Monday, May 1, 2017

Sharing and Giving

Lamb Biryani
Here is an excerpt from my novel, The Beggar’s Dance (pg. 107 paperback).

In this scene; a young middle-class girl, Zakiya, brings a beggar boy, Juma (protagonist), home. She serves him lunch. The story is told by Juma (first person POV).

  I stack the rice on my plate, heaping it with three chicken legs and a huge potato. Dada Zakiya hands me a spoon. I laugh at her. “How can I fit the chicken into this spoon?” Dada Zakiya laughs too. I eat the food with my hands. The rice and curry are juicy and salty, and the cardamoms and cloves make it flavourful. We have it with yogurt and banana. Dada Zakiya eats a green chilly dipped in salt with every bite. I decide against that. Her welcoming home makes me forget my pain, and I silently pray that this lasts forever.
  “Thank you, Dada, thank you so much,” I say after our meal.
  “Shukrana,” she says. “Sharing brings barakat.”

Cooking and sharing food is one of the pleasures of my life. In the photo, I'd cooked lamb biryani for a family reunion at my home a while back. Hope you enjoyed the excerpt from The Beggar's Dance.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Author and Muse

I have many dog lovers following me on Instagram or should I clarify, they’re probably following my dog, Zorro.

He is a bichon-shihtzu breed. He will be six this June. Zorro loves to walk and play fetch. He is a great company when I am writing.

But when I’m writing for too long, he’ll come closer to my keyboard to tell me that I should play with him instead.

Check more of him on Instagram

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Creative Writing and Hobby

I have a hobby of making bead jewellery. I attend bead shows every year, one of my guilty pleasures. The process of designing and handling natural stones silences my mind. It stimulates my creative side, especially when I am stuck in my writing.
Kazuri Copper Bracelet
This week, the writing challenge began when the protagonist in my novel (work in progress) fell in love. I had to get the romance right, for her age, and her innocence.

I made Kazuri bracelets, and this creative process cleared my thinking and helped me understand the kind of love the protagonist is looking for. So with the new bracelet dangling on my wrist, I’m all set to complete her love story.

Check more on Instagram: Kazuri Silver and Kazuri Stretchy - the beads used are a gift from a friend in Kenya.

Kazuri—the Swahili word meaning small and beautiful.

Link to Kazuri Story

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Timeline Process of the Novel

Me writing the timeline. 
I am half way through my novel and suddenly I know the ending. It’s really exciting.

I am a pantser for sure. I do not know what is happening next in the story and I do not write in a chronological order either.

I’ve experienced this with my first novel, The Beggar’s Dance. I was half way through the first draft and the ending came to me. This is when I wrote a timeline to have a clear vision of where the characters were in the story. Once I’d done that everything fell in place on it’s own.

It is happening again with my next novel. So I’ve got the timeline done. Now it’s all about filling the blanks.

Photo: Me writing the timeline. I didn’t know that my dog, Zorro, was resting behind me. Glad my hubby took this picture

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Judge, 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards

I was very excited when I received a great review from  "Judge, 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards,” on my novel, The Beggar’s Dance:

The following is the judges's review:

The story opens with an intriguing and grabbing hook.

The plot is intriguing because it’s a foreign situation for us. We like Juma and we want to keep reading to see if he survives the streets. He grows through the loss of his mother and having to be on his own. We have great sympathy for Juma. His voice is just right for his age and situation, so we are intrigued by him. He tries to improve himself, makes mistakes and learns from them. Well done.

The voice of Juma is young and foreign, so it feels real and draws us in. It's clear you had a great heart for this story and it comes through in the writing.

The dictionary in the back is a nice touch and helpful. And I like that you still define the words within their context. The writing is clean and easy to read.

Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding.” See below evaluation as received for The Beggar's Dance.

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5
Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5
Plot and Story Appeal: 4
Character Appeal and Development: 4
Voice and Writing Style: 4

Monday, February 1, 2016

What inspired me to write my first Novel - The Beggar's Dance

When I was ten years old, growing up in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, one evening, I watched a young boy (about eight years old) with his mother, begging. I wondered why I was in the comfort of a car, enjoying an icecream treat and he was on the sidewalk begging? I couldn’t understand so I went back to find him, but never saw him. For a very long time, I would think of him and try to figure out how he’d have spent his day and survived—not realizing that I was writing The Beggar’s Dance all along. It took me many years to understand that there was nothing special about me; I was just born lucky. This childhood encounter was the seed that led to the unfolding of Juma’s story.

The protagonist, Juma, is my imagination of a beggar I once met. He seeks freedom from the life of a beggar. It's his inner spirit that leads him on a journey of hope and survival. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sadhana Shivdasani - my imaginary guru

I was three years old when my dad took me to the movie theatre, in Mbeya, Tanzania, where we lived. I discovered how grand our world was through the Hindi Cinema. It was magic. I was mesmerized with the songs, colours and language as I watched the movie Rajkumar, starring Sadhana. I was completely in love with the actress. She was a beauty—her voice, her hair, her smile, her fashion—everything about her was a reflection of what I wanted to become. I can go on forever speaking of this beauty queen.
By age five I was certain that Sadhana and I were destined to be together. So I asked my dad if he could marry her.
“I’m already married to your mother,” Dad said.
“But Sadhana is so beautiful,” I said.
"So is your mother."
Now let me make it clear that I love my mum very much and she is a complete beauty as well. But Sadhana was someone I desperately wanted to meet. Sure enough my scheme of splitting my parents and having my dad marry Sadhana didn’t work. So I captured her in my imagination, think up a dialogue then act and pretend to be her. She became my imaginary guru.

When I watched her in Waqt, a Yash Chopra production, released in 1967, I wished I had a piano to play music and sing like her. Instead I danced and swirled my body around a curtain and sang the song, smiled, played pretend. My family would laugh at me. But I did not let my imagination die, because Sadhana kept me alive.
I remember every Sadhana movie and where I'd watched it. Such as Ek Phool Do Mali at Shan theatre, in Nairobi, Kenya. Or many more memorable movies like Intequam, Arzoo, Mera Sayaa, Mere Mehboob, I’d seen them in Dar es Salaam with my parents, mostly at Empire Cinema or Avalon theatre.

I had not seen Woh Kaun Thi, which was released in 1964. Mum had told me the story and I’d dreamed to watch it one day. Then finally, it was showing at Cameo Cinema when I was around eleven years old, but it was rated as not suitable for children due to a ghost story. I was really mad at my dad when he could not convince the ticket master to allow me to watch the movie. I cried and cried. Then at age thirteen, when I lived in Arusha, Tanzania, Woh Kaun Thi was showing at Metropole Cinema, a special Saturday afternoon show. No one realized how important this movie was for me. I could not convince any one to go with me, but my aunt gave me money for the admission. So I walked to the theatre, got myself a ticket, and finally watched the movie—alone.

Though, Sadhana quietly disappeared from the Hindi Cinema in early seventies, she remained my imaginary guru.

Rest in Peace, Sadhana Shivdasani (September 2, 1941 - December 25, 2015)

(video clips shared from various You Tube channel)