Posts by writenlive

I am an avid reader and an aspiring writer. For me, writing is a way of self expression as with my other creative pursuits like cooking and DIY projects. I am an armchair traveller most of the time and I love to go for walks in the hills. I find contentment in life through gratitude.

Atonement: An Exquisite Panorama

The title ‘Atonement‘ and the back cover of the 2001 Ian McEwan book suggests an emotional journey, a wrenching coming-of-age tale, that starts from an incident and extends well beyond it in real life ramifications and in memory.

Widely regarded as one of Ian McEwan’s best works, it was shortlisted for the 2001 Booker Prize for fiction. In 2007, the book was adapted into a BAFTA and Academy Award-winning film of the same title.

A few pages into the book and I knew this was not going to be an ordinary, swift read. The language is lyrical so that to roll over the words quickly was to let go of mini impressions that make up the larger picture. There are tiny flickers of emotions that fit the pieces of the puzzle of how our minds perceive things.

Ian McEwan’s exquisite book starts in pre war England, when war is still far from public imagination. In an idyllic country house, the lives of the people living therein and visiting are about to change irrevocably through a short, nearly invisible incident; invisible and unnoticed by everyone except the budding 13 year old writer whose verdurous imagination leads her to think of things beyond her understanding.

Briony, the youngest in the household or nearly so, if we discount her cousins, the twins, and yet the pivotal figure whose (mis) understanding of the events that unfold before her lead her to act in ways that has a lasting impact on the people she loves. Years later, she comes to a complete realisation of her actions and her suppositions and sets out to put things right.

In Briony’s atonement, fate plays a part and the journey that begins in a country house pans across the second world war, bringing the horrors of the war to the reader, in stark contrast with the placid gardens of her house.

The story begins in England, in 1935. The events of one day in summer are set out. The cast comprises of Briony, the precocious 13 year old, who is on the threshold of adulthood and literary revelation, or so she feels. Her elder sister, Cecilia is home after graduation, soaking in the glorious summer heat and wondering what to do with her life. On the same estate is Robbie, recently graduated, like Cecilia and on the cusp of an exciting life ahead that is full of possibilities. Leon, the eldest son of the household is awaited eagerly by all that evening. He is to be accompanied by the business tycoon, Paul Marshall. To the household are added the unfortunate and confused nine year old twins and their scheming, attention-seeking older sister, Lola; escaping a broken home and sent to the country to find love and care. The father, Leon’s, Cecilia’s and Briony’s, is large in his absence and we come to know of him through his wife, Emily, who nurses her migraine and her thoughts in private; in darkened rooms, with a heightened sense of understanding and prescience.

The country house sees talent, love, passion, intrigue, resignation in equal measures in the span of a day. The day unfolds through different eyes. Every character is wrapped in his/her world, musing, wondering and the stream of consciousness narrative reminds me of ‘The Lighthouse’ by Virginia Woolf. Briony, who till now has been penning down tales of love reunited, of valour and of an ideal world, stumbles upon the Stream of Consciousness way of narrative through her partial witnessing of the pivotal incidents of the day. The writer in her muses on this with a new set of eyes.

There is an undercurrent of joy in writing that Briony is aware of; she knows what stories do to her.

” ...writing stories not only involved secrecy, it also gave her all the pleasures of miniaturization. A world could be made in five pages and one that was more pleasing than a model farm. The childhood of a spoiler prince could be framed within half a page, a moonlit dash through sleepy villages was one rhythmically emphatic sentence, falling in love could be achieved in a single word-a glance. The pages of a recently finished story seemed to vibrate in her hand with all the life they contained.”

Briony is intense, with a depth of feeling that clarifies itself in her writings. She wonders,

Was everyone really as alive as she was?… everyones’s thoughts striving in equal importance and everyone’s claim in life as intense, and everyone thinking they were unique, when no one was. One could drown in irrelevance.

This thought process then is in some measure a portent of what is to come. Everyone is at the center of his/her universe, and yet on the whole they are like anyone else, everyone else and their lives, the entire arc of their struggle and redemption pale into insignificance or irrelevance in the bigger picture; when a measure of a life well lived is taken; when Briony in her old age is surrounded by family and the entire lifetimes are rattled off in a matter of sentences.

Part of the reason for Briony’s confusion on the fateful day is the inability to reconcile her feelings. She struggles with a ‘chaotic swarm of impressions’, the complexity of which convinces her that she is entering an ‘arena of adult emotion.’ Briony is a writer, first and foremost and she longs to set down the emotions on paper.

What she wanted was to be lost to the unfolding of an irresistible idea, to see the black thread spooling out from the end of her scratchy silver nib and coiling into words.”

We understand, then, as to what prompted Briony to act the way she did. Emily, Briony’s mother, has a depth of understanding in the workings of the human mind. Her stoicism and acceptance of her husband’s absence, literally and figuratively and her knowledge of old age, when he would return to her for a companionable life is striking. All the more striking is her very real weakness when it comes to Lola and her vulnerability. Emily is shrewd enough to see her sister Hermione in Lola and that prevents her from complete love and attention towards her sister’s children. Emily as a mother, for that is what she is now, is wondrous. She thinks of Leon’s ‘diminishing prospects’ with a sense of clarity. Of Cecilia, Emily is dismayed that she is disappointed with her academic performance. Emily muses that Cecilia

had no job or skill and still had a husband to find and motherhood to confront.”

Thinking about Briony, Emily regrets the

passing of an age of eloquence.

Already, Emily knows that her youngest is at the threshold of adulthood, struggling out of the mould of innocent, garrulous childhood. And yet, for all her understanding, Emily bows down to her prejudices when she is at the helm of decisions regarding the indictment of someone she has known for long years.

The fateful day full of unexpected events is spent, and for everyone involved, their lives change forever. The lull, the idyllic gives way to the ugly and the unexpected and soon the story moves to the battlefields of the second world war and to the weary trudge of the retreating British army through the French countryside. The horrors of the war as seen from a soldier’s eyes are presented; the disillusionment and the weariness that hides the vestiges of strength and courage. Death and terror, through Stuka attacks are so minutely described that I can visualise them to the last detail and feel the terror.

Superimposed on the war is love. War seems all encompassing; with wide swathes it takes in everything, destroying all in its wake. Love, private, ‘a lonely preoccupation’, flickers tentatively, feeding on memories and little stolen encounters, on words and on simple phrases that were uttered, on the dreams of a future and the urgency of love to uphold itself, high above the mundane. There is a tender pain of reunions, of things that might be and the wonder if the ideals of love would supercede the bleak realism of war and of life itself.

In the next part of the book, we come back to Briony’s viewpoint and her life choices. She has enrolled to be a nurse, to contribute to the war effort and to atone for her actions that fateful day when everything changed as per her thoughts and understanding. Her experiences with the sick and the dying are visceral and it shows another side of the war.

The book ends in present day England. The past is seen through Briony’s eyes, her relatives making up the carousel; the here-and-now described in delicate detail-the ordinary detail that makes up our lives; the near future, the projected and the expected turn of events described with a sense of resignation and stoicism to the wheel of existence. What captures us here are the stories within the story, the long awaited screening of Arabella, an allusion to other works of Briony and her masterpiece that has been written but that needs an opportune time for publication.

Atonement is a brilliant narrative of love, war, life. It is characterized by different hues and imagery that is both abstract and stark.

8 Things I Discovered in 8 months of writing listicles

So the year was drawing to a close and the new one was dawning and all I wanted to do was to bring a Big change in my life without it sounding like a Resolution list, because, you know, only 6% of people are able to keep their resolutions by month 4 ( I seriously don’t know what happens when that year draws to a close).

Apart from the usuals of exercising more and eating healthier and going ballistic in my career and earning potential and being kind-more to myself, I also wanted to write more. And I knew that the first few months of the year were going to be busy. So I started a list of blog ideas which brought up my dormant desire of writing list based articles. I pledged to do just that and started with Friday Listicles. It meant that I had decided to do atleast one post per week till the time I could pick up the pieces of my life and write more meaningful stuff.

I have been posting a listicle every Friday, barring one, of this year. And that one Friday when I did not post was the one week my readers heaved a sigh of relief for being spared the torture.

I started off the listicle series by talking of what they are, how I love them and how they are hated by many. After a few months of writing them, I found out that…

1. You can get lazy when you write Listicles. After all, most of the structuring has been done for you. You only need to think of a title and like a magician be able to procure points upon points related to the topic. You could do a 23 point list, with nothing to show for the points and you could do a Top 3 list, where the content takes precedence over the number.

Some weeks I was lazy, admittedly and other weeks I wrote well-thought out lists with pertinent points. The choice is yours. You can let the list get you lazy or you can focus better on the content because you don’t need to take care of the structure.

2. The endings of the lists are important too. Most often I would list out the few points of whatever I was talking about and just close the post at the last point. Through some feedback and through some intelligent reading of my own posts, I realised that the listicles needed an ending as much as a long form article does. Wrapping it up well in the end is good for the reader and good for the one writing it.

3. Listicles really are quick. Quick to peruse and quick to write. Did I really want my readers to glance and skim and leave? The better way was to keep the subheads introductory and yet not revealing everything. Through building a little intrigue I was able to hold interest (hopefully) and found that people did read the Listicles to the end.

4. But no, lists and by extension, Listicles are not dumb. I covered a little of it in point 1 and really one of the cardinal roles in writing a listicle is to not repeat yourself but I had to put it clearer. It is up to the writer to write meaningful, engaging, well researched content and elevate the form.

5. The number in the listicle heading counts. Yes, it counts because it is a number but saying ‘A few things that I found while travelling by train’ does not sound as enticing as ‘ 7 surprising things that you wish you knew about travelling in a train’. A good title counts and brings in more readers. It is not because of the number but the fact that the writer has chosen to show the unique viewpoint in the title itself.

6. Are odd numbers in the titles better than even? Frankly, I don’t know. Apparently, internet proclaims that an odd number in the title brings in more attention but to my mind it could be the equivalent of clickbait. So, let the content speak for itself rather than resorting to little gimmicks.

7. It is possible to show who you are through your listicle too. Often, it is complained that we cannot get the writer’s voice in the list but I have found that it is possible to set the tone in your listicle. It is possible to have a witty twist or a serious discussion , not at the same time of course and give the reader a glimpse of the person behind the listicle. The choice of the topic itself is a guess enough.

8. Writing a listicle need not be a sloppy job. It is not a list created out of random facts. The only lazy thing that you can allow a listicle to do is to create a structure for your article. You can write well, hold forth on anything with authority if you have researched the subject and write the in-depth articles and the high brow topics that you want to write.

A listicle need not be the bubble wrap of modern living; it could be the cushion that leads you to difficult topics gently.

This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend.

10 Quotes on Writing and why I find them Inspiring

When I have a few bad writing days at a stretch, I look over at some quotes that inspire me to write again. They remind me of the magic of words and the rhythm of a narrative. The quotes bring me back to that part in me that feels most alive when I write.

1. “And the idea of just wandering off to a cafe with a notebook and writing and seeing where that takes me for awhile is just bliss.”

J. K. Rowling

This for the sheer love for the act itself. Just the feel of being with a notebook and writing for only the sake of it. Creating only for the pleasure of it.

2. “For writing means revealing one self to excess; that utmost of self-revelation and surrender, in which a human being, when involved with others, would feel he was losing himself, and from which, therefore, he will always shrink as long as he is in his right mind…That is why one can never be alone enough when one writes, why there can never be enough silence around one when one writes, why even night is not night enough.”

Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

This speaks to me so eloquently. When in solitude, I find that wringing out one’s soul needs an even deeper state of aloneness.

3. “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Anton Chekhov

A classic case of show, don’t tell. Chekhov just told us how to do that and there is an immense delicacy in the act of showing.

4. “Always be a poet, even in prose.”

Charles Baudelaire

I always look for a cadence and a rhythm in prose. Not for me the mere arc of a story; a slice of life, beautifully expressed is enough.

5. “Your writing voice is the deepest possible reflection of who you are. The job of your voice is not to seduce or flatter or make well-shaped sentences. In your voice, your readers should be able to hear the contents of your mind, your heart, your soul.”

Meg Rosoff

When I write, I am mostly concerned with shaping a good sentence, a perfectly framed paragraph and a cogent narrative. And yet, I can recognise a unique voice and it is a priceless gift.

6. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Ernest Hemingway

I have mused over this quote a hundred times and always come away nodding. Isn’t it the beauty of writing that it lets you bare your soul?

7. “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”

Ray Bradbury

Plenty of writers hear that accusation from others, of being drunk on words, on writing. And of being absorbed in make believe worlds. How can we tell them how euphoric it is?

8. “To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music that words make.”

Truman Capote

Yes. The inner music. The rhythm that we write to. The cadence that lends itself to our words.

9. “Writing is a very focused form of meditation. Just as good as sitting in a lotus position.”

Alan Moore

Writing as meditation rejuvenates you. It brings you back from the lifeless into the vibrancy of being.

10.” great writers are indecent people

they live unfairly

saving the best part for paper.

good human beings save the world

so that bastards like me can keep creating art,

become immortal.

if you read this after I am dead

it means I made it.”

Charles Bukowski, The People Look Like Flowers at Last

How can this list of quotes not feature Bukowski who sometimes mocks life itself and who remains a brutal realist long after his life ended.

Do any of these quotes speak to you? Please share the quotes that you feel inspired by.

7 Things to do that your Tomorrow will Thank you for

1. Manage your time well…for time is the essence lives are made of. Be sure about the things you want to spend your time on; once it slips away, there is no going back to retrieve it.

2. Think long term goals…because long term and tomorrows are what you are driving yourself to. Don’t sacrifice the future for instant gratification. Have a roadmap and keep coming back to it to see whether you are on track.

3. Say thanks, express gratitude…for the tomorrow stands on the foundation of a healthy, happy and confident today. Counting your blessings makes you see the wonderful life you have had and that you can continue to have. 

4. Cherish the ephemeral…because it would not last and because it is the nature of creation to bring forth beauty into lives, no matter how short. So, hold it and live it for the experience and the memories.

5. Connect…with the people who matter, because ‘no man is an island, complete in himself’. Reach out, be vulnerable and nurture the affinity you have with others.

6. Find out what makes you happy…and pursue it wholeheartedly so that you do not have to look back one day and regret the things you let go. Make yourself happy and stay happy. Remember that going after what you want is as satisfying as actually achieving the goal.

7. Resolve your problems using your subconscious…for the subconscious mind holds the solution to your problems. You know so much if only you ask your own self. Pose yourself questions and get down to deconstruct the fears that are holding you back.

What would you like to do to pave the way for a better tomorrow?

Small Stones-The Mall

After: The clang of the cash registers, the snaking queues, the feigned patience of shoppers, tapping feet, glances at mobile screens, children tugging at adults’ clothes, the candy by the counter.

Before: Shuffling down the aisle, picking, peering, tossing into baskets, wheeling the overloaded beasts to the neon blinking counters.

Much Before: Fresh air, cool breeze, vibrant outdoors, a step inside the gargantuan building, deodorised interiors and a blast of air-conditioning.

What are small stones?

A small stone is a short piece of writing (any style) that precisely captures a fully-engaged moment for you. The process of discovering small stones is as significant as the finished creation. Searching for small stones encourages you to keep your senses on the “alive and alert” status. Involve yourself with a new set of eyes, ears, nose, mouth, fingers, feelings and mind. This is Mindful Writing at its best. 

Snap, Cackle and Pop: A Book Review

Title: Snap, Cackle and Pop 

Author: Carol Kearney

: Wallace Publishing

: Fiction, Romance, Comedy, Chicklit


Carol Kearney’s book packs in a lot of cackle through the story of a fifty-something woman, recently cheated on and dumped by her husband. The readers follow Cathy, from her denial to heartbreak to a breakdown, pulling herself from the dumps to rebuild her life. Inspite of dealing with a serious subject like a breakup, it is a laugh riot from the beginning to end with funny situations and fantastically wierd characters populating Cathy’s life.


Cathy, a fifty- four year old woman, used to the good life and wallowing in perceived domestic bliss gets a rude jolt when her husband leaves her without any warning.

This triggers something in her and she goes on a rampage, burning her husband’s belongings. Cathy turns rude, snappy, vengeful as she tracks down what made Tom leave her.

Losing her house and car and left with no money, Cathy has no option but to take refuge in her parents’ house, the home she grew up in. The fact that her family is wierd, dysfunctional, eye popping ridiculous and hilarious seems to push Cathy more and more into despair.

Jane, her bestie, steps in to help Cathy salvage her life. Cathy goes on a dating spree with disastrous results. Cathy  stumbles through a number of boyfriends, takes shots at numerous lowly jobs and embarassing alcoholic scenes before she decides that she needs to take charge and get her life back on track. 

Back on track it does get, with a redemption for all the unexpectedly bad things that happen to her. Cathy rises: shining, avenged and loved through a series of exaggerated misadventures that had me in fits of laughter.

The situations that Cathy finds herself in are laughable. I cannot forget Cathy’s supermarket trip with a huge magnet in her underclothes that leads to some very magnetizing and funny attractions. Louise and her doctor friend’s Christmas visit was so very socially embarassing and outrageous.

Even more lovable are the characters who are etched very well and sound so real because of their flaws.

My favourite would be Joan, Cathy’s mother who comes a close second to the other silly literary mother, Mrs. Bennett of Pride and Prejudice. Joan is foolish, loud, irreverent and yet immensely wise in bits and starts.

Pop is wonderful and his conversations with his wife are very funny. He mixes up the dog’s name so frequently that I looked forward to what he would come up next. 

I might be supposed to condone Cathy’s incarcerated brother Steven, but all I felt was glee whenever he came on the scene. 

Jane is the hot, independent, smart, loyal friend who acts as a sounding board to Cathy’s moanings and helps bring out some of the absurdities of Cathy’s life.

The dialogue is very good. It flows smoothly, complimenting the characters. The language is contemporary, sharp, witty. I was on my toes, looking up the words that turned out to exaggerate the already comical events.

Cathy lets go of everything, including her manners and sometimes sanity when duped by life and that is what makes the book so real and endearing.

In the beginning of the book, I had a few issues with Cathy’s judgement of the situation that she finds herself in. Cheated on and abandoned by her husband of many years, Cathy thinks herself to be a bad wife, one who has let herself go. She also has a body image issue which I felt reinforced stereotypes.

There is this bemoaning of the fact that her husband left her after 38 years of marriage. At the time of the events of the story, Cathy is 53 going on 54… Which makes them marry when she is 15!! Later we find out that they married when she turned 26.

Till the middle of the book and a little beyond, Cathy is complaining and unable to come to grips with her new found situation. She lurches from one disaster to another and this feels like it goes on for too long. 

I wish the cover of the book were designed a little more thoughtfully. The colours and the graphics are jarring.

The author of the book, Carol Kearney died tragically of medical complications. Even with precarious health, she was determined to fulfil her life dream of writing a book and she completed and published her debut book. Through my book review, I pay a tribute to her undying spirit and her ability to see humour in every situation.


Hilarious. Feel good. Must read. I burst into laughter every now and then while reading.

I rate it 4 stars 🌠🌠🌠🌠

: I received an ebook from the book publicist in exchange of an honest review.

If we were having coffee together

If we were having coffee…I would tell you about my new found fascination for leaves. I would tell you how I find the rain drop dripping leaves beautiful. I look at their perfect blades and their rounded curves whenever I step out and try to take lovely photographs. They might have come out as the second best choice when I could not find any flowers to click in this new place, but now they are an obsession.

If we were having coffee…you are bound to ask me how I am managing in a new city. And then I would pass you the biscuits that I made from scratch while trying out my new oven and tell you how I am loving every moment of being in a new place and soaking in all the newness.

You would comment on the chilli flakes in the biscuits and might even say that you like your biscuits sweet. I would then have to convince you that this was the only and the easiest recipe that I could try out.

If we were having coffee…I would tell you how I am fascinated by a new language. I would put on a fake accent and punctuate my conversation with the words I have learnt. You might point out that I need to know complete sentences and not just throw about random words. This would make me laugh and I would shrug nonchalantly. We would then talk about how we are attracted to foreign languages.

If we were having coffee…I would tell you all about the little lake that I am fortunate enough to live near. I would tell you how it is nearly the first thing I look at when I am up in the morning. I would talk of its varying colours that reflect the sky’s myriad moods. I would talk of the flickering evening light and how it seems to skim on the water surface. I would tell you how the water is framed by palm fronds that sway with the breeze.

If we were having coffee…I would tell you of the new perspectives that are shaping my thinking. I would tell you how exciting it is to meet new people who challenge my views of the way things should be. I would tell you that I am grateful to see another viewpoint and a glimpse of other inner worlds.

If we were having coffee…I would tell you how I feel dizzy at the endless possibilities and opportunities that I seem to find everywhere. I would tell you that it is as if the rain has washed away all the dust of uncertainty and everything is fresh. I would then hold forth about the thundering rain and the howling wind and the slants of water hitting the earth every day.

If we were having coffee…I would tell you of the different coffee brews that I am sampling these days. I would tell you of the wonderous brew that the beverage chef of the hotel would prepare, smiling his pleasure at my appreciation. I would tell you of the different brands that I encounter in the supermarket. I would tell you of the coffee I had in the train and the coffee I had at the roadside vendor. 

If we were having coffee…I would tell you how sharing coffee or a meal makes me want to talk more. I would tell you that I am transported to coffee shops where I have shared so many talks with friends and strangers. I feel so much at ease that I want to expound on my philosophy of life. Your horrified look would stop me from the expostulation, of course.

If we were having coffee…I would tell you of how I am spinning yarns and weaving tales in my mind. The stories threaten to spill out. I would tell you how different characters seem to come up to me at every place. I would tell you how I feel like stopping people on their way and asking them about their thoughts on life and their daily routine.

If we were having coffee…I would tell you how much I love our talks together.