Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Spotlight : Beyond Secrets

Alka Dimri Saklani


Noel is a counsellor, risking his career for volunteering in an orphanage.

Nidhi is an engineering student on the surface, but deep down a broken girl in search of some unanswered questions.

Appu is a sweet little orphan, unaware of the cruelties of the world.

Despite being miles apart their stories interweave in “Aashiyana”, the orphanage. Their little journey together changes their lives in ways they never imagined.

One recurring nightmare, one unexpected phone call, one stolen diary, many lies and secrets, and a calling from the past are just the highlights. And when they depart, they are not the same anymore.

They didn’t hurt each other, it was a game of destiny. Will they ever be able to rediscover themselves and more importantly, will their paths ever cross again?

Beyond Secrets is a novel with layers of suspense and different nuances of relationships. And one question that can’t have just one answer - How long does it take for a scar to heal?

Read an excerpt:
10. A Different World
The classroom was in chaos when I entered. It looked like a mini battlefield of little soldiers bombarding each other with paper balls and paper planes. Before I could get a grip on the situation blackness seemed to engulf the scene before me, revealing another scene, hazy, like a dusty video film taking me to a different world where no colours existed except shades of grey; a classroom with empty first rows, far off, images of children yelling and flying airplanes... A wave of sadness crept in, a feeling of hollowness. Amid this chaos? Wasn’t it strange? Were these the same children who had forced their way into my thoughts when I was in the park? Were these known faces? Before I could become a part of the unreal the clamour faded as a strict commanding voice pierced through the din.
“Yes ma’m,” I said.
The scene dissolved and I found Simin staring at me in disbelief. “What happened?” she asked with a puzzled expression.
My head was spinning.
“Nothing, I thought you called me.” I said.
“I called Pranil. But what happened to you? You stood with your eyes shut. You ok?”
Oh, so that was her voice. Then why did I hear another voice, something from a distant, hazy corner of my mind? Or was it solely my imagination? Or a moment when imagination collided with reality?
“Yeah, am absolutely fine.” I said, looking away, not meeting her eyes.
“Pranil, I need to talk to you. Please come to my cabin after your prayers are over.” Simin said.
“Yes, ma’m.” The voice came from the last bench, from a boy with dishevelled hair, dark brown eyes and a dark complexion.
The dizziness made me uneasy and I couldn’t contribute much to the class that day. I walked to Simin’s cabin after the session.
I was not sure how I would collect the information. I wasn’t even sure what information I wanted. As soon as Simin saw me she started discussing a few things she wanted me to do.
“Noel, will you be able to go to... she paused. “You look disturbed. Are you ok?”
“You can tell me if anything is bothering you.”
“The boy you wanted to meet in the morning.” Not sure what was stopping me from speaking out his name.
“Yes.” I paused. “Pranil.” I tried hard to keep my voice steady.
“What about him?”
“Can you tell me something about him?”
“Like what?” She disconnected her phone that had just started ringing.
“Like…like…how old is he? Since when has he been here? Why did his parents leave him? Anything.”
“Anything. Hmmm.” She thought for a while. “Pranil is about 10 years old, he has been here since the last four years. His father died and his mother, who was a house maid, wanted to re-marry. The man she wanted to marry was not ready to accept responsibility of a son, therefore she left him here. But why are you asking all this?” She again silenced her beeping phone.
“I think I know him. Or someone by that name… or… or…” I didn’t know how to explain something I was still struggling to understand. I didn’t want her to disconnect her phone for the third time for my silly questions so I left the room leaving her gaping at me.
Later in the day I met Pranil. He was painting something when I reached him.
“Hello Pranil, can I sit here?”
He nodded.
“What are you doing?” I asked him.
“I am drawing a house.” He showed me the few scribbled lines in his notebook.
“Wow! This is a very good drawing.”
He smiled shyly.
I expected some connection to my foggy feelings as I talked to him. But no snapshots, no voices, no images followed. As if he was not the Pranil who played in my mind, the Pranil in my mysterious imagination was someone else, someone close to me yet far away, someone known to me yet a stranger. Something in my own self was unknown to me, an enigma and it was a terribly uncomfortable feeling. I just wanted to drag out the stranger from me but every time I tried the stranger gripped me tighter as if slowly becoming an inseparable part of me like my blood and my veins.

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About the author

Alka Dimri Saklani is the author of "45 Days in a Cancer Hospital" and "Beyond Secrets". Her debut novel “45 Days in a Cancer Hospital” was longlisted for the prestigious Crossword Books award 2013. Her poems have been published in many magazines. She holds MBA degree in HR and worked with a leading MNC before turning to a full-time writer. Born and brought up in Vadodara, a city in Gujarat, her roots hail from “Dev Bhumi” Uttarakhand. Apart from writing, she loves music, reading, traveling, and spending time with her two naughty kids.

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Book Blitz : Scorpio Superstar

Print Length: 150 pages
Publisher: Flaming Sun (Indie published) 
Publication Date: September 16, 2017
Sold by: Amazon Asia-Pacific Holdings Private Limited
Language: English
Available on Kindle Unlimited 
Genre: Romance 

Kollywood superstar Chandrakanth, also known as CK, is a true-blue Scorpio, communicating with his eyes and believing in showing more than telling.

His website and social media consultant Ranjini is a Piscean through and through, fiercely independent, believing in affirmations and declarations.

It is love at first glance for Chandrakanth when he meets Ranjini; so strong are his feelings that he proposes marriage on their second meeting. Ranjini, fascinated by his starry persona, gets swept off her feet. The two get married without much of the world knowing—including CK's aunt and ex.

The two women set out to settle their scores on Ranjini who suddenly begins to feel a strain in what was a fairy tale wedding.

While passion reigns on the one hand, there’s trouble in paradise on the other. Although CK is by her side, the Scorpio in him expects her to trust him implicitly. But can the Pisces in Ranjini accept him at his word?

Does the tension then get to their relationship? Can love survive without affirmations? Or is declaration the only way to profess one's love?

It would be great if you can add this book to your TBR

Sundari Venkatraman is an indie author who has 22 titles to her name, all Top 100 Bestsellers on Amazon India, Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada and Amazon Australia in both romance as well as Asian Drama categories. Her latest hot romances have all been on #1Bestseller slot in Amazon India for over a month.

Even as a kid, Sundari absolutely loved the ‘lived happily ever after’ syndrome as she grew up reading all the fairy tales she could lay her hands on, Phantom comics, Mandrake comics and the like. It was always about good triumphing over evil and a happy end. 

Soon, into her teens, Sundari switched her attention from fairy tales to Mills & Boon. While she loved reading both of these, she kept visualising what would have happened if there were similar situations happening in India; to a local hero and heroine. Her imagination took flight and she always lived in a rosy cocoon of romance over the years. 

Then came the writing – a true bolt out of the blue! And Sundari Venkatraman has never looked back.

Click here to check out all the titles by the author...

Sundari Venkatraman is a member of the panel of the #PentoPublish #contest on #AmazonIndia #KDP

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Permanent Fire Cracker Ban

This post was published on Women's Web on 19th October, 2017.

The  Supreme Court has banned sale of fire crackers in Delhi NCR .

The news item then narrates  that  many will lose jobs as they are employed by the fire cracker industry. 85 % of fire crackers are manufactured at  Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu.More than 3 lakhs employees are employed in making fire crackers & nearly 5 lakhs in ancillary industries like packaging, transport etc. 

report by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights ( NCPCR ) in 2013 stated that kids as young as 5 years old are employed for nearly 12 hours for making fire crackers. And for all this labour , the kids are paid measly amounts of Rs 30-50/-per day.The children work in most dangerous conditions in tiny sheds with no safety gear .They are filling flower pots, fuses, paper pipes etc. The clothes of children are covered with chemicals as they make the fire crackers. These chemicals cause asthma, eye infections, tuberculosis, etc in 90 % of the child labour. And as children work unsupervised, with dangerous chemicals like potassium &  sodium nitrates, zinc, magnesium, iron, steel, aluminum, etc.there are many accidents which maim  & or kill children. 

The manufacturers state, that of late , child labour is non existent in manufacture of fire crackers.Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi says that atleast 1 lakh kids are employed in fire cracker industry spread across   Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chattisgarh,  Jaipur, Orissa & Tamil Nadu.So, there is an equality of treatment towards children on nearly a Pan Indian basis. Because, in other industries in the remaining states, child labour is employed as well.To name a few,  silk, glass bangles, carpet weaving etal.

The effect of all this, is that adults don't get employed & even if, they get employed, their wages are less than the minimum prescribed for that industry.Fire Cracker employers say that profits are eroding because of the SC ban.They are right, because how can such stupendous  profits be let off where employees who are children, can be paid peanuts & who will not unionise themselves, no matter, what dangerous working conditions prevail! 

Manufacturers would have us believe, that children who are employed were worse off than when non employed .If that is true, then why employ kids which is illegal.In fact, the laws prohibit employment of children below age 14-18 years in any industry .And in fire cracker industry by default, children below the age of 14-18 years are employed. The simple reason being, by the time, they turn 14-18, the children have become unemployable because of having suffered some accident / s  which has  either crippled them for life and or cost them their lives ! 

 This is how the population growth can be kept under check.And with it, poverty as well. Because, poor children only are employed in such hazardous industry/ s.In effect, employment of child labour serves  so many social causes ! 

Fire crackers cause pollution. Noise as also air pollution.After the crackers have been burst, the debris remains all over the places, This affects  all of us. Those favouring fire crackers are arguing that vehicles cause annual pollution whereas crackers cause a week's pollution at the most, especially during festivals, weddings, etal. Next, vehicle manufacturers & manufacturers of fire crackers will unite and fight any bans put up for improving quality of life of general public. Because, the manufacturers are up against what they see as a downsizing to their upward mobility in life !  

And then there are those. who say that bursting fire crackers is a Hindu tradition.Bursting fire crackers during Deepavali started  after fire crackers were invented in China. Patriots  could do well to go with the ban on fire crackers as this would mean that the ban is in line with anything and everything associated with China.And money spent on fire crackers is money going up in smoke... literally & in fact .

Moreover,culture flourishes  if we embrace better practices & give up those which are dangerous to humanity .When we discard  outmoded traditions & customs, will we all grow & prosper. 

SC should take suo moto cognizance of the facts that air & noise pollutions are hazards all over Bharat, not just in Delhi NCR.An outright Pan Indian ban for ever ,on fire crackers would make the future shine brighter   for our children ensuring safety ( from being employed in fire cracker industry ) & bereft of air & noise pollution. After all ," We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children "

This post was published on Counter Currents.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

"Zero Tolerance To Violence Against Women "

The Family Planning Association of India or FPA India as popularly known is a registered charity .It was established in our county in 1949. It has 40 branches all over India. It is associated with International Planned Parenthood Federation. FPA India encourages choices in reproduction, lawlful & safe abortions, sexual & reproductive health.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation ( AHF is the biggest AIDS organisation worldwide serving healthcare to more than eight lakhs in 39 countries. These include countries in  USA,Latin America,Eastern  Europe, Africa, Asia etal.

To commemorate the International  Day of the Girl Child on October, 11, FPA  India & AHF India took out a silent rally in Mumbai. The main idea was "Zero Tolerance To Violence Against Women ".More than a hundred participants participated in the rally to speak against issues like child marriage, forced sex,gender inequality, human trafficking among others. They therefore took a pledge for "Zero Tolerance To Violence Against Women ".

Silent protests were held in 10 places  all over India including  Delhi, Pune, Solapur, Madurai, Dharwad, Bangalore, Gwalior, Yamuna Nagar & Nagaland.

Rape is becoming a common daily occurrence in India.Gang rape survivors are not given Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) for HIV, STI screening or a pregnancy test .But things are changing now. Girls & women are demanding, that, they be protected against all types of violence.

There was panel discussion on “Say No to Abuse, Rape & Violence”. The participating experts  were Dr.V.Sam Prasad, Country Manager, AHF India, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, Brand
Ambassadors, AHF India,Dr. Kalpana Apte, Secretary General, FPAI, Amita Dhanu, Asst. SecretaryGeneral, FPAI and Zainab Patel,Transgender Activist, Policy Analyst Human Rights at UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub.

Dr.V.Sam Prasad, Country Manager, AHF India opined that gender equity needs to be inculcated right in school curricula from primary level till the child finishes University education. Even the family should show support for daughters as also sons & not discriminate . Dr . Prasad said that rape victims & abuse survivors may be suffering from HIV, STI infections. Hence it is imperative that such victims & survivors are provided with PEP (Post exposure prophylaxis) so that their trauma can become bearable.

Dr. Kalpana Apte, Secretary General, FPA India said that violence of any kind including sexual, physical, emotional, etc weakens women & girls.Society should share the blame for this . Women & girls need to be protected against violence of all kinds.,By encouraging women & girls to talk about violence, can this attitude towards women &  girls change.And this is what is being done by FPA India.  This will help in changing the attitudes in a  positive way in support of women & girls.

Girls have been discriminated against right from the beginning.And that's the reason, they suffer from gross inequalities  This results in high drop rates of girls from school , early marriages of girls resulting in early pregnancies.  And yet, if girls are given opportunities, there can be positive changes.

The millions of girls in crisis as also the 1.1 billion girls in the world are the epitome of  creativity energy & power .That's why, AHF India & FPA India are working towards empowerment of girls.This will help to deal with  gender based violence. Society will change positively by understanding that  issues facing women & girls are significant .

The International Year of the Girl, this year, marks the start of an year long  effort to direct  global attention towards difficulties & circumstances faced by girls before , during & after emergencies .
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