independence and regeneration.

Happy b’day Wole Soyinka!